5 Female K-Pop Acts Taking On Sexism

IU, Stellar, Yezi, EXID, Sunny Hill 5 Female K-Pop Acts Taking On Sexism
With one of the most influential K-pop music videos ever featuring nine girls dressing up like mannequins, swooning over a boy, and never being seen as women but dolls, it’s no surprise that the industry is struggling to claim a strong feminist identity and just overflowing with love songs disguised as feminist anthems instead, along with songs that are downright sexist (I’m looking at you, JYP). There’s no Spice Girls girl power in K-pop, and all of the best pro-girl anthems discuss how girls are amazing rather than address serious issues facing women around the world. But as K-pop grows and more artists come into their own, there’s a subtle changing going on, with several female K-pop acts taking on Sexism through their music and video concepts.

In a variety of different ways, ranging from taking on workplace sexual harassment or the infantilization of women, all of these ladies are doing their best to shun the old-school idea that women, and K-pop, are just filled with sugar and spice. Plus, it is opening up the conversation that women should no have to deal with this type of harassment at all, and they can be even more proactive about it nowadays, as there are sexual harassment attorneys (click here) that can be there for people who are in need.


This K-pop quintet is one of the most vocally talented girl groups out there today, but shot to fame after a video of one members’ gyrating dance went viral. Only after the video of Hani’s movements was viewed millions of times by South Koreans did EXID receive the proper attention for their song “Up & Down.” And the group’s been learning from this ever since. Follow-up track “Ah Yeah” is EXID’s answer to people only discovering them because of their dance.

“Where do you live? Do you live alone?” is the first extremely creepy thing that a listener hears while listening to “Ah Yeah.” The music video addresses sexual harassment in the workplace and the sexualization of young women in Korea, with an English-language teacher being purposely mistaken as a porn star and a video of the members dancing blurred out and receiving a 19+ rating — a dig at the Korean music industry’s imperceivable rules for music video ratings.

The most important message of “Ah Yeah” female mannequins wear sashes saying “no more” over their breasts and genitalia. While girl groups like Twice, Oh My Girl, and GFRIEND are making waves for their urban, chic, sweet, etc. images, “Ah Yeah” is attacking the K-pop industry and taking a stance against the very sexualization that landed them where they are today.

Also on KultScene: Zico’s Singles Ranked Worst to Best

2. IU

The so-called princess of K-pop made it big with songs like “Good Day” and “You and I,” but it was last year’s “Twenty-Three” that showed IU for who she really is: A woman coming into her own. And that got her in a lot of trouble.

The trouble surrounding another song off of the same album aside, “Twenty-Three” is the first time that IU addresses her maturing from a girl to a woman, and it’s something that many Koreans weren’t ready to hear. Her music video, which features IU as an Alice In Wonderland-sort caught between the whimsy of youth and the responsibilities and desires of being an adult, was accused of being a Lolita-inspired concept that infantilized IU. Rather than focusing on the honest take on her general maturity and sexual awakening that IU struggles with in “Twenty-Three,” IU’s haters threw the woman under a bus and she became persona non-grata to many domestically, despite the artistry of the album and missed the point entirely.

3. Stellar

Where to start with Stellar? The girl group has made a name for themselves angling to get attention with overly sexual dances and performance outfits, while at the same time mocking all the people who are hating on them for doing just that. Songs like “Vibrato” features the women of Stellar locked in boxes, compared to Barbie, and overall under the lense of the industry that hates them for being the sexual women they really are. Vaginal and menstrual imagery permeate the video, as if daring people to ignore the fact that Stellar is made up of women with human needs.

Their latest track, “Sting,” takes Stellar once again under the lense, but this time as the victims of Internet hate. Korean netizens (Internet commenters), symbolized by computer mouse icons, are notorious for their attitude, and “Sting” takes Stellar’s fight against the double standard; because they’re female K-pop artists, showing skin and revelling in sexuality is frowned upon while male idol groups are praised as being manly for showing off their body.

The song is about a woman questioning her relationship, but the music video makes it clear that this is Stellar and they’re doing what they want despite the double standard. Sexy or innocent, vocally impressive or recycled pop, Stellar knows that they’ll never win. They’re too much woman for K-pop, but they’ll still keep doing what they want anyway.

Also on KultScene: 5 Mangas That Need To Be Made Into K-Dramas

4. Sunny Hill

One of the most underratedly social-aware acts in K-pop is Loen Entertainment’s Sunny Hill, a once-coed group turned into a female quartet. While they’ve never garnered major fame or acclaim for their songs, Sunny Hill’s songs consistently blast convention and argue for people doing things the way they want. “Is The White Horse Coming?” breaks down the obsession with dating based on wealth, looks, and education over personality and love, comparing dating in modern day Korea (filled with blind dates and matchmakers) to the meat market.

