Thursday, February 27, 2014

CRAYON PUNK

When 2012 finished and I said that Rania's "Style" was the song of the year, I had to deal with a lot of butthurt from k-pop fans who disagreed with my opinion.  Mercifully, the whining at that time was restricted only to people that I personally knew, and those that listen to my radio show (as I also played my favourites list on-air) - my blogging wasn't very popular at that time because I had only just started writing.   Twelve months later when at the end of 2013 I said that Crayon Pop's "1,2,3,4" was the song of the year, it was a different story; the butthurt was far more extreme as now it had also manifested online.

For those who haven't heard this amazing song yet, here it is again:


Many people didn't understand this selection, or thought I was stupid/on drugs, or just making it up to be cool/uncool/trendy/non-trendy/whatever, so I thought I'd explain it more deeply.


So what do I think is so great about 1,2,3,4?

* Great melodies that anybody can enjoy - CHECK

* Melodic keyboard riffs worthy of Sammy Hagar-era 80s Van Halen - CHECK

* Goofiness and FUN pushed to the forefront in a scene where so many people take everything idols sing, say and do way, way, WAY too fucking seriously - MOTHER FUCKING CHECK, YOU CUNTING BITCH CUNT FUCK WHORES

* Another great punk song from Crayon Pop, the first punk group in the ultra-commercial end of k-pop - CHE...

cpwat

Okay, that last point might require a little more clarification, so here we go with:

HOW CRAYON POP IS (KIND OF) LIKE A PUNK GROUP

Musically

Music fashion comes in waves.  Styles and techniques come into fashion, and then go out of fashion.  Whenever music in popular culture veers heavily in one direction, you can bet it's going to come crashing through the other way later on down the track.  An example: look at all the Autotune that was all over almost every k-pop song four or five years ago... how many new k-pop releases have (obvious or "hard") Autotune in them in 2014?  A few but not many - that robot-voice sound defines the "naughties" (2000-2010), it's simply yesterday's sound and you won't hear much of it over the next few years compared to previously for this reason.

When the first wave of punk music initially rose to popularity in 1976, it was a similar shift in music fashion - a reaction to 1970s progressive rock, which was getting more and more musically complicated and technical at the time.  The original punk groups had simple, stripped-back songs that anybody could sing and play... because the original performers could barely sing and play the songs themselves.  A bunch of people found this incredibly inspiring - 70s prog rock with all its complex twists and turns seemed impossible to even memorise let alone perform without years of practice, but here was some music anybody could do.  The punk scene spread like wildfire in a few short months because people watching the initial shows thought "hey, these guys have cool songs but their playing and singing sucks fucking monkey cock all night long... if these talentless losers can do cool music, why can't I?" - and promptly started up groups of their own.

It's no secret that Korean pop music is succumbing to obsession about technique more and more - as competition between groups heats up,  everyone is trying to outsing, outdance, and outwank everyone else.  In the meantime, the songs themselves are being somewhat forgotten.  Although far from Crayon Pop's best song, it's clear in this context why so many people latched onto BarBarBar:


Basic singing, basic dancing, it sounds FUN and anybody can do this.  Look at all the people in the background dancing.  Now imagine if it was Exo's "Wolf" playing, there might be two people dancing in the background at the most because who else besides Exo themselves and the most extreme of cray-cray fans can actually dance to that fucking shit?  Crayon Pop makes music that is enjoyable for everybody, not just those belonging to the snobby elite k-pop sing-and-dance "OMG they're not doing it correctly" club.  Notice how at 1:52 Choa fucks up an arm movement?  Nobody gives a fuck, and nobody should.  Obsessing about correct dance moves and vocal technique would only serve to alienate the audience who has come to have a good time, so think before you pick it apart, you party-pooping cunt.

craycray

cranay

craycray2

DIY (do it yourself) ethos

DIY ethos is part of what defines punk.  Many of the early groups couldn't get record deals because nobody would touch them because their singing/playing was so shit, so the groups said "fuck all these people saying we can't do this or that, nobody will ever give us a break, let's just figure out how to do this shit ourselves" and started making their own records, booking their own shows, and touring whole countries by sleeping on people's floors.   Plenty of people didn't want to touch Crayon Pop either, and they couldn't get on music shows, so they performed outdoors with portable ghetto-blasters in all types of weather to find another way to bring their music to the people.



