Tag Archives: k-pop

eastern sidekick

SXSW 2015 Features Korean Musicians

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

South by Southwest (SXSW) recently announced the second round of artists to be included in the 2015 SXSW Music Festival lineup, and it looks like numerous South Korean artists will be performing at the Austin festival in May.

For the past two years, there’s been a steady rise of Korean musicians participating at SXSW. According to KpopStarz, SM Entertainment girl group f(x) performed at the 2012 festival while Jay Park, HyunA, Nell, Crying Nut, Idiotape and other incredible artists performed in 2014.

This year’s SXSW currently has an impressive roster of 10 Korean musicians from a wide range of genres including K-pop, indie, rock, traditional, electronic and more.

Here are the Korean musicians joining the lineup:

The Barbarettes

Self-described as a “time traveling girl group,” The Barberettes sings 1950-60s American and Korean songs in a doo-wop style. Comprised of members Shinae An Wheeler, Grace Kim and So-hee Park, the trio is a relatively new group that was formed in 2012 for “fun” and rapidly grew in popularity. Their debut album released on May 27, 2014.

Big Phony

Bobby Choi, also known as Big Phony, is a Korean American indie singer-songwriter based in Seoul. He participated in last year’s SXSW and recently performed at the Cultural Collide with the Seoulsonic Tour. Earlier this year, he simultaneously released his electronic album LONG LIVE THE LIE, which reached No. 10 on the iTunes Electronic Chart, and acoustic album BOBBY.

Eastern Sidekick

Eastern Sidekick is a Seoul-based indie rock band that debuted in 2010. The band consists of Oh Ju-hwan on vocals, main songwriter Ko Han-kyul on lead guitar, Bae Sang-hwan on bass, Ryu Inhyuk on guitars and Ko Myungchul on drums. Dubbed as “indie dark horses,” Eastern Sidekick nabbed numerous rookie awards and performed at some of the most prestigious music festivals in Asia, such as Music Matters Live, the Summer Sonic Festival and the Pentaport Rock Festival.

No Brain

Often described as the founding fathers of punk rock in Korea, No Brain has performed at more than 3,000 shows over the last 15 years. The punk band has been enjoying mainstream success in recent years and released a collaborative album this past September with Crying Nut, another influential, Korean punk rock band. This year marks No Brain’s third SXSW.

숨 [su:m]

Founded in 2007, [su:m] is an instrumental duo that plays traditional Korean music. Park Jiha specializes in piri, a bamboo oboe, and saengwhang, a multi-layered mouth organ, while her partner Seo Jung-min plays gayageum, a 25-string zither. Their first album Rhythmic Space: A Pause for Breath released in November 2010.

EE

EE is an electronic performance art duo consisting of members Lee Hyun-joon and Lee Yun-jeong, who are husband and wife. The married couple’s performances are often described as avant garde and combine music, fine art, quirky fashion and dance into highly stylized productions. EE became the first Korean act to ever perform at Coachella in 2011.

HEO

HEO is a K-indie electronic trio that is steadily rising in popularity. Their haunting music video “Luna” was featured on Vimeo as a staff pick. The band has previously opened for electronic band Love X Stereo, who performed at SXSW 2014, Culture Collide and CMJ Music Marathon 2014.

YB

YB, also known as Yoon Do Hyun Band, is one of the most famous rock bands in South Korea, having sold more than 2 million albums. The band is renowned for their ability to mix traditional Korean music with hard rock and has headlined for top Korean rock festivals. According to Korea JoongAng Daily, YB is currently focusing on breaking into the U.S. music market after signing a contract with Dough Goldstein, former manger of the American rock band Guns N Roses. The band released their first English single Cigarette Girl in February 2014.

Victim Mentality

Victim Mentality is a glam metal band comprised of vocalist Crocodile, guitarist Sohn Kyung-ho, bassist Scorpion and drummer Tarantula. Despite being a relatively new band, Victim Mentality has performed at some of Korea’s most popular rock festivals, including Green Plugged and Pentaport. The band is currently prepping to release their first full-length album, Heavy Metal is Back.

Asian Chairshot

Founded in 2011, Asian Chairshot is a rock trio that plays a mix of psychedelia, garage rock and alternative rock. The band was nominated for “Best Rock Album” and “Best Rock Song” earlier this year at the 2014 Korean Music Awards. Following their participation at the Singapore’s Mosaic Music Festival in March, Asian Chairshot launched their U.K. tour. The trio released their debut full-length album, Horizon, in May 2014.

