Mastermind: Beast

Beast just won their first Music Bank! 😀 I am beyond ecstatic, and serious kudos to them. They are a group full of talent, and their minialbum is selling well amidst heavy full albums out there from 2NE1 and SHINee.

Let’s talk about their new tracks. Automatically, Beast wins best album title of the year. Mastermind. It’s like Kpop finally stopped choosing cliche/nonsensical English phrases and decided to start reading Foucault. But of course, this seems to not have helped Beast’s Engrish as all as Kikwang still lovably confuses his verb tenses, but Omarion loves Beast, so we’ll forgive them for not being quite so perfect.

And I totally stole this from AA-Chan’s blog.
Cube’s got the aesthetics down pat – gorgeous cover.

Actually, if you have read my earliest posts, you’ll know that Beast really had to work to earn affection from me – I really hated Shock of the New Era for the longest time due to the combination of music style and Engrish. But there’s something I need clarify.

I love Cube as a company. CEO Hong is one of the most respectable men out there in the Korean entertainment industry – he has the business savvy and has worked with the best, as a previous high-up in JYPE. More importantly, he has one of the best understanding of the human psyche I’ve seen in a businessman – the man understands the pain, pride, uncertainty, and general psychology of the adolescent idol so well that he would probably be an excellent teacher or psychiatrist. He also has a very concrete sense of the type of music he wants to make, which is very much reflected in what his flagship groups, 4minute and Beast, perform (G.na’s stuff is a bit different). This is also Cube’s greatest musical weakness – there’s a lack of diversity.

As a listener you must make yourself mold to their music, when it really should be the other way around. Beast’s tunes have more or less stayed true to their debut style, usually heavy electrobeat dance tracks. Half the time their songs sound very generic and the formula becomes predictable: Doojoon/Dongwoon openers, Kikwang/Hyungseung the more technical verses, and Yoseob with occasional Hyunseung backup belting out the choruses, with a sprinkle of Junhyung’s rap. This would be an excellent formula if Beast were just another mediocre group. However, they’re not. Of active boy bands, Beast ranks at the top with SHINee (and Big Bang, whenever they comeback) as outstanding live performers. These boys can sing, dance, and if I were Cube I’d be giddy with joy just trying to get as many line-distribution combinations out of them as possible. Their choreo is, however, always tight and unique, which is what finally drew me into Beast. And if all else fails, PLEASE AT LEAST LET JUNHYUNG SING – his timbre is really rich.

Let’s run through their minialbum, shall we?

Mastermind – standard intro piece, thank goodness it doesn’t outshine the title track this time. I actually really liked the triplet

Soom – Something about this song just seems more sophisticated than Shock. Performed live, it doesn’t quite have the sharpness and complexity of Shock, but it makes up for it musically. I personally really enjoyed the direct integration of “breathe in breathe out” into the choreo – honestly, had they tried to be “creative,” it would’ve just looked tacky. And beginning circle dance? OMG. Once upon a time I had a dream that SHINee would promote Obsession and engage in some kind of epic circle dance/position shift a la Replay, but Beast were the ones to pick up on my brilliant suggestion, so +1000000 brownie points.

Tl;dr: I dig Dongwoon’s long note at the beginning (though the effect is ruined by the rapping), somehow the heartbeat slow start transitions logically into the techno verses and choruses, Yoseob is amazing at belting, I wish they’d let Dongwoon/Doojoon sing at slightly higher ranges/otherwise switch things up, but overall I’m enjoying this song WAY more than I had ever anticipated to. And pay attention to their choreo – there are lots of subtle details that make you appreciate their preparation even more and make Beast flow like one group instead of synchronized individual members. Kudos to Prepix!


Credit: beastofficial

V.I.U. – Please watch the end of the Soom practice video. I have no more comments. It’s a fun song, and Kikwang has a Junho-worthy booty. The song may be forever ruined and/or cherished.


Credit: hawoosin

Break Down – I don’t know why, but I feel like every group has released a song that sounds like this. Actually, scratch that, this sounds like a song taken straight from 4minute’s discography. I’m both happy and miffed at this. Since Beast has considerable vocal talent, they can turn a mediocre song into something enjoyable, and this semi-attempt at upbeat R&B is all too rare in Beast discography. Very generic but still enjoyable.

Clenching with a Tight Fist – Again, kind of generic, featuring Yoseob warbling over everyone else with an occasional Hyunseung appearance (who I just discovered holds back his voice quite a bit for vocal control – there’s talent untapped there). Attempts the angsty but doesn’t quite hit it, but the piano arrangement is lovely, their voices are good, and I nod along.

