Five years ago, a friend of mine who knew that I listened to a lot of J-Pop sent me a link to an MV entitled "SNSD – Gee." Actually, it might have said "Girls’ Generation," but either way – it was a long time ago. At that point, I didn’t think anything about the MV other than it was colourful, fun, and I liked the song. My friend then sent me SNSD’s "Oh!" MV, and I loved that too. Without being cliché, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before, but was still somehow familiar. It had the fast pacing and bright colours of J-Pop, but with a much more familiar pop sound to what I was used to as an English teenager. It was so different, and yet not. I loved it immediately.
It all spiralled from there. I listened to SNSD endlessly for a few days, and then I found Super Junior and their most popular sub-group, Super Junior M. I listened to "Sorry Sorry" on repeat for two hours the day I first listened to it. My first ever group comeback was MBLAQ’s "Mona Lisa," and three years later I was into so many groups that I didn’t even have time to watch all the comeback performances as well as everything else I had to be doing. My first ever Kpop CD was Super Junior’s Mr. Simple, and I got the Heechul cover as well as the military-style B Version. My first year of university, the first article I wrote was about cool Kpop tracks to listen to other than "Gangnam Style," which as everyone will remember was everywhere at that time.
What I mean by all this Kpop nostalgia is that, over the past five years, listening to Kpop, talking to other people about it, and engaging with it on so many levels has been a major part of my life. I’ve been in various fandoms for the past ten years, and Kpop had me from the start. I honestly never really thought that how much I loved it would wane.
But, as with all things – fatigue set in. When I first started chatting to other Kpop fans online at the age of seventeen, they – like I – were in crucial stages where growing up was happening and life was getting busier. It’s difficult to be in an all-consuming fandom like Kpop when that’s happening, and once you take some time out of it you end up behind on a ton of new songs, new groups, new shows, and new scandals. Trying to catch up and get back into it is exhausting, and this is something I like to call Kpop Fatigue. Trying to listen to new groups and new tracks ends up becoming tiring, and everything starts sounding the same – and not least because 2013 and 2014 weren’t particularly great years for Kpop.
So, what happens is you lose interest. In October of 2015, I went to see my then-favorite group UKISS. I have been a fan of UKISS for four years, and at the start I loved them intensely and wanted to listen to them exclusively. But by the time I saw them in concert, some of the sparkle had gone. They were great, of course – and I had a great time. But in a way, it felt like the final part of a love affair. I still listen to UKISS, of course – I still wait for comebacks when I remember and I still follow them all on twitter because I still have a soft spot for them.
But I can no longer follow UKISS, and Kpop, the way I once did for a multitude of reasons. The first is that I am about 200% busier than I was when I was seventeen (I have definitely worked this out mathematically, alright?). The second reason is that I am more used to what Kpop has to offer, and I’m generally less impressed than I used to be. I have three groups I generally keep an eye on these days, and they are RP (Royal Pirates), VIXX, and EXO. I have a fourth whenever a group has a comeback that I like.
Fandom fatigue is nothing new, and Kpop Fatigue isn’t anything new either. In a fandom as sprawling and massive as Kpop, it is inevitable. Some people genuinely face a sense of loss when this happens, and that is to be expected when something is your favorite thing to think about for a long time. People engage in fandoms because they want that sense of community, and a need to talk about the things we love with others who will understand in a similar way. When fandom fatigue sets in, there is a partial loss of this.
What needs to be remembered is that this process happens to most of us, and it doesn’t mean we have to let go. For many of us, we go through feelings that tell us we have to let go of all of our fandom ties. This isn’t true, even if fandom makes us feel this way. Fandom is what we make of it, and even if it feels like there are rules, in the end they aren’t being enforced by anybody but ourselves.
Also, Taemin has a solo comeback next week that I need to be ready to have feelings about.