On Episode 29 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight and Joe Palmer look back at Kpop releases from April 2018. We discuss HIGHTEEN’s Timing, EXID’s Lady, Lovelyz’s Shining Star, HAON’s Boong Boong, Snuper’s Tulips, and Pentagon’s Shine.
Let us know what you think of K-pop in April 2018 and KultScene’s latest episode K-pop Unmuted in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Untitled.png?fit=774%2C774774774KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2018-05-09 05:12:342018-05-09 05:12:34K-Pop Unumted: April 2018 Roundup
Each week, the KultScene crew look back at their favorite new K-pop songs and performances of the past week. In the first full week of July, we liked new music from Red Velvet, and older versions of songs by EXID’s LE and Super Junior.
“Cream (Solo Version)” by LE (Released July 7)
When EXID’s Street album came out last year, a clear stand out for me was the b-side “Cream.” And while they never released it as a single in Korea, they did a Chinese version to promote themselves in said market. Being the queen of suggestiveness and double entendre, LE wrote this song about eating cream and it ruining their bodies because they get fat. It’s been said that cream stands for some other creamy substance, and with this solo version, she’s basically proving that theory right. And I’m living for it. Just by the English lyrics, “I love the cream cream cream/ All over my body” and “Baby boy love me up all night” at the chorus, we get a clear picture as to what’s she’s singing about. But lyrics aside, this stripped down version and the fact that she also sings makes the version more sensual. “Cream” solidifies my thought that LE needs *clapping emoji* a *clapping emoji* solo *clapping emoji*. Like, yesterday. Move over CL and Hyuna (who she actually taught how to rap and has written for, by the way), LE is the baddest queen in K-pop.
Over the years, Red Velvet has become that group in the K-pop industry. With quirky outfits and infectious hooks, the group has, throughout the past year, delivered addictive music and markedly unique stylings with impressive consistency. “Red Flavor” is trademark Red Velvet, but with tighter production than that of their previous release “Rookie” (at least in my opinion). While this release is very reminiscent of their past two promotional cycles, the electro-pop is notably smoother at some parts of the song, specifically the prechorus sung by Wendy and Seulgi, calling back to their first EP’s title track “Ice Cream Cake.” Still, the chorus preserves the brash, loud quirk that the group has pursued most ambitiously with songs like “Dumb Dumb” and more recently, “Russian Roulette” and “Rookie.” Overall, “Red Flavor” is a valuable addition to the group’s repertoire, albeit slightly exhaustive. This release makes me wonder how much further they can pursue this kind of concept before it wears down. As great as “Red Flavor” is, the song makes me want to see something new from RV, and hopefully their next comebacks will make that a reality.
“Sorry Sorry & Bonamana” by Super Junior (Performed July 8)
There’s something incredibly sad about watching Super Junior appear on stage with only three members as they did at last night’s SMTown. Even when a fourth member, Heechul, appears mid-way through “Sorry Sorry,” there’s something disheartening about seeing what was once a revolutionarily large group be driven down to only a handful of people. (But don’t even get me started how they have nine backup dancers to get things up to SuJu’s original OT13. Or how Henry and Zhoumi could and should have most definitely been part of the performance, and Super Junior in general…) With the recent protest by fans against Sungmin, Kangin still on hiatus after the second drunk driving incident of his career, plus the rest of the members in the army, Super Junior’s available four members still delivered energetic performances, with the four —Leeteuk, Shindong, Heechul, and Yesung— stepping up to fill in the void left by the loss of the Super Junior’s mass of members. It’s not my favorite Super Junior performance by far, but seeing them persevere in spite of the virulent outpouring of hate they just received makes this one of their most memorable lives of all time.
What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/19885639_10209877340995108_45370384_o.jpg?fit=1024%2C7687681024KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2017-07-09 20:05:082017-07-09 20:05:08Weekly K-pop faves: July 3-9
Under the tutelage of Shinsadong Tiger, EXID have been consistently good with their albums. Each one is littered with gems that equal or better the title track. This time, however, they are without lead vocalist Solji, one of the great powerhouse vocals of K-pop. It’s normal for a member to take a short hiatus due to illness, but it’s pretty rare for a group to begin another round of promotions without them. Solji’s absence poses a unique challenge for EXID and Shinsadong Tiger. Do they produce tracks with her voice in mind so that when she’s back she can fill in easily or do they forget about her?
