[SHINee] Key finally does a solo cover of Lady Gaga: “Hair” and “Judas”

Sort of an odd choice, but I suppose after Taemin covering Korn, anything is possible. In terms of popularity, I would have thought Poker Face, Bad Romance, Born This Way, and Edge of Glory would be first on the to-cover list (SHINee has already done Just Dance). I suppose, vocally, Bad Romance and Edge of Glory may be beyond Key.

Well, quick comments on the audio?

It is definitely prerecorded like every dance-heavy track that kpop artists perform as an “extra goodie”. Key’s voice was a little monotone and nasally than I liked, and they changed the melismas to fit in Key’s range, and most of the song was chopped up aurally using autotune.

However, this is just quick thinking about the audio. Key is rather a good performer, and judging by the way the fans were screaming, I should hold my tongue until a fancam surfaces.


[kpop] Michelle reacts to Kids React to K-Pop

TheFineBros is a comedy channel on YouTube, and their most watched segments are “Kids React To…” and yesterday, it was revealed to be kpop.

They watched SNSD’s “Gee“, Super Junior’s “Bonamona“, and 2NE1’s “I AM THE BEST“. Right from the get-go, this video attracted haters, and I have got to say, some of it was sort of justified.

Some comments made by the kids that especially struck me:

#1: I can’t understand this. Why do people listen to it if they can’t understand it?

It’s like watching subtitled movies, eating Mexican food, listening to Bach. You may not understand the language, you may not know how to cook Mexican, you may have no idea what the heck a semidemiquaver is, but you can enjoy it nonetheless.

#2: What is up with my generation?! How can people listen to such horrible music?!

This was just mainly one kid. He was so effusive and exaggerated about asserting what crap kpop is, and how he hates his generation. Fine, rag on the music being crap, but not on people of your generation! They like what they like, you hate what you hate. Fair?

#3: omg they’re just imitating Pussycat Dolls! … (think for a minute) Lady Gaga!

Eye-roll. I feel like nowadays when anybody ever does anything crazy, it is always compared to Lady Gaga or is imitating Lady Gaga. I remember reading some YouTube comments for Dev’s “In the Dark“– amazing track, by the way– and comment after comment was like, “She’s crazy. Like Lady Gaga!” Probably you can pull out any popular electropop nowadays and you will see some “Reminds me of Lady Gaga” out there. Though I think Lady Gaga is an inspiration, I think it is a little early for her to be influencing performers that have already been performing for much longer or around same time frame as she has. Plus, everyone wants to be different– that’s their selling point. What you don’t get with Gaga is what you do get with 2NE1, with Dev, etc. Rather than just seeing something nutty and labelling it as Gaga-esque, you need to consider if the nutty is in Gaga-style. I think most of us can agree that 2NE1-nutty is not Gaga-nutty.

#4: “What language are they singing in?” — “Chinese.” “Japanese.” (a billion years later) “Korean!”

I recognize the fact that none of them are East Asian and thus may not have much exposure to Korean. Chinese is increasingly taught in more schools in the United States, China is seen increasingly as an antagonistic rival to the US and garnering more media coverage, and Japanese has long enjoyed a cult status in Hollywood, like Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls, Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill” and lots of popular dubbed anime like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. To be honest, I did not learn what Korean BBQ was until my senior year of high school (!).

Nonetheless, I sort of hit my head on the keyboard when so many of the kids failed to identify that it was Korean.

Now reclining in my Throne as Queen of Pretension, I have to say, those older kids were being pretty pretentious. They were trying to make very strong judgments from mal-formed opinions.

However, I only said that the anger directed toward this video is “sort of” justified.

