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Addendum to yesterday's HyunA post, and my conversation with [personal profile] belecrivain: Until a couple of days ago I hadn't known there'd been a short "Run & Run" video. "I'm always running for you" could mean that in your eyes I'm always running. But I prefer it to mean I'm always running on your behalf. On our behalf. I'm running ahead so everyone can see there is an ahead. I'm always working because I don't want to stop. The lyrics are bragging, while the video is loneliness. But the loneliness is still something of a boast.

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HyunA is my artist of the year for 2016, but Wonder Girls also had a couple of excellent singles, and since they've now disbanded it's my last chance for them. Hence the dual award. (I'm in the habit of doing this every June, except when it slips to July, or in this case August. And my 2016 singles list still needs to go up.)

Wonder Girls "Why So Lonely" (2016)

It seems to me Wonder Girls were in great shape to go forward, though I don't know anything about their relations with one another or with their agency, JYP.* Their recent concept as a "band" may have been something of a gimmick, each member playing an instrument. But they were also all involved in writing and producing the new stuff, as good as anything JYP had provided them earlier. And not only was it good, it managed to mix in adult-like stylings, loungey and breathy and jazzy, without losing its danciness or its lightheartedness. And, while not as radical as Oh My Girl's juxtapositions with similar material, it was as good as that, too. Like K-pop as a whole, Wonder Girls were excellent at working in and playing around with decades and decades of Western dance-pop styles — hip-hop and r&b and synthpop and disco and soul and girl group — without sounding anything less than contemporary. And when Wonder Girls went explicitly retro they still weren't retro. I'll miss them.

Also, Wonder Girls were my first K-pop group: the first I heard and the first I posted about. Not because I knew anything about them, or about K-pop; didn't even know there was such a thing. I'd long been playing with the idea of the dependence of foreground — what you do — on background, on what your collaborators do, on what the rest of the world does, or what it leaves blank, what shores you up and highlights you and sets you off, what differentiates you from the rest and the rest from you, your light and their shadow and their light and your shadow, how they create you and demolish you and you create them and demolish them, everything potentially twisting everything inside out. This has been kind of my ongoing thesis and masterpiece, my most high-profile version focusing on the Rolling Stones and James Brown. One day in 2009 I read a UPI squib about a Korean girl group as the opening act on a Jonas Brothers' American tour. Out of curiosity I searched YouTube and lo and behold, there was the Wonder Girls video for "Nobody" with Park Jin-young (JYP) doing a gag as a James Brown wannabe who gets displaced by his background singers. So I posted under the title "Background Becomes Foreground," and anhh and [personal profile] petronia showed up in the comments and began my K-pop schooling.

Like This and So Hot )

As for HyunA, she's long been appealing as the friendly sex-bomb next door, humorous and emotional and emotionally accessible, donning sexiness as a kind of plaything, enjoying stardom and playing chicken with the censors while being fundamentally unpretentious. I liked how she put herself at an angle from the K-pop work ethic. She was powerfully fun without needing super dance chops or technically impressive rap displays. What I wasn't expecting was the raw power of her singles from the last three years, especially "Red" and "How's This?" but "Roll Deep" and 4Minute's "Crazy" belong there too. They basically rock the fuck out of the joint. A lot may have to do with the whole writing and arranging crew on these, some or all of HyunA herself, Seo Jae-woo, Big Ssancho, and Son Young-jin. Her sexy pout may not be any stronger than it ever was, but it's now the riveting center of music that no longer just tickles or seduces you but knocks you over, too. Or knocks me over, anyway. ("How's This?" isn't streaming at the amount of the others, none of which are as high as 2011's "Bubble Pop!")** And she's becoming a template for other acts: CLC and Miso.

HyunA "How's This?" (2016)

Btw, if you want to, you can see a bit of a shadow side in all of this, all her sex and dance invitations: there's the question of whether anyone really has it in themselves to run with her. I think Jessica Doyle way overstates this at the Jukebox, the loneliness, but she does a great bit of analysis, and she's right, it's there. Mo Kim sees it too: "HyunA registers 'How's this?' less as a coy request than as a taunt: she's daring us to keep up. Read that as fun, or sad, or somewhere in between..." Of course you can hear it as bragging, too. "I'll be a wolf forever, or I can live alone." (Here's an EngSub vid for "How's This?" You can find 'em for most of her songs, and find most of her lyrics translated at pop!gasa as well.) After School stated this duality succinctly at the start of "Bang!" one of my primary K-pop tracks: "T-R-Y Do it now! Can you follow me? Yes, uh-huh. T-R-Y Pick it up! You'll never catch me. Oh no." 'Cause if you get too close, I'm gone like a cool breeze.

