Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 17

For this episode I'm joined on the Idolcast by another long time Arashi fan turned BTS fan! We talk about all sorts of stuff including what Johnny's does RIGHT and what worries us K-pop idol groups in general and BTS in particular.

Regarding the Johnny's dormitory, you will still find that the older Johnny's idols like Tokio's Joshima who joined in the 1980s do still mention it from time to time but it is long gone. And for the best.

The songs played are:

1. "Atlantis Princess" by BOA

2. "情非得已" ("Cant Help Falling In Love With You") by Harlem Yu

3. Clip from episode 14 of Mago Mago Arashi

4. "恋に落ちたボディガード" (Bodyguard in Love) by A.B.C-Z (I believe this is the performance I linked where my friend said, "Oh... I didn't realize they were so K-poppy.")

5. "Love Rainbow" by Arashi (A song that neither my guest or I liked on the first or second or 20th listen but it grows on you. And here's a taste of Matsujun's cheezy conducting choreo.)

6. "Fire" by BTS

7. "Otsukare" by SOPE

8. "WISH" by Arashi (5x10 special live version performed by Matsumoto Jun)

9. "No Air" by The Boyz (One of the young groups I've got my eye on. These kids are SUPER talented and have great songs.)

10. "Call out" by ASTRO (One of the best live concert songs! ASTRO have mentioned being inspired by Arashi numerous times and their live concerts show that it's not just words. I highly recommend checking out their new DVD.)

11. "REVENGER" performed by Yara Tomoyuki live on Shounen Club July 2010. He had just come from performing in Takizawa Kabuki and was going straight into starring in PLAYZONE.

12. "Honesty" by SHINee (Fancam of a live performance)

13. "So What" by BTS (Fancam from the Love Yourself tour)

14. "曇りのち、快晴" by Ohno Satoshi (Released as a double A-side with "Believe"; it was the theme song to the drama Ohno starred in called うたのおにいさん that is excellent if you can find it.)

15. "Love Rainbow" by Arashi (AGAIN because you know. Repetition.)

And some bonus fun!

Here's Astro doing Arashi's "Hatenai Sora":

Friday, July 19, 2019

Some word vomit on the Atlantic article by the woman who has been a fan for FOUR MONTHS and yet writes from a place of authority somehow.

Yesterday two very different English-language articles about BTS came across my twitter timeline. The first, from Atlantic Magazine was yet another in the seemingly unending series of first person fan memoir pieces titled “I wasn’t a fan of BTS. And Then I was.” The second, from DJ Booth, was an in-depth look at RM’s lyrics and artistry from a hip-hop perspective.

The second article is the one I wish we saw more of. The author, one Elliot Sang, looks at RM’s lyrics and artistry from a serious perspective. Aside from a few very minor points where it’s clear the author is not familiar with the K-Pop scene or Asian music history in general (in what universe was Big Bang ever known for their “crisp choreography”?????), overall the article is a breath of fresh air in what is swiftly becoming a BTS-clickbait-industrial complex.

The Atlantic article on the other hand. Where to even begin…

Maybe here: BTS fan narratives are not newsworthy and reveal nothing about BTS.

I’ve written about this in other posts but English-language media has almost completely warped the traditional fan-idol dynamics so that ARMY is in the spotlight; ARMY is what’s talked about.

Just from the last month, BTS’s mainstream news coverage in the US includes ARMY translators in the New York Times (with no mention of the fact that they are doing unpaid labor for a billion dollar company hmm...); Sasaeng Fans in Newsweek; ARMY backlash to an Australian news show in USA Today; and BTS’s lyrics being a love letter ARMY in Seventeen magazine... you see where I’m going with this.

Most English-language news coverage of BTS is not about BTS themselves.

So, fine, ARMY is the story. There is plenty to be written about ARMY. I’d love a journalist to interview some of the OG i-ARMY who whipped the fanbase for votes to get that first Billboard Award to understand their thought processes or for a journalist to seriously dig into the mindless mob mentality that characterizes ARMY twitter these days as fans race from imagined outrage to blowing up nobody songwriters who say one good word about the members or for a journalist to take a good, long look into what it says about i-ARMY that they are so invested in making sure that BTS’s views on “social justice” issues align perfectly with their own.

But none of that will happen. Why? Because--like the author of the Atlantic piece--the media exists in this weird bubble where the only things possible to know about BTS are what is already “known” about BTS. And, to be frank, that is not much if your time as a fan began… when was that exactly, Atlantic author?

