Results for the First Battle of the Songs: SHINee or Mohamed Ali?

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!


Last week, I started the first ever Battle of the Songs competition on my blog! I am very thankful for the number of responses I got for the match.

Without further ado, who won the first Battle of the Songs: SHINee from South Korea or Mohamed Ali from Denmark?

Click to found out the winner!

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Battle of the Songs: SHINee vs Mohamed Ali

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

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Sunshine Blogger Award

I mentioned last week in the Versatile Blogger Award post that I received another award. It’s the Sunshine Blogger Award this time from the lovely Amanda, the author of Walk a Myelin* My Shoes. I was so honored to be given this award by Amanda and I want to thank her for it.

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.

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Do You Remember the Early 90s? This Song Will Help You to Remember!

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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…

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The Long Awaited Return of S.E.S, the Goddesses of Kpop

s-e-s-remember

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.

“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.

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)