Some people are still arguing over whether “indie” constitutes a real genre on its own, but for the sake of clarity, K-indie can be understood as an umbrella term for certain subculture music genres of South Korea—whether hip-hop, R&B, alternative rock, or another genre in nature. K-indie music is produced by artists who work independent of the major producers and entertainment corporations on the scene in Seoul, such as the “Big 3” companies: SM, YG, and JYP Entertainment. Admittedly, some of these artists attain fame or popularity on par with artists from these three major labels, as evidenced by indie rock band Busker Busker and their takeover of the Korean music charts—the Gaon, MelOn, Bugs, and Mnet charts just to name a few—with the release of their sophomore album in September. However, indie groups are often unknown by outside audiences. Here are some underrated K-indie artists worth exploring, especially those who offer a break from the upbeat, flashier K-pop tunes that are constantly churned out.
Matching skinny jeans and sweaters in shades of pastel, long hair with sweeping bangs, copious amounts of eyeliner—to the average American consumer, these sound like characteristics of female singers. However, to the average South Korean consumer, these features are completely normal for male K-pop groups, if not endearing. Despite having witnessed the youthful, teen spirit vibes exuded in “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction or “Baby” by Justin Bieber,” if you showed the average American photos or videos of K-pop groups like SHINee, she would probably laugh and make fun of their soft or “effeminate” appearances. It seems that despite the widespread demand for appreciating individuals for their diversity, the U.S. remains torn and often hypocritical in its long-held views of ideal masculinities and portrayals of men in media—and these views seem to particularly manifest themselves with regard to foreign pop artists.
In her recent open letter to Miley Cyrus, Sinead O’Connor warns of the consequences of letting the music industry “pimp” singers. She claims: “It is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.”
“People, the revolution will not be televised / the revolution is in your mind / the revolution is here / this is my coup d’état,” raps hip-hop artist G-Dragon in the title track of his sophomore album, “Coup D’état.” A collaborative effort with famed producers Diplo and Baauer, the eerie, thumping song takes listeners by surprise, devoid of the frenetic beats fans have come to associate with these producers. And indeed, G-Dragon delivers what he promises, becoming one of the first Korean artists since Psy to not only top Korean chart records, but also to break into the U.S. Billboard Top 200.