Red, Hot Issue, Irony, footnote )
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A punk votes for a punk (again). Here's the playlist:

1. Lil Debbie "F That"
2. NCT 127 "Limitless"
3. MC G15 "Deu Onda"
4. Jovi "Ou Même"
5. CLC "Hobgoblin"
6. Miso "KKPP"

7. Juan LaFonta ft. Big Freedia "Bounce TV"
8. Pristin "Wee Woo"
9. Omar Souleyman "Ya Bnayya"
10. Steps "Scared Of The Dark"
11. Vince Staples "BagBak"

12. Cherry Coke "Like I Do"
13. K.A.R.D "Rumor"
14. Die Antwoord "Love Drug"
15. Alternative TV "Negative Primitive"

16. Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie "In My World"
17. K.A.R.D "Don't Recall"
18. Ashmute "Scenery"
19. Twice "Knock Knock"
20. Molly "Я просто люблю тебя (Dance version)"

21. Serebro "Пройдет"
22. Hyolyn x Kisum "Fruity"
23. G-reyish "Johnny Gogo"
24. Yungtime ft. Mihney "Uh uh, uh hum"
25. Nadia Rose "The Intro"
26. Mani Bella ft. Tenor "Déranger"

27. Reniss "Pilon"
28. Jessi, Microdot, Dumbfoundead, Lyricks "KBB"
29. Sunny Sweeney "Better Bad Idea"
30. IU "Jam Jam"
31. Maahlox le vibeur "Un Bon Plantain"
32. Koppo "Gromologie"

You once again get Debbie's nasty mug staring at you atop my playlist and my prediction is you'll get her all year. So — again — a punk's voting for a punk, me for Debbie. (See me a few months ago ripping in all different directions on punk, and a more malevolent punk voting for a more malevolent punk.)

As you may have expected, I've spent hours debating whether the CLC track ranks higher than the Miso or vice versa. I keep trying to throw Miso higher, for being the more powerful performer. But CLC get more help from their song, the zoom golly golly takeoff being seductive and razzy at the same time.

But Miso seems to have razz and seduction burned into her personality, or at least her persona: low-rent and going for instant ingratiation, which can be more alive and more enduring than art that has more forethought or money or integrity behind it. I really don't know how well I'm reading Miso, though, how much of this is just the low budget rather than the personality. In the video I think she's throwing herself at us, with smiles that aren't friendliness or niceness, so it's availability that's not altogether available, but a lot of wiseass fun. It's not unfriendly, if you wanna play along. Except as I said I'm just guessing here, and peering across cultures. The template is HyunA but without the immediate allure and playfulness (or without convincing me of the allure and playfulness); so where HyunA's strong and warm and emotionally accessible, Miso's aggressive and fast, but actually that's alluring too, a fast come-here-and-ride. A different allure. Or a video that couldn't afford a lot of camera setups.

As David Frazer points out, "KKPP" uses the same sample as "Canvas" by HyunA's old group 4Minute, though that song's not the group's most HyunA-centric.

Speaking of "Canvas," it's number 4 on my list for last year, the final version of which was finished in February but I still haven't posted the list; last year I thought Rihanna's product wasn't as good as the cheap Eastern European knockoff (Era Istrefi's "BonBon"); this year T-ara's going-out-of-business single isn't as good as "Johnny Gogo," G-reyish's poor-boy-sandwich of a "Roly-Poly" imitation; and of course HyunA's single with Triple H isn't as good as the two HyunA imitations on my list.

Francophone West Africa is killing it, even if I don't understand it )
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Generic songlist intro: Had mostly completed this a month ago, felt I ought to say something about some of these, hence the delay in posting. Here's the YouTube playlist:

1. Lil Debbie "F That"
2. NCT 127 "Limitless"
3. MC G15 "Deu Onda"
4. CLC "Hobgoblin"
5. Juan LaFonta ft. Big Freedia "Bounce TV"

6. Pristin "Wee Woo"
7. Steps "Scared Of The Dark"
8. Jovi "Ou Même"
9. Vince Staples "BagBak"
10. Cherry Coke "Like I Do"

11. K.A.R.D "Rumor"
12. Alternative TV "Negative Primitive"
13. K.A.R.D "Don't Recall"

Lil Debbie. By strapping herself tight to rhyme and meter schemes she becomes taut and virulent.* NCT 127. If this had been Super Junior doing the "baby it's you" part, the hair-on-the-neck harmonies would've been shivery and cold. NCT sound warm doing pretty much the same, and good for them. MC G15. The genre is "funk ousadia," Google translating it from the Portuguese as "daring funk" or "bold funk," which in this case is a slow goofy dance on a high wire.** The melodica brings me back to Ennio Morricone and Augustus Pablo, also shivery. CLC. HyunA moves with a nice ungainly beauty into which she's instilled presence and charisma while still being accessibly goofy. She's written and produced a HyunA soundalike track for CLC, who have none of her charisma and little of her talent, and they sound almost as good anyway and almost as compelling, also goofy.*** Juan LaFonta ft. Big Freedia. 60 seconds is an effective length for Big Freedia's insistent repetitiveness, about the length of a long TV commercial, which this literally is. K.A.R.D. Immediately gripping but the grip is too tight, or anyway the beats are a tad sludgy and, surprisingly, it's the female singers rather than the males who lie too heavily atop the rhythm. Lots of promise, though, in the songs and the singing.

*Virulence can be a massive irritant of course when linked to Debbie's childish toughness, and fuck that, but it's up to better people to make better music, and at the moment they don't.

