Thirsty for Western validation or so they say. Those were just one of the comments towards the South Korean boyband BTS after winning Billboard’s Top Social Artist award last year. This just proves that maybe many are not yet ready for K-pop or any non-English speaking artists. While a lot of their fans rejoiced, the other half of social media thrashed the result. Many threw racist remarks while others went off saying that they should go back to where they came from. Even the K-pop rapper, Jay Park, who also recently just signed with Roc Nation, is not safe from this discrimination. The official Facebook page of NBA was flooded with racist comments when a picture of him was posted last year wearing a CAVs jersey in Quikens Loan Arena in Cleveland.
박재범 Jay Park (AOM) in the house for Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland!
In K-pop history, there’s quite a few acts who have already won in Western music awards: Big Bang (MTV EMA Best Worldwide Act 2011), SNSD (YTMA Video of the Year 2012), PSY (BBMA Top Streaming Song/Video 2013) , and Got7 (MTV EMA Best Worldwide Act 2016). Singer-songwriter and rapper, CL, tried her luck and formally debuted in the US under music agent Scooter Braun, who represents Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. G-dragon who’s been part of the industry for more than ten years now, already collaborated with a lot of Western musicians such as American rapper Missy Elliot and American DJs Skrillex and Diplo. Korean R&B is continuing to flourish in the west. Alternative R&B singer-songwriter, Dean, performed last 2016 alongside CHVRCHES at Spotify House at SWSX Austin making him the first Asian to perform in the said festival.
While most people found the result questionable and unacceptable, for aspiring artists in South Korea or in any part of Asia, these kinds of recognitions are more than just an award. This will ensue and pave the way for the many K-pop artists out there who yearn for their craft to get known and respected globally. True enough, it would be too idealistic to think that getting an award alone is enough to break the racism and prejudice toward K-pop acts because everything is a step by step process. But let this be a reminder to those budding Asian artists that they have a place in this industry and it doesn’t revolve only on certain group of artists.
As these award shows spark criticisms, it also brings light to those who want to pursue music, especially young Asians. In an article of Buzzfeed written by Tanya Chen about BTS’ win, they interviewed a young Asian woman regarding the matter. “I used to be so scared since it’s not a conventional career path, but BTS is the reason why I feel confident enough to continue on with my dreams in music,” 17-year-old Anna Tamura said. Eradicating double standards is probably one of the keys for many to stop discrediting Asian artists. Music awards should take note about handling the same set of standards to every artist whatever they are and wherever they came from.
So glad that a kpop group like BTS has paved a new path & set new goals for Asian representation here. Social media is a very powerful tool
— OG (@tattedpoc) May 22, 2017
Now that the Grammys recently just ended, isn’t this the perfect time to address this issue? K-pop artists and any other artists from Asia spend an unimaginable effort for their craft, just like the many Western artists dominating many awards shows now. In fact, many refer to them as a “complete package” for they can sing, dance, and rap at the same time. If your dilemma is that you can’t understand their lyrics then The Magical Internet is the solution for that which K-pop fans are trying to point out since day one.
Music awards as well as listeners, should give Asian artists a try and venture more about their craft as it offers great deal of artistry. At the end of the day, no one’s forcing you to stan and start listening to these artists if they’re really not your cup of tea. The point is, in this modern age, racism shouldn’t be tolerated in any industry and Asian representations are important in any platform.