Red Velvet’s ‘Peek-A-Boo’ song & music video review

red velvet peek-a-boo peekaboo mv music video song review

By Alexandra DiBenigno

Red Velvet returns to the K-pop music scene with the release of their spooky new song, “Peek-A-Boo,” off their second full album, Perfect Velvet. The group has been busy this year, releasing multiple singles like “Rookie” and the summery hit song “Red Flavor.” But, the girls throw away their cute image for a newer, darker one in their latest track, which will surely be on the top of everyone’s fall playlist.

red velvet peekaboo gir peek-a-boo review mv song

via kibaems @ Tumblr


The latest single by the five-member girl group demonstrates each member’s strength, while also showing off their strong harmonization skills. The song has a funky beat highlighted with a strong bass in the background and usual club house beats used commonly throughout their music. However, Red Velvet diverts from the usual by carrying the chorus with their heavenly harmonization and repetitive “peek-a-boo” line, bringing a singable chorus that many international ReVeluvs (their fandom name) to enjoy.

Yeri’s rap especially shines, with the maknae (youngest member) finally given multiple lines and showing if off with quick lyrics, seamless flow, and an overall strong delivery. Joy and Seulgi’s lower vocals bring a sexy addition to the already club boppin, mature song, while Irene delivers her usual strong rap with ease. Throughout the song, the main vocalist, Wendy, flaunts her impeccable vocals without actually overtaking the song, as was seen in “Red Flavor.” Instead, each member is given the opportunity to display their vocals or rap without any one individual hogging the spotlight. Overall, the song has fair line distribution, something ReVeluvs will surely appreciate.

red velvet peekaboo song gif mv peek-a-boo

via leaderirene @ Tumblr

“Peek-A-Boo” is a well-balanced song that includes obvious K-pop tropes, while keeping to the unique style that the girls have perfected after three years of successful comebacks. While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a step in the right direction for the group as they continue to mature and leave their girly image behind.

Also on KultScene: Monsta X’s ‘Dramarama’ song & music video review

Music Video

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via the-overdose @ Tumblr

Overall, the music video is one of Red Velvet’s finest, showing off unique cinematography and filtering, plus sparkling outfits and eerie imagery. With obvious Halloween vibes, outfits, and settings, it’s a shame SM Entertainment didn’t make the decision to release the video prior to Oct. 31st because the music video screams “K-pop Halloween fun!” But, regardless of the release date, “Peek-A-Boo” is a fun homage to old-time scary movies and is the perfect transition video as the fall season winds down.

red velvet peek-a-boo gif review song mv peekaboo

via sowonis @ Tumblr

The music video is unusually violent for a girl group, with guns, knives, and razors being seen throughout. Not to mention that what seemingly appeared to be a storyline about a group of women who enjoy the thrill of new love, yet quick leave their men behind when it got boring, ended in a plot twist about them maybe disposing of the pizza delivery guy and a bunch of others.

The choreography is, as always, quick, difficult, and catchy. The girls never shy away from a challenge when it comes to their choreography, and this latest single is no different. Irene and Seulgi shine in the center during the chorus, both showing off the exceptional choreography that Red Velvet is always known for during their comebacks.

red velvet peekaboo peek-a-boo mv gif

via leaderirene @ Tumblr

With endless symbolism and imagery, their latest music video is surely to leave an everlasting impression on viewers and showcases the girls’ immense talent.

Also on KultScene: 6 Highlights from BewhY’s ‘The Blind Star’ Los Angeles stop


Red Velvet have grown as a group throughout the years and always bring a fresh, new style to each comeback that stands out amongst other K-pop girl groups. In comparison to their earlier singles this year, “Peek-A-Boo” showcases a maturer side to the group, both musically and physically. Previously, the group had showcased a sultrier sound through their “velvet” concept, mainly the R&B songs. But this track is the first where we see them actually drawing from both sides and make magic together. Released in February of this year, “Rookie” embodied the common imagery seen throughout K-pop girl groups, with frills and bright colors being displayed throughout the music video. Although slightly less evident, the summery hit “Red Flavor” still showed a younger, girlier side, too. But, with this latest single, the members have become women and aren’t afraid to show it off by incorporating sexier vocals and imagery, whether through their expressions or clothing. It’s a refreshing, and overall more appealing side to the already unique group.

While “Peek-A-Boo” can be seen as their sexiest comeback, Red Velvet still makes sure that their vocals, raps, and talents shine through whatever clothing or dance moves they might be displaying. It’s a song that appeals to both Koreans and international music fans alike, and enable them to continue to stand at the forefront as one of the strongest girl groups in K-pop.

What do you think of Red Velvet’s latest comeback single? Let us know your thoughts in the comment selection below! Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all the K-pop news.

KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted: July roundup [podcast]

In celebration of our third anniversary earlier this year, KultScene has started a collaboration with K-Pop Unmuted, a podcast dedicated to delving deep into K-pop.

On Episode 21 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, and Tamar Herman discuss the most interesting K-pop releases from July 2017, including BTS’s Seo Taiji remake “Come Back Home,” Loona’s “Love Cherry Motion,” Dreamcatcher’s “Fly High,” Akdong Musician’s “Dinosaur,” Snuper’s “The Star of Stars,” and Red Velvet’s “Zoo.”

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

Let us know what you think of K-pop in July and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Weekly K-pop faves: July 3-9

k-pop songs kpop playlist faves july 2017 17 red velvet le exid super junior

Each week, the KultScene crew look back at their favorite new K-pop songs and performances of the past week. In the first full week of July, we liked new music from Red Velvet, and older versions of songs by EXID’s LE and Super Junior.

“Cream (Solo Version)” by LE (Released July 7)

When EXID’s Street album came out last year, a clear stand out for me was the b-side “Cream.” And while they never released it as a single in Korea, they did a Chinese version to promote themselves in said market. Being the queen of suggestiveness and double entendre, LE wrote this song about eating cream and it ruining their bodies because they get fat. It’s been said that cream stands for some other creamy substance, and with this solo version, she’s basically proving that theory right. And I’m living for it. Just by the English lyrics, “I love the cream cream cream/ All over my body” and “Baby boy love me up all night” at the chorus, we get a clear picture as to what’s she’s singing about. But lyrics aside, this stripped down version and the fact that she also sings makes the version more sensual. “Cream” solidifies my thought that LE needs *clapping emoji* a *clapping emoji* solo *clapping emoji*. Like, yesterday. Move over CL and Hyuna (who she actually taught how to rap and has written for, by the way), LE is the baddest queen in K-pop.

— Alexis

Also on KultScene: The ‘Wild K.A.R.D. Tour’ in São Paulo was as wild & hot as expected

“Red Flavor” by Red Velvet (Released July 9)

Over the years, Red Velvet has become that group in the K-pop industry. With quirky outfits and infectious hooks, the group has, throughout the past year, delivered addictive music and markedly unique stylings with impressive consistency. “Red Flavor” is trademark Red Velvet, but with tighter production than that of their previous release “Rookie” (at least in my opinion). While this release is very reminiscent of their past two promotional cycles, the electro-pop is notably smoother at some parts of the song, specifically the prechorus sung by Wendy and Seulgi, calling back to their first EP’s title track “Ice Cream Cake.” Still, the chorus preserves the brash, loud quirk that the group has pursued most ambitiously with songs like “Dumb Dumb” and more recently, “Russian Roulette” and “Rookie.” Overall, “Red Flavor” is a valuable addition to the group’s repertoire, albeit slightly exhaustive. This release makes me wonder how much further they can pursue this kind of concept before it wears down. As great as “Red Flavor” is, the song makes me want to see something new from RV, and hopefully their next comebacks will make that a reality.

— Kushal

Also on KultScene: KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 2 Concert Recap

“Sorry Sorry & Bonamana” by Super Junior (Performed July 8)

There’s something incredibly sad about watching Super Junior appear on stage with only three members as they did at last night’s SMTown. Even when a fourth member, Heechul, appears mid-way through “Sorry Sorry,” there’s something disheartening about seeing what was once a revolutionarily large group be driven down to only a handful of people. (But don’t even get me started how they have nine backup dancers to get things up to SuJu’s original OT13. Or how Henry and Zhoumi could and should have most definitely been part of the performance, and Super Junior in general…) With the recent protest by fans against Sungmin, Kangin still on hiatus after the second drunk driving incident of his career, plus the rest of the members in the army, Super Junior’s available four members still delivered energetic performances, with the four —Leeteuk, Shindong, Heechul, and Yesung— stepping up to fill in the void left by the loss of the Super Junior’s mass of members. It’s not my favorite Super Junior performance by far, but seeing them persevere in spite of the virulent outpouring of hate they just received makes this one of their most memorable lives of all time.

— Tamar

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Red Velvet’s “Rookie” Music Video & Song Review

Who better to kickstart a relatively slow year opening than SM Entertainment’s’s resident pocket rockets Red Velvet? Most expected that they’d come back with one of their velvet concept tracks but new single “Rookie” is red through and through. A velvet track would have been comforting and suited the cold months but “Rookie” goes past that to be an infectious energy boost to anyway who come in its way. Red Velvet are well past rookies now, and their edge is proving to be the most distinctive of all the newer girl groups.


That being said though “Rookie” is not an easy song to get into. Looking at the laundry list of producer’s names we can see a probable reason for this. The song introduces itself as being by The Colleagues, who are an American production team more used to hip hop and R&B than bubblegum pop. They’ve worked with artists like Lil’ Wayne and Gucci Mane, people who don’t shout Red Velvet. SM regulars Tay Jasper, Sara Forsberg, and more were on head to presumable help the transition though. So many different hands were on this song and I think it is thanks to this not despite it that “Rookie” could come through as a quality track.

