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K-Pop Unmuted: Jazz & K-Pop

On Episode 28 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight is joined by musician and podcaster Rhodri Thomas to discuss Jazz and Kpop. We talk about the influence of jazz on a dozen Kpop songs. We also discuss our K-pop Unmuted picks, The Snowman by Jung Seung Hwan, and Bboom Bboom by Momoland.

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

Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2017’s latest 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.

K-Pop Unmuted: 2017 Awards – Part 1

In the 26th episode of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, Tamar Herman, and Gabriel Wilder reflect on the best moments and songs out of Korea in 2017, handing out the awards that they personally deem fit and conversing about some of the hottest topics in K-pop over the 12-month span. This is Part 1 of two year-end episodes.

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 K-pop in 2017’s latest 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.

50 best K-pop songs of 2017: 50-26

While the year may be closing in a very sad and unfortunate manner with the passing of a K-pop icon, artists consistently delivered memorable songs throughout 2017. This year saw a lot of great moments from some of Korea’s most popular new acts, while newer acts also proved their worth with addicting, sleekly-produced music. Trop was the king of this year’s K-pop trends, but far from the only genre of music that saw its moment in the limelight.

Check out the first half of KultScene’s 2017 best K-pop songs list below:

50. “Circle’s Dream” by Subin

Subin is trapped in an endlessly repeating contradictory cycle in her self-written and composed single “Circle’s Dream.” She is told that she is round and that’s good, but then that it’s not. She wants to be angular, to pierce her lover, to make him feel like how he made her feel. Yet she is also trapping herself within a recurring musical structure, as an acoustic guitar plucks an incisive riff throughout the song. It is the only angular part of Subin’s song yet has no variation. Her stark synths come in late but their slow rhythm only accentuates the repetitiveness. Each element is perfectly realised to tell her story. Her voice completes it. Its soft and sweet but particular pronunciations like denggeureureu are key. This word alone combines both the round and angular sides to her. It has repetitions but in order to say it properly she still has to roll her tongue. Subin has enwrapped her whole song with the confusing ideas in her head. No solo idol has ever produced something of such pointed precision.

—Joe

49. “Wee Woo” by Pristin

If “Wee Woo” had been released at the 2012-ish heyday of Hallyu, Pristin’s debut song would be considered legendary right now. It’s barrage of shifting sounds and onomatopoeic vocals are absolutely classic. The Pledis Entertainment regular songwriter Bumzu brings a bright and breezy feel to the whole production with disco electric guitars taking the brunt of the work. This allows the girls room to deliver the most hooks in a single song EVER. Each part is so complete on its own you could take them individually and create five more songs around them. The fact that they all come together for something that doesn’t feel so monumental is the greatness of “Wee Woo.” It’s arrogant in its effortlessness all the way down to making the primary hook out of the most simple term of jowahae nol jowahae (“I like (you) I like you”).

—Joe

48. “Beautiful” by Monsta X

Monsta X’s cultivated sound and signature unruly charms finally comes together for the consummate “Beautiful.” Perhaps because it is supposed to be representative of the group’s first studio album, the single feels particularly significant. For one, there’s really nothing quite like the opening out there. Scattered with a prominent distorted electronic beat that is quickly followed up by Jooheon’s explosive raps, the real hook is not in the chorus but here in the introduction, where the task for the listeners to not mimic the unique noises or the clever near-rhymes is near impossible. The vocalists dwindle down the excitement sometimes without sounding monotonous, almost acting like the Apollonian restraint to the Dionysian madness. The constant shower of peculiar oscillations, whirs, and horns all make up the perfectly organized chaos that Monsta X is known for, and though “Beautiful” did not grant the boys their first music show win like it should have, it will always remain a tour de force in our hearts.

—Shelley

47. “Where You At” by NU’EST W

With their revival in popularity following some of the members’ appearance in Produce 101 Season Two, this subunit of Nu’est (missing member Minhyun who debuted in Wanna One) released this flashy track which stayed true to their unique music style. Bursts of electronic instrumentals are mixed with a calm piano backing track and adds a lot of contrasts to the song. It also highlights the strengths of each member, with Baekho’s explosive high notes complementing Ren and Aron’s softer and sweeter voices. JR’s rapping is as stable as ever, and he definitely shines more back in his own group. It’s wonderful to see this talented group get more recognition for their talents, and I can’t wait to see the full group back together again soon.

—Anna

46. “You Were Beautiful” by DAY6

The February release of the band’s “Every DAY6 Project” can be said to be their most successful, especially domestically, and it’s not difficult to see why. The raw emotions brought out by the members coupled with the sincere lyrics create a sentimental rock ballad which truly tugs on the heartstrings of listeners. The end of the bridge in particular, where Young K and Wonpil’s voices are layered, is such a beautiful and emotional climax of the song. Even though it appears simple to sing along to (and is apparently a favourite among other JYP singers for karaoking), the song is actually very vocally challenging due to the large range required, and the effortless way the DAY6 members sing it shows just how skilled and well-trained they are.

—Anna

45. “Tomorrow, Today” by JJ Project

After debuting ahead of GOT7’s debut with the exuberant “Bounce,” JB and Jinyoung returned as a more matured rendition of JJ Project this year and it was absolutely glorious. The two vocalists released this sweeping, introspective song about the very-millennial topic of making decisions and fearing regrets. The track provides the perfect forum for the pair to show off how well their vocals work together, with the duo harmonizing over guitar riffs, tapping percussion, and mellow synths. “Tomorrow, Today” is reflective in its warm approach to soft rock, and hopefully we’ll see more of this from JJ Project in 2018. It was a complete turnaround from their first iteration, and definitely more suited for the pair’s artistic style and capabilities.

—Tamar

44. “Don’t Know You” by Heize

Heize’s “Don’t Know You” is a very groovy song full of percussions with a slight mixture of disco, hip-hop, and R&B, which features the soloist using deeper vocals than what we’ve been used to hear from her. The overall appeal of this songs starts at the beginning of the track with the repetitive beats and the introduction of the synth drums that follow different tonalities on the record that give great texture to “Don’t Know You.” Her famous ad-libs are also present on this song as she goes from high to low tones, which are achieved by the reverbs added on the vocal track, that create great contrast between her sexy sweet voice and her solid rap parts. The harmony is very steady throughout and creates a great chill up-tempo track perfect to dance and groove to. Heize continues to show great promise with her experimental sound.