The short answer is a bit of both. On stark opener “Boy,” they certainly do not need her. “Boy” does a great job of lining out each of the members; they are given time and space to themselves. Not that we need an introduction to them at this stage, but in contrast with lead single “Night Rather than Day,” it works exceptionally. Hani, Junghwa, and Hyerin are appropriately breathy. They struggle to get the words out, not wanting to admit how they are really feeling. It’s a perfect track for Hani and Junghwa in particular, but Hyerin works well too. Her shrill voice combines that of a lead and sub vocalist so she can sound frail, even when belting. It’s something that Solji would have sounded less natural doing.
“Boy” is a stripped back track, synths stab along with percussion as different sounds weave in and out. Best of these is the flute sounding synth that scales up and down. It gives the complex emotions in the lyrics life. The girls are lonely and pining for a boy but they’ve become so despondent they even miss the most cringeworthy attitudes. The chorus with no vocals offers them something to hide behind, a strange modulation of the word boy. They say they desire this boy but can barely even say the word.
The song ends on an interesting bit of soundscape to make it sound as if they performing live at some futuristic lounge. It tees up “Night Rather than Day” perfectly. As part of Eclipse, it fits right into this feeling, and as a single, it is the most refreshing one from an idol group in a long time. EXID have moved on from being ashamed of how they feel and are now more than happy to be suggestive. Together, “Boy” and this track make an interesting pair. In “Boy,” their shame comes from the fact that they need the comfort of a guy not being able to live alone hurts them. On “Night Rather than Day,” they are not one bit ashamed of being sexually forward. They represent an image of women rarely seen in K-pop.
The song itself is gorgeous loungey R&B with sprinkles of a multitude of styles. It has jazz elements, a disco beat, and the grooviest bass electronics. They also start to blend their vocals a bit more. LE especially adds her crisp raps to accompany Hani in the chorus, adding a decisive punch to the sentiments being expressed. Hyerin’s job is a lot more clearly to replace Solji here and she does a good job. To really take the song to another level though, it needed someone with Solji’s strength to take control.
Third track “How Why” acts as a sort of bridge between the duo of “Boy” and “Night Rather than Day” and the solos, Hani’s “Milk” and LE’s “Velvet.” It is also the type of track I expected (and dreaded) to be their single. Luckily as a b-side, it can afford to be slightly different. The soundscape motif continues but this time moves us outside to the sound of wind blowing through trees. I immediately thought of Taeyeon’s “Why;” it’s summery and teases that popular dembow riddim sound. It builds to a chorus that ultimately relies more heavily on standard synths which I think helps it from being too tired. It is the weakest part of the album by far, though. It’s that sort of inspirational summer track that I could imagine any western artist releasing, and EXID are better than that. I’m glad they had the courage to go with “Night Rather than Day” as the single.
However, the solos bring us right back up to speed. The girls turn back to their desire, with Hani displacing her thoughts and LE being as blatant as she can be. Hani tells a story of a heartbroken day. To forget about someone she fills herself with chocolate, bread, and, most of all, milk. Not exactly an original metaphor, but there are some great lines in there. “I look in the mirror and my makeup’s smudged, why doesn’t my desire for you smudge?” Hani coos sadly over sensual acoustic guitars. The use of the Korean word for milk “uyu” and the English words “only you’ to rhyme are wonderful. It’s also a great reminder of Hani the vocalist, something that gets buried among her many other talents.
LE’ is also missing someone, but only their body. “Velvet” is beyond sexy. She raps about her lover, the heat and touch of their body. The mid-tempo hip-hop beats let it sway as LE adds some nice touches to her vocals. Here and elsewhere in the album she starts rapping but ends her bar with a higher pitched inflection. It’s a great detail that adds a raunchier aspect to “Velvet” in particular.
As a duo of solos Hani and LE encapsulate the intense emotions EXID like to get across in their music. EXID portray a spectrum of characters that tell stories of all kinds of women. Not only that, but they do it with a unique musical edge, incorporating a litany of genres without stepping outside their range. Eclipse is that rare mini that can stick with a theme throughout the runtime while continually teeing up new things to discover. All this without their star lead singer.
What do you think of EXID’s “Eclipse”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/maxresdefault.jpg?fit=1280%2C7207201280Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2017-04-15 19:37:112017-04-16 13:52:57EXID's 'Eclipse' album review
Each week, our writer’s introduce some of their favorite songs out of Korea released during the past week. This week, KultScene writer’s liked songs by f(x)’s Luna, EXID, and former Baby Kara members, Chaewon of April and Yoon Chaekyung.
