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[Review] A Few Critical Thoughts on Xia Junsu’s “Uncommitted”

AUGH. It’s so cheesy. SO CHEESY!!!

Honestly, sometimes I think K-pop companies need to hire me (or at least someone like me :X) as a consultant for their English-oriented productions.

The above video is a 43-second teaser for  Xia Junsu of JYJ’s new English-language song, Uncommitted. And here are the issues I have with it:

     1. Please, STOP PICKING words in English that are hard for Korean speakers to pronounce. Especially as the repeated title of the song. See mangled autotune pronunciation at 0:20.

     2. Ending shot where the couple is standing side-face to side-face – the expressions don’t match. His should be a lot more serious and smouldering to match her lost one and the muted vibe of the cinematography.

     3. Please find someone who writes well professionally for your YouTube channel. You’re setting up how people will understand your entertainer here. Current fans might not care, but any potential new audience you’re hoping to score with will.

     4. I’m probably reading too much into it at this point, but it’s starting to bother me that a lot of female figures in male K-pop music videos are non-Asian, usually white. It seems to play into the whole non-Asian superiority/beauty complex undercurrent.

It seems that something always gets skewed when Asian pop stars try to tailor things for the Western market – anyone remember the fiasco that was BoA’s original “Eat You Up” MV for America? Their production values are obviously high, but the companies often take things and run in the wrong direction.

I know I’m taking a pretty critical stance (and that I may sound like a snob), but I always do for these Asia-into-English forays. It’s because the general American audience is much less forgiving when you’re not in your native tongue, plus the fact that I know these entertainers could do a lot better if they actually had some grounded perspective from a non-insider/related-Korean person.

Bottom line: Less yes-men and strangely biased audience predictions, more honest feedback from the internationally minded of good taste. Holler if you know what I’m sayin’.

[WS] ‘Liberal’ overseas strategy, ‘Narrow-minded’ domestic operation… Two faces of SM?

From the picture and title, I initially thought that this article would be more interesting than it is. I thought it might be comparing SM’s tactics when engaging with the Western music industry versus how it operates back home in Asia…

Alas, it seems to be an opinion piece that rehashes a lot of speculation about how SM runs its business. Not much we don’t know or think already, and not a lot of cold, hard data to back anything up. It does touch on (kind of) the recent event of JYJ’s documentary getting cancelled. Again.

“Banned” Group JYJ Back on Public Television

Photo Credit: Osen,

JYJ just had their first music broadcast since entering the lawsuit against their former entertainment company, SM Entertainment. The performance took place Sunday, September 4th, at the closing ceremony of the IAAF World Championships, which took place in Daegu this year:

There was some controversy prior to the broadcast where some wondered if JYJ’s performance would be allowed to air. There have been a number of incidents in the past where JYJ’s scheduled performances were either cancelled or limited on broadcast. Many attribute the group’s lack of media exposure to the sway held by entertainment giant SM.

Even though it’s a lip-synced performance, there are several points I find positive:

First, the obvious fact that JYJ has finally been allowed to appear on public television. It seems that their attempts to stay in Korean entertainment through the alternate routes of Korean dramas is working. To date, all three members have participated somehow in drama entertainment, Micky Yoochun having the most drama exposure, Jaejoong currently getting a number of positive reviews for his role in Protect the Boss and Xiah Junsu showing up for a cameo role in Scent of a Woman. It seems that through drama exposure, JYJ may be able to build up enough popularity power to continue their music careers in South Korea.

Second, the choice of performing “Empty.” One of the songs off JYJ’s English-language album, The Beginning, “Empty” was produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. Jerkins has an incredibly impressive resume, but “Empty” was initially bumped off in favor of “Ayy Girl,” produced by Kanye West. Despite the song’s sub-par lyrics (Before I give you another try/I’d die/Love won’t make you cry or ask why/Oh why), I found “Empty” with its thumping electro-beat and dance tempo to be the catchiest contemporary track on the album–it’s the kind of pop track where melody and rhythm make up for lyrics that don’t totally make sense and you can overlook not understanding what the singer is singing.

The sound of “Empty” is comparable with Danity Kanes’ “Damaged”:

With JYJ striving for/being pushed to market outside of Korea, I hope the choice to perform “Empty” signals a better understanding of what appeals to international pop audiences. Some of the decisions Korean companies make when attempting to enter outside markets makes me wonder if and whom they consult in their decisions.

While I don’t exactly love their music, what I do appreciate about JYJ is their professionalism in performances, all three members being solid singers and dancers, as well as their increasing involvement in the products they put out. Each member has accumulated experience in songwriting, and through the post-SME releases we’ve been able to listen to their attempts at creating their own music. It seems that they are aware of the problems and limits in the domestic music market and are trying to expand outside of those boundaries as they endeavor to build up their post-teenage careers.

JYJ will be continuing their efforts through a Korea comeback, commencing through online previews tonight at midnight and a full MV release later tomorrow, September 6th, on their company website. The song, “In Heaven,” was composed by member Jaejoong after the suicide of close friend and actor Park Yong Ha (Winter Sonata, On Air). The song has been performed live several times, but I believe this is the first time it will be offically released.

