Stellar have gone through quite a few transformations since their debut in 2011, more so than most groups. In fact, this girl group seems to be trying everything they can in order to make it big. Stellar have seen multiple concepts, ranging from sci-fi, cutesy, studious, and sexy. The group’s foray into sexy concepts, which is not completely gone with their latest comeback, was their most successful as of yet. It has also been by far the most interesting of their concepts, with the trio of songs Marionette, Mask and, their latest, Fool, all of which have given a glimpse into the relationship between sexy K-pop idols and the adoring public. Through meta-textual lyrics, abrasive sexual imagery, and eventual confrontation, Stellar have chronicled the difficulties of being a female idol today.
Released in February 2014, Marionette was not only Stellar’s most successful song to date but also their first to have any sort of cultural relevance. Their singles prior to this were little more than generic europop tracks, common among struggling young K-pop girl groups. Marionette looked like it would be an uninteresting release, with questionable marketing methods and what could have been just another sexy concept. Once it dropped, the difference was immediately noticeable.
The first thing you notice is that while Marionette at first appears sexy, Stellar does not appear all that appealing in the video. The girls’ skinny bodies move around like the puppets and they sing about and wear strange, flimsy leotards. They seem to be inviting objectification and the outrage that comes with it. The lyrics only help to solidify this reading. They sing of a self loathing doll being controlled by a vindictive lover.
When you touch me, I accept it. Tell me, am I a joke to you?
This can be seen as a metaphor for female idols who are forced or resort to taking off more clothes for recognition. They are then shamed by this same public for doing so, despite this being what they all want.
Stellar have taken on the sexy concept and attacked it from within. Of course, the reaction was exactly like the women sang about. It was the group’s most successful song and reached the 35th spot on Korea’s Gaon chart, but Marionette met with criticism for its overtly sexy video and dance. The dance was censored on Korean music shows and eventually faded into the past. The Korean public had their cake, a scandalous song and dance, and ate it too.
Singer-songwriter’s are rare in the mainstream Korean music scene, but 18-year-old rocker Kris Leone is trying to make it big.
As the daughter of one of Korea’s most legendary guitarists, Boohwal member Kim Tae Won, Kris Leone has a lot of talent under her belt. She began her career two years ago and has toured with Boohwal, but also gained recognition for her own skills as a musician. Now, Kris Leone just released her latest album and gave KultScene an exclusive interview, where the singer introduced her music, inspiration, and the meaning behind her stage name.
“Hello, I am Kris Leone, currently a singer-songwriter in Korea. I have released a single, Into the Skies two years ago, and now have finally released a full album titled, The End. I am honored to be interviewed by KultScene, thank you for having me here.”
You released your single Into The Sky in 2013. How does it feel to come out with your first full-length album two years later?
“Having composed and written all the songs (in addition to directing the music video and designing the album itself), it was a long and stressful two year process, but I am very satisfied with the outcome.”
The album features your songs in both Korean and English. Was it very important to you to release songs in both languages?
“Originally, being more comfortable with English than Korean, I composed all my songs in English. However, being a singer in Korea, it seemed essential for me to release a few of them in Korean. Not being so fluent in Korean, a talented lyric-writer had to translate and fit in Korean lyrics to my songs.”
I read that you were sixteen when Into The Sky was released. How have you and your music changed in the past two years?
“Although I was sixteen when the songs Into The Skies and Goodbye were released, I had written them when I was younger. A few of the songs in the album recently released had also been written around at that time (6th grade to 9th). However, in the full-album, I had the songs fit my taste much more than I did with the previous single, and therefore more of my ‘true colors’ are shown in them.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your name?
“My real name is Seo Hyun Kim. I started music to create awareness and give hope to people who are having a hard time, thus my stage name consists of an ancient arab knife called Kris that was known as a weapon of art, and Leone, meaning lion in italian (symbolism of courage). I chose an English name because it is a dream of mine to become an international musician.”
[KultScene note: According to Wikipedia, kris knives originated in Indonesia.]
How large of a role do you have in creating your music?
“I compose, write, and sing my music.”
What musical styles do you get inspiration from/ Do you have some favorite bands or singers?
“I was inspired to start music when I watched the movie, The Phantom of the Opera, starring Gerard Butler (although subtle, the music video was themed with this movie to express the problems I had ‘music’). As I grew older, I grew closer to rock; My Chemical Romance, Asking Alexandria, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and X-Japan are a few of my favorite bands.”
You’re pretty young. Do you devote all your time to music? How do you unwind after a day of recording?
“To me, music is more of a hobby than a serious job. I think that’s what keeps me going night and day when I work on it. Although, I must confess that I become an obsessive perfectionist when it comes to it (haha), and coffee becomes my best friend during those times.”
What do you think of this solo-songwriter? Have a message for Kris Leone? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Untitled-design1.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024Tamar Hermanhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTamar Herman2015-03-16 17:05:462015-03-16 17:36:04Kris Leone Talks To KultScene About Being A Young Korean Singer-Songwriter
Like some groups before them, Fiestar took the chance to change up their style with their first comeback after a member left. And, like many other girl groups, they took the route of coming back with sexy concept. However, unlike all the others, Fiestar went a step further in approaching sexiness and went all the way to sex.
Their two newest songs, both of which utilize sexy concepts, have tackled sex and feel like two songs that are part of the same story. The first One More is explicit, the second You’re Pitiful is not, but the two seem to be part of one story and chronicle a new, exciting chapter for Fiestar. This is something few other modern K-pop groups are doing or have done. Addressing sex directly within a sexy concept is a perfect conceptual match, but Fiestar have taken steps to execute it in such a daring way that few others have attempted. Ga-In showed us a personal touch, Stellar perfected the metaphorical route, but Fiestar will drag us into nitty gritty sex.
