For quite some time now I’ve been curious about if, and in that case in what way, the image and concept of a kpop group affects how old they’re perceived to be. The natural thing to assume would be that more “innocent” and aegyo-filled concepts would make the idols seem younger, while more “mature” and sexier concepts make them seem older, right? But is that the case? I decided to put together a playlist of twelve kpop live performances, alternating boys and girls, of groups with different concepts and have my family watch it and then have them guess how old the singers were in the clip. I also told them to point out any member that they thought was significantly older/younger than the average age of the group. Of course this was a very difficult task, which they all complained about, but I found the results interesting nonetheless, so I decided to share them with y’all. With some random comments and things they said as well, of course. Please don’t get offend by these comments; my family aren’t kpoppers. They just don’t know any better.
For girl groups I used Brown Eyed Girls’ “Kill Bill” and Girl’s Day’s “Expectation” as the sexy representatives; Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy” and A Pink’s “No No No” as cute representatives; and 2NE1’s “Do You Love Me” and f(x)’s “Rum Pum Pum Pum” as a somewhat alternative middle ground. I decided to use songs that were all released in 2013, for some reason. It was deep and thought-through when I decided on it, I promise.
Boy groups don’t have concepts that are at all as distinct, so there were a few more types represented there. I used NU’EST’s “Sleep Talking” and Boyfriend’s “Love Style” to represent a cuter image and EXO’s “Growl” as a representation of a youthful but not necessarily cute image. I also included BTS’s “No More Dream” as a representative of hip-hop concepts and 2PM’s “A.D.T.O.Y” as a representative of a clearly mature and sexy concept. Oh and I threw in VIXX’s “Hyde”, just for the heck of it.
The people that I tried this on were my stepdad, who’s 42; my mom, who’s 39; my sister, who’s 16; and my brother who’s 13. My stepdad and mom have been forced by me to listen to kpop at several occasions, but they’ve never really watched any videos. My siblings are a bit more informed, and my sister especially does have some very basic knowledge. I think that did affect her results slightly, but I wouldn’t say it had a huge impact.
It might be so that I’m the only one who finds this at all interesting, and in that case, my apologies. But if you do find the premise intriguing, let’s get on with it! I’ll include the exact live performance I showed them, their comments and the correct average age of the group. I’ll also include the individual ages of all the members, so you can see who the diverging members are. Oh, and if that family member didn’t give a fun comment, I’ll only include the average age that they guessed. But maybe you’d have understood that.
1. Brown Eyed Girls’ “Kill Bill”
Average age: 29.5
Sister: Average age is 23.
Mom: *AAH THERE ARE BOTH GUYS AND GIRLS* Average age is 19, but Gain is older, she’s 23.
Stepdad: They’re trying to look younger than they are, that’s for sure. The average age is 26. Narsha is younger, she’s 19. And Miryo is about 28.
Brother: *stares intensely to figure it out* Proudly says that they’re between 20 and 50. When I don’t accept that answer he guesses that the average age is about 27.
My comment: Either they didn’t realize that kpop stars can be over thirty, or that classic stereotype that “asians look younger” is very true. I found it extra interesting that my stepdad’d assume that Narsha and Miryo are so far apart since the real difference between them is just a little under two months.
Average guessed age: 23,8 (5,7 years too young)
2. NU’EST’s “Sleep Talking”
Average age: 18,2
Sister: The average age is 22, but Aron is younger at about 19. And Ren is sooooo cute. *squeals whenever he sings*
Mom: Average age is 17.
Stepdad: The average age is about 22, but Ren is clearly much younger. He’s about 17.
Brother: The average age is about 23. Minhyun looks little. About four. *yells at me for writing that down* I mean 17! He looks 17!
My comment: People just couldn’t agree about who looks little, I guess. Interesting that Aron was mentioned at all, since he’s the only member not born in ’95.
Average guessed age: 21 (2,8 years too old)
3. Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy”
Average age: 22,6
Sister: Average age is 27.
