Anonymous said: What do you think about the members of B1A4?
Hi! I’m not sure exactly how to answer this, but I do have a lot of general thoughts on B1A4 that I’ve been itching to put down, so I hope you don’t mind if I do that here.
I find B1A4 fascinating image-wise. They started out being presented as these sort of bland, slightly spacey cute boys: their unique marketing point, besides the blood types thing, was that all of the members were “country boys”, coming from the south, the countryside, or both, which projected onto them a sort of bumpkin-type innocence. Now, though, I think they’ve taken more ownership of their talents, especially Jinyoung. It’s as if WM woke up one day and said, “Oh, right, we have a competent songwriter in this group, we should do something with that.” I wrote about Jinyoung’s transition into becoming a songwriter-producer-idol when “Baby I’m Sorry” came out here; since then this aspect of his image has been played up in the press, and he was responsible for the follow-up single "Sleep Well, Good Night". (And for what it’s worth, my personal ranking of Jinyoung’s compositions is: "Because Of You" > “Baby I’m Sorry” > "Bling Girl" > the song he wrote in 24 hours for Sesame Player > "Wonderful Tonight" > “Sleep Well, Good Night” > "Feeling".)
Watching their season of Sesame Player earlier this year, I found it a bit too boring and rigid at first. I think the PDs made the assumption that because of B1A4’s naive image, they needed a lot of handholding (unlike the previous groups on Sesame Player, MBLAQ and Infinite, who seemed to take charge of their own activities with minimal on-camera interference), and so they started out being given a lot of missions, tasks to accomplish, etc. But as the show went on, the producers seemed to realize that yes, the members could carry a candid camera-type show on the basis of their personalities, without the need for extravagant missions and game time. They’re quiet, but they’re weird and interesting in their own way. I haven’t watched their season of Hello Baby yet (though I’m looking forward to Radio Palava’s take!) but I imagine it’s similarly less concerned with structure and more confident in the group’s ability to make for good television.
I don’t have too many opinions on the members as individuals, besides Sandeul, who is my favourite and also in my top 3 of male idol singers. I’d love for him to do a solo stint on Immortal Song 2. I think Baro and CNU have a lot of potential, and they’ve only been improving since debut. (Though I prefer CNU as a vocalist, not a rapper, as long as he doesn’t steal too much of Sandeul’s thunder - which seems to be Jinyoung’s job lately.)
@Famous_Jae: 이녀석들에게 좋은 관심 부탁드립니다! 빡센준비로@hydrayuge 황님 허리가 나가면서까지 다들 최선을 다해 열심히 준비한 친구들입니다!! 부족한 신인 친구들이지만 잠재력은 무한합니다!!!낼 첫무대!!!EXO!! pic.twitter.com/BEtjkB7T
100 days later, the revolution finally exists IRL. I’m going to miss the period where EXO was made up solely of a bunch of minute-long beats and some well-styled photoshoots, because at that point they were basically the platonic ideal of a boy band.
B1A4, “Baby I’m Sorry”. At their debut, B1A4 was presented on last spring’s MTV Match Up as the sunny, earnest flower-boy counterparts to Block B’s sneering, apathetic bad boys. I have yet to fully deprogram my automatic association of “pretty” and “well-behaved” with “useless” when it comes to pop musicians, so I was surprised to learn that “Baby I’m Sorry” was written, composed and produced by B1A4’s leader Jinyoung (visible/audible at 0:32). I was more surprised to discover that this isn’t his first song for the group: both the first mini’s "Bling Girl" and second mini’s "Wonderful Tonight" have music and lyrics by him, and he has a co-production credit on “Wonderful Tonight” as well. (Due to bureaucratic error and/or vagaries of romanization, he’s in the KMCA’s database as both “JIN YEONG” and “JEONG JIN YOUNG”.)
