Unboxing “Colors” the First Mini Album from Ars, Choi Youngjae

After not getting a Youngjae photocard from my purchase of Got7’s latest mini album, I decided to go back and buy Youngjae’s mini album. I bought both versions, with the only difference being the photobook and random photocards.

the album is a book
like other Kpop albums, the actual CD is in a sleeve in the back of the photobook
photobook with various lyrics
various things from one of the versions: two photocards, two stickers, two film negative photos, and a professionally done photo that looks like the ID photos teenagers put on their phone cases of their boyfriend/girlfriend so that’s exactly what I did

Kpop Music Monday #41: AleXa, “Bomb”/”Wonderland”

I’m unsure how many of my readers are from the US, but if you are, you may have seen a clip or two from American Song Contest. Based on Eurovision, it pits all 50 states (and territories!) against one another in a song competition. It was hosted by Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson.

Its contestants seem to run the gamut from being well-established artists in their own right to up-and-comers. The winner, hailing from Oklahoma, was probably someone that you’ve never heard of, but if you’re into Kpop, you should definitely know who she is.

Her name is AleXa, and her music brand is cyber-punk pop (not punk-pop, that’s another thing). Her videos feature lots of shiny lights, robotic doohickeys, lasers… It’s much more sci-fi than we’ve seen in Kpop.

AleXa is notable because she was born and raised in Oklahoma, the daughter of a Russian-American and a Korean adoptee, making her half Korean. There are a handful of half-Korean and not fully Korean Kpop idols, but none that have made it this far on an American singing show.

AleXa has great stage performance and is an incredible dancer and I hope to see what else she has in store for us!

Unboxing Got7’s “Got7” Mini-Album

got7’s album: bright green with the names of the members along the top and the names of the songs going up the album, to make a “7” out of the members’ names and song names

There are several kinds of Kpop fans (also known as “stans”). There’s the “I only like This Group” stans. The “I Only Like This Member in This Group” stans. The Only-Boy-Groups stan. The Only-Girl-Groups stan. The Music-Only stan. The I-Collect-Everything stan. The I-Spend-Thousands-of-Dollars-on-Albums-to-Get-Photocards-Which-I-Then-Trade-or-Sell-For-a-Profit stans. The same kind of stan, but their reason for buying so many albums is to get tickets for meet-and-greets, which usually work in a lottery system. There’s the Broke stan, and there’s the kind of stan that I am: mostly Broke, but still supportive when I can be.

The first Kpop album I bought, after years of listening to the genre, was Kim Jonghyun’s posthumous album “Poet | Artist.” All proceeds went to Jonghyun’s mother, which she used to create the Shiny Foundation.

The second album I bought was Got7’s “Present: You,” bought on ebay so I could get Youngjae’s version. Multiple versions of Kpop albums are released, each with different photocards or different photo booklets, meaning that a group with 7 members could have 7 (or 8!) different versions for the purchasing.

Like I mentioned before, some Koreans and Korean expats make money by purchasing Kpop albums in bulk and selling the photocards. Or they buy in bulk to hopefully score meet-and-greet tickets and the photocard re-sale is just a perk.

The unfortunate thing is that once the photocards have been taken out of the album, the value has decreased, so then the person needs to get rid of hundreds of open albums. There have been several posts on various expat groups of people trying to get rid of hundreds of albums for free because they have nowhere to store them and can’t sell them.

From a capitalistic view, it’s the perfect shakedown of a predominantly young demographic–buy ten random albums, get ten random photocards and a chance to meet your idols! I mean, if the Backstreet Boys had photocards and different photobooks for the members, you can believe I would have begged my mom to buy me all five versions. Without knowing on the package what version you’d get, you’d have to buy more than five, and probably have to trade versions with your friends in order to get the complete set. That is a lot of money for the record label.

I decided to buy Got7’s latest mini album to support the boys on their new venture and see what my luck would give me.

Come unbox with me!

I got Yugyeom’s version! He’s not really one of my favorites, sorry.
along with each version is a “pop-up” picture card of the member
super-glossy and therefore hard-to-photograph member photo of Yugyeom
super-glossy all member photo
lyric booklet, with lyrics in Korean, English, Mandarin, and Thai
photobook with all the members
the actual CD with two random photocards (Yugyeom and Mark) and a fake Polaroid photo of Jackson

Kpop Music Monday #40: Eric Nam, “Can’t Help Myself”/”I Don’t Know You Anymore”

Years ago, I missed out on an Eric Nam show in Washington, DC because of strep throat and I’ve been angry about it ever since.

