Monsta X’s ‘Beautiful’ song & music video review

On March 21, Monsta X released their energetic and heartfelt song “Beautiful” and, paired with its equally beautiful music video, it might just earn them their very first music show win. Ever since this young group debuted in 2015, they’ve increasingly improved their talents and proven that they are not a group to be ignored.

Song

This is one of Monsta X’s most musically cohesive and infectious songs yet. At times, the rap verses of K-pop songs can feel forced or too intense for the song they’re featured in. Thankfully, that is not true in this situation. The falsetto-heavy chorus pairs very well with rappers Jooheon and I.M’s hard-hitting lyrics. All of the members’ talents were also nicely showcased in this song without any of members seemingly overshadowing the others. Main vocalist Kihyun shined as always, but we also got a nice look at the vocal abilities of members like Minhyuk and Hyungwon — whose talents may be overlooked at times.

This song was pretty heavy handed in its use of EDM and, while that can tend to be overwhelming if not done correctly, it works to its advantage. The electronic beats in the background allowed the members’ choreography to really be the focus when they weren’t busy singing. It’s nice that Monsta X have seemingly gone back to their debut sound but with the maturity that has come with their growth as artists.


Also on Kultscene: CNBLUE’s ‘Between Us’ music video & song review

Music Video

Monsta X does an excellent job at producing exciting music videos that instantly catch the attention of viewers, and this one was no different. The video is reminiscent of those from “The Clan” series (“All In” and “Fighter”), but with more symbolism and less of a storyline. Each member got their own themed room that highlighted the strong visuals of this group.

“Beautiful” is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than some of their previous videos like “Rush,” and it was nice to see a more subtle side to the group. The only criticism is that it would’ve been nice to have a stronger plot, or at least for it to not have been quite so difficult to figure out what was going on.


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Overview

This is one of Monsta X’s strongest comebacks yet and it will surely gain them the popularity and respect they deserve. “Beautiful” is a song that portrays the strengths of every member. Vocalists Shownu, Wonho, Kihyun, and Minhyuk’s harmonizations and falsetto give the song an ethereal feeling that matches the dreamy music video, while the rapper line (Jooheon and I.M.) brings it all back to earth. And, of course, no review would be complete without applauding lead dancer Hyungwon’s excellent execution of the music video’s choreography.

This is a song that works in many aspects and has the ability to succeed in both radio stations as well as through live performances. Whether it’s the choreography, the vocals, or the visuals, this release excels and inspires excitement in Monsta X’s fans (Monbebes) about what they will do next.

What do you think of Monsta X’s “Beautiful”? Tell us what you think 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.

CNBLUE’s ‘Between Us’ music video & song review

CNBLUE’s music has changed greatly over the years and their newest song “Between Us”, released on Mar. 20, adds even more layers to their unique sound. With this new track, they continue to evolve as musicians while still portraying the talented band we all love. Having had their last comeback in April 2016 with “You’re So Fine,” “Between Us” has been highly anticipated by fans the world over. At long last, the wait is over.

Song

Musically speaking, CNBLUE has changed drastically since they first debuted back in 2009. Listening to one of their earlier songs, such as “Love Girl,” and then listening to “Between Us,” the fact that they’re sung by the same band is almost unrecognizable. Over the past couple years, CNBLUE has definitely leaned more towards the pop and electronic side of music, which they’ve added to their rock band roots.


Also on Kultscene: LOONA 1/3’s “Love & Live” Music Video & Song Review

That’s not to say, however, that they’ve lost sight of who they are. “Between Us” has a funky, synthetic sound, but it’s clear that instruments are still an integral aspect of their music, performances, and music videos. Some fans might love their new style, and others may prefer their earlier songs, but by delving more into pop music, their fan base will only continue to grow.

While the song is heavily influenced by electronic beats, some of the strongest aspects of the music are actually the instruments that CNBLUE have made a name for themselves with. Yonghwa’s piano playing and Minhyuk’s drumming in particular stand out and are even highlighted through their contrast to the rapid and sporadic EDM. The lyrics of the song themselves focus on the confusing relationship of two people who are in between being friends and being something more. This concept makes it easy for listeners to relate to the song and the artists themselves, with it being such a universal situation that many people find themselves in.

Music Video

The music video for “Between Us” is pretty typical for CNBLUE. The members played their instruments with vigor in between scenes of them speaking on the telephone with a confusing lover. It was very interesting, however, to see Yonghwa without an instrument. Unfortunately, it came off as a little awkward, as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself, but it was nice to see a different side of him through this video.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with the video because while the song is upbeat and exciting, the video felt a bit flat. There was very little interaction between the members, aside from them walking around each other, and there really wasn’t a storyline at all. With the lyrics of the song, the video could’ve been so much more interesting than it was. It wasn’t a bad video per se, but it’s certainly nothing we haven’t seen already from CNBLUE. Videos such as “Love,” “Hey You,” and even more recent releases like “Supernova” have shown much of the same music video formatting as this one. It’s time for them to release a music video in which the members interact with each other a little more.


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Overview

“Between Us” is upbeat and both musically and lyrically well-made. It adds yet another dimension to this band’s sound and portrays their growth as artists. And while I love the song, I can see why some fans may be put off by it. There will always be fans who prefer the more pop-punk vibe that the group started off with, and that’s valid. However, I think if listeners give it a chance, they’ll grow to embrace this new side of CNBLUE. Unfortunately, the music video did leave a little bit to be desired, but that’s the only complaint. I think no matter what they do, CNBLUE will always be incredibly talented and devoted to their music and, as fans, that’s all we can really ask for.


What do you think of “Between Us”? Tell us what you think 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.

5 Reasons To Watch “Unnies Slam Dunk Season 2”

The second season of the KBS variety show Unnies Slam Dunk premiered in the middle of last month and has been consistently bringing a lot of laughter and entertainment for its viewers. Though less of a ratings hit than its predecessor, the series is creating a lot of buzz among international fans, especially because of its star-studded cast. As a fan of the first season, I’m happy to say that the second season of Unnies is even more enjoyable, so here are five reasons why you should give the show a try!

