It’s nearly Christmas!!!

I don’t think that got my point across. Second try:


Fewer exclamation points, but a much more accurate reading. This is my favorite holiday, my favorite, favorite time of year. I love cold weather, I love snow, I love Jesus, I love traditions, I love family, I love music, I love baked goods. Essentially, everything about Christmastime as I’ve been blessed to experience it appeals to me.

That is an important point, that last one: ‘as I’ve been blessed to experience it.’ Since I know many people who hate Christmastime because all their Christmases have been miserable–or [possibly] worse, repeatedly anticlimactic.

But that’s material for another post. (maybe tomorrow? Soon, I promise. Suddenly there’s lots for me to write/say.) What I meant to lead into with this whole Christmas thing was the music. I LOVE Christmas music. The playlist on my iPod [entitled ‘hark! Christmas’] has 191 songs. and I still don’t have a few of my favorites. I love the old hymns best, and then the pop classics, and even the pop renditions of old hymns (seriously, N*SYNC’s ‘O Holy Night’ is good. Legit. Don’t judge).

The sudden influx of Christmas music has brought on more than the usual musically-centered conversations, and it’s made me think about the music I’ve been surrounded with/have encountered on my own since moving to Korea, both the wonderful and the heinous.

Let’s start with the heinous.  Always a good option.

My friends, you have not lived until you have had the repetitive autotuned perky of K-pop pounding in your head for hours on end. And by that I mean, fall to your knees and give thanks that you have not been so subjected.

K-pop is the Korean musical genre, and it’s making a name for itself around the world, and boy do they take this stuff seriously: one famous facet of the Korean educational system is the hagwan, or cram school, where kids take lessons and study for HOURS on end AFTER SCHOOL LETS OUT FOR THE DAY. This system has been co-opted by K-pop; parents can send their kids to a k-pop hagwan, where they learn vocal and physical training while learning the latest songs and dances.

It’s cultural and pervasive and everywhere and I’m sure it’s broadening but you guys, I HATE IT.

OH my word do I hate it. To qualify, some of it isn’t terrible. But I never liked boy bands and girl groups and Britney/Christina rivalries were always meaningless to me, and here THEY ARE STILL VERY MUCH A THING. And the K-pop version of hop-hop? or rap? Oh. no.

Here is some of what my students like to sing in class:


This is THE Song of the Moment. Every week when they have a dance party with the kids, at least ten groups of girls have to give a rendition of this dance. Also the title of the song is “Roly-poly.” Why? Why?


“Drown and/or Burn Misogyny while Dancing and Rapping in an Entirely Non-Intimidating Way!!” could be their battle cry on this one, if they had one (ps. the blond is TOTALLY the Beyonce of this crew). Also, allow my to use “Baby Goodbye” as a case study: so much of K-pop incorporates one single English phrase, which, in linguisitc terms, I think is pretty interesting.




He is sparklier than Liza Minnelli. Also, the Playboy bunny? it’s just a bunny here. they put it on children’s clothes.

I was going to do a fifth, but I can’t. This is too depressing. No more so, I suppose, than Bieber or Miley Cyrus, but ugh. It’s as though the aspects of American pop music I most dislike are the only ones that have transplanted here.

PLUS I had this thought: Somewhere, right now, some hipster is listening to K-pop ironically. UGH.

That’s enough of the heinous. Let’s move on to the Brilliant.


Josh Garrels’ whole album, from which this thing of beauty/joy forever comes, is FREE right now on Noisetrade or from his website. You are welcome.


After hearing this I immediately bought the whole album. Best $12 I ever spent, possibly. Yo-Yo Ma and Chris Thile? AND those other dudes?  It’s intricate, it’s fascinating, it’s beautiful, it’s fun. (I realize I just described myself.) (JK.)


While not in the same category, perhaps, as the other two…this cover had what I love in pop music. and it’s Really Cute without being Cutesy, two oh-so-different concepts entirely lost on “Bubble-Pop.” plus, flawless three part harmony? sign me up.


Just because it’s Christmas, after all.


So there’s the rundown of what’s been going in my ears lately: some by choice, some forced upon me by merciless retailers.  Though the ratio of Christmas to non is going to change drastically in a week: Can anyone say ‘ten hour flight to Australia’ with me?

(That’s another story…the one coming soon.)