Mom: There’s too damn many; this is impossible! The average age is about 18.
Stepdad: I feel like I’m watching child porn, even though the average age is like 25.
Brother: This has to be Girls’ Generation… There’s like ten of them… Their average age is 26.
My comment: I’ve always thought of Girls’ Generation as being very young-looking, especially styled as they were during this era. But everyone but my mom assumed that they were older than they actually are, so maybe I’m wrong? Maybe their assumed innocence makes them look older because it doesn’t seem real?
Average guessed age: 24 (1,4 years too old)
4. BTS’ “No More Dream”
Average age: 18
Rap Monster, 18
Sister: Their average age is about 21, but Jimin’s younger, he’s like 18. Jungkook and V are too damn cute! *squealing*
Mom: Are these boys really old enough to be away from their mothers..? The average age is 20.
Stepdad: *yells at them to stand still so he can look at their faces* The average age is about 18, with J-Hope being about 24 and Jimin being 16.
Brother: They look absolutely ridiculous. *gets confused about why Jimin flashes his abs* Guesses that they’re about 25 and then has a nervous breakdown because it’s too hard.
My comment: It might be so that it’s hard to guess that someone is 15, when you don’t think 15-years-old kids should be doing what they do. Maybe? Just a theory. And apparently Jimin really is a baby face.
Average guessed age: 21 (3 years too old)
5. 2NE1’s “Do You Love Me”
Average age: 24,5
Sister: *realizes that she’s heard me talk about which members are older/younger before* Bom is older! And Minzy is younger! *is informed that she can’t say the names but has to point to them* *freaks out* Manages to identify Minzy and says that she’s 23, but that the average age is 27.
Mom: Average age is 24.
Stepdad: Says that the average age is 21, but that Minzy is older at about 23. Then proceeds to rage quit because it’s too damn difficult. And names 2NE1 the best dancers so far, even though their choreography is a hot mess.
Brother: Says that the average age is about 26, but that Minzy is older, about 29.
My comment: I find it interesting that the only one that correctly identified Minzy is younger was the one that knew that she is, my sister. My stepdad and brother both thought of her as older than the rest of the group. Minzy has always been mature-looking but it’s still surprising. And nobody managed to identify the two significantly older members in the group.
Average guessed age: 24,5 (exactly right)
6. EXO’s “Growl”
Average age: 20,8
Sister: *murmurs about how she knows that EXO aren’t that young… Even though they’re new…* Average age is about 23.
Mom: Okay, many of these haven’t even gone through puberty yet. This is getting ridiculous. Places the average age at 17, but says that Xiumin is 14.
Stepdad: FOOTBALL TEAM. THEY’RE 17.
Brother: *questions which half of EXO it is when he only sees six* Places the average age at about 24. But also calls it impossible due to the massive number of boys.
My comment: Oh Xiumin…
Average guessed age: 20,3 (0,5 years too young)
7. f(x)’s “Rum Pum Pum Pum”
Average age: 20,4
Sister: Thinks that the average age is 24, but that Luna’s older, about 27.
Mom: Average age is 20.
Stepdad: This is like a never-ending Eurovision. *hates everything* The average age is about 20, but Victoria is like 22. Tiny bit older.
Brother: Thinks that the average age is 23, and that Amber seems cool. *I ask if it’s because of her more masculine attire* No, because of that cool dance thing she just did.
My comment: I didn’t expect anyone to realize how much older Victoria actually is, but I’m surprised that my sister thought that Luna’s older. And I’m very proud of my brother.
Average guessed age: 21,8 (1,4 years too old)
8. VIXX’s “Hyde”
Average age: 20,2
Sister: Average age is 23.
Mom: Average age is 24.
Stepdad: *laughs at how dramatic they are* Thinks that the average age is 18 but that Leo is 22 and that Ken is 16.
Brother: *immediately hates Ravi’s haircut and gets traumatized when Ravi asks him to “do it”* *yells about how skinny they are* *comments on the massive amounts of sensual touching and starts to ask about openly gay kpop stars* *points at Hyuk and Hongbin when asked who’s the prettiest* Says that the average age is 26.
