This past Monday, a former student at Oakland’s Oikos University shot and killed seven people and wounded three others. According to Reuters, “the attack was the deadliest gun violence at a U.S. college since a Virginia Tech University student killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before taking his own life in 2007.”
For all involved, and for everyone watching, the shooting is a tragedy. Unfortunately, it’s also an opportunity for the media and netizens alike to speculate on possible motives and complicated factors like race, mental health and gun control. For the Asian American community, it’s a bitter reminder of past tragedies that we’d sooner forget–a looming specter of angst, shame, self-reflection, fatigue and other shitty feelings.
Because yes, like at VT the shooter is Asian. Korean, to be specific. And because we’re not living in a post-racial America that one fact means a helluva lot more than it should. Yes, One Goh was bullied and othered–which is HORRIBLE AND SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO ANYONE. But in this case it doesn’t excuse him from taking SEVEN LIVES.
Anyone who condones either bullying or murder is part of the problem–and we all know (or should know) that.
So, please, I beg the media and you netizens to write and talk about about this issue with awareness, sensitivity and respect. And I hope we all keep the victims in mind as we try for the nth time to figure out what this means for the AAPI community–if it means anything at all.
It’s Friday. And there are a lot of shitty, terrible things happening in the world. And sometimes when I feel like there’s no end in sight for the uphill battles that marginalized people have to fight, I put on pop music. Because that’s what you gotta do.
Today I’m listening to Korean rap star Yoon Mi Rae (real name: Tasha Reid) kill it (both literally and lyrically) in her latest single, “Get It In.” Check out the official music video below, which I’d describe as Kill Bill + ill rhymes and beats.
Yoon Mi Rae is an American performer of mixed race (Black and Korean) who moved to South Korea and rose to fame as “Korea’s best female rapper.” She first debuted as “Tasha “or “T” and was highly regarded for releasing a song called “Black Happiness,” in which she discussed the difficulties of having a mixed heritage.
Yesterday kicked off the music portion of SXSW 2012, Austin’s annual clusterfuck Interactive/Music/Film festival, and everyone in the heart of Texas is excited for all of the free-flowing booze, swag and celebrity encounters that are bound to happen. As the live music draws in the hipsters, the music industry panel discussions draw the movers ‘n shakers. One intriguing discussion that’s happening this Friday is on on K-pop (or Korean pop): Do Music Moguls Know a Secret About K-Pop? Here’s the description:
More and more, American artists are being drawn to the culture, fashion and music of Asia. Will.i.am is producing tracks on 2NE1‘s next album, Kanye West is working with JYJ, and Wonder Girls recently opened for the Jonas Brothers. It’s been said before, but this may be the year that K-pop breaks through into American pop culture. Can K-pop cross over or is it exclusive to an Asian population? Do K-pop artists need to have an English language single or can an in-language song make it in the U.S. market? What exactly is K-pop anyway?
Without having attended this panel, I can already provide some answers.
What exactly is K-pop anyway?
K-pop is Korean pop, and there’s nothing quite like it. It’s a plethora of beautiful, stylish, well-trained, well-groomed, heavily managed, hard-working, talented, likable boy bands, girl groups and solo acts. It’s a bubblegum fantasy land. It’s an ethnic-themed issue of Tiger Beat. It’s the hypothetical lovechild of Katy Perry and Forever 21mogulDo Won Chang. It’s delightful.
Can K-pop cross over or is it exclusive to an Asian population?
Yes, it can. And, it has. Korean pop has crossed over to America–it’s just that nobody, nobody noticed. K-pop artists like Se7en and BoA came over here several years back and worked with people like Lil’ Kim, Flo Rida, Bloodshy & Avant and Sean Garrett. They sang in English, produced slick music videos and received absolutely no airplay. In 2007, Rain defeated Stephen Colbert in Time‘s online poll for most influential people, and he appeared on the Colbert Report in 2008.
Do K-pop artists need to have an English language single or can an in-language song make it in the U.S. market?
The former. Nobody speakin’ the ching chong ever gets on American radio! Maybe we should ask Seacrest.
Lest you think I’m overly pessimistic and dismissive of K-pop’s American success, I’ll go ahead and unabashedly and non-ironically admit that I’m K-pop’s biggest fan. Can you blame me? In the absence of groups like Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child, K-pop groups like Girls Generation (or SNSD), Wonder Girls, and 2NE1 fill a void that many of us who came of age in the 90′s have been looking to fill–the sight of women working not against each other but together–a flashy, superficial and highly debatable symbol of feminist youth. These young women are doing for the East what the Spice Girls once did for the West, spreading a message of empowerment–despite being managed by a patriarchal pop music industry and its expectations–and succeeding in their own right because of their talent. Get on board! If you’re new to K-pop, here are some videos to check out:
BoA — “Eat You Up”
BoA is the reigning pop princess of South Korea and all of Asia. “Eat You Up” was her American debut single.
Wonder Girls — “Nobody”
The Wonder Girls hit “Nobody” took over everyone’s iPods a couple of years back because of its infectious beat and retro feel. I’m not sure how their style fits exactly with the Joe Bros, but they totally deserve all the exposure they can get.
Girls’ Generation (SNSD) — “The Boys” on David Letterman
Girls’ Generation (a.k.a SNSD in Korea) is a nine-member girl group made up of American-born and Korean-born singers and dancers. This video is of their appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in January 2012.
Contestants on TV competition show K-Pop Star cover “The Boys”
There’s a competition show on Korean TV right now that really showcases the talent of young Koreans and Americans, who’ve traveled all the way to Korea from places like L.A. and NYC in the hopes of becoming the next big K-Pop star. Check out SuPearls cover of Girls, Generation’s “The Boys”:
Margaret Cho doesn’t just dance like a comic badass…she also stars in her very own music video–with adorbie indie popstars Tegan and Sara! “Intervention” is a a humorous and yet–please excuse my obvious pun–sobering look at addiction and its effect on friends and family, M. Cho style. What’s great about this vid is that you get to see Cho play the sad clown, vulnerable and loveable with smudged makeup, frowny faces and subtle self-awareness. Even dopey-disgusting when she hurls into a Jack-o-lantern. The fact that someone who so often gets the last (and first) laugh isn’t laughing adds a depth to her persona that makes her all the more endearing. And she still manages to be funny through the entire thing. Heart u so hard, Marg!
Also, I’m pretty sure that if cutie twins Tegan and Sara staged my intervention, I’d do anything short of joining a convent. I say this as I down the remaining foam and backwash from my glass of Guiness…
I thought Disney/Pixar film Up couldn’t get any cooler or more adorable. And then I see this brilliant video mix made by Pogo. And I think I’ve fallen in love with the film and little Russell (voiced by cutie-pie Jordan Nagai) all over again. I’ve been feeling blue, but this video just picked me right back up. Enjoy!
PSA: I am going to continue pronouncing the band name Miike Snow (a.k.a. Swedish producers Bloodshy & Avant) as Me-ee-keh Snow, even if you correct me and tell me it’s Mike Snow. Because the name is a reference to Japanese director Miike Takashi (a.k.a. Takashi Miike). And that’s how you pronounce it in Japanese. And I’m not about to perpetuate the butchering of Asian names by Westernizing it. If they wanted to be called Mike Snow, they should’ve taken the extra i out. Have a nice day!