K-Pop Unmuted: June 2018 Roundup

On Episode 32 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight and Tamar Herman look back on how K-pop treated June 2018. We talk about KCON NY, Taeyeon’s “Circus,” Lee Jin Ah’s “Run,” SHINee’s “Our Page,” UNB’s “Black Heart,” Yuju’s “Love Rain,” and BlackPink’s “DDU-DU DDU-DU.”

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of K-pop in June 2018’s latest and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted 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.

The Twice cinematic universe


As they grow into their role as the defining girl group of the generation, Twice have begun to come to terms with their identity. Similar to Girls’ Generation before them, they don’t really need an identity to succeed. They represent the ideal; young women who go through all the same trials as anyone, yet do it with the veil of perfection. Twice, however, are not resting on the simplicity of being the best. Through their music videos and dances they are creating their own personal world. A world in which a group of young women dress up as their favourite movie stars, make up their own cheesy dances, and constantly drop private jokes.

Right from their debut, “Like Ooh-Aah,” Twice were borrowing from popular culture. It was a zombie story where the girls played the typical high-school archetypes: cheerleader, sporty, bad girl. From its follow ups though, they positioned themselves as not only star but viewer too.


Also on KultScene: KCON 2018 NY’S M! COUNTDOWN’ DAY 1 CONCERT RECAP

In typical K-pop fashion, the videos for “Cheer Up” and “TT” have a litany of references, but many of them are kept general. It makes more sense in this context compared to some later work given the speed at which the scenes are cut together. In “Cheer Up,” it goes from a clear Scream callback to a fairly generic high school movie to a Sailor Moon-type scene in seconds. Each member has their own particular scene, but other members always participate in that scene with her. As well as the lack of specificity, there’s a constant connectivity that makes it much easier for the viewers to grasp the many ideas being thrown at them.

“TT” has a similar style. It’s halloween theme is filled with pirates, witches, superheroes, and fairies. Each has an obvious touchstone, but not all are clear references. It has one particular, innocuous moment that changes and defines their approach from then on though. It comes right after the first chorus and is not visual but a lyric. Jeongyeon sings “Doesn’t cheer me up at all baby.” It’s an admission of self-awareness. The Twice of “Cheer Up” are the same Twice of “TT,” and so on. They are not reinventing themselves each comeback but growing as a group of young women together.

Even when not connected directly like the “Cheer Up” lyric in “TT,” they still create memes as a way of communicating. The antennae of “Signal,” the knocking in “Knock Knock,” and the Ls in “Likey” all tell the story of their respective songs but add to the growing dimension of the Twice universe. Memes have become a primary source of communication on the internet, and Twice are clearly attuned to that. What’s different from how Twice uses these gimmicks compared to how other groups created viral dances is how they integrated them into their whole career. A viral dance usually happens for one song and is specific to that song. A meme, on the other hand, becomes a part of your language, drifting into other areas of your life regardless of if you wanted it to or not.


Also on KultScene: THE STORY OF LOONA: ODD EYE CIRCLE

This is no more evident than in the choreography for “Likey.” The entire concept of “Likey” is self-reflexive. The choreography is constantly framing the girls in solos or duos, they reference almost all of their previous songs, and the videos features them filming each other and dancing alongside formations as if they were just fans. “Likey “ is a song about social media anxiety barely hidden beneath a more straightforward love song. It’s about what constantly being online does to your real life self esteem. The allusions to a relationship in the lyrics are pretty scant and could easily be replaced with no issue. Twice are singing about themselves. Problems of looking at yourself and being looked at. Problems that connects us as an audience to idols like them.

Instead of filming each other in “What is Love?” Twice are watching themselves on TV. They observe alternate versions of themselves play scenes from famous movies, the dance to Chuck Berry in Pulp Fiction, Mathilda dressing up in Leon, and best of all Dahyun in her own contact lens commercial. After two years of building their world, Twice are now comfortable enough with their identity to have much more concrete references. “What is Love?” is less a video of spotting films you know and feeling good about it but watching people you know act out these (mostly) iconic scenes. It’s even shot like a more focused version of “Cheer Up.” The transitions are similar and both give time to individual close ups for a big reaction.

