Friday, December 29, 2017

The Official Unofficial List of the Best Korean Popular Music (Loosely Defined) of 2017

So, I got the idea that there is no one more qualified than me to make a list of the best Korean pop and other (not traditional) music released in 2017. I mean, I pay attention, right? I spend hours per week staying up to date in order to teach my students. And I told myself to make the list and then see how many it was. I mean, who says it has to be Top 10 or Top 50? It could be Top 37! [Ironically it was top 99 and then I realized that I'd forgotten something I love and now it's actually 100]. The problem is, I love music. I'm picky and opinionated, but I'm also just really super into music and music videos. So I like the video concept here, the dance there, the melody for that other song, the rap on yet another... it never ceases.

I started out by re-listening (while grading coursework) to the playlists I made in 2017. Of course some songs never made it onto a playlist, or I may have been concentrating and never heard the song as it went past me. But just that listening took a long time. Then at the end I realized that I was missing representation from some groups or singers I really like and then I actually went back to their releases for the year and found which was the best and decided if it made the list. So this project actually took almost three weeks.

So welcome to a REALLY long list. The entire list is also accompanied by a YouTube playlist (of course). But you could just read down here and watch things you aren't familiar with. The further down the list you go, the more music you'll be unfamiliar with, because I start with the major hit groups and solo acts. That is because the list has mainstream K-pop at the top, and we get into the Independent music, even some underground music, further down the list.

The section headings are also links that take you directly to that place in the list, in case you want to scroll past one group, but listen to all of another section.


[Apologies for saying something really obvious if you already know about K-pop] In K-pop we have a type of pop star called an "idol" that is characterized by being recruited (often very young), trained, and extensively managed. They are placed in groups, assigned artistic concepts or personality types, and given choreography and lyrics to memorize. Although some idols grow to be artists who may write songs or play instruments, the category of idol more or less sticks with them, even as they mature and sometimes become more creative. These are the biggest and most popular acts-- they're backed by a huge artistic apparatus -- particularly if they are managed by one of the biggest companies (the top three companies can essentially guarantee success to any act they debut). They are created for tweens and teens, and as they age, their audience ages, too. After they become a source of international soft cultural power for Korea, older people got more interested in the K-pop world, too. Some videos may hit 5 million views within a week, with fans from allover the world.


Block B "Shall We Dance"
Oh yes, we've got a mishmash of cultural elements in true bricoleur K-pop style, some soft-appropriation (soft as in they're just going for an aesthetic without being particularly offensive), but the song is fun, the hook is catchy, and I guess I'll miss the boys when they enlist.

BAP "Honeymoon
I actually really like this song, it hits all the right points for me-- the "wooo-hooo" background is particularly pleasing. Nothing here is that original, but I still feel it may be BAP's best song yet. The video I'm less interested in, but I like the sound a lot. But "Wake Me Upa BAP release from March was also quite excellent, not quite enough to get on the playlist, but enough to get a mention here!

Black 6ix "Please"
To me this is a stereotype of a new hopeful boy group -- the song evokes early B2ST.  

BTS is particularly hot right now, and with their reliably good releases it is not hard to see why. They even get two songs on the list because Come Back Home sounds absolutely fabulous even if some fans complained because they couldn't see enough of the handsome faces of the boys. However, this song is just a remake-- BTS and Seo Taiji collaborated to do a twenty-fifth anniversary reboot of this song. The sad thing is that before this song many so-called fans didn't know who Seo Taiji was. Just the leader of the first K-pop group that created the model of K-pop we still see today... (this is the original Come Back Home).

This is the first of my top ten for the year selections. Why does this song get the honors and not a song by a group I like more? Because I am honestly able to listen to this song on a loop for a ridiculously long time. I like the Alice in Wonderland acid trip video and the music feels like a warm summer day.

Winner "Really Really
This is Winner's best release to date.

GOT7 "Never Ever
Like Winner, Got7 seems to finally be living up to my expectations.

Seventeen "Don't Wanna Cry"
This group might be my favorite boy group right now (since I believe Big Bang is essentially over). On the other hand, I am enjoying BTS a ton, I just don't think they need more fans. They've got a lot of backers right now. Seventeen, though, also has some very interesting stuff they're trying, I particularly like the idea of having the three subgroups who focus on dance, hip-hop, and performance. (Trauma by the Hip-hop sub group is the best of those releases, not quite good enough for this list, though).

Wanna One "Energetic

EPIK HIGH "Bincha" feat. Oh Hyuk 
I am a sucker for one of the rare songs with some meaningful lyrics. Plus Epik High seems to only get better with age, if less "idol" than ever. Oh Hyuk's songs with his group, Hyukoh are listed below.


Just in case you are not familiar with the K-pop world, we have gender dimorphism in K-pop in a big way. Women are definitely required/encouraged to act either girly (or aegyo, an affected cuteness which is totally socially acceptable) or sexy. The idea that you wouldn't call a physically mature woman a girl has yet to hit the K-pop world, and in fact many young women debut when they are as young as fifteen or sixteen, so these are "girl groups" -- this becomes a bit awkward when they are in their late thirties like the first group (a comeback of a group that debuted in 1997), or even in their later twenties.

SES "Paradise
If you call yourself a K-pop fan and don't know who SES are, I think you don't even know what K-pop is. SES are the prototypical girl group. Here they are, twenty years later, back together. So awesome.

April "Mayday
I may or may not have included this so that my list of girl group releases got longer. But honestly I like the nostalgia and the primary colors. This has so much of what a typical girl group video should have. I could make a checklist of common K-pop elements for a girl group and check of probably everyone of them with this video.

AOA "Excuse Me"
I had to go all the way back to January to find AOA's best song of 2017-- not everyone would agree with my assessment, some people were disappointed by the release, but I liked it, and I still do, and 20 million views can't all be guys watching their butts in short-shorts, can it? No. The retro look and dance here is good, and the song, like all good idol pop, is catchy.

Girl's Day "I'll be Yours
Maybe I just like this video b/c a woman in a giant dress punches men^^ -- certainly I find some of the dance moves uncomfortable at best.

GFRIEND "Fingertip
This is Gfriend's least annoying release in 2017 and one of my former students will kill me if I don't include at least one Gfriend song. So this is here to save my own life.

EXID "Night Rather than Day
I like EXID. And I liked them more when they still had their best vocalist, who is missing from this release, but I still like their sound. If you give me a choice between a girl group that is sexy and a girl group that is girly (as if those should be the only choices, and clearly Mamamoo shows there are other choices), then I'm going to pick the sexy group. Neither sexy nor girly is truly empowered, but at least the sexy ones aren't pretending not to be sexualized (because those girly aegyo groups are just as sexualized but in an icky infantalized Lolita way).

Mamamoo "Aze Gag" with an honorary mention for "Yes I Am"
Now that both 2NE1 and Sistar are history (and Sistar was pretty inconsistent), and Brown Eyed Girls haven't released anything good in about 5 years, Mamamoo are my favorite currently active "girl" group. They're just plain fun.

2NE1 "Goodbye"
I didn't know if I'd include this or not. 2NE1 has been my reliably favorite girl group for years, from their second release ("Lollipop" was annoying). This song is bittersweet, but it has that sound, that 2NE1 sound that I've always liked so much.


BOA "Camo
I have never been the biggest BOA fan, I like her dancing more than her singing, but I really like this song a lot-- it's in her top 5 releases ever, in my opinion.

Hyori "Black" and "Seoul" feat Killagramz   TOP TEN 
I have always loved Hyori, she's fun, increasingly political, and she brings the best of K-pop to the table. I think these are my two favorite songs from her entire career, from her days as one member in the idol group FIN.k.l. until the present. They both belong in the top list. U Go Girl!

Here's the video link to "Seoul," which I marginally prefer over "Black,"even though I think she should call the song "Seoul and Jeju Island" considering how much of Jeju's scenery appears. Honestly though, both could practically make the top ten.

Hyuna "Babe
As much as I dislike the way Hyuna embraces her status as a sexual object, I also like her. She's not exactly a "bad girl" because mainstream K-pop doesn't have bad girls (in interviews and other programs she's totally covered up, innocent as could be, the sex-object thing is depicted as her stage persona and not her real self), but she's fun. She's enjoying herself. This music video with its crappy effects worked in to make it more low brow and approachable, it's hilarious nonsense lyrics (do you not actually know how old you are?), the nasal rapping, the 70s moments... its fun. I like fun.

Seonmi [Sunmi] "Gashina"
This track surprised me -- I hadn't expected something quite so ... fierce? From Seonmi.

IU "Palette" feat. G-Dragon
Actually this might not be IU's best in 2017, she's so prolific though, it is sort of overwhelming to even choose what's the best.  

Jung Yonghwa "That Girl" feat. Loco. 
This is Jung Yonghwa's best work in my opinion, it's fun, it's upbeat, the rap by Loco works smoothly with the parts that Yonghwa sings. In the past Yonghwa's releases have been almost always slower ballads, or what he releases with his group CNBlue, which is also often (rock) ballad type songs.

Taemin "Move (solo performance M/V)"  (M/V # 1, Duo Version M/V)    TOP TEN
I cannot emphasize how many times I watched this video, and the other two official videos. Taemin's dancing is amazing (thanks to the choreography of Koharu Sugawara, the short dark haired woman who appears in the duo version video with him). This comes in as one of my top ten for the year.

Rain "The Best Present (white version M/V)" (the dark version)
This video only makes the list because no one in K-pop can pull of this R&B slow song + athletic dancing thing like Bi, and we should all bow down and worship him for his skills. Note-- this was ONE TAKE.

Zico "Artist"
Actually Zico irritates me-- everything about him, including the spelling of his name (there is no Z sound in Korean, so in fact it should be Jiko not Zico). He's a serial cultural appropriator and he does it in the worst way-- like wearing the confederate flag-- but he's a prodigious talent.

Zion T. "The Song
If there is anything this list has proved to myself, it's how much I like some humor with my K-pop. This is Zion-T's (in my opinion) most danceable and humorous release of the year, even though it came way back in January.

PSY "I Luv It
I have to love this video. Just watch it. It's too much fun. But just so you know, the practice of embedding a translation (guiding understanding and making it impossible to view without translation), particularly a translation that does not properly capture the complexity of the video, is evil. No one should do this. Observe how Psy works to advertise travel to Korea-- this embedded product placement is obvious, but really there is PPL in a large amount of mainstream videos. Why did I pick this song for the list instead of "New Face"? Well, Yi Byeongheon (the actor) has an adorable cameo here, as does the Pineapple Pen guy.

San E "I Love Myself" feat. Hwasa of Mamamoo 
San E has always been a more political rapper, but he's still mainstream idol-managed, so one never knows how much of what he raps is "him" and how much of it is a performance.

Jonghyun "Lonely" feat. Taeyeon
Honestly, this song would not have made the cut, even though I was always biased towards Jonghyun out of all the SHINee members (even though I love Taemin's dancing and Minho's eyes) because Jonghyun was an actual artist who wrote this song himself. Now, I don't want to listen to this, because it depresses me to think "what if someone understood what he needed?"


Triple H is non-standard because it is a solo artist working with two members of a larger group under a new name -- Hyuna previously did this as half of the Troublemaker, so perhaps Triple H will release again. And KARD is one of the only idol groups (and the only recent one) that combines men and women in one group.

Triple H "So Fresh
This is one of the most risque K-pop videos ever. This project group (Hyuna, Edawn, Hui) combine murder, a menage a trois, and suicide in one of the most over-the-top K-pop videos of 2017. And it gets stuck in your head like you would not believe. So I am following a song by a man who committed suicide with a K-pop song in which three stars pretend to commit suicide.

KARD "Rumor
This is KARD's best release yet, and I actually found it quite singable (I even made a mild effort to memorize the lyrics).


Yoon Jongshin "4월호- 살아온 자 살아갈 자"    
Yoon releases one song per month, always creative. this is my favorite of 2017 and I thought that at least one of his songs should be represented here. He's a singer, songwriter, radio and TV star, and has his own (minor) K-pop management agency, Mystic89 (they manage among others Uhm Junghwa who appears on this list).

Bak Jaebeom (Jay Park) "Hulk Hogan
It's true that in general I like everything Jaebeom does, even when he's a sexually objectifying ass. (Yes, intentional play on words, since he is obviously obsessed with butts). I don't like the aesthetic of this video, which is, if I am reading it correctly, a sort of nod to the authenticity of Korean independent / formerly underground artists like Keith Ape (not that Jaebeom isn't independent, he is). But I love the sound, the unlikeliness of the subject, and just the basic Jaebeom swagger.

Gallant, Tablo, and Eric Nam "Cave Me In"
I feel guilty, but it's Gallant's voice that has me captivated here. I really appreciate that idols (albeit super non-standard idols like 'Blo) are actually making real music with non-Koreans, not just throwing random foreigners into the background in the video to show how cosmopolitan they are (I have a whole chapter in an edited book written on the topic of foreign dancing bodies in K-pop, in case you didn't realize).


Honestly, all the music below here is basically independent or alternative-- people with no representation, people working in cooperatives of like-minded artists, people who are the cusp of stardom, or who have actually made it, but did not approach it like idols did. So this is a lazily titled section. This section has the more independent music that is not more properly classified as hip-hop focused. The hip-hop/rap is further down the list.

Last summer someone accused me of being biased towards male groups and singers. I am now sure that's wrong.
1) there aren't many women in hip-hop and I do listen to a lot in that category
2) I don't like idol girl groups that much
However, looking at this list, in the solo female categories there are a ton of women, whether in this women-dominated alternative section, or in the idol solo acts. Even many hip-hop songs made it on the list because of the female guest vocalist (often not the rapper).

Stella Jang's "Vanishing Paycheck"  TOP TEN
This is definitely in my top 10 for the year.

Oohyo  "Goodbye" "Dandelion
I think I like "Goodbye" more than "Dandelion" as the relationship seems so evocative, but with "Dandelion" there is a great chorus, and still the same soothing voice. Also the nostalgia-inducing video and the lyrics are pretty cool.

Cherry Coke "Like I Do"
Like the songs above, this is a trippy floaty art piece.

J'Kyun "Soaking"
This song probably makes it on the list because of Cherry Coke's guest vocals and the dance-filled video. This and the track above just need to stay together.

