Kpop Music Monday #2: TVXQ, “Mirotic”

In early 2010, I discovered a group known as TVXQ. Or Tohoshinki. Or DBSK. Or Dong Bang Shin Ki. (“Rising Gods of the East.”) It was actually a Japanese release called “Break Out” that introduced me to the then-five member boy group. Korean artists often release Japanese remakes of their music, as well as original Japanese language albums.

This Japanese release by TVXQ was unusual for several reasons. The song was dark and electronic, and the video was even literally darker, with the members brooding around a post-apocalyptic city of some sort. During the chorus, the members fend off masked villians, and there’s spiders and even creepy looking children.

It takes a second viewing of the video to realize that none of the members are ever in the same shot. Three of the members (Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong) were then embroiled in a lawsuit with their record label, SM Entertainment, accusing them of having a “slave labor contract” with long hours and little pay. 2009 was the last year that TVXQ promoted as five members, having been formed in 2003.

I loved “Break Out” so much that I decided to binge-listen to every song that TVXQ had ever released. One stands above all, and that is “Mirotic,” a song once banned from public broadcast in Korea due to the lyrics, “I’ve got you under my skin.” (They changed it to “I’ve got you under my sky” to perform.)

Ten years later and the song still gives me goosebumps. The video is another dark one, with the boys captured by a woman dressed in red. The video production value is great, and the outfits are simple as to not distract from the iconic dance moves. (Speaking of iconic, listen for Changmin’s scream at roughly 2:30 in.)

The fandom name for TVXQ was Cassiopeia, and it was the first fandom that I found myself in. Fandoms work much differently in Kpop than in American pop–there are official names, official colors, lightsticks, events… Back when I was in middle school, the Backstreet Boys fighting it out over N’Sync and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for door space was the only representation of a proper “fandom” that most of us had. I had fallen for a group that would no longer be performing as five-members, but two: Changmin and Yunho, as the other three formed a much-less successful group, JYJ.

I consider TVXQ to be a pretty good group to visually show the bridge between the first generation of Kpop and the second. Their first releases were grungy and futuristic (“Tri-Angle” and “Rising Sun”) as well as softer and cutesy (“Hug” and “Balloons”). The fact that the remaining two members continue to release good music (“Spellbound” and “The Chance of Love”) while we are in the third generation of Kpop is really awesome.

Kpop Music Monday #1: Wonder Girls, “Tell Me”

I’m calling this section Kpop Music Mondays and while it is a nod to EatYourKimchi, my co-worker and I usually play kpop when we work together Monday mornings.

For some it was Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” For others it was BTS’ “Mic Drop.” For me it was Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me.”

Sometime in September of 2007, YouTube recommended a Korean music video and your unsuspecting heroine clicked on it.

It was a cute video. The youngest member of the group is secretly Wonder Woman and saves an elderly woman pushing a baby pram from being run over by their school bus. Later, she saves the girls from a perverted flasher in their locker room and helps a bullied classmate.

But what stuck with me was the chorus, “tell me, tell me, dut dut dut dut dut dut tell me.”* I couldn’t get it out of my head and thanks to the internet, I was able to download the rest of the album.

It has all the makings of a stereotypical Korean pop music video: attractive singers, a charismatic rapper, an adorable “막내” (maknae = youngest member aka Wonder Woman), fully synchronized dance moves that almost seem easy enough to learn yourself, bright colorful backgrounds, fashionable outfits (or what we thought was fashionable at the time), and most of all, a sense of humor.

It was a fun video with catchy English lyrics. I was surprised to hear the song coming from a Tibetan friend’s cell phone when I was living in India. When I returned to the States in May of 2009, I was armed with fast internetmand a handful of names, such as Girl’s Generation, TVXQ, Super Junior, etc. Some groups whose debuts I watched are now disbanded but new artists always pop up in their place, offering something new or perhaps tried-and-true.

Whenever someone finds out I listen to kpop, the first word out of their mouths is usually “BTS?!” I feel like an 아줌마 (ahjumma = middle-aged woman) because I was listening to kpop before BTS was even formed. I consider myself to be a fan of the second generation of kpop, which is something I’ll explore in later Music Mondays.

What was your introduction to kpop?

*They’re actually singing “tell me, tell me, tell tell tell tell tell tell me” but it’s hard to hear clearly.

The Koffee…

A five-layered tulip latte art image in a white porcelain cup with matching saucer and demitasse spoon. Poured August 2019.

One of my earliest memories is of my paternal grandmother drinking a coffee-like substance out of a tiny china cup. Apparently, she would let me take sips of whatever it was she was drinking, coffee or tea. I was primed for a love of coffee early on.

Like many others, I first started really drinking coffee in college. It started out with visits to Starbucks for caramel macchiato breaks from studying but didn’t really grow from there until a few years later when I became a regular at Dunkin’ Donuts. (Sometimes they would have my medium-iced-coffee-cream-and-sugar ready for me when I reached the register.)

In 2014, as manager of a small grocery store/sandwich shop, I invited a small coffee roaster to come by the store and offer individual pour-overs as well as bags of coffee beans for sale. I was given a free pour-over and was mesmerized by the experience of it. And then I didn’t know what to do. Because here I had this amazing, fresh cup of Colombian coffee, and I thought it rude to go dump half and half in it. And so, I drank it straight, black. It wasn’t as bad as I thought.

My coffee experience has taken me from Peet’s to Blue Bottle to La Colombe and a few other places we won’t mention here. I have spent hours in training, trying to get my milk the correct temperature and the right consistency. I’ve wasted at least two cow’s worth of milk trying to perfect my rosetta. I’ve spilled coffee on at least one customer and myself, frequently. My index finger is permanently encrusted with espresso dust and I sometimes find coffee beans in my shoes.

Even though I’m leaving the world of coffee for education, coffee will always be a part of my life and I look forward to taking you along with me as I visit cafes all over Korea!