Youtube is a great tool and K-pop fans are especially good at using it. Some of them have started some amazing channels in which they mostly upload videos of them reacting to music videos. We have decided to sit down for a chat with one of these fans, Umu. She runs the Youtube channel ReacttotheK.
- Hello Umu and thank you for granting us this interview! Could you please introduce yourself to Japako Music followers?
Hello Japako Music family and followers! I’m a Sophomore french horn performance major at the Eastman School of Music and the creator of the ‘Classical Musicians React’ series on my YT channel ReacttotheK.
- Can you tell us how everything started? When and how “ReacttotheK” was born?
I originally created ReacttotheK for fun when I was about to graduate from high school. I was afraid that no one in college was going to be into kpop, and that I was going to be alone with my obsession. So a few high school friends and I began to record reactions…so that even though we were thousands of miles away from each other we could still share our passion with each other. Of course the direction of my channel changed after I began to record my music conservatory friends’ reactions. I began to show them kpop so I could turn awesome college friends into kpop fans (while recording their very entertaining reactions for the public). It was a blast hearing them talk about kpop in composition/music theory terms, so I decided to put more effort into the series.
- You and your reactors all study classical music. Have you ever thought that they would find K-pop uninteresting? Being it so different from classical music.
Good question. No, at the beginning I never worried about that because I knew the people I chose to react would be blown away by the music video production and the creativity involved.
But as time went on, I encouraged my conservatory friends to concentrate more and more on the music because I knew they could make educated comments on the musical choices the kpop composers made.
When the reactors thought the music was too simple, or uninteresting, well, at first I freaked out. I censored the reactor whenever they negatively critiqued a song. But as time went on, I said to myself, “Screw it. These are my friends’ opinions, why on earth am I keeping them their opinion from being in the final reaction video?”
So in the end, when choosing reactors, I try to avoid the musicians at my school who ONLY listen to classical music. As long as I continue to have reactors with open minds, and show them musically complex songs, I won’t have to worried about them thinking songs are uninteresting! (Though, I believe they will point out from time to time that no pop music is nearly as complex as jazz or classical music, haha)
- You have already revealed a very long release schedule. How much time do you spend on your videos? Does it take a lot to film and edit them?
A lot of time goes into this series! It’s not only filming and editing, it’s organizing schedules and doing research on the songs we want to review. To be specific, it takes an hour for each pair to record 8 MV reactions. (So I dedicate 6+ hours each weekend to film.) Editing a reaction to one MV takes about 1-2 hours. If I’m editing a full (two MV) reaction, it takes 3-5 hours. Subtitling takes 2-4 hours…so thankfully a few of my friends help me out with that and I review them before publishing.
- What’s your criteria when picking music videos/performances to show to the reactors?
Thanks for asking about this! I recorded an explanation video but never got around to posting it.
To choose performances for the vocalists series, I try to find videos that would allow them to talk about technique and the skill of the kpop singers. IS2 and Duet Song Festival are the easiest shows to pick from, since they can comment on multiple vocalists in one video. I pick performances that are musically interesting, challenging or entertaining, so that if my reactors run out of things to say about the idol’s voice, they can comment on those other things too.
When picking songs to go on the to-react list for the ‘Classical Musicians React’ series, I analyse it like I would for any piece of classical music. What is the instrumentation like? Is there much going on behind the vocals or is it a very simple background so the vocals can stand out? What is the chord progression like…is it the typical 1 4 5 1 or something unexpected? Are there any 7th/9th chords in the vocals or backtracks? Is the song too repetitive, or is there new musical material in all of the verses? Is the song going anywhere or is it staying the same? Cool modulations, harmonies, dissonances? Is the vocal melody predictable or is it resolving strangely? …Etc.
These are the things that my ears have been trained to look for as a music major.
Basically the more complex and weird the song is musically, the more of a chance I will add it to the to-react list. Yunyi, Kevin and Ben help me with this process since their ears are more developed and their music-theory knowledge is greater than mine. And of course I want the experience to be fun for the reactors and for our audience, and that is why we are picky when choosing songs to react to.
- “ReacttotheK” has almost 190,000 subscribers on Youtube. Lots of people comment and wait for your reactions. Have you ever felt the pressure of a new release?
Oh, definitely. A lot of our channel viewers fill the comment section with their favorite songs they want us to react to ASAP. I see where they are coming from, (I was once an impatient YT reaction fanatic), and really wish I could do that. I wish my friends and I had all the free time, and energy in the world to release videos a few hours after all big comebacks…but it’s not possible. All of us are full-time college students, working towards our dream jobs in the music industry and practicing our individual instruments for hours daily.
- What do you think is the key of the channel success?
I don’t think there is a single reason for our success. The biggest key, however, would be that we try to focus on the music composition when we react, and that’s what makes us different from other reaction channels out there. The next successful aspect is the reactors. My friends are absolutely fantastic people. They’re weird, intelligent, and unique young adults who are very entertaining to watch and listen to! They react to each other in fun ways as well. And one final key would be that the reactors aren’t afraid to criticize the music or video. Everyone has sincere reactions and aren’t afraid to speak their opinion.
- Of course, not everyone can agree with the reactors opinion. Do you read the negative comments? How do you and your friends deal with them?
To be honest, I can really have a hard time with negative comments. I am an emotional person. I often take negative comments, whether they be trollers, actually polite criticism (which I do take into account), or just plain hate, to heart. I’m working on not letting it get me down. But lately I have been avoiding hate by only reading comments 30 minutes after I have posted the reaction!
I believe the majority, if not all, of the reactors can brush off hate fairly easily. Sometimes in our group chat we joke about the trollers and laugh it off. A lot of my friends are very strong minded, so when other people send hate, they stand their ground easily.
- Some of your reactors will graduate soon. Do you plan on adding some new reactors?
Definitely! At the moment the only graduating person I need to replace is Yunyi. Thankfully her high school friend and kevin’s ex-roommate, a saxophone player, is hanging around for another year and will be taking her place. He’s very different from yunyi, but will make a great arguing-about-music-stuff partner with Kevin. Hugo is also going to be taking a break with the CMR series next year, so Rachel and Alexis (from the vocalists react series) will be paired with Gwen when he’s gone.
For future graduating reactors, I do plan on bringing more people on board. It feels weird to say this, but I “have my eyes on” a few people at my school who would make fantastic reactors and be open to this new genre. It is most difficult for me to find people with the same music knowledge as the graduating class since I am an undergrad, but I will do my best to find open minded, funny, unique people who also have good theory knowledge to replace the reactors who have moved on.
- Thank you so much for answering our questions, Umu. Could you please leave a final message to Japako’s readers?
Thank you so much for taking your time to read (and hopefully enjoy) my answers! I am extremely honored that there are so many wonderful humans out there interested in and enjoying my channel! I hope you all get something out of it, whether it be laughter, entertainment, or learning something new (I expect y’all to know what modulations are by now if you’ve seen the majority of our videos ;)). Thank you so much for your love and support and I will continue to work hard to put out good content!
Interview by Martina
Follow ReacttotheK on Youtube