Artist Spotlight: DMTN

Artist Spotlight - DMTN Feat.

For a group who debuted five years ago and whose members each have an extensive track record, DMTN is one K-pop boy group who has yet to see any remarkable success in comparison to their juniors. It also doesn’t help that the group has been MIA for two and a half years now, which is a total shame on the behalf of all the K-pop enthusiasts who are missing out on some serious talent. But I’m getting too ahead of myself; let’s take a look at exactly what makes these guys so great.

Also on Kultscene: Artist Spotlight: Pungdeng-E

DMTN debuted under the name Dalmatian in 2010 under MC Mong’s self-established company, Monkey Funch Entertainment, and as bizarre as it is to brand yourself after the spotted dog whose greatest achievement was that one Disney movie, the name is actually quite endearing. Similar to the devotion of man’s best friend’s, it’s the members’ (Inati, Dari, DayDay, Youngwon, Jeesu, and Daniel/Drama) way of including the word “musician” in their promise to maintain loyalty to their craft (though, if that were the case would it not be “dalma-cian?”).

And as if the Dalmatian trope was not enough, the group took it one step further with their charming debut music video and song, “Round 1,” which featured plenty of canine onomatopoeias in its lyrics and Dalmatian printed suits as the main music video fashion takeaway. With a name like Dalmatian, they also were not going to get away with any kinds of powerful or beastly idol concepts. So in order to meet the standards of the rapper line that made up half their group and to devise a more fitting image, they looked towards a sprightlier hip-hop direction, which is an angle that most people don’t associate with hip-hop. In any event, it was pulled off well as it’s a fun, string infused number with compelling lyrics describing their arduous journey to stardom. “Six years being a trainee, I spent every night with bread and water,” it goes. Sadly, promotions for the song only last two weeks, but their ambition and drive conveyed in that fortnight was enough to make me want them to succeed, that is, had I been introduced to them during that era.

Alas, “Round 1,” by and large, went unnoticed and it wasn’t until their first mini album comeback the following year where they gained more traction, and where I began to take notice of the rookie group. They came back with two title tracks, “Lover Cop” and “That Man Opposed” on the same day, though the two were promoted unequally as the former was only promoted once on broadcast. Again, it’s a real pity because “Lover Cop,” which was written after the members watched the popular movie “RoboCop,” is an addictive synth pop track which features a robotic choreography that would have been fabulous done live. Even the liberal use of autotune works with the bionic theme and is ultimately forgivable. It’s all about the feeling that a lover gives to a person, a love that is warm enough to fuel the coldest of hearts or to energize one’s battery pack, if you will.

Like “Lover Cop,” the other title track on the album, “That Man Opposed,” continued the group’s playful demeanor present in their debut song. And just as how all their previous songs were inspired from an experience the group had in the past, this was no exception. The basis of the song stemmed from member Jeesu’s first love experience, and according to the lyrics which speaks to a one-sided love with a girl who only has eyes for a player, it did not sound like it ended well. The music video itself emulated the feelings of loving alone nicely without having the mood dampened by incorporating moments of light humor. The guys of the group fight over a line of girls, and none can seem to agree upon a mutual attraction. Punches are thrown – including those from the girls toward the guys – and shoving is inevitable. It’s a simple, adorable music video with little production value, yet it was able to shortly fill the empty spaces with these messy scenes.

Moreover, the pop song is able to highlight the member’s vocal abilities, especially Jeesu who is known for his insanely high notes and who was able to show them off during the final cadences of the song. It’s not often that I encounter a song that grabs my attention upon an initial listen, but this one seems to does the trick.

As a sucker for the cute concepts, Dalmatian was able to achieve it beautifully without being overly cringe-y or losing their macho which can often happen when boy groups try to tackle on the concept. But given their age (the oldest, leader Inati, is 34 years old now), it was not long before they abandoned their lighthearted, pom-pom wearing selves for a more mature sound. The group finally made the change over after their 15 month hiatus following Dari’s enlistment in the army. More revisions were made when it was revealed that DayDay would be not coming back for their next mini album and would be replaced by former pre-debut member Simon. With the loss of two of their strongest rappers, especially DayDay who was previously a rap trainer at JYP Entertainment, this was only the beginning of a series of unfortunate events that setback the group from ever fully taking off.

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When the group did eventually comeback, it was through their hit “E.R,” which revolves around waiting for an old love to return and which showcased a darker and more masculine side to them than the one we are used to seeing. For one, the five remaining members are all tatted up, shirtless, and toned now. Youngwon decided to finally trade in his Smurf blue hair during their first mini album promotions for a long mane. The piano melody, which is the central instrument of choice here, is not the upbeat ones from before either, but of the lugubrious kinds. And as for the colorful music sets, fuhgeddaboudit. “E.R” was an obvious shock factor for many of their old fans, and while the tune was certainly haunting in a good way, it was only okay. Maybe I am part of the dissenting opinion when I say that their peppy concept from long ago better suited the boys, but maybe it’s also my inability to accept change. At least the members are still skilled in the rap and vocal department.

