K-Pop Unmuted: Talking Girls’ Generation

In the 24th episode of of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Tamar Herman, and former K-Pop Unmuted co-host Scott Interrante discuss the departures of Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany, Seohyun, and Sooyoung from the legendary act, the girl group’s legacy, and some of our favorite hits from the Girls’.

We also talked about new music from BTOB, Loona, and Ha:tfelt. 

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

Let us know what you think of Girls’ Generation’s future and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Weekly K-Pop Faves Feb 27-March 5

Each week, the KultScene crew gets together and talks which K-pop songs released the past week caught our attention. The last week of February saw a lot of good releases, but we focused this week’s playlist on boy band Victon, a B-side from the first LP from Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon, and a hip hop collab between LIVE and DEAN.

“Eyez Eyez” by VICTON (Released Mar. 2)

Despite being all quite similar, the new generation of boy groups are quite good at delivering classic K-pop sounding tracks. VICTON’s “Eyez Eyez” is one of the best examples. Pairing the synths of Sweetune with dripping dub reminiscent of Nu’est at their best, “Eyez Eyez” is dramatic in the ways that only K-pop boy groups can be. The developing mix of synths and dub carries this drama throughout, however, never steering into the realm of silliness. Especially in the pre-chorus, it kicks into overdrive with vocals pushing the music to keep up. It has no trouble as the song climbs to an epic plateau where a chorus can naturally occur. Producers BeomXNang have worked with VICTON on all their singles so far, improving each time. VICTON lack in distinctive qualities but compared to other boy groups right now, few can compete in terms of consistency.

— Joe

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

“Cover Up” by Taeyeon (Released Feb. 28)

With its light-hearted tropical beats and Taeyeon’s brightly effusive deliver of the lovestruck lyrics, the sweet “Cover Up” is a standout from Taeyeon’s My Voice album. It’s quite honestly like a burst of fresh air on the album after “Fine,” the more melancholic opening track. “Cover Up” seems like a more positive, saccharine spin on the the electro-pop feel Taeyeon pursued on last year’s “Why,” although altogether more of a feel good song. Practically incessant in its cheeriness and cool, romantic tone, “Cover Up” seems more like a song suited for the start of spring than at the end of the winter (although I guess those are the same thing?), but regardless of its release date I am very, very happy and would love to hear this spritely version of Taeyeon more often.

— Tamar

“Know Me (feat. DEAN)” by LIVE (Released Mar 1)

I honestly don’t know who LIVE is, but he’s got a new song out with none other than DEAN, and well, here we are. In “Know Me,” DEAN doesn’t just lend his velvety vocals and falsettos, but actually talk raps and he absolutely killed it. MORE OF THIS PLEASE! The song itself goes on a roller coaster, going from fast-paced, fire spitting bars to a more mellow lullaby. And it’s just not DEAN who makes the song amazing, but LIVE’s rapping is pretty dope. I may not had known him before, but as the lyrics say, now I do.

— Alexis
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.

Weekly K-pop faves: December 5 – 11

K-pop playlist winterThe winter blues may be affecting everyone as we move deeper and deeper into December, but Weekly K-pop favorites playlist, courtesy of KultScene’s staff, is all about beating the blahs via some of our favorite artists. 10cm, Suran, and Jessica, formerly of Girls’ Generation, all released new music this week that our writers were fans of.

“Winter Bird” by Suran (Released Dec. 7)

I really like when other artists bring Suran in to sing a verse or the chorus on their songs. A full length Suran track, however, is difficult for me to get through (namely, “Paradise Go”). Her tone is just too much to endure for me for 3 minutes straight, it seems. That’s why when “Winter Bird” dropped this week, I was pleased. I love her voice in small pieces, so I really wanted to like her solo work, and that was achieved with this release. The fact that it’s stripped of all frills and elaborate beats allows Suran’s voice to soar and stand on its own. Not to mention each note is full of every emotion imaginable. Am I sad? Am I inspired? Am I happy? I don’t know! But it got me in the feels. With “Winter Bird,” my will to keep rooting for Suran is restored.

— Alexis

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

“My Eyes” by 10cm (Released Dec. 9)

I was thrilled to hear the gentle strumming of 10cm’s new song as it played in the background of one of the best dramas of the year, Goblin. Kwon Jung Yeol’s vocals set the mood perfectly in ”My Eyes,” a love song that, both through its lyrics and the light-hearted instrumental melody, relays the fluttering emotions related to the start of a new relationship. 10cm became associated with springtime thanks to their recent hit “What The Love?”, but “My Eyes” is a romantic melody for every season.

— Tamar

“Wonderland” by Jessica (Released Dec. 10)

For her sophomore mini album release, Jessica uses “Wonderland” to further cement her individual sound as separate from that of her Girls’ Generation days. The song follows a similar formula as that of her debut track “Fly,” but with more influences from EDM “Wonderland” establishes Jessica’s own signature sound and gives her some room for innovation and variation. Not to mention, the “Wonderland” theme creates a continuing story with her debut release, because Jessica longed to find a “winter wonderland” throughout the “Fly” MV. From visuals to music, Jessica is continuing to show us her own unique musical prowess through her solo releases.

— Kushal

What’s 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.

Weekly K-Pop faves: August 15 – 21

kpop playlist songs korean august 2016

August is almost over, but K-pop is really just getting started for the summer. This week saw a bevy of releases from many acts so, as usual, our writers picked out some of their favorite songs from the past week. For fans of indie, we have Nell’s first song since setting up a new company, for fans of “Produce 101” we have I.B.I’s debut, and for fans of the powerhouse Girls’ Generation we have a new song by two members, Yuri and Seohyun. Rounding things out we have some Cosmic Girls for your listening pleasure.