"But wait a second", I hear you say, "it's not really Crayon Pop themselves doing it, I mean... they're just puppets of their label, right?  This has nothing to do with punk, it's totally manufactured popular music!"

Well, newsflash motherfuckers: so is just about every punk group that you've ever heard of that reached any level of fame or notoriety.  Let's look at the big three of the first wave of punk: The Sex Pistols were very much Svengali'ed by manager Malcolm McLaren (although the exact extent of which is disputed and remains controversial to this day, but given Malcolm's track record his influence would have not been minimal).  The Clash were a completely manufactured group that were put together by CBS to rival The Sex Pistols and their music and image was carefully crafted to this end.  The Ramones didn't give a shit about punk music (which hadn't been invented yet) and really wanted to be as pop as possible, the group idolised 60's pop Motown artists to the extent that they even hired notoriously unhinged Motown producer Phil Spector to produce an album in an attempt to secure pop stardom.  The term "punk" used to refer to a homosexual, its first reference to music comes from The Ramones' song "Judy Is A Punk" and the group only fell into the punk rock niche because they weren't self-aware enough to realise that their leather-jacket image, wall-of-noise guitar sound and general ugliness was complete anathema to pop music fans.

And don't even get me started on the more modern big punk groups.  Things only got more corporate-friendly from here, as the music industry machine moved swiftly to sterilise punk music's safety pins and make it just another arm of its standard operations.  Those groups that look so rebellious onstage - in the record company office, they are all "yes, sir, no sir, three bags full sir".  Believe it.

Ideology

Punk isn't just a musical form, all punk music also has a central idea.  Contrary to popular belief, it's not necessarily an idea about politics or social rebellion or whatever (as punk music actually covers the entire spectrum of political thought).  The central idea that permeates each and every piece of punk music worth listening to can basically be summed up like this:

caryhelm copy

In music, the idea is always king - everything else flows from it.  Punk gave voice to people who had ideas, and the drive to execute them, but not necessarily the talent to execute them to the kind of technical standard that the pop music world traditionally expects.  The ideology of punk told them "your lack of ability doesn't matter - if you can convey your idea, and it's a good idea, the end result might be a bit rough around the edges but it will still be worthwhile".  This is why often artists who sound nothing like a traditional punk group are still sometimes given the punk label anyway - it's a way for people to say "this person isn't technically inclined or doesn't care for technique, but their concept is great and they're doing things in a different way which is still cool and worth your time".

Crayon Pop are nothing if not an ideas group.  Whether it's the members themselves with the ideas or their management doesn't matter in the end, because the result is the same - you get to see a group do a fucking cool Bruce Lee concept in a genre where everyone else is either the cute girlfriend or the sexy girlfriend (not that there's anything wrong with those things, but viva la difference).



And you're going to pick on them because their songs don't have vocal wank in them, or they might miss a note or a dance move?  Fuck off.  You should be grateful for Crayon Pop's existence, because ideas is what keeps a music genre afloat, not technique, and we all know what music with no ideas sounds like.

48 comments:

  1. Its interesting you called them punk, where as I would called them indie but I get where you draw those comparison.
    "your lack of ability doesn't matter - if you can convey your idea, and it's a good idea, the end result might be a bit rough around the edges but it will still be worthwhile", this so mind blowing its not even funny lol.

    Brilliant post as always btw.

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    1. Thanks. Oh - and the videos are working for you, right?

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    2. videos don't work for me though

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    3. Not sure what kinda shitty browser you guys are using lol
      Works fine for me with FF 27 and Win7 x64.

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    4. Google Chrome. I think it has to do with the html coding, because kpopalypse oppar's html coding for videos is different than every other author's coding.

