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The T-ara kissoff EP is okay enough, on and off, the only real standout track being "Diamond," a strangely deep and ethereal Qri solo chant that sounds like "I Want Candy" elongated and beautifully vaporized — though interestingly enough, it's the next cut, Hyomin's "Ooh La La," that uses a Bow-wow-wowish Bo Diddley beat and a melody reminiscent of the Temptations' "The Way You Do The Things You Do." Neither track sounds much like T-ara.

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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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I feel emotionally battered by the election, feeling simultaneously vulnerable and malicious, as if I'll be attacked for anything and nothing and I run constant fantasies of going back and settling old scores.

I've been sitting on most of this list for a month now, wondering what to say. I don't know how this music "plays" among the people most affected by it. I'm also not completely sure whom I should consider the "people most affected by it," anyway: thirteen-year-olds uneasily trying to figure out who they are and what other people think of them, and being subjected to this music, to these vids? Kids who when they listen don't see or hear themselves and wonder what's wrong with themselves for not being like it, kids who do see themselves and don't like what they see, kids who like what they hear, like what they see, don't realize they're being set up, kids who are inspired to change themselves, kids who are just having a good time, um [trying to think of positive impacts], kids who grasp these as vehicles for love, for excitement, for conversation, for adventure? I don't know. Kids who like the way they look when they dance to this? Kids who hate the kids who dance to this?

—Why am I privileging "kids" here? ('Cause they're the ones for whom "who am I?" social choices are still fairly open, and influenced.) Why am I still listening to so much kids' stuff, anyway? (Well, other stuff I listen to isn't likely to produce singles.)

But, age 62, wondering why I'm not finding or particularly searching for good music fronted by people my age, two-thirds my age, three-fifths my age, even half my age; or fronted by male people; or explicitly political from the political Left.

I hardly ever visit the lyrics translation sites,* if the lyrics would provide much of a hint.

So I'm not doing much research, am I? Just sitting around wondering.

Locker room talk: I was molested (in a bullying, taunting way) in an actual locker room when I was a teenager. I recently dashed off a piece for my writers group about how if I imagined myself on the bus with Trump I'd think he was, among other things, challenging and bullying me. It didn't dawn on me to include what was done to me back in my track-and-field locker room. In my junior high bullying piece back in WMS #9 I said something like, "It was all over by ninth grade," but the molesting happened when I was in 9th grade, so clearly it wasn't all over. I don't know if I ever even brought up the locker room with a therapist (until last Wednesday, when I did). Maybe I thought (somewhat correctly) that it was relatively small cheese in comparison to the effect of the verbal teasing of a few years earlier. Anyway, songs in my life then were part of the soundtrack, whatever support or fear they provided.

From approximately 1963 through 1980 people more-or-less "socially" like me made great music that had a strong public presence. Afterwards, they didn't. ("People more-or-less socially like me" is vague enough.)

This is why I never post this. I'm just... not wanting to put thoughts together. Making excuses, it feels like.

Tension two paragraphs back between the phrase "people more-or-less socially like me" and the fact that one way of being "like me" is having a similar visceral response or aesthetic sensibility.

So, if I were to study old Mayan art and somewhat understand its world and be moved by it, does that make me more Mayan (if only marginally so) than I'd been before? (But do I have any idea whether my being "moved by it" is similar to how the Mayan's responded to it or what they did with it? Well, presumably if I'd done some research I'd have some idea about that, too.)

I get the sense that K-pop mostly comes from the mainstream and is geared towards cheerleader types and jocks more than to the freaks and the greasers (to use ancient terminology from a different part of the world). Also, duh, I don't know what I'm talking about it. Cheerleaders and jocks aren't necessarily more conservative than greasers, anyway, and are often less explicitly reactionary. Also, I assume (not necessarily correctly) that those who create K-pop are living in a Seoul version of Hollyweird, hence a bit more liberal than their audience. I think of particular performers, e.g. Brown Eyed Girls, and video director Hwang Soo Ah, as being vaguely on the "left." Whereas T-ara, for instance, traffic less in the need for some kind of breakout. But, e.g., T-ara's videos with director Cha Eun-taek hardly seem authoritarian or particularly traditionalist, and many of them are very good. (Cha Eun-taek is in the news right now in relation to an emerging government influence-peddling scandal, but not only do I truly know little about it, I'm wary even on my Blog That No One Reads of linking someone to the word "scandal" when I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm mindful of how the simple constant repetition of phrases like "T-ara bullying scandal" and "Clinton email scandal" creates the sense in the broad public that certain people MUST be in the wrong, even when most of the public has no idea whether or where there really is a scandal and what the alleged wrong is. Cha to his credit was one of the few industry people to tweet in support of T-ara (and Eunjung in particular) during their duress.)

