K-pop Unmuted: The best of the decade part 1

On Episode 47 of Kultscene’s K-pop Unmuted, Joe, Scott, Stephen, and Tamar look back on the last decade of Kpop. In the first of two episodes, we discuss our personal Kpop journeys over the last ten years, we pick our Artist of the Decade, and we list our picks for Top Five Music Videos of the Decade.

You can also listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Spotify, SoundcloudGoogle Play Music, and the Apple store.

You too can be a k-pop producer thanks to Makestar [Interview]

makestar interviewEvery minute nowadays there’s a new service disrupting one industry or another. For the hospitality industry, it was Airbnb. For the taxi industry, it was apps like Uber and Gett. And for K-pop, it’s Makestar. The crowdfunding service is about a year old, but has already started to shake up the Korean entertainment industry.

Through a variety of fund-raising campaigns, running the gamut between things like photobooks for well-known acts to funding the debuts of rookie K-pop idol groups, Makestar has been giving the less-well-funded Korean acts a chance. K-pop acts like Crayon Pop, 24K, Nine Muses, Astro, and the recently-departed Rainbow have benefited from Makestar’s unique approach to connect, both financially and on a personal level, Korean stars with their fans. By having fans pledge funds ahead of production of an album or special project, Makestar is helping Korean entertainment companies ensure that there’s an audience for their production. And a profit.

According to Brian Kim, Makestar’s chief product officer, the company’s goal isn’t simply to fund K-pop projects, but actually better the K-pop industry. Makestar’s not just about K-pop, but it is the company’s main forum of business right now. They have also featured a handful fundraising campaigns on the site for films and musicals, but the majority of their current projects are geared towards music fans.

Also on KultScene: From ‘Genie’ to ‘Wolf’: Dsign Music believes the future of music begins with K-pop [INTERVIEW]

“We’re really focused on what the fans want,” Kim told KultScene over the phone, explaining that a lot of his job revolves around communicating with the pledgers. “We’re trying to make new opportunities for fans to have their voices heard a little bit more by the industry. I guess that’s the foundation where we started.”

Foundation or not, Makestar is definitely helping fans — particularly international K-pop fans — get their voices heard. Kim’s most notable example was a recent interview with Stellar that an Australian fan got to MC, which featured questions the fan had gathered from Stellar fans from around the globe. Practically unheard of in the K-pop world, the interview was part of a fundraising campaign for Stellar that featured fans spreading the word about both Stellar and the Makestar project. According to Kim, Stellar’s willingness to try new things with Makestar has helped the crowdfunding platform grow.

“Because of Stellar’s projects we’ve tried new things, like mashing up the fans dancing with Stellar’s music video and having it officially sanctioned and so on, to even basic things like Ask Me Anything kind of thing,” explained Kim. “We’ve tried new things where fans get to feel closer with them and [Stellar] have been very receptive.” Kim also added that the other Korean management companies have been more receptive of Makestar’s suggestions on whatever project they’re pursuing through the site as a result of Stellar’s example.

Even KultScene’s staff got on board: Joe showed off his production cred on Twitter earlier this year.


Convincing Korean entertainment agencies to try out Makestar wasn’t the easiest thing at the beginning, despite Makestar coming with powerful backing. The CEO, Kim Jae Myun, was a co-founder of FNC Entertainment. “He was the one who created CNBLUE and FTISLAND,” Kim interjected. Nearly a decade after FNC’s founding, Kim created Makestar to see if mass fundraising would work in Korea’s rigid entertainment environment. At first Makestar met with little success, but as the company started seeing success with their campaigns, entertainment companies started approaching the service about setting up their acts with a fundraising project.

Makestar’s success relies on the popularity of K-pop, and the relative small market that Korea’s estimated 300 entertainment agencies have to partake in. “Before Makestar, it was kind of understood, you know, ‘we just don’t have the funds, we don’t have the resources, that’s not the way it works.’” Single after single was the only way many small Korean agencies felt they could promote their act, hoping for a hit to compete with the bigger acts.