The Colleagues’ hip hop has been filtered out in favour of funk to counter the chaos of a Red Velvet song. The drum beat is introduced as the driving force. It perfectly combines both worlds into something clear but potentially erratic. A rolling bassline comes in behind along with horns and guitars eventually which add the more grounding elements. We’re used to synth heavy tracks from Red Velvet so it’s great to hear something with the same energy but not synthetic. The horns especially create this unique vibe thanks to being so fun and spontaneous.

Also on KultScene: 9 Things I Learned While On Tour With GOT7

The large number of producers may help cultivate the turbulent sound of Red Velvet, it would be nothing without their delivery. “Rookie” is their clear vocal highlight. It challenges the girls to swing wildly between their patented talk-singing and regular singing. The song’s structure is built around it. The verses are split into two distinct parts: Irene and Joy open up with cheeky introductions, getting us ready for the onslaught of ‘lookie lookies.’ Irene, Joy, and Yeri were made for this type of vocal play and “Rookie” really lets them shine. In the second part, Seulgi and Wendy start the actual singing and bring the details. They describe the rookie boy they are after and the effect he has on them. In a sense the almost nonsensical chorus is that effect in action. The childish repetition illustrates as Wendy sings “…Even the way I talk turns into ice when I’m front of you.”

The rapid transitions between vocals take less of a potential toll thanks to the song itself taking its time. It takes about a minute to reach the chorus from the beginning of the song. Usually this would be quite long but here it feels organic. Each new part is so filled with imaginative sounds so it never feels like you’re waiting for the chorus.

Music Video

As we’ve come to be accustomed to, with each new Red Velvet release the music video is decidedly psychedelic. “Rookie” expels the tighter, plot-like focus of “Russian Roulette” for something a bit more messy but just as weird. It takes aesthetic cues from Alice in Wonderland uses wardrobes and doors from The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe to transition between different sets. Like the song the girls can go through any door at any time, into a new exciting world. There’s a strange man made of flowers, Joy as a drug dealer, and a pull back to reveal the meta ending. Best of all is the long shot of Seulgi coming through the first door with a confused look, only to immediately find herself back in formation dancing to the chorus.

Also on KultScene: Red Velvet’s Conceptualization & Formidable Fashion

Overall Thoughts

The best thing about Red Velvet is the commitment to their concepts since debut without becoming stale. They have continually produced magnificent tracks with youthful vigour. “Rookie” especially, finds something exciting. It’s many parts are equally diverse and wonderful. To the fans who think it’s too childish, do you even know Red Velvet? This is Red Velvet at their most fervent red. It’s supposed to be wacky and hard to grasp. That’s why we love them.

What do you think of “Rookie”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Best Korean MVs of 2016

Music videos, or MVs, and K-pop are practically synonymous at this point, and it’s rare for a song to do well without an accompanying music video. Hundreds upon hundreds Korean MVs are released each year: sad ones, happy ones, indie ones, blockbuster ones, short ones, long ones, etc. There are Korean music videos that that make no sense, and ones that have the Best Plot of the Year and others that are just visually attractive. The KultScene staff saw a lot of great MVs in 2016, and we now present you with our personal favorites.

“Selfish & Beautiful Girl” by Block B BASTARZ

After a year and a half, Block B’s subgroup BASTARZ finally made a comeback. And while they released a couple of singles that didn’t really live up to last year’s hype, the music video for “Selfish & Beautiful Girl” made up for it. First off, it’s very appreciated when K-pop acts release music videos with an actual plot. Add that it’s quirky and fun, and you have a winner. Following the lyrics about a selfish girl the narrator is in a relationship with, the storyline follows this girl and how she annoys her neighbor for being unruly. She disrupts his sleep because she’s dancing to a Just Dance-like game. In this video game, the BASTARZ members are the characters, with each member representing a style in the song’s tempo change; from disco to hip-hop to pop. Moreover, the actress — bless her soul — while a bad dancer, her tattoos and piercings were a different sight for a K-pop video girl, but interesting nonetheless. In a time when all Korean music videos started to look the same thanks to many acts using the same directors, “Selfish & Beautiful Girl” found an ingenious, amusing way to follow the groove of the song perfectly.

— Alexis

“Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS

Creative director Lumpens has been working with BTS ever since their debut, but their collaboration reached its pinnacle by far with the visually pleasing and highly produced music video for “Blood Sweat & Tears.” You do not have to be an art history buff to appreciate the various nods to Michelangelo and Pieter Bruegel, of which whose sculptures and paintings all depict a fall from grace. Nor do you have to understand, or even know, Hermann Hesse’s Demian, the 1919 work that inspired their second full-length album Wings, as seen by the use of recurring bird motifs and even direct quotes from the text. Every aspect serves to further ideas of temptation, freedom, and escapism that the song and the album collectively convey, thus nothing about this six-minute music video is done out of pure aesthetics. Of course, that is also not to say that it cannot be enjoyed for face value. There’s an undeniable homoerotic subtext to the plot, which is at once political and indulgent. Other cinematographic choices, such as the various uses of crimsons and other warm hues, are jarring yet arresting. This music video successfully projects the extravagant lifestyle we all wish we had, while warning us against the dangers of seduction, overall leaving room for lots of potential analysis.

— Shelley

“Carnival (The Last Day)” by Ga-In

Like the song itself, Ga-In’s music video for “Carnival (The Last Day)” is a celebration of life and death. Approaching death in a way few artists in the world would, Ga-In and her director Han Sa Min depict a joyous while reverent look at passing. This is all seen through some of the most interesting images K-pop has ever seen, particularly Ga-In’s funeral and her angelic ascendancy during her procession. Bright pastels dominate, fireworks explode in rainbows, and Ga-In dances with her umbrella as if the all the weight has fallen from her shoulders. The melancholy only remains with the living as we see Ga-In’s former lover pay his respects. Yet, maybe it is his memories we see of their time together: even he is choosing to see the qualities of life rather than the tragedy of death.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: Top Korean Music Videos of 2015

“One of These Nights” by Red Velvet

The Korean title of Red Velvet’s first single of 2016 is “7th Day of 7th Month,” referencing the Korean lunar holiday Chilseok and its tale of separated lovers. But rather than depicting a romance-driven storyline, the music video for “One Of These Nights” is a bit of a mystery. Bright colors contrast with dreary sets, the members are surrounded and flooded by water, and there is what appears to be an ethereal, woodsy afterlife where some members don white, the traditional Asian color for post-mortem shrouds. But the video’s subtle references to 2014’s Sewol Ferry accident, which took the lives of over 100 high school students, makes “One Of These Nights” all that more poignant: references to the Sewol and the tragedy appear throughout the sets, while the five Red Velvet members appear to take on abstract portrayals of the victims and survivors. It’s an ambient, thought-provoking, and altogether beautiful work of cinematography.

— Tamar

“Hard Carry” by GOT7

The entirety of GOT7’s “Hard Carry” music video is strikingly attractive; from Jackson’s sleeveless outfits and quick one-two, his “let me just casually lift up my shirt” scene at the beginning, to a white room filled with lively green (and not so lively brown) pine trees. Even when it was dark and you could barely see the members faces and all that is visible is the fire lit up behind them, it’s visually appealing. No to mention the neon lights during the dance scenes are captivating. Overall, the videography, combined with the meaning of the lyrics, portrays the effort one must take to “carry” the team, as seen in the the scene where all the members dive into the water in order to “save” Jinyoung. However, more than being solely visually attractive, the music video together with how they employed the lyrics into the theme is a proper representation of what GOT7 is all about: teamwork, helping each other out to strive collectively.

— Tam

“11:11” by Taeyeon”

While not the regular dance-visual overload that K-pop fans are used to, Taeyeon’s “11:11” succeeds at quite the opposite — fitting the somber, sentimental nature of the song perfectly. Shots of Taeyeon and her anonymous significant-other are filmed beautifully against fading sunlight, flashing lights, or pale white walls. They accurately frame the song’s sentiments, which deal with the end of a relationship. The song’s warm, delicate nature is captured perfectly by frames of Taeyeon sleeping in a thick white sweater, or laying in a fluffy king-sized mattress sprawled out next to the waves. Along with “Rain,” “11:11” seeks to alter Taeyeon’s image. Instead of group-leader dance-pop star, Taeyeon is now a serious, musically-oriented soloist, and one of Korea’s most successful at that. With its autumnal color scheme and brilliant visuals, “11:11” depicts both Taeyeon and the emotional impact of a breakup in a creative and memorable way.

— Kushal

“Décalcomanie” by MAMAMOO

If Zanybros are producing a music video, you know you’re in for an optical treat. MAMAMOO’s video for “Décalcomanie” is visually stunning and tastefully (considering the edited version and not the original) done, considering the video is full of visual metaphors for a woman coming into her sexuality. The girls start off being attracted to the man in their respective scenes, and as the desire between both of them grows, they kiss and then… fruits explode (if you don’t understand that metaphor, you can ask your parents). The girls untie their blindfolds to symbolize loss of innocence or coming to fully see/understand their desires and feelings. The mirror scenes and the mirrored images also play a nice homage to the title of the song, which is the French word for a technique that transfers an image or pattern from one medium to another. In other words, imprinting on another or making a copy. Aside from the bit of controversy that surrounded the original version, which resulted in a horrific scene depicting sexual assault getting removed from the music video, the video for “Décalcomanie” shows off the group’s femme fatale concept that they wanted to portray.

