While the landscape of Korean entertainment can be vast and wondrous, it’s often the little things that make us fall in love, inspire awe, evoke secondhand embarrassment, or sometimes…break our hearts. In this segment, we ask our writers: Among the many things vying for your attention this week, what made your heart beat?
[Idols/Dramas] SF9, Hwiyoung and Imitation
I am very glad to announce that I am finally enamored by a new group! Finally! SF9 — especially Hwiyoung — caught my eye during Kingdom, and they ended up being up one of the two groups that kept me watching the show. After their recent appearance on Changmin’s Free Hug, I couldn’t stop myself from diving deeper into their discography. Friday night found me aggressively jamming along to “Jungle Game (Japanese Version)“ and “KO” on repeat. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the former song on YouTube and discovered the insane choreography that the song has. Of course, this got me curious about their latest release, Turn Over. While I’m not the biggest fan of the title track, I have to say that the rest of the EP will be my go-to music for this week. I especially love the grooviness of “Off My Mind” and “Fanatic”.
A few weeks back, I also started watching Imitation just to cure my boredom and to have something ridiculous to laugh at; little did I know that present me would continue watching the show because of Hwiyoung (and Minseo). Never underestimate the power of charming idols! But I’d also like to add that Imitation is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It might not be the best drama ever, but it’s also far from the worst one I’ve watched. I’m not sure how accurately it depicts the idol world, but I do think there are some plot-lines that encourage healthy discussion amongst watchers — such as the depiction of sasaengs, the commodification of idols’ private lives, the exploitation of trainees, and much more.
[Dramas/Idols/Variety] Vincenzo, TXT, Loona, The Devil Wears Jung-Nam
So I finally had time to continue watching Vincenzo and with the last two episodes left, things are now getting heavier, more dramatic and more emotional. The drama isn’t without its flaws, but I am enjoying it and looking forward to how it will conclude. The villains are absolutely disgusting and I really hope they will get what they deserve in the end.
Music-wise, like many of our writers, I am enamored by TXT‘s “OX1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” (TXT’s title track names are always hard to write somehow). With the rock elements, the raspy vocals and Seori‘s beautiful voice in the post-chorus, the song is just magnificent and always stuck in my head. I also like the version featuring pH-1 and Woodie Gochild, but I do miss the percussion just a tiny bit. Additionally, as I followed Loona‘s pre-debut period, I have also been checking out all their comebacks and “Paint the Town” is no exception. Renee perfectly highlighted the pros and cons of this comeback; the song is okay to me, but there is too much going on and some parts feel redundant. The performance and choreography are however absolutely immaculate and as a Yves stan, I have religiously watched all comeback stages.
Moreover, I have been watching the tvN variety show The Devil Wears Jung-Nam. The show originally revolves around model Bae Jung-nam, but EXO‘s Kai has joined the second season and this really makes up for one hilarious watch. The two mostly check out a bunch of places, try on some pretty unique outfits, but I really enjoy the chill atmosphere and the interaction between Kai and Bae Jung-nam (whose dogs are the cutest). I didn’t know that Na PD is the producing director and as expected, he never does a bad show. Much hasn’t been going on for me, but I am really looking forward to Taeyeon‘s comeback!
[Idols/MVs] 2PM, Heize – “Happen”
When 2PM finally came back after five years, I got curious about this iconic group. Yes, knowing that Taecyeon was fantastic in Vincenzo made the jump into the deep end of 2PM content a lot faster. I have absolutely no regrets, especially after I saw the updated stage performance of “A.D.T.O.Y.” circling around the Internet. I get a good kick out of seeing the members in leather and doing that hip choreography. The six of them have also boosted my serotonin levels with their appearance on MMTG. I love their senses of humor and how none of them can seem to maintain a straight face for more than a few seconds.
Other than smiling until my cheeks hurt because of 2PM, I can’t stop thinking about the MV for Heize‘s “Happen” with Song Joong-ki (I’m realizing that both of these have a connection to Vincenzo…) I have so many thoughts about the use of color, specifically the complimentary red and green alongside pale blue. If you add in the artificial sets—which make me think of things like Pleasantville and The Truman Show—into the overarching narrative of missed encounters, you get a piece of art that I really can’t stop thinking about.
