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Weekly K-pop playlist- November 28th – December 4th

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As 2016 reaches it’s end, K-pop releases start to slow down in light of the new year. In previous years, December was largely abandoned by artists and reserved for the kitschy Holiday tracks. However, over the last couple of years, companies have carried on throughout the month business as usual. We may not be getting an influx of releases like before, but we’re still seeing some comebacks and random singles. So, as per usual, here are a few of our faves from the week from acts including Seventeen, Shinhwa, Hyoyeon of Girls’ Generation, and more!

“Orange” by Shinhwa (Released Nov. 29)

“Orange,” title track off of Shinhwa’s 13th studio album “Unchanging,” is a song well worth the title. As a SHCJ (Shinhwa Changjo, their fanclub name), I’m quite honored that they chose to name a song after their fanclub color. Yes, you guessed it, orange! “Orange” is reminiscent of what everything ‘90s K-Pop was, bubbly and totally cringe worthy, but in all the right ways. It’s a cheesed out love song. “My floating and fluttering footsteps go to you/ Baby I’m in love with you,” yeah, it doesn’t get any more skin crawling then this and maybe it’s because I’m a die heart SHCJ, but I’m absolutely fine with the finger and toe curling lyrics.


Also on KultScene: 2016 Gift Guide For Fans Of Korean Pop Culture [GIVEAWAYS]

It’s probably safe to say that if you listened to the song with no previous knowledge of who Shinhwa was, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that they were six guys all in their mid thirties. but if you watched the music video first, then, well, that’s a different story. Why are these guys mega dorks? It might’ve helped with the recording session, considering the fact that the members are always acting like fools, on screen and off. They’ve been together for so long, that whatever it is that you’re seeing on screen, is literally how they always act when they’re around one another; sudden tickle attacks, everyone ganging up on leader, Eric, and six guys, who just can’t stay still. Now that we’re entering the winter months (here in the Northeast), “Orange” will be a nice song to listen to whenever I need some cheering up from the cold weather.

— Tam

“That Fool” by Jung Seung Hwan (Released Nov. 30)

The talented vocalist from the fourth season of Kpop Star finally made his official debut with Antenna Music recently with the album “His Voice,” featuring the title song “That Fool.” Within hours, his songs took the top spots on Korean music charts and for good reason. The ballads on his album, and this title song in particular, highlight the emotional and passionate way Jung sings. While his voice is stable and technically skilled, the feeling he pours into the song really touches his listeners. This has also been evident from the many popular OSTs he has released this past year, including “Wind” from Scarlet Heart: Ryeo and “If It Is You” from Another Oh Hae-young. Even better, he sounds absolutely amazing live. He promoted his album on Yoo Hee Yeol Sketchbook recently, and performed “That Fool” in a way which absolutely captivated his audience. Jung Seung Hwan is going from strength to strength and I hope this continues for a long time to come!

— Anna

“Mystery” by Hyoyeon (Released Dec. 2)

Every Hyoyeon fan has dreamed of this, but to be completely honest, none of us expected it. One of many surprises from SM’s STATION project this year, “Mystery” is Hyoyeon’s first solo musical effort. A mix of Indian instrumentals and influences from hip-hop and electronica, the song is both hypnotic and dance-heavy, perfect for a hard-hitting performer like Hyoyeon to break it down. While the song hasn’t received much promotional effort from SM (it is a STATION song, after all), she is promoting the song on music shows this week, showing everyone that the queen of girl group dancers can perform both choreography and vocals in a way that no one thought she could.

— Kushal


Also on KultScene: B1A4’s “Good Timing” Album Review

“BOOMBOOM” by Seventeen (Released Dec. 4)

Well, Seventeen has done it again. After “Pretty U” and “Very Nice,” you’d think they would be done with 2016, but oh no. Getting it in just right before the year comes to an end, the group put out “BOOMBOOM.” To say their new track sounds like all of their past singles sounds like a bad thing, but it’s actually not. Seventeen always find a way to take the most childish and saccharine beats and turn them into trendy, hyped-up songs. For “BOOMBOOM,” they took the bubbly guitar reminiscent of Disco era jams like “Play That Funky Music” and turned it into yet another pop gem in their discography. The amazing thing about Seventeen is that, with every release, they follow the same formula, but unlike other groups or producers, it comes out fresh every time. Seventeen’s song, with “BOOMBOOM” being no different, have the shift in beat and vocalists’ tempos that make it an exciting audible experience. Bubblegum pop has always been fun, but Seventeen have taken their signature brand to a whole new ball park of sugariness delight.

— Alexis

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

K-Pop & the Collective Body Part 2: Seventeen, Cosmic Girls, & NCT

Seventeen-CosmicGirls-NCT
Last year, I wrote about how K-pop groups use their bodies as a whole to convey meanings within their songs and overall careers. It focused on groups like EXO and Nine Muses and how that affected them following lineup changes. I also took SHINee as the ideal of what a group can do as a collective whole. Unity was the idea that stood out, focusing on how larger groups tend to suffer thanks to more inconsistency while smaller groups keep themselves tight on and off stage.