—Alejandro

43. “Tequila (feat. Hoody)” by G.Soul

One can’t help but want to book an immediate flight to somewhere like Bali while listening to “Tequila,” especially with the brutal winter quickly approaching much of the States. Hoody’s bewitching voice alongside G.Soul’s multifaceted vocals make for the perfect combo in this dancehall track, ideal for both a cookout and the club. Lyrically wise, “Tequila” might not be appropriate for all age groups, as G.Soul sings about only wanting a one night stand. But if you’re someone who’s over the generic “let’s fall in love” type of style that is prevalent in K-pop the majority of the time, this song’s for you. The lyrics aren’t candy coated or sleazy, but come off rather… inviting. This wasn’t meant to be a flashy song, which is what made it even more enjoyable. Although G.Soul wasn’t hitting those high notes (that I love so much) like he usually does, it wasn’t a lack felt by this song.

—Tam

42. “Wake Me Up” by Taeyang

It is no news that Taeyang can hold a ballad like no other, and in 2017, he gave us two great ones. “Wake Me Up” doesn’t have the same degree of emotional complexity of “Darling,” the other single from the album, but it’s its apparent simplicity what makes this song amazing and addictive. Objectively speaking, it’s a very linear song with no surprise factors when it comes to its structure. It might even seem like Taeyang doesn’t have much to say in “Wake Me Up,” but it’s definitely not because he’s lacking emotions. In reality, what we see is that he just doesn’t know what to do with them. Everything in “Wake Me Up” sounds gorgeously inconclusive and mysterious — from the airy sounds and atmospheric, echoed beats, to the lyrics that offer more questions than answers. No wonder the most touching moment of the song is when he’s constantly repeating “Is it love?” while delivering breathtaking high notes. Overall, Taeyang’s vocal performance amidst the ethereal instrumental creates just the right vibe for a song that is about love, but mostly about confusion and doubt. After so many years, you can still count on Taeyang to get you in your feels.

—Ana

41. “Honeymoon” by B.A.P

Coming out during the fall when it should’ve been a summer jam, “Honeymoon” is a delightful EDM track from B.A.P’s seventh album Blue. The whistling at the beginning of the song left the remainder open for interpretation; this song could’ve been a sweet one, much like the title suggests, or a somber one. I’m glad it wasn’t the latter. “Honeymoon” puts listeners in a lighter mood, whereas previous songs were dark and heavy, all the while still executing a clear message. “With the overflowing stars from beneath the palm tree. A film on the shining freedom and bright youth,” they sing. Through this track, B.A.P wants to remind us to live life to its fullest, fulfill your heart’s desires to its grandest and emphasises that today’s youth will be the game changer in society going forward.

—Tam


Also on KultScene: DAY6 explores love & friendship through recent ‘Every DAY6’ releases

40. “Chase Me” by Dreamcatcher

Taking the bubbly girl group image and tossing it out the window, MINX re-debuted early this year under the name Dreamcatcher. Not only did the group have a new name, but they also gained two new members and an interesting concept and sound. Taking the term re-“vamp” quite literal, the group came out with a dark and creepy concept straight out of a horror movie. The video for “Chase Me” takes references from classic horror movies like The Shining but also has cuts to choreography to showcase the girls dance moves. The song begins with pianos and then picks up at the chorus. Adding31 to the darker image, the song melded hard rock elements with a dance pop track to create something very dynamic. There’s something about the mixing of heavy rock instrumentals and feminine voices that is very appealing. Although the song sounds like it’s straight out of an anime, it is also an interesting new sound that’s refreshing to the K-pop world.

—Katherine

39. “Never Ever” by GOT7

Ever since debut, GOT7 have switched up their sound with every release, experimenting with different styles and concepts, and their first comeback of the year was no different. “Never Ever” follows in the same angsty direction as “If You Do,” yet this track mixes electronic and trap sounds while giving it their signature bubblegum spin. Vocally, JB and Youngjae can always be counted on to deliver outstanding choruses and ad-libs. But reveal of the year was that “Never Ever” is probably the song where the rap line is collectively most stable and the flows, while different, work together. GOT7 is building up a name as a dance group whose choreographies are insane, and “Never Ever,” with its glitches and heavy bass, is the perfect performance track in their building discography.

—Alexis

38. “Love Story feat. IU” by Epik High

One of the two title tracks off of Epik High’s new album, “Love Story” is a beautiful song about love lost. The steady drum beats coupled with the sometimes frantic sounding piano and, later on, the smooth orchestra creates a complex yet easy sounding melody that balances well with IU’s sweet voice and the rap verses of Tablo and Mithra Jin. Along with the concept video of a girl reminiscing about her past relationship through videos and photos on her phone, it sets the perfect setting for a song about heartbreak and loss. As expected with most of Epik High’s collaborations, the group and the featuring artist blend perfectly to portray the story being told.

—Katherine

37. “Wake Me Up” by B.A.P

A lot of the times, K-pop consists of clichéd lyrics and similar concepts. There are times when a number of artists will put out a string of songs, music talking about love, relationships and breakups. Again, the repetitiveness. Just when you feel like you’ve had enough of that sappy stuff, B.A.P appears with an eye opener like “Wake Me Up,” a track that touches on societal issues and mental health to stimulate one’s ear buds. The song has a compelling beat, a sound so strong, it’ll act as the pillar that will hold you up when one is fighting off their inner demons and struggles in life. “This is an endless tunnel, in darkness with no light. Wake me up, wake me up. I need to find myself,” they sing. B.A.P wanted to push awareness and wake up a society that looks away and pretends that issues like racism, judgement, and depression aren’t real issues because these things are very much on going and continue to be real life problems.

—Tam

36. “Palette feat. G-Dragon” by IU

As one of Korea’s most prominent artists, IU on “Palette” seems to be comfortable with her fame and life, assuring both herself and her listeners that she’s changing in ways she embraces. Her lyricism uses cute examples, from changing color preferences to hair length, to demonstrate that she, “Knows a little bit about [herself] now.” The song’s instrumentals are a more alternative play on classic, theatrical IU releases. While the trademark ticking noises and sound effects are present, the song itself is slower and wispier, updated to match a more modern vibe that she seems to have grown into. The top female star of Korean music in the past decade, IU demonstrates that she remains focused on making hits, but now, on her own terms. With the help of a strongly performed and well-placed rap break from G-Dragon, IU on “Palette” lets us further into her excited, changing young adult world. Where she goes next from here, however, we’ll be watching.

—Kushal

35. “Dinosaur” by AKMU

AKMU is known for creating beautiful music, but with “Dinosaur,” the duo really surprised us: they finally added some EDM to their music while managing to make it their own. The electro beats and synths that appear through the track’s melody seem very stripped down and almost make it feel like an acoustic electronic song. The opening guitar in the beginning of the song especially feels like an homage to their earlier music. The synthetic kickdrums that blast before the beautiful notes from Suhyun during the chorus melody and are present through the whole track, giving it an unique mystery to the track. We also get more singing from Chanhyuk instead of his typical talk-like rap, which was surprisingly beautiful. Their voices blend and harmonize perfectly with the synthetic beats that made it an upbeat chill song for the summer. AKMU really had a lot of fun creating this track and used every tool that electronic instruments can give you as a producer. The song is simple but very detailed with a beautiful, heartwarmingly catchy harmony and a light beat that is very uplifting and instantly makes you feel good.

