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Thursday, January 12, 2012

KOREAN ROCK: The Ju Ju Club (1996~2000) (1)

Korea, 1996 and the Ju Ju Club 


16/20:  1996 Debut Album by the Ju Ju Club
(Release date: 10.1.1996/The Rock Records)

In 1996, the Ju Ju Club (or Juju Club), a new rock band, suddenly appeared in the Korean music industry, seemingly out of nowhere.  The band consisted of Ju Dain (lead vocalist), Ju Seunghyeong (lead guitarist), and Ju Seunghwan (bassist and drummer).1  The Ju Ju Club literally shook up the country with the title song from their debut album, 16/20.  You can hear an unusual voice at the start of the song – it seems as if Donald Duck is yodeling or something.  Then the song goes:  Yo, shocking, gimme love, gimme love, gimme love.  Yo, shocking, gimme love, gimme love, gimme love. A-ya-ya-ya, shocking,  shocking.  A-ya-ya-ya, shocking,  shocking….   Yes, it was shocking indeed.  Shocking was her voice upon first listen and shocking was the lyrics considering the societal cultural practices and lived values back then in Korea.

In 1996, Korea was still in the transitional, pseudo-democratic, period from military dictatorship (1961~1987) to democracy (1998~2008)2 – pro status-quo, if you will.  Existing, old cultural and social values were still there; yet, the arrivals of totally new cultural and social dynamics were drawing near.  The Taiji Boys or Seo Taiji and the Boys (서태지와 아이들, Seo Taejiwa Aideul, 1992~1996) can be interpreted as the lived-allegory of that era.  Their music and appearances were unconventional and not a few of their lyrics were critical of the systems and structures of Korean society, hence brought controversy within ultra-conservative authoritarian Korea most of time.  Their song, “The Unbearable Times” (시대유감, Sidae Yugam, 1995), is considered to unintentionally have triggered momentum toward the abolition of the powerful bureaucratic system of pre-censorship practiced throughout the dictatorial era up until then.  Yet, during that era, even the Taiji Boys had to give up their signature deep dyed-hair (in loud pink or green) to step up to the podium, all dressed in black suits, to announce their disbandment.   


1.  Ju Dain’s birth name is Kim Sumin.  The Ju brothers found her a new stage name to maintain the essence of the band’s original name, the Ju Ju Band, which was named after the brothers’ surname – Ju.  The Ju Ju Band was a two-person band and released two albums; but they never earned mass appeal as they were too much into hard-core rock music and jazz.  Choi Seongweon, a former member of the legendary Korean rock band, Deulgukhwa (들국화, "Wild Chrysanthemum"), introduced Ju Dain to the Ju brothers and the band eventually rose to fame after she joined the band and changed their genre to modern rock.  
2.  South Korean democracy and economy were stabilized during Kim Dae-jung government (1998~2003) and blossomed in Roh Moo-hyun government (2003~2008).


1996 was the year lots of rookie pop groups struggled to fill the void left by the departure of the Taiji Boys and the majority of them concentrated their efforts on dancing rather than singing.  So when the Ju Ju Club popped into the 1996’s Korean music industry, they came across to the crowd as the sun among the inferior planets. Especially, the band’s female lead vocalist, Ju Dain instantly grabbed the audience’s attention with her peculiar, unique voice.3  

The song, “16/20,” which is also the title of their debut album, is about a 20-year-old woman’s shocking encounter with a 16-year-old boy who had been disguising himself as her age… on line and then on the phone.  In the music video, you can see Ju Dain singing at a computer desk – this implies the woman had been chatting with the boy on line.  In 1996, the uses of personal computer communications, not the sales of personal computers, increased dramatically in spite of Korea’s sliding economy.4  And then, the song reveals that the woman and the boy had grown on each other, so they had exchanged their phone numbers and spoken to each other over the phone.   The song, “16/20,” was right on money reflecting the changes in the pattern of socializing dynamics – socializing through the phone or computer monitor – that were occurring within Korea at that time.  (If you want to watch the following video clips in HD full screen, click on the titles on screen or double-click the clips.)



[MV] The Ju Ju Club: 16/20 (1996)



The song also portrays the prevailing standards in the domains of love, dating, or even marriage, widely accepted in Korea back then.  Just listen to the song - the woman was so shocked when she found out the man she had been chatting with on line and was going to go out with was in fact a teenager.  Please beware this song is not about dating someone underage but about dating a younger guy or an older woman.