"Songs in my life then were part of the soundtrack, whatever support or fear they provided." (Songs Implicated In Bullying Scandal!)

In the old days, when more people read my lj, at least a few people who knew more than I do would come along and help me out.

Here's a YouTube playlist of my Top Singles, 2016; will continue to be updated. Think I'm probably underrating the Mike Larry and overrating the will.i.am:

YouTube playlist: Ongoing Singles 2016

1. HyunA "How's This?"
2. Britney Spears ft. G-Eazy "Make Me..."
3. Crayon Pop "Vroom Vroom"
4. 4minute "Canvas"
5. FAMM'IN "Circle"

6. Tiffany ft. Simon Dominic "Heartbreak Hotel"
7. Era Istrefi "BonBon"
8. Aommy "Shake"
9. Serebro "Slomana"
10. NCT 127 "Fire Truck"
11. Wonder Girls "Why So Lonely"
12. DLOW "Do It Like Me"
13. Oh My Girl "Windy Day"
14. Serebro "Let Me Go"
15. Blackpink "Whistle"

16. Tiggs Da Author ft. Lady Leshurr "Run"
17. Britney Spears "Do You Wanna Come Over?"
18. NCT U "The 7th Sense"
19. Your Old Droog "42 (Forty Deuce)"
20. Serebro "Chocolate"
21 through 52 )

*Pop!gasa has a good reputation, though I forget who said so (which makes my use of "reputation" in this sentence a good example of what reputation is).
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The mp3 blogs took a pass on Badkiz's "Babomba" last November which is why I didn't hear it. Could've made my top ten: it's like T-ara in relentless dance mode — "Sexy Love" and "Number 9" — but instead of those songs' strenuously beautiful love pain it's got high-pitched playground chants similar to those on Badkiz's previous single. Though he didn't produce this, Shinsadong Tiger, who wrote and produced "Sexy Love" and "Number 9," is listed as a co-writer (says Wikip). Maybe that's where most of the budget went, to the song and the sound.* The rather cheap video** has the band pushing foam in the face of annoying guys, maybe a follow-up to the funny anti-bully moves of Badkiz's first vid, but too crude and slack in its attempt at comic timing. The dancing is greatly improved but still rudimentary, the concept being to bend the torso and wave the hair. Manages to be appealing, in its little way, especially live.

(But on Inkigayo, they were, strangely, wearing hoodies, for a kind of delinquent-cute look, maybe. A YouTube wiseass suggested that this was to hide the fact they couldn't afford a hair stylist.)

Allkpop called the video concept "sexy and funny." I think when you come down to it Badkiz don't really have a concept. Maybe "invention a little outside the box," which draws comparison to Crayon Pop, but Crayon Pop really are inventive. How about: reasonably good voices and they're willing to try hard, with joy (guerilla performance here)? People on YouTube have been creating dance covers of Badkiz's simple moves, which gives me hope the band will continue. Two songs so far, both of high quality.

*"Babomba" also has a sequence where successive lines are started by a shouted number (3 and then 4), a gimmick Tiger lifted from "Hot Issue," the first track he did for 4minute.

**[UPDATE: The agency seems to have killed the original cheap video in favor of a cheap 2nd video made around the same time.]


Jan. 25th, 2015 08:07 pm
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Don't know if I've ever embedded T-ara's "Roly-Poly" vid. YouTube killed the Eng Sub version,* so I'm testing to see if Dailymotion will still embed onto lj:

Well, Dailymotion killed that, but it's back up on YouTube:

What I keep pointing out, about this vid and about the first several live performances, is that Jiyeon** manages to be effervescent in the dance without once cracking a smile.

*For some reason it was Tokyo Broadcasting System that put in the copyright claim, though this is the Korean video, not the Japanese.

