Day of epic proportions in my personal life

Today’s random post is brought to you by Kim Joe Jang of Cassies-fame.

So I tend to not like to mention things about my personal life here aside from the occasional sarcastic comment or picture or mini-rant, but today was just ridiculous in the amount of, well, ridiculousness that has happened in my life – and of course I mean awesome ridiculousness. Kpop related ones. Wut.

I spontaneously attend a KSA meeting so I can get fed ramen and because I am friends with the secretary, and can thus bribe my way into getting food without paying dues 😛 For the first time ever I was jamming to music I can’t normally jam to in public locations, and I realized I have learned the Soom dance. Too many YG songs, though. Try to Copy Me was played at least twice and there were no new songs aside from Soom. I almost volunteered my iPod *eyeroll*

Sidetracked my bioengineering friend with Kpop video watching. She is lesbian, got a huge kick out of AKB48’s Heavy Rotation PV, and I learned she has a massive crush on f(x)’s Amber (she was upset after I told her Amber is currently AWOL). I am corrupting more students’ lives with awesome irrelevance. I then proceeded to confuse her thoroughly by contrasting Mister/Pretty Girl/Lupin Kara and Genie/Kissing You/Run Devil Run SNSD. Yep, even she was mindfucked about the concept changes (after Lupin, “…were these the same girls…? I recognized the HBIC though, the one they dance circles around in that ass-shake dance?”). CLASSIC.

Had a nice heart-to-heart with a friend, where I was given questionable looking but tasty Korean supplements and was taught the proper usage of the expression, “hyul.” Apparently I’m going to have to shove someone down the stairs and then try this. I have the pronunciation down pat, though (lol, it’s only one syllable, BUT I SOUND LIKE A NATIVE OK???).

…did you know I had a dream featuring G-Dragon plus Big Bang, once? I had to fill in for TOP’s rap in Haru Haru, only to miserably fail. And I talked to G-Dragon like a normal person and learned that OMG he was a really cool dude – very normal, easy to talk to, and cool. IT WAS SO REALISTIC and I think this is my privileged insight into his true mind, so this is how I will see him from the future :DDD /cray cray cray

I watched WGM as we were returning from our ecology lab field trip (but did not download Adams couple this week FML).

I honestly think this is like compensation for me blowing the past couple of exams. Not quite sure yet whether this is good or bad news…

This seriously belongs in elsewhere, but…I’m too tired to be logical.

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I’ll be listening to this a lot next week…

Credit: MiChiVisualeuse

Wait until you YouTube muddy cult. Be warned! That MV was a little too visceral for my taste. But Nega’s bipolar musical quality contrasting haunting guitar lines plus piano with suicidal screamo is so soul-wrenching and precious for some reason. Plus, this will make for perfect emo-music as I hit the library for physics tomorrow. Some Kara Rollin’ would so not fit the mood (aka I HATE PHYSICS GO DIE NOW).

Remember that I came upon Kpop from J-rock. I honestly had no interest in music beyond classical and my orchestra/band repertoire until I happened upon a certain J-rock band called Nightmare, and from then on my life became so musically rich, from the current radio pop to underground indie to Brit rock to Swedish metal, and yes, even High School Musical for a week (after which I was so traumatized I don’t even give Glee a chance). I even started singing again, and all was happy and flowers. For some reason, Jpop was never my jam, but I kept on seeing videos of J-rock vs. K-rock and, naturally, J-pop vs. Kpop videos. I’m pretty sure my first Kpop videos were of DBSK, Suju, and the like, but for the longest time I thought boy bands were in general ridiculous.

The first Kpop video that really stuck to me was this, of all things.

Credit: hazerxx

Impression 1: what kind of name was SS501? I just finished the WWII portion of my history course then, and the SS
Waffen definitely came to mind…

Impression 2: o.O wow the dancing was really synchronized. And the guys were kind of attractive.

