T/N: The term “fictional world” in this article refers to the world-building and creation of a fictional universe as it applies to storytelling.
The reason why a fictional world has become a requirement and not an option in the kpop scene is because this setting is being used as an attractive element. Although they say that trends come and go, the concept of fictional worlds has become very relevant in the past decade due to its possibility to be transformed and expanded according to different ideas. This is the reason is why both groups soon to debut and groups that have recently debuted are creating fictional worlds of an almost manufactured scale.
Especially in the case of rookie groups, they have the advantage of quickly bringing public recognition to the group’s color as a whole, as well as giving each member their own specialty and character. If there is effort put into the producing in order to maintain this fictional world, there’s also the advantage of keeping fans interested by connecting from debut until the next album in an organic way.
An official from a large company explained, “Implementing a fictional world does not take place for only one album, but it requires storytelling for every album that is released. As a result, it becomes fun for the fans to see how the story will unfold and transform. Nowadays, the creation of a fictional world has become somewhat of a basic virtue for idol groups. It has the use of accurately conveying a team’s individuality and musicality, as well as highlighting their personality.”
As a group boasting a solid narrative and a very loyal fandom, Dreamcatcher can’t be left out. Although the size of the fandom is relatively small, their loyalty doesn’t lose out to any other idol group. This is due in part to the unfolding of a solid narrative that has been emphasized since their debut.
An official from Dreamcatcher Company said, “By intertwining the group’s unique identity into the fictional world, not only does it add a layer of intuitive understanding, but it also adds to the fun with interpreting and analyzing the story through various objects within the group’s content. Rather than simply [seeing and understanding as an audience], content within a fictional world encourages two-way communication.“
SM Entertainment and Dreamcatcher Company are considered to be examples of those who have nailed the concept of fictional worlds, and so, they have the shared motto of never revealing what the “correct” answer is. They said. “Although the company definitely has an answer that they intend [to be conveyed], we don’t reveal what the “correct” answer is. If it becomes revealed, it could harm the fresh interpretations that come from the fans.” As such, the fun of interpreting is a strength of fictional worlds that can’t be left out.
Recently, there is an industry standard being set with the idea of hiring a professional story writer to be responsible for the storytelling of a group and their albums, with a focus on large entertainment agencies. Although there are not writers exclusive to each agency, the companies often reach out and contract them for each album of each group. Most of the planning process is carried out during the producing part of the process, and outside writers planning skills have the responsibility of determining whether [their ideas] will be well-received by the public or not.
A K-pop official stated, “Most agencies have the role of planning the overall framing, direction, and elements of the production process. On top of that, they also hire the appropriate writers to express this in a story. They tend to hire writers that can include ideas that come from inside the company. Each agency has a slightly different style, but instances of hiring professional writers are increasing due to the required skill level.”
As a group’s fictional world becomes more clear, there’s no choice but to insert it into the lyric-writing process for their music as well. A lyricist said, “Although there are many cases where we decide on an idol group’s lyrics based on a popular vote or blind screening, in certain cases like this, it’s important to also consider how much the lyrics understand and make use of the given idol’s fictional world. Of course, we draw inspiration musically after listening to the guide track, we have to write the song with a basic understanding of the team that sings the song. Even after deciding on the lyrics, we still continue to revise them in order to make sure the lyrics fit with the song, the team’s message, and of course, the fictional world.”
Translation by 7-Dreamers jiulily
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