Saturday, February 10, 2018

My Top K-pop Boy Groups

The K-pop music scene is dominated by groups - both male and female! There is much fanfare around groups because they have a line-up of members with various talents, styles, and personalities. Here are my top 9 boy groups in K-pop. I included an introduction with background information, my favorite members, and some recommended songs!

9. Day6
Debut: Congratulations (2015)
Members: 6 5
Day6 is a K-pop rock band under JYP Entertainment. Like any rock band, Day6 incorporates guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard into their performances instead of choreography. The group was named Day6 presumably because the original line-up consisted of six members, but one member left the band due to personal reasons. Recently, Day6 has been more present in the music scene through their EveryDay6 project in which they dropped two songs (a title track and b-side) a month for every month in 2017.

Favorite Member(s):
Young K

Recommended Songs:
For the third month of their Everyday6 project, Day6 came out with "How Can I Say". When I initially read the title, I imagined the song would be about trying to confess your love to someone, but it's actually the opposite. Day6 are singing about trying to find the right words to admit that they fell out of love and want to break up. It is a moderately heavy rock song (as opposed to heavy metal or soft rock) and may be enjoyable for people who typically don't like the genre.

More Facts:
  • The members' names are: Wonpil, Sungjin, Dowoon, Jae, Young K
  • The group's fandom name is My Day, after the title of one their songs.
  • Day6 admire Maroon 5, U2, Coldplay, and One Republic.

8. Winner
Debut: Empty (2014)
Members: 5 4
Winner was formed through YG Entertainment's 2013 show WIN: Who is Next? and they competed against other trainees to debut. They won the competition, earning the name "Winner" and debuted as a five-membered group a year later. At first, listen, I could tell that Winner was like no other idol group. From the start, they played with different genres that strayed away from the K-pop trends. Their first album "2014 S/S" includes acoustic ballads and alternative rock, while their following single album includes a "blues-infused" song. One of the members, Nam Taehyun, left the group in 2016, and thereafter Winner redefined themselves as more mainstream. Whether on or off-trend, Winner continues to produce quality music.  

Favorite Member(s):

Recommended Songs:
Winner debuted with two simultaneously released singles, "Empty" being the lead single off of  "2014 S/S". "Empty" was written by B.I. (IKON), Bobby (IKON) and Mino (Winner) and co-composed by B.I. The song describes feelings of emptiness and loneliness after a break-up. It is alternative pop with hip-hop elements and has a mellow, subdued sound. "Empty" really highlights the different vocal colors of the members: Jinu and (former member) Nam Taehyun have light, sweet vocal tones while Yoon has a husky voice. Mino is a low tone rapper, while Hoony is higher.
More Facts:
  • The members' names are: Hoony (Seunghoon), Mino, Jinu (Jinwoo), Yoon (Seungyoon)
  • The group's fandom name is Inner Circle and their official fan color is Nebula Blue.
  • Winner was the first YG boy group to debut in 8 years since Bigbang.

7. Seventeen
Debut: Adore U (2015)
Members: 13
Seventeen is appreciated for being a "self-producing" idol group and having creative control over their music. They are a rather large group, with thirteen members. Interestingly, they are divided into three units according to their special talents. There is the performance unit (which focuses on dance), the hip-hop unit (which focuses on rap) and the vocal unit. Seventeen normally promotes as an entire group but occasionally, these units have their own separate projects. I find this unit concept significant because in large groups it's easy for some members to be overshadowed. Moreover, the unit system allows Seventeen to be more versatile and attract listeners with different tastes. Listeners who like rap may enjoy the hip-hop unit's songs "Trauma" or "Check In". Whereas those who enjoy ballads may prefer the vocal unit's "Pinwheel".

