Kpop music thread. Stan talent, Stan-all.

In the second half of 2018 I've taken a big dive into Kpop (Korean pop) and have been enjoying finding great songs that are in part both familiar and unusual at the same time. I've posted some in the music and video threads, but figured I'd start a thread just for this genre.

Like everyone, I knew the song Gangnam Style from 2012. But that wasn't enough to prompt me to search further into the genre. It wasn't until I saw this video on Youtube's trending...

...that I thought, I want to know more about this. First, who are the members of this group so I can discuss them by name, then what else have they done, then what else is out there that I might like. (Incidentally, this music video became the first K-pop girl group video to get over 500 million views on Youtube.)

One thing Kpop tends to do is borrow from multiple genres and will often mix things up in the same song. So something bright and poppy can suddenly take on dark electronic tones with an aggressive rap or vice versa.

A good example is Exo's hit "Tempo"

This song switches from pop to a weird electronic voice to rap and back again, then towards the end takes a sharp turn into acapella.

If you watch those videos you'll notice another common tread in Kpop. They sing mostly in Korean, but they will randomly switch to English at times. Which is done in part to make it catchy, and to appeal to a wider world audience. For some reason all my friends that I've tried to introduce into to kpop have all been confused by this at first.

I tend to enjoy the female groups over the male (I've always been this way- in the 80s I was all about Pat Benatar or The Go-Gos over Def Leppard or Whitesnake) but have found a few songs from male groups I enjoy (Tempo being one of those).
My current favorites besides BlackPink are Red Velvet, Loona and EXID.

Anyone else care to share their experience, or their recommendations?

Pro-tip: Check to see if there are English subs and turn them on.

Question: Can Kpop be art?

Partial answer:

I fell off the kpop train a few years ago when I got bored. It's definitely some good ear candy.

Love this song. Daesung is such a good singer, love every time he belts something out in a BigBang song. (He's chained to the wall in the video.)

Oh boy. I have been listening to K-Pop consistently since getting into it in at the start of 2015. It has all but replaced American pop music for me. I got into it because of the ridiculous production values and incredible choreography in K-pop music videos, but I've stuck with it because of the music.

Like you alluded to, K-pop can often sound chaotic and dissonant to those unfamiliar with the genre because it is unafraid to experiment structurally and melodically, particularly when compared to American pop music. I will try not to inundate this thread with too many videos.

Since you like BlankPink, I'm sure you've checked out their predecessors, 2NE1. Everyone always links to I Am The Best, but I'm more partial to this track:

Spoiler:

Since you're more into girl groups (I am too), some of my favorites are:

Red Velvet

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G-Idle

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Dreamcatcher

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WJSN (aka Cosmic Girls)

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Mamamoo

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Here are a couple songs I like from boy groups for balance:

EXO-CBX

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We can't have a K-pop thread without some BTS, so let's go with this solo performance from V

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A few solo artists that I like are:

IU

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Hyolyn (previously of Sistar)

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and my most recent obsession, Heize

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and a song from my favorite brother/sister duo, AKMU

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Edit: Whoops. I think I failed on the too many videos part.

Oh, wow. Thanks for that post. Literally every time I've seen someone mention 2ne1 they've always been talking about I Am the Best, so thanks for posting another song by them. I'd almost come to believe they'd only done the one song.

I love Red Velvet. I know and love most of their title tracks and I'm working my way backwards through their discography to get to know their other non-title songs. I had all 3 CDs of 2018, and recently picked up the CDs for Russian Roulette, Rookie and Red Summer (Red Flavor).

I enjoy the other girl groups you listed too. That was the first time I've heard that particular Mamamoo track, but I'm familiar with their current stuff.

AKMU is just adorable. That one you linked and 200% are two videos of theirs that I really enjoy.

Sunmi, who I linked above is one soloist I really love and I'm starting to really enjoy Yubin (who was Sunmi's band-mate in Wonder Girls)

I'll give Heize another listen. I think I watched the First Sight video once, but never went back to it.

I love Come Back Home. That one's been on regular rotation for me for years now.

So this weekend I was watching a "kpop 2018 rewind" video that youtube suggested to me. It was pretty good and I was surprised at how many songs and events I knew even though I came into this area of music halfway through the year. There was one brief clip in B&W of a woman in a wedding dress with a giant teddy bear that I didn't know and I wanted to look up, but the video didn't name the song so I couldn't.

I just watched Jenga by Heize that Dyni linked to and it was that song! Weird coincidence, glad I have that minor mystery solved. I'm definitely enjoying Heize and will be keeping an eye out for more of her.

