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K-pop Unmuted: March 2019 roundup

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

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

Let us know what your favourite K-pop track of March 2019 is in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Also on KultScene: THE STORY OF LOONA: YYXY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, what is so special about ketchup?

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

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


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

What are some of your favorite Subin songs? Let us know in the comments below! Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Weekly K-pop Faves: Feb. 20-26

The last full week of February saw a lot of new releases from K-pop’s female acts, some of which caught the attention of KultScene’s team. Continue reading to hear which new songs by Lovelyz, TWICE, and Dal Shabet’s Subin won us over.

”Knock Knock” by TWICE (Released Feb. 20)

I’m not a TWICE stan but I can’t deny that their title releases have always been addictive and catchy, albeit sometimes a little annoying. When they made their comeback recently I was expecting much of the same, but “Knock Knock” proved to be a surprise. Yes, it has a concept and melody that we’ve come to recognise as TWICE. But this was the first time I genuinely liked every part of the song (especially the bridge!) and thought it suited the group very well. The accompanying choreography is definitely one of my favourites so far and this no-longer-rookie group definitely feels more comfortable now. Their comeback has felt a little undermined in light of BTS’s immense success but the song has still done remarkably well and I hope TWICE only goes up from here!


–Anna

Also on KultScene: Is K.A.R.D the future of K-pop?

”Circle’s Dream” by Subin (Released Feb. 23)

It seems like everyone I’ve spoken to about Subin’s “Circle’s Dream” either compares her to Lorde, Lim Kim, or both. The low-key instrumentals–including what sounds like a whimsically plucked ukulele– act as the backdrop of the Dal Shabet member’s vocals, which are somehow simultaneously sonorous and mellow. Even as playful as Subin sounds rolling her ‘r’s and singing sweepings “woos,” the song is actually about being hurt by love. The single’s style–and Subin’s solo work in general– is such a fresh approach to a topic that K-pop’s covered before, it’s really a pity that her solo efforts are getting essentially ignored. Dal Shabet had one of the best K-pop songs of 2016, and “Circle’s Dream” highlighted the fact that it’s not just by accident: Subin is an artist not to be overlooked.


–Tamar

”WoW!” by Lovelyz (Released Feb. 26)

Lovelyz are the best girl group of the new generation. Sadly rethreads of older groups are hogging the limelight so no one really knows this. “Destiny” was one of the most complete songs of 2016 and every single by Lovelyz since their debut has been good or great. “WoW!” is their biggest departure to date although nothing is lost in the transition. Lovelyz retain the synthpop style that dramatizes their potentially overbearing cuteness. On “WoW!,” produced by Lovelyz regular Onepiece, they add a level of quirk. The structure is odd, opening with a rhythmic talk-sing of the title with funky guitars. It then moves onto handclaps and eventually the surprising, but oh so satisfying, chorus. As usual Jiae is the secret weapon of Lovelyz. She perfectly captures the saccharine cuteness while still being totally weird. Her babyish, high-pitched “jyae ippeo” adds another whole level to the song, keeping it constantly exciting as opposed to maybe just a bit different. Lovelyz put effort into their music that goes unnoticed but revives the K-pop cutesy girl group sound every time.

–Joe

What was your favorite song of the week? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The Best K-Pop Girls of June

June Gals
The last week in June was kind to us girl group lovers. A string of releases from old and new groups brought K-pop back to life after a slow month. They also brought with them a number of familiar sounds with two groups showing influences from recent times, and Brave Brothers doing what he does best with his favourite girls. The rookies also show us that if a company has a member in I.O.I or participated in “Produce 101” then expect them to debut very soon.

“This Place” by Subin

First is probably the most well-known of this group yet has had the least promotion for her music. Dal Shabet’s vocal goddess Subin released her first mini album “This Place” alongside a digital single of the same title. She previously dropped her debut single, the underrated “Flower,” in May of this year to little fanfare as well. Whatever Happy Face’s strategy is, it does not involve actually promoting Subin. Nevertheless, they are fitting her with music that sounds like it’s coming from every inch of her body.

The lyrics certainly do, anyway. They have an ephemeral beauty to them just like her voice, which tails off as she breathes out each syllable. “Swept away to the wind, The leaves that walk, Something sweeps away my spirit,” she slowly lulls us into the song. Subin croons alongside a crisp piano, reminiscent of Joe Hisaishi’s work on the films of Studio Ghibli. Each note is pronounced and reverberates beside Subin’s voice. It hits the ballad sweet spot of being simple but not boring, emotional but not maudlin.


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“High Heels” by Brave Girls

Brave Girls’ new incarnation is proving to better than the original. They’ve been together for five years now and still have little to show for it. Under the tutelage of Brave Brothers though, we can count on them for quality pop tracks. “Deepened” from earlier in the year is one of the songs of the year and they stay on form with “High Heels.”

