K.I.T. EP#01: Sarah’s Extension

This is the first podcast of Kpop Idle Talk, where my two sisters and I discuss about Kpop. Not gonna lie, we had to record two times because the first recording was SO AWKWARD. I mean, this final recording was kind of awkward too but you know what? We’re just going to roll with it.

As the title of the first episode says, we delve into our past and talk about our beginnings with Kpop. However, with this blog post, I just wanted to go a little deeper and maybe further back. Way further back.

It’s 1998. I was in the 2nd grade and I totally want to be accepted in this clique of girls. But what made these girls so cool was that they loved Nsync and you know what, I loved Nsync too! And Nsync was clearly better than the Backstreet Boys, okay? I’m kidding but 2nd grade me totally thought so. (One time, I repeatedly wrote “I hate BSB” in this mini-journal I had and a classmate of mine called me out and told me I was just wasting paper. He was so right.)

Anyway, the point is that before Kpop, I was already dipping my toes into fangirlism when I first encountered 90s boy bands and started asking for their CDs as gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

In our first recording, we talked about this a little too much (which was another reason why we re-recorded). At this point, we’ve probably already heard some Kpop through friends and relatives. Although we were slightly interested in this pop music sung in a different language, we didn’t get into it quite yet. We were still lamenting over how unplayable our Backstreet Boy Millenium album was due to all the scratches on the disc. Sadly, the Backstreet Boys would eventually go their separate ways (jokes on us though because they just went on a long-ass hiatus) while Nsync continued making music. This was the time when were introduced to legendary boy band Dream Street.

Okay, they were far from legendary but damn, what I would give to see Dream Street thrive. I was in the 5th grade when I discovered Dream Street. I don’t even know how I discovered them but all I knew was that they were cuties and they were much closer to my age, which meant that I had a higher chance of marrying them than marrying Lance Bass.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have cable television at the time so it was rare to see anything boy band-y on TV. Even then, Dream Street didn’t promote that much, and we considered ourselves lucky if we ever got to stay home on a week day and catch Jesse McCartney on “All My Children.” Fortunately, there was the internet, which was probably my first encounter with fansites and fan fiction.

Lulu and I have always been writers. Dad would give us his old computers and we’d spend hours with Microsoft Word opened, trying to write a story. Sometimes I would sit next to Lulu as she wrote something and wait for it to be my turn to use it. Nowadays, we’re so protective of our writing. We literally cannot type a story with someone standing behind us.

My first attempt of writing fan fiction was with Dream Street. It was something along the lines of meeting Chris Trousedale and somehow, we miraculously fell in love. However, I remember being absolutely bitter because I read Lulu’s fan fiction. Of course, it involved her and Jesse McCartney falling in love with one another. It was so much better than mine and longer than a page, but she had also added in a part where I had stolen Chris’s sunglasses and clearly not into me. I was hurt. I would never do that in real life!

Sadly, Dream Street was short-lived as they would disband the following year (but at least we saw more of Jesse in the years to come afterwards). I guess this was also the time when we learned about Flytothesky. As much as we loved FTTS, it was also hard to come by information on Korean pop idols. Also, where could we find more music to listen to? Youtube wasn’t around yet. And although my friend told me I should just use Limewire to get Kpop, I wasn’t about to riddle the family computer with potential viruses.

Thank the Lord for pirated albums we’d buy at the Hmong tournaments and markets. I mean, selling pirated CDs and DVDs is ethically wrong but this was the only way I could get my hands on East Asian media. During this time, I was so into pre-Bieber heartthrob Stevie Brock but gained interest in soloist Se7en, who’s R&B-pop sound just hit the right spots. As much as I love that bubblegum pop boy band sound, I really wanted to listen to music that emulated the sounds in American pop music at the time. And Se7en’s music did just that. His “Must Listen” album was one of my absolute favorites in middle school.

I wouldn’t dive quite deep into Kpop just yet as I would have just come to discover Jpop (Japanese pop). By this time, my siblings and I were spending our internet time on Neopets and Gaiaonline. We’d also grow to love anime and on the occasion that we had the strength to do it, Lulu and I would stay up late just to watch Inu-Yasha on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Boa’s “Every Heart” was the ending theme and it was my jam. We also really liked RPGs so when I was introduced to “Simple & Clean” by Utada Hikaru, it became one of my absolute favorites.

Our love for Jpop deepened when we discovered the holy trinity of Jpop: w-inds., FLAME, and Lead. While we appreciated the works of FLAME and Lead, Lulu and I were deeply infatuated by w-inds. We were part of one of the most fun online communities ever: wFL Forums. Those were golden years as we found a place that was rich in content and connected us with fans from all over who also loved wFL. The world was becoming smaller as I found myself being exposed to all sorts of Asian entertainment, thanks to the internet.

Looking back on those years, it was a time where I exposed myself to so much East Asian pop culture. I listened to a lot of Jpop, Kpop, and some Cpop. I watched many Asian films and came to detest foreign movies that were marketed in America with English dubbing.

That transition from high school to college was such a blur but I was well into the Kpop scene. I joined online communities left and right and I consumed so much Kpop. I was sad when 3/5 DBSK members left, upset when people adamantly opposed Kyuhyun joining Super Junior, and devastated when Jay Park left 2PM (I had assumed that he’d rejoin but then it was made clear that he would not). I remember waking up at 4AM with Lulu just so we could livestream 2AM’s debut performance on our slow internet connection, being offended when B2ST (now known as HIGHLIGHT) was accused of plagiarizing their debut song “Bad Girl,” and I’m still waiting for U-KISS to nab that music show win. Ugh. Come to think of it, so much of my stress and happiness stemmed from Kpop.

Fast forward to now and I’m no longer in the Kpop rabbit hole but more in a Kpop limbo of some sort. I want to say that it’s been a hell of a ride (and it certainly has been), but I’m also sure that I’m still on this roller coaster and I’m not going to get off anytime soon. For now I’m taking it easy, which is why I label myself a casual fan of Kpop. But I’m sure I’ll make my way back into fanaticism at some point.

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