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K-pop mid-year review: 3 distinctive music styles dominating 2018 so far

 

The year 2018 is passing by so fast. Can you believe that we have only five months left until 2019? When it comes to K-pop, a lot can happen in a matter of a few months, but so far we’ve already been taking notes on the music styles that have been trending in charts and album releases.

While some styles are always present, like electronic dance music (Sunmi’s “Heroine”) and R&B (Red Velvet’s “Bad Boy”), and some trend styles of 2016 and 2017 are still popular, like tropical house ((G)I-dle’s “Latata,” CROSS GENE’s “Touch It,” etc.), we chose three less frequently heard musical styles that have been present in a lot of comebacks and B-sides so far this year.

Check some of them out below:

Disco / Electropop / Retro K-pop Sound

When 2017 ended with the tragic news about SHINee’s Jonghyun, I thought the K-pop industry would have a hard time hyping fans up again. But when Momoland released the catchy and comic “Bboom Bboom” a few weeks later, I was smiling again. This was exactly the kind of fun we needed! The song was produced by Shinsadong Tiger, the same producer behind some of T-ara’s most legendary hits, like “Roly-Poly” and “Lovey-Dovey,” and so “Bboom Bboom” immediately gathered comparisons with T-ara and their disco-themed hits. But, whether people were mad or glad about the similarities, the fact is that “Bboom Bboom” led Momoland to huge success. The group then repeated the formula and released “Baam,” also produced by Shinsadong Tiger.

In late May, girl group AOA had its first comeback without former lead vocalist ChoA, releasing their Bingle Bangle EP full of fun and upbeat songs. One of those songs was “Ladi Dadi,” an electropop summer jam that recalls the same vibes of the catchiest hits of K-pop circa 2010-2012. Is 2018 making people nostalgic about the old days of K-pop? All we can say is we’re having so much fun with these retro sounds!


ALSO ON KULTSCENE: K-POP UNMUTED JUNE 2018 ROUNDUP

Mid-tempo Piano Hip-Hop

In late January, iKon scored a perfect All-Kill on Korean charts with their hit “Love Scenario,” a mid-tempo hip-hop song with a minimalist production and a bright piano accompaniment. Just a few months later in April, it was Pentagon’s time to show they could “shine” with the same musical approach, releasing the catchy and cute “Shine.” And even if it wasn’t a title track, let’s not forget “Kangaroo,” a great b-side from Wanna One’s first special album, 1÷x=1 (Undivided). “Kangaroo” is a fun hip-hop song produced by Block B’s Zico, with light beats and a mid-tempo cadency sweetly accompanied by piano chords. Those 3 boy groups killed this style and gave us some of the best songs of 2018 so far!


ALSO ON KULTSCENE: 7 K-POP MUSIC STYLES WE’D LOVE TO HEAR MORE

Caribbean & Latin Influences

In the last months of the year 2017, we could hear a few K-pop songs with influences of Caribbean and Latin music, such as SF9’s “O’ Sole Mio” and AOA’s Jimin “Hallelujah.” Little did we know that it would continue in 2018! In April, Super Junior caught the world by surprise when they released an iconic collaboration with Dominican-American singer Leslie Grace, the sensual “Lo Siento.” Later in May, it was BTS fans’ time to get delighted when they heard a flavour of salsa music on the group’s third full studio album Love Yourself: Tear with the irresistible “Airplane pt. 2.” The song was promoted on music shows and became an instant fan favorite due to the mention of cities and countries around the world, a reference to mariachis as a metaphor for the septet’s life on the road, and, of course, the Latin feels. More recently in mid-July, girl group MAMAMOO also continued their path of exploring different music genres in 2018 by releasing “Egotistic,” an elegant song full of Spanish guitars.

I think it’s safe to say Latinx and Caribbean fans are happy for seeing their culture being represented like this!

What’s your favorite sound of K-pop so far in 2018? 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.

K-rapper ARTLOVER talks blending music & fashion, British & Korean influences [interview]

Resultado de imagem para ARTLOVER K-POP

The current, up and coming generation of female Korean rappers is made of versatile and open-minded women with the ability to think outside the box. And while the scenario isn’t exactly ideal for them yet, as standards for female and male rappers are not the same, it hasn’t deterred new names from joining the scene. Amongst those names, ARTLOVER is definitely one we should keep our eyes on.

