Funky Man (펑키맨) by After School (애프터수쿨) — Lyrics, Translation and…Critically Examining the Evidence for Double Standards in K-pop

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Do Korean censors disproportionately target female singers?

No, not just those shameless hussies that sing about what they’d actually like to do with their love-interests I mean, and/or dance and show some skin to that effect. Because despite some obvious exceptions, I’d wager that Korean censors are generally equal-opportunity prudes.

Rather, I also mean those female singers that promote such harmful ideas as, say, that romance involves more than just sitting around looking pretty, waiting for a guy to notice you. Or that when you’re angry with your partner, you should say so. As whatever the actual rationales given for the banning of their work, be they indirect advertising, mention of alcohol, not wearing seatbelts while driving, or alleged double entendres in completely innocuous English phrases, somehow it seems to happen to women’s songs much more than it does to guys’.

Or maybe I just get that impression because I only ever pay attention to the women’s songs.

So, starting today, and hopefully finishing over the summer break, I’m going to painstakingly go over every banned song and music video from January 1 2011, noting the whos, hows, and whys, then moving on to the next…all the way until December 31. As I finish each month, I’ll write up the results and my analysis here.

I guess the next songs I’ll be looking at will be G-Dragon (지-드래곤) and T.O.P.’s (탑) Knockout and Don’t Go Home then, banned on the 4th and 5th of January respectively (with the latter banned a second time on the 12th!). But before I do, let’s jump ahead to July, when the Youth Protection Commission (청소년보호위원회) of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF; 여성가족부) banned After School’s (애프터수쿨) Funky Man (펑키맨) for its “sexually suggestive” lyrics.

Not just because I’m a big After School fan, or because the recent news that it’s been unbanned is what finally inspired me to do this little project. But also because the muddled way the banned lyrics are being reported on Soompi (and just about everywhere else) clouds the slight girl-power theme of the song as a whole, and in turn possible — but I stress, only possible — alternate reasons for its banning.

Let me explain:

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애프터스쿨 – Funky Man by Nana/나나 and Lizzie/리지; also featuring Kyung-min/경민 of Pre-School Girl

commin oh ma funkyman uh woo 좀더 깊숙히

fallin I I I I I can break U down!

날 흔들어봐 빙빙 Swing Ma Boy

날 유혹해봐 Keep it 맘대로

네게 빠져들게

그래 좀 뻔뻔하게

갖고 싶다면 Ring Ring Ring My Bell

느낌이 없어 넌 좀 부족해

못 참아 지루한 건

말해봐 너만의 Slogan

Commin, oh ma funky man, uh woo deeper

Fallin, I I I I I  can break u down!

Shake me round and round, Swing ma boy

Try to seduce me, Keep it as you want so that I will fall for you

That’s right, shamelessly

If you want to have me ring, ring, ring my bell

I feel nothing, this isn’t enough

I can’t stand this boredom

Tell me your own slogan

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Originally, I copied and pasted the lyrics from Naver here, which still requires ID despite the unbanning. Realizing I was struggling with the translation because of the essentially arbitrary choice of line breaks made in that though, I decided to reformat them all, to better fit how they’re actually sung. And once I did, then in particular the question of who wants to have whom in line 8 — 갖고 싶다면 — suddenly made sense: if he wants to have her, the singer, then he has to ring ring ring her bell.

Also, if that “ring ring ring my bell”  is just not the random, unrelated Konglish that it first appears, but actually an integral part of the song, then that opens the possibility that some of the other Konglish may be important too. Bearing that in mind, then the “slogan” in the last line for instance, isn’t so much lame as a handy rhyming device for the “건/geon” at the end of the line that precedes it.

But in that case, what exactly does the the “try to seduce me, keep it as you want so that I will fall for you” of line 4 mean? Does it mean that, very very literally, being shamelessly dominated is what is going to ring ring ring her bell, my surprising ultimate reading of the first verse?

