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K-pop mid-year review: 3 distinctive music styles dominating 2018 so far

 

The year 2018 is passing by so fast. Can you believe that we have only five months left until 2019? When it comes to K-pop, a lot can happen in a matter of a few months, but so far we’ve already been taking notes on the music styles that have been trending in charts and album releases.

While some styles are always present, like electronic dance music (Sunmi’s “Heroine”) and R&B (Red Velvet’s “Bad Boy”), and some trend styles of 2016 and 2017 are still popular, like tropical house ((G)I-dle’s “Latata,” CROSS GENE’s “Touch It,” etc.), we chose three less frequently heard musical styles that have been present in a lot of comebacks and B-sides so far this year.

Check some of them out below:

Disco / Electropop / Retro K-pop Sound

When 2017 ended with the tragic news about SHINee’s Jonghyun, I thought the K-pop industry would have a hard time hyping fans up again. But when Momoland released the catchy and comic “Bboom Bboom” a few weeks later, I was smiling again. This was exactly the kind of fun we needed! The song was produced by Shinsadong Tiger, the same producer behind some of T-ara’s most legendary hits, like “Roly-Poly” and “Lovey-Dovey,” and so “Bboom Bboom” immediately gathered comparisons with T-ara and their disco-themed hits. But, whether people were mad or glad about the similarities, the fact is that “Bboom Bboom” led Momoland to huge success. The group then repeated the formula and released “Baam,” also produced by Shinsadong Tiger.

In late May, girl group AOA had its first comeback without former lead vocalist ChoA, releasing their Bingle Bangle EP full of fun and upbeat songs. One of those songs was “Ladi Dadi,” an electropop summer jam that recalls the same vibes of the catchiest hits of K-pop circa 2010-2012. Is 2018 making people nostalgic about the old days of K-pop? All we can say is we’re having so much fun with these retro sounds!


ALSO ON KULTSCENE: K-POP UNMUTED JUNE 2018 ROUNDUP

Mid-tempo Piano Hip-Hop

In late January, iKon scored a perfect All-Kill on Korean charts with their hit “Love Scenario,” a mid-tempo hip-hop song with a minimalist production and a bright piano accompaniment. Just a few months later in April, it was Pentagon’s time to show they could “shine” with the same musical approach, releasing the catchy and cute “Shine.” And even if it wasn’t a title track, let’s not forget “Kangaroo,” a great b-side from Wanna One’s first special album, 1÷x=1 (Undivided). “Kangaroo” is a fun hip-hop song produced by Block B’s Zico, with light beats and a mid-tempo cadency sweetly accompanied by piano chords. Those 3 boy groups killed this style and gave us some of the best songs of 2018 so far!


ALSO ON KULTSCENE: 7 K-POP MUSIC STYLES WE’D LOVE TO HEAR MORE

Caribbean & Latin Influences

In the last months of the year 2017, we could hear a few K-pop songs with influences of Caribbean and Latin music, such as SF9’s “O’ Sole Mio” and AOA’s Jimin “Hallelujah.” Little did we know that it would continue in 2018! In April, Super Junior caught the world by surprise when they released an iconic collaboration with Dominican-American singer Leslie Grace, the sensual “Lo Siento.” Later in May, it was BTS fans’ time to get delighted when they heard a flavour of salsa music on the group’s third full studio album Love Yourself: Tear with the irresistible “Airplane pt. 2.” The song was promoted on music shows and became an instant fan favorite due to the mention of cities and countries around the world, a reference to mariachis as a metaphor for the septet’s life on the road, and, of course, the Latin feels. More recently in mid-July, girl group MAMAMOO also continued their path of exploring different music genres in 2018 by releasing “Egotistic,” an elegant song full of Spanish guitars.

I think it’s safe to say Latinx and Caribbean fans are happy for seeing their culture being represented like this!

What’s your favorite sound of K-pop so far in 2018? Let us know 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.

Fantasy Vs Reality: MAMA 2015 Award Winners

MAMA awards

Much to the delight of international K-pop fans, the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) is coming round again on the second of December and will be held in Macau. Nominees for the various categories were announced on Oct. 31,and fan voting began on the same day. It is already shaping up to be a heated battle between the multiple fandoms but there are a few groups that have already gained and maintained a strong lead against their competitors.

Based on the results of previous years, there is a definite correlation between the size of a group’s fanbase and their chances of winning awards, which might unfairly cause more deserving groups to miss out on their prize. To acknowledge the possibly underappreciated groups and artists that will not be recognised during the awards, let’s have a round of Fantasy Vs Reality as a prediction for this year’s winners –with the exception of Union Pay Artist and Song of the Year, there are too many nominees for us to pick!

1. Best New Male/Female Artist

Fantasy: SEVENTEEN & Oh My Girl
These two groups could not be more different in nature but the one thing they have in common is that they’re insanely talented. From participating in the composing and production of their own tracks (SEVENTEEN) to standing out amongst several other girl groups using cute concepts (Oh My Girl), both groups have massive potential and will go far in the K-pop industry. Although they have been gaining a lot of fans since their debuts, neither of these two groups have a large enough fanbase at the moment to ensure their victory in MAMA. However, I’m looking forward to their work in the future!


Reality: iKon & TWICE
Both these groups debuted from huge and rich entertainment companies (YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment) which had previously produced hugely successful acts such as BIGBANG and the Wonder Girls, so it is a given that they would have a more polished debut filled with lots of high budget teasers, hype and music show promotions. Both groups had also participated in pre-debut reality competition shows (“Mix or Match” and “Sixteen”) which garnered the members a sizeable fan base, giving them a headstart and strong lead against other rookie groups. For so much hype though, their actual debut proved to be underwhelming, especially in the case of iKon, so they may not be as deserving of this award in a year filled with better rookie debuts.

