VIXX & its Successful Use of Themes

In 2012, VIXX were just one of a multitude of new groups in Korea. The amount of group debuts that year was approximately double from 2011. Competition for attention and sales was fierce. Some groups had the backing of a big company, like EXO, and others used strange gimmicks, such as AOA’s half angel concept. However, most were forgotten as they had little marketing coming from a small company (Phantom, Skarf), were too generic to stand out (Tahiti) or were just not good enough (Two X). So how did a group from a relatively smaller company at the time, with a low-key debut end up with eight music show wins and upcoming solo concerts in Chicago and New York?

The answer to that is theme. Or rather VIXX’s use of themes in their songs. Most groups take a concept with each new release, like a sexy, aegyo, hip-hop or dark, and use it as their visual scheme. But very rarely does it influence the rest of their song. VIXX on the other hand, starting with On and On took a theme and expressed it in every aspect of their release. The music, lyrics, costumes, choreography, and delivery are all tied to one theme. This offers a thoroughly satisfying and cohesive song whereas we are used to snippets of a concept.

What they did was to take a dark fantasy concept and built upon themes based on this niche. This helped them first of all to stand out from the crowd of boy groups doing powerful concepts like Beast or hip-hop concepts like Big Bang, but it was the clarity of their themes which raised them above in terms of quality.

Starting with On and On, we see the much used vampire concept. This concept does not exactly inspire great confidence as a start. However, VIXX’s execution of the concept did, as we were seeing vampires as more than just a costume. The theme started with the visual, which was instantly striking as all the members wore contact lenses for the video and their performances. This set the other worldly feeling they were looking for, and they followed through with all other aspects.

As soon as you start listening to the song it is compounded with a sample of the theme song from Phantom of the Opera which not only sets the tone but fits thematically with the lyrics. These are about a dangerous woman whom VIXX cannot stay away from. They are willing to become vampires just to be with her. This mirrors the story of the Phantom of the Opera as it also revolves around a dangerous relationship similar to On and On.

With nearly every one of the lyrics, they match the choreography along with it too. For example, Leo sings, ‘She pokes me again and runs away’ as an arm stabs through him. In one line of a performance, everything comes together: music, lyrics, visual. and choreography. This is well thought out pop music. This happens many more times in the one performance, like in the chorus when they sing the line ‘I’m on my knees and ready to get hurt,’ where all the members except Hongbin are on their knees while he mimics ripping his heart out, ready to be hurt. There is even some vampire imagery in the dance, the hands across their chest as if they are in a coffin and Leo going to bite Ken in the neck as the other members crowd around him. It is this consistency of theme which makes VIXX’s performances so satisfying to watch, but it may not be obvious all the time

Also on KultScene: Let’s Discover: Crush

On and On brought VIXX into the eye of the public and was their biggest selling single at the time. It was an obvious choice to continue with this type of concept. What we expected was a lesser version of the same thing, but what we got was so much more.

Hyde was based on the character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson, which is about a doctor who invented a serum that turns him into a huge hulking man. The story is associated with split personalities, and this is where VIXX takes their inspiration. The song is about a boy who said some nasty things to a girl but cannot believe he said them and begs the girl to believe that it was not the real him.

Again, the theme is fitted onto every element. The visual is one of black and white, usually split half and half between the six members. The choreography right from the start is in line with the lyrics and concept. At one point, Leo sings,

There’s no way I said those words
There’s no way I said I’d leave you

He utters these words as he looks at his hands as if it is the first time he has seen them and moves his body as if something is trying to get out.

Throughout the whole performance the duality motif is kept up. Most of the dance moves are mirrored on both sides by the two opposing colors. This means that when some of the choreography does not fit the theme that there is something still there going on to connect to. It’s utterly satisfying for a viewer and is just as much a reason for the quality of their performances as their powerful movement. The attention to detail is masterful and elevates VIXX above their contemporaries.

In contrast, G.R.8.U was a disappointing follow up to these two singles. VIXX had continued success with it, but the theme was not as well thought out. There was no real engagement with a theme to speak of at all. There was an interesting rewind effect in the video, but this did not factor into the performance in any real way. They delivered a snippet of a concept rather than a complete song.

For example, they reused a move from Hyde, where the members’ line up form a shadow like effect as they each move out a bit. In Hyde, this symbolizes VIXX’s change from the human Jekyll into the monster Hyde. In G.R.8.U, it is little more than a cool move. Also, unlike the previous two singles, the rest of the choreography does not back up any of the lyrics. This is by no means a requirement of every song, but it is somewhat disappointing considering what VIXX can achieve. If it was supposed to be a Jekyll version to Hyde, it also doesn’t work as there is no sense of darkness here.

Also on KultScene: K-Pop Stand Out Remixes Part 2

After that misstep, VIXX were back on thematic form with their preceding singles Voodoo Doll and Eternity. The theme of Voodoo Doll is obvious, but their use of a prop pin was the inspiration –before it was censored, of course. Their puppet-like dancing was perfect. On the other hand, Eternity was not as dark as the others, but stuck with a theme of time, and performed it excellently.

This leads us to today with Error, which VIXX have been promoting for the last few weeks. It feels like the culmination of their hard work as it is their highest charting single to date and comes right before their landmark concerts in the U.S.

This time VIXX are cyborgs who are trying to forget a past love. Hongbin laments:

I was afraid that I’d get cut by your sharp, knife-like words
I just need to breathe and eat to endure through this

It is almost as if he wished they were actual cyborgs because it would make everything much easier. The choreography of this part smartly helps this idea, as Hongbin seems to be a robot booting up and Ravi sticks his arms through Hongbin’s as if they were a robots.

Like their previous singles, the robot motif sticks throughout the rest of the song and dance. It blends seamlessly with their choreography and, thankfully, never delves into cheesy robot dances.

These are rare complete performances from VIXX, tonally and thematically, as they hit the mark on every aspect of their song while connecting them all together. This type of craft is rare in pop music, let alone just K-Pop. Themes are so important to all forms of art. How a piece engages with a theme conveys to us what that piece really wants to say.

