Kpop Sunday Special: Akdong Musician

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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.

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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?

F is for Failure

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So… basically the A-Z challenge kicked my butt. It took way more energy and time than I thought it would.  I know, silly me, it’s not called “challenge” for shits and giggles. So I took the last couple weeks off to distress myself, and now I am back! Don’t lie, I know you missed me.

One great thing that came out of that was I realized how much I love blogging about Kpop, and Korea in general. So I have decided to start a weekly segment called “Kpop Sunday Special.” Every week I will blog about what ever happened in the sphere of Kpop or Korean pop culture in general. If nothing really interesting happened I will just talk about something that has happened in the past that I feel like telling you about. But no matter what; it will be about something from Korea. My first edition will be out later today.

As for my writing: I laugh hysterically to myself when I look at my first post on this blog. Particularly at the part where I say I will write an entire book in 4 months. Clearly I am a comic genius. It is not going that smoothly at all. And recently I figured out why I was having such a hard time. I was trying to write the book from the wrong perspective.

It is a fantasy novel so my first thought was I should write it from the most kick-ass person in the cast. They are going to be at the center of all the action so in that aspect it kind of made sense. But then I realized that she was just too hard to relate to, I had fallen into the Superman conundrum. If she is this all powerful, awesome character, what real difficulties could she face? She the other girl that basically started out as her plucky side kick is now the main protagonist. She is so much more relatable and so much easier to write I am a little ashamed of myself for not figuring this out sooner.

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

Ugggghhhhh…. I HATE GANGNAM STYLE, END OF POST!

 

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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!

N is for Neon Bunny

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Neon Bunny is an oddity in Korea. She is a successful indie artist. She belongs to no label, and doesn’t want to. For most artist in Korea this means very little exposure and very little success outside of Hongdae, which is the center of Korean indie music. But Neon Bunny shook up the whole music scene last year when she won Best Pop Album, beating out IU. IU is basically the nation’s sweet heart. For someone of her status to be beaten out by a no name newbie has literally never happened before, and that is how awesome that album was. There isn’t a very large Indie scene in Korea, and a lot of people believe that the only music in Korea is Kpop. That is just not true.

I will admit, I am not a huge indie fan. I like pop music in general and I am not ashamed of it. The whole garage band or rock music thing doesn’t really do it for me, even if it is more artistic. My brother and I argue about this all the time. He gets so frustrated because I like the music when the one performing it didn’t write or compose it themselves. Also, according to him, it all sounds the same. But just because a group writes their own stuff doesn’t mean I like what it sounds like!! I like the way pp music sounds and, quite frankly, I like the way Kpop artists look. So sue me! And, just because they didn’t write it themselves doesn’t make them less talented. They are amazing performers and that takes as much skill as writing a song, just a different one!

I digress… where was I? Right, Korean indie scene… its small. If you live outside of Korea it is really hard to get to know much of it because mostly Korean indie bands do live performances and aren’t a big presence on YouTube. One of the easiest ways to get to know any of it is to follow the site EatYourKimchi. Every week they do a K-indie segment on what is going on. They are actually the ones that first introduced me to Neon Bunny. My favorite song she has ever done is Oh My Prince. For those of you that can’t understand it this song is actually about her telling the “Prince” to GTFO. Don’t feel embarrassed, I had to look up the translation too!

If anyone feels like sharing, what are your feelings about indie vs pop music?

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…

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.