The 25-year-old, whose real name she would rather not reveal, is the typical multifaceted millennial who gathers inspiration from multiple experiences to create something unique. Formerly a makeup artist who has worked with severe fashion magazines, she is now ready to show her own colours through music.

ARTLOVER’s first single “Want U Back,” released on March 2nd, is a melodic tune with a retro sound that showcases her rapping and singing skills. She worked on the lyrics, composition, and art cover design for the single, which just got a music video as well.

But music, fashion, and design are not the only amount of diversity ARTLOVER has her heart on. Being Korean and based in London, she also divides her time between the two countries.  

KultScene talked with her about her first single, her inspirations, and views on being a multi talented artist exposed to two different cultures.

KS: Congratulations on your first release! Please tell us what inspired the lyrics and composition of “Want U Back.”

ARTLOVER: Thank You! “Want U Back” is about young love and the pain of losing it. I started out with a few chords on the piano and the rest just followed so I didn’t really plan it out beforehand. It just happened in the spur of the moment.


Also on KultScene: The 12 LOONA solo singles ranked


KS: How was working with Tae-Seop Lee (producer/mixer engineering; has worked with GOT7, Twice, DAY6, etc.)? How much do you usually get involved in the production?

A: I started out with Swedish writer/producer Max Billion who has worked with a lot of dance artists such as Mike Perry, Paris Blohm, and Cazzette. When we had a solid foundation we took it to Tae-Seop who then put his touch on it. I trust producers that I work with and I always give my opinion.




KS: Your stage name is quite unique. We’ve read that you designed the art cover for “Want U Back” and that you’ve worked as a makeup artist before. How do you think all these passions and talents come together when it comes to your music?

A: I would say that the practical aspect of working as a makeup artist has helped me a lot, especially when it comes to being professional and get things done. The visual aspect has always been very important to me, so it would come as no surprise that I think about this a lot when it comes to my music as well. I creative direct a lot of my videos, etc. I think that music and fashion goes hand in hand and it’s very difficult to separate the visuals and the music.

KS: Being Korean but living in London, how do you see the differences between the mainstream music scene of both countries?

A: Korean music is wilder for sure, more effects, bigger songs, and more parts. In many ways, it resembles western pop music and follow more or less the same pattern of trends, but with more ‘90s soul and more creative arrangements. People take pop music very seriously in Korea. Just as they approach other aspects of Korean society, K-pop has always been about perfection.

KS: It is natural to expect that you will at some point be labelled as a K-pop artist by some people. How do you feel about that? And how do you describe your music and style?

A: I don’t really have an issue with being labeled K-pop, as I think it helps me find an audience, especially outside of Korea. I still think that my music really stands out and doesn’t sound like anything else in K-pop at the moment. If my music was purely European or American, it’s far from certain that it would get as much attention.


Also on KultScene: Ego tripping, & not, in Korean female rap


KS: “Want U Back” sounds heavily inspired by ‘80s synthpop music. What are your biggest influences in music and your favorite artists?

A: It makes me very happy you say that, because we used mainly old synths during the recording. Max Billion brought his collection of vintage gear from the ‘70s and ‘80s so we stuck with those. I love Madonna and Cher, but my favorite artist of all time is Michael Jackson.

KS: What are your plans for 2018? Can we expect more music from you?

A: We are currently working on my debut EP that is due out in June, so that’s very exciting for sure. I’m also looking forward to playing shows.

Check out ARTLOVER’s “Want U Back” music video:

What do you think of ARTLOVER’s debut? 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.

KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted: G-Dragon [podcast]

KultScene is happy to announce that, in celebration of our third anniversary, we are beginning a collaboration with K-Pop Unmuted, a podcast dedicated to delving deep into K-pop.

In episode 19, Stephen Knight,  Alejandro Abarca, and Sam from East Coast Kpop Outlet – ECKO discussed G-Dragon’s newest album, Kwon Ji Yong, how we became his fans, T.OP.‘s scandal, and the future of G-D’s career. We also discussed Produce 101 season 2‘s “Never,” G-Dragon’s “B******T,” and SISTAR’s “Alone” as the songs that have us hooked as of late.