While pop music is not expected to be a politically striking, there should still be an engagement and commitment to themes. This is what VIXX has been doing; creating pieces of music which can be enjoyed on every level and the use themes to infuse each of these.

If any of you are lucky enough to see them in Chicago or New York, try taking some time to notice this. A lot of hard work has gone into it, and it’s a big reason why VIXX are standing on that stage.

What do you think about VIXX and their use of themes? Let us know! Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

4 Male K-Pop Idols Who Defy Gender Roles

Despite K-Pop being a mainstream genre within a somewhat conservative culture, there are some idols who push boundaries with their lyrics, clothes, music videos, looks, etc. So it comes expectant that even in a country that has Confucian dogma you can find some black sheep in the bunch defying other aspects of society that ultimately end up damaging individuals, like gender roles.

What are gender roles, you ask? It’s the set of behavioral norms one “must” follow depending on whether you’re male or female. You know, blue and toy trucks for boys, pink and dolls for girls –that type of thing. But the problem with binding gender roles goes far beyond pants and dresses. Trouble arises when society limits people to these set rules and don’t allow or look down on the ones who choose to flourish outside of them.

This list is exactly about that; those male idols who choose to push and bend society’s notions on gender and are successful at it.

1. FT Island’s Hongki

honki gender roles

Hongki, the charismatic lead singer of the Korean pop rock band FT Island, embodies what we regularly associate with the word “rockstar.” Onstage and through his TV appearances, Hongki always displays his I-don’t-give-a-damn persona, whether he’s being snarky with his remarks or challenging FNC Entertainment’s CEO publicly. Hongki takes his strong personality everywhere he goes and doesn’t only do it for show.

But the thing that’s most “punk rock” about the singer is probably his love for nail art. Hongki wouldn’t be the first rockstar to don nail polish to compliment his style, but he definitely is unique in that he released a book completely dedicated to nail art called Lee Hong Gi Nail Book. The 144-page long book includes the singer’s stories and insight on nail art and is a best seller in Korea, Japan, and China.

Over the years, men have pushed through the taboos and social awkwardness of getting manicures and pedicures, and it’s no longer a rarity to see a man at a salon getting these procedures. But to rock full-on designs and flashy colors? That’s not what many heterosexual men would willingly do. Nail polish has always been marketed for women, and with that, branded as a feminine product. The fact that Hongki got past his and other people’s prejudices to the level of rocking and spending $45,000 a year on nail art is commendable.

Nail art doesn’t take away anything from Hongki’s personality or look, it merely enhances it. After all, it’s just paint and design on nails.

2. G-Dragon

g dragon gender roles

Rappers and fashion have come hand-in-hand since the ‘90s, when artist began flexin’ their designer clothes and jewelry in music videos and lyrics. However, no rapper has ever reached fashion icon status and respect from the fashion world like G-Dragon has. A man liking clothes and shoes and accessories has been periodically accepted over the years, but a love and fascination for it is almost exclusive to women and gay men.

This is where G-Dragon makes his mark. He’s a rapper, a producer, and a lyricist, and is respected as an artist in the entertainment business. The fact that his artistry translates over to his amazing range in his fashion styling does not detract from his musical talents or his “manhood.” With his fashion, the BIGBANG leader is a chameleon; he goes from avant garde to streetwear in a second and kills it every time. His style is always changing and evolving with time and trends, and he has never shied away from pushing gender boundaries with his fashion. A good example of this is last year’s Vogue Korea editorial, where he posed with model Soo Joo, both of them styled identically to look like twins.

Androgyny is not a look that has been on the mainstream and widely accepted, it is mostly reserved for the arts. But G-Dragon, with his small built and extraordinary fashion, has been making a case for bending gender since his debut. Can anyone logically make a good argument against a man wearing a skirt? Well, G-Dragon can make a good one for it.

3. NU’EST’s Ren

nuest ren gender roles

Even before debut, Ren made headlines for his appearance. Not because he had ulzzang status or beast idol features, but because he was pretty. No, not handsome, pretty. You know, that term society uses to describe girls exclusively and is somehow demeaning to tag boys with that…

NU’EST’s maknae personifies the group’s concept: being different and unique and not being afraid to show it. Ren contrasts his pretty boy image and charms with powerful performances. With this, he challenges society’s notions of masculinity and femininity by living somewhere in between them under his own terms; he even calls himself pretty.

Just like androgyny, a man having feminine traits does not make him any less of a man. Ren promotes a healthy lifestyle that works well for him. And if anyone thinks that someone’s “manliness” is challenged by a guy listening to Lady Gaga or knowing all of the girl groups’ choreography and can deliver them spot on, is only unsure of their own identity.

4. 2AM’s Jo Kwon

jo kwon gender roles

2AM’s Jo Kwon has made a name for himself for various reasons, but most of it comes from his innate talent. The singer prides himself in having been a JYP Entertainment trainee for seven years before debuting and is a member of that agency’s ballad male group. Standing on stage wearing a suit and serenading the audience with his powerful vocals, Jo Kwon is a completely different person than what he showcases on TV: the male diva.

Viewers witness Jo Kwon’s flamboyant personality when he fiercely dances girl group choreographies on variety shows or when he wore Jeffrey Campbell’s heel-less hoof shoes during his solo promotions. Furthermore, he recently took part in the Korean adaptation of the musical Priscilla, playing the dual roles of Adam and Felicia.

Because of this, the singer gets called gay left and right. Everyone has an unsolicited opinion on his sexuality, but the reality lies in that Jo Kwon has repeatedly denied those allegations. That being said, the public must respect his stance. And, of course, the reality we live in is not that simple. The singer garnered lots of criticism and hate over his participation in Priscilla, leading him defend himself on Instagram, when he obviously didn’t need to do so.

The fact that a straight man undertakes what society perceives as effeminate traits and behaviours and displays them for the mainstream audience shows how forward thinking some youth are. What Jo Kwon does is good entertainment and is well-received by the public; his sexuality is irrelevant. Even if he’s not gay himself, he’s paving the way for future queer celebrities to be accepted.