The fundamental problem with sexy concepts in much K-pop music is the explicit lack of sex. While metaphors can always be interesting and a good way of discussing more taboo subjects in the mainstream, they can become easy to hide behind. And when everything is hidden behind metaphor, then it all becomes meaningless. So to counteract this, a more explicit take on the subject will provide the best and only insight into it. To do this Fiestar released a song about threesomes.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/fiestar-youre-pitiful.jpg?fit=1280%2C7207201280Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2015-03-09 18:55:272015-03-09 18:55:27Fiestar & Sex in K-Pop
[Disclaimer: This article is based on the first three episodes of the show and season three of ‘Show Me the Money,’ and contains cuss words and minor spoilers.]
With the surge in popularity of Korean rap domestically and abroad, it surprised no one that competition shows like Show Me the Money [SMTM] sprung and did as well as K-Pop Star. However, right from the start, the absence of women in the various SMTM installments was evident. Sure, there were some female contestants, but they never made it far or became relevant for their spit (some exceptions apply, of course).
That’s why when Unpretty Rapstar was announced, –despite the offensive title and the omission of male contestants– it seemed like progress, for female rappers would finally be in the spotlight and given proper credit. While I’m not sure if the creators of Unpretty Rapstar are the same as Show Me the Money, they were both televised on Mnet. What’s more, the former’s cast is sprinkled with reject contestants from the latter and other rappers who are already well-known. So from its inception, Unpretty Rapstar was created with SMTM in mind, and therefore sets a striking, sexist contrast.
Right from the start, it was apparent that the only thing Unpretty Rapstar and Show Me the Money had in common was the competition factor. Show Me the Money was all about some good ‘ol fashioned friendly and healthy competition, with contestants choosing their own mentors, being in teams, and focusing on the talent onstage. The feuds between the participants were addressed through verses onstage, with the interview portions only adding background information on them or reactions. On the other hand, Unpretty Rapstar’s format is meant to highlight and promote the pettiness women can have with each other, otherwise known as girl-on-girl hate.
As Tavi Gevinson, creator of Rookie Magazine, put it:
Girl hate is not hating someone who happens to be a girl, it’s hating someone because we’re told that, as girls, we should hate other girls who are as awesome as or more awesome than ourselves. That there can only be ONE cool girl, ONE funny girl, ONE smart, etc., in a circle of people.
To sum up, it’s basically Mean Girls. Starting with the cast, the producers created tensions with their selections. Some rappers had seniority over the rest, some had beef between them, and others were already famous and popular. Jimin, from girl group AOA, is always given preferential treatment, especially from the MC San-E who doesn’t even try to hide his bias (on the first episode, he broke off a tie where the idol won, even though she didn’t even rap in the intro cypher). Jolly V and Tyme brought their SMTM3 feud onto this show, with the producers highlighting and trying to pin them against each other further more. The inclusion of Jessi, a Korean-American who has already debuted and is one of the eldest in the cast, intimidates some of the contestants and unevens the playing field. And then of course is the prodigy, SMTM3’s Jidam who also gets away with things out of potential, which she undoubtedly has, but the exceptions are not a luxury given equally to all of the girls.
Fans of K-pop often look at situations and criticize. Criticizing is one of netizens (Internet citizens) favorite pastimes. But what happens when a popular, well-loved Korean celebrity does something wrong to a woman he is in a relationship with? For that matter, what happens when a popular, well-loved American athlete does something wrong to a woman he is in a relationship with? Despite thousands of miles apart, holding different careers, and having many cultural differences, the cases of Kim Hyun Joong and Ray Rice force us to draw attention to the fact that victims of domestic violence are continuously blamed throughout the globe.
Throw those women under the bus the moment it seems like they did something less than exemplary; many netizens act as if these women essentially deserved to be abused. Palmer-Rice for spitting on Rice and “causing the problem,” Choi for dragging Kim’s name through the mud and then getting pregnant.
On February 22, a local Korean magazine published an article about Korean star Kim Hyun Joong getting back together with his ex-girlfriend, Choi, who had filed violence charges against him in 2014. It became apparent that fans of the singer, both Korean and internationally, were willing to forgive him the moment that the blame could be placed on Choi- for accepting Kim back after the two settled the case. Instead, blame was put on Choi, with comments saying she was essentially a gold digger, or saying that she’s insane, insanity that isn’t to be pitied.
American football player Ray Rice’s girlfriend at-the-time, now wife, Janay Palmer faced similar victimization after Rice was caught on camera knocking her out. Initially, the video wasn’t made public, and the NFL initially suspended Rice for two games. After TMZ published the video on September 8, 2014, showing Rice violently smacking Palmer, Rice’s contract with the Baltimore Ravens was terminated.
No similar video was released to the Korean public regarding Kim and Choi’s relationship, but pictures showing Choi with bodily harm and text messages where Kim apologized to Choi for harming her were made public. Choi dropped the suit, but Seoul courts forced Kim to pay 5 million KRW (around $4,600) after indicting him on the charges.
The Baltimore Ravens’ official Twitter account spoke for Palmer, now Rice, in May, allegedly apologizing for her role in the incident.