Zee Bomb "Walking Last Night"
Another jazzy song with some sweet guitar work.

Seon-u Jeong-a "C A T" feat. IU 
A jazzy offering by Seon-u Jeong-a, another of my favorites. This song just came out, do I like it enough to place it in the top 100, or am I just so happy to have a new song from her?

Choi Ye-geun Band "Adult
Apparently I like some jazzy accents in my music these days. [Edit: I can't believe I didn't watch this video really before today-- and today I finally noticed that this is ONE woman playing all the parts in the band. I had pegged it for a not interesting video and mostly just listened to it before].

Yi Byeonghyeon "Bye Bye Cloud
This whimsical jazzy little number is another that I had forgotten about until I went back to re-listen to everything.

Cifika "Doorgoro
This is not the Cifika song I want to include, but it was released in 2017, and after my friend introduced me to her music I've been so in love with her sound.

Yaeji's "The Drink I'm Sipping On"    TOP TEN
This laid back, trippy, and totally not idol song was such a favorite of mine that I probably started to annoy people as I went around introducing it to everyone. It is another of my top 10 tracks for the year. Bravo to 88 Rising for giving Yaeji so much exposure. This young woman is super talented.

Coco Avenue "Eottae
Yep, this is a duo of two African-American women. But this is K-pop (in a sort of idol pop style), and they sound great (not like EXP Edition and their mangled lyrics). I love this song.

Jessi "Don't Make Me Cry"
I don't want to like this song, because Jessi's performance of self on TV shows really turns me off, but she's got some serious pipes, and there are very few voices like hers in K-pop.

Hyuk-oh "Tomboy" and "WanliTOP TEN (Wanli)
Tomboy made the list just because you need to go watch this awesome video -- the art is very fun, very whimsical.

Hyukoh is actually a four man group fronted by Oh Hyuk. Oh speaks Chinese, in addition to English and Korean, and Wanli is in Chinese with a video that seems to be filmed in China. I love it. It's amazing, quirky, and so different than most Korean music. The video's aesthetics are so amazing to me that I'm sticking it on the top ten.

Captain Rock "I Don't Know" feat Cha Seung-u and Bak Jonghyeon
Just in case you thought Korea didn't make any (punk) rock! Captain Rock is Han Gyeongrok, the bassist for Crying Nut. And the video even has a cyclist! 

Yoon Dohyun "Sparks Fly
This song is beautiful, and Yoon is a giant in the history of Korean music, yet... Korean music is so saturated right now this beautiful song dropped without an outside-Korea trace (inside of Korea it got more traction because people know who Yoon is).

Jazzmal "Ma Home" feat Sato Yukie
This is the most neglected song that has made this list. I love this song. I've shared it on FB repeatedly. But still no one has watched it. I know they aren't cute or young, but surely this shouldn't be so unknown. I know the singer has horrible hair, but I just love his deep voice!

Hey Men "Jelly
Another neglected song-- it's barely been watched at all, even though they actually made a decent video, not just throwing up an image with an audio track.

Primary "~42" feat. Esna and Sam Kim
The video's cute and I like the Korean on the screen to make it easy to sing along.

JK Skull and Tiger JK "Here to Stay
One of the most important points about K-pop is that it's genre flexible. This is your reggae + rap offering of the list. Actually it's a really smooth song, if the video is an annoying mash-up of posturing to demonstrate authenticity.

10cm "Phonecert
Honestly, I over listened to 10cm in 2010, right before they got super big and I'm totally sick of them and feel like their sound hasn't evolved at all, but this is the better of their 2017 releases.

Dauri "Why?" feat. U-il
A sappy breakup song for you, right before the comedy pieces below.


SET "Nalari"   
This song gets onto the list for the dubious honor of being bizarre and trying WAY too hard to be an idol pop song. Don't miss the part where they tell you the blood type of each of the girls on the screen.

Charlie and Shinba "Good Zombie
This is another humorous video, this time indeed we have good (and very misunderstood) zombies. It's fun, it's funny, and it incorporates a ton of intertextual humor. 


Dumbfoundead "Water
I have always liked Dumbfoundead's music. I am not entirely happy with his more commercial turn this year as can be seen in this song, "Hyung" and "Every Last Drop" and "Rocketman" -- I still think he's really talented, though, and I wish him the best with his BornCtzn label.

Bizzy "What up Hyung?" feat. YDG
If you listen to this song with only one ear attuned to it, you'll think you're listening to Tiger JK. All in the family, right?

Sway D "올라가" feat Superbee and Gortexx
This is a clever, visually captivating video, and none of your friends have seen it.

Goretexx, Han Yohan, Black Nut "Silky Bois

Behwy and Yang Sehyeong "Manse!"
I wanted a Behwy song on this list, because I really admire his skills, but I don't like much of what he's done in 2017, except this. It's actually part of an "Infinite Challenge" challenge, and it's teaching the audience the history of An Junggeon (Korea's penultimate martyr and hero). I even downloaded this, so it really does belong on this list of best of 2017. Turn on the subtitles if you don't know Korean.

G2 "Bang" feat. Bago, Los, Dumbfoundead
Okay, honestly this is on the list because of Bago's vocals. Amazing. She needs to be in every video (okay that'd be over doing it, but I love her voice).

Young Cream "Better Know" feat. J-Boog
To me this video represents a lot of things that were done right-- it's a really beautiful collaboration between two people who sound good. It brings together cultures without cultural appropriation BS. It's got a steady line of gayageum all through the track-- the only thing that could be better is the video.

Wutan "808" feat Don Mills

Don Mills "Mr. Trap Hwang"
I work well to this song, the beat works well for me, I guess. But I also like the strings (acoustic maybe yanggeum really low in the background.

Code Kunst "Fire Water"
I think really this is just here because of the line in the chorus "fire in the water" -- love it. Actually the music, the whole thing, it's great.

Cheetah "Blurred Lines"
I don't quite know how this song escaped notice, perhaps because if a woman is in Korean hip-hop she needs to blatantly objectify herself to succeed and Cheetah doesn't.

Siyun "그 때의 너" feat. Seo Jayeong
The vocals on this song, the simple video, and the fact that no one has watched it lead me to ask you to give this charming song a chance.

GroovyRoom "Sunday" feat. Heize and Jay Park
This song was able to do quite well because Heize and Bak Jaebeom (Jay Park) were the featured artists. GroovyRoom (Bak Gyujeong and Yi Hwimin) are actually pretty well known producers who have produced songs for a lot of big names (like Hyolyn of defunct group Sistar, Heize, and One), and they have been signed to Bak Jaebeom's H1GHR Music so we should hear more releases by them, not just songs they produce.

Double K "Used to" feat. Kriz
Actually I think I mostly like this song for the singing by the guest vocalist, Kriz.

Legit Goons "Junk Drunk Love"
No one is taking themselves too seriously here, but the result sounds good.

Crush "Outside
This is super smooth and the video is amusing.

Mun Myeongjin "Lie Down" feat. Reddy
From the Tibetan vocal sample at the start of the track, the music all the way through, the neon over-saturated colors, and the smooth rap, this is one of my favorite rap releases in 2017.

Mad Clown "사랑은 지옥에서 온 개" feat. Suran
It's a simple and beautiful little video featuring Suran, really nice. 

Reddy "My Lite" feat. A.C.T.
I have no idea why this video hasn't gotten more views. ACT's singing really adds so much to the song, too. Another on the list for the year is also by Reddy, "Supreme

Bill Stax "38 Flexing"
Bill Stax (back when he was called Garion) was a favorite of mine many years ago. I still don't know why he had to change his name to another stupid combination of Western name and sounds that don't exist in Korean ('st' as well as 'x'), but the track is awesome. I love that he calls himself the father of Korean rap in the song, too.

Justhis and Paloalto "Brown Eyes View" feat. Cifika (whom you already saw above).
With Cifika's guest vocals and a video where they cruise the city I miss so much, this is just so awesome.

Bumkey "Surprise
The singing in this song is just so sweet, and I'm a sucker for anything that includes Beenzino.

OLNL "Oyeah
He's so young I just want to pinch his cheeks and pat him on the back and say "good for you!" He really qualifies for the description of unknown young and struggling artist, so please throw a little love his way.

Woodie Gochild "Let's Get It
And video director August Frogs brings me yet another video with interesting hints of Korean locality, perfect for a paper I'm working on.

Keith Ape and Ski Mask the Slump God "Achoo!
I like a good bizarre video, and this song makes me bounce around in my seat I like the beat so much... Keith Ape even washed his hair before the video shoot-- I'm impressed.


(I am heavily biased towards those who actually make a video)

Hong Jinyeong, DIA, Kim Yeonja "You Are My FlowerTOP TEN
This is one of the simplest and strongest videos, ever. It's just a shot of a middle aged woman, sad, crying, drinking soju alone in a restaurant surrounded by couples and what not. It's a song of longing for an unhealthy relationship. 

Nasangdo "Get Up"
Trust me. Watch it. Yes, it has an unexpectedly advertisement like beginning (it makes more sense the second time you watch, and of course, if you understand Korean or have watched some Korean TV before). You just can't be in a bad mood while listening to trot (well, you can be sad, like the above).

Seo Ina "ApdieroTOP TEN
I use this video to illustrate inter-textuality in Korean media to my students. But more than all the clever references and the humor, it's just awesome. One of my top 10 for the year, for sure.


I could move the songs around the playlist, or I could keep these off the list, entirely. But somehow each of these songs told me I had to put them on the list, even though they all irritated me at some point.

Dok2's "Crazy
At first I didn't like this song much because it is essentially an extended product placement for Adidas, even though I liked the sound, in general. However, I have exactly one MA student-- even though she's in her MA she decided to take my K-pop class like a regular student. This song was one of the options for the final video essay and she chose to write on it, turning in a very pithy and well-argued analysis of Dok2 (who is an independent rapper, not an idol pop star) and his finances as one of the artists by the collaboratively owned and managed 1llionaire Records. According to her analysis Dok2 is unabashedly making money and he's not going to pretend otherwise.
Dok2 rubs his fingers together representing money, clad head to toe in Adidas. [screenshot]

Day 6- "All Alone
This isn't my favorite type of K-pop, and I don't even like their other songs, but the layered voices in this song really grew on me. I found that even though I had reacted with "meh" at first, I was listening to the song often.

Babylon "Lalala
It's not a complicated track, but it's fun-- upbeat.

NCT 127 "Cherry Bomb
I didn't like this song because of the overly repetitive and essentially meaningless lyrics, then it grew on me -- I guess sometimes repetition can be a good thing^^

Uhm Junghwa "Watch Me Move"
Musically this song doesn't really have anything to say for itself. But I love that Uhm is still releasing music from time to time, and this video is trippy. She isn't pretending not to be older than all the little K-pop stars, nor is she just trying to do their thing (this feels consistent with some of her work more than a decade ago), and the visuals are trippy.

Kim Changhoon and Blackstones "My First Love, Gwangju" feat. Jeong Hongil and Yun Seong
This makes it on the list even though I cannot actually list to it too often, because of the historical lessons for those still unfamiliar with the Gwangju Massacre in May 1980.

HearIM "Snow Flower"
It was really hard for me to get past this stupid name. But the song has a gorgeous video and combines piri with guitar and piano in a not unpleasing way. I mean, I want to see more of this! Oh, also, it's totally instrumental. Which makes it the only all instrumental song on the list.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Teaching Korean Culture through Korean Dramas

I lose track of time a lot. I live in that weird academic reality where time is governed by classes and semesters and grading periods. But somehow since I got to UBC, and certainly this semester as I taught a class that had a substantial drama component, I watched more Korean Dramas (TV dramas) than I ever did before. I used to have a rule about not starting a Korean drama more than a couple times a year, as it generally turns into a binge, sooner or later, interrupting your normal life and sleep patterns for what... escapism, I guess.

Right now I am just finishing teaching a class on Contemporary Korean Culture. To try to make it more engaging (and to avoid reading final papers that were Wikipedia influenced reports), each student signed up to be part of a group that watched an entire drama (start to finish), blogged on each episode, and incorporated that drama into their final paper (on any topic they could bring their drama into). Students had a choice of 17 TV programs, not all dramas, but signed up for the following 8 (all dramas):

Age of Youth (season 1)
Forest of Secrets
Fight for My Way
Chief Kim
Reply 1997
IRIS (season 1)
Descendants of the Sun

Originally I had not watched all of these dramas, I relied on the recommendation of friends to pick dramas with solid analyzable content. After the class started I quickly finished watching Reply 1997 because I had always planned to watch it, and just hadn't gotten to it yet (it's one of the two older dramas on the list). I planned not to watch the remaining two (Age of Youth and Chief Kim) but soon found that my feedback for those two groups of students was not as good as for the other six groups. Now in the last week of the semester I am finishing Chief Kim.

How did these dramas work for students? The links below take you to the blogs the students made. Feel free to give them feedback if you want! As the student papers come in, you can judge for yourself how the class format worked to advance their understandings of Korea.

Age of Youth. This drama includes themes and content related to the tribulations of youthful college students, part-time workers in Korean society, gender discrimination, abusive relationships, sexual attitudes in Korea, parenting (or the lack thereof), sex work, body image/cosmetics/plastic surgery, the importance of education, class advantages, and educational networks

Misaeng This drama is famous for its realistic depiction of the life in a medium-large sized Korean company, particularly the difficulties of contract (not permanent) workers. Educational and personal networks, difficulties of working mothers, entertaining and drinking culture in the Korean company world, sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and more makes an appearance.
Image result for misaeng
Forest of Secrets.  Watching this drama, I immediately knew I wanted to include it. On one level it's a detective story as the leads try to catch a murderer. But more importantly its a story of the corruption in Korean society-- the two main leads are a prosecutor who is only believably honest as his backstory is that he had a part of his brain removed, robbing him of any empathy and leaving him a complete stickler for the rules, incapable of being corrupted. The drama also stars Bae Duna, and she is a reason to watch just on her own. It is the darkest of the 8 dramas, with sex work, blackmailing, corruption of the legal and law enforcement professions, corporations controlling politics, gender discrimination, and of course, murders.
Image result for bae doona, stranger

Fight for My Way. This drama is somewhat unique in that it does not follow the ideal successful young person, but rather four friends from more disadvantaged backgrounds who are struggling to overcome poverty (or at least get by in the world) while staying true to themselves. It's clearly a parable of "Hell Joseon" -- a new term for Korea popular with youth feeling the intense pressure of living in this society. The drama brings in issues of class, the importance of networks, the pressure in the workplace, the expense of marriage, fidelity, changing attitudes towards pornography, and so on.
Image result for fight for my way
Reply 1997. This drama swings back and forth between the past (with a lot of emphasis on 1997 and 1998 when the main characters are in high school) and the present (2012). Actually I had really looked forward to watching this drama, but was fairly disappointed. It has a historic K-pop and K-pop fandom connection, and addresses the importance of education in Korean society. It touches on corruption, the development of internet companies in Korea, regionalism, and much more. The same production/writing/directing team is also responsible for Reply 1988 and Reply 1994, but the stories are totally different.

