Kpop Sunday Special: Akdong Musician



Akdong Musician is a new duo that just debuted with YG Entertainment and, in my opinion, is a sign of changes in the Korean music industry.  For the last decade or so flashy boy and girl bands singing pop music have dominated the scene. But recently more natural sounding music is being much more appreciated by the Korean public. Bands like Busker Busker and Urban Zakapa, along with Akdong Musician, are killing it on Korean music charts. Don’t get me wrong, established groups like 2NE1 and 2PM are still amazingly popular. But most newbie groups that are similar to them seem to be getting the beat down by Akdong Musician.

The duo consists of a sister, Lee Soo-Hyun, and brother, Lee Chan-Hyuk, who are 15 and 17 respectively. They were discovered on Kpop Star2, which is basically the Kpop version of The Voice. They were popular on the show for doing acoustic remixes of popular songs, and for a couple original ones as well.

What many found really amazing was that Chan-Hyuk, as young as he was, actually wrote and composed all of their original songs as well as composing the remixes. For the most part they were praised but one of the judges, Yang Hyun-Suk the CEO of YG, said he wasn’t sure if the way that Chan-Hyuk composed music would be very popular outside of the show.

I find this particular fact pretty funny considering a month after winning the show the siblings were signed to YG and Hyun-Suk let Chan-Hyuk write and compose their entire debut album. Papa YG was also proven wrong as the album achieved an “all kill” topping all the major music charts in Korea.


I think the reason that these kids are so popular, other than their amazing natural talent, is that they are just so likable. Most Kpop idols seem very unapproachable, like you can only appreciate them from afar. And, to be fair, we do call them idols. But these two just seem to be normal, albeit funny and a bit wacky, kids who like to sing. They showed this to perfection with their MV for 200%. But they also have a more serious side as they showed with their single Melted.

What do you think of this type of music? Do you prefer it to pop or are neither to your taste?


Q is for Quitter

Recently Dongho, a member of the group UKiss, quit Kpop. He is, by far, not the only one. I talked about JYJ and them rebelling against their “slave contract” a few posts ago. There are also members that have quit from very popular groups Super Junior and KARA. I really can’t blame any of them.

For those of us in North America when we think of celebrities and pop music performers we think money, luxury and partying. I remember an old show “cribs” where celebrities would offer tours of their houses and it would be one person living in a house worth millions of dollars. And what did these people do to get all of this money? They would spend a year working on an album, or waiting for their label to come up with an album, and spend a couple months recording it. Then they would promote their song, maybe have a couple gigs a week and then go home to their ridiculous mansions and rake in the money. Now, I know that there are exceptions to this rule, some of these people work hard, but it is true for some. That is never how it works with Kpop idols.

First, Kpop Idols have INSANE schedules. During their promotion times they do multiple shows a day. They basically live in their vans and get carted from place to place to perform like monkeys. Only, I would treat an animal better than these people are! In North America you always hear about celebrities crazy demands for their dressing room, like “I want exactly 7.5 oranges but it must be from Australia and be this shade of orange!” Kpop Idols are lucky if they get a dressing room. If you follow them on Instagram you can see postings of Kpop groups sleeping in a group on the floor, or randomly sleeping in strange places. Then the fan girls squee and aww about it saying its cute. That is not cute, that is freaking uncomfortable. And, they are just fed whatever is around whether it is cheap delivery or convenience store food.

You might be thinking, but this is just during their promotion times! It only lasts a couple weeks and then they are done! Not so much. For one, promotion times for songs seem to last a lot longer in Korea, more than a month. Also, even when they aren’t promoting they are still constantly training and they don’t even have their own space to go home to. They all live in dorms together. And god forbid one of them gains some weight or their company decides they don’t like something about their face. Kpop Idols go on crazy diets all the time. Park Bom, for example, was criticized for being fat. At worst she had, maybe, 10 extra pounds. So she went on this “awesome” diet where all she ate was lettuce and corn. She was actually praised for it. That is both extremely unhealthy and a truly terrible example to set. But if these idols don’t conform to how their companies want them to look some are forced, by contract, to get plastic surgery.