So congrats, Beast, on your first Mubank! May many more come your way.

Hyunseung you are so weird and adorable ❤

Advertisements

OMG 2NE1 excuse me spazzing out right now

I WAS SO RIGHT. I AM CLAIRVOYANT. Ok, no I’m not, but I’m thrilled that YG channeled my and every other fan’s desires and decided, hey, 2NE1’s been gone for like 1+ years as a group, maybe they need to comeback.

Yes, they need to comeback. The word comeback is so laughable in Kpop, because heck, the groups aren’t gone long enough to be missed. But omg, apparently YG wanted to play us at our own game, because of all the groups out there, the only group fans miss more than 2NE1 is Big Bang, but at least they have a legit excuse to why they’re gone.

And 2010 has been answering my prayers discography wise – one by one, my favorite artists have been releasing FULL LENGTH ALBUMS. Enough of this minialbum crap. Yes, that’s right, 2NE1 is releasing their first full-length album, appropriately (but not really creatively) titled To Anyone on September 9th, 2010 (and as someone pointed out to me, 9+9+2+1=21 lol). I hope to God there’s a limited edition I can pre-order.

The album will feature 6 new tracks, 4 previously released digital singles (Cl + Minzy: Please Don’t Go, Dara: Kiss {lol a beer cf song…that I really loved}, Bom: You and I, and Try to Copy Me), and 2 bonus lame instrumentals only space-filler songs, THREE title tracks with complete MVs omo omo and production work done by the one and only Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am. Not sure if I sound be concerned more about the sheer awesomeness that is this album or that I sound like a YG publicity tool >.>;

But anyways, this is going to kill the charts. I had hopes SHINee may rack up a Disk Daesung, but with 2NE1’s first mini-album selling like hotcakes in 2009, I can only image what their full-album sales will be. With SNSD/Kara off in Japan (and I’m seriously getting the feeling we’re not going to see SNSD for at least another year), the market is ready for 2NE1 domination. I can see 2NE1 knocking SNSD off the perch like SNSD did to WG when they went off to the U.S. – both groups had about a year of unchallenged domination and their fan support could not have been bigger, but both groups also had very close rivals, and honestly, I see change-over time.

And to all other girl groups in existence or about to debut: STAY AWAY FROM SEPTEMBER. I repeat, do not comeback (you hear, T-ara? Push your comeback date back now – it’s going to be so much worse than the Kara/T-ara skirmish of early 2010 because you’re going to get YG slaughtered if you return now). I’m currently reading The Passage by James Cronin, where terrifying viral vampire monsters bent with blood hunger rip apart human beings. This is what will happen to any group even considering a September comeback.

And Papa YG: I see whatchu doin’ – pushing back 2NE1TV 2 to September. That stuff got me officially hooked on Kpop (and almost caused me to flunk finals).

EDIT: Read a couple more articles. So the September comeback is confirmed, BUT they also recorded an English version. Because THEY ARE DEBUTING IN THE U.S. NEXT YEAR with Will.I.Am’s help. OMG. And Japan, too, if I forgot to mention. Very conflicted feelings about these news. They are so extreme with happiness and oh noes that I might explode, so I will conclude this here and sleep on it.

M-A-D-O-double-N-A, Secret’s back

Did anyone realize they had their Magic goodbye stage in mid-June? Wow, someone wants to push 4minute off the top of my ‘most masochistic Kpop group.” However, I kind of have to agree with their company’s marketing technique – as of right now Secret isn’t as well known as other girl groups that debuted around the same time, and they need to keep on trying again and again until they get the ‘big hit,’ and Madonna, the title track of their 2nd minialbum of the same name, may be the song.

As of right now, Madonna is number one on darily Dosirak, Soribada, Mnet, monkey3, and probably a few others I forgot to check – we need to wait a bit longer to see how long they can stay on top, but only fast risers last in the leader position, and Madonna may be the new Bad Girl Good Girl, which remained #1 despite being pelted by SHINee, Son Dambi, G.NA, Se7en, and more. I’m telling you, it’s the lyrics – give me a girl group song not about love/heartbreak and sappy “oppa saranghae!!!” but instead about independence or empowerment, and listeners will eat it up. Plus, this song is pure crack. It’s so addicting.

Let’s look at the tracks.

