Featured: Top of Home Page

What's Hot in Korea

Brown Eyed Girls

If you don't believe me, watch this.


Brown Eyed Girls is a name of a pop band -- a girls group numbering four, with plenty of back-up, as the video above attests.

And without knowing anything about K-Pop and even less about bubblegum tunes, I can still unequivocally say, with confidence, that . . . Brown Eyed Girls are definitely . . . hot.


I first saw them running on a treadmill this weekend in my hotel -- that is, I was running and they were on TV -- and I literally had to thrust both feet to the sideboards after two measures to avoid falling off.

Their song "Sign" is so well crafted, conceived, blended, presented -- it is what all bubblegum should be. Tight, fluid, lyrical, catchy, infernally-embarrassingly foot-tappingly, finger-snappingly, head-bobbingly, "Wow. Okay. Alright!"

Which accounts for why my feet started losing traction on the treadmill.

Sign had my attention like M-Jack did with Billie Jean, like Britney did with (Hit Me Baby) One More Time, and even (gosh, is it safe to admit?) The Backstreet Boys did, "borrowing" Britney's basic pattern with "The Call".

You can disagree with the list (go ahead, down below, make your own), but the fact is that what these four young Korean women have got is something more than mere bubblegum on their hands . . . and they also have something beyond a groovy sound and a provocative look. They appear to have also tapped into a vein -- and a pretty strong, surging one at that -- rushing close to the societal surface. But that is not apparent by simply watching the video from remote, over YouTube. That requires a bit more leg work and deeper socio-cultural excavation.


Until this trip -- my fourth cross the straight from Japan over the past few years -- my impression of South Korea has been of a culture committed to innocence, sweetness, fluff, and non-controversial wholesome good cheer. And looking at the advertising and the talk shows and youth entertainment, there still appears to be a lot of that. I'll share photos later of how women of all ages and descriptions walk arm and arm in the street unselfconsciously. In that way it is a sweet space, a happy, naive zone -- at least on the surface. In TV ads, the big climax before fading to the product is often when men and women are about to kiss -- and end up having the camera freeze before lips actually touch, or else a book is strategically placed in front of the actors to avoid a public display. This is precisely what Japanese ads presented viewers a decade ago and have since broken beyond.

And just like Japanese idols, Brown Eyed Girls apparently began as cuddly "girls next door" -- and may still retain some semblance of that aura, as the behind the scenes, promo video for "Sign" demonstrates.

At the same time, catch a gander at the video shot for their recent release, Abracadabra.

Edgy. Very, very edgy.

In it one encounters intimations of rough sex, bondage, discipline, a dominatrix, cyborg lovers, lesbianism, bestiality, and riffs on the techno-future. Goodbye, girl next door.

As the group's wikipedia page indicates, this is a transition time for the gang: from cute "Tiger Beat" pin-ups to sophisticated women of the world. Catch a load of the frozen near-kiss at the end of the promo video. Not quite like the near misses in ads for canned coffee, chocolate drops, and breath mints.

Well, we all grow up sometime, right? It's written right here in the lines on my face.


The last thing I want to leave you with is on a different track. It begins with the original video shot to push Sign in comparison with the one you've already viewed, at the outset. In making that assessment I ended up transported to a different realm of discourse. For, what I found fascinating -- at least from a communication standpoint -- is that, despite an identical song -- same tune, same lyrics, same voices -- the action depicted between the twain is at such great odds. In making the comparison, yourself, the first thing you might note is that in the original video, the Brown Eyed Girls are conspicuously absent. So, instead of fan dances, what we get in the original is lots of boy-stuff: good versus evil, apprentices battling teachers, an indomitable one opposed by an oppressor's army, the refusal to quit when there is a damsel in distress to be saved.

Viewed globally, when comparing the two videos though, what really stands out is that, despite identical aural content, the mood set -- and, more importantly, the ideas conveyed, the meanings created -- is entirely different.


Now, I don't know about your reaction, but watching the last (which is to say the original) promo for Sign, my sense is that, had I only watched the initial effort -- what with its violence and Hollywood action hero mock-up -- and had I never been treated to the live performance video by the four singers on stage -- I seriously doubt I would be claiming that Brown Eyed Girls are what is hot about Korea today.

On the other hand, that might not have anything to do with communication theory, it might have little connection to communication effects. It could simply be a mundane example of gender bias, I suppose.

Proof, perhaps, of what a difference a strategically-placed fan can make.


Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.