K-pop

2NE1 "I Don't Care" Video

There's another girl group new to the K-pop music scene: 2NE1 (pronounced similarly to "twenty-one"). These four ladies (CL, Dom, Minzy, and Dara) were introduced alongside the K-pop's favourite boy band, Big Bang, in the song "Lollipop," which was both a single and a commercial for LG's Cyon Lollipop cell phones. They're first single, "Fire," which I don't remember hearing about from my students. Now they've released their second single, called "I Don't Care." It's about finally distancing oneself from a bad boyfriend---and it's catchy, too. I have to say, 2NE1 scores 3/3 with me. I'm a fan of these girls.

I Don't Care 2NE1

BoA Sings "I'll Eat You Up"

Of all the K-pop songs I've heard in the past 22 months, this one is still my favourite. Kwon Boa was born just outside of Seoul in 1986 and was discovered by the head of SM Entertainment at the age of 13. Since then, as BoA ("Beat of Angel"), she's had success as a singer/dancer/model in both Korea and Japan. This year she went to the good ol' US of A in search of success there, as well.

I found out about BoA not through my students, like usual, but throughYouTube Live concert in Tokyo (yes, I am a huge nerd).  And the first time I saw this video, I became a fan. This girl can dance. I can imagine trying to break into the American music scene is tough for an Asian pop star (it's hard enough for Canadians, for goodness sake), but I hope she makes it.

Meet the Biggest Boy Band of All Time: Super Junior

Sorry, Sorry
Super Junior

"Sorry, Sorry" is the latest song from the K-pop boy band, Super Junior. And when I say "boy band," I mean the biggest boy band of all time; Super Junior has no less than thirteen members: Leeteuk, Heechul, Han Geng, Yesung, Kang-in, Shindong, Sungmin, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Siwon, Ryeowook, Kibum, and Kyuhyun. And no, I can't tell them apart yet. Even Perez Hilton has taken notice of this super-sized boy band.

Prior to the release of "Sorry Sorry," Super Junior hadn't released a song here since "Don't Don" in late 2007. With no singles and lots of competition, they've been losing their place among boy band-loving teens like my students. TVXQ (also known as Dong Bang Shin Ki in Korea), FT Island, and especially Big Bang have consistently been ranked as the best by my girls. If I mentioned Super Junior, it was always met with, "No, teacher. Not Super Junior. They are not good." But, judging from the dancing around my classroom, I'm pretty sure Super Junior is gaining in popularity once again.

My students made a cute video of the teachers for Teacher's Day. It was styled like a music video for this song, with some teachers and students dancing, posing, or catwalking. Not gonna lie, I was disappointed that I wasn't asked to dance; my part was limited to a goofy smile. But I found this video with all the dance moves so I can practice, and maybe I'll be ready for next time.

Wonder Girls

The latest song from the Wonder Girls is, no surprise, another big hit. And again, I discovered the song only after I accidentally said the title during class (I asked my students, "Does anybody know the answer? No? Nobody?") and all my students broke out into song and dance.

Like all their songs, "Nobody" is catchy. My favourite of theirs, though, is still "So Hot," about a girl who hates all the attention she gets for being really attractive. I just think the video is funny.

"Nobody"

"So Hot"

"Tell Me"

Big Bang's "Last Farewell"

Big Bang is back, most definitely!

Big Bang is a K-pop group my students talk about all the time. The girls still get excited every time they ask me if I know them and I answer, "Big Bang? Of course I know them. I love them!" I do get stuck, though, when I'm asked to name my favourite member. (I can only name two, G-dragon and TOP, because a few students have adopted these as their English names.) I can't recognize them in pictures, either, much to the disappointment of my students who show me pictures and introduce them as their "boyfriends." This song, "Last Farewell," came out months ago (I first heard it last winter!), but I still love it. It's my favourite K-pop song so far!

