Epik High Set to Take Over North America

Atlanta. Dallas. Chicago. Seattle. San Francisco. Los Angeles. New York City. Toronto. Vancouver.

Fans and sponsors in each of these cities are gearing up for the biggest concert tour by a Korean artist in five years. Beginning next week, venues across North America will host hip-hop trio Epik High on their first tour on this side of the Pacific in six years. Demand for tickets in some cities have created the need for additional performances, and ecstatic fans living in areas that rarely see Korean artists are proving that the hallyu wave continues to sweep the nation.

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2PM, Girls’ Day, CNBlue and more coming to Los Angeles this spring – for free!

On February 13th, the Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles (KAFLA) partnered up with broadcasting company KBS America to announce the KBS ‘Open Music (열린음악회)’ K-Pop Festival being held at LA Memorial Colosseum on April 12. The event was created to commemorate the 111th anniversary of Koreans immigrating to North America. It will include various activities and a three-hour K-Pop concert. The concert will be recorded and aired on KBS America two weeks later on April 27th at 5 PM. Fourteen acts will perform in total, and so far, major K-Pop acts 2PM, Shinee, Sistar, CNBlue, Dynamic Duo, Girls’ Day, Kim Taewoo, Sul Woondo, and Song Soohee have all been confirmed. The festival will open its doors at 5 PM, and the concert is scheduled to begin at 5:30 PM. Details on ticket distribution are still in development – though it’s safe to say that with such a hot roster, the 100,000-seat venue will more than likely fill up quickly. Stay tuned for further announcements! Source: Korea Daily

[KKONNECT FIELD TRIP] U-KISS: The First US Tour @ Club Nokia, Los Angeles (01/14/14)

Over the span of five years, K-Pop group U-KISS has become one of the top acts to come out of the Hallyu scene. Despite various changes in line-up, the boys have enjoyed success both within and outside of Korea, with sub-units, solo efforts, and songs recorded in Korean, Japanese, and English. Members have appeared in various Korean movies and dramas, and more recently, even sported silly suits in their cameo for popular balladeer Lim Chang-jung’s comedic “Open The Door” music video. Needless to say, when K-Konnect found out U-Kiss was coming to Los Angeles on the final night of their first US tour, we weren’t exactly “Standing Still”. (Sorry, that was hard to resist.)

The evening began with a solid stream of popular U-KISS songs – ranging from the R&B-inspired “Stop Girl” to latest single “She’s Mine”. The high energy of attending ‘KissMe’ fans was clearly reflected in the group’s opening performance, the six members quickly moving through some of their most popular choreography as the audience clapped and – not-so-surprisingly – screamed along. Just by looking around the venue, it was evident there were quite a number of diehard fans in attendance, having seemingly waited for the group’s US arrival for some time. Several of which brought along large posters written out in Hangul in support of their favorite U-KISS member. Some fans sitting on the second level even hung streamers over the balcony far before the show started, adding to the welcoming spirit of the crowd.

After a brief introduction by all, Eli and AJ took the stage as sub-unit uBEAT, accompanied by group vocalist Kevin. Their single “Should Have Treated You Better” was the title track on a sub-unit mini album released last year and showcased the lyrical strength of the two rappers. Following uBeat was an impressive duet by two of the group’s main vocalists, Soohyun and Hoon. The live singing was both powerful and controlled as they moved through the song “More Painful Than Pain”, making the news revealed later in the show of an eventual ballad sub-unit worth the anticipation. Wrapping up the segment was “Obsession”, an electro-dance track performed by AJ and Kiseop. Bringing the audience back up to their feet after the previous song, the two even made their way through the crowd to dance along with audience members standing closer to the stage.

