EE Are South Korean Performance Artists Fitting Outside The Box [Interview]

Take every genre of music that you love, a few that you can’t stand, over-the-top theater productions, and half of what you’ll find in every post-modern art exhibit, and you may stumble upon South Korean performance-musician duo EE. EE, comprised of married couple Lee Hyun Joon (Big E) and Lee Yun Joung (Little E,) recently featured on MFBTY’s comeback song Buckubucku alongside BTS’s Rap Monster, and are getting ready for their shows at 2015 SXSW.

Little E took a few moments to tell KultScene about the duo’s plans for the future.

Can you please introduce yourselves to KultScene’s readers?

“We’re EE from Korea! We call ourselves a “total art performance group.” It sounds really big and fancy, but it just means that we like to mix many different things together like art, music, visuals, and fashion to make really cool and unique performances.

What does “EE” mean?

Lee is our family name, the letter “E” is easy to say, and it can also be used in lots of different words. That’s why we chose the name EE.

What’s your creative process like?

Big E and I are married. So we have many conversations every day about our lives and contemporary issues. We talk about these things, scribble and draw about them, and write about them. Then we take our ideas and make them into sounds, videos, art exhibitions, and performances.

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: DaeNamHyup

What music, style, artists, etc. influences your performances?

We’re mainly influenced by older artists like Joy Division, David Bowie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and others. Sometimes I’m influenced by art exhibitions and sometimes by my baby too.

The two of you are married. Does that ever make it difficult to work together?

Sometimes it makes things extremely difficult! But we’ve learned how to separate things. At home, we’re family. At work, we’re co-workers. That mindset helps us keep things a bit more balanced.

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What was your reaction when you found out you’ll be performing at SXSW?

We jumped in the air and chest bumped each other! We were obviously very happy about the news.

EE previously performed in the US at Coachella in 2011, becoming the only Korean band to ever play at the festival. What was it like performing for an overseas crowd that maybe wasn’t so familiar with your style?

Coachella was a really cool experience. We played early in the day, and as you said not many people were familiar with our music. But when we began our set, people started literally running over to watch us. I saw them from the stage and I was thrilled by their actions.

What do you expect from the audience at SXSW?

We always do whatever we want and never think about how people will react to things. But we’re hoping the crowd at SXSW will come in with an open mind and will want to play and have fun with us. We want to get crazy together with everyone!

Also on KultScene: Victim Mentality Brings Glam Rock To South Korea And SXSW [Interview]


You just released “Wiggy Dawn.” Can you tell us a little bit about the song?

“Wiggy Dawn” is about Korean working moms’ escape into the dawn of the modern world. Korean moms often feel “locked up” by Confucian ideology, their duties as mothers, and stress from work. A mom has to be Superwoman. This is my story too. “Wiggy Dawn” is from our new EP, “Dear Door.” I think doors always represent the ability to go to another place or to escape.

“Dear Door” came out on March 13 and we released the music video for “Wiggy Dawn” that same day. Please check the EP and music video out!

Can you suggest a few songs for new fans of EE to listen to?

“Curiosity Kills,” “Gaweebaweevo,” “Banging Till I Die,” and “High Collar.”

What are EE’s plans for 2015 and the future?

Big E is going to have an exhibition at the Venice Biennale. I’m working with my first band, Pippi Band, again to make something for our 20th anniversary. Also we have plans for more overseas gigs for EE. And since we have a new EP out, we’re thinking about maybe doing some performances in a museum in Korea.

Is there anything else you’d like to let fans know about EE?

Many things in the world fit nicely inside in a box. But EE exists outside of that box. If you want to experience something that’s different, weird, and fun come find us! You’ll be happy you did.”

EE will be playing two shows at 2015 SXSW. If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by and see what this couple’s performances are like! :
March 18 Austin, Texas (11 pm) @ 405 Club
March 19 Austin, Texas (10:30 pm) @ Elysium (K-Pop Night Out)

Check out the music video for “Wiggy Dawn,” and then watch it again while you try to figure out what is going on.

What do you think of EE? Do you like this performance style art? 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.

Victim Mentality Brings Glam Rock To South Korea and SXSW [Interview]

South By Southwest (SXSW) is bringing a lot of international acts to Austin, Texas, including several South Korean musicians. Several shows are dedicated to Korean bands, and one member of South Korean metal band Victim Mentality spoke to KultScene about the band, its unique style, its upcoming album, and what to expect next from Victim Mentality.

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you please introduce yourself to KultScene’s readers?

“Hi, I’m Kyungho! I’m the guitarist in Victim Mentality. We’re a glam metal band from South Korea. Our group also includes Scorpion on bass, Tarantula on drums, and Krocodile handles vocals. We’re going to release our Heavy Metal Is Back full-length debut [album] at the end of March. And we’ll be showcasing music from the album this week in Austin, Texas at the SXSW Music Festival!

