Back in March, the streets of Seoul were filled with excitement as Tyra Banks landed in South Korea to film a segment of Americas’s Next Top Model. We were even more excited when we discovered that ANTM chose popular K-pop group 2NE1 to make an appearance during the highly-anticipated fashion show for designer Lie Sang Bong.
A source revealed, “2NE1 was asked to be on the show because they are a representative K-Pop group and they are also well-known to be fashionistas.”
After 9 long months, the waiting is finally over. Americas’s Next Top Model aired its final episodes of Cycle 21 this past Friday. The segment included a photo shoot for GUESS at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, as well as Korean barbecue and even more Korean barbecue.
Most exciting of all, 2NE1 went to wish the the remaining contestants good luck before heading out to the runway to perform their popular song, “Crush.”
Check out the performance below as well as the behind-the-scenes footage of the girls interacting with the ANTM contestants.
After launching their cosmetics line Moonshot and fashion brand NONAGON, YG Entertainment is now setting its eyes on the film and television industry.
According to Korean news outlet Hankyung, the K-pop giant is currently in talks with Yuehua Entertainment, a Beijing-based talent agency, about co-producing films and dramas. If both agencies agree to move forward with the collaboration, then joint productions are expected to begin in Korea and China simultaneously as early as next year.
YG and Yuehua already have an established partnership as they have previously collaborated in producing the rookie Chinese-Korean boy band UNIQ, which debuted in October with their song “Falling in Love.”
Both companies have been aggressively investing in expanding their businesses overseas. Yuehua opened a subsidiary branch in South Korea after signing a free trade agreement last month and sealed a partnership with Pledis Entertainment, which manages K-pop artists, including Son Dam Bi, After School and NU’EST.
Earlier this week, YG held a press conference to announce the partnership with Chinese instant messaging platform, Tencent QQ, which now has rights to exclusively stream YG artists’ songs in China. According to YG Entertainment representative Kim Sang Ho, the company is also reportedly receiving several investment proposals from Chinese business groups.
With CL preparing for her American solo debut, it looks like YG Entertainment is aiming to expand beyond Asia.
YG Entertainment, the company that brought big names like Big Bang and 2NE1 to international audiences, is now taking on the cosmetic scene! Coming from one of the pioneers that put K-pop at the forefront of music, the line can only be appropriately called “Moonshot.”
The concept of Moonshot draws inspiration from Apollo 11’s successful landing on the moon in 1969, when a dream became reality. They line is intended for those who aim for the moon and for those who strive to be trendsetters — that’s quite apparent in the collection. The line’s bright, vivid colors boldly standout in comparison to the soft pastel colors that have been trending lately in South Korea.
Moonshot currently has their Flagship Store open in Seoul, but recently they released their online store. However, for those of us who can’t read Hangul, we’ll have to wait until Moonshot debuts their English website in January 2015. We can’t wait for Moonshot to start shipping internationally!
Looks like Tiffany of Girls’ Generation will be sharing the spotlight with John Legend at the 2014 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) in Hong Kong.
According to Soompi, an Mnet representative said that Legend had expressed his interest in collaborating with the K-pop singer, and SM Entertainment accepted his love call. Previously, there were a lot of speculation regarding the international collaboration when Tiffany posted on Instagram a screenshot of Legend’s “All of Me” playing on her smartphone. Although details of the joint performance are still under wraps, fans are already highly anticipating the duet between the two singers.
This is not the first time MAMA has hosted an international collaboration on its stage. Last year, Hyorin of SISTAR performed with the legendary Stevie Wonder. In 2011, 2NE1’s CL performed a cover of The Black Eyed Peas’s hit song “Where Is the Love?” with will.i.am and apl.de.ap in Singapore.
The 2014 MAMA will be held in Hong Kong’s Asia World Expo Arena on Dec.3. Other artists in the lineup includes G-Dragon and Taeyang, IU, EXO, INFINITE, SISTAR and more.
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 March.
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.
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.
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, whichreached No. 10 on the iTunes Electronic Chart, and acoustic album BOBBY.
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.
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.
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 Breathreleased in November 2010.
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 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, 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 Doug 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 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.
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 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.
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.
Glen 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.
CL 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.”
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:
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.