I was already yawning when I sat down to watch Saturday Night Live one evening this past April.

BTS were on SNL on April 13, 2019. This piece was posted on July 18, 2019. So… just about 4 months ago. 4 MONTHS AGO.

Because the group’s lyrics are mostly in Korean, I picked up some Hangul and can now sing along, albeit imperfectly, to much of their discography.


Not to cast doubt on this woman’s language skills but as a native English-speaker with no background in Asian languages you cannot learn shit about an Asian language in 4 months. Right here, with this sentence I call bullshit on this entire piece. Unless she was in some sort of intensive 8-12 hour a day Korean program for every day of those four months, what can she have possibly “learned”.

“Some Hangul”? What does that mean? She can sing phonetically to 뱁새? While that shows a bit more dedication than those who never bother to learn the lyrics it’s ultimately still a very shallow engagement with the Korean language, with the lyrics, and with the group itself. As one of my very dear twitter friends said recently, the more you learn the more you understand that there is so much more to learn. “Some Hangul”???

I’ve learned, though, that being a fan of BTS means becoming intimately familiar with the many prejudices and hierarchies of taste that casually belittle the thing you love—and then deciding that none of it has any real power over you.

This is really the point of the piece and it’s one that many young women need to hear. I do appreciate that message. It’s one I had to come to by myself many, many years ago. The white, male academy that dictates the prejudices and hierarchies of taste basically owns the entire critical machine. To like anything that goes against it--without caring--is like breaking out of a glass box you didn’t realize you’d been trapped in.

HOWEVER, that message in and of itself is no excuse for giving a four-month old ARMY a platform to write from a place of authority on BTS when she has engaged so shallowly with the group that she regurgitates this finely honed press release as captial “T” truth:

BTS were by no means destined for such heights, having debuted in 2013 with a tiny company in an industry ruled by three giant record labels. Since at least 2017, critics have been trying to formulate a unified theory to explain BTS’s success in the mainstream U.S. music scene in particular, eclipsing other K-pop crossovers. Writers invariably point to the group’s early adoption and savvy use of social media to connect with fans, who have in turn helped BTS smash record after record. Critics also mention BTS’s socially conscious lyrics, their openness about taboos such as mental health, their empathy for the struggles of younger generations, and their emphatic message of self-love.

Let’s go point by point:

BTS were by no means destined for such heights, having debuted in 2013 with a tiny company in an industry ruled by three giant record labels.

It is true that nobody could have predicted this level of global recognition but that “tiny company” was actually an off-shoot of one of the Big Three talent agencies (not record labels) and the founder had plenty of insider industry connections. Big Hit was far from being a Dickensian orphan rags to riches story and something closer to one of those Regency romance novels where a countess’s country cousin, comparatively poor but still “class”, ends up marrying a wealthy landed gentleman. Big Hit is not now and has never been “independent” in the way we think of it here aka non-corporate.

Since at least 2017, critics have been trying to formulate a unified theory to explain BTS’s success in the mainstream U.S. music scene in particular, eclipsing other K-pop crossovers. Writers invariably point to the group’s early adoption and savvy use of social media to connect with fans, who have in turn helped BTS smash record after record.

Lol. Okay. “Critics”. Those guys were just dismissed as elitist hacks. Sure. THEY suddenly know what they’re talking about. (Massive eye roll here).

First of all, MANY other K-Pop groups use social media to connect with fans. Instagram, Twitter, V-Live, Fancafe… SHINee’s Key goes on Instagram live all the damn time to chat with fans.

AND Big Bang fans were the first to organize globally via social media to whip votes to get their boys invited to the European MTV Music Awards in 2011 where they won Best Worldwide Act thanks to those votes. The key this writer is missing--maybe because she was spending 8-12 hours a day studying Korean for the last four months--is ENGLISH. BTS (well, RM) used to engage with their international fans in English. He speaks good colloquial English and is a fan of American/foreign art. He is accessible and understandable to English-only fans in a way that other K-Pop idols just aren’t. You need to speak Korean to use Fancafe or interact on V-Live. That barrier to accessibility was substantially lowered with BTS.

Critics also mention BTS’s socially conscious lyrics, their openness about taboos such as mental health, their empathy for the struggles of younger generations, and their emphatic message of self-love.

Again “critics”? What do those critics know?

