Video of the Top 25 Korean Songs of 2015


So far 2016 has been a slow year, aside from Dal Shabet nothing of any interest has been released. This has led us to looking back at how great of a year 2015 really was. To celebrate it, one of our writers cut together a video of the top 25 songs of the year as voted for by the KultScene writers. As you may have seen our top 50 list, this video takes the top 25 and edits them together in inventive ways. This is something to celebrate the year in music with, but mostly we hope you have fun watching it.

What was your favorite Korean song this year? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

SM Entertainment: The ‘Brand’

sm entertainment smtown sm artists idols groups

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: DaeNamHyup

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

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

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

What do you think of SM Entertainment’s system? Who do you prefer SM or YG? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

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

f(x)’s “Red Light” Music Video & Song Review

When SM Entertainment dropped a teaser for f(x)‘s comeback, it hinted at a change in the group’s style and image for Red Light. With such captivating stares and haunting makeup, the ladies kept their fans on edge in anticipation for the release of the music video. When it was released, swarms of people rushed over to the YouTube channel. It appeared to follow the same theme and feeling, but… Did it live up to their expectations?

Music Video

I’m definitely in love with this video for many reasons. For one thing, I’m happy that the entertainment company hasn’t done another “dance in a box” video that has garnered much criticism. For a while, I thought that they were focusing too much on special effects for groups like EXO instead of giving some attention towards f(x). Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.


Right from the beginning of the teasers, I was looking forward to a darker, intense, and brooding f(x). The concept of having two faces, but only letting people see one, lends itself to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of situation, and I couldn’t wait to see how they would represent it in the music video.

Did I get what I was looking for? Definitely! The ringing telephone, the burning book, and the black cat with heterochromatic eyes pulled me in from the get-go. There was a forbidden, eery feeling in this intro, and it was further emphasized by the powerful contrasts in color.

Red lights are definitely prominent, but it’s impossible to overlook the pops of blue that showcase how people have two different sides to themselves.

f(x) blue

Set in an abandoned warehouse in an urban dysphobia, this gave off a rebellious, “we’re going to create an uprising” atmosphere. The incorporation of marked mannequins watching a broadcast of a commanding presence and explosions also contribute to this atmosphere. They’re in a war setting, but are they also fighting with themselves?

Fashion and Makeup

Looking at their outfits, captivating eye makeup, and strong hair colors, you could say that they might just be facing more than one battle. Their camo shorts and ammo-accessorized military-style shirts are a stark contrast from their business attire, symbolizing their struggle with society’s molds.

Their smoky eye makeup only focus on one of a pair, with their hair covering the bare eye at multiple points in the video. Even eye-patches are used, but, given some of the after-war imagery, I’d like to think it represents some of their losses after battle. Think of it this way: both eyes represent the complexity of each person.

The less adorned eye symbolizes their innocence, a state in which they didn’t yet realize that they could fight back. The other eye is shown more often as they begin to retaliate and try to escape from their imprisonment.

Did you also notice how, after leaving, they have less jewelry? This white, peaceful aftermath lends to the idea that they cast away some of the hindering distractions that prevented them from reaching their goal.

Also, I just have to mention that I am in LOVE with their hair:

f(x) Amber hair

f(x) Luna hair

Their fashion and makeup aren’t the only things that play an important role, however.


The marching and strong poses reflect the mitilitarian theme, while the angular, crisp movements during the chorus give a mime stuck in a box sort of image. They aren’t always stuck in the confines of authority, because they incorporate feline paws and “challenging their oppressor” hand gestures while they break out of their prisons.

f(x) meow

This choreography focuses on the upper body, and mainly the arms and hands, along with connecting the members in one movement at important intervals, especially at the climax of the video.


Do I feel as strongly for the song as I do for the video? To be honest, no. It was mainly because it was very strange, as if SM tried another I Got A Boy, but with f(x) instead. But I’m not one to completely give up on songs after one listen, so I tried over and over again. Is this really electronic house music as SM describes it as? I’m not really feeling it.


Like I said before, this change in tempo was pretty strange for me. I did get used to it after repeatedly listening to the song, so it slowly stopped being weird. Instead of plain old electronic house music, it sounds like this composition combines electronic house with trap and dubstep in a very interesting soup of music.

Does this represent the feelings of someone fighting with an outside force while struggling with two different faces? Actually, it kind of does! It just takes a while to figure it out.


Even before I read kashigasa’s English translation of the lyrics, I knew that there was something very obvious going on between the contrasting cool and warm color scheme, along with the war imagery. The words fit with the video and the overall feeling of the song, so I really do like the following lyrics.

