Category Archives: Other Things

Journey to the West Country

I’m taking this opportunity to post some links to something I have been waiting to share with everyone on here for a while.

http://www.journeytothewestcountry.com/

One of my best friends Paul Lombard is cycling from Seoul, South Korea to Gloucestershire, UK. That’s 15,000 kilometers (9300 miles).

I am so unbelievably proud of him. I take pride in telling my friends here in America about it because it makes me seem better by proxy.

Aside from being a hulking workhorse, Paul is also a very talented writer and an extremely funny man, and his musings on the difficulties of spending so much time alone in an unknown land are simultaneously hilarious, heartfelt and often fairly bleak. I for one take a sick little pleasure in the frequent moments of reflection in which he stops for a second and almost buckles under the enormity of the task he’s given himself. But that’s only because I know well that he’s going to complete this task and come out of it changed for the better.

Paul is doing all of this to raise money and awareness for MAG (Mines Advisory Group) which aims to help to clear active landmines and eradicate the effects of them in Sudan. An extremely nobel cause, and one which Paul has a close affinity to.

Here are a few more photographs from his inspiring instagram feeds. You can follow him here at: http://instagram.com/journeytothewestcountry# – Please do so. His photographs of his food are actually interesting.

Paul and Nick, a mutual friend that joined him for an intense month in the Gobi Desert.

Paul and Nick, a mutual friend that joined him for an intense month in the Gobi Desert.

Godspeed mate. Stay safe.

x

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Sir Alex Ferguson, and the Dog

Today has been a very peculiar day for me. I rose a little earlier than I normally would, egged on by my weekly cross-country-and-then-the-Atlantic phone call to my mother, and felt a little dusty. I called her and listened to the Skype tone as I thought about coffee, and work, and writing, and all of the things that sat before me that day. She answered, and within seconds knew that everything was not well. You get to know the inflections in your own mother’s voice when they are often the only markers of mood. Being as far away as I have been for as long as I have been, your senses become mostly dormant when pointed towards home. I can only hear my mother. Her tone of voice tells me so much.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, taking a moment to pause and quickly scan over her feelings, “we, eh, we had to take Mollie to the vet today and have her, eh…and have her put down.”

I heard how difficult the last few words were for her. I almost cried at the sound of her almost crying, and at the thought that she had been crying but thought it necessary not to for my sake. I wasn’t really affected by the dog. It didn’t matter much to me anymore. She was old, and it was best for everyone. But I was sad for my mother. She let go of something a little sooner than she hoped to.

Image

We got that dog when I was eleven years old, one year after my father died. I think mum felt that she needed to have something around. She told me later that she thought about a cat, but we’d had one of those when dad was around. And a cat isn’t the same as a dog. There’s something inherently sad about a cat. So one day we went to Stirling and picked out Mollie, a tiny Cocker Spaniel puppy out of a chaotic, yelping litter of seven.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the dog represented my father, or that my mother sought to preserve his memory through canine affection, but there was something in that dog that helped all of us. For a little while it distracted us. Suddenly there was something exciting, something newborn and fragile to focus our attention on. In a house that spent a year filled with a sense of loss and expiration it was so refreshing to have this little black and white ball of fluff and ears bouncing around, so upbeat, innocent and tangible. But after the excitement died off it was a companion to my mother. She had someone to run with, something to cuddle into, a fourth mouth to feed. The dog filled a void that lay desperately open for the year after my father’s death.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the dog is now in a box in the back garden, buried by my mother and my step-father. Le temps détruit tout. Did she let go of something today? I don’t think so. I don’t see there being some kind of emotional burden of grief attached to the poor animal anymore. It shed that a long time ago. Mollie’s roll changed over the years, and yesterday she was just a dog.

Image

Ta’ra Mollie.

After coming off the phone to my mother I looked on the Guardian’s website, as I do somewhat compulsively everyday. Now, I’ve managed to trim a lot of the fat from my lifestyle over the last few years. Torturous levels of self-discipline and a panting notion of replete failure nipping at my coattails keeps me focused on my goals and working as hard as I possibly can every single day. But, I am prone to daily slip ups. And these slip-ups typically appear in the form of football (soccer) journalism. I don’t even watch the beautiful game anymore. I just like the new breed of football journalists. I take a sickly pleasure in reading suppressed authors douse an often tedious sport with effervescent language and stuff it with philosophical undertones far beyond the contemplative abilities of the “artists” that craft it on the field. I just like imagining their smiles as they write. Reading about football is my equivalent of reality TV. My harmless little vice.