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 your thoughts on G-Dragon’s new album in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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

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

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

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

For The Masking Fiend

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

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

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

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

For People Who Love Wearing Their Fandom Hearts on Literal Sleeves

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

sittinginclover Super Junior-inspired "Oppa" Tee

Price: Tees for $20

For the K-pop Inept

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

K-Pop Dictionary

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


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

For The Skin Tone Perfectionist

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

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

misha-bb-boomer-kultscene

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

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

For The Lipstick Loving EXO-Ls

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

Sephora Lucky One EXO lipstick KultScene

Lucky One

Price: $12.50 each

For The Lipstick Loving Wino

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

 

Price: $9 each

For The K-pop Fan Always Losing Their Headphones

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

kpop_product_shot_pink

Price: $50

For The K-Beauty Confused

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

Bomibox KultScene

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

Thank you everyone for entering and congratulations, Briana Fortunato!


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

For The Cuddle Buddy

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

Zombie Mamma K-pop plushies

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

For The Burgeoning Anthropologist

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

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

Korea Curated boxes KultScene gift guide

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

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

Inspire Me Korea Box KultScene Gift Guide

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For The Foodie

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

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

DIY Crazy Korean Cooking

Price: $19-85

What’s your ideal holiday gift, either for yourself or for others? Share your thoughts (and pictures of your holiday shopping!) about this article in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

7 fact-finding resources K-pop fans should know

BTS in school

When it comes to being a K-pop fan, or Korean pop culture writer like our staff, there’s only so much that information that you can keep on the top of your head. For everybody involved in the fandom, or just the curious non-fan, there’s a lot of different virtual K-pop resources that come in handy. September means the start of the school year for many of our readers, so I got into a scholarly mood looked into some of the most useful tools out there, ones that I utilize whenever I’m working on a new writing project. I also asked some of the other KultScene writers, so thank you Alexis, Shelley, and Kushal!

Idology “Idol Yearbook”

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry. The Korean webzine published their first book, “Idol Yearbook 2015” earlier this year in South Korea and lent us a copy to puruse.

Bilingual, with Korean one one side of the page and English on the other, the “Idol Yearbook” features several essays and, more useful for reference work, an entire list of the songs released by K-pop idols in 2015 based on the release date. The final, and equally wonderful, section of the book includes statistics ranging from all the idol groups that debuted in 2015 to what months were the most popular for releases. (September, October, and November, by the way!) Other fun statistics include the average heights, age, birthdates, of the newly debuted idols. That’s information on 339 newly debuted K-pop idols!

Idol Yearbook

Instiz & Gaon

Personally, Instiz’s iChart is one of the best ways I discover what music is popular in South Korea. English language K-pop sites and iTunes’ K-pop chart are great for showing what’s popular in the US and other foreign countries, but when it comes to Korea there’s a wider variety of music than just the idol music that’s so popular amongst K-pop fans. The iChart curates realtime rankings from a variety of different Korean music charts and helps clarify what’s popular versus what K-pop fans simply think is popular.

Another chart I like looking at is Gaon’s charts, which is most closely compared to Billboard as the most definitive Korean music chart. Unfortunately, Gaon’s charts aren’t real time so I usually reference them towards the end of the year. But it’s definitely something good to look at at the end of each month to see the overall rankings. The charts are also in Korean so it could be a bit daunting, but a Google translate extension can fix that.


Also on KultScene: ‘Age of Youth’ is the sweetest, most realistic, & most underrated K-drama of 2016

English language Korean news sites

There are a lot of great English language Korean pop culture sites out there, but any fan of the industry is aware that there are plenty of less great ones. Getting information second hand isn’t really ideal, so while some international fan-oriented sites are really outstanding (especially this one!) try out websites like the K-Pop Herald, Mwave’s news section, the Korea Times, and Yonhap for English language news that’s typically directly from South Korea.

Official Websites

While many Korean entertainment companies aren’t particularly English-language friendly, and some that are don’t really supply that much information, there are some truly reliable ones out there. SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment in particular have gone out of their way over the past few years to make their information accessible to fans through SMTown Now and YG-Life. The former typically supplies short, headline-style updates for fans in multiple languages while the latter does a terrific job translating Korean news articles relating to YG artists.


Also on KultScene: K-Pop & the Collective Body Part 2: Seventeen, Cosmic Girls, & NCT

Stocks

No, but really.