Favorite Member(s):
 Vernon, Mingyu

Recommended Songs:
Seventeen reveal a more serious and subtle side of themselves through this emotional EDM track. In "Don't Wanna Cry" a heavy American influence can be heard: there is a Chainsmokers-esque beat and the instrumental follows the recent Western trend of Tropical house. I particularly like how the intro is soft and restrained. Then, the song becomes more dramatic and slowly builds up to a satisfying beat drop.
More Facts:
  • The members' names are: Jun, Dino, Hoshi, The8, Mingyu, Vernon, Woozi, Wonwoo, Seunkwan, Joshua, Jeonghan, S.Coups, DK
  • The group's fandom name is Carat and the official fan colors are Rose quartz (pastel pink) and Serenity (pastel blue).
  • Seventeen's name comes from the fact that there were supposed to be 17 members, but 4 never debuted. The group name was given a new meaning by the concept: 13 members + 3 units + 1 group = Seventeen.

6. Monsta X
Debut: Tresspass (2015)
Members: 7
Monsta X is from Starship Entertainment and the members were selected during the 2015 trainee survival program No.Mercy. They debuted with a hip-hop concept and are known for their signature powerful sound. Monsta X has proved to be very well-rounded because they are equally talented in dance and vocals. Additionally, their rap lineup is balanced between the high-pitched, energetic rapper Joohoen and the low, more monotone rapper I.M. 

Favorite Member(s):

Recommended Songs:
In May 2016, Monsta X started an album trilogy called "The Clan" series. The first part "The Clan 2.5 Part 1: Lost" focuses on "loss and hurt" and "the inner world of youths". "All In", the lead single of the album, is the complete package with a rhythmic rap, a catchy beat, and a chorus that just captures your attention. Like much of their music, it has a heavy-hitting electronic beat. The music video introduces The Clan storyline and the members are in a village that is facing conflict and unrest. Monsta X later revealed the choreography version of the video (included above).

  • The members' names are: Shownu, Minhyuk, Wonho, I.M., Kihyun, Jooheon, Hyungwon
  • The group's fandom name is Mon Bebe and their official fan colors are Pantone 2221 c (Light Blue), Pantone dark blue c, Pantone 2405 c (purple).
  • In their debut year, Monsta X received the "Next Generation Asian Artist Award" at the Mnet Asian Music Awards and the "1theK Performance Award" at the Melon Music Awards.

5. EXO
Debut: MAMA (2012)
Members: 12 9
EXO is comprised of two sub-groups: EXO-K (who records music in Korean) and EXO-M (who records the same songs in Mandarin). By this method, EXO simultaneously targets audiences in both South Korea and China. They debuted in 2012 with twelve members after releasing two pre-debut singles "What is Love?" and "History". Since then, three members left the group but EXO has achieved great commercial success nonetheless. Each year, SM Entertainment promotes EXO in a systematic pattern: album releases in Spring/Summer, album repackages a few months afterwards, and a Winter Special Album in December. Because of this, EXO releases quite a bit of content each year and continues to grow in popularity. 

Favorite Member(s):

Recommended Songs:
"Monster" is sung from the viewpoint of a man who focuses his interest on a girl that he likes. But, he is rather unapproachable and frightening, hence the lyric "You can call me monster." Not surprisingly, the song has a very intense instrumental and equally intense music video. EXO are depicted as beaten and bruised rebels with tough exteriors.
  • The members' names are: D.O., Chen, Baekyun, Chanyeol, Suho, Kai, Lay, Xiumin, Sehun
  • The group's fandom name is EXO-L and their official fan color is Cosmic Latte (Gray)
  • Exo's sophomore album XOXO was the best selling album of 2013 in South Korea. 

Debut: Rhythm Ta! (2015)
Members: 7
Prior to their debut, IKON (often stylized as iKON) was a 6-membered group of trainees called Team B. They competed against Team A (WINNER) on YG Entertainment's 2013 trainee survival show WIN: Who Is Next? but lost. Then the trainees were given a second chance on MIX & MATCH and were formed as an official group with the addition of one member. These shows showcased the individual talents in IKON some of which include the dance skills of Jay and the sweet vocal tone of DK. The group finally debuted in 2015 with Rhythm Ta. IKON's leader B.I. has written all and composed most of the group's music which is primarily hip-hop and dance-pop.