You can’t talk about kpop and its international appeal without mentioning the likes of individuals like Eric Nam, whose straddling of cultures and multi-lingual abilities help bring Korean music to the world that doesn’t speak Korean. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Eric got his “big break” when a music cover he did went viral on YouTube and he was invited to participate in a Korean talent show.

He’s been lauded for his numerous interviews with Korean and non-Korean celebrities, has gone on several successful world tours, is currenly on podcast number two, hosted Arirang TV’s After School Club (a kpop show broadcast all over the world), was virtually married to Mamamoo’s Solar in “We Got Married,” and is behind the infamous “Your dog speaks Chinese?” clip.

His most recent release was an English album which had this gem on it:

Kpop Music Monday #39: Pink Fantasy, “Tales of the Unusual”/”Poison”

I had saved this group’s “Lemon Candy” video in my “Kpop Forever” YouTube playlist but found it to be your run-of-the-mill rookie-group-from-a-small-company music video so I didn’t add it to my song playlist or even look into the group further. I figured this was their concept: cute, bubbly, highly-saturated and colorful. It didn’t even register that one of the members was wearing a cat mask.

At some point, their video for “Tales of the Unusual,” specifically the Zombie version, popped up on my feed and maybe it’s because I love strange, macabre things, or maybe because it’s just so unusual to have such a concept in Kpop, but I was instantly hooked. They have a so-called “normal” version of the song, but the zombie makeup fits so well with the spooky song that it has over 3 times the number of views (308k to 74k).

And about that girl with the cat mask on… Her name is Daewang and her identity is unknown. In the early stages of the group, she wore a massive white rabbit head and the concept of the group was something like Alice in Wonderland, with Daewang being the (literal) white rabbit. No one knows who she actually is, but it’s been theorized that she’s none other than the CEO of the company the girls are under, MyDoll Entertainment’s Lee So Hee. So Hee was an idol prior to establishing MyDoll Entertainment, going under the name Chie in one group and Yumi in another.

Unlike other groups, the group also has a very large age-gap between members, with Daewang’s birth year being 1989 and the maknae’s 2005.

Ever since Dreamcatcher took home their first win on “Show Champion” with their song “Maison,” whose group’s concept is heavier and more rock-based than most kpop, I’d like to say that there’s room in kpop for edgier concepts and harder-hitting music. And I think Pink Fantasy would fit well in that mold.

Bonus video:

Kpop Music Monday #39: Jamie, “Pity Party”

Jamie’s “Pity Party” is perhaps a far cry from her debut stage in 2011 as part of a music competition show called Kpop Star. (You can watch her cover of “Irreplaceable” here. Spoilers: she won the competition.) We love to see a good comeback and an artist that has come into their own.

Though she was born in Korea and Korean is her mother tongue, she spent 8 years living in Thailand and attending an international school. She apparently prefers speaking in English, so it makes sense that her discography features English songs. A question I cannot answer: is it still Kpop if it’s a language other than Korean? Is it Kpop solely because it’s pop music sung by a Korean artist, and what then of Korean-hyphen artists, or even Chinese artists who sing in Korean?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Jamie is here to do whatever the hell she wants, and we respect her for it.

Kpop Music Monday #38: Everglow, “Pirate”

Sometimes you hear a song and it just resonates with you. Suddenly you find yourself singing and dancing along to it over and over and over again and you can’t figure out exactly why this song has such a hold on you.

“… cuz I’m a pirate, yeah yeah…”

This will be one of my most-played songs of 2022. I’m a little mad that the line distribution is pretty bad, with one member getting most of the lines and a lot of screen time while another member is quiet for most of the song, but this song is still a bop.

Kpop Music Monday #37: G(I-DLE), Tomboy

Truth be told, I don’t know much about (G)I-DLE. Like how to properly say their group’s name. I recognize the rapper, who has featured in other songs and is apparently a very good songwriter and producer, producing some of the group’s tracks herself, and know that there was another member who quit the group after a scandal broke that she bullied some of her classmates. Other than that, though, I don’t really follow this group. Or “stan” them, as we would say in the Kpop community.