Descendants of the Sun. This drama was a huge hit, one of the biggest. It was even tremendously popular outside of Korea. The drama deals with themes of nationalism, patriotism, professionalization of the military, sexual harassment in the workplace, networks and class and their impact on job opportunities, and even international peace-keeping. It is also a romance of the first order, with a stunning male lead who embodied almost every item on any woman's checklist.
Image result for descendants of the sun yoo shijin

Chief Kim. This was the last of the dramas that I watched myself. Friends strongly recommended it, but it hadn't seemed that attractive to me-- however, I ended up thinking it is one of the best of the eight. It is somewhat of a comedy, which actually works well to lighten up the dark dark dark topics addressed. The drama is another version of Misaeng in one way, except that the main characters all work for a major jaebeol (conglomerate like Samsung or LG or SK). The drama demonstrates the prioritization of the greed of owners and executives over the plights of irregular workers, contract workers, and of course the good-hearted team in Business Operations who are uncovering massive corruption that others continually try to hide using overseas paper companies, mafia-style shake-downs (the drama begins with someone being forced to commit 'suicide'), scapegoats and influence peddling. It just has to be the only drama in the history of the world with a bunch of accounts as the heroes and heroines.

IRIS. IRIS has a much more stereotypical hero-- a secret government agent cast down and falsely accused of being a traitor who is trying to avenge himself.  The actor who plays that agent, Yi Byeonghyeon, was at the height of his popularity when the drama came out-- a total heartthrob who has since seen his star tarnished. The plot includes secret talks between the DPRK and the ROK, and some of the main characters are northerners. Other than Descendants of the Sun it is the only drama to include Korea's international standing/position and international politics as a major theme. At the time it was made (2009) it was the most expensive Korean drama ever-- shooting in Hungary and Japan in addition to Korea.
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I posted some of my thoughts on teaching the class as it was going on the main clearing house for the class, here, if you're curious.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

On Friendship

I have been really blessed with the strong friendship of strong women throughout my life. These friendships have given me, taught me, helped me so much that it is simply impossible to explain. I could write a book about my memories of some of my friends, and about all the times I turned to them and was rewarded with affirmation, good advice, and some darn fine meals (people who care about food have friends who care about food, I guess^^).

Lately I've been thinking about friendship a lot. It started a few months ago when someone I was getting to know expressed rueful jealousy at my friendship with Kimberly (fast friends since 1997 – the closest friend I made in all my time in Korea—and since she lives in Vancouver, someone I get to see more than on Skype). To me it was almost impossible to imagine what this young woman told me—that at twenty she didn't have one close female friend, one long term friend. When I was twenty I had been friends with Faith for over a decade. Faith and I still talk or meet each other frequently (she's on Lopez, and now that I come to Lopez often she also exists beyond Skype). When I was twenty I was already friends with people like Rane (in Maryland, she mostly exists on Skype now, but when she gave birth to her eldest, I was there).

It can be hard to stay friends with people after you no longer live in proximity to each other, but in this internet connected age it's a lot easier than it ever was before. Back in 1996 when I first moved to Korea I was writing people letters on paper. That was harder. With the mailing time lag, even if someone did respond right away, the problems you were worrying would be solved or forgotten by the time you got a response. Now I'm partially addicted to Facebook because it's the way I can stay in touch with my people, as spread around the world as they are. And the reminders about birthdays sure are nice. I'm writing this on the ferry to Lopez, and in the five minutes since I sat down (we're still at the dock) five Facebook friends or their children (Yahanni, Kylie greeted me by name! So sweet!) have waved at me, said hi, or otherwise made small talk. I'm reasonably up-to-date on their lives thanks to Facebook. Other friends resist Facecrack, but we can stay in touch through email.

But even with the help of Facebook, Skype, and email you still have to do certain things to make and keep long term friends. One thing is just plain showing up—sometimes you have to go to the birthday parties and weddings and do all you can to ease their pain when they lose someone. I'm not always the best at that. I think I skate much too close to the thin ice on that one. I could justify this saying something like "they didn't come to my wedding" (then again, I got married on the Tibetan plateau), but the reality is that showing up matters and you can't be absent too often before people start to wonder if they are important to you. I try to help people understand my absences, but without making excuses, but one of my goals right now is to get better at showing up. I've been working at just showing up for my family (now that I live a few hours and a ferry ride away), and sometimes just that feels overwhelming for someone like me who is stretched too thin, but I need to show up for my friends, too.

And another thing is just being the type of person who knows how to be friends without spending physical time together—certain personalities know how to do that well, like Rebecca (the closest friend I made during my doctorate, currently in my life via Skype). Unfortunately there are other friends who are people I still really treasure, but for them it seems that face time must also include breathing in a certain amount of air that was previously in each other's lungs. Sometimes you don't know what type someone will be until you move, but the type of person who has long phone conversations while you're still living in the same city is probably also going to tolerate long phone and Skype conversations when you're not in the same city.

But there is a lot more to friendship than using technology and finding people who don't need you there to feel that you are still there.

For one thing, friends just accept each other. They get what makes each other tick. You can disagree with your friend (maybe it's something about their partner, their parenting, their diet or their use of a substance), but if you're friends you accept them. People turn to friends for acceptance. People turn to friends to know that even if they are a little crazy, it's okay. Friends offer advice and criticism when it's asked for, and most other times they just make a little comment like "well you know that's not my style,”  “I wasn't there,” “I don't have kids/work in that field.” Your friend probably already knew that you were unlikely to have made the same choice because they accept you being different than them. Friendship is very largely about acceptance. Because you have to be able to be honest with your friend. It's impossible to have any kind of real relationship without expressing what's important to you, honestly. And that does leave you vulnerable. But the friend –never- takes advantage of that vulnerability to slip a knife into your heart when your shields are down.

This is not to say you shouldn't tell someone they are out of line, tripping, or whatever when you just really need them to dial it back on down. But say it without judgment and then leave it alone. Do this without drama in a way that they will hear. If you're still building on the friendship, and the issue doesn't impact you personally, table it for another day when you're closer. (If it does matter that much, rethink the friendship—because saying "I am telling you this because I'm your friend" & "I have to be honest with you because I care about you" implies that other people don't tell the truth, that only the speaker is honest, and this is just a mild form of gas-lighting).

One of my oldest friends used to demonstrate against abortion (not nasty outside clinic demonstration, but at least once she went to a march). It was hard for me (because I believe strongly in women's choice) when she told me that, and we'd already been friends since we were five or six, but I couldn't figure out what to say about it. So as I remember it I simply said I had the opposite opinion, but it drove a wedge between us (from my side, I'm not sure about her side) and I spent less time with her (and then moved out of that city and it was pre-email so we fell out of touch for awhile). I couldn't figure out how to reach her with my feelings, but didn't want to trash the friendship. And you know, she and I are still friends today. And in the years since she went to that rally in 1990 (?) she's also been faced with the sort of situation where many many women would rethink their anti-abortion position, and yet she didn't get an abortion. All respect to her. She's a different person than me, she lives her truth, and we'll be friends until we die. I could run away from my life with the clothes on my back, and she'd give me a place to sleep for as long as I needed. So you can have diametrically opposite opinions about something (perhaps not the most elemental and central thing in your life, or something as all encompassing of a difference in values as voting for Twittler) and if you want to be friends, you accept each other. (And perhaps it's true that when she had that baby the lingering feeling I'd carried with me for more than fifteen years went away, because I respected that she never backed down from her own beliefs.)

Once in awhile, when your friend asks, you tell them some hard truth. But you make sure they're asking for that first. And you try to be super aware of their feelings and how they're taking your hard truth. Say something, wait, listen to their response and if they seem like they don't want to listen to what you just said—shut up about it. Do you want to be friends, or do you want to say your piece? Can you still be friends if you change the subject and go back to safe territory? Can you accept that they aren't ready to hear what you're saying? Are you making it about you and the fact that you're "right" more than the fact that you want to be friends with them next week, next year, next decade? Does expressing your truth matter more to you than their feelings while listening to you? Being a friend means being sensitive to other people's feelings. If you make a decision that winning an argument or saying your piece is more important that someone else, that means you've just decided that you matter more than they do. And if that's what you think, then you didn't really want to be friends.

There was a lesson I learned once. It was when I was in my third year of college and I was living with my best friend, Dawn. My splurge was to buy real honey for my tea, coffee, and baking needs. I was really broke (almost compromise and use white sugar degree of broke)—paying the tuition percentage left over after my fellowships, grants, and loans, rent and food costs by working forty or more hours per week while going to college full time with zero financial help from my parents. And Dawn kept using my honey. I knew how fast I used it—much slower than it was disappearing. I was really pissed about it for awhile and then I realized that Dawn was much more important than the honey. That she had different financial concerns than me, and different pressures on her, and came from a different culture where people were less frugal with treats. That it was worth buying twice as much honey to have a friend like her. I'm sure there were things about me that weren't easy for her to live with, either (probably quite a few), but she was tolerating them and accepting me. It was an important lesson. I have fallen back on that lesson thousands of times since, and it's probably a large reason that across the cultural divide my relationship with my husband is stronger than ever seventeen years after we first got together. What's more important, that person or something they do that bothers you? As long as the answer remains that person (and it helps if you reflect on things you do that also bother them, that they usually let slide), then you try really hard to let it go.

Actually, there is one time that as a friend you should occasionally give unasked for advice. That's when you think your friend has been neglecting a bigger goal in favor of something right in front of them. Or when they are neglecting some amazing talent or ability they have in favor of some immediate but maybe more practical thing. It's your duty as a friend to occasionally nudge at them about writing the novel they always promised you, or recording those fabulous songs of theirs, or starting that business that you suspect they're a little scared to try to start because they are afraid of failure. As a friend you should give them a little reminder, in a positive and upbeat way that lets them know that someone stands behind them even when they are reaching for the stars.

Other rules as a friend?

Listen to each other's bad day. Stand behind your friend. On the bad day listen to them gripe about anyone and anything and don't judge them for it. If you cannot stand listening to them gripe, are you really their friend? And the rules are that if it's their day to gripe, you have to let them talk it out. You can tell them about the similar thing that happened to you, but unless you're also in crisis mode right now, this is their time to do the whining, and all you can do is normalize the whining by proving they aren't crazy, you've experienced that sort of ________ as well. But you don't get to unburden. They need it, now. Let them talk it out. Listen and wash the dishes, clean the floor, take a brisk walk, but let them keep going. If it starts to seem like that's all your conversations are, and they always bitch and you always listen, then you can re-evaluate the friendship. But in a long lasting friendship, in my experience, you take turns.

Bring them the good stuff. You visit them or call them when you're in crisis, but you also have to show up on the great day. You have to tell them right away when "the" good thing happens to you. Do something silly and happy to let them know you were thinking about them. Kimberly has insisted before on buying me something because she was sure I should have it and she invites me when they buy something delicious to make for dinner (and I pretend to be excited about tiger spotted prawns and eat four which I would only do because they are locally caught that same day but mostly because my best friend is sharing with me her special treat and it feels really great to be invited for the happy special day even if I am more excited about asparagus and potatoes and salad). Actually writing this paragraph is just re-emphasizing to me how Kimberly is just the sweetest friend in the world. I am so freaking lucky.

Do the favor for them when you don't want to because you're just too busy. You Photoshop that series of photos into the desired format and they read your overdue book review (thanks Rebecca!). Cooperating helps lighten everyone's load.

I'm still learning all this stuff as I go. I haven't kept every friend from my whole life close. Some it's because we have diverged too much to have a lot to talk about (even if we still carry love for each other in our hearts). Some it's because the friendship becomes imbalanced over time in a way that's not sustainable. For example, I had this friend for about ten years. I introduced her to her husband (who I first met in 2000 or 2001, so you can see how deep the connection is). When we first met we lived in the same building, worked for the same university and exercised in the same studio. In other words, we spent a lot of time together. She used to call me to work through cultural differences she was having with her husband and such. When I left Korea and went to do my doctorate and we started spending less time together in person and on the phone I guess something changed for her. When I moved back to Korea and the same time zone I was happy to talk often again. I called her one day, no answer, and got a text message that she was taking an extended vacation in Colombia, she'd call me when she got back. This is someone I'd talked to on the phone at least once every couple weeks for the past year after returning from the US. But I realized in that moment that it was almost always me calling her. She'd moved on, her interests and needs had changed. I wasn’t the person to excitedly talk about an upcoming vacation with. I had to let that friendship go and leave it as a memory—it had meant a lot to me in the past, but wasn't part of my present. Who knows, maybe she'll reach out again someday. But we grow and we change, and that means what we need from those around us and the type of people we want to spend time with also changes. If all your friendships end in giant blow ups, then of course something is wrong with you, but if you just fade away from each other, move on from each other, but leave communication channels open then when the need arises you can still turn to each other, and you'll still care about each other. Even when I unfriend someone I was once close to on FB (for example when they post lots of things that rile you up) I make sure to send them a note and let them know my email address and ask them to reach me that way if they need. I don't want to close the channel of communication, even if I don't want to read their public character assassinations of their ex (who I never met and might actually be horrible) every other day.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about friendship, and what friendship means, and how to be a good friend. These are lessons I learned on the go, from my friends. They deserve all the credit for making me into a better friend, and tolerating me when I don't always get it right.