MANY other groups speak to these issues in some way or another. Idols write personal lyrics for songs. Idols have opinions about politics. SHINee’s Jonghyun certainly did. But the issues that we care about in the West are not always what is important in Korea. Add to that the missing piece here which is that Export K-Pop is explicitly a soft power tool of the government, a group in the spotlight does not have the freedom to speak out without the implicit and very threat of punishment. Of secrets being revealed if you don’t play ball. Do you think the members of YG Entertainment are the only celebrities in all of Korean music to use marijuana and employ call girls? Strange how none of the men implicated in Jang Ja-yeon’s suicide ten years ago were ever publically named and shamed and punished...

AND considering the engagement with the lyrics is so shallow for most international fans that “some hangul” is apparently enough how much can this really be a factor in their popularity except that international fans like the narrative of liking a socially conscious group because it means they can throw it in the face of those “critics” they claim not to care about.

The author goes on to talk about racism against BTS, which is certainly present in the United States. However, absent from the discussion is the racism thrown around by ARMY who crow their superiority over those fans of “plastic” K-pop idols like EXO. Or the ARMY who like to shit all over “Kpoppies” for liking inferior music that doesn’t talk about mental health or whatever. As if the message of “Mic Drop” (Check out my bag full of trophies) is in some way objectively “better” than the message of EXO’s “Ko Ko Bop” (Let’s get it on.) Really? REALLY?

At the end of the day, fan narratives like this only serve to reinforce the very thing that this author claims to be speaking out against. BTS is not a guilty pleasure but a pleasure. Yes, I agree. But then why do you need to justify that by trotting out the same old narrative that well, yes, BTS is a boy band but they are from an independent group and they write their own songs about mental health when even the thinnest scratch of the surface will reveal it to be as artificial as Jimin’s pink hair?

There is nothing wrong with liking pretty singing and dancing boys. NOTHING AT ALL. The danger comes when this outsized narrative is pushed on them. When the only outcome is that they can never live up to it that, they will be revealed as hypocrites in the end.

Why is i-ARMY’s need to have BTS be worthy of them somehow never openly and honestly discussed and criticized?

Why do I feel like almost all English-language coverage is writing about a mirage? That the group they write about is one I do not recognize?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 16

I'm back with the lovely Lola in an encore performance speaking ourselves about the recent shenanigans in BTS-world! ENJOY!

The songs played are:

1. "Dream Girl" by SHINee

2. "When I B on tha Mic" by Rakim (taken from Suga's Spotify playlist)

3. EXO interview with Ellie Lee

4. "Crown" by TXT

5. Key playing with his dogs on Instagram live

6. "That's Ok" by D.O.

7. BTS Talks to Scott Evans

8. "Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying" by Belle & Sebastian

9. "Golden Hour" by Kacey Musgraves

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Who Cancels the Cancelers... A few thoughts on BTS WOKE KINGS

Yesterday, Big Hit Entertainment dropped the trailer for the new BTS concert film, Bring the Soul. Towards the end of the trailer we hear a woman, presumably a fan, state in English that: “Listening to their music helped me move on and realize that I deserved better.”

Followed by RM in English in an ending ment say, “I didn’t know anything about love myself but you guys (the fans) taught me how to love myself.”

The message we, the international fans, are supposed to hear could not be clearer: BTS IS ABOUT SELF-CARE.

And then yesterday evening Spotify dropped new playlists of recommended songs from all the BTS members. When I woke up this morning, my twitter timeline was full of people picking apart the meaning of each one and--inevitably--how woke or unwoke each choice was.

Suga: Picking songs from Lil Nas X, who has the correct identify politics? Woke King.

J-Hope: Picking songs from XXXtentacion, considered problematic? Unwoke. Cancel and drag.

What did the big Alex Jung February 2018 Billboard article--probably the most substantial interview with them in English--focus on? You got it: How woke are they? With the interviewer trying to nail them on gay marriage and politics.

Given a chance to ask anything of the creative men in BTS, rather than ask about their actual WORK--i.e. what’s your working process, tell me about the production of this song, what input do you have into the visuals, what would your ideal project be, what do you find beautiful in art and music--Alex quizzes RM on a tweet from 2013:

I later bring up a tweet that RM wrote in March 2013, saying that when he understood what the lyrics to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ gay-marriage anthem, “Same Love,” were about, he liked the song twice as much. BTS fans naturally took this to mean that BTS openly supported gay rights -- a rarity in K-pop. Today, he’s slightly circumspect on the topic: “It’s hard to find the right words. To reverse the words: Saying ‘same love’ is saying ‘love is the same.’ I just really liked that song. That’s about all I have to say.” Suga, though, is clear on where he stands: “There’s nothing wrong. Everyone is equal.”

