Mar 31, 2014

Of Sub-units and Solos Pt.1

Sooner or later, groups disband. It's the sad truth. In the early years of Kpop, groups would suffer from the 5-year-curse, which meant that once a group hit 5 years together, chances of them breaking up increased severely. Examples are H.O.T (1996-2001) and S.E.S (1997-2002), who both lasted exactly for 5 years before splitting up. Nowadays, this curse seems to have somewhat vanished, with groups like Big Bang, Super Junior, SNSD and SHINee having stuck together for way over 5 years and are still going strong. And of course, who could forget Shinhwa?

However, as a group approaches the 5 year mark (or even earlier), most members have their own individual activities and the group only comes together for the annual comeback and the year-end shows, so it's not so strange that maybe one or two members will release solo material, or even form a sub-unit.

Mar 27, 2014

We're Invited to Toheart's Slumber Party in "Delicious"

When SM and Woolim broke the news of their new partnership, I didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry. I mean, both of my bias groups (SHINee and Infinite) would come together and that could of course mean a lot of potential collaborations which I was excited about but at the same time I felt terrified. Mostly for Infinite though, because they've come such a long way, coming from a small indie label and having to work their way up with good music and dance routines without the help of a big company backing them. I admire them for that and I was afraid they were going to loose their originality and modesty, and as much as I love SM groups I have a lot of issues with the actual company, so I could not help but to think what might happen to the boys.

So far it seems like things are going well though, and now we even have Toheart to further prove this. Woohyun and Key are best friends and I can definitely see why they get along, so I was thrilled to see what their project might sound and look like.

This video is surprisingly long, having both a hefty intro and outro. It opens with the actual intro of the mini album playing in the background as the two friends are sitting together and looking through boxes containing childhood items such as toys and notebooks. We are introduced to the plot of the video quite early, as each of the boys have their own "notebook" in which we see them as kids and they have a combined one showing them as teenagers (or their current selves) both falling for the same girl. The way in which this is done is creative and original, and I already have high hopes for the rest of the video.

Then the actual song starts and I have a hard time even getting through the first 30 seconds. I don't think I've heard such cringeworthy English in a really long time. I'm pretty immune to bad English after so much exposure to it, but this had my ears almost physically hurting. No Key, love is not "nutritious" or "delicious" as you say. I don't want to hear that, I really don't. I doesn't help that his rapping is not that great either.
Anyway, once that part is over, I can finally start enjoying the video. Well, that line repeats itself throughout the entire song but I guess I'll have to bear it.
Key and Woohyun are fighting over a girl, a girl whom they both want but never actually appears in the video. However, they are seen peeking at her through the window with binoculars. If that's not creepy then I don't know what is. It seems like they live together, and I'm curious about their relationship but more so their ages. The entire room looks like it could be for a 6 year old, with lots of rocket and space related items (such as their sheets) and also the fact that their sleeping in bunk beds. They are throwing pillows at each other, sort of fighting childishly as they think about the girl they are crushing on.

The cutest scene in the video is the one that takes place in the bathroom. It's the morning after, and the boys get ready for their date. They brush their teeth, shave their non-existent facial hair and bicker like only bff's would. Later at the diner (fittingly called "Milky Way") they argue back and forth as the girl supposedly has made a date with both of them? Anyway, nothing after that really happens and the rest are just dancing cuts.
The ending though, that was by far the best part of the video. The outtakes from the bathroom scene allow us to get a glimpse of just Woohyun and Key being Woohyun and Key, which is what most fans wanted anyway.

I have really nothing negative to say about this video, which rarely happens.
It's apparent that SM had very little to do with this, and even if they are the distributor and uploader of the video, everything else just screams Woolim. The sets are great, the choreography is great, the styling is great (apart from Key's eyebrows) and I adore the vibrant colors and lights. This is not something SHINee would do, but it's more down Infintie's alley in terms of sheer video quality.
I also liked the dance scenes in the big white room, because of the color matching, once again. The back-up dancers are dressed in white so they are hardly visible but just enough to still have an impact, and the boys' suits match the big text on the wall behind. It's a visual treat, for sure. In fact, the entire video is.

The lyrics of the song perfectly suit the plot in the video, two friends wanting the same girl. As Key and Woohyun take turns in singing, they also tell a story from their specific point of view. It's a nice touch and further enhances the concept. However, the most satisfying this about this video is just seeing these two best friends together. Their chemistry is off the charts and while I'm curious as to why there's no visible love interest I can also understand why. Fans like Key and Woohyun, and they like them together. People want to see their friendship (me included) and throwing a girl in there would kind of ruin that a bit. I personally would have wanted for the love interest to show up at the diner and than just ditch them both, because that could have been hilarious.

