From ‘The next dance fad: Gwiyomi’, 14 April 2013, article by Kezia Toh, Sunday Times
A saccharine-sweet pop tune by a South Korean indie singer has inspired a rash of dance spoofs among K-pop stars. And Singaporeans are getting in on the act. Gwiyomi, a song released earlier this year by Hari, has sparked a popular repertoire of hand gestures.
Performed to the ditty’s lyrics of a girl asking her boyfriend never to leave her, the “gwiyomi” – which means “cutie” – involves index fingers pointing to puffed cheeks, and the miming of bunny ears and heart-shaped signs.
The final flourish? Six light kisses – one for each finger on one hand, and both thumbs.
…Gwiyomi early-adopter (Alvin) Chua says gwiyomi will probably not take off in the way that the “highertempo and more catchy” Gangnam Style did here.
“In countries such as Thailand or Taiwan, it seems to be the norm for girls to ‘act cute’,” he says. “Here in Singapore, they probably view it as being overly vain.”
Somewhere in North Korea a madman is threatening to kickstart nuclear Armageddon and his southern neighbours are not only unfazed by his warmongering, but acting cute with bunny ears and finger smooching, slowly turning the rest of the civilised world into a bunch of giggly pansies. Or maybe that is South Korea’s secret counter to the North’s ballistic aplomb all along; If the North get infected with this craze, you’ll see Pyongyang soldiers saluting their Leader with Nyan Nyat cat poses and too busy gwiyom-ing to start a fight. Either that or the entire nation, bred on austerity and grimness, will barf to death. I wonder if KFC is thinking of using the No. 6 sequence to reboot their ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ campaign. Gwiyomi makes Madonna’s Vogue look like performance art.
Something about acting cute with gestures feels distinctly Japanese, and one can’t help but wonder if K-pop adopted this contagious cute overload from the ‘kawaii’ craze many years back. The Japanese equivalent of gwiyomi was used in 1987 to describe local celebrities with that wide-eyed, deep-dimpled innocence, whose gestures were easily described then as ‘childish’. Today, if you call a Hello Kitty or Gwiyomi hardcore fan ‘childish’, you’ll likely be torn to shreds by the K-pop army with a flurry of cat paws. When I did the Moonwalk in my primary school days, all I got were awe-struck faces. If I do Gwiyomi now, I risk getting a box of lollipops for the remainder of my birthdays.
Similar dance crazes have their roots in Japanese kawaii/anime culture. It has been more than a decade since we were hit by the ‘Para-para’ wave, made popular by Hongkong idol Aaron Kwok. Slighter lower on the ick factor, the para-para at least seems to be a better cardio workout than gwiyomi, though some have complained that it may affect the studies of obsessed teens and isn’t ‘part of our culture’.
Copycat fans like Alvin Chua above suggest that Singaporean girls may find gwiyomi embarrassingly ‘vain’, but I believe there is one group who may take to Gwiyomi as babies would pucker up their lips to the sight of a plump nipple: Mambo Jambo fans. Be warned, this is strangely hypnotic stuff.
You can see the similarities in the range of moves: The number pointing, palms to face, bang-bangs, heart shapes, fake yelling, pick-up-the-phone, sad-face, thumbs-up. All that face touching should prompt HPB to ramp up hand-washing campaigns, though this gwiyomi thing may be more infectious than the H7N9 bird flu. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some of our MPs taking to gwiyomi as how they warmed up to Gangnam style. Tin Pei Ling is probably practising this is secret, without the Kate Spade box this time. Maybe our kindergartens are already using gwiyomi to teach nursery rhymes as we speak, adding an extra dose of cute to classics like Itsy Bitsy Spider or I’m a Little Teapot.
As social animals, we evolved finger-gesturing for the essential purpose of non-verbal communication before we learnt to even speak, whether as an act of aggression (Robert De Niro’s ‘I’m watching you’ in Meet the Parents), tongue-wagging play (Neh-ni-Neh-ni-Boo-Boo!), flirtation, triumph (V for victory), acknowledgment (thumbs up, OK), tribute to the devil (horns), or making pacts (pinkie-locks). It explains why the gwiyomi has universal appeal; the perfect combination of cute, mimicry, synchronised playfulness and the ability to bring out the gurgling baby in all of us. God help us all.
There is, however, one solution to end this trend for good in Singapore: Steven Lim, you are our only hope.