This post was originally posted on LiveJournal.
Whaaaaat – 5 parts into this Media Map for Music and we still haven’t seen the end of it? I know, I’m just now realizing the scope that K-pop covered in my life in 2013 and suddenly the timeline I mentioned at the beginning of this series doesn’t seem like such an exaggeration now. But, onward and upward my dear friends.
A Brief Intermission for The Rising Gods of the East
Any attempt at a primer on K-pop would be incomplete without making mention of the Rising Gods of the East, or DBSK (Dong Bang Shing Ki, known to purists as DB5K.) It would seem incredibly ignorant of me not to have touched upon them at some point in my indoctrination to K-pop, so of course I looked them up. However, just like what happened with B.A.P’s “One Shot”, I lacked the framework (and maybe even the capacity) to fully appreciate DBSK the first time I listened to them. Here’s why: the K-pop landscape has dramatically changed ever since this group debuted in 2003, so listening to their discography was disorienting at the very least. I’m not going to lie when I say I found many of their early material very dated. Because I came into K-pop tongue-in-cheek, I didn’t think I was up to taking DBSK’s discography as seriously as the material demanded.
Looking at the progression of K-pop in its current form, three distinct waves or “movements” have so far punctuated its timeline. The first wave came in the late 90’s with groups like H.O.T and Shinhwa. The second wave (2000-2006) – the one that ushered in K-pop as we know it to be now, brought in talents like Rain, BoA, DBSK, BIGBANG and Super Junior. It feels like we’re securely in the third wave now with groups like SHINee, SNSD, and 2NE1 breaking out from 2007 onwards, but who knows we might already be at the tail end of the third wave or at the very lip of the fourth one if each “wave” lasts about six years or so…
DBSK is as seminal to K-pop as much as Rain or BoA or Super Junior can be called seminal, and maybe even more so. DBSK are the giants whose shoulders the K-pop groups we have today have been standing on. But hang on – if DBSK came in the “second wave”, how is it that they are even more seminal than H.O.T or Shinhwa? That’s because neither group have reached critical mass. Both groups failed to reach a massive audience outside of Korea at the height of their popularity. DBSK on the other hand, if their name was any indication of their future in the Asian music industry was something else. DBSK currently hold the record for the world’s biggest official fanclub and were listed in 2008 as the “world’s most photographed celebrities” in the Guiness World Book of Records. DBSK are probably the biggest K-pop group you’ve never heard of.
There is also too much bitter history there, the details of which I have a difficult time getting out of the fans who were actually there to experience it. I’d go so far to say that DBSK breaking up brings as much pain to their fans as the Beatles breaking up, so that should give you some idea of how important this group is to K-pop.
They’re simply too big to be chunked in with any of the other groups here, so maybe that’s why I had a difficult time absorbing them unlike the way I did these other ones, offshoots no doubt of the seeds planted by the sunbaenims that came before them.
On the upshot, TVXQ! (or, the current incarnation of DBSK minus three of its core members (for details, please see “bitter history” above or read a brief summary of events) has released a new album called “Tense” this week, celebrating ten years in the music biz. I’m excited that this will finally give me the impetus I need to review DBSK’s discography.
…because there’s a lot more to their legacy than this MV.
Missed the previous media maps for music? Catch up here: