waves_of_light (waves_of_light) wrote in omonatheydidnt,

Reality TV K-pop act rocks music scene while raising questions of fairness

From its inception, SSAK3, a one-off K-pop team created for MBC TV's weekend variety show "Hang Out With Yoo," was intended to be a silly tongue-in-cheek project, riding on the coattails of the retro boom in today's pop culture landscape.

At best, the co-ed trio, formed of two late '90s-2000s singers -- Lee Hyo-ri of girl group FIN.K.L and male soloist Rain -- and top-billed comedian-emcee Yoo Jae-suk, was expected to offer a dose of wholesome feel-good '90s nostalgia to viewers and, in doing so, a much needed boost in ratings for the TV network currently undergoing a serious financial crunch.

What SSAK3 (word play on "ssaksseuri," a Korean slang term for "clean sweep") actually ended up delivering is no laughing matter. The project group has exploded into one of this summer's biggest K-pop acts to date.

Since July 11, the team -- modeled after the likes of late-90's-2000s co-ed trio Koyote -- has already released three single albums and plans to drop a special album, a compilation of the three singles and solo tracks from each members, on Saturday.

The vibrant and carefree summer dance numbers -- "In Summer," a remake of the iconic 1994 dance hit by Deux, "Beach Again" and "Play That Summer" -- have floated on the top tiers of most domestic music streaming services since their successive weekly releases on July 11.

"Beach Again" was the top streamed song on Melon as of 9 a.m. Friday, outpacing "Maria" by Hwasa of Mamamoo and "How You Like That" by BLACKPINK. "Play That Summer" and "In Summer" pulled in at fourth and sixth, respectively. SSAK3's standing on other platforms, such as Bugs Music and Genie Music, isn't that different.

The group has also made noticeable splashes overseas, having stayed on four music charts -- iTunes, Apple Music, Shazam and Deezer -- for an average 3.86 days in 45 countries and regions.

"The song has a retro and summer vibe that is also easy to listen to," wrote Twitter user @khunyoolover, a self-professed fan of SSAK3 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The buzz surrounding SSAK3 isn't limited to just the music. The music video for "Beach Again" has so far racked up 4.5 million views on YouTube in less than a week, while the band is currently staging a full-fledged media blitz, blowing away the competition on television music shows -- finishing second on MBC TV's "Music Core" on July 25 and clinching first place on Mnet's "M Countdown," a much-coveted spot usually reserved for top-billed K-pop stars, on Thursday.

"Hang Out With Yoo" has also gained noticeable traction in ratings and online buzz in line with the trio's growing popularity. The weekend prime time show centers around Yoo, one of the biggest celebrity comedians in South Korea, tackling various vocational projects, such as cooking and stage acting, in a reality TV format.

SSAK3, from its inception to debut, has been chronicled in detail on the weekly TV series, including the trio coming up with the band's somewhat silly name and discussing the musical and visual concepts the members wanted to pursue and even jokingly choosing alter ego names: Yooduragon (Yoo Jae-suk), B-Dragon (Rain) and Linda G (Lee Hyo-ri).

The band and the TV show owns part of their success to a viral phenomenon since late May surrounding an old music video by Rain, whose real name is Jung Ji-hoon.

The video for Rain's 2017 song "Gang" on YouTube was caught up in a strange hate-watching boom online, leading to the "one Gang a day" movement, referring to the trend of watching the video at least once a day, which also lead to scores of parody videos uploaded on the internet.

But the element of nostalgia, of straight-forward and upbeat '90s sound laced with bright brass arrangements, and lyrics that are both unapologetically escapist and sentimental, is also an undeniable factor in SSAK3's success.

The group has apparently struck a nerve with older fans of music in their 30s and 40s in particular, fatigued by some of the more serious, concept or theme-oriented releases by today's mainstream artists.

"We may be a refreshing team, considering that we evoke old memories from fans similar to our age, while at the same time being a bit different from today's music for younger fans," Yoo said in an online fan meet-and-greet event on July 25.

Paul Matthews, a British radio personality who has lived in South Korea for 20 years, agreed.

"Being in my early 40s, it's a nice nostalgic trip back to earlier days. There's something comforting about seeing older K-pop stars being a little silly and having fun," Matthews added.

Ha Jae-keun, a Seoul-based cultural commentator, said SSAK3 can be distinguished from contemporary stars from their very existence evoking memories of the good old days regardless of the listeners' age.

"The mass tends to enjoy songs that are both exciting and a bit sentimental. (SSAK3) tends to have both of those emotions in their songs, while the lyrics are also easy to understand," Ha said.

Some observers, however, have expressed reservations on whether the group truly deserves all of the praise it's been receiving, pointing out the fact that the band has the full-blessing and backing from a national television network for its promotion.

"I do think the popularity of the band stems purely from the power of television, as opposed to that of music," said pop music critic Chung Min-jae.

Chung saw the boom behind SSAK3 as a part of the larger recent trend of new music finding a footing among the mass audience through exposure in non-music mediums, such as advertisements, films and variety TV shows.

Others question whether it's appropriate for MBC to book the team on its own music competition program, where as record labels and trainees-artists of all sizes need to spend small fortunes and toil away for years for even the slightest chance to appear on national television.

To be clear, MBC has stated that all proceeds from SSAK3's album sales and publicity will be donated to charities.

