Longtime fans of K-pop girl groups have, in recent years, lamented the absence of fierce, powerful girl groups. As the onslaught of cute and innocent concepts among newer groups like TWICE, GFRIEND, WJSN, and more continues, girl groups with stronger concepts have become a fading minority in the K-pop world.
But not if (G)I-DLE can help it. On May 2, the six-member girl group debuted with house-pop track “LATATA,” employing fierce dance-pop instrumentals, extensive rap verses, and onstage pyrotechnics in tow. Formed by Cube Entertainment, the girl group’s name effectively translates to Girl Children from Korean to English, among a host of other complicated double entendres.
Despite the group’s strangely infantilizing name, “LATATA” is about a steamy dance-floor encounter, beginning with a fast percussive bang followed by a bouncy tropical house beat that underlies the verses. Main rapper Jeon Soyeon, riding her Produce 101 and Unpretty Rapstar fame to the frontwoman position of the group, begins the song atop this rhythm, soon passing the verse to the group’s main dancer Soojin, who asks “What’s there to be scared about?” as she engages with her lover.
A surprising moment of distortion in synths and tempo, member Minnie’s “Uh oh” at the beginning of the pre-chorus is the song’s definitive vocal highlight. She slurs her words and holds her notes through her parts, capturing a hypnotic, snake charmer-esque sound that contrasts with that of the incoming faster-paced section sung by deeper-voiced Yuqi. “We can burn it up even more/There’s no tomorrow,” she declares. The percussive bang sounds again, and vocalist Miyeon sings her seduction in the chorus: “I’m singing for you, so you can fall deeper.” Visual member Shuhua’s repeated “Latata” chants—her only solo lines in the song—are a call for the lover to “sing for me, so I’ll never forget you.”
The chorus is followed by a dance break carried by a repeating synth line that resembles an electric guitar riff. When the group performs this live on weekly music shows, the choreography is tight, the members sporting strong, sensual facial expressions as they quickly shift formations.
Contrasting with other girl groups’ shyness around lovers, Soyeon encourages the one-night stand in her post-chorus rap break. As the tempo quickens, she spits, “Don’t be lazy, come to me baby,” asking her mysterious hookup to “go in deeper, swallow me up.” Her confidence is both audible on the track and visible in performances—a demonstration of the prowess she’s developed over the course of two survival shows and a solo debut since her first TV appearances in early 2016.
Returning to the pre-chorus, the song repeats the previous sequence until it reaches a slower-tempo bridge, backed by a stripped tropical house instrumental featuring an occasional tabla. After a final lengthened dance break, the song ends as Soyeon says, “Every day, every night, Latata.”
While “LATATA” itself doesn’t deviate too much from the typical K-pop song structure of verses, pre-choruses, and choruses followed by dance and rap breaks, it is a welcome change in sound from current chart-topping girl groups with more demure concepts. Rather than attempting to emulate the success of cutesy girl groups like TWICE or Oh My Girl, (G)I-DLE seeks to revive the sounds and stylings of older girl groups like those of past Cube labelmate 4MINUTE, and widen the fierce girl group niche that is rapidly decreasing in size. And as “LATATA” enters the Top 30 of Korean music charts and tops iTunes K-pop charts around the world, it is becoming clear that the absence of powerful girl groups has been felt by K-pop fans old and new alike.
Of course, (G)I-DLE’s debut immediately calls into question the future of labelmate girl group CLC, whose songs have repeatedly failed to chart for three years now (likely due to the group’s constant flip-flopping between innocent and strong concepts across different releases). It also brings up the possibility of a rivalry between (G)I-DLE and BLACKPINK—one of K-pop’s only other powerful girl groups of the moment.
Whatever the answers to these questions are, one verdict is clear: (G)I-DLE is, in its infancy, reigniting the age-old tug-of-war of girl group concepts, an industry-wide debate whose point of equilibrium is finally beginning to shift. In the oversaturated girl group market, such a noticeable effect on the bigger K-pop narrative is more than enough to deem this debut a success.
What do you think of (G)I-DLE’s debut track? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/GI-DLE-cover.png?fit=1024%2C7697691024Kushal Devhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKushal Dev2018-05-21 14:01:022018-05-21 14:01:02(G)I-DLE’s ‘LATATA’ song review
F(x) has always been one of the most distinctive groups in K-pop, experimenting with sounds and elements not often seen until their debut, in 2009. Taiwanese-american artist Amber Liu seemed a good fit for this group that was born to be different – from haircut to clothes, the group’s rapper had her own cool style that differed from what female idols used to look like, and apparently SM Entertainment, the group’s agency, respected that.
But was it enough? Was Amber happy? How would Amber sound if she could make art in her own terms? With the release of Rogue Rouge on April 15, we have some answers.
This sixtrack mixtape was not the first time fans could see a different side of Amber, though. While in f(x) she had the position of main rapper, a role she also played in her bright/energetic solo release “Shake That Brass,” Amber has released several singles showcasing her singing voice: “Beautiful,” “On My Own,” “Borders,” and “Need to Feel Needed.” Amber also directed the Music Video for f(x)’s “All Mine,” and released a duo with f(x)’s colleague Luna, “Lower.”
One could say Amber has had multiple opportunities to do something different than what she does in f(x), and that’s true. But one can also say that, as an artist, she still has more to show and has the right to seek for creative freedom, and that’s true too.
That being said, Rogue Rouge may not have come as a total surprise for those who paid attention to Amber out of f(x); however, the mixtape can still shine new lights on what we know about her life and career.
Releasing a mixtape nowadays might have some sort of a charm, like a countercultural alternative to the polished and well planned release of albums and EPs. It’s also a popular way for a group’s member to show their individual colours, like what happened with the solo mixtapes released by BTS members Rap Monster, Suga, and more recently, J-Hope.
In Amber’s case, though, a mixtape released on a democratic platform like Soundcloud says a little more. Rogue Rouge is an independent work, made without any connection or money from SM Entertainment. Everything about Rogue Rouge was 100% the result of Amber’s personal efforts and collaborations with friends, such as Singaporean artist Gen Neo, who co-wrote “Closed Doors” and “Right Now,” who also provided vocals for this last one; and model and photographer Stefanie Michova, who directed the music video for “Closed Doors.”
There is no confirmation that Amber is still under SM Entertainment. Therefore, the very fact that Amber is able to do this mixtape suggests that her contract with them allows the space for a bit of artistic freedom. But, if the mixtape is available for free download, it could also mean that Amber isn’t allowed to make money out of her agency.
If you’re waiting to hear anything near K-pop or f(x)’s past music on the mixtape, just know that you won’t find it here.Sonically speaking, Rogue Rouge is quite an homogeneous piece of work, sticking to R&B tunes (“Get Over It,” “Closed Doors,” “Right Now”) and pop (“Three Million Years”), with little presence of EDM elements (“High Hopes,” “Lifeline”).
The production is far from the grandiose that K-pop instrumentals sound like.ut whether it’s due to being independent work or just Amber’s personal choice, it doesn’t really matter. The simplicity works perfectly fine here. Amber’s beautiful voice and interpretation are the big stars of every single track. Even the simpler songs sound so meaningful because it’s obvious that she’s putting a lot of love into them. It is possible that her choice to go for smoother jams could be saying something about how she feels towards the effusive, loud music she has been doing as an idol. But, just like any artist who has to deal with limited creative freedom (or no freedom at all) when they’re under a group, maybe she just wanted to do something for herself.
Amber wrote all the 6 tracks, with the help from Gen Neo in two of them.
They’re all in English, her native language, and most of them about heartbreak. Yes, it seems like someone broke Amber’s heart – and while such person deserves to be punched (!), seeing such a stripped and honest side of Amber’s lyricism is a delight.
by Alexis Hodoyan-Gastelum
It’s a not a side often seen from K-pop idols: they have to act, speak, sing in a certain way. No matter how bold is the concept, they can only go so far – and even if it’s very far, it’s only to cause an impression.