**"Sexual connotations and puns in the form of humor," Wikip helpfully opines, also with the assistance of Google Translate.

***Hence the question I asked 30 days ago: "'What if the Rolling Stones had written and produced hits for the Shadows Of Knight?' (Well, what if HyunA wrote and produced CLC?)"
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Saw Ash-B's first appearance on Unpretty Rapstar and went, "Oh, no, they're making her/she's making herself sound tough and real and it won't work and she'll lose," so I averted my ears and avoided the show.

To my barely informed mind HyunA is now the dominant rapper in K-pop in that whenever anyone in Exid or 4minute who is not HyunA starts to rap or sing, I go, "This sort of sounds like HyunA but now I'm waiting for HyunA herself to show up." "Red" last year established this for me. (The wait is longer in Exid than in 4minute, obviously.)

Crayon Pop continue to score by ignoring past achievements; SHINee and Wonder Girls explicitly wallow in a past that's of course been implicit all along throughout the genre; most interesting freestylish moment, though, is "Delete," which casually pairs old NY-Philly-Miami riffs with cool autonomous vocals that you'd never ever have heard on an actual vintage freestyle track.

Since spring I've barely listened to anything that isn't medium-old jazz (Lee Konitz, Miles Davis).* So this list suffers, esp. in its dearth of No Tiers discoveries.** I've basically been relying on YouTube-generated playlists for K-pop and on random looks at the Singles Jukebox for everything else. I found Lila Downs via her "Cuando Me Tocas Tú" linked on Jonathan Bogart's Tumblr. (That track and Wonder Girls' "One Black Night" are candidates for my Freaky Trigger ballot, which allows album tracks.)

So, what have you been listening to?

1. Ash-B "매일"
2. The Seeya "The Song Of Love"
3. Azin "Delete"
4. Rihanna "Bitch Better Have My Money"
5. HyunA ft. Jung Ilhoon "Roll Deep (Because I'm The Best)"

6. Crayon Pop "FM"
7. ZZBEst "랄랄라"
8. Titica "Você Manda Fogo"
9. Momoiro Clover Z vs KISS "Yumeno Ukiyoni Saitemina"
10. Red Velvet "Ice Cream Cake"
Daphne And Celeste through T-ara (11 through 20) )
SHINee through GFriend (21 through 33) )

*In jazz, I didn't like what I heard this year from previous fave Matana Roberts. Sounded like a parody of a 1950s bohemian séance.

**But let me reiterate my liking for the missed-by-me-last-year "Babomba" from the impressively overlooked (and now personnel-shifted) Badkiz.
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Yesterday my girlfriend and I heard, piped into the King Soopers supermarket on Speer and 14th, near where I work (serves a Hispanic neighborhood to the west, downtown to the east, Auraria Campus to the north), Television's "See No Evil." I'd certainly never heard anything like it — classic Velvets-Byrds-Wagner derived avant garage from the first CBGB era — in a major supermarket chain before. (King Soopers is Kroger's outlet on the Wyoming/Colorado Front Range.) Was followed up by a surf instrumental, then '60s pop hit "Georgy Girl."

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Today, at the King Soopers on Evans and Carr, a few blocks south of where I live in heavily Hispanic west Denver, the guy in front of me complimented a woman working checkout by telling her she had a lovely necklace and asking whose picture it featured. "It's a Korean group, GOT7. Sorta hip-hop and dance," she explained. I spoke up: "I know GOT7. They're the latest on JYP," I added, in order to appear knowledgeable. The woman was about 22, seemingly Anglo.* As she rang up my order, I asked her what other K-pop she listened to, and she said her other best band was Infinite. "Oh yeah," I said, "'Be Mine.'" "That's one of their best songs," she said. She said that SHINee was also one of her favorites, but that GOT7 and Infinite were the ones she liked most. "Have good listening," I said, as I carted off my groceries.

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Of course, GOT7 have zilch to do with Television, or CBGB. But notice that the love interest in the supermarket in GOT7's "A" is wearing a T-shirt of another classic CBGB act.

*By "Anglo" I mean non-Hispanic Caucasian; I'd be considered "Anglo" by this def'n, even though my ancestry is Eastern and Central European Jew.
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Am more ambivalent about "Chick Chick" than the high ranking indicates, given the social inequity underlying the song: the vocals are utterly pedestrian during the cutesy "mǔ jī mǔ jī mǔ jī mǔ jī" stuff and during the rap; the track only starts to cook when the screaming and the chicken clucking and the cackling let loose. It's then that it goes to syncopated excitement, a great visceral speed chase — really penetrates the nervous system, sorta like Bob Quine's guitar lines back in the Voidoids. But my needing to reach so far back for an example, and to guitar sounds rather than singing, leads me to this disturbing conclusion: Chickens are now more credibly penetrating than human beings are. Oh yeah, and if this list and my own viscera are representative (big "if," since they're quite possibly not, and if I'd listened to more hip-hop and rock and banda* maybe I'd know this), women are more credibly penetrating than guys are, women are more credibly tough than guys are, women are more aggressively cute than guys are, women front for rock music better than guys do, women front for heartbreak better than guys do, etc. But I've been worrying about this for years, every time I post one of these lists. And since I'm a glass-is-half-empty kind of a guy, I don't attribute this to women being good but rather to guys being lousy. And it isn't that I believe males no longer have talent, but rather that they're not finding musical models that work for them — as singers and front men, that is; when the spotlight's not on, guys are there contributing to the adventure, as instrumentalists, songwriters, dancers, impresarios, owners. Actually, the boybands are great dancers. And as for "not finding models that work for them," what's really — or merely — evident in this list is that guys are not finding models to make music that works for me. Boybands are doing fine among the fans. I'd have ranked boybands Vixx and Infinite higher if the singers had pulled off the high emotion, but the songs are gripping nonetheless.

