Posts

Weekly K-pop faves: Sept. 18-24

The middle of September brought us a lot of good music, and like each week the KultScene crew rounded up some of the songs that really caught our eye. New music courtesy of the ladies of Loona, Teen Top’s NIEL & JUSTHIS, and a cover of an EXO song by soloist Gummy really caught our eye. Take a look at our thoughts and let us know in the comment section below what your favorite song of the past few days was.

“Girl Front” by Odd Eye Circle (Released Sept. 20)

The LOONAverse continues in earnest with their second official sub-unit, Odd Eye Circle. Consisting of the last three girls to debut, Kim Lip, Jinsoul, and Choerry, Odd Eye Circle is the girl crush side of LOONA. Produced by Ollipop and Hayley Aitken with some lyrics by Monotree, “Girl Front” is essentially a combination of those three girls’ solo tracks. Both musically and lyrically it takes from each of them, the propulsive percussion of “Singing in the Rain,” the brightness and slap bass from “Love Cherry Motion,” and the smooth as hell bridge from “Eclipse.” It’s a testament to LOONA and their team that they can create a concept as complex as this while still producing great tracks. “Girl Front” is the most energetic of all their songs to date; their vocals bounce off one another with ease, a variety of synths and drums samples seem buoyed along with the girls. It’s the fizziest most exciting kind of pop there is.

—Joe

“Ko Ko Bop” by Gummy (Performed on Sept. 23)

There are few things I love more about K-pop than covers that completely recreate the original song. While EXO’s “Ko Ko Bop” was a feel good summer song, Gummy swooped in and made the hit her own during a recent episode of Park Jinyoung’s Party People drenching the track with her effusive blend of sultry vocals. Paired with the accompanying live band, the soloist offered up a more mature, jazzier take on the track, an alternative to the boy band’s reggae-tinged track. If this is the sort of thing that Party People will be offering up each week, I am very much here for it!

—Tamar

“What’s Good?” by NIEL, JUSTHIS (Released Sep. 21)

Teen Top has always been one of those groups I casually like but never actually stanned. Most of their singles are bops, so when the members go solo, I most definitely keep an eye out for them. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Niel’s past solo, so I wasn’t expecting much this time around. And while “What’s Good?” is not particularly anything groundbreaking, it definitely shows a new side to the singer I’m here for. I especially liked that Niel’s channeling his inner Kikwang and going a more pop-R&B route, both musically and through the choreography. “What’s Good?” caught me by surprise because I had always seen Niel as a singer and not really a performer. But with this comeback, it’s clear that Niel means business and he’s gearing up to what may be Teen Top’s upcoming disbandment.

—Alexis

What was your favorite release of the week? 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.

David Anthony on songwriting & succeeding in the K-pop market [interview]

 

It’s no news that many of the songs released by Korean and other Asian acts are written and produced overseas: some of the biggest K-pop hits from the last few years were made by songwriters based in the Americas and Europe. It’s not like you have to have been born or raised in Korea to understand what it takes to write a song that Koreans will love. You can literally sell thousands of copies and have your songs placed with top class K-pop acts such as EXO and Twice without ever really having been in Seoul.

That’s the case of David Anthony, a British songwriter and producer who has placed around 20 (and counting) songs with huge Korean agencies like SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment. He talked to KultScene about how he got into the K-pop market and what it has been doing for him.

“You can be in the toilet or in an one million dollar studio, it doesn’t matter. What matters is your creativity,” said Anthony. He’s been in the music business for years, but it was when Korean agency WM Entertainment got interested in his creativity that he saw his life (and income) changing. His entrance into the K-pop market was the song “Liar Liar,” which ended up being recorded by girl group Oh My Girl.

“Liar Liar” would become the first of many times Anthony worked with Oh My Girl – he also wrote and produced “I Found Love” and their latest comeback single “Coloring Book.” “They make happy & positive pop songs, and I love making them because it’s just fun. I would say we are a good match.”


Also on KultScene: Meet iDR, The Man Behind EXO’s “Love Me Right”

In spite of having always been into catchy, fun, and feel-good pop music, boy and girl groups, and all the elements that make a great K-pop song, the K-pop world was something unknown to David Anthony – and somehow it still is. “I’m still learning, to be honest.” It’s only been nearly 18 months since “Liar Liar,” but Anthony is already able to see what makes K-pop so different from other music styles and markets. “First, the openness. K-pop is more accepting, there is so much creativity to be allowed. It’s like a big party. No one is being, like, too cool to listen to this stuff.” Second, but no less important, it’s the financial reward. “Because there’s just so much money to be made and so many productions.”

Anthony certainly understands there’s money in the market: even his non-single cuts gave him remarkable rewards, like EXO-CBX’s “Cherish” and Twice’s “Only You.”

“‘Cherish’ was my first cut with EXO[-CBX], I wrote and produced it on my own, and it was actually the second highest seller song of the album. I was so pleased because it sold around 100,000 copies itself and the album sold about 400,000” “Only You,” in its turn, was featured on Twice’s fourth mini album, which sold incredibly well in Korea, Japan, and also made Twice the first Asian girl group to enter the Top 30 in the United Kingdom. “I got my first Top 30 in my own country due to an Asian group!”

But this wasn’t all: getting a song recorded by the most relevant K-pop girl group of the moment also improved Anthony’s relationship with JYP Entertainment, resulting in him writing and producing the debut track “How Old Are You?” for JYP’s latest act, super young boy group Boystory, in collaboration with JYP head Park Jinyoung. The group’s first comeback, expected for December 2017, is also planned to feature a song by Anthony.

“K-pop for me has been a very natural process,” he said. “When I heard the acts I really wanted to connect with. I knew I could make that type of music. I just needed time, connections.” It seems to be working pretty well for him. But, of course, this doesn’t mean it’s easy. “They just don’t give anyone a cut. You have to be bloody good.”

When asked if his creative process was affected by his relationship and experience with K-pop professionals, he said that he didn’t really have to make drastic changes. “It’s just about doing what I’m doing – and love doing – with a slight tweak here and there to, hopefully, fit what they want. I knew I just needed to make sure that the final product was high quality.”


Also on KultScene: 7 K-pop music styles we’d love to hear more

Well, at least for Anthony, we can assure that the future still holds quite interesting things: besides the above mentioned comeback of Boystory, he’s recently contributed one of the songs featured on B.A.P.’s last mini album, “Blue,” and potentially has upcoming music with Oh My Girl and other Asian acts yet. (The B.A.P track, “All The Way Up” has since been embroiled in a rights controversy, about which Anthony said he wasn’t aware that the song couldn’t be sold to different artists in different countries. According to the CEO of The Kennel, Anthony’s music publisher, Hayden Bell, it was a newcomer mistake. Anthony has since apologized to TS Entertainment and B.A.P. for the misunderstanding).

According to Anthony, both the competition behind the scenes and among K-pop acts explains why few songwriters and producers are getting into this small circle. “Demos these days have to be so good because the competition is so high, so you just have to be on top. [And] in Korea, there are so many products being released, so naturally some are gonna be better than others.” But, at the end of the day, David Anthony is proof that even though, nowadays, the K-pop market might seem a little bit more accessible for non-Koreans, it’s not for everyone, and the bar is surely not low. But Anthony has what it takes to make his music click with K-pop companies and audiences, and will keep doing so as long as he can.

What’s your favourite song written by David Anthony, amongst the ones we’ve mentioned? Let us know your picks and 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.

Weekly K-pop Faves: Jan. 23-30

The end of January was a bit sleepy in comparison to earlier in the month, but KultScene still had a lot of music to listen to. Some of of our writers fell for lovely, tender tracks and felt like we had to share Mugamak’s new single and EXO member Chen’s collaborative track with K-hip hop royalty Dynamic Duo.

”First Time in Love” by Mugamgak (Released Jan. 24)

Despite its happier sounding title, Mugamgak’s second single turned out to be even more heart-achingly beautiful than his first. He really showed that he was coming into his own as a ballad singer-songwriter with this release and his skills have obviously improved tremendously from a few months ago, with the expansion of his amazing vocal range. His voice is tender and flows nicely with his piano accompaniment to bring out the emotion of the song. I love Mugamak’s style of music so far and I hope he’ll come out with more wonderful singles soon.

–Anna


Also on KultScene: From ‘Nation’s Producers’ to Actual Producers: The Many Futures of I.O.I’s 11 Members

”Nosedive” by Dynamic Duo (Released Jan. 24)

Some ballads are just nice, and then there are some that are sentimentally momentous. “Nosedive,” the collaborative track by Dynamic Duo and EXO’s Chen is most certainly the latter. The simple melody is beautiful to listen to, with the pair’s raps to offset Chen’s dulcet voice. But it’s the lyrics of the song where “Nosedive” really stands out: The intro of Chen’s choral verse (When it hurts, just cry / Cry all you want, it’s okay) is filled with so much warmth, something much of K-pop is missing. “Nosedive” is known as a “healing song,” and there’s an obvious reason why.

