May 2

The weird and wonderful American karaoke videos of South Korea

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The weird and wonderful American karaoke videos of South Korea

Go to the basement of a commercial building in Seoul, down the stairwell with a row of about a dozen signs with images of slender women, microphones, and hearts, and you will find yourself in a world of karaoke establishments. Inside a room with peeling rose-printed wallpaper, sit on the couch and order some old favorites after figuring out how to work the remote control selector. “Sweet Home Alabama” comes on, and a video of a snake charmer displays on the TV set.

“Sweet Home Alabama” in India. “Smoke on the Water” in China. “Empire State of Mind” at a rural train station in Korea. The videos that go with foreign songs in Korean karaokes can be strange.

Korean songs usually well-produced music videos made specially for the song, as do Chinese songs. But for American songs, the videos are just stock footage. As Kristin Hunt lays out in a history of karaoke videos, the American industry cut budgets and stopped producing original KTV videos in the ’90’s. Instead they have random scenes of beaches, underwater life, city life, nature, and many, many places around the world.

For songs about very specific locations or topics, the contrast between the lyrics and imagery can be funny.

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Smells Like Teen Spirit: There’s nothing you associate more with teenage angst and violence than a hot air balloon show.
One difference I can recall with karaoke in China is that most of the songs had real videos. The video for “Empire State of Mind” in China actually used video from the song being performed in concert.
Empire State of Mind: One difference I can recall with karaoke in China is that most of the songs had real videos. The video for “Empire State of Mind” in China actually used video from the song being performed in concert.
The Moon Represents My Heart: “The Moon Represents My Heart,” a Chinese love song that has been one of the most popular since the 1970’s, began with an Indian wedding, which seemed relevant enough.
The Moon Represents My Heart: “The Moon Represents My Heart,” a Chinese love song that has been one of the most popular since the 1970’s, began with an Indian wedding, which seemed relevant enough.
But then it quickly shifted to the Statue of Liberty and New York City.
But then it quickly shifted to the Statue of Liberty and New York City.

Is the stock footage selected at random? Or is there some kind of useless algorithm parsing the lyrics and connecting “Alabama” and homesickness to India?

It’s likely just a strange coincidence, but at two separate karaokes, they showed two separate videos for “Sweet Home Alabama,” both of which began with footage from India.

sweet home alabama
sweet home alabama a1

Later the first video transitioned to the scene of a tropical beach resort.

sweet home 2
bama a2

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Although branded separately, the basement karaokes at this place appeared to be owned by the same people. Customers went to a different karaoke hall to pay. Each karaoke hall had about 3-5 rooms.  By contrast, in popular youth nightlife districts like Hongdae and Itaewon, there are a lot of flashy karaoke halls with many rooms, including rooms with large windows facing the main streets.
Although branded separately, the basement karaokes at this place appeared to be owned by the same people. Customers went to a different karaoke hall to pay. Each karaoke hall had about 3-5 rooms.

By contrast, in popular youth nightlife districts like Hongdae and Itaewon, there are a lot of flashy karaoke halls with many rooms, including rooms with large windows facing the main streets.

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About the Author

Mitchell Blatt is a travel writer, editor, and vlogger who has covered coronavirus in China, the impeachment of Park Geun-hye in Korea, and the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong, among other things. He has been published in the South China Morning Post, USA Today, the Korea Times, The National Interest, The Daily Beast, and many other newspapers and websites. He blogs about his travels at AsitaTravelWriter.com. *********************************************************************************** Follow him on Facebook: Facebook - Mitchell Blatt, Asia Travel Writer************* Follow him on Twitter: Twitter - @MitchBlatt*************************************** Follow him on Instagram: Instagram - @MitchBlatt********************************** Subscribe to his videos on YouTube: YouTube

Mitchell Blatt

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