Welcome, everyone, to another Seoulbeats Roundtable!
K-pop groups and their companies, in their never-ending endeavour to attract and keep people’s attention, have honed the concept to become their main weapon of attack. A concept dictates a large part of both content and style of a début or comeback, especially the latter. Of course, concepts can be nothing more than a flimsy accessory, but utilised properly they can create an amazing world of endless possibilities for idol, company and fan. And so, we asked the Seoulbeats team: what are some of your favourite concepts that K-pop groups have come out with for album releases?
Jasper: I’ve come to recently realize that some of my favorite concepts are the ones that have to do with nature and/or the outdoors. K-pop tends to be very modern and excessive in both sound and visuals, with our favorite idols continually being enclosed in their infamous boxes. These more natural and earthy concepts are a clear and refreshing contrast to the more modern sights of K-pop, standing out to me almost immediately.
For example, I absolutely adored B1A4‘s natural concept for “Tried to Walk.” It was a refreshing change for the group, allowing them to highlight the maturity and whimsicality that’s often overlooked through their notorious aegyo-laden image. The cinematography and visuals from the countryside were absolutely stunning, with the pristine scenery being absolute visual treats.
For similar reasons, I also enjoyed the camping concept of LOEN Tree‘s “Sea of Moonlight,” for the music video, while occasionally overbearingly cute, featured some undeniably gorgeous natural visuals, showing nature and camping at its best. And just quite recently, I’m absolutely captivated by Double Yoon‘s countryside concept being shown on their teasers, and I’m extremely excited for how the duo will incorporate their concept into their promotions.
And I guess as an extension to my love for natural themes, as commonplace as they’re becoming as of late, I also really enjoy the season concepts as well. Concepts employed in efforts like IU‘s Spring of a Twenty Year Old, Juniel‘s summery My First June, or Lee Seung-gi‘s autumnal Forest have struck a particular chord within me, as I enjoy them for their timely sentimental value.
Lindsay: I’m going to be honest with you all, I love the over-the-top aegyo concepts. I know, I know, it’s like too much candy being shoved down your throat when you already have cavities, but I don’t care, it makes me feel fuzzy inside. This applies to both boy groups and girl groups, although with girl groups I prefer the silly aegyo over the more subtle aegyo. With boy groups the aegyo is more subtle in general, so I just like it all.
This is why Orange Caramel and Girl’s Day are at the top of my list: so many of their MVs are explosions of bright color and pouty faces. I loved Orange Caramel’s “Lipstick” release and “Twinkle Twinkle” is my favorite Girl’s Day song (and one of my favorite K-pop MVs, in general, remember what I said about silly?).
As for boy groups, I was a big skeptic of Boyfriend until I heard their Japanese release “Be My Shine” and the suddenly I was taken in by the cuteness. This goes for the rookie group BIGSTAR whose recent MV for their song “I Got The Feeling” was on repeat on YouTube because I couldn’t get enough of their facial expressions (their maknae is like an adorable puppy!). And to this day B.A.P‘s music show promotions of “Crash” bring a smile to my face.
I think aegyo concepts appeal to me because they make me feel happy in a way other concepts don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good drama concept, or sexy concept, or sad concept, but those evoke different feelings that aren’t always the best for getting in a positive mood. If I want to be productive, or cheery, or get motivated, or need a mood lifter I will put on one of my favorite aegyo songs. “Gee” is the song that melted my cold opinion of SNSD, after all.
Ambika: I enjoy seeing suits. I really like when male groups wear suits and rock a good choreography. I think part of the reason “Sorry Sorry” was a hit was because there were twelve men dancing dynamic choreography in suits. It just looks good and polished when any group does it. It’s also interesting to see the variety in suits that stylists can come up with, as long as no man skirts are involved. I also like the opposite side of the spectrum: casual clothes. You don’t see it on stage that often with all the elaborate outfits, unless the group is a band; then there’s usually normal clothes. But really, just a t-shirt and a good pair of jeans does wonders.
Concept-wise, I enjoyed the whole otherworldly theme B.A.P and EXO had going. I would like to see it integrated into some of their future releases. Just consider the possibilities for choreography, especially for EXO with all their different superpowers. If they commit, it could really be awesome. I also liked the raw edge to B.A.P’s kicks and punches for “Warrior” and “Power,” and I hope they bring some of that back in the future.
From the females, I think miss A usually has really good concepts. Their outfits tend to stay simple, but it looks good and works well with their sass. I liked their themes for “Bad Girl, Good Girl” and “Touch” the best.
Cynthia: I’m with Ambika in that I’m also a fan of suits. I’m pretty sure when I got into K-pop my first reaction was “OMG hot guys dancing in SUITS”, and that reaction has stuck with me ever since. It’s so simple, yet makes everything look so much more refined. And the variety in the outfits greatly influences my attention to the band members – I remember the first time I watched Super Junior-M‘s “Super Girl” I couldn’t take my eyes off Donghae and his dancing because he was wearing a gray suit and shades while everyone else was in black and white. Lo and behold, he became my favorite member.
