K-pop Artist of the Week: NU’EST

The members of NU’EST. Yes, the blonde one is a boy.

Group Name: NU’EST (뉴이스트)

Members: JR, Aron, Baekho, Minhyun, Ren

Company: Pledis Entertainment

Profile: Their name stands for New Establish Style Tempo; your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. Formed in 2012. The picture I chose for this post is from their debut, and Ren (the blonde one) was, I believe, deliberately styled in an extremely feminine way (even in the world of K-pop) to get people talking about the group. He has since cut his hair, but he is still undoubtedly THE prettiest boy in K-pop, hands down. You can agree or disagree with his style choices, but you can’t argue with that.

Okay, ladies, just try to be this pretty. What’s that? You can’t? Oh. Don’t feel bad; this level of pretty is near unbeatable.

Music Videos

“Action” (2012). Action! Showtime! Pretty standard K-pop music video, but catchy song.

“Face” (2012). My favorite NU’EST song. Both the song and the video are about bullying. It’s really fun to sing along to the random English thrown in at the chorus and rap segments – although I think shouting “HEY WASSUP LOSER” kind of goes against the song’s message. And don’t forget about this awesome, fully-English rap at the end: This is a story about a dwarf and a giant / But it’s gonna end just like David and Goliath / Keep up with my pace if you can / Don’t lag, Wile E. Coyote, ’cause I’m Roadrunner fast.

“Sleep Talking” (2013). Pretty visuals. Pretty colors. Pretty Ren.

“Good Bye Bye” (2014). Oops, this is the fourth video and normally I only feature three. NU’EST isn’t even my favorite group, but I was too lazy to make the decision about which one to cut from this post. So, consider this a bonus. Please note Ren’s new hairdo. No pet fish were harmed in the making of this music video. I think.

K-pop Artist of the Week: VIXX

Introducing VIXX. L to R: Ravi, Ken, Leo, Hongbin, N, Hyuk.

Group Name: VIXX (빅스)

Members: Hongbin, Hyuk, N, Ken, Ravi, Leo

Company: Jellyfish Entertainment

Profile: VIXX debuted in 2012 (yeah, that’s right, their company is called Jellyfish Entertainment). Don’t let the English names fool you; all the members are native-born Koreans, but some of them adopted English stage names (not uncommon in the K-pop world). VIXX is another one of those groups that usually has some pretty cool dance moves. Fun fact: their fans are called Starlights.

Music Videos

“Error” (2014). Following the well-worn K-pop path of a music video involving a love story, color contacts, and the group members transforming into some non-human entity (in this case, robots? I think?).

“Eternity” (2014). I like the dance moves and I like the use of clock imagery to reflect the “eternity” concept.

“Voodoo Doll” (2013). My favorite VIXX song, paired with a creepy, dark music video. I really enjoy the ragdoll-like choreography and the creepiness. They released a “clean” version of this video (which is the one I’m embedding) because the original has some gory/disturbing images related to the voodoo doll theme. If you have the stomach for that kind of thing, feel free to look it up.

BONUS: “Voodoo Doll” dance practice. I had to include this one because it is by far one of the coolest dance videos I’ve seen, requiring a lot of acting and careful choreography to work with the skull staff prop. And some really intense moves. (I mean, really… check out the way they lift Ken into the air at 0:19! That wasn’t just movie magic in the music video.) Also, the little intro Ken does in the beginning is cute.

K-pop Artist of the Week: 2NE1

Introducing the ladies of 2NE1. L to R: Minzy, CL, Dara, Bom

~~I’ve noticed from my stats that I’m getting a ton of visitors to my blog because of this post – specifically, people searching Google Images for 2NE1. Welcome! I’m sorry that this post is probably not exactly what you were looking for, but I hope you enjoy it nevertheless.^^ If you’re so inclined, stick around and check out some of my other posts about living and teaching in Korea!~~

Group Name: 2NE1 (투애니원)

Members: CL, Minzy, Dara, Park Bom

Company: YG Entertainment

Profile: Debuted in 2009. The members were significantly older than the average debut K-pop group – all of them 18 years or older. The group name can be pronounced “To anyone” or “Twenty-one.” Their style is decidedly hip-hop and edgy, not cutesy in the least. They’re not my favorite by any means, but they are one of the better known names in K-pop, so I wanted to introduce them this week.

Music Videos

“I Am the Best” (2011). Arguably one of the best known K-pop songs of all time, and certainly in the Top 10 in terms of views on YouTube – and I think you’ll understand why once you listen. For someone who enjoys this genre of music, it has everything you want – danceable beat, catchy hook, plenty of sing-alongable parts even if you don’t know Korean. It’s a conceited song, yes – they are singing “내가 제일 잘 나가,” which means “I am the best.” But it’s fun. Also, if you search “nega che chalaga” on Google, this song pops up immediately.

