Welcome to another Comments of the Week!

This week in music and idol news, we covered older Big Bang works, Naked, PSY‘s journey, Younique, miss A‘s new album, Ailee‘s new MV, Epik High‘s comeback, idol rappers, Hyuna‘s new album, Kim Greem, NEP and 84LY, and Brave Brothers.

For TV, fashion, and film, we talked about the best of last week’s music shows, Krystal for Oh Boy!Panda and Hedgehog, Arang and the Magistrate, and The King and the Clown.

As for socio-cultural happenings, we looked at the Korean media, sticking to a formula, B.A.P and overpromotion, international love divide, Amy’s thoughts on KCON, reasons why Nicholas would want to be a K-idol, pre-debut fascination, and Jasper’s musing on DSP Media.

We were also able to secure a snazzy interview with Nu’est prior to KCON, be sure to check it out!

Here are five of my favorite comments from articles this week:

Sabah on COOL’s Yuri Isn’t Dead, but my Faith in Korean Media Is:

I would not want to pass on my cynical view of journalists, but I believe that is is ALWAYS wise to verify facts you read/hear in the news BEFORE passing those very same facts on. Unfortunately many reputable establishments have become nothing except gossip propagators. More unfortunate is the fact that people are not ready nor willing to accept neither trust their loved ones words BUT are readily able to accept the words of a complete stranger who may have the moral compass of a flea.

Long gone are the days when journalism served to bring people the truth.  Journalists like Woodward and Bernstein are few and far between.  It now serves its masters and acts as a kind of advertiser or marketing purposes.  Defaming and promoting upon whims and fancies.  Ruining lives in a kind of collateral damage where individuals are lost in pages of numbers and profit figures.

I didn’t know that KBS and MBC were government owned BUT it does not surprise me.  Look deep enough into most organizations and you might find that a lot of power is vested in just one or two conglomerates.  Laws governing conflict of interests are in need of thorough updating!

If you want the truth then you will have to seek it. Until then trust and respect those whom you love, and base your esteem upon their actions which you witness with your own eyes and not the manipulated lens of an unknown source.

David McCready on International Love Divide:

Really I think the biggest difference is how we learn of the music. Flat out, 90%.  I can’t even begin to say how much music is played in the Seoul Metro stops where you can shop (a plentiful number).  You hear it in taxis, buses, restaurants… everywhere.  At least everywhere I went!

Then with your cheap phone you can check out the TV shows or radio, you can go down to the local record store or catch the metro to a book chain such as YP and browse.  Your schoolmates or friends will tell you about new music…

Did I mention the radio?  So much music in Korea is folksy like American folk…

Or you could go to Hongdae and hit the club, or the underground scene and hear an even wider selection.

Here in America you can do the same thing but you’ll get American artists and music.  And yes, we have IU‘s and JUNIEL‘s in the US, too.  Colbie Caillat, Sarah Mclachlan, etc.  But in America we are aware of what we see and are made aware of.  The problem is we have such a limited scope, we take what English kpop sites feed us and act like it’s the only thing that matters.

In America, if we had the ease of access to all genres of Korean music as we do American music, I think there’d be a whole different story.

swheekun on Roundtable: The Rap Pack:

You guys can nitpick all you want but I think there’s a bigger picture to look at here. Being so bottom-heavy with very few outliers, the shape of the list is a perfect representation of the incredibly uneven talent distribution amongst idol rappers. It says loudly, ‘we need some real rappers over here!’, a statement that, in the context of K-pop, couldn’t possibly be any more accurate.

Life LOL on What’s to Hate About Epik High’s “Don’t Hate Me”?:

Haha, I would say it’s my first time feeling like a Hippie, put it that way. Can’t say I loved it immediately the moment those 2 Mvs were released. Already highlighted my view, & aspirations for the album before the material was released. And I’m not as sure that it’d be something I’d put on loop. It’s just something that I can’t get into straight away. In the past, I’d been proud to showcase Epik High‘s discography for everybody to listen to, but with this new release, there’s a reluctance creeping in. No doubt, it’s been interesting to see the debate over the past week. And for once, it was interesting to find myself in the minority.

This is no hit on Epik High taking a different route, I’m glad to see the trio back, given what all the members have gone through. Indeed if this is a concept album, a one off thing, I’d be interested to see what they’ve got in store for their subsequent albums. If this album was just to reintroduce themselves and blow off some steam, it’s cool. However, I do miss their old style, because it’s a style that could really only be found in their discography, that I felt only they could really produce. That little niche, jazzy, soulful hip hop flow, nujabes-esque style of music. That’s what I’d probably miss from this latest album. It’d be interesting to see their GHOST interlude, when someone gets hold of the physical copy, because it’s supposed to contain some of those old vibes. And their instrumentals & interludes have always been a welcome addition to any album, with or without lyrics, their music was always beautifully poignant and rich. Plus those past instrumentals have made great study music, Epik High’s instrumentals have this way of placing oneself in a realm of reflection & concentration.