**Jiyeon's the lead dancer here, the one in violet, with hair up, in the first of the live videos, in cut-off striped shirt in the MV.
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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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I've been claiming that K-pop has a load of freestyle embedded in it, though I can't say how much of this is conscious, how much subliminal (e.g., GLAM knew they were sampling Chuli & Miae but seemed unaware that what they'd sampled was already a sample from the Cover Girls), and how much underived convergence (drawing on similar '80s and electronic sources, you can develop strategies and sounds that are similar to freestyle without their coming directly from freestyle). As far as I know, the word "freestyle" doesn't itself tend to pop up in K-pop as a reference to the NY-Miami '80s electronic dance style.*

Be that as it may, producer Shinsadong Tiger only sometimes delves into freestyle,** but there's a moment near the start of the regular mix*** of T-ara's "Sugar Free" where he's doing a fricassee chop and sugar toss right out of Mickey Garcia and Elvin Molina, for instance this from the Garcia-Molina production of Judy Torres' "Come Into My Arms" and this from their production of Cynthia's "Change On Me." Overall, "Sugar Free"'s hard four-four is far from freestyle, but "Sugar Free" has a recurring riff that also reminds me of Garcia and Molina in its bounce and its fast twistiness. Here are the three songs in full, which are very much worth your time:

T-ara "Sugar Free"

Judy Torres "Come Into My Arms"
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Cynthia "Change On Me"
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"Sugar Free" is the third consecutive riff-heavy throw-you-against-the-wall electronic dance track that Tiger's done for T-ara ("Sexy Love" and "Number 9" being the previous two), and once again I like it, all three being appropriately grimmer than the charming "Roly-Poly" and "Lovey-Dovey" he'd done for them pre-"scandal" (though I'm sure "Sexy Love" was conceived pre-scandal, so this likely is a coincidence). Still, I miss the charm. I have a bit of the same reaction to "Sugar Free" that I had to the Duble Sidekick–produced "Jeon Won Diary," which is that the track itself seems to be overwhelming the T-ara-ness. I feel this might have been more naturally a 4minute song, owing to the crescendo parts reminiscent of "Volume Up" and the way the title chant and the raps seem to be aching for HyunA's comically agressive pouting. These aren't criticisms. Having been thrown down a notch commercially, T-ara are still throwing down gripping music.

As for other recent T-ara product, the Jiyeon EP works very well for me while the Hyomin EP doesn't, though the latter has pretty good material. Hyomin may be the group's most emblematic singer, sounding sketchy yet strong in the higher register, so not quite "fierce" or "emphatic" but the one most defining of the high pitch, the one who makes it shred, even if her singing gets shredded a bit in the process. The shredding comes across as emotional commitment. But maybe she needs the other T-ara voices preceding and following her for everything to jell.

Jiyeon of course has been playing a role in my imagination that may have little to do with her. I cast her as the foil, perhaps? That may not be the right word. She's not counter to the bright T-ara sound, she's just not being the one to light it up. Stands off to the side in a way that draws her emotional attention anyway. On Never Ever her uninflected breathiness paradoxically gives gravity to the light sentimental material.

*As opposed to meaning raps that are off-the-cuff rather than entirely prewritten, this being an entirely different use of the word "freestyle."

**While 4minute's "Hot Issue" feels very freestyle to me, there's not a lot more from Tiger that does so — though in a brief moment in "Number 9," Jiyeon did manage to make me think of Brenda K. Starr's and Pajama Party's "Over And Over." And I feel

***Interestingly, it's not the regular mix but the tougher, bigger, and more spacious Big Room mix that's getting the big promo push from the label.
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Even with S. Korea having canceled spring on account of the ferry disaster (as Subdee says), I'm woefully behind on K-pop, and my listening elsewhere has been too random and intermittent even to be called scattershot. But anyway, int'l dance cheese goes strong at its most opportunist (Chainsmokers, Orange Caramel, Badkiz [the "Party Rock Anthem" influence still potent in Seoul], PungDeng-E, Arcade Fire, Mia Martina), whereas the boring int'l amalgamated danceR&Bglaze&crud that's been weighing down charts worldwide since 2009 somehow manages to sound touching in the hands of a Shakira and a Rihanna who've had all their distinctive characteristics removed. Danity Kane go retro, referencing Teena Marie; equally retro Dal★shabet, who still can't sing for shit, nonetheless find themselves immersed in great freestyle riffs. Ole punk manages not to be dead in the hands of poignantly desperate and angry Kate Nash and Courtney Love. T-ara, Jiyeon, and Puer Kim veer smoove and After School master smoove. Few boys' mouths, as is usual on my lists these days; fewer still who sing. And as the biz still invests almost nothing in us oldsters, funky fresh young Crayon Pop represent on our behalf.


