Kpop Music Monday #26: Dreamcatcher, “Scream”

Like your music a little heavier than pop? Check out Dreamcatcher. While not quite k-rock or k-metal, the band’s backing tracks incorporate a lot of heavier-sounding guitar riffs and drum solos. I love the darker image that the band has, and it certainly sets them apart from the “cute” concept of other girl groups, or even the edgier “girl crush” concepts.

I’m just getting into them so I don’t have anything else to say, so take a listen!

Kpop Music Monday #25: HA:TFELT, “Life Sucks”

The life of a kpop star isn’t easy, even though music videos and reality shows often make it seem like it. There has been more than one occasion where a family member has used an artist’s name in order to scam people.

Unfortunately, the usual story is that of an estranged father who begs money from someone using his connection to his well-known daughter and then defaults on his promises. This is the story of HA:TFELT, aka Yeeun/Yenny, who started her kpop career as one of the original and long-term members of the group Wonder Girls.

You can read an article about her father’s fraud and alleged sexual assault here. You could also just listen to the song and read the lyrics below, as it’s full of gut-wrenching emotion.

For the first time in my twenty-nine years
Daddy sent me a letter
Never knew how wack his handwriting was
I guess I should've known better
That's why mine is so ugly, too
That's why mine is so ugly, too

For the first time in my twenty-nine years
Daddy wrote me a letter
How's your mom? How's your sis?
I really miss ya, but you better not come here
I'm sorry, but don't you worry
'Cause I'm prayin' for your health and future

Oh dear, sweetheart
Things have gone a little South
My girl, need your help
Could you bail me out (bail me out)

Life sucks for everybody
(No need to cry no no no)
Life sucks for everybody
(Act like no child no no no)
I'm just survivin' everyday
Right at the edge of losing my mind
Life sucks for everybody
Just let me find peace of mind

If only I could go back and tell myself
"Don't you trust him, he already hurt you"
When you cried on you knees, showing some regrets
Wish I could've known better
People don't change so easily, nah
People can't change that easily
If only you meant all you told me that night
But, guess I'd better blame myself

How's your night? How's your sleep?
Have you ever woken up by your conscience?
Well I'm sorry, I've got no worries
All I have are wrath and disgust

One time, you said,
"Must obey or be cursed"
You were right, I am cursed
Running your blood in my vein (my vein)

Life sucks for everybody
(No need to cry no no no)
Life sucks for everybody
(Act like no child no no no)
I'm just survivin' everyday
Right at the edge of losing my mind
Life sucks for everybody
Just let me find peace of mind

I might pull the trigger, you know
I might do it for good, you know
I might pull the trigger, for both of us
I might do it for all, you'll see

I might pull the trigger
I might do it for good, you know
Pull the trigger
Do it for all

Kpop Music Monday #24: Stella Jang, “Villain”

It’s a mistake that people think “kpop” and instantly think attractive, often feminine, boys, skinny pretty girls, and uplifting fluffy music. Kpop has all the nuisances of American pop, which can give us both the bubblegum and the harsher, darker stuff. While Stella Jang doesn’t exactly belong to the dark side, her stuff isn’t exactly bubblegum, either. She writes most of her own music and has uploaded numerous covers online, some acapella. (She’s also apparently fluent in Korean, English, and French.)

This particular song caught my attention right away for how clean and unique the editing of the video is, as well as the questions within the lyrics. I’m a fan.

Kpop Music Monday #23: Got7, “Just Right”

Today I went to switch to a Korean sim card and had an awkward interaction with the Korea Telecom (not sponsored, obviously) guy. Y’see, I have a clear phone case. And in my phone case is the photocard of Youngjae from Got7 that I got when I ordered their album online. Not just any album, but the Youngjae specific one, so I would get his photocard and his poster and his bookmark, etc. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s such an amazing way to milk young girls for all they’re worth. I can see myself having bought the Backstreet Boys’ album five times just to collect all the photocards.

None of my students seem to know who the photocard is of, either because they’re too young or entirely too into BTS. I knew going to Korea would put me in a weird place because Got7 has a strong international fanbase but less so of a Korean base, probably owing to their make-up: four Koreans, one Thai, one Hong Kong-ese, one American. (Is that seven? I’m halfway through a bottle of cabernet sauvignon so forgive me.)

This was the first Got7 song I heard, and I was such a big fan of everything about it. The video is super cute but the message is fantastic. Even the choreography doesn’t take itself too seriously. This was on my “feel-good” mix for quite a long time and remains one of my most-played songs.

The line distribution is a little unfair, considering that Yugyeom only gets the “ooohhh” part, but Youngjae singing the bridge is like honey to the ears.

Watch it. Love it. Stan Got7.

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:

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.

Kpop Music Monday #18: Zico, “Any Song”

Today’s Music Monday is more about the dance than the actual song. I first heard Zico’s “Any Song” when a clip of him dancing with Mamamoo’s Hwasa was going viral on Instagram. You can find many videos of him with various stars by searching on YouTube.

Some of my students would start doing the dance and I had to just ignore them, lest they keep dancing and try to get me to start dancing.

The song itself is insanely catchy, proving Zico’s ability as rapper, singer, and songwriter.

Kpop Music Monday #17: BoA, "One Shot, Two Shot"

If you listen to Kpop, you should know BoA. Kwon Bo-a has been in the industry since she was the tender age of fourteen and I’m honestly not sure if she’s Korea’s version of Beyonce or Beyonce is America’s version of BoA.

BoA has released songs in three different languages and has proved successful in both Korea and Japan. I listened to the absolute shit out of her English-language album, although I was thoroughly appalled at what SM Entertainment thought American audiences would enjoy. (Bad CGI and trashy outfits?)

I chose “One Shot, Two Shot” because it showcases not only her singing but also her dancing skills. Plus, it’s a well-crafted and well-shot video.

If you’d prefer something completely in English, check out “Eat You Up,” posted below.

Basically… Stan BoA. She’s an amazing solo artist who manages to keep going and, somehow, keep improving her craft.