The September 8 release of the video changed perspective, but the initial victim blaming gained wide recognition. The couple spoke publicly on NBC’s Today Show to discuss the hardships that the two have faced as a couple since the incident, and the missteps that the pair and NFL made as they tried to quiet the incident.
Most comments on the original TMZ video were critical of Rice, and supportive of Palmer. Some were the opposite, saying that she deserved being hit.
Slightly reversed, but the Kim-Choi situation once again is highlighting victim-blaming. Kim Hyun Joong was initially dragged through the Korean media for abusing her, and Korean netizens could not forgive him. Then, after the news broke that Choi is likely pregnant with Kim’s baby, the tables turned; comments began criticizing Choi for planningthe whole situation so as to stay with her abuser.
Hitting a domestic partner, or anybody, in an abusive manner is never alright. Rice and Kim both harmed the women who supported them, and in both cases the woman returned to her partner. No matter the circumstance neither woman is to blame for her actions, since there’s psychological research that shows why people, seemingly illogically, stay in abusive relationships. but the Ravens’ tweet essentially forcing Palmer-Rice to apologize for being abused and netizens accusing Choi of planning to get pregnant in order to trap Kim into a relationship are both missing the point that people who are in abusive relationships have a hard time leaving.
The Palmer-Rice incident started a national conversation about domestic violence in the NFL. During the 2015 Super Bowl, the most widely watched televised show ever, a commercial played, highlighting the fact that the average, uninvolved party has a hard time understanding what is going on in abusive relationships.
Even though the commercial is a step to begin the discussion about domestic violence and sexual abuse, the global consensus is that people do not understand, psychologically, why a person would not leave an abusive relationship. But people who are dependent on one another don’t think logically; love is not logical. Rather than trying to help the women, comments on the Kim-Choi, Rice-Palmer affairs act as if the women both behaved with complete, psychological independence, blaming the women for accepting back men who have abused them.
Rice hit Palmer. Kim hit Choi. Both became highly publicized abuse cases, and the public turned against both women, turning them into co-perpetrators rather than sympathizing with the victims of domestic violence.
CNN’s Mel Robbins wrote an in-depth analysis of the Rice-Palmer (now Rice) incident, highlighting the fact that we cannot forget that Rice abused his now-wife, and pointing out that victims will rarely leave their spouses for a variety of reasons.
“I’m sure he apologized later to her and felt sorry. That’s part of the cycle of abuse: violence then a honeymoon period, only to be followed by violence again. Katie Ray-Jones, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Dating Abuse Helpline, has said an abused woman will leave a relationship approximately seven times before she leaves for good because of the psychological damage that batterers inflict. There are countless reasons victims recant their stories or stay in an abusive relationship: low self-worth, financial worries, fear, even love. Instead of wondering why a victim stays, the world would do better to focus on punishing the batterer.”
Both Kim and Rice were high profile stars in their respective realm of entertainment before the abuse scandals, and faced initial heat. But as long as people defend celebrities who abuse their partners, and place any amount of blame on victims, there will be bystanders who see the incidents and think that the victims truly deserve what they received. It’s a troublesome trait in our society that we see the fall of a beloved celebrity because of a domestic abuse scandal as more pitiful than the fact that a man beat a woman, physically, verbally, and psychologically.
Since becoming entrenched in domestic violence scandals, the two have faced setbacks in their career, but are still active. Rice is a free agent in the NFL and Kim released a new Japanese album, “Still.”
Disclaimer: I am no fan of the NFL, (or most sports) and am only writing as a general observer. Please comment below if I have facts wrong.
What do you think about what’s going on with celebrity abuse scandals? How do you feel about Kim Hyun Joong? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/11004878_10155427574650019_1147369917_n.jpg?fit=960%2C720720960Tamar Hermanhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTamar Herman2015-02-24 17:00:332015-02-24 17:02:22Victim Blaming In Kim Hyun Joong & Ray Rice Cases Minimize Realities of Domestic Abuse
The idea of authenticity in pop music is always a contentious one. In the west, every effort is made to make sure the pop star is seen to be the real deal. While in Asia, the idol system is a transparent one in which the fans know young girls and boys train for years to debut and are almost completely controlled by their company. YG Entertainment pride themselves on their more authentic than usual idols and roots in hip-hop. From the acquisition of rap royalty Epik High to the home grown writer producer G-Dragon to the real rappers of iKon, YG has continually put its faith in authentic talent. YG still deal in pop music though, and Yang Hyun Suk and producers like Teddy and Kush are well known as big parts of the music in the company.
Money making and authenticity tend to not go together well, but all pop music is made to make money. So can there be authentic pop music and is YG it? Is their style true or a clever marketing trick? I want to examine YG’s output of 2014 to try and get at some answers. I won’t necessarily be looking at the specific quality of the songs, although it can’t be avoided, but mostly how they were marketed compared to how authentic or interesting they turned out to be.
There is no doubt as to YG’s hip-hop roots being fairly legitimate. YG has come a long way since then however, and are now the second biggest music label in South Korea. In order to get to where they are now though, they have sacrificed some of their ideals in order to get ahead. The idea of authenticity has changed within the company as it becomes more focused on idol groups. The illusion of authenticity has proven to be more effective than putting the work into originality, and 2014 was the year it all came together.
Last year, YG debuted two new groups, AKMU and WINNER, and created a new one to debut later this year, iKON. Without even getting into the details of the groups, we can see a difference between them and YG’s roots. A lot of them come from talent shows; this immediately raises alarms about the authenticity of these groups. That’s not to say everyone who auditions at talent shows is inauthentic, but it is hard to find true artists through them. There are many talented singers, dancers, and rappers, but how many are the brand of supposed authentic that YG claims it wants?