A year is a long time in K-pop though and groups have since surfaced that are challenging what choreography can do for their respective groups. Seventeen and their plucky performance team are showing how a group can best express themselves when given a chance to be a part in all aspects of creative production. Cosmic Girls are performing other worldly feats to corral 13 members on one stage. And, finally, SM Entertainment’s limitless boyband NCT’s need to use their dances as a way of communicating with all the world, considering they plan to take it over someday. These groups are putting many of their peers and predecessors to shame with the amount of precision and invention that goes into their movements on stage.

I already wrote a bit about Seventeen’s choreography but they have progressed even further since (and what I wrote was not up to my usual standards if I do say so myself, although definitely a good starting place to read what I think about their dancing). Seventeen place a large emphasis on their members’ role in creating their music. While that is in vogue with most new groups, few can claim to have choreographers in their team. Seventeen’s Hoshi does exactly this with the help of the rest of the performance team (Dino, Jun, and The8) and choreographer Choi Youngjun (who previously worked with the longest lasting K-pop idol group, Shinhwa). I’m generally sceptical when it comes these kinds of idols it’s hard to deny Hoshi’s work given Seventeen’s style.


Also on KultScene: K-Pop & the Collective Body

Seventeen’s choreography plays up their youthfulness. Every one of their performances incorporates masses of group expressions the likes of which we rarely get to see on stage. The members shine as individuals thanks to the moments in between big moves. There’s always more than one thing to enjoy when watching Seventeen dance. With their latest singles “Pretty U” and “아주 Very Nice,” Seventeen have added to their already strong repertoire.

Like most, my first listen of “Pretty U” was underwhelming.There’s something very safe and simple about the song that doesn’t catch your attention straight away. Add in the performance and it becomes something else entirely. The use of the couch isn’t just gloriously fun but apt given the song. It’s a relaxing piece of furniture for a relaxing piece of music. Best of all though, it gives Seventeen many new opportunities to show their character. Members pop up out of nowhere, jump on top of it, lie on it, and much more. All with effortless transitions too. For instance, when some of them stand in front of the couch for the chorus those behind them can re-position easily without distracting the viewer’s eye. This is also used to signify actual changes in the song as well, with nearly every musical transition moving the choreography from the couch to the stage and vice versa. This is usually achieved by the member currently singing getting up and walking towards the crowd serving as not just a seamless switch but also adding dynamic forward movement.

In essence, it’s a routine you might see in a High School Musical film and that’s why it suits “Pretty U” so well. The primary objective here is fun and both Seventeen and Hoshi know how to deliver that without going overboard. It even makes sense when the couch is taken away as the song goes into total climax with its increasingly strong vocals.

To balance out the cheesy fun of “Pretty U” Seventeen went for power with “Very Nice.” There’s a lot to love about “Very Nice” but the thing that struck me the most is how Seventeen obviously knows how hot they are when performing this. There’s a power and precision that isn’t present in any of their other dances. It certainly looks like their most difficult routine. It may also, surprisingly, be their simplest. The focus is on big formations with all the members rather than moving them around the stage. Their flourishes are not gone however, as they make some of the best parts such as in the second chorus when they all shout simultaneously. For all the skill involved “Very Nice” is still clearly a Seventeen dance. It’s a niche they can truly call their own when so many other boy groups focus solely on strong hip-hop routines. Constant innovation in choreography is what led to Seventeen’s success. Without dance crazes happening in Korea as much as they once did (“Gee,” “Tell Me,” “Sorry Sorry” etc.) that is hard to quantify but I find it hard to believe Seventeen would have stood out if they had regular routines.

Cosmic Girls face the same numbers problem as Seventeen. They have the same amount of members but don’t seem to have the same level of skill as Seventeen. To best use up space on stage they are adopting a system of groups of threes. Used ineffectively in their debut songs “Catch Me” and “Momomo,” Cosmic Girls perfected it with latest single “Secret.” In those debut tracks they sometimes set up the three teams on stage and had each group sing a line in a verse while the others stood there waiting for them. That means if the camera isn’t doing it for us, our eyes have to locate who is singing. This isn’t inherently a bad thing but here it leads us to look at members who are not doing anything.

“Secret” situates the three groups in the same way, one on the left, one on the right, and one in the centre. The numbers in each group constantly changes but a symmetry is contained at all times with the left and right sides nearly always having equal amounts. What “Secret” does differently is that the centre group always has the singing member. This means that even when someone is singing not in the exact centre of the stage she is framed on both sides (horizontally or vertically) by other members. These frames draw our eyesight, making it easy to follow the performance. There’s nothing too complex about the dance overall as the individual moves are nothing new but the formations are all precise. It’s something that works well with their cosmic nature too, the symmetry mirroring a destiny that lies in the balance (which is something that rookie groups Lovelyz and Oh My Girl have done well at).