Who’s your favorite male idol who defies gender roles? We’d love for you to share your picks with us, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, so you can keep up with all our posts.

[Renders: michiru92, dyoomma]

K-Pop Idols And The Formidable American Debut

CL joins a line of K-Pop idols who have decided to enter the American music market, but the history of idols in the United States isn’t something that the 2NE1 leader will want to necessary emulate. The most talked about idols to have attempted to enter the American market to date are Rain, BoA, Se7en, Girls’ Generation, SPICA, and The Wonder Girls. Their efforts have done much for Korean music in the US, but the popularity that Korean idols find in many countries didn’t transfer over, and no Korean idols became superstars in Hollywood.

K-Pop made national headlines with the explosion of Psy’s Gangnam Style, the success of which Psy himself admits was a complete accident. In comparison, the other attempts to break into the US were hardly accidents, and were met with varying levels of success.

Rain

In one of the more bizarre debuts into the American entertainment industry, Rain gained national attention after beating out Stephen Colbert for the number one spot on a reader-ranked Time 100 Poll in 2007. Rain had already appeared on Time’s 2006 World 100 Most Influential People list following his immense popularity in Asia, and on CNN’s TalkAsia in 2005. But Stephen Colbert took Rain’s win personally, and his Comedy Central audience soon learned a little bit about Rain.

Rain continued being ranked on Times’ lists for the next few years, and had a short guest appearance on the Colbert Report where the two had a dance off.

Even though he gained fame in Asia first as a singer before becoming an actor, Rain made his formal debut in the U.S. as an actor, taking roles in Speed Racer in 2008 and Ninja Assassin in 2009. He even won MTV’s Biggest Badass Award for his role in the latter film.

Rain stopped all of his American activities due to military service, but appeared in August 2014’s The Prince with Bruce Willis and John Cusack. The film was poorly received and Rain has yet to announce future plans to act in the United States. However, following Lee Byung Hyun, Rain is one of Korea’s most impressive action exports to Hollywood.

Success Rate: 80% — He’s still active, and if he lands the right role, Rain could do really well in Hollywood as an action star.

BoA

BoA and Rain are best of the top solo idols that Korea has seen, both known for their singing and dancing, and both headed to the United States. BoA tried entering the American market through an album release in 2008, with the English language album BoA. The album included singles Eat You Up, Energetic, and I Did It For Love, as well as Look Who’s Talking, which was originally partially written and recorded by Britney Spears but never publicly released. The album and songs appeared on Billboard charts in the United states, as well as several foreign charts.

BoA performed at MTV Studios in Times Square and appeared at the 2008 Jingle Ball. She also performed at the 2009 San Francisco Pride Festival, where Solange Knowles also performed. The singer also starred in the movie Make Your Move, alongside Dancing With The Stars’ Derek Hough. The movie was released in 2014, after several years in post production. BoA hasn’t really pursued the American industry in some time, instead choosing to focus on Korea and Japan.

Success Rate: 40% — BoA’s songs are as great as any of her Korean ones, but they didn’t gain the attention that they deserve. Make Your Move was not very well received.

The Wonder Girls

Perhaps the most daring, The Wonder Girls devoted themselves to an American debut. The girl group had reached success with addictive hits like Tell Me and Nobody, and JYP Entertainment decided that the five member group would do well in the U.S. The members released some of their songs in English and went on tour with The Jonas Brothers in 2009, acting as the opening act. The Wonder Girls became the first Korean group to have a song on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart when the English version of Nobody entered.

However, Sunmi left the group in the middle of American promotions, and Hyelim replaced her. The Wonder Girls then returned to Korea and released 2 Different Tears in English, Korean, and Chinese. The group then went back to the United States and had several concerts. After some more Asian activities, The Wonder Girls returned to the United States with The DJ Is Mine, and appeared in Teen Nick made-for-tv movie, The Wonder Girls. After releasing Like This in Korea and making a Japanese debut, The Wonder Girls returned to the U.S. in July 2012 with Like Money, featuring Akon. Despite the efforts, Like Money didn’t reach success in the US.

Success Rate: 60% — The Wonder Girls tried really hard, but broken up international activities meant that the group didn’t spend enough time in Korea, the U.S., Japan, or China. World domination would be nice, but The Wonder Girls overextended themselves and hurt their chances in both North America and Asia. the group released some great songs and did some amazing things, so it’s really unfortunate that they didn’t reach American fame.

Se7en

In 2007, Se7en announced that he would be heading into the U.S. market. However, after a collaboration with Fabolous, This Is My Year, was leaked, Se7en’s American debut showed signs of problems, even though Verizon Wireless helped sponsor some of his events. The singer held a showcase in New York City and released Girls feat. Lil’ Kim. The song charted on Billboard‘s World Chart, and the music video aired on BET on June 2nd, 2009.

Success Rate: 30% –He’s the first one to really have tested out the waters of what it would be like for an idol to try making it as a singer in the US, but his test didn’t turn out so well. Se7en gained a major company’s sponsorship, but after the song leak and Girls failed, he returned to Korea and went back to making music that is more suited for him. It’s likely that Se7en decided to cut his losses and head back to Asia.

Girls’ Generation

With two Korean-American members (now only one, after the departure of Jessica from the group), one of the most popular girl groups in South Korea and Asia couldn’t resist the temptation of the United States and Hollywood. Girls’ Generation signed with Universal Music Group in the U.S. in 2011, and the group promoted The Boys there the following year. Girls’ Generation became the first Korean group to appear on Late Night With David Letterman and Live! With Kelly.

Since then, Girls’ Generation has performed at KCON in the USA, and has regularly had songs appear on Billboard charts. Girls’ Generation TTS, the subgroup, has also charted.

Success Rate: 60% — Just like the Wonder Girls, Girls’ Generation gained a lot of hype, but the songs aren’t gaining traction outside of the K-Pop community. With Jessica’s removal from the group, they’re down an English-speaking member, making it less likely that they will attempt further major promotions in the U.S.