1. The Friendship

Viewers might have been skeptical at the beginning about how the relationship or chemistry between this cast would turn out, what with middle-aged variety veterans forming a girl group with actresses and a teenage idol or two. It was an idea that seemed inconceivable but it really worked out for this show. The cast gelled pretty quickly despite their age differences and grew closer week by week, even reaching a point where they were able to share their most personal difficulties and thoughts comfortably with each other. It was touching to see how they found support in each other and also interesting to see that the cast members shared or had gone through similar struggles in their entertainment career. They were celebrities but they were as real as you or me, and this show did a good job of foregrounding their true selves.

2. Minzy

This might come across as slightly biased but there is no denying that this former 2NE1 member is an integral part of this show. While she is the second youngest in the cast, she is also the leader of the girl group and has been doing a fantastic job guiding those who are less experienced in the idol industry. Her special friendship with her fangirl Somi has also been fun to watch, especially since they are the closest in age and the youngest. It’s been ages (at least in the fast-paced realm of K-pop) since Minzy’s been active, especially on television, but she remains an inspiration not just to viewers but to her fellow cast mates with her amazing abilities and caring nature. Watching her work so hard and diligently on the show despite already being used to this entire idol business makes viewers root for this girl group to succeed even more, despite the huge odds stacked against them.


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3. The Trainers

The girl group definitely isn’t alone on their quest to debut successfully, as there is a team of experienced trainers guiding and helping them along. What really differentiates this season from its predecessor is the sheer amount of professional effort being put into the production. While Season 1 featured Park Jinyoung (JYP) as the main coach for the Unnies, this season featured an entire team of veterans in the K-pop industry. Heading the team is legendary music producer Kim Hyung Suk who has already produced not one but three catchy songs for the Unnies. With him is famed lyricist Kim Eana, who penned hits such as “Dream” (Suzy & Baekhyun) and “Piano Man” (Mamamoo). For dance, there are two trainers, Kim Hwayoung and Kim Kyu Sang, both of whom have created notable dances such as Sunmi’s “Full Moon.” Finally, the vocal trainer who has been making waves among fans ever since his first appearance on the show a few episodes back, is Jang Jinyoung. A former idol singer himself, he is now the vocal trainer of many well known K-pop groups and idols, mostly from SM Entertainment. With his good looks and affectionate nature, he has been gaining a lot of attention from fans as well as the Unnies themselves (Somi in particular), especially because he is truly experienced and works hard to help the members improve their singing in innovative ways. These trainers add a whole new, and more serious dimension, to the show but they make it more enjoyable to watch as well.

4. The Music

The songs that the Unnies are preparing are really catchy and extremely suited to their image, perhaps even more so than “Shut Up” from last year. Producer Kim Hyung Suk did a fantastic job with the two tracks as he took into account the varied vocal qualities of the members and created parts that were just right for them. It seemed so unimaginable that a trot singer like Hong Jinyoung and a former classical singer like Kang Yewon would be able to sing a song together but this show made the impossible happen and I can’t wait to see the final fruits of the Unnies’ labour!


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5. The Comedy

Even without trying (or perhaps even more so when she is really serious), Hong Jinkyung is really hilarious in this show. As a returning member from Season 1, she definitely shows how comfortable she is in the show and puts her many years of variety experience into good use. With her around, there’s never a boring moment, and she plays an important role in lightening up the atmosphere for the members. Unfortunately at times, she brings humor because of her (lack of) singing and dancing skills but she definitely tries hard week after week to improve. Another unexpected comedic character of the cast came in the form of beauty queen Han Chaeyoung. She came on the show with a glamorous image but is unlikely to leave quite the same way. Since the start of the program she has proven herself to be another dancing/singing “hole,” along with Jinkyung, and the pair provide a lot of laughs to the viewers, the cast and even the trainers because of the disparity between their confidence levels and their actual skills. While it’s a running joke that I do enjoy, I do also look forward to each improvement that they make and am rooting for these underdogs to finally succeed on the stage.

Unnies Slam Dunk is a refreshing variety show that I look forward to week after week, equal parts heartwarming and hilarious, but it also offers a somewhat behind the scenes perspective into the creation of a K-pop girl group and the work that goes into it all, which would be a really interesting watch for all K-pop fans around.

Have you been watching Unnies Slam Dunk? Tell us what you think 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.

LOONA 1/3’s “Love & Live” Music Video & Song Review

Blockberry Creative’s up & coming girl group LOONA, who have garnered a lot of attention for their “Girl of the Month” concept, released another music video on March 13. This music video gives fans their first look at the newest girl of the month Vivi, completing their first sub-group LOONA ⅓. Everything about this group thus far has been unique and their newest release has been no different.

Song

While “Love & Live” definitely has that bubblegum pop feel that you see in many young and freshly debuted girl groups, it’s not as catchy as it could’ve been. This is a song that will take a couple of listens before anyone is really able to sing along to it, as opposed to some of their previous releases, like Yeojin’s “Kiss Later” and Heejin’s “Vivid.” The vocals were also not quite as strong in this single, but the girls still showed off their vocal chops. As usual, Heejin shined in this song and, unfortunately, it felt like some of the other girls were pushed to the background vocally because of it.


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Music Video

As has become expected from LOONA, the music video for “Love & Live” was wonderfully unique and interesting. It tells a story of isolated robot girl Vivi who longs to be like her human friends, emulating them in every way, from the sports they play to the juice they drink. Most of the group’s pre-debut music videos tell a story focusing on each member that is open to the interpretation of the viewers. It’s interesting that they chose the newest member Vivi, to play the robot girl stuck on the outside of the human world, as it reflects the newest member’s need to try and find a place in an already solidified – but still growing – group of girls. What I appreciate most about LOONA’s music videos is that they tackled concepts that most newly debuted groups would shy away from. The only criticism there is about the video is that it seemed less vibrant than their previous videos, and the coloring felt dull compared to the perkiness of the song.

Overview

Unfortunately, I don’t think this was one of LOONA’s strongest releases but their talent and individuality is still very clear. LOONA represent young girl groups well, managing to not be overly cutesy while still acting their age. I’ve loved their concept of unveiling a new member every month since they’ve debuted (or pre-debuted!) and I can’t wait to see what else will come from them in the future!

