Whales & K-Pop: EXO, BTS, & The Loneliest Creature In The World

EXO "Sing For You" BTS "Whalien 52"What does EXO and BTS have in common?

Ask me this yesterday, and I’d have said a variety of things like, “K-pop boy bands, good looking, talented, etc.” Ask me today and I’d have to say “they’re lonely.” Or, alternatively, both BTS and EXO are fans of the 52-hertz whale, known as the loneliest creature on this planet.

It is pretty well-known that K-pop idols are dedicated to their craft and their fans. Fan service, the shows of affection that Korean singers put on for their fans that range from throwing hearts into crowds to getting down on one knee and mock-proposing to fans with roses, is commonplace. As entertainers, it is the job of Korean idols to make fans believe that they are happy; showing anything less than a large smile is often seen as unprofessional.

But within the past two weeks though, two of K-pop’s most up-and-coming idol groups both addressed loneliness verging on depression, using the lonely 52-hertz whale, the world’s so-called loneliest whale to do just that.

The Loneliest Animal On Earth

“It’s as if he speaks his own language– a language of one. Even stranger, 52 Hertz does not follow the known migration route of any extant baleen whale species. He sings alone and travels alone.” — Bryan Nelson for

The 52-hertz whale was first heard in 1989 by a team of scientists, singing a whale song that was more than double the average frequency of whale song from other species of the animal, which sing between a range of 15-25 hertz. Since then, the 52-hertz whale has been identified as single, solitary whale. He is the epitome of loneliness on this planet, and has been this way for at least twenty years.

And BTS and EXO have each tied this lone creature into their recent songs, turning the 52-hertz whale as a symbol of both depression and hope.

Also on KultScene: Which BTS Member Are You? [QUIZ]

BTS – “Whalien 52”

BTS’s “Whalien 52,” from their latest album “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Part 2 “ is a song about being misunderstood and not being able to fit in. The title is an amalgamation of the 52-hertz whale’s name and the idea of “alienation,” or being apart and different from those around you.

“Alienation- A withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment : estrangement. (Alienation…from the values of one’s society and family.-S. L. Halleck)” — Merriam-Webster

BTS’s song was produced by Pdogg in collaboration with members Rap Monster, J-Hope, and Jungkook, giving “Whalien 52” a personalized touch that is usually missing from K-pop songs. BTS has set themselves aside from most new K-pop groups for this reason, with members taking a role in just about every song of their latest album. Which means that the final message of “Whalien 52,” to be the best “whale” you can be, and do your own thing even if it means being alone, is a message directly from the mouths of these K-pop idols themselves.

The everyday loneliness that people feel isn’t something that is a typical part of K-pop, which more often than not offers up love songs or bombastic anthems. “Whalien 52” is one of the few songs out there to discuss how each and every person has their own life that is unlike that of anyone else in the world.

BTS’s lilting take on “Whalien 52” takes a harsh subject and gives it a lighter feel, with an ultimately inspiring ending. The initial dark, solitary lyrics and meaning of “Whalien 52” bely the harmonies and raps interspersed with tinkling keyboard and synth sounds, which innately give the song an uplifting vibe to match the song’s final message rather than the initial feeling of being alone.

EXO – “Sing For You”

The lyrics of EXO’s most recent winter ballad, “Sing For You,” describes someone who has regrets towards the person that they love and expresses the desire to sing a confession song for that person. But the music video, an entirely black and white production, initially shows EXO’s members enjoying their winter days and then hints to the darker feelings that people repress under their surface.

The music video depicts literal loneliness, anger, and misunderstanding through the actions of EXO’s members, some fighting, some disappearing etc. And Sehun explores space as a lonely astronaut who meets a solitary, 52-hertz whale.

This isn’t a case of possibly misunderstanding the music video plot; the 52-hertz whale is a symbol of loneliness and the wintery scenes likely hint to depression, particularly seasonal depression, a condition that accompanies the winter months and affects millions of people. The video ends with EXO’s members coming together and Sehun befriending the whale, showing that loneliness can be beaten with the help of others.

Cultural Meaning

EXO is currently one of K-pop’s most popular groups and has spent much of this year competing with Big Bang to take first place. To address the loneliness that people feel, both when they’re on their own (figuratively in outer space,) and when they’re with others, is a big step for the K-pop industry.

Also on KultScene: Meet iDR, The Man Behind EXO’s “Love Me Right”

Whereas BTS is a relatively independent K-pop group (if such a thing were possible,) with members having real roles in creating their music, EXO is the exact opposite. The group is perfectly produced by SM Entertainment with only a few instances throughout their career where EXO’s members have been able to try their hand at playing a part in their artistic career (such as Lay’s hand in the beautiful song, “Promise 2014.”)

But, regardless of their differences, both groups have recently addressed loneliness, comparing the individual’s struggle for understanding to that of a solitary creature who roams the world without literally being understood by its peers.

Both EXO and BTS have offered inspiration in the face of estrangement (BTS- keep persevering, EXO- Find others who understand you), and that’s all good and dandy but there is something deeper behind these two songs than just the normal K-pop/hip hop ballads.

South Korea, the country that makes bubblegum K-pop for all of us to enjoy, is one of the most depressed countries in the world. It has the highest suicide rate by country, with 24.7 people out of 100,000 committing suicide each year according to the Washington Post. According to the OECD Better Life Index, South Korea has the lowest ranking community support in the world, with only 72% of South Koreans feeling that they have people to turn to in times of need. Additionally, South Korea’s work-to-life ratio is lower than that of many other countries.

By offering up inspirational tracks in the dark of the winter, BTS and EXO offer their own sort of 52-hertz whale to their fans. “Whalien 52” and “Sing For You” feature aspects of loneliness, offering understanding to K-pop fans, both Korean and otherwise, who need support in the lonely world.

But, even more so, the message of each song/music video also shows that even the perfectly coiffed K-pop world is a lonely place.

BTS’s members personally partook in writing “Whalien 52” and EXO’s members vividly drew attention to their own battles with loneliness while still trying to keep their smiles on their faces at times. It’s almost expected that BTS has a harder time, because several of them were underground artists and because the group is still under a relatively small entertainment agency, and members of the group have addressed depression in interviews.

But because EXO is under SM Entertainment, the largest entertainment agency, they’re expected to put on a good face the majority of the time and the meaning behind the video of “Sing For You” is almost shocking.  It’s been some time since an SM Entertainment artist discussed depression (several members of Super Junior and Girls’ Generation have addressed it in the past), and it’s the first time that this writer can recall where an SM Entertainment music video hit on something related to mental health.

Because it breaks the illusion of what it means to be an idol, and EXO is arguably the most popular young male K-pop idol group in the world today, depression has been taboo to the group (despite former members leaving and others visibly struggling through performances). But throughout the music video for “Sing For You,” EXO depicts the sort of inner turmoil that isn’t about the love-related lyrics of the song, and instead depict the struggles that go along with the world that they (and the rest of us) live in. “Sing For You” is the opposite of an upbeat anthem; the music video shows suffering and loneliness in a way that just doesn’t let the viewer ignore it.

