5 Korean Actors Who Can Carry A Tune Better Than K-Pop Idols

5 actors

When you see the phrase “actors who can sing,” famous examples such as Lee Seung Gi and Seo In-Guk immediately come to mind. Reason being, they are amazing actors and vocalists alike, but perhaps more known for their dramas than their released albums. It is hard to remember that they started off in the K-pop industry before venturing into the world of acting. In fact, these occurrences are getting more and more common. There is virtually no K-drama showing now that does not involve an idol actor, whether they are playing supporting roles or even having leading ones. All of this made me wonder whether there were existing all-rounded actors and actresses who could go against the norm, to debut as actors before entering the K-pop industry. Lo and behold, I found five of them.

1. Park Seo Joon

You might recognise this multi-talented actor from his currently airing drama “She Was Pretty,” but did you know that he can sing? Unfortunately, his releases have only been limited to drama OSTs so far, but he undoubtedly has a really beautiful voice. Not just that, there is also evidence of training in his voice because he controls it skilfully. He doesn’t just act with passion and emotion, he sings with it as well. Take “Letting You Go” from the “Kill Me Heal Me” OST for example.

In the drama, his character Oh Ri On has to make several painful and difficult decisions regarding his adopted twin sister Oh Ri Jin, such as enabling her romance with the main character Cha Do Hyun, even when he himself has romantic feelings towards her. This heartbreaking dilemma is portrayed perfectly through Park Seo Jun’s acting, but even more so through this appropriately titled OST. Even for a person who doesn’t understand Korean like me, his voice transcends the boundaries of language and makes me understand fully what he is trying to convey through the song. Park Seo Jun is a real gem in the making, and I hope that he will release more OSTs and even an album soon.

2. Kim Soo Hyun

This actor is still at the height of his popularity a year after his hit drama “You Who Came From The Star,” but there is more to his charm than just his acting. He is a great singer as well and has released OSTs for every drama he has been in, with the exception of his latest drama, “The Producers.” Kim Soo Hyun’s voice is extremely skilled, and he sounds very sincere whenever he sings. He also loves to sing randomly, as can be seen by behind the scene videos of his dramas. Even in the 2011 drama “Dream High,” his vocal abilities stood out amongst the several idols who acted in the drama as well, especially in his emotional performance of “Dreaming.”

It is already difficult to act well or sing well, but to be able to do both well is a feat that few can pull off. Kim Soo Hyun’s singing in the wrong key for the first half of the song was impressive to me, because believe it or not it is hard to sing in a different key from the music that is playing around you. Not to mention the fact that he had to portray his difficulties clearly through his expression and his singing, and when he did this perfectly it created an extremely memorable scene in this drama.

Also on Kultscene: 4 K-Dramas That Need To Be On Your ‘To Watch’ List Right Now

3. Sung Joon

When I first watched Sung Joon in “Shut Up Flower Boy Band,” his raw acting captivated and moved me to fall in love with his character. As I downloaded and listened to the OSTs of the show however, his tough and gentle voice reached out to me even further. He has the ability to carry rock songs powerfully but also melt your heart with his sincere ballads. It is a comfort to listen to his voice because he sings so effortlessly. In particular, I especially loved his rendition of “Words You Shouldn’t Know” from the OST of said drama.

While not as skilled as the previous two actors mentioned above, he definitely knows how to express himself through his voice and has the potential to become an even greater singer.

4. Lee Minho

Perhaps the most famous actor on this list, Lee Minho is an internationally recognised Hallyu actor. He debuted as a singer with “My Everything,” but was never recognised by fans as a good vocalist. That was what I thought initially as well, while I did enjoy the song his voice definitely had lots of room for improvement. He did not have many vocal techniques nor did his emotions come through in his singing, much like his acting for that matter. This all changed in 2013, when he acted in hit drama “The Heirs.” The drama as a whole left much to be desired, but it was through this drama that I discovered Lee Minho’s astounding improvement as a singer, evident through the OST he released, “Painful Love”.

If I remember correctly, the first time I cried in this drama was when this OST was played. I didn’t like Kim Tan (Lee Minho’s character) at all, but when he cried so painfully in an empty apartment, it broke my heart. Those emotions are brought across perfectly through this OST and Lee Minho’s voice has become a lot more confident since “My Everything.” He is even able to reach high notes and create climaxes in his songs. The OST is very moving because his pain is so believable and it just shows how talented he is both as a vocalist and an actor.

 Also on Kultscene: 5 Tear-Inducing K-Drama OSTs Pt. 3

5. Jo Jung Suk

Ever since I watched him in “The King 2 Hearts” and “You’re The Best, Lee Soon Shin” I’ve been in love with this actor. And over the years, I can see how much he has improved in terms of his acting. As a vocalist however, he only has one OST under his belt but his natural talent shines through very well. “I Completely Love You” is an adorable acoustic song that suits his gentle voice, and the way he sweetly sings it makes his affection for Lee Soon Shin (played by IU) so believable. He has confidence in his voice and reaches the high notes effortlessly, which is perhaps aided by his background in theatre and various musicals. He also applies more vocal techniques than the other actors listed above and uses them smartly to convey his emotions.

He shows great potential both in acting and as a vocalist, while I’m happy that he is being given more lead roles in dramas and movies, I hope that he will receive more opportunities to sing as well. I want an album Jo Jung Suk!

