I am on countdown mode. I have about five more days until my 10-day vacation starts. I am so excited! This is a vacation I dreamed of because I want a stay-cation. Well, I also do other things too. I have to clean because my sister is going to stay at my apartment for the next two months to study abroad here.
Last week’s Music Movies Me Monday was about a “song where a particular instrument has moved you – whether it’s a favorite vocal sound, bass line, drumming/beats, piano, guitar solo, …’. This week is free choice, but I want to feature a song or a music video that really has moved me and brought me to tears.
Just a friendly reminder that I am still looking for writers for my December series, “25 Days of Holiday Songs” Challenge. I only have six blog posts currently and I need 19 more. I really want them by December 1! Please send me an email if you are interested ASAP!
I always wanted to talk about the covers of various songs. However, I want to try to do in a competition style: one version vs. another version. I don’t know if I am going to do this weekly or monthly yet. I have so much content that I have yet to publish. But, here is the first one!
So here is the very first “Battles of the Songs”: SHINee vs. Mohamed Ali
If you haven’t had a chance to visit Walk a Myelin* My Shoes, you most definitely check it out as it is inspirational for maintaining a healthy lifestyle in today’s busy world. The content is also relatable as we have experienced various events in our life that Amanda writes about each week.
Last week, I had no work! Nine days of freedom and do whatever my heart desired. Well, my heart got what it wanted: sleep, watching dramas, reading, writing, and listening to music nonstop. It was glorious to be able to freely listen to music at any time of the day. There was even a different genre expressing the mood of each hour: dancing at noon with Eurobeat, experiencing the bareness and beauty of the sunrise with Toshinobu Kubota, and feeling the crisp late summer air with smooth jazz. Music makes life wonderful.
During this week-long vacation, I found a new earworm that was so addictive. I listened to this piece nonstop every day during my time-off. I also tried to perfect the dance moves and sing the lyrics.
For this blog post, we have to go back twenty years when this song was hip and cool. That decade was…
It’s 2017 with another set of anniversaries. And, what better reason for the legendary girl group S.E.S to reunite!
S.E.S was formed in 1997 with three girls: Sea/Bada, Eugene, and Shoo. The three girls came from diverse backgrounds and with different personalities. They came together to form a “dream team” that competed against the boyband H.O.T.
The girls released their first album, “I’m Your Girl”, in November of that year. The album wasn’t a smash hit as people wasn’t instantly flocking to the music stores to buy it. Instead, it was a steady seller that eventually sold 650,000 copies by the end of 1998. The video for the lead-in self-titled single was a popular choice among listeners as it was #1 for thirteen weeks on the video channel m.net.
The group continued to release albums with their biggest selling in 1999 with the album, Love, which has my favorite S.E.S song of all time, “Twilight Zone”. However, the group disbanded after the release of “Friend” (in South Korea, 2002) and “Beautiful Songs” (in Japan, 2003). The girls decided to pursue solo careers after the disbandment.
Fast forward to the end of 2016 when Sea, Eugene, and Shoo held a press conference to announce that they were getting back together for a limited time to celebrate their 20th anniversary. They documented the road towards their reunion with a reality TV Show “Remember, I’m Your Girl”.
But, their epiphany came on January 1st when S.E.S released their anniversary album “Remember”. The album features a remake of their famous 1999 song “Love” and throwbacks to 90s’ pop. One of these songs is “Paradise”, a lighthearted number about being easy-going and confident about love.
When I first listened to the song, I seriously thought I was listening to a 90’s style S.E.S song that I never knew before. “Wait, why is this video in HD? They didn’t have this kind of high definition when I was a kid”. That is when I looked down in the description and saw that this was a new song.
Nevertheless, “Paradise” is my favorite track off the album. The girls haven’t lost their golden touches as they sound wonderful vocally. I also love how Shoo throws down the rhymes during the rap, it’s very slick. And finally, I am so happy that the choice genre for this song is New Jack Swing. As maybe a few would know, I looooooooooooooooooove New Jack Swing a lot. L.A. Reid, Babyface, Janet Jackson, and others were my favorite artists who were big in the NJS world back in the late 80s and 90s. The once-dead genre is making a comeback in Kpop music as SHINee’s 2016 song “1 of 1” features NJS. Both “1 of 1” and “Paradise” have been popular with listeners so far, thus revitalizing NJS once more. I am hoping that 2017 might be the year where a lot of Kpop artist will utilize the NJS sound in their music. I’m just praying.
What do you think “Paradise”? Check the song’s video below. Also, what is your favorite track off Remember? If you haven’t listened to it yet, I strongly recommend that you do soon.
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.
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.
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.
 “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)
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. However, the girls did contribute to album by writing lyrics and others things, according to the CD booklet.
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.
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.