2. Best Male/Female Artist

Fantasy: Jung Yonghwa(CNBLUE)/Ailee
It’s pretty interesting how Yonghwa’s solo album that was released earlier this year was so much better than his group’s recent comeback in terms of its musicality, catchiness and coherence as an album. The title track “One Fine Day” was a great song even though it was more of a ballad than anything else, and Yonghwa had a few great collaborations with artists such as JJ Lin and Verbal Jint in the other tracks, all of which contributed to my opinion of him as the best male solo artist of the year, even though he may not be recognised widely for his efforts. Ailee, on the other hand, is definitely a well-known and respected female soloist. She has been nominated for the same award at least two times now but she has always been shy of receiving it. Her releases are consistently amazing and she is always wowing fans with her performances on “Immortal Song” or other music shows. Someone give this woman an award already!


Reality: Kyuhyun(Super Junior)/IU
I cannot deny that Kyuhyun is a great soloist and his releases so far have been nothing short of amazing. However he always sings the same genre of music (ballads) and I believe that his songs are a little over-rated. In my opinion, he may not be as deserving as other more diverse soloists like Yonghwa but he will surely attain victory thanks to his enormous fanbase. Likewise, I cannot really complain about IU because it is true that she is an extremely talented soloist and a diverse singer at that. She also has collaborated with countless artists in the past year and has even impressed fans with her performance in “The Producers” as idol singer Cindy. With her recent release “23,” she showcased a honest side of herself, all of which has helped her add fans to her already large group of supporters. While she is certainly deserving of the award, she has also won the same award previously so perhaps it is time to give the other nominees some recognition.

3. Best Male/Female Group

Fantasy: BTS/AOA
It’s been a great year for both these groups who have achieved major breakthroughs in their career. For AOA in particular, after they changed their concept from being a female band to being an ultra sexy girl group in 2014 it has worked wonders for them. They have gained a lot more fans and recognition through their releases such as “Like a Cat”, “Miniskirt”, and their most recent comeback, “Heart Attack.” BTS has been going strong ever since their debut in 2013 and has been steadily building up their fanbase of ARMY, their fan name, with addictive releases such as “I Need You” and “Dope.” Their songs are of a consistently good standard and each member showcases impressive vocal and rapping skills accordingly. What is there not to like about this group? Both these groups deserve awards for the improvements and work they have done over this year.


Reality: BIGBANG & Girls’ Generation
If Best Male/Female Group was determined on which groups were the most active this year, it would make sense that these two groups would be awarded. In the case of BIGBANG, they’ve had an extremely busy year with their “Made” album, in which two title tracks were released every month starting from May. While I am definitely a fan of BIGBANG’s songs, there were some releases that were overhyped and they did well on the charts just because they were from BIGBANG. The same goes with Girls’ Generation. With a total of four songs released this year, they have certainly been active in the K-pop scene. These songs were definitely not the best ones this year though, despite being accompanied with colourful and cool music videos that boasted SM Entertainment’s high budget. These groups have their loyal and dedicated fans to thank for being able to maintain a lead on the polls so far.


Also on Kultscene: 8 K-pop Girl Power Anthems Pt. 6

4. Best Dance Performance Solo

Fantasy: Gain (Brown Eyed Girls) – “Paradise Lost”
Brown Eyed Girls have always been known for their sexual concepts and Gain’s solos have been no exception. Her solo release was not great to me in a musical sense, but her dance is another story. She really exposed and expressed herself through her extremely sexual dance, and to be able to do that on so many stages is really amazing. Furthermore, as compared to the other nominees on this list, her dance seems to be the most difficult and technical but she pulls it off with ease.


Reality: Amber ( f(x)) – “Shake That Brass”
When I saw that Amber was leading the polls for this award, I literally had to roll my eyes. Not because I have anything against her or f(x) but because I was less than impressed when I watched her live performance for this song. The dance (and song for that matter) seems just like Amber’s character, fun and energetic, but on a technical sense, she’s not actually doing much. Once again, her popularity as a member of f(x) and being part of SM Entertainment is going to smooth her path to victory, whether she actually deserves it or not.

5. Best Dance Performance Male/Female Group

Fantasy: GOT7(“If You Do”) & 4MINUTE (“Crazy”)
GOT7 has never impressed me ever since their debut up until the release of their latest song, “If You Do.” Not only is the sound an overall more mature one from the group, their dance is simply amazing. Even their CEO, Park Jinyoung (JYP) praised them for mastering it, and for good reason. Every step is so synchronized and technically difficult, but the boys were able to master it and show off their individual charms at the same time. For a group that is only about a year old, this is an amazing showing and is proof that they will definitely continue to impress. 4MINUTE’s choreography for “Crazy” also surprised me. Previously I had no knowledge about this group whatsoever but when I saw their dance practice video for “Crazy” I saw how powerful they are. They give off such a strong aura that I was immediately drawn to them, and for that they stand out among the other girl groups in contention for this award.


Reality: EXO (“Call Me Baby”) & Red Velvet (“Ice Cream Cake”)
Even with nine members EXO is always able to showcase a good performance, and their live versions of “Call Me Baby” were executed well. I also loved the way they cleverly made use of props or their clothes to give fans a fresh and new performance every time. Their choreography for this song however, was slightly lacking in terms of its technicality. They were not particularly synchronized nor were their moves very difficult, and this was not their best dance, especially when compared to previous hits like “Growl.” For Red Velvet, maybe it is because I have never been a big fan of cute concepts, I did not find their dance for “Ice Cream Cake” very impressive. They just seemed mediocre, and were similar to several other girl groups both past and present.

