Audiovisual Cultures

AMES 141S | EMILY SUN | FALL 2019

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ITZY ICY

Drumroll…

My final project is finished!

Presenting ITZY’s ICY:

Reflections on my final project:

First of all, it was a lot of fun. Even though it was really challenging to learn the dance in such a short period of time, it was really fun to dance with my roommates and film this.  We were all really excited to do this, and there were so many fun moments while filming. Even though it might not look like it in the video, it was freezing outside, and having to dance in the cold was quite the experience.

I also got to learn how to video edit! I’ve never really video edited before, and having to pour hours into learning how to use Adobe Premiere Pro and actually video edit was pretty valuable. I learned a new skill!

Also, I gained a new appreciation for kpop music videos. We had to pour so many hours into this project. Learning the dance and perfecting the moves took time. Planning out the whole music video, from outfits to filming locations, to general shots we wanted took more time. And then the actual execution took forever. Hair and makeup took at least an hour for the three of us. Getting around to the filming locations took so much time, and then having to film take after take of the same thing took even more time. In the middle, we would have to change outfits and change locations. And then the whole editing process took forever. Having to sift through all of the clips and figure out which ones I wanted to use, having to try to find which shots to use where we didn’t mess up the dance but still looked good… a very hard and long process. It took me weeks to finally produce this project, and so I’m pretty proud of it. I can only imagine how much longer that it would be to do this professionally.

Finally, on kpop in the South:

Thinking back to how this blog started, I’m pretty happy. This is all started because I saw a lot of parallels between what we were talking about in class, and kpop. The more I thought and wrote about it, the more parallels I saw. It was pretty cool to see how music and cultures that were so different could be so similar.

I guess in that sense, music is a universal language.

As my blog posts led to my final project, everything seemed to build upon each other. It was quite nice. I got to showcase kpop to the South, but I also got to showcase the South to kpop. It’s a two-way dialogue. Kpop has become increasingly popular in South, particularly at Duke and in the RTP area. I learned that pretty fast as I saw how receptive Duke was to Pureun and their dances. But I think more interesting has been showcasing the South to kpop.  It was a lot of fun to subtly include places in Durham in the music video.  Once the video is public, I’m interested in seeing people’s reactions.

Hopefully, kpop continues to expand into the South, and the South expands into kpop too.

ITZY ICY Filming

We had our first day of filming for my music video, and it was… interesting. “Project: Kpop in the South” definitely got off to a successful start. Costumes and makeup were all on point, filming went smoothly, and the shots we got were all pretty good.  Here are some clips we got in Durham and Duke:

We definitely got a lot of stares, and a lot of weird looks. But I think the coolest part about the situation was the conversations we had. A lot of random people came up to us and asked us what we were filming for, what song we were dancing to, etc. It was really fun to talk to local Durham people about kpop and Itzy’s ICY. People seemed genuinely interested in kpop and in the dance.

People seemed really receptive to learning about new music and dance styles, and gave us a lot of encouragement. It was definitely a good sign that people were so eager to learn more!

I think my favorite part about this project so far was actually seeing how people reacted to kpop in the South. It actually feels like some sort of visible spreading, even though we’re only reaching a small number of people.

Kpop in the South: Pureun in Countdown to Craziness

Countdown to Craziness is a pretty big deal at Duke. It’s the debut of Duke’s men’s basketball team for the year, and as a result, tickets are hard to get, lines are long, and people flock in from all over the country for this hype occasion.

Now, what’s really cool about this year’s Countdown to Craziness: Duke’s kpop dance group, Pureun, performed. And we not only performed, but we were the final dance performance before the men’s basketball team was unveiled.

Pretty cool!

 

But what did this mean? Not only was it a stride for Pureun to be able to perform in front of thousands of people, but it also meant that these thousands of people were exposed to kpop. The crowd was literally jumping along and cheering to our performance, and it was a momentous occasion for kpop in the South to expand.

Even more crazy: the Youtube video.

Ever since Pureun posted the performance on Youtube, our view count has been steadily increasing. The video currently has 78K views, and 3.4K likes (compared to our other videos, which only have a couple hundred views). It’s pretty insane to think that this cover and performance has reached so many people. Kpop in the South has definitely been spreading. We received so many positive comments on the video too:

 

 

Kpop in the U.S.

Well, since I decided that my final project was going to remake “ICY” to increase representation of the South in the Hallyu Wave, I decided that it’d be important to write this week’s post about places in the U.S. that have been featured in kpop music videos. I did some research and compiled a list of kpop music videos and where they were filmed. You’ll notice that none of these music videos were really filmed in the South.

