Girl Groups

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I Don’t Care by 2NE1 (투애니원): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

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Seems like everyone was really disappointed with Korean girl groups in 2010, and for good reason.

It’s kind of embarassing then, that it was also the year that I first got into them. But still, even I was struck by how many of their members couldn’t actually sing, and soon resolved to stick to the original tracks and official music videos rather than watch any live performances again.

It was with some trepidation then, that after I discovered I Don’t Care by 2NE1 (투애니원), I immediately thought to describe their voices as, well, simply beautiful, especially Park Sandara’s (박산다라). Fortunately however, they don’t seem too different on stage either, and I think I’d enjoy listening to them singing even without any accompanying music.

Here is the original music video that got me hooked:

A live performance for the sake of comparison:

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Reading the Lolita Effect in Korea, Part 2: The role of K-pop and the Korean media in sexual socialization and the formation of body image

A simply surreal video making the rounds at the moment. As explained by Lisa at Sociological Images, it:

…beautifully illustrates the socialization of children into particular kinds of worship. With hand motions, body movements, and facial expressions, this child is doing a wonderful job learning the culturally-specific rules guiding the performance of devotion.

Which led to a great deal of discussion at that site, but I’ll confine myself here to echoing Jason’s comment that it simply reminds him of his son picking up his own behaviors such as sweeping, and that the young girl:

…certainly isn’t worshiping here, but is just mimicking her parents and the other people around her. I can guarantee she has no concept of a deity.

But what has all that got to do with K-pop, let alone Meenakshi Durham’s The Lolita Effect? Well, because after reading all that, it was very interesting comparing my daughters’ own reactions to KARA’s Lupin just half an hour later. First, those of 4 and half year-old Alice:

Then with her 2 and half year-old sister Elizabeth:

Granted, perhaps you had to be there…and in which case I probably would have removed my laundry from the floor first (sorry). But I didn’t notice it myself, because at the time I was simply transfixed. You see, along with dozens of other K-pop music videos, Alice and Elizabeth must have watched and “danced” to Lupin at least 20 times before that night. But that was the first time that Alice at least seemed to demonstrate that she not only remembered it, but actually knew it very well, and was performing repetitive actions that were recognizably part of the same dance…which she’d demand the chance to do 7 more times before going to bed.

Unfortunately for my paternal pride however, in hindsight she was neither simply copying the music video nor giving her own original interpretation of it: as confirmed by her teacher later, she’s preparing for a Christmas performance at her kindergarten soon, and – yes – she’ll be dancing to Lupin.

So what’s the big deal? After all, while I’m still translating the lyrics myself (or at least I was until my “study” got invaded), they seem harmless enough:

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Breathe (비리드) by Miss A (미쓰에이): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

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Like Bad Girl, Good Girl (배드걸 굿걸) translated last week, Miss A’s (미쓰에이) Breathe (브리드) is also a song which very quickly grows on you. But seeming to lack a real climax though, then ultimately it proves somewhat less satisfying…a double entendre you’d do well keep in mind if you’re likely to be shocked by all the panting and heavy-breathing in it, let alone Meng Jia’s (멍지아, 孟佳) helpful demonstration of what might cause her to do that at 2:47.

Hell, Korean may well lack the “th” sound, but even the Hangulization of the title actually sounds more like “breed” too.

You’d probably never suspect then, that its central narrative is actually one of complete passivity towards the desired guy, with the music video full of aegyo and childish impressions to boot. Indeed, in that sense it’s much more in the vein of, say, Girls’ Generation’s Oh, T-ara’s Like the First Time, and KARA’s Mister then anything you’d ever expect from the same group that just did Bad Girl, Good Girl.

Not that that’s necessarily bad of course, and may we all meet someone that makes us that weak at the knees! But it was certainly a slight disappointment after just becoming a fan of theirs for being so different.

Still, I do like it, and especially the music video. And not just because of the eye-candy either. Rather, because with the backgrounds and the women’s sometimes deliberately stilted dance movements, in fact it reminds me a little of the 1989 Fine Young Cannibals’ number 1 hit She Drives Me Crazy, which was nominated for best video at the MTV Music Video Awards that year:

Minor quibbles are the small size of the room with the stripes that you can see in the screenshot below, which makes the fantasy element to the video a little harder to sustain, and Wang Fei Fei’s (왕페이페이, 王霏霏) simply bizarre hairstyle in the segments in which she’s wearing a red top (you’ll soon see what I mean). But I can easily forgive those considering how easy the excessive repetition made translating the lyrics!

