So, I finally got up the courage and downloaded 2NE1′s Japanese “I AM THE BEST.” I then subsequently stumbled upon their performance of said song at the 2011 MAMAs, which was rocking as usual; they are probably in my top five for best live performances in kpop.
Anyways, I was just enjoying some 2NE1 swag when a related video caught my eye: BEAST ft. Lang Lang & Trouble Maker – Fiction. At this point, I think my eyes were bulging.
I watched it once. Okay, I watched 20 seconds, paused it, and then started screaming, “WHY?! WHY DID YOU DO THIS, LANG LANG! WHY!” Then I watched the rest of it around 30 minutes later after I calmed down (funny Kyuhyun videos can make anyone feel better).
My main beef: BEAST simply isn’t good enough to share the stage with Lang Lang.
Before you get all crusty, I’m not saying that pop is inferior to classical music. To be honest, I don’t like Lang Lang much as a pianist–I think he hammers away at the piano too much and lets himself get carried away by his emotions. I don’t like BEAST too much either, to me, they still look like rookies (despite debuting in 2009), analogous to SHINee at their Juliette stage.
Nonetheless, I do believe in things such as experience. Lang Lang (currently 29), has spent almost three decades–he started playing piano at age 2–let me repeat that again, three decades, studying and performing music. BEAST, perhaps 5-8 years at most, and even then, their study of music is not in-depth as they also need to learn dance and variety show skills.
How can I say this? Lang Lang accompanying BEAST was like me making Arcadi Volodos to accompany me on Pagainini’s Variations. If Lang Lang had accompanied Madonna, Beyonce, or even BoA, I would have just shrugged it off, because these ladies have the industry experience and success that proves them equal to a pianist prodigy. BEAST? I don’t think they are quite there yet. Moreover, Lang Lang wasn’t even doing proper accompanist, he was just ranging through a list of arpeggios and scales and useless glitter that any first-year conservatory student can play in their sleep.
What I can say is that damn, Cube has deep pockets nowadays. Concert pianists like Lang Lang cost $150,000 a night on average (Maurizio Pollini is rumored to pull in 100k a night). I guess they reached out to him because Lang Lang is the only Asian pianist crazy enough to accept and famous enough to headline the billing.
All for what? For Lang Lang to play a butchered version of Moonlight Sonata and La Campanella while we see a bloody sexed-up HyunA? What also bothered me is that Lang Lang was clearly the opening act, and then put aside as an accompanist. My favorite comment:
I become extremely irritated when things like this happen, where classical music is cheapened– just reduced to a spectacle. Where Lang Lang is a soloist, but no one is really paying attention to him. Between BEAST and Lang Lang, I can say with certainty that Lang Lang is the bigger ‘pop star’, being reduced to accompanist and opening act is insulting, to both Lang Lang and those who appreciate good music, whether they like classical music or not.
Lang Lang has performed for officials from all over the world (like Michelle and Barack Obama), has held sold-out concerts all over the world, has performed for Beijing Olympics. I give BEAST a 0.001% chance of ever performing at an Olympics, 5% chance of having a complete world tour (six continents), 0.00001% chance of ever performing for the First Family of the United States. I know, I know, Mr. Lang is to be applauded for trying to cross the bridge between the fresh young pop music and the crotchedy old classical music. But not in this fashion.
21 January 2012 update: actually, wrangling Lang Lang to play for BEAST might have been easier than I originally thought. They are both under Universal Music Group (BEAST’s international promotions), and Lang Lang records for Deutsche Grammophon (a label that Universal Music Group owns). Cube has got some serious connections (by that, I mean, a connection to DG).
26 January 2012 update: I previously quoted that Lang Lang typically charges $70,000 a night. It’s actually much higher than that; $150,000 is more accurate. Cube must have gotten a discount. $150,000, how many trainees a year can you train with that money? Correct answer: a ton.