— Katherine

“I Am You, You Are Me” by Zico

Known to be a hard-hitting rapper, Zico ventured this year into R&B ballads and showcased his vocalist chops by releasing “I Am You, You Are Me” at the beginning of the year. So what called for this unforeseeable change in style and concept? Love. Love turns the bad boy into a good guy. Right off the bat in his first verse after the opening chorus, Zico sings I only ever listened to hip-hop/Now I’ve turned acoustic, setting the tone for the song. “I Am You, You Are Me” is about being in the lovey-dovey phase in a relationship when the couple starts emulating each other. The music video, in brief, is aesthetics galore. Zico displayed his trendy and colorful style, and in order to go with the theme of the song, the lead actress dressed exactly the same or similarly to the rapper to equate how they mirror each other. The setting, a convenience store, allowed a beautifully diverse color palette in the photography, from pastels to neons to neutrals. The overall aesthetics of the music video — dreamy with an electric tinge — paired perfectly with the equally tender yet lustful song. Not so tough now, right, cookie?

— Alexis

“Secret” by Cosmic Girls

Recently directors have been getting better at making the standard idols sing and dance towards camera in pretty settings more interesting while not losing the essence of that. Kim Zi Yong in particular has been great at this thanks to his visual effects skills. His highlight in K-pop is clearly “Secret” by Cosmic Girls. The video shows the 12 original members summoning new member Yeon Jung in their own unique ways. The quality of animation and sense of scale Kim brings to it is the best of the year and a quality befitting these otherworldly girls. Not to mention it’s drop dead gorgeous at every turn. Also, I’m sure everyone can agree that the shot of Cheng Xiao growing her wings is the coolest thing ever.

— Joe

“Re-Bye” by Akdong Musician

The dramatic “Re-Bye” music video by Akdong Musician, or Akmu, as they’re known, is a fun film-noir music video that fits the pair’s theatrical melody. In a year when many Korean music videos seemed to be lacking true plots in favor of seeming more avant-garde, “Re-Bye” fits a murder-mystery into its four-minute music video with an old-school flair. It’s a bit Sherlock Holmes meets Baz Luhrmann both in plot and color palette– they may as well have been singing the “Elephant Love Song Medley” from Moulin Rouge— and it’s absolutely delightful to watch. The sibling duo is supremely talented as musicians, but their youthful quirkiness in music videos like “Re-Bye” adds another element to their appeal.

— Tamar

“Skydive” by B.A.P

Who needs James Bond or a Quentin Tarantino film when you can watch a B.A.P’s blockbuster-like 10 minute music video for “Skydive?” The members gave subtle hints on their social media platforms and in their individual teasers prior the release that this music video was going to be the most intense music video, if not even more intense than their 2013 video for “One Shot,” they’ve ever done. That within itself was enough to have all their fans, known as Babyz, on edge because, really, what can be more extreme and vivid than the members engaged in a robbery, shoot out with some thugs, and then the sudden betrayal? “Skydive” not only incorporated yet another robbery, but an all ARMED robbery, with shots ringing left and right 35 seconds in. There’s a kidnapping/hostage situation, murder, and, yes, even more betrayal than the first time around! The anticipation was nonstop, every second of this video had one gasping for air. Because it was constantly scene after epic scene, you’d probably have to watch it several times to fully grasp each and every detail and hints that would later on give away the true culprit. This music video could’ve gone all sorts of wrong, but due to the amazingly shot cinematography and the members superb acting, “Skydive” was totally badass.

— Tam

“One More Day” by Sistar

SISTAR made a risky move with the music video for “One More Day,” their collaboration with Europop songwriter and producer Giorgio Moroder. Not only did the quartet not appear in the video, but the video’s protagonists were two female lovers, and the plot touched upon abuse. Now this may not be a big thing in Western cultures, where LGBTQ+ are somewhat prominent in entertainment and lifestyles, but in South Korea, the majority of the population still consider it a taboo subject. Now the fact that the female leads kill the abusive boyfriend may not be the best representation of the LGBTQ community, it does portray the love story in a dramatic matter and the dangers of an abusive relationship.

— Katherine

“Cheer Up” by TWICE

It’s no secret that TWICE dominated 2016, from album sales to song popularity and everything in between. They even topped our best Korean songs of 2016 list. But what is the source of their success — how did TWICE become the dominating girl group of 2016? At least in my opinion, it’s their music videos. From Jihyo’s cheerleader character to Chaeyoung’s cowboy outfits, the “Cheer Up” music video worked to create vibrant and colorful characters for each member, establishing each one as unique and worthy of individual attention within the larger group framework. With the music video’s changing lenses, there’s something for everyone — Dahyun is poised and regal, Tzuyu is beautiful and elegant, and Momo is badass and sexy, just to give a few examples. The creative direction of this music video highlights TWICE’s biggest strength as a group — personality. The “Cheer Up” music video sent the K-pop world a message loud and clear: TWICE, in all their beauty and stage personality, is here to dominate. And in 2016, they certainly did.

— Kushal

“Forest of Skyscrapers” by Neon Bunny

The only indie artist on our list this year (despite being a more well-known one), Neon Bunny clearly had an advantage when it comes to what she can depict. Given more time and presumably more freedom, director Kim Zi Yong delivered another video for the ages with “Forest of Skyscrapers.” They brought together a number of cinematic influences to comment on modern South Korea’s stagnant population. The sprawling neon cities of Akira and the ephemeral love stories of Wong Kar Wai come to mind as Seoulites try to navigate their lives. It suggests a sort of confusion, a literal kaleidoscope of colours and mind-numbing visuals. However hard they try to get away, speeding down highways on a motorbike, it seems impossible. The irrefutable pull of the neon monolith is punishing.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: Music Video Director Ian Gallagher on Working with Neon Bunny, Co-Directing WINNER

“Fantasy” by Fei

Torn between innocent and hypersexualized, K-pop idol stars are essentially built to fulfill audiences every “Fantasy” through their music videos and performances. 2016 outed Korean pop stars, or idols, as a “healthy” form of pornography, but nobody took it as far as Fei of miss A, who appears in her music video as a virtual peep show dancer. Her blatant, slightly shocking, approach to the topic of sexualizing women comes across as refreshing in an industry that makes numerous attempts to cover up the maturity of its stars. The music video for “Fantasy” is overtly sexual throughout, literally turning Fei into the object of desire for a male viewer, and things get all that much more interesting when virtual Fei comes to life, strips, and takes things to the next level just as the screen cuts to the title card. The video for “Fantasy” is beautifully shot, extremely sultry, and subversive of the industry’s narrative towards female stars.

— Tamar

“Emptiness” by MADTOWN

MADTOWN made an expected (but delightful) change by switching up their music styling and concept when the group released a rather mellow, mid-tempo ballad paired with the chic black and white music video for “Emptiness.” It showcased a tranquil and melancholic atmosphere, the polar opposite from the swaggy and high energy we’ve seen from the group in past videos. In order to match the song’s delicate melody, the music video was muted down a bit, hence the simplistic, clean choreography. MADTOWN’s elegant portrayal of their moments of despair and grief can lead the viewers to suddenly feeling the anguish and sorrow themselves, even if they were feeling happy go lucky prior to watching “Emptiness.” There are moments during the music video that makes one want to clench their chest, due to a sudden surge of heartache. It’s dramatic, but that’s just the effect of the music video.

— Tam

“The Eye” by INFINITE

When you’re preparing to watch an INFINITE music video, there are a few things you can be sure to look forward to: a whole lot of drama and a totally awesome dance break thrown in for good measure. The lyrics of the song suggest that a painful memory (of someone) is trapping the members like a hurricane (or “Typhoon,” as the Korean in the title suggests). And when they think they found peace, they are right in the eye of the storm, still surrounded by the painful memories. The video takes it to another level: L appears in a depressed or dire situation and is then transported to a state between realities where he is confronted by the other members who all represent different emotions. When each member interacts with L (who represents Sadness), the action represents him going through that emotion: Hoya represents Hate and aggressively pushes L, then turns into Woohyun, who represents Regret. All of this happens while L is moving towards a light, which may or may not represent death. In the end, L has the courage and resolve to return back to his reality and live. Director Hwang Soo Ah does a great job creating a complex, philosophical, and intriguing plot that keeps the viewers invested till the very end.

— Katherine

“All In” by Monsta X

Monsta X’s “All In” did wonders for the group in many ways, enabling the group to diversify their hackneyed hip-hop concept. With the music video, the septet deviated away from dance-based music videos to one with actual substance and narratives. Opening with the dystopian ending scene in which the members seem to be either running to or away from something, the video employs a nonlinear mode of storytelling that was not present in their previous videos. Admittedly, because the music video also deals with two storylines — one feautring Shownu and one surrounding Hyungwon and Minhyuk — it is very easy to miss certain nuances upon initial viewing. But even after watching it for the nth time, gleaning for said nuances, we cannot guarantee that all our questions will have an answer. The biggest mystery probably is the one surrounding the relationship between Minhyuk and Hyungwon’s characters, who mutually exhibit homoerotic tendencies especially towards the end in which Minhyuk drowns himself in the tub with Hyungwon while holding hands. The beauty of it all is exactly how director Dee Shin leaves many threads up for interpretation, allowing fans to engage in open-ended discourse and conjecture theories of their own. It’s been a rather popular form of storytelling as of late in K-pop, but is still nevertheless engaging and effective.

