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 won and made your heart beat?
[Dramas] The Subjective Camera of Nevertheless,
I started watching Nevertheless, yesterday, and you guys, I’m in love. I hadn’t realised how neutral (and dare I say, sometimes flat) the typical K-drama’s camerawork was until I was thrown into the vivid subjectivity of Nevertheless,‘ camerawork, which Lo’s review primed me to look out for. Close-ups, gentle tilts, a wobbly handheld sequence bring to life Na-bi’s emotional withdrawal at times, and palpable sexual tension and attraction at others. Han So-hee plays Na-bi with sensitivity and vulnerability, and the cinematography, editing, and sound seamlessly merge the viewer’s perspective with hers as she experiences the emotional ups and downs of a romantic relationship that’s marked by a mix of ambiguity and surprising honesty.
Jae-eon (Song Kang) is a character I’ve never quite seen before. The show doesn’t let the viewer read and place him easily, nor does it force us to see him simply as a swoon-worthy male lead. His early presence is always accompanied by a sense of unease: his seductive moves are unnervingly smooth and effective, and he never creates the illusion that his attention is exclusive to Na-bi alone. But there’s more to him: he’s a playboy, but he’s no jerk. He’s candid about not committing to a monogamous romantic relationship, and speaks straightforwardly about what he desires when Na-bi shows signs of confusion. He initiates a lot of physical contact, but whenever Na-bi shrinks away from his attempts to kiss her, he doesn’t push her.
The way that Nevertheless, is directed and written is incredibly intimate, and not just because it doesn’t shy away from portraying sexual relationships. It plunges you right into the characters’ perspectives, showing you how their ever-morphing emotions inflect their experiences. I’m in the middle of episode 4 now, and although I don’t know how the story will progress, I know that I’ll be privy to the characters’ inner worlds as it unfolds, and I can’t wait to experience that.
[TV/Variety] MNet’s Reality Show Roundup Featuring Girls Planet 999 and Street Woman Fighter
I never thought I’d say this: Girls Planet 999 had a dance performance that made me tear up.
Normally, when there are dances involved, the groups tend to invoke the Avengers of season 1: Team Bang Bang (which featured Somi, Chungha, and Yoojung, among others). This girl crush concept is the favored concept of many dance songs, and even can be seen in some vocal performances. But Team Fate did something different.
But they did not just do something that was delicate and evoking Korean traditional dance, as their first choreography hints at. By the time they presented on the final stage, there was a complete story. showing the struggle of the competition and how they were fated to be contestants on the show, as well as fated to “die” by the end so that a select few could make the final group. By presenting “Fate” with this complete contemporary dance lens, they truly made it their own, making this a standout performance.
On that note, Mnet continues to be my reliable trashy friend since I am also watching Street Woman Fighter, where all-female dance crews compete. My favorites, La Chica, are there. La Chica are famous for choreographing Chungha‘s “Gotta Go,” “Snapping,” “Stay Tonight” (this one with Ran), “Play,” and as their name suggests, “Chica.” In addition, you’ve perhaps seen them as backup dancers for Hyoyeon, SHINee, and Taemin.
Oh, as is Chaeyeon of IzOne fame. I like her as an idol dancer, but the other street dancers are speaking the truth when the question why she’s there: idol dancing is vastly different from what the others do. But I am glad to see Chaeyeon getting better—as the episodes go on, her lines are cleaner and there is more diversity in her movements during the one-on-one battles. I’m excited to see her develop into a better dancer with this show.
It’s truly drama central and I’m sure Mnet producers are happy with all the years-long tea the crews brought to the table.
[TV/Variety and Drama OSTs] Memorable Girls Planet 999 Performances and the Calming OST of Nevertheless,
Coincidentally enough, my two shoutouts for the week align perfectly with Qing and Pat’s recommendations! First up, I have also fallen down the Girls Planet 999 rabbit hole. I’m a sucker for survival shows (against my better judgement, mind you), but I’ve been genuinely impressed by the quality of the performances on Girls Planet 999. I’m a little behind on the episodes, so I haven’t seen the “Fate” performance that Pat described, though I am now very much looking forward to it.
For now though, my hands down favorite stage so far has been the dance performance of “Ice Cream”. “Ice Cream” is not a song that I love, but I found the pure charm and excellent rearrangement of this version totally irresistible. On each of my many, many rewatches, I’ve been blown away by how well the performance allows every single one of the nine team members to shine. Team leader Kim Da-yeon is not someone I’d payed a lot of attention to on the show before, but boy has that changed now. She deserves all the credit in the world for being the mastermind behind this incredible stage, and for her magnetic charisma in the performance itself.
On the Nevertheless, side of things, I watched along with the show when it aired and very much enjoyed it. I noticed the quality of the soundtrack while viewing the drama, but just now have really gotten into it. As I dive into my school semester, the soft, emotive soundtrack of Nevertheless, has proven to be a perfect study companion. I’m especially fond of the “Heavy Heart” and (the aptly titled) “Nevertheless” by Rio and Park Jiwoo‘s “Whisper“. Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt the songs impact that every time I hear them, I think of the lovely show that Nevertheless, is!
[Music] Great Tracks from Seori, Audrey Nuna, NIKI, mxmtoon, and more
I started a job as a DJ this month, and angry, Indigenous, queer, and/or just women in general have been my usual rotation these days. The beginning of the week was STRESSFUL so I needed some comforting, softer music, and lately I can’t seem to stop listening to “Dive with you (feat. eaJ),” “Lovers In The Night” and basically all of Seori’s discography. I’ve found it to be delightfully moody and warming for the rainy, cooler, busy days I had at the beginning of the week. There’s also LGBT representation (that’s not queer baiting!) in her MVs these days which is a really nice trend to finally see. eaJ’s addition to the song melds with Seori’s voice well, and the live version is stunning.
In addition to keeping eaJ (Jae of Day6) on repeat alongside Seori, I revisited some of my fave 88rising artists that I got to know through other compilations and intersections, mostly with eaJ actually. My absolute favorite songs right now are mostly complete opposites: “Clocked Out!” by Audrey Nuna & NIKI and “in the darkness” by mxmtoon. Both Audrey Nuna and mxmtoon are relatively new artists for me, but I am loving getting to know both of their discographies. “Clocked Out!” is this satisfyingly angry ode to “clocking out of the rat race” and appears on the new Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The Album. I am in love with all the amazing, witty wordplay, especially Nuna’s rap. NIKI’s collab with Warren Hue and Rich Brian “California” deserves a shout out as well! I think it was actually premiered at the same concert with eaJ and mxmtoon.
I don’t think I expected to love mxmtoon so much when I first heard her on the Asia Rising Together: Benefit Concert, but the more I listen to her songs the more jewels I seem to find. Everything she writes is remarkably introspective, thoughtful, and welcoming. She’s openly bi and from a family of immigrants, has a podcast, a graphic novel, several EPs, and was recently the singing voice of the main character from the new video game Life is Strange: True Colors. I love her and her music so much. My other favorites of hers at the moment are “quiet motions” and “Falling for U” (with Peachy!). More updates to come :)