Prior to the event, those who purchased select seats to the concert were given the opportunity to submit a question for U-KISS to read and answer on stage during the show. These questions, written out on Post-It notes, were rolled out on a large chalkboard to allow members a chance to review them all before deciding which one they would choose. Some Post-Its – namely “Eli, can you twerk for us?” and “Please give us your abs.” – were quickly disregarded, while others were happily responded to. Within the segment, fans were given a preview of AJ’s latest rap (tentatively titled “She’s Mine”), a brief dance performance of “DoraDora” from Kiseop, and Eli’s exaggerated impression of Kiseop’s choreography made popular during their Japanese tour. Lucky fans were even serenaded by their favorite members, with Soohyun and Kevin singing a capella versions of their solo songs “Snowman” and “My Reason”, respectively.

UKISSStage

Following the Q&A session, U-KISS then went into a performance of their Japanese singles, “Tick Tack” and “Forbidden Love”, before announcing another fan contest planned prior to the show. Fans were invited to submit essays to the group’s label about why they should be chosen as a ‘KissMe’ Super Fan. The winner, one for each stop of the tour, would be able to meet U-KISS on stage and be serenaded by them directly. Excerpts from the Los Angeles winner’s entry were read allowed before she was brought on stage. A self-declared ‘KissMe Mom’, Chauntelle was a 40-year-old writer and motivational speaker who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008. While in convalescence several years later, during what was described as the lowest point of her life, she discovered U-KISS. Instantly becoming a fan of their music and varied personalities, she was given the motivation to continue toward recovery. Only needing slight assistance from her walker, Chauntelle spoke a few words to the group before they serenaded her with the love song “Mysterious Lady” from their most recent release ‘Moments’.

Later in the show, U-KISS took a moment to thank their American fans for supporting them. As two members were raised in the States (Eli in Washington D.C. and Kevin in Danville, Calif.) and another currently enrolled at Columbia University, having the opportunity to hold a successful tour in the United States was an incredible opportunity for them. As each member individually expressed their gratitude, a giant pull-apart cake purchased by local fans was rolled out for Kiseop as an early birthday present. The surprise was well-received, and while U-KISS led the audience in singing Happy Birthday, Kiseop took a big bite of cake for his fans.

UKISSBirthday

The group returned for a charismatic encore of singles “Without You” and “Man Man Ha Ni”, somehow maintaining that same high energy they began with two hours prior. As the crowd danced as wildly, it was evident that both U-KISS and their ‘KissMe’ fans got exactly what they wanted out of the group’s first solo stop to the United States.

“We can’t wait to come back and do this all over again,” Kevin shouted to the screaming crowd as the group took their final bow. “We’ll make you the proudest fan club in the world.” And as fans raved about the show as the crowd filed out, picking pieces of encore confetti off their clothes, it was apparent U-KISS was well on their way to keeping that promise.

[Jan/2014] Millie’s Top K-Pop Music Videos

Millie’s Top Ten January K-Pop Music Videos 

[2014]

2014 seemed to start off with a sexy wave as girl groups everywhere could be seen in tiny shorts, stockings and high heels. The males also strutted their feathers with confident songs about their looks. Both genders came to tease their fans this cold January, but despite the flash of skin, many of the songs that shined were the ones that focused on the vocals. And if they could combine a sexy song with powerful vocals, all the better. The ladies might have  won over this month, but 2014 has just begun.

Note: This chart is just my personal favorites and does not reflect any music video views or digital/album sales. 

10. Rainbow Blaxx – Cha Cha

Rainbow Blaxx - Cha Cha

I have never seen a K-pop music video with so many sexually suggestive food props – and macaroons at that! Vibrant colors, royal furniture, jewels, and desserts of all sorts make up Rainbow’s first sub-unit music video. Rainbow BLAXX is the four member sub-unit, that was one of the many groups to come back this year with the sexy theme (unusually for Rainbow since they usually do the cute concepts). “I wanna feel you, I wanna love you…” The girls act seducing in this video to match the lyrics, daring them to come closer before they get too impatient. I found the song really catchy and I liked it a lot, I just wish the side story in the music video wasn’t so weird…what is it with the random jewels popping out of their mouths, and the creepy ghost lady measuring them?