— Shelley

“Whistle” by BlackPink

With colorful settings, bright outfits, and memorable choreography, BlackPink‘s “Whistle” stood out in its ability to quickly establish the new group’s personality and musical style. Taking after their YG predecessors 2NE1 and BIGBANG, BlackPink quickly utilizes edgy and eye-popping visuals — Rosé casually sitting on both the Earth and cars buried in sand, Jisoo sitting cross-legged in the middle of three open doorways, Lisa’s hot pink turtle-neck contrasting with her blonde-blue hair — to make the group seem hardcore but also personable. Not to mention, clips of the group driving a car in circles wearing bandanas and baseball caps serve as the video’s main recurring visual element, further establishing the fun badassery concept. And, unlike other girl group music videos this year, “Whistle” boasts a notable lack of smiling, a subtle yet incredibly important aspect of the video. The group instead focuses on giving us the edgy smolder or mischievous glance, once again reinforcing the group’s personality in every closeup shot. The “Whistle” music video clearly sets BlackPink up for success — it sends the immediate message that, if you liked any of the edgier girl groups of K-pop eras past, you’ll love BlackPink just as much.

— Kushal

“The One” by EXO-CBX

Though technically not a music video for whatever reason — SM Entertainment prefers the term “special clip” — EXO-CBX’s music video for “The One” is just too golden not to include on the list. For the first time in an EXO production, the boys, or at least Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin, are able to show a different, more silly side to them as they dress up in ridiculous, mismatched clothes and act foolish. EXO’s leader Suho makes a cute cameo as well, filling in for just about every role from Yakult vendor to sanitation worker. Unfortunately, SM missed an opportune moment to cast him as the female love interest as well, which would have given the video a bit more cohesion. Nevertheless, everything about this is still hilariously good fun, and none of the humor comes off forced. At times, Suho even seems like he is going to burst out laughing himself. The video milks the comedy until the very end, where it cuts the accompanying music off before letting it finish completely, leaving a dancing Chen to sing alone and shifting the camera angle to make it seem like we were filming them the entire time. EXO-CBX’s “The One” is just the personal and playful break from the usual self-serious routine that they, and we, all need.

— Shelley

“Hold My Hand” by Lee Hi

While musically we didn’t get exactly what we wanted from Lee Hi’s much awaited comeback, the music video for “Hold My Hand” was near perfection. The aesthetic of the music video was a kawaii explosion, and a beautiful one at that. The pastel color palette, together with the 8-bit graphics, tied in perfectly with the romance and dreaminess of the song and lyrics. It’s all too sweet — just as Lee’s serenade. Plus, the inclusion of her doo-wop backup singers as her side kicks were a cute, quirky touch. Bright, multi color music videos have been a trend for quite some time now (thanks, Digipedi), but “Hold My Hand” managed to give something tried a lovely spin. From Lee holding hands with the camera to the styling to the real and 8-bit backgrounds, it all comes together to create this delightful, little heart skip that makes us all feel young and in love again.

— Alexis

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

The K-Pop Phoenix: The New Generation of Girl Groups

Girl Groups

K-pop is one of the fastest-changing industries known to man, woman, fanboy, and fangirl alike. Just think about it: two years ago, MAMAMOO’s derpy quirks, Sana’s “Shashasha” and GFriend’s stage falls were almost or entirely unknown to the public, Korean or international. But fast forward a few debuts and comebacks later, and the world of K-pop has changed immensely. I recently explained why the Second Generation of K-pop Girl Groups is slowly (and painfully) falling apart. And now, some seven or eight years since the fateful debut stages of legends like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1, the New Generation of Girl Groups is here carry the torch forward.

The advent of a new generation is pretty exciting — it essentially only happens once every few years when a wave of popular girl groups hits the scene around the same time. Starting in the late 1990s, the First Generation consisted of groups like S.E.S, Fin.K.L, and Baby V.O.X. It was about ten years until the Second Generation came around, with Girls’ Generation, KARA, Wonder Girls in 2007, joined by 2NE1, SISTAR, 4Minute and more in 2009-10. Now, we finally see the Third Generation, starting with MAMAMOO and Red Velvet 2014 and joined by TWICE and GFriend in 2015. The exact breakdown and timing of the Generations is something commonly debated by K-pop fans (and believing it breaks down differently than I described is totally cool, too), but it’s pretty clear that, regardless of how you define the generations, a new wave has come to dominate K-pop post-2014.

While our past faves may be beginning to fade, the K-pop phoenix is reborn again with the advent of the Third Generation. And the new groups both parallel and differ from their predecessors immensely. Let’s take a closer look at four of K-pop’s newer stars, and see how they stack up next to top Second Gen groups SISTAR, f(x), 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation.

Also on KultScene: Intro to Red Velvet

SISTAR has quite a reputation in the K-pop world. With unforgettable hit-after-hit, the four member act has asserted its place among girl group royalty since their debut in 2010. Most notably, SISTAR is known for their memorable hook songs, which tend to define an entire season of the year. They are affectionately considered the Queens of Summer Bops, launching 2012’s “Loving U,” 2013’s “Give It to Me,” 2014’s “Touch My Body, ”and 2015’s “Shake It” to the number-one spot on the Korean charts every summer. And, as this is being written, the group’s latest release “I Like That” inches closer and closer to a perfect all-kill as well. Few groups have been able to cultivate such a long string of hits. [ed note. It is currently within the top 5 on numerous Korean music charts.] With so much public recognition for their songs, SISTAR has one considerable weakness in the spectrum of girl group success: fandom strength. Since the group is so known for its public popularity, it lacks a strong fandom to buy up albums and sell-out concerts when the chance comes around.

Sistar and Gfriend

GFriend, a six-member girl group debuted only last year, boasts a similar situation. So early into the game, the group has two very well-known songs: the cute, catchy and stage-fall inducing “Me Gustas Tu,” and the intense and memorable mega-hit “Rough,” which dominated charts early this year, becoming February’s monthly number one song against frighteningly powerful artists like Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation, who released her single “Rain” around the same time. Digitally, GFriend shows a lot of potential, and boasts a lot of public popularity and recognition as well. While they are quickly being noticed as a top girl group, GFriend isn’t exactly known for having a huge domestic or international fandom. While this could definitely change in coming years, and the groups are stylistically and musically very different, GFriend seems to line up with SISTAR’s legacy right now — captivating the public with a stellar title track and leaving the albums to a small, dedicated group of fans.

Like SISTAR, f(x) is one of K-pop’s Second Gen giants, but for a different reason. While SISTAR is more public-friendly and promotes music that people can quickly find fun and engaging, f(x) is known for an experimental style, bringing in exotic musical styles that are less familiar to the Korean crowd. They brought some alternative electronic with “Rum Pum Pum Pum” in 2013, EDM with “Red Light” in 2014, and house with “4 Walls” last year. The now four-member group has introduced and familiarized diverse musical styles among the South Korean music scene. For a K-pop girl group, it’s pretty impressive that they’ve maintained relevance for so long even though their songs aren’t the most public-friendly off the bat. The SM-produced group also has a huge fandom behind it, as albums regularly sell in excess of 80,000 copies and concerts quickly sell out.

f(x) and Red Velvet

And as f(x) enters its later years (it’s now been about seven years since their debut), labelmates Red Velvet are poised to follow in their footsteps. With distinct R&B, alternative and electronic influences, Red Velvet has become one of K-pop’s newest jewels, with multiple top 10 singles “Happiness,” “Ice Cream Cake,” “Dumb Dumb” and, most recently, “One of These Nights.” With a very distinct and eclectic musical style, Red Velvet sets itself apart and succeeds. Much like f(x), Red Velvet has established a unique musical color with a strong fandom behind it, as their two mini-albums and studio album have all topped album charts and sold about 50,000 copies, much more than other girl groups at the moment.

Now we get to the really big leagues — digital and talent monster groups with strong domestic and international fandoms. With the most number-one singles of any act in South Korean history, 2NE1 is exactly that. Iconic hit after iconic hit, the group was known since 2009 for promoting multiple singles from the same album (something very rare in K-pop, but typical of YG groups), and succeeding with each and every one of them. Since their debut in 2009, 2NE1 have launched immensely successful songs to the forefront of K-pop trends, starting with their debut single “Fire,” is one of the best-selling songs of all-time in South Korea. To date, the group has never promoted a single that charted below number four on weekly charts (that totals to seventeen top-four songs), and consistently sold albums into the 100,000s. They are also the only of K-pop’s girl groups to complete two full world tours, demonstrating their fandom power both within and outside of Korea.

2NE1 and Mamamoo

While a stylistic 180 from 2NE1, MAMAMOO aligns most closely with where 2NE1 stood in the K-pop world a few years ago. With a similar four-member structure and powerful vocals, rap and dance, MAMAMOO has the incredible stage presence, talent and personality that made 2NE1 so successful to begin with. The group already has two top-three singles “Um Oh Ah Yeh” and most recently, “You’re the Best,” and MAMAMOO is known particularly for having a large and supportive fanbase. While Daum Fancafe isn’t always the best metric to determine how many fans a group has, the numbers tell us something interesting here: MAMAMOO currently has about 75,000 members in their fancafe and counting. They were the fastest girl group to 50,000, and their numbers exceed other majorly successful girl groups including AOA, 9MUSES, f(x), and even 2NE1. Going off of that, all 8,200 tickets to their first solo concert sold out in only one minute. And considering that 80% of the ticket sales were to female fans, the group is definitely finding its place as 2NE1’s successor.

