Miss A (Still) Don’t Need a Man…And Neither Did Destiny’s Child

Fei Doesn't Need a Man(Source)

Has it been a year already?

Sorry for the slow posting everyone—I’ve had a bad cold for over two weeks. But, serendipitously, it’s a great time to be thinking about Miss A again, their second album Hush being released just a few hours ago.

Sure enough, I’ve just learned about the connections between their 2012 song I Don’t Need a Man and Independent Women by Destiny’s Child, through translating the following music column. I completely overlooked them when I compared Miss A’s song to Bloom by Ga-in, and it’s made me keen to learn more about the genealogy of the seven new songs coming up too, especially as JYP is no longer composing them.

Unfortunately though, letting us know about those connections proves to be just about the only thing of interest in the column, and in hindsight they were also pointed out by many other commentators last year, who discussed them in much greater depth. So, after I post my translation, I’ll do my best to sum-up that earlier commentary, for the sake of readers like me who are also only just now learning of the ties to Destiny’s Child.

But first, to refresh your memory (with just the Korean, Romanized, and English lyrics):

The music video itself:

Here’s Destiny’s Child Independent Women:

Here are the lyrics alone:

Technically, those last two were Part 1, and here’s Part 2 below, which is why (duh) Miss A’s mini-album was called Independent Women Part 3. But beyond this sole video, I’ve been unable to find any more information about Part 2 specifically, so would appreciate it if any readers can help out.

Finally, here’s a video of Destiny’s Child reuniting to perform the song at the last Superbowl. Also, see Sociological Images for a response to misguided complaints of Beyoncé’s (alleged) sexual objectification in her performance, which I applied to K-pop here:

Which brings us to the (curiously-titled) column:

고민없는 이야기는 고민없이 들어야 할까 / Do We Have to Listen to a Story Without Worry…Without Worry?

Ilda Women’s Journal, 6 October 2013

– 음악칼럼 ‘블럭의 한 곡 들여다보기’가 연재됩니다. 필자 ‘블럭(bluc)’님은 음악웹진 스캐터브레인의 편집자이자 흑인음악 매거진 힙합엘이의 운영진입니다. [편집자 주]

– This is the music column “Let’s Check out a Song with Bluc.” Bluc is a writer for webzine Scatterbrain and the manager of black music magazine Hiphop LE.

데스티니스 차일드의 오마주 / A Homage to Destiny’s Child

“남자 없이 잘 살아”는 2012년 10월에 미스에이(Miss A)가 EP(Extended Play, 미니앨범) [Independent Women Part III]를 발표하면서, 첫 싱글로 선택하여 활동했던 곡이다. 곡은 나쁘지 않은 흥행 성적을 거두었고, 생각보다 크지는 않았지만 가사 내용으로도 나름의 주목을 받았다.

In October last year, “I Don’t Need a Man” was released as the lead track of Miss A’s extended play mini-album, “Independent Women Part III.” It was moderately popular, and the lyrics also received some attention, although not as much as I expected.

음반 보도자료에서는 이 곡을 “당당하고 독립적인 여성상을 그린 서던힙합 곡”이라고 소개했다. 근데 정말 이 곡은 홍보 내용 그대로일까?

The music media portrayed introduced the song as “Southern [US] hip-hop style with bold and independent women.” But do the contents live up to the PR hype?

Miss A I Don't Need a Man Suzy Hair Salon(Source)

우선 앨범 제목(Independent Women Part III)이 다소 뜬금없이 파트 3으로 건너뛰는 이유에 대해서 찾아보니, 이전에 미국 3인조 알앤비 걸그룹 데스티니스 차일드(Destiny’s Child)가 “Independent Women” 이라는 이름의 곡을 Part 1과 2라는 이름으로 발표한 바 있다. 말하자면 이번 앨범의 컨셉을 데스티니스 차일드의 오마주 격으로 쓴 것이다. 전후 이야기를 알고 보니 원곡들의 가사와 의도를 따라 “남자 없이 잘 살아”라는 곡을 만든 이유, 동시에 타이틀 곡으로 밀게 된 이유를 어느 정도 짐작할 수 있다.

Frist, the album title — Independent Women Part III — comes a little out of the blue. Researching the reason for it, I learned it came from the “Independent Women” Part 1 and Part 2 songs of Destiny’s Child, a former US girl’s R&B group — this album concept was written as a homage to them. From this, I was able to make a guess as to why Miss A followed the lyrics of the original Destiny’s Child song(s) and why they made “I Don’t Need a Man” the title track.

그러나 미안한 이야기지만 데스티니스 차일드의 원곡은 그렇게 감수성을 지닌 곡이 아니다. 2000년에 발표된 영화 <미녀 삼총사>의 OST인데, 영화는 세 명의 천사라고 불리는 사립탐정들이 사건을 해결해 나가는 내용이다. 극중 세 여성은 당당하고 진취적인 캐릭터이다. 그런 맥락을 따라 OST 중 하나로 “Independent Women”이라는 곡을 쓴 것이다.

However, although I hate to say this, the original Destiny’s Child song is not very inspiring or moving. It was made in 2000 for the movie Charlie’s Angels, about three private detectives who solve crimes. Their characters are all bold and take the initiative, and the song “Independent Women” followed accordingly.

Destiny's Child - Independent Women Part I(Source)

영화 자체가 할리우드 특유의 가부장적 남성성이나 여성의 시각적 상품화를 벗어난 것이 아니기 때문에, OST 수록곡 역시 영화가 지닌 감수성에서 크게 벗어나지 않는다. 그나마 강인한 캐릭터에 어느 정도 틀을 맞춰가다 보니 “남자 없이 잘 살아”와 비슷한 내용의 가사가 나오게 된 것이다.

Because the movie just has the typical Hollywood patriarchal male sexuality and visual objectification of women, likewise the songs in the soundtrack don’t stray very far from that vibe. Nevertheless the lyrics of “Independent Women” do match the actresses’ strong characters and the later lyrics of “I Don’t Need a Man” to a certain extent.

Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels(Source)

당당하고 독립적인 여성상이란 무엇일까 What is the form of a bold, independent woman?

사실 원곡의 가사와 비교해보면 “남자 없이 잘 살아”의 절반 정도는 번안에 가깝다. 원곡과 이 곡 모두 들었을 때 뚜렷한 상이 떠오르지 않는 일차적이고 추상적인 문구들로 채워져 있다. 그래서 가사는 다소 유치하게 느껴진다. 그리고 “나는 함부로 날 안 팔아”, 혹은 “잘나진 않았지만 자신감은 넘쳐”, “남자 믿고 놀다 남자 떠나면 어떡할 거야” 등 한 발짝 빼는 듯한 뉘앙스로 수세적인 표현들이 이어진다.

About half of the lyrics of “I Don’t Need a Man” closely follow those of “Independent Women.” When you listen to both songs, no clear images emerge, as they are full of vague, abstract lines. So, to a large extent the lyrics sound childish. Also, lines like “I won’t sell myself short,” “I’m not the best but I’m full of confidence,” and “If you just mindlessly attach yourself to a man, what will you do if he leaves?” and so on stand out for their defensiveness.

그 결과, 곡은 독립적인 여성을 표방하려는 시도는 좋았으나 일종의 편견을 드러내고 있다. 남녀간의 관계만이 ‘관계’인가? 하는 질문부터 해볼 수도 있겠으나 생략하고, ‘독립적인 여성상’이라고 했을 때 단순히 경제력만 이야기하고 있다는 점, 동시에 그 경제력이 남성에 비해 낮다는 전제만을 깔고 있다는 점에서 그러하다. 남자가 작사해서 그렇다고는 말하지 않겠다. 혼자 작사했는지 혹은 멤버들의 의견이 반영되었는지도 모르는 일이고, 그렇게 생각하는 것도 일종의 선입견이 될 수 있으니까.

As a result, although it’s a good attempt at propounding the notion of independent women, it shows certain biases. First, are relationships between men and women the only ones to be concerned about? I could start with that question, but will pass. Instead, also note that when the song talks about independent women, it’s simply in terms of their economic power, and moreover this economic power is always compared to that of men’s and implied to be lower. I’m not saying that this is because the lyrics were written by a man, as we don’t know if he wrote the song alone, or if he incorporated the group members’ opinions. But either way, it does show this bias.