I’ve also really liked Teen Top‘s concepts recently. While I wasn’t into the song, I loved the casual edgy look they had in “Crazy” with the all black clothes combined with bright studded accessories, and I felt they kind of looked like high school bad boys with their dark leather varsity jackets and tight dark jeans. I enjoyed the retro concept in “To You,” though that just might be because of my thing for suits. Either way, those outfits were pure class (especially with the fedora!) and fit so well with the music video and choreography. And in the “Be Ma Girl” MV, I just loved the idea of Teen Top casually going bowling. With all the fancy/dramatic stuff that goes on in K-pop videos, the image of people simply having fun doing completely normal activities is so refreshing.
Nabeela: I agree about the whole suits thing–you’re never not going to enjoy watching male idols werk it in some fine ass suits. Something about suits on the whole just seem to make everything right. I can’t recall a single time in my life where I’ve watched something K-pop related and been like, he’ shouldn’t have worn a suit. Except some of the B1A4 suits from “Baby Good Night,” I think it was. Those were atrocious. I guess to be more clear: real suit = solid colors and dress shirts and dress shoes.
Though I don’t know if I could pinpoint one single concept and call it my favorite, I definitely love the funkier ones, like Orange Caramel’s whole cosplay stint and Brown Eyed Girls‘ dark, sexy “Sixth Sense” stuff. But I will say the killer for me is like the thriller stuff–dramas with psycho characters and scary plot lines, gang vibes and maybe even some fight scenes. “NanlinA” was an MV that had me swooning and then getting up to swoon some more (I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever stop talking “NanlinA,” I’m sorry).
I will second Cynthia on the casual concept though. Drama and the onslaught of intense choreography can actually be exhausting sometimes; when concepts are relatable, it’s never a bad touch. Remember Big Bang‘s shopping cart scene in “Lies,” or 2PM‘s poolside antics in “10 Points out of 10”? Good times.
Sophia: Overall, I think it’s consistency that counts. Sistar‘s loving you promotions just screamed summer – everything from the choreography to the wardrobe to the song. The perfect package. Same goes for Block B‘s last two releases.
K-pop has some great subdued concepts too – miss A’s “Touch” and Super Junior’s
masterpiece “It’s You” spring to mind. BoA‘s “Only One” too. Oh, and Brown Eyed Girls’ “Cleansing Cream.” Guess I’m a sucker for the introspective love song.
Also, I don’t want to say that everything SHINee touches turns to gold, but I adore every one of their concepts barring “Love Like Oxygen”, “Amigo” and their Japanese release of “Juliette.” The first two were too visually simple, the last a visual overload and not in a good way. Otherwise perfect perfect perfect.
and yes – suits are always welcome.
Gaya: Oh, I absolutely adore everything related to “It’s You,” from the dance to the MVs to the clothes to Eunhyuk‘s chest popping in the live performances — I want Super Junior to dress in suits and sing about heartbreak again, they’re really good with that kind of stuff.
Generally, though, I think I actually like unconventionally cute concepts. There’s f(x)‘s “Chu,” which had the members perform on stage in sneakers and pants (for the most part) and really capitalise on Sulli‘s baby-faced qualities to convey the song’s message (especially with the Snow White motif interlaced throughout); T-ara‘s “Lovey Dovey” also featured sneakers (I’m seeing a trend here) and the best use of the shuffle dance in K-pop; BtoB really found its groove with the cheeky “Wow;” and I love just about everything Sunny Hill has done — their humanoid insect concept and refreshing twist on Aesop‘s fable on the merits of hard work is by far my most favourite, though the original trio’s love-triangle hi-jinks was fun too, in a
voyeuristic drama-like way.
That said, I do like less peppy concepts like Sistar’s “Alone,” Brown Eyed Girls’ “Cleansing Cream,” T-ara’s “Day By Day,” Shinhwa‘s “Venus,” Infinite‘s “Paradise” and “The Chaser” (the prettiness of which made up for the lack of Australian comedians) and B1A4’s “Tried To Walk” as well.
Nicholas: I’m going to comment on the ladies: you cannot go wrong with simple dark concepts, like in 2010 when every girl group did the whole “rocking the black outfit” thing. I also got to admit I like the guys wearing suits and going with standard hair cuts. Nothing says good taste like the mum-friendly outfits, rather than the explosion of colours that some groups love. K-Pop should just keep it simple at times, like SNSD-TTS: though the lead single was overdone, the idea of quality singers distilled into one group never gets old.
Amy: Wait, does SM the Ballad count? The best concept = no concept. Just straight up singing and stuff. Radical, huh?
Ambika: Agreed on SM the Ballad. “Hot Times” was such a groovy and droolworthy jam for both the ears and eyes.
Gaya: I absolutely loved SM the Ballad’s style for “Hot Times.” Those boys looked fine; and I mean fiiiiiiiine.
(Images via SM Entertainment, Cube Entertainment, LOEN Entertainment, Dream Tea Entertainment, TOP Media, Nega Now