Kpop Music Monday #22: EXID, “Up and Down”

Not only is EXID’s “Up and Down” one of my favorite music videos, but the song also tells the story of how a fledging group became one of the biggest in Kpop thanks to one fancam.

A fancam is what it says on the tin: usually, fans will film one individual idol in a group performance and then upload it to youtube or other video sharing websites. A single fancam can garner thousands, if not millions, of views, thanks to thirsty fans.

And in 2014, one fancam of EXID’s Hani dancing to “Up and Down” broke the internet and helped the on-the-verge-of-disbanding group skyrocket to fame. Because, you know, she’s hot, and the dance is, um, fairly suggestive.

The music video is everything I love about kpop music videos, including weird metaphors and bright colors. One listen and you’ll be saying “위 아래 위 위 아래” (“wi arae wi wi arae”) for the rest of the day.

Kpop Music Monday #21: SHINee, “Married to the Music”

This is one of the videos that I make people watch when they begin to express interest in kpop. I want to show them that it’s not all cutesy, girly, or sexy concepts. Sometimes it’s just plain weird. And weird is good.

I fell on the SHINee band wagon pretty early on. Their song “Ring Ding Dong” was dropped and at first the horrible pronunciation really threw me off and I thought the song was stupid. And then I couldn’t get it out of my head. And then I started researching other songs by the group, to see if all their concepts were this silly. And a lot of them are.

How do I love SHINee? Let me count the ways…

SHINee has some of the best vocalists in kpop. SHINee has some of the best dancers in kpop. SHINee had Kim Jonghyun. SHINee had that Asian guy next to Melania Trump. Most of them have put out some amazing solo work. SHINee has some of the coolest concepts, amazing songwriting skills, great music, great fans… I could go on.

But I like this video because, to me, this is an extension of where the Backstreet Boys left off in 1997 with their video for “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” You know the one: where they’re all in a strange mansion and urn into monsters? Yeah, that one. I mean, two of my favorite things: boy bands and weird stuff, in one awesome music video. SHINee proves that it’s still a winning combo into the 21st century.

SHINee is known to play around with their concepts and that’s part of the reason why I love them. Here’s a more light-hearted but still kinda weird video to end with:

Coronavirus in Korea (코로나19)

I remember a guest coming in towards my expected flight date and asking me if I was worried about Coronavirus. I said no. At the time, the virus was mostly constrained to China, affecting me only in that my chosen flight path would have to have me transfer somewhere other than China.

What would I say now?

One of the many emergency alerts I receive throughout the day.

I’m not worried about myself.

I’m worried for my family back in the States, where my brother works as a pizza delivery driver, coming into contact with who knows what kind of germs; where my dad is considered an “essential” worker because he works in the food industry; where my mom finds herself with less and less dictation work as hospitals cancel or postpone all elective surgeries.

Where, you know, you can’t find toilet paper or basic necessities like, apparently, yeast, since we’re all going to come out of 2020 being master bread bakers.

No, I’m only worried about myself insofar as I might be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 and unknowingly pass it along to my students, who range in age from 6ish to 15ish. (I say -ish because Korea has a different aging system as the rest of the world, which usually puts them at least one year older than their “international” age.) And kids will be kids, especially the littler ones who run up to you and hold your hand when you’re walking to the gym, or sneeze directly onto your hand while you’re guiding them through an assignment. (This particular kid is a handful and wasn’t wearing his mask at the time, of course.)

Cases of ramen (six to a pack) sitting atop packages of toilet paper outside a shop.

No, I’m not worried about myself. Toilet paper? Sitting outside the grocery store on the sidewalk. Easy meals? Ramen is aplenty here, in all different types and flavors. (My life has personally been changed forever with the introduction of jja-jang-myeon, black bean noodle.) There’s hand sanitizer on the bus. Most everyone is wearing masks, and there’s enough to go around, as Korea has implemented a strict policy allotting the purchase of two masks per person per specified day of the week based on the end number of your birth year, e.g. my birth year ends on 5 and so I can buy masks on Friday when those whose birth years end in 5 and 0 can purchase masks. The delivery system in South Korea is unparalleled, and even if I didn’t want to walk the seven minutes to McDonald’s, I could have it delivered faster in the time it would take me to get home with it. (This also includes grocery deliveries.)