Besides just knee-jerk rockism, another reason I was surprised was because up until this point, authorship/“authenticity” hasn’t been part of the group’s narrative. The most prominent idol songwriter-producers are strong types: industry-tested veterans like Rain; credibility-seeking anti-idols like Block B’s Zico; and of course, the impossibly hip and extremely prolific G-Dragon. (And they’re all men, apparently.) These are people who are very upfront about their artistic ambitions and love of making music, and whose authorship and ownership of their music is part of their image and appeal. But for B1A4, it seems more incidental; Jinyoung’s profile lists one of his hobbies as songwriting, but so do those of many other idols, some who have written songs for their group and some who are just “learning composition”. Though he seems serious enough in his pursuit - at three songs, with others to be found on the album proper, I’m willing to believe that it’s not dilettantism - he hasn’t made it his personal narrative in the way that, say, Jay Park has, therefore I would automatically think of B1A4 as a pretty boy group with some great songs and nice voices but no artistic merit.
Not that “Baby I’m Sorry” is a huge artistic statement. It’s a serviceable event single, with a big Eurodance beat, unnecessary Autotune, catchy chorus, and a good balance between rapping and singing. It’s much moodier than their previous singles (though it gets sunnier and sunnier as it goes on, to the point where the BEAST-like opening section seems like a fake-out), and the video is less colourful and brightly-lit thanusual too, so I’m assuming this is the single where they go “mature” (disregarding the fact that their debut was just under a year ago). And I wouldn’t be surprised if, in their bid to be taken seriously, Jinyoung’s role as songwriter and producer gets played up as well.
the black hat that he is wearing is the king’s hat.
Officially called 익선관 (Winged Honorable Crown), this hat symbolizes the dignity of the King who reins over Korea. Meaning, GD is the King in this picture.
However, titling that hat signifies complete disregard of honor as a King, since symmetry is regarded highly in Ancient Korea; such notion of dishonor is furthered by GD’s long streak of hair falling by the left side. As a king, having “untidy” hair is horrendously offensive, especially when hair (also symbolizing “respect towards parents”) is shown on the left [left to us, facing him] (the side of evil). His stomach is also revealed, which is unheard of among the Korean Kings, as showing any skin as a King is abominable. And as a King, doing anything that is out of line with the tradition is wrong, because the citizens of a country is said to follow the King’s example at all times.
It seems like GD is set to throw off all his responsibilities as a king, doesnt it?
but there are more to notice. Notice the throne made out of ice, notice the chains binding him to that seat, notice the lines on the walls gathering attention to the center, where GD is. He doesn’t want to be there; he doesn’t want to be trapped in a throne of ice, where everyone looks at him and and forces him to be the “example” to the citizens that he never claimed nor wanted to be. He is at the center of attention at all times. All he wants to do is break free of that chain, of those judgments, and show his own style and showcase his music. He wants to do what has never been done before—reveal his hair, reveal his skin, sit with untidy clothes—but he can’t.
He can’t. Because he is the King—he is THE “idol” that must act the way it is acceptable for everyone, because he has somehow, unwillingly, become the “role model.” And he hates that.
MBLAQ and building trust through television
I recently became obsessed with MBLAQ after watching all of their Mnet variety show Sesame Player to relax during my move. The show alternates clips taken by the boys as they go about their day with ostensibly candid interviews done in the bathroom and competitions in which they play schoolyard-type games with humiliating punishment for the loser, a staple of variety game shows. (Sample clip: the “apartment game”.) However, the real point, as with 2PM’s short-lived Mnet show Wild Bunny, is to showcase the personalities of the MBLAQ members, and especially to establish their authenticity, likeability, and trustworthiness through their willingness to play and to be humiliated on television. I must say that it worked on me. I found their individual personalities charming, and the group’s relaxed, goofy attitude was endearing and more believable as real than the manic rebellious-teen antics that some other idol groups use, including 2PM on Wild Bunny, when trying to portray authentic selves.
As a result of watching this show, my relationship to MBLAQ changed; whereas before I saw them as generic Autotuned “manly idols” in the same vein as BEAST, U-KISS, and ZE:A, I now saw them as individuals, who struggled and felt joy and expressed themselves like individuals. It affected how I listened to their music, making me much more receptive to earlier singles like "Stay" and "Y" that I’d previously dismissed. (I’m still not a fan of their newest single, "전쟁이야" (This is War), but I’ve been watching all the performances, if that clarifies the fangirlish extent of my feelings towards them.) So when it was recently announced that they would be featured as the “parents” in the next season of Hello Baby, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to watch it. I knew them; I trusted in them. I wanted to watch them be themselves.
