Tag Archives: Kpop

Music: Eyes, Nose, Lips Cover Project

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Taeyang from my favourite Korean idol group, Big Bang released his first song of his new album on June 3.  A few weeks later, his label YG Entertainment announced they would be embarking on a Cover Project where its artists would do covers of songs by other artists on their label.  The first one being a cover of Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips.

While I am a big fan of Akdong Musician and have been playing their new album PLAY non-stop for weeks, it is actually Tablo’s reimagined version with new lyrics, which is my favourite so far. This is not surprising given I have been a long time fan of Tablo and Epik High, with them probably being my all time favourite Korean hip hop group (with Drunken Tiger and Soul Dive coming just after them).

In the last day or so, Eric Nam, who originally came to public attention by covering kpop songs on youtube, has released an english language version of the song.   I doubt any of my favourite Korean indie rock groups will release a version of the song, but if they did I am sure they would also do an amazing job!

 

TAEYANG – original release

 

AKDONG MUISCIAN

 

TABLO – Reimagined version (with new lyrics in english by Tablo)

 

ERIC NAM –  english version of original Taeyang version

14 brilliant kpop songs & MVs for 2013

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Just a small selection of some of my favourite kpop songs and MVs from this year.  The selection is broader than the standard Kpop “Idol” music and also includes K-hip hop, K-indie and K-rock.

*where possible/available I have included MV’s with english substitles

1. G.Dragon – Crooked


And here we are at no#1.  G.Dragon starts and end this list, not only because he is one of my favourite Korean performers but because Crooked is my favourite song of his Coup D’Etat album.  I love everything about this song and MV.   I love that it is a sad song disguised as a more cheerful song – its indicative of the whole song, telling the tale of someone trying to pretend they are okay after a breakup, trying to have fun but not succeeding.  The MV is set in London and has a great feel too it.  It’s funny, amusing and sad at the same time.  I particularly like G.Dragon’s costuming in the MV and also the location choices are great.   Definitely at the top of my list for favourite kpop tunes and MV this year.

2. MFBTY/Drunken Tiger – Sweet Dream

MFBTY’s Sweet Dream has been one of my favourite songs all year.  A collaborative project between Tiger JK, Yoon Mi-rae and Bizzy, I love both the song and the MV. Yoon Mi-rae’s voice is beautiful and I love how it weaved through the song and bring the whole song together.  The video clip is not your normal MV and has a lot of great imagery and fun too it.  Although I had heard some of Drunken Tiger’s material before, it was this song that really got me listening to them as well as other work by Yoon Mi-Rae and Bizzy.  The song is featured on Drunken Tiger’s new album, The Cure, which is fabulous and like Lee Hyori’s Monochrome is one I have been listening too non-stop.

3. LeeHi -Rose

I fell in love with LeeHi’s voice the moment I heard it.  Not only is her voice gorgeous and something completely unusual for the kpop world, the sultry jazziness of it is just spectacular. It’s hard to believe when you hear Leehi sing that she is just 16 years old (or was when she released her album earlier in the year).  I live most of the songs off her album, but Rose is beautiful and suits the sultry nature of her voice.  The MV is stunningly  luscious, while full of romantic imagery doesn’t overwhelm the young singer.

4. Kim Hyun Joong  – Unbreakable (featuring Jay Park)

Kim Hyun Joong is definitely one of my favourite male kpop singers. I loved his Japanese releases earlier in the year and was keenly awaiting his Korean comeback.  Unbreakable certainly didn’t disappoint.  There is so much to love about this song and video.  I love the beat of the song, the hip hop elements and the feature by Jay Park.  The dancing is terrific and I love that its something a bit different for KHJ.  The MV is also beautiful and does a fantastic job of fusing  Western and Asian cultural elements and imagery.  The black and white of the clip also adds to making the clip look more sumptuous and gives it a very classic feel.

5. Junsu/Xia – 11 AM


Junsu makes the list twice! I have been raving about this song since it came out. I absolutely love, love, love it. I love the way in which it is stripped back to an accapella for the first half of the song and in the second half there is just a very simply piano accompaniment. The songs is gorgeous and shows cases just how good a vocalist Junsu really is.  I also love the MV, which was shot in long live take.

6.  Junsu/Xia – Incredible

My favourite kpop “dance” song released for 2013, Incredible by Junsu (aka Xia) from JYJ. A fun dance track, upbeat and catchy. Great for summer and putting you in a good mood 🙂  The MV is bright, colourful and a lot of fun as well.

