“You Are My Destiny, Lovelyz”

 

To tell you the truth, I have never heard of Lovelyz until last week when they released their new mini-album “A New Trilogy”. The Kpop scene is very confusing as there are many groups debuting and some groups pull the whole “Hey, we are an old group but we are having a comeback, I mean, we are releasing new stuff”. Did you know that 100 new groups made their debut in Korea last year alone? That is madness! Too many to keep up with. 😦

I discovered “Destiny” while looking at a group on reddit called “Kpop”. Someone played this song along with the opening for the new Sailor Moon series. Although the lyrics might not fit the premise of the magical girls’ show really well, the song is pretty catchy and reflects a clear picture of a girl’s anxiety for wanting a boy to be with her because it’s destiny.

The key for this song is how the strings are executed. The combination of an augmented electric calpyso keyboard and violins that used a mixture of martele and staccato techniques to help build drama surrounding the song. You can heard this during moments like the beginning before the first verse. With the key changing through the middle of the transitional melody, the violin and the keyboard brings out the key change`s mysterious atmosphere that pulls the listener In.

I think the instrumentation for “Destiny” is more satisfying than the vocals. Lovelyz isn’t a bad singing group, unlike some Jpop idol groups I have heard. However, their vocals as a whole are the typical Kpop idol group vocals. There isn’t anyone who really brings flavor to the song with a hidden punch or extraordinary techniques. Again, all the credits go to the instrumentation. They should release a karaoke version of this song to show how awesome the instrumentation is.

The other charm point of this song is the music video. There a lot of beautiful camera angles and shots throughout the video. Also, the use of the warm filter really highlights this beauty. You are probably wondering what is with the circles and marbles. In my opinion, they are physically symbolizing the lyrics. The basis of the lyrics is about a person whom the song`s character refers to is his or her soul mate. They are the center of their universe, the earth whom the character revolves around, and the gravity that pulls the character close. Circles always move in an endless circular motion, just like this character does with her soul mate. It sounds a bit cruelly but hey, I find it a bit romantic. The marbles, circle drawings, and the circular camera motions are a perfect allegory to the song’s theme.

The song and its music video are most definitely exquisite and pretty. I don’t know how catchy the song is to other Lovelyz songs because I haven’t heard any other song by this group. If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below. However, “Destiny” is a most definite recommendation for those who like melodramatic sythnopop songs with gripping instrumentation and/or anyone who likes a pop song with a good instrumentation.

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The Music That Made 2015

When thinking of what to write about 2015, I kept on hitting a roadblock.

What was so special about 2015 in terms of music? 

At least in Japan, many of 2015 hits were recycled tunes that were heard before. EXILE and Sandaime Brothers, AKB48’s “Halloween Night”, King of Cream Soda creating different versions of that hit Yokai Watch song, and countless idol groups debuting as they copied already popular artists’ sounds for a chance of fame. It seemed like these artists want to hold on to that fame by regurgitating that popular tune than exploring new avenues.

Even in Korea, the same type of music is continued to be released. Although, it was a bit invigorating to hear that some artists released material with a different flavor of pop. For example, WONDER GIRLS with their throwback to 80s’ synthpop and BoA experimenting with current electropop.

“REBOOT” is my favorite Kpop album of 2015 while Girls’ Generation’s “Party” is my favorite song. You are probably thinking why do I like this generic summer pop song? It may be generic but it’s so fun, screams “girl power”, and makes me want to party straight away. The video is super cute and fun, making me wish I was escaping to a tropical beach.

America is a bit different though. Taylor Swift, Adele, and Sam Smith all dominant the music charts and award programs on their own accords. Although I don’t like “1989” that much (because I think she is selling herself to commercialism and straying from her “true” self), Taylor Swift turned heads when she released an album that was groundbreaking and refreshing.

