Wrong sampling by a BTS member serves as a cautionary tale for the K-pop law in the future

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A recent controversy over audio sampling surrounding the new album by BTS member Suga shows that even global K-pop superstars are not immune to possible public relations debacles. It highlights the inevitable risks associated with celebrities trying to step up their game on the international stage amid increased calls for political correctness.

Sunday evening, Big Hit Entertainment apologized for the use of an audio clip of the American cult leader Jim Jones, associated with the famous mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1979, in the song of the member of BTS Suga “What Do You Think”, “from his latest solo mixtape album,” D-2 “.

“D-2”, Suga’s second solo project released under his pseudonym Agust D, became a worldwide sensation when it was released on May 22, reaching the top of the charts for Apple iTunes albums in 80 countries and regions. The main title, “Daechwita”, also dominated the iTunes list of best songs in 50 countries.

Any BTS member’s project will certainly catch the eye of K-pop watchers, who analyze and dissect every word, especially after the album – paired with a majestic video clip for “Daechwita” – has been released from the blue with no official public promotions apart from a handful of mysterious teasers.

After about a week of collective observation, international fans, as well as anti-fans, noticed that a sample of voices featured in “What Do You Think” was that of a Jones sermon. This has fueled speculation and theories, as well as criticism, about how and why the audio of the famous late cult leader was used.

The conversation and a subsequent review snowballed to the point where Big Hit decided to reissue the track without the audio sample in question.

“The producer of” What do you think? “Chose (the audio) taking into account the general atmosphere of the track, not knowing the identity of the speaker,” Big Hit said in a statement. The company also admitted that it did not recognize the “inappropriate” nature of the sample.

“We apologize for anyone who may have been injured or offended,” said Big Hit. The company said Suga himself also had a deep sense of responsibility for the incident.

The public relations debacle came at a time when Big Hit is going ahead to go public on the South Korean Stock Exchange. After months of speculation, the company filed a preliminary examination with the Korean Stock Exchange last week to be listed on KOSPI, the benchmark index of South Korea.

The company’s operating profit for fiscal 2019 reached 98.7 billion won (80.4 million), higher than the combined operating profit of the three main K-pop agencies – SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. Founded in 2005, Big Hit, which is estimated to be worth at least 2 trillion won, is expected to largely close its listing this year, unless problems arise.

Despite Big Hit’s explanation, it’s unclear how the decision to use Jones audio was made. Some fans believe that the audio was used intentionally as an artistic tool, to emphasize the message conveyed in the song. Fans who support this theory have expressed reservations about Big Hit’s apology.

“I don’t think Yoongi (Suga) meant anything wrong by sampling this speech. Like many rappers before him, he uses emotionally charged speech to emphasize the feeling of the song.

He in no way endorses Jim Jones, “said Celeste Hollister, an American writer and fan of Suga in San Marcos, Texas.

Hollister, 45, added: “The world’s political landscape is feeling particularly busy at the moment, and the apologies seem to be the company’s attempt to defuse something potentially volatile. “

Twitter user Roxy, who says she is a British English teacher based in South Jeolla, has been more critical of Suga and Big Hit.

“Just shows how lazy they were when it came to verifying sources.” How can you use something in a song without knowing where it came from, “said the 22-year-old who described herself as a passing K-pop consumer.

For those who are unfamiliar, the hubbub of Jones is hardly the first nor the only controversy that BTS or its members have faced since their debut in 2013.

In October 2018, a photo of Jimin wearing a shirt with an atomic bomb image went around the internet, prompting a Japanese TV broadcaster to cancel the group’s planned appearance during the group’s promotional media blitz .

Member RM was also honored when Simon Wiesenthal Center, an American Jewish human rights group, publicly criticized the group leader for allegedly wearing a hat with what the group said looked like Nazi symbolism.

Big Hit at the time addressed the two controversies head on in statements, expressing regret and promising to do better in the future.

The company’s model of quickly dealing with controversies, past and present, comes as the K-pop industry – stars and businesses – thrives largely on the clean, crisp image of its stars.

Many K-pop stars, including BTS, rely heavily on advertising offers to secure their businesses’ revenues. The market value of artists, when involved in negative news, tends to decline more sharply than stars in other areas, as shown in last year’s “Burning Sun” scandal.

CedarBough Saeji, visiting assistant professor of Korean culture at the University of Indiana in the United States, noted the intense pressure that South Korean celebrities generally face compared to their peers in other countries.

“The pressure on K-pop stars to maintain a healthy image raises the stakes of their already stressful career path. K-pop stars are still performing the organized scene, with little downtime and only fleeting moments of anonymity and normalcy, “Saeji told me. (Yonhap)

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