–Tamar
Which song was 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.

Best Korean MVs of 2016

Music videos, or MVs, and K-pop are practically synonymous at this point, and it’s rare for a song to do well without an accompanying music video. Hundreds upon hundreds Korean MVs are released each year: sad ones, happy ones, indie ones, blockbuster ones, short ones, long ones, etc. There are Korean music videos that that make no sense, and ones that have the Best Plot of the Year and others that are just visually attractive. The KultScene staff saw a lot of great MVs in 2016, and we now present you with our personal favorites.

“Selfish & Beautiful Girl” by Block B BASTARZ

After a year and a half, Block B’s subgroup BASTARZ finally made a comeback. And while they released a couple of singles that didn’t really live up to last year’s hype, the music video for “Selfish & Beautiful Girl” made up for it. First off, it’s very appreciated when K-pop acts release music videos with an actual plot. Add that it’s quirky and fun, and you have a winner. Following the lyrics about a selfish girl the narrator is in a relationship with, the storyline follows this girl and how she annoys her neighbor for being unruly. She disrupts his sleep because she’s dancing to a Just Dance-like game. In this video game, the BASTARZ members are the characters, with each member representing a style in the song’s tempo change; from disco to hip-hop to pop. Moreover, the actress — bless her soul — while a bad dancer, her tattoos and piercings were a different sight for a K-pop video girl, but interesting nonetheless. In a time when all Korean music videos started to look the same thanks to many acts using the same directors, “Selfish & Beautiful Girl” found an ingenious, amusing way to follow the groove of the song perfectly.

— Alexis

“Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS

Creative director Lumpens has been working with BTS ever since their debut, but their collaboration reached its pinnacle by far with the visually pleasing and highly produced music video for “Blood Sweat & Tears.” You do not have to be an art history buff to appreciate the various nods to Michelangelo and Pieter Bruegel, of which whose sculptures and paintings all depict a fall from grace. Nor do you have to understand, or even know, Hermann Hesse’s Demian, the 1919 work that inspired their second full-length album Wings, as seen by the use of recurring bird motifs and even direct quotes from the text. Every aspect serves to further ideas of temptation, freedom, and escapism that the song and the album collectively convey, thus nothing about this six-minute music video is done out of pure aesthetics. Of course, that is also not to say that it cannot be enjoyed for face value. There’s an undeniable homoerotic subtext to the plot, which is at once political and indulgent. Other cinematographic choices, such as the various uses of crimsons and other warm hues, are jarring yet arresting. This music video successfully projects the extravagant lifestyle we all wish we had, while warning us against the dangers of seduction, overall leaving room for lots of potential analysis.

— Shelley

“Carnival (The Last Day)” by Ga-In

Like the song itself, Ga-In’s music video for “Carnival (The Last Day)” is a celebration of life and death. Approaching death in a way few artists in the world would, Ga-In and her director Han Sa Min depict a joyous while reverent look at passing. This is all seen through some of the most interesting images K-pop has ever seen, particularly Ga-In’s funeral and her angelic ascendancy during her procession. Bright pastels dominate, fireworks explode in rainbows, and Ga-In dances with her umbrella as if the all the weight has fallen from her shoulders. The melancholy only remains with the living as we see Ga-In’s former lover pay his respects. Yet, maybe it is his memories we see of their time together: even he is choosing to see the qualities of life rather than the tragedy of death.

— Joe


Also on KultScene: Top Korean Music Videos of 2015

“One of These Nights” by Red Velvet

The Korean title of Red Velvet’s first single of 2016 is “7th Day of 7th Month,” referencing the Korean lunar holiday Chilseok and its tale of separated lovers. But rather than depicting a romance-driven storyline, the music video for “One Of These Nights” is a bit of a mystery. Bright colors contrast with dreary sets, the members are surrounded and flooded by water, and there is what appears to be an ethereal, woodsy afterlife where some members don white, the traditional Asian color for post-mortem shrouds. But the video’s subtle references to 2014’s Sewol Ferry accident, which took the lives of over 100 high school students, makes “One Of These Nights” all that more poignant: references to the Sewol and the tragedy appear throughout the sets, while the five Red Velvet members appear to take on abstract portrayals of the victims and survivors. It’s an ambient, thought-provoking, and altogether beautiful work of cinematography.

— Tamar

“Hard Carry” by GOT7

The entirety of GOT7’s “Hard Carry” music video is strikingly attractive; from Jackson’s sleeveless outfits and quick one-two, his “let me just casually lift up my shirt” scene at the beginning, to a white room filled with lively green (and not so lively brown) pine trees. Even when it was dark and you could barely see the members faces and all that is visible is the fire lit up behind them, it’s visually appealing. No to mention the neon lights during the dance scenes are captivating. Overall, the videography, combined with the meaning of the lyrics, portrays the effort one must take to “carry” the team, as seen in the the scene where all the members dive into the water in order to “save” Jinyoung. However, more than being solely visually attractive, the music video together with how they employed the lyrics into the theme is a proper representation of what GOT7 is all about: teamwork, helping each other out to strive collectively.

— Tam

“11:11” by Taeyeon”

While not the regular dance-visual overload that K-pop fans are used to, Taeyeon’s “11:11” succeeds at quite the opposite — fitting the somber, sentimental nature of the song perfectly. Shots of Taeyeon and her anonymous significant-other are filmed beautifully against fading sunlight, flashing lights, or pale white walls. They accurately frame the song’s sentiments, which deal with the end of a relationship. The song’s warm, delicate nature is captured perfectly by frames of Taeyeon sleeping in a thick white sweater, or laying in a fluffy king-sized mattress sprawled out next to the waves. Along with “Rain,” “11:11” seeks to alter Taeyeon’s image. Instead of group-leader dance-pop star, Taeyeon is now a serious, musically-oriented soloist, and one of Korea’s most successful at that. With its autumnal color scheme and brilliant visuals, “11:11” depicts both Taeyeon and the emotional impact of a breakup in a creative and memorable way.

— Kushal

“Décalcomanie” by MAMAMOO

If Zanybros are producing a music video, you know you’re in for an optical treat. MAMAMOO’s video for “Décalcomanie” is visually stunning and tastefully (considering the edited version and not the original) done, considering the video is full of visual metaphors for a woman coming into her sexuality. The girls start off being attracted to the man in their respective scenes, and as the desire between both of them grows, they kiss and then… fruits explode (if you don’t understand that metaphor, you can ask your parents). The girls untie their blindfolds to symbolize loss of innocence or coming to fully see/understand their desires and feelings. The mirror scenes and the mirrored images also play a nice homage to the title of the song, which is the French word for a technique that transfers an image or pattern from one medium to another. In other words, imprinting on another or making a copy. Aside from the bit of controversy that surrounded the original version, which resulted in a horrific scene depicting sexual assault getting removed from the music video, the video for “Décalcomanie” shows off the group’s femme fatale concept that they wanted to portray.

— Katherine

“I Am You, You Are Me” by Zico

Known to be a hard-hitting rapper, Zico ventured this year into R&B ballads and showcased his vocalist chops by releasing “I Am You, You Are Me” at the beginning of the year. So what called for this unforeseeable change in style and concept? Love. Love turns the bad boy into a good guy. Right off the bat in his first verse after the opening chorus, Zico sings I only ever listened to hip-hop/Now I’ve turned acoustic, setting the tone for the song. “I Am You, You Are Me” is about being in the lovey-dovey phase in a relationship when the couple starts emulating each other. The music video, in brief, is aesthetics galore. Zico displayed his trendy and colorful style, and in order to go with the theme of the song, the lead actress dressed exactly the same or similarly to the rapper to equate how they mirror each other. The setting, a convenience store, allowed a beautifully diverse color palette in the photography, from pastels to neons to neutrals. The overall aesthetics of the music video — dreamy with an electric tinge — paired perfectly with the equally tender yet lustful song. Not so tough now, right, cookie?

— Alexis

“Secret” by Cosmic Girls

Recently directors have been getting better at making the standard idols sing and dance towards camera in pretty settings more interesting while not losing the essence of that. Kim Zi Yong in particular has been great at this thanks to his visual effects skills. His highlight in K-pop is clearly “Secret” by Cosmic Girls. The video shows the 12 original members summoning new member Yeon Jung in their own unique ways. The quality of animation and sense of scale Kim brings to it is the best of the year and a quality befitting these otherworldly girls. Not to mention it’s drop dead gorgeous at every turn. Also, I’m sure everyone can agree that the shot of Cheng Xiao growing her wings is the coolest thing ever.