But in Rogue Rouge there’s just an adult woman being an adult woman, and it includes occasional cursing, heartbreaks, desire, the dilemmas of public versus private life etc.
From the emblematic instance when Amber spokeon social media about being neglected as an artist to how independently Rogue Rouge was done, it seems that Amber’s main wish is to just sing a story that’s all hers, rather than to prove anything to anyone.
Rogue Rouge has no climax or wow moments. It sounds genuine, though. The lyrics for “Closed Doors,” the best track, sums up the whole purpose of Amber with this mixtape: no overthinking or reinventing the wheel; no need to run, hide or “keep on choosing sides.” This is just Amber being Amber and doing what she feels like doing. If that really is her purpose, then, indeed, she wouldn’t need sumptuous instrumentals and complex songs to do that.
In Brazil, we have a saying for when we’re gifting someone we care about yet we can’t afford something expensive: “It’s simple, but it’s from the heart.” That seems to be the case here: simple (compared to K-pop) but meaningful music. Again, I don’t know if money has anything to do with the crude sonority of Rogue Rouge, but I don’t even care, and it seems like Amber doesn’t care either. She’s pouring her heart out, and for a project that aims for expressing individuality rather than charting, that’s more than enough.
Amber Liu's 'Rogue Rogue'
Let us know what you think of Amber Liu’s “Rogue Rouge” in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Amber.jpg?fit=1000%2C5005001000Ana Clara Ribeirohttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngAna Clara Ribeiro2018-05-04 14:35:382018-05-04 14:35:38Amber Liu’s ‘Rogue Rouge’ album review
Slightly over a year since the airing of the first episode of the boy group survival show Produce 101 Season 2, the next installment of the show, Produce 48 has been attracting buzz with the revelation of the A-list trainers involved, such as FT. Island’s Lee Hongki and former Sistar member Soyou. The continuity of this Produce series can be attributed to the roaring successes of its first two seasons, and of the groups formed following the show (I.O.I and Wanna One). In fact, one year after the program, the K-pop industry is currently dominated by several idols who participated in it. Temporary and project groups have been formed, soloists have debuted, and existing groups were revived due to the popularity of the program, proving the great impact the show has had on the industry.
As the victors of the program, this group naturally had a lot of popularity right off the bat. With their debut song “Energetic” winning 15 music shows and topping both local and international charts, the members gained even more fans through their appearances on several variety shows such as Weekly Idol and Knowing Brothers. Their consistent album releases and music promotions helped sustain this popularity, and their most recent title track “Boomerang,” from the album 0+1=1 (I Promise You) also did wonderfully, netting 10 wins. Since their debut, the members have ranked highly on brand value rankings among idols, with center Kang Daniel consistently in the top ranks due to his numerous appearances in shows like It’s Dangerous Beyond The Blanket and Master Key. Even though the group is due to disband in December 2018, there will be more great music releases from them to come, both as a group and as individual members, and they definitely have bright futures ahead of them.
Quite possibly the most touching success story from this second season of Produce 101, the five-membered group Nu’est experienced a surge of popularity following the appearance of JR, Ren, Baekho, and Minhyun on the program. With Minhyun in Wanna One, the remaining four members (together with Aron, who wasn’t on the show) formed a subunit called Nu’est W, and attained commercial success with their title track “Where You At” off the album W, Here, which earned them their first music show win since their debut. The experienced members shined throughout the program, with all four members making it to the top 20, and their eventual success proves that effort, coupled with talent, always pays off in the end.
As their name “Just Be Joyful” suggests, the members of this group had every reason to be joyful because they were formed wholly out of fan demand. Consisting of members Noh Taehyun, Takada Kenta, Kim Yongguk, Kwon Hyunbin, Kim Donghan, and Kim Sanggyun, the group melded together well, releasing a string of consistently good music with their three mini albums. Another group with a timeline, JBJ recently released their final album New Moon, with the title track “Call Your Name” as a sweet farewell to their fans, full of promises to meet again in the future. With member Noh Taehyun returning to his group Hotshot after the disbandment of JBJ, I hope that the members, who all have so much potential as musicians, will be active in the music industry again soon.
A project unit formed with the two high-ranking trainees of Brand New Music, MXM consists of Lim Young-min and Kim Donghyun. The duo has released two EPs and one single album thus far, with their most recent title track being “Gone Cold,” which was released in early March. While both members have their own strengths, with Young-min focusing on rapping while Donghyun has a sweet singing voice, they work together very well to create music which reflect their distinct musical identity as a duo. While still a rookie group, they are already gaining a lot of performance experience through the Asia promotional tour they are embarking on, as well as through their participation in huge events such as Korea’s annual dream concert. There is also a high possibility that they will form a new group in the future, once Lee Daehwi and Park Woojin (their labelmates) are done with their Wanna One activities, which will be a group to look forward to given the amazing teamwork they displayed back in their Produce 101 audition.
Another project group, YDPP is a four-membered group consisting of MXM, Jung Sewoon, and Lee Gwanghyun. As fellow members of Produce 101 Season 2, their comfortable chemistry showed through the fun “Love It Live It” release, which captured the musical colours of youth, dreams, passion, and purity that inspired the formation of the group. Lee Gwanghyun also made his debut through this project, and successfully showed his adorable charms along his members. Im Youngmin also showed a more all-rounded side of himself here because he got to sing and rap. The members complemented each other very well, and while this group is only temporary (like so many others on this list), the magic of this collaboration will last forever.
An adorable duo formed by the Korean trainees from Yuehua Entertainment, Hyungseop and Euiwoong have released two single albums so far, their most recent title track being “Love Tint,” which was released in April. While their debut track “It Will Be Good” was sweet and highlighted their youthfulness, “Love Tint” has a more melancholic and mature sound which allowed them to better showcase their rap and vocal skills, proving how much they have developed as musicians in the short few months between the releases. The rest of their second album Colour of Dream is also a treat to listen to, as they show several sides of themselves through the five tracks on it. If they continue releasing songs this well-performed and produced, the future for this duo is limitless.
The second fan-created group following JBJ, Rainz is a project group consisting of Kim Seongri, Ju Wontak, Lee Kiwon, Jang Daehyeon, Hong Eunki, Byun Hyunmin, and Seo Sunghyuk. While none of the members made it very far in the reality show (the highest ranked member was Sunghyuk at 31), they gained a lot of fans due to their individual skills, be it in gymnastics, taekwondo, dancing or vocals, which they managed to display on Produce 101 despite their lack of screen time. Since their debut in October, they have released two mini-albums, their latest being Shake You Up with title track “Turn It Up.” The electronic track highlights their impressive synchronised dance and fully shows their charisma, made even stronger when the boys are together in a group. While the future of the group is uncertain, they have been busy leaving their mark on the industry thus far and will hopefully do more soon.
HNB is a boy group comprising of trainees from HF Entertainment, some of whom participated in Produce 101. As the group is undergoing an internal evaluation now, the exact number of members in the group is still indefinite. As a pre-debut release however, four members (three current, one past) of the group who were in Produce 101, namely Park Woodam, Jo Yonggeun, Jung Woncheol, and Woo Jinyoung released “I’m Your Light” to thank fans for voting for them. While the group is being finalized, Woo Jinyoung, Jo Yonggeun, Kim Hyunsoo, and Yoon Jaehee participated in another survival show, YG Entertainment’s Mixnine, in which Woo Jinyoung won first place in, hence making it into the final debut group for the show. The members have also been using V Live regularly to interact with their growing fanbase before their official debut.