1. Wa$$up "Jingle Bell"
2. The Chainsmokers "#Selfie"
3. BiS "STUPiG"
4. Kate Nash "Sister"
5. Courtney Love "Wedding Day"

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6. Orange Caramel "So Sorry"
7. Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q "2 On"
8. Nicki Minaj "Lookin' Ass Nigga"
9. Crayon Pop "Uh-ee"
10. After School "Shh"
Future through Shakira )
Bass Drum through Rascal )


1. After School Dress To Kill [Avex Trax]
2. Kali Mutsa Souvenance [Shock Music]

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Tracks that stand out as being less like most of the others on this list:

Wa$$up "Wa$$up" and "Jingle Bell": Like a lot of K-pop, this music draws on American hip-hop. But unlike a lot of K-pop this doesn't sound like K-pop, but rather like American jumprope pop.

Tren-D "Candy Boy": Like a lot of K-pop, this music draws on Italodisco. But unlike a lot of K-pop this doesn't sound like K-pop; it sounds like Italodisco.

Qri "Do We Do We," Boram "Maybe Maybe," Lim Kim "All Right": Not that these three are that similar to each other, but each is from an interesting area of smooth, "All Right" more upmarket, "Do We Do We" and "Maybe Maybe" b-side fluff from T-ara's bench warmers.

After School "Heaven": Smoothly sashays atop the nonsmooth.

Stromae "Papaoutai": Belgian Afro-dance (and family drama).

Baauer "Harlem Shake" and Psy "Gentleman": Relentlessly nondevelopmental mindfucks.

Vick Allen "I'm Tired Of Being Grown": Southern soul.

The Civil Wars "The One That Got Away": Dinner-date folkies let loose with tasteful tears.

Within Temptation "Paradise (What About Us?)": Goth metal (if that's what it's called these days).

Tom Keifer "Solid Ground": Hair metal, which isn't considered metal these days, and fuck these days.

Omar Souleyman "Warni Warni": Syrian wedding music on a speed-racer track.

SNSD "I Got A Boy": Shifts forms, won't establish a plot, shoots its self-conscious audaciousness at us with awesome persistence.

Zhanar Dugalova "Kim Ushin?": A Kazakh grabs the rolling happy spirit of "Behind The Groove"–era Teena Marie, successfully disregarding the fact that Teena Marie was a virtuoso and she isn't.

Fidlar "Cheep Beer": Cheap beer.

1. Crayon Pop "Bar Bar Bar"
2. Baauer "Harlem Shake"
3. GLAM "I Like That"
4. will.i.am ft. Britney Spears "Scream & Shout"
5. MBLAQ "Smoky Girl"
6. EvoL "Get Up"
7. Cassie ft. Rick Ross "Numb"
8. Wa$$up "Wa$$up"
9. Tiny-G "Minimanimo"

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10. Gaeko & Choiza & Simon D & Primary "난리good!!! (AIR)"
2YOON through Kacey Musgraves )
Psy through Fidlar )
Girl's Day through T.O.P )
Ben Pearce through Ray Foxx )

Flogging a live animal )
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Quick opinions:

SNSD Love & Peace. Japanese, Scandinavian, consistently tuneful, not trying to overpower us with muscle and rhythm.

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Tymee "On The River." Strong, harsh, and plaintive at once, is the hurt, pummeled, and scarred Tymee. She's been doing this since her sad "Diary" days, but it was usually a sideshow to the artplay and to her being the fast sprite and melody-flinging cut-up. A lot of that's on hiatus since the name change: instead, she's been aggressive and angry; now she's knocked back in pain.

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T.O.P "Doom Dada." Beats dig into the dark desert to match T.O.P's rasp, which sounds quite amused by all the dust.

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Also: good album from Vixx, dull album from Myname, very good "Lonely Christmas" from Crayon Pop, T-ara's "Hide 'N' Seek" not as good as Miss A's "Hide & Sick," Nine Muses' "Glue" not as good as Nine Muses' "Gun," 2013 Flashe single not nearly as good as 2012 Flashe single but I'm glad they're still in business and that strong-voiced Songhee is still singing, disappointing single ("It's You") from D-Unit after a very good year, disappointing single from Super Junior ("Blue World"/"Candy"), third set of the year from SHINee (Everybody) not as good as first two.

