KCON NY 2019 ‘M! Countdown’ day 2 recap

Day 2 of any KCON is almost always even more exciting than the first. You’ve just had a full convention and some concerts but the prospect of more makes it even better. The Sunday show took a different approach to its sets than Saturday. Instead of a noticeable flow between the groups, they went for independent greatness. Each group stood on their own and showed in less time than the previous night, who they truly are.

Like the Saturday, day 2 opened with its two smaller boy groups dancing to American pop tracks. AB6IX began by performing to Charlie Puth’s “Attention” and Verivery followed with “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars. It was Verivery who took the win here easily, AB6IX were admittedly slick but uninventive. Verivery brought great gestures to the stage but best of all they made good use of each other as props. At the beginning, the group slowly moves together to form a car right as Bruno sings “magic in the aiiirrrr.” The kicker was that they even had one member wraps his arms around the member who was in the driving seat to mimic a seatbelt. Later on two members then duck down to become a turntable and even stick their fingers up to be used as knobs by the would be DJ.


Also on KultScene: INSIDE KCON NY 2019

It was the turn of the girls this time to take the first set. In what was an interesting but good call, Mnet’s very own Fromis_9 opened with recent disco b-side “Love Rumpumpum.” It’s a great indicator of the kind of the group they are, loads of fun but so technically proficient and precise at the same time. This translated into what was the tightest set of the whole weekend. Latest single “Fun” came next and really got the crowd going. They were step perfect in their routines, popping off the stage with bright colours and beaming faces. Sadly they had to condense “DKDK” in half due to time constraints but the despair lasted about a millisecond as the blistering “Love Bomb” followed directly after. They gave no time to relax, no time to ponder the short set. The speed and accuracy at which they did things meant there were no regrets with potential songs they didn’t perform.

Seventeen’s American duo, Vernon and Josh, popped up next to tell a story about journeys to space. Their song “Rocket” is a cute little track that favours being here, between sets, thanks to its easy rhythms. Vernon in particular, looked like he was having a fun and nicely relaxed time. The performance unit joined them halfway through as backup dancers, before continuing the space theme with “Moonwalk.” Again it’s not their most impressive work but that wasn’t called for yet. It’s still great to see such professionals coast through a difficult if not quite intense choreography.

 

Verivery couldn’t quite match the inventiveness of their opening dance performance but they do have the tunes to at least bring some grooves. Finding an identity in New Jack Swing, Verivery’s songs all have big beats, big chords, and big choruses. “From Now” in particular has a chorus so good and memorable that you’d be singing along by the end of song regardless of having heard it before or not. Sadly it was a case of diminishing returns from then on. “Ring Ring Ring” and “Alright” trot out similar ideas with lesser execution. “Ring Ring Ring,” again has a catchy hook but it pales next to “From Now.” They’re not quite ready for a platform like this but no doubt they’ll get there.

Another group potentially not in a place to be on this stage are AB6IX. They are technically the newest group of the weekend but have plenty of experience with former Wanna One members Daehwi and Woojin. They were, however, without the injured Woojin for all of the dances.. K-pop groups are usually masters at concealing the fact that a member is missing, Seventeen would even do it later in the night. AB6IX however, made the major mistake of having Woojin sit on a chair to do his raps. Having him sit at the edge while the four others danced in the middle of the stage made the stage feel unnecessarily huge. The space between them was always palpable.

This was doubly sad given the choreography of their stunning debut “Breathe” is reliant on member interactions. For that song they still just about made it work but their other two, “Shining Stars” and “Hollywood” proved to be misses. Those tracks are not good enough to stand alone and are made even worse with the lack of a member. There were good points though, Daehwi is a phenomenal performer for the absolute grace in his movements. Many K-pop dances can make their routines look easy, very few can make it look like their swimming through the air like Daehwi does. Lead vocalist, Woong, also had the best belts of the weekend.

Fromis_9 returned with the rather boring “covering the big K-pop songs of the day” section. They ably covered Red Velvet’s “Red Flavour.” It’s a good match given the direction Fromis_9 are going in with “Love Bomb” and “Fun.” These covers are always bland though and they do never do much to change things up. SF9 introduced themselves next before their set with EXO’s “Love Shot.” This was slightly more interesting due to their dayglo suits that seemed to be missing whole pieces of clothing. A sexy sign of things to come from them.


Also on KultScene: KCON NY 2019 ‘M! COUNTDOWN’ DAY 1 RECAP

The final girl group of the weekend were up next and thanks to their star member showed something we hadn’t seen until then. (G)I-DLE’s most recent single “Uh Oh” was first and immediately Jeon Soyeon was standing out. Her voice was heard loud above the music, a rare thing over the weekend. She relished every moment on the mic, not being able to stop her smile every time the crowd roared for her. She played off of them, directing herself around the venue as well as at the camera. Soyeon was not afraid to detach herself from the focused expressions and pure commitment to choreography. They went on to blast through all of their singles, a shortened version of “Hann,” “Latata,” and finishing on “Senorita.” Soyeon would grow further into her role as the rest performed their functions. Soojin’s sleek, sensual dance was the only thing to come close to matching Soyeon.

