On Episode 42 of Kultscene’s K-pop Unmuted, Gabriel Wilder joins Joe Palmer and Stephen Knight to discuss Kpop dance. We talk about the importance of dance in Kpop, memorable dance moments, top performance groups, great individual dancers, and much more. Our Unmuted Picks for the episode are Jo Jung Min’s Ready Q, Weki Meki’s Picky Picky, and Lim Kim’s Sal-Ki.
It’s been 10 years since SHINee debuted, a top-notch and versatile boy group that soon became one of Korea’s biggest pop acts of the late 2000s and 2010s.
Flash forward to 2018, where SHINee returns in the wake of the loss of the group’s fifth member, 27-year-old Kim Jonghyun. Jonghyun took his own life in December 2017, leaving behind remnants of his profound struggle with depression in a letter posted on social media.
But SHINee’s comeback music video titled “Good Evening” and album The Story of Light EP.1 reprise yet another seamless and moving presentation. It’s not an album nor a music video that wallows in the pain of what came before; it’s instead an everlasting memorial. In fact, one of the most breathtaking aspects of all is that SHINee returns with not simply four members but five, standing strong in light of Jonghyun’s passing as well as remembering him as he was.
The Music Video
The first six seconds of the music video are brief. In fact, if you simply watch with a devil-may-care attitude, you could miss it. However, you can see it, a vacant chair positioned with purpose for a member who is not eternally gone but always will be.
It’s a brief moment but nonetheless it hurts. Because it’s a clear and beautiful sentiment; it’s a chair seemingly left for Jonghyun.
Yes, it’s painful. But it’s a metaphysical message, saying that Jonghyun isn’t actually gone; his essence is still there.
Regarding aesthetics, Key returns with a white bandana as he flits from blonde hair to pink. Taemin greets us with plush pink lips, a Gucci T-Shirt and deep maroon hair. Onew sports tangerine orange hair, while Minho walks with class in pinstriped decor.
Their comeback music video for “데리러가” (Good Evening) places them in a kaleidoscope of color paired with an ambiance of flickering TV screens and old time movie projections. The four of them pose and prance like kings as video cameras surround them to capture their glory.
The choreography and vocals work together to create a succinct and tranquil atmosphere, a space that is also simultaneously filled with tension and wonder. And as they move, the miniature TV screens mimic in an unsteady haze.
The visuals feel intricately complicated but not in an intrusive way; it’s mesmerizing to watch. In fact, the barrage of colors and light help create a remarkable world built and solely composed by the kings themselves. And what the viewer witnesses isn’t solely based on sadness.
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There are scenes of laughter and playful banter, as the group members run under rays of sunshine, sequences that feel genuine and strong. Pair this with moments of desperation, where the members can be seen frantically moving under water, attempting to reach the lover in question. This sense of urgency proves an inspiration for fighting against all odds to reach the one you love.
The song itself is a pulsating beat intertwined with glossy vocals reminiscent of a dream. Vocally, it’s an instant and unmistakable throwback to ‘90s R&B, mixed with a compilation of new age sound. Because frankly, this is the era in which SHINee has always excelled.
Think back to the fifth album, 1 of 1, or Odd, the fourth album. Both created an atmosphere filled with intricate beats not quite familiar with today’s diluted and exhausted compositions. And with this album — The Story of Light EP.1 — they’ve done so yet again. Because SHINee’s songs take us there, to fantastical worlds beyond our comprehension, making the music they create eternally stick with you.
It should be noted that the song and overall melody are clearly inspired and arguably sampled from the 1997 hit — “Cupid” — written and performed by contemporary American R&B group, 112. The sampling and SHINee’s retelling or reinterpretation work well together, inciting nostalgia while also taking us toward a brighter future.
As the song reaches its climax, Key whispers:
I can feel we’re looking at each other through this door. Let’s see … your eyes, nose, lips, cheek.