Not only are they watching themselves on TV, they are also playing the extras in the scenes, watching their characters as characters. It solidifies the several planes of existence these girls live on. They are the girls who watch and the girls who are watched. In the same way that they use references in their choreography, they enjoy watching themselves. They are their own idols.

Twice’s use of callbacks and pop culture references uniquely situate them within a changing landscape of girl groups. Formally girl groups are becoming more diverse. Gone is the apparent hegemony of cute concepts, now one can look through the groups of today and find just about anything. Conceptually too there are changes going on. Similar to Twice, LOONA are creating something of a world for themselves just on a much larger scale. Yet no group has quite found how to capture the imagination of so many like Twice have. They create works that reflect their intimate day to day problems while at the same being the ideal person that makes them feel self-conscious. It’s a complex series of emotions communicated with ease through modern means. It’s easy to dismiss as vapid or childish but at its core it’s personal — almost casual— but so necessary.

What do you think of Twice’s visual work? Let us know 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.

Debunking the “Factory” Narrative: K-Pop’s Authenticity and Shifting Gender Politics

Girl in Fine Bros video sighing while watching "I Am the Best" by 2NE1

In January 2012, the Fine Bros released “Kids React to K-Pop,” the latest weekly installment of their growing “React” series, which featured elementary school children watching and answering questions about videos—in this case, Korean pop music videos. For the Fine Bros, a pair of YouTube moguls whose 16 million subscriber base is built on videos of kids, teenagers, and fellow YouTubers reacting to viral content, K-Pop videos were merely an addition to their collection of outlandish content used to sustain weekly production quotas.

But for many of K-Pop’s English-speaking fans, the Fine Bros’ video was a modern miracle. K-Pop groups, with as few as four or as many as fifteen members, release multiple albums and high-budget music videos per year, performing with elaborate choreography and colorful fashion. In 2012, after several years of potential blow-ups and no immense international breakthroughs, few of them had much recognition in the West. Influenced by a variety of global music genres, K-Pop was, as fans believed, ready to explode in English-speaking markets once Westerners were finally exposed to it. The Fine Bros, with a significant North American viewership, were giving K-Pop a new platform for global advancement.

In “Kids React to K-Pop,” they showed the children some of the genre’s most over-the-top songs (“Bonamana” by 13-member Super Junior) and highlighted those videos’ most outlandish moments (2NE1 members struggling in straitjackets in “I Am the Best”).

“How do you think they found each other and decided to start a band?” they asked the children, knowing that their innocence (“They were probably long-time friends!” a kid guessed) would be shattered by the reality that members of K-Pop groups are chosen by companies that put them through a rigorous training regime before debut, atypical in the garage-band-rock scene of the U.S. The questions became increasingly slanted as the video progressed: “Do you still like the music, even though it was essentially created by a company and not the artist?”


Also on KultScene: SHINee’s ‘Good Evening’ Music Video & ‘The Story of Light EP.1’ Album Review

By the end of the video, the kids had decidedly negative impressions. “Lots of weird people probably like it,” one said. “If I even liked one of them, I would be liking the person that trained them,” another concluded. When made aware of the genre’s growing worldwide presence, a third cried, “I hate my generation so much! Why couldn’t I be born in the Eighties?”

K-Pop fans were furious — a genre whose musical output they took seriously had been reduced to an exotic spectacle of Asian quirkiness that Americans could dismiss as too foreign and corrupt for their collective taste. With such a dialogue surrounding the genre, it is no surprise that journalist John Seabrook’s October 2012 New Yorker article on 9-member Korean ensemble Girls’ Generation was called “Factory Girls.”

Despite some K-Pop acts gaining momentum in Western markets over time—BTS became the first Korean act to top the U.S. Billboard 200 with their studio album Love Yourself: Tear earlier this year—discourse on the genre is barely advancing. In a recent article about Korean music acts performing at the PyeongChang Olympics, TIME defined K-Pop as “music churned out by South Korea’s music-making factories.” A quick Google News search of the genre yields a variety of articles, like the recent entry from CBC News entitled “The Punishing Pressures Behind K-Pop Perfection,” that portray the genre as the Fine Bros do in their video.