SF9 proved to be the most sensual group of the weekend with their set. They left behind the primary colour suits and replaced with them clothes not so far from bondage. Right from the distorted guitars in their intro number, everything was geared towards a tough, masculine sexuality. No better is this demonstrated than in the heavy percussion and bass of “RPM.” This brought up the pace and kept it high even for “O Sole Mio.” It’s a song that would actually favour a slightly calmer presence but SF9 wanted it intense and they brought it. This was all set up for the banger of their lives, “Now or Never.” Led in the chorus by the infallibly cool Hwiyoung, SF9 delivered the deep electro with a perfectly effortless intensity. Pulling it off so well also meant they could end the night the decidedly more laid back “Play Hard.”

Before the long anticipated headliners arrived, (G)I-DLE were back on stage for the KCON classic Broadway musical cover. Befitting the girl crush image of them, (G)I-DLE chose “All That Jazz” from Chicago. Obviously “Cell Block Tango” would have been a much better choice but there’s also obvious reasons as to why they didn’t perform that one. As it was “All That Jazz” was a solid, mostly low energy number. It didn’t do much to show off the members, it would have if they were singing live but alas.

It was time for Seventeen. There’s little to add when it comes to these 13 boys. In a debate over the great K-pop live performers they would certainly be near the top. With only five songs, they can transform a night from a collective of K-pop groups to a full blown Seventeen show. The level of fun and individuality they bring to every performance is unprecedented. The effort and energy that goes into more recent songs like set opener “Getting Closer,” is no different from them revisiting their debut, “Adore U.” Seventeen have the same zeal for being on stage now as they did back then, maybe even more so. No one exemplifies this better than Hoshi. No single member of any group is better at leading a performance on stage, balancing his time between the camera, fans, and his fellow members. He takes charge alongside actual leader S.Coups and creates an atmosphere where everyone thrives. It was their closer “Very Nice” that finally brought the house down. They had everyone jumping and even sprinted back on stage after it was over for one more round.

Day 2 seemed to take day 1’s level of balance as a challenge. The groups on this night said we’re going to do the complete opposite. That’s not to say it was uneven or messy, but that each group attempted to stand on their own, not letting a potential flow between them stop them from doing what they want. It was a night of individual brilliance. The unbearable cuteness of Jang Gyuri, the lithe, feline movements of Lee Daehwi, the sharp, truncated rhythms of Jeon Soyeon, and blatant sexual energy of Hwiyoung. These moments and people would all be remembered, shining above those around them. With headliners Seventeen, they are a group so attuned to this style of performance that it’s impossible to separate them. They are all brilliant as individuals but geniuses when brought together.

All photo credits to KCON USA

Were you at KCON NY 2019? What did you think of day 2? 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.

Inside KCON NY 2019


For the first time ever, KCON New York took place in the actual city of New York. The 2019 edition of the biggest South Korean entertainment convention in the United States moved itself from Newark, New Jersey to the iconic locations of Javits Centre and Madison Square Garden on July 6th and 7th. It felt destined to be an equally grand weekend with more acts, more guests, and most importantly, more fans.

The hallowed halls of the Javits Centre, home to most of New York’s largest conventions, quickly filled up the first morning of KCON. They just as quickly felt like home to the many fans checking the best of Korean culture available to them. As always, the major highlights at the convention was the panels, a rare chance to get an in-real-life perspective on the many facets of K-pop and also time to speak to many of the best journalists and Youtubers that K-pop has to offer.

The weekend’s offerings opened with a panel exploring the potentially tricky area of “Stan Culture.” Moderated by PopCrush journalist Lai Frances, the panel of guests steered nicely clear of controversy without ever feeling too soft on stans. Each of them went through some of their own experiences with quality fandoms and toxic fandoms. The most interesting exchange came prompted from an audience member when they asked about how the writers themselves feel they can change the more negative sides of fans. Of course, none of the panelists had an exact answer or even a feeling if they did, but they demonstrated the necessity for cultural critics well.

The other great panel of the day was run by Emma from Reacttothek, and featured producers Andreas Oberg and David Amber and critic Jakob Dorof. Titled “What’s the Difference between American Pop and K-Pop?” the four of them attempted to describe how K-pop came to sound the way it does and how that compares to modern American pop. The panel was full of insights into how production works thanks to the two producers, but Emma as well was just as adept at explaining musical terms and elements. Jakob, who lives in Seoul, provided the Korean context. He talked about how the karaoke market is something important to pop in Korea, as well as the fact that the genre-bending type songs we hear now may have their roots all the way back in the 1940’s. One of the most interesting little tidbits though, was his revelation that SHINee’s “Everybody” had ninety different versions before being completed. Apparently they would have a finished song, go to choreograph it, and find that it needed a little something extra here and there before finally thinking it was good enough.

 


Also on KultScene: BLACKPINK’S ‘KILL THIS LOVE’ EP REVIEW

At the expo itself, there was a never ending stream of potential things to do. Many corporate brands had stalls doing games and giveaways, and there was lots of merch and K-beauty products to purchase, and even a glass box in the middle of the room where idols came out to play. Coco was there on this to host for Ateez. They played some Jenga and whoever made the blocks fall would have to dance to a random song. It’s a fun game to watch idols play, but being in the box meant it felt a little less intimate. At the Prudential Centre in previous years, the groups would come out to stalls but still be quite close by. It’s this kind of intimacy that an event like KCON should strive for.

There was also a noticeable lack of fan stalls in the expo. There had always been only a small amount, but given the extra space, there could have been more of an effort to bring in fan artists. Fans could get together in rooms near the panels as fan clubs, but again, that felt too distant from the expo as well as being too specifically catered to one group’s fans at a time.