The 52-hertz whale may be alone, but he’s also a symbol of hope, of resilience, when feeling alone. By bringing out their inner whales and depicting loneliness that is on par with that of the 52-hertz whale, BTS and EXO not only helps their audiences understand that each individual isn’t the only one struggling in this world with loneliness, but also helps people relate more to the very human K-pop idols.

What’s your interpretation of the BTS and EXO songs? How do you deal with loneliness? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

8 Moments You’ll Want To Rewatch From MAMA 2015

MAMA 2015 2NE1

One of the biggest events of the K-pop year was held earlier today in Hong Kong and, needless to say, a lot went on at the Mnet Asian Music Awards that you don’t want to miss out on. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the show live, or just want to relive it, then this rundown of all of the memorable moments from MAMA 2015 is definitely for you.

1. 2NE1 Returned

If there is one thing to take away from the 2015 MAMA ceremony, it was that 2NE1 was back. There was silence, tears, and shrieks from fans watching live and at home as CL disappeared beneath the stage after her solo performance of “Hello Bitches” and Dara rose up, followed by Minzy, Park Bom, and CL. The performance was like a rebirth of the group, which has been on hiatus for over a year, and they brought their fierce talent performing their debut song “Fire” and their most popularity song to date, “I Am The Best.”

Also on KultScene: MAMA 2015 Award Show Scoresheet + WINNERS


2. Jolin Tsai Dominated The Stage

The Taiwanese singer surprised the crowd with a performance of her hit song “Play.” The Queen of C-Pop showed everyone what she was worth, offering a fierce rendition of “Play.” Backed by a crew of male backup dancers in drag, Jolin Tsai showed the camera who is boss with her intense gaze and sharp dance moves, matched by her fire-spit rap and belting vocals. And when she broke character and couldn’t help but show her bright smile, it was absolutely great.

Honorable mention to the fangirls who just couldn’t believe what was happening.

3. JYP Embarrassed Everyone

Park Jin Young, also known as JYP or J.Y Park and the CEO of JYP Entertainment, took to MAMA with a mature performance that left people with their eyes wide and jaws open. Except for the members of JYP Entertainment idol groups Twice and GOT7, who were looking for the exits. The members of the two idol groups went so far as to cover their eyes and imitate killing one another to keep themselves from seeing their mentor get down with the female dancers.

4. The Fashion Was On PointBIGBANG MAMA 2015 Fashion

Everyone came out in their best, combining chic urban wear with fabulously classy numbers. Fur was a big component in several people’s outfits, including HyunA, Truedy, Yezi, and Jessi’s. BIGBANG went all out mobster chic, while BTS brought a retro, Grease-inspired fashion for their performance of “Run.”

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Actress Stephanie Lee stood out amongst a lot of classic black and white numbers worn by presenters by wearing an eggplant-colored dress with cut outs, while actress Park Shin Hye opted for a little black and white preppy lace number.


And San E’s stylist should maybe rethink things because his entire outfit was a mess, just saying.

5. Yezi & Lil Boi Strutted Their Rap Stuff

If 2015 was the year for any rapper, that rapper was none other than Fiestar’s Yezi. The “Unpretty Rapstar 2” contestant joined “Show Me The Money 4” contestant Lil Boi on stage and they just couldn’t be controlled. The “Show Me the Rapstar” segment was a rap battle between the pair and Truedy and Basik, the winners of their respective competition shows, but Yezi proved to everyone that she’s not just a pretty face while Lil Boi brought a bouncing rap that had the crowd feeling the rhythm.

Also on KultScene: 6 INFINITE Songs That Will Prepare You For INFINITE Effect

6. EXO & BIGBANG Were Crowned Kings of 2015

EXO won three awards, including Best Male Artist and Best Album of the Year, while BIGBANG took home four awards for Best Music Video, Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, and MAMA Worldwide Favorite Artist.

Enough said.

7. The Seungri+Sehun Ship Set Sail

The most shocking, or hilarious, moment of MAMA was when BIGBANG’s Seungri cozied up with members of EXO during “Bae Bae.” EXO’s Sehun reciprocated by pretending to fall asleep on Seungri’s shoulder, and that was it. The (relation)ship soon filled Twitter as fans reacted to this unlikely encounter between members of groups from the two largest Korean entertainment agencies.

8. There Were Lightsabers

While the battle could have been better, MAMA included a lightsaber duel. What more could you ask for? It’s “Star Wars,” but live!

What was your favorite moment from 2015 MAMA? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

2015 Gift Guide For Fans Of Korean Pop Culture

EXO ChristmasWhile it seems like the holiday season begins earlier and earlier each year, the Friday after Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff for those of us living in the United States. Some of you may have already started putting together your wish lists or have started shopping, but in case you are looking for some K-pop or K-drama inspired presents, KultScene has you covered with our 2015 gift guide.

For The K-Beauty Obsessed

Korean masks – $2-$25
This is perhaps the most obvious choice on the list when it comes to K-beauty lovers. Have your choice from any of the masks we tested out earlier this year. Seriously, there’s way too many options out there, so just have your go at whatever happens to catch your eye
Glass Nails$2
Glass nails are the biggest thing out of Korea since K-pop, and are the trend that we most have our eye on. It’s cheap, and fun, and a great small item to include in any gift basket.102615-korean-glass-nails-lead
Chosungah 22 Flavorful Lipstick in Guava Tint Jello – $18
This is not only a beautiful, well-lasting shade to color your lips with, but the lipstick looks like jello. It may look like jello, but don’t start eating it just because it’s flavored.  The Chosungah 22 product is also a lip balm and has a lot of vitamins to help keep lips smooth.

chosungah22_flavorfullipstick_guavatintjello_900x900 Colored Hair Dye – $7-$$ (drugstore versus professional)
Red, green, pink, blue, galaxy… What color hair do you think you or your loved one deserves to wear next year? Korean stars have surpassed the normal blondes, reds, and browns, and it’s now your turn to help someone get a new ‘do.
The Little Book of Skin Care by Charlotte Cho– $14
The Soko Glam founder published her book earlier this year, following the rise in popularity of K-beauty. This is the newest, most updated guide for getting that special beautiful Korean skin, and what we’re all hoping to get this season.