Sources on IAAF performance: Soompi, Net to News
Interview with Daegu Mayor on IAAF here.
Sources on JYJ’s upcoming comeback: Allkpop, Soompi,

[WS] KBS on JYJ’s cancellation: “SNSD and f(x) would make a bigger impact for ‘N7W’ initiative”

Another update on JYJ, whose ardent fans, as well as various outspoken politicians and lawyers, have long been crying foul on the trio’s conspicuous absence from media coverage and domestic performance. Many fingers are pointed at SM Entertainment, Korea’s paradigm K-pop powerhouse and the company that formerly managed the group (originally five members) before the three members filed an injunction against their now-former company. Despite the justifications KBS has made, the things I find most suspect are the obvious replacement of former SM entertainers with still-in-SM groups, despite the fact that SNSD, the major act, has been most active in Japan the past year or so, and that JYJ as the former part of  DBSG (boy band that was in Guinness for the biggest fan club in the world) still holding most fans’ sympathy would still have enough international draw and reputation to at least be fit in the schedule. This issue has a lot going on behind it:

1) “Old Boys Networks” and under-the-table dealings which monopolize and limit the industry
2) Corruption and necessary development in the Asian entertainment system
3) Government’s obsession and misdirection with making Jeju an international tourist hotspot (which my friend and fellow research Grace, who is working on Jeju, would be much more at disposal to expound upon – I’ll be urging her to write something of her own soon)

That’s a lot of ingredients to throw into the soup. Now to the article, from

Last week, we reported on KBS’s official explanation as to why JYJ’s appearance on the program, “New Seven Wonders“, was suddenly cancelled. In that statement, KBS argued that SM Entertainment’s SNSD and f(x) were the original performers of the event.

Due to the unceasing uproar of JYJ’s fans, KBS released another official announcement to further clarify their reasoning behind canceling JYJ.

The producer of the show stated on July 28th, “The show was cancelled by the decision of the producers.”

“We received a call on July 15th that SNSD and f(x), who were the initial ambassadors chosen for the program, were eventually able to adjust their schedules for our promotional event.”

“As Jeju is an island, the citizens have a strong desire to experience popular culture, but it’s true that providing such cultural opportunities is limited in Jeju when compared to other cities like Seoul. After receiving confirmations from SNSD and f(x), we believed this program was a good opportunity to bring them performances by big stars.”

He added, “As this show is being broadcast worldwide (72 countries via KBS World), we believed SNSD and f(x) (who toured all the way in Europe recently) would have a greater impact on promoting Jeju for the ‘New Seven Wonders’ initiative. After laying down this judgment, we called JYJ’s agency on July 16th at 9 AM and explained the situation, sincerely apologized, and asked for their understanding.”

He concluded, “The producer of the show holds the authority as to who will perform or be cast for a show, and this decision was made after analyzing which artists would make a greater impact. We are very apologetic for dissatisfying the minds of those who gave their interest and support to this show, and KBS will repay the viewers’ interest with a great Jeju Island special episode.”

Original source: Newsen via Nate

Levels of English in Korea – Park Yoochun in “Miss Ripley”

It’s always a plus for Korean celebrities if they can speak English well. At least, a glowing article about it always seems to surface, commenting on how impressive the actor or actress is. I remember spotting something a few years ago when Andy, the youngest member of boy band Shinhwa, had his own ten-second segment of English.

The most recent fuss has been over Park Yoochun, former Dong Bang Shin Ki (DBSK) and current JYJ member. For those who don’t remember, DBSK was the biggest boy band of the current K-pop generation until three of the members, including Yoochun, decided to engage in legal action against their entertainment company. Since then, the three boys have been effectively barred from music activities and Korean broadcast. Having been forced to turn to other outlets, each has been venturing into different fields, and Park Yoochun has been fairly successful having entered into the world of Korean dramas. Acting is not at all a bad choice though. While  most Asian pop stars have a finger in all parts of the entertainment pie, the move from music to acting seems almost necessary in Korea with idol careers having such short life spans.

To be honest, as a past fan, Park Yoochun has always been my least favorite member of DBSK. But it’s interesting, and a good thing, I think, to see how these three are doing outside of and in spite of the antagonism from their former entertainment company, the ever-looming SM. So I watched his English speaking clip for fun, and while his accent isn’t bad! (he spent a few years in the USA), it always gets me, the way he pronounces his r’s. Things like “fur” or come out sounding like “fer.” It’s just so pronounced, and I suspect it might be because of the general difficulty Koreans (and Japanese) have with pronouncing r’s, as differentiated form l’s. This particular pronunciation comes out like an overcompensation from someone who’s tried to, or been trained to, overcome that phonetic hurdle.

Just to clear any potential air, this post is not meant to be malicious and is not to belittle this person’s English (even if I am amused) or Koreans’ English in general, at all. As you can see from the video clip, some of his gestures and emphases are off as well… but it makes me wonder how cautious and/or horrified I should be about how my own Korean may come off to the native Koreans around me.

Anyway, to conclude in a slightly more academic way :) – just another instance of the English language and its pedestal-ized place in Korean society (in the drama, associated with wealth, power, position, status; also approved and continued with article and viewers’ reactions). Also evidence of why it’s so difficult for Korean pop stars who aspire to make it in the US market; even for those considered to have an impressive grasp of English, the accent and language usage comes off as awkward to native English speakers, in a way that is generally “unsexy,” an opposite impression compared to people of European origins. I wonder if it is that difficult or overlooked to get a proper language consultant for these Korean celebrities (I’m serious – language and mannerism is such a big factor in the impressions of Korean pop stars who want to “make it” in America.)

For the original article I read, taken from Park Yoochun Impresses Viewers with his English on “Miss Ripley”

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