Sunday, July 24, 2011

All in color for a won

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't recognize South Korea if I visited it again. When I was there almost no one had internet and now it is one of the most connected countries on the planet. My impression of the country was that a person could walk a mile and the landscape, lifestyle and technology would change to resemble anything from 1930s American Heartland to the 1980s and back again all within a comfortable stroll. From new pictures I can see that many of the cities are completely transformed.

The popular music I heard while out was more often than not self-produced, self-promoted and self-distributed and the bands commonly consisted of a small electric organ with pre-programmed bossa nova beats. One of the interesting things to watch while I was in Korea was the evolution of rap and rock music. As restrictions of an oppressive government eased and Korean youth could speak out they did so angrily through their songs, though more polite by several degrees than the urban American inspiration that shocked so many people.

Watching the slick, corporate-owned and high production values of some of the newest Korean pop groups is something of a shock since all I recall are stiff, rote performances to a cassette tape playing on a chair next to the performer. There are few surprises in the music videos though and all pretty much follow the standard themes familiar to anyone born after the 1980s. The girls are cute, bouncy and sexy (very few affect a public street or gangster persona though this is changing) and rapid changes in costume and sets are the rules. A lot of cosplay costumes are involved though I'm sure this is what producers are confident that the audience wants.

The male performers in videos are usually depicted as living large and horribly tortured by emotion, definitely appealing to teen girls. The videos are hilarious because of the overwrought scenery chewing of the performers. I suspect focus groups or something similar dictate the format and themes of the music videos to an extreme perhaps more than their American counterparts and that these groups are similar to the heavily-managed and manufactured boy and girl groups of the American 1990s music scene.

5 Dolls is a typical Korean girl bubblegum pop group featured in a video with a comic book layout theme. Kind of fun and a little daring.

On the male side is So Goodbye from the City Hunter television series soundtrack and it's pretty slick. My wife is addicted to the show and many others that are not fun to locate in the US but she enjoys immensely. Being a good husband, I focus on procuring Korean films and television nearly as much as I do gathering Hayley Mills memorabilia.

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