The sonic identity of K-pop girl groups: the birth of a new generation

sonic sound kpop k pop k-pop girl groups gfriend

This is the second part of a series in which we discuss the changes in the music of K-pop girl groups throughout the last decade and what these changes say about the environment within which they thrive.

In the last article, we talked about the things that define the K-pop sound and described some sonic features on K-pop songs of the previous generation girl groups, such as T-ara.

Nowadays, the songs that made T-ara so famous probably wouldn’t have the same impact – although that shouldn’t mean they have to disband! Anyway, songs that still carry some of their peculiar characteristics are barely released these days, and when they are, they don’t go too well on charts.

The distinctive traits of the catchy dance songs of the golden days of T-ara can be heard, for example, in “Doo Doom Chit” by Crayon Pop, the most recent single of the group. Its tempo, EDM production, and singing style makes it a typical song that could have been a hit in 2012 or 2013, but had a weak performance in the charts of the year 2016.

The dramatic trait, in its turn, hasn’t been forgotten. In OST ballads and songs released by groups like Gavy NJ and Davichi (both specialized in ballads), you’ll still hear lots of trot-influenced melodies. But in K-pop, it has gotten a new colour. Although the traces of “ppong” are rarely heard nowadays; the dramatic melody, the high note that makes you feel like the singer is crying or begging for something hasn’t died, but today, it has notably less melismas and variations than before. How many vibratos have you ever heard on a single released by Twice or WJSN? Not many.

Also on KultScene: 8 misheard K-pop lyrics pt. 7

How Do K-pop Girl Groups Sound Today?

twice kcon la 2016 16 usa los angeles

by Yasamine Entesari

It’s funny to think about how in 2014 people were buzzing about “the end of K-pop” due to the amount of scandals and weak music releases because from that point on, we can say that the shaping of girl groups began to change. In that year, we saw debuts of groups vocally distinctive such as Mamamoo, Kiss & Cry, Wings, Purfles, and Red Velvet. From these, only the first and last remain successful in their own concepts.

From 2015 on, all the new and successful girl groups are going the cute girl route. The only exception would be Blackpink (who fit a more conventionally feminine concept than we’d expect from a YG Entertainment girl group, but still maintain an edge to its contemporaries). Others had their moments, like IOI (“Whatta Man”) and CLC (“Hobgoblin”), but we can’t even take these into consideration since IOI’s music video strangely alternated scenes of the girls dancing in a sexy way while dressed in leather with scenes of them acting all aegyo (cute) and doing cute friendship stuff (plus disbanding). “Hobgoblin,” for its part, was… well… essentially a rejected 4Minute song.

In general, the new generation of K-pop girl groups gravitate around the same ideas. The sound of these groups consists in overloaded production, full of strong and fast beats balanced by synths and keyboards that bring the stereotyped dreamy girly vibe to their songs.

The most relevant girl groups that debuted in the last three years are:

2014 – Laboum, Berrygood, Lovelyz, Mamamoo, Red Velvet, and Sonamoo
2015 – Twice, CLC, GFRIEND, Oh My Girl, April, and DIA
2016 – Cosmic Girls (WJSN), IOI, Gugudan, and Blackpink
2017 – Pristin (so far)

It is interesting to observe that while Mamamoo, Red Velvet, and Blackpink have their own sound (as much as it is possible), most of the other groups listed make the same kind of music. When you listen to their songs or when you make comparisons like this, it might seem like an easy formula, but you’ll never really know how many ingredients a K-pop song has until you dissect one (or try to compose one).

Nowadays, K-pop girl group music is heavily influenced by synthpop and retro music, especially ‘80s new wave; examples: GFRIEND’s “Fingertip” and April’s “Muah.” However, these traits are combined with 808 beats, strong basses, and EDM or trap elements, as heard in Twice’s “Like Ooh Ahh” and IOI’s “Dream Girls.” Moreover, the music is very accelerated; very high-tempo (listen to Twice’s “Cheer Up,” IOI’s “Very Very Very”). The listener has no time to wait; they want the most amount of fun in the less amount of time.

Entertaining the listener the most in the less amount of time possible includes not making their ears get used to a single melody so easily. Just because it’s a 4-bar verse doesn’t mean all lines must have the same melody. A few examples are WJSN’s “Secret” and Twice’s “TT.” Both have pretty much one melodic pattern every two lines before the chorus, and sometimes even more. It’s okay if there are some pauses in the drumbeat to be funny or weird in a cute way. The members are fragile little princesses and they show it not only by singing, but also talking in a very aegyo way in the middle of the song, like we saw in Pristin’s “We Woo” (“You’re my superhero!”). The line between just talking and rapping is very thin and you can have as many raps as you want in a song and at any time, like in Berrygood’s “Love Letter,” where the rap works as the verse before the chorus, and there’s also another “rap” after the second chorus.