I’ve never thought Epik High to be part of kpop, but it’s like fuuko4869 said, if you’re underground and good, eventually you still want to make it to that level of success. And while I hope that those 2 worlds remain mutually exclusive, it’s obvious that they’ll merge. Haha, I remember reading some review, sarcastically saying that they’ll only be able to top this if they feature T.O.P. in a song. Reminds me very much of the rap scene in the US, with underground rappers coming through the ranks, and when they’ve reached huge success, people claim that they’re sellouts. Like Chamillionaire, he was huge in the underground scene in Houston, but “Ridin Dirty” probably threw off some of those mixtape messiah fans he had with him in the very beginning. It was seen to be a song that the label wanted, sure he composed it, but the flavour ultimately seem to appease the masses.

I guess this could be analogous to the situation with Epik High, they were distinct enough for you to be labelled as a listener with some form of discretion, yet they enjoyed the level of success that would bring credibility to your preference in liking their music. But it still felt less mainstream enough that when you’d meet a fellow fan, it was a special thing, compared with if you met a Big Bang or SNSD fan. Because they weren’t as big and it would be  a little harder to find those Epik High fans. Yeah, that’s the great paradox with Indie/underground groups making it big. They’re always striving for more, and they can’t be in that little bubble forever, but it was nice while it lasted. That little phase.

Well I do think they’ve cultivated a sound that has been exclusively unique to them. And personally it’d be a pity for them to toss it to the side completely.Would still love to see some element no matter how minuscule, in their future works. Kinda like Jay Chou, with his Dong Feng Po style, no matter how different the theme is, you’d always know that there was going to be at least 1 track that beautifully merged in with traditional Chinese instruments. So I do wish the revisit some of their old music, continue to evolve, but still keep that same essence they brought the very first time they stepped on the scene.

Nate Broadus on The Pre-debut Touch:

Pre-debut pictures are a rare aspect of idoldom that comes across as completely genuine to me. Nobody fakes embarrassing photos, they are just something that you took once and it sticks with you forever (I’ll never forget my elementary school coke bottle glasses years — if only because there is a stupid picture that won’t f*cking die). They also, as the article pointed out, give you a glimpse of what these “genetically superior” idols were like before they had access to an army of makeup artists, hairdressers and stylists. It’s funny how “human” idols can look without these people.

The way some fans fawn all over them, you would think idols just descended from Heaven on a big fluffy cloud all glistening, golden and flawless (“Jjang FIGHTING, oppa is so humble and sweet and honest and perfect and — wait, he used to get sh*tfaced drunk and irresponsible like any other ordinary person? But… That just makes him more perfect… Hehe” ^_^; <—- Just a wee bit psycho).

Seeing these pictures adds one more thing to the “I wish entertainment companies did this” category: understanding of pre-debut connections.

If you know some people are tight and enjoy each other’s company pre-debut, why not allow them to work together in a group? As a manager once, one of my most dearly held philosophies was understanding the chemistry of my team and knowing who worked better together, personality wise. Your team will deliver better work if they feel comfortable with their direction, their co-workers, and especially if they enjoy the camaraderie to an extent. Jigsaw-ing your people together into sub sets without considering their chemistry as people often results in good work, but not always GREAT work.

It is obvious idols make deep connections with each other in the trainee phase, but not everyone is as fortunate to find themselves in the same group as a person/people they made connections with like, for instance, Tiffany and Jessica. There are too many instances of “Best friendz-4evs, LOL” that get squashed when they find out they have been placed in different groups, released from the company or moved to a subsidiary label, or otherwise separated and buried under relentless work schedules that don’t allow for much contact anymore.

Granted, I guess chemistry doesn’t matter THAT much in Kpop when it comes to the finished product. Songs and videos are typically handled by people within the company, leaving the idol’s task more about playing whatever role they are assigned and being able to be civil and project the appearance of brother/sisterhood with their other members when the cameras are rolling (even if I doubt it exists on that level in all cases), but that is just one more thing to add to the bonfire of things I dislike about the institution of Kpop.

If anything, pre-debut pictures do remind me that idols are cut from human cloth like everyone else — which actually just makes it a little more bittersweet when you see them hit the debut wall and suddenly they have to adjust to often unknown band mates and say goodbye to people with which they made great friendships. This does happen in real life, usually when you pass from grade school to Jr High, or Jr High to High School, but since idoldom becomes a business the moment you become a trainee and the companies start pumping money into your development, I think there should be a LOT more consideration for these idols not just as future moneymakers, but also as cohesive units that should be able to work well together above all.

That’s it for this week! Thanks for being such great readers, and as always, feel free to leave additional comments below.

(Images via YG Entertainment, Singles Magazine, Fault Magazine, SBS, Star News, Map The Soul, Good Entertainment, SM Entertainment)