Controversial, quirky, and eccentric, this quintet continually cuts against the usual grain of cookie-cutter idol dance-pop groups with an approachable and often irresistable spunk that leaves them in a class of their own. And much like their unusual but endearing stage presence, their genesis and rise to fame is one of the more unique stories in the K-Pop milleu.
As the story goes, their CEO Hwang Hyun-chang was a classical music enthusiast and professional photographer until somehow T-Ara's "Roly Poly" video (a classic to be sure) inspired him to sell all his gear and go into the girl-group business. He recruited undersized, fairly ordinary girls to form his group, deciding to eschew the more common and commercially viable "sexy" group.
And Crayon Pop was unleashed on an unsuspecting public, to very mixed results. Because most of the all-important Korean music shows didn't quite know what to do with these somewhat ragtag but earnest and energetic quintet, they had trouble getting appearances, and as the legend goes, took their act to the streets. Literally. Armed with a little boombox, they performed on street corners, in malls, anywhere enough people would gather to make it worthwhile. They started a small but rabid and kind of weird following of older male "uncles" called "Pop-jeossi."
And just as they were about to give up all hope, with their last 500 dollars, adorned in decidedly unsexy track warmup suits and scooter helmets, they created one of the most iconic songs and videos of K-Pop, the irresistably weird and spunky "Bar Bar Bar," featuring the now-world-reknowned five-cylinder dance. The rest is history, including their breif claim to fame as opening act for Lady Gaga (a fellow Asian Music afficionato). Okay, you can google the rest of the story.
Here's what matters about Crayon Pop. Their sound. It's an energetic and cheerful in-your-face onslaught of hooks and rhythm, peppered with stops and starts, chanting, shouting, exhorting. This is the kind of music you need for some serious attitude adjustment. Their chirping vocals continally urge you to rise and move and jump and get your ass in gear. Their earliest pre-helmet material is still probably their best, including the real Crayon Pop favorite for any Pop-Jeossi, "Bing Bing," a hooky horn-driven R&B romp that has evolved over the years. "Dancing Queen" is also an anthem for the real believer, a tribute to the lonely nerds who never made it to the cool kid's table. And their rousing b-side "Bbyong Song" might be their real masterpiece of pure pluck.
Currently the group seems to have hit some snags as they struggle to re-forge a Japanese base and their last two efforts, both Japanese, haven't been as memorable as any of their Korean gems. Here's hoping the five stick together enough to come back soon to once again thumb their noses at the beauty-obsessed idol pop scene coming out of Seoul. God knows it needs it.