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What's the name of the new T-ara single?

In aggregate it seems to be "Do You Know Me?" at least in translation. But the first track (ballad) and second (dance) have different Korean names, with the title "What Should I Do?" sometimes showing up on YouTube. Since the vid uses both versions, I'm not really separating out which is which. Maybe Wikipedia will eventually figure it out. In the meantime I'm going with "1977 Do You Know Me?" for the ballad and "What Should I Do?" for the dance. Google Translate is its usual pickled self, giving us "I Do Not Remember 1977" for "1977 기억 안나" and "I Cram" for "나 어떡해."

Also — the k-pop news 'n' entertainment sites are not clear on this — is there some 1977 input or origin for the song?

It seems to be a flop right out of the gate (fewer than 450,000 views for both streams after four full days), but I love it from the first instant. I still fear for the future of Jiyeon's unique aura and bearing if she continues to emote (her former uninflectedness and detachment being a form of evocative resistance, at least in my hopes), but nonetheless, in the present, I love how she and they — non-"impressive" singers — so easily brush every poignancy button, and then reprise it all as a romp.

Glad they're ending the year strong.
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I worry that my posting this simply adds my own drop of piss to the general pissiness of the Internet. If Areum's in trouble, posting about it won't help her. If she's not in trouble, posting about it won't help her. My excuse is that the Internet's in trouble too (which I find fascinating), and that's what I'm posting about. (And anyway, participation at [livejournal.com profile] koganbot is down to a trickle.)

But in case you're not up on it, ex-T-ara-member Areum has been posting texts and vids on her Instagram that Netizens are characterizing as "strange" and "insane," and there's a recent post of hers that seems to take a swipe at Core Contents Media CEO Kim Kwang Soo and at the remaining members of T-ara.

I really have no idea if there's anything there, and I simply don't trust Netizens and K-pop "news" and entertainment sites to be remotely competent on the subject of whatever it is, if anything, that is happening with Areum. Netizens, Allkpop, etc. have a history of credulously and stupidly repeating each other's narratives and interpretations. Regarding Aream, what's specifically missing are:

(1) Authoritative and full translations of what Areum said.

(2) Any attempt to actually evaluate whether what she said and did are "strange" or "insane" rather than, say, hard to understand due to observers not having a full view of what she's responding to (or maybe not even hard to understand if we block out all the noise and preconceptions regarding the supposed weirdness of what she's saying). Since I don't know Korean myself, and for that matter don't know Korea, I feel at sea. (And I'm so out of it regarding modern technology that I had to look up "Instagram" in Wikipedia). What I'm looking for is someone going in with the sense of "Here's something I don't yet understand, here are some hypotheses, here's what I found potentially disturbing, here are some potential counter-explanations." I mean, my initial thought about someone posting a video in the middle of the night where she's talking to people who aren't there would be that she's acting or playing around; whereas if she were talking to people who weren't there in the middle of the day at a supermarket I'd be immediately leery (but would look to see if she's wearing an earpiece, hence is just on the phone). One bit of supposed evidence of her strangeness was pretty easily refuted by poster jus-sayin: "On Instagram, not sure if it's international but in Korea, her birthday's 4/19, so she posted at 4:20 saying a minute passed since her birthday. It's not that weird. Among fans, some send her tweets at 4:19 to wish her a 'happy birthday(time)' or they call it 'Areum time' so she's not losing it because she wished herself happy birthday." People have been linking her Instagram as if it's self-evident that what we see will appear weird. But is it?

In any event, thanks to David Frazer for alerting me.


Nov. 8th, 2013 02:42 pm
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Song of the week is Lim Chang Jung's "Open The Door," a seemingly square, florid, impassioned trot that goes hilariously LMFAO in the chorus. The song's actual history runs opposite: was originally, last year, a forgettable would-be int'l-style dance track that I'd heard but forgotten by the Wonder Boyz (incl. LMFAO squiggles but w/out the zest we get when we Open The Door). So what's new this time are the trot beats, which with the hamming bring the song to immediate life. The squiggly LMFAO parade-streamer synths are the topper that they couldn't manage to be in the first version.