Because look, they’re kids.

still have a soft spot for Mr. Frodo ^^

They’re airheads, but they’re children. I remember that age I was an airhead too. I loved Lord of the Rings and started calling everyone names from Lord of the Rings. I thought Daniel Radcliffe was the coolest boy on the planet because he played Harry Potter, even though he wasn’t good-looking or anything. I fawned over my battle prowess in Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh and petted myself as the strongest trainer there was even though the time I spent with a GameBoy was negligible. I thought George W. Bush should win the 2000 election. Heck, I even thought Bush should win the 2004 election, because John Kerry came across as creepy to me. I even wrote a stellar essay on why George Bush should win– which got me an A for the semester. But did I really know anything in-depth about the issues? About the war? About tax programs? Not at all. I just thought Kerry was a good-for-nothing-flip-flopper. Unless you are a prodigy, which very few of us are, it is really hard for us to absorb so much information at young ages and actually know how to process and understand it. So a lot of what we ‘understand’ as young children are just sound-bites like “flip-flopper” and half-formed opinions we regurgitate from our parents or custodians.

Second, they’re American kids. Especially for the Caucasians who probably do not speak a second language at home, they will probably never need to know any other language other than English for their entire lives. As diverse as America is, our language is extremely insular, due to the fact that English is the lingua franca or common language of the modern world today. One can pretty much get by in the industrialized world just knowing English.

Of course, I am not saying that these traits should be encouraged– because airheads don’t contribute much to the economy, it is personally enriching to know other languages– but we should all recognize that as preteens, we were all once know-it-all airheads and allow a little more leeway for these children when criticizing things like this video. We should not be “Imma stab you with a fork” but rather, putting it in simple and gentle terms why they are mistaken in their views.

I also am skeptical that if they were raised in a more culturally-aware environment they would turn out to be great global children-citizens, because children will be children, and so children will be airheads about some things or the other. They might not say something like All Asians Look Alike again but they might say something else just as politically incorrect. No one is born with a politically-correct compass within them; it is something we learn as we grow.

Though the video was exasperating for those aforementioned comments, a good half of them said they would listen to kpop again, and they said it looked very “future-y”. Taken in good humor, it was genuinely funny and entertaining to watch. Also, don’t tell me that none of y’all haven’t ever had a moment where you’re watching kpop and thinking, “what in the world are they doing?!”

Jaejoong the alien. I still don't like this hairstyle of his.. !

I guess some people had beef with the fact that some kids looked down on Korean artists for not creating their own music. America prides itself on originality, and I believe it does hold true in much more cases compared to kpop. Gaga, Britney, Beyonce, Katy, they all hold much more singing and producing credits than do BoA, Hyori, Rain, Se7en. So even if  the American stars’ contributions were negligible, the US perpetuates a (facade of) self-production culture that South Korea does not perpetuate.

In the end, I renounce all claims to judge their opinions, for I can also remember my phase when I had a vendetta against Asian pop stars. My mother always used to read the entertainment sections in Chinese newspapers and while she read them I would prance around her, pointing at grainy pictures printed in the paper, saying that these Asian people had weird hair and their fashion sense belonged to aliens. Nowadays, I’m just like, “Hey look, Jaejoong is in the news.”

[piano] the one thing that seriously irked me about Lady Gaga’s “Marry The Night” music video

Initially, I was very impressed by Lady Gaga’s opening monologue and her acting in Marry The Night. Crikey. Get that lady into some sort of movie. I was extremely into it until I heard the beginning of the first movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata, Pathetique, at 4.02s.

Then I just groaned out loud and was furiously cursing.

I absolutely hate it when pop and classical music mix. Okay, strike that, when pop and cheesy classical music mix. Pathetique is probably one of the most overplayed Beethoven piano sonata except for Moonlight (Alicia Keys, I’m looking at you!).

Then I got really peeved at 5.43s where they show someone hunched over the piano, apparently playing the long chromatic scale into the allegro part of the first movement. The chromatic scale is one long movement down the keyboard, but the person who is ‘playing’ goes down the keyboard once and then goes back up an octave or two, and proceeds to glissando. Stop right there. That’s the first mistake.