Also on KultScene: EXID’s ‘Eclipse’ album review

Another way of bringing the feminine cutesy to the song is by adding parts where the singers intone verses that make them sound like cheerleaders. Examples: Sonamoo’s “I Think I Love You” (“Love you!”) and Oh My Girl’s “Cupid” (“Hey, cupid has shot my heart”). This cheerful feeling is also transmitted by a harmony that is mostly formed by major chords, which also gives a pure and innocent vibe to the songs, as heard in GFRIEND’s “Me Gustas Tu” (chorus’ chord progression: G C D G Em C Am D G – post-chorus: C D B Em C D G) and Oh My Girl’s “Liar Liar” (chorus: Ab – C# – Ab – C#).

Interestingly, intros can’t be too long. Remember, you can’t keep your listener waiting for too long, they’re in a rush! Examples: Laboum’s “Shooting Love” and Gugudan’s “A Girl Like Me.” Pretty much five seconds into the song, you’re already in the first verse of the song. Also, the less distinctive the singer’s voice sounds amongst the voices of their group mates, the better. Singers must sound like an homogeneous entity, a choir that sings in really high tones like in Lovelyz’ “Wow” and April’s “Tinker Bell.”

To be fair, GFRIEND is a great exception to the homogenous entity fad. They’re one of the few groups we hear nowadays that explore more of their vocal potential through less linear singing, more vibratos, and more space for their tones to differ from each other. To be fair, Mamamoo and Sistar (mostly due to Hyoryn’s outstanding position) do it too, but they don’t fit the standard we’re analyzing now.

mamamoo wheein hwasa solar kcon ny 2016 new york

by Katrina Lobaton

Above, we purposely chose only songs with a music video in order to show that this is the standard that sells, since it’s chosen to promote an artist or album. Also, it is also important to keep in mind that we’re talking about the new generation of K-pop girl groups, with focus on those who debuted since 2014. The members of these groups are very young, just like their target. “Adult” girl groups are still around, though, and they still make music suited for their concept, like Girls Day and EXID recently showed. However, trends in culture are often mostly focused on youth. Therefore, with the generation shift, more established groups gradually began to shy away from the spotlight and younger groups who brought back the focus on the cute concept, as discussed above, took center stage. In the next article, we will discuss what those trends might tells us about culture today.

What’s your favorite K-pop girl group that debuted in the last couple of years? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The sonic identity of K-pop girl groups: intro

twice knock knock sound kpop girl group

This is the first part of a series in which we’ll discuss the changes in the music of K-pop girl groups throughout the last decade and what these changes say about the environment within which they thrive.

A common notion about Seoul and South Korea is that everything changes very fast. That’s not surprising for a country that turned a weak economy in less than 30 years into a great one, producing high quality education, technology, and entertainment; K-pop unarguably is one of the country’s biggest exports today. However, global attention attention towards South Korea has increased over the past few months exponentially, both due to President Park Geun Hye’s impeachment and the risks of potential nuclear conflicts involving North Korea. But while Korea and most of the world keep an eye on the political turmoil, the promotion of K-pop abroad isn’t showing any sign of slowing down.

For a country that has always been relatively closed off to the rest of the world, Korea seems to be starting to take more seriously the idea of exploring other countries besides China and Japan to promote their cultural and entertainment exports. Female vocalists Hyuna, CL, and Hyolyn had American tours within the last year and a half; BTS’ Wings tour wasn’t only restricted to the US, but also had a Latin American leg; SHINee held their first solo concerts in Canada and the US; rookie group K.A.R.D. will tour in the US and Brazil in the upcoming months; Hyolyn just signed to Spinnin Records, and Rap Monster recently dropped a collaboration with American rapper Wale. K-pop is indeed going head-on.

With so many changes going on, it undoubtedly affects how K-pop sounds as of late. But firstly, a question that intrigues many researchers and music critics: What is K-pop even supposed to sound like?

The K-pop Sound

Even if we claim a certain song sounds or doesn’t sound like K-pop, when it comes to a specific sound, there really is no definite concept of what the K-pop style is. Other than the fact that is largely sung in Korean and the instrumentals are mostly electronic (and even this might have exceptions), there is not a specific sound that can be considered K-pop. It can be anything: electropop, reggae, hip-hop… As a matter of fact, even the fact that it mixes lots of styles has become a very singular thing about K-pop. For example, Twice’s “Cheer Up” mixes electropop and drum’n’bass with touches of dubstep, and even Brazilian tecnobrega.