"Open The Door," by the way, makes this my third straight K-pop post to feature a Shinsadong Tiger track. He seemed to be having an off-year until all of a sudden he's not.

I'm late on it, but I highly recommend GI's "Gi," extending GI's tradition of ridiculous song titles. (Very first single was called "Beatles" despite having neither lyrics nor sound that refer to our lovable moptops (other than, I suppose, by having a beat). Band's name stands for Global Icon, and the Beatles are a global icon, if that's a connection.)

Also noted, Tren-D's "Candy Boy," in an unabashed Italodisco style. I especially like the instrumental B-side:

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(I've included the Austral-Romanian tag because, while "Open The Door" isn't quite on the continuum that I've imagined, it's a second-cousin to the style.)
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Okay, T-ara's really weird year was last year, but that was merely for what was being done to them in their lives. As for notes and singing and dancing and stuff, this year seems to be one tangent after another. Of course, "Number 9," their new Shinsadong Tiger single, is a return to top T-ara and resumes right where they left off with "Sexy Love" in September 2012. But my actual favorite T-ara product in 2013 has been most-inessential-member Qri's strange Bunny Style b-side in Japan, "Do We Do We," which sounds like perfect piffle from a previous dimly perceived galaxy of Italodisco. Here's a fan vid. [UPDATE: YouTube scotched the fan vid, so here's another one, using a Bunny Style still (ears are... I don't know, but it's not my world)[and that was scotched as well, so here's yet a third, ear-free).]

The only other track to hit me from the Bunny Style project (10 different releases with the same A-side and ten different B's) is "Maybe Maybe" from other officially inessential member Boram, the song trying to sound equally inessential, could do double duty as a commercial for air freshener. Without the apparent skill she outdoes Lim Kim and IU on the Ipanema tip. The rest of "Bunny Style" is as light and bright but far less engaging in its nothingness. (But I don't pretend to a feel for J-pop.)

(Btw, [livejournal.com profile] arbitrary_greay and [livejournal.com profile] askbask have you heard this?)

Target, Jeon Won Diary, Bikini, Painkiller )

So, to "Number 9" and Shinsadong Tiger: he's once again risking one hook too many and using song parts that no longer seem to flow one into the other in the way melodies used to flow back in the Korean old days of two years ago, though maybe those parts'll seem inevitable in their order once they get ground into me over multiple hearings, as finally happened with "Volume Up" and "Sexy Love," in any event seem to fit K-pop's growing formal ferment.

Jiyeon abandons her uninflected breathiness for actual emoting, the brief beginning of which ("neo manhi nal utge haneun") reminds me of the strong cross-ocean ache in Pajama Party's and Brenda K. Starr's "Over And Over"**; the song's passion is on her shoulders even more than Eunjung's, and she carries it. Although for the long run I'm uneasy if this turns out to be a change in Jiyeon's role,*** this time it works in the song's general pitch of T-ara joy and anxiety. To top everything, Hyomin does a bleaty barky thing in a "rap" that once again, typically for T-ara, is more compelling than most real rappers' real raps.

But maybe the year's top T-ara story is Qri and Boram finding themselves in a carefreeness that no one would believe from the others.

Footnotes, Pajama Party, Robert Mitchum, rankings )

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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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By now everybody has already made all the salient points there are to make about F-ive Dolls' "Soulmate #1." But, being aware that not everybody who reads this blog reads everybody, I've determined to, as a public service, simply restate the points that everybody has already made.

(1) While the riff may not exactly be the riff from "Funky Town," it's awfully similar. (Like maybe one note different.)

(2) F-ve Dolls were until recently 5Dolls, but now there are six members and the group name was changed to "F-ive Dolls," the logic of which I'm sure I don't have to explain to you (which is a good thing, seeing as I have no idea). The lineup has changed over the years.

I recommend that you listen to this track before reading the rest of this post.