Favorite Member(s):
B.I., Bobby

Recommended Songs:
IKON tried a mix of rap and punk rock for the seventh single of their debut album. This is a style that has been tried before by other YG Artists (it was heard in 2NE1's "Ugly", Big Bang's "Sober", and G-Dragon's "Crooked") and I'm glad IKON gave it a try as well. "What's Wrong?" is about a guy being frustrated with his girlfriend because she is controlling and starts pointless arguments with him.
  • The members' names are: June (Junhoe), Song (Yunhyung), Bobby, Jay (Jinhwan), B.I., DK (Donghyuk) and Chan (Chanwoo).
  • The group's fandom name is iKONIC and their official fan color is Orange-red.
  • IKON is the fastest K-pop group to have a Tokyo Dome Tour after debuting.

3. NCT
Debut: NCT U - Without U, Seventh Sense (2016)
Members: Infinite
NCT is an acronym for Neo Culture Technology and the name refers to a collective group with unlimited members and unlimited sub-units. As of now, there are three units, which all debuted in 2016 and an upcoming project called NCT 2018. First is NCT U, which has 6 members. They debuted with two singles of contrasting styles: "Seventh Sense" which is a trippy trap hip-hop song and "Without U" - a vocal-centered rock song. Next is NCT 127 which was revealed to be the "Seoul-based unit", as "127" is the longitudinal coordinate of Seoul. Finally, is NCT Dream, a unit of the youngest members who take on fun, juvenile concepts. The NCT project has a lot of uncertainty as compared to the typical boy group - there is no pattern to which the units comeback and there's no telling exactly when a new unit may debut. Because of this, fans are kept on the edge of their seats as to what's in store for the group.

Favorite Member(s):
Ten, Taeyong

Recommended Songs:
NCT 127 debuted as a seven-membered group in 2016 but returned in early 2017 with two additional members. "Limitless" was the group's first comeback and first release with main vocalist Doyoung and lead rapper Johnny. It is "urban hip-hop" and is accompanied by two different music videos - the performance version (shown above) and the rough version which is meant to look like homemade video clips edited together. Notably, "Limitless" highlight's NCT's dance and vocal skills because of the complicated choreography and intricate vocal harmonies.

  • The members' names are: Johnny, Yuta, Taeil, Win Win, Taeyong, Jaehyun, Doyoung, Mark, Haechan, Jeno, Jaemin, Renjun, Jisung, Chele, Ten, Jungwoo, Kun, Lucas
  • The group's fandom name is NCTzen.
  • NCT is a multinational group that includes members from South Korea, Japan, China, Canada, Thailand, and the United States.

2. BTS
Debut: No More Dream (2013)
Members: 7
BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeodan which translates from Korean to Bulletproof boy scouts. It also stands for "Beyond The Scene". The group debuted with a hip-hop concept in 2013 and immediately boosted the ambitions of youth through their lyrics. Since then, BTS has attempted more genres and lyrically addressed different social issues. For example, "Am I Wrong" is a jazz-pop/blues song that calls out people's lack of empathy towards problems in society. Meanwhile, "Baepsae" which is primarily rap, criticizes the divide between the privileged and the underprivileged. Such topics make the young men of BTS very relatable to all kinds of listeners, especially since the members themselves take part in writing and composing.

