subdee asked: Ukiss! Do you like them? If not then B1A4. I would ask about Z:EA but I'm not sure they have five notable songs to write about (yet).
Why not all three?
I do like U-KISS! Albeit sheepishly. My primer for them is straightforward:
1. “만만하니” (Am I That Easy). What they used to sound like. 2. “시끄러!!” (Shut Up!!). The above, but grimier. 3. “0330”. What they tried to sound like. 4. “Neverland”. What they sound like most of the time. 5. “Stop Girl”. What they’re capable of sounding like. (It gets really good once the extra background noise comes in at 1:40.)
The most comprehensive B1A4 primer would come from Radio Palava, but here’s five songs that make for a good overview:
1. “Beautiful Target”. This doesn’t come first chronologically, but it’s B1A4 in a nutshell: sweet melodies, goofy-voiced rapping, hammy MV, and earworms for days. 2. “못된 것만 배워서” (Only Learned Bad Things). Establishes them early as capable of a mellower, more R&B-based style. 3. “Baby I’m Sorry”. This is the first of three (and counting) title tracks written and produced by leader Jinyoung, and fairly typical of one-half of his production style: an interesting but easy to follow melodic line over a cluttered backdrop, with an attraction to unnecessary bells and whistles (in this case autotune). 4. “너때문에” (Because Of You). This is the other kind of song Jinyoung writes, with the same melodies but more acoustic-based production and a softer edge. It’s nostalgic, yet without a referent. 5. “걸어 본다” (Tried to Walk). Hopefully this is indicative of their future direction, nominally more mature and continuing to build on this electronic pop sound. Then again, they immediately followed the darkish “Baby I’m Sorry” with the chipper “Baby Good Night”, so who knows?
And finally, my ZE:A recommendation is to listen to tracks 2-6 of Spectacular (“Aftermath” through “Never End”) and spare yourself the embarrassment of hearing any of their singles before that.
I’m impressed by the lyrics. “Why am *I* doing this to *you*” in with all the other stuff about how the girl is a maniac. Vixx-dudes already know this but they should be running, not walking, away from this psychotic relationship.
I really like this comment, and I agree! There are a lot of K-pop songs about obsessive relationships from both sides, but I think this might be the first one to say “No, this is wrong for both of us, I need therapy" rather than just glamourizing the angst (though it still does plenty of that). (I could be wrong; like I said, there are a lot of lyrics to comb through.)
subdee asked: Tasty MV is artsy but also looks like a high-end electronics ad. I wonder whether Kpop MV directors do this on purpose, as a signal to potential sponsors, or if it's a side-effect of the directors also making ads. Or maybe the MV looks are inspired by artsy advertising at home and abroad? Sort of like how Boyfriend-Love Mode looks like a Gap ad and ExoK-What is Love looks like an Anthropologie ad.
I’m not 100% certain, but it’s probably a bit of all three - after all, MVs are a form of marketing/advertising too. It’d be really interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of MVs with similar looking TV ads, especially once you got into the target demographics of each. The few (non-international) Korean ads I’ve seen seem to be more narrative- or celebrity endorsement-based than cinematic, though. It also might do to look at MVs made for CF songs, that is songs recorded for commercials - SNSD’s "Chocolate Love", for instance (cell phones), or 2NE1’s "Don’t Stop The Music" (scooters). (Can someone with more knowledge of Korean televisual advertising help us out here?)
On another note, Tasty’s MV is much flashier than other MVs by Woollim Entertainment artists, which often look more like short indie films. (My favourites: Epik High’s "Run", Nell’s "The Day Before", Baby Soul & Yoo Jia’s "She’s A Flirt", and Infinite’s "Nothing’s Over".) Woollim’s clearly going for different aesthetic choices with this group.
subdee asked: Totally agree wrt: Infinite's non-singles. There's just such a big quality gap between the singles and the album tracks - the songs aren't terrible, but they are very basic. Sunggyu used to be the lead singer in a rock band, right? Do you reckon he works on the non-singles, under another name? So they are rookie songwriter songs?
Here’s the weird part: save for their first mini, it seems that they work exclusively with either Sweetune or J.Yoon, who played bass in rock band MC the Max and apparently only writes for his own group or for Infinite. J.Yoon is responsible for the songs I like the least, including “With…” But I found Boyfriend’s Love Style mini, which was mostly Sweetune-produced, to have the same problem: fantastic single, but otherwise average. So…maybe these singles bands are the result of Sweetune being a singles producer?