Then came the Brown Eyed Girls (Abracadabra got me in, but it was their first two albums that made me stay), then Ring Ding Dong, then 2pm, 2NE1, and my life was over. When I started watching 2NE1TV 24 hours before my chem final…er, let’s just say I am extremely grateful for my grades. That was on top of the WGM I was already watching (but thankfully before I found sites with updated subs, so I only had 16 episodes to work with), and once summer started I watched every SNSD variety show in two weeks. The excessiveness burned out really quickly, though, so now I am grateful to have Kpop as a good diversion to keep the equilibrium of my day.

I’m excited to return to normal blogging soon. I am a 2NE1 and Japan Invasion review behind, plus Beast is coming back next week. Look out for a September Top 5 post, first. I still need to get two midterms over with, though, and schedule out 15 hours of mandatory volunteering, all for next week. Organic chemistry went surprisingly well, so I’m comforted (probably false hope >.<) that my hardest course is manageable with some efficient studying. For all you students out there, don't forget to hit the books! It's all about the self-discipline.

SKpop’s TOP 5: August 2010

So starting this month, I’m going to pick my favorite songs from the month and put in some comments! Anything goes, so that means they don’t have to be title songs, from idol groups, etc. but it will stay Korean fo sho. I stole this idea from a YouTube video I saw – five seems like a reasonable number, since no one pays attention past number 4 on a top 10 list anyway. Plus, this will allow me to spew thoughts on songs I probably wouldn’t have time to address.

And of course, it’d be so boring if this was just a regular top 5 list. So I’m adding a WTF!Panda Top 5 as well, for miscellaneous songs I want to comment on that don’t belong in the top 5 because 1.) I hate instead of love them, 2.) they’re way old, but I just have to comment, 3.) something about the song/lyrics/mv was just exceptional…ly weird.

#5 FT Island – Love Love Love
Yeah ok, I complained and moaned about FT Island’s emo music again and again, but I couldn’t help but fall back in love with their music. Sure, Hongki’s “pushing” motions get repetitive, but FT Island’s songs are so emotional, well-written, and well-song. And yes, I still do love angsty music. So for now, the FT Island boys are again back on my good side. And Hongki’s wine-colored Beethoven hair didn’t even bother me much – I thought it looked good.


Credit: AsianMusicWorldHD

#4 Shady Girl – Sistar

Hyorin is perfect. In all honestly, the girl is a fantastic live singer and has such a positive personality that simultaneously make me feel happier and depressed that I in comparison seem like a hardcore emo. Shady Girl is such an improvement over Push Push, especially because Boram, and to a slightly less extent Bora (the rapper), finally shows the world that omg, she has a voice. Dasom, unfortunately, is still a bit lost in the background, and come on, she even dyed her hair a horrible shade of hooker blonde. It’s another solid song that will help build up this rising rookie group’s resume. And Heechul ❤


Credit: iAznSamManMV

#3 I'll Be There – Taeyang
In Korea/Japan, G-Dragon and TOP are by far the most popular Big Bang members. However, overseas, especially in North America, Taeyang rules. He is so freaking popular here I don't even pretend to try to understand – we kind of see him as the Asian Usher/Ne-Yo, and though I don't see it/think he gets a bit overrated at times, there's no denying that more people from the U.S. watch Taeyang videos than any other Kpop act.

I more or less expected something like this from Taeyang – I Need a Girl was so not his style (because, surprise! It was supposed to be Se7en's song, nice to see how YG mix-and-match like that…), and though I enjoyed happy Taeyang, I know he loves his emo songs more – what set I'll Be There apart from Where U At and Wedding Dress, however, is that it is much more pop feeling. Yes, Where U At had enough Teddy-synths to blow the moon up, but it was at its base very R&B. I enjoy I'll Be There a lot, I like the dance, the MV, the dark concept, etc. It's very good, and the best I've seen from Taeyang yet.


Credit: YGTaeyang

#2 Hurricane Venus – BoA
BoA's epic mega comeback yielded her 6th Korean album that I didn't care for at all. It's always been like that, though, hit or miss. I love Valenti but Hurricane Venus was blah. Oddly, I didn't hate Game like everyone else (until Nikki from PRN revealed it was f(x)'s Ice Cream 2.0), but Hurricane Venus totally did not float my boat at first. However, it started growing on me, and I even used it at a recent party. For me to change my opinions on a BoA song is quite an accomplishment. Plus, she racked up the music show wins/album sales. My hat off to you, and welcome back!