Cosmic Girls, like Seventeen, can be split up into groups by their very nature, their alternate title WSJN is an acronym of their sub-units (Wonder, Sweet, Joy, and Nature). So mixing them up betrays none of their original ideas or unity. Today’s K-pop groups are a malleable bunch. Their collective bodies can express a number of different ideas in many ways. Where last time we saw groups losing members as a consistent hindrance to their dancing, it is built into groups today.

None more so than NCT, SM’s latest experiment of creating groups with detachable parts. With groups like these, who plan to debut all around the world, choreography will clearly be an important part of how they communicate. It also means that the idea of a single unbroken body as an expression of the group’s ideas does not exist for them. NCT can have any number of members in any number of variations of groups.


Also on KultScene: Weekly K-Pop faves: August 22-28

So far NCT have not had consistently similar choreography. They have, however, been consistently pushing onwards to outdo themselves (and everyone else) with every turn. I already doubt we’ll see better choreography than NCT U’s “The 7th Sense” this year. It’s almost more an interpretive performance piece than a piece of pop choreography. The mix of martial arts-inspired moves and hip-hop is as abstract as it is flawlessly performed. When they first announced NCT it seemed SM was ready to create yet another group of flawless robots designed to look good and sell records. A debut like “The 7th Sense” questions this though by being too fluid to be considered robotic but too well executed to be believably human.

NCT 127’s “Fire Truck” also pushed boundaries. It is more standard K-pop fare than “The 7th Sense,” although the majority of moves fit into the song are extremely difficult. It is notable for the heroic extremes it goes to with each chorus move by Chinese member Winwin. His influence is notable throughout the entirety of the choreography in fact. His background in traditional Chinese dance is seen with his front cartwheel, his twisting move that makes all the other members spin, and more. His technical expertise isn’t quite a surprise, considering he might have influenced “The 7th Sense” or been influenced by it given that his teaser has the same name.

The latest NCT single, NCT Dream’s cutesy “Chewing Gum” was probably not expected to be as experimental with their choreography. For the most part that is correct. and it might have seemed simple although still intense if there weren’t hoverboards. Yes, hoverboards. (You know, the ones illegal in New York City) The actual dancing with the hoverboards is still pretty straightforward but considering the skill necessary to stay on top of one of them while singing and moving in formation, the dance of “Chewing Gum” becomes something else entirely. It’s a testament to the work ethic of SM’s trainees that they can pull this with such effortless glee, especially Mark who has taken part in every NCT promotion so far! #rookieoftheyear

It may take some time to find out what the collective body of NCT looks like, if we ever do see it ever as one single entity. It’s clear to see though that they are not going to be easy to pin down as an act, especially when it comes to choreography.

Between them these three young groups are carving out a new path as to what K-pop choreography can be. For Seventeen it can be the perfect expression of your personalities. Cosmic Girls show a dedication to symmetry and perfection, something every group strives for but it takes someone special to pull it off. For NCT the path is full of unknown possibilities and we hope they will continue to push boundaries. For all of them there is an understanding that the single group is not the only way of expressing unity. K-pop performance has become something new where SHINee were once seen as the pinnacle now groups are taking a different route to beauty. They are prepared for change, their individual bodies only small parts of a whole coming together to excite us in ways we never could have imagined. If one of their members leave it won’t be easy for them to rearrange but there is a feeling that they are prepared no matter what.

What do you think of these groups’ choreography? Are there any other groups standing out for you? Share your thoughts and quiz results in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, andTumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

KCON 2016 NY’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

It hasn’t even been a year yet but it’s already that time when all things Hallyu are celebrated in one convenient location here in the States. After its first installment last August, KCON returned back again to the East Coast, bringing its M! Countdown concerts to the famous Prudential Center in the NY’s metropolitan area. This time, not only did the convention grow from being a one day event to a two day event, spanning from June 24 to June 25, but KCON 2016 also saw a lot of new faces and talents. KCON 2015 NY felt like a pilot episode in comparison.

On Day 1 of KCON 2016 NY alone, popular rookie group Seventeen met senior boy group BTOB at both their first KCON experience. Soloist Ailee drew both female and male Korean pop fans in throngs, while Amoeba Culture’s Crush and Dynamic Duo made their second KCON appearance and welcomed Korean hip-hop philes to the 18,000+ seat venue. The roster this year was a significant upgrade from last year, which haphazardly seemed to throw together a bunch of repeated acts from previous cons. What’s more, the lineup for KCON 2016 offered more diversity, reflecting the careful planning that went into maximizing concert turnout (as of now, the attendance is still TBA).

