Wednesday. 10/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Once you K-pop, you can’t stop

On Monday, South Korean girl-group Blackpink’s new song clocked up 100 million YouTube views in record time. The music video for “Kill This Love” was uploaded on 4 April, so that’s roughly four days to hit the very, very big time. After just 24 hours the video had racked up 56.7 million views and by the time you read this it’ll be north of 150 million, depending on your timezone. The song’s pure pop chorus and the group’s hip-hop attitude define the irresistible hold that these two genres have on the music industry – and the live-music economy.

The spirit of this stuff is to be applauded. Guitar bands have to be better than they were a decade ago and many male hip-hop artists have seen their questionable (and boring) rhetoric challenged by women with talent, attitude and ambition. Blackpink are off to the west coast to play the Coachella festival this weekend and they will be the first K-pop girls to play those formerly very rock stages. Their set will also be live-streamed to The Beast: the eight-storey-high TV screen in New York’s Times Square. While the internet-in-English seems to be slowly erasing the desire to speak a foreign language, the world is learning to sing in “Konglish” pitch perfectly – and many, many times over.

Elections / Canada

Voting vendetta

Earlier this week Canada’s democratic institutions minister Karina Gould told Canadians something they already knew: the country’s October election is expected to be the target of foreign meddling. The perpetrator is likely to be the Kremlin, a longtime foe. Canada recently extended its training of Ukrainian soldiers until 2022 and Canadian election observers were stationed in the country to safeguard its 31 March vote. With Justin Trudeau’s government continuing to support of Ukraine, Canada is wise to consider safeguarding policies like the one the UK proposed on Monday: establish a watchdog to regulate the internet and fine social-media companies that promote harmful content. With dwindling approval ratings the election is set to be a dogfight for Trudeau, so the last thing he needs is a misinformation campaign muddying the waters.

Politics / Kazakhstan

A family affair

Kazakhstan has a shaky history when it comes to democracy. Since it became its own country in 1991, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, it has had but one leader: Nursultan Nazarbayev. But last month the 78-year-old resigned and put an interim president in place: Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Now the latter has called a snap election. No election in Kazakhstan’s history has been recognised as being fair in the eyes of international observers but could this be an earnest drive for a more democratic society? Probably not. Waiting in the wings is Dariga Nazarbayev, the former president’s daughter, who has acted as chairwoman of the Senate and deputy prime minister. Amid the country’s impressive economic rise, democracy is being overlooked.

Society / Hong Kong

Stormy weather

Street marches are practically a public pastime in Hong Kong but protesters will think twice in future now that several pro-democracy activists face jail for their part in 2014’s Umbrella movement. Prominent law professor Benny Tai and eight other demonstrators were yesterday found guilty of causing a public nuisance while occupying the streets outside the government’s headquarters in Admiralty. The verdict is the final prosecution to arise from the 79-day protest; Joshua Wong and several other student leaders were earlier convicted for their part in the mass sit-in. But while the umbrellas have been put away, the city has not seen its final rainy day. Five years on a once moderate and united pro-democracy movement has fractured and a more radical splinter group has emerged, calling for outright independence from China – even more unsettling for Beijing than the original protests.

Salone del Mobile / Milan

Under one roof

As anyone who has tramped the halls of the Salone del Mobile looking for the best in finely executed furniture knows, it can take a lot of energy cutting through the chaff. This year curators of the Fiera, which opened yesterday, have saved design aficionados from a blister or two by placing much of the show’s stand-out wares in a new area, S Project. Here, visitors can see items from the best in Italian and international furniture brands such as B&B Italia, Carl Hansen & Søn, Flos and Nikari. The mood suggests that those from the companies are pleased to be represented in the new area. “We’re very happy about this,” says Johanna Vuorio, CEO of Finnish timber-furniture specialist Nikari, whose brand received a boost in terms of location and stand size thanks to S Project. “It feels like everyone here is enjoying being next-door neighbours and the high quality of the companies around you shows a shared belief in the project.”

M24 / The Menu: Food Neighbourhoods

Stockholm, Hötorgshallen

Monocle’s Liv Lewitschnik shows us around one of Stockholm’s greatest culinary institutions: the Hötorgshallen food hall.

Film / Germany

The Monocle Travel Guide: Hamburg

We pull up a seat at a traditional Kaffeeklappe to see why coffee still makes this German port city tick.

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