Thursday, January 6, 2011

K-Pop New Music Roundup: New Year Snowstorm

From MBC's My Princess. Snow is cold, but so pretty

So they're predicting a snowstorm this weekend in my area. Dislike, dislike, dislike. Interestingly, this is accompanying a ridiculous amount of new Korean music that came out this week. It's a problem when Soribada's home page is one of your top sites in Safari - I can't help but want to listen to everything! But I won't bore you with millions of detailed reviews, I'll keep it as short as possible, only waxing lyrical in a few instances. So put on your scarves and let's get going!

Since this is mad long, my advice is to look over the paragraphs and read the ones that seem interesting. My favorite releases this week are One Way, TVXQ, Infinite, 4men and the My Princess OST. Oh, and I rant about the Piggy Dolls, so make sure to check out that review too.

One Way - Rainy Days (album)
I'll keep this short - you want this album. You want the physical CD (with their autographs!), and you want to play this thing in your car's CD player or your old boombox or your computer until it scratches up, just like in the old days. It's absolutely fantastic, amazing, brilliant, etc. As I said before, One Way are some of the most talented songwriters in the Korean pop industry right now. I am not exaggerating - I sincerely believe that. And this album just proves that with every single track. I would write more, but I'm too busy dancing my ass off to "Flight 101 (feat. As One) blasting "The Forecast" on my brother's speakers, trying to get my family to listen to "New Drag", and learning the English and Korean lyrics to "Rainy Days". After which I'll learn to play guitar so I can play it as well. Yes, I'm hooked - you should be too.

Secret - Shy Boy (listen)
So Secret went and did the cute thing. I'll forgive them for it this once, because they're usually awesome, the song's kinda catchy, I so want all their outfits from the video, and the other track on the single is kinda bossy. But it still feels like they sold out. I think it's a k-pop rule that everyone must do the cute concept once they get even mildly successful. *sigh. Someone call me when they're fierce again.

TVXQ - 왜 (Keep Your Head Down) (album/EP)
So 2/5 of TVXQ returns with a new album. I'm going to ignore all the craziness currently going on between the two and the three and just talk music. This album is amazingly produced, but sadly doesn't capture my attention. Few of the songs on this album really made me jump or dance or even bob my head - most kinda just played out on my playlist and I barely registered them. Standouts for me were "Crazy", "Rumor" and "She". "Keep Your Head Down is epic of course, but as McRoth said, really not a song that I can listen to more than once a day. It's well done, and I love it, but it needs to be handled with care. The truth is, without Junsu and Jaejoong, HoMin have to rely more on production than on the strength of their vocals to deliver exceptional music, and sadly, it shows. It's still a good album, but falls below expectations for me.

Piggy Dolls - Piggy Style EP
Okay, lemme rant for a second. I want the world to stop pitying and parodying the big girl. I mean it. Because your group members happen to be plus-size, that is not an automatic excuse to call them "Piggy Dolls", and act like it's ironic: it's not - it's degrading. How dare you use a girl's weight as a sales gimmick? The same thing with that version of the Bachelor for plus-size women, "More To Love". Thank GOD that got cancelled, I was about to send hate mail to the network. IT'S. NOT. FUNNY. OR INTERESTING. STOP. Fat people don't need representation, they need acceptance - two different things. Why don't they go change the name of SNSD to "Skinny Dolls" if BMI as marketing tool is what's hot these days? Even the name of that other group ,Big Mama, gets on my nerves, especially since they're amazingly talented. It's like a caveat: "They're great, but they're fat." I think I need to buy a punching bag, label it "k-pop industry execs" and punch the stuffing out of it. UGH. The video for "Trend" only makes it worse - does Korea not make decent plus-size clothes? I feel like sending them gift cards to Torrid (plus size boutique in the US) - the styling is HORRIBLE, and just adds to the affront. And don't get me started on them literally "pigging out" in the beginning of the video. I can only hope that that news report was about young girls feeling alienated because of their weight, and the song is about them breaking stereotypes, because that's the kind of thing I'd applaud. Not pandering a woman's weight as your new gimmick so you can make money off of the novelty of big girls.

Awful name and marketing aside, these girls sound amazing. Hate the autotune on "Trend", but they still sound great and manage to add edge to otherwise dull tracks. They also are pretty engaging while performing. They actually remind me of KARA back when Sunghee was still in the group. Too bad their weight is being used as a marketing tool instead of their obvious talent. Hope they do well, and aren't just a flash in the pan.

