Content Warning: The videos linked in this article contain adult languages and themes including sexual innuendo and adult language. Although there is no age restriction on the YouTube videos, viewer discretion is advised.
K-pop, South Korea’s rapidly expanding pop culture export of singers and bands, has a unique following across the world. This force of Korean culture known as ‘the Korean wave’ (hallyu) isn’t merely restricted to enjoying music. Rather, it’s a unique flood of music, aesthetics, fashion and lifestyle. Likewise, for many fans of K-pop, fan-worship can’t just be restricted to a few posters and concert tickets.
Many wordlwide artists don’t need their fans to imagine their glitzy gossip for them. They live their lives out over Instagram, tweet us with their every chain of thought and have their most intimate dramas exposed in glossy magazines, complete with pictures taken with a long-lense from the bushes.
“What could be more shocking and entertaining than seeing your average perfect pop star letting slip a curseword?”
Not so much for the stars of K-pop. K-pop remains overwhelmingly PG-13 – hardly any drinking, swearing or public relationships, maintaining a squeaky-clean image. As a result, demand for this intimate peep-hole into stars’ lives becomes fabricated. These ‘taboos’ instead transfer into fan-made material…what could be more shocking and entertaining than seeing your average perfect pop star letting slip a curseword? Or acting silly? It’s no wonder that fan art and fan fiction is overwhelmed with romantic and often adult themes, and in partcular, the desire to see the relaxed, funny side of the stars.
Comedy is a frequent tool in expressing kpop fan affiliation and fan theories, and one of the more evident trends that seems to be emerging is the creation and dissemination of ‘…on Crack’ or ‘Crack’ videos. This blog will focus on what is arguably one of the most widely-enjoyed ‘Crack’ video themes, that being ‘EXO Crack’- material based on 9-member Korean-Chinese boyband, EXO.
“-the fandom is def one of the funniest in K-pop,”
“EXO is such a boring group on variety shows but the fandom is def one of the funniest in K-pop,” comments user North and South, searching for ‘EXO Crack’ videos on a One Hallyu forum.
‘Crack’ videos emerged in 2013 along with the rising success of video websites such as YouTube and Vine. Although YouTube was already successful in it’s own right prior to 2013, it appears to have been the combination of these two entities that has faciltiated ‘Crack’ videos. The name itself is presumed to derive from the over-stimulated behaviour of those taking crack cocaine, attributed to the fast-paced dialogue and erratic behavior depicted in the videos.
‘Crack’ videos are combined of several elements to appeal to their respective kpop fandoms: original video clips, fan theories, and second and third party content from other videos and music.
“The so-called ‘mother’ of the band had become more youthful-“
Firstly, for the original material, video creators use a wide variety of material ranging from music video (MV) footage to reality show appearances, even incorperating fan-filmed scenes from airports and concerts. That being said, using a large amount of official corperate footage heightens the likelihood of the video being taken down by K-pop record labels such as SM Town, as happened to popular YouTube content creator SwogliciousPuppysaurus after she released the video entitled ‘EXO ON CRACK (LOVE ME RIGHT SPECIAL)’. The video used scenes from EXO’s Love Me Right MV combined with the creator’s own effects and third-party dubbing to entertain the fandom. However, ‘Crack’ creators continue to use official MV footage as it serves as a tool to explore fan theories and illustrate jokes that may have circulated after the MV’s release. For example, numerous ‘Crack’ videos released in mid-2016 contained a scene of EXO band leader Suho peforming a dab dance move in the ‘Monster’ MV, the joke being that the so-called ‘mother’ of the band had become more youthful and relatable.
“Fans with particular biases towards certain band members will often zoom in exclusively on that person, thereby catching brief glimpses of micro-interactions-“
Moving away from problems associated with using record label content, ‘Crack’ creators can faciliate fan theories by incorperating fan footage into their videos, as it likely portrays what fans feel to be more ‘candid’ and ‘authentic’ interactions between K-pop band members. Videos can be taken from airport transfers, walking on the streets and concerts among many other public appearances. Fans with particular biases towards certain band members will often zoom in exclusively on that person, thereby catching brief glimpses of micro-interactions and expressions that they can then use to apply their own theories.
“-fan fiction, fan art and specialised names for suspected or imagined relationships,”
To digress briefly, it is worth noting that a lot of K-pop boyband fan theories revolve around romantic relationships between two or even more band members. Although this is not exclusive to the K-pop sphere (there are similar fan fictions around One Direction and even the actors of BBC’s Sherlock), this is a common trope of K-pop boyband fandoms, culminating in fan fiction, fan art and specialised names for suspected or imagined relationships, usually between male band members (eg: Xiumin and Luhan = XiuHan). This could be closely tied with the popularity of homosexual fan fiction among young women in Asia and also across the world. In China, women who revel in this type of fiction are known as 腐女 funv (rotten women, also a translation of Japanese yaoi fans – fujoshi). The Wire wrote an article in 2014 detailing this phenomenon.
“-moments of bodily contact and glances between members that are all used as ‘evidence’ of romantic involvement-“
One recurring relationship theory within the EXO fandom is between members Kai and D.O, often expressed through supposed moments of Kai’s jealousy. In one ‘EXO Crack’ video by popular EXO Vine creator exosexo, a scene of Kai looking on as D.O and co-member Suho embrace is paired with lyrics “I don’t like the way he’s looking at you-” from the song Jealous by Nick Jonas. Other ‘Crack’ videos almost all depict a wide variety of filmed interactions including hand-holding, moments of bodily contact and glances between members that are all used as ‘evidence’ of romantic involvement, or at least serve as a visual to fan theories, however deeply they may be believed. Footage like this is often paired with romantic music, slow-motion and even dubbed over with romantic or sexual dialogue from other sources. Altogether, this can paint a picture for viewers of in-band relationships and even love triangles.
