Where is January going?!
…Not that I’m complaining since it’s the busiest month of the year for me, but the 18th? Whew!
I have mentioned before, maybe not to a great extent, that I am a huge fan of K-pop (Korean pop) music. I may have even been a little misleading about how much I love it. It probably comprises 25% of my iTunes, and 80% of what I listen to on a daily basis. The culture, the fashion, the beauty, and the sheer catchiness keeps me coming back for more. I even follow 50+ artists on Instagram, check in on a couple Korean buzz websites weekly, and mark my calendars on new release dates for my favorite groups.
The music in the K-pop world may seem similar on the surface, but there is so much more that comes into play. In the United States, and in many other countries, the single artist is celebrated and is often “discovered” to an extent through word of mouth, sending singles out, or being scouted at a smaller venue. In Korea, most of the K-pop artists (not including Indie music, as they definitely have their own scene) audition at very young ages, sometimes around the age of 10 or 11 with these giant entertainment companies that are famous for signing mega-stars (SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment, for example). They may audition for singing, modeling, acting, rapping, or dancing at any number of these companies.
If they are of the very few individuals selected, they then go into an intense training program that could last up to 7 or 8 years before they ever debut, more often than not as a part of a “group,” rather than an individual. They learn to sing and dance, start building an anticipatory fan-base, and some even get plastic surgery (which most stars will deny…but before and after photos can be very revealing; double-eyelid surgery is the most common). The amount of work that goes into becoming and being an “idol” can be talked about all day, but I’m not going to pretend to know everything that goes on behind the scenes, or scrutinize how much people are willing to go through to achieve their dream.
Once the group is ready, they will often have a “debut stage” on one of the major music programs: KBS Music Bank, M Countdown, Inkigayo, or MBC Music Core. When a group is announcing a new single or album, they will go to the show as part of a “comeback stage.” Variety shows are another way stars get their name out, and I love watching them, haha. These groups produce some of the most loyal, protective fans in the world.
2014 was a great year of music. Where do I even begin at picking and listing my favorite songs?!
Note: I recommend watching videos in 720p or better 🙂
15. 2PM – Go Crazy!
The only male group song to appear on this list is 2PM’s “Go Crazy.” The song is a fun upbeat dance mix with moves reminiscent of the Harlem Shake. This song literally makes me want to get up and dance! I don’t follow boy bands as much, so keep that in mind with this list, but this one caught my attention and I love it. This group is known for their great dance moves in addition to singing/rapping. Also, isn’t Nichkhun adorbs?
14. Orange Caramel – My Copycat
Orange Caramel is a sub-unit of After School (side note: After School is the very first k-pop group I learned of and was the group that turned me onto K-pop in the first place!). Their music is meant to be more of a Euro-trot spinoff, and the genre has since become wildly popular in South Korea. The video itself has a cute concept, where the “game” asks “users” to find the differences between the left and right panels. It’s similar to “Where’s Waldo?”
13. Stellar – Marionette
One of the reasons that I love k-pop is that, generally speaking, most of the mainstream music isn’t over-sexualized like it can be in the United States. That being said, there are a lot of groups that do focus on this or switch to the concept later in their career to gain more attention, even if not all positive. Stellar is a prime example. This group formed a “cute” concept with their Study music video (just watch the first 15 seconds and you’ll understand) back in 2013, which is why Stellar fans were so shocked to see them release such a provocative concept in early 2014.
They got a ton of negative publicity for this reason, but now the group’s name is much more recognizable, which may have been their purpose behind the controversy. I feel kind of bad for the negative backlash, as their company is the one primarily responsible for taking Stellar down this road. Some artists don’t have a lot of choice in regards to the music their company picks for them. Regardless, I think the song is extremely catchy, and was probably my most played song in February. Plus, Minhee and Hyoeun have such great voices! I don’t particularly care for parts of the music video, which is why I linked a live, toned-down performance.
12. Girl’s Day – Something
Ever since Female President came out, their fashion-forwardness has been on point! I look forward to each of their singles, and what they wear in the videos. This song has more of a sultry feeling, and man was I surprised with how well they rocked midi-skirts! I really love their outfits in this live version as well. Yura’s my favorite–I always thought she was just an amazing rapper/dancer, but she proves she can really sing here.
11. Girls’ Generation – Mr.Mr.
Ahhh where do I even begin with my favorite group (yes–I just bolded, italicized and underlined that–for emphasis, you know). I’ll stick to the song. This video is full of pink eye-candy. The visual effects are nothing new, but it really works with the crazed-pretty girl concept 🙂 The Mr.Mr. video and its accompanying album were due out mid-February, but a data loss required many of the scenes to be re-shot, and the comeback was painstakingly delayed another two weeks (woe me!). Unfortunately, this comeback would be the last one Jessica (1:30) is in, as she was forced out of the group in September due to conflicting schedules and priorities (a heartbreaking point I don’t want to talk about…).
The song is a diverse mixture of a deep, synthesized bass line combined with jazzy electro-pop tones. It is really such a different sound for the group, as well as the K-pop scene in general. And that bridge (2:40), aghhh so good! This is one of my two favorite music videos from the year, even though for the first time in their career, the story stands out more than the dance moves. And look! My two favorites–Hyoyeon and Yoona–front and center in this picture 🙂
10. Secret – I’m in Love
Secret…ahh this comeback was long overdue. Between the acoustic piano and vibrant jazz horns, this song take me back to their Poison days. This quartet’s songs and dance moves usually have more of a retro feeling than other K-pop groups. “I’m in Love” has got everything–Sunhwa and Hyoseong’s powerful chords, Hana’s catchy rapping (my favorite rapper in all of k-pop!), and Jieun’s wide vocal range. The dance moves are powerful without looking forced (though I’m not sure how I feel about that 2 second twerk…), and it reminds me of why I fell in love with this group in the first place!
9. Orange Caramel – Catallena
The first time I heard this song, I’ll be honest…I didn’t like it all! And then the music video is even weirder! They definitely win the award for strangest video of the year, but that’s what makes Orange Caramel so appealing. They are willing to take the chance to try something new. The beat is a mix of disco and folk, and of course their famous trot-sound. After some research, I discovered that the “Jutti Merri oye hoi hoi” is actually sampled from the Punjabi wedding folk song. Now, I can’t get enough of it! It’s got such a unique sound 🙂
Long story short, if you like sushi, watch this video! Ha
I was hoping to get the whole post out today, but it’s taking quite a while to say everything I wanted to say (or at least shortening it into a post that someone may actually read), so I’ve decided to split it into two parts 🙂
Hope you all have had a great weekend!