Haven’t you ever wanted to know just how much Korean music, films, and dramas really make? While not every Korean entertainment company is public, those that are have their stocks freely visible with a quick Google search. If you’ve ever wanted to gauge the financial impact of a “scandal,” this is the best way.

A quick search shows that SM's stock is at the lowest it's been in years.

A quick search shows that SM’s stock is at the lowest it’s been in years.

Wikipedia

Because Wikipedia knows everything. (But double check your sources!)

Social Media

While Tumblr is where you go for pretty pictures and gifs, Twitter is one of the fastest new sources nowadays and several KultScene writers get their tips from whatever is trending each day. Following official media companies is a tried-and-true way to keep track of new releases or important dates, but fan-run accounts and fan groups (particularly on Facebook) are a fun way to get involved with some of the lesser known parts of K-pop fandom. Also, check out fan sites’ accounts (and the sites themselves, of course.)

Do you have a favorite go to K-pop resource, news or otherwise? 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: March 1(3)-March 19

KultScene-Sunday

After nearly two years of our KultScene Playlist Sunday, our staff put their heads together and decided it’s time for something now. So this week we are debuting KultScene’s brand new Weekly K-Pop Faves column. Don’t mind us though, because we’re cheating just a tiny bit this week, since we haven’t covered many of the March releases. So, without further adieu, please enjoy our inaugural edition of KultScene’s Weekly K-Pop Faves.

1. Ian Jo’s “The Little Prince Of The Rose” (released March 8)

The release of this ballad is a special one because it does not just mark a singer’s debut, it is also a discovery of a beautiful gem, at least for this K-pop industry. Ian Jo, a new singer-songwriter from a relatively obscure company, Madeleine Music, charmed with his voice, which was certainly not the typical ballad sound. Rather than using techniques like vibrato or showing off his high notes, Ian Jo’s voice was simple and even stark at some points, but it still carried the right amount of emotion and strength. The song is masterfully crafted and the various instruments blended well together to complement the overall feel of the song. It’s a pity that this singer and his company are not more well-recognized; it’s shocking that a song of this quality has only 251 views on Youtube. I’m certainly looking forward to the day that Ian Jo becomes an accomplished musician but until then, “The Little Prince Of The Rose” will sustain me.

— Anna


Also on KultScene: Fiestar’s ‘A Delicate Sense’ Album Review

2. Hyomin’s “Sketch” (released March 16)

“Because I’ll be awakened by the tip of your brush.”

Before Secret’s Hyosung comes back, Hyomin of T-ara has staked a claim for the sexiest girl group solo release of the year. That being said, I don’t think it matters what else comes out because everything about “Sketch” is sexy. The silky smooth R&B that bobs up and down with incredible ease and Hyomin’s high pitched vocals are almost dripping with sensual sweat. Piano twinkles in and out to offer a sweeter touch. The dance break is a bit too heavy around the rest of the song; I can see what they trying to do but it doesn’t really work, especially when the choreography that came before consisted of slow, simple but beautiful movements. It touches on the verge of overly explicit but is reigned in just right.

— Joe

3. KNK’s “Knock” (released March 2)

If there’s a song and group debut that took a few of the KultScene writers by storm is KNK with “Knock.” Seemingly out of nowhere, the guy group debuted with a hard-hitting mid-tempo angsty ballad about not wanting to renounce the girl they like then turns into a sort of intro at the chorus. Inconsistent? Maybe, but it’s simplistic instrumentals emphasizing the percussion at the chorus and the variety of vocals tie it together to be one of the best debut song by a rookie this year. And of course, the fact that they all seem like fashion models just adds fuel to the “omg i can’t stan another group” fire. This writer only hopes KNK survives long enough to give us more stunning releases.

