So lately I’ve had this weird, meditative, engaging, crazy trip on what it is to be a fan these days — conveniently packaged in a span of two weeks. As previously stated a few entries ago, I went down the rabbit hole and found myself vibing towards a number of KPop groups.
This recent journey on fandom started during LOONA’s comeback on 28 June 2021 with PTT (short for “Paint the Town”). If you wanna check it out, here’s the video:
For those curious on why I like the group, it was way back in 2019 when I saw a tweet GIF by what seems to be a result of some random Twitter algorithm. In the post I saw this KPop girl group in a dance studio where they made a V-formation with solid pacing and synchronization. Now that was my pre-rabbit hole days (Blackpink was the only group I was listening to at that time) and so I just shrugged it off, diving back into my usual socmed durdling.
However, somehow the image kept playing at the back of my head, and soon I decided to return to it (‘coz I would usually watch some cool choreos once in a while to pass the time). When I tabbed back to Twitter I couldn’t find it anymore. I started asking around—from former students, to my KPop stan friends, to even members of our local MTG Community—about this girl group “who could pull off a perfectly cool V-formation” but all I got were other groups when I tried to search for the suggested names they had provided. So I just carried on, and it kinda bugged me knowing that there was no closure to my query.
Fast forward to the summer of 2020, while passing the time at home (during the days of stricter community quarantine due to the pandemic), as I was in the process of falling into the KPop rabbit hole, I stumbled upon one Youtube channel’s post on the history of LOONA. I just clicked on it, not knowing what to expect, and somewhere on the video I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was the group I was looking for back in 2019! (And I also discovered that it was a dance cover of NCT 127’s Cherry Bomb)
The personal stanning wasn’t really an instant process, given that LOONA at that time already had a good number of songs out, so it was quite confusing where to start. Good thing I have a friend who’s also a fan, and she gladly provided me with a recommended listening order, first of which was to follow the singles in a particular flow. The tracks are pretty eclectic, but I felt at home with the ones which had groovy beats and synths (e.g. Yves’s “New” and Olivia Hye’s “Egoist” and Kim Lip’s “Eclipse”). Also: LOONA’s synchronized dancing (and smart stage positioning) is no joke. They’re really, really good in that department, and it’s one of their key strengths.
Phases of the Moon
What made LOONA further stand out for me was that Blockberry Creative (or BBC) — the company managing the group — introduced the members by showcasing one artist at a time, particularly every month with a respective solo track (they didn’t start as one complete lineup, which was a total contrast to the usual industry practice). Slowly the sub-units were formed (1/3, Odd Eye Circle, YYXY), and then finally they were gathered into one unit of 12 members. In short: just reiterating what this channel has stated, they pulled off an “Avengers introduction” which—for me at least—was one tough gamble. And, well, I have a thing for supporting small groups who take major risks. There’s a certain “hero’s journey” appeal to it.
What made things more interesting was that in the process of completing the members, a lore was slowly created, becoming the LOONAverse (which is a mix of sci-fi, anime, and Sailor Moon). Even until now they’re still deep into the concept. And despite having a lore, it doesn’t really hinder new people from getting into the fandom.
But like any other grand plan, the execution wasn’t really that smooth (especially when the company was a newbie in the industry way back in 2015-ish). I don’t think I can explain the issues in detail here but you might wanna check out some of the videos on YouTube (you can search for “LOONA history”) to see what I’m talking about—but to give a glimpse of several matters: funding complications, company politics, and tension between the Creative Director/Music Producer versus the company (with the former suddenly walking out and leaving behind the entire project). Add the fact that one member went on hiatus some time in 2019 for health and healing matters. But despite the challenges (and a lengthy absence), the group and the company pushed forward and managed to survive. In 2020, LOONA earned their first chart win in one of the countdown shows. It served as a critical manifestation of the group’s power and their fan’s total commitment.
For LOONA, there was a death and rebirth factor in the narrative, and the process of rebirth was made possible due to heavy fan engagement. If you wanna know the fandom name, it’s “Orbit.” Orbits themselves have this distinct set of characteristics which sets them apart from other fandoms — something which includes humor and mythmaking (more like meme making actually), and it can get a little crazy (in a fun way) sometimes. LOONA also has strong support from the LGBTQ+ and international communities (they’re actually more popular outside South Korea).
Reflections on Fandom
Now going back to 28 June 2021, LOONA has just made another comeback with a mini album titled “&” (pronounced as “And” and not, um… ampersand? Hehehe) with the carrier single PTT. What makes this comeback important is that they’re back to being “OT12” — meaning: they’re finally complete (and we’re quite happy that the member who went on hiatus has successfully healed and recovered).
For the uninitiated, for every comeback event there’s a promotional campaign period, and the community is always fully engaged in putting their favorite group on top of the charts during such period.