Although he missed the debut lineup by just one spot (he came in 12th place), Jeong Sewoon has made it as a successful soloist thus far, with the release of his first mini album which came in two parts, Ever followed by After. He also completed a milestone first solo concert, and has been performing on prestigious stages such as Mnet Asia Music Awards 2017 and the upcoming Seoul Jazz Festival. His latest title song “Baby It’s You,” released in January of 2018, is a catchy and upbeat track which shows his wide vocal range and versatility as a singer. Beyond developing as a musician, he has also been active on the variety scene, with his appearances on programs like Sugarman Season 2 and Dangerous Beyond The Blankets, which he recently became a permanent cast member for.
One of the most prominent participants on Produce 101 from the start, his absence from the final debut lineup was shocking to many, but it also sparked a new beginning for Samuel, who debuted as a soloist one month after the conclusion of the program. While he is only 16, he has proven himself very capable of showing diverse charms, from the energetic “Sixteen” to the fiercer “One,” which he released in March. Beyond his charming outward appearance, he has an outstanding sense of rhythm which shows in his dancing, making him a wonderful performer. The best part —he’ll only get better as he continues growing.
He first caught public attention back in 2010, when he went on Superstar K2. While he initially received a lot of hate and malicious comments, he triumphed through them and emerged stronger than before, earning him the respect of netizens as well as many of the other participants on Produce 101. With his enviable long locks, he became a very distinct personality and continued standing out throughout the show. After finishing in 27th place, he recently made his solo debut through mini album Peeps, with “Red” as his title song. Far from the Superstar K2 performance which he was criticised a lot for, Jang Moonbok has been improving his singing and rapping skills and remains an icon of persistence and growth.
The chick trainee who captured many hearts during his run at Produce 101, especially with his many bromances and the continual growth he showed, finally made his solo debut with Spring, SEONHO in April. In line with his flower-boy and cute image, his title track “Maybe Spring” is a light-hearted ballad with a sweet melody. Just like a flower that is on the brink of blooming, Yoo Seonho has room for development, but his potential is already shining through from his mini-album, with tracks that diversify his music style by incorporating jazzy elements. He has also been busy with other activities such as CF filmings, music video appearances and a web-drama that he did with his fellow Produce 101 mate, Ahn Hyungseop.
Joo Haknyeon (The BOYZ)
After ending in 19th place on Produce 101, Joo Haknyeon was added to a new boy group under his entertainment company, The BOYZ. The 12-membered boy group has released two EPs so far, and made a comeback recently with “Giddy Up” from their second EP The Start. “Giddy Up” is a playful song with a nostalgic music video concept that would appeal to viewers of all ages. As the lead dancer, vocalist, and rapper of the group, Joo Haknyeon stands out due to his extensive stage experience but also blends well with the team to create a cohesive performance.
Lee Woojin (The East Light)
Soon after finishing the show, the beloved maknae of Produce 101 joined the talented band The East Light, which has an average age of 16.6 years, but whose members mostly have predebut experience and are skilled in various instruments. Despite the members being so young, the band has a very developed musicality. This contrast is emphasized to a somewhat humorous extent in their most recent comeback with “Real Man,” their third digital single, in which they dress in cool-looking suits, until their high-pitched and unbroken voices emerge. They have a charm that is definitely unique in the K-pop industry, and is a band worth looking out for, especially since Lee Woojin, who has shown his vocal prowess among his hyungs on Produce 101, has now joined the band as a keyboardist and vocalist.
Yoo Hwe Seung (N.Flying)
Rounding out the list is Yoo Hwe Seung. He gained much attention on the show for his vocal ability, and though he finished in 39th place, he was quickly added to FNC band N.Flying, who had made their debut in 2013. Despite being the maknae of the group, both in terms of age and experience, he quickly took center stage with his vocals and has definitely added a lot of colour to the group. Their most recent comeback, “Hot Potato,” is an addictive track reminiscent of the music of their sunbaes, FT.Island and CNBLUE, but filled with the group’s own playful flavour. Hwe Seung also created a stir with his ‘five high notes’ (rivalling those of IU’s famous three notes in “Good Day”) which he displayed through his recent collaboration with FT Island vocalist Lee Hongki, “Still Love You.” While the song is a typical ballad, and both singers gave amazing performances, Hwe Seung’s moment was the true climax and left goosebumps all over.
While the contestants have mostly went their separate ways, they are all making waves in the industry and will continue to do so for a long while.
Have you been keeping up with the Produce 101 boys? What do you think of the impact they have made on the K-pop scene? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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After a year and a half of no official releases, soloist Anda returns with the help of superstar producer Primary. They have released a four song EP, the ominously titled Do Worry Be Happy, with each song getting a music video. Known for her controversial portrayal of lesbians in her video for “Touch” and for charming Middle Eastern billionaires without ever meeting them, Anda is an artist of unique sound and visuals. Her height and distinct facial structure help her to stand out from most Korean female soloists. Her music up to now has been stuck somewhere between pop and indie though leaving her with no distinct audience. Working with Primary is a great idea then as whatever you may think of him, he is probably the most successful producer at bringing indie sounds into the mainstream. Luckily, he’s matched his best style (the British indie inspired 2 album sound) with the compelling Anda.
Sounding like a more laboured version of something off of the Drive soundtrack, Primary and Anda open with “The Open Boat.” Featuring colde, the vocalist from R&B duo offonoff, “The open boat” is lumbering melancholic electro pop. The constant rolling synths are almost suffocating, their deep tones recalling vast oceans of nothingness. They restrain Anda, her trademark whispery style of singing tries to call out. She tries to scrape it back by pitching higher. “Touch the sky” she repeats in the chorus, her voice now more ephemeral. As the song grows she seems to be winning the fight, colde helps her break free, “Don’t stop and push forward.” Yet it is overwhelmingly cold. Together they have arrived at some sort of peace but musically not much has changed. The brisk synths continue, they have become a home for the intrepid pair but we remain locked outside.
Following this is “Zeppelin,” a song that works with Primary’s funk roots to move away from the wintery tone. “Zeppelin” is about how Anda gets out of her previous rut from “The open boat.” Her love takes her higher and higher. It’s not drastic though, it comfortably floats atop funky guitars and wavy ‘80s synths. Anda’s vocal is more childish here, and is really the only thing of interest going on. While she is distinct, it would be hard to call her voice actually good. She seems to be connecting with the wispy nostalgia of the track but not making it believable. Without hitting those feelings she would at least need to bring something strong which she can’t. “Zeppelin” should have felt fresh against the oppressiveness of “The open boat,” but it’s a mere respite rather than refresher.
The duo find their feet directly after, though, on lead single “Dressroom.” It picks up where “The open boat” left off with sombre electro pop. It immediately recalls Primary’s work on Uhm Jung Hwa’s “Ending Credit” but a little less clear. There’s a lot more space and reverb to the track. Anda, like Uhm Jung Hwa, is coming to the end of a part of her life. Where Jung Hwa is nostalgic, Anda is bitter. Her voice is vulnerable, she reverts to shouting instead of singing in the chorus. Trying to find a way out she bellows into the ether, “I broke down but I still couldn’t let you go.” It’s beautifully performed vulnerability. Anda never feels out of control, just conscious of her pain and finding ways of healing it. She has the same control in the video. She looks like she was born to be a model. Her body is being watched closely, she doesn’t take pleasure in it but doesn’t look uncomfortable either. She takes off her oversized jacket and keeps her composure. Bearing her own scars so we can forget our own.
Album closer “Moonlight” (featuring electro soloist Xin Seha) documents the effects that these troubles have on Anda. Primary keeps the mood down but plays with the track a bit more. The beat is alive this time, a constant stream of cymbals add the subconscious texture that causes Anda’s insomnia. “It’s not the coffee you drank in the afternoon,” she struggles to get out at the beginning. Primary uses Jai Paul-like details to give the song a sense of mystery. The bubbling bassy synths and warm guitar suggest strange feelings swirling around Anda and guest Xin Seha. Together they try in vain to understand but eventually decide “I will not sleep.” A resignation to the hypnotic beat.