"As a fan of the TV show, listening to the music and seeing the team enjoy success is fun," one entertainment industry official said, asking to be unnamed. "But in this day and age when high standards of fairness are demanded from public institutions, one has to ask whether the broadcaster is depriving other star hopefuls of opportunities."

I remember similar criticism when the Infinite Challenge Song Festival songs would dominate the charts every summer lol. But cry harder, I'm still jamming to "Naengmyun" 11 years later because they delivered bops!

source: Yonhap News
Tags: lee hyori, rain, variety show, yoo jae suk

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I could maybe be sympathetic if the profits weren't going to charity... but since that's not the case ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯... next week you get that #1 Somi girl or whoever is competing against them
Hey, they can't help that they're super rookies!!
Why are people so mad that they're popular? The general public dgaf about idols, it's mostly middle schoolers that stream their songs. Rain, Hyori and YJS are known among the older generation and general public, it's no surprise that their songs are successful. Let them have fun for a few weeks and then you can go back to mass-streaming your oppas songs and fight with other fandoms over who is getting that number 1 on music shows.
That's all this is, 3rd gen fans salty that these older celebs are far more popular with the public than any of their faves. It crushes the delusion that everyone in Korea actually gives a fuck about their group. These kiddies really fooled themselves into thinking large fan base who mass streams = tens of millions of Koreans love their fave's music lmao


5 months ago


5 months ago

Are people gonna be this upset when Lee Hyori, Uhm Jung Hwa, Jessi, and Hwasa debut?
i don't really understand the criticism. yes, ssak3 was basically guaranteed instant success because it's 3 huge stars in one group, but they've all put in work over the last 10-20 years??? plus, consumers can support more than one group at a time lmao
lol idc i love their song, it's fun but very easy on the ears
this is such a non-issue. are the ones who are unhappy mainly idol fans? these 3 are like big names so of course they will make a big splash. and it's a project group, so don't worry they'll be here for a while and your idols can continue dominating the charts


August 1 2020, 04:32:04 UTC 5 months ago Edited:  August 1 2020, 04:34:35 UTC

This is so dumb. I feel like YG or another company planted this story tbh. Idol fans and companies do unfair shit to game the charts all the time (mass streaming, releasing multiple album versions, fan meets, etc.) that's accepted as normal, but suddenly it's only a problem when when younger groups can't benefit from it? It's not SSSAK3's fault they're successful at variety and beloved by the public. Maybe if these greedy ass companies hadn't oversaturated the market in the first fucking place, newer idols would get spots on these shows too instead of resorting to content only hardcore fans watch like Vlives and YT vlogs 🙄

"I do think the popularity of the band stems purely from the power of television, as opposed to that of music," said pop music critic Chung Min-jae.

This kills me. As if idol groups' popularity has ever been about the music
i think that very little of popular music stems purely from the power of music, like it or not!
great article OP, thank you for sharing this

personally, i don't understand why there are people upset with it. people need to read about what a music show is: a music show. not a (struggling) idol show. they really need to get over themselves.
also, having the backing of a national tv station doesn't make people enjoy a song, doesn't make them buy it, doesn't make them listen to it.

i'm just super happy for them and all the more because everything goes to charity! i'm so glad they did such a great job and i'm really loving it. it's so refreshing to see something this chill, not overly choreographed and serious, and just pleasing to the ears in stead of loud music.
Idol fans are dying to throw the s-word but they can't since SSAK3 aren't exactly nugus so they came up with this kind of ~fairness~ narrative instead lmao.
Like the Kpop industry was ever fair in the first place?

The proceeds are all going to charity, so this isn't the example to pick to showcase unfairness imo
i see the comments only say about the public, but i think i read a few days ago that industry people are also complaining, which is I agree with OP, cry harder. yes, this is Infinite Challenge Song Festival problem all over again. but like, they dont release songs every month, let them be. also, one of the critics was that they're not an actual group, but there's rain and hyori who are actual singers. so ugh. just shut up and enjoy some fun summer songs.
I am cackling at how pressed people are at how successful SSAK3 has been. Of course they were were bound to be popular, they are all veterans in the industry who are loved by the GP. It's just like when Infinite Challenge did their collabs and all of those songs became hits. They're such a breath of fresh air in the over-saturated idol industry because they're literally just having fun on stage being themselves and the song is a summer bop. I already like Hyori, Rain and YJS individually and I like them together as a group. Their dynamic is wonderful. It's not hard to stan them even if you weren't a fan previously. I also admire that the proceeds are going towards charities.

Fans need to realize that the more well known your fave is to the GP (whether through variety, hosting, dramas etc), then the more likely they are to have an impact on the charts. As I said before, fandom power does not necessarily equate to the average crowd being aware of your existence. You have fans streaming their faves' music, bulk buying and voting on all these platforms just to feel some sense of accomplishment when their fave wins an award, so they think their fave is popular...Only to realize that outside of the kpop bubble, no one actually knows or cares about them. It does suck but that is how the cookie crumbles. It's also funny how you can tell which songs on the charts are songs that the GP actually listens to vs what kpop fans are listening to. That's why OSTs, ballads and songs by veterans are so popular, because that's what the GP wants to hear. Plus, the drastic drop in the kpop songs at certain times of the day pretty much cements that fans go out of their way to stream. You have to accept the facts at some point.

Now let SSAK3 do what they came to do and slay away, then you can go back to fighting over which kpop idol is on top once they're done promoting.

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