Oh yeah, and I'm also pissed off that it's mainly young women and young men on my list (even my token trot track is by a relative youngster), but I've harangued about that before too.

I'll note that celebrated chickenphobe HyunA kicked butt this year (as well as displaying, slapping, and embracing butt (of more than one species)), and was somewhat penetrating back in 2011 deploring chickens. And that A Pony Named Olga are male human beings, not ponies.

Bold for tracks I added since October 1.

1. Wa$$up "Jingle Bell"
2. The Chainsmokers "#Selfie"
3. HyunA "Red"
4. BiS "STUPiG"
5. Kate Nash "Sister"
6. Courtney Love "Wedding Day"
7. Orange Caramel "So Sorry"
8. Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q "2 On"
9. Nicki Minaj "Lookin' Ass Nigga"
10. Crayon Pop "Uh-ee"
11. Orange Caramel "My Copycat"

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12. After School "Shh"
13. Shakira ft. Rihanna "Can't Remember To Forget You"
14. A Pony Named Olga "Funny What You Pray"
15. Wang Rong "Chick Chick"
16. Vixx "Error"

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17. Future ft. Pharrell, Pusha T & Casino "Move That Dope"
18. T-ara "First Love"
19. Puer Kim "Manyo Maash"
20. Danity Kane "Bye Baby"
21. Badkiz "Ear Attack"
22. PungDeng-E "잘탕 (잘 시간이 어딨어)"
23. GP Basic "Black Bounce"
24. Serebro "Ya Tebya Ne Otdam"
25. Dal★shabet "B.B.B (Big Baby Baby)"
26. Ca$h Out "She Twerkin"
27. Crayon Pop "C'mon C'mon"
28. Arcade Fire "We Exist"
29. The Hold Steady "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"
30. Gabylonia "Tirano"

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31 through 70 )

By the way, I'm only half-joking about the credibility of chickens — not that chicken sounds are inherently credible, but if it's Wang Rong herself doing the chicken vocals — and I think it is — the chicken voice unleashes something in her that she can't do otherwise in anything close to her own voice, at least not in the several tracks of hers I've listened to on YouTube. (But, given that Wikip says she's been putting out music since the early '00s, I've hardly got an overview of her work. This one's nice enough, this one's got some interesting voice maneuverings, and on this one she sings with authority.)

A Pony Named Olga )
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Distracted, scattershot listening, with some good discoveries nonetheless. Pretty much totally ignored hip-hop, but it kept pushing its way onto this list anyway, either as guest spots or per se. A couple of non-gender-reversible videos by Tahiti and A.Kor. A lot of hard-rocking aggression in my top ten (top twelve if you go down to Future), the non-"rock" (Chainsmokers, HyunA, Nicki) rocking as hard or harder than the "rock" (Kate, Courtney, w/ BiS kinda both rock and nonrock). I guess you could call Orange Caramel aggressively silly, too. HyunA is the highest newbie, a vortex of fake mayhem and real power — also with a problematic couple of seconds that you might miss but it's worth saying a little about: war whoops that are made explicitly American Indian in live performance, the problem being not Oh noes! appropriation! or the inaccuracy, but that even when the portrayal of Native Americans as fighters is positive, as warriors! as braves! as admirable and courageous! they're rarely portrayed as anything else [EDIT: as anything other than fighters, that is]. But fwiw, the suggestion of being overrun by whoops makes this particular song stronger emotionally, the song being an overload as it is. The lyrics, by the way, are a takeoff on a Korean kids' song, or so Google informs me. Kids go "Monkey's butt is red, red apple, apple is delicious, delicious banana, banana is long," etc. So HyunA's song goes "Monkey's butt is red, red is HyunA, HyunA is yeah..." so, implied, HyunA is delicious (some haters went, "So HyunA is a monkey's butt," but that's the Internet).