Love you all!

p.s. and of course sometimes the best friend is an animal
p.p.s. the friend I've know the very longest, my mom, read this post to make sure I didn't sound like a crazy person and suggested a few clarifying touches. Love you mom! I'm not sure when you became my very bestest friend (and not someone to wipe my bum or rebel against), but you rock. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cycling on Lopez Island: Some Thoughts for (Road) Cyclists and Drivers

Hi! Today in my blog I am going to talk about the realities of riding your bike in the San Juan Islands, one of the most beautiful places in Washington State. I write this based on two data points:

1) I am from Lopez Island, now in my 40s, I know the island and the people.
2) I am a fairly serious cyclist, who averaged 150 miles per week in 2016.


Hello Lopez people, it’s me, CedarBough. Yes, Gregg and Edi’s daughter (and if you don’t know at least my parents if not me, I’m not sure you actually qualify as being a Lopez person yet). I have a few things to say to you about cyclists, and you should listen to me. Please. Please.

I know that you’re in a rush. I know that due to that cyclist you might be a little late to pick up your child, to get to work, to volunteer at the library. I know. I understand. But that cyclist is barely protected a tiny bit with a helmet. They’re super vulnerable. You just have to be the responsible one here and watch out for them. Lopez has a reputation as an "easy" place to ride a bike, and if they are attracted to that, they're probably not too experienced. Or they brought an inexperienced spouse or children. You really need to watch out, especially for inexperienced cyclists.

By watch out for them, I mean you need to give them half a lane. If you can’t give them half a lane, you just have to wait. I know you don’t want to wait. Sorry about that. But I know you don’t want to hurt anyone.

Really, half a lane. Let me tell you a few reasons why:

1. Maybe I can't hear you. Wind can make it hard to hear you. I might be riding at 25 miles per hour. I frequently hit 40 as I approach Hummel Lake. Wind is generated by my ride, even if it’s a flat calm day. If your vehicle isn’t some big V-8 that needs a tune up, I might not hear you until you’re very close to me.

2. I avoid things on the road so small you didn’t notice them or they’d never bother you if you ran over them. Gravel. Clods of dirt. A pine cone. A roadkill rabbit carcass (okay you probably saw that one). All of those things are more common the closer to the edge of the road I am. Hence the edge of the road is not very safe for me. I will be riding 1.5-2 feet from the edge of the road almost anytime. Asking me to move over more is unsafe.

3. Maybe you never noticed, but our road crews sometimes create a bit of a slope right at the edge of the road. I think this is so that water runs off, and not along the road when it rains. Sometimes this curve towards the grass gets more severe and that also scares me away from the edge of the road, as I’ll be riding on a slanted surface there, and a flat surface a little further into the road.

4. Cornering: When I go around a sharper corner, esp. when I’m traveling fast, I need to use the whole lane. I can’t safely hug the edge of the road at the bottom of the hill that goes past Woodman Hall, if I’m heading downhill. I’m going 35 miles per hour (sorry about the speed limit, but I’ll be slowing soon as gravity starts working against me) and if I stay at the edge of the road I’m going to have to brake to get around that corner safely. And braking at speed while cornering is not very safe… forcing me to slow down, which, again, I'll have to do soon anyway.

5. The chip seal. The chip seal is horribly bumpy and annoying, and it’s worse everywhere except on the roads that are most traveled and where the passage of cars pushed the chips down for a smoother finish—so yes, in the track where your right tire travels is where I find the smoothest travel, least rolling resistance, etc. So yes, you’ll find me there.

A couple other things that can increase safety if you understand them:

6. Many of you don't estimate bike speed well. I think some of you pulling out of driveways and other roads think that you can safely get out and get to speed in front of me, or cross my lane and move towards me just because I'm on a bike. But, again, I might be traveling the speed limit (the car speed limit), so please estimate my oncoming speed and only pull out if it's safe (I have nearly hit the side of the Aeronautical Services vans THREE times, and others of you, too.) Trust me, it scares the living daylights out of me when you do that. You wouldn't have seen an oncoming car traveling 36 miles per hour towards the intersection of MacKaye Harbor Road and Mud Bay Road (past the little fire station) and pulled out and across lanes in front of it—so why did you do it to a vulnerable cyclist?

7. Braking. Bikes have two types of brakes—cantilevers (that pinch the rim of the wheel) and disk brakes. Cantilevers are still more common, as disk brakes cost a lot if they aren't super heavy, and cantilevers make it so that stopping is harder for me than for you. Not to mention the fact that getting going again requires effort. So cyclists can't really stop on a dime, and braking while cornering, esp. at speed, is particularly dangerous.


Sorry, but you’re not helping things. I know you may have come to Lopez because it’s the island that’s supposed to be good for biking, easy, no hills (ha!), or whatever and super rural. But if these are the things that are attracting you to Lopez there are a few things I need to say to you:

1. Lopez drivers have limited experience with cyclists. Urban drivers in cities with lots of biking are MORE experienced at watching out for cyclists than rural drivers who rarely see bikes (except in the summer, and even then, the concentration is pretty light—you can go on five rides on Lopez Island without having a single Strava flyby (because even if there is a person on a bike, they aren't on Strava, which of course is sort of inconceivable, but…). So, you may not be passed by as many cars on Lopez, but many of those drivers are more experienced at predicting what deer on the roadside will do than what you will do.

2. The roads on Lopez are narrow. Almost all of them. There are shoulders/bike lanes on perhaps 5 miles of road (basically from the ferry to the village, that's it). Many of the other roads have zero shoulder—the white line on the side of the road can be half obscured by grass if the road crew hasn't mowed recently. If vehicles need to pass each other (traveling in opposite directions), there is no room to avoid you, too. So when people are approaching some blind corner (there are many), they have to wait behind you, or risk darting by you even though they can't see what's coming.

3. The majority of people on the island, the majority of drivers, are locals (going to work, picking up kids, getting the ice cream home before it melts). And they think they don't benefit from you. They think you come to the island between two ferries and just ride around and buy a soda pop and leave again. Their exposure to bike touring is van loads of cyclists with organizations like Backroads—and those guys def. need to give their clients more orientation to how to be good guests. Locals usually have no idea that your bike might cost more than their car (probably does if the car is an "island car" – a car you shouldn't take off the island cause then it will break down and you'll be far from home without a network to help you or access to your local mechanic). They don't necessarily realize you might stay in a B&B and ride tomorrow on Orcas and then take the ferry back from Orcas for another night on Lopez. Which you should do, because seriously, it's the best island, and inter-island bike trips on the ferry are free—so drive to Lopez (the cheapest ferry fare, since it's the closest to Anacortes), set up your base in some nice place to stay (we've got plenty although in the summer you better make reservations far in advance), bike the other islands, come back to Lopez in the evening—ideal! They don't realize that you can buy wine from our Lopez Island Vineyard and the Vineyard will ship it to your house, or buy art at one of the galleries and they'll ship that, too (if you don't have your car with you to carry it home). The vast majority of people who work on the island won't be aware that you're actually spending money (beyond a lunch in one of our excellent restaurants including everything from down-to-earth wraps at Vortex to upscale hipster hyper-local Ursa Minor). You and I know that cycling is the new golf-- real exercise, fun, outside, with friends, and you can always show off the latest and fanciest gear like that 15,000 dollar bike you're riding-- but there are people who still think you don't have enough money for a car. The point being that some of those locals who have no idea you're able to drop some serious cash into the economy might resent the fact that you're treating the road that they need to get to work on time like a playground.

4. To summarize—the roads are narrow, and drivers may not see the benefit to having you on the roads. The situation grows worse when cyclists think it is okay to stop on the road or ride two or three abreast because to them it feels practically deserted. When cyclists stop at the intersection, or on the hill, but without moving onto the grassy shoulder, to consult a cell phone map (which may be getting really bad service by the way—so don't rely on that—get a paper one) or to discuss the absence of roadside restrooms (there are plenty of bushes) it creates a real hazard and increases bad blood between cyclists and drivers. You may not mind since you may never come back, but I have to ride on Lopez again, so pretty please, be super aware that Lopez is a place that people live and work, not just a destination. Ride single file at all times, except when overtaking and passing another cyclist. Get your bike all the way off the road when you stop—there are even bike pullouts near the top of some of the hills—they are there because when a cyclist stops right on the top of the hill oncoming cars can't see around you (if you're not hidden by the crest of the hill!) and so they can't pass you without slowing almost to a stop. So please, use the turnouts when they have them, or get all the way off the road.

5. Avoid ferry traffic. If you see 4 or 5 or 15 cars in a row, it's because of a ferry. Just pull off the road and wait in the grass for them to go by, particularly if you're not timing your ride and you brought little people with you. The ferry traffic will be gone soon, and everyone will be thankful.

And a few words just for cyclists who bring their families or friends:

6. There is nothing more unsafe than letting your kid ride on your left. Kids should also ride single file, or if necessary, pin them between the shoulder and your bike (your movements are at least somewhat more predictable than those of a child). No one wants a tragedy. Don't make car drivers responsible for protecting your kid. A tightly strapped on helmet and keeping that kid near the shoulder is a bare minimum, and yet I see too many parents (perhaps tired of arguing with junior) who let the kids stray all over the roadway. I imagine that junior may also feel less safe in the smaller slot between a parent and the shoulder than he/she feels riding on the left of the parent—but of course junior is wrong. Likewise if you bring your husband or new boyfriend with you and he's not much of a cyclist – keep that inconsistently riding newbie to your right, and of course make him ride single file as much as possible. Ride a tandem if that's what it takes to keep him from being all macho and "shielding" you from cars.

7. If your friend, husband, or partner really is slowing you down (maybe he thinks cycling is supposed to be some romantic thing where you recite poetry, take frequent selfies, and coast along at 10 mph), consider Lopez's many, many, many dead end roads. Out and back, blow off some steam, catch back up to your partner. Most dead end roads end in a steep downhill (cause they head towards the water) and then you'll have to climb to get back to where you sweetie is lollygagging along at some slower-than-recovery pace. It'll make things better for you—you can do more climbing, more speed, more distance, and of course, gain more sanity.

Routes for Cyclists:
Drivers on Lopez would prefer that you were on the side roads, of course, but there simply aren't side road options in some places. In fact, a map was made that tells cyclists explicitly that they are the softest thing on the road and they should stay to certain routes. Let me make this clear: I don't. Those routes are sometimes good, and sometimes horrible. For example, they want you to take Lopez Sound Road. It's the worst chip seal on the island (except perhaps the part of Aleck Bay Road that goes past Hughes Bay over the hill).

Here are some of my rides:
 On this one, as you can see, I went down every paved road on the island. It was 92 miles (since you have to double back a lot), not including Spencer Spit State Park (took a break to eat a bar and forgot to turn my Garmin back on when I went in there). For those who are curious, here's the re-live video of this ride (this is one of my slowest rides-- in my defense, there was quite a bit of wind, and I really bonked (ran out of energy and food), because I was too stubborn about finishing-- and I never expected it to be so many miles.)

On this one I got a nice 30 mile ride in, up and down the island-- other than the facts that you probably start at the ferry, don't want to see my parents, and might want to go out to Otis Perkins Day Park, this is a pretty good route for you, too.

Here are some places (circled) you can get to easily if you want to picnic on a beach, and still see your bike. Some other areas they want you to leave your bike near where cars park—and I don't know about you, but I don't carry a lock with me.

And here are the hills on the south end of the island, if you wanted to get some climbing in, park your family at Agate Beach and go hit them all.

The island is Strava segmented and ready for you to visit. But don't take all my QOMs, because (really, truly) I have never had a chance to draft any cyclist on the island. All my accomplishments are my own hard work, almost 100% riding by my lonesome.

And if you need some bike support, Village Cycles (next to Paper, Scissors on the Rock and across the street from Holly B's Bakery) has great mechanics and whatever you're looking for, including Lopez cycling gear. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Shin Joonghyun (신중현) to Get Berklee Honor

신중현 is being honored by Berklee College of Music with an honorary degree-- such cool news. Read all about it on Berklee's site.

Here's Shin showing how much he still rocks and there are many more older videos on YouTube:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Student Work and Reflections on Five K-pop Videos at the End of Winter Term, 2017

I'm reading my student's final video analysis essays right now. They were given a list of six videos, and had to choose one of them to analyze using the things they've learned during one semester with me.
  • A large number of points (20 out of 70) related to incorporating citations to relevant academic literature (and doing it properly)(of course they were allowed to use lit beyond the required reading for the class, but not given any pressure to do so). I mention this because this explains why you see citations and a lot of the same citations again and again in the paragraphs below. 
  • They had 24 hours to choose the video and write the essay, max. 800 words (not including biblio).
  • They were encouraged to use any video of the song-- the official music video, performance videos, making of videos, choreography practice, or whatever combination, but were told not to read online reviews, as these would influence them towards certain "readings" of the video texts that did not connect well to our class.
These were their choices:
Minzy (공민지, formerly of 2NE1) (feat Flowsik) "니나노" (Ninano)
EXID "낮보다 밤" (Night Rather Than Day)
Winner "Really Really"

EXP Edition "Feel Like This"

영크림 (Young Cream, formerly of MIB)(feat. J-Boog) "Better Know"

서인아 (Seo Ina) "앞뒤로" (Apdiero)

First of all, it was somewhat surprising to see what the students picked to write on. Last semester I screwed up and I provided one song (by 박재범 -- Jay Park) that was clearly easier to write on (very closely connected to some class readings), and it was even a nice song to listen to repeatedly. This time I tried harder to make three songs that I thought had equal attraction as a subject: a solo by an idol star (Minzy), a boy group (Winner), and a girl group (EXID). I added in the song by Young Cream because the song is good, but it's more independent hip-hop than idol pop (to appeal to some students) and also because it included the use of a traditional instrument and a foreign rapper-- giving students lots of reasons they might choose that song. I included EXP Edition, a controversial all foreign (American) group that's copying the K-pop model and has released their first full length song with a majority of the lyrics in Korean because I thought that it would allow students to discuss what is K-pop and what is not (and allow them to express their frustration with EXP Edition). Finally I included Seo Ina's song, a modern trot song, just for fun-- but it does tie into Korean contemporary media culture strongly... 

So, what did my students think? What did they come up with?

