K-Pop Unmuted: Talking Girls’ Generation

In the 24th episode of of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Tamar Herman, and former K-Pop Unmuted co-host Scott Interrante discuss the departures of Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany, Seohyun, and Sooyoung from the legendary act, the girl group’s legacy, and some of our favorite hits from the Girls’.

We also talked about new music from BTOB, Loona, and Ha:tfelt. 

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

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

SHY SHY SHY: Why Girls’ Generation-SHY Needs to Happen

TTS SHY Girls' Generation SNSD

Back in 2012, SM Entertainment announced that the Nation’s Girl Group, none other than Girls’ Generation themselves, would be putting out its first subunit group, known as TTS. As we all know, the subunit went on to (arguably) become K-pop’s most successful subunit. Composed of main vocals Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun, this small microcosm of GG has sold over 300,000 albums, 3.5 million downloads, and four top ten singles in South Korea alone. Clearly, TTS is a formidable force in the world of subunits (or even girl groups on the whole — the subunit ranks among the best-selling girl groups even without GG behind them). Ever since their debut, TTS has remained relevant in the K-pop scene as a standalone group.

TTS SNSD Girls' Generation Taeyeon Tiffany Seohyun

But there was one teensy, tiny, little detail of SM’s original 2012 announcement that was particularly notable — TTS was originally planned as a rotational subunit. This meant that different subunits would be created with different members of the group. At first, this excited fans, because they would be able to see their favorite members in various duos and trios as the years progressed. However, while TTS became a staple of SONE culture, these rotated subunits never happened. Instead, TTS received comeback after comeback. And while they’ve released consistently good music, fans have been waiting for SM to live up to its now four year-old promise. Most commonly, it seems the craving for a new GG subunit has manifested in the form of SHY.

Also on KultScene: 13 Things We Learned at GOT7’s ‘Fly in Los Angeles’ Show

Girls’ Generation-SHY is a hypothetical unit of Girls’ Generation, consisting of members Sooyoung, Hyoyeon, and Yuri. And while TaeTiSeo focused on jazzpop and vocal pop, SooHyoYul would put its energy into hip-hop and dance music. While TTS spent more time on vocals, SHY would display killer choreography. This is only expected from the group’s dance line, which, when on their own, gives off a very different charm than the rest of GG. While they have gone to darker concepts (re: “RunDevilRun,” “Bad Girl,” and more), SHY is edgy and badass, while regular SNSD is loveable and girly. SONES who have been waiting for something darker and more hard-hitting from the group crave a SHY debut for this reason. SM should definitely cash in on this appeal, as it further diversifies the SNSD sound and gives the girls even more versatility and longevity, especially going into their tenth year as a group.

Hyoyeon SNSD Girls' Generation Younique Unit SHY

SHY would also be an incredible and worthwhile fanservice to SONES who have followed the group for years but haven’t gotten to see Hyoyeon, Yuri and Sooyoung really shine on their own. While Yuri has been recently getting more lines (it seems her role as a dancer and visual is colliding with that of a vocal lately), none of the three have really had a chance to shine on stage as all-around performers. Sooyoung, who previously debuted in Japan as part of a duo, has also been underutilized. “Catch Me If You Can” saw the three fan an increased role in Girls’ Generation, but this trend completely reversed with the release of their following albums. “Party” and “Lion Heart” gave them minimal lines as usual, leaving fans to hope that “You Think” would give them a well-deserved share of line distribution. Given the more hardcore, dance-centric vibe that “You Think” seemed to exude from the teasers, many fans thought SHY would finally shine. However, the exact opposite happened — vocals led the entire song and saw Yuri take a few random lines here and there, with Sooyoung and Hyoyeon taking the tiny, anticlimactic rap section before the bridge. Once again, SHY fans were frustrated at their faves’ lack of spotlight. It seems that, after more than a decade of hard work, these girls deserve some attention of their own on stage.

And what better time to debut SHY than right now?! One of the biggest trends of K-pop in 2016 is SM’s hard work — we’ve seen unit and solo promotions across the board from members of Girls’ Generation (both of whom are TTS members, unsurprisingly), f(x), Super Junior, SHINee and more. Many of these releases don’t follow musical trends in Korea, because they instead incorporate more unique and diverse genres into what is becoming one of SM’s most musically eclectic years yet. It seems that SM has gone above and beyond caring about the public popularity of its music, opting for music quality and global potential instead, and using EDM and other similar “more global” genres to match these attributes.

Also on KultScene: Weekly K-Pop Faves July 11-17

So considering how EDM literally stands for Electronic Dance Music (emphasis on “Dance”), why isn’t SHY debuting with some badass EDM/rap song? In fact, Hyoyeon already handled such a concept very well in the music video for “MAXSTEP” by Younique Unit, a temporary promotional group SM assembled using its best dancers a few years ago. An EDM/rap-oriented SHY song might not chart too well, but neither did half of SM’s releases this year, and SM doesn’t seem to care about chart positions as it is. So what’s stopping them? If anything, a SHY debut will add to SM’s goals of globalization — Hyoyeon is known for being by far the most famous member of the group in France and has a very sizable fanbase in North America as well. The same goes for Sooyoung, whose charms seem to be recognized in both Japan and the Western Hemisphere. A SHY debut aligns perfectly with every single one of SM’s goals right now, so it seems simply absurd why this long-awaited release hasn’t happened already.