Most fans will not deny the indisputable truth — there is merit to the claim that K-Pop stars are rigidly controlled by companies and contracts. During interviews, four-member girl group BLACKPINK discusses rarely being allowed to leave dormitories outside of official schedules. Passing their third anniversary as a group, seven-member Oh My Girl revealed that their management only recently allowed them to use cell phones following the success of a recent single. Sadly, the term “slave contract” is well-known to many fans, whose favorite idols have suffered at the hands of companies that hoard profits and abuse workers. Laws have been passed in attempts to rectify the situation, but work conditions for most K-pop idols are less than ideal.

This “factory” narrative, however, is more reductive than it is factual—it dismisses thousands of singers, dancers, artists, producers, managers, stylists, technicians, A&R teams, and designers as industrial robots with no independent agency. While the portrayal in TIME’s headline attracts the attention of American onlookers fascinated by outlandish foreign creations, it fails to capture the essence of K-Pop as imperfect, but not worthy of dismissal by Western audiences.

“Authentic music” fans and critics often deem K-Pop meaningless and shallow. The initial impression is understandable—it is sometimes the case that none of the members of a group play a minimal, if any, part in the process of crafting music or choreography, aside from actually performing it (which in itself somehow gets overlooked, as if many Western pop stars don’t do the very same thing). But beneath the narrative that Western media curates for its viewers, one can quickly find evidence of K-Pop stars heavily involved in their artistry. G-Dragon, leader of popular boy group BIGBANG and successful soloist, is credited as the main (and sometimes only) producer of both his solo releases and those of his group; BTS is also often known to self-produce their hits. The same dynamic is true of a variety of male and female K-Pop acts—in recent years, producer royalties reaped by idols like G-Dragon, Jinyoung of male outfit B1A4, the late Jonghyun of SHINee, and L.E. of girl group EXID have rivaled those of K-Pop’s biggest behind-the-scenes producers hired by companies to make music for groups.

Speaking of hired producers, Western music writers struggle to grasp is the idea that K-Pop’s artistry isn’t exclusively about creative musical production—to some Korean artists, onstage performance is far more valuable than lyrics or melody. Unlike the American music industry, K-Pop places heavy value on dancing ability and performative skill. In a way, this system actually makes musical performance inclusive of a different kind of talent, creating an industry in which dancers, rappers and vocalists can enjoy the fame, audience, and respect often claimed by singer-songwriter solo pop stars in the U.S. Those with legitimate musical passion, maybe for singing the lyrics instead of penning them, can occupy the spotlight. Is that inauthentic or illegitimate? To rockists or classicalists, maybe so. But to those who aren’t theory geniuses or lack a natural talent for musical composition, it may just be “authentic” as ever, and no less worthy of the praise that critics and writers give to Western pop stars who work with production teams.

The debate extends to gender politics as well. In his “Factory Girls” article, John Seabrook portrays Girls’ Generation as a group of one-dimensional personalities constructed by their companies, calling member Tiffany’s characteristic eye-smile a “jolt of cultural technology.” But it would be Seohyun, another member of the same group, who would depart from her image as the group’s chaste maknae (youngest member) and pursue a sultry vibe for her solo debut mini-album Don’t Say No in 2017. The album concept and image change were entirely her own choices, some of which she made against her company’s advice. She also recently participated in the North-South Korean dialogue on multiple occasions, becoming a symbol of peaceful intentions of the South through performances in Seoul and Pyongyang.

Just like Taylor Swift’s pivot from country to pop with her album Red or Lady Gaga’s image shift in Joanne, female K-Pop stars can be fluid performers, capable in their own right of forging unique artistic destinies. When the Fine Bros reduce them to props of an industrial complex, they are robbed of the creative legitimacy and individualism they seem to rightfully deserve.

