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 Anyband, Suho, Red Velvet, BigBang and V.
Anyband, “Talk, Play Love + Promise You,” EP by Anyband (2007)
N Lina An
This collaboration had 4 prominent names from the 2nd generation of K-pop: BoA, (Jin) Bora, Tablo of Epik High and Xia (formerly Xiah Junsu of then 5-member group TVXQ). These 4 stars formed AnyBand, for the 4th Anycall music drama; as a project group to promote Samsung’s phone brand in 2007. The project band also has a 3rd track titled Daydream. The whole EP was produced by Tablo. Unfortunately, there is no official channel hosting this music video. The premise of the 9-minute music video shows an oppressed nation where talk, play and love is prohibited. Then, four separate individuals come together using the Anycall phone to spread a message encouraging people to talk, play and love freely. These 2 contrasting emotions are represented in 2 songs: Talk, Play, Love and Promise You.
In Talk, Play, Love, the song is in a minor key; giving the sense of oppression and hopelessness as the citizens are being controlled. The melody is within the same pitch range and short in its rhythmic articulations. This depicts the mundane and robotic life where there is no communication allowed. The use of the synthesizer gives a mechanical feel, and the alternating octave in the bass represents the march that the citizens are parading on the streets, elevating the cyborg-feel of the music video. In the bridge, the song scales down to a monophonic texture where BoA sings unaccompanied. Then, it crescendos to a final chorus with ad-libs by Xia, layered by BoA and Tablo singing the chorus in different octaves and Bora’s blues-y improvisation giving a polyphonic texture ending.
Promise You is the exact opposite, sounding much brighter in a major key. Its song structure is in clear verse and chorus forms, with longer and more melodious musical phrasings. We can hear BoA and Junsu as main vocals, taking turns in the verse while harmonizing in the chorus. And, Tablo’s rap is interwoven with Bora’s jazzy improvisation on the piano keys in the bridge. In the music video, it is represented by the citizens rejoicing in the newfound liberation as they are able to communicate via the Anycall phone. The chorus repeats “anytime any day with you” assuring that hope is always around with the magic of the phone’s communication system. But, in both songs, the keywords of talk, play, love is interspersed in the lyrics connecting both songs together.
BoA is no stranger to the K-pop scene. Known as the Queen of Kpop, her impact in the Kpop scene transcends borders as she is also popular in Japan and all across Asia. As of December 2021, she is a member of a group Got the Beat formed by SM Entertainment, and will release a Japanese album to commemorate her 20th anniversary in the industry. There is little found information about Jin Bora, who at a very young age learned the piano and went on to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music under scholarship. According to her wikipedia page, her most recent performance was at the 2020 Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards where she performed “Flower” from the Crash Landing on You OST. >>
Xia has been active in the music industry since his debut with TVXQ in 2003. Apart from the 2-year hiatus to serve his military duties, he has been active in the musical theatre scene in South Korea and also as an artist in Japan. Recently, Xia has made a comeback into South Korean media by releasing his 3rd mini album Dimensions, and also appearing on cable TV, Channel A’s 요즘 남자 라이프 신랑수업 (Nowadays Men’s Life Groom Class) as a cast member. Tablo is leader, producer and one-third of hip-hop group Epik High who recently concluded their North American tour, and will be performing their 2022 Seoul tour in May 2022.
There has not been any further collaborations that saw the triangulation of pop, hip-hop and jazz styles since this project group, or even an advertisement for a phone brand of this scale. Only time would tell if such a powerful combination would make a comeback.
Windstruck44. “[ANYBAND] Music Video Full Vers. (Talk Play Love + Promise U)” YouTube. 16 Aug 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o24-Av2LIVw (15 April 2022)
The K-POP2. “2020 대한민국 대중문화예술상 시상식 | 2020 Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards” Youtube. Streamed live on 28 Oct 2020. https://youtu.be/14dT14JYBzQ?t=2063 (15 April 2022)
Suho, “Hurdle,” Grey Suit (2022)
Vitoria F. Doretto
Following his solo debut with the mini-album Self-Portrait, in Grey Suit, the EXO’s leader deepens his roots in rock and sings about his time spent in the military (Morin, 2022). The six-track record comes shortly after Suho’s discharge from the military in February and evokes nostalgia with its 90’s vibe.