— Joe

“Re-Bye” by Akdong Musician

The dramatic “Re-Bye” music video by Akdong Musician, or Akmu, as they’re known, is a fun film-noir music video that fits the pair’s theatrical melody. In a year when many Korean music videos seemed to be lacking true plots in favor of seeming more avant-garde, “Re-Bye” fits a murder-mystery into its four-minute music video with an old-school flair. It’s a bit Sherlock Holmes meets Baz Luhrmann both in plot and color palette– they may as well have been singing the “Elephant Love Song Medley” from Moulin Rouge— and it’s absolutely delightful to watch. The sibling duo is supremely talented as musicians, but their youthful quirkiness in music videos like “Re-Bye” adds another element to their appeal.

— Tamar

“Skydive” by B.A.P

Who needs James Bond or a Quentin Tarantino film when you can watch a B.A.P’s blockbuster-like 10 minute music video for “Skydive?” The members gave subtle hints on their social media platforms and in their individual teasers prior the release that this music video was going to be the most intense music video, if not even more intense than their 2013 video for “One Shot,” they’ve ever done. That within itself was enough to have all their fans, known as Babyz, on edge because, really, what can be more extreme and vivid than the members engaged in a robbery, shoot out with some thugs, and then the sudden betrayal? “Skydive” not only incorporated yet another robbery, but an all ARMED robbery, with shots ringing left and right 35 seconds in. There’s a kidnapping/hostage situation, murder, and, yes, even more betrayal than the first time around! The anticipation was nonstop, every second of this video had one gasping for air. Because it was constantly scene after epic scene, you’d probably have to watch it several times to fully grasp each and every detail and hints that would later on give away the true culprit. This music video could’ve gone all sorts of wrong, but due to the amazingly shot cinematography and the members superb acting, “Skydive” was totally badass.

— Tam

“One More Day” by Sistar

SISTAR made a risky move with the music video for “One More Day,” their collaboration with Europop songwriter and producer Giorgio Moroder. Not only did the quartet not appear in the video, but the video’s protagonists were two female lovers, and the plot touched upon abuse. Now this may not be a big thing in Western cultures, where LGBTQ+ are somewhat prominent in entertainment and lifestyles, but in South Korea, the majority of the population still consider it a taboo subject. Now the fact that the female leads kill the abusive boyfriend may not be the best representation of the LGBTQ community, it does portray the love story in a dramatic matter and the dangers of an abusive relationship.

— Katherine

“Cheer Up” by TWICE

It’s no secret that TWICE dominated 2016, from album sales to song popularity and everything in between. They even topped our best Korean songs of 2016 list. But what is the source of their success — how did TWICE become the dominating girl group of 2016? At least in my opinion, it’s their music videos. From Jihyo’s cheerleader character to Chaeyoung’s cowboy outfits, the “Cheer Up” music video worked to create vibrant and colorful characters for each member, establishing each one as unique and worthy of individual attention within the larger group framework. With the music video’s changing lenses, there’s something for everyone — Dahyun is poised and regal, Tzuyu is beautiful and elegant, and Momo is badass and sexy, just to give a few examples. The creative direction of this music video highlights TWICE’s biggest strength as a group — personality. The “Cheer Up” music video sent the K-pop world a message loud and clear: TWICE, in all their beauty and stage personality, is here to dominate. And in 2016, they certainly did.

— Kushal

“Forest of Skyscrapers” by Neon Bunny

The only indie artist on our list this year (despite being a more well-known one), Neon Bunny clearly had an advantage when it comes to what she can depict. Given more time and presumably more freedom, director Kim Zi Yong delivered another video for the ages with “Forest of Skyscrapers.” They brought together a number of cinematic influences to comment on modern South Korea’s stagnant population. The sprawling neon cities of Akira and the ephemeral love stories of Wong Kar Wai come to mind as Seoulites try to navigate their lives. It suggests a sort of confusion, a literal kaleidoscope of colours and mind-numbing visuals. However hard they try to get away, speeding down highways on a motorbike, it seems impossible. The irrefutable pull of the neon monolith is punishing.

— Joe


Also on KultScene: Music Video Director Ian Gallagher on Working with Neon Bunny, Co-Directing WINNER

“Fantasy” by Fei

Torn between innocent and hypersexualized, K-pop idol stars are essentially built to fulfill audiences every “Fantasy” through their music videos and performances. 2016 outed Korean pop stars, or idols, as a “healthy” form of pornography, but nobody took it as far as Fei of miss A, who appears in her music video as a virtual peep show dancer. Her blatant, slightly shocking, approach to the topic of sexualizing women comes across as refreshing in an industry that makes numerous attempts to cover up the maturity of its stars. The music video for “Fantasy” is overtly sexual throughout, literally turning Fei into the object of desire for a male viewer, and things get all that much more interesting when virtual Fei comes to life, strips, and takes things to the next level just as the screen cuts to the title card. The video for “Fantasy” is beautifully shot, extremely sultry, and subversive of the industry’s narrative towards female stars.

— Tamar

“Emptiness” by MADTOWN

MADTOWN made an expected (but delightful) change by switching up their music styling and concept when the group released a rather mellow, mid-tempo ballad paired with the chic black and white music video for “Emptiness.” It showcased a tranquil and melancholic atmosphere, the polar opposite from the swaggy and high energy we’ve seen from the group in past videos. In order to match the song’s delicate melody, the music video was muted down a bit, hence the simplistic, clean choreography. MADTOWN’s elegant portrayal of their moments of despair and grief can lead the viewers to suddenly feeling the anguish and sorrow themselves, even if they were feeling happy go lucky prior to watching “Emptiness.” There are moments during the music video that makes one want to clench their chest, due to a sudden surge of heartache. It’s dramatic, but that’s just the effect of the music video.

— Tam

“The Eye” by INFINITE

When you’re preparing to watch an INFINITE music video, there are a few things you can be sure to look forward to: a whole lot of drama and a totally awesome dance break thrown in for good measure. The lyrics of the song suggest that a painful memory (of someone) is trapping the members like a hurricane (or “Typhoon,” as the Korean in the title suggests). And when they think they found peace, they are right in the eye of the storm, still surrounded by the painful memories. The video takes it to another level: L appears in a depressed or dire situation and is then transported to a state between realities where he is confronted by the other members who all represent different emotions. When each member interacts with L (who represents Sadness), the action represents him going through that emotion: Hoya represents Hate and aggressively pushes L, then turns into Woohyun, who represents Regret. All of this happens while L is moving towards a light, which may or may not represent death. In the end, L has the courage and resolve to return back to his reality and live. Director Hwang Soo Ah does a great job creating a complex, philosophical, and intriguing plot that keeps the viewers invested till the very end.

— Katherine

“All In” by Monsta X

Monsta X’s “All In” did wonders for the group in many ways, enabling the group to diversify their hackneyed hip-hop concept. With the music video, the septet deviated away from dance-based music videos to one with actual substance and narratives. Opening with the dystopian ending scene in which the members seem to be either running to or away from something, the video employs a nonlinear mode of storytelling that was not present in their previous videos. Admittedly, because the music video also deals with two storylines — one feautring Shownu and one surrounding Hyungwon and Minhyuk — it is very easy to miss certain nuances upon initial viewing. But even after watching it for the nth time, gleaning for said nuances, we cannot guarantee that all our questions will have an answer. The biggest mystery probably is the one surrounding the relationship between Minhyuk and Hyungwon’s characters, who mutually exhibit homoerotic tendencies especially towards the end in which Minhyuk drowns himself in the tub with Hyungwon while holding hands. The beauty of it all is exactly how director Dee Shin leaves many threads up for interpretation, allowing fans to engage in open-ended discourse and conjecture theories of their own. It’s been a rather popular form of storytelling as of late in K-pop, but is still nevertheless engaging and effective.

— Shelley

“Whistle” by BlackPink

With colorful settings, bright outfits, and memorable choreography, BlackPink‘s “Whistle” stood out in its ability to quickly establish the new group’s personality and musical style. Taking after their YG predecessors 2NE1 and BIGBANG, BlackPink quickly utilizes edgy and eye-popping visuals — Rosé casually sitting on both the Earth and cars buried in sand, Jisoo sitting cross-legged in the middle of three open doorways, Lisa’s hot pink turtle-neck contrasting with her blonde-blue hair — to make the group seem hardcore but also personable. Not to mention, clips of the group driving a car in circles wearing bandanas and baseball caps serve as the video’s main recurring visual element, further establishing the fun badassery concept. And, unlike other girl group music videos this year, “Whistle” boasts a notable lack of smiling, a subtle yet incredibly important aspect of the video. The group instead focuses on giving us the edgy smolder or mischievous glance, once again reinforcing the group’s personality in every closeup shot. The “Whistle” music video clearly sets BlackPink up for success — it sends the immediate message that, if you liked any of the edgier girl groups of K-pop eras past, you’ll love BlackPink just as much.

