Welcome to another Comments of the Week!
As for socio-cultural topics, our writers addressed things we’re thankful for in the past year of K-pop, marketing outside of Korea in the case of SHINee, the return of the female soloist, B12, a lesson in Korean geography, exploring gender perspectives through response songs, and idol prep schools and parents who fund them.
Here are five comments that happened to catch my eye from articles this week:
Whitney Richardson on B12: A Spoof That Hits Too Close to Home:
Yeah, it does have a lot in common with kpop, but it also has a lot in common with American and Latin American boy bands. Menudo had a zillion members. The monster theme is obviousy from ‘Everybody’ by the Backstreet Boys and the weird white room stuff is similar to all the other teeny bopper/Justin Bieber videos out there. It’s totally possible that someone on the writing staff is into Kpop, but they don’t have to be because ALL of these elements were already explored to death in the 90s.
Honestly the return to me was 2011. Both IU and G.NA were doing extremely well last year and it was the first time the focus pulled away from idol girl groups to young solo female stars with talent. Yes you had girl group members doing solo projects, but these two were exclusively solo artists. It was the popularity these two artists had that set the stage for more soloists to debut this year.
2010 is the year when idols groups peaked IMO with the most popular idols venturing off into the Japanese market. In 2011 with most of these artists out of Korea, the less popular idols were left to carry the variety shows and the Chuseok and Lunar year specials and with the multitude of idols debuting and few big names on the canvas, I think the general public just got idol fatigue. “Superstar K” and “I Am a Singer” contestants were ruling the charts. OSTs were doing so well that idol agencies who couldn’t handle the competition pretty much got Music Bank to remove OSTs from the K Chart.
2011 was when the focus really seemed to switch to the most talented; only the idols that were already popular did well. In 2011, with IU getting not stop praise for her vocals in “Good Day”, agencies started to go out of their way to show they’re groups had vocal talent too. All of sudden you had all these girl groups trying to prove they can hit a high note or deliver from a vocal standpoint. Even boy groups started to put more emphasis on the members with vocal prowess. Some members who weren’t good vocally were replaced with new members who were.
Enter 2012 and it’s just continuing. Ailee did extremely well with her debut “Heaven”, Juniel‘s “illa illa” was very popular as well. Now you have Lee Hi who’s just killing the charts with her debut song with a sound that’s mature and fresh as far as KPop’s concerned. It’s quite refreshing too given that’s she’s only 16 years old. It just gives me hope that after all of this time focusing on the visual, the industry finally got the memo that people truly want artists with talent.
They are going to become irrelevant in Korea if they don’t show up from time to time, the industry has such an influx of groups and it is easy to be replaced, even if you’re SM‘s pet project.
I understand what SM’s rationale is with them, to promote them in other countries which can be a larger source of revenue (because of Japan’s currency), but the reason they are able to achieve any success in Japan is because of their initial Korean material (some can argue but I think it is fundamentally this).
Chloe Wang on Another Me Myself & Kim Sung-gyu:
This album is definitely a breath of fresh air. I mean I know Sunggyu‘s passion has always lied in rock, but firstly I’d like to give him huge props for taking a big risk to release a whole mini album on this genre because this is not something that appeals to the general public. I’ve always loved Sunggyu’s voice and the colour it adds to Infinite’s vocal dynamics, but I’m not gonna lie, Sunggyu is destined to be a solo rockstar. He excels in this genre and he knows it.
My favourite song on the album has got to be I Need You, because two words – soft rock. Sunggyu has dabbled a little into the softer side of rock on his short stint on Immortal Song 2, and I thought he did amazingly well, and I believe for me, he established soft rock as his “thing”, so to speak. So I kind of expected this album to be a bit more on this side of rock, but hey we can’t have everything can we?
A rare gem is what this album is. All the songs are well written, well composed, well recorded, no filler tracks – polished to the core. I’m so glad Woollim allowed Sunggyu to do this, he really lived up to expectations and showed the world that he can offer so much more than what he’s restricted to in Infinite. I just hope he manages to break down the idol stereotype surrounding… him and well, basically all the idols today.
Kennedy Halstead on Settling in with MBLAQ’s Idol Manager:
MBLAQ‘s Hello Baby was in my introduction to Kvariety, so I think they’ve essentially spoiled me. Now, I go into every show expecting to be thoroughly entertained by the group and individual antics, but have found that only a handful of groups have the right mix of ingredients that lead to successful variety MBLAQ-style.
That being said, this show was a bit off for me somehow, lacking the charm of Hello Baby and the downright absurd humor of Sesame Player. Losing Joonie to WGM and whatever other billion things he had going on was sad, but Sesame Player still rocked without Mir, so that was okay – these guys can rock it even when someone is missing, they’re that good. No, I think the problem with the show lay elsewhere.
My personal analysis is that this show suffered the same way many episodes of Idol Army did (though that show gets a bit of leeway for being early on in MBLAQ’s career) – they didn’t let them alone. Ambika pointed out Park Kyung-lim‘s importance to the program, and while I don’t fully dispute that, I *do* believe that MBLAQ plays best on their own. Having other people around for them to bounce off of once in awhile is all well and good, but they’re a group that is best when they’re left to their own devices.
Case in point (and this is just my opinion), the very best episodes of Idol Army were when the MCs were removed and it was just the 5 guys being…well, 5 guys (on camera). G.O screeching at having to touch a raw chicken: comedy gold. G.O screeching at having to touch a raw chicken PLUS his group members teasing him about it? Comedy platinum.
I liked Idol Manager well enough (it was still an MBLAQ show after all!), but I kinda wish they left the Three Beauties aside for at least one episode and just let the guys do what they do best: play. Beside the point of the show, but I kept hoping.
MBLAQ is a group who can have fun on their own anywhere. I’ve seen recordings of them singing live for radio shows and they can even bring the funny there. I hope some PD somewhere finally gets the idea to just put a camera on them for 8 hours, give them something absurd and broad, and leave. I’m almost certain they’ll come back and find too much material for one show!
That’s it for my selection of comments this week, thank you all for being great readers, and as always, feel free to leave additional comments below.
(Images via Elle Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, Cube Entertainment, Vogue Girl Magazine, Numero Magazine, Woollim Entertainment, Crea Star Magazine, L’Officiel Hommes Magazine)