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    5. What I don't get is that I've been using the same HTML coding ever since I started blogging for this site, I don't know why it's suddenly playing up now. But I downloaded Chrome to test and it doesn't work for me on Chrome either.

      Here's how to fix the problem:

      Type chrome://plugins in the address bar of Chrome

      Click DETAILS (on the top-right)

      Disable pepperflash plugin. Use Find to find the word "pepper". The path to the file will look different depending on OS, but the file should be PepperFlash/PepperFlashPlayer.plugin

      I don't know why this works, but it does.

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    6. In the meantime I'll have a look at the default coding and how mine differs and see if I can figure out a solution that works for everyone.

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    7. Fixed.

      Should work for everybody now, regardless.

      There was a bit of code missing from my copy-pasted HTML. Maybe I'd copy-pasted it so many damn times that I've been copy-pasting the errors too and Google Chrome suddenly developed a sensitivity to them or whatever. Anyway, seems ok now.

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    8. Do you write your articles under 'Compose' or 'HTML'? I write my articles under HTML, and I only switch over to Compose when I'm done to add a page break and to make sure the pictures aren't too big.

      For example, if I wanted to embed BoA's Moto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M1XuHJmaJk under the HTML option, all I did is the following:

      1. Write "<*center><*/center>" without the asterisks.
      2. On the video, go to "Share" and then "Embed" and copy the code.
      3. In between the "<*center><*/center>", paste the code. For example, the code for Moto is "<*iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/4M1XuHJmaJk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen><*/iframe>" without the asterisks.
      4. Change the iframe width to 560 instead of 420.
      5. Put two "<*br />" without the asterisks under the coding, as the <*br /> is the same as pushing Enter if you were writing using Microsoft Word.
      6. Starts your next paragraph of writing, add a picture, etc.

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    9. Yeah I've been using HTML. Because the auto-linker is such a pain, what I've done is just inserted a random video with the autolinker, changed to html, changed the width to suit, copied the code, and then just edited the 4M1XuHJmaJk to whatever video I want to display.

      I'll try your method and see how I go!

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    10. Punk pretty much invented the modern concept of indie.

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    11. I don't even consider "indie" a genre at all. The word doesn't have any musical meaning, most "indie" groups are musically actually pop, rock, rap or something similar. The word "indie" doesn't have any meaning as a business term either - in these days where most "independent" labels are imprints of majors or use major label distribution channels. People use the word "indie" to describe groups like Radiohead who have masses of dollars and mega budgets... I even saw U2 get called "indie" once. Proof that the term has no meaning.

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    12. Nell is the most popular rock band in Korea (Busker Busker doesn't count as rock, but even if they were, Nell is still more popular) and Nell is considered an indie group.

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    13. Yeha it's crazy! So odd how people throw the 'indie' term around. Nell are on SM (via Woollim), making commercial rock music, and are massively popular... there's nothing 'indie' about them, either musically or in a business sense.

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  2. I'm not sure if I'd call them punky, but Crayon Pop was definitely the best K-Pop group last year and wonderful breath of fresh air.
    If SNSD keeps on being boring and C.P. keeps on being entertaining and funny, then they might just switch places by the end of 2014 and C.P. may become my favourite K-Pop group.

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  3. "Iggy recently sat down with the folks at Classic Rock to discuss “Ready to Die” and the finer points of his long, incredible career, and among the revelations that he makes, perhaps the most intriguing notion is that the man who has long been regarded the “Godfather of Punk” didn’t actually like punk music back in the day.

    -[Industry suits] have to think in boxes. They have to have a place to put me to reference the whole thing. And they think they have to explain that to an audience of people who are similarly lacking in intelligence or education. So you get that. It’s okay. But it’s tedious.

    “We hadn’t sold out one of the shows, so the promoter wanted me to go on the radio. So I said: ‘Alright, I’ll do an interview.’ Well, then that wasn’t enough. They wanted me to talk about five punk songs. And I told them: ‘I don’t like punk.’-

    http://www.uproxx.com/music/2013/05/godfather-of-punk-iggy-pop-revealed-that-he-didnt-like-punk-music/"

    ^ To me, this IS punk.