Credit: sment

#1 Madonna – Secret
My blog, my choice 😛 MADONNA DONNA. I'm so happy that they moved out of their craphole basement apartment with the foil window. That was a huge no no. I've anticipated their comeback since Sunhwa's teaser pic was released, and loved them enough to even review their minialbum. The song is so catchy and fun, and most importantly stays true to the Secret style – they may be aiming to sell, but they aren't going to abandon their classy identity to do it. My last hopes against autotune-mania. Plus, I thought the MV was gorgeous. Remember that week when every girl group in existence seemingly came back? One had to stand at the top. Congrats, Secret!


Credit: iAznSamManMV

…and now

WTF Kpop?
WTF!Panda Top 5!

#5 Homme – I was Able to Eat Well

So I’ll keep this short since I’ve already written about this, but wut, I love 2AM and 8eight but please keep my Kpop superficial and country free. I’ll go home and listen to the radio if I really wanted to hear country. Actually, I’m just really surprised at how popular this song became – Cyworld Song of the Month? Okkkkkay Korea, it’s your call.

#4 Beside You – BoA

Yeah. See why I made this poll? This song came off her million-copy selling Valenti Japanese album in 2003, and it’s not even the title track. However, I only got around to listening to it about 7 years later. Have you heard it? Read the lyrics? OMFG IT’S SO MAGICAL. I love this song.


Credit: diando

#3 2Me – Kara

2Me, Me2, whatever it is, it’s another case of “Nicole refuses to proofread anything English for Kara” as one Omona! post so helpfully wrote 😉 I actually kind of like the song – it represents the ideal equilibrium of Kara cuteness with some electropop in there to prevent me from gagging at the sheer amount of sugar, spice, and everything nice present in certain other Kara songs (Rock U, Pretty Girl…-__- I’m judging you. I’ll forgive Pretty Girl for its positive message, however). But WTF. The LYRICS. I could not take the LYRICS. I’m willing to tolerate a lot lyrically, considering my own Korean is so damn broken, but they even have to make it sound like some adult phone service in ENGLISH. Touch me, hold me, teach me, take me… It’s the worst Kara-gedy since the AWESOME BEST NIKCUF FIVE shirts…

The only reason wankfest isn’t occurring is because they are singing it so happily and innocently. Can you imagine of After School rocked some of those lyrics? Let’s just say I know how Micky Yoochun bagged Kahi as his hot noona.

Your Engrish are belong to us

#2 First Round – Dalmatian

Yeah. Was not expecting that. Did you know that I actually was about to dedicate a post to them? Inati’s life story is so touching, plus I’m so happy that a non-Bieber age group debuted, plus I was willing to overlook their name because of their looks, and most importantly they seemed really well-trained and had previous experience. I expected…well…a MC Mong sounding song, since he is the  “seon saeng-nim,” or at least something catchy like Joosuc’s Pop and Drop, but First Round was so out of the blue. It’s not a bad song, but…er…WHERE ARE MY BAD BOYS T__T. The MR removed sounded good, though, so kudos to the boys.

#1 Utada Hikaru goes on 2+infinity hiatus and I want her album
See how major this news is? It’s Jpop but it made it on my blog. T__T Ok Hikki is a lazy cow for the slow rate she releases but OMG I cannot bear 2 years without her. I think I will shell out money to buy her Best of album. OMG so upset. Rest of you Kpoppers, go back to work.

…And ok, let’s add a third section of “Notable Kpop News”

#5 Park Gyuri went kumquat blonde. WTF. At least she looked better in subsequent pictures taken.

#4 Kara shakes booty in Japan, sells Lupin EP x2 amount of CDs in a month.

#3 SMTOWN 2010 in LA. I hate my UCLA friends. Tiffany, I can’t recognize you no more TT

#2 Eru – Tae Jin Ah – Choi Hee Jin conflicted often psychotic yet tragic but mostly confusing circle of accusations, blackmail, abortion, and sabotage.

