my daughter Sprout walked around the house the last several days singing “a a a a a a a bbiribbom e e e e e e e bberibbom.” i asked her what she was singing and she showed me this video. it now plays compulsively on my computer and in my brain and caused a pineal-like growth to form that makes me convulse with cultural-political epiphanies. i see this video now as the harbinger of the downfall of all things american. there is something strongly post-human and post-u.s. here. it just occurred to me that those two tendencies must be combined relentlessly if we are to achieve victory and pass beyond the total failure that is the global u.s. cultural regime. i hope this video will hasten the downfall of the u.s. cultural empire. it must be woven into the very genetic code of the u.s. citizenries’ cultural experience to overcome their ignorance of the global juggernaut of u.s. cultural imperialism and its destruction of non-u.s. cultures. a nomadic force is at work here that poaches the tactics and products of the oppressor and works them into something more powerful, more compelling, ultimately revolutionary. anyone who speaks of the downfall of u.s. cultural imperialism without talking about bbiribbom has a corpse in his mouth. all products of the u.s. culture industries must be debased, destroyed and worked into strangely familiar but ultimately foreign works that express the death of u.s. cultural imperialism. all hail the worker’s councils! all hail bbiribbom!!!!!
Obviously this is a little facetious, and I always appreciate seeing what happens when K-pop falls into fresh hands and ears. But anyway, two points:
1. Post-U.S. or post-us? Those in North America unfamiliar with South Korean pop music and its according industry may be more inclined to view differences than similarities with our own - the sheer number of people in a band with the same eye colour, the unfamiliar syllables, the overwhelming and overwhelmingly synthesized production. However, “Bbiribeom Bberibeom” is not as Korean as it gets. The most native(ish) South Korean popular music is called trot, and it actually sounds like this:
Not nearly as sexy, unfortunately. Arguably, all contemporary Korean pop music is in some part descended from trot, but it’s a distant relationship.
The most direct Korean ancestor of CO-ED is not trot, but Seo Taiji, who as the founder of Seo Taiji & Boys was one of the first K-pop “dance idols” and (again, arguably) the father of modern Korean pop music. His whole thing was getting away from trot and toward MIDI technology, beats, and contemporary dance music. And where did this influence come from? Maybe Europe, but also: the U.S. Quoth Laura: “That’s not so post-U.S. as, like, hyper-U.S.”
The only way I see this as any kind of threat to U.S. cultural imperialism is that this time, the players/perpetrators are Korean. And as someone of Korean descent myself, I think, Asian people demonstrating agency? Is that a big deal or something?
2. If you’re going to cast a group of pop idols as futuristic, faceless, yellow-peril Cultural Revolutionary automata, in my opinion there is possibly no better group to do it to than CO-ED. Their membership is bloated and largely anonymous, their talent is questionable, and their singles are hypnotically infectious. Pieto, wait until you meet SNSD.