One nice thing about my future former school that I will cease to work at this coming March, is that English popsongs are part of the curriculum. Usually before we start class we listen to a pop song and then we start the lesson. It gives the students a nice little break before we start busting their balls over learning English.
I have never been given the responsibility to choose the pop songs. I think that is both a good and a bad thing. The good about it is that I won't end up getting my feelings hurt if they don't like the songs I choose. The bad about it is that thirty and forty something Korean English teachers rarely choose things that could be considered hip. Alas, the students have been snookered into thinking that The Carpenters, or Westlife covers of ABBA songs are somehow popular somewhere.
The absolute worst thing that I have encountered in all of this is something called "A Teens," which is apparently a Swedish Boy and Girl group that does a cover of Elvis's "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You." Now the A Teens are kind of attractive, and they serve as a nice goal of English proficiency for ESL learners, but for fucks sake, Elvis was one of the inventors of pop music at least let the kids learn some real culture. (Although the kids do whinge a bit if they don't get the group with name on the lyric sheet - yes the lyric sheet says "I Can't Help Falling in Love - A Teens - eye roll.
I shouldn't be too harsh. There is one lady in our school who chooses things by artists who have made music this decade. Her choices are pretty hip from a perspective. Jason Mraz is kind of popular in Korea. I recognize his talents as an artist, but I can't say that I enjoy his music. It is kind of in the vein of The Dave Mathews Band. The Dave Mathews Band used to drive me fucking insane because when I was in college people seemed to loose their shit pretty easily over The Dave Mathews Band and I had no idea why. The Dave Mathews Band is probably the most boring shit I have ever heard. They can only be outdone in the boring shit category possibly only by Blues Traveler, whose "Runaround," got stuck in my head one time; so I was like, "Hey Blues Traveler, I wonder if they are still alive," so I checked out their wikipedia page, and found that yes indeed one member died, but soon after I passed out on my keyboard from boredom and my computer crashed. And don't get me started about The Barenaked Ladies. So yes Jason Mraz, I group you together with all of this crap.
I'm probably going to get into trouble for this next paragraph where I adulate the current Billboard 1 and 2 songs after the last paragraph where I condemned the hardtack rock gods of people who really don't care what goes in their ears, but I have to say that Katy Perry's Firework, and Bruno Mars's Grenade are pretty awesome songs for Korean kids to learn.
I'd warn against showing the video to kids. There are some scenes that people might consider racy. Katy Perry has Roman candle boobs in the video, then there are some girls in bikinis, and then two dudes start kissing. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for gay people, but the principal of a Korean public elementary or middle school might not be. (It might make for a nice topic in an adult class though.) The overall message of Firework encourages kids to be comfortable with who they are and that they should love themselves even if they are a little different, and that's a pretty good message for kids in any country to hear. Also the hook is pretty addictive so it can get stuck in kids' heads pretty easily and voila they are practicing English and they don't realize it.
This song is just pretty cool. I like the line
- Black, Black, Black and blue beat me till I'm numb
- Tell the devil I said hey when you go back to where you're from.
I bust that out for the kids, and then I asked them where she was from, and they said "Hell." These are some pretty cool kids in my opinion. (I've been teaching these songs by pulling out a few expressions or cliches that might be in the lyrics and then explaining the expressions, and having the kids yell when they hear the magic work...kind of like Pee Wee Herman. Grenade starts out with the idiom, "Easy come, easy go." )
By the way, a good idea for finding pop songs is to look at the Billboard website to see what is number 1, it can keep the kids up to speed on what's popular overseas. Actually with "Grenade" and "Firework," it works out kind of well. For the longest time Ke$ha's "Tic Toc," was number 1, but there is just some inappropriate stuff in there, so you gotta use some discretion. Another good example is Ceelo's "Fuck You." Sure Ceelo is pretty awesome (Check Gnarles Barkley and one of my personal power songs, "Liberation," on Outkast's Aquemeni album) , and "Fuck You," is a pretty awesome song, but......I really don't have to fucking explain this one. Here's "Grenade:"