1. Wa$$up "Jingle Bell"
2. The Chainsmokers "#Selfie"
3. HyunA "Red"

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4. BiS "STUPiG"
5. Kate Nash "Sister"
6. Courtney Love "Wedding Day"
7. Orange Caramel "So Sorry"
8. Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q "2 On"
9. Nicki Minaj "Lookin' Ass Nigga"
10. Crayon Pop "Uh-ee"
11. After School "Shh"
12. Future ft. Pharrell, Pusha T & Casino "Move That Dope"
13. Shakira ft. Rihanna "Can't Remember To Forget You"
14. T-ara "First Love"
15. Puer Kim "Manyo Maash"
16. Danity Kane "Bye Baby"
17. Badkiz "Ear Attack"
18. PungDeng-E "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5io392fL2Qo">잘탕 (잘 시간이 어딨어)"
19. GP Basic "Black Bounce"

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20. Serebro "Ya Tebya Ne Otdam"
21. Dal★shabet "B.B.B (Big Baby Baby)"
22. Ca$h Out "She Twerkin"
23. T-ara "Sugar Free"
24. Arcade Fire "We Exist"
25. The Hold Steady "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"
26. JunglePussy "Fuck Texting"
27. Shakira "Empire"
28. Jiyeon "Never Ever"
29. Mia Martina ft. Dev "Danse"
30. Infinite "Back"
31. Neon Jungle "Braveheart"
32. Lady Gaga "G.U.Y."
33. Zizo ft. Nan Ah Jin "Spy"

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34. Tahiti "Oppa, You Are Mine"
35. Bass Drum Of Death "Black Don't Glow"
36. SNSD "Mr.Mr."
37. Kim Wan Sun ft. Tiger JK and Bizzy "Goodbye My Love"
38. Shakira "Dare"
39. Scarlet "Hip Song"
40. Tyga ft. Young Thug "Hookah"
41. Louie ft. Boy Wonder "Twilight"
42. Low Pros ft. Young Thug & PeeWee Longway "Jack Tripper"
43. Ray.B "살만한가봐"
44. Plan B "Candy"
45. After School "Rock It"
46. Infinite "Last Romeo"
47. Cam & China "Do Dat"
48. A.Kor "But Go"

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49. Choi Sam "Answer"
50. Yemi Alade "Tangerine"
51. T-ara "LA'booN"
52. Brantley Gilbert "Bottoms Up"
53. Rascal Flatts "Rewind"
54. Switch "39˚C"
55. Yelle "Bouquet Final"
56. Polly Scattergood "Subsequently Lost"

Some notes on newbies:

A.Kor "But Go": Lil Jon–like shout-outs, CL-like joyously cute toughness, 2NE1ish mideasternisms.

Choi Sam "Answer": Almost subliminally deep electronic wobbles undergird rapping that seems to work from Korean talk as much as from hip-hop. Most distinct track on this list. (H/t Mat.)

Scarlet "Hip Song": Wears its electronics on its sleeve while going in its structure for the feel of a quick little rock 'n' roll knockoff, using the first eight bars of the 12-bar pattern, the voices as blippy and instrumental-like as the instruments.

Okay, briefly on the warrior thing. Historically you had descendants of Europeans going in and invading and displacing American Indians, with the invaders thinking of themselves as pioneers and settlers (albeit with an advanced guard of gunmen and celluloid desperadoes), whereas the people who resisted the invasion are rarely portrayed as anything but warriors, so are shown as fundamentally war-like. That's a ridiculous imbalance, no?

Anyway, that's all I've time for, may be off-line for a day or two. I don't feel censorious towards HyunA. Some persistent truth and education would be more useful, though not enough money's appropriated for education these days.

[Reminder, I've had to disallow anonymous posting, but if you hit the down arrow you can post using your Facebook or Twitter accounts, and Google+ and a couple more things; the dropdown menu will tell you.]
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Real good overinterpretation of the new Trouble Maker video "There Is No Tomorrow (Now)," comment posted by YouTube commenter hyunseungtwin 8 minutes ago:

The music video follows the story of the musical "Bonnie and Clyde". They're a couple, both who are criminals. Both try to forget each other but they can't because they still love each other. They spend their last night together kissing, setting walls on fire, all of these a memory of the past they shared. Near the end, two cars circle around them they symbolize their death. The MV portrays a sad romance between a couple that has no other way to love, than death.
I myself had only gotten as far as "hangovers, binge drinking, mobile home, Union Jack what?, the spector of physical dissolution, out to the nowhere, let's see if we can break the record for how quickly we can get Korean TV to ban our video." But yeah, the Bonnie And Clyde/Gun Crazy thing: Gun Crazy was a Bonnie And Clyde progenitor directed by Joseph H. Lewis in 1950; clips from it were actually used by Hwang Soo Ah in her video for Infinite's "Be Mine." But arguably, even though it lacks guns and b&w noir evocation, the Trouble Maker video* comes closer than "Be Mine" to the actual feel of Gun Crazy, the cars circling at the end recalling the Gun Crazy scene where the two protagonists each get in a different car to drive in a different direction (they're marked by police bulletins as a couple, doomed if they stay together), but the cars circle in on each other because the two can't bring themselves to separate — which honestly the cars in the Trouble Maker vid wouldn't have evoked for me had not the commenter brought up Bonnie And Clyde. Unlike John Dall and Peggy Cummins, our couple HyunA and JS aren't driving the cars but are merely encircled by them, the cars symbolizing a trap, not a rejected escape. But the feeling is there, of motion unable to break free. The incongruous Disney candy colors of "There Is No Tomorrow" make the video all the more touching for seeming to run opposite to the pro forma dissolution that washed-out colors or b&w would have evoked — K-pop smiley brightness in a ride to disintegration.