Do you agree with the actors on this list? What do you think about actors who can sing?Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear you thoughts and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Blink & You’ll Miss These ‘Doctor Who’ References In K-Pop Music Videos

Doctor Who Meets K-PopK-pop and British pop culture has little direct influence on one another, but some K-pop music video directors are definitely fans of the iconic British television series, “Doctor Who.” Although they’re few and far apart, there are some K-pop music videos that directly take influences from “Doctor Who.”

In honor of the new season of “Doctor Who” being well under way, I took a look into three K-pop music videos that get their inspiration from “Doctor Who.” Even if you’re not a fan of the British show, you know these K-pop music videos and may be surprised.

Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang”

Long before Buzzfeed’s Try Guys noticed a connection between the British television series “Doctor Who” and one of this year’s most watched K-pop music videos on YouTube, I noticed a seemingly impossible reference to the iconic sixth season premiere, “The Impossible Astronaut.” In the music video, wearing a cowboy hat and a leather jacket, Big Bang’s rapper T.O.P appears to be no other than the stand in for the show’s leading man, The Doctor.

Also on Kultscene: 4 K-Pop Songs Casting ‘Harry Potter’ Spells

Yes, T.O.P is The Eleventh Doctor. And River Song. Or, at least, he’s wearing a cowboy hat while hanging out with an astronaut, who also appears to be T.O.P. To my knowledge, YG Entertainment hasn’t explained if T.O.P kills himself and ruins the history of time forever or is married to himself, but it’s a pretty humorous few moments in the music video.

Think the cowboy and astronaut are just coincidences and accidentally appear to be referencing “Doctor Who?” Think again, because here are definitely alien-like specimens in jars on the sill and that white room looks a bit like the room from the episode “The Girl Who Waited.”

ZE:A’s “Breathe”

The Big Bang music video is actually just the most recent addition to this list of K-pop music videos that take aspects from “Doctor Who.” The 2014 music video for ZE:A’s song has a bit of a depressing tone to it, like the whole world being destructed and ZE:A dancing in a spaceship, but then we get our space elements that take us to “Doctor Who” and everything seems like it is much better.

In this case, we don’t get a blatant reference to The Doctor or any other character from the show, but we do get a TARDIS. Yes, a TARDIS, but not The Doctor’s TARDIS. This is more like ZE:A’s COE.

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Also on Kultscene: 5 Most Social Media Savvy K-pop Idols

For K-pop fans who don’t know, The Doctor’s TARDIS is his spaceship that travels through time and space, and it looks like a 1960’s police call box from England. Its name is an acronym for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.” So, going with that, ZE:A’s blue box has the group’s name it in English, which is Children of Empire so… I decided that ZE:A’s spaceship is called a COE, and it doesn’t really travel through space and time as much as it makes a handsome K-pop group.

ZE:A’s music video has a lot of out of this world elements, but I can’t help but wonder whether their blue stage outfits came before or after someone suggested throwing in one of the most iconic images of British pop culture, the TARDIS from “Doctor Who”.

IU’s “You & I”

Last but definitely not least, we have a K-pop singer emulating The Doctor.This 2011 music video from IU takes us to England, or somewhere that looks like it, with a clock tower that can’t quite compare to Big Ben and a cozy little house with black and white pictures and a random goose walking around IU’s home as she counts down to D-Day.

Do you remember how I explained that the TARDIS is a spaceship that travels through time and space? Well, IU’s waiting for some handsome guy to wake up and there’s a magical mystery device that says “time” and “space” on it.

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And then it gets better!

Not every season of “Doctor Who” has clockwork in the beginning of each episode as part of the opening theme, but clockwork played a role in the intro of the eighth season of “Doctor Who,” and what is IU dancing in front of during the intro of the song? Nothing more than tons of clockwork gears.

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Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but here is the best use of any “Doctor Who” reference in K-pop to date- IU uses the TARDIS. Or something that looks like it and works the same way.

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Yes, Korea’s pop princess IU takes a ride on a train called the Fantasy Express and then gets into a time machine that looks oddly like a TARDIS from the outside. “You & I” foregoes the delightful bright blue color for something a bit more sedate, but there’s the same twirling and cosmic ambiance of IU’s box of time and space.

Do you know any other references to “Doctor Who” in K-pop? Let us know in the comments 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.

10 K-Pop Songs That Teach Basic Korean Phrases + Chance To Win Korean Study Guides

B.A.P Where Are You What Are You DoingK-pop songs are filled with tons of catchy Korean phrases, and any longtime fan of K-pop has probably picked up a few words or phrases here and there. But many Korean songs have English choruses, leading to many K-pop fans just singing along with the English hook rather than taking in much Korean language skills. In this list, we’ve compiled some of the best Korean songs for learning a bit of Korean language, which will help you out if you ever find yourself in Korea, or if you just want to impress people with all of the cultural diffusion that K-pop promotes.

In case these songs aren’t enough for you, and you feel like you really want to get your Korean on, check out our giveaway at the bottom of this list for two books that will help you study Korean vocabulary and grammar.

1. “Hi” [Lovelyz “Hi~”]

Annyeong is a shorter version of annyeonghaseyo, or Korea’s formal word for “hello.” Lovelyz’ “Hi~” is the perfect example of a bright song to learn how to greet someone in Korean. (Fun fact: if you’ve seen the American TV show Arrested Development,” you’ll need to re-learn the pronunciation since the characters mispronounce annyang throughout the series.)

2. & 3. “Oppa” & “Noona” [Psy “Gangnam Style” & SHINee “Noona, You’re So Pretty”]

The most popular Korean word in 2012 was easily “Oppa” thanks to Psy’s famous song “Gangnam Style.” Many people may not actually realize that oppa is actually the Korean word that technically means a girl’s older brother, and is what female call old males who they have a close relationship with, whether it’s brothers, friends, boyfriends, or husbands.

