Day 2 of any KCON is almost always even more exciting than the first. You’ve just had a full convention and some concerts but the prospect of more makes it even better. The Sunday show took a different approach to its sets than Saturday. Instead of a noticeable flow between the groups, they went for independent greatness. Each group stood on their own and showed in less time than the previous night, who they truly are.
Like the Saturday, day 2 opened with its two smaller boy groups dancing to American pop tracks. AB6IX began by performing to Charlie Puth’s “Attention” and Verivery followed with “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars. It was Verivery who took the win here easily, AB6IX were admittedly slick but uninventive. Verivery brought great gestures to the stage but best of all they made good use of each other as props. At the beginning, the group slowly moves together to form a car right as Bruno sings “magic in the aiiirrrr.” The kicker was that they even had one member wraps his arms around the member who was in the driving seat to mimic a seatbelt. Later on two members then duck down to become a turntable and even stick their fingers up to be used as knobs by the would be DJ.
It was the turn of the girls this time to take the first set. In what was an interesting but good call, Mnet’s very own Fromis_9 opened with recent disco b-side “Love Rumpumpum.” It’s a great indicator of the kind of the group they are, loads of fun but so technically proficient and precise at the same time. This translated into what was the tightest set of the whole weekend. Latest single “Fun” came next and really got the crowd going. They were step perfect in their routines, popping off the stage with bright colours and beaming faces. Sadly they had to condense “DKDK” in half due to time constraints but the despair lasted about a millisecond as the blistering “Love Bomb” followed directly after. They gave no time to relax, no time to ponder the short set. The speed and accuracy at which they did things meant there were no regrets with potential songs they didn’t perform.
Seventeen’s American duo, Vernon and Josh, popped up next to tell a story about journeys to space. Their song “Rocket” is a cute little track that favours being here, between sets, thanks to its easy rhythms. Vernon in particular, looked like he was having a fun and nicely relaxed time. The performance unit joined them halfway through as backup dancers, before continuing the space theme with “Moonwalk.” Again it’s not their most impressive work but that wasn’t called for yet. It’s still great to see such professionals coast through a difficult if not quite intense choreography.
Verivery couldn’t quite match the inventiveness of their opening dance performance but they do have the tunes to at least bring some grooves. Finding an identity in New Jack Swing, Verivery’s songs all have big beats, big chords, and big choruses. “From Now” in particular has a chorus so good and memorable that you’d be singing along by the end of song regardless of having heard it before or not. Sadly it was a case of diminishing returns from then on. “Ring Ring Ring” and “Alright” trot out similar ideas with lesser execution. “Ring Ring Ring,” again has a catchy hook but it pales next to “From Now.” They’re not quite ready for a platform like this but no doubt they’ll get there.
Another group potentially not in a place to be on this stage are AB6IX. They are technically the newest group of the weekend but have plenty of experience with former Wanna One members Daehwi and Woojin. They were, however, without the injured Woojin for all of the dances.. K-pop groups are usually masters at concealing the fact that a member is missing, Seventeen would even do it later in the night. AB6IX however, made the major mistake of having Woojin sit on a chair to do his raps. Having him sit at the edge while the four others danced in the middle of the stage made the stage feel unnecessarily huge. The space between them was always palpable.
This was doubly sad given the choreography of their stunning debut “Breathe” is reliant on member interactions. For that song they still just about made it work but their other two, “Shining Stars” and “Hollywood” proved to be misses. Those tracks are not good enough to stand alone and are made even worse with the lack of a member. There were good points though, Daehwi is a phenomenal performer for the absolute grace in his movements. Many K-pop dances can make their routines look easy, very few can make it look like their swimming through the air like Daehwi does. Lead vocalist, Woong, also had the best belts of the weekend.
Fromis_9 returned with the rather boring “covering the big K-pop songs of the day” section. They ably covered Red Velvet’s “Red Flavour.” It’s a good match given the direction Fromis_9 are going in with “Love Bomb” and “Fun.” These covers are always bland though and they do never do much to change things up. SF9 introduced themselves next before their set with EXO’s “Love Shot.” This was slightly more interesting due to their dayglo suits that seemed to be missing whole pieces of clothing. A sexy sign of things to come from them.
The final girl group of the weekend were up next and thanks to their star member showed something we hadn’t seen until then. (G)I-DLE’s most recent single “Uh Oh” was first and immediately Jeon Soyeon was standing out. Her voice was heard loud above the music, a rare thing over the weekend. She relished every moment on the mic, not being able to stop her smile every time the crowd roared for her. She played off of them, directing herself around the venue as well as at the camera. Soyeon was not afraid to detach herself from the focused expressions and pure commitment to choreography. They went on to blast through all of their singles, a shortened version of “Hann,” “Latata,” and finishing on “Senorita.” Soyeon would grow further into her role as the rest performed their functions. Soojin’s sleek, sensual dance was the only thing to come close to matching Soyeon.
SF9 proved to be the most sensual group of the weekend with their set. They left behind the primary colour suits and replaced with them clothes not so far from bondage. Right from the distorted guitars in their intro number, everything was geared towards a tough, masculine sexuality. No better is this demonstrated than in the heavy percussion and bass of “RPM.” This brought up the pace and kept it high even for “O Sole Mio.” It’s a song that would actually favour a slightly calmer presence but SF9 wanted it intense and they brought it. This was all set up for the banger of their lives, “Now or Never.” Led in the chorus by the infallibly cool Hwiyoung, SF9 delivered the deep electro with a perfectly effortless intensity. Pulling it off so well also meant they could end the night the decidedly more laid back “Play Hard.”
Before the long anticipated headliners arrived, (G)I-DLE were back on stage for the KCON classic Broadway musical cover. Befitting the girl crush image of them, (G)I-DLE chose “All That Jazz” from Chicago. Obviously “Cell Block Tango” would have been a much better choice but there’s also obvious reasons as to why they didn’t perform that one. As it was “All That Jazz” was a solid, mostly low energy number. It didn’t do much to show off the members, it would have if they were singing live but alas.
