Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Wee Meng Chee, better known as Malaysia’s controversial rapper and Chinese director Namewee, didn’t think his new song containing Malaysia’s “very, very rich” Chinese elite would unleash a storm of thousands of global anger of Blinks.
“Blink” is the official name of the most dedicated fans of South Korean K-pop superstars Blackpink, currently considered the best-selling group of girls in the world. In the exaggerated language of the truly obsessed, Blinks says that “he will always protect and love Blackpink under no circumstances.”
This time, Blinks in Malaysia and around the world got upset with a line from the latest parody song of Namewee: You Know Who Is My Father? released on YouTube on May 28th. They made a universal hit with the song, performed in a Creole mix of Malaysia’s major languages (Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese and Tamil dialects) and English known as “Manglish”, as misogynistic and sexist.
Even though lightly dressed women drink and spin around in a nightclub, the rapper sings “look, always look at Blackpink and masturbate.” The line is a riff on working-class Malaysian men who, unlike the brutal main character and brutal in the music video, drive cheap cars and can only dream of having an exaggerated lifestyle.
Amid controversy, the song garnered 4.5 million views and more than 68,000 comments in less than two weeks. Many accused Namewee of sexism and disrespect for women and asked the rapper to apologize for discrediting the group.
But those comments only made Namewee push his detractors further. “Thanks for giving me a percentage of views, go on! How do you like this than that,” the rapper wrote, referring to Blackpink’s hit song: How You Like That.
Namewee has made a name for himself, courting the controversy and confusing the pens of Malaysian authorities and fans.
The Malaysian-born artist first caught attention in 2007 due to a provocative song he produced while studying in Taiwan: I Love My Country, Negarakuku, a play with the title of the anthem Malaysian national that includes local “penis” slang. The video was supposed to be a cheerful insight into the challenges facing Malaysia’s Chinese minority in the predominantly Muslim Muslim country, but it almost blamed it under the Colonial-era Sedition Act. He was forced to apologize officially and withdraw the YouTube song.
Depending on who you ask, Namewee isn’t just a provocateur.
For some, he is a fearless activist, a bold filmmaker, a comedian with a shrewd sense of humor.
For others, he is a troublemaker of racial controversy.
Last year, members of the ruling coalition’s youth wing, as well as an association of local artists, complained to police about their film Babi in Malay for “pig,” a word often used. used as a racial insult in multiethnic Malaysia), which represents a school riot that local authorities allegedly tried to cover up 20 years ago for fear of igniting racial tensions. Many of Malaysia’s ethnic minorities live under a social contract that defends the rights of most Malaysian ethnic groups.
Namewee has plundered the greenhouse world of K-pop before. In a 2015 video, K-pop Idol, which has been seen 6.7 million times, the rapper has plastic surgery and becomes a beautiful Korean pop star.
But in you do you know who my father is? – sponsored by an online casino – does not target K-pop or Blackpink, but the Malaysian Chinese elites of the new rich, delivered in a style that is no different from South Korea’s Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy , supplier of the mega-hits Gangnam Style and Daddy.
In fact, beneath the satire lies a serious social message.
Namewee is aware of their intentions in the video description. He highlights what he calls “the morale of the song” with a well-known social comment: “Don’t play playing with rich people, they can PIAK [“hit”] face when they want, even in the steam restaurant. “This is a reference to an incident in Kuala Lumpur in January when two wealthy customers spat at a local restaurant.
But Namewee’s parody of Malaysia’s elite didn’t sit well with Blackpink fans.
“Very local references to global icons are being immediately examined by Blackpink’s global fan base,” said Liew Kai Khiun, an independent researcher at Singapore-based transnational cultural studies and a member of the group’s committee. of inter-Asian popular music studios, he told Al Jazeera. “Following any mention and reference to K-pop idols is also part of the emotional commitment of the fans.”
In addition to Malaysians, thousands of blinkers from places as diverse as Turkey and Latin America flooded the comment section of Namewee’s video, telling her to “respect Blackpink” and “respect women.” One user, Jendukie, advised the rapper to be ready to face the consequences, because “you get hurt with the wrong fandom.”
Don’t mess with the army
According to a 2020 survey conducted by #KPopTwitter, Malaysia is the seventh strongest K-pop market in the world. K-pop in Malaysia is huge and its most important acts are promoted non-stop.
Joanne BY Lim, an associate professor of cultural studies at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia, and co-editor of The Korean Wave in Southeast Asia, believes the current success of K-pop is due to online streaming after K -pop lost its Malaysian fan base. thanks to its repetitive formats towards the end of the 2010s.
A key strategy was the use of social media to engage the group’s most dedicated fans in the decision-making of the bands and producers.
“The ability to communicate with individuals with like-minded ideas (and until recently, chatting directly with groups) greatly altered the K-pop experience for fans, while providing them with a true sense of belonging to this community.” , Lim told Al Jazeera.
When popular groups like Blackpink and BTS began collaborating with American producers using English instead of the basic Korean lyrics of the genre, K-pop became even more globalized, amassing a legion of fans.
In the latest Namewee song, Lim sees two dynamics at play. On the one hand, Blinks ’accusations seem to be an overreaction to the song as they don’t understand his irony. On the other hand, his response has opened the door to the condemnation of sexual harassment.
“If we focus on the lyrics, this dissent can be expected to be inspired by many recent moves ranging from #MeToo to #MakeSchoolsASaferPlace, so a 17-year-old Malaysian student filed a police report against her teacher for alleged rape joke during class, provoking a debate about misogyny in Malaysia, “Lim said.
Cleaning your car
Critics of K-pop culture have often criticized the sexualization of women and their “toxic” fandom culture. So Namewee is told that “respect” Blackpink has more than a touch of hypocrisy. Cultural analyst Lim believes that “the image of the K-pop star tends to objectify women,” as it adapts to the demands of the global pop music market.
In more conservative Malaysia, the success of K-pop, and Blackpink in particular, has also boosted local versions of songs and videos.
“Nasyid” pop groups (Islamic a cappella singing) have produced hit versions of K-pop hits adapted to Malaysian Muslim sensibilities.
“By changing the lyrics, we make it easier for children to choose a more positive form of entertainment,” said Usamah Kamaruzaman, a sound engineer and spokesman for Tarbiah Sentap Records, which features artists such as The Faith, Syed Salahuddin, The Truth, and Rabithah.
The latter released Hatiku (My Heart), an “Islamic” version of Blackpink and Selena Gómez’s ice cream hit, Ice Cream, in October 2020, which transformed the original lyrics full of sexual innuendos into a declaration of love for Allah in Malay, getting over 280,000 views in the first couple of weeks after being posted on YouTube.
It’s unclear if the clean-cut nasyid K-pop went under the Blinks ’radar because of the language barrier.
For Namewee, however, the opinions of You Know Who Is My Father? have risen amid Blinks online protests.
Namewee later deleted the word “masturbate” from the English and Malay subtitles of the video.
But he kept it to the Mandarin voice and subtitles, and the Blinks continued to rage.
On Monday, the video was removed from YouTube for violating the regulations, leaving only a lyrics-only version and a video on how the song was made on the site.
User Jendukie may have been right: Blinks’ reach is global and they really are the “wrong fandom” that can be wrapped up even for an experienced provocateur like Namewee.