This video, in conclusion, is a lot better than anything SM has put out in what feels like years. I suppose we have to thank Woolim for that, so thank you.
Is this video really anything other than pure fanservice? No, I don't think so, but it's the best fanservice there is. Everything just works and they both look and sound great. Even though the song is a bit lukewarm, the video more than well makes up for it by being playful, cute and visually enhancing.

Song: 3,25/5
MV: 4,2/5

Mar 25, 2014

"Whatcha Doin' Today" 4Minute?

Trust me, I feel really bad sometimes that I had to leave 4Minute out of my Favorite Girl Groups list. I do, because I adore Hyuna and I have a huge girl crush on both Gayoon and Jiyoon. However, ever since their 2012 comeback with Volume Up (I can not shut up about how perfect this was) the quality of their material has been sinking rapidly. Like with every single group these days, Brave Brothers has to be involved. Sure, he was behind their hit last year that shot them up the ladder of fame in Korea, but the song just wasn't that good although it grew on me.
I miss their earlier, rougher sound like in Muzik, Huh and I My Me Mine. I'm not sure what their image is nowadays, except for "Hyuna and the back-up dancers" which we will never hear the end of, but I suppose it's more of a fun, funky and cool image. Not as much attitude or power, but more a flirty kind of playfulness.
Anyway, enough with my rambling about 4Minute's brilliant past, let's look ahead. Judging from the teaser photos alone, I was psyched for this 2014 comeback. They looked just the right amount of hippie/wild youth/girl's night out, but then I saw the teaser video.

Mar 24, 2014

Song of the Week #7

Lee Michelle - Without you

The former Kpop Star Season 1 contestant Lee Michelle makes her long-awaited debut with this beautiful piece. This song and video are so strong and powerful and the message the convey is so important. Michelle is such a fantastic vocalist and I truly hope that somewhere right now, YG is sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth and regretting his decision to terminate her contract.

Mar 21, 2014

The Different Positions in a Kpop Group - The Vocalists

You would think all the members of a group are vocalists, because they do record actual songs and perform them, but that's not the entire truth. Well, everyone has a line at some part, but there are a few selected people that do the majority of the singing. Kpop is such a performance based industry anyway, so the dancing and visuals are just as, if not sometimes more important as the vocal abilities of a group.
However, there typically two positions that tend to uphold the singing stability- the Main Vocalist and the Lead Vocalist. 

Mar 19, 2014

Everybody Rejoice, Orange Caramel Is Back!

Where does one even start with Orange Caramel? 
The year I got into Kpop they made their comeback with Lipstick, an incredibly catchy song with an equally amazing and funny video. It was obvious that this sub-unit (well, they're honestly more like their own group to be honest) did not want to stay inside the box. Everything was exaggerated, comedic and not taking itself too seriously, which is so refreshing to see. For this comeback, the girls dress up as food and no matter how strange it is, it's ever so fascinating.

Mar 15, 2014

Rate The Look - SNSD's "Mr.Mr."

Welcome to the first rendition of "Rate The Look", as I will talk you through the styling for each member of a group for their comeback. Undeniably, one of the most exciting things about comebacks is to see what looks they will rock (or not), and this matters very much considering how visually based the entertainment industry. Groups will try different concepts that match their hair colors, makeup and clothes and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Today's featured group is none other than the Queens of Kpop; Girls' Generation, who recently came back after over a year of hiatus with Mr.Mr.

Mar 14, 2014

Kpop Queens SNSD Return With "Mr.Mr."

So, this is going to be a joint mini album + music video review because I'm kind of short on time and I'm also feeling really lazy today. Deal with it.
I can't believe it's been over a year since goddesses Girls' Generation hit the charts with I Got A Boy, and what a comeback that was. They had been promoting like crazy in Japan and have released some excellent material, and then came their 2013 Korean comeback and I just felt like giving up on the world. I think you can understand why.
No matter the song though, it did pave way for some great, fun and energetic performances from these 9 flawless ladies. Now, another year has passed, and expectations were immensely high.

Mar 13, 2014

The Strangest of Names - Idols

Welcome to part 2 of my "Strangest Names" series- The Idol Name Edition.
Having stage names in Kpop is not something uncommon, in fact most idols have stage names. Some are just other Korean names or English names, but then there are those who fit into neither of those categories.

