Author: Angus Baillie

writer, gamer, metabolizer, worrier, tweeter @angusuow

How K-Pop and J-Pop Construct Masculinities

Masculinity as it is constructed in Australia is seen as typically “hard”. An idealized Australian male is white, rugged, practical, heroic, and dependable, but also laid back (Morris; Murrie, cited in Tunstall 2014). Let me be perfectly clear about this right now, I am not even close to meeting the criteria of Australian masculinity. During my autoethnographic studies exploring YouTube, SBS PopAsia, and the internet at large I have come across videos of both Korean and Japanese male performers (singers/dancers/rappers) that not only construct masculinity in a very different way, but are also labelled as “attractive” and “sexy” by fandoms coming from a range of cultural backgrounds (see screen grabs of YouTube comments found below).

My Thoughts and Experiences on the Masculinity constructed by EXO-K (Sheridan n.d.)

EXO-K are a Korean “boy group” who serve as good examples of the complex mix of masculinities that seem to typify Korean pop music. The men in the group are portrayed as young, slightly built, clean, and conscious of their appearance in terms of their makeup, fringe-heavy haircuts, and clothes that I could only really describe as “cyberpunk-urban”. These things that I have been socially conditioned in an Australian context to view as more feminine qualities are also seen coexisting with facial expressions of male brooding as well as aggressive, “primal” characteristics such as shouting and harnessing wild natural “elements” such as fire and wind, which I think would also fit into the Australian masculinity model.

EXO Comment

Comments of the YouTube videos indicate that the band members are sexually appealing to many of the fans, with one female fan joking that a members’ voice alone is potently masculine enough to get her pregnant. There also appears to be some confusion amongst fans outside of Korea in regards to singings about their mother (“mama” meaning “mother” in a range of non-Korean languages), which can be attributed to oedipal, “mothers boy” qualities in an Australian context.EXO Comment 2EXO Mama Confusion

My Thoughts and Experiences on the Masculinity Constructed by Yohio (Sheridan n.d.)
(embedding has been disabled for this video for whatever reason, so please find it via the link above)

Image sourced from here

Image sourced from here

Visual Kei is a subset of Japanese rock where the sound is a combination of punk and heavy metal, and the artists dress in elaborate makeup and costumes, often with an androgynous appearance (Landes 2012). It is a genre of music I was not aware of when I had first seen Yohio’s video, which to a completely clueless viewer like myself was full of many surprises. Yohio looks and dresses like a feminine “Lolita” and sings in Japanese (adopting a typical, male vocal register), but is also actually Swedish. It’s interesting to see that a Swedish performer has become such a successful personality in a fandom built around a Japanese culture.

More Yohio CommentsYohio was my first big experience in reconstructing what I thought I understood about gender. I didn’t judge the performer in a negative way and I will readily admit I find him as beautiful as I found any other feminine figure. But I suppose what got my thinking about gender fluidity and the social construction of gender was the fact that Yohio chose to completely embody the feminine in appearance whilst completely adhering to a masculine style of singing. It really challenged a lot of assumptions I wasn’t even truly aware of about what masculinity and gender identity really mean, especially in relation to the binary-gender values perpetuated by the Australian “hard male” construct. Yohio’s popularity has also prompted gender-discussions to take place within various Asian pop fan communities.

Yohio Comment


Landes, D 2012, ”A guy wearing a dress is not a sexual thing’: Yohio’, The Local, 23 November, viewed 5 October 2014

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 15 September 2014

Tunstall, E D 2014, ‘Un-designing masculinities: K-pop and the new global man?’, The Conversation, 23 January, viewed 5 October 2014

Girls Generation: The Beginnings of my K-Pop Journey

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

Alsop, C. K. 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol 3, no 3,

Martin, I 2011, ‘Every day we’re schaffeling: What Girls Generation are doing right’, The Japan Times, 30 June, viewed 24 September 2014

Pini, G 2011, ‘Girls’ Generation’s “Run Devil Run” Is Our Music Video of the Day’, Paper Mag, 11 January, viewed 24 September 2014

