by Hannah Ruttan
If you find yourself in a crowd full of jumping and screaming ginormous bearded men, you are likely at a metal concert. I have been surrounded by sweaty twenty-and thirty-year-old men too many times to count, singing along to the same songs and bouncing around to the same music. Like some metal heads, I once thought that what I was listening to was superior to everything else.
I changed my tune during COVID quarantine after popular music reviewer Anthony Fantano tweeted a photo of himself listening to a song called “Dalla Dalla.” This track was my greatest turning point in accepting and listening to new music. Until then, I had been invested in metal and its subgenres and other genres that reminded me of it, like emo rap.
In the past, I had struggled immensely to listen to other music and accept other tastes beyond what I ordinarily prefer. Music has always been one of my biggest passions, yet I fell into the trap of thinking that other music wasn’t as passionate or didn’t have as much meaning. “Dalla Dalla” represented a big shift in my musical taste, and it represented a big shift in how I felt about music. I realized that there was a lot of good music I was missing out on because of my inability to expand my taste.
The largest subset of Korean music is K-pop. In other Eastern countries, you may find other genres that are popular, but K-pop seems to be the reigning champion. In recent years, K-pop has taken other parts of the world by storm, mainly due to the popularity of boy group BTS and girl group Blackpink.
One thing that drew me to “Dalla Dalla” and the girl group behind it, Itzy, was, ironically, its meaning. The song is about loving yourself, and it features creative choreography and lyrics that have a lot of passion. Rock music, in comparison, often discusses heavy and important topics, but rarely are rock songs as positive as the bright, bubbly themes you hear in K-pop.
Outside of the anthemic positive songs, you can find plenty of songs based on love and summer and pieces that sound like ballads or EDM music. Unlike what I thought for years, many songs in different genres had some sort of meaning, even if those meanings were something Younger Me would have disregarded.
Another thing that caught me by surprise as I dove deeper into the K-pop world was how different it was from Western music. Even if rock or EDM are not the biggest genres right now, they always hold a place on the chart. The way solo artists and groups form and promote are completely different from K-pop. In K-pop, entertainment agencies recruit performers and train them until they are ready to be placed into a group and make a debut. This is incredibly weird to most Westerners, including me at first, as we’re used to multiple bands forming every day to try to become the next big thing. A lot of my feelings were based in my own biases toward my genres and my elitist feelings when being recommended songs outside of my norm.
When I discovered K-pop, instead of finding myself surrounded by heavily tattooed people in all-black clothing, I found myself surrounded by people of all genders making compilation videos and dance covers and building an entire huge community around one genre. I can still find groups that will allow me to be surrounded by metalheads again, like J-rock groups BAND-MAID and One Ok Rock, or the rock influenced K-pop group Dreamcatcher. Finding groups that were influenced by rock and metal gave me more to love about this genre I had just discovered.
Discovering this genre broke me out of my shell completely, showing me a whole different side of music I was completely unaware of. It showed me how narrow-minded I had been about a topic I held close to my heart, and how I still have room to grow as a person trying to learn about other cultures.
Hannah Ruttan is a senior writing major and music minor from Bradford. She was the editor of the 2021 issue of Baily’s Beads. Hannah began writing at age six and hasn’t stopped since, working on a young adult novel outside of classes and work. Some of her hobbies include collecting records and K-pop albums as well as spending too much time on her Nintendo Switch.