I’m back with another installment of My Favorites! This time, it’s solo male K-pop artists, the Kangta and Wheesung Edition. Wait! Before you even ask, “Where is [insert Rain, Park Hyo Shin, your favorite male solo singer, your cousin], these are male artists that I like. They are also primarily solo artists, not current members of groups with solo projects (that’s another post–I see you, Taeyang and Heo Young Saeng!). #sorrynotsorry
I’m willing to bet money that most people did not think that kid with the bob haircut in H.O.T would go on to not only be a successful solo artist, but one with such range. I love Kangta’s voice and his tendency to do a wide variety of musical styles. “Breaka Shaka” was the first solo song I liked by him. I liked the dance beat. But when I had my iTunes on shuffle and heard “Mabi[Paralysis]” I was like, who is this?! He also does well with slower songs. Moreover, Kangta will also venture into jazzier types of tunes like “Happy Happy” and “Blue Snow,” sounding like a Korean Sinatra.
Also known as “Real Slow,” I was real slow to catch on to Wheesung. My first favorite song my him is “Love is Delicious,” and for a long time I just left it at that. I listened to that to death, so by listening to the song, I didn’t venture to look for Wheesung videos. But then I fell into Wheesung-love with “Heartsore Story,” because SUITS and CHOREOGRAPHY, two of my favorite things in a music video! Similarly, I heard “Night and Day” once, and was hooked. Instantly. No turning back. There is something about his voice that is awesome. Wheesung is also not afraid to get some hip-hop in his songs, either.
I know there is more Kangta and Wheesung to discover and I am on that!
“Lucky One” is one of two comeback tracks for EXO’s EX’ACT album. You know I am down for this disco-infused extravaganza! I also like the video (which opens with a shot that takes advantage of D.O.’s natural lack-of-expression) and gestures back to previous EXO concepts, including the superpowers, the EXO-planet and the team jerseys, which lends a sense of continuity. I’m not sure if the video matches the song, but I like the song and I like the video so I’m calling it a WIN!
If you’ve been a K-pop fan for a while, you might run into this problem. Sure, you have mad love for your favorite K-pop groups, but we all know that K-pop promotions run in a cycle. What do you do when your favorite groups are MIA? FIND MOAR!
The minute somebody says something about getting Kangin to leave, the mud-slinging starts (i.e. “you’re not a true fan,” “you’re an ANTIFAN!”). This is not confined to K-pop fandoms, but still. Why can’t we disagree and refrain from calling each other names? We all know this is not Kangin’s first trip to the trouble rodeo. Fans aren’t wrong when they say that his behavior has a negative effect on the team. At the same time, K-pop fans are very forgiving, and want to give him a second chance. See what I did there? That’s looking at the issue from both sides. No fans were hurt in the making of this post.
Once I processed (ok, I’m still processing) the news of Zion T.’s departure from Amoeba Culture to a sub-label at YG headed by Teddy, I’m also thinking about Amoeba Culture. This doesn’t seem to be an acrimonious split, and I was happy to see Amoeba Culture’s official statement, which acknowledges their previous relationship: “During that time Amoeba Culture and Zion. T had a relationship beyond simply being just an agency and an agency artist. We relied on each other, made good music, and spent happy moments together. Thus we feel sorry and regret” (soompi). At the same time, the label wishes him well: “Although we cannot be in the same place together, Amoeba Culture will always support Zion. T’s new challenge as he enters a new environment and unfamiliar field in order to fulfill his dreams” (soompi). I”m concerned about Amoeba Culture and their roster. I have loved Amoeba Culture artists, but with Zion T. leaving, I feel like Amoeba Culture needs more talent, which isn’t easy because talent doesn’t work on trees. I hope that it can continue to operate as an artist-led label.
As a K-pop fan in the United States, I’m always excited to see my beloved K-pop live. The EXO show in Los Angeles on February 14, 2016 was no exception. Having seen EXO “grow up” from those 23 teaser trailers to Sing for You, I was looking forward to the show very much! Let us never forget the epic backstory behind EXO’s concept, beginning when “the twelve forces reunite into one perfect root” to the current unknown EXO planet!
I like a lot of K-pop groups (a LOT…of K-pop groups), but I have four bias groups (SS501, Shinhwa, SHINee and Super Junior), my favoritest favorites. I looked at my iTunes to see which songs by my bias groups I played the most. I was surprised!
Despite the regular insistence that it is disposable and only for teenagers, K-pop has managed to have several groups and artists attain veteran status. Over time, these artists develop their image and sound in ways that also embrace their beginnings.
While the choreography is often a crucial part of the official music video, the dance versions and practice dance videos keep the focus on dance by stripping down, often eliminating distractions such as props and dynamic lighting. Super Junior’s “Devil” and APeace’s “Loverboy” are shot against stark, white backgrounds. . . .
While K-pop remains a subculture in many places, it tends to attract a wide variety of fans. One of the reasons for such appeal is that K-pop provides a sense of nostalgia on several levels, a feat not easily achieved in the pop music world.
Fans of K-pop have dubbed 2014 the year of Kpocalypse in light of a spate of lawsuits by members from EXO. While it’s hard to separate fact from speculation as a global K-pop fan, these lawsuits do say something about the role of nationality and the motives of the members who bring lawsuits.