Here we go!

Red Velvet’s “Ice Cream Cake” – Palmdale, CA

Big Bang’s “Bad Boy” – New York City, NY

Sistar’s “Loving U” – Hawaii

WINNER’s “Really Really” – Los Angeles, CA

BEAST’s “Beautiful Night” – New York City, NY

Junsu’s “Uncomitted” – Los Angeles, CA

B.A.P.’s “Hurricane” – Las Vegas, NV

2NE1’s “Happy” – Los Angeles, CA

Big Bang’s “Tonight” – Las Vegas, NV

Sistar’s “Alone” – Las Vegas, NV

Big Bang’s “Blue” – New York City, NY

Infinite’s “Desinty” – California

Of course, there are probably a lot more music videos out there that have been filmed in the U.S., so this is just a taste! But notice that most of them are filmed in California, New York, Hawaii, and Las Vegas. The South doesn’t really get any sort of representation in kpop, even though lots of people here in the South do listen and love kpop a lot.

A Tribute to Sulli

It’s with a really heavy heart that I write about this week’s topic.

Earlier today, the kpop world mourned the loss of a wonderful star–Sulli. She was found dead in her apartment on 10/14/19 by her manager. Though her cause of death is unknown, it is thought that she committed suicide.

Who was Sulli? She was a former member of one of my favorite OG girl groups, f(x). She debuted in f(x) in 2009 when she was 14 years old. The group consisted of her, Amber Liu, Victoria Song, Krystal Jung, and Luna. They were a group known for their youthful and fresh image. I remember listening to their songs starting from middle school up until now, and falling in love with the group. They were my “girl crush” group.

See the source image

Top right: Sulli

But, controversy began to tear the group apart. In the midst of their 2014 promotions for one of their new albums, Red Light, Sulli went on hiatus due to being physically and mentally exhausted from malicious rumors that had began to be spread about her. One year later, it was announced that Sulli would be leaving f(x).

So what were all of these rumors and criticism? Well gosh. There was a lot.

First of all, Sulli received a lot of criticism for taking a hiatus in the first place.

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It was seen as inconsiderate to the other f(x) members that she stopped Red Light promotions. I honestly just find it really sad that the public had such a negative reaction toward her. Like her reason for taking a hiatus in the first place was because of criticism like this, and it’s even more sad that her hiatus caused even more backlash.

Another issue that she received a lot of criticism for was her former relationship with fellow idol Choiza. When idols start dating, they already face a lot of backlash. They get criticized a lot for dating while they’re still promoting as idols (for what reason I have no idea). But what made matters worse was Sulli’s Instagram. In the months following the announcement of her relationship with Choiza, the pictures on her Instagram were a little… unconventional. Perhaps the one that received the most criticism was this picture, where Sulli took what people deemed as “oversexual” photos.

If you can see the comments, they’re pretty terrible.

In 2017, Sulli faced even more controversy when she kissed one of her best friends, fellow idol Goo Ha Ra, on the lips. Netizens began attacking her and accusing of her for being lesbian. The issue became even worse when Sulli hosted a birthday party for Goo Ha Ra and later uploaded a picture of her dressed in a lacy camisole.

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Again, more malicious comments.

For the past few years, these “scandals” have followed Sulli. After she stopped promoting with f(x), her presence in the kpop world diminished significantly. She was on a few shows here and there, but that was about it. And now she’s… left the world.

Anyway, there are many reasons why I chose to write about Sulli for this week’s topic. One, because Sulli was a part of my favorite girl group and growing up she and the rest of the f(x) members had a special place in my heart. I wanted to honor her. Two, I wanted to just use this space to deconstruct my feelings and also just bring more light to a terrible, tragic incident. And three, it just really reminded me of what we talked about in class last week.

Last week in class, some people from Duke in LA came to give a presentation on a project that they had done interviewing and sharing the stories of homeless people in LA. One of their biggest takeaways from their project was that you can never really know someone’s story from face value. So many people have so many prejudices, stereotypes, and biases toward homeless people–that it’s their fault, that they’re on drugs, etc. But after talking to these homeless people and learning their stories, these girls realized that these stereotypes weren’t true.

In a similar way, I feel like  people attacked Sulli for all of these different things–her relationship with Choiza, her decision to go on hiatus and leave f(x), and especially all of her Instagram photos and updates. Did any of these netizens know her story and what she was going through before they judged her and left all of these malicious comments? Though we’ll never know whether Sulli passed away due to these reasons or something else, I hope that people recognize how we need to be kinder to each other.