Akdong Musician were one of these, and were a huge sensation after K-Pop Star. Their music appealed to the Korean market but brought with it an interesting undercurrent thanks to Lee Chanhyuk’s compositions and the vocal dynamic between him and Lee Suhyun. After winning the show, they had the choice themselves to choose between the big three companies. They chose YG explaining that they felt they could express themselves the best there. YG’s image was working for them before even signing Akdong to their label. I have no doubt about the talents of AKMU and they had the right idea by singing with YG, but I wonder if Akdong still feel the same today.
YG has taken the soul of what Akdong Musician are and diluted it with the “YG style.” This is a disservice not only to Chanhyuk and Suhyun but to fans who came to love Akdong’s original sound and image. Their debut single 200% was a generic soft hip-hop pop song which did nothing to showcase the possible talents of Akdong. They even made them dance for the live shows which looked awkward for all involved. They even changed their name to AKMU. It’s not all bad for Akdong though, as their other big song of the year, Melted, is an incredible social critique with a stripped back piano accompaniment, and one of the best music videos of the year.
While Akdong Musician were taken from outside of YG’s doors, WINNER were created in a reality show made by the company. WIN: Who is Next? followed two different boy groups made of YG trainees as they fought to debut as the first YG boy group since BIGBANG. They were Team A and Team B, with Team A eventually winning, being christened as WINNER and given a debut.
Pop music is a business, and in business, major companies do not take risks on letting the public have a say in their next move. So when a show like this runs, I can’t help but be sceptical. YG ultimately would have total control over what was shown and it would be naive to think that they wouldn’t have made edits in accordance with their own plans. Favour was more than likely thrown in Team A’s direction to keep in line with these. The fact that Bobby from Team B, or iKon now, couldn’t make the top team even though he is the hottest property on the K-pop market right now shows there was a plan for each group prior to shooting the show. Considering that YG had the ultimate say in who won confirms this to be nothing more than a vanity project attempting to showcase their authenticity.
I realise these are completely unfounded claims, but I can’t help but feel that show was completely manipulative. Putting these aside, I want to look at WINNER’s highly anticipated debut. The promo for it was one of the best ever seen in not only K-pop but all pop in recent years. It featured micro films with each member, short documentaries about their feelings leading up to their debut and even an incredibly produced instrumental track over interesting visuals. Everything was done in a consistently stylish and artful manner. Expectation was high for something truly interesting.
… Then they released a ballad.
Ballads are the safest, most mainstream and dull kind of song in all of K-pop. Ballads from drama soundtracks consistently top the charts and have been doing so more and more recently. So when WINNER, after the amazing build up, released Empty, I was severely disappointed. That’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad song, just a completely safe one considering the teasers and YG’s talk of WINNER being more than just a Korean group. So of course Empty went on to be a huge success making WINNER the fastest boy group to win a music program award and winning more awards at the MAMAs and Melon. As soon as YG saw the success they doubled down by releasing a solo song from WINNER’s rapper Mino, I’m Him which sounded like a rejected G-Dragon album cut.
I want to save any criticism or praise for iKon for when they properly debut. I will say however that Bobby seems to be trying to make a legitimate career for himself, but doesn’t see that he is now an idol because of this. Trying to distance himself from other idols won’t help him at all as it will only make him seem like a try-hard boy group member.
All of 2014’s releases stem from an apparent move from YG to become a more global company. Even Epik High have lost the personal touch that made their earlier music so good. With CL making her way over to America and PSY already achieving huge crossover success, YG can obviously see themselves as the biggest K-Pop players –in the U.S. at least.
In order to continue attacking the western market though, they are losing any sense of true authenticity in place of a corporate illusion of reality. They put the main focus of their groups on their supposed legitimate rappers to give a sense of originality to them. Yet when music is released, it is generic and uninteresting. YG has essentially tricked their fans into believing everything they do is true artistry, that everything they release comes 100 percent from the members themselves. In the pop music world, this is impossible. This is the true quality of YG, making corporate look authentic.
What do you think of YG’s authenticity? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/YGEntAut.png?fit=800%2C600600800Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2015-01-08 18:01:252015-01-09 02:48:57YG Entertainment and Authenticity in K-Pop
K-pop had not seen a worse year than 2009 in terms of scandals and shocking news. But then 2014 and the so-called K-popcalypse came, and 2009 didn’t seem like such a nightmare anymore. And while members leaving groups and fatal accidents were the biggest headlines of the year, not all scandals were sorrowful. Truth is, most of the scandals made us face palm and experience third person embarrassment for idols and their companies. These controversies involved cultural insensitivities, misogynistic messages, entitlement sentiments, and uncalled for beef, and they all prove that if K-pop wants to compete in the worldwide market, changes must be enforced.
Hyomin’s Nice Body
Back in June, T-ara member Hyomin released her solo song Nice Body, which was well-received by the public. Many publications complimented her for her even slimmer body and provocative dance moves. However, this, to other publications, proved to be a disconcerting release and reaction. Nice Body seemed to be a song about wanting to have a fit figure, but a closer look at the lyrics and music video revealed it to be a misogynistic mess.
Nice Body objectified and promoted the idea that a woman’s body’s sole purpose is to serve men. It also promoted girl-on-girl hate, comparing a fat and a skinny girl (even though both characters were played by Hyomin), while highlighting the latter as the ideal one and shaming the former as undesirable.
