After a long 80-days overseas travelling in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, I’m back. In one piece too … although initially sans my luggage, but that’s since been resolved. Phew. However, things are not back to normal here, at least not yet. I’m still busy “unpacking” my life, and transitioning to a new everyday work computer, complete with Windows 10. It’s one of those things which you’re glad only happens once every … I dunno … five years or so?
However, instead of remaining ever-silent, I decided I’d rather embarrass myself a little by admitting that I’m a sucker for K-pop (as well as their reality/variety TV shows) and that was one of the reasons I visited South Korea earlier on in the year. In fact, I’ve spent many good hours during my PhD as well as travelling in planes indulging in their booming cultural exports. I have my favourites, and YouTube certainly knows it.
Just yesterday, TWICE officially launched their first full-length album titled Twicetagram, a social-media inspired album that references their official Instagram account name. At the same time, the music video for the title song Likey was released on YouTube. At the time, I had just finished building my new machine, and was going to YouTube to find something to listen to. While TWICE isn’t on top of my preference list, they’re still pretty popular, so it’ll do …
The Korean music industry is highly competitive space where, on a weekly basis, groups battle it out to reach the top on chart shows which include live performances. A few groups have legendary status, mainly due to the strength of their fanbase which carefully and strategically cultivated through a mixture of fan service, promotion through variety TV shows showing diverse sides of the group members, tie-in bonuses/collectibles when purchasing official merchandise (e.g. access to exclusive fan-club message-boards). It also boils down to strategy and timing as well, as bands will choose to promote songs for a number of weeks, and if you “overlap” with them, you are essentially doing battle with them. It would be tough if you were making a comeback while GFRIEND were promoting, for example.
That being said, this song has quite an addictive, catchy electro-pop melody which I quite like, which is no surprise as it was composed by Black Eyed Pilseung (a chart-topping-song machine) and Jeon Goon. In recognition of the importance of international fans, they’ve also nicely added official English subtitles, which helps.
The song itself seems to be an accurate reflection of the vanity of immediate social-media-based living. While on the one hand, “it takes so much effort to get the perfect look/but it is something I can never give up.” It makes me a little sad, on reflection, that people are literally living for someone to “press hard/on that cute red heart down there.” Apparently, despite this, “… I like it, even if I can’t sleep, even if I run late, like it anyway.” There’s no space for reality, as “I feel melancholy today, pretend I’m not, but I still feel sad.” On a more superficial level, the clip itself works as a promotion of their group and encourages people to give them a like on their Instagram account.
For those who’ve been to South Korea or have watched their TV, it seems quite an accurate portrayal of the “runaway” competition that is one’s appearance. Whether it be for a job, or a date, it’s pretty stiff competition in South Korea and looks matter. The song itself doesn’t seem to pass much of a judgement on this – while it doesn’t condemn the whole fake lifestyle, it acknowledges some of the sacrifices although paints them as a conscious choice. It is, however, a pretty stark reminder of just where technology has gotten us with the advent of social media influence, and the need to put things into perspective. Those little red hearts aren’t really that important, right?
Unfortunately, as I was only using YouTube, the quality of the clip was actually a little soft and noisy for my liking. That’s no surprise, with an average bitrate of just 2592kbit/s on the H.264 video stream, and 125kbit/s on the audio. It seems that YouTube has been reducing the video bitrate somewhat in recent years – I remember seeing ~6000kbit/s in previous years but not so much now. Part of this might be attributed to better video coding techniques, but also maybe a desire to save bandwidth and storage space (and hence, reduce delivery costs). Unfortunately, the quality suffers as a result and it looks soft overall. Some of it might be down to processing and artistic license, but it’s also pretty annoying.
The most interesting part of the music video was the actual locations. In the past, I carefully watched some of Pharell Williams’ 24 hours of Happy clip and mapped the locations that were passed. That proved to be a rather interesting exercise, since there was a “continuum” in that video set, in the sense that if you could pin down one location, the shooting continued almost continuously up or down the street and around street corners, making tracking the locations easy. Clips that chop and change between scenes are less easy.
Often I watch K-pop clips and remark to myself “I know where this is!” But this clip is different – it wasn’t shot in South Korea. Just watching the clip provided many visual hints as to the exact shooing locations, almost all of which are contained within Vancouver and Richmond, BC, Canada – places I’ve never been to. It’s almost like going on holiday through watching the video clip.
Positively Identified Landmarks:
- Danny’s Inn (W Cordova St)
- Vancouver Lookout
- George’s Taverna in Steveston
- Uniques Antiques, Frank & Oak, Gastown
- Loki Creative (W Cordova St)
- The Candy Dish
- Stepin’ Out (3991 Moncton St), xyclo
- Marine Garage (Seppo’s Automotive)
- Carall Station
- Angel Fabric Paints & Art (Carall St)
- Chevron (View from Stanley Park Drive which matches the clip 1:1 – thanks Google Streetview! You can see the bench too!)
- Water St. Cafe, Karma.
- Hybrid underground/above ground train with LIM? Carriage 153, Door F D2 (Likely Candidate: Vancouver Skytrain, Expo or Millenium lines, probably Bombardier Innovia ART Metro 100). Note circular air vents.
- Super Grocer & Pharmacy
All of these locations are easily found just by entering it into a search on Google Maps, so no links are provided for most. The one exception is the view from Stanley Park Drive confirmed by Google Streetview which took some sleuthing, because I had to compare the visual arrangement of the Chevron gas station with Vancouver Lookout Tower to determine which possible bearing would result in the given view. As it turns out, I managed to get to the bench they sat on just by some thought.
- School with Terry Fox Run (Foundation?) Banner, Second in Provincial Championships for Track and Field 2016/2017
- Fish & Chips Doner Burgers … (101 ?, Red EXIT sign)
- Alleyway with bins (Car Share, Revolution Resource Recovery bins 56524)
- Colourful alleyway
- Skate park with geese
- Wharf (Advert for Fall Festival of the Arts, White Rock)
Of course, not all locations were determined with a few clues that locals might be able to pin down the location to. But seeing as I’ve never been to Canada before, it’s good that I’ve even managed to pin down as many locations as I did.
It’s TWICE. It’s new. It’s catchy. It’s written by a legend. It’s filmed in Canada (of all places). It’s an accurate reflection of the crazy social-media riddled society where people put in effort and live for the likes. Best of luck to them on the charts this week.
But YouTube should pick up its game when it comes to video bitrates …
Normal service should resume within a few weeks …