That reminds me of another solo artist, Minseo, who I discovered a similar way. I was watching a fan-voted top 50 videos, and ranked at 48, or so, there was a brief clip of some bright, swing jazz and a marvelous voice. I had to look her up at once, and now I am hoping for more from her, either in this style or equally adventurous.

I was really into K-Pop in the early 00s, in college, where high speed internet could finally let me explore stuff. But I fell off after grad school. Poked at it a little bit last year and found T-ARA, which I really liked.

I'm not sure if it's an illusion caused by the language barrier, but despite the extremely high degree of processing and production on these videos, it feels like the singers have a great deal more actual talent than a lot of the Western stars.

I don't know if this is accurate, because I have very little musical talent myself, but it feels like most modern Western stars are products of marketing, no actual talent required. As long as they look good and can be autotuned, they'll do. You get the occasional star with really serious chops, like Amy Winehouse or Adele or Miley Cyrus (don't laugh, that girl can sing).... but it's like they make it through the system in spite of it, rather than because of it.

But then when I listen to a lot of these Kpop videos, despite the extremely processed and hyper-machine-generated nature of the videos, the actual music sounds like it's coming from real people that can truly sing. There's a huge amount of overproduced sizzle, but there's actual steak underneath, where that seems much less true in the English market.

What prompted this comment was Tscott's Minseo video; as far as I can tell from my no-talent perspective, she's freaking fantastic.

And I don't even mind much that she's not singing in English, because I don't really listen to lyrics anyway. Never have. There are many songs, to which I listen quite frequently, where I have almost no idea what they're actually about. Songs being in Korean means I have literally no idea what they're about, but that's not much different from my normal state of being.

If the music industry in Korea keeps on picking for talent instead of just looking good, I think they could give Hollywood a real run for its money, at least assuming that there's enough people like me that listen more for melody than for lyrics.

Another good 'un:

Minseo in my opinion just has one of those voices that just shines. One of the best I've ever heard. She has a handful of other songs, mostly ballads, that I would usually dismiss outright because they're not my style (think, Celine Dion-ish) but because of Minseo's voice I'm enthralled when I hear them. If you want further proof, here's she is singing a medley of 3 random kpop songs by WINNER, Red Velvet and BTS that floored me the first time I heard it.

But Minseo aside, the fact is, the South Korean music industry puts prospective talent through an extensive training process before they're put into Idol Groups (which is what Korea calls what we generally think of as "Kpop"). The creme of the crop is chosen and they can train for years before a debut song is put out. This is all government sanctioned and is used to increase exports and promote tourism for South Korea.

As for Western stars, they can be naturally talented and be working for years before making it big, but haven't gone through the formal training that Korean Idols have. There is pluses and minuses to it. With the training comes also restrictions on how Idols should act while under contract- most controversially- many have non-dating clauses. Things seem to be getting better in that respect though. For example, early on in Kpop many artists were locked into contracts with no expiration and no way to get out it if they wanted to quit. Now there is a maximum 7 year contract that will then need to be renegotiated.

NOTE: I learned a lot of this by watching the Kpop episode of the Vox documentary series 'Explained' on Netflix and I'm in no means an expert, if I got anything wrong or over-generalized, I apologize.

The creme of the crop is chosen and they can train for years before a debut song is put out. This is all government sanctioned and is used to increase exports and promote tourism for South Korea.

As for Western stars, they can be naturally talented and be working for years before making it big, but haven't gone through the formal training that Korean Idols have

Well, no expertise here at all, but the Western stars often feel like they were made up by the record labels, that they're a product of marketing, not talent. You look at, say, American popular music from the 1970s, and the average skill level on display there was kind of crazy. There were so many artists, with such amazing depth and talent. That music kind of predates me, "my" music comes from the mid-80s, yet I still recognize that the talent level in 1975 was mostly much higher than it was in '85. And then I look at what's up now, and it seems like a wasteland, and I'm not sure if that's my age or because that's how it actually is.

When I'm listening to this Kpop stuff, though, I have no doubt whatsoever that these singers really know what they're doing. I suspect they'd easily go toe-to-toe with the best of the 70s. And whether that's their labels training them properly, or just finding the right talent and promoting the real singers, it kind of doesn't matter.... American pop is full of absolute junk, loaded with no-talent wannabes, with the occasional outstanding artist managing to sneak through almost by accident.

It would not surprise me at all if this model fails badly next to the idea of finding real talent and promoting it, no matter what language it's in.

Have that 3-song medley from Minseo playing in another tab, and you're right, she's brilliant.