The equivalent term for males to call an older female was made famous in SHINee’s iconic 2009 debut song “Noona, You’re So Pretty.” Noona similarly means a boy’s older sister and can be used for women a younger man has a relationship with.

  Read more

Best Of The K-Pop B Tracks Pt. 4

Are you ready for yet another installment of our Best of the K-Pop B Tracks series? It’s been almost a year since our last article, but no worries; we’re back with a fresh and manly list, consisting of some older and newer songs for the latest installment of our series!

Artist: GOT7
Album: “Just Right”
Song: “Nice”

It can easily be said that 80 percent of GOT7’s albums usually consist of dance tracks. They’re young guys bursting at the seams with explosive energy, so why not, right? Straight from the get-go, “Nice” had a hypnotic beat with semi sensual lyrics. Not only have the members of GOT7 grown physically, but their voices have also matured a great deal since debut, with member Youngjae being the most noticeable with his honey-like voice. With the release of each mini album, there always seems to be that one track — how should I put this? — that puts you in the mood, makes you feel some sort of way, and “Nice” just so happens to be that particular song.

“Nice” is filled with what has a sophisticated level of ecstasy and has a contagious chorus and yet I can’t seem to wipe off this smile from my face, unable to take them seriously because I’m already so used to them acting like silly kids. I wonder what it’s like having these guys in the recording studio; it’s hard trying to image their level of seriousness when they’re always acting so goofy. Am I the only one that feels this way about GOT7? Regardless of all that, take a listen and I promise you’ll be singing bam bam bam bi dam bi da bi dam bam for the remainder of the day. Read more

7 Uniquely Shot K-Pop Music Videos

7 Uniquely Shot K-Pop Music Videos Feat.

Does the song make the K-pop music video or does the K-pop music video make the song? Of course, a good song should always be able to stand on its own, with the accompanying music video only serving as a mnemonic aid, so the answer might seem obvious to some. But consider the following uniquely shot music videos that challenge the notion that all of the genre’s visual releases follow the same trite love octagon storylines and abandoned brick room sets as the ones before it. We repeatedly return to these effective and entertaining videos and as the soundtrack second handedly ingrains itself in our heads, we know the real answer to this age old question.

EXO “Growl”

Because we all saw it coming and because we cannot have a compilation of uniquely shot music videos without it, EXO’s “Growl” is the first up on our list. Garnering 76 million views on SM Entertainment’s official Youtube channel, this makes it the most watched video the group has to date. It may be the song, or the boys’ A+ school uniform concept that is attracting all the attention, but more likely than not, it’s the fact that the entirety of the music video was shot in only one take. Audiences can only imagine how long it took the boys who were working under much pressure to perfect the dance, and even then, it wasn’t quite perfect. Coming from someone who is guilty of revisiting the music videos multiple times, several blunders can be spotted in the final cut, such as the moment when member Kai accidentally drops his hat in the middle of the routine (see 2:13 mark). With such swift recovery, however, fans would never have thought that it wasn’t part of the choreography.

Also on Kultscene: 5 Underrated Male Korean Idol Rappers Who Caught Our Attention

VIXX “G.R.8.U”

Overlooking the unflattering filter that only makes the members look more washed out than their Korean skincare routine can handle, VIXX’s fun music video for “G.R.8.U” employs another never been done before technique – the use of a rewind effect. It veers from the dark fantasy concept that we are used to seeing from the boys down into a more lighthearted avenue as we watch the members channel their inner five year old. They squander away good tissues from a tissue box, rip away at pages from a book, and commit other acts of horrors to a mother in reverse. And I know I just cannot be the only one who was envisioning how this must have looked like done in motion during the filming process.

What makes this music video all the more awe inspiring, however, is that with music videos that apply a rewind effect, comes backwards lip-syncing. As if a music video shoot was not demanding enough, the members had to learn the lyrics of their song all over again, but this time an inverted version of it. As one Kultscene writer has noted, VIXX works hard to create pieces that can be enjoyed on every level.


Though times are changing, INFINITE shows that they are one tech savvy group to beat with their revolutionary music video for “Bad.” The first of its kind, at least where K-pop music videos are concerned, the video uses advanced 360 degree virtual reality technology in order to create an interactive experience. Viewers at home can change the angle of camera by manipulating the arrows on the video or, if on a mobile device, by moving the device in the direction that they want to view. As we look on through the many mirrors that are seen throughout the music video, the immersive aspect comes into play when the members are locking eyes with and singing to us. It almost feels intimate, as if we are intruding on something private, but sadly, it’s probably the closest most fans will ever get to be to the boys. Besides, what is more romantic than having seven guys serenading to you in a strip down bathroom anyways?

Also on Kultscene: The Future of Virtual Reality in K-Pop

BEAST “No More”

The witty incorporation of the social media that is so prevalent today in music videos is commonplace, but before San E or Aoora did it, there was BEAST with their original music video for “No More.” In it, the group’s rapper Junhyung and his former lover sift through their newsfeed and old photo memories on Beastagram, a parody of popular social media platform Instagram. Most of the music video itself, which features the members emotionally singing in a white recliner while the video retells the protagonists’ former relationship, is essentially the videos that are uploaded onto Beastagram. It’s a little gimmicky but because of the right direction and proper execution, was able to nevertheless deliver a touching story of how a couple can move on and still simultaneously watch over the other. Only in our generation could giving a like on an ex’s picture ever be so powerful.