#1 Tablo has some major problems with 130k+ netizens. I honestly think that they are attacking him due to his outspokeness on “controversial” topics like depression and lack of tolerance and understanding for psychotherapy in Korea/Asia in general. The man is very smart – I was watching his CNN interview yesterday, and I got to thinking. Here’s a guy who doesn’t just make music – he is intelligent enough that he actually observes the world and contemplates weighty issues. While other idols rub off as very materialistic and commercial (it’s all about their music or their sales), Tablo emanates the aura of a conflicted, contemplating soul. That’s why he’s so susceptible to these netizen attacks – his strength lies in his brilliance in the intake of ideas and the complex churning and processing that goes on in his mind to create cutting lyrics and profound writing. This is also his weakness – he takes in everything, even the baseless derision and accusations, and contemplates over them too much. All we can do now is pray the courts shut the netizens up and hope Tablo stays strong 😦

Back to the 2NE1 album – gotta get at least 3 more repeats before I can start reviewing.

SNSD + Photoshop = Oil in Water

Can we just discuss that the hell is going on recently with the SNSD photoshoots?

Usually I don’t pay attention much to idol photoshoots – they look pretty on stage, so I assume they will look pretty on magazines, and I mostly check them out for some eye candy or pick up some hair styling ideals/drool over the shoes. Before we get to the SNSD disaster, let me present some good examples of recent photoshoots.

Kara and miss A+Kim Bum had recent shoots for ASK and Edwin, respectively, and though I’m very eh about the super heavy makeup for Kara’s shoot, I got to hand it to Goo Hara – she’s a very photogenic girl, and I rarely see bad pictures of her in shoots. The miss A shoot was fun and funky, and Suzy establishes my previous prediction here that she’s miss A’s poster girl (though I think Min is also very photogenic, just a bit on the short side but who cares).

Now, while I realize the two newest pictures of SNSD that were released were an album cover and a Cosmopolitan (of all things) cover, it still did not excuse the horrible combination of wardrobe choices/photoshopping – in fact, for an album cover that will define the face of SNSD to the public of Japan for their first debut, you’d think they would take even more care?

Here’s the Japan debut single, SNSD’s Genie, album cover.

When I first saw this, I honestly thought it was for a shoot – where did the marine outfits go? But I’m over that considering they (or at least from the waist up) look great. However, I know they are getting promoted as “leggy idols,” but the width of their thighs have been reduced to sizes not physically capable of supporting their upper body mass – Hyoyeon’s legs are not the same size as Sooyoungs, and I swear even SooSica’s legs were “trimmed.” And let’s not even mention the uniform skin color and height. And Yuri’s hair needs more RDR-style poof.

One good thing I noticed about this shoot is that, finally, Hyoyeon’s getting styled well again. I’m sure we all remember this mess.
.
I never quite liked her hair on shows, performances, ads, whatever, since the ITNW days, where she rocked that fierce blond almost well as Jessica. Glad UMJ/SM finally got the message that fierce works well for this girl.

Next, we have the special, 10th anniversary Cosmo shoot.

I want to burn most of their dresses. Ignoring what Taeyeon has written next to her, is it just me, or does her arm look twisted around, as if someone shopped her face onto the back of the head? And why are the nine members’ images layered on top of each other in such a nonprofessional way? Can we make the shadows cast look at least a bit more natural? This is such a facepalm moment for all PS users out there.

On the other hand, I’d like to point out that this is the reason Yoona is the center – she knows what she’s doing, and in this disastrous piece, she stands out with her poise (even if her dress is…no). For me, only Yoona and Sooyoung look great, Seohyun, Yuri and Hyoyeon look good, Taeyeon arms <!–3, Jessica, your facial position </3, and Sunny and Tiffany not getting the message that they were going for the happy look. </3

Meanwhile, this is how you should rock the Cosmo cover, Hyori-style. But she needs to stop with the push-up bras every single time, though. Just saying.

Lastly, YG baby, Yang Yoo Jin, is the most adorable thing on earth. I spazz everytime I see her picture. Sooo cuuteeeeee. I love Asian babies.

