Posts

K-Pop Unmuted: Goodbye Fiestar

On Episode 30 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Tamar Herman, Joe Palmer, and Stephen Knight discuss the career of perennially-underrated girl group FIESTAR. And in our Unmuted K-pop Picks we talk about Kim Sunggyu’s “Shine,’ (G)I-DLE’s “LATATA,” and FAVORITE’s “Where are you from?”

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

Let us know your thoughts on FIESTAR and their disbandment in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Fiestar’s ‘A Delicate Sense’ Album Review

Fiestar

If any group was poised to be the next breakout superstars, it would be LOEN’s girls, Fiestar. Leader Jei and Chinese member Cao Lu have been gaining followers on variety shows by the day and we all know of the success that rapper Yezi has had following her breakout on the second season of “Unpretty Rapstar”. I would have thought that they would come back with as much fanfare as possillbe with little delicacy, but here they are with new mini album “A Delicate Sense”.

Ever since Cheska left, Fiestar have focused their style. Before, it was varied and somewhat of a mess for any budding fans. After the ménage à trois anthem “One More” and silky, acoustic “You’re Pitiful,” an air of melancholic sexiness has grown around them. New single “Mirror” and its music video do nothing to dispel this idea. This new mini album shows the eclectic range of 2016’s possible rising stars .


Also on KultScene: Park Shi Hoo’s Two-Pronged Post-Scandal Return To K-Dramas

Opener “A Sip of Your Lips” is an oddity that could only ever be an album cut. It fuses a number of sounds to create something at once chaotic but sensual. Latin beats, country electric guitars, and sweet vocals make up the bulk of the song. Each part comes together at once to a simple structure to keep it from going too far. Most interesting is the recurring autotuned vocal sound that sounds like a slide guitar. It’s the type of weird sound that makes a song like this infinitely listenable, not just because you’re trying to figure out what it is but because of its beauty.

If any of the members were being pushed for this promotion, the music tells us it is Yezi. Her cold, clinical raps seem to frame every song on the album. Even if she only gets the obligatory bridge of verse, she pulls the song around her. On “A Sip of Your Lips,” the music even stops for a moment, preparing itself for Yezi to inject a fiery pace to it.

She does this no more so than on the single “Mirror.” It’s a synth pop track familiar to K-pop fans as the sound of 2010-2011. Back then, this was the most common kind of sound produced and probably the most expensive they could sound. Hearing it now with even better technology shows its timelessness. Synth stabs cut right to the ear building Fiestar’s melancholic reflection. It’s a perfectly solid lead single but probably the least interesting song on the album.

Yezi is the other difference between the 2011 version of this song. Before, the rapper would have been a regular idol, the girl who couldn’t sing, so they make her talk sort of melodically so they fit into the song. Yezi, however, is a rapper. She bites into the song giving it an anger and frustration where there would only have been sadness.


Also on KultScene: Fiestar & Sex in K-Pop

“Mr. Black” also,in some way, brings Fiestar back to their roots by being an overt ode to sex. Their explicit sexuality is still refreshing if a bit on the nose. Lyrics mentioning an “unstoppable dirty dance” and a “tasty road” (which when pronounced by a korean sounds like tasty load yikes) are embarrassing, but at least we don’t understand Korean so it’s not distracting. The song plays up sensuality over euphoria. The girls coo and whisper throughout over bubbling electronics and a restrained beat. The chorus especially has some of the sexiest vocals K-pop has ever seen.

Fiestar slow things down even more for “Thirst,” a song about insatiable desire. “Thirst” twinkles into existence while carrying on the slightly retro sounds of 2011 with its fuzzy synths. They combine well with chimes forming an eerie dreamy sound. Yezi again fits in perfectly with an autotuned rap that feels like it is ripped straight from the music. I love raps in slower songs like these, they add a new weird perspective but manage to not be too jarring (see also Lim Kim’s “Alright”, Ladies’ Code’s “Hate You”). There’s a desperateness to it that works really well against Linzy’s angelic vocal.

“Back and Forth” is a chance for Fiestar to get angry at all these lovers they sing about. It threatens to be a fairly formulaic track with a bit of sax. The instrumentation is excellent however. The aforementioned sax blends wonderfully with guitars over a strong drum beat. The song begins to build after the first chorus with Yezi’s most outwardly aggressive rap of the album. After a beautiful bridge, the vocals become unhinged and Yezi snarls in between them building the song into a cacophony of angry voices. The repeating refrain of “wassda gassda” adding to the frustration of these young girls.

If Fiestar fail to light up the year like EXID, Sistar, and others before them as new starlets, we can still look back on this and see how impressive they have become as a group. Each song on “A Delicate Sense” has its own identity, adding something fresh to tired formulas. Delicacies in the music lift the tracks into territory worthy of repeat listens. Not only this but their continued use of sex in their lyrics is something to cherish forever. We’re going to look back at Fiestar as a group who dared to be explicit and were great precisely because of that.

What do you think about Fiestar’s new album? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblrto keep up with all of our posts.

5 Female K-Pop Acts Taking On Sexism

IU, Stellar, Yezi, EXID, Sunny Hill 5 Female K-Pop Acts Taking On Sexism
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 feminist anthems 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.

1. EXID

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.


Also on KultScene: Zico’s Singles Ranked Worst to Best

2. IU

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.

3. Stellar

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.


Also on KultScene: 5 Mangas That Need To Be Made Into K-Dramas

4. Sunny Hill

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!)

5. Yezi

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.

Fiestar & Sex in K-Pop

Like some groups before them, Fiestar took the chance to change up their style with their first comeback after a member left. And, like many other girl groups, they took the route of coming back with sexy concept. However, unlike all the others, Fiestar went a step further in approaching sexiness and went all the way to sex.

Their two newest songs, both of which utilize sexy concepts, have tackled sex and feel like two songs that are part of the same story. The first One More is explicit, the second You’re Pitiful is not, but the two seem to be part of one story and chronicle a new, exciting chapter for Fiestar. This is something few other modern K-pop groups are doing or have done. Addressing sex directly within a sexy concept is a perfect conceptual match, but Fiestar have taken steps to execute it in such a daring way that few others have attempted. Ga-In showed us a personal touch, Stellar perfected the metaphorical route, but Fiestar will drag us into nitty gritty sex.

The fundamental problem with sexy concepts in much K-pop music is the explicit lack of sex. While metaphors can always be interesting and a good way of discussing more taboo subjects in the mainstream, they can become easy to hide behind. And when everything is hidden behind metaphor, then it all becomes meaningless. So to counteract this, a more explicit take on the subject will provide the best and only insight into it. To do this Fiestar released a song about threesomes.

Also on KultScene: ‘Unpretty Rapstar’ Is Sexist & Promotes Girl-On-Girl Hate

Read more