Image

And today, if you’re someone that knows anything at all about football, you will have heard that Sir Alex Ferguson, the purple-nosed, knighted Scottish manager of Manchester United, retired from football after 56 years in the game, with 27 of those spent at the helm of United. He took Manchester United from being a rusting, once-great side scrambling in a deep rut, to being one of the richest, most successful and consistent teams in the world.

I’m not going to get into the psychology of the man, the controversies he courted, or even try to dwell too much more on belting out a verse upon verse of praise to the tremendous weight his legacy is sure to wield over the game. There are many more talented writers than I doing those very things at this very moment, and my words would ultimately contribute very little (mostly because I would be merely paraphrasing the writers I wish I didn’t read). But I find it hard to imagine life as a football fan without him.

Image

Since before I was even born, Sir Alex Ferguson was in complete control of my football club. The only team I have ever watched have only ever had one person standing at the touchline berating the players and referees. He’s the craggy faced ogre that flashed flaccid pieces of mangled chewing gum as warning signs between exasperate sighs to the journalists that asked him “stupid bloody questions”. He swept the old boys out and nudged the new ones in with the butt of his broom. But most importantly, he didn’t succumb to the modern trappings of football management, like player egos, result-based success, reactionary fan pressure, or trigger happy billionaire owners, often because he was smart enough to negotiate his way around them, but occasionally because such things simply did not apply to him. There were football managers, and then there was Ferguson. He was the last of the old school, and the world will never see another one like him.

But how does that relate to the dog? I’m not sure that it does. It seemed profound in the moment I declared it significant, and, despite all the sadness, I was tingled by a precisely serendipitous feeling. Perhaps it’s that relief. I have finally buried something I have been subconsciously reappropriating for years. Football once defined me. As a child I was a footballer, and I was a Manchester United supporter. But today I’m nothing more than someone that finds an incubated feeling of removal in reading about a team I once loved. Every day I make the decision to read something innocuous about Wayne Rooney’s goal drought, or Moaninho’s future over becoming versed in US politics, or the escalating situation in the Middle-East. I should no longer seek an escape route from the news, but a feeling of empowerment through knowledge.

Like the dog, maybe we’ve all served each other well, and can pleasantly move on with our lives. Thanks for everything. Maybe it’s time for me to let it go, and let the past be just that.

Image

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Presence by Chris Buck

* Originally published in LA Canvas magazine.

Image

From the off it should be clearly expressed that this book is not going to be for everyone. You could lean back in your russet recliner and chortle as you shake your head and note that, ‘darling, no art is for everyone’. But Presence, the graceful yet unapologetic new photo book from celebrated pop culture photographer Chris Buck, is one of those things that some people will never, ever see where the appeal lies, like sardines, or Drum ‘n’ Bass.

Presence is a collection of celebrity portraits in which the celebrity himself is hiding somewhere out of sight within the frame. Yeah, I told you.

Jay Leno…allegedly.

Each page turn is a taunting carrot and stick ordeal that never ceases mocking you. Yet the statements signed by the subject and by a witness tease you just enough that you start to peel away the layers of the photograph to dive deep into the depth of field. And it’s there that you imagine these familiar faces crouched behind a sofa or standing behind the drapes, giggling.

Underwhelming, yes. Contradictory, yes. Strangely captivating, yes.

Snoop and his Dogg (now Lion)

Chris Buck has been documenting the evolution of pop culture since the early eighties. Finding his in through documenting the underground punk scene in his hometown of Toronto, he gained his reputation by catching early glimpses of iconic artists such as R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, and hinted at the abstract projects and themes that would later define his work and cement his reputation as one of the genuinely unique photographers in the industry.