Secret starts off strong with title track Madonna, which I have listened to at least 15 times today and still have not gotten sick of it. Normally I would be all over a group’s case for coming out with such a similar song to the song they were promoting a mere 2 months ago, but unexplainable I can’t get negative about Secret’s Madonna. t’s the new and improved Magic – if Magic was a beat up Ford, then Madonna is a brand spanking new Porsche. Ok, maybe not that much of a difference, but man, this song gets better with every repeat. At first, I was seriously question the big band instrumentals in the background, but it works so well – Secret as a group can sing, and when you have Jieun belting out her lines, I feel like I’m at some live jazz concert, listening to a diva belt out her tunes. And I proclaim her as 4minute’s Jiyoon’s and Gayoon’s lovechild. It works, trust me.

Lal Lal La’s intro sounds straight out of JeA’s and Miryo’s Blue Trauma collaboration, Love Is…, which is a FABULOUS track, so I absolutely adore this song. It’s very soft R&B but the driving beat is fast enough that the song never seems to drag, and I have yet to find Zinger’s rap annoying or out-of-place which I sometimes do with Miryo’s raps in BEG songs omg I did not just say that, and speaking of whom, I really like her flow – it’s very smooth and though she uses rising inflections liberally, it’s not to the point where it’s annoying (f(x)’s Amber can stop this, though tyvm) and since I’m already doing music lovechildren today, Zinger is like the still maturing child of CL and Tasha. She has lots of potential. Does she sing? I haven’t really watched their previous lives much, but if she’s a triple threat (cause girl can shake booty) then that’ll be fantastic. One thing I’m finding with this song is that Jieun carries the group vocally, and Sunhwa especially gets the consequences of shorter singing lines. It’s a pity though understandable – Secret as a group is pretty vocally talented, and I would love to see Sunhwa’s softer vocals develop over time.

Next, the album kicks up the tempo with Do Better! (Feat. Baek Chan of 8Eight), a song that is very techno and beat-heavy, but seriously, were all the random Darth Vader lines really necessary? I’m jamming along with the dance beats and then *doom voice* totally kills the mood. And I might as well get the criticism out of the way now – I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell Zinger was saying “S-E-C-R-E-T” for the longest time, and I don’t know what they’re saying after “if you, if you continue” (it sounds like “it’s, it’s a boy”?). But aside from the Engrish, I still dig this song – I’ll queue this second on my list to remix after SHINee’s Ready or Not.

The fourth track, Hesitant, brings listeners back to their Want You Back debut days – it’s a vocal showcase piece without being an extravagant ballad and is very easy on the ears. This is the type of track that makes Secret rather unique nowadays – when Want You Back initially came out, people criticized it as ‘boring,’ but then came back after Magic and said Want You Back was the best thing ever. Want You Back and Hesitant are totally my cups of tea, but I totally understand why Secret went the Magic/Madonna road – they are the songs that will sell to the public. However, it’s nice to see they stay true to their roots of cheery, light R&B crooners.

And of course, Empty Space wraps up the minialbum. We’ve heard Jieun’s parts in their MV teaser (and I would love it if they made a full MV for it), and the full-length version sounds very nice as expected. It’s a pretty emotional song with very simple and clean piano backgrounds (aka my favorite type of ballads, yes yes I’m happy). Aside from Jieun and occasionally Hyosung when she gets into her zone, Secret doesn’t have quite strong enough vocals to belt out heart wrenching ballads a la Seeya or even old T-ara5, but they can sing ballads quite a lot better than most groups out there right now. I love them for their versatility yet faithfulness to a core Secret sound.

So overall, a very nice minialbum. I quite enjoyed their Magic EP (My Boy is probably still my favorite song from them, but Madonna is crack I tell you, pure craaaaacccck), and Madonna does not disappoint as a follow up. Something about Secret wants me to label them as the Fin.K.L. of today – they might not achieve the explosive popularity as their sunbaes due to the insane competition, but their sound and musical styles are comparable. Secret is a rare gem amongst groups today – they are one of few groups not jumping on the autotune/electropop-dance/cutesy bandwagon, and their sound isn’t so R&B or ballad as to get lost in numerous non-idol groups who release music in those genres. In a word, Secret’s music is refreshing – it’s easy on the ears and fun, but still display vocal talent so that I don’t feel guilty about listening to songs I could possibly sing better.

A+ girls, good to have you back.

Extra: TAEMIN. I WAS RIGHT. YOU ARE JAEJOONG JR. OMGOMGOMG.

