On Episode 28 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight is joined by musician and podcaster Rhodri Thomas to discuss Jazz and Kpop. We talk about the influence of jazz on a dozen Kpop songs. We also discuss our K-pop Unmuted picks, The Snowman by Jung Seung Hwan, and Bboom Bboom by Momoland.
Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2017’s latest 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.
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Music videos, or MVs, and K-pop are practically synonymous at this point, and it’s rare for a song to do well without an accompanying music video. Hundreds upon hundreds Korean MVs are released each year: sad ones, happy ones, indie ones, blockbuster ones, short ones, long ones, etc. There are Korean music videos that that make no sense, and ones that have the Best Plot of the Year and others that are just visually attractive. The KultScene staff saw a lot of great MVs in 2016, and we now present you with our personal favorites.
“Selfish & Beautiful Girl” by Block B BASTARZ
After a year and a half, Block B’s subgroup BASTARZ finally made a comeback. And while they released a couple of singles that didn’t really live up to last year’s hype, the music video for “Selfish & Beautiful Girl” made up for it. First off, it’s very appreciated when K-pop acts release music videos with an actual plot. Add that it’s quirky and fun, and you have a winner. Following the lyrics about a selfish girl the narrator is in a relationship with, the storyline follows this girl and how she annoys her neighbor for being unruly. She disrupts his sleep because she’s dancing to a Just Dance-like game. In this video game, the BASTARZ members are the characters, with each member representing a style in the song’s tempo change; from disco to hip-hop to pop. Moreover, the actress — bless her soul — while a bad dancer, her tattoos and piercings were a different sight for a K-pop video girl, but interesting nonetheless. In a time when all Korean music videos started to look the same thanks to many acts using the same directors, “Selfish & Beautiful Girl” found an ingenious, amusing way to follow the groove of the song perfectly.
“Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS
Creative director Lumpens has been working with BTS ever since their debut, but their collaboration reached its pinnacle by far with the visually pleasing and highly produced music video for “Blood Sweat & Tears.” You do not have to be an art history buff to appreciate the various nods to Michelangelo and Pieter Bruegel, of which whose sculptures and paintings all depict a fall from grace. Nor do you have to understand, or even know, Hermann Hesse’s Demian, the 1919 work that inspired their second full-length album Wings, as seen by the use of recurring bird motifs and even direct quotes from the text. Every aspect serves to further ideas of temptation, freedom, and escapism that the song and the album collectively convey, thus nothing about this six-minute music video is done out of pure aesthetics. Of course, that is also not to say that it cannot be enjoyed for face value. There’s an undeniable homoerotic subtext to the plot, which is at once political and indulgent. Other cinematographic choices, such as the various uses of crimsons and other warm hues, are jarring yet arresting. This music video successfully projects the extravagant lifestyle we all wish we had, while warning us against the dangers of seduction, overall leaving room for lots of potential analysis.
“Carnival (The Last Day)” by Ga-In
Like the song itself, Ga-In’s music video for “Carnival (The Last Day)” is a celebration of life and death. Approaching death in a way few artists in the world would, Ga-In and her director Han Sa Min depict a joyous while reverent look at passing. This is all seen through some of the most interesting images K-pop has ever seen, particularly Ga-In’s funeral and her angelic ascendancy during her procession. Bright pastels dominate, fireworks explode in rainbows, and Ga-In dances with her umbrella as if the all the weight has fallen from her shoulders. The melancholy only remains with the living as we see Ga-In’s former lover pay his respects. Yet, maybe it is his memories we see of their time together: even he is choosing to see the qualities of life rather than the tragedy of death.
The Korean title of Red Velvet’s first single of 2016 is “7th Day of 7th Month,” referencing the Korean lunar holiday Chilseok and its tale of separated lovers. But rather than depicting a romance-driven storyline, the music video for “One Of These Nights” is a bit of a mystery. Bright colors contrast with dreary sets, the members are surrounded and flooded by water, and there is what appears to be an ethereal, woodsy afterlife where some members don white, the traditional Asian color for post-mortem shrouds. But the video’s subtle references to 2014’s Sewol Ferry accident, which took the lives of over 100 high school students, makes “One Of These Nights” all that more poignant: references to the Sewol and the tragedy appear throughout the sets, while the five Red Velvet members appear to take on abstract portrayals of the victims and survivors. It’s an ambient, thought-provoking, and altogether beautiful work of cinematography.
“Hard Carry” by GOT7
The entirety of GOT7’s “Hard Carry” music video is strikingly attractive; from Jackson’s sleeveless outfits and quick one-two, his “let me just casually lift up my shirt” scene at the beginning, to a white room filled with lively green (and not so lively brown) pine trees. Even when it was dark and you could barely see the members faces and all that is visible is the fire lit up behind them, it’s visually appealing. No to mention the neon lights during the dance scenes are captivating. Overall, the videography, combined with the meaning of the lyrics, portrays the effort one must take to “carry” the team, as seen in the the scene where all the members dive into the water in order to “save” Jinyoung. However, more than being solely visually attractive, the music video together with how they employed the lyrics into the theme is a proper representation of what GOT7 is all about: teamwork, helping each other out to strive collectively.
“11:11” by Taeyeon”
While not the regular dance-visual overload that K-pop fans are used to, Taeyeon’s “11:11” succeeds at quite the opposite — fitting the somber, sentimental nature of the song perfectly. Shots of Taeyeon and her anonymous significant-other are filmed beautifully against fading sunlight, flashing lights, or pale white walls. They accurately frame the song’s sentiments, which deal with the end of a relationship. The song’s warm, delicate nature is captured perfectly by frames of Taeyeon sleeping in a thick white sweater, or laying in a fluffy king-sized mattress sprawled out next to the waves. Along with “Rain,” “11:11” seeks to alter Taeyeon’s image. Instead of group-leader dance-pop star, Taeyeon is now a serious, musically-oriented soloist, and one of Korea’s most successful at that. With its autumnal color scheme and brilliant visuals, “11:11” depicts both Taeyeon and the emotional impact of a breakup in a creative and memorable way.
“Décalcomanie” by MAMAMOO
If Zanybros are producing a music video, you know you’re in for an optical treat. MAMAMOO’s video for “Décalcomanie” is visually stunning and tastefully (considering the edited version and not the original) done, considering the video is full of visual metaphors for a woman coming into her sexuality. The girls start off being attracted to the man in their respective scenes, and as the desire between both of them grows, they kiss and then… fruits explode (if you don’t understand that metaphor, you can ask your parents). The girls untie their blindfolds to symbolize loss of innocence or coming to fully see/understand their desires and feelings. The mirror scenes and the mirrored images also play a nice homage to the title of the song, which is the French word for a technique that transfers an image or pattern from one medium to another. In other words, imprinting on another or making a copy. Aside from the bit of controversy that surrounded the original version, which resulted in a horrific scene depicting sexual assault getting removed from the music video, the video for “Décalcomanie” shows off the group’s femme fatale concept that they wanted to portray.