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    1. I agree, and that's actually part of my point written another way.

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  4. This is one of the best pieces that I've read about Crayon Pop. Yes, other Kpop acts may look conventionally prettier and sexier. The twins and Soyul have decent voices, but there are better singers out there. But all of that doesn't matter to me. Crayon Pop is the only relevant Kpop act out right now that interests me. I still listen to other groups and watch their MVs and performances, but usually only once, whereas CP gets multiple viewings from me. There's something so endearing and entertaining about these girls.

    Yes, their choreography is basic looking, but I think deceptively so. Their synchronization is impressive which makes their dancing so fun to watch, imo, as shown in this practice video for Bing Bing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo82koP4sDk

    Also, I love "1,2,3,4". The Japanese version is good, but I prefer the English version for obvious reasons.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6V4GpfKTAM


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    1. I wish there was more Soyul with glasses material.

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  5. Sucks that they scrapped the original BingBing choreo though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=vvYCT1Vw00I#t=798

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  6. I wouldn't have thought of them as "punk" in the traditional sense, but you draw some very valid parallels. I remember watching their guerrilla videos a bit under 2 years ago, praying they'd get a scrap of mainstream recognition. I don't think they'd get anywhere without a fresh concept or good music because they didn't have an army of zealots to support them in their every endeavor (can't say about the fanboys now LOL). Anyways, their company did something right.

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  7. Another thing to keep in mind is that when discussing K-Pop acts as "puppets" of their label, Crayon Pop and Chrome Entertainment are quite a different story from the big, established, monolithic K-Pop music companies. Until the success of "Bar Bar Bar," Crayon Pop and Chrome Entertainment were one and the same; the girls were just the faces and voices in front of the camera, and everyone else was behind the scenes of their sole operation--a company founded by a guy with no music business experience, using seed money made by selling off his photo equipment. That, too, is punk. :)

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    1. This is true, but then even the biggest labels have startup stories like that. I also find it silly when people are against big corporations by default - how did they think those corporations GOT to be big in the first place? They grew because people liked what they were doing so they were able to expand the business.

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    2. Actually I believe that a lot of companies are in the right place at the right time to become big.They then employ people who are smarter then themselves to keep the show on track.
      can you imagine trying to be the New Google or the new Intel it would be a hard act to follow.
      The thing is to be there at the evolution of something.In the music industry it is always evolving and changing so its never too late to jump on the bandwagon although on the production side we see large companies like Sony making it very difficult for others because of their electronic base and their finger in the pie approach to their investments.Lots of labels come and go and disappear completely.
      For instance many are just a recording label by name .I remember Decca was big, Capitol, HMV,Apple (Beatles label),Motown ,Columbia,RCA, etc were all swallowed up or just disappeared in time.The pie was being divided into too many pieces and so some companies began to starve without stars and could just not match the money being handed out by conglomerates.Of course Steve Jobs changed the face of music for ever.The big companies like Sony and EMI had no trouble converting ,and didn't care really, as long as they could supply music in any form that the public required.I still prefer a hard copy rather than a compressed MP4 version as I have good sound equipment and like to hear every note as in tended but because of the convenience store approach to music most younger consumers don't care as long as it makes a noise it's okay.I think most start up companies today are just looking for a market niche to become a thorn in the side of the big companies and hope to produce enough pain for the big companies to devour them with an offer that can't be refused.

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  8. Yeh she missed the transition...........jet lag I guess.If you hadn't pointed it out I would not have noticed.
    I did notice in most of the Dancing Queen videos Ellin sort of just skips around from the right(facing) goes around the back of the group doing her own thing and then finds her place in the chorus line on the left(facing).I can just imagine their choreographer pulling his hair out at some of the mistakes as he goes over every video at one rat power.
    In another Ellin comes from the front after doing her 5 second segment, wanders off to the the left(facing) starts doing her hair and looking for a mirror and then falls in for the next transition.
    The vocals when Live are always a bit weak in the lower register because this is a pain for girls who like the higher key.Even Dami Im who has a powerful voice with tremendous range can sound weak in the lower register.

