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!

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