“I Am You, You Are Me” by Zico
Known to be a hard-hitting rapper, Zico ventured this year into R&B ballads and showcased his vocalist chops by releasing “I Am You, You Are Me” at the beginning of the year. So what called for this unforeseeable change in style and concept? Love. Love turns the bad boy into a good guy. Right off the bat in his first verse after the opening chorus, Zico sings I only ever listened to hip-hop/Now I’ve turned acoustic, setting the tone for the song. “I Am You, You Are Me” is about being in the lovey-dovey phase in a relationship when the couple starts emulating each other. The music video, in brief, is aesthetics galore. Zico displayed his trendy and colorful style, and in order to go with the theme of the song, the lead actress dressed exactly the same or similarly to the rapper to equate how they mirror each other. The setting, a convenience store, allowed a beautifully diverse color palette in the photography, from pastels to neons to neutrals. The overall aesthetics of the music video — dreamy with an electric tinge — paired perfectly with the equally tender yet lustful song. Not so tough now, right, cookie?
“Secret” by Cosmic Girls
Recently directors have been getting better at making the standard idols sing and dance towards camera in pretty settings more interesting while not losing the essence of that. Kim Zi Yong in particular has been great at this thanks to his visual effects skills. His highlight in K-pop is clearly “Secret” by Cosmic Girls. The video shows the 12 original members summoning new member Yeon Jung in their own unique ways. The quality of animation and sense of scale Kim brings to it is the best of the year and a quality befitting these otherworldly girls. Not to mention it’s drop dead gorgeous at every turn. Also, I’m sure everyone can agree that the shot of Cheng Xiao growing her wings is the coolest thing ever.
“Re-Bye” by Akdong Musician
The dramatic “Re-Bye” music video by Akdong Musician, or Akmu, as they’re known, is a fun film-noir music video that fits the pair’s theatrical melody. In a year when many Korean music videos seemed to be lacking true plots in favor of seeming more avant-garde, “Re-Bye” fits a murder-mystery into its four-minute music video with an old-school flair. It’s a bit Sherlock Holmes meets Baz Luhrmann both in plot and color palette– they may as well have been singing the “Elephant Love Song Medley” from Moulin Rouge— and it’s absolutely delightful to watch. The sibling duo is supremely talented as musicians, but their youthful quirkiness in music videos like “Re-Bye” adds another element to their appeal.
“Skydive” by B.A.P
Who needs James Bond or a Quentin Tarantino film when you can watch a B.A.P’s blockbuster-like 10 minute music video for “Skydive?” The members gave subtle hints on their social media platforms and in their individual teasers prior the release that this music video was going to be the most intense music video, if not even more intense than their 2013 video for “One Shot,” they’ve ever done. That within itself was enough to have all their fans, known as Babyz, on edge because, really, what can be more extreme and vivid than the members engaged in a robbery, shoot out with some thugs, and then the sudden betrayal? “Skydive” not only incorporated yet another robbery, but an all ARMED robbery, with shots ringing left and right 35 seconds in. There’s a kidnapping/hostage situation, murder, and, yes, even more betrayal than the first time around! The anticipation was nonstop, every second of this video had one gasping for air. Because it was constantly scene after epic scene, you’d probably have to watch it several times to fully grasp each and every detail and hints that would later on give away the true culprit. This music video could’ve gone all sorts of wrong, but due to the amazingly shot cinematography and the members superb acting, “Skydive” was totally badass.
“One More Day” by Sistar
SISTAR made a risky move with the music video for “One More Day,” their collaboration with Europop songwriter and producer Giorgio Moroder. Not only did the quartet not appear in the video, but the video’s protagonists were two female lovers, and the plot touched upon abuse. Now this may not be a big thing in Western cultures, where LGBTQ+ are somewhat prominent in entertainment and lifestyles, but in South Korea, the majority of the population still consider it a taboo subject. Now the fact that the female leads kill the abusive boyfriend may not be the best representation of the LGBTQ community, it does portray the love story in a dramatic matter and the dangers of an abusive relationship.
“Cheer Up” by TWICE
It’s no secret that TWICE dominated 2016, from album sales to song popularity and everything in between. They even topped our best Korean songs of 2016 list. But what is the source of their success — how did TWICE become the dominating girl group of 2016? At least in my opinion, it’s their music videos. From Jihyo’s cheerleader character to Chaeyoung’s cowboy outfits, the “Cheer Up” music video worked to create vibrant and colorful characters for each member, establishing each one as unique and worthy of individual attention within the larger group framework. With the music video’s changing lenses, there’s something for everyone — Dahyun is poised and regal, Tzuyu is beautiful and elegant, and Momo is badass and sexy, just to give a few examples. The creative direction of this music video highlights TWICE’s biggest strength as a group — personality. The “Cheer Up” music video sent the K-pop world a message loud and clear: TWICE, in all their beauty and stage personality, is here to dominate. And in 2016, they certainly did.
“Forest of Skyscrapers” by Neon Bunny
The only indie artist on our list this year (despite being a more well-known one), Neon Bunny clearly had an advantage when it comes to what she can depict. Given more time and presumably more freedom, director Kim Zi Yong delivered another video for the ages with “Forest of Skyscrapers.” They brought together a number of cinematic influences to comment on modern South Korea’s stagnant population. The sprawling neon cities of Akira and the ephemeral love stories of Wong Kar Wai come to mind as Seoulites try to navigate their lives. It suggests a sort of confusion, a literal kaleidoscope of colours and mind-numbing visuals. However hard they try to get away, speeding down highways on a motorbike, it seems impossible. The irrefutable pull of the neon monolith is punishing.
Torn between innocent and hypersexualized, K-pop idol stars are essentially built to fulfill audiences every “Fantasy” through their music videos and performances. 2016 outed Korean pop stars, or idols, as a “healthy” form of pornography, but nobody took it as far as Fei of miss A, who appears in her music video as a virtual peep show dancer. Her blatant, slightly shocking, approach to the topic of sexualizing women comes across as refreshing in an industry that makes numerous attempts to cover up the maturity of its stars. The music video for “Fantasy” is overtly sexual throughout, literally turning Fei into the object of desire for a male viewer, and things get all that much more interesting when virtual Fei comes to life, strips, and takes things to the next level just as the screen cuts to the title card. The video for “Fantasy” is beautifully shot, extremely sultry, and subversive of the industry’s narrative towards female stars.
“Emptiness” by MADTOWN
MADTOWN made an expected (but delightful) change by switching up their music styling and concept when the group released a rather mellow, mid-tempo ballad paired with the chic black and white music video for “Emptiness.” It showcased a tranquil and melancholic atmosphere, the polar opposite from the swaggy and high energy we’ve seen from the group in past videos. In order to match the song’s delicate melody, the music video was muted down a bit, hence the simplistic, clean choreography. MADTOWN’s elegant portrayal of their moments of despair and grief can lead the viewers to suddenly feeling the anguish and sorrow themselves, even if they were feeling happy go lucky prior to watching “Emptiness.” There are moments during the music video that makes one want to clench their chest, due to a sudden surge of heartache. It’s dramatic, but that’s just the effect of the music video.
