June 9, 2011 § 11 Comments
Being a wealthy democracy of the modern world, South Korean citizens have the right to choose their own religious belief, and of course, choose to have none at all if preferred. Half of the South Korean population consider themselves practising a religion, and dominating since the late 1900s is christianity with more then 8.5 million Prostestants and atleast 5,1 million Catholics. In Seoul you can actually find the largest christian congregation on this planet with it’s 800 000 members.
The second largest religion in South Korea, and the largest unitary religious group is the Buddhist, with 11 million active practising members and quite naturally out of Koreas geographical postion, a long history within the country. There is also a hundred thousand practisers or so each of the indigenous Won-buddhism and the moral code of Confusanism. Personally, I was a bit disappointed after discovering that the very uniqe inidgenous mixed faith of Chondogyo only has about 50 thousand followers, it is far to interesting for an amount that small.
In Sweden and Stockholm, I discover through my every day work with eduaction that religion is still a strong force within many groups, for both indigenous and immigrant swedes. Modern Sweden though, is commonly described as a none-religious society with little connection to the old Protestant church that dominated Sweden for 500 years, after kicking out the Catholics. The traces of religion can still be found everywere in holidays and also in the way people think, I believe. But then again, the connection to religion is not made directly and most importantly, many swedes proudly consider themselves secular, in a world that in so many places is full of prejudice and conflicts connected to religious belief.
I was also brought up in this consensus, religion being nothing more then the traditions from the past. Only attending church with my family, who was not in any way connected to a church, at funerals, weddings and perhaps a graduation ceremony.
On the other hand, in my early teens, as many others in that age, I started to search for some kind of philisophy to put my trust and hopes , and if you want to – my beliefs in. The road to christianity was not that difficult to take. I was baptized as a small child(tradition) and it was quite popular to go through the rituals of confirmation as a 14 year old, more of a get together for horny teens then an important step into the christian world, but actually showing the way to a modern version of religion. Also, just one generation beyond my parents, religion was still very much alive for some of my relatives. Somewhere down this road and with extensive bible reading, I found my own and very personal version of the christian protestant belief. A belief that I now find myself to have kept for almost 15 years. It is not a constant though, I’ve hesitated more times then I can count to, and I do see all the bad things that was created in the name of religions easier then ever before. But it won’t go away still and religious belief is not supposed to be easy. To acknowledge all the bad things within the religion, be humble about it and work for change was always how, as I saw it, I wanted it to work.
When I walked into the world of Kpop, I discovered quite quickly that the idols, some of them, had a very christian view on life. With this belief comes quite often a set of morals, values that is said to reflect the religion. To be a good christian means much to many with a strong belief, even though it really does not mean anything in particular. Sadly, this strong belief and the idea of being a good christian often collides with the world of today and values I personally feel strongly for, the right to abortion and the right to love who ever you choose what ever the sex are both examples of these values.
As written above, South Korea has a large group of christian practicers, and when a religion is new and on the rise it tends to be quite literal, not at all reinterpreted, progressive and modern as I imagine my own personal christian belief to be.
This is clearly showing within the Kpop-industry from time to time. When asked in an interview how the idol feels about same sex love, you could easily get the reaction of it being completly wrong and un-natural. The first time I experienced this reaction of disgust, I really did not know how to deal with it, except getting angry of course. And yet I have a very hard time just letting this pass. But I refuse to see it as just a cultural Korean opinion, but rather as the outcome of the huge impact christianity have had over the South Korean society over the last five decades.
A couple of idols that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into have a very strong christian conviction and it shows in their tweets and in the way the deal with hardships of life. As the natural disaster hit Japan this spring, both Alexander of U-kiss and Siwon of SuJu, the idols I’m talking of right now, wanted us all to pray for the japanese people and to put our trust in God. Both Siwon, and now Alexander is a part of the musical project 3rd Wave. A Christian musical project that gives it’s profit to charity and project that Alexander could be a part of after U-kiss.