9. Got7 – Girls Girls Girls

Got7 - Girls Girls Girls

JYP debuted a new seven member boy group, Got7. After seeing their debut music video “Girls, Girls, Girls” I got a mixed vibe of old school 2pm and JJ Project (very appropriate since both groups are from JYP Entertainment). The song sounded a lot like JJ Project’s single “Bounce”, which made sense since the duo JB and JR became members of this boy group, and the back-flips and other b-boy moves reminded me of 2pm’s debut song “10 out of 10”. When it came to the song, I preferred the verses and rap portions over the chorus which seemed boring for me and the lyrics where kind of a put off. But the music video did a good job in showing of the boys’ talent, especially with the split screen style that could show both the close up of the boy’s face and the rest of the group performing the choreography. “Girls, Girls, Girls” was alright for me – but it did make me extremely curious to see what this boy group has in store for the future.

 8. B1A4 – Lonely

B1A4 - Lonely

B1A4 made their comeback with “Lonely”,  a sad song about the after effects of a break-up. The music video was not that original, in fact  the lonely theme after a break-up has been done quite often, but what made the video different was B1A4’s little twist – the ex-girlfriend behaved like a balloon attached to the protagonist’s wrist (Jin-young, the leader, who starred in this music video). The magical element added B1A4’s style to it. Quite opposite from their last comeback that had the boys jumping up and down singing, “Lonely” was calm, yet beautiful, fully showing off the boys’ singing abilities. A perfect, sorrowful song for the ending of the winter season.

7. Spica – You Don’t Love Me

Spica - You Don't Love Me

Spica displayed their powerful vocals once again with “You Don’t Love Me”. The girls also came back with a sexy concept of their own; very retro with an over-the-top sexy act that left it more comedic than anything. From singing into toilet paper rolls, to throwing around cereal and streamers, to the exaggerated butt pads, Spica definitely stood out from the sexy singles this month. I always like Spica songs, but this one is not one of my favorites. If I didn’t hear the phrase “You Don’t Love Me” every other line, maybe I would have liked the song more. But none the less, I liked Spica’s creative music video – they always manage to make them sexy but have other interesting elements that balance them out.

6. TVXQ – Something

TVXQ - Something

TVXQ also went back in the past with the jazzy title track “Something”, a confident dance song about how hard it is when all the girls want you (how very modest of you boys). The dance is awesome in this video; with the dancers holding up string props to resemble bass strings that the boys strum too (Major props to all the back-up dancers who not only preformed but made seamless transitions through all the props). The song is upbeat and heavy on the vocals. The music video plays around with mirage special effects and upside down scene changes. It was quite a change from their last two hit songs that contained heavy audio effects and present day music styles, so this single was a nice, fresh new sound from the boys.

5. Sunny Hill – Don’t Say Anything

Sunny Hill - Don't Say Anything

“Don’t Say Anything” narrates the moment someone goes through a break-up; the sudden realization, the heartbreak and the tears that follow. This song is sorrowful, but has beautiful poetic lyrics and is very raw and easy to relate to. Filmed with white backgrounds and hazy focusing, and has the soft piano playing throughout the song, Sunny Hill’s “Don’t Say Anything” is a solid song.

4. Kiss&Cry – Domino Game

Kiss&Cry - Domino Game

Rookie girl group Kiss&Cry debuted with “Domino Game”, and wow did they make a debut! Defiantly one that is easily missed because of all the big named comebacks, but these girls made a great first impression. They weren’t  just sexy, but confident, and have vocals that amazed me during live performances. These girls don’t act like rookies, which makes me excited to see how they will grow in the future. The lyrics tell the story of a girl who wants to stop playing this “game” with the boy she loves, as it seems he doesn’t match the same loving sentiments towards her.