— Kushal

“The One” by EXO-CBX

Though technically not a music video for whatever reason — SM Entertainment prefers the term “special clip” — EXO-CBX’s music video for “The One” is just too golden not to include on the list. For the first time in an EXO production, the boys, or at least Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin, are able to show a different, more silly side to them as they dress up in ridiculous, mismatched clothes and act foolish. EXO’s leader Suho makes a cute cameo as well, filling in for just about every role from Yakult vendor to sanitation worker. Unfortunately, SM missed an opportune moment to cast him as the female love interest as well, which would have given the video a bit more cohesion. Nevertheless, everything about this is still hilariously good fun, and none of the humor comes off forced. At times, Suho even seems like he is going to burst out laughing himself. The video milks the comedy until the very end, where it cuts the accompanying music off before letting it finish completely, leaving a dancing Chen to sing alone and shifting the camera angle to make it seem like we were filming them the entire time. EXO-CBX’s “The One” is just the personal and playful break from the usual self-serious routine that they, and we, all need.

— Shelley

“Hold My Hand” by Lee Hi

While musically we didn’t get exactly what we wanted from Lee Hi’s much awaited comeback, the music video for “Hold My Hand” was near perfection. The aesthetic of the music video was a kawaii explosion, and a beautiful one at that. The pastel color palette, together with the 8-bit graphics, tied in perfectly with the romance and dreaminess of the song and lyrics. It’s all too sweet — just as Lee’s serenade. Plus, the inclusion of her doo-wop backup singers as her side kicks were a cute, quirky touch. Bright, multi color music videos have been a trend for quite some time now (thanks, Digipedi), but “Hold My Hand” managed to give something tried a lovely spin. From Lee holding hands with the camera to the styling to the real and 8-bit backgrounds, it all comes together to create this delightful, little heart skip that makes us all feel young and in love again.

— Alexis

What was your favorite Korean music video 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.

50 Best Korean Songs of 2016: Part 2

best kpop songs 2016 korean top

As mentioned in part 1, 2016 turned out to be a year full of surprises in the world of Korean entertainment. Groups we held dear disbanded or lost key members, but it does not do well to dwell just on the negatives. 2016 was a transformative year that saw K-pop’s generation shift, with second-tier groups rising to the top spots and the explosion of new groups, especially girl groups. This year may not had been the best for older fans and their groups, it was a tall glass of fresh water. K-pop’s all about innovation and reinvention, and that’s just what we got this year.

After 2015 being a nearly perfect year in music releases, 2016, on the surface, might seem like it didn’t live up to expectations. However, this was the year of more variety in the industry and a much deserved and needed shakeup. And after much consideration, the KultScene staff painfully narrowed it down to our favorite 50 songs of the year. Make sure to get all the way to the end to see a special year-end video!

25. “Monster” by EXO

The single off of their Ex’Act album, “Monster.” has the same air of self-seriousness as some of EXO’s most iconic works (“MAMA,” “Wolf,” etc.) while shedding the corny lyrics and audiovisuals. The distorted synths are eerie like the monster inside of them, and Chen’s repetition on the word “creepin’” at the end stresses this, well, creepy factor. But what carries the tune throughout are the up and down contours of the refrain, which are inevitably designed to be an earworm. Even if you have never been a fan of the group, you can at least agree this one has staying power.

— Shelley

24. “Drip Drop” by Taemin

In terms of Taemin’s 2016 singles, “Press Your Number” was an extremely digestible track. However, the lead-up single “Drip Drop” made for a much more interesting audible experience. “Drip Drop,” with it’s massive blend of R&B, pop, dance, and hip-hop, together with the beat shifts and whatever’s happening on the chorus, is a song you either love or hate. However, the juxtaposition of the smooth vocals and verses paired with the up-tempo, futuristic chorus and progressions on the second half of the song, and how it dips again on the pre-chorus is a masterpiece in itself. “Drip Drop” is a rollercoaster, but an exciting one we’d keep riding on and on.

— Alexis

23. “Letting Go” by Day6

The unofficial princes of breakup songs return with their sophomore release Daydream and the title track “Letting Go.” In this pop rock ballad, Day6 does what they do best: deliver a heart-wrenching song about young love lost. The boys create lovely harmonization between the vocals and instruments, with none of them overpowering or outshining the rest. But this release was a bittersweet mix of emotions for fans, with keyboardist Junhyeok leaving the group a month before the release. And though the song may or may not be about him, the music video surely plays homage to their lost member with the empty keyboards throughout the video. Overall, “Letting Go” is the perfect combination of music, lyrics, and visuals to get all the feels happening.

— Katherine

22. “Press Your Number” by Taemin

By the time Taemin’s first full-length album Press It dropped, audiences already knew SHINee’s maknae could hold his own from his previous mini album Ace. Moreover, much buzz resulted from the fact that Bruno Mars and the Stereotypes had produced his lead single “Press Your Number.” And while the artists didn’t get to actually collaborate, the American songwriter/producer gave Taemin a real gift, for it completely complimented his style. “Press Your Number” builds up perfectly, starting with snaps, light twinkles, and Taemin’s sorrowful vocals before exploding at the chorus into a full-fledged dance song. Plus, you don’t even have to understand Korean to feel the yearn behind Taemin’s interpretation. K-pop groups are a dime a dozen. So when a real performer comes out of a K-pop group, survives, and excels, they deserve all the kudos. While we all hold SHINee dear to our hearts, we can’t help and crave more Taemin solo singles for they show him at his absolute best.

— Alexis

21. “All In” by Monsta X

Following tradition, Monsta X’s “All In” retains much of the noisy ambitions and fighter attitude that the seven piece hip-hop group have shown in the past with hits like “Hero” or “Trespass.” The opening, with its yawning horns, revving engines, rhythmic claps, and warped electronic beats, is overwhelming, and the raps about patriotic loyalty and protection in the name of love lyrically manifests the song’s belligerent tones and war motifs. In both themes and music, the song is characteristically Monsta X, so then, what about it causes such a visceral reaction? It could be that this time, the clamor and riot of its heavy beats act as a thin veil for the song’s sublimely melodic undertones. The “go hard” sentiments of the past is only second to the optimistic pre-chorus and ballad-like chorus. Especially integral in these hopeful moments are the subtle percussive rings of increasing pitch, which provides us with a much needed contrast and softening effect. It is here where the song’s contours change when we least expect them to. Indeed, under all the polyphony is a delightful gem, a magnum opus.

— Shelley

20. “Angel” by Berry Good

Berry Good’s most glorious moment of the year is a triumph of personality over production. “Angel’s” cheap sheen is the first obvious thing about it. It’d be very easy to switch it off after 20 seconds thinking it won’t go anywhere. Yet the longer it goes, the more you get out of it. There’s a tenderness that grows to absolute euphoric love. The girls hold nothing back; every ounce of them is on this track. Their climactic vocals burst through any sense of balance. You forget everything else that came before and just want to hear it again and again.

— Joe

19. “Knock” by KNK

Hands down and without a doubt, KNK had one of the most impressive debuts of 2016 with “Knock.” KNK couldn’t have debuted at a better time, considering how boring of a year we were having. With a noticeably catchy chorus on the mid-tempo, rich ballad, it’s no wonder they garnered fans so quickly. 2017 can be a blossoming year for these guys if they continue at the pace they’ve gone at in the last nine months.

— Tam


Also on KultScene: 50 Best Korean Songs of 2016: Part 1

18. “The Rain ” by Ladies’ Code

Musically, Ladies’ Code had a fantastic year. “The Rain” is an incredible continuation of themes established by “Galaxy” in both song and visuals. While it is sad that the Korean public hasn’t taken as much notice of the group’s musical blossoming, we here at KultScene definitely have. Taking the soul, trance-influenced vibes of “Galaxy” and adding a dance element, “The Rain” adds another level to an already complex musicality and demonstrates the members’ collective prowess in both vocal and emotive performance. Bravo, Ladies’ Code. The three talents have come back from one of K-pop’s worst tragedies with some of 2016’s best music.

— Kushal

17. “Tell Me (What is Love) by Yoo Young Jin X D.O

SM Station hasn’t always worked out commercially, but it has done a great job as a platform for sometimes experimental and fresh K-pop. It’s also an avenue for several idols to collaborate with other singers, as in the case of EXO’s D.O and Yoo Young Jin’s remake of EXO’s song. Both singers are extremely skilled and they build on each other’s strengths successfully to create the beautiful soulful track “Temm Me (What is Love).” The song has a pretty complicated rhythm, but they sing so effortlessly, it’s just a work of art.