But the music is just one aspect of Hallyu, with K-Drama as another. A new addition to KCON 2016 NY was the special guests, which included idol actor Yim Siwan (“Triangle,” “Misaeng”) and actress Park Bo Young (“A Werewolf Boy,” “Oh My Ghostess”). Together, the two stopped by the South Korean entertainment network tvN booth during the convention and acted as special MC’s for a segment of the night, giving the regular hosts a break.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

As per usual, the MC’s were selected from the pool of performers. Ailee, a native English speaker slated to perform during the first night, was an obvious pick. As the she ascended from the stage lift, however, the fans cheered doubly for not only her but also for co-host, Rap Monster from BTS, who made an early appearance ahead of his scheduled Day 2 performance (in hindsight, the two also served as MC’s for KCON Abu Dhabi back in March so perhaps it was my bad for not seeing it coming). While introducing the event in both Korean and English, the bilingual duo quickly became half the attraction with their charming chemistry. And with their rallying cry “Let’s KCON! Let’s M! Countdown,” the other half was shortly set in motion as well

Rookie King Seventeen Makes Their KCON Debut

Emerging out of 2015 as one of the hottest rookie groups, Seventeen didn’t fail to deliver a remarkable performance. Under the dim lights, a VCR of the members dancing to the intro song “Shining Diamond” segued into the real deal. A chorus of screams at the appearance of 12 (rapper Wonwoo is sitting out of promotional activities at the moment due to health problems) half clothed in black, the other in white, indicated that the show was finally underway. They wasted no time as they dove right into their latest hit “Pretty U,” blithely working a couch into their choreography in front of a color pop of city streets backdrop. They really set the standard for the following track, the EDM-trap mix “Chuck,” which varied stylistically from the musical-esque number from before, but still sustained the same austerity of in-sync choreography.


Also on Kultscene: KCON 2015 NY’s M! Countdown Concert Recap

To finish off their half-hour set, the boys threw it back to the classics that shot them to where they are now (though would it be much of a throwback if it was only to last year?). Starting with “Mansae,” the audience transformed into a sea of arms swaying to the beat of the “mansae,” the point choreo that the members took time out to teach beforehand. It’s always a welcome sight to see the union of fans and artist, even if it’s just in such a simple gesture as waving an arm. Even in “Adore U,” which marked the end of their set, there’s that familiar point dance – a literal point dance – during the hook that’s easy enough for even the average caveman to follow. When they are on stage, Seventeen just exuberates overflowing youth and spryness. The only drawback to this, however, is because they are still maturing as a group, they are still stuck playing by the books, which means they couldn’t make full use of the stage that was given to them. A forgiving qualm, though, for the group with the insane vocals and an entertaining live show to boot.

Crush Gives New Meaning to One Man Show

Being a soloist on a stage of such a grand scale is always going to be nerve wracking. Projection becomes all the more important, and hyping the audience up requires extra effort. Fortunately for Crush, he’s got that covered, and all in just a-less-than-usual three songs too. No introductions were needed here for the R&B singer who went straight into his 2014 slow jam “Sometimes” as soon as the music cued him to the stage. From start to finish, he single-handedly turned the M! Countdown concert into a lounge party, belting out a string of long notes and ad libs to a round of cheers in the process. Besides his interesting Canadian Tuxedo x French beret collaboration that he donned – which must be a fashion faux pas in at least ten different cultures – the guy really did no wrong.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

“Sometimes” was only warm-up for what’s to come. The palm leaves that decorated the LCD displays behind him were very appropriate for the summer vibe-y single “Oasis.” Crush even revealed his knack for rap when covering for an absent Zico in his “It G-Ma”-styled verse, during which he doused crowds with bottled water while jumping around on the extended stage. By this time, the crowd was already so amped up that his request for the audience to put their hands up seemed superfluous. This revelry continued well into “Hug Me,” which featured help this time from Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko, and even more of a water show. Things were only now just getting heated.

Queen Ailee Makes Her Return Home

Ailee’s just one of those artists where even if you are not a fan, you are a fan. Her vocal prowess cannot be denied, and she was able to demonstrate it once again during an incident that happened while she was performing her routine to “Mind Your Own Business.” About halfway through the song, a technical malfunction caused the backing track to stop, leaving a visibly rattled Ailee to finish her verse acapella. Audiences applauded her diplomacy, even when she stepped backstage to resolve the issue (one concert go-er in my section made the snide remark that someone was getting fired that night) and when she came back for her second take.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

“This has never happened to me before,” the New Jersey native says before making light of the situation and viewing the glitch as a welcome home gift. One thing remains certain, and it’s that we can at least count on Ailee to provide fans with honest stages, which is something that cannot be said about all idols in the K-pop industry.

After going through both break-up power anthems “Don’t Touch Me” and “I Will Show You,” the diva also disclosed how nervous she was to perform that night (“I’ve never been nervous before, not even my debut performance, not even my first solo concert”) in front of all her friends and family for the first time, all the while holding back tears. The sincerity of her words compounded by the overall pathos of her homecoming were probably what compelled audiences to stand for her closing song “U & I.” Fans could not even be pressed that she did not perform “Q&A” with Seventeen like some thought she would. Cute as it may have been, this was all about her.

BTOB Did That!