*Video is directed by Lee Gi-beak; haven't yet done a search, though Wikipedia also credits Lee with the video for Beast's "Caffeine."

Song is by Shinsadong Tiger, Rado, and LE, says Wikipedia.
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If you were to ask me do I think T-ara are sexy or, instead, do I think they're cute, you've asked me an insane question, since their cuteness makes them sexy and their sexiness makes them cute. Not that there's a complete overlap: cuteness is only a part of their repertoire of sexiness and sexiness is only part of their repertoire of cuteness. And they generally avoid cutesiness, which is a turnoff. But what I'm noticing is that "cute vs. sexy" is something of a meme in K-pop, even though as an actual dichotomy it hardly seems usable. But there is even an officially designated "sexy version" and an officially designated "cute version" of T-ara's "Bo Peep Bo Peep" vid. Recognizing that "cute" and "sexy" are being used as generic, symbolic terms — so not encompassing something like "Minzy has a cute ass," where "cute" means "she's really hot"; but more like how a nightgown symbolizes sexiness while a business suit symbolizes seriousness even though someone can look really sexy in business clothes and look unsexy in a nightgown (not sure what a "cute" costume would be: a bunny suit comes to mind, but that's problematic) — there are nonetheless performers like Sunny (of SNSD) and HyunA who are also adept at interweaving the symbols of sexiness and cuteness (and the word "interweaving" is misleading in that it still implies too much of a difference), not to mention seriousness and the business suit when those performers are so inclined.

That's how far I've gotten stating the issue )

Sad but sexy )

One thing I noticed, looking at that and the other GLAM vids, is that view totals are edging up and there are all these recent comments to the effect that "Kim Nana brought me here." So who's Kim Nana? Turns out she's a character in the TV miniseries Monstar, the actress portraying her being GLAM's own Dahee. And talk about SAD AND SEXY! She's absolutely smoldering — despair, anger, and heat all at once. And in the TV show, straight, as far as I can tell. I'll confess I haven't had time to actually watch an episode, and it looks like I'm not going to; frankly, from the clips I've seen it doesn't seem very good ("Monstar depicts the lives of ordinary teens who are injured psychologically and heal themselves through the power of music"). And while the ballads are passable, the bravura pop-rock showpieces are utterly tedious: big blundering TV-contest ideas of what impressive, powerful song presentation is supposed to be. Yet there's Nana as a character, introduced to us first as the dangerous, dark brooding sexy girl from the wrong side of the tracks — don't mess with her — whose heart, we're to learn soon enough, is secretly breaking. That's pretty much all I've gotten from quick-skimming the clips; I can guess how everything plays out but I don't know, or what surprises I missed, or what I got wrong. Nonetheless, there's Kim Nana. I can't tell you, not having watched more than scattered scenes, how good Dahee is as an actress. It may not matter. All she has to do is to look out at us through her long hair and to never smile. If I'm fourteen years old I know who I'm in love with.

 photo Dahee as Kim Nana brooding.jpg

Censors unrepresentative mindset )
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I remember in the second half of 2011, while 2NE1 were being my official, conscious favorite band in the world, T-ara were subliminally becoming my actual favorite band. This didn't really pour forth in my writing, though, until the year changed. 2012 started with Jiyeon, Soyeon, and crew dancing in a circle, and shuffling backwards in unison, adorable and indefatigable at the same time, joyeous but so serious, too, working so hard at catching up with the world's dance: the shuffle, which had been a subcult of individual idiosyncrasy and creativity and had been transformed by LMFAO into an international dance of comic compulsion and affliction, was now, for T-ara, simple workaday everyday solidarity, seven unpretentious young women moving in the latest style.

At the end of the year I was going back to the very same clips and it was like watching T-ara suddenly caught in the headlights, the half-second before they register surprise and fear. You wonder what's really there, Hwayoung flinging her leg sideways in the performance's showpiece, dance after dance after dance, four nights a week, Eunjung dropping out 'cause of a broken kneecap, others missing this or that show owing to schedule conflicts or minor injuries, the dance formations being reworked to accommodate.

But back in late 2011 I was already wondering about T-ara, who are they, why are they so good? 4minute, with engaging and accessible sex-bomb Hyuna at the center and the 2-yoons as vocal powerhouses, and a push-and-pull of appeal and rebellion that is a lot closer than T-ara are to my own sensibility, and who work with some of the same producers and songwriters, reach me in maybe one out of every three songs. Whereas T-ara have no bad songs,* except perhaps a Xmas throwaway here or an OST side project there, and even most of those are good. Even the ballads are good — standard and sentimental and just a day's dip into normal emotion.

I have no explanation, really. I bolded the "T-ara Pure" link below, maybe the most crucial of my attempts to figure it out, though I really just came up with adjectives, and not that many, piggy-backing on my first-quarter roundup. T-ara are kinda normal, I guess — I never made it to watching the variety shows to find hints of who they are as people. There's Hyomin's high pitch and Jiyeon's engaging disengagement, and Soyeon's determination — now a loaded word. Normal singers and dancers, taking what the world throws at them, until the world REALLY began throwing hard, and in response they froze. You can click the T-ara tag for any time T-ara comes up in my posts or in the comments. And here are links to what I consider the more significant of my T-ara and T-ara-related posts on lj, from the beginning to right now. I do, especially, think my Pazz & Jop ballot is a crackerjack bit of writing, my best attempt to sum up the pathology T-ara was subjected to starting mid-year.