This unlikely pair have created an album drenched in sensitivity by coming together. Anda and Primary seem like a mismatch given the producer’s usual clientele of the best vocalists and rappers Korea has to offer. Anda pulls him down to emotional depths he had never explored prior to this, though. Her voice is so light usually, almost always a whisper, and when strained to these heights it carries so much hurt. It doesn’t break but bends against the cold electronics of Primary’s music. Sometimes it’s too cold and sometimes it’s too slight. When it hits though, everything connects for a stunning look at a disaffected youth.
What do you think of Primary and Anda’s Do Worry Be Happy? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
Primary & Anda's "Do Worry Be Happy"
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If you think about how long Shinhwa has been around, you don’t need to look past their 14th anniversary press conference, where member Jun Jin put things into perspective for everyone: “The members of Girls’ Generation were in elementary school when we were in SM Entertainment. Jessica and Hyoyeon wrote us letters back in the day.”
That was six years ago.
On March 24th, Shinhwa celebrated their 20th anniversary. Rightly, the band is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running boy group in the world that hasn’t disbanded or had a member leave in 19—well, 20 now—years. A closer look at the band and its popularity, however, pegs Shinhwa as artists who transcend numbers and charts, and who have found permanence in an otherwise transient industry.
The six members of Shinhwa debuted on March 24, 1998 under SM Entertainment, performing the single “Resolver” on KM Music Tank. To say that the band had a rocky start would have been an understatement—accusations of being a copy of label-mates H.O.T and the controversy following the Sokcho water accident that overshadowed the promotions of their song “Eusha Eusha” soon sparked rumours of disbandment. With the exception of some songs, the group’s debut album did not chart well, leading people to speculate that the band may have been a bad investment for SM.
With their second album “T.O.P,” however, came an edgier concept and mainstream success. “T.O.P.” won Shinhwa their first major music award for “Best Music Video”, and the trajectory only went upwards after that.
A Long Line of Firsts
As both fans and writers, we know how much modern K-pop owes to the so-called first wave of Korean music. Not only was the era a fantastic prelude to the all-encompassing force of nature that K-pop would eventually become, but the artists who defined that wave also left behind a legacy that would inspire and drive the future generations. Seo Taiji and the Boys, for example, gave Korea quite possibly its first tryst with R&B, and member Yang Hyun Suk later established one of South Korea’s premier entertainment companies, YG Entertainment. S.E.S, one of K-pop’s early girl group successes and the first girl group from SM, would later go on to inspire numerous other girl groups.
For as long as they’ve been around, therefore, it’s only inevitable that Shinhwa’s legacy be an ode to their popularity. What’s surprising, though, is knowing just how much contemporary idol and fan culture owes to the band and their fandom, “Shinhwa Changjo”. (The name means “making a legend”, aptly complementing the band’s own name meaning ‘myth’ or ‘legend’.)
In 2002, while still under SM, the band released their sixth studio album, thus officially becoming the longest-running act in K-pop. A year later, while reviewing their contracts, SM offered to renew contracts with all members except vocalist Dong Wan. Rather than splitting up, Shinhwa decided not to renew their contracts with SM, and departed from the company as one unit, signing later with Good Entertainment. As somewhat of an unspoken trend in K-pop, artists who leave one company for another often experience a wane in popularity. Shinhwa, however, is one of the only bands in K-pop whose members went on to have incredibly successful careers despite a company change and the mandatory military enlistments. In fact, their first Daesang (or Grand Prize), for the seventh studio album Brand New, came in 2004, almost a year after leaving SM.
But just because they left the label that formed them didn’t mean Shinhwa broke away from SM entirely. In 2013, member Min Woo looked fondly upon his time at SM, saying: “[Founder] Lee Soo Man is truly an amazing person. From each member’s hairstyles to everything we did on stage, he took care of us meticulously. He used to talk to all of us about every little thing.”
Following their mandatory military enlistments, Shinhwa became the first K-pop group to establish their own entertainment company in 2011. For a while, the band was locked in a legal battle with SM Entertainment and Joon Media (formerly Open World Entertainment) for profits and use of the name ‘Shinhwa’. The case was, however, settled in 2015, and Shinhwa Company (which had been dubbed ShinCom for the duration of the case) came into existence.
Shinhwa was also one of the early trendsetters in the industry in terms of musical control. While their creative license was limited under SM, the members participated actively in the production of their albums after leaving. By that time, most members had released solo music and found their personal styles. The result was an eclectic combination of sounds on future albums, making the band a truly versatile act.
It’s not just their music and their exceptional team spirit that set Shinhwa apart, though: the band was the first in the industry to break away from the mainstream style of the time. When much of K-pop focused on trendy skinny jeans and bright colors (think SHINee’s “Replay” era), Shinhwa adopted a much more sophisticated style with clean-cut suits and cropped hair—quite uncommon for popular acts at the time.
Also uncommon was Shinhwa’s dedicated fandom, Shinhwa Changjo, who, honestly, were fandom goals before the term went mainstream. Shinhwa Changjo are credited with starting the popular rice wreath trend—it was member Hye Sung’s fandom who first sent rice wreaths to support his solo concert in 2007. Shinhwa’s fandom was also the first to have planted forests in support of their idols.
The Making of Legends
Part of the reason why Shinhwa remains a groundbreaking act in K-pop is, as The Atlantic put it, their “smart self-awareness.” In an industry that’s sometimes too full to the brim with new acts, Shinhwa chose to evolve and mature in their own timeline, striking an attractive balance between age and trends. The result? Hilarious variety shows and appearances where the members didn’t, and continue to not, hesitate in poking fun at themselves, all topped off by the very refreshing devil-may-care attitude that came with spending years in the industry (I will never be able to hear the words “Do you smell something burning?” without laughing.)
In fact, despite their seniority in the industry, age hasn’t ever been something that’s held Shinhwa back: the band has embraced their late 30s with fervour and humour, even going so far as to admitting that having a “battle of stamina with younger groups” is pointless. Now that they don’t have the “weapon of youth”, they’ve turned their focus on charms that suit their age.
There’s the cheeky SNL Korea broadcast where the members dress up as exhibits in a museum—only the exhibits are their younger selves from a decade ago—with visitors standing around, confused about who they’re supposed to be. There’s the sarcastic “Idol Retirement Insurance Plan” skit, where the members sold insurance plans to idols in the climax of their careers that included obsessive fans to stalk them and make them feel young. Or, if you need something else, there’s the infamous “Farting chorus” broadcast—which is exactly what it sounds like.
That’s probably the most endearing part about Shinhwa—with the passage of time, they made their own interpretations of what they were supposed to be, both as individuals and as a group, and molded the expectations to fit them than the other way round. As a unit, it makes them relatable. They never shy away from sharing both their successes and their struggles—the members have always been vocal about arguments among themselves, but have also been quick to admit how their long bonds have made working together easier. In a recent interview about their 13th studio album, member Jun Jin put the feeling into words: “If it weren’t for Shinhwa, Jun Jin wouldn’t exist.”
It isn’t just the marvelous teamwork; it’s also the fact that Shinhwa has never been a group that downplays their concerns, both as artists and businessmen. Group leader Eric expressed his anxiety about working in an industry where Shinhwa is one of the only groups left from the first generation: “We have no role models, nowhere to get advice. I think we have to grasp our future direction ourselves as we continue to work.”
They’ve also never had qualms about admitting to concerns about their company—Eric once talked about how Shinhwa realized that running a company was different than being an idol when they had to monitor how much money they spent on meals. Somewhere down the line, Shinhwa shed the skin of idols and became human, which brought them to closer to their fans.
