SEOUL – The Korean music industry has been dominated lately by tons of group singers, both men and women, who perform with either sex appeal or lovable cutesy images. But one rookie “girl group” called Crayon Pop is bucking the trend with a completely flipped image: unique, quirky and to some extent bizarre.
The women, all in their 20s, stand out just by their wacky fashion: vividly colored polo shirts buttoned up to the neck, trainer pants topped with a pleated miniskirt, white gloves and a big motorcycle helmet.
Their song “Bar Bar Bar” has been No.1 on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 chart for weeks and is running red hot on the Internet, quickly picking up clicks on YouTube. New parodies are uploaded every day.
“I think our fans love us because unlike other girl groups in Korea, we not only have a unique concept and style but also feature a catchy and addictive dance routine,” said Ellin, while the other four members, Way, Choa, Soyul, and Gummi, flash their girlish smiles.
Their catchy move has been dubbed by fans the “straight five-cylinder engine dance.”
They jump up and down in a zigzag form, shouting “jumping yeah, jumping yeah, everybody.”
Simple and repetitive lyrics make little grammatical sense.
“Overall, the lyrics mean let’s jump together,” Way said. “It’s meant to give a source of energy and strength to the tired people. It just means let’s all dance together and have fun.”
The easy-to-follow choreography has appealed so much to the masses that the song is raising the question: Will this replace Psy’s “Gangnam Style” fever?
In hopes to do so, Sony Music Entertainment has sealed a license and partnership deal with Crayon Pop this month. That’s a big step for Crayon Pop’s small management company, Chrome Entertainment, struggling to make a way in the K-Pop industry dominated by firms like SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.
“It’s crazy, funny and really different and the song is really addictive,” said Juliette Bilouste, a student from Paris traveling in Seoul. “And the dance, we don’t see that in France.”
But their surging popularity has hit a glitch in the past two weeks with rumors of an alleged connection to a controversial far-right website called Ilbe.
Ilbe is a large South Korean online community where most of its active members are politically conservative. The website is notorious for using racist language and its extreme views on social and historical issues.
Crayon Pop has denied involvement, saying the management had only signed up as a member of Ilbe for promotion and advertising purposes.
But the rumors caused an online shopping mall auction to temporarily drop a commercial that features Crayon Pop and the FC Seoul soccer team uninvited them from appearing at an opening ceremony. The group also had to publicly apologize for posting a much-criticized message on their official website that they will not accept gifts from fans and instead would prefer cash donations for a charity to be wired to a designated bank account.
Jiyoung Sohn and Moo Bin Song contributed to this story.