— Anna

16. “Secret” by Cosmic Girls

After a rocky start, Cosmic Girls fulfilled the promise their otherworldly name suggested. “Secret” combines space age synths and symphonies to great effect, creating something befitting the cosmos. Despite this, it still moves with an insatiable groove. “Secret” is grounded by the rhythm section and soars thanks to its contrasts sounds. Similarly, vocals are put against each other to accentuate the range of WJSN’s voices. This works best in the lead up to the chorus with it moving from Cheng Xiao to Mei Qi to Seola. Quivering strings and fluttering voices make “Secret” one of the greatest songs of the year.

— Joe

15. “Very Nice” by Seventeen

Seventeen had one of the most exciting debuts we’ve seen in awhile last year. And while “Pretty U” was a lovely song, “Very Nice” takes the cake for their best single of 2016. “Very Nice” is like taking a big bite out of a cotton candy ice cream on a summer day. It’s sugary, it’s big, and it’s fantastic. Seventeen single-handedly brought back bubblegum pop for K-pop boy bands in a time when everyone was trying to be edgy and swag-tastic. Seventeen, coming from a smaller company, is one of those groups that started from the bottom and have excelled purely based on their talent (and not on the prestige of their company, cough, cough). With “Very Nice,” Seventeen further cemented their brand and showed us all they’re here to stay.

— Alexis

14. “Pieces of You & Me” by Fromm ft. Giriboy

One word: woah. “Pieces of You & Me” is just one of those songs you question where has it been your whole life and is a great introduction to K-indie for anyone who has been thinking about testing its waters. From the gentle toots of the trumpets to the mellow acoustics of the guitars, the song uses grassroots instrumentals to stay true to the independent genre. The slow tempo and brilliant lyrics (Let’s build a castle of our own / I’ll drink all the sad tears) is reminiscent of a simpler time, and is quite fantastic in the word’s original “existing only in imagination” sense. I feel not only protected in Fromm’s fair vocals, but I believe that such a dreamworld exists. Likewise, I also find reassurance in Giriboy’s contrastingly deep and soothing lullabies, for to simply write them off as mere vocals don’t nearly do justice to his feature. Now if only the duo could collaborate on more music in the future, world peace may actually be an attainable goal.

— Shelley

13. “Free Somebody” by Luna

Keep in mind, everyone: Luna was recruited to SM Entertainment for her dancing, not her singing. And today, she is a main vocal and a lead dancer (a very rare sight in the world of K-pop), and also (occasionally, and thankfully!) a solo act. While Korea may not have exactly given this release two thumbs up, “Free Somebody” is incredibly infectious and addictive. Mixing traditional K-pop hooks with EDM and house, the song is incredibly innovative, perhaps ahead of its time even. Not just anyone could do a song like this — it takes the kind of multi-faceted talent that Luna wields so flawlessly to pull this off. Our conclusion: Luna is a gem, and we hope her solo efforts continue as the years go on.

— Kushal

12. “Russian Roulette” by Red Velvet

Red Velvet seems to have a thing for quirky tunes that repeatedly drill their hooks into your brain, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The underlying synths and catchy melody create a retro sound without feeling dated, while the video, like the song, is colorful and a bit strange in a good way. Who would’ve thought that you can make killing your friends look so cute and playful? The visuals of this song is also quite genius with the robotic acting and facial expression of the girls to match the electronic and repetitive beat of the music, making “Russian Roulette” a fun audio-visual experience.

— Katherine

11. “Why” by Taeyeon

Taeyeon showed in this song what she’s truly capable of. “Why” is energetic and melodious, but not in an annoying way that “I” often was; it’s downright addictive. The way Taeyeon’s voice sounds so natural in the midst of the funky instrumentals of the song and how every part of the song seems to blend so seamlessly is audible glory.

— Anna


Also on KultScene: Top 50 Korean Songs of 2015

10. “Better Day” by 100%

After going from a seven member group to five members, to six, and then back down to a five all within the span of a few years, it’s amazing that a K-pop group could still be standing, let alone releasing music. With the return of the group’s leader from military service and the recent loss of another member, 100% held strong and released their comeback song “Better Day.” The song is about wishing to return to a past relationship and has a dark mature sound with a heavily synthesized backtrack. But this song is really all about highlighting the group’s amazing vocal abilities. The vocals on this track are mind-blowing (yes, they sound like that live as well), and Rockhyun and Hyukjin do an extraordinary job conveying that sense of longing that can be felt within every commanding note. The group does a good job balancing soft vocals with powerful notes all while lacing in solid and steady rap verses, creating a dynamic song that is something that should not be underrated.

— Katherine

9. “The 7th Sense” by NCT U

While the different NCT sub-groups released a few singles and even an album this year, NCT U is the clear ground breaking satellite that actually brought something new to the table. To say “The 7th Sense” is yet another K-pop song would be a tragic disservice, for it’s too great to be reduced to such confines. It’s a chaotic yet smooth trap-infused trance; an acid trip meant to mesmerize the senses with the R&B vocals. With every listen, you find new sounds — whistles, doors opening, yawns, monk-like chants — making it a true intricate piece of sonic art. SHINee is the known SM Entertainment group that handles the “experimental” releases, while the “dark” is reserved for EXO. Will NCT U have the “weird” and “interesting” down? One can only hope that this particular sub-group is a permanent one for it dropped the best SM song in 2016.

— Alexis

8. “Fly” by GOT7

2016 was an exceedingly busy year for the members of GOT7. They released their fifth EP Flight: Departure earlier this year, had their Fly Tour, circling throughout Asia and North America this summer, and released their second full-length studio album Flight Log: Turbulence this fall. It’s clear that they took their “Fly” concept to heart, because the guys definitely took flight this year. Ha-ha, get it? “Fly” showed off the members various skills and even charismatic personalities through their individual lines. Considering that they’re still under the control of their company, the members might not openly admit or even have the time to do this, but they’re all still at the prime stages of dating and wanting to be in love, so as cheesy as these lyrics are, can you really blame them? Why are you afraid of being loved, I’m next to you so why are you scared and afraid? Yeah, why would you be afraid of anything if it’s GOT7?

— Tam

7. “Galaxy” by Ladies’ Code

Ladies’ Code may as well change their name to “Phoenix,” because “Galaxy” brought new life to the career of the girl group after one of the most devastating moments of recent K-pop history. In 2014, two members of Ladies’ Code passed away in a car accident, reviving interest in the b-list group and turning Ladies’ Code into martyrs. “Galaxy” turned the trio into survivors, and into one of the most musically innovative K-pop groups of 2016. Rather than return to their original colorful retro-pop styling, their comeback single brought Ladies’ Code into the realm of ethereal, jazzy R&B. The combination of gentle synths with jazz instrumentals, mellow vocals, and lilting chimes is a pure eargasm that doesn’t limit itself to K-pop banality. “Galaxy” doesn’t soar, and it’s not song to play at a party: it’s soft, and it’s simple, and it’s melancholic. And it’s safe to say, it’s near perfection.

— Tamar

6. “FXXK IT” by BIGBANG

Taeyang’s opening lines to “FXXK IT” definitely set the tone for the rest of the song. It’s a bright, delightful and cheerful song; all of which might’ve been purposely done in order to leave fans with positive feels as the members get ready to enlist in the following years. “FXXK IT” is all around carefree and simplistic, and despite this not being your typical BIGBANG adrenaline pumping tune, it’s smooth enough to make you want to get down, get drunk, and party (maybe one day with BIGBANG). This is a well balanced composition; the entirety of the song blends well with no excessive tunes or over usage of certain lyrics. Although it only took them a year and a half to finalize the MADE album, if that’s what it takes for full gratification and perfection, then we’ll happily take it.

— Tam

5. “Oh NaNa” by K.A.R.D

From the first few seconds of this song, it was clear that K.A.R.D meant business. The quality of this song was both incredibly impressive and very surprising, considering that DSP Media’s groups have been on a downward spiral recently due to a lack of musical or popular impact. But “Oh NaNa” is an entirely different story. With two impressive female vocals and two charismatic male rappers, the song is balanced almost perfectly. Not to mention, the “na na na” hook is incredibly infectious. The fact that this song, released only a little more than ten days ago, has been able to make our top five says something tremendous about this group’s potential. Maybe co-ed groups are the future for K-pop. Only time will tell. For now, we can keep jamming and hoping that K.A.R.D will start a trend of stronger music releases from DSP on the whole.

— Kushal

4. “Save Me” by BTS

BTS has had an amazing year, chock full of quality releases with their Wings LP and the compilation album The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, earning them the success and recognition they deserve. In particular, “Save Me” stands out with its addictive melody and instrumentals, which feel fresh while still being definitely familiar. It’s admirable how BTS’s songs are always instantly recognisable as theirs; their group identity as musicians is undeniably strong, which unfortunately can’t be said for many other groups in the K-pop industry. If they keep up the momentum, this identity, as well as the members’ individual talents and charms, will definitely keep the group at the top for a long while more.

