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WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 2

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Welcome to WWLT, or What We’re Listening To, which features mini music analyses that provide context and introduce readers to K-pop music that may be new-to-them.

This issue features analyses of tracks by Super Junior, ATEEZ, Shinhwa, TVXQ!, Sam Kim, Suho, B.I., and Jo Jung Suk by members of HWAITING!, KPK’s K-pop music research accelerator.

Super Junior, “Why I Like You,” Sorry, Sorry (2009)

Ngan Tran

The year is 2009. Super Junior still has 13 members. (Deep breath and say it with me now: Leeteuk, Heechul, Hangeng, Yesung, Kangin, Shindong, Sungmin, Eunhyuk, Siwon, Donghae, Ryeowook, Kibum, Kyuhyun!) Everybody is rubbing their hands together and apologizing without really meaning it to the addictive tune of “Sorry, Sorry.” Indeed, four years into their career, the group gave K-pop one of the most iconic songs in existence with the release of their third album Sorry, Sorry. We all know how great the title track is, so this review will be dedicated to the slightly underappreciated B-side off of the album: “Why I Like You.”

The song is written by Shiro, with music composed by Jimmy Burney, Steven Lee, Sean Alexander (Avenue 52), and Pascal Guyon. Steven Lee also handled the production. Coming right after the earworm title track, “Why I Like You” has a lot to live up to – and it wastes no time in getting to the point. It is a moody dance number, driven by a thumping drum beat and catchy guitar loop. What’s so great about straightforward pop music like this is how it creates an atmosphere of urgency and tension that begs to be resolved. And the climax comes, like an overflowing confession of love, in the bridge leading to the soaring final chorus. Ryeowook’s bright, youthful timbre and the honeyed warmth of Kyuhyun’s voice sound especially gorgeous together here, stacking another layer of emotional pain on top. This is the sound that Super Junior excelled in early in their career, and would be explored further in the brooding, dramatic “It’s You,” the lead single to their repackage album later that year.

Nearly 13 years down the line, perhaps the biggest strength of “Why I Like You” lies in the sheer nostalgia of it. Okay, it’s mostly the gratuitous autotune on their vocals. But as time goes by, the autotune adds a special charm to the song, reminding you of a time when things were simpler. When it was 2009, and Super Junior still had 13 members…

MBCkpop. “Super Junior – Why I Like You, 슈퍼주니어 – 니가 좋은 이유, Music Core 20090314.” YouTube. 7 February 2012. https://youtu.be/7hgqPXXQ_GI. (4 February 2022).

SMTOWN. “SUPER JUNIOR 슈퍼주니어 ‘너라고 (It’s You)’ MV.” YouTube. 8 June 2009.  https://youtu.be/7ErgffP0wVw. (4 February 2022).

ATEEZ, “Answer,” Treasure Epilogue: Action to Answer (2020)

Andrew Ty

“Answer” is the lead single of the release that concludes the “Treasure” concept around which ATEEZ debuted in 2018. Despite two years of narrative and thematic buildup, the anthemic power of the song itself makes it a striking introduction for anyone new to the sound of the group’s eight members: Hongjoong, Minji, Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Woosung, and Jongho. 

ATEEZ rappers Hongjoong and Minji contributed lyrics to music strongly shaped by Ollounder and LEEZ who both wrote, composed, and arranged the song, alongside EDEN on writing and composing and BUDDY on composing and arranging. “Answer” eschews the heavy guitars so essential for the songs that LEEZ and Ollounder make for Dreamcatcher. Instead, the synths in the ATEEZ song generate an EDM sound tinged with slight hints of Latin pop and hip-hop parts. 

“Answer” still rocks hard though, less club-friendly and more arena-ready. The crucial element is a melodic component where the song’s hook is placed front and center with the song beginning with the chorus from singers San and Jongho. San’s part, when it reappears, switches to Seonghwa, and a new addition to the chorus, punctuated by an epic group “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh,” introduces Wooyoung in a single line that nevertheless stands out for its catchy phrasing: “불러 불러 우릴 지금 불러” (“bulleo bulleo uril jigeum bulleo”).

The song has many other elements to it: the transitions from  Hongjoong’s rap parts to those of Minji are thrilling and Yunho has a pre-chorus chant made memorable for how its percussive feel creates tension for the chorus to release, but the chorus is really a standout, for both its composition and its position within the song’s structure.

Many of the singles released prior to “Answer” share a trademark sound that clearly identifies ATEEZ music: larger-than-life emotions expressed musically through in-your-face compositions often built around the darkness of a predominantly minor-key tonality. Steadfast commitment to this musical identity is a strong part of the group’s appeal. “Answer” is no exception, but I feel it also achieves something different.

When ATEEZ performed a rearrangement of this song for the Mnet show Kingdom: Legendary War, choral parts from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (“Ode to Joy”) performed by South Korean classically-trained vocal group La Poem were combined with chugging rock guitars. The result was pretty much symphonic metal performed by K-pop idols on television, a dual gesture to the grandiose emotionality of Romanticism and the arena-ready sounds of metal. As impressive as that was, they are simply enhancements that made explicit the power the original recording of “Answer” already possessed. 

Sources

Stone Music Entertainment. “ATEEZ (에이티즈) – ‘Answer’ Official MV.” YouTube. 06 January 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTT3MRODUsA. (07 February 2022).
Mnet K-POP. “[풀버전] ♬ Answer : Ode to Joy – 에이티즈(ATEEZ).” 27 May 2021. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDOYmJedFF8. (14 February 2022).

Shinhwa, “T.O.P (Twinkling of Paradise),” T.O.P (1999)

N Lina An

The sudden sforzando to the trembling sounds of the strings before the oboe comes in, almost lament-like. Suddenly, synthesized sounds echo that melodic lament, and the drum beat drops before the rap takes place. The melody to the opening of Act 2 from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet Swan Lake Op. 20 is synonymous in K-pop, belonging to the longest surviving idol group, Shinhwa. Shinhwa has 6-members (Eric, Minwoo, Dongwan, Hyesung, Junjin and Andy) debuted under SM Entertainment on 24th March 1998.  T.O.P is an acronym for Twinkling of Paradise, written by SM’s resident composer Yoo Youngjin with lyrics by both Yoo and member Eric was released in 1999 in their second studio album also titled T.O.P.

There are 2 main themes to the slightly less than 3-minutes opening of the ballet. T.O.P samples both themes, using them in different sections of the song. In fact, Shinhwa’s melody of the chorus is the first melodic theme, and the second melodic theme is heard in the bridge when member Hyesung sings 니가돌아오는 길에 내가 서있을게. The lyrics itself presents multiple uses of acronyms, most of which may not present any proper English meaning to it, but merely a rhyme to the song title itself. Some of the meanings to the acronyms were briefly mentioned in a group interview in 2012, showing SM Entertainment’s heavy use of acronyms in their early days (for example H.O.T, S.E.S).

In the music video, all members wear white against a backdrop of greenery dancing on what looks like a lake. The choreography incorporated what looks like movements of swans, but it was mostly towards the hip-hop/dance genre of which the group is known for.

Sources
Shinhwa Official. T.O.P. Twinkling of paradise (audio only).  Youtube. 2 Aug 2019.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE9TXY4gazk (Accessed on 12 Feb 2022)

SHINHWASubs&Cuts. SHINHWA (신화) – T.O.P. (Twinkling Of Paradise). 12 Nov 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORFX3yIe6Kw (Accessed on 12 Feb 2022)
Note: meaning of acronyms are in the video descriptionMarcel Simader. Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake Ballet, Act II, Op. 20 (Sheet Music). Youtube. 28 March 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_kJosheX7k&t=0s (Accessed on 12 Feb 2022)

TVXQ!, “Maximum,” Keep Your Head Down (2011)

Mariam Elba

TVXQ!, acronym for Rising Gods of the East (or Dong Bang Shin Ki, Tohoshinki in Japanese), released this album over 10 years ago, their first since becoming a duo (Max, Shim Chang-min, and U-Know, Lee Yun-ho– the group was originally a quintet but splintered in 2010).  The album set the stage for how TVXQ would move forward in their new circumstances. “Maximum,” written, composed, and arranged by the frequent SM Entertainment songwriter Yoo Young-jin, is the third song off the album. The song starts with gayageum (a Korean zither) in its intro, then shifts into a high-energy dance-pop song mixing in traditional exclamations (“ulsooh!”), held together by bass drum and clapping rhythm. The lyrics prominently portray overcoming hardship and developing a pride and love for oneself. A notable aspect of the chorus is the chanting of: “소리쳐! 너는 세상에서 제일 아름답다!” or in English, “Scream! You’re the most beautiful in the world!” 