Remember guys, Jaejoong was once tone deaf, and Taemin has improved sooo much T___T so proud. Meanwhile, what happened to Key’s voice? His once gorgeous vibrato has poofed in recent performances, and he’s singing so much whinier than usual – I initially loved his voice for his big, deep, projecting tone, but now he’s covering Ke$ha and I just want to shake him so hard and yell at him to sing a nice, big ballad for me. T_T

Credit: Taeminth, wing834

Album Review: The Summer Devils SHINee Return: Lucifer

Edit: so I tried Lucifer on my run today, and let me tell you, I have finally found new, fantastic running songs (I was really getting sick of repeating my Mr. Boogie/Please Don’t Go/Lupin/Y/Love Ya/Because of You/freak out because I’m out of songs running block. Lucifer is fantastic for running, Obsession is good for cool down because of the slower pace, and Ready or Not is best appreciated on deafening full blast for the club beats.

I think I really need to do more research and take it easy on the hail-Mary predictions. First, Narsha (doing well but not topping any charts, and to rub salt in the wound Engrish Queen Dambi’s still doing better), then Jay (the hype lasted for less than a week, and now down he goes on the charts). So before I make some grandiose prediction, I will watch the charts for at least one more day. However, Lucifer went straight to #1 on real-time charts upon release, and it’s already Hanteo’s daily bestselling album (ver. A, and for those who don’t know the only difference is in pictures and cover—SM will most likely sell a Repackaged Version so I’d suggest not buying both). However, here’s why I think SHINee will succeed.

1.) The title track is solid. Neither Taeyang nor Suju (as examples) had title tracks that locked solidly at #1 for long periods of time. They are winning right now because of their massive album sales. However, the song must remain at #1 for weeks on end to reach explosive success.

2.) It’s a full album. The rationale’s simple. Full albums sell better than mini-albums, because there are more tracks (and are actually cheaper on the track-to-price ratio). Also, since SHINee’s previous discography was brilliant, everyone’s inclined to pre-order and buy this album since everyone expects it to be good (and it is). And remember album sales carry the artists’ success.

3.) No major competition, except one. SNSD’s Gee partly rocked Kpop because no one was really promoting at that time. Also, the song was a solid track. If they released it with a full-album, they would have had even more insanely unbelievable results. SHINee’s major competition is the return of Se7en. However, though he’s a legend in his own rights, he hasn’t been as heavily promoted as Taeyang, and it’s a mini-album, and let’s admit it, he’s been AWOL from Korea for 3 years. The Wonder Girls didn’t witness an epic comeback when they returned, and Se7en’s fanbase has definitely changed. His return concept is also a problem: it’s more or less Se7en-fied electronica, which has recently been beaten to death and is now dirtied with association with autotune.

Please read my review below on SHINee’s group analysis.

The album as a whole: outstanding. Best album of the year (so far), easily. My few gripes include fewer ad libs as compared to before, which is disappointing since that’s what makes SHINee stand out. However, Taemin sings more! Maybe it’s that I finally learned to differentiate their voices, but Taemin’s voice is growing on me. It’s a mix of Jonghyun’s and Key’s. Those who say he can only dance, SO WRONG. His voice doesn’t yet have the projecting power, but like Jaejoong of DBSK, it will mature and be BEAUTIFUL! So many caps, freak out omg. The electro concept had me worried when I heard their album teaser, but it went very well.

Let’s break down the individual songs.

Up & Down
My least favorite song from the album. SM consistently releases title tracks as the second song, but did they have to start with Up & Down? Actually the majority of the song is very nice, mild, and ethereal. But the beginning and the chorus…it’s so…annoying. Jonghyun’s voice is borderline excessive already, and to make him sing some kind of repetitive monotonous chant…it does not work. The song sounds incohesive. Minho’s rap seems like it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t add anything to the overall song. However, the flowy, soft singing rescues this, and I really enjoyed the mixed rap/ad lib chorus at the end. It’s what SHINee does best–ad libs. If I were the album producer I’d just let them lose and ad lib whenever. That way Jonghyun can actually show off his vocals instead of doing some Gregorian chant.

Lucifer (Title)
This song is going to have good choreo. I know it. There’s lots of break points in the song. I really like this as the title song. First, FINALLY someone listened to me and made a good-length title song. I hated Kpop ever since I got into it for the short lengths. Maybe J-rock spoiled me, but a lot of good songs escaped greatness because they ended before they could fully develop musically. Lucifer is the perfect length. From the teaser I had my doubts, because it sounded too typical, like something UKISS would do. But two things make this song distinct. One, SHINee’s fabulous vocals. The vocals do matter–it’s what makes SHINee able to turn even an ordinary song into a good one, and a good song into a fantastic one. The second is the complexity of this song. Lucifer made me want to by Dr. Dre’s Beats. Just on my crappy earphones this song has so many layers and elements that it’s truly exciting and fun to listen to.

