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We're famous for not having talents, though
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Here's HyunA displaying her Pikachu voice (segment begins 26 seconds in), anticipating how a year later she tells Psy he's just her style. But what's striking me now about the clip is Jihyun saying, right at the start, "We're famous for not having talents." I can't tell if this is just a quick quip, a "talent" merely meaning a special side attribute, or if the comment is coming from somewhere deeper.



There's a TV clip a bit later (here, and continues here) of their discussing how they deal with harsh comments, the guys who told them, "It's okay, just get your faces done first" (i.e., told them that their performance wasn't bad but that before they debut they ought to all have plastic surgery*), and people later who called them "deud minute," an acronym for "I couldn't even listen to or see 4minute." Those of you who've been following this longer and more attentively than I have: Are 4minute's looks considered a challenge to typical idol-girl faces and fashion? HyunA, of course, is Sex Symbol Of The Moment in K-pop, and she seems a master at being able to switch from goofball and brat in one second to total command in the next, donning and shucking off cuteness at will, while nonetheless coming across as fundamentally warm and spontaneous, and a light-hearted attention grabber. (If you stick with the Mr. Teacher vid beyond Pikachu, you'll see a funny sequence where HyunA's videoing the rest of 4minute head-on as they walk along a Kuala Lumpur street, but complains that it's scary for her to walk backwards, so makes all of them walk backwards so that she can be walking forward while continuing to work the camera.) But I wonder if the rest are considered non-idol-style in their looks and demeanor (and if that's felt to be a plus by their fans). Gayoon's face looks squashed-in, and Jihyun's can fall into a weary or sardonic droop, though I don't think that makes either of them unattractive.

I also wonder if HyunA's quick image switches make the general K-pop audience uneasy; to me she's thoroughly coherent and has done a smooth job of disarming the opposition.

[Update: Oh yeah, if you didn't see it, I added this update to my "Long Giraffe Of Genius" post: In the main body of the post I'd written: "HyunA lays out the predicament but also ends each line with a flourish of staccato syllables, 'naw-aw aw-aw-aw, naw-aw aw-aw-aw,' 'heh-eh eh-eh-eh, wah-ah ah-ah-ah' that, while not being out-and-out parody, are amusing enough to detach HyunA from the anguish that the music is pretending to establish (I'm at a loss to convey how good this is/she is: I imagine her singing each syllable with a vertically oval open mouth while making her eyes as round as her mouth, in faux innocence)." But checking the live version on Music Bank for who's singing or miming what, I see that it seems to be Jiyoon rather than HyunA doing the brilliantly comic (and beautiful) "naw-aw aw-aw-aw, naw-aw aw-aw-aw," "heh-eh eh-eh-eh, wah-ah ah-ah-ah." Except in some other performances it doesn't seem to be Jiyoon — or anyone — who is mouthing them. My guess is that live all the silly syllables are piped-in, so that the singers don't have to worry about interjections while anticipating or singing their leads. But I'll wager a small amount of money that on the recording those syllables are sung by either Jiyoon or Gayoon or maybe both (one doing the silly verse syllables and one doing the silly chorus syllables). Those two do a big hunk of the rocking and wailing too — though the whole crew are enjoying themselves extravagantly. (While you're visiting the vid, notice how HyunA's on a total lark through "Dream Racer." As for the Sistar songs, Hyorin's singing is as good as its reputation, from smooth to impassioned with what seems like utmost ease. It just took till "Alone" to be put in service of a song I actually like. All the twitching and bending over, though, is still an embarrassment. I assume it's supposed to be erotic and maybe funny, too, but it's like someone continually whacking your nose with a chair cushion. I suppose cheap and tawdry is a better setting for greatness than a jewelry display case would be, but the cheapness doesn't have to be downright annoying.)

One problem with figuring who's singing what on the basis of who's mouthing what is that in at least some versions of "Volume Up," Jiyoon is singing along with pretty much everything, though not usually into the mic. She must like the song.]

*I gather that their label president encouraged them not to. And as Jihyun says, it's too late now anyway, since everyone knows their faces.

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Oh yeah, and a supposed source at Cube Entertainment "revealed" that the snakes in the "Volume Up" video represent the sort of online Netizens who direct criticism and hateful comments at girl groups — though given Gayoon's gentle handling of the snake, Mat and I were skeptical that that particular metaphor is actually dominant here. As Sigmund Freud once said, "Sometimes a young woman continuously caressing a snake in a K-pop video is just a young woman continuously caressing a snake in a K-pop video."