—Alejandro

34. “Dream In a Dream” by Ten

SM Entertainment’s Station project has produced a bit of a mixed bag this year, delivering some truly great pieces of music amid a majority of lackluster ones. But “Dream In a Dream” was one of its glorious high notes. The ambient, east-meets-west styling of the song serves to relay the performance-heavy music video, which highlights Ten’s immense dance skills. Providing a soundtrack to the highly-stylized, contemporary dance video, it’s a song filled with drama and passion. But even as a stand alone track, “Dream In a Dream” delivers something truly special through its symphonic instrumentals relaying Ten’s echoing declaration of love. Lush synths and pulsating beats guide the track as it layers traditional Asian strings and into the atypically-structured melody. So far, Ten has participated in both this and NCT U’s “The 7th Sense,” two hauntingly beautiful, choreography-focused singles, and if this is the direction SM continues pushing him in, it may be the thing that could breathe new life into this era of all-too-similar K-pop male acts.

—Tamar

33. “Shall We Dance” by Block B

Ever since Zico cemented his status as a hip-hop icon in Korea, Block B has pretty much taken a backseat on the ride. And after a couple of quirky, even cutesy releases, it seemed the group had gone awry of the sounds and concept they made a name with. That’s why when they dropped “Shall We Dance” it was way more impactful. More in tune with the “trendy” sounds Zico is known to produce for his solos, the track explores different urban Latino sounds, which particularly stood out this year when artists are still releasing trop-house songs. “Shall We Dance” is groovy, smooth, and just as the title suggests, dance provoking. Being an older male group with a diverse lineup of talented members, it’s important for Block B to color outside the lines and continue to push the envelope as they have always done. And with this song, they did just that.

—Alexis

32. “Girl Front” by ODD EYE CIRCLE

“Girl Front” felt like a particularly important moment for LOONA. When LOONA ⅓ debuted as a unit they were still fairly unknown, a weird project group going about their own thing. By the time of ODD EYE CIRCLE, they had significantly grown with more people both at home and internationally taking notice. The fact that they absolutely nailed it came as no surprise to me, but how they did it was so impressive. By combining the songs of three girls (Choerry, Jinsoul, and Kim Lip) producers Ollipop and Hayley Aitken created something unprecedented in K-pop. “Girl Front” has the peppiness of “Love Cherry Motion,” the dense, propulsive beat of “Singing in the Rain,” and the electronic sheen of “Eclipse.” It’s a miracle that it all comes together to form something coherent let alone this good. The girls give it the last edge of excitement with non-stop vocals as they bounce off one another with glee, building a climax of unstoppable motion and further push forward the most exciting story of the year.

—Joe

31. “I Wait” by Day6

“I Wait” was the first release of the group’s ambitious project, which set a high bar for their following monthly singles. The opening of the song draws the listener in with somber synthesized keyboard notes and dreamy vocals. The mellow beats gradually increase to the more aggressive instrumentals of the chorus, showcasing a much harder sound than what the band has been previously known for. The song continues to bounce back and forth between a softer sound and the heavy chorus, which creates and interesting medium. The video itself isn’t really anything special but somehow still complements the song with the changing graphics and effects. Overall, “I Wait” fulfilled its purpose of drawing in the audience with a new sound, showcasing the band’s versatility and ability to deliver quality songs throughout the year.

—Katherine


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

30. “MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix feat. Desiigner)” by BTS

“MIC Drop” was already a good song before Steve Aoki’s remix, but with his production, the producer added the aggressiveness that the track needed to be fully solidified as an anti-haters anthem for BTS. He did this by converting the hip-hop track into a hip-hop, R&B, and EDM infused song that made us remember the old BTS from their debut era. The track is energetic and gets you pumped up as soon as you listen to it; V’s deep voice and RM’s raps are major highlights from this record. The lyrics take a very sarcastic tone that even if they seem cocky it makes us sympathize with them. With the new added English lyrics in the chorus, the song makes everyone want to stand up against haters and face them off. BTS creates yet another ode for outcasts and bullied kids all over the world by once again taking on topics that usually K-pop bands don’t talk about.


Also on KultScene: Astro ‘Dream Pt. 02’ Album Review

—Alejandro

29. “Darling” by Taeyang

This ballad stands out with its somewhat unconventional structure and chord progression, but it’s truly beautiful and addictive when listened to in its entirety. The way that Taeyang’s smooth voice connects the various parts of the song elevates it and showcases his impressive range and ability. His raw emotions are showcased front and center here too, especially with the way the song “progresses” in intensity from verse to verse. It’s soothing and intimate all at once, and allows Taeyang to present a more honest side of himself, as compared to being a charismatic star glorified by the limelight.

—Anna

28. “Hola Hola” by KARD

Over the course of three project singles, KARD was able to develop a musical formula that worked. The tropical house and dancehall that undergirded “Oh Nana,” “Don’t Recall,” and “Rumor” provided a strong foundation for when they finally did make their official debut with “Hola Hola,” a timely and bright synthy number perfect for the summertime. Being co-ed is more than just a gimmick for this group; the exchange between tender vocals and throaty raps is the contrast listeners need to keep engaged. The chorus, on the other hand, shifts its weight onto an island beat, and while it would be easy to dismiss this sudden move as overly simplistic, the hypnotic effect is undeniable. It sweeps the carpet from under our feet and displaces us in a chimerical paradise. It is a nice recess from Jiwoo’s spunky rap midway or from any other strained moments, providing us with a sensual and personable comfort. “Hola Hola” only marks the beginning, but already the internationally beloved group has been dealt a good hand, and are making all the right plays to keep momentum going.

—Shelley

27. “Cherry Bomb” by NCT 127

Without a doubt, “Cherry Bomb” definitely encapsulates the sound of NCT127. The different mixes of genres that create a very fresh and futuristic sound create a unique style for the band that has everyone falling in love. The track starts off with a heavy bass and the repetitive “Hurry, hurry, avoid it, right Cherry Bomb feel it yum,” then goes off to Mark’s and Taeyong’s rap, with the pair proving to be the real standouts for this track, while the bridge explodes with Taehyun’s, Doyoung’s and Taeil’s beautiful vocals that melt any listener’s hearts. The song is filled with background synth noises, singed hooks, and creepy sounds that create a very chaotic but interesting track that is reminiscent of the album cover and the title of the song. It’s a classic, sassy and rebellious track and shows great direction for the boy band.

