Welcome to this week’s Comments of the Week!

This week, we covered a range of topics including (but not limited to) Dalmatian‘s misfortune, celebrity suicides, Boohwal, SNSD‘s “Paparazzi,” Kahi‘s graduation, miss A for Marie Claire, One Day, U-KISS, TaeTiSeo‘s fashion, Boyfriend, Krystal, Jaejoong vs. Yoochun as actors, company idol rosters, the “Boyz Nite Out” concert in Singapore, Bridal Mask, SM branching out, positive social advances in K-culture, Lena Park, American R&B in K-pop, SM’s embedded ads, Epitone Project, YouTube views, speculation about K-drama real-life couples, Buzz, After School‘s “Flashback,” Big, Lucite Tokki and working conditions in the K-entertainment biz.

As usual, while our authors had a lot to say this week, you all were busy with sharing your own responses to these topics as well!

Without further ado, these are five of our favorite comments from this week:

CLover/Infiknight on American R&B in K-pop: A Growing Trend:

I think kpop as a whole has it’s roots firmly grounded in American hip hop/ r’n’b / pop. If you take a look at Seo Taiji & Boys all of their songs were heavily influenced by the late 80’s early 90’s American artists.

Tasha is an excellent example of the r’n’b influence in Korean music industry. I’ve always seen Tasha as Korean Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu combining amazing rap skills with soulful vocals. Jay also, his first love is dancing or to be specific b-boying which is one of the elements of hip hop culture and hip hop and r’n’b go hand in hand most of the time, not always but mostly. I think his love for r’n’b music showed early on, even with 2pm. You could see it from the way he sang, performed and from the choices of covers he did.

In general I think all kpop companies while training these future idols, mostly give them r’n’b/hip hop songs to practice to. I remember Big Bang‘s documentary where they did covers of many American r’n’b singers. Hell the first 2 years after Big Bang’s debut their whole repertoire consisted of r’n’b/hip hop songs (e.g. “Nunmul”, “My girl”, “We belong together”, “Forever with you”, “I don’t understand” etc.)

Same things goes for Beast, 2ne1 even these newer groups. I’ve watched the BigStar show and they cover mostly American r’n’b singers. I bet this is the case with almost every group out there.

I love the fact that some of these groups/artists in Korean music industry try to represent the r’n’b genre. Tasha still keeps it down for r’n’b, Jay too, Aziatix far surpassed it their music is just so appealing to the ear, reminiscing those early 2000 r’n’b songs, from vocals to amazing rap verses. I’ve only heard a handful of Brian‘s songs but I respect his choice of the musical genre he wants to pursue. It is apparent that most of the people in kpop who grew up abroad (USA especially) feel more connected to this type of music.

I would also like to include 1tym here, because Danny‘s vocal and his solo songs were really more closer to r’n’b than pop. Gummy too, her voice is too soulful for pop, her songs (earlier especially) are pure r’n’b.

But I have a feeling that the emphasis on r’n’b was more apparent up until 2006-2007 afterwards the musical direction of kpop became more pop-is than anything else. But I believe that this happened because the same thing happened in the States. The music direction everyone was going towards changed into more pop-ish and r’n’b faded into the background. It’s beginning to revive slowly and I’m extremely happy for that. I think we’ve all kinda had it enough with pop/electronic sound so it’s refreshing to see the revival of r’n’b all around.

LC05 on 5 Things I LOVED in K-pop: 6/1106/17:

The YG dating ban is fake. It keeps the media from prying into the private lives of YG artists. Especially the 2NE1 girls. YG’s policy is not so much a dating ban as a date for years and years in secret before you reveal anything to the public. Moreover, YG has a long history of in company dating. YG and his former YG girl group wifey. Sean and his YG actress wife, Jung Hye Young. Seven and Park Han byul (formerly under yg). Gummy and Wheesung were also known to have dated when Wheesung was still under YG. Teddy and Lexy also supposedly had a thing going on when Lexy was still YG’s main female rapper. And YG’s newest edition, Tablo and his YG actress wife, Kang Hye Jung.

YG also stated on healing camp that due to his own romantic history (having dated and married a YG artist) he feels he has no right to restrict his artists when it comes to dating.

The YG dating ban is fake. Something Dara probably came up with when she was brainstorming for variety shows. The real question is, given YG’s pattern of in-house couples, who is currently secretly dating in the YG building?

