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SEOULBEATS

HIGHLIGHTS M A G A Z I N E

The Seoulbeats Annual

Midyear review How did the releases of the year (so far) fare?

PLUS Youth: The Most Uncertain but Beautiful Moment in Life VOLUME 2 JULY 1, 2016 seoulbeats.com

FIESTAR | JONGHYUN | CRAYON POP | BGA LEE HI | BTS | JAY PARK | HYUNSEUNG


#2highlights “For the Fans, By the Fans”

FEATURES Follow the Movement Tour in San Francisco: AOMG and DIY Hip Hop Labels

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Gone are the times when hip hop was considered a niche genre. Mark reviews AOMG’s show. BY MARK ................................... 22

On Air, Don’t Care: Pushing the Boundaries of V App and Live Broadcasts

Recently, V App has gotten itself into a bit of a hot water after a rather messy live broadcast of a short variety show entitled Flower Crew. BY ERIANNE .............................. 26

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Gone, Minzy, Gone

Roundtable: Seemingly out of nowhere, we were hit with the news: Minzy would not renew her contract with YG. BY STAFF ................................... 30

Youth: The Most Uncertain but Beautiful Moment in Life

What makes youth so appealing and intriguing? BTS suggests an answer: youth is the most beautiful moment in life. BY QING .................................... 34

Midyear Review

A compilation of our reviews of the first half of the year’s dramas, MVs, albums, comebacks, and more. BY STAFF ................................... 40 2

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SHORTFORM Season in Review

A recap of the season’s news, debuts and comebacks. BY GAYA ...................................... 7

Indie Gem: Julia Dream

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Julia Dream is a band with these one-of-a-kind stories that they want to tell and find special ways to transpose that into their music. BY WILLIS ................................... 8

Music & Lyrics: The Intricacies of Breathing One little word, so many definitions. BY PAT ....................................... 10

Highlights from Dream Concert 2016

BY GAYA .................................... 12

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Hyunseung’s Troubled Future

Hyunseung is officially leaving Beast. BY DAWN ................................... 14

For Your Viewing Pleasure: 52nd Baeksang Art Awards

BY JOYCE ................................... 16

10 K-pop Dances That Should Be Cardio Workouts

BY CJONTAI ............................... 18

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When Oppa Doesn’t Want To Notice You: Idols vs. Sasaengs

Sasaeng. The one word no one wants to hear. BY MADI ................................... 20

REVIEWS MUSIC .............................. 46 DRAMA ........................... 56 seoulbeats.com

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SEOULBEATS M A S T H E A D FOUNDER Young-ji EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Leslie DEPUTY EDITOR Gaya MANAGING EDITOR Mark EDITOR-AT-LARGE Johnelle SENIOR EDITOR Laverne

Kangin and the Return of the DUI

ASSISTANT EDITORS Pat, Willis & Chelsea

HEAD OF SOCIAL MEDIA Lindsay WEB COORDINATOR John STAFF WRITERS Camiele, Cjon-

Monsta X Delves Into Obsession With The Clan Pt. 1 LOST

Roundtable: Shows We’d Like To See Remade In Korea

tai, Dawn, Elaine, Erianne, Hania, Irteqa, Joyce, Lauren M, Lo, Lorenza, Madi, Nabeela, Qing, Rachel, Sarah, Sonya, Sydney & Vya

SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANTS Claire, James, Li Ying, Mariana & Tesia ------

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Leslie

Sistar Displays Anguish And Strength In “I Like That”

NEVER MISS A BEAT ON THE GO

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER, TUMBLR & GOOGLE PLUS /seoulbeats 4

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IMAGE SOURCE CREDITS Cover - Big Hit Entertainment; pp. 2-3 - Big Hit Entertainment, YG Entertainment, HGHGRND, Chrome Entertainment, Cube Entertainment, Woollim Entertainment; p. 4 - SM Entertainment, Starship Entertainment, CBS; p. 5 - YG Entertainment, Instagram, SBS; p. 6 - SM Entertainment; pp. 8-9 - Julia Dream; pp. 1011 - Woollim Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, HGHGRND; pp. 12-13 - Dream Concert, VYRL; pp. 14-15 - Cube Entertainment; pp. 16-17 - Sports Daily News, Ilgan Sports, TV Daily, TV Report, News1, TenAsia; pp. 18-19 - Woollim Entertainment, TOP Media, C-Jes Entertainment, Big Hit Entertainment; pp. 20-21 - Instagram; pp. 26-29 - ; pp. 30-33 - YG Entertainment, Mnet; pp. 34-37 - Big Hit Entertainment; pp. 38-45 - Wong Fu Productions, JYP Entertainment, Rainbow Bridge World, HGHGRND, YG Entertainment, Coolluck Music, tvN; pp. 46-47 - LoenTree; pp. 48-49 - SM Entertainment; pp. 50-51 - Wong Fu Productions; pp. 52-53 - Coridel Entertainment, C9, SM Entertainment, Amoeba Culture; pp. 54-55 - OCN, KBS, MBC


5 THINGS I LOVED IN K-POP

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BY JOHNELLE

How People Move I’m a huge Akdong Musician fan and have been following them since they tried out for K-pop Star. There’s just something about their music that is refreshing and reminds me of the simpler and happier times of my youth. Akdong Musician also has some of the most creative and cute MVs -- there hasn’t been one that

I haven’t liked yet. I love their love songs, but I appreciate songs like “How People Move” because there is more things in the world to write songs about other than love.

A New Weekly Idol Weekly Idol was dealt with a major blow when Jung Hyung-don went on hiatus due to an anxiety disorder late last year. But with Defconn at the helm, the show carried on with a variety of guest co-hosts before settling on a team of EXID’s Hani and Super Junior’s Hee-chul. I’ve enjoyed a lot of their newest episodes with guests

the likes of JYP, Lee Hi, Akdong Musician, Twice, EXID and a recent rookie special with 4TEH, KNK and Astro. Hee-chul and Hani have a good chemistry with Defconn and being idols themselves.

mixtape SWEET NE SUNSHI #3

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Celebrity Bromance Celebrity Bromance premiered in February following actor Kim Min-jae and BTS’ V two friends who just also happen to be celebrities, hanging out. It’s something that celebrity friends don’t often have the chance to do because of their busy schedules and the lack of privacy due to their fame. Although the show is a fun expedition following the adventures of two famous friends, I do feel a bit bad that their time together only comes with a film crew. My favorite episode so far

was the episode with Nam Joohyuk and Ji Soo, you could sense their close relationship in the way they interact with each other and they packed in a lot things to do in their trip to Joo-hyuk’s hometown of Busan.

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Descendants of the Sun 2016’s biggest K-drama so far, Descendants of the Sun, began airing at the end of February. Unlike most of the K-drama fandom, I didn’t begin watching the drama right away although I am a fan of Song Joong.ki and Song Hye-gyo--I think the all the hype worried me and I didn’t want to be disappointed. But after hearing of the rave reviews and skyrocketing ratings, I just couldn’t resist and

got drawn towards the Sun with hopes of not getting burned. Luckily the story was good, but the acting of all the characters was what I think made fans fall in love with the drama. Everyone fell in love with not only the main characters, but all of the characters because the drama did a good job of developing even the smallest characters’ lives.

1. “CHEER UP” BY TWICE 2. “GOOD” BY DAYBREAK 3. “UM OH AH YEH” BY MAMAMOO 4. “BALLOONS” BY TVXQ 5. “ME GUSTAS TU” BY GFRIEND 6. “PRETTY U” BY SEVENTEEN 7. “I DON’T KNOW” BY APINK

Fantastic Duos I was torn between Show Me the Money 5 and Fantastic Duo for the final thing, but because Show Me the Money is in its 5th season (although it is one of the best so far), Fantastic Duo won out. Fantastic Duo gives fans the opportunity to sing a duet with their favorite Korean singers. Many try out and then three get selected

8. “SWEET GIRL” BY B1A4

to come on the show where the artist picks who they will sing with. There have been ‘fantastic’ performances featuring Taeyang, Kim Bum-soo, Ailee and EXO.

9. “AH-CHOO” BY LOVELYZ 10. “DREAM GIRL” BY SHINEE 11. “TWINKLE TWINKLE” BY GIRL’S DAY 12. “FEEL SO GOOD” BY B.A.P 13. “AALOW AALOW” BY LABOUM

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Community Correspondence mijooliet on “NCT U Nail the Aesthetics in ‘Without You’”: I surprisingly love Without You, and while I know that this a generic song, I really love the ‘free’ feeling it gives. Let me try to explain this… Yes, the song is about the boys’ expressing how ‘you’ are their everything and how miserable they are without ‘you’ but something about this track allows us to open our windows and sing while enjoying the sky, regardless of the lyrics. And who says we can’t grieve or wonder without feeling some sort of ‘freedom’ to do so? That free (and also dreamy, I suppose) vibe is enough to make Without You one of my favorite SM debut songs ever. sfbay15 on “SM Finally Delivers A Worthwhile Exo Story MV With ‘Lucky One’”: I was really feeling the MV…up until a dancing Kai showed up in Lay’s dream sequence and a sinking feeling that things were about to go sideways started to set in right before they actually did in the form of the comedic elements inserted into the MV. I dislike these comedic beats not in and of themselves but rather because of how they relate to the broader context in which SM has used the mythology of the members’ superpowers. 6

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That is to say, for me, “Lucky One” only served to further define the execution of the EXO mythology as haphazard rather than to successfully continue or reboot the concept. “Lucky One” held the promise to be the sequel to Pathcode that “Call Me Baby” and “Love Me Right” clearly were not, but the events of the second half of the MV create a disconnect between the two that leaves “Lucky One” lacking.

apparent arbitrary use (i.e. Pathcode followed up by “Call Me Baby”), the lack of a clear connection between the videos in which it appears, and the inconsistencies accompanying its implementation in tone and internal logic betrays a lack of forethought and planning that has delegated it to the role of gimmick. Which really is a shame considering that other groups such as BTS have recently shown how well a single concept and/or story line can be executed across multiple releases. poppysky on “The Career That Taemin Built”:

If it is meant to be part of the original story then the tonal shift personally prevents it from providing a satisfactory followup to its predecessors (Pathcode set the “epic” standard way too high.). If it’s part of a retconn, I feel it requires too many leaps of faith in order to smoothly integrate it with past superpower elements. Therefore, my frustration with the “Lucky One” MV arises from the fact that I see it as a symbol of continued lost potential. Given proper execution the superpowers concept held, and could still hold, strong storytelling promise, but its random insertion into MVs (i.e. “Miracles in December”), its

Taemin has definitely surprised everyone, not only with his dancing and vocal ability, but also in the sheer transformation from baby-dol to namja-dol in what seems like a blink of an eye. However, while Press It saw a marginal improvement in his range as an artist, I still believe that he has a potential for growth and change (change being the Key word here), especially when it comes to moving away from the SHINee sound that underlies a lot of his solo work. Not to say that it’s a bad thing but in a competitive scenario such as K-Pop, it would definitely help to diversify well and create a niche like Jonghyun has.

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For more Community Correspondence, check out our weekly segment Comments of the Week.


SHORTFORM

The Quarterly Review This quarter, we made our way through the northern Spring with solo releases, and -- sadly -- some very distressing news (warning: the following content may be disturbing to some readers).

SERIOUS NEWS It has been a particularly sad and unsafe time for women, with the shocking murder of a woman in a public bathroom by a man claiming to be a misogynist. Meanwhile, JYJ member and actor Park Yoochun is currently being accused of sexual assault by no less than five women. Four of the women filed charges, and Yoochun has been questioned by police while a media storm whirls around the issue. Seo Tai-ji and the Boys member Lee Juno has been booked for sexual harassing two women at a nightclub. Microaggressions like Park Myung-soo’s comment about revealing clothing in summer leading to increased rape claims, and 10cm’s Kwon Jung-yeol exclaiming that Mamamoo’s Whee-in was doing a disservice to men by covering her legs with a blanket, have also led to outrage. The silver lining is that Kim Hyun-joong’s ex-girlfriend was cleared of blackmail and fraud charges, while he is still facing defamation charges filed by her. Drink driving was another unwanted, but still present, crime as Verbal Jint and Kangin were both booked for driving under the influence. Verbal Jint quietly apologised on Instagram, stating that his license had been suspended. Kangin’s DUI -- his second -- was uncovered in spectacular fashion as media reports showed how he had mowed down a street light outside a convenience store. He was still over the legal BAC limit when he surrendered to local police the next morning, 11 hours after the incident. Kangin has since been put on hiatus by SM, with his absence further affecting Super Junior: Ryeowook has delayed his enlistment, and US stops for the group’s fanmeet tour have been cancelled. In other legal news, twin duo Tasty lost their contract termination lawsuit against Woollim Entertainment, meaning they are still signed to the agency. FNC Entertainment was investigated for insider trading around the time Yoo Jae-suk signed with the agency; CN Blue’s Lee Jong-hyun ended up receiving a lenient fine. C-JeS Entertainment is currently being investigated for tax evasion. And MBK, Han Ye-seul, Lee Seung-gi, Kris, and Ga-in took legal action against malicious content, comments and rumours.

COMEBACKS & DEBUTS AOA’s big comeback with “Good Luck” ran into some bad luck when Seolhyun and Jimin were raked over the coals for not recognising historical figure . JYP, Exo, Fiestar, Baek A-yeon, Kisum, Crush, Madtown, Monsta X, Romeo, VAV, Oh My Girl, CLC, Fiestar, Jang Kiha and the Faces, and Sistar, among others, also returned with new music. We were also showered with solo releases this quarter: A Pink’s Eunji, Infinite’s Woohyun, Jessica, SNSD’s Tiffany and f(x)’s Luna made their solo debuts, while Shinee’s Jonghyun, SNSD’s Taeyeon, Bada,15&’s Baek Ye-rin and more had solo comebacks. Debuts included Sol-T, I.C.E, Moxie Produce 101’s final top 11 debuted as I.O.I, while fellow contestant Hwang In-sun debuted solo. After one round of promotions, Chae-yeon returned to promote with DIA, while Se-jeong and Mi-na were withdrawn to debut with Jellyfish’s new girl group, Gugudan. Yoo Yeun-jung was also withdrawn by Starship; the remaining seven members will promote as a ‘unit’ later in the year. Yes, So-hye is still going strong: she’s even started her own agency and cafe!

