David Frum

09.27.12

Gangnam Style, Ctd.

Robert Kelly, who ordinarily writes the Asian Security Blog, comes down from the academic stoop to enlighten us on Korean Pop music.

Anyway, none of these carbon-copy ‘k-bands’ like the Wonder Girls or Girls Generation or whatever would ever get considered for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I’m from Cleveland, so I thought I’d add that little plug). K-pop slavishly copies from the boy-band/girl-band model that began in the US 20 years ago and crossed-over to Japan. The hair, the synched dance-moves, the gratingly cutesy presentations, the insipid teen love-story lyrics, the spontaneity-crushing over-choreography – it’s awful, corporate faux-art. None of them can play an instrument; they are recruited solely because they’re hot, and the music-machine does the rest. Bleh…

So pretty much the exact same as American pop. But then there's the reason K-Pop so desperately needs sly lampoon artists like "Psy":

The emphasis on face, prestige, networking, and connections contains a deeply inegalitarian, illiberal personalism that implies sharp insider/outsider distinctions and vicious social ranking. Hierarchy in Korea is punishing, well beyond the Romneyite ‘prosperity gospel’ notion that your economic success somehow reflects your goodness: what kind of car do you drive? where did you go to school? what brand labels do you buy? (no Prada or Louis Vuitton? you didn’t even buy a Chinese knock-off?), what do your parents do? how are your S-curve, V-line, and bust size? How much money do you make? where are you from in Seoul? (wait, you’re not from Seoul? wth is wrong with you?), how light is your skin-tone? (better get that whitening skin cream from the entire floor of the local mall dedicated to cosmetics), did you get your graduate degree in the West? how well do you speak English? could your parents afford an international school, or just a hagwon? (wait you didn’t even go to hagwon?!), did you get that double eye-lid as a plastic surgery gift for finishing high school?…

Goodness, that sounds pretty much exactly like American consumer culture.