Warning: The following recap contains lots of pictures!
Now, you know I adore K-Pop. But I’m also not above admitting that K-Pop idols, and/or the companies that control them, can do some fucked-up shit sometimes. And it seems like the order of the day with Wassup is (aside from a tragically outdated slang term as their namesake) cultural appropriation!
Now, before we proceed, let’s talk a bit about cultural appreciation versus appropriation. I’m no expert on the subject, but the following is a pretty quick-and-dirty litmus test that usually works.
- You get the sense that the artist has considerable knowledge and respect for the culture that inspires them
- While there are definite cultural influences in the work, it still stands on its own and is unique to the artist
- The artist avoids emphasis on broad stereotypes and generalizations
- You get the sense that the artist has only a surface knowledge of the culture that inspires them; they seem to treat it as a gimmick or as something “cute” and novel
- Rather than integrating cultural influences into its own sound or aesthetic, the work comes off as a pale imitation of what the artist thinks the culture’s art is like
- The work emphasizes easily-recognized stereotypes or other markers in order grab attention or bolster itself
Obviously, these rules aren’t set in stone and there is a lot of wiggle room, but hopefully you get a general idea.
WASSUP first grabbed the attention of netizens by releasing practice videos showing them “twerking,” or more accurately, attempting to twerk. It was bad, you guys. And not bad meaning good, either. Bad meaning bad.
Among ifans, this naturally spurred a lot of discussion and debate, and more than a little mockery. There was also a fair amount of slut-shaming over at the hive of scum and villainy that is youtube comments, but fortunately, most ifans seemed more interested in pointing and laughing. I can’t imagine this was the response WASSUP’s company hoped for. But you know what they say—any publicity is good publicity! Or is it?
WASSUP also released unimpressive video clips featuring two members, Nari and Nada, dancing and rapping, respectively. Both clips demonstrated that the girls were in way over their heads and had no idea what the fuck they were doing. iFans responded accordingly.
Apparently WASSUP was going for a dancehall concept, but also a twerking concept. Or was it dancehall with twerking? Twerking with dancehall? I’m losing track of cultural art forms to appropriate here.
The group debuted on Show Champion to absolutely no fanfare, and it went as well as you might have imagined.
allkpop reports that “twerk-dols” WASSUP were banned from the three major stations (KBS, SBS, MBC) because their outfits were deemed “too sexual.”
Since it’s old meme day:
Allkpop also drops this amusing little sound byte straight from the horse’s mouth: “It could be a little shocking, but we can put on a unique debut stage. We’ll be completely different from a basic girl group and let Wassup’s own color known. You can look forward to it.”
And that color, it seems, is bright orange:
On the same day this brilliance hit the internet, so did the full “WASSUP” video. The MV was uploaded in glorious 360p and compressed within an inch of its life, serving up a nice dash of 2001 realness to match the band’s name. The low quality also functioned as a harbinger of what was to come the second us poor unfortunate souls hit “play.”
Most of the video takes place at a playground/basketball court on loan from the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. A group of baseball cap-clad male extras sit on the bleachers with a gigantic retro boom box, while the girls frolick in brightly-colored crop tops and Daisy Dukes. This entire scene checks off every “urban/hip-hop/‘hood” stereotype from the 80s and 90s, safely sanitized for the consumption of Korean middle schoolers.
The song sounds like a M.I.A. reject in Korean. “What can you get for ten dollar?” Apparently, this video’s budget and $8 in change.
I don’t really know how to describe the rest except as a mishmash of wiggling butts, weird camera angles, and nonsensical lyrics (and I don’t say that because they’re in a language I don’t speak—they’re universally nonsensical, conveniently spelled out for us onscreen with a bold font ganked right from LJ icons of the mid-2000s):
Halfway through the song we get an extremely embarrassing rap from Nada, featuring gratuitous car porn:
The rap also features a bunch of designer name-dropping “Chanel, Gucci, Louboutin” so you know she’s got street cred.
Oh yeah, there’s some bikes and skateboards in here because they’re like, totally street.
You know, out of context, this totally looks like a Jackass screencap.
We have the world’s most embarrassing conga line:
Clearly there are not enough old memes in here:
And of course, the star of the show, twerking! … Sort of.
Maybe the reason this MV is so low budget is because the company spent it all on chiropractor bills?
During the bridge, the group members chant, “1-2-3-4 We can do it on the floor!”
Girls, I hate to say this, but you can’t even do it standing up.
I’m not the only one suffering here. This girl can’t even look at her own video:
The endurance test that is “WASSUP” mercifully ends at the 3:11 mark, but this feels like the longest MV I have ever watched. And I’ve seen every T-ara MV.
This group, concept, song, and MV are all so full of embarrassment I just don’t even know where to start—the low budget (even by nugu standards), the oompa loompa-lookin’ spray tans, the sad attempts at twerking, the cultural appropriation—it’s just a fucking mess. It’s like layers of mess. There is literally nothing about this that worked, and nothing that was even remotely a good idea.
If WASSUP really wanted to be different from “a basic girl group,” there are numerous ways of doing so without being embarrassing and offensive. Look no further than the far-superior GLAM, Crayon Pop, and Sunny Hill. Unless WASSUP makes a drastic change in image (and a rename) in the near future, I can only hope that they will strut and fret their 3 minutes on the stage and will be seen and heard from no more.