I’m worried about my former co-workers, who have suddenly found themselves without jobs. I’m worried about the hoarding of essential goods like toilet paper and bread. I’m worried that the US economy will never recover from this, and the various industries being hit hardest will be forever changed, in ways we can’t imagine. I’m worried, obviously, about the frontline fighters who didn’t ask for their lives to be a “sacrifice” but get ready for work each day anyway. I’m worried about those whose pre-existing conditions mean that facing the virus is a true battle for life or death.

Here in Korea, almost all of us wear masks. There is plenty of hand sanitizer. We make our kids wash their hands and use hand sanitizer before playing. We take our own temperatures and the kids’ each day. Thanks to Korea’s preparedness, its economy has not completely tanked in the way that the US economy has. Sure, public schools have been delayed for over a month now, but life seems to go on, and it gets more and more “normal” by the week as the numbers of recently infected each day in Korea dwindle to under 30.

I’m safer and more well prepared to handle life as a whole, healthy or not, in South Korea. I am really thankful that karma decided to put me here now, as my life back in the States would be a hellish nightmare right now.

Kpop Music Monday #20: NCT 127, “Superhuman”

I couldn’t tell you the names of all the members in this group. This group is actually a subunit of the larger group NCT (127 stands for the “longitudinal coordinate of Seoul”), and some members belong in more than subunit. Apparently the thought is that this could become a very large group with an unlimited number of members all across the globe. As I think I’ve mentioned before, having a larger pool of members also helps when male Korean nationals go off to do their mandatory military stint, as a way to keep the group performing and profitable in the absence of one or more members.

NCT was one of those groups that I knew “of” and could point out what their lightstick looked like but didn’t know anything else. They were first put on my radar when “Simon Says” came out, and it was a strange song that I immediately liked. It wasn’t until “Superhuman” dropped that I really started to look into the group.

The production value of “Superhuman” is through the roof, thanks to their entertainment label, SM, being one of the biggest powerhouses in Korea. Anyone who thinks that Korean pop music is all cheesy and bright and colorful should watch this video to have another view, that of Korean pop music videos utilizing technologically advanced CGI and unique costuming and dancing. I would also suggest watching with the captions on.

I can consistently name maybe four members of this ten-member group. Before I learned names, there was “that rapper who was featured on a Hitchhiker track,” “that other rapper who speaks English,” “Johnny aka the American,” “that one with the really high voice,” “that one who I found really attractive in this song but don’t know his name and the styling changed from that video so I can’t even point him out in the group’s latest track,” “I don’t know there’s a Japanese member I think?,” “there’s also that one member who everyone complains doesn’t get very many lines or screen time…”

Give me a few months and I’ll know all of their ideal types, favorite ice cream flavors, and blood types.

Since they’ve seem to exploded in popularity thanks to their recent single, I’ll add that below.

Kpop Music Monday #19: B1A4, “Beautiful Target”

How to tell you’re old, kpop edition: You remember when a group debuted and followed along with them for a few years until they pretty much fell off the planet and some of the members chose not to renew their contract, effectively disbanding the group.

I remember first seeing the group B1A4 pop up on a Korean music livejournal that I followed back in 2011, and at the time I also watched a lot of EatYourKimchi, who took to the group in a rather humorous way–by renaming it to “Bilasa.” (The number one is “il” and four is “sa” in sino-Korean numbers.) And why are they called B1A4? Well, 4 members have type A blood and one (the rapper, duh) has type B! To date, the first kpop merchandise that I ever bought was a shirt from the EatYourKimchi store with “Bilasa” on it, and quite a few people complimented me on the design, despite having no idea what it was referencing. It was just a cool shirt, thankyouverymuch.

I watched through a couple of old Kpop Music Mondays from EatYourKimchi and one video called this song “fanservice.” I’ll accept that. Honestly, though, this video is probably peak kpop of the era and they do the cutesy-boy look so well. That, plus the mispronounced English in the chorus, just makes the song endearing to me. Maybe only me, but in these days, anything that makes us cut loose for a while is a good thing, regardless of how cheesy it is.