Also on KultScene: K-Pop Inspired Gift-Giving Guide

For The Super K-Pop Fans

iTunes Gift Card – $10+
Don’t laugh. Nowadays, there’s Spotify and YouTube to listen to your favorite K-pop tunes on, but nothing beats owning a whole album the day it’s released and listening to it again and again and again.
YG Entertainment Apparel– $5+
This is perfect for any YG-stan out ther, or really anyone who likes some of K-pop’s biggest acts. YG Entertainment, one of South Korea’s largest entertainment agencies, recently started selling their merchandise directly to overseas consumers. Don’t miss out on your chance to get some of your own Big Bang or 2NE1 hoodies, CDs, or more.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 1.33.48 AM
Concert Tickets – $50+
It’s every K-pop fan’s dream to see their favorite idols live. There have been more overseas concerts than ever before in 2015, and A Pink (U.S), INFINITE (U.S), and Beast (Australia) are just some of the few acts going outside of Asia in the near future. If you or anyone you know loves listening, dancing, singing, and breathing K-pop, tickets to a K-pop concert near (or far) is a good gift. Tickets vary in price, but the experience is priceless.
CDs & Concert DVDs – $20+
Even better than songs on your computer or phone are K-pop albums that you can hold and cherish for all eternity (or until you run out of space on your shelves.) K-pop CDs and other sorts of merchandise can be purchased on a variety of websites, so a quick Google search or Amazon search is  sure to turn up a lot of options. Or, if you live near a Korean community, check out their local bookstore and you may be surprised.

For The Fashion Gurus

Retro black chokers – $7
The 90’s are back in full force, and it began first in Korea before coming west earlier this year. The stylish black necklaces (recently seen on EXID) are back and you definitely want to get your hands on one before the trend goes back into the past.

Beanies a la Siwon in “She Was Pretty” -$10
Anywhere you looked in the second half of the year, it was almost impossible to miss Super Junior’s Siwon being absolutely everywhere. One of his biggest roles was in the drama “She Was Pretty,” and, along with all of the ridiculousness of his character, came one really amazing orange beanie.
Flared Jeans – $30
Going back to our retro styles that are in, flared jeans join the high-waisted trend that have been in for a while now to great some sort of uber nostalgia jeans. You can get flared jeans from anywhere, but these cute ones from H&M are currently on sale and sure to make anyone look good.


Also on KultScene: Questions We Have After The End of ‘Sassy Go Go’

For The Foodies

Maangchi’s Cookbook – $17
Want to learn how to cook authentic Korean food? Blogger and YouTuber chef Maangchi released her cookbook “Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook” was released in May. So grab a copy and start cooking some of her mouth watering recipes.

Dolsot pot – $38
If you’re looking for a real Korean cooking expereince, getting one of these authentic Korean stonewear pots is the way to go.


For The Readers

“A Geek In Korea $13
Daniel Tudor’s guide to Korea is a great intro to the country you may have been introduced to by K-pop and K-dramas. Here’s your chance to get an inside take on the whole world of Korean pop culture.

a geek in korea daniel tudor review book korean kpop korea
“In Real Life” – $13
Lawrence Tabak’s young adult novel is about E-games, a side of Korean pop culture that usually doesn’t come into contact with fans of Korean music, dramas, and films, but it is a major part of Korean society and a fun read.

in real life esports book tabak
“Hello, I Love You” – $14
Katie M. Stout’s debut novel is all about romance, cultural understanding, K-pop, and idols. What more is there to want?


Happy holidays from KultScene!

What are you buying this season? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Fantasy Vs Reality: MAMA 2015 Award Winners

MAMA awards

Much to the delight of international K-pop fans, the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) is coming round again on the second of December and will be held in Macau. Nominees for the various categories were announced on Oct. 31,and fan voting began on the same day. It is already shaping up to be a heated battle between the multiple fandoms but there are a few groups that have already gained and maintained a strong lead against their competitors.

Based on the results of previous years, there is a definite correlation between the size of a group’s fanbase and their chances of winning awards, which might unfairly cause more deserving groups to miss out on their prize. To acknowledge the possibly underappreciated groups and artists that will not be recognised during the awards, let’s have a round of Fantasy Vs Reality as a prediction for this year’s winners –with the exception of Union Pay Artist and Song of the Year, there are too many nominees for us to pick!

1. Best New Male/Female Artist

Fantasy: SEVENTEEN & Oh My Girl
These two groups could not be more different in nature but the one thing they have in common is that they’re insanely talented. From participating in the composing and production of their own tracks (SEVENTEEN) to standing out amongst several other girl groups using cute concepts (Oh My Girl), both groups have massive potential and will go far in the K-pop industry. Although they have been gaining a lot of fans since their debuts, neither of these two groups have a large enough fanbase at the moment to ensure their victory in MAMA. However, I’m looking forward to their work in the future!

Reality: iKon & TWICE
Both these groups debuted from huge and rich entertainment companies (YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment) which had previously produced hugely successful acts such as BIGBANG and the Wonder Girls, so it is a given that they would have a more polished debut filled with lots of high budget teasers, hype and music show promotions. Both groups had also participated in pre-debut reality competition shows (“Mix or Match” and “Sixteen”) which garnered the members a sizeable fan base, giving them a headstart and strong lead against other rookie groups. For so much hype though, their actual debut proved to be underwhelming, especially in the case of iKon, so they may not be as deserving of this award in a year filled with better rookie debuts.

2. Best Male/Female Artist

Fantasy: Jung Yonghwa(CNBLUE)/Ailee
It’s pretty interesting how Yonghwa’s solo album that was released earlier this year was so much better than his group’s recent comeback in terms of its musicality, catchiness and coherence as an album. The title track “One Fine Day” was a great song even though it was more of a ballad than anything else, and Yonghwa had a few great collaborations with artists such as JJ Lin and Verbal Jint in the other tracks, all of which contributed to my opinion of him as the best male solo artist of the year, even though he may not be recognised widely for his efforts. Ailee, on the other hand, is definitely a well-known and respected female soloist. She has been nominated for the same award at least two times now but she has always been shy of receiving it. Her releases are consistently amazing and she is always wowing fans with her performances on “Immortal Song” or other music shows. Someone give this woman an award already!

Reality: Kyuhyun(Super Junior)/IU
I cannot deny that Kyuhyun is a great soloist and his releases so far have been nothing short of amazing. However he always sings the same genre of music (ballads) and I believe that his songs are a little over-rated. In my opinion, he may not be as deserving as other more diverse soloists like Yonghwa but he will surely attain victory thanks to his enormous fanbase. Likewise, I cannot really complain about IU because it is true that she is an extremely talented soloist and a diverse singer at that. She also has collaborated with countless artists in the past year and has even impressed fans with her performance in “The Producers” as idol singer Cindy. With her recent release “23,” she showcased a honest side of herself, all of which has helped her add fans to her already large group of supporters. While she is certainly deserving of the award, she has also won the same award previously so perhaps it is time to give the other nominees some recognition.

