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How K-pop idols bid farewell to the concept of youth and innocence 

The career peak of Stray Kids came just as the previous generation of Kpop did away with their youth.

Stray Kids Hyunjin
Stray Kids recently became the 3rd Kpop artist to rank first on Billboard charts, after BTS and SuperM. 

Recently, Stray Kids’ extended album “Oddinarylaunched atop of Billboard 200, with 110,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S, making them the first Kpop artist to accomplish this since BTS’s last achievement from 2 years ago. 

Oddinary” takes the concept of students hanging around the streets after school, who detests the world and wants to sweep away its hypocrisy in the wildest manners. 

If BTS used to hail the god of ecstasy Dionysus, then Stray Kids took things even further. They brushed off the very foundations of youthful Kpop gods and goddesses, and sang clearly: “Poppin’, if you think I’m just pure and innocent, you’re wrong.” 

They kept talking about their inner demons, their internal volcanoes, and landmines ready to erupt at no specific time. It can be said that Stray Kids reached a new height just as the older Kpop generation bid farewell to their youth. 

Stray Kids

In their newly-released single “Still Life”, the legendary boy group BIGBANG sang: “I miss the boy and girl who cried and laughed. I keep remembering those glorious and loving days.” It took 2 years for these lyrics to come out, after Seungri left the group amid heavy controversies, while the rest took their turns to enlist.  

Evoking the memories of youth and referring to it as “a midsummer night’s dream”, “Still Life” is a coming-of-age song that can make anyone who grew up in the 2nd generation of K-pop when Big Bang was at their peak, tear up, whether they were their fans or not.

“Still Life” gives off the same vibes and its lyrics carry the similar meaning as Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” about the most beautiful summer when he had his first guitar, and played it until his fingers bled. It was a summer that seemed to have no end. 

From “bulletproof boys” (the meaning of the name BTS) to “the children who go wild” (the meaning of the name Stray Kids), and previously Big Bang that started the concept of rebellious and unforgettable youth. The K-pop industry has always successfully explored such a concept of youth and innocence. 

K-pop is a place where idols love to show off their refreshing, young-looking visuals and aura with different hair colors that change every era. They are not allowed to openly date because getting involved in romantic relationships means they are no longer considered innocent. 

K-pop isn’t the first or only music industry in the world to “capitalize” youth, but perhaps it is indeed the industry that idealizes youth at the highest level, to the extent that they seem to have created an age of innocence (see Edith Wharton’s novel title “The Age of Innocence”).

But when listening to a song like Big Bang’s Still Life, we realize that K-pop doesn’t need to revolve around idols that are forever innocent. K-pop can age gracefully with people who have tasted the bitterness of life telling their stories. The question is whether or not K-pop is willing to take a gamble on something other than its innocent age.

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