The 29th edition of the SXSW Music Conference and Festival will take place March 17-22, 2015 in Austin, Texas. You can view the full list of announced artists here.

To learn more about festival, visit the SXSW website.

Photo courtesy of HelloKpop

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MelOn Reveals Top 20 K-pop Artists and Songs of 2014

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
reera@iamkoream.com

To mark its 10th anniversary, popular Korean music site MelOn released an infographic that compares music fans’ top 20 favorite artists and songs of 2004 and 2014.

SG Wannabe, Buzz and ballad singer Kim Jong Kook were ruled as the top three favorite artists of 2004 by both male and female listeners. For female audiences, the top three songs in 2004 were Kim Jong Kook’s “Standstill,” Yoon Do Hyun’s “It Must Have Been Love” and MC Mong’s “I Love U, Oh Thank U. ” Male listeners, on the other hand, preferred M to M’s “Three Words” over MC Mong’s song.

Both male and female listeners chose IU, Busker Busker and 2NE1 as top three artists of 2014. The most favorite song for both genders was Soyu and Jungigo’s duet “Some.” Meanwhile IU’s “Friday” ranked second place on the female listeners’ chart and third on the men’s chart.

Below is the infographic and the full list of top 20 artists and songs from 2014.

 

 

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Photos courtesy of MelOn and Soompi

glen choi cover image

Producer Glen Choi’s Music Makes K-pop Fans “Go Crazy!”

by REERA YOO

It’s no secret that the K-pop industry thrives on the good looks and talents of hundreds of teen idol groups. But where did the term “idol” originate?

Meet Glen Choi, former member of the first ever K-pop teen idol group, IDOL. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Choi was scouted to be a part of the South Korean teen duo when he was only 13. Debuting in February of 1996 with the song “Bow Wow,” IDOL quickly rose to fame, winning No. 1 on SBS Inkigayo, a popular South Korean music program. Their debut marked a turning point in K-pop, opening a floodgate of ’90s idol groups, including H.O.T., S.E.S, Baby V.O.X., Sechs Kies, Shinhwa and Fin.K.L.

“K-pop at that point was not even called K-pop because nobody outside of Korea was listening to it,” Choi tells KoreAm over the phone. He adds that it was especially difficult for his group to appear on TV, as networks received complaints from parents who worried that their children would abandon their studies to pursue entertainment.

아이돌DSPGlen Choi, right, was part of the first teen K-pop idol group, IDOL.

Although IDOL disbanded within a year of its debut, Choi’s career in music did not end with it. He continued to influence K-pop as a DJ under the moniker dj nüre and as a music director of Artisans Music, a Los Angeles-based collective of songwriters, producers and artists. He has collaborated with many prolific artists in Korea and the U.S., such as Pitbull, Taboo of Black Eyed Peas, Baby Bash, Wonder Girls, f(x) and Kim Hyun Joong.

His most recent project is 2PM’s catchy party anthem “Go Crazy!” which he produced with his team (Danny Majic, Fingazz and Dustin Tavella) and 2PM’s lead vocalist, Jun.K. Within its first week of release, the music video attracted over 5 million views, and the song topped the Oricon Chart in Japan. In addition, 2PM’s world tour, with the U.S. leg kicking off this week with concerts in the New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles areas, carries over the title track’s carefree spirit and is even named after it.

“I think all of that was such a blessing,” Choi says of the song’s enormous success. “This song has been almost a year in the making, so to see all of that lead up to the release, it’s incredible.”

What’s more incredible is the fact that Choi and his team produced the trendy song with Jun.K entirely through Kakao Talk. It was a slow and painstaking process with both parties sending media files and notes over their phones, but Choi is proud of his team’s efforts and the quality of the final product.

“It’s not just because it’s our song, but I have fun watching the performance. It’s exciting,” he says. “I think that’s more palatable for an American audience because it’s fun and lighthearted, and it’s done really well. It’s really well choreographed.”

The collaboration began thanks to Choi’s longstanding relationship with the label’s CEO and producer JYP. The two had known each other since the ’90s as K-pop artists, and had kept in touch over the years, leading Choi to participate in various creative projects, such as the Wonder Girls album in 2011.