“Secret” by Yuri x Seohyun (Released Aug 18)

Too bad Yuri and Seohyun’s ad for Pantene didn’t come out during Pride Month, because “Secret” is tailor made for the gay club and I absolutely love it. By now, gone are the days of the electro Euro popish sound. So if SM producers have to combine this with EDM to make contemporary bangers, I’ll take it. For lack of a better, more suitable word, Yuri and Seohyun absolutely slay, both vocally and choreography-wise. The concept and song suits Yuri like a glove, and while I would’ve chosen someone else in SHY over Seohyun, she manages to not look super robotic as usual. “Secret” is exactly my type of jam and here’s to hoping for a Yuri solo.

— Alexis

Also on KultScene: INX’s ‘Alright’ music video & song review

“Molae Molae” by I.B.I (Released Aug 18)

I.B.I is a project group consisting of some finalists from “Produce 101,” the show that launched I.O.I. After being put together as a dream team by fans of the program, the group finally made their debut this week with the adorable “Molae Molae.” Light-hearted, sweet and fun, this song fully showcases the youthful charms of the group, along with their vocal talents. More than that however, the uplifting lyrics reflect the hopes and dreams of these five girls, girls who have faced failure several times in their K-pop journey but are not going to give up anytime soon. It’s a beautiful message and I’m definitely rooting for these underdogs, so here’s to hoping that this group will become a permanent one soon!


“Dream Catcher” by Nell (released Aug 18)

As the first single they’ve released in several years and also the first since departing Woollim Entertainment, I was really anticipating Nell’s “Dream Catcher.” Things could either be phenomenal or go horribly wrong. Luckily, Nell is a talented band and my worries were relatively pointless; “Dream Catcher” is a twinkling display of glorious electronic-pop. Nell is one of the most versatile bands in South Korea, able to do anything from ballads to hard rock, and the trance-evoking song is simply wonderful. The colorful, hallucinatory music video combined with the lilting synth notes that create the guiding sound to “Dream Catcher” truly evoke the idea of a fleeting dream. It’s perfect for the summer and, although it’s a bit upbeat, Kim Jong Wan’s vocals and the song’s overall style make me just want to close my eyes and simply dream.

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: D.Holic

“Secret” by Cosmic Girls (WSJN) (released August 17)

Since I haven’t paid too much attention to new artists from this year, this release caught me completely off-guard. But after hearing the news of I.O.I’s Yeonjung being added to the group (which I originally thought was a horrible idea), I decided to give their new song a chance and I’m thoroughly impressed. Among the massive 13 members, I’m glad to hear some great vocals singing along with Yeonjung (who was one of two members of the group that I was actually acquainted with before listening to this song, the other being EXY). The song is catchy, but transcends the typical K-pop mold with a more ethereal sound and aesthetic. The music video is absolutely beautiful, and the song has a light/airy quality that accentuates the “cosmic” quality of the group itself. While their debut didn’t really leave me with a strong impression, Cosmic Girls shows a lot of potential for a strong future in K-pop with this release.


What’s your favorite song from last week? Did it make our playlist? 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.

SHY SHY SHY: Why Girls’ Generation-SHY Needs to Happen

TTS SHY Girls' Generation SNSD

Back in 2012, SM Entertainment announced that the Nation’s Girl Group, none other than Girls’ Generation themselves, would be putting out its first subunit group, known as TTS. As we all know, the subunit went on to (arguably) become K-pop’s most successful subunit. Composed of main vocals Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun, this small microcosm of GG has sold over 300,000 albums, 3.5 million downloads, and four top ten singles in South Korea alone. Clearly, TTS is a formidable force in the world of subunits (or even girl groups on the whole — the subunit ranks among the best-selling girl groups even without GG behind them). Ever since their debut, TTS has remained relevant in the K-pop scene as a standalone group.

TTS SNSD Girls' Generation Taeyeon Tiffany Seohyun

But there was one teensy, tiny, little detail of SM’s original 2012 announcement that was particularly notable — TTS was originally planned as a rotational subunit. This meant that different subunits would be created with different members of the group. At first, this excited fans, because they would be able to see their favorite members in various duos and trios as the years progressed. However, while TTS became a staple of SONE culture, these rotated subunits never happened. Instead, TTS received comeback after comeback. And while they’ve released consistently good music, fans have been waiting for SM to live up to its now four year-old promise. Most commonly, it seems the craving for a new GG subunit has manifested in the form of SHY.

Also on KultScene: 13 Things We Learned at GOT7’s ‘Fly in Los Angeles’ Show

Girls’ Generation-SHY is a hypothetical unit of Girls’ Generation, consisting of members Sooyoung, Hyoyeon, and Yuri. And while TaeTiSeo focused on jazzpop and vocal pop, SooHyoYul would put its energy into hip-hop and dance music. While TTS spent more time on vocals, SHY would display killer choreography. This is only expected from the group’s dance line, which, when on their own, gives off a very different charm than the rest of GG. While they have gone to darker concepts (re: “RunDevilRun,” “Bad Girl,” and more), SHY is edgy and badass, while regular SNSD is loveable and girly. SONES who have been waiting for something darker and more hard-hitting from the group crave a SHY debut for this reason. SM should definitely cash in on this appeal, as it further diversifies the SNSD sound and gives the girls even more versatility and longevity, especially going into their tenth year as a group.