Meanwhile “Darling of All Hearts” begins as a single girl’s guide to being alone, but then turns into a country-inspired anthem for anyone who is happy being on their own, throwing aside pop culture’s (and Korea’s) idea of women never being able to manage without a man to fulfill her. With a folksy-pop style that seems to contrast with their progressive message, Sunny Hill is one of the most socially aware K-pop groups around today. (So hopefully they’ll release something new soon!)

5. Yezi

Yezi, a member of the girl group Fiestar, made it big during last year’s season of Mnet’s “Unpretty Rapstar,” garnering fans left and right. Her single, released during the competition, depicts Yezi as a “Mad Dog,” who goes on the offense to the men who sexualize her and the women who try to devalue her. While other songs from 2015 mentioned in this list are about women coming into their own, Yezi’s is the only one that goes on the attack so adamantly, questioning everything about the K-pop industry and Korea’s overall attitude towards woman.

The rapper is at her best while questioning those who belittle her for staying an idol while she knows it’s the only way to fame, and then attacking them for seeing her just as an image to pleasure themselves with. Literally. “Jacking off while watching my breast shot gifs,” she raps, “gripping a rag in one hand, typing on the keyboard with the other, no matter how much you diss me, you can’t console yourself.”

On the other hand, SanE’s lackluster rap that calls Yezi a “bitch” even with “permission” derails the song’s message. Especially given that he ignorantly states that equality of the sexes is being able to insult one another. The song, thematically, could’ve stood on its own without the male rapper. However, given that Yezi is still not that famous, it’s understandable why San E was involved.

Which is exactly what Yezi did in her follow up, the recently released “Cider.” Going on the offense once again, Yezi let’s it all out, calling out all the haters who looked down on her for aggressive, seemingly anti-feminine attitude on “Unpretty Rapstar.” The gloves are off, and this K-pop fierce rapstar lives up to her name.

What’s your favorite K-pop dig against sexism? 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.

Playlist Sunday: K-Pop Feuds

Playlist Sunday: Favorite February Releases

K-pop is a cutthroat battlefield in many ways, but the public feuds are few and far in between. This week’s Playlist Sunday focuses on some of the most sensational K-pop Feuds over the past few years, either between agencies and idols, or singer against singer.

While some K-pop feuds are between two people, the ongoing dispute between JYJ and SM Entertainment is something that has been going on so long that it has even led to action from Korean politicians. JYJ (Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong) is made up of three former TVXQ members who left the group in 2009. Seven years later, the trio still finds their activities blocked bythe influence of their former agency. But in the “Untitled Song, Part 1” (Or “The Nameless Song, Part 1”), which was released as part of JYJ’s 2011 self-composed music essay, the three went out and attacked their former agency, addressing in song what had led to the trio splitting from the other two members of TVXQ. The song, written and composed entirely by Yoochun, details their time at SM Entertainment from 2003 in an earnest way that is lacking from many K-pop songs. The trio sings and raps about their hardships, their journey to the top in Korea and Japan, and the pivotal moment when they reached out to SM Entertainment’s CEO and were disappointed. “When he needed us, we were family to him,” sings JYJ. “When we needed him, we were strangers to him.” The song continues on to express that JYJ’s members realized they weren’t getting paid enough and other hardships and is a frank depiction, and explanation, of the turmoil that led JYJ to leave from TVXQ at the pique of the group’s height. The song ends with JYJ thanking fans for their support. Musically, the song is simple, but the lyrical storytelling is heartbreaking and shows JYJ’s side of a story.

— Tamar

Also on KultScene: 5 Everyday EXO Looks We Love [+ North American The EXO’luXion Tour Information]

Hot off the back of his win on “Show Me The Money,” iKon rapper Bobby released a diss track calling out all idol rappers. He said that they have smeared the name of idol and rapper but took the time to exclude WINNER’s Mino and Block B rappers Zico and P.O. While making some good points about the overall state of rapping idols, coming for the most of them meant he insulted a lot of people who probably don’t take rapping that seriously. You might say that maybe they should, but in the context of being an idol it makes up only one part of what is expected of them. Generally he came off as arrogant and whiny just to drum up some extra attention. I don’t think that VIXX’s Ravi’s response to him is in any way a better rap, but I do agree with the sentiments. His corny track “Diss Hater”
was about how he thinks all idol rappers are just that and it makes no difference how good you are. Listen to Ravi everyone, we’re all the same really so relax.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: ’20 Once Again’ vs. ‘Miss Granny’: Which One Is Better?