“Free Somebody” by Luna (May 30)
From the SM Entertainment stable, f(x)’s powerhouse vocalist Luna comes of age in spectacular fashion with her impressive solo debut, “Free Somebody.” The song is a sparkling, 1990s techno dance track featuring positive and inspiring lyrics that encourage listeners to embrace life in Technicolor and to chase one’s dreams in a bold and fearless way. This cheerfully optimistic message is successfully hammered home via a striking, 1960s pop art influenced music video, which inventively incorporates scenes of Luna and her male love interest as cartoon characters. “Free Somebody” boasts some stunning cinematography, coupled with unconventional filming techniques, as it documents Luna’s sensual awakening after meeting her ideal man in an elevator. She radiates an air of classy confidence and stylish sex appeal throughout the video, which appears effortless and believable. “Free Somebody” already has me looking forward excitedly to another solo release from Luna, of the same calibre.
“Clock” by April’s Chaewon & Yoon Chaekyung (June 1)
The news of this mini-reunion by two of Baby Kara’s members delighted many fans of the reality competition and their release at the start of the month certainly did not disappoint. This track is a reflective ballad for the most part but ventures slightly into R&B territory towards the middle of the song with its jazzy rhythm, which certainly livened up the whole track. Personally, I was surprised by the improvement in the vocals of Chaekyung, who was on the recently concluded competition “Produce 101.” Her experiences on the show definitely helped her to grow as a singer and she has made remarkable progress from her time on “Kara Project.” Chaewon on the other hand has been blossoming increasingly with every new release from April, so I’m glad that both singers got a chance to show off their beautiful harmony through this song. Chaekyung needs her debut as soon as possible, and I’m definitely excited about the future of these DSP artists.
EXID are the queens of making use of their member’s talents. Lines can be distributed to any member at any time in a song and they’ll make it work. Hyelin and Solji pack the choruses with power, Hani takes the verses with her just as good but sexier voice, and Junghwa and LE fit around them adding much needed character to a song. “L.I.E” is helped greatly by this as musically it doesn’t work quite as well. It has wonderful parts though especially the tropical verses. The video is great as well, with their usual extensive use of symbolism and references to The Grand Budapest Hotel.
What song was your favorite 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.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Untitled-design-5.jpg?fit=1024%2C7687681024KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2016-06-06 03:30:202017-10-23 19:01:22Weekly K-Pop Faves May 29-June 4- Luna, EXID, Baby Kara
With one of the most influential K-pop music videos ever featuring nine girls dressing up like mannequins, swooning over a boy, and never being seen as women but dolls, it’s no surprise that the industry is struggling to claim a strong feminist identity and just overflowing with love songs disguised as feministanthems instead, along with songs that are downright sexist (I’m looking at you, JYP). There’s no Spice Girls girl power in K-pop, and all of the best pro-girl anthems discuss how girls are amazing rather than address serious issues facing women around the world. But as K-pop grows and more artists come into their own, there’s a subtle changing going on, with several female K-pop acts taking on Sexism through their music and video concepts.
In a variety of different ways, ranging from taking on workplace sexual harassment or the infantilization of women, all of these ladies are doing their best to shun the old-school idea that women, and K-pop, are just filled with sugar and spice.
This K-pop quintet is one of the most vocally talented girl groups out there today, but shot to fame after a video of one members’ gyrating dance went viral. Only after the video of Hani’s movements was viewed millions of times by South Koreans did EXID receive the proper attention for their song “Up & Down.” And the group’s been learning from this ever since. Follow-up track “Ah Yeah” is EXID’s answer to people only discovering them because of their dance.
“Where do you live? Do you live alone?” is the first extremely creepy thing that a listener hears while listening to “Ah Yeah.” The music video addresses sexual harassment in the workplace and the sexualization of young women in Korea, with an English-language teacher being purposely mistaken as a porn star and a video of the members dancing blurred out and receiving a 19+ rating — a dig at the Korean music industry’s imperceivable rules for music video ratings.
The most important message of “Ah Yeah” female mannequins wear sashes saying “no more” over their breasts and genitalia. While girl groups like Twice, Oh My Girl, and GFRIEND are making waves for their urban, chic, sweet, etc. images, “Ah Yeah” is attacking the K-pop industry and taking a stance against the very sexualization that landed them where they are today.
