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.

Kpop Music Monday #16: BTS, “On”

It’s the question I’m always asked once people find out that I like kpop.

“You know BTS?”
“Do you like BTS?”
“What’s your favorite BTS song?”

SO FINE I’LL WRITE ABOUT BTS YOU HAPPY?!

I’ve been listening to kpop for over ten years now, and I’m still scratching my head as to how this one band from a label that was not part of the “big three” (SM, JYP, YG) became so huge. One of the theories is that not only do their lyrics speak to the younger generation, but the group was active on social media and fans felt that they became close to the members.

My favorite song of theirs is probably “Fire,” although I remember when their video for “Dope” dropped. Back then, they were unknown to me and now it seems that everyone on the planet knows who they are.

My Music Monday today is their latest song “On.” It’s a rallying call to “bring the pain” because you “can’t hold me know cuz you know I’m a fighter.” In my first few weeks in Korean, listening to this song gave me a lot of hope because I was on an adventure that, despite wanting for ten years, was also going to be incredibly painful and new. Change is uncomfortable, but it’s where we grow as individuals. Especially being in Korea during the rise of Coronavirus, things here seem to be business as normal with a few changes, while back home in the States, people are losing their goddamn minds. Witnessing it from here has been a really unusual situation because even though I was there just a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine the current climate of empty shelves of toilet paper and Lysol wipes. Instead, my norm is wearing a face mask while on the bus to school and teaching students, while being surrounded by a language that feels both deeply familiar and yet totally unknown to me.

It’s an incredibly weird time for everyone, and I feel like I have each foot in a completely different world.

I’ll end this here with the Grand Central Terminal performance. Their live performances have turned many people into fans because they are incredible performers. Enjoy! It’s truly a spectacle to see.

Kpop Music Monday #15: iKon, “Love Scenario”

This song was reportedly banned in some Korean elementary schools because students wouldn’t stop singing it. The song later went on to win Song of the Year in 2018.

Any time this song came on the radio at work when my co-worker and I were playing Korean music, we would immediately stop what we were doing and garble the lyrics in Korean.

When this song came on at the bar last weekend, no fewer than four of us started singing it loudly over our shots of soju.

What a welcome to Korea.

Kpop Music Monday #14: Sunmi, “Gashina”

Hello everyone and sorry for missing last week’s Music Monday. I was understandably stressed out about my impending trip to Korea, but now that I’m here I can continue where I left off!

It’s only fitting that here I talk about my most listened-to song of 2018: Sunmi’s “Gashina.”

2018 was an interesting year for me, as I was set to start a new job around the same time that a long-term relationship ended, and I subsequently had to move out of our shared apartment. “Gashina” was the perfect song for all of my emotions, even when I first didn’t understand the lyrics. “I will live like the flowers, that’s who I am, can’t nobody stop me now, no try me…”

“Gashina” was a huge hit for Sunmi, who was one of the (original) members of the group the Wonder Girls, who you may remember as the group that got me interested in kpop. She’s gone on to release new music but nothing seems to have hit just as hard as “Gashina” did. Still, there’s no doubt that Sunmi is currently at the top of her game and we’ll continue seeing interesting tunes from her.

Kpop Music Monday #13: EXO, “Call Me Baby”

Up next is a song that was originally called “Call Me Daddy” but that was, well, uh…

EXO is one of the powerhouse boy groups currently active. Honestly, it was hard to choose a song because I really, really love the video for “Overdose.”

Recently, it was announced that member Chen was not only in a relationship with a non-celebrity, but marrying said woman, and said woman was seven months pregnant with his kid. How does this happen?

Having been a kpop fan for going on ten years, and being a woman in her damn mid 30s, I am happy to see idols date and marry. It’s about time that more members of older groups start settling down and pursuing happiness outside the idol world, in whatever way they choose. I honestly don’t remember what I felt as a teenager and how I dealt with dating rumors, but I think most of us were actually rooting for Justin and Britney to stay together, and Jessica and Nick were #goals.

Cultures are different, and the way brands are marketed vary culture to culture. Mint M&Ms were a thing in the UK long before they came to the US, for example. We plaster our supermarket aisles with crappy magazines detailing the inner worlds of celebs, and nothing, it seems, is off limit.

In Korea, idol groups are brands unto themselves, and a lot of the appeal of an idol is their availability. These are not just good lookin’ men and women, but they are single and available and maybe if you buy enough of their albums, you’ll be able to “hi-touch” them at a fan sign event. People freak out when they discover that their idol might possibly be dating someone, so idols keep their dating lives secret. And then fans get upset that their idol kept their dating life secret, so it’s really a lose/lose situation.

People were angry when it was exposed that Chen was going to marry and be a daddy, some even called for his removal from the group. Their excuses are all silly, in my opinion: either it was exposed at the “wrong time” and distracted from the group’s events, or now the group would be unable to be seen as anything other than “that group with the dude who is about to be a married father.” Married people are unprofitable, I guess.

But wait, there’s more… Singer Lee Jae-Hoon also came forward to say he was married with two kids. He confessed that he actually got married in 2009, but it was only announced in 2020.

And Hyuna (formerly of 4Minute) and E’Dawn (formerly of Pentagon) were kicked out of Cube Entertainment when their relationship of two years was exposed.

Can we just do away with all this secrecy? As a fan, you should wish for happiness for the idols you hold dear. It’s okay to feel sad to hear that your favorite idol is dating someone you deem unworthy but only they know what’s best for themselves. I honestly hope that the idol culture changes as we see the second generation of kpop stars get older and become more open about their relationships.

Kpop Music Monday #12: 2NE1, “I Am the Best”

Ten years ago, if you asked about the reigning “girl crush concept” group, everyone would know that you were talking about 2NE1.

The “girl crush concept” typically portrays strong, independent women, the kind of girls girls want to be. They’re often seen getting their revenge on cheating boyfriends or chilling with their friends. For me, no one defines “girl crush concept” better than 2NE1.

This week’s Music Monday (a few days late) is their song “I Am the Best,” another easy song for non-kpop listeners to become addicted to. Even without knowing the lyrics, you can tell it’s an empowering song by the sheer amount of black, metal, and interesting animals they have on set.

2NE1’s rise and downfall is too exhausting to write in detail, but the group started fizzling even before member Minzy left the group. There was a drug scandal with Park Bom (as well as plenty of plastic surgery rumors), and the overall mismanagement of CL’s American debut. None of this dims 2NE1’s light as one of the founding girl crush concept groups, something that even YG Entertainment’s CEO is still chasing after, in “prettier” girl group BlackPink. (He really said that. Gross.)

As much as I love “I Am the Best,” my favorite 2NE1 song remains “I Don’t Care” to this day. All of their songs are bops, though, to be quite honest with you. I will forever be a Blackjack.