Do you like LOONA so far? What do you think of “Love & Live”? Share your thoughts 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.

‘Saimdang: Light’s Diary’ struggles with Lee Young Ae’s legacy of ‘Jewel in the Palace’


When actress Lee Young Ae took a break from her drama career in 2005, it was on a high note. Her last role, playing female physician Dae Jang Geum in the 2004 drama Jewel in the Palace made her an international star. Jewel in the Palace was a hard act to follow, and any role Lee took after that would invite comparisons.

Lee continued to receive offers for roles during her long acting break, including a possible sequel to Jewel in the Palace that she rejected. After appearing in the 2005 film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, the third installment of Park Chan Wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy for which she won Blue Dragon Film and Baeksang Arts awards, Lee declined both film and drama roles, preferring to spend time with her family. Then she was offered the role of Shin Saimdang, the only woman ever to be featured on South Korean currency, the 50,000 won note. Along with being a poet and calligrapher, Shin is also known for being the mother of famous scholar Yulgok, who is on the 5,000 note.

In Saimdang: Light’s Diary, Lee would again have the chance to play an iconic South Korean historical figure, but after the success of Jewel in the Palace, expectations for both the drama’s caliber and ratings were high.

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Ratings-wise, Jewel In the Palace is one of the top 10 Korean dramas of all time. At its peak the historical drama rated 57.8 percent of Korea’s viewers. Because of the drama’s success in China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia, the South Korean government presented Lee with a Medal of Culture Merit for her contributions to the promulgation of Korean culture Hallyu.

The first episode of Saimdang: Light’s Diary aired on January 26, earning a 16.3 percent Nielsen rating nationwide. Ratings have mostly been double digit but, fell to 10.3 percent by the eighth episode. Saimdang’s ratings would be considered successful for most dramas, but seem less impressive when compared to the runaway ratings of Jewel in the Palace. But judging Saimdang: Light’s Diary through its comparative ratings is not entirely fair, as it’s very different from Jewel in the Palace.

In Jewel In the Palace Lee played a character born with an unlucky fate. The character’s intense desire for justice helped her persevere but also sometimes makes her life more difficult. Orphaned at an early age, she became a palace maid and, despite being smart and talented or perhaps because of it, she made enemies. In each episode Dae Jang Geum faced a potential disaster, overcame it and then faced another disaster. As Korea’s first female doctor, the doggedly determined Dae is also something of a feminist icon. The character fearlessly, recklessly challenged traditions, eventually changing some of them.

But Saimdang: Light’s Diary is a more sophisticated and far less predictable of a drama in comparison to Jewel, which was satisfyingly predictable and emotionally manipulative in the classic K-drama tradition. With a story that flits back and forth between the 16th century and the present in Saimdang, Lee plays two different characters, Seo Ji Yoon, an unjustly disgraced present-day art historian and the title role of Shin Saimdang. While investigating possible art fraud, Seo discovers a diary that offers clues about Shin’s life and helps her to imagine it.

Both Saimdang characters are strong and resilient women, but neither is as easy to relate to as Dae Jang Geum. The real Shin Saimdang was an accomplished and unusually well-educated Joseon-era woman and, fittingly, the character in the drama is as accomplished and well educated, and also reserved and cautious. She’s not interested in winning external approval or changing the order of things. Every sacrifice she undertakes is for others. She gives up romance to save her lover and sacrifices her pride to save her family. She operates within the confines of her family, as a good wife and mother, never letting the disastrous actions of her incompetent fictional husband defeat her. She is a Confucian model of the ideal woman. Yet Shin’s saintly dignity can make the character harder to relate to than the innocent and impulsive actions of Dae Jang Geum. Seo’s introverted character is more nebulous and often seems to exist just to move the story along.

The drama script also incorporates a fictional, unrequited romance into Shin’s story, with Song Seung Heon playing her heartbroken childhood love, the historic figure Lee Gyeom, an artist and influential politician during Korea’s Goryeo era. In reality, Shin and Lee Gyeom were contemporaries but there’s no evidence they ever really met. Similarly, the show depicts Shin married to a lazy gambling scholar, but in actuality she was married to Commander Yi Wonsu and accompanied him to his various postings.

Although the romance is fictional, Song’s presence in this drama makes for the most obvious comparison to Jewel in the Palace; Song’s role as Shin’s aristocratic protector and admirer is similar to the role played by Ji Jin Hee in Jewel in the Palace.

Saimdang’s lesser ratings may also reflect the fact that the drama is two separate stories with some of the same cast. A few actors play very different roles in the past and the present. The roles are so different that it can take some readjustment when the story moves between the present and the past. It could be compared to suddenly switching between two fine but different dramas featuring the same cast. Once viewers segue into another time, the drama is engaging, but the switch can be disorienting.

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But, even with the struggles, Saimdang is an enjoyable drama. So rather than asking if Saimdang: Light’s Diary lives up to the precedent set by Jewel in the Palace, it might be better to ask if it’s worth watching. It is certainly, particular if you like historical dramas, mysteries, and also enjoy watching Lee Young Ae and Song Seung Heon, both of whom deliver an impressive performance. Saimdang’s cast is accomplished, the story is interesting albeit sometimes disorienting, and the cinematography is beautiful. Hopefully Lee Young Ae’s career will include many more varied roles, each of which is judged on its own merit.

Saimdang: Light’s Diary may not become one of the top ten Korean dramas of all time like Lee’s last drama, but it’s well worth seeing, whether or not you’ve seen Jewel in the Palace.

Which Lee Young Ae drama is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Artist Spotlight: Rubber Soul


When is an idol group not an idol group? The general definition of an “idol” tends towards any manufactured pop star. Regardless of whether a company decides that a specific group is going to be more artistic sounding or more involved in production, every K-pop group fits into the idol category. Even when trying to distance themselves, no group has ever transcended this. They always fit into the idol system, the litany of teasers, dance routines, music show appearances, all of these things we love about K-pop restrict it. Little known girl group Rubber Soul are challenging this.

