Nov. 30th, 2012 03:42 pm
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My blurb for will.i.am/Britney over at the Jukebox contains 4 buts, 1 yet, and 1 except.

I started at 5 points but then realized I was enjoying playing it over and over.

But the low-budget vid's a bore from second number one.
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Here's HyunA displaying her Pikachu voice (segment begins 26 seconds in), anticipating how a year later she tells Psy he's just her style. But what's striking me now about the clip is Jihyun saying, right at the start, "We're famous for not having talents." I can't tell if this is just a quick quip, a "talent" merely meaning a special side attribute, or if the comment is coming from somewhere deeper.

There's a TV clip a bit later (here, and continues here) of their discussing how they deal with harsh comments, the guys who told them, "It's okay, just get your faces done first" (i.e., told them that their performance wasn't bad but that before they debut they ought to all have plastic surgery*), and people later who called them "deud minute," an acronym for "I couldn't even listen to or see 4minute." Those of you who've been following this longer and more attentively than I have: Are 4minute's looks considered a challenge to typical idol-girl faces and fashion? HyunA, of course, is Sex Symbol Of The Moment in K-pop, and she seems a master at being able to switch from goofball and brat in one second to total command in the next, donning and shucking off cuteness at will, while nonetheless coming across as fundamentally warm and spontaneous, and a light-hearted attention grabber. (If you stick with the Mr. Teacher vid beyond Pikachu, you'll see a funny sequence where HyunA's videoing the rest of 4minute head-on as they walk along a Kuala Lumpur street, but complains that it's scary for her to walk backwards, so makes all of them walk backwards so that she can be walking forward while continuing to work the camera.) But I wonder if the rest are considered non-idol-style in their looks and demeanor (and if that's felt to be a plus by their fans). Gayoon's face looks squashed-in, and Jihyun's can fall into a weary or sardonic droop, though I don't think that makes either of them unattractive.

I also wonder if HyunA's quick image switches make the general K-pop audience uneasy; to me she's thoroughly coherent and has done a smooth job of disarming the opposition.

Update: All hail Jiyoon )

*I gather that their label president encouraged them not to. And as Jihyun says, it's too late now anyway, since everyone knows their faces.


Jun. 15th, 2012 09:32 pm
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Trevor says, in his writeup about JJ Project's "Bounce," that:

"For me, there's nothing sadder than, say, a couple of self-described 'punks' arguing about what 'real punk rock' is and is not."
Guess you have to count me among the sad, then, since that's exactly what I was doing the other day when talking about Screeching Weasel and Britney in my "Are We NOT MEN?" post. (Ctrl-F "Screeching Weasel" and don't neglect to click the link to my 2007 Blackout ballot.)

I don't dislike "Bounce" (especially not outraged by any genre busting), though the track doesn't drive me, either. But the more abstract Trevor gets in his reasoning, the more I want to argue with it. Except what I'd rather do is prod him to argue with himself. So what I'd say to Trevor is: Ask yourself what questions would be most troublesome for your argument, and what counterarguments would be the strongest, richest, and deepest. I'll say as an aside — and this is an observation, not a criticism — that at least some of the terms you use to praise JJ Project feel very Sixties, very rock.

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T-ara Pure

Jun. 12th, 2012 12:31 pm
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I remember Gene Wilder in a TV interview putting forth an insight that went something like this: He recalled an old Charlie Chaplin clip where the tramp, famished, was standing behind a burly man holding a baby. The baby was eating a partially peeled banana. Whenever the burly man looked away, Charlie would bob his head forward and take a bite, pulling his head back when the man's gaze turned towards the baby. So you had a funny scene, an accidental dance, Charlie's head bobbing back and forth at the banana while the burly man looked to and fro. But what Wilder observed was that Charlie's motion was absolutely pure: no mugging for the camera, no wiggling eyebrows. The humor was in the idea, in what was happening, and Charlie didn't need to juice it up with funny faces to inform you that what you were seeing was funny.

To me, this describes the sound of T-ara: it's often cute, but the singing is pure. It's high-pitched, in service of catchy-rhymy songs; but the singers are doing it straight, not the vocal equivalent of making faces, not going chirpingly cute. (I already said this in my first quarter wrap-up; just wanted to add the Wilder vignette.)