It’s a classic of his, using an object as a title and as a means of expressing a young girl’s love. Also present are the catchy chants and simple structure. Doubling down on the Brave Brothers formula of total functionality, “High Heels” has a two choruses. The first is almost identical to the verse but with bigger vocals (which mark it as a chorus alongside the mention of the title) and some guitar. Layered vocals bring this first chorus to a strong climax before the second one starts immediately with the chant of “high, high, high heel.” A mix of horns add the last bit of flair. It’s such an effective way of making a song constantly exciting. This is all added to by having the rap come straight after the first double chorus as well. Hyeran is fast becoming one of my favourite idol rappers. Her delivery is strong and confident, and has an odd nasally quality I really like.

 

“We” by Pledis Girlz

Pledis Entertainment’s girl groups are probably my favourite of the companies outside of the top two (SM and JYP, I don’t know a YG), given their groups are consistently innovative in sound and style. That‘s probably why their latest group, the ingeniously named Pledis Girlz, have got off to a disappointing start.

Their debut (if it even is a full debut given their name) “We” is another indicator of the GFriend reign. From the opening pianos, strings, and chimes, it’s clear the direction they were going in. This brand of schoolgirl pop is GFriend’s impact on the K-pop industry. None of these songs have been particularly bad, each one hits the mark in terms of the formula. It’s getting tired though, and with little to show in ways of upgrading, Pledis Girlz look like imitators. However, two things are quite satisfying. When the beat kicks and the strings really start to move, that feeling of joy pop music gives me is brought straight back. It sounds like the opening to a delightfully wholesome kids TV show. Also, the rap is something GFriend lack, and here it’s especially good thanks to the playful delivery and the music taking a back seat.


Also on KultScene: Battle of the “Why:” Wanna.B vs Taeyeonc

“Wonderland” by Gugudan

A problem for Pledis Girlz might be their rushed nature thanks to the desperation of companies trying to debut girls from Produce 101. Gugudan are another one of these, coming from Jellyfish Entertainment with Sejong and Mina being fully fledged members of I.O.I.

Gugudan take a similarly safe route as Pledis Girlz, but with a little bit more kick. “Wonderland’s” glossy electro pop is has an energy that eclipses the other rookies of the week. It mixes a cavalcade of sounds to create something that never stops moving forward. The guitar and bass rhythm section is a funky delight that is heard in and out between verses. The vocal rhythm of the chorus bounces along with it and the twinkles and blasts of synths. It has an unpredictable exuberance that carries it the whole way through.

 

“I Like U Too Much” by Sonamoo

TS Entertainment’s Sonamoo took on the much harder task of copying Red Velvet. After failing with their hip-hop concept at debut, Sonamoo switched to a chaotic style of pop for “Cushion.” Calling this a copy does a disservice to these girls, though.

“I Like U Too Much” opens with supreme harmonies of the chorus. It sets out where they can go from there on in as it moves into a sweeter verse that recalls Girls’ Generation more than their younger label mates. It has another double chorus with the first being an exciting bubblegum pop of synths and the second those aforementioned harmonies. Each part is more addictive than the last all leading up to a blistering bridge of more harmonies and duelling speed vocals. The lyrics perfectly match this unstoppable force by telling the story of a girl in a love that is out of control. “Oh Baby I want to bite you, Can’t leave you alone,” they shout at an unsuspecting boy. I feel the same way about this song.

Despite increased reliance on using sounds from groups who are still a big part of the environment, Korean girl groups are in a seriously good place right now. Even if they are imitating, the youthful joy is still palpable in every note they produce. Sonamoo especially look like they can grow to be an incredible group given continued support. Which should be easy since TS has seemingly completely forgotten about Secret. All of these girls have potential to do great things in the future.

What’s your favorite of these five songs? 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.

April’s Best K-Pop B-Sides

Lately, K-pop has not stopped delivering for a second. And, as long as it stays this good, I’m going to continue this brand new KultScene series as long as I can. Missing out on great album tracks like this would be a total shame so if I can do anything to help, I’m there. I’m opening up the list to boys now too, though, as they in particular dominated the past month. Songs featured in this month’s Best K-Pop B-Sides list touch on graceful electronica, soaring disco, dirty rap, Latin guitars, and melancholic hip-pop.

UNiQ – Listen To Me

I can’t remember how I came across this track as I have never listened or even wanted to listen to UNiQ in the past, but I sure am glad that I did. Listen to Me, from the Korean/Chinese boy groups latest album EOEO, is one of a few truly great songs to come from boy groups last month.