You can imagine that it was with some trepidation then, that I turned my attention to the chorus…

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가슴 뛰는 나를 향해

O.K 짜릿짜릿하게

그렇게 오오오 (오오오) 내게 다가와 DON`T STOP

지금 내가 원하는건

O.K 아찔아찔한 Game (어떻게)

오오오 (오오오) 어서 달려와, 소리쳐봐

난난나 Crack Crack Funky Man! 오 baby baby baby shout

난난나 Rock Rock on Funky Man! 오 내게 내게 미쳐봐

오늘밤 너와 단둘이, 너무나 달콤한 story

나만을 위해 춤추는 puppet

My heart is thumping, come to me

OK thrillingly

Like that oh oh oh (oh oh oh), come to me DON’T STOP

What I want now

OK, a dizzy game (how?)

Oh oh oh (oh oh oh), hurry to me and shout

Na-na-na crack crack funky man! Oh baby baby baby shout

Na-na-na rock rock on funky man! Oh, try to be crazy about me me

Tonight, just the two of us

[It’ll] be such a sweet story

You are just a dancing puppet for me

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Great — that was the very opposite message in fact, and one which is continued in the the rest of the song too. But first, consider the way the banned lyrics are being described on Soompi:

The controversy was caused over the following lyrics from “Funky Man”:

“Oooh Ooh, a little deeper / shake me around / try and seduce me / for my chest that is pumping / OK make me tingle like that oh oh oh”

What do you think? Are the lyrics explicit?

Now that we’ve covered all of those particular lyrics, then you can see that they’re actually cobbled together from verse 1 and the chorus, whereas Soompi makes them look like a direct quotation of just two lines*. Why this difference is important, is because already they’re clearly not the only “sexually suggestive” lyrics throughout the song, which raises the question of why only those ones above were singled out by MOGEF. Let alone why this song was banned when others with equally or even more explicit lyrics weren’t.

Could the censors at MOGEF, perchance, have had different, unspoken motivations? Were they, in fact, just annoyed at how “You are just a dancing puppet for me” belittled men, and so banned it using the sexually suggestive lyrics as an excuse? Or alternatively, were they perhaps a little unsettled by what turns out to be a song not about a woman who wants to be dominated, but rather one very much on top?

Alas, all that is mere speculation at this stage, and arguably reading far too much into it — indeed, there’s been at least one occasion when MOGEF was actually quite explicit about banning a song for belittling men. Also, how much of an alpha girl does the woman in this song really come across as? Not just because of that first verse, but also because, whatever the song, being assertive and confident doesn’t necessarily mean that the woman demands that the guy come to her. Rather, shouldn’t she really be going after him herself?

*I translated “OK 짜릿짜릿하게” as “Ok, thrillingly”, rather than “OK make me tingle like that”, as quoted at Soompi. But I can’t tell if it’s an adverb or a causative, so either is possible.

(Source)

commin oh ma funkyman uh woo 좀더 깊숙히

fallin I I I I I can break U down!

날 바라보면 쿵 쿵 like a boom

넌 두근두근 쿵 쿵 feel so good

내게 말걸어봐

그래 좀 당당하게

날 원한다면 몸을 움직여

다른 남자는 모두 숨죽여

못참아 답답한건

시작해 너만의 Slogan

Commin, oh ma funky man, uh woo deeper

Fallin, I I I I I  can break u down!

If you watch me your heart will pound like a boom

You throb and beat, boom boom feel so good

Try to talk to me,

Yes, like that, confident and commanding

If you want me move your body

Other men hold their breaths

I can’t stand it, this frustration

Start, your own slogan

(Source)

Finally, there’s the chorus, the first two lines of the first verse, the third verse, then the first two lines of the first verse again. To make it easier to follow along, I’ll put them all together:

commin oh ma funkyman uh woo 좀더 깊숙히

fallin I I I I I can break U down!

