K-Pop Unmuted: Produce 48 & What is an Idol?

On Episode 31 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Tamar Herman, Stephen Knight, and Joe Palmer join guest Patrick St. Michel to preview Produce48 and to discuss the concept of an “idol” and what makes a great idol. In our Unmuted K-pop Picks we talk about GIRLKIND’s ‘S.O.R.R.Y,’ Yubin’s ‘Lady,’ ONF’s ‘You Complete Me,’ and WJMK’s ‘STRONG.’

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

Let us know your thoughts on Produce 48 and what you think makes a great idol in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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 2

In the 27th episode of 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, and even give out some of their own unique awards.

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.

Best K-pop music videos of 2017

Last year, South Korea was overrun by some great new music, and some of that music came with beautifully shot music videos that had the KultScene team enthralled. So here we present our best K-pop music videos of 2017.

“Goodbye” by 2NE1

From the standpoint of my emotional attachment to 2NE1, this video, the group’s last, is still difficult for me to watch. At first glance it is easily the group’s darkest music video, filmed entirely in black and white. Starting with CL arising on a bed of roses and candles, she passes in front of projections of past music videos, concert footage, and photoshoots. Most notable is the inclusion of Minzy in the video clips, not as a passing member but sometimes as the sole focus of the video, despite the fact that she wasn’t included in the song at all and had previously left the group before the group disbanded. The visuals remain equally depressing throughout as Dara sits on a staircase full of candles, and passing shadows of Bom eventually materialize into her appearance in the second chorus.

Every depiction of group activity, from bowing at concerts to smiling for pictures, is a painful and evocative shot for fans watching. It grows even more painful when one tries to interpret the video’s abstract stylings such as Dara’s veil, the shiny curtains, etc. as having some sort of deep meaning about the group’s disbandment or future.
The most striking moment of the video, however, is the last second, when the three of them lay together on a bed, Bom and Dara cuddled around leader CL in the group’s final shot together. As a Blackjack, I’m thankful that, despite all the scandals and confusion leading up to disbandment, at least 2NE1 dropped a high-quality, gut-wrenching final video for fans to reflect on before the members went their separate ways.


“Hands Up” by B.A.P

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “hands up”? For some, it could mean to have fun, like when the DJ at the club or event tells everyone to put their hands up. For others, this phrase can make them tremble in fear, like being held up. Fortunately, unlike the negative perception that surrounds this phrase, B.A.P’s recent comeback with title track “Hands Up” off of their 8th single album Ego, is about shooting for the stars and living out that dream you’ve been dreaming about. The music video starts off with the camera pointed at the blue skies up above, panning down at member Himchan as he raises his hand. To have him be the face we all see at the beginning of the music video, with hand raised, actually makes a lot of sense considering the fact that he’s usually the first member at a B.A.P concert to tell the audience to put their hands up.

To help correlate the lyrics “Ayo, believe in yourself this moment, put your hands up to the sky toward your dream, hands up” it’s no wonder a lot of the choreography had various hands up movements for each verse. There’s a sense of empowerment everytime they lifted their hands up pointing towards the sky, to never back down and to strive towards whatever it is you want to achieve in life. B.A.P usually doesn’t have this many dancers in their music videos but it was a pleasant change, especially since it gave the video a “this is my squad and we’re going to live it up” type of arua. Aside from the 8 second (and very unnecessary) intro that TS Entertainment always puts at the beginning of every B.A.P music video, “Hands Up” is a reminder to everyone, no matter how old, to break free of whatever stigma that might be holding you back and to fight for your freedom. Let this be the new anthem to inspire.


“Power” by EXO

While the song itself might leave something to be desired, the music video is anything but. Replete with self-deprecating humor and Easter eggs, it is a fresh tongue-in-cheek change of pace from the usual deadpan concepts we are used to seeing from EXO. The melodramatic opening is a jab at the phalanges-curling “Mama” introduction, which then flips to a scene of elves on a far-out planet, a beckon to a segment the boys have done before at their EXO’rdium concerts. The narrator leafs through more pages of the comic book of a video, skipping past references to their parallel universe teaser and “Love Me Right” era, until we arrive at the appropriate page, a strip that has the members wrestling against a robot with one of Dr. Octopus’s mechanical appendages. The rest is straight out of a sci-fi action film, with every cut as busy and entertaining as the last. Nothing must have came cheap. The modish 3D animations vibe well with the 2D Cartoon Network-esque artwork, while the random transitions amidst all this to toys, falling orbs, kittens, and Power Ranger sequences are imaginative and kitschy. The editing and production value is by far one of the best K-pop’s ever seen. It’s really nice to know that at least all that EXO money is being put to a good use.