Listen to Me plays like the fidgety dubstep K-pop track we have come to expect from so many rookies recently. It’s filled with elaborate wubs and whizzes, and builds to an expected big drop. But right at that moment, the song turns itself on its head. Instead of descending, it soars to an ecstatic beautiful chorus of sparkling disco and dance pop.

This lavish chorus contrasts perfectly against the electro beats. The chorus raises the rest of the song to another level and shows a level of craft beyond the rookie UNiQ supposedly is. What could have been another entry into the endless wasteland of forgotten brostep becomes something new to latch onto.


 Also on KultScene: Best K-Pop Girl Group B-Sides Of 2015

BTS – Hold Me Tight

I’m dubbing April the month of “Boy Group Dubstep Tracks That Turned Out Better Than Expected.” You can use that catchy title yourself. BTS returned on the last day of the month with the brilliant I Need U, which came from an equally brilliant album, In The Mood For Love. Apart from I Need You the standout is probably the slightly more subdued Hold Me Tight.

At four and a half minutes long Hold Me Tight takes its time to fully reveal itself. When it does, we get is a melancholic piece of hip-pop showing off the qualities of BTS that we already know but in new ways. A twinkly piano melody slowly builds into soft beeping synths at the beginning, sounding more like a cute love song than what we actually get. To counter these tones, Rap Monster enters first with a more melodic rap than we are used to before powering in with his trademark angry sound. This rap sets out not only the musical range of the song but the lyrical too. One half is melancholic and lonely, the other is angry while still lonely; Rap Monster turns this into a beautiful yet bitter lament.

The album as a whole represents maturation for BTS. The group is stepping out the shadow of being the next B.A.P, another group with fierce hip-hop elements, and setting out its own style and sound.

Dal Shabet – Obsessed

Dal Shabet has had a hard time trying to crack the big time. The group has released several songs that have attempted to cause controversy along with songs that are simply amazing. None of them however, have done enough to gain the girl group much success. Dal Shabet better stay around though, so we can still get absolute gems like Obsessed.

Joker has been mostly overlooked for being trashy and uninteresting as a typical idol song, but if they had led with Obsessed Dal Shabet could have been elegant alt-dols. The song is a burst of electronica that belongs alongside the other 90s throwbacks that K-pop has given us recently.

The melty synths that pop in and out match exquisitely with the factory-like snares. The song has a polished purity to it that many K-pop songs may be missing. The vocals are also a pure delight. Subin’s wails at the chorus are a particular pleasure to the ears.

Bastarz – Sue Me

Like BTS, Block B have really been coming into their own lately. Her was one of the best songs of last year and subunit Bastarz’s new single Zero For Conduct is a smash.

That wasn’t the only good thing to come out of the new subunit though, as the album has some more interesting things within. For sheer weirdness Sue Me is the other highlight. Like Zero For Conduct, it’s a diss track at anyone who might get in the way of Block B (or Zico really). This one is dominated by P.O as he leads this track spinning vitriolic rhymes about how great he is. While this is a fairly standard hip-hop element, it’s what’s next that makes the song weird. The chorus with slow chants of “sue me” and auto-tuned vocals sound like a dub-reggae track. It is jarring yet makes more sense as the song goes on. This is a dirty track; its almost aware of the arrogance P.O and featured rapper Incredible are spitting. It also works as a song that understands hip-hop more than most idol songs do. Dub was a huge inspiration to the first rappers of the Bronx and putting in a song like this acknowledges hip-hop’s history as best you could. It gives weight to Zico (who helped write and produce) and P.O’s desire to be recognized as more than idols.


 Also on KultScene: Best Music Video Fashion: April 2015 Releases

EXID – Thrilling

EXID’s excellent follow up to Up And Down, Ah Yeah was a confirmation that the girl group could build on what it did before and also comment on it. There was an EXID before Up And Down however, and it was just as good. The group’s best song, in fact, Every Night is from 2012 and it is with this song where we pick up on them now.

Just as Ah Yeah was a follow up to Up and Down, Thrilling is a kind of follow up to Every Night. The Latin guitars are immediately recognizable, the opening riffs themselves sound like they were lifted straight from the earlier song. It also uses beeping electronics alongside these to create a nice contrast. Thrilling is not a mere rerun in the same way that Ah Yeah is not either. It doesn’t go for a much bigger sound but changes elements enough to make it its own. The chorus in particular is striking for its commitment to the Latin sounds. Solji’s passionate voice fits so perfectly with the guitars and the kind of notes she has to hit here. I can’t say enough how much I like Soji’s voice, I hope she can get her due attention soon. She lifts the stripped back production to extravagant heights.

What was your favorite B-side of April? Did we miss your favorite? 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.