7. B.A.P – One Shot

Another fairly new kpop group, which has also only been around for just under two years.  While definitely a kpop “Idol” group, their music style is also influenced by hip hop and rap.  One Shot is effectively a song about youth and making choices.  The MV for the song show cases the group’s singing, rapping, dancing and acting ability.  It is also one of the “surprise” videos of the year, so make sure you watch it through to the very end!

8. EXO – Growl

Despite only being on the kpop scene for a year and half, EXO, has already climbed to the top of the kpop world.  Comprised of 12 Korean and Chinese members, Exo released several tracks in 2013 but Growl is by far their most successful release.  I am more fond of the beat and the musical style of the song, than I am of the lyrics. In particular, I like that it has as hip hop beat to it, which feels sparse but addictive.  I also love the choreography used in the MV, as well as the look of the MV itself, which was shot in one long take.

9. Jaurim – Twenty-five, Twenty-one

Jaurim is without a doubt my number one favourite Korean indie group. And Kim Yoon-ah without a doubt is my favourite female Korean singer. I just love her voice, range and ability.  Jaurim is known for their tight musical arrangement, melodic sound and gorgeous lyrics.  Goodbye Grief is their 9th full length studio album and Twenty-five, Twenty-one is one of their sadder songs.   Dealing with desire and longing for love lost,  the full emotional impact and depth of the song is conveyed beautifully with Yoon-ah’s soaring vocals and the song has all the melodic and musical qualities fans have come to expect from Jaurim.  Beautiful, sad and heartfelt.

10. Nell – Ocean of Light

And here is no#11 – my second favourite Korean indie band ever, Nell.  I just adore Nell and I just adore Kim Jong-wan’s stunning voice.  Nell is known for having a more arthouse sound, with psychedelic overtones.  Their songs not only explore issues of love, friendship and alienation, but also regularly explored darker topics such as depression, anger, suicide. However, “Ocean of Light” is one of their more upbeat/uplifting tracks but still brings with it both Nell’s trade mark electronica and emotional intensity.

11. Trouble Maker – Now

To paraphrase Dorothy Gale: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.  We must be over the [KPOP] rainbow!” Oh yes!! TroubleMaker – aka Hyuna (from 4 minutes) and Hyunseung (from Beast) – pulled out all stops with NOW breaking out of the usual kpop mould. This was actually the first song I had heard from TroubleMaker and I really loved it for a whole range of reasons – the first being that this is the first “sub-unit” of kpop performers I have come across which is a permanent pairing of a male and female performer and as such it gives a whole new dynamic to not only the song and music, but the performance as well.  Secondly, I love this particular song, as well as the MV for it.  The song is basically about a couple who are in a destructive relationship in a downward spiral, with this clearly reflected in the MV.  The MV incorporates a whole lot of images  (heavy drinking, smoking, sex scenes and inter racial sexual relations) which are not the usual fare for kpop videos.  This has lead to debate as to whether or not kpop is becoming to “Americanised” in order to break into the US market. I don’t think this is necessarily the case, but NOW definitely pushes the boundaries of what is the norm in kpop.

12. 2NE1 – Missing You

2NE1 is probably my favourite of the female kpop “idol” groups.  Out of the three songs released by the group this year, this is my favourite.  A pretty ballad about heartbreak and trying to overcome lost love.  What I really love about the song is the harmonies, as well as the haunting melodic feeling too it.  While its not my favourite 2NE1 song ever, it is one I can happily listen too over and over, as it showcases beautifully the voices of CL, Bom, Dara and Minzy.

13 . Lee Hyori – Miss Korea

No# 13 is the Kpop diva, Lee Hyori with “Miss Korea” –  a song tackling the issue of the self-esteem, plastic surgery, the beauty industry and the social pressure on girls and woman to attain an unattainable beauty image.  The song title no doubt draws on reports about the widespread practice of Miss Korea contestants going under the knife to achieve a particular look and also from the fact that South Korea has one of the highest rates of plastic surgery per population in the world (while the US has the highest number of plastic surgery procedures).

In the song, Hyori addresses the issue of self-esteem and challenges the idea that women need to go under the knife to be beautiful.  I love the MV, which not only includes the imaging of Hyori being surrounded by surgical instruments but also includes two well-know Korean drag performers, clearly also challenging the conservativism in Korea around LGBTI issues.  Miss Korea is Hyori’s first single in 3 years and the lead track off her Monochrome album, which I haven’t stopped listening too since I got it due to the wonderful musical diversity of the album.