From a song structure point of view, K-pop is described by songwriters and critics as a style that pretty much has no rules. If Girls Generation’s “I Got a Boy” (considered the Korean “Bohemian Rhapsody”) doesn’t crack your head hard enough, a few moments of active listening to some K-pop songs will have you finding the most diverse song structures. Raps can come in any part of the song. Verse and pre-chorus might have so many variations that you’ll only know what they are when you finally get to the chorus.

Also on KultScene: The K-Pop Phoenix: The New Generation of Girl Groups

As for the melodies and lyrics, the more “full” the lines seem, the better. The pause between lines are often really small; moments where you hear no one talking or singing are very rare in many songs. Harmonies are also something that differentiates K-pop, since there is no specific commitment to stick to a harmonic field during the entire song. As a matter of fact, having a major change in the pre-chorus or chorus might even be a winning thing.

As you might have noticed, listening to a K-pop song is pretty much like a rollercoaster experience: it’s intense, it’s loud, it has up and downs, and you’ll only know it’s over once you’re suddenly assaulted with silence. One expression to describe K-pop would be: too much information. That’s pretty obvious if you judge K-pop by watching the music videos (that’s how many K-pop fans got into this world), since they’re so full of visuals, colours, and energetic dancing. The instrumentals are earworms as well, but you’ll never really understand how obsessed with overage K-pop is until you fully analyze the way songs are made.

However, it hasn’t always been that way. Before the Hallyu fever, and even in its beginning, K-pop songs tended to be more easy listenable (compared to what they are today) while preserving very peculiar attributes, like melodies that resembled to Korean trot music, as we hear on the chorus of songs like Brown Eyed Girl’s “Love.” The structures and harmonies of the songs were simpler, rarely escaping from the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula, and sticking to the same chord progression through the whole song, like we hear on Wonder Girls’ “Irony” or “Tell Me.” Put these against the amount of melodic and harmonic changes heard in a contemporary song like Oh My Girl’s “Coloring Book,” which also has more beats per minute and higher notes than the previous songs, and you’ll surely spot how K-pop has changed in the last decade or so.

Take, for example, the case of the iconic group T-ara. Taking a general listen at their discography, there is a sense of homogeneity and consistent audible identity in their work, especially their biggest hits, which combined American pop trends with other elements that resembled traditional Asian roots.

The unmistakable I–V–vi–IV chord progression and its variations appeared often, such as we hear, for example, in “Why Are You Being Like This” and “Roly Poly”, which chord progressions are the same you hear on Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” and Jennifer Lopez’ “On The Floor,” two huge American pop hits contemporary of T-ara’s.

As for the singing, as the ladies blended their voices in a homogeneous and almost linear way, with little variations in the notes, it reinforced the feeling of unity and cohesion in the group. Homogeneity, harmony and unity are very strong values in Korea, and this is frequently observed in K-pop through lots of aspects, such as the strictly synchronized choreographies, and of course, the vocals.

On the other hand, for songs with a more melancholic mood, like “Time to Love” and “Day by Day,” the cultural roots appeared through melodies that had what researchers describe as “ppong.” This a peculiar melodic trait that recalls a bit of europop — like you hear in the choruses of songs like Modern Talking’s “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul” or Alphaville’s “Sounds Like a Melody.” But also, it echoes the sadness found in Japanese school songs, which in its turn resembles the Japanese colonialism of Korea, according to Michael Fuhr in the book Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop.

Also on KultScene: T-ara & the China Influence

This Japanese sound also highly influenced trot music, Korea’s oldest popular music genre. Said trait can be also heard in T-ara’s “Number Nine,” which is the epitome of blending modernity and tradition, with the girls singing a dramatic melody over EDM beats and with a chord progression that smartly combines tension and relief in the pre-chorus and chorus but stays neutral at the raps and breaks.

The homogeneous mix of those catchy chord progressions with sonic touches that resemble traditional roots played over electronic dancing beats helped making the sound of Korean girl groups a great representation not only of K-pop, but of Asian pop as a whole. Songs like Kara’s “Step”, Girls Generation’s “Oh” and all the aforementioned T-ara songs, were a masterful synthesis of a continent that was rising to modernity while remaining proud of their traditions. It was perfect. No wonder they all achieved so much success in China and Japan, as well as in Korea.

Contemporary K-pop girl groups’ songs rarely follow the same patterns. However, at that time, it was more than enough to win the hearts of the listeners. As the formula got worn out, and K-pop simultaneously reached larger audiences to the point of having lots of new acts fighting for the attention of the public, there was the need to reinvent their sound.