Near year's end T-ara issued an apology to their fans, vowing to work harder, "work" being their only solution to the madness, even though it was just that, work, that did nothing for them when the storm hit.

Here goes )

Mother Of God, Is This The End Of T-ara? )
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What's going on with Rainbow's "concept"? And how do "concepts" work in general in K-pop? Even though performers do sometimes change 'em like costumes, that doesn't necessarily mean those very performers aren't committed in some deeper way to what the concepts mean. Or at least it doesn't mean that they're not committed in the audience's eyes, or that we don't hold them accountable on the basis of our (or someone's) sense of what they're doing with the concepts and who they appear to be behind the concepts.

I find Rainbow's switch from "the sexy dominatrix image"* of "A," "Mach," and "To Me" to the new one on "Tell Me Tell Me," whatever it is (cheery and serene and bright but at a half-knowing half distance?), jarring:

Music seems to be included in the concept of "concept." As it should be. Except the music on "Tell Me Tell Me" is meh compared to what Rainbow were doing a couple of years ago in "A" etc.

I don't believe that in Korea or America there's a split between authenticity and artifice; the two concepts aren't opposites )


Feb. 6th, 2013 09:54 pm
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[livejournal.com profile] warthoginrome writes:

I don't know if you had the chance to run into this news, so I wanted to point it out, because the topic is common to the entire asian pop scene.

The story is about Minami Minegishi (20 y.o.), member of the japanese group AKB48. A tabloid published some photographs of her leaving the apartment of her boyfriend, Alan Shirahama (19 y.o.), member of the boy band Generations.

As you may guess, Minami is bound to a "contract" which prohibits any kind of relationships. After the bomb exploded, she decided (spontaneously?) to cut her hair and record a public apology. In the video she apologizes to colleagues, family, and fans, reproaching herself for having been "thoughtless and immature," and specifying that "I don't believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did, but the first thing I thought was that I don't want to quit AKB48." In the meantime, the agency demoted her from the "senior" to the "trainee" rank, for "for causing a nuisance to the fans."

I don't really know why, but as soon as I saw the video, the T-ARA controversy came to my mind, because I find it hard to tolerate the unlimited power of the so called netizens (better, customers). This is really too much. I know that, after all, Minami is more fortunate than many boys and girls of her age living in much tougher conditions around the globe, but I feel bad for her anyway.
Checking this out myself, I see that American news outlets have been all over this story, reporting that the incident has provoked pushback and even outrage in Japan, people calling the treatment of Minami unfair and saying it amounts to bullying (many people assuming she had little choice in the matter of close-cropping her hair).

 photo Minami Minegishi shaved head.jpg

Some American (I assume) commentators at The Young Turks provided their own perspective, and my crap detector says that they didn't actually research the culture, that they're making guesses as to the attitudes behind the no-dating rule. ("You're no good unless you're virginal, you're no good unless you're pure, you're no good unless I actually have a shot at sleeping with you sometime in the future.") But then, I haven't researched it either. And just because they're guessing doesn't mean they're wrong.

Crossing the border )

G-Dragon )

Results nobody wants )
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Best track on HyunA's Melting is the rough 'n' tough "Don't Fall Apart";* starts with a martial beat and a voice commanding "Attention!" Wikip credits words and music to Beatamin, who seem to be the duo Nassun and Zenda Fakteri. A flick of the wrist on YouTube, and we find them working with Kikaflo on his "Attention" (2011), which is, as they say, slammin':

A bit more searching, and there's Kikaflo's recent Kick A Flow Mixtape: 20 Minute Spits, lead track "Look At Me":

Look At Me )

Though I'm tired of guys acting hard, Kikaflo's got the sound to at least make the hardness strong. Mixtape seems to be legally available for free through the hip-hop collective Yeizon. Four strong songs, the rest pretty good. I don't know if Beatamin are players on it, though Nassun's credited with "additional lyrics."

Nassun's highest visibility was as the goofy guest rapper on Lee Hyori's light-of-spirit "U-Go-Girl." He's the funny boho boy on that one; on "Attention" he's the scary well-cheekboned Mr. Zebra Pants, singing the break.

Nassun's own recent release, Under The Sun, goes more for beauty, instrumental versions being better than original versions.

*[UPDATE: Wait. Now Wikip is calling the HyunA song "Straight Up!" in English, presumably the record company deciding that that's the best title for marketing the song outside Korea. But "Ice Cream" is the single, so why should they care what this one's called? Song is still "흐트러지지 마" in Korean, which the ever creative Google Translate renders as "Do undisturbed."]
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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.
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Excellent commentary by [livejournal.com profile] arbitrary_greay on "Gangnam Style" and related matters over at the SNSD Free For All. Includes this mashup of "Gangnam Style," "I Am The Best," and "Fantastic Baby," which shouldn't work as well as it does, given how crowded it gets, with all three of them trying to find room on the divan:

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Writeup includes comparisons to "Sexy And I Know It" and "Pon Pon Pon," as well as reaction to the ft. HyunA version.
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While searching "Oscar song meanings," I incidentally found this thread where non-Koreans talk about how they discovered K-pop and why they love it.