Lastly, there are the “fans”. I say fans with quotation marks because the people I am about to describe are not real fans, they are straight up crazy.  People online or “Netizens” as they are called in Korea are vicious. They will often find pictures of Idols and circle any imperfections in red and posting it, fueling what happens in the above chapter. And lord help the Kpop idol if the netizens find out they have a girlfriend or boyfriend. When it has even been suspected death threats were pouring in for the significant other. Then there are the “Sasaeng” which means stalker. These people spend their entire lives following around the Kpop Idols. They have been known to break into their dorms or apartments, leave excrement or used feminine products in or by their houses, and there have even been attempted kidnappings.

All in all, I am pretty sure being a Kpop Idol sucks. The living conditions probably get better after the group gets popular and established, I doubt that the members of Big Bang still live in a dorm together. But they still had to go through it when they started and they still deal with the crazy fans and schedule. So I am just really grateful to my favorite groups for putting up with it and I have no hard feelings towards the people who quit.  All of this said would you put up with it to be a Kpop Idol? I sure as heck wouldn’t.

P is for Psy



Gangnam Style


Okay, not really, but I do hate what Gangnam Style has done to Kpop! This is going to sound really hipsterish, but popularity almost ruined Kpop! Many of you may not know this but before last year and a half there were a LOT less Kpop groups. Then Gangnam Style came out and all of a sudden the world was interested in Kpop. There were a few problems with this.

1) We now have newbie Kpop groups coming out the ying yang. Kpop is popular so companies think they can make a quick buck off of it, everyone and their mother is debuting a group. Jackie Chan just debuted a group! You might think as a fan of Kpop I wouldn’t mind, the more Kpop there is the happier I am right? WRONG. Most of these groups suck. One even brought twerking into Kpop, twerking doesn’t belong here! Even if some of these newbies don’t suck it is really difficult to wade through the crap to find what is actually good! So most of us stick to what we know and cling hard to our veteran groups.

2) Kpop was starting to try way too hard. I almost feel like Kpop got stage fright. They were like “Crap, everyone is looking at me. I have to smash this and keep their attention! But… what do white people like?” Apparently they don’t know. Many groups came out with songs that were a mash of like three different songs. A bit of something for everyone. Kill me.

3) And, finally, Gangnam Style is not Kpop! After listening to Gangnam Style people would look into Kpop thinking they were going to find more videos with middle aged men acting like crazy people. Kpop takes itself way too seriously for that. Most Kpop music videos are a bunch of ridiculously attractive people staring into the camera or doing perfectly choreographed dance numbers. Gangnam Style is to Kpop what I’m on a Boat is to rap music.

I will admit it, Gangnam Style is catchy. I liked the song before it became so overplayed.  Though, in my opinion, Psy’s next song Gentleman was better. Happily Kpop seems to be recovering nicely. SNSD recently came out with a new song, Mr Mr, and it was freaking awesome, no rap breakdown! I love SNSD but dude they cannot rap. They are not the only ones though, many groups have come out with new songs recently and Kpop as a whole seems to be recovering from their brain fart. Thank you sweet baby Jesus.

O is for Oppa

Oppa, technically, means big brother. It is used by a female to address a man she is close to that is older than her. It is also pretty much the first Korean word that any Kpop or Kdrama fan learns. Why? So if we meet our bias we know what to call them! Super Junior members Donghae and Eunhyuk even made a song about it.

Here in the US we don’t really have an equivalent word. When I have seen subtitles try to translate it they usually either say brother or honey, depending on who is using it. That is because it can really be used either way. It is what a little girl would call her older brother and it wouldn’t be flirtatious in any way. But if you hear a 20 something girl calling a guy she is interested in or her boyfriend Oppa that is most likely flirtatious. There is also the male equivalent, Noona. This is used much less often in a flirtatious way, though “Noona romances” are becoming much more popular in dramas. My personal favorite is Flower Boy Ramyun Shop.