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    1. If you're even noticing stuff like this you're missing the whole point of the article.

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    2. I probably don't understand the article as the music sounds nothing like punk it just sounds seventies with heavy beats. Something you can dance to I can't recall too many punk styles sounding like that.A lot of those early tracks by punk groups just sounded tinny in their sound and the defiant theme of these groups were the main attraction to supporters the lyrics and their outrageous antics set them apart and they were not embraced by everyone .I myself much preferred something I could listen and dance to, i wasn't trying to rebel or change the world.Most of the kids in that era were just happy to listen to the Beatles, The Stones etc. Punk was like Rap and music critics either hated it or just went along with what was being handed out and a few in this country refused to promote and just waited till it died off.
      Rap reinvented itself later on as it became more musical and this was only because of what the recording labels thought the public would buy.

      In the end I can't agree with you Crayon Pop is nothing like punk, in sound or in concept.

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    3. Well excuse me.who made reference to the mistake and the off key vocals ??

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    4. It wasn't me who mentioned the off-key vocals but someone on my ask. The dance move, I only pointed that out because I knew if I didn't someone else would have pointed it out and duly missed the point.

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  9. I so agree with you on the basic singing and dancing, I like to dance along with these songs because you just can't not dance to it really.

    I guess this is also a factor that makes 'Roly Poly' popular, the singalong-ability of the song, sure the dance doesn't seem too simple, but I learned it by watching it for just a bit. This also applies to songs like 'Abracadabra', 'Love Options', 'Gangnam Style', etc.

    I guess in the end what people really like is effortless fun, which I think defines Crayon Pop well.

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    1. Roly Poly's simplicity is its strength. When DJing a k-pop night Roly Poly always packs the dance floor because lots of people can do that dance without too much trouble. Same with Crayon Pop's dances. Put on something from SHINee on the other hand and there's like only one or two people up there.

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    2. Yeah I don't really get the attractiveness of almost all SM group dances, they are too complicated and sometime just comes off as trying to hard for me.

      ORANGE CARAMEL IS COMING BACK

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  10. Still a shit fucking song.

    But that is just MY opinion. All the more power to you for liking it, someone has to I guess. It's kind of like how I stan for T-ara and would not mind at all if they just literally released a track of Hyomin farting mixed with eunjung whispering "Unnie Style" for 6 minutes straight. Literally would tell everyone that the song is the most inspirational record ever produced in K-pop and how it tells a story about T-ara coming from nothing and rising from the ashes like a phoenix.

    Also, hated 2ne1 and Soshi's new album/song. GROSS.

    Netizens were so right: "IF T-ara had released Mr. Mr. it would have flopped, but because it's SNSD, it's doing well." I guess some of them aren't delulu after all.

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    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kVGlLYqaKI

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    2. eunjung having too much fun lol, I was kinda expecting she would fall down or something

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    3. If Crayon Pop is good enough for Eunjung it's good enough for me.

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    4. I saw that and I was thinking, that's a bae.

      But then Manber came into my screen and I didn't have enough time to prepare myself so I closed it.

      I like Barbarbar, and i like Crayon Pop, I just don't like 1,2,3,4.

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  11. actually their CEO started his Chrome company and Crayon Pop because of T-Ara Roly Poly... Even though im not into T-Ara, but i have soft spot for them, if not because of them, Crayon Pop will not exist today lol..

    Im really love Crayon Pop <3

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    1. The CEO is totally fucking punk. The guy couldn't get his girls on TV? Fuckit! Let's film them on the streets and shit and put up Crayon Pop TV episodes on Youtube. Couldn't get gigs? Fuckit, let's go to Japan, or China, or shit.

