Monday, August 5, 2013

Dorky is the new sexy in K-pop

The five girls of Crayon Pop are identified by their bicycle helmets, polo shirts and dorky music. / Korea Times file

By Baek Byung-yeul

Female acts in K-pop have become known for their skimpy stage wear, raccoon makeup and aggressive thrusts. Then there is Crayon Pop, a hot new girl group that successfully betted on being dorky in the sea of sexy.

The five girls ― identified by their bicycle helmets, polo shirts and sweatpants beneath their miniskirts ― seem to be everywhere these days, from television music shows to Saturday Night Live Korea.

They are a riot in social media. The video for their song, "Bar Bar Bar,’’ has reached 1.3 million views on YouTube and their robotic, "five-engine’’ dance has touched off a craze unseen since Psy rode the invisible horse.

Crowds at full-capacity baseball stadiums, including the one at LG Twins’ home game in Jamsil Stadium last week, have sang and danced to Bar Bar Bar, ranked highly on every download chart.

It’s safe to say that the popularity of Crayon Pop has been the most unexpected event of an otherwise nondescript year in K-pop.

"We have fans in every age group. But 'uncle’ fans (middle-age male) seem to account for the majority,’’ said Gummi, the leader of the band who probably borrowed her stage name from a fruit jelly.

"They say our music and dance give energy to them when they commute to work. I really appreciate their generous reactions.’’

According to Hwang Hyun-chang, CEO of Crayon Pop’s management company, Chrome Entertainment, the idea was to make a girl band that would be funny, goofy and likable, but would also run screaming from sexiness.

In explaining how he picked the girls, interestingly, Hwang inadvertently exposes his own sexual stereotypes. He didn’t want any of the members to be taller than 1.65-meters because they would look too leggy in those tracksuits. ''Sexy faces’’ were avoided too.

''We started the band with the question that why does every girl group in K-pop have to go through the same route to garner public attention and end up looking the same,’’ he said.

Crayon Pop seemed like a failed experiment at first, with their songs quickly appearing and disappearing from download charts in July last year. Then the "word-of-mouth’’ generated by Facebook and Twitter gave them a second life, which has proved to be bombastic.

"We will explore different business models. We can’t compete with the pop stars of bigger management companies like SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment, which continue to dominate pop shows on national television and throw lavish concerts. We believe we are crafting a smart niche market in an age where everyone’s devices double as a camera and portable Internet gateway,’’ said Hwang.

Crayon Pop have been frequently seen performing on Seoul’s leisure districts like Myeongdong, Shinchon and Dongdaemun. They have also broadcasted talk shows on their official fan site (

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