“A-listers will always be A-listers. They’ll always have concerts, big events, and their albums will do well. The name value itself will carry,” Kim explained, mentioning some of Korea’s largest entertainment companies like SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment. “One way we discovered [potential] disruption was [by asking], ‘Is this the only way?’ If funds are a problem, crowdfunding can kind of solve that. If getting word out is a problem, the project can help with the premarketing and marketing, and we’re getting into postmarketing.”

Also on KultScene: This is the hardest K-pop quiz ever

International fans are very different than Korean fans, which Kim and Makestar are very conscious of when creating their campaigns. Boy bands will typically garner pledges primarily from middle-aged Japanese women, but well-known acts internationally, like Crayon Pop, will see about a third of their funding coming from the US and other English-language markets. Makestar’s services are offered in English, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, but they want to make it even more internationally focused. “American fans are very different from French fans because Americans and French people are very different,” said Kim. “What we’re trying to do now is involve fans in what we’re doing at Makestar, whether it be suggestions, whether it be engineering a project. So if you like BTS and you’d like BTS to run a project at Makestar, what would you think as a fan would be a really good project to run? We’d really like to start crowdsourcing those ideas as well because at the end of the day who knows better than the fans?”

Through a variety of campaigns and offering different rewards, ranging from production credit to meeting and spending a day with K-pop stars, Makestar guides the fundraising efforts of K-pop acts. Kim reassured KultScene that it was Makestar acting as a consulting service, not Makestar acting as a secondary managing company. “At the end of the day, the management companies have the final say as to how the project proceeds. Sometimes it comes out pretty much as we expected, but other times, because of some additions that the management company has made on a whim, basically, made based on nothing, we do tend to have burps here or there.”

While there may be slight issues Makestar seems to have figured out a way to ensure that campaigns succeed and they’ve had few failures recently, although a high profile campaign for Xia Junsu failed last December when it came about $300,00 short of its $838,000 goal. Garnering more than two times the goal isn’t uncommon: Stellar’s “Sting” album production project was funded more than 500 percent times the initial goal of $10,068.97, and brought in more than $53,000. The projects range varies, with smaller ones aiming for around $10,000 and larger ones by more popular acts, like Astro and Rainbow, angling closer to $30,000. Makestar recently saw its first crowdfunded debut from Momoland, who raised a little over $12,000.

What’s next for Makestar? Not concerts, said Kim. “We do have plans for concerts, but we do really want to make them special. We don’t want it to be just about money, money, money for [the stars] and the management company, because if that happens, we know that it’s not going to be a special occasion [for the fans], other than the concert. So we’ve been racking our brains about creating a project style where the stars can visit different corners of the world and have that special connection with the fans. We’re holding off on that.”

What do you think of Makestar and their campaigns? Reach out to them via email if you have any ideas about campaigns! And share your thoughts about this article, and K-pop fundraising, 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.

Weekly K-Pop Faves: July 18-24

Weekly K-Pop Faves

Summer’s well underway and K-pop took a bit of a vacation over the past week. While we’ve recently received an onslaught of new releases, the middle of July lagged a tiny bit. Our writers highlighting songs by the likes of Hello Venus, Amoeba Culture artists, Stellar, and f(x) in our weekly column. Look at all those girl groups!

Take a listen and comment at the bottom of this page to let us know what song you like the most from the past week!

“Paradise” by Hello Venus (Released July 18)

To few people’s attention, the girls of Hello Venus released the song of the summer this week. Produced by team Devine Channel, “Paradise” is a tropical doo-wop track made for days on the beach. Its music is lowkey with sporadic guitar licks and bursts of brass. “Paradise” really beckons with its vocals however. There’s a great range and assurance of voice on display. New girls Yeoreum and Seoyoung open brilliantly with a cheeky rap and an enticing vocal respectively. The rest of the girls go on to show their own takes on similar styles all while adding a new hook of their own. Throughout the day I could get any part of this song stuck in my head and be more than happy. It’s a perfectly pitched summer track made for only a digital release.