3. Girl’s Day – Something

Girl's Day - Something

Girl’s Day started off 2014 strong with their New Year Day release of “Something”. Following the sexy singles from the last year that gained them so much popularity with “Expectations” and “Female President”, the four girls appeared with “Something”, a sexy but sad song about a girl’s suspicions of her boyfriend’s other ‘something’ on the sideline. Vocally this was one of the Girl’s Day strongest song, but what gathered attention was their many new iconic dances; the “feather dance” where they tie feathers to their pinkies and sensually run them down their leg, the “cat dance” which mimics a cat’s movement on the floor, the teasing way they open up their skirts to give a peek of their legs and of course, the bouncing in the chorus.

2. Ailee – Singing Got Better

Ailee - Singing Got Better

I don’t think it’s possible for Ailee’s singing to get better since it’s already fantastic. “Singing Got Better” is her latest song’ a powerful vocal piece that tells how a break-up improved her singing. She understood the lyrics and emotions behind a song from her own pain of a broken heart and transformed that into her strength. I love the originality of the song, and the simplicity behind it. Lee Joon from MBLAQ starred in this music video as her cheating boyfriend. Seems like another amazing song from Ailee!

1. Ga In – Fxxk U

Ga In - Fxxk U

When I say Ga In like to push the boundaries, I never thought she would take it this far – and I’m glad she did! Ga In as a solo artist likes to center her music videos and songs on taboo topics in South Korea. Her last single “Bloom” was completely about sex and female sexuality. This time around she hit on a darker note; “Fxxk U” is an emotional song about a girl in an abusive relationship, revealing that even sexual abuse can occur in relationships, and traumatic repercussions of rape. “Fxxk U” features Bumkey who sings his lines from the point of view of her abuser trying to convince her that it’s okay and to return to him once again. This song will probably be banned from music stations, not only because of the topic but simply because of the “overuse” of the word fuck. However, I hope that doesn’t stop Ga In from making more music videos like this one.

[BIBIMBEATS] 2013 Round-Up: Looking back at the stories that defined the year in K-Pop

Wonder Girls Become Wonder Women

Wonder Girls' Sun posing with JYP labelmate JOO on her wedding day
Wonder Girls’ Sun posing with JYP labelmate JOO on her wedding day

This year, the Wonder Girls proved you don’t need to have a comeback to remain in headlines. These JYP darlings have enjoyed one busy year, both personally and professionally, beginning with leader Sunye’s storybook wedding. After meeting husband James Park in Haiti during a 2011 missionary trip, the two finally tied the knot in January. A long list of celebrities – including the rest of the Wonder Girls – attended, and 2AM’s Jo Kwon officiated the ceremony. In March, rapper Yubin made her series debut as genius hacker Lee Joo-young on medical thriller “The Virus”, while Yenny soon followed with a role in historical drama “Basketball”. Over two years after leaving the group, former member Sunmi finally made her solo debut over the summer. Her single “24 Hours” enjoyed #1 status on a majority of music sales charts. Later, on October 26, Sunye publicly announced the birth of her very own ‘wonder girl’ Hailey. While both the Wonder Girls and JYP Entertainment insist the group is still very much ‘on’, the only thing we know for sure is that newborn Hailey is about to be spoiled by some seriously cool Wonder Aunts.

The ‘Bar Bar Bar’ Heard Around The World

A popular YouTube video of policemen in Busan performing "Bar Bar Bar"
A popular YouTube video of policemen in Busan performing “Bar Bar Bar” and other Crayon Pop hits

By the end of 2013, if you haven’t heard about the criminally cute quintet Crayon Pop, you have successfully been hiding under a rock. With the unconventional outfits and addictively fun choreography of hit single “Bar Bar Bar”, the girls made waves as Korea’s latest viral sensation. To date, “Bar Bar Bar” has enjoyed over 9.3 million views and inspired 1.7 million covers on YouTube from fans all over the world, including Italy, Thailand, Australia, and the United States. Parodied by anyone from remote controlled robots to policemen in Gyeongbuk, the song even got “Thor 2” star Tom Hiddleston bouncing during his SNL Korea appearance. Social media popularity had “Bar Bar Bar” hitting #1 on major music charts several weeks after the song’s initial release, their win on Music Bank coming well over two months into promotions. What will be the big hit of 2014? It might be too soon to make predictions, but if Psy and Crayon Pop are any indication, it’s going to involve a whole lot of jumping.