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His mournful cry paired with the pre-chorus is a powerful sentiment:
너무 늦기 전에 너를 데리러 가
Before it’s too late, I’ll come pick you up.
This strong affirmation could be interpreted as a message for Jonghyun or an unreachable lover, and says that no matter what obstacles arise and no matter how far the distance, nothing will keep them from reaching the one they love. And even though it’s a race against time as the 달빛 or “moonlight” approaches, their passion for the lover in question or the brother they will always love, is of cosmic proportions and cannot be broken.
What’s even more miraculous, is if you listen closely it’s almost as if you can hear Jonghyun’s voice riddled throughout both the album and the music video, a faint distant memory begging to be remembered.
And to be honest, this is a song that forces one to confront his or her demons or whatever emotional pain that lingers in waiting. The song operates as a necessary catharsis for allowing emotional bandwidth to take hold, even if just for a moment in time.
Transition to the group’s sixth album The Story of Light EP.1, a six-track EP that’s filled with both an embolden SHINee as well as songs reminiscent of the group’s past releases.
While “Good Evening” serves as a dreamy pop ballad, “All Day All Night” and “Undercover” both serve as a cross between hip-hop and electro pop. “JUMP” takes us back to the sound of SHINee’s 1 of 1, where suddenly we’re taken back a few decades to ‘90s pop.
The EP concludes with “You and Me,” an uplifting track that talks about memories past that features lyrics written by Key. It’s also a song that talks about the difficulties of moving on even when the pain one feels inside is completely unbearable.
아픈 건 나뿐이야
네게 뛰고 있는 내 맘은 장식이 아냐
I am the only one who is sick
Although I may seem okay
The heart, which is beating toward you, is not a decoration
The love that is felt for the person in question is genuine and unbinding in spite of how much the pain consumes one’s psychosis.
The Story of Light EP.1 poses as a strong resolution and signifies the next chapter of the SHINee’s journey.
Because SHINee’s back, not just with four members, but five.
What do you think of this SHINee album? 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.
One year after releasing his first full length album Press It, SHINee’s Taemin made his comeback on October 16th with the title track “MOVE” off his second full length album of the same name. MOVE as a whole takes on a mixture of pop and R&B, exploring a variety of genres. But it’s in the single where the soloist truly lets his artistic colors show themselves.
“MOVE” is a sultry pop-R&B track that showcases Taemin’s breathy and soothing vocals. In the song, Taemin croons as he expresses the beauty of a person he has fallen for. The song itself gives me a sultry and sexy feeling, and it takes a couple of listens to finally get the true nature of the song.
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The production is reminiscent to what The Weeknd has been releasing over the past while, offering up a very groovy and pulse-pounding sound. Unlike “Press Your Number” and “Drip Drop” from Taemin’s first album, “MOVE” is a track that is slightly reminiscent of the ’80s thanks to its heavy bass sound.
There were three versions of the video released for “MOVE.” The main version contains shots of Taemin walking and dancing in the rain before shifting into another scene where he is wearing a bejeweled mask. The use of the rain and cinematography during the choreography scenes was terrific and brilliant.
The second video is the solo version, which showcases Taemin’s best quality: dancing. We get to see more of the choreography, which is perfectly synchronized and fluid with the beat of the song. The third video is a duo version, which features only Taemin and choreographer Koharu Sugawara.
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It was interesting that Taemin released three versions of the video instead of one because it seems like he wanted to showcase how each one would look in a different perspective, with the first one focused on theatrics while the other two focused on choreography. It was a unique attempt for K-pop, though perhaps differentiating each of the videos a bit more would have helped make the need for three videos more obvious. Even so, there was plenty of eye-candy choreography to make the appease the most ardent dance fans.
“MOVE” is a good comeback title track, and it’s different from what we have been hearing in K-pop this year. We’ve been getting releases that have been following the mainstream dance sounds for a while now, so it’s nice to see something for a change. Taemin has a style that makes him different from many other K-pop solo acts in that he is willing to experiment with sounds that the Korean audience isn’t used to hearing. It would be interesting to see if this style continues to make its way into the K-pop scene.
