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!

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 Ampoule, Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence. However, only U.S. residents can participate since the prizes must be sent to an address within the country.


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?)


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 on Dec. 18, so decide which delicious-looking foodstuff you want soon! There may be times when you want to get drinks such as Soju in very cute mugs. If you’re a K-pop and K-drama series fan, you could get custom mugs with photo of your favourite singers or stars making it even more personal to you.

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.

This is the hardest K-pop quiz ever

impossible K-pop quiz

Think you are a K-pop genius? That may very well be so, but our latest K-pop quiz will put that to the test. There’s nothing as simple here as “what group is Umji a member of?” (Gfriend) or “what year did 2NE1 debut?” (2009). Know how many members there are in Super Junior? Too bad!! Oh no, this is all about the little facts, that only the most fanatical K-pop lovers will know.

Take the quiz and let us know how well you fared in the comment section! A word of warning: Most of KultScene’s very knowledgeable team of writers did pretty poorly when taking this quiz so… Take your time while answering the questions!

Also on Kultscene: Which K-pop generation do you belong in?

What was your favorite (or least favorite!) question? Have any other random bits of trivia you think we should have included? Share your thoughts and results in the comment section below or on Facebook, or Tweet us your results @KultScene. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Op-ed: Trump, BTS, & the state of K-pop journalism

Trump BTS

A few minutes before I planned to go to bed last night, I noticed something funny trending on my twitter feed: fans of the K-pop boy band BTS appeared to be getting riled up over a tweet the US presidential candidate Donald Trump allegedly shared in August, where he complimented the boy band and mistakenly called them Chinese.

But it wasn’t the Orientalist racism that sparked the outrage. It was the fact that this tweet had never been tweeted, and one of the most well-known K-pop news outlet wrote an article about it. I searched Twitter, spending a whole three minutes using the site’s Advanced Search function and couldn’t find anything except for a tweet that was clearly photoshopped. Trump, who is extremely outspoken on Twitter, hasn’t deleted any of his past faux pas, so it seems unlikely that he would have deleted (or ever tweeted in the first place, really) anything on his Twitter feed dealing with K-pop or BTS. But this website didn’t take those few moments to determine that and instead ran it as news, which many fans took as fact.

To reiterate the fact: Donald Trump has never, to my knowledge and the best of my research ability, ever tweeted about K-pop or BTS. 

After getting frustrated at the fact that a website that presents itself as a reliable news source didn’t even do the basic minimum fact-checking on what was clearly a click-bait timely news peg, I went to bed. While I slept, the article was later deleted from the site. A quick perusal of the news outlet’s social media revealed that no apology or clarification was issued regarding the original publication. Another website with a less-than-stellar track record at reporting K-pop-related stories also wrote about the tweet, but instead more fully expressed how the tweet was clearly inauthentic.


Also on KultScene: What’s Killing ‘Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo’?

As KultScene is not a news site and is based around the opinions of several writers who feel the urge to discuss their favorite topic, Hallyu, I typically wouldn’t address anything about the mistakes of other websites. But this morning, a reputable Korean newspaper picked up the article by the US-based K-pop “news” source and published a piece on their website about it. As a well-respected site with a credible reputation, this is extremely unfortunate. Despite fans tweeting to the outlet that the original source was faked, it has yet to be updated or corrected as of 10:00 p.m. EST on Oct. 27.

Clearly, the Korean outlet didn’t check facts itself, which is problematic for its own sake, but the article was written on the word of an allegedly reputable source. Since the modern state of journalism is an aggregate-heavy environment, it is probable that the Korean outlet expected that a reliable K-pop news outlet based in the US would do proper legwork to research claims that may possibly relate to the US election.