14. G.Dragon – Who You



Coming in at No# 14 is kpop’s boy wonder himself – G.Dragon – with “Who You?” from his 3rd solo album, Coup D’etat. I love the “feel good” feel of the song and MV (although the song is actually a breakup song). The reason for the “feel good” feeling of the MV is because the video was conceived as a “thankyou” gift to G.Dragon’s fans and is a compilation of professionally shot footage as well as video footage shot by 1000 of G.Dragon’s fans who were invited especially for the MV production. I like the conception of the video, particularly the whole “glass box” and how it relates to “celebrity” (something he also explores in the Coup D’Etat MV). And I love how all the names of the fans are listed at the end of the MV!

 

KPop Idol Kim Jonghyun supports Transgender/LGBTI rights and Annyeong Student Protests

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As any KPop fan (and yes, I am one) will tell you, political statements and public political stances are something that KPop Idols usually steer away from.  For those not into KPop, the term “Idol” is used to described popular KPop performers and singers trained through South Korean talent agencies such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.  During their training period, as well as their early years of performing, Kpop artists are tightly supervised by their management companies.  It has been estimated that the cost of “discovering” and training a Kpop “Idol” is around US$2.6 million dollars, so it is unsurprising that young Kpop artists are so tightly managed, to ensure that they do not get involved in any “scandals” or situation which may alienate them from their legion of fans and undermine their commercial marketability.  Thus Idol groups and singers are usually corralled by their entertainment company to stick to a fairly narrow line

However, this week two KPop idols made public their support for current student protests against privatisation and inequality in Korean society.  On December 15, Chansung from the Idol group, 2PM, tweeted to his (almost) 780,000 followers that he supported the “Annyeong” (Are you well?) protests, while Shinee’s Kim Jonghyun  – who has over 922,000 followers on twitter – changed his twitter profile photo this week to a hand written letter by a transgender student involved in the Anneyong protests. The note, written by the student, titled: “No matter what name you call us, we are not ‘Annyeong’ (well) highlights discrimination against the Transgender and LGBTI community in South Korea (for a full translation of the note, see below).

The student protests, known collectively as the “annyeong” Protests or “Are You Well? protests, have seen university and college students, as well as non-students take a stand against the privatisation of South Korea’s railroads and healthcare, as well censorship, electoral corruption and injustice within Korean society.

“Annyeong” is the Korean phrase which is commonly used in greetings to ask if someone is well or doing okay. As part of the protests, the protestors have carried and posted hand written notes with the phrase “I am not okay”, highlighting their opposition to the privatisation  attempts, as well as economic and social injustice and corruption.

The protests began on December 14, when a Korean University student, Joo Hyun Woo posted up a large handwritten poster on campus, asking if people were doing okay, because he wasn’t.  In his poster he addressed the strike by railroad workers protesting the government plan to privatise the Korean Railroad Corp.  He also addressed the issue of the accusations around a fixed presidential election and other acts of injustice and censorship taking place.  Joo’s action inspired other students who also began to write their own signs, expressing their unhappiness with the current political and economic situation in South Korea.  For the last week, students and their supporters have taken to the street with similar placards and signs.

anneyong 3 anneyong 4 anneyong 2Photos of Annyeong Protests via Netizen Buzz

Korea’s Netizen Buzz website has quoted several students on the protests:

One sociology major said, “Our society has difficulty differentiating between what is ‘different’ and what is ‘wrong’. We tend to overlook what is ‘wrong’ to be ‘different’. We need to be able to tell the government that it is ‘wrong’ to dismiss railroad union members for disagreeing with the privatization. I am here today because I refuse to stay silent. I hope that we will all be okay.”

Another student said, “Our college demands that we remain oblivious to issues regarding our government and society. We’re all just as frustrated (with this censorship) so I’m here today to say that I am not okay.”

