Whew chile, MTV done stepped in it this year with the announcement of a new “KPop” category this year for the Video Music Awards. The new category is Best K-Pop, that’s it! The artist in this category are BlackPink, EXO, MonstaX ft. French Montana, NCT 127, Tomorrow x Together, and of course BTS ft. Halsey. BTS is actual nominated in 3 additional categories: Best Collaboration, Best Art Direction, Best Choreography.
So What’s the Problem
Fans of KPop are in an uproar about the absurdity of the stand alone KPop category. Also the fact that these groups, other than BTS, was left out of the mainstream categories such as Best Video, Best Collaboration, Best Choreography and Best Artist. Take Monsta X for example. They were nominated for Best KPop for their song ft. French Montana, but not Best Collaboration. For those that don’t know, Who Do You Love was only recorded in English and released in North America. However they still only received a nomination under KPop and not under Best Collaboration.
This fact and many others have fans from all over the world screaming xenophobia. By definition xenophobia is the deep-rooted fear towards foreigners or the fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. Now personally I wouldn’t go as far as claiming that MTV is xenophobic in any way. At least not for just adding a stand alone category or by not adding KPop groups to the already established ones.
Instead I think MTV has jumped in head first onto the Hallyu Wave sweeping across America right now and want in on the action. They also need the ratings. A story published by Deadline in 2018 states that the ratings for the VMA’s has declined over the past 5 years, with 2018 being it’s lowest year. So what do you need to do to bring in more and younger viewers? You guessed it, add KPop and BTS to the mix.
MTV’s History of Non-Inclusion
Established in August 1981, MTV was one of the only places to go to watch a new music video or any music video all day, everyday. Originally MTV format was primarily videos by the leading rock artist at the time such as Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart and The Who. Eventually leading to hard rock artist such as Van Halen, Guns & Roses and Aerosmith. Although other forms of music from pop, R&B and rap were very popular at the time, MTV rarely budged from their format. This meant that no videos from people of color, Black or Latino were ever played. Most black artist at that time were mostly pop or R&B, artist such as Prince and Micheal Jackson. However in March 1983 Micheal Jackson’s Billie Jean is credited as being the first video by a black artist to play on the station. That’s almost two years after MTV started. MJ is credited with paving the way not only for artist of color , but also other pop artist to be seen on the station. Madonna didn’t have her first video air until Borderline in 1984.
The one genre that still was looking for airplay and a little respect was Rap. Although it was a very popular genre of music, it still was controversial. Rap was looked at as urban music and less mainstream. Eventually MTV gave in and in 1984, Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box” became the first rap video played on MTV. 4 years later MTV would introduce Yo! MTV Rap in 1988, which was a show that had a mix of rap videos, interviews with rap artist and live in studio performances. Yo! MTV Rap ran for 7 years until it’s last show in August of 1995.
It took a few years for MTV to realize that in order to grow and increase their audience they had to include other genres of music from more diverse artist. The world was changing and so were music taste. No longer was rap and R&B for the black or urban community. If you want to read more on MTV’s history please click on the links below.
Western MV’s vs. Korean MV’s
Let’s be honest, there is no way to compare Western music videos today to what is being produced by Korean artist and entertainment companies. The quality is like no other. One of the first things you notice is the superb quality, concept and superior production level of KPop music videos. It reminds me of the epic music videos I remember seeing back in the 90’s from Madonna, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. Over the top conceptual story lines with visuals to match. Why western music video have stopped putting in that level of artistry I really couldn’t tell you. I do know that a lot of Korean music artist look up to the likes of Michael Jackson, not only for his music style but for his superior dancing and creativity. That admiration shows in the videos from the likes of Exo, Shinee and NCT 127.
So, with that being said, why aren’t BlackPink, EXO, Monsta X, NCT 127 and Together x Tomorrow not nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Choreography and Cinematography. In the Choreography category you have nominee FKA twigs for her video Cellophane. It’s a beautiful video with FKA twigs doing an amazing pole routine, but not to the point of best choreography. There’s also No New Friends by LSD ft Labrinth, Sia and Diplo, a visually stunning video with amazing graphics. However the 2:59 minutes video consist of 20 seconds of dancing and doesn’t start until the 1:40 mark. In comparison with Regular by NCT 127 and Tempo by EXO it’s like comparing a first graders essay on what I did on my summer vacation with a PH.D. level dissertation. It’s like comparing a glass Veuve Clicquot to a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. Don’t get me wrong both are good, but they don’t compare. BTS was nominated for best choreography for Boy With Love ft Halsey. Although it is a visually beautiful video, with amazing choreography, it is quite simple, especially compared to prior BTS music videos.
So Why Bother With a KPop Category
Ratings, ratings, ratings! MTV needs the VMA’s to be a hit and right now all eyes are on KPop, especially BTS. Yet, they couldn’t just add BTS to categories and call it a day. They most likely didn’t want to look like they were just jumping on the band wagon and doing it for the ratings. Unfortunately it still came across looking like they pandering for the ratings.
In addition if we compare the artistry, production and quality of the videos that were nominated both Korean and Western, you would see the difference. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it would show just how unimaginative some Western music videos are. It would show that even with a big budget and big name artist something is still missing. The level of vitality is almost non existent with some Western videos to the point I can barley remember the the story or premise of most of them. So to add a stand alone category, i think is more to save face for other artist and instead of the inclusion of KPop artist.
What Have I Learned
There is no way to know for sure what MTV’s true intentions are when they created the KPop category. Should KPop fans just be grateful that they have at least started to include Korean Pop artist? Those in the know, know how many hours of practice and effect go into their music videos. They are always striving not only for perfection, but to not disappoint their loyal fans. In return, their fans have voiced their discontent with MTV’s decision to add this new category, but also exclude Korean Pop videos in the others. Many fans are vowing to protest by not watching or supporting the voting. While others have full on campaigns to support their groups they stan the most.
At this point I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong way to exclaim disappointment in the VMA’s. Maybe this is just the first start and slow road to an all inclusive VMA’s. Maybe after a few years KPop will receive it’s well deserved moment in all spotlights not just a segregated one of their own. Black artist had to wait years before being included. Maybe I’ll just take a queue from Monsta X, who didn’t even mention their nomination at their concert in NYC. Just move on! Just keep stanning and supporting our favorites until everyone else catches up!
Until next time….