Tag Archives: Kpop

Henry – Fantastic Review

Henry Lau’s second mini album, Fantastic was released on iTunes today and I’ve got to say Henry has become one of my favorite Kpop solo artists. Two years running he’s managed to create two mini albums of six songs each of pure audio bliss. Sadly, I can’t say that about any of my long time favorite kpop artists like Tae Yang or Jay Park which puts Henry at the top of a very short list. The only other act in all of Kpop whose been this consistent, for me, is VIXX and this folks may just alter my bias list for a long time coming because Fantastic is just that good.

Compared to his debut album, Trap, his second outing is once again consistent. It sounds and feels like the Henry we know as a solo artist and as a member of Super Junior, but there is a more mature and evolved sound in his sophomore effort. The title track is reminiscent of Trap but is a much more interesting single. His use of the violin adds a quality to the song that just makes me swoon. It’s a haunting track that I think for many people will grow on them the more they hear it. I’ve had the album on repeat all day and unlike most title tracks I’ve come back to Fantastic because it is that, fantastic. When it comes to title tracks from my favorite artists this one is going to go down as a favorite right up there with Jay Park’s Know Your Name and Tae Yang’s Wedding Dress. Like the previously mentioned singles, it won’t be my favorite song from Henry. I think that would still fall to 1-4-3 or Ready 2 Love. Like those two songs the new mini album has a song in a similar vein, but nails the kind of songs I love to blast all summer long…especially on Saturdays.

Saturday is by far my favorite track on the album. It’s a fun, fresh, fierce, and funky pop rock track that will have your shoulders shaking, head bopping, and maybe your booty swerving. It’s uplifting from beginning to end is guaranteed to raise your mood if you’re feeling down. Give it a listen, you won’t be sorry.

Overall, the vibe of the album has many layers with funk and electronic being the most notable which are expertly crafted over a classic pop sound. There is a slight R&B feel to the album overall and these various musical styles combine in a way that speaks to Henry’s (and his producers) genius. Which is exactly what he is…

A fantastic genius.

I picked up the mini album from iTunes and you can too, if you click on this link and support one of the hottest solo artists in Kpop today. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/2nd-mini-album-fantastic-ep/id897469808)

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Why I Love Kpop.

When I tell people I’m a kpop fan, or that I write a blog on Hallyu the most common and first response I receive is “Korean music…how did you get into that!?!”

At first, this type of question bothered me and internally, I’d think to myself “because it’s freaking awesome and super cool.” Which by the way is 100% true, but that reaction is a reaction to 90% of the time a seemingly judgmental question.

It’s been six years and then some since I’ve been riding the Hallyu wave and that’s a good chunk of my life, one sixth to be exact (although, between you and me, I’m still celebrating my 21st birthday every year!) and lately that’s not a question that bothers me so much anymore. Hallyu is a huge part of my life in all of its aspects. I first and foremost love kpop in all it’s iterations and Korean Dramas make up the bulk of my television viewing habits. Hallyu is so much more than just these two aspects, but let’s be honest it’s the music that’s fed my hunger for many years.

Someone asked me recently why I like Korean music so much and for the first time in a long time I felt it was a genuine question. I honestly had to stop and think about it. Kpop has been such a huge part of my life that I think I nearly forgot why I prefer Korean pop exclusively over any other genre of music. It’s not about a comparison to other forms of music. It’s about Kpop being something special.

I went to YouTube and checked out the very first kpop song I ever saw… SS501’s De Javu (I’ll get back to that a bit later, give it a listen while you read, it’s a classic). Until late April or early May of 2008 I didn’t even know Korea had pop music. I was a student of Asian art at the time and however limited, knew that Korea historically had made some of the most pristine and refined works of art in all of Asia, personal opinion but that sentence ends in a emphatic period. Whether ink wash or ceramic, Korea as early as the Shilla dynasty peeked my interest. There was something special in 600 C.E. and I vaguely recall wanting to know what was happening in the pop culture there today. In my studies, Korea was taught and considered to be the “red headed step child” of Asian art for a number of reasons. I think this is one of the primary reasons why I went out on my own to discover Hallyu, no one else, at the time was talking about it much less coining the term. In 2008, videos like the one above would garner a few thousand views outside Korea and not much more. Six years ago, no one would have thought PSY, or anyone else would have over 2 billionviews on a single video. There was not a community for Kpop lovers to meet and connect, at least not one I could find. Kpop was my own little obsession and it’s one where I really really liked what I found.