And then there’s the ending. Following the members’ show of superpowers (yes, one final nod to the pre-debut EXO lore we all hate to love), the convivial tone takes an abrupt turn for the dark and mysterious. Baekhyun falls out of the sky and into a body of water, looking suffocated and dazed. It seem like it could be a preview to something for “Sweet Lies” off of the same THE WAR: The Power of Music album, but until this cliffhanger is explained, the music video does not really have any closure. In the meantime, we can only settle on the fan theories.


“Lip & Hip” by HyunA

HyunA isn’t afraid to be herself and come out with a funny concept while remaining true to her aesthetics that she’s been showing us in her solo career. The music video for “Lip & Hip” is full of sexual innuendos and double meanings that had some viewers laughing out loud and other ones gasping and thinking to themselves, “Is this video going to get banned in Korean TV?”. HyunA owns her sensuality in a very sexy and smart way on this music video. Even if she flashes her cleavage or her derriere it doesn’t seem vulgar. “Lip & Hip” is one of those videos that if you pause it you can literally find really cool references and little well thought details that were created by amazing art direction. One really good example of this is when HyunA is sitting in the toilet, if you pause it and take a look around you’ll see how with every little detail they are defying what society thinks of femininity and how a woman should look. Once again HyunA slays us with one her funniest music videos and gives us a little to think about without really putting it on our face. Yes that was pun intended.


“Limitless” (Rough ver.) by NCT 127

As K-pop seemed to take a break from story driven music videos this year, it was a great time for groups to have some fun with the more cliched video styles. Nobody did this better than NCT 127 with the rough version of “Limitless.” It’s a grand song about connecting across the entire world, becoming a limitless version of yourself. Instead of supplementing this idea, the music video completely undermines it. It’s contained in one derelict setting, the members wear tracksuits and other odd clothes as they mess about with basically no point to anything. They start lip syncing in a shot and then stop to chew gum, they pose like gorillas, and stare blankly at the camera. Adding to that, it’s partially shot with an actual low quality camera and seemingly edited by a child who just learned how to use a computer. That’s not to say it’s all a big mess though. It is in fact so deliberate to border on genius. It feels like they’re making fun of the grandiose and silly videos of the other boy groups of the day namely BTS, Infinite, and EXO. As if they had to make an epic video with no budget and somehow ended up with the best postmodern K-pop video in history.


Also on KultScene: 25 best K-pop songs of 2017

“I Smile” by DAY6

The song on its own would have been emotional enough, but this beautiful music video greatly enhanced it. Sungjin truly impressed with his acting in this video, especially since he could only do it with his expressions. He was shocked at first when he saw his ex listening to him perform, then showed through his expression that he was accepting how she had moved on and was with another guy, and finally a painful smile to show that he was happy for her. He embodied the song perfectly. I loved the way the music video built up to a climax along with the song, where at the final chorus the female lead smiles for the first time in the whole video, and the video brightens up along with the instrumentals. It was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, which was perfect for this bittersweet song.


“Lonely” by SISTAR

Sometimes it’s not so much about the music video itself, it’s about the context that provides meaning to it. The disbandment of SISTAR caught everyone off guard, since they definitely weren’t lacking vitality to survive between the newer acts. “Lonely” was their goodbye, and the music video for this mellow pop ballad was a touching metaphor of their trajectory not only as SISTAR, the successful group, but as Hyolyn, Soyou, Bora and Dasom, the human beings. Even in spite of SISTAR being one of the biggest chart-topping girl groups in K-pop, what was emphasized in the visuals for “Lonely” was the ladies’ success in staying friends and being there for each other. After all, just like becoming relevant in a competitive scene is an impressive achievement, keeping good friendships for so many years in this environment is not easy either.

With a trip to Macau as a background, the music video shows a series of cute moments of the four ladies having fun together, but also being introspective and sometimes reflecting on their own. There were punctual little moments that allude to significant aspects of their history, like a scene of Hyolyn and Soyou taking a picture together, with Bora and Dasom in the background trying to make an appearance (a probable metaphor for the fact that Hyolyn and Soyou, the outstanding vocalists, received more praise than the other ladies). But what’s sweeter about those moments is that they were always followed by others when the group is complete and happy. Even when Bora is swimming alone in a pool, she afterwards found out that the other girls are behind her, watching her all the time. Even when Hyolyn, Soyou and Bora are driving and Dasom is left behind (a probable metaphor for the fact that Dasom was the least popular member), Dasom doesn’t seem rejected; she is laughing and having fun with it; and later we see them all together again. It’s for little things like this that “Lonely” is the type of music video that can make you smile and cry at the same time.