SPICA

The latest girl group to try it out in the United States is SPICA. SPICA released the power, inspiring song I Did It in 2014 and debuted it at KCON the same month. SPICA also performed on a local Los Angeles morning show, Good Morning LA, and held a showcase performance, which Kultscene covered.  The group then went back to Korea and it is unclear whether SPICA will return stateside.

Success Rate: 0-100%  — SPICA has the sound and style that could make it big in the United States, but if the group doesn’t come back, then I Did It will still be a great song, but nothing more. It’s too early to really say whether the group is a success, but I Did It is possibly the best attempt of a K-Pop group to sing a song in English.

CL is trying her hand at it next, and its unclear as to how she’ll compare to the other idols who have attempted to break into the U.S. market. The odds don’t appear to be in her favor, but another imported female rapper — Iggy Azalea- is one of the most popular rappers in the world right now, so what’s to stop CL from seeking success?

How do you think CL will fare in the U.S.? Should any of these idols give America another whirl? What other idols would you like to see try their hand in Hollywood?

Let’s Discuss: MBLAQ, Failures or Realists?

In 2009, MBLAQ and Beast both debuted. MBLAQ was the clear winner –it was the group that Rain had put together; his pet project. Beast, on the other hand, was a group of “rejects” from JYP and YG and failed solo acts.

Fast forward to 2014 and the tables are completely turned. With the announcement that Lee Joon is likely leaving the group, rumors that Thunder (Cheondung) will also not renew his contract with J. Tune Camp, and Beast’s highly anticipated comeback, it’s clear to all that Beast ended up on top. Does that mean that MBLAQ has failed as idols? Perhaps so, but perhaps not also.

What Went Wrong With MBLAQ?

Many things, and nothing. The group has had popular songs, but won few awards. Only Y and This Is War won awards on music shows, while those two and Mona Lisa are the only songs by the quintet to ever be nominated for MAMA awards. Moreover, not a single MBLAQ song achieved number one on Korean charts, although multiple of their albums did gain that distinction.

Lee Joon, Thunder, and G.O have gained recognition for acting, and G.O has gained a lot of attention for his vocal and producing skills. Mir has also become renowned for his rapping skills. MBLAQ members are popular on variety shows and have featured on numerous songs. But as idols, not a single member of the group or a song has made a huge impact. People know the members’ names, but the group has never hit the top tier of idols.

Source: Tumblr via Leyez

Source: Tumblr via Leyez

In a world where catchy dance songs are king, MBLAQ’s R&B style hasn’t led to major success. Not a single one of MBLAQ’s Korean songs ever placed above fifth on Korean or international music charts. Several Korean songs charted at number two on the Japanese Oricon chart (Your Luv and Baby U), but otherwise, MBLAQ’s songs have never had that “hit” factor.

MBLAQ is well-known, and many people think that means that the group is successful. But a boy band that doesn’t gain recognition for its music is not necessarily ideal or something worth continuing. Lee Joon and Thunder’s desire not to renew their term with the group may be a result of the overall failure of MBLAQ as a musical act.

 Also on KPOPme: Let’s Discuss: YG’s Luck With Damage Control

Who Is To Blame? Management?

The group is a very clear case of not having one single entity organizing it. MBLAQ did pretty well before Rain entered the army at the end of 2011. Rain’s popularity had been transferred to MBLAQ since debut, and the five members are artistically talented enough to stand on their own feet. But there was always the fact that the group was the five-member version of Rain, with his style influencing the group.

Right before Rain entered the army, MBLAQ’s style changed. Stylistically similar songs like Cry, Stay, Y, Oh Yeah, etc. became Mona Lisa, Hello My Ex, It’s War, Run, etc.

Rain hasn’t touched the band since entering the army; when he came back, Rain went to Cube Entertainment. J. Tune Camp has managed every MBLAQ activity since the end of 2011. Rain’s name is still attached to the group, but his magic touch is gone.

OnePackAB

Source: OnePackAB

Furthermore, J. Tune Camp’s parent company, J. Tune Entertainment, merged with JYP in 2009. But J. Tune Camp was left alone, showing that there are some issues with internal management at the company. Without the backing of a stable company, the guys had a lot of activities, but never really focused on being singers. Promotions as MBLAQ have come in spurts, with individual members focusing more on their individual promotions than as members of an idol group.

Five years is a good amount of time to test the waters before some of the members decided that a “career change” may be a better option, and that looks like where we are right now.

Or Maybe We Should Blame The Timing?

With more and more new idol groups every day, the group didn’t really stand a chance. At the time of debut, MBLAQ was heralded as a manly, powerful group that would be well-received in a crowd of girl groups (2009 saw the popular debuts of 2NE1, f(x), Secret, After School, T-ara, and 4Minute, and the super success of Girls’ Generation, Kara, and Wonder Girls). It was the second coming of Rain, and the only prominent rival was Beast, the “reject” group.

But then K-Pop exploded in 2010 with boy groups. INFINITE, Teen Top, DMTN, Led Apple, JYJ, ZE:A, F.CUZ, CNBLUE, and The Boss. By 2011, rookie groups began popping up left and right, male and female, making older idol groups passé.

Also on KPOPme: 6 Songs Non-K-Pop Fans Can Like

Or, Maybe, Nothing?

MBLAQ was supposed to be the next “nation’s idol.” However, the group never had a hit song, because of constant comebacks and the debuts of the next-big-thing. The members are talented, as a group and on their own and they’re well recognized. Their songs have done well, but MBLAQ as a whole hasn’t. There’s no one real reason –company, members, timing, chance –that made MBLAQ an idol group without a single number one hit.

But the members have been going for five years, waiting for that one hit, and it hasn’t happened. Fans are reeling from scandals, but perhaps it is time to accept that K-Pop groups do not last forever. Accepting that is key, and sometimes idols need to transition from idol-dom to celebrity-ship.

Source: Lembas via ABM

Source: Lembas via ABM

MBLAQ and its members are many things –talented, funny, handsome, etc. But they are not one thing: Korea’s top idol group. After five years, it is time for both the group and its fans to recognize that, and MBLAQ’s potential disbandment (or continuing on as a trio/quartet, depending on different rumors) should be applauded.