Favorite Member(s):
J-Hope, Jungkook

Recommended Songs:
"Save Me" is a single from BTS's compilation album "Young Forever"- the final part of their artistically intricate trilogy "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life" series. The song is a complete turn-around from their confident anthem "Dope" and shows a more vulnerable side to them. "Save Me" has a whistle-synth chorus and tropical house elements. The one-take music video is rather basic, which draws more attention to their bouncy choreography.
More Facts:
  • The members' names are: Jin, Suga, Jimin, Jungkook, V, J-Hope, RM
  • The group's fandom is A.R.M.Y. and their official fan color is Silver-Gray
  • In 2017, BTS became the first Korean group to win a BBMA (Billboard Music Award) and the first to perform at the AMAs (American Music Awards). 

1. Big Bang
Debut: We Belong Together (2006)
Members: 5
Big Bang, sometimes referred to as the "Kings of K-pop", are known for their talent, individuality, and versatility. The five-membered group is made up of three vocalists and two rappers (who occasionally sing as well). Big Bang has written and composed most of the music in their over a decade-long career. This is in part why they have gained so much respect and admiration from not only their fans but from the public as well. Despite the sky-high international and domestic success, Big Bang has remained humble artists, as apparent by their single "Loser". According to the leader G-Dragon, "Loser" aims to remind everyone that celebrities are human too and are not above having negative emotions or difficult circumstances. Their discography also has some upbeat party songs (Bang Bang Bang and Tonight) and some soft, sentimental numbers "Let's Not Fall In Love" and "If You".

Favorite Member(s):

Recommended Songs:
Big Bang is often associated with their hype party songs, but as I mentioned above, they have tried other styles and sentiments too. One particular song that I want to recommend to is "Blue", which proved to be even more successful than some of their more upbeat tracks. "Blue" is an electronic ballad with acoustic and synths. The song is very mellow and it's lyrics describe feelings of emptiness and longing. While Bigbang sings their blues, they wander through the cold alleys of New York City. The color palette of the music video is primarily muted hues, which further captures the melancholy feeling.

More Facts:
  • The members' names are: T.O.P., G-Dragon, Taeyang, Seungri, Daesung
  • The group's fandom name is V.I.P.
  • With 150 million+ records sold, Big Bang is the best-selling boy band in history, outselling huge names like the Backstreet Boys and the Jackson Five.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

January 2018 in Music

I hope you enjoyed the "Month in Music" posts of 2017 and now that the year has wrapped up it's time to begin again! Here are my top songs from January!

1. Diana Wang - Only Man
Released: January 3rd
Diana Wang has been dropping singles here and there since last September. They are all from her latest album "Poem", which was released at the end of November. I have been enjoying listening to the songs off "Poem" and was glad she released another music video. "Only Man" is what Diana Wang has mastered lately - smooth R&B. Shes sings to her "only man" and confesses that she is focused solely on him as if he were the main protagonist of a story.
Review: Song - 4/5  MV - 2.5/5

2. Monsta X - Spotlight
Released: January 10th
Early in January, Monsta X revealed their third Japanese single. "Spotlight", despite not being in their native Korean, still captures the typical style of Monsta X. It has explosive synths and a hip-hop beat that makes it very reminiscent of the group's 2015 debut song "Trespass".
Review: Song - 3/5  MV - 4/5

3. Chungha - Rollercoaster
Released: January 17th
One of my favorite rookies of 2017 made her first comeback since her debut. "Roller Coaster" is a 90s inspired contemporary R&B track that showcases the cool and girly sides of Chungha. It's quite different from her hit "Why Don't You Know", but Chungha suits the genre well and is on the road to finding her own sound as a soloist. I find the smooth intro and the two-step rhythm of "Rollercoaster" very attention-grabbing, but the chorus feels too generic. For this reason, I think the music video is much better than the actual song. The neon-lit dance scenes capture Chunga's effortless charisma very well.
Review: Song - 3/5  MV - 4.5/5

