The two most important pop acts in the world couldn’t be more dissimilar. K-Pop rapper Psy’s vocals are repetitive and sound auto-tuned, his beats are standard pop-cheese. He’s not attractive; he’s old; you’ve probably heard people mock-rapping his Gangnam Style. Pussy Riot make three-chords-and-a-scream punk, have released one song, but are also imitated by others thanks to their bright balaclavas and performance in Russia’s tallest cathedral. They’re united, though, by more than the letters p, s and y. Foreigners, for instance: we, and our media, love the shit out of these people. The media coverage of them, too, is strangely alike: the Atlantic and the New York Times both claim that this stuff wouldn’t have such an impact here. In Korea and Russia, we’re told, dissent and satire are new and a little childish: Psy’s work is “no Born in the U.S.A.” Members of the radical art group Guerilla Girls give Pussy Riot the stamp of approval while saying—a little smugly?—that thanks to our living in America, “we can pretty much do what we want.” Yes, we have freedom, and a truly critical popular culture. That must explain why Rick Ross writes all those songs mocking the Hamptons; why the Guerilla Girls protest the links between capitalism and the Religious Right in Lakewood Church rather than attacking the art establishment that would inevitably embrace them; and why young women would never be arrested for wearing neon balaclavas in the Free world. Yeah, go us!


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