Min Ponders her Money(Source)

아쉬운 것은, 별 고민이 느껴지지 않는 가사이다. 우리 사회 전반적인 인식의 수준에 비춰보았을 때 이 곡은 큰 문제는 없지만, 나름의 반향을 일으킬 수도 있을 것이다. 그러나 그것은 정확한 위치가 없는 반쪽짜리 반향일 뿐이다. 독립적인 여성상을 메인 테마로 세운 것은 좋았다. 흔히 가부장제 사회에서 이야기하는 ‘수동적, 피지배적, 감정적, 도구적’인 여성에서 벗어난 것도 좋다. 하지만 자신감 넘친다고 말하면서도 어딘가 부족해 보이는 자존감이 아쉬운 것이다. 어쩌면 ‘남자 없이 잘 사는 여자’ 역시 성공과 물질, 외적 조건을 중시하는 기존 사회가 요구하는 여성상의 변형 판이 아닐까.

Unfortunately, the lyrics prove to be shallow. If you consider our society’s general knowledge [of feminism, the position of women etc.], this is not a big problem, but it does mean that the song, which was intended to rock the boat, only caused a few ripples.

[Still],it is good that it ran with the theme of independent women, and challenged common images of passive, controlled, sensitive, and objectified women in our patriarchal society. Also, it puts a spin on societal norms that require women to emphasize success and consumption. However, while it is good that the lyrics were overflowing with confidence, at the same time the protagonist(s) don’t have enough self-respect.

마지막으로, 이 곡은 서던 힙합(미국 남부에서 발생하여 유행하는 곡 스타일) 곡이라고 하기에는 다소 무리가 있다. 물론 서던 힙합이라고 할 수 있는 BPM(음악속도)과 분위기를 지니고 있기는 하나, 풀어내는 방식은 팝 곡이라고 할 수 있다. 안무 속에 잠시 남부에서 유행했던 춤 스타일들을 차용하였기에 서던 힙합이라고 했을 가능성도 크다. 그러나 이 춤도 사실 2000년대 후반에 유행했던, 시기가 좀 지난 춤이다. 개인적으로는 이래 저래 아쉬움이 많은 곡이다.

Finally, it is difficult to claim that this is Southern US Hip-hop. Certainly, it has the atmosphere and BPM of the genre, but it comes across as pop — there’s a strong possibility that it’s called hip-hop only because of the style of dance (and, being popular in the late-2000s, that would make the dance style in the video quite old). [Either way], personally I have a lot of regrets about this song. (End)

Suzy tells us off(Source)

And now on to (hopefully) more incisive commentary. But first, a reminder of what made Destiny’s Child—and still makes Beyoncé—so distinctive:

This hardworking act of [Destiny’s Child] could be guaranteed a fair share of [their huge sales] because Beyoncé took a major role in songwriting and production. On The Writing’s On The Wall, for instance, she wrote and co-produced 17 tracks with beat architects Shek’spere and Timbaland, helping to create the Destiny’s Child trademark sound of bass rhythms, baroque samples, and daring vocal harmonies, a cross between TLC and Kraftwerk. By the time of 2001’s Survivor, Beyoncé had graduated to sole producer on most tracks. Despite disruptive line-up changes, the group remained consistently at the top of the charts. Much of this was due to Beyoncé’s leadership and innate sense of what was appropriate for them….

the supremes destiny's child….Within a few years Beyoncé had ‘done a Diana Ross’ and embarked upon a widely successful solo career…I wasn’t surprised—the young woman I met [in 2000] was determined and focused, her single-minded approach tempered by a Southern-style grace….

…Second singer Kelly Rowland didn’t fare too badly either…Destiny’s Child had learned from the experience of their idols The Supremes, retaining control and living out the message of independence that they preached in their songs.

(Lucy O’Brien, She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Popular Music (2012), pp. 249-250; my emphases. Source, above)

As such icons, I’d really like to like their music. Alas, I don’t, and glossed over references to them a year ago because I much preferred to read about Miss A and Ga-in instead. Also, because what girl-group with a bit of spunk isn’t glibly compared to one from the ‘girl-power era‘ these days?

Indeed, I found one—seriously—in the very next tab I opened as I typed that:

The front woman of 2NE1, the undisputed queens of the wildly popular Korean subgenre known as K-Pop, CL (aka Chaelin Lee) launched her solo career this summer with the single “The Baddest Female.” The lithe and spunky ballerina–meets–Fly Girl careers in and out of English and Korean, rapping and singing about gold chains, B-boys, and private planes. The accompanying video racked up around 1 million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours, but despite that success, CL vows not to Beyoncé her bandmates to the curb, citing personal exploration as the impetus for stepping out on her own. Where have we heard that one before?

Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, TLC(Source. In fairness, I too just compared Ailee to Beyoncé in my latest K-pop review for Busan Haps. But I can — and will — justify that in a later post!)

That aside, I’m certainly paying attention now. While I can’t pretend that the following is an exhaustive look at the debates about both songs, from what I have read I’ve found that people who compare them generally make one of two arguments.

The first, is that any sense of feminist empowerment gained from Miss A’s song is a form of false consciousness. After all, you cant help but note it was written by a man, namely JYP himself; that it seems to be about nothing but men; and, some claim, that it even seems to be directed towards men too. Whereas men are only notable for their absence in Independent Women.

In particular, one anonymous commenter lays the blame for this squarely on the male-dominated idol-system as a whole:

The main obstacle to real female empowerment messages in Kpop is that these “feminist messages” are coming from idols whose every statement, performance and lyric comes from the minds of men. All the directors of note are men, all but a slight few of the songwriters are men, the entertainment companies are all run by men. See the trend? I wonder right now, honestly, if a strong-willed Korean girl who wants to write songs and speak out on gender inequality in her country would even be heard—that is just wrong.

2NE1 is a group I respect very much because a lot of their music comes from a place of female empowerment, not specifically male bashing or placing too much emphasis on others instead of self. I like that, and think it is the right way to go — but if that message stopped selling records, would they tell YG to shove it and keep screaming female empowerment because they believe strongly in what they are doing and their message? More importantly, would they be ABLE to keep going without Teddy Park writing those messages into their songs?

October 2013 Girl-Group RankingThe start isn’t going to happen until someone starts caring more about the message than being a world famous idol. Somebody has to lay the groundwork in Kpop for real empowering feminist theory — not just sing a half-feminist message without knowing a God damn thing about the subject in order to sell records. Otherwise, all we’ll ever see from Kpop is a girl group come out with a song like this one every now and again…

And, expanding on that last in a later comment: (source, right)

Less hollow girl power anthems targeted at consumers, and more sincere female empowerment statements are needed for Korea. Especially if an artist is going to scream female empowerment on one single, and then go right back to dropping a feminist message to go to whichever new message their writers deign to have them cover on the next. Consistency is needed so much more than a girl power message that is just going to get lost as soon as a group moves onto the next promotional cycle.

I make many of the same points about the need for a consistent feminist message in my Who are the Korean Pin-up Grrrls series, and couldn’t help but note with sadness that 2NE1 are the only girl-group that come close to having one among the 14 most popular girl-groups at the moment.

That said, the second argument often made is that Miss A’s effort is actually very apt for, and even radical in its Korean context, where unmarried women tend to have much more restricted, much more dependent lives than their Western counterparts. Rebecca at Kpop for Noobcakes has written a lot about this, and is especially good—see under the screenshot—at linking it to specific scenes in the music video:

…family approval is…extremely important in finding a suitable life partner, and surely contributes to the aspirations to date a wealthier or more influential man.

Taking this in mind, this music video really goes against what Korean culture has to say about dating, while still maintaining the values of Korean society as a whole. Koreans are very work focused, and believe that the only way to be successful is to work hard. This music video’s goal is to tell women that as long as they work hard they should feel good about themselves. The first few lines of the first verse are about how proud she is about living paycheck to paycheck providing for herself, and paying her own rent.