What did you like, or dislike, about Taemin’s “MOVE”? 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.
I want to be clear when I say that I expected nothing less from Jonghyun’s newest release than what I received. Because in all honesty, the SHINee member’s captivating music composition and ethos are consistent in their individual brilliance, from the soul and funk of She Is to the effortless groove of Base.
And although The Collection: “Story Op.2” serves as a follow up to Jonghyun’s The Collection: “Story Op.1,” this newest release doesn’t prove strictly synonymous. Instead, it serves as a reminder that love, in all its glory does present pain and that such misery can either present itself as inescapable devastation or beautiful chaos that’s worth fighting for.
The Collection: “Story Op.2” presents itself as somewhat of a departure from albums past. Here, Jonghyun poses himself as more than just a vocalist; he’s the maestro, the composer, the lyricist, and the producer. The album presents itself with a bit of everything from sorrowful ballads and steady R&B beats to hopeful odes of what’s to come, similar to Jonghyun’s first installment, The Collection: “Story Op.1.”
The album begins with its title track, “Lonely,” which features a bit of star power and combines vocals from both Jonghyun and Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon. It’s also the only song on the album that has a music video The single showcases an honest and strikingly desolate depiction of what it means to be alone. It also delivers dark undertones of the detrimental pain and suffocation that arises while in isolation, especially the experience of feeling sequestered and detached from someone even within a seemingly “happy” relationship.
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What comes next is “Just Chill,” which discusses taking a moment to disconnect from the world and love entirely by taking solace in silence, while its companion, “Love Is So Nice,” drops into a two step of sorts and revels in the carousel of casual and comfortable romance, such as lying in bed together or taking a devil-may-care attitude when making plans.
Track number five, “Blinking Game,” is instead a more playful jazz track. Here, the tone is more lighthearted as the artist frolics in the beauty that love provides, posing a tongue-in-cheek staring contest with his lover to see who breaks first. And when she begins to feel shy he politely requests she not look away, for her bare beauty is what he truly desires. And “Elevator” takes a departure in tone entirely, serving as an aching ballad that seemingly presents Jonghyun as his own bystander struggling to reconcile his demons.
The track that packs the most powerful punch arrives toward the end of the album titled, “Let Me Out.” This is a track that gives a potent delivery of what it means to be paralyzed by the past, specifically concerning matters of nostalgia and being unable to forgive oneself from past transgressions. The beat is methodical, beginning with piano tricklings that instantly capture the ear and induce a focused series of vocals centered on introspection as the song intensifies then decrescendos to a solemn conclusion. And it’s that resistance and the pleas of wanting to let a loved one go that keeps the listener locked from start to finish.
“Fireplace” then provides a powerful follow up, except this time the lyrics provide a more hardened approach to forgotten memories of what was. Here, the love that was present is no longer and in place of the plea of “Let Me Out” is a blatant understanding and indifference to wanting things as they were. The forlorn vocals are smooth and mesmerize the senses, leaving the ear tantalized with whispers of lost expectations.
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Jonghyun’s album concludes with “Our Season,” a brighter ballad that relaxes the previous instances of melancholy and ventures into hopeful declarations of reuniting with love only after constructive dissection of how to positively move forward and learn from one’s mistakes.
Really, this an album centered on introspection, pain, reciprocity and unapologetic honesty when it comes to matters of the heart, which makes this record a must listen for any and all.
Jonghyun's The Collection 'Story Op.2'
On Saturday, SHINee will take the stage at the Staples Center at the Los Angeles leg of KCON USA presented by Toyota. For the second time this year, SHINee’s coming to Los Angeles to wow audiences and I’ll be sitting in the crowd cheering them on, enthralled by their performance. A big change from the last time I saw SHINee perform in the US.