Infinite - Evolution (EP)
Oh, I love these guys. Teen Top is hot on their heels this month and will be posing some fierce competition for my affections the public's attention with their own release, but I think Infinite have won me over for good with this EP. They are the perfect example of a group that take what they have and make the damn most of it. I do prefer their first EP material, but this is great follow-up stuff. They've kept the tight production and great instrumentation, which is a big plus as both are hard to come by in k-pop. It's a bit too much for me in "Can You Smile" but perfect in "몰라. "Before The Dawn" needed a middle eight - seriously, it doesn't have one at all - to really make it good, and thus fell short of expectaitions for me. But the video is gorgeously dark and gritty, and adds the artistry that was missing from the song. It's probably done by the same director who did Epik High's "Fan" and "Run" videos, which I also love. Infinite's whole sound really hearkens back to some of the early-to-late 2000s kpop music that I like (before the autotune boom). With this EP, they're continuing to build up an excellent body of work, from which I hope to see them jump off to bigger and better things.

Joo - "나쁜 남자 (Bad Guy)"(listen)
A lesser known JYP artist makes a comeback. Never heard of her until now, but decided to check her out. The EP is average at best, but this song got to me. It's in part the vocal melody, which is pretty unconventional for your standard k-pop track, and the video, which has a cool concept, though I do think it could have been executed better. Also, Chansung is in it. Here's my thing about Chansung - I think he's hot, but 99% of the time he's acting angsty or all beastly and oversexed and I'm turned off. Here, however, he's acting out real emotions, and I can kinda connect with him better. So, points for that. Overall, nice track by a talented singer.

Monday Kiz - "사랑해 그리고 기억 (Remember I Love You)"(listen)
B-side track on their latest digital single, "Nostalgia".  This song is a good laid back pop R&B type track. Good for casual listening and good feelings. Also, if you didn't know already, these guys can sing!

My Princess OST
Okay, I'll admit: I only checked this release out because B2ST had a track on it. I was hopeful because I love their latest EP with the duo tracks and the full version of Lights Go On Again. Sadly, their song was kinda boring, though cute. But the rest of the OST took me by surprise: "Falling" by Lee Tszche has a more appealing cuteness, and a lovely indie vibe. Then there's "노을 (Sunset) by Every Single Day, which came out of NOWHERE and blew me away. Then Taru came on and I was like "Is this a real drama OST? Am I dreaming?" Taru's an indie artist with Pastel Music, a major indie music label. She also features on my favorite Epik High track ever, "1 Minute 1 Second". Add another lovely track by Lucite Tokki (my latest k-indie crush) and Mellowyel is scheduling time to watch this drama this weekend. The drama is touted as a bubbly rom-com, but the indie soundtrack makes me hope for something slightly less conventional than your usual k-drama. There's a competition between the writers over at Dramabeans to see which will tank and which will succeed between this drama and "Dream High", the idol drama about... idols in training. My bet's on this one: If nothing else, it has a much better soundtrack :) Bonus is a solo track by 4minute's Gayoon - nothing extraordinary, but she sounds lovely without 4minute's crazy-ass production.

Side-note: It would seem that only reason B2ST and Gayoon are on this OST is because Ki-kwang from B2ST has a supporting role in the drama. It's jarringly obvious that their tracks don't fit the indie vibe of the rest of the soundtrack, and I feel that takes away from the atmosphere that the OST tries to set. Cube is making the most of this acting gig, I suppose, but I wish they'd just kept their hands off the OST. Without the Cube songs, it's k-indie amazingness.

Shin Young-Jae (4men) - "독고다이" (listen)
4men track. Need I say more? :D I constantly get Young-jae and Sang-hyeon's voices mixed up because they're very similar, but Young-jae tends to focus on the quality of his delivery rather than the crazy adlibs, so for solo tracks, he's my pick. Great song - it just sweeps you up into itself with its amazing instrumentation and vocals. What's weird is that the instruments are the same as a cheesy Luther Vandross track, but the delivery is more Sade. Kinda weird, but I still love it.

