Crayon Pop, yes, the Crayon Pop is currently on tour with Lady Gaga for her fourth concert series, artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball. The popular Kpop group has been asked to bring their high-energy fun to open fourteen of Gaga’s concerts between June 26 and July 22, taking them to cities all over the U.S. and Canada. The tour is giving Crayon Pop incredible exposure to a wide audience, and maybe, just maybe, the recognition they deserve. But is Crayon Pop ready for this level of scrutiny?
The Recognition They Deserve
There is no doubt that Crayon Pop turned the Kpop world on its head with “Bar Bar Bar.” The song was inventive, addicting, and displayed an understanding of internet culture that few other groups can match. After becoming minor internet sensations, the five women received surprisingly little press or recognition. The opportunities their success granted them were...underwhelming. The awards they received all contained words like “trendy” and “new.” Overall, the women of Crayon Pop were treated like passing stars with little staying power. They were thought to be a viral hit and little more. “Lonely Christmas” and “Uh-ee” proved otherwise, but Crayon Pop still hasn’t gotten the recognition they deserve. Until now.
Opening for Lady Gaga’s artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball puts Crayon Pop in front of sold out crowds, averaging 12,000 strong. Not only does this garner them an incredible amount of exposure, but it positions them in the same conversation as Lady Gaga at the pinnacle of pop music. Being invited to open for Gaga is its own endorsement. For my money, earning the respect of Lady Gaga, who many would consider to be the queen of pop music, speaks louder than any award Crayon Pop could win. This is huge. And they deserve it.
But Is Crayon Pop Ready?
Being an opening act is hard. In thirty minutes, it’s your job to pump up a crowd that is not there to see you, has probably never heard of you. When you walk out on stage, the audience politely claps, but stays in their seats. You have no set, no wardrobe changes, no production available to you. All you have is your music.
These are issues every opening act learns to deal with. But Crayon Pop has some additional obstacles to overcome. Their English, for one, is not good, which limits them to memorized banalities. It’s hard to showcase your charisma without being able to communicate. Crayon Pop must also face the cultural barrier between East and West. Having little to no experience with Kpop, many Westerners may have trouble enjoying the quirkiness of Crayon Pop. First reactions may tend towards laughter, or derision. And opening acts always appear more amateurish than they actually are.
For example, Crayon Pop has a limited catalog of music, none of which showcase their vocals. To date, they have only released six songs, not enough to cover a thirty-minute set, which explains why they have been performing all six, then repeating “Bar Bar Bar” as their closer. The second time, they dance with light sticks, their only prop unless you count the helmets. Though normal for an opening set, singing and dancing on a blank stage with a plastic sheet behind them works against Crayon Pop, whose dances have always been carefully choreographed to be accessible to imitation. In other words: easy. On such a stage, especially set against the lavish, drag-queen spectacle of Lady Gaga, Crayon Pop’s simplicity works against them. Will Western audiences see talent, or will they see a talent show?
And that is our fear. Though we love Crayon Pop, love their music, and choreography, and everything they have done for Kpop, they are not well represented as an opening act. We worry that Western audiences will see little that impresses them. We worry that Crayon Pop relies too heavily on “Bar Bar Bar.” We worry that they will be treated as a mild curiosity, rather than talented artists. But still, we’re excited about the recognition they’ve received. We hope that Lady Gaga’s endorsement propels Crayon Pop to an even higher level. We hope and we fear.