The Music of SHINee is a digital exhibit, part of the digital humanities project KPOPCULTURE. It provides an overview of the music of K-pop group SHINee, including promotional tracks as well as deep cuts and song credit information.
Research is one of the most inefficient processes on the planet, and mine is no exception. While Soul in Seoul will have all kinds of insights about the way African American popular music informs K-pop, there is a lot of things (a lot!) that will not make it into the book. What to do?
I found I could use this extra material in my digital humanities project, KPOPCULTURE, which curates K-pop through digital exhibits and functions as a resource. While different from my traditional scholarship, it still bears the hallmarks of research.
The dictionary defines research as “the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.” “The Music of SHINee” is the result of systematic investigation and reaches new conclusions. I conceived of these music exhibits to help users get a better idea of the music of K-pop artists, which is often overlooked even in scholarship on K-pop. Rather than just gather all of the songs, I curated an artist’s discography in a systematic way by turning to the people who knew the most: fans. From my other work on K-pop fans, I knew that fans were drawn first and foremost by the music and they arguably spend more time with K-pop music than even professional pop music critics in media. Using views would have been problematic, as viewing videos has become less of a metric for quality and more of a measure for popularity. Also, views only focus on promotional tracks which are usually attached to music videos, while fans also love deeper cuts on albums.
I had my trusty undergraduate research assistant De’Siree Fairley compile songs from SHINee playlists on YouTube, then compile a list of common songs. I also compiled a list of “best songs” from all those music reviews I’d consulted for the book. I created one large playlist, included song credit information about each, and looked for patterns. Only by putting this “data” together could I come to some conclusions. For example, contrary to what many say about K-pop “idols,” members of SHINee creatively contributed to their music. Instead of simply outsourcing music production, SHINee uses a combination of Korean, Swedish, Danish and American music producers. SHINee’s early music, beginning with the unparalleled debut of “Noona Neomu Yeppo” in 2008, continues to resonate with fans, challenging the notion that K-pop is disposable.
Moreover, technology allows the exhibit to function as a resource for users. The Omeka platform allows me to embed a playlist, so users can listen to a song while consulting song credit information in the exhibit. Naming the creative people behind K-pop makes their work visible and helps users to expand their knowledge of K-pop.
There you have it! A behind-the-scenes look at K-pop scholarship!
PROJECT UPDATE: The Music of SHINee by Crystal S. Anderson, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.