SHY Sooyoung Hyoyeon Yuri SNSD Girls' Generation

The truth is, there are some reasons why SHY isn’t happening just yet. There are rumors of solos from both Seohyun and Yuri. It would make sense for SM to want to finish the TTS trio of solos before moving onto other SNSD-related projects, and once that’s out of the way, a Yuri solo would definitely throw a wrench in SHY debut plans as well (but still cause at least a substantial fraction of the buzz that a SHY debut would create). Not to mention, Hyoyeon is also busy with “Hit the Stage,” an Mnet competition show for some of K-pop’s most famous idol dancers as contestants. However, none of these activities mean, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that SHY can’t happen. It seems that we are closer than ever to something of that sort happening. Maybe we just need to wait a few more months, a year or two, or whatever it takes. But in due time, even SONES will be singing along with TWICE’s Sana, in a future fanchant that is yet to be created, for a future debut that is yet to happen.

Do you think SHY should be debuting anytime soon? 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.

Battle of the “Why:” Wanna.B vs Taeyeon

Taeyeon & Wanna.B
Why were there two songs called “Why” released on the same day, 28th June? What links these tracks, one by titan of K-pop Taeyeon and the other by flop girl group Wanna.B? Nothing really, but the coincidence of their titles is an excuse to compare both the songs. In most cases it is probably irrelevant, but I think it might be interesting to see directly side by side the gap between the biggest and smallest of what K-pop can give us.

“Why” by Wanna.B

Watching Wanna.B’s “Why” for the first time we get an air of familiarity before anything else. The video and sound is almost a direct jack from Mamamoo, particularly “Um Oh Ah Yeah” for the video. Their sound continues the jazzy horns but tones them down considerably with more emphasis played on an overall mix. More pop oriented than Mamamoo, but the hallmarks are there. Even the whiny raps come off distinct like Hwasa’s own peculiar drawl. This proves that they are really starting to have an impact. The GFriend clones were coming all over the place, but only have the Mama-mimes shown themselves. It does represent some sort of a step up for Wanna.B though, who last year put out an After School inspired track “Attention;” Everyone knows After School are so 2013 (I don’t mean this please let them come back Pledis).

Also on KultScene: The K-Pop Phoenix: The New Generation of Girl Groupsc

Why Mamamoo? The pop comedy angle is an interesting one that can garner a lot of fans if done well but be embarrassing done wrong. I don’t think Wanna.B will pursue it quite like Mamamoo, but it is present here with the gurning actors and cosplay settings in their video. Musically, it sits in an awkward position between a Mamamoo inspired jazz belter and a Brave Brothers classic. It sticks to the structure but never fluctuates in intensity. Like many songs, a rap is used as the break/bridge. The vocal itself works well, the delivery is accusatory and playful whipping around the beat. Yet the song never takes off alongside it. It sticks to its plucked strings and horns, which again are nice sounds but stagnant within these confines.

Wanna.B’s why is for a man, obviously. They curse themselves for not being able to seduce a man with their high heels, perfume, and general things that make them prettier. Like the music, there’s no progression of ideas. One might ask, why?


“Why” by Taeyeon

Taeyeon’s very own “Why” also provides us with a sense of deja vu with first listen. Since discovering producers LDN Noise on SHINee’s “View,” SM have used them for a number of songs, essentially letting them define the current SM sound. Given their name it’s no surprise that it’s a typically British house/garage sound. They return to production duties here alongside Rodnae Bell (EXO’s “Monster,” SNSD’s “Mr Mr”) and Laura Dyson, with lyrics by Jo Yoon Kyung.

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In adapting to SM’s house sound, Taeyeon has not completely lost her original solo colour. The laid-back pop of “I” and “Rain” is in fact bolstered and allowed to move up with it. Those previous songs relied on her vocals to progress the song. “Why” builds constantly thanks to both the vocals and music. It begins with a verse that alone would have been seen as fairly generic. Yet it builds nicely, with subtle tropical hints of what is to come. The soaring chorus that follows is a perfect mix of the two sounds. Taeyeon’s vocals, which I thought might not have fit, are beautiful in their inquisitiveness alongside thumping house beats. Those refrains of “good, good” come for my very soul. The chorus transitions directly into another verse while continuing on the blend of house slow-jam. It progresses the song without an abrupt moment. This is what Wanna.B sorely lacked. While different in genre, Taeyeon’s “Why” rises and falls and adds new elements at every turn. Wanna.B’s “Why” picked its direction and could not see otherwise.

Taeyeon’s track continually makes the right choices in production, particularly the bridge which firsts gives Taeyeon her vocal moment but allows the music to take over for the big break. LDN Noise knew this was not a regular Taeyeon track and knowing that they allowed her to shine in a different manner. The lyrics that drive the production are also more interesting than Wanna.B. They are the correct use of a title like “Why.” Taeyeon is a curious traveller, moving at random in search of beautiful moments, “The needle that would turn on a compass, Blooming abundantly at the place where it stops.” She projects an openness to allowing life to happen to her. It’s a feeling that fits with her new sound, an unfamiliarity driven by fresh experiences.


Why Taeyeon and Wanna.B?