“The Eye” by INFINITE
When you’re preparing to watch an INFINITE music video, there are a few things you can be sure to look forward to: a whole lot of drama and a totally awesome dance break thrown in for good measure. The lyrics of the song suggest that a painful memory (of someone) is trapping the members like a hurricane (or “Typhoon,” as the Korean in the title suggests). And when they think they found peace, they are right in the eye of the storm, still surrounded by the painful memories. The video takes it to another level: L appears in a depressed or dire situation and is then transported to a state between realities where he is confronted by the other members who all represent different emotions. When each member interacts with L (who represents Sadness), the action represents him going through that emotion: Hoya represents Hate and aggressively pushes L, then turns into Woohyun, who represents Regret. All of this happens while L is moving towards a light, which may or may not represent death. In the end, L has the courage and resolve to return back to his reality and live. Director Hwang Soo Ah does a great job creating a complex, philosophical, and intriguing plot that keeps the viewers invested till the very end.
“All In” by Monsta X
Monsta X’s “All In” did wonders for the group in many ways, enabling the group to diversify their hackneyed hip-hop concept. With the music video, the septet deviated away from dance-based music videos to one with actual substance and narratives. Opening with the dystopian ending scene in which the members seem to be either running to or away from something, the video employs a nonlinear mode of storytelling that was not present in their previous videos. Admittedly, because the music video also deals with two storylines — one feautring Shownu and one surrounding Hyungwon and Minhyuk — it is very easy to miss certain nuances upon initial viewing. But even after watching it for the nth time, gleaning for said nuances, we cannot guarantee that all our questions will have an answer. The biggest mystery probably is the one surrounding the relationship between Minhyuk and Hyungwon’s characters, who mutually exhibit homoerotic tendencies especially towards the end in which Minhyuk drowns himself in the tub with Hyungwon while holding hands. The beauty of it all is exactly how director Dee Shin leaves many threads up for interpretation, allowing fans to engage in open-ended discourse and conjecture theories of their own. It’s been a rather popular form of storytelling as of late in K-pop, but is still nevertheless engaging and effective.
“Whistle” by BlackPink
With colorful settings, bright outfits, and memorable choreography, BlackPink‘s “Whistle” stood out in its ability to quickly establish the new group’s personality and musical style. Taking after their YG predecessors 2NE1 and BIGBANG, BlackPink quickly utilizes edgy and eye-popping visuals — Rosé casually sitting on both the Earth and cars buried in sand, Jisoo sitting cross-legged in the middle of three open doorways, Lisa’s hot pink turtle-neck contrasting with her blonde-blue hair — to make the group seem hardcore but also personable. Not to mention, clips of the group driving a car in circles wearing bandanas and baseball caps serve as the video’s main recurring visual element, further establishing the fun badassery concept. And, unlike other girl group music videos this year, “Whistle” boasts a notable lack of smiling, a subtle yet incredibly important aspect of the video. The group instead focuses on giving us the edgy smolder or mischievous glance, once again reinforcing the group’s personality in every closeup shot. The “Whistle” music video clearly sets BlackPink up for success — it sends the immediate message that, if you liked any of the edgier girl groups of K-pop eras past, you’ll love BlackPink just as much.
“The One” by EXO-CBX
Though technically not a music video for whatever reason — SM Entertainment prefers the term “special clip” — EXO-CBX’s music video for “The One” is just too golden not to include on the list. For the first time in an EXO production, the boys, or at least Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin, are able to show a different, more silly side to them as they dress up in ridiculous, mismatched clothes and act foolish. EXO’s leader Suho makes a cute cameo as well, filling in for just about every role from Yakult vendor to sanitation worker. Unfortunately, SM missed an opportune moment to cast him as the female love interest as well, which would have given the video a bit more cohesion. Nevertheless, everything about this is still hilariously good fun, and none of the humor comes off forced. At times, Suho even seems like he is going to burst out laughing himself. The video milks the comedy until the very end, where it cuts the accompanying music off before letting it finish completely, leaving a dancing Chen to sing alone and shifting the camera angle to make it seem like we were filming them the entire time. EXO-CBX’s “The One” is just the personal and playful break from the usual self-serious routine that they, and we, all need.
“Hold My Hand” by Lee Hi
While musically we didn’t get exactly what we wanted from Lee Hi’s much awaited comeback, the music video for “Hold My Hand” was near perfection. The aesthetic of the music video was a kawaii explosion, and a beautiful one at that. The pastel color palette, together with the 8-bit graphics, tied in perfectly with the romance and dreaminess of the song and lyrics. It’s all too sweet — just as Lee’s serenade. Plus, the inclusion of her doo-wop backup singers as her side kicks were a cute, quirky touch. Bright, multi color music videos have been a trend for quite some time now (thanks, Digipedi), but “Hold My Hand” managed to give something tried a lovely spin. From Lee holding hands with the camera to the styling to the real and 8-bit backgrounds, it all comes together to create this delightful, little heart skip that makes us all feel young and in love again.
What was your favorite Korean music video this year? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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April 16 marks the second anniversary of the Sewol Ferry catastrophe that resulted in the death of 304 people and sparked introspection of South Korea’s socio-political society. While two years have passed since the sinking, the pain is still raw and many South Koreans continue to demand recognition for what is perceived as an avoidable accident that took the lives of hundreds, many of whom were students at Danwan High School. The effect of any tragedy on art is profound but it’s particularly striking that fans are looking towards K-pop, a musical style that is often perceived as artistically shallow, to find some connection to the youth who passed away during the Sewol ferry’s sinking.
Just as media often reflects current events, K-pop and the general Korean entertainment industry are also still recoiling from the haunting event. While K-pop took a break once to remember those lost, now many Korean songs are being interpreted as memorials dedicated to the Sewol Ferry victims. As K-pop continues to develop into a more mature brand, audiences seek to find a deeper meaning in the musical releases of Korean pop culture. Red Velvet, INFINITE’s Kim Sungkyu, and Block B’s Zico are just a few of the K-pop acts who have been connected to the sinking.
Back in 2014, the entire South Korean entertainment world came to a halt following the tragedy. South Korea’s confucian, communal heritage came to light internationally for the first time in several years during the situation as the entire country came together to commemorate the accident. For more than a month, the Korean pop culture world creeped along trying not to break the tense situation nationwide with what would be deemed inappropriate during a time of mourning. The industry came to a stand still, with few television stations running their normal programming and other forms of entertainment putting off plans; between Block B’s release of “Jackpot” on April 14 and EXO reawakening K-pop on May 7 with “Overdose,” there was no mainstream K-pop music put out because the industry had come to a halt out of respect to the victims and their mourners.
After life returned to relative normality in South Korea and as the country demanded answers to difficult questions, Korean pop culture still retained its connection to the tragedy. As one of the most defining events in the past few years of South Korean history and an incident that particularly struck young adults, the Sewol accident appears to be rearing its head in a variety of places. While some instances of commemoration were intentional, other instances appear to be coincidences that were discovered by South Koreans still struggling with the horror of what happened on April 14, 2014 as they look for meaning in the art.