Hello Baby Season 5 and “multicultural children” Hello Baby is a South Korean reality show on which an idol group is given a toddler to take care of for a period of time (essentially extended babysitting). It simulates parenthood through a series of variety show-style challenges, in the same way that We Got Married simulates married life through a mix of unscripted interaction and scripted variety show-style events that has little to do with actual married life. One idol group is featured per season as the “moms” or “dads”, though other idols may guest star. Previously featured were SNSD, SHINee, T-ara, and Sistar.
The hook for this latest season of Hello Baby is that there are three children rather than one, and all of them have one Korean parent and one parent from somewhere else: Lauren’s dad is German-Canadian, Leo’s dad is French, and Dayoung’s mother is Vietnamese. All of the translations I have seen of official press for the show refer to the children collectively as “multicultural children” or “multinational”, not “biracial” (as in the case of girl group Chocolat).
Hello Baby has featured “multicultural children” before - T-ara’s charge was Korean/Canadian child model Mason Moon - but this group in particular resonated with me. Being Korean/Chinese-Canadian myself, I felt a Lacanian sense of fascination and kinship at the presence of a Vietnamese/Korean child, in the same way that I’m fascinated by Canadians in K-pop (Super Junior M’s Henry Lau is from the same area of Toronto as me!!!!!). I’m not mixed-race, but I’m mixed-culture, and I’ve never thought that was something others could relate to, nor did I know anyone who was in a similar situation of having two (equally diluted) ethno-cultural influences in her life. Though I’m not pleased that Canadian = white as far as this show goes, I am pleased that the approach is a multicultural one and that it’s not only European/American cultures that are being presented. I’m hoping that the way cultural mixing is portrayed will be something I can relate to, rather than something insensitive I must condemn.
Watching MBLAQ’s Hello Baby
Unfortunately I won’t be able to fully assess the show until a full version with English subtitles is released - watching raw clips gets me little farther than “awwww, cuuuuute”. But when it is, I plan to watch MBLAQ’s Hello Baby with the following objectives:
To see how cultural diversity is portrayed and how its effect (or lack thereof) on the children’s upbringing is portrayed. (Above clip: typical reduction of culture to food.)
To see how the children’s diversity of ethnic background is portrayed. I am specifically looking for a contrast between how Lauren and Leo (the children with white heritage) are shown versus how Dayoung (the child with Southeast Asian heritage) is shown, though I’m hoping there won’t be. I note as well that Dayoung seems to suffer from chronic bitchface, whereas the other two children seem more mild, so her characterization on the show will also be affected by her temperament. Interestingly (and dishearteningly), some people who have lamented the missed opportunity to show a mixed-Korean child who is not half-white have often elided Dayoung’s presence entirely.
To see how “Canadian-ness” is portrayed abroad, because I have the national anxiety all Canadians share about wanting to be seen as a special country. In addition to pancakes and maple syrup, the clues given to Seungho (the member who interacts with baby Lauren) as to his “child’s” identity were a maple leaf and a Korean translation of a mari usque ad mare, so it looks like someone did their research!
To listen to Leo’s family speaking French, because since moving from Montreal I’ve missed hearing and understanding French, to the point where I was immensely pleased to hear it in the above clip.
Vigilant Citizen “Illuminati alerts” make me miss writing English or film papers where I just looked for any possible symbolism that could fit my thesis. There’s an analysis of Narsha’s “Bbi-Ri-Bop-A” and SHINee’s “Lucifer” here, and the screenshot of SHINee actually made me chuckle. Really though, this is probably a better review of the “Sixth Sense” video than anything I could come up with.
Wonder Girls, “Be My Baby”. Wonder Girls are back! and the WonSoKa comebacks are complete. This song goes down super easily. It’s not a shocker like "The Boys" or an instant dance-mix earworm like "Step", but it’s sweet and extremely likeable. It’s the first of two promoted singles, the other being the harder "Me, in" (more on that in a forthcoming post).