The second mistake– if you listen to the track itself carefully, it is not a glissando of white keys as is shown in the music video, it is a chromatic scale, i.e. the pianist is playing the white and black keys in order going down. If you have no idea what I just said, plunk down next to a piano and just glissando on all the white keys (here is a video that shows you how), and then play a chromatic scale (here is a video that shows you how). Or just whip out your tablet / smartphone and play it on one of those free piano apps. Then listen carefully to the video. Of course, some people cannot tell the difference, but that just testifies to how good the pianist is; his or her fingers move seamlessly like water, so it just feels like one effortless glide where it really is a mechanical hammering using the first, second, and third fingers on the right hand.

Whatever. So, I was waiting for Lady Gaga to name the pianist who played it (end credits?). I think it is implied that Lady Gaga played it herself; she is a pretty good pianist, after all. However, ‘pretty good’ does not stretch you far when comparing to Argerich, Brendel, Cliburn. All over YouTube, on Pathetique videos from all different professional pianists, the top comments are some variation of “thumbs up if you knew about Pathetique before Lady Gaga ruined it.” I am a little hesitant to say I am of the same line. I absolutely despise when people cut around and mash around specifically written instructions in classical music to fit what they want. When you play Beethoven’s sonata, you are representing Beethoven first and foremost, not yourself. Yet, we come to a crossroads here, Lady Gaga is using the music to promote her own music, but I still cannot shake the idea that she owes some responsibility to Beethoven.

The last time something comparable happened, I was watching Nodame Cantabile, The Movie, Part II, and Nodame was playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto and Ravel’s Piano Concerto, and as soon as she played the opening chords, I knew immediately they were Li Yundi‘s playing. It took me half an hour Googling to confirm, but alas nowhere was tacked Li Yundi’s name or even an acknowledgement of his playing. I was beyond irritated and even irrationally commented to my friend with whom I was watching the movie, that they should just push aside Nodame and put Li Yundi up there in the movie because it is his recording.

I get so frustrated that people can consume so much sketchy pop music and then turn their backs on classical music. Stop most 16-year-olds on the street and I bet they will not be able to name 10 people involved in classical music beyond Yo-Yo Ma, and even then, they probably cannot say why exactly Mr. Ma is such a great cellist, or even confirm they have listened to one of his recordings. I have no doubt that everyone in the Western world has heard at least Mr. Ma’s overplayed recordings of Bach.

Classical music is boring! It is all lullabies! It is all cerebral-sounding like Bach!

Have you ever heard a Shostakovich trio (precursor of heavy metal), the New World Symphony’s final movement? Have you ever heard Beethoven at his grumpiest?

Well, I guess I could say Pathetique’s first movement is rather grumpy. So, I while I do bemoan Lady Gaga’s artistic license with the sonata (she toned down the grump major time), I am rather delighted she is introducing others to Beethoven for the first time. However, when they listen to Pathetique, they will hopefully turn the right direction, and ignore Glenn Gould’s interpretation.

I mean it. Do not listen to Gould’s interpretation at first (why this is, I can save for another post). Here are some good ones:

Happy listening! (I especially love Ashkenazy and Kempff.)

[review] Britney’s “Femme Fatale.” Trite, but so, so good. Paradoxically her best album ever.

Let’s have it out. I like Britney’s music. From Hit Me Baby One More Time to her really, really risqué single Three. However, with Femme Fatale, I have fallen in love. Joining Green Day’s American Idiot and Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, Femme Fatale is one of the albums that I would recommend everyone to listen to in full. It’s that ridiculous. So ridiculously good. So ridiculously good that despite two midterms, I am pumping out this love letter blog post.

I will discuss each song (in order) on the album, and then offer an overall analysis of the whole album based on my observations. Please keep in mind that I am not a music critic, and I do have a special predilection for electronica.

Till the World Ends: the best thing about this song is the strong, uptempo, and danceable beat—which makes this a perfect dance anthem. However, it really can’t be an singable anthem because there’s not much of a hook (unless “ooo-ooo-oooooo-ooo” counts). Interestingly, this song was co-written by Ke$ha; I am so glad this didn’t make it into a Ke$ha album, because Ke$ha’s raw and bitchy vocals would have ruined the slick coyness that this song requires.  A note on the generic dance  music video: Britney is in fantastic shape.

