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.

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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?

Give it to me (줄래) by Lee Jeong-hyeon (이정현): Lyrics and Translation

It feels like a long time since I’ve posted something here simply because I liked it. So, let me put what I had planned aside for a moment and remedy that, starting by passing on this video of “internet DJ” Lee Jeong-hyeon (이정현), covering the 2000 hit Give it to me (줄래) by the singer of the same name. The next time I’m harping on about the evils of aegyo and female infantilization in Korea popular culture, please remind me of how much I love this video despite myself, and that being cute definitely does have its time and place:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find much information about her when I first saw the video on Mongdori back in 2008, and I can’t find anything at all now. But I did find the music video of the song itself to compare (update: see here for a higher quality version):

And as it turns out, it was covered that same year by the Wondergirls (원더걸스), then by KARA (카라) the year after that:

Given that popularity; an English title that reminded me of double entendres like the “get into my core” from Girls’ Generation’s (소녀시대) Visual Dreams (비주얼드림); a doll in the music video that surely symbolized something; and the fact that Lee Jeong-hyeon was selected by Lady Gaga to open her Seoul concert in 2009, then — you guessed it — I just had to translate it!

(Lee Jeong-hyeon opening for Lady Gaga, 2009. Source)

뒤돌아 날 본다…넌 내가 셋을 셀동안

홧김에 끝내잔 얘길 넌 던진 것 뿐야

이대로 날 두고 갈 생각 전혀 없어 넌

거봐 너! 지금 너! 또 오잖아

Look back and you see me…while I count to three

You said that you only broke up with me because you were angry

You don’t want to leave me like this

See, look at you now. You’re coming back.

불안해 왜 불안해 내 말을 왜 못믿어

그렇게 겪어봐도 나를 몰라 왜 몰라줘

니몸에 날 묶을까? 내 옷에 써 붙힐까?

난 바로 니 여자라고…

Nervous? Why are you nervous? Why can’t you believe what I say?

Don’t you know me by now, after going through life so much together?

Shall I tie myself to you? Shall I write your name on my clothes?

I’m the woman for you

처음엔 좋댔잖아

섹시한 눈웃음도 감았다 살짝 뜬 우아한 내 윙크도

너 만을 위한거야

딴데선 난 안그래 왜 맘 좁게 날 의심해

At first, you said you liked my sexy eyes and my elegant, subtle wink

It was all for you

I don’t do that to other guys

Why are you so shallow and suspicious?

[CHORUS BEGINS]

톡 쏘는 콜라처럼 난 니 마음 속에 들어갈꺼야

지금은 화난척해도

또 풀릴걸 내가 안기면

Like a cola fizzing, I’ll rise to be in your heart

Now, you’re only pretending to be angry really

I know that will go away if I hold you

모든걸 가질래 아무도 안줄래

나 니 마음을 다 사로잡을래

나 오늘은 순결한 백합처럼

나 때로는 붉은 장미처럼

모든걸 다줄래 너에게 다줄래

나의 관심은 언제나 너뿐야

언제나 나만 사랑해줘 날 안아줘 너는 내꺼야

I’m going to have it all, I’m not going to give anything [of you] to anyone

I’m going to grab all your heart again

Today, like a pure lily, and sometimes like a red rose

I’m going to give everything to you

It’s always been just you

Please love and hold me always, you are mine

[CHORUS ENDS]

우리가 그동안 함께한 날이 얼만데

난 알아 널 알아 널 알아

너무나 잘 알고있지

하나에 하나반 둘에 또 둘에 반에 셋!

거봐 너! 지금 너!

또 오잖아…

A long time has passed since we were together

I know you, I know you, I know you

I know you so well

One, one and a half, two, two and a half, three!

See, look at you now, you’re coming back to me again

오늘은 뭐했는지 누구를 만났는지

핸드폰 왜 껐는지 물어볼래

간섭할래 사랑은 구속인걸 난 너무 잘 알지만

때로는…난 숨이 막혀…

I’m going to ask you what you did today, who you met, why your phone was off

I am going to interfere like that, because I know well that love is a prison

Sometimes it means I can’t breathe

할수만 있다면 넌 날 작게 만들어서

주머니 속에 날 넣고 다니겠다고

그게 소원이라고 그렇게 말하는 널

나 어떻게 미워하니

You said that if you could, you would make me smaller

So that you can put me in your pocket

That was your wish

How can I not love you when you’re like that?

[CHORUS REPEATS]

아무리 차가운 척해도 소용없어

넌 가득찬 내 작은 손을 넌 못벗어나

이대로 널 두고 갈생각 전혀없어 난

하나 또 둘에 반 셋…거봐 너 또 오잖아…

날줄래, 날줄래, 날줄래, 날줄래

There is no reason for you to pretend to be cold

You’re stuck with me

I won’t break up with you like this

One, one and a half, two, two and a half, three!

Look at you, you’re coming back again

I want to give myself to you (x4)

What do you think? Naturally, the feminist in me rebels against a woman loving that her boyfriend literally wants her to be his doll, but on the other hand the lyrics indicate that she’s by no means the submissive partner in the relationship. Even if she does uses a lot of aegyo to achieve that, which is the impression I get from Lee Jeong-hyeon seemingly going through her entire repertoire in the music video!

Meanwhile, apologies for the quick translation (I’m sure there’s many mistakes), and I’m more than happy to be corrected and/or explain any of it. But I do think I have the gist of it!

(See here for Lee Jeong-hyeon’s website [there’s an English section], and here for her Twitter feed)

Pray (기도) by Sunny Hill (써니힐): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

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…Sunny Hill have shaken things up in K-Pop by releasing unconventional music – at least as far as Korean pop is concerned – and they’ve garnered a new following by doing so. Sunny Hill is a talented group and they’re in the hands of creative people who understand the purpose of a concept, in that a concept not only melds visuals with music, but is designed to evoke a powerful response from their audience (Allkpop, September 2011).

Hey, I do like what I’ve heard of Sunny Hill (써니힐) so far, but still: nothing about their music really strikes me as really different. Rather, to me they stand out for their collaboration in in Mamma Mia (맘마미아) by Narsha (나르샤), the first(?) and only(?) Korean music video to feature a Korean woman kissing a Caucasian man, and then for their rare critique of the Korean rat race in The Grasshopper Song (베짱이 찬가). And I’d love to hear of any more such “socially-conscious K-pop” by them.

Pray (기도) though, doesn’t really qualify. But it is one of the darkest music videos I’ve ever seen (for which it was banned on MBC and KBS), and can be very moving. As the reader who asked me to translate it admitted:

Seriously. . . I was crying within the first 15 seconds.  I was a WRECK by the end.  My roommate came in and asked ‘Who died?’  Me? ‘The *hiccup* man in the *hiccup* videooooooo!’  The main character is the type that truly tugs at my heart strings.  Of course, Joseph Merrick comes to mind, but the character has such an. . .how do I put it…almost unspoiled nature.  Innocent in the most pure sense of the work – like the innocence of a child (that’s getting much harder to find today).  What I truly loved, though, is that it fit with the tone of the song but wasn’t melodramatic.  Dramatic, yes, but not melodramatic.