3. Best Male/Female Group

Fantasy: BTS/AOA
It’s been a great year for both these groups who have achieved major breakthroughs in their career. For AOA in particular, after they changed their concept from being a female band to being an ultra sexy girl group in 2014 it has worked wonders for them. They have gained a lot more fans and recognition through their releases such as “Like a Cat”, “Miniskirt”, and their most recent comeback, “Heart Attack.” BTS has been going strong ever since their debut in 2013 and has been steadily building up their fanbase of ARMY, their fan name, with addictive releases such as “I Need You” and “Dope.” Their songs are of a consistently good standard and each member showcases impressive vocal and rapping skills accordingly. What is there not to like about this group? Both these groups deserve awards for the improvements and work they have done over this year.

Reality: BIGBANG & Girls’ Generation
If Best Male/Female Group was determined on which groups were the most active this year, it would make sense that these two groups would be awarded. In the case of BIGBANG, they’ve had an extremely busy year with their “Made” album, in which two title tracks were released every month starting from May. While I am definitely a fan of BIGBANG’s songs, there were some releases that were overhyped and they did well on the charts just because they were from BIGBANG. The same goes with Girls’ Generation. With a total of four songs released this year, they have certainly been active in the K-pop scene. These songs were definitely not the best ones this year though, despite being accompanied with colourful and cool music videos that boasted SM Entertainment’s high budget. These groups have their loyal and dedicated fans to thank for being able to maintain a lead on the polls so far.

Also on Kultscene: 8 K-pop Girl Power Anthems Pt. 6

4. Best Dance Performance Solo

Fantasy: Gain (Brown Eyed Girls) – “Paradise Lost”
Brown Eyed Girls have always been known for their sexual concepts and Gain’s solos have been no exception. Her solo release was not great to me in a musical sense, but her dance is another story. She really exposed and expressed herself through her extremely sexual dance, and to be able to do that on so many stages is really amazing. Furthermore, as compared to the other nominees on this list, her dance seems to be the most difficult and technical but she pulls it off with ease.

Reality: Amber ( f(x)) – “Shake That Brass”
When I saw that Amber was leading the polls for this award, I literally had to roll my eyes. Not because I have anything against her or f(x) but because I was less than impressed when I watched her live performance for this song. The dance (and song for that matter) seems just like Amber’s character, fun and energetic, but on a technical sense, she’s not actually doing much. Once again, her popularity as a member of f(x) and being part of SM Entertainment is going to smooth her path to victory, whether she actually deserves it or not.

5. Best Dance Performance Male/Female Group

Fantasy: GOT7(“If You Do”) & 4MINUTE (“Crazy”)
GOT7 has never impressed me ever since their debut up until the release of their latest song, “If You Do.” Not only is the sound an overall more mature one from the group, their dance is simply amazing. Even their CEO, Park Jinyoung (JYP) praised them for mastering it, and for good reason. Every step is so synchronized and technically difficult, but the boys were able to master it and show off their individual charms at the same time. For a group that is only about a year old, this is an amazing showing and is proof that they will definitely continue to impress. 4MINUTE’s choreography for “Crazy” also surprised me. Previously I had no knowledge about this group whatsoever but when I saw their dance practice video for “Crazy” I saw how powerful they are. They give off such a strong aura that I was immediately drawn to them, and for that they stand out among the other girl groups in contention for this award.

Reality: EXO (“Call Me Baby”) & Red Velvet (“Ice Cream Cake”)
Even with nine members EXO is always able to showcase a good performance, and their live versions of “Call Me Baby” were executed well. I also loved the way they cleverly made use of props or their clothes to give fans a fresh and new performance every time. Their choreography for this song however, was slightly lacking in terms of its technicality. They were not particularly synchronized nor were their moves very difficult, and this was not their best dance, especially when compared to previous hits like “Growl.” For Red Velvet, maybe it is because I have never been a big fan of cute concepts, I did not find their dance for “Ice Cream Cake” very impressive. They just seemed mediocre, and were similar to several other girl groups both past and present.

6. Best Male/Female Vocal Performance

Fantasy: Lim Chang Jung (“Love Again”)/ Davichi (“Cry Again”)
With his recent comeback “Love Again” Lim Chang Jung created a stir on the music charts where his song had a very strong showing. He even won first place on some music shows during his promotions, which I can say that it was very well-deserved. He sings with a lot of emotions in a style that vaguely resembles Korean trot-singing and his voice found its way into my heart even though I did not understand what he was singing about. Davichi does this all the time as well. From the albums and songs that they have previously released I became quite a huge fan and was more than excited when they came back with “Davichi Hug” this year. All the songs on their album were amazing but none stood out more than their title track “Cry Again.” The choruses and the bridges were so touching and their perfect harmonies really shined. It’s a pity that they did not get more recognition during their promotion period but they really deserve it during these awards.

Reality: Kyuhyun (“At Gwanghwamun”)/ Taeyeon (“I”)
Okay I’m not going to lie, I would be happy if Kyuhyun won for “At Gwanghwamun” because that song is amazing. When it first came out I replayed it so many times and fell in love with it so much so that I actually went to visit Gwanghwamun when I went to Korea because of it. However, he is already highly recognised and constantly awarded either as a soloist or with his group, so I still hope that other vocalists (aka Lim Chang Jung) would get recognised during MAMA instead. I have the opposite sentiment for Taeyeon, unfortunately. I admit that her voice is one of the best in K-pop and that Girls’ Generation would definitely not be as good without her. However, her solo debut was underwhelming in that it sounded so similar to say, a Taylor Swift song and it failed to show off her individuality. Furthermore, she did not really showcase her best vocal ability through this release and is probably more undeserving of this award than the other female vocalists being nominated in this category.

7. Best Rap Performance

Fantasy: Mad Clown – “Fire”
Mad Clown is hands down one of my favourite rappers. His lyrics are not just witty and relatable, his delivery is also very smooth and confident. In particular this track, he matched perfectly with the singer featuring on his track, Jinsil, to create an overall fantastic and addictive song, but it is evident that he is carrying most of the track. His emotions are spot on as well, and he doesn’t come off as full of rage but rather he shows a more passive type of anger. He needs more international exposure and recognition so I really hope that he will be able to get this award.

Reality: Gary (from Leessang) – “Get Some Air”
Once again, I wouldn’t be very upset if Gary ends up winning this award after all. I got to know him after watching him on popular variety show “Running Man” and it is no wonder that he has such a large fan base because the show is popular not just in Korea but in a lot of countries around the world. The track is a pretty good one as well, with a great collaboration between the featured singer (Miwoo) and Gary, but his rap is just lacking as compared to Mad Clown. He also portrays his sad emotions well but his flow and delivery isn’t as smooth or as well done as Mad Clown’s, so on a technical level he may not be as deserving of this award. He did put in a lot of effort for this solo release however and I am looking forward to his future work.