4. Sunmi - Heroine
Released: January 18th
Months after her summer hit "Gashina", Sunmi graced us with another single that was also produced by YG composer Teddy. "Heroine" is meant to be the prequel of "Gashina" and the two music videos have a clear connection. In "Heroine", Sunmi claims that both people in a relationship should be themselves even if doing so results in a break-up. She might experience a sad ending and break up with her man, but she'll become her own heroine because, as she repeats throughout, "the show must go own". 
Review: Song - 3/5  MV - 3.5/5

5. Jonghyun - Shinin'
Released: January 23rd
One month following Kim Jonghyun's tragic suicide, SM Entertainment released his final album that he recorded just before his passing. His posthumous album was titled "Poet | Artist", a very appropriate title since Jonghyun was an avid singer-songwriter/composer who communicated through his music. "Shinin'" is the lead single off the album and is an enjoyable mix of electronic and tropical sounds. Through his final release, Jonghyun seems to convey double meanings. "Shinin" is about wanting to always be with the girl he loves, but there is also the underlying message that Jonghyun will always be with listeners and live on through his music. *I won't give a number-rating/review and, instead, I'll just enjoy the wonderful music. 

6. IKON - Love Scenario
Released: January 25th
IKON only had a double single to show for 2017, and even though I enjoyed it, many listeners were left underwhelmed - as apparent by its lack of commercial success. This time, the group is back with a full-album of mellower genres and the lead single "Love Scenario" is placed firmly at #1 on various charts! The seven members reverted back to a "boy next door" concept that is similar to what they had in "My Type" and "#WYD". Most interestingly, "Love Scenario" has the sensitivity of a break-up song but also the cheeriness of a love song. This is because the lyrics speak of a past failed relationship, while the melody is light and fun.  
Review: Song - 3.5/5  MV - 3/5

Images: 1,*,*,4,5,6
"*" are screencaps I made myself

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top K-pop Albums {Universe by EXO}

Released: December 2017
1. Universe 2. Universe (Chinese Version) 3. Been Through 4. Stay 5. Fall 6. Good Night 7. Stay 8. Universe (CD Version)

EXO kept their annual tradition for the fourth consecutive year and released a "winter special album" for the season. SM Entertainment started teasing the album some weeks before its release with short videos of the members working as baristas. I immediately became excited at the cafe concept because the warmth and relaxation associated with coffee is the perfect theme for a winter album and is a contrast to the typical snow concept! Soundwise, the entire work is smooth and soothing like a cup of coffee. Here are my top three songs from the EP "Universe".

1. Universe

"Universe" is heartwarming by both it's sound and aesthetic. It is a sentimental rock ballad with piano and guitar. The song begins softly, then gradually gains more momentum until the powerful chorus. "Universe" particularly shows the vocal prowess of Baekyun, Chen, and D.O. but also gave the rappers Chanyeol and Sehun a chance to sing. as there are no rap parts. Lyrically, "Universe" talks about suffering after a break-up but vowing to "search the universe" to find their lover again.

The theme of the music video is the making and enjoyment of coffee. In the beginning, EXO looks rather sad and listless. They are dressed in coffee-colored clothes and sing solemnly with earnest hearts. By the end, the young men are sitting together enjoying their caffeinated beverages. Each others company and the warm coffee seemed to put them in a positive mood.

2. Fall

"Fall" is another song that emphasizes vocals as EXO's strong point. Really, the entire album does, but "Fall" especially so. It is pop r&b with acoustic guitar in its composition and reminds me much of their 2013 song "Baby Don't Cry".

3. Been Through

My third favorite of this album, "Been Through" is a slow, synth-pop track. The song is built on a strong, simplistic bassline and the members sing in a way that is truly mesmerizing. The beat is very steady and unrelenting, which (I feel) reflects the steadfastness of the lyrics. "Been Through" is about staying strong and not giving up when faced with setbacks. It reads,"Snap out of it get up and brush it off. Pain is just a passing storm to me". The line that stood out the most to me was "You shine like the stars, you light up my heart". It is definitely a focal point of the song and seems to tie in with the universe theme.

Images: 1,2,3,4,5