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 15 September 2014

The Music of Anime: From Ghost in the Shell to angela

As a part of my continued foray into the various aspects of popular Asian music scenes I have decided to turn my attention this week to anime soundtracks. If you’re anything at all like me, then a big source of excitement when experiencing a new anime series for the very first time can be found in the opening sequence. This is particularly true of the opening theme song. To me, and this is an assumption I have made based on my enthusiastic pursuit of anime music in the past; anime soundtracks are often as experimental and artistically expressive as the anime series itself. By self-reflexively looking back home to the television I have experienced in Australia, I can see a level of artistic expression and audience engagement with anime music in Japan that appears to me to be absent in Australian broadcast television (Alsop 2002). These assumptions are based on an upbringing of watching Australian, American and UK produced television programs (Sheridan). My first experiences with anime music were when I watched the iconic Ghost in the Shell (warning: the video below depicts some animated nudity).

When I first watched this introduction sequence many years ago I remember distinctly disliking the song. It felt very “Eastern” and unfamiliar to me as a 15 year old Caucasian Australian. It used instruments and a style of vocal chanting that felt completely removed from the grunge and hip-hop I was listening to at the time. I chalk this initial discomfort up to several things, including my culturally-insecure adolescent state of mind, my complete inexperience with anime and the more mature depictions of both violence and nudity that I had never before encountered in an animated format (Sheridan). After all the music in anime comes as a part of a package in a way that a typical single or album release tends not to. What’s interesting to me is how quickly I found myself enjoying this song after moving past the initial stages of culture shock.

What I find fascinating is how in Japan the divide between anime soundtrack and popular music seems much blurrier than anything I’ve noticed in my own culture. The above video is the opening title sequence for an anime called Corpse Princess: Shikabane Hime, which as a series was quite enjoyable aside from the fact that it didn’t end properly. But the most important thing for me is that I fell in love with the theme song and, consequently, the band that performs it. The band is known as “angela” and have released several studio albums and have had around 13 of their songs appear on different anime soundtracks (TV Tropes 2013). The video below is footage of them performing the same theme song above at a large, live concert. I can’t think of a single example in an American or Australian television context where something like this has happened, where a band has gained significant fame and success through music that has featured on television soundtracks. But this observation is resting on the assumption that this isn’t also rare in Japan and that something about the relationship between anime culture and the music industry is nurturing these musical artists (Sheridan).


Alsop, C. K. 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol 3, no 3,

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 15 September 2014

TV Tropes 2013, ‘Music: angela’, TV Tropes, viewed 15 September 2014

Boy, Was My Face Red

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.

HyunA reactions

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

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014

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

SBS PopAsia: The Fandoms

This week I tried to flip the coin so to speak and look at the culture of Asian pop fandoms as opposed to the Asian popstars and performers I’ve largely been looking at up until now. To be more specific I decided to narrow in on the peripheral fandoms that tune in every week to watch the Australian Asian pop music video show SBS PopAsia. A big part of every week’s countdown is Tweeting along with the episode using the hashtag #SBSPopAsia, which is used to play games, nominate artists/songs as well as create an actively vocal audience whose Tweets are cherry picked for screen time during the episode (SBS PopAsia HQ 2014). In the hopes of better understanding the fandom I decided to tweet along in the hashtag during the episode and collate some examples of the fandom in action (shown above).


What were some of the key activities, conversations, or internal thoughts that I experienced today? (Sheridan)
My initial experience was bewilderment as a scrolling wall of tweets cycled rapidly across my screen, filled with the kind of ecstatic glee you might expect from a crowd at a live event. It becomes clear quite quickly that a lot of these fans tweeting along with the show are active participants in the fandoms of these pop artists outside of the bounds of the show, as most of them display a level of knowledge about the individual artists and performers that is not only absent from the show itself, but recalled rapidly in response to the events of the show. In other words, the reaction time of the tweets suggests this information is not being looked up beforehand. I did try contributing to the discussion, guessing which common element was present in the 3 songs they played consecutively and generally commenting on the songs as they played, but I found the experience largely distant. Things move too rapidly; with too much vigor and desperation to be noticed for the fans to engage with each other too much it seems. Although the one question I did ask the group actually received a response, even if it was just the one.