Journalism has always been about telling stories based on facts and research. The outlet that wrote the original piece about the alleged tweet has a track record of regurgitating information without doing research or — even worse — releasing information obtained off-the-record. I personally was unsurprised by the website’s article, since it’s clear they hire writers based on speediness and translating skills rather than any journalistic capabilities. When output and hitcount becomes King, basic steps of newsgathering, like fact-checking, will be disregarded.

The sad thing is that just about every US-based K-pop news source struggles from this. Aside from a handful of outlets, most of which have few reporters but rely on Korean news sources or international wires, none are truly able to be dedicated to Hallyu media and maintain a journalistic edge. Outside of Korea, newsgathering is nearly impossible and there just isn’t a large enough audience to support multiple news sites. Instead, websites depend on keeping their numbers up by spending the least amount of resources possible on the most amount of content.

Until K-pop journalism becomes a more viable, economical field, we’ll continue to see misreporting like this.

What do you think about the situation? Share your opinions 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.

Intro to KNK


Five was once the magic number of K-pop boy bands, but it’s been quite some time since quintets were a thing in K-pop. Bigbang, B1A4, FTISLAND, and, after the departure Hyunseung, BEAST are some of the few popular active acts to have only five members nowadays. And now we have KNK, a new boy band from YNB Entertainment that is garnering a lot of attention.

KNK, or “Keunakeun” the word for great or might in Korean, come from a relatively small agency with a lot of exceptional talent. (If you haven’t heard Noel, Almeng, or Bestie, go listen to some of their songs right now.) After debuting in February as the first male idol group under YNB, KNK caught the attention of several KultScene staff members with their debut single “Knock,” which features a deceivingly ballad-like intro before quickly morphing into an aggressive, pounding dance-track. The b-side track of their first single album, “Angel Heart,” in contrast, is a ballad that has a J-pop soft vibe. Multifaceted musically and able to captivate with their dances, KNK is a must watch rookie of 2016.

Also on Kultscene: Artist Spotlight: Almeng

But maybe more so than their own songs, KNK caught my eye when I heard their version of TVXQ’s “Love in the Ice.” (The below video is their performance from their debut showcase. KNK has performed the song on multiple occasions.)

To understand why this was so exciting to discover that a rookie boy band could hold their own while performing “Love in the Ice” live, it must be understood that the song is legendary. KNK performing it, and managing to do it justice, shows that not only are these five rookies extremely skilled they’re also determined.

There’s no sticking to simple when it comes to KNK; they could have picked a much less strenuous song to perform at their debut showcase but instead they performed a song that every audience member, perhaps every person in South Korea, would recognize and would know if they missed up. That takes guts for rookies, but KNK managed to pull it off. Primary vocalists Yujin and Inseong carry the majority of the song, but that in itself is impressive considering the song was meant for five of K-pop’s most iconic vocalists.

KNK has also gained quite a following thanks to their frequent videos uploaded to YouTube or Naver’s V App. They’re about to release their first EP “Awake,” so here’s a perfect time to get introduced to KNK.



Kim Jihun’s only 21 years old and the second youngest of the group, but he’s actually the leader of KNK. He’s the group’s main dancer and, like everyone but Heejun, Jihun performed as a backup dancer for Bestie prior to debuting. Before going to YNB Entertainment, Jihun was a trainee under Nega Network. (And he’s kind of a dork.)

Also on Kultscene: Intro to Lovelyz


KNK’s lead vocalist and oldest member (he’s 23), Kim Youjin has some of the most powerful vocals around. Before joining his current agency, Youjin trained with B.A.P’s members at TS Entertainment.


The group’s rapper and visual (that means they think he’s the best looking but the below video argues that), Park Seungjun trained with BTS and Got7 before moving to YNB. The tallest of the group, Seungjun was also voted the least stylish of the group and has a goofy side.


The middle member when it comes to age, Jeong Inseong is one of the group’s main vocalists. He formerly trained at Big Hit Entertainment with the trainees who would end up being BTS and also trained at FNC Entertainment.