"I'm just wondering...... I see many people who aren't Korean listening to Kpop.

"How did you find out and learn about kpop?
"Why do you love it?
"What is your ethnicity/nationality?
"What are your favorite groups and why? What are your favorite songs and why?"
"Do you prefer boy groups over girl groups or both?"


I don't think nationality matters at all because puppies of all countries listen to kpop. A norwegian puppy or a belizean puppy - they all love it! I'm central european, now living in Phnom Penh where local khmer kids dance to kpop in parks. Few nights ago they were swaying their hips to Abracadabra :D
Three people like that the groups don't have to sing about sex, money, and drugs.

Favorite meta, best food reference, most emblematic authenticity argument )
Anyone reading this can answer in the comments, if you'd like, even if you are Korean. How does one define "Non-Korean" anyway? I'd say that I'm non-Ukrainian, non-Belarussian, non-Russian, non-Polish, non-Austrian, nonshtetl, non-European, non-Yiddish, etc., though I could claim all those ethnicities (or whatever) under certain circumstances. By the way, the first-released (though unauthorized) version of "Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)" was not by SNSD but by an Uzbek. Not that Uzbekistan is anywhere near the Ukraine. But it's closer to the Ukraine than to Korea.

[Error: unknown template video]
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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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Trevor's got an in-depth analysis of the "Gee" video and the male gaze or absence thereof. If I'm interpreting his basic point right, it's that the video is about girls having fun with girls, not about how they appear to some guy — or maybe more emphatically, it's about the girls having fun with girls while abandoning the gaze of some guy. As far as it goes, this analysis seems right, and matches what I think about Miss A's live routine for "Breathe," which is that it's not about some guy making them breathless; rather, the supposed breathlessness is a pretext for the young women* to clown around with each other.

Except I don't think that puts the issue to rest, not by a long shot. What I find limited in Trevor's analysis is that he's talking about the story in the video but he's not talking about the story of the video in the world. For instance, I'm looking at the video. So's Trevor. So are you. I don't see that the video has subtracted our eyes.

An incomplete list of gazes, gazers, etc. that might be relevant:

--The characters in the video
--The performers in the video
--Who the videomakers envision might be looking at the video
--The videomakers themselves (incl. performers, costumers, editors, financiers, etc.)
--The assumptions the videomakers make about the audiences for the video, about the audiences' expectations regarding music etc., audiences' role in fandom and their vision of the world, and about how the audiences are likely to use the video, etc.**
--The experiences and assumptions of the videomakers themselves about video, music, life; their vision of potential worlds etc.
--The actual audiences for the video and how they see such videos; their visions of the world and of potential worlds; how they use the video in their lives
--The people writing about the video; the writers' assumptions and visions etc. and their assumptions about their readers' assumptions and visions etc.
--The social classes/categories of the aforementioned (which obv. include age and gender but include a lot of other stuff too)
--How all these gazes, gazers, uses, etc. may change over time, the use of the video not being fixed

More gazing, plus footnotes )
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Anybody know anything about this? According to Billboard, it's been on the K-pop chart for 39 weeks, never getting above 35. A trot rhythm, ballad-like but definitely Asian. In the olden days, this would have been my stereotype of what Asian pop sounds like. Touches of what seem like country & western, but the resemblance may be a coincidence (though I wouldn't assume it's a coincidence). Also, a few big-band r&b horn flourishes.

Presumably, it's old people who listen to this. I'm an old person, and I like it.

[EDIT: YouTube took down the studio version, so here's a live performance.]

Longest-running K-pop qua K-pop tracks in the top 50 are Ailee's "Heaven" (which is a big ballad, really, though I'll count it as K-pop given that K-poppers give it their ears), 15 weeks, and Big Bang's "Fantastic Baby," 12 weeks. The Gaon chart doesn't list longevity, but goddamn "Moves Like Jagger" is still in the Top 100 after 9 months or so. T-ara's "Lovey-Dovey" just fell out of the Top 100 after approximately 20 weeks; IU's "You And I" and Trouble Maker's "Trouble Maker" are still in the low 100s after about 25.

Unlike American pop, K-pop has a blockbuster pattern. Releases are events, and they get crowded out by the next week's events. Even the most popular songs stay only several weeks near the top. SNSD's mark of 9 consecutive wins for "Gee" on Music Bank in early '09 will likely never be beaten. (The Gaon chart didn't exist yet. I think it's slightly easier for a teen-oriented K-pop song to hang onto number one on the TV performance show charts than on Gaon, since ballads aren't as much in the competition. But still, 2 weeks is a lot and 4 weeks is dominating. Not sure how IU's "You And I" did on the performance charts, but it stayed atop Billboard K-pop for a solid 5 weeks, and remained in the top 10 for a total of 9. See Wikipedia's Korea K-Pop Hot 100 entry for the other long runners.)


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