Despite being a seasoned producer, Choi rarely interacts with K-pop artists in the production process, a common quirk in the K-pop industry. This leaves Choi to often discuss important creative decisions with label executives, who usually don’t have a background in music unless they’re from the “Big Three” labels: SM, YG and JYP.

“I think this may be the first time I’ve [directly] worked with an artist in Korea,” admits Choi, referring to Jun.K. “In America, you’re always working with the artist.”

Another key difference in producing for K-pop versus American pop music, the Korean American music producer points out, is the former’s fast turnover rate, which is often due to the songs’ lackluster quality.

“The songs are made a little fast in K-pop, and that’s just because the speed at which society runs in Korea is that much faster,” he says. “As much as we think we’re on our phones here in the U.S., people are on their phones in Korea about two times more.”

Due to South Korea’s rapid media consumption, Choi explains that K-pop prefers dynamic and catchy melodies in order to attract immediate attention, whereas American pop songs tend to have more repetitive and simpler melodies for a longer shelf life.

“Lately, hip hop records in the U.S. have been lacking in melodic structuring or use a classic song to sample, which isn’t anything new. K-pop records tend to have a type of energy that keeps the pace moving,” he says.

Perhaps the reason behind K-pop’s breakneck pace is the market saturation of idol groups. Since the mid-2000s, K-pop has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry— Time magazine recognized it as South Korea’s “greatest export” in 2012. Every label aims to cash in on the K-pop boom, hoping to create the next BIGBANG or Girls’ Generation, but the competition is brutal with up to 60 rookie groups debuting every year.

“In Korea, you gotta do whatever it takes,” Choi says, laughing in disbelief at the Korean music industry’s grueling work ethic. “You have to sell, sell, sell your pants off in order to get your record played because that’s just the level of what they’re willing to do to make it happen.”

But tenacity pays off in the K-pop world. Whether you’re a rookie singer or a veteran making a comeback, a good song is undeniable, and it charts. According to Choi, there are many Korean indie artists who are incredibly popular among locals and even top Korean music charts. However, since these artists do not appear on popular Korean music programs or variety shows on TV, their music does not necessarily expand globally.

Choi also notes that while K-pop has evolved tremendously in terms of visuals, its music has become stagnant in recent years. But as more K-pop idols test international waters, he believes that there is potential for K-pop to push boundaries and strive for authenticity.

“There’s a lot more room for experimenting in K-pop, which is why I’m really excited about it,” says Choi. “There is so much room for growth not only musically and artistically, but [also on a] worldwide [scale].”

As a producer working in Korea and the U.S., Choi says his goal is to fuse the best elements of the American pop music industry with K-pop to allow more authentic projects to be made. He believes that, in order for K-pop to become palatable for a Western audience, there needs to be more “fusion of foreign productions”— something that K-pop has already made headway with by recruiting famous foreign producers like Harvey Mason Jr., who composed EXO’s “Overdose” and Girls’ Generation “Mr. Mr.”

Choi also cites the case of 2NE1, whose song “I am the Best” was featured in Microsoft’s Surface Pro commercial, as a path that K-pop artists should consider for penetrating the U.S. market. He says that “forming strategic alliances with U.S. artists and corporations” is the most effective and possibly the only way for K-pop artists to succeed in the States.

“Like Gangnam Style, it will be very difficult for that to happen again,” Choi says.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 5.43.39 PMCL signs her contract with Scooter Braun. (Photo courtesy of Scooter Braun’s Instagram)

As more K-pop stars gain credibility in the American market through collaborations with popular Western artists, Choi’s K-pop philosophy seems to be working. 2NE1’s CL, for example, has recently signed with Scooter Braun for her upcoming American solo debut after she steadily rose to popularity in the U.S., thanks to her strong ties to American fashion designer Jeremy Scott and her appearance on a Skrillex/Diplo track.

It’s an exciting time for K-pop as artists break new barriers worldwide, Choi says. He also admits that while he loves producing music for the U.S., working in K-pop has been a rewarding experience as he shares a common bond with K-pop artists today.

“[Jun.K] found out that I used to be a singer … after we started working together. He just thought I was some producer, and then he was like ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe it,’” Choi remembers, adding that there is a special senior-junior relationship between singers in Korea. “We had a good moment with that. It was fun. And for me to see him performing and remembering what I used to do, I just feel really proud.”