—Alejandro

26. “O Sole Mio” by SF9

Is it possible for someone who lacks rhythm AND coordination to find themselves swaying ones hips and body with precision to the entrancing latin sounds of “O Sole Mio”? This track comes from SF9’s third mini album, Knights of the Sun, only one year after their debut. Rather then SF9’s usual upbeat dance tracks, “O Sole Mio” is captivating in it’s own mellow way. The transitions between the vocal and rap lines were smooth and well-versed, building up to a tender climax without it ever being over the top. The fusion of latin pop to K-pop is still new, but, let’s be real: we all could’ve used a break from some of the generic sounds we’ve heard this year, and the fresh sound of “O Sole Mio” delivered just that.

—Tam

Stay tuned for the second and final half of our Best K-pop Songs of 2017 list, which will contain the top 25.

What was your favorite release of the year? 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.

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.

IU’s Red Shoes: A Torment or Saviour?

IU The Red Shoes
A man picks up a film reel entitled “The Red Shoes.” He splices film stock and sticks it together. Viewing his edited footage he sees black and white images of a woman walking onto a stage and a pair of red shoes followed by a title card that reads: “Would you take me there?”

A smartly dressed gentleman smokes a cigarette and orders a champagne cocktail. A flame haired woman in a beautiful gown copies his order. He asks her, “Why do you want to dance?” She responds, “Why do you want to live?”

These two fragments of stories occur in two different productions with the same title: “The Red Shoes.” The first is from the 2013 music video for K-pop starlet IU’s single. The second is a scene from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s melodramatic classic from 1948. Few obvious similarities come from those two extracts, yet with a bit of work we can learn how IU channeled these British filmmakers for her own art. It also gives great insight into a time when her artistry and intentions have been brought into question. 2015 has been IU’s most turbulent year in the K-pop industry so far. Much of her work was focused on audience reactions to her and it did not go down well, to say the least. “The Red Shoes” shows us that that will be of little concern to her going forward.


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Written and produced by powerhouse duo Kim Eana and Lee Min Soo, IU’s “The Red Shoes” tells the story of a woman lost in her world, hoping for summertime and her love to return. The film “The Red Shoes” follows Victoria Page as she tries desperately to become the greatest ballerina there ever was. Thanks to the impresario of Ballet Lermontov, Boris Lermontov, her goal comes into view. Her true desire is put into question, though, as he makes her choose between love and dance.

The opening of IU’s video clearly places it within classic film territory, but the similarities do not end there. The musical theatre aesthetic and dancing red shoes (naturally) are clear examples. Even the group of men IU plays with can be traced back to the group of men who make up Lermontov’s creative team of choreographers, composers, and designers. Most interesting, however, is how they both adapt the story of “The Red Shoes.” The original story is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen about a young girl who acquires red shoes that make her dance and dance until her feet must be amputated. Powell and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes” uses this story within the film as the main ballet that Page performs while also connecting with it metaphorically as the tale seems to come true for her.

In a sense this is what IU also does with the film. Her song is not a straight adaptation and the video and lyrics do not take the same story but rather continue the theme. In the film, the infamous red shoes were seen as a torment, objects that mirror the destructive obsession within a person. For IU and Kim Eana however, they are seen as saviours. She slips into the red shoes as she sings, “If I count this as destiny, if I choose my own destiny”. It is not until she puts them on that she can break free of her monochrome world and take the projectionist by the hand and lead him to endless dancing and music.

IU is wilfully taking the obsession of the shoes onto herself. She is not scared of being consumed by the music. If she can dance and sing for the rest of her life, she will. She spurs on the shoes with Lee Min Soo’s big band swing music and her “oompa loompa dooms.” References to repeating stories of love and her chorus refrains of “again, again” show IU’s commitment to music. Intriguingly the song leaves behind the red shoes in favour of pink shoes. IU sings as she puts on the new shoes, “They say you can go to better places if you wear better shoes.” Like Powell and Pressburger did with Andersen’s story, IU brings “The Red Shoes” further. Not only is she comfortable being obsessed, she wants more and she wants something new.

The comfort does not last however.The black and white world starts to creep back in. The red shoes chase after IU before finally attaching themselves to her again. This move mirrors the concluding events of the film. In it Page is forced into an ultimatum by Lermontov and her boyfriend, Julian Caster, about whether to dance or go home with Caster. In a state of panic she is seemingly forced by the shoes to run out of the building and to throw herself in front of a moving train. It is an altogether more bleak look into the theme than what IU has given us, yet the similarities are clear. IU is aware that living in a constant state of creativity is not good for a person. Responsibilities pull us out of this fantasy world.


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This maturity is what helps the song from falling into pure indulgence. It shows foresight into IU’s more recent work and how people have reacted to it. The push and pull of idol and civilian life was clearly on IU’s mind but the thoughts of others were not a concern for her. By the time 2015 came around though she could not ignore what her audience thought of her. Her work on her album “Chat-shire”, written exclusively by IU, shows her directly commenting on her muddled identity as a young woman in the spotlight. “The Red Shoes” seemingly warned her about this, “The girl with the brown hair looked for her path, Fell in love again and lived happily, A story that has been re-written from the beginning.” Telling us that we have heard this story before, she says, look deeper. IU can see what’s coming. It happens to many female artists who try something different. Who dare to leave their comfort zone.

The enigmatic Boris Lermontov informs us of how to really understand IU, “The music is all that matters. Nothing but the music.”

This is what ultimately matters in the end. IU is a musician. What she has to say is in her music. If it is that which has brought her all of this hate than so be it. It is the risk we take when creating. It is the risk we take when we put on the red shoes.

“The Red Shoes” heralded in the next stage of IU’s career. Her move from a cute idol with a great voice into an artist was highlighted by her use of a classic film. While it is not strictly her work, her continued collaboration with Eana and Min Soo is clearly a huge influence on her later work. The parallels between IU and Victoria Page are apparent enough that it is not likely this would have worked with many other female idols as well. IU’s insatiable desire for music has not wavered. All the hate in the world will not stop her. She will keep on dancing, red shoes or not.

What do you think of the comparisons made here? Also what do you think of IU’s recent controversies? 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.

Playlist Sunday: Roaring Twenties

kpop songs playlist 1920s 20s

2016 is less than a month away, which means that the roaring twenties will be closer to us than the 2010’s. KultScene’s staff is always excited when it comes to throwback elements in K-pop songs, and you can hardly get more retro than the 1920’s jazz and swing music. This week’s Playlist Sunday is dedicated to the roaring twenties, and to all the brassy jazz songs we can’t but help to love.