Akdong Musician “200%”

Another music video that is just as creative as Beast’s “No More” is Akdong Musician’s “200%,” where Lee Soohyun, the female unit of the duo, shyly tries to confess her feelings to model turned actor Nam Joo Hyuk through a paper crane that she left him. Origami is an integral element in the video, so naturally the motif can also be seen throughout the video, whether as a part of the how to fold graphics that are randomly displayed or in the editing style. Unfortunately for Soohyun, who we are made to believe ends up with Joo Hyuk’s character, the puppy love came to a bitter twist ending as the screen “unfolds” along the creases and reveals that Joo Hyuk has been sharing moments with another girl and not Soohyun. The music video cleverly takes a simple art, such as that of paper folding, and infuses it into the video, literally and thematically.

Leessang “Turned Off the TV” feat. Tasha and Kwon Jungyeol of 10cm

The product of what happens when stop motion meets K-pop is Leessang’s mildly suggestive music video for “Turned Off the TV.” The song and video depicts how a woman makes a man feel, that is, wanting her so much even if it means playing catch up. One of the best moments of the music video that was only made possible because of the limitless boundaries of the animation technique is when the man becomes exasperated in the process of catching up and, while bending down and back up, becomes his own boner. The erect phallus is enough to give the woman a fright, so she slaps him, Korean drama style.

Other than the comedic value it can bring, the use of stop motion lets the imagination run wild in other instances as well, such as the scenes where the men and woman fly through the cotton clouds or swim through the dark blue carp of an ocean. The production quality is low, sure, but the results of bringing together a bunch of household props and a lot of time on hand creates for an extremely endearing music video.

Girl’s Day “Hug Me Once”

Girl’s Day music video for “Hug Me Once” reminds me of one of those choose your own ending books we all used to read as a kid. It’s highly engaging, and the seemingly endless possibilities put the readers in control. Well, that’s exactly how it is in this music video as it starts from an introduction video where you, the viewer, are given the choice of watching the game or dance version of the music video, other than the original video itself. There is also even an option to kindly decline all offers, but of course this means game over for the viewer.

Apart from the dance version, all the selections and their accompanying videos are shot from the first person point of view for added realism. Fans are taken on an immersive adventure as the girls drag your outstretched hand to optical illusion museums, cruise ships and scenic beaches. The directors were even sure to include a buffering scene to emulate actual MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) in the game version, which was shot in a role playing manner with familiar dialogue boxes and heart meters. Since its release back in 2011, nothing as charming or similar as Girl’s Day’s “Hug Me Once” has been put out in the K-pop market, making it an undeniable addition to this list.

Is there any other K-pop music video cinematography you enjoy? Share your picks 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.

4 K-Pop Songs Casting ‘Harry Potter’ Spells


K-pop may be crazy about “Harry Potter.” The most popular work of fiction in the past era has been, without a doubt, the “Harry Potter” book series. The popular book and film series inspired some of Korea’s top musicians to write songs featuring “Harry Potter” tropes.

XIA Junsu “Tarantallegra” (2012)

When one of the best singers in K-pop tells you to dance, you do just that. The title of Junsu’s “Tarantallegra” is taken from the spell that makes people’s feet dance uncontrollably. The song was Junsu’s first as a soloist, and the title of his first solo album. It’s a dramatic song and music video, with a rap by Flowsik, and Junsu lives up to the name of the song by putting on one of the best dance performances in the history of K-pop.

The song makes it very clear that music is everything for Junsu, as shown by the repetitive question, “what music would you listen to?” and “tarantallegra, be intoxicated with music.” The lyrics were written by Junsu’s twin brother Juno, giving it a deeper personal touch for himu. And as for the music video, well, there’s a magically beautiful woman who makes an appearance when Junsu decides to change things up. Without a doubt, “Tarantallegra” is a piece of wizard art.

Also on KultScene: Unappreciated Singers: Equality Of Line Distribution In K-pop Songs

Jo Kwon “Wingardium Leviosa” (2012)

A fast paced, techno dance song from the leader of 2AM was the total opposite of the group’s usual vocally expressive songs. However, the ever flamboyant Jo Kwon is a perfect fit for the bright dance song. Although it wasn’t the title track on his “I’m Da One” album, “Wingardium Leviosa” is built around a “Harry Potter” spell.

In “Harry Potter,” “Wingardium Leviosa” is a levitation spell that helps objects fly. And to Jo, that means an opportunity to play around. “I will make you fly” and “Let’s fly over there, follow me, let’s try, memorize this spell” are pretty straightforward lyrics, but Jo goes above and beyond and turns the spell into a verb, “The mood is wingar.” Whatever that means, we love it and want to be feeling it.

IU “Obliviate” (2013)

Soloist IU is as great as usual in a Latin inspired song “Obliviate.” With whispers of the memory removal spell, the meaning of the song is clear from the very beginning; the singer would like to remove her memories of a past relationship after it is over.

IU takes a bitter take on the spell, singing, “In the end, I cast the nonse spell of making bad memories disappear and having good memories stay” in a tone of voice that implies that it’s an impossibility. “Head, obliviate, heart, obliviate,” she sings. While other artists use “Harry Potter” for inspiration, IU’s song is the epitome of all of us “Harry Potter” fans out there, who wish we could use our favorite spells in our daily lives.