Ever since their first music show win with “It’s Okay,” BTOB has swapped out their charismatic boy band image for something more softcore, which has still been working out in their favor. Presented by an enchanted forest visual display and a LCD light show that signaled the coming in of the members clad in rose quartz suits, they opened with the ballad “Remember That,” riding on the same success the aforementioned “It’s Okay” amassed for them. Rappers Minhyuk and Ilhoon still served with their subdued raps, while the vocalists never once faltered in their department.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

The group also filled their slots with their lesser known singles, such as “All Wolves Except Me” and “Beep Beep,” the former a jazzy swing track bursting with all kinds of brassy sounds and the latter a similar funky saxophone-centric piece that seem more in line with their personalities. The youngest member Sungjae even worked in some aegyo (a cute display of affection), sneaking a quick “bbyu” before the lights lowered, causing fans to giggle.

Personally, the main highlight of their stage wasn’t even their live performances off of their own discography, but their impromptu rendition of One Direction’s “History.” As if he was not already savvy in the art of rap, main rapper Ilhoon wowed the audience with his overwhelming high notes. Sometimes it is actually stressful how underrated this group is, but hopefully KCON bringing them out for the first time will lead to future invites and more recognition.

If You Didn’t Stan Seventeen Already…

…Then you probably did after seeing their special stage. Part of the appeal of KCON’s “M! Countdown” concerts are their exclusive performances in which the acts cover the hits of others or collaborate together to produce something greater than the sum of their parts. This year, in a phenomenal medley Seventeen returned back to the stage with a cover of After School’s “Bang,” the bop that made being in a marching band cool again. They even looked the part in their ornamental navy military jackets topped with epaulettes, cheering “S-V-T” with Pledis pride. This transitioned smoothly into a modern, more synth-y (if that’s even possible) version of Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry.” It may not be the first time the group has shown us their spin on the iconic dance (check out their “Weekly Idol” appearances), but it’s exciting nevertheless seeing it done on American soil. To wrap it all up, Seventeen paid homage to the reigning kings of K-pop TXVQ with their bubbly render of the 2006 song “Balloons,” which is, like, oh my god, the last time they did this was when they were still trainees shooting for their mini series “Seventeen TV.” Not tied down by any choreography, the twelve were finally able to make full use of the extended stage, merrily greeting their U.S. fans for the first time.


Also on Kultscene: Tips on How to Maximize Your KCON 2016 Experience

Dynamic Duo Brings the Club Over to KCON

Debuting in 2003, Dynamic Duo made the most sense as headliners. But more than just seniority, they also possess the attitudes and the finesse of a headliner. Before they even stepped foot on stage, their digital selves were already initiating a call and response tactic, asking “Who Are We?” followed by concert attendees hollering out their names. When they did make their noble entrance, they came in full-force from the get-go with “BAAAM,” employing more call and response approaches. Jiving freely to the upbeat tempo that the DJ on stage was mixing, they had genuine fun on stage and the audiences reciprocated that.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

By the time they were performing the EDM infused hip-hop jam “Shoot – Goal In” the crowd were already on their feet, dancing in place. Again, who knows how many folks actually knew the song, never mind the lyrics, but the manner in which members Choiza and Gaeko were able to hype each other up (e.g. – rapping to each other as opposed to with each other, echoing each other’s words, etc.) was entertaining to watch and exhibited real artistry.

The rest were an honest blur. The duo picked up enough momentum and was not about to break it as they went straight into Gaeko’s own percussion based “Rhythm is Life.” When the time came to conclude the night already, they were bouncing around to their dance party anthem “Friday Night,” which could it be any more fitting? In the midst of the smoke and light sticks, the place was a full fledge rave, and everyone was high.

And with the customary shower of confetti, Day 1 of KCON 16 NY was over. A vast improvement from last year’s KCON NY, it really set the bar high for future ones. One day of KCON NY fun still remains, however, who knows what will happen then?

Did you attend KCON 16 NY? What’s your favorite KCON artist? 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.

Weekly K-Pop Faves: May 1-7

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“U” cover by Seventeen (May 5)

When it comes to Super Junior covers just about every other boy band, and some girl groups, has covered “Sorry Sorry” at some point. Yes, it’s an iconic song with an iconic dance by an iconic group that represents an iconic time in K-pop history, but it’s also a very predictable choice. “U” isn’t exactly a refreshing song to cover either, but done by Seventeen, well, it changes things. No other group can cover Suju better than them, really, since they have the chops, numbers, and talent. I even dare say that they’re an upgraded product of the Super Junior model — and this is coming from an ELF! Because even if they didn’t change the song’s arrangement much or the choreography, it still feels like Seventeen put their own flavor in it. I would’ve appreciated an original rap, but the purist in me also likes it as is. This massive group is proving that they deserve to be one of the next generation’s top tiers and I’m looking forward to even more Super Junior covers.