Red Velvet “One Of These Nights”
With recurrent water motifs, Red Velvet’s latest concept demands a further look. The song, ostensibly about lovers separation and longing, features a music video that shows the five members of Red Velvet in a variety of scenes that fans thought were meant to symbolize the Sewol Ferry’s sinking and the ones they left behind. Fans drew together a variety of ideas relating the music video concept to Sewol, beginning with the concept pictures which featured paper boats, similar to ones used to commemorate the deceased.
Throughout the music video, the members are seen in a variety of scenes surrounded by water; Joy is perceived as a survivor as she alone climbs away, up a ladder. Wendy, soaking wet, climbs under a table as a representation of the children stuck on the boat who crawled. There are also scenes filmed in a hallway that appears similar to that of those on boats, and a sign with the words “AIS on 15-16.” The AIS, or the Automatic Identification System that helps track ships, aboard the Sewol ferry is suspected of not having functioned properly on April 15 and 16.
To further the idea, Joy is the sole member who wears yellow, the color of the ribbons that memorialize the Sewol Ferry victims, while the other members wear white hooded outfits. In traditional Korean culture, white represents death. Joy sings the haunting line, “It’s okay if I see you in my dreams, so let’s meet again” as the rest of the members disappear into darkness.
Neither Red Velvet nor SM Entertainment, the group’s company, commented on the perceived connections, but the abundance of imagery (especially the AIS sign) makes it very plausible that “One of These Nights” was purposely a memorial to Sewol’s victims.
The plot of the music video for “Kontrol” features Sungkyu searching for his younger sister and remembering how they lived happily together while creating a home in an alleyway. Yellow ribbons and life jackets also appear in the short video, leading to fan speculation that that video was somehow related to those who who perished aboard the Sewol ferry.
Like “One of These Nights,” there is an ample amount of water imagery, but “Kontrol” also features the passing of first the girl and then Sungkyu followed by the two of them finding one another in heaven while she is soaking wet, alluding to drowning. Throughout the music video, Sungkyu remembers the pair’s happier times together while wandering alone before presumably walking in front of a car. At the end, Sungkyu gives his sister a small plastic house in a toy to symbolize the home that they, and the students aboard the ferry, once had no longer return to.
Some interpreted the song’s title as condemnation towards the crewmembers and adults who were in charge who took control improperly of the sinking, leading to unnecessary loss of life.
Although Red Velvet have remained quiet about the alleged connection, Sungkyu publicly revealed that the deeper meaning had not been intended but that there are different ways to interpret any sort of art.
Like the aforementioned songs, the debut song of (reportedly disbanded) The Ark was released only a few days before the first anniversary of the Sewol disaster. The heart wrenching music video features the loving relationship of a mother and a daughter, and the tragic moment when the mother discovers through a news report that her daughter died in an accident. Although the music video featured a bus accident as the cause of death, the timing of the video’s release and the depiction of a parent sending her daughter on a school trip draws on the emotions connected with Sewol.
Zico “Tough Cookie” & “Well Done” feat. Ja Mezz
Block B, the only K-pop group to release a song the day of the tragic event, has a particular connection to the sinking and Zico took the event and immortalized it with these songs. While the previous songs mentioned in this piece all require speculation to make a connection between Sewol and the music or music videos, Zico made it extremely clear that his songs “Well Done” and “Tough Cookie” were dedicated to Sewol’s victims. Both songs have run times of four minutes and 16 seconds, symbolizing April 16. Prior to the release of both, Zico tweeted about the time codes so that fans were aware of his song’s created as memorials.
Zico also commemorated a Block B fan lost at Sewol by attending her funeral and dedicating a rap to her at a concert she had planned to attend prior to her passing.
Are there any other references to the Sewol Ferry you know of? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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Without a doubt, 2015 was Zico’s year. He featured on just about every other hip-hop and R&B release, he coached his own team on Mnet’s rap competition show “Show Me the Money 4,” and he released his positively-received album “Gallery.”. Indeed, the Block B member was everywhere — and deservingly so. In the last couple years, Zico has established himself as a rapper without the word “idol” being attached to the title. In addition, he’s also a pretty dope producer. Because even if he was very much involved in the creative process behind Block B, getting rid of the “idol” tag is hard when it comes to other career paths.
And after many trials and tribulations, we have now arrived to the era of Zico. In the short time since he launched his solo career, Zico has graced us with many instant classics and other less appreciated ones, to put it mildly. So now that the public has accepted him as an artist, let’s explore, what are Zico’s best and worst singles?
8. “Tough Cookie”
The tasteless use of the Confederate flag and derogatory term aside, “Tough Cookie” ain’t that good. I mean, we get it, Zico. You’re a legit rapper who got into an idol group to make it big. “Tough Cookie” is your first solo single as an established artist; this is your moment to show what you’ve got… Which apparently is a stereotypical parody of “what hip-hop is.” #ThugLife setting and attire? Check. Heavy bass? Check. Grillz and girls shaking their asses? Double Check. Hanging out with all the badass homies? You know it! However, there’s nothing less gangster than calling yourself a cookie, even if it’s tough.
The track itself is, at best, a basic hip-hop song. Certainly not the worst out there, but with all it’s negative aspects, it’s just better to overlook it altogether.
Fortunately, “Tough Cookie” is Zico’s only bad song. “Boys and Girls,” however, is an enjoyable song with a colorful music video. It was number one for the longest times on the Korean music charts, after all. And yet, I can’t help and think this sounds like one of the multiple singles that Korean-American rapper Jay Park released last year, while Zico released “Boys and Girls” in November. I’m not saying Zico copied Jay’s style, but the similarities to songs produced by Jay Park’s label, AOMG, is uncanny. Maybe hanging out with said crew rubbed off on him? And, again, adorning yourself with lots of girls around, very hep-hap.
Despite this, “Boys and Girls,” as mentioned before, is a fun little song with an easy-to-follow and catchy hook. Would’ve been perfect as a summer release.
6. “Yes Or No”
Dude, I know you’re really hot in the hip-hop scene right now and deserve your kudos, but why are you attacking me for a “Yes or No” answer? Moreover, the jarring beat enhances the aggressive feel of the song, and yet, it’s perfect to jam to in a hip-hop mosh pit type of thing. Not to mention the animated music video, even though short, has cool visuals. The video revolves around the theme that “Yes or No” is a sarcastically narcissistic single just for kicks. Hopefully, now that Zico has established that he’s a dope rapper and producer he can stop reminding us with every single how great he is and that he started out in an idol group. And yes, Zico, the answer is “yes.”
5. “Pride and Prejudice”
Within his discography, “Pride and Prejudice” is a breath of fresh air. The music video is not all about Zico, the lyrics don’t boast about his career and self, and the music is pretty chill. His flow is more laid back and allow Zicoto present his views on romance more effectively. Moreover, Suran’s addition at the chorus gave it a nice touch of soul and delicateness that stands out when compared to the previous songs I’ve discussed.