TEASERS & ANNOUNCEMENTS Other releases we can look forward to include, among others: the Wonder Girls, Beast, Juniel, NCT 127, and YG’s new four-member girl group, Black Pink. YG also wants Mino and Bobby to simultaneously promote solo releases in July, before teaming up for unit promotions in August, but we’ll see if/when that actually happens.

HELLOS & GOODBYES Elsewhere, actress Kim Min-hee and married director Hong Sang-soo have been revealed to be in a relationship. In nicer news, U-Kiss-related idols Dongho and Eli became fathers! With their respective wives, not each other. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to more K-pop groups. 4Minute is effectively disbanded after Hyuna became the only member to renew their contract with Cube; she’ll be dropping her first solo studio album in August. Lim Kim also parted ways with Mystic, putting the future of Togeworl into question. N-Sonic took a different approach, by not turning up to schedules. Miss A and 2NE1 aren’t officially over, but with the departures of Jia and Minzy, respectively, we’re not sure what the future holds for these groups. But we may get to see solo stuff from the two departees, who have signed on to new agencies; and Fei has announced her solo debut, so I’m set. seoulbeats.com

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SHORTFORM

INDIE GEM J

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BY WILLIS Julia Dream (줄리아드림) is a psychedelic rock band that features some blues influences. Park Joonhyung is the leader, the guitarist, and singer. Son Byung-gyu plays bass guitar. Yeom Sang-hoon is the drummer. This three piece band has been playing for a while; they first started in 2010 but after some lineup changes, they settled in their current three membered form in 2013. Their name is derived from the Pink Floyd song of the same name. The band recently returned with their first full length album World Is On Fire: Empire of Anxiety, which is also a double CD concept album. According to an interview they did with Do Indie, they are heavily influenced by “60s western art rock or progressive rock” but the leader also feels there is a “’Koreanness’ in [their] music.” 8

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Julia Dream is certainly a unique band. I can’t quite pinpoint one genre that will fully encompass the band’s style, but they have shown a lot of growth with their latest album. Everything from the vocals to their rhythm choices seems to indicate a shift of direction. To show an apt comparison, let’s start with their first single album, Lay It Down On Me. It plays out as one cohesive elongated song. Lay It Down On Me gives listeners a strong sense of the band’s roots. “Voice” starts off the single with a displacing collection of sounds. A voice asks “do you want to sleep?” Joon-hyung’s vocals can be heard cutting through the track and

there are droning pitches that feel transformative. The tracks bleed into one another as “Lay It Down On Me” follows. Joon-hyung’s vocals are piercing and Byung-gyu lays down a really groovy bass line. “Echoes and Dance” continues with the bass and the lead guitar carves out runs against building tension. It’s spacey and full of sultry energy. “Breath of Life” slows down the tempo for something contemplative and intimate. The refrain is haunting and resonant. This single album shows that psychedelic nature of their music and has some blues influences littered throughout. Julia Dream is a band that plays


with sound textures by distorting tones and amplifying parts of a riff to really alter perception. Such is their cover of “Strange Fruit.” It has blues undertones running rampant throughout the cover. “Strange Fruit” is a tall order taken on with style by Julia Dream. They impart a grittiness to it but maintain the soulful connection and a sense of self in their cover. The passion comes through their performance, while the band can also play through multiple tempos and tones all within the span of a few minutes. Julia Dream show that they have a vast music vocabulary and aren’t afraid to color outside of the lines. Mixing it up a bit with a popular song that the band likes to gig is “Dance Music.” It’s one of their more upbeat numbers and the tempo works itself into your bones and gets you going. The melody is infectious, and the song is ruled by the bass and drums. Halfway through, the drumming adds dif-

ferent percussive elements, and illuminates another side to the band. World Is On Fire: Empire of Anxiety finally takes us to the latest evolution of the band’s sound. It is a double CD concept album that is progressive and post rock at times. If you read the story of the concept album (in the Do Indie interview), you’ll find that the band has a unique vision. If I had to summarize the concept album in three words, it would be environment, mortality, and madness. But really, you should read the story behind the album because it would explain how their sound has become so experimental in this latest album. There are some opera-esque and gothic details along with varying shifts of tone that really plays out in the album. The whole piece is absorbing, movements of sound that continue to hit you over the head in beautifully constructed, melodic waves. On “Casus Belli,”

you can hear those heavier riffs where the protagonist of their story devolves into hysteria. These are balanced out in other interludes throughout the album that may have similar melodies to prior songs, but feature different instrumentation. There is a thematic progression, and the construction of the album is phenomenal. Julia Dream is a band that is different in every essence of the word. They have an exceptional creativity in the way they compose their tracks. The vocal layering, guitar work, bass and drums all come together in intriguing arrangements. On top of that, they have these one-of-a-kind stories that they want to tell and find special ways to transpose that into their music. They are a band that continues to show growth in their sound and find exciting, new ways to express themselves. _____

For more indie music, check out our weekly segment K-pop Indie Gem.

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SHORTFORM

Music & Lyrics THE INTRICACIES OF BREATHING

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reathing. It’s as simple as taking in air, letting it fill your lungs, and letting it out. It is an action that comes naturally to us humans. But in poetry and literature, breathing takes on a whole level of symbolism. It refers to several things depending on the context – it is to be alive, it is ease, it is suffocation, it is rest, it is freedom. The difficulty of breathing is to illustrate suffocation and anxiety; and full stoppage of breathing is death. One little word, yet so many definitions. Maybe due to its nature of being easy to be taken in many ways, there are plenty of songs with the word ‘breathe’ as its title. It may be such an abstract word, but we all seem to know what it means and

BY PAT can easily interpret them. It translates well to any language and applies to many instances, which makes wordplay so much easier and all-embracing. The first song that comes to mind is probably one of the most obvious choices: G-Dragon’s 2009 track, “Breathe.” The second promotional track from his debut solo album, Heartbreaker, it starts off seemingly tackling the lonely world of being idol, before delving into his heartache. I can’t breathe no more I can’t sleep no more In this crazy world, the cold heart of the city, I’m alone I can’t live no more but I can’t

stop no more Even if I close my eyes I can’t hear your breathing anymore With the repeated hook of “I can’t breathe,” it’s easy to understand what the song is about: the feeling of suffocation from outside forces. “I don’t even care for the feeling like I’m being squeezed.” While on the surface it does seem like it is about his love life, one can put their tinfoil hats on and say that it is a brief glance of being alone despite the popularity. With a similar theme of relationships is Infinite’s “Breathe” from their second full-length album, Season 2. This time, they are not talking about not being able to breathe due to outside forces, but rather suffocation during a relationship. I like you too and it’s nice being together all the time But don’t overdo it, I’ll get sick of you at this rate Whoever I met, wherever I go, whatever I do Pretend you don’t know even if you do, Pretend you haven’t seen even if you have

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Stop caring so much Let me breathe, let me breathe Give me space to breathe, give me space to breathe Infinite’s “Breathe,” simply put, talks about their lack of freedom. Not settling for simple talk of how they suffocate from their loved ones being too clingy, Infinite furthers it by talking about a vicious cycle where their girlfriend “cross[es] the line,” making it her duty to make other girls know that they are together. Even when singing about being alone, the song makes it a point that the woman is the one sticking too close, where one can easily stop caring about the woman. It also makes it a point to paint the woman with stalker tendencies that Infinite are getting sick of – making the song easy fodder for people to say that this song could potentially be about sasaengs who might make Infinite feel as if the lyrics “Even when I’m home alone, I feel like I’ll see you” stick a little too close for comfort. Another is a title track from Miss A, “Breathe,” which followed their hit debut track, “Bad Girl Good Girl.” This strays away from the theme of suffocation and uses breathing to paint a picture of how a female feels at seeing her crush.

Because of you my heart drops Because of you my body wants (ya) Every time I catch your eye Every time you snatch my mind Because of you my heart drops no oh no oh no oh oh I can’t breathe It’s another universal theme – the feeling when you see they girl or guy that you like, and how you feel your breath hitch in your throat, especially if the person looks your way. In this song, breathing is used to illustrate the mix of nervousness and adrenaline rush when your crush looks your way. Unlike the previous tracks, this is seen in a more positive light, and looked upon happily as well. The last is a track released just earlier this year, Lee Hi’s “Breathe.” It is perhaps the most abstract of them all, fitting since Shinee’s Jonghyun, who does have a reputation for his expressive prose, wrote it. It’s okay if your breath gets short No one is blaming you You can make mistakes from time to time Everyone else does too Different from the other tracks, it tells the listener that it is okay to breathe, to sigh, despite the failures. It serves as a reminder that other people have failed and

yet continue on, to not shoulder the blame. It is the track that takes the theme of breathing and makes it inspirational, with a meaning that everyone can take to heart and relate with. Here, breathing is seen as a coping mechanism. Take a deep breath, let the air fill your lungs, and release it to the world, allowing this to become a vehicle of releasing your worries and failures. Lee Hi’s “Breathe” additionally reminds people that one can get too caught up in one’s own troubles, but so does everyone else, so when one says those words “I’m alright,” even when you are not, it’s understandable. There is an empathy that is weighed into those words, and it is universal. Breathe is a simple word, yet has so many meanings and ways when applied to any kind of lyrics. These are just a handful of songs that take the theme and run with it.

_____ For more lyrical analysis, check out our bi-monthly segment Music & Lyrics. seoulbeats.com

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SHORTFORM

Highlights from Dream Concert 2016 BY GAYA

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ne of the biggest events in the K-pop calendar, the Dream Concert returned for its 22nd iteration last Saturday. The jam-packed line-up included Wanna B, Romeo, A.cian, Berry Good, April, Laboum, Imfact, Tahiti, B.I.G, CLC, December, 24K, Jo Jung-min, Hong Jinyoung, Halo, Boys Republic, Fiestar, NCT U, I.O.I, Mamamoo, Seventeen, Lovelyz, T-ara, Vixx, BtoB, B1A4, Nu’est, Exo, Woohyun, Taemin, and more.

treated to just the dance break from not just the show’s top 11 trainees, but scores of students from Seoul Arts College, as well. But while the effect was nice, it did seem like overkill for what was, at most, a 75-second intro. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have your entire day dedicated to a 75-second mass performance. I hope those Seoul Arts College students got what they needed to make it worth their while.

This year’s concert was broadcast on Naver’s V app, and you can replay the entire concert and red carpet there. But if you don’t have five hours to watch the entire thing, I got you covered with my highlights of this year’s concert.

Nugus to watch: Boys Republic and Romeo

Most Grandiose Intro: I.O.I It seems there is only one way to perform “Pick Me;” with so many dancers that the only way a camera can capture everyone in the same frame is by backing it all the way up to the nosebleed section. And while — or maybe because — the 11-member version of “Pick Me” just does not sound as good as the version that became Produce 101‘s most recognised tune, we were 12

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How have I never watched a single performance of Boys Republic’s new song? “Get Down” sounds like the evil twin to Red Velvet’s “Ice Cream Cake.” Between the individualised outfits — one of them could only be described as ‘straightjacket chic’ — and the non-stop choreography, I didn’t know where to look. I knew exactly where to look for this performance of “Target” from Romeo, but I still cannot believe that the members can move so fast — even after trawling through every single live performance they have done of this song so far. Either everyone is speeding up footage of this rookie group from a small company, or they really are that fast and that


precise in their movements. Cutest Outfits: April Other stage costumes to catch my eye were April’s light blue fairy wings and matching wands — the members (and mascot Sawori) looked too cute for words! I adore everything about this entire comeback, and I am going to miss performances of “Tinkerbell” when April stops promoting. Also, an honourable mention to Red Velvet’s print tees: Yeri and Wendy were wearing your average American sports paraphenalia, but Seulgi took it to another level with a sequinned oversize tank dedicated to basketball team the New York Knicks. Meanwhile, Irene was ‘2on’ for this shit and Joy was just plain ‘Lit!’

T-ara led up to their performance of “So Crazy” with past hits “Bo Peep Bo Peep” and “Roly Poly” — and while the members moved as though they had gone hard at the gym and all their muscles had seized up, their winky fan service saw them through. And male ballad duo December took things further with their 2012 single “She’s Gone” — it was also the only song they performed. Most Superior Collaboration Stage: BoA’s “One Dream” by Yuju, Seulgi, Yezi, Seunghee and Sejeong Listen, I liked the guys’ stage too, but the glib VCR intro, Leo’s unstable opening lines, and the sloppiness that crept in towards the end factored into my decision. The ladies’ stage had an adorable VCR featuring MC Kim

Most Epic Mash-up: GFriend G-Friend arrived to huge cheers to the crowd, before proceeding to blow everyone’s minds with this mix of their schoolgirl trilogy. The six members transitioned seamlessly between “Glass Bead,” “Me Gustas Tu” and “Rough” before performing the full version of their (inadvertently) most well-known song to date, “Me Gustas Tu.” Most Fun Throwback: B1A4 Generally, at multi-act concerts such as Dream Concert, groups will perform their most recent songs; but some groups mixed things up with an older track or two. Nu’est and B1A4 opened with their most recent singles (“Overcome” and “Sweet Girl,” respectively), they both also chose to follow up with tracks from 2013. Nu’est revisited “Hello” with some revised choreography, while B1A4 were really enthusiastic about performing “What’s Happening?” to the point of using their talk time to teach the crowd the chorus, so that they could join in on the fun B1A4 was having on stage.