English lyrics:

"Last Farewell" Big Bang

Yes! Big Bang is back! Most definitely, incredible! Hey move! B to the I to the G (Bang, bang) about love

Chorus I don’t wanna be without you girl, I wish that the last farewell is not near Just today for the entire day, I don’t wanna be without you girl My clumsy heart, please hug it and go I love you, I need you girl

[SR] Baby baby baby although it’s a little awkward, we [DS] baby baby baby are still loving each other [TY] baby baby baby and even though it’s frightening, Even though the end can be seen, for me [there’s] only you girl

[Taeyang] You, who filled me with only pain and treated me cruelly I, who stroked you soothingly, but then changing again, avoided you Worry from wondering how we went wrong Wandering inside a problem that has no answer [G-Dragon] Even if I am a wanderer lost on a path enclosed inside a maze, I can’t do this at all Only being able to wait, asking you to come to me in muffled steps girl Like when we first met, like when this was still new Like this, like this, like this, like that, like that, like that never leave my side

Chorus I don’t wanna be without you girl, I wish that the last farewell is not near Just today for the entire day, I don’t wanna be without you girl My clumsy heart, please hug it and go I love you, I need you girl

[SR] Baby baby baby although it’s a little awkward, we [DS] baby baby baby are still loving each other [TY] baby baby baby and even though it’s frightening, Even though the end can be seen, for me [there’s] only you girl

[TOP] (Seungri) You didn’t contact me after leaving without a single word (Without a single word) But one day you suddenly appeared (Asking how I was doing) Are you playing around with me or is this really love Even in a single day, I get confused twelve more times (About love)

[TOP] (Daesung) I asked you in return why you would want a toy that you were going to play with only once or twice The sweet taste for a very short moment, the cotton candy that we melted too easily (Because it seems like I also won’t be able to block the weary heart anymore) Grab me quickly (Before you leave)

Chorus I don’t wanna be without you girl, I wish that the last farewell is not near Just today for the entire day, I don’t wanna be without you girl My clumsy heart, please hug it and go I love you, I need you girl

[SR] Baby baby baby although it’s a little awkward, we [DS] baby baby baby are still loving each other [TY] baby baby baby and even though it’s frightening, Even though the end can be seen, for me [there’s] only you girl

[DS] Although I still love you, although you’re so important to me ye [SR] That nobody can take my place, I know (You know) [TY] Oh please just hug me quietly

Chorus I don’t wanna be without you girl, I wish that the last farewell is not near Just today for the entire day, I don’t wanna be without you girl My clumsy heart, please hug it and go I love you, I need you girl

[SR] Baby baby baby although it’s a little awkward, we (Although it’s a little awkward) [DS] baby baby baby are still loving each other (But I love you) [TY] baby baby baby and even though it’s frightening, Even though the end can be seen, for me [there’s] only you girl

Lee Hyori: U-Go-Girl

Lee Hyori is one of the hottest K-pop stars today. I first noticed her on TV in a couple Black Bean TheraTea (a bottled tea drink) and soju (Korean alcohol) commericals and didn't find out until later that she's a very famous singer. But, with her sexy image, she's more known for her looks than her singing/dancing/acting talent.

This is her catchy first single "U-Go-Girl" off her third album, It's HYORISH.

English lyrics:

"U-Go-Girl" Lee Hyori

Hey girl!

Ya'll know what this is! Yeah! It's the princess Lee Hyori She's back! Yeah! Two double-O eight! Be ready! Hey girl!

Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Da da da da da that girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Baby, baby, baby, baby girl (Say what?) What am I to wear today? And how should I do my hair? How's this? How about that? Don't keep questioning yourself girl

What am I to say today? How should I give my heart? How's this? How about that? Don't keep questioning yourself girl

Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Da da da da da that girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Baby, baby, baby, baby girl (Girl) Be truthful from this moment on (Girl) Be strong from this moment on Show your heart right at this moment, right now, tonight (Girl) Sometimes sweetly (Girl) Sometimes confidently Show your heart right at this moment, right now, tonight

Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Da da da da da that girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Baby, baby, baby, baby girl (U-ah!) I wonder why you're calling me again today Is something wrong? What should I do about this? What should I do about that? Don't keep questioning yourself girl

Will that person like it too? If your heart boils down, And you take out the small coin in your pocket, Wondering if it'll come out as heads or tails Don't keep questioning yourself girl

Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Da da da da da that girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Baby, baby, baby, baby girl (Girl) Be truthful from this moment on (Girl) Be strong from this moment on Show your heart right at this moment, right now, tonight (Girl) Sometimes sweetly (Girl) Sometimes confidently Show your heart right at this moment, right now, tonight

Crazy night! Dance all night! Let me take you home tonight! It's all right! Hey girl, party tonight! (Party tonight) Crazy night! Dance all night! Let me take you home tonight! It's all right! Hey girl, party tonight! (Party tonight)

Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Da da da da da that girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Baby, baby, baby, baby girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Da da da da da that girl Girl, girl, hey u-go-girl Baby, baby, baby, baby girl

I like that, that, that girl and let me see ya Bring it back, back, back girl (Okay!) I like that, that, that girl and let me see ya Bring it back, back, back girl (One more time baby!) I like that, that, that girl and let me see ya Bring it back, back, back girl (Okay!) I like that, that, that girl and let me see ya Bring it back, back, back girl (Girl!)

