Oh? Oh…!

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Call me old-fashioned, but although music videos can have a huge effect on my enjoyment of songs, I still try to judge them on their own merits.

By that criteria, all of Girls’ Generation’s hits have fallen flat for me, no matter how photogenic the girls are. But then I found a remix of their latest hit Oh! by the Greek trance DJ “Areia”, and I immediately fell in love with it.

Like he says on his blog, he put a lot of work into it. And it shows.

True, it’s actually the only one of his K-pop remixes that I like, that of Abracadabra (아브라카다브라) by the Brown Eyed Girls being particularly disappointing. But I’ve only listened to a handful so far, and his abilities are definitely improving over time. To any other Korea-based trance fans out there, frequently lamenting at how something so popular in Japan could be so completely absent from the cultural radar here, I’m sure you’ll be just as happy as I was to have found him!

For the lyrics (and a translation) to the song, see Yeeun2Grace here, and if you’re interested and haven’t seen it already, then this video (via Extra! Korea) makes a pretty compelling case that the song has been plagiarized from U.S./Barbadian singer Rihanna’s Shut Up and Drive. If you’re disappointed in my not providing my usual critical analysis on this occasion though, then I apologize(!), and by all means read precisely that at Appears.

But if you’d still like to watch the original video, albeit now with the trance remix, then I do understand:

Click on the video itself to be taken to Ariea’s YouTube page, which has a playlist of his other K-pop remixes.

Update: There’s been a lot of speculation in the comments as to why the video’s concept is of cheerleaders hoping to get the attention of American footballers, simply bizarre considering that the sport has virtually no following here. So I posed the question to my two classes earlier today, and the combination of their explanations proves to be quite compelling.

First, my morning class mentioned the success of the movie Bring it On in 2000, particularly the song Hey Mickey from the soundtrack, and this struck a chord with me because men who would have been in their late-teens and early-twenties back then were precisely the demographic that SM Entertainment created Girls’ Generation for (indeed, Girls’ Generation has performed the song many times). While that may just be coincidence though, they also said that high school footballers dating cheerleaders have been a staple of American movies and dramas they’ve watched ever since, and they were at a loss for an equivalent in Korean pop culture.

My afternoon class disagreed that Bring It On was popular however, and this is borne out by the box office figures for that year. Instead, they pointed out that all Korean cheerleaders are adults, and so although the youngest members of the group are in fact turning 20 this year, to have presented them as Korean cheerleaders pining after Korean baseball or basketball players would have clashed with their image of being precocious teenagers. Recall that the song itself is about unrequited love for an older male too, which the exaggerated youth of the women singing it would help to emphasize.

In short, cheerleaders for high school American footballers were the only possibility because there are no teenage cheerleaders in Korea.

But my two classes’ explanations are not mutually exclusive of course, nor with some of the alternative explanations posted in the comments section here either. While I would like to corroborate them though, unfortunately analysis like that is severely lacking on the Korean internet, so that might have to wait until I investigate next month’s music magazines.

Meanwhile, I’m quite convinced personally, but what do you think? Please let me know, and perhaps I can get a dialogue going with my students!

Update 2: Despite 1 billion won (US$860,000) being spent on Girls’ Generations stage costumes last year, apparently there was little money available for making some props for this music video, so some store-bought ones with the Iowa Hawkeyes logo were used instead. You can just imagine the reaction of Hawkeyes fans

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46 thoughts on “Oh? Oh…!

  1. Good stuff :)
    Ahh I have to agree about the popular stuff in Japan being under the radar in Korea. I’m Japanese but my gf is Korean and I’ve noticed that kinda stuff haha. I think both countries have great things and should both pay attention to one another a little more ;)

    • I think there’s many factors that have inhibited the development of the trance music industry in Korea, including: its much smaller scale compared to Japan; restrictions on imports of cultural products from Japan while it was getting off the ground there (some of which still remain); and democratization and the opportunities for increased freedom of expression that comes with it coming so late. But a very big one is Koreans’ draconian attitudes to drugs, as its development in the 1990s was intimately tied to drug culture in Western countries (and I get the impression things are pretty liberal in Japan too?). Surprisingly, those attitudes are very much shared by 20-somethings, presumably the group that would be the most likely to be interested in trance.

      If you’re further interested in the development of the trance music industry in Korea, then I recommend this article on it from the magazine Japan Inc, and which I provide some commentary on here.

      Meanwhile, according to a friend of mine who lectures and writes on the subject, one reason for the big differences in the music of both countries in general is that Japanese pop is still rooted in a rock and roll tradition, whereas Korea’s comes completely from R&B/urban contemporary/hip-hop. Just an offhand remark to me in an email though, and so I’m sure there’s many exceptions, but I think it’s generally true.

      • this is not real trance…really cheesy trance that gives trance a bad name…asia is slowly but surely developing the trance scene…the world’s #29 club rated by DJ Mag and much more…however, it’s more of a house scene here and in Japan rather than a trance scene…

        • Oh for sure to the remix not being real trance at all really, although I prefer the term “bubblegum trance” myself!. But while the song is nothing akin to classics by Gouryella or Tiësto though, it is fast-paced and something you can quickly get up and dance to, unlike more conventional trance that is melodic, rather slow and – in my own personal opinion – best enjoyed with headphones in bed.