Now here’s the thing: this particular comeback is quite big (from a standpoint of a small company at least, since BBC is not part of the “Big Four” of the KPop industry). If we’re to observe their carrier single’s MV, there’s this monstrous surge of views on the site within a very, very short span. If you compare it with LOONA’s previous videos, PTT got 30+ million views in just one week, already surpassing the views from Star, Why Not?, and So What? (which they all took a longer amount of time to amass such numbers). The highest views is still 2019’s Butterfly—which is a very underrated, underappreciated track in the history of KPop. I’m serious here.
At first I wasn’t really aware of it, but more or less I found myself following the progress of their recent promotions on various social media platforms, with #LOONA_PTT or #STANLOONA as my guide references. I kept track of the YouTube views and was quite vocal on the comment sections of related videos. When there was an opportunity to join in the voting phase for a weekly event I did something which even until now surprises me — I decided to participate by downloading the app and spending all the necessary points for the votes. And in the process I got completely anxious when I saw how close the fight was with another rising KPop group. Holy shit, I was biting my nails for this already. It felt really, really surreal.
Just last week, 5 July 2021, hours before the announcement of the winner, I tried to distance myself from my social media accounts to steer clear from any possibility of becoming anxious the whole day (especially at work). The other group which was also vying for the top spot had major digital sales and the gap with LOONA was way too wide. I had to go zen mode, I kept telling myself that “well, yeah, whatever happens, we all did our best right?”
It was in the evening when I accidentally opened one of my social media accounts that I saw the final result. Here’s what happened: I was in line waiting for our take-out at Jollibee and so I took out my mobile phone to pass the time. It was just an automatic muscle memory that I opened my Instagram and boom, I saw one random post: LOONA won.
It felt somewhat euphoric. I remember letting out a big sigh and almost tearing up. I also had to stop myself from shouting “fuck yeah.” It was like finding satisfaction in witnessing the end of one long story arc — that they finally won as a complete unit, and all the promotions and fan efforts were all worth it. Holy shit, I was really deep into it now. Did I just become a full Orbit?
Quite crazy when I still think about it, but yeah, maybe I’ve gone full Orbit (add the fact that I’m saving up for either a physical album or an official lightstick). The feeling remains strange as I reflect on it. There’s something about fandom which I still find fascinating—and scary. There’s still so much to unpack and learn, especially when the pandemic is still looming, and we’re all stuck at home, with our social media accounts serving as our virtual windows because we can’t go out much. I’ve been a part of several fan communities (I’m a Magic: the Gathering Vorthos, a Trekkie, a Marvel fanboy, a Battlestar Galactica nerd, hell I even consider myself a Slipknot “Maggot”)—but the KPop realm feels unique in some way. With social media, there’s just so much participation, and at the same time a strong demand for consistent content. And the fan wars—hell don’t get me started—the battlefield can be quite gruesome sometimes (just this weekend I’ve witnessed some fandom feud on twitter, and a few months ago I almost got into a fight with someone from another KPop fandom). It’s all there, all packed in this complicated ball of love & crazy & noise & feelings.
Recently LOONA is undergoing promotional hiatus due to the members being quarantined (one of the BBC staff was found COVID19 positive). Though the members of LOONA all tested negative, they won’t engage in live activities for now, just to be safe. It’s a wee bit of a downer actually, given that the comeback promotions has been cut short (plus: in two weeks most entertainment activities will be halted due to an important national event in South Korea), but nevertheless, we’re all just online, being stans, doing the usual crazy interactions on social media while waiting for their next media appearance.
We’re still here—still stanning LOONA.
Quick Tips on Fandom and Mental Health
1.) You can be supportive in whatever way possible. The easiest is by sharing any free related media (MVs, articles, fan art). There’s a lot of opportunity on various platforms. All you need to do is find the proper hashtag on the search bar.
2.) There’s also official merchandise. You can save up for them. You might want to consult in fan message boards for easy acquisitions.
3.) As an alternative—write about them. Do fan art (or, um, fan fiction?). Edit fan videos. Upload dance covers. There’s a lotta love to spread.
4.) If your idol didn’t win in the weekly charts despite you voting and streaming their stuff, don’t beat yourself for feeling short. Everyone did their best. YOU did your best. What matters is that you continue to support your idols and the community. There’s always a next time. Fighting!
5.) For the sake of your mental health, especially when you’re prone to anxiety or rage, do not engage in fan wars. Step back, take a deep breath, chill out, enjoy other things. As I’ve observed: fan wars usually expire after around six to eight hours.
6.) Lastly, spread the love. The artist survives when the community thrives. Toxic fans tend to gatekeep, preventing new members from coming in. True fans help build the community, providing group growth and healthy interaction among members (and other fandoms!). Be true fans; be better fans.
That’s just about it. As a personal bonus, I wish to share my favorite track from their new mini album, enjoy: