Tag Archives: music

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

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

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.





Photos courtesy of MelOn and Soompi


San Diego Asian Film Festival ‘Remembers Queer Korea’


Gay South Korean filmmaker Kim Jho Gwang-soo and his partner, Kim Seung-hwan, made headlines in the media last year when they held a public wedding ceremony and attempted to register as a married couple in Seoul. It was hailed as a “trailblazing” act in a society where same-sex unions aren’t recognized, while traditional values and religious conservatism keep a tight lid on any LGBT discourse.

It was certainly a bold move in modern Korea, but it definitely wasn’t the first time LGBT issues came up in Korean history and popular culture, according to Todd Henry, an assistant professor and acting director of the Program in Transnational Korean Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

“As someone who is studying history, I just have to say to myself, maybe this is just a media play, that newspapers want publicity,” Henry told KoreAm. “But in terms of historical background and [record], why is it that South Korean society wants to forget that it has a tradition of same-sex people who try to dignify their relationships through matrimony?”

Researchers in South Korea and the United States, including Henry have traced LGBT and queer themes through Korean history, but they’ve never been able to gather in one place—until this past weekend. The Pacific Arts Movement, in partnership with UCSD, held a landmark retrospective on the subject this past weekend at the 15th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival. Titled “Remembering Queer Korea,” the program featured screenings at the UCSD campus for six South Korean films, a video exhibition featuring an all-female musical troupe and a three-day academic symposium.

“The program represents our interest in giving context to Asian cinema and Asian cultures,” said Brian Hu, the artistic director for the festival, “that there is a history to the kind of independent production and self-represenation going on in Korea and elsewhere.

“When we think of seeing no limits, we also want to inspire audiences to see beyond the limits of the present, in addition to seeing beyond heteronormativity, especially as it has shaped discourses of the nation and globally in Korea,” Hu continued, speaking on the theme of the festival, “See No Limits.”

The six films, in particular, evoke the “remembering” among different genres. Dramas like The Pollen of Flowers (1972) and Sabangji (1988) were released into a repressive environment during the presidential dictatorship period. Other films, like the drama Broken Branches (1996), which dealt with the subject of homosexuality and family, were released at a time when South Korea was experiencing a wave of social changes.

Broken-Branches-2-770x433Broken Branches (Photo courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival)

Sabangji-2-770x433Sabangji (Photo courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival)

Henry was a graduate student in South Korea in the 1990s, and became involved in some of the movements taking hold. Human rights and student organizations, as well as film festivals, were leading the discourse, particularly in LGBT topics.

“I was very curious to know the deeper roots and origins of the kind of phenomena I was witnessing in the 1990s,” Henry said. “It occurred to me that it probably wasn’t the first time that a film dealing with LGBT issues was screening, nor was it probably the first time that two people of the same sex were seeking to get married or falling in love with one another.”

“Remembering Queer Korea” came from that curiosity and eventually took tangible form once Henry took up his position at UCSD in 2009. After Henry met the members of the Pacific Arts Movement (then called San Diego Asian Film Foundation), the project began taking shape.

“The idea was that filmmakers were doing a lot of the same kind of work that academic historians were: doing interviews, writing their own narratives of modern Korea,” said Hu, now in his fourth year with the festival. “Meanwhile, there are queer images from the 1970s and ‘90s in Korean cinema that serve as an archive of a similar counter-history. So we put together a slate of films that allow history, curiosity, cinema and memory to speak to each other in creative and provocative ways.”

On the academic side, Henry said there was a “scattered discourse” of “scattered people” working on LGBT topics in South Korea, which is why the symposium over the weekend was so special. Nearly a dozen researchers from South Korea and the U.S. led a three-day discussion on LGBT themes in modern Korean history, from the early 20th century and into the present.

Henry said the goal is to publish a book with the other researchers that would challenge what people may think about same-sex marriage in South Korea. The book would also aim to provide an overview of how queerness has appeared in modern Korean history and how we might rethink that history from this new perspective.

“In Korea [same-sex marriage] is seen as something relatively new,” he explained, “as in it just happened in the past 10-15 years, or it’s simply an import from the United States or Europe–that is to say, foreign and not indigenous to Korea.

“My work aims to debunk that national myth by showing that throughout the post-1945 period, discussion and debate about women who, although not officially and legally marrying one another, were nonetheless unofficially and symbolically marrying one another was a very frequent and important part of South Korea’s low-brow popular culture.”

Yeosung gukgeuk, a traditional form of all-female musical theater, was also popular in Korean pop culture during the 1950s. It’s the subject of artist siren eun young jung’s project “(Off)Stage / Masterclass,” her latest exhibition in exploring gender roles in traditional Korean performances. Siren spent years studying the possibility of yeosung gukgeuk translating to the modern feminist perspective and through the subversiveness of gender politics, according to Blouin Art Info.

The documentary The Girl Princes (2012), which also screened at the festival, chronicles the short-lived rise and brisk fall of yeosung gukgeuk and follows many of the former performers today as they reminisced on their careers and legacies. During their heyday, Hu writes, the stars were idolized by fans to the point of even stalking and suicide. The women were able to explore a much broader range of emotions and experiences than what was socially acceptable in the 1950s as they formed strong sisterhoods, while some even found love.

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The Girl Princes (Photo courtesy of Indie Plus)

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Girl Princes 1

“Art brings another medium through which we try to remember the past and which has resonance in the present,” Henry said. “It’s interesting to me that in contemporary Korea, you have a female director [Kim Hye-jung] who makes Girl Princes, [and] you have siren’s art piece, which is also about the same topic. … In Korea, you have various individuals who are also writing academic papers about the same all-female theatrical group.

“I think what’s really changed in the present is that since the 1990s, the public discourse is not only dominated by outsiders who are gazing at queer things, or using them for their own exploitive or sexploitive purposes. Instead, filmmakers, authors, and speakers who represent a queer way of life, or certain kinds of queer identity have become increasingly active in representing their own interests, and on their own terms.”


Win a Pair of Tickets to AOMG’s L.A. Concert This Friday

Do you have plans for this upcoming Friday night? Cancel them.

AOMG is kicking off their U.S. tour in Los Angeles at the Belasco Theater, and we want to get you in for free! We have a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky individual, who will be able to see Jay Park, Simon D, Gray, Loco and DJ Pumkin perform for free! They’ll also be able to join the after party at Supperclub in Hollywood.

Here’s how you can win: Tell us who is your favorite artist out of the performers at the concert and why. Leave your comment below, or on this article’s Facebook post.

The winner will be announced at 1 p.m. Pacific Time on KoreAm‘s Facebook page. The KoreAm staff will choose the individual whose response shows the most passion for their AOMG artist!

Rules: Contestants must be age 21 and over. Tickets will be available only by will call at the box office. Concert stubs will grant free entry to the after party until 11 p.m.

Even if you don’t win the tickets, take heart! KoreAm readers can get 40 percent off general admission tickets. Instead of paying $50, you’ll only be paying about $30! Click here for more details.


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 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.


Far East Movement Releases K-Town Mini-Doc Ahead of New EP


Far East Movement has been touring all over the world and the United States in recent years, but they’re bringing their music back home to Koreatown, Los Angeles for their upcoming EP.

In anticipation for K-Town Riot, which drops next Tuesday, Oct. 28, Far East Movement premiered the first part of a mini-documentary series exploring the 1992 L.A. riots through L.A. Weekly. It features a number of first-hand accounts from individuals who were in Koreatown during the riots, including Paul PK Kim and Roy Choi.

“When we were on tour, we honestly just felt like we were losing touch with where we grew up, with the community that really shined us a light when we didn’t have any opportunities,” Nish said in an interview with the L.A. Weekly. “After two years of touring, we came home and saw how much it had changed. … So we were like, why don’t we try to do something about it?”

With K-Town Riots, Nish said the group brings a “harder sound,” influenced by the gangster rap songs from the era. He mentioned that the group had around 30 songs recorded, but after a good amount of deliberation, they managed to select six songs. “We felt like these six best represented the vibes for K-Town Riot,” he explained.

The documentary had to be stripped down as well, from nearly five hours of footage in order to keep things “tight, concise, to the point.” Part two of the mini-documentary will feature a more light-hearted look at the growth of Koreatown, Nish said, and that should be out in a few weeks.

You can check out Part One of the five-minute mini-doc below. Be sure to read the full interview with Kevin Nish at L.A. Weekly here.

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[VIDEO] U.S. Marines and South Korean Army Bands Battle in Drum-off


The drums of war have never sounded so friendly.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force Band (III MEF) and the Republic of Korea Army Band (ROK) recently engaged in a lighthearted drum-off to kill time before a parade. Both bands gave impressive performances and seemed to enjoy themselves as they were seen cheering and smiling throughout the entire match, which was later ruled by a band leader as a tie.

The video has garnered more than 800,000 views after being uploaded last week. Majority of the viewers praised the two bands’ enthusiastic performances and good sportsmanship. One commenter even wrote, “This is how wars should be fought.”

Watch the epic drum battle below:

Janice Min

Janice Min Talks About K-pop’s Global Impact and Future


K-pop is currently the best known product after Samsung, according to Janice Min, co-president and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group, which includes The Hollywood Reporter (THR) and Billboard. But as hallyu gains more international recognition, Min said K-pop still has a few more hurdles left before it could be fully embraced among Western audiences.

“Half of the top ten news reported by THR is related to K-pop,” Min said at MU:CON Seoul 2014, an annual festival for Korean music. “The world is getting more and more interested in Hallyu content.”

Psy’s international hit “Gangnam Style” was a turning point, Min noted. The song got casual music fans interested in K-pop, and it played right into the hands of an industry that was already heavily powered by social media. But in order for K-pop to stick, Min said K-pop artists need to come off as genuine, not manufactured by a larger entertainment company.

“I would say the weakness of K-pop is that it feels inauthentic and prepackaged … so there needs to be authenticity,” Min told the Korea Times, referring to Justin Timberlake as an authentic artist who gained more creative freedom after leaving NSYNC. She emphasized that music fans want to know that their favorite artists are genuine and passionate about their music, which includes writing their own songs.

In addition, Min said K-pop was still in a good place to compete in the music industry as the genre incorporates dance, fashion, beauty and music all in one.

Moving forward, Min said she expects K-pop diversify even further, with different acts that carry different sounds. In terms of breaking into the American audience, she cited Crayon Pop and G-dragon as prime examples, since the former opened for Lady Gaga at her U.S. concert and the latter is set to release collaborative tracks with Justin Bieber.

“The fact that Lady Gaga promoted the act on social media was probably the most powerful thing any Western artist could have done for a K-pop artist,” Min said. “Collaborations also get a lot of attention. The validation of a K-pop artist by a popular Western artist helps break through the clutter.”

As for what K-pop has meant to Koreans, Min said in some ways, K-pop felt like a “move forward” among the younger generation of Koreans who won’t harbor bitter memories of the Korean War and the rebuilding period.

“K-pop seems to represent total youth culture to Koreans, for reasons both good and sometimes bad,” Min continued. “But I think there is a big national pride in the phenomenon that is K-pop and the fact that it has traveled so far and wide in the world.”

The Voice - Season 7

Q&A: ‘The Voice’ Contestant Clara Hong Talks About Her Musical Journey


When KoreAm got in touch with Clara Hong yesterday, we were supposed to discuss last week’s blind audition on NBC’s The Voice, in which she brought down the house with her stellar performance. The young singer was trying to process what had happened since then, including random strangers raving about her on social media, her much-talked-about “You’re silk” comment, and of course, Pharrell Williams.

Then, she realized what the date was.

“Today is Sept. 30, right? Oh my gosh,” said Hong, apparently slightly freaking out over the phone. “I moved out of my house to Atlanta exactly a year ago. That is so crazy! I remember I moved in on Sept. 30 and went to the studio the very next morning. … But that’s so crazy!”

It’s been a long and explorative year for the Georgia resident, who put her college education on hiatus and moved to the city to pursue a career in music. But even before her recent milestone on The Voice, Hong said she was exponentially happier than when she was in school.

Despite the “silk” comment, Hong surprisingly chose Maroon 5’s Adam Levine over Pharrell to be her coach. Her sessions with Team Adam haven’t started yet, but whether The Voice plays a significant part in her future or not, the vocalist says she is definitely glad to be in her current position.


How do you feel about your blind audition, now that you’ve had some time to digest what happened?

Clara: I think when you’re onstage, you know what happened, but it’s almost like now, it didn’t happen. It’s been overwhelming, and it’s really cool to see the reactions on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — it’s surreal. It’s really cool to see the reactions from legitimate strangers.

It’s almost like you can’t believe you can do it sometimes, for us musicians. I talk about this with my friends all the time, but we’re so used to the idea of — and this is not to sound negative — things not working out sometimes, so we almost prepare ourselves for the worst in a way.