          Seriously, I’ve given up trying to get people interested in trance with the latter, so this is worth a shot. And other mixes of Ariea’s are indeed much closer to conventional trance.

          But I hear you about the popularity of House here, although I didn’t realize it was the same in Japan too. Any ideas why though, in either country? I haven’t been in the trance scene for a good 8 years now sorry, so I wouldn’t know…

          • That is funny, I actually use the term “bubblegum trance” as well when I describe stuff like this. I totally agree on the having given up on trying to get people interested in trance, or even describe what trance is. It’s just not known here and in Asia that well at the moment, but as I said more and more are starting to know what it is. It’s enlightening to know that there actually people in Korea who know Gouryella, Armin, etc. (btw, Ligaya is one of the all time classics!)

            I’m not quite sure either why trance hasn’t taken off in Asia as much as House has. If I had to guess, I’d say it is because House appeals more to the trendy, look posh type of crowd whereas trance isn’t as superficial and is about emotion & feeling. Not that I have anything against House, it’s just not my cup of tea.

            But it is encouraging as I mentioned before that Korea has made it internationally with one of the best electronic music clubs and that all the big name trance DJ’s have been gushing about it. You can even download Armin van Buuren’s (current world DJ #1 for 3 years) ASOT Episode 380 which was a live set recorded directly in Korea a couple of years ago.

            • Sorry to take so long to get back to you, and yeah, it’s good to hear from a kindred spirit(!), although I have to admit my tastes in trance are largely the result of living far far away from any sort of trance scene for 10 years, and hence still firmly stuck at what I was listening to back then!

              Based on what you’ve said though, it sounds like a good time to finally get back into it, but – as with many things – unfortunately my 2 young kids kinda prevent that. But in all seriousness, I dance with them in my bedroom to the things I used to listen to at dance parties every other weekend though; suspect I’ll have some converts 20 years from now! :D

              I agree with you on why house is more popular than trance, to which I’d add another that listening to and/or dancing to trance music encourages you to be in more of your own personal bubble, letting your imagination run free and not caring about the opinions of those next to you. While Koreans are still capable of that of course, most nightclubs I used to go to were the complete antithesis…so regimented (“Dance time! Everybody up!…”Music over! Everybody sit!”), and everything done in large groups or not at all.

              I shouldn’t exaggerate that or generalize too much of course, but I don’t think all that was entirely in my imagination either. And if so, then as a Korean you’d really have to be a bit of a maverick to break free from it…

  2. I’m actually more intruiged by their use of American football (!?!) – it’s not a sport that has any popularity at all here in Korea, so really . . .what’s up with that?

    • I think they’re trying to a) be more “American” as they are going with the cheerleading concept, b) American football players are their ‘oppas’, and going with the American theme, I guess American football players are the equivalent/associated with cheerleaders and c) show support to the athletes in Winter Olympics/World Cup this year. It’s quite a smart theme when you think about it (although I HATE it, and HATE the original song too) cos to get a country (males esp) to love you, be patriotic. And how more patriotic can one get than supporting national representatives for the World Cup/Winter Olympics? The timing is perfect and everything.

      • Thanks for adding that YB, and if any readers are interested then you can read more about that here, but it’s still a bizarre logic really: Korea has ubiquitous doumi (female helpers) and narrator models, and cheerleaders at most(?) of its sports events, but cheerleaders themselves are still viewed as American?

        Not saying you’re wrong necessarily, but I think that their use here is more reflective of a wider Occidentalist streak in Korean culture in general. Just off the top of my head for instance – I’m sure I could find many more – the hyperreal America of Lee Hyori’s You Go Girl video looks eerily similar to SNSD’s Oh!, but without the cheerleader logic:

        On an unrelated note, I definitely hear you about the “girls being patriotic” theme (although given the above, then I don’t think this video is particularly!). If you haven’t read it already, then you may be interested in this take on the 2002 World Cup, when women’s standards of dress become much more liberal and they were able to more openly objectify and discuss men’s bodies in a sexual manner, albeit provided that they were doing so as Red Devils and only discussing the Korean players’ bodies respectively!

        • Hmm, the girls being patriotic and supportive seems extremely plausable to me . . . but I’m still puzzled by the use of the sort of small town, retro Americanism seen in Lee Hyori’s video, although I can see the “exotic” attraction it might hold, just as lots of American music videos have the singer traipsing around ruins in Greece, a tropical beach, etc.

          But the choice of American football still seems . . . well, weird. If it were more closely times with, say, a high profile visit by Heins Ward, I might have dismissed it. But I still find it just kind of an oddball choice, like an American music video that had the lead singer decked out to go hurling or falling in love at a cricket match. And the more I think about sports and music videos, the stranger it gets . . . I mean, are there any Korean videos featuring sports that are actually popular here? Any soccer/football or baseball videos? I don’t watch mv’s very much, but the only ones I can think of are old Yoo Sung Jun videos featuring basketball, boxing, and ice skating (oh God, I’m showing my age!)

          And I’m really wondering about the cheerleader aspect here . . . the costuming isn’t *quite* accurate for American cheerleaders (where are the pleated skirts? Not short enough, I guess . . .) doumi costuming isn’t narrow enough to exclude what they’re wearing here from the narrator model/doumi mode. Still, the whole thing impresses me more as fantasy Americana more than doumi, which despite their prevalent role in Korean buisiness models and everyday shopping, aren’t quite the image I think their handlers want for SNSU.