What I found was a highly refined, excellently produced, and pristine Korean adaptation of Western pop music. I’m confident in saying that Kpop as an art form is just as polished as any work of art created in Korea’s history. I should say that I consider Kpop an adaptation of Western pop music because Korea has it’s own natively created pop music…it’s called trot and is also a lot of fun. Kpop, however, is a completely different beast that takes it’s queues from Western pop like 1980’s Madonna, The New Kids on the Block, and in some respects the horrible (doesn’t stand the test of time) boy band acts of the 1990’s. When groups like N’sync and the Backstreet Boys were no longer en vogue in the States those same types of boy and girl groups were going strong in South Korea. That flavor of pop music never died out and over the last six or seven years has hit a new plateau of success year after year in international exposure. Kpop has grown into a cultural phenomenon not only in Korea, Asia, but now globally and shows no signs of slowing down. I’ve compared Hallyu to Japanese Anime quite often in explaining how culturally relevant Hallyu as a whole is. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Japanese produced animation, Anime, reached its peak and was a major cultural export for Japan. A lot of money was made licensing out Japanese titles for Stateside consumption and was largely -the- cultural import from Asia to the United States at that time. So much so that Anime is considered to be a part of U.S. pop culture in the same vein as comic books and other geeky cultural mediums. If I’m correct in asserting that Anime was the cultural import of yesterday, Kpop is the cultural import of today and what a product it’s become.

When I discovered Kpop and that’s the whole point of this post I saw five guys in a dark stage dancing with intense energy draped in stylish clothing that was wardrobed to perfection. Their hair styles were like nothing I had seen before…their hair framed their faces and each strand was flawlessly placed. I was in awe at how their dancing was choreographed to match each verse and beat. The melody of the song was so in touch with the sound of 2008’s pop music (think Lady Gaga’s Just Dance and Timberland’s The Way I Are) I was instantly hooked. Then I got to their voices, oh their voices. They had voices of angels to my Kpop virgin ears even though I didn’t have a clue what they were saying. It didn’t matter, it sounded incredible. Many Kpop fans today probably don’t even I know who SS501 are. They’ve been working solo for a number of years, but back in the day they were the hottest group in Kpop. If DBSK was the EX-O of the time, SS501 was the VIXX of the time, but on a much more successful level. Between 2006 and 2008 DBSK and SS501 traded years as the Kpop Artist of the year at the M-Net Asian Music Awards (M-Net Korean Music Festival at the time) which was the biggest and most important awards show in the Kpop-verse. It was a time when the industry was much smaller and JYPE wasn’t even considered a major force in the industry. No, in 2006-2008 the Big Three were YG Entertainment, SM Entertainement, and DSP Entertainment (home of SS501 and Kara). JYP was just about to hit a home run with the Wonder Girls’ Nobody and in my opinion change the industry forever later that year with the debut of 2PM.

For a few months in 2008 and previously in Kpop there was an innocence to the music. You did not see scantily clad women and you never saw a male singers abs. It just didn’t happen, unless you’re name was 미 or Rain. Abs were always Rain’s thing and he owned them until 2008’s release of 2PM which would give birth to the Beastly Idol’s we see saturating the market today. It’s not about the abs though or sexy concepts. It’s about the highly stylized and perfect visuals we see in Kpop. There are positive and negative aspects to an industry that has consistently produced perfect visuals, but that’s a subject for another day. Kpop as a product may be music, but that product is so much more than just music. Kpop is the total package of auditory eargasms and visual eyegasms. Yeah, I went there. So why do I love Kpop?

That’s not a simple question to answer, it seems, but if I had to make a list…

1. The music. It’s got great beats, great vocals, and always has a hook that keeps you coming back for more.
2. The visuals. You will never see a Kpop idol not in the best fashions, makeup, and hairstyles. Guyliner? Yeah, we’re down.
3. Seductive hands. When’s the last time you saw a Kpop performance that didn’t have crazy seductive hand movements?
4. The dancing. These idols spend years learning how to dance. I respect their determination and the effort they put into their work.
5. Fangirling! Kpop is fun and there’s something special about an industry with perennial comebacks and constant debuts. The x-factor that makes Kpop so great are the fans.