가슴 뛰는 나를 향해

O.K 짜릿짜릿하게

그렇게 오오오 (오오오) 내게 다가와 DON`T STOP

지금 내가 원하는건

O.K 아찔아찔한 Game (어떻게)

오오오 (오오오) 어서 달려와, 소리쳐봐

난난나 Crack Crack Funky Man! 오 baby baby baby shout

난난나 Rock Rock on Funky Man! 오 내게 내게 미쳐봐

오늘밤 너와 단둘이, 너무나 달콤한 story

나만을 위해 춤추는 puppet

말해봐 boy

모든걸 보여줘

서둘러 boy

이밤이 끝나기전에

매일 꿈같은 이야기

해주고픈 이맘 Crazy

오 가져봐

오 느껴봐

commin oh ma funkyman uh woo 좀더 깊숙히

fallin I I I I I can break U down!

Commin, oh ma funky man, uh woo deeper

Fallin, I I I I I  can break u down!

My heart is thumping, come to me

OK thrillingly

Like that oh oh oh (oh oh oh), come to me DON’T STOP

What I want now

OK, a dizzy game (how?)

Oh oh oh (oh oh oh), hurry to me and shout

Na-na-na crack crack funky man! Oh baby baby baby shout

Na-na-na rock rock on funky man! Oh, try to be crazy about me me

Tonight, just the two of us

[It’ll] be such a sweet story

You are just a dancing puppet for me

Try to speak boy

Show me everything

Hurry boy

Before this night ends

Everyday, a story like a dream

This heart which wants to do [that] is crazy

Oh, try to have [me]

Oh, try to feel [me?]

Commin, oh ma funky man, uh woo deeper

Fallin, I I I I I  can break u down!

(Source)

Did anyone else guess that the song’s actually about cheerleaders? No, me neither. And seeing as how management company Pledis Entertainment also claimed that there’s nothing sexual in the lyrics at all, then I’m not going to give much credence to that!

What I do take away from the song though, is a lack of substance and logic to the official reasons for its banning, which at least opens the possibility that the official reasons are not the real ones. And while mere possibilities are not evidence of course, if the biggest gaps between official denunciations of songs and their reality consistently occur in those about assertive females (sexually or otherwise), then, well, maybe that’s something.

Yes, I realize that that’s a little subjective, so I welcome alternative suggestions for judging this sort of thing. But either way, there’ll be far too many songs to cover to do much analysis. Instead, my aim is that all of the evidence I’ll present over the next few months will enable you to decide for yourselves.

Honestly though, as I type this I’m no longer so sure that the double-standards are quite as big as many people assume, not least myself. What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Funky Man (펑키맨) by After School (애프터수쿨) — Lyrics, Translation and…Critically Examining the Evidence for Double Standards in K-pop

  1. Hi James! I am impressed with the depth of your studies. Your blog provides meaningful insights and really is an eye-opener for us who don’t directly see the causes of many phenomena. However, when I am among friends, naturally we’d start stereotyping someone from a foreign culture, then some of us would realize that Culture X is sort of close to his Culture Y, and maybe even a guy from Culture Z will admit the similarities. At the end of the day, it appears to me that 1. The meaningless but entertaining English-captioned T-shirts that you come across a lot of Asian street shops tells you enough about their Admiration with the West, and 2. Human nature is human nature and instincts will always prevail. That being said, I would like to give you an example of an American song by RIhanna that is no different in terms of provocativeness but no one ever gave it the time of day to do any analysis:

    Rude Boy

    Come On Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Tonight
    I’mma Let You Be The Captain
    Tonight
    I’mma Let You Do Your Thing, Yeah
    Tonight
    I’mma Let You Be A Rider
    Giddy Up
    Giddy Up
    Giddy Up, Babe

    Tonight
    I’mma Let It Be Fire
    Tonight
    I’mma Let You Take Me Higher
    Tonight
    Baby We Can Get It On, Yeah
    We Can Get It On, Yeah

    Do You Like It Boy
    I Wa-wa-want
    What You Wa-wa-want
    Give It To Me Baby
    Like Boom, Boom, Boom
    What I Wa-wa-want
    Is What You Wa-wa-want
    Na, Na-aaaah

    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    You Should Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Tonight
    I’mma Give It To You Harder
    Tonight
    I’mma Turn Your Body Out
    Relax
    Let Me Do It How I Wanna
    If You Got It
    I Need It
    And I’mma Put It Down