What do you do, as a big shot entertainment company, after you’ve “let” an artist go because of “misinterpretations” to then seeing them trying to make a comeback in the industry that you wanted to potentially claim yours? Due to some severely “mistranslated” and overlooked comments that ex-2PM member Jay Park made while still a trainee about the unfavorable aspects of Korea, he was then practically shunned from the industry and country. Although by the time Jay was ready to make his comeback in Korea in 2010, while everyone else was ready to welcome him back with open arms, JYP Entertainment wasn’t having any of that. The company made it so that Jay was blocked and blacklisted from making any possible televised appearance. Jay would be scheduled for certain tv shows, appear on set and then be told to leave and/or get calls the morning of and be told that for whatever unforeseeably reason, his appearance had been cancelled due to “pressure” from the “higher-ups.”

After an almost five year hiatus back in the United States, you can imagine that Jay’s comeback was anything but smooth. Things eventually got better; producers from certain broadcasting stations eventually realized that Jay would be able to grant them better viewership. Certain shows like “Immortal Song 2” and “Dream Team” brought him on knowing that aside from the past drama stemming between JYPE and Jay, that Jay himself would be good for their business. For the sake of their company and pressure from the industry, I get why the company sent Jay off like that, but they shouldn’t have gone about it the way that they did and even afterwards when things were long done between the two parties. Although it seems like the two have moved on from the past, JYP seems to still be holding on to some angst, considering how Jay can’t appear on “Running Man” due to the producers familial relationship with Park Jin Young himself.

— Tam

Who’s side are you on? 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.

Which Generation of K-Pop Do You Belong In? [QUIZ]

Which Generation of K-Pop Do You Belong In Quiz Feat.

We are only a month into 2016, yet so far a lot has already happened: Legendary boy group H.O.T is reportedly preparing for their 20th anniversary reunion concert, SS501 sub-unit SS301 is making a comeback for the first time in seven years with their album “ETERNAL5,” and Teen Top recently returned with their seventh mini album “Red Point.” But never mind how busy 2016 is going to be; let’s focus on the extensiveness that is H.O.T, SS501, and Teen Top mentioned all in one sentence. It’s easy to forget sometimes that K-pop is in its third generation. Within twenty years, the Korean wave has crashed down on many countries worldwide, bringing us its beautiful culture and music that is constantly in flux.

Whether you just joined the K-pop fandom yesterday or been around since its early inception, be sure to celebrate its evolution by taking our latest quiz to figure out which era of K-pop best suits you!

Also on Kultscene: Which Song from BTS’s ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life’ Albums Are You? [QUIZ]

[qzzr quiz=”155482″ width=”100%” height=”auto” redirect=”true” offset=”0″]

What did you think of your result? Did you pick the era that you thought you would? Let us know what other quizzes you’d like to see from KultScene! 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.

Best December 2015 K-Pop Releases

Best December 2015 K-Pop Releases Feat.

It’s December – or at least it was – which means it’s time for the big labels to churn out their holiday ballads and festive company music videos. They’re usually cute and fun to watch, but unfortunately they’re also usually nothing sensational as well. Last year, one of our writers wrote about how scarce and disappointing end of the year K-pop comebacks usually are, and with year-end preparations looming over every idols’ mind at this time of the year, it’s understandable why this would be the case.

But there’s always room for exceptions, and the exception is called the K-pop releases from December 2015. For one, they were actually good. For another, there seemed to be more of it over the seasonal content typical at the close of the year. It’s honestly a shame that we published our annual list of top songs from the year before all the songs could be release, or else the following would be some very likely contenders.

December 2015 witnessed a plethora of unusually fine hits and I am sure I missed out on a lot more. Although some were more mainstream than others, all had the final say to one of the best years in K-pop in a while.

Laboum “Aalow Aalow”

I’ll be real with you here – if you had asked me to name any one of Laboum’s songs two months ago I probably would not have been able to do it. That all changed, however, when the girl group kicked off December and captivated my attention with “Aalow Aalow;” now I can somewhat proudly list at least one. And while I still cannot explain the meaning behind the title (as far as I see it, it’s “Hello Hello” with a flair), I do know that the fresh single and its accompanying music video totally nailed the ‘80s Cyndi Lauper feel they were going for. Very retro, very colorful, they almost remind me of a younger Wonder Girls. The set may not be as elaborate or run on as high of a budget as the seniors’, but the minimalism completes the pastel confectionary aesthetics. The vintage styling is something out of the time period as well, which ranges from knee-length skirts, pinned up bobs, thick headbands and plaid patterns. Everything about this video is super modest, but definitely not the kind that would take away from quality or from being enjoyable.