Also on Kultscene: f(x)’s “4 Walls” Album Review

8. Best Band Performance

Fantasy: Hyukoh – “Comes And Goes”
This is probably the category that I feel the most for because Hyukoh is a real gem that I discovered recently due to their appearance on another popular variety show, “Infinite Challenge.” It’s so satisfying to watch them receive so much attention nowadays from Korean and international fans alike because their music is just that good. Indie bands and music have never been my thing, but Hyukoh is so unique and fresh that I can’t help falling in love with them. Their humble attitude is another plus point, especially since they are already so skilled. “Comes And Goes” has such a chill vibe to it and it makes me feel so comfortable that I want to listen to it over and over again. By far, they are definitely the best band among the other bands nominated in this category.

Reality: CNBLUE – “Cinderella”
In contrast, CNBLUE might well be the worst band listed in this category. I say this as a fan of the band, but “Cinderella” is definitely not their best work. In fact, as compared to “Can’t Stop”, which they won Best Band for in MAMA 2014, “Cinderella” is unfortunately a huge decrease in standards. Where “Can’t Stop” was catchy and addictive, “Cinderella” was rather annoying and I couldn’t even bring myself to replay it after the first time. In a year where other bands such as Hyukoh and FTISLAND showed off more of their colour and talent, CNBLUE really shouldn’t get to win this award.

9. Best Collaboration & Unit

Fantasy: VIXX LR– “Beautiful Liar”
I’ve always been fascinated by VIXX as a group, although their concepts sometimes scare me, their songs are always consistently good. It was this expectation that I had from them that caused me to check out their new subunit. It did not disappoint and this great release was a pleasant surprise for me. Ravi’s raps in the song were amazing and really enhanced the track, while Leo did his part and sang beautifully. Together they were a strong pair and it is a pity that this song seemed to go under the radar amongst other popular releases when it is really deserving of recognition. For a debut, it is definitely a great release and I can’t wait for their comeback already.

Reality: Zion T & Crush – “Just”
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that this collaboration was leading the polls because “Just” gained a lot of attention when it was first released at the start of the year. It’s not the first time that these two artists have worked together, and it really shows in the way they are able to complement each other in singing and rapping. While it is a nice release, it doesn’t work on an emotional way like “Beautiful Liar” did for me, so I do think that VIXX LR would be more deserving of this award.

10. Best Music Video

Fantasy: INFINITE – “Bad”
Apart from loving the song, I also enjoyed watching the music video and thought that it was very cool. The way the set was used in different ways for the members intrigued me and there were even some parts that were very creepy, especially when the mirrors were used. Although the other version of the music video wasn’t nominated for this award, I also enjoyed watching the 360 VR version of it because viewers got to play around with the video while watching it to see the video from different perspectives. It was a very cool and fresh idea which made me excited for the future of K-pop music videos.

Reality: BIGBANG – “Bae Bae”
I can only use two words to describe this video: colourful and crazy. It did fit the song very well but it was extremely messy and random with abrupt scene changes and totally different vibes for each part of the song. All it does, in essence, is show off how rich YG Entertainment is, but as a music video I did not enjoy it at all. At least in INFINITE’s video there was an over-arching theme that kept the video coherent and relevant to the song, in “Bae Bae.”..not so much.

All in all, it can be concluded that MAMA awards is essentially a popularity contest, and while the fan polls are not always the determining factors for who eventually wins the awards, they are pretty good indicators. I’m excited to see how it turns out and I’ll always be rooting for the underdogs, even though they may not be favoured to win.

Are you excited for the MAMA awards? What are your predictions? Share your throughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Playlist Sunday: Outer Space

playlist sunday kpop outer spaceSept. 27 will have one of the most spectacular lunar eclipses in recent years in many parts of the world, so in honor of that, this week’s Playlist Sunday is outer space oriented. Living on Earth is all good and fun, but sometimes K-pop gets a little bit interstellar and out of this world. Some of KultScene’s writers picked their favorite astronomy-based songs including hits by Stellar, AKMU, EXO, and more. Whether you’re going to see tonights blood moon or not, take a listen to these extraterrestrial K-pop tunes.

Girl group Stellar debuted in 2011 with title track “Rocket Girl,” featuring Eric Mun of Shinhwa, who was previously the CEO of the company the girl group was signed to. In general, I’m not one to usually listen to girl groups since a majority of their songs are usually too bubbly for my own liking. But being that Eric Mun is my ultimate bias, I thought, “why not?” “Rocket Girl” was filled with auto tune, but it wasn’t as bothersome since the chorus was rather entrancing. One could probably tell without looking up the lyrics that the song is a bit on the cheesier side but mixed in with the catchy beat, “Rocket Girl” can surely put one in a good mood. Although the music video is a bit embarrassing to watch, it’s unique, a rare sight to see in an industry where people expect to see girl groups on extravagant sets and glamorous outfits. Eric’s rap was a bit random and totally unnecessary, but it adds a fun twist and will probably have you wanting to get on that “rocket space ship” with him. If you’re feeling a little down in the dumps and need a quick pick me up, take a listen and watch the music video for “Rocket Girl” — although your brain might be scrambled with a hundred different thoughts, at least you’ll feel better!

— Tam

Also on Kultscene: Playlist Sunday: Meaningful K-Rap

When this song was released, it was immediately touted as a Samsung advertisement because of how many times the word “Galaxy” was repeated. Sibling duo Akdong Musician (AKMU) debuted in 2014 with their album “Play” and this song caught my attention immediately. Yes, it was acoustic and adorable like the rest of their songs, but it had a great mix of lively and mellow melodies. It was a relatively short song compared to their other songs, but it was extremely catchy and I soon found myself singing along with it, especially it’s catchphrase, “Galaxy”.

— Anna

Whenever I look at the nighttime sky, I can’t help but think about how beautiful it is and that feeling was put to words in Super Junior’s “Stars Appear.” The building ballad is one of Super Junior’s best songs in the past few years, bringing together the members’ voices and beautiful lyrics in the best way possible. The lyrics talk about creating memories that will make “Stars Appear” in lovers’ eyes, comparing the brightness of love to the brightness of the nighttime sky. It sounds a bit cheesy as I’m writing this, but there are millions of stars in the world, each with their own spark and flame, and there is really nothing better than this comparison paired with the crooning, acoustic-heavy backing music.

— Tamar

With its late ‘90s, early ‘00s futuristic concept and sounds, “Galaxy Supernova” is hands down one of my favorite Girls’ Generation songs. Long forgotten are these types of songs in the anticipation of the new millennium, so of course I was ecstatic when the Girls’ came up with this cosmic concept that took us back to a time when we thought everything would be metallic and minimalistic by now. The song itself uses cheesy similes comparing their love interests to a supernova and them, the great SNSD, ruling the galaxy and being like comets and shooting stars. But as international fans, half of the greatness of the song is the overall packaging and not just the lyrics. So even though it’s cheesy, it’s a pop masterpiece.