K-pop girl group music has been through more substantial changes in the last years than the music of their male counterparts, and these changes offer interesting insights on the shifts happened in global culture and society as well. K-pop did not cease to be a creative combination of tradition and modernity; however, these two factors are currently arranged through different elements in a way that says a lot about what’s going on in the world. In the next article, we will discuss the song traits of the new generation of K-pop girl groups.

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

Disproving the 7-Year Curse: The Slow, Painful Death of 2nd Generation K-Pop Girl Groups

kpop girl groups 4minite disbanding break up 2ne1

Currently, K-pop girl group fans everywhere are jamming to TWICE’s “Cheer Up,” watching MAMAMOO’s Solar on “We Got Married,” and excitedly anticipating summer comebacks from Red Velvet and GFriend. From that viewpoint, the world of K-pop girl groups looks dandy and nice, full of anticipated success and bops for days. Under the silver lining, however, lies the elephant in the room — the ever-relevant, but slowly fading Second Generation of Girl Groups.

Following in the footsteps of K-pop’s first girl groups S.E.S (SM Entertainment), Fin.K.L (DSP Media), and Jewelry (DR Music), among others, the Second Generation includes some of Kpop’s biggest and most memorable names: Girls’ Generation, f(x), 2NE1, Wonder Girls, miss A, Kara,  T-ara, SISTAR, 4MINUTE, 9M– USES, etc. And while fans rally around newer groups, these once-domineering forces in the K-pop world are beginning to fall apart. With lineup changes, member leaves, disbandments, and hiatuses (the infamous “members are going to focus on individual activities for the time being” is a statement agencies always put out when they don’t know what to do with a group) being thrown at fans left and right, we are left to make sense of the mess with whatever rationality we can gather amidst intense, fandom-wide grief. With 4MINUTE’s shocking and untimely disbandment hot on the presses right now, the question begs to be asked: Why is girl group death such a trend right now?

The truth is, there isn’t one reason — in fact, there are too many different reasons. A case-by-case analysis will show you what I’m talking about.

2ne1 7 year curse kpop girl groups

2NE1 has suffered probably every major setback a second-gen girl group can face. From 2009 to 2011, the four member girl group found incredible success — number-one hit after number-one hit, physical sales in the hundred-thousands, and even love calls from international legends like Next to Girls’ Generation, they were considered one of the unbreakable girl groups. But everything went downhill in 2012, when YG sent them off on a world tour instead of allowing them to release an album. The group then followed up with some lackluster music in 2013 (save for “Missing You,” which was, quite frankly, amazing), and another world tour after a two year delayed release of their final album as four members.

The long hiatus, without focused and sustained activities in Korea or any album releases, left fans both domestic and international impatient and frustrated. But many fans stuck around, only for things to then get worse. Park Bom was hit with her infamous drug scandal in 2014, something that YG could have handled much, much better, but instead left the group to a now even longer hiatus. Two years later, CL has been largely absent in pursuit of a solo debut in the US (with full backing and support from her Korean label as well), and Minzy has left the group entirely to move to Music Works Entertainment and focus on her studies. They’ve endured it all: (1) member leaves, (2) intense focus on only one member, (3) long hiatuses, (4) mismanagement by record label, and (5) crippling scandals. The result leaves their future incredibly unstable: Will their summer comeback, as promised by YG, ever actually happen? What does this mean for CL’s solo debut? How will fans and the public react to this three member, scandalized 2NE1? Only time, and YG’s doubtful responsibility, will tell.

Also on KultScene: The Vulgar Aesthetic of Son Dambi: Digital Perspectives in K-Pop

wonder girls seven year curse kpop girl groups

Wonder Girls, formed in the trainee complexes of JYP Entertainment, is another example of a slowly fading girl group. Wonder Girls debuted in 2007 to incredible success, with hit songs “Tell Me,” “So Hot,” and “Nobody” landing them national and international acclaim. To this day, they are the only Korean group to have charted on the American Billboard Hot 100 (“Nobody” spent a week at number 76 on the chart). But when JYP sent them overseas in pursuit of American success, they lost their momentum in Asia. A lesson to be learned: don’t send the Nation’s Girl Group to the US at their peak popularity in Korea. By the time they returned, Girls’ Generation had become the forefront of Korea’s Girl Group craze, and leader Sunye was ready to settle down, rendering the group handicapped until both she and Sohee officially left. With three members (Yubin, Yeeun, and Hyelim) plus the return of former member Sunmi, the group managed to chart well with their 2015 comeback, but achieved nothing near the popularity they once had. They’ve endured (1) mismanagement, (2) long hiatuses, and (3) member leaves. Thankfully, this group is still going, but with the way things are looking right now, fans are fearing it’s a question of “How long before they throw in the towel?” instead of “How long until their next album?” (Which was just announced, and based on their stellar return in 2015, it’s likely that we’ll be surprised.)