This sort of word is actually really common in all of Asia. Pretty much every Asian language I have looked up has words that designate older brother and older sister, and normally a different set for each gender. In Korea if you are a man you would call an older woman Noona or an older man Hyung. If you are a woman an older man is Oppa and an older woman is Unnie. Some languages have it separated out the same way for younger people but in Korea you call all everyone younger Dongsaeng. Now, if you go to Korea don’t just walk around calling everyone this. They are more like endearments; you do not call strangers these things!

Unless they are celebrities, then it is completely okay. Love you T.O.P. Oppa!

M is for M-Line

This post kind of goes along with the Eye Smile post for E, but instead of names for features that we never think of, it is actually about ones we do think of, but have different names for. This post probably should have gone under “L,” because I am going to be talking about all sorts of lines, but I wanted to talk about Lee Michelle! So I am going to put it under “M” and start with the M-Line.

The M-line is my favorite for obvious reasons; it is describing six pack abs! Also known as “chocolate abs” this line has defined some of my favorite eye candy. Here is a picture… you know, in case you need clarification…


The rest of the “lines” are less fun for me because they all define different female features, the most common one is the V-line. It describes someone with small cheeks coming down to a pointed chin. I mentioned in the Eye Smile post that Korean women will often bunch their hands and put them on either side of their face to take a photo. Along with making their faces appear smaller this is also supposed to enhance a V-Line.


Another common line reference is an S line. This is supposed to be a woman with large breasts and butt seen from the side. Being immersed in Korean culture as long as I have I have heard many girls described as having an S-line,  but I just can’t see it. Maybe it is because I have been raised in North America. But…lady, I’m sorry… you have no curves! You, as a beautiful Asian woman, get being ridiculously skinny, having beautiful hair and really pretty eyes. Leave this alone, it is just not you and that is okay. Leave the S-lines to Beyoncé and J.Lo. (Same goes with B-line which is supposed to be big boobs.)


The next line. in my opinion, describes Asian women much better, and is called the X-line. This means that they have long slim limbs connected by a tiny waist. It baffles me that this is one of the less used descriptive “lines,” becuase it is so much closer to what a typical Korean woman would look like. I guess we all want what we don’t have.


The line I have just recently heard of, and I think is the strangest, is the D-line. This is describing a pregnant woman’s body. It’s not that I don’t get why it was called a D-line, but why have a weird name for it? I actually think it is funny in general that they seemed to have alphabetized the female body. Except for the M-line, nothing funny about that, totally makes sense.

L is for Lee Hi and Lee Michelle

I chose these two not only because they have the same last name that starts with L they have quite a lot in common. Both of these girls were discovered on the first season of Kpop Star and are powerhouse vocalists. Neither of them won the competition and then both were signed by YG Entertainment after the show. But that is really where the similarities end. Lee Michelle was dropped by YG before her debut and was signed by a much smaller agency. Lee Hi was debuted as a solo artist and has had major mainstream success.


Originally the two were going to debut together along with a couple other girls under the group name Su-Pearls. Su-Pearls were actually a group created during Kpop Star and during the show Lee Hi wasn’t part of it. Both girls trained for two years after the show at YG but before the group could debut Lee Hi debuted as a soloist with the song 1234, one of my favorite Kpop songs to this day. Soon after Su-Pearls were disbanded and while no one really knows for sure why most believe it was because of Lee Hi’s success as a soloist. Lee Hi released two more singles and, like the first, they were both a major success solidifying her title of “monster rookie.”


Now, don’t let the rest of this post fool you, I quite like Lee Hi. She is an amazing performer and I own her album, it is really great. But I feel like Lee Michelle has a lot more depth to her then Lee Hi does. She just recently released her debut single Without You. WARNING: Do not watch the video without a box of tissues handy. This is actually the first time, pretty much ever, that I cried at a music video. Normally a music video can’t get me into the story enough to make me cry. I can watch it and I know that it is sad but it doesn’t really… hit home, if you know what I mean.