There are, however, some major differences. While 2NE1 went for badass electronic pop music, MAMAMOO is one of K-pop’s only jazz-influenced pop groups, bringing in some of those elements in “Mr. Ambiguous” and “Piano Man.” The group also regularly performs on shows like “Immortal Song” and makes appearances on varieties like “We Got Married,” something 2NE1 rarely did (another YG custom). With impressive talent and stage presence, MAMAMOO is all set to rise up in the Third Generation of K-pop, just as 2NE1 did in the Second.

Last but the opposite of least, Girls’ Generation epitomizes what it means to be a successful girl group in Korea. With nationwide public recognition, a frighteningly large fandom, international acclaim, and strong digital sales, the group definitely led the Second Generation. Once GG made it big in 2009 with iconic title track “Gee,” no one stood a chance against them in the fight for the number-one spot among girl groups. From Korea to Japan, Girls’ Generation has become a household name and a nationwide craze. Speaking of Japan, GG was arguably the most successful Korean girl group there, as their debut Japanese album sold a whopping 870,000 copies. Even the Korean version of their 2011 album The Boys sold 140,000 copies in Japan — yes, the Korean version — not to mention over 450,000 album sales within Korea itself. As we can tell, it’s pretty hard to live up to a monster girl group like GG. So who is the ringleader of the Third Generation?

Right now, it seems to be none other than JYP Entertainment’s TWICE. Right off the bat, the groups are structurally similar — three strong vocals (Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun line up with Jihyo, Nayeon and Jungyeon), a visual center (Yoona lines up with Tzuyu), an aegyo-centric attention-grabber (Sunny lines up with Sana) and a strong dance line (Sooyoung, Yuri and Hyoyeon line up with Mina, Tzuyu and Momo). The groups also wield a similar, glamorous girl-next-door vibe, looking for love and accessing their femininity. TWICE’s success is comparable as well — in fact, they are the only girl group other than Girls’ Generation to have an album selling above the hundred-thousand mark, which their most recent mini-album Page Two did very quickly. Along with a fierce fandom, TWICE’s digital sales are nothing to laugh at, either. After two months, “Cheer Up” still remains in the top ten of most charts, which is an incredible success in the K-pop world.

Also on KultScene: Let’s Discover: Mamamoo

Going off of these facts and stats, some have been quick to call TWICE an SNSD-copy, trying to emulate their success by emulating the group itself. The differences between the groups, however, throw this accusation right out the window. While TWICE may have successfully become the Third Generation frontrunner for having a similar vibe as SNSD, they definitely aren’t the same. The most glaring is the member dynamic — while Girls’ Generation is all Korean or Korean-American, TWICE has five Korean members, three Japanese, and one Taiwanese, making international expansion that much more logical and accessible for the group. Dahyun and Chaeyoung also serve the roles of Lead and Main Rapper, respectively, which are positions that weren’t very defined at GG’s debut. TWICE title tracks also deviate incredibly from the GG mold as well, employing diverse vocals, rhythm-changes and instrumentalism that GG’s more musically homogeneous tracks don’t use.

Girls' Generation and Twice

Fundamentally, all of these groups show similarities to their predecessors, but the differences make it clear that K-pop isn’t simply repeating itself with the Third Generation. Our Second Gen faves aren’t being replaced and forgotten. Instead, they’re being honored and built upon with new sounds and ideas. Such is the nature of the K-pop phoenix — not only being reborn again, but also with new talents, music and charms to share with the world, learning from past mistakes and successes. As the girl group landscape changes yet again, we can only hope that our new faves become just as well liked as the ones before them, and carrying the K-pop legacy forward for the man, woman, fanboy, and fangirl alike to enjoy.

Who are your Third Generation faves? 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.

Two Years Later Sewol Ferry Accident Still Resonates in K-Pop Memory

Sewol Wendy Red Velvet

April 16 marks the second anniversary of the Sewol Ferry catastrophe that resulted in the death of 304 people and sparked introspection of South Korea’s socio-political society. While two years have passed since the sinking, the pain is still raw and many South Koreans continue to demand recognition for what is perceived as an avoidable accident that took the lives of hundreds, many of whom were students at Danwan High School. The effect of any tragedy on art is profound but it’s particularly striking that fans are looking towards K-pop, a musical style that is often perceived as artistically shallow, to find some connection to the youth who passed away during the Sewol ferry’s sinking.

Just as media often reflects current events, K-pop and the general Korean entertainment industry are also still recoiling from the haunting event. While K-pop took a break once to remember those lost, now many Korean songs are being interpreted as memorials dedicated to the Sewol Ferry victims. As K-pop continues to develop into a more mature brand, audiences seek to find a deeper meaning in the musical releases of Korean pop culture. Red Velvet, INFINITE’s Kim Sungkyu, and Block B’s Zico are just a few of the K-pop acts who have been connected to the sinking.

Back in 2014, the entire South Korean entertainment world came to a halt following the tragedy. South Korea’s confucian, communal heritage came to light internationally for the first time in several years during the situation as the entire country came together to commemorate the accident. For more than a month, the Korean pop culture world creeped along trying not to break the tense situation nationwide with what would be deemed inappropriate during a time of mourning. The industry came to a stand still, with few television stations running their normal programming and other forms of entertainment putting off plans; between Block B’s release of “Jackpot” on April 14 and EXO reawakening K-pop on May 7 with “Overdose,” there was no mainstream K-pop music put out because the industry had come to a halt out of respect to the victims and their mourners.

Also on KultScene: Reading The Political Signs of ‘Descendants of the Sun’

After life returned to relative normality in South Korea and as the country demanded answers to difficult questions, Korean pop culture still retained its connection to the tragedy. As one of the most defining events in the past few years of South Korean history and an incident that particularly struck young adults, the Sewol accident appears to be rearing its head in a variety of places. While some instances of commemoration were intentional, other instances appear to be coincidences that were discovered by South Koreans still struggling with the horror of what happened on April 14, 2014 as they look for meaning in the art.

Red Velvet “One Of These Nights”

With recurrent water motifs, Red Velvet’s latest concept demands a further look. The song, ostensibly about lovers separation and longing, features a music video that shows the five members of Red Velvet in a variety of scenes that fans thought were meant to symbolize the Sewol Ferry’s sinking and the ones they left behind. Fans drew together a variety of ideas relating the music video concept to Sewol, beginning with the concept pictures which featured paper boats, similar to ones used to commemorate the deceased.

Throughout the music video, the members are seen in a variety of scenes surrounded by water; Joy is perceived as a survivor as she alone climbs away, up a ladder. Wendy, soaking wet, climbs under a table as a representation of the children stuck on the boat who crawled. There are also scenes filmed in a hallway that appears similar to that of those on boats, and a sign with the words “AIS on 15-16.” The AIS, or the Automatic Identification System that helps track ships, aboard the Sewol ferry is suspected of not having functioned properly on April 15 and 16.

To further the idea, Joy is the sole member who wears yellow, the color of the ribbons that memorialize the Sewol Ferry victims, while the other members wear white hooded outfits. In traditional Korean culture, white represents death. Joy sings the haunting line, “It’s okay if I see you in my dreams, so let’s meet again” as the rest of the members disappear into darkness.

Neither Red Velvet nor SM Entertainment, the group’s company, commented on the perceived connections, but the abundance of imagery (especially the AIS sign) makes it very plausible that “One of These Nights” was purposely a memorial to Sewol’s victims.

Sungkyu “Kontrol”

The plot of the music video for “Kontrol” features Sungkyu searching for his younger sister and remembering how they lived happily together while creating a home in an alleyway. Yellow ribbons and life jackets also appear in the short video, leading to fan speculation that that video was somehow related to those who who perished aboard the Sewol ferry.

Like “One of These Nights,” there is an ample amount of water imagery, but “Kontrol” also features the passing of first the girl and then Sungkyu followed by the two of them finding one another in heaven while she is soaking wet, alluding to drowning. Throughout the music video, Sungkyu remembers the pair’s happier times together while wandering alone before presumably walking in front of a car. At the end, Sungkyu gives his sister a small plastic house in a toy to symbolize the home that they, and the students aboard the ferry, once had no longer return to.

Some interpreted the song’s title as condemnation towards the crewmembers and adults who were in charge who took control improperly of the sinking, leading to unnecessary loss of life.

Although Red Velvet have remained quiet about the alleged connection, Sungkyu publicly revealed that the deeper meaning had not been intended but that there are different ways to interpret any sort of art.

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The Ark “The Light

Like the aforementioned songs, the debut song of (reportedly disbanded) The Ark was released only a few days before the first anniversary of the Sewol disaster. The heart wrenching music video features the loving relationship of a mother and a daughter, and the tragic moment when the mother discovers through a news report that her daughter died in an accident. Although the music video featured a bus accident as the cause of death, the timing of the video’s release and the depiction of a parent sending her daughter on a school trip draws on the emotions connected with Sewol.

Zico “Tough Cookie” & “Well Done” feat. Ja Mezz

Block B, the only K-pop group to release a song the day of the tragic event, has a particular connection to the sinking and Zico took the event and immortalized it with these songs. While the previous songs mentioned in this piece all require speculation to make a connection between Sewol and the music or music videos, Zico made it extremely clear that his songs “Well Done” and “Tough Cookie” were dedicated to Sewol’s victims. Both songs have run times of four minutes and 16 seconds, symbolizing April 16. Prior to the release of both, Zico tweeted about the time codes so that fans were aware of his song’s created as memorials.