As the duo affirmed in their recent performance of “Rising Sun,” at SMTOWN: SMCU Express 2021, their brand of pop, frequently mixed with orchestral arrangements, hip-hop, and R&B with some of the most elaborate choreography from their contemporaries, and continues to stand out and influence contemporary K-pop. “Maximum” had its live debut at SMTOWN 2010, the first TVXQ performance since the quintet split. It was received well by fans and reviewers, Soompi described the song as “a great fusion number tying Eastern and Western elements into one.” SeoulBeats praised the song, calling it “ it’s dynamic without being heavy or overdramatic.”

Mnet K-POP “TVXQ_Intro+Maximum.” YouTube. 11 February 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJyLqUS3wjg. (Accessed 02/14/2022) 

TVXQ! “Maximum.” Youtube. 2 August 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWKkc3JwRAE. (Accessed 02/14/2022)

Sam Kim, “The One,” Sun and Moon (2018)

Nykeah Parham

If the neo-soul genre was looking for a new generation to which to pass the torch, one person emerges to the forefront in the name, vocals, and musicality of Sam Kim. Sam Kim first stepped into the K-pop scene as the runner-up to SBS’ reality competition show, K-pop Star 3, which debuted names like Bernard Park, Jamie Park, Akdong Musician (AKMU), Lee Hi, and Winner’s Hoony. After signing with the legendary Yu Hee-yeol’s label, Antenna Music, Kim released his debut EP, I Am Sam, in 2016 which featured collaborations with R&B singer, Crush, and labelmates Kwon Jin-ah, Lee Jin-ah, and Jung Seung-hwan. His debut could have prepared listeners for his first studio album, Sun and Moon; however, as the lyrics to his song “The One” says, listeners are already “in deep” and cannot let go.

“The One” is the epitome of Sam’s musical style and playfulness with a genre, lyrics, and language. Composed and arranged from the minds of Sam, producer and keyboardist, Hong So-jin (aka Hong Ttochi/Hong Ttochi Soulchild, because that says a lot about her), and Jukjae (initially known for his work as a former guitarist and arranger for IU, Taeyeon, AKMU and Sam Kim), this B-side track invites listeners to this intimate and wistful confession of Sam’s. Albeit short, the track has a kind of start-and-stop, push-and-pull flow with the drumbeat, complete silence, and vocals. It seems quiet at first, but around the first chorus, trumpets, brass, and saxophones are introduced. Lyrically, Sam begins in all Korean, and then whips in the English where both languages play on the rhythm of the bass and drums. Every few seconds of the song, there is a beat drop that creates this bass and snare snap and groove that continues throughout the entire song. It’s difficult to not dance, groove, snap, or bob your head to this. 

In the middle of the track, there is another beat drop pause that, at first, only allows Sam to repeat the words, “I know.” He does this in a way that is reminiscent of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” (1971) and it seems listeners are finally in on this hidden joke of love. He laughs joyously and knows exactly what to do with that guitar solo, particularly in the live performance of this song. Sam must be in something “better than dreaming” since he “won’t sleep” and “won’t dream.” So, “catch [him] if you can, Z, Z, Z.”

Sources

안테나 Antenna. “샘김 Sam Kim ‘The One’ / Live Performance.” YouTube. 08 March 2019. https://youtu.be/kvyq6JKOyME. (Accessed 14 February 2022).

안테나 Antenna. “샘김 Sam Kim ‘The One’|Official Audio.” YouTube. 27 November 2018. https://youtu.be/qqyMt6PdHtc. (Accessed 14 February 2022).
Bill Withers. “Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine (Official Audio).” YouTube. 12 June 2015. https://youtu.be/YuKfiH0Scao. (Accessed 14 February 2022).

Suho, “O2”, Self-Portrait (2020)

Vitoria F. Doretto

In his debut as a soloist, Suho, the leader of the Sino-Korean group EXO, brings a mini-album full of poetry and heart, and it is not different in “O2”, the first track of Self-Portrait, an album with concept and visual style inspired by Vincent van Gogh.

Along with “사랑, 하자 (Let’s Love)”, “Made In You”, “암막 커튼 (Starry Night)”, “자화상 (Self-Portrait)”, and “너의 차례 (For You Now)”, featuring Younha, “O2” is a powerful and emotional track. As Conway (2020) said, “the heart of Suho’s vulnerable self-portrait is his emotional lyrics,” and “O2” provides a picture of some of the complex emotions that the idol overflows in the album. Titled after the chemical formula of oxygen, the song starts calmingly, almost like holding the breath before the start, and some seconds pass until his voice washes over us, singing about lovers who need each other like oxygen. Suho’s words soothe the listener; wrap in tranquility, comfort, and peace. It is like a breath of fresh air. Merging breath and water, Suho is capable of transporting us to a beautiful beach immersed in a dream-like reality.

The track is a dreamy, slow-tempo acoustic pop song with string instruments and was written by Ryan Colt Levy, Bryan Cho, Cliff Lin, and Suho himself and arranged by Lin, Levy, and Cho.

Sources

EXO. “SUHO 수호 ‘O2’ Live Session.” YouTube. 30 March 2020. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ydjda6SBlQ (10 February 2022).
Conway, Sara. “Suho Blends Musical & Artistic Inspiration with “Self-Portrait”.” Seoulbeats. 5 April 2020. https://seoulbeats.com/2020/04/suho-blends-musical-artistic-inspiration-with-self-portrait/ (13 February 2022)

B.I, “해변 (illa illa)” WATERFALL (2021)

Luisa do Amaral

25-year-old rapper B.I has often remarked on the importance of movies and poetry in his songwriting, as means of experiencing, feeling or articulating things he hasn’t experienced for himself, but that can result in vivid images and evoke strong feelings from listeners. The song “illa illa”, released on 1 June, 2021 as lead single of his first full-length album, is no exception to his style of painting strong images – the song’s Korean title 해변 [haebyeon] means “beach”; the English title, although a nonexistent word, bears close resemblance to the Korean ideophones that represent the undulating movement of waves. The whole track, along with its cinematic music video, make use of seaside metaphors to talk about finding yourself washed up on the shore after nearly being swallowed by the waves of an ocean which, in this story, is made of his own tears – “at the end of my sleeves there’s a beach/ because of the tears that I wiped from my cheeks.” This specific metaphor, which structures the song, was taken from the poem “The Taste Of Candy And Beach” [사탕과 해변의 맛] by poet Seo Yun-hoo.

Originally the leader of 7-member boy group iKON, which debuted under K-pop powerhouse YG Entertainment in 2015, he was credited for every release of the group up until his departure, in mid-2019, being awarded “Songwriter of the Year” in 2018 at the Melon Music Awards, one of South Korea’s major awards shows, after their megahit “Love Scenario”, crowned “Song of The Year” at two major award shows that same year. Much like “Love Scenario”, “illa illa” doesn’t come across as particularly happy nor sad on a first listen; the production favors a minimalist approach, but without ever losing depth, with enough room for the layering of sounds to boost the vocals to an echoed atmosphere that intensifies a catchy chorus that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the song. However, unlike his movie-inspired songwriting, these lyrics feel very personal; when  his album was released, B.I was still under public scrutiny due to allegations of illegal drug purchases, the reason for his withdrawal from his former group and agency. Though still awaiting final sentencing when the song came out, in the swirling of waves, as much as it is about the sinking, “illa illa” is about the emerging; like Kat Moon (2021) writes for TIME, “On the other side of the water is dry land, and in the song’s final verses the artist triumphantly sings of not shedding new tears. “Though I know it will crumble/ I’ll probably build a sandcastle again,” he declares. With the breadth and depth of emotions he conveys, B.I. shows he’s as much a storyteller as he is a songwriter.” The music and arrangement are also credited to Millennium, Sihwang, Kang Uk-jin and Diggy, who had previously worked with B.I in iKON, as well as other artists associated with YG Entertainment, such as AKMU, WINNER and Lee Hi. 

Sources

B.I. “해변 (illa illa).” YouTube. 1 Jun 2021.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GaVA3ebKCo  (14 Feb 2022)

iKON. “‘사랑을 했다(LOVE SCENARIO).” YouTube. 25 Jan 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vecSVX1QYbQ (14 Feb 2022)

Moon, Kat. “The Best K-Pop Songs of 2021 So Far” TIME, 1 Jul. 2021, https://time.com/6077450/best-kpop-songs-2021/ Accessed 14 Feb. 2022.

조정석 (Jo Jung Suk). “Aloha,” (2020)—cover of original song “Aloha” by Cool, (2001)

H. Lee Otto

Actor Jo Jung Suk (조정석) showcases his musical talents on the OST (original soundtrack) of popular drama series Hospital Playlist (슬기로운 의사생활), earning a top spot on Melon charts 20 days following its release (Soompi, 2020). As the lead vocalist of the series’ hobby band ensemble, Jo’s character Ik-Jun covers “Aloha,” an earlier K-pop track by the band Cool (쿨), reminiscing his days in medical school with his closest friends and band members.

