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Let’s Talk About The Western Music Scene & K-Pop

MTV announced the nominees for the 2019 VMAs a few days ago, with Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Billie Eilish landing among the most-nominated artists. A few months ago, there was rumored talk of MTV making a K-Pop category for their award show. K-Pop stan twitter immediately showed their disdain for this ruling, claiming it was a way to separate K-Pop acts who are performing better than the Western acts into another category.

Lo and behold, it was true. For the first time, the VMAs will also include a Best K-Pop category, recognizing songs from artists Blackpink, BTS, EXO, Monsta X, NCT 127 and TXT.

Image Credit: MTV

You might have thought that this would cause for celebration that the West is finally showing love to K-Pop by representing the industry at award shows. You thought wrong. After the nominations dropped, fans took to Twitter to voice their opinions on the Best K-Pop category.

BTS is undeniably the biggest act in the entire world, and some K-Pop groups as a whole are breaking records that Western artists could not come close to. Yet they’re still being snubbed and ultimately disrespected because the West doesn’t want the spotlight on anyone other than their mainstream white artists. BTS‘s Boy With Luv and Blackpink‘s Kill This Love broke the YouTube record for the most-viewed video in 24 hours, but neither was nominated for Video of the Year or Song of the Year. BTS‘s Boy With Luv music video, reached 74.6 million views on YouTube in 24 hours — the biggest YouTube debut in history.

BTS is nominated for four awards: Best Collaboration, Best K-Pop, Best Art Direction, and Best Choreography, which is amazing. Fans are thankful that the group is being recognized in categories that aren’t only based on their social media status. However, the introduction of the Best K-Pop category is just MTV’s way of making these artists equal to but still separate from the Western artists.

It’s quite obvious that the biggest act in the entire world is being snubbed, and their fans will show their disdain. This is a bigger issue that affects not only BTS but all K-Pop acts who are starting to make their mark in the West. This category was made to pigeonhole these groups and all of K-Pop. It’s essentially saying, We’ve given your faves the representation you wanted, now leave.

There wasn’t a need for a Best K-Pop category — no one asked for it and no wants cares for it. This is a blatant insult and an attempt to discredit these groups hard work and achievements. MTV sectioned them off as they know for a fact that if they were to be nominated, they’d sweep the main awards away, and MTV is scared of that. The category is an attempt to show inclusivity without being so. How dare artists who don’t sing in English, aren’t American mainstream and worst of all aren’t white, be at the top?

Well, BTS certainly is and other K-pop groups like Monsta X, Blackpink, Ateez, NCT 127, Twice and hundreds more are making their mark in the industry. However, the Western music industry is trying at all costs to stop K-Pop from dominating the music scene. It’s all about profit, and it’s become apparent that the West can cash in on these lucrative fandoms of these artists so they will represent them in the simplest way just to gain a profit.

Blackpink // YG Entertainment

In a now-deleted YouTube video, E! News Daily Pop show spoke about this controversy. It’s important to note how this was a panel discussing racism against Koreans — yet not a single Asian, much less an actual Korean, was present to comment whether a category created solely for Koreans is racist. In this segment, Justin Sylvester, the male host, was extremely condescending and ignorant for the entire segment on this issue. He claimed to know how K-Pop as an industry works, mentioning how there’s a “K-Pop college” and a “K-Pop Association.” He also said, “We didn’t in America name K-Pop; K-Pop named K-Pop K-Pop.”

K-Pop didn’t name itself K-Pop. That’s what foreigners called it, and the K-Pop industry just adopted the term. To Koreans, K-Pop is just pop music. K-Pop is also more than just a genre of music, but people don’t want to come to terms with that. Melanie Bromley, the female host, touches upon how BTS‘s Map of the Soul: Persona album went No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it BTS‘s third album to reach the top spot on the Billboard 200 in less than a year. The Beatles were the only other artist who achieved this. She goes on to say to talk more about BTS‘s achievements and Sylvester cuts in to say, Where? Not in America! to which Bromley replies, This is in America. Darling here’s the research,  and hands him pieces of paper with all the facts written there for him to see.

Without a doubt, there is a racial and language divide when it comes to Western music and K-Pop. There have been comments where even though the facts are right in front of them, don’t believe that BTS deserves the title of the biggest boyband in the world because they aren’t European or American, and that already says a lot. The fact that K-Pop groups are continuing to dominate the Western music scene but aren’t being represented accurately is a problem. This isn’t about wanting Western validation for K-Pop groups, it’s about the West purposely dismissing the achievements of these K-Pop groups because they don’t want Korean artists at the forefront when they are.

Featured Image credit: CHELSEA LAUREN/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

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Zoë Selesi
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Zoë is a nineteen-year-old from England currently living in New York for university studying Public Relations. Zoë is a lover of all music genres especially alternative R&B, UK Grime and Korean music.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Gabie

    July 28, 2019 at 9:16 am

    This is what journalism is all about doing research first… Thank you for this wonderful article…. 💜

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