It has proven to be somewhat unfair to compare these two. Although, like I mentioned before, there are things we can take from this. Namely as the gap between big and small companies gets smaller with regards to production level and to a lesser but growing extent sales, it seems like the bigger companies are still getting better. The sound quality between Taeyeon and Wanna.B is not vastly different, yet Taeyeon’s “Why” is vastly superior. SM have always proven to be sharp hit makers and they continually remain on top because of their adaptability. Not only that, but they also make the hip sounds of the time their own, creating new structures to place sounds in. SM’s ingenuity with the song as a total experience is why they remain on top.

Wanna.B, on the other hand, have taken a popular sound and look directly from a single group, watered it down a bit, and made it sound like the most classic of K-pop tracks. Through these filters, the special things about each of these elements is lost. The individuality of Mamamoo, the inexplicable joyous pop of a Brave Brothers track, and Wanna.B’s own flair are all forgotten. So disappointingly we leave knowing that the big dogs win again. Yet Wanna.B are only one of a string of lesser known girl groups with releases towards the end of July. Maybe there is hope.

Which “Why” do you prefer? Taeyeon or Wanna.B? Let us know WHY 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.

Girls’ Generation & The (So-Called) Copycat Generation

Girls' Generation, GFRIEND, Twice, IOI

Nearly two and a half decades have passed since Seo Taiji and Boys’ “Nan Arayo” heralded in the beginning of the K-pop musical genre. Since then, there have been countless singers and idol groups who have made an impacts on K-pop as a whole and one of the most important trendsetters of the past nine years has been none other than Girls’ Generation. They have solidified their legacy with hit after hit and shown audiences one iconic concept after another. And, with such a career, Girls’ Generation is clearly a role model for newer acts. But as rookie groups GFriend, Twice, and the newly-debuted project group IOI have learned, there is a fine line between homage and copying.

It’s this differentiation that is coming to light as K-pop fans around the world criticize rookie girl groups who have clearly chosen to model themselves after one of the most successful acts of the generation. The K-pop industry is small enough that originality is always applauded, and there is plenty of that when it comes to Twice, IOI, and GFriend. But these new girl groups have taken a few lessons from older acts like Girls’ Generation and proved that there is much to be learned. Unfortunately, it sometimes leads to a “wait, was that plagiarized?” moment. There have been multiple head scratching and accusations towards groups who have a concept too similar to one of those of Girls’ Generation, but the question is worth asking: Are these girl groups copying or are they emulating?


Over the past few months, GFriend has surpassed the expectations of many, with successive hits after one another. But while their refreshing image and their pristine performances have set them apart, GFriend’s debut concept had K-pop fans around the world crying “foul!” “Glass Bead,” the first in a trilogy that followed a youthful schoolgirl concept, was attacked for sounding altogether too similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut song “Into The New World.” With similar cadences and an energetic dance while also wearing athletic gear, GFriend was initially accused of trying to garner attention for imitating Girls’ Generation.

Also on KultScene: 8 Misheard K-Pop Lyrics Pt. 5

Now, more than a year later, it’s clear that GFriend hasn’t just mimicked Girls’ Generation –they’ve imitated them as icons of a certain K-pop concept. Additionally, GFriend’s agency Source Music consists of former SM Entertainment staff members. While speculative, there’s no real question that GFriend’s production team took the example of Girls’ Generation’s debut concept and analyzed it to get the formula right. And, with two additional hit songs under their belt, it’s obvious that it worked.


While they’re down to eight members following the 2014 departure of Jessica Jung, Girls’ Generation was the first K-pop female megagroup. Girls’ Generation’s launch heralded in larger girl groups, but even now larger girl groups are far and few in between (AOA is the only other mainstream group with eight members) so Twice’s size was a tip off to the fact that JYP was going to market Twice as a group that has something to offer everybody. I was honestly surprised more people didn’t call out the Girls’ Generation comparison the minute JYP Entertainment (a main competitor of Girls’ Generation’s agency, SM Entertainment) announced that it would debut a nine-member girl group. When it comes to K-pop, size really does matter because it means there’s a higher likelihood that there will be a member to suit everybody’s taste. And Twice certainly has aimed to highlight the different sort of women in the group, with each of their music videos clearly defining individual charms and personas of the members.

But it was less their size and more the teasers for their latest song that got fans in a tizzy; the concept for “Cheer Up” at first glance looked a purple palette take on Girls’ Generation’s iconic pink cheerleading concept from “Oh!” While Girls’ Generation doesn’t own a concept, wearing crop tops, short shorts, knee highs, and letterman jackets while performing in a sports stadium harkens back to “Oh!” Once the music video for “Cheer Up” was released and it was clear that the two songs were stylistically different, the only thing that remained was the cheerleader concept. And, six years later, it’s inspiring to see a talented group put their own updated on an iconic K-pop concept that Girls’ Generation pioneered.


This week’s debut of I.O.I takes us back to “Into The New World” in a way that’s far more obvious than GFriend’s instance. While GFriend first song and music video were stylistically similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut, the concept and music video for I.O.I’s debut song “Dream Girl” harkens a bit close to home.