I don't need a man -- kangaroo cardShe goes on to talk about how most Korean women (and men) live with their parents until marriage. That’s certainly true, although also note that Korea has one of the highest rates of growth of single households in the world (with more of them now than in both the US and Australia), albeit most of them being middle-aged men and elderly women rather than Sex and the City-esque singles (my emphases):

Since it’s so hard to rent a space by oneself, many young men and women live with their parents. This is acceptable in Korean society, because like other Asian societies, Korea has just recently transitioned from a “clan” or “family” first mentality. As a result, young women have a tendency to rely on their parents for the purchase of items, as shown in Jia’s first verse. The girl with the Kangaroo card [above] keeps sucking up to her father to get items that she wants…

…As media themselves, Miss A go in a Lipstick Feminism direction, and don’t give up traditionally feminine items throughout most of the music video as they are allowed to wear dresses and makeup. They even have giant beauty products dispersed throughout the video. It’s their lack of reliance on a man to purchase items for themselves and their disinterest in the dating scene that goes directly against the theme of most K-pop music videos and Korean dramas.

Every Korean Drama(Source)

So, is I Don’t Need a Man by, about, and for men, or is it Independent Women’s kid-Korean cousin? Both arguments have merits really, and they’re not mutually exclusive either. But I’m tending towards the latter view, as it centers on Korean women’s increasing financial power and reflection of that in their consumption choices, for which they’ve been victims of a popular social and media backlash ever since the 1990s, and especially from the late-2000s (see my Revealing the Korean Body Politic series—Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five; also here and here—for more information).

Gomushin Girl’s comment to my post on Bloom illustrates this well:

I think that there’s an effort to portray Miss A’s members as criticizing feminine consumption in Korea (note that they’re lecturing the ladies getting their hair done, etc., and are always positioned well ahead of background couples and women who are actually engaging in consumption) in “I Don’t Need a Man.” I don’t know that it’s visually as clear and effective as it could be, but it *is* there.

Which is also, as noted above, a problem—it positions Miss A as “good” through their disengagement in feminine habits, while “bad” women allow men to support them and fund their consumption of material goods. It also doesn’t acknowledge that many women (and men) *enjoy* getting their hair and nails done, dressing stylishly, or shopping, in a way that is independent of how Suzy tells us to deal with itit equips them for the male gaze…It also gets a little confused in its capitalist critique, constantly mentioning that it’s better to have a small salary from satisfying work than lots of money through other means, but also mentions things like owning ones own car, which for most young Koreans would be a bit of a luxury purchase. Even a decent used car will probably cost you more than many luxury handbags (which you can also get used).

To be clear, I don’t think that Miss A’s song is a fantastic manifesto, but I don’t think it’s nearly as problematic as [another commenter was] making it out to be. Particularly in a place like Korea, where marital/dating status really does define women, singing clearly and distinctly about financial emancipation from (male) lovers and parents is . . . well, kind of awesome. And I don’t think in Korea that a song that did not relate that emancipation to gender would be either convincing or very meaningful. That particular kind of *not* needing is significant (source, above).

I would just add that my impression is that people are more critical of I Don’t Need a Man than Independent Women because it seemed have a greater emphasis on consumption. So, it was with a certain surprise and irony that I read the following at Snippets of Stories, albeit written by someone who is also a complete beginner on Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child:

I am extremely ignorant when it comes to Beyoncé, especially compared to most of y’all reading this, but the thing I find most fascinating about her work is the materialism of it. Pretty much every song I can think of off the top of my head — again, we’re talking the most frequently played songs, my knowledge is pretty shallow — relies on very specific, recognizable details of ownership and consumption to get the message across. Such as the car keys and suitcases in “Irreplaceable,” the “come pick up your clothes” line* of “Me, Myself and I,” the discussions of what can and can’t be bought in “Independent Women (Part I)” and “Bills, Bills, Bills,” the Dereon jeans in “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and “Tennis shoes, don’t even need to buy a new dress” in “Crazy in Love.”

Destiny's Child by Hayden Williams(Source)

And on that note, let me again defer to readers—probably most of you!—more knowledgeable than myself. Also, my apologies to any of you that expected a post on Hush—I too would have preferred to complete this one two weeks ago (sniff!), and I’ll try to give their new album a proper look soon. But first, my promised post on A’s Doll House!

Update: Aaaaand…as I searched for that final illustration above, I discovered I’d completely missed the excellent “Is this feminism? A critical look at miss A’s I don’t need a man” at J-Popping, which references and considerably expands upon “[Op-Ed] Questioning miss A’s ‘I Don’t Need a Man': Are They Truly Independent?” at allkpop. Enjoy!

Miss A’s Greatest Fans?

At 6 and 4, Alice and Elizabeth aren’t quite strong, confident “independent ladies” yet. But I’m going to try damn hard to make sure they will be, and I’m certain taking to heart some of the messages in Miss A‘s (미쓰에이) I Don’t Need a Man (남자 없이 잘 살아) will help.

Probably, I was much too harsh on the song in my last post. And their obvious enjoyment of the song has reminded me that nobody really has the right to tell any girl or woman what she should and shouldn’t find empowering. Not least, a fat, bald, middle-aged man like myself.

That aside, I think they’re both really good dancers too, even if that is just my parental pride speaking. Let me leave you with the original to compare, which may help explain some of their stranger-looking moves (like the finger on the lip at 3:24, and the bending on the floor at 3:40) to those of you that aren’t Miss A fans yourself (yet):

Enjoy!

Pin-up Grrrl #2: Ga-in, Bloom, and why we’ll still be talking about both 30 years from now

Ga-in Bloom(Source)

Ga-in shared, “Our previous MVs had received R-ratings and we didn’t understand the reason why. So for my recent MV, I decided to give them one.”

(Daily K-Pop News)

And to help, she watched adult videos from many different countries, finding “that the porn from third world countries fit the most with [her] personal tastes.” Accordingly, Bloom (피어나) has many bed scenes, and—yes really—features her masturbating on her kitchen floor.

In contrast, Miss A‘s (미쓰에이) I Don’t Need a Man (남자 없이 잘 살아) speaks for itself, and the video is so family-friendly that my daughters (demand to) dance to it several times a day.* So to many, it might seem like a much more appropriate, softly-softly feminist anthem for “sexually conservative” Korea. Not least, by those who think the pornification of the media has already gone far enough, and/or that imitating porn stars isn’t something that should be celebrated.

To the latter, I would suggest that they actually take a look at the music video. Because while it is certainly erotic, it is by no means mere sexual titillation masquerading as art, nor is it provided exclusively for the male gaze. On the contrary, as Dana D’Amelio explains in a must-read at Seoulbeats (see this follow-up also):

Essentially, what Ga-in does is take female sexual desire, wrest it from the men who have manipulated it to their own device, and put it back in female hands. Ga-in’s sexuality is something that women can get behind, and that’s something you can’t much say for the rest of K-pop; that she herself is portrayed as taking pleasure as much as she is giving it is unique, fresh, and deeply relatable to female viewers.

Ga-in Bloom(Source)

Dana and fellow Seoulbeats writer Mark both compare Bloom to Kim Hyuna’s (김현아) Ice Cream (아이스크림), which is just as sexually-explicit as Bloom, but wasn’t banned by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Arguably, precisely because it did conform to the male gaze and pervasive double-standards of K-pop.

In light of those, the sooner songs like Bloom rock the K-pop boat, the better. And for that reason, I’m going to wager that Bloom will have much more longevity than not just (frankly) vacuous songs like Ice Cream, but also, as explained below, those ostensibly empowering ones like I Don’t Need a Man that actually seem to be about nothing but men. Yet which, unfortunately, now seem to be the dominant from in pop music worldwide:

Lucy O’Brien, author of She-Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul, thinks the continuing importance of image and presentation is to blame. The key thing that ossified gender roles, she suggests, was MTV, which changed popular culture, leaving feminist punk bands such as the Slits and the Raincoats behind. “Image became the big thing, and angry women who didn’t care about it didn’t really fit that picture,” O’Brien says. There was a brief window of opportunity for women who didn’t fit the MTV template in the early 1990s, she suggests, a time when bestselling artists such as Sinead O’Connor ripped up pictures of the Pope on TV, and Tori Amos sang about her experiences of rape (though, equally, O’Connor’s greatest success came with her most MTV-friendly moment, Nothing Compares 2 U). But then came the Spice Girls, appropriating the vocabulary of riot grrrl, and proclaiming “Girl Power”, but within the conventional model of the pop group manufactured by men for young girls. “Everything became sophisticated and sanitised after that, and the industry has never got over it,” O’Brien says.