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Choi recently made a TV appearance with other ’90s K-pop idols including members from bands H.O.T., Sechs Kies and G.O.D. Watch the clip below:

Featured photo courtesy of concretegrey

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K-Pop Group Under Scrutiny For Wearing Nazi-Like Symbol

by STEVE HAN

Oftentimes, any public figure wearing the symbol of the infamous Rising Sun flag will infuriate Koreans as they have argued for decades that the symbol, which represents the imperial Japanese army during its colonization of East Asia, should be banned for the same reason Nazi Germany’s swastika is banned in many parts of the world.

Pritz, a relatively unknown K-pop girl group, certainly didn’t help Korea’s cause when the quartet performed while wearing red armbands with a symbol inside a white circle that looked strikingly similar to the swastika.

Pictures of Pritz’s performance, many of which soon became available on the Internet, drew negative comments on social media with many netizens calling the group’s wardrobe offensive and insensitive. Although the group’s name Pritz is a bizarre acronym for Pretty Rangers In Terrible Zone, some have gone so far as to say that the name may be associated to Fritz X, a glide bomb used by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Pandagram, the band’s agency, dismissed the symbol’s link to the swastika on Thursday, saying that the was inspired by traffic signs for speed limits. An official said that “the thought never occurred” to the agency before the controversy and that the shape of the symbol’s arrows simply refer to Pritz’s ambitions “to expand without a limit in four directions,” according to Korea Realtime.

As the negative comments have made way to Pandagram’s official website, the agency has since reportedly made its message board viewable only for registered users and is now considering changing the said logo.

Photo courtesy of Kotaku

AOMG

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: 40% Off Tickets for AOMG Concert in L.A.

If you live in Los Angeles, you have plenty of places to be out and about on Friday nights. Allow us to present a very good reason to drop those plans.

AOMG is kicking off its U.S. tour this Friday at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, and they’re inviting KoreAm readers to join the party! General admission tickets are 40 percent off when you use the code “youtube” at checkout, which drops the price from $50 to $30! You can buy the tickets here.

The spectacular lineup features Jay Park, Simon D, Gray, Loco and DJ Pumkin. Get your tickets soon before they’re sold out!

Time: 7:30 p.m.; Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Location: The Belasco Theater
1050 S. Hill Street Los Angeles, CA 90015

If you’re 21 and over, be sure to hit up the after party! Your concert stub from the show will grant you free entry until 11 p.m.

After

After Party Time: 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Location: 6675 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA

Those of you on the East Coast, fear not — AOMG’s tour continues in New York and Washington D.C. on Saturday, Nov. 15 and Thursday, Nov. 20, respectively.

kpop high 1

Nick Cannon to Co-Produce New K-pop Musical Series ‘The Drop’

by REERA YOO

Nick Cannon will be co-producing a new half-hour musical comedy titled The Drop, formerly known as K-pop High, reported the Indiewire.

According to the casting callThe Drop is “a mashup of Glee and the Korean Pop aesthetic.” Set in an international boarding school with a performance arts program, the series follows three teenage girls who meet as strangers and befriend each other after discovering their shared “sensibility for the K-pop vibe.”

In a nutshell, it’s pretty much an American remake of Dream High. 

Cannon, who is also the series’ co-creator, will be co-executive producing the DHX Media project alongside Tommy Lynch and Steven DeNure. No casting announcements have been made yet, but filming has been scheduled for early December to mid-March 2015. The current episode order for the series is 20 episodes, which will be filmed in Toronto. The show will most likely air on the Nickelodeon network as Cannon is the chairman of TeenNick.

Here are the descriptions of the show’s four main characters:

SUN HI, Female, 14 – 16 yrs
Killer singer! Sun Hi is funky and free-spirited. She’s a dreamer and has huge life aspirations. She wants to be a pop star, she wants to fall in love, and she wants to star in movies… she wants, and wants, and wants! As a performer, Sun Hi is creative and open-minded. She’s always wiling to try new things in her songs, choreography and staging. We love her because her energy is high and because she is willing to take risks to follow her dream. We laugh with her because her ambition is often misguided and gets her into trouble.

JODI, Female, 14 – 16 yrs
Jodi was brought up in New York. She is loud and proud. Jodi is the fashionista of the group. She will keep her crew on the cutting edge of hip. Jodi can sing and dance, but her training is minimal. It’s all street informed. Hip hop dance moves and rap music are areas she’s comfortable in.