Hold It Against Me: though this was the lead single, I did not really like it at first. The low, repeated notes that Britney somewhat monotonously sings in the beginning of the verses, with the backing of a heavy, grime-inspired bass gave a lot of gravity to the song. After the bridge, the bass picks up a lot in pitch and frequency, and it starts feeling more like a crazy dance song—this building resolution reminded me of the resolution of Darude’s Sandstorm. The lyrics are composed of clichéd pick-up lines like “they’re playing my favorite song” and “please forgive me if I’m coming on too strong.” In fact, “Hold It Against Me” is also another cliche. Though some may dismiss this song as “bad writing” and “pop music going down the drain”, the whole song screams of loneliness in the spotlight: “if we could escape the crowd somehow,” “I need a vacation tonight.” Cliche is a guise to deflect the scrutiny of the spotlight. So depending on how you choose to read the lyrics, it’s not that vapid.

The music video was stupefying. This doesn’t mean it was good (too much product placement), but it definitely was thought provoking. Between the old music videos of Britney playing in the background, the white wedding dress,  Britney doppelgangers fighting each other, Britney shooting paint out of her fingers via IVs, and the question mark appearing in the end, this music video has a lot to say, a lot to symbolize and to insinuate. But what exactly is it saying? Even after thinking about it, I still have no idea, which hearkens to the question mark we see at the end of the video. Who is Britney? What images do we have of her, after all these years? Do we really know who this person is? What is this concept of fame? The questions roll on, and the video brings them up, but ultimately leaves the answering to the audience. So I leave you to ponder the themes of Hold It Against Me yourself. An amazing amount of artistry and detail went into this music video, so it’s worth watching at least once.

Inside Out: this is a mid-tempo electronic ballad. Musically, this song is probably the least distinctive in the whole album; you could replace the electronica with more R&B sounds and have it sound mostly the same. Spears doesn’t do much R&B, because she does not have the full voice for it, which results in the song falling flat with her nasally tone. The lyrics are somewhat inspired this time around; the beginning goes, “Sitting in the mirror getting pretty, gotta look my best if we’re gonna break up.” This sucks you in—you’re curious to know what the whole story behind that line.

I Wanna Go: faintly dirty lyrics, but this song definitely has an addicting hook. “I-I-I-I-wanna go all the way / taking out my freak tonight.” Song of comparison? Till The World Ends. In fact, a lot of critics called this the best song on her album—it has the hook and the uptempo club beat. Yet, a lot of critics have described her vocals as autotuned until anyone could sing it. To those critics, I have two points (1) the electronica style that Britney is channeling right now commonly features heavy autotune (2) autotuned (mostly) means the same pitch. Not the same delivery. Have you heard Bonnie McKee’s demo for Hold It Against Me? Though Bonnie and Britney were both autotuned like heck, there is no question which version is better: Britney’s.

How I Roll: Britney’s clapping song, which actually sounds quite happy and cute. Yet, when Britney slyly sings, “Because I got nine lives like a kitty cat”, she pauses for a slight second in front of “kitty cat”, and you sort of anticipate her singing “pussy cat” instead. Of course, the dirtiness is confirmed when she sings blithely, “You can be my f— tonight.” Classy. I had to listen to this song several times to make sure it was the f-bomb because the song sounds so cute.

(Drop Dead) Beautiful: this has arguably got some of the worst lyrics in the whole album. Britney sings, “your body looks so sick, I think I caught the flu.” I didn’t notice these cheesy lyrics at first because Britney can pretty much make everything sound sexy using her breathy voice—showing that again, Britney rocks delivery. The other horrible set of lyrics occurs when Sabi, the guest female rapper, raps, “But, I ain’t sweatin’ you / Steam me like a pot full of vegetables.” What?!

The chorus is mostly Britney repeating: “Beautiful. Drop Dead. Beautiful. Drop Dead.” This repetition, coupled with a synthesizer, makes for a good thumping in the club, though I’m skeptical about it being a singable hook.