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Like in “Into The New World,” “Dream Girl” introduces the members of the new group through their own individual aspirations including being successful as dancers, athletes, and fashion designers. Watching the music video, it would be almost impossible to say that “Dream Girl” wasn’t based on “Into The New World” as scenes are set up similarly in ways that make it near impossible to be coincidences. I.O.I’s agency, YMC Entertainment, reportedly told local Korean outlets that the music video was designed with the song’s sound and lyrics in mind, but it truly seems like a 2016 update of “Into the New World” idea. For a group that debuted nearly a decade after Girls’ Generation, it seems natural for newer groups to want to resuscitate the style of an older music video.

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When it comes down to things, Girls’ Generation and their success is something that future girl groups can only hope to achieve. At the end of the day, none of these instances come across as plagiarism but instead appear to be this new generation of K-pop girl group’s imitation of a successful older act. And, as it’s said: Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

What do you think about Girls’ Generation’s legacy? Are the newer groups wrong in stylizing themselves after them? hare 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.

Playlist Sunday: Worst Korean Singles of 2015

Worst Korean Songs of 2015

Now that 2016 is well under way, we’re definitely ready to say “goodbye” to some of K-pop’s
worst singles of 2015. For this week’s Playlist Sunday, KultScene’s staff members each picked their least favorite songs of the year.

[Disclaimer: These picks are based on individual taste, so feel free to disagree in the comments.]

I get it. “Lion Heart” is the epitome of what Girls’ Generation represents: The archetype for the perfect feminine and demure woman. The song’s beat and the overall styling of the music video takes us back to the ’50s and early half of the ’60s, when young women aimed to look like their older and glamorous mothers. When the sexual revolution and women’s liberation was about to explode and a woman’s value equated to her looks and how refined she seemed. But fine, it’s a pop song, and every woman can choose to be anyone they want and dress however they want. But. That. Chorus… If you want to torture someone, just play “Lion Heart,” it’ll make their eardrums bleed. Truth is, SNSD’s latest album and singles (with the exception of “You Think”) were largely disappointing compared to their previous work. Especially considering that the album had better bubblegum pop with throwback feel contenders like “Fire Alarm.” The whole concept behind “Lion Heart” makes sense for a group like Girls’ Generation, yes, and we all like them for their girly ways. However, musically, they don’t have the vocal chops to carry that chorus, no matter how nasally and high they make Yuri sing.

— Alexis

Girls’ Generation’s “Party” makes me want to dive into the body of water that they’re filming the music video on and stay submerged for as long as humanly possible (without dying, of course). Can someone please tell SM Entertainment and Girls’ Generation to stop it with their attempts at rapping? Oh, and for Tiffany to stop it when her random ass English segments in their songs. Yeah, yeah, we get it, it’s party time. “Party” had a lot of ups and downs (emphasis on the down) moments for me; I couldn’t figure out if they were trying to make this a summer anthem or if it was an attempt of them being sensually cute by experimenting with livelier beats and adding alcoholic beverages in their lyrics but either way, I was disappointed. There were too many transitional breaks throughout the song, too many moments that had me waiting for someone to hit a higher/lower note than they actually did. Sure the music video was semi fun to watch, also very scattered, but the song just makes me want to pull out every strand of hair on my head. Can they have more concepts like “Oh!”, “Run Devil Run,” and “The Boys”?

— Tam

JYP Entertainment had a great year in terms of music. miss A released a pretty solid album, Wonder Girls finally came back, and the company even debuted two new rookie groups, both of which quickly grew in popularity. They did everything right and more… Except for one disservice. I don’t know what they were thinking with giving the green light to 2PM’s “My House,” but the song is a far cry from their usual good releases. I get that they want to spice up their sound and want to show that they are more than party boys and sex icons, but something feels lacking. Where are the interesting beats? Where is the build-up? Maybe it’s because I have been babied by fast-paced songs like “A.D.T.O.Y.” or “Go Crazy,” but “My House” feels bland. It’s very forgettable, and doesn’t add much to their already remarkable repertoire. The only saving grace was the video, which contained an underlying fairy tale thematic.
Oh well, better luck in 2016, boys.


Maybe I loved “Can’t Stop” way too much to have realistic expectations for anything CNBLUE could offer for their comeback but I was woefully disappointed with their 2015 release “Cinderella.” They may have achieved a lot of commercial success (as usual) for this song but while the song isn’t horrible, I’ve definitely seen (and heard) CNBLUE do so much better than this auto-tuned track that seems to only have two lines and a bridge that hardly seems like part of the same song. To make it worse, their album “2gether” actually has some great B-sides such as “Roller Coaster” and “Radio” that overshadow this title track completely. Seriously, what was going on in the heads of the album producers? In a K-pop industry with more and more popular bands (both indie and idol ones) CNBLUE really has to step up their game in 2016 to show fans what they’ve truly got.


