K-idols have been in the spotlight for breaking gender norms in the fashion industry by embracing non-binary looks, but did you know some artists have also been subverting male/female stereotypes in their music?
Performers like Taemin and CL have been the talk of the town for challenging industry norms with their catchy songs and mesmerising dance moves over the years.
Here’s a closer look at the K-pop stars who have led the way in breaking boundaries, pushing against suffocating expectations and reductive gender norms in their music, choreography and iconography.
CL showed that girls can be “badass”
CL in a teaser photo of her new single Lover Like Me. Photo: @chaelincl/Instagram
CL made headlines recently for being among the first two female Korean stars to grace the Met Gala 2021 red carpet. The K-pop queen stunned in a denim gown with a Korean hanbok knot that played right into the “bad girl” attitude she is known for.
Dubbed K-pop’s “badass female”, CL showed a different side of the genre when she released her songs Hello Bitches and The Baddest Female. These songs revealed a dark, bold and fearless persona compared to the lighthearted, shy and playful image that is usually exuded among female K-pop stars through their music.
South Korean rapper Lee Chae-rin, also known by her stage name CL, arrives for the 2021 Met Gala. Photo: AFP
According to Billboard, CL said the following: “There’s this standard where they’re all calm. I want to break that. I want to tell the world that there are some badass Asian female girls.”
Amber Liu kept her tomboyish vibes
Amber just released her latest EP, Z. Photo: @ajol_llama/Instagram
Amber is another star who has broken the K-pop mould. Instead of donning skirts and heels, the singer opts for a more tomboy aesthetic.
The cover art for Amber’s EP Beautiful, released in 2015. Photo: @KpoppppersStates/Twitter
The star bought her fun, bubbly and tomboy personality into her songs, such as her first solo Shake That Brass. Her first extended play “Beautiful” also talks about how it’s important to accept yourself the way you are.
Taemin’s choreography switched up gender roles
Shinee’s Taemin in a promotional photo for his EP “Advice”. Photo: @SHINee/Twitter
Shinee’s Taemin, who’s been in the industry for over a decade, challenged the male/female stereotypes that are typically associated with K-pop dance routines, redefining these roles with his 2017 single Move. While it’s common in K-pop to have women dancing to simple and typically feminine choreographies, Taemin subverted that reductive norm by bringing the industry’s attention to to the talent of female dancers with the loud, proud choreography for that song.
In the same single, he had male backup dancers swaying to feminine rhythms, showcasing versatility from both genders. He has repeated this style in his other solo songs like Famous and Advice.
Taemin in his music video for Advice. Photo: YouTube
“My aim was to find a middle ground, mixing both masculine and feminine movements into the choreography together,” the singer told Billboard.
Moonbyul opted for a boy group-styled MV
Moonbyul during her Eclipse promotion. Photo: @simpforbyulyi/Twitter
Mamamoo’s Moonbyul was showered with praise after she daringly opted for a boy group-style choreography for her Eclipse music video. Surrounded by male backup dancers, Moonbyul redefined female roles in K-music as she moved to the beat in what would be deemed a masculine-style choreography.
She also opted for visuals with black, grey, white and red tones that were more typical of videos in boy groups, rather than the upbeat vibrant visuals with pretty backdrops that are commonly seen in girl groups. Moonbyul is also seen wearing suits, camouflage gear and an eye-popping majestic cape.
Kim Jong-hyun wrote and composed songs for various other K-artists
Jonghyun in his music video for Shinin. Photo: @pansyjonghyun/Twitter
Jonghyun, the late, beloved member of boy band Shinee, fought against all odds and paved the way for future music artists when he started penning lyrics to his own solo songs and his group songs – an act that was very unusual at the time.
Cover art for Jonghyun’s EP Base. Photo: @jjongskazoo/Twitter
Jonghyun’s song Deja-boo, from his debut album “Base”, was composed by Jonghyun himself and would snag the No 1 spot in Billboard’s World Albums Chart.
His proven talent resulted in him writing and producing music for other famous K-groups and artists like Exo, IU and Lee Hi, according to Envimedia.
Blackpink took an alpha-female approach
The girls of Blackpink recently attended Paris Fashion Week. Photo: ygfamily.com
Known as the “new-gen 2NE1” and one of the most popular K-groups of our time, Blackpink redefined women in K-pop by embracing an alpha-female persona, which is contrary to the sweet and shy characteristics girl groups are known for.
A behind-the-scenes photo of Blackpink members performing at The Show. Photo: @blackpinkofficial/Instagram
The four women of Blackpink today dominate not just the K-pop music scene, but the global music marketplace, with their model-like looks, powerful personas, and the choice to not showcase aegyo – the cute expressions which are common among female artists in the Korean music industry.Internet Explorer Channel Network