Sulli–you’ll be missed and remembered. I hope you find peace and happiness.

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I See That I’m ICY

So. I figured out what I’m going to do my final project on. As everything else on this blog has been, it’s going on be on kpop!

Background for my final project:

So for the past two years, I’ve been a part of Pureun, Duke’s kpop dance group. It’s been a lot of fun! We dance covers of kpop dances and perform them for things like LNY, Raleigh’s Kpop festival, and other dance showcases. Anyway, last year, Pureun did a collaboration with Temptasians and Freewater Productions to do a cover of BTS’s Spring Day. Take a look below (the first is the original BTS song, the one below is our remake of the music video):

Pretty cool, right? Catch me at 0:35ish. Anyway, I thought that this was a really cool project for a few reasons. First, obviously I thought it was cool that we got to work with two other groups on Duke to produce this really high quality music video. Second, I thought it was really cool that the people in charge of directing the music video got to add their own ~artistic vision~ on it. They got to make it into something different than what it was before. We also got to choreograph our own solos and duos that was slightly different than the original dance.

So how does this relate to my final project? I was thinking of doing something similar to this. I essentially want to direct and remake a kpop music video by myself! Specifically, I wanted to recreate the music video for Icy by Itzy:

I wanted to work with my two roommates (Cathy Chen from Streetmed and Sarah Yang from Defmo) to learn the dance for this song, and then remake the music video. But more than just learning the dance, the main focus of my final project would be recreating the original music video. Because our course has focused so much on Asia in the South, I wanted to use this music video recreation as a chance to recreate kpop in the South. If you watch the music video, there are a lot of scenes where they’re filming in the city/outside world. Like these scenes:

I think it would be super cool to film these scenes in Durham/Duke and showcase the South. I chose this song in particular since the music video does a good job of not just focusing on the girls dancing, but also showcasing the surrounding city that they’re in. I thought that remaking this music video would be the perfect way to showcase this idea of kpop in the South that I’ve been kind of getting at with my whole blog.

Anyway, this will be a big work in progress. Best to get started on learning the dance!

Another 3D Experience???

This past week, we did some cool things with the DocX lab. I think the most fun part was building a 3D sound space. Depending on where you pointed your phone, the sound that came out was different (to make it seem like you were actually in a room–pretty cool, right?). Anyway, all of this DocX stuff reminded me of–you guessed it–kpop!

One of my favorite boy groups a few years ago was this group called Infinite: a seven member dance group under Woollim Entertainment. Very well known for their “cool guy” dancing, they were also the first kpop group to have a 360VR music video.

What do I mean by that? Take a look yourself:

As you watch/listen to the music video, you can actually drag around what view you have, 360 degrees! It’s pretty cool. You can focus on their dancing, or you can rotate and take a look at the ceiling or the room that they’re in. It gets pretty cool at ~1:25, when the members are all standing in different hallways. Then you can rotate and choose which member that you want to focus on as they sing and dance.

Anyway, what difference does this make on the viewer experience? For me personally, it kind of feels like we’re in the room with them, even though you’re watching from the flat screen of a laptop. You get to choose what you want to focus on, and choose your own experience. Instead of having the cameraman get to choose where the focus is on, it’s kind of up to the viewer to that. If I want, I can spend the whole time looking at Woohyun (my favorite member). It’s kind of how this person feels:

But, I guess the flip side of that is summarized pretty well by this YouTube comment:

Having this 360VR experience kind of distracts from the main point of the video–the boys themselves. You get so distracted playing around with the novelty of the VR that you don’t really focus on the dance or the song.

Another comment:

Exactly how I feel. You get to choose who to focus on, but then you also have to rewatch parts over and over again to see everyone. For example, the hallway scene–there’s no way to look at all of the boys at the same time (as much as I might want to). Instead, each viewing experience is different than the time before. Each time is unique (unless you just decide not to take advantage of the 360VR feature at all).

Regardless, the whole 360VR is definitely a fun and interesting concept.

Cultural Assimilation: Sam Kim’s “Seattle”

I started out by relating things that we were talking about in class to kpop as a joke, but I guess now it’s a trend. This week, we talked a lot about cultural assimilation and cultural appropriation. We watched two short films, one called I, Destini, and the other called Departing. Both were amazing films.

I think Departing stuck out to me for many reasons. First of all, it had some very familiar restaurants (Happy China? Shanghai?) sprinkled through the film. But more importantly, I though that it was so interesting to hear about this girl and her family’s immigrant experience, and trying to refind that sense of home.