— Joe

“highfiVe” by Dynamic Duo, Primary, Boi B, Crush (Released July 21)

After a string of disappointing songs released this summer, Amoeba Culture artists came to the rescue. Dynamic Duo, Primary, Boi B, and Crush teamed up and put their amazing chemistry to good use to come out with “highfiVe”. It makes you want to grab a drink and dance the night away in an outdoor bar or club — and not only because it’s an ad for the Korean beer Cass. Seriously, how can you go wrong with Crush’s buttery vocals, Dynamic Duo and Boi B’s fiery verses, and Primary’s hyped up beats? It might not be anything groundbreaking, but it’s a fun track. And given the spot for summer anthem has yet to be grabbed, I’ll take it.

— Alexis

“All Mine” by f(x) (Released July 22)

f(x) is back! Well, kind of. This past week, f(x) unleashed this single as the next installment of SM Entertainment’s weekly STATION project. The EDM banger is produced by LDN NOISE, some of K-pop’s more well-known EDM producers. With a memorable melody, the song is matched with an equally cute music video, which shows the four members singing along to the song at various parts of an SMTOWN concert venue. And while they aren’t promoting it on music shows, the song is actually doing amazingly well on the charts (unlike most other SM STATION releases this year). It’s nice to see f(x) together releasing a song, especially considering that the group has been under a lot of speculation in regards to disbandment. Whether the members renew their contracts or not (and it’s likely that they will), it’s great to have this song to get us through the remainder of the summer.

— Kushal

”Crying” by Stellar (Released July 18)

While I’ll let Joe and Kushal be called our resident girl group experts, I was intrigued by Stellar’s latest release for the sole reason that it was giving me major 2010 K-pop feels. While an extremely different song, producer Brave Brothers utilized similar synth chords and autotuning on both “Crying” and NS Yoon-G’s “Just Dance” of that year. Since I’m obsessed with NS Yoon-G and think she’s been robbed of her career, I played “Crying” and “Just Dance” alongside one another for about a half hour before I realized it was the mellow dance pop sound of both songs that really drew me in as a listener. This is clearly a 2016 take on what Brave Brothers has done best for much of his career, but I felt like it wasn’t a far enough step to give Stellar the leap they need to propel themselves to the height of popularity. Sweet and soft is fine, but please bring back Stellar’s biting unique sound and style for their next release!

— Tamar

Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us onFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Female K-Pop Acts Taking On Sexism

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

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


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

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

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

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

2. IU

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

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

3. Stellar

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

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

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

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

4. Sunny Hill

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

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

5. Yezi

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

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

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

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

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

Stellar’s ‘Sting’ Music Video & Song Review

Stellar Sting

At what stage do we stop considering pop groups as lesser artists and allow them to be considered amongst the pantheon of great modern artists? The distinction between pop and art consistently clouds how we consider pop acts in a critical vein. This means that the possibility of truly great pop groups does not really exist they can only be appreciated on certain terms, as fun, wacky, maybe good to sing along to. Pop music isn’t given a chance to subvert itself because it isn’t given proper time within criticism.

Now I’m not saying that Stellar are to be considered one of the great musical acts of our generation. I am saying that if we consider any K-pop act as high art, that it should be Stellar. Their consistency in vision and sound is unparalleled right now. It shows no sign of stopping either, as their latest single “Sting” brings them back to the forefront of what being a sexy girl group means.


The rumors that Stellar were coming back with an innocent concept were quickly (and thankfully) squashed when the first teaser photos were revealed. Maybe their company meant the song would be more innocent-sounding as there is more of an argument to be made with regards to the sound of “Sting” being toned down. Even then, though, that’s quite a surface level reading as there is a lot going on here that could hardly be seen as innocent.