(The Guardian, March 25 2010; my emphasis. See Mark’s post “Manufactured Girl Power: Female Empowerment in a Male-Powered Industry” for more on K-pop specifically)
She-Bop 2(Source)

Which brings me to today’s translation, found via Lost in Traffic Lights. Here’s her summary of it (emphasis in original):

…the main difference is…while Bloom talks about how a woman views herself, free from social constructs and how people view her. However, while Miss A’s “I don’t need a man” looks like it’s gunning for female empowerment, at the end it’s still feeding into a discourse that men made for a “good girl” or a “sensible woman” in Korea.

I see this a lot actually. On the internet, there’s always a guy-or a male figure-who argues that “all women do is buy luxury bags and leech off men blah blah blah” and the women are like “but we don’t. A lot of us don’t. I am special because I’m not like those other girls. I don’t buy luxury bags, I pay for my own stuff” and so on. But at the end of the day though, isn’t that gunning for another gold star from the men who criticize us?

For much more on that theme, see Nabeela’s review of the song (and especially the comments), and — for starters! — here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for more information about the “beanpaste girl” (된장녀/dwenjang nyeo) and “ladygate” discourses being referred to.

As for the translation, frankly I and my long-suffering wife found it exhausting, and there were many parts we found difficult, so we apologize in advance for any mistakes. Also, there’s much to query in both the author’s generalizations and his details, starting with the confusion in the first part as to whether he’s talking about the music video (far above) or a stage performance (e.g. below, on SBS a few days before the article was published), and indeed although he mentions a part where she supposedly pretends to look into a mirror, I can’t find that in either video. But these don’t detract from the author’s main points, and I hope you’ll all agree that comparing Bloom with I Don’t Need a Man is very valuable and worthwhile.

가인이 피워낸 100%짜리 여자의 욕망 / 100% Women’s Desire Blooms With Ga-in

Naver News, October 17 2012; 강명석 칼럼 / Column by Gang Myeong-seog (two@10asia.co.kr; Twitter).

붉은빛 스웨터를 입는다. 다리에는 가터벨트를 착용한다. 혀 끝으로 입술을 핥는다. 가슴을 내민다. 의자에 앉은 채 허리를 뒤로 젖힌다. 손이 온 몸을 훑는다. 가인의 신곡 ‘피어나’의 무대는 남성들에게 온갖 야한 상상을 불러일으킨다. 그러나, 정작 무대 위의 남성 댄서들은 무표정하다. 그들은 로봇처럼 동작을 소화할 뿐 가인의 춤에 반응하지 않는다. 가인은 그들과 한 번도 정면으로 눈을 맞추지 않는다.

She wears a red sweater. On her legs she has a garter belt. She licks her lips with the tip of her tongue. She sticks her breasts out. She arches her back while sitting in a chair. She touches her whole body with her hands.

Ga-in’s new song “Bloom” provokes all sorts of bawdy male fantasies. But those men actually on the stage with her are expressionless, behaving like robots that don’t even notice her dance. She, in turn, never looks any of them in the eye.

대신 가인의 시선은 무대 정면을 향한다. 정면을 바라본 채, 가인은 다양한 포즈들을 취한다. ‘피어나’의 안무는 동작과 동작을 하나의 흐름으로 연결하지 않는다. 대신 섹시한 느낌을 주는 각각의 포즈들을 취할 수 있도록 구성됐다. 댄서들이 사라지고, 가인 혼자 정면을 바라보며 여러 포즈를 취하는 무대 후반의 구성은 가인의 시선이 누굴 향한 것인지 짐작케 한다. 남자들이 사라져도, 가인은 자신의 섹시함을 표현하는 것을 멈추지 않는다. 마치 거울 앞에 선 자신을 보는 것처럼.

Rather, Ga-in looks directly at us, while adopting various poses. In “Bloom,” the choreography isn’t seamless. Instead, each scene is defined by and constructed around a different pose, each providing a very sexy, sensual feeling.

Later in the performance, in which Ga-on looks ahead while continuing to do various poses, making people wonder who she is actually looking at. Then, the dancers disappear again, but Ga-in doesn’t stop expressing her sexiness. She continues as if she’s looking at herself in the mirror.

Bloom vs. I Don't Need a Man Caption 1(Source: Unknown)

Caption: 가인은 남자들의 판타지를 자극하는 방식의 ‘피어나’를 통해 오히려 가장 주체적인 여성상을 그려낸다 / Rather than stimulate male fantasies, Ga-in provides a very independent symbol for women in “Bloom.”

가인, 타인이 아닌 나를 위한 섹시 / Ga-in: The Sexiness is For Me, Not For Others

거의 모든 여성 가수에게 섹시한 댄스는 타인의 시선을 끌기 위한 장치다. 걸그룹이 곡에서 악센트를 줘야할 부분마다 다리를 벌리는 춤을 추곤 하는 것이 그 예다. 섹시함이 콘셉트 그 자체라 해도 좋을 ‘피어나’도 당연히 시선을 끈다. 그러나, ‘피어나’는 특정 동작을 강조하며 시선을 끄는 포인트 춤이 없다. 대신 모델이 계속 포즈를 취하는 듯한 동작들이 이어진다.

Almost all female use a sex dance as a means to attract people’s attention. For example, girl-groups will often emphasize spreading their legs apart in their dance routines. Naturally, “Bloom” could also be seen in this vein. However, “Bloom” doesn’t have ‘point dances’ which are only used for the specific purpose of getting people’s attention; instead, the poses adopted are more similar to the ones real models use.

가인의 소속사 로엔엔터테인먼트 관계자에 따르면 ‘피어나’의 안무에도 원래 포인트 춤이 포함돼 있었지만, 그 포인트를 빼고 지금처럼 다양한 포즈 중심의 안무를 요구한 사람이 바로 가인이었다. 그 결과 ‘피어나’의 안무는 타인에게 어필하는 것이기도 하지만, 그 이전에 여성이 섹시한 표정과 포즈를 마음껏 해보는 구성이 됐다. 또한 ‘피어나’의 뮤직비디오는 황수아 감독이, 가사는 작사가 김이나가 맡았다. 두 여성은 그들의 시선에서 섹시함을 표현한다. 뮤직비디오에 가인의 베드신이 등장하지만, 가인과 관계를 갖는 남자의 얼굴도 제대로 안 나온다. 대신 카메라는 희열을 느끼는 가인의 표정을 잡는다. <김이나의 가사로 표현한다면, 남자는 ‘내가 선택한’ 존재고, 그가 사랑스러운 것은 나를 ‘high’하고 ‘fly’하도록 만들었기 때문이다. 남자가 어떤 매력을 가졌는지는 묘사하지 않는다. 중요한 것은 남성이든 섹시함이든 여성 자신의 욕망이 선택한 결과라는 점이다.

According to a representative of Loen Entertainment, originally the choreography did have point dances, but these were removed and replaced at Ga-in’s insistence. As a result, the choreography appeals not just to other people [men?], but has as many sexual poses and expressions as it could have too [James – That sentence sounds strange in Korean also]. Also, the director of the music video, Hwang Su-ah, and lyricist, Kim Ee-na [both women], express sexiness from their own perspectives. In the music there is Ga-in’s bed scene, but we can’t really see the face of the guy she’s with [James – The screenshot below would be the closest you get]. Instead the camera focuses on her expression of joy and ecstasy. According to Kim Ee-na’s lyrics, “This is the guy I chose,” and the reason is because he makes Ga-in “fly high.” Crucially, why she finds the man attractive is not described; rather, the important thing is that it’s her sexual desire that is paramount here.

