Don't look now, but EXID's "Up and Down" has shot up the Kpop charts, and it's all apparently because of their strange little viral video. No, not the music video, which tried to tap into the quirky viral video nerve that made Crayon Pop or PSY such big sensations, no.
We're talking about a fancam here. Yes, a fancam - of EXID's Hani, performing that song live, in short jeans so tight that they must have been sewn onto her body. Shot in maddening vertical video. As of now, the view count is at over 1,600,000, which, for a fancam video, is substantial. Have you seen it? Here's your chance, here. See what's trending.
Do you get it now?
But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. First, a word on fancams. They're inherently creepy, but in an age of smartphones and easily accessible video, they're inevitable, and videos of your favorite idols can be found through the YouTube search bar (don't act like you haven't looked, at least once). Besides the given ick-factor, there is something very interesting with watching Kpop idols filmed outside of a studio production - there's a chance to see something candid, a mistake, or perhaps something more human and real than what we usually see from the polished music shows we get week in and week out - a wave to the audience, genuine laughter, boredom. Fancams can add personality to fandoms thirsting to feel a real connection with their favorite stars.
There would be something almost sweet about fancams if most didn't revolve exclusively around the more sultry choreography and outfits that censorship wouldn't allow on television. Hani's viral fancam is no exception to this as you can observe here.
The real surprise here is not why Hani's fancam is getting viewed, the real surprise is the effect of the video going viral, and that's something EXID fans can feel some real pride here. If the video were being viewed exclusively by pervs, it would in no way guarantee that this song would suddenly become a hit. Why buy the song if you're only interested in Hani's body? Undoubtedly, many people are watching this video for that reason, and many more are probably watching it out of curiosity, to see what the fuss is about (and with not seeing much different from any fancam from any girl group with suggestive clothing and choreography, probably being disappointed).
That ultimately doesn't matter. Yedang Entertainment cannot control why people are watching this video or suddenly enjoying EXID. But the fact of the matter is, after watching this video, people are buying this song. They are enjoying this song. And that's very significant.
Which makes us wonder: what control do agencies really have in making their idols successful? Sure, they contribute the training, produce the songs, release the albums (okay, so pretty much everything besides do the performances), but they can't control fan interest. That spark. Nothing is a guarantee. With this video going viral, fancams could have a strange legitimacy, and some power. And we would never have predicted that.
We wouldn't have predicted that this song would have shot up the charts either (we were nonplussed by the release), and if you had told us that a fancam video could turn around the fortunes of an idol group, we'd question your analysis. But the video's right there and EXID is doing guerrilla performances to capitalize on their recent success, which is very smart. And you know what? Good for them. Kpop is a hard, unpredictable business, so any sudden fortune should be lauded. For in the end, EXID's success will not be judged on why people became fans, but that they stayed.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.