Introduction to K-Pop in 5 songs

Old School:

At the beginning of the K-Pop phenomenon was a solo artist that coincidentally also made the first K-Pop single that I ever heard of: BoA. After becoming a massive star in her native Korea, this little catholic girl then continued to blow up in Japan as well, becoming one of the first Korean artists to do so. in 2008, She went for the American market with this single and video, called “Eat you Up” which was coincidentally written by a bunch of Danes.

New Girls

This 9-piece girl-band launched in 2007, but had their real breakthrough in 2009 in Korea with the song above, “Gee” (I am particularly impressed by the sheer number of cutesy facial expressions in the above video). Known as SNSD, meaning “Girl’s Generation” which is also the name they are known under outside of Korea, come from the record company “SM Entertainment” which is putting together loads of these bands, coming from their dedicated Pop-Star boarding schools. They hold auditions all over the world for new (Asian) girls. SNSD are currently (unsuccessfully) trying to break the US as well, but instead of keeping their sound they are now pretty American-sounding, and it’s all weirdly half-baked. Their US-single is called “The Boys”.

K-Pop Japanese Style

Usually bands just translate their songs for the Japanese market and make new videos, almost exactly like the old ones, just differing in details and the other actors. Occasionally however, there will be original songs for the Japanese market. This one in particular, straddling between K-Pop and J-Pop, shows why K-Pop is internationally relatively popular and J-Pop is, uh, more of an acquired flavor.

Urban

This is probably one of the more impressive music videos I have seen coming out of K-Pop recently. 2NE1 have been put together like most of these bands (through auditions and boarding schools) and while they are probably the most international-sounding band in Korea right now (they are apparently currently recording an album for the US with Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas, something I can totally see),  something they share with most other bands is that their members speak different languages and are form different cultural backgrounds. 2NE1 have one American-raised member who speaks/raps in absolutely native-level English, one of them speaks fluent Japanese, etc. In bigger bands there is usually a good number of English, Japanese, Chinese and English speakers.

Boyband Launch:

One of the more impressive recent launches of bands has been the Korean/Chinese project “EXO”. This 12 member band splits up into sub-bands, a 6-man Chinese and a 6-man Korean band. They sing the exact same songs, in Mandarin and Korean, and they can appear separately for TV appearances in different countries at the same time. They also serve as backing dancers in each other’s videos. While EXO was set up this way (by the same record company as SNSD), many other bands divide into subgroups only for certain songs or promotions.

Further Viewing:

4Minute – Volume Up
SHINee – Sherlock
T-ara – Roly-Poly

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Why the UK needs to stop whining about their ESC results

Eurovision is one of my favorite events every year. I think it just generally appeals to my competitive side, the same way I am glued to the screen when the Olympics are happening. This year, It took place in Azerbaijan.

Every year now, after the contest, a big whine is raised, mainly from countries that didn’t do well, about neighborly and diaspora voting, and how it skewed the results in a way that made their country look bad undeservedly. Those people are slightly right, of course, or they wouldn’t fall back on that excuse every year: Neighboring countries, or countries that share a similar cultural background, are slightly more likely to vote for each other. That’s why Greece and Cyprus give each other 12 points every year: They are basically the same country. The same is true for Moldova/Romania, the former Yugoslavian countries and Scandinavia. Even Ireland and the UK can rely on each other for points to a certain degree.

This year, the UK did pretty badly (second to last) by sending Engelbert Humperdinck. Here’s my response to some common complaints to hear these days:

1. Engelbert Humperdinck is beloved and famous all over the world!
This may have been true about 30 years ago, but that man hasn’t had a hit single even in the UK for more than 20 years (or an album out anywhere outside of it) While there may still be a fanbase for him around, they simply don’t watch Eurovision in sufficient numbers (anymore). If Jedward, who were in the contest last year and made a pretty big splash despite not winning, can’t do well automatically¬†(like t.a.T.u could a few years ago), then this guy certainly can’t.

2. The voting is political, we didn’t get any points because Europe hates us!
That was a pretty common refrain until a few years ago in Germany as well, until, well, until Germany changed their selection format, won the contest and did pretty well afterwards. There is really not much of a reason why anyone would hate the UK now more than 2010, when they came fifth.

3. We just don’t have enough neighbors to get votes!
Neighbors don’t guarantee votes: Sweden won the contest with the same neighbors that saw Norway come last. The same Norway that won two years ago…

4. No really respectable artist would take place in this joke of a contest!
None of the winners from the past years were established artists, even in their home countries. They don’t need to be, the song/performance is all that counts.

5. It’s all just for a good laugh anyway
Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either send Scooch, and don’t care how well you do, or you can actually try. But you can’t laugh about it and complain at the same time.

The UK last won in 1997. You’re not “due” a win yet. Just chill and send something good and contemporary. And that doesn’t mean Josh Dubovie with a Stone/Aitken/Waterman reject tune from the 80s.