It’s been a while now since PSY’s “Gangnam Style” became a viral hit on Youtube and made it’s way around the Internet. The song eventually became number one in over 30 countries, and even the North Korean government has gotten in on the fun, using it to parody South Korean presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye in the weirdest “government” video I have ever seen. The result is that PSY is now the face of K-pop and has probably initiated a renewed interest in the Gangnam area as a tourist attraction, not to mention in South Korea itself. I was first introduced to K-pop back in 2009, while I was living in Taiwan, where the genre is extremely popular. I’ve heard a lot more K-pop since then but these are the tracks that stick out most in my mind:
1.Super Junior-Sorry Sorry
The first time I remember hearing K-pop was while I was teaching at an English kindergarten in Taipei, which was teeeechnically illegal. By “technically” I mean totally, but it was one of those look the other way type of things. It had to be, because practically everyone I knew taught at a similar type of school. That said, teachers did occasionally get deported and there are tales all over the internet of such horror stories. They might make you think twice about taking that kindy job you think looks so good. I personally never had any serious problems, though.
Anyway, one day I was teaching a class when a voice came over the intercom asking the school owner’s wife to come to the upstairs office. Now to an outsider, like say a government official, that might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but in truth I never even met the woman but once, because she was never there. I can’t even remember her name, but that’s not the important thing here. The important thing was what that announcement meant. It was a signal, to all the foreign teachers that a government inspector was in the building and we should leave our classrooms, go to the upstairs office and look as if we were preparing for our older students classes. As I was about to run out the door some loud music started to play on that very same intercom and it sounded like this:
I could immediately tell it wasn’t Chinese, but knew little about Kpop or even Korea at the time. Then I saw my students start rubbing their hands together and lifting their knees up like they were trying to do some kind of dance. What the hell was going on? The Taiwanese teacher had apparently choreographed and taught them an entire dance unbeknownst to me. Was this their diversion plan? If it was, GENIUS! “Hey Mr. Government Inspector don’t look at those foreigners look at these adorable children dancing to the latest K-pop craze!” I wanted to watch but I knew I had to get out of there. After a few mesmerizing moments, I realized I had better start moving or who knows what might happen. I ran up the stairs to the office and made myself busy. Eventually, the inspectors left and we all breathed a sigh of relief but that song stuck in my head for months.
I first listened to this song on a recommendation and as much as I was trying to be open-minded, there is just something about grown women (17 is old enough) acting all cutesy like little girls that rubs me the wrong way. However, like a lot of K-pop music it will eventually get in your bones!
In this song, IU compares her crush to cookies,jelly and of course marshmallows. Even if you aren’t into the bubblegum style of this track, who can’t appreciate a giant marshmallow running around? Not sure what that fish thing is about though. To this day I only know one word of that song,”marshmallow”, and even though I don’t hate it as much as I used to, it’s the only word I care to know.
3. Girl Generation-The Boys
Before ” Gangnam Style” became such a national obsession this song was everywhere. South Koreans obsession with K-pop music is on another level. It’s often a source of national pride and “The Boys” was no exception. It isn’t just the radio or TV. Even little mom and pop shops and the 8 billion cell phone stores on every block still play this song, even though it’s well over a year old, as a way to attract customers. I didn’t really love or hate this song in the beginning, but the ubiquitousness of it made we want to shove a chopstick in my eye. I have never been more grateful to Steve Jobs for inventing the iPod. God bless noise cancelling ear buds!
4. 2NE1 -내가 제일 잘 나가 (I am the Best)
With so much K-pop music having that sweet bubblegum quality, a group like 2NE1 easily stands out. The fact that their group isn’t made of an entire cheer leading squad (only 4 ladies here) also works in their favor! They have also recruited Will.i.am to help them become the first all Korean group to make it stateside. In a way PSY has beat them to the punch without even trying, but he is a solo act so they could still be the first “group”. Keep your eye out for these girls!
Also because I like these girls so much here is a video of 2NE1 receiving an “Iggy” for “Best Band”, for your viewing pleasure. It’s an award reserved for the most cutting edge music from around the world.
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