Hyoyeon SNSD Girls' Generation Younique Unit SHY

SHY would also be an incredible and worthwhile fanservice to SONES who have followed the group for years but haven’t gotten to see Hyoyeon, Yuri and Sooyoung really shine on their own. While Yuri has been recently getting more lines (it seems her role as a dancer and visual is colliding with that of a vocal lately), none of the three have really had a chance to shine on stage as all-around performers. Sooyoung, who previously debuted in Japan as part of a duo, has also been underutilized. “Catch Me If You Can” saw the three fan an increased role in Girls’ Generation, but this trend completely reversed with the release of their following albums. “Party” and “Lion Heart” gave them minimal lines as usual, leaving fans to hope that “You Think” would give them a well-deserved share of line distribution. Given the more hardcore, dance-centric vibe that “You Think” seemed to exude from the teasers, many fans thought SHY would finally shine. However, the exact opposite happened — vocals led the entire song and saw Yuri take a few random lines here and there, with Sooyoung and Hyoyeon taking the tiny, anticlimactic rap section before the bridge. Once again, SHY fans were frustrated at their faves’ lack of spotlight. It seems that, after more than a decade of hard work, these girls deserve some attention of their own on stage.

And what better time to debut SHY than right now?! One of the biggest trends of K-pop in 2016 is SM’s hard work — we’ve seen unit and solo promotions across the board from members of Girls’ Generation (both of whom are TTS members, unsurprisingly), f(x), Super Junior, SHINee and more. Many of these releases don’t follow musical trends in Korea, because they instead incorporate more unique and diverse genres into what is becoming one of SM’s most musically eclectic years yet. It seems that SM has gone above and beyond caring about the public popularity of its music, opting for music quality and global potential instead, and using EDM and other similar “more global” genres to match these attributes.

Also on KultScene: Weekly K-Pop Faves July 11-17

So considering how EDM literally stands for Electronic Dance Music (emphasis on “Dance”), why isn’t SHY debuting with some badass EDM/rap song? In fact, Hyoyeon already handled such a concept very well in the music video for “MAXSTEP” by Younique Unit, a temporary promotional group SM assembled using its best dancers a few years ago. An EDM/rap-oriented SHY song might not chart too well, but neither did half of SM’s releases this year, and SM doesn’t seem to care about chart positions as it is. So what’s stopping them? If anything, a SHY debut will add to SM’s goals of globalization — Hyoyeon is known for being by far the most famous member of the group in France and has a very sizable fanbase in North America as well. The same goes for Sooyoung, whose charms seem to be recognized in both Japan and the Western Hemisphere. A SHY debut aligns perfectly with every single one of SM’s goals right now, so it seems simply absurd why this long-awaited release hasn’t happened already.

SHY Sooyoung Hyoyeon Yuri SNSD Girls' Generation

The truth is, there are some reasons why SHY isn’t happening just yet. There are rumors of solos from both Seohyun and Yuri. It would make sense for SM to want to finish the TTS trio of solos before moving onto other SNSD-related projects, and once that’s out of the way, a Yuri solo would definitely throw a wrench in SHY debut plans as well (but still cause at least a substantial fraction of the buzz that a SHY debut would create). Not to mention, Hyoyeon is also busy with “Hit the Stage,” an Mnet competition show for some of K-pop’s most famous idol dancers as contestants. However, none of these activities mean, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that SHY can’t happen. It seems that we are closer than ever to something of that sort happening. Maybe we just need to wait a few more months, a year or two, or whatever it takes. But in due time, even SONES will be singing along with TWICE’s Sana, in a future fanchant that is yet to be created, for a future debut that is yet to happen.

Do you think SHY should be debuting anytime soon? 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.

Battle of the “Why:” Wanna.B vs Taeyeon

Taeyeon & Wanna.B
Why were there two songs called “Why” released on the same day, 28th June? What links these tracks, one by titan of K-pop Taeyeon and the other by flop girl group Wanna.B? Nothing really, but the coincidence of their titles is an excuse to compare both the songs. In most cases it is probably irrelevant, but I think it might be interesting to see directly side by side the gap between the biggest and smallest of what K-pop can give us.

“Why” by Wanna.B

Watching Wanna.B’s “Why” for the first time we get an air of familiarity before anything else. The video and sound is almost a direct jack from Mamamoo, particularly “Um Oh Ah Yeah” for the video. Their sound continues the jazzy horns but tones them down considerably with more emphasis played on an overall mix. More pop oriented than Mamamoo, but the hallmarks are there. Even the whiny raps come off distinct like Hwasa’s own peculiar drawl. This proves that they are really starting to have an impact. The GFriend clones were coming all over the place, but only have the Mama-mimes shown themselves. It does represent some sort of a step up for Wanna.B though, who last year put out an After School inspired track “Attention;” Everyone knows After School are so 2013 (I don’t mean this please let them come back Pledis).

Also on KultScene: The K-Pop Phoenix: The New Generation of Girl Groupsc

Why Mamamoo? The pop comedy angle is an interesting one that can garner a lot of fans if done well but be embarrassing done wrong. I don’t think Wanna.B will pursue it quite like Mamamoo, but it is present here with the gurning actors and cosplay settings in their video. Musically, it sits in an awkward position between a Mamamoo inspired jazz belter and a Brave Brothers classic. It sticks to the structure but never fluctuates in intensity. Like many songs, a rap is used as the break/bridge. The vocal itself works well, the delivery is accusatory and playful whipping around the beat. Yet the song never takes off alongside it. It sticks to its plucked strings and horns, which again are nice sounds but stagnant within these confines.

