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 U-KISS, TVXQ!, WOODZ, Bobby, and Billlie by members of HWAITING!, KPK’s K-pop music research accelerator.
U-KISS, “내 여자야 (She’s Mine),” Moments (2013)
As the nostalgia train rushes into the land of K-pop once again, after surprise comebacks from many 2nd generation K-pop groups, it would be wonderful to appreciate the group that is U-KISS. For many, U-KISS is regarded as one of the most underrated K-pop groups. Despite a somewhat lackluster debut as a 6-member group in Korea in August 2008 under NH Media with the song, “어리지 않아 (Not Young),” U-KISS initially debuted in Japan and was considered for a Japan-Korea collaborative project as rookies. Although original members Kibum and Kevin had previously been a part of the short-lived group XING, they later joined group leader, Soohyun, Eli, Alexander, and maknae Dongho and began to prove the group’s ability to be the “Ubiquitous Korean International Idol Super Star” as their name claims. Their break-out song, “만만하니 (I’m Not Easy)” in 2009 came with a line-up change adding seventh member, Kiseop, and garnered newfound popularity in Thailand and the Philippines. They were the first K-pop group to hold a fan meeting in Cambodia and, in that same year, were the first Asian act to perform at the “Los 40 Principales” in Columbia. Throughout the group’s career U-KISS has performed and/or recorded songs in Korean, Japanese, English, Chinese, and Spanish and were usually one of the first K-pop groups to do so.
U-KISS’ eighth EP, Moments, marked a change in musical styles for the group. This album, with its title track, “내 여자야 (She’s Mine),” displayed the group’s experimenting with R&B and hip-hop. Composed by Brave Brothers (formerly of YG Entertainment, now CEO of Brave Entertainment), War of the Stars, and miss lee, and written by Brave Brothers, Maboos of the hip-hop trio Electoboyz, and Cha Khun, the track immediately begins without warning. It’s in-your-face nature of starting with Eli and AJ’s tag team rapping over steady drumbeat and bass guitar. The first singing verse continues this tough and strong vocal until the refrain comes with a smoother Kevin and Soohyun that only lasts for a few moments before starting the chorus. The underlying play with Korean lyrics and the rhythm of speaking and singing against the repetitive drumbeat that rarely changes throughout the song shows that it was written by rappers, mainly. Fun, but direct in saying that “she’s mine,” U-KISS ends the song with Kevin and Soohyun’s refrain and fading music, so that you heed their warning. It was a welcomed change, as the group continued to utilize the musical styles in later albums.
Ladymarsy. “U-KISS-Man Man Ha ni HD.” YouTube. 05 Nov 2009. https://youtu.be/04v7dRrHvbg (09 May 2022).
MBCkpop. “U-Kiss – Not young, 유키스 – 어리지 않아, Music Core 20080927.” YouTube. 11 Feb 2012. https://youtu.be/AKu_0dA6yCI (09 May 2022).
U-KISS. “U-KISS 유키스 – 내 여자야 (She’s Mine) – Music Video Full ver.” YouTube. 30 Oct 2013. https://youtu.be/lL2Gasb6QTg (09 May 2022).
TVXQ!, “12시 34분 Nothing Better,” 2009 Summer SMTown – We Are Shining (2009)
N Lina An
This song was part of 2009 Summer SMTown – We Are Shining which was released in mid-August. The album has a total of 4 tracks featuring TVXQ!, Super Junior and SHINee; each group releasing 1-track, and a collaboration track with all 3 groups. According to the article by Yoon-se Song of Newsen, the 4-tracks were released sequentially on Korean streaming sites. 12시 34분 Nothing Better is the 2nd track in this summer release and was the last to be released out of the 4 tracks.
Most information on this song can be found on Korean streaming sites such as Bugs! and Genie. Both sites credited John Paul Lam and Brandon Fraley as composers, Max Changmin as lyricist and Brandon Fraley as arranger. Then 5-member group TVXQ! (Hero Jaejoong, UKnow Yunho, Micky Yoochun and Max Changmin) who in 2009 were highly successful after the release of their 4th studio album Mirotic the year before. The group is known for their rich vocal harmonies, brought out various colors of the song 12시 34분 Nothing Better.
