Intellectualism In K-pop: Hidden Intellectualism
In “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff, he discusses his view on intellectualism by describing it through the lens of a sports fanatic, arguing that intellectualism is found in other places rather than only in academics. He goes on to explain that through sports such as basketball he has learned how to create an argument. In this society the idea of intellectualism is associated with mostly academics, causing people to ignore and disregard what is considered to be “street smarts.” Intellectualism to me is the ability to think abstractly and be able to connect ideas which can be done with most activities and interests. We have the ability to learn anything from everything even that of ours interest. Intellectualism can be found in the most unexpected places such as Korean-pop, or more commonly known as “K-pop,” because it has taught me how to analyze not only words but videos and how to construct arguments.
K-pop is a genre of music that originated in South Korea in the 1990’s and includes more genres than just pop, such as rock. The most popular in the industry are K-pop groups which are made up of trainees who must audition to get into a company and must go through an extensive and tiring training period which can last from two to ten years. These include dancing, singing, and rapping, depending on what skill set each trainee has. Companies put a lot of money and effort into each group as do the trainees with the extensive training period making debuting a difficult thing to do. Lyrics in K-pop turn out to have a deep message as a result of all struggles the trainees went through to convey to their audience. In the song “Sea” by internationally popular K-pop Boy Group BTS, it mentions that “where there is hope there is always hardship” referring to their trainee days when they did not know if they would make it but they still had hope and that hope brought them struggles that they had to go through to succeed. This motivated me to keep going with my life and schoolwork because it taught me that life is worth it at the end even if there are obstacles in the way. It taught me how to “summarize the view of others,” in this case the message that BTS had about struggles and doubts even after succeeding (Graff 437). Likewise, how basketball taught Graff the same thing through the action of the actual sport and commentary on others on the sport. Academics can teach you how to “summarize the views of others,” such as finding the purpose of a written work at school like The Great Gatsby but your interest, in my case K-pop, can still teach you the same thing just from a different perspective (Graff 437). Acquiring different perspectives on things helps open up your mind to different forms of thought. Through their lyrics they have taught me how to analyze their words but after watching their videos I have learned how to analyze them as well.
K-pop videos are known to be creative and visually appealing. Most people automatically think of Psy’s Gangnam Style with the colorful scenery and the silly, random choreography in different places when someone mentions K-pop and K-pop music videos. Although those types of K-pop music videos do exist, a large variety of different concepts also exist. There are different types of concepts from cute to hip hop to dark to anything else in between. I mostly watch K-pop videos with a much darker concept such as that of “Say My Name” by Ateez. In this video the background is made of dark colors such as black and gray while the K-pop idols also wear dark colors to represent the dark feel and emotion in the song. At one point you can see each person sitting in front of what seems to be themselves covered up with a hat and mask, representing the dark side of themselves that they do not want to see. Looking at this music video has taught me to “weigh different kinds of evidence,” in this case the evidence being the symbolism in the music video to figure what it is trying to say and connect it to a storyline creating theories (Graff 437). Graff was taught to “weigh different kinds of evidence,” through the commentary on basketball players and teams in order to form his own argument (Graff 437).
In the K-pop community there tends to be a lot of arguments of who is the best group, dancer, rapper, vocalist or etc. prompting me to learn how to make arguments. My first experience with arguments were online by K-pop fanatics arguing who is the best K-pop group in the industry. I saw how they would make long, thorough threads utilizing extensive evidence to back up their opinion. This taught me how to construct well-thought out arguments and that arguments require a lot of research. I remember arguing who I believe is the best rapper based on my own opinion but also with utilizing musical evidence such as the flow, speed, and style of the rap which differ a lot depending from person to person. I also learned what not to do when constructing an argument. I saw that some fans would start bashing other idols and musicians with no mercy, saying that their musical skills were terrible based solely on personal taste and not done with research. I saw how they would commit logical fallacies and start to get all defensive about their opinion with nothing really to say. Through these horrible mistakes I have learned that arguments are meant to be balanced and show both sides without trashing the other side for no reason. A good argument is not biased and must take into account different perspectives in order to be considered a good argument.
Although music is seen as just a form of entertainment, it can have valuable intellectualism from analysis to the formation of argumentation. Music is an international language and the language that it presented in should not matter at all. K-pop, although not entirely in English, is able to break that barrier of language and teach us something through its music and distinct cultural background. K-pop gives us a perspective not only musically but culturally that we can apply into how we view different ideas and things around the world.
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