First of all, not one chose to write about Minzy (!!!!!). That was even funnier because I had my two TAs guess the order of most common essay subjects and BOTH voted that Minzy would be the number one pick. Statistically it seems impossible that none wrote about that video, but... not one student did.


I included EXID on the list, first of all, as a girl group production (don't fault me for calling them a "girl group" instead of something more PC, this is what they are officially called, even as women age and it becomes increasingly hard to call them girls-- like Girls' Generation, the reigning royalty of girl groups, with members that are getting a bit old to be called girls as they were born between 1989 and 1991). I wanted the students to have a chance to talk about a girl group, and some of the issues that are more present with girl groups than other K-pop acts.

One of the best things that happened to me this term, that didn't really happen last term was that I had some students that had NO prior interest in K-pop that just sort of took the class on a lark (or perhaps because students from the fall recommended it). They were fun to have in the classroom because they reminded me to look at K-pop from outside (and -every- student is outside, compared to me). Rebecca was one of those students, and she chose to write on EXID explaining:
I will make the argument that music videos are indicative of Korean youth’s formation of national identity. Specifically, by analyzing Exid’s “Night Rather Than Day” music video, the topics of body image, hybridity and authenticity will be presented as key factors towards this process. 
[Later, her paragraph on hybridity tells us:...] 
Hybridity is a cross between two cultures to create something new. The music video “Night Rather Than Day” demonstrates multiple forms of hybridity in order to display new forms of identity related to Korean youth. Most notably, Exid sings in the Korean language but mixes in foreign (English) words and phrases that have little or no relation to the previous lyrics, for example the line “Butterflies in my mind”. Lee argues that hybridity assists in the formation of national identity by creating “a linguistically based platform for youth, articulating their identity in resisting mainstream norms and values” (Lee: 139). In other words, South Korean youth determine their identity by knowing what they do not identify with. Exid also contrasts their music with hip hop when group member LE intersperses rap into the vocals. By articulating their performance in multiple languages and genres, they are presented as being global, while still maintaining their local Korean identity via their vocals and lyrics.

Zoe explained the use of English in the video in great depth:
In the video “Night Rather Than Day”, there is a lot of English used which demonstrates the hybridity in K-pop. Hani cuts the “MetroCard”; the title of the song “Night Rather Than Day” is the sign of the grocery store (also appears on the wall inside the train) and flashing neon sign saying “You are here”. These English signs create an universal ambience that can be comfortably digested because it is a universal set-up and audience will quickly fit in the scene without feeling unfamiliar. Also, the line “Butterfly in my mind” is a highlight of the music video. When English is used, it has a greater possibility to attract global audience since most people can understand. Moreover, it shows liberation from traditional culture and can show uniqueness and personality. According to Lee Hee-Eun, “by combining everyday vernacular speech (i.e. Korean) with the foreign language (English), the new dance music created a linguistically based entertainment platform for youth, articulating their identity in resisting mainstream norms and values” (2016: 138). As John Lie explains, K-pop is export-oriented. It is important to include foreign language word in order to attract multinational audience. Thus, the use of English in “Night Rather Than Day” is a great demonstration of K-pop’s globalization.

Katherine was not impressed with the setting of the music video:
They ignore the socio-economic implications of the setting to simply extract the “cool” aesthetics of New York, and translate it for the viewing pleasure of their audience. To quote Lie, this filtering can be seen as: “an edginess that is not too edgy, a sexiness that is not too sexy, an urban quality that is not too ‘ghetto.’ […] K-pop appropriates all the elements of urban American […] sound, movement, and energy and tames–bleaches–them for popular consumption around the world” (2014: 124).

Lilac addressed the choreography in the video:
Lastly, the synchronized choreographies constitute a major part of the visual element. The visual aspects from synchronized dance routines in K-pop has enabled it to be “performance-centered” and helped to compensate for the language barrier between K-pop and most fans (Ono and Kwon 2013: 208). Therefore, K-pop idols would often upload their dance practice video online to share with their audiences. In “Defining Qualities: The Socio-Political Significance of K-pop Collections,” Maliangkay mentioned that the lack of stage make-up and costumes during their dance practice video humanizes the group members and becomes this bridge to create closeness between the idols and fans. Despite being just a dance practice video, the dance practice performed by EXID was no different from their performance in their music video or on stage. In addition, in less than 2 weeks there has been a lot of dance covers of “Night Rather Than Day” uploaded. This showed that K-pop synchronized dance routines had constructed a cultural identity through a “shared framework of familiarity [which could be viewed as liking K-pop], patterns of communication [which could be viewed as dancing], myths and rituals [which could be viewed as engaging in cover dancing], and social and cultural institutions [which could be viewed as being a part of cover dances]” (Lee 2006:137).

Junhong was the first student to realize one of the reasons I had included EXID instead of other comparable girl groups that had released a video in the same couple of weeks (DIA was almost chosen). Junhong wrote:
At the very beginning of the music video, Night Rather Than Day , we could see this MV; indeed, the whole album was released by Banana Culture, which is a Chinese media group. It’s a trending phenomenon that increasing Chinese capital is swarming into the K-pop Industry. However, K-pop still keeps its own identity by separating the local market from the Chinese Market. In March of 2016, EXID’s representative, Yedang Entertainment, merged in a strategic partnership with Banana Culture to launch a joint venture managing young artists. Banana Culture was founded in 2015, and owned by the son of Chinese business magnate Wang Jianlin. It’s famous for owning a media platform called Panda TV. The investor seems have a strong interest in K-pop industry, and value K-pop is a potential investment. Thus, there are 11 idols who are either singer or actor, like the former member of miss A, Jia, and 1 group that EXID belong to Banana Culture.

Most of my students had no problem with the fact that the assignment was not to analyze the content or lyrics, but to relate the videos to the reading and what we learned during the class. However, once in awhile students got distracted by wanting to tell me either about the singers and what they do in the video (play by play of who does what), or the way they interpreted the video. For example, Unsung wrote:
The mix between soft, soulful singing and harsh rap from the song also gave the impression that there was a contrast occurring throughout the music video. The soulful singing represents the melancholic reality of the day while the rap provides the rebellious reality of the night. This contrast is what made the video unique for me because most girl groups want to portray a positive image of beautiful South Korean women dancing in joy. EXID wanted to show that this juxtaposition could work within a k-pop music video and be effective in providing a message of rebellion against the corporate world. 

This was hardly the only explanation of the song, though, as another Korean student, Ha-eun couldn't resist discussing the song as a sexually bold indication of changes in Korean society.
GD & TOP’s “Don’t Go Home,” also discusses a man wanting woman to stay his place for a night, which images sexual desire. The “Night Rather than Day” seem to be the female version of “Don’t Go Home” because they possess same messages in the video. The video showed women’s liberation are being developed slowly in the music industry by female expressing different personalities and sexual desires. I hope to see more gradual increase of female singers freely expressing their desires and thoughts through their music videos.

Sadie also focused on changing ideas of sexuality in Korea, but more academically:
“Night Rather than Day” by EXID does exactly this—teetering between the delicate balance of cute (enough to keep their Koreanness) and sexy; though they aren’t dripping with obvious sexual connotations, many girl groups’ dance moves suggest touches that emphasize their shedding beliefs of “sexuality… as a feature of foreigners,” and rather “frame sex-appeal… in terms of liberalization and freedom of expression” (Fedorenko 2014, 356). However, there is a variance in what is considered acceptably sensual that contrasts with what the Western cultures may think. The trend for majority of girl groups in Korea is to expose their legs and “you can see them flaunting their long flawless legs in music videos, concerts and TV performances” (Epstein & Joo 2012, 2). Even shown in “Night Rather than Day,” much of the girls are covered up, except for their limbs, with the classic cutesy glam of K-pop and “display[s] of slender legs [that] has become obligatory for K-pop girl groups” (Epstein & Joo 2012, 3).

Tiffany discussed the group's presentation calling it "sex appeal aesthetics" The music video and live performance outfits, as well as the dance, of “Night Rather Than Day” emphasis the members’ legs. Outfit wise, the members are all seen wearing short, barely-there shorts and short skirts. The members, and their back up dancers as well, wear outfits that are a combination of shorts and knee high stockings, which emphasis the exposure of the thighs in between the garments. This association “with long legs and bare thighs” (Epstein and Joo  2012: 3) has been a continuous trend for the group since their success with UP&DOWN and has “become obligatory for K-pop girl groups” (Epstein and Joo 2012: 3). Much like UEE’s popular “cool shot dance” that consisted of “energetic squats and pelvic thrusts” (Fedorenko 2014: 356), and many of the highlight points of “Night Rather Than Day” pay special attention to the movements of the members’ legs. At one point in the choreography, after swaying their hips side to side, the members sensually squat down while their legs spread. On the Music Core performance of this song broadcasted on April 22, at the part of the choreography previously mentioned, the camera takes a far and wide angle in order to film a full body shot of all the members, including their scantily clad legs. The use of sex-appeal aesthetics largely contributes to the visual nature of Kpop.


The majority of students wrote about this video (photo above)-- over 40 of them, and in general the essays were the weaker ones. Winner's video appeared to be easier to write about, but proved challenging to say anything interesting about for most students.

Chi-Un addressed the genre and filming techniques:
K-pop has undergone a never-ending cycle of evolution throughout its short lifespan; changes in music tracks and even music videos can be traced through this single M/V. One of the most obvious distinctions is simply the apparent genre that “REALLY REALLY” represents musically; that is, that the background track takes influences from tropical house music.  As with most K-pop songs tracing back to the 1990s, the hybridity of rapping and singing (Lee 2006: 137) is also present. Common techniques used in the video include constantly switching camera angles to maintain a viewer’s attention, switching from close-ups to far shots, and including scenes with dancing and no dancing. These factors give a distinct Korean feel to the M/V even with the obvious foreign presence.  While the black and white look is more unique in K-pop videos, there is nonetheless an abundance of standardized techniques present.

Several students focused on the use of English in the song, Yechan wrote:
Secondly, the mixing of English and Korean in the lyrics of “Really Really” further demonstrate the desire of the music industry to access markets other than the domestic Korean market. As Benson observes, English is a lingua franca which producers use to enter foreign language markets (2013, 23). While English is scattered throughout the song, namely the hook (repetitions of ‘really really’), it should also be mentioned that a significant amount of Korean is present. The mix of Korean and English in songs, otherwise known as code switching, frequently occurs and has become a major aspect of K-pop. As evident by the many international fans who do not know the Korean language that well, or even at all, it is a unique attribute that allows for the transcendence of language barriers, a dynamic language that is able to be understood by all (Benson 2013, 23).

Similarly addressing the English, I give you part of Xinyi's essay:
Language is a big challenge for K-pop in its international market. Compared to songs completely in English, the limited English content is more creative and free. When K-pop uses English, Korean musicians create their new rules and definitions. For example, literally, “Really Really Really…” does not make sense in the English world. However, contextually, the English language combines with Korea’s daily vernacular speech to contribute to the smoothness and catchiness of the song.

Naturally the use of a large crowd of foreign dancing bodies was noted by most of the students who picked Winner's video. For example, Jaeseung wrote:
As K-pop scholar Cedarbough Saeji depicted, the incorporation of the foreign dancing body in K-pop music videos suggests a desire for cosmopolitan identity (2016: 262). There are many signs of foreign involvement in this music video, including a foreign director named Dave Meyers, and most of the dancers  who are non-Koreans. Cosmopolitan striving is a cardinal feature of the K-pop music industry because it is an essential strategy for penetrating and localizing in a foreign market. Yet the foreign involvement, for instance an Asian appearance in American music video, is not common in American popular music, as it is already well-established as the mainstream popular culture that can reach foreign markets without such effort. Hence, the cosmopolitan presence in Winner’s music video reflects the notable distance between K-pop and American popular music in terms of the degree of foreign involvement. 

Suhyun was one of the only students who did not see the women in the video as excessively sexualized. She explained:
In addition, Winner highlights four foreign female dancers to positively gain attention from foreigners. Epstein and Joo describe how in most K-pop videos, female artists are seen “flaunting their long flawless legs in music videos” (2012: 2), to emphasize the trend of bodily display and fashion. Most females are captured to be wearing minimal clothing in music videos with a focus on the legs to glorify them as not their own, but asof the nation’s (Epstein and Joo 2012: 12). However, in Winner’s “Really Really” music video, the four main female dancers are seen to be wearing non-revealing clothing with no emphasis on their legs. Instead, the focus is on their dancing and their impressive skills. Winner chooses to highlight the female dancers’ ability to cooperate with their members in a non-sexualizing way. In one scene, Winner members are even seen to be following the females while the females assert dominance and try to avoid the male members. Thus, Winner positively incorporates foreign female dancers in their music video to achieve global acceptance.

On the other hand, Karen wasted no time in pointing out the sexism in the video:
In this essay, I will be discussing the significance of these foreign performers, specifically the female background dancers, and argue that the “Really Really” MV uses them to foreground the four members of WINNER by reinforcing Western notions of male superiority over women through environmental, sexual, and cultural elements. [Later in her essay Karen talks about how the body is treated differently in this video than standard K-pop M/Vs]
Western notions of sexual elements are prevalent in “Really Really” when the “foreign body [is] used as an object of sexuality (or love)” (Saeji 2016, 263). There is not much of a story in the MV, but rather several big dance numbers featuring non-Korean woman as the background dancers. The object of love is not the foreign women but WINNER as the women march and dance around WINNER, divide themselves between each member, and then run their hands down the member’s body. The foreign women are objects of sexuality based on their dance routines and clothing. Epstein and Joo (2012) notes “exposure of skin can vary significantly” in different societies and then portrays this distinction in a cartoon where a Western woman is appalled with a Korean woman’s exposed legs while the Korean woman is disgusted with the Western woman’s cleavage (2-3). “Really Really” accentuates this stereotype in in the MV’s last half as the women sport casual clothes that mostly consists of revealing tops and baggy pants.
[And Karen's essay was strong right to her conclusion:]
Despite the MV presented in monochrome that suggests a neutralization of skin colour and other race distinctions between WINNER and the foreign female background dancers, Western notions of male dominance over females shines through the black and white by using western stereotypes in the environment, sexuality, and culture to accentuate it.