What would I do differently next time if I researched the same group or event? (Sheridan)
I think that researching these fandoms properly will require looking at how they behave on the other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, that move much more slowly and with more of an air of contemplation. I approached this group expecting more of a conversation but instead I learnt that it was much more like a mass-aggregation of quick, yet vocal monologues.



Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014

SBS PopAsia HQ 2014, ‘Get Social with SBS PopAsia’, SBS PopAsia, viewed 31 August 2014

Jayesslee: The Diasporic Duo

Jayesslee are twin sisters, second generation Korean Australian’s, and thanks to a strong and committed YouTube presence they are also succesful musicians (Jayesslee 2013). In fact according to their official website the duo reached over 1 million subscribers in 2013, which made them the most subscribed Australian YouTube channel (Jayesslee 2013).

Jayesslee video playlists. Screen shot by me.

Jayesslee video playlists. Screen shot by me.

On their YouTube channel the pair connect with their fan base with two types of video (see image above). The focus is on their music, however they also upload autobiographical-style videos which allow them to express a part of themselves, tell their stories and deliver their messages. They also frequently do this while introducing the songs that they sing, which largely consist of covers of recent pop hits. A reasonably large motivation behind the digital storytelling Jayseelee are engaged in is religious in nature. A small number of the songs covered by the duo have been specifically Hillsong or religious in nature.

“Their ultimate goal and motivation behind every video is to share about the hope they have found in knowing Jesus. The two are not shy in expressing their faith and indicate they would not be doing what they do if it weren’t for His grace and providence. All the glory to Him.” (Jayseelee 2013)

In addition to YouTube, Jayseelee utilize digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, as well as their own personal website which does a rather good job of coordinating and cenralizing the content hosted on their other platforms. Based on the latest updates on each of the platforms I assume that the duo aren’t active right now, and haven’t been for about a year. Although it’s never explicitly stated that the two are on hiatus, the most recent post on Facebook was a pregnancy announcement which would (understandably) put performances on hold for a little while. Again, there is an aspect of intimate, private-life sharing to the digital story being shared by the duo, who have been open about sharing engagements, weddings and pregnancies with their audience.

I do quite like these videos. Jayseelee certainly have a consistent sound and style that they bring with every cover they do, so the songs feel like proper performances rather than karaoke. They also share a lot of themselves across all of the videos, which aids the performative aspect to the videos and story overall. Their channel hosts several videos filmed on tour, which feel like video postcards from places like Malaysia, Singapore and Vancouver. Several of their earlier videos I have found feature discussion of Korean customs and cultural viewpoints, for example the younger of the twins (even if only by a minute) must pay respect to the older twin (see video above). Although as a cultural outsider its not entirely clear if this is meant in jest or not. But they do cover a few native Korean songs as well, both pop and more traditional ones. As far as I’ve seen however, they don’t actually share a lot about their diasporic experiences growing up in Sydney being raised by native Korean parents. But what they do share between their songs and personal stories begins to form a larger picture the more you watch. It starts to build a mosaic of sorts our of their various cross-cultural, religious and personal experiences. However in building such a complex and fragmented picture, I must also be aware that I am making cultural assumptions whenever I am bridging the gaps in these narratives.



Jayesslee 2013, ‘About Us’, Jayesslee, viewed 24 August 2014

Group Work: Tamagotchis and Digital Pets

Angus Baillie

Matthew Bernard

For our project we are looking to explore the culture surrounding digital pet ownership in the context of Australian audiences, online cultures and the Japanese-specific circumstances that have shaped their production.

As a part of this study we have each purchased a current model Tomagotchi virtual pet for the purposes of caring for them and documenting our personal experiences in raising them that we can compare and contrast with each other as well as other users online who may experience a different sort of connection with the device based on personal biases shaped within a range of cultural landscapes.