The group debuted in 2015 and their origins remain somewhat mysterious. Apparently the brainchild of three different companies, they emerged as hopeful rookies taking on the 90s right before the craze died. Their story is quiet but full of the contradictions you’d expect from an idol group wanting to be respected.

Two of Rubber Soul’s companies were already used to being partners. Happy Tribe Entertainment and Universal Music Korea had previously collaborated to produce the underrated Boys’ Republic. Despite the big name of Universal behind them, they never got very far but obviously in Korea, Universal doesn’t have the same prestige behind it. The third company is withHC Entertainment, primarily home to actors. At the time they seemed to be taking the lead. Most press releases were issued by them and, being the smaller company, they were probably happy to have a potential hit idol group on their hands. The interesting thing about the companies though is that right now, none of them seem to be involved with Rubber Soul. withHC have no info about the band on their website, Universal are still distributing them presumably alongside Happy Tribe, although there is nothing to be found about either or how the latter company works with Rubber Soul.


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This is the first sign of Rubber Soul attempting to step outside of the idol realm. Their original creative decision makers have seemingly taken over on the more administrative side as well. Usually a production trio, madsoulchild are the only constant in Rubber Soul’s life. Their vocalist Jinsil featured on their song “Lonely Friday” and both DJ fellow member Chanwoo and she have taken most of the production duties alongside the Rubber Soul girls. Many groups have had producer mentors before but none have had them take full control.

Each of the girls, Lala, Kim, and Choi Cho, take part in production too. They’re a group born of three companies but their output to date has been contained to a limited number of creatives. Maybe that’s why they are just so good.

Debuting with “Life,” the most 90s of all 90s throwbacks, Rubber Soul marked themselves as the most interesting rookie group of the past few years. The international K-pop fanbase definitely responded, and many blogs were writing about the gorgeous neo-soul track. From the opening beats to the echoey backing chorus “Life” recreates not just the sound but the very essence of 90s music. The clothing was teetered at the absolute edge of embarrassing and iconic even with the bucket hats.

“Life” at its best is found in the lyrics though. Matching the languid rhythms, the girls tell a simple story perhaps inspired by the slightly simpler times in which they are emulating. Each of the girls raps about the things they left behind, small pleasures that they are better off without. Choi Cho describes the minute details of the monotonous daily life she passed over. “In the tangled hair, a slight touch in the dried skin moisturizing cream” she opens with. Kim remembers the late nights drinking. “Everytime we lament our misfortune, in a glass of the drink, in our two loose hearts, we suddenly become king of the world.” Lala brings it back around, reiterating the point featured rapper Mad Clown made in the opening. Describing her role in her family she says, “Our princess, our daughter, older sister Lala, let’s eat! I mean that‘s love.” Ordinary lives can be exciting and rewarding if you can realise the beauty of the mundane.

Rubber Soul’s music is filled with the personalities of the girls. Each of their verses is distinct, lyrically and tonally. They build off of each other too. For example, “Lonely Friday,” the b-side to “Life,” starts off with Lala’s apathy towards partying on Friday nights despite the “flooding emptiness” she feels from browsing Facebook all night. By the time the last verse comes around, she is rapping with her other members as if she’s been convinced by them. “Stop those habitual excuses, with you, stop digging the floor, let’s run together” they repeat together, ready to turn this lonely Friday into something a bit more exciting.

Rubber Soul promoted these songs as any group would. A short run on the weekly Korean music shows, a feature from a well known rapper., etc. They got a cameo slot on season six of Saturday Night Live Korea and Kim even appeared on Unpretty Rapstar’s second season. Their promotions were failures though. On Unpretty Rapstar Kim was eliminated in the episode following the one in which she was introduced. Her taking part in the show was already under scrutiny thanks to her being shoved in halfway through the show alongside future Cosmic Girls leader Exy.


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Two things usually happen after a failed K-pop debut, either the company doubles down on more comebacks so as to gain attention through sheer attrition or the group fades into obscurity waiting maybe years for another single. Given that their company has little to do with them anymore it’s clear what route Rubber Soul took. They returned almost two years later to considerably less fanfare.

Now seemingly under not just the production talents of madsoulchild but managment and promotion as well, Rubber Soul’s latest track “Freedom” continues their throwback trend with a more electro R&B inspired sound. Processed beats and synths build the otherwise tame song towards a great ending. The flitters of autotune eventually take over as the song transitions from its chorus directly into an abstract climax. A trap beat takes over as the girls’ voices collide, articulating a certain sadness despite the party setting of the video. This sadness is amplified by Choi Cho’s final vocal. Without even an English translation of the lyrics it’s clear that “Freedom” is a song about being yourself to find,well, freedom. Definitely in line with what Rubber Soul had been talking about before, although it’s harder to get into it when you can only understand the corny English lyrics. (So if any Korean-speaking readers would like to translate for us…)

“Freedom” represents a new, uncharted territory for Rubber Soul. Under madsoulchild they have a great chance to do something interesting while maintaining an idol image to try and show the masses a new kind of idol. K-pop groups don’t need to be managed by small production groups like this to be innovative, but Rubber Soul’s new venture does represent something that has not been done successfully to date.

The potential is seen in their “mixtapes.” Two short videos that they released titled Mixtape 1 and Mixtape 2 are not really mixtapes but inventive little rap samples. They could add up to a mixtape eventually but Rubber Soul are probably just using the word to seem a bit more underground. The first, which sampled Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” was called “I Wish You Good Luck” and was released shortly after “Life” and “Lonely Friday,” back in 2015. It acted as a showcase for the girls’ rapping skills, with each one getting a verse and absolutely killing it. The “Get Lucky” beat remains one of the most infectious ever and Rubber Soul reworked it just enough to highlight their flows.

The second mixtape samples Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” to marvellous results. Lala and Kim rap with such ease as they lay back on a bed. It’s relaxed but full of personality, the girls vape, burp, and lounge around the bed with ramen packs (which also offer the best part of video when Kim smashed one with her elbow in time with the beat.) Choi Cho ends with an excellent Mary J. Blige impression.

By now, Rubber Soul should have already carved out a niche fanbase for themselves. Most rookie groups would have had numerous comebacks and would at least cement them in the industry. As it stands Rubber Soul have no place in any environment, not the idol or underground. A commitment from madsoulchild could allow this group of big personalities to express themselves.