Day two rolled around swiftly and the panel area began with a packed schedule. There were three separate events going all around at the same time. Two meet and greets, one with now KCON legend, and former U-KISS member, Kevin, the other with four of the team from Reacttothek, and one returning panel “Women in Hallyu Media.” Our very own Tamar Herman was moderating and led the esteemed panelists through a frank and vital discussion. The reality of the pressures even the most successful journalists and media women was totally laid bare. They touched on the issue of women in K-pop and the lack of tours and coverage they get in the west. It’s a never ending cycle of not getting enough news space because the groups aren’t big enough, but never being given that space to get the fame in the first place. Jenny Zha made a remark in relation to this that would feel relevant for the rest of the day: she basically said where the money goes determines all of this, touring and coverage.

Later on, there was another chance to get up close and personal with some idols in the M2 glass box. There was more Jenga playing, this time from (G)I-dle. This included a happily embarrassed Miyeon dancing to “Baby Shark.” Verivery and SF9 took the to the KCON stage, where they partook in showcasing their rookie talent and sitting down for an interview, respectively.


Also on KultScene: K-POP UNMUTED: JUNE 2019

Again the panels were the easy highlight of the day with more exciting work like the “K-pop and Mental Health,” “Breaking News in K-pop,” and “2019: Year of Girl Groups.” The latter took on a very comfortable sort of half fan club, half panel vibe that played into the positivity of the topic itself. The expo lost even more of its charm by the second day though, as there’s only so many free slices of pizza and ice pops that can keep you distracted long enough to stick around when there are few offerings and interactive events.

As KCON takes a big step in the right direction in New York City, it frustratingly takes some more smaller steps in the opposite way. Zha’s comment from the “Women in Hallyu Media” panel sticks in the mind. Growing in size requires extra money, and extra money requires more sponsorships, which ultimately leads to less creative control over how the convention is run. The panels and concerts are slowly becoming the only reason to go to these events, and who knows how long they’ll last as well, though, as this year is more heavily focused on rookie and Mnet-oriented groups, the TV channel under KCON organizer CJ ENM than ever before. The true danger of this progression is if fans follow this corporatization. Of course, KCON isn’t the leader in how fans consume K-pop, but it can be a litmus test for a general look at what the Stateside portion of the fandom might be feeling at one point. Events like this need fans’ money, but long term, they need their support way more.

All photos credit to Jean Libert. 

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What were your take on KCON 2019 NY? 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.

 

K-Pop Unmuted: June 2019

On Episode 43 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Alexis Hodoyan, Tamar Herman, and Stephen Knight look back at Kpop releases from June 2019. We discuss Chungha’s “Snapping,” Sulli’s “Goblin,” Yesung’s “Pink Magic”, Monsta X’s “Who Do U Love,” NCT Dream’s “Don’t Need Your Love,” and Stray Kids’ “Side Effects.”

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

K-pop Unmuted: The Dance Episode


On Episode 42 of Kultscene’s K-pop Unmuted, Gabriel Wilder joins Joe Palmer and Stephen Knight to discuss Kpop dance. We talk about the importance of dance in Kpop, memorable dance moments, top performance groups, great individual dancers, and much more. Our Unmuted Picks for the episode are Jo Jung Min’s Ready Q, Weki Meki’s Picky Picky, and Lim Kim’s Sal-Ki.

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

K-pop Unmuted: March 2019 roundup

On Episode 41 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight and Joe Palmer look back at K-pop releases from March 2019. We discuss EVERGLOW’s “Bon Bon Chocolat”, DALsooobin’s “Katchup”, Block B BASTARZ’s “Help Me”, TXT’s “Crown”, Yerin Baek’s “Merry and the Witch’s Flower”, and GWSN’s “Pinky Star (RUN)”.

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

Let us know what your favourite K-pop track of March 2019 is 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: Girl Group Invasion

On Episode 40 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, hosts Alexis Hodoyan, Stephen Knight, and Joe Palmer discuss the 2019 girl group invasion of the US, Europe, and beyond. We talk about recent tours by Oh My Girl and Red Velvet, and upcoming tours by BlackPink, Sunmi, and others. And if that’s not enough girl group music, our picks include Itzy’s “Dolla Dolla,” Dreamcatcher’s “Piri,” and NeonPunch’s “Tic Toc.”

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

Let us know what you think of K-pop’s Girl Group Invasion of the west 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.

Subin talks gifts from heaven, alter ego, & ‘Katchup’ [interview]

dalsooobin subin dal shabet interview katchup ketchup
Just over two years since we last saw her release music, Subin will be returning soon with her biggest single to date, “Katchup.” In those two years, the former Dal Shabet member has remained ever present; she appeared at KCON LA last year and has a strong social media presence. She even changed her moniker and now goes by DALsooobin. The “Circle’s Dream” singer is thriving particularly on Instagram with K-pop girl group covers, unique promos, and constant new ways of communicating with.

KultScene was lucky enough to catch up with her and talk about her upcoming comeback, her alter-ego, and her favourite Dal Shabet track.

Congratulations on your recent successful Makestar. What was the experience of using that website like? Is it nice knowing that your fans can be one of your major backers?