I wouldn't call it a general principle, that pure is better than ham. Girl's Day go all high and girlie and chirpy in "Oh! My God" and it's a fine energy. And among T-ara themselves, Hwayoung launches into a rib-nudging squawk in "Roly-Poly" and "Why Are You Being Like This? " which helps make the songs potent, the result being aggressive rather than gooey (though Hwayoung's interjections in these two tracks annoy the hell out of Mat). The "oh oh oh ohs" in "Why Are You Being Like This?" aren't wink-free anyway, and again that's no problem. The "oh oh oh ohs" in "Lovey-Dovey" are cute as fuck, they're delivered straight, and the song has an unannounced gorgeousness to it and maybe that's why.

But taking account of their vids… )

Emphasis on crazy rather than you )
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Been saying that these days the voice of adventure in popular music is young and female, though so far my argument is more loose ends than fabric, and I find counterexamples as soon as I find examples (e.g., male EXO is certainly adventurous, I just wish I liked them more).

To put it negatively, pop music doesn't seem to have a viable adulthood, and masculinity (or whatever) stops making sense — or stops making excitement, anyway. (This last is a lot less true in the dancing than the singing, and I'm more and more questioning whether "popular music" is the right term anyway, "music" being too limited a descriptor. "Popular" is limited, too.)

So, on cue, Rock Critic Roundtable is hosting a discussion regarding NOT MEN, inspired by the relative absence of men (and boys, presumably) in Dave's recent year-end best-ofs. (Absence of male performers and frontmen, that is, not producers and execs.) He's asked Sabina, Jonathan, RGR, and Alex to be the convo, and invited us to the peanut gallery.

Questions from the peanut gallery )

Feigning clumsiness, he lets himself loose )
Wonderful but somewhat horrifying )
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How to get Maura Johnston interested in K-pop )

Britney )

IU, "The Story Only I Didn't Know." I don't have a good explanation for why a particular ballad hits me, since most go in one ear and out the other, leaving only torpor to mark their passage. Here, IU creates a space of intense agony, the music standing stark still. Her small voice sounds almost matter-of-fact. Like adding up deadly accounts. (So, torpor bad but stillness good?) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAQ0d3LAtZ0 [click CC if you're not seeing English captions])

Galaxy Dream ft. Turbotronic, "Ready 4 Romance." Take any room, from shack to bar to ballroom, dim the lights, add breaths and echo effects, and voila! A dark, erotic, cavernous space. The cavemen figured this out early, using shadows and torches.

HyunA, the Bubble Pop! EP: on reality TV HyunA plays herself as a goofball and brat (search YouTube for "HyunA screams at chicken"), yet this does nothing to undo her sexual aura. On live performances of "Just Follow" she moves slow, her face expressionless, the expressionlessness expressing force and haughtiness, and an inner stillness — the stillness totally sexualized. I wonder what she thinks of it. Does the force field of sexiness that emanates from her have anything to do with her, or is it just a thing that she ("she") can use? Is it just her gorgeous, slightly blank face and her way of barely moving, restraint in her gestures, onto which we project the force field? She and Zico had performed "Just Follow" seven consecutive times [EDIT: over ten days, that is]; at the end of the eighth they deliberately break character and smile, "See, we're normal warm people after all"; and HyunA winks. But this is a controlled warmth, "See, I've been here all along," her revealing herself in her own time, doling out the warmth but only when she wants to. So besides warmth what's revealed is mastery, the ability to control the revelation, the smile demonstrating more control since it says "I can turn my roles on and off." The fear and hysteria she puts on when she wants to go girlie-girlie is a role too — even if the various roles all happen to be the truth. [EDIT: This P&J para, written Dec. 22, 2011 or thereabouts, was my first attempt to get at the awe-and-aura-not-requiring-distance point I next made a week later on my lj and a few days after that on Tumblr.]

Singles ballot )

Albums ballot )

Why I don't capitalize the m in 4minute )
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Unfootnoted text that I hope is never deleted from Wikipedia:

Soyeon fostered her dreams of becoming a star even before she could stand in front of a mirror. After getting into an arts high school, she became a trainee at a top name agency in her senior year. Every single day, she rehearsed to the point of sweating through three different t-shirts.

Six months before she was to debut with SNSD, she withdrew from the final line-up. After returning home with an empty heart, she spent the next year and a half in what she personally declared was the hardest moment of her life.

Her hardships didn't end there, though, as her grandmother and uncle — both avid supporters of her dream to become a star — met with a health crisis that eventually led to their deaths a year later.

