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4 Favorite Male K-Pop Ballads

Recently my cousin asked me for recommendations of K-pop male solo singers “without girlie voices,” and the first one I probably thought of was 박효신 / Park Hyo Shin. I first heard him through the theme song of the K-drama, 미안하다 사랑한다 / I’m Sorry, I Love You. The song was called “눈의 꽃 / Snowflower” (originally Yuki no Hana by Japanese singer, Nakashima Mika).

You can probably tell my leanings already, and I admit it! I love the big, tragic, dramatic ballads (and stories). It’s like literal soul food or something, it just tugs something inside me! XD It is melodramatic angst, and done well, it is so, so good. There is just something about melodic shamelessness … can … not … resist. !!!

Anyway, I sent my cousin a handful of recommendations and wanted to share with you. I can already feel myself getting sucked back into the Korean vortex… but you have to admit, this genre really does suit an autumnal mood.

4. 휘성 / Wheesung – 일년이면/ Already One Year (2005)
그대 닮은 사람마저 미워해봐요 / I’ll have to hate those who look like you
(Skip to 0:40 for the start of the song)
Wheesung is a respected R&B singer in Korea, formerly under M-Boat and thereby connected with YG Entertainment (company that houses Se7en, 2NE1, Big Bang, 1TYM, etc.). He has a pleasant voice and soulful tone that lends itself really well to these pop-soul tracks. Full lyrics here.
3. 허각 / Huh Gak – 죽고 싶단 말 밖에 / Told You I Wanna Die (2011)

 미칠 듯 숨이 막혀 / Michil deut soomi makhyeo /
Can’t breathe, suffocating, as if I ‘m crazy

This guy is a newbie who won one of of South Korea’s televised singing competitions, “Superstar K 2.” His voice is great for emoting and I just love how he uses it for all these little things and contrasts between the verses and the chorus.

2. 김범수 / Kim Bum Soo – 보고싶다 / I Want to See You (2002)

죽을 만큼 보고 싶다, 죽을 만큼 잊고 싶다 / Miss you to death, Want to forget you to death

Kim Bum Soo will probably go to the grave unable to escape this song. Perhaps the King of Korean Ballads (which are all presumably tragically minded), Kim Bum Soo sings with sorrow and desperation on this track that became the theme song for the classic K-drama, 천국의 계단 / Stairway to Heaven. Remote control? Check. Tissues? Check. Ice cream and chips? Check. And we press “on”… Yep, still a tearjerker.

1.박효신 / Park Hyo Shin – 동경 / Yearning (2001)

내 이름조차 생각이나 날까요 / Will even my name pass through your thoughts?

The Co-King, perhaps, of Korean Ballads, Park Hyo Shin has got a voice. It’s deep and cloudy and slightly raspy, even a little stuffy, but his emotive tone and accurate pitch make whatever qualms I might have negligible. This song is kind of an oldie, from his second album, but it’s still so good. Full lyrics here.

Hope you enjoyed this little list! Searching for my favorite lines has reminded me to get back on that lyrics/translation project. In my online research, I came across another girl who compiled a list of her sixteen favorite K-pop ballads. Check it out if you want to try out some more depressing songs! :D

Okay, bye, I have to go look up more Park Hyo Shin now.

Happy October, everyone :)
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[Review] A Few Critical Thoughts on Xia Junsu’s “Uncommitted”

AUGH. It’s so cheesy. SO CHEESY!!!

Honestly, sometimes I think K-pop companies need to hire me (or at least someone like me :X) as a consultant for their English-oriented productions.

The above video is a 43-second teaser for  Xia Junsu of JYJ’s new English-language song, Uncommitted. And here are the issues I have with it:

     1. Please, STOP PICKING words in English that are hard for Korean speakers to pronounce. Especially as the repeated title of the song. See mangled autotune pronunciation at 0:20.

     2. Ending shot where the couple is standing side-face to side-face – the expressions don’t match. His should be a lot more serious and smouldering to match her lost one and the muted vibe of the cinematography.