Speaking of which, part of the reason why they remain popular favorites is also their relationships with their fans, which has always been more like that of bickering best friends and less like the typical fan-idol interactions. In fact, the group has never been hesitant to call out fans on their behavior. As a story about their first fan-sign goes, member Dong Wan told the fans that “Shinhwa is definitely not responsible for your lives.” He received some flak for that, but Dong Wan defended himself, saying that the “fans’ love could sometimes be over the top.” It was an example of how Shinhwa were mature since their early days, not caring about gratuitous fanservice and establishing a relationship of mutual trust with their fans.
K-pop is an ephemeral industry: every burst of fame and omnipresence is followed by a plateau where new groups come in and take over, and fandoms are inherited down the generations. Yet, Shinhwa is one of the only groups from the first generation of K-pop to not only continue making music, but to be loved by fans and the industry alike. They remain among the groups for which the word “groundbreaking” rings utterly true—because of their acceptance of the changing times; because of their self-deprecating and brilliant humor; and, most importantly, because of their steely resolve to always be one unit for themselves and their fans. They never take themselves very seriously, and that’s what makes them so endearing.
If you’re just starting out with Shinhwa, check out the remake of their music video, “All Your Dreams,” which was released on the 20th anniversary of their debut.
What’s your favorite Shinhwa song? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/DSC_09891.jpg?fit=800%2C531531800KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2018-04-05 09:43:382018-04-05 09:43:38The Shinhwa story: 20 years young & still going strong
Finally after a year and five months, the very last LOONA girl, Olivia Hye, was revealed. It’s a testament to the time and effort put into the project that so many people were eagerly anticipating this moment and the moments still to come. LOONA has given us probably the most interestingdebut roll out in K-pop (all music?) history, considering that twelve girls were rolled out over that year and a half through twelve solo singles, 4 sub-unit singles (with more to come), and countless fan theories about what it all meant. To look back on this all before the last unit finish out the debut project we ranked the twelve solo singles.
12. “Around You” by Hyunjin
Hyunjin has the undesirable position of starting us off with her solo track “Around You.” Produced by Lee Juhyung of Monotree, “Around You” is by no means a bad song. Its reverberating piano refrain is in fact a gorgeously simple riff to build a song around. It is helped along the way by some more crisp stabs of the keys and glances of guitar details. Structurally the track falters though. By moving towards a more conventional chorus and adding more parts “Around You” loses the fragility of its opening. That frailty worked wonders with Hyunjin’s equally weak voice as she sang of her foolish patience, and if it had remained small and instead gone for a big change at the climax it could have held onto that power longer. This begs the question though, could Hyunjin have even been able to pull that off? I guess we’ll find out with LOONA’s debut.
11. “Love Cherry Motion” by Choerry
Choerry is the member of LOONA who exists on all sides of the Mobius. To the uninitiated that just means she can interact with any of the other members right now. She’s also one of the most energetic of them all and musically both of these traits are very clear in “Love Cherry Motion.” Her bubbliness comes through right from the beginning and makes the song as fresh as it should sound for the summer. Its pre-chorus delves into deep bass EDM territory and finally culminates with Middle-Eastern style synths to change things around. Switching genres on a whim is an overdone staple in K-pop at this stage and “Love Cherry Motion” feels like LOONA was pandering to that. Without her story, the song would be just another version of that. Producers Ollipop, Hayley Aitken, and Kanata Okajima do handle it well though. They let the darker sound take over for the bridge before transitioning back into the softer side with an ease they seemingly wanted to avoid at first. They tell the story of Choerry’s flexibility in the story of LOONA but also how it feels for a young girl to fall in love.
10. “One and Only” by Go Won
The last few girls of the LOONA project were unlucky in that they had to live up to increasingly high expectations. It’s a somewhat unfair prospect given that the solo songs as a whole are meant more as calling cards for the particular members rather than singles built to chart. Go Won’s “One and Only” is, like her, slight and mysterious. Produced by Darren “Baby Dee Beats” Smith, “One and Only” is shimmering but simple synth pop. Go Won delivers an equally simple vocal in variety of ways amid the synths and processed drums. She half-chants half-raps her wonderful feelings of self-love brought on by the moonlight, raising her pitch with each line, mimicking the ascending synth; Go Won’s self-love is simple but comes from hard, repetitious work. But, apart from the bridge, “One and Only” undergoes essentially zero structural changes. It is straightforward to a fault, the song doesn’t really have to go anywhere, but that’s because Go Won doesn’t either. She is happy being her one and only.
9. “Eclipse” by Kim Lip
Kim Lip changed it all. From the opening chords of “Eclipse” and Lip’s more mature voice, it was clear LOONA were starting off on a new path. “Eclipse” grows with impassioned ease, building an eclectic bed of sounds through which Lip can sing between. Even from just the music video she was by far the most natural performer, blatantly a girl the group could be built around. Produced by Daniel “Obi” Klein and Charli Taft, “Eclipse” was a new style for LOONA with a silky variety of synths. The bridge is a moment to savour, fingersnaps and gorgeous vocals slowing things down to reveal the depth of what Kim Lip can do. Over time however, “Eclipse” grew somewhat tired. It feels too busy in comparison to LOONA’s more simple moments and not busy enough compared to what the ODD EYE CIRCLE girls would do after her. Its impact came from its surprise factor but couldn’t hold attention much longer after that.
8. “Egoist” by Olivia Hye feat. Jinsoul
Closing out the solo cycle of LOONA was Olivia Hye and her song “Egoist.” Olivia enlisted Jinsoul to feature as well as taking on her future bass sound. “Egoist” is a less volatile and unfortunately less interesting take on what Jinsoul previously displayed, though. The production, by Artronic Waves, LAB301, and Pablo Groove, is filled with great and varying details, from the repurposed whistles to the always growing percussions. Olivia can’t quite match the song for personality though. She is at first cold, and from among bassy moody synths and piano she sings of a broken relationship. She’s hiding her feelings, and in their place she only shows pain. As the song moves forwards, stronger more expressive synths take over from the piano. They lift Olivia not to express her emotions but forget them. She learns to love herself but unconvincingly so, leaving the song a bit lacking.
LOONA’s sole Chinese member Vivi faced a similar challenge as Hyunjin, failing to make her song strong enough to stand alone despite her weak voice. For this, the LOONA team went for a throwback vibe. On “Everyday I Love You” Vivi reveals her feelings through hushed, breathy vocals over some quintessential 90s beats, while synths shimmer as a guitar nervously plucks out an accompaniment. Everything comes together for an exciting chorus. In the absolute highlight of the track, the aforementioned guitar slides to introduce the chorus, it’s a cliched technique at this stage but that is precisely why it works so well. Horns join as Vivi pushes her small voice to high pitched delights. It’s one of the most simple but fun moments in all of LOONA’s discography.
6. “Vivid” by Heejin
LOONA began as they meant to go on, with Heejin and Monotree releasing “Vivid.” As an opener it is odd but no less polished than everything that followed it. “Vivid” is a brash confident offering from Heejin. Her voice goes up and down with ease, as she inflects her words with a cheeky rasp over filtered brass and piano. Her ease as a vocalist and acting in the video were a clear warning that these girls were here for serious business. At first watch I thought she was a new soloist, completely ready to take on the likes of Lim Kim with a more youthful quirky take. But even knowing that she is only one small part of an unknown whole doesn’t change how good this was though.
5. “Heart Attack” by Chuu
Vocally none of the girls quite matched Chuu in terms of personality on their solo tracks. She teases us at first, leaving small breaths between each line as she gradually rises to the chorus. As soon as she reaches it though, she drops the intensity only to rise it towards the end once again. From there she doesn’t have a chance to breathe, showing some of the biggest vocals LOONA has seen, with raps and adorable little “ooh oohs” for added color.” Ollipop and Hayley Aitken return to the LOONAverse to once again bridge gaps between the girls. Here they bring back the orchestral elements of LOONA ⅓ but don’t shy away from more modern beats and details. They weave a variety of horns, pianos, and synths around Chuu’s voice, constantly challenging her to one up herself. She matches them step for step and they come together brilliantly on the climax, letting go of any restraints that might have been holding them back.