And of course to complete the comeback is the song itself, which was released five days after the music video was uploaded. The piano glissando at the opening wastes no time to introduce the synth-y pop track about a girl who becomes excited over a boy. Sugary sweet, like its visuals. It’s catchy, with a clear structure and one heck of a build up and hook. It probably takes the cake for one of the year’s peppiest songs because there is just no way that these girls’ fruity voices won’t brighten your mood. What makes the song all the more unique is the instrumentals; the aforementioned synths blare like a horn and the ch-ki-tas from the backing vocal track accents the song as a drum and cymbal set would. There’s never a dull moment and hopefully with this stellar comeback these rookies will finally see the recognition they deserve. If anything, they now have an extra pair of eyes watching them.

Also on Kultscene: Top 5 K-Fashion Moments of 2015

EXO “Sing For You”

So I have complained about winter and holiday ballads in the past and by including EXO’s “Sing For You” here it might defeat the purpose of a list of comebacks that are not seasonal, but it’s simply too good not to add it in. Compared to any of their other songs, this has got to be the boy group’s most stripped down release. That is, the entirety of the track is simply vocals sung over an acoustic guitar. No rap, no “E-X-O”s. Just pure, unprocessed, breathy vocals. Ultimately, this creates for a very reassuring track to listen to on those blistering, cold nights. It’s a song all about being unable to express true feelings to a lover, so instead they will do it through song. It’s as if we are the girl in question because that is what they are literally doing – singing for us. Even if there is no climax, this song wonderfully brings out all the members’ voices (including Sehun who seldom sings), and that in itself is enough.

Like the song, the monochromatic music video is also pretty romantic and bittersweet. Member Kai is doing what he does best again here – contemporary dance. And there is no missing the elephant in the room, or rather whale in space, either. The marine mammal in the video alludes to the “loneliest whale in the world,” or a real life 52-hertz whale that emits at a different frequency from that of other whales. The miscommunication and failure to convey its heart goes back to the theme of the lyrics, which again is about one’s inability to articulate. This is even more credible when we consider how whales, like humans, sing to their mates as a form of communication. Pity that the 52-hertz whale feels so isolated when it has all these South Korean boy bands (BTS, too, devoted an entire song to the solitary creature) crooning about it.

Zizo “Diving”

Probably the least well-known on this list, “Show Me the Money 2” contestant Zizo’s “Diving” is a song that every Korean hip-hop fan should pay attention to. Something about it just feels so old-school to me. Whether it’s the synths or the children singing innocence in the addicting chorus (which you might expect to be cheesy but is actually not), it works. Zizo’s raps have a unique timbre as well, nothing I’ve seen from other rappers. It’s playful and chill, yet also full of personality. I would not expect anything less from the artist, since his roots are deeply planted in the underground. “Diving” is just one of the products of his journey to remain creative, even if it might mean struggling financially.

Personally, the song also has a special place in my heart as its music video was shot in my native New York City. Zizo takes us on a tour of the Big Apple while shamelessly singing along to his own song. It definitely feels more like a summer tune than a winter release. The editing and the low lighting filter, in addition to the various shots of the city’s most famed landmarks (the Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, Times Square), really hits home and only adds to the nostalgia factor.

Also on Kultscene: Top 20 Korean Albums of 2015

Turbo “Again”

Exactly 20 years after their debut, Turbo is reunited again – and this time as a full unit – with their ‘90s revival hit “Again.” With this entertaining and upbeat dance number, the trio brings us back to a time when electric sounds, MC intros, and post-dystopian music videos ran rampant as they sing about love and taking opportunities. And although the title “Again” refers to a rekindling in the context of relationships, it can also best describe their comeback and speak to their newfound youth. If I did not know any better, I really would have believed that the track was something from their debut days. Singer Kim Jongkook’s signature mosquito voice is still as high as ever, while rappers Kim Jungnam and Mikey prove to us that they still got flow. If I as a listener can feel nostalgic listening to a group who debuted when she was still a couple months old, then I can only imagine how it must feel to for them to relive their teen years.