So-hyun and pre-debut performance clips of the idols, followed by a strong performance from all on stage. My only quibble was with Yezi’s blinkand-you’ll-miss-it appearance; but considering how it actually matched quite well with her current position as the new ice queen of K-pop, pouting in black, it’s a minor quibble. Most Hustle: Exo Exo is coming back this week with not one, but two title tracks — and they want you, and everyone who saw Dream Concert to know! In between performances of “Call Me Baby” and “Love Me Right,” we were all treated to the excitingly sinister teaser for “Lucky One” and some music showtype slideshow crap for “Monster” (though we did get something better

the next day). I don’t want to say that the great amount of thought put into the concept and aesthetics, the high production values of the music and visuals, and the massive marketing push is because SM sees BTS some rising boy groups as threats… Actually, no — that is exactly what I am saying. As long as we’re getting quality music over fanwars, though, I don’t mind. Most Random Performer: Milijenko Matijevic Usually, Dream Concert has a white, male DJ play a short set somewhere in the middle of the event. This year, the DJs (Joy and Doc) are Korean, but a white male still managed to sneak in somehow. Matijevic, singer for an American rock group, Steelheart, has been promoting in South Korea for a while now — he was even on Mask Singer earlier this year — and I don’t quite understand why. Maybe he or his band is popular there. I honestly don’t know, and Google doesn’t seem interested in explaining anything to me, including this performance. Most Potentially Awkward Ending Song: DBSK’s “Balloons” DBSK’s rendition of this children’s song is always fun to listen to (and watch), but when current SM idols are told to act like anyone who has left the company on bad terms no longer exists, how did all the SM kids in attendance react? Well, the same as any other idol on stage — what were you expecting? Everyone went about their business of waving to the cameras and putting on fan service for the audience. The only really awkward part, as someone mentioned to me, was when the cameras turned to Hani during boyfriend Junsu‘s parts.

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Hyunseung’s Troubled Future BY DAWN

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o it has finally happened. After months of confusion, mixed signals, and denials, Hyunseung is officially leaving Beast. Just over a week ago, Cube Entertainment announced that while Hyunseung will remain under Cube, he will promote as a solo artiste instead, parting ways with his members after six years. This move is hardly surprising, though, given the controversy that has surrounded Hyunseung and Beast since late 2015. The first sign of alarm had been Hyunseung’s absence from the Seoul Grand Fan Meeting in September 2015. While it is not uncommon for members to be absent from events due to conflicting schedules, this particular absence of Hyunseung’s had been particularly controversial for two main reasons. Firstly, there had been no prior notice given by Cube that Hyunseung would be unable to attend the event, especially when many fans had travelled from Japan just to meet the group. Secondly, while the official reasons stated for his absence had been ‘personal reasons’, Hyunseung was later found to be on an alleged date in a cafe in Cheongdamdong, at the same time of the fan-meeting. Many fans 14

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were quick to defend the singer, however, noting that it had been a week prior to Hyunseung’s father’s death anniversary, and he might have been meeting his sister. The truth behind Hyunseung’s absence was never clarified, and Cube maintained that Hyunseung was officially excused from the meeting due to personal reasons. Cube also denied all rumours of Hyunseung leaving Beast. As a one-off event, all was well in the weeks following this ‘café scandal’. However, more evidence of what netizens claimed to be an “attitude problem” by Hyunseung started cropping up soon after. A month after the café scandal, Beast had taken to Naver’s live broadcasting platform, V-App to celebrate their sixth anniversary through a live show that included fan interaction via the V-app live-feed comment section. It was during this broadcast when Hyunseung’s alleged attitude problem reared its ugly head. Q (to Hyunseung): What was your most memorable moment with Beast in the past six years? A: Getting my picture taken in a café. I have a private life too.


It is puzzling as to why Hyunseung would choose to mention this event at all if not in an apology, let alone choose it as his most memorable moment in the past six years. Even if he had had genuine reasons to be absent, it was an official event from which he was missing and there should have been an apology, at least, even if just a cursory one. But no, of course not – he goes, instead, and makes it out to be no fault on his part. From then on, it all started to go downhill. In January 2016, netizens observed that Hyunseung had liked nude photos on Instagram. Given the public nature of Instagram and the fact that the singer has under-aged followers, this was, indeed, un-exemplary and inappropriate behaviour. Close on the heels of this new controversy, Hyunseung came under fire, again, in February, for having allegedly fallen asleep during an interview. Again, fans were quick to defend him, arguing that it was understandable that Hyunseung was exhausted given the unforgiving schedules that idols have. But for the most part, it was clear that it was becoming increasingly difficult for fans to come up with plausible excuses for Hyunseung’s behaviour. The chain of events leading up to this point had already seen Hyunseung’s rapidly depleting popularity as fans increasingly expressed dissatisfaction, even compiling “evidence” of Hyunseung’s poor attitude over the years. By the end of February, Cube Entertainment and, maybe, Hyunseung himself began to sense that the problems were not going to simply bury themselves. Really though, the possibility of the problem going away over time had disappeared in October 2015, in the moment when Hyunseung decided that his café photo was his most memorable moment in six years. Nevertheless, both Hyunseung and Cube Entertainment issued official apologies at the end of February, with Hyunseung admitting that everything had been “undeniably his fault”, and that he would strive to “express himself more sincerely”. He was also sorry for “making fans worry”, and would

“sincerely work hard to better himself as an artist in the future to avoid similar controversy from happening”. But even with apologies all round, controversy continued to plague Hyunseung as he continued to be absent from various other events. Rumours regarding his departure from the group began brewing for a second time and again, Cube was quick quell them. But by this time, everything was starting to become tiresome.

Nothing was making sense, and nothing seemed to be changing despite the apologies and promises. Hyunseung was still absent from events; he was still seen completely separate from the rest of Beast in public despite sharing the same schedule; and most of all, there didn’t seem to be any real effort at all in presenting a united front to the public and to their fans. Which leads us to the conclusion that perhaps, Beast couldn’t present a united front because there was never going to be one. In hindsight, this lack of cohesion within Beast had perhaps been bubbling for a long time. In 2014 when Beast had been filming MBC every1‘s second season of Showtime, the interactions amongst the members had seemed pretty genuine, natural and warm, with the exception of Hyunseung who constantly seemed bored,

or just a tad out of place. Back then, many had chalked it up to his conservative on-screen personality; but in light of how things have played out, perhaps not? Unofficially, too, the other members of the group have all been pretty consistent with posting photos on Instagram together — together without Hyunseung, that is. A quick survey of Hyunseung’s Instagram account also reveals a grand total of zero group photos in the past year. So when Cube announced Hyunseung’s departure from Beast, citing concerns regarding differences in music tastes and personality between him and the rest of the members, hardly anyone batted an eyelid. Reactions from netizens ranged from spiteful glee to anger and sorrow; but surprise was clearly not in the mix. The whole episode had been so long-drawn, that it would probably have been more surprising had Hyunseung continued to stay on in Beast. Now that the dust has settled, however, it is unclear as to what kind of future lies ahead for Hyunseung. Beast is unlikely to face any major drawbacks, having built up a solid fan-base in their past six years and with the remaining five members each pulling almost equal weight within the group. In fact, with Hyunseung’s departure, fans might even be sympathetic during their upcoming comeback and render even greater support to the group than before, allowing for Beast to gain a second wind. Hyunseung, on the other hand, has had hordes of fans turn their backs on him in light of the series of controversies since late last year. At the same time, he had had a less-than-stellar solo debut in 2015, and his sub-unit promotions as Trouble Maker with 4Minute’s Hyuna hasn’t had any activities since 2013. So even as Hyunseung is slated to promote as a solo artiste with Cube, the reality remains that contract renewals are up for negotiation this October and the possibility of military enlistment also looms ominously as Hyunseung draws towards the age of thirty. Indeed, it seems like Hyunseung’s path ahead might be one riddled with obstacles. seoulbeats.com

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52

For Your Viewing Pleasure

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Baeksang Art Awards BY JOYCE

Welcome back to For Your Viewing Pleasure, where we take time out of the week to curate a set of photos from the K-pop landscape. The 52nd Baeksang Arts Award took place this past weekend, with much fanfare. As celebrities took home glittering trophies, fans also got to enjoy and appreciate an eyeful of gorgeous red carpet looks. Im Shi-wan

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Suzy

Park Seo-joon


Kim So-hyun Park Ha-sun

Yook Sung-jae Song Joong-ki & Song Hye-go

Hyeri Park Bo-gum

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K-POP DANCES THAT COULD BE CARDIO WORKOUTS BY CJONTAI

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ver watch K-pop choreo that looks so exhausting that you find yourself sweating by the end of the video? Does your pulse increase? Do you attempt an eight-count of steps, give up, and console your bruised ego with ice cream? Perhaps you’re one of the majorly talented fans who can actually cover these fast-paced routines without turning into a puddle of tears. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear these dances show just how much stamina these idols have. Sometimes, I think K-pop choreography should be offered as an exercise option in gyms. You get to hear great songs while dancing to your favorite routines. I’m sure there are places in the world where this happens already, but if you’re looking for a shortlist of dances for a home workout, here are some I think could get your engine going.

#1 “Cheer Up” by Twice This one could probably work for warming up. It’s not too strenuous, but there’s just enough movement to get the muscles prepared for what’s coming next. The steps aren’t overly complicated, which is great for those of us who struggle in the dance department. It also doesn’t hurt for the choreo to follow the mid-tempo beat pretty evenly throughout the song. This routine shouldn’t wear you out too badly if you’re in decent shape.

#2 “Bar Bar Bar” by Crayon Pop Again, it’s very simple choreo, but the key here is to merely get your heart pumping. Your trainer may not approve of multiple sets of jumping like a pogo stick, but this routine is definitely more fun than doing burpees. You probably already do these kinds of moves in exercise already, so it won’t be a stretch putting those same moves to music. If you want a creative way to get kids into being more active, inspire them by doing a cover of this choreography. Yes, you they are allowed to wear helmets 18

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to match the members.

#3 “Like This” by Wonder Girls Have you broken a sweat yet? Are you still breathing? Good, let’s continue to an old favorite from the Wonder Girls. Another song for funsies, I love how casual and upbeat the dance is. The constant leg wobbles mean you won’t be in one place for long. Plus, how do you not have this song already in your workout playlist? Whether it’s the song or the dance, it’s hard not to break a sweat to this one. Try doing a couple of the moves while cleaning; it’ll make things go by quicker.

#4 “Only One” by Boa Don’t let the lyrical tune throw you off. The steps for this routine move faster than the light piano melody. What truly intrigued me was how well the dance matched the song when it could’ve easily been choreographed with something closer to ballet or contemporary. You may have to watch the video several times to catch every intricate nuance, but if you nail this dance, you’ll be rewarded with an awesome calorie burner. If Boa made exercise videos, she’d probably conquer that arena the same way she has with music.


#5 “Mansae” by Seventeen Got a large group of friends who want to increase their heart rate? See if they’re up for this energetic number, but make sure you do it in a wide open space. Coming up with dances for large groups is a challenge in itself, but Seventeen is up for it. This group has garnered a lot of attention for their highly energetic routines, so putting this on the list was a no brainer. Seventeen exudes youthful exuberance in spades with their quick steps and swift transitions.

#6 “Paradise” by Infinite This could work for cooling down; however, it’s Infinite. Their routines aren’t exactly in the chill aisle, so if you were hoping to relax, then you came to the wrong place. Honestly, just about anything from Infinite could work because they are known for their intense choreography. Filled with sharp, hard-hitting moves, “Paradise” barely pauses for a break. It’s fascinating to watch how effortlessly they pull off this routine, but you know it has to be exhausting. I can’t think of a better candidate for cardio.

#9 “Incredible” by Xia Junsu Do you see this? Definitely, not for the faint of heart. Junsu is an incredible performer, and I’m not saying that to be cute with the title of this song. Look at the energy the backup dancers put into this. Now look at Junsu. He’s not taking any breaks; therefore, it’s only fair that those performing this routine do the same. Another routine that requires consistency in movement and steady footwork, I can actually picture this playing in a Zumba class or some other dance-related exercise. It might even be easier to do Zumba, but you should give this choreo a try just to say you did it.

#10 “Fire” by BTS

#7 “Rocking” by Teen Top Three words of my best advice for anyone on this routine: Don’t hurt yourself. Even the members themselves experienced injuries from this dance, so take the proper precautions and do some stretching exercises before attempting a single step. The frenetic footwork is key here as Teen Top moves at lightning speed. You’re going to need a ton of stamina to keep up. That means you can’t quit halfway for a reward smoothie, but if you manage to conquer this beast, then a congratulatory sundae might be acceptable.

And this is where I throw in my towel. If you’ve danced your way up to this point and survived, congratulations! I’m pretty much at my limit when it comes to most BTS routines, but this one left me breathless. The breakdown near the end with the quick stomping movements looks complicated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attempt this dance. There are a lot of dynamics in this choreo, so be sure to hit every move for maximum impact. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m letting you all know that I’m not a professional fitness trainer. My idea of exercise is watching these videos because that alone makes me perspire. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the choreographers of these dances. I also feel humbled by all idols who perform these routines daily for fans on music shows and at concerts. Their dedication is truly admirable, and that’s why fans adore them.

#8 “Lucifer” by Shinee It is possible to execute this routine without passing out. Well, if you’re Shinee. This one should increase the heart rate even if you don’t perform the dance. Something about watching Shinee dance is both mesmerizing and tiring because they do so much. It really speaks volumes about a group’s dedication to dance when they can perform older routines at concerts with the same amount of energy they had from their rookie days. If they can do it, then you can — continue watching them do it. Unless you really want to try this, then go ahead but please stay hydrated. seoulbeats.com

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Idols vs. Sasaengs When Oppa DOESN’T Want To Notice You BY MADI

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asaeng. The one word anyone involved with Korean entertainment doesn’t want to hear. It’s a title that doesn’t reign of glory and high praise. Sasaengs are the ones who ruin it for the many. What started out as a simple harmless “I hope senpai will notice me” lifestyle for sasaengs turned into hacking into idols’ phones, calling them repeatedly, creating fake accounts of said idols, stalking them to and from a location, breaking into their homes, and/or disturbing not only the artists, but their families while they’re on vacation.

against sasaengs and anti-fans alike. As early as 2012, artists from YGE, JYP, Woolim, C-JeS Entertainment, and other companies have taken up the mantle of defending themselves. When it comes to fighting against sasaengs, it’s a bit more difficult since not much can be done if no one was hurt physically. This could be the reason as to why idols are being more outspoken about shedding light on their actions instead of keeping silent.