If you were a fan of SISTAR, it will bring you beautiful memories and warm your heart with all those details of the group’s dynamic. If you weren’t a fan, it will certainly touch you too, as you will be reminded that everything comes to an end, and when it happens, what’s worth remembering is the impressions you left on those you love, and vice-versa. And, for both, it’s safe to say “Lonely” is always going to be remembered as one of the most significant disbandment music videos ever.


“Dream In A Dream” by Ten

While most K-pop songs are created with a music video as an afterthought, the relationship between Ten‘s “Dream In a Dream” and the video is different: the song serves as a dedicated soundtrack to the glorious performance-focused video. There’s something innately magical about the brightly-hued aesthetics of this music video, with a vibrant, ambient colorscape that emulates an animated dreamstate. Blending traditional and modern choreography styles together, the video focuses on Ten’s expressive physicality, highlighting his delivery of the dance moves and his facial expressions. There are three different dance scenes primarily featured throughout the video: one featuring Ten in all white surrounded by backup dancers, a second where he is performing a highly-stylized courtship dance, and a third where he is on his own, as if the other two segments are part of his solo dreams. There’s surely some deeper meaning in “Dream In A Dream” than is obvious to my unartistic eye, but even at its most basic understanding it is a magnificent piece of K-pop visual artwork that is worthy of praise.


“Peek-A-Boo” by Red Velvet

In a time when the cool girl concept for K-pop girl groups is nothing but a memory, Red Velvet pulled through with their last comeback of the year and cemented their position as that b*tch. “Peek-A-Boo” is a cutesy, boppy song, but the music video told a grimmer story. Decked out in amazing outfits, the girls lured a pizza delivery boy into their house with their charms and looks and pretty much killed him for sport — and implied they had been doing it to more than a few. Music video plots are rare in K-pop, especially with SM Entertainment, making “Peek-A-Boo” stand out even more so. The girls all looked sickening and completely owned the roles they were playing. Red Velvet has proven they’re not above a bit of wickedness in their music videos (I mean they did all try to kill each other on “Russian Roulette”). With “Peek-A-Boo” though, they’re taking the infantilized imagery that both audiences and, initially, their company projected onto them and pretty much destroying them. Whether the group pursues less cute concepts moving forward is still up in the air, we’ll always have Yeri hunting down the boy with an bow gun.



Like NCT, DIA BCHCS (a sub-unit of DIA containing Yebin, Chaeyeon, Huihyun, Somyi, and Eunice) took a classic music video formula and made it weird. “L O O K” is half Friends-inspired sitcom half 80s music video. Directing team OGG Visual uses tropes from both, and adds modern takes to each, adding vapour wave and a Twitter style confessional shot, to tell the meta story of how all the members hate Chaeyeon because she’s beautiful and popular. In a cruel turn however, Chaeyeon is still the main character and she plays it with relish. Her blank angelic face is a wonderful palette for all kinds of expressions. The best of which comes at the beginning as she smiles alongside the first synth wail. It’s a catalogue of great Chaeyeon expressions. Newest member Somyi is the other standout as she hams it up at every chance. Her face at the opening couch shot is the best mix of awkwardness and cuteness I’ve ever seen. Her excessive blinking is just right.


“Move” by Taemin

One of the best songs of 2017 wouldn’t deserve less than one of the best music videos as well. The photography of “Move” is beautiful, the urban scenarios are amazing; everything is incredibly well designed to lay emphasis on the alluring presence of Taemin as he seduces us with a mature, sophisticated, brave, sexy performance that defies gender stereotypes. The main vehicle for it is the choreography, beautifully and intelligently created to draw attention to Taemin’s thin body line, that elegantly moves as if it’s guided by a strong yet subtle energy that does not present any signs of commitment to neither a masculine or feminine concept. Taemin and choreographer Koharu Sugawara have said that it really was their intention to make something mysterious and appealing by blending both masculine or feminine movements, and dear Lord, they made it.