Every other K-pop song nowadays incorporates soul and funk into their hybrids, but TVXQ mixed in jazz and a swing elements to their 2014 single “Spellbound.” And while the choreography is meant to seem as a magic show to fit with the song’s theme of love as a spell, it’s the ‘20s style of it all that stood out most to me. The dancers wearing what a “Sexy Mobster” Halloween costume would look like and the modern art deco-lite casino room made me think of the Prohibition era in the US, when citizens were constitutionally barred from drinking alcohol and Al Capone and the likes terrorized cities like Chicago over bootleg alcohol and drugs. Not to mention the music video starts out in grayscale and eventually changes to color, even though the palette remains mainly black and white, hinting at when subtractive color in film was first introduced (which was also in the 1920’s). But of course, “Spellbound” isn’t that deep. Regardless, it’s a gem of a song and choreography and should be recognized.

— Alexis


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Brown Eyed Girls are the purveyors of jazz in K-pop. In particular, their album “Sixth Sense” is full of jazz tracks that burst with retro excitement. Each one is single worthy but right now my favorite is “Vendetta.” It is, naturally, about a girl out for violent revenge against a boy. Ferocious acid jazz accompanies the passionate vocals of Brown Eyed Girls who bite and snarl every line to great effect. Drums roll at lightening speeds and horns blow loudly in a song that updates the ‘20s jazz as a soundtrack for bitter women. Also the way Miryo says ‘vendetta’ at the end of her rap is the coolest.

— Joe

Most people’s first impression when they hear Lee Hi sing for the first time is “wait, how is that voice coming out of a little girl like her?” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that same shock the first time I heard her voice. How can one possess as much pizazz and soul at her age? A number of Lee Hi songs contain a jazz element but “Rose” in particular is a beautiful blend of jazz and R&B, both genres in which she excels at. It’s always refreshing to hear a K-pop song that isn’t under the influence of dubstep and auto tune. It’d be great to see more musicians who were able to apply their great vocals and deep emotions like Lee Hi towards all their songs in order to improve it metaphorically. Like many others, I’m just waiting for a Lee Hi come back because it’s been way too long!

–Tam


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You can’t get more jazzy than the princess of K-pop, IU herself. Recent scandals aside, IU’s voice was practically built for jazzy, all-over-the-place numbers and she does it the best in “The Red Shoes.” The song is technically (at least according to its official information) a bit more like the big band swing of the 30’s than the roaring 20’s, but the brass elements and tapping beat would have any flapper getting her game on. IU’s voice goes all over the place in accompaniment to the spiraling, twisting and turning elements of the song and music video, and throws in some nice onomatopoeia elements for good measure. If Gatsby was Korean, he’d probably be as in love with this song as I am.

–Tamar

What’s your favorite 1920’s themed K-pop song? Or maybe any of the other cities? 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.

Fantasy Vs Reality: MAMA 2015 Award Winners

MAMA awards

Much to the delight of international K-pop fans, the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) is coming round again on the second of December and will be held in Macau. Nominees for the various categories were announced on Oct. 31,and fan voting began on the same day. It is already shaping up to be a heated battle between the multiple fandoms but there are a few groups that have already gained and maintained a strong lead against their competitors.

Based on the results of previous years, there is a definite correlation between the size of a group’s fanbase and their chances of winning awards, which might unfairly cause more deserving groups to miss out on their prize. To acknowledge the possibly underappreciated groups and artists that will not be recognised during the awards, let’s have a round of Fantasy Vs Reality as a prediction for this year’s winners –with the exception of Union Pay Artist and Song of the Year, there are too many nominees for us to pick!

1. Best New Male/Female Artist

Fantasy: SEVENTEEN & Oh My Girl
These two groups could not be more different in nature but the one thing they have in common is that they’re insanely talented. From participating in the composing and production of their own tracks (SEVENTEEN) to standing out amongst several other girl groups using cute concepts (Oh My Girl), both groups have massive potential and will go far in the K-pop industry. Although they have been gaining a lot of fans since their debuts, neither of these two groups have a large enough fanbase at the moment to ensure their victory in MAMA. However, I’m looking forward to their work in the future!


Reality: iKon & TWICE
Both these groups debuted from huge and rich entertainment companies (YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment) which had previously produced hugely successful acts such as BIGBANG and the Wonder Girls, so it is a given that they would have a more polished debut filled with lots of high budget teasers, hype and music show promotions. Both groups had also participated in pre-debut reality competition shows (“Mix or Match” and “Sixteen”) which garnered the members a sizeable fan base, giving them a headstart and strong lead against other rookie groups. For so much hype though, their actual debut proved to be underwhelming, especially in the case of iKon, so they may not be as deserving of this award in a year filled with better rookie debuts.

2. Best Male/Female Artist

Fantasy: Jung Yonghwa(CNBLUE)/Ailee
It’s pretty interesting how Yonghwa’s solo album that was released earlier this year was so much better than his group’s recent comeback in terms of its musicality, catchiness and coherence as an album. The title track “One Fine Day” was a great song even though it was more of a ballad than anything else, and Yonghwa had a few great collaborations with artists such as JJ Lin and Verbal Jint in the other tracks, all of which contributed to my opinion of him as the best male solo artist of the year, even though he may not be recognised widely for his efforts. Ailee, on the other hand, is definitely a well-known and respected female soloist. She has been nominated for the same award at least two times now but she has always been shy of receiving it. Her releases are consistently amazing and she is always wowing fans with her performances on “Immortal Song” or other music shows. Someone give this woman an award already!


Reality: Kyuhyun(Super Junior)/IU
I cannot deny that Kyuhyun is a great soloist and his releases so far have been nothing short of amazing. However he always sings the same genre of music (ballads) and I believe that his songs are a little over-rated. In my opinion, he may not be as deserving as other more diverse soloists like Yonghwa but he will surely attain victory thanks to his enormous fanbase. Likewise, I cannot really complain about IU because it is true that she is an extremely talented soloist and a diverse singer at that. She also has collaborated with countless artists in the past year and has even impressed fans with her performance in “The Producers” as idol singer Cindy. With her recent release “23,” she showcased a honest side of herself, all of which has helped her add fans to her already large group of supporters. While she is certainly deserving of the award, she has also won the same award previously so perhaps it is time to give the other nominees some recognition.

3. Best Male/Female Group

Fantasy: BTS/AOA
It’s been a great year for both these groups who have achieved major breakthroughs in their career. For AOA in particular, after they changed their concept from being a female band to being an ultra sexy girl group in 2014 it has worked wonders for them. They have gained a lot more fans and recognition through their releases such as “Like a Cat”, “Miniskirt”, and their most recent comeback, “Heart Attack.” BTS has been going strong ever since their debut in 2013 and has been steadily building up their fanbase of ARMY, their fan name, with addictive releases such as “I Need You” and “Dope.” Their songs are of a consistently good standard and each member showcases impressive vocal and rapping skills accordingly. What is there not to like about this group? Both these groups deserve awards for the improvements and work they have done over this year.