Soyeon expressed, "Up until my life right now, the year and a half I spent after leaving Girls' Generation was the hardest point in my life. Not only my parents, but my entire family supported my dreams, especially my grandmother and uncle. But right after I had to give up my trainee life, they passed away in the same year. Both told me one thing: 'Become a singer.'"

She continued, "After the funerals, I dusted myself off and tried to find my determination to reach my dreams again. I clenched my jaw and said to myself, 'Let's try this one more time.'"

Coincidentally, Mnet Media released an article declaring that they were looking for one more member to complete their upcoming five member girl group. To Soyeon, it was a chance that she couldn't pass up. After overcoming her obstacles, she's not only shining in the music industry, but in broadcasting as well. She's headlined countless times for her witty remarks on variety shows like "100 Points out of 100".


Soyeon is the one who starts singing at 0:28, and the song belongs to her more than to any other T-aran:

Crying better than dancing, being slavishly Britney better than either )
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Didn't get a review in on time for the Jukebox, but I'd have given "Criminal" a 9. Has an emotional pang way beyond anything the lyrics set up. It's as if Britney's own sorrow is trying to sing away her mother's sorrow: a reverse lullaby, Britney cupping Mommy in her arms and singing her to sleep.
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Galaxy Dream ft. Turbotronic, "Ready 4 Romance"

Pretty much missed three out of the four months, but was still able to get a solid 20, thanks to ringers from late last year, Korean b-sides, Korean instrumentals, a Far East Movement bonus track that's currently number 5 on the Gaon Overseas Chart, and a joke that my mom (b. 1923) says is far older than she is, much less the Bellamy Brothers. So predates World War I, at least. Might even predate the French And Indian War.

In regards to said joke, while even my Britney-loving friends consider "Hold It Against Me" the bottom poop of Britney's year, I'm completely taken by it, as it rumbles and rocks, glides and pummels, soars and attacks; maybe it's a bit too comfortable in its trashiness, compared to the unsettlingly squirmy trashiness of Blackout, but basically I think this and "3" are genius and if only she 'n' Max 'n' crew had put together an album's worth of such gorgeous sexslime, Femme Fatale'd be in my decade's top ten for sure. Will likely make my year's ten, anyway, though as you'll see below, not a lot of albums have been knocking the door of the koganbot pleasure center.

1. Britney Spears "Hold It Against Me"
2. Jeremih "Down On Me"
3. GD&TOP "High High"
4. Galaxy Dream ft. Turbotronic "Ready 4 Romance"
5. IU "The Story Only I Didn't Know"
6. GD&TOP "Knock Out"
7. Far East Movement ft. Lil Jon & Colette Carr "Go Ape"
8. Big Bang "Tonight"
9. Rihanna "S&M"
10. Reba McEntire "If I Were A Boy"
11 through 20 )

Albums )

Wild rose

LPG are listed as "trot," which is a Korean descendant of foxtrot, so I expect it's what everybody danced to prior to the young people's wave of hip-hop and r&b; in feel it makes me think of Italodisco, actually. LPG seem to be young people themselves, their name originally standing for "Long Pretty Girls" owing to the singers all winning beauty contests. Possibly an unpromising premise for a girl group, but art can come from anywhere, even the heights. Now, foreshortened by a few defections and replacements, LPG are merely "Lovely Pretty Girls" and perhaps need a successful album so as not to end up lonely pretty girls. They did a recent terribly blah cover of "We No Speak Americano," their voices being the total wrong style for a poke-you-in-the-ribs novelty. There's something clear and matter of fact about their singing, reminding me of Boney M.*

Kogan links )

IU, Far East Movement, Big Bang, Camo and Krooked, Girl2School, Kara, Rainbow, Crookers, Jamey Johnson, T-ara )

Albums Longlist 2010 )

Country Singles Longlist 2010 )

Martin Ramey vid )
koganbot: (Default)
So far. And three of them are holdovers from last year, which I justify down in the wonky notes. I've already posted about Jeremih, the gorgeous tenuousness of the sounds seeming to have nothing to do with the booty-gazing lyrics. You likely already know about the Britney, and if you haven't heard "High High" yet, that's hardly my fault. "Knock Out" is a bouncing bit of spare and twisting bubble bubble gum-smacking Korean hip-hop that doesn't match up with anything else anywhere that I can think of and will get a post of its own someday soon.