It’s impossible to blink when Taemin moves his hips in the chorus; it’s so slow but so intense. It takes a lot of confidence to use body language with so much control; and his firm, mesmerizing gaze during the whole time in “Move” shows that he knows what he’s doing, he’s absolutely aware of his sex appeal and of the amount of energy that is being carefully discharged through the alternation of languid and powerful moves. Let’s make it clear, though, that when we say he’s in control, it’s not because there is something to be manipulated or hidden; instead, it seems that Taemin is exploring all the possibilities of himself, completely unafraid of being labelled in regards to his sexuality or gender. And again, we say: you have to be really, really confident to do such thing.


“Lilili Yabbay (The 13th Month’s Dance)” by Seventeen (Performance Unit)

For any true New Yorker, there’s no mistaking the first few seconds of audio at the start of “Lilili Yabbay (The 13th Month’s Dance).” From the chattering to the honking horns to the squealing of the traffic, this is is New York City at its finest. (Or not, depending on how you feel about Brooklyn.) And laying there, on a gross, disgusting, New York City sidewalk that nobody should ever lay down on, are the four members of Seventeen‘s performance team in white outfits straight out of a contemporary dance class. But, New Yorker-bias aside, this music video in its aqua-filtered hues is one of the most glorious dance performance videos that K-pop’s ever seen. The videography follows the fluid motions of the dancers, zooming in and out in rocky motions to emphasize each key point of the dance as the quartet moves in ways that make the viewer question both the abilities of the human body and the limitations of gravity. It’s sensual and passionate while all at once overflowing on screen with a sense of classical grace; crotchgrabs and grinding are countered by smooth motions, as the four move as one and as individual entities. Seventeen’s choreography is always impressive, but it is hard not to be awestruck by the presentation of “Lilili Yabbay.”


“All Night (Clean Ver.)” by Girls’ Generation

“All Night” captures Girls’ Generation at their 10th anniversary prime, enjoying a girls’ night out together as girls who have been friends for longer than ten years would do. From the video’s first shot, the girls’ sequined outfits and the hazy, colored disco lights set the song in a retro dance-party, matched by the song’s retro-influenced instrumentals. Like any great GG MV, the video flashes between shots of choreography (which, for this song, is surprisingly unique and complex). But unlike “The Boys” or “Lion Heart,” the camera at times takes the role of another guest at the party, quickly panning around the setting as a tipsy party goer might. This effect is even utilized in the dance shots, focusing only on one or two members at a time and making full group shots elusive throughout the four-minute video.

This video is one of 2017’s standouts for the simple reason it shows the Nation’s Girl Group do what it does best — dance, sing, laugh, and wear beautiful, shiny outfits. With unique choreography and styling, “All Night” is simultaneously the quintessential Girls’ Generation video and an innovation on their previous work. But most importantly, it makes me want to meet up with them for a night on the town.


Also on KultScene: K-Pop Unmuted: 2017 Awards – Part 1

“Teenager” by GOT7

“Teenager” showcases GOT7’s youth and playful side with laid back choreography as they dance with relaxed smiles on their faces. The simplicity of the set and mellow choreography made it all the more fun to watch. There’s no noisy background or flashy props to take away from the members just having some good ole fun, to which you can see they truly enjoyed themselves. When member Youngjae sang this line “I don’t know why I’m like this when I’m with you. I’m so excited, everything seems fresh to me,” with that big ole grin and joy oozing out of his eyes, you could tell that he (and the other members) could relate to those words. Whether the feelings came from previous dating experiences or even with a family member or friend who truly makes you feel like you’re on the top of the world. Just like anyone else out there, idol or not, one of the best feelings you could ever ask for and receive is pure bliss, and that’s what “Teenager” showed.

GOT7’s ability to go from back and mid air flips “Girls Girls Girls” to an intense choreo full of angst and emotion “If You Do” to something so chill as “Teenager” shows their versatility and development through the last four years. Of course it wouldn’t be a GOT7 video if there wasn’t any dabbing involved, although minor usage compared to their live performances but I’ll let this one slide though, considering the rest of the music video was delightful and charming.


“Spring Day” by BTS

I was first enthralled by BTS’s live performance of this song, but the music video ended up leaving such a strong impression on me. It wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it was beautifully shot and well thought out, with some subtle (and others not so subtle) references made to movies and books, like Snowpiercer and Omelas, which added layers to the video. These gave rise to a lot of fan theories about the meaning behind the music video, which were interesting to consider and made the viewing experience more enjoyable to watch (or examine). There were many scenes that resonated with me in particular, such as Jungkook joining the crowd running around him (3:23) or Jimin holding a pair of shoes in front of a tree (5:08). These scenes spoke to me about conforming to society, about being left alone, about loss. And whether or not this video was meant to be this symbolic or not doesn’t matter because of the emotions it evokes, accompanied by this very meaningful song.