Walking into Madison Square Garden on October 23, 2011, I was ridiculing my friend who was a SHINee fan (Shawol). “Look, they’re all short!” I said, pointing out how the fans with their pearl aqua green paraphernalia. “They’re all young. They don’t know what it’s been like stanning these groups for years!” As a longterm Super Junior fan who spent much of 2009 heartbroken over a variety of departures from Super Junior and TVXQ, SHINee had no place in my heart. But then the quintet got on stage and I had to accept something I had been denying since I discovered K-pop a few years before:
SHINee is the best K-pop group of our generation.
And that’s something I will go on the record declaring, despite people trying to counter this claim pointing to sales records. Not that other groups aren’t iconic (Super Junior and INFINITE will forever be extremely talented groups in my eyes, and nobody can deny the insane response BIGBANG and EXO have received from audiences both in and out of South Korea). I’m not writing this to upset anyone. I’m writing this because I was on a very hot subway, listening to “Symptoms” (thanks Alexis for rectifying that emptiness in my life a month ago) and I had an epiphany about SHINee’s career as a whole.
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“Symptoms” isn’t a single, although it was promoted alongside “Everybody” back in 2013. It shouldn’t be a mind-blowing song. But it is, because it exhibits some of SHINee’s best vocal performances, like Key’s glorious, unexpected vocal trill. But it doesn’t matter. Single or otherwise, SHINee’s songs are always a step beyond the rest. Both because of the performers themselves and the production team that one day sat in a room and decided that SHINee wouldn’t ever follow the trend: this is a group of trendsetters and they have been since day one.
When things come down to it, idol groups that release better music have far more of an impact even when they’re not necessarily the strongest fandom: This quintet can take a simple b-side and make it an aural experience that any listener can enjoy. And that’s why they’re able to hold multiple shows in the United States this year even without any new material. Unlike much of K-pop, there’s no need to be an innate fan of SHINee to like their albums. It’s becoming more and more common; Red Velvet and BTS have released exceptional albums lately and Seventeen will likely join their ranks soon thanks to their production creds — but only SHINee does it in a way to appeal to even the most casual listeners.
(Sorry to literally every other idol group out there. I still love and appreciate the majority of you, but SHINee does it better than the majority.)
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The combination of raw talent and precise production make SHINee the most accessible K-pop group of the past 10 years. Listening to their songs, SHINee’s members have surpassed one another consistently to become a group that lacks little, if anything, sonically. Gone are the days when Jonghyun and Onew were clearly the main vocalists of the group; dancer Taemin has a solo album and Key surpassed expectations with his unique baritone tones, becoming a mainstay of their songs. Even rapper Minho has surpassed the dibidibidi days of yesteryear. Their performances of “View” last year were some of the most evenly distributed lines in K-pop in the past three years (the group’s size clearly affects this). Aside from Minho, who smiles as he delivers his sweet but clearly less impressive vocal performance, the other four divide the song nearly evenly with each member given a chance to express his own vocal color.
Needless to say, I’m hyped to see a group I very much once loathed this weekend.
What do you like/dislike about SHINee? What’s your favorite song? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear you thoughts and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.
We are very excited to reveal our first premiere, the official remix of Jonghyun’s “Deja-Boo” by EDM artist IMLAY. Over a year after the original release of the song, the 21-year-old IMLAY built on Jonghyun and featured artist Zion.T’s award winning song. The new abstract bass-styled remix turns things up a notch for a funkier version of the track that’s a summery take on the jazz original.
“I had a great time making my first K-pop remix,” IMLAY told KultScene. “Initially, I thought Korean lyrics would not match well with EDM sounds. But it turned out better than I thought. I hope everyone enjoys!”
If you don’t know IMLAY, now’s a good time to get to know the rising producer: he worked on BoA and Beenzino’s recently released “No Matter What” and performed an opening set at Jonghyun’s release party for “She Is” earlier this year. He will appear at SM Entertainment’s Spectrum EDM festival in October so if you’re in Korea check the festival out. SHINee, Marshmello, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and other popular EDM artists are also featured in the lineup.
