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Red Velvet’s ‘Summer Magic’ album review

red velvet power up summer magic album review song

Red Velvet’s latest album is here just in time to help fans beat the dog days of summer. Summer Magic is filled with catchy melodies, quirky EDM, and anticipated tracks. The quintet released its sixth mini album along with title-track “Power Up” on Aug. 6.

The Songs

The album kicks off with upbeat “Power Up,” the follow-up to last summer’s “Red Flavor.” The track boasts a beat imitating video game 8-bit-style including sound effects heard in Super Mario and Tetris. Along with sound effects from popular childhood games, Red Velvet sings a catchy, Minion-like repetition of “banana” throughout the chorus of the song. “Power Up” is brightly filled with cute ad-libs from youngest member Yeri. The song comes with perfecting timing as the summer heat is brutal across the globe. “Power Up” gets fans excited to have fun with loved ones. “Power Up” is about gaining confidence with a crush. Those butterflies mixed with summer heat make having a crush that much hotter.

The album also features the electro-pop tunes fans have come to love, and standout b-sides that include “With You,” “Mosquito,” and “Blue Lemonade.”

“With You” features steel-drums and honey vocals that take listeners to an island paradise with special loved ones. The song follows the tropical-house theme that has been popular throughout the summer. Following “Power Up,” “With You” emphasizes the saying “Christmas in July” (or Summer). The abundance of love and laughter go well with the chill vibes of summer. The song reminds listeners every day spent with loved ones is the same excitement as receiving presents on Christmas morning.


Also on KultScene: K-POP UNMUTED: STAN LOONA

The excitement continues with “Mr. E.” The song transitions into the stronger EDM moments of the album. Chirping birds and jungle noises accompany the lyrics of “Mr. E.” These sounds in the background liken the song to the mysteriousness of a jungle. It’s a classic crush story: Girl likes boy, but girl is not quite sure if she is reading his actions correctly. What’s a summer romance without a little angst?

“Mosquito” has a slight swagger reminiscent of the early 2000’s, with each member takes their hand at rapping throughout the track. It’s a nice treat for fans both veteran and new, as member Joy revisits her initial role as the rapper before the group became five. The lyrics are fun and reminds listeners of the annoying moments of a relationship. Heartache and having feelings taken for granted are part of a relationship. Red Velvet is stern in determining what the next step will be in the situation —either take them seriously or leave. Lingering like a mosquito is not tolerable, and the song is an ode to all of our feelings when we just want to tell someone to buzz off. The hypnotizing “zzzz” add a cute flare to the bluntness of the song.

Taking it back to their roots, “Hit the Drum” draws a closeness to Red Velvet’s debut single “Happiness.” Repetitions of “nannannan” heard through the chorus parallel to the cheerful “lalala” in “Happiness.” The fifth track on Summer Magic implements conga, bass, and snare drums for island vibes colliding with their signature eccentric EDM style. The beat of the drums seems to imitate rambunctiousness our heart’s feel when overwhelmed with love. The extreme pounding makes it feel like someone is beating a drum within our chests.

“Blue Lemonade” is a sweet R&B song highlighting the members’ vocals. Leader Irene even shows she’s more than a rapper with her soft, husky voice, as lead vocalists Wendy and Seulgi prove why they possess their respective positions. The melodies and tempo are refreshing, cool with ease as the ladies sing about a summer love. Although an abrupt transition from the earlier fast tempos, “Blue Lemonade” expresses the contentment felt after spending meaningful times with a special someone. Ultimately, the ladies say their hearts turn blue.

But perhaps the most anticipated track on Summer Magic is the English version of “Bad Boy.” Previewed at KCON New York, the track was instantly popular among fans. It does not fit the theme of Summer Magic, but still makes a great addition. Confident, cool and sultry, the song serves as a connection between the two albums. The song tells of a true femme fatale with the claim of “knowing how to make the devil cry.” The song’s English lyrics add an aura of sexiness that shows the group’s growing maturity.


Also on KultScene: (G)I-DLE’S ‘LATATA’ SONG REVIEW

From Perfect Velvet to Summer Magic

The lyrics within Summer Magic are witty, fun, and endearing. It focuses on the magic sparked between two people. The songs come together to tell a fun rendition of the beginning stages of love. From shyness, angst, and content, all of the emotions are told through upbeat melodies for an adequate summer album. The story and melodies of the album are a reminder that when it comes to love, feel emotions wholeheartedly with confidence.

The group’s transition between the two albums comes full circle with “Bad Boy.” The inclusion of the track keeps the “velvet” aura alive while potentially serving as a bridge to Red Velvet’s next release, which could be a deeper red or velvet concept during the colder seasons.

The cheeky placement of “Bad Boy” after “Blue Lemonade” reminds listeners that the members are just as mysterious and coveted as “Mr. E,” but lethal.

Red Velvet’s Summer Magic‘s addicting choruses, energetic dances, and cheerful vocals are the epitome of summer. The members easily maneuver their way through a story everyone can relate to while maintaining the quirks that continue to draw fans. Overall, the album is a scarlet red filled with bright moments and cheery vocals. Summer Magic established Red Velvet as true summer contenders. And achieving their first all-kill on real-time charts cemented the idea.

What’s your favorite song on Summer Magic? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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

Song

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

red velvet peek-a-boo gif peekaboo mv

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.


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Overview

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


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“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.

Song

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

KultScene-Sunday

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

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

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

— Anna


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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.”

—Tamar

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