This single for me shows me exceptions to what I had thought were my hard-and-fast preferences in K-pop girl groups. Firstly, Yubin’s rap doesn’t really work here at all (and I think she’s usually one of the more convincing K-pop girl group rappers), and maybe the song would be better without it? Actually, I guess there are a lot of K-pop songs that would be better without the rap (“Roly Poly”, anyone?), but I usually like it when girl idols rap so it’s weird for me that I don’t like it here.
Secondly and more importantly though, it’s the first time that I’ve wished a girl group had gone with a girly, cute concept instead of swaggerjacking Beyoncé. Because really, this video is not right for this song. It looks like someone discovered that the song synced with “Single Ladies” and put them together in the hopes of going viral. I’m grateful this is around because I’ve always wondered what it would be like if groups that do do the superpowered aegyo thing went with a “fierce” or “fashion” concept instead, and I can see now that it doesn’t always work as well as I would think.
But I respect (heartily, believe me) that image-wise and video-wise, the Wonder Girls don’t do the “all the girls being cute to catch a boy” thing - instead they’re parodies of “hot girls”, they’re Wonder Woman, they’re cute and stylish secret agents. And as I looked through all the videos I could think of to try and find a cute-yet-mature-concept video that could go with “Be My Baby”, I found they were all about, well, all the girls being cute to catch a boy. Even “Gee”, kinda! The exception was Secret’s “Shy Boy”, where the girls are cool and BFFs and getting the boys’ attention is incidental, but the super-retro concept wouldn’t work.
Come to think of it, Miss A don’t do this either. The closest they come is in the "Love Again" video (which is pretty much non-canon at this point anyway), and even then, the ending is not Suzy getting back together with that guy but the girls hugging and celebrating their great performance together. Like, can we talk about JYPE’s handling of their girl groups and how they encourage female friendship and cooperation as opposed to making sex/romance central? The girls are appealing, obviously, but that’s not part of the narrative. I mean, 2NE1 get a lot of credit for their "boys are stupid, throw rocks at them" swag, but Wonder Girls were doing that back when they still had Hyuna as a member!
So file this under “missed opportunity”, the missed opportunity for the Wonder Girls - and JYPE - to do cute their way. Not that they would have even thought of a concept like that in the first place, though, even though it’s so right for this song.
Hyoyeon of SNSD in Vogue Girl Korea, November 2011. Because she’s my favourite in SNSD, I’m really excited that she’s been getting more attention lately (a solo photoshoot! as well as joining the regular cast of variety show Invincible Youth). But I also find it silly and typical that this renewed interest in her by the public/promotion by her agency only comes after 1. her getting the much-publicized loudest cheer at the SMTown Paris concert and 2. a change in eyebrow shape from very arched to more open, which I guess makes her less angry-looking and more appealing. (I think it’s just her eyebrows that changed, because the rest of her face, even her nose, seems the same as before.) And maybe 2. followed 1. in preparation for now.
Well…is she really “prettier” now than she was before? (I kind of miss her old eyebrows - the new ones look better in profile, but straight-on they make her look like she’s wincing all the time.) Is her appeal strictly the revelation that she’s the most popular in France (Westerners!!), rather than her actual talent? Basically, I’m pleased that her agency is trying to promote her now and will give her more screen time and hopefully more lines in songs, but I’m unhappy about the conditions under which this has happened.
But really, I’m not sure what my ideal “conditions” for her agency to start giving her more prominence would be, besides some cheesy “discovery of her real talent” thing that in reality already happened as soon as SM picked her to be in the group, or even to be a trainee. So really, my dissatisfaction comes entirely from my own rockist ideals that talent should be the main deciding factor of who makes it and who doesn’t, rather than the reality of popular music industries and popular tastes. And maybe a little bit of “I liked her first” snobbishness.
Super Junior, “Mr. Simple”. I appreciate that in the leadup to and release of this video, SME did the opposite of what they usually do with f(x) and SHINee. This time it’s the video that is fashion editorial-like and looks shot on film, and the teaser pictures that are shiny and garishly coloured. (See: f(x)’s NU ABO promo pictures vs. the actual result.)
As for the song itself, it’s actually 5 songs, none of which match.