Wanna.B’s why is for a man, obviously. They curse themselves for not being able to seduce a man with their high heels, perfume, and general things that make them prettier. Like the music, there’s no progression of ideas. One might ask, why?


“Why” by Taeyeon

Taeyeon’s very own “Why” also provides us with a sense of deja vu with first listen. Since discovering producers LDN Noise on SHINee’s “View,” SM have used them for a number of songs, essentially letting them define the current SM sound. Given their name it’s no surprise that it’s a typically British house/garage sound. They return to production duties here alongside Rodnae Bell (EXO’s “Monster,” SNSD’s “Mr Mr”) and Laura Dyson, with lyrics by Jo Yoon Kyung.

Also on KultScene: The Vulgar Aesthetic of Son Dambi: Digital Perspectives in K-Popc

In adapting to SM’s house sound, Taeyeon has not completely lost her original solo colour. The laid-back pop of “I” and “Rain” is in fact bolstered and allowed to move up with it. Those previous songs relied on her vocals to progress the song. “Why” builds constantly thanks to both the vocals and music. It begins with a verse that alone would have been seen as fairly generic. Yet it builds nicely, with subtle tropical hints of what is to come. The soaring chorus that follows is a perfect mix of the two sounds. Taeyeon’s vocals, which I thought might not have fit, are beautiful in their inquisitiveness alongside thumping house beats. Those refrains of “good, good” come for my very soul. The chorus transitions directly into another verse while continuing on the blend of house slow-jam. It progresses the song without an abrupt moment. This is what Wanna.B sorely lacked. While different in genre, Taeyeon’s “Why” rises and falls and adds new elements at every turn. Wanna.B’s “Why” picked its direction and could not see otherwise.

Taeyeon’s track continually makes the right choices in production, particularly the bridge which firsts gives Taeyeon her vocal moment but allows the music to take over for the big break. LDN Noise knew this was not a regular Taeyeon track and knowing that they allowed her to shine in a different manner. The lyrics that drive the production are also more interesting than Wanna.B. They are the correct use of a title like “Why.” Taeyeon is a curious traveller, moving at random in search of beautiful moments, “The needle that would turn on a compass, Blooming abundantly at the place where it stops.” She projects an openness to allowing life to happen to her. It’s a feeling that fits with her new sound, an unfamiliarity driven by fresh experiences.


Why Taeyeon and Wanna.B?

It has proven to be somewhat unfair to compare these two. Although, like I mentioned before, there are things we can take from this. Namely as the gap between big and small companies gets smaller with regards to production level and to a lesser but growing extent sales, it seems like the bigger companies are still getting better. The sound quality between Taeyeon and Wanna.B is not vastly different, yet Taeyeon’s “Why” is vastly superior. SM have always proven to be sharp hit makers and they continually remain on top because of their adaptability. Not only that, but they also make the hip sounds of the time their own, creating new structures to place sounds in. SM’s ingenuity with the song as a total experience is why they remain on top.

Wanna.B, on the other hand, have taken a popular sound and look directly from a single group, watered it down a bit, and made it sound like the most classic of K-pop tracks. Through these filters, the special things about each of these elements is lost. The individuality of Mamamoo, the inexplicable joyous pop of a Brave Brothers track, and Wanna.B’s own flair are all forgotten. So disappointingly we leave knowing that the big dogs win again. Yet Wanna.B are only one of a string of lesser known girl groups with releases towards the end of July. Maybe there is hope.

Which “Why” do you prefer? Taeyeon or Wanna.B? Let us know WHY in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook,Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The K-Pop Phoenix: The New Generation of Girl Groups

Girl Groups

K-pop is one of the fastest-changing industries known to man, woman, fanboy, and fangirl alike. Just think about it: two years ago, MAMAMOO’s derpy quirks, Sana’s “Shashasha” and GFriend’s stage falls were almost or entirely unknown to the public, Korean or international. But fast forward a few debuts and comebacks later, and the world of K-pop has changed immensely. I recently explained why the Second Generation of K-pop Girl Groups is slowly (and painfully) falling apart. And now, some seven or eight years since the fateful debut stages of legends like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1, the New Generation of Girl Groups is here carry the torch forward.

The advent of a new generation is pretty exciting — it essentially only happens once every few years when a wave of popular girl groups hits the scene around the same time. Starting in the late 1990s, the First Generation consisted of groups like S.E.S, Fin.K.L, and Baby V.O.X. It was about ten years until the Second Generation came around, with Girls’ Generation, KARA, Wonder Girls in 2007, joined by 2NE1, SISTAR, 4Minute and more in 2009-10. Now, we finally see the Third Generation, starting with MAMAMOO and Red Velvet 2014 and joined by TWICE and GFriend in 2015. The exact breakdown and timing of the Generations is something commonly debated by K-pop fans (and believing it breaks down differently than I described is totally cool, too), but it’s pretty clear that, regardless of how you define the generations, a new wave has come to dominate K-pop post-2014.

While our past faves may be beginning to fade, the K-pop phoenix is reborn again with the advent of the Third Generation. And the new groups both parallel and differ from their predecessors immensely. Let’s take a closer look at four of K-pop’s newer stars, and see how they stack up next to top Second Gen groups SISTAR, f(x), 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation.

