Archive for the ‘K-Pop’ Category

The Best and Worst Decisions in K-Pop

Day three and we move back into the K-Pop sphere with an article written by one third of the K-Pop dance cover group ZISSPop (check them out on YouTube) who also happens to be my sister.

Also, a quick note: Unfortunately tomorrow I won’t have the means to post anything, so Guest Week will technically go on one day longer this time around.

—Written by Krispy—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

Hello, all. I am Krispy, sibling of Vagrantesque. Some of you may know me from ‘ZISSpop’, my K-Pop dance cover group. I have a special interest in both dance and Korean culture, so K-Pop is sort of my forte, given that it includes a generous portion of both. The following article details what – in my opinion – have been some of the best and worst decisions in the Korean Pop Music genre thus far. This includes relevant factors such as fashion, music taste, choreography, skill and group dynamic; not just music. If you know nothing about K-Pop, you probably won’t really know what I’m talking about, but feel free to give it a read anyway.

OK, what?

I tried to choose and rank these objectively (which meant getting rid of all my bias’ and fan-girl conceived opinions). The result was quite a lengthy and detailed analysis of various components within K-Pop. If you do not agree, I hope that you can at least enjoy!

– – – KRISPY DISCLAIMER – – –
The following article represents my opinion only. I am not trying to say that my opinion is the way to go, nor am I trying to claim that mine is the only one that matters, nor that I am the best. Although a lot of the following information is factual, my opinion is not fact. I do welcome your opinions, but please don’t bully me. Ty.

 

The Seven Worst decisions

 

7. Doing a second ‘Growl’ clip.

A collection of EXO’s close ups in the 2nd video for ‘Growl’.

Look, do I want to be that guy who complains about seeing extra EXO footage? No. But it just seems to me that SM’s second rendition of EXO’s Growl was a touch unnecessary. The first video had already gone viral because of how unique it was, with its smooth camera work, its complex choreography and the fact that it was (supposedly) all filmed in one single take. So why would you divert people from that? (Inb4 ‘fan-service’ and ‘for the money’). Don’t get me wrong, I love EXO as much as the next guy (probably a little more than the next guy), but to me they just take the simple first video and jazz it up, add some special effects, put a little more makeup on the blokes and force them to repeat the choreo in front of a snazzy background (and without the 360 degree camera action that made the first video unforgettable!) Call me old fashioned, but I am just a fan of some good dancing, and EXO showed a new level of skill in that first Growl clip that will set them apart from other K-Pop groups for the foreseeable future (even if only for that shot of Kai dropping his hat and then swiftly picking it up and stepping back into the choreo without blinking an eye).

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Best of 2013: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

Bestof13_light

That’s right, this is here now, which means two things:

  1. I listened to enough K-Pop albums, and saw enough merit in them, in 2013 to be able to make this list; and
  2. I really didn’t buy nearly enough English-language music this year to do any sort of countdown relating to it.

If listening to K-Pop is a bit of a niche pursuit in these parts of the world, which it certainly is, then indulging in K-Pop albums is like a niche within a niche. Unfortunately many K-Pop fans never go beyond watching the MVs that, to be fair, kind of define their industry, and they don’t see any reason to do so. Typically K-Pop albums can be shallow efforts to fill a track quota and make more money off the hype surrounding a single title track. My efforts to explore the extensive back catalogue of K-Pop albums in 2012 revealed as much, with some exceptions of course. Something changed in 2013, though. The general standard of albums I looked into this year seems to have raised, for reasons I won’t speculate on. I’m cool with it, though. Particularly noticeable was the output of SM Entertainment, previously one of the absolute worst offenders in this area. They released “full albums”, as opposed to the far more common and easy to release “mini-albums”, for pretty much every major group in their stable in 2013. Most of them were quite good to boot. As the number one record label in K-Pop, I would be surprised if this didn’t influence some of the other companies in some way to put more effort and creativity into their album writing.

Because they have fundamentally different structures, this countdown is actually divided into two top fives: one for mini-albums and one for full albums. An album counts as “full” for the purposes of this list if it has eight tracks or more.

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VR BEST OF 2013 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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MINI ALBUMS
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5. A’s Doll House – Ailee

Korean-American YouTube singer turned K-Pop star Ailee has one of the most powerful voices in the current industry landscape and she puts her pipes to work in her second Mini-Album A Doll’s House, which manages to trump her debut 2012 effort Invitation despite only featuring one title track (Invitation had two good ones). Said title track, bombastic big band song U&I, is a perfect high-energy opener to the album, before songs like No No No, Scandal and final track I’ll Be OK showcase her mid-tempo proficiency. How Can This Be is an enjoyable 3/4 ballad, but the highlight of the album is unquestionably Rainy Day (audio below) which builds well and lets Ailee hit plenty of vocal heights. As an article on seoulbeats.com so astutely pointed out this year, the song sounds even better with the site Rainy Mood open in another tab.


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Best of 2013: Top 15 K-Pop Singles

Bestof13_light

2013, much like any other year, saw an insane amount of movement in the Korean popular music industry. Its lightning-fast trends and short attention span continued to make the rest of the music world seem like it was moving at a snail’s pace, and while the obscene rate of new groups debuting in 2012 slowed considerably this year, there was still a constant stream of new material to ensure boredom was near-impossible. While I didn’t quite follow the industry as comprehensively as I did in 2012, and despite some stretches of time without any remarkable releases, the sheer volume of music on offer meant that I sat down to chisel this countdown out of a shortlist of no less than 39 tracks. I honestly struggled to keep the honorable mentions at just ten.

