I’m not going to bury the lead here, this is not a song I will be listening to probably ever again. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t my thing. It’s pretty generic R&B…if you like R&B, you might enjoy it, even put it on a playlist. I just don’t see anyone getting all obsessive over it. So why, you might ask, would someone who loves music hardcore and is given the opportunity to write about it in a public forum only twice a week waste a chance to highlight something she really wants the world to embrace…for something she thinks is…eh?
Because sometimes there’s more to a song than enjoying it.
Music tells the story of a people, and in this day an age, MVs are very much a part of that tale. There are three major points I think need to be discussed that pop out to me in the new Kebee release My Foreigner, and I think it’s worth deconstructing those briefly on the blog. I don’t really have any conclusions so much as hunches based on conjecture, anecdotes, and some educated guesses, so take them with a grain of salt and use them to have a deep discussion with your KBestie over a glass of your beverage of choice. I will just give you the highlights of what ran through my head while watching this video. These are my thoughts and don’t represent those of anyone else at Kchat Jjigae.
- Just as Westerners are racist enough to utter the words “all Asians look the same,” our friends in Asian countries do the same, it’s called the Cross-Face Effect. It’s a thing, look it up. I don’t think it’s an inherently bad thing, it just is what it is because our personal experiences mold our world view. Think about all of the Kdramas and the MVs you’ve seen where the love interest or side character was a western woman. She’s almost always waifishly thin, and extremely European looking. More often than not, she’s portraying an American or a Canadian, but, as native speakers, we can hear the heavily accented English. She’s usually French or German. I have a theory, and it’s two fold. First, exposure. I think that Americans are more likely to travel to places like Japan while Europeans are more likely to branch out and hit up South Korea. In my personal experience, I’ve run into a ton of other Americans in Japan, Vietnam, and even China, but the only other westerners I met, not tied to the military, in Korea were from Europe and Australia. This being the case, standards for beauty for Western women would be based on more European looks. And second, Korean women tend to be on the smaller side and that has become a pretty important mark for health and beauty (whether that is in fact healthy or beautiful is, as always, up for debate)…enter, the waifish French woman filling the role of the American chick from California.
- ‘Foreigners’ is a word I often hear in dramas, variety shows, conversations with Korean folks I’ve met, and even from my pen pal in Seoul. It kind of wigs me out and it took me awhile to figure out why. We all categorize people, as we do with almost everything else in our lives, and to me, when someone from another country is in the U.S. I use where they are from as a defining characteristic, as in ‘she is a Canadian.’ But in Korea, everyone that is not Korean is a foreigner, an outsider. Korea is one of the most homogeneous societies in the world and until fairly recently was also one of the most self isolated. Through their use of the soft economy of entertainment to propel themselves from developing nation to first world country, Korea has opened itself to an accelerated rate of globalization. Korea’s got some cool stuff going on and people are taking an interest, but the general public hasn’t necessarily caught up with the idea that we aren’t in an us vs. them situation any more. There is still very much a feeling that everyone that is not Korean, even Korean Americans, is so different that there is no way that they would understand anything about Korea. And there is also a very obvious feeling of ‘if you’re not Korean, why in the hell would you come here.”
- Which brings me the my final line of thinking, the national inferiority complex mixed with a strong national self identity. The idea of “we know who we are, but we aren’t sure how we feel about it.” I am sure that this is a somewhat contentious idea, but I have actually spent a lot of time pondering this concept as it relates to Scotland, India, Vietnam, and Korea. I feel ok about putting it out there. This is a country that has developed and embraced the concept of a national feeling of depression and isolation spanning generations because of continually being overrun by foreign (there’s that word again) powers. Han, is the idea that Korean people have an unresolved feeling of injustice and helplessness because of national sense of hopelessness. That’s pretty intense. As Korea more and more integrates itself into global economy and begins to embrace attitudes and ideas from other countries, I am guessing that ideas like Han will move to the back-burner, but I am not a cultural anthropologist, so that is totally a guess.
Long story longer, my friends, Kebee’s new song and video brought all of these lines of thought up for me. His use of the waifish French looking woman speaking English, the lyrics about eye color, food, language, missing home, and the very title of the song speak volumes. So while it is a generic R&B song, it is also so much more. So yes, Kpop is often light and fluffy, and not always fodder for expanding your mind, but there really are layers here and it can be kind of fun to peek through them and learn a little something about where it all comes from.
Kebee, My Foreigner