Whereas Cool recorded “Aloha” as a duet with a male and female part, Jo covers the song solo, perhaps reflective of the memory of unrequited love that is a prevalent theme within Hospital Playlist. “Aloha” lies between pure pop and ballad, as its lyrics are directed toward a lover in a wholesome and devoted romance typical of a ballad (You light up my life/you’re the one in my life), while the tempo is more playful and upbeat. In the original song, Cool released Aloha in 2001 as part of album First Whisper under the label SM Entertainment (Stanley, 2014). Cool member Yuri provided female vocals while both Lee Jae Hoon and Kim Sung Soo provided male vocals.   

The feature of a recording artist in new K-drama series has become an expectation of the genre, such that a contemporary OST (original soundtrack) does not lack a popular K-pop artist or emerging soloist. As Oh (2021) notes in her work regarding this pop culture strategy, “[d]rama characters and K-pop idols…affect people through their affective labor, encouraging them to engage in other types of affective labor such as transmitting the appreciation of media content throughout diverse media” (p. 16). However, unlike other featured soloists on an OST, Jo’s background is in broadway and theatre, debuting in The Nutcracker in 2004, and then moving to big screen features and series in 2012 (Rakuten Viki, n.d.). The acclaim for Jo’s cover of Aloha, sung by a star with formal musical training, perhaps makes Aloha a surprise to many, including Jo himself (Soompi 2020).  

The threads that compose the calculated and complex cultural fabric of the contemporary K-drama collectively mobilize central areas of pop culture, national pride, and economy. The convergence of South Korea pop culture media in the K drama can be seen as a historiographic enterprise, archiving a nation’s pop culture media, which did not hold the same significance in official history until recently. The valorization of Korean pop culture in music is seen in the Melon charts, as well as in series such as Hospital Playlist, which showcases K-pop contextualized in time. 

Sources

Cho Jung Seok. “Aloha.” YouTube. 26 March 2020. https://youtu.be/3DOkxQ3HDXE (7 February 2022). 

Cool. “Aloha” YouTube. 15 January 2015. https://youtu.be/004x09gOAJI (14 February 2022).

Rakuten Viki. “Jo Jung Suk – 조정석.” n.d. https://www.viki.com/celebrities/15574pr-jo-jung-suk?locale=en (25 February 2022).

Oh, Youjeong. (2021). Pop City. Cornell University Press. Kindle Edition.

Soompi.  “Jo Jung Suk Expresses Surprise and Happiness Over Chart Success of His “Hospital  Playlist” OST.” 16 Apr 2020, https://www.soompi.com/article/1394735wpp/jo-jung-suk-expresses-surprise-and-happiness-over-chart-success-of-his-hospital-playlist-ost (Accessed 10 February 2022. 

Stanley, Adrienne. 2014 Aug 30.   https://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/107129/20140831/k-pop-rewind-cool-aloha.htm (26 February 2022).

Creative Commons License
WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 2 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Featured

WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 1

Image by Mary Theresa McLean from Pixabay

Welcome to WWLT, or What We’re Listening To, which features mini music analyses that provide context and introduce readers to K-pop music that may be new-to-them.

This issue features analyses of tracks by The Rose, Zion. T, ONEUS, Cherry Bullet and Infinite by members of HWAITING!, KPK’s K-pop music research accelerator.

The Rose, “Candy (so good),” Void (2018)

Ngan Tran

The Rose is an independent rock band which made its official debut under its former label, J&Star Company in 2017. Consisting of four members Woosung (vocals, guitar), Dojoon (vocals, keyboard), Jaehyung (bass), and Hajoon (drums), the band is known for its signature soft rock sound thanks to the lush, atmospheric production and charismatic delivery from its two vocalists.

Now there are songs that are unfairly short, and “Candy (so good)” is one of them. Composed, written, and arranged by all four members of the band, this serves as the opening track to the first mini album Void (2018). And it does a fine job of setting the tone for what comes next. The track starts with a swelling synth sound joined by the guitar and drums, pausing for a brief moment before the guitar returns with an addictive pulsating loop, which would serve as the motif for the rest of the song. A mesmerizing game of push and pull, the energy contrast between the restrained verses and the cathartic choruses brings pure aural bliss every time the refrain “You look so good” hits. Woosung’s gorgeous raspy voice and Dojoon’s warm, straightforward tone deliver a controlled yet satisfying vocal performance. Stopping at the 2:46 mark, the song is clever enough to get you hitting repeat – and while I would definitely enjoy an extended mix, some things are indeed better left short like this.

The Rose’s career in the past years has been rocky, with a lawsuit with its former company finally settled in June 2021, and three out of four members beginning their military service in 2020. The release of their latest single “Beauty and the Beast” on December 29, 2021 feels like we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, promising more great music from the band moving forward.

Sources

The Rose. “Candy (so good).” YouTube. 18 Apr 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhvEQZ6HB3g  (5 Jan 2022).

Zion.T, “Snow (ft. Lee Moon Sae),” Non-Album Single, 2017

Nykeah Parham

Arguably one of the most unique Korean hip-hop and R&B singers in the industry, Zion.T never fails to release music that targets nostalgic and sentimental emotions. The sunglasses-clad singer debuted in April 2011 under the Korean hip-hop label founded by Dynamic Duo and Go Kyung Min, Amoeba Culture, with the single, “Click Me” featuring Dok2. From then, he became known in the mainstream industry by collaborating with Korean hip-hop giants like Dok2, GRAY, Simon Dimonic, Crucial Star, and Primary and K-pop idol giants like G-Dragon. He is known for heartfelt and honest hits such as “Yanghwa BRDG” (2014), “No Makeup” (2015), and features on his many hip-hop friends’ songs such as “Nighty Night (잘 자)” (Crush, 2019) and Show Me the Money singles.

“Snow,” released as a single with the accompanying short film music video on December 4, 2017, is a perfect example of how Zion.T captures a season and all of the emotions that come with it. Written by Zion.T himself, the song was also composed by Zion.T alongside Korean hip-hop producer SLOM and jazz pianist Yun Seok Cheol and features the legendary Korean singer known as the “icon of Korean pop,” Lee Moon Sae, who started in the Korean pop industry in 1978. The ballad begins with a slow jazzy intro of a light piano and stringed instruments that causes one to think of slow dancing, fireplaces, and of course, snow in the background of a winter scene. Both Zion.T and Lee Moon Sae’s unique and soft vocals contribute to the romantic and also melancholic vibes of the passage of time as they repeat the question, “Will it snow?” over the gentle sweeping drumbeat. When the duo come to the end of the song, where the ballad slows down even more to their repetition of “it’s snowing,” one almost doesn’t want it to end. It is the type of song that’s smooth enough to play on repeat in hopes that the snow will come.

Sources

Zion.T. “눈(Snow) (ft. 이문세).” YouTube. 04 Dec 2017. https://youtu.be/fiGSDywrX1Y  (5 Jan 2022).

ONEUS, “Intro: 창 (窓: Window) (Feat. Choi Ye Lim),” Blood Moon (2021)

Tan Puay Shuang

Released in 2021, the two-year-old boy group ONEUS’ 6th mini-album ‘Blood Moon’ revolves around the story of six immortal monsters (represented by the members: RAVN, Seoho, Leedo, Keonhee, Hwanwoong, and Xion) who wait for years and centuries in hopes of reuniting with their lover, once again bringing traditional flavours to the table for their fans and the general public to enjoy. However, this was not the boy group’s first attempt at incorporating traditional elements into their music. Previously in 2019, their third EP ‘Lit’ had also taken a much more light-hearted approach to this kind of fusion music, and had even performed a rearranged version of it on Mnet’s survival show Road to Kingdom

‘Intro: 창 (窓: Window)’ was written by RBW Entertainment’s in-house composers: Lee Sang Ho, Yong Bae, and Lee Hoo Sang, as well as Marvel.J on the lyrics. This track stands out for the sole reason that they have gone an extra mile to feature professional traditional Korean singer Choi Ye Lim, who not only contributed her but also penned some of the lyrics in the song. The structure of this introduction track can be separated into several clear sections: the intro where Ye Lim narrates the story in the style of pansori storytelling, the verse which consists of Leedo and RAVN’s raps accompanied by a contrasting trap beat, and the pre-chorus that slowly introduces the marriage of both styles as it finally leads us into the hook of the song. A notable mention of this song is how the pre-chorus later makes its reappearance in the title track ‘Luna’, with some alterations to its structure. This helped reinforce the connection and coherence of the story that ONEUS intends to tell through ‘Blood Moon’, proving to the audience that, while there have been predecessors like VIXX who have pioneered and introduced the trend of traditional-pop fusion into the K-pop scene, ONEUS as a relatively new group definitely did not prove their production value to be inferior.