At this point, the group became well-aware of their abandonment of the original image they debuted with (and probably realized that instead of the K-pop group, search engines were bringing up images of dogs), so in order to mark their official foray into a different sound, they rechristened their name into DMTN, an abbreviation for “Desire. Motivation. Timing. Now,” in 2013. That same year, the group made its first comeback under their new name as well with the single “Safety Zone,” which was yet another somber piano laden track about how love sucks. I didn’t appreciate it much the first time it was released, but returning to it two and a half years later I am slightly more impressed. The song is charged with raw emotions and has a really beautiful melody, a bit of information that I must have missed back then. Still, it’s not infectious enough to have me looping it through my mind all day. To this day, I still find myself humming to “That Man Opposed.”

The music video is more or less generic and will leave viewers in a state of total antipathy. There’s the usual gangbang fight scene in an abandoned warehouse with burning trash cans and to a casual viewer, there’s not much correlation with the various scenes. The only redeeming factor to the video was that Youngwon finally went and got a haircut for that gnarly mane of his circa “E.R” era.

Then, the thing that made them fall into oblivion happened – Daniel was charged with using, distributing, and selling marijuana. Although he still remains a fixed member of the group, Daniel moved back to the United States where he hailed from and has remained relatively hidden from the public eye. Since then, DMTN has also been put on hold while the members went on to pursue individual activities under, you guessed it, new stage names. Jeesu, now known as KIXS, released a solo debut track, “Beautiful” featuring San E on raps and KARA’s Goo Hara as the main music video lead. Last month, former member DayDay, who also went by his real name David Kim during his appearance on “Show Me The Money 4,” and Simon, aka Jakops, worked on a collaboration track titled “All Day All Night” with After School’s Raina and former SPEED member Taewoon, too. Though the members may not be together physically as a unit now, they all still continue to support one another in their endeavors.

And that’s what I love about DMTN. Amongst all their misfortunes, DMTN is a group who happened to have been caught in the crossfires but have not let that hinder their relationship and art. On their Instagrams, we still see pictures of the members, new and old, catching up with one another. Recently, on September 2nd, Dalmates (DMTN’s official fan club) celebrated their five year anniversary since debut and Daniel, who captured a video of the congratulatory cake, hinted at a possible future comeback. Not to mention the fact that the video was set to a discography of their previous works and that he tagged all the members as “fam,” it’s enough to warm any fans’ hearts. Like the original significance behind the name Dalmatian, the group continues to remain faithful to one another and to their fans.

What do you think of DMTN? Do you prefer their earlier concepts or their current concepts? 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.

Artist Spotlight: Pungdeng-E

Picture this. You walk the halls and grounds of KCON LA 2015. You see thousands of devoted K-pop fans giving some sort of tribute to their favourite groups. They wear full costumes from music videos, print out full body cutouts of their bias, they perform perfect renditions of their favourite dances. The attention to detail is evidence of the great devotion fans have for their favourite groups. But one man stands out from this obsessive crowd for going above and beyond what can be expected of a fan. This man does not have a detailed costume nor does he dance his bias’ best dance. All he carries is a poster, a bag, and a heavy heart.

The poster is of the mostly unknown three member K-pop girl group Pungdeng-E. The bag contains 500 copies of their album. And his heart is heavy for their lack of success. Here we see the most devoted fan of KCON 2015, a man wandering the grounds alone giving away free CDs of his favourite group that he paid for himself. All because he wants them to succeed.

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On to the group in question, Pungdeng-E are primarily a hip-hop group who rap and sing in satoori, which is the general word in Korean for non-Seoul dialects of speech. Satoori is generally used for comedy these days and with Pungdeng-E this is no exception. Their songs and music videos are clearly not trying to be serious, it’s more about having fun and being able to laugh at yourself. Think of them as Crayon Pop’s embarrassing rapping aunties (Crayon Pop are actually older but don’t look or sound it.)

Pungdeng-E debuted in December of 2013 as DOMA Entertainment’s first girl group. Apparently each member uses a different satoori which is a fun gimmick but completely lost on foreign listeners. With their debut single “Al Tang” (al tang is a Korean soup dish) they use this gimmick for the theme of the song as well. It’s about a group of girls from the country who have come to Seoul to party and pick up boys. Immediately the satoori is evident, even to foreign listeners. It emphasizes the comedic tone of the song while also offering commentary on so-called country bumpkins and stuck up Seoul men. Pungdeng-E rap about how great they are and how much they like this guy without a moment’s notice of what the actually thinks. This is interjected by a man’s voice laughing and saying “don’t you guys even look in the mirror?” It’s quite broad humour but works well given the commitment to the joke.