4. “Well Done”
“Well Done” is another slowed and toned down song that lets the lyrics and Zico’s flow take center stage. It’s difficult to go wrong with a song were you bare it all for the audience and talk about your struggles. Good thing “Well Done” has that rawness and realness that make these types of tracks special and relevant. This is the perfect way of showing off what you accomplished — by putting it into context with the hardships you went through. Because of this, “Well Done” seems authentic and not self-absorbed.
2015 was a good year for Zico with all his collaborations and he even saved the best for last by releasing the album in December. And within “Gallery” was another very popular chart topper, “Eureka.” I mean, how can you go wrong with Zion.T at the chorus? But regardless of the popular artist’s involvement, “Eureka” is pretty solid. Zico delivers his hard hitting bars while also delivering a Jazzy and bouncy beat. Also, having a fun music video for a stellar track only make the finished product all that much better.
2. “I Am You, You Are Me”
Visually, “I Am You, You Are Me” is the prettiest music video we’ve seen from Korea so far in 2016. The soft colors, the awesome styling, the cute little story; it’s ethereal. However, it doesn’t seem and sound very Zico-like. It made me think of softer rappers like Crucial Star. And yet Zico completely owned it, especially when he sped up the tempo in key places. And if this is a new direction he’s willing to include to his repertoire, I’m all for it! It would honestly be number one if not for the fact that, as of right now, it’s too unique and not very Zico. From Zico’s creamy vocals to the twinkling sounds and subtle percussion, “I Am You, You Are Me” is as smooth as they come.
1. “VENI VIDI VICI”
Now this is what we expect and love from Zico. “VENI VIDI VICI” is in fact the successful and cooler version of “Tough Cookie.” The revindication, if you will. They’re both hard hitting anthems where he disses the haters and promotes himself. I already went over why we should all forget about “Tough Cookie,” and “VENI VIDI VICI” helps with that. Where the former came off as aggressive and tacky, the latter features Zico rapping in a fast but nonchalant way, which reflects that he doesn’t have anything to prove anymore. It doesn’t rely on cheesy hip-hop concepts done millions of times to seem cool, it just is. Sure, this music video also features girls dancing around him, sure, but at least it exudes personality and, more importantly, originality. “VENI VIDI VICI” show show much Zico has grown in the last two years and how he’s learned from his mistakes (except for those braids… but that’s another story!).
He came, he saw, he conquered, indeed. This is Zico at his best.
What’s your best and worst Zico single? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Untitled-design-1.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024Alexis Hodoyan-Gastelumhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngAlexis Hodoyan-Gastelum2016-02-04 19:31:362016-02-04 19:31:36Zico’s Singles Ranked Worst to Best
2016 rumbles on even longer with still little to show for itself, but that’s okay! The year is still young. What it does however, is lead me back to 2015 to continue remembering what a great year it was for K-pop. The multiple top songs of the year lists that were put out (including ours) were wonderfully varied and each one managed to honor great music. It’s a testament to 2015 that I still felt there were many songs that deserved some end of year recognition. So I decided to make my own alternative best of list in order to celebrate some of those artists.
In this case, alternative does not necessarily mean alternative music. There is still room for K-pop here. Rather, it means anything that didn’t garner as much attention last year, as I personally thought it deserved. To further restrict myself, I also didn’t allow any songs that I had previously written about before. So that counts out BESTie, D.Holic, Fiestar, Purfles, Blady, A.Kor Black, and many more. Instead of mourning all of those amazing girls, let’s move on to the first category.
Idol Solo Debuts
Finally making that long awaited jump to a solo career can be tricky for some idols. There are those who are so popular that no matter what they do it will be a success (G-Dragon, Taeyeon). There are also those who are so talented and charismatic that it’d be hard to mess up an opportunity (Yonghwa, Choa). For the next idols though, their groups were either on the way down or stuck in the one spot. Having a solo career gave them a chance to stand out.
Teen Top have consistently been on the fringes of success. More popular than their immediate contemporaries like Dalmation (DMTN) and Z:EA but less popular than newer groups like B.A.P and BTS, they have yet to carve out a niche for themselves. When lead vocalist Niel went solo this year, to his credit, he did not play it safe. “Lovekiller” is a slow burn that I almost didn’t fully listen to because it was straying very close to ballad territory. That said, the stripped back opening of acoustic guitar and Niel’s sweetly distinct voice is better than what most ballads. If that was all Niel could muster though, it would have been forgettable. Halfway through the song however, a disco drum beat is introduced followed by a funky but subtle electric guitar. Essentially, “Lovekiller” becomes a Michael Jackson tribute. If the music wasn’t enough to signify this, the choreography also literally tips the hat to MJ. This change of pace invigorates the song and is a testament to Niel’s talent. His delicate high pitched voice perfectly suits both musical styles and helps him stand out among other idol soloists.
Any of the 2AM members could have gone solo and easily held their own. They were a ballad group and so they had to be great singers. Seulong took his solo work in a completely different direction than previously explored by the group with “Mood Swings.” The song doesn’t take its title to heart — it’s moody but laid back, not making any big jumps to unsettle the tone. Carried by a simple hip-hop beat, the song is tinged with lowkey piano and gorgeous guitar licks that are sparse enough to create a sense of loneliness. The lyrics mirror this. Seulong repeatedly whines lines like “there’s no me.” It’s an almost uncomfortably calm look into a man’s depression. It works precisely because there are no mood swings. It is measured in a way that shows a man who understands his problem. “Feeling the darkness even more,” Seulong yearns for a change. “Mood Swing” is at once beautiful and disturbing.
I don’t think there could be a song more different to “Mood Swing” than Goo Hara’s “Choco Chip Cookie.” It takes its title literally by being a super sweet slice of R&B. It’s the perfect summer song with a laid back electro vibe sprinkled thoroughly with twinkly pianos and synths. Hara does not stick to conventions though, as the structure is not immediately obvious. If you were to identify a chorus you might say the part at 1:15, signaled by the lightest triangle ting. That sounds more like a pre-chorus though, which eventually moves the songs back into its chilled out groove. While the lyrics could definitely be seen as childish, the song is anything but. It is a mature and risky move from Hara to put out a summer song that defies pop music standards, and is more daring than what Kara’s done in the past.
New Takes on the Cutesy Girl Group
Following A Pink and Sistar’s growing success in the last two years, a rise in aegyo (cute) filled girl groups occurred again. Most, however, took from A Pink too much, as very few of them tried to play with the formula at all. Groups like April are great at what they do but have yet to distance themselves from the herd of Fink.L wannabes. K-pop wouldn’t be K-pop without them though, so it’s especially refreshing when groups to take the time to project new ideas onto old trends.