      There is definitely a delightful sense of everyone involved with Crayon Pop not having a clue of how to do things the "Right," way -- they even tried at the start to just do it like a typical girl group. But when it wasn't working, they just came up with whatever they could to get their name out there, even if it meant holding signs and shit.

      I like that.

      I mean, it wouldn't mean a thing if the music wasn't also as catchy as hell... but since it is, it's nice that they're also fun as heck to watch.
      --Andrew S.

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    2. Their pre-debut days maybe, because they even had that Coin Jackson reject with them, but ever since their debut MV... I didn't take that one seriously, yet, most of the ones who watched back in the day were freshened because it was the year with like 5 debuts per day and all girl group were trying too hard while CP were goofying around in Osaka.

      What I like from them is that they don't take themselves seriously, yet, they do deliver catchy tunes, and they make you have fun. They're not cute but absurd, they're really Da-Da and Punk if you please.

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  12. what the fuck are you doing this page is so ridiculous!!....

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    1. Aw come on. You might as well embrace them. You know you want to. If a topic likes this elicits such a strong response, than I suspect an internal struggle going on.

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  13. After having this link forwarded to me by an online acquaintance, I have been awake all night exploring Crayon Pop and the genre they are redefining. Uncles should not be allowed to stay up all night.
    This comment is left by a fellow approaching 50 who from the ages of 16 until 30 or so was a part of the "American Hardcore", or post-punk scene. I'm shocked at how much of that music, much of which your typical readers will never know, just doesn't hold up. I stopped paying attention when the utterly bleak worldview no longer corresponded to the world I was observing. The core ethic was and is eternal. The music, hosting of shows and camaraderie of those years was merely my section of my generation's introduction to it.
    The Ramones lost their way when they embraced the rules in order to get that one hit record they previously deserved. The operating theory of punk, new wave, post-punk and such that immediately followed into the 1990s was to take the methods of the previous generation embraced by a current generation of musicians and bend them. In the internet age, this also includes other forms such as stand-up comedy, documentaries, puppetry and possibly hundreds of other forms my generation would have embraced had music not been the default creative form for the angst-ridden youth.
    My comprehension of K-Pop (sp?) specifically is minimal. I understand that the essence of it, specifically the subgenre of Korean popular music for which English speakers use that term, is similar to the Motown star factory of the 50s and 60s. Talented people are somehow recruited into an "entertainment company", arranged into groups, then the groups are signed to a record label and are available for other purposes as a unit. Other aspects involve a coherent look, extremely simplified music that can be produced on a single (showing my age I will call it a) synthesizer. What little of the MVs I have seen are all zealously overproduced and clearly more important than the musical elements, a situation which isn't exclusive to Korean pop to be certain.
    I may be making unwarranted assumptions, but it superficially appears that K-Pop has hit a point where the focus groups and "network notes" have created a shade of beige with which all acts must be painted. Everyone is the same. That the members of Crayon Pop are different heights is evolutionary. That they embrace the forms of K-Pop (including band or personality uniforms, the perception of availability to their fans, every song having its own dance, and probably lots of things I haven't picked up on) and care enough to bend them in novel ways is revolutionary.
    Every musical group has its own mythology. The Crayon Pop story is the manufactured band who could not "make it" doing what everyone is supposed to do and nearly brought their company to ruination. Out of desperation and without the tools you are supposed to use took their performances to the streets, devised novel costumes possibly parodying the idea of band uniforms, and started to bring their own presumably authentic interests and personalities to the fore. I have no trouble believing Bar Bar Bar was a desperation ploy. I have less trouble believing the company consciously avoided the rules and the girls just wanted to have some fun. To not be somber and slick in this age is revolutionary, and if you'll pardon the term, punk as fuck. I really need to go to bed but I think I'm going to catch up on the subs of Crayon Pop TV.

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    1. "The Ramones lost their way when they embraced the rules in order to get that one hit record they previously deserved." - not true, they embraced the rules wholeheartedly right from the start. That was always the point of The Ramones.

      Yes I actually read all that. Go to bed.

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