In messages on Bubble (a chat with paid subscription), the singer asked the fans to listen to the album rightly, from the first to the last track, as it tells a story, and if one listens to the song separately it seems like watching a drama from the middle. But the second track has a livelier melody that draws attention and is completely different from “Grey Suit,” the title track, so it is not difficult for to it become the favorite on the album. “Hurdle,” the second track, has a mixture of funky verses and a cool chorus – the chorus is the highlight of the song and what makes it unforgettable, as it is fun and full of energy. It is a pop-rock song with city noise and an intense baseline in the intro that has witty lyrics about a person transcending time and running to someone loved, as the singer said in the countdown live on April 4 (EXO, 2022). Its lyrics were written by Gila, Noday, I’LL, Park Moonchi, and SH2O, it was composed by I’LL, Park Moonchi, Gila, and Noday, and arranged by Park Moonchi and Gila.
Although the music video is colorful and chaotic, settled in an office and expressing a workaholic society, its lyrics never miss the main theme, the desire to run to the lover. Its unique concept solidifies Suho’s identity as a soloist and his light tenor feels incredible in this song, more mature, and even the high number of high notes works really well and brings personality to the track.
“Hurdle” enables Suho to show his inner rock star, the live band in the performances adds to the appeal and it becomes a whole package.
EXO. [REPLAY] SUHO 수호 ‘Grey Suit’ Countdown Live. YouTube. 5 April 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMpCCBmNLgc (April 17, 2022)
Morin, Natalie. “EXO’s Suho Talks Life After the Military and His Upcoming Solo Project”. Rolling Stone, 2022. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/suho-interview-exo-1315110 (April 17, 2022)
SMTOWN. SUHO 수호 ‘Hurdle’ MV. YouTube. 7 April 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPinfiIhb8 (April 17, 2022)
Red Velvet, “Day 1,” The Red (2015)
Luisa do Amaral
Released in September 2015, Red Velvet’s first studio album The Red (2015) was the first installment in their series of records centered around their dual concept – fresh, bright and quirky “red” and luscious, sultry and sexy “velvet” – which was followed by The Velvet (2016), Perfect Velvet (2017) and The Perfect Red Velvet (2018). In the 10-track album, “Day 1” is the second-to-last song, credited to Hwang Hyun of production team MonoTree. The star producer, a Classic Composition major who’s been called “the Beethoven of K-pop” (Gearlounge, 2021), has a long track record in the industry, having worked with Red Velvet’s senior groups at SM Entertainment – f(x), Girls’ Generation and S.E.S – as well as the agency’s boy groups Super Junior, SHINee and EXO-CBX, plus tracks such as LOONA’s “Hi High” (2018), “Kiss Later” (2017) and “Love & Live” (2017), Gfriend’s “Apple” (2020) and Stellar’s “Vibrato” (2015). More recently, he’s been recognised for his partnership with group ONF (WM Entertainment), having worked in all of their title tracks since their debut in 2017, and most of their b-sides, which have earned the group the title of “b-side masters” (Kim, 2022).
Hwang worked in four Red Velvet tracks, including Japanese b-side “Aitai-tai” (from their 2018 Japanese debut EP #Cookie Jar). In “Day 1”, he is credited for lyrics, music and arrangement. The song’s title refers to the first day of a new relationship, right after a confession, as two good friends discover the joy of becoming lovers. Its quirky vibe made it a fan-favorite, being usually performed by the group during the special fan moments at the end of concerts. The song opens with guitar and bass, and its melody played by trumpet. The bossa nova sound establishes a distinctive softly lively atmosphere, whose upbeat aspects are highlighted by opting for pop-rock drums instead of the tamborim. The melodic motion is mainly upwards, which gives the song a sensation of constant growth. The latter part of the bridge has added layers of vocals and synths that increase its depth and make the track even bigger, and lead listeners into the last chorus and the outro to reach peak joy and excitement. This special layering of sounds to create a bigger-than-life effect is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Hwang Hyun’s work, which is a perfect match for Red Velvet’s vocal colors. Yeri and Irene’s playfulness, Seulgi’s endearing excitement, Joy’s loveliness, and Wendy’s warm, bright range, play an important role in the process of crafting “Day 1”’s most heart-fluttering qualities.
Red Velvet. “Day 1.” YouTube. 10 Nov 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTaa3Pbv9c0 (20 Apr 2022)
Red Velvet. “[HD] Red Velvet Red Mare in Japan – Day 1.” YouTube. 28 Dec 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwzXDehdwEo (20 Apr 2022)
Gearlounge. “[GL Interview] K-Pop 프로듀싱 & 퍼블리싱 컴퍼니 모노트리의 대표, 황 현” [Hwan Hyun, CEO of K-Pop Production and Publishing Company MonoTree]. Gearlounge, 28 Jun, 2021, https://gearlounge.com/editorial/glinterview-yellowstring Accessed 20 Apr, 2022.
