K-Pop Pick Of The Day: Roly Poly

Track: Roly Poly | Artist: T-ara | Album: John Travolta Wannabe
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For a few months there in the early 2010s, K-Pop went through an unabashedly retro period. That trend started with T-ara’s 2011 sleeper hit, Roly Poly.

Roly Poly’s own inspiration becomes abundantly clear starting with its album, John Travolta Wannabe, a not-so-subtle hint to movies like Saturday Night Fever. Even the music video looks like it came straight from the set of the 1977 hit film’s iconic disco scene. The song itself is not so much retro-inspired as it basically is 70s disco; it’s almost as if someone unfroze the Bee Gees somehow, transported them to Korea, and introduced them to K-Pop for a month or so before they threw them in a recording studio.

This song’s surprise breakout led to somewhat of a retro mini-trend in Korea over the next year or so; we got songs like Dal Shabet’s Bling Bling, and variety shows like Infinite Challenge would incorporate disco into their music-themed episodes. T-ara themselves would be somewhat shackled by Roly Poly’s unexpected longevity. The usual remix releases aside, their next couple of singles would firmly re-tread retro territory, from Cry Cry to Lovey Dovey to Day By Day (are we also sensing a theme in the names?).


Finally, as is usually the case with T-ara, Roly Poly originally released with a 12-minute mini-drama that is essentially even more blatantly nostalgia-driven than the above music video. Check it out:

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Mud loves everyone except you. You suck

On the topic of old shit in Korea, so far I have had students sing,

1. Freedom 90 

2. The Next Episode

3. Bohemian Rhapsody

4. And while this isn’t a song I had three boys doing the What is Love? head bob today.

Queen I understand since the movie was popular. The SNL joke, Dr. Dre, and George Michael songs from almost three decades ago have left me at a loss and the kids have not been able to tell me where they got it from beyond “YouTube”.