See here for an excellent discussion of all the symbolism in it. Meanwhile, the “mutant” is played by veteran movie actor Lee Jae-yong, and fans have noticed that only three of the five members of the group actually sing, although all of them are featured in the music video:

Save me from broken time

라라라 라라라 라라라 라라라

그 어떤 누군가가 기도하라 꿈꿔라

이뤄진다 했던가 어떤 모든 것들도

다 내게 말해 넌 나를 보고 말해 이젠 제발 멈추라고

한숨은 잔혹하게 거칠게만 들리네

허나 들리지 않아 어떤 구원의 소리

난 기도하네 또 나는 소리치네 누가 나를 꺼내주길

Did someone say your dreams would be achieved if you prayed?

Tell me everything

Now you look at me and tell me to stop

A sigh sounds so cold-hearted and coarse

But I can’t hear the sound of a rescue

I pray, I scream out, I hope someone will help me break out

The chorus is next:

Stand by me and necessary

점점 깊어만가 너를 앓을수록

라라라 라라라 라라라 라라라

Cry for me and I’m sorry

점점 패여만가 너를 잃을수록

제발 다시 안아달라고

멈춰 있던 나를 깨워줘 멈춰 있던 시간 돌려놔

어제처럼 그렇게 나에게만 웃어 보여줘

감춰 있던 슬픔 조여와 감춰 있던 아픔 올라와

헤어지잔 그 말은 아니 아니 아니 아니야

Stand by me, and necessary (pronounced “nesary”)

The more I long for you, the deeper I get

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la

Cry for me, and I’m sorry

The more I lose you the more empty I am

Please, I beg you, hold me again

Please wake me from my paralysis, please give me back my frozen time

You showed me your laugh like that yesterday

Hidden sorrow is strangling me, hidden pain is rising

“Let’s break up” – those words, no no no

그 어떤 누군가가 사는 게 다 그렇다

무뎌진다 했던가 어떤 모든 것들도

다 내게 말해 넌 나를 보고 말해 제발 정신 차려 좀 달라고

눈물은 빗물 되어 내 몸을 다 적시고

온몸이 얼어붙어 땅에 늘어뜨리고

몸서리치네 또 나는 울부짖네

따라라라 라라라라

Did someone say that life is like that, that you just get used to it?

Tell me everything

You look at me and tell me to hang in there

My tears become like rainwater, I get drenched

I lie down, my whole body frozen to the ground

Dah la la la, la la la la

The chorus is repeated, then finally:

간절히 난 기도하네 listen to the song

대답은 또 나를 울리네

날아가는 나를 잡아줘 날아가는 우릴 돌려놔

떠다니며 잡히지 않아 너를 붙잡지 못해

하루만 더 살아보려고 깨물었던 나의 입술을

사라져가 이제는 아니 아니 아니 아니야.

Save me from broken time

라라라 라라라 라라라 라라라

I sincerely pray, listen to the song

And the answer makes me cry again

Grab me from flying away, turn back our fleeting relationship

It flouts around but cannot be grasped, I cannot grasp you

Just to live one more day, I bite down on my lips

But now it’s vanishing, and it’s not not not not there

Save me from broken time

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la la

(Source)

A confession: just before I started translating the final verse, I stumbled across this translation on Youtube (embedding on blogs isn’t allowed sorry), and, finding nothing wrong with it, decided to use it for the final verse here too. Also, I have to admit that the whole translation is much more elegant than mine, so I strongly encourage readers to check it out, especially if you want to read the lyrics as you watch.

But there are some differences though, so I’d be happy to elaborate on those, and/or any other parts of the translation if Korean learners are interested. Alternatively, by all means please correct me if you think I’ve made a mistake!^^

One More Chance (나 좀 봐줘) by The Grace – Dana and Sunday (천상지희 – 다나 & 선데이): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

(Source, all screenshots)

아, 짱나! Why’d you always choose songs with such bloody strange lyrics?!!

While I’m very grateful to my long-suffering wife for her help, somebody had to redeem this song’s reputation among English speakers. For it definitely deserves praise for its empowering lyrics, especially when people may be put off from hearing the song at all through reviews like this, this, and this that don’t even consider them. Or translations like these that don’t give enough thought to resolving their ambiguity.

Yet who can blame those writers? With an official title of One More Chance (나 좀 봐줘), and lyrics that sometimes mention a guy, then it’s only natural to assume it’s basically about one more chance with that guy. In which case, SM Entertainment has done Dana & Sunday (다나 & 선데) a great disservice, for that English title doesn’t just dilute the song’s message, but positively subverts it.

If I’m going to argue that other people allowed their preconceptions to color their judgement of a song though, then first let me disclose my own, which I gained through readers’ emails like this one:

There seems to be 2 camps about the lyrics: It’s either stupid or the lyrics are quite ingenious. Is this a girl-anthem lite or is it a true empowerment song?

What I can only pick out is: “Amazon” “Adam & Eve” “Soju” “Bridget Jones” From the translations I have already read, there seems to be more metaphors than the usual k-pop songs.

And then from Jessica in the comments section to a post on underlying messages in girl-group songs:

…SM Ent just brought back one of their older K-pop groups, originally a 4 piece harmony group called The Grace as a duo.

I’m showing you this because the lyrics were written by SM Ent’s inhouse songwriter, Kenzie. Unlike her lyrics for Oh!’, though, the lyrics in this song seem pretty different and a bit strange compared to your average K-Pop single. I think they would be pretty interesting to dissect because at the moment I kind of feel like it could be a female-empowerment song, but the lyrics just don’t make any sense to me, even when translated! (Could be a bad translation? I don’t know..)

Then from Gomushin Girl’s reply:

It’s not perfect in the translation department (“give me one more chance, my strength’s coming out” is pretty loosely translated, ha!), but the lyrics are pretty explicitly meant to be empowering. They complain about the emphasis on being pretty and acting feminine. I thought the bit about how she didn’t like to drink soju because it made her face look big (for those of you not in Korea, having a “small face” is a mark of beauty) and she’d prefer the (ungentrified, rural, masculine) unfiltered rice wine – which comes in a bigger cup. The lyrics also reject certain standards of masculine beauty, saying that they’re fine with guys with big heads (in this case, it’s NOT figurative and saying he’s full of himself but literally that his head is big and therefore unattractive) – albeit partially because it makes her look smaller by comparison! So yeah, it’s pretty straight up critique of Korea’s beauty culture and cult of femininity.

That said, what’s really problematic for me is that the video images don’t do anything to reinforce the girl power message. I mean, it’s a pretty lame video – there’s absolutely nothing to it beyond having them dressed up and dancing – but it also plays right into the mainstream image of women in Kpop. You could put in totally different lyrics about how they’re waiting for their 오빠 to come and rescue them and it’d work fine.