Others said similar things to the line of, “I have to block the privatization of the railroads for my life to be okay”, “I am not okay because I am embarrassed to have my child born in this country”, “I am not okay because our society has taken away my right to express my anger towards injustice”, “Is a society just when I need to be brave just to have my voice heard?”, “I am not okay because I live in a society that censors me”…

The transgender student who wrote the note posted by Kim Jonghyun later revealed her identity and made it publicly known that he had contacted her about posting her protest note. The student,Kang Eun Ha, said she had been contacted by Jonghyun to let her know he was posting his note to his twitter profile and that he hoped that this would be okay and that she would not become the centre of unwanted attention due to his action.  Kang Eun Ha made public the exchange between herself and Jonghyun, in which he stated:

“I support you. As a celebrity, as a minority of a different sort facing the public, I also feel disappointment towards the world that does not accept difference. Of course, it can’t be compared to what you feel.”  In response, Kang Eun Ha replied:
Thank you so much. I don’t know with what words I can express my feelings…Thank you. Thank you so much. I will definitely stay strong. Please be careful of cold, and I hope you have a warm end of the year 🙂 Thank you!”

kang eun haImage via Omana They Didn’t Blog

South Korean society is still very conservative (as are a lot of countries) in relation to LGBTI rights.  So it should not be under estimated how much of a political and social “big deal” it is for an Idol star like Kim Jonghyun to take a public stance in support of Transgender and LGBTI rights in South Korea. It is something which very few public figures do, let alone young Kpop idol singers.

In September this year, one of the few openly gay film directors in South Korea, Kim Jo Kwang Soo and his partner, Kim Seung Hwan married publicly in order to draw attention to struggle of the South Korean LGBTI community for equal rights.  This month, Kim attempted to register his marriage but it was rejected.  Director Kim Jo Kwang Soo’s public campaign for equal rights is also noted in the Anneyong protest note posted by the Kang Eun Ha.


Here is a translation of Kang Eun Ha’s Anneyong protest note:

 No matter what name you call us, we are not ‘Annyeong’ (well)

Last April, the third attempt to enact anti-discrimination legislation was turned down because of those who loathe equality. In September, Kim Jo-kwang-soo and Kim Seung-hwan publically held a same sex wedding for the first time in Korea. There were disturbances such as human excrements being thrown onto the stage, but Kim Jo-kwang-soo and Kim Seung-hwan marched down the aisle with pride as to prove that “love is stronger than hate.” But a few days ago, their marriage registration was denied. Also, some people voiced ridiculous claims that textbooks should discuss the issue of the humans rights of sexual minorities as a topic you agree or disagree with.

Many of you who read this will think like this: how on earth does this concern me or the state of current affairs? But because I know him [Kim Jo-kwang-su], I can tell you this. Whether you are pleased with this or not, this is the story of the world that sexual minorities, including myself, live through, who dine, take classes, study, and have debates with with all of you. This is another side of the current affairs of the society we live in.

Yes, I am a sexual minority. I am a male to female transgender person and I am bisexual. I am a woman. I am of the “880,000 Won” generation. I am a college student. I am one of the inheritors of the working class. What more names can you call me by? There will be no end if you tried to enumerate them one by one. It’s not just me, but probably all of you are living in the present, being called by numerous names.

But I am not okay, not at peace at any moment, whichever name I am being called. Today’s Korean society not only can’t enact an anti-discrimination law, but discriminates against sexual minorities on a daily basis, throws rampant unfair criticism and hatred towards females, exploits the young generation, forces college students to be absorbed with employment instead of academics. Which name should I be called in order to be at ease?

Someone asked us this. Are you guys Annyeong, whether we are doing well. That’s what I’m saying. Are we all well when we’re relieved that anothers’ pain is “not mine,” growing accustomed to closing our eyes and blocking our ears in order to protect our own lives? How well can we be in a cold-hearted world when it continuously presses us to give up empathy?

I’m not saying that we all should pour out on the streets and start throwing stones. It’s just that, if this story of asking whether all of us living today are Annyeong (doing well) provides an opportunity to look into the face of the person next to you and call their name, I think this has been worthwhile. As the world becomes lonelier, I think, contrary to our belief, the way for us to become ‘well’ is nearby. Right now, please ask the person next to you, “Are you well?”

Translation of terms used in Kang Eun Ha’s note (via Omona They Didn’t blog):

T/N: Annyeong: the literal definition of the greeting is ‘a state of tranquility’

T/N: 880,000 Won Generation refers to the demographic of Korea in their 20’s that suffered employment instability around 2007. Multiplying the average paycheck of part time workers, 1,190,000 won (1130 USD), by the average salary rate for people in their 20s, 73%, results in 880,000 Won. This is the first amongst many generations in Korea to play the “Game of the Winner Takes All.”

This term was first used in the book 880,000 Won Generation, published in August, 2007. The author, Woo Suk-hoon says “Only the top 5% of people in their 20s will have a stable job above middle management and the others will live on part time employment with an average wage of 880,000 Won.” [naver encyclopedia/ MK Business News]