Let’s get one thing out there. Park Jin Young aka JYP is a great producer. But he’s a misogynist, and his hit song “Who’s Your Mama?” highlights that more so than just about everything else he’s ever said or done. The song’s funky, jazzy beat is good, and Jessi’s solo rap is nothing to sneeze at, but Park Jin Young is literally describing his perfect woman’s ass and saying that that’s all what he looks for when looking at women. I wish I could say that it’s satire a la Psy’s “Gentleman,” but that doesn’t seem the case. The song begins with Park asking a woman what her hip and waist measurements are before going into a song describing his love of big butts. “Shake that booty” is one of the most prominent lines of the song as Park diminished women as anything other than physical beings for him to oggle. “Who’s Your Mama?” is K-pop’s “Baby Got Back,” and the song did exceptionally well on charts, but that still doesn’t make it okay. 2015 was the year of the booty, but JYP took it to another level in a way that was blatantly sexist. We’re in 2016, let’s put an end to this obsession with equating women with their ass-ets.


I could have picked any song from the many iKon released towards the end of the year, but for sheer lack of imagination, I’ll go with “Airplane.” Apart from their whole shtick being based off what’s popular in K-pop right now (rap,) iKon also come across like Big Bang-lite (so like another WINNER but even less interesting.) “Airplane” has twee synth and piano sounds that are used to make their ballad sound less like a ballad. I’m all for ballads not sounding like ballads but this screams of trying too hard, “it’s not a ballad guys, we rap, we’re cool, I was on that rap show remember?” Speaking of Bobby, I’m also not one to care too much about line distribution but this is ridiculous. It’s unfair to both B.I and Bobby who should be in a duo or going solo and to the rest of the members whom might as well not exist. Mostly I hate how YG thinks he can put a bit more rapping into a song and that makes it good enough to be recycled over and over. It was great back in 2008, but it’s time to move on.


August’s Best K-Pop B-Sides

August B-sides
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.

Also on KultScene: Sunday Playlist: K-Pop Beach Songs

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.

SHINee “Chocolate”

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.

Also on KultScene: June K-Pop B-Sides That Should’ve Been the Lead Title Track

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.

Girls’ Generation’s “Lion Heart” and “You Think” Song Review

I don’t know if it’s just me but Girls’ Generation seem to have been slightly forgotten this year. Maybe off the back of Jessica leaving and other controversies people don’t see them as the sweetest girls in Korea anymore. Maybe people are just bored of them being sweet. This is all despite releasing some great music. “Party” was underrated, lots of fun and totally suited to the summer. “Check” is their sexiest song to date, yet no one took notice of it. Even generic banger “Catch Me If You Can” was revitalized by the live stages. They are still successful of course, but the excitement for new material from them is slowly dying.

The release of “Lion Heart” and “You Think” comes a pivotal moment then. It’s a statement of intent as to who these girls, or more accurately women, are. It’s an answer to calls for them to grow up. I, for one, am still excited about what they can still do.


“Lion Heart” takes a straightforward structure to work in and clutters it with many elements. Girls’ Generation can pull off almost any type of song you throw at them, and this is no different. It is perfectly pop and sweet while still maintaining some more difficult aspects.

The song is built on a simple but weighty guitar riff. It grounds the song in its retro settings and allows it move around lots of vocals without disrupting the rhythm. Instead of the traditional drumbeat for the verse, “Lion Heart” has hand claps and finger snaps which are pushed as one of the loudest elements. They resonate really well giving the song a strong acoustic sound. Musically, the song stays quite simple throughout allowing the vocals to really shine.

 Also on KultScene: How To Get Girls’ Generation’s “Party” Music Video Summer Looks

If I were to ever have anything bad to say about Girls’ Generation it would be that their vocals are not that diverse. They have never really had a song to burst out of their comfort zone, continually relying on Taeyeon, Tiffany, Seohyun, and Jessica, when she was still around. “Lion Heart” completely dispels those worries. They don’t just push their ranges as far as they can though, the song is more clever than that.

By using only Taetiseo and Yuri in the chorus, the producers make sure that it always bursts with as much life as possible. The transition from verse to chorus creeps up on you and makes the hook even more effective. It’s a genuine outpouring of joy that makes me smile every time. It gets even better though, as the post chorus brings in the a cappella moments which will become vital to the song. These moments are a rare use of the collective voice in K-pop, where we are used to one dominant voice even in choruses. They give a great sense of unity and depth to a song.

The bridge, as well, uses their voices well as members swap out quickly. Hyoyeon’s deeper kind of rap contrasts especially well against Seohyun’s high pitched part. There’s a lot going on here, but never goes off the rails thanks to the quality of vocals. It also allows the chorus to remain the climax of the song as the bridge is more of a comedown as it leads into the most beautiful a cappella part of the song to lead us out.

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What was that about vocals? “You Think” goes hard too.

“You Think” marks Girls’ Generation’s first full foray into the ever popular hip-pop territory. Like “Lion Heart,” it has hand clap beats except this time in the trap sense. Musically, it’s actually quite simple with these beats taking up most of the runtime. Horns come in every now and then, but there’s little deviation. This is a technique rappers have been using since they started, taking out the middle melody of a song to replace with their raps. Here, it’s to let the vocals of the girls shine once again.

This is why Yoona, Sooyoung, Hyoyeon and, Yuri barely get a look in. It’s one of those times where unequal line distribution is important for the song. In place of them, Tiffany, Seohyun, Taeyeon and, Sunny wail and shout in all manner of ways. Sunny especially surprises with a great energy to her voice, she sounds genuinely angry at the silly boys she’s singing about. It’s a great display of talent but doesn’t save the song. Everything in it works but still, it doesn’t get past being generic. It’s no better than the equally safe “Catch Me If You Can,” but people will like it more because of the bells and whistles.