— Alexis


Also on KultScene: Fandom, Not Genre, K-Pop Surpasses The Limitations Of Music

4. Red Velvet’s “One Of these Nights” (Released March 19)

Red Velvet’s done a complete 360 from the upbeat dance concepts of “Ice Cream Cake” and “Dumb Dumb” that made them big last year and come back with their velvety side on “One Of These Nights.” The song is a building mid tempo tune that incorporates a variety of orchestral elements and a tapping bass to transform into a melodic, sultry ballad that highlights Red Velvet’s vocals. The song is a bit funky, in that it’s too all over the place with its ambient sound and transitions to be a true ballad but not upbeat enough to be any sort of dance track. “One Of These Nights” caught many Red Velvet fans off guard after the group’s brighter sounds and even their sexier concepts (“Automatic,” “Be Natural”) but that’s definitely not a bad thing. Red Velvet’s wowed on “One Of These Nights” in a way that was perhaps necessary for their longevity. Previously, Red Velvet’s songs were particularly gimmicky (and this one is too, to some degree thanks to hidden meaning related to the Korean title and a traditional folktale,) but “One Of These Nights” first and foremost puts Red Velvet’s belting and melodies ahead of the ear catching beats that their other songs have thrived on. “One Of These Nights” shows Red Velvet’s cohesiveness as singers as well as a, somewhat necessary, reminder that Red Velvet has come a long way since the juvenile sound of their debut song, 2014’s “Happiness.”

—Tamar

What was your favorite song from this month so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblrto keep up with all of our posts.

Fandom, Not Genre, K-Pop Surpasses The Limitations Of Music

Fandoms

When a friend of mine recently asked why K-pop is a fandom rather than a genre, it was puzzling; of course K-pop is a fandom. Looking around at K-pop’s international fanbase, the question hardly makes sense; it’d be like saying The Beatles are a genre when they are in fact so much more. But that doesn’t resonate with people unfamiliar with what K-pop is, who just assume that K-pop is a very specific type of music rather than an entire entity.

K-pop, at its heart, isn’t one sound but rather a production style coming out of South Korea today and the pop culture surrounding it. K-pop is Korea’s music industry and all that it contains. Similar to Hollywood being the umbrella term for the industry, its stars, and its products, K-pop is the blanket term for music, celebrities, and a variety of other aspects of Korea’s pop culture.


Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: K-Pop In Wonderland

Understanding that K-pop is the overarching term for a variety of music coming out of South Korea is key to erasing the idea that K-pop is a single musical style. What most people think of “K-pop” is actually idol music, pop music acts produced by large entertainment agencies. There are usually, but not always, synchronized choreographies. K-pop doesn’t just mean idol music though, since all of South Korea’s mainstream music is now coming under the title. But that’s not everything under the sun in South Korea, and even Korean indie acts are falling under the broader K-pop umbrella; this year’s SXSW’s K-Pop Night Out includes a girl group, two R&B artists, an IDM producer, an alt-punk indie duo, and a glam metal band.

And they’re all included in the idea of K-pop to some degree, despite their blatant genre differences.

Because of its utter enormity, fans of K-pop aren’t just fans of a specific style of music, which would in fact make K-pop a genre. A fan may be a fan of an act act, such as idol groups like SHINee or 2NE1, but unlike fans of musical genres, K-pop fans express affinity to the artists rather than the musical style; musical affinity isn’t bound to being a fan because K-pop is impossible to pin into one individual style. While both SHINee and 2NE1 have distinct styles within the K-pop world, their songs themselves are known for genre-blending and musical experimentation rather than sticking to one specific musical style.

Saying K-pop is a musical genre is limiting, since the songs falling within K-pop’s realm range from folk to R&B to bubblegum pop to hip hop and beyond. (It also diminishes the face value of music coming out of South Korea today, since K-pop gets a bad rap as a wholly manufactured industry with little innate artistic value.)

In a recent interview, members of Korea’s most popular boy band Big Bang deplored the idea that K-pop is a single genre. Seungri argued that the title doesn’t express what is good K-pop versus bad K-pop and G-Dragon highlighted the fact that K-pop isn’t K-pop to Koreans; it’s just music. Meanwhile,T.O.P argued that the terminology itself was a failing, and implied that there were racist connotations to lumping all Korean music under the idea of a single genre.

“It’s like this,” he told the Washington Post. “You don’t divide pop music by who’s doing it. We don’t say, for instance, ‘white pop’ when white people make music.”

But clarifying that K-pop is just general Korean mainstream music isn’t really easy to explain in a casual conversation since most people are not likely to understand the nuances of why it’s not a single musical style, making it difficult to expand on the broader definition of how and why K-pop is dissimilar specific genres like country or metal.

Metal fans, like other fans declaring favoritism to a specific style, favor acts that fall under a specific overarching musical genre. Just like K-pop, they identify one another on the streets based on band tees and get excited when a new act comes to town. But without the specific tones of being a metal band, those same fans won’t be interested. If a metal band put out an album inspired by jazz music, their fans would likely be confused and pan the album. K-pop fans eat up that sort of experimentation, since it’s part of what makes certain songs fall under the K-pop title.