“I was worried that this goal wouldn’t be achieved in the beginning, but I was surprised to hear that it was reached really quickly. Throughout this project, I realized that a lot of Korean and international Darlings are still supporting us. I often felt lonely throughout my solo career but after seeing the success of this project, I felt really supported. From then on, I promised myself to give my best to Darlings who have waited so long.”

Will your comeback be self-composed? Would you like to continue composing for yourself or work with more producers?

“Yes, I think it’s essential to include your true feelings in a song. I’ve always wanted to compose my own songs so that I could express my honest emotions. If I can meet more producers with similar vibes and feelings as mine, I’d love to work with them in the future.”


Also on KultScene: THE STORY OF LOONA: YYXY

You’ve had a wonderful career with Dal Shabet that set you up to go solo and has led all the way here. What do you feel when you look back at your time with the group?

“I’ve always thought back to memories of Dal Shabet, but these days I think of them even more before I go up on stage. Before, when I used to be with my members, I wasn’t really afraid of anything, but nowadays, because I’m doing more things solo, I get a bit scared and lonely.”

From the group’s discography, are there any songs you look back on and think that was the best?

“My personal favorite song is ‘Joker.’ I think it’s a gift from heaven that I was given this opportunity to produce this song. I think I was able to go further in my solo career through that album.”

As a part of Dal Shabet, going through all manner of pop genres, and as a soloist working on ballads and more indie-influenced songs, you have experimented with a wide variety of genres. Do you have a favourite genre that you have encountered so far?

“Out of all the genres I’ve tried out, my favorite has to be indie. I believe having your own identity is the most important thing as an artist, and I think compared to other genres, the indie genre allows for a wider range of expression. Just like ‘Kieuk’ by Kiha & The Faces, I think indie is the most flexible and diverse genre.”

Some songs you have produced for yourself have been very personal and I think your work is much better off because of it. Songs like “Hate” are so full of anguish. Is it liberating to produce songs like this for yourself?

“That’s exactly how I felt! I’m so glad that you were able to empathize with my track ‘Hate.’ It seems like I succeeded with that one (lol). I wrote that song to express the suffering I felt from not being able to share with a past partner the pain he had given me. I’m personally the type that has a hard time expressing how I feel, but through writing this song, it was a freeing and healing experience.”

 

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D-5 #katchup #dalsooobin #comingsoon #달수빈 #케첩

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“Circle’s Dream” is probably my favourite of your songs. What was it like producing that? As a solo artist, do you hope to challenge your voice as much as you can as well as your composing abilities?

“I’m so happy that you like ‘Circle’s Dream’ the most, and again, this makes me feel like this track has succeeded (lol)! This song has the strongest personality/identity. I tried my best to make this song something that no one’s heard before, and to work in my own unique voice and feelings. This is the song where I challenged myself the most as a solo artist.”

Where did the ideas come from, especially for the lyrics which are great but strange? In reference to those lyrics, what does it mean to be round or angular?

“In Korea, there’s a phrase that adults commonly say, which is, ‘Live roundly.’ It means to ‘live kindly,’ but today’s world is too aggressive and offensive for us to just ‘live kindly.’ That’s why I wrote about being angular, which is the opposite of living ’roundly’ and means, ‘I don’t just want to live a life where I’m only kind to others.’”

[Translator’s Note: The Korean expression to “live roundly” essentially means to just go with the flow. Subin explains in her answer that today’s society can be so negative and hurtful, and we can be wronged at times. It’s not always best to just go with the flow and be stepped on all over, but it’s good to discern when we need to become “angular”, or to toughen up and stand up for ourselves, instead of just being meek all the time.]


Also on KultScene: BREAKING DOWN RED VELVET’S ‘REDMARE’ SHOW IN DALLAS

Do you feel that you are still “round” today?

“I do think that I’m still ’round’ today, but I guess some might disagree, since the way you perceive others can be very subjective. Instead of thinking, ‘I hate that I’m so ‘round’, or too much of a ‘nice guy’,’ I try to remember that even I can hurt others without knowing it, so I try to stay humble and careful about the way I act and the things I say.”

You were at KCON LA last summer, would you like to come back to America or any other countries outside of Asia on tour anytime soon?

“As far as potential plans for America or any other countries outside of Asia, we’re still in the planning phase, so I can’t really say anything until we have a more solidified idea. As of right now, I am hoping to do something in the States and in other countries in the second half of the year!”

Can you talk a bit about who Nikita is to you? Is she a friend, an alter ego, or something else?

“Nikita is my best friend. We may look alike, but the ways we live our lives are very different. Since my career thrives when the public pays attention to me, I have to pay attention to the public’s opinion. However, that’s not the case for Nikita. She focuses and pays more attention to herself. I hope people like me or anyone who’s going through a rough time would learn how to love themselves through her.”

Finally, what is so special about ketchup?

“Out of all of my babies, Ketchup is the oldest one (lol). From all of the songs I’ve released as a soloist, this track took the longest to produce, and I put the most preparation into it. And because I put so much into this song, I can’t help but feel that it’s the most special to me.”

DALsoobin’s “Katchup” drops Mar. 5. In the meantime, check out the teaser.