Zico also commemorated a Block B fan lost at Sewol by attending her funeral and dedicating a rap to her at a concert she had planned to attend prior to her passing.

Are there any other references to the Sewol Ferry you know of? 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.

The Hallyu Attorney: Entertainment Lawyer David Kim Talks About New Media, K-Pop & More

Untitled design-2

New media emerges so quickly that copyright and liability laws continue to be reframed to fit the evolving scene; it’s not easy to decide what’s considered fair use and what’s copyright infringement in media that didn’t exist 10 years or even 10 weeks ago. The question is always out there and the landscape of entertainment law that is here today may be changed tomorrow. When we think about transnational media laws, particularly in regards to K-pop and other pop culture exports that surpass national boundaries, there’s a bit of a juggling act going on. Luckily, that’s what people like David Kim are for.

Los Angeles based entertainment attorney, actor, and musician David Yung Ho Kim is often asked for his advice on the evolving legal ramifications of new media. It’s a large part of what he does for legal practice, The Hollywood Lawyer, which focuses on film, television, music, licensing, new media, and talent representation.

Yet Kim might never have been a lawyer had his father not insisted. “He sat my brother and me down,” said Kim over the phone. “He told my brother, you be a doctor. Then he said, You be a lawyer.” At the time Kim was more interested in politics and entertainment, so he hoped for a way to combine law with his interests. However, he knew he did not want to work in Washington, D.C., where the world of politics would take him.

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After graduating from University of California, Berkeley, with cum laude honors, he studied law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. Then he practiced law in a variety of capacities, including serving at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, working at JYP USA, and in the Business and Legal Affairs Division of CJ Entertainment America. After serving as in-house legal counsel for an LA-based talent management and film production company, Kim launched The Hollywood Lawyer.

“I thought, I could do this on my own, so I started my own entertainment practice,” he said. Established less than two years ago, the practice currently employs two other attorneys and two support staff. “The entertainment part happened because I already had friends in the Korean entertainment industry, singers, and actors,” said Kim. “I ended up doing their legal work as well. Everything aligned and in a way I became the go-to-guy for Korean entertainment stuff in LA.”

Kim was prepared for the legal challenges posed by new media. After working as a research assistant to Professor Robert Brauneis, a scholar in the area of copyright and trademark law, Kim was well versed in intellectual property rights. He also had friends working in digital media. “They would occasionally ask me questions about their entertainment contracts and other legal issues related to their careers and I thought this could be another practice,” said Kim.

Copyright law is not only about major entertainment companies cracking down on singers making cover songs on YouTube. It’s also about protecting independent artists from having their rights infringed in a variety of media. “If you’re not a big studio and not a big production company, independent creatives get their stuff ripped off. There’s so much content out there now. It’s hard to keep tabs on each and every piece. We are in an age of content explosion. It’s hard to monitor what’s being infringed on and what’s original.”

But as many copyright questions as digital technology raises, Kim agrees that it helped make the Hallyu an international phenomenon. “It definitely worked to K-pop’s advantage,” he said. “When the Wonder Girls went on Youtube [in 2009], it was on its ascent. You might visit any random Asian country and everyone would know who the Wonder Girls were. Technology solidified K-pop’s presence in Asia.”

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Timing also has something to do with the promotion of Hallyu. “Any other country could have done it but I feel like the timing was perfect,” said Kim. “K-pop found its niche. Other countries in Asia were not producing so much of their own content so Korean content exploded in popularity. They wanted the music and the dramas. At the same time there was a digital explosion as well in the U.S. but because there was already so much content being produced in the U.S., Korean content did not enter the market as strongly here as it did in Asia.”

But the time for the Hallyu to conquer the U.S. may soon be approaching. “It’s all in the timing,” said Kim. “Psy may have been a flash in the pan, but recently America has slowly become aware of the fact that its content is a little too homogeneous. Consumers are looking for something different, something that is new and hip. Yes, Girls’ Generation appeared on David Letterman [in 2012]. Yes, Stephen Colbert did his “Rain!!!!” thing [in 2007] and yeah, that was funny, but the timing wasn’t right. Now is the perfect time. America is ready to connect with the Hallyu as long as the Hallyu can connect with American culture.”

The same weekend that this interview took place, American late night talk show host Conan O’Brien and Korean-American actor Steven Yeun took part in a k-pop video with J.Y. Park. Within three days that video received over one million hits.

Kim is a K-pop fan, citing Red Velvet as one of his favorite new groups although he says he tends to prefer iconic kpop acts such as SS501. And although he started watching dramas with his family at the age of six, these days he rarely has time to indulge in a marathon. Every now and then someone tells him he must watch a drama and he gives in. The last one he saw was “You Who Came From The Stars” and before that it was “My Lovely Kim Sam Soon.” “They’re very addictive,” he said.

Although the past few years have seen several K-dramas optioned for U.S. adaptation, Kim suggests that they may require significant alteration to appeal to a wider U.S. audience. “Korean variety shows have a better chance being adapted for over here,” he said. “Even among my clients, some players in the industry are carefully watching the Korean entertainment industry now and have variety shows in development. Dramas and sitcoms do have cultural elements embedded in them and it would be a little harder for U.S. audiences to connect with them, but who knows?”

Besides his busy law practice, Kim is also an actor and a musician. He’s landed a few acting gigs, some commercials, but he’s still a Hollywood hopeful. “I’m waiting to snag a regular role,” said Kim. Fortunately, he won’t have to wait tables while going on auditions.

What do you think about the complexities of international law and K-pop? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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


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

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

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

— Anna

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

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

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

— Joe

3. KNK’s “Knock” (released March 2)

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

— Alexis

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

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


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Top 30 Korean B-Sides of 2015

top best korean kpop b sides album cuts 2015

2015 is the year that could do little wrong when it came to Korean music, and just when KultScene’s staff thought we were done adoring songs from last year, we decided it was time to single out our favorite non-singles. The list, compiled by several members of our staff, takes into account personal taste and the overall quality of songs as we strive to highlight the overlooked B-sides from some of K-pop’s best albums.

30. Infinite – “Between Me And You”

Undoubtedly one of Infinite’s best ballads to date is “Between Me And You,” a song that allows all the members to show off their extremely emotive vocals. Less vocally impressive members, such as Sungyeol and Sungjong, held their own in this track and showed how much they improved since their last album. Unlike most ballads, this song didn’t get boring, mostly because of the drum beat that was present throughout the song and the passionate raps provided by members Dongwoo and Hoya. This track proved that Infinite is more than just a dance group as the members showed off their great vocal talent, revealing that Infinite still has a lot of potential to grow.

29. Red Velvet – “Lady’s Room”

You honestly cannot find a cuter song than “Lady’s Room” on Red Velvet’s stand out album “The Red.” The song is about friends opening up about the boys that they like, talking together in the “Lady’s Room,” and overall enjoying the company of one another. It’s perfect for Red Velvet’s fresh and youthful image, and the song’s composition is filled with synth undertones and absolute sweetness. It’s an adorable ultramodern take on the typical girl group pop song, with crisp vocals and playful back and forths between the members. The falsettos and harmonizations in the chorus show Red Velvet’s cohesiveness as a vocal quintet as opposed to the dance-ready choruses of many of their other songs. Seulgi’s “follow me” line is a standout favorite, but the song’s continual playing with different tones and styles is just absolutely fitting for the fun girl group known for its constant reinvention of itself.

28. TVXQ Yunho – “Komplicated”

2015 was Yunho’s time to shine. The dream-inducing rhythmic track “Komplicated” is a trip dance song that would be perfect at any club. Heavy house influences on the trippy song fit with Yunho’s vocal color and preference towards dance music. The song starts off slow with pounding beats and quieter wailing sounds before giving Yunho a moment to let his vocal color show. And then the listener is slowly drawn towards the spiraling, pounding dance breaks. The song is minimalistic with a true emphasis on the music rather than the lyrics, while still giving Yunho a chance to show why he’s considered one of K-pop’s most versatile singers. MonoTree is credited with editing the warped vocals on “Komplicated,” and he’s done an absolutely phenomenal job creating one of K-pop’s best house songs of the year.

27. Shinhwa – “Alright”

“Alright” has a feel-good vibe, one in which you’ll continuously find yourself twiddling your fingers and nodding your head back and forth. There’s an immense sense of sexiness that exudes from their (well) aged voices. What’s great about Shinhwa, and I say this in the most positive way, is their lack of skin exposure; their sexiness is purely in their natural charisma. The members are now well into their mid 30’s, and with that said, it’s admirable seeing them toy around with new genres of music. The incorporation of ChaCha Malone and GRAY from AOMG in composing and arranging this song, lightly sprayed a swag element to the track.

26. ToppDogg – “O.A.S.I.S”

When I think of ToppDogg, hard hitting, rap based songs like “Follow Me” come to mind, so when I first heard “O.A.S.I.S,” it was a pleasant surprise. Especially considering another artist, Crush, released his own yummy R&B song with the same title last year. But rather than being a carbon copy or a lesser version, ToppDogg’s “O.A.S.I.S” is a funky, disco-ey symphony displaying all the right sounds from the ‘70s. This track showed the boys’ versatility, how they’re not stuck in one genre and are open to more croony sounds. And even if the oasis in question is a girl, the true oasis is the song itself for being incredibly smooth and delicious to the senses.