          • I completely agree, and I’d just add that for anyone who’s seen a Korean cheerleader, they’d appreciate how different they dress compared to American ones. I definitely think they’re trying to give the impression of being American cheerleaders.

          • Last October, the ‘Dunking Divas’ – cheerleaders for the New Jersey Nets – were guests on Star King. Their outfits immediately came to mind when you mentioned the dissimilarity between SNSD’s outfits and ‘traditional’ cheerleading attire.

            Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuGng-h9b78

            Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4aARBpn4j8

            Pretty recent, and maybe the cheerleaders clad in short-shorts dancing and having ‘cutesy’ moments with members from Super Junior and 2PM (including Nichkhun, of ‘chocolate abs’ fame) had some influence?

            As for American football, all that springs to mind is DBSK’s debut video (2004) which included a few brief scenes of leader Yunho, in a locker room, dressed as an American football player.

            And I *faintly* recall seeing a photoshoot for the boyband Shinee in which a member was wearing or holding a football helmet… but the memory is fuzzy and I could be wrong.

            And just as an add-on: James, thank you for putting in the time and effort to write such an interesting and insightful blog! I’ve been a longtime reader, but have never commented before, so I just wanted to voice some appreciation!

            • Hey Zellie, thanks for posting the links . . .

              Actually, by bringing up the Dunking Divas you’ve actually re-emphasized how inaccurate and unrealistic the Girl’s Generation is ~ the hot pants the DD’s wear is obviously a nod to 1970’s *basketball* uniforms (and indeed, that’s their affiliated sport). The one’s SNSD wears are much more like . . . well, a Korean girl’s idea of how to put together a similar outfit from what they already had in their closet. I sorted through a bunch of pics online of American football cheerleaders (I am NOT the target audience, I have decided) and their version of it seems weirder and weirder to me. The only thing I can come up with is that it’s really just a typical GG outfit styled to look vaguely reminiscent. That caveat aside, I’m very persuaded that this is, the same as Lee Hyori’s You Go Girl video, mostly fantasy americana.

              Now that you’ve brought up Bring It On, James, I think you may be right that that’s part of the inspiration here. Although it didn’t do well in theaters, it got a fair amount of play on cable tv here, and while lots of people may not have watched it, I found that a lot of people are passingly familiar with it. And, the visit of Heins Ward, etc., while not ensuring a real following, may have been enough to make somebody, somewhere think that it was cool enough for a theme in a video.

              There’s another problem with the Korean image of cheerleaders, too: Most of the ones here are troups in really implausably wild costumes, and lead by men, and my guess is the style was imported from Japan, where the costuming and composition is similar. Probably the two most famous are the troops from Yonsei and Korea University, the former of which has a vaguely renfest European inspiration, and the latter of which is supposedly based on ancient Korean costumes. Here’s an example of some cheers from the 고연전:

              and the very elaborate indigenous cheerleader costuming:

              http://photo.naver.com/view/2009092800000402155

                • Thanks also Zellie, for the compliments and the videos. My student could just add two more: first Love Effect (2006) by the band Placebo Effect, but whom are so unknown that I can’t find any information on the band or tell if the band members are the cheerleaders, the footballers or both…

                  …and the second was 모두 다 쉿! or Everybody Shhh! by Jewelry, that came out just after their more famous One More Time in 2008:

                  Interesting…no, bizarre stuff you dredged up there Gomushin Girl, and thanks for that also. I think you’re right about Bring It On having more popularity than mere box office numbers would suggest too, but then I’m prejudiced: it was the very first movie I ever saw on a computer, at one of my student’s computer labs.

                  Speaking of which, the juxtaposition of that Korean-style cheerleading with Pet Shop Boy’s songs in the video reminds me of similar ones I used to frequently have as a Korean newbie at about the same time I watched Bring it On, in particular a techno mix of Sweet Child of Mine by Guns & Roses at the end of my first summer here being forever stuck in my memory. It’s really quite eerie getting the same sorts of feelings 10 years later…

        • Hello James,

          I remember seeing 도우미s (didn’t know there was an official term?) before when I was little, they were everywhere. I don’t remember narrator models though. It’s been a really long time since I’ve last been to Korea. So perhaps my perceptions below are off the norm….

          Similar to your new explanation regarding what your classes said, I personally associated cheerleaders with America because SNSD’s image is about being a precocious teen girl. They fit the cheerleading concept really well because the Korean population perceives them as young, super popular, pretty and admirable, just like our typical stereotypes of cheerleaders – young, pretty, (blonde), thin, popular with boys, envy of girls etc….(although I think this is slowly changing perhaps with shows like ‘Glee’ – btw is ‘Glee’ popular in Korea????). So I interpreted the cheerleading as American cheerleaders (stereotype) as it is strikingly parallel to SNSD’s overall image. Their image is not much different to the common idea of American cheerleaders thus it is timely and appropriate to promote themselves as the nation’s cheerleaders.

          And late-teen/early 20s boys (and 아저씨s) will love it, given they know about American high school stereotypes (‘Bring it On’). Maybe the Oh! MV is trying to make boys imagine THEY are the American football player/”hunky 오빠” that are being admired by SNSD (the popular “IT” girls/American cheerleaders) in the MV. Like jocks and cheerleaders. I think this is plausible as they really appeal to young men.