4. “New” by Yves
Yves bit the apple and led LOONA out of Eden with her solo track, “New.” Similar to Kim Lip she opened her era with supreme confidence, showcasing strong vocals and dancing as she easily performs to the retro stylings of Brooke Toia, Daniel Caeser, and Ludwing Lindell; it’s 80s synth pop through a modern lens. The production is deceptively simple, with just synths, a beat, and Yves’ voice. In the first verse, the beat doesn’t fully reveal itself at first, starting with just finger snaps and a bass drum but in the second one, an ascending high hat is added, slowly rising to the chorus. Those same few elements are used in the chorus and to great dramatic effect: the synths are heavy and satisfying, and Yves’ vocals airy but totally under her control. This magnificent drama tells a story of self-confidence, a tale that Yves acts out with such sincerity.
Behind the languid chorus of “Singing in the Rain” lies LOONA’s most complex song to date. Jinsoul’s luscious future-bass track (produced by Caesar & Loui) juggles a number of sections, all of which come together in the end to crushing effect. It opens with the most exciting and varied drum beat I’ve heard in years, and slowly rises and falls. The complexity is helped by her vocal range, as she was the first one to rap and sing in her song giving “Singing In The Rain” an edge when it comes to the second verse. A different pre-chorus is also added for the second chorus, lending the song a surprising, driving intent. It’s essentially a series of overlapping and intersecting circles, growing in intensity with every new one added. The track culminates with the genuine Hollywood euphoria Jinsoul had been looking for. “I used to be untouchable and dangerous” she sings, suggesting a wicked unpredictability to her.
2. “Kiss Later” by Yeojin
No track was helped more by Monotree and LOONA’s dedication to using real instruments and orchestras than “Kiss Later”. Yeojin’s solo is a Broadway musical-inspired pop explosion that really fits the young girl’s voice. It starts off with a soft, shimmering melody, and Yeojin uses her tinny vocals to great effect before the song crashes into a frenzy of strings, horns, and percussion. It’s such a satisfying pay-off, and lends the rest of the song an unwavering kinetic energy. The music blends masterfully with Yeojin’s voice as she likes to talk-sing at times, even as she playfully follows the pointed details of the track with great strong syllables. As the youngest member of LOONA, her anxieties are rendered almost like a game. She understands that there are adult concepts at play and can avoid them, but doesn’t, and still has the most fun out of anyone. There hasn’t been a song in the last few years that quite matches “Kiss Later” for fun on every level.
1. “Let Me In” by Haseul
Ending LOONA’s first year was Haseul, with her soft voice whispering confusion of her identity on “Let Me In.” The song is the key to understanding the first five girls of LOONA, a track that rejects common pop rules in favour of building a unique world. Written and Produced by 오레오 [Oreo] and arranged by 웅 킴 [Oong Kim] “Let me in” is a purely orchestral song with no regular beat or modern instruments. Among this Haseul restrains herself at first. Her voice, pitched beautifully high, tells of a love so strong she feels like she is becoming one with her lover. These joyous feelings are highlighted by stunning musical details, including the tweets of a piccolo, delicate pulls of a harp, and, most of all, the strings that constantly change. It builds a sense of history made believable thanks to Haseul tiptoeing right up to her range; her voice is strong but vulnerable. Overall, Haseul and “Let Me In” define the identity struggle that the whole LOONA project was about. On the cusp of womanhood, these girls felt the push and pull of various paths and this song contains the dangers and joys of all those paths.
How would you rank all of LOONA’s solo singles? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/LOONA_all_members_collage.png?fit=1564%2C156215621564Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2018-04-03 05:22:512018-04-03 05:22:51The 12 LOONA Solo Singles Ranked
WJSN/Cosmic Girls had a pretty disappointing 2017. After releasing the best song of their short careers “Secret” along with an otherworldly concept to match their name, they turned to something more simple; “I Wish” had elements of the girl group’s concept in the music video but none in the music, and “Happy” was a complete 180 turn. Sticking to concepts isn’t something that groups should always do, and it is in fact often discouraged. But WJSN’s was perfectly pitched with “Secret.” So it’s no surprise then that they see a return to that style with their new single “Dreams Come True,” a strong return to form.
Even though it comes months later, “Dreams Come True” feels like a direct sequel to “Secret.” This time helmed by producers Full8loom, WJSN bring their unique vocal flavour to a mix of europop synths and orchestral pop. Full8loom do a good job of replicating e.one’s style on “Secret,” combining electronics and an orchestra to create WJSN’s cosmic sound. The synths give it the classic sci-fi feeling while the orchestral elements sends it into the stratosphere.
It is clearly not a rehash though. “Secret” was decisive, an almost complete song right from the beginning. “Dreams Come True” takes more time to reveal itself. “Secret” would swap between its synths and strings within a section whereas “Dreams Come True” devotes whole sections to a particular sound, slowly adding elements to prepare for the climax. “Secret” was a song about hidden feelings, the anxiety of simultaneously falling for someone and barely knowing who they are while “Dreams Come True” is about bridging that gap, a song about gradually building the courage to give yourself to someone.
As the music begins its ascent, it is ambiguous. The girls are tasked with being the major deviations at the front of the song. WJSN have a lot of vocalists that have similar sounding voices but with noticeably different timbres when lined up. In the first verse it moves from Seola’s divinely clean voice, to then a quartet of Eunseo, Mei Qi, Bona, and Xuan Yi. Eunseo goes against the grain type by pitching high, accentuating her slightly nasally voice which meshes well with Mei Qi’s sensual whisper. Bona is more conventional and sets up the true alien of WJSN, Xuan Yi and her tiny and distinct, almost vacant voice. The sense of nervousness is clear with each one’s delivery: Eunseo complains that, “When we pass by we seem like strangers,” and Mei Qi replies, “And I hate thinking about it.”
Dawon takes advantage of the diminutive Xuan Yi to bring the power and lift the song as only she can. She represents the bubbling confidence of WJSN as she bellows, “It’ll become a miracle, It’ll pull us together, It’ll make our dreams come true so…” This line has its own weird internal rhythm. Dawon is fitting as much as she can into the bar, ignoring usual resting spots. Whether or not she is ready to believe what she’s saying, she knows she doesn’t have a choice but to trust it.
From there the chorus hits,at first with a thud and then grows as it goes on. It’s given time to breathe and slowly differentiate itself from the verse, andit finally ends with the opening signature synth which even Cheng Xiao can ride with ease into outer space.
Exy’s rap represents the biggest vocal shift of the song and the music follows her. Holding on to the electro tone of the chorus, it shifts into dubstep as Exy slows things down and opens with the ominous line, “I am in the dark.” Her rapping is nicely crisp but gets slightly more emotional as it goes on, increasing in tempo as she starts to move out of the dark. Finding courage, the beat intensifies and continually adds drum fills that changes the second verse.
The bridge’s stunning quiet moment is the highlight. It has time for four of the girls to sing variations of the same scale, while the track reduces itself to just strings, a few keys, and some beautiful harmonies. It’s a stunning moment of clarity and tension, as if the whole song was leading to this point rather than the actual climax. It contextualizes the cosmic dramas of their lives in terms of their lover’s dreams. “You and me to be drawn as a dream, it will be done as you dream,” they repeat, finding the hope of their love in the short moment of peaceful stillness among the shifting scales of the track.