Ga-in Bloom Man(Source)

전체적인 윤곽은 남성의 판타지를 충족시키지만, 그 디테일은 섹시함이 ‘(타인의)시선 따윈 알게 뭐니’라고 노래하는 여성의 욕망을 드러낸다. 이 절묘한 공존은 이 곡의 구성원들의 독특한 조합 때문일 것이다. 안무, 가사, 뮤직비디오는 여성이 주축이지만, 프로듀싱과 작곡은 각각 남성인 프로듀서 조영철과 작곡가 이민수가 맡았다. 이들 중 가인을 제외한 네 명의 남녀는 아이유와 브라운 아이드 걸스를 제작한 바 있다. 아이유는 귀여운 여성에 대한 남성 판타지의 극단이었고, 브라운 아이드 걸스는 섹시함에 터프함을 가미한 강한 여자들이었다.

While the whole character of this song fulfills men’s fantasies, contained in the details is a depiction of sexiness and women’s desire that poses the question, “Who cares about the gaze of others?”. This exquisite coexistence is the result of the unique combination of the people involved in its production: the choreographer and lyricist are women, but the producer, Jo Yeong-cheol, and the composer, Lee Min-su, are men [James – What happened to the director Hwang Sun-ah?]. Moreover, in addition to Ga-in’s songs, these men and women have produced songs for the IU and the Brown Eyed Girls. IU projects a cute image that is an extreme men’s fantasy [James – Actually, this cute image is exaggerated and/or very outdated], while the Brown Eyed Girls’ image is a mixture of tough and strong women.

Brown Eyed Girls Sixth Sense(Source)

가인은 이 네 남녀의 정확한 한가운데다. 남성들에게 확실히 어필할 수 있는 섹시한 콘셉트는 남성 스태프가 짠 틀일 것이다. 그러나 여성 스태프는 그들의 시선으로 섹시함을 표현했다. 여성도 성관계에서 오는 육체적, 정신적 쾌감에 대한 욕망이 있고, 그 욕망을 드러내자 가인은 가련한 소녀도, 남성의 시각적 만족만을 위한 쇼걸도 아닌 무대를 지배하는 주인공이 된다. ‘피어나’는 주체적인 여성에 대한 시각을 무엇을 보여주느냐가 아니라 어떻게 보여주느냐로, 바깥의 시선에서 내면의 욕망의 문제로 옮긴다.

Ga-in is positioned firmly in the center of these 4 men and women. Her sex appeal, which definitely appeals to men, would have come from the male staff; the women’s perspective on sexiness, from the female staff. Women too, find sexual relationships physically and mentally pleasurable, and here Ga-in owns the stage with that desire, rather than being turned into a miserable girl or a showgirl for the male gaze for it.

“Bloom” moves the question of what are independent women from not what they show, but how they show it. Or in other words, from outside appearances to inner perspectives.

미스에이, 타인이 만들어놓은 좋은 여자의 기준 / Miss A Conform to the Standards of Good Women Defined by Others

그래서, 미스에이의 ‘남자 없이 잘 살아’가 ‘피어나’와 완벽한 대비를 이루는 것은 흥미롭다. 박진영이 작사한 ‘남자 없이 잘 살아’의 여성은 ‘내 돈으로 방세 다 내’고, ‘내 차 내 옷 내가 벌어서 산’다. ‘남자 믿고 놀다 남자 떠나면 어떡할’거냐는 걱정을 하기 때문이다. 가사만 보면 ‘남자 없이 잘 살아’는 주체적이고 독립적인 여성을 칭송하는 것처럼 보인다. 그러나 남에게 폐 끼치지 않는 인생은 남자 역시 필요하다.

So, “Bloom” and “I Don’t Need a Man” provide a perfect, very interesting contrast. The lyrics to “I Don’t Need a Man”, written by JYP, say “I pay the rent with my own money,” “I bought this car and these clothes with my my own money,” and that “If you trust and fool around with a man and then he leaves, what will you do?”, which is a constant worry of women.

If you only look at the lyrics to the song, they do praise self-reliant and independent women. [Although] men, too, need a way of life that isn’t dependent on others.

Miss A Jia and Suzy I Don't Need a Man(Sources: top, bottom)

Caption: 반면 ‘남자 없이 못 살아’를 발표한 미스에이는 타인의 시선에 의해 결정되는 여성의 단면을 보여준다 / On the other hand, with “I Don’t Need a Man,” released by Miss A, they show a side of women defined by others

그리고, 이런 경제생활이 당당한 여성의 기준은 타인의 시선이다. ‘남자없이 잘 살아’의 뮤직비디오에서 멤버들이 콧수염을 붙여보거나, 이두박근을 강조하는 것은 우연이 아니다. 미스에이가 노래하는 독립적인 여성은 사실상 남성들이 요즘 ‘개념녀’라고 말하는 이상적인 여성이다. ‘피어나’가 남성들에게 어필하는 코드로 여성의 욕망을 말한다면, ‘남자 없이 잘 살아’는 당당한 여성을 어필하면서 ‘된장녀’와는 정반대인 ‘개념녀’라는 남성의 욕망을 말한다.

Also, these financially confident women are conforming to the standards of others. In “I Don’t Need a Man,” it is no accident that the members of Miss A stick on a fake mustache or emphasize their biceps. The independent women that they are singing about are actually the gaenyeomnyeo, or “good girls,” that men say are their perfect women these days.

While “Bloom” appeals to men while also articulating female desire, “I Don’t Need a Man” provides an image of confident women and also the good girl image that males desire, an opposite of the dwenjang-nyeo, or “bean-paste girl” one.

miss_a_i_don__t_need_a_man_chibi_by_jinsuke04-d5il0nc(“miss A I Don’t Need A Man Chibiby,” by jinsuke04)

‘피어나’는 타인의 시선 대신 내면의 욕망을 더 적극적으로 드러내는 여성의 목소리를 반영하고, ‘남자 없이 못 살아’는 남자, 또는 사회가 원하는 좋은 여성의 기준을 더욱 더 강화한다. 출산과 결혼을 선택하지 않는 여성에 대한 논의가 사회적 화두로 떠오르고, 인터넷에서는 남녀가 수많은 문제들로 논쟁을 하는 이 시점에서 두 곡의 등장은 어떤 징후처럼 보인다. 많은 남자들은 명품 백을 사느냐 마느냐에 따라, 결혼할 생각이 있느냐 없느냐에 따라 ‘개념녀’와 그렇지 않은 여성을 가른다.

Rather than emphasizing the male gaze, “Bloom” reflects more the inner desires and voices of women, whereas “I Don’t Need a Man” does more men and/or society’s standards for women. These two songs are a reflection of how many women choosing not to get married and/or have children has become a hot topic of debate in Korean society, and of the discussion, arguments, and problems as many men and women discuss that on the internet. In which many men are dividing women into good girls or beanpaste girls, or who want to get married or not, [simply] according to whether they buy brand-name bags or not.

반면 많은 여성들은 타인에게 폐 끼치지 않는 한 돈을 쓰고 싶은 곳에 욕먹지 않고 쓸 권리와 결혼과 출산을 하지 않을 자유에 대해 말한다. 주체적인 욕망과 타인의 시선이 정한 기준 안에 들어오는 것 사이의 대립. 남녀 모두 주체적인 여자에 대해 말하는 것 같지만, 그 층위는 전혀 다르다. ‘피어나’가 예상치 못했던 카운터펀치인 이유다. 인터넷에서 끝없이 반복되던 남녀의 가장 중요한 논쟁점이 흥미로운 방식으로 수면 위로 떠올랐다. 그것도 모두가 답 없는 논쟁을 할 때, 여성의 욕망을 놀라울 만큼 잘 드러내면서 남성도 즐길 수 있는 판타지의 접점을 만들면서 말이다.

Ga-in Bloom Doll(Source)

But as long as women do not trouble others with their spending choices, then they have a right not to be sworn at and criticized by others, and the freedom not to choose marriage or children. [However], there is a contradiction between the desire for self-reliance and the standards set by the male gaze. Men are women are talking about the same self-reliant women, but the amount of what they say about them are totally different.

This is the reason why “Bloom” has a surprising counter-punch. The most important thing men and women are unceasingly arguing about on the internet [James – What is that?? Sex?] arose in an interesting and amusing way. That is, in an argument which has no answers, this song provides a rare point of contact in which women can enjoy their desires just as much as men have their fantasies fulfilled.