— Anna

3. “The Eye” by INFINITE

While it took INFINITE quite a long while to make a comeback, the wait was definitely worth it for their amazing album INFINITE Only. Its title track didn’t disappoint either, with “The Eye” being one of the group’s musically better releases in recent years. Accompanied with a heartbreaking and haunting music video, the song combined unique instrumentals with the emotive vocals of INFINITE’s members. In particular, rappers Dongwoo and Hoya really stood out for their vocal performances in this rap-less song, while Sungkyu’s quiet opening was pitch perfect. While the content of the song is pretty similar to other recent INFINITE releases, its dramatic melody is pretty arresting and makes the song an easy one to put on repeat. The way “The Eye” intensifies through the verse from member to member, building up to the chorus and several mini-climaxes that allow for cool dance breaks, is sonic perfection.

— Anna

2. “Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS

BTS came back with their widely successful Wings album in the latter quarter of the year, and with it, showed their maturation with the sensual “Blood Sweat & Tears.” At the intersection of the burgeoning Moombahton Trap genre and K-pop, the song about a boy who falls into irresistible temptation uses reggae as its base and finds the perfect blends of EDM and trap to form a wonderful medley of sounds accessible to fans and casual listeners alike. The near whispers of the vocals mesh well with its chill synths too, recreating an epicurean spirit in form and content. But the real highlight of the piece is in its chorus, where the trap influences can be found in rapper J-Hope’s intonation: wonhae manhi, manhi, manhi (I want it more, more more). It’s inexplicably charismatic and familiar. It’s easy to appreciate how the song’s individual parts work in harmony with each other to form a melodious fusion. The title cannot be any more telling of the ingredients that went into its production.

— Shelley

1. “TT” by Twice

Standing tall amongst the wreckage that is 2016 is Twice. The JYP girl group capitalized on a strong debut, turning into human memes, and delivering catchy tunes to become one of the strongest forces in K-pop. Musically, they didn’t really hit their stride until “TT,” though. Black Eyed Pilseung found his feet with them, giving them something quirky but not forceful. Their voices are not strained, but wrapped around the beat as if they are all one. Jihyo’s vocals are much better as a result; her inflection as she sings, “I eat all day and I’m still hungry” is the best part of the whole song. Numerous musical details litter the song that make every new listen rewarding. The synths are in constant flux along with the electro drum beat that becomes more physical as it signals an increase in tempo. “TT” is perfectly suited to be representative of its group. Twice’s joyous oddness was a constant comfort in a year where we all felt like TT. Don’t think twice. Get into Twice.

— Joe

Make sure to watch our video countdown to the best song of 2016!


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.

Weekly K-Pop Faves: 12-18

exo-playlist-sunday

Only two weeks left of December, and K-pop 2016 isn’t anywhere near slowing down. (Although our writers are, as busy as they are with the holidays and finals!) This week, we talked a little about an EXO song and K.A.R.D’s debut. Take a listen below and let us know what your favorite song of the week was.

EXO “Winter Heat” (Released Dec. 18)

Each year, EXO’s special winter album is one of my favorite EPs. Their recently released For Life album isn’t doing it for me as much as last year’s Sing For You did, but the b-side “Winter Heat” is a groovy house track that I’ve been listening to all day on repeat. (Or at least since I listened to the album for the first time around 11am in NY.) The song provides some of the album’s more upbeat moments, and some of the group’s most melodic vocals this year that overwhelm the electric rhythm of “Winter Heat.” If you’re looking for a sultry song to heat you up on a cold winter day, well… “Winter Heat” could melt Antarctica.


–Tamar


Also on KultScene: 2016 K-Pop Inspired Gift-Giving Guide

K.A.R.D “Oh NaNa” (Released Dec. 13)

DSP Media’s new co-ed group K.A.R.D debuted this week with hard-hitting vocals, raps, and visuals, delivering a well-rounded combination of skills and charm in their first release. The song “Oh NaNa” is, frankly, much stronger than any of DSP Media’s recent releases (and by recent, I mean from the past two years). With strong influences from hip-hop, EDM, and mainstream K-Pop in general, the song fits the K-Pop mold while also incorporating some incredibly unique features — namely, a co-ed lineup. If KARD does well, maybe we’ll see more co-ed groups in the future? Only time can tell. For now, I respect DSP for this largely experimental release, and hope to see more of this quality from them in the future.

–Kushal

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.

5 reasons to watch ‘My Annoying Brother’

Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

The Korean film My Annoying Brother is getting released in the U.S on December 8 at Los Angeles’ CGV Cinemas. The film is widely popular in South Korea and has built a lot of buzz because of its impressive cast. My Annoying Brother stars EXO’s D.O (Du-Young), Jealousy Incarnate’s Jo Jung Suk (Du-Shik), and Doctor Crush’s Park Shin Hye (Su-Hyun) at their very best as they ramble between love, hate, triumph, and despair.

Ahead of the film’s release, here are some things you to hopefully entice you into seeing the dramedy.

1. The Sibling Struggle Is Real

The film’s English title My Annoying Brother is actually quite different than the Korean one, Hyung, or “Older Brother.” The English expands on the meaning, introducing the film as one brother dealing with the other, implying that both D.O’s Du-Young and Jo Jung Suk’s Du-Shik find his brother irritating, but in the Korean version it’s a clear emphasis on the older brother being… Something. That something turns out to be a con artist who ran away from his family years ago, and gets out of jail pretending to be heartbroken over his younger half-brother’s sudden blindness.

My Annoying Brother D.O Jo Jung Suk

 


Also on KultScene: 2016 Gift Guide For Fans Of Korean Pop Culture [GIVEAWAYS]

2. D.O’s Acting Is No Joke

K-pop idols-turned-actors often have a bad reputation, but there’s no question that D.O’s portrayal of the blind judo athlete Du-Young is extremely powerful and impressive. D.O has played a variety of characters in the past, including the abused Han Kang Woo in It’s Okay, That’s Love, but depicting a blind character proved that D.O’s acting skills are just as impressive as his vocal prowess. (And perhaps even then some.) While the eyes are traditionally used in acting to depict a wide array of emotions, D.O was able to portray the smallest, most nuanced emotional shifts with the rest of his physique. Watching him outshine some of the other actors in the film was definitely a pleasure.

EXO D.O My Annoying Brother

3. There’s Something for Just About Everyone in My Annoying Brother

If you like sports films, con films, comedies, or dramas, My Annoying Brother hits all the categories. The film is about a con artist dealing with his estranged family situation, an injured athlete, a coach trying to support her trainee without ruining her own career, the Rio Olympics, comedic attacks at convenience stores, bath scenes in saunas, and so much more.

But, just note, if you’re looking for romance, that’s not really in this film. But there is whole lot of Bromance for you!


Also on KultScene: B1A4’s ‘Good Timing’ Album Review

4. It Breaks Korean Familial Stereotypes

About 30 minutes into the film, one character points out that “there are many families that aren’t blood related.” In South Korea, where blood ties have been traditionally incredibly important in determining one’s place in society, My Annoying Brother is all about the relationship between siblings rather than the actual blood flowing in their veins. Du-Sik and Du-Young are only half brothers, and Du-Sik feels major resentment towards Du-Young, but at the end of the day the two learn to support one another as brothers. Su-Hyun also joins in on their little family, offering a maternal role to the two overgrown children as they struggle to understand one another.

My Annoying Brother via Tumblr

5. It’s A Big Hit In South Korea

Earning more than $14 million USD is no mean feat, but beating out Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is what’s really impressive about My Annoying Brother. According to Variety, the film was the best-earning film in Korea this weekend with Missing and Fantastic Beasts in second and third place respectively.

What do you think of My Annoying Brother? 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.

2016 Gift Guide For Lovers of K-Pop, K-Drama, & K-Beauty

KultScene 2016 Holiday gift guide feat TWICE!It seems like the holiday season already began as far back as September, but for many of KultScene’s readers it kicks off in earnest on Thanksgiving day when the Black Friday sales jump into action in the US (and much of the rest of the world!) Every year, we’ve greeted the busiest shopping season of the year with our K-pop-oriented gift guide and once again we’ve put our heads together and come up with some great ideas.

Albums and K-pop swag may be a lot of fun (all the lightsticks and posters!!) for the music fans, and you may be tempted to see if that drama you know they love is available on Amazon, but there’s so much more out there! Along with our recommendations, we’re offering a few discounts and giveaways throughout the next month, so make sure to check back throughout the holiday season!

Scroll below to see our rotating giveaways. Currently we’re giving away a Korea Curated Box, so scroll down to enter!