Edited at 2012-10-22 11:51 pm (UTC)

Later on the T@xi show Jiyoon calls her mom on her mobile, and one of the T@xi guys, mostly joking around (but the response has a serious edge), takes the phone and asks her about negative comments that people make to her about her daughter Jiyoon.

Edited at 2012-10-25 06:23 pm (UTC)

Hyuna's now got the second most viewed k-pop music video on youtube. I was hoping this would translate into 100 million views for 'Bubble Pop' and 'Trouble Maker' as well, but no such luck, and it (probably) won't mean a Billboard hit for her either.

Thoughts on Ice Cream (cream cream cream cream)?



People on youtube are saying Sohyun is the guest rapper on 'Very Hot'. I haven't found proof of that but it's possible.

Credits: Lyrics: Hyuna, Riwo. Composer: Riwon, Hyuna, Shinsadong Tiger. Production: Shinsadong Tiger. Only appearance of the Tiger on the EP.



Edited at 2012-10-22 11:15 pm (UTC)

It's funny that Baskin Robbins is such an established brand in Korea that '31 flavours' is a recognized pop reference. I think it appears in another recent k-pop song as well. Maybe this slogan is common knowledge in the US as well, but it's not in Norway. Lots of outlets on the streets here in Seoul anyway.

4Minute have followed up 'Mr Teacher' with 'Travel Maker', which is similarly loosely structured.


HyunaA's hair is in what I think of as a more likely Gayoon color, and Gayoon's hair is in what I think of as a more likely HyunA color (if the phrases "likely hair color" and "unlikely hair color" can even be said to apply to HyunA; I suppose that green and silver would be unlikely: she's yet to experiment with the unnatural-anywhere-on-this-planet parts of the rainbow that glitter and punk introduced in the '70s).

I've so far watched very few clips of Mr. Teacher. I gather that the — very flimsy — "structure" of Mr. Teacher was that every now and then, interspersed with the ongoing shenanigans, the director or producer or someone (a Ms. as often as a Mr., I think) would ask 4minute a sociocultural question that they'd try to answer.

[I've listened to Melting once and of course have opinions but for at least this minute I'm going to hold off trying to articulate them.]

"Talent," (gaenggi) as far as I've experienced watching K-variety, refers mainly to imitations. Usually of a celebrity, drama character, or animal, but I've seen someone's "talent" be an impromptu patter in the style of tv home shopping channels.

I vaguely remember that displays of dancing or martial arts have not been referred to as gaenggi, but skills.

I don't think people who slut-shame Hyuna care that she screams at chickens, so it doesn't seem like it's the image switches that cause any unease. Her performance demeanor is the only one they consider. Besides which, the image switch is a staple of idolling. Every single-group/idol fan proudly proclaims that their bias is the most charismatic/sexy/hot on stage and the most dorky off. Antis never attack that they act dorkily in variety. Rather, often they get hate when they act too much like their performance modes (arrogance and/or aloofness often being demanded of them by the music genres they perform) outside of it and come off "rude."


Edited at 2012-10-23 09:14 pm (UTC)

Thanks. This is useful info and makes sense, though it doesn't necessarily support my attempt to find reasons to gallantly defend 4minute as I imagine them soldiering on in the face of a contemptuous world (a world that is rewarding them very handsomely; at least a part of the world is).

I nonetheless would assume that "we are famous for not having talents" resonates with all the times that they or other idol girls get trashed as talentless, as compromised, unless and until they've demonstrated respectable chops in some respectable endeavor (even if in this instance what's being referred to is comic mimicking, which isn't part of the respectability convo).

An idol girl being awesome or charismatic onstage and a lovable relatable dork offstage makes promotional/psychological sense, her getting to be a superior talent and a charismatic object of attention while somehow not claiming superiority over us as a human lovable being (even while having a talent for acting lovable). I haven't had time to watch many variety/reality shows. But I wouldn't be surprised if HyunA turns out to be something special (rather than just par for the course) as someone who can be the lovable ditz and dork while being able to effortlessly generate a sense of command when called upon. It sounds correct that the antis aren't following the reality-show HyunA, just the onstage super sex bomb. Where they might find dissonance is HyunA's willingness to demonstrate both pop aegyo and hip-hop swagger. One reason she seems coherent to me (not that she would be worse if she didn't), is that the aegyo itself doesn't feel ingratiating so much as an adventure — as sexiness and silliness on the rampage and try to stop me. She really looks like she's having fun as a star,* which is why I've belatedly come to appreciate her dancing (which is about postures way more than about skills).