Also on KultScene: Intro to Red Velvet

SISTAR has quite a reputation in the K-pop world. With unforgettable hit-after-hit, the four member act has asserted its place among girl group royalty since their debut in 2010. Most notably, SISTAR is known for their memorable hook songs, which tend to define an entire season of the year. They are affectionately considered the Queens of Summer Bops, launching 2012’s “Loving U,” 2013’s “Give It to Me,” 2014’s “Touch My Body, ”and 2015’s “Shake It” to the number-one spot on the Korean charts every summer. And, as this is being written, the group’s latest release “I Like That” inches closer and closer to a perfect all-kill as well. Few groups have been able to cultivate such a long string of hits. [ed note. It is currently within the top 5 on numerous Korean music charts.] With so much public recognition for their songs, SISTAR has one considerable weakness in the spectrum of girl group success: fandom strength. Since the group is so known for its public popularity, it lacks a strong fandom to buy up albums and sell-out concerts when the chance comes around.

Sistar and Gfriend

GFriend, a six-member girl group debuted only last year, boasts a similar situation. So early into the game, the group has two very well-known songs: the cute, catchy and stage-fall inducing “Me Gustas Tu,” and the intense and memorable mega-hit “Rough,” which dominated charts early this year, becoming February’s monthly number one song against frighteningly powerful artists like Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation, who released her single “Rain” around the same time. Digitally, GFriend shows a lot of potential, and boasts a lot of public popularity and recognition as well. While they are quickly being noticed as a top girl group, GFriend isn’t exactly known for having a huge domestic or international fandom. While this could definitely change in coming years, and the groups are stylistically and musically very different, GFriend seems to line up with SISTAR’s legacy right now — captivating the public with a stellar title track and leaving the albums to a small, dedicated group of fans.

Like SISTAR, f(x) is one of K-pop’s Second Gen giants, but for a different reason. While SISTAR is more public-friendly and promotes music that people can quickly find fun and engaging, f(x) is known for an experimental style, bringing in exotic musical styles that are less familiar to the Korean crowd. They brought some alternative electronic with “Rum Pum Pum Pum” in 2013, EDM with “Red Light” in 2014, and house with “4 Walls” last year. The now four-member group has introduced and familiarized diverse musical styles among the South Korean music scene. For a K-pop girl group, it’s pretty impressive that they’ve maintained relevance for so long even though their songs aren’t the most public-friendly off the bat. The SM-produced group also has a huge fandom behind it, as albums regularly sell in excess of 80,000 copies and concerts quickly sell out.

f(x) and Red Velvet

And as f(x) enters its later years (it’s now been about seven years since their debut), labelmates Red Velvet are poised to follow in their footsteps. With distinct R&B, alternative and electronic influences, Red Velvet has become one of K-pop’s newest jewels, with multiple top 10 singles “Happiness,” “Ice Cream Cake,” “Dumb Dumb” and, most recently, “One of These Nights.” With a very distinct and eclectic musical style, Red Velvet sets itself apart and succeeds. Much like f(x), Red Velvet has established a unique musical color with a strong fandom behind it, as their two mini-albums and studio album have all topped album charts and sold about 50,000 copies, much more than other girl groups at the moment.

Now we get to the really big leagues — digital and talent monster groups with strong domestic and international fandoms. With the most number-one singles of any act in South Korean history, 2NE1 is exactly that. Iconic hit after iconic hit, the group was known since 2009 for promoting multiple singles from the same album (something very rare in K-pop, but typical of YG groups), and succeeding with each and every one of them. Since their debut in 2009, 2NE1 have launched immensely successful songs to the forefront of K-pop trends, starting with their debut single “Fire,” is one of the best-selling songs of all-time in South Korea. To date, the group has never promoted a single that charted below number four on weekly charts (that totals to seventeen top-four songs), and consistently sold albums into the 100,000s. They are also the only of K-pop’s girl groups to complete two full world tours, demonstrating their fandom power both within and outside of Korea.

2NE1 and Mamamoo

While a stylistic 180 from 2NE1, MAMAMOO aligns most closely with where 2NE1 stood in the K-pop world a few years ago. With a similar four-member structure and powerful vocals, rap and dance, MAMAMOO has the incredible stage presence, talent and personality that made 2NE1 so successful to begin with. The group already has two top-three singles “Um Oh Ah Yeh” and most recently, “You’re the Best,” and MAMAMOO is known particularly for having a large and supportive fanbase. While Daum Fancafe isn’t always the best metric to determine how many fans a group has, the numbers tell us something interesting here: MAMAMOO currently has about 75,000 members in their fancafe and counting. They were the fastest girl group to 50,000, and their numbers exceed other majorly successful girl groups including AOA, 9MUSES, f(x), and even 2NE1. Going off of that, all 8,200 tickets to their first solo concert sold out in only one minute. And considering that 80% of the ticket sales were to female fans, the group is definitely finding its place as 2NE1’s successor.

There are, however, some major differences. While 2NE1 went for badass electronic pop music, MAMAMOO is one of K-pop’s only jazz-influenced pop groups, bringing in some of those elements in “Mr. Ambiguous” and “Piano Man.” The group also regularly performs on shows like “Immortal Song” and makes appearances on varieties like “We Got Married,” something 2NE1 rarely did (another YG custom). With impressive talent and stage presence, MAMAMOO is all set to rise up in the Third Generation of K-pop, just as 2NE1 did in the Second.

