Femtrooper’s Guide to Asian Pop: Styles: The Boy Groups


This post is part of an ongoing series of Asian Pop.

To the west, boy bands mean fun 90s nostalgia of the Backstreet Boys and *NSync, or modern day chart toppers like One Direction and Five Seconds of Summer.  Besides One Direction (currently) being a powerhouse, after the 90s boy band craze, boy bands just kind of faded away in the west.  In Asia, boy bands are REALLY popular, especially in South Korea.  I last talked about the massive popularity of girl groups, but boy groups are just as popular and we are going to check out some of them now!  Like the girl groups, they are the full package: they can sing, they can dance, and they look good.

Now to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t listen to a lot of Asian boy groups, thus I feel it would be a little unfair for me to go on and on about how amazing they are.  Being familiar with Asian music as a whole though, I do know of a lot of the bands and know many hit singles.  I mean come on, who listens to Asian music and doesn’t know of BIGBANG’s “Fantastic Baby” or not heard of Super Junior?  So yes, I do know of these groups and listen to them; I just wouldn’t call myself an expert at their discographies or band trivia.

Let’s start off by first naming some of South Korea’s biggest boy groups: BIGBANG, SHINee, Super Junior, EXO-K, 2PM, BEAST, Infinite, B.A.P, GOT7, and VIXX. Obviously there are more, but let’s just start with those.  Instead of rambling about each group, let’s talk a look a hit song from each group.  I will be posting MY favourite song from each group – not necessarily their newest.

Fantastic Baby – BIGBANG (2012)
I really like this song; however, I find a lot of their songs aren’t this upbeat…which has made me not as excited about them as I thought I would be.

Sherlock – SHINee (2012)
Absolutely love the feel of this song – very Michael Jackson-esque.  Some of their newer stuff (especially the Japanese material) is a little too western for me, but their Korean stuff is really fun.

Spy – Super Junior (2012)
Yes, I realize that the last few songs have been from 2012…but I just happen to really like these songs!  Super Junior is HUGE and has a ton of hits.  This song is definitely really fun and I love the harmonies in it.

MAMA – EXO-K (2012)
I remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking, man, why aren’t western boy groups this intense?  This song is full of great dancing, great vocals, a really interesting melody, and a fun video.  The interesting thing about EXO, is that there are two groups: EXO-K and EXO-M.  EXO-K is the South Korean version and EXO-M is the Chinese version (all songs are in Mandarin).  They both sing the same songs, just EXO-K will sing them in Korean and EXO-M will sing them in Mandarin.  Pretty neat, hey?

Go Crazy – 2PM (2014)
Honestly, this song is great and definitely feeds off of the funk craze that has been going on the past few years.  It has a great beat and is super funky!

Not my favourite out of the bunch, but they definitely have something going on and are very popular.  This song is progressive in the sense that there are several changes within the melody.

Back – Infinite (2014)
Powerful, emotional, intense, this song has it all.  It’s a creepy pop ballad that gets much faster as the song progresses.  I really like this.

ONE SHOT – B.A.P (2013)
This definitely has a fun feel, more urban at times, and then slow and moving – almost classical.  I love how many Asian artists explore so many different styles of music within one song.  This song overall has a more urban feel though; very gritty.

Now that we have looked at some of the big Korean boy groups, how about the Japanese ones?  Some famous ones that come to mind are: Arashi, EXILE, KAT-TUN, and NEWS.  Interestingly, there aren’t as many in Japan as there are in South Korea.  South Korea really knows how to do both girl groups and boy groups just from the large number of them around.

Monster – Arashi (2010)
Arashi is one of the biggest boy groups in Japan and has been for a very long time, so these guys are a little older.  I like this song, as it has a spooky feel with a very joyous and cheesy vibe.  Sometimes cheese is the best.  It was also surprisingly difficult to find a lot of their music videos on YouTube for some reason, thus the live performance.

EXILE is another famous and large group in Japan that is a little too mainstream for me.  It’s westernized in a way that western music wouldn’t sound like (if that makes any sense?).  They are okay for me, but it’s just a bit much.

Kiss Kiss Kiss – KAT-TUN (2015)
By far the most ‘Japanese’ sounding of the three, this song is indeed from 2015 despite the fact that it could be from 2001.  This style of music, including all of the sounds and sound effects used, is still popular in Japan, and far less westernized than the boy groups of South Korea.  Despite it being really cheesy and over the top, I kind of like it!

Kaguya – News (2015)
Again, hard to find the actual music videos for these guys.  Either way, another cliche sounding Japanese boy group.  The synthy beats and fast paced tempo make for the perfect Japanese boy group!

So, notice similarities and differences between the two countries?  If you think the K-Pop groups are a bit more westernized and ‘modern’, you would be correct!  Many of the Japanese boy groups are still using sounds and singing styles that were used in the early 00’s, unlike the K-Pop groups which are using more of a ’15 sound AND more modern vocal style.  Notice that the Japanese boy groups will tend to sing in unison a bit more than the Korean ones?  Also if you hadn’t noticed, the K-Pop groups are way more feminized than the J-Pop ones, as soft features (including make-up) are popular for men in South Korea.  One thing is the same though, they can all, sing, dance, and look good!  A lot of the music video settings, especially in South Korea, also happen to be in futuristic settings (HEAVY on the photoshop).

What were your favourite groups?  Did you tend to like more from South Korea or Japan?  The boy groups are much more popular in South Korea than Japan, thus why there are so many there.  Both have distinct styles, but there should be something in there for everyone!

IMAGE CREDIT: http://cdn-01.koreaboo.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/shinee.jpg

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