          About the occidentalist approach: I want to point out that Lee Hyori’s ‘U-Go-Girl’ is different to ‘Oh!’ because I feel Hyori manipulates the concept by making a supposedly dorky geek into a confident person; it’s important to bring out confidence in a woman. It reminds me of Tyra Banks and what her talk show does to young girls. Mind you, I’m just observing from watching the MV. It’s empowering to a point. The retro/occidentalist theme is refreshing to many and Hyori is a chameleon, reinventing herself. I think the retro-ness also reflects on women’s liberation era of post WWII. On the other hand Oh! doesn’t have any undertones of women’s liberation/confidence – they are totally submissive to the ‘Korean ideal’ that women/girls should be cute, docile, act pretty, supportive of her man, skinny. Rather they promote what the ideal Korean girl should be like. I feel SM idol groups especially promote what the image of the ideal Korean man/woman/boy/girl, both in their image and in unexpected ways: http://community.livejournal.com/omonatheydidnt/2566044.html I wonder how much impact all this has on the Korean youth, who adore idols, and how healthy it is.

          I think another MV that is retro/occidental is Wonder Girls’ “Nobody”, although it’s not about pastel brights, it’s the gold glamour of Motown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqtzQkoJS_k&feature=related

          Personally, I’m at a simliar age as the SNSD girls and as a Korean living abroad (like you James, I’m currently living in NZ and have been for most of my life), I think SNSD are redigging the memories/sterotypes I had growing up. They are the epitome of what the modern Asian girl should be, and the influence is clear. I see SNSD’s most obvious message as “OK, we know we are girls so we must be the “ideal” girl to win our 오빠’s hearts. It’s what a girl must do.” They don’t challenge the idea of what an ideal girl should be, and it seems Korea is all too happy about it. This is conflicting to me b/c NZ has different ideals. My friend(s) and I often talk about how we’ll never fit in the Korean/Asian ideal of women because we’re too free-spirited, unafraid to be openly expressive and we believe in our rights. I like to think NZ being multicultural/equal individual rights makes people more open-minded, but I know there are stark differences out there.

          I’ve been reading through your old articles (which are really eye-opening) and I’m really surprised and sad there are still so many “subconscious” inequalities between men and women. Sometimes this makes me glad I grew up overseas. My mum (who grew up in Korea) tells me Korea has changed a lot in terms of gender inequality recently, yet reading your articles make me doubt that. I wonder if the mainstream Korean youth and population even care about these different gender/body image messages?

            • And here I am(!), although there’s so little I disagree with in your comment then I don’t really know what to add I’m afraid. Here goes:

              1) Never heard of Glee sorry, but then I wouldn’t because I don’t get much chance to watch TV these days. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page though, shows that it hasn’t been on Korean TV.

              Not that that matters these days of course, but no-one’s recommended downloading it to me either. Is it? Musicals aren’t really my thing sorry…

              2) About men in their late-teens and early-20s loving SNSD and the Oh! song, then of course, and its a rare guy among my students of that age group that doesn’t have a favorite member. But just in case there’s any confusion, I meant that guys who were in their late-teens and early-20s back when Bring It On came out in 2000 are the guys that SNSD was created for, now all ajosshis. Not that they still can’t enjoy being oppas like in the song though.

              3) On this:

              About the occidentalist approach: I want to point out that Lee Hyori’s ‘U-Go-Girl’ is different to ‘Oh!’ because I feel Hyori manipulates the concept by making a supposedly dorky geek into a confident person; it’s important to bring out confidence in a woman. It reminds me of Tyra Banks and what her talk show does to young girls. Mind you, I’m just observing from watching the MV. It’s empowering to a point. The retro/occidentalist theme is refreshing to many and Hyori is a chameleon, reinventing herself. I think the retro-ness also reflects on women’s liberation era of post WWII.

              I agree that Hyori is quite the chameleon, and although I thought the You Go Girl video invoked Grease more than the era of Second Wave Feminism, they’re not mutually exclusive. That she represents a geek becoming a confident person though, is definitely not a “manipulation” of Occidentalism, which in this case at least is basically about using imagery of the West etc. to make the video more exotic-looking than it would have been if it was set in Korea. But I really mean no offense by saying that sorry, and sorry also if I’m taking what you wrote too literally (I wish I had an edit feature for commenters to use!). But if not, then I think you may have some mistaken ideas about the concept. Please elaborate?

              As for the rest, everything you wrote about NZ is precisely why I want to be back in NZ by about the time my 2 daughters are in middle school! (May I ask whereabouts you are by the way?^^) And unfortunately I do think that Korean youth are generally apathetic about messages about gender and body images here, but then they’re very busy, and their school system discourages critical thinking. I can confirm that those issues begin to weigh very heavily on women in their late-20s and early-30s though, when such things start having very real consequences.

              • Happy Waitangi Day! (too bad it’s on a Saturday this year…)

                I LOVE ‘Glee’!!!!!!!!!! It’s amazing and looks so fun! I don’t watch/like many soaps (eg ‘Gossip Girl’) but I love musical-inspired productions (it all started with the musical version of ‘The Lion King’, but then it really exploded with ‘High School Musical’ and no I’m not ashamed to admit my HSM phase!!! Pity Korea never got into HSM.) What I love about Glee is that the characters represent different stereotypes but puts a new, modern twist on them. And they have personality. No the characters don’t always get along but it’s done refreshingly. And they do REALLY cool renditions of popular songs!!

