Posted by: asianfilmreviews | March 23, 2009

The lure of the West.

Asian pop figure BoA has launched her debut U.S. album, titled… what else? Just BoA. Very smart. But while the super-confident popster proclaimed BoA to mean Best of Asia, Bring on America (that’s just a tad bit arrogant), America is indeed bringing it and things don’t look too good for her first foray into the Western music scene. Estimates have her debuting with sales less than 20,000 copies over the first week, this in spite of a heavy promotional blitz. Despite notable (I guess) contributions from a variety of music producers including Bloodshy & Avant, Brian Kennedy, and Sean Garrett, the end result of the album itself is that it is completely indistinguishable from the flood of banal pop tunes we hear every single day. Here’s a teaser for one of the tracks, I Did It for Love, complete with dance moves so stale you’d swear they were from the 30s.

If the heavy use of a vocoder doesn’t turn you off, then the song’s message might. A girl is hurt by her man, but she goes back to him because of love… and because he apologizes throughout the entire song! If that isn’t the purest form of immature, insulting, and frankly non-existent love, then I don’t know what is. Physically or mentally, I gotta go with Oprah on this one – love doesn’t hurt. If it hurts, it certainly isn’t love. And this contrasts rather harshly with a later track, Girls on Top (no jokes about that one, but I do hope the occasional use of the phrase “get it up” is an unfortunate accident), a song which extolls the power of real women, i.e. women without all that articial and flashy excess, i.e. women unlike BoA herself. Essentially a walking, singing, hip-hop dancing contradiction, BoA is no more real than Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen (sorry all you Twilighters). The real Boa Kwon is the one that sits at home with a bag of snacks and watches television without a media storm, but that’s the Boa that we never see and never will. Instead, we get one who sings about individualism and maintaining your own identity while wearing the latest fashions by the hottest designers and operating within an oversaturated genre of music with the most notable producers, lyricists, and choreographers – all to make money. Nevermind that she doesn’t even write her own lyrics (for her Korean, Japanese, AND American albums) or compose her own music. She is the definition of “manufactured.”

Not to be outshone, American-born Japanese singer Utada Hikaru is having another go at the American music market (after the disastrous Exodus sold less than 60,000 copies) with her latest English-language album – This Is The One. I’ve always thought her music is rather boring (even her Japanese stuff), but I really wonder if she takes her English albums as a big joke. Either that or she’s on something when she composes her lyrics. Easy Breezy, a song from Exodus, contained lyrics such as , “you’re easy breezy and I’m Japanesey.” A track from her newer album contains the following passage:

“And in my fantasies/I love you long time/Doing my nine to five/I’m thinking six and nine/I gotta make you mine”

Whether she regards this is as some sort of joke or she’s just stupid remains unknown, but regardless, it furthers the stereotype of Asian women as purely sexual objects. I love you long time? Is she kidding? Yes, people should be able to express themselves within certain boundaries (no shouting “FIRE” or “BOMB” in a crowded interior space), but it should not be done at the expense of Asian women who DO find offense at such racist sterotypes.


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