It was time for Seventeen. There’s little to add when it comes to these 13 boys. In a debate over the great K-pop live performers they would certainly be near the top. With only five songs, they can transform a night from a collective of K-pop groups to a full blown Seventeen show. The level of fun and individuality they bring to every performance is unprecedented. The effort and energy that goes into more recent songs like set opener “Getting Closer,” is no different from them revisiting their debut, “Adore U.” Seventeen have the same zeal for being on stage now as they did back then, maybe even more so. No one exemplifies this better than Hoshi. No single member of any group is better at leading a performance on stage, balancing his time between the camera, fans, and his fellow members. He takes charge alongside actual leader S.Coups and creates an atmosphere where everyone thrives. It was their closer “Very Nice” that finally brought the house down. They had everyone jumping and even sprinted back on stage after it was over for one more round.
Day 2 seemed to take day 1’s level of balance as a challenge. The groups on this night said we’re going to do the complete opposite. That’s not to say it was uneven or messy, but that each group attempted to stand on their own, not letting a potential flow between them stop them from doing what they want. It was a night of individual brilliance. The unbearable cuteness of Jang Gyuri, the lithe, feline movements of Lee Daehwi, the sharp, truncated rhythms of Jeon Soyeon, and blatant sexual energy of Hwiyoung. These moments and people would all be remembered, shining above those around them. With headliners Seventeen, they are a group so attuned to this style of performance that it’s impossible to separate them. They are all brilliant as individuals but geniuses when brought together.
All photo credits to KCON USA
Were you at KCON NY 2019? What did you think of day 2? 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.
https://secureservercdn.net/22.214.171.124/fmb.8e9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/MCD_KCONNY2D_104.jpg?time=166338100316002400Joe Palmerhttps://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/fmb.8e9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2019-07-22 15:24:192019-09-04 21:01:11KCON NY 2019 ‘M! Countdown’ day 2 recap
For the first time ever, KCON New York took place in the actual city of New York. The 2019 edition of the biggest South Korean entertainment convention in the United States moved itself from Newark, New Jersey to the iconic locations of Javits Centre and Madison Square Garden on July 6th and 7th. It felt destined to be an equally grand weekend with more acts, more guests, and most importantly, more fans.
The hallowed halls of the Javits Centre, home to most of New York’s largest conventions, quickly filled up the first morning of KCON. They just as quickly felt like home to the many fans checking the best of Korean culture available to them. As always, the major highlights at the convention was the panels, a rare chance to get an in-real-life perspective on the many facets of K-pop and also time to speak to many of the best journalists and Youtubers that K-pop has to offer.
The weekend’s offerings opened with a panel exploring the potentially tricky area of “Stan Culture.” Moderated by PopCrush journalist Lai Frances, the panel of guests steered nicely clear of controversy without ever feeling too soft on stans. Each of them went through some of their own experiences with quality fandoms and toxic fandoms. The most interesting exchange came prompted from an audience member when they asked about how the writers themselves feel they can change the more negative sides of fans. Of course, none of the panelists had an exact answer or even a feeling if they did, but they demonstrated the necessity for cultural critics well.
The other great panel of the day was run by Emma from Reacttothek, and featured producers Andreas Oberg and David Amber and critic Jakob Dorof. Titled “What’s the Difference between American Pop and K-Pop?” the four of them attempted to describe how K-pop came to sound the way it does and how that compares to modern American pop. The panel was full of insights into how production works thanks to the two producers, but Emma as well was just as adept at explaining musical terms and elements. Jakob, who lives in Seoul, provided the Korean context. He talked about how the karaoke market is something important to pop in Korea, as well as the fact that the genre-bending type songs we hear now may have their roots all the way back in the 1940’s. One of the most interesting little tidbits though, was his revelation that SHINee’s “Everybody” had ninety different versions before being completed. Apparently they would have a finished song, go to choreograph it, and find that it needed a little something extra here and there before finally thinking it was good enough.
At the expo itself, there was a never ending stream of potential things to do. Many corporate brands had stalls doing games and giveaways, and there was lots of merch and K-beauty products to purchase, and even a glass box in the middle of the room where idols came out to play. Coco was there on this to host for Ateez. They played some Jenga and whoever made the blocks fall would have to dance to a random song. It’s a fun game to watch idols play, but being in the box meant it felt a little less intimate. At the Prudential Centre in previous years, the groups would come out to stalls but still be quite close by. It’s this kind of intimacy that an event like KCON should strive for.
There was also a noticeable lack of fan stalls in the expo. There had always been only a small amount, but given the extra space, there could have been more of an effort to bring in fan artists. Fans could get together in rooms near the panels as fan clubs, but again, that felt too distant from the expo as well as being too specifically catered to one group’s fans at a time.
Day two rolled around swiftly and the panel area began with a packed schedule. There were three separate events going all around at the same time. Two meet and greets, one with now KCON legend, and former U-KISS member, Kevin, the other with four of the team from Reacttothek, and one returning panel “Women in Hallyu Media.” Our very own Tamar Herman was moderating and led the esteemed panelists through a frank and vital discussion. The reality of the pressures even the most successful journalists and media women was totally laid bare. They touched on the issue of women in K-pop and the lack of tours and coverage they get in the west. It’s a never ending cycle of not getting enough news space because the groups aren’t big enough, but never being given that space to get the fame in the first place. Jenny Zha made a remark in relation to this that would feel relevant for the rest of the day: she basically said where the money goes determines all of this, touring and coverage.
Later on, there was another chance to get up close and personal with some idols in the M2 glass box. There was more Jenga playing, this time from (G)I-dle. This included a happily embarrassed Miyeon dancing to “Baby Shark.” Verivery and SF9 took the to the KCON stage, where they partook in showcasing their rookie talent and sitting down for an interview, respectively.
Again the panels were the easy highlight of the day with more exciting work like the “K-pop and Mental Health,” “Breaking News in K-pop,” and “2019: Year of Girl Groups.” The latter took on a very comfortable sort of half fan club, half panel vibe that played into the positivity of the topic itself. The expo lost even more of its charm by the second day though, as there’s only so many free slices of pizza and ice pops that can keep you distracted long enough to stick around when there are few offerings and interactive events.
