We’re back again for another Comments of the Week!

This week, our authors posited on topics such as MYNAME‘s new MV, the trials and tribulations of MC Mong, Heo Young-saeng‘s new MV, SMTown in Taiwan, Dal Shabet‘s new MV and album, Wheesung & Seungwoo, Cross Gene‘s debut MV and album, BTOB in Singapore, Teen Top‘s new MV and album, K-pop mash-ups, f(x)‘s new MV and album, Running Man, how K-pop sells itselfT-ara‘s Nami remake, the theoretical Infinite H, Lee Young-hyun‘s solo album, how splitting money can split a group, our favorite K-pop boxes, trends we’d like to see die.

We had a lot to say, and you all had a lot to say back to us as well!

Here are five of our favorite comments from this week:

Michelle Chin on Translating in K-fandom:

Translation is no easy job. At least, according to my sister, who is studying advanced Chinese and Korean in uni. You actually have to understand the context of the whole article before penning down your words. Also, you have to try to be as objective as possible because the nature of the article may change just because it goes through your head. So, I think we owe these translators, who actually take up a chunk of their time to provide us the information we seek. Despite the fact that not all translators are objective (thus, the personal comments and funny puns), the fact that they have tried, is something that we should be grateful of as consumers of Kpop entertainment news.

Having said that, if there’s something that translators should work on, I feel it should be inter rater reliability – agreement between two or more translators. Easy for me to say but I know it is hard to do because I’ve actually done some translation before (between English and Bahasa Melayu). Granted this may take up more time than usual but I think there are people who would rather read high quality translations than haphazardly done ones.

Mandatory military service for South Koreans is what taxes are for Americans: the great social equalizer. Normal citizens don’t begrudge the wealthy and the famous for their money or their fame as long as they are justly earned. In fact, they happily hold the same aspirations and desire for wealth and fame. What they cannot stand though, is injustice. So when they see the rich and famous abusing their status and power by dodging the responsibilities asked of each and every citizen (when so little has been asked of them as it is), they will revolt and react in righteous anger. I doubt MC Mong will comeback to the entertainment scene again. Korean netizens can be cruel and in this case, they will not be forgiving.

PS: …2 years is actually pretty standard for countries asking for mandatory military service. Egypt is 2-3 years, Iran – 2 years, Singapore – 24 months, etc. The longest is not surprisingly North Korea where most men are asked to serve for 10 years.

Illusions-chan on f(x) Has a Winner with “Electric Shock”:

Electric Shock isn’t incredible, but the girls manage to sell it like it is. The hard beat and lack of cutesy voices is definite of what the girls first debuted with. There is an incredibly well done distribution of the lines, especially between Victoria, Sulli, and Amber, giving the main vocalists a break. Also, the girls are utilized differently than before. Amber is singing, which is a wonderful change (SM, now that one rapper has sung. Can’t another? Please let Minho sing!). She has a great lower register compared to the other girls, giving the group as a whole a widened range (Same with Minho. His voice is nice and low, come on SM!). Victoria takes over some of the ad-libs and her raspy voice adds depth to the tone of the song. Sulli showed incredible control over her voice in the bridge, which really was the selling point for me in this song. Like SHINee’s Sherlock, Electric Shock shows a change in the group’s dynamic. It’s no longer just the singers, the rapper, and the visual dancer. The girls have mixed it up really well in the vocals and this newer dynamic is refreshing.

As for the MV, I think it manages to take the question of what f(x)‘s style is supposed to be and answers it pretty damn well. While SNSD have been given the princess look and matching concepts, f(x) is meant to be a little wild. The use of bright colors and unusual accessories in their styling gives them a sort of punk persona that people will compare to the ladies of 2NE1. But once again, they are an SM group, so while 2NE1 may be punk and hardcore, f(x) is cleaned up in comparison. There is a sharp science to how these girls are dressed compared to 2NE1 where the styling is more organic and reflective of the individual woman in the group.