[Idols/R&B] Enhypen, OoOo
Enhypen made their Japanese debut this week with a Japanese version of “Given Taken” as well as the intro song for the new anime, Re:Main. Japanese debuts aren’t something I usually follow closely, but I was particularly excited for this one because I anticipated Ni-ki to have more of a presence, given the language barrier in Korea has held him back a bit. It’s no doubt an exciting moment for the group that is less than a year into their debut — and they all performed so well — but I can’t help but be a little disappointed in Be:lift for the lack of Ni-ki in both releases. Ni-ki is arguably one of the more popular members in Japan — fluent in the language — and I can’t wrap my head around why they didn’t expand his role a bit for the debut. Of course, his position in the group is main dancer, so the vocals generally go to other members; but in the MV as well he’s barely shown. Even with a visually interesting MV that’s a new take on their vampire lore, I understand why his Japanese fans are a little let down. Here’s to hoping future original Japanese releases will allow for members to expand their roles a bit, or at least that variety shows will give a more well-rounded introduction to the group.
On a happier note, this week I also discovered OoOo (ooornette, 오넷) and fell positively in love with her hypnotic R&B sound and airy vocals. She has the kind of dreamy — slightly angsty — sound that suits late night walks and helps clear my head. She mainly shares her music through Soundcloud, but she’s also featured on several YouTube mix playlists. I personally recommend “Youth,” “Rose,” and “fuxxin love” for first listens.
[Idols/Dramas] Shinee, Nevertheless
I am also not someone who usually pays a lot of attention to Japanese releases. I am already drowning in Korean-language K-pop content, I don’t need six thousand more songs to suck up the hours in my day! But I am currently in full Taemin withdrawal, so when I heard that a brand new Japanese Shinee MV was out, I opened a YouTube tab on my browser at the speed of light. I was not let down. “Superstar” is unbelievably adorable, and my Taemint and Shawol heart has been (briefly) healed.
On an unrelated recommendation, I remember Esther shouting out the Han So-hee and Song Kang helmed drama Nevertheless a couple of weeks ago, and I want to wholeheartedly second that. It’s rare that I actively await new episodes of a show, but that’s where I’m at with Nevertheless. Its mature and candid attitude towards sex and coming of age is so refreshing, and while I’ve been impressed with the show’s whole ensemble, I want to especially say that Han So-hee is absolutely killing it, making Na-bi a luminous yet relatable heroine. I truly can’t wait to see what this drama has in store for the rest of its run.
[Survival Shows] Loud
With the end of Kingdom, I’ve moved on to my next survival show, JYP Entertainment and P Nation’s joint audition/survival program on SBS, Loud. I’m hooked!
It’s a pretty low-key show: Ratings are low, there’s not much drama and I get the feeling the audience is getting a glimpse into how trainees are selected into groups. Unlike Produce and most other survival shows these days, the trainees are being (openly) evaluated on all kinds of skills: songwriting, composing, rap, vocals, performance, team-work, and other creative inputs. They’re also being mixed and matched into different smaller groups with one another to help the two producers – JYP and Psy – determine what they could do within a group. Post-performance feedback can be surprisingly detailed, and eliminations are determined entirely by the producers – the viewer has no role. It’s actually quite anti-climactic with eliminations being entirely devoid of any dramatic announcements.
I say “glimpse” because of course, we get the dressed-up performances and not too much of what went on behind the scenes. But that’s okay – we get quite enough anyway. What’s more, many of the performances are original compositions, self-conceptualized, and choreographed (or, with at least noticeable input from the trainees, if the show is to be believed)… and the performances are pretty good! These are some talented trainees.
All in all, I’m enjoying watching JYP and Psy collaborate on screen, and put together their agencies’ respective new boy groups. As of the end of episode 5, there are 30 trainees left. I have those I think should definitely debut, but the show isn’t forcing me to pick any favorites – whether by way of drama onscreen, or by giving me the “power” to vote. Looking forward to seeing the final groups! It’s not been revealed what concepts either JYP Entertainment or P Nation have in mind for their new boy groups; or even how many members they’re looking for.