Seal It With a Kiss: Again, cliche in the song title. The bass grates in your ear with its exaggerated vibrations, balanced by Britney’s rather ethereal, floating in this song. It’s a good song, but to me, there is nothing particularly unique or novel. If this song got rid of the grating bass, it could have probably been packaged in Circus, which has a more sugared pop flavor.

Big Fat Bass (feat. will.i.am): according to many music critics, very dirrrrrrty (read: whole song is one huge phallic reference). Considering the previous songs, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Odd samplings of keyboard in here gives a good spin to an otherwise bland europop; will.i.am’s rap is sort of stale, and whooshes by without much ado. Britney also raps in this song, albeit monotonously. Depending on your experience with techno, monotonous speaking is pretty commonso I am not sure what exactly the reception to this song would be if it was released as single. This is the longest song on the album at 4min45secs, and it certainly feels that long—too long, in fact, because Britney repeats the hooks into oblivion.

Trouble For Me: the opening may deter some people who are not used to straight up synthesizer, but then Britney comes to the rescue, crooning “Blackjack whiskey straight every day changes your life”, a marked contrast: mechanized sound v. human. Britney and the synthesizer come together on the chorus, which is very clever, because the whole song is about two people who are a ‘disaster’ together, though they may avoid each other, they eventually come together, or so it is implied. Possibly one of the best choruses in the album, even I start to unconsciously sing along sometimes.

Trip To Your Heart: song of comparison is Seal It With a Kiss. This song is sugary, with bell-sounds in the chorus, and even the synthesized sounds sound fuzzy (think Cascada’s Evacuate the Dancefloor) and bright, accompanied by Britney’s insubstantially rounded, wafting voice.

Gasoline: This song and Criminal are my two favorite songs in the whole album. The song opens with a sound reminiscent of guitar plucking, and then the verses are underwritten this same plucked guitar theme; I wouldn’t be surprised if Pink had sung this. You just have to listen to it. There’s something about Britney’s voice layered with the plucked guitar that makes me melt. Think September’s La La La (Never Give It Up). The lyrics are a bit corny: “My heart only runs on supreme. So hot, give me your gasoline.” What?! Is this dirty euphemism as well?!

Criminal: Britney’s voice shines on this midtempo ballad, possibly the least autotuned out of all the tracks. The melancholy flute sampling in the beginning, which plays the main theme, is unforgettable, because it’s so bold and out there. How do I know? Because I can actually sing the chorus from memory. I usually have two problems remembering music (1) what are the actual words?! did Britney say the f-word or ‘luck’? (2) what is the melody again?! So for me to be able to remember “Mama I’m in love with a criminal, and this type of love isn’t rational, it’s physical…” is pretty big.


Trends in Femme Fatale?

  1. Heavy electronica, club-dance influenced songs: the inspiration behind Femme Fatale is club techno and dance music, such as trance and dubstep. The album has heavy basses, often repeated lines, and floating vocals–while still pop, because of the concentration on lower register electronica, this album loses most of the sugar. What results is a dark, mature and edgy sound, reminiscent of her 2007 album Blackout.
  2. Clichéd lyrics: this triteness speaks to a general disunity of the album (titled with a cliche!). Britney was the least engaged with the making of this album. It may be hard to believe, but Britney has co-written and produced some of her biggest songs.
  3. All songs are good overall: of course, some are more addictive given Britney’s style, but lesser artists could have released every single track off this album as their debut single, and depending on how they handled the vocals and instrumentations, they could have all been Hot 100 hits. Easy. For Britney to have this caliber of music in her album, is staggering.

Some people may say that the more-than-generous autotune, the cliches abound in the half-thought-out lyrics, and the overall disunity of theme, make Femme Fatale a less superior album than other comparable albums, namely Blackout. Yet, the quality of music, as I pointed out before, is staggering in this album. Also, the disunity of the album brings me back to the Hold It Against Me music video and the questions it raises on how we know Britney. Is she just a pop sensation produced by smart producers? Or is she an ‘artist’? Do I dare to break out the other a word? Is Spears an avant-garde?