Also on KultScene: Which BIGBANG ‘MADE’ Letter Are You? [QUIZ]

Crucial Star “Owl” Feat. donutman

Crucial Star’s song is about working hard and being a pioneer to inspire others. and not quite as obviously based on “Harry Potter” as the previous songs in this list. But with a line like “I cast a spell like Harry, ”Aparecium, Alohamora, there’s no doubt that the lyrics take inspiration from “Harry Potter.” According to Harry Potter Wiki, Apercium is the revealing charm “that forces invisible ink or other hidden messages to appear,” while Alohamora is one of the first spells introduced in the Harry Potter series and is used to unlock locks.

And, as a fun bonus, even though it’s not a song, here’s Super Junior-M’s Henry getting yelled at on “Strong Heart” for mispronouncing Hermione’s name.

Which K-pop act do you want to make magical songs with? Share your picks 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.

‘Hello, I Love You’ Is (Probably) The First Novel About Romancing A K-Pop Star [INTERVIEW+GIVEAWAY]

hello-i-love-youThere is no such thing as too many books, especially when they relate to K-pop and falling in love with K-pop idols. Katie M. Stout, the author of the young adult romance novel “Hello, I Love You” spoke to KultScene about her book.

1. Congratulations on publishing “Hello, I Love You”! How did it feel when you got to the end of the long writing-editing process?
Thank you! Honestly, it felt a little surreal. I wrote and edited the book for about nine months before I queried, then that took almost a year. My agent and I were on submission for about six months with it, and all-in-all, it was about three years from finishing a first draft to seeing it on shelves. So publication day was definitely a victory day.

2. The book is all about K-pop, and there’s a lot of mentions of Korean dramas. How did you get into that scene?
I’d never even heard of a Korean drama until I was in college. I was teaching English in China and went into a video store, where they had some K-dramas featured. I picked up one on a whim (it was “49 Days”), and once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. That led me to other dramas, like “Heartstrings” and “Dream High,” which ended up being two inspirations for my book.

3. What made you decide to write a book about South Korea? Have you ever spent time there?
Because I was writing about K-pop, it seemed like a natural progression for the book to be about South Korea. It didn’t make sense to me for a book about a K-pop singer to be set in New York, for example.

I had never been to Korea when I was writing the book, but I actually got to visit the same week I signed with my agent. I had finished up an internship in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and made a stopover in Seoul before going back home. It was so fun to visit the places I’d written about!

Also on KultScene: YA E-Sports Novel ‘In Real Life’ Shows The Dark Side of Korean Trainee Life

4. I read somewhere that the book was supposed to be set in China. Why the change?
Yes, originally, the book was set in China. I wrote it that way because I was inspired by my own time in China. I also liked the idea that both of my main characters would be foreigners living in another country and they would bond over that. However, when my book was acquired by St. Martin’s, the team there felt like it was too confusing to have that many cultures represented in one book. So I shifted the setting of the entire book to South Korea, which I’ll admit, was no easy feat.

Fun fact: the book was originally called “From China, With Love,” referring to the letters that my main character writes her brother back home. My editor at St. Martin’s came up with the idea to name it after the Doors’s song that features so prominently in the book. It was such an extraordinary idea that I don’t think I could have come up with this myself, and I’m so glad I had the guidance of my editor. That’s why I think it is important for any aspiring authors to look into “freelance editors near me” to join them on this journey to publishing a successful book. Even if you think you don’t need them, they could present you with interesting ideas about how to move the story forward and what to incorporate to make it work better. I’m glad I took this advice, as the title sounds much better now.

5. “Hello, I Love You” is about music. What songs were you listening to when writing, other than the title song?
I listened to a lot of music while writing, mostly K-pop. I joke that, like some actors are “method actors,” I consider myself an “immersive writer,” meaning that whatever I’m working on at the time, I consume only media that matches my current work in progress. So while drafting and editing HILY, I listened to a ton of Girls’ Generation, BIGBANG, CNBlue, Shinee, Teen Top, and other K-pop bands. I also watched a lot of K-dramas; some of my favorites at the time were “Big,” “Monstar,” “Rooftop Prince,” and more recently, “My Love from Another Star.”

6. What Korean music and television shows are you a fan of? Have you ever gone to a K-pop concert?
Other than the ones mentioned above, my favorite K-drama is probably “City Hunter,” which is mentioned in my book but not by name. Two of my characters have a conversation about a specific drama, and I think people who’ve watched “City Hunter” should recognize it based on the description. [We did!]

I haven’t been to a K-pop concert, sadly. I’m from the Atlanta area, which never really has K-pop bands come through, and while I was living in England, I was in a region that had no concerts at all, so it just hasn’t been convenient. I thought about going to one when I was in Seoul, but I ended up not doing it. I still regret that.

7. What difficulties did you face while writing?
I had the usual difficulties, including the big one, which is namely trying to ensure that your book doesn’t suck. That means I agonized over words and character development and pacing of the book, etc.

But more than that, I had a lot of researching to do. I’d never been to the places I was describing, which meant I needed to know what they looked like. I also had to look up old Korean rock bands, because I didn’t know any but my characters needed to. And there was the typical research about food and language and other parts of the culture that I didn’t know previously.

And lastly, I really struggled with my main character. She’s going through a very specific personal struggle, and I wanted to portray that genuinely. While some people have felt that my portrayal isn’t sensitive, I’ve been encouraged by readers who have moved to other countries and lived as expats who’ve told me that Grace’s experience reminded them of their own. It’s certainly similar to the one I had when I moved to England, and I felt it was important to portray a character going through culture shock if she moves to another country – that’s real, and it’s not realistic to not talk about that at all.

