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Short Film Wednesday - K-pop - Crayon

K-pop is perhaps the most interesting and innovative pop music in the world right now, so I will be examining some of the most distinctive and artistically compelling K-pop music videos for April.

If K-pop were embodied in a person, it would have to be Kwon Ji-young, better known as G-Dragon. K-pop is characterized by an obsession with image, but more specifically, how that image can be manipulated to serve different purposes: to exude sex and confidence or innocence and vulnerability. More cynically, the image is manufactured to make money and sell a certain experience that is easily digestible. Most K-pop groups undergo extensive training not just in dance and music but also how they present themselves to the media, to the point that it is almost impossible to determine the real person under the persona they choose to present.

G-Dragon who is part of one of the most popular and influential K-pop groups, Big Bang, has had a history of resisting this influence. At their inception, Big Bang was deemed too ugly, too short, too weird to have any sort of market presence. Their first hit song was not one that had been written for them, as the vast majority are, but rather by G-Dragon himself (“Lies”). G-Dragon has been the creative force behind many of his bandmates’ solo efforts, which have often been extremely varied. (“Look at Me, Gwisoon”, “Let’s Talk About Love,” “Ringa Linga”) No K-pop star (idol) has become as famous for having as much creative control as G-Dragon has.

All of this is evident in “Crayon,” which is a relatively sophisticated pun on American slang (“get your cray on.”) Even if you know nothing about the artist, one can realize just how much this video and song are an expression of creativity and freedom. G-Dragon’s image is as fluid and malleable of a cartoon character. At one point, he takes on the persona of Pinocchio, which is fitting because of the character’s tendency to fabricate and his impish nature in general. Nothing is off limits to him: his dignity, his gender. The predictable swagger of the lyrics, typical of many rap songs in that he brags about being a pretty boy and a boss, belies the anarchic nature of the music itself, which switches between dubstep, rap, electronica, tomahawk chop chant, etc.

Within a system that is highly regimented, hierarchical and patriarchal, K-pop, in many ways, can be seen as the opposite of organic and original. It is only because of G-Dragon’s success, which ironically came from his and Big Bang’s uniqueness, that G-Dragon could have created this glorious mess of a song. A real cynic may argue “Crayon” is just as constructed and calculated as anything in K-pop but there’s just so much in the video and the song itself that shouldn’t belong, except it does.

 

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