Idol groups always end; even long-lived groups like Big Bang, Super Junior, and Girls’ Generation won’t last forever. If MBLAQ isn’t as successful as it could be, isn’t it better for the members to realize that now, before they are too old to regret being a second tier idol group? It’s been fun, but maybe it’s a time for a change.

Source: Hello Baby  via Tumblr

Source: Hello Baby via Tumblr

What do you think? Should MBLAQ’s members stick together? Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Let’s Discuss: EXO Luhan & Departure Rumors

This isn’t the first time that it’s being said, but 2014 was not the best year for SM Entertainment. Kris leaving EXO, Sulli going on hiatus from f(x), and Jessica’s removal from Girls’ Generation are not exactly signs of a stellar company. And now there are rumors, mostly among international fans, that EXO’s Luhan will be leaving the group due to poor health, which isn’t good. Not that Luhan shouldn’t take care of his health, but the rumors themselves, and if they were to come true, are not good.

Why Are The Rumors Bad?

It shows panic among SM Entertainment’s audience. Other SM Entertainment idols have been sick in the past and have taken extended leave. SHINee’s Onew only recently rejoined activities after surgery, but there weren’t wide-spread rumors about him leaving the group. However, following the news that Girls’ Generation, one of the most seemingly-stable groups in K-Pop, is removing a member, SM Entertainment fans show that they no longer know what is what at the company.If fans cannot show full support for SM Entertainment, it is likely that SM will act even more recklessly than it has recently.

Following a downward spiral of f(x)’s Red Light promotions being overshadowed by Sulli’s dating and hiatus scandal, SM announced a new girl group, Red Velvet. Unlike the highly hyped debut of EXO, Red Velvet released its first song with little prior-fanfare, and a relatively sloppy, problem-plagued debut.

In regards to Girls’ Generation’s disaster, SM is continuing as usual with TaeTiSeo and individual promotions. But everything that the Girls’ do and every word they say is under strict scrutiny, and the company is likely to announce a comeback of one of its other groups to try and get attention off of the remaining eight Girls’ Generation members.

Also on KPOPme: Let’s Discuss: Jessica’s Departure & Girls’ Generation’s Future

SM Entertainment is often perceived to be the “worst” company of “the Big 3” Korean entertainment companies (SM, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment), due to its history with contract scandals and idols leaving the company. The company needs intense PR, but sudden member losses has become almost expected; EXO fans are practically counting down the days until another member announces that he is leaving, and Luhan appears the likely choice, due to his health issues.

The rumors are bad because it shows a complete lack of faith by fans in SM to manage its artists. SM fans need to support not only their favorite artists but the company, because the Korean entertainment industry is currently a company-dominated one. But right now, SM is in crisis mode and lack of support is making the company struggle anymore.

What oh nonon Luhan

via baekhyunniesbeagle

What If Luhan Actually Leaves?

If Luhan leaving EXO becomes reality, not just a rumor, SM Entertainment will find itself in serious trouble. Luhan is one of EXO’s three remaining Chinese members, and by far the most popular one. Luhan is so popular that he earned a Guinness Award for on Weibo- over 13 million comments on his account, double the amount of the next runner up. If Luhan’s health issues require that he, unfortunately, leaves the group, it would mean that SM’s EXO experiment has failed.

EXO has already failed in some ways, when the group became EXO rather than EXO-K and EXO-M. Fans wanted all twelve members together, but it meant that the split marketing campaigns were a failure, and fans wanted one, traditional K-Pop act.

Luhan’s absence would mean that only two Chinese members of EXO remain, Lay and Tao. Both, as all members of EXO, are immensely popular, but former member Kris and Luhan have definitely been the two most popular members of the EXO-M contingency. If Luhan leaves, EXO’s Chinese fanbase will reel and accusations of unfairness towards Chinese members will fly.

Also on KPOPme: Let’s Discuss: Did ZE:A’s Lee Hoo Go Too Far?

Remember, initial reports of Kris’ withdrawal blamed his health. Luhan’s poor health condition has already been acknowledged by SM Entertainment, so the rumors are understandable. Hopefully, they will just be rumors and Luhan will get the rest that he needs.

via allaroundasia

EXO needs no more problems, and SM Entertainment needs no more headaches. Hopefully these rumors will be pointless, but if Luhan, or any Chinese member leaves, EXO is in trouble.

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[Picture credit to SMTOWN]

Let’s Discuss: Jessica’s Departure & Girls’ Generation’s Future

Let me tell you something before getting into anything else: We’ve been here before and we can get through it. But can Girls’ Generation?

A member leaving one of the biggest idol groups in K-Pop? Fans going crazy? Support the member’s decision? Protest their selfishness? Is the company lying? Who is telling the truth? Are the members upset? What’s going on??

First off, K-Pop is a business. Both fans and idols delude themselves into believing the lies of the industry, but, at the end of the day, idols are employees of companies. And, if an employee has a disagreement with a company about what sort of work he or should be doing, they often leave or asked to leave the company.

Girls’ Generation’s Jessica is currently embroiled in just that situation. Fans might be angry, hurt, upset, confused, and any other synonym for “what the eff?” But Jessica clearly started a fashion brand, Blanc, and SM Entertainment reacted in a certain way. Jessica released her own statement saying that the other members decided to force her out of the group, but that surely wasn’t an easy decision to make– the members were in tears at their latest performance. As outside observers, we may never know the entire truth from both sides.

So what does this mean? It means that Girls’ Generation’s tightly wound image is starting to break apart. Does that mean that it will completely unravel? Maybe yes, maybe no.

There are three paths for a group when a member leaves: continuing on without them, replacing them, or falling apart. SM Entertainment tends to opt out of replacing members, and isn’t a company that just lets it groups disappear when there are still viable members. TVXQ, Super Junior, and The TRAX all showed that SM’s management style is to keep going ahead with what it has rather than trying to do something new.

Girls’ Generation (and this applies to f(x) as well but that is for another discussion,) is likely to keep promoting as a girl group with eight members, as SM Entertainment has already said. However, unlike TVXQ, Super Junior, and The TRAX, where members left the group to pursue their own careers willingly, Jessica’s situation is different. From her point of view, Jessica was kicked out by the other members because her personal desires didn’t fit in with the group’s, which may show the fragile ties keeping Girls’ Generation together.

