Monday, November 03, 2008

The only goal of Korean pop music producers (Banana Girl)

is to create something that will stick in your head like a ballbuster,

and dress it up in as much cute/sexy line-straddling hijinks as they can.

**OK. I should qualify this with saying "often" "sometimes" and "many" instead of "always" "never" and "all". . . but sometimes it seems this way, OK?**

to me, the experience of diving into modern Korean dance/pop music is about tantamount to skipping lunch and eating cotton candy until I'm full instead.

And I swear, there's a musically gifted, sugar-hyper six-year old singing to herself, confined in a music studio basement somewhere who is the inspiration, maybe even the composer, for all these songs.

For your consideration:

Crazy Crazy Crazy, by Banana Girl (note the cute faces, the attempt to start a line-dance craze, and fingers pointing in the air with baby-pink cute smiles)

Here is my running "this is what's going through my head as I watch this video" diary for chocolate, also by Banana Girl. (maybe it's just Banana Girl...)

candy. too cute.
the v sign -- two fingers in the air. getting the cheese on early.

seriously, is this band's target audience four-year olds?

lollipop flowers. . . and then a wiggle dance in a bare-shoulder dress.

ooh. slipped on a bananaa peel. didn't see that coming.

ooh. it can't be a korean mousic video without an attempt to start a dance craze. . . it's like a Freddie Prinze Jr. Movie.

Cartoon mascots. and cotton candy. I swear this video had a six-year-old executive procucer.

the platinum blode wigs are. . . uh...

I wonder how many of these dance crazes people attempt to start, but never catch on. The people at the dance club probably didn't take this one on because they couldn't find enough cartoonishly large lollipops.

holy crap a rodeo machine! only for two seconds.

a candy-cane pole dance and that rodeo machine again. . . so their target audience is four-year old girls and thirty-one year-old men, then. hmmm.

So did hershey sponsor the making of this video?

Wow. There are genres of Korean music I like but dear friends, this ain't it.
I think my hands are shaking.

That was kind of fun.

So, is K-pop getting too sexified? Here's "Kiss Kiss" also by Banana Girls

Again, James Turnbull would be better at discussing the cutsified, lolita-sex appeal of the baby talk, whiny singing, eyelash-batting bicycle-riding kid stuff, balanced against the intensive oral fixation (lollipops, fingers by mouth, a FREAKING CHERRY!), the stick-in-your-head-with-crazy-glue catchiness with those whiny syllables at the end of every line (not just in this song, either)

This sounds very similar to the band/artist I mentioned before explaining why K-pop is sometimes like wading through a swamp of cute, (Lee Hyun Ji) -- any connection between these bands, other than the fact they're like corkscrews in my brain?  It's difficult to explain this kind of pop culture without seeing it, but this is a common form of femininity here, as far as I can tell, and I know some people (not many, but a few) who do (or try to (from time to time at least)) act like these starlets (with varying degrees of success); at the same time, I'm not so much an expert, but I have a feeling a band like this wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making it in North America, unless they played up the cutesy cheesiness to the level of hardcore fetish, and ended up in some kind of creepy raincoat-flasher target-market niche/asiophile who would have found out about them anyway demographic, kind of like that old Russian teen-lesbian-pop-duo import from 2003, TATU.

All this stuff is way sexier than what one could get away with pulling three years ago, say -- even superduperstar Rain had his song banned for singing about his magic stick!

And this is where I live, dear readers.

So what do you think, readers?  What's the North American culture equivalent to Banana Girl?   And what would happen if Banana Girl decided to tour the states?  The cultural differences that manifest in pop culture fascinate me to no end.


holterbarbour said...

Three thumbs up!

Oh, wait a minute, that's not a thumb.

Brian said...

The song "엉덩이" by Banana Girl is pretty catchy. One of my favorites. On youtube you can find a video of her "rehearsing" it at a nightclub . . . it consists of her moving side to side as the song plays over the speakers.

My dog in this fight is Kara's "Rock U," which I mentioned earlier:

The affected cuteness of stuff in Korea really drives me crazy. You end up with videos, and middle schools, full of muppets and cartoon characters. But as I read elsewhere, it's akin to everything back home being "xtreme" and to musicians posing tough in videos, feigning indifference for the camera, and pouting here and there with their black clothes and ripped jeans. Having grown up during the post-grunge era I actually hate the affected cuteness less than what I had to endure as a teenager.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I read about that cute vs. anti-authority, counter-cultural difference too, I think on Dave's ESL Cafe, yes? It makes a lot of sense.

Roboseyo, thanks for your vote of confidence in my ability to really, er, penetrate the videos' oral fixation and *cough* get through the hidden layers of meaning of the cherries in them and all (sorry, couldn't resist), but really, I wouldn't be able to add much more than you already have.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the role of cuteness and child-like behavior in Korean popular culture though, I strongly recommend this post of Gord Sellar's:

ZenKimchi said...

Not really a North American equivalent but a Danish equivalent--Toy Box. They did have a little popularity in America, which is how I got to know them.

paquebot said...

I wonder how many of these dance crazes people attempt to start, but never catch on.

Ah, but at least Banana Girl will go down in (Korean) history as popularizing the 'bubi bubi' dance! Depending on how you want to look at that, I suppose it may not necessarily be a good thing.

- Paul / samedi (LiveJournal updated to OpenID 2.0 recently and apparently broke their log-in code in the process. Nice.)

Brian said...

I hate this crap. The one in your third video . . . Youtube says it's Banana Girl but I don't think so. Anyway, I think she's my least favorite pop star of the month. The face that launched a thousand shoes at my TV.

whoa, word verification is "compares."