Their next music video was for the cutesy “Cotton Candy,” I’m not actually sure if it was a single or not as information on Pungdeng-E is sparse. When I began watching the video I immediately hoped that it would be a parody of K-pop girl groups who try to be cute all the time. Honestly, I once again don’t know the answer to this. I couldn’t find any English translations of the lyrics so don’t know what they are actually singing about. I Google translated them but can’t really make any sense out of that. The visuals don’t show any obvious signs of parody but with a song like “Al Tang” under their belt I don’t trust just their video. All we can comment on is what we have though and that is a pretty substandard attempt at being cute. The production is cheap and generic. The vocals have their satoori hint but are uninteresting here. “Cotton Candy” is something you will forget not long after you hear it.

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Luckily for us their follow up single “Baechu Bossam” is almost impossible to forget. Continuing their food theme this song is about the Korean pork dish Bossam and specifically the cabbage it is wrapped in. Pungdeng-E seemed to have gotten an injection of money for this comeback as the song and video are of much higher production values. The music moves along with their rapping rather than just underlying it like in “Al Tang.” It shifts as they change pitch or delivery. It gives the song a fun, kinetic energy. It also contains a horn section that delights in its fevered bursts. Appropriately, the song is about having fun and eating nice food. Simple ideas for a simple group. There’s an endearing innocent fun to Pungdeng-E that gets rather infectious after a few listens of “Baechu Bossam.

The video is a step up too. It has Korean subtitles that explain what’s going so once again I am ignorant of the details. It seems to be a parody of overly serious conspiracy crime dramas that are quite popular in South Korea. They use cabbage as the so sought after item which apart from being an obvious stand in for whatever those dramas are built around (drugs, money, technology) but also work since everyone in the video seems to want it so badly because Pungdeng-E are rapping about how it’s the key to happiness.

That’s ultimately what Pungdeng-E want. For people to be happy and have fun while watching them perform. The un-self-conscious delivery of the silly material makes them a joy to behold. it really helps them stick out in a crowded market of girl groups. It is also probably what holds them back though. The comedy angle only takes groups so far and if it’s not being seen on variety shows then it is all but unseen. Without really great songs behind them there’s little Pungdeng-E can do. Maybe that doesn’t matter either. Maybe Pungdeng-E are telling us that stressing over success is useless. All that really matters in the end is if we can have our favourite food. That’s something necessary that also brings us great happiness. Sometimes we need to hear these simple ideas again to learn their importance. For that I am thankful to Pungdeng-E and to the lone wandering hero of KCON.

If you like what you see and hear, stay tuned to Kultscene for your chance to win a Pungdeng-E related prize later in the week.

What do you think of Pungdeng-E? 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.

Artist Spotlight: Yoon Hyun Sang

yoon hyun sang

SBS’s “K-pop Star” has had four seasons so far, and each season produces fresh new talent for the ever expanding Kpop industry. The winners of said competition normally achieve commercial success when they make their debut (think Akdong Musician and Bernard Park) but what happens to the rest of the contestants who do not make the final cut? Throughout the show these contestants grow a lot as artists, and they show plenty of promise and talent. Sadly, they normally do not become as popular as the winners, and Yoon Hyun Sang is one such example.

Two years after the competition, he made his debut under Loen Entertainment with his debut album, “Pianoforte”. He also made his comeback earlier this year, but still remains relatively unknown in the industry.

During his audition on “K-pop Star,” Yoon played the piano as he sang and impressed the judges (JYP, Yang Hyun Suk, and BoA) with his soulful compositions. Right from the start Yoon Hyun Sang showed great control of his smooth voice and a lot of potential as both a singer and a composer. He continued to perform impressively throughout the season, eventually finishing in seventh place.

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When he debuted in 2014, Yoon Hyun Sang had the privilege to collaborate with labelmate IU for his debut track, “When Would It Be”. IU is known primarily for her outstanding vocals, but she did not outshine Yoon Hyun Sang at all. The way that they flawlessly complemented each other just highlighted his vocal abilities, a rare feat for a rookie artist. The duet was simply breathtaking, and it sent chills all the way down my spine. His soothing voice was sincere and sounded effortless, despite the difficult vocal techniques required for this song. The entire song was very calm, yet every note he sang was nuanced and evoked a lot of emotion in listeners.

It is probably harder for ballad singers to become popular because they don’t dance or rap, but with his most recent release, Yoon Hyun Sang showed that he isn’t your typical ballad singer. He had the courage to experiment with different genres of songs and even pulled them off with much success. In his latest mini album, “Wave”, Yoon showcased a different side of himself through every track. I really appreciate the fact that he had the boldness to try the blues in this album, in a way that still allowed him to stick with his ballad roots. “20 Blues” is the perfect example of such a fusion, and it just made me respect him as an artist even more.