What do you think of Rubber Soul? Do you hope to see more of them in the future? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Translation Source: Life, Lonely Friday

Red Velvet’s “Rookie” Music Video & Song Review


Who better to kickstart a relatively slow year opening than SM Entertainment’s’s resident pocket rockets Red Velvet? Most expected that they’d come back with one of their velvet concept tracks but new single “Rookie” is red through and through. A velvet track would have been comforting and suited the cold months but “Rookie” goes past that to be an infectious energy boost to anyway who come in its way. Red Velvet are well past rookies now, and their edge is proving to be the most distinctive of all the newer girl groups.

Song

That being said though “Rookie” is not an easy song to get into. Looking at the laundry list of producer’s names we can see a probable reason for this. The song introduces itself as being by The Colleagues, who are an American production team more used to hip hop and R&B than bubblegum pop. They’ve worked with artists like Lil’ Wayne and Gucci Mane, people who don’t shout Red Velvet. SM regulars Tay Jasper, Sara Forsberg, and more were on head to presumable help the transition though. So many different hands were on this song and I think it is thanks to this not despite it that “Rookie” could come through as a quality track.

The Colleagues’ hip hop has been filtered out in favour of funk to counter the chaos of a Red Velvet song. The drum beat is introduced as the driving force. It perfectly combines both worlds into something clear but potentially erratic. A rolling bassline comes in behind along with horns and guitars eventually which add the more grounding elements. We’re used to synth heavy tracks from Red Velvet so it’s great to hear something with the same energy but not synthetic. The horns especially create this unique vibe thanks to being so fun and spontaneous.


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The large number of producers may help cultivate the turbulent sound of Red Velvet, it would be nothing without their delivery. “Rookie” is their clear vocal highlight. It challenges the girls to swing wildly between their patented talk-singing and regular singing. The song’s structure is built around it. The verses are split into two distinct parts: Irene and Joy open up with cheeky introductions, getting us ready for the onslaught of ‘lookie lookies.’ Irene, Joy, and Yeri were made for this type of vocal play and “Rookie” really lets them shine. In the second part, Seulgi and Wendy start the actual singing and bring the details. They describe the rookie boy they are after and the effect he has on them. In a sense the almost nonsensical chorus is that effect in action. The childish repetition illustrates as Wendy sings “…Even the way I talk turns into ice when I’m front of you.”

The rapid transitions between vocals take less of a potential toll thanks to the song itself taking its time. It takes about a minute to reach the chorus from the beginning of the song. Usually this would be quite long but here it feels organic. Each new part is so filled with imaginative sounds so it never feels like you’re waiting for the chorus.

Music Video

As we’ve come to be accustomed to, with each new Red Velvet release the music video is decidedly psychedelic. “Rookie” expels the tighter, plot-like focus of “Russian Roulette” for something a bit more messy but just as weird. It takes aesthetic cues from Alice in Wonderland uses wardrobes and doors from The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe to transition between different sets. Like the song the girls can go through any door at any time, into a new exciting world. There’s a strange man made of flowers, Joy as a drug dealer, and a pull back to reveal the meta ending. Best of all is the long shot of Seulgi coming through the first door with a confused look, only to immediately find herself back in formation dancing to the chorus.


Also on KultScene: Red Velvet’s Conceptualization & Formidable Fashion

Overall Thoughts

The best thing about Red Velvet is the commitment to their concepts since debut without becoming stale. They have continually produced magnificent tracks with youthful vigour. “Rookie” especially, finds something exciting. It’s many parts are equally diverse and wonderful. To the fans who think it’s too childish, do you even know Red Velvet? This is Red Velvet at their most fervent red. It’s supposed to be wacky and hard to grasp. That’s why we love them.

What do you think of “Rookie”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

A Teenage Fangirl’s Farewell to 2NE1

On the 21st of January, iconic girl group 2NE1 released their final song, “Goodbye”, as a farewell to their fans. This release was comforting yet extremely heartbreaking for Blackjacks (2NE1 fans) in that it provided a closure to an otherwise abrupt disbandment of the group and allowed fans to listen to them sing together (well, ¾ of them) for the last time. Except, why did it have to be the last time? For a group that has been through so much together, experiencing immense success, as well as various member scandals, it just seemed unthinkable that their phenomenal 2015 MAMA performance would be their last. In that memorable performance, the female quartet showcased what they had always been doing best: simply being their beautiful, unique selves in a powerful and confident manner.


Also on Kultscene: The New Evolution Lives On: 2NE1’s disbandment through a Blackjack’s eyes 

It was this quality that first drew me to 2NE1, all the way back in 2011. I had heard of the group previously, but it wasn’t until they released the songs “Lonely” and “Ugly” that I truly became a fan. I had never heard a Korean girl group sing so honestly about such negative emotions (especially since they are pretty much taboo topics in the K-pop industry), but for some reason, I felt emotionally connected to the group even though we were worlds apart. They seemed to understand and share my insecurities and fears, even if they were different than me. They were brave enough to take it and put it into their music, loudly proclaiming it all over the world. To a teenage girl who always felt lonely but kept trying to maintain her facade of a social life, these songs were truly empowering, since it felt like 2NE1 was telling their listeners that it was alright and even natural to feel lonely; it was nothing to be shameful about.

Perhaps the fact that these songs came from a Korean girl group, of all countries, made it even more significant and inspiring. Korea has always been well-known for its emphasis on external beauty, as evidenced by its booming plastic surgery and cosmetics industries. Even young ordinary students apply makeup with finesse everyday when they go to school. The pressure to live up to society’s standards of beauty is thus exceptionally high in Korea, which is why it’s even more important to recognise that we’re all beautiful in our own ways, even if we might be seen as “ugly” to the rest of the world – a message that 2NE1 definitely conveyed through their entire career. From the carefree revealing of their bare faces early on in their careers to the unique styling that constantly set them apart from regular pretty girl groups, 2NE1 showed that they could be confident and beautiful even if they differed from the norm.


