Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: September 2012

300 Million?

UPDATE: My article about Kpop and Korean exports to emerging markets is up on Foreign Policy now. Please check it out.

ORIGINAL: Hard to believe that it was just three weeks ago I was amazed by Psy’s “Gangnam Style” hitting 100 million Youtube views. Because checking out Youtube today, it has now topped 290 million, and I guess will be hitting 300 million soon.

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” (which most of us assumed would be the big summer hit) is at 270 million.


But more important than just Youtube views (after all, “Charlie Bit My Finger” has 483 million views) is that Psy is now getting sales and radio airplay. The song is now at No. 11 No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and No. 1 on Apple’s iTunes singles chart — well, it is down to No. 2 in the US after spending a few days at No. 1, but it is still No. 1 in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Portugal.

Thanks to that surprise success, there is going to be a host of articles on Psy and K-pop coming out very soon, including a couple by myself. I’ll link to them as they appear. As someone who has been writing professionally about Korean pop music since around 2000, it’s all a bit overwhelming. But it is also fascinating to see who much our world is changing, and how Korea is changing with it.

More to come soon…

Btw, if you are looking for a great new Korean tune to dance to, I highly recommend the retro-disco of Glen Check’s “84”:

Earth to Apollo: Canada, We Have a Party

Apollo 18, one of Korea’s top indie rock acts, has just announced a mini-tour in Canada later this month:

  • Sept. 19 – Hamilton – This Ain’t Hollywood
  • Sept. 20 – Ottawa – Zaphod Beeblebrox
  • Sept. 21 – Montreal – Quai des Brumes (part of Pop Montreal)
  • Sept. 22 – Toronto – Bovine Sex Club

And here is the rather cool poster the band has whipped up for the tour:

Pretty sweet poster, imho.

Just in case you are not convinced, you can listen to the wonderfully noisy postrock band here:

This article on the band is also very good. And you can also check out Apollo 18 on Facebook.

Il-Ok Style

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” has now topped 100 million views (that’s il ok in Korean). Not only does the mind reel, but so does the spleen, liver, and several other major organs.

UPDATE: Just one day later, and the video is on the verge of 110 million views. Craziness.

Why News Media Fail on Politics

Sasha Issenberg just wrote a rather wrong-headed article in the New York Times (that’s getting a lot of coverage) on why news media fails to cover elections and the political process adequately. Issenberg’s point seems to be that the chess-masters that are the press cannot hope to understand the chess-grandmasters that are the political strategists. Not to put too fine a point on it, but “bullshit.”

1) Many of the best political strategists move in and out of the media (mostly TV) all the time. The media is plenty aware of how campaigns work.

2) Voter identification and persuasion is not that different. The tools may change, but the ideas are still the same. And could there be a more vacuous statement than this:

Microtargeting was at once less directly influential, and more fundamentally disruptive, than these analyses suggested.

So, microtargetting is less important and more important. Brilliant.

3) The failings of the media are pretty much the same as they’ve ever been. The needs and requirements of journalists does not intersect perfectly with campaigns — yes, that makes journalists susceptible to manipulation … but it also makes campaigns vulnerable to getting screwed by journalists.

4) What has changed with the media is the same thing that’s changed in all areas of the news — sports coverage, entertainment, tech, etc. There’s more noise than ever to sift through, and editors are acutely aware of what people are actually reading. The news Beast always needs to be fed, faster than ever (there are no more news weeklies, everything is instant now) and you cannot make news out of something that has not changed.

Also worth remembering:

5) Everything on TV is always stupid.

Changing of the Guard

Kind of exciting to see that there are now new top dogs in town, for both Korean movies and music.

In movies, Thieves has shot past The Host to become the top-grossing movie Korean of all time. According to KOBIS, Thieves now has made 90.9 billion won ($80.4 million) from 12.6 million admissions. That puts Thieves well ahead of The Host‘s 79.3 billion won ($70.1 million), although still behind its 13 million admissions.

In music, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is now the biggest Youtube success for any Korean song, topping 94 million views. As it had just 73 million a few days ago, I guess it will probably keep rising for a while. (UPDATE: I woke up this morning to see it at 99 million views. Most likely will top 100 million before the end of the day. Kind of amazing how, once something goes viral, it just keeps going).

The previous leader was Girls Generation’s “Gee,” which has about 84 million views.

Of course, what does 94 million Youtube views really mean? It’s impressive, but the significance is not so clear-cut (nothing really is these days, I guess). Psy has been No. 1 on Apple’s music video chart for quite a few days, as well as Billboard’s Social Media chart. But the song is just No. 31 on Apple’s iTunes singles chart, No. 72 on Billboard’s digital singles chart and it isn’t on Billboard’s Hot 100 at all.

(Although his album is No. 2 on Billboard’s World album chart and No. 24 on the Heatseekers album chart).

But, even if Psy isn’t the second-coming of Michael Jackson (or even LMFAO), the “Gangnam Style” phenomenon is still a pretty spiffy achievement. Good for him. Between this song, Girls Generation on Letterman, Wondergirls on Nickelodeon, etc., K-pop has gotten the West’s attention. And, more importantly, K-pop artists have mostly done so on their own terms, not following the advice of Western A&R guys or other consultants.

Anyhow, regardless of what happens next with Psy and Kpop, I vow never to let this happen to me:

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