Sources

ONEUS. “ONEUS(원어스) ‘Intro : 창 (窓 : Window) (Feat. 최예림)’.” YouTube. 21 October 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSXIp1pBaj4  (3 January 2022).

Mnet K-POP. “Road to Kingdom [풀버전] ♬ 가자 (LIT) – 원어스 @2차 경연 200521 EP.4.” YouTube. 21 May 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jVBKcv5NzQ  (3 January 2022).

Cherry Bullet, “Q&A,” Let’s Play Cherry Bullet (2019)

Andrew Ty

Since debuting in January 2019, FNC Entertainment girl-group Cherry Bullet has had issues that included losing three members from its original ten and a cultural appropriation controversy (Lullet Official, 2021; serinjimin, 2021). Before all that turmoil however was the untroubled and confident sound of their debut single “Q&A,” with lyrics by Han Seong Ho and Seo Yong Bae and music by Louise Frick Sveen and the JeL team of Alexander Karlsson and Alexej Viktorovitch, who also arranged the track. With this release, Mirae, Kokoro, and Linlin were still Cherry Bullet members alongside Haeyoon, Yuju, Bora, Jiwon, Remi, Chaerin, and May.

With the “Q&A” MV’s pixel-art video-game motif so closely aligned with the packaging and design of the Let’s Play Cherry Bullet single album, there was a clear sense that Cherry Bullet were here and they were pleased to meet you. The confidence the group exudes through the song has much to do with how upbeat it is. Its insistently melodic synth lines sound bright and catchy, but the most prominent sound of the song is its bouncy bassline. Mixed loud enough, it makes the song sound groovy and organic, even when a variety of video-game sound effects pop up like musical filigrees at various parts of the song. “Q&A”’s pleasant electropop sound is not groundbreaking, but for a debut single to sound as self-assured was a big deal.

The line distribution among ten members, for listeners paying close attention to such matters, is (unsurprisingly?) uneven, but the members who sing much of the lyrics carry the song well enough and during performances of the song, the members with fewer lines do give their all regardless. Also notable is how the song features no rap parts; the closest it gets are a couple of phrases chanted cheerleader-style. Alongside a “dadadadada” hook in the chorus, the result is a song lacking sharp edges, which makes it easier for it to fully commit to such unabashed fun.

Sources

FNCEnt. “Q&A.” YouTube. 21 January 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KdWuQyIEYk (08 January 2022).

Lullet Official [@LulletOfficial]. “History of Cherry Bullet’s mismanagement and why they need support now more than ever  #ProtectCherryBullet.” Twitter. 10 April 2021. https://twitter.com/lulletofficial/status/1380737803806507008. (09 January 2022).

serinjimin. “Cherry Bullet: The Forgotten Girl Group.” allkpop. 13 August 2021. https://www.allkpop.com/article/2021/08/cherry-bullet-the-forgotten-girl-group. (09 January 2022).

INFINITE, “Paradise,” Paradise (2011) 

Luisa do Amaral

INFINITE debuted in 2010, with the chanty Hitchhiker-produced “Come Back Again”, but it was only with the synth-pop legendary song “Be Mine”, the title track of their first full album Over the Top (2011), that the group got their first music show win, still at the beginning of their rise to one of the biggest and best-selling boy groups of their generation. This big moment was followed by a repackaged version of the album, titled Paradise (2011), promoted with the lead single of the same name. The song was one of many generation-defining INFINITE tracks by producer team Sweetune, also credited for “Be Mine”, the iconic “BTD (Before The Dawn)”, and “The Chaser”, which placed at #3 on Billboard’s Staff List of The 100 Greatest K-Pop Songs of the 2010s.

Although “Paradise” isn’t one of the synth-pop tunes they’re best known for, the group’s ability to inject tracks with emotion and skillfully carry a powerful chorus is on full display. The track starts off with striking percussion and a mighty instrumental, led by strings and the lurking texture of the electric guitar adding heaviness and helping set the tone for a song which is about loss, and the desperation to try to stop the impending end of something. There’s a sense of urgency and defeat that is conveyed by the pungency of the melody and the percussion, but especially by the vocals – not just the outstanding individual performance of each member, but also the special effect of the layering of their seven voices, a prominent trademark across INFINITE’s tracks, about which K-pop blogger and music critic Nick James (2020) said: “I often classify Infinite as a group of eight voices – seven individual tones plus that unbeatable blend when they come together. Some have compared it to the Bee Gees, but it’s more robust here [in Paradise]”. The resulting chorus sounds both like the desired Heaven, and the actual living Hell of the parting, perfectly articulating and intensifying all parts of a song that succeeds in conveying every emotion it attempts.

Sources 

INFINITE. “Paradise.” YouTube. 25 Sep 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj0FvZGSzCo  (4 Jan 2022)

James, Nick. “The 100 Best K-Pop Songs of All-Time: Number 10” The Bias List, 22 Jul. 2020, https://thebiaslist.com/2020/07/22/the-100-best-k-pop-songs-of-all-time-number-10/. Accessed 4 Jan. 2022. 

Billboard Staff. “The 100 Greatest K-Pop Songs of the 2010s: Staff List” Billboard, 25 Nov. 2019, https://www.billboard.com/media/lists/best-k-pop-songs-2010s-top-100-8544710/ Accessed 4 Jan. 2022.

Creative Commons License
WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 1 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

WWLT, Vol 1. No. 1

Image by heliofil from Pixabay

Welcome to the inaugural issue of WWLT, or What We’re Listening To, which features mini music analyses that provide context and introduce readers to K-pop music that may be new-to-them.

This issue features tracks from EXO, TVXQ, Jeon Somi, CL, Jonghyun X Youngbae, VIXX, Red Velvet, SEVENTEEN, SF9 and 2AM from contributors who are members of the K-pop music research accelerator, HWAITING! (managed by KPK: Kpop Kollective).

EXO, “Stronger,” Ex’Act (2016)

Crystal S. Anderson

EXO follows in the footsteps of large groups at SM Entertainment, including Super Junior and Girls’ Generation. In addition to the creation of sub-units (EXO-K and EXO-M; EXO-CBX) several members embarked on solo careers, including D.O, Baekhyun, Lay and Suho.  The group is known for its impressive choreography to upbeat, rhythm-driven dance tracks. “Stronger” appears on  the 2016 album, Ex’Act, which was repackaged as Lotto later that year. Ex’Act was released after Exodus (2015), which included “Call Me Baby”, and Love Me Right, which was released the same year with the title song as the promo track. Agnes Shin, Chung Joo-hee, Lee Joo-hyung,  Andreas Oberg,  Gustav Karlstrom wrote the lyrics and Karlstrom, Lee, Oberg composed the music. “Stronger” departs from EXO’s uptempo tracks by showcasing vocals accompanied only by a piano at a slower pace. The piano creates sparse instrumentation without electronic songs, which makes the vocals shine even more. Relying on members Suho, Baekhyun, Chen and D.O., the track showcases their individual vocal talents as well as their harmonization, traversing the gamut of the vocal range and using various vocalists to punctuate the vocal performance of others. The structure of the song is also non-traditional, diverging from a straight verse-chorus arrangement.  This track offers a different side of the group, showing vocal versatility as an additional element to their dance repertoire. 

Sources

EXO. “Stronger.” YouTube. 8 Nov 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuDhioEWnMI (29 Oct 2021)  

TVXQ, “Tri-Angle,” Tri-Angle (2004)

N. Lina Anuar

After debuting with the song Hug on Boxing Day 2003, then 5-member group TVXQ from SM Entertainment released Tri-Angle from their first studio album The Way U Are in 2004. The music video of this song emulated the aesthetics of visual-Kei like elaborate hairstyles and makeup (Throwback Thoughts, 2019), which one could trace back to the times of glam rock of KISS and David Bowie.

The song credits SM Entertainment’s in-house songwriter Yoo Young-jin as composer, lyricist and arranger; with Groovie K having a hand in the composition as well. While the entire album is labeled as Kpop, dance, contemporary R&B and teen pop, Tri-Angle sampled Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor (Hallyu Reviews, 2021), and is heard as the hook and an overlay in the chorus.

This song is built on the typical pop song structure of verse-chorus-bridge which could be labeled as K-pop. However, it features a mishmash of other styles that includes classical nuances heard by the small string orchestra, sounds of grunge/punk rock through the guitar effects of distortion and overdrive in the bridge, and the powerhouse pop vocals of BoA, dubbed as the Queen of Kpop.

Tri-Angle was really a representation of SM’s hottest artists in the early millennium of TVXQ, BoA and TraxX, who unfortunately now is a defunct-rock group creating a trifecta of collaborations of their time.

Sources

Car Door Guy’s Girl. (2019, April 18). Throwback thoughts: Tri-angle- TVXQ (ft. Boa and TRAX). https://cardoorguysgirl.wordpress.com/2019/04/18/throwback-thoughts-tri-angle-tvxq-ft-boa-and-trax/.