Last but the opposite of least, Girls’ Generation epitomizes what it means to be a successful girl group in Korea. With nationwide public recognition, a frighteningly large fandom, international acclaim, and strong digital sales, the group definitely led the Second Generation. Once GG made it big in 2009 with iconic title track “Gee,” no one stood a chance against them in the fight for the number-one spot among girl groups. From Korea to Japan, Girls’ Generation has become a household name and a nationwide craze. Speaking of Japan, GG was arguably the most successful Korean girl group there, as their debut Japanese album sold a whopping 870,000 copies. Even the Korean version of their 2011 album The Boys sold 140,000 copies in Japan — yes, the Korean version — not to mention over 450,000 album sales within Korea itself. As we can tell, it’s pretty hard to live up to a monster girl group like GG. So who is the ringleader of the Third Generation?

Right now, it seems to be none other than JYP Entertainment’s TWICE. Right off the bat, the groups are structurally similar — three strong vocals (Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun line up with Jihyo, Nayeon and Jungyeon), a visual center (Yoona lines up with Tzuyu), an aegyo-centric attention-grabber (Sunny lines up with Sana) and a strong dance line (Sooyoung, Yuri and Hyoyeon line up with Mina, Tzuyu and Momo). The groups also wield a similar, glamorous girl-next-door vibe, looking for love and accessing their femininity. TWICE’s success is comparable as well — in fact, they are the only girl group other than Girls’ Generation to have an album selling above the hundred-thousand mark, which their most recent mini-album Page Two did very quickly. Along with a fierce fandom, TWICE’s digital sales are nothing to laugh at, either. After two months, “Cheer Up” still remains in the top ten of most charts, which is an incredible success in the K-pop world.

Also on KultScene: Let’s Discover: Mamamoo

Going off of these facts and stats, some have been quick to call TWICE an SNSD-copy, trying to emulate their success by emulating the group itself. The differences between the groups, however, throw this accusation right out the window. While TWICE may have successfully become the Third Generation frontrunner for having a similar vibe as SNSD, they definitely aren’t the same. The most glaring is the member dynamic — while Girls’ Generation is all Korean or Korean-American, TWICE has five Korean members, three Japanese, and one Taiwanese, making international expansion that much more logical and accessible for the group. Dahyun and Chaeyoung also serve the roles of Lead and Main Rapper, respectively, which are positions that weren’t very defined at GG’s debut. TWICE title tracks also deviate incredibly from the GG mold as well, employing diverse vocals, rhythm-changes and instrumentalism that GG’s more musically homogeneous tracks don’t use.

Girls' Generation and Twice

Fundamentally, all of these groups show similarities to their predecessors, but the differences make it clear that K-pop isn’t simply repeating itself with the Third Generation. Our Second Gen faves aren’t being replaced and forgotten. Instead, they’re being honored and built upon with new sounds and ideas. Such is the nature of the K-pop phoenix — not only being reborn again, but also with new talents, music and charms to share with the world, learning from past mistakes and successes. As the girl group landscape changes yet again, we can only hope that our new faves become just as well liked as the ones before them, and carrying the K-pop legacy forward for the man, woman, fanboy, and fangirl alike to enjoy.

Who are your Third Generation faves? 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.

Girls’ Generation & The (So-Called) Copycat Generation

Girls' Generation, GFRIEND, Twice, IOI

Nearly two and a half decades have passed since Seo Taiji and Boys’ “Nan Arayo” heralded in the beginning of the K-pop musical genre. Since then, there have been countless singers and idol groups who have made an impacts on K-pop as a whole and one of the most important trendsetters of the past nine years has been none other than Girls’ Generation. They have solidified their legacy with hit after hit and shown audiences one iconic concept after another. And, with such a career, Girls’ Generation is clearly a role model for newer acts. But as rookie groups GFriend, Twice, and the newly-debuted project group IOI have learned, there is a fine line between homage and copying.

It’s this differentiation that is coming to light as K-pop fans around the world criticize rookie girl groups who have clearly chosen to model themselves after one of the most successful acts of the generation. The K-pop industry is small enough that originality is always applauded, and there is plenty of that when it comes to Twice, IOI, and GFriend. But these new girl groups have taken a few lessons from older acts like Girls’ Generation and proved that there is much to be learned. Unfortunately, it sometimes leads to a “wait, was that plagiarized?” moment. There have been multiple head scratching and accusations towards groups who have a concept too similar to one of those of Girls’ Generation, but the question is worth asking: Are these girl groups copying or are they emulating?


Over the past few months, GFriend has surpassed the expectations of many, with successive hits after one another. But while their refreshing image and their pristine performances have set them apart, GFriend’s debut concept had K-pop fans around the world crying “foul!” “Glass Bead,” the first in a trilogy that followed a youthful schoolgirl concept, was attacked for sounding altogether too similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut song “Into The New World.” With similar cadences and an energetic dance while also wearing athletic gear, GFriend was initially accused of trying to garner attention for imitating Girls’ Generation.

Also on KultScene: 8 Misheard K-Pop Lyrics Pt. 5

Now, more than a year later, it’s clear that GFriend hasn’t just mimicked Girls’ Generation –they’ve imitated them as icons of a certain K-pop concept. Additionally, GFriend’s agency Source Music consists of former SM Entertainment staff members. While speculative, there’s no real question that GFriend’s production team took the example of Girls’ Generation’s debut concept and analyzed it to get the formula right. And, with two additional hit songs under their belt, it’s obvious that it worked.