As KCON takes a big step in the right direction in New York City, it frustratingly takes some more smaller steps in the opposite way. Zha’s comment from the “Women in Hallyu Media” panel sticks in the mind. Growing in size requires extra money, and extra money requires more sponsorships, which ultimately leads to less creative control over how the convention is run. The panels and concerts are slowly becoming the only reason to go to these events, and who knows how long they’ll last as well, though, as this year is more heavily focused on rookie and Mnet-oriented groups, the TV channel under KCON organizer CJ ENM than ever before. The true danger of this progression is if fans follow this corporatization. Of course, KCON isn’t the leader in how fans consume K-pop, but it can be a litmus test for a general look at what the Stateside portion of the fandom might be feeling at one point. Events like this need fans’ money, but long term, they need their support way more.
All photos credit to Jean Libert.
What were your take on KCON 2019 NY? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/fmb.8e9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/IMG_20190707_075058_KCON19NY.jpg?time=166338100310651679Joe Palmerhttps://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/fmb.8e9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2019-07-18 17:04:332019-09-04 21:29:39Inside KCON NY 2019
One of the most important aspects of any K-pop single is its accompanying music video, and though 2018 is over, it’ll be a while before we’re over the MVs released by Korean artists throughout the twelve month period. Taking a look back, the KultScene team took a look at what exactly makes one music video better than another, and several writers shared their perspective on why one K-pop MV or another from last year is superior and memorable in its own way.
“IDOL” by BTS
Doesn’t matter if you look into BTS‘ music, videos, performances, fan-dedicated released content or even the fandom-driven activities on or offline. Whatever it is, there is always so much going on that you might either get confused or fascinated, but never bored. The music video for “IDOL” is no different. Filled with dozens of references (some that only fans will get, some that only Koreans or Korean culture aficionados will get), the music video plays with a lot of stereotypes that are often attached to BTS, to K-pop “idols” and just generally for being Asian men. Displaying a powerful choreography and a deliberate overwhelming aesthetic, the boys show that they don’t have a problem with whatever is it that you think they are (“idols” or “artists”). Because, at the end of the day, they are confident enough in their skins to be anything -or everything at once- while still being, above all things, themselves.
“Lullaby” by GOT7
“Lullaby” was not only a blessing to the ears but visually just as impactful. Aesthetics, aesthetics, on top of freaking aesthetics. There was never a dull moment visually or sonically throughout the three minutes and forty-two seconds of the music video. With the exception of the first three seconds, the video was never without vibrant colors, compelling backdrops or snazzy outfits. Colors aside, GOT7 kept the viewers anticipating what was to happen next with each scene, especially since each member had separate sets and themes. And although there were many individual scenes, the members always brought it back together with a unified group choreo and some fancy footwork. But speaking of footwork, the highlight of the music video definitely goes to go to Mr. Dance Machine Kim Yugyeom, as the astounding dance break and sharp moves of his solo stole the show. Even if you didn’t like the music video as a collective whole (don’t lie to yourself, you liked it), there were more than enough things about it individually that should’ve pulled you in.
“Apple Box” by nafla
On paper, nafla‘s “Apple Box” reads like an organized crime agenda (“put the money in an apple box,” possibly referring to a common way of accepting business bribes), but in action it reveals to be much more comedic. Under the creative direction of Digipedi, the music video portrays gang activities rather facetiously – a brutal beating in one scene is mitigated through deliberately cheesy special effects and nonsensically looped clips. In another, gambling is done with apples instead of currency. A bit of a step away from the kind you’d do after grabbing a kiss918 Download, right? Ultimately, these all act as red herrings for, as the least suspecting character (a hostess perhaps?) makes off with a chest of golden apples, we are forced to contemplate the ignorance of these traditionally male organizations. Because of its quirky approach to one of film’s most enduring genre’s, “Apple Box” may be nafla’s best work to date.
“Singularity” by BTS’ V
Captivating in its theatricality, the music video, or comeback trailer as it was dubbed, for V‘s “Singularity” ahead of the release of Love Yourself: Tear is an exhibit of the sort of artistry that BTS has thrived on over the years. With a luxurious blue-red-purple color palette recalling that of the group’s 2016’s “Blood Sweat & Tears,” this new music video stunningly represents the struggles with one’s self and the various masks that we wear. With watery allusions to the Greek myth of Narcissus littered throughout, the vivid cinematography enhances the impactful song as V explores the lush neo soul sound. And if that weren’t enough, the music video for the song graced us with one of the year’s most inspired choreographies, giving new meaning to the idea of dancing with oneself.
“1, 2, 3!” by Seungri
Big Bang’s Seungri breathes life into “1, 2, 3!,” his first solo comeback in five years, with a ’50s-inspired video set in the singing and dancing world similar to that of Grease. Like the musical, the music gives insight into his character, our hotshot hero who only loses his cool once he is bewitched by the heroine, played by a stunningly gorgeous Anda. As he grabs her hand and pulls her into a swing, he sings: “When I count to three, you’ll fall for me.” An ensemble dance cast, all outfitted in mid-century modern pomps, tea-length dresses, and oxfords faithful to the era, further integrates song and video by filling out the percussive claps and the hook’s polyphonic three counts. After taking us from one period set to the next, it all comes together celebratorily at the end with a nod to the iconic dance scene from Pulp Fiction between our leads and in a single freeze frame moment, we know he was right. It’s this kind of happily ever after that can make society nostalgic for a past it never knew. Between this and the one-take style reminiscent of Broadway productions, “1, 2, 3!” just feels like an immersive experience that is more motion picture than music video.
