One of the reasons I was so intent on finding just the right Kpop for me, back in the day when it was hard to find and I was attempting to do it all on my own, was that I liked that I couldn’t understand all of the lyrics. I love good lyrics, talented writers can turn pop into poetry and I’m easily distracted by words. When I turn on a song at work, it’s best if I can’t sing along or I’ll be 100% involved in the music rather than using it as background entertainment. I was on the hunt for something I could love but wouldn’t turn into an all-consuming obsession.
Fast forward a solid number of years and here I am up to my eyeballs in obsession and completely distracted at work. But I’m not so far gone that I’m closed off other things. I mean, I have a favorite Iraqi singer and I think I’ve shared some of the Japanese rappers I adore on the site. I spent the last couple of weeks with another music lover I’ve known for 20 years and while I indoctrinated him into the cult of Bewhy, he sold me on some excellent Italian pop. Despite my propensity to go back to my Korean comfort listens, I love hearing new things.
This week, while I was slowly crafting my 2019 Fav Songs playlist, I got a text from one of the Nerd Herd, Lori, about a new group she’s completely fallen for – she knew I’d not only give it a shot but that I’d probably get all giddy alongside her. She sent the link to their new song with no additional information so I could roll around in it before I formed any opinions. Then she mentioned that they are actually Q-pop – something I am almost completely unfamiliar with and down to learn about.
Q-pop, or Qazaq Pop, is music from Khazakstan which is heavily influenced by western pop, Khazakstani hip hop and, you guessed it, Kpop. Just as with many countries around the globe, Khazakstan experienced a bit of a Hallyu wave in the mid-2000s when access to the internet became easier and the lure of the shockingly less restrictive genre of Kpop got popular with the kids. In 2014, Juz Entertainment, a company in Khazakstan, launched the very first Q-Pop project and debuted the group Ninety One in 2015. The five-member group was so instantly and overwhelmingly popular that there was honestly no turning back.
The genre has been supported by both the government and the people of the country because of its success in popularizing the native language and script but has not been without some controversy. Some of the more traditional folks have criticized the artists for their shocking appearance and stage performances. Not an altogether unexpected response…but they probably need to be shaken up a bit.
The group that Lori sent to me was Mad Men, the five-member boy band under MM Entertainment. They debuted in 2017 and have only four or five songs out at this point – the most recent, Alma, having been released just two weeks ago. It’s quite clear that the members are heavily influenced by traditional western pop music and, even more so by Kpop. They’re young, talented singers and rappers, highly stylized, tattooed, and active on social media. Alma is sexy, danceable, and extremely polished. The MV highlights the members using both bright and muted colors, neon effects, and traditional sets. It’s more than worth a look…It’s definitely prompted me to NEED to know more – but just like my initial foray into Kpop, it’s not super easy to find stuff outside of YouTube and I’m a bit rudderless in terms of where to get the good stuff and what to avoid. Luckily, this time I have Lori to help me out.
Alma, Mad Men