Hey wait a minute
Under the rule of the jungle
The weak get eaten

Just get pushed ahead,
Yeah pushed ahead
Oops, I get stepped on

Ay ay it’s a red light light
I don’t even know what’s wrong
With the current situation

Ay ay it’s a red light light
Listen carefully to the whoever is trying to warn us
Red light

Try to breathe for a moment
Try breathing, try breathing
Eh eh oh
This isn’t a war

Open your eyes wide
Stop the collision from happening
(You’re going to be a witness to change)
In front of that caterpillar that got pushed around
(When everything sinks)

It’s turned on, red light
The vivid, red light
It gets bigger by itself
That red light

Your best excuse
Is just filled with doubt to me

Maybe it’s love
A very slow wave
A very slow wave

Ay ay it’s a red light light
Let’s find it for each other using light
That special emergency exit

Ay ay think about it
Why something made us stop
Red light

Turn around again, eh oh
Try to fnd what’s important

Open your eyes wide
Stop the collision from happening
(You’re going to be a witness to change)
In front of that caterpillar that got pushed around
(When everything sinks)

It’s turned on, red light
The vivid, red light
It gets bigger by itself
That red light

It’s taken too long for this miracle to come
But we wait for the blue light, we want it

Stop the flood (This is reality, listen to my voice)
Open your eyes wide (Look at the world in front of you)
The one who’s only been pushed (A bright light pushed you)
That’s madness

It’s turned on, red light
The vivid, red light
It gets bigger by itself
That red light

So there’s a mish-mosh of lyrics that can get kind of confusing, but there’s just enough clarity to see that this is a metamorphosis, both physical in fighting back and aiming for the blue light, and emotional, in dealing with their dual personalities. Once you get past the puzzling instrumentals and understand the lyrics, it makes a lot of sense!

Style & Vocals

There’s been a little bit of a conflict in the f(x) fandom (not very affectionate) in regards to the group not “fitting” with their usual style. Is this different than what they’ve been producing? Of course! But it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. These ladies have already established a standpoint on style, because, as their namesake goes, they’re able to grow and change, adapting any style.

I still do get an f(x) feel from the song in general, mainly because of the bridge, in which they all sing together in this hypnotizing harmony that strikes me as “hey, that’s f(x)!” However, there are other new horizons that they touched upon, and I think that’s pretty gutsy and cool.

In terms of vocals, I was surprised that there wasn’t a rapping sequence, and I was even more surprised that Amber actually had a couple of strong singing parts. It really sounds like they’ve grown in terms of vocals, as they hit high notes and maintain their control. I’m proud of them for that!

Overall Ratings

Did I enjoy this comeback? It didn’t agree with me at first, but I’m liking this new edge that f(x) is going with! Here’s my final ratings on this matter:

MV: 8/10
Song: 5/10
Both: 7/10

Did you agree with my verdict? Did you think I missed some important points? Be sure to share your thoughts and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Let’s Discuss: f(x), Liked But Not Loved?

With f(x) about to release Red Light, I couldn’t help but think about the group. Just about every fan of K-Pop fan knows at least one of their songs, or at least knows the names of Krystal or Amber.

But, are you actually in love with f(x)?

Many K-Pop fans are devoted in their fan worship, often directing their love at the hottest idol group. More often than not, this means that male idol groups get a lot of love. But Girls’ Generation, 2NE1, Miss A, A Pink, After School… They all have a lot of fans, and yet f(x) seems to have people who enjoy its songs, and people who like individual members, but nobody really seems to be a fan of the group as a whole. f(x) doesn’t even have an official fanclub name. Although, to be fair, neither does EXO.

But let’s be honest. Did you pay attention to f(x) other than the fact that Amber is cool because of her tomboyish attitude, and the fact that she speaks both Mandarin and English? Were you a fan of Krystal before she was in The Heirs? How about f(x)’s debut song? (It’s LA chA Ta, by the way).

Many fans will answer, “Yes, I do know those things.” But many, many people don’t.

They don’t know that Victoria is a classical Chinese dancer, or the fact that Luna not only is a singer but also acts. Sulli, once considered the most popular member, is hardly making headlines other the fact that she is probably dating Dynamic Duo’s Choiza.

Does that mean that f(x) isn’t popular? Not really. Many fans are looking forward to Red Light, because SM Entertainment has built up an exciting set of teaser images preceding the release of the album and music video.

Because f(x) is a good group, but it’s not ever really endeared itself to the fans in a long-lasting way. The group gains popularity with each comeback, with each variety show, etc. Compared to other idols, especially SM Entertainment idol groups, f(x) is a bit lacking.

Internationally, f(x) made headlines for performing at SXSW in 2013, and filming a Funny or Die video with Anna Kendrick. But then the international interest died down a bit.

The group’s songs Electric Shock and Rum Pum Pum Pum became hits in Korea, and Krystal became a huge fan favorite thanks to her role in The Heirs. But in between promoting those things and beginning to promote Red Light, it’s not as if fans have looked out for news of their favorite idol, and been waiting impatiently for a variety show. (Except about Krystal and her sister, Girls’ Generation’s Jessica.)

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Sulli’s dating scandal hardly compares to those involving the members of Girls’ Generation; fans barely even reacted to the news. Most Korean netizens seemed to respond more to the fact that SM Entertainment seems to be relaxing dating rules for its idols, rather than the fact that Sulli, in specific, was dating someone.

People think a lot of f(x), its members, its songs, etc., but nobody really passionately, fervently loves f(x). It is obviously a popular idol group, but it’s the music and concepts that are popular rather than the members themselves. People know f(x), and people like f(x), but the group doesn’t have the appeal that groups like Girls’ Generation, Miss A, Wonder Girls, 2NE1, KARA, etc. have had before them.

CJ E & M Poll

Of course, this is just my perception. In fact, f(x) beat out all other idol groups for global popularity in a CJ E&M survey in 2013, raking in 16.4% overall throughout the world. Shinhwa, Kim Hyun Joong, EXO, and SHINee followed after.

What do you think? Is f(x) more popular and beloved by many as a whole? Or are f(x)’s members and songs individually more endearing than the group as a whole? Be sure to share your thoughts and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.