Alson on Kultscene: BlackPink vs. 2NE1: The Ultimate Analysis 

2NE1 took this message a step further with their other iconic hit “I Am The Best.” Though it was also released in 2011 they kept performing it year after year, and it eventually became the last song they would ever perform together. This song was representative of their entire career, since they effectively showed the world that they weren’t just the best at what they were doing, but they knew and believed it too. That confidence really struck and empowered me, especially during the times where my self-esteem hit all time lows. I was constantly defeated by the problems life threw at me, but even more so because I kept comparing myself to the more beautiful, more talented people around me. I was never satisfied with myself and I ended up reaching a stage where I simply became another person whenever I stepped out of the comfort of my home. I was quieter, more introverted, never able to be myself because I was just too afraid and concerned with how the people around me would criticise or judge me. While I wouldn’t go so far to say that 2NE1 was the main reason why I ended up getting out of that slump, they certainly propelled me in the right direction (“I Am The Best” was literally my daily anthem for a period of time) and it’s still my go-to song whenever I feel like giving myself a pep talk.

I could go on forever about how 2NE1 has impacted my life in both small and big ways, and there are probably also many other fans out there who have had similar experiences. However, it all boils down to this: 2NE1 will really be missed. There’ll always be a void in this fangirl’s heart that will never again be filled because I’ll always be longing for this irreplaceable girl group to come back with the same inspiring power and force that they’ve shown together all these years. Despite the unhappiness and the unfortunate way the group came to an end, from the bottom of my heart, I’m thankful that I got to stan such an unique and talented group; that I got to mature and grow up along with them; that I got to learn so much from them. Although the members will go their separate ways from now on, 2NE1’s legacy will never be forgotten, even 10, 20 years from now. Or at least, I will never forget them, and I’m sure many Blackjacks out there feel the same way.

Until the faraway day when we meet again, goodbye, 2NE1.

What do you think of 2NE1’s disbandment? 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.

‘Unpretty Rapstar,’ crooked or boost to female Korean rappers?

Rap music in Korea has gained acceptance in recent years to the point where it’s earned space in mainstream culture, primarily through an increase in rap-focused reality shows. But while male hip-hop stars have begun becoming major players in Korea’s entertainment industry, women aren’t doing quite as well.

In the past, Korean rap has been filled with male artists. Women generally appeared only as members of OG hip-hop crews such as Uptown and Honey Family. Nowadays, we get to see more female rappers in Korea, but still very few compared with the hegemony of male rappers on charts, and awards and T.V. shows. But to say that Korea lacks good female MCs would be a false statement. So why aren’t they getting the treatment they deserve? Shows like Mnet’s Unpretty Rapstar highlight the issue.

Some contestants themselves are more problematic than others, but the larger evil is the show’s format rather than specific individuals. Unpretty Rapstar could be a platform for female empowerment, and instead, it appears just to be usurping it for ratings.


Also on KultScene: ‘Unpretty Rapstar’ is Sexist & Promotes Girl-On-Girl Hate

The first season aired in January 2015 and was not only a local sensation, but also appealed to audiences overseas. The second season aired in September 2015 and brought even more attention to more female rappers. The third season aired in July 2016, and ended up catching less attention for the quality of performances and moreso for forcing beefs between the contestants. Not that there wasn’t drama in the script of previous seasons; battles and diss tracks are a common thing in rap music and the hip-hop movement, but compelling women to take it more personally than they are willing to is a whole different thing.

In first season, for example, Tymee said multiple times that she had no problem with Jolly V and no desire to continue fighting her. But it was suggested through the show’s production that the two do so. Season two similarly did not waste opportunities to pit Heize and KittiB against each other on numerous occasions. Moreover, KittiB was constantly body shamed by the show for her curvier silhouette.

On the positive side, the show has contributed a lot to reveal unknown talents and gave more opportunities to female rappers who already had a solid career or were up-and-coming. However, the premise itself is problematic. It leads one to wonder whether a segregated space for women to rap in would be needed if they already had equal opportunities to showcase their work regardless of their gender. Women are able to appear on Show Me The Money, the male-dominated equivalent of Unpretty Rapstar, but few have made it to the final rounds.

Moreover, it’s not only the need for all-woman competition show that is questionable; the execution of the concept doesn’t help much either. This year’s season had less of a focus on the talent and experience of the contestants and instead veered towards focusing on and maximizing the drama between contestants. More often than not, it centered on their physical appearances — far more than it had during the previous two installments.

It is hard to take a show like this seriously when we see legends like Miryo (former member of hip-hop group Honey Family and current member of girl group Brown Eyed Girls) competing next to artists like Kassy, who is actually a singer that occasionally spits a few bars on her songs. Or when we see Grace, who gained more screen time due to charisma and creative outfits than actual talent.

Is that all women are for? To serve as entertainment?

And since we mentioned Miryo, it is relevant to say that even though, apparently, she was there because she wanted to, her presence on the show only serves to support the thesis that Unpretty Rapstar fails to help the cause of female union and empowerment. Kept in due proportion, Miryo is like Tymee (contestant on Unpretty Rapstar 1) and Gilme (contestant on Unpretty Rapstar 2): a talented and respected rapper with enough history to be on the position of a mentor, not a contestant.

Except for Yoon Mirae (who’s au concour in any discussion about female Korean rappers) and some underground legends such as Choi Sam, Rimi, and Sleeq, almost every female rapper with considerable notoriety in Korea has already been on Unpretty Rapstar. When you unite the majority of female talent as competitors, especially considering that these competitors will be judged mostly by men, what you’re saying is that you don’t have women talented enough to be on a position of power, which is false.

Let’s take the winner of Unpretty Rapstar 3 as an example. The very fact that Giant Pink was inserted into the show after being unfairly eliminated from Show Me the Money 5 is problematic.

Watching the cast of Unpretty Rapstar 3 performing on Show Me the Money 5 already gave viewers an idea of what was to come. Just like during Unpretty Rapstar 2, when Truedy got more bars on the group song and was favoured during the entire competition until she won, Giant Pink played a similar role in season 3 by receiving prominence on a performance featured on the same competition she was previously discarded by, as if they wanted people to be happy for her to be reigning on a female exclusive competition though she wasn’t “good enough” to make it in Show Me the Money. It continually reinforces the “you’re good for a girl” ideology; good enough for the girls, but not quite up against guys.


