Factory Girls-5

温暖的冰美式2020-04-03 10:21:09

S.M. had prepared questions for the idols, and they were read out loud, in English and Korean, by the S.M. company man who ran the proceedings. The first question, for the two members of the Girls, was: “Every time you visit the States it seems like you receive crazy love and support. Can you feel it? Can you explain the wonderful reception your fans have given you?”

The same question was put, in slightly different forms, to all the groups. The two representatives of Super Junior, a twelve-member boy group, were asked, “How do you always manage to have an explosive reaction from your fans worldwide? What’s your secret?”

One of the members hazarded a guess. “Maybe it is because of our great good looks?”

Lee Soo-man, S.M.’s founder—people in the company refer to him as Chairman Lee—is K-pop’s master architect. Lee retired as the agency’s C.E.O. in 2010, but he still takes a hand in forming the trainees into idol groups, including S.M.’s newest one, EXO. The group has twelve boys, six of them Korean speakers who live in Seoul (EXO-K) and six Mandarin speakers, who live in China (EXO-M). The two “subgroups” release songs at the same time in their respective countries and languages, and promote them simultaneously, thereby achieving “perfect localization,” as Lee calls it. “It may be a Chinese artist or a Chinese company, but what matters in the end is the fact that it was made by our cultural technology,” he has said. “We are preparing for the next biggest market in the world, and the goal is to produce the biggest stars in the world.” But, while S.M. gets credit for inventing the factory system, its idol groups are seen by some as being too robotic to make it in the West. Y.G. is significantly smaller than S.M. in terms of revenue, but it has a reputation as an agency that allows artists like PSY a kind of creative freedom they would not enjoy at S.M.

Lee was born in Seoul in 1952, during the Korean War. He grew up listening to his mother play classical piano. At the time, the dominant Korean pop genre was trot (an abbreviation of “foxtrot”), pronounced “teuroteu.” Trot borrowed from Western music and from Japanese popular songs, a legacy of the Japanese occupation, from 1910 to 1945. It blended these influences with a distinctively Korean singing style called pansori. Lee, however, immersed himself in American folk and Korean rock music, which started on U.S. Army bases and was popularized by the guitarist and singer Shin Joong-hyun, in the sixties. Long before K-pop came along, Korean musicians were masters at combining Western influences with traditional singing and dancing styles.

Lee made his name as a folksinger, and toward the end of the decade formed a short-lived hard-rock band called Lee Soo-man and the 365 Days. He also became a well-known d.j. and the host of televised music and variety shows. Mark Russell, who interviewed Lee for his 2008 book, “Pop Goes Korea,” writes that the Korean government cracked down on the music scene, arresting and imprisoning several prominent musicians on pot charges. When a military coup installed Chun Doo-hwan as President, in 1980, Lee’s radio and TV shows were cancelled.

Lee moved to the U.S., where he pursued a master’s degree in computer engineering at California State University, in Northridge. He became fascinated with the music videos that were a staple of programming on the newly launched MTV. If there is a single video from the eighties that captures many of the elements that later resurfaced in K-pop, it is Bobby Brown’s 1988 hit “My Prerogative,” with its triplet swing on the sixteenth note, a signature of New Jack Swing. Brown’s dance moves—a swagger in the hips, combined with tight spins that are echoed by backing dancers—also found their way into K-pop’s DNA.

In 1985, Lee received his degree, and, he told Russell, he returned home determined to “replicate U.S. entertainment in Korea.” Increasing prosperity, marked by the arrival of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, helped bring market-oriented democracy to South Korea and a general loosening of restrictions on the media. Around this time, Koreans coming back to Seoul from the U.S. brought the rhythms of rap and hip-hop, sung in Korean. The consonant nature of the language, with its abundance of kaand tasounds, lent a hard-edged quality to the raps. In 1992, a three-member boy group called Seo Taiji and Boys performed a rap song on a Korean-TV talent competition, to the horror of the judges, who ranked them last, and to the delight of the kids watching at home (one of the Boys was Yang Hyun-suk, the future founder of Y.G. Entertainment). Korean music historians generally cite this performance as the beginning of K-pop.