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Yoon Hyun Sang is also extremely talented musically. It is rare to see Korean artists composing their own songs, let alone rookie artists writing their own lyrics and doing their own arranging.He showed off his composing skills during his time in “K-pop Star” and in his albums. Even his latest work, “Embrace” (for the OST of SBS drama “Hyde, Jekyll, Me”) also showcases this.

Yoon Hyun Sang understands his voice and knows how to use it as a musical instrument, hence he is able to apply that knowledge to his composing and come up with songs in which his voice can shine the most. He is also able to sing with so much emotion because he is able to relate to the songs and lyrics that he writes, showing his growth and maturity as an artist. His love and passion for music is very evident and it definitely shows in the wonderful pieces he creates.

As a singer, Yoon Hyun Sang is still a very underappreciated artist in the K-pop industry, but hopefully he will have more opportunities in the future to showcase more of his talent and potential. It warms my heart to know that there are passionate musicians like Yoon Hyun Sang, who do music because they love it. I’m definitely looking forward to his next album. In the meantime, check out the touching and emotional music video for his latest title track “Time Forgets”.

Have you ever heard of Yoon Hyun Sang? What do you think about the quality of artists in the Kpop industry nowadays? 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.

Artist Spotlight: Blady


The little known girl group Blady made a recent comeback with a truly crazy song. While many of you may not be aware of them, they have in fact been around since 2011. With a slight possibility of making it big with this comeback, we decided to take a look back at their career in the hopes of discovering a hidden gem.

The K-pop industry has changed a lot in the last three to four years. Most notably, there have been a lot more groups debuting every week. This is positive in some ways, such as the fact that the three big companies no longer have complete control of the charts. We can now see rookie groups from smaller companies, like EXID and VIXX, competing and winning on music shows. But this also means that a lot more groups are being forgotten without making any sort of mark. Whether it is because of a lack of exposure or from having no good music, more groups are disbanding within a year of their debut than ever before. Some, however, keep plugging away despite no success at all.

Blady is one of these.

What sets Blady apart from all other struggling K-pop groups is a certain try hard charm. They’ve been around longer than most rookie groups who have tried and failed to make it big. Since 2011, they have had four major releases and have changed their lineup on three separate occasions. The concepts and quality of their songs have varied wildly yet they deliver each with an exuberance that is too endearing to ignore. From the sexy, Latin inspired ‘‘Come To Me’’ to the Hollywood directed music video for ‘‘Crazy Day,’’ there is a lot to take note of with Blady.

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Finding the reason for Blady’s continued lack of success probably isn’t that hard once you listen to their debut single ‘‘Spark Spark’’. I always think that groups can never really recover from a terrible opener (I still think ‘Gossip Girl’ is the reason Rainbow has always struggled). ‘Spark Spark’ is a truly awful slice of what K-pop was like prior to Wonder Girls’ ‘‘Nobody’’. Blady’s company were obviously too poor to afford modern equipment so it sounds three years out of date and not in a hip, nostalgic way either. It contains grating synths covered with auto tuned vocals. I can’t tell if they’re attempting to make the voices ‘cuter’ or cover up poor vocals. Either way, it is incredibly annoying and brings back awful memories of K-pop’s auto-tune years. Also, it doesn’t even have a video.

Cut to July 2011, and Blady began teasing their blockbuster follow up, ‘‘Crazy Day’’. Blady were going global. To the ultra glamorous Maldives to be exact, where they would shoot their new music video with Hollywood director Kang Young Man in spectacular 3D! They even recruited choreographer Main Spirit, who has worked with Lee Hyori and Bada, for the dance moves. The hype was real.

Then this happened.

The dramatic acting! The paparazzi flash effects! The image overlays! The lack of 3D!

In all seriousness, it is actually a big step up from their debut. Even just for actually having a music video that can be found online. The song’s Europop production is an improvement. Structurally, it’s a mess, but that gives it some level of interest over ‘‘Spark Spark’’.

That’s being kind to a music video and song that are so embarrassingly bad and yet seemingly a lot of effort was put in that it becomes iconic rather than shameful. A 3D version was supposed to be released in August of that year but is nowhere to be found. Some of the shots in this one look like they were made for 3D though, so maybe this was it but they just didn’t shoot in 3D at all. The choreography too does not look like it was put together by anyone of note much less someone who worked with a great queen like Lee Hyori. At least they got a holiday out of it.

All of this did not seem to go noticed though, as Blady went under the radar for two years. They resurfaced in 2013 with a whole new look and lineup. All of the original members but one, Kangyoon, left and were replaced with four more girls. They came back armed with fresh talent to create a new day in Blady history. For the first time ever, they would release a good song.