25. GOT7 – “Put Your Hands Up”

Disguised as a party song, “Put Your Hands Up” doesn’t imply raising your arms in the air and waving them like you just don’t care. For this B-side on their “MAD” album, GOT7 play with the idea of arresting a girl who doesn’t realize they’re into her. Instead of relying on the talented vocal line, “Put Your Hands Up” is a rap-driven earworm reminiscent of their senior’s “Hands Up.” The hip-hop influence was very visible on this album, but the jumpiness and easy to follow chorus is what makes “Put Your Hands Up” super fun.

 Also on KultScene: K-Pop’s Competition: What Korea Also Listened To In 2015

24. GOT7 – “Feeling Good”

It seems as though GOT7 is all about making their listeners feel good nowadays, and it’s definitely working in their benefit! “Feeling Good” allowed members Bambam and Yugyeom, who are less likely known for their vocals, to give you a taste of their serene and soothing voices without taking the shine away from the already skilled JB, Jr., and Youngjae. “Feeling Good” is filled with charming melodies that’ll easily swoop in and wrap you up into a bundle of greasy GOT7 feels. Considering how young the group is, GOT7 certainly knows how to get your hearts fluttering with their pleasantly delicate voices and sweet compliments of one’s beauty and fullon wonderfulness. Instant swoon, is it not?

23. Kim Sungkyu – “Daydream feat. Tablo & JW”

Kim Sungkyu, the main vocalist of Infinite, released a great solo album in 2015 filled with songs of different genres, but “Daydream” was one of the standouts. Sungkyu’s calming voice along with the leveled rapping by Borderline (Tablo & JW) was perfect and created chill vibes for the whole song. Despite only having one main melodic strand, the song never got boring because of the various ways the repetitive melody was presented, a sign that shows the high production quality of this song. The emotions in the song were shown well through Sungkyu’s voice as well, which went from appropriately soft and mild to loud and full of feeling at different points in the song. It’s not a typical song to get hooked onto, but it’s definitely an earworm in its own right.

22. G.Soul – “Dirty”

Words can’t begin to express how amazingly versatile of an artist G.Soul really is. “Dirty” is different than anything that he’s done since debuting. Not only does it incorporate deep house music, but it’s also sung in English! I kept forgetting that I was actually listening to a Korean artist and not an American. The lyrics were slightly raunchy and in your face, not the norm for a number of Korean singers, but G.Soul’s always pushing different boundaries. And maybe it’s because “Dirty” was in English, but as soon as he let out that first soulful note, my heart started doing somersaults. It blows my mind as to how well he can continuously pump out all these EPs and transition from R&B to neo-soul to house music with little to none promotions and still make it all work.

21. Nine Muses – “Yes or No”

Nine Muses tried hard this year. Three albums but little to show for it in terms of success. What they do have, however, is this delicious slice of disco. “Yes or No,” for those who venture past their singles, is a song about waiting for a reply to that risky text you sent a crush. It’s a lighter look at Nine Muses. Luckily, their wide ranging vocals survive the trip and the sound here allows both high pitched and low pitched vocalists to shine. It even has an adorable Instagram video which matches nicely with the modern look at love the song gives us.

20. f(x) – “Diamond”

“Diamond” encapsulates what makes f(x)’s album cuts so good. Like many of the best songs on “Pink Tape” and “Red Light,” it starts off one way and slowly but surely becomes something completely different by the end. In this case, we start off hearing a plodding hip-hop beat, Luna’s vocals working to make it even heavier as she delivers each syllable with an assured confidence. The song is carried like this for a while longer before Luna herself turns up again to begin lifting the song off its feet. Her 30-second long pre-chorus with Krystal adds a growing sense of euphoria ready to burst after a long build up. It then drops into a fierce electro chorus. Only f(x) could carry such an array of elements in the one song and not allow it sound a mess. “Diamond” is full of surprises, each one of them a joy.

19. MFBTY – “Let It Go feat. Yoon Junhyung”

MFBTY’s “WondaLand” is a pop album unlike anything else from K-pop in recent years. Every song is different, and “Let It Go,” featuring Beast’s rapper Junhyung, doesn’t hold back. The travel-oriented tune starts off with simple enough piano tune that leads into Yoon Mirae’s English intro before turning into Tiger JK’s devil may care rap about finding happiness and throwing away burdens. Yoon Mirae picks up the song with a spitfire “f- you” rap that references Kelis’ “Milkshake” before returning to her singsong English lines. Junhyung joins the couple on the track with his own building rap. The song’s message is exciting enough, but it’s the constantly differentiating stanzas and musical styles each singer utilizes throughout the track that made us fall in love with this MFBTY hip-pop song.

18. Hyuna – “Get Outta My House feat. Kwon Jung Yeol of 10 cm”

For Hyuna’s solo work, we’ve come to expect the ultra sexualized EDM banger with a catchy chorus or hook. And that’s fine, we all grow into liking those earworms. However, for her latest solo mini album “A+,” Hyuna showed us she’s growing and exploring more sounds. The perfect example of this is “Get Outta My House,” a slow tempo almost ballad where she talk raps about kicking a guy out of her house and the relationship. Hyuna’s voice can come off nasally and borderline annoying at times. But with “Get Outta My House,” she’s finally found the right flow for her tone, which is even sexier and goes better with her overall image than what she normally does. “A+” was solid, especially coming from Hyuna. So if she continues to drop tracks like “Get Outta My House,” we might be able to fully take her seriously as a rapper.

17. EXO – “Promise (EXO 2014)”

EXO’s “Love Me Right” repackaged album definitely saved the best for last. Closing the group’s second studio album is “Promise (EXO 2014),” a track that is as poignant as it for the members as it is for the fans. Firstly, member Lay helped compose and write the lyrics for both the Chinese and Korean versions, while members Chen and Chanyeol participated in the lyric-writing of the latter, giving the song a great deal of personal meaning. The alternate title “EXO 2014” emphasizes the importance that the year 2014 was for the boy group, and it’s not difficult to figure out why. It alludes to former Chinese members Kris and Luhan’s departure, and as if that is not depressing enough the funereal piano melody and string sections only makes listeners feel worse. But this is not what the group wants us to take away from the sentimental track. Despite all the trials and tribulations, they want to convey their appreciation for the fans who have stuck by them through all of their trials and tribulations. “Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you,” raps Chanyeol. Even if you have a distaste for all things ballads, please make an exception for “Promise (EXO 2014).”

16. Kim Sungkyu- “Alive”

Sungkyu’s silky voice is at its very best in “Alive,” which showcases a perfect combination of wonderful music production and great vocals. The unconventional but wholly appropriate music instrumentals in the background of this track stand out on their own but also enhance Sungkyu’s voice, creating this addictive and touching track. With lyrics such as “I’m better off just longing for you, that’s right, I have no other choice,” the best part of this song is its emotional climax, where Sungkyu is singing passionately and the instrumentals are on the brink of overwhelming his voice. The hopelessness is conveyed in such a clear manner that even non-Korean listeners would be able to understand the pain and meaning behind the lyrics, a trait that makes this song a really amazing one.

15. GOT7 – “Good”

With such a positive start to the song, how can one not automatically feel good? Sure, when looking at the lyrics, some will probably question why and how GOT7 can be so “full” of themselves, but if the members are able to confidently sing it, then where’s the problem in that? If you’re well put together, whether it’s your outfit, hair, makeup or all of the above, then why not strut and show it off? Self-confidence and self-loving can only start with you. But lyrics aside, not only will “Good” have you in a delightful mood whilst listening to it but it also shows the diversity and unique vocal techniques with each member’s voices. The smooth blending of members JB, Jr., and Youngjae’s voices will surely have you swooning in no time. You don’t have to worry GOT7; we’ve already fallen for you.

14. Jonghyun – “Deja-Boo”

One of the best things to have happened to K-pop was SHINee’s Jonghyun’s album “Base,” and one of the best songs to have hit us was “Deja-Boo” off of said album. With this song, we see a smoother side to the SHINee leader that was previously masked in the group’s more dynamic productions. Throw in Zion T. as a feature into the mix, and now you can pretty much bet on a pretty solid R&B track. And as the intro song as well, it sets the right tone for the rest of the album. The song, laced with finger snaps and a mellow bassline, is flirty yet funky, just like its coy lyrics about a woman who Jonghyun swears he encountered before. There may not be a climax moment, but the varied structure – some singing abbreviated with soft murmurs – makes it nevertheless very addicting. Trust Jonghyun to deliver yet another well written and composed song.

13. BTS – “Boyz With Fun”

Sometimes I forget how young the members of BTS really are. Their lyrics and music are usually deep and transcends powerful messages to the listeners. One would think they’re all serious and no fun, but “Boyz With Fun” showed otherwise. This song does exactly what the title states. The members are cheerful from beginning to end. It’s easy to sense their playfulness towards one another, even without watching their live performances. With it’s hooking beat, who could possibly sit still and maintain any sort of calmness while listening to this? BTS doesn’t want to be bothered with someone who’s not down to having a good time, would you? What would life be like if it was just filled with humorless and full days? “Boyz With Fun” is reminder to always fill your days with as much enjoyment as possible!

12.5 Super Junior “Stars Appear”

Due to editorial oversight, “Stars Appear” was not included in the originally published version of this list. Our bad!
Super Junior’s known for their dances, but some of their most memorable tracks throughout the years have been power ballads. “Stars Appear” begins with a simple piano melody before building into a soft rock song that is all about the group’s decade-spanning career together. The member’s vocals come together in an emotion-wrought chorus over strings and clashing cymbals, along with a lot of subtle sounds. The song comes to a sudden with an acoustic, a nearly a cappella bridge filled with Kyuhyun and Ryeowook’s smooth crooning before returning to its previously-introduced tempo. The song has plenty of parts distributed so that Super Junior’s members each get a chance to sing, but the real beauty of “Stars Appear” are the choruses, which have several members showing off their vocal colors backed by the rest. Super Junior’s a big group, but this song gives each member a time to shine.