The so-called princess of K-pop made it big with songs like “Good Day” and “You and I,” but it was last year’s “Twenty-Three” that showed IU for who she really is: A woman coming into her own. And that got her in a lot of trouble.
The trouble surrounding another song off of the same album aside, “Twenty-Three” is the first time that IU addresses her maturing from a girl to a woman, and it’s something that many Koreans weren’t ready to hear. Her music video, which features IU as an Alice In Wonderland-sort caught between the whimsy of youth and the responsibilities and desires of being an adult, was accused of being a Lolita-inspired concept that infantilized IU. Rather than focusing on the honest take on her general maturity and sexual awakening that IU struggles with in “Twenty-Three,” IU’s haters threw the woman under a bus and she became persona non-grata to many domestically, despite the artistry of the album and missed the point entirely.
Where to start with Stellar? The girl group has made a name for themselves angling to get attention with overly sexual dances and performance outfits, while at the same time mocking all the people who are hating on them for doing just that. Songs like “Vibrato” features the women of Stellar locked in boxes, compared to Barbie, and overall under the lense of the industry that hates them for being the sexual women they really are. Vaginal and menstrual imagery permeate the video, as if daring people to ignore the fact that Stellar is made up of women with human needs.
Their latest track, “Sting,” takes Stellar once again under the lense, but this time as the victims of Internet hate. Korean netizens (Internet commenters), symbolized by computer mouse icons, are notorious for their attitude, and “Sting” takes Stellar’s fight against the double standard; because they’re female K-pop artists, showing skin and revelling in sexuality is frowned upon while male idol groups are praised as being manly for showing off their body.
The song is about a woman questioning her relationship, but the music video makes it clear that this is Stellar and they’re doing what they want despite the double standard. Sexy or innocent, vocally impressive or recycled pop, Stellar knows that they’ll never win. They’re too much woman for K-pop, but they’ll still keep doing what they want anyway.
One of the most underratedly social-aware acts in K-pop is Loen Entertainment’s Sunny Hill, a once-coed group turned into a female quartet. While they’ve never garnered major fame or acclaim for their songs, Sunny Hill’s songs consistently blast convention and argue for people doing things the way they want. “Is The White Horse Coming?” breaks down the obsession with dating based on wealth, looks, and education over personality and love, comparing dating in modern day Korea (filled with blind dates and matchmakers) to the meat market.
Meanwhile “Darling of All Hearts” begins as a single girl’s guide to being alone, but then turns into a country-inspired anthem for anyone who is happy being on their own, throwing aside pop culture’s (and Korea’s) idea of women never being able to manage without a man to fulfill her. With a folksy-pop style that seems to contrast with their progressive message, Sunny Hill is one of the most socially aware K-pop groups around today. (So hopefully they’ll release something new soon!)
Yezi, a member of the girl group Fiestar, made it big during last year’s season of Mnet’s “Unpretty Rapstar,” garnering fans left and right. Her single, released during the competition, depicts Yezi as a “Mad Dog,” who goes on the offense to the men who sexualize her and the women who try to devalue her. While other songs from 2015 mentioned in this list are about women coming into their own, Yezi’s is the only one that goes on the attack so adamantly, questioning everything about the K-pop industry and Korea’s overall attitude towards woman.
The rapper is at her best while questioning those who belittle her for staying an idol while she knows it’s the only way to fame, and then attacking them for seeing her just as an image to pleasure themselves with. Literally. “Jacking off while watching my breast shot gifs,” she raps, “gripping a rag in one hand, typing on the keyboard with the other, no matter how much you diss me, you can’t console yourself.”
On the other hand, SanE’s lackluster rap that calls Yezi a “bitch” even with “permission” derails the song’s message. Especially given that he ignorantly states that equality of the sexes is being able to insult one another. The song, thematically, could’ve stood on its own without the male rapper. However, given that Yezi is still not that famous, it’s understandable why San E was involved.
Which is exactly what Yezi did in her follow up, the recently released “Cider.” Going on the offense once again, Yezi let’s it all out, calling out all the haters who looked down on her for aggressive, seemingly anti-feminine attitude on “Unpretty Rapstar.” The gloves are off, and this K-pop fierce rapstar lives up to her name.
What’s your favorite K-pop dig against sexism? Share your picks and 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.
In a world where K-pop girl groups can have anywhere from two members to 100, it’s a given that not every single one of them is made up of award winning vocalists. Despite this, each K-pop idol brings something to the table and has crawled their way past other trainees to get where they are today. But from amongst the crowd of the beautiful and the talented, there are those surprising vocally impressive K-pop girl groups whose combined singings skills are outstanding.