12시 34분 Nothing Better is a mid-tempo pop ballad. The 2 key features of this song is its use of advanced harmonic structures and vocal arrangements. The harmonic structure uses a lot of ii7-V7 chord progression (also known as secondary chord progressions) allowing flexibility to use chord tensions which is often used in jazz music. Hence, the jazzy R&B vibe is felt in this song. It is also interesting to note that the verse is in the key of G, whereas the chorus is in the key of Bb. This is quite special in terms of a typical pop song tonality which normally sticks to conventional tonic-dominant key structure.
Another interesting observation to note is that the chorus is more rhythmic and the verses are more melodious. The song opens with the chorus with Xiah Junsu taking the lead and the rest of the members providing the harmonies. The canon-like vocal arrangements creates a polyphonic weave of melodic variations, indicating advanced vocal arrangements, but apt for a vocal group like TVXQ!.
Yoon-se Song. “TVXQ-SJ-SHINee SM Summer Album Released in 2 Years” Newsen. 11 Aug 2009. https://www.newsen.com/news_view.php?uid=200908110848501002 (11 May 2022)
WOODZ, “난 너 없이 (I hate you),” COLORFUL TRAUMA (2022)
Vitoria F. Doretto
Cho Seung-young, known as Woodz (and Luisinho in Brazil, given his teenage days as a football player in the Brazilian football club Corinthians), is a Korean singer, composer, rapper, and producer. His musical career started in 2004 as the principal rapper in the Sino-Korean boy group UNIQ. Along with his solo schedules, the singer appeared in the fifth season of Show Me the Money and later on Mnet Produce X 101, in which he debuted as part of X1. His tracks as Woodz have a mix of genres, but most are deep in alternative R&B.
In his latest solo album, Woodz presents tracks immersed in pop-rock with lyrics intending to help his listeners overcome their bad memories and hard times. The third song, “난 너 없이 (I hate you),” is a pop-punk and pop-rock song. The solid track with explosive energy talks about someone getting over a toxic relationship and moving on but, in reality, still wants the ex-lover. It is written and composed by Woodz, Nathan (네이슨), and Hoho and produced by Nathan (네이슨) and Hoho. The highlight is the pre-chorus in a slower tempo and the English lines “I hate you, I forget you” because it surprises the listener and leaves a strong impression. The chorus is a more traditional rock with electric guitar and bass drum. His capacity to wander between sentimental, ferocious, and rhythmic moments and the rawness of his performance suits the genre and delivers a satisfactory and enjoyable song.
Stone Music Entertainment. “WOODZ (조승연) – 난 너 없이 (I hate you) MV.” YouTube, 4 May 2022. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCHk9zoFIr8 (10 May 2022).
Bobby, “RaiNinG” (feat. Ju-ne), Lucky Man (2021)
Luisa do Amaral
Korean rapper Bobby, born Kim Jiwon, was first introduced to the public in 2013 during the survival show WIN, in which he and his future group mates — then known as “Team B” — competed for the chance to become YG Entertainment’s first boy group since BIGBANG (2006). After losing to Team A (which went on to become WINNER), it would take another two years for him to become iKON’s Bobby, in 2015. Before that, in 2014, he competed on season 3 of Show Me The Money, the popular Korean rap competition. He became the first, and so far only, idol to win the show in its ten seasons, a victory which secured his place as one of the best rappers in the Korean music industry. He has so far released two solo albums; Love and Fall (2017) and Lucky Man, released on 25 January, 2021, with 13 tracks plus 4 skits, and featuring fellow iKON members DK and Ju-ne.
Lucky Man tells a story of success, love, and heartbreak; the b-side “RaiNinG” (feat. Ju-ne) comes right after Skit 4, starting the final portion of the album, which deals with the struggle to reach closure, but eventually moving on. The skit is a recording of Bobby arriving home, and pouring himself a drink, with rain sounds in the background. The song is credited to Bobby and producer HRDR, and it uses moody weather references to discuss pain and isolation. The swing rhythm gives it a jazzy sound and amplifies the melancholic feel of how the song is carried, with enough playfulness in the pace for it to be considered upbeat and hopeful, despite its gloomy subject. Even though the track has a clear sense of build-up, the melody and the hook — “I said it’s raining, raining, raining, raining” — make several repeated movements, giving it a feel of cycling through emotions. Ju-ne’s distinguishing raspy voice is one of the highlights; his vocal color matches the energy of the song, and Bobby’s, very well, and he’s able to convey the most intense emotions and tone it down when the track spaces out. On the bridge, he repeatedly sings “Save our soul”; Bobby is very open about his Christian faith. Even though Ju-ne isn’t credited in the lyrics, he’s also openly Christian, and thus able to deliver the lines with just as much meaning as they were intended to carry. “RaiNinG” was the third time that Bobby and Ju-ne worked together on a track, after the remake of Jeon Yu Na’s 1995 song “Even if I love you” (2019), a special stage for a competition show, and “Deep Night” (2020), a special song dedicated to iKON fans.