Image

After a few years submerged in the music scene in Canada he made the jump to New York City where he immediately found his surreal sense of humor and precise attention to detail in high demand. His portfolio showed someone that was not only technically strong, but had a personality that put subjects at ease and soothed the presence of the intruding camera. And whilst he was amassing his little black book of who’s who of who’s, which includes Louis C.K., Steve Martin and even Barak Obama, he would end many of his shoots by politely asking the subject if they wouldn’t mind hiding behind something for a moment.

Image

Presence casually swats away the inevitable ‘gimmick’ tag by being beautifully composed on every level. The concept, whilst having a breezy air of whimsy and being almost immediately predictable, does carry a hefty weight when examining the notion of celebrity and the objectivity of portrait photography. It is also a wonderful collection of photographs of America, with the draw of a hiding celebrity giving you the ability to see and inspect the details as you probably wouldn’t otherwise.

Image

Desmond Tutu

There is a bold streak of humor as dry as marrow running through Chris Buck’s entire career, and his ability to convince ‘The Talent, darling’ to indulge in his bizarre concepts really comes in as a triumphant after-thought. He clearly places originality high on list of priorities when composing collections of photographs, and while some would write that off as being a hindrance on his unquestionable brilliance as a portrait photographer, it does bring him into a world of fine art that clearly suits his mind as well as his eye.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blood and Sand – Cocktail Recipe

blood-and-sand1

Recipe: Equal parts blended Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Maraschino Cherry liqueur and Orange juice. Shake well with ice and strain into some nice stemmed glassware (see above). Garnish and zest with an orange peel.

diddy-ciroc-bath

Okay, it’s last call on the flavored vodka troops. As it turns out your consumerist bhagwan Puff Dirty Daddy is laughing at you as you follow the scent of his ethereal goji berry spirit down the rabbit hole and into his bejeweled lair of misappropriated excess. Time to drink up and move on.

The majority of flavored vodkas have all the complexity of the supporting female role in a Kevin James movie, and the finish of George’s Marvelous Medicine. Bought because you heard that the Flow Rider and his ‘boyz’ drink it in the clubs, you fully embrace the bland, characterless spirit, and because of the shrewd product placement you gladly overlook the fact that it’s actually best used to clean burnt soup from cooker surfaces and congealed sin from the embossed initials on wedding rings.

ciroc1

It’s time to grow up and start enjoying the taste of alcohol.

Blood and Sand Stuff

The Blood and Sand originated at some point around 1920, and is a fantastically well-balanced Scotch-based cocktail transcends seasonal pallets and themes and often defies those that have an aversion towards whisky, and wince at the bone-dry echoes that sweet vermouth tends to leave behind. All four flavors are present in this drink, coming on one at a time, politely stepping aside and clearing the path for the next with a bygone sense of noble chivalry.

As one of only a handful of cocktails that uses Scotch, it does tend to raise the odd eyebrow with Puff Daddy’s flavored vodka crowd, but it is a hit. To ensure that people approach the drink with the necessary state of open mindedness, assure your more reserved party guests that they are in fact drinking the new Ciroc® Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry & Orange flavored vodka.

For best results use a blended whisky that’s relatively neutral, sweet and smooth (J&B, Johnnie Walker Black, Famous Grouse should be fine. Just don’t go near anything from Islay, unless you want your drink to taste like smoked surgical bandages), get some Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth (hard to come by but worth it) and keep it chilled, and I always like to toss a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry into the shaker to get a bit of pulp in there.

Sweet, strong, dry and a little tart, this is an exceptionally well-rounded cocktail. Jay Gatsby would have gladly served drinks like this at his appropriately excessive parties. Not something that can be said for a double Ciroc® Bratwurst with Monster Khaos…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I read this today-

-and it arranged my emotional clutter into a precise line.

‘I felt like a cloud in someone else’s dream’ – from ‘I Love Bocce‘ by Sean Lovelace

x

Tagged , , ,

Messages in Bottles – Part Two

The following photographs are of a sort of literary street art project I worked on with the help of my close friend Anders Rostad. All bottles washed up onto the streets of downtown Los Angeles and contained anonymous letters from five young people struggling to cope with the pressures of their lives.

One

 

One Letter

 

Two

 

Two Letter

 

Three

 

Three Letter

 

Four

 

Four Letter

 

Five

 

Five Letter

 

Six

 

Six Letter

 

Thank you for your interest. I’ll post the letters over the next couple of days.

