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Feature Story

After 13 years, the ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’ Harlem hit is still crossing cultural boundaries

By Cecilia Hoxeng

October 9th, 2019

When 14-year-old Bianca Bonnie, a Harlem New Yorker, created the beat for the popular hit, “Chicken Noodle Soup,” while in detention, she never thought that 13 years later J-hope’s remake would cross cultural boundaries from the Harlem neighborhood to communities worldwide.

On Sept. 27, K-pop boy band, BTS star J-hope, in collaboration with Mexican-American singer Becky G, released the long-awaited “Chicken Noodle Soup” (CNS) remake. BTS’ twitter account retweeted the BigHit Entertainment’s tweet that said: “J-hope 'Chicken Noodle Soup (feat. Becky G)' Music Video Out Now.” The remake of the Harlem-based song and dance returned in a startling way, and has currently been viewed over 71 million times since Sept. 27. What was more notable than the record-breaking viral reaction, is the broader cultural representation featured in the song making. In the video, Jung Ho-seok (stage name J-hope), honored Harlem’s cultural dance by including more than 50 countries represented on his video with a multicultural dance crew.

Origins of K-pop BTS band member J-hope

The South Korean boy band BTS — Beyond the Scene — debuted in 2013 and made history after the release of their album “Love yourself: Tear.” BTS became the first K-pop group to top the US Billboard’s Top Chart and sold 135,000 albums in its first week. In 2017 they become the first K-pop group with a Billboard Music Award. BTS — which consists of RM, Jin, Suga, J-hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook —were complimented for their success by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said: “Congratulations to the seven music-loving boys and their wings, ‘Army’! The song, dance, dreams and enthusiasm of BTS energized and gave strength to young people around the world.”

Fans reacted to the release of the remake of “CNS” song

Three days later in a tweet, J-hope thanked the “amazing dancers” for making him remember his passion for dancing when he was younger. J-hope gave a special thank you to the Mexican-American artist and hitmaker Becky G, for understanding right away what the project was about. In the tweet, he expressed how much he appreciated his fans for all the love and support throughout the project, and restated his commitment to work hard and to keep creating great music. With 9.7 million streams and 11,000 downloads by Oct. 4, the track debuted at No. 81 on the Billboard Hot 100, making the dance-rapper-vocalist, J-hope the first member of BTS to reach the Hot 100 chart outside the boy band. Shortly after its release, J-hope started a “CNS” challenge, by posting a Tik Tok video where he performed the arm-flapping routine in a field. Minutes after, his army fandom, passionate followers, began sharing their dance covers, with the Twitter hashtag #CNSChallenge.

A music major and college student, America Hoxeng, who is part of BTS’ army fandom said, “Ho-seok’s remake was set up so that all the royalties for the song went back to Young B who originally wrote the ‘CNS’ song.” She also talked about how important the inclusion of the three languages was to the song. That as part of a younger generation of the “CNS” song, it unified three different cultures and was able to reach more people. Hoxeng highlighted how iconic the remake of the song was for new generations because this helps to keep that inspiration of the original song for people that follow BTS to feel motivated to be part of it and dance.

There are other songs that have crossed cultural boundaries. For example, “We Are One (Ole Ola)” by Pitbull ft. Jennifer Lopez & Claudia Leitte. It was the official song of the last World Cup. It spread a message of nations united by the soccer games in Spanish, English and Portuguese. Jenna Holiday a professional singer and songwriter, expressed her excitement about “CNS” song when she said: “it was so fun hearing pieces of each artist’s cultural involvement, as the original song touched on the African American artists and for them adding their own, felt appropriate and right!” As a BTS army fan, Holiday was not surprised that they didn’t give much lead time after announcing the debut of the video and said, “the hype built fast, and the BTS fandom moves quickly!”

J-hope’s vision

The remake of “CNS” has brought fans of the original song and BTS fans to enjoy J-hope’s vision and the remake of it. As a result, Young B’s shout out to J-hope and Becky G said: “I’m trending worldwide No. 3 right now. ‘The remake really is dope to me.’” J-hope said that “CNS” was one of the songs he danced to, and inspired him to grow his passion for dancing when he was a child. During the making of his own version of the song, he decided to wear a special necklace from his childhood to be worn in the video. J-hope who had the most liked tweet in the world during 2018, had an iconic way to magnified his vision through the inclusion of multicultural representation through his dance crew in the video honoring Harlem’s African American heritage.

Harlem native and original viral star of “CNS,” Bianca Bonnie, made the iconic dance with movements that were already part of her neighborhood, and the lyrics “let it rain, clear it out” that were inspired by basketball terms. For the remake, J-hope understood how important this song was for the early 2000s audience, and kept the essential elements and words of the song while also adding a brilliant twist. The synergy of the song that contains three languages — Korean, English, Spanish— is simply something that holds so much meaning to those who have grown up listening to this song.

What people have been able to recognize is that passion for dancing is a worldwide feeling. An iconic beat can really be timeless when it comes to such a deep meaning like 14 year old Bianca Bonnie created in the Harlem neighborhood. Ultimately, “CNS” both the original song and the remake demonstrated that music can cross cultural boundaries. A song cannot only be a trend, but it also unites communities and it can become an important part of humanity in today’s society.

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