For The Masking Fiend

There’s a lot of K-beauty-oriented subscription boxes out there (and on this gift guide), but Piibu Subscription Box is the answer to every masker’s dreams. If you know someone who has ever tried the 10 masks in 10 days challenge, Piibu’s box filled with different masks is perfect for that. The monthly subscription box comes with a variety of masks from different Korean brands.

Price: $19-108, depending on the subscription plan

Piibu is offering KultScene readers a chance to win a box, so enter below (begins at midnight 11/24). However, this is only available for those in the US, sorry!

Update: Thanks to everyone who entered our Piibu giveaway! Congratulations Naomi Pangelinan for winning!

For People Who Love Wearing Their Fandom Hearts on Literal Sleeves

Everyone loves T-shirts, right? TeePublic gives artists an opportunity to sell their designs for $20, and there are some really great K-pop themed ones available through the outlet so just dig around a bit. We’re fans of designs by sittinginclover and dekoreate, but there’s a lot more K-related items on the site. The site is called TEEPublic, but you can also get the designs on a variety of items, like cell phone cases and mugs!

sittinginclover Super Junior-inspired "Oppa" Tee

Price: Tees for $20

For the K-pop Inept

Just in case someone in your life is completely lacking all knowledge of Korea’s music industry, Woosung Kang’s recently released The KPop Dictionary is probably a good place to start. Or, you know, take a look at our other fact-finding suggestions.

K-Pop Dictionary

Price: $6 for Kindle version, $13 for paperback copy


Also on KultScene: 2015 Gift Guide For Fans Of Korean Pop Culture

For The Skin Tone Perfectionist

For some people, sunscreen is all you need before leaving the house. For others, you better have your primer, foundation, powder, and setting spray. Most of us are somewhere in between. Missha makes it pretty easy, with their BB Boomer primer setting things up as a great base for whatever you’re dressing your face up with. (Plus, Alexis swears by their Time Revolution Essence!). Everything on Missha’s site is 30% OFF between Dec. 1-27 and there’s a lot of free gifts, including sheet masks and samples of some of their Time Revolution products.

Make sure to enter our Missha X KultScene giveaway! We’re giving three winners a gift set worth $90 featuring the BB Boomer, Missha’s Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator AmpouleTime Revolution The First Treatment Essence. However, only U.S. residents can participate since the prizes must be sent to an address within the country.

misha-bb-boomer-kultscene

Price: Regular $15, but on sale for $9

Thanks to everyone who entered our Missha giveaway! The winners have been notified.

For The Lipstick Loving EXO-Ls

Apparently, Sephora has shades in their Rouge Cream Lipstick line that sound suspiciously like they were named after songs by EXO, like “Call Me Baby” and “Lucky One.” It may or may not be related, but it’s a nice little token with an inside joke for anyone who wants a piece of K-pop in their makeup bag. [Let KultScene know if you find any other K-pop connections at Sephora!]

Sephora Lucky One EXO lipstick KultScene

Lucky One

Price: $12.50 each

For The Lipstick Loving Wino

No, I don’t mean a fan of WINNER (shout out to Inner Circle!). Style Korean has a lot of really cute products, but our favorite is their Labiotte Wine Tints. Or just buy them some soju or plum wine!

 

Price: $9 each

For The K-pop Fan Always Losing Their Headphones

Psy apparently tested these adorable brightly colored earbuds from Soul Electronics. So if that celebrity endorsement matters to you, here you go! They come in a variety of different neon hues so can suit just about anyone’s taste. (And maybe buy an album or two with them?)

kpop_product_shot_pink

Price: $50

For The K-Beauty Confused

What the heck is the 10 step solution? If your giftee, or yourself, are befuddled by the nuances of K-beauty skincare, the BomiBox is the perfect place to begin. Each box comes with eight full or deluxe sized Korean beauty products, ensuring that you’ll have a diverse range of items to peruse as you dig further into K-beauty.

Bomibox KultScene

Price: $37, but if you use the code KULTSCENE you get $2 off each order you make. For life!

Thank you everyone for entering and congratulations, Briana Fortunato!


Also on KultScene: 2014 K-Pop Inspired Gift-Giving Guide

For The Cuddle Buddy

Zombie Mamma makes some adorable K-pop plushies, specialized upon request. So if you know someone who wants to be able to brag about sharing a bed with their favorite Korean star… Here’s your chance! Contact Zombie Mamma through her Facebook page.

Zombie Mamma K-pop plushies

Price: Prices range from $50-$60, depending on how elaborate you want to get with the hair, outfit, etc.

For The Burgeoning Anthropologist

K-beauty and K-pop is good and all, but is that really what Korea’s all about? Definitely not! Korea Curated and Inspire Me Korea are two different subscription boxes that bring a little bit of Korean culture straight to your front door.

Korea Curated offers subscription boxes featuring Korean items that aren’t typically sold outside of Korea. Each month’s box can feature anything and everything, filled with things such as Korean snacks, toys, artwork, socks, craft projects, and more. (Plus it’s run out of Korea by a married couple, Cory and Marie, which you know it’s filled with love!) If you use the code KULTSCENE, you’ll get 20% off your first order.

Korea Curated boxes KultScene gift guide

Price: $43-75, depending on the size of the box.

Inspire Me Korea, on the other hand, offers the most diverse Korean subscription boxes around with their monthly culture boxes geared to both men and women, plus they also feature a beauty box. It’s UK based, but don’t worry, they ship their boxes around the world. If you use the code KULTSCENE you can get 10% off your first order.

Inspire Me Korea Box KultScene Gift Guide

Price: £13.99-40 (about $18-100 USD), depending on the subscription

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For The Foodie

Watched Let’s Eat or Drinking Alone? There’s so much food, how can you not want to try some Korean food firsthand? We spoke to the women who started Crazy Korean Cooking years ago, but they have these DIY kits that we think would be a great addition to any kitchen pantry.

They also have a great option to get meals shipped directly to your door , and if you use the code KULTSCENE you can get 25% off your first order. Or, if you’re looking for something more stocking-sized, there’s also the A Very Crazy Korean Christmas Gift set filled with some fun items, ranging from food to kitchen gloves. (Literally!) If you’re interested in that, use the code KULTCRAZY to get 10% off. Both codes expire Dec. 18, so decide which delicious looking foodstuff you want soon!

DIY Crazy Korean Cooking

Price: $19-85

What’s your ideal holiday gift, either for yourself or for others? Share your thoughts (and pictures of your holiday shopping!) about this article 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.

Weekly K-Pop Faves: May 23-29

kpop playlist favorites may last week 2016
The final (full) week of May brought a lot of returns from some of our team’s favorite artists. Girl groups, boy groups, solo artists, and a wide variety of genres are represented in this week’s KultScene weekly K-pop faves.

“Windy Day” by Oh My Girl (Released May 25)

With “Windy Day”, Oh My Girl threatened us with a most dreaded coffee shop ballad. I nearly stopped listening after twenty seconds due to intense disappointment, especially this being the best and most exuberant of all rookie girl groups. I perked up by Yooa and Binnie’s angelic pre-chorus and was absolutely hooked by the Middle East-inspired break after the chorus. Between these parts, the song is driven by Oh My Girl’s perpetual dynamism. First by the chorus vocals in which seven of the members participate in and then by those wonderful strings (might be an Oud) and choreography. No group has exuded such youthful apathy towards musical norms quite like Oh My Girl. They are the rightful heirs to Girls’ Generation’s throne.

— Joe

“Life in Color” by Beenzino (Released May 26)

After the lackluster that was “We Are Going To,” it’s comforting to see that Beenzino is back at it making up for the lost momentum after his “Up All Night” album. It’s no secret that Beenzino is #artsy: one of his most artistic music videos is last year’s “Break.” Continuing the concept and, with another Digipedi music video, comes “Life in Color.” The track is more on the experimental, hypebeast hip-hop side rather than the Southern rap stuff Illionaire regularly does, which makes it that more refreshening. Korea is all about making rap music that doesn’t sound like rap music (mainly slow tempo tracks with a singer at the chorus), but Beenzino mastered this practice by creating something interesting and new while keeping it upbeat. I for one am now highly anticipating his new album (which drops tomorrow!) and hope we see more songs on par with “Life in Color” rather than “Break” and “We Are Going To.”

— Alexis

“so-so” by Baek A Yeon (Released May 23)

I accidentally came across this song while scrolling through Youtube. Baek A Yeon’s soothing vocals blended with the soft melody is easy on ears. This ballad track has R&B and soul effect to it which portrays the feelings of being single and lovesick. The lyrics are quite relatable and hold some bitter reality to them. The subdued effect of the song is neutralized by using pastel shades for the video. The music video has a cute concept and is pleasing to eyes. Baek A Yeon’s “So So” is skyrocketing the music charts, like her previous hits.