Please feel free to share x

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Hierarchy of Facebook Approval

Based on real conversations I have every day with my friend Kyle.

It’s a numbers game.
What is?
Facebook.
Yeah?
You’ve got to get your numbers up.
Fucking nonsense.

You’ve got to get your numbers up.
For what? What do the ‘likes’ even mean?
They mean people like something.
What people? Like what? Like you?
No. Just like what you said.
But why? Why do you care? Likes are not currency. They never run out.

Look, I got 28 ‘likes’ on my last status.
I don’t care.
I got 28, and your last status got…
I don’t give a fuck mate. I makes no diff-
Seven ‘likes’.
What?! Who cares!?!

Yeah baby, 29 ‘likes’ and oh, Janine Woodford says ‘LOL’.
I hate Janine Woodford, she sounds horrible.
She is. But still, a ‘LOL’ is one step higher than a ‘like’.
This is the hierarchy of Facebook approval? Where does a ROFLOL fit into it?
It goes: ‘Like’ bronze medal, ‘Comment’ silver medal, and ‘Share’, gold fuckin’ medal, baby.
One of your acquaintances saying, ‘Look at this thing this guy I know said, on Facebook’ is as good as it gets then eh?

It’s a game we all play, just some of us play it better than others.
Bullshit. You know what I think it is, I have a higher caliber of friends.
Nah. That’s not it. My friends are on point. They reflect me.
Exactly. Your friends are clapping seals and your status updates are haddock.
And what, your friends are a bunch of scientists and your status updates are beakers or something.
I do actually have scientist friends, so go fuck yourself.

You try to hide your personality. You’re all miserable on there, like a wet sock on a Monday morning,
Cute, is that your next update?
I think it might be.
No one’s going to ‘like’ that.
…………………….Oh! Janine Woodford likes this!
Fuck Janine Woodford. Let me see her.

20130321-084216.jpg

20130321-084253.jpg

Tagged , , , , , ,

Brantley Gutierrez: Rock Photographer

Originally published by LA CANVAS.

*

Knoxville

One can plunge far into the carefully hidden depths of a person’s character by simply turning a camera on them. Some are completely unfazed by it, flirting, purring, allowing the lens to applaud their image. But others become edgy, awkward, shuffling around in the heat under the magnifying glass. And then there’s the rest, desperate to appear unfazed, shrouding their insecurities with outstretched tongues and garish expressions. The photographer and his camera interrogate everyone they see.

*

David Byrne
Brantley Gutierrez’s portfolio is a hugely personal collection of photographs. The warm C-41 bathed faces of familiar rock stars and actors just keeps relentlessly coming gathering this peculiar swaggering momentum, so much so that once-Beatle, now-Knight Sir Paul McCartney’s face is about ten photographs into the reel, just casually tucked in there as an “oh yeah, and…”. We see Eric Clapton, the snow leopard of rock ‘n’ roll, belly laughing in his home. Paul Rudd sits backstage sipping from a pink phallus-shaped water bottle. A quim of Arcade Fire members (‘quim’ is the collective noun for a collection of Arcade Fire members) just having a deft canter on a heath somewhere.

paul rudd penis
You see light streams of diversity across his body of work, from sharpened editorial photography that utilize substantial budgets, settings, rigs and crews, to soft, casual, almost homely photographs that do more to counteract the the notion of ‘celebrity’ than almost any other outlet. From the palms of a generation strangled by its obsession with the lives of the lauded, it’s as fresh as frost to see someone that instills a silent humanity back into people we pushed onto pedestals high above us.
‘But it’s all about collaborating’ he said, teasing his steampunk inventor’s soul patch, ‘I really get my buzz on when I’m creating with other people. In portrait photography you’re constantly collaborating. On a movie set you have hundreds of people collaborating. Even right now. Trying to get something useful out of me!’