Moral lessons

I really don’t like preaching, especially in our bubble known as Kpop–I prefer if others can discover mistakes and correct them on their own, as the end result is much more meaningful, and come on, Kpop is founded upon fanwars and hysterical fangirl/boying. However, there are some misunderstandings/points of hypocrisy that absolutely drive me nuts, so much so that I have resigned myself from attempting to explain on every forum I stalk, and instead will put my thoughts into my own post in hopes that others will maybe read and spread the knowledge.

As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, so macros must have even higher inherent value. Here’s some excellent ones that will make the point across much easier than a written rant.

First, Taeyeon’s racist comment about calling Alicia Keys “pretty for a black person.” This apparently is a pretty big reason why a lot of people dislike SNSD, which is extremely unfortunate considering it is completely false. I am not a Sone, nor am I trying to make excuses for Taeyeon’s words. Rather, there’s NOTHING TO EXCUSE. She actually did nothing wrong because this was not what she said–I listened to the Chin Chin clip myself, and her words were very much distorted in translation thanks to some anti who even disabled comments on the YT video to prevent clarification.


^That about sums it up.

In Asian languages, ‘black’ translates directly into “African American” without negative connotations. No one uses the phrase “African-American” because it translates into something akin to a scientific name, which would be ridiculous to use in colloquial speech. I feel bad for Taeyeon because she really did nothing wrong here.

Next, let’s talk Key. Key from SHINee is known as a very blunt diva, and he will say what he thinks to your face. You actually have no idea how much I adore Key (I kept on doing his Ring Ding Dong ‘butterfly’ move and it was pissing off my friends), but I was a little offended when Nicole from Kara revealed that Key told her she was fat and asked “when are you doing on a diet?” in, I assume, typical Key fashion, which is to say very bluntly. I am more annoyed that people started commenting, “oh, but you know, they are like BEST FRIENDS, so it’s ok, and Nicole wasn’t really hurt, and I’d want a guy to tell me I’m fat too! (extreme lol at this, O RLY?).” I’d assume being friends would make this even more not ok–your friendship obligates you to at least word it a little nicer.

But that’s actually not my main issue.

Cause you know if it was actually Goo Hara who turned to Nicole and said, “bitch, why can’t your waist be 21 inches like mine,” she would not live to see daylight.

We had a saying like this in debate once: if a guy is rude, he’s just being assertive, but if a girl is rude, she’s being a bitch. I lament. I’m glad we’re all tolerating all the divaness of Key/Heechul/Kwon/others so well, but can we not flame the girls for being confident or critical?

Lastly, Kikwang’s blackface issue. If don’t know already, Kikwang from Beast dressed in blackface to play out a watermelon CF on the comedy show Hot Brothers, and international Kpoppers erupted in rage.

Personally, I have zero tolerance for racism. However, I am also a huge advocate for understanding–even if you vehemently disagree with the viewpoint of another, at least try to understand where its coming from. All this “omfg why is Korea/rest of Asia so far behind, I hate their racism” vs. “zomgbbqsauce Westerners just try to impress their opinions on everyone, imperialistic eggfarters” really gets us no where.

I actually found no need to write about the issue myself because I happened upon someone else’s entry that took the words right out of my mouth and made it 100x better. So if you are hating on Kikwang (and rather rightfully so, it’s not cool), please read it, and try to put down the pitchfork.

Cultural division exists on both sides–Westerners don’t understand Asian conservatism (what’s wrong with a teenage girl wearing a tanktop?), and Asian cultures don’t understand the Western lack of filial piety (why are some teens so disrespectful?), and I can make lots of pro/con points on both sides. Just know that the line drawn isn’t permanent. I apply a similar plea to the Key issue–Asian cultures are patriarchal because that’s how history turned out, and I accept that. I just hope fans living in more gender-equal nations won’t start to think this is an acceptable practice in their own countries. After all, acceptance breeds opinions, and opinions lead to action.

So do some research before flinging around the hate. You never have to accept someones words or actions, but you do have an obligation to try to understand it.

Let’s keep an open mind, and I’ll start blogging more lighthearted stuff :3

And I ‘borrowed’ all of these from random AKP forum threads–I don’t know who the original creators were, but I give them credit and a hardy pat on the back for their efforts.

