Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Crayon Pop – Bar Bar Bar

Barbarians! [/never-ending stream of Latin non-humor]…


Patrick St. Michel: This is pure, no-concerns-given pop, all about escaping from “daily life.” Sometimes a non-English song benefits from a translation, as it shines light on what’s actually going on here. This is not one of those times. It’s an energetic romp, but also one that burns itself out a bit. Maybe add in something besides “jumping” to the repertoire.

Anthony Easton: I love that they broke up in 2012 and the comeback single is in 2013. Also, the shouting choruses are iconic enough to be pleasurable, if not that interesting.

Alfred Soto: Closer to modernized ABBA than K-Pop, especially the semantic snarl that is “I don’t want to stick at home now.” The track’s anything but static, anything but sticky.

Frank Kogan: A year ago, at the time of “Bing Bing,” your humble correspondent, having heard Crayon Pop but not seen them, wondered if they might perhaps be bohemians in their mid twenties. The catchiness seemed a bit studied. What? Was I crazy? In any event, I saw Crayon Pop on YouTube and realized they were genuine teenyboppers. Then David Frazer told me that, in fact, Crayon Pop are in their twenties, and that lead vocalist/rapper Way went to Seoul Art College. I nonetheless decided that Crayon Pop are a bona fide something, though I’m not sure what. Their reality show on MBC Music portrayed them defying their handlers. “Crayon Pop reveal they aren’t afraid to confront agency” said a headline at Allkpop, winning the group plaudits from cultural studies departments round the world. Then this, “Bar Bar Bar,” was let loose, power pop that was somehow even catchier than their previous dance pop. What made it an absolute ear worm was the transition at 0:50 from the pa pa pas to the slightly dramatic “Jumping yeah jumping yeah jumping everybody.” Scandal threatened our good times, however, ’cause a member or the CEO put forth a tweet containing slang from a right-wing hate forum. At least that’s what people said on Reddit. I don’t know Korean and don’t know what to make of it. The scandal faded because Crayon Pop aren’t actually famous. A strange “story ver.” video appeared that ends with Crayon Pop doing a goof on exploitative K-pop contracts, a label shyster signing members up for a 35-year commitment and guaranteeing to make them stars. Live, they perform in toboggan suits, or something, and shoot their fans with water guns. A dance vid was released, to which a YouTuber commented, “What’s this?! Idols that are fully dressed! Amazing!” igniting a war between those Crayon Pop fans who like sexy and those who think sexiness is obscene. But if the concept is meant to be “Crayon Pop don’t have a sexual vibe,” group member Ellin seems not to have gotten the memo, as she’s been cavorting around the set of All The K-pop, playing kissing games, showing skin, and dancing provocatively. Meanwhile, the sociologist in me poses the following question, for those who can provide insight: Helmets? Athletic wear? Winter wear? What?

Iain Mew: They treat technique as secondary to energy, colouring outside the lines in the rush to get something down, which is not something we have heard often in the K-pop we’ve covered previously. Nor indeed does anyone anywhere else sound quite like this. Past the most accurate group name in ages and a big initial whack of novelty, though, they don’t have much to offer here. The song and its guitar chug are just too limited to make much of its assets. It sits at the awkward point of being too repetitive without carrying over to making repetition into the point.

Will Adams: The production is cheap, the performance cartoonish. Even the hook checks out halfway through.

Brad Shoup: Hurray! An East Asian pop group that won’t touch the hard metal until they can handle the hairier stuff. Near the end, the track segues from twitchy staccato to half-hearted studio funk, from which I infer the producers are relying on Crayon Pop’s magnetism to an unhealthy extent.

Reader average: [8.61] (49 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

35 Responses to “Crayon Pop – Bar Bar Bar”


  2. ^^TSJ Comment of the Year, y/y?

  3. “they broke up in 2012”


    Didn’t hear anything about this.

  4. It appears that Frank has caught the Crayon Pop virus. I recognize the symptoms because I’m in the same boat. Don’t assume you’re immune just because your initial reaction was lukewarm either. Much of their appeal is extra-musical, which accounts for a bit of an incubation period. The choreography, for one thing: if their choreographer worked for one of the “big three” instead of a tiny startup he would be pumping out Abracadabra/Mister/Gangnam-Style-tier national dance crazes on a regular basis. I could also say “their personalities are so appealing,” but it’s not so much that statement that matters as much as the fact that for as many years as I’ve been listening to pop music, with all its effort spent on marketing personalities, I’ve never really cared about popstars so much as the music itself. And yet here I am, enthralled by videos of these five Korean ladies just hanging out while not understanding anything they’re saying, feeling like I’ve turned into some sort of degenerate AKB48 wota. Maybe it’s the appeal of underdogs in a big, often cutthroat industry. Maybe it’s the appeal of seeing smiles that seem genuine rather than forced, which unfortunately seems to be the standard in K-pop. I don’t really know what’s happened to me.