“Will You Go Out With Me” by DIA

The best kinds of music videos do not need high production, big budgets, or fancy effects, and “Will You Go Out With Me” by DIA proves exactly that. Taken from the streets of Tokyo, it follows Chaeyeon — the group’s natural main character succeeding her appearance on Produce 101 and participation in the now disbanded I.O.I — as she roams the city and coyly messages “oppa.” Fortunately, the rather trite plot views less like an accompaniment to a song than it does a tourism campaign for the busy capital, which plays into a strength considering how the romantic, scenic backdrops of nighttime metropolis can translate to love in a strange city. The deliberate shots of ramen, cherry blossoms, railroad crossings, and claw games are all definitely attempts at capturing Japanese culture for their exotic value, but since they are also done so in a way that makes them picturesque, this furthers giving the music video depth while giving the country its free promo. The dreamy purplish filter might have something to do with this, and so might the gloomy aesthetics of the world still wet after a refreshing rainfall. It’s altogether the kind of moody and wistful that will have viewers longing for a place they have never been to on the basis of how the colors interact or on the potential of an intertextual reading alone.


“Dinosaur” by AKMU

Starting with their teasers that were full of mystery and reminded us of posters from Netflix series “Stranger Things,” AKMU let everyone know their inspiration for their music video. When the MV for “Dinosaur” was released we were able to confirm their inspirations but we also got to see other references from cult movies like Spirited Away and vintage mythical legends like the Loch Ness monster. The track itself already made us feel like we were listening to a score from a movie, but accompanied with the music video everything fitted perfectly. The MV is a little short film that depicts a dream that Chan Hyuk said he had and when onto create this track and music video. But if you instigate closer and knowing AKMU’s brothers past family financial difficulties, the meaning of the video turns a lot darker, with many fan theories out there about what the “Dinosaur” music video really means. The video is accompanied by a beautiful cinematography, a beautiful color correction, CGI creatures, and amazing drone shots that follow the brothers in their cute little story that created one of AKMU’s most memorable videos to date.


“Don’t Know You” by Heize

Part of Heize’s allure is her overall aesthetic. From her music, to her fashion, she just screams dope girl. And now, her music videos are following suit, namely “Don’t Know You.” The concept centered around 14 ways to, mind the misspelling, “loose your teddy bear,” which is really just how to get back at your former flame. The ex-boyfriend in question is a huge teddy bear, which Heize beats, throws tennis balls at, kidnaps, shoots, and pretty much anything abusive you can think about. Though the actual execution of the plot is a bit wonky, it doesn’t take away from the fashion, the photography, and the originality. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it turns out this jerk teddy bear is played by SHINee’s Onew. Heize is an up and coming artist, and with songs and music videos as amazing as “Don’t Know You,” we can bet she’ll be a household name in no time.


What was your K-pop music video of 2017? Let us know what you think of this list 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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your favourite song written by David Anthony, amongst the ones we’ve mentioned? Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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.

Text to Text: DIA and Terrence Malick’s modern romance

I have a certain affinity for DIA that few other people seem to have. There’s an oddness to them that feels organic. With most K-pop groups, weirdness usually manifests every now and then in their music, their videos, or their personalities on variety shows. With DIA, it’s a mixture of all of them and more. Although not too different at first sight, their latest video for single “Will you go out with me?” is possibly the strangest direction they have taken to date.

I was dumbstruck to see a video by a Korean girl group that was inspired by Terrence Malick. For those of you who don’t know, Malick, once the revered king of American independent cinema, is now a divisive critical figure. His films are bracingly humanistic, finding minute details in broad locations like the Pacific Theatre of World War II or the creation of earth itself. After a hiatus of 20 years following his first two films, Malick’s style began to change. His work became more dense and abstract, alienating much of his early fans. It is those who have fallen out of love with him who were quick to criticise his latest film Song to Song for its copious use of his now favourite motifs. Whispered voice-over, characters walking backwards, sparse use of dialogue. These are the things that make a Terrence Malick film, and these are the things that DIA used.