However, the funny thing was that even though I picked this song partially because there was a video ONLY of the foreign dancers also uploaded by Winner (an official video), almost no students mentioned it. Sowon, more than halfway through the list of students, was the first to bring up the oddity of an official video only of back-up dancers:
Moreover, the dance performance video, the other version of “Really Really,” visually highlights the foreign participants in K-pop. Unlike the official music video, it is a full-colour video where each female foreign professional dancer gets her own close-up or single shots, and stands out with their vivid, colourful outfits. All the twenty-one dancers’ faces filled with playfulness, and their street dancing is powerful and lively. Again, this conveys a welcoming atmosphere and making the global fans want to join in dancing to K-pop. More interestingly, unlike other dance performance videos, the members of Winner do not appear at all, which makes the dancers the main star of the scene, implying that “the foreign bodies become props to demonstrate the power, status, and superiority of the Korean group or singer, or to send a message of appeal across national lines” (Saeji 2016: 274).

Giyun also addressed the dancers, but in terms of masculinity for the members of the group:
It is important to also note that WINNER members are the only males present in the video. Being surrounded by beautiful, foreign women from all over the world, the members of the idol group can develop their images of masculinity. [a couple less articulate sentences, then...] This is why that, despite being fully dressed in either a full suit or hip-hop attire, the placement and interactions that the members have with the foreign women, as well as the masculine cars, the WINNER men leaves the viewers with a subtle sense of sex appeal. This is a clever strategic move on YG as the music video is not the only source of entertainment to WINNER fans. Fans, after feeling this sense of soft masculinity and ‘hidden ’ sexiness, are then able to indulge in other material to see and learn more about the idol members.

Vivian pointed out how the dancers are different in live performances.
Although the music video was made with many international elements, there was still an attempt to continue to appeal to local Korean audiences. When performing on local music shows such as SBS’s Inkigayo (Winner, 2017d) and MBC’s Music Core (Winner, 2017e), and in the Winner version of the dance practice video (Winner, 2017c), all the backup dancers are Korean. Stephen J. Epstein and Rachael M. Joo mentions in their article that “long, slender female legs” are now the “new physical ideals of Korea” (2012, 1). This ideal physical appearance is different than what foreigners think of as ideal, the original American dance crew in the music video did not necessarily have these ideal standards of Korean beauty. Therefore, the use of Korean dancers that fit these standards on shows and videos that’s are targeted towards local audiences would have a better effect at providing “visual pleasure for their audiences” (Epstein and Joo, 2012, 13). The Korean population links appearance with “social etiquette” and for this reason, those with looks that are more similar to the ideal standards would be considered as more socially acceptable (Elfving-Hwang, 2013).

Sinman talked about the strategic decision to film the video in LA:
To help foreign fans connect and identify with something they’re familiar with, Winner filmed their music video in Los Angeles, which is a place that could be considered close for those living in any country as many other American music videos were filmed there as well. It can also be considered the place where many people from all over the world consider as the end goal since that’s where Hollywood is and in Los Angeles there’s a greater mix of cultures than in other places in the world. There’s also an abundance of people who dance well.

Winner's video was less criticized for appropriation than some of the other videos, but it still felt some heat. Ning's sentence here, riffing off a blog on appropriation I had them read, is just gold:
The way that Winner’s members act shows that they are not even really mimicking black culture; they are mimicking how it has been packaged for white America.
And Ning concluded his essay:
In their video, “Really Really”, Winner brings together black and Latino urban culture with Korean pop aesthetic. This helps to localize a foreign culture and make a hybrid identity, but it is superficial and a form of cultural appropriation. Instead of taking the core message of hip hop – which is resistance – and using it in a Korean way, Winner have just taken the fashionable aspects of it and used it in a superficial way. This reflects the importance of the outside in showing status or taste in Korean society. 

Mike concluded his essay focused on the intertextuality in the video: 
“Really Really” is a beautiful case of intertextuality, especially for a foreign K-pop consumer like myself. As many foreign consumers of K-pop often struggle to overcome the language barrier, K-pop’s endless forms of media allow any consumer to be immersed in the K-pop universe. Although the overload of media is ultimately a business strategy for powerful corporations to increase their exposure and “the business of K-pop is business” (Lie 2015: 120), the intertextuality that links each media medium allows committed consumers to reach a deeper understanding of Korea. In the case of “Really Really”, consuming the media beyond the MV gave me a deeper understanding of the underlying goals of the video and made it clear why WINNER is an international success.

EXP Edition:

Mandee provided a great introduction to EXP Edition's song and the issues surrounding it:
South Korean popular music has achieved an undeniable prominence in recent years and has piqued interest with audiences across the globe. With all of its domestic and transnational popularity, breaking into the American music market is still a coveted goal for many. However, the opposite is true for an All-American boy group from New York with no ethnic Korean members who hope to break into the K-pop scene. With the release of their first debut single, “Feel Like This”, EXP Edition has been met with plenty of controversy and criticism. With this in mind, it is seen evident that South Korean popular music has become a genre of music that mediates the production of highly refined products of perfection and the granting of an audio-visual experience. As much as it is influenced by various musical styles and searches for international renown, K-pop is branded as “Korean” and deviations from this standard are presented with obstacles for success.

The primary issue with this group, and the reason that I included the song as an option was -- "is this K-pop?" Hannah got right to the point in her introduction:
Enter boy group, EXP Edition with their debut single, “Feel like This” with similarly packaged aesthetics as a K-pop group and labeling themselves as the newest K-pop boy band. The only problem? They are not, by any means, K-pop. 

Why not? According to Jaeyoung:

From the analysis of EXP-Edition’s MV, I argue that EXP-Edition does not fall under the category of K-Pop because it is missing three crucial elements of K-Pop: synchronized choreography, authenticity, and fandom with commerciality.

Surasak saw the song as almost a parody of K-pop: “I Feel Like This” opens undeniably strong: a catchy beat, an overly-dressed oversexualized cast, and an overabundance of laser-manipulated fog. Once the singing begins, however, lack of lingual fluency is obvious. In tandem with the aforementioned reservations viewers may already have, the video seems more like a parody than actualization of KPOP. There is more to aesthetic than mere physical appearance.

On the other hand, Heejun pointed out that the group may represent an entirely new interpretation of K-pop:
The K-pop world is about to experience something it’s never encountered before. EXP Edition, a newly debuted idol  group, is bringing into the K-pop community qualities like none other before. Established in New York, EXP Edition is a K-pop idol group consisted of four members, and none of them are ethnically Korean by ethnicity. Introducing themselves as the first ever “미국인 K-pop artists”, this idol group strongly suggests that K-pop is now less about the Korean blood, but more about Korea’s interpretation of popular music. EXP Edition shows that the “K” in K-pop no longer represents Korean ethnicity; rather, it can be used to represent a core element of K-pop: hybridity.

One of the best students of the semester, Heejun did not lose all her inspiration after the introduction, continuing to argue the hybridity in the song:
K-pop incorporates a profound amount of hybridity, and hybridity is successful when two or more different ideas are combined together and are compatible. This can be done by achieving a nice balance between traditional music (in this case, traditional K-pop music) and a new concept that is relatively experimental (in this case, non-Korean members). EXP Edition includes traditional qualities of modern K-pop. The group work with a management company called Immabb Entertainment and members are trainees. They take language, vocal, and dance classes everyday (EXP EDITION TV 2016). They also appear in Korean music variety shows such as Mnets I Can See Your Voice 4 to perform a song while dancing in matching clothes (Mnet Official 2017). Their song Feel Like This includes partial English to increase aural internalization and portray freedom as discussed in class. The music video was filmed inside of Korea (EXP EDITION TV), and the song has a music element distinctive of K-pop: genre fluidity.
             [Dang, I just have to include the whole essay] Although EXP Edition seems to show multiple characteristics of traditional K-pop, this interesting new group also brings a taste of something “different” into the scene: the foreign elements that complete the hybridity. As discussed in class, K-pop songs gain popularity when traditional features portray an “exotic Asian feeling” that intrigues foreign listeners, while simultaneously maintaining the initial attractiveness of non-traditional music. With EXP Edition, this also applies. For those unfamiliar with K-pop, EXP Edition’s music style is “exotic”, just like any other K-pop songs. However, this idol group adds a new spice: the members are “foreigners” themselves from New York. This group grabs a lot of attention, shining light on K-pop to attract a wider range of listeners (Contents Bowl 2016). For Koreans, the “exotic feeling” comes from the idea that none of the members are Korean. This previously unexplored concept can spark interest in Korean listeners. Simultaneously, all other aspects of EXP Edition’s music are “k-popified”. The song sounds familiar to Koreans’ ears, thanks to the initial attractiveness of the melody, the beats, the videography, the contemporary fashion, and the Korean language.
And with their strong dedication to learn the Korean language, EXP Edition contributes to hybridity, and K-pop as a result. By winning a survival audition program, current EXP Edition members earned the opportunity to bring their passion for K-pop overseas. Despite all the possible challenges such as mastering pronunciation and understanding connotations of the language, EXP Edition communicates and performs in Korean. As Maliangkay mentioned, “there is a sense of empowerment that comes from having the knowledge required to engage with other fans of a particular form of culture” (2013: 34). EXP Edition strives to further promote hybridity by taking the extra step to connect international K-pop fans. They post videos called “어떻게 외워요?” to teach non-Koreans how to memorize Korean words. This also heightens Korean nationalism because (a) as mentioned in class, Koreans feel pride when non-Koreans show interest into Korean pop/media, and (b) it shows how the non-Korean members are trying hard to understand the Korean language in order to deliver their message in lyrics clearly. This is significant, because language can be a challenge for many foreign fans in gaining a better understanding of k-pop songs and music videos (Maliangkay 2013: 33).
Ono and Kwon states: “it is cultural hybridization between Western universalism and Asian exoticism, that is pivotal in attracting transitional audiences” (2012: 369). The possibility of this cultural hybridization is shown well through EXP Edition, and because hybridity was “intended to appeal to universal sentiments globally” (Ono & Kwon 2012: 206), EXP Edition brings quite the excitement and anticipation to the K-pop world. “Feel Like This” fits well under “popular music” which Lie defined as “a multifaceted form of entertainment that one can listen to, sing to, watch and emulate, improvise, and in turn improve” (2014: 159). Will this group gain popularity? Will they last a long time? No one knows. Just like all K-pop idol groups, only time can give answers.

Don't these guys make you think of 1980s -bad- fashion? 

Mandee questioned the authenticity of the group:
K-pop has come to exemplify South Korea and Korean culture as a whole (Lie 2015: 95) and although its musicality is wrought with hybridity with few significant ties to traditional Korean music, its content communicates a very nationalistic identity. As Lee states, “there is a greater cultural acceptance of popular music as a medium for making representations of Korean society…and constructions of national identity” (2006: 143). Korea is also well known to consider their nation as ethnically homogenous and that is a definite point of pride for them. With K-pop being an extension of Korean nationalistic pride, when non-ethnic Koreans, such as EXP Edition, brand themselves as a K-pop band, it raises an uncomfortable question of authenticity and threats for the representation of Korea. Ethnicity, especially when tied to performers, is typically for associating the singers with their country of origin and there is often the view that the use of Asian language for Asian singers is very much part of their language identity. When Asian singers choose to sing solely in English, their ethnic identifications and perception of authenticity is questioned (Benson 2013: 30). This same sentiment can be shared in relation to EXP Edition whose debut single, “Feel Like This” is sung mainly in Korean. For many K-pop fans, this comes across as inauthentic, especially since none of the members are proficient in the language. Much of the resistance to accept EXP Edition as a K-pop band comes from the notion that their ethnicity disallows them from being representative of Korea.

Jaeyoung made a similar point on authenticity:
Visually, the absence of K-Pop-style choreography as well as the exotic appearance of the members result in an inauthentic impression from the viewers. EXP-Edition tries to appeal to linguistic authenticity by singing almost entirely in Korean, but the awkward pronunciation of the members actually drives the audience away from believing that what they are listening to is authentic K-Pop. This is contrary to the example of BoA who entered J-Pop market through intensive language training, and thus succeeded in producing music that sound authentic to Japanese audience (Lie 2014: 102). 

The Koreanness, or lack of Koreanness was latched onto by all the students who wrote on this video. Clarisa's introduction ended with: 
As EXP-Edition and its MV show nominal effort in understanding and appreciating the origin of K-Pop culture, it is likely to be seen an opportunistic appropriation of Korean popular culture and language rather than an assertion of the authenticity of subcultural cool. From this perspective, it is inappropriate to attach “K” label to its product.

Clarisa talked about Korea as a brand that cannot be represented by four Americans:
Firstly, K-pop should be characterized by its representation of Korea as a brand. Popular music has always been considered a form of national music that represents the traditions, situations and values of a country (Ibid.: 111). In the Korean context, K-pop groups have assumed the role of national heroes due to their international success (Ibid.: 90), and have become objects of Korean celebration. Consequently, K-pop artistes become contemporary heroes who represent the nation’s goals and aspirations. For instance, when promoting in Japan, KARA and Girls’ Generation labelled themselves as South Korean groups who sang in Japanese (Ibid. 107). Beyond music, even the bodies of K-pop celebrities are considered perpetuations of the Korean brand, desirability and masculinity (Epstein & Joo 2012: 10). By publicizing these identities, K-pop groups become cultural ambassadors. In the case of EXP Edition, the group may have adhered to K-pop performance conventions, however, as evident from the group’s tagline “born in NY, made in Seoul” (O’Connor 2017: par. 2), EXP Edition fails to represent anything about Korea, its people, traditions or values. Furthermore, by promoting themselves as foreigners who are detached from the Korean identity, their performance, comes across as jarringly foreign. Thus, what truly identifies K-pop is the embodiment of qualities innate to the Korean identity that Koreans can assert ownership and push forth globally. 

Darby explained:
Apart from using the Korean language, EXP Edition did nothing to tie their performance to Korea. The settings used (warehouse, forest etc) could have been anywhere and there was a lack of intertextuality to relate the performance to Korea.