(3) The catchy chorus to this catchy song goes:

꽉 안아줘요 꽉 안아줘요
꽉 안아줘요 갈비뼈가 으스러지도록
키스해줘요 키스해줘요
뽀뽀해줘 앞이빨이 쏙빠지도록
which the good people at pop!gasa translate as:

Hug me tight, hug me tight
Hug me tight till my rib bones break
Kiss me, kiss me
Kiss me so my teeth fall out
which seems rather extreme. When the Hangul text is merely transliterated into romanized text, one gets something like,

Kkwag anajwoyo kkwag anajwoyo kkwag anajwoyo
Galbi ppyeoga euseureoji dorog
Kiseuhae jwoyo kiseuhae jwoyo ppoppo haejwo
Api ppari ssogppaji dorog
I'll add as an aside that the phrase "Kkwag anajwoyo kkwag anajwoyo kkwag," as it reaches my English-language ears, sounds a lot like the English words "Fuck, I'm enjoy a fuck, I'm enjoy a fuck."* I'd say this was probably just me, except it's not just me, even if it turns out to be a coincidence.

(4) I was going to call this post "F-ve Dolls Seek Amy" but I chickened out.

More name changes contemplated )
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As you see, Crayon Pop have my top song. But for the long run I'd lay my bets on ChoColat. Crayon Pop have to rely on being insanely catchy every time out, while ChoColat only need reasonably good tunesmanship and dramatic timing and Melanie's passionate wail — all of which ChoColat can rely on.

1. Crayon Pop "Bar Bar Bar"
2. Gaeko & Choiza & Simon D & Primary "난리good!!! (AIR)"
3. GLAM "I Like That"
4. Baauer "Harlem Shake"
5. MBLAQ "Smoky Girl."

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6. will.i.am ft. Britney Spears "Scream & Shout"
7. Evol "Get Up"
8. Cassie ft. Rick Ross "Numb"
9. Tiny-G "Minimanimo"
10. ChoColat "Black Tinkerbell"
11 through 50 )

Continuing the ChoColat/Crayon Pop theme )

Baauer, Gaeko, GLAM, Lim Kim, T-ara )
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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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"Jeon Won Diary" is pretty damn catchy, but it doesn't feel at all like a T-ara song. I'm just puzzled that in sub-unit N4, where we've got three of the four T-aras who anyone really cares about (Hyomin, Jiyeon, and Eunjung, with Soyeon off in the other sub-unit*), the dance throb gets to overpower the stars' identity and to muzzle their charisma, at least sonically. Soyeon and Hyomin are the ones who've defined the T-ara high pitch most, Soyeon the reliable workhorse with Hyomin bringing the pitch even higher in a way that was simultaneously more tenuous and more emphatic, her adventure being the tension between waver and force. Meanwhile, Jiyeon was a gorgeous negative presence — clear, pale, breathy, uninflected — and Eunjung was called in whenever there was need for emotional pangs and highlights. She's been underutilized the last couple of years, and with Hwayoung gone I'd hoped Eunjung would get back to rapping. Instead guest guy Taewoon from labelmate Speed does a strong but not at all T-ara-esque rap, making me miss Hwayoung. Areum is new, young, full-voiced, and wholesome, but like the other three her distinctiveness gets flattened by the surrounding pounding dance.

None of this is necessarily a knock on the song. But when "Bo Peep Bo Peep" played in its insinuatingly provocative way at the start of the video drama version, I felt a pang for all that's missing here. Now should have been the time for T-ara to be making a T-ARA impact.

Instead, the accordion and the screeching-brake synths kinda get to be the main protagonists, with the sax as their playful shape-shifting sidekick: is stereotypically smooth and sensitive leading into the chorus, then turns all squawky and dissonant in the ga-ring-ga-ring-ga part (unless that squawker is some "ethnic" or "traditional" instrument impersonating a sax). Next to it, the accordion chugs along as if it owns the roadway.

Moot )

Pratfalls )
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Visited the pop!gasa K-pop translation site and unearthed these gems:

SeeU the Vocaloid, in "I=Fantasy," speaking on behalf of centaurs, unicorns, animated characters, Elizabeth Bennets, Te'o girlfriends, Margaret Berger robots, and holograms the world round:

Those idiots don't know anything
Oh no
Oh no
Oh no
They hate those who are not real
Oh no
Oh no
Oh no

T-ara, carrying on typically like T-ara ("Day By Day"):

I hope my lips that recite this sad poem will be remembered in your black eyes
E.via (a.k.a. Tymee) "I Know How To Play A Little":

Even if the world vanishes tomorrow
Love will be forever
Girl's Day "Oh! My God":

All men are the same
They know one thing and don't know the other things
It's hurdle after hurdle of lyrics )


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