Hyun Bin - "그 남자 (That Man)" (listen)
Attention k-drama fans everywhere - Hyun Bin can sing. He's hot, multi-talented and successful? Someone schedule me a matchmaking meeting STAT.

Okay, he's not crazy amazing, but he's surprisingly good - his voice sounds gorgeous in the lower octave verses. Only the strain in the higher notes of the chorus gives away his inexperienced singer status. I do prefer Baek Ji Young's version, though. I hate that they have multiple versions of the same songs on the OST - talk about overkill - but I still think it's an exceptionally good drama OST. Off to download some of the score right now.

THE END

Leave thoughts and opinions in the comment section, and treat yourself to a hot chocolate or a cookie if you've read through this whole thing - you're a trooper :)

9 comments:

  1. I just bought the TVXQ, Oneway, and GTOP, and Mblaq albums from soribada.

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  2. I pretty much agree with all of this! Especially what you had to say about Piggy Dolls. I'm all for the music and they sound awesome, way better than the rest of the idols today, but as far as using their size as a marketing strategy is sickening at the least.

    If I start seeing them 'pigging out' on photoshoots in magazines or continue to push their image more than their talent, I don't know what I'mma do with them.

    Side note: Have you watched My Princess? I don't know about you, but I freaking love it already. I hardly watch dramas, but this one feels refreshing and I'm totally hooked. :D

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  3. I watched the new Joo video and really enjoyed it. I can usually sing along with a Korean ballad during my first listen, because the melodic line is so predictable. I really enjoyed how the melody for "Bad Guy" veered away from the typical K-ballad structure

    Regarding, Secret's new cute concept, I read the allkpop article on how all the members disliked it and how Zinger was depressed over the whole situation. Barring YG artists, idols really have no say in the music and concepts they deliver. I think Secret's company sold them out with this one.

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  4. @modest-goddess good choices!!! Have yet to get through all of MBLAQ's album, but so far it's alright.

    @McRoth not yet!!! Been busy. Will try to squeeze in the first episode before the end of the week. Been playing the OST though - it's really lovely

    @Mojo I saw that Secret article too - it's good to know that k-artists have not completely sold their souls, and sometimes dislike their concepts. And it's a shame that their management forces these concepts on them. The article proves to me that k-pop idols need to connect with songs to put on their best performance, and that the fierce girl groups are actually fierce, and not just putting on a show of being fierce.

    i'm actually surprised that they came out with an article like that: I've only ever heard two other idols talk about being uncomfortable with their material, and surprisingly both are from SNSD. Taeyeon didn't like "Gee" because she felt it didn't suit her strong vocals (damn straight) and Seohyun didn't like "Oh" because the whole "oppa, saranghae" thing made her feel awkward. Proof of this is on We Got Married - she still uses banmal with Yonghwa, and refuses to call him oppa. Gotta love her :)

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  5. @Mojo sorry, that should be "she still uses jondae/formal speech with Yonghwa" as opposed to "banmal"

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  6. Hi Mellowyel,

    I discovered your blog a few days ago through James Turnbull's site and I've really been enjoying your postings.

    Are the above-mentioned articles with Secret and the ladies from SNSD online? By any chance, can you put up links to them? I'm curious to read about that. I may also share them with my students in class. I can read Korean, so it's OK if they're in Korean. :)

    Glad you mentioned the "My Princess" OST...I just might pick it up. I like Korean pop culture, but I am definitely an indie snob. Also glad to see I'm not the only person on earth who likes Lucite Tokki. :)

    And I'm with you on your comments about the Piggy Dolls. I watched the live performance first before the music video and I like the former way better. Rarely does a K-pop group impress me the first time I watch a performance, but these ladies won me over. As far as the "pigging out" scene, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt as far as playing up the stereotype in order to expose it rather than condone it...time will tell. I hope their gimmick doesn't totally work against them in the long run.

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  9. @Marc thank you for visiting! Sorry I'm only just getting back to you. here are the links to the posts I mentioned:

    Secret had to warm up to "Shy Boy"
    Seohyun hates the lyrics to Oh!?
    Taeyeon couldn't handle Gee's cute concept

    they're in English, since I can't read Korean (one day though!)

    Also, re: Lucite Tokki - I love them! and I'm pretty sure the writer over at IndiefulROK likes them too. There are a lot of places online that are k-indie friendly - I plan on writing up a post mentioning a few of them.

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