Of course many of the students narrowed in on the racial or national failings of EXP Edition. Robert explained:
The rise of Korean wave can be seen as “regional Asian cultural manifestation against the erstwhile domination of Western culture” (Kim 2013 :86).  Undoubtedly, in the past western culture has been an uneven culture force as Asian culture had difficulties to blend in to western society, especially in the entertainment industry.  However, nowadays K-pop has a vital role on “pop nationalism” (Kim 2013 :86).  Indeed, koreaness is crucial for major PD makers as they indicate that they “do not intend to invite any global appeal”(Lee 2006: 134).  The way EXP Edition enters the K-pop industry has destroyed K-pop’s nationalism value.

Marisha pointed out that other than being white (and doing K-pop) the group had nothing:
In my opinion, success in infiltrating a foreign market  requires implementation of  what the group has to offer from their own culture. However, this group and video lacks hybridity. There are no combinations or mixing of foreign factors. There is nothing especially unique except for the fact that they are all caucasian. 

One member, however, is half Asian, a point that not a few students mentioned, and many noticed, as Nicole points out here:
We can see this with the biased camerawork in “Feel Like This”, where Tomlinson gets more screen time and close-ups compared to the other members of the group, especially in the first one and a half minutes. Line distribution is equal, but since Scholar Kent A. Ono and Jungmin Kwon argues that “visual impression plays a significant role in the consumption of K-pop by fans globally” (2013: 208), it can be overlooked. 

But there were other ways, beyond their foreignness, that allowed students to label them as "not K-pop.Tianyun pointed out how they don't promote like K-pop does:
Even though EXP is trying to following the “template” of publicity means of K-pop group, like attending variety shows and interviewing, filming group variety show and holding pop up mini “concerts” on streets. They are still just like an empty box with a K-pop cover on it without the inside cultural contents since they are all Western background, and maybe have no enough knowledge about Asian or Korean cultures.

Clarisa made a similar point, connecting to the training of K-pop artists and how EXP Edition had skipped that:
The commodification of Korean performance attributes comes off as distasteful to fans who may consider the performance a superficial perpetuation of K-pop, without assigning value to the transformation typical idols experience. Considering the symbiotic relationship between artiste and the audience, K-pop fans reciprocate the idols’ dedication with appreciation and unwavering support. Thus, beyond the performance aesthetics, the struggle to perfection mirrors the sincerity and commitment that sets K-pop apart.

Surasak also addressed training, asserting:
Whereas contemporary rookie KPOP groups gain traction through gradual exposure over their entertainment group’s network, EXP Edition relied mostly on mainstream social media. While the argument could be made that social media provides more viewer interaction, it lacks the resounding presence of a respectable parent entertainment company. Consumers did not get introduced to the group members, or get to acknowledge their work leading up to the debut, of which are standard practicess in the KPOP industry. Consisting of ethnically non-Korean members, consumers may perceive EXP Edition as outsiders, giving more reason for indifference (Lee, 2006). There is little to no ground for any loyalty (Fedorenko, 2014). With a dichotomy established, perception snowballs: social media sites always swing in favor of the hivemind, and an unrepresented, overstated rookie KPOP group makes for an easy target.

Hannah criticized their linguistic mastery, writing:
One can argue that there can be non Koreans in K-pop groups, however we can see with non Koreans such as Mina and Sana from Twice, Jia and Fei from Miss A and Kriesha Tiu from Kpop Star 6, they are all well versed in the Korean language. The difference between EXP Edition and these non Korean K-pop stars is that the latter went through years of language training in order to sound semi fluent. In the case of EXP Edition, it is very clear – even to a non native – that their Korean isn’t fluent at all. 

Ruoxi, similarly, pointed out that their lack of fluency failed to convey the feeling of the lyrics:
As a result, they are unable to convey emotional information which the lyrics expressed to audiences and cannot arouse audiences’ feelings as well.

Ruoxi also found their make-up or lack thereof to set them apart from K-pop:
In Korean mainstream, people especially idols pursue flawless skin and perfect makeup. However, in EXP Edition’s video “Feel Like This”, what I noticed is that these four men look very natural without exaggerated makeup such as wearing unique contact lenses and drawing eyeliners, and even one member did not cover up his beard when he shows up in the video.

Darby pointed out that they don't use their body in the way that K-pop groups do:
Kpop, since the 1990s, has largely focused on the visual components of performance with increased involvement on deregulated Korean television  (Lee 2006: 131). Emphasis on the visual manifested as physically attractive performers. As Kpop developed, it became more interested in producing spectacular images of exposed flesh or implied sexuality by emphasizing men’s torsos and women’s legs (Epstein and Joo 2012: 1). As a result, the body “transformed into a primary stage prop” for Kpop performers which has come to act as a marker of their commercial significance and success (Epstein and Joo 2012: 6). This emphasis on physicality is not present in EXP Edition’s MV. Most of the visual emphasis is put on the face unless the frame is capturing all of the members together. These men are fully clothed until shorts allow for leg exposure at ~ 2:38 and when jumping unintentionally reveals a stomach around 2:42. Even with such exposure, there is no emphasis placed on depicting these male bodies as attractive or desirable. In a genre that has come to be symbolized by the perfect body reflecting Korean global might, the lack of emphasis on the physical attractiveness of EXP Edition separates them from current Kpop trends (Epstein and Joo 2012: 7).

One aspect of using the body is what you do with it-- Jaeyoung was one of the many students who pointed out how EXP Edition lacked the crucial dance element:
The MV includes some constitutive characteristics of K-Pop, such as synthesizer-driven techno beat, repetitive lyrics, and addictive refrain. However, the video lacks the defining component of today’s K-Pop – sophisticated, synchronized choreography. Until 2007, Korean popular music in general was largely influenced by Japanese popular music (or J-Pop), and recognized as a variant of J-Pop (Lie 2014: 97). What established K-Pop’s brand identity that is unique from J-Pop or any other styles of popular music was the incorporation of well-coordinated choreography and signature dances, pioneered by Wonder Girls and their historical hit “Tell Me.” Combined with memorable lyrics and melody, the sensational choreography of “Tell Me” wrote a representational formula of K-Pop which emphasized both musical and visual aspects of performances (2014: 105). However, EXP-Edition does not demonstrate synchronized choreography or any dance move at all in their MV. In fact, the only observable physical movements are running and arbitrary dances, which are largely disparate from the mainstream K-Pop.

Darby's assessment of the dance in the video was acerbic, her best passage was perhaps:
The lyrical hook is not accompanied by an identifiable movement, but by a close up shot of the singer’s face. Not only is this less interesting to watch, but it also restricts the involvement of the audience so central to Kpop by not giving them something they can copy or emulate (Ono and Kwon 2013: 208). 

Clarisa hit on a similar note when she explained the ways foreigners have traditionally been part of K-pop (or kept out of performance roles except as window-dressing): 
Finally, it is also important to consider how the K-pop industry has traditionally distanced foreigners in order to project homogeneity. Foreigners have taken the backseat in the K-pop industry, partaking in production roles as an outsourcing effort (Ibid.: 127). Foreign composers, lyricists and producers have been removed from the K-pop audiences’ view. Foreigners visible in K-pop have been chosen for their multinational appeal to promote in the Asian region, as was the case with Nichkhun and EXO’s Chinese sub-unit, EXO-M (Ibid.: 123). While these performers are not Korean, they were chosen for market expansion and regional appeal without looking too ‘foreign’. EXP Edition disrupts the homogeneity of the Korean image, and the proximity of the group to a conditioned audience has created dissonance and left fans conflicted, especially when the industry has distanced foreigners from the limelight to reinforce the genre’s nationalistic branding. Moreover, the chance of attracting its foreign fans is even slimmer because many foreign fans follow a subculture (i.e. K-Pop) to distinguish themselves from their peers, and there is no merit for them to follow those individuals that are originated from the mainstream, Western popular culture (2014: 8).

I did find it funny, though, that while I was grading essay's EXP Edition uploaded an official dance choreography version of their song, see screen shot below. (The boys cannot be called dancers, but watch the video and make up your own mind). 

And of course my student Scott had such a good essay, it's basically worth pasting the whole thing in:
The controversial debut of an all-American boy idol group in Korea has further complicated the question of “what makes K-pop, Korean?” For some, K-pop is strictly any pop music sung in Korean by an ethnic Korean, while for others, K-pop is a hybridity of various genres and intertextuality. This essay argues that the divisive reaction to EXP Edition is a reflection of the conflicting, but evolving definitions of K-pop. The presence of an obvious foreign group in a mainly homogenous industry helps to deconstructs concepts of race in media and introduce discourse that is rare, but important to K-Pop. I will also discuss how the re-worlding effect of YouTube changes how we view K-pop. Furthermore, a historical analysis reveals the integral role of foreigners in the development of K-pop, and I argue that EXP Edition can also provide a meaningful evaluation of the current state of K-pop.
           EXP Edition’s debut music video, “Feel Like This,” has many characteristics of a traditional K-pop music video: a catchy chorus, poppy synthesizer instrumentation, and a group of men running through desolate settings. The glaring exception however is the lead presence of mostly white males (and one half Japanese) singing with questionable pronunciation of the Korean language. The video’s comment section was a battleground fought between users who criticized the cultural appropriation of K-pop by individuals with little knowledge of Korea and users who believed K-pop is greater than race and nationality. Yet this controversy reveals the limited awareness of race and cultural appropriation in K-pop. For example, dancing foreign bodies are frequently employed in K-pop music videos to create a sense of authenticity, atmosphere, and sexuality “as a shortcut to place artists within the cultural space they seek to inhabit” (Saeji 2016: 281). Nonetheless, these shortcuts which accompany racial stereotypes are constantly applied in K-pop’s global expansion with limited criticism ineffective for substantial discourse.
            YouTube’s significant role in K-pop is undeniable as its transnational, inexpensive access to online videos complimented the the growth of the genre. Although established entertainment companies utilized YouTube as a medium to further their artists’ global reach, users are also able interact with other fans through comments, likes, or even posting original videos in the form of reactions, vlogs, or covers. This interaction on YouTube translates to re-worlding K-pop, which is a multidirectional process in which the digital consumption of K-pop influences Western cultures through the circulation of Korea’s cultural hybridity and local particularities, and inversely K-pop is reshaped by the reproduction by cover artists and other users who “newly rearticulated [K-pop] to other cultural expressions, forms, identities and social positions” (Ono and Kwon 2013: 210). EXP Edition is a product of this re-worlding as they, along with millions of viewers worldwide, are attracted by K-pop through YouTube to explore and interact with this genre. EXP Edition is unique however in that they are actively aiming to breakthrough the industry and set a paradigm shift of how K-pop is perceived.
             Korean popular music has constituted an amalgamation of international and indigenous influences for an international audience since the colonial period (Atkins 2010: 149). The introduction of mass consumer culture in Korea allowed the Japanese to curate and shape popular music in Korea. Following the end of WWII, the United States replaced the Japanese as the curators for the next two decades as they disseminated American billboard hits through popular military radios and selected Korean performers via auditions for Mip’algun shows dedicated to entertaining American soldiers (Maliangkay 2006: 25).  Following the golden era of Trot in the 1980’s, dance music and ballad music gained popularity among the younger generations more exposed to Western pop culture, and would soon provide the foundations of hybridity of contemporary K-pop. The forces of democratization and globalization would gradually draw foreigners, as producers and consumers, to new waves of Korean artists of K-pop and set the current extraordinary trajectory of K-pop’s global success. While EXP Edition may not offer substantial artistic contributions to the industry with its reiteration of generic K-pop themes, it does signal the possibility of a new wave of foreign artists using the established global capacity of K-pop to further their careers.
           EXP Edition’s longevity in K-pop is difficult to determine, yet their role in a cultural space distant from their homes produces interesting questions for observers of K-pop. YouTube has been an effective platform for K-pop artists and their fans to re-world the definitions of K-pop and Western culture as depicted by the EXP Edition. History has shown us that the role of foreigners did not deter the development of K-pop, and instead contributed to the hybridity and cosmopolitanism in the genre. K-pop’s growth in its global capacity has yet to consider the consequences of ‘shortcuts’ when appropriating culture not inherent to K-pop; EXP Edition may be just the mirror it needs.

Another of Jaeyoung's points is about K-pop as a subculture: 
However, despite adhering to the formula, the mixed reactions forces us to question K-pop’s formulaic identity. Hence, beyond the sheen of fancy production and beats, K-pop should be identified by its nationalistic flavour. 

In general, as you can see by reading this whole blog post, my students stick pretty close to the ideas in the class. I'm glad they understand them and can use them to become critical K-pop consumers, but few of them actually came up with anything I hadn't already thought of, or surprised me with their insight. However, Nicole was the only student to connect the video to the US military presence and to the use of controversy to stir interest-- honestly I think being American is enough to stir controversy and several students put that together, but the connection to the military (which could be expanded beyond what Nicole came up with) is really a good point. Let me take it just a tad further and say "Americans, in the form of EXP Edition, are trying to colonize K-pop..." Anyway, Nicole's paragraph said:
Although “Feel Like This” is mainly considered a music video, elements of the ideology of advertisements in Korea could be applied as well to bring itself as K-pop. Using Scholar Olga Fedorenko’s idea that “ads are among shared cultural references that reproduce the imagined community of the nation” (2013: 342), these cultural references in the music video represent the nostalgia of the American military in Korea in 1945, more so the American presence than the  historical references. As well, a comparison could be made to Federenko’s study of the ‘Olleh’ campaign in 2009 (2013: 345). Here, the campaign reached explosive popularity, where it was labeled more as a cultural resource than available sources (Ibid., 348). EXP Edition, branding themselves as controversially K-pop, hopes to gain massive attention and change the meaning of K-pop through the same ad characteristics: “contested values and socially controversial topics” (Ibid., 349). 

Young Cream:

Monique, another of the most memorable students, chose to write about Young Cream:
Instead of thinking of Korean hip-hop as imitators, a better way of describing this music movement is with terms such as “hybridization” and “localization”. Korean hip-hop did borrow aspects of American hip-hop such as clothing, sampling techniques, and dance styles, but it has also adapted, localized, and hybridized hip-hop (Um 2013, 55). Korean hip-hop features both English and Korean language, sometimes as entire sentences or in a code-switching manner. The mixing of languages is then used to create meaningful lyrics for their audience (Um 2013, 55). Linguistic dualism has now become a marker of Korean hip-hop (Um 2013, 58). Another way that Korean hip-hop has been localized is the type of dress and fashion sported by the artists. Korean hip-hop artists typically opt for a cleaner look which includes more fitted garments. This way, artists can still participate in and validate the hip-hop clothing aesthetic while being approved by middle-class clients resulting in an unassuming look (Um 2013, 55-56). Both linguistic dualism and modified hip-hop style are present in “Better Know”. Young Cream sings part of the lyrics entirely in English, and then in Korean, and sporadically code switches between both in one verse. Young Cream’s appearance, along with all the background individuals, appears to be wearing well-fitted garments.

