If It Isn’t Perfect, Is It Still K-Pop?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “K-pop”? Is it the global boy band phenomenon BTS, wearing studded jackets and dancing in perfect sync? Or the girl group Blackpink, performing at Coachella in trendy fashions and perfectly curled hair?

How about an “independent music collective” of casually dressed people, crowded around a mixing board in a one-room studio, across the street from a Seoul restaurant specializing in fried chicken?

“Give me some more bass,” said Omega Sapien, a vocalist with electric-green hair and grills, swaying his hips and grunting to the beat. The studio was cluttered with art, vinyl records, dumbbells and other odds and ends. Another singer lay prone nearby, nursing a bad hangover.

For Balming Tiger, this is daily life as an alternative K-pop band. Their music, a fusion of diverse genres from electro to hip-hop, is funky and edgy. Their look, unkempt and grungy, is far from the professional styling of the groups that most of the world associates with K-pop.

But they claim that label, too. K-pop is any music that comes out of South Korea, according to Omega Sapien. “Everything in that realm is K-pop,” he said.

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