I fell down the K-pop rabbit hole after seeing Tscott post this in the video thread several months ago:

Actually, it didn't lead that much to a K-pop rabbit hole, but to a Momoland rabbit hole. I've fallen for their sound and general vibe. I agree with Malor: the vocal talent is stunning. I like the lighter pop feel. Baam and Bboom Bboom are their most well-known, but having bought all their mini-albums, I've found other favorites:

Uh-Gi-Yeo-Cha

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JJan! Koong! Kwang!

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Cover of All of My Life - I loved this cover, it really showcases a few of their singer's voices.

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That cover led me to discover Park Won, who has such strong emotional quality to his music.

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I have since branched some into #Twice who have a similar light-pop feel.

Tscott has also gotten me listening to some Blackpink, RedVelvet, and Loona, though Momoland has still held it's reign over my go-to playlists.

And just for fun, here's this:

Let's not forget the sensation that was League of Legends and K/DA

Speaking of Momoland, today is the one year anniversary of Bboom Bboom being released and it may be tied for my song of the year for 2018 with Red Velvet's Bad Boy.

The two songs are very different but they're both perfect at what they do.

I've mentioned Loona, which is my current major obsession, but haven't posted anything by them yet. If you're unfamiliar with them, they are quite a big rabbit hole to go down. Unlike most groups which debut as a whole group and then may break into sub-units or solo projects later, Loona (or 'Girl of the Month' as it's literally translated in Korean) has over the past 2 years introduced each member one at a time with a solo song, then they formed sub-units with their own albums, then finally, after all twelve members were introduced, they released an album as a whole. By the time the album came out, they had over 50 songs from all the solo songs, b-sides, and sub-unit albums. The sound varies from solo member to solo member, but there's honestly not a song I dislike by them.

And as the videos progressed, they became more interconnected, and whole "Loona-verse" has been created with fans looking for clues and meanings in various videos. Oh, and all the members have a color and an animal that they're associated with, and some of the members also have a fruit. For example, Choerry, the 8th member has the color purple, her animal is a fruitbat and she's the first to have a fruit associated with her, appropriately enough, the cherry.

I've also made my own youtube playlist for them of 21 key songs. It starts with one video with all 12, then goes through how they got there by going in order of each solo song and then sub-unit, ending with Hi High, their offical title track from their group album.

Antichulius wrote:

Let's not forget the sensation that was League of Legends and K/DA

I've always liked that video, but this last exposure was finally enough to earworm me. Argh!

Tscott wrote:

Oh, wow. Thanks for that post. Literally every time I've seen someone mention 2ne1 they've always been talking about I Am the Best, so thanks for posting another song by them. I'd almost come to believe they'd only done the one song.

Seriously. I have never been a big fan of I Am the Best, but I love much of their other music. I don't think there are many K-pop artists performing today with as much talent or charisma as CL.

One of my other 2NE1 favorites.

Tscott wrote:

I love Red Velvet. I know and love most of their title tracks and I'm working my way backwards through their discography to get to know their other non-title songs. I had all 3 CDs of 2018, and recently picked up the CDs for Russian Roulette, Rookie and Red Summer (Red Flavor).

I only got into Red Velvet this year. I've been aware of them since Dumb Dumb, but their title tracks have been very hit or miss for me, mostly misses prior to this year. I enjoyed Dumb Dumb and Ice Cream Cake, but I can't stand Russian Roulette, Rookie, and most recently, Really Bad Boy. Peek-A-Boo was the song that hooked me, and Bad Boy was a great follow up. Now, they are one of my favorites, but mostly because I like so many of their B-side tracks. Time Slip, Look, Blue Lemonade, and Butterflies are some of my favorites. I also love Automatic.

Tscott wrote:

That was the first time I've heard that particular Mamamoo track, but I'm familiar with their current stuff.

I love Mamamoo. Wind Flower and Starry Night were good songs (didn't really care for Egotistic), but I really enjoy the sound of their older stuff. It feels like it's from a different era and really showcases their voices. They are undoubtedly one of the most vocally talented K-pop groups. Here's one of my faves:

Wow. Thanks for linking that Minseo video. I completely missed her somehow, and she's great! Added to the playlist.

That's a nice segway into another talented solo female artist with a great voice that just released a new single, Chungha

Here are a couple more good ones from male solo artists. First, Taemin.

And K. Will. This video is famous for the story, but the song is great too.

Malor wrote:
Antichulius wrote:

Let's not forget the sensation that was League of Legends and K/DA

I've always liked that video, but this last exposure was finally enough to earworm me. Argh!

This is my first time seeing this, but I think it just turned me into a LoL player.

So today I just made the connection that Moon Byul is in Mamamoo.