— Alexis

It’s one thing when a song or music video is centered around a galactic space theme, but it’s another when the group itself is from a different planet… Or so the story goes. At the time when EXO debuted, we didn’t really question how laughable their EXO Planet lore is; we just ate it all up. But looking back at their music video for “History” now in 2015, it seems kinda dated and – have we used this word enough yet? – cheesy, even for a video trying to play off of the futuristic concept. The boys dance on a barren celestial body in full on harem pants and moon motifs, while the song references “this planet called earth” and the “sun that is great.” Essentially, they are made out to be like extraterrestrials who are preparing to rise up and do big things one day. But even if the members are embarrassed of their past images now, “History” and its iconic “pocket dance” choreography did do wonders for the group, paving the way for their future success.

— Shelley

What’s your favorite outer space K-pop song? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think about what iDR’s shared? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

EXO’s ‘Love Me Right’ Repackaged Album Review

EXO's Love Me Right Repackaged Album Review

After a two month wait for EXO-Ls (EXO fans), EXO is back again with a re-release of their second studio album, “Exodus.” Titled “Love Me Right,” the repackaged version was released on June 3rd and features four new songs, including the title track of the same name. Unlike the original version, which highlighted the voices of the revamped 10-member group, the repackaged edition only presented us with nine separate voices due to Chinese member Tao’s sudden hiatus from the group.

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

Despite this setback, the South Korean-Chinese boy band proved that it was still able to dominate the charts when both the Korean and Chinese versions of the lead single “Love Me Right” stole first and second place respectively on Gaon’s Album Charts for the week of May 31st through June 6th. Of course, this comes as no real surprise since EXO is known to have a large and dedicated fan base capable of great influence, which, then, still begs the question… did the repackaged album live up to the anticipation?

Lucky for the boys, it did.

”Love Me Right”

The album opens up with its title song, “Love Me Right,” a track that makes use of a number of animated horns, pulsating bass lines, and rising synths that ultimately lead up to the hook. It is actually a nice follow-up to their last single, “Call Me Baby,” which also centers on a throbbing bass sound accentuated by the occasional bursts of brass.

Just as how main vocalist Baekhyun tells us to “take [our] time,” the song starts off slow, progressing as it makes its way through the two part rap separated by a bell-like noise I can only describe as that of a default ringtone. I suppose the one upside to the increasing member turnover rate is that members with little vocal presence, such as Sehun, are finally given more parts. Here, he can finally shine with his raps without being assigned to spelling out “E-X-O” duty. So far the song is nothing too impressive – until we are hit with a howl.

The mood instantly changes and we are thrown into a fun dance number. It is definitely a lively departure from their more electronic and hip-hop sound that we are used to, which is probably why it can easily be mistaken for another group’s song, namely their senior group SHINee. Not that that is considered a bad thing, as SHINee has always impressed listeners with their unique sound. It might take a couple of listens, but the chorus grows on you. The second verse does a better job with build-up by implementing the aforementioned synths, and after watching the live performances it will be difficult not to associate the claps following the bridge with the thigh slaps of the cute choreography.

The theme of the song is all about the rush one feels when in love, laden with many galactic references of wanting to escape to an ethereal universe with the significant other. Such a chimerical message is conveyed through the upbeat nature of the song and the “Alice in Wonderland” Easter eggs hidden in the music video. EXO does not have any summer songs in their repertoire but perhaps this could very well be it.

“Tender Love”

Following “Love Me Right” is the groovy retro track “Tender Love,” with lyrics from Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko. And like any groovy retro track, this one features smooth piano melodies and blaring trumpets to accompany the just as tender voices of the members. The song starts off with a buoyant a-skip-in-your-step feel as the members sing about the gentlemanly things they would do for the girl they like. Then, come pre-chorus, the beat slows down as reality sets in and listeners learn that the girl is not a girlfriend, but nothing more than a close friend. The entire chorus is a repetition of the words “tender love,” what the members want to give to the friend if only she were theirs. The meaning behind those two simple words could be felt by the passion behind their collective voices.

The instrumentals and musical arrangement work well here to tell the story of a man who tries to muster up the courage to confess his feelings, a position most of us can relate to. Not to mention the little exchanges of the various “characters” in the background add to a more engaging song. I can’t help but think that if the King of Pop Michael Jackson himself were to ever dabble in K-pop, the end result would sound something similar to this. Up until now, EXO has not delved into the retro-pop genre, which shows that they are constantly experimenting with their sound. “Tender Love” has all the fun and funk a fan could ask for; all that is missing is a dance practice video to go along with.

Also on Kultscene: EXO’s ‘Call Me Baby’ Song Review

“First Love”

As some fans might already know, “First Love” actually first made its debut not through the repackaged album, but through Youtube prior to the release of their second studio album. This was done in order to give EXO-Ls a sneak peek into what was to come and as a present for all the support and patience fans had given to the group. Unfortunately, it was only up for 10 hours on SM Entertainment’s official channel before it was made private, leaving many fans wondering if they would ever re-release it or if they were going to pull an “El Dorado” on us again (the song, along with “Beautiful,” was originally previewed in EXO’s debut teasers back in 2012 but did not make its official release until 2015). So when I discovered that the song was on the “Love Me Right” track list, I was beyond ecstatic.

The song starts with and maintains a steady mid-tempo piano melody, which also complements the pep that each member brings vocally to the table. It’s a track about the dream-like experience of a first love, so certainly the song is going to be a light-hearted one that is easy on the ears. Even the raps from members Sehun and Chanyeol are bit calmer than usual. And though the melody is a fairly simple one, it is still very addictive. Repetition is key, and it is everywhere here.

You came to me and bloomed (a pretty single stemmed rose)
You are my light (my light that shines in my heart)
A secret that no one knows (a secret only we want to keep)
The most dazzling picture (my picture, such a beautiful picture, love)

From the piano, which employs the same couple of keys throughout the whole track, to the backup vocals, which echo back to previous lyrics, “First Love” is sure to entice listeners with the sugar sweet individual voices of the nine members. I know it’s a personal favorite of mine!

“Promise (EXO 2014)”

It’s true what they say about saving the best for last. “Promise (EXO 2014)” concludes the album, and its position on the track list was most definitely a conscious decision as it is arguably the most meaningful song to not only fans, but for the members as well. For this final track, member Lay personally helped in composing both the Korean and Chinese versions of the song and in writing the lyrics for the latter version. Meanwhile, member Chen (Kim Jong Dae) and Chanyeol wrote the lyrics for the Korean version. It is always good practice to listen to music with the lyrics in hand, but in order to fully appreciate this track this is an absolute must.

Like the previous track “First Love,” this ballad also relies on the use of a piano melody. Yet this song is set at a much lower note, which creates a more somber ambiance than the loving “First Love.”

Sometimes, I close the door and fall into my thoughts
Thinking about myself on stage
You even liked my clumsy moments
But I wonder if I even deserve that love
You always waited for me at that spot
You embraced me with your arms, so thankful to you

Right off the bat, it is clear that the members are singing about the gratitude they have for EXO-Ls regardless of the hardships they faced along the way. The song’s alternate title, “EXO 2014”, indicates that 2014 was a poignant year for them when two of their Chinese members, Luhan and Kris (Wu Yi Fan), parted ways with the group. It’s a pretty sensitive topic for fans, especially since one of the two remaining Chinese members, Tao, risk the same fate.