— Sana

”Monodrama” by Lay (EXO) (Released May 26)

I really missed hearing R&B from EXO, and even though he only makes up a ninth of the group, Lay’s “Monodrama” was enough to satiate that musical craving. Performed in his native tongue, this song is exactly what I imagine when I think of Chinese R&B. And like all quintessential R&B slow jams, this too makes generous use of layered claps and sensual guitars, giving it a very classic, old school sound. I don’t have to read into the lyrics (I mean, I did) to understand that this isn’t exactly a celebratory song because the instrumentals more than expressed the heartache that “Monodrama” is all about. Lay may not be the strongest vocally in his group, but with this comeback he definitely was able to brandish more than he did when he had to share lines with eight other members. Those several laudatory high notes alone probably made this one of SM Station’s best releases yet.

— Shelley

I was thoroughly absorbed in the music video for “All In” when I heard it the first time, to the degree that I honestly missed much of the song and had to go back to listen again. This music video, which appears to set up a dystopian trilogy featuring some of the members of Monsta X committing suicide, had me thinking of Nazi Germany, The Lord of the Flies, Japanese-occupied Korea, The Walking Dead, yaoi manga, and at least ten other K-pop music videos from the past decade. All at the same time. That said, because of the convoluted plot I feel like the music video honestly didn’t suit the song. As with all Monsta X singles, “All In” has an aggressive sound. Despite the pounding chorus and horn-heavy raps, the song isn’t actually about war or anger, so I feel like it should be accompanied by a music video about sports or some other difficult to achieve goal rather than a fight-for-life plot. The lyrics reflect being all in a relationship; translating this to being all in on a team or a competition makes sense while depicting it through revolution seems off the mark. But, back to the song, within two listens this pounding beat got stuck in my head and I really enjoyed the raps; It’s their most diverse single to date, while still retaining their specific style.


—Tamar

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.

EXO Made The Audience Feel Like One At EXO’luXion New York

EXO-New-York-5

EXO’s first ever North American tour came to an end on Sunday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. But while the performance was the fifth and final stop of the North American leg of EXO PLANET EXO PLANET #2 – The EXO’luXion, it felt like the start of something new for many in the crowd. With EXO and their East Coast fans coming together for the first time ever, the night was one filled with euphoria as the audience and artists built a bond through the night.

Amidst an outpouring love from EXO-L’s (EXO’s official fanclub), the energy was intense as EXO took the stage. Even prior to the start of the show, the excitement was palpable as fans screamed every time a picture of their favorite EXO member flashed on screen, with the loudest cries dedicated to MIA member Lay who is resting from an injury from a television shoot in China.

The Prudential Center filled up near maximum capacity with a white ocean of fans waving official lightsticks, chanting along to EXO’s songs playing prior to the concert. The show kicked off with a video highlighting the mythology of EXO’s members being extraterrestrial beings with supernatural powers, hyping the audience up for the energy EXO was about to showcase.

EXO-New-York-4


Also on KultScene: 8 Misheard K-Pop Lyrics Pt. 4

Throughout the next few hours, EXO showed the audience what made them worthy of that place in the Korean music scene. Despite the language barrier, EXO and EXO-L’s alike understood one another through shared passion as soon as EXO took to the stage. Beginning with “Overdose,” decked out in gold form fitting jackets, EXO performed the powerful dance track as fans let loose their frantic cries of adoration. The song, the group’s final single before several member departures, had been reworked artfully to accommodate the eight present members. While there were fewer members on stage than the dance initially called for, there was no lack amongst EXO’s introductory performance.

After the bombast of “Overdose,” EXO launched into two early songs, pre-debut track “History” and their debut song “MAMA.” Reigniting nostalgia for EXO’s early days, “History” and “MAMA” acted as a gateway into a journey through the group’s repertoire. The performances of older songs so early in the night set the tone for the rest of the concert, as the members reassured fans that they will continue to live up to the group’s slogan to always be there: “We are one.”

EXO-New-York-9

Following the three intro songs, EXO’s members took to the center of the stage and introduced themselves to the audience to their New York-New Jersey audiences for the first time. Giddy with excitement, the members showed off a bit by singing their names and a short rendition of “Empire State of Mind.” Several members spoke in English, with leader Suho taking on much of the MCing throughout the evening.

EXO-New-York-1

However, one recurring issue relating to EXO’s popularity and their intense fan base came to light. The introduction ended with one of multiple request by the group to the crowd in the standing area, with the members leading a chant of “One step back” as EXO urged fans to allow for breathing room and safe conditions amidst the pit. While security was ample and doing what it could, throughout the night, numerous fans in the standing area fainted and were injured in the struggle to get closer to EXO. Aware of their influence, the members raised awareness to the situation numerous times throughout the night, urging the fans to take care of one another to ensure that everyone was able to enjoy the performance in a safe manner.

EXO went into a series of their B-sides that showcased the group’s wide-range of skills, beginning with an interpretive dance-driven rendition of “Don’t Go (Butterfly Girl),” that showcased the group’s softer side as Chen was able to display his belting powers for the first time that evening. After breaking up into pairs to perform the sensual song “Playboy,” EXO followed up by the emotional ballad “Baby Don’t Cry,” which featured a dance routine featuring Kai and Sehun. After the dancers were joined by the rest of EXO, it was time for the first performance without the majority of the members, as D.O., Baekhyun, and Suho performed “My Answer.” Even though there were cases of overusing backing tracking throughout the night in order to ensure more perfect performances, the group’s talented vocalists didn’t disappoint throughout the night. While D.O and Baekhyun are two of the best singers in EXO, leader Suho surprised the audience by holding his own alongside the vocal giants. Despite a minor crack during a solo, Suho more than exceeded expectations.

EO-New-York-3

EXO displayed a wide range of musical styles that best proved to the American crowd what the K-pop act had to offer. Newer songs like the jazzy “Exodus” and the seductive power track “Hurt” got the crowd riled up, while sweeter songs like “Peter Pan,” “XOXO,” and “3.6.5” had the audience swaying in their seats singing along to the music before hundreds of eyes watched as EXO changed on stage between stage outfits, hidden only by white paper, during “Lucky.”

After the stream of songs, EXO’s members once again spoke to the audience, this time relaying their experiences exploring New York City. A casual comment about visiting the Disney Store in Time Square and Chanyeol expressing his love of Elsa, which led to EXO singing bits and pieces of the “Frozen” soundtrack. While it didn’t appear pre-rehearsed, the “Frozen” reference segued into EXO performing several out-of-season Christmas themed songs from their special winter albums, ending with the highlight of EXO’s most skilled vocalists – Chen, D.O., and Baekhyun- coming together to perform “Miracles in December.” Coming three months after the holiday, the theme seemed out of date, but fans ate up the concept and the elf-outfits.

EXO-New-York-9

EXO continuously made efforts to interact with their foreign fans as the night carried on, continuously joking around and playfully joking with the audience. Following the Christmas-themed portion, Xiumin and Chanyeol came out to teach a responsive Korean chant to the English-speaking audience. Even though many people in the crowd had no idea what they were saying, it was clear that by the time EXO performed the pump up song “Drop That” that the language barrier didn’t keep everyone from understanding their passion.

The highlight of the night was easily their hit song, “Growl,” as the audience jumped on EXO’s most well known song and took the opportunity to join in, singing along. Even though “Growl” is EXO’s most popular song to date, the group kept it fresh and exciting by putting their all into the performance. Following it up with their newest songs “Love Me Right” and “Call Me Baby,” EXO ended the concert with the bright, upbeat attitude of their new songs as they said farewell to the East Coast audience and promised that they will get through all future hardships thanks to the love and support of their fans.

EXO-New-York-8

“It’s been a healing moment for all of us,” said Xiumin about the concert. “You guys are really so hot, so perfect, so beautiful, so lovely.”

“We will come back for a happier time,” Baekhyun promised.


Also on KultScene: Jo Kwon’s ‘Crosswalk’ & Seulong’s ‘On The Way To Love’ Are Reminiscent of 2AM

“I feel like we finally became one through our music show,” added Suho. “Don’t forget today. I will not ever forget today forever.”

But no K-pop concert is ever really finished the first time around, and EXO came back on stage to perform two songs released at the end of last year, “Sing For You” and “Unfair.” As if an extension of their earlier promises, the group displayed their tenderness and love for their fans through the ballad “Sing For You.” They then brought the evening to a close with the upbeat, final song of the evening, “Unfair,” as the members played with confetti and stuffed animals fans were throwing onto stage as gifts.

exo-new-york-7

As EXO left the stage for the final time, there was a sense of sadness from the crowd that the evening had come to an end, but also the utter happiness at being able to see the popular K-pop act in person and the knowledge that they were one of the many people to share in something special with EXO that night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


What do you think of EXO’s show? Did you attend any of the stops on EXO’s North American EXO’luXion tour? Let us know! Share your thoughts and what you’re wrongly hearing in K-pop songs 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.