Interesting that this song goes into the bridge/middle eighth before the rap, since with SHINee it’s usually the other way around. I also enjoyed the abrupt cut off ending. Good song.

Electric Heart
Can Kpop songs please ban the words “chocolate, candy, ice cream” and related English words? It makes the songs childish and cheesy, and I hate it (thus why I hate f(x)’s Ice Cream with a passion). But, other than that, I must admit there’s nothing else flawed with this song. SHINee always has this fling with Latin/Spanish music, and there will consistently be a few songs with the Latin flair. Electric Heart is Lucifer’s example, very electro yet flamenco infused, completed by SHINee’s soft crooning instead of their normal vocal power-belting, which makes for a nice change. I would have liked this song to be longer, since the pace was slow and easy-going, but eh, still one of my favorites on the album.

A-Yo
If anything I appreciate song for rotating all four SHINee singers through the refrains. As much as I love Jonghyun and Onew singing their hearts out, Taemin and Key singing makes me very happy, and really provides the balance that makes SHINee truly exceptional. Again, consistent with the electro theme, this song is R&B with electro infusion. This is comparable to an Usher track, sped up a little, with a standard, fixed tempo (Usher loves to stretch the tempo). This song, though, proved to me that they’re not letting SHINee be as liberal with the music as before. If you compare this to, say, Noona is so Pretty, A-Yo seems much more…cookie cutter? No, standard? Mainstream? Where Noona is so Pretty basically just cuts the boys free to ad lib from the beginning and push and stretch their individual parts as they like it, A-Yo has much less ad lib and more ‘follow the lyrics and tempo as written.’ It’s such a good song, but could have felt more natural if SHINee was allowed free reign.

Obsession
I’m gonna spazz about this song. My FAVORITE by far. Omg, I has hooked by the intro. The background beat and that accordion-synth background is DAEBAK. At first I couldn’t figure out why it was so addicting to me. Then I went high school band on it and counted the beats. It’s one-triplet-sixteenth, triplet eight, triplet eight, on insane repeat. I love triplets. Triplets have been known to make me obsess (haha pun…ok not really funny), and this triplet backdrop is, I swear, purposefully put there to addict me to this song. And it’s so angsty. Call me emo, but I love these types of songs. It just feels like the SHINee boys pouring their souls out of their vocal chords and into my ears, and it’s pure gold. And there’s so much ad libing in the background. I’ll even forgive SM for autotuning them. Even Minho’s rap sounds so emotional and doesn’t bug me nearly as much as it usually does. That final guitar solo at the end seals the deal. The first time I heard Minho say, “bring it back” and the electric guitar, I thought it was a new song. I actually said to myself, if this was the ending to Obsession, I will love it forever. And it was. Now I love it forever. The end.

Quasimodo
A really nice followup to Obsession. Again, one of my favorites. But, is it just me, or are they pronouncing Quasimodo [Ka-chee-mo-tay-do]? Whatever. It’s such a soft, crooning song and just gives me goosebumps. Plus, Key and Taemin sing a lot during this song. I really love the simple string/acoustic guitar/drum background. The majority of the time, the simpler the background, the more room SHINee has to color the song. It’s like a painting. The more blank canvas there is left for them, the more room they have to be creative and play, and thus produce wonderful masterpieces.

Shoutout
Clearly a concession for Minho (and Key) who doesn’t feature much in this album outside the raps and the rare lines. However, aside from the random jungle monkey at the beginning, I actually am really jamming to this song. Even Onew and Taemin take their shot at rapping, and it sounds good. Minho sounds very clean and fierce and rap the way I wish he would always rap. I complain about Jonghyun’s autotuned voice a lot, but his autotuned lines in this are really a work of art. Sigh, I want this to be longer too.

WOWOWOW
They should sue Son Dambi for the negative connotations she’s given chictita! SHINee, as far as I know, were the original and best users of this phrase. This song is kind of like Suju’s No Other. It’s just upbeat, light, and fun. It’s too Carribean/country/autotune infused to make this one of my favorites, but like I said, I don’t hate any songs on this album, and this one is lighthearted and fun.

Your Name
Acapella is a must. This actually reminds me of the Beatles at some parts. Very cool, old style acapella, and the bridge has some taste of show music, of all things. The full-step/1 1/2 step chord procession is also really nice. It’s almost a minor, and I love minors. Lalalala, I want SHINee to sing this for me.

