Responsible Comparisons: A How-To Guide

It is human nature to make comparisons. Psychology dictates that humans like familiarity. Every day, in some form or fashion, people make comparisons. Whether at the store, in the closet or online, there are countless comparisons made. The music industry is no different. This is especially true when a new artist or genre appears on the radar and begins to gain momentum.

However, it is imperative to compare responsibly. There are countless examples of irresponsible comparisons, such as the recent Noisy article comparing Taeyang, a 10-year veteran of the music industry, to Justin Bieber, naming him the “Biebervelli of K-Pop.”

Not discounting the substantial career achievements of Justin Bieber, this is a shining example of the irresponsible comparisons that can be made due to lack of research. As we have seen in the sister article to this one, “Stop the Comparisons”, there are numerous reasons why artist comparisons are unnecessary and unwarranted, as they are all unique in their own ways.

But if comparisons must be made, here is a guide to how they can be done responsibly using a combination of four categories: genre, vocal ability and quality, performance style and experience.

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When comparing artists, a good starting point is finding a similarity within the same genre. This is because artists inhabiting the same genre have similar training habits and debut experiences, group dynamics and industry standards. An example of this type of comparison would be one between BTS and Got7. Both groups have similar debut dates (BTS in June 2013 and Got7 in January 2014), have seven members and have similar rapper-to-singer ratios.

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Other factors must be taken into consideration when genre is not a common thread. One is the vocal ability of the artists in question. Consider qualities such as tone and range.

One responsible example is Lee Hi and Adele. Both women have powerful and soulful vocals with similar ranges. Their respective chest and mixed voices are outstandingly strong, while their head voices are softer and more delicate.

Another example is Eric Nam and Jesse McCartney. Both men have huskier, softer, and more melodic tones to their voices. They also can belt out strong notes if they need to, showing their versatility.

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Another factor to use in comparing artists responsibly across genres is performance style. It would not do to compare artists who are known to dance and sing live to those who cannot or do not routinely.

A responsible comparison in this regard is Ailee and Beyoncé. It is a well-known and proven fact that Beyoncé can perform at full throttle for two hours with heart-pounding choreography and precise vocals. Ailee can also do the same, as seen in her numerous live stages and KCON performances. Changes in health, such as Beyoncé’s pregnancy or Ailee’s broken foot, have also not slowed either artist down.

Another similar comparison is that of Taeyang and Usher. Taeyang has repeatedly named Usher as a major influence of his, and his performance style shows it. Both artists sing live and dance without reservation while on stage.

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As a general rule when making comparisons between artists across genres, always make the comparison to someone that has more years in the industry than the artist in question. Preferably the artists being compared will not have debuted in the same decade.

An example of an improper comparison in this respect is BTS and One Direction. Even though One Direction debuted first, 2010, both groups began in the same decade, with BTS debuting in 2013.

A better comparison would be Suga (2013 debut) and Busta Rhymes (1991 debut). Both artists have similar cadences and signature delivery styles. However, Busta Rhymes debuted in Leaders of the New School with their first album, “A Future Without A Past…,” 22 years before Suga’s debut with BTS. This vast time difference allows for styles to be reinvented and reintroduced to new generations and audiences while those who were around to hear this style of delivery for the first time would acknowledge the successes (or failures) of the new generation.

Comparisons, although not desirable, are a part of the human psyche. However, there are responsible ways to do so that engender respect to all parties involved. One should not make comparisons to elevate or debase an artist, nor should they be made arbitrarily, as is current custom. Responsible comparisons are like spices. When added in the right amounts and combinations, the flavor is enhanced. When used on their own or haphazardly, the entire meal is ruined. Similarly, making responsible comparisons involves taking multiple justifiably analyzable qualities and evaluating them on an equal field, without bias or preconceived notions.

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