EXO’s Chanyeol and Sehun during live recordings on V app have called out fans or picked up a phone call, yelling into the receiver to stop calling them. SHINee’s Key and SNSD‘s Taeyeon And for anti-fans, it’s more about spreading have called out sasaengs on their Instagrams negative rumors and slanders of someone’s name about their behavior and actions towards the and image. There’s not much to gain outside of idols, calling them repeatedly or adding them the sheer thrill of impacting and damaging some- into fan chats without their consent. f(x)’s Luna one’s life. has also announced her displeasure of these “fans”. Key was particularly vocal about the issue While all artists will at some point have these (see image on the next page). type of fans, it seems that the ones mainly heard about (and are out of control) are the artists Idols aren’t seen much as people in the world of belonging to SM Entertainment. Not to mention, business, but more so as objects and livestock. SME seems very late on the uptake of fighting Companies seek to make a profit off of their voc20

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als, visuals, and performances. Keeping this in mind, companies promote their “property” in order to increase sales and value. SM tends to promote its idols as not so much artists, but as objects to be idolized. An idol (as an object) only serves one purpose and it is to be worshipped. It doesn’t have a life, likes or dislikes, choices, free will, or anything that would make it human. A company like SME probably doesn’t consider taking much action against sasaengs because they’re a means of profit. It’s not an unknown fact that SM dominates in physical sales. For example, in the last quarter of 2015 according to the Gaon Chart, SME had the top physical album sales. When you consider a group like EXO which has currently nine members, pair them with a sasaeng fan who unconditionally supports them, there’s a very good chance said person will buy nine copies of one album, compensating for each member. Combine the ideal with a large group of sasaengs, and there’s the considerable portion of sales. So don’t take away a revenue because if you act against it, it’ll pull out its support. With this type of promotional marketing system, some people

forget that behind the idol status is a person. Strip them off the fame and they’re just one of us. No one in their right mind would do this to someone they know, respect, or even someone they don’t know. Harassment, bullying, breaking and entering, trespassing, and stalking are all wrong. Everyone seems to understand this except for them. Actions like this are very hard to control in a place like Korea where, at one point, there wasn’t much of an anti-stalking law. But seeing how the actions of sasaengs can put their life, an idol’s life, or people unrelated in danger, a stronger law has been enforced with higher fines and possible jail time. Granted, it’s only been introduced this year but there’s hope such a law will be taken seriously when people report stalking or harmful and unwanted attention. Some anti-fans think artists are deserving of such actions just because they’re an idol pursuing a dream. And with that status comes hardships they have to be understanding of and deal

with because it “comes with the job.” That it’s okay to subject them to stalking, harassment, privacy invasion, etc., because “they should know better.” In truth, there’s no good reason for anyone to be treated with malice or shaming for unjust purpose or “just because”. Idols normally do not mind meeting or spending time with fans. That’s the sole purpose of fan meetings, the Daum cafe, and now Naver’s V app. Events and interactions have to be on an artist and company’s terms. A company sets up a meeting time, location, and date and allows fans to access the event. Calling someone like Chanyeol and Taeyeon repeatedly in hopes they’ll pick up? Not okay. There is no mutual agreement, especially if the idol didn’t give out their information in the first place. When it comes to sasaengs, oppa or unnie does not want to notice you. Them picking up the phone and yelling saying not to call them, that’s not being noticed. That’s responding to harassment. For anti-fans, you’re getting noticed but that comes with the possibility of a lawsuit notification and a police officer showing up at your door to put you in handcuffs. seoulbeats.com

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features

Follow the Movement Tour in San Francisco AOMG & DIY Hip Hop Labels

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BY MARK

ay Park has been incredibly busy. In the span of two and a half years since he founded AOMG, he’s released ten singles and two albums. He’s been a variety show staple, regularly appearing on Saturday Night Live, Show me the Money, and Dancing 9 among many others. At the same time, he has turned AOMG into a budding hip hop label. He’s also been touring with his label. Following a short US tour in late 2014, AOMG did another short run in Korea earlier this year before embarking on a much more rigorous schedule which took them across 8 US cities in 13 nights. Luckily, I was able to attend the second to last stop of the “AOMG Follow the Movement 2016 American Tour” in San Francisco. But before I talk about the concert, let’s talk about AOMG’s place among DIY hip hop labels, meaning labels which were founded and run by hip hop artists. 22

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Gone are the times when hip hop was considered a niche genre. Gone are the times when rappers rarely appeared on television. Gone are the times when YG Entertainment was considered Korea’s hip hop label. Nowadays, hip hop has gone full mainstream with hip hop artists dominating the charts and the airwaves. In this age, hip hop labels are the ones with the most to gain and a number of them have sprung up to stake their claim. In this industry, it’s all about connections; it’s all about getting the right people behind an artist. Success isn’t dependent upon talent as much as it’s dependent upon who’s representing the artist and who’s distributing the music. The reach of the label and its distributor means the difference between commercial success and failure. This is where connections matter a lot because getting one of these giant conglomerated distribution chains to partner with a newly formed


hip hop label isn’t particularly easy. With that in mind, there are a couple of grass roots hip hop labels which have established quite a name for themselves. Starting with the biggest one with the longest history, IC Entertainment was founded in 2003 by Rhymer. It has gone through several incarnations, having dipped its toes into the idol game as Brand New Stardom until 2011 when it split off and rebranded itself as Brand New Music. It currently boasts a bloated roster of over 20 artists and producers with Verbal Jint and San E getting the most gloss. Brand New has become a mainstay of the entertainment industry having heavily participated in Mnet’s popular hip hop competition programs, often deploying its artists as participants, judges, hosts, or producers. It currently utilizes LOEN and Neowiz as its distributors.

Second in line in terms of longevity, Amoeba Culture was cofounded in 2006 by the members of Dynamic Duo and currently boasts a roster of six with Dynamic Duo, Primary, and Crush as its headliners. Its presence in the industry was strong for some time with Primary and Zion.T making a name for themselves as producers but it’s since experienced some instability with the departures of Supreme Team and Zion.T. Its distribution chain is still solid, however, with LOEN and CJ E&M as its partners. Co-founded in 2011 by Dok2 and The Quiett, Illionaire Records boasts a humble yet essential roster of three. Dok2 and The Quiett have established themselves as outstanding producers while Beenzino has been largely benefiting off of having such a strong supporting cast around him. Distributed by CJ E&M, this small but superb label is

on the up and coming. This finally brings us to AOMG. Founded by Jay Park in 2013, this label has done quite well in its short time of existence. It currently boasts a roster of 11 artists and producers with Jay Park, Simon D, Loco, and Gray at its forefront. While Jay Park gets top billing over everyone else, the rest of the roster is not to be overlooked. Other than those artists mentioned, the label also consists of DJ Pumpkin (who was DJing at the concert), formerly of Amoeba Culture, and also dancer and producer extraordinaire Cha Cha Malone. Furthermore, it’s finally hit its distribution stride by partnering with CJ E&M this past January. With all this in mind, let’s talk about the concert and the performers within the context of how each of them contributes to

AOMG’s success in the DIY hip hop scene.


First up was Simon D, a former member of Supreme Team, who left Amoeba Culture to become co-CEO of AOMG. Starting the show off with their most experienced rapper was a good choice. Simon D knew exactly how to hype up the crowd as he kicked off the set with “Simon Says” before transitioning seamlessly into his hit songs, the self-titled “Simon Dominic” and “Won and Only.” My favorite moment of his stage was when the beat quieted down, allowing him to highlight his rapping chops as he wowed the crowd with his rapid fire delivery in “Money Don’t Lie.” He filled the latter part of his set with older hits from his Amoeba days such as “Lonely Night” and “Cheerz.” Towards the end of his set, he splashed the audience with a bottle of water, temporarily 24

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quenching us of our insatiable enjoyable performer to watch thirst for what was still to come. because of his easygoing persona. His deliveries are on point Simon D set the stage for the and complement Gray’s rapping next performers, the tandem of and vocals really well. They’ve Gray and Loco. Gray came out both already accomplished a first and entertained the crowd lot in their short time in the with “High No More” before limelight. After winning the Loco got on and performed “If inaugural season of Show Me the I.” My favorite performances Money, Loco released an album from this double act were the under AOMG and participated tracks in which they performed as a judge alongside Jay Park equally together, most notably on the show’s fourth season. “Respect” and “In My Head.” As Gray is a bit of a sleeper in that a duo, the two make a fine team. he’s accomplished so much yet I really enjoyed their rather people still may not know who laidback vibe which was a good he is. That’s because his best contrast to the fiery temperawork is done behind the scenes, ment of Simon D. producing some of the finest hip hop and R&B tracks in the There’s no doubt that Gray and past couple of years. He’ll likely Loco are the darlings of the be getting more recognition label. Gray is a bit of a musical since he’ll be replacing Loco as everyman in that he raps, sings, a judge in season 5 of Show Me and produces. Loco is a very the Money.


At last, it was time for the main attraction. It was no mystery who everyone came to see. The moment Jay Park took the stage, the place got much louder and livelier at once. He began his set with a sleight of slow jams to get the crowd warmed up but things heated up very quickly once he started hitting us with dance moves in rapid succession. Park then engaged the crowd for a brief moment before jumping into some of his more recognizable songs in “Solo” and “Joah.” Park didn’t shy away from putting on display all of his star qualities, which was not only limited to his singing, dancing, and rapping. He got the crowd super engaged by telling us about his life, like how he went to a local nightclub the night before but didn’t drink. He talked about how being on Show Me the Money made him want to focus more on hip hop. He even pointed out the numerous panties he saw thrown on stage and kept one in his jeans pocket as a memento. And of course he serviced his fans, most of which were teenaged and college-aged

females. From the gradual striptease which occurred throughout the set to jumping into the crowd and allowing those who were fortunate enough to be in the vicinity to engulf him for a frantic couple of minutes, Park pulled out all the stops to make sure his fans had a good time.

The entire crew of AOMG came out in the end to perform a couple of songs together and to pose for group shots in what felt more like an extended conclusion to what was already the climactic point in the evening. Overall, it was a fun night and

it was definitely a show worth checking out even if you are, like myself, not a big fan of any of the artists. But by the end of the night, I certainly had a greater appreciation for all of the performers and my respect for Jay Park as a performer and leader of his label drastically increased. So where does AOMG stand among its competitor labels in the DIY hip hop game? It hasn’t been around long enough to have as much sway or leverage as Brand New, and it hasn’t established as much mainstream appeal as Amoeba, but AOMG is right there with Illionaire in terms of having established a strong foothold with significant potential to grow. Unlike the Beenzino concert which I had the privilege of attending a few months back, AOMG draws a much younger crowd in comparison to its Illionaire counterpart, most certainly thanks to Jay Park and his idol roots. Park is undoubtedly the “x factor” for his selffounded label and having such a considerable presence in that share of the market is just another reason why AOMG has got a bright future ahead of it. seoulbeats.com

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features

On Air, Don’t Care Pushing the Boundaries of V App and Live Broadcasts BY ERIANNE

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ver since Naver launched the V App last year, K-pop fans both in South Korea and all around the world were ecstatic to know that the opportunity to get closer and more intimate with their favorite idols would be more possible than ever before. This application, which can be downloaded and installed via any iOS or Android smartphone, has given fans the chance to directly witness the live broadcasts of idols as well as drop their own comments while the live broadcast is in session, thereby being able to communicate with idols on the spot despite being miles 26

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and oceans away from where the idols are. While the V App has had its fair amount of technical inconsistencies, it is nevertheless a significant entity which the more global and technological age of K-pop has utilized. From regular updates which idols can conduct themselves by doing impromptu live broadcasts to actual minisegments of the variety show-kind that the idols have created themselves just to entertain fans, it has definitely revolutionized the way fans interact and connect with idols.