Brantley

Brantley

Brantley Gutierrez has taken photographs since he was a child. Raised somewhere between the rolling Virginia countryside and the static D.C. concrete, he grew up fascinated by the camera’s ability to extract hidden emotions from people. After a frustrating stint mainly photographing snow in Aspen, he made his way to Seattle, and eventually onto Los Angeles.
His transition into rock photography was impeccably timed. His first couple of high-profile gigs with the Foo Fighters came moments before the digital explosion and the music industry’s implosion. He was there, establishing himself as a fantastic photographer before detachable lenses became fashion accessories and every business felt that the privilege of experience was plenty payment enough.

Neeson

But while he is still an ardent film user and a spontaneous shot fetishist, it’s not difficult to see that despite his wealth of talent his most vital asset could well be his personality.
‘People have to feel comfortable around me, because if they don’t then they’re not going to be themselves,’ he says, smiling as I note his smiles, ‘I liken it to a doctor’s bedside manner.’

Paul MAnd where war photographers are defined by their bravery, it seems that rock photographers are defined by their ability to ‘be cool’ and chill in the background, and if Brantley’s photographs are anything to go by, that is when you can catch and bottle that moment of passive humanity in those we treat as gods.

For a good look through his complete portfolio click here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Make a Message in a Bottle

Message in Bottle

So for the last week or so I’ve been obsessing over the idea of sending messages in bottles. In the coming weeks you’ll see the full extent of my obsession and the reasons why I love these little floaters so.

But to day is not about the ‘why’, it’s about the ‘how’! So here is a very simple tutorial on how to make a message in a bottle for basically no money. A wonderful way to spend a rainy recession day in.

What you need:

photo(21)

  • Paper (Medium weight)
  • Printer
  • Traditional White Wine bottle (cork stopped)
  • Thin circular shoelace or string
  • Teabags (Tetley’s preferred, but any kind of English breakfast tea should be fine)
  • Brown rice
  • Oven
  • Water
  • Pretty shells (Optional)

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Step One:

Write a letter and print it off. Be creative. Think about the context of message in a bottle, or perhaps you just want to tell someone special that you think they’re lovely and that you want to jump their bones. Either is fine.

You should choose a great font. I mean, you could handwrite it but let’s be frank, your handwriting is probably terrible. We don’t get calligraphy training at school anymore, and since we’re artificially aging paper to make it look old, that bubble writing you learned to do when you were thirteen years old is going to stand out like a dildo in a cake shop. So choose a nice font. I’m a sucker for A Song for Jennifer. This is similar to the fonts used on newspapers about seventy years ago. Perfect for this kind of thing.

Column your text and print it landscape. It fits better in the bottle this way.

Step Two:

photo(20)

Crumple your letter into a ball like it’s a piece of shit and you hate yourself for ever thinking that it was any good, and then flatten it back out like a coward, unsure of his own ability to judge his own material.

Step Three:

photo(22)

Stick a really strong brew on. Like six teabags. This will make the tea dye very dark. If you only want to slightly age it, less teabags. Or more water. Compromise is all around us.

Step Four:

Skin your wine bottle. Chardonnay, fuckin’ Pinot Grigio, Riesling, doesn’t matter, just get rid of it’s identity entirely. You can just dip it in hot water and peel the label. Or you can use a peeler if you’re the sort of person that likes unnecessary challenges.

Step Five:

photo(17)

Plug your wine bottle with toilet paper and turn it upside down to absorb the moisture. After a few minutes the toilet paper should be damp.

photo(12)

Remove it and put some rice inside the bottle. Aesthetically it looks like your message has bobbed its way from Sri Lanka. Stick some saffron and chewing tobacco spit in there too to make it look really authentic. But the rice is predominantly in there to absorb any residual moisture left in the bottle.

photo(11)

Step Six:

Take a teabag (Careful now!) and rub it on your crumpled letter. Teabag your letter. This will give it texture. Do both sides.

Teabag it.

Teabag it.

Pour a little tea over the page. Just a splash. Gently pick up the paper and turn it over to get the other side equally wet.

photo(14)

Step Seven:

Stick the paper in the over at 250F until crispy.

Step Eight:

Have yourself a brew and listen to this.

photo(23)

Step Nine:

Check your paper. Do it carefully because this stuff is hotter than balls. Turn it over. Use a spatula if necessary. The paper rips easily.

