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

정말 수고했어요

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

Kpop Music Monday #34: Bibi, “The Weekend”

Today’s Kpop Music Monday is a song entirely in English, a collaboration between Korean singer Bibi and 88rising, an “American multinational music company.”

You can read about the company in this Paper article.

88rising “provides not only the cultural support, but also the strategic and technical know-how to help emerging Asian artists cross over in an efficient but meaningful way.”

The reason I’m posting about this song for Music Monday is quite simply because it’s a total bop and has been on repeat on my playlist ever since I discovered it. Bibi has a beautiful, unique voice, and I’ve enjoyed past releases of hers.

And in case you want to listen to “The Weekend” again, check out this alternative official music video:

Kpop Music Monday #27: Girls’ Generation, “Gee”

Sorry for the skipped week of Music Mondays. There’s a lot going on cough BLACK LIVES MATTER coughs

Eleven years ago (to the day, no less), one of the most iconic kpop songs/fashions/videos/dances/everything was dropped: “Gee” by Girls’ Generation.

I don’t want to talk about how many collective hours that I have spent listening to this, practicing the large arm flourishes and the pointing dance. There was something so damn catchy about the song and its dance. We saw the beginning of the 10s fashion with those insanely brightly-colored pants and shorts. We saw the beginning of Choi (“man standing next to Melania Trump”) Minho of SHINee’s career, and the beginning of the force that was… Girls’ Generation.

They’ve been through some shit. The Black Ocean scandal, the dating and plastic surgery rumors, the whole situation with Jessica (was she or wasn’t she kicked out of the group?) and the fact that several members decided in 2018 not to resign with SM Entertainment, pretty much signalling an end to the group as we knew it. A second sub-unit group was created with the five remaining SM members but in my eyes, Girls Generation has passed on its crown as the “Nation’s Girl Group” to Twice.

“Gee” is so iconic people are still performing covers of it to this day… some even cross-dressing to do so. If you listen to kpop and don’t know “Gee,” then… then what are you even doing??

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 #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 #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.