Also on KultScene: Which ‘Unpretty Rapstar’ Contestant Are You? [QUIZ]

And, of course, Giant Pink won, even though she failed multiple times during the competition.

What’s being questioned is not the contestants talent; that’s arbitrary. Both Truedy and Giant Pink are very competent rappers, but the main thing is that it is hard to believe Unpretty Rapstar 3 didn’t intend for Giant Pink to come out as the winner since the beginning. The whole scenario suggests that she would only be able to succeed as long as she did not try to be as good as a man.

The same could be said about Ash-B, a fierce girl with amazing flow who also got eliminated early on on Show Me the Money 5 for no perceptible reason, that she was a woman. She later got reinserted into the third season of Unpretty Rapstar after failing during the second season. This time, Ash-B did much better and went much farther on the competition. But the concerning remains: if she is so qualified, why didn’t they let her show all this talent in a competition that is supposed to be for rappers of any gender?

It doesn’t help at all that women can only get attention when they are seen competing against each other. Instead of criticizing women, we should be asking ourselves why is it that they cannot get appropriate opportunities to showcase their work outside of the little arena in media designed for females only?

With that said, the benefits gained from participating in Unpretty Rapstar can’t be ignored. It got Cheetah and Yezi to be featured as judges in another rap show; KittiB signed with Brand New Music, being now the only female solo act amongst names like Verbal Jint, San E, and P-Type; Heize got an all-kill on music charts with her single “Star” in Dec. 2016; Jessi’s career finally took off after more than 10 years in the business. Those achievements certainly would have been less likely to happen if those ladies hadn’t been on the show.

Will women in Korean rap ever have the respect and success they deserve? Will they be put in spotlight in situations different than forcefully battling their congenial or serving as entertainment? We sure do hope so. While we wait to see about a fourth season, we can surely say that 2017 has potential to be a better year for female rappers and that’s, in a way, thanks to Unpretty Rapstar.

What are your thoughts on Unpretty Rapstar’s portrayal of female rappers? 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.

From ‘Nation’s Producers’ to Actual Producers: The Many Futures of I.O.I’s 11 Members

From humble trainees on Produce 101 to chart-topping idols in their music video for “Very Very Very,” the eleven members of I.O.I saw their lives massively changed in the course of only one year. While the group has given strong performances, memorable variety appearances, and infectious songs, it is no secret that fans of the group are apprehensive about I.O.I’s scheduled January 31st disbandment. A few months ago, we analyzed I.O.I’s unique formation regarding how members are simultaneously part of two labels and, for some of them, two groups, something largely unheard of previously in the world of K-Pop.

But with the new year ahead, infinite possibilities remain for the eleven members of I.O.I, all of whom now have public recognition and newfound popularity to take with them to future activities and musical ventures. And although we have an idea of where many of the members are going post-disbandment, it’s worth discussing how these paths may benefit or hurt them. Let’s look at each member or groups of members, and make some predictions about their largely divided futures.

So what’s next for I.O.I’s 11 members?

Im Nayoung & Zhou Jieqiong (Pinky)

As Pledis Entertainment artists, the futures of these these two I.O.I members are largely intertwined. Alongside I.O.I, Nayoung and Pinky were more quietly part of Pledis Girlz, a pre-debut group headed by their company, alongside eight other trainees, many of whom also competed in Produce 101 early last year. And while groups like Gugudan and DIA were shrouded in controversy for continuing with I.O.I members, Pledis Girlz has only recently become official under the name PRISTIN. The group is yet to debut, and yet to regularly promote on television. As a result, PRISTIN has maintained the respect of the public and I.O.I fans, especially when Nayoung and Pinky partook in I.O.I’s promotions for “Whatta Man (Good Man)” even as other members were pulled out for individual promotions.


The new group has found public exposure from Produce 101 and various pre-debut performances and promotions. As a result, PRISTIN’s growing fanbase both within Korea and around the world line them up to be one of 2017’s more successful girl group debuts, especially since Nayoung and Pinky are the leader of I.O.I and one of its notable visual/vocalists, respectively. Not to mention, some other popular competitors from Produce 101 , including Eunwoo, Yebin, and Siyeon, are in the group alongside them. With a debut slated for soon after I.O.I’s disbandment, Nayoung and Pinky have a collective future that is certain and in sight. Within this framework, it seems that, among I.O.I’s eleven members, Nayoung and Pinky are most likely to succeed within another group following the official split later this month.

Kang Mina & Kim Sejeong

Two of the most talked-about members of I.O.I, Sejeong and Mina have a clear path laid out for them after January 31st. Last summer, their company Jellyfish Entertainment had them debut in the nine-member Gugudan, which coincided with the release of I.O.I’s “Whatta Man.”. And while the group did receive attention due to the Mina and Sejeong, alongside another popular Produce 101 trainee Kim Nayoung, the group failed to captivate the public’s attention due to what was largely seen as an awkward concept backed by lackluster music. As a possible rising girl group in 2017, the group does have potential to succeed, but it is also possible that they fade into irrelevance if the next release isn’t more appealing, especially given that they are one of many new large girl groups with innocent, feminine concepts. Sejeong and Mina will have to work especially hard to bring Gugudan some credibility in the oversaturated girl group market if they want continued musical relevance in a group structure.


That being said, their options aren’t as limited as those of their group members. While she will become a full-time Gugudan member once February begins, Sejeong particularly maintains widespread popularity, as one of I.O.I’s main vocals, the runner-up on Produce 101, and a regular cast member on variety shows. Her debut solo single, “Flower Way,” was also a success, demonstrating that her individual popularity will not be quickly forgotten even if she is part of a girl group that isn’t as successful. Sejeong can and will be a strong force in 2017, but it remains to be seen how Mina or Gugudan as a whole will fare later on this year.