But even if the song was cringeworthy for its overall offensive and destructive message, the public’s acceptance and lack of understanding of this was even more alarming.
BTS’ First Few Episodes of American Hustle Life
BTS embarked in, most likely, the most challenging and important journey of their careers in 2014, when they spent a month in Los Angeles under the mentorship of hip hop legends. The boys were set to learn about hip hop culture and history through a boot camp-like reality show. By the end of the program, BTS learned new skills like beatboxing, intricate choreographies, and soulful singing, which they displayed in a showcase with fans. All of this sounded great, but anyone who saw the show can attest to the awkwardness and downright embarrassment of the first few episodes of American Hustle Life.
For starters, nothing promotes black stereotypes like having a bunch of African Americans simulate a kidnapping and take BTS to a safe house in Compton, California (“the ghetto”) while scaring the life out of them. And who can forget the most cringiest moment when V spouted out words he had heard in rap songs but had no idea what they meant at Coolio? Or Rap Monster cosplaying as Stevie Wonder, by donning a wig and acting blind. Those scenes were highly edited, but it was impossible to miss how pissed off Coolio was.
via jungsoojung @ Tumblr
via cutthroatcitycutthroatcity @ Tumblr
By the end of the show, BTS did show they had learned a lot about what American hip hop music and culture is all about, but those first few episodes will forever make audiences face palm.
Zico’s Tough Cookie
Another person who spouted out English words that he had heard in Western rap songs and recreated them in his own song was Block B’s Zico. In 2014, the rapper released his solo track Tough Cookie, which sounded and looked more “hip hop” than his stuff with Block B. The music video included a whole lot of faceless women shaking what their mommas gave them, Zico decked out in jewelry, and, of course, violence. But even if this imagery is somewhat problematic, the bigger issue came with the rappers use of the “f word” in his lyrics.
The outrage, as expected, began in the West. Audiences were baffled that a K-pop idol used an offensive and derogatory term for homosexuals. And yet, Zico had previously come under fire for similarly using the “n word” in his lyrics. In this instance, after fans educated him on why the usage of the term was problematic, the rapper changed the word, only to bring it back later on. Zico’s agency claimed he had no knowledge of what the word actually meant and didn’t want to disrespect anyone; he never personally apologized.
With this situation, there are two options: either Zico genuinely thought that word was just another cuss word or, like many Western artists, knew and meant it. Either way, Zico should’ve apologized personally, not through his agency, and changed the lyric. And since this is Zico’s second offense, he should really be schooled on foreign cultures or at least properly research what the words he writes mean.
Another artist who recently came under international criticism was Red Velvet’s Wendy. Back in November, the group was featured in a radio program and, as is typical in Korean shows, when the hosts asked the girls to show off a talent, Wendy proceeded with her impressions. While many singers often imitate actors or comedians, Wendy chose to imitate female and male black stereotypes. For women, she acted sassy and stressed that their eye expressions were important. As for the men, she went as far as to say they were thugs and acted “gangsta.”
A non K-pop international publication caught wind of the video and called the singer out for her ignorance and racism. However, K-pop fans knew that this wasn’t just another case of Koreans not knowing Western culture. Wendy is from Canada, a country as diverse as the U.S., and should’ve known better than to go off to a country where people are not as well acquainted with black people and promote stereotypes. Neither the singer nor SM Entertainment apologized for the situation.
Pritz‘s Nazi Costumes
Continuing on the downward spiral of cultural insensitivity, we find rookie group Pritz. A video of one of their performances made headlines around the world due to the resemblance of Nazi imagery in their outfits. The girls wore a red arm band that featured a logo similar to the Nazi swastika: a white circle with a black cross.
Even if their intention was not to push Nazi propaganda, the international press was baffled at the idea that not a single person involved in the creative process of putting Pritz together thought that the armband was a bad idea. With matters of cultural insensitivity, audiences often defend idols by saying “they didn’t know better” or that they’re not obliged to know about every country’s history. World War II, however, is world history, and at least one person in that company must have seen a picture of Nazis at least once in their lives.
Pandagram, the group’s agency, contested with complete surprise. They admitted they didn’t even understand why people would think the logo drew Nazi comparisons and said that was never the intention. They also explained the logo was actually a Korean speed limit traffic sign. They never edited the music video to take out the arm bands.
Red Velvet’s Happiness Music Video
Prior to Wendy’s scandal, Red Velvet debuted with a bang of public outcry last summer. The music video for Happiness was mostly a collage of colorful images that showcased the girls’ youthful energies. However, a closer look at the music video revealed two problematic images. The first were a set of American newspapers triumphantly announcing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The second pertained to the burning Twin Towers from the 9/11 attacks in New York City, while one of the members played with a toy plane atop. As expected, not only were American fans upset, but also Japanese. You know, the two largest music markets in the world, where the real money is.
SM Entertainment responded rather quickly to the controversy and stated that the director had used generic imagery for the music video. The company also announced that it would edit the images out and re-upload the video. And while in this particular case the girls weren’t at fault, they did come under criticism. Like with the Pritz issue, audiences were incredulous at the fact that no one caught the images before the release and that such headlines would be a generic image.
Netizens Response to Taeyeon and Baekhyun’s Relationship
Earlier last summer the K-pop world was shaken with the news of SNSD’s Taeyeon and EXO’s Baekhyun’s relationship, which SM Entertainment later confirmed. Taeyeon followed group mates Tiffany, Sooyoung, and Yoona in going public with their relationships, and yet, hers wasn’t smoothly accepted by fans. Sones and EXO-L went on a rampage, searching both artists’ Instagram accounts for clues of their relationship before it was announced. What they found was a whole bunch of vague codes which fans claimed proved that the artists had deceived them. They claimed that Taeyeon had opened her Instagram account for her fans, but since they claimed she had actually used it to post code messages with Baekhyun, she had essentially betrayed them.