I won’t ever forget
I will make you happy
Just like the saying, we are one

The song’s pre-chorus, laced with finger snaps and a mild percussive sound, harks back to EXO’s slogan “we are one,” words that might be difficult to summon but mean all the more in their current situation. As the hook comes in, a set of strings becomes more prominent, riding the gusto in the members’ voices. Again, I can’t help but compare the sounds of the song to another one of their established senior groups, Super Junior. In particular, the song is reminiscent of Super Junior’s subunit group D&E’s “Growing Pains” that was released earlier this year.

“Promise” continues in a similar vein, with the members communicating their warm feelings towards the fans and promising to give it their all. It’s such an emotionally charged song that it is sure to make for a wonderful tear-inducing live performance. And of course, if I am going to review “Promise,” I have to give an honorable mention to main rapper Chanyeol for absolutely slaying the rap portion of the track. It begins as your typical rap-ballad, but escalates so fast into something so fueled with aggression and pain that it immediately grabbed my attention. Despite his young age, Chanyeol really sets the bar for other SM rappers.

Overall Thoughts

EXO’s repackaged album “Love Me Right” is a pretty solid and stellar addition to anyone’s playlist this year. The re-release is a melting pot of different sounds, so listeners are sure to come across at least one piece of ear candy they will love. In a mere span of three years, EXO is slowly proving themselves as a mega-idol group of great musical prowess with well-composed albums such as this.

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K-Pop & the Collective Body

If I were to pick one thing that makes K-pop stand out over other pop music it would be dancing. Not since the death of the boy and girl group in the 2000s has the West seen much dancing at all in music. Even at the heights of the nineties there was no collective dancing as what we see in K-pop. The effort put into dancing in Korea is unparalleled within pop music history. Each member of a group is required to be at least a great dancer. They must be able to pull off complex movements as an individual and as part of a group. The collective dance is key to K-pop but it is not always pulled off.

The many ways in which the collective bodies of a K-pop group moves can tell us things about a group. For some groups, the dance charts an evolution, for others it is a statement of unity.

Nine Muses’ troubles with members has been well documented yet the effect it has on their dances has not. They have consistently failed to do well on the charts since their debut in 2010, and we can find part of the reason for that in their dance. No Playboy is a complete mess. The production is cheap and it seemingly wants to play to the weaknesses of the group’s vocals.

The dance at first glance is what you would expect from the first ever supermodel-dols. Each members struts her stuff across the stage as if it were a runway. After this intro though, they delve into a cavalcade of awkward, erratic movements. The model like movements could have been something interesting to take away from an otherwise failure of a debut. But their long, skinny bodies end up hurting them when coupled with a dance like this. They are all protruding elbows and knees. What should have been elegant looks awkward as a result.

 Also on KultScene: When K-Pop Lineups Change – 9 Muses

Cut to their next single Figaro, which is in general a vast improvement, but brings up problems that would last a lot longer for Nine Muses than bad production. First of all, my least favorite thing in group dancing, the walk around. This is when the member who was last singing has to get back into formation by walking all the way around the group to the back. It is distracting to watch as usually not a lot is happening elsewhere and shows a lack of thought being put into the overall machinations of the dance. In nearly every case, it is clear that it could have been avoided. It ruins what it is otherwise a great mix of perfectly synchronised model and disco movements in this song.

It wasn’t until they were back to having nine members after a series of line-up changes that the dance come together. They returned with Dolls and continued refining their dance until their best yet, Glue. The shame of this is that it was also their last song with this particular group. The changes they went through prevented their dance from finding its footing for so long. It took four songs into their second run as nine to come back with something that really worked. Everything from No Playboy to Gun was mediocre at best.

Glue shows a group who are finally moving as one. They move from formation to formation swiftly and gracefully. A lot of the time they are split in two which is an efficient and satisfying way to control a large group. They even managed to use the walk around yet not let it distract due to these dual formations which can act like a kind of wall to those walking around.

Larger groups will always have this problem so I’m not singling out Nine Muses. One group has shown that coherence and quality can go together when it comes to big groups though. This may be due to their split nature, but EXO have consistently delivered when it comes to choreography and delivery. Their concept of a Korean half and a Chinese half becoming carries over into their dance. This plays out by first having one half performing the first part then being replaced by the other half. For the climax all of the members are on stage performing together. This has been their style for every single when all 12 members were performing. How they perform this is also interesting.

The changing of members here also poses some problems for EXO, but we’ll come back to that later. What’s really interesting is EXO’s manipulation of the stage and their bodies around it. Coming off the back of the ‘Growl’ music video, they began to interact directly with the camera. It would sweep in and out of their formations, giving us insights into places we hadn’t seen before. It adds a layer of participation that works so well with EXO’s fangirls.

 Also on KultScene: #CallMeBabyXWin: Korean Music Shows & the Songs That Win Awards

EXO also handle the shifting of groups within the one performance well. In ‘Wolf,’ they dramatically ran off stage while the rest run back on stage. It works to transition not only the dance but the song too. In ‘Growl,’ they used both sides of the stage as opposing groups. When the song changed, the camera just has to turn around and the switch is made instantly. ‘Overdose’ uses the same technique as ‘Wolf’ but also adds some new elements. The opening is especially great where the camera flows all over the stage to give time to each member. Each performance showcases great form and structure while sticking to the 50/50 theme. They contain some of the most complex moves in K-pop yet never let one move dominate a dance.

The problem of losing members has caused EXO to adapt their style to something functional but lacking for their latest single, ‘Call Me Baby’. Instead of 12, there was 10 (and now maybe 9, oh no wait 8). They kept the idea of not having all members on stage at once but this time it didn’t have to be half and half. Any amount of them can be on stage from 1 to 10 and every time it works. It helps build a more seamless dance as they are not slaves to a formula anymore. What they make up for in structure they lose in theme.

To find a group with a real unity in performance we can look to EXO’s labelmates, SHINee. In particular their most recent singles ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Everybody’ have shown an attention to detail that exemplifies their work. In both, they exhibit a manic kinetic energy between each of them. Seemingly every move they make is connected or passed between them. Even when one member is on his own, the others soon mimic a move he did. These songs are the best examples of a group as one. Each member is only part of a larger performance and each is integral to it working.

It is the ultimate advantage of a smaller group. Bodies move gracefully and collide on a K-pop stage in all manner of ways. When stripped down to five or six they do this with great beauty. SHINee’s ability and clarity of movement is the best example of this. They use their bodies in increasingly interesting and amazing ways to attach greater meaning to their work.

Nine Muses could certainly learn a lot from both of these groups of boys.