“One and Only” by Go Won
Of all the videos for LOONA‘s pre-debut project, none feel as suited to and in need of its trappings quite like Go Won‘s. As the second to last girl of the month, Go Won’s “One and Only” came late into the game. And it would almost seem that she would have too many obligations to the lore to have any sort of personal identity. Instead, along with LOONA regulars Digipedi, she finds herself within it all. Unlike her lyrics, which are confident from the start, the video shows this self-discovery in action. She begins covered in shadows, trying to embrace whatever light she can, but is still afraid of the temptations of Choerry’s apple, or the chase of Yves and Chuu. It’s in the act of watching herself where it comes out. Looking and singing into a mirror, watching her shadow dance to her own song, or imagining herself a princess with a crown on her head. The 1:1 aspect ratio helps her, making each image have an obvious and single point of focus. One image, one thought. Despite this, allusions to David Lowery’s A Ghost Story from 2017, reminds of the dangers of the never ending cycles of LOONA’s own universe as well as that of our own. Go Won finds a way out of her draping, suffocating sheet but how long is it before her time comes back around and she has to do it all over again?
“Dally (feat. Gray)” by Hyolyn
Hyolyn is a hip-hop diva in full control of her life, her body – and of your attention! – in “Dally,” the second music video released under her own label, BRID3 Entertainment. The artistic concept of the video is pretty simple – but seriously, do we need anything else when we have a team of such skilful dancers, led by a magnetic performer like Hyolyn, executing one of the most difficult choreographies seen throughout the year? In “Dally,” it’s hardly possible to take your eyes off of Hyolyn, or to doubt that she has everything it takes to keep wowing us with her self-managed works from now on.
“Now or Never” by SF9
As time passes, SF9‘s concepts continue to get more charismatic and sexier *phew, wipes sweat.* And it is totally working on their behalf. The group’s previous tracks and music videos had flavor to them but “Now or Never” really took it up a few big notches. The song and styling were both executed to perfection as the concept had just the right doses of cool, seduction, and dreaminess. The choreography was simple but alluring, and it played well with the bass. And how about that Michael Jackson homage? Classy. The cinematography was exquisite; the colors and abstract backgrounds made this music video fitting to be played at a museum. The track itself is solid but the visualization and styling gets an A+.
“What Is Love?” by TWICE
Sometimes it pays not to take yourself too seriously, and when ruminating on the immensely philosophical question of “What Is Love?,” TWICE served us up with one of this year’s most fun music videos. Throughout it, the nine women parodied the likes of La La Land, The Princess Diaries,Romeo & Juliet, and a wide range of movies from across the globe while trying to depict what the idea of love look likes. They then paired casual scenes of the nonet chilling at a slumber party while watching the films with elegant scenes where they perform the questioning choreography, serving up one of the most fun visual experiences of 2018. Since their start TWICE has always exuded a sense of infectious vibrancy in their music videos and “What Is Love?” overflowed with that to the nth degree.
“Moonlight” by Neon Punch
Neon Punch‘s “Moonlight” is how you make an effective K-pop music video on a smaller budget. It’s a classic example of the genre with no real story, just the members dancing, singing, and looking pretty in random locations. Its first minute is so brilliantly made though that all those tropes feel fresh. Song and video seem to become one, as they bounce off each other, reacting to each turn. Extremely simple but great visual effects are used to make this melding feel real, as the music bends the visuals while it builds and releases. This also makes the editing feel musical all by its own which gives the video great impetus to keep moving. As the effects start to dwindle the editing keeps the same sense of pace and wonder that they had built up. The funkiest bass line of the year feels at home among these vibrant visuals.
“Instagram” by DEAN
Sitting alone in a warehouse full of random objects, DEAN strums a skateboard as if it were a guitar. He sports a short mullet under his cap, along with generously slitted eyebrows, a (potentially appropriative) grill, a bandage under his right eye, and black overalls that cover part of his sweatshirt. Like the feed he scrolls through, he is a mess of different aesthetics and styles. “Instagram” the song is about endlessly scrolling through the app in moments of sleeplessness, reflecting our loneliness and insecurity back to us as we see others enjoying themselves on our screens, and the song emulates that.
From the warehouse room’s walls leak black paint, becoming screens that play a stream of videos and images characteristic of a social media feed. As the images spread further across the room, the video abruptly goes black. “Sometimes I feel alone, even when I’m with a lot of people,” a strange voice says in the dark. The video cuts back to the warehouse, and DEAN begins laughing hysterically, overtaken with the misery of his sleepless Instagram scrolling.
The video is simultaneously simple and complex, capturing a very unique relationship between phone and human, account and user. Using social media is repetitive and endless, an unhealthy distraction we know all too well. In bringing the feed to life in all its chaos and stress, the video highlights the emotional and psychological toll we endure in using social media every single day.
“Playlist” by DPR Live
“Playlist” is a colorful adventure following DPR Live as he vies for the attention of a mysterious woman. The song incorporates tribal and bossa nova beats as Live maintains his signature rhythm and swagger. While the song is a new turn for DPR Live, the music video expands the Latin trend in Korean music by including some aspects of African influence in Latin American culture through instruments and religion. From the beginning we are met with vibrant colors, gravity defying visuals and psychedelic art transitions set in a replica of a Peruvian neighborhood. Stand out moments include the shaman’s rain dance and spinning neon umbrellas during the instrumental breakdown of the song, as “Playlist” offers a glimpse of the creativity DPR Live has in store for the future.
“Kiss Me Like That” by Shinhwa
Simplicity is key and Shinhwa had that and then some in the “Kiss Me Like That” music video. The styling was sharp and neat; the linen button ups and suspenders? Crisp. Those blue silk suits? Elegant. “Kiss Me Like That” doesn’t have a pivotal climax but that worked out perfectly because it really didn’t need one. The music video gives a sense of relaxation. It doesn’t make you think or analyze. You just gotta kick back, grab a mojito, and enjoy the guitar strings. The video wasn’t over the top, just very clean, straight forward, occasionally flirty and wholeheartedly fun to watch. Shinhwa’s just really out here living their best life on that ship though. Next course of action, petition to have Shinhwa do a yearly cruise with fans (like New Kids on the Block)!