Recently, V App has gotten itself into a bit of a hot water after a rather messy live broadcast of a short variety show entitled Flower Crew. The show, which was made to mimic KBS’ popular reality TV series 2 Days and 1 Night, would be utilizing the application’s fan interactivity feature by relying on fan votes and comments for the different tasks and challenges which the celebrities on the broadcast would be doing. The Flower Crew variety show stars some veteran MCs of the industry (former professional soccer player Ahn Jung-hwan, former professional basketball player Seo Jang-hoon, comedian Jo Se-ho, and Yoo Byung-jae) as well as two young rookie celebs– actor Kim Min-seok who appeared in Descendants of the Sun, and BTS’ maknae Jungkook. During the first day of broadcast, fans voiced their concern regarding the way the MCs were treating Jungkook and Min-seok. From refusing to accept the food that Jungkook bought and their condescending remarks towards Jungkook’s popularity, to their allegedly rude way of talking to Min-seok, it wasn’t long before fans were making their discomfort known and soon, the older cast members issued apologies addressed

to Jungkook’s and Min-seok’s fans, acknowledging that what happened during the live broadcast might have been inappropriate to a certain extent. Some might say that the overall incident was just an unfortunate and awkward misunderstanding. As the MCs have relayed in their apologies, they were trying to be close, however some fans (particularly South Korean fans) are definitely not buying it considering how Korean etiquette and

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manners between strangers is different between close friends and acquaintances. In addition, fans were also quick to pick up on Jungkook’s and Min-seok’s nervous demeanor. Jungkook in particular appeared way too uncomfortable during the MCs’ moments of casual jesting (mostly deriding Jungkook’s fame) and considering how this was Jungkook’s first time on a variety show alone without his fellow BTS members, it was easy for anyone to feel bad for the maknae. Misunderstanding or not, it was clear that right off the bat, this incident is just an example of why V App’s fan interactivity feature is not always that pleasant. Since Flower Crew heavily depends on fan requests and votes for the execution of certain missions on the show, it was almost way too obvious that Jungkook would almost

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always be the most favored one considering how BTS (along with Exo and Big Bang) has one of the largest followings on V App. In the end, what could have been a supposedly funny and highly entertaining show (since it was meant to be like 2 Days and 1 Night), ended up becoming a hot mess. Apart from the comments, the live broadcast format was definitely not the way to go for this variety show. Since the V App’s appeal is that it makes everything look authentic by getting rid of cuts and fancy edits that one would normally witness in TV network shows, it is clear that this sort of format is something that would not work on a variety show. Variety shows are variety shows for a reason. Despite how they try to appear ‘authentic’, a part of it will always be scripted and

altered via that signature Kvariety style of editing which more often than not can either positively or negatively manipulate the way viewers can perceive a certain incident or cast member involved on the show. V App as a supposedly genuine and intimate medium for fans and idols should remain just as that. Sure, Naver occasionally releases variety-like content on V App (case in point: BTS’ Bangtan Gayo and Run! BTS), but they are still edited and formatted in a way that it appears just like your usual variety program — deceptively full of consistent fun and laughs and devoid of any awkward moments or uncomfortable scenes which some viewers might easily misinterpret. Due to how the K-Entertainment world relies heavily on the


relatively controlled environment and masterful editing of their shows in order to get the most desired reaction from fans and viewers, it is easy for the cast and crew members to overlook the consequences that might emerge during an actual live broadcast. Guests and MCs might get too comfortable and forget that this scene or that scene cannot be edited out once it has been executed and so on. However, on a more hopeful note, perhaps this recent live broadcast mishap could encourage TV personalities to be a lot more professional and careful regardless of whether or not editing will be involved in the show. After all, this kind of incident has probably happened dozens of times — probably also at the expense of budding rookie idols and celebs — behind the scenes of various other variety programs and were simply hidden away from the eyes of the general public after some careful editing. In the end, despite the promising premise of the show, the cast (particularly the MCs) seemed way too used to the usual goings-on of a TV network broadcast where you could simply pull off anything and depend on the editing skills of the PDs to make it work in everyone’s general favor. Add to that the fact that Jungkook and Min-seok are more or less variety show neophytes and you’ve got yourself a train-wreck of a show. seoulbeats.com

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features

Gone, Minzy, Gone BY STAFF Seemingly out of nowhere, we were hit with the news that Minzy would not renew her contract with YG Entertainment. Meanwhile, CL, Dara, and Bom have all renewed their contracts and that there are plans to have a 2NE1 comeback later this year. This is not the first time a group has faced member lineups due to contract expirations. Just earlier this year, three of four 30

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KARA members let their contracts expire. Since then, each member have gone their own ways, and signed with other agencies. This begs the question: did you expect this to happen? What future do you see for Minzy? With Minzy gone, do you expect any changes in dynamic from 2NE1? Finally, do you think Minzy is better suited for another agency, and if so, which agency?


Lorenza: I was expecting some news about 2NE1, but definitely not Minzy leaving. Minzy is so incredibly talented as a dancer and is a strong singer that having her locked away in the YG dungeon wasn’t doing anyone any favors. While I’m sad to see Minzy go, I’m also so excited to see what she’s going to do next. It’ll be interesting to see her grow as an artist, especially if she signs on to a label that’s more suited to her ambitions. Speaking of labels, I’m not entirely sure which agency would be the best fit for her, but I’d love to see her at Loen, or maybe CUBE? Ideally, it would be nice to see her somewhere that supports her, but lets her have most of the creative control she probably craves. Definitely somewhere with a better reputation for letting their idols pursue their creative interests while providing a support system for them. Without Minzy, 2NE1 is going to be different. There’s definitely going to be a dynamics shift and it’ll be difficult to predict exactly how that’s going to play out. I’m not sure they’ll be able to have the same dances they used to without her to make them look effortless. But maybe they’ll be like f(x) and something will click and the music they’ll produce will be just as good. Hopefully it’ll be great, but that’s mostly because I just really want Bom back (please, just give her back to the pub-

lic, I miss her adorable self so much) and we all know if they fall anywhere short of perfection Papa YG is going to put them back in the dungeon. And I don’t think 2NE1 will survive another dungeon period. Erianne: Whether or not it’s the K-pop cynic in me, but I always believed that at least one person from 2NE1 was going to leave this year, and judging from how Dara’s been pretty preoccupied with stuff outside of music, I reckoned that if it wasn’t going to be Bom leaving 2NE1, then it was going to be Dara. So for YG to suddenly drop this sad truth bomb on us was definitely something that I did not expect. As Lorenza mentioned, Minzy is too damn talented to be ignored. She even has the stage presence and the charisma to boot–and to think that she’s one of the youngest veteran idols out there. At this point, since YG’s statements have been rather ambiguous, we

can only speculate a variety of reasons behind her departure. From frustration to maybe just a personal change in musical style and philosophy, everything’s pretty plausible at this point. However, Minzy’s father joining in on the drama certainly implied that it might have been more on frustration on Minzy’s part since he wanted to indicate how her departure wasn’t necessarily ‘in good terms’ as YG sort of made it out to be in their official press statement. In the end, despite how upset I may be that Minzy left 2NE1 (because she was such a vital member in that group), I can only hope for the very best for her. I hope Blackjacks will continue to support her and I hope she enters an agency that will definitely acknowledge and appreciate her skills and talents. On the other hand, I also hope that 2NE1 returns with an amazing comeback, not out of spite for Minzy’s departure, but to honor her in a way. seoulbeats.com

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Also, I hope people would just stop giving Bom crap about this incident. It seems that netizens are blaming her for the group’s delayed comeback, hence being the reason as to why Minzy had to leave eventually. While I think that Minzy’s departure is really nobody’s fault, I believe that if there’s anyone to blame, it’s YG and not the artists. Madi: Did I expect this? No. But here’s a better question: Am I surprised that this happened? No. While the sudden/forced hiatus made sense, looking at the members, Minzy was the only one collecting figurative dust. Bom not being in the public eye considering the situation/scandal is understandable. Dara’s been acting and CL had that oh so wonderful US debut/promotion. Sure Minzy did something, she had a dance studio open, but I don’t think many people even knew that because I’m pretty sure YG never mentioned it or if he did, he didn’t make it a big deal. Perhaps Minzy saw that her talents were going to waste and YG wasn’t doing or wasn’t going to do anything for her. And I’ll be honest: now that’s she’s departed from 2NE1, my interest in the group is almost null. I am curious about the dynamic of the group because well, Minzy was the most talented (in my eyes at least) and I feel with how YG pushes CL’s concepts, I feel like I’m getting flashbacks to Destiny’s Child and Beyonce…. promote CL enough where she’s “too big” to 32

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be a part of a group. But I also quite don’t understand the hype around CL anyway. Sadly, I miss out on going to a 2NE1 concert happening because I was interested in going to a female group’s concert, but one that overly lacked cute concepts and actually stayed on my radar (I didn’t see them when they came to the US). I wish Minzy all the best. Whichever agency she decides to go to (if she does), I hope she’s happy and they’ll display her talents. Definitely interested in what she will be doing in the future. Sarah: I also certainly expected some 2NE1 news this year. What with how YG had been dealing with Bom’s scandal (delaying any possible comeback for over a year), I expected it to either finally be that comeback or Bom’s departure from the group. I didn’t really expect Minzy to be the one to leave, however, as Madi said, it’s not all that surprising. I’ve never paid enough attention to 2NE1 to really notice which of the girls is the most talented, but it’s still obvious that Minzy has skills. If she puts a lot of thought into her choice of a new company and chooses one that really fits what she wants to do, then she will still have a long career ahead of her. It’s up to her entirely now, but she definitely has the capability. I’m more worried about the rest of the group and what will become of them. I was so excited

for Bom to come back and have them perform together again. Minzy leaving changes the dynamic in a way I hadn’t thought about, and it does feel like they have the risk of becoming CL and Her Backup Dancers now. I only hope that Minzy’s departure doesn’t come at the cost of disrupting the dreams of Bom and Dara (and even CL). I truly hope that they are all able to find their new places in the music industry (or elsewhere) doing what each of them want to do. Lo: I’m not shocked that Minzy was the first to jump from the YG ship -- she was clearly underpromoted. Minzy was 2NE1’s jack of all trades, but from the outside, it looked like she was punished for being a master of none. Hopefully, she’ll be able to start a solo career elsewhere and show YG what he’s missing, because that is the point of a jack of all trades- she can sing, dance, rock variety, etc. enough on her own that she doesn’t need anyone else to compensate for her shortcomings. Pat: Unfortunately, I kind of expected 2NE1 to be done after everything that happened since Bom’s “scandal.” I honestly thought that the MAMA performance was half unofficial goodbye stage, and half testing the waters if people will accept 2NE1 with open arms once more. After, there was such a long period of silence on updates that wasn’t CL, that I expected them to be another group that would go their own ways as soon as the contract was up.


But I did not expect Minzy to be the first to leave. On the other hand, as mentioned, it’s not surprising at all. CL has her American debut, Dara has her dramas, Bom is in perpetual career comatose, but what does Minzy have? She’s clearly talented – hell, when 2NE1 debuted, she was my favorite! But how has YG handled her and her career seperate from 2NE1? It’s almost, if not, totally, nonexistent. That being said, she’s crazy young for the years of experience she has. Not only that, she has the fanbase and the talent to have a solo debut if she so wishes, and if she finds a company that works for her. Like Sarah, I worry about the group. Minzy, to me, was a bit like the bridge between the members. Bom is powerfully strained

vocals, CL is all charisma, and Dara’s voice is on the weak, yet stable, side. Because Minzy is the most well-rounded, she helped make the team complete. With her gone, it’s definitely going to become CL and the Rest. Gaya: There has been speculation about Minzy leaving for a while. I thought the reports about her looking for another agency was just part of another round of such speculation, but once YGE announced that they would be releasing a statement, I knew it had happened. I got Tara flashbacks. I personally was waiting for Dara to bounce, but she’s actually getting work now. Meanwhile, Minzy had… A photoshoot? I don’t think her dance academy stuff has anything to do with YG.

YG’s statement left a sour taste in my mouth with how it painted Minzy as uncooperative with his ‘vision’ for 2NE1. What did he want her to do, wait around like Gummy until he led her by the hand to another agency? Not that it’s a bad option, but it didn’t seem to be the one Minzy wanted. That press release was more about turning fans against Minzy/towards 2NE1 (and YGE), and devaluing her so that she has less bargaining power with other agencies. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but it’s clear that this split is not amicable. At the end of it all, I’m glad Minzy is doing what she wants and wish her all the best. I’m also looking forward to this 2NE1 comeback, if it happens. I want to see how Minzy’s absence on stage is compensated. ______ seoulbeats.com

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features

youth Recently, BTS rounded up their popular and acclaimed “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” cycle with the release of a special album and three MVs, bagging wins from all three major music shows they performed on despite the short one-week promotion period. The success of this series stems in part from the way the group has been developed since their debut in 2013. From the outset, BTS has been promoted with thematic and stylistic consistency, with a focus on the hip-hop genre. Due to their status as an idol group, their legitimacy as hip-hop artists has been called into question. However, a closer look at their music reveals an element of socio-cultural relevance and resistance that characterises hip-hop culture and music. Many of their songs focus on social issues and critiques, striving to voice the concerns and thoughts 34

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THE MOST UNCERTAIN BUT BEAUTIFUL MOMENT IN LIFE BY QING of their generation. In addition, BTS’s releases to date have been following a growth trajectory, beginning with the school trilogy with the title tracks “No More Dream”, “N.O”, “Boy in Luv”, and “Just One Day”. These shifted to a darker, more angsty image in “Danger” and “War of Hormone”. In “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” series, the group demonstrates more nuance and emotional maturity, without losing sight of their aim to reach out to their generation. Given this sense of growth and BTS’s goal of voicing the thoughts of adolescents, it’s not surprising that “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” cycle chose to focus on the theme of youth. This isn’t the first time in recent K-pop history that youth takes centre stage. The theme underpins both of AkMu’s albums, Play


and Adolescence Vol.1, and wellreceived pop culture works like the Answer Me drama series and the films Sunny (2011) and Twenty (2015). The popular reception towards such works suggests that there is something about youth that continues to fascinate us. What makes youth so appealing and intriguing? BTS suggests an answer: youth is the most beautiful moment in life. The cycle explores the experiences of youth—friendships and relationships, dreams and hardships—in a complex way. “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” series balances beauty and grittiness, maintaining a sense of ambivalence and subjectivity in their portrayal of youth. The result, though at times perplexing, is neither overly dramatic nor too romanticised, but striking and poignant. Much has been done by the fandom to piece together the narrative of the “I Need U” and “Run” MVs and “화 양연화 on stage: prologue”. In contrast, less has been written about the aesthetic and literary value of the series. Through examining some of the videos and concept photos, I will be discussing the motifs and film techniques that the production team have used to develop and comment on the theme of youth.

unnaturally rapid speed at which the flower blooms. Finally, the two sequences converge when the boy leaves the realist setting to arrive in the fantasy space, now framed by cherry blossom branches, where the flower is in full bloom. The moment he stops, the flower wilts, and cherry blossom petals rain down from the sky. These sets of motifs—fast movements, water, flowers, and sunsets—recur in later videos and concept photos to form a complex, bittersweet portrayal of youth. Youth is presented in a complex manner through images that carry ambivalent meanings. One quality highlighted is energy—the way youths cast aside reservations and rules to pour their heart and soul into what they do, be it having fun with friends or chasing their dreams. The BTS boys run a lot: through tunnels and underpasses, across fields, towards the sea. But their reason for running is often unclear. Are they running towards something, or away from it? The act of running itself holds contrasting ideas. It can represent drive and resilience, as expressed in the chorus of “Run”: Let’s run run run again! It’s ok to fall down Let’s run run run again! It’s ok to be injured

Many of the motifs and symbols in “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” cycle have appeared in a similar form in other cultural mediums, and the ideas and messages about youth conveyed here are not new. But it is rare for anyone in K-pop to employ and develop them with such consistency and finesse, to such a profound and poignant effect.