She is.

To me, avant-garde means to push the boundaries. Though electronica has been around for quite a while, Britney is the one that has pushed it far into the mainstream. That’s why so many critics have called this album ‘a breath of fresh air’. The pop circuit has been circulating with things that continue the trend: Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and things that call on the past trends: Lady Gaga. Even though they are addicting songs: California Gurls, Your Love Is My Drug, Born This Way, they die away after the initial glow.

Despite the different themes in Femme Fatale, the thing that sticks all these disparate elements is the queen of pop herself. This is Britney’s album. This is not Dr. Luke & co’s album. This is Britney’s. Britney is the binding force, and that’s amazing that this one person can pull together all of this and come out with something so complete and disjunct. Disjunct is exactly the image that Britney is—she’s this complex and odd mixture of the tabloids, pop music, random husbands, someone so enmeshed in celebrity, someone who we think we know, someone still so close and so distant. In Femme Fatale, she doesn’t pander to the audience, she stands over us, exhorting us to dance till the world ends.

Corny, corny, I know. However, the first reaction when I listened to the whole album, was that she carved an album for Ibiza. Amidst all the ecstasy-high people with scary throbbing veins because they take cocaine on the side, drinking vodka shots until oblivion, partying until five in the morning, Britney’s voice would be their support.

I want to go to Ibiza. Steam some vegetables too.

[kpop/musings] am I a kpop fangirl?!

So, last night instead of filling out scholarship applications, I had a mini-crisis of identity, and rambled it all on Twaudio. As I said in the Tweet, do not listen unless you want to die and lose all respect for me.

This crisis consists of a few components:

Let’s assume I hate chocolate. Then, let’s assume SHINee is dark chocolate. Result? Michelle-in-corner stuffing her face with dark chocolate even though she detests all chocolate-ty goodness in her black, coal and cholesterol filled heart. I tell others that there’s a distinction between being a SHINee fangirl and a kpop fangirl. Then most other people laugh at me and say I’m pretentious and point to my huge music library of kpop, my one-time, quasi-infatuation with G-Dragon and superfluous praise of Big Bang and 2NE1. To them, I say, “But I like electronic music! Look at all my europop! I love blond-hair—TOP looks fabulous now)!! Plus, 2NE1 and Big Bang consistently make good music!!!” Everyone still says I’m pretentious, trying to rise above my kpop fangirl status, just saying I like the music, yeah right, because kpop is an entire entertainment package. No way you can just eat the dark chocolate without voraciously consuming the other chocolates in the box (I hate coconut).

To add to my kpop virginity, I can honestly confess I have never seen music videos by these following artists: 2PM, 2AM, 4minute, IU, Brown Eyed Girls, Dalmation, F.T. Island, f(x), SNSD (I used to have “Gee” on my iPod, but have since deleted it), KARA, HyunA, U-Kiss, Secret, missA, Teen Top, and ZE:A. Surprised?

Korean culture ??
I have made it a goal to learn Korean. Reasons: (1) I like learning languages, personal goal to pick up Spanish this summer (2) kpop is becoming a brain drain = Michelle being stupid for a good chunk of time (3) I am increasingly conscious of all the badly translated things I read/watch after I took a course in translation. Note that nowhere in these goals is an actual desire or passion for Korean culture. I never want to live, study, or work in Korea. Heck, I’d rather live in Italy or Japan, but if I probably do live in Asia, it’ll be Hong Kong. Imma Chinese. I like Korean individual stuffs, like Jonghyun. The actual Korean culture, well, let’s just say that real Chinese food pawns Korean food (kimchi ew).

Overall, I’m not invested in the Korean culture itself. I like a boy group, and I like several songs in the genre. Like I like some of Lady Gaga and some of Britney Spears, but that doesn’t mean I like Rihanna. One of the reasons I turned down an intern position at a really, really good kpop news site was the simple fact is I don’t care about the kpop culture enough. I could care less if 2NE1 visited the Pinkberry and liked the lychee froyo. Even if SHINee had visited, I wouldn’t rush down to the only Pinkberry in Boston to buy some (though I did have its lychee froyo yesterday—uninspiring). This kind of news is best left on fan sites and forums.