“-most EXO ‘Crack’ videos appear to follow the same ficitonal, or at least exaggerated, narratives regarding member’s identities,”
With that in mind, ‘Crack’ videos are also visual aids to storylines not only referring to relationships but also to the ficitonal individual personalities of the band members. Despite having various content creators, most EXO ‘Crack’ videos appear to follow the same ficitonal, or at least exaggerated, narratives regarding member’s identities: Suho, the band leader, is rich and maternal. Sehun is vain and dismissive. D.O, despite his quiet demeanour, is sinister and vengeful underneath. Despite the fact that fans have little to no official means of confirming these identities (and there is no suggestion that they want to), they are manifested from various incidents over the years that EXO have been in the public eye. Suho’s ‘rich’ persona appeared to culminate from an episode of the reality show EXO Showtime where he paid for band member’s meals. Another recurring example of these ‘personalities’ is former member Tao (now under the solo stage name of ZTAO). In one ‘Crack’ clip he is dubbed to say “I failed biology because I don’t have DNA, I have DN-Slay”, followed by footage of him dismissively pushing up his sunglasses, supporting the character narrative of a man obsessed with appearance and fashion labels. Likewise, Suho is often depicted as a single mother having ‘divorced’ from former co-leader Kris Wu, who left the band unexpectedly in 2014. A clip of Suho standing up dramatically is dubbed to say “You are just like your father! Leave me! And take my kids!” It is worth noting here that most ‘EXO Crack’ videos are dubbed over in English. This is especially applicable to K-pop where many fans cannot understand Korean, which the band will use in its songs and performances. It is therefore ideal that fans can fabricate what is being said based on the member’s expressions and body language, perhaps in a subconcious attempt to make the band as accessible as other English-speaking performers.
“Shawty imma party ’til the sun down-“
‘Crack’ videos aren’t all intended to dive deep into the realms of fan fiction. In fact, a lot of them carry a meta sense of self-awareness and deprication, a result of multiple critical analyses of MVs, performances and asthetics. Usually, if one criticism or in-joke is widely identified in YouTube comments and forums, it manifests itself in a ‘Crack’ video. This can be jokes about fashion, a member’s hairstyle, a member’s singing or even critiques of coreography. For example, several compliations show a scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the original movie Harry opens a golden egg only for an ear-splitting scream to echo around the room, causing the surrounding audience to cover their ears. However, in the ‘Crack’ video, we instead hear a recording of EXO member Sehun singing the infamous line “Shawty imma party ’til the sun down-” from Love Me Right. Originally from an energetic live performance, Sehun had difficulty singing the line in key while dancing, causing many fans to seize the recording as an opportunity to lovingly tease him. It hence appears in most ‘Crack’ videos in various situations. What’s unique about this apparent mockery is that it is done as an act of fan-worship rather than in malice, perhaps showing that fans are willing to wholly accept their idols, flaws and all.
Having summarised the myriad of kpop content used in ‘Crack’compliations, the second and third-party dubbing, fake subtitles and sountracks are a lot more streamlined. Often following Vine trends, the majority of the soundtracks are sampled from hip-hop and chart-topping tunes. Recurring songs include the intro to Only by Nicki Minaj, I Don’t F With You by Big Sean and I Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. It could be said that Exo ‘Crack’ creators take inspiration from viral songs circulating the internet via other sites such as Vine, as these tracks appear in the majority of short clips. Usually the songs have climactic beats and adult language, which presumerably adds extra shock factor to the comedy clips, particularly when it is pitted against kpop’s squeaky-clean image.
Some videos can also be captioned with ‘fake subs’, linking back to the desire for those who don’t understand Korean to give their stars a voice in the most humerous and entertaining way possible. Fans even mock themselves, especially when it comes to lacking Korean language skills. An example of this is subbing Korean or other foreign languages with similar-sounding English. One of the original trends was to sub the Chinese line “ganjue dao meiyou” from EXO’s History to “enjoy the mayo“. More recently, the Japanese-language song Drop That containing the line: “Atchi kotchi mite wink wink shite, Jing jingle bell soba de kikaseru yo-” is subtitled as “Betty got the wing, wicked ham for Jin, Jingle Bells so ga chicken hen to YO!”
Other dubbing involves dialogue, and this tends to be from either movies, TV Shows or other popular Vine creators. ‘Crack’ videos can even take the dialogue of a whole Vine and apply it to jump cuts of kpop footage, at times even going to great lengths to find the perfect clips depicting the exact body language and facial expressions to match the dialogue. Because of the apparent trend for dubbing in adult language, slurs and sexual innuendo in many ‘Crack’ videos, they are regularly paired with a warning by the creator of sensitive content. Again, the eyebrow-raising subject matter in ‘Crack’ videos almost emphasises the niche and sometimes risque nature of the videos, and suggests that they may even serve as a counterpart to other adult-themed content in fan fiction and fan art.
Overall, ‘Crack’ videos have exploded into a hugely consumed part of the K-pop fandom – each ‘Crack’ video has well over 100,000 views and some creators even have several-part series. Aside from EXO videos, there is also a huge audience for ‘GOT7 Crack’ and ‘Bangtan Crack’ – notably, they are all male groups. That being said, most ‘Crack’ videos are created and viewed by English speaking fans, and it’s therefore unclear as to exactly where in the world ‘Crack’ videos are most widely enjoyed. K-pop stars have yet to comment on ‘Crack’ videos, however, this might be ideal in keeping the brazen and sometimes crude fictional world separate from the perfect images record labels prefer to advertise.