                I’d also recommend ‘Summer Heights High’; it’s hands-down one of the funniest portrayals (mockumentary) of Australian/NZ high schools ever. Yet it’s so accurate on Australian/NZ high school life, it’s brilliant.

                I don’t have much to elaborate on the occidentalism. Perhaps “manipulation” was the wrong word….but Hyori definitely does send a message that a girl should bring out her confidence and that it can be fun. SNSD never does this, they’re simply pretty eye candy (what I REALLY want to know is what the SNSD members’ parents think about their daughter’s songs, lyrics, dancing, concepts, MVs….I remember my mum NEVER letting me do anything along those lines in public despite knowing how liberal the West was.) Anyway, the “bringing out confidence in girls” idea is heard more often/natural in America than Korea (all I see is Tyra Banks going “Fieeeeeerce!!” as I write this) and it also fits in with retro (Grease) theme because in a historic sense, at least somewhat, fits in post WWII women’s liberation and empowerment.

                Simply put:

                Empowering confidence message + post WWII feminism + fun Western retro = WIN.

                I agree with the exoticness of a Western setting – it’s more exciting. Appealing. Isn’t modern Korea all about trying to embrace a Western environment with Korean/Asian customs and technology anyway???

                Also with women in Korea – my mum and I had a discussion that Korean women become domestic housewives who often have a lot of time in their hands, don’t work and instead go to art/cooking/quiltmaking/photography classes. I told her that it’s important for women to strive for successful careers because it gives a sense of independence and ambition. My mum agreed but she said balancing a career + family + home is really difficult and that Western (NZ) women have too much pressure to deal with so it’s much easier to live in Korea as a housewife, esp with all the convenient services and technology (and the lack thereof in NZ). She even went further to suggest the difficult pressures of being a woman in NZ is a factor to the high divorce rates here. But then she keeps insisting Korea is now very advanced and very gender equal so I should stop having misunderstandings about gender. I don’t know what to feel about this. Maybe reverse feminism is the way to go??????? I know a lot of my Asian and non-Asian friends want to be housewives…..D: D: D:

                As for your question, I’m an Aucklander and have always been, so I’ve lived through Auckland going from Eurocentric to multicultural. Personally I wish I grew up in a very busy/competitive/metropolitan city – NZ brews so many social and economic problems which hinders its development and consequently makes me think backward/rural/behind the times, which is not good for a young person in the 21st century. I think it’s nice you want to bring your daughters here though, given the right circumstances NZ is quite an appropriate place to grow up in….I think it’s harder to assimilate into a culture as you get older BUT I think how you parent your child has a huge influence in how a child accepts a new culture. I’m considered very different to other Koreans in NZ because I’m a lot more “assimilated” into the Western culture than most Koreans in everything – language, customs, culture, ideals. Thus I find it really hard to fit in with Koreans because of such differences. Instead, I describe myself as a true Global Child (Third Culture Kid) – mashup of everything now since NZ has so many cultures. However I DO wish I was more Korean sometimes – although I’m trying to be positive about everything, I constantly feel like a misfit. I’m really keen on emigrating soon though, perhaps to Australia/Europe/Canada….but I don’t know if I’d go to Korea – will Korea accept me? Haha, they’d have a lot to handle if I did!!

                • I’ve never been to NZ, but I’ve just seen some clips of Summer Heights High, and I think it’s absolutely hilarious! It could quite easily be a British school as well. Definitely recommended!

                  • Never heard of it until you mentioned it, but now that I have I’m glad you did (it sounds interesting). And – OMG – it was filmed at Brighton Secondary College, which I went to for 6 months in *cough* 1989.

                    It was actually a terrible high school, by far the worst one I’ve ever been to (and I went to 6 in 3 different countries, so I can compare better than most!), and I was very lucky to get a scholarship to Brighton Boys’ Grammar down the road the next year (which sucked in a different way, but at least I learned a lot and didn’t get beaten up). Seriously, it couldn’t have gotten WORSE since then…!

                    • LOL & deja vu at the school co-incidence!!! I think rough schools is a worldwide issue….they’re everywhere D:

                      ‘Summer Heights High’ is brilliant. Love love love it. My favourite character is Ja’mie King SHE’S HILARIOUS! I laughed throughout every episode, it’s that good. Best thing is that everything the characters say and do are SPOT ON; you can’t help but relate to the situation. Soooooo witty. I don’t know how well Koreans would understand ‘Summer Heights High’, not that it matters. Please watch it :D

                • totally agree with YB concerning the differences between hyori and snsd.

                  although both follow a well-working marketing scheme, snsd cater much more to nose-bleeding ajusshis and adolescents while hyori at the same time also empowers women with content.