Real-life Michelle v. Online Michelle
When you meet me in person, I rarely talk about kpop. Mostly, I complain about school. Or my Chromebook. On my private Twitter, I have two followers with whom I work with on blogging for kpop news, and I’m sure they’re both annoyed with my non-kpop Tweets.

A sampling:

23 march 2011 dahhhhhh I woke up at 8:45AM. I had work starting at 8:30AM. TT___TT I am such a dumbass!!!!!!
22 march 2011 “I have ten years of shoujo manga expertise!” .. definitely the greatest expertise to claim
21 march 2011 mom offered to buy me an iPad, then retracted it saying I already had a Chromebook =_____=
21 march 2011 drinking a $40 Bird’s Nest drink.. life is good..
21 march 2011 I don’t understand!! who is the gnome that turned off my “Compact & Clean for Google Reader” extension?!!!!!!! wtf
20 march 2011 just learned that Alan Greenspan went to Juilliard for saxophone. but then dropped out. iono what to feel. impressed or is he a BUM. bum bum

*I excluded a lot of Tweets in which I ranted on plagiarism.. I got plagiarized quite a few times this past week.

I know a lot of my readers stem from kpop, which is great, but then the thing is, when I describe myself to anybody, kpop is probably the last thing I will use. Heck, I’d probably talk at length about the intricate connections between William Faulkner and Samuel Beckett and my hate of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” before I mention kpop.


Then, at the end of my long, analyzing rant, I was unable to come to a conclusion if I was a fangirl or not. Honestly, is it a bad thing to be a fangirl? No. But it definitely changes how I think about myself. Because, look, if Imma be ranting on fangirls about how dumb they are sometimes, and I’m actually one of them… see where the irony lies? Silly thing to keep me up at night, but I dun wanna be a hypocrite for the people that I’m writing this blog for.

BBC seriously needs to do new adaptations of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Never mind ridiculously good ones have already appeared within the last 15 years. I need to return to my banana Asian American ways before I melt in identity crises.

[kpop] SHINee biased analysis of Gayo Daejun

I completely forgot about Gayo Daejun last night. This is a fail, because I was planning to watch it. Instead, I got up at 12:20PM today. Major fail. Nevertheless, Youtube is forgiving.

SHINee appeared in three performances: Key and Onew singing trot, Taemin participating in the maknae performance of Britney Spears’ Circus, and Lucifer with f(x).

I advise you skip over the trot, unless you specifically like that genre. The corny sparkling black outfits of Key and Onew were kitschy, but their good-natured expressions made the whole 1:02 minutes bearable. Sort of.

Taemin as the ringleader in Circus was horrendous. Instead of being sexy, he was awkwardly-cute-trying-to-be-sexy. If you watch the beginning of the original music video, Britney Spears has an undeniable, overt sexuality: we see her curvy silhouette, and in another cut, she is dressed in a skin-tone, skin-tight outfit. Of course, some may argue that Taemin does not have to imitate Britney because they are, after all, different artists. In this case, given the lyrics and the music itself, it is sort of impossible not to channel sensuality. Moreover, they gave Taemin a whip. A whip. So yes. The producers knew that they wanted to channel Sex Taemin. Taemin has proved he can be Sex Taemin in Lucifer (see long hair and guyliner), though androgynously so.  In this performance, he looked like a lamb with his curly hair, and it didn’t help that his costume made him look like a Puritan on the way to Thanksgiving.

Also, I don’t think that Taemin’s voice has achieved the amount of finesse necessary for Circus, it sounded all rather the same inflection: awkward-sexy. Looking closely, Taemin lip-synced most of the performance, so the track we heard was pre-recorded, which makes the result all the more disappointing. Sometimes I think we tend to take Britney’s recorded voice for granted—-she has an amazing range of breathy, raspy, nasal inflections that all culminate in a snappy and addictive song. This performance highlights how much Taemin has to grow as an artist and the questionable choices of the producers: Why the Puritan outfit? Why Circus? Why Britney Spears (that music video would probably be banned in South Korea!)? Why not cover another Lady Gaga like Just Dance in 2009? Or at least a Ke$ha?