The bullying scandal is nothing new in the world of Korean celebrities. Many a celebrity have been accused of bullying in their middle and high school days, and it often ends with either a teary-eyed apology letter or stone-faced denial. There’s also something to be said about the cyber-bullying that tends to occur once the scandal breaks, not of the victim in question but of the alleged bully themselves, sometimes leading to a person’s departure from a group or being dropped from a sponsorship. (What is to be said, however, I’m not sure. Obviously bullying is bad but sometimes the vitriol that comes after the scandal seems worse than the alleged bullying. Let’s hold people accountable for their actions, but also acknowledge that people can grow and learn.)

Bullying is a big deal in Korea and I admit I don’t know much about it, teaching at a hagwon rather than a public school. I’ve dealt with some minor bullying, such as a boy calling his classmate an idiot for getting vocabulary test answers wrong, but nothing of the nature that is being called to attention by people who grew up with celebrities. This is a good article that briefly discusses the topic.

But back to the video!

The English in this video is not that great (“sometimes we swear without cigarettes”?), but holy moly, did they just drop an English curse word in the chorus?! Yes they did! You can even hear it in the uncensored version. Not only did they switch it up with a concept change, but they went all out and didn’t just change their hair colors and call it a day. (Here’s another song for you.)

I can dig it.

Kpop Music Mondays #36: Got7, “Encore”

On January 19th, 2021, I got the news that my favorite kpop group, Got7, had officially departed from their label, JYP Entertainment.

I meant to write about it because it was a huge thing, but I either couldn’t find the time or simply didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t a disbandment, this wasn’t a member or two not renewing their contract… the entire group just decided to part ways with their label.

As far as I know, nothing like this has happened in kpop. You’ve had groups that have sued for their contracts to be nullified before renegotiating their rights to a new company (Block B), and you’ve had groups where individual members have departed (there are too many of those to list here), and sued and departed (there are also too many of those to list here), and you’ve had one group launch their own label and rename themselves (Highlight, formerly Beast) but to have an entire group just… pop off was something new.

Got7 turned around and dropped a new single on us shortly after the news, appropriately titled, “Encore.”

Now, I won’t be one of those wide-eyed, naive kpop fans. I know that the likelihood of me going to a Got7 concert with all members present is now a pipe dream. With each member being picked up by different agencies, we get to see the members blossom into their own while remaining part of the group–a group that transcends record labels, a group of 7 ridiculously talented, good-looking, and altogether weird guys. Unlike a lot of kpop groups, these guys seem like they’ve created a family.

And from what we’ve seen of the guys in 2021, I think they’ll do just fine on their own.

Everything about you was a gift
Remember that
Right now too, all of you

We will sing for you
We will sing for you
Encore! Encore!

Kpop Music Monday #35: Lee Hi, “Breathe”

Kim Jonghyun, wearing a white sweater, blue jeans and a wide brim hat, sits and sings into a microphone

This past Saturday marked the 4th anniversary of the death of one of kpop’s brightest stars, Kim Jonghyun. We still hold space for his spirit; we still listen to his music when we’re feeling lonely at the end of a hard day.

This Kpop Music Monday is Lee Hi’s “Breathe,” which Jonghyun wrote for her.

There is another, harder to watch version I’ve linked below, a special stage at the 32nd Golden Disc Awards that sees Lee Hi have to break away from singing to compose herself before continuing the song.

Lyrics from azlyrics.com:

Take a deep breath
Until both sides of your heart get numb
Until it hurts a little
Let out your breath even more
Until you feel
Like there’s nothing left inside
It’s alright if you run out of breath
No one will blame you
It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes
Because anyone can do so
Although comforting by saying it’s alright
Are just words

Someone’s breath. That heavy breath
How can I see through that?
Though I can’t understand your breath
It’s alright I’ll hold you

It’s alright if you run out of breath
No one will blame you
It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes
Because anyone can do so
Although comforting by saying it’s alright
Are just words

Someone’s breath. That heavy breath
How can I see through that?
Though I can’t understand your breath
It’s alright I’ll hold you

Even if others think your sigh
Takes out energy and strength
I already know
That you had a day that’s hard enough
To let out even a small sigh
Now don’t think of anything else
Let out a deep sigh
Just let it out like that

Someone’s breath. That heavy breath
How can I see through that?
Though I can’t understand your breath
It’s alright I’ll hold you
You really did a good job

A baby pink-haired Kim Jonghyun, wearing a pink and white patterned suit, sings into a microphone on stage

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If you are contemplating suicide, please reach out to a trusted friend or family member. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255