by Dominique Jack
Running around asking my friends for their Christmas wish lists in 2011, one friend told me she wanted “anything SHINee” which made me curious. That afternoon I was introduced to the South Korean pop group, SHINee. I binged their seven music videos and was in awe of their sharp and well-executed choreography – so much so that I briefly wondered if they were very lifelike animations. Listening to the hypnotic song Lucifer by this five-member boy group, the lyrics became true for me. “I can’t even deny you, I’m trapped by you.” I was drawn into the SHINee fandom by watching all of their TV guest appearances and fawning over their reality show Hello Baby, where the members cared for a two-year-old child.
Since EDM (electronic dance music) and house music were the most popular genres in America during my high school years, Korean pop was a new and refreshing sound. After school, I would search forum sites for links to new songs and stay up until 3 am to watch concert live streams and English subtitled shows. As I dealt with bullying in school, Kpop made it easier for me to ignore troublesome classmates by putting on my headphones and watching back to back music videos. In my senior year, I overcame my fear of dancing in public through meeting other fans and practicing Kpop group choreography during our lunch breaks. As I neared the end of my high school career, I relied on music to keep me positive through the college application process.
Applying to college and trying to choose a major sometimes led me to curl up and cry on my living room couch. I was frustrated by not knowing what I wanted to devote myself to when many of my other classmates were already pursuing their careers in art, music, or medicine. During that time, I listened to an online Kpop radio station, which kept me company while I Googled various professions throughout the night. One by one, I crossed out dream jobs thinking I was under qualified or that it was too late to pursue professional training for them. With no prior experience in acting, I couldn’t audition for any theater programs. As much as I enjoyed creative writing and drawing, I was afraid of the stigma of getting a degree that “didn’t pay much.” Although the career search began to feel more like hitting a wall, the upbeat sound of Kpop was a pick-me-up throughout it all.
Whenever I felt the need to get away from the pressure of applying for college, I scrolled through the comments section on the radio station’s website. Fans from across America, Europe, South East Asia, and other regions shared their excitement about hearing their favorite songs. Some mentioned that they were procrastinating from doing their homework while others were unwinding after school. Seeing fans around the world in different time zones express their daily concerns and build friendships through a shared musical interest made me appreciate the power that radio had in creating a safe space for candid conversations.
I began wishing that a place like this existed both on and offline and thought it would be comforting to hear my favorite music and a familiar voice fill my quiet living room during late nights. I also reflected on the quote “make your passion into a career” and felt that for the previous four years, Kpop was the only topic I ever wanted to research and discuss endlessly. I decided, somewhat impulsively, that I wanted to be a familiar, comforting voice for others but also report on socially conscious Korean entertainment news. Radio journalism seemed to be the best outlet to allow me to pursue my new goal and with that I chose to major in Media and Journalism Studies at CUNY Brooklyn College.
Not too long after I started college, SHINee’s Jonghyun began hosting the Korean radio show Blue Night. I could not speak Korean at the time, but helpful bilingual fans tweeted translations of the show while it aired worldwide. I was inspired to see how listeners connected with and felt comforted by Jonghyun’s honesty about dealing with loneliness, jealousy, and helplessness. I also appreciated that people listening to the show were able to put aside prejudices about one another’s cultures, race, and gender. As a listener, Blue Night was comforting to me as I faced difficulty in adjusting to college life and speaking with others about my concerns.
As I aspire towards working in radio production, I look to Blue Night as an example of creating radio that breaks language and cultural barriers. Like the show, I want to use radio to reach diverse fans of the Korean music genre and create a place for people to speak honestly about their experiences. In doing so, I hope the discussions can help listeners see the humanity in one another and be comforted when listening alone late at night.