For those of you that can’t tell from the picture of her above Lee Michelle is half black and half Korean, and she grew up in Korea. Some of you may not know this but Korea is actually fairly new to having foreigners. It wasn’t so long ago that a white or black person, or pretty much anyone who wasn’t Korean, couldn’t walk the streets of Seoul without being stared at. So I imagine growing up in a place where everyone thinks of you as an outsider is very difficult, and she tells us about it in her new video.

If you just look at the surface meaning of the lyrics of the song it will seem like she is just talking about a lost love. However, taken with her history and the MV, the lyrics have a much deeper meaning. During the video you mostly see a little girl that could be Lee Michelle’s little sister, who is clearly supposed to be her. She starts by running from some unseen threat to a really sad looking house. She proceeds to write racial slurs on the wall, ones that have been slung at her. At one point the little girl uses powder to whiten her face, trying to become what everyone wants her to be. But the video ends with her throwing paint at a white canvas that has Lee Michelle’s face drawn on it, giving her color again. I am not ashamed to admit that I was bawling by the end of this video.

I know in the picture of me on the About page I look really really white, but I am actually mixed. My mother is half Filipino and half Italian while my dad is part pretty much everything that is white in Europe, but mostly Irish. I proudly proclaim myself to be a mutt, thank you very much. But even if you don’t have a mixed heritage you can relate, most of us have something we feel we have been put down or bullied for. What did you think of the video, could you relate to it?

J is for JYJ

JYJ is kind of the black sheep of the Kpop family. They were originally called TVXQ (or DBSK depending on which country you live in) and were a five member group. TVXQ debuted in 2003 and were amazingly popular in both Korea and Japan winning multiple awards and topping many charts with over 20 singles. But six years after their debut three of the members sued their entertainment company, SM Entertainment, saying that the contract was too long and that the profit distribution was unfair. Considering that the contract was 13 years long and Kpop is slightly infamous for “slave contracts” their complaints were most likely completely fair. The three members (Junsu, Jejoong and Yuchun) broke from TVXQ and SM and formed their own group, JYJ.

They debuted as JYJ in 2010 and, in my opinion, are more talented than then what is left of TVXQ. SM, however, is one of the most powerful talent agencies in South Korea so JYJ faces a lot of issues. For one, they are basically banned from appearing on any music shows, like Inkigayo. They aren’t technically banned, but shows that rely on SM letting their very popular artist make appearances on them are less likely to let JYJ appear. They also have much less advertisement then they did back when part of SM Entertainment.

One of the reasons I respect them so much is because despite this they are still very successful, both as a group and by themselves. Their return album debuted as number one on the Oricon chart. They also released a English album with the title track being produced and featuring Kanye West, Ayy Girl. It is honestly not my favorite JYJ song but the video did produce the famous “rolling down your sexy windows” dance move. If you don’t know what I am talking about check out the EYK review of the video here. Their next album was my favorite spawning my favorite JYJ song, In Heaven.


Junsu aka Xia is my favorite of the group and has a very successful solo career. Apart from their group world tour he has done one on his own as well as an Asia tour. He is actually one of the most sexual of the Kpop artists out there. Just watch Intoxication… If he had released that in Korea it would have been banned SO fast. He also plays a large role in composing and writing many of his songs. He is also the captain of the South Korean celebrity Soccer team FC MEN, and has been in multiple live musicals.


Jae-Joong aka Hero is the second member and probably the prettiest man I have ever seen. And no, I don’t mean handsome, I mean pretty. When doing solo music he actually has a much more rock feel then pop, as demonstrated with his single Mine. He also plays a large role in composing and writing many of his songs. He acts sometimes and my favorite role of his was the as the second male lead of the drama Protect the Boss.




Yoochun aka Micky doesn’t really do much solo music, what he does a lot of is acting. With his first Korean acting role back in 2010, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, he won the “Rookie of the Year award”, “Netizen Award”, and “Best Couple Award”. He has been in three Korean Dramas since and continues to rake in the awards.


I will continue to support these guys because they are pretty darn talented and it sucks that they are thought of as less by a lot of Korean mainstream because of the fight with SM. But I am not the only one supporting them. Whatever they may lack in Korean popularity they make up for, many times over, in international popularity.