Whoa, been a while since I’ve written a post and I think this might be my longest post to date. So tell me, why do you love Kpop?

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Billionaire – That Night – Hot Debut!

Just when I was ready to call it a night and get back to my dramas I checked YouTube one more time to see if I had missed anything and boy am I glad I did.

You have to check out this track. Period.

Billionaire is a self produced and self funded duo with a smooth r&b sound, sickening vocals, and a visual that gives some established and well represented groups a run for their money.

Listening to the song one of the members has a husky quality to his voice that reminds me of Rain 비 and the other has a high falsetto reminiscent of MBLAQ’s G.O. If that isn’t a great mix for your ears, I don’t know what is.

There isn’t anything I don’t like about this new track and April just got off to a great start. I can’t believe this was produced with no management company, it’s so good.

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Aoora – Body Party

AA’s Aoora is back, this time with a solo project in Body Party. If you don’t know I discovered AA early last year and they made a huge impact on me with their re-release of Because I’m Crazy and Midnight Taxi. The group is led by Aoora (not the leader, but the spiritual leader of the group) who composes and writes nearly all of their work. Aoora is without a doubt one of the hardest working idols in the industry right along Zion.t and Jay Park.

The collective group has a sweet sound and a softness to their music that not many groups are trying to accomplish. AA, because Aoora is at the head of their music production has a unique sound and feeling to their music. Then…there is this. Body Party is a completely different type of song due to its subject matter, but isn’t a song that should have been unexpected. Last summer’s Midnight Taxi by AA marked a maturing of kpop idol’s music. The song was literally about midnight booty calls and the desire to see the one you want to be with…even if they aren’t your significant other. So, when we get to Body Party I’m not surprised that Aoora has taken a very sexy concept and subject matter with his debut track.

Yes, the beat and melody of the song completely scream Aoora in every way. It’s his signature sound and the video is whacky as all get out just like Aoora. Strange symbolism and moaning pop up throughout this video which is all about Aoora wanting to get it on with his lover. There is an unapologetic longing he expresses in the song for what he does with his partner behind closed doors. It’s a rather risky move on his part, but whose going to deny him his artistic freedom.

I get shades of Prince with this track and let’s not even get started on the fact that the video he released is only 69 seconds long.

AA’s comeback is one of my most highly anticipated comebacks this year and I hope Aoora brings this kinkyness back to his groups efforts.

I don’t love this video, but I can’t wait to hear the full version and everything else he’s prepared for his solo debut. 

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Super Junior – Swing

Super Junior – Swing

Are you digging this video? You know who is? Me!

Where can I find a job in an office like this?

Ok so as usual SM Entertainment has put out a highly polished an stylized music video. The color choices are pretty interesting. The yellow that’s all over the video makes the entire concept bright and cheerful…that is why we like SuJu, right? The black and white background and set looks and feels like an office setting and a music video set. I’d say from a visual perspective this one is pretty good. The fact that it’s just like a dance video, rather than a traditional music video is very successful, it reminds me of EXO’s Growl concept wise and that’s a good thing.

But wait…really, where can I find a job in an office with a team that looks like this. Black suits, white shirts…Si Won stache, sign me up! Correct me if I’m wrong but the ward robing and styling of the boys was spot on. Each and every member was looking scrumdiddlyumptious, amirite?

The only ing I didn’t like so much about this track was the weird skillrex nonsense that came out of nowhere. It did lead to a cool dance break though, but the entire video is a dance break so is it even necessary…no, it felt so 2012. Skillrex is over SM…stop it.

Overall, I totally dig the concept and for the first time I didn’t notice that SuJu was singing in Mandarin rather than Korean. That’s a pretty big deal for me because I’ve always felt their Mpop wasn’t as polished vocally as their mostly native Korean efforts.

9/10. This video is just too fun.

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MBLAQ – Be a Man

MBLAQ – Be a Man

Be a Man is surprisingly smooth and slow for this group. I’m digging the pure vocals from all five members who are featured nicely due to the slower nature of the song. They’re allowed some room to breathe and shine individually which is a nice departure from their usual sound.