EBS 펜타곤의 밤의 라디오 [EBS Pentagon Night Radio]. “[Full ver.] 음색노래춤컨셉 맛집 온앤오프의 매력을 알고 싶다면?! 김가네 K-POP w.김영대 평론가” [If you want to know the charm of ONF, the must-eat place for voices, songs, dance and concept? The Flavour of K-pop with Critic Kim Young-dae]. 11 Mar 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSkP_jXjHRM (20 Apr 2022)
BIGBANG (featuring Park Bom of 2NE1), “We Belong Together,” Big Bang (2006)
In light of BIGBANG’s long-awaited comeback with single Still Life, and 2NE1’s surprise return to the stage for the first time since 2015 at Coachella, it’s fitting to return to their first musical collaborations together. At the beginning of both groups’ careers with YG Entertainment on BIGBANG’s debut self-titled single album (Park Bom would debut with 2NE1 two years after the release of this record). We Belong Together sets the stage for what would come for BIGBANG’s discography in the following 16 years. With music composed by member, G-Dragon, lyrics co-written with member T.O.P, and arranged by G-Dragon and YG producer, Teddy. The song is reminiscent of popular hip-hop and R&B songs that were emblematic of the 2000s. Park Bom sings the chorus, with G-Dragon and T.O.P rapping in a call-and-answer style alongside Park’s singing. Both members are also the only BIGBANG members who appear on the track, though the other three members at the time, Taeyang, Daesung, and Seungri appear in the music video.
The song showcases the songwriting talents of G-Dragon (real name: Kwon Ji-yong), and T.O.P (real name: Choi Seung-hyun), both of whom would go on to write much of BIGBANG’s discography and break historic ground in the K-pop industry’s growth and popularity outside of Korea going into the mid 2010s. NICK from The Bias List notes, “it wouldn’t be until 2007 that BIGBANG really broke through with Lies. You can hear the smallest bit of that groundwork being laid in We Belong Together.”
YG Entertainment. “BIGBANG – WE BELONG TOGETHER M/V.” YouTube. 2 October 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjTEMBB-mjY (accessed 20 April 2022).
NICK. “Debut Re-Evaluation: BIGBANG – We Belong Together (ft. Park Bom).” The Bias List. 19 April 2022. https://thebiaslist.com/2022/04/19/debut-re-evaluation-bigbang-we-belong-together-ft-park-bom. (accessed 20 April 2022).
V, “Christmas Tree,” Our Beloved Summer (그 해 우리는) OST (2020)
Hannah Lee Otto
V of BTS showcases his solo vocals in one of the primary theme ballads for the original television soundtrack, Our Beloved Summer (2020). In contrast with the heavier studio effects and accentuated bassline of V’s BTS solo track “Singularity,” the simple acoustic instrumentation, slower tempo, and reflective lyrics in “Christmas Tree” spotlight V’s voice more intimately than a BTS release. In Our Beloved Summer, “Christmas Tree” provides a melancholic sweetness for the youthful romance between icy overachiever Kook Yeon-Soo and laidback artist Choi Ung, played by V’s close friend Choi Woosik of Parasite fame. Aware of the supportive friendship between superstars Kim Taehyung (V’s real name) and Choi Woosik, the highly acclaimed OST music director Nam Hye-Seung wrote the song with V specifically in mind (Naver, 2022).
The organic collaboration proved fruitful on the charts, as “Christmas Tree” made V the first Korean soloist to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Song sales chart (Cha, 2022). For V as a soloist, “Christmas Tree” elevates V as an expressive vocalist, capable of poignant storytelling through ballad, in English as well as Korean (“Christmas Tree” is mostly in English, with one verse in Korean).
With “Christmas Tree” and V’s reflective ballad carrying the memory of a youthful unrequited romance headlined by Choi Woosik, the superstar power collaboration achieves new heights for V as a soloist, as well as the genre of Kdrama.
Cha, E. “BTS’s V becomes 1st Korean soloist ever to debut a No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Song
Sales chart with a solo song.” 4 Jan 2022. https://www.soompi.com/article/1506958wpp/btss-v-becomes-1st-korean-soloist-ever-to-debut-at-no-1-on-billboards-digital-song-sales-chart-with-a-solo-song (20 April 2022).
Most Contents. “V – Christmas Tree.” YouTube. 24 Dec 2021. https://youtu.be/lj8TV9q59P4 (20 April 2022).
Naver. “Actor Choi Wooshik thanks his best friend BTS’s V for participating in ‘Our Beloved
Summer’ OST with ‘Christmas Tree’.” Allkpop. 26 Jan 2022. https://www.allkpop.com/article/2022/01/actor-choi-wooshik-thanks-his-best-friend-btss-v-for-participating-in-our-beloved-summer-ost-with-christmas-tree
WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 4 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.