So I stumbled upon Doctor by Chanmina again and after seeing this amazing video and hearing the song again, I just had to cover it. Brief warning, the video and lyrics are very on the nose, and there isn't much interpretation needed, but I thought it'd be fun just going through it quickly for context before getting to the takeaways. I'd recommend watching the music video below, it's definitely a bit different, but it's worth watching.
Alright let's jump straight into the first verse (English translation courtesy of the wonderful people that did the YouTube captions):
Doctor, doctor, doctor (ya, ya)
Doctor, doctor, doctor (ya, ya)
Doctor, doctor, doctor (ya, ya)
Doctor, doctor, doctor (ya, ya)
Oh my God, I'm sick ya
Help me someone, I'm sick ya
Lend a hand, save a sista
How much longer till I die?
I think I lost my sense of flavor, no flavor
Think I'm losing all my feelings, no feelings
The music video (MV) opens up to Chanmina walking into a Doctor's office swiping through what seems to be a fake version of instagram. She then goes to the receptionist and tells them her dilemma (the hook).
Essentially it boils down to that she feels like she's dying due to loss of 'flavor' as well as her feelings. It's interesting to note that the feed she was swiping through earlier was super colorful (like the current set) and has a similar aesthetic so immediately we as viewers start grasping a little of the issues she's grappling with given the consistent cutesy aesthetic taken to almost cartoonish extreme.
Oh my God, I'm gonna die
I don't wanna die, wanna stay alive
Ain't too fun, this planet
Everything that's on it
Mass-produced, overloaded, nothing interesting about it
See them models looking pretty, oh
The similarity is uncanny, doppelgängers?
Chanmina starts going in depth with some of the symptoms of her affliction. Nothing is fun, everything is mass-produced, mass-marketed, mass-in-your-face (much like the MV). There's little room for nuance and something different. She then comments on how beauty standards are often very identical too with models looking like doppelgängers. We see this from the people waiting in the doctors office, to the people in the TV, and even the images of people in the magazines.
This rings true for most of the world, but to give a bit of context, Chanmina grew up in a mix of South Korea, US, and Japan. Even when she was deciding to debut as an artist, she was debating between South Korea and Japan. Both of these nations have distinct beauty standards which Chanmina deviates from in some aspects.
Humans are such a varied species, yet we settle on one or two images as a society and treat that as our standard of beauty is her lament here. Naturally this leads to incredible boredom as there's nothing interesting. Everyone is playing it safe, aspiring to the accepted standards.
Shit is serious like birds of a feather
We should flock together, shoot some hoops and all that
Talking 'bout this and that, "are you real?" "Are you fake?"
Well I don't give a fuck, everybody's serious
At this point in the video, Chanmina shoots a basketball and hits the TV. On TV, the channel gets flipped to a cartoon where a character (soccer player) is rolling on the floor (perhaps flopping) and everyone in the office starts doing the same as the soccer player on TV is doing. Meanwhile the lyrics are commenting on this same phenomenon saying that as a society we're like a flock of birds, doing whatever is 'in' right now.
There's a comment on being real vs being fake and how that's seen as so important (might relate to whether soccer player is flopping or not), but from Chanmina's point of view, it doesn't matter since it's all manufactured and it's all the same. How can one even distinguish something real from something fake in such an environment?
Why is everything so damn uninteresting?
Just a little spice is all I need, baby
Guess nobody likes to be too ordinary
I'm so beat, so tired of this obsession
Same old story, going out of fashion
This is no-flavor syndrome, ya
Give me something better, something stronger, hey
Help me doctor, what's the matter?
Got no flavor, think I'm done for
Niki, niki, niki, doctor
Pretty, pretty please, help me
No image for this one, it's just too dynamic and I urge you to watch the choreo here, it's definitely interesting.
Chanmina is essentially just summing up what she spoke about previously here, repeating the cause of existential dilemma, why exist in a place that's so damn uninteresting. In particular she singles out some paradoxes such as how no one wants to be ordinary and as a result they end up what society deems as 'Extraordinary' which ironically just results in them becoming 'Extra ordinary'.
The chorus is her echoing the same things but upping the ante and really drumming in what she's running away from. This rat race to fit in, this obsession to gain everyone's approval yet ending up being no different than anyone else. This lack of interesting flavor on mainstream media where everything is doctored to fit in.
This is an age of information where everyone's cursed
Living under a spell
After another hook depicting Chanmina going in to see the doctor, we see the doctor morph into a male-doctor version (again playing with societal expectations) which is trying to put her under a spell. Her lyrics mention the same, our current society being inundated with information (social media, TV, everything) in such a way that it forms a bubble, trapping us in a spell.
Lies all over Twitter
Everybody's mission: "Find the villain of the day"
Who shall we prey on tonight? Your turn
Who's the target tomorrow? Who is it?