Reality: BIGBANG & Girls’ Generation
If Best Male/Female Group was determined on which groups were the most active this year, it would make sense that these two groups would be awarded. In the case of BIGBANG, they’ve had an extremely busy year with their “Made” album, in which two title tracks were released every month starting from May. While I am definitely a fan of BIGBANG’s songs, there were some releases that were overhyped and they did well on the charts just because they were from BIGBANG. The same goes with Girls’ Generation. With a total of four songs released this year, they have certainly been active in the K-pop scene. These songs were definitely not the best ones this year though, despite being accompanied with colourful and cool music videos that boasted SM Entertainment’s high budget. These groups have their loyal and dedicated fans to thank for being able to maintain a lead on the polls so far.


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4. Best Dance Performance Solo

Fantasy: Gain (Brown Eyed Girls) – “Paradise Lost”
Brown Eyed Girls have always been known for their sexual concepts and Gain’s solos have been no exception. Her solo release was not great to me in a musical sense, but her dance is another story. She really exposed and expressed herself through her extremely sexual dance, and to be able to do that on so many stages is really amazing. Furthermore, as compared to the other nominees on this list, her dance seems to be the most difficult and technical but she pulls it off with ease.


Reality: Amber ( f(x)) – “Shake That Brass”
When I saw that Amber was leading the polls for this award, I literally had to roll my eyes. Not because I have anything against her or f(x) but because I was less than impressed when I watched her live performance for this song. The dance (and song for that matter) seems just like Amber’s character, fun and energetic, but on a technical sense, she’s not actually doing much. Once again, her popularity as a member of f(x) and being part of SM Entertainment is going to smooth her path to victory, whether she actually deserves it or not.

5. Best Dance Performance Male/Female Group

Fantasy: GOT7(“If You Do”) & 4MINUTE (“Crazy”)
GOT7 has never impressed me ever since their debut up until the release of their latest song, “If You Do.” Not only is the sound an overall more mature one from the group, their dance is simply amazing. Even their CEO, Park Jinyoung (JYP) praised them for mastering it, and for good reason. Every step is so synchronized and technically difficult, but the boys were able to master it and show off their individual charms at the same time. For a group that is only about a year old, this is an amazing showing and is proof that they will definitely continue to impress. 4MINUTE’s choreography for “Crazy” also surprised me. Previously I had no knowledge about this group whatsoever but when I saw their dance practice video for “Crazy” I saw how powerful they are. They give off such a strong aura that I was immediately drawn to them, and for that they stand out among the other girl groups in contention for this award.


Reality: EXO (“Call Me Baby”) & Red Velvet (“Ice Cream Cake”)
Even with nine members EXO is always able to showcase a good performance, and their live versions of “Call Me Baby” were executed well. I also loved the way they cleverly made use of props or their clothes to give fans a fresh and new performance every time. Their choreography for this song however, was slightly lacking in terms of its technicality. They were not particularly synchronized nor were their moves very difficult, and this was not their best dance, especially when compared to previous hits like “Growl.” For Red Velvet, maybe it is because I have never been a big fan of cute concepts, I did not find their dance for “Ice Cream Cake” very impressive. They just seemed mediocre, and were similar to several other girl groups both past and present.

6. Best Male/Female Vocal Performance

Fantasy: Lim Chang Jung (“Love Again”)/ Davichi (“Cry Again”)
With his recent comeback “Love Again” Lim Chang Jung created a stir on the music charts where his song had a very strong showing. He even won first place on some music shows during his promotions, which I can say that it was very well-deserved. He sings with a lot of emotions in a style that vaguely resembles Korean trot-singing and his voice found its way into my heart even though I did not understand what he was singing about. Davichi does this all the time as well. From the albums and songs that they have previously released I became quite a huge fan and was more than excited when they came back with “Davichi Hug” this year. All the songs on their album were amazing but none stood out more than their title track “Cry Again.” The choruses and the bridges were so touching and their perfect harmonies really shined. It’s a pity that they did not get more recognition during their promotion period but they really deserve it during these awards.


Reality: Kyuhyun (“At Gwanghwamun”)/ Taeyeon (“I”)
Okay I’m not going to lie, I would be happy if Kyuhyun won for “At Gwanghwamun” because that song is amazing. When it first came out I replayed it so many times and fell in love with it so much so that I actually went to visit Gwanghwamun when I went to Korea because of it. However, he is already highly recognised and constantly awarded either as a soloist or with his group, so I still hope that other vocalists (aka Lim Chang Jung) would get recognised during MAMA instead. I have the opposite sentiment for Taeyeon, unfortunately. I admit that her voice is one of the best in K-pop and that Girls’ Generation would definitely not be as good without her. However, her solo debut was underwhelming in that it sounded so similar to say, a Taylor Swift song and it failed to show off her individuality. Furthermore, she did not really showcase her best vocal ability through this release and is probably more undeserving of this award than the other female vocalists being nominated in this category.

7. Best Rap Performance

Fantasy: Mad Clown – “Fire”
Mad Clown is hands down one of my favourite rappers. His lyrics are not just witty and relatable, his delivery is also very smooth and confident. In particular this track, he matched perfectly with the singer featuring on his track, Jinsil, to create an overall fantastic and addictive song, but it is evident that he is carrying most of the track. His emotions are spot on as well, and he doesn’t come off as full of rage but rather he shows a more passive type of anger. He needs more international exposure and recognition so I really hope that he will be able to get this award.


Reality: Gary (from Leessang) – “Get Some Air”
Once again, I wouldn’t be very upset if Gary ends up winning this award after all. I got to know him after watching him on popular variety show “Running Man” and it is no wonder that he has such a large fan base because the show is popular not just in Korea but in a lot of countries around the world. The track is a pretty good one as well, with a great collaboration between the featured singer (Miwoo) and Gary, but his rap is just lacking as compared to Mad Clown. He also portrays his sad emotions well but his flow and delivery isn’t as smooth or as well done as Mad Clown’s, so on a technical level he may not be as deserving of this award. He did put in a lot of effort for this solo release however and I am looking forward to his future work.


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8. Best Band Performance

Fantasy: Hyukoh – “Comes And Goes”
This is probably the category that I feel the most for because Hyukoh is a real gem that I discovered recently due to their appearance on another popular variety show, “Infinite Challenge.” It’s so satisfying to watch them receive so much attention nowadays from Korean and international fans alike because their music is just that good. Indie bands and music have never been my thing, but Hyukoh is so unique and fresh that I can’t help falling in love with them. Their humble attitude is another plus point, especially since they are already so skilled. “Comes And Goes” has such a chill vibe to it and it makes me feel so comfortable that I want to listen to it over and over again. By far, they are definitely the best band among the other bands nominated in this category.

