Columns, Pop Cult

Pop Cult – T-ara & Grimes

Allen Huang / September 6, 2012

Pop Cult: Sexy Genesis

Image from


T-ara – Sexy Love: B

First it was Perfume, but now perpetually maligned K-Pop group T-ara wants in on the “Pop stars as robots” game. But their appropriation of the guise evokes a more personal interpretation. Given the incredible amounts of scandal the group has gone through in the last couple months (rumors of bullying, public firing and lambasting of members, cancelled appearances on television shows, awful promotional ideas, fans egging their offices), to show the group as literal puppets of the K-pop industry is ballsy.

There’s two ways you can take their message:

  1. K-Pop is a formula and a business foremost. The girls are interchangeable parts, and parts that do not work will be replaced with impunity. And as long as they dance and sing and look pretty, people are going to eat. it. up.
  2. Don’t hate the girls in T-ara for all the hoopla. Blame their puppet masters, the agency handlers, and the CEO. But don’t punish these girls, who work hard and follow all their agency’s orders, for a couple bad PR moves.

Either way, with its extra cheesy-yet-irresistible synth line (pulling from classic Korean trot music much like 2NE1’s “I Love You” does), the song has some staying power. But the video itself is such a strange and meticulous message, I can’t stop watching it.

Grimes – Genesis: B+

The term “post-internet” is used to describe our current state of complete media submersion; all of one’s senses endlessly stimulated by a bevy of contradicting streams from an infinite number of sources. The music made in this era reflects this: swirls of juxtaposed instruments, a foundation of almost banal familiarity, nuances that fall into the slim crevice between kitsch and genuine appreciation, tropes reupholstered and reconfigured in what may be either clever or cluttered, depending on who you ask.

The unwitting recipient of the post-internet crown? Grimes. And she has done her best to wear the mantle proudly. Both fans and critics alike become lost in her relentless ping-ponging of sonic ideas. They harp and wonder at her rudimentary grasp of music as a language — ”Genesis” is really just the pentatonic scale over and over again layered via a variety of formats. But this simplicity is, in fact, the point. To Claire Boucher, art is instant, like coffee.

Boucher’s fascination with K-pop is well documented. The video for “Genesis” pulls directly from two videos: After School’s “In The Night Sky” and T-ara’s “Day By Day”. But while K-Pop producers still venture into the romantic ideas of crafting coherent plotlines for their works (“Day By Day” stretches on for 16 minutes trying to present some sort of mini-epic for a B-minus song), Boucher, being all post-internet and whatnot, lets the images live in their moment, alongside a song that, as modern-sounding as it is, is really basic under the hood. She is not concerned with the qualifications of her art, because for her ambition is paramount. It may be simple, but it’s definitely not half-assed.

“Genesis,” like all the other songs off of Visions, felt incomplete until the accompanying video was produced. The Post-internet era requires a vertical monopoly of sensual stimuli. To harp on the P’s and Q’s of its content is missing the point. Like the speedy electron, we cannot accurately determine a piece of pop culture’s current state. But we can guess its trajectory, we can debate its outcome, and we can appreciate its effect on the rest of the world.


1 thought on “Pop Cult – T-ara & Grimes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *