Autoethnography is a process of connecting personal autobiographical experiences to social, cultural and political contexts for the purposes of storytelling and communication (Ellis & Bochner, cited in Alsop 2002). A key autoethnographic prompt put forward by Sheridan (n.d.) is to ask “how can I describe this situation so that others would fully understand what happened?” I think an important step to take in answering this question is to reflect on how I ended up becoming interested in Korean pop music specifically and how my initially shallow experiences with Kpop have developed into a slightly deeper appreciation of Kpop and Jpop, and an attempt to place these genres within broader cultural and industrial contexts. It all started in early 2012 when my younger brother showed me the film clip to “Gee” by Girls Generation.
It’s fair to say that Gee far exceeded my initial expectations and I was immediately drawn into the song with its bright colours, cheerful tone, adorable choreography, and relentlessly catchy vocal chants of “gee, gee, gee, gee, baby, baby, baby.” After a few days of repeat listens and trying to sing along with a language I completely don’t understand, I decided to explore further into the group via the related YouTube videos for the film clip, where I came across the far less bubbly, far more sexually mature R&B-styled song “Run Devil Run”.
Because I enjoyed this song as well, I decided to share the above video with my brother on Facebook. It was here that a mutual friend (and killjoy) pointed out that this was actually a song that was bought off American songwriters and that it had even been recorded as a demo by Ke$ha, in an attempt to stifle our enjoyment. I checked the facts and it appeared he was right, it was written by American’s and recorded by Ke$sha (Pini 2011). It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the song, but it did get me thinking about how much American influence exists in the Korean pop industry, and even how much of Korean pop can be thought of as inherently Korean. Up to that point I knew nothing and had assumed that because I was watching Korean women singing in Korean that this meant I was getting an entirely “in house” Korean produced song made for Korean audiences. But this assumption proved to be naïve and overly simplistic. Run Devil Run utilizes a schaffel beat that is popular in German techno and has been used by popular English electronic band Depeche Mode in songs like “Personal Jesus” (Martin 2011). Girls Generation are also highly successful in Japan, where they regularly make appearances as guests on Japanese variety shows (Martin 2011). The appeal to global audiences becomes particularly noticeable when the same song is re-recorded and repackaged in different countries using different languages, with Girls Generation songs being released in Korean, Japanese, and even English (allkpop 2011) .
Allkpop 2011, ‘SNSD to release repackaged Japanese edition of “The Boys”’, allkpop, 6 December, viewed 24 September 2014 http://www.allkpop.com/article/2011/12/snsd-to-release-repackaged-japanese-edition-of-the-boys
Alsop, C. K. 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol 3, no 3, http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kmacd/IDSC10/Readings/Positionality/auto-eth.pdf
Martin, I 2011, ‘Every day we’re schaffeling: What Girls Generation are doing right’, The Japan Times, 30 June, viewed 24 September 2014 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2011/06/30/culture/every-day-were-schaffeling-what-girls-generation-are-doing-right/#.VCK3IBbiNpy
Pini, G 2011, ‘Girls’ Generation’s “Run Devil Run” Is Our Music Video of the Day’, Paper Mag, 11 January, viewed 24 September 2014 http://www.papermag.com/2011/01/girls_generations_run_devil_ru.php
Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 15 September 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/