The video is not much help either. Everything is a hark to the past, whether it is the train station reminding us that it’s their 20th anniversary or the futuristic sterilized tunnels or the room bedecked with all the titles of the group’s greatest hits. Fans are probably even more excited that the middle-aged men are up and dancing again, even if the choreography is not as intricate as it was in the past (but how about that whip during the hook though?). Just make sure to stick around until the end for a hilarious cameo from Kim Jongkook’s “Running Man” cast mate Lee Kwangsoo and best friend actor Cha Taehyun. Indeed, for those who are new with ‘90s K-pop, Turbo’s “Again” is as close of a modern day representation as you are going to get and makes for a fantastic introduction to the group and to the genre.

iKON “What’s Wrong”

Here we go. They say you save the best for last, and this is it. Their past releases might have been lackluster, but with iKON’s latest single “What’s Wrong,” the boys concluded the year on a final sound note. The guitar heavy, gravelly rock song is something out of the pages of their senior group, Big Bang, and whether that is a good or bad thing…

Just kidding, it’s always a good thing. The song itself has a Big Bang circa 2010 sound to it, before trap and other modern genres was a thing, yet retains a fun party vibe that the group of rowdy boys is known for. The song opens with a crescendo that in turn transitions into the catchy chants that will start and close the song. The song is all about fickle, problematic relationships, and the resentment that one feels while being in one is portrayed through the accusatory “What’s wrong?” of the choruses. There is not only variety in the contour of the piece but also in the line distribution. A real Christmas miracle! Yes, it’s no longer Bobby and B.I. featuring their backup dancers; it’s iKON as seven individual members with seven individual voices.

The music video was thoroughly enjoyable as well, though only if you are down for a hot mess. The boy versus girl emotional feud inspired from the lyrics is literally duked out here in a less than friendly game of dodgeball, with the boys of iKON on one team and masked female antagonists on the other. There’s rioting, there’s paper being thrown everywhere, there’s enlarged hands. Everything is anarchy and it feels liberating, especially gratifying for a song that paints a stuffy picture. This is exactly the kind of content that fans need to see more of from the rookie group if the group wants to grow their fanbase.

For a group that only made its debut less than half a year ago, they’ve worked hard to show off a variety of sides with a whopping seven music videos, which is more than some groups who have been around for years. “What’s Wrong” is a step in the right direction, and if this keeps up it won’t be long before the group dominate the K-pop music scene.

What other December 2015 releases did you enjoy? 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.

Playlist Sunday: Holiday Tunes

christmas songs playlist kpop

With Christmas and Kwanzaa right around the corner, and Hanukkah ending recently, we’re all feeling all kinds of cheery and warm inside. So for this week’s playlist, we’re listing all the holiday songs we love — or at least the ones we can stomach — by our favorite Korean artists.

GOT7’s formula for releasing singles since debut seems to be to release a powerful dance song, followed by cute and playful one. So after the release of their manly single “If You Do,” it’s time for the cute one. And since tis the season, the boys put out a Christmas song, “Confession Song.” The cool thing about it is that it’s not another lame holiday song about Santa and reindeer and all that nonsense. Instead, they take the non-Christian Korean concept of Christmas, a day to spend with your significant other, and give us a sweet song about writing a love confession to the person of their interest. But to still keep that Christmas cheer, bells ring throughout the track. In true GOT7 fashion, “Confession Song” is just the right amount of cute and cheesy that never taps into the ridiculous. It’s just a cute song that will make you feel like a middle schooler again.

— Alexis

Taetiseo made a relatively low key comeback recently with Dear Santa and still managed to make one of the best K-pop Christmas songs. In fairness, there’s not a lot of competition for this crown but Girls’ Generation’s subgroup TTS stuck to what they’re best at and slayed the concept. The opening harmonies are some of the best vocals they have ever done, and offer us something different to the saccharine that is to come. It is almost sickeningly sweet but this is Girls’ Generation meets Christmas. It had to be like this. There’s sleigh bells jingling, plenty of piano, and vocals that are as fun as Mariah Carey’s to belt out on Christmas day. In keeping with the more western version of Christmas they are portraying here, TTS also released an English version of the song, to make sure we don’t mess up the lyrics. How thoughtful.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: 2015 Gift Guide For Fans Of Korean Pop Culture

Usually I don’t expect much of K-pop holiday songs. Because, let’s face it, they all follow the same boring, slow ballad formula that it has become quite the science. But INFINITE’s “Lately” is the only exception to this. If it were not for the nutcrackers in the music video and the bells in the instrumentals, it probably could pass for any old K-pop track. The festive tune retains the same classic INFINITE sound, what with its guitars, chic raps, and warbly vocals, that it’s unmistakable who it belongs to.The rise and fall of the harmony gives the song actual contour, as opposed to the one flat mess of a song that is common nowadays. The video itself is also very endearing and warm, as it avoids the “let’s pretend we are having a blast around the Christmas tree and yule log” bit. I want to believe that the members actually exchanged gifts over a company dinner. I want to believe all the interactions in the streets with the civilians are genuine. Its low production cost is exactly what makes everything seem so much more relatable. Since its release in 2011, there has really been no other K-pop holiday song that has done it as well as INFINITE’s “Lately” has.