Special thank you to SubKulture Entertainment for facilitating and translating the interview 💕

What are some of your favorite Subin songs? Let us know in the comments below! 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: 2018 Awards – Part 2

On Episode 39 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, guests Gabriel Wilder and Stephanie Parker join hosts Joe Palmer and Stephen Knight to discuss impactful events of 2018 in Kpop, and to present the second round of the 2018 K-Pop Unmuted 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 2018’s 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 story of LOONA: yyxy


How do you close out a pre-debut project like LOONA’s? How do you bring the many ideas and sounds contained within the previous 8 solos and 4 sub-unit singles to an outcome? But Yves, Chuu, Go Won, and Olivia Hye were given this herculean task, and came together as Youth Youth by Young, aka LOONA yyxy to be the conclusion of the sweeping story the LOONAverse had been introducing for over two years.

The story of LOONA took a dramatic shift before yyxy. Odd Eye Circle injected a positive, forthright energy to the universe as a direct contrast to what came before them with LOONA 1/3 and yet, it still felt incomplete. Between the two of them they barely scratched the surface of complexity within the idea of girlhood. One could be passive or active, with little in between. To deal with this yyxy took a major lyrical shift and forgoed a more distinct musical identity for their era. In its place the videos took on the brunt of the storytelling while the lyrics focused on one thing. Each of the girls sang not about boys or a general idea of love but of self love. Differing perspectives of self-love combined to give us a more complete idea of what LOONA’s story was.


Also on KultScene: K-POP UNMUTED: 2018 AWARDS – PART 1

Yves fell from Eden and crashed into our hearts when she began the final saga with the deeply satisfying “new.” It turns the bounding confidence of Odd Eye Circle into something quietly simple. The heavy 80s synths feel immediately powerful. Where OEC were manic and excited, Yves doesn’t waiver, preferring a steadiness of strength felt from within.

This experience and strength of Yves’ voice proves to be crucial. Aided by just a bassy synth and fingersnaps, she convincingly delivers such grandiose lines as, “Willing to get closer to the sun / Flapping of the burnt wings.” “new” is a song about finding oneself through a variety of life experiences. She beings with love of a person, “My heart that wants to be like you / Gets coloured, filled with you,” but moves on quickly. She goes no further in mentioning this person to the point that it sounds more like admiration than love. This is where she deviates from her predecessors. This desire to be like someone else led Yves to consider her “miserable appearance.” In looking at herself in preparation, she took the time to see a new side of who she is. In dropping the pursuit of another and considering a mirror, she sees “the beam inside of my heart.”

Yves understands that the conclusion LOONA seek isn’t in being loved or loving someone but in how you come to make those decisions. It’s the in-between point of figuring yourself out and knowing what’s best for you.

Yves grabbed the LOONAverse by the throat and told it to calm down. All of the yyxy girls’ songs were a response to this and none of them took it to heart quite like Chuu. “Heart Attack,” her solo song, is what happens when LOONA ⅓ are graced with the influence of Yves. Big brass wills Chuu down a difficult path of big vocals and emotions. Her heart is unstoppable, at a level of obsession not seen before in the LOONAverse. “Heart Attack’s” music however, does feel familiar at times so it is up to Chuu to elevate it. None of the other girls matched her on record for pure personality, “This must be what thrill feels like, darling” she bellows in the chorus. Her voice shifting tone depending on just how happy she is.

Her unabashed sentimentality is no surprise given Yves’ influence. It is, at the same time, naive. Yves’ message has been missed by Chuu. She changes her whole life to suit this person, “All of my standards are set to you / Like the moon spinning around the earth.” She’s shoved along by growing layered background vocals and stronger synths to a point of apparent euphoria. Chuu gives everything to her vocal tone, a parallel to how she’ll give everything to the other she sings of. “I’ll give you all my heart /Take my heart,” she pleads. Her feelings are in whiplash. Taking confidence from Yves, Chuu goes too far in changing her “quiet heart.” It’s the response of someone who was waiting for confidence for too long and couldn’t handle it. Chuu never really had a quiet heart, just never had the support to know this.

Someone who really does have a quiet heart is Go Won. On first meeting, the third yyxy girl is slight and mysterious. Her voice is simple, barely going above a talk-sing type for the majority of her solo song “One & Only.” The straightforward synth of the track does well to back her up. It does not undermine her at any stage. It has bright piano chords to prop her up in the chorus and shimmering synths to match her as she highers her pitch rising to the chorus. Her voice is warm and unique but also innately familiar as if everything she sings we all know deep down.

Right from the beginning, Go Won understands the importance of self-love. “When that shadow takes a step towards me / Even the darkness feels bright,” she sees light in everything because she pours light onto everything. She doesn’t need no garden of Eden.

Olivia Hye, yyxy’s final girl, is someone who sees almost no light. She took Yves’ message as a betrayal. Her song “Egoist” is not a celebration of self-love but a lament for the heartache of how she reached it. Olivia still held onto the idea that true fulfilment came only through love of another. She was not prepared to lose them or to hear that her ideals had been wrong this entire time. “I wanted to despise you /But my heart wouldn’t let you go,” she ekes out at the beginning. Her voice, a strained apathy, fits these words perfectly.

The track’s opening piano chord starts a fraction of the way through like we have barged in on her revelation. The piano drops when her sadness turns to anger, though. Her rage slowly distorts the song into a whirling industrial clash of defiant synths and destructive percussion. The melodic whistle from the chorus is coerced into a desperate scream. The song’s expressiveness mocks the cold flatness of Olivia’s voice. To make matters worse Jinsoul follows this. Her self-referential rap is full of temptations about being in an “endless cycle” together. She is a voice that Olivia does not need right now, and it shows. As the song progresses it has nothing to else to offer. Olivia’s voice, still inert, doesn’t convince us of the words she’s singing. She still sings of fate, a fate she fears was taken from her prematurely. Her anger is still focused on the person leaving, rather than her own inadequacies.