But at the same time, running consumes energy and pushes the runner towards exhaustion. It is not a sustainable state that one can constantly remain in, and the line “Let me run more” conveys a sense of desperation to hold on to it.

A closer examination of the visual materials reveals how aesthetically coherent the cycle is. The first video in the series, “Comeback Trailer: 花 樣年華”, introduces a few key motifs. Cross-cutting is used to intertwine two sequences: a boy playing basketball after school and running past a river and across a bridge, and a flower blooming. A surreal effect is created by the twilight glow and emptiness of the scenes with the boy, and by the

Fire is another motif that brings out a similar paradox. It appears in various forms: the campfire the boys sit around and the sparklers they play with, the discarded cigarette at the petrol station, and the flames in Suga‘s hotel room in “I Need U”; Suga idling flicking a lighter on and off in the prologue video; the piece of paper and the photograph Jimin burns in “I Need U” and “Run”; the man who combusts and the exploding room in

“Fire”; and the flames licking up polaroid photos in “Young Forever”. Like running, fire represents energy, but also recklessness and destruction. Running is not the only fast movement that dominates the videos; there are many images of spinning as well. This motif is introduced subtly in “I Need U”: Jungkook is swung in a circle by his attackers; the crane shot of an unconscious J-hope on the bridge rotates slowly as the camera pulls away; and Jin drives a car in circles around Rap Monster and V. It also appears in Rap Monster’s verse in the song: It goes round & round, why do I keep coming back I go down & down, at this point, I’m just a fool The spinning motif is later used more deliberately to create a sense of chaos. This effect is first established in “Comeback Trailer: Never Mind”. The video follows a boy, likely the same one from the first trailer, as he chases after a butterfly. He runs through a tunnel at rapid speed, and the checkered pattern creates the disorienting illusion of the tunnel’s walls spinning in opposite directions. The images of spinning are further developed in the party scene of “Run”. In this sequence, Jimin rolls his head back, a toy mouse whirls around on a playing record, and J-Hope waves his arm in a circular motion as his friends wheel him on a wheelchair. The circling movements are combined with Dutch tilts, quick cuts, and a cluttered, dim, foggy setting. The outcome is dizzying, almost psychedelic. The BTS members act out a range of problems that adolescents experience: family issues, delinquency, physical and mental illness, loss, and loneliness. Their narratives are reinforced by the above-mentioned aesthetic and cinematographic choices—ambivalent images that cannot be pinned down to either a positive or a negative connotation, and rapid movements—to portray the confusion that characterises youth. Youth, the series further suggests, seoulbeats.com

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is not just marked by the feeling of confusion; an air of uncertainty clings to it. This uncertain mood is sustained by various choices in cinematography and visual details. The MVs are dominated by gloomy, dark shades like blue, grey, and black, and even scenes with brighter colours are muted. The videos are anachronistic, jumbling up pieces of the narrative and dissolving the borders between reality, memories, dreams, and hallucination. Uncertainty is a quality present in the chosen visual details as well. The house of cards, a central image, is precarious and unstable, evoking a sense of insecurity. The motif of water recurs and adds to the unease. In “I Need U” and the prologue video, the BTS boys run towards and look out at the sea. Traditionally, the sea is associated with danger and destruction due to the threat of drowning that it poses to seafarers. In “I Need U”, Jimin breaks 36

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down as the bathtub behind him overflows with water and starts to fill up the bathroom. This seems to link drowning with a mental and emotional struggle. This symbolic association is developed in the scenes of V flailing underwater in “Run”. V’s struggles frame the entire MV, increasing in frequency and franticness as the mood of the video intensifies. Given the deluge of uncertainty and negativity, what about youth makes it remain the most beautiful moment in life? There are a few possibilities that explain the beauty of youth, although whether they qualify the superlative— ”most”—is ambiguous. The first explanation the videos offer is that the trials experienced serve as a reminder of the good times. Although the MVs are in non-chronological order, they begin by showing the boys in isolation. The prologue tells the viewer that the sequences of the boys together are likely to be flashbacks.

The scenes of the boys having fun together are juxtaposed against shots of them struggling with their afflictions and being overwhelmed by anger, sadness or despair. As the videos blur the lines between reality and the mind, it isn’t a stretch to argue that the group scenes are happy memories being recalled by each of the boys in tough times. When contrasted with moments of loneliness and despair, the days spent with friends become even more precious and beautiful. The second explanation relates to the idea of transience, expressed by the recurring image of cherry blossoms. The “Blooming” concept photos in The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Part 1 depict the boys under cherry blossom trees in full bloom, while the first comeback trailer and “I Need U” contain shots of falling cherry blossom petals.


new beginning awaits.

Because they are beautiful but shortlived, cherry blossoms are seen to represent how fleeting life is. “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” cycle uses them as a symbol of youth, suggesting that youth is similarly beautiful but transient. The knowledge that it will fade away makes youth more cherished in spite of hardships faced. Just as good things don’t stay forever, so too bad things will not last. This idea is brought out by the motif of the butterfly. The drastic change that a caterpillar undergoes to turn into a butterfly has made the butterfly a powerful symbol of change and rebirth. By placing images of butterflies throughout the concept photos and videos, the visual director is likely drawing parallels between metamorphosis and youth—a period of change for a person—and suggesting that a

In addition, butterflies often appear in Korean folk art as symbols of happiness and prosperity. Although the “I Need U” and “Run” MVs are dominated by anguish and pain, the latter concludes with some optimism: before the credits roll, V’s struggle ends as he emerges from the water. The positive note that “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” cycle ends on is expressed clearly in the hopefilled “EPILOGUE : Young Forever” MV. The MV opens with a crane shot of a huge, elaborate maze, an obvious metaphor for youth with all its trappings. The camera follows Rap Monster as he wanders through the maze; the mist, the austere colour scheme and the blue tones work together to evoke a sense of uncertainty. When the camera cuts to Jin, however, the mist has cleared up, and the sun begins to shine. Flashbacks to earlier MVs are now captured in polaroids that are in flames, literally removing fragments of the past from the pres-

ent. The feathers that drift towards Jungkook are a lovely callback to the pillow fights in “Run”, and they seem to hint at the idea of flight. A matchon-action shows Jimin and V running, this time with a clearer purpose than in “Run”: to get out of the maze. Turning for a final look at the twists and turns that he has successfully navigated, V steps out of the maze to join his friends. They take off towards the sunset on an unobstructed runway, and an aeroplane takes flight. Forever, we are young Under the flower petals falling down I run, so lost in this maze Forever, we are young Even when I fall and hurt myself I keep running toward my dream Perhaps what is most beautiful about youth is this: knowing that it won’t last, and facing adversity, but still having the courage and resilience to overcome challenges. To be able to carry this spirit into the future would mean that one can, indeed, be young forever. seoulbeats.com

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2016 features

THE ANNUAL SEOULBEATS

MIDYEAR

REVIEW

DEBUT DANCE COMEBACK ALBUM MV INDIE DRAMA

With a saturated market and frequent promotion cycles, K-pop fans have become used to the deluge of music that results; barely a week passes without at least one comeback or debut. We fans are often spoilt for choice, but the multitude of offerings can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed. With so much happening, to what do we pay attention? And to what do we hold on? Our writers have waded through K-pop’s offerings for this half of 2016; and in this midyear review they shine a light on the best comebacks, debuts, MVs, albums, dances, K-dramas and K-indie artists. 38

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DEBUT

CAMIELE

GAYA

BGA SAM KIM TK ESKEE SOL-T

BGA GRACE COCOSORI COSMIC GIRLS KNK

Camiele: Obviously we have to talk about why BgA, a parody K-pop group of guys who aren’t all Korean but are… generally Asian, took the #1 spot from legitimate K-pop idol groups and artists. My reasoning is simple: it’s the first legitimate parody I’ve seen that actually is serious enough that it earns not taking itself seriously. We all know K-pop is mostly put-on and very much a lot of posturing for certain demographics. While it’s a very viable genre, like all overexaggerated (and oversaturated) pop genres it leaves itself wide open for parody. However, what Ryan managed to do was take this concept and do it in a way that while making fun was also respectful. They actually created choreography, teasers, member bios, the whole nine! I don’t want to suggest the artistic merit outshines

that of the artists that filled the rest of those slots. Very much the contrary. But one can’t deny how strongly put together and executed this was. Gaya: My reason is because although “Dong Saya Dae” parodies Big Bang‘s “Bang Bang Bang,” the former actually surpasses the latter. The problem a lot of people (myself included) had with that song was the drop — the transition from prechorus to chorus didn’t make sense. But in “Dong Saya Dae,” it does. The whole thing is essentially one big joke, but they didn’t treat it like one during the production process. They achieved their aim of entertaining people, and even getting us to think a bit about the racial politics around K-pop; but they also managed to do Big Bang better than Big Bang, and for that reason, they are top of my list. seoulbeats.com

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DANCE

BTS - “SAVE ME” SEVENTEEN - “PRETTY U” MONSTA X - “ALL IN”

BOYS

LORENZA

BTS - “SAVE ME” BTS - “FIRE” UP10TION - ATTENTION

GIRLS

CJONTAI

TWICE - “CHEER UP”

TWICE - “CHEER UP”

COSMIC GIRLS - “MO MO MO” OH MY GIRL - “WINDY DAY”

MAMAMOO - “YOU’RE THE BEST”

Lorenza: Teamwork is what made these dances work. It’s what makes them interesting! I think the only exception to this for both our lists is BTS’s “Save Me.” To me, while there are moments of synchronization, for the most part they don’t need to all hit the moves at the same time. Both the choreography and the song feel so intimate and personal, so the fact that the choreography leans more interpretive pairs well. It gave me chills the first time I saw it if we’re being honest (but that might just be my BTS stan showing). Twice’s “Cheer Up” choreo is really cute and appropriate for the group. While it might not be as complex as some other dances, it has some great

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LUNA - “FREE SOMEBODY” moments in the it. It also retains the quirkiness that Twice is known for and gives each member a moment to shine. I was drawn particularly to the transitions they make during the chorus. Plus the choreo for when they sing “shy shy shy” has already become a meme. Cjontai: Aside from a few disappointments, I’m thankful to see girl groups stepping it up. Oh My Girl, Laboum, and Lovelyz really surprised me this year. Oh My Girl was definitely a treat with “Windy Day”, and “Liar Liar” wasn’t too bad either. They kept things light and playful, but the steps were still intricately tied to the theme of the songs. I hope this trend of integrating fun and complexity in girl group dances continues because we’ve been begging to see this forever.


COMEBACK LO BTS MAMAMOO WINNER AKMU TWICE The true strength of a comeback lies in the feeling that I need to experience this, or I will regret it, and Twice nailed that with “Cheer Up”. The MV is a bright, satirical love letter to cinema that simultaneously flaunts each member’s charms. The highenergy cheerleader choreography furthered Twice’s image of quirky sweethearts; something cemented by Sana‘s “shashasha” reaching meme status. “Cheer Up” proved Twice has what it takes to carry on past their explosive debut. They’d probably be higher on the list if I didn’t loathe “Cheer Up” the song with every fiber of my being. Mamamoo impressed through their sense of fun and irreverence towards anything weighty. Their first album, Melting, is full of silly, breezy songs like “1cm (Taller Than You)”,”Funky Boy”, and “Recipe”, all in Mamamoo’s signature style of retro-pop paired with phenomenal vocals. Yet what really clinched their place on this list was their live performances of “You’re The Best”. Many groups thrive on either performance or technique; putting the effort to master showmanship or vocal techniques. Every time they took to the stage, they wowed the audience with their

charisma and vocal chops, paired with unending energy. So, who had what it takes to secure our number one spot? The right combination of music, choreography, performance skills, and music videos? BTS, that’s who. Yes, the number-one slot went to the group who came back with a remix album and who only promoted for a week, because they were just that good. BTS didn’t just come back, they issued an unspoken challenge to everyone else in the K-pop world: this is what we do for a week-long promotion. What can you do for a month? seoulbeats.com

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LO

MADI

QING

MINI

RAINBOW WINNER FIESTAR

HYESUNG ERIC NAM AKMU

AKMU DAY6/WINNER ERIC NAM

FULL

ALBUM JAEJOONG JONGHYUN LEE HI

TAEMIN LEE HI MAMAMOO

LEE HI JONGHYUN MAMAMOO

Qing: Seoulite is cohesive, but versatile at the same time. The variety of sounds capture the feelings of city life. The songs also brought out the best of Lee Hi’s husky voice, just as her voice brought out the potential of the songs. Lo: I back everything you have to say on Seoulite, Qing. I wasn’t a fan of Lee Hi before, but I am now. Seoulite managed to do the impossible: make me like sad songs. I don’t like sad. I like poignant, tragic, melancholy, bittersweet, and morose, but sad music always make me feel like my emotions are being exploited. Seoulite, though, avoids this because if anyone’s emotions are being exploited, it’s Lee Hi. The

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personal element is so clear that I feel the urge to mail her some Ben and Jerry’s, because this album is heartbreaking. It’s not something I personally connect to, but the story told is fascinating for me to watch. There are a few tracks that have creeped into my heavy rotation, mainly “Fxxk Wit Us” and “Official”. Madi: I personally really like Lee Hi as an artist because I feel like she brings something new to the table. Not to say there aren’t soulful sounding artists out there, but it’s something about her voice specifically that just resonates deep in my soul. It’s something intangible that I can’t put into words.