Cutesy K-Pop girl groups are often the first to receive criticism for musical and visual concepts that strike Western viewers are misogynistic and infantilizing. And they’re not entirely wrong—the patriarchy is as strong as ever in K-Pop, and many girl groups’ biggest hits are written by men and targeted for consumption by male fans. But as these groups top the charts and become noticeable fixtures of the Korean entertainment scene, the performers themselves reach a new level of empowerment. Seabrook’s “Factory Girls” Girls’ Generation have now been a girl group for a decade, comprising multi-millionaire members who each own property and run individual ventures, and have their own public personas. On her solo reality show, member Sooyoung recently talked about popular Korean feminist book Kim Ji-Young, Born in 1982, explaining her reaction: “Things that I thought were nothing, were actually being treated unfairly just because I’m a girl.” With a platform built on her multi-gender fandom and supported by millions of dollars in the bank, Sooyoung is now one of many female K-Pop idols reading the book and talking openly about feminist issues in the media, despite South Korea’s overall aversion to the term “feminist,” which she has indeed shied away from.


Also on KultScene: K-Pop Unmuted: ‘Produce 48’ & What is an Idol?

The cutesy songs may have patriarchal overtones, but the women performing the music have much more to say—the cultural structures they conquer as a group allow the members to use their newfound capital to then subvert those same structures. The Wonder Girls, formed in 2007, debuted to major commercial success singing bubbly pop songs produced by Korean singer-songwriter and businessman J.Y. Park. While the group’s popularity has fluctuated over the years due to a failed American advancement and lineup changes, the members grew to self-produce their music as their careers progressed. Member Yeeun, credited as HA:TFELT in solo releases, co-composed and wrote her entire debut solo EP Me? in 2014. By the release of their 2015 comeback album Reboot, members of the group were credited for lyrics and production on all of the album’s tracks, taking the sound of their music in a retro pop rock direction. Their subsequent 2016 reggae-rock hit “Why So Lonely” was also written and produced by the group’s members.

A similar example of growing into self-production, singer Lee Hyori debuted as a member of girl group Fin.K.L in 1998. Since the group’s disbandment in 2002, she has gone on to become one of the most recognizable women in Korean media. Moving on from the group and into a solo career, Hyori has taken greater control of her music over time, switching record labels frequently and dropping albums for which she designs concepts and writes and produces almost all tracks. Her success as a Fin.K.L member and soloist gave her the power to control her future releases—a narrative common among matured K-Pop acts, but largely overlooked in Western media coverage. From talking about feminism to performing with more empowered stylings, female members of Korea’s entertainment industry are slowly but steadily laying the internal groundwork for change to take place. The gender dynamics of innocent-seeming girl groups in K-Pop may be more complex than a face-value New Yorker article on Girls’ Generation could tell you.

Despite the advancements, restrictive body standards, contractual abuse, sexual harassment, and other horrors do run rampant in the K-Pop industry. Trainees work tirelessly against a low success rate to become stars, and many undergo abuse by companies that push them to their physical and mental limits. But in a world where Hollywood and public opinion have exiled Harvey Weinstein from public consciousness and all-but-convicted rapist producer Dr. Luke still profits off of Kesha’s albums, how can these abuses be in any way unique to K-Pop? Of course aspects of the K-Pop industry do make certain abuses widespread, but the ability to dismiss K-Pop as a whole over its ethical questions is a simultaneous failure to hold the Western entertainment industry accountable for the same problems.
So why do Western media outlets fail to report on K-Pop’s authenticity? The simple answer is convenience. Portraying K-Pop as freakishly quirky and industrially restrictive are worthwhile efforts for the Fine Bros, whose viral video series is based on reactions alone. The same is true of the articles’ authors and publishers, who profit in clicks from those curious about K-Pop’s apparent strangeness.

