2022 in review: What I wrote

2022 in review: What I wrote

To be honest, I don’t want to write today.

That’s sort of a lie, because I have a few ideas for this newsletter and articles buzzing in my head at the moment. But over the last few days I’ve been really frustrated by the state of covering pop culture due to a variety of instances and interactions with other journalists, industry sources, and fans alike. I don’t really want to share my thoughts with anyone, not because of fear of what others think but because it feels absolutely futile; I want to write, but I have nobody out there I want to read what I have to say. It’s a childish feeling, but since I’m not writing any reported news today, everything I want to say, I already know. Sharing it with the world… That’s not where I am today.

There’s sometimes a feeling of futility in this career, when it feels like the effort put into reporting and caring for work doesn’t feel like it’s ever worth it because you can never get the information and importance of things across in a way that feels true to what you would like to achieve, and I think over the past few days I’ve hit that wall, and it’s made working on this newsletter (essentially thinkpieces from me thus far) hard. I’ll find a path around it in a day or two (I always do), but I didn’t really want to sit down and write my Best of 2022 list this weekend like I had planned to share today. So please look forward to that next week.

In the meantime, just because I don’t want to write Today doesn’t mean I don’t like what I’ve written in the past. So for this week’s edition of Notes on K-pop, please enjoy a Tamar Herman 2022 condensed* reader.

Disclaimer: I don’t write my headlines.

Why K-pop groups like BTS and Blackpink aren’t the only ones who top South Korea’s charts – ballads, K-drama OSTs, trot and hip-hop also vie for supremacy - Jan 13, SCMP

Though the headline is a bit stating the obvious for anyone familiar with South Korea’s music scene, I wrote this piece as an introduction to anyone trying to understand what the country’s popular music listening habits are like beyond the idol music that is most prominently visible when discussing K-pop.

Korean rapper Mirani talks hip hop as a female artist, a Doja Cat collaboration and the pressure she feels to succeed - Jan 19, SCMP

Most of my interviews this year were with female artists, which was a big win for me personally. Mirani’s frankness and forthright approach to discussing how she’s had it rough while pursuing a creative profession was a breath of fresh year that kicked off my batch of 2022’s interviews.

Some other similar interviews this year that really resonated with me personally were primarily from other female soloists, trying to sort out who they are while doing things on their own, like Yuju (formerly GFriend), Miyeon of (G)I-dle, and Whee In of Mamamoo. I enjoyed other interviews I did, but really want to highlight these three:

GFriend’s Yuju launches her solo career with album Rec., and the Korean singer is ready to be the star of her own show (Jan 25, SCMP)

K-pop singer Whee In of Mamamoo shows her softer side on Whee, her new mini album (Jan 29, SCMP)

K-pop singer and (G)I-dle member Miyeon talks about aiming big on her first solo album MY (May 11, SCMP)

Mama the Idol gave former K-pop idols a stage: show’s producer talks about giving women back their careers after they quit to become mothers - Feb 19, SCMP

I loved what Mama the Idol attempted, but I gotta say it… talking to the producer of the show rather than the women themselves wasn’t what I wanted to do with this story, and it was ultimately what I accepted after speaking with them directly was off the table. It was interesting to hear what he had to say, and definitely important to talk about from an industry perspective, but I hope in the future we can hear more women’s stories directly from themselves.

K-pop rapper Bang Yongguk on his new album 2 and being happy and joyful - March 15, SCMP

I’ve interviewed B.A.P a few times in the past, and to be honest it was always a bit grim feeling, amid all the difficulties that band went through after a certain point of their career. Hearing from Bang about where he is in 2022, moving on from darker days of his solo career and from the tumultuousness of being B.A.P’s leader, it felt like walking out from a walking trail covered by greenery into bright sun. Both are great, but one feels a touch warmer.

Modern K-pop was born in April 1992 with I Know by Seo Taiji & Boys, a song that changed music’s trajectory in South Korea - April 19, SCMP

I don’t actually think this article is iconic or groundbreaking (it’s mostly built around a reflective interview I did with Prof. Gyu Tag Lee about what it was like witnessing the ascent of ST&B and the song when he was in school), but I think it went a bit under the radar that 2022 is the 30th anniversary of what most people consider the first K-pop song, Seo Taiji & Boys’ 1992 hit Nan Arayo. Happy 30th birthday, K-pop, I guess!