At its simplest “Sting” is a pop song through and through. The amount of different sounds used to build it are what make it so interesting. The main synth riff is bouncy and light. It’s immediately fun and enticing. To say it is the main riff isn’t entirely accurate though. The song jumps from a simple bass groove and guitar verse to a completely electronic chorus helped by a transition from a wailing synth. If you listen to any point of this song there is nearly always something new going on from the “Vibrato” like electro screams to the funkiest guitars. It all comes together because of the more subdued production. By making the song laid back each element can come and go as it pleases without disturbing the flow.

This combines with the vocals and lyrics to create an inquisitive mood. The musical tones blend together well while still being somewhat disparate. They lead to a chorus that directly asks questions of a lover (or listener?). Stellar continue using each members vocal for individual parts of the song. Swapping rapping and singing duties is something that Stellar usually does, but here it’s a bit more nuanced. Instead of just reversing the order in which they sing, they come in and out with smaller spurts. Where Joonyul raps the small pre-chorus part in the first verse, Hyoeun delicately whispers it in the second. Best of all Gayoung has found a sound that best fits her voice, a sort of playful conversational rap.

Also on KultScene: The Stellar Trilogy: Slut-Shaming & Double Standards

These conversations she’s having are with a boyfriend who seems to be tired of their relationship. The lyrics themselves are more accusatory than that simple story though. References to finger tips, being a defendant, and a guilty conscience conjure up images of netizens and Stellar’s reaction to them. Similar to their last four songs, Stellar are examining the things that female idols go through when releasing a song that has anything sexy about it. This time they are saying that the ones who criticize them the most are the truly pitiful ones. “Judge as you wish” they say, inviting those to make their ignorant judgements about who these women are. “Your fingertips can’t do anything” they warn as netizens rush as fast as they can to their computers to thrash Stellar for their skimpy outfits. After controversies like that of IU last year. (where were those haters when PSY’s video for “Daddy” came out?) this is a story that needs to be told. Unfortunately coming from Stellar it is not likely to be heard and if it is few would give it more than a passing listen.

Most interesting of all is the repeated “Judas Kiss or what?” line. The Judas kiss, of course, being the signal that Judas gave to the Romans to single out Jesus in order for them to arrest him. In this case, we can see it as a betrayal of the boyfriend who kisses his girlfriend but clearly feels nothing. In the context of the netizen, though, it is criticizing their constant state of having their cake and eating it too. They insult these girls for being sluts but will be the first in line to slobber at them when a new video comes out.

Music Video

For Stellar it is the video where it all comes together. They team up once again with Digipedi, a production team from Seoul responsible for many of the best K-pop videos of recent years. Their speciality is imbuing regular dance videos with images and symbols that build on what the song was already trying to say, like “Vibrato” or Fiestar’s “One More”. The visual comparisons are clear too, they use a lot of boxed frames, fetishistically singling out certain body parts for inspection. It threads a thin line between completely fetishizing and empowering the women of the video. Given the subject matter of Stellar’s songs-the male gaze- it works to do both by allowing them to express themselves while also criticizing how they are looked at. Hence the many mirrors and magazine within the video.

Also on KultScene: 11 Korean Idols Who Overcame Hardships

The prevalence of computer mouse icons in the video work to reinforce the ideas from before: The sting of the song comes from these pointy symbols and the nasty things they can do. They stick to the girls seemingly impossible to remove, much like the constant clicking of netizens.

The photo of Clark Gable is a lot more ambiguous. Maybe serving as a reminder of what these girls are apparently supposed to be striving for, the perfect man. Gable was considered the manliest of men in his time, and Life magazine called him “All man… and then some.”