My comment: Well… I don’t know what to say.
Average guessed age: 22,3 (2,1 years too old)
9. A Pink’s “No No No”
Average age: 18,8
Sister: Says that the average age is 25, but that Naeun is younger, about 19. Also says that Bomi looks like a bitchy girl in high school and that Namjoo looks like that girl that wants to be Bomi, but always fails.
Mom: Average age is 18.
Stepdad: This entire group is 18 months apart, tops. They’re trying to look 15, but they’re actually 20, on average.
Brother: They’re styled like they’re seven, but their good dancing gives it away. They’re like 21.
My comment: I really do think that to a non-kpopper, a girl group that’s trying to look young and innocent actually ends up seeming older than they are. Because the watcher realizes that they’re not as young as they’re pretending to be, and therefore subconsciously exaggerates their perceived age in the other direction.
Average guessed age: 21 (2,2 years too old)
10. 2PM’s “A.D.T.O.Y”
Average age: 23,8
Sister: Says that the average age is 25, but that Jun.K is 29. And super duper gay.
Mom: *gets super excited that there’s only one guy on stage* *gets sad when the others join* Average age is 22.
Stepdad: Says that these guys were once young, and still think they are. Thinks that the average age is 24 and that Jun.K is GAY.
Brother: *gets excited because he recognizes the name of the group* Thinks that the average age is 26.
My comment: Guys, I really don’t know why they think he’s gay. I mean… I guess I might see it. But nah. But yeah. Maybe? We’ll probably never know.
Average guessed age: 24,3 (0,5 years too old)
11. Girl’s Day’s “Expectations”
Average age: 20,8
Sister: Super securely decides that Sojin is 21, Yura is 25, Minah is 27 and Hyeri is 28. Which makes the average age about 25.
Mom: I’m assuming that they couldn’t be styled like this if they were underage… Right..? The average age is about 21.
Stepdad: These girls would CRUSH in the Eurovision! *rage quits* Oooooh that dancer is older!!! Oh that doesn’t matter? Damn. Average age is 23.
Brother: *judges the dancing* Average age is 23.
My comment: It will never stop being hilarious to me how sure my sister was of herself while saying completely incorrect ages. I really don’t know where she got those from. As expected, no one could tell that Sojin is so significantly older.
Average guessed age: 23 (2,2 years too old)
12. Boyfriend’s “Love Style”
Average age: 18,3
Sister: *EXTREME HAPPINESS BECAUSE SHE LOVES BOYFRIEND* Says that the average age is 22, but that Donghyun is 27.
Mom: THESE ARE BABIES. Average age is 16.
Stepdad: Demands a flower suit like Donghyun’s. Claims that the average age is 18 and that the Jo twins are about 16.
Brother: Proudly states that these are like the “flower six”. Says that they look like kids, with Youngmin specifically being “like four”. Thinks that the average age is 18.
My comment: Boyfriend are young, and they are perceived as such. These results were probably the most accurate.
Average guessed age: 18.5 (0,2 years too old)
Okay, so.. What can we learn from this? Probably squat, if you ask me. Let’s look at the facts, okay?
Brown Eyed Girls was the only group that was seen as significantly younger than they actually are. That could be because they are actually a bit older than the average kpop group, so the expectations that people have on kpop stars drag the numbers down a bit. Just a theory.
Everybody else were seen as older than they are, except for 2NE1, EXO, 2PM and Boyfriend who were all less than a year from the correct average age. Can I draw any conclusions from that? Hell no. 2PM represents a very mature image and in those days Boyfriend represented a very immature one. So I’m completely clueless as to why these were easier to guess. Maybe because their images were in some ways age appropriate? And therefore made it clear which way to guess? I don’t know. Give me your mind babies on this topic guys!
I have no idea whether or not this was at all interesting or fun to read, but it was both for me.