If she’s good, get her out.

photo(7)

Step Ten:

photo(6)

Folded

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

When the paper is dry, remove it and roll it up. In order to get it into the wine bottle you have to roll it really tight. Warning: You’re going to rip the paper a little because it’s brittle like an old man’s shin bone. Try to get it rolled as tightly as possible (joint rolling experience is certainly beneficial) and tie it tight with your string.

Slide it into the bottle and jam the cork in, keeping the paper hanging in the bottle.

Optional Finishing Touch:

Throw a scrap of teabagged paper into the oven with your paper. Stamp it with a Staples stamp.

photo(4)

I know it’s stamped in the future. I’m from the future.

Or you can get a few of your favorite shells and drop them into the bottle to give it that nautical theme. Or just stuff some tuna in there if it’s a letter of spite.

photo(8)

And you’re done. Go find a body of water to launch it into and help litter the oceans! Or just give it to someone.

* Special props got to the people at WikiHow that taught me how to age paper. Check out their site for a more detailed method. *

Enjoy your weekend!

Lots of love,

Ross x

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

K-Pop: Don’t Worry, It’ll Be Gone Soon.

* Originally published by Quint Magazine. I would have posted this when the whole Gangnam Style thing was still a hot topic, but I didn’t. Anyway, here it is, for anyone still amped on K-Pop.

*

https://i1.wp.com/d1i45kki000yqu.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/120909_PSY__Gangnam-Style.jpg

That button’s having a tough time…

In the last few months, journalists, music writers and bloggers have been frantically pushing the idea that the Korean Pop music wave has made the long journey across the ocean and is on our beaches, ready to invade and conquer. The internet is awash with writings of the next big acts that are sure to follow in the footsteps of PSY, the slightly chunky, imaginary horse-riding singer behind the internet supermeme “Gangnam Style”. While the likelihood is that online editors are just desperate to capitalize on the keywords associated with PSY and are instructing their writers to write anything they can about the genre, there is no doubt that the American public’s interest in the Hanryu wave (Korean Culture Wave) has been peaked. But what is K-Pop? And can we expect to see more typical Korean music acts capitalize on this current trend?

H.O.T. - One of the most successful K-Pop groups of all time.

H.O.T. – One of the most successful K-Pop groups of all time.

‘K-Pop’ has been around for about twenty years. Starting with the iconic dance group Seo Taijin & Boys, the rap, hip-hop and dance fusion was considered a symbol of sorts for a new Republic of Korea. The nation’s popular music started veering towards beat-driven, electronic sounds and represented a shift away from a traditional style that had its roots in folk music. These sounds were something entirely different that would define the new generation of Koreans growing up free from the hardships endured by almost every generation that preceded it. It was liberating music.

Over the two decades that followed the K-Pop industry developed into a pillar of the country’s economy, worth over $3 billion a year to the national GDP, and a huge source of national pride and international identity. But with that surge in popularity and rapid rate of growth came an insatiable thirst for new music, and artist management companies sought to bring the ethos of the factory to the creative process. SM Entertainment (Girl’s Generation, Super Junior), YG Entertainment (Big Bang, PSY) and JYP Entertainment (Rain, Wondergirls), known in Korea as the ‘Big Three’, started scouting for children between ten and twelve years old that sparkled with promise. The children would then be plucked from their regular world and taught to sing and dance in intense after-school programs until they were ready for the stage. This practice of farming identical pop ‘idols’ has been widely condemned within the Korean media, with many people highlighting the often neglected ethical requirements of entertainment companies.

The music itself is renowned for its catchiness. Slapping heavily programmed drum tracks under those buzz-saw melodies, Electro House and US RnB seems to have been the primary points of influence for this current crop of artists. Ten years ago the charts were awash with weeping piano ballads sung by dangerously handsome men in their late-twenties, and blaring Mariah Carey-esque karaoke classics that tested the the lung power of the nation. These days the tracks throb with thick bass hooks and pulse with clenched kick drums, and are designed to be listened to on in-ear headphones or on a House club’s speaker system. Their choruses are catchier than influenza and are sung by airbrushed young nymphets that tread the stereotypically Far Eastern line that loosely divides cute and sexy.

