Monday, December 6, 2010

K-Pop Reviews from Early December

I found some time to toil through some of the new releases searching for important trends or new ideas—I do a little research on K-pop, too, so I need to keep track of what’s going on—but K-pop research often feels like a chore. The online forums for K-pop fans reveal rare gems and a lot of gossip that matters not one whit. The whole social scene surrounding K-pop can be pretty ridiculous, but it's a very real cultural phenomenon and this is where the audience is, so I do turn my eyes on it and try to search for something fun in all the consumerism. And honestly I do find songs I like (perhaps at a rate of 1 out of every 25 highly promoted songs).

B2ST has a new track out, “Beautiful.” The track doesn’t stand out, it’s a softer track, with sweet singing instead of the harder edge of B2ST releases like Soom and Shock, both of which I’ve preferred a lot more. I also find the whole b-boy battle theme of the video a bit contrived. If you’re not b-boys why are you showing off that you’re not? Just do what you’re good at and leave the b-boying to someone else.

F.cuz has released “Midnight Sun.” Somehow to me this video reads like a JYPE video, even though F.cuz is with a different management company. Does anyone else see that? They’ve certainly grown up a bit since Jiggy, one of the most irritating releases ever.

SM the Ballad has released their first song, 너무 그리워 (Really Miss You). That makes it sound like they are brand new rookies, but they group is actually made up of several different SME group singers, and since one is SHINee’s Jonghyun, I actually watched the video despite the stupid name for the group. The song is, well, a ballad. So I definitely don’t like it. And the whole woman who’s got wings and fallen from the heavens thing is just so cliché.

Orange Carmel (a subdivision of the group After School) released a song called “Aing~” which is pretty irritating, especially their outfits. There is a dance version of the video as well as a regular version. Perhaps the regular one is slightly less irritating, as it uses the should-not-be-caught-dead wearing in public red plastic-y fabric outfits less.

Verbal Jint, another Korean rapper, released a new song with G.NA, I think he should have left her part (a syrupy sweet ballad style contribution) out of the song, but then of course if he had, it wouldn’t be Korean hip-hop. Korean hip-hop needs parts that are easy to sing-along with, and it needs syrupy love themes. Still, I like Verbal Jint’s rapping, it’s pretty good. If only he'd washed his hair on one of the filming days...

T-ara has a new song, “Yayaya.” The song is typical K-Pop fare, better done than many, but the video is where things get alarming. Koreans, for years, have gotten in trouble through various appropriations of what they consider to be good/amusing images (there have been more than just a couple Nazi-themed bars, for example, and there was a K-pop group that actually debuted in black-face with afros!). This time T-ara has taken a sort of international-native (a mix of characteristics from various Indian and even African cultures seem apparent). In a way BoA did something similar about five years back, but that song referenced more the sort of Indian-chic of the 70s Bohemians (a lot of beads and leather). This video, however, gets much more offensive. They tie a guy to a pole in the center of their village (surrounded by mini-teepees) and gyrate around him. Of course there is a lot of dancing in this village, with feathers, paint on cheeks, headbands and bows.

Just to add insult to injury (can’t anyone good have had a release?) comes Sistar’s “How Dare You.” The screen capture below should give you an idea why the costumes and the dance (and even broadcast of the MV) have been banned from various forums. Seriously, a dance motion where you polish your own butt cheek? Really classy, ladies! It’s poppy and annoying. Why make a video about a guy who isn’t behaving well towards you and how you’re going to get back at him? Couldn’t you use your 15 minutes in the spotlight to sing about something a tad bit more original?

At least you could be a little less transparent, trying to be artsy and symbolic like Brown Eyed Soul’s latest, 똑같다면. This song illustrates how the Madonna/whore dichotomy plays out in Korean music—this is the Madonna. The Madonna is SAD. She’s always sad in Korean music. This is why most “dance” genre pieces feature women (singers) who are messing around with versions of the whore (or at least Lolita imagery) (Another reason to love BoA, she seems to avoid the trap of making every video and every outfit about her sexuality, yet still churns out dance tracks).

The best I can offer you is that 2NE1 has released a new CF (commercial film) MV (music video) for Fiore. Even though it’s a CF, it’s still 2NE1 good, with great strong visuals, danceable beats, etc. The CF “Don’t Stop the Music.”
Makes me wonder what it’d be like if other stores, like E-Mart, spent the money to have a decent song for their company. Jeez, I almost want to avoid E-Mart just because of this annoying jingle they play over and over. The video doesn’t appear to be super high budget, the dancing is very standard and doesn’t seem freshly choreographed, there are only a few sets and outfits changes, but still it’s 2NE1 with their fearless sense of style (seriously, look at those outfits!). Got to love the girls, for their serious guts if for no other reason.

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