It is of course nice of Siwon and Alexander to put their mind and thought into tragic events, it could absolutely be described as being a good christian, but also as just being humane. To send your thoughts to a nation wrecked by disaster is hopefully not connected to one religion. I wonder how Alexander who quite often retweet words from Joel Osteen, the american televangelist think when it comes to this?
Joel Osteen is someone who has a view of life and on christianity that I probably do not share in any aspect. I wonder how the preachings from this american pastor is received by Alexander, one of my all time favourite idols. Will Siwon and Alexander talk about the latest televised sermon from pastor Osteen when they meet on Sundays at church, and then switch over to discussing excercise and appearances on musical shows?
How do these idols think when it comes to christianity and homosexuality? They work in the world of showbiz and there must be lots af gay people around.
The reason for asking myself this question is that Siwon has worked with fan-service for his entire carrieer and is adored by fans for acting like Prince charming towards – his male colleagues. There are hundreds of fancams of him kissing the other members in SuJu at performances. SiChul is my very favourite fanfic and fan-service couple and wether or not Siwon and Heechul ever is getting it on, I do belive they do from time to time, Siwon must be fully aware of how much this semi gay approach is building his popularity. Is it working well with his born again christian mentality? A fun fact is that Heechul, an outspoken atheist and also a friend of Siwon, is not Siwons friend on twitter, but with the rest of SuJu.
When it comes to Alexander, I don’t believe that he is absolutely certain about his sexual agenda, but then again who is? I just don’t want him miss out on love or sex just because his religious belief tells him to. I don’t want him to be locked into a bubble of already given ideas and miss out on what the world could offer him. I don’t want him to devote his life to Christian music, when this is one of the worst modern genres I know.
As a young and Christian man in the western world, I prefer when people are less secure about their religious beliefs, and don’t tweet that much about it.
/The Future is Idol
June 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
I spent a ridiculously huge part of my first year of gymnasium reading fanfiction. Most of it was Harry Potter fanfiction, and most of it was slash. It was in between Potter books and, being a quick learner, I often had to sit off time at school, where Internet was free for all but gaming was prohibited. Some of the people I spoke to about it (which weren’t that many) thought it was a bit funny, a few got it and started spazzing, and some thought I was raping their childhood by turning Potter characters into at its best complicated characters but sometimes little more than teenage porn stars. I defended myself by saying that the characters were fictional and therefore didn’t mind and that I was sure J.K. Rowling was flattered (which proved to be true, and I admire her for that). But I drew the line at real people. Not just because I wasn’t that obsessed with any real person, because I occasionally was, but because I thought that was too weird: daydreaming about what might have occurred between people was one thing, but writing it down felt like an intrusion of personal space and integrity, no matter how unlikely it seemed that they would read just what I’d written or for that matter read.
I have obviously changed my mind.
Being famous is being known by many people that you don’t know yourself. That, most likely, means that their idea of you is based partly on imagination. While being a famous writer who sits alone in your office, drinking coffee and making up stories is one way of controlling these imaginations and probably steering them away from yourself as a person, being an idol means using yourself as a mean of telling a story of beauty and success. I think that at least as much as musical achievements, idols strive for fame, and being famous is partly the same as making yourself fictional. You sell the music you make, yes, but you also sell yourself – or at least the concept of yourself. Stage names, styling and concepts are all part of that. When we say that being famous makes you live forever, what we actually mean is this: While a person seldom lives longer than perhaps ninety years, a story about a person can live on for much, much longer than that. Immortality can only be achieved by letting people turn you into a story.
When ten year olds are brought into entertainment training by their parents, they are probably unaware of the possibility that five to ten years later fans all over the world will be fapping away to the thought of them having sex with their fellow band mates (a note on this for the uniniated: no, not all fanfiction is porn – but some is). But they probably know what having an idol means, or they wouldn’t want to be one themselves; they know about the daydreaming and adoration and obsession and projections, and they know that being an idol is being the stuff of unknown people’s dreams. What annoys me is, of course, when fans don’t seem to know the difference between fiction and reality. I feel like I’m shooting sitting ducks right now, but whether or not OnKey is more real than JongKey or KyuMi more real than KyuMin is nothing to debate, and actually none of our business. Performing fanservice is letting yourself be objectified, and whether or not an on-stage kiss is getting a kick simply out of the screams of the audience or by something more than that, we don’t know, and we shouldn’t know – but we have the right to dream. Even if reading fanfiction about yourself (which kpopidols as well as other famous people do – proof here – and here – and on a side note I started respecting Fallout Boy when they encouraged their fans to write fanfiction about them) is probably weird, I still think that we should be encouraged rather than ashamed. The line between person and character has to be drawn by the idols and the industry themselves, not by the fans.