Song to Song is a film about relationships, Austin, Texas, and relationships taking place there. Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Fassbender are all musicians stuck in a confused love triangle in one of America’s foremost music scene cities. Their relationships do not play out as usual, though very little time is given to the character’s stories and how they connect. More important are the small moments when they are together. Very little is spoken, but so much is revealed through their body language. Anyone can understand this intimacy; it’s at once distant thanks to how little we know about them but utterly romantic because each gesture is clearly filled with history. Rooney Mara’s eyes are her tell. Her gaze can dart around, looking everywhere except in the eyes of her lover or gaze with force and love as if she can’t look anywhere but at him. Malick’s current style is boiled down into those eyes.

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It’s hard to believe that DIA could replicate something this intricate, and the truth is they don’t really. What they do, however, is use his motifs to frame their story into something that is in some ways a continuation of Song to Song; a continuation of how Malick sees relationships.

“Will you go out with me?” opens with a short scene that is 100 percent Malick. The camera slowly glides behind Chaeyeon as she walks through Tokyo, looking at her phone. She does the backwards walk to face the camera and the hushed poetic voice-over. While I see this mostly as a set up for the main body of the video, it has its own particular similarities with Song to Song that are not quite as evident as these motifs.

The voice-over sees Chaeyeon thinking of a boy she knows. It’s somewhat unclear as to how she relates to this boy except that she has feelings for him. She says she shouldn’t call and that she misses him today more than ever. It sounds like he could be her boyfriend or an ex. This lack of definition turns out to be story of the song and video, though, as we see that Chaeyeon is trying to pluck up the courage to ask him out. The blurred boundaries of her relationship are like that of Mara, Gosling, and Fassbender’s in Song to Song. We see each of them meet and interact as a trio, but Mara is simultaneously sleeping with both of them. She sees Fassbender, who is a top music executive, because he can further her career ,and seemingly is genuinely in love with Gosling. But due to the lack of concrete details, both of these explanations could not be called completely true. The difference between Mara and Chaeyeon is maybe that Mara wanted to keep the hazy lines of her relationships so as to maintain a distance from potential heartbreak.

The specificity of the location is also key. Malick always presents his characters not just in terms of how they react with one another, but also in how they interact with their environment. In Song to Song, the ever present sunlight keeps characters from hiding themselves as they walk through music festivals or in the rocky Texan deserts. Where Malick likes to reveal his characters in more natural settings, “Will you go out with me?” drops Chaeyeon under the neon skyline of Tokyo. The absolute lack of nature tells us she will not be finding an intimate spot for her and the boy. She is swaddled by artificial light yet does not stray away from it. In fact her interaction with this space is the most interesting part of the whole video.

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The main story of the video shows Chaeyeon texting the boy, sending him pictures of where she is with her groupmates. The video distills Malick’s hands off approach to relationships even further, making the bond purely digital rather than gestural. It makes perfect sense to me that if Rooney Mara’s character went on a trip like this she would most certainly send pictures to Ryan Gosling’s character and many texts lamenting how much she misses him. Chaeyeon doesn’t even have to be in the same room as the boy she is pining after to create a relationship. If small details truly reveal how a relationship works in today’s world, how someone texts is probably the biggest indicator of this.

The unlikely pairing of nine young Korean girls and an elusive film director is certainly a new one. DIA continue to craft peculiar perspectives on K-pop, previously making fun of ridiculous aegyo (cuteness) with the satirical “My Friend’s Boyfriend” and using Harry Potter in a way that makes you think, “what has this got to do with Harry Potter?” in “Mr. Potter.” “Will you go out with me?” has proven to be surprisingly profound. Through their own unique style and that of Terrence Malick, they have shed light on what it is to be in a relationship, which when distilled further (as they both would be compelled to do) illuminates what is to be a human.

What do you think of these comparisons? What’s your favourite DIA song and Terrence Malick film? Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

KultScene’s 2017 Artists to Watch

Chungha Sam Kim KARD Jung Seung Hwan

New year, new Kpop. As 2017 begins, we are watching closely for artists both new and old to stand out with better music and performances. And especially following the 2016 Kpocalypse, nothing is entirely predictable. Anything can make your fave popular — a funny variety appearance, a trendy CF, or a “Sha Sha Sha.” So we ask: Who will be the trend in 2017? KultScene’s writers Anna and Kushal break it down across Male, Female, and Coed lines to give you our prediction of 2017’s rising stars.