강하거나, 세거나, 독특한 여성 걸그룹들의 노래들이 하나의 흐름을 형성한 지금, ‘피어나’가 대중음악 시장에서 얻는 반응은 지금 이런 목소리에 대한 수요를 알 수 있는 척도가 될 수도 있을 것이다. 그것은 반대로 ‘남자없이 잘 살아’에 대한 반응도 마찬가지일 것이다. 지금 우리는 주류 대중음악, 또는 걸그룹으로 대표되는 아이돌 시장에서 여성을 표현하는 방식이 아주 조금은 달라진 순간을 보고 있다. 그게 결과적으로 누구의 목소리가 더 크게 멤돌지는 알 수 없지만 말이다.

Now, bold, strong, and unique girl-groups are forming a new trend, and how well “Bloom” does commercially will demonstrate how much of a demand there is for this new voice. The same goes for “I Don’t Need a Man.” Now, in popular music, we are seeing the beginning of a new phase in the way women express themselves. Ultimately, whose voice will be loudest? (end)

Ga-in Bloom Female Empowerment(Source)

*Truth be told, I let my daughters watch Bloom as well, which isn’t that explicit at all really; they love the song and pastel colors, and at 4 and 6, they’re much too young to understand what’s really going on anyway. And I hope that their happy childhood memories of it spur a renewed interest in it much later, just like mine of She-Bop (1984) did for me!

Update: While I’m at it, see here for 10 more songs about female masturbation.

Update 2, November 2013: With the benefit of a year’s hindsight, Gang Myeong-seog and I were much too harsh in our critique of I Don’t Need a Man, which definitely has its merits. See here to learn more.

Update 3, March 2014: Here’s another article about more recent songs about female masturbation (or that mention it in passing).

Related Post(s):

Korean Gender Reader

(Source)

소녀시대야! 900칼로리만 먹고, 이것 할 수있겠니? ㅋㅋㅋ

1) Miss A members scoff at other girl-groups’ starvation diets, and reveal that they eat healthily and normally.

For why this is such wonderful news, see here. I hereby appoint them as honorary ambassadors for this blog!

2) Three reports of sex crimes at Korean schools.

3) Can a Feminist diet?

4) More Korean married couples living with the wife’s parents

5) Korean women: please, for goodness’ sake, develop a personality! And men: get more comfortable with yourselves!

Complete generalizations of course, as the author happily admits, but still: I really appreciated this post in a “from the mouths of babes newbies” sense (no offense).

How accurate do you think her descriptions of Korean dating couples are?

6) Piggy Dolls “piggy” no more?

Turns out, their weight loss was for a diet advertisement (see #10 here for some background).

7) Same sex couple-tees?

We’ve all seen couple-tees of course, perhaps even worn them. But clothes designed to be worn by you and your friend?

(Source)

8) Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs urges teenagers not to use binge drinking as a study method.

After all, Korean teenagers are notorious for their alcohol problems, yes? Or was this supposed fad, of drinking baek-il ju (백일주) from 100 days (baek-il) before the university entrance exams, actually only highlighted by the Ministry in order to raise its profile and help justify its continued existence?

Not that I think the Ministry should be abolished by any means (despite its anti-abortion stance). But then it is notorious for some simply bizarre initiatives, and especially arbitrary, completely ineffective censorship in the name of protecting Korean youth. Neither of which I can see anything but corporatist reasons for.

9) Public protest scuppers plans for nudist forest.

Naturally however, the Korean media is still widely describing it as a nudist forest anyway.

Compare this similarly cancelled planned nudist beach on Jeju Island two years ago, which had been intended only to be open to non-Koreans.

10) New girl-group Chocolat set to debut on August 17. Has 3 bi-racial members (and 2 Koreans).

For which it’s been receiving a lot of attention, although it’s not the first to have bi-racial members (all 3 have American fathers and Korean mothers btw). Probably even more noteworthy and ominous though, is the fact that 2 members of the group are only 14 (the others are 17, 18, and {I think} 19).

See the following video for them introducing themselves. Note that the title says “Korean”, but it’s actually all in English:

Update: Ashley at SeoulBeats discusses them more here.

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Breathe (비리드) by Miss A (미쓰에이): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

( Source )

Like Bad Girl, Good Girl (배드걸 굿걸) translated last week, Miss A’s (미쓰에이) Breathe (브리드) is also a song which very quickly grows on you. But seeming to lack a real climax though, then ultimately it proves somewhat less satisfying…a double entendre you’d do well keep in mind if you’re likely to be shocked by all the panting and heavy-breathing in it, let alone Meng Jia’s (멍지아, 孟佳) helpful demonstration of what might cause her to do that at 2:47.

Hell, Korean may well lack the “th” sound, but even the Hangulization of the title actually sounds more like “breed” too.

You’d probably never suspect then, that its central narrative is actually one of complete passivity towards the desired guy, with the music video full of aegyo and childish impressions to boot. Indeed, in that sense it’s much more in the vein of, say, Girls’ Generation’s Oh, T-ara’s Like the First Time, and KARA’s Mister then anything you’d ever expect from the same group that just did Bad Girl, Good Girl.

Not that that’s necessarily bad of course, and may we all meet someone that makes us that weak at the knees. But it was certainly a slight disappointment after just becoming a fan of theirs for being so different.

Still, I do like it, and especially the music video. And not just because of the eye-candy either. Rather, because with the backgrounds and the women’s sometimes deliberately stilted dance movements, in fact it reminds me a little of the 1989 Fine Young Cannibals’ number 1 hit She Drives Me Crazy, which was nominated for best video at the MTV Music Video Awards that year:

Minor quibbles are the small size of the room with the stripes that you can see in the screenshot below, which makes the fantasy element to the video a little harder to sustain, and Wang Fei Fei’s (왕페이페이, 王霏霏) simply bizarre hairstyle in the segments in which she’s wearing a red top (you’ll soon see what I mean). But I can easily forgive those considering how easy the excessive repetition made translating the lyrics!

너 땜에 자꾸만 내 가슴이 (hot hot hot hot)

너 땜에 자꾸만 내 몸이 (hot hot hot hot)

니가 날 볼 때마다, 니 생각 할 때마다

너 땜에 자꾸만 내 가슴이

no oh no oh no oh oh, I can’t breathe

no oh no oh no oh oh, I can’t breathe

no oh no oh no oh oh, I can’t breathe

no oh no oh no oh no oh no oh

Because of you my chest [is] often (hot hot hot hot)

Because of you my body [is] often (hot hot hot hot)

Whenever you look at me

Whenever I think of you

Because of you my chest [is] often…

( Source: unknown )

In Line 1, “땜” is short for “때문에”, or “because”, and there’s a lot of contractions like that in this song.

Next “만” after “자꾸” in several lines could have been a little confusing, as it usually means “only,” which would give the stange “frequently only” in the text. But in songs especially, it’s also used just for emphasis, and it’s usually very easy to tell by context which meaning is intended. You’ll see it again later.

Finally, yes, “가슴” does indeed mean “breasts”, but outside of Naver image searches then it’s probably more commonly used as the gender-neutral “chest”.

( Source )

Boy you look so fine

어쩜 너무 멋져 안보는 척 해보지만 자꾸만 눈을 맞춰

난 이런 적이 없는데 너에게 빠졌어

니 생각 만하고 있어 날 구해줘 어서

Boy you look so fine

Wow, you’re so cool, but while you pretend not to look we frequently make eye contact

I’ve never been like this before, I’ve sooo fallen for you

All I can think about is you, please hurry and save me

( Source )

In line 2, “어쩜” is short for “어쩌면”, which I was surprised wasn’t simply the verb “어쩌다” plus “면” (if) but was an entirely different word of its own, my dictionary giving:

  1. (감탄사로; admiration, wonder, exclamation) what, how
  2. (아마) possibly, maybe, perhaps

And I’m inordinately proud to say that while my Korean wife thought number 2 was correct, I argued that only number 1 made any sense, giving  “Wow, you’re so cool.” And if so,then it must be him that pretends not to look at her.

In line 4, “구하다” means:

  1. seek, look for, want, hunt
  2. ask for, call for, solicit for
  3. get, have, obtain, find (out), buy, purchase

But this time I did defer to my wife, who said that “save me” was much more accurate than my original “have me,” no matter how tempted I was to go with that instead because of all the heavy breathing.