“Egotistic” by Mamamoo
Kicking off with a guitar riff, tropical plants, and neon buildings that add an Old Havana-like vibe to the video, Mamamoo is bold in aesthetics throughout “Egotistic” as they issue a warning of a lover scorned. How can anyone forget the intensity Hwasa’s stare-off with a jaguar? The Flamenco inspiration is apparent in the core of the beat of the song, the choreography, and the flowy dresses the ladies wear in the video. Their take on Latin-inspired tracks plays up the girl crush concept Mamamoo has become known for with fiery makeup, confident attitudes, and sexy dance moves. They also included the ultimate girl crush move: dancing in a ring of fire in front of buildings while executing a choreography filled with hair flips and and seductive shimmys. Overall, “Egotistic” captures a small portion of Latin America’s musical richness and is welcomed contrast to the highly mainstream trap beats that accompany the usual Latin trends in K-pop.
“Something New” by Taeyeon
Inspiring fan speculation and theories since it was released in June, Taeyeon’s “Something New” music video is, like the artist it belongs to, uniquely enigmatic and hard to place. Beginning on the red carpet at a ritzy celebrity event, the video quickly transitions to a hotel, where Taeyeon instigates a fight by suddenly throwing a hammer at a suited man during an elevator ride. The fighting then continues with her hotel room’s maid-turned-murderer, who leaps at the singer with a knife during a room service delivery.
It’s around this point when “Something New” begins to feel more like an action-packed spy blockbuster than a music video for an SM Entertainment artist. The scenes are fast-paced and cinematically captured, and they move artfully with the pace of the song. Most interestingly, Taeyeon takes the fights in stride, seemingly unfazed by them after they happen.
The end of the video, in which Taeyeon shoots suitcases of cash over a cliff facing the sea, is probably the subject of the most interpretation and discussion. Worth noting to most theorists is that Taeyeon has never been shy when discussing the hardships of celebrity life. Is the cash a representation of the net worth she’s built over the years? Are the fight scenes emblematic of encounters with online and offline haters? While it seems that “Something New” is an in-depth commentary on the difficult life of a celebrity, the beauty of the music video lies in the fact that it is truly up to interpretation. For dropping one of the most cinematic and mysterious MVs of the year, Taeyeon gets a nod from me.
What were your favorite K-pop MVs of 2018? Let us know your picks 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.
https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/fmb.8e9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/BESTMVSOF2018-copy.jpg?time=16633810038951436KultScenehttps://secureservercdn.net/18.104.22.168/fmb.8e9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2019-01-10 04:51:472019-01-10 04:51:48Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2018
While the year may be closing in a very sad and unfortunate manner with the passing of a K-pop icon, artists consistently delivered memorable songs throughout 2017. This year saw a lot of great moments from some of Korea’s most popular new acts, while newer acts also proved their worth with addicting, sleekly-produced music. Trop was the king of this year’s K-pop trends, but far from the only genre of music that saw its moment in the limelight.
Check out the first half of KultScene’s 2017 best K-pop songs list below:
50. “Circle’s Dream” by Subin
Subin is trapped in an endlessly repeating contradictory cycle in her self-written and composed single “Circle’s Dream.” She is told that she is round and that’s good, but then that it’s not. She wants to be angular, to pierce her lover, to make him feel like how he made her feel. Yet she is also trapping herself within a recurring musical structure, as an acoustic guitar plucks an incisive riff throughout the song. It is the only angular part of Subin’s song yet has no variation. Her stark synths come in late but their slow rhythm only accentuates the repetitiveness. Each element is perfectly realised to tell her story. Her voice completes it. Its soft and sweet but particular pronunciations like denggeureureu are key. This word alone combines both the round and angular sides to her. It has repetitions but in order to say it properly she still has to roll her tongue. Subin has enwrapped her whole song with the confusing ideas in her head. No solo idol has ever produced something of such pointed precision.
49. “Wee Woo” by Pristin
If “Wee Woo” had been released at the 2012-ish heyday of Hallyu, Pristin’s debut song would be considered legendary right now. It’s barrage of shifting sounds and onomatopoeic vocals are absolutely classic. The Pledis Entertainment regular songwriter Bumzu brings a bright and breezy feel to the whole production with disco electric guitars taking the brunt of the work. This allows the girls room to deliver the most hooks in a single song EVER. Each part is so complete on its own you could take them individually and create five more songs around them. The fact that they all come together for something that doesn’t feel so monumental is the greatness of “Wee Woo.” It’s arrogant in its effortlessness all the way down to making the primary hook out of the most simple term of jowahae nol jowahae (“I like (you) I like you”).
48. “Beautiful” by Monsta X
Monsta X’s cultivated sound and signature unruly charms finally comes together for the consummate “Beautiful.” Perhaps because it is supposed to be representative of the group’s first studio album, the single feels particularly significant. For one, there’s really nothing quite like the opening out there. Scattered with a prominent distorted electronic beat that is quickly followed up by Jooheon’s explosive raps, the real hook is not in the chorus but here in the introduction, where the task for the listeners to not mimic the unique noises or the clever near-rhymes is near impossible. The vocalists dwindle down the excitement sometimes without sounding monotonous, almost acting like the Apollonian restraint to the Dionysian madness. The constant shower of peculiar oscillations, whirs, and horns all make up the perfectly organized chaos that Monsta X is known for, and though “Beautiful” did not grant the boys their first music show win like it should have, it will always remain a tour de force in our hearts.
47. “Where You At” by NU’EST W
With their revival in popularity following some of the members’ appearance in Produce 101 Season Two, this subunit of Nu’est (missing member Minhyun who debuted in Wanna One) released this flashy track which stayed true to their unique music style. Bursts of electronic instrumentals are mixed with a calm piano backing track and adds a lot of contrasts to the song. It also highlights the strengths of each member, with Baekho’s explosive high notes complementing Ren and Aron’s softer and sweeter voices. JR’s rapping is as stable as ever, and he definitely shines more back in his own group. It’s wonderful to see this talented group get more recognition for their talents, and I can’t wait to see the full group back together again soon.
46. “You Were Beautiful” by DAY6
The February release of the band’s “Every DAY6 Project” can be said to be their most successful, especially domestically, and it’s not difficult to see why. The raw emotions brought out by the members coupled with the sincere lyrics create a sentimental rock ballad which truly tugs on the heartstrings of listeners. The end of the bridge in particular, where Young K and Wonpil’s voices are layered, is such a beautiful and emotional climax of the song. Even though it appears simple to sing along to (and is apparently a favourite among other JYP singers for karaoking), the song is actually very vocally challenging due to the large range required, and the effortless way the DAY6 members sing it shows just how skilled and well-trained they are.
