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K-Pop Korner: Phoney Phoney

March 26, 2010

The sci-fi action film Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, was (and remains) so good precisely because it eschewed the well-traveled road of brutal dystopian future visions brilliantly explored in 80s cinema and opted to present us instead with the more-plausible vision of Huxleyan satire, a Brave New World nightmare of a saccharine, infantile future where human passions were suppressed and mellowness was mandatory. Amongst many of the onscreen gags was the notion that in the future negative utopia (dystopia) of Demolition Man‘s “San Angeles”, popular music was exclusively comprised of childish ad-jingles from the past with supporting characters being shown gleefully singing along to radio tunes that were commercials for hot dogs and other products. It’s with a measure of trepidation and alarm that I hereby inform you that, in South Korea at least, the future is now.

Son Dambi & After School

Some months ago, in an earlier K-Pop post, I mentioned the crass song Lollipop. As well as being the launch of the girl group 2NE1 the song and accompanying video were essentially a commercial promotion for an LG line of cell phones (also called Lollipop) with the singers shown displaying the phones in their hands as they danced around and sang “lolly lolly lollipop….ooh….lolly lolly lollipop”. As blatant and shameless a display as this was, it was merely the beginning of a distasteful new trend.

In July of last year the Korean girl group After School, collaborating with singer Son Dambi, released the single Amoled as a promotion for a new Samsung cell phone of the same name. “Amoled” stands for Active-matrix OLED*, a rather swanky new type of display technology that can make thin, lightweight displays for phones (and other devices) that don’t require a backlight and which should use less power than LCDs. The video for the song features the girls standing in the familiar gaudy studio box-space of K-Pop videos but which is designed to presumably be reminiscent of a giant Amoled display screen. The dance moves are largely comprised of the girls making shapes with their hands to suggest they’re triumphantly holding and fondling cell phones and are accompanied by additional shots of them actually holding and fondling cell phones. The lyrics (see here) seem to be little more than a fawning description of the new phone model – “so bright, so shiny, so attractive!” with an extraordinarily subtle chorus that involves the name of the phone being repeated over and over again. These lyrics also seem to blur the distinction between the devices being advertised and the women who are singing about them as if, by means of some nefarious cybernetic alchemy, they have become the phones themselves. Thus, Amoled is a defiant refutation of Tyler Durden’s dictum in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club that “you are not the car you drive; you’re not your fucking khakis”. Samsung is letting you know, via its singing, dancing, cyber-sexy sales reps, that you are your fucking cell phone.

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(*Not being a remotely tech-savvy fella, I had to look this up.)

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One comment

  1. thank you so much for including the link to translated lyrics. it… ‘brightened’… my day.

    Very funny. Makes me wonder what brings about cynicism and irony in a society — genetics? language? literature? events/catastrophes? — whatever the answer it seems to be largely missing from Korean society.



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