    I give Patrick about three months before he’s leaving comments like Jaques’ all over the web.

  5. Anthony, did you mean to write “they formed” or “they broke out“? In any event, they debuted in 2012, and are still going.

    In Korea, any time a group goes out to promote a new single, that’s called a “comeback.” For example, in January 2009 SNSD were on the Comeback Stage with “Gee,” their first single in 9 months; then, in March, having just had the most popular song in K-pop history, which had stood for a record nine straight weeks as number 1 on Music Bank (which takes us through either March 5 or March 12), SNSD were back on the Comeback Stage on March 19 with “Run Devil Run.”

  6. Sorry, I screwed up my last post, which you probably haven’t seen anyway ’cause it’s getting moderated. “Run Devil Run” was March 2010; the comeback song after “Gee” was “Tell Me You Wish (Genie),” which wasn’t until June 2009 (which gave them a two-month breather rather than a two-week breather).

  7. JR, actually it is the music and sound that grabs me foremost. I’m not sure what to make of the rest of it, though the dance did have me desperately holding my sides the first time I saw it, I was laughing so hard. Only reason the track isn’t a 10 is that I want something more twisted and emotional in my 10s, what a Townshend or a Davies would give to it. But I’d think either’d be happy to have come up with the melody. (Btw, at the moment readers’ average is about 3-points higher than ours. I haven’t been keeping up; is such a difference rare or common?

  8. whoa, this has a super high reader score! very very surprising.

  9. The reader score is generally higher than the reviewer one. 3 is a big difference but not unprecedented – Suede and Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran have similar differences.

  10. never underestimate the… power… of drive-by stans

  11. Loving all the Slayon Pope love here <3

    I used to champion the DIVINE FIVE on my old blog, The Prophet Blog, and the love has continued on my new site, Arcadey.

    These legends of the music industry are so powerful they gave y'all the highest reader score ever (don't correct me if I'm wrong).

    Who else but the Crayola Kweens?

  12. But people have heard of Taylor Swift and Suede. I realize that 23 votes isn’t statistically significant, but I have no idea where they’re coming from. I doubt that the ILM K-pop thread has 23 impassioned lurkers. I underrated Crayon Pop at first and wouldn’t have continued to pay attention except a couple of people wouldn’t stop posting about them. I wish fans of GLAM, Evol, Tiny G, ChoColat, Z.Hera, and D-Unit had as much tenacity. “Bar Bar Bar” has been in and out of the top 100 and unexpectedly back in again, and seems suddenly to have the wind at its back, despite Crayon Pop only getting two widely separated chances to promote it on the major TV performance shows. Is still only a minor quasi-hit from a tiny label, but people are claiming it’s gone viral in Korea in the last couple of days, so we’ll see.

  13. @Frank Kogan

    For what it’s worth, I’m a teen in Korea right now, and the song is very well-known among my peers. Oddly, their reaction is much more negative: they’re laughing at the song, not with it. I thought it was awful at first but I’m coming around to it more and more with every listen.

  14. @Moses

    What are your friends’ good reasons for disliking the song? (I can speculate based on my own reaction to “Yummy Yummy Yummy” when I was 14, but I’d like to get your perspective.)

  15. @Frank

    I think the strongest reaction is the one against how CUTESY this song is. I think a lot of my peers are self-conscious about this since there’s a stereotype of Asians they’re aware of. The other negative comparison I’ve been hearing a lot compares them to Power Rangers, for what it’s worth.

    I honestly think part of the reaction is just bafflement. We’re so used to seeing our pop stars as heroes and role models that it’s a little jarring to see a group committed to being fools for the sake of entertainment.

  16. Hey guys! Slayon Pope update:

    The Goddesses of modern-day pop are slaying the charts 0_0

    When will your fave?

  17. Moses, I would have picked out the cutesy thing as well, as effective but also disturbing, though I wasn’t thinking of the Asian stereotype but rather cutesiness being associated with girls and children.

    Psy, JYP, and G-Dragon are quite willing to play the fool for the sake of entertainment, though with an edge to it, ’cause you don’t know when you’re laughing with ’em or at ’em or if they’re laughing at you. Crayon Pop aren’t doing the last, but they’re definitely hard to read on the with-’em-or-at-’em meter. Hard to read overall, I’d say. They’ve got a vibe of creating their own image, not taking their cues from other acts or waiting around for the industry to endorse them. I still wonder if there might be an art school thing going on, with them and their agency. Maybe they’re not promoting themselves just for the sake of fame, they’re also promoting themselves for all the fun and style they can put into self-promotion. They took to the streets with (self-described) guerrilla theater when they couldn’t get on TV. And their reality show (which I think was online only, on the cheap) played up the girls’ refusal to follow agency instructions. From the fan chants my guess is that their hardcore fans are quite in awe of them. I sort of am too, but nonetheless they do seem disconcertingly benign. I used the word “girls” quite self-consciously (current Crayon Pop ages (in American years), a year after their first single: Gummi 25, Ellin 23, ChoA 23, Way 23, Soyul 22; compare to the Rolling Stones in June 1964, a year after their first single: Bill 27, Charlie 23, Brian 22, Mick 21, Keith 21).