Women’s Generation

What all this really says to me is that Girls’ Generation still have a lot to offer. They are still in the process of becoming women and it can be seen in their music. These last three releases have shown a wide variety of sounds and looks. They have done this while always sticking to what made them the great group they are today. They are still the sweet, feminine girls we know from “Gee” yet they can be sexy, classy and, fierce too. Girls’ Generation are exploring what is to be a woman performer.

This is seen not only in the visuals but the lyrics too. “Lion Heart” is about a girl who is so obsessed with a guy that doesn’t notice her. “You Think” is about a girl who has had a boy obsessed with them and the girl knows she’s too good for him. Obsession works both ways. Girls’ Generation are seeing things from different sides and refuse to come down one side. They will not be pinned down.


These two songs show the girls have still got it. You have absolutely no reason to lose interest in Girls’ Generation. More than anything else the girls have matured vocally in impressive ways. With both songs we get belters and interesting new techniques.

As for the songs themselves, I prefer “Lion Heart” over “You Think”. While tonally completely different, they are similar in structure. “Lion Heart” wins out here thanks to its wonderful a cappella. Most of all, I continue to be excited for what Girls’ Generation can produce in the future and I hope they can continue to mature and show us even more new sides to their ever growing personalities.

What do you make of SNSD’s new songs? What kind of song would you like to see them perform in the future? 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.

How To Get Girls’ Generation’s “Party” Music Video Summer Looks


Summer is here and it’s time to go out to your favorite vacation spot, to the beach, hit those endless pool parties and barbecues with your friends, and have the best time of your life. Summer is the time when you can look effortlessly chic with your fashion and have fun with bold colors and patterns and cool statement pieces. Girls’ Generation just released their new music video for “Party” embodying just that, with the girls showing different looks for this summer. And because who wouldn’t want to look as fresh as them, here’s how to get the Girls’ Generation’s “Party” looks.

Photo via SM Entertainment

Photo via SM Entertainment

Finding the right bikini can be difficult. But when you find the one that you fell in love with, you will feel like a superstar on the beach or the pool. There are many retailers and online stores out there with great swimwear, like Forever 21, Nasty Gal, Missguided, YESSTYLE, and many others, to find tropical and edgy bikinis to mimic Girls’ Generation’s pool and beach looks. In the video, the girls wore different styles, from high-waisted bottoms to ruffle tops, so you can pick the one that best suits you. You can go a little bit more edgy and sexy like Sunny and Hyoyeon with a high waisted bottom and wired cup top. Or be a little bit more feminine and fun with ruffles and tropical motives like the other girls did.

Photo via SM Entertainment

Photo via SM Entertainment

Also on KultScene: Summer 2015 K-Pop Fashion Trends

Crochet is one of the hottest trends for this summer, and they can double as bikini cover ups or as a cute breezy top for this hot season. Wear your bikini under your favorite crochet dress or with a beautiful crochet top and compliment it with high waisted denim shorts, preferably ripped to give you an edgier vibe that will contrast very well with the crochet top of your choice. If you are lucky enough, you could try to find a beautiful crochet maxi dress like the one that Seohyun is wearing on the music video.

Photo via SM Entertainment

Photo via SM Entertainment

As far as accessories go, you can’t go wrong with tropical or flower necklaces. There are beautiful options for necklaces that will add that pop of shine and color to your outfit. In the music video the girls wear a lot of flowers not only on their necklaces, but on their hair. If you are going to do a flower crown, make sure it’s subtle and that it looks as if you grabbed some small flowers from the garden and put them very delicately in to your hair. Big Lana Del Rey flower crowns are a no for this season, but smaller flower crowns are a great accent to your prefered hairstyle.

Photo via SM Entertainment

Photo via SM Entertainment

Speaking of hairstyles, did you notice that all the girls sported a beautiful textured beach hair? It varied from loose waves to beautiful beach braids. Taeyon’s hair was my favorite, with that strawberry blonde shade and pink ombre, which can be easily imitated. If you have lighter hair, color hair chalk will look great, but if your hair is on the darker side, colored hair spray will do the trick. To get that beach texture, a texturizing spray will work the best. One of the best products to get those beachy waves are the Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe series, which are made with sea salt and sea kelp. Just spray it after you dry your hair and run your fingers through your hair to get the desired texture. If you can’t get a hold of any of those products, towel dry your hair making sure it still has some moisture and squeeze your hair with your fingers in an up and down motion while you dry your hair with a hair dryer. This will create natural waves but make sure to add some hairspray if you hair is naturally straight.

Photo via SM Entertainment

Photo via SM Entertainment

Also on KultScene: SM Entertainment Goes Disney

For a summer night party, the girls opted for shiny sequin outfits. The looks were very simple, but the sequin really pops and adds a lot of fun to the outfit. You can choose from a beautiful sequin dress and pair it with your favorite heels, or if you want to be super comfortable, take a look at Hyoyeon with amazing sequin boyfriend jeans and crop top. Not only does she look edgy, but she looks amazing and suits her style really well.

Photo via SM Entertainment

Photo via SM Entertainment

There are many trends that are in for this summer, and Girls’ Generation’s stylist really nailed it for this music video. Usually, the girls are in coordinated uniforms that seem to come out of outer space or an airline. This time, the girls were styled very naturally with trendy clothes for the summer, which makes the girls very approachable.