But the not so simple answer is racism. The Spice Girls and NSYNC may have gotten similar flack about authenticity back in the 90s, but the Korean-American dynamic of K-Pop’s newfound Western popularity makes the “factory” narrative not only musically, but also culturally objectionable. Like Americans laugh at Japanese variety shows, gawk at harajuku culture, or imitate native Chinese speakers, sensationalizing the controversial aspects of K-Pop gives the Western mind an excuse to stigmatize Korean culture as ridiculous and outlandish. Conflating K-Pop’s nonsensical moments with its ethical dilemmas for Western viewership, TIME and the Fine Bros allow the English-speaking mainstream to dismiss foreign-ness simply because it is foreign. Americans won’t have to reconcile K-Pop’s sonic, visual, and cultural values with their own if they can simply call it weird or unethical and go on with their day. Thus, “Kids React to K-Pop” was an exercise in ignorance—a lesson in xenophobia. And as more kids “react” to K-Pop as it grows in stateside relevance, we can only hope that better lessons are taught. They are only kids, after all.

K-Pop Unmuted: Produce 48 & What is an Idol?

On Episode 31 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Tamar Herman, Stephen Knight, and Joe Palmer join guest Patrick St. Michel to preview Produce48 and to discuss the concept of an “idol” and what makes a great idol. In our Unmuted K-pop Picks we talk about GIRLKIND’s ‘S.O.R.R.Y,’ Yubin’s ‘Lady,’ ONF’s ‘You Complete Me,’ and WJMK’s ‘STRONG.’

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on SoundcloudiTunesGoogle Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know your thoughts on Produce 48 and what you think makes a great idol 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.

K-Pop Unmuted: Goodbye Fiestar

On Episode 30 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Tamar Herman, Joe Palmer, and Stephen Knight discuss the career of perennially-underrated girl group FIESTAR. And in our Unmuted K-pop Picks we talk about Kim Sunggyu’s “Shine,’ (G)I-DLE’s “LATATA,” and FAVORITE’s “Where are you from?”

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on SoundcloudiTunesGoogle Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know your thoughts on FIESTAR and their disbandment 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.

K-Pop Unumted: April 2018 Roundup

On Episode 29 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight and Joe Palmer look back at Kpop releases from April 2018. We discuss HIGHTEEN’s Timing, EXID’s Lady, Lovelyz’s Shining Star, HAON’s Boong Boong, Snuper’s Tulips, and Pentagon’s Shine.

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on SoundcloudiTunes, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of K-pop in April 2018 and KultScene’s latest episode K-pop Unmuted 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.

K-rapper ARTLOVER talks blending music & fashion, British & Korean influences [interview]

Resultado de imagem para ARTLOVER K-POP

The current, up and coming generation of female Korean rappers is made of versatile and open-minded women with the ability to think outside the box. And while the scenario isn’t exactly ideal for them yet, as standards for female and male rappers are not the same, it hasn’t deterred new names from joining the scene. Amongst those names, ARTLOVER is definitely one we should keep our eyes on.

The 25-year-old, whose real name she would rather not reveal, is the typical multifaceted millennial who gathers inspiration from multiple experiences to create something unique. Formerly a makeup artist who has worked with severe fashion magazines, she is now ready to show her own colours through music.

ARTLOVER’s first single “Want U Back,” released on March 2nd, is a melodic tune with a retro sound that showcases her rapping and singing skills. She worked on the lyrics, composition, and art cover design for the single, which just got a music video as well.

But music, fashion, and design are not the only amount of diversity ARTLOVER has her heart on. Being Korean and based in London, she also divides her time between the two countries.  

KultScene talked with her about her first single, her inspirations, and views on being a multi talented artist exposed to two different cultures.

KS: Congratulations on your first release! Please tell us what inspired the lyrics and composition of “Want U Back.”

ARTLOVER: Thank You! “Want U Back” is about young love and the pain of losing it. I started out with a few chords on the piano and the rest just followed so I didn’t really plan it out beforehand. It just happened in the spur of the moment.


Also on KultScene: The 12 LOONA solo singles ranked


KS: How was working with Tae-Seop Lee (producer/mixer engineering; has worked with GOT7, Twice, DAY6, etc.)? How much do you usually get involved in the production?

