Guest post by Amelia Schmidt. This piece’s original working title was ‘Amelia’s Guide To K-Pop’.
After a long break from Australian music after spitefully ditching a career in street press for a more lucrative career in web development, my musical taste has certainly wandered. What is the best music to code to? Probably The Field. Probably not k-pop. But hey, I still listen to k-pop all day; suck on that.
Actually what really happened was that one day I decided that it was sort of freaking weird that I didn’t know much about music from any other country, and I began an odyssey of exploration into the world’s music – not World Music, mind you. Just music from the rest of the world. I started with French hip hop and wandered to African R&B and beats. Then I remembered k-pop and well, here we are.
Wait, where are we again? We’re in some sort of crazy upside down world where a Korean artist has made it to the second spot on the iTunes video charts worldwide. Suddenly a song that’s not in English is hitting 40 million views on YouTube and actually becoming popular around the world – what?
‘Gangnam Style’. Most people probably don’t even know what that means, let alone who PSY is, but by God is the video amazing. It’s actually ridiculous, but the song is so damn catchy that it lingers on in your mind. Like his sunglasses. And the elevator guy’s crotch. Nnnghh.
‘Gangnam Style’ is actually about the luxurious lifestyle that people lead in the Gangnam district in Seoul. The whole video is shot in this district and the song is a long, weird, weirdly inappropriate reflection on the perfect girlfriend who likes to let her hair down and get wild – and how PSY likes to do the same thing. But clearly the video, wow. Not sure if it’s high budget or just fucking cool.
The videos that come from the popular music world of Asia are just absolutely ridonkulous in general, though. I hope that this video gets people curious about Asian pop music because it is dope. Let me introduce you to my favourites from the past year… and let this be your taster course to the big world out there.
Ohhhhhhh man. Where to start. The Takashi Murakami styled eyeballs? Her adorable face? The gross weird bits? The song itself? KPP is, I think, regarded as a bit of a cutesy weird fringe-dweller of the Tokyo pop scene, championing the mental styles of Harajuku and wait, hold on I just found out that her stage name is actually Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, forgot the rest of sentence. Apparently she was originally a fashion blogger. I love her.
On the other end of the spectrum of k-pop ladies is 2NEI, (pronounced twenty-one or to-anyone) who are basically regarded as the Queens of Kpop. They are banging hot babes who end up with punk studs and fucking machine guns. Try to ignore the Black Eyed Peas vibes and focus on WOW HOT. Also the song is called ‘I Am The Best’ and basically, they are.
Also please have that poodle washed, brushed and taken to my room, thank you.
Anyway if there are queens.. there must be kings… managed by the same company, YG Entertainment. You may remember them from such great hits as ‘Gangnam Style’. See what’s happening here? Bigbang are ‘predominantly hip hop’ according to Wikipedia, but in reality they’re not at all. They’re predominantly fashionable, to be honest. I’m not 100% sold on their talent but boy are their videos cool. And hot damn are they good looking.
B.A.P. stands for – wait for it – Best Absolute Perfect. They feature my favourite k-pop man, Zelo. He raps like nobodies business and looks somewhat androgynous. B.A.P. Babe. Anyway, I actually think BAP write pretty good music, and I really dig their vibes – I’m going to just let you experience this mashup of hectic industrial and beautifully groomed blonde boy-band. A word to the wise – definitely hang in there until the amazeballs rap verse. EPIC.
Also if you’re feeling a bit confused about k-pop and j-pop, I think the answer is you should be. J-pop, normally the happier, more innocent and pretty version of k-pop, seems to have been infiltrated heavily by the k-pop mega-empire and quite often, translated?! I don’t know, but if Western popstars had to also sing all their songs in, say, French, I think our lives would be quite different. T-ARA are South Korean but this whole clip is in Japanese – including the chatter at the start! I don’t know if I love the song or their outfits more. Interesting to note also: this group was ‘formed’ by a media company too. There are nine of them. They have a rotating leader system where the leader is elected each year, “in order to give both the group and the individual members the opportunity to grow in a new direction”. All hail dear leader!!
The point is, that once you’ve seen a selection of k-pop, even the Lady Gagas and Beyonces of our Western pop culture world seem somewhat… lacking. It’s like the spirit of the Backstreet Boys went to Korea and got high and studied production. I think this is great. I think this breaks down stereotypes we have of Asian cultures being withdrawn and obedient and productive and champions ideas of flamboyant eccentricities, awesome humour, quality music, wonderful creativity, visionary concepts and a dedication to pop music in a totally non-awful, non–LMFAO way. I like the non-creepy lyrics and the babing babes. I like the fact that dudes can be singers and dancers and that is TOTALLY OKAY GUYS. I like it all. Let’s be more like this. Heeeeeeeeeeeeey, sexy ladies. Hey.
PSY – ‘Gangnam Style’