MALE Artists to Watch in 2017: Jung Seung Hwan, Sam Kim (Antenna Music)

Of K-pop Star fame, these two singers made their much anticipated debuts in 2016 and while their styles of music are different, they both have equal potential to make it big in 2017. Beginning with Sam Kim’s pre-release single in March with “Mama Don’t Worry,” he then made an official debut in April with his full-length EP I Am Sam.

Each of his songs are so musically inspired and creative that they bring a new life and freshness into the K-pop industry and “No Sense” illustrates that completely. The fact that he’s only going to be 19 this year just means that he still has a lot more room to grow as a musician in the future. Most recently, he also released an amazing OST (“Who Are You”) for popular airing drama Goblin and has been gaining a lot of recognition for the soulful track.

Jung Seung Hwan on the other hand, only made his debut recently in December with his album Voice. He achieved an “all-kill” on Korean music charts with the release of his album, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise for the singer since he had previously topped charts with the covers he sang during his stint on K-pop Star. His naturally emotional voice makes him the perfect choice to sing sorrowful ballads and OSTs, as proven by the successful sound tracks he has been releasing, even before his official debut. In particular, his OST for Oh Haeyoung Again hit the right notes with the Korean public and has achieved a long-staying popularity even with the many other releases of 2016. (I heard the song playing in shops at least 5 times when I was visiting Korea in December.)

Ballads aren’t new in K-pop, but the way these two artists reinvent the genre in their own ways keeps their music interesting and strengthens their individual identities as musicians. Here’s hoping that they’ll discover their well-deserved success in 2017!

FEMALE Artist to Watch in 2017: Kim Chungha (M&H Entertainment)

Originally one of Produce 101’s underdogs, Kim Chungha quickly rose to fame last year as a member of the trendy, nation-produced I.O.I. Among many younger, cuter members, Chungha’s sexier, more charismatic image immediately stood out to I.O.I fans looking for a member with an edgier side. While she rose to fame as a dancer and choreographer, she is by no means a weak vocalist. Chungha has impressed fans left and right with her dancing skills, from improvising “Partition” during her first Produce 101 audition in January to performing on Mnet’s dance show Hit the Stage months ago. The crowning achievement of her tenure as an I.O.I member, however, is the choreography to the group subunit’s song “Whatta Man (Good Man),” which she herself crafted during the summer.

Without a strong company behind her, Chungha’s rise to relevance was largely unprecedented, but definitely welcomed by fans throughout the K-Pop world. While she has enjoyed success as an I.O.I member, many were worried about her future after the group’s upcoming disbandment at the end of January. It was announced at the end of 2016, however, that Chungha would debut as a solo artist under her label M&H Entertainment in the first half of 2017. The decision to give her a solo debut was probably one of the smartest things her label could do, given that 2017 is already going to be flooded with newly successful girl groups and newly debuted girl groups that have yet to find success. The oversaturated nature of the market makes her solo debut something the Korean public and international fan community will quickly embrace — no new members to learn, no new group name to start stanning. In a world of cutesy and energetic girl groups, Chungha’s charisma will likely stand out, giving her another edge in the intensely competitive market of female K-Pop artists. Chungha is definitely multi talented, and her ability to handle multiple skills and concepts puts her immensely ahead in K-Pop game this year.

COED Artist to Watch in 2017: K.A.R.D (DSP Media)

While they haven’t officially debuted, the four members of K.A.R.D have already made huge waves in the K-Pop universe with their pre-debut track “Oh NaNa,” which was released early last month. Voted by KultScene’s contributors as the 5th Best Song of 2016, the track has yet to chart in Korea, but has remained near the top of worldwide K-Pop charts for almost a month. Their music video has also accumulated over 4 million views, and their YouTube channel has over 180,000 subscribers (keep in mind that they have already overtaken their label DSP Media in subscriptions, which is the channel with every single KARA music video ever…).

With the kind of international attention the group is receiving, it isn’t long before they get similar love in Korea. The inclusion of masculine male rappers and infectious female vocals creates the ultimate mix of boy group and girl group fans alike. Instead of competing for the top spot among boy groups or girl groups, they amalgamate what makes each type of group work in a co-ed unit that stands out. While rising groups like Cosmic Girls and fellow DSP artist APRIL are trying to stand out in the girl group world this year, and new boy groups like VARSITY and Top Secret look for success on the other side, K.A.R.D has relatively no competition. They have entered a niche of K-Pop that hasn’t been touched in years, and with the kind of visuals, talents, and musical quality with which they’ve started, it’s only a matter of time before they become a force to reckon with in the K-Pop world.