Have any performers in Korea ever succeeded artistically or commercially when they've gone for a haughtiness or aloofness that they refuse to turn off? Have performers succeeded by challenging audiences? I'm not just thinking of Iggy Pop types (in the Stooges, Iggy would literally dive into the audience and goad people to assault him), but of Miles Davis turning his back on the audience. I'm kinda hoping that Jiyeon and Hwayoung have some of this in their arsenal.

The "follow me" meme contains a kernel of such a challenge, even if the challenge is curtailed. (I basically think such challenges don't work anymore in Anglo-American entertainment, are no longer credible — goth seems silly to me — but challenge was an effective part of my rock-fan youth. For all I know, Grace Slick was a lovable, relatable drunk dork offstage, not much actual command over her life or tongue, far too genuine; but on camera she was a living, awesome threat, and I was enthralled.)

*I recall reading that she was pulled from the Wonder Girls for health issues, so for possibly being too weak. Think it's great that we now seem to be seeing from her unfettered joy in stardom.

Edited at 2012-10-25 06:10 pm (UTC)

Depends how strict you want to get I guess. SNSD's Jessica is known for being an 'ice princess', aloof and arrogant. That has earned her antis, but also lots of commercial interest. Of course she's not actually arrogant in public, she's nice and friendly and pleasant in many settings, but may talk a bit less, smile a bit less than your average idol. Her sister Krystal in f(x) has gotten a lot of flack for being arrogant, like several actual articles with quotes from insiders saying she acted like a diva on the set of some commercial or photoshoot, or that she was rude on a tv show, but at the same time the sisters are more often pitched as being 'cold girls' in a chic cool way.

Other idols have a similar reputation or image. 2PM started out with defiance of the rules and brattiness as their 'concept', but after the issues with Nickhun leaving they toned that down. Anyway that was different, more of a game.

Of course if this translated into public acts of defiance against their fans I'm sure their status as idols would be in danger.

(Interview with the Jungs: http://soshified.com/2012/06/marie-claire-magazine-interviews-jessica-and-fxs-krystal

Jessica: Because I’m the type who expresses my opinions honestly, my first impression seems to be taken sharply. I’ve caused misunderstandings a lot, but I don’t try to change myself because of that. Isn’t being honest better than being fake? I just think they’ll get around to understanding my honesty some day.
Krystal: Guys don’t really like me. Guys like girls that are kind and innocent. I used to be innocent (laughs). Now I’m not. Plus, it’s not something I want.
)

"They remind me of the cheerful girls with strong egos in Jane Austen's novels."

The author does seem slightly insane.

Well, the translation wasn't very competent, though I don't know if that's to blame for the sudden, total shifts in topic, midparagraph. Did you look at the Korean original?

Actually, I'd say that "we are famous for not having talents" could possibly be a point of pride, in that there are always people bemoaning how idol groups often can get away with little to no performance talent or releasing bad music because they're funny in variety. That 4minute is famous for not doing imitations implies that they don't have to stoop to that level, that they can stand on their performance talent and good music alone, being "more legitimate" artists. Some people praise 2NE1 for being notoriously awkward on variety, (and thus rarely doing variety appearances) taking it as evidence that they are more sincere and less fake than their peers, who play the "image first, music not so important" game.

There are certainly people who dislike Hyuna's brand of erotic cuteness, usually those who associate cuteness with youth, and thus find erotic-cute to be a wrongful sexualisation of the underage. And I do feel like there is a little bit of that in general backlash against Hyuna's sexiness, due to her babyface. (rivals Selena Gomez's) There's also general outcry against sexualisation of the young because she is the youngest in 4minute. (Conspiracy gossip was that she was a little too spicy for the Wonder Girls.)
These are more an extension of the debate on aegyo, however, and usually dorky behavior is not included under the conduct frowned upon. As askbask pointed out with his links, "dorky" might well be high praise for any idol.

Have performers succeeded by challenging audiences?
I don't have enough experience with the rest of Kpop to say. From this, it seems that anyone who achieves mainstream success does play the game at least a little, especially for squeaky-clean commercial endorsements.

