Monday, November 8, 2010

K-Pop Releases as Winter Begins

K-pop Releases

First of the new crop of releases is JYJ’s “Ayy Girl.” This is an extremely unsuccessful attempt to translate the popularity of the deservedly famous and legitimately talented smash hit group DBSK/TVXQ who have disintegrated through a nasty contract dispute with SM Entertainment into JYJ (three of the members and you can guess what their names begin with) and then the other two are going solo (exploring acting at the moment). They still have huge problems with SME which controls much of the Korean entertainment industry (they’re by far the largest company), for example SME managed to block the release of their first JYJ recording from sale in Korea (perhaps only temporarily, I haven’t been following much recently). Anyway, this song is an attempt to go somewhere where SME isn’t powerful—the English speaking world. Produced by and with guest vocals from Kanye West, this should be better than it is, but in fact it’s crap. The video set is corny, the close-ups of the guys seem designed just to appeal to their rabid fans, the lyrics are laughably bad (“we’re so high, touch the sky” and so on) and even the dancing (one of DBSK’s strong points) isn’t special (probably didn’t get a decent choreographer, since like most K-pop groups, they don’t do their own choreography). Also, if they’re trying to cross-over into a more Western part of the world, they might have rethought the make-up, clothes and some of the movements of the boys because they are coming across (to Western eyes) as quite effeminate. I’ve actually written about this in my academic writing, and I actually see a lot of Korean male groups are being quite masculine, just in a different way than people in the west are accustomed to, however in the case of this video I am not getting a masculine read off JYJ.

Nothing says girl group like a bunch of girls running around in cheerleader uniforms. Kara proves this by releasing a second video of their latest, “Jumping.” If you want to see the original version, it’s located here. It doesn’t matter which version of the video, the girl’s just sound awkward to me in Japanese. Not that I speak Japanese, I don’t.

[Edit: here is the link for Kara's newly released Korean version of Jumping which -does- sound better to me.]

Girl’s Day has a new song out, “Nothing Lasts Forever.” The video has a real party image, it’s a little different from most K-pop videos, the song is fairly standard for the “dance” genre, just perhaps a bit harder (and not as cutesy as you’d expect from a group with their name. There seems to be some posing about them being actual musicians, but I doubt anyone is silly enough to think they know what they’re doing with those instruments (they certainly didn’t get enough training in how to fake it). Overall, you could give it a pass.

Rainbow has a new song, “Mach,” this is pronounced Ma-ha for some reason. The song is the best of Rainbow’s songs so far, but I can’t find a real MV (I found something it seemed like a weird fan-made thing). So I’ve linked a music TV program recording instead. Anyway, it’s just another “dance” song but, it’s not bad.

Supreme Team has a new song out, “Then Then Then” with decent rapping but the other parts of the song, esp. the sappy music video, sort of ruin it for me. The best part of the video is figuring out what coffee shop the guy is patronizing.

Nine Muses (the group of former “super models”) has a song out called “Ladies,” perhaps there isn’t an MV, I can’t find one so I’ve linked this music show recording instead. Since I don’t find watching them dance poorly that exciting, I’ve only got the song to go on here, and their singing is too weak to carry it off. Oh well, ‘cause the lyrics are actually very empowering, something I appreciate.

2AM is totally irritating and all their songs sound the same. Not sure why I even bother to put the link up for this song, "Like Crazy". Whatever, it’s probably getting a lot of airplay with sappy 14 year-olds. To make it worse, they have TWO songs out right now, the other is “You wouldn’t answer my calls.” Which is slightly better, and I watched till the end just to find out what was going to happen in the video.

SNSD has released a new song, 훗 or Hoot. The video is, as you’d expect from nearly the top group in Asia, a well produced and visually arresting use of the 9 members of the group, showing off their “honey thighs” by dressing them in nothing but thigh bearing or skin-tight clothing. It feels a bit forced with the 007 theme, and an awful lot like they’re copying JYP Entertainment’s Wonder Girls “Two Different Tears” concept, but it works well, this SME group definitely is around to stay, and the song will surely be a huge winter hit.

Co-ed (남녀공학) has come out with their second single, which is called 삐리뽐 빼리뽐 (Bbiribbom, Bbaeribbom) and seems to feature the group in a mental hospital. Well, it’s certainly catchy! Visually and musically (although auto-tune isn’t a strong enough word for it), it stands out. I think I approve. I mean, a bit like Gaga’s Telephone in places but not too much so.


  1. A random stab at why "Mach" is pronounced "Ma-ha" -- they're borrowing the word Mach (as in Mach 1, Mach 2, etc.) but pronouncing it through the Korean soundscape and trying to say it as a German would (with that voiceless glottal fricative - that is, if I've got my IPA descriptions correct).

  2. i once (probably more than 10 years ago) had an argument with someone once over the pronunciation of Bach. I said "If you want to pronounce Bach that way because it's the 'original' pronunciation for spelling that way, then you might want to rethink spelling your name Jung and saying it as though it rhymes with hung..."

  3. ah, orthography.

    They might retort, however, that our funky English spelling makes us say this, whereas they are adopting the Latin alphabet and wholesale (re)defining letters to have the sounds they wish (when romanizing their Korean names/words). This is a case, perhaps, of a clash between the Latin alphabet and the IPA, where I sometimes wish we'd all just learn the IPA and use it to spell everything; at least then all languages could be intelligibly read by everyone, no?

    (That is, naturally, the touted beauty of Hangeul, until I remind people about words like 박물관 or 상록 and their exceptional pronunciation.)