June 1, 2011 § 7 Comments
I fully understood how much I anticipated this album just earlier today when I had to rush home from work, acting rather strained on the subway towards my colleagues, log on and then in a manic sort of way listen to all the tracks until I completly had the picture of what kind of an album this could be. It is a complete success. And yes I cancelled everything I had in plan for the afternoon and evening. After all this time and the wait that never seemed to end. It is finally here, the 1st japanese album by SNSD.When the album teaser was released a couple of days ago, I and many with me, went wild. The mv was crazy and the snippets of music sounded almost to good. The album has a total of twelve tracks and at this moment I find each and every one of them worth listening to. This is of course if you agree to the japanese remakes of korean originals, I’m ok with it but keeps thinking: “this is supposed to be in korean, but yeah”.
First off is Mr Taxi, the one japanese single that was not a korean original. When it was released I was hoping that it showed the direction for the upcoming album. I loved Mr Taxi, still do and yes it showed the direction for the album. It is electric, fun and not to cute.
The japanese version of Genie follows as track no.2 and that is just what it is, a japanese version, ok but I would never in my life swap it for the korean original as a favourite. The original version rests very close to my heart (to every heart?).
You-aholic starts off with an electronic twitch and the lines “psycho sexy super magic” being whispered, which is a hint of how to regard this album. I thought it would be a lot more cute on a whole since it is a japanese relase. But it seems they are going for a more grow up feeling, thank God. In many ways this sounds more like a development from Oh! rather then a step back to reinvent a concept for a new market. Perhaps SNSD is far to famous in Japan already for not continuing what they started in Korea. Joint market anyone?
Run Devil Run, another remake but just fine, perhaps the one I find least strange to hear in japanese.
Bad Girl is so far one of my three favourite tracks on this album, Mr Taxi being the first one. This is another very much so electronica influenced track with a beat that rests on a simple but also beautiful poptune.
Beautiful Stranger. Electric guitars, so this is my least favourite so far. But the refrain is nice and upbeat, but there are electric guitars so no.
I’m In Love With The Hero is the third of my favourite tracks, perhaps second in line and a perfect, semi-hard electric pop track, with a twisted beginning and flute underneath the whole thing, a hit. Chorus: Hero, hero.
Let it Rain. This is a track that sounds like Lady Gagas crazy ass track Alejandro every second time I hear it, but it’s better. When Red One(the swedish producer who wrote Alejandro) tried to explain what kind of track Alejandro was, he described it as a perfect pop tune in the swedish tradition of Abba and Ace of Base. Maybe he is right, it sounds a bit like Madonna aswell, but before every track was written by a swede. This is a weird pop track worth listening to a couple of times. I wonder who wrote it?
Gee is just Gee, but in japanese and you already know the original. When this track starts playing you will think just that.
The Great Escape, another electric and also minimalistic track with a hard beat and a discolike refrain. Developing the concepts.
Hoot. Hoot in japanese. The people of japan will surrender by now.
Born To Be A Lady is the most ballad like track on this album and that is fine by me since I never really appriciated SNSds ballad attempts. This one is just fine and a bit up tempo, not trying to be too beautiful.
I’m not sure wether this album is as modern as anything ever could be, if it is trying to be something already seen in the US or if it is a bit retro 90s feel. Being satisfied with not knowing this for sure, I just want to point out that this one of the best main stream pop albums of the first half of 2011.
If not planning to buy this album, you’re just plain stupid.
/The Future is Idol