The lifespan of girl groups are much shorter than male idol groups. Looking at all of the first generation groups that are making a comeback –SHINHWA, g.o.d, Fly To The Sky –they’re all males. Girl groups by definition are meant to be youthful- girls, not women. Girls’ Generation’s name has come under fire for several years now, as the members of the girl group got older. The group’s concept has also not changed so much, varying from cute to sexy but still maintaining the image of youthful, spunky young ladies. Soshi’s songs have shown change and maturity, but as a whole, the group hasn’t quite morphed from girls into adults.

Jessica’s departure highlights the problem, because it is all happening due to her desire to have a more serious, adult, career and personal life. The other mature groups at SM (TVXQ, Super Junior, The TRAX) all have members who do something other than their activities as group members. Girls’ Generation has a few members who have done so (YoonA and Sooyoung act, Sunny DJs, Taeyeon and Seohyun sing solo songs, etc.), but none of them really are able to stand on their own two feet as anything other than a Girls’ Generation member doing some other activity.

A member leaving doesn’t mean a death sentence for a group, even one as cohesive as Girls’ Generation. But it could hint to the fact that Girls’ Generation’s concept is unstable, and unless SM Entertainment reconsiders the fact that the members are women and not girls, more members are going to search for more fulfilling, more problematic “secondary” activities. If SM doesn’t want to lose its most prominent girl group, it had better think fast.

What do you think? Is Girls’ Generation’s future at stake? Is Jessica in the wrong? We’d love to hear you thoughts on the subject, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Let’s Discuss: Did ZE:A’s Lee Hoo Go Too Far?

Lee Hoo went up against the Korean entertainment establishment and came out on top. Then he continued, and now there is some concern that maybe he’s gone too far too fast.

This week saw ZE:A’s leader Moon Junyoung, known by his stage name Lee Hoo, go up against his company, Star Empire, on Twitter and win. The initial response to his outburst was a positive one, to see an idol attacking injustices. But then Lee Hoo continued after seeing the conclusion of what he was seeking; now it’s unclear whether he is overstepping his boundaries and should be happy with the gains that he has made, rather than risk making everything worse.

After increasingly difficult situations within Star Empire Entertainment, including little-to-no pay, unfair management, and physical abuse, Lee Hoo threatened the company’s CEO on Twitter. He promised to release incriminating documents, proving the company’s corruption, and also mentioned that he may reveal information about other entertainment companies.

Lee Hoo also called for other entertainment companies to reevaluate their terms, and asked journalists and fans to help him. Plus, he revealed that the Dream Team production team had treated him poorly after breaking a bone on set, using a single example, but implying that Korean PDs are also harsh on idols.

And after several outbursts of anger on Twitter, Lee Hoo stated that he had met with Star Empire’s CEO to reconcile and reconsider ZE:A’s contract terms. After, Lee Hoo wrote that ZE:A’s terms would be reversed from how it had been before, so that the idols would earn 70 percent of the profits and the company 30 percent, rather than vice-versa.

ZE:A Lee Hoo's Twitter Update

That seemed to be the end of it, but only a few hours later, Lee Hoo returned to Twitter saying that if fans clamored enough, he would reveal more evils of the Korean entertainment industry if netizens asked him to. It seems likely that Lee Hoo will keep his crusade going, if fans support him.

However, is there such a thing as too much in this case?

The Korean entertainment industry is extremely hierarchical, and Lee Hoo took to social media like so many other modern-day revolutionaries to reveal the truth of a horrendous situation. He acted very brave, but also slightly careless; the CEO, who he named, could have sued him for libel, cut his contract, and it could have had a downward spiral that affected all of the members of ZE:A (no other ZE:A members have spoken up about the situation, so it is unclear whether they were aware of what Lee Hoo was going to do).

Luckily, things worked out well, and Lee Hoo was able to make many gains for ZE:A. Netizens also supported the idol’s actions instead of turning on him. There is some criticism that he called out the CEO publicly, but Lee Hoo addressed the fact in his tweets, saying that the situation had gotten so far out of hand. Many netizens posted messages of support for Lee Hoo.

But should Lee Hoo stop before he hurts himself and the group? He already pushed the envelope a lot; he took to Twitter in a vehement way that hasn’t been seen from any K-Pop idol previously. Even the most outspoken idols have not truly gone head-to-head with their CEO, airing all of their despicable issues. Instead, most idols leave their companies and sue. And none of them have said that they will release more incriminating documents in the future about other entertainment companies or production companies.

Lee Hoo is risking the entire entertainment industry’s wrath, rather than just upsetting his own company. After getting so much for ZE:A, Lee Hoo obviously is feeling very successful. Hopefully, the company will work with ZE:A for the better, and all of this will work out.

But if netizens ask Lee Hoo for too much, he may turn the entire industry against him and ZE:A. ZE:A debuted in in 2010. In the past four years, the nine members have achieved limited fame, with several members becoming incredibly popular while the others live in relative obscurity. ZE:A’s songs have gained attention, but the group has never become a leader of Hallyu, or even won an award on a music show. Complete apathy from fans, who were happy with ZE:A being second tier idols, and from ZE:A’s company have hindered the group.

Now that ZE:A is at a crossroads, as the leader Lee Hoo has some important decisions to make. He has fought well, but it seems that the whole thing is still very tenuous.

What do you think? Is Lee Hoo at risk of losing everything he’s gained? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

 

The Double Standard of Guns & Murder in K-Pop

The latest netizen outrage out of the K-Pop world surrounds rapper Swings’ perceived insensitivity for posting a video recreating an execution just for fun. The internet critics say it is reminiscent of the recent executions of American journalists by the terrorist group ISIS, and that the timing is disrespectful towards Ladies’ Code’s tragic accident. Netizens have a reputation of blowing things out of proportion, and this is not an exemption. Was the video in poor taste? Yes. Should Swings be scrutinized for it? Probably not if you condone and/or disregard murder and guns in music videos by your favorite artists. The truth is, the whole incident and the exaggeration of it is one big double standard for K-Pop fans.