KARAOne of the longest-running second generation girl groups, KARA spanned the divide of the first gen and the newer acts to surpass the seven year curse. Their enthusiastic sound and styling saw hit after hit since the success of “Honey” in 2009, with “Mister,” “Lupin,” “Jumping,” and “Step” garnering them a place in K-pop history. Their success in Japan was legendary; they were the first foreign female act in thirty years to top Japan’s Oricon chart and were the first female Korean artists to hold a concert at the Tokyo Dome, beating out Girls’ Generation and BoA (both also popular in Japan) for the privilege. But their career ended earlier this year, following the release of last year’s final Korean single, “Cupid.” While nine years is nothing to scoff at, Kara is a particularly upsetting case study because they had such strong success that their collapse seems like a loss for the industry. But the end was inevitable after the group saw 1) multiple line up changes (only Park Gyuri and Han Seung Yeon remained with the group for the entirety of its career) 2) faced contract issues (in 2011 three members filed a contract termination lawsuit that was later settled) and 3) lost momentum in South Korea after focusing on Japan.

miss a 7 year curse kpop girl group

Miss A, also from the JYP camp, is suffering a much different fate. From the beginning, the group saw incredible digital sales with 2010 debut single “Bad Girl Good Girl” (one of the best-selling songs of all-time in South Korea) and quickly became a well-known name in K-pop. The problem was that both the public and their record label immediately found an obsession with Suzy, only one of the four members. With hit-or-miss songs to follow and heavy promotions for only one of the members, the group as a whole began to lose its appeal. After years of rumors discussing possible member discord (mostly centered around Suzy’s individual success), Jia left the group this year, leaving miss A’s future in the hands of “individual activities,” as JYP put it not so long ago. They’ve seen hit after hit, but miss A was clearly strained by the (1) intense focus on only one member, (2) mismanagement, and (3) member leaves.

4minute 7 year curse kpop girl groups

4MINUTE had a similar story to that of miss A, but not without some major distinctions. The five member group’s 2009 debut single “Hot Issue” is also one of South Korea’s best-selling, and the group immediately lost public attention in favor of one of its members, HyunA. With Cube fueling tons and tons of efforts into HyunA alone (she released three solo albums and became the star of a sub-unit with ex-B2ST member Hyunseung), 4MINUTE’s management was a constant controversy among fans. But two factors entirely separate 4M’s story from that of miss A — member relations and success. While miss A’s members reportedly feuded, 4MINUTE was known by the entire K-pop fandom for an incredible bond, and while some of miss A’s songs did much worse than others, 4MINUTE had a constant and incredibly impressive string of hits up until this year’s “Hate,” which served as both their last and least successful single. Ultimately, the group disbanded, leaving only HyunA to renew her contract with Cube so far, and showing to fans that the group faced (1) intense focus on only one member and (2) mismanagement before their untimely end. (Cube in general has been criticized about mismanaging their acts as of late.)

Also on KultScene: Why ‘Signal’ Beat ‘Descendants of the Sun’ For Best Drama

9muses nine muses seven year curse kpop girl groups

9M– USES is perhaps the most tragic of all of these cases, as they’ve seen considerably less success as compared to other girl groups since their 2010 debut. But it isn’t all negative — they’ve had many top 30 songs, and consistent album releases with what is objectively considered pretty good music. The group’s most constant problem has been prevalent since their debut: lineup changes. Since their debut, they’ve undergone at least three or four different lineups. While Kyungri has attained a good amount of popularity, the group’s future is entirely up in the air with two original members having left about a week ago. For what is supposed to be a group of nine, it’s interesting that it currently has six members, with eight former members and only one original member left in the group. The main reason for member leaves is supposedly Star Empire Entertainment, their agency, which is known for being harsh to its artists and trainees alike. As a result, we can clearly see this struggling second-gen group saw (1) mismanagement, (2) member leaves, and more notably, (3) a lack of mainstream success.