Mar 12, 2014

The Version of "Spellbound" That Should Have Been the Main One

Sorry, I just had to make a short post about this video because this is everything I wanted for this follow-up release. I don't know why this is not the primary version because this video is so much better, like on so many more levels. It's got the variety in clothes, sets and a mixture of both dance shots and closeups. The first one was more like a dance version if anything, and while I appreciate those, they shouldn't be the main version of a music video.

Just like I wanted (SM must have read my blog post, obviously), they continue on with the poker theme and actually manages to incorporate it in quite a tasteful way for being SM, I mean. It doesn't get boring or make my eyes hurt, instead it actually makes me want to willingly watch it again. Of course it helps that Changmin and Yunho are such charmers and know how to work the camera the best way possible, but they are such a joy to watch. Also, I came to note and like the female dancers even more, whom are both beautiful and have a lot more presence and energy than a lot of actual girl groups.

Also, the closeups of Yunho's gorgeous face alone are pretty much reason enough for me to keep this video on repeat, and I say that with no shame whatsoever.

CNBlue's "Can't Stop" Is A Treat For The Eye

Like it wasn't enough with SNSD and 2ne1 coming back at the same time, flower boy rock band CNBlue have also joined the race, and are a force to be reckoned with.
I'll admit it, when I heard the teaser I felt a bit sad. I have a hard time with ballads and slower songs in general, so I was really scared they would actually release one as a title track. Then I thought; maybe it's just the beginning that's piano based, and the song kicks off later? But then again I saw Yonghwa sitting by his piano so beautifully, and so I came face to face with the truth that I wasn't going to get a I'm Sorry 2.0.
Instead, I got this visually stunning video and an equally stunning song.

Like I said, it starts just so; Yonghwa playing his piano singing about lost love. We already get to meet the main players of this video, the man already mentioned, and the girl playing his love interest.
I don't know if this was the only actress available or if 2014 just seems to be the year of the white girl. For this particular video, there's no extreme issues about her portrayal that I can find, but having white women in videos can be quite problematic to say the least. A good example for this is TVXQ's Something , or even more severe in Gary's Shower Later. Women are always sexually objectified to a certain extent, but white women in Kpop videos usually have it pretty bad too. It's quite contradictory, because they are portrayed both as the ideal trophy to possess, but that means that they also only exist for visual purposes only.
But that's another story, because the girl in CNBlue's video actually has a part to play.

We see both Yonghwa and this girl in the same room, but they're not there at the same time. We see them look at each other trough mirrors, and the lyric "I live day by day, like a mirror" further enhances this. They do things that seem to connect to each other, and we see her probably through his eyes, they way he used to be able to see her but isn't anymore. Her "side" is the past, the happy and the bright days that now are no more. Yonghwa is in the same space as they once were, but in the present time. He remembers their love and misses it dearly, and he does actions that he connects with that time, like folding and throwing paper planes.
The video ends with him coming to some sort of solution, but it's very ambiguous to what it actually means and symbolizes. He takes a nearby chair and smashes it into the mirror, and proceeds to cross over the border separating them. This could mean many things, but I think the very physical breaking of the mirror, the item that keeps them apart, means that he is doing something about it rather than mourning by himself. Maybe he wants to try and find her and talk to her, to reconcile and make things up.

One of the more interesting and appealing aspects of this video is not the actual plot, but all the visual themes and details. This video is wonderfully shot and edited, and the lightning, colors and use of props are beautiful and makes this video a lovely watch. One thing, among many, that stood out to me were the use of flowers. In the song, there's a line that goes "I still smell your scent of spring", and this is visualized in a excellent way because it's very bright and full of pastels and floral items, but it leaves you with that bittersweet feeling. It's for the most part very light in coloring, but the tone is just so slightly blue which makes it sadder than warmer tones would have. It's both so happy and uplifting yet at the same time painful and mournful. The different sets the band scenes are in also contrast each other. The dark one feels just so, but all the red roses still makes it relevant to the rest of the video. The rain of flower petals and feathers, the cut scenes of flowers, the words and lines spread out on walls are great added details that further enhances the visual aspect of this video.

Admittedly, there's a lot of Yonghwa in this video. Not only does he sing almost the entire song, but he also plays the main character. I love seeing his gorgeous face, of course, but his acting here is really below average. I mean, this guy has been in so many dramas and even played the lead in one, but manages to convey no emotion here at all. A bit strange, I think.
The rest of the members get very little screen time, poor Minhyuk barely gets any at all, but they all look very smart in their fitted suits. The band scenes are just as nice to look at even if it's just them playing instruments, but that is also due to the great settings as well as props, lightning and other effects. I do love that jumping they do in the first chorus, because the song really takes off at that point.