Hallyureviews. (2021, February 14). Song of the moment: TVXQ – tri-angle (with Boa, TRAX). https://hallyureviews.wordpress.com/2021/02/17/song-of-the-moment-tvxq-tri-angle-with-boa-trax/.

TVXQ! 동방신기 ‘tri-angle (extended ver.) (feat. Boa & Trax)’ MV. YouTube. (2009, November 23). https://youtu.be/GM8wZRaHXTg.

Jeon Somi, “XOXO,” XOXO (2021)

Andrew Ty

Somi was an aspirant in Sixteen, the 2015 Mnet competition show that produced JYP girl-group Twice. She earned first-place a year later in another Mnet show, Produce 101 (Season One) and debuted with I.O.I., which disbanded in 2017. Two years later, Somi released her solo debut “Birthday.” 

Her fourth single “XOXO” was released in October 2021, the title track to her first full-length album with lyrics by Teddy, Danny Chung, Vince, Somi, and Kush. Teddy also composed the music alongside Pink Sweats, Pacific, and 24 who also handled the arrangement. Like “Birthday,” previous singles “What You Waiting For” and “Dumb Dumb,” and almost every song on her full-length, “XOXO” showcases Somi’s signature bright bubblegum sound. 

“XOXO” is especially anthemic, centered on the hook-filled chorus that opens the song, with layers of chanted vocals over muted arpeggios and sparse beats sounding almost too large, too insistent. This effect is tastefully capped by how Somi sings “hoo-hoo” after each chant of “XOXO!”—soaring high above the wall of sound, creating an opening in the song that both verse and pre-chorus fill, making the chorus hit harder. The effect is unexpectedly reminiscent of “Where Is My Mind?” by American alt-rock group the Pixies. I can’t imagine Somi’s next single sounding larger than “XOXO”; the bigger impact might be in swerving towards an unexpectedly understated sound.

Sources

Jeon Somi. “XOXO.” YouTube. 29 Oct 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8kqPkEXP_E (08 Nov 2021)

Pixies. “Where Is My Mind?” YouTube. 21 Feb 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49FB9hhoO6c (08 Nov 2021)

Somi. “Birthday.” YouTube. 13 Jun 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDJ4ct59NC4 (08 Nov 2021)

Somi. “Dumb Dumb.” YouTube. 02 Aug 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg2uF3R_Ozo (08 Nov 2021)

Somi. “What You Waiting For.” YouTube. 22 Jul 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBYyAQ99ZFI (08 Nov 2021).

CL, “SPICY”—ALPHA (2021)

Hannah Lee Otto

CL, known for her rapping, edgy unconventional styling, and melismatic vocals, perhaps represents an anomaly of the K-pop and entertainment industry: a post girlband veteran to go solo by severing ties with a big-name entertainment company, forging her own way through richly diverse collaborations and friendships across the industry and across the world—ranging from Diplo, ReQuest Dance Crew, Method Man, and ReQuest Dance Crew, to name a few. The diversity of CL’s collaborations and talents seem to reflect her diverse background, growing up in Korea, Japan, and schooling in France prior to her landing a spot in Kpop girl group 2NE1 in 2014 (Myers, 2021). Considered a pioneering Kpop female group, 2NE1’s tomboyish and punk attitude countered the image of cutesy girliness typical to Kpop at the time (Lee, 2021). CL’s independent projects reflect a continuation of 2NE1’s edge on her own terms, evolving her I AM THE BEST anthem swagger to self-reflective and self-empowering tracks in her truly independent full-length ALPHA (Kwak, 2021). ALPHA emerges after years of efforts in becoming an independent K-pop artist, formally leaving YG Entertainment in 2019, working a move stateside with Scooter Braun, and now under her own label, Very Cherry Record (Myers, 2021). ALPHA is CL’s first full-length album, following a train of collaborations, singles, and a mini album since going solo in 2014. 

SPICY opens ALPHA with John Malkovich asking for “that sauce that is spicy made in Korea” and chanting “energy, power, chemistry” looping in his meditative voice in the background. CL answers the request for spicy with a battle-like rap declaring herself as the alpha, proud of her Korean spice, a metaphor that is sweeping culture worldwide. With a catchy beat and staccato, straightforward lyrics delivered over John Malkovich’s meditative echo, the song provides an accessible entry into the album and the signature CL attitude.  

Sources

CL. “SPICY.” YouTube. 24 August 2021. https://youtu.be/QMwJtMJLXE0

Kwak, Kristine. “CL Reintroduces Herself as the ‘Alpha.’ Rolling Stone, 20 Oct. 2021,   

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/cl-alpha-1244017/ Accessed 8 

Nov. 2021. 

Lee, Christine. “Review: On ALPHA, CL finishes what she started.” NPR, 27 Oct. 2021, 

https://www.npr.org/2021/10/27/1049329622/on-alpha-cl-finishes-what-she-started
Accessed 8 Nov 2021. 

Myers, Owen. “K-Pop Queen CL on making her indie comeback: ‘My album is like me writing a 

book.’” Billboard, 16 Jan. 2021,  https://www.billboard.com/music/pop/cl-new-album-alpha-interview-k-pop-comeback-9510948/

Jonghyun x Youngbae, “It Must be Autumn” (2015)

Ngan Tran

Kim Jonghyun, the main vocalist of SHINee, was also known as an extremely talented songwriter. A hidden gem from his discography is “It Must be Autumn” (also translated as “I guess now it’s the fall”), which debuted as a single on the Mnet show Monthly Live Connection. Featuring guest vocals from Go Youngbae (lead vocalist of the band SORAN), the song is co-written and co-composed by Jonghyun and Youngbae, with the arrangement done by Youngbae, Seo Myeon-ho, Lee Tae-wook, and Pyon Yoo-il. This is a delicate acoustic track that perfectly captures the sentiment of autumn.

The song opens with a simple guitar melody that would form the backbone for the rest of the track. As if letting listeners into a secret, the acoustic strumming combined with Jonghyun and Youngbae’s quiet vocals immediately set the tone for an intimate late night conversation. Lyrically, it is about receiving a random call from an ex-lover who has moved on long ago, and then mentally falling apart like autumn leaves. It is easy to slip into the territory of ambient coffee shop music here, but a steady percussion beat arrives just in time for the second verse to give it a much-needed depth. Jonghyun’s soft, airy vocals and Youngbae’s warm, gentle timbre complement each other extremely well as their gorgeous harmonies flutter into the bridge, where the song finally flourishes – in its own subdued fashion. The bass ripples, the keyboard tiptoes, and the catalytic moment comes, ironically, when the narrator admits that “today, too, I am still standing here,” stuck in memories of the past. And so the track ends with the same restrained energy it started with, completely unable to move on.

Sources

Jonghyun x Youngbae. “It Must be Autumn.” YouTube. 29 October 2015. https://youtu.be/neftAitSVw8?t=127 (9 November 2021).

VIXX, “Fantasy,” Hades (2016)

Nykeah Parham

No strangers to fantastic, other-worldly, or supernatural ideas, VIXX, the heralded “Concept Kings” of K-pop, announced the year-long project, VIXX 2016 Conception Trilogy. Each album in 2016 had a different concept based on a Greek deity, beginning with Zelos and the title track “Dynamite,” Hades and “Fantasy,” and ending with Kratos and “The Closer.” The Trilogy follows a man in his attempt to win over his love and the “fate” or “ruin” that befalls him. In “Fantasy,” the mortal man, N, has lost his love to Leo, someone in the underworld.

Produced by the LA-based production team, Devinne Channel’s Kei Lim and Ryan Kim, “Fantasy” begins with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” establishing the dark concept of Hades and the Underworld alongside Ravi’s deep and raspy tone in contrast to Leo’s falsetto. As soon as the introduction moves to the first verse, Ken’s mid-range vocal is underscored with not-so-subtle bass and snapping that resembles a clock ticking. There is a quick transition to Leo’s higher tone and the introduction of a rolling hi-hat that is all meant to showcase the main character losing his sanity as time progresses. By the time the pre-chorus and its marching drum begins, the energy and harmony have risen to an anxious heartbeat with the added string instruments in the chorus. There is a whiplash at the second verse, but that energy continues to build until the music stops suddenly and Moonlight Sonata plays again as a soft reprise even though the character has met a tragic end and not the fantasy he once imagined. In the end, all that is left is the admittance of defeat, “It’s all my fantasy.”

Sources

VIXX. “Fantasy.” YouTube. 14 August 2016. https://youtu.be/IuaRdAozUI0 (08 November 2021)

Red Velvet, “Knock on Wood,” Queendom (2021)

Luisa do Amaral

Red Velvet debuted in 2014 with the promise to bring together the elements that distinguished their predecessors, Girls’ Generation and f(x). One’s magical, sunny mass-appeal, and the other’s more experimental edge – through the fresh “Red” and the luscious “Velvet” concepts. Celebrating their seventh anniversary, the group made their first official release since ‘The ReVe Festival’ Finale (2019) with the six-track mini album Queendom (2021), released in August. The record includes the electro-punk track “Knock on Wood,” a B-side that uses a magical motif to compare the anxious desire for requited affections akin to casting a little spell (Yun, 2021).