Fans bullied Taeyeon to the point where she was spotted in an airport apologizing to fans and crying. SM Entertainment never addressed this particular issue, but kept Taeyeon from appearances and Baekhyun continued with his world tour outside of Korea.
The fans’ reaction to the relationship and the faux scandal of the Instagram betrayal only proved that not all fans are ready to see their idols date. Even if Taeyeon had indeed used her Instagram account to communicate with her boyfriend despite her vow that the account was for her fans, fans should’ve given her her right to live normally, at least through SNS.
One of the most bizarre collective scandals of the year included a spark in diss tracks throughout K-pop. In the summer, Kemy from rookie group A.KOR released a diss track directed at 2NE1’s Bom for her drug scandal. She called the singer out for having her company bury the story, plastic surgery, getting preferential treatment by law enforcement, among other things. And while the rap has some truth to it, audiences viewed the track as uncalled for and disrespectful given that Bom is her sunbae (elder in the music world).
Another rookie idol believed to be causing trouble last year was YG Entertainment’s Bobby, who had gained recognition from the hip hop community for his rapping while filming the competition show (which he won) Show Me the Money. Although it wasn’t confirmed, fans dissected a series of raps throughout the year and claimed that Bobby had dissed rappers in BTS, VIXX, and Boyfriend. Shortly after the diss, VIXX’s rapper Ravi responded with his own track, putting him in his place as a sunbae and pointing out how he was an idol rapper as well. Then, without being addressed, M.I.B’s SIMS jumped into the situation by dissing Bobby as well.
The whole diss battle seemed to come out of nowhere and for no real reason. Both instances included rookie artists insulting their sunbaes in the name of rap. And while this practice is often seen in America, it’s important to point out that the U.S. doesn’t have a rank society like Korea. Bobby and Kemy are both rookies and might think they’re above idol-dom, but they should be aware of their place and realize they are, indeed, idol rappers as well.
What K-pop scandal or piece of news made you cringe the most in 2014? 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.
Bright colors and big eyed? Check. Songs that explain the meaning of life and love? Check plus. Handsome princes and beautiful princesses? Check plus plus. Criticism about the way things are being run? Check plus plus plus. Disney, or SM Entertainment? Check me confused.
The Walt Disney Company and SM Entertainment may be two different sorts of entertainment companies that are thousands of miles apart, but there are some striking similarities between the two companies.
Conceptually, SM Entertainment and Disney provide their audiences very essential forms of entertainment. Disney provides heart-warming stories and, more often than not, songs that are meant to become the next big thing. What SM Entertainment does isn’t so far off, considering that K-pop idols do more than just sing; they put on a whole show. Every facet of their lives is manufactured, and SM Entertainment’s artists in particular are so well trained that even daily actions are turned into something that fans monitor closely.
EXO In Disneyland via Genie Korea
The same can be said about Disney Channel, where Disney takes young aspiring actors and morphs them into clean cut, family-friendly personas that attract young viewers. Once their careers at Disney ended however, many former Disney Channel stars, including Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, revealed that their personality and concepts were purely manufactured by Disney. They then became celebrities in their own right with very different identities than their clean-cut Disney images.
The same sort of faux persona is widespread in K-pop, and SM Entertainment’s recent issues with idol group members leaving show that what the idols seem like is very different from who the idols actually are. Clashes of SM’s persona and idols actual personality have become apparent from two particular instances. First, a former EXO member went by the name “Kris” while under SM Entertainment but resorted to his Chinese name, Wu Yifan, reflecting how even his name was a concept of SM. Secondly, former Girls’ Generation member Jessica admitted that her desire to pursue a fashion career was one of the reasons that SM Entertainment removed her from her group.
Visually, Disney is the company that created the modern idea of princesses in animated films and pop royalty with the Mickey Mouse Club, and SM’s artists are generally considered K-pop royalty, and they act and dress the part.
In comparison to artists at YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, both of which have hip-hop influences, SM Entertainment’s singers more often than not create concepts that are often filled with regal suits for the male artists and soft, princess-like adornments for the females, particularly Girls’ Generation. Even f(x) and Red Velvet’s concepts tend to be more feminine than sexy, which is a selling point of Disney. Disney sells love, romance, and stories; sex is rarely even implied in Disney and the same is true with SM Entertainment.
SM’s artists also typically have the body proportions that Disney favors for its cartoon heroes and heroines- tall, good-looking, big-eyed, and almost inhumane body proportions.
And last but not least… SM Entertainment and Disney share something else- that people love to hate the two companies.
2014 is almost over, and SM Entertainment is still reeling from the plague-filled year where there were scandals with every idol group at SM Entertainment except for TVXQ and SHINee. The company’s stock prices plummeted and have yet to rebound due to the constant flux of the company, despite multiple popular album releases this year.
Every website and blog devoted to the Korean entertainment industry seems to be writing year-end articles about how bad the year was for SM Entertainment, and many are both worried about the future of K-pop if SM’s reign is up while at the same time fascinated by the mess that SM Entertainment has to get itself out of. One list even called SM Entertainment the worst entertainment agency of the year–while admitting that it was also tied for the best with YG Entertainment.
