When one first taps the surface of anything, they usually are first exposed to the mainstream sector of it, because it has the most publicity and exposure (or else it wouldn’t be called “mainstream”). An example of this situation that directly applies to me is Korean entertainment (more specifically media).
Many are first exposed to Korean entertainment by Korean music, through so-called “idol” groups, or “world stars” such as Big Bang, SNSD, and Rain. Others are first exposed to Korean entertainment by Korean TV shows, more specifically “Korean soap-operas” or “Korean dramas” (as most people like to refer to them as), such as Stairway to Heaven, Full House, and Boys Over Flowers.
I was introduced to Korean entertainment by Korean music, through groups like DBSK, SNSD, Big Bang, and Wonder Girls; I then ventured into Korean TV shows. Gradually, I explored more areas of Korean entertainment, and I am still exploring these areas today. Each time I explore a new sector of Korean entertainment, or a sector within a sector, I learn more and develop a greater appreciation for it. While I originally only listened to Big Bang, DBSK, SNSD, and Wonder Girls, thanks to drama OSTs and other various means of exposure, I started to listen to older Korean songs and artists.
One of the more recent determinants that has influenced my outlook on older Korean music is the Korean TV show “I Am a Singer.”
While many “mainstream” listeners of Kpop might not take an interest in I Am a Singer because it deals with veteran singers and ballads, it really helps one gain more knowledge of Korean music and a deeper appreciation for Korean ballads/R&B. It may seem just like a show for the Korean music lover from an earlier generation, but it has proved that it can also serve those who, like me, would like to further their interest in Korean music, as it has garnered a positive response from the old and young alike.
As Yang Hyunseok of YG Entertainment said, when the Korean music industry pulls too far one way or the other, saturated with idol groups or good singers, people begin to crave the other. There will never truly be a “perfect” balance of these two worlds, because it is constantly unstable and active. Because the Korean music industry is being filled with idol groups nonstop, Koreans are yearning for non-generic pop songs and more talented singers.
There are those who represent the opposite sides of the spectrum, purely liking ballads, or purely liking pop songs. However, there are many who, like I, fall in the middle of this, balancing this game of tug-of-war.
I, too, have my own share of pop songs that I like; however, I also value the importance of good vocals and I Am A Singer is enjoyable in this sense. Although it is nice to see a show like this gaining such support and acclaim, to call for ballads to dominate the Korean music industry would be far too radical, and thus, I am somewhat content with the music scene as it is.
Will we see a pull towards good singing in the near future? Perhaps, people have already been looking for true talent in recent years, as displayed through the success of groups like V.O.S and Big Mama. One of the things people look for in the many idol groups today is talented vocals, and they will probably continue to do so in the future, because after all, they are singers.