The Korean Cinema's Niche Musicals

The best thing about doing karaoke at Sing Sing in New York City is the collection of visuals accompanying the songs. It’s as though sometime in 1992 someone gave an out of work Hollywood director $10,000, six months, and a mandate to make music videos for 1,000 popular karaoke songs. My favorite is probably Like a Rolling Stone, since the protagonist is the quintessential hobo, though the aesthetic is mid 1980s. Only a Val Kilmer cameo could improve upon it.

What I never knew, until doing karaoke with my sister in Korea Town, Los Angeles, is that certain immigrant owned karaoke parlors show a different set of videos, apparently produced in Seoul. It is pretty damned interesting to see how they interpret the lyrics of famous American songs. The video for Scenes from an Italian Restaurant was set in Australia — is that the easiest place for Korean production companies to find white actors? — while Bob Seger’s Against the Wind took place in a hard core Korean penitentiary (you’ll not find spoilers here, though if you want to see the flick it’s playing now and indefinitely at Cafeoke Ding Dong Dang. They don’t sell beer, so be sure to bring a sweatshirt or messenger bag big enough to smuggle in cans of Modelo purchased at the Circle K across the street. If the proprietors catch you, warn you that the police come around every night to ensure there isn’t any alcohol, and inform you that in twenty minutes they’re going to return for all the beer, so you’d better finish it, they’re bluffing, though your group not knowing that and finishing all the beer in twenty minutes actually works out decently well.)

They say that those who can’t do, teach. I aspire to produce my own original set of karaoke videos, but that will take years, so if there’s any obscure university intent on giving out grants for research into multiculturalism, I’d be happy to study what’s already out there in the meantime, and even to teach the most peripheral class ever to appear on a college syllabus.