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Bad Girl, Good Girl (배드걸 굿걸) by Miss A (미쓰에이): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

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Having just written that I find new girl groups virtually indistinguishable from each other these days, then I’m very glad reader “abcfsk” persuaded me to take a closer look at Bad Girl, Good Girl (배드걸 굿걸) by Miss A (미쓰에이), as I grew to like it very quickly. And not just because of the eye-candy in the music video either, which I deliberately avoided watching so as to better compare my own translation of the lyrics to the one there later.

But hell: taken from a zip-file available here, in hindsight the screenshots below didn’t really do justice to the eroticism of some of the dance moves. Which to be frank, made finally seeing the video itself almost feel like a reward for all my hard work.

No great surprise to learn next that Park Jin-young (박진영) is their manager then, as he is notorious for that sort of thing. Granted, that is the way the Korean music industry as a whole is going these days, primarily as a means for new groups to stand out, but those groups under the JYP Entertainment label do seem to push the boundaries more than most.

Focusing on the lyrics for now though, here’s my own original translation of them, with explanations of those parts I found difficult:

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Korean Retro!

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Despite everything I’ve said about Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) over the years, I’m really liking this retro look for their new mini-album Hoot (훗), to be released later this week. Heck, along with Eccentric Yoruba, I’m even liking the title track too, whereas I needed to hear DJ Areia’s trance remix before I could even begin to listen to Oh! (오!).

But I’ve actually liked Korean retro itself for a long time now. And one thing the posters reminded me of was a brief article on precisely that from the November 2008 edition of Design Journal (디자인저널), which I realized it would be a pity not to pass on to readers while the subject was (hopefully) coming back in vogue. And also to inform them about the magazine itself of course, which – although its English could be much improved as you’ll soon see – is very rare in that it has both English and Korean versions of each article, helping to open up an entire creative side of Korean life that would normally be relatively inaccessible to expats.

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Korean Sociological Image #51: Male Objectification & Double Standards

 

What would be your reaction if this flashed on your TV screen?

Mine was thinking that abs aren’t exactly the best analogy for airbags. But my mistake: they’re not supposed to be. Rather, Hyundai needed something to signify the number of airbags as the voiceover went through various specs of the car.

Which to be fair, is much clearer in the full commercial.

How about if a proper airbag analogy had been used instead, like BMW did back in 2006?

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If you found that objectification distasteful however, then consider the following from Renault/Samsung in 2008 below also:

Which uses the same analogy, but is clearly quite a contrast to BMW’s puerile effort. Nevertheless, some commenters on this earlier post did still have some issues with it, whereas nobody on this blog at least has had any with all of the men’s 6-packs that suddenly started appearing in Korean commercials from last year.

But I’m sure you’re already well-aware of that double-standard, so the purpose of this post is not just to draw your attention to it. Nor is it to simply pass on that juxtaposition of advertisements, however interesting. In combination with a recent development in the Korean media though, what that juxtaposition did serve to do was make me realize both the rapid mainstreaming and dogmatic nature of that double-standard here, and which is a combination that I think is pretty unique to Korea too.

Let me explain.

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Because Of You (너 때문에) by After School (애프터스쿨): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

With apologies for not writing about the positives of Korean popular culture more often, let me present Because of You (너 때문에) by After School (애프터스쿨). It’s one of my 10 favorite Korean songs, and easily their best.

Or at least, DJ Areia’s version of it above is, but I include the original below if you prefer.

The music video however, is a little confusing. Not because it depicts a relationship between 2 women though: admittedly that was a surprise, but in hindsight the lyrics are completely gender neutral. Rather, it’s because there is a man – model Song Jae-lim (송재림) – featured prominently throughout, and it’s not entirely clear who or what he’s supposed to represent exactly. Indeed, with his collage of photos of different members of the group, closed-circuit TV monitoring of them, and finally holes in walls through which to directly spy on them, then “voyeur” or “stalker” is what comes to mind personally, but I’d be surprised if that’s what the creative director intended.

If anyone can explain what he’s doing there then, then please let me know! In the meantime, I hope the translation adds to your enjoyment of the song, and for Korean learners I’ve included explanations in those cases where I came across words or grammar that were new to me personally, or where my Korean wife and I had some difficulties. But I’m still quite happy to explain anything else though, and of course may have made some mistakes, so please give me a buzz in either case.

Here goes:

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Korean Sociological Image #49: Lee Hyori has an Asian Bottom?

Well, the bottom half of her body is Asian to be precise. But then she is Korean after all, so what on Earth does that make the top half?

Western, according to her. And while she’s happy with that at least, in contrast she’s quite dissatisfied with her Asian legs, claiming that she has to always wear high heels to compensate for them.