— Alexis

“Oh Ma Mind” by MIXX (released 3 may)

“I’m a sinner captured in a cage called you”

It’s not a sin to desire MIXX, nor do you need this boy to be your hero. You’re not a little princess, just a regular princess who can ride a white horse just as much as a prince. Tired gender tropes aside, MIXX have crafted maybe the best debut of the year so far (in a year of few great debuts). “Oh Ma Mind” is one of those classic K-pop tracks where it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. It mixes vocal and musical styles to create something they can call their own. The vocals are typical for a cutesy girl group, fragile and sugar laced. The music is a funky mix of R&B and tropical synths that gleefully bounce. It also has a wonderfully fetishistic music video directed by production team of the moment, Digipedi. Given their involvement, a closer look at those gender stereotypes might yield some interesting results. But that’s an issue for another time. For now, let’s just bop and play some tennis.

–Joe


Also on KultScene: Girls’ Generation & The (So-Called) Copycat Generation

“Re-Bye” by Akdong Musician (released 3 May)

This comeback by K-pop’s favourite sibling duo may be two years late, but the wait was definitely worthwhile. One of two title songs off of their latest album “Spring Vol. 1/Puberty”, “Re-Bye” is an addictive track that fully showcases little sister Suhyun’s great and improved vocals. The accompanying music video is also a delight to watch, set in an opera house with the two siblings as undercover detectives. It’s both playful and thrilling, part of which can be credited to the arrangement of the piece and also to the vocal ability of the siblings. Their growth over the past two years is extremely evident in the maturity of their album as a whole and this was one of YG Entertainment’s best releases so far. Even though they came back at a time with a lot of K-pop competition, Akdong Musician stands out and will continue to do so in the industry. Here’s looking forward to the next release!

–Anna

“Green Window” by Akdong Musician/AKMU (released 3 May)

Like Anna, I’m another one who is a big fan of AKMU’s album, “Spring Vol. 1/Puberty.” But while the singles were decently solid, it was the b-side “Green Window” where I truly think the brother-sister duo shines. I really hope that they create a third music video to match the upbeat sound of “Green Window,” which I personally think thing is the song that most fits the album’s springtime theme. The song’s production recalls AKMU’s debut album “Play” with it’s almost juvenile instrumentation and hopeful lyrics; it’s almost impossible to listen to “Green Window” without feeling inspired. The song’s rainbow motif reflects the relative age of AKMU (both siblings are in their teens) while the lyrics themselves show insight into the human condition. The song is pretty fast paced throughout, but the staccato build into the bridge’s harmony and eventual synth sound is just inspired.


–Tamar

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

Seventeen’s “Pretty U” Music Video & Song Review

Seventeen pretty u
I’m probably alone in wanting the old kings and queens of K-pop to step side for new groups to rise. Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, and 2NE1 have had their time; I want new blood. 2015 was a great year for offering new groups who were not just talented enough to take the reins, but were charismatic and inventive too. The best boys of the bunch were clearly Seventeen.

Pledis Entertainment’s newest boy group have a slightly harder time at the big leagues than some of their contemporaries. Pledis have been around for a while but never really broke past the precedent set by After School in the early 2010s. Yet Seventeen are garnering a big fan base, especially internationally, thanks to their innovative choreography and exuberant faces. Seventeen with “Pretty U” have lived up to their predecessors in the best possible way, by being completely weird.


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The Song

Style and sound wise, “Pretty U” is not a big departure for Seventeen. Like “Adore U” and “Mansae,” it’s a pop song in the classic sense. Sounds come primarily from guitars and a simple drum beat. Other instruments add inflections or are there to let us new parts have begun, the piano key changes, strings for the chorus. It really works well again, especially with this boy next door image of Seventeen; it’s unself-conscious pop fun at its best.

I can’t decide yet if the one thing they change dramatically makes me like “Pretty U” more or less than their earlier work. Structurally, it leaves behind the classic verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge with big hooks in favour of something almost improv-like. After an a capella and rap intro, the song moves into its standard verse, which even has two parts itself, helped to transition by the funkiest slap bass. It builds to what could have been a chorus or short pre-chorus but ultimately turns into an extra verse or a really long pre-chorus. Once you get used to it, it’s actually the highlight of the song. The key change with the pianos comes alongside the slap bass to move into a rap and then changes again into a vocal part. Vernon’s rap brings the song down a bit letting it be mellow before Seungkwan’s vocals tee us up for the chorus. Both of their vocals mesh perfectly with the music in that moment. Alongside this the chorus is disappointingly flat. .

The rest of the song is mixed in a way that puts the vocals and music at the same level. Not quite lo-fi but it makes the chorus that has no hook feel pretty flat. Hooks were what got me into Seventeen in the first place, so it’s difficult not having them. Seventeen’s youthful sound is especially conducive to big hooks. Hooks fuel their energy, giving us big cathartic moments. “Pretty U” is a different song though.