MV CHELSEA

QING

SARAH

AKMU RED VELVET BAEK A YEON LEE HI DEAN

RED VELVET SEO IN-GUK ZICO AKMU CHEN & HEIZE

MONSTA X JUNGIN BTS ASTRO JO KWON

Qing: The meticulous use of cinematography to achieve a visually stunning MV was what made Red Velvet‘s “One of These Nights” top my list. I don’t like it when a MV is too open-ended to the extent that you can’t make any sense out of it. “One of These Nights”, however, has a directed openendedness to it. Although you can’t pin it down to one interpretation, you can still interpret it, for instance as an elegy to the victims of the Sewol Ferry

incident. Even if you choose not to read it this way, it is a strong expression of the core emotion of the song: longing. Chelsea: AkMu’s “How People Move” tops my list this year because it’s pure fun, with amazing aesthetics to boot. Echoing Qing in her MV review, I love that Akmu’s songs are all about the quirkiness of the mundane, and I think the “How People Move” MV captured the eccentricities of the song in a visu-

ally intriguing way. Long story short, it made me smile. Sarah: I chose Monsta X‘s “All In” right off the bat as my number one because it appealed to me personally in all the right ways. I can understand where others might not feel the same way about it, but the heavy plot (no dancing), the aesthetic, the sci-fi and apocalyptic aspects, and the drama and acting of all the members, all tickled my fancy. seoulbeats.com

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INDIE CAMIELE

GUTEN BIRDS LOVE X STEREO NO BRAIN DANCLOCK CIFIKA SAM KIM SAMUEL SEO LUNATRIP I was blessed with the opportunity to actually see Guten Birds live twice, as well as sit down and chat with them. These ladies… what can I say? They rock in every form of the word. They create punk music at its most elemental, all rough cuts and guttural tones. Though not as ostentatious as their compatriots in DIEALRIGHT, they do not lack for raw musicality. There’s nothing soft or frail about this trio of fearsome ladies. Lead singer and guitarist Mohho has a voice that can cure any ache in your soul. Seo-hyun is a powerhouse on the bass. Mui is an absolute beast on the drums. Their combination of energy and fearlessness is what gave their most recent single “Across the Black Tunnel” its emotional edge and keeps me clinging to their music There are a lot of unheard talents out there who release their work on Soundcloud, the Internet’s answer to selling mixtapes out the trunk of your car. Danclock is one such artist, creating hiphop that’s as melodic as it is impactful. Formerly going by Treyz, he dropped his mixtape fit feel free, up last month. It features a roster of producers and group Cream Villa throughout, creating an exceptional listening experience. He’s got an easy flow. Though there’s confidence in his tone, I don’t sense any of the ego part in parcel with a lot of hip-hop artists. He simply creates honest music. You have to appreciate an artist who dispenses with all posturing and uses that energy to create some truly captivating music. 44

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CIFIKA is another artist on my Soundcloud Superhero list. She makes the type of electronica that excites me. It’s molecular, taking a genre that at its extreme can really just be computerheavy club drek and creating music with a pulse and a heartbeat. Her sound surrounds the listener, giving it warmth. There’s an earthy quality to her music, something rooted in nature, meant to grow and nurture the listener. That sparse elemental construction is highly erotic, tapping into the senses and giving the reader impetus to reach out and touch. Her most recent release “OOZOO” is the perfect example of how music can be both love and lover. I sort of equate her to Aquarian Angel-era Blue Six: mood music in shades of indigo that’s smooth and cool yet incredibly warm to the touch.


DRAMA LAVERNE

SIGNAL DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN MARRIAGE CONTRACT CHEESE IN THE TRAP Cheese in the Trap’s first few episodes are masterfully crafted and weave an intriguing story of relationships between college students played by Park Hae-jin and Kim Go-eun. The mystery behind Yoo Jung’s character is enthralling and Hong Seol is a down-to-earth relatable character. A pleasant supporting cast and slice-of-life situations make this drama worth it, even towards the end. Even after the episodes began to ‘go downhill’, ratings remained strong; although viewers didn’t like where the story was going, they

hung on instead of abandoning the drama (though ratings for the last episodes declined, they were still higher than where the show began). Centered on detectives played by Lee Je-hoon and Jo Jinwoong, Signal followed the two as they communicated across time in order to solve crimes. Signal weaves together an intricate narrative rather than falling into an episodic trap that so many crime dramas encounter. Each mystery holds important implications for the main char-

acters, both present and past, and the show handles them deftly, dancing around viewers’ expectations. Stellar performances from Jehoon, Jin-woong, and Kim Hyesoo ground the characters and give them depth and development, allowing viewers to feel intimately connected to each character. Exceptional directing and cinematography bring forth the reality of Signal to life and expertly plays with viewers’ expectations and emotions.

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r e v i e w s

Enjoy a Slice of Fiestar's "Apple Pie" BY LO

T

Fiestar | Apple Pie | (LoenTree)

he K-pop summer has truly begun, with the specific sound of summer songs starting to saturate the stage. One such comeback is from Fiestar, who are following up their tragically underappreciated A Delicate Sense with a slice of tasty “Apple Pie”. “Apple Pie” is, of course, an innocent song about the most wholesome of — ha ha ha, no. “Apple Pie” is about sex. It is, in the grand tradition of summer songs, a fun tongue-in-cheek song about sex, and it sounds like it. Synth-feuled and hookdriven, “Apple Pie” is more than a little cacophonous, but it works here. The contrasting synth layers provide a bite that keeps “Apple Pie” from being laden in sugar. It has a whimsical, almost folksy sound that balances with the vocals of Fiestar, which are thankfully front and center and not buried in the mix. The lyrics of “Apple Pie” are a poignant discussion that will stimulate intellectual — yeah, that’s a nope. Here “apple pie” is long and blatant extended metaphor for sex. Specifically, oral sex, going by the repeated usage of “hot and sweet” and references to tasting and scent. However, there is a smart, 46

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sex-positive undercurrent to “Apple Pie”. They insist their boyfriend be patient and wait for the pie to finish, but when it’s done, it’s done, so enjoy it already. Fiestar won’t be pressured into sex before they’re ready, but neither will they refuse sex once they are. They are neither virgins nor whores, but individuals making their own choices. This is all backed and enhanced by the MV, which is a feminist masterpiece; full of symbolism about the importance of a woman’s control over her sexuality and how there’s no one correct way to approach sex. I am completely serious.”Apple Pie” is a pink, light-hearted romp with a powerful message intertwined with its whimsy.


Each member has her own story — Yezi‘s a scientist, Hyemi a maid, Jei a homemaker, Linzy a flight attendant, and Cao Lu is Snow White herself– but more importantly, each member has their own relationship to pie, and thus, sex. Yezi takes the role of a seducer, having her pie down to a science. Her verse backs this, as she gives tips on pie eating before straight-up telling her boyfriend he can be her toy. Jei is the opposite, trying over and over to bake a pie, but burning it every time. Yet when Jei takes her own initiative and takes her pie out of the oven early, she ends up with a perfect apple pie. She may have broken away from the prescribed recipe, but Jei found what worked for her. Soon, she’s happily surrounded by flawless pies. Hyemi has no pie of her own.

Instead, she focuses on her job and repairing a mistake she made earlier, as well as helping Jei clean up her plethora of burned pies. Because sometimes, you have other obligations, and pie has too much drama and takes up too much time for it to be a priority right now. Linzy forms a friendly bond with a customer on the job, but he quickly decides he wants some of her apple pie. Linzy is hesitant and unsure, at first acquiescing, but she changes her mind and keeps her pie under her own control. Cao Lu, like Hyemi, doesn’t have her own pie, but prefers apples. She tries to eat Jei’s pie, but is knocked out by it– she tries to live vicariously through her friend, but finds she can’t handle it. Instead, she is found by her Prince Charming (a cameo by her We Got Married

husband Jo Se-ho) who notably does not attempt to kiss the unconscious woman. Once they’re both awake, they form a silly bond, the lack of pie a nonissue. “Apple Pie” presents five different relationships to sex: Yezi’s all about sex, Jei has it before she “should” but ends up happier for it, Hyemi has other priorities, Linzy refuses to cave to pressure, and Cao Lu has a happy relationship with no sex. More notably, “Apple Pie” presents all these paths and perspectives as equally valid. Hyemi, Cao Lu, and Linzy aren’t demonized for not having sex, and Yezi and Jei aren’t demonized because they are. “Apple Pie” is a summery sex jam that’s all about doing what’s right for you, no matter what form that takes. And it’s a decent song, too. seoulbeats.com

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Jonghyun Drops All Pretense with “She Is” BY CAMIELE

I

Jonghyun | She Is | (SM Entertainment)

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wasn’t quite sure how Jonghyun was going to top his solo debut, last year’s Base. But lo and behold, in the thick of summer, he drops his first fulllength album and surprises me yet again. However, instead of primary colors and giggly romps on the beach as his album artwork suggests, he’s taking a different approach to combating the heat — switching off the AC, cooling us down with a bit of ice trailed along the skin.

is clever — Jonghyun’s in his own world, and the woman at his side is his moon. He even proclaims, “There are too many stars revolving around you. But they’re all fake, manmade artificial satellites. I swear by the moon, it’s only you for me. It’s only you.” The composition adds a bit of neo-jazz to the cut and lean of the music. And, hello, chord change in the second verse! For being just another love song, there’s a rich complexity to both the lyrical content and musical body.

As soon as the album starts Jonghyun goes in for the kill. Lead single and title track “She Is” is a brash song that’s all dips and curves. With help from both Philtre and Crush, the song is a bright piece of R&B. Instead of smoky and full of temptation, it’s flirtatious and playful. With Crush’s signature cadence at the bridge, Jonghyun makes the song his own, despite the watermark of his collaborators.

And then… “Moon” happens. We’ve moved beyond just a casual perusal of your body. Jonghyun’s gone right for the buttons on your blouse. He comes closer, biting his bottom lip, then leans in and whispers how much he wants “to take you to the moon.” He’s laid all shyness to rest, opting instead to take action and bring his love interest to the edges of the universe and back.

While lyrically it’s what you’d expect from a spritely piece of R&B, “She Is” was obviously penned with a wink and a smirk. Our protagonist gets a thrill as his love interest leads him on, and the couple plays their game of cat and mouse where everyone can see: “I like how you look like you don’t know anything. (Cool) I like how you act coy (Relationship) I like it like that.” Track “White T-Shirt” is equally playful, Jonghyun expressing just what it is that catches his eye as his lover walks by. Enough with the poetry about her pretty smile, this track is about how our leading lady fits in her clothes, the way her body lures our protagonist in and never lets him be. Your casual style makes you look even more special Your silhouette provokes my imagination Your slightly messy hair Your body stands out even more Then there’s a noticeable shift in tone and intent with “Orbit.” Gone are the fluffy bits of flirtatiousness; Jonghyun’s trying his hand at the grown ’n’ sexy. Lyrically, the conceit 48

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I’m loosely holding you (holding you) Excited to know what dream it is (excited) The thousands of moons The river above the sky I made it all While many may see the lyrics as “stranger danger” (a quick quip about not resisting because in the end she’ll be kissing his cheek), this is a grown-up conversation between lovers as they explore the limits of their physical need and push it further: “Get rid of all your useless thoughts. Don’t act like you’re timid, when you’re alone. Tell me what you fantasized.” The space imagery adds thematic depth to the middle of this album—just as he sees the stars and planets in his lover, he wants to make her reach her highest heights. “Aurora” begins on a sigh and rests in that vocal softness for its duration, as if Jonghyun is trying to ease his lover into opening up and seeing her fantasies become a reality: “You used to only dream but now you’ll see all the things


you only guessed and imagined. They’ll be so close you can touch them. Then pinch my cheek to check if it’s a dream.” He makes exceptional use of range, sitting in the falsetto, even his voice seeming to explode into stars. The track is sweaty and thick like a long night with a lover. It’s got that sort of honey-drip stickiness that makes fangirls swoon and shy virgins clutch their pearls. Though Jonghyun’s musical palette mostly swings on the side of smoother R&B and sprinkles of neo-soul, it’s not exactly surprising that he’d choose to put a bass-heavy beat-driven dance track on his album. Perhaps more than anything, it’s surprising where it lands. Instead of preceding the milky languor of the previous tracks, “Dress Up” lands between two rough-andtumble ballads. A typical club banger, it adds another dimension to the album. While it does disrupt the rhythm, it seems intentional, a break between rounds. Which, of course, leads to “Cocktail.” Because, literally, what in the hell! It’s a deceiving track, starting just as one would expect a ballad: soft piano with a simple OST-style composition. Then it takes a hard left, catching you off guard like a warm body pressed against your back. Jonghyun’s really going for it, ain’t he? Forget tiptoeing around the subject. He goes straight for the panty drawer. The man certainly knows his way around a metaphor, this time enlisting the image of his favorite mixed drink to describe how his lady leaves him intoxicated, unable to think straight, and wanting more with every sip: “I’m taking a sip of you right now. (I can’t stop) one sip, (Without wings) I’m flying. What’s in my hand isn’t a glass.” “RED” takes melodic cues from track “Drama (MONO)” from last year’s

Don’t need them here Oh Dress Up (softly) The white veil that covers you The soft lace, take it off Don’t need to hide anymore

Base. However, the purpose has shifted dramatically (no pun intended). After having his fill of his lover’s heady elixir, he decides to take himself a drive. Again, the wordplay here is masterful, the imagery of taking a car ride being at once literal (“I need you baby. Kiss me now (Red light). When the red light turns on (red light)”) and representing the need for deep touch: You’re like a street light A soft light that wraps around me on top of the highway (Drop, drop, drops on you) If you’re sitting on my right side I can’t concentrate Can’t stop with the brakes This has always been a little dangerous It’s fitting he ends the album with “Suit Up.” After giving us a dose of R&B with a harder cut, asking the question, he slows the pace, making use of a drippy pulsating beat to demand you get ready for what he has in store for you. There’s very little left to the imagination here. From the music to the vocal performance (Jonghyun even hitting his highest soaring notes at the song’s climax), it’s lovemaking, plain and simple. He takes a break from the metaphorical, being direct to ensure there’s no confusion as to his intent for his lover. There’s no more to hide between them. He’s ready to lay everything bare: Oh Suit Up Tightly tied Bow tie Shining cuffs, put it all away

She Is most definitely defines a hard shift in Jonghyun’s musical color. He seems to take cues from another piece of music that delves into the full breadth of an artist’s sensuality — Janet Jackson’s janet. album: all red and blue colors, mood music to make you quiver like a finger stroking the skin. No, forget feather-light tickles. She Is is like candle wax dripped drop by painstaking drop down the length of your torso. And while not as sexually explicit as Ms. Jackson’s classic, it certainly holds nothing back — as much as an idol has license to do in Korea. Just as Janet’s tentative progression into her sexuality (“Someday is Tonight” from Rhythm Nation: 1814), Jonghyun gave us glimmers of his sensual side with track “Hallelujah.” He then took time to construct mature tracks that highlight his growth as an artist and as a man. This could’ve easily turned into an idol trying too hard to prove something. However, what could’ve become a sloppy grope at a frat party ends up being candlelight and champagne, red silk sheets and tender caresses. I love this side of Jonghyun. He’s got an understated sensuality, some performances with Taemin notwithstanding. I’m not particularly thick within Shawol fandom, but I’ve never thought of Jonghyun as a sexual being, at least not in the most obvious ways: all ripped shirts and glistening abs (again, we’re just gonna disregard a certain performance he did with Taemin, and maybe the “Crazy” MV). With She Is, Jonghyun has proven he’s got sensuality in spades where it counts: in his lyrics and his choice in music.