The tantalizing goodness of Korean dramas don’t just come from romantic angst, historical intrigue and heart-stopping action. The emotional highs and lows would not mean as much without an Original Sound Track, also known as the Official Sound Track, or OST.
OSTs can come from any genre, and often features artists performing in styles that differ from their usual ones. OSTs can feature collaborations as well as solo performances by individuals in groups. They may feature vocals or exist solely as instrumentals.Everyone has their favorites, but here are a few examples to show how K-dramas make effective use of music in different ways.
Like many K-pop fans, many of my favorite groups are male (shout out to SS501, Shinhwa, Super Junior and SHINee!). Part of this may be because there are more male groups to choose from, but I have to admit that initially, the female groups like Girls’ Generation and Miss A didn’t do much for me. However, eventually I embraced the K-pop girl groups and here’s why.
K-pop fans often engage in creative and productive fan activity, but sometimes they don’t and media is always there to capture it. Nothing stirs up the spectre of the “obsessed K-pop fan” like a “scandal.” As we know, K-pop fans are diverse, but the kind of recent “scandals” experienced by Park Bom (of 2NE1) and Sulli (of f(x)) shed some light on the role cultural context and media plays in global fans’ understanding of “scandal.” Unlike global fans, Korean K-pop fans experience K-pop within the context of Korean culture and their responses are captured by Korean media. Because of their proximity to the K-pop scene, the displeasure of Korean fans can affect change beyond the control of the Korean agencies.
One of the most appealing things about K-pop is its variety. K-pop is not unique in producing different versions of the same song or having covers, but the differences in versions showcase the complexity of a music type often criticised for being cookie-cutter.
Seo Taiji, “로보트 (Robot)”
Seo Taiji is the godfather of K-pop, and so it should not be surprising that he takes the track “Robot” in two different directions. “Robot” originally appears on Seo Taiji’s 7th Issue (2004) album. This version’s thinly orchestrated intro begins with an odd guitar chord countered by mid-tempo drums. The song then transitions to a more regular rhythm and tonally resonate guitars, which complement Seo Taiji’s recognizeable vocals, all of which give the song a heavy feel. However, the guitars become less heavy in the first verse, complemented by a less vigorous rhythm section, where cymbals become more prominent. The song alternates between these two distinct sounds, always overlaid with Seo Taiji’s vocals.
However, when Seo Taiji performs the song live on [&] Seo Taiji 15th Anniversary (2007) album (originally appearing on the Seo Taiji Live Tour Zero ’04 album (2005), it has a completely different feel. Here, the intro features a softly strumming guitar barely audible over the hum of the crowd. After 30 seconds, a sole electric guitar comes in, along with Seo Taiji’s vocals, but these are not the vocals of the original song. Only after a full 40 seconds do guitars play the chords that signal the beginning of the original song. Even then, the song is significantly less heavy than the original.
Epik High, “Paris”
Veteran hip-hop group Epik High is known for its use of intrumentation in its music, and “Paris” is no exeception. “Paris,” featuring Jisun of Loveholic, originally appears on the group’s 2005 album, Swan Songs. The intro featuring female vocals and a single guitar hearkens back to the musical stylings of the 1960s, and then transitions into a light-hearted rap by the group. This rap is complemented by Jisun’s vocals throughout the song.
However, “Paris” on the Black Swan Songs (2006) repackage is radically different. Jisun’s pop intro is replaced by the more forceful vocals of Epik High, against a more brooding instrumental backdrop. This intro is followed by thinly orchestrated verses, featuring driving rhythms with prominent drums and bass, the solo rap vocals and strategically placed distortions. As the track continues, the piano from the vocal is introduced against Jisun’s vocals. Overall, this version is more sonically powerful.
Brown Eyed Soul, “Love Ballad”
This kind of musical variety can also occur in other K-pop genres. Brown Eyed Soul‘s “Love Ballad” single hearkens back to vocally-driven American ’90s R&B with synthesized instruments along with a soft organ and finger snaps over which the group alternate parts of the verse. At the chorus, they harmonize their voices in Boyz II Men style.
The piano version of “Love Ballad” invests even more heavily in the black male vocal group tradition. The intro is thinly orchestrated, with only finger snaps that echo on the track, broken only with the introduction of the voices of the group singing in unison. This arrangement showcases the vocal abilities of the members, both in the intro and throughout the song. During the rest of the song, the vocals are accompanied only by the piano and fingersnaps.
Girls’ Generation/Lyn, “The Boys”
Girls’ Generation, The Boys Concept
Shifts in musical style on a track does not only occur with remixes. Covers also allow an opportunity for alternative arrangements, some of which go far afield of the original. For example, Girls’ Generation, known for their catchy songs, released “The Boys,” the title track from their 2011 album. The song begins with the members’ vocals against synthesized sounds, and then explodes into its heavily produced glory, driven by heavy rhythms and synthesizers.
However, Lyn takes the song in an entirely different direction in her acoustic performance. Featuring her lead vocals and vocals from backup singers, Lyn’s version infuses a bluesy feel with the minimal instrumentation provided by piano, bongos and an acoustic guitar.
These alternative versions of songs show that music is central to K-pop.