This female quintet stands out from amongst the K-pop crowd even before they debuted in 2012. Bohyung, who nearly was part of 2NE1’s final line-up, and Bora, a vocal trainer of many K-pop stars, alone would make SPICA outstanding as a group, but Sihyun, Jiwon, and Narae’s skills are also nothing to overlook. There’s no vocal hole within the girl group, where each of these singers would be phenomenal on their own as a soloist. Put them all together and you get one of the most overlooked K-pop acts of all time. 2014’s “You Don’t Love Me” is one of SPICA’s particularly outstanding songs, that gives each of the ladies her own moment to belt her vocal colors in the best way possible while showing off her retro-inspired assets.
If SPICA is all about the bombast, Mamamoo is all about the sweet, girly vocal power. This girl group has done everything, including cross dressing to singing about having a “Girl Crush,” all while making South Korea take notice of them from amongst all of the K-pop competition. Without a major agency, getting people to notice another girl group in South Korea would be nearly impossible without these talented vocalists. While Solar is all around perceived as the best singer in the group (and one of the best female idols in K-pop overall), Hwasa, Moonbyul, and Wheein have all stood their own over the years. Each member of the girl group has featured on countless songs by other artists. And that’s without even touching Mamamoo’s own songs, like the groundbreaking “Um Oh Ah Yeh” and “Mr. Ambiguous.”
EXID is that K-pop girl group that just has it all. It took them awhile, but this quartet shot to fame overnight thanks to a viral video of their dance from “Up & Down.” And then only afterwards were they recognized for their vocal talent. We already highlighted how all of KultScene’s staff was impressed by EXID’s vocal performance in “Thrilling,” but it’s not just a one off. The girl group’s range overall is insane, with even rapper LE’s vocals being entirely unique. Solji’s vocal range is the very backbone of EXID’s latest songs, but Hani, Hyerin, and Junghwa aren’t just there to look pretty. Instead, the three add their own powerful, melodious voices to the mix. Need proof that this girl group is more than just “Up & Down?” EXID’s impromptu acoustic, drunken rendition of their latest single “Hot Pink” is out of this world.
Brown Eyed Girls
If you’ve somehow missed out on how phenomenal Brown Eyed Girls is, just take a look at this 2009 ballad rendition of their hit song “Sign” featuring. K.Will. Brown Eyed Girls originally debuted in 2006 as a faceless R&B group, and kept their faces unknown by the public, even after their song “Hold The Line” became a hit. Ten years later, Brown Eyed Girls have remade themselves numerous times, and explored numerous genres of music, but they’re still very much the five women who just own their singing.
While they’re still rookies, Lovelyz garnered international attention after a video featuring the eight members singing an a capella version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” So far, Lovelyz’ songs have been cutesy and sweet, and have yet to grasp the attention of South Korea overall, but the member’s vocal talent just can’t be denied. 2015 brought us a lot of great female K-pop rookie acts, but Lovelyz just has that vocal talent that we have our eyes on.
When we make lists like this, it doesn’t mean that there are no other talented K-pop girl groups. Stellar, Sunny Hill, Bestie, Wonder Girls, Ladies’ Code, and many more are also some of our favorite groups with truly talented members.
Which of these groups are your favorite? Did we miss anyone? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Untitled-design-8.jpg?fit=1024%2C7687681024Tamar Hermanhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTamar Herman2016-01-25 19:26:382016-01-25 19:29:435 Vocally Impressive K-Pop Girl Groups
So far 2016 has been a slow year, aside from Dal Shabet nothing of any interest has been released. This has led us to looking back at how great of a year 2015 really was. To celebrate it, one of our writers cut together a video of the top 25 songs of the year as voted for by the KultScene writers. As you may have seen our top 50 list, this video takes the top 25 and edits them together in inventive ways. This is something to celebrate the year in music with, but mostly we hope you have fun watching it.
What was your favorite Korean song this year? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/GOt7.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2016-01-12 13:42:592016-01-12 15:18:37Video of the Top 25 Korean Songs of 2015
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.
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.
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.