This lovely little ditty has been playing on youtube kpop playlists since I started listening to the genre, and I always figured she was just a solo artist who got Seulgi from Red Velvet to do guest vocals with her. This song always gets a smile from me whenever it plays and I feel stupid I didn't make the connection sooner.

And this new Red Velvet song just appeared out of nowhere:

Very much their "Red" side, and I'm loving it.

My exposure to K-Pop is... this thread. I don't normally look at threads on here I'm not subbed to, but went crazy this morning and poked around.

Current popular music... well, mostly anything after 1991, has no appeal to me. Kit is a music teacher so I sometimes get subjected exposed to modern stuff and it's like having my nails pulled out. Slowly.

I will admit - I'd much rather listen to most of the stuff in this thread over anything by a Foo Fighter or any number of Maroons.

A lot of great songs have style and tempo changes in them. A generic example would be Stairway to Heaven. Some of the songs above have interesting, catchy style changes. I only listened to pieces of each so I don't know if any did much with tempo aside from halving or doubling the BPM.

Thanks for broadening my mind a little.

After listening to that Black Pink song, I went down and popped it on the bluetooth speaker mounted in the bathroom while Kit was showering. After I post this, I'll go see what she thinks.

-BEP

Wow never knew there were Kpop fans on GWJ!

Red Velvet is great as they have two styles (red for their poppy stuff) and velvet (more artistic stuff characterised by songs like Bad Boy [there's an English version now] and Look).

Blackpink is an interesting group as they all speak fluent English (the members are from all over the place including Australia and Thailand from memory). A lot of people think they may be able to crack the US markets following the lead set by Red Velvet. They're also younger so they should have more longevity in terms of the typical Kpop group life span.

On the male Kpop idol side, one of the biggest bands currently is BTS (try Mic Drop, DNA, Fake Love or Airplane no 2) and there's also NCT (Boss has ridiculous choreography and music video production). Biggest issue with male Kpop groups is that their members inevitably stop performing to do the compulsory national service and they may never return to the same popularity.

bepnewt wrote:

I will admit - I'd much rather listen to most of the stuff in this thread over anything by a Foo Fighter or any number of Maroons.

A lot of great songs have style and tempo changes in them. A generic example would be Stairway to Heaven. Some of the songs above have interesting, catchy style changes. I only listened to pieces of each so I don't know if any did much with tempo aside from halving or doubling the BPM.

I'm glad you're finding some music you enjoy in this thread. I certainly didn't mean to imply that Kpop invented tempo changes and mixing genres. I know it happens outside of Kpop as well. I think part of the reason it seems so prominent in Kpop is they're looking at western music as a whole and picking out what they like and putting it together without consideration of western music writing conventions.

I personally don't know enough about music to pick up on all the nuances, but I have started watching a youtube channel called ReacttotheK which features classically trained musicians reacting to Kpop songs for the first time. They tend to point out stuff like weird key changes or when it switches from minor to major unexpectedly, and can give me a new perspective to a song, or make me appreciate a song I may have otherwise dismissed outright.

Bfgp wrote:

Wow never knew there were Kpop fans on GWJ!

I'm pleasantly surprised as well. I held off creating this thread because I was kind of afraid it'd die after my first post. I'm appreciating the conversations that have started here.

Blackpink is an interesting group as they all speak fluent English (the members are from all over the place including Australia and Thailand from memory). A lot of people think they may be able to crack the US markets following the lead set by Red Velvet. They're also younger so they should have more longevity in terms of the typical Kpop group life span.

Yep, I think 3 of 4 speak English fluently. Jisoo speaks very little English, but I think she speaks Chinese very well. They just announced that they're going to be at Coachella this year, which I think will be their first US concert ever. I won't be attending (unless I win the lottery between now and then), but I'll probably be streaming it online if I can.

It should be an interesting year for Blackpink. Jennie released a solo song a couple months ago, and the other 3 are supposed to follow suit with their own songs, plus I saw a Billboard interview with Jennie where she hinted that something with them as a group is also already in the works.

merphle wrote:

This is my first time seeing this, but I think it just turned me into a LoL player.

As someone that played League of Legends for 6+ years, it was surreal seeing that video pop up and rise to crazy levels of popularity. The two K-pop members in it are from one of my favorite groups, too. If you haven't seen the live performance from the LoL World Championship, it's also worth a watch for the Hatsune Miku-like live holograms.

Tscott wrote:

And this new Red Velvet song just appeared out of nowhere

My reaction to this one is the exact same as my reaction to Power Up. Not a big fan on first listen, but it grew on me immediately on my second listen. I have learned to give all of Red Velvet's tracks at least a few tries before I judge because so many have been growers for me. This song really shows Wendy and Seulgi's great vocal abilities.