“Ugly” (2011). As if to counteract the conceitedness of “I Am the Best,” this song is about… well, being ugly. Self-esteem issues. I enjoy it because the message is so different from what you’d expect in a pop song. “I think I’m ugly / and nobody wants to love me / Just like her, I wanna be pretty, I wanna be pretty / Don’t lie to my face / tellin’ me I’m pretty.” It’s both self-derogatory and empowering at the same time. Embrace your non-mold-fitting appearance. It’s a powerful message in a country like Korea, where there is definitely a narrow and cookie cutter mold for what is considered “pretty.”

“Come Back Home” (2014). Some Reggae influence for this one, but with a futuristic twist (both in the music and the music video). I really like this song. I only discovered it while researching 2NE1 for this post, but it’s been playing almost nonstop in my apartment this weekend.

K-pop Artist of the Week: Boyfriend

It’s Sunday again, folks, and that means K-pop Artist of the Week time. Apologies for missing last week!

Helloooo, Boyfriend. Prettier than most girls™. Just kidding, they didn’t trademark that… or did they?

Group Name: Boyfriend (보이프렌드)

Members: Hyunseong, Kim Donghyun, No Minwoo, Lee Jeongmin, Jo Kwangmin, and Jo Youngmin

Company: Starship Entertainment

Profile: Formed in 2011, Boyfriend started off with a really cutesy, pretty-boy concept (see the first video posted below) but have changed their look in recent years to be a bit more… vampy? They’re not necessarily one of the most popular boy groups out there, but they have risen in the ranks quite a bit. Fun fact: the two extremely delicate-looking, saucer-eyed boys with matching faces (Kwangmin and Youngmin) are indeed twins. (Bonus fun fact: you should know they’re at least related just by looking at their names – they share the family [last] name, Jo, but they also share the “middle” name, Min. In Korea, siblings are often given the same “middle” name.)

Music Videos

“Boyfriend” (2011). Their self-titled debut song is over-the-top cute. They look like adorable pre-pubescent anorexic cherubs. I mean seriously, they could practically be one of my students (and most of them were teenagers at the time, still in high school!). Still though, don’t you just want to pinch their adorable smooth cheeks?

“Janus” (2012). Easily my fave Boyfriend song. Here’s where we get a little vampy with the music video (costumes, set). As far as the story, I actually have a little bit of insight this time! Janus is a Roman god depicted as having two faces (the god of beginnings and transitions). They use the twins in the video to portray those two faces in a good vs. evil sense, I think. Not sure about the role of the girl who dumps both twins, though. Love the choreography for this song, too. Those body rolls. And the chorus. “You’re not a bat girl.” (Yes, it’s actually “bad girl.” Yes, it’s more fun to sing “bat girl.”)

“Witch” (2014). Another vampy, dark video. Our boys play vampires or werewolves in this one (there are two theories), complete with creepy fangs and color contacts. Some people think the video’s story draws from Red Riding Hood (hence, wolves) while others think it’s more vampire-slayer-esque.

Bonus video: “Obsession” dance practice (2014). You know I love me some K-pop dance practice videos. They’re fascinating to me. So much hard work, so much teamwork, so much eye-dazzlingness. (In this particular one, they have backup dancers… just remember, the members of Boyfriend are the ones dazzling your eyes, and the backup dancers are the ones who look like ordinary people.)

K-pop Artist of the Week: Big Bang

Big Bang, ladies and gentlemen. Left to right: T.O.P, Daesung, Taeyang, G-Dragon, Seungri. Who’s your fave? I’m more of a T.O.P kinda girl, myself.

Group Name: Big Bang

Members: G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Seungri, Daesung

Company: YG Entertainment

Profile: Big Bang has been around since 2006 and is undoubtedly one of the most popular K-pop groups today, including internationally. They’re more hip-hop rather than cutesy like Orange Caramel or smoldering like Super Junior or sleek R&B like Shinee. In addition to their group albums, each member has released extremely popular solo singles (solo singles? is that a thing?). They’re an eccentric bunch, especially G-Dragon (in my opinion).

Music Videos

“Fantastic Baby” (2012). You can’t be a Big Bang fan if you don’t know this song. Apart from the song itself, the music video has an abundance of hair, makeup, and wardrobe choices ranging from eccentric to fascinatingly bizarre.

“Monster” (2012). Catchy song, funky eye effects, and a chorus that English speakers can actually sing along to. I’m in.

“Doom Dada” (2013). Okay, so this isn’t actually technically a Big Bang song; it’s a T.O.P single. But I had to include it because it’s just so freaking weird. I have no words. Planet of the Apes meets the African jungle meets smolderingly handsome pirate T.O.P stuck in a zoetrope. Plus a deer. And a ridiculous fake mustache. And a disturbing baby doll. And a motorcycle sidecar. And… vampires? You know what, you should just watch the video. Just do it. You can thank me later. (Maybe you’ll be thanking me for giving you disturbing nightmares, though.)