Jewelry's "One More Time"

There's another K-pop song that has caught the attention of all my students, causing me to eliminate some more vocabulary from my classroom. I am no longer able to say "one more time"---something I often say during speaking exercises---without my students singing that particular line in this song. And they can't seem to sing it without the accompanying dance move (the one where the index fingers come together).

This song doesn't appeal to me as much as Wondergirls' "Tell Me" or Big Bang's "Lies," both of which had their run as female middle-schoolers' songs of choice in the fall and winter. All three songs are heavily played.

Recently, I was walking home from school and three stores in a row were blasting their music onto the sidewalk. The first store was playing Wondergirls, the second was playing Big Bang, and the third was playing Jewelry. I was laughing the rest of the way home.

Check out Jewelry's video for "One More Time".

Rain & Stephen Colbert

The feud between comedian Stephen Colbert and K-pop legend Rain (or as he's known here in Korea, Bi, pronounced 'bee') continued on The Colbert Report this week. The year-long battle between the boys has been fierce. 

screenshot of Colbert: "Raaaaaaaaiiiiin!"

screenshot of Colbert: "Raaaaaaaaiiiiin!"

Last spring, just as I was applying to teach in Korea, I saw an episode of The Colbert Report in which Colbert talks about his position on Time magazine's online "100 Most Influential People Who Shape Our World" list for 2006. Since any mention of Korea on a North American TV program is quite rare (and so far, for me, had been limited to a documentary on the disastrous 1995 Sampoong Department Store collapse), I took particular notice. I was completely ignorant of all things Korean and excited to learn anything about the country I was preparing to move to.

This episode provided a lot of important Korean "firsts" for me: the first time I heard of Rain (or rather, any Korean artist); the first company, Hyundai, that I learned was actually Korean and not Japanese like I assumed (a list that, after moving here, has extended to include Daewoo, LG, and Samsung); the first time I heard of kimchi (Korea's contribution to Health magazine's World's Top 5 Healthiest Foods list---a list I didn't know existed but Koreans treat as common knowledge); finally, the first time I heard of bibimbap (a mixed rice dish---topped with an egg, as Colbert mentions---that has become my favourite lunchtime meal).

A month later, Colbert updated us on how his music video had been received in South Korea---or at least, how South Koreans possibly, with wacky translations, may have reviewed the clip*. And he even threw in some more Korean vocabulary (bulgogi = beef).

  • 5 June 2007 The Colbert Report video: Rain

Earlier this year, as the competition to top the magazine's latest 100 "Influencial People" list heated up, the fued between Colbert and Rain could only get uglier. As Colbert was attempting to recruit more votes in his favour, Rain fought back with some trash-talking of his own. To settle the score, Colbert finally challenged him to the ultimate show-down: a dance-off (or a cuddle-off or a spoon-off---Rain's choice).

This week, Colbert updated us on the final results of 2007's Top 100 list, Rain finally took Colbert up on his challenge. He wisely chose the dance-off option and showed Colbert why he's one of the most internationally successful Korean entertainers out there today.

For a country that's often overshadowed by China and Japan, I think all this attention is great. Korea's an amazing country that deserves some time in the international spotlight. And if that attention happens to come from an almost-Presidential candidate, all the better.

* * *

* Addendum, 10 May 2008: I asked a couple Korean friends to translate the excerpt Colbert highlighted from the article and they told me it wasn't a word, it didn't make sense. But the headline of the article was something like, "American comedian laughs at Rain." They told me that the Korean music video Colbert made wasn't well received in South Korea because Koreans didn't understand why Colbert was making fun of him.