CORKI, Female, 14 – 16 yrs
Corki is the wealthy only child to a Korean business tycoon. Corki is familiar with boarding schools as she has spent her life in them. Corki is a little aloof. Her comedy comes from her super rich upbringing. We love her because she really is innocent about how the rest of the world lives. Corki is under constant pressure from her father to do well in school. Her father sees K-pop as frivolous, unlike ballet and the violin, in which his daughter has trained and excelled. Her classical ballet training will become an emotional counterpoint in her stories as she fuses ballet with Jodi’s Hip Hop style. Corki sings well and rocks the violin, once she loosens up.

CALEB, Male, 14 – 16 yrs
A dancer and singer, Caleb is obsessed with K-pop culture. He knows every band, every song, every star. He believes it to be the next big cultural thing and wants to be part of it. Caleb often has a difficult time concentrating. He was sent to boarding school because he was falling behind in his town school. In reality, Caleb’s trouble paying attention comes from his high intellect. Caleb is a genius. He’s a brilliant songwriter/producer. Caleb thinks faster than others, but he can get so far ahead of himself that he often forgets where he is going.

This is not the first time Cannon has supported a K-pop project. In 2012, Cannon’s production company NCredible collaborated with JYP Entertainment to produce a TV movie featuring the Wonder Girls, which premiered on the TeenNick channel.

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Shin Hae-chul’s Autopsy Results Revealed

by REERA YOO

On Nov. 3, South Korean forensic officers announced the results of their first autopsy on Shin Hae-chul and revealed that they found a 0.3 cm hole in the singer’s pericardium.

Shin Hae-chul, a veteran singer and rock icon in the South Korean music industry, died on Oct. 27 after suffering from a cardiac arrest. Five days prior to his death, Shin underwent an intestinal surgery at Seoul Ansan Hospital, which raised suspicions that his death was caused by the professional negligence of the doctors who operated on him.

On the day of his funeral, Shin’s family members announced that they will be pursuing a lawsuit against Asan Hospital for alleged medical malpractice.

The National Forensic Service (NFS) said at an official briefing that the cause of death appears to be blood poisoning caused by a combination of peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdomen’s inner wall, and pericarditis, an inflammation of sac-line membrane enclosing the heart.

According to the Joongang Ilbo, the medical records provided by Asan Hospital stated that doctors found a hole in Shin’s small intestine, which caused small amounts of food to leak through the hole and infect the abdomen. However, the NFS said it was unable to find the alleged centimeter-long perforation since the doctors at Ansan Hospital had removed it during surgery.

“Since the procedure took place in Ansan Hospital, we have to wait for cell slides and small intestine extracts in order to look into this matter further,” said Choi Young-shik, the head of the NFS’s Seoul office.

Choi also added that he could not confirm whether or not the hole in Shin’s pericardium was a direct result of the intestinal surgery, but said there was a “correlation” between them.

The NFS will continue to investigate in order to determine the precise cause of death, using more detailed pathological examinations and an X-ray CT scan on the body.

Featured photo courtesy of Koreaboo

rock icon

South Korean Rock Icon Shin Hae-chul Passes Away

by REERA YOO

Shin Hae-chul, a veteran singer and rock icon of the Korean music scene, tragically passed away on Monday at 8:19 p.m. KST after suffering a cardiac arrest, said hospital officials.

According to Yonhap, Shin had been in critical condition since suffering a heart attack on Oct. 22. He was admitted to an intensive care unit at the Asan Medical Center in southern Seoul and underwent a three-hour surgery. However, the singer never woke from his six-day coma.

Shin had reportedly visited the hospital twice a few days prior to his heart attack, complaining of chest pains. Although he was hospitalized on both occasions, he was released shortly each time.

His agency KCA Entertainment said in a statement that they are unsure of the cause of Shin’s heart attack, adding that singer did not have any health problems prior to the cardiac arrest.

“Although many hoped for his recovery and the medical staff did their best, he couldn’t make it. We express deep condolences to the bereaved family,” KCA said.

Shin debuted in 1988 at the MBC College Music Festival with the modern rock song “To You.” Nicknamed “King of Darkness” by his fans, the charismatic rocker released more than 30 studio albums and experimented with various genres including jazz, ballads, modern rock and techno.

According to local news outlets, Shin’s passing came as a shock to not only fans but also to many veteran artists, such as Seo Taiji, PSY and Lee Seung-hwan, who were all good friends with the rock icon.

Shin passed away at the young age of 46.

Photo courtesy of Koreaboo