Where’s The (Rap) Beef?

Supreme Team's Simon D (left) and E-Sens (right)
Supreme Team’s Simon D (left) and E-Sens (right)

In July, Korean hip-hop fans were shocked when it was announced that rap duo Supreme Team was disbanding shortly after the release of their EP ‘Thanx 4 The Wait’. According to official press, hip-hop label Amoeba Culture ended their contract with Supreme Team’s E-Sens due to creative differences. Well wishes were exchanged, both E-Sens and fellow rapper Simon D provided encouraging words for fans, and everything went back to normal – or so we thought. One month later, E-Sens self-released the song “You Can’t Control Me”, attacking Amoeba Culture founder Gaeko, one-half of Dynamic Duo. The song, a twist to New York rapper Kendrick Lamar’s controversial verse on Big Sean’s “Control”, accused Gaeko of industry corruption and extorting E-Sens, someone who had been a younger brother figure to him. A day later, Brand New Music’s Swings brought in “King Swings, Part 2”, a new diss track criticizing Simon D for loyalty to Dynamic Duo and Amoeba Culture over E-Sens. Soon Gaeko and Simon D both recorded their own responses, the former (“I Can Control You”) attacking E-Sens for his ungrateful behavior and drug history. The latter (“Control”) seemed apologetic in content, both rebuking Swings’ attack and expressing conflict over the duo’s disbandment. The series of disses sent the rap world buzzing, enticing more songs to be released from every corner of the genre. In fact, while the battle seemingly ‘ended’ not too soon after, it still remains in constant mention within the Korean hip-hop scene.

Solos, subgroups, and more solos!

 A scene from CL's solo debut "Baddest Female"
A scene from CL’s solo debut “Baddest Female”

2013 was definitely another year for amazing breakout solo and subgroup efforts from members of well-established K-Pop groups. The beginning of the year saw the return of SISTAR19 with the seductive “Gone Not Around Any Longer (있다 없으니까)” and the debut of INFINITE’s hip-hop subgroup, INFINITE-H. 2NE1 fans were treated to CL’s hard-hitting “Baddest Female”, and SM Entertainment made a big reveal when they reintroduced a member of SuperJunior-M as their newest solo artist Henry. As far as solo activities go, however, BIGBANG takes a pretty serious lead with all five members having promoted their own tracks by the end of 2013. Lastly, the year wrapped up with the long-awaited solo debut of SISTAR’s power vocalist Hyorin with the seductive “One Way Love” and lyrical ballad “Lonely”.

2012 and ‘Gangnam Style’ fever was a hard act to follow, but overall, 2013 carried its weight by far. As the year wraps up, more news about what to expect in the beginning of 2014 is emerging. Good news for some – a new boy group for JYP and a new girl group for YG – and bad news for others, as breaking news continues on Cube’s contract with KARA’s Nicole and JYJ’s eventual enlistment. Needless to say, there is a whole lot more music news to come, and BIBIMBEATS will be here to report it. See you next year!

U-Kiss embarks on their first U.S Tour

U-Kiss to make their last stop on their U.S Tour in L.A! 

U-Kiss will be staring off the New Year on their first ever U.S Tour and will finally get to see their American fans up close and personal. The boys will be hitting New York at the Best Buy Theater (January 9/Thursday), San Francisco at the Warfield Theater (January 11/Saturday) and Los Angeles at Club Nokia L.A Live (January 14/Tuesday). Ticket prices to range from $50-$180.