( Source )

Boy you look so fine

(짝사랑은 난 하기 싫은데) 말을 해볼까

(너도 날 좋아할 것 같은데) 용기를 내서

고백해볼까 (yeah)

싫다면 어쩌나 (yeah)

이렇게 기다리다 미치겠어

Boy you look so fine

(I hate one-sided love) Shall I make the first move

(I think you like me too) Shall I be brave

and confess my love? (yeah)

But what if you don’t feel the same way?

I’m going crazy waiting like this

( Source )

Easy enough, but I’ve taken a few liberties to make it sound better in English. In line 2 for instance, “말을 해볼까” is literally “shall I try to talk,” and in line 5 “싫다면 어쩌나” would literally be “hate [me] – hypothetically speaking – if [you] – what would [I] do”.

Fellow Korean learners, give me a buzz if you’d like me to explain any of the grammar above, but otherwise, that in line 6 was most interesting for me. In particular, I wondered why “이렇게 기다리는것이 미치겠어” couldn’t be used instead, much easier for me because of how I learned Korean, and literally “this way – the act of waiting – crazy – will be.” But my wife says that that would mean more “it is crazy to wait like this”, not the song’s intended “waiting like this is driving me crazy”. Granted it may sound like a trivial difference, but there you have it.

For the sake of keeping track later, let’s call all that the chorus. For now though, next there’s the Korean half of the opening segment again, then after that:

( Source )

오늘은 난 꼭(꼭) 고백을 하고야 말 거라고

I’m gonna let you know

Baby I will let you know

생각하다가도 너만 나타나면

몸이 다시 굳어버리고 할말은 잊어버리고 oh

No matter how much I think that I will definitely confess my love to you today…

I’m gonna let you know

Baby I will let you know

…if you show up

Again I will tense up and forget what I was going to say

( Source )

This part was much harder to translate than I thought it would be!

First, for the grammar form “~고야 말다” in line 1, my trusty Korean Grammar for International Learners came to the rescue, saying that, first on page 181, the “~(이)야” grammar pattern it is part of means “only if it be, if it is just (no more than); when it comes to; taking ··· for granted; even, indeed.” Then it gets to “~고야 말다” specifically on the next page, saying:

The auxiliary particle can be used in conjunction with the pattern in ~고 in two different ways. The combination ~고야 means “only after ··· ing” or “only under the circumstance that / under the unique circumstance that.” ··· Added to the patter ~고 말다 meaning “finish up doing it, get it done, finally do it,” the ~이(야) in the resulting pattern in ~고야 말다 lends added emphasis to the finality inherent in the pattern.

Next, it’s important to realize that line 4 follows straight on from line 1, with the English in lines 2 and 3 being an aside really (otherwise the future tense form of indirect speech – “ㄹ 거라고” – at the end of line 1 makes no sense). Then the “다가” added to “생각하다” line 4 means “think, and then.” Immediately after that, the “도” should really be “더라도”, or “no matter how much,” then the “만” after that is just for emphasis again.

Finally all that makes “오늘은 난 꼭(꼭) 고백을 하고야 말 거라고 생각하다가도 너만 나타나면” become literally “today – I – definitely (definitely) – confess [finally] – think [will] [after] [no matter how much I] – you – show up [if],” with the grammar points in square brackets. I hope that all makes sense!

After the “if” section, then the “굳다” in line 5 means “become hard, stiffen” or “hard, solid” according to my dictionary, which I’ll confess certainly got my mind wandering, but “tense up” would be a better translation. Finally, the “버리다” after both that and the “forget” at the end would be in the sense of to one’s disappointment or regret (another grammar form), not literally throwing something away.

Then there’s the chorus again…then the entire opening segment again…then:

( Source )

눈이 마주칠 때 마다 심장이 잠시 멈춰 (hot hot)

니가 돌아설 때 마다 슬픔이 나를 덮쳐 (흑흑)

내 마음속에 갇혀 있는 이 사랑을 주고 싶어 미쳐 받아줘 catcher

Here (here) my (my)

love boy I just can’t breathe

Every time our eyes meet my heart stops for a moment (hot hot)

Whenever you turn your back on me I am struck with sadness (sob sob)

I’m going crazy wanting to give you my love that has been left trapped for so long, please receive it catcher

Here (here) my (my)

love boy I just can’t breathe

( Source )

In line 1, I couldn’t really see any difference between “눈을 맞춰” from earlier and “눈이 마주치다” here, so note it could just be “whenever we make eye contact” again. Next, in line 2 “덮치다” is “to hold something down” or to “attack, assault, raid, strike,” so “I am struck with sadness” felt appropriate.

What probably wouldn’t have been appropriate though, would be “pant pant” just after that, even that that’s much closer to what Meng Jia was actually doing. But as that sounds awkward even for lyrics for English songs, then I erred on the side of the dictionary definition of “흑흑,” or “sob sob” instead.

In line 3, the grammar form “[verb] + 아/어/여 있다” usually just means the thing that has been acted on (by the verb) remains in that state, and only “[verb] + 아/어/여 두다” means that it’s been left in that state for a long time, but I’d argue that in English at least the latter is more natural for this situation, and so stuck with “my love that has been left trapped for so long.”

Finally, I confess to having no idea what that (to me) nonsensical “이” is doing in the middle of it though, but unfortunately it’s not a typo. Sigh.

After that, the opening segment, and then, well already that’s it!

As always, I’d be very interested in hearing what you thought of the song and/or aspects of the translation, and if you’d like to sing and read along at the same time then I suggest this video above. To be frank though, I haven’t looked at it myself for comparison’s sake yet, nor this admittedly much easier to read translation at Yeeun2Grace either, although I will.

It’s just that after an unplanned 2-3 hours of dancing to K-pop songs with my 2 and 4 year-old daughters tonight, simultaneously worrying about the effects of watching music videos like this on them…then, well, I’d just rather have it up rather than delay another day!

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Bad Girl, Good Girl (배드걸 굿걸) by Miss A (미쓰에이): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

(Source)

Having just written that I find new girl groups virtually indistinguishable from each other these days, then I’m very glad reader “abcfsk” persuaded me to take a closer look at Bad Girl, Good Girl (배드걸 굿걸) by Miss A (미쓰에이), as I grew to like it very quickly. And not just because of the eye-candy in the music video below either, which I actually deliberately avoided watching so as to better compare my own translation of the lyrics to the one there later.

But hell: taken from a zip-file available here, in hindsight the screenshots below didn’t really do justice to the eroticism of some of the dance moves. And which to be frank, made finally seeing the video itself almost feel like a reward for all my hard work.

No great surprise to learn that Park Jin-young (박진영) is their manager then, as he is notorious for that sort of thing. Granted, that is the way the whole Korean music industry is going these days, primarily as a means for new groups to stand out, but those groups under the JYP Entertainment label do seem to push the boundaries more than most.

Focusing on the lyrics for now though, here’s my own original translation of them, with explanations of those parts I found difficult:

Update - In case anyone’s confused, the original video with lyrics included has been deleted.

You don’t know me, you don’t know me

You don’t know me, you don’t know me

So shut up boy, so shut up boy

So shut up boy, so shut up, shut up

앞에선 한 마디도 못 하더니

뒤에선 내 얘길 안 좋게 해 어이가 없어

Hello, hello, hello

나같은 여잔 처음 으로 으로 으로

본 것 같은데 왜 나를 판단하니

내가 혹시 두려운거니

You don’t know me, you don’t know me

You don’t know me, you don’t know me

So shut up boy, so shut up boy

So shut up boy, so shut up, shut up

In front of me you can’t say a word

And I can’t believe the bad things you say about me behind my back

Hello, hello, hello

I think this is the first time you’ve ever met a woman like me…why do you judge me?

Am I a thing to be feared?

(Source, all screenshots: Red and Rosy)

Starting with Line 1 of the Korean after “shut up” etc., the “더니” in “하더니” has many usages according to page 277 of my reference guide, Korean Grammar for International Learners (KGIL), but I think the most appropriate is number 1, that which “allows the speaker to affirm that some fact which (s)he directly experienced or witnessed in the past about a third-person subject is the reason or source for the state of affairs in the follow clause…the subject is usually second or third person”.