Similar to “Vibrato,” the video opens up around the two minute mark. Digipedi’s boxed frames drop away as Stellar embrace the full screen with a fierce catwalk run. The mouse icon’s finally begin to peel off. Minhee and Gayoung move directly towards the camera looking right down the lens. Minhee considers herself in a mirror. Gayoung stares and asks, “Are you tired of me?”

Well, are you?


“Sting” is just one of many reasons I think Stellar deserve to be recognized for their artistic merit. Not only are all of their singles since “Study” great, each of them is unique. Even better they are taking issue with societal norms of the day, asking you to consider how you consume female entertainers. Release after release, they are creating great music with something to say.

So maybe you buy into everything I’m writing or maybe you don’t. What’s really important is that we can consider pop music like this. “Sting” is a great place to start. Marrying form and theme while still being an incredibly fun pop song.


What do you think of “Sting”?” 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.

Stellar’s ”Vibrato” Music Video and Song Review

Stellar 'Vibrato'
The summer moment we’ve (or maybe just me) been waiting for has finally arrived. The queens of meta sexiness Stellar have returned with their most brazenly sexual single yet. ‘‘Vibrato(r)’’ is their seventh single since 2011, and the fourth in their sexy catalogue. What’s interesting about this catalogue is the connectivity of each of the songs and how aware Stellar are of the negativity they face when it comes to sexy concepts. With their latest single, they show no signs of stopping.


Taking a Stellar song out of context by removing the music video is an interesting and essential thing to do when considering its qualities. Their music videos are so loaded with suggestive imagery that the song can sometimes get lost in the mix. That would be a total shame as each of their four most recent songs, including ‘‘Vibrato’’, have been incredible. For ‘‘Vibrato’’ they have gone for a lot more energy and dance pop elements than earlier songs, which seem to convey a celebration of the themes their songs contain.

‘‘Vibrato’’ contains a huge amount of different sounds pulled into one funky, disco pop anthem. Synths pop, strings whirl, pianos sing, and horns blare. Each instrument comes and goes in fleeting moments holding the song on its edge at all times. These are held together by a super smooth rhythm section of guitar, bass, and drums. The song has a great mix of electronic and acoustic sounds that combined help it keep from straying too far into retro territory. At the same time, they rhythm section grounds “Vibrato” well so that it can still capture a fun, disco feel.

 Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: K-Pop Point Dances

Structurally, the opening two minutes follow a familiar formula of verses and choruses. Stellar, due to their small size, can do this in an interesting way though. For most of their singles they effectively split verses into two parts assigning two members to each part. In the first verse of ‘‘Vibrato,’’ Hyoeun and Minhee sing the first half and Gayoung and Jeonyul rap the second part. It’s a simple way of keeping things interesting.

Those opening two minutes are great, but would have been generic by themselves. So we are lucky that the song explodes into life just moments after the two minute mark. First the song takes some downtime with a slow, suggestive build up over an image of a handbag opening. It doesn’t quite take off yet right after this but keeps the tempo down with a piano led bridge. Cue some more vaginal imagery and the song finally reaches its climax. It is literally and figuratively orgasmic. The song turns euphoric with Hyoeun’s high pitched wail which signals the return of the synths. Its an incredible moment that matches form and theme to perfection. A commitment to sex like no other K-pop group could do.

Music Video

This is where the music video also comes into play. It adds the final layer that makes ‘‘Vibrato’’ a 2015 classic already. The self-awareness on show is paramount to Stellar’s success when it comes to sexy concepts. Like EXID before them, Stellar were hurt by comments made about them from previous singles.

 Also on KultScene: Fiestar & Sex in K-Pop

Each of the members are put in compromising positions that allow them to be looked at, objectified. They are trapped within glass boxes as camera flashes go off all around them. Images of Barbie dolls come up on televisions. Stellar were made to feel uncomfortable by the press and general public, based on their previous concepts and lack of hits. Their bodies are under intense scrutiny within mirrored halls where they wear their outfits from the ‘‘Marionette’’ video. This may seem like Stellar were angry with their company and ready to apologize to the public.

