(That’s K-pop, not “kiddie.”) Wrote down what to my knowledge are my first ever general thoughts about K-pop since I started listening somewhat peripherally to the stuff a while ago, aside from some commentary on specific songs:
When I first heard K-pop and read convos about it, my first thought was: “Wow, the dream of the 90s is alive in South Korea.” I think what struck me was that there was a certain open “everythingness” in the music, but a particular “everything” whose things come from a historical moment that passed in the US prior to 9/11 and is often discussed in the context of 9/11. But actually MTV was getting more ambivalent about boybands as early as 2000, Britney was already definitively off the Radio Disney playlist prior to 9/11, Christina was thinking about going dirrrrty.
In K-pop, you get all of the schmaltz, all of the toothy grins, all of the Astroglide, but you also have this undercurrent of all of that pop of the time, a kind of hardness and bite — sometimes explicitly (in 2NE1), sometimes implicitly (the boybands here seem more in conversation with post-Celebrity *NSync).
Might be that the audiences for this stuff seem pretty generous, and accepting of the more rigid system through which K-pop bands get made. They haven’t, to my knowledge, indulged a need for seemingly authentic grassroots emergence (a la Bieber or Carly Rae Jepsen), nor is “manufacturing” (or heavy-handed/manipulative collaboration) a key issue within K-pop fandom (again, that I notice, which is from very little info) except when it intersects with legitimate abuse.
Or it might just be that this is where a lot of savvy producers have found more opportunities. A few years ago, a lot of Cheiron producers (Jorge Elofsson [sic?], Andreas Carlsson) were doing sophisticated updates of the Cheiron sound for people who were aiming for the Eurovision axis btw. UK and European pop. And who knows who the hell Amy Diamond’s producers were on her first two albums (I haven’t really checked).