6. Best Male/Female Vocal Performance

Fantasy: Lim Chang Jung (“Love Again”)/ Davichi (“Cry Again”)
With his recent comeback “Love Again” Lim Chang Jung created a stir on the music charts where his song had a very strong showing. He even won first place on some music shows during his promotions, which I can say that it was very well-deserved. He sings with a lot of emotions in a style that vaguely resembles Korean trot-singing and his voice found its way into my heart even though I did not understand what he was singing about. Davichi does this all the time as well. From the albums and songs that they have previously released I became quite a huge fan and was more than excited when they came back with “Davichi Hug” this year. All the songs on their album were amazing but none stood out more than their title track “Cry Again.” The choruses and the bridges were so touching and their perfect harmonies really shined. It’s a pity that they did not get more recognition during their promotion period but they really deserve it during these awards.


Reality: Kyuhyun (“At Gwanghwamun”)/ Taeyeon (“I”)
Okay I’m not going to lie, I would be happy if Kyuhyun won for “At Gwanghwamun” because that song is amazing. When it first came out I replayed it so many times and fell in love with it so much so that I actually went to visit Gwanghwamun when I went to Korea because of it. However, he is already highly recognised and constantly awarded either as a soloist or with his group, so I still hope that other vocalists (aka Lim Chang Jung) would get recognised during MAMA instead. I have the opposite sentiment for Taeyeon, unfortunately. I admit that her voice is one of the best in K-pop and that Girls’ Generation would definitely not be as good without her. However, her solo debut was underwhelming in that it sounded so similar to say, a Taylor Swift song and it failed to show off her individuality. Furthermore, she did not really showcase her best vocal ability through this release and is probably more undeserving of this award than the other female vocalists being nominated in this category.

7. Best Rap Performance

Fantasy: Mad Clown – “Fire”
Mad Clown is hands down one of my favourite rappers. His lyrics are not just witty and relatable, his delivery is also very smooth and confident. In particular this track, he matched perfectly with the singer featuring on his track, Jinsil, to create an overall fantastic and addictive song, but it is evident that he is carrying most of the track. His emotions are spot on as well, and he doesn’t come off as full of rage but rather he shows a more passive type of anger. He needs more international exposure and recognition so I really hope that he will be able to get this award.


Reality: Gary (from Leessang) – “Get Some Air”
Once again, I wouldn’t be very upset if Gary ends up winning this award after all. I got to know him after watching him on popular variety show “Running Man” and it is no wonder that he has such a large fan base because the show is popular not just in Korea but in a lot of countries around the world. The track is a pretty good one as well, with a great collaboration between the featured singer (Miwoo) and Gary, but his rap is just lacking as compared to Mad Clown. He also portrays his sad emotions well but his flow and delivery isn’t as smooth or as well done as Mad Clown’s, so on a technical level he may not be as deserving of this award. He did put in a lot of effort for this solo release however and I am looking forward to his future work.


Also on Kultscene: f(x)’s “4 Walls” Album Review

8. Best Band Performance

Fantasy: Hyukoh – “Comes And Goes”
This is probably the category that I feel the most for because Hyukoh is a real gem that I discovered recently due to their appearance on another popular variety show, “Infinite Challenge.” It’s so satisfying to watch them receive so much attention nowadays from Korean and international fans alike because their music is just that good. Indie bands and music have never been my thing, but Hyukoh is so unique and fresh that I can’t help falling in love with them. Their humble attitude is another plus point, especially since they are already so skilled. “Comes And Goes” has such a chill vibe to it and it makes me feel so comfortable that I want to listen to it over and over again. By far, they are definitely the best band among the other bands nominated in this category.

Reality: CNBLUE – “Cinderella”
In contrast, CNBLUE might well be the worst band listed in this category. I say this as a fan of the band, but “Cinderella” is definitely not their best work. In fact, as compared to “Can’t Stop”, which they won Best Band for in MAMA 2014, “Cinderella” is unfortunately a huge decrease in standards. Where “Can’t Stop” was catchy and addictive, “Cinderella” was rather annoying and I couldn’t even bring myself to replay it after the first time. In a year where other bands such as Hyukoh and FTISLAND showed off more of their colour and talent, CNBLUE really shouldn’t get to win this award.

9. Best Collaboration & Unit

Fantasy: VIXX LR– “Beautiful Liar”
I’ve always been fascinated by VIXX as a group, although their concepts sometimes scare me, their songs are always consistently good. It was this expectation that I had from them that caused me to check out their new subunit. It did not disappoint and this great release was a pleasant surprise for me. Ravi’s raps in the song were amazing and really enhanced the track, while Leo did his part and sang beautifully. Together they were a strong pair and it is a pity that this song seemed to go under the radar amongst other popular releases when it is really deserving of recognition. For a debut, it is definitely a great release and I can’t wait for their comeback already.

Reality: Zion T & Crush – “Just”
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that this collaboration was leading the polls because “Just” gained a lot of attention when it was first released at the start of the year. It’s not the first time that these two artists have worked together, and it really shows in the way they are able to complement each other in singing and rapping. While it is a nice release, it doesn’t work on an emotional way like “Beautiful Liar” did for me, so I do think that VIXX LR would be more deserving of this award.