    Oh, and they’ve now become Crayon Fox. (Note how they seem (relatively) less self-consciously comic or camp than JYP & crew or the London Boys.)

  18. For those of you who’ve not been tracking “Bar Bar Bar”‘s journey through the Gaon chart, it’s been interesting and unexpected. Back on June 27, “Bar Bar Bar” entered at an anemic 143, lifted a little to 90 on July 4 on the heels of a Music Core appearance, and then slipped back to 116 on July 11. It was all set to slide precipitously down to the Land Of No Cigars, in the same manner as recent tracks by my faves GLAM, Evol, Tiny-G, Z.Hera, and D-Unit. But another significant event occurred on July 11. The Singles Jukebox reviewed “Bar Bar Bar.” And look what has happened since! On July 18 “Bar Bar Bar” hopped up to 54, and today has bounced and bounded all the way to 18.

    For those of you who think I might be slightly exaggerating the magnetism of the Jukebox, here are some interesting stats. Since April 1 we’ve reviewed approximately 730 songs. A couple of days ago I did a quick run-through of reader votes from that time to this, and these were the tracks that received 15 or more votes. (I’ve adjusted this slightly to account for “Falling In Love” getting a surge over the last two days. And because I ran quickly, I may have overlooked someone.)

    In ascending order:

    Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran “Everything Has Changed” 15 reader votes
    Jessie Ware “Imagine It Was Us” 15 reader votes
    Beyoncé “Grown Woman” 16 reader votes
    Tegan and Sara “Now I’m All Messed Up” 17 reader votes
    Vampire Weekend “Ya Hey” 18 reader votes
    Selena Gomez “Come & Get It” 19 reader votes
    Britney Spears “Ooh La La” 19 reader votes
    Kanye West “Black Skinhead” 19 reader votes
    Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell “Blurred Lines” 19 reader votes
    2NE1 “Falling In Love” 20 reader votes
    Mariah Carey ft. Miguel “#Beautiful” 20 reader votes
    Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams “Get Lucky” 24 reader votes
    Crayon Pop “Bar Bar Bar” 31 reader votes
    Paramore “Still Into You” 63 reader votes

    I love Crayon Pop, but I wouldn’t say I have any idea where these votes are coming from. For instance, 4minute is an internationally famous K-pop group who had their highest-selling hit ever with “What’s Your Name,” which got only 6 reader votes. The wildly notorious T-ara got 7 reader votes for “Countryside Life.” Girl’s Day’s excellent “Expectation” got no reader votes. Did Omonatheydidnt or someone link the Jukebox on a Crayon Pop thread? We’re talking about a group that never previously even charted, and which still isn’t doing mega numbers. (Track has been hovering betw. 10 and 15 on the daily and real-time charts over the last few days, and it looks like that’ll be where it peaks, though TV appearances this weekend may give ’em another bounce or even a breakthrough.) Maybe there’s just something happening with this song, and its dance, and its fandom.

    Btw, if you’re reading this, Maddie, good to see you here.

  19. Oops, mistyped. We’ve reviewed about 230 songs since April 1. (Recalculating, I’d say it’s more like 250.)

  20. I have a hunch we can pin this on the appearance of RKD up there.

  21. @Frank: Nice as it would be to link Bar Bar Bar’s chart success to TSJ, the actual reason the song shot back up the chart is because they performed on the popular program ‘Sketchbook’ on July 12; launching them into Melon’s top 40 for the first time. Around the same time the song also started going slightly viral around the korean web (dance covers like this:

  22. I actually didn’t share the Crayon Pop link around at all! So I’m not sure how it got all the high reader votes. Probably just because it’s flawless.

    By the way, Frank, I love how you know all the flawless flop K-pop groups. Don’t you just love D-Unit? “Luv Me” is perfection.

  23. But Saiid, would Sketchbook even have given Crayon Pop the gig if their booker hadn’t seen that we’d reviewed the track? And if TSJ is so insignificant, why is the Korean music biz trying to game our readers’ ratings? (Up to 33 votes now.) Answer me that.