The track is credited to duo Moonshine (Jonatan Gusmark and Ludvig Evers), Cazzi Opeia and Ellen Berg, who have worked together in previous RV tracks such as the B-side “In & Out” (2019) and the title track “Peek-A-Boo” (2017). The Korean lyrics were written by Seo Ji-Eum from Jam Factory. “Knock on Wood” opens with bewitching wobbly synths; enchanting ad-libs and vocals are layered over little finger snaps, squelches and glassy sounds (Daly, 2021) for an eerie feeling that heightens the magical element. The lyrics switch between anxiously hopeful confessions and spells, with each member adding to the atmosphere. Irene’s and Yeri’s lines are playful, mischievous – complementing Seulgi’s honey-glazed uneasiness, as well as Joy’s innocent sweetness and Wendy’s buoyant brightness, whose voices lead the pre-chorus into the chorus. The more distressed undertones of the song are resolved at the whimsical bridge, and the fairytale-like story ends with a modified chorus that expresses the assurance of getting the desired outcome. All the red flavors are there, but with the otherworldly magical edge that Red Velvet carried on from the sweet witchcraft of f(x).

Sources 

Red Velvet. “Knock on Wood.” YouTube. 16 Aug 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHINkx2So0s (8 Nov 2021)

Yun, Sanggeun 윤상근. “레드벨벳, ‘Queendom’으로 전할 감각적 음악 세계..위트 더한다” [Red Velvet to deliver a sensory music world through ‘Queendom’.. with increased wit]. 스타뉴스 STARNEWS, 9 Aug, 2021, https://entertain.naver.com/read?oid=108&aid=0002979163 Accessed 8 Nov, 2021. 

Daly, Rhian. “Red Velvet – ‘Queendom’ review: a safe but sometimes spellbinding return from SM’s ruling girl group” NME, 18 Aug. 2021, https://www.nme.com/reviews/album/red-velvet-queendom-review-3022231. Accessed 7 Nov. 2021. 

SEVENTEEN, “Ready To Love,” Your Choice (2021)

Tan Puay Shuang

Being given the title of ‘self-producing idols’, SEVENTEEN is best known not only for their entertaining presence on variety shows, but also for being actively involved in various aspects of their comeback productions since debut. While one could visibly tell that the group’s music has drastically evolved and matured with time, not many were prepared to learn that the song-writing credits of their eighth mini-album Your Choice would include “hitman” Bang Sihyuk, the founder of HYBE Corporation that has just acquired their label Pledis Entertainment last year. Apart from him, the song also introduced the participation of Danke, Kyler Niko, Wonderkid, Christoffer Semelius, and H.Kenneth, some of which would be familiar to fans of other HYBE artists like TXT and ENHYPEN.

Your Choice was released as the second part to SEVENTEEN’s yearlong project “The Power of ‘Love’”. Its title track “Ready To Love” features a prominent electric guitar and an anthemic chorus, which combined with the typical EDM beats forms an upbeat dance track that sings about the emotions of someone who has fallen in love with a friend (Chakraborty, 2021). Besides departing from the retro vibes that they have featured in their previous mini albums, Heng:garæ and Semicolon, the song also stands out for the amount of English being used in their lyrics. Despite the high energy and optimistic lyrics, the song eludes a somewhat melancholic tone, and the adlibs done by the members hold equal importance as the main melody, with the choreography during the last chorus specially made to highlight Seungkwan’s voice towards the end of the final chorus. 

Sources

HYBE LABELS. “SEVENTEEN (세븐틴) ‘Ready to love’ Official MV.” YouTube. 18 Jun 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4ffQuYFfY8 (8 Nov 2021).

SEVENTEEN. “[Choreography Video] SEVENTEEN(세븐틴) – Ready to love.” YouTube. 20 Jun 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxWowt5Oc9Y (8 Nov 2021).

Chakraborty, Riddhi. “Seventeen Get Ready to Risk Everything in ‘Ready to Love’.” Rolling Stone India. 18 Jun 2021. https://rollingstoneindia.com/seventeen-get-ready-to-risk-everything-in-ready-to-love/ (8 Nov 2021).

SF9, “Hey Hi Bye,” Turn Over (2021)

Vitoria F. Doretto

SF9 (shortened from Sensational Feeling 9) is the first dance boy group formed by FNC Entertainment. Known for their dynamic stage presence and experimental sound, and following their contract renovation, the nine members released on July 5, 2021, their ninth mini-album, Turn Over, with “Tear Drop” as the title track. The album follows their participation in Kingdom: Legendary War, where “Believer” was released as their final round song (which also appears on this album). The mini-album is the last part of the “9lory” series, which conveys their narrative world. In it, they show their willingness to pioneer fate on its own without yielding to what was already set.

“Hey Hi Bye” is the last track with synth-brass-laden and peppy beats. The lyrics are written by Han Sung Ho (한성호),Young Bin  (영빈), Zuho (주호), and Hwiyoung (SF9s lead rapper). The composers are Han Sung Ho (한성호), Park Soo Suk (박수석), Bong Won Seok (봉원석), Moon Kim, and Tiyon TC Mack, and the arrangement was made by Park Soo Suk and Bong Won Seok. It is a fun track with a captivating mix of retro influences and a synth-like filter that adds to the instrumental – and their voices are capable of staying above it all, which is surprising. The track wraps up the album with a sweet tone, as its last verses are “Can’t nobody, can’t nobody love you like me/ Hey, hiya, bye.” Its first live stage was at the “2021 SF9 Online Fan Meeting ‘Reply FANTASY‘” (Laure, 2021).

Sources

에셒구. [SF9] Hey Hi Bye 응답하라 판타지 210815 팬미팅. YouTube. 16 Aug 2021.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i37Tw6310dc (9 Nov. 2021).

Laure. Exclusive Review: SF9 Cheerfully Spends Time At “2021 SF9 Online Fan Meeting ‘Reply FANTASY'”. Kpopmag, 17 Aug 2021. http://www.kpopmap.com/exclusive-review-sf9-cheerfully-spends-time-at-2021-sf9-online-fan-meeting-reply-fantasy (9 Nov. 2021).

2AM, “Should’ve known” (가까이 있어서 몰랐어), Ballad 21 F/W (2021)

Mariam Elba

After 7 years, 2AM released its first, long-awaited EP after their hiatus that began in 2013 on November 1. Formed as a part of One Day, a project of JYP Entertainment in 2008, members Jinwoon, Changmin, Jo Kwon, and Seulong broke off to form 2AM. They quickly became known as the ballad-idol quartet, different from their One Day counterparts, 2PM. each bring different vocal styles elements to their ballads. Park Jin-young of JYP Entertainment as well as “hitman” bang, or Bang Si-hyuk, and now the chairman of HYBE, were both frequent producers and songwriters for the group.

“Should’ve known” is their first of two title tracks on 2AM’s new EP, Ballad 21 F/W, written and composed by “Hitman” Bang, and arranged by Megatone and Score.  The song starts with a simple piano harmony as Jinwoon starts the song in an almost-hushed voice, Seulong ushers in the bridge, and builds a gradual crescendo as Jo Kwon and Changmin’s voices carry the crescendo into the chorus with soaring high notes, evoking the emotion of the lyrics charged with regret of a lost love. The third bridge highlights 2AM’s frequent harmonizing, a signature characteristic in their songs.

A unique aspect of the music video is that it tells the first part of a story that the second title song’s music video continues. Starring One Day counterpart, 2PM’s Junho and Kim So-hyun, re-enact the story the lyrics tell in Should’ve known, and second title song No good in good-bye (잘 가라니).

Sources

2am – 가까이 있어서 몰랐어 (Should′ve known) MV. YouTube. 1 Nov 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5NyZsDz0oI (10 Nov 2021).

 
 Creative Commons License WWLT Vol. 1, No. 1 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

KPK Seeks Members for Its K-pop Music Research Accelerator!

KPK Seeks Members for Its K-pop Music Research Accelerator!

Are you outside of academia yet do research on K-pop music or related topics? Are you an advanced undergrad or grad student researching K-pop music, but lack a research community? Do you want an opportunity to hone your analytic skills and publish on K-pop music? Consider applying to HWAITING! The K-pop Music Research Accelerator!