Despite my original shock at hearing that though, ironically I find myself defending her statements. No, really.

But first, the context. From the Hankyung:

가수 이효리가 “상체는 서구적인 반면 하체는 동양적이다”라고 말해 눈길을 끌고 있다 (source, above).

Singer Lee Hyori is drawing lots of attention for saying “While I have a Western top half, on the other hand the bottom half of my body is Asian.”

지난 20일 방송된 MBC ‘섹션TV 연예통신’에 출연한 이효리는 서구적인 상체를 가지고 있는데 반면 “동양적인 하체를 가지고 있다”며 “하이힐은 생명과도 같다”고 말해 주위를 웃음바다로 만들었다.

Appearing on the MBC show “Section TV Entertainment Report” on the 20th of August, she then said that “High heels are as important as life itself!”, which produced a sea of laughter in the audience.

이날 이효리는 “샵에서 효리씨가 입어주면 옷이 잘 팔린다며 옷을 공짜로 준다”며 “옷을 잘 입는 방법은 얼마나 자신의 체형을 잘 커버하느냐인 것 같다”고 설명했다.

She also explained that “When I go into a shop, the owners give me clothes for free because they will sell well if I wear them”, and that “How well you wear clothes depends on how much of your body shape you cover up.”

이효리에게 ‘숨기고 싶은 신체적 단점’에 대해 질문하자 “상체는 서구적인 반면 하체는 동양적이다”라고 말했다.

When asked what were bad points about her body she wanted to hide, she replied that “I have a Western top half, but an Asian bottom half”.

이어 동양적인 하체를 커버하기 위한 해결책으로 “절대로 하이힐을 벗지 않는 것”이라고 강조하며 “10cm 이하 하이힐은 쳐다보지도 않고 잠을 잘 때도 하이힐은 신고 잔다”고 말해 주위를 폭소케 했다.

Accordingly, she emphasized that the solution for covering(?) her Asian bottom half was “never taking high heels off”, and that “not only will I not look at high heels with a heel less than 10cm high, but I even sleep in high heels”, producing hysterics in the audience.

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Reading “The Lolita Effect” in Korea: Part 1

There’s so much raised by Kim Hyuna’s (김현아) performance of her infamous “pelvic dance” (골반댄스) on last week’s episode of Quiz That Changes The World (세상을 바꾸는 퀴즈) below, that it’s difficult to know where to start.

Probably most notable however, is the surrealism of having observers explicitly acknowledging the dance’s sexual nature, only then to implicitly deny that nature by their subsequent actions. For while the men whoop and comically feign arousal while watching it, looking for all the world like they’re in a strip club, actually the heterosexual women display a similar enthusiasm, and later a mixed group goes on to parody it. Finally, a 12 year-old girl in the audience is brought on stage to similarly thrust her crotch at the camera, much to the delight of all.

Naturally, I’ve already discussed the issue of the media projecting, exploiting and yet simultaneously denying female sexuality like this many times before, but after recently reading the The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It by M. Durham (2009), I realize now that I was rather naive in ever thinking that that was unique to Korea. Nevertheless, there are some features of the Korean media and social landscape that certainly exaggerate the phenomenon here at least, such as the slave-like contracts musicians have with their entertainment companies (did Hyuna want to dance because it was “empowering” in a sexual and/or feminist way, or because she felt compelled to?); “sexy dances” being synonymous with Korean talk shows, overwhelmingly by 20-something women; stereotypes of married and/or 30-something women as asexual; a huge prostitution industry; and so on. With the “Lolita Effect” being so extreme here then, in this series I’d like to use this episode of the show both to pass on Durham’s arguments to a wider audience and to gain some greater understanding of Korean media and sexuality in the process.

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Korean Photoshop Disaster #4: NOBODY’S Perfect!

Probably both a driving force and reflection of the increasing amount of male objectification in the Korean media since last year, then you may have noticed that female authors and commenters on K-pop blogs have become increasingly vocal in their admiration of male celebrities’ bodies these days. And with the provisos that such objectification can be problematic, and more of one sex by no means nullifying the negative effects of that of another, then all power to them, but it does increasingly tempt me to indulge myself a little too!

Hence I was considering presenting some pictures for Lee Hyori’s (이효리) recent photoshoot for Elle Korea here earlier today, but paused when I thought about how to describe her in them: after all, heaven forbid that a male blogger shift from simply using banalities like “she is sexy” when expressing admiration for a woman’s body, to discussing her body parts in the same manner that female bloggers now can and do of a man’s. Or is that just me?

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