However, there are some changes in the MV as well. Face time of the girls has changed. Krystal still has the most because while she isn’t considered the prettiest in f(x), she is the face of the group. She’s the one that has the attitude of being energetic and not so delicate, f(x)’s concept in comparison to the overtly feminine concept of SNSD. After her was usually Sulli as the visual, but now it’s Victoria. Victoria gets an incredible amount of face time in this MV, especially during the bridge. That sequence of her laying down is completely unique compared to the other sets. Amber and Sulli are about tied and Luna a little behind them.

Now the choreography reminds us again that these girls were created as a female counterpart of SHINee. Sherlock is probably the crown jewel of choreographed dance in the industry right now. But Electric Shock is an incredible effort for these girls. La-Cha-Ta had ridiculously difficult and intricate choreography, but the MVs after that didn’t manage to compare. There almost seemed to be a decrease in the choreography, especially with Hot Summer. Hot Summer was good, but it’s main chorus was so weak. Compare it to La-Cha-Ta or even NU ABO, it’s not as good. It almost seemed like SM had given up on these girls’s ability to dance and decided to turn them into a punk version of SNSD. (Not to be mean to SNSD. They are great dancers, but with 9 people it’s hard to have intricate choreography. That’s too many bodies and with the grueling schedule those girls work on, it’d be heinous to make them learn incredibly intricate choreography.)

But Electric Shock brings these girls back. The choreography is damn good. There’s a lot of isolation of a single member, use of bodies as props, moving away from the center of the space, rapidly changing formations, and turning away from the front. All of this together makes me wonder if SM’s composers and choreographers took some lessons from Teddy Riley and Tony Testa while working with SHINee and applied to f(x). The similarities are there, but in a good way like how the voices are utilized differently and the intricacy of the choreography. Well whatever they did, it was definitely good for the girls.

Yes, the MV has its faults. It’s generic to SM’s box style, with multiple sets and no story line. I especially hated the scene in which the girls are all posing in one room, wearing dresses and not even looking at the main camera. The use of props is something new to SM (I’d like to think it started in SJ’s Opera with the masks), but it’s nothing incredible. I mean, the taser was cute, but the splicing of the scenes when they use it could’ve been better. I hated how you’d see Victoria with the light stick and then immediately Amber with a taser. They should’ve broken those images up more within the MV because in this way, they just looked a little campy. Even with these faults, I think the reason the MV succeeds it that this time SM didn’t skimp like they did on SJ’s A-cha. The cinematography is really well done and the changing lighting at the end in the pink space creates the drama needed for the climax of the song. Overall, it’s one of SM’s better ‘box’ videos.

Jet makes me think it was originally written for one of SM’s SMTOWN Summer albums. At least musically, it follows the style of those albums in being very catchy and the chanting we hear in the beginning of the track. Here, the lyrics have a few instances of cognitive dissonance. The girls say ‘You’re under my hypnosis, you’ve become a robot”, but then sing “I’m warning you I’m not an easy girl”. It doesn’t make sense to say those two things together unless the girls are singing in two different points of view, the easy lover and the manipulative lover. At the bridge, the lyrics clean up and give the feeling that the point of the song was to describe the honeymoon stage of a relationship in which people feel only euphoria of being together. It is a little messy, and Amber’s ‘like a butterfly’ sounds a little ridiculous. But the beat and style of the song make it an easy to enjoy pop song.

Love Hate is an incredible dance-pop track. The lyrics are so intelligently written (I’m a huge bibliophile and I love it when songs reference literature. So I really loved the reference to Ali Baba), especially with some of the older songs we got from the girls. The flow of this song is undeniably well constructed. As for the music, the verses are wonderfully sung over the strong beat. It sounds like a track that would be amazing live, with all the energy in it. The only doubt I had was the chorus, where they together scream ‘I hate you I love you’, but they manage to pull it off and it does a credible job of describing the ever-changing emotions of a relationship.