The youngest member, or maknae, Oh Heejun was formerly an FNC Entertainment trainee who appeared on the company’s reality show “Cheongdam-dong 111” with Inseong. He was featured as a vocalist and guitarist in FNC’s Kokoma Band but now is one of KNK’s rappers.

What do you think of KNK? Are you excited to see where they take their career? 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.

Celebrate KultScene’s Anniversary With A K-Pop T-Shirt from KORE Limited [Giveaway]

13161995_10157142649120019_371399973_nIn 2014, a few friends put their heads together and thought up what we now know as KultScene. To celebrate our second anniversary on May 19, we’ve put together a celebratory slew of giveaways to thank our readers for sticking with us. And by slew, we mean seven giveaways; one per day leading up to our anniversary! We launched our first two giveaways earlier this week, so now it’s time for the third. (And if you haven’t heard, we’re giving away a SnackFever box and a copy of BTS’s latest album, so enter now!)

If you’re looking at anything published by us, you are likely a Korean pop culture aficionado. And while it’s not all just about K-pop, this giveaway is. Tonight’s anniversary giveaway is sponsored by KORE Limited! Each of our three lucky winners will win a K-pop related T-shirt, which usually begin at $19.95.


So what are you waiting for? Entering is easy, just follow the plugin below. Because of shipping concerns, this giveaway is only open to readers in the United States and its territories. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be announced on May 18 at midnight EST through our Facebook and Twitter, so make sure to check back. But if you want to go ahead and order other clothes, be sure to check out KORE Limited’s site before the winners are revealed.

You can enter for either one or all three of the t-shirts, so make sure to enter the right one!

G-Dragon and Taeyang wearing KORE Limited hats


a Rafflecopter giveaway
We want to thank KORE Limited for sponsoring the giveaway, so check out their site, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see all of the fun things they’re doing. Also be sure to tell us what your favorite Korean snacks are, subscribe to the site, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Battle of the Underappreciated K-pop Groups: A.cian vs. Lip Service

A.cian VS Lip Service
With all the Got7s, Red Velvets, and Lee His taking over the charts these days, I figured it was a good time to look at some of the lesser known groups who have had recent releases. Then I figured what better way to celebrate them then with a bloody fight to the death? Who needs Zack Snyder’s “Batman V Superman” when we’ve got Lip Service and A.cian?

The Groups

Naturally enough because of their status as less popular K-pop acts, it’s not easy to find a lot of concrete information on these groups. Lip Service debuted as a two member hip-hop group with rapper Bipa and vocalist Cora with “Yum Yum Yum” in 2014. Their company is hard to pin down; “Yum Yum Yum” was first released by NOW Entertainment but the Youtube channel from that company was never used again. The rest of their videos were released by Sony Music Korea, although they don’t seem to be under that label. Their newest release from last week is on a completely new channel and, again, seems to be with a new company. Many comments on Lip Service’s videos on YouTube are in Russian, alluding to a sizeable fan base in Russia. For their second release “Too Fancy,” Lip Service added a third member, Anna, and now, following the departure of Cora, they’ve added a new vocalist CinD. It’s a bit hard to keep up with, I know, but that’s the life of a less successful rookie group. Wait until you see A.cian…

As far as I can tell, A.cian have gone through a complete change of lineup since their debut in 2012. They debuted with six members, all of whom have left, and even one member who was added later left, leaving only four remaining A.Cian members standing. Like Lip Service, A.cian’s company is a bit of a quandary. I think they debuted with ISS Entertainment and moved onto to Mono Music Korea. Right now, their videos are being released on 1theK, so they could be with anyone. Interestingly enough, they must have a Thai connection as they released a Thai version of one of their songs. When I say interestingly, I mean I finally found something unique about them.