Listen to IMLAY’s EDM twist on “Deja-Boo” for the first time right here:
When a friend of mine recently asked why K-pop is a fandom rather than a genre, it was puzzling; of course K-pop is a fandom. Looking around at K-pop’s international fanbase, the question hardly makes sense; it’d be like saying The Beatles are a genre when they are in fact so much more. But that doesn’t resonate with people unfamiliar with what K-pop is, who just assume that K-pop is a very specific type of music rather than an entire entity.
K-pop, at its heart, isn’t one sound but rather a production style coming out of South Korea today and the pop culture surrounding it. K-pop is Korea’s music industry and all that it contains. Similar to Hollywood being the umbrella term for the industry, its stars, and its products, K-pop is the blanket term for music, celebrities, and a variety of other aspects of Korea’s pop culture.
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Understanding that K-pop is the overarching term for a variety of music coming out of South Korea is key to erasing the idea that K-pop is a single musical style. What most people think of “K-pop” is actually idol music, pop music acts produced by large entertainment agencies. There are usually, but not always, synchronized choreographies. K-pop doesn’t just mean idol music though, since all of South Korea’s mainstream music is now coming under the title. But that’s not everything under the sun in South Korea, and even Korean indie acts are falling under the broader K-pop umbrella; this year’s SXSW’s K-Pop Night Out includes a girl group, two R&B artists, an IDM producer, an alt-punk indie duo, and a glam metal band.
And they’re all included in the idea of K-pop to some degree, despite their blatant genre differences.
Because of its utter enormity, fans of K-pop aren’t just fans of a specific style of music, which would in fact make K-pop a genre. A fan may be a fan of an act act, such as idol groups like SHINee or 2NE1, but unlike fans of musical genres, K-pop fans express affinity to the artists rather than the musical style; musical affinity isn’t bound to being a fan because K-pop is impossible to pin into one individual style. While both SHINee and 2NE1 have distinct styles within the K-pop world, their songs themselves are known for genre-blending and musical experimentation rather than sticking to one specific musical style.
Saying K-pop is a musical genre is limiting, since the songs falling within K-pop’s realm range from folk to R&B to bubblegum pop to hip hop and beyond. (It also diminishes the face value of music coming out of South Korea today, since K-pop gets a bad rap as a wholly manufactured industry with little innate artistic value.)
In a recent interview, members of Korea’s most popular boy band Big Bang deplored the idea that K-pop is a single genre. Seungri argued that the title doesn’t express what is good K-pop versus bad K-pop and G-Dragon highlighted the fact that K-pop isn’t K-pop to Koreans; it’s just music. Meanwhile,T.O.P argued that the terminology itself was a failing, and implied that there were racist connotations to lumping all Korean music under the idea of a single genre.
“It’s like this,” he told the Washington Post. “You don’t divide pop music by who’s doing it. We don’t say, for instance, ‘white pop’ when white people make music.”
But clarifying that K-pop is just general Korean mainstream music isn’t really easy to explain in a casual conversation since most people are not likely to understand the nuances of why it’s not a single musical style, making it difficult to expand on the broader definition of how and why K-pop is dissimilar specific genres like country or metal.
Metal fans, like other fans declaring favoritism to a specific style, favor acts that fall under a specific overarching musical genre. Just like K-pop, they identify one another on the streets based on band tees and get excited when a new act comes to town. But without the specific tones of being a metal band, those same fans won’t be interested. If a metal band put out an album inspired by jazz music, their fans would likely be confused and pan the album. K-pop fans eat up that sort of experimentation, since it’s part of what makes certain songs fall under the K-pop title.
