Song Premiere | Korean Boyfriend, ”Millions of Reasons”

The music frontman, writer, and producer Stanley Cho crafts as Korean Boyfriend has been described as “super-interesting” and “genre-bending.” True, the music plays around with familiar forms, i.e., genres, to conjure uncommon expressions. However, any kind of conceptual framework only exists to nurture the aspect of play; a sonic and lyric expression to be received by any ear, untethered and unassuming. No prerequisite is required to directly consume the gritty overdrive, warm analogue synths, and pretty melodies. Set in a familiar context of quotidian pop-cultural references and pop music, necessarily tweaked by an outside point of view, the songs on YELLOW (out September 16) touch upon themes related to cultural institutions, fine art, Asian American insecurities, and punk nostalgia. Today, Korean Boyfriend has dropped one of the best singles of 2022 ”Millions of Reasons.”

Cho said about the single: “I wrote this song after reading about the multi-million dollar salaries of art-museum directors, like MoMA’s—meanwhile their employees were protesting low wages. And then I read about art storage facilities like ARCIS that provide tax havens for rich collectors/investors only to restrict access to the art from the public. Nothing better than a rock ‘n roll song to happily express anxiety and frustration.

This led me to think of artists from the 70s-80s who questioned the gallery relative to their work. The video playfully shows such artists and/or their work interacting with or being interrupted or obscured by an inert object, a literal representation of white gallery space that is seemingly carte blanche, but obviously very present, even ominous. 
The lyric “shit in a box” refers to Piero Manzoni’s controversial work “Artist’s Shit” which humorously but seriously questions the economy, consumption and perception around art. Sixty years later, “Millions of Reasons” describes a near dystopian condition where art is completely alienated from culture, a form of exchange and securities, devoid of humanity regardless of any artist’s intent.”

Korean Boyfriend (aka KBF, KBEEF, K🐝F, K🥩) began as a wannabe K-Pop band but very quickly realized some flaws. Undeterred, Cho looked away from the mirror and looked around his new home of New York City to find stuff to write and make work about. Cho is as interested in the generic as the extraordinary—as in out-of-the-ordinary—transcending its normalcy through a variety of techniques. Although Korean Boyfriend stems from one, the thinking is toward the many “look-alikes,” a seemingly calm but internally restless band of Asian outsiders. 

While each track on YELLOW can exist as its own discrete entity, there are themes throughout which confront the failure of the art/culture industry, the economic/cultural privilege for a few in society, and express fear for the future when the latter is only reified by the former. “The album title YELLOW evokes a few meanings,” explains Cho. “Yellow as a primary color, signifying optimism and caution at once. Yellow like ‘Hello!’ as an introduction to Korean Boyfriend. Yellow like ‘you’re yella’ or afraid. Yellow, a slur used to describe Asians.”

While he may have not set out to make a record that denies genre as a construct, the process of solitude and struggle afforded a freedom of musical and lyrical expression. Cho has crafted a complete work where variation is perceived through repetition, and elements shift in and out, framing melodies that seem like they’ve always existed. It’s pop music in structure, rock music in feel. Electro sounds, but with human touch, are ready to be discovered on the “super-interesting” and “genre-bending” album—YELLOW.