How did you four come together to create a band?

Krocodile and I have been into heavy metal since we were kids. We met in 2005 and quickly became friends. In 2009 we decided to start a band together. We wanted to play classic heavy metal like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. But then we decided to change our style and become a glam metal band instead. We recorded a CD single together called Magic Finger, and after it was finished we found Scorpion. We knew him from an online metal community and knew he played bass well, so we suggested he become a part of Victim Mentality. That happened in 2013. The three of us started playing gigs together that year. We didn’t have a drummer yet, so we just used a drum machine for performances. Then we did a show and really liked the drummer that was playing with another band on the bill. So we asked him if he wanted to play with Victim Mentality. That was Tarantula and he officially joined our band in February 2014.

How did you guys decide to go glam? Have people reacted well to it?

We really like ‘80s music. We started off playing classic heavy metal music but we wanted to do something that was fancier and sexier. Glam metal seemed like the most natural fit. So we changed our sound and started wearing costumes similar to those that ‘80s glam metal bands wore.

A lot of people in Korea don’t understand why we’re dressed the way we do when we perform. Only people who are familiar with ‘80s metal understand it. But that’s okay! Because people who don’t know about ‘80s heavy metal get really excited when they do see one of our shows because we’re doing something different from what most modern rock and metal bands are doing.

Also on KultScene: Kris Leone Talks To KultScene About Being A Young Korean Singer-Songwriter

What music influences your sound? Who are some of your favorite metal icons?

Motley Crue is a big influence on Victim Mentality. The first song we wrote as Victim Mentality actually came from copying one of Motely Crue’s riffs. We also listen to hair metal bands like Styper and W.A.S.P. But I think musically we’re most influenced by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest still. If you mix their classic metal sound with Poison and Twisted Sister, you get Victim Mentality.

What’s the rock and metal music scene like in South Koreanowadays?

There are a lot of bands in South Korea, but the majority of them play modern rock or acoustic music. Compared to other styles of music, the metal scene is small and there are probably only 50 or so bands playing heavy metal in Korea. And those 50 bands are all playing different kinds of metal. That’s why we want to expose more people to heavy metal. We know glam metal is different from a lot of the more contemporary styles of metal, but our music is really fun and easy for people to get into. So I think Victim Mentality is a good band to introduce more people in South Korea to heavy metal.

How did you feel when you found out you would be performing at SXSW? Are you nervous about the festival?

We were really excited! And we’re still very excited now. It’s a world-renowned event and features lots of different kinds of music from all around the globe so it’s going to be a lot of fun to play in Austin during the festival. We’re looking forward to sharing our music with new audiences and to meeting lots of music fans and musicians from other countries.

Also on KultScene: The Stellar Trilogy: Slut-Shaming & Double Standards

I’ve heard that sometimes you guys use props on stage,such as Krocodile using a bullwhip, combining music with performance art. How did that get started?

Heavy metal has always used props like leather jackets, leather pants, motorcycles, and other things. As for the bullwhip, Rob Halford from Judas Priest used a bull whip on stage. So to us, that’s also a great heavy metal prop which is why Krocodile uses one too!

Three of you have stage names, except your guitarist, Sohn Kyungho. Is there a reason for that?

In addition to Victim Mentality, I also play in another band called Dark Mirror ov Tragedy. With that band, I use the stage name “Senyt.” Since I’ve used stage names since I was 20, when we started Victim Mentality I thought it would be fun to use my real name. But sometimes when I see myself all dressed up in tight leopard print and wearing lots of makeup I question that decision!

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What’s your music creating process like? I noticed that you have songs in both Korean and English. Why is that?

I usually make the main riffs and melodies, and Krocodile makes the lyrics. On our Magic Finger CD single, there are Korean and English versions of the songs I’m Not Your Friend and Don’t Spit On Me. Originally we had made the songs only in English, but when we recorded them our producer suggested making Korean versions too. It seemed like a good idea to better connect with Korean audiences.

KultScene has a lot of readers who are fans of Korean idols, but don’t know a lot about other sorts of Korean music. Who are your favorite Korean musicians that you think people should know?

We only know about heavy metal bands, so that’s all we can tell people about. If you like bands that play glam metal like Victim Mentality, give The Hysterics a listen. If people are into thrash metal, Crash and Method are both great bands. And if you’re a fan of metalcore, I recommend Remnants of the Fallen.

Also on KultScene: ‘The Technicians’ Is Korea’s Answer To Hollywood Heist Films

What are your favorite Victim Mentality songs for new fans to listen to?

Every song we have is awesome! So people should definitely listen to all of them. But if I have to pick a few, I’ll say American Junk Boy, Heavy Metal Is Back, and Pubic Lice. All three of the tracks can be found on our new Heavy Metal Is Back album. Give them a chance! I’m sure you’ll love them all.