10. Best Music Video

Fantasy: INFINITE – “Bad”
Apart from loving the song, I also enjoyed watching the music video and thought that it was very cool. The way the set was used in different ways for the members intrigued me and there were even some parts that were very creepy, especially when the mirrors were used. Although the other version of the music video wasn’t nominated for this award, I also enjoyed watching the 360 VR version of it because viewers got to play around with the video while watching it to see the video from different perspectives. It was a very cool and fresh idea which made me excited for the future of K-pop music videos.

Reality: BIGBANG – “Bae Bae”
I can only use two words to describe this video: colourful and crazy. It did fit the song very well but it was extremely messy and random with abrupt scene changes and totally different vibes for each part of the song. All it does, in essence, is show off how rich YG Entertainment is, but as a music video I did not enjoy it at all. At least in INFINITE’s video there was an over-arching theme that kept the video coherent and relevant to the song, in “Bae Bae.”..not so much.

All in all, it can be concluded that MAMA awards is essentially a popularity contest, and while the fan polls are not always the determining factors for who eventually wins the awards, they are pretty good indicators. I’m excited to see how it turns out and I’ll always be rooting for the underdogs, even though they may not be favoured to win.

Are you excited for the MAMA awards? What are your predictions? Share your throughts 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.

KCON 2015 NY’s M! Countdown Concert Recap

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

This year’s KCON might have been the best one to date for American K-pop fans as they learned that not only would the annual event in Los Angeles be expanding into a three day experience and moving into the legendary Staples Center, but that it would also become bi-coastal. For the first time in its four year history, East Coast K-pop fans could finally rejoice over the fact that they would not have to fly out over to California just to see their favorite acts since the con would be bringing their M! Countdown concerts to the just-as-legendary Prudential Center in NY’s metropolitan area. This didn’t change the fact that some die-hard fans still attended both events, though.

Being the forerunner to anything carries a lot of weight and responsibility to set the standard for the following years, which is why KCON NY saw less acts than its LA counterpart on August 8th. It took four years for KCON LA to grow to where it is, so the hope is that the East Coast con will also continually grow. Planning for KCON NY could have been better as attendees saw repeats in acts from the previous years as well, though none of that really mattered once the crowd of 17,000 KCON-goers started trickling in through the metaphorical gates. With this particular event, KCON proved that groups like Teen Top still got it, while confirming the popularity of relatively newer groups such as VIXX. And like the fanboy turnout at KCON LA, KCON NY too observed a very noticeable testosterone-heavy presence for the alluring and sexy Girls’ Generation and AOA.


 Also on Kultscene: Inside KCON NY 2015

But before we get to the main attraction, we have to give a warm mention to the other performers of the night. Prior to the concert’s official commencement, attendees were treated to a performance from the winners of the K-Pop World Festival in New York, The Class. Based in NY’s own Washington Heights, the group danced to VIXX’s “Hyde,” giving the original pioneers a run for their money later that evening. Popular Youtuber Jun Sung Ahn, who is better known by his social media handle JuNCurryAhn and who also attended KCON LA the week before, followed up with a morose cover of BIGBANG’s “Loser” on his trademark violin. It’s not really a song to dance to, yet that did not stop some from getting up from their seats to groove along to the tune.

INTRO NY (5)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

After much teasing and prolonging on the host’s part, Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany finally made her grand entrance via stage lift to introduce KCON. Considering how she was the only native English speaker out of the four groups due to perform, it was really no surprise the organizers would select her to act as MC. Regardless, her appearance and the positive reception it elicited from the crowd indicated that the show was finally on the road.

VIXX – The Kickoff or the Grand Finale?

Going in order of seniority and following a boy-girl-boy-girl pattern, VIXX was the obvious choice as the opening act. Based on the way they put on a performance, however, they might as well have been the closer. The night started off with the boys lined up in a row, standing chicly until the spotlight shone on each individual member. With all eyes on them, they took turns to break out in powerful dance as the screens overheard flashed their names. This transitioned fabulously into their song, “Error,” which requires the same sobriety that was seen in their introduction. “Error” really got the crowd riled up, and this enthusiasm was equally seen throughout their next two performances for “On and On” and “Eternity.”

VIXX NY (4)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

With their darker songs out of the way, this left room for some of their more lighthearted songs, so what else but the loveable “G.R.8.U” and their latest release “Love Equation?” Member Leo lived up to his title as main vocalist in the former song time and time again as he belted those high notes, filling up the whole of the indoor venue, and the group took no breaks as they delved right into the latter song. Though the single was released earlier this year and went by largely unnoticed, the group was able to change that with their aegyo (cute display of affection) that made all the fangirls in the building swoon. The high-spirited nature of the song allowed the members to wing their performance, which inevitably meant running around on stage (like the goofballs that they are) and getting closer to the audiences. At the climax of the song, the center was nothing but a rainstorm of streamers and screams, which just goes to show that this is one song that is better live. Whoever decided on ending their set list with “Love Equation” definitely deserves a golden medal.

VIXX NY (9)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

AOA as The Chaser

Immediately after VIXX had exited the stage, the members of AOA strutted confidently to own the stage for the next half hour. The anthem of the summer, “Heart Attack,” heralded in the group’s first performance in the States (okay, so technically the first performance was at KCON 2015 LA but close enough…), where the girls delivered harmless girly fun. And just like their stage at KCON LA, they also revealed their provocative side in hits like “Like a Cat” and “Confused.” As expected, the fan boys chose these moments to declare their undying love for the members and were very on point with the fan chants.