And finally from Jessica’s response:

Indeed! It’s a shame. These are probably the only lyrics I’ve seen from a girl group outside of 2NE1 and (perhaps) 4Minute that are empowering, it’s just a shame that the music video is so conflicting. I think they should’ve atleast dressed them differently. I feel that this song would’ve been betetr suited to labelmate, f(x). I’d hardly say that the group is empowering, but you have unconventional (well, by typical Korean standards, I guess) beauties like Amber that could atleast give the lyrics *some* sort of meaning.

I’m more interested in the songwriters views over Dana and Sunday’s, though, who I’m guessing had no input with regards to the lyrics in this song. I have to wonder what Kenzie’s views really are; it seems she’s trying to raise the issues women have to deal with in Korean society, and yet she seems to have no problem writing songs such as Oh! for SNSD. If only I could have a discussion with this woman. haha

I’d still say it’s a step forward though, and it feels less like a contrived marketing ploy to me than say BoA’s ‘Girls On Top’, and I do commend Kenzie for not going down the typical lyrical route as seen in most ‘female empowerment’ pop songs and making some sort of statement, even if the words are lost on the poor video.

Only after reading those, I confess, did I really investigate who Dana and Sunday were (those three reviews above remain excellent introductions to them btw, and of course there’s also their Wikipedia page), and then get stuck into the video:

And in the interests of full disclosure, One More Chance happened to be the first song I’ve ever translated that I needed my wife’s ID to get the lyrics from Naver for, as it turned out that it had been banned for public broadcast for the heinous crime of mentioning alcohol, which you can read more about here or here (and more about increasing opposition to such inane censorship here, here, or here). Not that I seriously think that that biased me of course, although I did realize later that the song would make little sense without the alcohol in it.

But at the very least, I was clearly expecting a message of female empowerment in the lyrics, and – surprise, surprise – got one. Albeit only after giving up on it in frustration late last night, then realizing in the light of day that that narrative was the only way to resolve its many ambiguities. Was I just projecting though, reaching for a solution? Please judge for yourselves if the following explanations objectively justify that conclusion then, and why I ultimately think the song should actually be called Hear Me instead!

Update - With my eternal gratitude, reader Seamus Walsh has spent a great deal of time in the comments analyzing the lyrics himself, including noting many minor and some major mistakes with my translation. Starting here, please make sure to read those also!

아담의 갈비뼈를 뺐다고? 진짜 빼야 될 사람 난데

내 허리 통뼈 이대론 안 돼 웃지 마라 진짜 진지하다고

소주는 싫어 잔이 작아 얼굴 더 커 보이잖아

막걸리 가자 잔도 크고 양도 많아 내 스타일이야

오늘 끝까지 한번 달린다 Let’s Go

It’s said Adam’s rib was pulled out? Really, I’m the person who needs things taken out.

I can’t endure my big-boned waist as it is. Don’t laugh, I said I’m serious.

I hate soju, its little shot glass makes my face look bigger

Let’s go drink makkoli, its glass is big and holds a lot, that’s my style

Tonight, let’s run until the end, Let’s go

In line 2, “뼈” by itself means “bone”, and “통” means…well, it has 8 entries in my dictionary. But “통뼈” together is a euphemism meaning “big-boned” (e.g. “난 통뼈야!).

In line 4, I think there’s an unspoken “in order to drink”  between “makkoli” and “let’s go” (e.g. “막걸리 먹으로  가자”), but my wife says that adding saying “[a drink]” with just “가자” is also common slang for emphasizing how much you really want to have that particular drink (not that our explanations are mutually exclusive of course).

Finally, in line 5 I think “tonight” makes much more sense than “오늘/today” for most non-alcoholics.

Next, there’s the (sort-of) chorus:

아마조네스 시대엔 내가 왕인데

남자가 언제부터 우릴 먹여 살렸니?

나! 나 좀! 놔줘! 먹여 살렸니

나! 나 좀! 놔줘! 먹여 살렸니

지금이 최고로 마른 건데 살쪘대

오늘만 마셔 낼부터 다이어트 쭉쭉 간다

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 아 쭉쭉 간다

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 아 기운 없어

In the Age of the Amazons, I am the queen

From when have men supported us?

Me! Please me! Let me go! When have men supported us…

Me! Please me! Let me go! When have men supported us…

I’m the thinnest right now, but people say I’ve become fat

I’ll only drink today, from tomorrow I’ll diet properly

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! Ah…I’ll do it properly

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! Ah…I have no energy

The first two lines are simple enough here, but the third and fourth are very vague and frustrating. Partially, that’s because I didn’t know “놓다” could mean “release” (I usually use it as “put”), but after that who or what are the “먹여 사렸니” referring to exactly? Other translators think the whole line means “Let me go, I can feed myself”, which is certainly logical, but then there’s not only no indication of the object and subject like I said, but the verb is in the past tense too. So, my wife thinks they’re actually just repeating line 2 really, but which is too long itself to repeat all of it.

In line 6, “쭉” will always be difficult to forget for me personally because the term “쭉쭉빵빵” was the precursor to “S-line”, although here it means  “utterly/completely/entirely” rather than “a straight line [tall]”. Meanwhile, the “간다” means it’s something that’s going to happen in the future, as explained in depth in my discussion of T-Ara’s Like the First Time.

Finally, in lines 7 and 8, again other translators give – all together – “나 좀 봐줘” as “give me one more chance”, and sure enough, that’s the English name of the song too (although I don’t know who came up with that). But I’m going to have to dissent, as not only is “chance” not mentioned whatsoever (although I acknowledge there’s a [slim] possibility that it’s unspoken) but a verb plus ‘줘” means “please [do the verb] for me”, and so in this case “봐줘”  would be “please look at me”, or indeed “please pay attention to me”. And this is corroborated by in the video when Dana says it again at 2:10 (see below), as she both looks at the viewer the entire time and is stared at intensely by Sunday, albeit only partially because Sunday does exactly the same when she says “Let me go” too, as in the fourth picture up.

However, if there was a (conjugated) verb before the “봐줘”, like, say, “해봐줘”, then that would be quite different, as the “봐” stops being “see” but becomes part of the  form “[verb] + [try to do the verb]” (e.g. “해봐” means “try to do it”). But as you can see, there’s nothing.

Whether it’s “give me one more chance” or “pay attention to me” though, saying “Ah [as in “sigh”]…I have no strength” straight afterwards is still a bit of a contradiction.

(Author’s screencapture)

브리짓존스는 짝을 만났지

내가 걔보다 뭐가 못해?

선배들 얘기, 솔직히 반대

‘눈을 낮춰야 남자가 보여?’ 흥!

좋은 녀석이 있어 머리가 좀 사실 많이 크지

그 옆에 서면 내 얼굴 진짜 작아 보이더라구

그것 땜에 만난다는 건 아냐, 진짜

아담이 이브, 만난 정돈 아니고

죽도록 걔한테 목매는 나도 아닌데

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 자꾸 생각나

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 자꾸 생각나

Bridget Jones met her other half, right?