UNICORN came to us with this sole intention, to heal. Not just this tired genre, but to heal us all with their music, just like a unicorn would with its horn. That is their actual concept; can I just say that I love K-pop? Unicorn’s debut single “Huk” is the dreamiest bit of synthpop you will ever hear. Fantasy like guitars mix with the synths and breathy vocals to create this tone in the intro. The production value is much higher than your average rookie group, and it’s the first thing that sets them apart. The second is the use of their rapper. It’s hardly uncommon today to make the rapper the main focus of a group, but here, it changes the song and slips us out of the cute girl group mindset. It is not jarring however, the rap maintains the effervescence of the song by being delivered in a more conversational way. The contrast in the verses between the usual saccharine vocals and the rap give “Huk” an added dimension elevating UNICORN above their peers.
While UNICORN were trying to lull their way into your subconscious, myB was shouting at you to get up and dance. The platinum blonde sextet burst onto the scene this year with “My Oh My,” a song that instantly caught attention due to its energy and cuteness. It wasn’t until follow up “DDO DDO,” however, that did their style really work. The two songs are essentially the same, infectious bubblegum pop that whizzes and bangs at every corner. “DDO DDO” is superior though, merely because its production is a little bit tighter and more organic. Vocally, all the members suit this style, and even the raps are made to be adorable. What myB do best of all the rookie girl groups is dance. The choreography for both songs is intense and, like G-Friend, they can look like a small army when on stage. Next time someone complains about cute girl groups being boring just show them myB.
Europe + Korea = The Perfect Match
Europop has been long been a staple genre of K-pop. It dates back to the earliest groups like H.O.T and Turbo, who just made a fantastic comeback with “Again.” Here we take a look at a classic europop track as imagined by K-pop and something a little more alternative shall we say.
If there was anyone who could be responsible for europop’s ubiquity in K-pop, it’s Sweetune. The producer duo have cultivated the success of groups like INFINITE and KARA off the back of their skills with synthesizers. They brought this sound to Romeo, a rookie boy group who probably had high hopes for this year. Unfortunately, they didn’t go very far but, fortunately for us, their debut single “Lovesick” is a smash. “Lovesick” has a relentless beat but never gets too strong. It’s held back by the retro synths and the sometimes sweet vocals. The problem is that it’s honestly hard to defend “Lovesick” from being little more than an rip-off of 2011-2012 Infinite. Although that is one of the greatest eras for any boy group, it’s also hard to say that’s a bad thing. Romeo ultimately make it work with though their rookie energy and adolescent emotions by taking something tried and true and attempting to make it their own.
Waltzsofa Records are one of the most interesting labels working Korea right now. The music they have released so far is all tinged with the same retro genre sounds, mostly disco. Male vocalist Ban:Jax is one of their artists. He released a number of retro inspired songs this year, each showcasing a different aspect of him. The standout is his collaboration with label mate and producer Humming Urban Stereo “Mid Summer Night.” HUS’s sound is immediately recognizable on this track. His nu-disco synths pop with such clarity, they are one of the most satisfying sounds in pop today. Ban:Jax’s vocals harken back to American soul and are filled with passion. It even features backing vocals that appear to be provided by another label mate, female soloist Risso, whom you should check out too. Each of these elements gets its time to shine in the song before melting together for a strange but amazing climax. “Mid Summer Night” exemplifies what Waltzsofa are about while also offering something new to the great retro collection of 2015.
If retro sounds are not your thing, then I’m sure you found solace in the mountains of hip-hop that 2015 also had to offer. Thanks to the success of shows like “Show Me The Money” and “Unpretty Rapstar,” hip-hop is becoming mainstream, and, for better or worse, that means we are going to get a lot more of it. Due to the fast turnaround of those shows, simple rap songs that focus on a beat and flow have become popular. It would be a shame if tracks like that become the norm, though, as they can never be more than just alright. Since that’s not the case at the moment, let’s see what else Korea can offer.
As a kind of warm up song for her appearance on “Unpretty Rapstar,” Sistar’s lead vocalist Hyorin enlisted the help of rappers Paloalto and Zico. “Dark Panda” mixes retro with hip-hop to become something entirely modern. It takes cues from British house music and more American hip-hop sounds. The production is masterful, repeating synths create the atmosphere while shorter electro licks come in and out breathing life into the song. Hyorin leaves the rapping to the boys, as she does what she does best. Her vocals here are as beautifully hoarse as usual, but the slow build of the song lets her notes fade out ethereally giving the song an ephemeral beauty. The raps are just as impressive. Hyorin’s vocals and Paloalto’s nasally delivery contrast with Zico’s sharp bites, which at first makes Zico sound out of place. On repeated listens though, it becomes apparent as a way of lifting the song, priming it for a climax. He brings us to that end that is so important.
Zico returns (seriously, how many songs did he feature on this year?) to rap on a track for up and coming soloist Dean, known as Deanfluenza when producing. If Dean’s popularity had started to rise a few weeks earlier, I think he would have made it onto a number of year end lists. That’s no matter to him, though, as he is clearly on the up. “Pour Up” is as smooth as they get. Its electro R&B drips slowly throughout, exuding a serene sexuality. Dean’s voice does nothing to stop these feelings, perfectly measured over the hip-hop beats, as he tells us about his sexual encounters. If Dean does become big in Korea, my great hope for him is to make sex mainstream.
For sure, Supreme Team rapper E Sens has been through a lot the last few years. This year, he produced a great album seemingly on the way back up. When it came time for it to be released however, E Sens was in jail for smoking marijuana. Not great for his promotional chances, but that doesn’t taint the record. Title track “The Anecdote” is the standout for sheer raw emotion. E Sens can lay himself out on a track, exposing his frailties. “The Anecdote” is about his father, who died when E Sens was only nine years old. Any song about a topic like this would be poignant, but E Sens is more revealing than most. He spits about his shame at never being close to his father, about the shame of being poor, about how his father’s death shaped his life. E Sens’ flow suits songs like this. There’s an anger to it, a cathartic energy that drives his honesty. His voice is well accompanied by haunting pianos that repeat over and over. They loom like a ghost as E Sens remembers one.
Are there any songs you think were overlooked in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/goo-hara-choco-chip-cookies-9.jpg?fit=1366%2C7687681366Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2016-01-15 11:48:422016-01-15 14:54:56The Other Top 10 Korean Songs of 2015
With guyliner to spare and an abundance of autotune, one would think that all South Korea has to offer the music world is K-pop’s girl groups and boy bands. But calling everything that Korea has to offer “K-pop” is doing the world a disservice, and moving past the K-pop title opens up a whole new variety of music. So let’s take a look at what Korea also listened to in 2015.
Thriving on ingenuity and high production values, music coming out of South Korea is some of the most innovative in the world today. But between Psy and K-pop girl groups and boy bands, it is easy to overlook what else the country is producing. K-pop is phenomena, but despite its popularity K-pop isn’t necessarily what the average Korean is going to listen to day in and day out. Defining what K-pop exactly is isn’t the easiest thing, but when you see it, you know it and its not innately bad. It’s primarily dance-pop music produced by entertainment agencies, typically sung by teenagers and twenty-somethings who have trained for years to become pop stars. It’s enjoyable. And what is left is the music that we should all take notice of.