CuteStyle or 2morrowStyle or GurlStyle or RAYNBOW or something

CuteStyle or 2morrowStyle or GurlStyle or RAYNBOW or something

Critics of the genre however have been very quick to point out its stark similarities to western pop music, and that it lacks any sort of tangible personality, or any distinctly Korean elements beyond the language in which the songs are sung (and most of the choruses are in English nowadays). A lot of the hooks induce a crisp sense of deja vu, and several of the high-profile K-Pop artists have been put on the chopping block and forced to awkwardly explain their extremely liberal interpretations of plagiarism and intellectual copyright law.

* For further reading on the depths of K-Pop’s problems with plagiarism investigate Lee Hyori’s scandalous case with fraudulent Canadian rock obsessed songwriter Bahnus.

The current technological climate has also played a massive role in sculpting the K-Pop’s impeccable image. Streaming YouTube videos has put an even stronger emphasis on aesthetic and the typical K-Pop idol must be young and beautiful. They should be tall, slim and have ‘Western’ features (wider eyes, slimmer jaw lines, bridged nose). Many of the stars are also expected to drop their personalities in favor of generic two-dimensional characters (“I’m Ji-Yun and I’m the cute one!”) assigned to them by their management companies. They must be willing to rehearse for long periods without breaks and produce music and performances from within the straitjackets of a K-Pop recording contract, commonly referred to as ‘Slave Contracts’. The K-Pop idol follows an extremely worn and remarkably reliable path to success.

Enter PSY.

PSY

Floater

The hugely successful veteran K-Pop artist, famed for his bizarre dance routines and a chorus that sends tremors through your skull like a dentist drill, is the only Korean music artist that could genuinely be considered a household name internationally. Yet as many gushing K-Pop fans have pointed out, he is the antithesis of Hanryu. Aging, chubbing, laughing, flailing, he fits none of the rigorously enforced traits of the K-Pop star. But he is a massive success internationally, and the chances are that you’ve never heard of any of the nation’s more typical outputs that have had hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions (SM Entertainment spent almost $3 million dollars sourcing and developing one of the singers in supergroup Girl’s Generation), of dollars invested in them.

PSY was successful because he smashed that mold. Granted it was a mold that many in the west didn’t know existed, but to anyone that knew anything at all about K-Pop, it was obvious that he was different. His hit single ‘Gangnam Style’ is about the lavish and vain lifestyles of the people in the wealthy district of Gangnam, and specifically Apgujeong, in central Seoul. It takes aim at the area’s obsession with superficial value, and within that is a dig at the K-Pop culture. So has it accidentally transpired that we in the west have been given the satirical backlash directed at Hanryu before we even really knew what it was? And given that the lyrics were almost entirely in Korean, did we just like it because of the hilarious image of a slightly rotund Asian man pretending to ride a horse?

Since PSY’s burst onto the scene there have been hundreds of blog posts educating the western audience on the intricacies of K-Pop, as well as warning us with a megaphone on the shore that the Korean wave is coming. But personally, I don’t see it. K-Pop has no staying power. In an age defined by manufactured products that are built to break, the acts are adored for their youth, innocence and relative naivety, all of which are fast expiring commodities in the music business. And once those traits are gone, the group are gone, replaced by another identical group of beautiful, bland young prodigies.

B2st - Pronounced 'Beast' - Yeah, the numerical '2' represents 'ea' in the world of K-Pop.

B2st – Pronounced ‘Beast’ – Yeah, the numerical ‘2’ represents ‘ea’ in the world of K-Pop.

And while the focus of this article has been predominantly on the actions of the performer, the audience must too be strongly considered. The American consumer is beside himself when treated to a novelty single from a foreign act every now and again. “The Macarena” by Los Del Rio was a great time, and he loved the Cuban groove of German Lothario Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5”. But these acts were unable to match the heights of the singles that made them famous. It has been universally accepted that PSY will join this group of one hit wonders, albeit with the highly sought after yet unofficial title of “King of YouTube” to his name. But many predict a similarly short, yet agonizingly less novel experience for the K-Pop acts attempting to capitalize on the curiosity that the chubby jockey with the imaginary horse spiked across the world.

The problems in the game plan are numerous, but the biggest problem of all is that aside from being Korean, these acts bring nothing to the table that we don’t already have.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,