What’s left are the survivors: Girls’ Generation, f(x), T-ara, and SISTAR. SNSD and f(x) have been hit with their fair share of member leaves and scandals, but both show health and growth even in their 9th and 7th years, respectively (even though f(x)’s future is a little more uncertain, given Victoria’s continuing success in China, Krystal’s dating scandals, and Luna and Amber’s interest in solo works). While T-ara was battered to shreds by their bullying scandal in 2012, the group shows no sign of slowing down, and their original six member lineup remains entirely intact. In fact, the group continues to receive incredible love and interest in China, bringing them success that they no longer see in Korea and Japan. Lastly, there’s SISTAR, who seems to be the one girl group entirely unaffected by the generation shift. With all four members and a successful comeback last year, SISTAR continues to remain Korea’s number-one digital seller, and they show versatility and a continuing ability to captivate public interest in their 6th year, or at least that’s what the teasers for their upcoming comeback seem to show.

So is the five or seven (depending on what you’ve heard) year curse a reality? No, not at all. While groups seem to be falling apart after a certain amount of time, it isn’t witchcraft or some bad luck — it’s a multitude of clearly identifiable reasons. Whether it’s members feeling neglected, bad management, or even scandals, these groups are all crumbling at the same time for problems with their distinct but also notably similar situations.

So what do we do about it? Listen to our favorite songs from back in the day, cry a few times, and eventually, move on. Recognize that each girl group is unique, and each girl is facing a struggle unlike any others she’s faced. As fans, let’s respect their wishes, give them some space, and let them come back in their own way, if and when they feel ready. For all the joy they’ve given us, we owe it to them to let them bow out with grace.

What’s your take on the state of second generation girl groups? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Additional reporting by Tamar Herman. 

8 K-Pop Girl Power Anthems Pt. 3

As we’ve stated before, K-Pop songs are mostly focused on love related topics; breakups, first loves, revenge, you name it… And they’re cute and all, but sometimes they’re just not the best message for impressionable young women. That’s why we dig through the archives to compile lists of Girl Power Anthems that are empowering.

On this latest edition, the songs touch upon topics such as sex, self-confidence, friendship, and more.

1. Orange CaramelCatallena

It may be difficult to look past Catallena’s music video. And with the sushi concept, the girls dressed as mermaids, and even eating themselves at the end, who can blame you? However, the song is actually about a girl named Catallena, who is the Regina George (pre-demise) of their world in that she’s the girl everyone wants to be or have as a friend –especially this trio.

Lizzy, Nana, and Rania compliment Catallena calling her “chic and proud,” “great,” and even admitting that they have fallen for her and want to dance with her. In the song, Orange Caramel is singing about having a girl crush, which is perfectly normal. Being a hetereosexual woman, having a girl crush can be romantic, but it’s not sexual. Girl crushes are all about admiration, so while a lot of artists, in and out of K-Pop, like to focus on putting other women down in order to pull themselves up, Orange Caramel is promoting healthy relationships between women with this song.

2. GainBloom

Gain is not one to shy away from sexy concepts, but with Bloom she took it to a whole different level by talking about the O word. Yes, orgasms. You can’t get any less cliche than relating a woman’s sexual awakening with a flower blooming, but since K-Pop tends to be conservative, it’s the best metaphor in order to not be banned from promoting the song.

Even though the song’s lyrics are far coyer and making it seem romantic, the rated 19+ music video shows Gain masturbating and having sex. This means that her “wonderland” and “whole new world” is not necessarily a guy, but orgasms. Gain is a grown woman and should be singing about topics that relate to her, and sex is one of those.

Also on KultScene: 8 Reasons To Watch ‘Love Cells’


3. Sunny HillIs the White Horse Coming?

Sunny Hill is known for their social commentary songs, and Is the White Horse Coming? is no different. The lyrics talk about having your life under society’s scrutiny when it comes to dating, and how you shouldn’t lead your life seeing yourself and potential suitors as pieces of meat. It criticizes society’s vanity and encourages people to cut the bs and just be themselves. With this song, the girls deliver probably the most positive song in K-Pop by saying,

Stop being self-conscious toward others, this isn’t some show
Stop looking for something to display, come on
Stop crying because you’re lonely, stop looking far away
Just look near you, come on

4. Lee HyoriChitty Chitty Bang Bang

KultScene has featured Lee Hyori on this list’s first and second editions because she epitomizes the strong female artist image. But this time, it’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that made the cut for being an anthem for independent women. Despite the title being, well, odd and irrelevant, the lyrics are actually about a boss lady in control of her life and work and being proud about what she achieved on her own. If that doesn’t scream “girl power,” I don’t know what does…

5. miss AMa Style

miss A is another regular in our girl power lists, and now we bring you Ma Style. This song talks about meeting a guy —sans specs, six pack, and playboys– who is just their style and being bold enough to voice that to them. While the K-Pop and K-Drama industries generally portray women as passive and not as assertive when it comes to having a crush, it’s refreshing that there is one group –miss A –that is all about being strong women who know what they want and how to get it.