What can’t I do compared to her?

My seniors’ stories, honestly I disagree

Do I have to lower my standards to meet men? Hmmpth!

I have a boyfriend, actually his head is quite big

People say that next to him my face looks small

That’s not the real reason I met him

We not close like Adam and Eve were

I’m never going to be so in love with a guy

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! This consumes me

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! This consumes me

Easy enough to translate, but frustratingly vague towards the end. First, the “걔” in line 2 means “그” or “that”, in this case Bridget Jones, mentioned in line 1. Then in line 6, “더라구” is slang for “더라도”, which I scanned an explanation of (from p. 150 of 100 Korean Grammar Patterns/한국어 문형 표현 100) for you below (basically, it’s used for emphasis when you’ve telling someone about something you’ve directly experienced, but the listener hasn’t).

In lines 10 and 11 though, we’ve already established that the first part means “pay attention to me”, but the while the “자꾸 생각나” easily translates to (literally) “frequently think” or “unceasingly think”, what is the singer thinking about exactly? Late last night, my wife and I thought it was about the guy mentioned earlier, but (again) that’s a contradiction. If the next verse was about a guy though, as it certainly appears at first glance, then it could retroactively be about him though, but…well, we’ll get to that.

For now then, if we just take for the sake of argument that it isn’t about a guy, then it must be about the issue of people saying she just chose to date him because he made her face look smaller, or the wider issue of paying attention to her, letting her do her own thing. In which case, as that is the main theme of the song, then I think my own rendition of it as “this consumes me” is quite eloquent(!), even if I do only say so myself.

Of course, the lyricist may be just have been having an off-day too…

Show me! Show me! 어쩜 좋니

토크는 안 끝나고 우린 더욱 아쉽고

이 밤을 불태워버릴 우리만의 100분 토론

나! 나 좀! 놔줘! Yo! 100분 토론

나! 나 좀! 놔줘! 100분 토론

난 먹고 자고 울고 웃고 사랑하고

다 저울질하고 때로는 미워하고

오 매일 매일 난 큰 꿈을 꾸고 있는데

이 놈의 통 큰 갈비뼈를 빼서라도 날아갈 거라고!

Show me, show me, how

We got more to say, it’s sad that we have to stop

Our 100 minutes of talking will burn this night

Me! Please me! Let me go! Yo! 100 minutes of talking

Me! Please me! Let me go! 100 minutes of talking

I want to eat, sleep, cry, laugh, and love

I hate having to weigh everything up

Oh! Every day I dream a big dream

Even if I have to take out this big rib of mine, I will fly!

Ironically for all the time spent on the translations of previous verses, I didn’t really see have any problems of note in translating that. And by coincidence, it’s here that the fundamental message of the song becomes clear too.

Just a few lines ago, the singer was talking about her (literally) big-headed boyfriend, so it’s only natural to assume that she is still talking about him in this verse. But just think back to the situation: she opened the song talking to her (probably female) friend, she suggested that they go get a drink together…and until there’s anything to suggest otherwise, then she’s still talking to that friend here. So no, she isn’t sad about having limited time to talk to her boyfriend, and she certainly doesn’t want “one more chance” to be with him.

Indeed, only when you remove that assumed longing for a guy from the song, does it finally begin to make some sort of sense.

Unfortunately, the last verse below has (to my mind) a throwaway line about love which potentially confuses it, but again only if you have the preconceived notion that the song is about love between a man and a woman. Love her friend listening to her though, platonically or otherwise, and there’s nothing to be confused about.

아마조네스 시대엔 내가 왕인데

남자가 언제부터 우릴 먹여 살렸니?

나! 나 좀! 놔줘! 먹여 살렸니

나! 나 좀! 놔줘! 먹여 살렸니

아담이 이브, 만난 정돈 아니고

죽도록 걔한테 목매는 나도 아닌데

왜 자꾸 자꾸 네가 생각나니 이상해

들어봐 온 가슴이 그렇게 말해 이게 사랑이래 I got you baby

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 자, 기운 내서

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 가는 거야

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 자, 기운 내서

나! 나 좀! 봐줘! 자, 가는 거야

In the Age of the Amazons, I am the queen

From when have men supported us?

Me! Please me! Let me go! When have men supported us…

Me! Please me! Let me go! When have men supported us…

We’re not close like Adam and Eve were

I’m never going to be so in love with a guy

Why am I so consumed like this? It’s strange

Try listening to me, my whole heart is saying this is love, I got you baby

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! Cheer up!

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! I’m going to go

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! Cheer up!

Me! Please me! Pay attention to me! I’m going to go

And on that note, “Pay attention to me!” doesn’t roll of the tongue very easily, so I hereby retroactively change all instances of that to “Hear me!” instead, and submit that as a new song title!

What do you think? Am I simply projecting my own narrative onto the song, or am I onto something? As always, I defer to readers’ greater knowledge of the group and/or Korean abilities. Perhaps especially the latter in this case, as my epiphany about how much the song has been misinterpreted is so dependent on my alternate translation of just a few lines. On the other hand, from what I’ve read they’ve been known for grrrl-power from the outset, so surely the burden of proof is more on those who claim that this is such an uncharacteristic romantic love-song?

Update – Again, and especially if you’ve read this far, please make sure to read Seamus’s comments also!

(For more Korean song translations, please see here)

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Syndrome (신드롬) by ChoColat (쇼콜라): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation / Reading The Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 4

(Source)

Way back when the internet was just for emails, getting on a plane was pretty much the only way to immerse yourself in another country’s pop-culture. But there were instant insights to be gained if you did.

Take the first Korean music videos I saw. Certainly, they were confusing at first: the hairstyles and clothing were downright bizarre, and I couldn’t understand a word of the language. But seeing the same dance moves, facial expressions, and hand gestures on Korean singers as those back home? I suddenly gained a profound sense of how manufactured pop music was in both countries, which I’d never been able to get from my hapless media studies lecturer.

And that was in May 2000. Fast forward to 2011, and it’s great having 24/7 access to K-pop, wherever you are in the world. But what would it be like encountering the K-pop assembly-line for the first time today?

(Source, all Syndrome screenshots)

Enter Chocolat’s (쇼콜라) music video for Syndrome (신드롬), offering similar quick insights into Korean girl-groups specifically, in this case through seeing girls doing things you normally only see women do. In particular, cutesy aegyo is bad enough coming from a 21 year-old singer, but simply surreal when you see it done by a 14 year-old.

Yes, surreal, not merely awkward and inexperienced: essentially, you’re watching a child pretending to be an adult pretending to be a child.