Not just a good song, a great one. Released in November of 2013, ‘‘Blood Type B Girl’’ is an encapsulation of all that is K-pop. It contains three distinct genres and swaps out whole parts at a whim with some never getting another run. It seems a group with a track record like Blady’s could never pull this off but somehow they do. It’s pulled together with heavy hip-hop beats then moves onto shiny electro pop on the chorus before finishing on some dirty electro dance beats. On top of all this, there are tribal sounding 808 drums that come in at random points to liven things up. They go all out with the structure while never allowing the music get out of control. Each part is distinct yet cohesive as a whole. It also still felt like a Blady song. Sort of a mess but an endearing one that they now learned how to control.

The new Blady age had been ushered in. Their millions of adoring fans were surely around the corner.

Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found. Just like their previous singles ‘‘Blood Type B Girl’’ failed to chart. Shortly after, four more members left, including only surviving founding member Kangyoon. It seemed like their time was up. Not only had they lost the majority of their group, but without any original members, there was a possibility of the essence of the group being lost. Even with new members they probably couldn’t break into any sort of popularity. Surely this was the end.

Obviously nobody told that to Blady.

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This brings us up to March of this year, when Blady came back once again this time with a sexy, revamped lineup and the aptly titled mini album ‘‘Renovation’’. Taking on the sexy concept is something most girl groups do to gain any sort of following so I don’t really blame Blady for pandering. Also, the whole concept is geared towards sexy including the video, music and lyrics. A lot of the time we see only sexy visuals so it’s refreshing when groups commit to it.

Stunning lead single ‘‘Come To Me’’ is their most straightforward song to date. It fuses swing and Latin pop to great effect with the guitars and orchestra combining perfectly. It’s also Blady’s first song to sound like it was put together with a proper budget. How their company could afford is beyond me, but they did it and that’s what matters.

A part of me is disappointed that Blady are starting to work with trends in order to boost their profile. In the end though, it’s the quality of music that matter and in that respect they have not disappointed. They are continuing right now with insane ‘‘Renovation’’ b-side ‘‘Oochie Walla Walla’’.

So far they have only promoted it on weekly music shows so there is no music video. It would be a shame if one doesn’t turn up eventually since it’s such a great song. Going for the popular banging electro trap now Blady have taken cues from EXID, 4minute, and 2NE1 for their next attempt at stardom. “Oochie Walla Walla” bursts into life at a blistering pace leaving no time for you to settle down. It contains so many beat and tone shifts so even when it slows down it never gets boring. Where ‘‘Blood Type B Girl’’ worked because it took its time with changing elements, “Oochie Walla Walla” works because it does it so quick. That sounds like a contradiction but you have to listen to understand. It’s ridiculous, but it works.

Blady is an example of what a group can do if they refuse to quit. With their most recent comeback, they seem to have gotten a little more attention than usual (one variety show appearance). Whether it does bring them any success, we’ll have to wait and see. No matter what happens though, Blady has had an incredible career that deserves some attention. When so many groups come and go within a year it’s good to take notice of some of these smaller ones who never quit. This quality is what makes Baldy stand out for me. Despite some of the worst atrocities against music and music videos, they remained tenacious and enthusiastic. Whatever happens I feel like I can rely on Blady to remain true to themselves and keep on reaching for the stars.

What do you think of Blady? 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.

Artist Spotlight: HISTORY’s Jang Yi Jeong

Jang Yi Jeong history profile bio artist spotlight

As a group with relatively little fanfare in the Korean music world, Loen Tree’s male K-pop quintet HISTORY has shown off its talent time and time again. The group’s latest release, the May mini-album “Beyond The History,” showcased their talent once again, and particularly highlighted the skill of the group’s youngest member, Jang Yi Jeong.

Jang gained fame prior to joining HISTORY as a contestant on “Birth Of A Great Star 2”. Although he didn’t win the competition, Jang’s powerful vocals and likeable personality led to him gaining a spot in HISTORY. In the group, Jang was not only the youngest member, but also the center vocalist of a group filled with talent.

After HISTORY’s debut, Jang’s highest profile solo work was being featured on IU’s “Friday.” The soft ballad about going on a date was extremely popular in South Korea, but it’s Jang’s latest work that is the most exciting.

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The latest album gave Jang another chance to shine; he wrote the group’s title track, “Just Might Die” and released his own solo song, “1CENTURY.” While many K-pop idols nowadays are known for their compositional skills, it’s rare that a rookie group would go with a title song written by a member unless they had absolute confidence in the song. Jang spoke about the responsibility that went along with it in an interview with Loen’s 1theK YouTube channel, where he admitted that he felt the pressure from the members to make a good song. The result was “Just Might Die.”

Not only did Jang have a role in every aspect of “Just Might Die,” including directing the recording, he also was involved in the songs “Ghost” and “1Century” on the same album.

If “Just Might Die” wasn’t enough of a surprise to turn our attention to HISTORY’s youngest member, Jang’s solo rap “1Century” did that.

