From Seoul With Love And An Infectious Beat

By the end of 2012, Psy’s Gangnam Style was not only a massive world-wide hit, it became the first video to receive one billion views on YouTube. With a similarly catchy tune, is Seungri’s new single Where R U From going to beat it?

 

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Big Bang may be on hiatus as four of the band members have been enlisted, but they are not done with making the news. While serving the army, frontman/Chanel muse G Dragon was allegedly given preferential treatment when he was admitted to hospital early this month to receive treatment for ankle injury, T.O.P was indicted in June with marijuana possession and is discharged, awaiting re-assignment to public service duties, while Taeyang, looking like he has gained weight, “dominate(d) the stage with hot performances at a military band concert” three weeks ago.

The youngest and the sole member of Big Bang not called for national service yet isn’t lagging behind either. Seungri, or Lee Seung-Hyun, released his first, full-length studio album The Great Seungri on 20 July, and the second single Where R U From is now predicted to beat Psy’s Gangnam Style, if not to equal the latter’ spectacular success. It’s not hard to see why. Where R U From is Seungri at his most cheerful and confident in a music video that is possibly the most irreverent in the brief history of K-pop.

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The video released a few days ago has already garnered more than four million views. It features the all-dancing Seungri attending a re-staging of the Kim Jong Un/Donald Trump summit, although, admittedly, both leaders are very poor stand-ins. Korean pop stars are rarely political creatures. Seungri’s cheeky jab at the Kim/Trump meeting, singing “we go hard/attention; we go high/attention”, perhaps reveals uncommon smarts and awareness in the world of manufactured Korean pop songs.

Musically, Where R U From can’t be considered ground-breaking since the happy tune, electronic sounds, pulsing bass, and catchy refrain are similar to Psy’s Gangnam Style. In fact, this could have been Psy’s follow-up single. Instead he succumbed to the pressures of building on the success of an earlier hit and released the forced output Gentleman. The title, in Psy’s case, is, of course, ironic, but it is even more so that it is label mate/same-camp competitor Seungri who plays the suave, horse-ridding, socially-positioned great one to the hilt.

This is Seungri at his handsomest too, projecting a suave confidence that nearly alluded him as he synced with Big Bang’s out-there, gender-bending flashiness. (Thank goodness he has dropped the blond hair because of scalp problems.) Good looks and a good tune make better pals than band mates, and Seungri is able to twin the two into an image that has an old-fashioned idol edge to it. Few K-pop stars rely on such effortless poise to project unchoreographed polish. He sings, dances, and DJs in the new music video as if he does not need to outdo the hyeongs who have gone solo before him.

And there are the well-appointed suits, blazers, and 007-ish tuxedos that he has been wearing a lot as a solo act (including the MV for the precedent single 1, 2, 3 that could have been Motown gone hallyu). Whether this is a deliberate shunning of the visual excesses of K-hip-hop or the attendant street leaning, it is not certain. Seungri appears totally comfortable as a grown-up, sartorially sharp singer. It doesn’t matter if Where R U From sounds like Gangnam Style. The Great Seungri is definitely not the next Psy.

Photos: screen grabs Big Bang channel, YouTube/YG Entertainment

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