But with K-pop, the most genre-bending music “genre” of all, the music is just the beginning of the pitfall that leads fans to start liking all aspects of the K-pop scene. While many songs sound similar, and there are trends in K-pop overall, a K-pop fan can be biased towards the slower, more mellow ballad tones rather than the dance music, but still be a K-pop fan. Most fans of K-pop claim partiality to specific acts and join that act’s fandom (i.e., Big Bang fans are known as VIPs as a whole) but still are a part of the overall fandom of K-pop. They cheer when a K-pop act beats out other acts internationally, coming together to support the industry’s international growth, and get upset collectively when a single fandom may be under attack from outside fandoms.
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While “K-pop” once stood for the specific idol music coming out of Korea, it is now essentially a word handed out freely to describe all Korean pop and even all Korean music. Looking at idol groups alone, there are allegedly hundreds of different sounds and concepts. But when someone says they’re a fan of K-pop music, they’re not saying that they’re a fan of the specific sound of K-pop music because there is no such thing. Rather, they’re saying that they are a fan of the world of K-pop. What that world is is up for debate in South Korea nowadays, just as Big Bang said, but K-pop is no single musical style, despite the Guardian trying to peg Grimes as K-pop in a recent article.
If K-pop were a genre, it’d be the all-encompassing world of Korean pop music and then some. It’s the industry consisting of music production companies in South Korea and the musicians themselves as well as the music. Some of it is idol music, some of it is hip-hop, ballads, indie-style folk music, etc., but it’s the production value and promotional aspects that makes K-pop what it is and why fans love it. It’s an idea moreso than a genre.
Yes, K-pop songs are mostly Korean pop songs, and you could say that K-pop is a genre. But a genre is a style with a limited range of musical tropes. K-pop is definitely an entity, but that entity is so much more than any music genre; it’s an entire scene that, yes, surrounds a certain type of music, but is so much more than a single genre.
What do you think of defining K-pop as a fandom rather than a genre? 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.
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.
As another month comes to an end we can safely clock August as another great month for K-pop. To celebrate I’m going to look back at some b-sides that might have unfortunately gone unnoticed. With another slew of high profile releases there’s plenty to discover. This month we have lots of retro goodness, with influences coming from all over the world giving a new lease of life to K-pop.
Primary feat Sunwoo Jung-A and Gaeko “Paranoia”
If there is one artist continually releasing great work this year it is Primary. He’s had songs out nearly every month since the start of the year and there has always been something interesting amongst them. These have culminated in the fantastic album “2” and my favourite from it “Paranoia”.
“Paranoia” is a wonderfully slow and restrained piece of trip hop. Primary has never been afraid to show off his parade of influences within the genres he has worked in. He invigorates these with a new modern life while never forgetting what made them special in the first place. This time he takes on that very British style of trip hop. The echoey drums recall Portishead and give the song its gloomy feeling. What really makes it though is Sunwoo Jung-A’s mournful voice and Gaeko’s energetic rap.They seem to be directly referencing the British artists of that time like Thom Yorke of Radiohead and rapper Tricky. It lends an authenticity but mostly makes the song work totally.
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B1A4 “You Are A Girl, I Am A Boy”
More 90s alternative influenced music here with B1A4’s “You Are A Girl, I Am A Boy”.
Okay that may be a bit of a stretch this time but it was the first thing that came into my head when I listened to this track. The reverb laden guitars immediately brought Sonic Youth to mind. This thought was quickly dispelled but that doesn’t lessen the effect of the guitar. It’s an entirely new sound to be found within K-pop and is why this song is on the list. This use of the live band sounds are what set apart B1A4 for me. Amongst many samey hip-hop influenced boy groups they stand out thanks to this and their distinctive voices.
Retro was certainly a major theme for august. SHINee as always delivered an amazing throwback with the whole of the “Married to the Music” album. Jonghyun’s effortlessly sexy “Chocolate” stands out.