A: I started out with Swedish writer/producer Max Billion who has worked with a lot of dance artists such as Mike Perry, Paris Blohm, and Cazzette. When we had a solid foundation we took it to Tae-Seop who then put his touch on it. I trust producers that I work with and I always give my opinion.




KS: Your stage name is quite unique. We’ve read that you designed the art cover for “Want U Back” and that you’ve worked as a makeup artist before. How do you think all these passions and talents come together when it comes to your music?

A: I would say that the practical aspect of working as a makeup artist has helped me a lot, especially when it comes to being professional and get things done. The visual aspect has always been very important to me, so it would come as no surprise that I think about this a lot when it comes to my music as well. I creative direct a lot of my videos, etc. I think that music and fashion goes hand in hand and it’s very difficult to separate the visuals and the music.

KS: Being Korean but living in London, how do you see the differences between the mainstream music scene of both countries?

A: Korean music is wilder for sure, more effects, bigger songs, and more parts. In many ways, it resembles western pop music and follow more or less the same pattern of trends, but with more ‘90s soul and more creative arrangements. People take pop music very seriously in Korea. Just as they approach other aspects of Korean society, K-pop has always been about perfection.

KS: It is natural to expect that you will at some point be labelled as a K-pop artist by some people. How do you feel about that? And how do you describe your music and style?

A: I don’t really have an issue with being labeled K-pop, as I think it helps me find an audience, especially outside of Korea. I still think that my music really stands out and doesn’t sound like anything else in K-pop at the moment. If my music was purely European or American, it’s far from certain that it would get as much attention.


Also on KultScene: Ego tripping, & not, in Korean female rap


KS: “Want U Back” sounds heavily inspired by ‘80s synthpop music. What are your biggest influences in music and your favorite artists?

A: It makes me very happy you say that, because we used mainly old synths during the recording. Max Billion brought his collection of vintage gear from the ‘70s and ‘80s so we stuck with those. I love Madonna and Cher, but my favorite artist of all time is Michael Jackson.

KS: What are your plans for 2018? Can we expect more music from you?

A: We are currently working on my debut EP that is due out in June, so that’s very exciting for sure. I’m also looking forward to playing shows.

Check out ARTLOVER’s “Want U Back” music video:

What do you think of ARTLOVER’s debut? 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.

K-Pop Unmuted: Jazz & K-Pop

On Episode 28 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight is joined by musician and podcaster Rhodri Thomas to discuss Jazz and Kpop. We talk about the influence of jazz on a dozen Kpop songs. We also discuss our K-pop Unmuted picks, The Snowman by Jung Seung Hwan, and Bboom Bboom by Momoland.

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Soundcloud, iTunes, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2017’s latest and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted 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.

K-Pop Unmuted: 2017 Awards – Part 2

In the 27th episode of of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, Tamar Herman, and Gabriel Wilder reflect on the best moments and songs out of Korea in 2017, and even give out some of their own unique awards.

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2017’s latest and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted 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.

2017 Hyuna was the best Hyuna

hyuna hip & lip 2017

Between starting the year with a tour in North America and ending it as a mentor on the career-reboot show The Unit, 2017 was a busy year for Hyuna. With the disbandment of 4Minute in 2016, we might have thought that it would mean one less possibility to see her in the media. However, Hyuna surely made up for the absence of the group by promoting in a diversified range of activities, between solo projects and her work other Cube Entertainment artists, and it was a year filled with the best version of Hyuna the world has ever seen.

2017 was the year we got to see many of Hyuna’s previously unseen colors. Her star quality was evoked when she lent a hand in CLC’s transition of concept, plus she wrote the lyrics for their single “Hobgoblin” and styled the music video. She also took part in the trifecta Triple H, formed along with Pentagon’s Hui and E’Dawn. But it was in solo promotions that we saw the most interesting sides Hyuna showed this year — or, I dare to say, the best of her entire career.

While 4Minute always had a powerful concept, Hyuna’s sex appeal was too strong to be restricted to a role in a group (although, needless to say, she outshone the rest anyway). Noticing that, her agency branded her as an outrageous bombshell, which resulted in solo works mainly based in catchy electronic bops and sassy music videos. And, of course, the provocative duo Troublemaker, formed by her and former member of Highlight, formerly known as Beast, Jang Hyunseung (even if their comeback is long overdue).