Bfgp wrote:

and there's also NCT (Boss has ridiculous choreography and music video production).

I'm not a huge fan of most NCT tracks, but I always love watching their music videos for the choreo. This one is extra ridiculous:

For more sick dancing, check out The 7th Sense and Cherry Bomb.

Tscott wrote:
Bfgp wrote:

Wow never knew there were Kpop fans on GWJ!

I'm pleasantly surprised as well. I held off creating this thread because I was kind of afraid it'd die after my first post. I'm appreciating the conversations that have started here.

I won't lie... I got pretty excited when I saw this thread pop up. I've been watching and listening to K-pop for 4 years, but no one else in my life does. I'm happy to have an outlet for discussion and discovery.

Tscott wrote:

I personally don't know enough about music to pick up on all the nuances, but I have started watching a youtube channel called ReacttotheK which features classically trained musicians reacting to Kpop songs for the first time.

Nice. I've been following that channel since it started. It introduced me to AKMU, Mamamoo, K. Will, IU, Lee Hi, and quite a few of the other artists I follow now.

Dyni wrote:

I won't lie... I got pretty excited when I saw this thread pop up. I've been watching and listening to K-pop for 4 years, but no one else in my life does. I'm happy to have an outlet for discussion and discovery.

I'm in the same boat, where no one in my life listens to K-pop and I know better than to try to introduce it around with many of them. Glad to have a place here, thanks Tscott.

So, a few things I've learned since starting to listen to K-pop.

Stan- As in "I stan BTS" or "Stan Loona" isn't a Korean term. I assumed it was. It actually comes from the Eminem song "Stan" about an obsessed fan.

Bias- your favorite member of a group. K-pop fans seem to be big on this concept, but I tend to appreciate all members for what they bring to the group as a whole. Although I will confess a Bias in Loona: Chuu because her cuteness and positivity is so contagious.

Bias Wrecker- a member of a group that causes you to question the Bias you chose.

Fandoms: Many K-pop groups have a name that's assigned with their fanbase. A few I'm aware of are:
BTS- Army
BlackPink - Blinks
Twice - Once
Loona - Orbits
Red Velvet - ReVeLuvs
Momoland - Merry-go-rounds (or Merrys for short)

Konglish - a word taken from English but the pronunciation and meaning may have altered in Korean. The word I'm most familiar with is "Fighting!" (Hwaiting!) to mean "Cheer up!" or "You got this!"

Dyni wrote:
Tscott wrote:

I personally don't know enough about music to pick up on all the nuances, but I have started watching a youtube channel called ReacttotheK which features classically trained musicians reacting to Kpop songs for the first time.

Nice. I've been following that channel since it started. It introduced me to AKMU, Mamamoo, K. Will, IU, Lee Hi, and quite a few of the other artists I follow now.

It was validating to hear a professional musician say something similar to my reaction, that there was real talent going on here, where normal Western pop is kinda crap.

It was really interesting watching them react so strongly to things I couldn't hear. It was just 'cool music' to me, but they actually have a clue. It's fun watching people who really understand a thing you don't.

Tscott wrote:

Stan- As in "I stan BTS" or "Stan Loona" isn't a Korean term. I assumed it was. It actually comes from the Eminem song "Stan" about an obsessed fan.

Ohhh, I thought that was purely a GWJerism I wasn't getting. Wrong! It's a Koreanism I wasn't getting.

Hmm to add to the general Kpop info:

Members may be referred to by their specific strengths. For example, a visual is a reference to someone who is absurdly attractive (sure they may dance and sing but that's apparently their key feature). Dancing, rapping and main vocals are fairly self explanatory. Calling someone a visual is not to look down on the other members but oddly is a celebration of the visual's attractiveness. An odd case is Red Velvet, where each of the 5 members could pass off as the visual in the group, though Irene is usually acknowledged industrywide as the visual for the group. Irene is also known as a bias wrecker because she's so attractive and yes I Stan Red Velvet

Malor, there's a Youtube streamer going by the alias The Producer or PD. He gives pretty good reviews on Kpop songs and production values, he's fun to watch his reactions and reviews.

Yeah, Gagnam Style kind of lead me into 4minute, then when they were disbanded I kind of migrated to Blackpink. Then strangely enough I started watching a bunch of Korean variety shows which lead me even deeper into the kpop thing. Never really got into the mens kpop group until I ran into BigBang's old stuff which lead to BTS. Now I'm kind of less obsessed with one particular group and moved onto kpop in general.

Speaking of which I think Apink's new song is pretty damn good.