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8. Which character do you think you want to be friends with?
Oh, Sophie for sure. I loved her from the first page she showed up. Both of my main characters have a little too much angst, so I wouldn’t want to be with them all the time, but Sophie is just kind and fun and funny. I also really like Yoon Jae, and if I were in Grace’s shoes, I think I might have been interested in him instead of a certain brooding leading singer.

9. What was it like creating an imaginary K-pop band? What were you influenced by?
My biggest inspiration for the band in my book was CNBlue, one of the few K-pop bands with members who play instruments. I knew I wanted them all to do more than just sing and dance, so I needed a real band to model them after. I imagine their sound to be similar to older CNBlue music, as well – songs like “Love Girl” or “Sweet Holiday.”

10. What’s one thing you want readers to know about the book?
I think it’s helpful for them to know that the book isn’t just about K-pop. It has K-pop in it, but it’s more about two people who have broken pasts that have to learn to recognize their faults before they can come together. It’s also told from the perspective of a Westerner with zero knowledge of Korean pop culture, who holds some distinct prejudices she never knew she had – and that she has to learn to recognize before she can move past them. It’s about culture shock, family, love, and forgiveness. And it has kissing, too.

11. To my knowledge, this is the first English-language novel about K-pop. How do you feel about that? Do you think we may see more in the future?
There may be other YA novels out there about K-pop, but I don’t know of any. In many ways, my book is the first of its kind, and that was actually both exciting and difficult. I came up against a lot of closed doors. I had numerous literary agents while I was querying tell me that they liked the book but had no idea how to sell it. I was told over and over again that the market wasn’t ready for a book about K-pop, and it was disheartening. I’m still thankful for both my agent and publisher who disagreed with everyone else and thought the YA market was ready.

It’s encouraging, as well, that my book did something new. I’d love to see more books about K-pop in the future! I’ve gotten some criticism that my book isn’t as informative as many people wanted it to be, but I like to think that I helped open the door for more K-pop-focused books in the Western YA industry – so we can have those books that are more informative and about Korean protagonists and are more in-depth studies of culture and everything my book is not. I think that would be amazing! And if my little book accomplishes anything, I hope it’s that.

Do you want to own a copy of “Hello, I Love You”? We’re here to help! Katie M. Stout gave KultScene the chance to raffle off one copy of the book, so enter now for your chance to win! (Unfortunately, this is only open to residents of the United States, but you can buy the book from Amazon and many other bookstores.)

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What K-pop star would you like to fall in love with? 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.

SHINee, Wonder Girls & T-ara: Single Roundup Review

Wonder Girls
Sometimes I think I’m not harsh enough on K-pop releases. Nearly every one of my reviews has been overwhelmingly positive. Those were all genuinely great releases, though, and I don’t think any differently now. Maybe K-pop is not as perfect as I thought it was, and I was adjusting my opinions to fit that. Then this week happened. Three titans of K-pop SHINee, Wonder Girls, and T-ara released equally exceptional new songs. As the kids would say, what a time to be alive.

These vanguards of K-pop are also a good example of a few different sides of the genre. Wonder Girls and SHINee deliver perfect 80/70s throwbacks in different ways and T-ara pull off the best generic Brave Brothers track since AOA’s “Miniskirt”.

SHINee “Married to the Music”

SHINee already showed us that they had the 90s sound and look down to a tee, and this time they take on the music of the 70s. Michael Jackson’s style in particular can be heard, which isn’t a surprise given his clear influence on Taemin’s solo and SHINee’s concept in general.

The first thing you’ll notice about “Married to the Music” is how wacky and fun the video is. It takes most of its inspiration from the 1975 cult classic, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It shows the boys from SHINee drinking some weird drinks that change their disposition (alcohol! gasp!) and having a wild time in a creepy house. Heads are chopped off, eyeballs popped out as events get stranger by the second. It is by far the most fun video of the year so far. It’s great to see SM actually trying with their videos as well. When they actually put effort in, and take SM artists outside of boxes, SM Entertainment makes the best video they have ever done.

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It’s disappointing then that the lyrics don’t match up with the video at all then. They’re pretty standard, about loving a girl. Even the music metaphor isn’t interesting as it’s always about the girl and not actual music, which could have been cool and unsurprising given SHINee’s seeming love of music, especially Jonghyun.

This disappointment doesn’t last long though as the song more than makes up for it. “Married to the Music” continues the retro theme with funky aplomb. The thing I really like about this song is the wide use of actual instruments over electronics. Apart from the drums it sounds like an actual band could have played this. The wandering bass that carries the song is particularly satisfying and reminiscent of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. The slick guitars provide the funk like no synths can. That’s not to say it’s devoid of electronics though, they are used sparingly to good effect at louder parts of the song like Minho’s rap. The song is a blast and has no trouble keeping up with the outrageous video.

Wonder Girls “I Feel You”

The throwbacks continue with the return of the legendary Wonder Girls. I got into K-pop in late 2011 so missed most of the Wonder Girls mania. So, they never really meant a lot to me apart from having some good songs. However, when the teaser came out for “I Feel You”, the single for their new rebooted band lineup, I fell in love. The MTV inspired video and 80s synth-pop sound appeared so perfectly realised. With the release of the video, this love turned out to be complete.

Like SHINee, it’s the dedication to being retro that really sets Wonder Girls apart. So often recently we have seen groups tack on the most obvious elements of 80s or 90s pop to make their song a retro throwback. The general sound and look of these songs are usually still quite modern, though, so it tends not to work. What Wonder Girls have done is transport the 80s to today and given it modern production values and edgy sexiness. Even with that, “I Feel You,” still sounds like it could have been from the actual 80s.