Also on KultScene: Female K-pop soloists owned 2017

The exploration of Hyuna’s image through an outrageous concept, like said before, made it less credible for me, to the point that I’ve always had a hard time liking Hyuna, because sometimes it seemed that she was trying too hard to look like a bad girl. And, while I believe that she holds enough sensuality and fierceness to make it unnecessary to bring out these attributes 24/7, I also believe that the most wrongful side effect of it was making us think she was a one-trick pony. She definitely isn’t. And her latest releases “Babe” and “Lip & Hip” prove just that.

Although it’s not exactly a ballad, “Babe” was the softest thing Hyuna has ever done, both sonically and aesthetically. The lyrics about living a love that makes her feel younger, together with the music video that shows her in light colored dresses and high school skirts, were definitely surprising. The Hyuna factor was still there: hip-shaking, dancing between boys, her unmistakable rapping. But it was definitely refreshing to see a slower paced song and a bit less party-hard image from her.

Conversely, “Lip & Hip” might seem at first like another typical Hyuna song, and sonically, it is. However, it’s the concept for the music video and her performances that has brought us the most interesting side in the “sexy Hyuna” videography. If in “Red,” “Bubble Pop,” “Roll Deep,” and “How’s This?” Hyuna was firming her image as a sex symbol, in “Lip & Hip,” she is mostly arousing us to think of sexuality (hers and ours too) in a more curious and playful approach. The song talks about a girl’s confidence towards her own body, and the visuals showcase two versions of Hyuna dealing with her puberty changes and exploring the possibilities of how she can look like.

The music video has tireless close ups of Hyuna’s body parts, but it’s different this time. We can see how “Lip & Hip” differs from her previous work if we compare, for example, her chest shootings in “Red” —obviously meant for the appreciation of third parties — and in “Lip & Hip,” where they seem more like the recording of a young girl discovering that her boobs are growing. It’s still provocative, but through a different perspective. It is relevant to say that showing cleavage is not well received in Korea, and by showing hers, Hyuna is not only defying Korean taboos, but also defying us to think of why a natural part of the female body is so sexualized. If you didn’t catch this, you’ve been successfully manipulated.

This video plays with your mind, going from Hyuna dealing with braces (symbolising teenage struggles) to the rapper doing a sexy dance with a bustier (symbolising her grown woman attitude) in a few seconds. Of course, the type of scene that catches the most attention is the last one, and it will make you think “Lip & Hip” is just about Hyuna being the Hyuna she’s always been. But make no mistake: this is her most unique and clever music video so far.


Also on KultScene: Best K-pop music videos of 2017

Overall, a good synthesis of “Lip & Hip’s” smart irony is the end, as Hyuna leaves home with torn pants that let you see her underwear, alluding to her previous sexy and daring figures in past releases. But, joke’s on you: she doesn’t appear internationally sexy or desirable, she’s just looking like a normal young girl, with glasses, a backpack, and a bear. After all, panties are just a piece of cloth made to cover a piece of skin, aren’t they?

Well, of course you don’t need to doubt your own sanity if you missed the point of the music video and only saw Hyuna’s body and sexy dancing. There is, indeed, a lot of intentional sexual content in “Lip & Hip,” both in the music video and in the performances she has done so far — but, that’s not all there is to it. And that’s where my complaint lies: Hyuna has always been sexy, but why is that the only concept we’ve seen of her so far? “Babe” and “Lip & Hip” have shown that she can be sexy while also exploring different nuances, and I just wished Cube hadn’t waited so long to show it. After all, Hyuna is more than just pretty lips and hips, but we don’t really see that a lot.

Now that we’ve seen different sides from Hyuna, I believe that there’s enough room for her to keep shining and doing amazing things. 2017 was the year that Hyuna showed that she has what it takes to last in this industry, and she definitely deserves to.

What was your favorite moment of Hyuna 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.