Likewise, de rigueur sexy wistful stares at the viewer, hinting at hidden pain and heartbreak, while walking aimlessly in moodily-lit rooms? Receiving one from someone not yet old enough to date, only seems to highlight the pretentiousness of the device all the more. So much so, that I’m not sure I won’t be able to simply laugh at the next one I see now, unless it’s coming from a genuinely worldly-wise diva like, say, Uhm Jung-hwa (엄정화).

Oops: Juliane (줄리앤) above, is actually 18, albeit – if you’ll indulge someone twice her age – still far too young to pull the look off. But that’s not her fault, and I’m sure her and other members will improve with experience. Call it an occupational hazard of teenage groups: No More Perfume on You (향수뿌리지마) by Teen Top (틴탑), for instance, relies on a similar suspension of disbelief, as we’re supposed to pretend that all the boys are playas in a nightclub, despite none being old enough to even get in one:

Rather than dwelling on how teenage girls dancing in tight clothes made me think of teenage boys though, let’s wisely turn to the issue of Chocolat’s marketing instead. First, some quick context.

These days, with notorious levels of illegal downloading ensuring that girl-groups’ (and boy-bands’) management agencies overwhelmingly rely on endorsement deals rather than music sales for profit, then the most important thing is to get noticed. However, this is increasingly difficult, as 27 girl-groups have already debuted just this year.

One inevitable development then, is the increasing sexualization of K-pop, as I discuss in the Korea Herald here. Another, much more recent one, is explicitly using what’s known in advertising as a “unique selling point” (USP), such as the Swing Girls (스윙걸즈) highlighting the fact that all members have D-cup breasts, or the Piggy Dolls (피기돌스) that they are (or rather were) much heavier than most other female stars.

(Update – Megan at Seoulbeats explores this more in her post about the very similar – and increasingly tiresome – use of “concepts”)

As for Chocolat, their own USP is that 3 members are biracial, with Korean mothers and US Caucasian fathers. Not the first Korean group with biracial or foreign members by any means, but certainly the first to emphasize it so (although as an aside, it would be interesting to see how SM Entertainment handled the issue of Kim Isak’s {김이삭} mixed race back in 2002).

(Source)

Will this succeed? Angry K-pop Fan, ellieAisa (in the video below), Gord Sellar, and Ashley of Seoulbeats are pessimistic. In particular, let me quote Gord at some length:

Whereas the media hypersexualization of children is pretty much accepted — if not admitted — in Korean society, and the media hypersexualization of white women is all but de rigeur now, I think the idea that the media sexualization of biracially white/Korean children might not turn out to be as profitable an enterprise in Korea.

The band seems to be getting a pretty negative reception online, and it’s not hard to see why: the particular anxieties regarding race in Korea that the group’s promoters are trying to exploit — ambiguities of race, and the permissible exoticism of the non-Korean female — take on a life of their own when there is not a Korean male in the picture to “own” her (and, likewise, to “pwn” her).

Put that mixed race woman in a group of Korean women, without a man in the mix, and I think you might find what I’ve seen in reality: she gets ostracized, because she is the one who’s enviably different. And then, if you take a few of them and put them together, make them dominate a group, and let media out where they could remotely be understood (or misunderstood, or willfully misunderstood even) as looking down on Korean girls, and…

Well, I don’t know what will happen. But I expect a lot of negative press, a lot of anti-fans. Korean girls are not going to like this very much. What remains to be seen is whether the appeal to middle-aged men is going to be enough to outweigh that narrowing of audience.

(Update – Related, also see Hello Korea!’s discussion of SuperStarK’s judges recently hesitating to approve a Caucasian entrant, as they anticipated “that the Korean people would be reluctant to let him win over a Korean”)

With the benefit of an extra month’s hindsight though, I’m going to wager that they will actually become popular, for several reasons.

First, because they have not just one USP but two: their race and their youth. Two of the three biracial members, Tia (티아) and Melanie (멜라니), are only 14 (the other biracial member is 18 year-old Juliane, mentioned earlier). From the perspective of management agency Paramount Music, this makes great sense both in the long-term and the short term.

In the long-term, because the younger a girl-group member becomes popular, the greater the range of consumers she can appeal to: ergo, both teens and young children and the uncle/ajoshhi fans. And she will have a much longer shelf-life so to speak.

This is the heart of “The Lolita Effect”, and why performers – especially female performers – are becoming younger worldwide, not just in Korea.

In the short term, while Girl Story (걸스토리) and GP Basic (지피 베이직) have even younger members, both groups seem to have quickly dropped off the radar, leaving – correct me if I’m wrong – Chocolat with the youngest girls currently active in K-pop. This presents a great opportunity for Paramount Music to gain notoriety for them by pushing the Korean public’s toleration of the hypersexualization of Tia and Melanie to the limit.

(Source)

Call me projecting my own narratives onto K-pop, but, sure enough, Tia at least has already been in a romantic couple photoshoot with 27 year-old actor Ji Hyun-woo (지현우), even before Chocolat officially debuted. You could argue that that was simply one small part of their overall marketing strategy rather than presaging a focus on sexualization per se, but my money’s still on them following the footsteps of So-hee (안소희) of the Wondergirls (원더걸스); Sulli (최설리) of f(x) (에프엑스; see here also); HyunA (김현아) of 4Minute (포미닛); arguably Suzy (배수지) of Miss A (미쓰에이); just about all of Girls’ Generation; and so on. As like Gord Sellar has said elsewhere, it’s not sex itself that sells, but more sexuality and sexual relationships only just on the fringe of public acceptance:

…we westerners also have a lot of weirdness in our entertainment media floating around that grey area of the age of consent. We’re profoundly uncomfortable with — and at the same time fascinated by — the period where sexuality begins to form in the mind of people, and the moment at which that sexuality becomes permissible. Straight-laced objectionability is, in fact, the greatest determinant in whether you’ll see a sex scene between two characters in a film. This is why we so rarely see plain, slightly overweight forty-year-olds having marital sex in a film. Doubtless, there must be some plain-looking middle-aged married couples out there who have passionate, enviable sex lives, but you’ll never see that in more than a few films, because it’s the most permissible sex on the planet. It’s when sex becomes imaginably objectionable — transgressive — that it becomes worthy of depiction…

Second, USPs aside, another thing in Chocolat’s favor is how they’re already behaving like better established girl-groups, already dieting and claiming that they haven’t had any cosmetic surgery(!). But more seriously, it also didn’t take long for Tia at least to secure a cosmetics endorsement deal, according to Paramount Music precisely because of her exoticism (albeit hardly an objective source).

Next, you might reasonably expect me to also present the photoshoot with Ji Hyun-woo as an example of a Korean male “owning her”, but honestly I’m not sure what Gord is driving at there, and invite him to elaborate either in the comments or on his own blog. I will grant though, that while it’s difficult to generalize, I do get the impression that the more Caucasian women you see in Korean-produced ads, the more they’re depicted with a Korean romantic male interest, as is also the case for music videos (see two examples below). Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course (although it would be nice if the opposite were also true), and I’d be grateful if any readers could fill me in on how they fare in dramas and movies.