Additional content courtesy of Anna Cheang. 

Who do you think will be Kpop’s rising star this year? 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.

What’s the deal with A.Leean?

On Jan. 5, f(x)’s Amber Liu posted an image on Instagram to promote a “famous singer, new alias.” The image announced that a singer, using the alias A.leean, will make her U.S. debut on Jan. 7 with the single, “Fall Back.” Amber’s fans were quick to offer options as to whom the mystery singer A.leean might be. Many of the guesses veered towards Ailee, a K-pop singer known for her outstanding vocal performances.

A.Leean’s chosen alias offers clue to her identity, but the fact that Amber posted the image also suggests that it might be Ailee. Amber and Ailee are close friends and have performed together. At KCON NY in 2016, Ailee, a Korean-American singer raised in New Jersey, did mention that she was angling to release music in the United States.

To find out a bit more about A.Leean, Kultscene reached out to David Kim, a Hollywood-based entertainment lawyer promoting the singer’s debut in the U.S. When asked to reveal the singer’s identity and confirm her K-pop credentials, he chose not to comment. However, he did say he’s not worried about the singer’s existing fans outing her and revealing her identity. “We’re not afraid of fans,” he said. “Because we’d actually like more fan participation. We just won’t be making an official statement until later.”

Also on Kultscene: 50 Best Korean Songs of 2016: Part 2

For a few weeks, A.Leean won’t publicly state her identity or make promotional appearances. The release of the song’s music video will also be delayed, leaving listeners free to speculate on her musical background. According to Kim, the decision to release music anonymously enables listeners to judge the singer on the merits of her voice and not her background.

If A.Leean is, in fact, already a K-pop star, she has chosen a different route than other Korean or Korean-American singers attempting to debut in the U.S. As yet there is no predictable formula for a successful crossover. Psy dominated the charts with his Korean language “Gangnam Style,” while 2NE1’s CL released the English language single “Lifted” in Aug. 2016 and reached 94 on the Billboard Hot 100. Even Korean-American bands have until recently met with limited success; the most successful was Far East Movement. The group’s record “G6” reached first place in Billboard’s Hot 100. Any k-pop singer trying to break into the U.S. market will confront complicated concerns, including misleading preconceptions and the possibility of racial prejudice.

“We wanted to focus more on the music and not so much on the person behind the song, which is what musical pop culture has evolved into,” said Kim. “Not that pop culture is a bad thing, but we wanted to focus on her talent. When the song gains traction and becomes popular, we will reveal her identity.”

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The international platform that YouTube offers can make a formal music release in the U.S. seem less important to some recording artists, but A.Leean’s team sees it as the logical next step toward global recognition.

“The U.S. music market is still the official authority on what music is broadcast all over the world,” Kim told KultScene. “Our artist is not an amateur. She’s been singing for years. We felt like the whole world could be seeing her perform and not just a segment of the world. We wanted to broaden her base and felt we had to do it through U.S. market first. “

Kim is working with LA-based Westside Entertainment to launch the singer he describes as “having powerhouse vocals” and “being a mix between Whitney Houston and Ariana [Grande].” Westside Entertainment is the company behind The Notorious B.I.G., Nelly, MASE, Lil Fizz, and Keyshia Cole. After playing the single for members of his music industry family, Westside Entertainment VP Stephen Umavitz is confident that this singer has what it takes.


This gonna be ? #ALeean #FallBack #AleeanEncounter

A photo posted by Amber J. Liu (@ajol_llama) on

“A good handful of Hollywood legends and entertainment music industry veterans have already personally listened to the song,” said Umavitz in an official statement. “They said it has a crazy hook and that it’s gonna be a hit record.”

“Fall Back,”A.Leean’s single about falling in love again has a Jan. 7 release date. On Jan. 11, the lyric video will be released on YouTube. The official video will be released at a later date, depending on how “Fall Back” performs in the U.S.

A.Leean is not the first recording artist to anonymously release music. Electronic dance producer and DJ Marshmello is currently at 84 on the Billboard Top 100 and his real identity remains unknown. But while anonymity creates hype at first, that won’t matter if the singer does not ultimately climb high on the charts. Luckily, if this is who we think it is, we’re sure A.Leean’s vocals are going to impress America.

Do you think A.Leean has what it takes to succeed in the U.S. market? Can you guess who she is? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.