Also on KultScene: THE 12 LOONA SOLO SINGLES RANKED

The conflict inherent in Olivia Hye and her song seemed to be a great jumping off point for LOONA yyxy to come together as a unit. Instead they did something strange: “love4eva” is a song made to situate LOONA within the larger world of K-pop. Almost every major detail links them to two other era-defining girl groups of their time, Girls’ Generation and I.O.I.

Starting with producer E-Tribe, even the announcement of their involvement was treated as a big coup. E-Tribe are known for a number of iconic hits like Hyori’s “U-Go-Girl” and Super Junior’s “It’s You,” but none quite as legendary as Girls’ Generation’s “Gee.” Their involvement was a statement but how they used the feature from Canadian artist Grimes locked in the comparison. Much to everyone’s surprise, her only involvement was in the song’s intro. Her English language declaration of LOONA’s finally being together is a riff on not just Tiffany and Jessica’s intro for “Gee” but the many times K-pop has done this the years over. The lyrics as well are a such a generic take on first love that it could be parody. The wonderfully ridiculous line about kidneys comes close to convincing me of that.

Even before Grimes’ part, it’s easy to spot the I.O.I connection as well. The precise, rolling synths immediately recall that group’s best track “Very Very Very.” “love4eva” strives for the breathless energy of that song but can’t quite go past imitation. Right at the end, yyxy go on to refer to the choreography of “Very Very Very” too, as in their ending pose they continue moving along with a heart gesture. It’s smaller than the other references but in ending the track it leaves the imprint of all of those other ideas in our mind.

This all combines to position LOONA as a group following these two. It would be hard to argue that anyone other than Girls’ Generation is the the most definitive K-pop girl group, and I.O.I were the first group since them to change how the industry worked by making competition shows the new most lucrative debut plan. LOONA have decided that they are next, stating that their form of marketing is what future girl groups will be copying.

This, unfortunately, is the final legacy of yyxy. They jumped the gun on the anticipation of their debut by dropping a genuinely interesting thematic exploration in favour of something more palatable for a larger audience. Regardless of quality, “love4eva” and LOONA’s debut single, “Hi High,” are a digression from what made LOONA interesting in the first place, their focus on the girls themselves. It was the distinction between the solo songs and the diversity of sounds and ideas that were used to build characters that made LOONA connect with so many. That yyxy could have four separate songs about self-love, all with different perspectives was frankly beautiful. They worked to define the impossibility of identity, and it sadly remained impossible to carry through to the finale.

What do you think of the LOONA yyxy era? Let us know 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.

Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2018

One of the most important aspects of any K-pop single is its accompanying music video, and though 2018 is over, it’ll be a while before we’re over the MVs released by Korean artists throughout the twelve month period. Taking a look back, the KultScene team took a look at what exactly makes one music video better than another, and several writers shared their perspective on why one K-pop MV or another from last year is superior and memorable in its own way.

“IDOL” by BTS

Doesn’t matter if you look into BTS’ music, videos, performances, fan-dedicated released content or even the fandom-driven activities on or offline. Whatever it is, there is always so much going on that you might either get confused or fascinated, but never bored. The music video for “IDOL” is no different. Filled with dozens of references (some that only fans will get, some that only Koreans or Korean culture aficionados will get), the music video plays with a lot of stereotypes that are often attached to BTS, to K-pop “idols” and just generally for being Asian men. Displaying a powerful choreography and a deliberate overwhelming aesthetic, the boys show that they don’t have a problem with whatever is it that you think they are (“idols” or “artists”). Because, at the end of the day, they are confident enough in their skins to be anything —or everything at once— while still being, above all things, themselves.

—Ana Clara

“Lullaby” by GOT7

“Lullaby” was not only a blessing to the ears but visually just as impactful. Aesthetics, aesthetics, on top of freaking aesthetics. There was never a dull moment visually or sonically throughout the three minutes and forty-two seconds of the music video. With the exception of the first three seconds, the video was never without vibrant colors, compelling backdrops or snazzy outfits. Colors aside, GOT7 kept the viewers anticipating what was to happen next with each scene, especially since each member had separate sets and themes. And although there were many individual scenes, the members always brought it back together with a unified group choreo and some fancy footwork. But speaking of footwork, the highlight of the music video definitely goes to go to Mr. Dance Machine Kim Yugyeom, as the astounding dance break and sharp moves of his solo stole the show. Even if you didn’t like the music video as a collective whole (don’t lie to yourself, you liked it), there were more than enough things about it individually that should’ve pulled you in.

—Tam

”Apple Box” by nafla

On paper, nafla’s “Apple Box” reads like an organized crime agenda (“put the money in an apple box,” possibly referring to a common way of accepting business bribes), but in action it reveals to be much more comedic. Under the creative direction of Digipedi, the music video portrays gang activities rather facetiously — a brutal beating in one scene is mitigated through deliberately cheesy special effects and nonsensically looped clips. In another, gambling is done with apples instead of currency. Ultimately, these all act as red herrings for, as the least suspecting character (a hostess perhaps?) makes off with a chest of golden apples, we are forced to contemplate the ignorance of these traditionally male organizations. Because of its quirky approach to one of film’s most enduring genre’s, “Apple Box” may be nafla’s best work to date.