But in 2010, New > Old

So I just wrote about how 2010 = 2009 in terms of ‘quality of songs’ (you know we don’t listen to Kpop for quality). However, 2010 really should’ve been bigger than 2009.

As I look back at who came back in 2010, I’m utterly amazed that Kpop is NOT exploding in sheer awesomeness right now. So many big name, legendary artists emerged from the woodworks after spending years AWOL, and your standard top-of-the-pack groups almost all came back, and the sheer anticipation was on the verge of nuclear holocaust. But then, what happened?

Wonder Girls came back! Finally, the first ‘current generation’ girl group to reach superstardom returns from the U.S.! But 2 Different Tears was a hot mess of overanticipation of something better than TellSoNo, short promotion time, wtfbbq only a single?!?, and Sunmi’s departure.

U-Go-Hyori, the queen bee herself! It’s been 2 years! I actually thought Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was pretty good, but the plagiarism thing completely tanked her.

Rain! Hot abs ninja assassin looked to shock all with something better than Rainism. But he really should’ve put out a full album, because Love Song was just meh for me at least. The sales were ok, but not explosive like Rainism.

Gummy! The soul-voice of YG had been gone since FOREVER, and suddenly she emerges with her Loveless minialbum. Actually, I loved it. But sadly, idols are all the hype these days, and poor Gummy didn’t get the popular reception she really should have received (come on, flower boy Kim Hyunjoong was even in the freaking mv, what more strings was she supposed to pull?!?). The sales were actually ok, but it could and should have been bigger. My Gummy bias 😛

Se7en. Legend. Passion. Returns from the U.S. Again, should have had a full album, and despite his brilliant live performances (Better Together was actually a decent song), his sales are bad, and his fanbase, very weakened.

And the trump card, even BoA returned after 5 FREAKING YEARS. It’s way to early to see her album sales, but to me, that album was extremely disappointing. I think I’m not alone in noticing her music deteriorating in style over the years–honestly, BoA had edgy songs, cool dance moves and music videos, but Hurricane Venus was so dull compared to say, Girls on Top, and I personally attribute it too overwork–Japan and especially the U.S. just drained her. Sometimes I wish artists would just stay in Korea like Hyori–she knows where her base is at and sticks to it, and that’s why she’s the “Nation’s Fairy.”

And to list other hype/disappointments, After School’s Bang! was so meh compared to Because of You, 2pm’s Without U just wasn’t up to par with what 2pm can dish out, Son Dambi barely made an impact with Queen, 4minute had pretty bad sales, f(x) got gypped out of an award, 2NE1 and Big Bang are MIA (yes yes I know BB is in Japan), Seo Taiji got beaten by Jay Park, etc. etc.

Why? Primarily, the fans’ expectation of come backs better than the best works of the artists’ careers was simply too unrealistic. Even if the songs were pretty good, it wasn’t better, so fans were disappointed. I know I was somewhat disappointed.

However, I have been surprised by handfuls of acts this year, and now I think about it, they all came from groups who never had overwhelming success previously or were new acts. 2AM’s Can’t Let You Go Even if I Die/I Did Wrong back-to-back wowed both the charts and myself (it was one of those hits where you’re like, oh, yeah that song was good but never gave it too much thought, then looked back and realized, holy crap, their minialbum did really well), Kara finally had a bit hit with Lupin without choosing the wrong title song, CN Blue’s Loner indirectly lured me on the path of full Kpop obsession, Beast finally overcame their ‘reject group’ label with Shock, miss A again proved to me rookies were worth paying attention to (then Girl’s Day quickly disproved that, oh man I should really stop hating on them, Control was actually really good), and most recently SHINee finally made my summer spectacular with the best album of the year. The fact that I feel more excited about Secret’s comeback than I felt about BoA’s just confirms the new/newish groups are the ones creating the drive in 2010—old names simply aren’t performing on par.