Take a look at the items below, they are the perfect match to any of the looks in the music video.

Will you be sporting any of these looks for this summer? 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.

Meet iDR, The Man Behind EXO’s “Love Me Right” And Other Upcoming Songs From SM Entertainment [INTERVIEW PART 2]

iDR discusses EXO's "Love Me Right" with KultScene

Producer, DJ, and musician iDR spoke to KultScene about becoming a producer in the K-pop world in the first part of our interview. iDR also spoke to KultScene about working with SM Entertainment, including upcoming releases from top girl group Girls’ Generation, details about the thought process behind EXO’s latest song, and some insight into an upcoming group.

EXO’s June release “Love Me Right,” the title song on the repackage, or re-release, of the idol group’s May album “EXODUS,” is an upbeat song. It’s also iDR’s first single with the widely popular boy band EXO, and one filled with a lot of subtle meaning even though it wasn’t initially planned for EXO. “I wasn’t aiming for EXO when I was writing it because it’s more of an uppity, happy, ‘let’s go, we’re up’ song and their [EXO] stuff is what I thought of as a little more aggressive.”

Also on KultScene: EXO’s ‘Exodus’ Teasers Herald The Group’s Rebirth

In the past, iDR’s written other songs for EXO, such as “Peter Pan” and “The Winter’s Tale,” but this is his first title track for the group. Their previous singles like “Growl” and “Overdose” were hugely popular across Asia and EXO is one of the world’s most popular boy bands. But in 2014, former members Kris (Wu Yi Fan) and Luhan left EXO to focus on personal careers in China, and a third member, Tao, appears to have followed the same path in 2015. When iDR was asked to write a song, he thought that the happy, very un-EXO sounding song would be perfect.

“The thing is, and I’m sure a lot of people realize, they [EXO] have gone through a lot of drama, lost a few members, and I think, I felt and the SM staff felt, that they needed something that isn’t such a dark and aggressive track. Something that’s upbeat and happy will put a spin on the whole thing and allow them to say, ‘Hey. We’re good, we’re cool, we’re moving on, and there’s nothing to be sad or upset about. Let’s keep it up, let’s keep it moving.’ And when we came up with that feeling and that concept, that track seemed to fit, and boom! We kind of knew as soon as we had it with the A&R’s input that this would be, if not the single, one of the single’s on their [repackage] album. I’m really happy that it turned out that way too.”

Also on KultScene: 4 Ways to Promote a K-pop Trainee

Even though “Love Me Right” was a new style of song for EXO to promote as a single, the track did well in Korea. But nothing is certain, and iDR was excited to see how well the song, and style, did. “It was one of those ‘will it really happen?’ When it [“Love Me Right”] came out, I saw the video and heard the final mix and mastered version, and I was kind of blown away. You know, there’s always that little inkling inside that says ‘I feel like this is the one,’ and I had that feeling for sure. I didn’t really speak about it until this minute. I had the feeling, and I was hoping that it would turn out this way.”

Not only was “Love Me Right” successful, it helped EXO achieved multiple milestones, including becoming the first K-pop male group in many years to sell over one million albums.

Along with working with EXO, iDR has had experience working with other SM Entertainment acts. His first K-pop song ever was Super Junior’s “No Other,” and now he’s working on songs for Girls’ Generation and SM Entertainment’s next male idol group.

When asked if he could say anything else about the upcoming songs, iDR admitted that everything is under tight wraps. “I will say that the rookie group is going to be something SM fans haven’t seen before, a new twist on a group, not the typical group that they [SM Entertainment] would put out. [And] The Girls’ Generation project is also something they are really excited about. Expect to hear a mature, seasoned Girls’ Generation with their signature spunk and flare.”

Check out the first half of our exclusive interview with iDR right HERE.

What do you think about what iDR’s shared? Let us know 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.

SM Entertainment: The ‘Brand’

sm entertainment smtown sm artists idols groups

A few weeks back I wrote about the idea of authenticity that YG Entertainment uses to sell its artists. While I stand by most of my opinions, I feel it comes across as too one sided. I was ready to slam YG and I didn’t stop to consider the ideals of other companies. By other companies I really mean SM Entertainment. They are the yang to YG’s yin. My YG article clearly misses that yang, there is a sense that I prefer a different approach to the YG one, but don’t touch on it. I don’t know if I prefer the approach, but I do prefer SM’s music, so that probably influenced my opinion.

The Asian idol system is a thoroughly transparent one. Fans are allowed to see all elements of how an idol comes to be, their extensive training in not just singing and dancing but acting, PR, and fitness. It is not an entirely glamorous regime, but it’s what it takes to be a star. This transparency means, however, that fans are also under no illusion as to the creators of the music and its authenticity. SM makes no attempt to hide this or push their artists beyond this. So why is SM so popular and yet have no discernible musical figureheads?

Another writer on KultScene got to the heart of this when she wrote about how SM and Disney are very similar companies. It wasn’t totally positive either, equating the recent controversies of SM to Disney’s own troubles with diversity and such. In the context of the companies actual content though, for me, it boils down to the “brand.” These companies are loyal to their brand and what will make their brand the most money. SM has time and again shown that the overall company is more important than any individual. From apparent slave contracts to over-worked idols, no company has had as many high profile departures than SM. The amount of cases show it be a serious problem for young idols and show a lack of understanding from an imposing company.