This complex relationship, where K-pop writers and fans of K-pop hate on SM Entertainment even while still acknowledging that SM is a major powerhouse of K-pop is reminiscent of the love-hate relationship many people have with Disney.
Disney is childhood, but as people grow up they start to question. SM Entertainment is similarly a company that produces pretty packaging, but has had enough issues that people start to question what goes on behind closed doors.
via Kimheenim Instagram
The Disney Princesses aren’t diverse enough, the early Disney films put too much emphasis on the damsel in distress, Disney is anti-progressive thought, Disney is racist, sexist, etc.… The list goes on.
Frozen was easily one of the biggest hits in Disney’s recent history, but criticized in many ways because still kept the doe-eyed lead females despite its progressiveness. The movie’s plot and characters made headlines, but then there was backlash against Disney’s previous animated films.
The same sort of thing happens when it comes to K-pop and SM Entertainment. SM is responsible for many of the aspects that makes K-pop what it is today.
Lee Soo Man, SM Entertainment’s founder, created the idol training system that is so prevalent today, but the same SM system is now continuously criticized for being too difficult and occasionally illegal. While people still listen and enjoy the music that SM artists produce, it’s always criticized as not being what SM music was once like, or just an attempt to make money from already loyal fans by reusing similar song styles rather than giving SM singers free artistic range.
SMTown Snacks via Svnnynight Instagram
SM Entertainment’s recent pop-up stores to peddle goods with pictures of SM artists on them, and now the news that SM Entertainment open and SMTOWN cultural space in Seoul’s Coex Artium have been called blatant plots to get money from fans. But opening up a place to sell company products to fans who are eager to own something that reminds them of their favorite singer isn’t something new. There are multiple Disney Parks and Disney Stores around the world, and Disney’s characters are recognized around the world.
Both SM entertainment and Disney have multiple problems that they’re dealing with as large entertainment companies. But time and time again each company produces fantastic products, whether it is movies, television shows, music, or merchandise. SM Entertainment is not Disney, nor is Disney SM Entertainment. But the two are both iconic cultural creators in their respective country, and there are a lot of similarities.
Is SM Entertainment South Korea’s Disney? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/SM-Entertainment-Disney-KultScene.png?fit=960%2C640640960Tamar Hermanhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTamar Herman2014-12-30 17:12:192014-12-30 17:36:54SM Entertainment Goes Disney
K-pop exists in a strange musical universe in which the biggest labels can afford to take creative risks and produce the most diverse range of music while the smaller labels have to play it safe and bet on already successful names. While the big three companies (SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment) often buy songs from foreign songwriters (SHINee’s Lucifer, Girls’ Generation’s Run Devil Run) or use in-house producers, all the smaller labels rely on outside Korean hitmakers to write and produce potential chart toppers. While there are benefits to both methods, the reliance on using the same third party producers is having a negative effect on the creativity of the industry.
In recent times, Brave Brothers (Kang Dong Chul) has been one of the most successful of third party Korean producers. Ever since Sistar’s Alone in 2012, he has been the most prolific and profitable. This song, which promoted Sistar from a lower tier girl group to the top tier of Korean girl groups, gave him a template to work off in order to continue creating commercially and critically successful music. That template is one of a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure with similar melodies and usually some sort of hook with “oooohs.” With this template Brave Brothers has led K-Pop into a conveyor belt system.
This may not seem strange to any regular viewer of pop culture as all other pop music markets are the same, but the timing of this for K-Pop makes it even more disheartening. The music landscape of South Korea had been going in an interesting direction with the trend of songs that played with the structure and average traits of a pop song instead of simple “template” songs.
SM were the leaders of this direction with EXO’s Mama,Wolf and Girls’ Generation’s I Got A Boy amongst others. These were songs that required and rewarded repeat listens. They played with the idea of what a pop song could strive to be and saw something so much more than just another cookie cutter production. When they were jarring, they were meant to be so in order to make the listeners actually think about what they were hearing. Even when they weren’t jarring, it was because the songs were produced so masterfully that it was not as noticeable but still always there. They were songs with no obvious chorus or hook, the exact opposite of what Brave Brothers produces.
This style of pop song is not one that is ever consistently popular, however. The fact that this trend lasted over a year in Korea was really exciting. One could see a possible changing of the industry with songs that did not conform to a factory accepted product, somewhere where creativity was put ahead of economy. This was all wishful thinking however, as the paying public did not agree and the companies reverted back to tried and tested ways. Focusing just on SM Entertainment we can see where this failure came from. I Got A Boy was a small seller in terms of the Girls’ Generation giant and received a lot of backlash from fans while EXO experienced their biggest hit with Growl, which was a more standard kind of song compared to Wolf and MAMA.
At the same time as this progression, Brave Brothers’ regression was also happening. After the success of Sistar, songs like Gone Not Around Any Longer by Sistar19, Love Options by BESTie and 4minute’s two singles, What’s Your Name? and Is It Poppin? (which sound somewhat different but are in fact structurally the same with a few new bells and whistles) were the biggest hits for these groups’ careers. The simple structure and catchiness of these songs were the final forewarnings before his total takeover in 2014.
AOA’s Miniskirt and Short Hair, BTOB’s Beep Beep, Hyorin’s One Way Love, and Hyomin’s Nice Body were all big hits for these singers. Even JYP Entertainment succumbed to the trend, with Sunmi’s Full Moon bringing rave reviews. SM’s most trendy group, EXO, released another simple song Overdose and was again hugely successful at the same time as F(x)’s more ambitious Red Light faltered in terms of sales in comparison.
