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EXP Edition, who have just released their debut single ‘Feel Like This’, are from the US but have moved to South Korea to record their debut album.
Its members include Koki Tomlinson, who is half Japanese and German; Frankie DaPonte, Portuguese; Hunter Kohl, from New York, and Šime Košta, Croatian.
K-pop fans were not impressed, with many accusing them of just trying to cash in on the genre’s rising popularity around the world.
The group were also slammed for their lack of training compared to most K-pop bands as many singers train for over a decade from a young age to make it in the industry.
The genre is well-known for its slick music videos that feature incredible choreography and dance routines.
One YouTube user wrote: ‘This isn’t K-pop, they’re just singing in Korean, K-pop includes singing really good and dancing… and having perfect visuals not average, and they’re Korean not Americans, it’s one thing if it’s only one member that’s white, but all of them… sorry but they’re most likely not going to be successful. Their singing is not even good… it’s like any regular joe. Sorry.’
Another said: ‘This is not K-pop… Where’s the dancing? Rap? All they’re doing is jumping around like western boy bands.’
But there were a few supporters.
One posted: ‘Oh hell no you people just stop hating and just listen to the song. I get Kpop is Korean pop but come on ya’ll we’re the new generation here. Support these guys, the song is not bad and it’s really good. Kpop is not about being Asian or being Korean, at least they’re learning and exploring the Korean culture. Why can’t we all be equal to each other, and not be racist.’
But before you get too worked up, it looks like EXP Edition might just be an elaborate art project created by Bora Kim.
While studying an MFA at Columbia, she decided to start a K-pop group to explore ‘what K-pop and what K-pop fandom is’.
Back in 2015, she said: ‘I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers, by teaching them how to sing in Korean and act like Korean boys, and complicate this flow/appropriation even more, since I’m in New York, where so many talents are just one online recruitment ad away.’
Kim titled her project I’m Making a Boy Band (IMMABB) and ended up raising US$30,000 (around UK£23,500) on Kickstarter to form the group.
Since then she has moved with EXP Edition to South Korea, where she has set up IMMABB Entertainment.
Looks like they might have to try a bit harder.