Yes, a rap song. Just like “Just Might Die,” Jang also wrote “1Century.” HISTORY has other members who rap, but Jang Yi Jeong’s debut as a rapper is one of the best rap songs we’ve heard from a Korean idol that wasn’t originally an underground rapper. The emotion is there, the different rap styles; it’s all there. Jang isn’t as talented as people who make their careers as rappers, such as San-E or Mad Clown, but there’s no doubt that there is basic, raw skill there.

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Matching his singing skills with his composing talent and newly revealed aptitude for rap shows how well rounded Jang Yi Jeong is not as a general K-pop but as a musician in general. It is honestly confounding when thinking about how one of the most promising talents in the Korean music world is going unrecognized.

What do you think about Jang Yi Jeong? 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.

Artist Spotlight: ZPZG

Artist Spotlight ZPZG Feat

With so many rookie groups debuting practically every week, it’s easy to miss some of the more promising acts that the K-pop world has to offer. Luckily for ZPZG though, the four member South Korean boy band left a deep impression on this Kultscene writer. Comprised of leader/rapper Khan and vocalists Na Kang (N.K.), Baek Gyeom, and Lee Ji Hoon, these fresh-faced boys are bringing back the old-school K-pop sound that we all loved circa mid-2000s, making the flower boy image the new “cool” in a scene that is presently entrenched in power concepts.

via zpzg-usa on Tumblr

The quartet under J Star Entertainment first made its official debut on September 25th of last year with their digital single, “Going Crazy.” It is a delightful earworm that mixes the mellow strums of ukuleles with the addictive synths at its core to produce an unforgettable and refreshing pop track. Nothing risky, but that’s to be expected for the new kids on the block under an indie label. The group even plays on the safe side by keeping the plot of the music video simple in order to underscore the energetic choreography and the numerous winks and eye smiles of the boys that are sure to have the noona (older female) fans melting in their seats. And how can we ignore the way they serenade and follow the girl whom they have fallen madly in love with around while she tries to avoid the camera’s gaze?? Big Bang’s “Lies” anyone? Indeed, the nostalgia factor is certainly strong with this group.

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And while “Going Crazy” may be the only release from the group since their debut, they were also seen at the Itaewon Global Village Festival a couple months later covering, of all groups, Big Bang’s “Sunset Glow.” Even here they were able to bring their youthful and enthusiastic flair from their first single to the classic hit. Until they comeback with an album that contains more than a song and its instrumental version, it seems that they have found their niche in upbeat and sweet love songs from yesteryear.

Since promotions for “Going Crazy” have ended, the group has fallen off the radar, but not into total obscurity per se. Thanks to member Kang’s talented bloodlines, the group has been able to stay alive since it has been revealed that the vocalist is the younger cousin of Beast’s dancing machine Kikwang. Moreover, popular idol group EXO’s Chanyeol gave a somewhat overdue shoutout earlier this year to the boys on his personal Instagram account, citing that the high school classmates helped him adjust to the new learning environment after he transferred over. This generated much buzz and interest in the fledgling group.

kang and kikwang

via zpzg.kang on Instagram

Nowadays, the boys have been staying true to their group’s name, which stands for zest play, zest grow. With fervor, the boys have been enjoying their vacation time while practicing for their upcoming Japanese concert in July. No comeback dates have been revealed as of yet, which only opens up the floor to questions about what avenues the four are going to take next. For their age (17-23), the pretty boy image works best, and through their performances the members have showed us that tried and true never goes out of style.

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As fans anticipate their return and watch them mature into men, they should take this opportunity to work on incorporating both new and old sounds into their music as well. Show us more of Khan’s raps that “Going Crazy” did not quite do justice to, or how about giving us more harmonization between the main vocalists? Although their catchy debut song did not achieve much fanfare as it should have (blame the marketing team), with the right guidance the boys should be able to establish themselves in the always competitive music business. After training for years, they’ve already got the know-how to do so. Hopefully one day ZPZG will develop a name of its own and not just as Beast’s distant cousin group or the kids who went to school with EXO’s Chanyeol.

Do you like ZPZG? 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.

Artist Spotlight: A.KOR


In the wake of their most recent sub-unit single, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit A.KOR’s career in the hope of finding more than a controversy.

When most K-pop fans think of A.KOR they only think of one thing: Kemy’s diss track about 2NE1’s Park Bom. The controversy has completely overshadowed much of the group’s career to date. If you look at the comments of any article about them or video of theirs on Youtube, you will find legions of 2NE1’s fans insulting Kemy and the group. While controversy was likely the whole point of the track, it hasn’t done much to further A.KOR’s success. I’m not here to pick over the details of this though. I’m here to ask you to give A.KOR a chance without the weight of controversy hanging over them. What you will find are exciting tropical beats, two of the best female idol rappers working today, and a whole lot of fun.

