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What do Korean Students think of North American Music Videos?

November 25, 2011


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This week’s TL;DR comes from Maryland USA from mcbrayer77. He/she asks,

What do korean teens think of american music videos? really innocent (by u.s. standards) korean mv’s get banned all the time, what do they think of mv that are really promiscuous like one done by Beyoncé, lady gaga, and the pcd?

This was a great one for us to answer because both of us actually taught a lesson to our Korean students (back when we were teachers) about music videos and how to dissect them. It was an awesome lesson which we found tremendous success in. If you’re teaching in Korea, give it a shot. You can download it in our Winter Package here. Just make sure you prep your students with vocabulary and sentence structures because it can be a more challenging lesson. For Martina, she actually took three to four classes to fully teach this lesson. Otherwise the material can go over their heads and they will just watch the MV without interacting and speaking English afterwards.

Anyhow, in the lesson, we showed them some North American indie music videos,, mainstream pop music videos, and Kpop Music Videos. We included videos such as Justice – D.A.N.C.E, Hot Chip – Boys From School, Ok Go – End Love, Ok Go – Here It Goes Again

We also showed some more mainstream pop music, such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, Beyoncé “Single Ladies”, Justin Timberlake “Cry Me A River”, Justin Bieber “Baby”, and Kanye West “Stronger”.

Along with these videos we would show the students some trendy Kpop Music Videos, and then we would compare and contrast Korean vs North American videos. It made for a great English discussion (and, apparently, the beginning of Kpop Music Mondays!) Anyhow, the point here is not to recap our lesson, but to explain that we’ve actually had experience hearing Korean teens’ opinions on North American style music videos. And, yes, we know Justice and Hot Chip don’t count for North American. Our bad!

If it was too artsy, it was deemed as “boring”, although, as pointed out in our TL;DR video, Simon also would have been bored of artsy videos in High School, and we’re guessing that some of you would be as well. It seems difficult to decide if it’s a cultural difference or just an age thing. I’m sure it doesn’t help that they can’t fully understand the lyrics, which often make an artsy fartsy video complete. Lastly, if it was a fun and interesting video, such as Ok Go, it got the classes attention, but only 1/4 of the class would love it. As for mainstream pop stuff. Most of the students already knew the singers we were showing, but they were always shocked by the amount of skin being shown (I’m looking at you Lady Gaga) or the passionate kissing that occurred.

Now, anyone who is an avid Korean/Japanese drama watcher can attest to the fact that KISSING IN THESE DRAMAS SUCCCCKSSSSSS and not in the good sucky way (<--does that sound wrong?), in the "dead-fish-two-faces-colliding-zero-passion-I'm-surprised-your-lips-aren't-awkwardly-sticking-together-from-lack-moisture-as-the-camera-zoomz-in-awkwardly" kind of way. We really think that's why these passionate MV kisses are so shocking. Take Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River". This is a pretty not-sexy video, but right near the end, he makes out with a girl, nibbles her lip, and on top of all of that...she is shirtless! That's an OMG BRAIN EXPLODE right there. But then again, we mentioned how different Europe is from North America. We think Korean's are innocent minded and then us ol'innocent Canadians wonder over to Europe and see people at the beach who are shirtless or totally nude. OMG DOUBLE BRAIN EXPLODE!!! So I guess it really just depends on what you are exposed to as you are growing up. This ramble all leads to a point. What's acceptable in one place may not be acceptable in another, and a country's media isn't some magical art form that is created out of a vacuum. The context is highly relevant in the creation of that media and art. And so, what is popular in one country won't necessarily be popular in another. And this is no reflection on the quality of the media or art, rather, it reflects a country's culture. All this talk about Kpop taking over the world is great and all, because we're glad that Kpop is getting more coverage, but we don't think that Kpop, or any other music for that matter, can dominate a planet. North American pop isn't popular here, not because it sucks, but because it doesn't fit. Jpop isn't popular in England because it doesn't fit, and the same can be said for Chinese pop in Finland (we're guessing that last one). Sure, there are niche audiences in different regions that will like another country's music, but we doubt it can totally take over the mainstream airwaves. Or could it?



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What do Korean Students think of North American Music Videos?


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  1. Don’t worry, they will. They grow a day older every day, a year older every year, and after 50 years, they’ll all be 50 years older. ^^b

    8 years ago
  2. I would love to see student reactions to Rihanna’s latest, “We Found Love”.  I imagine fun times explaining the dilating eyes, and the scene where she vomits up ribbons.

    9 years ago
  3. Westlife and Beatles are the only ones my students know~

    The song My Love is REALLY starting to annoy me since it seems that its the only full English song they can sing!! I wonder if this was required in their school..0_0

    9 years ago
  4. ~ Him and his LAYERS of clothes!!!

    9 years ago
  5. I never thought about it before, but Cry Me A River would make a great English lesson.  The title of the song is an idiom, and you have to know what that means to really get the meaning of the song.  