Also, it’s certainly true that, sometimes, Korean girl-groups’ music videos have a completely unnecessary, often distracting and confusing male presence. To my mind, the most notorious example would be Because of You (너 때문에) by After School (애프터스쿨; discussed here), which inexplicably features a male in it despite clearly being about a lesbian relationship between two of the members (although technically the lyrics leave the gender{s} open):

Finally, it’s only indirectly related, but it’s one of the first things I thought of when I read Gord’s take on Chocolat (so what the hell): while the “policing” of women in K-pop is constantly in flux, with many backward steps, generally I’d say its slowly but surely liberalizing over time. In particular, whereas S.E.S (에스이에스) was forced to make Caucasian rather than Korean men the target of their wrath for their music video for U back in 2002, lest Korean men be offended (see here and here), now Korean men are fair game, with Miss A’s music videos in particular coming to mind.

Moreover, the debut of a girl group focused on its biracial members provides a great opportunity to do away with convention.

It’s such a pity then, that the music video for Syndrome has such a cookie-cutter feel about it instead, although that is of course what you’d expect from something so representative of the genre. For an analysis, see Quynh’s breakdown of it at Seoulbeats, while I’ll finally – belatedly – provide a translation of the lyrics for the remainder of this post:

Oh yeah~

그 얼굴 닳아질라 널 자꾸 보게 돼 baby baby

너 귀가 따가울라 여기저기서 니 얘기뿐야

Woo~그 hair, fashion 모든 게 it style 닮고 싶은 hot style

Boo 떠오른 new icon uh huh

Oh yeah~

Your face is fading, but I want to see it often

Your ears are burning, everyone is talking about only you

Woo~ that hair, fashion everything it style, a hot style I want to resemble

Boo a rising icon uh huh

Mercifully after a such a long discussion, Syndrome is probably the shortest, most repetitive song I’ve ever translated. Unfortunately though, just like the music video lacks any story, so too do the lyrics too seem disjointed and thrown together, chosen more for their sound than their meaning. Add an excessive amount of English nonsense, even by K-pop standards, then I’m going to forgo discussing my translation on this occasion, although I’d be quite happy to in the comments if people have alternative translations and/or think I’ve made a mistake.

Next, there’s the chorus:

빠 빠 빠 빠 빠져 버린 걸 헤 헤 헤 헤 헤어날 수 없게

너땜에 앓고 있잖아 모두 다 la la la la like me

폐 폐 폐 폐 폐인이 된걸 너 너 너 너에게 중독돼

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

I’ve so fa- fa- fa- fa- fallen for you, I can’t escape

I’m suffering because of you, everything la la la la like me

You’ve cr- cr- cr- cr- crippled me, I’m addicted to you you you

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

널 새겨 놓은 my eye eye eye eye 멋진 그 목소리 in my headset

어떡해 미쳤나봐 낮이나 밤이나 니 생각뿐야

Woo 그 ment, motion 모든 게 issue 폭풍눈물 tissue

Boo 빛나는 new idol uh huh

You’re engraved into my eye eye eye eye, your cool voice in my headset

What am I supposed to do, I only think about you every day and night

Woo, that ment, motion everything issue, storm tears tissue

Boo, shiny new idol, uh huh

빠빠빠빠빠져버린걸헤헤헤헤헤어날수없게

너땜에앓고있잖아모두다 la la la la like me

폐폐폐폐폐인이된걸너너너너에게중독돼

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

I’ve so fa- fa- fa- fa- fallen for you, I can’t escape

I’m suffering because of you, everything la la la la like me

You’ve cr- cr- cr- cr- crippled me, I’m addicted to you you you

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

내가 어쩌다 이렇게 됐나 몰라 몰라 몰라 몰라

내겐너무먼별같은걸

내맘을알아줘 baby 맘을알아줘 baby You never break break my heart

날잊지말아줘 baby 잊지말아줘 baby la la la la like me

내맘을알아줘 baby 맘을알아줘 baby You never break break my heart

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

How did I become like this, I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know

To me, you’re like an unreachable star

Please know my heart baby, please know my heart baby, you never break break my heart

Please don’t forget me baby, please don’t forget me baby, la la la la like me

Please know my heart baby, please know my heart baby, you never break break my heart

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

빠 빠 빠 빠 빠져 버린 걸 헤 헤 헤 헤 헤어날 수 없게

너땜에 앓고 있잖아 모두 다 la la la la like me

폐 폐 폐 폐 폐인이 된걸 너 너 너 너에게 중독돼

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

Never break break my hearta

I’ve so fa- fa- fa- fa- fallen for you, I can’t escape

I’m suffering because of you, everything la la la la like me

You’ve cr- cr- cr- cr- crippled me, I’m addicted to you you you

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

Never break break my hearta

Make sure you see ellieAsia‘s short video (“Chocolat Scares Me”) for her rendition of the way Tia says that last line – it’s hilarious.

And on that note, apologies for the long delay with this post: blame an editing job at work that took much longer than expected, and then a cold from the lack of sleep. Also, no vote for next week’s song this time sorry, as One More Chance (나 좀 봐줘) by Dana & Sunday (다나&선데이), sub-unit of  The Grace (천상지희 더 그레이스), came a very very close second to Syndrome when votes closed on Friday at 5pm (or were supposed to close sorry – PollDaddy doesn’t seem to be working very well):

The “Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea” series:

Golden Lady (골든레이디) by Lim Jeong-hee (임정희): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

Unlike From Noona With Love, the more K-pop idols I listen to, the more I find that can’t actually sing(!). But still, we can definitely agree on the abilities of Lim Jeong-hee (임정희), and I’m really glad I found out about her via Noona’s post.

As the lyrics reveal, I’m a Golden Lady is a short but sweet grrrl power piece, about a woman splitting up with her boyfriend and kicking him out of  her apartment. Yet while the music video does follow this narrative at first, then I think undermines it by singer G.NA (지나) all too readily accepting comedian Park Hwi-soon (박휘순) back whenever he brings her gifts later, even if she does literally beat him up immediately afterwards for trying to kiss her, hug her, or stroke her hair. Indeed, as that affection would surely be natural for a reconciled couple that used to share a bed, then, however comic, G.NA appears not so much empowered as a bit of a user.

But with such a beautiful voice, especially those nasal twangs in the chorus (see about 1:14 for instance), then I’ll more than forgive Jeong-hee for the MV. Liking her voice so much though, then you’d think I would have realized sooner that it’s not actually her that does the rap section from 2:29 to 2:49, but rather another (much more famous) Korean singer. See if you guess who, before all is revealed down the page…

Update - Also check out this version with an orchestra, to hear Jeong-hee’s voice away from the recording studio:

너 없이 어떻게 살아가냐고 바보 같은 질문 말아

나는 알아 너 같은 남자는 널려 있단걸

너 같은 남자가 아니더라도 전화 한 통에 달려올

그런 남자 나만 기다리는 남자는 많아

벌써 그 사람의 자동차 소리가 들려

이젠 내 집에서 좀 나가주겠니

아예 없던것처럼

Stop asking stupid questions, like how can I live without you

I know so many men like you

No matter how much they’d be like you, with just one phone call I’d have so many men chasing after me, only waiting for me

I can already hear the sound of his [their?] car

Now, why don’t you leave my home?

