So it came to me the other day that people today (girls mostly) still find it unusual and exciting when they meet a K-Pop fanboy. You’ve all done it. You’ve seen a guy who loves U-KISS or TEEN TOP (or most recently the fad with EXO fanboys) and you’ve stalked his twitter/tumblr and still do to this day.
I never realized, many moons ago that it would be a strange thing for a male to enjoy things like K-Pop however in recent years it’s become quite obvious that K-Pop is in fact marketed towards women and young girls alike. So I thought, why not tell the world about your life as a fanboy. So ladies and gents, I’m going to take you on a (brief) journey through time. From when I discovered Asian music to how I became the fanboy I am today. So sit back, relax and enjoy (and I’ll try and not be too long about it.)
Anime Music. That’s how it all started, the J-Pop thing that is. I was 12 coming up 13 at the time when we got our first internet connection which coincided with my Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon everything Anime obsession. Sailor Moon was the biggie for me, I couldn’t not watch it (even re-runs I watched with the same excitement as when I first saw them) I would visit fansites often, collection pictures, reading fan fiction and then I read about it’s history.
Learning that it was in fact Japanese coming from something I hadn’t heard of then (Manga) and then I found what would become my favorite website (to this date it’s still up there on one of the best places to go on the internet) SailorMusic.net full downloads of everything Sailor Moon soundtrack related and this is how I heard my first Japanese language song. It was the original Sailor Moon opening theme “Moonlight Densetsu” and I was hooked. Even though I didn’t understand the language immediately the beautiful sound appealed to me much more than English music ever did and I wanted more.
Towards the end of 2002 I was heavily into Anime such as Ayashi no Ceres and Fushigi Yugi. It was through a Fushigi Yugi fan video that I heard my very first K-Pop song. S.E.S’ fan favourite “Dreams Come True” that was it. I needed albums and I needed them in abundance. Back then I had a Streamload account (anyone remember that? If not, man I feel old.) and someone had sent a long a whole load of J-Pop and K-Pop related albums for my downloading pleasure. I was able from here to discover artists such as 1TYM, I heard Eugene of S.E.S’ solo album and eventually I heard her, the woman that would inevitably change my life forever and her name was Kwon Boa.
Now I’d gotten into Japanese artists already. I was listening to Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro and then later I got into Koda Kumi (yes, before she got big.) but something about BoA hit me more than anything I’d heard before. Her voice was unusual but amazing and she didn’t only sing in Japanese, she was a Korean pop star too so from BoA I had the best of two worlds. I officially called myself a BoA fan after watching her perform “the meaning of peace” alongside Koda Kumi a song that would become my first J-Pop song I learned to sing a long to. Eventually songs such as “VALENTI”, “NO.1”, “ID: Peace B” and “Atlantis Princess” became my jams. I wouldn’t leave her alone, I’d listen to her from dusk till dawn so much so that BoA became a house hold name for my family.
So from late 2002 till early 2006, my K-Pop life was a small one. It was then overshadowed by the easy accessibility of Japanese music in comparison to K-Pop where I found most CDs I wanted were out of print and downloadable music was mostly in low quality .wma format. I continued listening to BoA, 1TYM of which I loved Danny (his solo album is one of the best YG related albums to date) and S.E.S. I’d also managed to discover Wheesung through his song “Incurable Disease” and his album was the first YG related/Male singer related album that I physically purchased.
To be honest with you all, I live in an area of the UK that is an unculutred and unfriendly place. Uneducated people that take a swipe at anything “different” and racism is rife. I was bullied at school for liking foreign music. People would laugh at me saying I liked “chink” music and would mock me. “Ching Chong Ching Chong” they’d say and “You’re a freak” just because I preferred music from another culture than to the same old pop music from my own country. It didn’t stop me though, I still stayed “loud and proud” when it came to my hobbies and I’d never shy away from telling anyone who didn’t already know me what I was interested in me if they asked.
So it was January 2006 when myself and my partner were trolling forums and a baby Youtube when we thought we’d give a certain group a try and that group went by the name of Super Junior ’05. I was taken in right away by their cover of british boy group Triple8 “Knock Out” and of course by the adorable sweetness of their hit “Miracle” and I could officially say by the time I was done watching their charismatic performances, becoming addicted to reality show “Full House” that I had my first K-Pop bias in the form of SJ’s Kim Kibum.
It was his tanned skin, his button nose and those big pearly whites that did it for me. He was sweet too, coming across as one of the nicer members when watching Full House. It was the idea of combining love for songs, love for performance and then love for a specific member that introduced me to the idea of these three things matter when becoming a true “fan”. From Super Junior I learnt to love a group that I had ignored. I was listening to Asian music when these boys debuted but I wasn’t interested. Funnily enough the boys i am referring to are non-other than “TVXQ” the group that would later become one of Asia’s biggest boygroups in history. It was “Rising Sun” that won me over and at the time their Japanese release “Begin” was on repeat on my computer.
BoA, Super Junior and now TVXQ were part of my K-Pop roster. I of course started buying CDs and I was determined to have complete collections of my favorite Korean artists (bare in mind I was still trying to complete collections by Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie and Koda Kumi at the time. An expensive feat inded.) but I couldn’t help it. I was addicted. Then December 2006 came around and I discovered… BIGBANG.
Through their MVs for “Goodbye Baby” and “Dirty Cash” I was immediately hooked. I didn’t even think twice before claiming TOP as my own. Then, getting so involved in BIGBANG and TVXQ, Super Junior became heavily over shadowed to the point where I was looking for more than just fun music, fun performances and looks. BIGBANG and TVXQ’s talents outshone SJ for me. Now I’m not saying SJ aren’t talented but in terms of live vocal the later two groups were better. In terms of dance skill TVXQ beat out SJ every time so drifting away from SJ wasn’t a difficult thing it just seemed to happen.
