Given how much kpop and Korean hiphop borrow from other cultures, specifically black culture, I am always pleased when there is some kind of visual reflection or acknowledgement of this fact. And, that in a sense is what Block B did with “Shall We Dance.”
The Godfather theme-like introduction with a solo French-horn pulled me in immediately, at the start of the track. And, then the thumping bassline kicked in, and had me completely sold.
Admittedly, the chorus is a bit underwhelming. However, the tropical and Caribbean influenced beat, prevents the track from ever going uninteresting.
Fun, exciting, and a little quirky, Block B created a summer jam in the middle of freezing winter. But, makes sense, because it’s a reason to dance through the cold streets and stay warm.
There is a shyness in the kpop industry to show non-Koreans/Asians in music videos, in particular people of African descent. A prominent example is BigBang, who may have an all black live band, who are always hidden during their concerts, but can’t name a single music video they’ve made that features a black person?
They however have no issue with using white girls, tho, multiple times. And, that extends to the whole of YG Entertainment, with one or two exceptions. Taeyang, individually has not been afraid to use non-typical dancers.
The same applies to JYP. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single JYP MV with any kind of diversity. But, I’m sure there is an exception or 2, somewhere.
[Update 11-29-17: My, my, my, how could I have forgotten the Wonder Girls collaboration with Akon “Like Money.” It’s an absolute gem, and probably one of my top ten kpop MVs ever! PS: I met Wonder Girls twice because of this single, which was promoted on American radio.]
Commendably, she didn’t just use tokens, but had two of each race in the video. Impressively, as sad as this sounds, she actually had a solo dance break with a non-Korean… fine, a black dancer.
The agencies aren’t the only ones to blame, kpop fans seem to like their music videos with only Koreans/Asians. When Hyuna featured a black male dancer in her “Red” comeback (and not just in the music video, but in the TV broadcast shows as well), a then-popular male Youtuber exclaimed comically in surprise “a black man” when the MV panned to the black dancer.
He and his co-reactioner looked dejectely letdown, as if someone had let the air out of their Asian-persuasion bubble. Ironically, both the YouTuber and his co-reactioner are black males.
That said, major props goes to Jung Yongwha and CNBlue who recently have made at least 2 music videos with a diverse background cast.
In CNBlue’s “Starting Over” the diversity was definitely popping – although it was a Japanese comeback. And, Yongwha also had non-Asians in That Girl. Both MVs came out this year, after the band switched up their sound and style to a more urban R&B feel.
Kpop should continue to embrace diversity, for its own good.
Shall We Dance is from Block B’s 6th mini album called Montage. An album filed with all kinds of tropical and Caribbean vibes and influence.