Anyway, this all reminded me of one of my favorite kpop songs: Sam Kim’s “Seattle.” Overall, a very great and relaxing song. Take a listen:

A little background on Sam Kim. He’s a Korean-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He’s my age, and made his official debut in 2016 after winning a talent show called K-pop Star 5. He was originally born in Federal Way, Washington (very close to where I was born in Seattle!) and moved to South Korea after high school.

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His song “Seattle” really struck me in many ways. It’s titled “Seattle” because the whole song is talking about how much he misses home since moving to Korea. It really is a song that is describing the emotions that he feels since immigrating to Korea. Here are the lyrics:

(English)

Can I run and hide
I’m stuck inside my memories
Step away from time
Take me to a place
Where I will never grow old

I’m tired everyday
I’m thirsty for the rain
That waters all of my melodies
The needle in the skies
Never fails to light my night
And it sews my heart
On my tattered sleeve

Oh please my heart is all for you
Just please take care of me
I’m all for you

Take take take me all for you
Take take take me home to you

(Korean)

I wish my Korean
Would improve more quickly
So I could better convey
The feelings in my heart

The place with rain,
Are they okay there?
I wonder if they think about me.

Still, some of the strangers here like me.
I got a new friend.

Oh please, accept me now.
Just please allow me to enter
As if I’ve always been here
Let, let, let me in your heart

Please listen to the many things
I have to say
Oh please, hold my hand
Just please hug me
Like you did yesterday when we were together

Take, take, take me home
Take, take, take, me home

What’s really interesting about the song is that it’s kind of split into two parts: a part that’s sung in English (the first half of the song), and a part that’s sung in Korean (the second half of the song). It really helps to highlight the dichotomy between his two lifestyles, from back home in Seattle to his new life in Korea. The pretty abrupt transition probably represents how he felt when he was moving from one place to another.

The first part of the song really focuses on his feelings of homesickness. He talks about how he’s “stuck inside his memories” and is “thirsty for the rain / that waters all of [his] memories” (Seattle is quite famous for how much it rains here). He really seems to miss Seattle. He also mentions how “the needle in the skies / never fails to light [his] night”, referring to the Space Needle. Yeah, I miss it too.

The second half of the song really focuses more on the struggles that he has with assimilation after moving to Korea. He sings about how he wishes that his “Korean would improve more quickly” so that he could “better convey his feelings”. Perhaps the most difficult part about moving to a new place is the language and cultural barriers. Particularly Korean, which has so much cultural etiquette woven into it (think: different forms of the language depending on the hierarchy of whoever you’re talking to). But perhaps the most powerful part of the song is: “Oh please, accept me now. Just please allow me to enter as if I’ve always been here.” It really must be difficult to assimilate into Korea, with how homogeneous society and culture is.

The music video itself also helps add to this message. Almost the whole music video is Sam Kim singing with Seoul as the backdrop. The viewer gets a sense of how huge Seoul is, and how overwhelming it must feel for Sam Kim. He seems alone against this massive city.

Throughout the song, there will be little cuts to scenes in Seattle, almost like they’re representing how he’s remembering and missing home.  There will be scenes of rain, and of the Space Needle, which he sings that he misses the most.

Anyway, this song “Seattle” really made me think more about the topics we discussed regarding cultural assimilation in our class. Behind every immigration story, there’s a lot of feelings and emotions running behind it. Feelings of homesickness, feelings of alienation from the new culture.

Sam Kim just put it together in a beautiful song.

The “Negro Terror” of Kpop: Alex Reid

I couldn’t attend class last week because of an interview, so I unfortunately had to watch Negro Terror on my own. Watching Negro Terror, I think that the part that stood out to me the most were these two scenes:

“A lot of people stick to their stereotypical, what they’re supposed to be doing because of their race. Oh, I’m black, so I’m supposed to listen to hip-hop, R&B, gospel, blues… jazz. And that’s what I’m supposed to listen to. I’m not supposed to go anywhere outside of those genres and I’m supposed to dress like this, and talk like this, and act like this, and walk like this.”

“It means a lot to see a band that looks like me. It means like, hey, it’s not weird to be into this type of music just because I happen to be black. It encourages people like me to get out there and pick up a guitar and sing, and play, and do whatever it is we feel right about doing. What feels like us, not what society, or our communities, or our cultures tell us that we have to do, that we have to follow.”

I think these two quotes really capture the essence of what Negro Terror represented for a lot of different people. For the members of the band, it was a way to tackle and confront racism through music by breaking out of the traditional stereotypes placed on black people. For the people who listened to Negro Terror, they pushed others to break those stereotypes and follow what they wanted to do. To me, that was the power of Negro Terror. More than their music, it was the message that they aimed to portray through their band and music that made them truly special.

