Editions of You: Remixes and Covers in K-pop

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)”

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Seo Taiji

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”

Epik High
Epik High

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”

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Brown Eyed Soul

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”

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.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Sources

“seo taiji-robot.”  YouTube. 27 June 2009. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“Seotaiji – Zero Tour – 08. 로보트 [Live].”  YouTube. 5 Mar 2009. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“Epik High – Paris ft. 지선 {Jisun}.” YouTube. 3 Sept 2012. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“Epik High- Paris (정재일’s Black Swan Remix) [Black Swan Songs Repackage].” YouTube. 9 Jan 2009. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“Brown Eyed Soul – Love Ballad.” YouTube. 1 Nov 2012. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“Brown Eyed Soul Love Ballad (Piano ver.) [러브 발라드 피아노 버전].” YouTube. 11 Jun 2010. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“[MP3/DL] SNSD The Boys (Korean Version) + Lyrics.” YouTube. 18 Oct 2011. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

“Lyn – The Boys (SNSD) acoustic ver. Hamchoonho Yooheeyeol E132 Feb17.2012 1080p HD.” YouTube. 4 Mar 2012. Web. 15 Mar 2014.

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Editions of You: Remixes and Covers in K-pop by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

“Steady Shaking the Ground”: Lyrical Skill in Epik High’s Music

Epik High
Epik High

Epik High garners respect as a Korean hip-hop group in part because of their innovative use of lyrics.  Because many of their songs are in English, they provide an opportunity to appreciate the complexity of their rhymes and their skill manipulation of language.

While many critics focus on the social and political message of rap, Mtume ya Salaam reminds us that rap is an art, and when done well, “possesses at least one–and usually more than one–attribute such as sincerity, originality, honesty, or creativity” (303).  We should not focus on critique to the exclusion of the artistry found in hip hop.  Looking at the lyrics of a rap song is comparable to appreciating poetry. Both make use of  “simile, metaphor, and alliteration as well as creative expression, originality, and conveyance of emotion” (305).

With that in mind, Epik High songs frequently use creative metaphors and innovative verbal phrases to describe the skill of rapping or critique the industry in which the group participates.  Frequently, Epik High positions itself as cerebral rappers, targeting the minds as well as the feet of their audience.  That stance marks them as unique in the K-hip hop world.

Follow the Flow (ft. Myk, D-tox)

“Follow the Flow” comes from the 2005 Epik High album, Swan Songs.  The track reinforces the intellectual appeal of the track through references to the mental powers of the audience.  Lyrics such as “I just did flipped your lid and gave your brain a kiss” demonstrate that the group targets the way people think and suggests they want to leave the audience pondering their words.  Because of this kind of originality, they diverge from other groups:   “We travel on into unknown don’t follow the roadsign/We just try to form the rhymes that read yo’ mind.”

Epik High frequently also includes plays on words in their lyrics.   “Like an empty hospital/I’m out of patience” uses the word “patience” both in its literal meaning (lacking the capacity to remain calm when waiting) and its related meaning to patient (someone who needs medical treatment) within the context of a hospital.   “I’m a prohibition MC – I speakeasy” uses the context from the 1920 and 1930s to underscore lyrical skill.  In the United States, the prohibition era created speakeasys, or illegal clubs, so when the song references a “prohibition MC,” it taps into the rogue nature of the rhyme.

“Follow the Flow” also uses literary references to celebrate originality.  The song draws from Irish literature to establish his skill as an MC:

Yes I am…the rap game’s voice

Every cat’s main choice, the rap James Joyce

It’s a piece of cake, gimmie a break,

I kill MCs, then speak at they Finnegan’s Wake

I’m much mo’ than a cheap CD

Any student forced to read the Irish writer James Joyce would understand the resonance of the reference. Joyce represents one of the most challenging writers in the English language. His novels, such as Ulysses, are complicated and dense, but also innovative, thus contributing to his reputation as a classic writer. The song uses this literary giant to underscore his own lyrical prowess in the song. The MC is rap’s James Joyce, which suggests that his raps are equally deep and complicated.