HWAITING!: The K-Pop Music Research Accelerator cultivates and produces public scholarship on global Korean popular music (K-pop). Managed by KPK: K-pop Kollective, the oldest and only aca-fansite for K-pop, HWAITING! houses an online research community that also publishes small-scale music analyses. Its mission is to generate comprehensive, well-informed discourse around K-pop music that contributes to an understanding of its content, history and impact. The HWAITING! Accelerator functions as a: 

  • study group that reads scholarly writing and discusses topics related to K-pop music to keep members current with K-pop music discourse
  • listening group that shares music recommendations to expand the knowledge base of its members and help them find music beyond their favorites  
  • writing group that publishes music analyses accessible to a general audience to provide opportunities for members to share their knowledge

Criteria. Ideal applicants come from within or outside academia, work on K-pop or related topics, and would benefit from being a part of an active K-pop research community. This includes advanced undergraduates, current/former graduate students, bloggers, journalists and podcasters. Knowledge of or familiarity with multiple K-pop artists/groups is required.

Expectations. Generally, members can expect to spend 1-2 hours a week on HWAITING. They will be expected to:

  • write a 150-200-word musical analysis of at least one K-pop track bi-monthly, to be published on KPK: Kpop Kollective. (For an idea, see What We Are Listening To: ‘Rising Sun’ by TVXQ!)  
  • recommend at least one K-pop track to the group every two weeks 
  • participate in weekly discussions about scholarly writing and critical topics relevant to K-pop music
  • provide progress reports on individual projects as needed

To apply. Complete this short form, which will also ask you to provide a reference, someone who can confirm your interest in K-pop. References will be contacted. Deadline: Oct 18, 2021. Questions? Contact Dr. Crystal S. Anderson, csaphd5@gmail.com.

For Your Reading Pleasure: A Hallyu Bibliography, Part 15: FANDOM and FAN ACTIVITY

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

Winthrop University

Welcome to Part 15 of my ongoing series of bibliographic entries about Hallyu.   These entries are listed by year, not by author (TIP: If you know about a title or author and you want to see if it’s included in this listing, use the CTRL + F function).

To learn more about my searching parameters, information-gathering processes, and your ability to access these items, see my earlier essay titled For Your Reading Pleasure: Introducing A Hallyu Bibliography.”  Click for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5 , Part 6, Part 7 , Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, and Part 14 of the bibliography.

stage-1531427_1920
Photo credit: Brandon Bolendar, Pixabay.

This is a working post, so if you would like to submit items to this list or to the bibliography, please contact me directly at kaetrena@mailbox.sc.edu.

Fiske, J.  (1992). The cultural economy of fandom.  In  A. Lewis  (Ed.),  The  adoring audience:  Fan  culture  and popular  media  (pp.  30-49). New York:  Routledge.

Leonard, Sean. (2004). Progress against the law: Fan distribution, copyright and the explosive growth of Japanese animation. Accessed 8 April 2020 from http://web.mit.edu/seantek/www/papers/progress-doublespaced.pdf

Leonard, Sean. (2005). Progress against the Law: Anime and Fandom, and the Key to the Globalization of Culture. International Journal of Cultural Studies 8.3 (2005): 281-305.

Yuk Ming Lisa Leung. (2005). Virtualizing the ‘Korean Wave’:  The Politics of (Transnational) Cyberfandom in 〈Daejangguem>. Asian Communication Research Volume 2 Number 2, 2005.9, page(s): 65-90. Abstract accessed 2 November 2011 http://www.dbpia.co.kr/view/ar_view.asp?arid=1030479&A=

Shim, Hyunjoo. (2005). Antifans and the internet: An ethnographic study of participatory drama fans in Korean websites. Thesis, Georgia State University.

Pease, Rowan. (2006).  Internet, fandom and K-wave in China. In K. Howard (Ed.) Korean pop music: Riding the wave. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Hayashi, Kaori and Eun-Jeung Lee. (2007). The potential of fandom and the limits of soft power: Media representations on the popularity of a Korean melodrama in Japan. Social Science Japan Journal, 10(2): 197-216. doi: 10.1093/ssjj/jym049 (see also, Politics and Soft Power)

Siriyuvasak, Ubonrat & Hyunjoon Shin. (2007). Asianizing Kpop: production, consumption and identification patterns among Thai youth. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 8(1): 109-136. 

Lee, Soojin, David Scott and Hyounggon Kim. (2008). Celebrity fan involvement and destination perceptions. Annals of Tourism Research, 35(3): 809-832. 

Mori, Yoshitaka. (2008). Winter Sonata and cultural practices of active fans in Japan: Considering middle-aged women as cultural agents. In C.B. Huat and K. Iwabuchi (Eds.) East Asian Pop Culture: Analyzing the Korean Wave. pp. 127-X. Aberdeen: Hong Kong University Press.

Iwabuchi, Koichi. (2010). Undoing inter-national fandom in the age of brand nationalism. Mechademia, 5:87-96.

Lee, Hyangjin. (2010). Buying youth: Japanese fandom of the Korean wave. In Black, D., Stephen Epstein and Alison Tokita (Eds.) Complicated Currents. Clayton, Victoria, Australia: Monash University ePress. Accessed 8 April 2020 from http://books.publishing.monash.edu/apps/bookworm/view/Complicated+Currents/122/xhtml/chapter7.html

Rembert-Lang, LaToya D. (2010-2011). Reinforcing the power of Babel: The impact of copyright law on fansubbing. Intellectual Property Brief, 2(2): 21-33.

Jung, Sun. (2011). Fan activism, cybervigilantism, and Othering mechanisms in K-pop fandom. Transformative Works and Cultures. Accessed 8 April 2020 from http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/300/287

Jung, Sun. (2011) K-pop, Indonesian fandom, and social media. Transformative Works and Cultures,8. Accessed 8 April 2020 from https://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/289/219

Gatson, Sarah N. and Robin Anne Reid. (2012). Race and ethnicity in fandom. In R.A. Reid and S.N Gatson (Eds.) Race and Ethnicity in Fandom special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, 8. Accessed 23 August 2012 from http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/392/252

Lee, Seung Ah. (2012). Of the fans, by the fans, for the fans: The republic of JYJ. Presented at the Nam Center for Korean Studies’ Hallyu 2.0: The Korean Wave in the Age of Social Media Symposium. Accessed 8 April 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwBKXybAXJQ

Park, Shin-Eui and Woong Jo Chang. (2012). The Korean Wave: Cultivating a global fandom (unpublished). Accessed 8 April 2020 from https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/23620889/the-korean-wave-cultivating-a-global-fandom-by-shin-eui-park-

Kim, Andrew Eungi, Fitria Mayasari, and Ingyu Oh. (2013). When tourist audiences encounter each other: Diverging learning behaviors of K-pop fans from Japan and Indonesia. Korea Journal, 53(4): 59-82.

Sung, Sang-Yeon. (2013). K-pop reception and participatory fan culture in Austria. Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, (9): 90-104. Accessed 16 June 2016 from https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-9/sung

Jung, Soo Keung. (2014). Global audience participation in the production and consumption of Gangnam Style. Thesis, Georgia State Unversity. Accessed 7 April 2020 from https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/communication_theses/106/

Jung, Sun & Doobo Shim. (2014). Social distribution: K-pop fan practices in Indonesia and the ‘Gangnam Style’ phenomenon. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 17(5): 485-501.

Nissim, Otmazgin & Irina Lyan. (2014). Hallyu across the desert: K-pop fandom in Israel and Palestine. Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, 3(1): 32-55.

Oh, Ingyu & Chong-Mook Lee. (2014). A league of their own: Female supporters of hallyu and Korea-Japan relations. Pacific Focus, 29(2): 284-302.

Williams, J. Patrick & Samantha Xiang Xin Ho. (2016). “Sasaengpaen” or K-pop fan? Singapore youths, authentic identities, and Asian media fandom. Deviant Behavior, 37(1): 81-94.

Habieb, Adnand. (2017). The influence of K-pop in Indonesia’s students behavior. Proceedings of  ISER 50th International Conference. Pp. 47-50. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f944/67c0b42a7b40eba57d91f7e1ca93ff7af9ea.pdf

Swan, Anna Lee. (2017). Situated knowledge, transnational identities: Place and embodiment in K-pop fan reaction videos. Thesis, University of Washington. Accessed 8 April 2020 from https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/40004

Dwiyota, Sylvia. (2018). The use of code mixing in Tweets by Kpop fans in Twitter. Lingua Litera, 3(1). Retrieved from http://116.251.210.75/index.php/stba1/article/view/9

Hubinette, Tobias. (2018). Who are the Swedish K-pop fans? Revisiting the reception and consumption of Hallyu in post-Gangnam Style Sweden with an emphasis on K-pop. Culture and Empathy, 1(1-4): 34-48. Accessed 7 April 2020 from http://www.tobiashubinette.se/korean_popculture_1.pdf

Sari, Dorottya. (2018). The rise of Hallyu in Hungary: An exploratory study about the motivation, behavior, and perception of Hungarian K-pop fans.