Min Yoongi, Woke King!

Is he though?


Or does he simply have a sharp mind and know exactly what international fans are looking for and is fine being the one to give it to them?

Just look at his playlist:

“When I B on Tha Mic” by Rakim, classic G-Funk.

“Big Poppa” and “Juicy” by Biggie, classic East Coast rap.

American, old enough to be controversy free, and songs Yoongi probably actually likes.

But Jonas Brothers and 5 Seconds of Summer? Ex-1Ders, Yoongi sees you.

Lil Nas X? Here’s one for the Wokerati.

My dear friend Jung Hoseok, while a brilliant performer and rapper, does not have Yoongi’s entertainment world savvy and is constantly recommending western songs he actually likes instead of songs that signal something, whether it’s problematic soundcloud rapper Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang”:

Or in his spotify list, XXXTENTACION.

Either he doesn’t know XXXTENTACTION has been canceled in America or he doesn’t care and that’s a problem when ALL of the marketing, the interview questions, the messaging for international fans revolves around the virtue signaling message of “Love Yourself” and “Speak Yourself.” They give us just enough hints that, yes, BTS, definitely agrees with all of your wokest beliefs about everything they just can’t say it because… I don’t know. But they agree with YOU about what YOU think.

But it’s just an image. A mirage. A cynical marketing ploy that Big Hit stumbled ass first into. The key to all that big slice of the Western market.

The truth is that BTS are seven Korean men coming from a very conservative culture who exist in a celebrity bubble where things like drunken parties with young women coerced into participating in things they may not actually want to do and group chats where men have a ㅋㅋ about their exploits with those same young women are not just common but endemic. Look at the male celebrities who are known to have a lot of platonic female friends and you’ll see a strong overlap with male celebrities rumored to be homosexual. If your oppa is heterosexual, there is a 99% chance he has behaved inappropriately with a woman by woke liberal western standards. There is a reason Korean feminists have been in the streets demanding actual change and believe me, the change they are fighting for has zero to do with gender neutral pronouns in otome games (a recent woke i-army demand) and everything to do with the dignity of women to exist as human beings.

One of the conversations I’ve been trying to have over and over and over again in international BTS fandom boils down to this:

If the value you place on BTS and in being a BTS fan lies in how morally virtuous you think they are, you are inevitably going to be disappointed.

Whether it’s RM not actually reading the book the album is based on or J-Hope digging XXXTENTCION’s music and collabing with Supreme Boi, BTS are not your 100% genuine authentic intellectual love yourself woke kings who write all their own music for you, armys around the world. AND THAT’S OKAY!

As Show Business Genius Min Yoongi put it, they are International Pop K Sensation Sunshine Rainbow Traditional Transfer USB Hub Shrimp BTS.

Take the woke messaging for what it is--an attempt to pander to i-army fans--and let it go.

Idol groups are here to entertain and put some color and beauty into our otherwise mundane lives. Enjoy the gorgeous photoshoots, the bickering over food in Run BTS, the pretty music… Use BTS as a way to open your eyes and ears to things you didn’t know, to live vicariously in a fantasy bubble where you’re part of the big found family, as a way to take a cheap mental vacation to someplace nice on your 15 minute break at work. Hell, enjoy the messages of Love, Love, Love for the schmaltzy nonsense that they are. I certainly do.

But the flip side of that is if you really want to be a fan of male artists from places like Korea where male superiority and certain conservative norms are baked into the culture, you are going to have to accept that a certain amount of sexist baggage will hang over your favorite actor or musician. You can deal with it by educating yourself on the feminist struggles going on in those countries and learn more about what women living there actually think about things or you can close your eyes and pretend that some offhanded comments and casual virtue signaling in western concerts mean that, no, my favorite agrees 100% with me. But if you pick the latter be prepared to sell off your entire collection of memorabilia in an angry rage when it inevitably comes out that your oppa also partied with coerced young women or hit on some starlets too aggressively or if your oppa is somebody you’ve convinced yourself is gay but refuses to out himself publicly and possibly even marries a woman.

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