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

At first few listens I kept waiting for the hook to pop up and yet, by the end of every listen I find I like the song more and more. The distinctions between each part are clear yet not jarring. The vocals climb beautifully towards the end, bouncing off each other with gleeful falsetto and harsh raps. It feels like more of a collective experience rather than ever focusing on individuals. Slightly more subdued than usual, but “Pretty U” still feels like a group of friends having the time of their life.

The song is about young love similar to how Seventeen always do it. The lyrics hold a possible key to making sense of this whole song. There’s so much information there about just how much these boys love a girl. They are so excited that everything is coming out at once, almost too hard to keep up with. “You’re so ice ice baby, At the same time you melt me down” Vernon raps as he can’t quite get his head round how he feels. There’s more confusion “What to do, What to wear, I should have studied hard like this,” Seventeen, just like us listening to this song, are experiencing a multitude of emotions. The song is an honest representation of this, it’s not trying to be anything other than a release for these young boys’ pent up emotions.

The Music Video

Their video is also a slight move away from the familiar for Seventeen. Gone is the focus on choreography, replaced by a small story of the boys putting together a party. The camera doesn’t linger long enough at any stage for us to get a clear look at them. What seems at first like a frustrating mess, like the song, is another extension of the themes previously expressed. Everything is fast, not just the camera but the members too, who run around a city putting up posters and indulging in antics as they go. Slow motion is used at the height of their fun to give us at least a moment’s glance at them. They are always together, bouncing off each other, having the time of their lives. The video is essentially the culmination of everything that makes Seventeen the most fun group in pop music today.

Overall Thoughts

Coming out of 2015 as my new favourite boy group, Seventeen had a lot to live up to. “Pretty U” is exactly what I did not expect from them. I don’t expect it to lose much fans for them though, as the same tone and style remain even though the song does its own thing. Best of all it shows they don’t have to rely on big hooks and choreography to carry them. I’m already excited for what they do next.

The choreography, seen at their live showcase, is another marvel of talent and fun. It is their fastest to date, at times they look like blurs running across the stage. The childlike nature of the chorus movements and the use of a schoolbook as a prop are lots of fun. They also mix well with some of the lyrics and the confused nature of the song. Seventeen’s choreography completes them.

What do you think of Seventeen and “Pretty U”? 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.

Video of the Top 25 Korean Songs of 2015

BTS

So far 2016 has been a slow year, aside from Dal Shabet nothing of any interest has been released. This has led us to looking back at how great of a year 2015 really was. To celebrate it, one of our writers cut together a video of the top 25 songs of the year as voted for by the KultScene writers. As you may have seen our top 50 list, this video takes the top 25 and edits them together in inventive ways. This is something to celebrate the year in music with, but mostly we hope you have fun watching it.

What was your favorite Korean song 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.

Which K-Pop Male Rookie Group Are You? [QUIZ]

which rookie male group

If anything, 2015 has been the year for rookie male K-pop groups as many fresh groups such as iKON and DAY6 have made their successful debuts. Armed with both youthful energy and high-level performance skills, these groups are likely to become big hits and household names in the K-pop industry in the future. From synchronised dancing to powerful rapping, each group has their own strengths and has showcased their individuality well through their respective releases, earning themselves strong fan bases despite their recent debuts.

Have you ever wondered which rookie male group your personality is most similar to? Here’s Kultscene’s latest quiz to help you find out more about these groups and yourself!


Also on Kultscene: What K-Drama Cliche Is Your Life? 

What did you think of your result? Did you pick the rookie group that you thought you would? Let us know what other quizzes you’d like to see from KultScene! Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Fantasy Vs Reality: MAMA 2015 Award Winners

MAMA awards

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

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

1. Best New Male/Female Artist

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


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

2. Best Male/Female Artist

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


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

3. Best Male/Female Group

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


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


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4. Best Dance Performance Solo

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


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

5. Best Dance Performance Male/Female Group

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


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

6. Best Male/Female Vocal Performance

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


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

7. Best Rap Performance

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


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


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

8. Best Band Performance

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

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

9. Best Collaboration & Unit

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

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

10. Best Music Video

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

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

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

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

Seventeen, Dancing, & East/West Ideals

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Seventeen’s ’17 Carat’ Album Review

Seventeen
It seems as if for as long as I have been listening to K-pop, Pledis Entertainment’s latest boy group Seventeen has been teased. With as many members as their name, with an apparent average age of seventeen too, the group was first announced and touted as one of the next big things before rookies began to explode in 2012. But until May, it was just rumored debuts. On May 29, Seventeen finally released its first album “17 Carat.” I had been interested in the group’s debut long before that, because I was into all things Pledis since I’m a huge After School fan. After a while, though, I forgot that Seventeen even existed and when the group finally resurfaced recently I wasn’t too hopeful. With such a long wait and a line up that was less than their name originally suggested (13) interest had dropped off. That’s what makes, at least for me, their eventual debut so surprisingly great.