Lee founded S.M. in 1989. His first success was a Korean singer and hip-hop dancer named Hyun Jin-young, whose album came out in 1990. But, just as Jin-young was on the verge of stardom, he was arrested for drugs. Russell writes that Lee was “devastated” by this misfortune, and that the experience taught him the value of complete control over his artists: “He could not go through the endless promoting and developing a new artist only to have it crash and burn around him.”

In effect, Lee combined his ambitions as a music impresario with his training as an engineer to create the blueprint for what became the K-pop idol assembly line. His stars would be made, not born, according to a sophisticated system of artistic development that would make the star factory that Berry Gordy created at Motown look like a mom-and-pop operation. Lee called his system “cultural technology.” In a 2011 address at Stanford Business School, he explained, “I coined this term about fourteen years ago, when S.M. decided to launch its artists and cultural content throughout Asia. The age of information technology had dominated most of the nineties, and I predicted that the age of cultural technology would come next.” He went on, “S.M. Entertainment and I see culture as a type of technology. But cultural technology is much more exquisite and complex than information technology.”

In 1996, S.M. débuted its first idol group: a five-member boy band called H.O.T. (short for High-Five of Teenagers). It was followed by S.M.’s first girl group, S.E.S., after the given names of the three members (Sea, Eugene, and Shoo). Both groups were enormously popular in Korea, and inspired other groups. Soon K-pop was pushing both traditional trot and rock to the commercial margins of the Korean music scene.

(To be continued...)

译者:Daisyyu 原作者:John Seabrook 


对所有的团体以略微不同的形式提出了同样的问题。12个成员的组合Super Junior的两个代表被问到,你们是怎么能总是从全世界的粉丝那里得到爆炸性的反应的?你们的秘诀是什么?” 


李秀满,SM的创立者——公司里的人提到他是叫李社长,是韩国流行音乐的熟练建设师。2010年李作为公司的CEO退休了,但是他仍然在把练习生组成一个偶像团体上搭一把手,包括SM的新团体EXO。这个团体有12个男孩子,六个住在首尔说韩语的(EXO-K)和六个说普通话的,住在中国(EXO-M)。两个子团体在他们各自在的国家和语言里同时发布歌曲,同时宣传他们,因而实现了完美的本地化,正如李说的那样。这可能是一位中国艺术家或者一个中国公司,但是重要的是最后是由我们的文化科技制造的,他曾说过。我们正在为世界的下一个最大市场做准备,目标就是生产世界上最大的明星。但是,虽然SM因发明了工厂体系而获得好评,但是其偶像团体在西方人看来过于机器人化。YG在收益方面比SM 少很多,但是它作为一个公司获得了声誉,能允许像PSY这样的歌手一种创造自由,而这在SM享受不到。 



李搬到了美国,在北岭的加利福利亚州立大学攻读计算机工程硕士学位。他迷上了新推出的MTV上的一个主要节目的音乐视频。如果八十年代有一个视频,捕获了很多后来在韩国流行音乐重新浮现的元素的话,那就是鲍比·布朗的1988年的热曲《My Prerogative》,这首歌有着十六分音符上的三连音符音律,是新杰克摇摆舞曲的信号。布朗的舞蹈动作——臀部摇摆,和后面舞者动作重复的紧密的旋转相结合——这在韩国流行音乐中也能找到。 




年,SM首次推出了第一个偶像团体:叫做HOT的五个男孩组合(是High-Five of Teenagers的简写)。紧接着,是SM的第一个女子组合SES,是三个成员的艺名(Sea, Eugene, and Shoo)。两个组合在在韩国都非常受欢迎,然后激发了其他的团体。很快,韩国流行音乐受着传统的trot和摇滚的推动,韩国音乐界走向商业利润。