K-Pop Vocal Analysis: Judging Idols, Most Underrated/Overrated Singers, and More


We all have our own opinions as to which idols are the best and worst singers in K-Pop. On first glance, these opinions might appear to be totally subjective — one person’s pick for best K-Pop singer can seem light-years away from the next person’s. However, most of us tend to agree that certain vocalists are clearly better than the rest, and of course there are a few unfortunate idols whose singing “ability” can only be defended by the staunchest of fans. 

Enter the K-Pop Vocal Analysis Blog! These nine young fans, many of whom possess singing backgrounds, got to know each other while sharing their love of K-Pop online. In the process, they began to field questions regarding the technical and critical aspects of K-Pop vocals. Although their home base is the OneHallyu forums, they eventually set up a separate site to discuss and review various singers. It’s here that you can find thorough explanations on the technique of singing, as well as information and critiques on various K-Pop idols. For this article, we spoke primarily with KVAB founder Matheus Dias, a Brazil native who studies vocals in Los Angeles and sings professionally on the side. Matheus credits his high school friends for getting him hooked on K-Pop, and currently enjoys listening to Ailee, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, ChoColat, Lena Park, and EXO.

Being a K-Pop fan, is it ever hard for you to be objective when doing your reviews?

Personally for me, not at all. If anything, it just makes me more eager for the idols to improve! Although it disappoints me when a singer doesn’t deliver, I won’t lie to myself about it. Plus, it’s actually much easier to analyze somebody’s vocal ability when you like them, since you actually want to assess them in detail. You can listen carefully without feeling like it’s a duty.

Do you get any negative feedback when you end up delivering a critical review of certain K-Pop idols?

Of course! When you tell a person that their bias isn’t as good at singing as they thought, they’ll often get completely mad at you and say you’re butt-hurt or a hater. I think it’s important to say it with polite words and with objectivity and detail, so instead of “They suck” and that’s it, you have clear reasons where you can explain in detail what they’re doing wrong.

KVAB underrated pick: Super Junior K.R.Y.

Is there anything that you tend to hear about K-Pop idols’ voices that seems like misinformation?

I’ve heard things like if the veins pop out, it’s good, or if their neck is thick, they’re good at singing, haha. People tend to think that the main vocalists are automatically good, or that someone who can sing high is good.

They also tend to misunderstand the concept of tone in judging vocals. Tone is subjective and the audience chooses who they want to listen to at the end of the day. Not liking someone’s tone doesn’t mean someone isn’t a good vocalist, though. Likewise, you can’t think that having a good voice automatically makes someone a good vocalist. Most people tend to think you’re born with the singing talent and that’s it, when even people who have it should work to further develop their instrument, and someone who doesn’t have it, although it may take them more time, can learn how to sing very well even if their voice might not be as pretty as other people’s. 

Some people assume that idols are automatically bad singers if they see them lip-syncing, but that’s not really true. Girls’ Generation’s vocal line is actually a bit underrated because people call them out for lip-syncing during performances, but that has nothing to do with vocal technique. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or good, it just means they can’t dance and sing well at the same time.