This is further complicated in that fans' devotion becomes so complete that, arguably, challenging actions that are accepted by their fans cease to be challenging, because the fans accept both challenging and not in exactly the same way. They paint over all actions with blind adoration, and revel in that adoration, not thinking on any challenges that might be present. askbask mentioned the Jung sisters' aloof images, and some of their fans find it a point of appeal, but not in the sense of masochism. Rather, it's affection from seeing the contrast to when they do let their guards down, taking satisfaction in knowing that they have called their idols' bluff, knowing that they can actually be just as dorky as the rest at times. Like falling for the bad boy because you think that you've seen through their tough and gruff exterior to their mushy inside.
Instances where the challenge is actually acknowledged have always become scandals where the artist is painted with the "diva" brush, seen as ungrateful to their fans, and well, Kim Kwang Soo attempted to do that to Hwayoung because the consequences of the "diva" image are so harsh in Kpop. So idols are always, always, always sure to reassure the fans that any challenging actions are merely part of their concepts, fierce or sexy or what have you. Thus fans are free to dismiss any challenging behavior not as an inherent personality trait of the idol, but as more evidence of their skill in being able to portray these wide varieties of concepts. G-Dragon smashing a guitar on stage loses any incendiary meaning, especially when he frames it as purely performance later. Fans: "Awww, he was embarrassed! How cute!"

From a YouTube comment thread:

I for one, don't care if they are gay, straight, bi, orange, green, alien, supernatural or sparkly vampires. They are Super Junior and I love them. None of the above changes how talented, sweet, loving and dorky they are. As ELFs it's our duty to love and protect Super Junior. So instead of fighting, let's work hard to win awards and make them and ourselfs proud. [emphasis added]

And, to ensure that we've got Crayon Pop info on three of the last four comment threads, this is a YouTube comment:

"Thanks for the subs~! The girls are such dorks haha" [emphasis added]

Great video. Jiyoon takes us on a tour of her office where she's making music (and gives us a sample), but also talks well about her members and herself.



Also on the channel other members, haven't watched yet.


I love where she describes Jihyun as the feminine one: "She even likes feminine songs" (implying that the rest of them don't).

Has any music written by Jiyoon been released? Wikip writers are inconsistent about including song credits for 4minute. All I found for Jiyoon was co-lyricist on "Badly" and "For Muzik (Intro)."

I don't think she has, but seems serious about changing that. I expect we'll hear something soon enough.

Watching it again, what specifically makes her quickly say 'but we don't sing songs like that' about Britney Spears?

Yeah, that struck me too, and I don't know the answer, since she neither said how Gayoon's voice or style resembles Britney's (which never particularly struck me; Gayoon can go a lot louder than Britney, and she and Jiyoon seem to be the ones responsible for wails and long notes) nor what she thinks a Britney Spears–type song is. "3" isn't much like "...Baby One More Time," even if they were both co-written by Max Martin, and "Everytime" isn't like either of those, and "Gimme More" still different from all of them. Is it that 4minute aren't as slutty as Britney sometimes is? Aren't as delicate? Aren't as wanton and destructive? Aren't as bouncy?

"Hot Issue" is more Latin freestyle than anything Britney's ever done, and of course has group chants and interplay, but I can still imagine Britney on it.

I wouldn't say that BoA, for instance, is a Britney-style singer, but as you know BoA's actually released a song co-written by Britney (the Britney version finally leaked this year, having landed originally on In The Zone's cutting-room floor).

On BoA's live versions, or even not live but played in the background, it sounds more alive than it does on the album. Jonback, Bloodshy & Avant generally know what they're doing, but I wonder if they put too much clarity and not enough sizzle and room echo on those BoA tracks circa 2009.* And BoA's singing style was too much of a pale Britney copy on the recorded version, versus live (here's another).

Getting back to Jiyoon, I like the rock song at 6:28.

*"Obsessed" and "Touched" hold up quite well, however.

Maybe she thinks of the group as more hip-hop, the image of 'Huh' in her mind defining 4Minute.

I've always liked this live version of Look Who's Talking. Can't help but feel the recorded version would be better off with that tough a "_damn right_ it's all about me!" as well.

I like the outfit, attitude and energy, and that extends to the other songs she performed at this event, like Eien.

When recommending tracks to Naver listeners last week BoA didn't go with Britney, though, but Toni Braxton and Sade. http://music.naver.com/todayMusic/index.nhn?startDate=20121126


Edited at 2012-12-02 10:47 pm (UTC)

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