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K-Pop Korner: Shiny Dongs

April 23, 2010

I promised you effete, androgynous fashion victims for the next foray into the Korner, did I not? SHINee are described somewhat dubiously as an R&B boy band that began their illustrious career two years ago. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to say about these squeaky little guys. In lieu of any notable scandal surrounding them all I have is some scant facts. SHINee are said to be fashion icons that have introduced the “Shinee trend” to Korean youth culture. This consists of hi-top sneakers combined with skinny jeans and colourful sweaters. They’ve done the requisite bit of shilling for corporate interests, including local chaebol SK and the international brand Reebok, and were involved in the promotion of what I have to guess is a make-up line for aspiring Korean metrosexuals called Nana-B’s.

SHINee first came to my attention with their rather popular single Ring Ding Dong. You may be forgiven for thinking that the title serves as even a passing reference to the sound emitted by bells but careful analysis of the both the lyrics and images in the video has failed to uncover the faintest shred of evidence to confirm this. The only conclusion to make, therefore, is that these lads are enthusiastically singing about penises. Whether they’re singing about their own penises, each other’s penises, or the penises of an as yet unidentified third party, is not immediately apparent. The chorus is reminiscent of Chuck Berry‘s subtle dick-ditty “My Ding-A-Ling” as the SHINee boys chime away with “diggy ding diggy ding dong”. Worryingly, amongst the ambiguous verses they also start intoning (apropos of nothing) “so elastic” and rhyme it with “fantastic” which, in the absence of any other clear meaning, suggests they have moved to describing the particularly special properties of their genitalia.

I’m happy to suggest that this song is celebration of penis but there is the danger here that I’m viewing this pop culture product through the distorting prism of my big, round western eyes. “Dong”, after all, is a ubiquitous and highly versatile word in the Korea language that can convey any number of meanings from “neighbourhood” to “logic” to “post-masturbatory existential dread”. It’s possible that there is an entirely more transcendent meaning at play here. The song itself gives little away. Some kid at the start helpfully sings that he isn’t a nice guy or a cool guy but reckons he’s a pretty okay bad boy. There is also a rather amusing moment where the band sings “rocka rocka rocka” over and over again but can’t help but pronounce it “locka locka locka” which is a cheap laugh, admittedly, but one that never gets old out here. At the end of the video the boys all sprout black CGI angel wings for, again, absolutely no discernible reason.

I leave you the video to judge for yourselves. The waters are muddy here and I am content to settle for the penile postulation. One thing I’m sure of, this song is not about bells.

SHINee – Ring Ding Dong

(Had to recently update the video as the original one was removed – new translation may vary slightly from lyrics quoted in my entry above.)

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