Life
A perfect example of why SHINee is an exceptional group (I’ve been using exceptional too much…time to buy a thesaurus). This song is so SM boring. They tack something like this ballad onto every artist group. f(x) was sunk by I’m Sorry (Daddy) because Luna’s the only outstanding singer in the group. SHINee saves themselves from ruin by melting this boring ass ballad with their vocal talent and some nice ad libbing. Still, they could’ve just gone back to 80s R&B instead of this song since that’s SHINee’s old stomping grounds.

Ready Or Not
This song just became by second favorite. When the ‘Ready or Not’ came on, the song style changed into something Metrostation would have done. It’s the variety of the different styles they manage to seam together that makes this song interesting to me. The bridge was also oddly nostalgic. I can always count on SHINee to bring me songs that somehow touch heartstrings. Autotune was, I’ll admit, tastefully done here. So the two verses feature all four singers, divided into the Taemin-Key, Onew-Jonghyun block. The order is switched in the second verse. The last two singers get their lines introduced by this sudden shift to echo-y background synth syncopated by a lovely, lovely piano chord. This part is so magical. The “Gurl! Gurl!” gangsta’ chant is tolerable, and thankfully doesn’t repeat enough to destroy the song like MBLAQ’s Oh Yeah. So I’m learning now to mix songs and DJ right now, and I swear this will be the first song I do. I realized this belatedly, but this song already has a fantastic club beat and would be a terrific club song. There was something so Vanilla Ice about this that I was about to start screaming Ice Ice Baby during the beginning.

Love Pain
This is like A-Yo cut free with a touch of acapella. I like this song a lot because they finally let the boys experiment as they wish. No person’s lyrics are sung the same way, and the ad libs, though mostly Jonghyun, are fantastic. And I love the electro R&B background. This is the most western-like R&B song of the year. I swear this song can probably take off in the States (though not as the title song…this song is too smooth and calm for that). There were TWO KEY CHANGES! Fabulous. 5 stars.

Love Still Goes
When I first saw the title, I thought it would be a melancholy ending. But this song is very upbeat and almost gospel like in some parts. Jonghyun’s lines, especially where he jumps into falsetto, are goosebump raising. Fabulous. And young Taemin? His voice is so smooth. He’s like a better version of Taeyang. Not quite the range or power of Jonghyun, but his voice is so smooth and easy to listen to, and doesn’t have that annoying raspiness and forced push Jonghyun’s sometimes does. Rap should always be done as it was done here–just blend it in with the rest of the song, and it will give the tune and edge without sounding forcefully stuck-in.

Fabulous. Fabulous. I predict they will sell lots. But knock on wood, I’m not so good at predictions lately.

But seriously, go buy Lucifer. You have to. One of the few album’s I’m recommending this year.

Battle of the Comeback Queens: Son Dambi vs. Narsha

So I decided to scrap a lot of projects I wanted to do to write this. I’m at the height of the most excitement I’ve felt about Kpop this year for a few months.

This year for me was just dull as summer rolled around–notice how the majority of the Mubank, Melon, and Cyworld top songs were from very early on during the year. f(x), 4minute, 2pm, BEAST, Suju etc. failed to impress me, MBLAQ’s Y slightly piqued my interest, new groups aside from miss A have not really fascinated me, and even Hyori and Rain and Taeyang didn’t make me get excited to the point where I’ll think about how awesome their songs were when I’m going to sleep. I kept on thinking, where’s the “Gee” of 2010?

Turns out, we needed some new divas aside from Hyori to spice up the summer. Pledis queen Son Dambi and BEG’s resident diva Narsha both released mini-albums and mvs within the same week, titled Queen and NARSHA respectively. Dambi’s never really caught my attention despite being touted as the next Hyori (what happened to BoA as the standard), and her biggest hit, Saturday Night, was forgettable. I liked her in Amoled, but 1.) it was a CF and 2.) she was propped by After School.

Her title song, ‘Queen,’ attempts to depart from her previous label of sexy (or shekshi as I should say) into more classy albeit still autotuned tunes. To me it was ok, fun to listen to but entirely forgettable. There was no annoying/good hook to make me remember the song. Now her mv is under fire for plagiarism (what else is new) for copying a Syfy show, of all things.