“Dreams Come True” continues one of the better visual collaborations in K-pop as Kim Zi Yong and Fantazy Lab return to direct the music video. It is definitely a sequel to “Secret” as we see some references from it including the book with the iconic phrase, “Have you ever felt cosmo inside of you?” In “Dreams Come True” the girls are separated by space and time and are faced with the threat of a giant wormhole opening up over Seoul. There seems to be human versions of themselves that inhabit Seoul and the cosmic versions who are in a heaven type area who stay connected via phones. They work together to call down Bona from her flying space bed, and she flies straight into the wormhole, destroying it.
This is all communicated much more elegantly in the video by Kim. No one is better at connecting the real and imaginary worlds with special effects than he is. He uses a large amount of smaller moments to build his world. Each image has very simple fantasy elements executed perfectly, but this formula is slightly tired at this stage. Compared to “Secret” it’s not much better or worse but doesn’t have the same surprise factor. It also has an unnecessary and ugly bluish colour grade. If they had gone for something closer to the wizarding world of the teasers, there could have been a lot of room to try new things. Kim Zi Yong’s aesthetic has worked well in a number of concepts and would have been unique enough to separate itself from obvious potential Harry Potter comparisons.
WJSN’s return to the cosmos has turned out to be as appropriately dramatic as can be though “Dreams Come True” lacks the dense, unique production of “Secret” that lends it its immediate qualities. Structurally though, “Dreams Come True” betters “Secret.” It produces an epic scale from disparate parts coming together and finally disappearing so the girls can dream clearly.
WJSN's "Dreams Come True"
What do you think of WJSN’s single “Dreams Come True”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ssis.png?fit=800%2C800800800Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2018-02-28 06:26:192018-02-28 06:26:19WJSN's "Dreams Come True" Music Video & Song Review
Ever since the conclusion of JYP Entertainment’s survival reality program Stray Kids, where the nine members of the group took part in various challenges set by the company to prove that they were able to debut as a whole group, the victorious (and complete!) group was busy with promotions for their pre-debut EP, Mixtape, which featured the group’s tracks that were mostly performed during the program.
Following its release, Mixtape proved to be a fan favorite and topped charts in the States, and also proved to encompass the essence of what is unique about this group and, by extension, showcased the new direction that JYP Entertainment is taking in debuting this group. All the seven tracks on the EP were composed in some way by the members of Stray Kids, be it in lyric-writing, songwriting or arranging. In particular, the members of “3RACHA,” a previously established trio within Stray Kids consisting of leader Bang Chan and rappers Han Jisung and Seo Changbin, wrote the lyrics for all the songs and took part in the music composition for six of them. The ownership and individuality shown here is rare in the K-pop industry, considering this is a group who has yet to officially debut.
It is even more surprising considering JYP’s usual management of their groups. With the exception of rock band DAY6, whose debut EP was also composed of songs created by the members, JYP’s boy groups mostly started out with EPs and title tracks composed by Park Jinyoung himself (i.e GOT7’s “Girls Girls Girls” and 2PM’s “10 Out of 10”). The members of these groups eventually went on to create their own music for their later albums and title tracks (i.e Jun K’s “Go Crazy,” JB’s “You Are”) after a few years, which is a common practice in the industry. Stray Kids releasing Mixtape could thus be an indication of a shift in JYP Entertainment’s priorities for their new groups: no longer are they optimizing safe and polished debut performances but instead highlighting releases that showcase more musicality and creative freedom. Perhaps this is to align with the current trend of self-composed music in the industry but whatever it is, it is definitely paying off for Stray Kids.
The exceptional composing skills of the members, especially the members of 3RACHA, were constantly displayed throughout the program, an instance being their rap face-off with YG Entertainment trainees, where Changbin and Jisung wowed with their original track “Matryoshka” (from their third mixtape, Horizon).
Since last January, the trio have been releasing their original tracks through SoundCloud and YouTube, with a total of three mixtapes out at the moment. The exposure they received as trainees does explain their prowess now especially for long-time trainee Bang Chan, who has so-far single-handedly done the producing and mixing for most of 3RACHA’s tracks, with Changbin and Jisung contributing to the lyrics.
The trio’s experience shows in their works, and really helped the entire boy group establish a very unique musical identity right off the bat. With the music video of “Hellevator,” the title track of “Mixtape,” racking up millions of views on YouTube before the reality show even premiered, anticipation was high for Stray Kids thanks to this intense song which highlighted the various strengths of the members, in particular their synchronized dancing. The group continued to impress with their music through the missions on the show, where they took on challenges such as performing at a live broadcast and busking on the streets.
While the group as a whole is definitely still a rookie one, especially with regard to the vocal areas, Stray Kids has proven that they can (and do) distinguish themselves from other rookie boy bands, not just musically but with their fresh personalities as well. Often displaying tough and charismatic images on stage, they played up their youthful charms on the show once off stage and even now on the occasional V-live broadcasts that they do. With an average age of 20 (youngest member Jeongin is a 2001-er), the members are cute and playful especially when they interact with each other.
Speaking of which, the unity of this group is remarkable, despite only being formed a few months before the show. Perhaps this is where Stray Kids differs most from Sixteen, the survival show from which TWICE was created in 2015. In Sixteen, the 16 members competed against each other to get into the seven member group (it was later changed to nine members), which naturally created a lot of rivalry among the members. Stray Kids, on the other hand, was promoted and run as a show where the group “fought” with JYP to debut together. Their adorable friendship and dynamic were on display from the start, and got viewers passionately rooting for the group to stay together. The most unique part of this survival show was the lack of competition between the members and the cooperation they displayed. There was very little “fighting for the main part” that often goes on in such shows, and instead, there were so many moments where the more experienced members sacrificed their own practice time to help those who were lagging behind or in danger of elimination. The hard work and effort that the whole group put in to help each other improve led to heart-wrenching and tear-jerking moments for members and fans alike when a few members ended up being eliminated through the course of the show (they were eventually brought back in the final mission), further endearing the group to the viewers.
With all the hype and popularity Stray Kids has already gotten so far, their debut is definitely a highly-anticipated one. It still has to be proven if the “free-reign” direction JYP is taking with this group will last in the future, but for now, it’s producing results and I cannot wait to see how far this group will fly from here.
Have you been keeping up with Stray Kids? What do you think of the new direction JYP is taking with them? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/sk.jpg?fit=1000%2C5005001000Anna Cheanghttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngAnna Cheang2018-02-27 19:25:592018-02-27 19:25:59Stray Kids: JYP's new direction
Following the resignation of CEO Na Byung Joon under controversial circumstances, Fantagio Entertainment and all its artists’ short term futures were in doubt. Weki Meki were one of those groups and had apparently been preparing a comeback as the news broke. Thankfully things settled down enough for them to bring their follow up to debut mini WEME and divisive single “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend.” They have done that in the form of Lucky, their second mini album which seems to be going as far from their debut as can be. “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” was a song of many contradictions and the album it came on was equally filled with ups and downs. As an album, Lucky is tonally much more coherent and an easier listen. Let’s find out if that’s a good or bad thing.
As is common in K-pop minis, Lucky opens with an intro track by the same name. I love K-pop intros. At their best they are abstract representations of the albums that follow it. They don’t have to follow pop rules so tend to be the most unconventional K-pop can be. They can also be like “Lucky,” acting as a slightly remixed and shorter version of the single it precedes. Alongside “La La La” producer Rodnae “Chik” Bell; Hyuk Shin, MRey, and Ashley Alisha (all members of the Joombas Music Group) are the composers here and don’t do much to alter “La La La.” It sounds like they put the harsh processed drums of “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” underneath and added heavier bass. As an intro it doesn’t differentiate itself enough from the follow to warrant inclusion.
The lead single “La La La” is, unfortunately, similarly derivative of much more interesting songs. In what seems like a response to criticism of their debut, “La La La” has the energy of “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” without any of the eccentricities. It replaces the electronics with a variety of guitars and brass in favour of a more traditional pop stomper style. Vocally, it stifles them. The members are restricted to trying more soulful singing and straightforward rapping. On “IDLYG” the girls could just about match the gleeful twists and turns of the track, pulling it into something that works. On “La La La” they do nothing to change the direction of the song.