The recent use of rappers by boy groups like BTS and B.A.P has not really crossed over to girl groups in a big way. These boy groups have enough talent within all their members to have songs that focus primarily on rapping or vocals. Gone are the early K-pop days of having one token rap verse. However, A.KOR is possibly the only girl group that can achieve this at the moment. A.Kor’s rappers Kemy and Min Ju have distinct flows that contrast each other brilliantly. These coupled with the incredible vocals of Ji Young, the breathy Daya, and Tae Hee’s strength make for an extremely talented group.

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A.KOR actually only debuted with three members, Kemy, Min Ju, and Ji young, for some reason I cannot ascertain. Whatever it was, it didn’t make a difference to their output. Their debut from summer 2014 “Payday” sounds like a 2008/2009 K-pop song with today’s production standards. The banging Europop riff sounds glossy yet cheap at the same time and it has a stupid spoken opening that screams early JYP. Ji Young’s voice has a classic Wonder Girls feel to it that lends to the retro sound and absolutely blasts the choruses.

“Payday,” like all good debuts should, sets down a unique sound for A.KOR. The whole song has a tropical feeling to it that would be exploited some more on later tracks. Matching this with the hip hop stylings that they were being promoted with was a masterstroke. Kemy and Min Ju’s raps work so well together and with these sounds. It’s a genuinely fresh and exciting sound that is uncommon to K-pop.

Luckily for us, A.KOR only improved on their debut with “But Go” later in 2014. Their first song post-Park Bom scandal seems to channel the rage they felt. “But Go” is an explosive track that showcased how powerful girl groups can really be. Once again, the rapping takes center stage behind more foreign beats, this time booming Middle Eastern drums. Kemy and Min Ju are brought into even greater contrast with Min Ju delivering particularly high pitched bubblegum raps against Kemy’s angry strength. Between the two of them, they are the perfect female force for defying the traitorous men this song is about, with Kemy acting as the insulter and Min Ju as the belittler.

“But Go” also introduced the two final members of A.KOR, Daya and Tae Hee. They do the best work they can do here in that they fit in without any fanfare and just join in with A.Kor’s previous line-up. That being said, the new members perform their parts well. Daya especially has a certain charm. Her voice has a strained, out of breath quality to it which I quite like. It adds another dimension to A.KOR’s sound on top of Ji Young’s power and the slick rapping.

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As was the trend for so long, A.KOR eventually went down the sexy route with their next single “Always.” It drops the foreign beats in favour of a standard pop rock sound. Unsurprisingly, this change of concept corresponds with their worst single to date. While not being a completely bad song, it remains uninteresting. Conforming to the trends meant that A.Kor looked uncomfortable in a role which was probably never meant for them. I guess you can’t blame them too much for trying it out considering their lack of success.

The song itself might have been seen as a way of promoting A.KOR’s vocalists more than before. Tae Hee especially gets more lines than she ever had and delivers them well. She has a strength to her voice that suggest something bigger than she is showing us. Maybe given time we will see her really test her pipes.

Also not surprising is that the raps are what keep this from being completely forgettable. Kemy and Min Ju have proven to be a continually interesting duo. So when it was announced they were forming a hip-hop sub unit called A.KOR Black, I got excited. Despite being only a sub-unit this recent comeback confirms A.KOR as an incredibly talented group.

“How We Do” fits into another recent trend of K-pop, the nineties. Here it works really well, as the stylings match with the hip-hop sounds and the song itself has a retro tinge to it. It also signals the return of the tropical sounds in the form of steel drums and synths. These go on top of a beastly hip-hop beat to create something as badass as it is fun. This is the song for summer 2015.

I don’t have to explain just how good the rapping is again, but I will say that it’s the best that the pair has done so far. What is also great is the pop chorus they have; the infectious hook sung by Min Ju is the perfect accompaniment to the cavalcade of rapping.

Even now with “How We Do,” A.KOR’s comment sections are filled with hate. Hopefully, in time, people will learn to forgive Kemy and her group mates (especially since she already apologized). If they do, they will discover a unique and exciting group. Not only are they bringing new sounds into K-pop, but they are showing how badass female idols can really be when it comes to rapping. The power of “But Go” surpassed all other female idol groups last year and “How We Do” is showing they can capitalize on their greatest strengths.

Maybe it’s actually better that they remain lesser known so I can keep them to myself while everyone else can stay on the other side of that infamous feud.

What do you think of A.KOR? 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.

Artist Spotlight: LiVii

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If ‘90s anime and kawaii pastel goth blogs on Tumblr joined together and formed an entertainment company, LiVii would undoubtedly top its artist roster. Kim Songi, known by her stage name LiVii, comes out from the inner depths of the glittered plastered digital world, leaving her ulzzang (best face) status behind and moving forward with her contemporary R&B and pop sound embellished with net art.