“Chocolate” goes for retro synths in a big way. They sound almost 8-bit and hit with a strong but smooth force. There’s layers to them that feel almost physically tangible. The verses that change tempo and general intricacies of the song make it something more than your average album cut. It’s clinically sexy yet has delicate touches that elevate it above other sexy sounding songs.
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Wonder Girls “One Black Night”
Speaking of retro, I don’t think any K-pop group has ever pulled it off as well as Wonder Girls have with “Reboot”. With that “Reboot” and “I Feel You” they have released probably the best album and song of the year all while also learning and playing instruments for it.
With an album this good it’s hard to pick just one b-side. So I’m just going with my mood right now which means “One Black Night”. Ever since I first listened to “Reboot” I felt like it was a soundtrack album to some amazing 80s movie that never existed. If so then “One Black Night” would play when the main character is at their lowest point so they go out to get totally wasted for one black night.
The song starts off slow with a plodding piano and stripped back drum beat. It recalls member Yenny’s solo work as HA:TFELT, mixing solemn piano melodies in the verse with crashing electronic sounds in the chorus. The emotions are also similar, ones of pent up angst finally being released in cathartic acts. In this case drinking and embracing.
Girls’ Generation “Bump It”
Girls’ Generation came back again before the summer officially ended with their album “Lion Heart” and there’s a lot to get stuck into. Most may have assumed that with a double single release there wouldn’t be much left of interest. They would be wrong.
Album closer “Bump It” is the highlight as it cleverly walks the line between the Girls’ Generation we know and love and the Girls’ Generation many want to exist. By that I mean it starts off like a fairly standard sweet ballad before turning urban pop at Tiffany’s request. With the singles being a great signifier of what Girls’ Generation can be, this is the perfect song to close out the album.
What it does really well is using both styles within the song. Once the ballad part at the start ends it would have been easy to leave out but the piano remains and reinvigorates the song at the chorus. Similarly towards the end when Taeyeon is about to begin her crooning, Sooyoung cuts in with a rap to make sure one style does not win over the other. Girls’ Generation are at their best whee unpredictable like this.
Is there any other August K-pop B-sides you loved? Share 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.
Sometimes I think I’m not harsh enough on K-pop releases. Nearly every one of my reviews has been overwhelmingly positive. Those were all genuinely great releases, though, and I don’t think any differently now. Maybe K-pop is not as perfect as I thought it was, and I was adjusting my opinions to fit that. Then this week happened. Three titans of K-pop SHINee, Wonder Girls, and T-ara released equally exceptional new songs. As the kids would say, what a time to be alive.
These vanguards of K-pop are also a good example of a few different sides of the genre. Wonder Girls and SHINee deliver perfect 80/70s throwbacks in different ways and T-ara pull off the best generic Brave Brothers track since AOA’s “Miniskirt”.
SHINee “Married to the Music”
SHINee already showed us that they had the 90s sound and look down to a tee, and this time they take on the music of the 70s. Michael Jackson’s style in particular can be heard, which isn’t a surprise given his clear influence on Taemin’s solo and SHINee’s concept in general.
The first thing you’ll notice about “Married to the Music” is how wacky and fun the video is. It takes most of its inspiration from the 1975 cult classic, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It shows the boys from SHINee drinking some weird drinks that change their disposition (alcohol! gasp!) and having a wild time in a creepy house. Heads are chopped off, eyeballs popped out as events get stranger by the second. It is by far the most fun video of the year so far. It’s great to see SM actually trying with their videos as well. When they actually put effort in, and take SM artists outside of boxes, SM Entertainment makes the best video they have ever done.
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It’s disappointing then that the lyrics don’t match up with the video at all then. They’re pretty standard, about loving a girl. Even the music metaphor isn’t interesting as it’s always about the girl and not actual music, which could have been cool and unsurprising given SHINee’s seeming love of music, especially Jonghyun.