That allows the fact that the unnamed man (her boyfriend?) is reticent in front of her to be linked to line 2, that he badmouths her behind her back. But which was actually much more difficult to translate than it looked, as “뒤에선 내 얘길 안 좋게 해 어이가 없어” is literally “[me] behind as for – my story – not well do – word – not have”, which sort of looks like what I ultimately wrote, but was ripe for misinterpretation. Once my long-suffering wife told me that “어이가 없어” actually means “I can’t believe” though, then I was able to muddle along.

In line 6, the “거니” in “두려운거니” isn’t in KGIL, but I think it’s shorthand for “두려운것이에요”, or “scary thing is”. Hence I used the noun form “am I a thing to be feared?” in my translation, but of course something like “are you scared of me?” would be fine too.

Now for the chorus:

겉으론 bad girl 속으론 good girl

나를 잘 알지도 못 하면서

내 겉모습만 보면서

한심한 여자로 보는 너의 시선이 난 너무나 웃겨

춤 출 땐 bad girl 사랑은 good girl

춤추는 내 모습을 볼 때는 넋을 놓고 보고서는

끝나니 손가락질 하는 그 위선이 난 너무나 웃겨

On the outside I’m a bad girl, on the inside I’m a good girl

While you don’t know me well

While only looking at my outward appearance

Thinking of me as a pathetic woman is so laughable

When I dance I’m a bad girl, but when it comes to love I’m a good girl

When you see me dance you lose your mind

Only then to scorn me when the dance is ended

I laugh at your hypocrisy

In line 1, I was surprised that “으로” was used instead of “에”, as I’d always thought the former was used mostly for directions and processes rather than physical locations, but my wife assures me that the latter can’t be used at all in this case (oh well). She also told me that in line 4, “pathetic” would be a much better translation of “한심하다” than the “pitiful; pitiable; wretched” and so on that my dictionary gave; that in the case of line 6 at least, “모습” really means just “me” rather than “outward appearance” or “figure”; and finally that “넋을 놓고 보다” means “to lose one’s mind”, which I would never have got figured out otherwise. I did realize that “보고서” at the end looked a bit weird though – “a written report” – and ultimately the “고서” in it turns out to be one more grammar pattern. Which according to p. 251 of KGIL, has the effect of:

…tightening the relationship between the preceding and following clause, and implying that the contents of the second clause are a natural and closely linked follow-on to those of the first. In other words, whereas “고” alone is appropriate when a long interval intervenes between the two clauses, “고서” is appropriate when the connection is more immediate”.

Finally in line 7, of course “끝나니” is short for “끝나니까”, or “because it finished”. Add “scorn” and “hypocrisy” in there as well, then whatever the particulars of the last 2 lines, I got the impression that the man is captivated by her dancing, but then scorns and thinks little of her as soon as she stops and the spell is broken. Hence laughing at his hypocrisy, although now I’m little confused about the narrative of the song as I type this, as by this stage at least I thought the whole point was that she shouldn’t be judged by her outward appearance and actions…whereas now it appears that they’re actually also her strong points.

이런 옷 이런 머리모양으로 이런 춤을 추는 여자는

뻔해 ha 네가 더 뻔해, 오~

Hello, hello, hello

자신 없으면 저 뒤로 뒤로 뒤로

물러서면 되지 왜 자꾸 떠드니

속이 훤히 보이는 건 아니

A woman with those clothes, that hairstyle, and doing that dance

is shameless? Ha! You’re even more shameless, oh~

Hello, hello, hello

If you have no confidence, you can step back back back there

Why do you frequently make so much noise complaining about me?

I can see right through you

In line 4, I was a little confused for a moment by “저”, which is short for “저기” or “there” rather than being the respectful form of “me”. And then by “자신 없으면 저 뒤로 뒤로 뒤로 물러서면 되지” in lines 4-5, which literally means “confidence – if not have – there – towards the back towards the back towards the back – if step back” and looks like an unnecessary and confusing repetition to me.

Finally, line 6 was a big stumbling block: first, I originally thought “아니” meant “no”, but it’s actually “know”, as in “알다”. Then, “훤하다” means “gray, dimly-lit”; “extensive, broad and wide, spacious”; “good-looking”; and finally “be familiar with” and I was plumping for the first meaning until my wife said the last would be better.

Speaking of whom, to anybody envious at my Korean ability evident in translations in numerous earlier posts, and surprised at (and tired of) how much I’ve needed my wife’s help this time(!), then, well, I’d be lying if I said she didn’t have a huge role in correcting my numerous mistakes and explaining things after I do the original translations (I probably wouldn’t be able to properly provide any at all without her). I just haven’t mentioned that before because I usually don’t talk about the translation process itself, and how much time and effort it takes us.

Which gives me a newfound respect for those studying Korean entirely by themselves! But getting back to the lyrics though, after the above there’s the chorus again, and then the final verse:

날 감당 할 수 있는 남잘 찾아요

진짜 남자를 찾아요

말로만 남자다운 척 할 남자 말고

날 불안 해 하지 않을 남잔 없나요

자신감이 넘쳐서 내가 나일 수 있게

자유롭게 두고 멀리서 바라보는

I’m looking for a man who can bear me

I’m looking for a real man

Not a man who only talks like a real man

Is there no man that I don’t make uneasy?

Who can’t give me the freedom to watch me become a woman overflowing with confidence?

Finally, an easy verse! Any fellow Korean learners, please feel free to ask me about any of it, but otherwise that’s the whole song already, but for the chorus and finally the English opening sequence again.

Reluctantly tearing my eyes away from the singers (especially Fei {페이}) to the translated lyrics in the video then, I’m happy to say that they appear to be very similar, although there do appear to be some differences between the subjects in the some cases (in other words, I’ve got some “he”s where TheKpopSubber has “she”s and so on).

I’d like to look at those in more detail, but unfortunately I’m about to go out on a big shopping trip with my wife and kids, so for now I’ll just have to leave the post for you to enjoy as it is I’m afraid (those of you also unnerved by mistaken recent reports that North Korea was shelling again, may be happy for the distraction!). But of course, do please feel free to discuss those differences and/or anything about the song, group, and/or MV yourselves, although still knowing so little about the group then I’m going to reserve my own analysis until I’ve at least translated their second hit Breathe (브리드) next week:

Enjoy!^^

Update: Wait…one of them’s only just turned 16? Another middle-school student in a girl band?

Update 2: Given Miss A’s Chinese angle mentioned in the comments (2 of singers are Chinese, and they’ve been promoting themselves extensively there), then I’d like to point interested readers to Rowan Pease’s chapter “Korean Pop Music in China: Nationalism, Authenticity, and Gender” in Cultural Studies and Cultural Industries in Northeast Asia: What a Difference a Region Makes, edited by Chris Berry, Nicola Liscutin, and Jonathan D. Mackintosh, (2009, pp. 151-167), in which (among many other interesting things) she explains that:

(Source: The Japan Foundation)

In 2003, the Korean National Tourism Office [a major investor in the Korean wave] conducted a Hanliu tourism survey in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong exploring attitudes to Korean culture, publishing the results online…

….It compared the impact of Korean culture with that of four “competitor” countries (the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong), and in the process revealed much about Korea’s own political and nationalist concerns, particularly in relation to Japan and America. Six of the eleven options for respondents to the category “reasons I like Korean culture” reflect this preoccupation: “less sexual than Japanese culture,” “less sexual than American culture,” “less violent than Japanese popular culture,” “less violent than American popular culture,” “decreased interest in American culture,” and “decreased interest in Japanese culture.” One other echoes Straubhaar’s notion of cultural proximity: “similar in culture.” Certainly, Korea’s own music media censorship laws (which even in 1997 prohibited the displaying of body piercings, navels, tattoos, “outfits which might harm the sound emotional development of youth,” and banned violent or political lyrics), meant that Chinese TV stations could buy in Korean music videos and music TV shows knowing that they were unlikely to upset local censors. However, these questions also reflected a perception that Korea acts as a defender against excessive Westernization and as a guardian of Confucian values within East Asia. (pp. 155-156)

I wonder if those perceptions still hold true for China today, and in particular just how safe and “less sexual” than American and Japanese culture music videos like this one are viewed by Chinese TV stations?