YouTube held it’s first ever music awards on November 3rd, which in all respects was a lackluster affair, though not for want of trying. Among the impromptu music videos and weird stand-up by the host, Video of the Year was one of the big prizes. People spent weeks voting for their favorites to win the category, between Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and numerous other artists.
The big winners? Korean supergroup Girl’s Generation with their song I Got a Boy. And it opened up a whole new can of worms that no one saw coming and yet surprised no one.
While Girls Generation accepted their award graciously, with member Tiffany standing up and taking the little trophy, there was no applause, there was no fanfare. In fact, the opposite — hundreds of people took to Twitter to voice their anger. Many questioned how the group could even win if this was “America” while others wondered how we hadn’t “nuked” them yet. Some implied that they were Japanese or Chinese while others just referred to derogatory Asian stereotypes.
Here’s the thing that really annoys me. We live in a global community now, we live in a world where American and British culture are not the norms for everyone. I spend my time listening to music in other languages I only have basic grasp of but strive to understand the culture context and significance of. I know plenty of friends whose musical interests include German and Dutch rap, Bollywood soundtracks, Russian rock, sometimes genres I’ve never heard of from countries I’ve only seen on maps.
Yes, people will always want to hear music in their own language, as they should. Music is as much a part of a cultural identity as language and history. But to deny an entire country the right to celebrate their own cultural identity just because its foreign to you is incredibly arrogant and stupid. The world listens to way more than just American music and to assume that everyone should kowtow to your way of life is immensely small minded. The K-Pop industry is one of the biggest, most affluent music industries in the world, even compared to our own and that’s not changing anytime soon.
This is a fact that is immediately obvious. How? Because most Korean music videos are not covered in product placement like the recent American fare is. Not to mention the hysterically bad attempts to get a hashtag trending on Twitter by putting them all over your video or song title. They don’t all need sponsors to make high quality videos. They have tighter dancing skills and stronger direction than may of the music videos produced. The music fandom in Korean is huge — of course they would go ahead and vote for their favorite compulsively.
The big question still remains — why was there so much anger attached to this win? Was it because specific favorites lost to a mostly unknown band? Yes, to a point. Is it racism? Maybe for some but it’s not something you could say for every person who posted. Was it out of confusion that turned into anger? Also a strong possibility too.
Maybe it was a reminder that the American music industry isn’t always going to be on top and that there are real rivals. Maybe it’s the knowledge that the global stage is bigger than One Direction or Katy Perry and the musical world is moving away without those fans. Or, you know, haters gonna hate.