45. “Tomorrow, Today” by JJ Project
After debuting ahead of GOT7’s debut with the exuberant “Bounce,” JB and Jinyoung returned as a more matured rendition of JJ Project this year and it was absolutely glorious. The two vocalists released this sweeping, introspective song about the very-millennial topic of making decisions and fearing regrets. The track provides the perfect forum for the pair to show off how well their vocals work together, with the duo harmonizing over guitar riffs, tapping percussion, and mellow synths. “Tomorrow, Today” is reflective in its warm approach to soft rock, and hopefully we’ll see more of this from JJ Project in 2018. It was a complete turnaround from their first iteration, and definitely more suited for the pair’s artistic style and capabilities.
44. “Don’t Know You” by Heize
Heize’s “Don’t Know You” is a very groovy song full of percussions with a slight mixture of disco, hip-hop, and R&B, which features the soloist using deeper vocals than what we’ve been used to hear from her. The overall appeal of this songs starts at the beginning of the track with the repetitive beats and the introduction of the synth drums that follow different tonalities on the record that give great texture to “Don’t Know You.” Her famous ad-libs are also present on this song as she goes from high to low tones, which are achieved by the reverbs added on the vocal track, that create great contrast between her sexy sweet voice and her solid rap parts. The harmony is very steady throughout and creates a great chill up-tempo track perfect to dance and groove to. Heize continues to show great promise with her experimental sound.
43. “Tequila (feat. Hoody)” by G.Soul
One can’t help but want to book an immediate flight to somewhere like Bali while listening to “Tequila,” especially with the brutal winter quickly approaching much of the States. Hoody’s bewitching voice alongside G.Soul’s multifaceted vocals make for the perfect combo in this dancehall track, ideal for both a cookout and the club. Lyrically wise, “Tequila” might not be appropriate for all age groups, as G.Soul sings about only wanting a one night stand. But if you’re someone who’s over the generic “let’s fall in love” type of style that is prevalent in K-pop the majority of the time, this song’s for you. The lyrics aren’t candy coated or sleazy, but come off rather… inviting. This wasn’t meant to be a flashy song, which is what made it even more enjoyable. Although G.Soul wasn’t hitting those high notes (that I love so much) like he usually does, it wasn’t a lack felt by this song.
42. “Wake Me Up” by Taeyang
It is no news that Taeyang can hold a ballad like no other, and in 2017, he gave us two great ones. “Wake Me Up” doesn’t have the same degree of emotional complexity of “Darling,” the other single from the album, but it’s its apparent simplicity what makes this song amazing and addictive. Objectively speaking, it’s a very linear song with no surprise factors when it comes to its structure. It might even seem like Taeyang doesn’t have much to say in “Wake Me Up,” but it’s definitely not because he’s lacking emotions. In reality, what we see is that he just doesn’t know what to do with them. Everything in “Wake Me Up” sounds gorgeously inconclusive and mysterious — from the airy sounds and atmospheric, echoed beats, to the lyrics that offer more questions than answers. No wonder the most touching moment of the song is when he’s constantly repeating “Is it love?” while delivering breathtaking high notes. Overall, Taeyang’s vocal performance amidst the ethereal instrumental creates just the right vibe for a song that is about love, but mostly about confusion and doubt. After so many years, you can still count on Taeyang to get you in your feels.
41. “Honeymoon” by B.A.P
Coming out during the fall when it should’ve been a summer jam, “Honeymoon” is a delightful EDM track from B.A.P’s seventh album Blue. The whistling at the beginning of the song left the remainder open for interpretation; this song could’ve been a sweet one, much like the title suggests, or a somber one. I’m glad it wasn’t the latter. “Honeymoon” puts listeners in a lighter mood, whereas previous songs were dark and heavy, all the while still executing a clear message. “With the overflowing stars from beneath the palm tree. A film on the shining freedom and bright youth,” they sing. Through this track, B.A.P wants to remind us to live life to its fullest, fulfill your heart’s desires to its grandest and emphasises that today’s youth will be the game changer in society going forward.
Taking the bubbly girl group image and tossing it out the window, MINX re-debuted early this year under the name Dreamcatcher. Not only did the group have a new name, but they also gained two new members and an interesting concept and sound. Taking the term re-“vamp” quite literal, the group came out with a dark and creepy concept straight out of a horror movie. The video for “Chase Me” takes references from classic horror movies like The Shining but also has cuts to choreography to showcase the girls dance moves. The song begins with pianos and then picks up at the chorus. Adding31 to the darker image, the song melded hard rock elements with a dance pop track to create something very dynamic. There’s something about the mixing of heavy rock instrumentals and feminine voices that is very appealing. Although the song sounds like it’s straight out of an anime, it is also an interesting new sound that’s refreshing to the K-pop world.
39. “Never Ever” by GOT7
Ever since debut, GOT7 have switched up their sound with every release, experimenting with different styles and concepts, and their first comeback of the year was no different. “Never Ever” follows in the same angsty direction as “If You Do,” yet this track mixes electronic and trap sounds while giving it their signature bubblegum spin. Vocally, JB and Youngjae can always be counted on to deliver outstanding choruses and ad-libs. But reveal of the year was that “Never Ever” is probably the song where the rap line is collectively most stable and the flows, while different, work together. GOT7 is building up a name as a dance group whose choreographies are insane, and “Never Ever,” with its glitches and heavy bass, is the perfect performance track in their building discography.
38. “Love Story feat. IU” by Epik High
One of the two title tracks off of Epik High’s new album, “Love Story” is a beautiful song about love lost. The steady drum beats coupled with the sometimes frantic sounding piano and, later on, the smooth orchestra creates a complex yet easy sounding melody that balances well with IU’s sweet voice and the rap verses of Tablo and Mithra Jin. Along with the concept video of a girl reminiscing about her past relationship through videos and photos on her phone, it sets the perfect setting for a song about heartbreak and loss. As expected with most of Epik High’s collaborations, the group and the featuring artist blend perfectly to portray the story being told.