Also on KultScene: Weekly K-pop Faves: March 1(3)-March 19

The Debut

Judging by their debut, Lip Service seemed like a group going for that Crayon Pop/Pungdeng-E route of almost full-on comedy pop. “Yum Yum Yum” is an EDM hip-hop track about a girl who wants to lose weight but can’t because food is too delicious. It’s actually a quite funny takedown of the overly body conscious K-pop world. The line “My day’s going to be over just counting my calories” makes fun of the idol who spends more time worrying about their body than their music. That music is weird and energetic enough to match the childish lyrics. The electronics are supercharged and raps blisteringly fast. It has no regular break or bridge, which gives it the impression of being almost never ending. This means its structure is almost literally just the chorus/verse repeated. “Yum Yum Yum” comes off a little hard to listen to more than once but you’ll have fun that one time.

A.cian’s debut is the exact opposite of “Yum Yum Yum.” “Stuck” is a lo-fi dance pop track about wanting someone to be stuck deep inside. Could this be a gay K-pop anthem? The subdued opening is great, the music track takes a step back to highlight A.cian’s vocals well. It’s also an original choice given the time it was released. Some of the vocals are a bit weird,which I like, and the verse after the first chorus is a kind of talk rap that goes up and down in pitch wildly within each sentence. That chanting chorus sucks the life out of the song, unfortunately. It seems to be trying to do the exact opposite, but losing the lo-fi quality with completely undynamic vocals loses the song its original edge.

Result: Lip Service by a smidgen. “Yum Yum Yum” is too bizarre and fun to let something as dull as “Stuck” beat it.

The New Release

Jump ahead four years and A.cian come back with a new lineup and sound. That sound unfortunately is little more than an amalgamation of all the popular sounds of the day. Namely the boy next door revival of B1A4 and Got7 with added rapping on “Touch”. It takes a certain amount of skill to pull off this sound and look for boys, as it can very easily become embarrassing. While they don’t do too badly overall, it doesn’t work. The song is led nicely by electric guitars and has appropriately silly choreography. It has this 8-bit electronic sound which sounds awful and was probably there to make it a bit weird or modern. The rapping as well doesn’t work. I recently mentioned how Yezi’s rap in “Mirror” gave it a modern edge thanks to the tone of her voice; A.cian do something similar but it misses out simply because they can’t rap as well as Yezi. They put on slightly heavier rap voices that don’t work in this context.

A.cian’s latest song may not have been a huge improvement in terms of quality, but they at least got a bump in production costs not just for their music but video too. Lip Service seem to have gone backward in this regard since 2014. Their recent new single “Hello” continues their love of EDM and hip-hop but with a more serious tone. The sound is sub-par for this day and age, each element is rough and poorly mixed, and the video is something even Blady would be ashamed of. It’s frustrating because this could have been at least a great track with a higher production value and added polish. It utilizes the vocals and music together in different parts to contrast against each other. Sweet vocals go over pianos while fierce raps introduce the electro elements. Also, judging by the video, the song is about drinking too much at parties which is an interesting subject for idols to approach. The subtitle of the song “Only Eating Dew” is evocative as well. Without translated lyrics, it’s hard to understand what it really evokes though. The confrontational rap post chorus and the reintroduction of the piano right after suggest a sincerity to the song. Over images of drinks being poured and smashed disco balls, it’s a beautiful sobering moment amongst the mess.

Result: Lip Service. Again, the eccentricity of Lip Service wins out. Flawed beauty is exactly what I like from groups like this.

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: 4Ten

The Best of the Rest

Unfortunately the best of what’s left for Lip Service is between a track off their new album which sounds like Bipa’s audition for Mnet’s “Unpretty Rapstar” and a rap/vocal coffee shop R&B duet (yes, both of those are inherently bad). I’ve gone for “What If Spring Comes” (the coffee shop song if you couldn’t tell by that title) mostly because it has the best rapping of their songs. Like “Yum Yum Yum,” it has little structure apart from Bipa’s raps and Anna and guest vocalist J-Lin’s choruses. It feels like it goes round in circles but the vocals are all quite good so it isn’t too bad. I also love the cheapness of the video. The low quality works well this time because it fits the whole aesthetic of the song being a quick turnaround to show Lip Service were still a thing after Cora left. Judging by shadows and the grainy footage, it was shot on a smartphone as well. The video has shots of the most random things cut against the members singing in their own awkward frames. Everything about it screams this was done quickly and cheaply and there was no effort to hide that. I like that frankness.

A.cian’s highlight is actually really similar to “Touch” but much better in every aspect. “Driving” is a bubblegum pop song that uses driving as a metaphor for falling in love. The vocals all play up the sweetness of the track with the falsetto chorus being a highlight. The rap this time fits in better with the whole track and don’t outstay their welcome. Everything about is classic pop from the stupid metaphor to the gloriously fun dancing. It’s generic but there’s little to fault with something as delightful as this.

Result: A.cian. “Driving” is the most classically good song of what both can offer.

The Worst of the Rest

A.cian’s “OUCH” is everything bad about modern boy groups rolled into one. Ever since B.A.P made it big, boy groups have been clambering to get that tough guy rap sound down. While some are succeeding, most are being left behind. And judging by this, that’s a good thing. “OUCH” is a mess of electronics and guitars complete with subpar B.A.P Daehyun-esque vocals and too many raps. A.cian once again chant in the chorus but to little effect whereas B.A.P’s Bang Yong Guk can growl a chorus into something really aggressive; A.cian sound like young boys in comparison to the power of B.A.P. They also try to imitate BTS with the choreography, essentially stealing some moves from the choreography of “Boy in Luv.” They don’t have the skill to pull it off though, lacking fluidity in strong moves and resulting in A.cian looking like robots.

Groups that are trying to make a point or are maybe doing something in service of a joke can sometimes get away with imagery that could be considered inappropriate. Lip Service try that with “Too Fancy” but fail miserably. The follow up to “Yum Yum Yum” is similar in sound and structure but not as fun. The song itself is making fun of the consumerist culture in Korea by depicting a girl who wants everything but it’s all too expensive. The images used to portray this in the video however, are ridiculous. Bipa wears braids, lost of gold chains, and dances with a black man while making it rain with a bundle of cash. The girls also attempt to twerk with close ups of their butts. It’s more embarrassing for them than it is offensive, but still, it was stupid to use these images for a song like this. It also steals the sax from Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” which is the most banal thing you can do nowadays.

Result: Tie. “Too Fancy” is overall offensive and “OUCH” is offensive to eyes and ears of the world over, so you can’t separate them.

Lip Service have come out on top with their strangeness being the deciding factor while A.cian have had generic sounds following them throughout their career. Despite some well executed tracks and bad production nearly making them interesting, it isn’t enough to beat a flop girl group. These parody girl groups tend to be some of them most interesting things that K-pop produces. The potent mix of sincerity and desperation creates sounds and looks that transcend what we know as pop music today.

Who do you think is better A.cian or Lip Service? 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: Valentine’s Day


This day, once a year, when couples are lauded and told to eat chocolate and do something fun, is all about love. So, for this year’s Valentine’s Day, our KultScene Playlist Sunday is all about love and relationships. Each of our writers has a different take on the perfect love song and what love is. Pairing individual opinions and matching them to their favorite songs, we put together a perfectly romantic playlist for the holiday.

Whether you’re single or taken this Valentine’s Day, B.A.P will be sure to make your heart flutter with their enjoyable and bright song “Crash.” “I can’t believe it, it’s really perfect,” they sing. “I am breathless, it’s not fair. Your eyes, your lips, you’re everything really left me shook up.” Have you ever met someone who put you in an instant daze and left you completely mesmerized? Is it your current significant other or perhaps someone of the past? Or maybe, even someone famous? Regardless of who it was/is, it’s a great deal of feelings and emotions that can’t fully be expressed and put into words. The members hearts are thumping so hard that it’s about to erupt and burst out of the bodies at just the mere thought of meeting someone with such great qualities and characteristics. Does your heart do the same notion whenever you think of or if you’re around that person?

— Tam

Also on Kultscene: 5 K-Dramas To Get You In The Mood For Valentine’s Day

What better song to dedicate to that special someone this Valentine’s Day than IKON’s “My Type?” An ode to the members’ ideal girl, the lighthearted song describes everything about her that they love, including her fashion sense, her voice, her smile, and even her yawn. And though the lyrics describe her body movements as “slightly awkward,” they also let her know that she has no flaws. She can literally be mute, and they would still have the hots for her. But I guess that’s when you know that the love is real, when you are able to look past the other’s faults and appreciate all of his or her nuances, such as the look on his or her face when spacing out. “My Type” works well whether you are confessing for the first time in a “some” relationship or for the thousand and first time in a long-term one, because who would not like to hear how perfect they are?

— Shelley

I’m not much of a romantic, but how can anyone resist an ode to your beauty like in Big Bang’s “Bae Bae?” I mean, next to my intelligence, if you want me to fall in love with you, highlighting my chicness and my doe-like eyes is the way to go. Both the song and the music video for “Bae Bae” are weird, no doubt about that. But it’s awesomeness relies in the fact that it’s different and not cookie-cutter. “Bae Bae” is a testament to the girl they’re so enamoured by, how they wish she won’t change ever because in this moment, she’s perfect. During the honeymoon stage of a relationship, what’s not romantic about that?

— Alexis

Also on Kultscene: Girl Crush: Grace

Sometimes it’s important to constantly remind a person that they are your valentine and you are theirs. Even if they don’t agree, you can do what AOA Cream do and keep shouting, “I’m your baby.” The subunit’s debut single “I’m Jelly Baby” is about a jealous girl who is afraid her boyfriend is looking at other girls. Maybe it’s not the most romantic of songs for Valentine’s Day but the sheer devotion on Cream’s part is admirable and romantic in a creepy way. The song itself is a wonderfully inventive bit of pop rock built on top hip hop beats. Guitars drive the song but it flits in and out styles and contains a chorus which takes a while to get to the point. It also features maybe the most beautiful bit of vocal so far this year with Hyejeong’s second part in the long pre-chorus build up.

— Joe

Park Hyo Shin’s “Wild Flower” is pretty sad as it comes post-breakup, but the vocally expressive song is lyrically beautiful to the point that it is quite obvious that this is love. The ballad, beginning with strings then pausing completely to allow Park’s crisp vocals to be begin backed only by a simple keyboard accompaniment, is about lost love and the future of a new spring together after the “wild flower” returns to bloom again. The song is one of Korea’s most popular songs in the past few years thanks to the poetic lyrics that describe the feelings of love and heartbreak: “Love is a fiery flower that blooms and withers,” he sings at one point. “…On top of the dry land, my entire body is burning. Your scent that remained on my fingers is scattering away.” At a time when many of the most popular Korean “love” songs are nothing more than hook-filled dance songs, Park Hyo Shin’s “Wild Flower” reflects the passion of love and anguish of a break up, while still depicting faith in finding happiness again. So, even though it’s Valentine’s Day and “Wild Flower” seems like a sad song, it’s actually something we should all hope we experience in our lives. We are all secretly waiting for our “Wild Flower”-like emotions of love.


What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day Song? How did you spend the day? 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.

IU’s Red Shoes: A Torment or Saviour?

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

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

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

Also on KultScene: Bastarz, Jean Vigo, “Zero For Conduct,” & Internal Rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

Also on KultScene: ’20 Once Again’ vs. ‘Miss Granny’: Which One Is Better?

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

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

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

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

What do you think of the comparisons made here? Also what do you think of IU’s recent controversies? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Seventeen, Dancing, & East/West Ideals

One of the first things we notice when becoming K-pop fans is the influence of western pop. Musically, K-pop blends a whole host of genres otherwise unheard of in the east. These influences give K-pop an international edge allowing it to cater to a lot more fans than their Japanese and Chinese counterparts. This fusion usually comes in a musical and visual form. Hip-hop sounds and visuals are hugely prevalent in the last few years as K-pop senses the US market opening ever so slightly. Where it is not so obvious, however, is in performance. That’s where Pledis’ new boys Seventeen come in, they’ve got something new to show us all.

As we all know, dance is a big part of what makes K-pop special. But what is it that we love about it so much and why has dance not been westernized yet? For the former, I’d say it’s the collective commitment shown by nearly every group to being synchronized, which also hints at an answer to the latter question. That answer is a historic difference in core ideals between east and west.

In the west, capitalism and democracy took strong hold early on in society. In general, it promotes individual freedom and expression. The most powerful and renowned people in western societies are self-made entrepreneurs. In group dances this translates into simple routines with the more complex movements being executed by those who can do it while the rest stay by the wayside. Think of Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child or Nicole Scherzinger in Pussycat Dolls.

Also on KultScene: Seventeen’s ’17 Carat’ Album Review

In contrast, Confucianism and communism played a big part in building modern Asia, even in South Korea where it had little actual development. These systems promote the collective over the individual. Confucianism particularly promotes loyalty to seniority. This led to group dances where members work with each other, dance where each member is as good as the next. Nearly every K-pop group fits into this mold, especially any group with a large number of members. The only major exceptions would be YG’s big groups Big Bang and 2NE1. Those groups perform in a looser style allowing members with big personalities to shine, more similar to western musical acts.

So why hasn’t K-pop dance in general been affected in the same way as the music or clothing, emulating western music trends? The move into different musical styles does not actually reflect a great change of ideal within the K-pop community. Genres are merely changing ways of expressing songs that have been heard many times before. With dance, the human body is involved and usually in big numbers. It is a means of expressing societal norms. Changing this would be a fundamental change to Asian values.

This brings us to Seventeen. A group who may not be changing Asian values but are showing a new way of performing the old dance.

The choreography in Seventeen’s two singles up to now, “Adore U” and “Mansae,” has been delightfully inventive. They are pulling off a certain number of moves that I’ve never seen before in K-pop, and all with a youthful exuberance. From the human train in “Adore U” to the human crank in “Mansae,” there’s a lot to be impressed by Seventeen’s dances on a conceptual level. What makes these dances stand out though are the bits in between. When we’re watching great physical feats in the foreground, the background is always littered with other members having fun.

As a group consisting of thirteen members, naturally Seventeen are going to have a lot of big routines. Each of one of these dances are perfectly executed as they come across more like a small army than a boy band. With big K-pop groups big, synchronized routines are usually the extent of what can be delivered. Even dancing kings EXO who like to cut down members on stage at different times are always likely to stay in sync; the group always comes first. In contrast, Seventeen differentiate themselves in these moments. Each member is seemingly encouraged to bring as much personality to the stage as they can. Watch the beginning of “Adore U” where, in groups of three, the members play amongst themselves seemingly unaware that they are performing. In every break they have, members are always active, bouncing off each other, and generally being endearing. When watching them perform, even today, I still see details I hadn’t seen before. Like when, after collapsing to the floor in “Adore U”, S.Coups is revived and carried over to some other members all while the song has continued on another twenty seconds or so.

Also on KultScene: 5 Tear-Inducing K-Drama OSTs Pt. 2

These are only a fraction of the details that Seventeen put into their performance. They signal a kind of fusion of the ideals I talked about earlier. The group effort is still there and is more impressive than ever. They move between one whole group seamlessly into smaller groups all while maintaining perfect synchronicity. It’s the blending of their smaller moments that bring in the western ideas. There’s a great sense of personality within Seventeen. Each individual feels like a full character rather than a cog in a machine.