While they’re down to eight members following the 2014 departure of Jessica Jung, Girls’ Generation was the first K-pop female megagroup. Girls’ Generation’s launch heralded in larger girl groups, but even now larger girl groups are far and few in between (AOA is the only other mainstream group with eight members) so Twice’s size was a tip off to the fact that JYP was going to market Twice as a group that has something to offer everybody. I was honestly surprised more people didn’t call out the Girls’ Generation comparison the minute JYP Entertainment (a main competitor of Girls’ Generation’s agency, SM Entertainment) announced that it would debut a nine-member girl group. When it comes to K-pop, size really does matter because it means there’s a higher likelihood that there will be a member to suit everybody’s taste. And Twice certainly has aimed to highlight the different sort of women in the group, with each of their music videos clearly defining individual charms and personas of the members.

But it was less their size and more the teasers for their latest song that got fans in a tizzy; the concept for “Cheer Up” at first glance looked a purple palette take on Girls’ Generation’s iconic pink cheerleading concept from “Oh!” While Girls’ Generation doesn’t own a concept, wearing crop tops, short shorts, knee highs, and letterman jackets while performing in a sports stadium harkens back to “Oh!” Once the music video for “Cheer Up” was released and it was clear that the two songs were stylistically different, the only thing that remained was the cheerleader concept. And, six years later, it’s inspiring to see a talented group put their own updated on an iconic K-pop concept that Girls’ Generation pioneered.


This week’s debut of I.O.I takes us back to “Into The New World” in a way that’s far more obvious than GFriend’s instance. While GFriend first song and music video were stylistically similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut, the concept and music video for I.O.I’s debut song “Dream Girl” harkens a bit close to home.

Also on KultScene: Spiritual K-Pop: Lovelyz & Berry Good Find Their Destinies

Like in “Into The New World,” “Dream Girl” introduces the members of the new group through their own individual aspirations including being successful as dancers, athletes, and fashion designers. Watching the music video, it would be almost impossible to say that “Dream Girl” wasn’t based on “Into The New World” as scenes are set up similarly in ways that make it near impossible to be coincidences. I.O.I’s agency, YMC Entertainment, reportedly told local Korean outlets that the music video was designed with the song’s sound and lyrics in mind, but it truly seems like a 2016 update of “Into the New World” idea. For a group that debuted nearly a decade after Girls’ Generation, it seems natural for newer groups to want to resuscitate the style of an older music video.

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When it comes down to things, Girls’ Generation and their success is something that future girl groups can only hope to achieve. At the end of the day, none of these instances come across as plagiarism but instead appear to be this new generation of K-pop girl group’s imitation of a successful older act. And, as it’s said: Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

What do you think about Girls’ Generation’s legacy? Are the newer groups wrong in stylizing themselves after them? hare 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.

Playlist Sunday: Game Day

12714112_10156740816255019_181376715_nIf you’re anywhere in the world, Sunday is pretty much always game day. But yesterday, if you’re in the United States or a fan of American football, you know that it was Super Bowl Sunday. There’s no way to avoid it, even if you don’t like the sport, there’s the likelihood that you went to (or hid from) a Super Bowl party. In honor of Super Bowl 50, we’re going to dedicate this KultScene Playlist Sunday to Coldplay, Beyonce, and Bruno Mars.

Just joking!

This Playlist Sunday is all about the K-pop songs and music videos inspired by sports and sports uniforms.

EXO’s “Love Me Right” concept photos are practically perfect for Super Bowl Sunday, baseball hats aside. The upbeat song is all about being in love and loving someone in the right way, but the music video is all about the group, their teamwork, and the locker room. (Seriously, though.) EXO’s members are a little bit on the scrawny side when compared to the average football star, but maybe they’d be good quarterbacks? But, luckily, that’s not a concern, because EXO is killing the dance and music routine of “Love Me Right” in a way that definitely makes them win the game.

— Tamar

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

I am very much not a sports person. I am, however, into sportswear. Despite it being very dated now, when “Oh!” came out, Girls’ Generation rocked the hell out of those outfits. Those cropped varsity jackets were cute af — how did this oppa only see them as little sisters? So if you’re like me who doesn’t really care for sports but likes looking cute at all times, “Oh!” is the perfect song since the girls were just being their fabulous selves while the game is happening.

— Alexis

True to style, Orange Caramel didn’t use sports to look cool or athletic. They took table tennis/ping pong, nearly hobby more than a sport, and applied it to a fight for love. In cute matching uniforms, Nana, Raina, and Lizzy compete against a number of opponents to impress their crush. Their acrobatic skills are unprecedented as they crush them one by one. It’s a quirky use of the sport and is shot more like a level of Street Fighter than a sport, but it works perfectly thanks to it. It has boss battles, special moves, and Lizzy’s killer expressions. The song bears the same quirky touches to Orange Caramel’s original formula too. A more quirky effort with its bouncing europop synths and talkative chorus.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: 4minute’s ‘Hate’ Music Video & Song Review

Never would I have thought I’d obsess over a cheesy of a music video as I did with MyB’s “My Oh My.” Their cheerleading choreography is simple and easy on the eyes; from their quick one-two steps to their high kicks, nothing too flashy, with clean cut and smooth transitions. It almost looks better than some of the dance routines real cheerleaders in the NBA and NFL put on. This group really took the idea of uniforms to a whole another level with their cute loose cropped tops, pale pink jackets and matching blonde hairstyles! Usually, my brain only allows itself to take in a very small percentage of the girliness that comes from these ultra high energy Korean girl groups, and luckily, at no point during this video did I feel the usual sense of queasiness I normally would, which means they did well.


What’s on you K-pop game day playlist? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Playlist Sunday: Worst Korean Singles of 2015

Worst Korean Songs of 2015

Now that 2016 is well under way, we’re definitely ready to say “goodbye” to some of K-pop’s
worst singles of 2015. For this week’s Playlist Sunday, KultScene’s staff members each picked their least favorite songs of the year.

