Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: October 2012

Pop Goes Korea Comes to E-Book

Fun news — Pop Goes Korea is at last available as an e-book. You don’t have to track down a physical copy, wait for an order, or kill any trees anymore.

You can get Pop Goes Korea for your Kindle here, or your Nook here.

Best of all, my publisher allowed me to make one small but important change to the e-book edition. At last we have the dollar-won exchange rate specified in the text. When I wrote the book, it was at the unusually strong 800 won/dollar level, which made some of the numbers seem a bit odd (soon after, it fell to 1,200 won/dollar, and today is still less than 1,100 won/dollar).

Big thanks to everyone who has already bought a copy. And thanks to all who read my articles and blogs — I really appreciate the support and I hope to keep you interested.

Pop Goes Korea Goes E-Book

Fun news — Pop Goes Korea is at last available as an e-book. You don’t have to track down a physical copy, wait for an order, or kill any trees anymore.

You can get Pop Goes Korea for your Kindle here, or your Nook here.

Best of all, my publisher allowed me to make one small but important change to the e-book edition. At last we have the dollar-won exchange rate specified in the text. When I wrote the book, it was at the unusually strong 800 won/dollar level, which made some of the numbers seem a bit odd (soon after, it fell to 1,200 won/dollar, and today is still less than 1,100 won/dollar).

Big thanks to everyone who has already bought a copy. And thanks to all who read my articles and blogs — I really appreciate the support and I hope to keep you interested.

From Ikea to Korea: Writing for K-pop

My new article about K-pop songwriting is up not at the Wall Street Journal (or, if you prefer, in Korean at the Korean Wall Street Journal).

With all this talk about K-pop recently, I tried asking about what musically makes K-pop. It’s a pretty ephemeral subject, very hard to nail down. Plenty of people say there is nothing unique about it. Others say it is just a rip-off of J-pop. One former Korean music exec had a theory that it was a technical issue, regarding the equipment that Korean studios use. So I thought talking to someone who actually finds songwriters and sells songs around the world — Pelle Lidell — could provide some good insights into the question.

Sadly, some of my favorite subjects did not make the final cut. He talked a fair bit about how you have to write always keeping in mind the accompanying dance performances. And we discussed what kind of feedback Korean labels provide as a song is developed. I was expecting a lot of technical detail, but instead instructions tend to be quite cinematic and abstract. “Sassy cheery attitude + fire explosive beat,” for example. Or “deliverance of deep emotions and force.”

But the best quote to get axed was his answer to whether K-pop was just a copy of J-pop: “Bullshit,” he said.

Anyhow, thanks much to everyone who let me pick their brains for this story. It is definitely a subject I plan on coming back to in the future.

From Psy to Sigh

A few random notes for this Saturday…

  • Of course, now that a spate of K-pop stories in the Western press has my tiny blog getting an uptick in visitors, my website goes down. It seems to be up and running again. Sadly, I cannot blame my ISP or anyone else for being incompetent, as the incompetence seems to be all mine. That’s what I get for trying to make changes a few hours before getting on an airplane.
  • There is yet another story out there with my gabbing, Don Kirk’s latest in the Christian Science Monitor. It’s about Psy, of course, but focuses on his free concert to 80,000 people from City Hall. I wonder if Don’s reportage came from the Seoul Foreign Correspondence Club last Friday — it’s in the 18th floor of the Press Building, which is right behind City Hall … great views there for downtown street protests.
  • Just a reminder that, if you are in Washington DC on Oct. 16, you can catch me, along with Marja Vongerichten (Host of PBS’s “Kimchi Chronicles”) and Grady Hendrix, talking about Korean culture. Grady, of course, will be talking movies. And I am told there might be one more “special” guest, but I’ll let you wonder who that might be. I will be talking K-pop and the Korean Wave. RIDING THE KOREAN WAVE takes place at 6:30 pm at George Washington University.

Citations and Celebrations

It’s been a good couple of days for people who like to read my ramblings about Korea (admittedly a rather small sub-section of humanity). First, I was quoted a fair bit in an article in the Scotland Sunday Herald about K-pop. And now the latest New Yorker, as John Seabrook’s feature article about K-pop, “Factory Girls,” references Pop Goes Korea a whole bunch — sadly, though, Seabrook’s story is behind a pay wall. (UPDATE: I nearly forgot, I also was quoted in an Ad Age article about the marketability of Psy and “Gangnam Style”*).

“Factory Girls” was interesting, as I got to experience the famed New Yorker fact-checking regime. Plenty of calls and emails asking about all sorts of K-pop details, sometimes basic facts, but other times more interpretive. They were nice enough to have uncovered a couple of errors from my chapter on Lee Sooman … in part because there is so much more information from the 1980s and 1990s online now than when I wrote the book. Luckily, none of the errors were crucial to my book — mostly they were details (like the number of times one K-pop star was arrested for drug use), the kind of things I hope to clean up should the book ever get another edition.

Anyhow, if you are interested the New Yorker’s fact checking culture, John McPhee’s article “Checkpoints” is also paywalled, but you can read it for free here.

* (How scary is it that when Anita Chang Beattie filed her story late last week, “Gangnam Style” had 283 million Youtube hits, and already it is at 335 million?)

* * *

In other news, Park Jihyun and Gord Sellar’s short film, “The Music of Jo Hyeja,” just won the Audience Pick Award at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles. “The Music of Jo Hyeja” is a spooky, atmospheric short film that re-tells Lovecraft’s story “The Music of Erich Zann.” It looks great and features music by Jambinai, so how can you go wrong? Hopefully it will come to a film festival near you before too long.

 

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