Take everything, as if you were never here

(Sources, all remaining screenshots: 1, 2)

Just focusing on those few things which I personally had difficulty with, although I’d be quite happy to explain anything more if anyone requests (and grateful to readers for pointing out any mistakes), the first is the “~날려 있다” in line 2.  With no relationship with the numerous meanings of the verb “날리다”, and not being in any grammar books of mine, I would never have guessed that it meant “lots of [something]” without the help of my wife.

Other than that, the only other thing I briefly struggled with was the verb ending “~겠니” in line 6, which means “aren’t you going to [verb] for me?”. I’d forgotten that – ahem – I’d already covered that in my translation of After School’s Ah! last June.

Next, it’s the chorus:

Hey I’m a golden lady 구차하게 왜 이래

내 내 내 내가 말로 해야만 알겠니

Hey I’m a golden lady 불쌍한 My baby

빼 빼 빼 이젠 발을 빼줘야 할 때야

야~ 이 집도 내가 산 거야 이 차도 내가 산거야

난 이런 여자 야~ 날 위해 살아온거야 그래서 소중한거야

Hey I’m a golden lady, why are you begging like this?

I, I, I…can you only understand if I have to say it?

Hey, I’m a golden lady, my poor, pitiful baby

Go, go, go…Hey, it’s time for you to step out for me

I bought this house too, and this car

Hey, I’m that kind of woman, I have been living for myself, so they’re valuable to me

In lines 1 and 3, both “구차하다” and “불쌍하다” translate as “poor, pitiful, wretched, humiliating” (and so on) according to my dictionary, but my wife says that it’s only the former that more means humiliating and pathetic, and the latter used for someone or thing you should feel sorry for.

열쇠는 놓고가 항상 놔두던 현관 입구 바구니에

안보이게 괜히 숨겨 갈 생각 하지 말고

니 옷은 챙겨줘 남기지 말고 내가 선물한 옷들도

그냥 줄게 남김 없이 싹 다 가지고 가줘

걸리적 거리니까 옆으로 비켜주겠니

이젠 현관에서 퇴장해 주겠니

아예 없던것처럼

Put your keys in the basket in the porch that you always put keys in

Don’t even think about hiding them

Take your clothes, even the ones I bought for you

I don’t want anything to remain, just take everything

You’re in the way, move!

Now, leave from the porch

As if you were never here

In line 5, “걸리적 거리다” is sort of slang for “you’re in way”, again courtesy of my wife.

Next, there’s a short version of the chorus, then the rap section. If you’re reading as you listen, scroll down very slowly if you want to guess who’s singing it before reaching the end:

Hey I’m a golden lady 구차하게 왜 이래

내 내 내 내가 말로 해야만 알겠니

Hey I’m a golden lady 불쌍한 My baby

빼 빼 빼 이젠 발을 빼줘야 할 때야

Hey I’m a golden lady, why are you begging like this?

I, I, I…can you only understand if I have to say it?

Hey, I’m a golden lady, my poor, pitiful baby

Go, go, go…Hey, it’s time for you to step out for me

불쌍한척 애교 좀 떨지마

지루한 너의 유먼 이젠 내겐 철 지난

옷과 같애 몇번을 또 말해야만

알아 듣고 내 앞에서 꺼지겠어? 이젠 안돼

나지막히 얘기할 때 나를 떠나줘

마지막이 아름답게 말을 말아 더

지긋지긋한 너의 어리광

차비라도 달라고 나 참 어이가 없어 Good bye

Don’t do that pretending-to-be-poor aegyo

Your tedious humor is now like last season’s clothes

Do I have to tell you time and time again?

Figure it out…will you get the hell away from in front of me? No more!

Now I’m telling you in a serious voice to leave me

To not ruin this end, say no more

I’m tired of your childishness

You’re even asking for a bus fare? I’ve had it with you! Goodbye!

(Source)

With apologies to Korean learners, I didn’t have any troubles at all with that section, although I’m sure I’ll come to rue those words as soon as better speakers than I get their teeth stuck into it!

As for the source of the rap, if you’d guessed HyunA (현아) of 4Minute (포미닛) then I’m impressed, as I had no idea until halfway through writing this post, when I stumbled across it by accident on some Kpop site…then belatedly noticed it mentioned in the title of the YouTube video I was originally using.

After that, it’s the full version of the chorus again, and already that’s the entire song. Like I said, short and sweet:

Hey I’m a golden lady 구차하게 왜 이래

내 내 내 내가 말로 해야만 알겠니

Hey I’m a golden lady 불쌍한 My baby

빼 빼 빼 이젠 발을 빼줘야 할 때야

야~ 이 집도 내가 산 거야 이 차도 내가 산거야

난 이런 여자 야~ 날 위해 살아온거야 그래서 소중한거야

Hey I’m a golden lady, why are you begging like this?

I, I, I…can you only understand if I have to say it?

Hey, I’m a golden lady, my poor, pitiful baby

Go, go, go…Hey, it’s time for you to step out for me

I bought this house too, and this car

Hey, I’m that kind of woman, I have been living for myself, so they’re valuable to me

Originally, I aimed to do much more background research on Jeong-hee before posting here (one of many resolutions made over my short blogging break), in her case checking out her other music videos to see if any more of her music features similar grrrl power themes. But as just this one example illustrates, music videos can often give a very misleading impression of a song’s lyrics, so unfortunately that project is going to require many more time-consuming translations,  rather than a lazy afternoon spent in front of Youtube. Until those are completed then, I’ll happily defer to readers’ greater knowledge of her (and/or recommendations on which of her other songs to start with), and will begin posting readers’ requests for other songs that I’ve been working on. Rather than putting some readers off in advance by choosing next week’s one myself though, please let me know which of those you’d like instead!^^

Update, 5pm Friday – Unfortunately, PollDaddy doesn’t give you a 5-day option for closing your poll (the closest is a week), but now is when I really need to start working on your selection for it to be ready for Monday. Thanks for you votes then, and Syndrome by Chocolat it is!

(For more Korean song translations, please see here)

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I am the Best (내가 제일 잘 나가) by 2NE1 (투애니원): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

(Source)

It’s a strange feeling, being disappointed by the release of a 2NE1 music video.

Perhaps the closest analogy would be a few weeks after you first leave home, when the excitement of non-stop partying wears off. Suddenly, you realize that it’s up to you to do the housework, take care of yourself, and somehow pay the bills. Maybe even—heaven forbid—go to bed at 10 like your parents did.

