On Kpop and Death by "Nobody"

“Magsitayo ang lahat para sa pambansang awit. Handa--awit. ‘I want nobody, nobody but you!’ Clap, clap... clap! ‘Nobody, nobody… Nobody, nobody...’”

Korean Pop, or “Kpop” as fans fondly call it, has definitely taken over local airwaves. Playing even more incessantly than David Cook’s “Always be my Baby” at the peak of its popularity, “Nobody,” by the Korean all-girl group Wonder Girls is a force to be reckoned with. The song is only one of many others by Korean artists that dominate radio and TV stations today. But as with every new craze, there remain some of us who are not swept up by tide. Thus we ask: “Why is this music so popular? Why do people keep singing songs they don’t understand? And why does that darn song keep playing in my head?”

So what do Kpop artists have that is making the entire country go gaga? Novelty is one obvious reason. What could be more novel than songs in a foreign language? What’s happening now is reminiscent of the F4 craze a few years ago. There was a myriad of fans and fan clubs back then. Likewise, there was a Jessica (as in Jessica Soho) episode on GMA-7 that featured a group called Cassiopeia Philippines, whose raison d’être is to adulate Kpop artists. (What Cassiopeia has to do with Kpop I have no idea.)

I asked around for explanations of the craze and got an interesting reply from Joanna Marie Tomas, a third year Political Science student. She said, “I’m a big fan of music in general. And just like other music-lovers would agree, I think that the popularity of Kpop in our country only proves that ‘music knows no boundaries’. [It is] undoubtedly a sign of interconnectedness.”

When you think about it, it does make sense. After all, music is music. It may differ in delivery but the honest intention to express remains. “The Prayer” is still a pretty good song, even to those who don’t speak Italian, and “On Ne S’aimera Plus Jamais” once enjoyed considerable popularity in the country. With globalization, it is inevitable that new ideas will be integrated into local culture. Dislikers just prove the fact that nothing pleases everyone—I know one classical music buff who would never listen to anybody born post-1950. He reacts to Kpop like a lactose-intolerant does to a swimming pool of yoghurt.

However, one point raised by the intense admiration for Kpop is whether or not it is causing the death of the local music industry. Answer one: They shouldn’t be afraid of a little competition. Answer two: If the local music industry survived F4, it’ll survive this one. Answer three: Just because a lot of Pinoys like Kpop doesn’t mean they love local artists any less. RIGHT?

So far it looks like Super Junior, SS501, Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, and 2NE1 are going to dominate the airwaves for a while longer. But will it last long enough to deeply influence local music?

Let me end this column with a related news report. Believe it or not, “Nobody” has actually killed someone. Think of it as an updated “My Way” phenomenon. People’s Journal carried this headline last September 5, 2009: Lalaki pinatay ng 4 dahil ’di alam ang “Nobody.” Patalim iniwan sa katawan ng biktima. (Man killed by four others for not knowing “Nobody,” murder weapon left in the victim’s body.”) PJ reporter Jerico Javier relates that last August 26 in Tondo, a Leo Santos, 28, was killed by 4 men when he asked them what they were singing. The fatal song, of course, was “Nobody.” Santos died from two stab wounds in the stomach.

The suspects, Jansen Maglanque, Jonar Balagtas, Rodolfo Aguas and alias Joseph, have not been caught, so be careful who you talk to—or sing to—these days. ▪