BTS, Twice, Ateez and other K-pop groups are back on tour two years into the pandemic. Their fans talk about Covid fears, and seeing their idols - May 20, SCMP

Tours were back this year, and it was an experience for COVID-era K-pop converts. It was honestly a joy to hear about these first-time experiences, the excitement and passion (and also their COVID anxieites). It made me smile working on it, and I hope people reading it feel that way too.

“Once I realised I could correctly identify all 23 members of NCT, I knew I had got in way too deep,” Fisher says with a laugh. “When [a K-pop-loving] friend realised how deep into K-pop I was, she seized the opportunity to try to convince me to go to a concert with her. I am not a concert person, and she is, so this was a great delight to her.”

K-pop groups like Girls’ Generation and Got7 take more artistic control from their labels - June 1, SCMP

Here’s to more artists getting control of their own narratives and careers in 2023! 🥂

10 years after Psy’s Gangnam Style, has a K-pop song ever hit in the same way? - July 22, SCMP

This was really an exploration not just about K-pop hits but in general hits… Thanks to the ease and expanse of streaming and the internet in 2022, it just doesn’t feel like songs are really getting to everyone all at once the same way they were back in 2012 when Gangnam Style was everywhere. There are many more hits, but it feels like the scale is broader in a way. This was a brief reflection on that. Happy 10-years, Gangnam Style.

After the NewJeans controversy, should K-pop groups stop debuting minors? - August 3, SCMP

I loved NewJeans’s debut, but it opened up a lot of conversations about minors in the industry, and I feel like they need to continue to be had. This is one of several opinion pieces I wrote in 2022 about how companies, and laws, in South Korea need to do better by artists in the K-pop world.

When does a K-pop fan’s support cross the line? Sunmi incident in New York shows that stars sometimes need to speak out - September 7, SCMP

Stop being assholes to get attention from the stars you love, especially men towards female stars. Related: September 28’s “With the return of Nayeon from Twice’s stalker, it’s time for K-pop companies to take more action against obsessive fans.” To be honest, I think in 2022 I was offered a chance to write a weekly opinion column and it became an experiment in how many times I could say “let’s make a safer and better environment for artists and fans (and also the planet!) alike.”

Singapore’s LGBTQ attitudes and religious dogma fuel new film #LookAtMe – director and stars on creating the tragicomedy - August 5, SCMP

Not K-pop, but #LookAtMe was up there in my 2022 films. Watch it if you get a chance, and spend a bit of time afterwards thinking about not only its plot and the importance of it but how conversations on the internet often spiral out of control.

Why it matters that Girls’ Generation are still making music 15 years in, with Forever 1 – most K-pop girl groups don’t last half that long - August 9, SCMP

I got into my feels about why it meant a lot to me (and I imagine others?) that SNSD had a comeback. If you’re around the ages of the members of Girls’ Generation, “Girl Power” has been a major part of our lifetime’s female pop music narrative, but to be honest we don’t really see that play out truly often. This year was full of returns and comebacks from key girl groups, and it was really exemplified by the Soshi one.

My friend told me I need to write a follow-up piece about KARA’s (honestly phenomenal) return, but I’ll leave this edition off with their music video instead, and use their photo as the header for this week’s edition, since it has a very celebratory feel to it!

And if you want to get into the feels, check out their Killing Voice. I definitely had a mini karaoke-concert-cry session while watching it (justice for Damaged Lady and Pandora, though! We need a 2022 version of both.)

I also got to review a bunch of concerts this year, but I’ll talk about that in another piece if my muse returns from her day off soon.

And on that note, bless the women of K-pop in 2022 for being absolutely fucking amazing. Here’s to a 2023 that is full of happiness and only good things for all of us and all our faves.

*I wrote a lot more than this, and hope people will continue reading all those articles, these are just some of the pieces that I’ve been thinking a lot lately as I’ve been contemplating what 2022 looked like from me, work-wise.