AOA NY (1 (2)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

They continued their sensual concepts with other favorites, such as the booty-shaking “Short Hair” and the sultry “Miniskirt.” While AOA debuted the same year as VIXX, the girls stood out more as the supporting act due to a lack of variety in their songs. No fancy celebratory streamers here. Nevertheless, the girls earns props for making sensual look so natural, especially with their closing song “Miniskirt,” in which sub-vocalist Hyejeong got down low – and I mean real low – on the stage floor. With the flawless execution of each song that left audiences in an uproar that night, AOA is certainly the next hot girl group to watch out for. Girls’ Generation, y’all better watch yo backs.

AOA NY (1 (9)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Teen Top is the Dark Horse of Live K-Pop

When you are getting goose bumps all over your body during a concert, you know it’s good. And when it’s during a slow song, you know that’s even better. The “M! Countdown” concert in NY has been an exciting and hot-blooded one thus far, but Teen Top was able to extinguish those flames with the mellow performance for “5 Seasons,” straight off of their most recent album. With such as easy-going song, the members kicked it back on the stage’s steps and swayed their bodies in time to the guitar strums of the instrumentals. It would only make sense that the subsequent performance would be for another track fresh off of their latest album, which is exactly what they did with “Ah-ah.”

TEENTOP NY (2)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

After their member introduction, where lead rapper L.Joe showed off his limited English from his five years living in the States, the group threw it back to their Brave Brothers collaboration days with “To You” and “Miss Right.” Other than the upbeat melodies, the beauty behind Teen Top’s songs that always make for a captivating live performance lies in their intricate choreography. Despite the fancy footwork that the group is known for, the moves for the upper half of the body are rather straightforward, which is why many fans in the audience were able to follow along easily in their seats. Indeed, “Miss Right” had the fans shaking their hands in the air, engaging hundreds of attendees with the idols in this one simple gesture.

The group concluded with “Rocking,” which could not have been a wiser choice, seeing as how this was the song that started their dance image and is the closest thing they have to a club banger. The free step may look impressive done behind the computer screen, but done live? That’s next level. The mix of hard synths, adrenaline, and their go for broke attitude had everyone singing along to the addictive “jangnan anieyo” (”it’s not a joke”) hook and hollering for more. It also helped that L.Joe is an insane mood-maker, what with his repeated ad-libs. Teen Top may not belong to any big name entertainment company or have the largest fanbase, but they sure know what it means to have a good time. Maybe it’s time to book them again for KCON 2016 for the fourth consecutive year.

TEENTOP NY (28)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America


Also on Kultscene: Breaking Down KCON ’15 LA’s Red Carpet Looks

When in New York, Sing a Song About It

While Girls’ Generation were preparing for their performances, and in order to hype up the girls who were headlining the concert, the special stages that have always been critical to the “M! Countdown” concerts were scheduled right after Teen Top. Unfortunately, SONEs (Girls’ Generation’s official fandom) would have to wait just a little bit longer before they get to see their eight angels. Because the annual event was also held in New York this year (to be precise, it took place in New Jersey but how many songs about the Garden State can you list off of the top of your head?), AOA’s Yuna, Hyejeong, and ChoA did the East Coast proud by bringing a strong yet abbreviated rendition of Beyonce’s and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” to the table.

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Teen Top’s Niel and Chunji collaborated on a duet as well, but since English is not exactly their forte, they opted for the safe, slow-tempo “When I First Kissed You” by Extreme. The emotional song left audiences in as much of a hush it was ever going to be that evening.

22 KCON 2015 NY [CONCERT SPECIAL STAGE]

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Girls’ Generation Shuts Down the Show

They’re the poster child of girl groups, at least in our generation. And in a sea of pink that illuminated the arena here and there, it’s clear who many were here for. With eight years of experience under their belt, it’s really no wonder that Girls’ Generation was saved for last. When the group finally emerged in their (American) patriotic sequined colors, the crowd went wild, and when they opened with “Catch Me If You Can,” the song that marked their comeback as eight members, the crowd went berserk. In a similar vein of recent songs, they followed up with “Check,” the smooth RnB number that demonstrated a more mature side of the girls. They’ve come a long way since their flight attendants and jegi-kicking (shuttlecock-kicking) days, but if their next song, “Genie,” is any indication of anything, it’s that they also have not forgotten their roots. And of course, what is Girls’ Generation without “Gee,” the hit that practically created them? It’s a requisite in every Girls’ Generation set list and if it were not for the fact that the girls had recently comeback with a new single, it would’ve been the cincher like it was in the previous year to an amazing KCON.

Girls generation (18)

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

But they did comeback with “Party” last month, so naturally it was the closer of the night. They were all smiles as they had the honor of concluding the first ever KCON NY on a lively note. Concert-goers expected the burst of yellow streamers that permeated through the air, yet we were still caught off guard when it happened after leader Taeyeon hit the intense notes during bridge. And we all still cheered like mad.

23 KCON 2015 NY [CONCERT GIRLS GENERATION]

Courtesy of CJ E&M America

Just like that, KCON 15 NY came to an end. As the first installment on the East Coast, there were some things this “M! Countdown” concert did right that should continue in the ones to come, such as the proportionate distribution of set times in spite of seniority and the high security. But then there are other things the concert could have improved upon, including more opportunities for a solo/sub-unit stage and more line-ups. With room to grow, fans can only anticipate for an even bigger and better KCON 16 NY.

Check out more pictures from the night:

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What’s your favorite KCON artist? Let us know 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.