U-kiss Tour (1)

Tickets for the L.A concert go on sale this Friday! December 6th 4:00 p.m ET/PT

U-Kiss will become the special episode for the Mnet America’s music-themed T.V series Headliners, incorporating special concert footage, candid moments and live events for the international fans. Artists like Psy, Big Bang and Aziatix have already starred in the first three episodes respectively with their own interviews and performance shows.

U-Kiss is an international Korean Boy Band consisting of multi-lingual members, Kevin, Eli, Hoon, Soo-hyun, Ki-seop and AJ. U-Kiss debuted back in 2008 with NH Media and has since brought out memorable tracks like “0330”, “Neverland”, “Standing Still”, “Stop Girl”, and most recently “She’s Mine” which came out October 31, 2013.

Follow Mnet America on Facebook (www.facebook.com/mnetusa), Tumblr (mnetamerica.tumblr.com), Twitter and Instagram (@mnetamerica), for all the latest news on the tour.  Tickets will be available through www.powerhouselive.net,www.AXS.com and www.ticketmaster.com as well as at each tour venue’s box office.

 

[BIBIMBEATS] Track-By-Track: Block B, ‘Very Good’ – A Comeback We’re Thankful For

Block B started off the year with much uncertainty. Contract disputes resulted in a lengthy legal battle with their former agency, Stardom Entertainment, which put a halt on the group’s activities and a large question mark over their future. Despite only debuting two years ago, their impact has become increasingly tremendous. Their hard-hitting hip-hop style has since reflected greatly in later and similar acts like B.A.P and Bangtan Boys, both of which have cited Block B as major influences and mentors. Now resettling into self-made label Seven Seasons, Block B is finally making their return with a new mini album. ‘Very Good’ offers a brief but varied reassurance to fans that the boys aren’t leaving anytime soon. (In fact, if ‘Very Good’ is any indicator, they’re about to get even better.)

“VERY GOOD”: With the electro-infused and frantic “Very Good” as opening track, Block B makes a confident comeback. The energy makes the single sound almost as if they picked right up where the pirate-punks of “Nilili Mambo” left off. Block B leader Zico’s line of ‘How many fake MCs out there?’ directly challenges the current state of the K-Pop scene, the kitsch of ‘aegyo rapping’ keeping the merits of many in question. The music video concept continues to project this rebellious idea, the ‘bank heist’ setting of the song reminiscent of a strange mixing of Lil Wayne’s “Got Money” and scenes from “The Dark Knight”.

“BE THE LIGHT”: “Be The Light” offers a completely different perspective, contrasting its opener with a striking ballad. Lyrically, the song is from the perspective of a lonely boy wishing to be acknowledged and adored by the girl of his interest again, hoping that being in her ‘light’ will rid her from the ‘darkness’ he has been living in. Still, knowing of the struggles Block B went through, one cannot help but consider this something of a metaphor for how the year’s legal dramas stifled the members’ relationship with their fans. While Block B is not necessarily known for being a ballad group, it is nice to see how well they were able to pull a ballad song off, and I hope to see similar songs from them in future releases.

“WHEN, WHERE, WHAT, HOW” featuring Jo Hyuna of Urban Zakapa: Kyung’s solo song “When, Where, What, How” oozes in an understated cool. Collaborations in K-Pop so commonly misuse the featured artists – for example, SISTAR’s Hyorin on Dynamic Duo’s latest album, but the appearance of Urban Zakapa’s Jo Hyuna on this track is both flawless and complementing. One of our past issue’s ‘Indie Women to Watch’, Hyuna adds a new layer of ‘coffee shop’ credibility to the nature of the song, only augmented further by light piano and mellow bass. “When, Where, What, How” brings a new facet to Park Kyung’s image and role within Block B. His quick vacillations between rhyme and song prove his label as the group’s ‘lead rapper’ to be a bit of an injustice. Kyung’s got a lot more tricks up his sleeve, and he doesn’t seem to mind showing them off.