Narsha’s done good self-promoting, now that I look at it. She really showed her personality through variety shows like SGB and Invincible Youth, and I have to say she’s hilarious. NegaNetwork really pushed promoting first Gain and then Narsha, and I personally was obsessed with Gain for a while because she looked to freakin’ hot in Abracadabra. Now I realize that Narsha is the real jewel of the group. Gain is actually kind of dry and nervous on variety, while Narsha just seems like an endless cornucopia of fun. She’s confident borderline cocky, but gives obvious targets for others to attack and generate additional hilarity (read: her age XD). She’s variety TV gold. The TV appearances are super critical, I think, is what will save her new song Bbi-Ri-Bop-A from making her seem unacceptably eccentric. This is extremely important actually. BRBA is going to come under a lot of crap especially if it blows up to be a hit (which I predict it will), and Narsha will need to separate herself from her music to show that her song doesn’t represent her as a person. Lee Jonghyun, labeled Korea’s Lady Gaga, suffered this problem.

BRBA to me was a good listen, but also not standout. Then the MV was released. This also didn’t make me fall in love with it, but I really did appreciate the excellent quality of the MV. I think it’s the best MV of summer 2010, edging out even Hyori’s CCBB. As I rewatched the MV for the third time, I really appreciated the artistic details of the scenes–the contrast of color with black and white filming, the tasteful use of CGI effects, etc. It really blows recent MVs away. However, To balance Dambi’s plagiarism issue, Narsha is now under fire for religious controversy for sacrilegious images/satanic worship/all that jazz in the MV.

Let’s get to the dirty. Gaga. Bad Romance. The resemblances are so apparent I won’t even bother defending anyone here. The catchy nonsensical chant, the melodically contrasting chorus, the whole prayer robes stained red thing, whatever. I don’t think Narsha deliberately copied Gaga. But I’m not going to say it’s unique either. I just want to judge it as itself as a piece of music.

I was undecided on whose comeback was better–until I saw Mubank recaps.

Narsha blew me, Dambi, and whoever else performed, far, far away. It was good. It was so good. I got excited. Narsha’s never been a strong dancer, and didn’t do anything fancy, but her stage presence was AMAZING. Every second captivated me. I remembered being semi-dismissive after her first track, I’m in Love, was released, but boy, have I changed my mind. Dambi was just no match. The Can’t U See intro was the only good part of her comeback. Queen was so…Dambi sounding…that it was just plain and ok (definitely not bad, that’d be Girl’s Day, but just no match for Narsha). Plus, I realized the importance of Narsha being more talented vocally. Two mostly autotuned songs, but when performed live and the chorus needs to be belted, Narsha delivers and Dambi doesn’t. Dambi’s performance wants you to find her vocals acceptable (and they’ve been improving) and instead really focus on her dancing. Narsha’s performance wants you to be captivated, and her vocals, though nowhere as fantastic as Jea’s, are strong and has flair.

Narsha’s not performing on Mucore, which may either be NegaNetwork artists never do or, as I believe, is due to Gain and Kwon’s WGM’s situation with MBC. Gain showed up on SBS Family Outing and majorly POed MBC WGM executives. Gain and Kwon are too popular to be dropped, but rumors were that MBC was giving BEG a hard time performing on their network. I’m POed, but won’t rant about the stupid media system now. I’ll wait to see if she performs at Inkigayo, and will have to settle with Dambi tonight.

I think BRBA could be the next big thing in Kpop. It’s my tentative prediction entirely off gut feeling. I haven’t felt this excited, as I said, since, oh, maybe Lupin. On charts Dambi is selling slightly better than Narsha, and though both songs are climbing, Queen is higher up. But both songs are less than a week old, and the live performances which I think are hugely influential in people’s perception of these two songs have yet to register.

As album sales figure majorly in Mubank, I don’t think either can win K-Chart anytime soon as Taeyang will dominate (Solar normal edition is now beating Repackaged Bonamona). However, M!Countdown and Inkigayo are real possibilities, though I predict miss A will sneak in a win in between. They are running strong on Dosirak, Soribada, and Melon now at number 1.

I’ll most likely post reviews on Narsha’s mini-album, Taeyang’s Solar, a Suju review, something about SHINee, and exciting random fun. Dambi I’m going to pass on for now, because I don’t predict it to explode (maybe a M!Countdown win, but that’s it). Narsha I wasn’t planning on reviewing either, but hey, circumstances change.

Here’s both’s Music Bank comeback/debuts and their respective MVs.
Son Dambi

Narsha

Gaon Chart Topper, MC Mong: Sick Enough to Die

My exposure to MC Mong was literally only through the Haha Mong Show for a long time (the show itself will most likely get its own entry, if things continue like this), so imagine when I first came across his music. His latest song, Sick Enough to Die, topped Gaon this week and is doing well on other charts, and Blue Brand Trauma Part II, of which Sick Enough to Die is the title track, is also selling strongly in open competition with Taeyang’s Solar and Suju’s Repackaged 4th Album. Blue Brand is an amazing project that brings together some of the best popular rappers/singers of every label to create some good R&B music.