But, the biggest accomplishment of 2015, in terms of Western music, is Adele’s “Hello”. Now, I don’t really know what is the big deal about this song as it is not really popular in Japan. However, after listening to the song for the first time tonight, I can see how it has touched many. Adele crafted the song very well to attune to everyone’s feelings with it’s melody, lyrics, and pace.

Even though 20 wasn’t popular in Japan, the concept of “self-producing artists” was. One of these artists was Gen Hoshino, who has been slowly but surely noticed by mainstream listeners. His music reminds me a lot of John Legend and Macy Gray. With his whispy, soulful voice, upbeat pop instrumentation, and charisma charm, who can’t resist him and his songs like “SUN”?

Hopefully he can dip a little more into neo-soul and funk in 2016?

Another trend that crept up in popularity here in Japan is the “band boom”? Bands like Gesu no Kiyomi Otome, KANA-BOON, Sekai no Owari, ONE OK ROCK, and others have abandoned the traditional Japanese rock sound in favored of a diverse one that is constructed by range of instrumentations, technology, techniques, and genres. Gesu no Kiwami Otome.’s latest song “Otonatic” is an example of this.

…and Sekai no Owari’s “Anti Hero”.

It kind of reminds me of the New Wave boom in the 80s but tamer. In the 80s, new wave music was a buzz as that genre too used less guitars and more electronic devices. A great example of this was The Police, who started off in the late 70s with punk rock and ended on a jazzed up, spiritual “new wave” sound.

The same goes with the current “band boom” in Japan. Although, what makes the “band boom” different is how they present themselves and their music; clean, well-kept, crisp, and simple. Ryotaro Aoki pointed out in a recent article on The Japan Times is that the bands today are getting rid of those blazing guitars that made songs in 90s and 2000s chaotic and using more instruments to present a clean yet simple song. These songs also have lyrics that contain more personal messages in order to garner attention from the younger generations.[1]

As we head into 2016, it is unsure if the band boom in Japan will continue to rise or even fall in popularity.  And, if it will influence other acts including idols (please, let Sayaka Yamamoto write at least one NMB48 song) and EDM acts.

Time will only tell.


 

References

[1] Aoki, Ryotaro. “Gesu Tapped into the 2015 ‘band Boom’ | The Japan Times.” Japan Times RSS. 6 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016 (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/12/06/music/gesu-tapped-2015-band-boom/#.VpOO2xV97cf)

[2] “Gesu No Kiwami Otome. and the Band Boom of 2015 | Japanese Entertainment News.” ARAMA JAPAN Gesu No Kiwami Otome and the Band Boom of 2015 Comments. 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9V5aByfeCM)

Refreshed and Rejuvenated, Wonder Girls are back with “REBOOT”

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“JYP and the Wonder Girls, we’re back”

— “I Feel For You”

The Wonder Girls are back! Did you miss them? Or have you forgotten about them?

I can admit that I have forgotten them a little bit because “REBOOT” is their first album in three years. I can’t completely blame them for the long time between releases. One reason is because how funky Korean record labels release albums, especially for idols. I still can’t wrap my head around the concept of a “comeback”. How can SHINee have a “comeback” this year when they released an album last year? They didn’t take a hiatus like the Wonder Girls did.

Also, the lineup was shaken up with the group losing two members and gaining one. First, it was Sohee and leaving in order to focus more on an acting career. Then it was Sunye after she got married and gave birth a daughter. However, Sunmi, from the original lineup, came back  The now-four member group had a dilemma; when can we release our new album?

The answer came last week when “REBOOT” was released all over South Korea. An ode to ’80s synthpop, the album features the girls as a band with each member playing an instrument. It was later revealed in an interview that the instruments were just for the visual concept for the album, the girls really couldn’t play them.[1]  However, the girls did contribute to album by writing lyrics and others things, according to the CD booklet.[2]

I think that “REBOOT” is an enjoyable album once you get over the initial shock of the “old skool” throwback. Despite “I Feel You” being the lead-in single, I am not really fond of it. I like the first track, “Baby Don’t Play”, instead. What hooks me to the song is the deep bass guitar featured during the verses and the synthesizers. The sharp keyboard riffs during the interludes reminds me of Jane Child’s techniques in “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love“. Also, the loop-y loop, upward progressive of a complete scale in the beginning, just before the first verse, reminds me of something from a Janet Jackson or a R&B song in the 80s.