…If anyone has some complex theory for the (I’m sure) deep meaning and symbolism behind this video, please expound in the comments.

K-pop Artist of the Week: Orange Caramel

Group Name: Orange Caramel (오렌지 캬라멜)

Members: Raina, Nana, Lizzy

Company: Pledis Entertainment

Profile: Orange Caramel was formed in 2009 as a branch-off from a larger girl group. They’re less popular than some of the other K-pop girl groups, but their music videos are always very creative and their songs are catchy and fun. They’re my favorite girl group (truthfully, I do listen to more boy groups than girl groups, but I’m trying to be balanced here and show some of both).

Music Videos

“Bangkok City” (2011). Okay, so this video isn’t all that creative, but I love the song. Gets stuck in my head all the time.

“Lipstick” (2012). Oma oma!

“Catallena” (2014). Not their best song (in my opinion), but I love the music video on this one. You really need to watch the whole thing. The set and costumes are so much fun. I’m still not exactly sure what it’s supposed to mean, though. Elements of… piscine cannibalism?

K-pop Artist of the Week: JJCC

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Group Name: JJCC (제이제이씨씨)

Members: Prince Mak, Eddy, Sanchung, E.co, Simba

Company: The Jackie Chan Group Korea

Profile: This is a very new group formed, yes, by Jackie Chan. Their name, “JJCC,” stands for Jackie Chan and Joint Culture. Prince Mak is actually Chinese-Australian and Eddy is Korean-American, and the rest are South Korean. The reason I’m making them the K-pop Artist of the Week is because I saw them live this weekend in Hongdae, Seoul. Because they’re a newer group and not very well known yet, they’ve been doing guerrilla concerts on the streets of Hongdae every weekend this month. I didn’t know the group before going to the concert, and I wouldn’t say they’re my favorite; still, it was fun to see a live performance in a more intimate setting like this. Also, it was nice because the two English-speaking members of the group were able to translate for the foreigner audience.

Unfortunately, I did not take video of the concert because my phone was dying, but here are the music videos they have released (they performed all of these songs at the concert).

Music Videos

“Fire” (2015).

“At First” (2014).

“BingBingBing (Oneway)” (2014).

K-pop Artist of the Week: SHINee

The SHINee boys.

Group Name: SHINee (샤이니)

Members: Onew, Taemin, Jonghyun, Minho, Key

Company: SM Entertainment

Profile: SHINee (pronounced ‘shiny’) debuted in 2008. The members are currently all between the ages of 22 and 25. SHINee goes a little heavier on the makeup, a little more metro with the styling and the dance moves. Fun fact #1: Key (far right in the image above) was born in Daegu, which is where I live now. Fun fact #2: SHINee bought the rights to Corbin Bleu’s song “Deal With It” in 2009 and rewrote it as “Juliette.”

Music Videos

“Lucifer” (2010). Quintessential SHINee. The costumes, the makeup, the choreography, the set. I feel like when people think K-pop boy band, this is the kind of thing they think of.

“Sherlock” (2012). A fun song with a fun music video. I didn’t like it at first, but it grew on me. Just wait… you’ll be singing “Oh – I’m – curious – yeah – I’m – so – curious,” too.

“Dream Girl” (2013). A colorful, visually attention-grabbing video. The song isn’t my favorite, but I think the video makes it worthwhile.

Bonus video: SHINee’s dance practice video for “Sherlock.” Sometimes watching the dance practice videos these groups put out is even more interesting than the music videos themselves. You get to see the dance routine in its entirety, without all the makeup, costumes, lighting, stage, and editing. Even a K-pop skeptic has to admit that these routines take a certain amount of talent and quite a lot of hard work, sweat, and teamwork. You may scoff at K-pop, and you’re free to do so… but hey, I’d like to see you pull off some of those moves sometime.

K-pop Artist of the Week: Super Junior

Meet Super Junior. Why yes, there are 10 of them. The more the merrier, right?

Group Name: Super Junior (슈퍼주니어)

Members: Leeteuk, Heechul, Kangin, Shindong, Sungmin, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Siwon, Ryeowook, Kyuhyun

Company: SM Entertainment

Profile: Super Junior have been around since 2005, which is a pretty crazy amount of time for a group to stay together. They were one of the most popular groups a few years ago, although they’ve faded a little now. At one point in time they actually had 13 members. Their music videos tend to include schnazzy dance moves. Their songs tend to include awesome Engrish.

Music Videos

“Mr. Simple” (2011). Love this. A K-pop classic. (The actual song starts at 0:36.) “Because I naughty, naughty.”

“Bonamana” (2010). I enjoy the dramatic swinging light, the hipster sepia coloring, and the dance moves (some of them evidently inspired by speed skating). Song starts at 0:21.

“Mamacita” (2014). This is a fun one. Please note the awesome English lyric at 2:45 – “Just close your lips, shut your tongue.” Hahaha. How exactly does one shut one’s tongue?