With an ample amount of soft rock, romantic ballads, retro pop, R&B, and rap thrown in for good measure, mainstream Korean music is all over the place, in part because Korean culture thrives on the new and experimental. The top tracks in Korea nowadays offer something fresh and familiar all at once. Many of the most popular songs are more mature, mellower alternatives to the feverishness of K-pop dance tracks. Indie music, which is so mainstream in other countries, struggles, but has made leaps and bounds in the past few years with songs by bands like Busker Busker and Hyukoh rising from the dust like little indie demons ready to slay acts put out by the large music companies that dominate South Korea.
Meanwhile, the most popular genre of Korean music in 2015, aside from K-pop, is Korea’s take on hip hop. Hardly any singles are released nowadays without a featured rapper adding some spit to the track. Even K-pop acts incorporate hip hop, with just about every group having at least one designated rapper. Korea has been playing with hip hop for years, and prominent acts like MFBTY (Drunken Tiger) and Epik High still remain relevant amidst the onslaught of pop acts. But it was only a few years ago that hip hop gained true relevancy in South Korea’s music scene, and 2015 has seen an onslaught of hip hop releases. Rather than being anti-establishment, radio friendly hip hop songs in South Korea are largely related to the struggles of daily life and society.
With unexpected elements and a bit of something for everyone, mainstream Korean music comes off as less mainstream and more experimental. This year alone has seen great variety from both K-pop and non K-pop artists. Duets are still popular, but Korean music is able to retain its favoritism towards duet and ballads while transmuting the music to fit more modern tastes. The two worlds often collide, since K-pop is king in South Korea, but the variety and depth of music that Korean artists are putting out is something worth taking more than a cursory glance at. [Disclaimer: It would be impossible to cover all non-K-pop songs, so I picked some of the most popular songs from Korea’s Gaon chart. Excluded from the list were songs by K-pop idol groups, although artists who explored beyond the boundaries of K-pop are featured here.]
“Fire” – Mad Clown feat. Jinsil of Mad Soul Child
One of Korea’s up and coming rappers, Mad Clown released the retro-inspired “Fire” earlier this year, straight off of his EP “Piece of Mine.” Despite only joining the mainstream Korean music scene in 2013, Mad Clown has became a mainstay with his smooth hip hop style, and “Fire” is one of his best songs to date. “Fire” tells a story of a man unable to get out of a relationship with a woman who is driving him insane with her actions. Mad Clown’s rapid, high-toned rap contrasts with Jinsil’s sultry taunts, while a big brass band provides the song’s throwback elements.
“W-ing W-ing” Hyukoh
The most surprising musical act of 2015 in South Korea is certainly the soft rock indie band Hyukoh. The shoegaze-esque music produced by the band launched Hyukoh to fame this summer, and “Comes and Goes” became one of their most popular songs overnight. “Comes and Goes,” like all of Hyukoh’s songs, are about the daily struggles that young people face in their daily lives. The lyrics revolve around growing up and finding that your parents spent their entire lives worrying, and that childhood and time in general re fleeting. The gentle strumming introand lead singer Oh Hyuk’s washed out vocals helps the song retain qualities that we’re more used to hearing from 90’s indie bands, but Hyukoh’s the biggest thing to hit Korea in recent years.
“Eat”- Zion. T
Soft spoken hip hop crooners are trendy in Korea nowadays, and 2015 has been a Zion. T’s breakout year, with multiple hit songs including the latest, “Eat.” “Take out this song, enjoy it like a piece of chocolate cake,” Zion.T says, equating his music to comfort food, offering the soft R&B tune to the listeners like a decadent sweet that will help cheer us up. The track keeps things basic, with piano and snapping sounds and not much more for the majority of the song. “Eat” is musical simplicity at its best, but as far as possible from the flash and flare that’s garnered Korean music much of its popularity overseas. Also check out his “Just” collaborative song with Crush.
“Lean On Me”- Soyou of Sistar & Kwon Jeong Yeol of 10cm
Indie and K-pop come together in this romantic duet, with Kwon of the indie duo 10cm joining with Soyou, a popular K-pop balladeer. The soft melody is an acoustic-based song meant to urge people to not give up hope in the face of today’s economy, which is the reported cause of many Koreans giving up on romantic and familial relationship and instead focusing on work. “So many numbers saved on your phone, but you can’t dial a single one up,” they sing, references Korea’s plugged-in culture, urging one another to “Lean On Me.” The Korean-ness of the song is what made it a surefire hit in South Korea: The sweet, melodious duet performed by talented, popular singers, the synth undertones, and the urging to find strength in community are all common themes in Korean music.
“Love Mash” – MC Mong feat. Chancellor of the Channels
MC Mong is arguably one of the most controversial musicians in South Korea after he attempted to get out of mandatory military service. But the radio-friendly pop-rap hybrid “Love Mash” released earlier this year could be less loved. With a light upbeat rhythm, “Love Mash” is a foot-tapping tune that never takes itself too seriously while trying to win back an ex. The humorous take on Korean rap, like where MC Mong describes himself as “smelling like a loser,” is old hat for Korean rap making its way around the world- Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is just one of many instances where South Korean rappers use their music to make fun of themselves and their culture.
Lim Kim, also known as Kim Ye Rim of the indie duo Togeworl, released the playful track early in the year, and gained attention for its multi-elemental style, meshing R&B, pop, and electronic elements. The song is a modern anthem on flirting, combining Lim Kim’s husky voice with her whimsicalness to create a modern take on crushes that compares seduction to being a cat on the prowl, leading to the song’s “Awoo” moments. EDM thumping and scratching distortion makes the song a bit eerie that adds to the song’s mischievousness in a way that keeps it lighthearted but with a twist. The quirky song is a bit off to the left field even for mainstream Korea, but it’s undeniably one of the best production of the year.
“Shouldn’t Have” Baek A Yeon feat. Young K of DAY6
Baek A Yeon’s whimsical “Shouldn’t Have” is everything that Korean music aims to be. A bit of folk, a bit of pop, and extraordinary vocal control kept “Shouldn’t Have” from disappearing into mediocrity, despite Baek A Yeon being relatively unknown in South Korea. The self-composed track is a heartfelt about the regrets and “shouldn’t haves” of a woman. Despite the meaning, the mid-tempo song is something that listeners could tap their feet or bob their head to while singing along. While the song is firmly encompassed in the pop-ballad category, Korea doesn’t go without its raps, so there’s a bit of that thrown in for good measure.
“Leon” –IU & Park Myung Soo
If Taylor Swift and Jimmy Fallon released a song for a late night show skit in Korean, this would be that song. One of the most popular music festivals in South Korea isn’t even organized by musicians, but part of the popular variety show, “Infinite Challenge.” During the span of a few episodes, prominent Korean musicians work with the show’s cast to produce tracks for the festival, including this jazzy song created by Korea’s most Korea’s most darling startle IU and the variety show host Park Myung Soo. The song is based on the 1994 French film, “Leon: The Professional,” about a hitman and the young woman, and the Parisian influences of “Leon” are audible through the delicate instrumental sections, while the song remains firmly rooted in Korean musical theory, with the rap and back and forth between the pair.