    Buckle Up
    I’mma Give It To You Stronger
    Hands Up
    We Can Go A Little Longer
    Tonight
    I’mma Get A Little Crazy
    Get A Little Crazy, Baby

    Do You Like It Boy
    I Wa-wa-want
    What You Wa-wa-want
    Give It To Me Baby
    Like Boom, Boom, Boom
    What I Wa-wa-want
    Is What You Wa-wa-want
    Na, Na-aaaah

    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    I Like The Way You Touch Me There
    I Like The Way You Pull My Hair
    Babe, If I Don’t Feel It I Ain’t Faking
    No, No

    I Like When You Tell Me Kiss It There
    I Like When You Tell Me Move It There

    So Giddy Up
    Time To Giddy Up
    You Say You’re A Rude Boy
    Show Me What You Got Now

    Come Here Right Now

    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Come On Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Can You Get It Up
    Come Here Rude Boy, Boy
    Is You Big Enough
    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me

    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Love Me
    Yeh Yeh Yeh ,

    Take It, Take It
    Baby, Baby
    Take It, Take It
    Love Me, Love Me

    Unfortunately I am not writing this in regards to the banning element, just paralleling your other lyrics break-downs to imply that Korea is not the mecca of promiscuity ;)

    Cheers and greetings from Toronto, Canada!

    • Well, thanks for the compliment, but otherwise I don’t really understand your comment sorry – no-one’s saying that music in the US isn’t raunchier than, well, just about everywhere else. And I’d be very surprised if no-one’s ever analyzed that song of Rihanna’s in some form, as she seems to be quite a popular topic of North-American websites and blogs about feminism and pop-culture.

  2. The version by Blondie is the one many of us have probably heard. I say MOGEF talks to entertainment Co., who then talks to girl group, who then goes to MOGEF for suggested or required persuasion by someone. Maybe they take it in turns, song after song after song after etc…

  3. The whole issue of censorship in k-pop is so muddled, I’m surprised people can even glean a true double standard in it. Songs and music videos are either banned in the middle of promotions, or after promotions have ended, like the recent case of T-ara’s Lovey Dovey and Hyuna’s Bubble Pop, which never made any real sense, and if anything lends it some popularity through notoriety. With thecae of T-ara it was so after the fact, I feel it hardly made any impact. Then there are the other cases where I am so sure a song is going to be banned because of it’s lyrical content or dancing, and it’s not, like KARA’s Mister.

    Now the lyrical content would certainly fit with your idea that songs that do not portray a strong female are more palatable, as Mister is not a song that portrays strong female, but rather one that is shy and too timid to approach a male. But as you said, and I completely agree, that is just reading too much into it, and it certainly feels more speculative.

    But with this in mind, I don’t believe that the criteria for censorship are so clear, that any double standard could be so black and white. If someone wants to pose the question of why are more songs/videos by female idols banned than male idols, it begets the question of why are certain songs/videos by certain female groups banned and not others?

    • All agreed, although I think it is possible to understand censorship in Korea to a certain extent, and that is by viewing it in terms of the corporatist interests of all the organizations involved, especially MOGEF. Once you realize that it was almost abolished by LMB (it was one of his campaign promises), had some of its authority and responsibilities assigned to other ministries, and from 2007-2010 only had 0.03% of the entire government budget (ironically, LMB quadrupled that and returned some of those lost responsibilities in, off the top of my head, late-2010), then it becomes clear that MOGEF’s censorship is not so much about protecting youth as about justifying its existence, endearing itself to a conservative administration, and asserting its rights in constant turf wars with other ministries (and the plethora of other organizations involved in censorship in Korea).

      Granted, again that imposes a narrative on events that just might exist in my head, but I think it’s the best candidate so far! :D

      Finally, agreed also about Mister, and indeed that’s the main one I was thinking of when I wrote that point in the post.

  4. If the song is about cheerleaders, and the management who banned the song didn’t even think of that, well then maybe they have a dirty mind. xD

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