BTS fans outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sept. 9, 2018.
(Getty Images)
BTS fans outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sept. 9, 2018.
(Getty Images)
MUSICREDEF PICKS
K-Pop Activism, Processing Live Albums in 2020, Bad Bunny, Demi Lovato, Ennio Morricone, Pop Smoke...
Matty Karas (@troubledoll), curator July 8, 2020
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In the past month, K-pop fans have jammed racist hashtags on Twitter, crashed a Dallas police app that was trying to identify protesters, raised more than $1 million for Black Lives Matter and taken credit for helping to depress the turnout at PRESIDENT TRUMP's Tulsa rally—all using the same tools with which they've turned songs by BTS and other artists into massive online hits. Much has been written about how this apparently sudden explosion of activism may not be quite as sudden as it seems. There's a certain affinity for activism almost built into the idea of being a K-pop fan—especially in the US, where the community conducts relentless campaigns to make stars out of non-English-speaking artists who haven't always been welcomed by radio and other mainstream media. While the genre's most prominent groups have traditionally steered clear of political partisanship and controversy, the music itself has been embraced as both propaganda by the South Korean government and as a soundtrack for protests against that government. K-pop lyrics and memes were seen last year at street protests in Chile and Algeria. In the US, where there's a significant Black presence in the K-pop fanbase, along with an awareness that the music owes a heavy debt to Black predecessors, the Black Lives Matter movement could be seen as a natural ally (even if, ironically, those Black fans haven't always been made to feel welcome within the scene), and the shift from chart activism to political activism may not have been all that wide a turn. "You can go on K-pop Twitter," K-pop scholar CEDARBOUGH SAEJI told the NEW YORK TIMES, "and you will see somebody post about Black Lives Matter and then 10 minutes later post something about the cutest idol that they are totally fan-girling over. They don’t see a contradiction there." Reading that quote made me think about how modern pop fans—and artists—don't give a second thought to swimming back and forth between pop and rock and hip-hop and techno and metal and any number of other styles. It's all easily accessible, so why wouldn't you access it? Likewise, political activists are exactly as within reach as playlist programmers; why not reach out simultaneously to both? Why think of them as in competition with each other, when you can you have your BTS, and BLM, too? MusicSET: "K-Pop Fans Step in the Political Arena"... The EAGLES, PEARL JAM, DISTURBED, WIZ KHALIFA and JASON ISBELL are among more than 50 artists who got federal PPP loans of at least $150,000 to support their crews during the pandemic, according to ROLLING STONE. The largest of those loans were in the neighborhood of $1 million, and in, for example, the Eagles' case, were aimed at saving as many as 50 jobs. Labels got loans, too, per PITCHFORK, which lists SUB POP, THIRD MAN, DREAMVILLE and LIGHT IN THE ATTIC as among the significant recipients... Meanwhile, 26 percent of fans responding to a new NIELSEN MUSIC/MRC DATA survey say they'd be willing to go to a live show within a month of a Covid-19 vaccine or treatment becoming available, which is a bump up from previous surveys. I assume I needn't tell you what the enormous wild card in that sentence is... The RECORDING ACADEMY is partnering with the online organization COLOR OF CHANGE to increase opportunities for Black artists and professionals in the music business. "We’ve seen the great work that they’ve done in Hollywood with TV and film and saw the opportunity to extend that to music," said VALEISHA BUTTERFIELD JONES, the Academy's chief diversity and inclusion officer... A summer issue of the recently revived fanzine MAGGOT BRAIN is available as a free PDF... TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON was voted jazz artist of the year in the 2020 DOWNBEAT Critics Poll... RIP JOE PORCARO.

Matty Karas (@troubledoll), curator

July 8, 2020