Being that there will never be a K-pop song for Chanukkah, picking my favorite K-pop holiday song is like picking a pair of shoes I’ll never wear. They’re all good, but I’m not personally invested. But Nell never disappoints, and their “White Night” reminds me of the winter holiday season (and not only for the title!) The romantic, building rock ballad depicts the perfect picture of this time of year. The twinkling, tapping sounds remind me of snow, and the lyrics describing someone you want to be around is just like every holiday film about not spending the season alone. It may not be conventional, but Nell’s ardent expression of being with the person they love, even if it means trying to turn back time, is something I just adore and listen to each December.


Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: Roaring Twenties

EXO came back recently with their winter special album “Sing For You” and while all the tracks on the album are amazing, their title song of the same name was the one which really touched me. It’s a ballad, which may seem typical of this season but with the soothing guitar instrumental and the wonderful voices of all the EXO members the song stands out and becomes something special. It’s a song about being in love and wanting to confess but always missing the chance to do so. The lyrics speak of regret and reflection, a feeling we’re all prone to experiencing at this time of the year, even amidst all the bright lights and hearty Christmas celebrations.


What’s your favorite holiday themed 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.

Playlist Sunday: Roaring Twenties

kpop songs playlist 1920s 20s

2016 is less than a month away, which means that the roaring twenties will be closer to us than the 2010’s. KultScene’s staff is always excited when it comes to throwback elements in K-pop songs, and you can hardly get more retro than the 1920’s jazz and swing music. This week’s Playlist Sunday is dedicated to the roaring twenties, and to all the brassy jazz songs we can’t but help to love.

Every other K-pop song nowadays incorporates soul and funk into their hybrids, but TVXQ mixed in jazz and a swing elements to their 2014 single “Spellbound.” And while the choreography is meant to seem as a magic show to fit with the song’s theme of love as a spell, it’s the ‘20s style of it all that stood out most to me. The dancers wearing what a “Sexy Mobster” Halloween costume would look like and the modern art deco-lite casino room made me think of the Prohibition era in the US, when citizens were constitutionally barred from drinking alcohol and Al Capone and the likes terrorized cities like Chicago over bootleg alcohol and drugs. Not to mention the music video starts out in grayscale and eventually changes to color, even though the palette remains mainly black and white, hinting at when subtractive color in film was first introduced (which was also in the 1920’s). But of course, “Spellbound” isn’t that deep. Regardless, it’s a gem of a song and choreography and should be recognized.

— Alexis

Also on KultScene: 6 K-Drama Girl Friendship Goals

Brown Eyed Girls are the purveyors of jazz in K-pop. In particular, their album “Sixth Sense” is full of jazz tracks that burst with retro excitement. Each one is single worthy but right now my favorite is “Vendetta.” It is, naturally, about a girl out for violent revenge against a boy. Ferocious acid jazz accompanies the passionate vocals of Brown Eyed Girls who bite and snarl every line to great effect. Drums roll at lightening speeds and horns blow loudly in a song that updates the ‘20s jazz as a soundtrack for bitter women. Also the way Miryo says ‘vendetta’ at the end of her rap is the coolest.

— Joe

Most people’s first impression when they hear Lee Hi sing for the first time is “wait, how is that voice coming out of a little girl like her?” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that same shock the first time I heard her voice. How can one possess as much pizazz and soul at her age? A number of Lee Hi songs contain a jazz element but “Rose” in particular is a beautiful blend of jazz and R&B, both genres in which she excels at. It’s always refreshing to hear a K-pop song that isn’t under the influence of dubstep and auto tune. It’d be great to see more musicians who were able to apply their great vocals and deep emotions like Lee Hi towards all their songs in order to improve it metaphorically. Like many others, I’m just waiting for a Lee Hi come back because it’s been way too long!