                  sure, the u go girl’s bright poppy colors promoting bubblegum-fun and using the old route of an ugly duckling turning into a swan, especially when played by hyori, was bound to be a mainstream hit. but if you take a closer look at the lyrics, and for most part the woman herself, you may find that there is actually content. the lyrics tell the girls to stop worrying about what to wear or how to impress guys and just be your confident self! i think this is actually really what young girls, especially in asian cultures, need to hear now. it’s light and a first step in the right direction. just because it comes in visually appealing packaging, this effort shouldn’t be disregarded. so u go girl indeed! ツ

                  hyori’s last album also featured songs that dealt with issues going beyond being immaculate or just sexy. in ‘don’t cry’ for example, she sings about the aftermath of the media-bashing following her plagiarism scandal, how she would still smile like an idiot in public to put on an unaffected façade for the outside world when she was really more of a wreck inside. ‘invincible lee hyori’ is lyrics-wise my favorite track of the album. she sings about others copying her style, copying her dance but she’s the original because she had to go a long way plastered with countless sacrifices to come this far.
                  to me this is the reason why she isn’t interchangeable as compared to the other countless beauties in the industry. i’m not saying that snsd members are hollow dolls but their concepts so far have been two-dimensional (though i’m intrigued by the dark concept at the end of the oh! video while not expecting much from it), playing the obedient cute or sexy card without any substance.
                  as a young asian woman who grew up in europe, hyori to me sets a great example for modern women, and those kind of role-models are pretty scarce these days.

                  btw, i know what you mean when you say you sometimes feel like you don’t really belong. i just came back from china where marriage is based on what car you own and if you have a house but europe imo seems so…boring? and in a lot of countries xenophobia is still a big issue. i feel most ‘at home’ when i meet up with my group of multi-cultural friends from all over the world. but should you find a place where it all fits, then feel free to let me know! ツ btw, i also heard australia is a great option, and the weather is definitely a plus for me!

                  • You said you grew up in Europe; where abouts in Europe did you grow up in????? Where do you live now? I think with issues like gender it’s best to think in a Western mindset and make smart judgements :D

                    NZ isn’t too bad when it comes to multiculturalism, esp the more urban areas. There’s just a lot of other social issues….and I want to live in other places :) Yeah Australia sounds good, a bit conscious of the water consumption & super hot weather over there though =.=

  3. Wow, I am astounded again by how a remix can make me like a video I would otherwise not give a crap about. Do they send out their singles to DJ’s and pay them to do the remixes or do they just go for it on their own and put it out there?

    • Glad to hear it. Unfortunately the DJs are just on their own, and like Ariea explains on his blog, not having the track of the original vocals and so on made the remix very difficult.

      On a side note, I’m curious about the legality of it: would he be able to sell the remix if he wanted to?

      p.s. Moved your comment over from the Open Thread, because it sounded like you meant to put it here.

  4. Hello, James~~
    I’m Grece. Do you remember me??
    Long time no see~ I want to see you and classmates.
    But,, actually I don’t miss one person.ㅋㅋ
    Maybe you Know what I say.

    I will be back. Take care~~^^

    • Of course I do! How’s Rick?^^

      I’ve missed you too, and I’m sure there’s some of your classmates that you miss surely?

      But there’s not many left now: just 6, and the class finishes next Wednesday (most are in Australia). If we have a class party, it’s going to be pretty a sad one…!

      Take care yourself, and bye for now!

  5. I think your blog is very interesting to read. :) I like reading your analysis about Korean culture. I study advertising and Social Communication (I think that’s how the course is called in english) in University so I also enjoy reading how carefully you analise the Cfs and advertising of South Korea…

    Anyway… about this song and the mv…
    I wonder what do you think about the lyrics, the music video and the song itself.

    I confess when I listened to this song and watched the music video I was pretty shocked with how sexual it is and how it portrays girls as submissive sexual lolitas. The lyrics portray girls as submissive and it’s all kinda creepy because even though the lyrics aren’t explicit, there are many sexual undertones during all the song and music video. For example:

    They made the SNSD girls sing some of the lines in a very sexual way, kinda singing it as a sexual whisper (Ex.: The way they sing these lines: 처음이야 이런 내 말투 ha!; (…); 왜 너만 너만 모르니; (…); 자꾸 딴 얘기는 말고; (…); 1년 뒤면 후회할 걸.). The songs also have repetitive ‘Oh’ and ‘Ah’ (in between they sing: ‘오빠를 사랑해’ & ‘많이 많이 해’) which makes the chorus sounds like a girl moaning during a sexual act. If you think about the lyrics and the way the song is sung, it seems like it’s trying to sell a lolita image and the message/story of a girl being shy before losing her virginity with her boyfriend. In the beggining the girls sing: I’m not the same as before; Brand new sound; With a brand new me lets do; one more round; (…); oppa oppa I’ll be I’ll be; down down down down.

    Besides that, the music video has a lot of close-up on their legs that are revealed by using those tiny out-fits they use. In the choreography there’s a lot of focus on the legs and in one part of the choreography SNSD copy one part of Brown Eyed Girls’s ‘Abracadabra’s choreography when they make the 8 SNSD’s girlls touch all over the body of 1 of the members (including touching chest, legs, belly, etc)(By the way, ‘Abracadabra’s choreography was made intended to be sexy and the fact that SNSD is copying the most polemic part of the choreography of Brown Eyed Girl’s which is the part GaIn gets touched by the dancers, says something). Also on SNSD’s ‘Oh’ music videos the girls dance inside the Football player’s locker room and in USA, cheerleaders that go inside the male locker’s room are considerated sluts (sorry for not using a better word to describe it).

    Of course all sexual references are not explicit, but there are to many sexual undertones in this song and music video for me to believe that the sexual undertones were not intentional, specially after I read a quote from SNSD’s producer saying the group was created to be promoted to men on their 30 and 40.