—Shelley

“Singularity” by BTS’ V

Captivating in its theatricality, the music video, or comeback trailer as it was dubbed, for V‘s “Singularity” ahead of the release of Love Yourself: Tear is an exhibit of the sort of artistry that BTS has thrived on over the years. With a luxurious blue-red-purple color palette recalling that of the group’s 2016’s “Blood Sweat & Tears,” this new music video stunningly represents the struggles with one’s self and the various masks that we wear. With watery allusions to the Greek myth of Narcissus littered throughout, the vivid cinematography enhances the impactful song as V explores the lush neo soul sound. And if that weren’t enough, the music video for the song graced us with one of the year’s most inspired choreographies, giving new meaning to the idea of dancing with oneself.

—Tamar

“1, 2, 3!” by Seungri

Big Bang’s Seungri breathes life into “1, 2, 3!,” his first solo comeback in five years, with a ’50s-inspired video set in the singing and dancing world similar to that of Grease. Like the musical, the music gives insight into his character, our hotshot hero who only loses his cool once he is bewitched by the heroine, played by a stunningly gorgeous Anda. As he grabs her hand and pulls her into a swing, he sings: “When I count to three, you’ll fall for me.” An ensemble dance cast, all outfitted in mid-century modern pomps, tea-length dresses, and oxfords faithful to the era, further integrates song and video by filling out the percussive claps and the hook’s polyphonic three counts. After taking us from one period set to the next, it all comes together celebratorily at the end with a nod to the iconic dance scene from Pulp Fiction between our leads and in a single freeze frame moment, we know he was right. It’s this kind of happily ever after that can make society nostalgic for a past it never knew. Between this and the one-take style reminiscent of Broadway productions, “1, 2, 3!” just feels like an immersive experience that is more motion picture than music video.

—Shelley

“One and Only” by Go Won

Of all the videos for LOONA’s pre-debut project, none feel as suited to and in need of its trappings quite like Go Won’s. As the second to last girl of the month, Go Won’s “One and Only” came late into the game. And it would almost seem that she would have too many obligations to the lore to have any sort of personal identity. Instead, along with LOONA regulars Digipedi, she finds herself within it all. Unlike her lyrics, which are confident from the start, the video shows this self-discovery in action. She begins covered in shadows, trying to embrace whatever light she can, but is still afraid of the temptations of Choerry’s apple, or the chase of Yves and Chuu. It’s in the act of watching herself where it comes out. Looking and singing into a mirror, watching her shadow dance to her own song, or imagining herself a princess with a crown on her head. The 1:1 aspect ratio helps her, making each image have an obvious and single point of focus. One image, one thought. Despite this, allusions to David Lowery’s A Ghost Story from 2017, reminds of the dangers of the never ending cycles of LOONA’s own universe as well as that of our own. Go Won finds a way out of her draping, suffocating sheet but how long is it before her time comes back around and she has to do it all over again?

—Joe

“Dally (feat. Gray)” by Hyolyn

Hyolyn is a hip-hop diva in full control of her life, her body – and of your attention! – in “Dally,” the second music video released under her own label, BRID3 Entertainment. The artistic concept of the video is pretty simple – but seriously, do we need anything else when we have a team of such skilful dancers, led by a magnetic performer like Hyolyn, executing one of the most difficult choreographies seen throughout the year? In “Dally,” it’s hardly possible to take your eyes off of Hyolyn, or to doubt that she has everything it takes to keep wowing us with her self-managed works from now on.

—Ana Clara

“Now or Never” by SF9

As time passes, SF9’s concepts continue to get more charismatic and sexier *phew, wipes sweat.* And it is totally working on their behalf. The group’s previous tracks and music videos had flavor to them but “Now or Never” really took it up a few big notches. The song and styling were both executed to perfection as the concept had just the right doses of cool, seduction, and dreaminess. The choreography was simple but alluring, and it played well with the bass. And how about that Michael Jackson homage? Classy. The cinematography was exquisite; the colors and abstract backgrounds made this music video fitting to be played at a museum. The track itself is solid but the visualization and styling gets an A+.

—Tam

“What Is Love?” by TWICE

Sometimes it pays not to take yourself too seriously, and when ruminating on the immensely philosophical question of “What Is Love?,” TWICE served us up with one of this year’s most fun music videos. Throughout it, the nine women parodied the likes of La La Land, The Princess Diaries, Romeo & Juliet, and a wide range of movies from across the globe while trying to depict what the idea of love look likes. They then paired casual scenes of the nonet chilling at a slumber party while watching the films with elegant scenes where they perform the questioning choreography, serving up one of the most fun visual experiences of 2018. Since their start TWICE has always exuded a sense of infectious vibrancy in their music videos and “What Is Love?” overflowed with that to the nth degree.

—Tamar

“Moonlight” by Neon Punch

Neon Punch’s “Moonlight” is how you make an effective K-pop music video on a smaller budget. It’s a classic example of the genre with no real story, just the members dancing, singing, and looking pretty in random locations. Its first minute is so brilliantly made though that all those tropes feel fresh. Song and video seem to become one, as they bounce off each other, reacting to each turn. Extremely simple but great visual effects are used to make this melding feel real, as the music bends the visuals while it builds and releases. This also makes the editing feel musical all by its own which gives the video great impetus to keep moving. As the effects start to dwindle the editing keeps the same sense of pace and wonder that they had built up. The funkiest bass line of the year feels at home among these vibrant visuals.