Free Music (ft. Myk)

While “Follow the Flow” celebrates the skill of the MC, “Free Music,” from the 2009 album Map the Soul,  is a critique of an overall lack of originality in rap.  In the first verse, MYK contrasts the mental work he puts into his rhymes (“I jog my mind around the writer’s block/Till it’s out of breath and asthmatic”) with the preoccupation with fame he notices in the industry:

I’ve had it with the paper chase, need I mention?

The rap game is all show and lyrical dissension

Pretension, obsession for physical possession

MYK faults the commercialism and quest for money as the primary motivator for some rappers. This has a negative impact on the creativity and artistry of their production. It is all show and no substance.  Tablo’s verse focuses more on his skill:

Temporary relief so I’m makin’ it last

Takin’ it fast, lacin’ buds in raps, tracin’ raps with facts

Steppin’ up the game but not reppin’ for fame

Spittin’ truth up on the booth, then we settin’ it in flames

Here, Tablo focuses on his own skill. He is all business in the recording booth, seeking to be the best for his own sake, not to gain attention and make money. His rap is more substantial, filled with “facts” and “truth.”

In both of these tracks, Epik High seek to distinguish themselves thought their thought-provoking and creative lyrics.

Image: 1

Sources

“Epik High – Follow the Flow ft. MYK & D-Tox + Lyrics (HQ) (HD).” YouTube. 29 Jul 2011. Web. 1 Feb 2014.

“Epik High – Free Music (Tablo And MYK) (Ft. MYK).” YouTube. 29 Mar 2009. Web. 1 Feb 2014.

Salaam, Mtume ya.  “The Aesthetics of Rap.” African American Review 29.2 (1995): 303-315.

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“Steady Shaking the Ground”: Lyrical Skill in Epik High’s Music by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

ICYMI: iFans Case Studies Status Update

Infographic based on data collected by Crystal S. Anderson as part of the iFans research study

Originally published on KPK: Kpop Kollective by CeeFu

If you keep with research on K-pop, you may be aware of the iFans: Mapping Kpop’s International Fandom project.  The surveys that make up the qualitative studies seek to understand how the fandoms differ from one another and their relationship to the groups they support. K-pop fans know that the fandoms are unique. Because they have detailed knowledge of the groups they support, they provide a unique perspective on the appeal of their respective groups. Too often, commentators make assumptions about K-pop fans, while the iFans studies goes to the source: the fans.

Click here to read the rest!

What I’m Listening To: “Paris (정재일’s Black Swan Remix) ft. Jisun of Loveholic,” Epik High

EPIKHIGH_mtviggy

Ever so often, I like to share what’s on heavy rotation on my iPod. It isn’t always the newest thing, or the most popular thing, but for some reason this is the stuff that I’m grooving to.  I make no distinction between idol and non-idol Kpop, popular and obscure, mainstream and indie. It’s just what I like, and some info about it. Maybe you might like it too.

What I’m Listening To

“Paris (정재일’s Black Swan Remix) ft. Jisun of Loveholic” by Epik High


Who Does It

Epik High is one of the most respected and eclectic K-pop groups. This song is from the 2006 Black Swan Song repackage. Fans familiar with K-pop learn to anticipate the repackage because you get a little something extra, and this repackage does not disappoint. Tablo, DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin, the members of Epik High, join forces with Jisun, a member of the rock band Loveholic, for this track.

Why I Like It

The “Paris” remix dramatically starts with the chorus of the song instead of Jisun’s melodic intro from the original. It then erupts into the vocals backed by a driving drum beat and a solid bass line, to which they add piano to Jisun’s vocals.  I like the remix so much I hardly listen to the original anymore.

Image: 1

Video: YouTube