And people are getting overly annoyed that so many new groups are debuting this year. While I will probably put up subsequent posts that mirror the public opinion, I can’t help but feel that, well, it’s always been this way. New groups announce debuts. The crowd groans and rolls their eyes. If their debut sucks they get bashed mercilessly. If they were ok they still get bashed mercilessly. You get the idea. I was rummaging through some old news tidbits and stumbled upon some written about Davichi during their debut–omg Kang Minkyung isn’t an ulzzang, stick to R&B, 8282 sucks, and most hilariously, they need singing lessons zomg. Personally I think Davichi can sing quite well, tyvm, and if you put them next to the idol world, wow, give them a Nobel Peace Prize for actually having talent now please. Hopefully you get the idea–as Seo In Young said recently, “Anyone can debut. The important part comes after.” All new groups will get crap dumped in their face, but they should consider it a weird, cultish welcome. Should they pass the initiation, they will have lots of diehard fans willing to put their lives on the line to defend them and buy their cds, posters, socks, and whatever product their company puts out to milk the fans for all their won.

Japan, here we come!

So I’ve been waiting to write this article, and now that SNSD has finally announced that their debut single will be Genie, I can finally settle in and put in my two cents on the girl groups in Japan situation.

As you know, this summer/fall has marked Kpop’s girl groups’ inevitable migration into the land of the rising sun, which was bound to happen sooner or later after the success of their boy group sunbaes as DBSK and Big Bang. I’m actually surprised no one made the move sooner (other than the Grace, but that’s something I’ll cry about another time T__T). 4minute, Kara, and SNSD will lead the charge into Japan. 4minute has already debuted their single I My Me Mine and has traveled back and forth from Korea and Japan to perform on music shows; Kara will be releasing their Mister single August 11th and has performed their first show on Music Japan this past week; SNSD will be having a showcase August something and releasing their Genie single in September. In other words, three of the top Korean girl groups will be debuting in a very close period of time with translated versions of old, hit singles (minus IMMM which is relatively new).

One reason I waited to comment until now was because I seriously anticipated that SNSD will be debuting in Japan with an original, Japanese single, and past precedents set by DBSK and BoA gave possibilities of that happening. However, SM has completely changed their tactics regarding the marketing of their artists in Japan–first it was the change in label from Avex to UMJ, which I personally think is a good move since Avex has always been cheap on promotions, and second with the Genie single. I’m a little disappointed, admittedly, but I’m not overly surprised.

Things are changing, boys and girls. Through my extensive forum stalking, I’ve read lots of comments along the lines of “omg, XXX is going to go to Japan and fail, and I hope they disappear.” Obviously the work of antis, but it paints a rather accurate picture of the hopes of haters and the worst nightmare of fans. However, such a scenario happening to 4SoKa (ok I’m going to leave the abbreviation as that) will be near impossibility.

Does anyone realize how much companies are holding the hands of these groups and looking out for them? Take SM–contrasting their treatment of throwing the Grace into Japan while their fanbase in Korea was just growing, leading to abysmal overseas failure and their virtual disappearance from the Kpop map, they have now gone to pouring everything into the successful promotion of SNSD even before they land in Japan. Heck, they even did an entire photobook in Japan, and trust me, it was not just for the view.

SNSD has built up their fanbase these past three years to where I’m stupid gawking at the ridiculous gifts Soshified got for their 3rd anniversary. They are at their peak Korea wise, and I think it’s as good as a time as SM could’ve picked for their Japanese debut–honestly, their 2010 songs have not been as strong as the 2009 ones, but the steady sales and mid-year domination just showed that SNSD has reached what I like to call a commercial equilibrium in Korea–it doesn’t matter how fantastic or crappy their music is, it will sell like hotcakes regardless.

What I’m totally confused about is how permanent SM is making this debut seem. The girls have been completely pulled from their shows except for Seohyun, and their recent SendVoice messages made it seem like they aren’t coming back, with lots of “don’t forget us!” and “wait loyally for our return!” sprinkled in. Didn’t they learn from BoA, DBSK, heck even Se7en and WG, that the fanbase will slip if the groups are gone for an extended period of time?