Reality: CNBLUE – “Cinderella”
In contrast, CNBLUE might well be the worst band listed in this category. I say this as a fan of the band, but “Cinderella” is definitely not their best work. In fact, as compared to “Can’t Stop”, which they won Best Band for in MAMA 2014, “Cinderella” is unfortunately a huge decrease in standards. Where “Can’t Stop” was catchy and addictive, “Cinderella” was rather annoying and I couldn’t even bring myself to replay it after the first time. In a year where other bands such as Hyukoh and FTISLAND showed off more of their colour and talent, CNBLUE really shouldn’t get to win this award.

9. Best Collaboration & Unit

Fantasy: VIXX LR– “Beautiful Liar”
I’ve always been fascinated by VIXX as a group, although their concepts sometimes scare me, their songs are always consistently good. It was this expectation that I had from them that caused me to check out their new subunit. It did not disappoint and this great release was a pleasant surprise for me. Ravi’s raps in the song were amazing and really enhanced the track, while Leo did his part and sang beautifully. Together they were a strong pair and it is a pity that this song seemed to go under the radar amongst other popular releases when it is really deserving of recognition. For a debut, it is definitely a great release and I can’t wait for their comeback already.

Reality: Zion T & Crush – “Just”
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that this collaboration was leading the polls because “Just” gained a lot of attention when it was first released at the start of the year. It’s not the first time that these two artists have worked together, and it really shows in the way they are able to complement each other in singing and rapping. While it is a nice release, it doesn’t work on an emotional way like “Beautiful Liar” did for me, so I do think that VIXX LR would be more deserving of this award.

10. Best Music Video

Fantasy: INFINITE – “Bad”
Apart from loving the song, I also enjoyed watching the music video and thought that it was very cool. The way the set was used in different ways for the members intrigued me and there were even some parts that were very creepy, especially when the mirrors were used. Although the other version of the music video wasn’t nominated for this award, I also enjoyed watching the 360 VR version of it because viewers got to play around with the video while watching it to see the video from different perspectives. It was a very cool and fresh idea which made me excited for the future of K-pop music videos.

Reality: BIGBANG – “Bae Bae”
I can only use two words to describe this video: colourful and crazy. It did fit the song very well but it was extremely messy and random with abrupt scene changes and totally different vibes for each part of the song. All it does, in essence, is show off how rich YG Entertainment is, but as a music video I did not enjoy it at all. At least in INFINITE’s video there was an over-arching theme that kept the video coherent and relevant to the song, in “Bae Bae.”..not so much.

All in all, it can be concluded that MAMA awards is essentially a popularity contest, and while the fan polls are not always the determining factors for who eventually wins the awards, they are pretty good indicators. I’m excited to see how it turns out and I’ll always be rooting for the underdogs, even though they may not be favoured to win.

Are you excited for the MAMA awards? What are your predictions? Share your throughts 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.

Blink & You’ll Miss These ‘Doctor Who’ References In K-Pop Music Videos

Doctor Who Meets K-PopK-pop and British pop culture has little direct influence on one another, but some K-pop music video directors are definitely fans of the iconic British television series, “Doctor Who.” Although they’re few and far apart, there are some K-pop music videos that directly take influences from “Doctor Who.”

In honor of the new season of “Doctor Who” being well under way, I took a look into three K-pop music videos that get their inspiration from “Doctor Who.” Even if you’re not a fan of the British show, you know these K-pop music videos and may be surprised.

Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang”

Long before Buzzfeed’s Try Guys noticed a connection between the British television series “Doctor Who” and one of this year’s most watched K-pop music videos on YouTube, I noticed a seemingly impossible reference to the iconic sixth season premiere, “The Impossible Astronaut.” In the music video, wearing a cowboy hat and a leather jacket, Big Bang’s rapper T.O.P appears to be no other than the stand in for the show’s leading man, The Doctor.


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Yes, T.O.P is The Eleventh Doctor. And River Song. Or, at least, he’s wearing a cowboy hat while hanging out with an astronaut, who also appears to be T.O.P. To my knowledge, YG Entertainment hasn’t explained if T.O.P kills himself and ruins the history of time forever or is married to himself, but it’s a pretty humorous few moments in the music video.

Think the cowboy and astronaut are just coincidences and accidentally appear to be referencing “Doctor Who?” Think again, because here are definitely alien-like specimens in jars on the sill and that white room looks a bit like the room from the episode “The Girl Who Waited.”

ZE:A’s “Breathe”

The Big Bang music video is actually just the most recent addition to this list of K-pop music videos that take aspects from “Doctor Who.” The 2014 music video for ZE:A’s song has a bit of a depressing tone to it, like the whole world being destructed and ZE:A dancing in a spaceship, but then we get our space elements that take us to “Doctor Who” and everything seems like it is much better.

In this case, we don’t get a blatant reference to The Doctor or any other character from the show, but we do get a TARDIS. Yes, a TARDIS, but not The Doctor’s TARDIS. This is more like ZE:A’s COE.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.39.24 PM


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For K-pop fans who don’t know, The Doctor’s TARDIS is his spaceship that travels through time and space, and it looks like a 1960’s police call box from England. Its name is an acronym for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.” So, going with that, ZE:A’s blue box has the group’s name it in English, which is Children of Empire so… I decided that ZE:A’s spaceship is called a COE, and it doesn’t really travel through space and time as much as it makes a handsome K-pop group.

ZE:A’s music video has a lot of out of this world elements, but I can’t help but wonder whether their blue stage outfits came before or after someone suggested throwing in one of the most iconic images of British pop culture, the TARDIS from “Doctor Who”.

IU’s “You & I”

Last but definitely not least, we have a K-pop singer emulating The Doctor.This 2011 music video from IU takes us to England, or somewhere that looks like it, with a clock tower that can’t quite compare to Big Ben and a cozy little house with black and white pictures and a random goose walking around IU’s home as she counts down to D-Day.

Do you remember how I explained that the TARDIS is a spaceship that travels through time and space? Well, IU’s waiting for some handsome guy to wake up and there’s a magical mystery device that says “time” and “space” on it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.47.17 PM

And then it gets better!

Not every season of “Doctor Who” has clockwork in the beginning of each episode as part of the opening theme, but clockwork played a role in the intro of the eighth season of “Doctor Who,” and what is IU dancing in front of during the intro of the song? Nothing more than tons of clockwork gears.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.48.17 PM

Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but here is the best use of any “Doctor Who” reference in K-pop to date- IU uses the TARDIS. Or something that looks like it and works the same way.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.55.48 PM

Yes, Korea’s pop princess IU takes a ride on a train called the Fantasy Express and then gets into a time machine that looks oddly like a TARDIS from the outside. “You & I” foregoes the delightful bright blue color for something a bit more sedate, but there’s the same twirling and cosmic ambiance of IU’s box of time and space.

Do you know any other references to “Doctor Who” in K-pop? Let us know in the comments 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.