But with K-pop, the most genre-bending music “genre” of all, the music is just the beginning of the pitfall that leads fans to start liking all aspects of the K-pop scene. While many songs sound similar, and there are trends in K-pop overall, a K-pop fan can be biased towards the slower, more mellow ballad tones rather than the dance music, but still be a K-pop fan. Most fans of K-pop claim partiality to specific acts and join that act’s fandom (i.e., Big Bang fans are known as VIPs as a whole) but still are a part of the overall fandom of K-pop. They cheer when a K-pop act beats out other acts internationally, coming together to support the industry’s international growth, and get upset collectively when a single fandom may be under attack from outside fandoms.


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While “K-pop” once stood for the specific idol music coming out of Korea, it is now essentially a word handed out freely to describe all Korean pop and even all Korean music. Looking at idol groups alone, there are allegedly hundreds of different sounds and concepts. But when someone says they’re a fan of K-pop music, they’re not saying that they’re a fan of the specific sound of K-pop music because there is no such thing. Rather, they’re saying that they are a fan of the world of K-pop. What that world is is up for debate in South Korea nowadays, just as Big Bang said, but K-pop is no single musical style, despite the Guardian trying to peg Grimes as K-pop in a recent article.

If K-pop were a genre, it’d be the all-encompassing world of Korean pop music and then some. It’s the industry consisting of music production companies in South Korea and the musicians themselves as well as the music. Some of it is idol music, some of it is hip-hop, ballads, indie-style folk music, etc., but it’s the production value and promotional aspects that makes K-pop what it is and why fans love it. It’s an idea moreso than a genre.

Yes, K-pop songs are mostly Korean pop songs, and you could say that K-pop is a genre. But a genre is a style with a limited range of musical tropes. K-pop is definitely an entity, but that entity is so much more than any music genre; it’s an entire scene that, yes, surrounds a certain type of music, but is so much more than a single genre.

What do you think of defining K-pop as a fandom rather than a genre? 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: K-Pop in Wonderland

alice in wonderland kpop k pop korean theme concept mv music videosBecoming a fan of the K-pop industry is often described as going down the rabbit’s hole that you won’t be able to climb out of. In honor of K-pop fans everywhere, this week’s Playlist Sunday is dedicated to all things ”Alice in Wonderland”. The songs that we included are all based on the concept of the beloved story, whether it’s the story of the song itself or the respective music video.

Seungri’s 2011 solo release “V.V.I.P.” is basically a Korean version of “Alice in Wonderland.” We have cricket, a mad tea party, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and instead of growing bigger by drinking the antidote, Alice grows older. Seungri’s role, however, is unclear. Maybe he’s the mad hatter or the white rabbit? Moreover, instead of going for the psychedelic colorful scheme, Seungri opted for a more posh and lush color palette, given the song is all about him showing of his fame, looks, and money. Overall, it’s a fun video to watch, even if I’m not sure the relation between the song and the concept.

— Alexis


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Boyfriend took the famous “Alice In Wonderland” tea party and card games to another, deadly level in the music video for their song “Bounce.” Painting the roses red while singing about a lover who is hiding holding out on affections, this music video takes its cues from Tim Burton’s haunting version of “Alice,” with life and love on the line as the white rabbit femme fatale taunts Boyfriend with her swinging pocket watch until they follow her down the rabbit hole. Boyfriend’s a stellar, but underrated, K-pop boy band whose music videos since the release of “Janus” in 2012 have been thought provoking with their storytelling and high production value. “Bounce” continues the trend and is one of K-pop’s most solid retellings of “Alice in Wonderland.”

— Tamar

Veteran queen of K-pop Son Dambi offered her own interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s iconic story with her 2012 single “Queen.” It references sparingly with images of playing cards, a big girl in a small room, and lyrics about waking up from fantasies to become the woman you want to be. What most people will get from listening to this song in 2016 is just how dated it sounds. The autotune and synths even sound from previous to that era. If you can get past that however there’s some great sounds to be found. The variety of vocals are wonderful; from whiny raps to angelic singing, Dambi shows a range of considerable quality. She even uses different inflections for different verses. I even love the autotune which, as the song goes on longer, starts to increase turning the song into piece of abstract digital art. The second (and final!) chorus adds auto tune and more electronic wobbles and chips as the song devolves into what could be a remix of what we heard at the beginning. Through the looking glass you might say.