Lyn Prince on At Odds: Idol Working Conditions and the Entertainment Biz:

“Government regulation of the entertainment industry is slow and often ineffectual”….because it is a huge conflict of interest. The Government also benefits from these dramas and kpop acts in the Korean wave.

Hallyu has become a government sponsored and pushed system because it is now a part of Korean pride and soft power for the country of Korea. They are making tons on money in Kpop and Hallyu tourism, and selling their dramas and idols in other countries. Korean embassies are giving out Kpop posters and tickets. So this is making them money and giving them world recognition. The government is not never going to go too far…in any way that would hamper it. So they take baby steps and take care of low hanging fruit and useless cosmetic changes. They haven’t gotten serious about it.

If they were serious…they would have child labor laws. Korea has no law that says minors can’t work past a given amount of hours in a day like Japan or the USA has. It has no law that says…children working in the entertainment business MUST attend school or be homeschooled on set if need be like the US has. So minors in Korea are working all hours of the day and night and some never going to school/dropping out…all in the name of Hallyu. Not only is this bad because you are overworking children…but these kids are with managers, CEO’s, PD’s majority of their time…and never with their parents…so it leaves them open for abuse, sexual and otherwise….because no one is there to protect them. And the only people around them, are people who basically see them as a product to be marketed and sold.  Nothing has been done, or is even in the works of being done about this situation.

If the government was serious…it would force companies to change their contracts… so bullshit like…you can’t have a cellphone until you sell this much records, or you can date for 5 years, or you have to get plastic surgery or you can’t debut….won’t go on. And these are all real situations that idols have mentioned have been told to them by their companies.

If the Korean government was serious… they would investigate, raid, and crackdown on abuses in all these companies…but they are not…because they are in bed with the CEOs, and the money men and PD’s that ruin the system. And they benefit from the system as it is now. They will throw people a bone every once in a while…but they will never seriously do it. Why do you think most idols and actors look so resigned to their fate…they know as long as money is being made and Hallyu is Koreas biggest import…the government is not going to protect them from shit. And no matter how much their companies push this family BS…they not going to change anything either because you are making them money. You are family and they take care of you…as long as you accept your fate and never cross them.  They might as well do their time and keep their head down…because we see what happened to people that speak up and try to fight back.

I don’t expect anything seriously to be done..unless something drastic happens.

Lastelza on SB Chat Box #25: JJ Project debuts, and comeback from WG & f(x):

With the Wonder Girls, I agree and disagree with some points you guys have pointed out.  Hyuna did have a fanbase back in their debut days and she was one of the more popular members, but again, it was their debut year when she left and the impact of her leaving was not as hard on the fanbase as Sunmi‘s was because the group was still very fresh back in the days. Sunmi was one of the more popular members, like Hyuna, back when she was still with group and she had been with the group for 3 years before she decided to leave/ take a break. So it was a much much harder transition for Hyelim to be in the group compared to Yubin. The pressure I have to say was completely different especially since many fans at the time had already started complaining or leaving the Wonder Girls because of their US venture.

With the girls’ current song and concept, I find it the most refreshing comeback single since their Nobody days. Even the girls have said it themselves in their latest interviews. It is not retro, which is what they have been doing for the past years since Tell Me. The song is fun, energetic and something different to what other groups are spouting out right now. For me, the song is also something only the Wonder Girls can pull off.  While other girl groups out there (maybe aside from 2NE1) try to come up with a different concept every time they make a comeback in order to appeal to the public, these girls have been evolving through the retro concept quite well (despite some singles like 2 Different Tears). They have been trying to outdo themselves rather than other girl groups like what the rest are doing instead. It’s nice to see a group that’s trying too compete with themselves and evolving from that.

The choreography is also a lot of fun and again, something that only the Wonder Girls can pull off with the kind of personalities and musical identity they have presented since their debut. It is truly a Wonder Girls’ song to the core. Even the MV is something that only the girls can pull off with their ‘girl-next-door’ image by interacting with the various participants of various background and age. I really think ‘Like This’ is finally a step forward to their musical career unlike ‘Be My Baby’ which was still retro. In terms of their fashion style for this single, it really is not that bad. It’s again something unique and different in k-pop and whilst it doesn’t have a WOW factor, it fits well with single. It’s definitely not the most appealing for their bodies, but again, the Wonder Girls had never been one who focused so much on their sexual appeal to promote, like other girl groups. The girls since their debut had appeal to the nation because of their humble personalities and the fact that they seem approachable and not ‘Goddess-like’ or something like that. They were not called Korea’s ‘Little Sisters’ for no reason.