37. “Wake Me Up” by B.A.P
A lot of the times, K-pop consists of clichéd lyrics and similar concepts. There are times when a number of artists will put out a string of songs, music talking about love, relationships and breakups. Again, the repetitiveness. Just when you feel like you’ve had enough of that sappy stuff, B.A.P appears with an eye opener like “Wake Me Up,” a track that touches on societal issues and mental health to stimulate one’s ear buds. The song has a compelling beat, a sound so strong, it’ll act as the pillar that will hold you up when one is fighting off their inner demons and struggles in life. “This is an endless tunnel, in darkness with no light. Wake me up, wake me up. I need to find myself,” they sing. B.A.P wanted to push awareness and wake up a society that looks away and pretends that issues like racism, judgement, and depression aren’t real issues because these things are very much on going and continue to be real life problems.
36. “Palette feat. G-Dragon” by IU
As one of Korea’s most prominent artists, IU on “Palette” seems to be comfortable with her fame and life, assuring both herself and her listeners that she’s changing in ways she embraces. Her lyricism uses cute examples, from changing color preferences to hair length, to demonstrate that she, “Knows a little bit about [herself] now.” The song’s instrumentals are a more alternative play on classic, theatrical IU releases. While the trademark ticking noises and sound effects are present, the song itself is slower and wispier, updated to match a more modern vibe that she seems to have grown into. The top female star of Korean music in the past decade, IU demonstrates that she remains focused on making hits, but now, on her own terms. With the help of a strongly performed and well-placed rap break from G-Dragon, IU on “Palette” lets us further into her excited, changing young adult world. Where she goes next from here, however, we’ll be watching.
35. “Dinosaur” by AKMU
AKMU is known for creating beautiful music, but with “Dinosaur,” the duo really surprised us: they finally added some EDM to their music while managing to make it their own. The electro beats and synths that appear through the track’s melody seem very stripped down and almost make it feel like an acoustic electronic song. The opening guitar in the beginning of the song especially feels like an homage to their earlier music. The synthetic kickdrums that blast before the beautiful notes from Suhyun during the chorus melody and are present through the whole track, giving it an unique mystery to the track. We also get more singing from Chanhyuk instead of his typical talk-like rap, which was surprisingly beautiful. Their voices blend and harmonize perfectly with the synthetic beats that made it an upbeat chill song for the summer. AKMU really had a lot of fun creating this track and used every tool that electronic instruments can give you as a producer. The song is simple but very detailed with a beautiful, heartwarmingly catchy harmony and a light beat that is very uplifting and instantly makes you feel good.
34. “Dream In a Dream” by Ten
SM Entertainment’s Station project has produced a bit of a mixed bag this year, delivering some truly great pieces of music amid a majority of lackluster ones. But “Dream In a Dream” was one of its glorious high notes. The ambient, east-meets-west styling of the song serves to relay the performance-heavy music video, which highlights Ten’s immense dance skills. Providing a soundtrack to the highly-stylized, contemporary dance video, it’s a song filled with drama and passion. But even as a stand alone track, “Dream In a Dream” delivers something truly special through its symphonic instrumentals relaying Ten’s echoing declaration of love. Lush synths and pulsating beats guide the track as it layers traditional Asian strings and into the atypically-structured melody. So far, Ten has participated in both this and NCT U’s “The 7th Sense,” two hauntingly beautiful, choreography-focused singles, and if this is the direction SM continues pushing him in, it may be the thing that could breathe new life into this era of all-too-similar K-pop male acts.
33. “Shall We Dance” by Block B
Ever since Zico cemented his status as a hip-hop icon in Korea, Block B has pretty much taken a backseat on the ride. And after a couple of quirky, even cutesy releases, it seemed the group had gone awry of the sounds and concept they made a name with. That’s why when they dropped “Shall We Dance” it was way more impactful. More in tune with the “trendy” sounds Zico is known to produce for his solos, the track explores different urban Latino sounds, which particularly stood out this year when artists are still releasing trop-house songs. “Shall We Dance” is groovy, smooth, and just as the title suggests, dance provoking. Being an older male group with a diverse lineup of talented members, it’s important for Block B to color outside the lines and continue to push the envelope as they have always done. And with this song, they did just that.
32. “Girl Front” by ODD EYE CIRCLE
“Girl Front” felt like a particularly important moment for LOONA. When LOONA ⅓ debuted as a unit they were still fairly unknown, a weird project group going about their own thing. By the time of ODD EYE CIRCLE, they had significantly grown with more people both at home and internationally taking notice. The fact that they absolutely nailed it came as no surprise to me, but how they did it was so impressive. By combining the songs of three girls (Choerry, Jinsoul, and Kim Lip) producers Ollipop and Hayley Aitken created something unprecedented in K-pop. “Girl Front” has the peppiness of “Love Cherry Motion,” the dense, propulsive beat of “Singing in the Rain,” and the electronic sheen of “Eclipse.” It’s a miracle that it all comes together to form something coherent let alone this good. The girls give it the last edge of excitement with non-stop vocals as they bounce off one another with glee, building a climax of unstoppable motion and further push forward the most exciting story of the year.
31. “I Wait” by Day6
“I Wait” was the first release of the group’s ambitious project, which set a high bar for their following monthly singles. The opening of the song draws the listener in with somber synthesized keyboard notes and dreamy vocals. The mellow beats gradually increase to the more aggressive instrumentals of the chorus, showcasing a much harder sound than what the band has been previously known for. The song continues to bounce back and forth between a softer sound and the heavy chorus, which creates and interesting medium. The video itself isn’t really anything special but somehow still complements the song with the changing graphics and effects. Overall, “I Wait” fulfilled its purpose of drawing in the audience with a new sound, showcasing the band’s versatility and ability to deliver quality songs throughout the year.