Unlike nowadays, it was considered almost as a sin, not literally but figuratively speaking, when an older woman dated a younger guy.  I have an example in my immediate family – my parents.  My mom is three years (on paper, and one year in real life) older than my dad but it had been a secret kept from me and my siblings until my brother chanced to overhear some friend of my dad talking about the secret at my grandma’s funeral – about how adamant Grandma was when she was against their relationship only because Mom is older than Dad.  Of course, Korean Generation X’ers are less conventional and traditional than my parents’ generation, but they still were a transitional generation between old and new at that time.

The Ju Ju Club was the second male rock band featuring a female lead vocalist in Korean history – the first was the Pipi Band (1995~1997) – and there’s been a multitude of male rock bands with female singers ever since.5


3.  She was nicknamed “Korean Cranberries,” in which the word Cranberries refers to Dolores O’Riordan.  Apparently, the Ju Ju Club is one of many artists influenced by O'Riordan and Alanis Morissette as they gave special thanks to them in the album, along with Blondie and the Radiohead, for having been their musical inspirations.
4.  Korea faced an international financial crisis at the end of 1997, which had ended in 2001. 
5. To watch their music videos, click the links:
       The Pipi Band (1995~1997):  Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)
      The Ju Ju Club (1996~2000)
      Jaurim (1997~present)
      The The (1997~present):  Delight
      Huckleberry Finn (1997~present):  Bitsori (The Sound of Falling Rain)
      The 3rd Line Butterfly (1999~present) :   Gipeun Bam Angae Sok
                                                                         (In the Deep Foggy Night)
      The Cherry Filter (2000~present):  Nangman Goyangi (The Romantic Cat)
      The Loveholic (2002~2007):  Hwabun (The Flowerpot)
      ● Nastyona (2002~present):  Nae Gyeote Isseojweo (Please Stay by My Side)
      The Rumble Fish (2004~2010):  Yegam Joeun Nal 
                                                        (Something Good Will Happen Today)



Lyrics:  16/20                                                    Translated by ONSEMIRO

Yo, shoking!  Give me love, give me love, give me love  (x2)

(Male) na ije  yeolyeseot neo!          (Female) seumusariya  (x2)
            I’m now 16 (and) you (are)!                   20 years old

Ayayaya, shocking, shocking!  (x4)

Neon jeonhwaro nae naira mareul haetjana (Give me love)
You said, on the phone, you’re my age (Give me love)
nan nega ireoke eoriljureun mollasseo (Give me love)
I didn’t know you’re this young (Give me love)

Ayayaya, shocking, shocking!  (x4)

nan neoege ihaehae dallago mareul hajin aneulggeoya
I won’t ask for your understanding
neol boneun ireon nae maeumeul neon ihaehaeyamanae
You gotta understand how I feel when I see you
hajiman jigeumeun sireodo eonjenga nega deo keosseul ddae
Even though I don’t like you now, but when you get older….
geu ddaereul gidarilgge geuddaen naega neol buddeulji molla
Till then I’ll wait; who knows, I’ll be begging you to stay
naegen eorin neoneun piryo eopsseo  aeini piryohae
But you’re too young to date when I need a boyfriend

nan namdeureun singyeong sseugo saljin ana
I don’t care what others think of me
hajiman urireul chingudeuri bondamyeon
But if my friends see us
nareul yokalggeoya shocking(x2)
They will bash me, shocking (x2)
byeonmyeongeul haeboado shocking (x2)     
whatever my excuse is, shocking (x2)
neoe moksorineun shocking (x2)   nega anieosse shocking (x2)  
Your voice was, shocking (x2), not you, shocking (x2)

nan neoege ihaehae dallago mareul hajin aneulggeoya
I won’t ask for your understanding
neol boneun ireon nae maeumeul neon ihaehaeyamanae
You gotta understand how I feel when I see you
hajiman jigeumeun sireodo eonjenga nega deo keosseul ddae
Even though I don’t like you now, but when you get older….
geu ddaerul gidarilgge geuddaen naega neol buddeulji molla
Till then I’ll wait; who knows, I’ll be begging you to stay
naegen eorin neoneun piryo eopsseo  aeini piryohae
But I don’t need you now; I need a boyfriend



KOREA, 1996 AND THE JU JU CLUB 

1 comment:

  1. So at last I know what 16/20 means :P thanks !

    ReplyDelete

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