“Don’t Be Shy” –Primary feat. ChoA of AOA & Iron
Primary is the man behind the box in South Korea, a producer who has the vision to put together whatever he wants and do well while hiding his face from the public. His latest hit, sung by the captivating K-pop vocalist ChoA and underground rapper Iron, is a tropical, sleepy reggae tune with echoing acid house overtones. Repetition and ChoA’s suggestive words take the song over into the gray zone rarely heard in Korean mainstream music, and the lyrics themselves question what she’s singing about. “That risky line, should I cross it or not?” ChoA wonders as her breathiness carries over the drumbeats. Iron’s rap takes the song down a few notches, his sleepy rhymes offering a moment of relative clarity in an otherwise hypnotic tune.
“I” – Taeyeon feat. Verbal Jint
Kim Taeyeon is the lead vocalist of Girls’ Generation, the most K-pop girl group of all, but her first EP as a soloist came out in October and solidified her place as one of Korea’s most intriguing artists. ” Bringing the intensity of K-pop production while exploring other genres, “I” is one of the K-pop hybrid songs that are making waves in South Korea today. Her self-declarative tune is an ambient soft rock song that wouldn’t be out of place from a movie soundtrack. With a few quirks- starting the song off with the chorus and quickly bringing in the featured artist- “I” exploits Taeyeon’s vocals in the best way possible, layering her vocals at times while allowing the crisp sound to fly free during other moments.
“Love Again” – Lim Chang Jung
This emotional song could do no wrong in 2015. With Lim’s crisp vocals over simple piano melodies, the song starts off simply before building into a soaring, heartfelt ballad. “Love Again” is the quintessential Korean ballad of 2015, with its bare minimum musical elements and focusing primarily on Lim Chung Jang’s strong, sincere voice. Strings and a heavy beat provide a background for the majority of the song, which is all about second-chances in love, a common theme in South Korean songs.
“Boys and Girls” –Zico feat. Babylon
If Taeyeon was the K-pop singer who broke through to everyone’s heartstrings in 2015 with her solo, Block B’s Zico just can’t be ignored. His tropical, synth-y take on K-hop-hop song in “Boys and Girls” was one of the most popular songs at last year’s end. Compared to Zico’s more in your face songs (like “Tough Cookie,”) “Boys and Girls” appealed to the Korean public’s taste with its lighthearted, yet technically impressive fun-filled rap. At the end of the year, as South Koreans prepared for a cold winter and new year, Zico’s song made people smile and ensured that hip hop would still be a trend in 2016.
What do you think of what South Korea was listening to in 2015? Does our list cover all of your favorite songs? Let us know in the comments section below. Share your thoughts on the drama in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Untitled-design-5.jpg?fit=800%2C800800800Tamar Hermanhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTamar Herman2016-01-04 13:11:452016-01-04 13:33:18K-Pop’s Competition: What Korea Also Listened To In 2015
First things first: Who is Jean Vigo and what does he have to do with Block B’s subunit Bastarz? Jean Vigo was a French director in the 1930s who made only four films in his lifetime due to bad health. Knowing that he had only a short time to live had an obvious impact on his career. All of his films have an exuberant anarchy to them that reflected his troubled life, none more so than his 1934 masterpiece “Zero de Conduite” which translates to, yes, you guessed it, “Zero For Conduct.” So the links between the song by Bastarz and Jean Vigo are not that much of a stretch. Bastarz’s using this as the title for their debut single shows an obvious influence from Vigo, but the links go deeper than mere reference. Block B’s situation within the K-pop environment mirrors that of the young protagonists– Caussat, Colin, and Bruel– of Vigo’s film.
“Zero For Conduct” the film is about three young French boys who hatch a plan to start a rebellion in their strict school. It involves all manner of playful plans and schemes. It plays as a critique of French society so stuck to their rules and authority that they have lost all meaning of fun. Similarly, “Zero For Conduct” the song is about the K-pop industry. Bastarz make fun of boys who prance around in makeup while still trying to be macho. Both parties are criticizing the systems they are stuck in; they are starting revolutions within the system.
You could say that all revolutions happen within the systems they are striking against, yet the particular settings of the school and K-pop world are particularly personal.
In Vigo’s films, the three protagonists’ lives are portrayed completely through school. The only times they are not on school grounds are when riding on the train on their way to school or on a walk around the town with their class and teacher. They spend all their time in an oppressive school so, naturally enough, they revolt.
If you are at all familiar with the life of a K-pop idol then you’ll know that this is not far from their lives. We always see idols on TV shows talking about their hectic schedules and how they have no time to rest. They go from recording an album to learning choreography to performing on shows to promoting their album to radio shows and so much more. It sounds like an oppressive situation, yet all are there by choice. What if they aren’t really though? What if the only way to get your music out to an audience is to be a part of an idol group? Which brings us on to the true author of this song, Zico.
With his solo work, producing work, and appearances on “Show Me The Money,” Zico seems like a man wanting to get back to his roots. Along with this “Zero For Conduct” is his call for revolution. He’s sick of the exhausting idol lifestyle. He’s sick of the pretty boys, the endless practicing, and the scolding agencies. According to him, “playing on stage without manners is the answer.” It’s time to take things a little less seriously in order to rebuild the system. This way, Zico’s work could go back to being as he originally intended, the work of the underground.
This line from the Bastarz song also brings up some more similarities. The film, being about children, naturally contains many scenes of childish behaviour which becomes quite absurd at times. This sense of fun is included in the song through the visuals. P.O jumps around like a giant child. He wears dungarees and pirate hats and pulls all manner of ridiculous poses. He seems to be mocking the fashion and dance obsessed boys in other groups. There’s a nonchalance to his body language on and off stage that might look like a lack of commitment but is really just comfort in doing what he know he can do.
Using the visual is just as important, if not more, as the lyric to make a point in pop culture. To me, it’s clear again here that Bastarz are criticising the system they are in the middle of. There’s also an acknowledgment of the hypocrisy implicit in this. Bastarz and Zico can criticize K-pop all they like but they remain a part of the machine. To show their awareness of this they did not completely subvert the K-pop visual. The members still wear a lot of makeup. In some places it’s actually really heavy makeup suggesting they are happy to let us see it clearly, perhaps letting us know that they are aware of these rules that they must still follow.
Hypocrisy is something that Vigo is quite aware of as well within his system. In one scene, the headmaster of the school is giving out about a boy saying something to the effect of, “I heard that they were disciplined for child-like behaviour.” When children are not allowed to behave like children, then some kid somewhere will try to change that. Yet the very fact that they are a child going up against those in power means that things won’t ever really change. They may make a dent, make themselves known for their courage, but the system always wins. Zico and Bastarz probably know this. That won’t stop them though. They will continue with music that is fun as hell and have as much fun as they can while doing it.
What do you think of both the Zero For Conducts? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/bastarz-manners-mv-teaser.png?fit=1440%2C7947941440Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2015-09-09 07:13:372015-09-09 12:12:20Bastarz, Jean Vigo, “Zero For Conduct,” & Internal Rebellion