Haeshin challenged the Koreanness in the video:
I argue that ‘Korean-ness’ in the hip-hop industry is misrepresented as Korean rappers like Young Cream utilize foreign language and slang as a tool to attract global audiences. To further elaborate, lyrics like “bitch,” and “niggas” represents sexism and racism where female, African-Americans, and/or Africans may feel offended. These lyrics challenge the traditions and language of popular culture, which is how we expect a once in a generation culture creator to engage with the social repercussions of his/her output. 

I chose the Young Cream video primarily for two reasons 1). it includes (electronic? imitation) gayageum throughout the song. 2). It brings in a foreign featured rapper, not just a foreign dancer. This is very rare in K-pop, but is an emerging trend. Surprisingly few students mentioned either of these topics in depth, although I guess it's not that surprising as only about 15 chose to write on this particular video.

Most students who mentioned the gayageum just mentioned it in passing, as in Haeshin's essay:
Young Cream’s music awakens the memories of the gayageum (가야금), the Korean zither, while his hook delivers his magnificent plan to overcome hardships and reach the desired life he planned regarding work, family, and euphoria. 

Areeb was another student who mentioned the gayageum in the song, and like others, he didn't analyze what it meant for a young rapper to include a traditional instrument:
Further, the soundscape of the song features “trap music” style production with 808 drums and a deep bass line, nicely juxtaposed with a traditional Korean gayageum melody. With a catchy hook, the blend of English and Korean lyrics themselves are quite mirroring of a typical American hip-hop song.

Almost all of them saw the video as idealizing or idolizing or appropriating African-American culture. Ivy explained,
J-Boog appears in the video rapping inside the recording studio.
And who wants to bet this wall, with Young Cream in front of it, was included to show authenticity?

In the beginning of the music video, the colour and lighting of the shots are dim and this gives Young Cream a dark skin look, which is like an African American.  Also, his dreadlocks hairstyle looks like a copy of The Weekend’s signature hairstyle.  The use of style and background of the music video are representations of fetishizing African American hip-hop culture because it is like a shadow of African American music video and it looks like they went to America to film it.  Young Cream’s collaboration with J-Boog is another representation of fetishizing African American hip-hop culture by working with an African American rapper.

Jiaming had the following to say about the use of J-Boog, the foreign rapper:
The idea of bringing in J-Boog as a featured artist for the song, is very much a conscious decision. As a past member of the famous B2K R&B group, J-Boog was a notable artist during the era where South Korea became influenced by American hip-hop and R&B. J-Boog's appearance doesn’t solely play into the role of “the foreign non-Korean rapper” but rather a sentential nod to the boom of hip-hop influence in South Korea. As noted by Hee-Eun Lee, the idea of hybridity of two culture not only create a link between the fans, but create “the most visible representation of globalization” (Lee 2006: 137). J-Boog not only can draw connection to those from the United States, but at the same time regenerating an already existing consumer base in the Korean market. This act of featuring J-Boog plays into the idea of cultural globalization through K-pop, as he plays a character that bridges the gap between the foreign and domestic fan base, new and existing fans.

Areeb also discussed the meaning of J-Boog's presence in the video:
Since much of K-pop’s success is tied to a favourable reception outside of Korea, collaboration with international talent is another means of hybridity and a “stamp of authenticity” for Young Cream, adhering him to the culture technology formula put in place by Lee Soo-Man. Visuals aside, J-Boog was arguably a pivotal component in “authenticating” this hip-hop track by utilizing an actual American hip-hop artist to rap in his song. In a way, he completed the hip-hop soundscape that was put in place by Kim, establishing a sort of homogeneity in genre. Visually, the presence of an African-american rapper in a K-pop music video evidently points to the idea of cosmopolitan striving for Kim (Saeji 2016: 170). This signifies Kim’s “acceptance” into the very culture he is appropriating from. To tie it all together, this video actually seems to take place in a city in the United States. By establishing an cosmopolitan atmosphere congruent with the theme, Kim has been able to send a message of inclusion while simultaneously portraying himself in a transnational context (Saeji 2016: 174-175).

Allen had some choice things to say about Young Cream and the over-sexualization of women in the video:
The MV opens with sordid snapshots of Young Cream lying in bed with a young woman in red underwear. Young Cream gets up to leave the room, while his lover lies motionless. Such a presentation figures Young Cream as the active agent and his female lover as the passive receptacle of his male agency. We further see Young Cream exiting into a hotel lobby, suggesting that the earlier scene depicted was a simple hookup. Young Cream’s promiscuity here, therefore, reinforces the notion of women as subordinate to men, both sexually and socially. Young Cream then parties with clothed men and bikini-clad women next to a hot tub. What are we to take away from the throng of scantily-clad female backup dancers gyrating provocatively, as if meant to be simply served up as visual smorgasbord to male consumers? That the men in the sequence are clothed only further amplifies the sequence’s objectification of women. The camera’s final pan affords us with a deeply gratuitous cleavage shot as a voluptuous backup dancer rises lasciviously out of the pool. I could find no redeeming quality in such a shot, which seems to serve as simply one final piece of titillating imagery.
Allen wasn't done with Young Cream, though, pointing out the dangers in appropriation:
The following sequence depicts Young Cream singing in parking lots and under concrete bridges. What draws my attention here is Young Cream’s cornrows. In tandem with the distinctly urban landscape in which Young Cream performs, they ostensibly situate and legitimize Young Cream as an authentic hip-hop artist. [whole long paragraph on appropriation concluding with...] Young Cream has the privilege of changing his hairstyle at the end of the day, thereby shedding his borrowed blackness. Meanwhile, a black artist is perpetually tied to the politics of his race. Whatever one’s attempted suffering may be (as a nonblack person), therefore, will ultimately be incommensurable with black suffering. 

Seo Ina:

I'll let Chaewon introduce the song- which you really should watch. So fun:
Trot is regarded as a traditional popular song and a “symbolic composite of traditional Korean social values” in modern day Korea (Son 2006: 18). Despite the debates over the genre’s Korean-ness in the 70s and 80s, trot remains popular, particularly among senior citizens and middle-aged working people (Ibid. 71). However, in April 2017, the music video of Seo In-a’s trot song, “Apdiero”, was featured in CJ E&M Music’s Youtube channel, along with other videos of trending K-pop. As absurd as it is to see a music video of trot on a platform for a global K-pop audience, I will be discussing how “Apdiero” is neither authentic trot or K-pop, but a hybrid neo-trot that combines the strengths and characteristics of both types of music. This is represented through three key elements: hybridity, visualization, and intertextuality.

John pointed out the importance of humor:
Moreover, another major element in the Kpop culture that is also appearing in “APDIERO” is the humorous effects. In the music video, it has many comedians acting dramatically and it is very funny to watch. Just like today’s Kpop culture where they often cast “comedian or comic actor to express exaggerated appreciation for the advertised products, humorous ads often mock alienation of everyday life” (Fedorenko 2015:350). Not only humorous effect is popular in advertisement, many artist use humorous effect in music video to draw viewers in. By having a humorous storyline, “APDIERO” is able to make trot relatable to younger audience and draw viewer’s attention successfully. 

The song was attractive to a surprisingly large number of my students, many of whom fell in love with Trot, a genre they may never even have heard before the class, during the historical background on Korean music in the beginning of the term. Dahyun, like Chaewon, saw the clear K-pop influence in the song. She began her essay on Apdiero like this:
For the video analysis component of the final, I will be analyzing “Apdiero” by Seo In-a.  I chose to write about this song because during the course my perspective about trot music changed from thinking trot was a genre of traditional Korean music that appealed only to the older generations, to a genre that also appeals to the younger generation as it is an “expression of the modern South Korean identity” (Son 2006: 52). As we have learned in class, trot music’s long history in Korean popular music has impacted K-pop in several ways. However, my view is that influences of K-pop have also impacted trot music. This relationship between trot music and K-pop will be shown by the evaluation of “Apdiero.” I will first argue that the song “Apdiero” follows the K-pop formula outlined by John Lie. Then I will talk about the impact of the effect that YouTube has on “Apdiero,” just as it has on other K-pop videos. And finally, I will talk about the component of male gaze that is so firmly embedded in K-pop, as well as its appearance in “Apdiero.” 

Eugene observed how the song uses intertextuality:
By utilizing intertextuality, the artist manages to reduce the destress of different cohorts undergoing hardship with the help of humor by employing Gag Concert comedians. The artist employs intertextuality to achieve multiple goals. Intertextuality establishes a shared cultural framework of texts, which is historically rooted in the employment of past forms (Galbraith 2012, 11) thus it further fortifies the nostalgic factor. She constantly expresses hardship can be overcome by humour and having an optimistic mindset. Throughout the video, happiness is emphasized through her ability to resonate with various actors who are coping with conundrums through her catchy dance move. Casting 김준호 as an old senior, cozy and approachable looking 유민상 as the grim reaper simply triggers the viewers to burst into laughter. Therefore the artist uses intertextuality to create deeper and more affective relationship with the audience (Galbraith 2012, 28). Overall, similar to k-pop, wise intertextual linking of comedians to convey themes across audience works efficiently while leaving strong impression of the overall video. Since Gag Concert has a long history of providing entertainment to Koreans since 1999, intertextualizing sustains and nurtures a close relationship to its domestic audience (Galbraith 2012, 29). Generating intertextuality with Gag Concert is especially effective as happiness is an overlapping region between trot, k-pop and comedy show.

Jiyong made similar points, also observing the intertextuality in Seo's video:
The use of intertexuality is highly evident in 서인아’s music video. If you are a consumer of Korea comedy, you can identify the comedians acting in the scenes of the video. According to Fedorenko, “casting a celebrity has been a proven way to attract audiences’ attention since the dawn of modern advertising” (Fedorenko 2014: 357). The singer is indirectly promoting her song as a commodity through the use of ‘compound advertising’ method that uses attractive ‘models,’ and in our case, comedians (Fedorenko 2014: 349). This consumer-centered marketing does not only increase the publicity of the song, but simultaneously promotes the consumption of comedy shows and other products advertised by the celebrity figure (Fedorenko 2014 : 357). Alternatively, when K-pop idols like 정은지 of A-pink show an exceptional talent and appreciation towards Trot, it results in a positive exposure towards the genre. Especially when her fanbase comprises largely of young teenagers and working class males, it gives credibility to somewhat ‘outdated’ genres of music like Trot.

Chaewon also saw the intertextuality, but I find it amusing that all three students addressed the topic so differently:
Finally, “Apdiero” presents “social practices” and “local issues” that are present in modern Korean society (Lee 2006: 135). This is done through the use of intertextuality, presented with scenes with famous comedians that Koreans of all generations like, such as Kim Joon-hyun and Kim Joon-ho. “The incapacitating life conditions for many South Koreans” (Lie 2014: 132) are presented through a male who looks unemployed in his tracksuits (employment issues), woman studying for an exam (diploma disease), grandmother who is ill (aging population), and woman who is single (low marriage rate), creating a common “national identity” (Lee 2006: 139). Soundscapes are never fixed – they constantly evolve with social change in reality (Lie 2014: 8). Authentic trot songs do not identify social issues – they are rather comforting songs that have acted as a break from reality. “Apdiero” is a hybrid neo-trot that combines trot, a traditional genre, with a presentation of social issues in real life that any generation can relate to in 2017. Homages that most Koreans will understand such as the drama Goblin and the “orange juice scene” from a morning drama take an extra step in bringing Koreans of all age together. 

Jiyong's entire essay was pretty rocking-- here he explains hybridity in the video:
There is a clear evidence of hybridity in the lyrics and the choice of instruments used in the 선인아’s music video. The combination of Korean and English lyrics (“Party Tonight”) sung over an American rock melody can be heard. Lee suggest that the use of “hybrid forms of American rhythms/lyrics and the Korean vocal effects/lyrics appears visually global” (Lee 2006: 138) and this results in an effective delivery of the product. The singer’s use of traditional trot vocal techniques with the touch of American instrumentation and lyrics contributes to the overall appeal to both the fans of Trot music as well as the fans of different genres of popular music. This versatility allows for songs like 앞뒤로 to reach a wide range of audiences both within and outside of Korea.

Some students pointed out that the song was tapping into the success of K-pop in certain ways, Qubie did this particularly well:
Traditionally, trot singers were usually accompanied by a “Western orchestra” (Lie 2015: 51) and the lyrics are “depicted human comedy and tragedy” (Lie 2015: 52). But as music has evolved, trot began to modernize and hybridize to keep up with the new music trends. Scholar Son discusses the term “disco or dance t’urot’u (trot) medley” (Son 2006: 63) which was invented for the dancing and singing culture. Dance trot medley includes “echo effects, double-tracked vocals, danceable rhythm, and synthesizer-oriented small instrumentation” (Son 2006: 60, 61). These characteristics are shown in Seo In-a’s “APDIERO” in which the echo effects, double-tracked vocals and danceable rhythm can be heard clearly. Also, the use of the sounds from the electric guitar and the simple choreography produces a more pop-hybrid version of trot. Because of the hybridization in trot, many pop fans are able to familiarize themselves with this unique genre more instantly.

Carissa's essay concluded this way and it's not a bad way to end:
Although the music video of the trot song has different approach with idols’ videos and the song targets different groups of audiences, the singer, the visual elements, and even the song are packaged like idol music in certain ways. The singer and the dancers are physically attractive and the performance involves K-pop idols style of lyrics and dance moves. Trot is a genre that is not as popular as it was in the 1960s and 1970s (Son 2016: 60), but there are examples of K-pop idols releasing trot music, such as Super Junior-T’s 로꾸거. There is a trend that trot singers and idols try to combine trot and modern K-pop music, and this kind of collaboration might be an approach to attract fans from different age groups.

I hope you enjoyed these snippets from my past week and a half of intense grading!