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Boys Generally Asian Generally Impress in Debut MV “Dong Saya Dae” BY MARK BgA | One Day | (Wong Fu Productions)

B

oys Generally Asian, or BgA (with an emphasized “Capital ‘B’ with a lower-case ‘g’ with a big ‘A’”), is the new five-membered boy group hailing from the joint production of Wong Fu Productions and RHPC. While new to the K-pop game, the two companies hit almost all the right strides in putting on what may be this year’s best debut effort. With one of the most original fan club names in recent memory, the BgA Army will likely become a BgA military before all is said and done. From the styling to the dance moves and the slick production, this MV has all one would ask for in a debut, and so much more. For a rookie group, they take a big risk in going with a ‘meta’ concept which curiously works wonders. The video’s minute and a half introduction presents the members as a group of everyday friends who decide to form a ‘K-pop band’ in order to attract girls. As preposterous as that sounds, the humorous tone and slick pacing of the segment is really effective in painting our idols as a bunch of down-to-earth regular guys. Think about it: idols who feel like they must sing and dance (or resort to lowbrow tactics like autotune or using body doubles in the dance break if they can’t do either) just to impress girls. What a revolutionary idea! The song itself is a bit on the tried and true EDM meets electro dance pop side but the execution is pulled off like no other. Of course, none of this can be achieved without the charismatic vocals 50

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of the group’s leader, Ryan. He’s clearly also the face of the group, being in the center of nearly all the dance formations and having the camera pander to his boyish angst at every opportunity. Early critiques of the band are that Ryan’s autotuned vocals equate to a lack of actual singing ability or that it’s reminiscent of an outdated sound which dominated the K-pop industry four years ago; however, I argue that these critics fail to take into consideration that the autotune element purposely plays into the group’s ‘meta’ concept. First of all, idols train 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to perfect their vocals, dancing, rapping, and whatever four-dimensional abilities they may possess. To criticize an idol for not possessing actual singing ability just because he sings completely in autotune is absolutely unfair. Ryan even jokes about using autotune to mask his non-vocals in the introduction. In fact, the MV’s self-awareness is part of what makes it so great! It’s good to know that, for once, our favorite idols aren’t the butt of the joke, but they’re the ones who are in on the joke. Secondly, autotune never left the K-pop industry; it’s just been subdued in a way that it’s become not so noticeable. Whether it’s in the form of correcting a singer’s pitch in a pre-recorded track or used as back tracking in a live performance, audio correction has and always will be prevalent in an industry which calls for hourly on demand


performances from idols who have very little time to perfect their lines and dance moves before being rushed into a recording studio or asked to perform live on stage. Making the vocals in “Dong Saya Dae” rely completely on autotune is just another element of the ‘meta’ concept, one which makes a very intriguing commentary on the K-pop industry. Through the ‘meta’ concept, BgA is about putting on display their true selves. They’re telling their fans that they are above all the glamour and the gloss and that, at the end of the day, they’re just ordinary guys who may or may not have trouble singing and dancing simultaneously while looking great all at the same time. After all, isn’t it profoundly sexy that that our idols can be metacognitive enough to admit that they too have flaws and make mistakes? Lastly, the group’s chemistry and dynamic is off the charts. Aside from Ryan, who’s clearly multi-talented in the vocals,

dance, and looks department, there’s Philip whose personality comes off so well for a rookie. Look for him to win us over with his charms on variety shows and drama appearances the way Kwanghee sleighed us a few years ago. There are already talks of pairing him with GFriend’s SinB in the next season of We Got Married. Jun is the cute and quiet one, much in the name of Shinee’s Minho. The CF offers have already started rolling in as he’s set to be the next spokesmodel for Global Eco’s new line of Korean female cosmetic products for men. Justin is obviously the crazy weird one modeled after no other than T.O.P himself. I see him most likely to make the crossover into cinema and making a name for himself overseas as a critically-acclaimed actor. Step aside, Lee Byung-hun. Last and certainly not least, David is the group’s musical mastermind, having written the

lyrics with Ryan and produced the song with the help of Beatpusher. The song’s sentimental outro clearly highlights David’s musical talents. Look for him to be the first to make what will likely be a much-awaited solo debut. Clearly, BgA has a lot going for it and only time will tell where that will take them. However, not everyone sees their unyielding potential the way I do. Certain comments on the MV’s YouTube page have labeled this as being a parody of K-pop, implying that this group and MV should not be taken seriously. Likewise, few have even gone to the lengths of comparing BgA to Heart2Heart, the Chad Future-backed project which attempted to enter a group of Caucasian males into the K-pop industry. Let’s stop to think about that. If Chad Future is allowed to be considered ‘serious’ K-pop, then BgA certainly fits the description. At least they’re actually Asian, which is clearly stated in their group name! If anything, Chad Future should be considered the parody more so than BgA. And if that isn’t enough to prove definitively that BgA is a legitimate K-pop boy band with a bright future ahead of it, just check out how amazing they are in the dance version MV! seoulbeats.com

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r e v i e w s OTHER MV REVIEWS Sistar Displays Anguish and Strength in “I Like That” By Lo

As plum blossoms bloom in the winter, they are a common symbol in Chinese literature for strength in adversity and the ability of life to endure anything. Furthermore, the plum blossom is just as often a symbol for female strength, as they are small and appear quite delicate, but are able to thrive in some of the harshest conditions. Sistar is clearly drawing on the strength and resilience of the plum blossom to resist the desire to return to their former lover, as they still love him despite his past behavior. Begging for Mercy in Younha, Ha:tfelt & Cheetah’s “Get It?” By Chelsea Here’s the tricky part: if it were a male MV, and I saw men tying up female mannequins, or leading them around on leashes, I

would quickly call foul (in fact, we at Seoulbeats already have). Yet, when I’m watching “Get It?” I’m rooting for the three women, even though the lyrics hardly warrant the violent imagery. Why? Because I can empathize with Younha’s dilemma. When faced with frustrating situations, it seems that no matter how a female reacts, she is easily written off as crazy as opposed to being taken seriously. In “Get It?” the three women are embracing the label of “crazy” and turning it on its head, re-claiming it and giving themselves agency over it.

Jessica Jung Expresses Her Freedom in “Fly” By Willis Jessica embraces her authenticity with “Fly.” She lives in her truth, and furthermore, she wants her music to connect with her listeners on a deeper level. While the song is not revolutionary nor may it be everyone’s cup of tea, Jessica does stick to her strengths. With valiance and a genuine heart to it, Jessica’s “Fly” has revealed her grace under fire and shows her rising above it. Luna Makes an Electric Debut with “Free Somebody” By Chelsea “Free Somebody” is the perfect mix of experimental and comfortable, ideal for a solo debut of a main vocal who may not have the same fan base to pull off a full departure from her group’s identity just yet. SM has been hitting us with solo debut after solo release these past few months, and honestly it’s a little exhausting. However, Luna’s solo debut is packed with just enough punch to re-energize me and make me excited for whatever’s next.

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OTHER ALBUM REVIEWS

Woohyun Strengthens His Ballad Niche with Write.. By Qing

Exo Upgrades Their Mood and Sound With “EX’ACT” By Madi

Exo is trying to “grow up” with mature sounding lyrics and not going crazy with the pop sound people are using to hearing from them. The upsetting thing when it comes to this group is that a lot of people don’t take them seriously. So while this album might be in an effort to try out a directional change in music and quality, people may still laugh at this attempt.

Monsta X Delves into Obsession with The Clan Pt. 1 LOST By Camiele

Fans of the group will find much to take away from this first in what appears to be a two-part series. And while the vocals when they do shine are commendable and the compositions are comparable to everything else out there in terms of decent quality, that’s just about it. Everything here is just on par, not really excelling in any particular area, just sort of stagnating in a niche that’s overpopulated with exactly the same thing.

Unlike what Another Me and 27 did for Sunggyu, and what the Toheart releases did for Woohyun, Write.. doesn’t quite expose Woohyun to markedly different sounds. Nevertheless, it is a solid, focused album. By starting with a genre that Woohyun is familiar with and good at, and allowing him some artistic freedom, it paves a steady way for what will hopefully be an illustrious solo career.

Crush Cracks His Heart Wide Open with ‘Interlude’ By Gwen (Guest Writer)

This album. It changes everything. If Crush was a try-hard before, this is him stepping up and literally crushing his critics and tossing them aside. It’s not entirely without faults. You can probably spot the giant chip on his shoulders

from the moon, as he denounces all his detractors over and over again while his head is buried deep somewhere in his brand new mixing station. But in that jagged roughness, you can see Crush emerging, overexposed and bleeding red, like on the cover of the album itself. In this work, he pulls everything he’s ever wanted to be and balls it into this tight grouping of five songs. If this is an interlude, the main act is unimaginable.

I.O.I Hopes For a Beautiful Debut With Chrysalis By Pat

All throughout Produce 101, we were told that they would be working with top producers. On paper, it seems about right. However, it becomes increasingly obvious that they were given throwaway songs from said producers. Most of the songs follow the same sound and formula that currently rule the airwaves, with little to no variation to make the trend their own. It seems like the producers behind the album are more than willing to go with the flow, knowing that the massive fanbase that was formed thanks to Produce 101 will accept anything and everything. _____ For full-length reviews, check us out on Seoulbeats.com. seoulbeats.com

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r e v i e w s

DRAMA REVIEWS Descendants of the Sun By Erianne

Even with such high expectations placed on it, this drama definitely could have been a lot better. Heck, had the writers actually taken the effort to just flesh out the characters some more, then that would have really saved it from its disjointed, episodic plots and annoying product placements. Alas, it was either way too overwhelmed by the amount of potential and material that it could have worked with or somehow Kim Eun-sook has developed and mastered an auteur style of writing her dramas that we just can’t complain about her dramas anymore. One thing’s for sure, one can’t deny the many risks that this drama took

and for that, it’s enough to give it an appropriate salute of admiration.

Vampire Detective By Sarah

Lee Joon plays the titular character, Yoon San: a former police detective-in-training turned private investigator. Yoon San is supported by his partner Yong Goo-hyung,

played by veteran actor Oh Jungse, and in the first episode they are introduced to the third member of the main cast, the young Lee Seyoung as Han Gyeo-wool. There has been very little, if any, character progression between the main three, San, Goo-hyung, and Gyeo-wool, and again I feel a bit as if we’re completing side quests before we can get to the main storyline.

Come Back, Mister By Sydney

SBS drama Come Back, Mister, a drama adaptation of the Japanese novel Mr. Tsubakiyama’s Seven Days, was another drama swamped in the ratings battle by the monster that is Descendants of the Sun. But despite what the ratings say, Come Back, Mister was a drama with its own appeal.

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HIGHLIGHTS | seoulbeats.com


music changed their lives.

Marriage Contract By Vya

This drama follows Lee Seo-jin and After School’s Uee as they enter into a contract marriage, and though it’s got some weekend drama flavor (read: makjung) the show has been interesting and well-written.

Starring Rain and a scene-stealing Oh Yeon-seo, this is fun drama with hijinks and heart. Though some of the dramatic elements got slightly tedious as the comedic elements faded to the backdrop, we got a good portrayal of both romantic and platonic relationships that were so strong, characters were willing to die for them.

Page Turner

also all about being a page turner for someone else. This drama is like Liszt’s arrangement: when Liszt tried to transcribe Beethoven’s symphony (an orchestral piece requiring a large ensemble) for solo piano, he realized the difficulty for one person to play -- hence, two pianos. Having all three leads play together demonstrates how much having supportive friends and enjoying

This show has done an amazing job throughout of focusing on the moments, no matter how small, where the characters are the most raw. Even secondary characters get the same treatment, from Jihoon’s mother finally confronting his father with her side of their relationship, to Hye-soo’s former mother-in-law seeing Eun-sung at her son’s memorial. Despite all the drama craziness, it’s these small moments that make these characters relatable. _____ For full-length reviews, check us out on Seoulbeats.com.

By Sonya

With its plot of overburdened music students and a gymnast, who question their direction in life after two accidents, Page Turner is a gripping tale, starring Kim So-hyun, Kim Ji-soo, and Sassy Go Go’s Shin Jae-ha. The title of the drama is obviously music related; but being someone’s page turner is being someone’s support. This drama places a lot of literal emphasis on page turners, that can make or break a performance; but it is seoulbeats.com

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SB Highlights - Vol. 2  

Featuring... The Seoulbeats Annual Midyear Review plus Youth: The Most Uncertain but Beautiful Moment in Life and artists including Fiestar,...

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