Sonic warfare: Five songs for South Korea to fire at North Korea

Sonic warfare: Five songs for South Korea to fire at North Korea
A file photograph shows a South Korean soldier removing loud speakers in the demilitarized zone in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, in 2004. North Korea on Aug. 21, 2015, fired at a propaganda loudspeaker in the South that had been restarted after an 11-year silence. (Jin-Hee Park / EPA)

In recent days, the threats lobbed between enemies North and South Korea have escalated as the countries' militaries have ratcheted up propaganda while preparing for battle. Amid the troop movements and strategizing, South Korea has also redeployed a crucial weapon that has been aimed at enemies for decades now: terrible music broadcast via loudspeakers into enemy territory. North Korea reportedly responded by firing at one of the loudspeakers.

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As anyone who's ever had a Maroon 5 fan for a neighbor knows, bad music can ruin lives, unsettle delicate psyches, prompt fury. But what, exactly, is "bad"? South Korea's Ministry of Terrible Music (not really) has apparently decided on weaponized K-Pop, the light, airy electronic pop music that thrills teens and 20-somethings the world over. Experiments with melodic destruction by more sophisticated governments in other spheres have involved music by Van Halen, Metallica, the Bee Gees and music from children's shows, including "Sesame Street" and "Barney."

But it's a new era, and increasingly sophisticated musical weapons have been developed to help topple evil-doers. Looping technology allows for precise repetition of only the most annoying parts of, say, Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Mixers can pump up the bass on LMFAO's "Shots" in an effort to loosen screws and disorient soldiers.

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Along with proven sonic Scuds like Creed's "Higher," Toto's "Africa" and Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life," South Korea's generals would be advised to weaponize these songs.

Calvin Harris, "Summer." Any parent of a teen knows the evil that "Summer" brought to summer 2014. The thumpy, insipid song by Taylor Swift's boyfriend features lyrics seemingly penned by a grade-schooler: "When I met you in the summer/ To my heartbeat sound/ We fell in love/ As the leaves turned brown." What a lovely image, falling in love while the world turns brown. Now imagine hearing this for two weeks straight.

Pharrell, "Happy." Think back to 2013 and the first time you heard "Happy." WOW! Great, toe-tapping song! The second time? Cool, this song is certainly going to be a hit! After the third time, though, the song turned sour, as if programmed on a time-delay. Insidious. Relentless. Decidedly UNhappy. Like a seemingly harmless bit of code worming its way through computer servers, it did its damage unexpectedly. Its four-minute length equals 15 spins per hour, or over 10,000 per month.

Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody." An epic song that no westerner needs to ever hear again, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a whole is great -- except for that creepy part (at 2:30 in the clip above) where Freddie Mercury and band move into group harmony and sing, "I see a little silhouetto of a man -- Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?" -- and then crescendos with "THUNDERBOLT and LIGHTNING very very frightening ME!" Today's technology allows for that brief snippet to loop for months on end if need be.

Metallica & Lou Reed, "The View." Dissonant, untethered, "difficult" and monotonous, the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration "Lulu" is a harsh listen, for sure. That, alone, though, may not upset North Koreans. After all, the eastern European band Laibach, itself heavy and dissonant, recently performed in North Korea with the government's permission. Reed and Metallica's "The View," though, isn't just hard to listen to, Reed's delivery is excruciating regardless of whether you understand the words. "Pain and evil have their place/ Sitting here beside me/ I offer them to you as servants/ of the gold that you must give." Run for the hills!

"Do Your Ears Hang Low?" You think your job sucks? Pity the poor ice cream truck drivers who must endure "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" on a loop all day every day. This reporter has spoken with drivers who suffer from a form of PTSD in which that melody tortures them even when they're not working. And while it's true that the song relies on antiquated technology, that shouldn't be an issue. Why employ missile-firing drones when a hand-grenade will suffice?

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit