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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.

Weekly K-Pop Faves: May 23-29

kpop playlist favorites may last week 2016
The final (full) week of May brought a lot of returns from some of our team’s favorite artists. Girl groups, boy groups, solo artists, and a wide variety of genres are represented in this week’s KultScene weekly K-pop faves.

“Windy Day” by Oh My Girl (Released May 25)

With “Windy Day”, Oh My Girl threatened us with a most dreaded coffee shop ballad. I nearly stopped listening after twenty seconds due to intense disappointment, especially this being the best and most exuberant of all rookie girl groups. I perked up by Yooa and Binnie’s angelic pre-chorus and was absolutely hooked by the Middle East-inspired break after the chorus. Between these parts, the song is driven by Oh My Girl’s perpetual dynamism. First by the chorus vocals in which seven of the members participate in and then by those wonderful strings (might be an Oud) and choreography. No group has exuded such youthful apathy towards musical norms quite like Oh My Girl. They are the rightful heirs to Girls’ Generation’s throne.

— Joe

“Life in Color” by Beenzino (Released May 26)

After the lackluster that was “We Are Going To,” it’s comforting to see that Beenzino is back at it making up for the lost momentum after his “Up All Night” album. It’s no secret that Beenzino is #artsy: one of his most artistic music videos is last year’s “Break.” Continuing the concept and, with another Digipedi music video, comes “Life in Color.” The track is more on the experimental, hypebeast hip-hop side rather than the Southern rap stuff Illionaire regularly does, which makes it that more refreshening. Korea is all about making rap music that doesn’t sound like rap music (mainly slow tempo tracks with a singer at the chorus), but Beenzino mastered this practice by creating something interesting and new while keeping it upbeat. I for one am now highly anticipating his new album (which drops tomorrow!) and hope we see more songs on par with “Life in Color” rather than “Break” and “We Are Going To.”

— Alexis

“so-so” by Baek A Yeon (Released May 23)

I accidentally came across this song while scrolling through Youtube. Baek A Yeon’s soothing vocals blended with the soft melody is easy on ears. This ballad track has R&B and soul effect to it which portrays the feelings of being single and lovesick. The lyrics are quite relatable and hold some bitter reality to them. The subdued effect of the song is neutralized by using pastel shades for the video. The music video has a cute concept and is pleasing to eyes. Baek A Yeon’s “So So” is skyrocketing the music charts, like her previous hits.

— Sana

”Monodrama” by Lay (EXO) (Released May 26)

I really missed hearing R&B from EXO, and even though he only makes up a ninth of the group, Lay’s “Monodrama” was enough to satiate that musical craving. Performed in his native tongue, this song is exactly what I imagine when I think of Chinese R&B. And like all quintessential R&B slow jams, this too makes generous use of layered claps and sensual guitars, giving it a very classic, old school sound. I don’t have to read into the lyrics (I mean, I did) to understand that this isn’t exactly a celebratory song because the instrumentals more than expressed the heartache that “Monodrama” is all about. Lay may not be the strongest vocally in his group, but with this comeback he definitely was able to brandish more than he did when he had to share lines with eight other members. Those several laudatory high notes alone probably made this one of SM Station’s best releases yet.

— Shelley

I was thoroughly absorbed in the music video for “All In” when I heard it the first time, to the degree that I honestly missed much of the song and had to go back to listen again. This music video, which appears to set up a dystopian trilogy featuring some of the members of Monsta X committing suicide, had me thinking of Nazi Germany, The Lord of the Flies, Japanese-occupied Korea, The Walking Dead, yaoi manga, and at least ten other K-pop music videos from the past decade. All at the same time. That said, because of the convoluted plot I feel like the music video honestly didn’t suit the song. As with all Monsta X singles, “All In” has an aggressive sound. Despite the pounding chorus and horn-heavy raps, the song isn’t actually about war or anger, so I feel like it should be accompanied by a music video about sports or some other difficult to achieve goal rather than a fight-for-life plot. The lyrics reflect being all in a relationship; translating this to being all in on a team or a competition makes sense while depicting it through revolution seems off the mark. But, back to the song, within two listens this pounding beat got stuck in my head and I really enjoyed the raps; It’s their most diverse single to date, while still retaining their specific style.


—Tamar

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

Female First Loves: Hyo Sung & Oh My Girl Review

Hyo Sung Oh My Girl

Jeon Hyo Sung and Oh My Girl returned with new singles this week touching on similar subjects. That classic idea of first love is something that is easy to fawn at, to claim you’ve heard it all before. That’s the thing about a topic as universal as this is that will always warrant new expressions from new experiences. These two very different female artists approaching the same idea means we almost certainly see something fresh. If not maybe the music will make you fall in love with the girls anyway (it definitely will).

Despite Secret being around for so long now, Hyo Sungs’s solo career is still young and often wildly overlooked. Her lullaby trap anthem “Goodnight Kiss” and silky smooth “Into You” are masterful works in overt but not desperate sexiness. She pulls off songs and concepts without being too talented at any given skill needed for a popstar. With her new single “Find Me” Hyo Sung continues her challenge to be the new and improved Son Dambi.

Oh My Girl on the other hand are a very young group with 2016 being only their second year in K-pop. They, however, are rising fast and are in their own battle with Twice to be the next Girls’ Generation. While they don’t have the same big company backing them like their opponents, they do have a quirky identity that is all their own. They also have two of the best songs of last year under their belt already so with new single “Liar Liar”, Oh My Girl look to stake a permanent place in the minds of K-pop fans.


Also on KultScene: Eric Nam’s ‘Interview’ Album Review

Hyo Sung “Find Me”

Hyo Sung is clearly taking advantage of Eurovision fever (the songs in the contest are currently being announced) with this Euro pop romp. “Find Me” mixes three major musical elements to tell a story of true love. A house beat and hand claps sustain the whole song while piano arrangements and synths deliver the big moments. That beat allows those sounds to pick up tempo and sound a little brighter. Usually a combo of piano and synths is used for more melancholic or subdued sounds but here it can flourish. It also contains my favourite detail from any song so far this year, the flute whisper in the chorus.

“Find Me” moves away from Hyo Sung’s last single “Into You” in an interesting way thematically. Love is such a common theme in pop music but is everlasting because of its diverse nature. Everyone reacts to it differently and Hyo Sung is showing that even first love can be varied for the same person. Where “Into You” had a more inquisitive sensual feeling of the latent sexual possibilities found in a new love, “Find Me” traces a more euphoric emotion, one filled with romance and comfort. The music reflects this brilliantly. “Find Me” bursts into life with a crash of piano, synth, and vocal. It rises from there into a chorus of unrestrained joy led by Hyo Sung’s beautifully emotive voice.

 

Oh My Girl “Liar Liar”

Oh My Girl also tackle new love but in a decidedly more adolescent way on “Liar Liar.” The girls are starting to think they “kinda like” a boy but are too afraid to confess to him. For young girls like Oh My Girl, this is as dramatic it gets. And as Seunghee sings, it’s an “emotional roller coaster.” To convey these feelings with music, Oh My Girl go back to their debut “Cupid.” From the cheerleader group vocals and drumlines, it’s easy to see this as “Cupid” 2.0 but with added bubblegum. This sound is perfect for those feelings though. The chaotic energy of it feels totally adolescent while not being too childish. Also, “Cupid” was maybe my favourite song of last year so I’ll take a retread of it anytime.

That being said, there are a few improvements that make “Liar Liar” even more worthwhile. The vocals notable are much better. The trinity of Hyo Jung, Seunghee, and YooA are as good as ever, but first time I noticed some of the others playing an actually worthwhile part in the song. Notably, Arin and JinE make a contribution by not being amazing singers but sounding very much like the teenage girls that they are.

The music video is an absolute delight as well. The single coloured crayola sets are fantastic and weird. The fight between all the girls to deem each other liars is so much much fun. Especially the staring contest between Seunghee and Hyo Jung as they hold pictures of the same boy (who I think is labelmate Gongchan from B1A4) that they like. The camera swings around both of them cutting between opposite sides of the table bringing energy to their stillness.


Also on KultScene: Hyo Sung, BESTie & the Hook in K-Pop

Overall

Hyo Sung and Oh My Girl tackle similar themes with completely different outcomes here. What makes them work for both parties is that they both stick to what works for them as artists. Hyo Sung is a woman clearly not afraid of her sexuality. She flaunts her body to express this physically and her voice to express it emotionally. This is one woman’s idea of fresh love.

Oh My Girl are essentially children so their expression of a first love is purely innocent. It’s about teasing out confusing feelings that are pointless in the long run but oh so important in the moment. They call themselves liars because they don’t actually know what it is they feel.

What do you think of Hyo Sung and Oh My Girl’s new songs? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook,Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Fantasy Vs Reality: MAMA 2015 Award Winners

MAMA awards

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

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

1. Best New Male/Female Artist

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


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

2. Best Male/Female Artist

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


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

3. Best Male/Female Group

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


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


Also on Kultscene: 8 K-pop Girl Power Anthems Pt. 6

4. Best Dance Performance Solo

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


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

5. Best Dance Performance Male/Female Group

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


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

6. Best Male/Female Vocal Performance

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


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

7. Best Rap Performance

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


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


Also on Kultscene: f(x)’s “4 Walls” Album Review

8. Best Band Performance

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

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

9. Best Collaboration & Unit

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

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

10. Best Music Video

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

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

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

Are you excited for the MAMA awards? What are your predictions? Share your throughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Flash Music Video Reviews: Taeyeon, 24K, Oh My Girl, MFBTY, Ailee, Melody Day, iKon, AA

iKONI tried my hand at flash music video reviews earlier this year and I’m back for more. This week, I reviewed music videos released by Korean artists including Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon, AA (Aoora & Hoik,) MFBTY, Oh My Girl, 24K, AileeMelody Day, and iKon. Each mini review doesn’t offer up in depth critiques of the music or music videos, but instead represent this writer’s first impressions.

Taeyeon “I”

First off, this music video has four million views already, so I know it’s going to be good. Taeyeon is a very talented singer and looks mad adorable as a waitress. The earthy elements and cinematic videography is really lovely. This soft rock thing that seems to be going on is new for Taeyeon, but it’s a nice change and it suits Verbal Jint’s featured rap. Those sheep are adorable, and I want Taeyeon’s outfits to laze around my house in.

I’m not sure if this is a complaint, but it took over a minute to get to a main stanza of the song and hear its sound other than its chorus. I’m a big fan of this sound. The lyrics are inspirational and shows of Taeyeon’s powerful vocals in a great way, while offering a really nicely made music video (obviously filmed in Portland.) With fuzzy sheep and a pretty butterfly, there’s really nothing I can fault.

The song isn’t typical K-pop, which is really great to see SM Entertainment attempting as its artists mature. Also, did she just steal her boss’s key after quitting? It doesn’t matter, this is a beautiful song and a beautifully shot music video. SM Entertainment really knows what it is doing with these solo debuts and taking time to make sure that everything is stellar.

24K “Super Fly”

This music video got a lot of attention because it was erroneously reported that a member was caught fighting in a club. But oh, they’re not in a club but instead being school delinquents. We’re going the really strong and powerful, hip hop oriented route that’s been so popular in K-pop lately. Am I watching Monsta X? What happened to my adorable “U R So Cute,” 24K?

This rap at the beginning is pretty powerful and the visuals are great. I’m a fan of this singing part that bridges into the chorus, but the whistling and thumping sirens could be brought down a few notches. This is a pretty high quality video, which is really nice to see from a group that I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while, but it seems like they took out all the big guns to just go with what has been trending lately and try to get popular. (Is taking out hip hop tropes K-pop male groups the same as wearing scanty clothes is for K-pop girl groups?)

This is a love song, but it seems like the powerful images and sounds would be better put to singing against the establishment. 24K hold their own in this music video, and this is really a step up in their game.


Also on KultScene: Flash K-Pop Music Video Reviews: Jonghyun, Jung Yonghwa, Mad Clown, From The Airport, Eddy Kim, GFriend

Oh My Girl “Closer”

“Cupid” was probably my favorite rookie girl group debut of the year, so hopefully “Closer” will live up to that, both plot-wise and musically.

Nope, we’re getting away from the adorable cupids to a really beautiful setting and lovely outfits. Nice dance moves, but I feel like we’re moving away from what made Oh My Girl stand out and moving stylistically more towards the trends. Oh wait, I take that back. These vocals are on par with what I expected from this group. The fairytale elements are really nice, and you can tell that WM spent a lot on this (that company never really disappoints).

I’m two minutes in and I’ve already decided that Oh My Girl should probably be Red Velvet’s real competition for the next generation of K-pop queens (okay, maybe that’s too much but they really deserve to be acknowledge). This song has really clear vocals that I feel like aren’t what most girl groups are putting out today and the members each have distinct images to the point where I don’t feel like I’m looking at plastic surgery monsters. Side point, the dance at the beginning and end are really good.

MFBTY ”6am”

“WondaLand” is easily one of the best Korean albums of the year, so now that MFBTY is out with a music video for “6am,” I hardly need to review this. So this plot is pretty simple, but this is kind of fun to see Bizzy act lovelorn. Oh, and angry. Wow, he’s really angry now. This back lighting is a bit irritating and I’d like it for a few seconds, but I feel like it doesn’t really feel like “6am” but more likely gives the sleezy bar at 1am feel.

This love story is really nicely done, although I definitely need to watch this again to figure out what is going on at what point in the relationship. This is definitely one of MFBTY’s most basic music videos to date, but that’s not really such a bad thing. Keep it simple sometimes.

I have to confess that “6am” is probably my least song from “WondaLand,” and since I’ve already confessed my love for this album, I don’t have much to say about the music except that I wish MFBTY used less autotune on this song.

Ailee “Insane”

Watching a girl while she sleeps isn’t exactly alright and this room is pretty creepy. Oh nevermind, maybe. Work it girl, do rhythmic modern dance moves while some creeper is watching you sleep. Obviously you don’t realize he’s there. Oh! He’s her dream guy, that’s kind of cute for a plot of a music video with a really simple setting.

Straight off the bat, this isn’t my favorite Ailee song, but she’s rocking this dance and I’m very happy that she is getting to sing some R&B, since that’s definitely her strength. These lyrics are really pretty and I love this back up chorus. This song definitely reminds me of Mariah Carey, which isn’t a bad thing. I see why Ailee is promoting “Mind Your Own Business” more, but this song is a really stellar addition to her repertoire.


Also on KultScene: Taeyeon’s ‘I’ Music Video & Song Review

Melody Day “Speed Up”

Melody Day is well known for their vocals, but I saw a screen cap that showed this is a dance song, so let’s see how this goes. Because right now, all I see is GOT7’s JR. I’m not complaining. Oh wow, this is really a spin.

They look good and not showing too much skin, but they’re definitely going the sexy dance song route instead of keeping to their typical ballads. I’m really not in love with this song, it seems very typical and Melody Day has much more talent than this song or video showcases. Maybe if this was three years ago, I’d love the styling and video, but this is just basic K-pop at this point. The outfits are pretty great and they’re showcasing a lot of different looks, but it seems just like a really busy music video.

The breaks in the song to tone things down are really cute, but I can’t tell where this song is supposed to be going and the music isn’t ideal for showcasing their talent. There’s a lot of potential, but it feels like every time I expect Melody Day to show off what they have, the song disappoints by taking a vocal group and giving them a KARA or Girl’s Day Concept.

Aoora & Hoik of AA “Afternoon Morning Evening” feat. Taeyeon of she’z

The fact that something happened and AA never had a proper comeback after a member left was really disappointing to me, because their previous songs were really great. But now they’re back, to some degree, with this. Aoora’s had a few solo releases (most of which I was shocked by), but Hoik’s voice was the the thing that really caught my attention when AA debuted and this song is starting off soft and gentle, giving him the perfect way to showcase his voice.

This song is really just perfection, it’s like AA’s “Rollin’ Rollin’” all grown up. The video looks like it has a pretty low production value, but it’s simple and adorable. The song gets a bit quieter towards the end? I can’t tell if that’s my audio or something, but regardless, the combination of the pair’s voices with Taeyeon’s of she’z go really well together.

iKon “Rhythm Ta”

Let’s see, YG, bring your game. Oh, I don’t love basketball jerseys as outfits in K-pop just because it kind of seems a bit lazy. I get that their comeback is basketball themed, but this comes off as a bit too 90’s to me. Definitely not my type of song, but it’s nice to see YG trying to get back to its early hip hop routes.

Compared to Winner’s debut music video, I feel like this looks pretty cool, but I’m a little bored. Oh, hey, there’s a dog! The members look good, but wow there are a lot of dogs in this: I’ll take it. This song is groove-able, but definitely not one of my favorite debut songs of 2015, which is a little bit disappointing considering how much YG Entertainment has hyped up iKON. The groups look good, but the repetitive nature of this song doesn’t seem like something that we should be waiting for. I’d love to hear more of the vocals from this group, because these few moments where the vocalists sing is really great. Side note, why are only the vocalists blonde? This group has a lot of promise and I see why people like them, but I’m going to wait a bit to see if I like iKON’s other songs.

What’s your favorite recent song out of Korea? Are there any upcoming songs you’d like to see a quick review of? Let us know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.