K-Pop Music Reviews: H.O.T. – Candy

Title: Candy

Release Year: 1996

If you’re wondering when we’re going to get into the cool stuff — worry not, we’ll get there soon enough. But before that, a short detour to visit the world of H.O.T., arguably Korea’s first “idol band”. This is where it all began.

Apparently the video can’t be played back through this site; click on the link to watch it via YouTube.

Like I said earlier, H.O.T. can, in many ways, be considered as the bell that sounded the closing of the “old” Korean pop music era and the opening of the new and current “idol” phenomenon. In H.O.T., we can see the first signs that would come to signify an entire industry.

First of all, the five members of H.O.T. – Moon Hee Jun, Jang Woo Hyuk, Tony An, Kangta, and Lee Jae Won – all had different personalities and characteristics that were specifically chosen to appeal to the broadest spectrum of consumers possible. H.O.T. had something for everybody; you could’ve been a fan of Moon Hee Jun, or if he simply wasn’t your cup of tea, there were four other members who could draw your interest.

Korea's original idol group, H.O.T.

H.O.T. would also be the first flag-bearer for the then-fledgling entertainment company, SM Entertainment. SM Entertainment would go on to sponsor other headline acts such as Super Junior, Girls Generation, SHINee, and f(x) – all which I’ll cover in due time.

SME, the driving force behind modern Korean pop.

So: what about the song?

To sum it up in two words: it’s unspectacular.

The members of H.O.T. weren’t judged on talent alone; sure, they could sing and dance pretty well, but if that were the only criteria, chances were they would not have made it. For the first time, looks played an important part. Remember DJ DOC? Did they look like handsome guys to you? Compare them to the picture of the five members above, which just screams “HEY! LOOK! FIVE ADORABLE GUYS WEARING CUTE CLOTHING! CHECK THEM OUT!”

H.O.T. marked the first steps towards an ever-increasing emphasis on visual over aural, and this would go on to manifest itself in ever increasing ways in the K-pop world.

The song? Oh, right. The song.

Well, it’s nothing if not catchy. It’s shamelessly happy, and it’s clear that the members don’t take themselves too seriously with this. It’s as if they realized that they weren’t formed to produce high art; instead, their job was to appeal to the greatest common denominator. And this song did just that; as the debut single for H.O.T., it cemented their status as Korea’s first universally-loved music group, and would release much more successful albums in the years to come, until they finally disbanded in 2001.

Despite the song being wholly unremarkable in every possible way, due to its ripple effect in the entire K-pop industry and its huge effect on the way the music industry functioned, I award H.O.T.’s Candy:

3 out of 5 stars.


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