4 K-Pop Songs Casting ‘Harry Potter’ Spells

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K-pop may be crazy about “Harry Potter.” The most popular work of fiction in the past era has been, without a doubt, the “Harry Potter” book series. The popular book and film series inspired some of Korea’s top musicians to write songs featuring “Harry Potter” tropes.

XIA Junsu “Tarantallegra” (2012)

When one of the best singers in K-pop tells you to dance, you do just that. The title of Junsu’s “Tarantallegra” is taken from the spell that makes people’s feet dance uncontrollably. The song was Junsu’s first as a soloist, and the title of his first solo album. It’s a dramatic song and music video, with a rap by Flowsik, and Junsu lives up to the name of the song by putting on one of the best dance performances in the history of K-pop.

The song makes it very clear that music is everything for Junsu, as shown by the repetitive question, “what music would you listen to?” and “tarantallegra, be intoxicated with music.” The lyrics were written by Junsu’s twin brother Juno, giving it a deeper personal touch for himu. And as for the music video, well, there’s a magically beautiful woman who makes an appearance when Junsu decides to change things up. Without a doubt, “Tarantallegra” is a piece of wizard art.


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Jo Kwon “Wingardium Leviosa” (2012)

A fast paced, techno dance song from the leader of 2AM was the total opposite of the group’s usual vocally expressive songs. However, the ever flamboyant Jo Kwon is a perfect fit for the bright dance song. Although it wasn’t the title track on his “I’m Da One” album, “Wingardium Leviosa” is built around a “Harry Potter” spell.

In “Harry Potter,” “Wingardium Leviosa” is a levitation spell that helps objects fly. And to Jo, that means an opportunity to play around. “I will make you fly” and “Let’s fly over there, follow me, let’s try, memorize this spell” are pretty straightforward lyrics, but Jo goes above and beyond and turns the spell into a verb, “The mood is wingar.” Whatever that means, we love it and want to be feeling it.

IU “Obliviate” (2013)

Soloist IU is as great as usual in a Latin inspired song “Obliviate.” With whispers of the memory removal spell, the meaning of the song is clear from the very beginning; the singer would like to remove her memories of a past relationship after it is over.

IU takes a bitter take on the spell, singing, “In the end, I cast the nonse spell of making bad memories disappear and having good memories stay” in a tone of voice that implies that it’s an impossibility. “Head, obliviate, heart, obliviate,” she sings. While other artists use “Harry Potter” for inspiration, IU’s song is the epitome of all of us “Harry Potter” fans out there, who wish we could use our favorite spells in our daily lives.


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Crucial Star “Owl” Feat. donutman

Crucial Star’s song is about working hard and being a pioneer to inspire others. and not quite as obviously based on “Harry Potter” as the previous songs in this list. But with a line like “I cast a spell like Harry, ”Aparecium, Alohamora, there’s no doubt that the lyrics take inspiration from “Harry Potter.” According to Harry Potter Wiki, Apercium is the revealing charm “that forces invisible ink or other hidden messages to appear,” while Alohamora is one of the first spells introduced in the Harry Potter series and is used to unlock locks. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Revealing_Charm

And, as a fun bonus, even though it’s not a song, here’s Super Junior-M’s Henry getting yelled at on “Strong Heart” for mispronouncing Hermione’s name.

Which K-pop act do you want to make magical songs with? Share your picks 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.

May Music Releases From Korea That You Might Have Overlooked

History Just Might Die K-pop may releases KultSceneMay has not been lacking in music releases from top K-pop acts. BIGBANG, INFINITE’s Kim Sung Kyu, KARA, Girl’s Day, and SHINee all came out with new music and gained worldwide attention. But there were also a lot of good songs coming out of Korea this past month that you may have missed (pardon the pun). Here are some of KultScene’s favorite, possibly overlooked, releases from Korea in May.

HISTORY’s “Beyond The History” album is one of our favorite things to be released in May, maybe this year. The title track “Might Just Die” and its music video are extremely sexy, but it’s Jang Yi Jeong’s solo rap track “1Century” that’s really worth taking a listen to. Jang wrote both songs, and his composing skills are something we’ll be watching, but it was his excellent rapping that is so shocking considering that he’s actually the group’s lead vocalist.


“Like” by CLC was introduced in May with pretty little fanfare, considering that the girl group debuted under one of Korea’s brightest entertainment agencies, Cube Entertainment. But just because there wasn’t a lot of attention doesn’t mean that we don’t love the bright, colorful song.


Zion.T’s “Eat” is a gentle R&B song about a man and his feelings, a comforting tune to help people find pleasure in the little things in life. It went to the top of many Korean music charts thanks to its melodious, warm nature.


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Solo singer IU released “Heart” with little warning, but it also became a hit. The song was featured in the drama “The Producers,” which the singer stars in.


Another boy band that made a K-pop comeback in May was UNIQ, with the song “Luv Again.” The R&B song’s a sweet tune for the summer months, with its acoustic instrumentals and harmonies. UNIQ is clearly a rookie group, but one that’s worth taking note of.


Coffee house band Urban Zakapa released a new mini album ”U/Z,” and two of our favorite songs of May are “Get” featuring Beenzino and “Two One Two.” With positive lyrics and inspiring music videos, Urban Zakapa really shone in the month of May.



A powerhouse music couple released songs for the soundtrack of the drama “Who Are You?: School 2015.” You cannot miss out on is Yoon Mi Rae’s “I’ll Listen To What You Have To Say” or Tiger JK’s “Reset” featuring Jinsil.



Clazziquais Horan is definitely not just alright with her first solo song “She’s Alright.” The song is about women who say that they are fine even when they’re not, something many women around the world can relate to. The funky song has traditional Korean influences and is a pleasure to listen to.


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“Trespass” is the debut title song released by Monsta X in May, but the powerful image is one that we hope the group keeps past their debut. The song is focused highly around rapper Jooheon, and we’re not complaining (although maybe a little bit).


Heejun Han’s “QnA” featured Girls’ Generation member Tiffany, but was a bit unloved. But the cute duet is upbeat and sure to put a smile on every listener’s lips.


Vocal quartet 2AM may have split up to different agencies, but member Lim Seulong released his first solo album in May and “Mood Swings” is definitely something to take a listen to. The song features Black Nut, and we’re obsessed.


Jung Joon Young switched over to the group concept, and JJY Band released its first song in May. “OMG” is a rock party song that we all need.


Seventeen debuted this month with sweet title track “Adore U,” a song that we’re obsessed with. It’s simple, sugary, and has amazing raps.


Two talented K-pop soloists came together in Eddy Kim’s “Coffee & Tea,” featuring Mamamoo’s Solar. The caffeine-focused song is another sweet tune, with bouncy acoustic sounds that we love.

What do you think? Did we miss out on any great May releases from Korea? Let us know what you think in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.