—Joe

”Instagram” by DEAN

Sitting alone in a warehouse full of random objects, DEAN strums a skateboard as if it were a guitar. He sports a short mullet under his cap, along with generously slitted eyebrows, a (potentially appropriative) grill, a bandage under his right eye, and black overalls that cover part of his sweatshirt. Like the feed he scrolls through, he is a mess of different aesthetics and styles. “Instagram” the song is about endlessly scrolling through the app in moments of sleeplessness, reflecting our loneliness and insecurity back to us as we see others enjoying themselves on our screens, and the song emulates that.

From the warehouse room’s walls leak black paint, becoming screens that play a stream of videos and images characteristic of a social media feed. As the images spread further across the room, the video abruptly goes black. “Sometimes I feel alone, even when I’m with a lot of people,” a strange voice says in the dark. The video cuts back to the warehouse, and DEAN begins laughing hysterically, overtaken with the misery of his sleepless Instagram scrolling.

The video is simultaneously simple and complex, capturing a very unique relationship between phone and human, account and user. Using social media is repetitive and endless, an unhealthy distraction we know all too well. In bringing the feed to life in all its chaos and stress, the video highlights the emotional and psychological toll we endure in using social media every single day.

—Kushal

“Playlist” by DPR Live

“Playlist” is a colorful adventure following DPR Live as he vies for the attention of a mysterious woman. The song incorporates tribal and bossa nova beats as Live maintains his signature rhythm and swagger. While the song is a new turn for DPR Live, the music video expands the Latin trend in Korean music by including some aspects of African influence in Latin American culture through instruments and religion. From the beginning we are met with vibrant colors, gravity defying visuals and psychedelic art transitions set in a replica of a Peruvian neighborhood. Stand out moments include the shaman’s rain dance and spinning neon umbrellas during the instrumental breakdown of the song, as “Playlist” offers a glimpse of the creativity DPR Live has in store for the future.

—Nnehkai

“Kiss Me Like That” by Shinhwa

Simplicity is key and Shinhwa had that and then some in the “Kiss Me Like That” music video. The styling was sharp and neat; the linen button ups and suspenders? Crisp. Those blue silk suits? Elegant. “Kiss Me Like That” doesn’t have a pivotal climax but that worked out perfectly because it really didn’t need one. The music video gives a sense of relaxation. It doesn’t make you think or analyze. You just gotta kick back, grab a mojito, and enjoy the guitar strings. The video wasn’t over the top, just very clean, straight forward, occasionally flirty and wholeheartedly fun to watch. Shinhwa’s just really out here living their best life on that ship though. Next course of action, petition to have Shinhwa do a yearly cruise with fans (like New Kids on the Block)!

—Tam

“Egotistic” by Mamamoo

Kicking off with a guitar riff, tropical plants, and neon buildings that add an Old Havana-like vibe to the video, Mamamoo is bold in aesthetics throughout “Egotistic” as they issue a warning of a lover scorned. How can anyone forget the intensity Hwasa’s stare-off with a jaguar?
The Flamenco inspiration is apparent in the core of the beat of the song, the choreography, and the flowy dresses the ladies wear in the video. Their take on Latin-inspired tracks plays up the girl crush concept Mamamoo has become known for with fiery makeup, confident attitudes, and sexy dance moves. They also included the ultimate girl crush move: dancing in a ring of fire in front of buildings while executing a choreography filled with hair flips and and seductive shimmys. Overall, “Egotistic” captures a small portion of Latin America’s musical richness and is welcomed contrast to the highly mainstream trap beats that accompany the usual Latin trends in K-pop.

—Nnehkai

”Something New” by Taeyeon

Inspiring fan speculation and theories since it was released in June, Taeyeon’s “Something New” music video is, like the artist it belongs to, uniquely enigmatic and hard to place. Beginning on the red carpet at a ritzy celebrity event, the video quickly transitions to a hotel, where Taeyeon instigates a fight by suddenly throwing a hammer at a suited man during an elevator ride. The fighting then continues with her hotel room’s maid-turned-murderer, who leaps at the singer with a knife during a room service delivery.

It’s around this point when “Something New” begins to feel more like an action-packed spy blockbuster than a music video for an SM Entertainment artist. The scenes are fast-paced and cinematically captured, and they move artfully with the pace of the song. Most interestingly, Taeyeon takes the fights in stride, seemingly unfazed by them after they happen.

The end of the video, in which Taeyeon shoots suitcases of cash over a cliff facing the sea, is probably the subject of the most interpretation and discussion. Worth noting to most theorists is that Taeyeon has never been shy when discussing the hardships of celebrity life. Is the cash a representation of the net worth she’s built over the years? Are the fight scenes emblematic of encounters with online and offline haters? While it seems that “Something New” is an in-depth commentary on the difficult life of a celebrity, the beauty of the music video lies in the fact that it is truly up to interpretation. For dropping one of the most cinematic and mysterious MVs of the year, Taeyeon gets a nod from me.

—Kushal

What were your favorite K-pop MVs of 2018? Let us know your picks 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.