This past week, a very talented young man named 크리스 (Chris) auditioned for SuperStarK season 3, Korea’s version of American Idol. Here’s the link to his performance.
Besides having written several songs for current Kpop stars under his belt and a great mastery of R&B influenced pop, the judges required him to be able to sing in Korean, which he pulled off to perfection. Of course, they had to dwell on the fact that he grew up an orphan…
What the clip above doesn’t show (because they cut it, though it’s on the t.v. episode) is one of the judges actually verbalized the reasons for his hesitation to approve him, ostensibly to do him a favor, anticipating that the Korean people would be reluctant to let him win over a Korean. Now that it’s an identified issue, will that increase his chances because he’s been identified as an underdog? Now that it’s an identified issue, will his talent be eclipsed by the potential for racism controversy?
Will 윤미래, a.k.a. Tasha, Korea’s half-black female rapper who sings about racism, and one of the judges, keep it real? Or will his successes be written off as being her being unfairly partial?
Interestingly, in Korea’s Top Model, one of the competitors was a gyopo (recently eliminated), and another is half Russian, has modeled some in Russia, and drops English with ease. 이제니 (Lee, Jenny) has even made it to the top 4, though it already seems clear the judge’s favorite is more classic-looking. Will her use of English work against her? Will her not-as-fluent Korean work against her? I find her mannerisms very Western, and to add to her looks she is very healthy, glowing, and enthusiastic. I’m reading that it’s being interpreted as too aggressive!
All of Cheongpyeong’s sidewalks ugly typical Korean red and green masonry sidewalks are being replaced with a more tasteful white with gray accents. The designer in me is doing a happy dance! My Seoul friend who was here for Chuseok tells me these beautification projects are happening all over Korea, and that citizens are pissed over the Presidents priorities. I wonder out loud how Korea can sustain all the changes it wants/needs with a 6% tax base.
Anyway, things are changing a lot in Korea. I like it.
But not enough to stay. Because this new world is a world for young people…And it’s not Korea’s growing pains which bother me, (I actually find that interesting and sometimes exciting) but being sucked in to adoptee drama/politics/issues.
But for me, it’s only twenty more years to retirement…I keep daydreaming about that third place, where I am visibly an expat, without native expectations of cultural understanding. Since I’m only emerging out of my slumber now, I’m realizing I better start taking care of myself so I can enjoy a couple of those years.
3 thoughts on “Can judgement be color blind? culture indiscriminate?”
Well, another week has gone by and Chris has survived Super Week. I think he will get quite a ways before they don’t let him win. I forgot to mention in the post that they referenced John Park, several times, (the Korean American who made it onto American Idol, and for whom the entire nation had their breath held for) so I think they’re going to return the courtesy, to a limited extent.
I also forgot to mention how on Korea’s Top Model they often had Korean subtitles when Jenny spoke. During one episode, they told her she was too sexy. Which really floors me because there was one episode where the models had to dance around rapper Drunken Tiger. It was really painful to watch, as most of the girls did all these vulgar gyrations around him, but with no real sense of their own bodies: they seemed to all have some pre-conceived notion that it was necessary to act this way for a music video! Really, my two favorites were the only ones who had any class or sense of themselves during that shoot. Mute point now, as Jenny and my other favorite didn’t make it to the final two.
I’ve now lost my interest in watching the rest of the show, but will stay peeled to SuperStarK to see how far Chris gets.
Aw, Chris didn’t make it past round 2.
Last time, he, a really soulful female gyopo singer, and 2 English capable Koreans joined forces to sing Queen’s “Somebody to Love” a capella. (they only have one English song choice to vie for in each challenge) This time, he wasn’t so lucky and got paired with a band who didn’t share the same vibe needed to deliver Stevie Wonder, which threw him off his game.
I guess if he had more of a back catalog of Korean music, he wouldn’t have been so limited, so I guess that’s more than fair. But it’s also a shame, as people with less talent advanced.
I hope Chris continues to get work in the Korean music industry. But personally, I really hate how thin pop music is. Koreans are sometimes referred to as the world’s best copycats, and that’s no easy feat, and they are now creating their own brand, but it’s so rarely art. Because they don’t realize that hip-hop and rap, etc. is forged by adversity, struggle, and self expression.
Westerners are hired as consultants or models to mimic for beats and dancing but not for content, which is why these Korean efforts at the same genres of music are so thin. And sometimes, when asking, “does art imitate life or does life imitate art?” I hope in Korea’s case, the answer is: neither. But it is more like Korea copies art and life imitates that copy.
I WISH. I wish Korea would tap into its own traditions and own adversities and create something important and meaningful. They could take pansori traditions, for example, and do some epic metal with it. Etc., etc. And I’m not just talking about fusion music, because too often the introduction of classic traditional instruments is just referential, but instead something new and modern but authentically, anthemic-ly, identifiably Korean art.