Likewise, Areia’s trance remixes of Follow Me (날 따라 해봐요) and especially Can’t Nobody are how I personally came to love 2NE1, and they’re such epics that I couldn’t help but be taken along for the ride. But, once the magic had worn off a little, I had to admit that their music videos made little sense really, placing the onus on YG Entertainment to produce something more original and coherent this time.

And in the same style as the above image, the teasers did make me hopeful, especially given the constant delays to its release. Like Ashley at Seoulbeats said:

Is it too much to hope for an entirely animated MV with with the girls clearing out a warehouse, Tomb Raider style? They’ve got guns!

But instead we got a veritable smorgasbord of images and props again:

About which Noelle of the (awesome) Always Rational K-Pop Podcast said:

Let’s see… CL the boxer (or wrestler, take your pick) and the mental patient in a straightjacket and later on with a kitten that looks suspiciously like one of my kittens; Bom in skintight leather and studs rocking the dominatrix look with a poodle; Dara in a sports car and later with a hat with two ice creams in metal; Minzi in armor (which reminds me of Joan of Arc) who shows off her nifty dance moves…and all the girls with guns shooting glass. Nice!

What can I say? Well, nothing much but yeah, the world is theirs to conquer.

To which I’d add the—yet again—outrageous expense of their outfits, which surely undermines their maverick and/or bad-girl image?

Much as I’d like to deconstruct Bom’s BDSM side then, or ponder the symbolism of CL stroking her pussy, the incoherence of the video defies such efforts, so I’ll wisely just concentrate on the lyrics here. But don’t get me wrong: disappointment at missed opportunities aside, the video is still very addictive(!), and I love the song itself so much that it’s no less than my second ever MP3 purchase! (600won/US$0.55 from Naver, if you’re curious)

UpdateMy First Love Story puts my love-hate relationship with the video very well:

“I Am The Best” is the title of the new 2NE1 single. Fitting, as 2NE1 may in fact be the best girl group in the world at this very moment. And this is taking into account that the above video is rather typical 2NE1. It’s flashy, sleek, and professional, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this type of look-book video from them time and again. Thankfully, a typical 2NE1 video is still worlds better than an amazing video by approximately 99% of other girl groups in the game right now.

Update 2 – And Subi at Seoulbeats discusses the question of if this music video means that 2NE1 is really as original and unique as they seem.

(Source, all screenshots)

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

누가 봐도 내가 좀 죽여주잖아

둘째가라면 이 몸이 서럽잖아

넌 뒤를 따라오지만 난 앞만 보고 질주해

네가 앉은 테이블 위를 뛰어다녀 I don’t care

건드리면 감당 못해 I’m hot hot hot hot fire

뒤집어지기 전에 제발 누가 날 좀 말려

I am the best (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

Whoever sees me thinks I’m a little killing hot

To be second to someone would be such a pity

You follow behind me, but I look ahead and race forward

I jump around on the table you sit at, I don’t care

If you touch me you won’t be able to bear it

Someone stop me before I go crazy

I’m surprised to learn that this is actually only the second 2NE1 song I’ve translated on the blog, and so will try to speed up the other 2 or 3 almost-completed ones I have floating around on my hard drive somewhere. Until then, please take my word for it that the brevity of their lyrics tends to belie their vagueness and contradictions, and in particular that subjects and objects are so often omitted in this song that—lest they make the translation unreadable—I decided to forgo all the extra square brackets to indicate my guesses (but I think I’ve got most of them right!).

That caveat aside, in line 4 “killing hot” is my wife’s literal translation, but which I’m sure you can make more natural-sounding in English (“looks to die for”? “looks that kill”?). Likewise, I thought the “a little” (좀) detracted from, maybe even flatly contradicted the point that she was very attractive, but as it’s in the original Korean then there you have it.

Fortunately the rest is just a matter of getting the dictionary out, as is the next verse, so I’ll pass it on without comment. But as always, please feel free to ask any questions about anything I don’t cover (and I’ll add my explanations in the corresponding sections of the post).

옷장을 열어 가장 상큼한 옷을 걸치고

거울에 비친 내 얼굴을 꼼꼼히 살피고

지금은 여덟 시 약속시간은 여덟 시 반

도도한 걸음으로 나선 이 밤

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

I open my wardrobe and throw on my sweetest clothes, then

meticulously inspect my face shining in the mirror

Now it’s 8, my appointment is at half past

I leave this night with a proud, arrogant step

I am the best (x4)

내가 봐도 내가 좀 끝내주잖아

네가 나라도 이 몸이 부럽잖아

남자들은 날 돌아보고 여자들은 따라해

내가 앉은 이 자리를 매일 넘봐 피곤해

선수인척 폼만 잡는 어리버리한 Playa

넌 바람 빠진 타이어처럼 보기 좋게 차여

어떤 비교도 난 거부해 이건 겸손한 얘기

가치를 논하자면 나는 Billion dollar baby

뭘 쫌 아는 사람들은 다 알아서 알아봐

아무나 잡고 물어봐 누가 제일 잘 나가?

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

Whoever sees me thinks my look is the end

Even if you were me, you would be envious of my body

Men turn their heads and look at me, women follow me

I am tired of people trying to take my place [as number one] everyday

A stupid, naive playa who only poses like one

Like a tire that’s had it’s air let out, you look well rejected

I don’t accept some comparison, this is my modest story

If you planned to guess my worth, then I’m a billion dollar baby

People who know about stuff, recognize all this by themselves

Grab anyone and ask: who is the best?

Lulled into a false sense of security by the previous verses, this one frankly had me wanting to rip my hair out. Fortunately, I don’t actually have any, but you get the idea!

  • In line 1, as you can probably guess “my look is the end” is a literal translation, but note that it means exactly the same thing as “I’m a little killing hot” in the corresponding line in Verse 1.
  • If you’re confused by line 2, because you think that if you were one of the 2NE1 members then surely you wouldn’t be jealous of their body because it was now yours, then you’re not alone. So please don’t shoot the messenger!
  • In line 3, don’t misread the “돌아보다” like I originally did: it’s not “돌보다”, which means “to look after”.
  • Line 4 is literally “athlete-pretend-form/pose[only]-grab[that]-stupid/naive-playa”…after reading which I seriously began to despair. But my wife telling me that “선수” (athlete) also means “playa” in many contexts helped, and our final “a stupid, naive playa who only poses like one” does make some sense: the guy referred to is a poser rather than a genuine playa perhaps?
  • Line 7 would be better translated to “Nobody compares to me” in English, but what’s up there is closer to the original Korean. No, I don’t think that that’s a “modest story” either.
  • Line 9 I couldn’t make any head or tail of, and so the translation is entirely my wife’s. I throw myself on the mercy of the court!

In compensation for the difficulty I had with all that though, fortunately the song is already almost over:

누가? 네가 나보다 더 잘 나가?

No no no no!

Na na na na! (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

Who? You are better than me?

No no no no!

Na na na na! (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

And on that note, apologies for the slight delay with this post. But for my severest critics demanding to get involved however, then it would have been up several hours ago: