Music/Features

EXP Edition is the American K-Pop band nobody asked for

Jun 20, 2017

They're four English-speaking New Yorkers trying to sing in Korean.

As expanded on in our history of K-pop, modern Korean pop music has a unique, vibrant heritage, and its global fanbase keeps on growing thanks to a surplus of talent, money, and ruthless managerial authority the likes of which even Joe Jackson would consider excessive. The one thing that most of the current successful K-pop groups share, though, aside from the next-level fashion sense and fierce label control, is their common music experience: foreign-born K-pop idols aren’t overly uncommon, but they usually log the same hard time in the intense label system, not to mention actually live in South Korea, before they get a big push and try to break. Until EXP Edition, anyway.

EXP Edition are a multinational boy band who formed in the U.S,  and then decided to pick up and move to South Korea to try and make it in the Korean pop music industry. The four members are of Portuguese, American, German/Japanese, and Croatian background, which, while  Their slogan? “Born in NY, made in Seoul”. Uh huh.

The band released their debut single and music video “‘Feel Like This”, back in April –

– and judging from the YouTube comments, they haven’t been winning too many fans among hardcore K-pop enthusiasts, since the video’s currently hovering around a 70% dislike rate. As a plurality of commenters have noted, there’s definitely something deeply objectionable, not to mention utterly craven, about a group of guys seeing the success of a foreign pop music industry and deciding “me too!”. That’s not even getting into EXP Edition’s relative lack of choreography and training as compared to other K-pop groups.

That said, is there really anything wrong with EXP Editions M.O? After all, how many English-singing rock bands have started up around the world over the years, despite it not being their first language, and why would anyone have a problem with a pop band singing outside their native tongue? One commenter/K-pop fan put their disgust with the group plainly: “It’s the fact that they believe putting the Korean before the word pop is going to automatically gain them recognition and popularity when the groups we stan trained for YEARS just to debut.” Well, that and the whole appropriation thing, but basically, yeah.

It’s been subsequently revealed that the group were put together as something of a thesis art project by one Bora Kim for graduate school at Columbia University. “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers, by teaching them how to sing in Korean and act like Korean boys, and complicate this flow/appropriation even more, since I’m in New York, where so many talents are just one online recruitment ad away,” Kim said of her project in 2015.

Kim continues: “Cultural barriers or mistranslation are overcome by the shiny framing/packaging of pop. And that’s where I want this project to go in the long run. The biggest obstacle is funding, of course, but I do want to have the language of the commercial in order to convince people and to get people’s attention and start the dialogue on the politics of our cultures.”

 

Related Article

That said, is there really anything wrong with EXP Editions? After all, how many English-singing rock bands have started up around the world over the years, despite it not being their first language? And why would anyone have a problem with a pop band singing outside their native tongue?

We’ll let a disgusted YouTube commenter/K-pop fan explain: “It’s the fact that they believe putting the Korean before the word pop is going to automatically gain them recognition and popularity when the groups we stan trained for YEARS just to debut.” Well, that and the whole appropriation thing, but basically, yeah.

It’s been subsequently revealed that the group were put together as something of a thesis art project by one Bora Kim for graduate school at Columbia University. “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers, by teaching them how to sing in Korean and act like Korean boys, and complicate this flow/appropriation even more, since I’m in New York, where so many talents are just one online recruitment ad away,” Kim said of her project in 2015.

Kim continues: “Cultural barriers or mistranslation are overcome by the shiny framing/packaging of pop. And that’s where I want this project to go in the long run. The biggest obstacle is funding, of course, but I do want to have the language of the commercial in order to convince people and to get people’s attention and start the dialogue on the politics of our cultures.”

CNN asked, “Do you need to be Korean to be K-Pop?” and while we can’t fully answer that, we’ll at least say this: You should at least speak the language.

Exclusive videos, interviews, contests & more.

sign up for the a.side newsletter

sign up