Meanwhile, "Ready 4 Romance" is roll-along-the-floor techno-dance that could play in any disco anywhere, atmospherics echoing through the atmosphere and a breathy girl occasionally showing up to say she needs me. "S&M" sounds bright and silly where you'd expect it to be dark and domineering, and is better for it. "No 1," the instrumental version of a B-side of an aggressively chirpy Korean girl-group single, is a bit of throwaway dance funk with a snaking synth line. "Good Day" is a diva showcase that morphs into a disco showbiz hussy and is a brilliant song, even if warm and appealing IU is neither diva nor hussy and doesn't blaze across the track the way it needs her to. And finally "Mocha Java" is a cooing little come-on, the basic background sound from backwater Russian dance clubs to international airport bars, though this happens to be Taiwanese.

1. Jeremih "Down On Me"
2. Britney Spears "Hold It Against Me"
3. GD&TOP "High High"
4. GD&TOP "Knock Out"
5. Galaxy Dream ft. Turbotronic "Ready 4 Romance"
6. Rihanna "S&M"
7. Secret "No. 1 (Inst.)"
8. IU "Good Day"
9. Xoxo "Mocha Java"

I have no number ten, so you need to tell me what it should be.

Wonky Notes )

Scruples force me to note that I have never actually been in a backwater Russian dance club. I admit it.
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When the camera tracks, you know it's Max, and when the tracks track, you know it's Max too, even if it's a different Max, and this week we've got Max tracks to the max.

Britney Spears )

Avril Lavigne )

Kanye West )

Pink )

Usher )

Jeremih )
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Special "Glee Against The Music" edition of Yet Another Year In America, though in good and unrelated news, Far East Movement's "Like A G6" rises to number 2.

Glee Cast )

Lil Wayne )

Glee Cast )

The Ready Set )


Apr. 14th, 2010 07:02 pm
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I coin a new term in this comment thread on Tom's Tumblr: "I was sick and tired of the way soul ballads had been dismissed as romantic escapist drivel."*

*Warning: some might find my comment unintelligible.
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If you want to join in there or here, I'm in an interesting convo with someone named Petra over on a comment thread on one of Tom's Tumblrs in regard to how or even whether angry songs by women are perceived (convo inspired by an incompetent and incoherent Jude Rogers trend piece in the Guardian).
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Let's take a look over at Britain, for a second. Says our pal Wikipedia, "Chipmunk also makes a reference to The Saturdays in ['Oopsy Daisy'] with the line 'And now I feel like The Saturdays are all week, cos me and my heart got crazy issues'. The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on 11 October 2009, coincidentally beating The Saturdays who charted at #2 with 'Forever Is Over'." Yeah, and it's a strange day when Chipmunk sounds like yesterday's mush in comparison to The Saturdays, but that's how it is overseas. Here, we've got a new number one ourselves, "Down" going down a spot, the second time in two weeks that a new artist takes over, after half a year of otherwise. And it's a long-time charmer/recent delinquent who does it for us. But does she do it for us? Check under the cut to see.

Britney Spears )

Justin Bieber )

Glee Cast )

Glee Cast )

Lower reaches watch )
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Made a couple comments on Dave's tumblr in regard to a post by abbyjean.

What's left to sell? )

What if the joke is on you? )
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"Blame" rises, "Climb" falls, and some radio stations are willing to !$@# "Amy," presumably in modified form.

Rascal Flatts )

Carrie Underwood )

Britney Spears )

Shinedown )
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New Britney jumps into the top five, surprise.

Britney Spears didn't exist for me as a human being until she shaved her head. I loved some of the music but never paid attention to the person. Which doesn't mean that once I knew what to look for I couldn't look back and find all sorts of personality. But that's a process I've only half gotten started on, which is why Britney comments from [livejournal.com profile] girlboymusic and [livejournal.com profile] alexmacpherson tend to have more depth than mine.

Britney Spears )

Akon )

Montgomery Gentry )
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Britney jumps to number one, Carrie and Abel make the long trek to the Top 40, and Akon and Weezy finally have a week where no one invites them in as guests, so they invite each other.

Britney Spears )

Saving Abel )

Carrie Underwood )

Akon )
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Stream of new Britney track, "Womanizer."

(I'd say it's like a lower-tier Blackout track, an "Ooh Ooh Baby" that's poppier and stronger but not necessarily better. But that still makes it good.)

EDIT: For some reason when you go to the link you have to click on one of the stations, and that'll take you to the track link. See if this gets you there more directly.


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