In terms of stage presence, I have to disagree with some of the points. They are actually great on stage, but their previous singles despite them being ‘fun’ songs, were not able to actually allow them to perform very much. They were fun songs that in a way limits them to a sort of monotonic dance routine because of the kind of concepts they were stuck with (e.g. Nobody and Be My Baby). Whilst with ‘Like This’ they are able to show a more fun and energetic stage performances because there’s not really a ‘set’ concept other than to have fun.

Hyelim has really blossomed in this promotion round because as she had said in a recent interview, this is more of her preferred style and so she is much more comfortable performing ‘Like This’ and I do think she has done really well so far on stage. She may seem a little off at times but it’s unfair to really judge her when she is on stage with members who have 5 years of experience under their belts compared to her 2 years or so in which 1 was not spent on camera or on Korean music shows.

With Sohee, I have to disagree, I think she really has improved. I truly do as a fan since 2007. She may still be the weakest singer within the group, but she is so much fun to watch on stage because she has the ability of express herself well with all their songs. Her little movements or facial expressions I think makes her performance quite unique compared to the other members in the group and she is also one who shines in this promotion round.

With Yeeun’s composing skills, I think the girl has some serious potential. She has started composing years ago and not just since Wonder World or Dream High 2. Her ‘known’ first composed song was ‘For Wonderful’ back in 2008 for a fan showcase. Not sure if you can still find the video on Youtube, but damn the girl has seriously evolved since then. I still couldn’t believe she came up with G.N.O! I think she will go very far in the future and I am also excited to see what she has in store for us next! Her musical range and variation is very broad, which makes it all the more exciting for us fans.

Chanting Lee on A Few Words on Kahi’s Departure and the Future of After School:

I think it was a wise choice for her to ‘graduate’. I remember the conception of AS in 2009 as being that the members were handpicked by Kahi herself. With more and more added members, I had my doubts over how much say Kahi had. It’s not that I don’t like the new members, they each brought something new to the group (not including Eyoung, whom I’ve not seen how her talents are transferred to AS).

But like the writer said, the AS of 2012 is and has differentiated from the AS of 2009. It’s not just the number and members that have come and left (I miss Bekah *sniff*), but also the lack of a clear direction for the group itself. With “Ah”, it was clear they were going for a more mature concept compared to the girl groups prominent in 2009, but then 2NE1 came into the picture and they were lagging behind.  Then they added Uee and So Young left during the “Diva” era, and they went to the conventional cute concept…. Then everything blurred from there…

“Because of You” gave me hopes, but then came “Bang”… Then “Love Love Love” to “Shampoo” then their AS Red and AS Blue promotions…. Then Bekah’s graduation… I felt like they haven’t stuck with a concept for long. I also found it a bit sad that they didn’t really return to their “Ah” days anymore. It was what made the group work, in my point of view. But maybe it’s due to the group’s basis on ‘graduation’ and adding new members (though with AS I don’t see the point in adding – some members have great potential and are talented, it’s just a case of showcasing them).

AS’s conception was based on the Japanese idols’ system of ‘graduation’, so for me I wasn’t surprised that Kahi is leaving. Theoretically speaking, it makes sense, and realistically it’s better for her to do so anyway. The group’s concepts have really deviated from “Ah”, and I doubt Kahi really wants to do cute ‘aegyo’ dances at her age, right? It won’t feel right or look right..

And even when I was just getting into AS, I was really drawn to Kahi. Without knowing her name or her looks at first, I knew that this woman was the leader. I could feel her passion, experience, and charisma in her performances. It’s just radiating off her, and she’s just doing her thing! With these qualities, there’s no need to stay in a group – a solo career is ideal for her.

That’s it for this week! Thanks for tuning in!

(Vivien, Vogue Korea, YG Entertainment, KAMA Studio, TS Entertainment, Jiyeon’s Twitter, SURE Magazine, Pucca, JYP Entertainment, Pledis Entertainment, Esquire Magazine)