Pop Cult: On Charts and Figures (Maroon 5)
Knee-jerk reactions (the best kind) to pop culture happenings all over the world.Posted by Allen Huang
Pop Cult: Absolutely Not About Adam Levine
Maroon 5 – One More Night: C
Being an Asian-American and being a pop culture obsessive, PSY’s climb up the Billboard top 100 has been of great-great-great-great interest to me. In fact, it is at a crossroads in my vista, with a large, neon sign around its neck screaming in vibrant hyper colors “PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” So, as I’m writing this, “Gangnam Style” sits at #2 for the second week in a row. Which is a wonderful thing! But it also means there is a song that the nation (or at least the Radio Nation) thinks is that much better, that much more listenable than the K-Pop watershed crossover hit. And that song is this, a little slice of reggae-lite from schlock-funkers Maroon 5.
The song is unremarkable; a slow-simmer of a break-up song with no unique texture, no identifying hook. Just the same ol’ Adam Levine tenor, singin’ ’bout the same ol’ things. It’s a comfortable, safe song. Pleasantly forgettable; and not a single I would ever think could reach number one on any chart. And yet, Maroon 5 holds sway, locking out the most talked about entertainer of 2012 from his destined #1 spot.
Because of the recent ruckus in Texas, I’ve been reading a lot about white privilege, affirmative action, what it means to people of color and to people not of color. And likewise, I’m reminded of Korean rapper Tiger JK’s recent brush with the Gangnam Freight Train, heckled by white ex-pats in Seoul, told to do the horsey dance, and then responding with a litany of curse words and rant-tweets. Thus, a strange, unhinged part of my consciousness gets to thinking: what if America just isn’t comfortable with an Asian having a number one single? I mean, I know PSY’s singing in Korean, but if you put these songs next to each other and ask 1,000 people to pick one, 7 times out of 10 aren’t they going to choose PSY?
Maybe not. Maybe it’s only 4 times out of 10. Because 3 of them don’t like the song, and 3 of them don’t like the color of his skin or the funny language he speaks. Maybe they think he’s North Korean. Maybe they think he’s Chinese. Maybe they’d rather not outsource America’s pop music out to China, too. Maybe no one actually listens to the radio, and Billboard Hot 100 is decided by like three old oil barons sitting in a bunker in Oklahoma. Maybe the three old men are talking to each other right now, and they are saying things like, “You see what happened with ‘The Macarena!?’ Never again.”
Then I snap out of it, and, after remembering what a weird and wonderful ride the whole “Gangnam Style” ordeal has been, I thank the stars above that such a conversation is even possible. I love that PSY’s going on Ellen and Chelsea Handler, and being the consummate entertainer he is, turning the other cheek when it comes to their repeated, sometimes horrifically racist attitudes towards the Asian race. I love that people have stopped saying “OPEN CONDOM STYLE” and that the internet parodies have had no traction whatsoever. And (while I’d love it more if he was number 1) I love it that PSY remains at #2, with fans all over the world waiting with bated breath for the day that we can say that an Asian man is the undisputed king of pop music.
And to think, the tragedy that was William Hung only happened less than a decade ago.