What are Victim Mentality’s plans for 2015?

We’re going to be playing lots and lots of gigs in support of Heavy Metal Is Back SXSW will be our first time performing overseas. Hopefully we’ll have more chances soon to play abroad again.

Is there anything else you’d like to let fans know about Victim Mentality?

It doesn’t matter where it is in the world, if people want to see us play we’ll go there and will wow everyone with our fantastic music and stage show! Heavy metal is back!

Thanks so much to KultScene for speaking with us, and to everyone reading this for taking the time to learn about Victim Mentality.”

Victim Mentality will be playing three shows at 2015 SXSW. Check them out:
March 18 Austin, Texas (3:20 pm) @ Club Metropolis (Heavy Metal PoolParty)
March 18 Austin, Texas (9 pm) @ Karma Lounge
March 20 Austin, Texas (12 am) @ The Majestic (Korea NightII: Seoulsonic)

Check out Victim Mentality’s latest music video, and the teaser for the soon-to-be-released I Still Love You.

What do you think of this band? Where do you want Victim Mentality to perform next? 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.

The Stellar Trilogy: Slut-Shaming & Double Standards

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.

 Also on KultScene: Kris Leone Talks To KultScene About Being A Young Korean Singer-Songwriter

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Kris Leone Talks To KultScene About Being A Young Korean Singer-Songwriter

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.”

  Also on KultScene: Music Video Fashion: Red Velvet’s “Automatic”

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.”

 Also on KultScene: Cosmetic Hallyu: Glow Recipe Helps Understand Korean Skin Care

A lot of KultScene’s audience are fans of K-pop and idols. Do you have any favorite K-pop acts?

“I love Yoon-Ha [KS-Younha]. Her originality and talent amazes me every time. Her song Set me Free helped me through a hard time when I was younger.”

What would you like fans to look forward to from you in the future?

“I plan to keep releasing songs and improve my skills as I go along. I can promise that the songs/albums in the future will mature and improve as time goes.”

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

“To the KultScene readers, thank you for your attention and please stay tuned! Kris Leone, signing off.”

Check out Kris Leone’s music video for her latest song, The End and her Facebook page!

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, TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Fiestar & Sex in K-Pop

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.

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

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‘Unpretty Rapstar’ is Sexist & Promotes Girl-On-Girl Hate

[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.

‘Unpretty Rapstar’ is Sexist & Promotes Girl-On-Girl Hate
‘Unpretty Rapstar’ is Sexist & Promotes Girl-On-Girl Hate

‘Unpretty Rapstar’ is Sexist & Promotes Girl-On-Girl Hate

via unpretty-rapstar @ Tumblr

Also on KultScene: Victim Blaming In Kim Hyun Joong & Ray Rice Cases Minimize Realities Of Domestic Abuse

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Victim Blaming In Kim Hyun Joong & Ray Rice Cases Minimize Realities of Domestic Abuse

Is K-pop having its own Ray Rice moment?

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.

Also on KultScene: Why You Should Give ‘Blood’ A Chance

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.

Baltimore-Ravens-on-Twitter_-_Janay-Rice-says-she-deeply-regrets-the-role-that-she-played-the-night-of-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.

Kim Hyun Joong Choi Ray Rice KultScene Comparison via TMZ

Kim Hyun Joong Choi Ray Rice KultScene Comparison via TMZSlightly 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 planning the whole situation so as to stay with her abuser.

Also on KultScene: Let’s Discuss: Making Excuses For K-Pop Idols

Kim Hyun Joong Choi Ray Rice KultScene Comparison via NetizenBuzz

Kim Hyun Joong Choi Ray Rice KultScene Comparison via NetizenBuzzKim Hyun Joong Choi Ray Rice KultScene Comparison via NetizenBuzzKim Hyun Joong Choi Ray Rice KultScene Comparison via NetizenBuzz

All comments translated by Netizen Buzz.

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.

YG Entertainment and Authenticity in K-Pop

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.

Also on KultScene: YG Entertainment Wants You To Know It’s Different

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.

Also on KultScene: Let’s Discuss: WINNER As A New Type Of Idol

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.

K-Pop’s Cringiest Moments of 2014

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.

american hustle life coolio bts

via jungsoojung @ Tumblr

bts american hustle life coolio v

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.

Also on KultScene: SM Entertainment Goes Disney

Red Velvet’s Wendy Black Stereotypes Impressions

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.

pritz nazi arm bands

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.

red velvet hapiness controversy twin towers

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.

Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: New Year’s Edition

Diss Battle

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.

[Renders by: Kate1710, 4ever29, VipArmy, Neilchannn]

SM Entertainment Goes Disney

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

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.

SM Entertainment

SM Entertainment

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.

Heechul as Anna

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

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, TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.