You might think this is not so bad. These are mostly great songs but there is something deeper going on here and this can be explained with help from German philosopher and critic Theodore Adorno. A little bit of history first. Adorno was part of the Frankfurt School, which was a Marxist school of theorists who wrote about many ideas regarding society but mostly centred on media and communications, which was active from around the 1920s to 1950s. Adorno was a major figure in the school and wrote extensively about popular culture and its effect on society at large. He wrote about pop culture as a culture industry, in that it had ceased to be an artistic endeavour and became a purely money making business.
This is where Adorno connects for us. We have seen that this is where K-Pop has reached finally but that is still not the most troubling thing. Adorno’s theory continues to say that this culture industry eventually does more than just make money but also serves the state in keeping the masses in line with their views. In musical terms this means that these songs are being created in an identical way in order to stop us from critically thinking about them and in turn nullifying our ability to critically think about any aspect of our lives.
For me the work of Brave Brothers falls directly into this category. His recent work has had a profound influence on the rest of the industry and continues to be some of the most recognized. This is a direct problem for the state of music in South Korea and indicative of the conservatism of the country itself.
Considering pop music’s effect on society and how it reflects society is crucial for understanding and helping it grow. Right now, K-Pop is in a precarious position of completely yielding to the Brave Brothers template and being forever stuck with it. If the answer is not in I Got A Boy or Red Light then there is another way out there which we have probably seen before. It could be the melding of western and eastern styles we see so often or in the trot tradition of South Korea itself. Ultimately though, I don’t think there is an answer that can truly change the status quo.
Do you think Brave Brothers’ music is bad for the industry or do you love his music? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/SetWidth1200-brave-brothers.jpg?fit=1200%2C7007001200Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2014-12-22 16:59:192014-12-23 14:08:18Brave Brothers and the Culture Industry
Year-end comebacks are, by nature, tricky things in the K-Pop world. A comeback is usually teased at least a week before the release and it involves numerous amounts of promotions, not to mention singing and dancing to the same song over and over again. But in K-Pop, there are multiple events to close out another year. With that, it is difficult to calculate when to schedule a year-end comeback in order to get the most recognition. Alas, it would be nice to have a few comebacks that are memorable around this time of year. Here are a few reasons why this year’s end of the year comebacks were disappointing.
When end of the year comeback is mentioned, the thoughts of a new song, a new dance, and a new video are all related to the phrase. Instead of an actual single, relatable all year round, the fans get season-appropriate songs and music videos. Don’t get me wrong, at times these are just what we need during the holiday season, but we don’t always need them. We also don’t need a slew of them. Because after a while, things just get recycled and are not special or different or interesting anymore.
There were a few holiday releases that were used to help further promote a group or capitalize on their popularity, as seen last year. One of those was EXO’s 2013 release Miracles in December, which showcased the four guys’ spectacular vocals, but nothing else. It was a nice treat for fans, but an actual comeback with all of the members would, obviously, be more enticing.
Park Bom and Lee Hi got together and did their rendition of All I Want For Christmas last year as well. In my opinion, that cover should have never happened or should have been done differently. Taking such an iconic Christmas song and completely altering it is extremely bold, but hard for fans like myself to appreciate.
And then there was Crayon Pop’s Lonely Christmas, which capitalized on their rise to popularity after Bar Bar Bar. In these instances, the songs seemed like an afterthought; just there to release to the public to get a little more attention and intrigue before the year ends.
It would definitely alter the dynamic if K-Pop groups released a Christmas and/or holiday album once in their career. A full-album with appropriate songs that highlight the season would be a nice treat. Aside from one holiday/season-related single that didn’t receive the same amount of attention (behind the scenes) as a normal single, a whole album that is produced well and thought out, yet still season-specific, could make a nice year-end treat for fans.
But aside from holiday-related comebacks, there are also the comebacks that just seem to show up without any notice. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the entertainment company and their PR approach. There is also the fact, at least in my case, I am at work for the majority of the day, I am in a different timezone than Korea, and I don’t spend all of my free time hounding the internet for K-Pop/Korean- related stuff, that I do not hear about these comebacks or see much promotions for them. Thinking about this year in K-Pop, I only really remember songs and mini and full albums that came out early in the year and during the summer. They were teased well and promoted well and therefore stick out in my mind.
In general, there aren’t many year-end comebacks that aren’t holiday related. And to me, this is unfortunate. I would love to round the year with a few bad-ass, amazing songs, dances, and music videos. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few good ones that have been released recently, such as Yoon MiraeAngel, Hi Suhyun I’m Different among others, but I would like to have a single from some veterans who then release their second single in the new year.
Aside from these examples, there have not been very many noteworthy K-Pop releases. Is everyone taking a break until the new year (doubtful)? Obviously there are certain groups and solo artists who are preparing for the year-end events, whether they are actually performing, presenting or just attending. But the end of the year always just seems a little bit empty and forgotten. What if Big Bang released a new single and music video the first week of December, or SHINee, or any other well-known K-Pop group? People would go crazy and they would go unbeaten on the charts! I mean, end the year on a high note and make this time of year memorable for more than the MAMA awards and Gayo Daejun.
Until my wishes come true, the end of the year specials will definitely keep my thirst at bay. Do you wish there were more year-end comebacks? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/8zyn8Wc.jpg?fit=1692%2C8968961692Tarahttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTara2014-12-19 20:01:432014-12-19 20:01:43Why Are K-Pop Year-End Comebacks Scarce & Disappointing?