    As a person that grew up in a country outside of Asia, I find it a bit hard to understand how asian pop-culture think it’s okay to cultivate the submissive lolita image with a lot of sexual undertones (Ex.: Girls generation and their music and concepts) while at the same time they condemn women and girls that try a more mature type of sexual image (ex.: Chaeyeon and Ivy that got their music videos and music banned).
    What do you think about all of this?

    • In America, female cheerleaders have their own locker room, and at most schools, men are not allowed in the women’s locker room and vice versa (the few male cheerleaders, I assume, use the men’s locker room) so I’m pretty sure that’s not where the image of cheerleading (girls) as “sluts” came from. Although there are some sexual overtones and undertones to cheerleading in the US, the SNSD interpretation of it convinces me that they’re unfamiliar with them. To the makers of this video, it’s just a cute, “exotic” background.

      In fact, if you go to some of the links, there’s an interview, and the girls basically say it’s all part of their “retro sporty” look, which is supposedly in fashion. Oh, and they all chose their own numbers for their shirts! And now they can use their ponytails in dances! STOP BEFORE MY BRAIN MELTS! I don’t think there’s anything particularly “retro” about the looks they’re sporting, but as often happens, the fashion here and how it’s labeled are often a bit . . . off, by western standards. It’s also supported by the fact that the very brief scene of guys actually “playing football” looks nothing like the way an actual game is played.

      I do think it says something that for a “sporty” look they chose cheerleading over, say, football (international), basketball, ice skating, or other more actively comptetive sports. What’s to stop them from being baseball players (God knows there’s enough of them!), hockey players, golfers, gymnasts, etc.? Obviously this fits a more passive image of SNSD, cheering on the boy they like.

      As for the touch and reveal dance move . . . I’m pretty sure other groups used similar moves, and certainly it’s been part of American produced music video’s for a long time. BEG is notable for having been very overtly sexual in their use of it, but SNSD has clearly dialed it back a long way from that.

      *Caveat, before I am beaten to death with pompoms – Cheerleaders display a great deal of athletic prowess, and I do not contend that it is not a sport with its own rules and competitions. However, it’s formal, normative mode is to support the other school sport teams, and active competition is not how it is usually understood or utilized, and certainly that’s not the mode on display in this video. So please, please, don’t destroy me in a pyramid stack of death!

      • Thanks for the compliments about my blog May, and you certainly made me look much more closely at the song than I had before. I did know that the lyrics were suggestive for instance, but didn’t realize quite how much until reading your explanation, and I confess I completely missed the “BEG-esque” dance move (in case anyone else did too, it’s at 2:19).

        I actually printed out your comment this morning and made little notes in the margins about what I’d write in reply by the way (old-fashioned I know, but that’s how I like working), but Gomushin Girl beat me to almost all of those (the fiend), and what little that’s left sounds pretty inconsequential sorry: just that I don’t think the ‘Oh’s and ‘Ah’s sound “like a girl moaning during a sexual act” for instance, although like I said I do agree with you that the song’s still pretty full of innuendo as a whole. And also that I thought that having the girls practicing in a locker room was just some visual reinforcement of the American football theme really: using it to imply that they were sluts for going into the male locker rooms instead would require the producers knowing much more about American football culture than the rest of the video suggests. Hell, I doubt that they even knew that female cheerleaders had their own locker rooms, although – full disclosure – actually I didn’t either until Gomushin Girl pointed it out.

        As for contradiction between veiled expressions of teenage female sexuality and the condemnation of more explicit ones of women’s, I hear you, and – as I’m about to write in an email to my thesis supervisor – to figure out the underlying logic of the latter I’ll be looking in much more detail at all recent (say from the start of the Lee Myung-bak Administration) cases in coming months. I talk a little bit more about that here if you’re interested.

        And the former? Naturally that’s quite a convoluted subject, but I think the explicit reasons that SM Entertainment and JYP created the Girl’s Generation and Wondergirls respectively for do explain a great deal. I have a very low opinion of JYP after what I learned from writing this recent post on him, especially what Extra! Korea has written about him, and by coincidence my thesis supervisor just said in an email to me that it was nice that the Oh! video gave members of Girls’ Generation some individuality for a change, whereas the Wondergirls’s videos seem to be about effacing differences in favor hip-grinding etc etc., although both are still very cookie cutter compared to teenage girl groups in – of all places – Japan!

        Naturally all that’s just scratching the surface, but I do still think that JYP’s impact on the ways Korean teenage girl groups market present themselves shouldn’t be underestimated. Especially since although Girl groups existed in Korea before them of course (see Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling here and here for a history), they weren’t quite as popular as they are now, and so it’s a pity that JYP is effectively setting the standards for the industry as girl groups become an ingrained part of Korean popular culture. Indeed, apparently there’s already quite a batch of 15, 16 and 17 year-olds in groups this year that are following the same example as SNSD and WG (see here also).

        • Oh, the joys of attending American public high school. Trust me, I *tried* to ignore football, and I think it is a testament to my willpower that I still don’t know the rules, scoring, positions, or names of famous players (Heins Ward being my academically accepted Area studies/Antropology exception^^;;;) but sadly it’s as pervasive as football/soccer mania in the rest of the world. Le sigh.

          I’m with James on the “Oh” and “Ah” sounds. I’m pretty sure I’ve never made such a chirpy sound as part of my repotoir of “sexy” sounds. Maybe when I hiccup. But the lyrics are really, really . . . well, halfway between racy and braindead.