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Recently, there’s been a trend of K-pop boy bands debuting with a powerful concept. They immediately try to act like men even at a young age. They never really embrace the vibrancy of youth while they still have it, a trend that was popular in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s (ie SHINee and SS501.) With Seventeen aligning their concept perfectly with the members ages, they have created something energetic but straightforward. They did this by also using some of the more powerful, darker concept signifiers like including lots of rap. Each of these elements is incorporated well to give Seventeen a fresh rookie feeling. The lead single ‘’Adore U’’ is especially good and utterly vibrant.

Too bad the rest of the album doesn’t hold up.

The first song, ‘’Shining Diamond,’’ opens with Michael Jackson through the prism of K-pop. The opening whispers and references make this apparent. However, the retro electro verses sound comes off as just dated enough to be a throwback while remaining modern. They move into a fairly standard orchestral chorus with a big hook. Throughout the song, voices are pitched slightly higher in a nice touch to recall MJ.

Of course, this is K-pop so it can’t just be an homage. It is also infused with rapping and seems to announce that it’ll be a big part of Seventeen’s sound. In an environment where more and more idol rappers are coming from underground backgrounds, it’s important to at least sound good if you don’t write your own stuff. The rappers here do flow quite well. I especially like how they can switch between two rappers at a moment’s notice organically. Vocal contrasts like this always adds a layer of interest to a song for me.

That being said ‘’Shining Diamond’’ never rises above being more than album filler. It’s a fine opening but doesn’t come across as anything more than what we are used to.

Not surprisingly, lead single ‘’Adore U’’ is the real shining diamond of the album. There’s something about those guitars that is so effervescent and reminiscent of adolescence that “Adore U” is impossible to dislike. The sounds are so funky and fresh amongst the hyperactive, multi-genre sound that’s popular in K-pop music today. “Adore U” is fun without having to get too complicated.

‘’Adore U’’ achieves a lighter sound while still incorporating a lot of rapping. It’s accomplished and confident without ever sounding arrogant. Again, they make use of different rapping styles in dual verses. Not only does it sound great but the rap actually makes Seventeen come across as even more fun. It seems like the rappers are having a conversation, which adds a sense of camaraderie and energy. The rap also helps to give the individual verses an extra edge, making sure they don’t get forgotten behind the amazing chorus.

This chorus goes for a delightful double hook. The ‘yoohoos’ of the first are sweetly infectious and the brilliant shout of “Oh-kkin-da” (The Korean title of the song,) in the second repetition of the chorus is an extravagant declaration of love. The lyrics here (and throughout) are refreshingly honest and sweet. Boy band posturing has gotten old fast that, at least to me, it’s nice to see a group being vulnerably adorable. There’s a straightforward exuberance to ‘’Adore U’’ that I don’t think even Got7 has achieved lately.


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The third track seems to go against this infectious fun though. It’s far and away my least favourite song on the album. It’s a Diplo-lite style slice of electro rap that does nothing to add to the already massive pile of these in K-pop. The beat is formulaic and the chorus chants are dull. The rapping is not too bad. That’s the best I can say about ‘’Ah Yeah,’ which pales in comparison to EXID’s song by the same name.

‘’Jam Jam’’ follows on from ‘’Ah Yeah’’ with its hip hop tendencies. Its production is altogether more interesting than the previous song, yet not enough to make it stand out amongst the album in the same way that “Adore U” does. The bubbling looping synth holds the song together with a lot of fun, but the bursting adolescence takes a back seat once again for rapping because it’s cool, and serious, and mature.

This would all be so much worse if Seventeen’s rappers weren’t pretty decent. One member, Vernon, especially has a distinctive and impressive flow.

Just when I taught things were getting really bad ‘’17 Carat’’ moves on to the obligatory upbeat, acoustic cute song. It’s better than an obligatory ballad, I guess, but “Adore U” was so addicting with the fun, upbeat, electronic sound that I hoped for more of its ilk.

I liked how Seventeen had been sort of sweet before but that was with a lead single which helped them differentiate from the K-pop crowd. “20” is the sort of album filler that is so prevalent among all groups that the sweetness means nothing past the title track. Songs with cute lyrics about love over an acoustic guitar are second on my list of K-pop things I hate after album filler ballads; Seventeen differentiated itself with the title track, now I want to see something fabulous on the album. The one good thing I can say about this song is the electric guitar stuff at the start is fun. It never comes back though so it may not even be a good thing to tease the listener that way.

We are left here with a strong debut on top of a weak album. Usually lesser albums could be ignored if their accompanying single was good enough but nowadays it’s not as clear. When groups like BTS with ‘‘In The Mood For Love’’ and EXID with ‘‘Ah Yeah’’, are releasing brilliant and complete albums the game is slowly being pushed. Seventeen though, have created an album that is only seventeen minutes yet is tough to stay interested. What started out so exciting quickly turned into a derivative bore. ‘‘Adore U’’ is genuinely a smash though and could prove to garner them a strong young fanbase.

What’s do you think of Seventeen’s debut? Let us know 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.