This is entirely conjecture, but I don’t think Sunggyu is the member most interested in songwriting. So far the only members of Infinite to have been involved in the songwriting process are the two rappers, who have written some of their own verses. (And Woohyun has expressed an interest in composition in a few interviews, but only recently.) From what I understand, Sunggyu’s band mostly did covers: Muse, Pia, Seo Taiji, etc. I can’t imagine his songs would turn out Infinite-like, anyway, if he was left to his own devices; he’s mentioned several times that he wants to sing more rock songs. (Of course, it’s possible that he’s working with Sweetune and/or is not registered with the KoMCA…who knows?)
7: most underrated bands. I think that statistically every band in the world has at least two stans. That said, I wish Rainbow was more popular - their output has been consistently great since “A”. I also would like for Beast’s music to be mentioned more often in the (Western) music critic-verse, though they’re hardly underrated.
16: last album i bought. Three at the same time: The Monks, Black Monk Time;Eccentric Soul: The Young Disciples; and a compilation called Sister Funk 2, which is what it sounds like.
subdee asked: 4, 8! Let's ask the shallow questions first. I'm also curious about 18, it's such a specific thing.
4: top 10 most attractive musicians in my opinion (dead or alive). I’m not sure if I should name just K-pop idols, so I’ll go half and half. Off the top of my head while scrolling through my iTunes: Joel Plaskett, Karen O, Andre 3000, Alex Kapranos, Leslie Feist, Hoya (Infinite), Nana (After School), Lee Joon (MBLAQ), T.O.P, and Heechul (ZE:A). But ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a totally different list.
18: a band i used to love but now hate. I would say “a band I used to love but have grown out of” is more accurate to describe my relationship with the many groups I loved but no longer listen to. But… Metric? I adored them circa Old World Underground and Live It Out, wanted to be Emily Haines, and wore my bright blue Metric T-shirt all through high school. But by the time Fantasies came out when I was in university, the slogans all sounded meaningless where they had once been meaningful, and the dance beats that once were a weapon against complacency now seemed calculated.
I mention my stages of schooling/life deliberately because I think that has a lot to do with how I read Metric - that is, I don’t know if they changed or if I changed. (A bit of both, I guess.) Around the time Fantasies came out, they had a show at the Apple store in Montreal (that I didn’t make it into). Earlier that day I went to get a smoothie in the Plateau and didn’t realize until after they’d left that I had been standing next to Emily Haines, my one-time idol, while she and Jimmy Shaw had a coffee and a smoke outside. It was a cool story, of course, since I was “over” them - she was right next to me and I didn’t even give a shit - but it was also weird knowing that I’d been close to someone who’d once meant so much to me without even realizing it. In a way, it made me feel like the empty one. And I still haven’t listened to Synthetica, aside from whatever snippets were in Cosmopolis.
subdee asked: I support conspiracy theories re: Brave Brothers! For instance, around the same time Alone came out, he also changed Brave Girls' style and image to support this "don't want to be alone anymore" theme, and wrote "Nowadays You" in the early Big Bang style he and G-Dragon developed together. I personally suspect strong nostalgia was at work around that time.
P.S. Here’s an acoustic cover of that Teen Top/Big Bang mashup:
Thank you, this is amazing!
Yeah, it’s interesting that he seems to dictate the general style of the songs and then adapt them for whatever group it is, as opposed to, say, Sweetune, who have a specific set of sounds for each group they work with (cf. this compilation of their work for Infinite, KARA, and Rainbow to…2011 I think?). I didn’t even think to look at Brave Girls, but that would be the most logical place to see what he’s up to.
subdee asked: Sometimes it seems to me like sasaeng fans NEED to exist, to make what the regular fans do (in a controlled way, with the blessings of the promotion machine) seem normal.
It’s definitely all relative, and I’m assuming your definition of “regular fan” includes both people who occasionally watch fancams on YouTube and people who send idols lunch boxes. So yes, for everyone in this range, sasaengs are people we can point to in order to establish where the line is between “normal” and “crazy”.
Because of course, the range of activities that fall under the umbrella of the “regular fan” is huge. Things like airport photos and waiting for idols in hotel lobbies hit that awkward place for me where I’m not sure if, as a fellow fan, I can endorse this behaviour, even though they’re common practice and the fans who do this are generally respectful (with some personal space violation horror stories here and there). I guess that’s more subjective than objective, though, based on one’s personal qualms, and sasaengs are the only fans where most people can agree that there is a line that has been crossed.
I agree that sometimes they seem inevitable, like there always needs to be some percentage of followers of any belief system (fandom being a belief system, in a way) that practices the extreme.