In the controversial video in question, Just Music rappers C Jamm and Swings kneel at the edge of a swimming pool while Giriboy stands over them and mimics pulling gunshots to their heads, making C Jamm and Swings fall into the pool, and floating face down as if dead. Netizens claim that the execution-like prank is similar to those actually carried out by ISIS recently and done too soon since people are still mourning RiSe and EunB’s deaths. Had this video happened at another time where it couldn’t be contrasted with these two events, netizens probably wouldn’t have said a thing. But alas, it did.

swing execution guns

So following these netizens’ logic, executions, guns, and murder are tasteless, and for doing that, those involved are apathetic, immature, and —what was that other thing they were spouting on the comments? –oh yeah, psychotic. And while the term psycho was probably just thrown in there for emphasis, the only true demented thing behind this ordeal is the undeniable double standard most of these netizens have.

Again, following the logic, murder and guns are not acceptable only in cases following a tragic episode in the world’s history. But if murder and guns are not making headlines worldwide, then, by all means, it’s fair game. Because acting out murder and executions are only distasteful if a major incident happened recently, right? Kind of like when Infinite took out the plane crash scene in their Destiny music video because it was too soon to the Asiana Airlines crash. If that version would’ve been released a month prior, it would have been totally fine, right? But I digress… Netizens nitpick which idol and situation they blow out of proportion, since violence has never stopped in the world… ever (just now, think Syria or Gaza)…

Adding insult to injury, another problem here is the normalization and glamorization of murder and guns in pop culture. Opposite to the United States, Korean civilians can’t bare arms. It’s a common thing in American culture and music to hype up firearms and feature them in videos as if they were one more accessory on set. In Korean music videos, the use of guns generally follows spy or gangster plotlines. But then we have the was that really necessary? instances. No one linked BTS’ No More Dream choreography when Suga symbolically blows V’s brains out to any school shootings anywhere, even if the song is about not wanting to follow the path your parents set up for you and the setting is, well, in a school.

However, at least BTS was playing the typical teenager who hates life and their parents in their music video. 2NE1 with their video for I Am the Best, on the other hand, is one big question mark. These ladies are synonymous with fierceness within K-Pop, and the song is about being better than everyone else and no one measuring up to you. Apparently, being the best equates power which, it seems, also equates guns. What exactly was the purpose of this scene? Nothing. Just everyday glamorization of guns in a country where they could not have done that outside the set.

Was there any outrage? No, because this is normal for everyone and is also seen as cool…

But the double standard goes beyond just netizens and reaches the heads of television companies. Entertainment companies bend over backwards to accommodate the guidelines set by the TV companies so their artists can promote on their music shows. The raunchier songs on a given album are generally pushed to the b-sides, never being singles so the same TV companies won’t ban them. But you know what the crazy thing about this is? Companies that are so invested in protecting youth from seeing U-Kiss have implied threesomes or Trouble Maker grind on each other are ok with them seeing murder.

B.A.P doesn’t just wave guns in the air for their One Shot music video, it actually follows the gangster plotline. However, there’s a scene where we actually see thugs shoot and kill Youngjae. There’s blood everywhere, there are guns being used unsafely, you can see they guy’s face as he dies of gunshot –but no, that doesn’t corrupt a child’s mind like sex does… TV companies also didn’t ban One Shot or asked for the choreography involving a gunshot à la BTS be readjusted.

However, the point is not to ban these types of scenes and behaviors, for censorship is never the answer. The point is for netizens to stop nitpicking particular incidents and judging them under extraneous standards if you’re not going to do so with e-very-thing out there. Remember, separate is not equal. Swings’ video was indeed unnecessary, but it didn’t deserve the outrage it got from people who would probably have let it slide if done by bigger artists.

What’s your take on Swings’ video? Be sure to share your thoughts and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

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

Fans are what make any form of entertainment successful, and K-Pop fans are more intense than most other fans. In light of the recent scandal with Kim Hyun Joong, it has become apparent that K-Pop fans have lost their sense of reality when it comes to K-Pop idols.

K-Pop fans are known for being loyal to the genre, but also for being incredibly intense. In South Korea, overly intense fans are known as sasaeng fans. Sasaeng literally breaks down into the words “private” and “life.” These so-called fans are invasive and have a reputation of being tormentors more than fans. They do things such as following idols to their homes, sometimes sneaking in and vandalizing, etc.

There are also anti-fans, which torture Korean entertainers; there have been cases of idols who have been poisoned by anti-fans. One of the most infamous instances involved an anti-fan who gave TVXQ’s Yunho a drink filled with poisonous glue that nearly killed him.

Most people acquainted with K-Pop know about both sasaeng and anti-fans. So what is there to discuss? Well, there’s still the issue of delusional fans who don’t seem to recognize problems with celebrities.

No, not celebrities, but idols. This terminology is very important –Korean idols are treated as if they’re deified and held on pedestals, like the idols of a religion. Because of this, fans react in ridiculous ways. Recently, this week in particular, there has been an uptick in fans who seem to support idols’ illegal actions. This is, of course, in regards to Kim Hyun Joong’s accused beating of his girlfriend.


Kim Hyun Joong, Hallyu star and the leader of now-on-hiatus SS501, made headlines this week when his girlfriend of two years brought irrevocable proof of his abuse to police in Korea. While many fans around the globe were disgusted with his actions, especially when his company tried to claim that he and his girlfriend were merely being rowdy and it was an accident, many fans seemed to come out in support of Kim Hyun Joong.

Kim Hyun Joong fan comments on official Facebook

Kim Hyun Joong fan comments on official Facebook

In fact, a battle seems to be waging between fans that support him, and have started to accuse the girl of lying to the police, and between the fans that recognize how severe domestic abuse is.

Even when Girls’ Generation’s Hyoyeon was brought into a domestic fight with her now ex-boyfriend, fans defended her; it was as if people couldn’t stomach the idea that Hyoyeon could get into a fight. Idols are people, and fans do not seem to recognize this.