Breaking Down KCON ’15 LA’s Red Carpet Looks

RED CARPET KCON LOOKS
Red Carpet fashion is always fun, but when it comes to a K-pop red carpet, we never know what we are going to expect. With no assigned dress code on KCON’s red carpet, the interpretation of fashion was open to the imagination of the artists’ stylists. Some opted for classic suits, while some looks seemed to come out of fashion editorials and others simply wore their performance outfits for that night of the “M! Countdown” concert. Here is this year’s break down of KCON ‘15 LA Red Carpet looks.

The Classic Suits

The easiest look for men on a red carpet is to go with a classic suit, but there are always some things you can add to make you stand out. Roy Kim kept it simple with a navy suit and paired it with a grey mandarin collar shirt and white sneakers. It was a very safe choice that transitioned perfectly onto his performance in the concert.

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

Son Ho-Jun, for his part, opted for a classic dark navy suit. The jacket had black detailing under the lapel that offered a modern take on the classic look. He paired it with a white shirt that featured a black collar and kept it crisp with a white skinny tie. The actor looked very happy and confident with his outfit, and made all the fans of “Reply 1994” scream and shout for him.

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene


Also on KultScene: KCON 2015 LA’s M! Countdown Concerts Recap

Eric Nam’s bright and contagious personality really shone through his clothes. He wore a blazer and dress pants, but sported them with a casual shirt and sneakers, making him look fresh and modern but still appropriate for a red carpet. Eric is known for this kind of look, so this was no surprise for his adoring fans. Eric looked sharp and very handsome and created a great atmosphere on the red carpet that made everyone in the audience have fun and enjoy his three minutes in the spotlight.

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

In SHINHWA’s case, the group’s stylist made bolder choices. From Eric’s red jacket, and pairing black trousers with blue blazers on Jun Jin, the choices were daring but very fun. The member’s perfectly tailored suits looked incredible on them and made all of the Shinhwa Chanjos (SHINHWA’s fans) go crazy after their long wait to see this legendary group.

When Super Junior came out, everybody in the audience went nuts! The boys looked incredibly handsome and chic in their suits. The black suits fit well on each member, and everyone added their touch of their own personality to it. Heechul added his trademark style with a face mask that read SUPER JUNIOR” and paired it with amazing shoes that featured gold metal accents. Eunhyuk and Kyuhyun were the only ones that sported red bowties that made them stand out from the other members. Moreover, Ryeowook was the only one who wore a different jacket with a white trim on the lapel, but it still managed to look cohesive with the rest of the group’s styling. Super Junior was definitely one of the best dressed at KCON’s red carpet.

We all already know that Daniel Henney is a gorgeous man. But with the look he sported on the red carpet, he made everybody in the audience fall in love with him even more. The cream suit paired with a white shirt and black patent leather loafers was a risky choice, but it turned out to be a home run for Henney. He managed to look elegant and casual at the same time by opting out of a classic bow tie or wearing a tie. The look was minimal and clean, and it clearly made a fashion statement in the red carpet.

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

Photo Alejandro Abarca for KultScene

There’s really not that much to say about Kim Soo Hyun; he is simply perfect! For his very short appearance in the red carpet, his stylist dressed him in a beautiful classic three piece black suit. He looked like a prince out of a fairy tale. His hair was pulled up, letting us see his gorgeous eyebrows and facial structure. Plus, the oversized black bow tie added a little fun to his look.

True To Their Concepts

In comparison to the men who were generally decked out in suits,girl groups usually dressed in costumes or their current concept of the album that they were promoting. SISTAR sparkled in their red carpet outfits. Hyorin, Bora, and Soyou opted for sequin daisy dukes in silver, gold, and emerald green, while Dasom sported a sequined long sleeve crop top, making the girl group look cohesive and performance ready. SISTAR wore these outfits to the concert and, literally and metaphorically, shined on stage.

Following their recent concept for their comeback “Heart Attack”, AOA sported their cheerleading outfits. The orange V-neck crop top with white and black trim was balanced perfectly with the circle wrap skort with orange piping. The outfits flattered each member and the color combination (even if it was a very Halloween palette — made the girls stand out.

The ladies of Red Velvet went a more casual and normcore route in their styling. They all wore tennis skirts in different colors, paired it with school athletic tees. Seulgi and Wendy wore baseball caps that made them look really cool. The pastel color palette looked great on the members and made them look very relatable and down to earth. They managed to look fun and young while still following their “Ice Cream Cake” concept.

The Fashionistas and Avant-Gardists

BLOCK B’s stylist really had fun with each member. Everyone was dressed in a different style that still showed each boys’ personality and fashion sense. Jaehyo wore one of the most coveted fashion items for this season, a Moschino by Jeremy Scott soda sweater. Zico wore a Thrasher jacket full of patches, tank top, and sweatpants, making him effortlessly cool. P.O. looked amazing in his suit and B-Bomb rocked the culottes in a very cool way.

Furthermore, GOT7 graced the red carpet with looks especially created for them by designer Ko Tae Young, who held a mini fashion show with the group during the convention. Bam Bam wore an amazing coordinated bomber jacket and shorts that were styled over ripped jeans a longline T-shirt and amazing Chelsea boots. JB looked very handsome with his hair up, oversized sunglasses, and patched military jacket. Mark stood out in a sleeveless jacket, showing off his arms, and paired with white culottes. While the rest of the members were styled in similar fashion, the group looked cohesive and ready for a fashion editorial.