6. Wonder Girls – G.N.O 

G.N.O stands for “girls’ night out,” so this song by the Wonder Girls is exactly that; a party song about hitting the town with your friends wearing high heels and tight dresses. It’s an upbeat and fun jam that celebrates friendship and letting loose. In the lyrics, they mention leaving their “boo” back home in order to go out with their girlfriends, perfectly portraying how you should put your friends before your significant other.

7. 2NE1Pretty Boy

On Pretty Boy, 2NE1 puts a guy on blast for being vain and all talk and no action. It criticizes “pretty boys” who think they can get by with their looks only with girls, rather than personality and character. 2NE1 flipped the situation, since women normally have these prejudices held against them, and put the spotlight on those men out there who are all about appearances and no heart. They these type of guys,

Hey pretty boy, you’re lacking something
You don’t have any charm, you’re just pretty
Hey pretty boy, put some effort into it
More like a man, more with personality
Ch-ch-ch-change yourself

You’re too P.R.E.T.T.Y
Don’t just rely on your pretty face to steal a girl’s heart
You’re not for me, I’m not for you

The song does come off pretty strong, but given it’s a hip hop track, the disses are understandable.

Also on KultScene: 5 Reasons To Attend VIXX’s Chicago & NYC Concerts


8. Brown Eyed GirlsGlam Girl

Brown Eyed Girls are also a group of women who follow the sexy concept but always push the “strong woman” image. Their music videos and performances exude confidence, but with Glam Girl, it’s all about self confidence. Taking the “glam” in its actual definition, the girls sing about them being fashionable and fierce and super hot. If you look past all the superficial aspects of the track, the message is actually about being comfortable and confident in one’s skin. Hey, if you don’t think you’re “G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S” yourself, who will? But being a Glam Girl doesn’t just apply to them. Brown Eyed Girls tell listeners that they can be one too if they truly believe it.

What’s you favorite song from the list? Let us know, 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.

[Renders: MinHoonie, Sellscarol, THYNPH, classicluv]

8 K-Pop Girl Power Anthems Pt. 2

Despite them being scarce, K-Pop girl power anthems do exist. Their messages are often hidden between break-up or self-empowerment lyrics. However, there are a few that convey the message a little more explicitly.

As previously said in the first installment of K-Pop girl power anthems, some female groups have songs about being confident, loving yourself, and friendship. Here are another eight songs talking about just that:

1. miss A – I Don’t Need a Man
miss A took the Destiny’s Child Independent Women pt. II path (even named their album that) by delivering an anthem that states that women are perfectly capable of taking care and responsibility of themselves because they don’t need a guy for that.

Moreover, the girls call out the boy for saying he’ll take care of and cherish them. Ha! These strong, confident women don’t need anyone’s protection or money because they can hold their own. The song “overflows with confidence,” and has a positive message that tells women to be self-sufficient and proud of it.

2. Lee Hyori – U-Go-Girl
This fun song by the queen of sexy K-Pop is all about celebrating and encouraging being yourself. It tells girls not to be burdened with society’s expectations of women, to just enjoy the moment, and be themselves. What to wear? How should you style your hair? Does the guy like you? Lee Hyori says not to worry about all that, let go, and have fun.

3. SPICA – I Did It
Despite this song being in English for SPICA’s American debut, it’s undisputably K-Pop. Furthermore, it has to be the girl power anthem ever in the genre. Seriously, what other song says they’re going to get turned up all night without any other guys and just kicking it with their girlfriends just because that’s how they like it? Definitely not one from A Pink… The best part of the song is the title and the chorus’ ending:

I did it, yes I did it. I did it for me.

Not for a guy, not for their parents, but they “set [themselves’] free” only for themselves. If that’s not girl power, I don’t know what it is.

4. 4minute – Whatcha Doin’ Today?
This track is all about friendship, asking their girlfriends what they’re doing later so they can meet up. The lyrics talk about being free and doing whatever you want since every day life can be boring sometimes. The girls also suggest to “stop prettying yourself and enjoy life;” you can go out, meet boys, watch a movie, gossip, party or whatever. The point is to have fun and be together.

5. Lim Kim – All Right
Not all breakup songs are about heartache and despair. Truth is, the best breakup songs are the ones that acknowledge pain, but also the fact that they’ll be All Right. Lim Kim does exactly that with this song, saying that despite her ex being gone, being alone, and thinking about him at night, she’s ok.

