Korean girl group 시크릿 (Secret) just released their new single, “Shy Boy” today! While I like some of their other songs more, “Shy Boy” is nonetheless catchy and seems to have found semi-permanent lodging in my brain already. Perhaps it’s because of the bouncy, 1920s swing-inspired beats?
The MV seems to be a mishmash of a lot of stuff, with nothing really unique tossed in. The choreography is somewhat similar to that of some of their previous singles; the colours and backdrops are reminiscent of 이효리’s (Lee Hyori) “U-Go-Girl” MV; and the story and costumes remind me of the awesome 1978 movie, Grease. (Yes, I admit; I’ve seen that movie several times. I couldn’t help the fact that it was always on TV!) In any case, it’s still fun eye-candy, and it brings back fond memories of “Grease Day”, for those who know what I’m talking about.
Observations on new Korean pop star G.NA’s song, “꺼져 줄게 잘 살아 (I’ll Back Off So You Can Live)”:
I. Having natively acquired English (she was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada) has obviously affected how she speaks Korean. She does not seem to have [g] and [k] as her allophones for ㄱ; that is, she only pronounces ㄱ as [g] and not [k] throughout the song. I’m not sure if that’s also true for her regular speech, but it’s something I’ll look out for if I see her on reality TV. I should pay attention to how she uses ㅂ too: Will she use both [p] and [b], or just [b]? *
* For those of you not in the field, this basically involves the following concepts:
- In English, whether you choose to use [g] and [k] is important, because it causes a change in word meaning. For example, “GATE” and “KATE” mean two very different things.
- In Korean, whether you choose to use [g] and [k] is unimportant. So if you said “GATE” or “KATE”, they would both mean the same thing. It wouldn’t matter which form you used at all. If it makes it easier to understand, it’s kind of like the different ways you could say “POTATO” (although that’s actually a different phenomenon in linguistics): “po-tay-to” and “po-tah-to”. The “ay” and “ah” doesn’t make a difference in meaning.
- In G.NA’s case, being a native speaker of English has biased her to differentiating between [k] and [g], even in Korean. In contrast, people who only learnt Korean as their native language will never make that differentiation.
II. The title of the album containing this song is “Draw G’s First Breath”. At first, I assumed “Draw G” as a proper noun; that is, “Draw” is an adjective describing “G”. But today, I somehow was enlightened of a second interpretation of the entire phrase: Perhaps it’s an instruction! It’s telling me to draw G’s first breath (whatever that looks like). It’s a real-life example of syntactic ambiguity, with a preference towards parsing “draw” as an adjective (since verbs don’t usually occur as the first word in a sentence).
That I feel happy after picking apart a Korean song for linguistic analyses kind of scares me. It’s irrefutable proof that I’m a total nerd.
As an avid fan of Korean pop music, I highly enjoy watching clips of my favourite singers on 도전 1000 곡 (1000 Song Challenge), a variety show in which artists must correctly sing a random song. Through Challenge, I’ve come across a lot of great old songs, and this thankfully adds a bit of variety in my otherwise monotone collection of current K-pop.
Another good thing about Challenge is that you find out which singer can actually sing. Nowadays, many Korean pop groups lip sync through a lot of their live performances, as demonstrated by the times when CDs start skipping, or the weird fact that they can do aerobics on stage and still sing without sounding laboured. But even during the times when they sing live, you usually don’t hear more than a couple of lines from each member, especially if the member is
- in a large group, like Super Junior (13 member) or Girls’ Generation (9 members);
- not a main vocalist (e.g. Yoona in Girls’ Generation or Sunhwa in Secret); or
- performing on a stage with horrible sound systems, which is pretty common, believe it or not — mics are often set too quietly compared to the background music.
But on Challenge, none of these problems exist. Everyone sings alone, and because it is a television show with a live audience, it has sound recording AND you know that there is no way they could’ve prerecorded the singers in a studio.
Generally, I’ve found that most K-pop group members sing okay. They’re not musical prodigies, but they sing pretty well for overworked kids who can also dance/model/act. There are also some who sing beautifully — Sunny and Tiffany of Girls’ Generation, as well as Narsha and Ga-in of Brown Eyed Girls are a joy to listen to. In fact, I’ve been so floored by Narsha’s voice (until recently, I paid little attention to her group) that I’m almost desperately seeking out more clips of her singing solo. Honestly, she’s not given enough singing parts in her group’s songs.
I haven’t found a place that provides Challenge episodes in full yet, but you can watch clips of individual performances by searching for “challenge 1000” on YouTube. Who do you find performs best?