Also on KultScene: Inside KCON LA 2015 [PHOTOS]

MONSTA X is another case like Block B. Each member had a different styling that showed their personalities really well. They had a more urban and streetwear inspiration for their styling, which made them look edgy and cool. The best look was Hyungwon’s long parka with the amazing Raf Simons for ADIDAS sneakers. Wonho and Minhyuk almost looked like twins, but still managed to bring out their personalities through their styling; Minhyuk looked cute, while Wonho looked sexy. Jooheon looked handsome with his red hair and a pink snapback. Shownu, Kihyun, and I.M.’s styling was a little bit more simple than the rest of the members, but still made them stand out and look cool.

Zion T. & Crush were two of the coolest men to grace the red carpet. And even if Crush’s look was a little bit more casual, the one who stole the show was Zion T. We all are accustomed to the amazing avant-garde looks and silhouettes he presents with his daring fashion choices. He looked simple yet fashion forward with his wide legged black culottes, a simple black T-shirt layered with a printed dress shirt (which had the same print as Crush’s dress shirt), an oversized blazer, Vans sneakers.


Which artist was your favorite in KCON’s ’15 LA Red Carpet? 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.

PRIMARY’s ‘Don’t Be Shy’ Music Video & Song Review

Primary AOA ChoA Iron Don't Be Shy Read more

Fantasy Vs. Reality Performances To See At KCON NY 2015

VIXX KCON NY Read more

Fantasy Vs. Reality Performances To See At KCON 2015

소녀시대 (7)

Just about every K-pop fan living in the United States has been waiting anxiously to find out who will be heading to KCON 2015, held this year for the first time on both sides of the continental U.S. Now that we know a few more acts, here’s KultScene’s second annual fantasy versus reality playlist for KCON.
The convention heads to Los Angeles’ Staples Center on July 31-August 2 and Newark’s Prudential Stadium on August 8. KCON Los Angeles will feature Super Junior, Shinhwa, SISTAR, Got7, Roy Kim, Block B, and AOA, while KCON NY, held in New Jersey, is in its inaugural year and will star Girls’ Generation and VIXX.

1. Super Junior
Fantasy: “Can You Feel It?” is a song by Super Junior D & E (Donghae and Eunhyuk,) which is technically just a subunit of the group, but it’s honestly one of the most fun songs from 2015 and it wouldn’t be difficult for the group to sing together. A lot of fans may not know the dance, but if Super Junior wants to get the place moving, a quick lesson will get everyone at the Staples Center standing up and flailing their hands all over the place. We wouldn’t be adverse to oldies like “Miracle” either.


Reality: “Mamacita” is super Junior’s latest title song, so unless the group throws a curve ball and announces a comeback before they come stateside, it’s a safe bet to say that everybody at KCON LA will be shouting “HEY! Mamacita” by the end of the night.
Also Expect: “Sorry Sorry” and “This Is Love”


2. Shinhwa
Fantasy: “Eusha! Eusha!” is old fashioned, but any old school fan of Shinhwa will want the group to play some of their iconic songs. We’d also kill for “Wild Eyes,” or a newer song that we at KultScene personally love, “On The Road.”


Reality: “Sniper” is Shinhwa’s most recent song and is absolutely amazing, so we won’t mind that they’ll perform it. They may perform “T.O.P,” one of Shinhwa’s most popular songs ever, but due to the age of many of the fans, the group may pick to some of the newer, arguably safer, sexy songs.
Also Expect: “Venus” and “This Love”


Also on KultScene: Fantasy Vs. Reality: Performances at KCON 2014

3. Roy Kim
Fantasy: A new English song. Yes, it may be asking too much, but Roy Kim is talented and spends part of the year in the United States at Georgetown. So it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to debut a brand new song at KCON, like the ones that helped Roy Kim achieve success as a singer.


Reality: “Home,” there’s no question about it. Roy Kim will definitely sing this beautiful song about the feelings of being home. Hopefully he’ll bring the dog from the music video.
Also Expect: “Love Love Love” and “Spring Spring Spring”


4. SISTAR
Fantasy: While it was popular in 2014, it’s unlikely that SISTAR will perform “I Swear,” since “Touch My Body” was a much more popular song. If they do, it will be a nice chance to hear them focusing on their vocals more than some of their more sultry dance tracks.


Reality: We’ll likely see a performance of SISTAR’s yet-to-be-released summer track. The girl group is making a comeback in June.
Also Expect: “Alone” and “Touch My Body”


5. AOA
Fantasy: It would be absolutely fantastic if AOA performed “Get Out.” The girl group used to perform as a band, and have done so occasionally, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see a band performance from them. We’d also love to see “Confused” performed.

Reality: Since hitting success, AOA has a lot of successful songs (and a new song coming out so we’ll see that,) but nothing is as defining for the group as “Like A Cat,” their sexy, dark song. Jimin may also perform a solo song.
Also Expect: “Short Hair” and “Miniskirt”


Also on KultScene: KCON 2014 Day 1: M! Countdown 2 Nights In L.A.

6. VIXX
Fantasy: Let’s see VIXX perform “Love Equation.” It’s a remake of R.ef’s song from the 1990’s, but this 2015 release went under the radar and is too cute to be ignored. “G.R.8.U” would also be a nice way to lighten up the stage from some of VIXX’s darker songs.


Reality:Whatever VIXX performs will be good and be filled with an interesting concept.The group will definitely perform “Error,” one of their most dynamic songs to date.
Also Expect: “Eternity” and “Voodoo Doll”

7. Block B
Fantasy: “Conduct For Zero” is another song by a subgroup that we love. Block B’s Bastarz subgroup is just three members, but we’d be fine if Block B’s other members left the stage to see the trio perform this dynamic song. And if they refuse to perform a song by a subgroup, Block B should attempt to silence the Staples Center by performing their vocally impressive song, “Be The Light.”