This is clearly evident in the synth hook that introduces the song. It’s an intoxicating riff that doesn’t outstay its welcome and eventually becomes the hook of the song. This is why the actual chorus comes across as quite flat at first. Sunmi’s softer, kind of talk singing over the chorus doesn’t inspire you to sing along but allows the synth riff to shine once she’s finished. It also works to carry over the sensual feeling of the verse which features similar sexy, whispered vocals. The addition of rapping that can sometimes make a retro K-pop track quite jarring doesn’t even stop “I Feel You” for a moment. Yubin’s deep, sensual voice fits perfectly with the rest of the vocals making her rap more a slightly faster verse than a whole new part.

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The music video also completely nails the 80s retro feel. The attention to detail in some of the images is brilliant and quite funny at times. If you ever thought the video was kind of cheesy at times, don’t worry: That’s the point. The opening is probably my favourite where Sunmi turns to the camera, smiles then zips down her shorts to reveal the group on stage. For whatever reason the turn before she smiles makes it for me; it seems unnecessary but works so well. I also love the shots of the girls as they rap the post-chorus part. They have two of the girls in each shot and pull focus as they rap. It’s the type of shot that would never be seen today and is the kind of detail that makes this song and video one of the best of the year so far.

T-ara “So Crazy”

For better or worse, Brave Brothers has become a mainstay of the K-pop environment. His safe but effective music has been increasingly popular in the last few years making him the go to guy for a hit. So his pairing with the once loved T-ara is an appropriate one. Ever since their scandal in 2012, T-ara have had a hard time regaining their popularity in Korea. Instead they have mainly focused on promoting in China where they have had unprecedented success. They, of course, have not given up on their home country though and are teaming up with Brave Brothers for “So Crazy” their new single.

While “So Crazy” stays true to the Brave Brothers form in structure and use of sounds, it is still an incredibly exciting track. It moves at intense speeds. The song doesn’t quite explode until the first chorus but the opening verse is deceptively quick and full to the brim with different sounds. Bouncing horns and layered vocals build anticipation before the song takes off. Its a sound that fits T-ara like few other groups. Their vocals lend to the high-pitched layers especially using the slightly weaker Jiyeon with a stronger vocal like Hyomin’s or Soyeon’s.

“So Crazy” is Brave Brothers at his absolute best. Of the three songs I’ve talked about so far, it is probably the least interesting and yet it remains the most exciting and listenable. His ‘oh oh oh’ hook once again works its magic. The song has an unhinged quality that is usually absent in Brave Brothers songs. It hits all the same beats as any recent AOA song yet there is always so much going that it never bores and feels like it could lift off into the stratosphere at any time.

What do you think of these three songs and of the current state of K-pop? 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.

The Future of Virtual Reality in K-Pop

SMTOWN@coexartium (2)

When it comes to innovations in music, K-pop is one genre that does it best.

The Internet was sent into a frenzy recently when popular idol group INFINITE released an alternate version of their latest music video for “Bad.” Just what made this particular video so groundbreaking was its use of 360 degree virtual reality (VR) technology, and while it may not have been the first ever to try its hand at the cutting edge technology, it was definitely the first of its kind within the mainstream K-pop sphere. With this new version, viewers are put in control with the ability to manipulate the different camera angles in order to simulate the experience of being on set. Indeed, the music video is only one (great) step closer towards fan-idol interactions, and at the end of the day gimmicks like these are what sells.

K-pop powerhouses such as SM Entertainment know this all too well, leading them to capitalize on their consumers’ desires to become closer to the faces and personalities behind the music. Without having to force their top acts into display cases where fans can ogle at them all day (because c’mon, that’ll just be inhumane and borderline slavery, which is definitely not what SM is about), the company gave us the next best thing – their digital counterparts.

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In what was probably SM’s attempt at gathering their bearings after a messy 2014, the agency launched SMTOWN@coexartium earlier this year. Simply put, the five-story complex, located in Samseong-dong, Seoul, is every SM stan’s (fan) dream come true. Not only can visitors lounge at the K-pop themed café or browse through official merchandise, the site also features a virtual studio where guests can experience stardom first-hand with their favorite SM artists, or at least their artificial doppelgangers. What’s more is that there is the hologram theatre where visitors can watch holographic concerts from big-names like EXO or Girls’ Generation, or enjoy the world’s first holographic musical “School Oz,” starring some of SM’s most capable vocalists.With technology like that of require travel expenses. “Why pay to travel all the way to Korea for housed lograms whecould be seeing the real deal?” one may argue. Although not exactly perfect, there is still no d holograms and 360 VR music videos are harbingers for what is to come in the future…

…Which got me thinking, what exactly is about to come? What’s next? At a time when the Hallyu wave – the phenomenon that describes the transnational flow of Korean culture – is crashing hardest on international fans, it would definitely be lucrative for entertainment companies to invest in technology that will rectify the physical barriers separating fans from their idols. A large part of the current music business is the concerts which draw crowds from around the world en masse, so looking into how they can join an experience good, such as that of a concert, with the realism that entails virtual reality could potentially be the answer to this. And as if the entertainment moguls do not have enough money going into their pockets already, it could even serve as a completely new revenue stream. If you have not figured it out by now, I am referring to the up-and-coming virtual reality concerts.