Runners up would be “Back” and “OPPA”. “Back” sounds like a 90s’ American R&B/hip-hop girl group-type of song, like the stuff found on TLC’s first album. The song is so hardcore with Yubin and Lim show off their amazing rapping talents. Meanwhile, “OPPA” sounds like a variation of a song from the “Love Shack” era of The B-52’s. But, each song on this album is astounding and it’s hard to say if there is even an awful song.

“REBOOT” makes me excited for The Wonder Girls’ comeback! The album is well-crafted and features a diverse range of songs that features the diverse talents of each member. Even though I was shocked at first, I really like the throwbacks to the 80s and 90s in each song. Now, it’s time to break out my 2009 “I Wanna Nobody But You” Wonder Girls t-shirt and dance to the album.

You can listen to the album too! You can listen at this link on Youtube.


[1] “Wonder Girls Didn’t Play Any Instruments On Comeback LP ‘Reboot’ Despite Returning As A “Real Band” | Idolator.” Music News, Reviews, and Gossip on Idolator.com. 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 12 Aug. 2015. http://www.idolator.com/7603196/wonder-girls-didnt-play-instruments-reboot

[2] “JYP – Timeline Photos | Facebook.” JYP – Timeline Photos | Facebook. 29 July 2015. Web. 12 Aug. 2015. https://www.facebook.com/jypnation/photos/a.179006305488269.61033.147775825277984/875039219218304/?type=1&theater

Music Reactions: My love for BoA’s new single “Who Are You”

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BoA.

Words cannot describe how much I love BoA. She has been my role model and idol since I first watched her in the “Every Heat ~Minna no Kimochi~” music video when I was a middle school student once upon a time ago. Maybe I am a bit biased because of my love for her but BoA is one of the most talented artists in modern day Korean music. It’s because of many factors from her versatile vocals to her ability to try different, more cutting-edge music in each album and her impeccable fashion sense. I don’t think I have a song that I don’t like from her as they are top notch, musically tasty, and well-liked. Ok, ok, I will stop fawning over her with my deep love…

A couple weeks back, BoA released her eighth Korean album “Kiss My Lips”. One of the leading singles from it is “Who Are You”.:

I feel like this song is the Korean twin sibling of her 2010 Japanese hit “Bump Bump”. Both songs have similar themes with a male rapper, a slow opening that speeds up by the time it hits the chorus and/or first verse, the use of BoA’s wide range by making her go to the highest note that she can hit and then the lowest note, and other factors.

Could this ever be related to “Who are You?”?

However, “Who Are You”. is not a complete ripoff of “Bump Bump”.. One difference is the story-telling themes in the lyrics. For “Bump Bump”, it’s is a fast past electronica meets funk song that convinces the theme of having fun and partying. While “Who Are You” is that casual, stroll in the park song that talks about finding love by going on blind dates. Also, the musical directions are different as  “Who Are You” is a standard Kpop song that features the use of an electric grand piano, light, airy synthesizers. and uplifting clapping. As MR JKPOP pointed out in his recent video review of the song, the sound in “Who Are You” reminisce to one that BoA started off with back in the early part of her career. Maybe I can hear the similarity when I listen to the “No. 1” album, especially with “My Sweetie”, but only for a tiny bit.  I think “Who Are You” emulates more of BoA’s music during the mid-2000s, especially when half the stuff in “Who Are You” reminds me of Maki Goto’s music.

Whatever direction you view this song in, most will agree that  “Who Are You”. is a lovely, airy, and relaxing song that would be perfect for any “fun, cute romantic moments”  during this time of the year.