The mega babe debuted early last year in January with the uber sweet love song “Beep x 3,” highlighting her kawaii, health goth image largely revered online. But her status as internet queen reached its peak with the release of “C’mon” the following months. The music video is an explosion of color and quirky graphics, styled with Joy Rich everything and throwback Tommy Hilfiger overalls. The song itself, on the other hand, is reminiscent of some of Ariana Grande’s more upbeat material –minus the powerful pipes, however.

livii gif body language

via seunqyoun on Tumblr

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For her next release, “₩atch & Learn,” LiVii threw hip hip into the mix by showcasing her rapping skills and released a faster, middle eastern influenced twerktastic jam. Moreover, LiVii channeled her inner M.I.A by not only repeating “Bad Girls” lyrics, but the music video is very reminiscent of the English singer’s “XXXO” video with the glittery graphics concept. LiVii, however, made it very specific and her own with her use of purikura (Japanese instant photo booth) inspired graphics and DIY feel that took the awesomeness of the video to another level.

This year, the singer has been focusing on releasing Konglish covers of mainstream American R&B songs mixed with her original lyrics. So far, LiVii has her own versions of Kid Ink’s “Body Language” and the recent “Post to Be” by Omarion. With both covers, LiVii managed to turn male songs into something a sexy, driven girl would sing. By bringing in her personality and her signature style, she has us thinking Omarion and Kid Ink who?

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“Post to Be” has just about the right amount of cuteness that doesn’t infantilize LiVii (like some K-pop girls out there) and has her looking fly as hell. “Body Language,” also unlike K-pop stars, seems more like LiVii being in control of her sexuality and how much she uses it to her advantage rather than being exploited for someone else’s profit. To both tracks, the singer brought in her own flair

LiVii is essentially that unnamed girl on Tumblr we all reblog and wish we had her swag and good looks. She might not drop bars as hard as Cheetah or be as glam as CL, but she has an interesting image no one on the mainstream has claimed yet and her voice is like a spoonful of sugar. And with no notable collaborations or viral fame, things can only go up. Just wait a couple of months and this queen will surely occupy her seat.

Did you like LiVii? 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. Read more

Artist Spotlight: 10cm [NYC Concert Update]

Since 2010 the Korean acoustic indie band 10cm has been making waves in South Korea, offering the perfect coffee shop tunes to the most coffee-obsessed nation in Asia. It’s no surprise that the duo’s big break came from a song about coffee.

10cm, comprised of main vocalist and percussionist Kwon Jeong Yeol with secondary vocalist Yoon Cheol Jong on the guitar, tambourine, and anything else they decide to include in their folk-inspired songs. The two worked together in the early 2000’s while part of the rock band, Hyerung. The two left that path, and rejoined in 2010.

With simple jazz and folk-inspired sounds and soulful voices, the group is one of South Korea’s most promising, musically innovative musical acts. Many of 10cm songs are filled with bits of humor, sarcasm, and evocative lyrics, matching the nostalgic feel of their music.

Americano I like I like I like

The group’s most prominent hit, Americano is an upbeat, addicting song filled with 10cm’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics, which resulted in the song getting blocked from airplay in South Korea.

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When getting some air after fighting with your girlfriend
When getting a smoke after kissing another girl

Despite being banned about a year after being released (due to the slow process to ban many songs in South Korea,) Americano became one of the most popular songs of 2010 and 2011. It, and the group’s other hit song Tonight I’m Afraid of the Dark, helped 10cm win multiple awards, including “Best Pop Song” at the 2011 Korean Music Awards.

10cm has a generally upbeat yet melodramatic, style of music, and songs like I’m Fine Thank You and You became hits in South Korea. The simple acoustic strumming of the guitar matched with and the beats of the jembe, a barehanded-played drum favored by Kwon, are reminiscent of the type of songs that made Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeren famous.

10cm occasionally introduces some new elements to its songs, and a few more rock-esque sounding are certainly in the duo’s retinue, but creating beauty out of simple chords and lyrics is what 10cm thrives at. For coffee addicts who were drawn in by the coffeehouse style (and focused) tunes, 10cm’s harmonica-utilizing Love in the Milky Way Café is an example of 10cm’s songs that offer midway point between the upbeat, faster-paced Americano and the band’s more emotional songs like Tonight I’m Afraid of the Dark.

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10cm’s latest release was 2014’s 3.0, the follow up to the pair’s previous albums 1.0 and 2.0. The title song, Missing You, is a softer song with a more melancholic, mature message while other songs on the album offer a range of sounds, including creating a unique 10cm style of acoustic-rock music on Cigarette Smoking King, which includes elements typically associated with screamo songs. The album goes together as an ode to 10cm’s experiences, but nothing is filled with as much self-mockery as the first track,3rd Album Burdens.

10cm has collaborated with a variety of artists (Leessang, Yoonmirae(Tasha/T) of MFBTY, Haha, Orange Caramel, Verbal Jint) over the years, and has teamed up with the female duo Okdal for a concert series. The two bands will be performing in New York City on June 5, thanks to Urbansiders. You can find out all of the information on the concert’s website page.

What song of 10cm’s resonates with you? 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.