    Seriously, Sketchbook actually ran on July 13, which means it would have had almost nothing to do with the swerve up from 116 to 54, since the rankings published on July 18 covered the period from July 7 to July 13. So the sea change was well underway, though Sketchbook subsequently helped the process along.

    That Sketchbook performance is especially worth watching because it goes full-length, so you get to see Crayon Pop charge across the stage in formation near the end, and they do the double-time piston as well as the single-time (sometimes they leave the former out in favor of simpler sideways hops). And there are some actual live vocals!

    Jacques, to my embarrassment I forgot to include ChoColat in my list of flawless flops. Not to mention flawless failures of yesteryear like Leader’S, Flashe, Chi Chi, and New.F.O. That whole D-Unit EP is excellent. One of my lj buds was angry that “Stay Alive” bites Wiz Khalifa biting the Almighty R.S.O’s “One In The Chamba,” but I like how “Stay Alive” adds a bright lift to what was originally relentless.

  24. Frank, you’re my soul mate!

    I can’t believe you know Leader’S! I thought I was the only one.

    Since you’re REALLY getting down to the bottom of the barrel with the likes of Leader’S and Flashe, I’ll dust off a few of my own.

    Do you know Blady?

    Or my second favorite flop K-pop band of all time, INY?

    INY is everything. They were my fave nobodies until Crayon Pop changed the game forever with “Bing Bing.”

  25. “Korean music biz”? These are almost certainly drive-by Googling stans. 31 is an incredibly low number by drive-by stan standards, anyway.

  26. Katherine, I was joking! That paragraph was my parody of Netizenbuzz. I’ve been reading too many K-pop threads, which are pretty much all conspiracy theory all the time.

    @Jacques. Yes, Blady! That was Shinsadong Tiger product, right? I gave ’em an honorable mention when I posted my No Tiers For The Creatures Of The Night playlist. I remember promo copy praising them for the simplicity of their dances, saying that the simplicity made the dances accessible to fans.

    But INY I missed. I know I listened to “Cool” when it came out, but I don’t remember it. In the “Bar Bar Bar” MV, Crayon Pop seem to have based their training suits on INY’s hair colors.

  27. @Frank I wasn’t talking about Sketchbook in relation to Gaon, but to their performance on the real-time charts (MelOn, etc). It wasn’t top 40 on MelOn until after Sketchbook. You are right however in that the song was already picking up steam before then.

  28. It’s number three on the Naver charts right now.

  29. Now up to #2. Amazing. I just checked Instiz, and it’s in the top 5 on all the daily and real-time charts except for Monkey3’s daily, where it’s only #8 – but it’s #1 on Monkey2’s real-time.

    The reason I’m making a big deal of this is that, if this holds up for the week (and we won’t really know until the Thursday after next), Crayon Pop won’t just be the first idol group to slow-build a song in a while, or the first tiny-label group to hit in a while, or the first that the Singles Jukebox has propelled to the top (okay, I gotta stop with these jokes). They’ll be the only one other than Apink of the idol groups who have debuted in the last two-and-a-half years to have a top 5 single. (And Apink’s breakthrough was just this week!) I don’t mean the only one to debut with a top 5 single (and this isn’t Crayon Pop’s debut anyway), but to have a top 5 single at all. B1A4 haven’t, B.A.P haven’t, EXO haven’t (well, apparently they have in China, but haven’t come close in Korea), Block B haven’t. Some “indie” groups from talent-show hell have hit, some successful ballad singers may be new (I haven’t been tracking them), and solo acts Ailee and Lee Hi have gone #1 (though whether they’re “idol” is somewhat iffy), but fame only has a limited number of slots, and among the K-pop idol groups, the Classes Of 2007-2010 have been holding them.

    (And if, as Katherine assures us is quite probable, those many reader votes “Bar Bar Bar” got were primarily from drive-by Googlers, those votes were an indication that this situation was special. Not that two weeks ago there were more Crayon Pop fans than 4minute fans or 2NE1 fans, or that Crayon Pop’s fans care more, but that they were going to stand for Crayon Pop wherever they could, even on a site like Jukebox that’s far from the beaten K-pop path. Whereas 2NE1 fans and 4minute fans probably don’t feel they need to make a point.)

  30. #1 on Melon!

  31. Now trying to take the phenomenon global, and featuring Gangnam Style references:

  32. I’m sorry, this was too good not to share. Adorable elementary school class in Korea performing a recorder version of “Bar Bar Bar.”

  33. Wow. So is the song at full-on “Call Me Maybe” style meme status in Korea now?

  34. ‘@Kangnam elementary school’

    c’mon, that’s just a liiiiiiiiittle too close

  35. It was huge a few months ago, to the point where it even got an SNL parody sketch: that was probably its peak, though. I do think that at the point the song is pretty well-known, in the same way “Call Me Maybe” is part of the American pop canon now.