Music isn’t … an instant gratification kind of industry where things always work out the way you want it to. In my case, you almost have to be like, whoa, that’s me. That’s not someone else’s life. That’s my life. So it’s been really nice and cool to believe in myself again.

How have your parents responded to your successful blind audition?

It’s been positive. It’s been nice. My parents were very keen on me pursuing education since I came here [from Korea] when I was 8 years old. It was never something where they pushed me to take piano lessons, or pursue music. As soon as I got the idea to leave school and pursue it, they were really against it.

Eventually, I was like, you know what, I’m an adult, so I’m going to move out regardless, but it would be nice to have their support.

It was kind of a struggle for a year. The only reason they were okay with me pursuing music before The Voice was that they saw how happy I was as a person. The light changed on my face, my attitude on life — I felt like a really beautiful person. I felt like I had purpose, and I felt really OK. And then when the three judges turned around for me, that was [my parents’] way of knowing, she’s going to be OK.

The Voice has been a gift in many ways, but I think that’s one of the biggest ways it has been good to me. It opened my parents’ eyes to my potential.

Why did you choose “Chuck E.’s In Love?”

There’s a process that goes into choosing the song. It’s not 100 percent the producers; it’s not 100 percent me. It’s kind of like this conversation we have going. Ultimately, I really wanted that song. It probably was a risk … because it’s not a tune everyone is familiar with. It’s a song that parents nowadays, they reminisce about that song, and might say, “Hey, that came out while I was in high school!” I really love Rickie Lee Jones, too, she’s cool and funky, and she’s always done her own thing.

In hindsight, I’m really happy I chose that song, but really I think I picked that song because I love it. … I think when you find the song, and you sing it once and it feels right, you know that’s your song. When I sing it, it just feels really good to me.

What did you think of the judges’ individual pitches? Adam, Gwen and Pharrell each went all out to try and recruit you.

That was really cool! To be honest, when I saw the episode on TV, I remembered a lot of the things they said to me, but when I was up there, there’s so much adrenaline, one, and two, it’s also a very out-of-body experience. I remember when I was singing, I almost saw myself in a bird’s eye point of view where I watched myself. It was really bizarre. I just remember hearing a lot of words, and I did comprehend them, but I don’t think I really heard them. I do remember the whole “silk” part, and I’m still like, “Why did you say it like that?”

I just remember feeling very overwhelmed and wowed by these coaches giving me compliments and … I was just in disbelief the whole time. Of course I knew it was happening, but it was a lot at once. I just remember feeling so bad and awful having to pick someone. I really wanted to work with all of them. It’s hard! It’s a funny role change, because you would think it would be the other way around, where you beg them to take you in, but the chairs are turned — pun intended — and the coaches fight for you.

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What have you been able to do in the past year since you moved to Atlanta?

I’ve been trying to put together an EP, [but] because of The Voice, I wasn’t able to finish that project. But outside of the studio, I’ve been going out as much as I can and meeting people and making connections. Meeting inspiring musicians around the area, and jamming with them — it was really cool.

“House shows” are probably my favorite thing. They’re really casual. You can mingle with people, and then jam to really original music. The best part about it is that you’re so close to the artists and you see every facial movement that they make, and I love watching people’s faces when they sing because all the emotion is right there.

I think they really inspire me to always write genuine songs. That kind of setting, you can’t fake your way in with this song you wrote because you thought it was catchy. It’s not a fancy stage set-up with lights and mics; you really just have your voice and your instrument to impress the crowd.

I’ve done a few house shows in Atlanta where it’s just a bunch of twenty, thirty-somethings having a really chill time. I really think that’s where the real music scene is. Atlanta is packed with so much talent, it’s hard not to be inspired.

The Voice - Season 7

What have been your greatest challenges?

My biggest struggle [is that] I’ve never had consistent support, so I really wasn’t sure if anything was going to work out. And I’m pretty sure that’s the question I’m going to ask for the rest of my life. One moment or one blind audition isn’t going to change that mentality, but it has worked out well, and when I say “worked out,” I don’t mean that I made it or I crossed the finish line, but I think it’s a lot easier when you don’t worry too much.

If you’re centered, and your head is in the right place, and you wake up with a smile and do what you need to do … things will always fall into place.

It’s weird. Sometimes I feel really overwhelmed, but other days, I think, it’s quite simple really. You get up, you show up, you do life, and you call it a day. But it really depends on how you look at it and how much you want out of everything.

Photos courtesy of Tyler Golden/NBC