I listened to Trauma Part I because BEG’s Jea and Miryo join for a track, and I personally idolize both. They also collaborate for another track in Part II, but I have yet to give the rest of the album a careful listen, so expect this post to be updated.

I think I figured out why songs like Sick Enough to Die or even miss A’s Bad Girl Good Girl are doing well. Honestly, the public is getting sick of mainstream songs. The rise of ‘idol music’ has been unending since Gee exploded onto the scene (before there was at least more variety, say if you compare WG’s Nobody to BB’s Lies to SG Wannabe’s Arirang), and it’s been one catchy but identical song after another. The discontent and boredom with the new groups debuting with mainstream songs further prove the problem.

Sick Enough to Die provides a welcome relief. It’s not a hugely promoted song, and the Blue Brand project itself is meant as an avenue for musical creativity, but both have seen huge receptions by the public. This song is very smooth and mellow, a good female vocals + smooth rap track that highly makes me remember and miss Epik High.  I think it has long lasting value as opposed to the massive but sudden appeal of mainstream songs–it’s like a sweet potato to mainstream’s candy bar: it’s a different kind of sweet and tasty, but will last longer (and have better health benefits XD). As I mentioned in the miss A entry, BGGG is mellow, mainstream enough but classy (and not autotuned–autotune means automatic music criticism death for most songs these days).

Lastly, I appreciate the darker lyrics of the song, it’s lack of “saranghae” or any of its variants (it’s like the word ‘baby’ in English songs–it’s so overused I want to tear my throat out, and a carrying quality that makes me want to listen to this more than the other million and one ballads coming out.

Thank you, MC Mong, for enlightening me that you can do so much more than cross-dress as an umma-ahjumma. Though that is fantastic too.


Credit: MVWORLDs

Retrospect: February/March

So hindsight is 20/20, and the further we are from an event the more objectively and accurately we can assess it. The same holds true for Kpop. Many people’s heady predictions about, say, 2pm’s impending failure post-Jay Park, was mostly false in the long run. As much as I disliked Without U, it still won lots of awards and Triple Crowned.

Thus I decided I’ll analyze music news that have had some months of buffering. I won’t go so far back as to be irrelevant. Let’s say, 2 to 6 months. This way the news will still be interesting and somewhat recent, but far back enough so I feel I can objectively report on it without expecting new development.

To start off, I’ll start with the battle of black, Kara’s Lupin (EP) and SNSD’s Run Devil Run.

2010 first half was full of “dark concept” transformation, mostly from Kara, SNSD, and T-ara. Lupin burned up real time and weekly charts upon release, and became the most successful single for Kara, with 2 M! Countdown wins, 3 Mubank K-Chart, and 1 Mutizen. I argue that this was also the best “dark” concept out of the bunch, due to the quality of the song, the stage performance, and their unexpected and very positively received change in image. Compared to Pretty Girl or even Honey, Kara has come a long way.

However, Lupin was no Gee. Recently it was the #3 song of the first half of 2010 according to Mubank and #5 according to Melon, but it’s all next to forgotten by now. Plus, T-ara’s re-packaged album and Promotion for I Go Crazy Because of You definitely stole some of its thunder. The song had potential to be a megahit, but the MV–no, more like the cheap looking background–kinda killed it. I blame DSP. It was a good song, a big stepping stone for the group, a big hit for a few weeks, and then died down. A solid part of Kara history, though, for sure.

SNSD’s RDR does not receive such hot reviews. It was ranked #9 on Melon from the same chart and #5 on Mubank. The results definitely aren’t bad, but the major problem was that, compared to Oh! it wasn’t nearly as successful. 2 Mutizens, but weak digital sales. RDR was largely boosted by their album sales. Like T-ara and Kara, SNSD tried their hand at changing their concept, but the hype died down a lot quicker than it did for the previous two groups. This, I predict, will determine the fate of SNSD’s future music release. Oh! was successful despite criticism that it was a (n even more) candy-popped Gee. RDR was not as hot despite more hype about its release. SNSD has been locked by listeners as a group that should/has to stick to more or less cutesy songs to be commercially successful.

However, SNSD (and Kara) are headed for Japan, where the market is open for foreign girl groups. It’s a blank slate, so SNSD breaks free from their almost cemented style expectation in Korea. Let’s hope these groups take advantage of their final tabula rasa.