30. “MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix feat. Desiigner)” by BTS
“MIC Drop” was already a good song before Steve Aoki’s remix, but with his production, the producer added the aggressiveness that the track needed to be fully solidified as an anti-haters anthem for BTS. He did this by converting the hip-hop track into a hip-hop, R&B, and EDM infused song that made us remember the old BTS from their debut era. The track is energetic and gets you pumped up as soon as you listen to it; V’s deep voice and RM’s raps are major highlights from this record. The lyrics take a very sarcastic tone that even if they seem cocky it makes us sympathize with them. With the new added English lyrics in the chorus, the song makes everyone want to stand up against haters and face them off. BTS creates yet another ode for outcasts and bullied kids all over the world by once again taking on topics that usually K-pop bands don’t talk about.
This ballad stands out with its somewhat unconventional structure and chord progression, but it’s truly beautiful and addictive when listened to in its entirety. The way that Taeyang’s smooth voice connects the various parts of the song elevates it and showcases his impressive range and ability. His raw emotions are showcased front and center here too, especially with the way the song “progresses” in intensity from verse to verse. It’s soothing and intimate all at once, and allows Taeyang to present a more honest side of himself, as compared to being a charismatic star glorified by the limelight.
28. “Hola Hola” by KARD
Over the course of three project singles, KARD was able to develop a musical formula that worked. The tropical house and dancehall that undergirded “Oh Nana,” “Don’t Recall,” and “Rumor” provided a strong foundation for when they finally did make their official debut with “Hola Hola,” a timely and bright synthy number perfect for the summertime. Being co-ed is more than just a gimmick for this group; the exchange between tender vocals and throaty raps is the contrast listeners need to keep engaged. The chorus, on the other hand, shifts its weight onto an island beat, and while it would be easy to dismiss this sudden move as overly simplistic, the hypnotic effect is undeniable. It sweeps the carpet from under our feet and displaces us in a chimerical paradise. It is a nice recess from Jiwoo’s spunky rap midway or from any other strained moments, providing us with a sensual and personable comfort. “Hola Hola” only marks the beginning, but already the internationally beloved group has been dealt a good hand, and are making all the right plays to keep momentum going.
27. “Cherry Bomb” by NCT 127
Without a doubt, “Cherry Bomb” definitely encapsulates the sound of NCT127. The different mixes of genres that create a very fresh and futuristic sound create a unique style for the band that has everyone falling in love. The track starts off with a heavy bass and the repetitive “Hurry, hurry, avoid it, right Cherry Bomb feel it yum,” then goes off to Mark’s and Taeyong’s rap, with the pair proving to be the real standouts for this track, while the bridge explodes with Taehyun’s, Doyoung’s and Taeil’s beautiful vocals that melt any listener’s hearts. The song is filled with background synth noises, singed hooks, and creepy sounds that create a very chaotic but interesting track that is reminiscent of the album cover and the title of the song. It’s a classic, sassy and rebellious track and shows great direction for the boy band.
26. “O Sole Mio” by SF9
Is it possible for someone who lacks rhythm AND coordination to find themselves swaying ones hips and body with precision to the entrancing latin sounds of “O Sole Mio”? This track comes from SF9’s third mini album, Knights of the Sun, only one year after their debut. Rather then SF9’s usual upbeat dance tracks, “O Sole Mio” is captivating in it’s own mellow way. The transitions between the vocal and rap lines were smooth and well-versed, building up to a tender climax without it ever being over the top. The fusion of latin pop to K-pop is still new, but, let’s be real: we all could’ve used a break from some of the generic sounds we’ve heard this year, and the fresh sound of “O Sole Mio” delivered just that.
Stay tuned for the second and final half of our Best K-pop Songs of 2017 list, which will contain the top 25.
What was your favorite release of the year? 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.
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Each week, the KultScene team writes about some of the songs and performances that made an impression over the past few days of K-pop’s busy cycle. Last week, we liked new music from GOT7, SF9, and the cast of the new television show The Uni+. Take a listen now, and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
“Teenager” by GOT7 (Released Oct. 9)
It’s been a trend on the last few GOT7 albums to contain a fun song written by the members where they just act a fool. On 7 for 7, said song is “Teenager.” A little bit more upbeat and hip-hop-lite than the rest of the album, “Teenager” embodies Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” through the male perspective, essentially telling some girl they make them feel giddy inside. I personally really liked “Teenager” because, ever since the first listen, I could picture the members going around the stage greeting fans and taking pictures with them. The feeling was only enhanced with the live performances on music shows, where they all look visibly happy and pleased with themselves (especially that darned “I can do anything if you tell me good boy” line). Like the lead track, JB wrote “Teenager,” and if anything, 7 for 7 is the first album where we actually see a bit more artistry to this JYP Entertainment boy band.
“O Sole Mio” by SF9 (Released Oct. 12)
People are calling “O Sole Mio” the K-pop “Despacito”, which I’m not sure it’s fair to say. I understand it’s because it has a Latin approach, but we can’t ignore the fact it has so much more than this! Even if it might be intentionally channelling the huge Luis Fonsi hit, I think it still holds more complex features. The lyrics speak in 5 languages (Korean, English, Spanish, Italian, Latin) and the instrumental blends EDM, tropical house and hip hop with a beautiful Spanish Guitar– by the way, my salute to the producer for putting the guitar instead of the now-cliché tropical house drop after the chorus. Besides, I can hear the old-school K-pop feels in the melody of the chorus. “O Sole Mio” is a mix of so many things, but they all work very well together.
“My Turn” by The Uni+ Cast (Released Oct. 13)
Perhaps not as addicting as the theme songs of either season of Produce 101, the promotional pre-release for The Uni+ is a bright batch of co-ed colorfulness put to light EDM form. AKA, exactly what the doctor ordered. The twinkling, retro-styled synth and funk elements is perhaps the most cheery form of electropop we’ve seen out of K-pop in a while, and honestly one of the most innovative sounding takes on a trend that we’ve all seen done to its depths. I wasn’t particularly interested in the show aside from a few vocalists, which I still don’t think necessarily shine in this song thanks to some flat tones, to be honest. But the melody’s production is a nice change from the trends of the moment, and feels more K-pop to me than much of what is getting put out today. Which is definitely a good thing, at least in my book.
What was your favorite release of the week? 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.