Swan, Anna Lee. (2018). Transnational identities and feeling in fandom: place and embodiment in K-pop fan reaction videos. Communication, Culture and Critique, 11(4): 548-565.

Sutton, R. Anderson. (2018). Tracking the Korean wave in transnational Asia: K-pop and K-pop fandom in Indonesia. Asian Musicology, 28: 9-39.

Abd-Rahim, Atiqah. (2019). Online fandom: Social identity and social hierarchy of hallyu fans. The Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography, 9(1). Accessed 7 April 2020 from https://ojs.library.dal.ca/JUE/article/view/8885

Capistrano, Erik, Paolo. (2019). Understanding Filipino Korean pop music fans. Asian Journal of Social Science, 47(1): 59-87.

Crow, Teahlyn Frances. (2019). K-pop, language, and online fandom: An exploration of Korean language use and performativity amongst international K-pop fans. Thesis, Northern Arizona University.

Cruz, Angela, Seo, Yuri, & Binay, Itir. (2019). Cultural globalization from the periphery: Translation practices of English-speaking K-pop fans. Journal of Consumer Culture, In press. (See Also, Language)

De Kosnik, A. & Carrington, A. (2019). Fans of color, fandoms of color. Transformative Works & Cultures, 29(1): 1.

Jansen, Kine Fjeld. (2019). Pop culturally motivated lexical borrowing: Use of Korean in an English-majority fan forum. Thesis, University of Bergen. Accessed 7 April 2020 from http://bora.uib.no/handle/1956/20363

Kang, Jiwon, Lee, Minsung, Park, Eunil et al. (2019). Alliance for my idol: Analyzing the K-pop fandom collaboration network. CHI EA ‘ 19: Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Pp. 1- 6.

Utami, Evi Farsiah. (2019). Social media, celebrity, and fans: A study of Indonesian K-pop fans. Thesis, Taylor’s University. (See Also, Internet and Social Media)

Liu, Chih-Chieh. From ‘Sorry, Sorry’ to ‘That Banana’: Subtitling of a Korean music video as a site of contestation in Taiwan. Accessed 8 April 2020 from https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/media/5312/04_sorry_sorry_liu.pdf

Vinco, Alessandra & Mazur, Daniela. (n.d.). Fans, hallyu, and broadcast TV: The case of the K-drama “Happy Ending” pioneering in Brazil. Accessed 8 April 2020 from https://congress.aks.ac.kr:52525/korean/files/2_1478846583.pdf

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Writing the Book I Wanted to Read – Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop

Image: University of Mississippi Press

Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop (September 2020, University of Mississippi Press) is a scholarly book that examines the ways that Korean pop (“idols), R&B and mainstream hip-hop of the Hallyu (Korean wave) era incorporate elements of black popular music and how global fans understand that influence.

As a senior scholar in transnational American Studies and Global Asias and writer on K-pop for the past 10 years, I thought a book on black music and K-pop should be the follow-up to my first book, Beyond the Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production.  It’s a labor of love and it has something for everyone.

What’s In It for Fans

It talks about people you know. It covers K-pop as a 20-year-old music tradition with genres that have developed over time and significant musical acts. It recognizes the development of “idol” acts ranging from veterans to their successors as well as the Korean and African American music producers behind the music, including Yoo Young Jin, Teddy, Teddy Riley and Harvey Mason Jr.  It explores Korean R&B singers and groups as well as mainstream Korean hip-hop artists. Musical acts covered include g.o.d., Shinhwa, 2PM, Wonder Girls, SHINee, TVXQ, Rain (Bi), Fly to the Sky, 4MEN, Brown Eyed Soul, Big Mama, Park Hyo Shin, Lyn, Zion T., Wheesung, Dynamic Duo, Epik High, Primary, Jay Park and Yoon Mirae.

What’s In It for Scholars

It critically engages K-pop through an interdisciplinary lens. Soul in Seoul draws on popular music studies, fan studies and transnational American studies to examine the intertextuality at the heart of K-pop music, an intertextuality that includes African American popular music and distinct Korean music strategies. This intertextuality sounds different through time, across genres and among artists because it draws from a variety of aspects of black popular music. At the same time, the book highlights the critical function of fans, who are responsible for its global spread and function as its music press. It places African American popular culture within a global context, thereby disrupting the homogenizing tendencies of globalization that obscure the impact of an African American popular culture with a complicated relationship to the West. The book is accessible to undergraduate and graduate students and suitable for courses in music and ethnomusicology, ethnic studies, Asian studies, African American studies, American studies, popular culture and media studies.

What’s In It for Everybody

Soul in Seoul is about the music, so it is for anyone who is curious about the ever-changing phenomenon that is K-pop.  Look for the Soul in Seoul Playlist leading up to the book’s release in September 2020 on KPK: Kpop Kollective to hear what all the fuss is about.

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Writing the Book I Wanted to Read – Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

How We Get Down: KPK Documents Your Stuff!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As part of KPK’s decennial year, we are launching K-pop Commons, a repository of K-pop project ephemera – documents and artifacts that were not created for formal publication or commercial display (e.g., books, book chapters, galleries/exhibitions), but that are meaningful to the creators of the items and that reflect the impact of K-pop on those who know it best: fans. 

Continue reading “How We Get Down: KPK Documents Your Stuff!”

What We Are Listening To: “Rising Sun” by TVXQ!

 

chris-slupski-eKYgEj1U97k-unsplash
Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

TVXQ! (also billed as Dong Bang Shin Ki/DBSK in Korean and Tohoshinki in Japanese) was a five member group from 2004 to 2010. In 2011, the group continued with two members (Jung Yunho – U-Know, and Shim Changmin – MAX). The group is known for their harmonies and sensual dance moves, and “Rising Sun” choreography is one of the group’s more dynamic musical and visual accomplishments. 

“Rising Sun” is from the group’s second Korean studio album and was also featured in an American film. In a review of the album, Pop Reviews Now asserts that “Rising Sun” “is one of DBSK’s most technically-challenging and most remembered songs and for good reason.” Every member’s vocal or rap ability is highlighted, with Changmin’s signature range/ note-holding on display. As a note to the longevity and importance of this song, the two-member group continues to perform it live.

View the visuals and hear the vocals of five-member TVXQ’s “Rising Sun”:

 

And two-member performance, as well:

Sources

DBSK – “Rising Sun.” Pop Reviews Now. 28 Jul 2014. http://popreviewsnow.blogspot.com/2014/07/dbsk-rising-sun.html (25 Feb 2020).

Kpopcorner2. “DBSK [Mirotic Concert] – Rising Sun.” YouTube. 10 Feb. 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bLxrl5NRfM (25 Feb 2020).

laura bustamante. “TVXQ! – Rising Sun – Special Live Tour T1STORY in Seoul.” YouTube. 15 Jun 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEQ7ICbYhYg (25 Feb 2020).

Let KPK Introduce You To…The Use of (Gospel) Choirs

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

The use or application of the (gospel) choir aestethic or sound is a staple in popular Western music, and the artists who have used the imagery or sound go from rock  and pop to rapIn an essay discussing how the African-American creative and cultural tradition of gospel music is preserved or transformed as it moves around the globe, Burnim links the original context of gospel music and its role in the African-American community to its unexpected introduction into American mainstream music (solidified by creative and consumer success markers):

As a genre that came to most strongly define the worship of the vast majority of African Americans regardless of denomination, gospel remained largely in the domain of African American congregants — that is, church folk — until the late 1960’s, when Edwin Hawkins released Let Us Go into The House of the Lord, with its ever-popular single “O Happy Day” unexpectedly hitting the radio airways, claiming unparalleled chart success and subsequent sales in excess of one million copies… (2016, 471)

While gospel music is primarily the vehicle by which African-Americans practiced aspects of their religion, it is also a form of music that has close ties to the continent and cultures of Africa. With those multitudes of cultures come expanded channels of creativity, and you can hear those elements in gospel music, including:

  • call and response
  • syncopation
  • cross-rhythms
  • improvisation (Rucker-Hillsman, 2014)

Noting links to commercial success and the musicality imbued in the gospel choir,  international artists have also incorporated the sound into their music.

Let’s take a look at the gospel choir’s entry into K-pop:

Artist: Jonghyun

Press Play to Hear “할렐루야 ” (Hallelujah)” from Jonghyun’s album Base (released January  12, 2015).

In a 2015 interview, Jonghyun noted that he did not originally intend to have a choir but that his interest in gospel music spurred him to update the arrangement. 

Jonghyun documents choir members recording the background vocals for “Hallelujah.”

Works Cited

Burnim, M. (2016). Tropes of continuity and disjuncture in the globalization of gospel music. In S.A. Riley & J.M. Dueck (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities. Oxford University Press (pp. 469-488).

Rucker-Hillsman, J. (2014). Gospel music: An African-American art form. Victoria, BC, Canada: Freisen Press.