BOBBY – Topic. RaiNinG ft. JU-NE. YouTube. 25 Jan 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKiie6btN2Q&ab_channel=BOBBY-Topic (12 May 2022)
[HOT] BOBBY, Junhoe – in love with you, 다시 쓰는 차트쇼 지금 1위는? 20190205. 5 Feb 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TpF4h4ytrw&ab_channel=MBCentertainment (12 May 2022)iKON-ON : BOBBY & JU-NE – ‘깊은 밤’ (Deep Night). YouTube. 23 Jan 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWDG4dpgG9s&ab_channel=iKON (12 May 2022)
Billlie, “GingaMingaYo (the strange world),” (2022)
Tan Puay Shuang
Since the early 2010s, the K-pop industry has already seen many examples of idol groups creating their own ‘universes’. Notable examples are EXO and its ‘twelve forces nurturing the tree of life’, members of B.A.P representing alien rabbits called ‘Matokis’, and not to mention BTS’ infamous universe that spanned across multiple albums. Fast forward to the new era of metaverses, we now have SM Entertainment and the enigmatic GWANGYA, making it the biggest fictional universe that has ever been created in the industry thus far. However, Mystic Story also has their own way of introducing the element of storytelling through their artists’ repertoire – the six original members of Billlie (Haram, Moon SuA, Suhyeon, Sheon, Tsuki, Siyoon, Haruna) were originally known as Mystic Rookies and debuted in October 2021 and most of them have already stepped foot into the industry, most notably Moon Sua who started as a 10-year YG trainee (and was one of the members of ‘Future 2NE1’) and leader Suhyeon who previously contested in the first season of Produce 101 and a main character of the hit webdrama A-Teen. Their seventh member, Sheon, was later added to the group after her elimination from the final lineup of Girls Planet 999. In an interview, the members have explained that Billlie is defined as ‘an internal self that anyone can have and sympathize with’, and their fictional universe emphasizes on the significance of the number ‘11’, which is an essential part of the story that they want to tell (Aquila). A notable fact about this group is their unwavering intention of immersing their listeners into their lore by frequently referencing the number 11 and the ‘disappearance of Billlie’ in their lyrics.
As the title track to Billlie’s second EP ‘The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One’, ‘GingaMingaYo (the strange world)’ once again showcased Billlie’s distinctive, experimental musical colors. Although sounding like a thread of gibberish, the phrase ‘Gingaminga’ from the title is, in fact, a Korean expression of ambiguity and uncertainty, and the general message of the lyrics alludes to a person struggling to adapt to the changes in life as they grow older. Most people would recognise this synth-heavy dance-pop track by its chorus, especially the line “Wae GingaMingaYo?” which shares the same melodic phrase from the children’s song ‘Old MacDonald’ that has been engraved in most people’s minds. Above all, it was the choreography that received great attention for its eccentric use of facial expressions and sharp movements to mirror the ‘quirkiness’ that was being reflected in the lyrics. This was also the source of Tsuki’s newfound fame among netizens. Having prior experience as an idol in the J-pop scene and later proceeding to train in SM Entertainment, she brought out the essence of the choreography through her animated expressions and was widely praised for her exceptional professionalism through her viral fancam. With a member lineup with great potential in the industry and a compelling story to tell through their discography, there is no doubt that there is much more to receive from Billlie soon.
ARIRANG. “[플리캠 4K 가로] Billlie TSUKI ‘GingaMingaYo(the strange world)'(빌리 츠키 직캠) l Simply K-Pop CON-TOUR Ep.508.” YouTube. 25 February 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpCM_NDyPuI (12 May 2022).
Billlie. “Billlie | ‘GingaMingaYo (the strange world)’ M/V.” YouTube. 23 February 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKKh8d4wZbU (12 May 2022).
T. Aquila. “Meet Billlie: The K-pop Group with Mystical Lore.” Envi. 22 February 2022. https://www.envimedia.co/meet-billlie-the-k-pop-group-with-mystical-lore/ (12 May 2022).
WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 5 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.