Given the improvement Taemin’s shown as a singer in Lucifer and Hello, compared to their Love Like Oxygen days (where Taemin never nailed his high note in live performances), I am confident he will continue to develop in the right direction.

I completely loved the beginning of Lucifer with f(x), all of them chained and yelling. Jonghyun in the cage made me have a symbolism-orgasm; breaking free during his long note was also a neat trick. However, the music reinterpretation was a bit lacking: the remix was just the rock remix they previosly performed with TRAX. In addition, the f(x) cameo felt unnecessary and random: while f(x) was on stage, there was minimal interaction, and after f(x) was done singing, they disappeared. Honestly, I think that f(x) was just put out there, with their experienced sunbaes, to get more exposure and try on a harder and womanlier image.

All in all, Gayo Daejun 2010 was a glorified Music Bank or Inkigayo or Music Core, take your pick. I’m sort of glad that I decided to sleep 12 hours instead. (I lied. I slept for around seven hours, woke up to play Professor Layton and the Unwound Future on the DS and then went back to sleep.)

[kpop] Flash Review of ‘Ayyy Girl’: where is the club scene where Jaejoong+girl dance suggestively?

I’m not a fangirl of DBSK, so I won’t be able to critique thoroughly.  Plus, I’d like to get 8+ hours of sleep tonight.

First reactions:

(1) The introduction where they all run towards the camera and look away, you can’t deny that the cinematography is sexy.  Too bad the cinematography then turns into bad Matrix shots.
(2) Jaejoong is still hot.  Still has nice pecs.
(3) What is with these Romanesque backgrounds?

Number three is the most puzzling to me, because the song and the actual image presented don’t seem to fit together; we see JYJ as high gods of an antiquated period, and then we hear them complaining ‘Ayy Girl you drive me crazy’ or whatever.  That doesn’t sound very ‘high god’ to me, just ‘low man complaining too much and not being sexy enough to drive her crazy.’

Assuming this is the song JYJ wants to use to break into the American market, they did an utter failure with the music video.  All popular artists now have started with generic, ‘safe’ videos, like Far East Movement and Lady Gaga.  They both started with dance tracks: Like a G6, and Just Dance.  This is why I was puzzled not seeing Jaejoong dance seductively against a hot Megan-fox model who’s almost taller than he is.

Generic dance videos also serve as an equal meeting point between the artists and the audience.  Hey, Jaejoong dances and I dance too! We both like partying! We’re similar! I like Jaejoong! Whereas, Hey, Jaejoong is a god, and I’m a pudgy human being.. nope.  That doesn’t connect too well.  After this common ground is established, then you have the license to take the relationship for a spin, by releasing such oddities as California Gurls.

The choreography was also uninspiring and forgettable, which is dumb, because they are the ex-members of DBSK, i.e. the gods who performed Mirotic.  They are extremely good at dance, and I don’t know why they chose to disregard this. If an American consumer were to watch SHINee’s Lucifer or JYJ’s Ayyy Girl, I’m pretty sure that they would choose Lucifer as the better video because it is (a) simple dance video, making it easy for the audience to connect with and identify each of the members as separate identities (b) the shots are much more elegantly handled (c) the handcuff dance is definitely memorable.  All these reasons, and the fact that, Lucifer is a much better track than Ayyy Girl.

I have been following BoA, Se7en, Wonder Girls, now JYJ and 2NE1, obsessively in the American market.  I can’t lie, it’s been disappointing so far.  They’re amazing in Korea, but then once they transplant, something happens, and they really are suckage.  I’m so sorry, but when I watch things like this, I’m so embarrassed. Asians are not wannabes!

(PS. Apart from Jaejoong, I have no idea who else is in JYJ.  Let me guess. Junsu. Yoochun.. is that right?)