My friends kept asking me, "Why? Why did he make the video?" They compared the situation to Eminem's video ("Just Lose It") where the rapper dresses up as Michael Jackson and pretends his nose is falling off---a video that offended MJ and MJ's fans. So, I showed them the "Singin' in Korean" clip again, explained the Time magazine list, and also showed them the dance-off. After the explanation of the whole story, they thought it was pretty funny.

"Tell Me" / "Lies"

There are two songs in Korea that have been topping the charts and dominating radio airplay for months: “Tell Me” and “Lies”. These two songs, by K-pop (Korean pop) girl band Wonder Girls and boy band Big Bang, respectively, are inescapable. We here them in stores, in clubs, in classrooms during lunch time, or as cell phone ring tunes. Literally, everywhere, all the time. As annoying as it is to hear the same songs over and over, I have to admit they're both catchy songs.

I've had to eliminate tell me from my classroom vocabulary because those two little words would cause thirty teenage female students to simultaneously erupt into song. “Tell me! Tell me! T-t-t-t-t-tell me!” And then they'd ask me, “Teacher, do you know the dance to Wonder Girls?” Then I'd spent the next five minutes just trying to get back on track.

On the other hand, mentioning Big Bang as part of an example for whatever lesson I’m teaching instantly makes me a 'cool' teacher. “So, girls, we use present simple verbs to talk about facts and routines,” I glance around at all the blank stares and stifled yawns, “for example, ‘I ride the bus to school everyday.’ ‘I like Big Bang.’” And the yawns turn to smiles and laughter. Score.

This video is from their concert special on KBS TV (aired 5 October 2007) when Wonder Girls and Big Bang performed both of their huge hits for a large crowd. Listen to the synchronized “Tell me, tell me, t-t-t-t-t-tell me” from the audience; it's my favourite part.

Here are the English translations I've found online for these two K-pop classics:

"Tell Me" Wonder Girls

I did not know you to like me
I feel so good, oh so good
I thought it was a dream
Maybe I should pinch my cheeks,
I just feel so good

I thought maybe you didn't like me
I spent nights pondering about it
But now I know that you like me
Oh my, tell me again

Tell me, tell me
Tell-tell-tell-tell-tell-tell me
That you love me, that you waited for me
Tell me tell me
Tell-tell-tell-tell-tell-tell me
Tell me that you need me, tell me
Tell me, tell me
Tell-tell-tell-tell-tell-tell me
I want to hear more, keep on telling me
Tell me, tell me
Tell-tell-tell-tell-tell-tell me
Say that it is not a dream, tell me

I don't know why my heart is beating so much
My chest is about to burst
When you see me I feel like a person shocked with electricity

I don't know how long I've been waiting
I don't know how long I've been dreaming
But now I know that you love me
Oh my, tell me again

Tell me, tell me, tell me you
Want me, want me, want me too
Tell me, tell me, tell me you
Love me too, love me too

*   *   *

"Lies" Big Bang

Yeah (Love is pain)
To all my broken-hearted people (Come again)
One's old a flame, scream my name
And I'm so sick of love songs, yeah
I hate them love songs, memento of ours

It's raining late at night, it brings you here,
I run at the end of memories
I could live fine without you, even if you beg it will come to no use
I drank the alcohol I couldn't drink,
I even drank up the night that burned my heart
I hate it, a day without you is too long,
I beg to finally forget about you (It's all lies)

Without you, I have no smiles
No tears well up
I don't want to live anymore

You're like a [unknown]
It makes me mad
I think I'm going insane at the thought of you
I want to see you, but they say I can't, it's all over, I'll be right there

I'm so sorry but I love you, it's all lies
I didn't know, but now I do, I need you
I'm so sorry but I love you, sharp words on a whim
I didn't even know, I sent you off
I'm so sorry but I love you, it's all lies
I'm so sorry (I’m so sorry) but I love you (I love you more, more )
I'm so sorry but I love you leave me and could you forget me slowly so I can hurt

That song I sang you that I put everything into (People probably don't know)
By myself, so that nobody else knows (Yeah, the words that I said were all lies)
Now I'm being left alone, the sight of me not knowing what to do
The crinkled note in my pocket that told of separation
I have folded (Where are you, that habit of mine of calling you)
I want to change, I want to laugh it all off now

Oh oh oh oh oh for everything to be a dream
Oh oh oh oh oh because I'm nothing more than this
I still can't forget you, even if it takes forever, even until I die
I wonder if that hurt I gave you has healed
I'm sorry because I didn't do anything for you