I don’t think I’ve head anything from MBLAQ that sounds this light and airy, while not expected it is a pleasant surprise.

The video is all about the boys, who don’t look like boys anymore. Sad to say, but Thunder is all grown up. I like the choice of a monochromatic backdrops. The sets put the focus on the group and nothing but the group. Their static enough the video matches the feeling of the song which is something I’ve always felt JTune Camp was excellent at accomplishing.

I can’t wait to hear the rest of the mini album when it comes up on iTunes.

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100% – Beat

100% – Beat – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good

Let’s starts with the good. This song is really good. I like the beat’s repetitive synth sound and it pumps the vocals up which is nice. The vocals are on point even though I can’t tell a single one of them from the other without looking at their faces. I like the song. It reminds me of SS501’s Love Ya and that’s a good thing.

The Bad

Once again this concept doesn’t fit the group or the song. It’s too dark and SciFi for such an upbeat song like Beat. I would have rather seen them in suits singing with a much simpler visual. I think the video would have been much better suited along the lines of U-KISS’s 330, or even SS501’s Love Like This.

The Ugly

This is not a video I’d want people seeing me watch in public. I won’t be using it to show off how cool kpop is. Their company has done soooooo good with Teen Top it’s sad they can’t do better with 100%.

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Troy – Green Light – Hot Debut

Troy – Green Light

Troy has finally arrived and I think they’ve managed to debut with a track that fits perfectly within the zeitgeist of the year. Green Light is a soulful and funky song that will get your butt grooving. The four members of the group are Bum Key, Kanto, Chang Woo and Jae Woong.

Speaking of Jae Woong this 33 year old is seriously trying to screw with my bias list. He’s working out almost as Taec Yeon and has looks to die for. I saw him for the first time last July with Bum Key’s debut single Bad Girl. He was featured in the video and played a guy who was not at all interested in his female fan. Having him portray a gay character was rather risqué in Kpop and the way they made it seem so matter of fact made me lol and begin to wonder if this new generation of idols have moved on from the “gay doesn’t exist in Korea” mentality that has survived for so long. Props for that.(http://youtu.be/FFDD_3IV7fU)

The visuals in the music video are hawt. The men are dressed ever so dapper and fun with flamboyant suits and crazy fun hats. The color choices remind me of other hip hop groups like Men in Black. The video and track are polished and feature Bum Key’s vocal talent. He’s got the goods in the same way that Zion.T has a unique manner to him. Not quite on the same level, but for a lot of fans this could be a good thing.

I’ll be putting Troy on my watch list for their great visuals, vocals and smooth flow. How about you?

#kpop #troy #bumkey #jaewoong #kanto #changwoo #brandnewstardom 

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MBLAQ – Broken Teaser

MBLAQ – Broken Teaser

MBLAQ’s comeback with their sixth mini album is imminent as yesterday JTune Camp released a reader for Broken.

I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited for the boys comeblaq (love that). The teaser has a somber feeling to it. The boys are sitting together in a circle, a sign of their unity perhaps, looking very forlorn. The teaser has a very different feel to it than their previous efforts. Maybe their Smokey Girl got away after all.

Can’t wait for this one!

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Toheart (Key + Woo Hyun) – Delicious

WooKey (ToHeart) – Delicious

These two together are so sweet and delicious.

This love this love.  I swear that it’s, come on so sweet delicious.

Ok so SM Entertainment knows how to put out a project group, right?   First we had the OTP, Dong Hae and Eun Hyuk, bringing sexy back in Oppa Oppa and I Just Wanna Dance and now SHINee’s key and Infinite’s Woo Hyun are finally, feels like forever since this project group was announced, out with their fun and funky track _Delicious_!

Comparisons between these two OTP have to be made.  From the funky dance beats to the undeniable chemistry between the four men it’s like watching one generation lead to the next.  Not only is the chemistry similar the suits are as well.  We’ve seen red and yellow before, but not quite this flashy…of Key’s involved it’s going to be next level, amirite?

There is something a bit more tantalizing with this duo however over Eun Hyuk and Dong Hae.  They seem more like a couple in the video, giving flowers to each other, shaving, and practically sleeping together.  I honestly though Key was going to jump off the top bunk into Woo Hyun.  Good for them.  


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