    Right now kpop has three things working against it getting a widespread listening base in the U.S.  
    #1 It actually sounds similar to American pop.  For example, when I heard “Cry Cry”, it reminded me of “Hit Me Baby One More Time”.  Now, you might think that would be beneficial, because it’s a familiar sound (and it is in a way, but I’ll get to that later) but Americans need to be convinced that the alternative is better than what they already have.  That will be impossible to do because 
    #2 It’s not in English.  To be fair, looking at international song charts, the reverse seems to happen in Korea, though not as intensely.  Music is a form of communication, and when you have two songs with a similar sound, you’re more likely to prefer the one that can communicate to you.  It’s easier to learn the song and sing along with it when you comprehend what is being said.     
    #3 It’s not American.  Americans are wary of cultural strangers.  Canadians and U.K. artists make it in to U.S. mainstream radio play (though not that many) because the U.K., U.S. and Canada are like members of the same family.  They aren’t strangers.   There are occasionally some musicians from Australia, but rarely.  I guess Australia is like a distant cousin.  I’ve noticed Caribbean artists make it through on rare occasion, and Latin American artists if they’re willing to sing in English.  But Europe?  France, Germany, Italy, etc. etc.  Nope.  Strangers all.  Asia?  India, Russia, China, Japan?  Nope.  Strangers all. 
    However, I do think kpop definitely has and continues to build a niche listening base in the States. Its catchy, familiar sound gives it a competitive edge that other countries don’t have.

    9 years ago
  6. That Korean idols (Has this Japanese English become a proper English now?) can dance well is the result of their training system (연습생). Don’t you realize the similarity between the training system and examination hell (esp for college entrance)? All individual creativity is suppressed and they have to become dancing-singing machine first just like all high school students become exam-taking-machine. Most westerners think such education system is undesirable and counterproductive as it suppresses individuality and creativity. But I think it may be better to pursue individuality and creativity after mastering basic skills first even at the expense of creativity. I think often in the west, “developing creativity” is used as an excuse to avoid rigorous basic training. Classical musicians and ballet dancers seem to get more rigorous training even in the west, and the emphasis is learning skills to perform old established numbers.
    There may be a merit to examination hell type education system. 

    9 years ago
  7. Thanks for this video.  I agree with the Korean students who dont like western pop.  i am a westerner myself and I dont like smutty, over the top porno type music videos by American or Uk artists…it really isnt necessary to promote music. 
    A good song doesnt require nudity or semi nudity…
    I jsut love kpop cos its clean, well shoreographed and fun to watch…not to mention the stars always look clean and well groomed…who wants to see sweaty pits and oily hair?  Not in Korean pop we dont.

    9 years ago
  8. LJ

    I taught in Taiwan in and the students were in love with Gwen Stefani and Rihanna; I didn’t show them their videos, they requested to play them in class. I think they loved the beat rather than the video.   Also, fun fact (to me anyway): Lady Gaga’s Poker Face m/v was shot at the same house as DBSK’s Believe (LA version) m/v. :D

    9 years ago
  9. As always, love the TL;DR. I was very pumped to hear that you guys showed Ok Go to your students. They always have very interesting music videos. 

    And I think you guys are right, music is not a creation separate from the culture. There are definitely factors that suggest that culture influences a lot of music. The saying goes that you can learn a lot about a culture from what it produces…But I can’t help but think that music, literature, and other artsy stuff influence the culture as well – I think there might be this back and forth process between the two and then of course, the influence over those who consume it.  

    9 years ago
  10. i know what you mean. Korean stars get put in a spot or make news for showing a spot of cleavage (which seriously is noooooothing compared to cleavage your average mom would show) but they wear shirts and leave their shorts at home at thats completely fine. I guess it’s cultural differences again, stylists being limited to showing only legs, so they show as much of it as possible. Personally I wish their skirts and shorts could be longer (i wonder how they move around and dance so unconsciously in those things. If i wore a skirt that mini i’d be waddling like a penguin instead of walking!) 

    9 years ago
  11. what do you o for work now?

    9 years ago
  12. d.a.n.c.e so awesome !

    9 years ago
  13. YOU DON’T TEACH ANYMORE????????!!!!!!!!!!!

    anyway i wasn’t expecting to see this video right now cos i JUST watched your candy one!! i used to know EVERYTHING about the British and American entertainment industry but then Japan and South Korea just took over!! but before i got into the Asian entertainment industry i was already innocent which is why i never really watched a Lady Gaga video fully or other ones! (obviously i have watched some other ones though) I don’t listen to Justin Bieber but my sister is always willing to annoy me with him

    9 years ago
  14. My kids FREAK OUT at even the tiniest amount of cleavage shown in videos by, say, Girls Aloud…I showed them Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” where she’s naked on a cloud at one point…but they were too mesmerised by the candy world so didn’t freak…until the part where she shoots whipping cream from her boobs. The kids always say the videos are “dirty” for showing boob, but when I point out that K-Pop girls often walk around in practically not-there short shorts, you can see some minds ticking but most go “no, no, different!”…If I had a choice between seeing a boob or a vagina exposed in public, I know which I’d choose.

    9 years ago