Virtual reality concerts are an immersive concert experience that aim to stream and bring the feelings and sensations of live music into the comforts of your room. Stay at home concert attendees would only have to strap on any one of the virtual reality headsets that are in development, while the fancy 360-degree audio and video rigs located at various points throughout the venue take care of the technical aspects. Thanks to the spherical video and spherical binaural audio of the advanced technology, developers and creative directors are able to finally recreate a convincing 3D soundscape. It sounds ludicrous to think that this will work, but ask Western artists like Coldplay or David Bowie who have successfully experimented with VR concerts and skeptics might think otherwise. K-pop groups and artists could certainly learn a thing or two from these rock legends.

While VR headsets are not available on the market yet, users can watch 360 VR videos and enjoy their favorite immersive experience on their smartphones with affordable cardboard viewers in the meantime. This one is the ICT Spark from MOOOVR.

While VR headsets are not available on the market yet, users can watch 360 VR videos and enjoy their favorite immersive experiences on their smartphones with affordable cardboard viewers in the meantime. This one is the ICT Spark from MOOOVR.

Regardless of how much of a game-changer virtual reality concerts could be though, some people are still going to refuse to buy into it, and honestly I used to fall into this camp. Again, it’s the whole notion of “why waste money on something you know is not there when you could be spending it on the real deal” taking into effect. Especially since virtual reality would give fans the power to relive the concert to their heart’s content, it defeats the purpose of a concert being a once in a lifetime experience. But sometimes, spending your savings on the real deal is not an option. More than convenience, virtual reality concerts are able to break spatial and bodily constraints, and this is where VR can find its place within the (Korean) entertainment business.

Take, for example, what happened with ticket sales for EXO’s first solo concert tour, EXO “From. EXOPLANET #1 – The Lost Planet.” There is no doubt that EXO is an influential group, and that was only proven when the boys broke the world record for the fastest sold out concert, with 42,000 tickets in a fleeting 1.42 seconds. As a result, the ticketing site crashed and still many others were unsuccessful at nabbing a spot at the highly anticipated concert.

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That is where virtual reality concerts come in. Where accommodating the sea of concert-goers is an issue, VR can revise that by providing unlimited (and eco-friendly!) virtual tickets and seats. Want VIP seating? No problem. Or how about standing on stage alongside your oppas (older males) and unnies (older females)? VR concerts can make that happen, too. So long as it is within the six degrees of freedom of the special virtual reality display, anything is possible. Also, how about getting the new setlists of the concert in advance? THis way, viewers at home can also guarantee that idols will try to score some brownie points with the fans by showing some serious up close and personal fan service, all from a safe distance. Trendy groups with crazy passionate fans like EXO are sure to appreciate this, especially the last part about the “safe.”

If tickets for virtual reality concerts are reasonably priced – as in cheaper than that for in-person – then I see no problem with virtual reality finding a market within the K-pop concert business. No longer do international fans have to cross mountains and seas to reach their favorite groups. With VR, fans can even access the exclusive behind-the-scenes that they could not visit before. It’s not about taking fans to the best seats in the house, but taking them to places that were previously barred from the public. And if that is not enough incentive to switch over to VR, then I do not know what is. Arguably, virtual reality may even be better than, well, reality itself as the ability to watch the same concert from different vantage points (recall that the rigs are distributed throughout the venue) on the fly transforms an impossible human task into a possible one.

Of course, the potential debut of virtual reality concerts doesn’t mean that they will replace the traditional live concert business altogether. Because what else can make hearts thud as hard as the bass lines do? What else can unite complete strangers at a mosh pit? Mechanical music sales may go down, piracy may remain rampant, but concerts as we know it will never die.

How do you feel about virtual reality K-pop concerts? Is it feasible? 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.

June K-Pop B-Sides That Should’ve Been the Lead Title Track

June Kpop B-sides That Should Have Been the Lead Title Track Feat.

To say that June was not a busy month for K-pop lovers is an understatement. In the past month, we saw comebacks not only from the big three entertainment companies (SM Entertainment, JYP, and YG), but also from those who are just as reputable, such as Cube and Starship Entertainment. Competition is stiff, so choosing the right title track that will best represent an album as a whole is critical if an act wishes to stand out from among its adversaries. And while the companies would like to think they know which song is best for a group to promote, sometimes fans might disagree with their decision. Oftentimes, the true gem lies hidden as a B-side, which was the case for some of the highly anticipated June comebacks. With that said, here are a couple of the K-pop B-sides we believe either had lead title track potential or should have replaced the single altogether.

EXO “Tender Love”

Okay, so nothing was particularly lacking in EXO’s single “Love Me Right,” but as I previously mentioned in my review for their repackaged album of the same name, it’s an upbeat song which is very unlike EXO’s style. Rather, the bass and brass infused track is what we are used to hearing from other acts, particularly their senior group SHINee. Since I had to first get over the fact that the cosmic ride of a song was indeed brought to us by EXO (you know, the same guys that sung about being ferocious wolves?), it actually took a couple of spins before the track could grow on me.

But what if the boys had came back with their funky retro track “Tender Love?” True, it still deviates away from their usual R&B and electronic sound, but the song follows a storyline that would be too perfect to pass up for a music video. The theme here is all about being stuck in the friend zone, and though it’s one that is often played out to death, we have yet to see a music video from them which adhered to a plot and which isn’t just an intricately shot choreography. Besides that, this feel-good tune would also suit the wave of summer comebacks and is capable enough to hold its own even without a video to accompany it. Recently, it gained even more exposure when it was featured in EXO’s eye contact clip, released in honor of hitting 15 million views on their “Love Me Right” music video.

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