— Tamar

What K-pop song reminds you of going down the rabbits hole? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 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.


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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.


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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.

Playlist Sunday: K-Pop Feuds

Playlist Sunday: Favorite February Releases

K-pop is a cutthroat battlefield in many ways, but the public feuds are few and far in between. This week’s Playlist Sunday focuses on some of the most sensational K-pop Feuds over the past few years, either between agencies and idols, or singer against singer.

While some K-pop feuds are between two people, the ongoing dispute between JYJ and SM Entertainment is something that has been going on so long that it has even led to action from Korean politicians. JYJ (Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong) is made up of three former TVXQ members who left the group in 2009. Seven years later, the trio still finds their activities blocked bythe influence of their former agency. But in the “Untitled Song, Part 1” (Or “The Nameless Song, Part 1”), which was released as part of JYJ’s 2011 self-composed music essay, the three went out and attacked their former agency, addressing in song what had led to the trio splitting from the other two members of TVXQ. The song, written and composed entirely by Yoochun, details their time at SM Entertainment from 2003 in an earnest way that is lacking from many K-pop songs. The trio sings and raps about their hardships, their journey to the top in Korea and Japan, and the pivotal moment when they reached out to SM Entertainment’s CEO and were disappointed. “When he needed us, we were family to him,” sings JYJ. “When we needed him, we were strangers to him.” The song continues on to express that JYJ’s members realized they weren’t getting paid enough and other hardships and is a frank depiction, and explanation, of the turmoil that led JYJ to leave from TVXQ at the pique of the group’s height. The song ends with JYJ thanking fans for their support. Musically, the song is simple, but the lyrical storytelling is heartbreaking and shows JYJ’s side of a story.

— Tamar


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Hot off the back of his win on “Show Me The Money,” iKon rapper Bobby released a diss track calling out all idol rappers. He said that they have smeared the name of idol and rapper but took the time to exclude WINNER’s Mino and Block B rappers Zico and P.O. While making some good points about the overall state of rapping idols, coming for the most of them meant he insulted a lot of people who probably don’t take rapping that seriously. You might say that maybe they should, but in the context of being an idol it makes up only one part of what is expected of them. Generally he came off as arrogant and whiny just to drum up some extra attention. I don’t think that VIXX’s Ravi’s response to him is in any way a better rap, but I do agree with the sentiments. His corny track “Diss Hater”
was about how he thinks all idol rappers are just that and it makes no difference how good you are. Listen to Ravi everyone, we’re all the same really so relax.

— Joe


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What do you do, as a big shot entertainment company, after you’ve “let” an artist go because of “misinterpretations” to then seeing them trying to make a comeback in the industry that you wanted to potentially claim yours? Due to some severely “mistranslated” and overlooked comments that ex-2PM member Jay Park made while still a trainee about the unfavorable aspects of Korea, he was then practically shunned from the industry and country. Although by the time Jay was ready to make his comeback in Korea in 2010, while everyone else was ready to welcome him back with open arms, JYP Entertainment wasn’t having any of that. The company made it so that Jay was blocked and blacklisted from making any possible televised appearance. Jay would be scheduled for certain tv shows, appear on set and then be told to leave and/or get calls the morning of and be told that for whatever unforeseeably reason, his appearance had been cancelled due to “pressure” from the “higher-ups.”

After an almost five year hiatus back in the United States, you can imagine that Jay’s comeback was anything but smooth. Things eventually got better; producers from certain broadcasting stations eventually realized that Jay would be able to grant them better viewership. Certain shows like “Immortal Song 2” and “Dream Team” brought him on knowing that aside from the past drama stemming between JYPE and Jay, that Jay himself would be good for their business. For the sake of their company and pressure from the industry, I get why the company sent Jay off like that, but they shouldn’t have gone about it the way that they did and even afterwards when things were long done between the two parties. Although it seems like the two have moved on from the past, JYP seems to still be holding on to some angst, considering how Jay can’t appear on “Running Man” due to the producers familial relationship with Park Jin Young himself.

— Tam

Who’s side are you on? 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.