Dec. 12, 2012
The first time I ever listened to K-Pop was when I was 15. I'd had no reason to sample the music energizing the young masses in my mother's country until then, really. You know how it is when you're that age: all you want to do is fit in. The group I was trying to assimilate into was comprised of young Koreans from my church who spoke broken English. They didn't want any of the TLC, Destiny's Child, Missy Elliot or Lauryn Hill that was playing on American radio. They wanted Shinhwa. They wanted Seo Taiji. They wanted Yoo Seungjun. So I wanted them, too.
Never mind that I could barely speak nor understand a lick of Korean, despite growing up with an overbearing Korean mother. If the beat was catchy and the artist was hot, then it was good. And if the occasional word that I DID know happened to be a part of the hook - like "yujah" (girl), "sah-rang-hae" (I love you) - even better.
Fast-forward almost 15 years later, and I find myself in the same predicament: falling for a K-Pop artist - in this case PSY - whose song has a catchy hook but few words I can interpret. The bonus here, though, is that crazy horse dance.
When PSY stepped out onto the Fillmore stage as the last performer at KISS 95.1's Kissmas Concert last night, the crowd - mostly teenagers and young people - went wild. One Asian man stood next to me with a small child on his shoulders, his DSLR camera raised high to get clear shots of the YouTube sensation. I want to believe he was there to support his people. I was.
What surprised me, though, was the lack of movement in the audience. From where I stood (near the doors) few people danced. In fact, many stood absolutely still to make sure their camera phone footage came out steady. Their eyes were trained to their tiny cell phone screens, rather than to the stage where a 30-something-year-old man was singing with all his heart the one song the world has allowed him to have.
And when that one song was over, it was over. Parents started dragging their children to the door, the dancers skipped off stage, and PSY exited quickly. It tugged at my heart a little bit. PSY was like a caged animal in a zoo. He's probably capable of doing so much more, but the cage that is pop culture confines him. People gazed in silent amazement through the glass, then quickly moved on.
Here's a video of some of PSY's OTHER work. See and believe he's much more than "Gangnam Style." Sure, maybe you don't understand what he's saying. Oh, wait ...