6. 2NE1 – I’m Busy
I’m Busy could be interpreted as 2NE1 being mean towards a guy, but if you really look into the lyrics, you’ll see this is clearly a guy who won’t take no for an answer, and that’s harassment. The girls repeatedly tell the boy to leave them alone because they’re not interested. It takes guts to say that to a guy instead of making up excuses like “I have a boyfriend.”

Since the 2NE1 ladies are strong and fierce, they deliver an equally strong and fierce song that’s misinterpreted as cocky, but it really is just girls taking matters into their own hands.

7. Sistar – Touch My Body
While the song’s verses contain cute, romantic scenarios with, let’s assume, their boyfriend, make no mistake; Touch My Body is a sexual song. Touching hands won’t “feel like paradise.” Besides, what should you go faster, little by little, for? Yep, Sistar went there.

A strong, empowered woman is in control of her sexuality, and won’t think twice to say what she wants and how she wants it, and that’s what Touch My Body is all about. Moreover, the girls all look great in their outfits and dancing that sexy choreography, proving their comfortable in their own skin.

8. Ga In – Truth or Dare
Speaking of sexy, Ga In delivers a song about not being fazed with rumors her ex is spreading about her. She’s confident and doesn’t let what others say get to her, because she’s perfectly aware of her worth. Enough said!

What’s your favorite girl power anthem? Be sure to share it with us and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

8 K-Pop Girl Power Anthems

K-Pop’s filled with love and break-up tracks that we enjoy, but what about girl power anthems that make you feel empowered for being a woman? Not all girl groups’ songs revolve around boys all the time. Some female artists have great lyrics about being confident, sticking up for yourself, go about getting what you want, and friendship. Here’s a list of eight songs that cover those subjects:


K-Pop’s Queen of Sexy Pop begins the list with “Bad Girls,” a song that teaches you what a bad girl is and how she acts. It’s all about being confident as a woman and letting the world know why and just how bad you really are. You’re sexy? That’s great. You like to get your hair and makeup done? That’s fine too. You’re determined and strong? Yep, definitely a bad girl by Hyori’s standards.


Following Hyori’s mantra, CL reinforces the “being your fierce self” concept with her first solo song. Like her bad predecessor, 2NE1’s leader sings about embracing your ability to be a strong woman. Yes, “Baddest Female” might seem like a vain manifesto to some, but if you look past the “I am,” you’ll see that she acknowledges her worth and is confident in herself enough to flaunt it. This is the perfect anthem for all the grown women, as Beyonce would put it, out there.


Miss A delivered a strong anthem for all the women who have been slut-shamed by a guy before with their debut song. The track calls out the ex-boyfriend for enjoying the girl’s freeness, let’s say, when they were together, but then talked ill of her when they broke up – the classic trope many of us go through after a break-up. “Bad Girl, Good Girl” says that there’s nothing wrong with being confident, forward, and sexy, and that what’s actually wrong is men’s hypocrisy.


This song might not be a single, but it’s definitely one of f(x)’s most meaningful songs. “Toy” talks about not letting men mistreat you, not needing a man in order to live, and being your bright self. The concept is definitely a more mature one than what we regularly see from this group; I hope they continue this path in the future.


Orange Caramel consistently delivers cutesy and weird style concepts, but “Lipstick” is a perfect example of being a go-getter. You know, a girl who doesn’t feel the need to act shy and is confident enough to pursue any man she likes. The song is the boy crazy type, but since it talks about going up to a boy and kissing him and tells him to stop playing hard to get, it’s inevitable to recognize the guts behind a woman who would do this. The girls seem coyer in the music video than what the lyrics say, but it makes the list nevertheless.


Similarly to “Lipstick,” “Female President” is also a boy crazy song where the girl asks the guy what’s wrong with them being forward, I mean, they do have a female president in South Korea, so what’s the fuss? This song brings up the topic of it being modern times, and tries to normalize girls who seek out men and don’t just wait around to be pursued. Furthermore, in contrast with Orange Caramel, Girl’s Day did deliver a sexy music video, even if member Yura got in trouble with netizens for her nude colored dress.


“I Like That” is a breakup song, but that doesn’t mean it’s full of bitterness and spite. No, this track talks about being ok with and actually liking doing couple things by themselves. The girls sing about going to eat BBQ for two, singing karaoke, getting home when drunk, etc. all by themselves. It’s a great song because it addresses a woman’s ability to be independent without having to be rescued by men.


While this might be in Japanese, it doesn’t minimize South Korea’s most successful girl group’s message of the fun and happiness of being a girl. Moreover, the music video is a big party with lots of fans and drag queens at an amusement park.

Do you know of another girl power anthem? Share it with us on the comments section!  Don’t forget to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.