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Coming back after a term of great success can be a surprisingly tricky thing to pull off. EXID faced this after their sleeper hit Up and Down. The members and Yedam Entertainment alike always said they would stick to the formula that brought this unexpected rise to fame and they have remained true to their word. Up and Down’s trademarks like saxophone solos, pelvic movements, jarring tonal shifts, and Hani front and centre are all once again present on new single Ah Yeah. But EXID has not merely adopted the Up and Down formula without first reflecting on it.
Between the music video and song‘s interesting elements come up which are cause for a closer look. Not only has EXID they taken the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, but the Up and Down elements themselves have been kicked up a notch.
Ah Yeah is an incredibly frantic song. It sounds like it is structurally all over the place like Girls’ Generation’s I Got A Boy but it actually takes an average pop structure and packs it to the brim with clashing elements. Ah Yeah’s through line is a hip-hop drum beat which changes in intensity depending on the corresponding music. The song houses four separate vocal styles throughout its runtime: Hani’s sweet, alluring verse and its counterpoint, LE’s blistering, angry rap, Junghwa’s nursery rhyme like pre-chorus and Solji and Hyerin’s chorus. Thrown together these all seem incompatible but somehow the song makes it out in tact.
The best of these is definitely the competing verses of Hani and LE. The two make up the bulk of the song and carry it so well. Hani’s simple melody and slightly affected voice plays up to her charming strengths perfectly. Put beside LE’s forceful rap though, which is accompanied by the reintroduction of the sax and an intensifying of the drums, it seems like a parody of what brought EXID to fame in Up and Down. In many ways this what Ah Yeah is really about.
EXID’s new song reuses and makes comment on Up and Down, or rather the strange success of it and turns it into something new. LE’s rap inUp and Down wasn’t contrasting enough? Let’s have her rap on five separate occasions in Ah Yeah.
The same can be said for Junghwa’s odd pre-chorus. In Up and Down she had a small part which had a nursery rhyme vibe to it which was probably a way of getting around her seemingly weak vocals. In Ah Yeah her part is similar enough except this time it’s repeated twice and has its own twinkly melody. Again, an element from before is being reused and brought up a notch. I think this is the most jarring part of the song, nearly bringing it into incoherence. This fits into the idea of the self parody as Up and Down wasn’t exactly straightforward itself but lets down the song as whole.
The chorus is the most straightforward part of Ah Yeah. Not changing much of the original formula, it does not however, come as a surprise since we already know it so well. It shows the dearth of options EXID have at hand when a vocalist as amazing as Solji is restricted to a chorus. Amongst girl groups, I’d put her in the top five working right now and thought she’d be the person that dragged them to success; it would be nice to see her do something more than the chorus.
The self-reflexion of EXID doesn’t end with the song though. The music video, like the song, uses different elements to comment and react on EXID’s rise to fame.
Again, Hani and LE’s parts work wonderfully together. Hani essentially playing herself, is seductive as she makes eyes with the POV camera similar enough to her famous fancam. LE also could be playing herself or maybe just another side of the argument. Her angry counterpoint plays like a musician’s reaction to EXID’s fame, not happy that a sexy video brought them there over interesting music written by LE herself. She also addresses the POV camera but this time in an accusatory manner. The video is giving us both sides of the story, letting us know there’s more to EXID than sexiness.
This duality theme continues with Junghwa, Hyerin and Soljin’s parts of the video. Junghwa seems to be playing a cam girl of some sort with pixelated images dotted around her. She appears to engaging in some explicit activities before being revealed to be a news anchor or something like it. The same goes for Solji and Hyerin who are in generic rooms with pixelated images which are revealed to be cartoon images of animals. It also features some clips of EXID’s pelvis movements pixelated. They know they are likely to be censored so went one step ahead and did it themselves, exposing the ridiculousness of TV censors. The pixelation, in a way, makes the situation even worse since it comes across as more explicit than it really is. It wouldn’t seem any way explicit if it was never censored.
EXID took a slight risk reusing nearly the identical formula as last time. Unfortunately, Ah Yeah could be mistaken as a mere rehash of Up and Down.
It could also have been a failure on the charts as Up and Down was. While Up and Down is a great song, that was not the main reason for their popularity. EXID really went for it though and came out with something very similar but on a different level. Self awareness in pop music is a rare thing and really helps a group feel more invested in their music.
This is in large part thanks to the songwriting prowess of LE. Not only is she one of the best Korean female rappers working today but she has had a hand in writing every one of EXID’s songs. Her level of artistry lifts EXID from possible flash in the pan success to a group that could become one of the all time greats.
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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.
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 Something, Expectation 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?
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.
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