12. miss A “Love Song”

Despite JYP Entertainment having its best year in a long time, miss A still seemed to slip under the radar compared to their compatriots. This is a shame as their album “Colours” was fantastic and this track from it, “Love Song,” is one of the best of the year. The song opens with an atmospheric piano melody that transitions into a subdued but moody verse. The intro then returns as a pre chorus before what can only be described as a crunk classical chorus. It is merely oriental strings along with a bass drum and snare but manages to be instantly danceable and energetic. This unexpected turn transformed “Love Song” from a great filler track to a genre-creating masterpiece. ‘’Like a tornado’’ is right.

11. BEAST – “See You There”

2014 was BEAST’s year — no doubt about that. “Good Luck” and “12:30” won everything in music shows and rocked our worlds. So when 2015 came around, we were perplexed by their singles that were subpar to its precedents. I say with deep pain in my heart that BEAST was a disappointment in 2015, but at least they managed to release an awesome b-side worthy of their previous album, “See You There.” The synth beats effortlessly weave into the R&B influences, with the member’s velvety vocals bringing the whole thing full circle. Not only are the lyrics, about a man wishing to meet his lover where they first met, beautiful, but it’s the perfect example of BEAST’s flawless harmonization. It’s a sweet, feel-good song, but it’s also the best in the entire album “Ordinary.”

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10. Infinite- “Moonlight”

Perhaps the song most celebrated by Inspirits for having the best line distribution in Infinite’s mini album “Reality,” “Moonlight” is an upbeat dance track that has Infinite written all over it, mostly because it sounds familiar to their old hits such as “Paradise.” Surprisingly, this track does not have any raps in it, but perhaps this is for the better because it gave resident rappers Hoya and Dongwoo a chance to show off their amazing vocal ability. Dongwoo in particular had several high notes in the track and pulled it off very well. The producers of the track should be given credit as well because of how skillfully originally weak vocalists such as Sungyeol and Sungjong were used in the song. Yes, their parts were auto-tuned sometimes, but for once, the auto-tune didn’t sound out of place and fitted the song perfectly. They were also given parts which suited their voices and allowed them to sound really good. The track was also layered with many vocal ad-libs and strong instrumentals, all in all creating one of the best songs of the album.

9. EXO – “Hurt”

EXO’s “EXODUS” album from earlier this year was absolutely stuffed with addicting songs and “Hurt” is the highlight of the non-singles. The haunting instrumental opening drops into an electropop song that is addicting that leads into a dub-pop dance break. “Hurt” stands out by giving EXO everything that the members need to shine; there are individual, building solos, there are harmonization-filled choruses, some raps that don’t detract from the abundance of heartbreaking crooning. The moody, angsty song’s lyrics are like something out of late 2000’s MySpace pages, and the narrator of “Hurt” probably could use a few hugs. “Will you take me inside the veil that covers you?” sings EXO. “Can’t you make me live?” EXO does well at being the desperate lover, and “Hurt” is the epitome of that. EXO is an idol dance group first and foremost, but the artistry of “Hurt” with its ability to seamlessly introduce different rhythms and musical styles is a standout from EXO’s discography.

8. BTS – “Hold Me Tight”

BTS’s “Hold Me Tight” is easily title track material, if only their album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1” did not already have two other singles already. The song walks us through several distinct moments, from the opening with the delicate piano instrumentals, to the body’s snaps and snares, and finally to the bridge with the muffled rap. The members’ long vibratos and angsty raps makes it one of the group’s most emotional songs, and the harmonizations throughout the verses and choruses are exemplars to the group’s talent. Moreover, the passionate mood perfectly conveys the lyrics about the regret and the desperation that accompanies a foreseen breakup. But, wait, it gets better. In collaboration with Slow Rabbit, pdogg, and the rapper line, the song is composed and written by member V, making it his first time participating in a BTS production. For a first, it is pretty impressive, but then again it is BTS, so what else is new?

7. f(x) “Rude Love”

The love of British dance music didn’t end with “Four Walls” for f(x); “Rude Love” is a sprawling house ode to sex. While it is ostensibly a house track, it also seems to borrow from other British music of the same era. The satisfyingly simple piano is reminiscent of a Stone Roses or Happy Mondays track, and I assure you f(x) are picking the right influences. These pianos mix with the house beats to create an almost pure dance track only lifted by the dynamic vocals. The muffled refrains of “I’m wanting you baby” being particularly important to bringing it all together.

6. BTS – “Silver Spoon”/“Crow Tit”

BTS may not have a “Cypher Pt. 4” for us in their album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2”, but they do have “Crow Tit” (“Silver Spoon”), which is pretty much the same thing. On the surface, it’s one of those songs that make listeners feel bigger than life with its trap beats, but at the microlevel, it’s a track about originality, social expectations, and generational divides. The title refers to a Korean proverb “If a crow-tit walks like a stork, it will tear its legs,” which, in turn, translates into an expression about people who ruin themselves by trying to emulate those who are better. In this case, BTS are the crows who are condemned by the superior storks. But BTS embraces their crow-like position, as supported by the implementation of crow caw beats, and thank their haters (“Thanks to the stork, my legs spread”), which explains the members’ cocky tones. The track boasts of each member’s’ colorful voices, which are barely indistinguishable here, and it’s just one of their many songs that listeners have to see live.

5. GOT7 – “Back to Me”

Before GOT7 released “If You Do” and the album “MAD,” their thing was the cutesy and playful concept epitomized by “Just Right.” However, on that same album, we got other just as good lively and cute jams like “Back to Me.” Sprinkled with hip-hop, “Back to Me” is the sweetest song about wanting a girl back that allowed for the backup vocalists Jr. and Yugyeom to take the lead. It’s impossible to hear this strong and not have your heart immediately warm up and a big smile form in your face. While GOT7’s manly and fierce image was the true revelation of the year, we’ll always cherish their perfectly human boyfriend concept paired with bubblegum pop/hip-hop hybrids.

4. Red Velvet – “Time Slip”

Red Velvet has had a great year and their album “The Red” was truly a wonderful one. “Time Slip” is simply exceptional though, with its use of cohesive instrumentals and a great bass. It’s tempo is similar to that of English hits such as “Fancy,” but comparatively, “Time Slip” has more interesting sounds (a school bell was used at one point). The vocals of the members are also showcased well here and they brought out the meaning of the lyrics because they literally transported listeners to another world through this song. The song seems like a successful experiment which worked exceedingly well for Red Velvet and I’m glad that they’re defying conventional K-pop girl group standards. I’m really excited to see what else they have in store for us because they are a group with boundless potential.

3. EXID – “Thrilling”

EXID’s funk-dance songs like “Up & Down” and “Ah Yeah” are great, but the girl group’s vocal performance in “Thrilling” is one of KultScene’s favorite songs of the year. The alluring, haunting track offers up a bevy of everything that makes EXID the fierce group we know and love. The vocal talent, the seductive voices, the take no bullshit attitude… “Thrilling” is EXID at their very best. EXID’s distinct sound is clear throughout “Thrilling,” and is the grown up version of 2012’s “Every Night.” The song doesn’t hold back, and each member is given their chance to shine. The highlight is definitely the builds that lead into the singsong chanting chorus featuring Junghwa, and there’s an absolutely phenomenal harmonization towards the end of the song featuring Hani’s sultry voice lightly layered over Solji’s belting high note.

2. BTS – “Whalien 52”

BTS is known for being K-pop’s “social conscious,” as they often tackle heavy subjects such as oppression and the pursuit of happiness through their lyrics, so with their latest album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt.1” this is not any different. In particular, “Whalien 52” uses a real life solitude creature, a whale who communicates at a disparate 52 hertz wavelength, as a trope to speak about loneliness and despair. Unlike what one would expect, however, the group approaches the topics in a hopeful manner. Behind all the light piano melody and synth sounds is an inspirational song also about how one day this whale’s tune will reach someone, just as how through the right effort and persistence one can leave a dent in this world. A repetitive wailing in the backing track resembling a whale song further supports the notion of how this whale should keep singing until its voice is heard, and continues throughout the tune until it ends on one resoluting cry. “Whalien 52” attests to how an unlikely muse like a marine mammal can be incorporated into both the greater message and the production of a beautiful track.

1. Brown Eyed Girls “Wave”

In the context of Brown Eyed Girls’ album “Basic”, “Wave” plays almost like a warm up for lead single “Brave New World,” but goes above and beyond the single’s radio-friendly take on ambient pop. With less bombast, “Wave” washes over its audience and allows a build of quiet tension to pervade its entirety. The instrumental intricacies are similar to “Brave New World” but work to give us something more chilled out but with a broken hearted bite, matched by breathtaking harmonies. “Wave” contains similar funk guitars and a gorgeous slinking bassline, but it’s more mellow in its overall sound. Simple keys open up the song before a perfectly tight rhythm section and eventually a funky scratching lead guitar. Each of these elements are balanced delicately, coming in and out of the song to build the aforementioned tension and also to create a heavenly climax during Miryo’s rap. “Wave” is one of Brown Eyed Girls’ most spectacular productions to date, and it is something we’d love to see more of this sort of song from the talented vocal group.

What were your favorite K-pop B-sides? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.