Jung Chaeyeon

Chaeyeon remains in a similar situation as that of Sejeong and Mina. Under MBK Entertainment, she is also part of a struggling girl group. While DIA has made some strides in finding public popularity this year with Chaeyeon and fellow member and Produce 101 competitor Huihyun (Cathy), the group’s current state is not very competitive in relation to the larger girl group market. Unless DIA can move their image away from their controversial CEO and agency, and bring out some title tracks with wide appeal, it’s likely that the group will have but another hard year in 2017.


But like Sejeong, Chaeyeon maintains considerable popularity. One of the most active I.O.I members, she maintained positions in both groups while also acting in a drama, making variety appearances, and doing pictorials throughout 2016. While she may not have an incredibly successful group to come back to, Chaeyeon will likely remain relevant in 2017 through her various activities as a singer and actress.

Yoo Yeonjung

While also already a member of another group, Yeonjung may possibly find herself in a slightly different situation than that of her groupmates Sejeong, Mina, and Chaeyeon. A Starship Entertainment artist, Yeonjung is the thirteenth member of Cosmic Girls (WJSN), which debuted early last year but added Yeonjung during I.O.I’s subunit promotion cycle. WJSN has definitely yet to strike it big, but they arguably show more rising potential than do DIA and Gugudan.


As the group’s main vocal, Yeonjung has brought them forward considerably, but unlike her I.O.I groupmates, she is not the most popular member of WJSN. After seeing a huge surge in popularity last year, member Cheng Xiao currently carries the group in popularity. WJSN will likely move further and further into the public eye as time goes on. While their current track “I Wish” isn’t faring incredibly well on the charts, it’s doing much better than past tracks “Mo Mo Mo” and equally as well as “Secret,” demonstrating that this promotion cycle may be the precursor to a much more successful one in the coming months. For both Yeonjung and her group, there is definitely hope, and with her shining vocals, the chance for solo promotions definitely exist in the near or distant future.

Kim Chungha

Considering that Chungha is under no-name label M&H Entertainment, fans have worried about her future after I.O.I’s disbandment. But as I wrote in KultScene’s Artists to Watch 2017 list published earlier this month, Chungha shows a lot of potential for success. One of the higher ranking trainees on Produce 101, Chungha’s variety of talents made her an instant stand-out both before and during I.O.I’s promotions. And given that her company has announced that she will debut solo in 2017, what’s to say that she can’t continue to stand out in the future? With a good song and concept, Chungha will have no trouble utilizing her incredibly strong dance, remarkably stable vocals, charismatic image, and English-speaking skills in future performances. Chungha is undoubtedly one of the most versatile members to come out of I.O.I, and her trendy and international appeal makes incredibly hopeful about her future. All it will take is a company that really works for her, and I’m praying that M&H is exactly that this year.

Kim Sohye

Sohye’s future is largely undetermined, except for the vague answer of “acting.” Currently under her own management, she plans to spend her time training and debuting as an actress this year post-I.O.I. It is still not clear, however, whether she will remain under her one-woman S&P Entertainment or if she is still related in anyway to her previous agency, Redline Entertainment. And while she constantly receives hate for her untrained musical abilities, Sohye has found herself a cult following during her time under Produce 101 and as a member of I.O.I. Although she isn’t the strongest singer or dancer, it is possible that she is an incredibly talented actress, and while netizens and international viewers were quick to call her useless or untalented, her real charms may have yet to be seen. As a result, I hold out hope for Sohye as well — after all, she may not hit it big on music shows, but she may be instead destined for drama primetime slots sometime soon.

Jeon Somi

Somi’s situation is very curious. Unlike that of her groupmates, we know very little about her future, except that she has now been bumped up from trainee to artist under JYP Entertainment. Currently a huge trend in Korea and closely associated with labelmates TWICE, many predict that JYP will add Somi to TWICE as its 10th member, giving the already explosively successful group another huge asset. And while there is a chance that this happens, I think (and hope) that JYP is smart enough to go in a different direction with Somi.

At only fifteen years old, the I.O.I center doesn’t need to debut in a girl group immediately. She can continue with variety appearances, pictorials, and possibly solo music releases or acting stints before she debuts in JYP’s next girl group, which will probably debut in at least a year or two from now. As one of I.O.I’s most popular members and one of the bigger trends of girl group K-Pop in 2016, Somi holds the power to bring any future JYP girl group to immediate public spotlight. So while I don’t think Jeon Somi will disappear this year, I don’t think we’ll be seeing her “Like OOH AHH” anytime soon.

Kim Doyeon & Choi Yoojung

While there are few details, Doyeon and Yoojung are clearly destined to be members of Fantagio’s next girl group. The girls’ agency, however, has yet to make any major announcements about this girl group — we do not know the group’s name, how many members it will have, when it will debut, etc. But we do know that Doyeon and Yoojung have also been promoted to artists under the label, and their young age (both are only 17 years old) gives them some time before having to debut. It is likely that the group will debut probably earlier than later in 2017, and it’s even more likely that these two will bring a lot of attention to their debut.

Yoojung specifically has found immense popularity as a strong stage and variety personality, while Doyeon is also a trend for her visuals and versatile talents. As a result, there is nothing stopping these girls from being incredibly successful, making their future group’s success a strong possibility as well. Not to mention, the group may possibly have sisters Lee Chaeyeon and Chaeryoung of JYP Entertainment’s survival show SIXTEEN, as the rumor mill says that they have transferred to Fantagio to debut alongside Yoojung and Doyeon. Having four members with previous public exposure, the members of this group have little to worry about right now. We will likely see lots of Doyeon and Yoojung in 2017, working hard to ensure their new group’s success.

While the “Cherry Blossoms” will eventually “Fade” at the end of this month, it’s clear that the members have a lot going for them. Dividing now into what may possibly be six different girl groups (counting already debuted groups along with Pledis Girlz, Fantagio’s upcoming girl group, and JYP’s next girl group a couple years away) and an actress, the eleven members are truly embodying the group’s name “Ideal of Idol.” While the futures of each group vary in likelihood of sustained relevance, it is clear that each individual member of I.O.I doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. As fans, we are definitely downcast about the disbandment of such an amazing girl group, but we can find solace in the fact that our “Dream Girls” will remain active in the industry in coming years. And whether apart or together, I.O.I’s legacy will live on.

Who do you think will be Kpop’s rising star this year? 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.