Client: MTV (2019)
You’ve probably seen or heard of the film Jaws. It was the first-ever summer blockbuster, an early example of high concept — or, a film able to be summarized in as few words as possible to appeal to the widest audience. In this case: “shark attack.” Jaws changed how films were made and marketed for decades. Like Hollywood, K-pop is its own multi-billion dollar industry, and although 44 years and six thousand miles away from a mechanical shark named Bruce, their use of high concept has become remarkably robust. Girl groups, in particular, bear its hallmark; one-word concepts — Sexy! Cute! Fierce! — turned corporeal.
For this reason, at surface level, it’s easier to categorize K-pop’s girls than its boys; the former designed to deliver a cut and dry, low-risk experience to the masses, and whose preordained fundamentals — from beauty ideals to personality traits — have become ever more rigid over time. Meanwhile, boy groups have been given far more leeway to experiment, to participate, and to fail. It must be said that not every K-pop group needs an album trilogy, an epic narrative, or an alternative universe, but when it comes to such flexing of conceptual muscle, and the rewards it brings, whether trophies, critical acclaim or sales, you’ll find a male-dominated playing field.