Friday, April 19, 2013

Forays in Kpop/Playlist #2

An email to a friend back home spurred this one. He'd written in to ask about new Kpop tunes he'd heard about and wanted to know what I thought of them.

I've been edging away from Kpop lately because there doesn't seem to be as much interesting songs coming out and Krock and rock in general have reasserted themselves in the musical diet. Pop's a genre that comes in fits and starts for me. Much as I love Phil Spector's Wall of Sound work from the '60s, I can only take 40 minutes of that stuff at a time. It simply doesn't satisfy me the way rock and roll does. 

Even so, here are some good ones to play.

1. Psy - "Gangnam Style"

You know it, I know it--it's a classic. Some people have called it "stupid" and "corny," but oh well. It's bouncy and funny--two key ingredients of good tuneage. Those karaoke tour buses really do exist, too. As a point of information, having spent some time in Gangnam, the areas off of the main streets look like the aftermath of a house party during the day. Bottles and trash everywhere.

2. Psy feat. Hyun-a - "Oppa Is Just My Style"

Hyeon-a (or Hyuna, depending on the romanization) seems like, from what I've seen so far, the Korean version of Fergie. Her song "Ice Cream" is as craptacular as "My Humps." 

3.  Girls' Generation - "Gee"
4. Girls' Generation - "Mr. Taxi"

Yes indeed. Hooee can the Girls dance their way into your ears here. Both are packed with hooks and are fun to listen to. "Gee" is an early single for them and it's the song that made them famous. "Mr Taxi" is a more recent single of off the The Boys album.

5. Girls' Generation - "The Boys"

This one marks where they started slipping. It was a hit here, but it's the Girls trying too hard to be American and boisterous. The song's all posturing and no melody. I once read an interview where one of the Girls gushed over it because she thought doing a song without a hook would be an interesting departure for them. Yes, you read that right: She thought a song without a hook would be fun, so that should tell you something. "The Boys" came from the album of the same name and I've mixed thoughts on it: On the one hand, I don't remember much of it being any good, but on the other, it came in a cool tin box with postcards and two excellent posters. The packaging makes up for the lackluster tunes.

6. Big Bang - "Fantastic Baby"

It's a good one, not least because it taught every Korean teenager the word fantastic.

7. 2NE1 - "I Am the Best"

One of my all time favorite songs. 2NE1's 2nd EP (2nd Mini Album) is my favorite Kpop record and "I Am The Best" kicks it off with an electric swagger. If one group can claim Girl Power, it's these girls. They've got the attitude and the songs to back it up.

See also:
My review of 2NE1's concert last summer. It became an album in its own right. I haven't bought it yet, but I will be getting it soon.

8. Girls' Generation - "Oh!"

Decent number.

9. Super Junior - "Mr. Simple"

Yes. Good electro number. I've the CD. It came in a full color LP sized package, which meant I had to buy it. The cover has one of the dudes looking like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Willy Wonka.

10. Wonder Girls - "Nobody"

HELL YES. The kids consider it ancient history, but this song's what put the Wonder Girls on the map. It brought Kpop outside of Korea with a '60s melody and hook. You can get this one in Korean and in English. The music's the same, but the vocal tracks are different. This is one of the few pop songs that delivers the lyrical goods. They're economical and clever. 

Bonus Wonder girls tracks:

"Two Different Tears" (English version)

"Like Money"

A single from last summer. I meant to write something about this, but I only got so far as a journal entry and never got around to typing it up. Musically, it's another excellent and hook-filled pop number makes me want to move. Unlike many other Kpop tunes, the lyrics stood out on this one because they're about how the girls want to be loved like money or another precious commodity. The old line about being careful what you wish for came to mind here, for commodities get bought and sold all the time. Loving a human being like a diamond or a vintage muscle car's not that deep of a love because things are replaceable and people aren't.

The video's cinematography's straight out of Tron. Some might call it a ripoff, but I'll just call it an a homage because I like that imagery.

Also, the "bionic girl" trope can get unsettling. It doesn't work in their favor because it paints them as oversexed money hungry robots hell bent on taking a man's love.

[Note: I may revisit this topic later.]

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