[Disclaimer: These picks are based on individual taste, so feel free to disagree in the comments.]

I get it. “Lion Heart” is the epitome of what Girls’ Generation represents: The archetype for the perfect feminine and demure woman. The song’s beat and the overall styling of the music video takes us back to the ’50s and early half of the ’60s, when young women aimed to look like their older and glamorous mothers. When the sexual revolution and women’s liberation was about to explode and a woman’s value equated to her looks and how refined she seemed. But fine, it’s a pop song, and every woman can choose to be anyone they want and dress however they want. But. That. Chorus… If you want to torture someone, just play “Lion Heart,” it’ll make their eardrums bleed. Truth is, SNSD’s latest album and singles (with the exception of “You Think”) were largely disappointing compared to their previous work. Especially considering that the album had better bubblegum pop with throwback feel contenders like “Fire Alarm.” The whole concept behind “Lion Heart” makes sense for a group like Girls’ Generation, yes, and we all like them for their girly ways. However, musically, they don’t have the vocal chops to carry that chorus, no matter how nasally and high they make Yuri sing.

— Alexis

Girls’ Generation’s “Party” makes me want to dive into the body of water that they’re filming the music video on and stay submerged for as long as humanly possible (without dying, of course). Can someone please tell SM Entertainment and Girls’ Generation to stop it with their attempts at rapping? Oh, and for Tiffany to stop it when her random ass English segments in their songs. Yeah, yeah, we get it, it’s party time. “Party” had a lot of ups and downs (emphasis on the down) moments for me; I couldn’t figure out if they were trying to make this a summer anthem or if it was an attempt of them being sensually cute by experimenting with livelier beats and adding alcoholic beverages in their lyrics but either way, I was disappointed. There were too many transitional breaks throughout the song, too many moments that had me waiting for someone to hit a higher/lower note than they actually did. Sure the music video was semi fun to watch, also very scattered, but the song just makes me want to pull out every strand of hair on my head. Can they have more concepts like “Oh!”, “Run Devil Run,” and “The Boys”?

— Tam

JYP Entertainment had a great year in terms of music. miss A released a pretty solid album, Wonder Girls finally came back, and the company even debuted two new rookie groups, both of which quickly grew in popularity. They did everything right and more… Except for one disservice. I don’t know what they were thinking with giving the green light to 2PM’s “My House,” but the song is a far cry from their usual good releases. I get that they want to spice up their sound and want to show that they are more than party boys and sex icons, but something feels lacking. Where are the interesting beats? Where is the build-up? Maybe it’s because I have been babied by fast-paced songs like “A.D.T.O.Y.” or “Go Crazy,” but “My House” feels bland. It’s very forgettable, and doesn’t add much to their already remarkable repertoire. The only saving grace was the video, which contained an underlying fairy tale thematic.
Oh well, better luck in 2016, boys.


Maybe I loved “Can’t Stop” way too much to have realistic expectations for anything CNBLUE could offer for their comeback but I was woefully disappointed with their 2015 release “Cinderella.” They may have achieved a lot of commercial success (as usual) for this song but while the song isn’t horrible, I’ve definitely seen (and heard) CNBLUE do so much better than this auto-tuned track that seems to only have two lines and a bridge that hardly seems like part of the same song. To make it worse, their album “2gether” actually has some great B-sides such as “Roller Coaster” and “Radio” that overshadow this title track completely. Seriously, what was going on in the heads of the album producers? In a K-pop industry with more and more popular bands (both indie and idol ones) CNBLUE really has to step up their game in 2016 to show fans what they’ve truly got.


Let’s get one thing out there. Park Jin Young aka JYP is a great producer. But he’s a misogynist, and his hit song “Who’s Your Mama?” highlights that more so than just about everything else he’s ever said or done. The song’s funky, jazzy beat is good, and Jessi’s solo rap is nothing to sneeze at, but Park Jin Young is literally describing his perfect woman’s ass and saying that that’s all what he looks for when looking at women. I wish I could say that it’s satire a la Psy’s “Gentleman,” but that doesn’t seem the case. The song begins with Park asking a woman what her hip and waist measurements are before going into a song describing his love of big butts. “Shake that booty” is one of the most prominent lines of the song as Park diminished women as anything other than physical beings for him to oggle. “Who’s Your Mama?” is K-pop’s “Baby Got Back,” and the song did exceptionally well on charts, but that still doesn’t make it okay. 2015 was the year of the booty, but JYP took it to another level in a way that was blatantly sexist. We’re in 2016, let’s put an end to this obsession with equating women with their ass-ets.


I could have picked any song from the many iKon released towards the end of the year, but for sheer lack of imagination, I’ll go with “Airplane.” Apart from their whole shtick being based off what’s popular in K-pop right now (rap,) iKon also come across like Big Bang-lite (so like another WINNER but even less interesting.) “Airplane” has twee synth and piano sounds that are used to make their ballad sound less like a ballad. I’m all for ballads not sounding like ballads but this screams of trying too hard, “it’s not a ballad guys, we rap, we’re cool, I was on that rap show remember?” Speaking of Bobby, I’m also not one to care too much about line distribution but this is ridiculous. It’s unfair to both B.I and Bobby who should be in a duo or going solo and to the rest of the members whom might as well not exist. Mostly I hate how YG thinks he can put a bit more rapping into a song and that makes it good enough to be recycled over and over. It was great back in 2008, but it’s time to move on.