Strange Kpop PT1: Scream
There are a lot of things that make Kpop great.
It’s not just the meticulous gladiator environment of the whole scene, the non existent wages or the opportunity to watch incredibly synchronised dancing. A lot has to do with the kinks and strange peculiarities of the whole phenomena.
And while, for example, the bastardised language of Kpop is part teen globalised pop cultural Newspeak, part language barriers and partly honest to goodness culture gapping, all explainable on their own, there are things that aren’t as easy to come to grips with…
Let’s assume you’ve started your exploration of Kpop outside of official music videos and stumbled on a live performance of a newfound Kpop interest. You click the Youtube video and feel an immense sense of relief – for some reason there is no pre-roll advertisement.
And then the performance starts. But wait. What is that noise? No really. What the hell is that noise?
What you are hearing is the militant syncopated fan chanting reminiscent of communist cadres vocally expelling some especially repugnant village elder caught with her/his hand in the cookie jar and believe me – this shit has the sonic power equivalent of taking a good horse kick to the temple.
But wait. Are the fans going crazy? Constipated from eating a double serving of spicy rice cakes? Are they going to invade the stage and rip the performers to neat but bloody pieces because of some complicated Korean social infraction? Has “netizens” infiltrated the audience and are preparing to collectively shun the artists? Nope. The fans are expressing their adoration through a fan chant.
What is a Fanchant?
Fanchants are just another characteristically structured asian way for fans to express their appreciation. Originating in Japan (no surprises…) the K-pop scene has taken the fan chant to its logical commercial conclusion. Fans chanting is officially supported by the entertainment companies. Fan chants will typically be created for a specific song and contain the artists names and various expressions of appreciation. All of it shouted rhythmically in between the real lines of the song. You could say the meaning of the fanchants are for fans to be able to support their artists without disrupting performances and feeling some sense of participation mystique as they do it.
The fan chants are distributed over the regular media channels with various levels of content ranging from written instruction to the artists themselves performing the fan chants for the fans to learn. Another gruelling piece of activity on the K-pop stars full schedules for fans to consume.
And make no mistake, all the popular, and not so popular groups have them:
BTS, Big Bang, Blackpink, Itzy, Red Velvet, EXO, Loona, Momoland, Dreamcatcher, Aespa, NCT, Seventeen etc, etc.
Below are some examples:
APINK TEACHING THEIR FANS THE FANCHANT FOR “FIVE”
Apink is one of the veteran crews of the currently active K-pop groups and here display their, for these group, not very typical relaxed attitude in a fanchat instruction. Fast forward to 1:31 to hear Eunji, the groups main vocalist and generally cool person, emulate the typical bellowing of fans. You may note the panda shaped dildos. Click here for the second installment of this series to read all about it.
Great example of a fanchant:
BTS’ “Boy with luv”
Great timing, syncopation and I also suspect the mostly female audience has something to do with the lack of atonal bellowing. The fans are actually singing part of the chorus that was sung by Halsey, and they are singing it in key. This is an impressive fanchant to a great pop song.
Fans ruining a stellar performance of the song that cemented Gfriends success.
C’mon guys. Gfriend when performing “Rough” is surely the K-pop equivalent of Donna Tartt and the Secret history. Don’t do it. Every time Rough is abused like this a baby unicorn panda dies.
Fanchants at worst can be surprising and a little bit annoying until you get used to them. I’m guessing that you need to go to a live performance of one of your favourite Kpop groups to actually get it. Being able to actually kind of participate as a fan when at the same time showing your appreciation seems like a particularly orderly and wholesome and somewhat Asian concept.
It doesn’t really matter if the particular fanchant is great, performed by fans singing in key, structured around a call-and-response or just even the odd testosteroned bellowing of a Korean male otaku, Kpop without fanchants just wouldn’t be the same.
And much like ambient noise – if it would disappear you would most likely start missing it. What do you think about fanchants?
Do you have a favourite fanchant? Let me know in the comment section.
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