The past year has seen the emergence and explosion of Orange Caramel, formerly considered nothing but a quirky sub-unit of After School. But more than just making a name for themselves, Orange Caramel now finds themselves at the forefront of innovation in Kpop. Warning: do not watch “My Copycat” as you would a traditional music video. “My Copycat” signals an evolutionary shift in the Kpop model.
Kpop, like any cultural or artistic medium, is constantly evolving. But in any evolution, there are moments of rapid advancements, moments when change comes so fast that we can literally see it as it happens. If we focus closely on Orange Caramel, especially their new music video, “My Copycat,” you’ll see just that. The evolution of Kpop. And it’s all about accessibility.
Accessibility Is the Name of the Game
At the outset of “My Copycat,” the viewer is greeted by a message encouraging us to find differences. The majority of the video is presented in a split screen format for eagle-eyed viewers to seek out those differences. Other scenes present a busy scene full of similarly dressed individuals, asking the viewer to search for Nana, Raina, and Lizzy like a game of Where’s Waldo. Because “My Copycat” is a game too, of course (complete with a loading screen). More importantly, though, it’s a game that even children can play. It’s something that can engage any viewer, no matter their age or prior level of interest in Orange Caramel or even Kpop. It’s a game that transcends language and cultural barriers. No, this is nothing like your typical music video. This is the epitome of accessibility.
But why? Why go for accessibility over concept, or music, or dance? It’s simple, really. Accessibility breeds engagement. When Orange Caramel asks their viewers to point out little differences, when they ask their viewers to pay attention to the video and share what they see, we do. We comment about the differences we see. We share the video with our friends, with our children. We like it. We subscribe. We sign up. We become engaged in a way that we normally are not. Until recently, Kpop music videos have been presented as artifacts, as look-but-don’t-touch exhibits in a digital museum.
Engagement has always been the holy grail of our internet-dominated world. And Orange Caramel has discovered the secret weapon: accessibility. All it took was someone inviting us in.
Accessibility in Dance
Accessibility as a model means more than asking viewers to play Where’s Waldo, though. The oddities of “My Copycat” are only one small way to build engagement. A much deeper shift has been evolving since Orange Caramel’s creation, and has also been picked up by fun-loving groups like Crayon Pop. And it’s all about dance.
For years, our favorite stars have been showing their moves in performances and music video. But up until now, those same moves have remained inaccessible to the majority of us “regular” people. Only the most dedicated, most well-trained fans could ever hope to follow the quick steps of their bias in a dance practice video. No longer. With the emergence of groups like Orange Caramel and Crayon Pop, Kpop dance has become a mainstream activity. The secret is out.
We’ve seen Orange Caramel simplifying their dance from the start, the goal all along being to create a more accessible type of dance. But it would also be fair to say that Crayon Pop accomplished this best with “Bar Bar Bar.” The simplicity of that dance got fans on their feet like few other Kpop songs have. Now “My Copycat” may rival it in terms of simplicity. There are several moves in the video that require little more than a spring in your achilles tendon. This type of accessibility goes beyond internet engagement and YouTube comments. “My Copycat” encourages viewers to actually get up and copy Orange Caramel, to physically perform the same dance that Nana, Raina, and Lizzy are performing.
We can’t overstate how big a shift this is in terms of the Kpop model. It’s an entirely new model, actually. An evolution occurring before our eyes. The new Kpop will be built upon accessibility.