Our research will be presented as a digital artefact consisting of individual Twitter accounts that will document the virtual lives of our Tamagotchis, as well as a Prezi to give scope to our research and explain our findings.

CL: The Baddest Female, The Most Global Kpop?

This week I’ve been working on presenting my research in the form of a prezi, which can be viewed here.

Image sourced from CL's instagram account @chaelin_cl

Image sourced from CL’s instagram account @chaelin_cl

“Music has no language barrier. It’s just music, you could just listen to it and feel it. When you’re on stage, you connect to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Korean, or in English. It’s just a matter of what we show and inspire.” – CL (YG Ladies 2012)
Lee Chaerin 이채린 goes by the stage name CL and is known primarily as the leader of the globally popular South Korean pop girl group 2NE1. Within the group she is a singer, rapper, lyric writer and dancer (YG Entertainment cited in CLtheBaddestFemale 2012). She is also fluent in Korean, French, Japanese and English, which often sees her speaking on behalf of the group in interviews conducted in English (as demonstrated in the Wall Street Journal interview embedded below).
What sets 2NE1, and by extension CL, apart from other K-pop acts is their strong global appeal. CL once credited Japan as having the largest Blackjack (2NE1’s fanbase) population, but with collaborations with popular U.S. artists such as and Skrillex in recent years the audience for 2NE1 has become both cross-cultural and massive (Hawkins 2012; Poole 2012; Herman 2014).
As far as communicating with fans goes, CL’s only outlet appears to be her Instagram (@chaelin_cl) that has over 1.72 million followers and I think is self-managed. There is also an official Twitter account for disseminating running tour and group news to fans of the group at @GlobalBlackjack that has around 252 000 followers at present (Oh! Kpop 2012). Apparently CL at one stage had a personal Twitter account but deactivated it after a long period of being largely inactive on it, which again suggests that CL is managing her own online presence (letsgo2ne1 2011).
Based on her public appearances, her Instagram activity and how she presents herself in her music videos, it seems to me that CL is presenting herself as a firey, stylish diva and as something of a “bad girl” amoungst the sexy heartbreakers and cute “girlfriendy” types that make up much of the rest of the Kpop landscape for women in the industry. Again, as I experience the celebrity persona and performance of CL I get a sense of uniqueness and honesty that sets her apart from the heavily manufactured and marketing-driven feel that many of the other popular K-pop groups have. Of course this is working off the assumptions that CL’s unique image isn’t itself also manufactured and carefully managed by marketing teams. In fact a lot of what makes CL stand out to me as a performer could be a constructed persona designed to appeal to a more international audience. My own biases and assumptions regarding Korean pop music might actually be being used against me for the purpose of selling me the 2NE1 brand. Another assumption I’m making is that a global audience is inherently more likely to engage with American music styles and tropes rather than those unique to Kpop; which may hold true for the US and even Australia but perhaps wouldn’t necessarily in other countries and cultures where 2NE1 have also managed to grow a large fan base.


CLtheBaddestFemale 2012, ‘CL: History in the making’, CL the Baddest Female, viewed 19 August 2014 <;
YG Ladies 2012,’Lee Chaerin’, YG Ladies, viewed 19 August 2014 <;
Hawkins, L 2012, ‘K-Pop Group 2NE1 Discuss Breaking Into the U.S.’, YouTube video, 9 October, Wall Street Journal, viewed 19 August 2014 <;
Poole, R M 2012, ‘Korean Hip-Hop: K-Hop Goes Global’, News Week, 13 January, viewed 19 August 2014 <;
Herman, T 2014, ‘Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE1’s CL Get Featured On Skrillex’s ‘Dirty Vibe’ And Prove That Their Rapping Skills Go Beyond Idoldom’, Kpop Starz, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <;
Oh! Kpop 2012, ‘Follow Big Bang and 2NE1’s First Official Twitter Accounts Now!’, Oh! Kpop, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <;
LetsGo2NE1 2011, ‘[NEWS] Dara and CL Join Twitter!!!’, LestGo2NE1, 1 April, viewed 19 August 2014 <;