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  • Writer's picturebellabriscoe

Punk goes K-Pop

I have always considered myself to be a loyal alternative music enjoyer. As a teenager, this definitely leaned a little bit into elitism when I refused to listen to 5 seconds of summer (coming from someone who had an immense One Direction phase… yeah) but I saw the error of my ways as I grew up and stopped listening to people on Tumblr. While I am still deathly devoted to pop-punk, I branched out to listen to pretty much everything… including k-pop.

I was about thirteen when I discovered the world of k-pop, via a video called “YouTubers React to K-Pop 3”. I only watched it because Dan and Phil were featured, so that should tell you exactly what time in my life it was. In the video, they watched the music video for DOPE by BTS and I was obsessed. A catchy beat and a slick dance routine was all it took for me to add the song to my playlist. For a long time it was the only k-pop song I knew until Spotify started to recommend other tracks. Some by BTS, but a lot from EXO. As a self-identifying “emo” teenager it was a dark secret that I had abandoned ship, but I later found out all of my friends jumped on the k-pop train too. I was always a casual fan, I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the members and definitely not what hair colour they had, but my k-pop playlist soon filled up with SHINEE and MONSTA-X too. For many years, it was deeply uncool to like k-pop, so I kept it to myself. Even after many of my friends fell head over heels for hundreds of groups and their hundreds of members, I had little interest beyond knowing the songs I liked. 

However, in 2022 I got bitten by the bug, long after my friends had moved on. I was definitely older than the general demographic for fangirl-ism at nineteen, but it was infectious. My trusty TikTok algorithm showed me a clip of a performance and it immediately rotted my brain. I trawled the comments to find the name of this mysterious individual. Felix. That was the start of the downward spiral. I quickly learnt the fancam was from a Stray Kids performance at something called MAMA so I took to YouTube to watch the full show. The dark visuals and gritty performance immediately spoke to my little alternative heart, it also helped that Felix was so pretty. Thanks to the powers that be with social media algorithms, I was immediately shown five hundred other videos of Felix and the rest of his members. I quickly fell in love with the group after binging all of the content I could find with English subtitles. 

The addiction hobby was solidified when I bought my first album. I had no idea there was so much merchandise! It certainly targeted my inner child who loved to collect anything. Sylvanian Families, Dan and Phil merchandise, Squishmallows, Funko POPs - what can I say, I love to have a hobby. My first album was Maxident GO Version, where I miraculously pulled Felix’ poster, photocard, and folding triptych. Perhaps I’m delusional but it definitely felt like a sign from the universe. 

At nineteen, I had truly stopped caring about other people’s opinions, and I listened to whatever music made me happy. Since joining “Stayville” aka Stray Kids fandom, I have noticed how many former and current alternative people have flocked to this group. There are a strangely large amount of similarities between rock music and k-pop. At least the side of the industry I follow, groups such as Stray Kids and ATEEZ have a lot of dark concepts, pounding beats and their costumes draw a lot of inspiration from alternative subcultures. 

It also seems the new wave of alternative music is taking a similar turn into electronic sounds, with songs like LosT by Bring Me The Horizon and V.A.N by Bad Omens and Poppy. I am excited to see if a k-pop group could break ground in the alternative scene through collaborations with influential artists such as these, and vice versa. Unfortunately, there is still a huge amount of elitism and xenophobia in the alternative music scene, but I hope to see big changes in the future.

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