The Royal Tailor

A lot of the Korean pop culture I’ve witnessed so far eschews context, even before exportation to America. There’s a propulsive energy to movies like Parasite and The Handmaiden, like “Wowzer, where did that come from?” and you’ll see highly-paid and highly-respected Korean celebrities doing absurd things in the name of cinema (or variety shows). A film like The Royal Tailor doesn’t stop to observe its absurdity, doesn’t replicate the audience to lie prostrate before it and be judged, and this allows the earnest deliveries of lines like “I’ll make sure your clothes never see the light of day!” The magic trick, then, is that this line is a gut punch. … More The Royal Tailor

#Alive

Zombie movies stopped being weird a long, long time ago. And I don’t mean “millions of Milla Jovovich clones” weird — though before I fall into this visible trap for genre snobbery, is that any better or worse than Return of the Living Dead III’s zombie power loaders? To my mind, still, there’s a difference between Paul W.S. Anderson and Brian Yuzna. There’s a difference between in-groups and out-groups, the names made in the heyday — teeth cut, conventions defined, practical effects — who attach to a classic like Re-Animator, itself apiece with Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive and the original Return of the Living Dead — the good ones. Whenever a zombie movie passes before my eyes — or I watch a zombie movie, whatever — all of this history trots out again for parade, all this embittered narrative and stolen history, borderline appropriation / vandalism of our darkest realms, us — genre champions — for coercion into the mainstream. What you call perhaps the last bastion against genre monopoly by superheroes I call… the rape of the natural world! … More #Alive

Top 5 K-Pop Songs

Yes, this is the absolutely definitive top five K-pop songs of all time, according to someone who’s been listening to K-pop for, like, a year. I trust that this list will evolve as I continue on in my Koreaboo journey, so maybe I’ll make it a recurring feature. There’s just something about this music that makes me want to surrender to hyperbole, to shout superlatives and classify things as number one best, not to evangelize but simply to accurately express my feelings. And this isn’t a one-way thing, man. I need to know your top K-pop songs, however you reach me. Email, Twitter, a thrown brick upon the temple, message wrapped around it. Two notes before we begin: first, I’m doing one song per group, so that this doesn’t become a Red Velvet show. And second, you may be frustrated to discover that all these songs are by girl groups. Whenever I say “K-pop,” you know, on the street, a brick in your hand, that’s pretty much what I’m talking about, though that obviously makes for somewhat serious omissions. Whatever! Everybody ready? … More Top 5 K-Pop Songs

K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Dumhdurum”

I love everything about this song — the music itself, of course, and also the MV. The colors, the lavish detail, the frowny-girl scowls, and even Naeun’s cornrows (speaking of appropriative). This is a really bold outing for Apink, as far as I’ve seen (having missed a few of their more recent evolutionary steps, namely “%%”). It pops. There’s a big synchronized hair whip in the choreography, and I think that’s the quintessence of the piece. It’s fast and fun — it’s a real jolt. And it’s lean, maintaining a consistent vibe throughout, rather than peaks and valleys. … More K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Dumhdurum”

K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Jelly”

I have mixed feelings about “Monster.” I know — who asked me, right? Who am I? Well, how about Seulgi’s number one fan? That’s right. Now don’t you look silly. It’s got a certain earworm quality, and it is growing on me, maybe more like a parasite than what I’m used to. Even before you see the video, the cynic in me feels like they’re playing it safe for the new subunit, double-dipping into that “Psycho” bucket. And look, I love “Psycho,” but it’s a belter. “Monster” is far more low-key, as if “sexy” necessarily comes at the expense of “energy.” With a growing understanding of other groups, the label that most characterizes Red Velvet to me — in music and personality — is weird. These girls are some of the weirdest people I’ve ever beheld, with that conversation in Vietnam about crushing crickets to feed to the baby chicken ripped straight out of A Scanner Darkly*. Undoubtedly, that’s part of the charm, and that’s what’s reflected in the eclectic music. … More K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Jelly”

K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Into the New World”

My God, I’ve only been listening to this song since Friday and I already feel nostalgic about it. It’s just got that power, so I can’t imagine how it is for longtime Girls’ Generation fans who grew up with “Into the New World,” looking back at the full lives suggested in the video, now lived, through triumph and heartbreak (and probably less plane-flying, but given the nature of Korean variety shows, you never fucking know). … More K-Pop Pick of the Day: “Into the New World”

K-Drama Report: Man in the Kitchen (2017)

This writeup is destined to be a report card, something I’ll gladly refer back to once I’m more secure in my ability to assess Korean dramas — this is where it began. At the moment, I’ve had a spotty track record. The first drama I’ve watched to completion remains the only: Cheer Up!, which was my QNA pick for greatest entertainment experience of 2019. It’s a colorful, heartfelt melodrama that soars so high yet explores surprisingly wrenching emotional depths. Being used to the 13 or 24-episode counts of American TV shows, I was devastated to find Cheer Up! is 12 in total (and that was before I saw it ends in the middle). I’m currently watching Man in the Kitchen, and by episode three, a thought crossed my mind that draws the sharpest distinction between the two shows: “Okay, I understand why this is 50 episodes long.” It was not a good thought. … More K-Drama Report: Man in the Kitchen (2017)

K-Pop Pick of the Day: “The SOOTORY #3”

This day, our K-Pop Pick of the Day is a little different. Not a song, no. In fact, lately, I’ve been weighing which Girls’ Generation song to talk about here, and as a very newcomer, I’ve only got three favorites so far: “Girls’ Generation,” “Gee,” and “Hoot.” My number one is actually “Girls’ Generation,” which I can’t get out of my head. But as you may tell, that song is from the beginning of the group, and they are very much babies in the video (which looks like it was indeed filmed the year of their births, or perhaps on a videotape?). Half, or more than half, of my experience with K-pop so far is videos like this, glimpses into the idols’ non-stage personas (I hesitate, firmly, to say “the idols’ personalities,” because I’m trying very hard to not fall into parasocial traps). … More K-Pop Pick of the Day: “The SOOTORY #3”

K-Pop Pick of the Day: “About Love”/”Taste”

The linkage between these two songs is immediately felt: they bounce. Wikipedia might classify “Taste” as pop/dance, and I can abide that, though it’s generic enough to be applied to all of the Red variety songs. It may be afield to say, but I’d almost hazard the application of “R&B” here. Both songs flow through with again, a bouncing rhythm, but are also laidback enough to eschew the frenzied energy or melancholic touch of other tracks. This is a specific zone. … More K-Pop Pick of the Day: “About Love”/”Taste”