Also on KultScene: OWOL’s ‘Dream On You’ Music Video & Song Review

You can’t get more jazzy than the princess of K-pop, IU herself. Recent scandals aside, IU’s voice was practically built for jazzy, all-over-the-place numbers and she does it the best in “The Red Shoes.” The song is technically (at least according to its official information) a bit more like the big band swing of the 30’s than the roaring 20’s, but the brass elements and tapping beat would have any flapper getting her game on. IU’s voice goes all over the place in accompaniment to the spiraling, twisting and turning elements of the song and music video, and throws in some nice onomatopoeia elements for good measure. If Gatsby was Korean, he’d probably be as in love with this song as I am.


What’s your favorite 1920’s themed K-pop song? Or maybe any of the other cities? 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.

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.

Playlist Sunday: Cute K-Pop Concepts

GOT7 for KultScene Playlist SundaySexy and strong is great, but K-pop comes in all shapes and sizes and sometimes that size is “cute.” This week’s KultScene Playlist Sunday features our favorite cute K-pop concepts. These bright, colorful, upbeat songs and music videos were handpicked by KultScene’s staff to put a smile on anyone’s face as these girl groups and boy band win their way into everybody’s hearts.

I don’t know where exactly DIA’s “My Friend’s Boyfriend” falls on the cute spectrum, but I have no doubt that it is there. If I were to guess it would be somewhere between Red Velvet’s chaos and A Pink’s purity with added self-parody. This confusion becomes immediately apparent with a first listen. The song opens with blaring sirens and rolling drums that recall heavy American hip hop more than a cutesy pop song. This is straight undercut though by soft vocals in the opening verse, which harmonize in traditionally satisfying ways when it comes to being cute. The song doesn’t stop throwing stuff at us there though, still to come are coughs, psychotic la las, and a fiery rap which follows the first chorus with barely a blink to recover. The whole song is more akin to an obsessive young person who thinks they’re cute and will never believe that the object of their desire has no feelings for them. I mean, they are literally stealing their friend’s boyfriend.

— Joe

Also on KultScene: 5 Underrated K-Pop Rookie Songs

I’m really not a fan of the cute girl concepts. For me, they cater to the male gaze by falling into the stereotypes of the uber feminized, demure woman that just isn’t prevalent anymore. So imagine my pain when I began liking APink’s “Mr. Chu” and see it become one of my favorite songs from last year. This group is the epitome of the hypersexualized virginal, docile woman in my eyes, but even I couldn’t help but fall for the catchy chorus and the awesomely shot music video by one of my favorite directors, Digipedi. Because at the end of the day, it’s more important not to promote girl hate and just accept them and enjoy their feel-good music.

— Alexis

GOT7 has shown us an array of styles, everything from preppy and cheerful to the mysteriously rugged. It was only a matter of time before they gave us an overly cute concept like “Just Right.” There’s been times where I had forgotten how old these guys really were, especially when the choreography for songs like “Girls Girls Girls” and “Stop Stop It” required them to be a bit more serious, through their dance moves and facial expressions. “Just RIght” was a nice break from it all. Even though it was rather cringe worthy to watch at times anyone who watched this music video and saw the members frolicking around, making derpy facial expressions and acting as goofy as they did, probably couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. Whether it’s the finger snaps or the addictive “woo-oohs”, it’ll only take one listen before you fall in love with this song.


Also on KultScene: 2015 Gift Guide For Fans Of Korean Pop Culture

When you think of INFINITE, you don’t necessarily think “ah they’re adorable.” But in 2013, the group released “Man In Love,” and the song is just an ode to the group’s cute, whimsical side. “Man In Love” takes everything good about INFINITE- the retro inspired dance songs, the synchronized dance moves- and adds an element of sweet, adorableness that other INFINITE songs don’t display. The 80’s inspired song is lighter than most of INFINITE’s more recent songs, while similar to early songs like “Come Back Again.” The music video is filled with images that are sure to make INFINITE’s fan’s hearts flutter (Sungyeol baking, Sungkyu’s light show, L’s romantic silliness in class, etc.) but the lyrics of “Man In Love” are also simply adorable. “Like a young child, I keep laughing for no reason” and “The letters in my book are dancing as they form your name,” give the song a lighthearted meaning that I absolutely love and would be happy to see more of from INFINITE.


What’s your favorite cute K-pop song? 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.

13 K-Pop Videos to Get You into the Halloween Spirit

K-Pop Halloween BTOB ThrillerLadies and Gentlemen, the time of all things dark, spooky, and strange is upon us. With Halloween just around the corner, whether you want to party till the sun chases away the monsters or curl up in a dark corner watching a horror movie marathon, here are a few Korean music videos to help awaken your inner ghoul.