This is only a tiny window into what K-pop bodies can achieve. There are so many different takes on the type of dances I just talked about and then there are some that approach it completely differently. VIXX’s themes, miss A’s simplicity, Infinite’s synchronicity, and 2pm’s acrobatics are only some examples of the wide possibilities used by K-pop acts. Each one is as interesting as the last and they all offer new spins on old ideas, something so intrinsic to what K-pop is.

What do you think of these groups’ dances? What are some of your favorites we didn’t mention? 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.

#CallMeBabyXWin: Korean Music Shows & the Songs That Win Awards

Here’s a question for you: Does popularity mean great? That depends.

I used to think that for a song to win numerous music shows and to top charts, it had to be a very good song, or at least of a better standard than the rest of its competitors. The more I am exposed to the kpop world however, the more I realise that I was under a misconception.

Ever since EXO came back on March 30th with its new album EXODUS and the title track, Call Me Baby, the particular hashtag #CallMeBabyXthWin (X representing the number of wins, i.e #CallMeBaby18thWin) has trended regularly on Twitter. For readers who are not familiar with this hashtag, it’s commonly used by fans to celebrate the music show wins of their favourite groups, and it normally starts trending right after the results of the music shows are announced. Said music shows include SBS Inkigayo, Mnet Mcountdown, to name a few. These shows run throughout the week on different days, and are the main channels in which idol groups can promote their new singles and albums. As of May 5, 2015, EXO’s Call Me Baby won 18 awards from six different weekly Korean music shows.

Call Me Baby Loser trends

Screenshot of trends in Twitter (2/5/15)

These music shows are also competitions, with battles for the #1 song every week. When I was first introduced to the world of K-pop, these music shows caught my eye, mostly because of the cool and flashy performances by various artists or because of the artists posting pictures or tweets after winning to thank their fans. Either way, I used to think that these shows were a big deal, and that the songs that won on music shows were definitely good. But not anymore. I believe now, that music shows do not determine which songs are better than others but instead represent popularity.

 Also on KultScene: EXO’s ‘Call Me Baby’ Song Review

Disclaimer: I don’t intend any offense or harm to any of the artists mentioned. In fact, I’m a big fan of most of these artists and their music!

Before we dive deeper into this question of whether winning on Korean music shows is a way to determine the quality of a song, let us examine how the results of these music shows are even tabulated. For the purpose of this article, I will be using the examples of 2 particular music shows, Mnet’s M Countdown and SBS’sInkigayo (The Music Trend.)


As seen above, anywhere between 30%-45% of these two music show scores are determined by active fan-voting, be it on social media sites or via live voting. The percentage weightage of Digital sales points as compared to those of physical album sales are also very high, ranging from 50%-60%, which is vital because digital sales opens the market to a larger and more global audience. Hence, it can be seen here that idols who have larger and more international fan bases definitely have an advantage over less well-known idols, and will therefore have a higher chance of winning these music shows.
Admittedly, it is not easy for idols to claim that trophy on music shows, let alone for several shows in a row, regardless of how many points a large fan base can acquire. Staying atop of the game for multiple weeks is something only a popular song could achieve.
This begs the question, what is a good song? A song that is catchy? Addictive? In my opinion, a good song would be one that showcases the individuality of the artist/group and still sounds coherent as a whole. It would be an added bonus if the artist/group was able to showcase a new side of themselves, or to show some growth and development in the music they release.

EXO miss A Red Velvet

EXO’s win against Miss A and Red Velvet on Inkigayo (12/4/15)
Bringing it back to the context of EXO’s recent comeback, there were other songs released at the same time as Call Me Baby, but failed to receive any recognition from music shows. Notable examples would include Miss A’s Only You, the title song from their newest album Colors, which was released on the same day as EXO’s album, on the 30th of March. Miss A achieved a triple “all-kill” on Korean music charts with their song appearing in first on all Korean music charts, but still failed to win a single number one on music shows as the girl group was constantly in second place behind EXO. That wasn’t because Miss A’s song wasn’t catchy, addictive, or original, or even popular. Rather, it was more likely because Miss A’s fanbase, Say A is a significantly smaller one as compared with EXO’s “EXO-L” fanbase. Although both groups are famous internationally and have members from both China and Korea, the popularity of EXO is astronomical and few other K-pop idol groups could compare, thus aiding my point that large fan bases are an integral part of music show wins and wins should not be a factor to determine the quality of a song.

 Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: BIGBANG

Another example displaying this point would be the respective comebacks of Big Bang and BTS. Big Bang came back on the First of May with two tracks, Loser and Bae Bae. Both music videos reached one million views on Youtube within 8 hours of the same day. On the other hand, BTS (Bangtan Boys) also came back with their latest mini-album on the 29th of April, and the contrast between the groups is extremely clear. One, Big Bang, is one of South Korea’s most popular musical acts and releasing its first music for the first time in three years. The other, BTS, is a popular K-pop idol group but had not previously released a song that won awards on Korean weekly music shows.

Big Bang Loser YouTube Count BTS I Need U YouTube Screenshot

Screenshots taken from Youtube (2/5/15)

The difference in MV views can be attributed to a few factors, most significantly the size of their fanbases. Big Bang has an extremely huge and global fanbase, as can be seen by the fact that Big Bang’s 2012 album, Alive, was the first k-Pop album to chart on the United States’ Billboard 200 Album Chart. Big Bang is also established and respected as artists, both as a group and as solo artists. In comparison, while BTS also has a sizeable (and still increasing) fanbase, it is definitely smaller than that of Big Bang, and BTS is also not as well-known globally. Being a relatively new group as compared to the veteran Big Bang, these statistics are understandable, however does this mean that BTS’s song is of a lower quality than that of Big Bang? MV views also contribute heavily toward music show rankings, so the same question can be posed. Do music show wins define the standard and quality of a song?

There are plenty of examples of this in the Kpop world, be it in the underrated but amazing releases from rookie/relatively unknown singers or the classic releases of singers who have, after a certain number of years, lost their popularity. All of them deserve recognition for their work, but there can only be one winner. Let us not allow these music shows to define the quality of a song for us, but let us formulate our own opinions and follow our hearts. After all, how good a song is is really dependent on everyone’s personal preferences, so there shouldn’t be a way to judge these songs, be it through music shows or through any other mediums.

What is your opinion about kpop music shows? What do you define as a good song? 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.

5 English Covers by Korean Male Singers

english covers by korean male singers g.o mblaq ze:a kevin 2bic
It’s one thing when an artist does a cover of a song, but it’s another thing when that artist is able to move you and convey an even stronger message than the original singer. And it’s even more astonishing when the language of the song isn’t even the singer’s first language.

If you’re a YouTube junkie, then you might’ve seen these covers floating around before, and if not, you’re in for a treat! Here are my top five English covers by Korean male singers.

5. 2BiC I’m Not the Only One

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