Let’s Try is the most mature song we’ve ever heard from f(x). This song really showcases the girls’ talents as vocalists. It’s not a ballad, but it’s not a dance track, so songs like this are actually hardest to sing. You can’t belt in a song like this, but you still have to put enough emotion in it to sell it. I think it shows a lot of growth for them as a whole, and it is a beautiful song. The song is really sweet and sincere in its message, about that stage of a relationship where you put everything on the line. I’d love to hear this live at some point.

Beautiful Stranger is really reminiscent of the great pop that SM is capable of. Sadly, songs like this have become very rare, most likely due to the industry’s trend of dance-pop. But I honestly love this style and SM does such a great of job of this when they try. Just like SHINee’s Better from their Japanese release, this song has a slower pop beat that almost bleeds into R&B with smoother singing. There’s a wonderful lack of cutesy voices and ridiculous ad-libs. And with a beat like this, the rap sections actually fit the song. They’re not just thrown, but added in a way that fits the theme of the song. Now, with the lyrics, some people have already alluded to Katy Perry‘s ‘ET‘. That’s definitely true but I almost fear making that connection. The thing is that Perry definitely meant to highlight interracial relationships, but I don’t f(x) necessarily means that, considering S. Korea’s view on interracial relationships and non-Koreans. This song isn’t as polarized at Perry’s ET and allows a more open interpretation. It could easily mean someone from a different socio-economic status rather than the literal ‘foreigner’ we hear in first verse. But that being said, it is a wonderful song. I’d rather not read into it more than that.

Zig Zag sounds like a continuation of Hot Summer. It contains the same theme of escaping the dull repetition of day-to-day life and enjoying. In Hot Summer, it was by going outside, but in Zig Zag, f(x) takes it to a more cerebral level. They paint a picture of crossing a river, and going through the fog, before following a pebbled path, all of which may be metaphors for obstacles in day to day life that you have to cross in order to find that ‘happiness’. Musically, the song is in what we recognize as f(x)’s style, a mix of singing, speak-singing, and a few raps lines here and there. Again, f(x) sells it by really mixing up the voices. You have to listen very carefully to pick out the girls’ individual lines. That makes it less generic and more pleasing to the ears to hear their voices being played off of each other like that. The only complaint with this song is the speak-singing which we hope to get rid of and the fact that this song doesn’t keep in the theme of the album. The rest of the album is all about love and relationships. This song seems to be a throw in that doesn’t fit. In a full length album, it’d make more sense, but in a mini, sticking to the theme is very important.

Overall, this is f(x)’s best work to date and that I’ll definitely keep an eye out for their next move.

sonwabile antonie on MBC, the Vilification of Foreigners, and Hallyu:

South Korea will do well to note what is happening with Euro 2012 Football championships which are hosted by Ukraine and Poland. These two countries have received bad publicity about their racism in their local football leagues recently because all eyes are on them. Players have been abused by supporters in the stands and the tournament has just started.

South Korea might not be as bad but it will benefit them to see how a few racial incidents have spoiled the image of Ukraine and Poland for people of colour who might have visited their countries. Korea will host the Winter Olympics in a few years, it should sort out its issues.

Lyn Prince on How Splitting Money Could Split a Group:

Talking of SM and suju made me think of Han Geng. He never had any hosting gigs, he was not a variety show staple… he was only on them with other group members once in a while. And any CF’s or ads..were also with the group. When he was in China… it was the same, SM insisted that any CF’s, drama, ads he was requested for that another member was included. So all he had was group activities and album sales for both super junior and super junior M to live on.

A lot of it was because he was foreign and language barrier, etc. But that must have sucked. He was known as “the poorest star in China” before he left SM. But people expected him to sacrifice himself for the group and “family” etc, etc… man forget that. I can see why… if it was money driven along and career wise… he would leave. He was really at a disadvantage.

That’s it for this week! As always, feel free to leave additional comments below.

(SBS, SM Entertainment, Doojoon’s Twitter)