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Korean internet broadcasts: Where silky pop ballads still roam

Jennifer Lucy Allan

Internet radios spider the internet for stations: algorithms track down broadcasts. Spinning a dial means I don't head for a particular target, I browse. Channel surfing by location, I stumbled (and stuck) to South Korea. Not regional or national stations, but ones that seem to be broadcast from a user generated platform a little like Fnoob, and are called things like Coffee, Music, And Emotion, Little House Under The Stars, and Lamp Of Love. I say seem, because I don't really know much about these stations.

What I do know is that these stations are solely interested in a type of seriously emotional manufactured pop: tales of teenage heartbreak, epic adolescent sagas, and intense melancholic ballads. At least, that's what it sounds like. My radio only goes so far in translating the Korean text (and Google hasn't proved much more useful), so ticker lines and track names get scrambled from Korean into Wingdings-like lines of symbols and letters, with only the station name staying intact.

Sung in my mother tongue I'd be far less interested in these cheesy ballads. Obscured by a language barrier the vocals are removed of the lazy romantic cliches I'm presuming make up the lyrics. Predictable, reliable, and stripped of potentially alienatingly bad lyrics, I really enjoy these stations - the warm intensity of the I-Really-Mean-It key change that suggests a statement of everlasting love; the same chord changes in every track, and a vocalist that always fits the same sonic box.

The tracks all sound the same, and in part it's this consistency that appeals. They wouldn't stand up to close listening, and further investigation might reveal an unsavoury production line of pop artists, or just a lot of terrible albums. I listen to this only in the context of my radio, because it's a mood I tune in to, not a collection of artists whose back catalogues I'm interested in. Even so, I don't seem to have a choice: Coffee, Music And Emotion is as impenetrable online as it is on my internet radio (unless of course, you speak Korean).

A little like Rollo Jackson in Tape Crackers (if you swap out the Jungle and inner city tower blocks for South Korea's bedroom broadcasters) I don't know the artists being played, and I don't know who's playing them, just the station name and when to prick up my ears for the key change, and that's the way I like it.

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