Even when domestic abuse isn’t involved, there are always fans who ignore the facts and support “their” idol. Regardless of the fact that Park Bom had definitely been involved in something illegal in South Korea, fans from all over the world said that the 2NE1 vocalist had been wrongfully smeared across headlines —that may very well be the case, but many fans ignore the fact that these idols are human and should be reprimanded like the average person when they have done something.

Keep Calm And Support KHJ

The reverse situation reveals the irony of K-Pop fans; when idols do something human that is offensive to fans, it causes upsets—something illegal is acceptable, if it makes the idol look bad. But when idols are revealed to be dating one another, or someone else, fans tend to freak out. While there are some very well accepted idol couples (such as Lee Seung Gi and YoonA, and Nichkhun and Tiffany), other idol relationships have literally led to rifts in fandoms.

The reactions of fans in defense of idols when they have done something both illegal and morally wrong and to berate idols for living their lives, is a ridiculous situation. Getting upset about something happening to your favorite idol is all right. You can be jealous that they’re dating someone, but cursing them for being happy is not really appropriate (even though many fans do it). But saying that idols who legally do something wrong are merely being framed or mistaken is akin to saying that you’re all right with the thing that they’re doing.

The fact that fans have such a twisted sense of reality in regards to K-Pop idols, that goes beyond the norm of fandom, is almost dangerous and fans need to recognize that there is a problem when people make excuses for mere human behavior.

What do you think? Do fans treat idols properly or is there something warped in the fan-idol relationship? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

 

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

It may be a bit of a stretch, but YG Entertainment’s latest group WINNER may be introducing a new era to the K-Pop idol genre. But this isn’t the first group to have done that, and it won’t be the last.

The K-Pop genre as a whole is split into segments, generally based on the current trend for male idols. The concept defined by each era is not definite, and there are, of course, exceptions to the rules. These are general, widely-accepted viewpoints of what defines different periods in K-Pop male idol groups.

[Disclaimer: Please note that I am loosely using the term “generation,” due to the fact that these differences have happened over time. However, there is, of course, overlap.]

Original male idol groups (Seo Taeji and Boys aside) H.O.T, g.o.d, SHINHWA, etc. all had similar concepts; they had masculine charm. Idol groups from the second generation, like Super Junior, TVXQ, SS501, and BIGBANG, had pretty, flower-boy concepts; sometimes they pull out more masculine concepts, but fashion is always important for male idols ever since the second generation.

The third generation began with 2PM, who redefined manliness to mean “beastly,” for the lack of a better word. BEAST and MBLAQ are two other male idol groups that followed this trend.

The fourth generation of idols is defined by androgynous-ness and youthfulness, with groups like SHINee, INFINITE, and Teen Top having members who can easily pass for girls. This conceptual era is a bit different from the earlier flower boys, who still were more “handsome boyfriend” material; the newer groups are fashionable and pretty for the sake of being fashionable and pretty.

The fifth type includes groups like B.A.P and Block B, who debuted with powerful images, most similar to the original idol groups, but perhaps without the lack of theatrics and a more powerful message.

It would seem that all the different concepts have gone through their period, and we will see the cycle repeat, but there is always something new under the sun, and WINNER has proven just that.

[Disclaimer: I did not watch even a single episode of Who Is Next: WIN. I expected, as I believe many people did, that YG Entertainment would promote the group as the next generation of BIGBANG. I was very wrong.]

WINNER debuted with two songs, Color Ring and Empty. Idols in general, especially ones from YG, debut with songs that are more suited to a club than to a rainy day. Even idol groups like JJCC, who debuted with more ballad-sounding songs, have some sort of dance beat to the song; a complete debut without any dance songs is very rare.

The songs are not unique among the K-Pop genre; there’s no reason idol groups can’t produce rap/r&B/pop medleys. BIGBANG’s songs like Blue and Bad Boy are part of this genre. But to debut with a video like this seems like a statement done on purpose in order to differentiate WINNER from the rest of the debuting groups. And it did just that, but so much more.

Concepts overlap, but when one iconic idol group does something different from previous idol groups, it sets trends. WINNER, a high profile group from YG Entertainment ,is in the perfect position to do that; to start a new trend of debuting idol groups that focus more on melodies of song and a sentimental image. Sentimental, of course, is the key word.

Stylistically aside, WINNER also dresses a lot more like an average Korean in Empty and Color Ring than most idol groups do. There’s no real synchronization, no overly fashionable outfits. In fact, in comparison to YG’s top boy band, BIGBANG, this is as far as YG could get.

So, why? BIGBANG is immensely popular, and on Who Is Next, the group’s seemed to create typical YG Entertainment dance songs (I listened to the two team’s final songs to make sure I knew what I’d expect from WINNER).

Why would YG Entertainment debut something so stylistically new, and, essentially, simple? Not that the songs are simple musically; but they are a lot less flashy than songs coming out of SM Entertainment and JYP nowadays.

Because simplicity is now favored in South Korea; the most popular songs in Korea recently are by another seemingly incongruous YG Entertainment act, AKMU. The simplicity of AKMU’s songs is very similar to WINNER’s debut sound.

But while AKMU is recognized to be an artist, WINNER is most definitely an idol group. Idol groups have been consistently topped on Korean music charts by indie artists like Roy Kim, Busker Busker, etc. As Korean music tastes turn more towards indie and alternative sounds than to traditional K-Pop, the trend of K-Pop will be to produce more artistic songs.

There is no doubt that WINNER is a complete idol group; YG Entertainment trained the members, produced them to perfection. WINNER’s songs debuted at the top of the charts, partially due to the group and YG’s popularity, but also because the sound is more reflective of popular taste than other recent K-Pop debuts.

It’s expected that WINNER comes out with a dance song in a more typical K-Pop group style in the future; idol groups tend to do really well with catchy songs. But while many groups focus on international markets nowadays, WINNER is the type of idol group that South Korea needs, and YG Entertainment has read the signs. More idol companies will follow the trend that YG sets.

What do you think? Is WINNER’s debut style going to set a trend? Be sure to share it and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr,
and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.