     3. Please find someone who writes well professionally for your YouTube channel. You’re setting up how people will understand your entertainer here. Current fans might not care, but any potential new audience you’re hoping to score with will.

     4. I’m probably reading too much into it at this point, but it’s starting to bother me that a lot of female figures in male K-pop music videos are non-Asian, usually white. It seems to play into the whole non-Asian superiority/beauty complex undercurrent.

It seems that something always gets skewed when Asian pop stars try to tailor things for the Western market – anyone remember the fiasco that was BoA’s original “Eat You Up” MV for America? Their production values are obviously high, but the companies often take things and run in the wrong direction.

I know I’m taking a pretty critical stance (and that I may sound like a snob), but I always do for these Asia-into-English forays. It’s because the general American audience is much less forgiving when you’re not in your native tongue, plus the fact that I know these entertainers could do a lot better if they actually had some grounded perspective from a non-insider/related-Korean person.

Bottom line: Less yes-men and strangely biased audience predictions, more honest feedback from the internationally minded of good taste. Holler if you know what I’m sayin’.

The K-Pop Boy Bands Playlist, P2

Finally Part 2 of this playlist for Seoulist is up! The online presence has been a lot more fettered since I started my new jobs and enrolled in a couple of classes. Thanks to everyone for their patience – hope your boy band fire is still going strong:

“Still catching up with the changing faces of K-pop? Get to know the new breeds of boy bands, from TVXQ to B2ST.”

This is the second half of the Boy Band Playlist. If you missed the first segment, take a look here. You can find Part 2’s complete compilation on Youtube.

You might recall that, having cut the lengthy list of boy bands in half, we saw a good amount of old school K-pop in the earlier article. I tried to approximate the split along the boy band timeline so that this subsequent segment could be termed “New Wave,” referring to the flood of fresh flower boy faces after a very, very brief recession.

While a number of pop cultural trends settled in and persevered, such as sculpted member roles, bipolar genre segregation/hopping and plastic surgery, the new millennium also saw a few shifts. Alongside the growing popularity of K-pop in globalized society came better dance moves, more polished “American- sounding” music and, marginal but critical, diversified companies. Accuracy of English usage has stayed about the same, though.

Out of the complete playlist, I probably listened most to 1TYM, g.o.d and TVXQ, with a healthy dose of Fly to the Sky and Nell. But before we dive into the music, I want to make something clear.

I know that I’ve poked a few fan girl sides here and there, but honestly, there’s no shame in liking a boy band.

I repeat: No. Shame. (Now, being in one… just kidding!!! Really.)

The songs are catchy, the boys are cute and charming, and they can kind of dance. It’s not hard to see how a boy band easily becomes the reason for breathing, believing, even blinking. I myself will admit that I’ve been there, done that.

Just don’t let the infatuation eclipse your other life and/or last for a period of over five years.

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A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

I recently started a full-time day job, leaving less time for updates and posting on the blog. The job is not exactly enjoyable, which further contributes to the don’t-want-to-do-anything feeling when I get home.

I appreciate do one thing, though, which is that it definitely helps me relate to that feeling of loathing the forced drudgery of an everyday job, and in turn that spurs me in the direction of more emotional music. Yesterday, I randomly but keenly felt like I needed a dose of some Asian tunes.

Usually Asian music is more melodic and unabashedly romantic – if you’re not feeling as positively about it, you might think of it as sentimental, cliche or maudlin. But there are days when everything seems dry, wearied, even bitter. During those times, I often find the surges of emotionally-charged melody rife in Korean (and sometimes Taiwanese,though in a different way) music especially cathartic.

I’m listening to Korean music during my lunch break, and it’s also making me miss South Korea… Oh, Fulbright year, 돌아와줘!

The Boy Bands Playlist, PART 1

My article on K-pop boy bands was posted yesterday on Seoulist. It’s kind of a crash course with one song per boy band, but due to sheer number still had to be split into two. This is part one, dubbed the “old school segment.” You can read on to get some background on each group, or you can just listen to the playlist compiled on YouTube.

