Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rant: Sometimes Companies Suck

Last month or so, people have been debating on which side is the right one in the SM Entertainment lawsuit involving Kris of EXO-M. It should be obvious where I stand, but it's amusing how things get misconstrued very easily with these sorts of things. Anti Kpop-Fangirl mused themselves in the perspective of if this was treated like a female group things would be handled differently. Another perspective is if SME wasn't the big giant that it is. But the purpose of this rant goes beyond this lawsuit. This rant pertains to the terrible companies who gain a defensive party or the blame gets overlooked and passed on to the "victim". This isn't just a kpop issue, but it can be seen in any sort of company. For the purpose of this rant and for the sake of staying on topic with Muddy Cult's overall theme of the entertainment industry, I will only focus on that.

Let's start with some kpop related cases. Whether you agree or disagree with my perspective, I urge you to be respectful with your comments on this topic.

Similar to newcomers in the American music industry, Korean idols have little to no say on what they do. Doesn't matter if it's a variety show, video concept, choreography, promotional efforts, etc.; idols are merely the company's puppets. Everything is carefully calculated and displayed to the public in some form by the company. Their main objective is to sell a "product" to you and earn money. Until their "product" gains enough money and positive recognition after a certain amount of time, then the company will see them as some extent.

So fans complaining to U-KISS's Kevin about their risque video and choreography for "Quit Playing/Don't Flirt" or HyunA's "sexiness" being shoved in your face in every release or advertisement she's in is all planned by the company. They have very little say to what direction they want to go. They haven't earned the money or recognition in the company's eyes to be considered people. So, don't yell at the idols or hate them for not being what you want. This is the company's planning. Once idols gain those things, they can criticize the Korean music market like Brown Eyed Girls and they can experiment with different genres and visuals like G-Dragon. Please keep that in mind before criticizing what an idol says and does when it pertains to their idol persona. But don't read this as me covering up cultural appropriation or inappropriate comments about racism, colorism, sexism, weight, etc.

Let's narrow it down into our first case before I tackle my favorite label SME [note: please read with sarcasm]. I'm gonna reach back when I started getting more involved with rookies and dumb labels: U-KISS's member change. I remember being torn between rookies U-KISS and B2ST. I enjoyed the members of U-KISS, but I tended to listen to more of B2ST's music. In the end, I found it pointless to pick who I liked more and both have developed fairly well despite their companies' decisions. I first started learning a few names when watching Pops in Seoul with Kevin, Eli, and Xander, then Xander easily became my bias. As time went on with this first initial line-up, I noticed that they were the underdogs compared to B2ST. They had more international success and having bilingual and multilingual members was a huge plus. Unfortunately, their company, NH Media, came up with an excuse for Kibum and Xander's departures. Kibum wanted to focus on the family business and Xander wanted to resume his studies. They went along with this excuse for their departure, but truth was their company kicked them out because they weren't popular enough. This hurt me for a while and I was wary to accept the new members. I didn't hate them, I just disliked their purpose of existence. They were the replacements, the new and improved components. As of now, I still love and support U-KISS. I respected Dongho's decision to leave which seemed more honest than before. I was happy my current bias AJ was allowed to continue school while still being part of the group and my mind is open to new member and maknae Jun. I think in this aspect, the company has improved. Sure, there are other things I wish they would do with the group, but I'm mostly content.

Next is Kara's Nicole and Jiyoung's contract expiration. Some people want to call these girls selfish especially Nicole, but think about it. They've had a contract dispute before and, I might be wrong here, they were barely popular in Korea. Majority of their success was in Japan and most of their focus was there as well. Spending more time overseas than their native land is naturally going to put them in a dangerous place of irrelevance. So, fans should respect their decision to move on with lives and personal musical journey elsewhere so they can grow and make a name for themselves without mismanagement. Remember the T-ara debacle? That was all sorts of mismanagement.

Now for the king of kpop companies that suck: SM Entertainment. As the founders of the kpop market, they can practically get away with murder and fans would blame the dead for being selfish for dying. SME can do no wrong in the eyes of fans, but they have done the most wrong over the years. The most recent of scandals is the lawsuit put against them by EXO-M member Kris who is currently working on terminating his contract and pursue other ventures he was denied of. If you know SME's track record, then you're aware that this isn't anything new for them. Most kpop news sources, at least the ones I follow, bring up Super Junior's Han Geng's departure and the most well known DBSK split. I could probably go on and on about the problems I have with the company, but the focus lies with Kris. Fans and other spectators are more than split about the matter. Some stick to their bias with SME claiming they've done so much for him and he's being selfish. Some believe Kris deserves to have basic human rights and recognize that SME is trying to cover for their evil doings. Others that actually believe that neither are the victim and note that both will suffer after the lawsuit.

If you've been here long enough, you should know where my bias lies. SME has done too much wrong and have failed time after time to improve. JYJ has yet to get the same publicity as their former bandmates and Chinese members are still regarded as lesser compared to their Korean counterparts among other things. As long as SME has the power, money, and approval/support from the fans, nothing will change unless something major happens.

Since this rant is getting quite lengthy, I'll skim over some company faults from Japan. Remember the gender bias treatment that was given to AKB48's Minegishi Minami? Sure, the punishment lied within cultural boundaries and she did break contract, but it was the cherry on the cake when Shirahama Alan of GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE simply got a slap on the wrist for what he did. How about the complex relationship between former KAT-TUN members Jin Akanishi and Koki Tanaka? Yes, I agree that some of the fault lies with them, but the extremity of their punishment is with the company. There's also the split between Aoi and Ayabie due to their company's plans for them outside of music, supposedly, and Vidoll's company possibly controlling the direction of their music and announcing their disbandment before the members were ready. Lastly, an equal offender on my list with SM Entertainment: PS Company.

They're another label I can go on and on about, but once again for the sake of the post, they're a terrible company to the bands under them. There's a reason Miyavi, SuG, and now Alice Nine. left. Whether it was a selfish reason or not, the motivation lied within company restraints. Miyavi wanted to experiment and dabble in other areas as well as live his life as a human being. If he stayed behind, I imagine it would end up as something similar to Jin Akanishi's marriage to Meisa Kuroki. SuG wanted to take their music to new heights and break the mold placed upon them by PSC, so they left. More recently, it seems like Alice Nine. finally realized that they lost their way from their roots and decided to touch base back to them elsewhere.

With these examples, I hope that fans will learn that sometimes companies suck and leave the blame and anger with the label. There's a reason for everything and I'm sure there have been cases where artists have been selfish or simply unreasonable, but with these examples the fault lies with the company and their unreasonable restrictions and unfair punishments.

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