And can Zico please perform at least one solo song?


Reality: “Her” is a slightly psychotic, fun to dance to song and the audience at KCON LA had better join in on clapping along with Block B’s song.
Also Expect: “Jackpot” and “Very Good.”


8. Got7
Fantasy: Got7 is still a new group and a lot of their lesser known songs deserve some love. If the seven member group performs “I Like You” or “Gimme,” the audience at KCON may be surprised, but we’ll be pleased.


Reality: There’s no doubt that Got7 will perform “Stop Stop It.” The group is widely popular among American fans, so expect many people to be singing along.
Also Expect: “Girls Girls Girls” and “A”

9. Girls’ Generation
Fantasy: “I Got A Boy,” because they didn’t perform it at KCON LA last year and we still can’t get over that.


Reality: Their brand new song that we’re eagerly waiting for, and perhaps a few new songs off of their new album. And “Gee.” Because they wouldn’t be Girls’ Generation if not for “Gee”
Also Expect: “Catch Me If You Can” and “Mr. Mr.”


What songs do you want to see performed at either KCON this summer? 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. Read more

Hello Venus and Sexism in K-Pop

The release of Sticky Sticky has completely transformed what kind of a group Hello Venus is. This is not a new type of change either; it is one which we have seen more and more in the past two years. The sexy concept has become a staple of the K-Pop industry to the point where if a girl group is not doing so well, they immediately revert to it. I think this comes from Sistar‘s success with Alone, which may not seem too sexy right now but it was at the time. After Alone, Sistar gradually became one of the most popular girl groups in Korea. So naturally other girl groups would follow but at what price?

Hello Venus had been one of the more popular girl groups who debuted in the busy year of 2012. Their quirky, cute sound stood out in a crowd of groups who offered nothing new to being cute. What Are You Doing Today? was one of the songs of 2012 and Would You Like Some Tea? got to number six on the Gaon music chart. These songs were also interesting enough to foreshadow Hello Venus becoming big. I imagined them growing gradually and maturing in a similar way to Girls’ Generation who had started slowly and became megastars, with the multi-talented Lime becoming their star of Hello Venus. This was not to be though, as a big change occurred that caused Hello Venus to change.

Pledis decided to pull out of the deal with Fantagio to co-produce the group and took the Pledis members, Yoo Ara and Yoonjo, with them. Fantagio kept the other four members and the Hello Venus name, so added two more members and decided to continue with their promotions. It also gave Fantagio a chance to alter Hello Venus’ style quickly in order to pander to current trends. As I said, they went the sexy route and went for it in a big way.

Also on KultScene: Sexualization In K-Pop: The Bare Truth

As this trend grows, it becomes more of a problem. There was a time when sexy concepts were used to differentiate from the regular and shock an audience. Even at this time it is a tenuous subject as there is always a problem of objectification and fetishization of the body. As sexy songs continue to sell, women’s bodies will continually be used as objects to help these sales. This activity reinforces a sexist agenda in society and punishes women who do not conform. It even punishes those who act on sexuality, even though they are taught this is what woman should be like. Especially in a conservative country such as South Korea, girls cannot be seen to be sexually active even if being sexy is the hot topic of the time.

If this type of performance is allowed to become normal, the sexism of the K-Pop industry will never stop. Girl groups will forever have to strip in order to succeed. Female idols will forever be seen as sex objects to sell records. Their bodies will forever be fetishized into whatever their company decides. There is already criticism of these things in the K-Pop industry to some degree, and girl groups becoming sexier to sell their music will just make the criticism even worse.

The reason I’m singling out Hello Venus for now is because they are the most recent group to go this way, and also because of the increased effort they are putting into grabbing attention with their “sexiness.” Hot off the viral success of a fan cam of EXID’s Hani, Fantagio obviously saw an opportunity to drum up some publicity for Hello Venus with their own viral hit. The recent release of a dance practice video to Jason Derulo’s song Wiggle Wiggle, in which the Hello Venus girls danced along to the song, was their attempt at creating a sensation. I am not condemning the girls themselves here but those who led them to this. I fully believe people can do whatever they want with their own bodies but this video does not show us a group of girls who are just dancing for fun. This is blatant pandering to a male audience to stare at young girls gyrating their bodies, a cheap way of drumming up attention by essentially exploiting these girls.

This is not specific to Hello Venus though. We have seen recently Girls’ Day move from their cute comedic songs like Twinkle Twinkle to sexy songs like SomethingExpectation and Female President. This change also brought Girls’ Day new success to the point where they are winning weekly music shows. AOA had a similar change of fortune when they adopted the sexy concept. Miniskirt boosted their sales in a big way and only grew with subsequent singles Short Hair and Like A Cat. It is clearly a trend which is in full flow but all trends eventually die, whether it’s a few weeks or a few years. So do we wait and let it pass over?

Also on KultScene: 5 Reasons To Watch ‘Korea’s Next Top Model’

I think we should not. Another trend will take its place immediately after and the issue will be forgotten. Allowing this to pass over means the patriarchal reign on K-Pop will always remain whether through sexy concepts or something else. I don’t think sexy performances should be completely eradicated but I think the decision making has to be changed to allow female idols to speak up if they do not agree. At this moment in time female idols are not at an equal level to their male counterparts. We as fans must speak up against this; we must not allow this to continue. It’s time for there to be a level playing field for genders in K-Pop.

What do you think about Hello Venus’ comeback and of the sexy concept? 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.