Making Sense of K-Pop


After much debate and thought about the different Asian foods I could try for this study, I settled on going in the complete opposite direction and detailing an autoethnography of K-Pop for my digital artefact. However, since I have a decent understanding of the music genre because I’ve been listening to it regularly for the last couple of years, I am going to show my sister (who has minimal knowledge on the topic) several K-Pop music videos and analyze her experience.

First I will conduct a short interview explaining my sisters experience with K-Pop as well as naming some of the expectations she has of the music videos I am about to show her. After this, I will show her five different songs which are all quite different but still sit under the K-Pop genre and I will ask a few questions about the clips after the completion of each track. Some of the tracks won’t have any subtitles which gives me the perfect opportunity to see if my sister’s context allows her to understand the underlying themes of the song. When I’ve finished showing her the music videos, I will ask a series of general questions about the various songs and then explain a few things about the K-Pop industry to determine whether this changes her perspective on the topic. Possible questions for this final interview include:

  • What song do you think was most popular?
  • Were they different to what you expected?
  • Would you listen to any of these songs again?

Since I want to show a broad spectrum of K-Pop music, I’ve chosen songs which are quite different from each other and range almost everywhere from a quirky to a sexy concept. These are the five tracks that I have chosen and I’ve mainly focused on girl groups with a sister/brother duo and one solo artist being thrown into the mix:

Senunni – Jessi

Straying away from the K-Pop formula, Senunni doesn’t have an English title but still uses scattered phrases throughout the chorus and versus. Essentially, the word ‘senunni‘ means fierce or strong older sister (unnie is an honorific used by girls to refer to other girls who are older than them) with lyrics including ‘even when I see me, I can see the superior genes’. I want to determine whether my sister is able to figure out the meaning of ‘senunni’ by watching the video clip, or at least find out if the track gives off that type of vibe.

Melted – AKMU

Quite different to the colourful backgrounds and upbeat sounds I’ve come to expect from K-Pop videos, Melted has a far more subdued tone along with disheartening scenes of everyday life. When analyzing the lyrics along with what is happening in the video, a deeper story is shown. For example, the old man in the opening scenes staring out the apartment is actually the young boy with the camera, reliving the memories of his past. This is paired with lyrics that say, ‘if the ice melts, a warmer song would have come out’ meaning that if the strangers he met had been warmer towards him, warmer experiences would’ve occurred and it was the man who fixed his camera that allowed him to have this epiphany.

Catellena – Orange Caramel

Containing a bit of the weird and wacky nature that some have come to expect from Asian pop music, Catallena has one of the most amusing video clips I’ve ever found and is also quite difficult to understand without any research. Again, I will see if my sister is able to figure out the meaning of the title and whether she understands what is happening in the video. The term is used to describe a person who is immature, yet others still want to be close to them and is exhibited by gagman Kim Dae-Sung (the octopus) during the video.

Cupid – Oh My Girl!

Turning to the innocent concept, Cupid will allow me to explore the expectations of girl groups in K-Pop and see my sisters thoughts about the idea. Especially since large groups like these are almost unheard of in the music we grew up listening to, this will definitely be an autoethnographic experience worth analyzing. I’ll also touch on the pressures of the K-Pop industry in terms of beauty and the expectations that are placed on these young girls in terms of thinness and even plastic surgery. Recently, one of the girls in Oh My Girl! was placed on hiatus because she is suffering from anorexia with many blaming the company label for this occurrence therefore this will be an appropriate example to open the discussion with my sister.

Abracadabra – Brown Eyed Girls

One of the more controversial songs out of my selection, Abracadabra was heavily criticized because it contained BDSM themes, breast touching, as well as a lesbian kiss. With this song, I will focus more on my sisters response to the sexualized nature of the clip rather than her understanding of what is happening plot-wise. The dance move where they shake their hips from left to right has become iconic for fans of K-Pop and was even brought back in recent years by Psy with his song Gentleman.

Along with my sister’s autoethnographic experience, my digital artefact will include an exploration into K-Pop which will explain the common themes found in their music videos and the anatomy of a large majority of these songs. Information will include an overview of common phrases and words used in K-Pop media articles (for example, aegyo, comeback and all-kill) and what you can expect in a music video including a memorable choreography, scattered English, and unforgettable fashion. This will be supplemented by a case study where I will analyze a popular K-Pop track and show how it fits the structure of a typical song from this genre. At the moment, Prezi is my choice of media since it will allow me to incorporate video clips from YouTube as evidence of the information I’m presenting to the audience.

One comment

  1. Love your choice to go with K-pop, very interesting topic to explore and I would love to know how people [minimal knowledge on the subject] experience and react to K-pop music. I also love how you have a song that doesn’t have an English title this will be challenging for people who have minimum contacts to K-pop. The last MV is also very interesting about how they got banned from the television for [BDSM themes, lesbian, etc.] because I remember the last time I went to Korea [2011,2013] I see a lot of music that contained those themes. It’s probably had to do with something else as well. If you can research deeper on that one would be great. Great post!



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