But this is not an apology.

This is a celebration of female sexuality. Halfway through the video, the dolls are thrown away, the boxes the members are in get bigger. The choreography gives them space to dance as they wish. Eventually they begin to thrive on the sexiness. They are mature women who are aware that they are being shamed for expressing themselves and have had enough of the negativity. This is who they are and they love it. When the video arrives at the two minute turn it returns the sexy concept to where it belongs: sex. We are reminded of what this is really about. Vaginal imagery is suddenly everywhere. From here on in there are no images of the girls looking uncomfortable. They love their bodies and their sexuality.


Stellar have done it again. No other K-pop group is releasing music with such a subtextual edge while still being incredibly confrontational. Stellar are so necessary to today’s K-pop climate where girl groups are constantly shamed for being sexy yet it is at the same time all the public wants. It’s okay that they want it they just need to come to terms with the reality of it and allow a balance between how boy groups and girl groups are received. Stellar are fighting for this and yet I know they probably won’t change a thing. People won’t respond to the intricacies of what they are doing.

Apart from the thematic level, Stellar also delivered a stunning song. The dance pop sound fits them like a g-string. It allows them to move into celebratory territory and slams home their theme. This is what really makes them stand out, matching a song’s sound and structure to theme allows it to have a bigger impact and shows that what they are saying is no accident. If we take all that into the account the climax of ‘‘Vibrato’’ will be one of the great musical moments of K-pop in 2015.

Stellar 'Vibrato'

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The Stellar Trilogy: Slut-Shaming & Double Standards

Stellar have gone through quite a few transformations since their debut in 2011, more so than most groups. In fact, this girl group seems to be trying everything they can in order to make it big. Stellar have seen multiple concepts, ranging from sci-fi, cutesy, studious, and sexy. The group’s foray into sexy concepts, which is not completely gone with their latest comeback, was their most successful as of yet. It has also been by far the most interesting of their concepts, with the trio of songs Marionette, Mask and, their latest, Fool, all of which have given a glimpse into the relationship between sexy K-pop idols and the adoring public. Through meta-textual lyrics, abrasive sexual imagery, and eventual confrontation, Stellar have chronicled the difficulties of being a female idol today. What they have failed to think about or consider though, is the fact that they are not the most sexualized women in media or entertainment, instead, it might very well be women that can star on HD Porn Video and other adult entertainment sites.

Released in February 2014, Marionette was not only Stellar’s most successful song to date but also their first to have any sort of cultural relevance. Their singles prior to this were little more than generic europop tracks, common among struggling young K-pop girl groups. Marionette looked like it would be an uninteresting release, with questionable marketing methods and what could have been just another sexy concept. Once it dropped, the difference was immediately noticeable.

The first thing you notice is that while Marionette at first appears sexy, Stellar does not appear all that appealing in the video. The girls’ skinny bodies move around like the puppets and they sing about and wear strange, flimsy leotards. They seem to be inviting objectification and the outrage that comes with it. The lyrics only help to solidify this reading. They sing of a self loathing doll being controlled by a vindictive lover.

When you touch me, I accept it. Tell me, am I a joke to you?

This can be seen as a metaphor for female idols who are forced or resort to taking off more clothes for recognition. They are then shamed by this same public for doing so, despite this being what they all want. The media of today in many countries and not just South Korea is very overtly sexualized, and the internet is a very dark and sexual place, hosting many an adult content site like videoshd, for many – females then link success to sexual exploitation.

Stellar have taken on the sexy concept and attacked it from within. Of course, the reaction was exactly like the women sang about. It was the group’s most successful song and reached the 35th spot on Korea’s Gaon chart, but Marionette met with criticism for its overtly sexy video and dance. The dance was censored on Korean music shows and eventually faded into the past. The Korean public had their cake, a scandalous song and dance, and ate it too.

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