Enjoy!

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[K/R/T] Seo Taiji & Boys // I Know ((서태지 와 아이들 // 난 알아요)

Lyrics and translation for the classic Seo Taiji & Boys hit, I Know (1992, Album Title I Know):


Korean/Romanization/English

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[WS] ‘Liberal’ overseas strategy, ‘Narrow-minded’ domestic operation… Two faces of SM?

From the picture and title, I initially thought that this article would be more interesting than it is. I thought it might be comparing SM’s tactics when engaging with the Western music industry versus how it operates back home in Asia…

Alas, it seems to be an opinion piece that rehashes a lot of speculation about how SM runs its business. Not much we don’t know or think already, and not a lot of cold, hard data to back anything up. It does touch on (kind of) the recent event of JYJ’s documentary getting cancelled. Again.

[WS] Footage of SNSD on David Letterman

As mentioned before, SNSD/Girl’s Generation made an entry into American media Tuesday night with a performance of “The Boys” on one of America’s big late night shows, David Letterman. My earlier post announced their initial U.S. television appearances, in addition to sharing my thoughts on how I thought the group would fare and what it takes for an overseas Asian group or artist to make it in America.

To comment on their performance: It was a great opportunity for them, but personally, something about it just seemed so out of place. Maybe it islack of precedence of Asian pop in America, maybe it’s also the awkward gait of the song… I felt like it went on so long! But anyway, all nine girls performed very professionally (though kind of surprised Tiffany, as one of the Asian Americans, didn’t get more camera time), and I thought it was cute how some members bowed at the end (a Korean mannerism of courtesy). What do you think?

Have You Seen My Face? The K-pop Fangirl Meme

Memes are out and about blazing across the internet. I found an image of the K-pop fangirl when searching for pictures for a presentation last year, but I didn’t know there was a whole site category dedicated to her.

Just a little taste: Presenting #85.

Fun to browse through, though a bunch appear to be written in Russian.

Anyway, I’m currently working on another playlist article for Seoulist. This one’s a bit long, so it’ll likely appear in two parts. Keep an eye out!

Bringing Singing Competition “The Voice” to Korea!

They’re bringing the singing competition show, The Voice, to Korea!

Kangta is appearing on Mnet’sThe Voice of Korea” as one of the coaches, along with singers Shin Seung Hoon, Baek Ji Young, and Leessang’s Gil. […]

“The Voice of Korea” is the officially licensed Korean version of music survival program “The Voice.” “The Voice” is originally from Holland and aired as “The Voice of Holland” on September 17, 2010. Mnet’s “The Voice of Korea” will air its pilot episode on on February 10 at 11PM KST.

via Soompi’s Kangta Wishes to Make 2nd Generation H.O.T..

I was first introduced to The Voice last summer, when I was still in Korea, watching it through Hulu as it aired in the U.S. under NBC. I was hooked by the blind auditions phase and have proudly reeled in other friends to watch it as well. While in Korea, I told my apartmentmates about it, and just this past winter break I got a friend who was visiting me sucked in! Can’t wait until it restarts on Feb. 5th.

Now that I know there’s a Korean version coming out as well, I’ll be keeping my eye out for it. Korea has some really great singers, but it’s interesting that none of the chosen coaches are “really big” vocalists in terms of belting out or vocal aerobics.

Kangta’s a pop crooner, Shin Seung Hoon and Baek Ji Young are balladeers, and Gil is a rapper…

Well, it should be fun still! It’s always interesting to see the coaches’ style and abilities in drawing out the best in their teams. (Did you know Kangta has been a judge/mentor on a similar show before? There are some old clips where Junsu, formerly of TVXQ, and Eunhyuk of Super Junior auditioned and then placed on teams).

Kind of obnoxious that in the U.S., we get to call the show simply “The Voice,” whereas other places have to tack on their country name. I guess we did have the biggest judge lineup though. Personally, I enjoyed Ceelo and Blake.

Did any of you have a favorite coach?

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