1.BTOB – “Thriller”

It can’t be Halloween without a few zombies. BTOB brings us a dark video that starts out in a creepy cemetery with their “zombie dance” opening. From the sharp and haunting dance moves to glowing eyes, “Thriller” perfectly expresses the dark theme while still remaining stylish and fresh. The song features powerful vocals from vocalists Hyunsik and Eunkwang mixed with fast and steady rap verses from Ilhoon and Minhyuk that accentuate the idea of invincibility and the fact that frightening things can be exciting, which is what Halloween is all about.sup

2.100% – “Beat”

This literal heart-wrenching video from 100% puts a dark spin on the classic Frankenstein story which features a girl harvesting parts from other members to bring the one she loves back to life. “Beat” prompts viewers to question how far would they go for love and dealing with the consequences. The smooth almost monotone feeling of the song explodes with the chorus,
where the group’s lead and main vocals Rokhyun and Hyukjin do a great job in expressing the pain and dark side of love.


BOYFRIEND’s “WITCH” is a dance song with a catchy hook about liking a girl that they probably shouldn’t. The video features a hot gang of vampires and Little Red Riding Hood the vampire slayer. . . It’s K-Pop so why not? The eerie background sounds mixed with the upbeat dance track and vampire visuals do well together to create a dark atmosphere perfect for any spooky
dance party.

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


At the climax of their dark/horror concepts, VIXX released the video for “VOODOO DOLL.” Unlike the typical bright bubbly  mages K-Pop is known for, VIXX did a complete 180 with everything from blood to voodoo possession. If you’re not a fan of the all the blood and gore, then you can opt for the clean version and admire the dance moves and large pin prop that VIXX incorporates, going along with the whole voodoo theme. But since it is Halloween, why not embrace the stunning visuals that VIXX created in all of its gory awesomeness?

5.BEAST – “Shadow”

BEAST totally embraces the whole dark and brooding theme with “Shadow.” A song written by BEAST’s very own rapper and composer genius Young Jun Hyung about being in darkness (or shadows, if you will) after losing a loved one. The song features great vocals and rap verses, not to be outdone by the dark post-apocalyptic imagery of the video.

6.Sunmi – “Full Moon”

Vampires are definitely a popular thing this time of year. Instead of a heart-pumping adrenaline rushing vampire image, Sunmi takes a more sexy dark approach to the whole blood sucking thing. “Full Moon” is a slow jazzy song perfect for those cold dark nights.

7.Kim Jae Joong – “Mine”

Kim Jae Joong, 1/3 of the popular group JYJ, stepped out with a solo rock song. From snowy forests to random evil foreboding animals and Jae Joong as a bedazzled Doctor Doom/Vampire/Angel. The video is filled with everything your dark goth-y heart would desire.

8.F(x) – “Red Light”

Now “Red Light” isn’t your typical Halloween spooky song full of pumpkins and monsters, although the video does have a black cat in it. The song and video gives off a dark and mysterious vibes that are perfect for this season.

9.Block B – “Jackpot”

Many people find clowns delightful, but if they are not really your style then the opening of Block B’s “Jackpot” will probably freak you out. The whole strange freaky theme is carried throughout the video with the band tormenting a girl with their crazy antics (though I wouldn’t mind at all).

10.Sunny Hill – “Midnight Circus”

Another group that likes to hang out at creepy circuses is Sunny Hill. In “Midnight Circus” the girls take a more sexy approach in a strange vintage looking circus in the woods. With an eerie intro, “Midnight Circus” plays nicely into the Halloween theme.

Also on KultScene: 5 Korean Actors Who Can Carre A Tune Better Than K-Pop Idols

11.Lee Jung Hyun – “V”

The video begins as any other horror movie; guy is stranded and wanders into a creepy old house were mayhem pursues. The Techno Queen Lee Jung Hyun takes a more fun approach to the whole creepy obsession thing and puts a fun quirky spin on the traditional haunted house.

12.LADIES’CODE – “Hate You”

Whenever girl groups do a dark concept, it usually comes off as sexy. On the contrary, LADIES’CODE does the dark concept in a more artsy way. Their whole doll concept is both strange and beautiful at the same time proving that you don’t have to be crazy or gory to send chills down someone’s spine.


13. Super Junior – “Opera”

Super boy band Super Junior puts out a dark Phantom of the Opera-esque video with “Opera.” In the video the boys vanishing and appearing like very stylish ghosts. Yes, this is the Japanese version, but the video fits the whole Halloween theme than the Korean dance version.

What’s your favorite Halloween 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.