On that note, I wanted to tie these ideas to something else in (you guessed it!) kpop. A different but similar situation shook the kpop world a few years ago. Alexandra Reid was a former member of the kpop girl group Rania (formed in 2015), and she was probably one of the first (if not the first) African-American and non-Asian idol in the kpop industry.

Pretty much a big deal.

Especially in Korea, in such a homogeneous country, where beauty standards are so fixed and rigid. It’s against the social norm for girls to go out not wearing makeup. Plastic surgery is pretty standard and sometimes even encouraged by parents. Korean skincare? Huge. Beauty standards favor the pale and the pretty.

Being a black woman from Kansas, Alex Reid shook the kpop world.

Following her company’s announcement that Alex Reid would be debuting as a part of Rania, chaos ensued. Alex Reid opened up in one report, saying that because of her African-American background, she was held to higher standards than other non-Korean idols. She was accused of skin-bleaching and appropriating Korean culture in order to maintain her place in the industry. After wearing a Korean Hanbok (traditional clothing) as part of a Rania photoshoot, Alex Reid faced a massive amount of criticism and backlash for cultural appropriation (yet no one seemed to comment on the group’s Chinese member wearing the same thing).

I had the fortune to see Alex Reid perform in person last year. She came to Raleigh’s Korean culture festival to perform, and it was incredible. She talked a bit about how difficult it was for her to take the step to go to Korea and join Rania, but similar to Negro Terror, she talked about how she hoped that her actions could serve as a role model for others to follow their dreams. By breaking out of cultural and racial stereotypes and challenging the underlying racism present in Korean society and the kpop community, Alex Reid demonstrates how powerful music can be in sparking conversations regarding these important issues.

Some YouTube comments on some of Rania’s performances:

Truly an amazing idol.

If anyone’s interested in Rania and Alex Reid:

9/5/19: Naked vs. Nude

In class, we talked a lot about the difference between naked and nude, based on our discussion of Ways of Seeing and Listening. It was a pretty interesting distinction. “Naked” refers to not wearing clothes, whereas “nude” is to be seen by naked by others.

In other words, to be “nude” is to be put on display for others to see.

That’s a pretty big distinction, especially for two words that have approximately the same dictionary definition. According to the first definition of each word on dictionary.com:

“Naked”: being without clothing or covering; nude.

“Nude”: naked or unclothed, as a person or the body.

After all of the examples of naked vs. nude that we discussed in class (Kanye West’s “Famous” music video, Game of Thrones), it made me think of some other examples… in kpop!

One of my (favorite) solo male singers is Jay Park (박재범). One of his most popular songs is this song called 몸매, Korean for “body.” As the title suggests, it’s quite a sexual song, and the music video reflects that.

There’s a lot of shirtlessness going on, a lot of close-ups on (scantily clothed) female butts/boobs (as close to naked/nude as Korea will allow without straight up banning his music video), and a lot of lewd lyrics to match that. Not my favorite song of his, but it’s quite popular.

Some lyrics from the video:

“If staring at you is perverted, then I’m a pervert.”

“Sorry for staring, but you’re so sexy that I can’t take my eyes off of you.”

“I wanna see that body”

From here, it’s pretty clear that the way that these women are depicted in the music video fit in with Berger’s idea of nudity. The shots of the women are clearly included for consumption by the men in the music video. They are objectified and reduced to their bodies, put on display for the men. Perhaps the most interesting lyric in the song comes from the rap:

“This club is a zoo. You’re the zookeeper here to feed these horny alpha males.”

In this sense, the women are using their bodies to satisfy the desires and fantasies of the men. The men are compared to animals who need to consume the women.

More interestingly, there’s another level of consumption going on here. The shots of the women are included for consumption by the men in the music video, but also the audience. They’re for the 40,921,127 viewers who watched the YouTube video. Some of the YouTube comments capture this perfectly:

The comments were a little wild, but a lot of them were like this. A lot of comments about the girls’ bodies. But interestingly, a lot of comments about Jay Park’s body. During the entire music video, Jay Park is shirtless. And while he’s appreciating the women’s bodies, the viewers are appreciating his body as well. The concept of nudity not only applies to the women, but also applies to him. He tries to appeal to the women with his body, and puts it in this video on display for the viewers to see as well.

Overall, a pretty interesting example of naked vs. nude. The two layers of this being nudity for both the men in the video and the viewers made this a particularly nuanced case to look at.

 

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