This is best evidenced by the chorus’ lack of movement. Musically it has an almost imperceptible change which could have been fine if the vocals went somewhere. The “laaaaa la la las” and the cheeky rap one liners are nowhere near enough, though. Wherever you lie on the “IDLYG” scale, this is a major disappointment as the highly anticipated successor.
Luckily though, Weki Meki may soon become the queens of b-sides if their albums continue work like this. “Iron Boy,” produced by the Full8loom team, is the third track and a delectable slice of 80s style electro pop. Like all great retro tracks the key to success is a juicy bass line. On “Iron Boy” it gets things going alongside Doyeon’s slight but sultry voice. From there it blends more physical elements like a guitar with some wonderful synths. Like “La La La,” its structure doesn’t do anything new. But crucially it has musical progression. By the time the chorus comes along there is now spurts of brass and fluctuating synths. There are layers to its production and the members fit it well; Sei and Suyeon’s vocals in particular stand out, as they seem just about caught in the back of their throats in a childish but powerful way.
“Metronome” is much more modern. Producers Trippy and Le’mon weave a heavier house riff around the more indifferent vocals of the girls. A piano is used to create some sense of emotion in contrast to the bassy synths. It is in a sense monotonous like its title would suggest. The song transitions using the piano parts but does so with such nonchalance that it suggests that Weki Meki feel that thin line between dancing and emoting.
Full8loom return for the final two tracks “Colour Me” and Butterfly, both of which continue the retro theme. “Colour Me” is very much in the Bruno Mars mold of nostalgia. Disco synths and funk beats meet to create a super comfortable feeling. It gives the girls some room to stretch their vocals, even more than previous songs. In the pre-chorus there are some great harmonies, and the chorus has a variety of strong high pitches and whispers.
“Butterfly” is the epitome of a winter cash in. It’s plodding retro bass drum and chimes are cliched almost to the point of parody here. It is a cover, however, of “Butterfly” by Loveholic, and these parts are there to make it relevant to the Winter Olympics. The chorus remains utterly impressive. Bonus points for the adorable sign language choreography. Minus points for reminding me of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Lucky is a settler for Weki Meki. Their rocky debut might have slowed their potential ascent thanks to Doyeon and Yoojung’s fame but it also made them distinct. Lucky doesn’t quite have the ballad lows or the “Fantastic” highs of WEME, and honestly suffers for it. Given a stronger single it could have been the perfectly solid mini they needed. Instead it falters right from the beginning and spends the rest of its run time trying to catch up. It is slick from there on in but not quite unique enough to match the Weki Meki we have come to love or hate.
Weki Meki's "Lucky"
Let us know what you think of Weki Meki’s “Lucky” in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/28342643_954959777995167_1898900365_o.jpg?fit=1000%2C6666661000Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2018-02-22 05:38:562018-02-22 12:46:51Weki Meki's "Lucky" Album Review
What happens when you put together Latin roots and K-pop? The answer lies in singer and dancer Samuel Arredondo Kim. Known as Samuel in the K-pop scene, he was born in Los Angeles to a Korean mother and a Mexican father, making him one of the few Latino K-pop stars. He became a huge hit at just 15-years-old, proving that age is really just a number.
When Samuel, now 16-years-old, first made his solo debut last August, he immediately caught my attention as well as the attention of many others. And not just because of his unique cultural background. He possesses certain star qualities and a seemingly inborn talent that distinguishes him from others in the industry. His career began at a very young age when he appeared in commercials for a Volkswagen dealership in Bakersfield. In these videos, we see a young and goofy Samuel, gushing about the cars on screen, constantly flashing a cheeky smile. He even sports an oversized suit and tie and speaks fluent Korean, adding to his more-than-adorable image. His comfort and ease in front of the camera makes it obvious that Samuel was born to be a star.
At age 11, he moved to Korea to begin his training with Pledis Entertainment. While a trainee, he was in the lineup to become a member of boy group Seventeen and appeared in the live broadcast series, Seventeen TV. In these broadcasts it is not difficult to spot Samuel as he is the youngest of the group and quite visible. He is so small compared to the others, that before watching the video, I questioned whether or not he was a part of the group and whether or not his skills would be up to par. However, when he starts to dance, there is no doubt: it is indeed the young prodigy. In fact, he dances with such skill that he blends in with the rest of the group despite the obvious height difference. Unfortunately, Samuel left Pledis Entertainment and was unable to become a member of Seventeen.
That’s okay though, as it did not stop Samuel from pursuing a career as a K-pop idol. In fact, it was probably for the better as he embarked on a path that would transform him into the Samuel we see today. Shortly after leaving Pledis Entertainment, he signed with Brave Entertainment and became one half of the hip-hop duo 1Punch. They debuted in January 2015 with “Turn Me Back,” the title track of their album, The Anthem. The music video shows Samuel, now a preteen, sporting dreads and an outfit that is highly characteristic of the hip-hop genre. Though his appearance is drastically different, it is still undoubtedly Samuel as only he could possess such advanced dancing skills at such a young age. Although the “Turn Me Back” music video does not adequately show off his full skillset, Samuel is still able to give off a hip (yet adorable) vibe that catches people’s attention.
Not long after their debut, 1Punch disbanded after fellow member One joined YG Entertainment. However, Samuel retained his stage name “Punch” and collaborated with American rapper Silentó in “Spotlight.” This catchy single won them the 26th Seoul Music Award for Global Collaboration, and Samuel later went on tour with Silentó. The fact that he was able to go on tour at his young age proves he has the stamina and qualities of a star and was a good indicator of his future successes.
Samuel’s next big moment came when he joined the survival reality show Produce 101’s second season at the beginning of 2017. He immediately stood out to viewers with his indisputable talent, and even co-choreographed his team’s performances. One of Samuel’s most memorable performances was his performance of Chris Brown’s “With You,” where he displayed incredible footwork and, to the viewers’ pleasant surprise, even lifted his shirt to give a quick peek of his abs. It’s evident through this performance that Samuel has grown and matured so much since he first began his career in Korea. He was such a favorite throughout the show, that people were shocked when he ultimately did not end up making the cut for the 11-member boy group.
Samuel’s true breakout moment came in August 2017, when he finally made his solo debut with “Sixteen,” the title track of his album.. Just when we thought he couldn’t get better (or cooler), he did. Sixteen was so successful, that the first batch of physical copies sold out, with the title track reaching number one on the iTunes worldwide album charts in Vietnam, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. It’s clear to see why: “Sixteen” is such an irresistibly fun bop that it’s quite impossible to not feel the urge to jam and dance along to it. In the video, we also see an obvious transformation in the young idol’s image. Instead of the adorable persona he once exhibited, viewers find themselves charmed by his cool charisma and attractive visuals. If that wasn’t enough, his vocals and choreography once again improved by tenfold, wowing fans even more.
Not long after that, Samuel released his second album, Eye Candy, in November 2017, which didn’t disappoint with its equally catchy songs. His most recent release was his birthday single, “Winter Night,” which he released January 16, one day before his birthday. Although the rhythm is slower than what we are used to from him, it still shows off his awesome vocals, proving that he is capable of a diverse range of musical styles.
As Samuel has already accomplished so much at such a young age, it’s exciting to see what else he will achieve as he continues to grow in his career and all eyes are on him to see what he does next.
Let us know what you think of Samuel in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/20228873_1428466017221237_5501712719689624518_n-e1518214492393.jpg?fit=955%2C657657955Jolene Chaohttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJolene Chao2018-02-09 18:01:152018-02-09 18:16:23Artist Spotlight: Samuel