All in all, this is a stunning video. I found myself intrigued, engaged and interested from start to finish. The video definitely helps make the song even better, it complements it wonderfully in all its different parts. The visual department is one that I would like to see more Kpop groups have in their videos, and the small details and effects really makes this one exciting and adds another dimension to the viewing experience. The balance between the plot scenes, cut scenes and band scenes are well balanced, and keeps the video from becoming boring or repetitive.

Song: 3,75/5
MV: 4/5

Mar 11, 2014

Sunmi Shines Brighter Than the Stars In "Full Moon"

Kpop's new pop princess Sunmi has dropped her first solo mini album and won her first solo trophy on Inkigayo with Full Moon, as both are titled.
Admitedly, I knew nothing about Sunmi prior to her solo debut as I was not around to see her involvation in the Wonder Girls, and she disappeared off the map completely when she left the group. 
However, with her solo releases it seems like JYP finally manages to promote at least one of his acts decently. I've grown to really like Sunmi, and this mini album only further establishes that.

Mar 10, 2014

Song of the Week #5

2ne1 - If I Were You

This is probably one of my favorite songs from this album, and it's quite unexpected because I tend not to like these type of tracks unless they're especially good. Apparently CL composed this song all by herself, which is really impressive because I liked it on first listen and that does not happen a lot. The vocals are great too- Minzy kills it and CL shows she can do more than rap and swag all over the stage. My only wish is that Bom would just sound a bit less like Bom and it would be perfect.

Mar 9, 2014

Appreciating the Ladies Pt.2

Here comes the second part of my wonderful ladies tribute post, to honor the hard work and effort put
in by the many young women in order to make it in the entertainment industry. It's no surprise that the girls definitely have it harder; they go on extreme diets to loose weight, must uphold a perfect image at all times and still receive more criticism than anybody else. I have to admit, I was not a fan of many girl groups in the beginning, but right now I probably have more girl biases than I have boy biases.

Mar 8, 2014

Appreciating the Ladies Pt.1

Today it is March 8th- International Women's Day. In order to acknowledge and respect this day, I've put together a little list for you all to enjoy.

Being of the female gender myself, I have lots of first-hand experience with girl-on-girl hate. It's one of those things that need to stop, because in today's society it's vital for women to stick together and make each other stronger and better rather than putting each other down. Seeing girls make comments on other girls for various reasons is not excluded in the Kpop community either, and for that reason I have decided to make a tribute post to some of my favorite ladies in Kpop (and Kdramas too).

Mar 4, 2014

TVXQ Follows Up With "Spellbound"

It only seems like yesterday when Something came along and swept us all off our feet, and to think it's almost been two whole months already. Well, they promoted for over a month a think so technically it hasn't been that long at all, but still, long enough for me to develop a Yunho abstinence. The jazzy, swing like sound really suited the duo and made way for some great, fun and energetic performances and a very decent album too. Now, I'm not a fan of follow-up songs, for the most part, because the only reason they exist is so that a repackaged album can be released and more money can be made. They are, in most cases, a bit unnecessary. But, since I can't give up on a SM video I had to see the video for Spellbound anyway.

Mar 2, 2014

I "Can't Stop" Listening to CNBlue's New Mini

One of my absolute favorite groups music-wise (and in other ways too of course) is finally back after over a year with new mini album Can't Stop. I would have really wanted for CNBlue to release a full Korean album this time around, but considering they recently released a Japanese one it wasn't very likely. I think it's very interesting how this group handles their Korean and Japanese activities and releases so differently, because so far they only have 1 full Korean album against 4 Japanese ones. I would say that in general, they prefer the Japanese market and that market likes them too, but their 2013 Korean mini Re:Blue was absolutely great so I was very much looking forward to this. 

Mar 1, 2014

The Different Positions In A Kpop Group - The Leader

When I first got into Kpop there were many things that struck out as odd to me, and one of them was that each member in a group had a certain position, a responsibility assigned to them. This was not something I had much experience with, because when I don't listen to Kpop, I listen to rock music. I really like bands, and bandmembers have their positions because they play different instruments, but I didn't think it worked quite the same way with non-instrumental groups. However, when you think about it you realize that it's not so strange for them to also have different positions after all.
For a non-Kpop fan, it seems as if they all do the same things, you know? They all dance, sing (or rap), wear similar clothes and look similar in makeup and hair. But, you'll soon discover that there's more than what meets the eye.