Just like last year, this list is devoted to “K-Pop Singles” only (they’re technically “title tracks”, but no need to confuse things too much). No album-only tracks, or ‘B-sides’, if you will, or else we would be here for a while. This year there will be a list dedicated to K-Pop albums anyway. Once again, I’ve ignored every 2013 K-Pop single released in Japanese or other non-Korean languages. But don’t let that stop you from checking some of them out (particularly when it comes to SNSD). Tracks are ordered based on visual factors as well as musical ones (such is K-Pop) but audio strength is given preference where applicable. Let’s get started.

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VR BEST OF 2013 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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15. Gentleman – PSY

Let’s kick things off by giving credit where credit is due. PSY may not have lit up the world like he did in 2012 with Gangnam Style, but his 2013 follow-up Gentleman still managed to smash several YouTube viewing records. Though the song no doubt shares deliberate similarities with last year’s mega-hit, it maintains its own character through a more aggressive style of humour, a larger scale and a partnership – both in personnel and in borrowed choreography – with veteran girl group Brown Eyed Girls. Ga In of the influential foursome brings her famous Abracadabra moves to PSY’s set to enhance an already hilarious and catchy package.

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Gargantuan Trios

I realise this kind of article probably has a pretty narrow audience, but on the plus side there probably aren’t too many like it on the interwebs.

Entertainment media is big business these days. Like, BIG business. Big business breeds big companies who survive because they happen to be the best at what they do. Each of these companies may emphasise its own supposed competitive advantages, but when push comes to shove the entertainment media juggernauts are still around because deep down they are really similar, whether they sell movies, TV shows, videogames or music. This hit home for me recently when I happened to notice that the apparently different worlds of console gaming and Korean pop music shared the phenomenon of a dominant “Big 3” who control market share. And public (read: internet) perception of these companies within their own contexts is kind of unnervingly similar.

So for the hell of it, I paired them up and tried to find as many similarities between the most obviously corresponding members of each trio as I could. Of course they tout many differences as well, but the amount of similarities I did end up finding is perhaps a little scary. For the sake of uniformity I’ve referred to videogame franchises and Korean idols/groups alike as “brands” here, cause that’s what they are, really.

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The Baddest of the East

Today marks the long awaited Korean debut solo release from CL, leader of mega-successful K-Pop group 2NE1 and the self-proclaimed “baddest female of Seoul city”. It’s kind of a big deal in K-Pop circles and so to celebrate, here’s a little something on Korean female idol rappers.

If you’ve ever had a taste of K-Pop music lasting longer than an hour or so, you’d have a pretty good idea of the genre’s attitude to hip-hop music. Hip-hop influences run through just about every bit of dance choreography you’ll see today, but there’s more to it than that. It pervades the image of nearly every group in some form, whether male or female. For example, outside of Girls’ Generation (coincidentally the most popular K-Pop group around these days), pretty much every girl group now packs an obligatory “rapper”. That’s regardless of whether said rapper actually has any background rapping, or whether their “raps” consist of anything more than talking in a slightly modified voice over a beat.

While this can result in some cringeworthy sounds, it also gives some rappers who do know what they’re doing a platform to the kind of recognition they just wouldn’t get on the underground scene. Because of K-Pop’s corporation-driven, highly standardised nature, which breeds the kind of male-female parity that only such unapologetic profit-chasing can produce, what we’re left with is a situation where, by association, female rappers receive just as much attention, if not more, than their male counterparts. I certainly can’t think of any other country where this is the case, at least not off the top of my head. And sure, idol group rapping is naturally going to be tamer than the underground stuff, but that doesn’t mean it can’t sound awesome (It certainly doesn’t hurt that the natural flow of the Korean language lends itself well to a good rapper).

So ignoring the likes of Tasha, a hugely respected Korean solo R&B/hip hop artist who is pretty incredible at what she does, as well as just about every other actual full-blown hip hop artist in Korea, I’m going to focus here on rappers that come from idol groups. What follows is my admittedly limited opinion on the seven best Korean female rappers going around in K-Pop groups at the moment:

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7. Lime – HELLOVENUS

Despite debuting last year as part of one of the girliest groups K-Pop fans have seen in a while, Kim Hye-Lim or “Lime” has some pretty impressive rapping talents. Not only can she belt out a tune with the best of them but she can also switch up rap styles, pulling off either speed or flow-based rhymes when the situation calls for it. Fans are still waiting for a HELLOVENUS release that actually shows off these skills in earnest, because for now they don’t really fit the group’s image, but no K-Pop group stays to one concept for too long…

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Nanananana

WHY IS IT SO COLD? Aren’t we meant to be the sunburnt country or something?

It’s a bit of a quiet time in entertainment media at the moment. Call it the calm before the storm if you like; Microsoft will be revealing its next generation Xbox in a matter of days and E3 is only a few weeks away! And let’s not forget a little film called Man of Steel – that juggernaut will be hitting our screens before we know it!

Anyway if you’re feeling blue today (maybe because of that aforementioned temperature) take a dose of this to lift your spirits. Here’s a freshly released example of what can happen when Korea and Japan work together:

K-Packaged

Yes, looks like another K-Pop post. But this time I’m not writing about the music. I’m even not writing about the people who perform the music. Today I’m writing about just how damn shinily those Koreans wrap up their products. Because it is, quite frankly, on another level, and it is, quite honestly, ridiculous.

At the end of last year I touched on just how important presentation can be to me in my Top Ten Game Cases of 2012 list. I’m the kind of person who genuinely got goosebumps at Apple’s colour-soaked iPod Nano ads from the latter part of the last decade. Good presentation is like a drug to me; it’s a weakness, God knows it really is.

Anyway, yesterday, this happened:

Kpopsplurge1

No really, I can explain.

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