Hungry for new artists I scoured the internet for new acts to add to my collection. Finding artists such as sorely overlooked girl group The Grace, Fly to the Sky, SE7EN, Shinhwa (mostly Lee Minwoo’s solo material because, well, have you seen Minwoo?) SS501 jumped up quite high on my list of favourite K-Pop groups and 2007 also saw the debut of FTISLAND whom I loved immediately upon hearing the dramatic “Love Sick”. From 2007 with all these new artists I had to love and cherish the list pretty much remained the same early 2008 when I fell in love with acts like Lee Hyori and newly debuted boy group “Battle” but it was 2008 which also saw the debut of a group that would take over my life in a new way and that was SMTOWN’s very own SHINee.
To me “Replay” will always be the perfect debut song. It was different from everything around at the time. SS501’s “Dark Pop” concept, boys with excessively long hair dressing pretty much like goths was big at the time but SHINee were different. Colorful, bright and… shiny. Replay’s beautiful melody and smooth sound was stuck in my head and from the moment I saw the MV and Jonghyun stepped forward in his opening scene the first thing I said was “MINE”
At the time of falling in love with SHINee I was pretty much a massive VIP. BIGBANG had pretty much controlled my K-Pop life but slowly but surely SHINee were edging their way in. In the year of their debut they released their first single, album and repackage album. They were kind of hard to ignore. My CD shelves at home were packed out now with an array of different K-Pop and J-Pop artists and as everyone knows who loves their K-Pop, the packaging on K-Pop CDs can often cause issues for shelves due to their randomized size. You never know if you’re going to get a standard digi pack CD or a massive A3 sized booklet in it’s very own hard box.
2008 also saw the debut of U-KISS and 2PM (two groups that I wouldn’t officially become fans of until mid 2009) and 2009 saw the debut of 4minute and BEAST – two other groups that are today two of my all time favourite K-Pop groups. Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” became a massive hit and SHINee made their comeback with “Ring Ding Dong” not to mention the debut of MBLAQ. It then became apparent to me that I was probably going to enjoy everything that came out of Korea regardless.
2010 us acts such as INFINITE, TEEN TOP and 2011 was the year I was able to attend my very first K-Pop concert. United Cube in London. BEAST being my new favourites up there with SHINee and BIGBANG it was an exciting time for us all but I couldn’t believe it. Already being a fan of asian music for coming up on 10 years at the time I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see my favourite groups perform live on stage without spending thousands of pounds to go to Korea or Japan. However, this was real. They were in my home country and I was going to see them.
I have to say, to anyone who has not had the chance yet to see their favourite K-Pop groups in concert it’s an experience I advise you to have at least once in your life. It’s a surreal experience, feels like that weird place between reality and a dream. I felt nervous, sick, excited all at the same time. Adrenaline raced round my body and my heart raced as the lights went out and “Hot Issue” by 4minute kicked the show off then suddenly they were there right in front of my face. It’s something you never quite get over. I’ve been lucky enough to attend four events now (2011 United Cube, 2012 MBC Culture Festival and BIGBANG, 2013 TEEN TOP) but that feeling never goes away. It’s always just as exciting as the last one and they keep bettering themselves in terms of performance and fan interactions.
Speaking of 2012, everyone knows it was the year K-Pop boomed. PSY’s “Gangnam Style” was pretty much purchased world wide by every living and breathing individual becoming the biggest selling K-Pop song (especially overseas) of all time. 2012 also saw the “year of the debuts and comebacks” groups such as NU’EST, B.A.P, EXO debuted and already established groups were coming back with force SHINee, INFINITE, TEEN TOP, MBLAQ, 4minute, BEAST, BIGBANG everyone who was anything was promoting in 2012 making it one of the biggest (and most expensive. My poor wallet) years in K-Pop. Least to say I didn’t miss a second of it. The majority of my time outside of work being spent reading up news on blogs, twitter and any means necessary. I’d scour iTunes in hopes of the newest hit being available for purchase on the UK iTunes store and I’d buy CDs where I could. Call me obsessed, but K-Pop had gradually became the hobby that would never leave for me.
Fads come and go, the UK especially bad for liking something for five minutes then moving on but K-Pop is more than that for myself (let me know if you feel the same) but it’s more than just liking specific groups, it’s about liking K-Pop as a whole. There is community to become involved in which only helps your love grow. I’ve had some hilarious K-Pop related conversations on twitter that have taken me way into the wee hours of the next morning. It was twitter that got me my very first “OMG. You’re a fanboy!?”
It’s definately something much more than just listening to music. Watching live performances religiously, checking out the gorgeous looking HD music videos, waiting for subbed variety shows watching your favourite idols debut drama series. There is so much to do in the world of K-Pop that it does pretty much (correct me if I’m wrong) consume, in it’s entirety, your spare time.
I don’t see my love and admiration for K-Pop dying down any time soon. 2013 has only just kicked off and by February we’ve already had some of the biggest K-Pop comebacks. B.A.P, SHINee, Girls’ Generation and TEEN TOP to name a few. I see 2013 is going to be a bigger version of 2012 and with SM TOWN related concerts in London rumored, TVXQ and Super Junior mostly, I can see 2013 will have at least another 3-4 K-Pop related concerts that I’m going to find hard to turn down.
Being a K-Pop fanboy is no different really from the life of fangirls. I do try to do things in a more masculine way (I sometimes fail) but that’s the only difference. A K-Pop fan with male parts and hair on my chin. For K-Pop fans the world round being this into your fandom is an exhausting and expensive experience at times but above all it’s a lasting one, it’s fun, it makes me happy and has been with me now for nearly 11 years.
Let us know how you got into K-Pop and what your thoughts are!