While groups like Shinhwa and Fly To The Sky left SM after their contracts expired and achieved much success, leaving SM Entertainment prior to the end of the contract has meant difficulties.

The worst of all, of course, is the case where three members left former-quintet TVXQ,  which left Junsu, Jaejoong and Yoochun  (who formed JYJ) unable to attend any Korean television programs. If they do, the station that shows them will potentially not get any SM coverage in the future, losing the station a ton of potential viewers. So JYJ is essentially blacklisted (although Junsu just performed for the first time on television in six years, thanks to EBS.)


 Also on KultScene: What Will SM Entertainment Look Like In 2015?

Like Disney, people have grown to essentially worship the brand of SM. Even after all these controversies, loyalty remains and the fans nearly always side with the group and not the individual. This sort of attitude can lead to a company becoming a Disney-like juggernaut, and that’s a problem. If SM continues growing and accumulating smaller companies, like Woollim Entertainment, they can build a possible monopoly. This might not seem so bad since Woollim has been proceeding business as usual with their affairs, but they’re still under SM’s control. If this continues, the whole Korean music industry would revolve around SM, making it possible that if SM goes under, so does all of K-pop.

Let’s steer away from the dramatics for now and back to a real, current problem for SM: the treatment of individual stars. Maybe it’s not a problem, but just a clear difference in style to YG. Emblematic of SM’s love of the brand, they prioritize cohesive groups over individual talents. It was actually listening to F(x)’s Pink Tape and realizing how replaceable they are as a group that gave me the idea for this article. Yet I still think it is one of the best full length albums in K-pop history. Apart from TVXQ and to a lesser extent, SHINee, all of SM’s groups feature members that could be left out and would make no difference to the quality of their music. Similarly, no group has a defining creative head like G-Dragon, CL or even Bobby, whenever iKon debut. Even TVXQ who are possibly the most talented group in K-pop history, do not have a creative head, merely extremely proficient singers and dancers. This lack of strong individuals shows SM are not interested in people who leave the group or company, in order to shine on their own right as solo artists, overshadowing their previous SM-related efforts. When one of them threatens to possibly do this, they are swiftly taken care of, like former Girls’ Generation member and head of fashion line Blanc & Eclare Jessica Jung.

What about the music these large, anonymous groups are releasing though? This is where it gets tougher to pin SM down. SM is known for creating songs it dubs SMP, SM Music Performance. This is a type of song that is created together as a complete song and performance, which cannot be separated. Essentially, these are incredibly complex songs that go above and beyond what a pop song is expected to be. Examples are SNSD’s I Got A Boy and TVXQ’s Rising Sun. What’s really interesting though is that these are the type of songs that big brands would never dream of releasing. They play with structure in strange ways and swap genre without any notice. Pop songs were designed to lull you into security, make you feel at ease so you won’t go against the system. SM does the opposite and its makes for an interesting case.

To find out why SM does this though, is not easy to find out. We can look at the producers of the songs. A lot of them are outside producers, people like Teddy Riley, Will Simms and The Stereotypes. SM would not let them produce such weird tracks without their consent though, and probably would have even specifically picked out songs like this. This comes across as more of a negative in reality, as it makes SM seem uninterested in even their own artistry not just their groups. Always using outside producers gives them an image of business people rather than musicians, but this is not wholly true either. There are many in house writers and producers like Yoo Young Jin, who has worked on almost every great SM song since its inception.

 Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: DaeNamHyup

My last and most likely theory has more to do with the Korean public than the music itself. South Korea did not have pop music as we know it until 1992 when Seo Taiji and The Boys burst onto the scene with their musical fusion. They mixed rap, metal, dance, and many more genres to create something never heard before in the country. At the time they used this music to criticize Korean society (see Gyosil Idea,) which Seo Taiji still does to this day, and it worked thanks to the genre mashing and structure bending forms of their songs. They were so popular, however, that this style of music eventually became commonplace in K-pop. So maybe SM’s songs today are not as strange and revolutionary as I thought, but merely the norm in the country.

One thing I can be sure of though is that SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment have completely different ideologies when it comes to their brand. Of what I have written about, they do share at least one thing in common, having lots of great, artsy teasers, but not delivering with the final product (WINNER for YG and EXO for SM) and I hate them both for it. Ultimately, I don’t know what side I come down on in favor anymore. I prefer SM’s music, but I don’t respect any of their individuals as much as I respect CL and her brazen individuality amongst idols. Either way I’m supporting a big brand whose only goal is to make lots of money.

Let’s support neither of them. Go find a smaller company whom you can get behind and encourage by rewarding quality music and artistry with your support. Like Chrome Entertainment, home of Crayon Pop, whose DIY attitude is already changing K-pop or Source Music who have been accused by netizens of making deals with journalists so G-Friend can get on the charts or any other of the large number of smaller, less corporate companies currently struggling to stay afloat.

What do you think of SM Entertainment’s system? Who do you prefer SM or YG? 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.

[This article was updated on April 21, 2015.]