4minute has already started promotions but are still performing on Inkigayo. That could just be that they don’t feel pain, but it doesn’t seem they will stay long term. As an aside, I think Cube is steady winning my vote as managing company of the year, which will make for an awesome future post, not spoiling anything at all. Kara’s already made it clear they’d stay for 20 days only, but 1.) DSP has never been good at planning, or choosing good title songs until 2010, or at giving their artists good living/practicing conditions, now that I get started. However, since they’re now under UMJ’s management, this might be part of an actual plan of a series of waves of promotions, especially since fluent Japanese is apparently no longer a prerequisite in attempting to break into Japan, and the artists would never leave Korea long enough to weaken their presence there, which would be pretty smart.

So let’s quickly digress to the songs. Repackaged Japanese versions of hit songs, I guess, creates more chances the song will be a success if we consider the Korean version a test trial period. Kara’s Mister is a fantastic choice in my opinion–it finally becomes the title song it should have been during Revolution promotions, it has a fantastic butt dance, and translated really nicely into Japanese. Personally I believe it was too early for 4minute to enter Japan, but I can see now that this part of Cube’s larger plan to train their artists to adapt to the international market, so I don’t see current long term promotion.

Lastly, here’s what the CEO of UMJ had to say about promotion plans for Kara/SNSD in Japan:

Universal Music Japan’s CEO Koike Kazuhiko discusses his promotion plan for KARA and SNSD in Weekly Toyo Keizai (A Business Journal).

“They have good looks and great singing abilities. It’s a waste to keep them just in Korea, so they should sell in Japan as well.“ Major record company Universal Music’s CEO Koike Kazuhiko, in addition to being the company president, he praises Korean girl groups KARA and SNSD in this way. He seems confident in giving both of these girls from his company success through full-blown promotions, which will begin this summer.

(omitted)

(Traditionally), for foreign artists to succeed in Japan a moderate level of Japanese skill was essential, unless they were top class artists. However, that’s not really the case now.

Speaking frankly President Koike said, we’ll decide which promotion method to use depending on the artists’ characters. Whether that means mainly doing activities in the Japanese market, or using a similar promotion method to the one we use for artists from Western countries doing activities mainly outside Japan. Discussed above, KARA has looks like Japanese idols and their Japanese songs should be easily accepted. Japanese was studied enough for them to be active in the center of Japan.

He explains that, SNSD and KARA are completely different, their appeal as “real-deal artists” is a profitable plan, and that Japanese ability isn’t really necessary when using the same promotion techniques as western music.

From what I’m inferencing, Kara will be promoted as a Japanese group much like DBSK’s promotion, while SNSD will get more of the western-style “treat them like foreign artists” promotion. Smart since this will prevent the two groups from clashing in the market since they will be labeled differently, but there’s definitely a lot of questions to be asked, like if Kara’s Japanese proficiency is enough for their style of marketing, whether SNSD can have the influence of western artists even if promoted like one, and most importantly if consumers are willing to distinguish these two groups instead of lumping them together as “those two korean groups” (admittedly, they’re lumped together quite often in Korea).

So how will it all play out? To tell you the truth, I have absolutely no idea. In a sense, the existing Japanese market is an iron curtain–dominant female groups such as MoMu and AKB43904859384 and solo artists like Koda Kumi and Namie Amuro make it hard for newcomers to gain a solid foothold in the market. However, a similar story existed for the guys, where Johnny’s groups (Johnny & Associates is a company that produced Jpop powergroups like Arashi, KAT-KUN, and SMAP) made it nearly impossible for even other Japanese pop groups to survive, let alone foreign acts. But lo and behold, Tohoshinki/DBSK became one of maybe two non-Johnny groups to be able to have consecutive number ones and actually present competition.

Final tidbit of FYI. So SNSD is release their single September 8th…and guess when JYJ is releasing their The…minialbum? Yeah…so just coincidence or revenge? Will this affect CD sales at all? Johnny’s groups usually bring terrible sales to other artists releasing the same week, and Tohoshinki’s been known to outsell them, not to mention this is JYJ’s big return after their Tokyo Dome stint, so no doubt fans are angsty. We’ll see. And that rumored 5 minute long Mister mv complete with story better be hella good. I’ve waited so long.

Thanks to Soshified for the article translation from Weekly Toyo Keizai, a business magazine.