Everything is the same, cookie-cutter quality (niki, niki)
Not for me, not for me (pichi, pichi)
I'ma shine, just for me (kira, kira)
I have to say, I love this part of the video. Chanmina while singing about Twitter and people trying to be heroes while in the same breath bringing people down and trying to find people to pin the blame on, asks the question: Who shall we prey on tonight?
She then turns her head, stares at us and says "Your turn" . It's a great moment where she addresses us watching the video and also forces us to be involved and acknowledge that yes, she's right. We could be the loser of an internet flame war despite not doing anything wrong. It could be anyone, make a mistake and you're fair game.
"Everybody's slowly losing their momentum
Afraid of people judging, afraid of being lonely
Everyone's the same but everybody's different
Guess we're all 'unique' now"
Chanmina finally comes up with a potential diagnosis. She says that it's because that everyone's afraid of being judged as well as afraid of being lonely. If we don't fit in, we won't have friends, we won't have people to share things with, we'll be alone. Consequently, we're afraid to be truly vulnerable, to share how we really feel since it could easily be labeled as bad leading us to being the next twitter villain.
At the same time, our society says we're all unique, all different, and should celebrate those differences. However, due to the aforementioned dilemma, we keep those differences hidden resulting in yet another paradox highlighted by Chanmina. Despite this push to be different and 'unique' our outward appearances, opinions, and even thoughts are the same. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean we're the same across all of society (although that may be true at some level), it can also point to our filter bubbles (what we as individuals see and curate) being very one-dimensional in terms of variety and what's accepted.
This is her most vulnerable part of the song where the lights are off and she's shifting between different aspects of her reflecting on what got us here. Ultimately though this doesn't last long as everyone comes into the room and the chorus comes back. I won't go over the chorus again although it is interesting to note that the 'doctor' has a hookup point to a wire at the back of the neck. There's also a barcode indicating that the whole establishment and 'doctor' himself is also mass produced which delivers an explanation on why she wasn't able to find any answers there.
Side note: the doctor could also be a plastic surgeon, a reason for why there are many people trying to look like models in the waiting room. Given that beauty standards are somewhat artificial, arbitrary and potentially manufactured according to Chanmina, it makes perfect sense that the doctor would be as well since they are an extension of that in this case.
Why spend so much time going over what appears to be a fairly obvious video once you read the lyrics and watch the video?
Two reasons: 1) I'm in love with the video, 2) Most people won't dig into the lyrics.
This song and MV are both representative of Chanmina's struggles and observations. The song has a conventional song structure with a very conventional trap sound. The main chords are reminiscent of time-passing waiting-room-esque vibes, but the song punctuated with portions that break up the flow where Chanmina generally speaks directly to the audience and about her feelings about the issue, but it quickly goes back to the old sound. The tension between those portions is well done as well in my opinion.
We discussed the MV above in detail, but it's worth watching and seeing the sets, it's very colorful "Museum of Ice Cream" (although a bit bolder perhaps) type aesthetic. It takes the pop aesthetic to cartoonish extremes and has great choreography as well as the cinematography as well. It tries to portray a satirical vision of pop culture through these mechanisms.
The message Chanmina leaves us with is somewhat shared with that of "Social Dilemma", our society is in a place where it's incredibly easy to fall into these filter bubbles in which there's little variety and it's almost like a hivemind is directing what's in and what's not. Honesty and vulnerability are not appreciated whereas ad hominem attacks reign aplenty. Deviating from the given norm is punished, so where do you end up? Bored is Chanmina's answer.
As I've been increasingly online the same thing has happened to me. Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, it's all the same. It's a circle of content all giving little dopamine rushes, but with content of little actual substance. Oftentimes the same trend is repeated over and over again ad nauseum until something else takes it's place. It's just empty calories. This has led to a syndrome similar to that described by Chanmina, I end up simply checked out of daily life.
I was tempted to leave this article at that, but I always get annoyed at articles that present tons of problems yet fail to mention any solutions. I do have a reason for not wanting to offer a solution though, I'm still dealing with the same problem occasionally, so whatever solution I have, it's definitely not a cure-all amazing remedy.
The first is a social media detox, removing myself from the cycle helped to remove myself to some levels of this cycle of meaninglessness. The problem then becomes how to find new and different content/social media to fill the time and this gap I now have in my life.
There are several options here, following independent publishers with interesting articles (e.g. The Reboot). Naturally this could lead to yet another bubble I create around myself, but I added sources I would not necessarily agree with 100% of the time yet were well reasoned enough to provoke interesting thoughts. Some of my friends also fall into this category.
Basically the solution as an individual to is to be conscious of these societal network effects and actively seek out different perspectives and media. As far as how we as a society can solve this, perhaps I'll take that on in a different blog post :).
Thanks everyone for reading, never thought my first post would be on a Jpop MV but I'm glad I wrote something haha. I do plan to write regularly, add comments, and email subscriptions, so stay tuned if you liked it so far. My next work will likely be a more technical (regarding the notion of Open Governance), but I hope to do similar pieces to this in the future as well! Anyways, have a fantastic day and feel free to send comments to my socials or email.