          What JYP has done is perfected an already existing formula. What I’d love to see (pretty, pretty, pretty please, James?) is a comparison of the formulas for boy vs. girl bands^^

          • Oh, I understand: it’s the same with Rugby and Cricket in New Zealand, unfortunately impossible to escape once you turned the television or radio on there (and seriously a big part of why I left). More TV channels since I left 10 years ago may make things more tolerable now, but…well, thank God for the internet; don’t I could live there permanently without it!

            I would be interested in finding and comparing the formulas for boy and girl bands one day, and admit I hinted at something like that at the end of our conference presentation last summer. But then I hate most mainstream K-pop, know little more than the names of the main groups, and will only very very occasionally watch a girl band’s MV if the song is tolerable and, well, they’re showing a little skin. Not that there aren’t some singers and groups that I like and have even gone so far as to buy their CDs though, but the mainstream ones just don’t do it for me (with rare exceptions like BEG).

            Hence I would normally never have mentioned the SNSD song, but I really do like the trance version (listened to it for probably the 100th time while jogging last night; but the original one I heard at a bar last night sucked). I would have left it just at that – well, actually I did – but then we all got talking about the uniforms etc. etc…and ended up here.

            Despite what I say about them, I have to admit that if SNSD comes up in a post then it does seem to get sucked down the rabbit hole so to speak(!), but I’ve really enjoyed looking at an MV in this much depth for the first time. With the proviso that I’d have to like the songs themselves to get started, I wouldn’t mind doing more like it.

            Seriously, perhaps we could do a combined study, you doing the boy bands and me the girl bands?^^

  6. Off Topic: I hope SM doesn’t get sued by the NCAA or the NFL for having their logos in the background, esp. from the Iowa Hawkeyes.

  7. Actually, the cheerleader-football player concept has been used before. In the Wonder Girls’ music video “So Hot,” one of the girls dresses up as a cheerleader for a bunch of football players. Maybe it is a Korean perceived stereotype of America.

  8. Why the blond hair on some of the girls and why so much English in their songs?
    I ask because its doesn’t seem to take much to get thousands of Koreans in the streets to protest America and yet ….
    So one would think that entertainers, like After School or SNSD etc would avoid looking like Americans or using english..
    Your thoughts.

  9. Hi I update k-mixes on this thread: http://www.allkpop.com/forum/index.php?/topic/39-k-mixersmashers-thread-come-and-vote-again-for-favourite-mixer-delete-my-vote/

    I am personally very smitten with Kuronekocfu’s Chu remix (I never liked the song), Bada – Mad remix, Ayumi Hamasaki – Sparkle Remix (removed by youtube but prob on his site), and After School remix. ^^

    There’s loads of great K-mixers with different versions anyway, check them out, you might find some more you like!

    I haven’t seen Korean sports grounds but it looked really American-esque style supporters stand. Even if they are supposed to be women why are they squeeking like little girls? :P Oh well I guess that’s the culture of having a high pitch voice is cute or something. I thought it was more destitute to Japan and Taiwan though.

  10. Loved the hot pink thigh-high boots in the SNSD video. I’ve been looking for a pair in black. There is something about the plasticized faces among SNSD members that bugs, especially in close-ups. I honestly wonder if the girls weren’t cuter before their faces were remodeled.

  11. Pingback: Tweets that mention Oh? Oh…! (Updated) « The Grand Narrative -- Topsy.com

  12. I’ve been reading through a number of your blog-post/essays since a (korean-american) friend linked to your site, but a comment you made here is the first time it’s really struck me just how much I’m… oh, I don’t know, maybe ‘creeped out’ would be the phrase? by the girl-group phenomenon you’re talking about. I mean, I do remember when ‘Hey Mickey’ came out, and I remember the girls singing it in the locker room, and I’m pretty sure that was *eighth grade*. If the intent is to inspire nostalgia in the audience, then the audience must be roughly in their late 30’s to early 40’s to remember that song. And suddenly it dawned on me: this is supposed to appeal to a generation equivalent to mine (in terms of age/maturity)? I mean, there’s “yeah, they’re cute and all,” and then there’s “but dude, they were busy learning to walk when we were in college”, and that’s… *shudder*

    There’s something inherently disturbing anyway, in all this, but realizing I’m roughly in the same age group just drives it home in a visceral way that I hadn’t quite grasped before. I’m not sure whether to thank you for that new piece of knowledge, or go scrub my brain. (It doesn’t help that the song was stupid the first time around, and outside of a strongly ironic re-interpretation, I can’t see it getting any less stupid! But being an aware-of-irony American probably taints my reaction.)

    • Thanks very much for your long and thoughtful comment, and I’d like to respond in kind, but other than to say that I’m shared certainly shared the same realization process about you had about them then I can’t think of what to add that hasn’t already been done so in the comments above and post itself sorry.

      Perhaps there is one though, which I just learned a couple of days ago. I haven’t been able to find any official source confirming it so far, but I heard that at least part of the reason that there are 9 members in the group is so as to be able to frequently line them up, thereby recreating the experience of going to a brothel and choosing a woman from a line-up there.

      Sounds like just a silly rumor in itself of course. But place it in the context of everything mentioned in this post though, then I’d wager that it’s actually true!

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