This disappointment doesn’t last long though as the song more than makes up for it. “Married to the Music” continues the retro theme with funky aplomb. The thing I really like about this song is the wide use of actual instruments over electronics. Apart from the drums it sounds like an actual band could have played this. The wandering bass that carries the song is particularly satisfying and reminiscent of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. The slick guitars provide the funk like no synths can. That’s not to say it’s devoid of electronics though, they are used sparingly to good effect at louder parts of the song like Minho’s rap. The song is a blast and has no trouble keeping up with the outrageous video.
Wonder Girls “I Feel You”
The throwbacks continue with the return of the legendary Wonder Girls. I got into K-pop in late 2011 so missed most of the Wonder Girls mania. So, they never really meant a lot to me apart from having some good songs. However, when the teaser came out for “I Feel You”, the single for their new rebooted band lineup, I fell in love. The MTV inspired video and 80s synth-pop sound appeared so perfectly realised. With the release of the video, this love turned out to be complete.
Like SHINee, it’s the dedication to being retro that really sets Wonder Girls apart. So often recently we have seen groups tack on the most obvious elements of 80s or 90s pop to make their song a retro throwback. The general sound and look of these songs are usually still quite modern, though, so it tends not to work. What Wonder Girls have done is transport the 80s to today and given it modern production values and edgy sexiness. Even with that, “I Feel You,” still sounds like it could have been from the actual 80s.
This is clearly evident in the synth hook that introduces the song. It’s an intoxicating riff that doesn’t outstay its welcome and eventually becomes the hook of the song. This is why the actual chorus comes across as quite flat at first. Sunmi’s softer, kind of talk singing over the chorus doesn’t inspire you to sing along but allows the synth riff to shine once she’s finished. It also works to carry over the sensual feeling of the verse which features similar sexy, whispered vocals. The addition of rapping that can sometimes make a retro K-pop track quite jarring doesn’t even stop “I Feel You” for a moment. Yubin’s deep, sensual voice fits perfectly with the rest of the vocals making her rap more a slightly faster verse than a whole new part.
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The music video also completely nails the 80s retro feel. The attention to detail in some of the images is brilliant and quite funny at times. If you ever thought the video was kind of cheesy at times, don’t worry: That’s the point. The opening is probably my favourite where Sunmi turns to the camera, smiles then zips down her shorts to reveal the group on stage. For whatever reason the turn before she smiles makes it for me; it seems unnecessary but works so well. I also love the shots of the girls as they rap the post-chorus part. They have two of the girls in each shot and pull focus as they rap. It’s the type of shot that would never be seen today and is the kind of detail that makes this song and video one of the best of the year so far.
T-ara “So Crazy”
For better or worse, Brave Brothers has become a mainstay of the K-pop environment. His safe but effective music has been increasingly popular in the last few years making him the go to guy for a hit. So his pairing with the once loved T-ara is an appropriate one. Ever since their scandal in 2012, T-ara have had a hard time regaining their popularity in Korea. Instead they have mainly focused on promoting in China where they have had unprecedented success. They, of course, have not given up on their home country though and are teaming up with Brave Brothers for “So Crazy” their new single.
While “So Crazy” stays true to the Brave Brothers form in structure and use of sounds, it is still an incredibly exciting track. It moves at intense speeds. The song doesn’t quite explode until the first chorus but the opening verse is deceptively quick and full to the brim with different sounds. Bouncing horns and layered vocals build anticipation before the song takes off. Its a sound that fits T-ara like few other groups. Their vocals lend to the high-pitched layers especially using the slightly weaker Jiyeon with a stronger vocal like Hyomin’s or Soyeon’s.
“So Crazy” is Brave Brothers at his absolute best. Of the three songs I’ve talked about so far, it is probably the least interesting and yet it remains the most exciting and listenable. His ‘oh oh oh’ hook once again works its magic. The song has an unhinged quality that is usually absent in Brave Brothers songs. It hits all the same beats as any recent AOA song yet there is always so much going that it never bores and feels like it could lift off into the stratosphere at any time.
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