What are my feelings toward HyunA, and what are the possible reasons for my reactions? (Sheridan)
I have been aware of the popular Korean solo performer HyunA for a number of years now. HyunA (yes, it’s stylized that way) has a reputation and image in Kpop circles tied up in being sexy, raunchy, playful and fun (Willis 2014). But despite her notoriety I have never really gotten into HyunA, simply because I have never found her particular blend of hip-hop/pop particularly catchy or fun to listen to. A lot of the appeal to me seemed to be in the in the sexualized performances rather than strong vocals or interesting tunes. Not wishing to pass judgement, it’s just not what I look for in either music broadly or Kpop specifically. However last week when I live tweeted along with the #SBSPopAsia hashtag I was exposed to the new HyunA song/music video “Red” and I actually really like it. So this week I thought I’d direct the autoethnographic method towards HyunA’s new song.
What were my reactions and feelings in response to HyunA’s “Red”, and how did they change? (Sheridan)
My initial reactions were a mix of pleasant surprise at how good the song sounded compared to previous HyunA hits and a sort of tired bewilderment at the provocative nature of the video clip itself, which felt excessive even for HyunA. It wasn’t as though I found this hyper-sexualized imagery particularly offensive, more just hyperactive. It was an onslaught of monkey butts, twerking, underpants, glitter and riding giant bananas. At the end I couldn’t help but feel like it was riding the coat-tails of music/dance trends popular in the U.S.A. lately, such as the aforementioned twerking. There’s even a reference to Miley’s infamous Wrecking Ball film clip. As a fan of Korean pop I felt a little apprehensive to see it apparently recycling the American trends and memes of 2013. It made me realize that I partly enjoy Kpop as escapism from the American pop culture I find myself constantly exposed to, which I will admit is selfish of me as a cultural outsider. That’s not to say I think Kpop should remain pure and untouched by American influences, but rather that I have a bias that tends to favour Kpop when it feels less co-opted by American culture. After some repeat watching I shifted my perspective and started to see these references as cheeky nods to American pop culture rather than hapless imitations of it. Pictured below are some comments from the YouTube video that show experiences similar to my own.
What did I learn from this? (Sheridan)
As is always the case with Korean pop music, the meaning of the lyrics is completely lost on me due to language barriers. Whilst trying to bridge this gap I discovered that some of the lyrics were appropriated from a Korean nursery rhyme. The nursery rhyme goes “monkey butts are red, red is apple, apple is delicious, delicious is banana, banana is long.” Whereas the lyrics in Red go “monkey butts are red, red is HyunA, HyunA is…”, which to Korean audiences is supposed to evoke the provocative idea that HyunA is delicious (SBS PopAsia HQ 2014). It also explains the seemingly (to me) random imagery of bananas, monkeys, and HyunA stabbing the apple with her high heel that appear in the video.
SBS PopAsia HQ, ‘My Korean Husband’s Nichola explains the meaning behind Hyuna’s song “Red”‘, SBS PopAsia http://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2014/07/30/my-korean-husband-nichola-explains-meaning-behind-hyuna-song-red
Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/
Willis, H 2014, ‘K-Pop Double-Take: Why 4Minute Rapper HyunA’s Solo Track ‘Red’ Should Be A Hit Single In The U.S. [VIDEO]’, kpopstars, 4 September, viewed 6 September 2014 http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/105703/20140904/hyuna-red-4minute.htm