This doesn’t mean that K-pop is going to be completely infiltrated by western ideals in the near future, getting rid of all innately Asian elements. It’s an example of how pre-existing ideas from outside your regular environment can reinvigorate something well-trodden. Western ideas have always been in K-pop it was only a matter of time before someone exploited them for performance. Let’s be grateful that they have been exploited so brilliantly.

What do you think of Seventeen’s dances? Are there any other groups that do this? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, andTumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Purfles’ “A Bad Thing” Music Video & Song Review

Purfles "A Bad Thing" 1
Purfles, the K-pop group with the worst name (and in the world of K-pop that’s really saying something) have comeback for the first time since their debut. That debut in October last year was the vastly underrated banger “1, 2, 3,” and the group as a complete package was just as overlooked. Based on pure talent, only MAMAMOO of the other recent rookie groups can really compete with Purfles. Purfles contains three beautiful women with strong vocals and great dance skills. They executed the sexy concept better than many veteran groups by having an angry edge to the their song and choreography.

Thankfully they are sticking with this concept while still changing things up a bit. Their new single ”A Bad Thing” goes for a more sensual route while retaining a powerful edge.


A Bad Thing is a slow burn. It takes its time, enticing you with its intricate details. It resembles Hyosung’s “Into You” with its sexiness and slinky groove.

The song itself isn’t far from a ballad. While it is not dominant, the piano melody is the most present element of the song. It is quite soft and sweet yet has a feeling of foreboding to it, as if there is always more to come. Luckily there is. We soon encounter a jazz explosion of horns and rolling drums. This slow jazz is the perfect sound to accompany a sensual concept. It’s been done many times before but continues to work every time. Here it is no different.

Also on KultScene: K-Pop Inspired Back to School Trends

It sounds like it shouldn’t work for a concept like this but having quieter sounds crash into louder ones really helps sell the theme. The quiet nature of the verses is effortlessly sensual, with the slowness emphasizing the vocals while the choruses are big coming across as an arrival. The verse is the chase, the chorus the act. This all quite standard for a song like this but it wouldn’t work so well without the talented girls of Purfles.

Songs like this hang on the vocals of a group. Contrasting quiet moments with louder ones means having big singers and singers with more restrained, breathy vocals that still have power behind them. With only three members it was imperative that all of Purfles could sing well, given that if one was poor it would be obvious. This is where they shine above most rookie groups. What they do is build songs around main vocalist Woo Young. Her strength is clear from the first word she bellows. Not only is her voice strong but distinct against the two other voices. That’s not to say they’re bad just not as powerful. Eun Yong and Geun Hee’s work in the verse is paramount to this song. Their restraint allows Woo Young to soar.

The song gets its dark edge from the lyrics. It’s about the bad things (naturally) that a man has done to a woman yet she can’t seem to let go. Pretty regular stuff for the most part. But mentions of poison, tears of blood and idleness make for some more dramatic moments.

Also on KultScene: 5 Standout K-Pop Underdog Rookies of 2014

Music Video

The video is probably where Purfles were most lacking, as with their debut. It was a standard dancing in a box and other places video. It was pulled off well and the girls looked great so its unfair to be too critical.

“A Bad Thing” is generally more of the same. We see the members melancholically singing their lines and performing their dance. It is however intercut with shots of them fighting with a man like in the lyrics. It adds a little extra interest but is mostly boring. It makes me realise that seeing the girls in videos is more than enough for this type of song. The choreography does look great though. The hand cuff point is really clever and helped by nice props.


With another accomplished song under their belt, it’s about time people started noticing Purfles. They are powerful, sexy and genuinely talented. They deliver songs that groups with many more years behind them could never pull off. Basically if you don’t like Purfles I will do “A Bad Thing” to all of you.


What do you think of Purfles’ comeback? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.