“NICE DAY”: The final song “Nice Day” rounds the album out with another rap-heavy track, opening up by encouraging listeners back onto their feet. The song starts off by making an energetic shout-out to ‘party people’ and is paired with some hollering from the group’s rappers. However, the track the song is laid over does not seem to match the song as much as it probably should have. With embellished horns, drums, and piano, the accompaniment seems to better fit a jazz lounge than the hip-hop stage the hook and verses seem to have been written for. While exploring new genres and styles is integral to the further evolution of a group’s sound, it would have been nice to see something of a ‘throwback’ effort closing the album out. Last album ‘Blockbuster’ somewhat mastered the use of primal beats and urban sound, making it difficult to adapt to this newer approach.

blockb3

Overall, Block B seems to be developing a new plan of attack with their sound, offering a pretty wide range of genres and styles over a short four-track span. Known as something of the resident ‘hip-hop group’ of K-Pop, ‘Very Good’ shows that there are still more sides to Block B begging to be discovered. It will be exciting to see resurgence in production from the group. Just recently enjoying their first music show win on last month’s Inkigayo, the absence of their talent has been evidentially and greatly missed from the K-Pop scene. It’s good to have you back, boys. Now go back in the studio, and record us a longer album!

Infinite-ly Entertaining: Infinite Makes a Successful American Debut in Los Angeles

infinte tour

 

The general feel of the production of that of a finely tuned theatrical performance with a live band on stage and live music.

Yes folks, you heard me right, the performance was amazingly live.

 

 

November 8, 2013, Nokia Theater L.A. LIVE

“Infinite 1st World Tour – One Great Step” was the title of a cohesively produced performance that included not only the majority of Infinite’s globally popular songs, but solo performances, two showcase songs by the rap duo, Hoya and Dongwoo, and a video drama tie-in that opened the show and continued with segments throughout the evening.

But there were a few things that really set Infinite’s performance apart from the norm in Kpop performances.

production Incredible Production

In a world where perfection is everything, the KPop gurus seem to feel that audiences want to see the stars perform exactly what they see and hear on CD’s and music videos, so lip-syncing is an industry standard. Even when vocals are live, they are usually done over the original track.

If such “cheats” were used at the Infinite concert they were much less apparent as the vocals were truly live, and the band rocked. Gone were the strings and horn section that usually accompany Infinite tracks. The music, while different, was familiar yet subtly changed and exciting. The fans were not disappointed.

In fact, minor changes to the tracks did not stop the largely American demographic from enthusiastically busting out lyrics to all of their favorite songs along with their idols – a fact that was not lost on Infinite, some of whose members were moved to actual tears as they realized these crazy Americans really liked them and avidly followed their music.

IMG_6209Incredible Dancing

There are few Korean pop bands with choreography as clean as Infinite. Their live performance was no exception, and the boys danced their hearts out, not just as the beginning of the performance, but even at the end of a 3-hour show, they danced as if they were fresh on stage. Not all of their moves are incredibly complex, but the dynamic of the seven young men synchronized perfectly is compelling. They dance with gusto. They dance as if they love dancing. They dance with smiles on their faces.

choreo3Incredible Fan Service

Venue issues aside, it seemed every single act took giving the fans extra attention into account. The boys actively engaged the fans at every opportunity. They were not shy about climbing down into the crowd. Even when fans threw themselves at them, they took it with a smile and politely let security peel them off. During one song, each young man was equipped with a basket filled with little stuffed animals they gleefully tossed to the crowed. Two walked through the crowds personally handing out animals to their fans.

Every opportunity was taken to reach out and touch hands, snap selfies with fan phones, pick up fan gifts. In short, they were everything a fan-girl or fan-boy would want in an idol group at every step.

choreo1Incredible Effort to Speak to Fans

Most of the boys spoke English or tried very hard. Perhaps some of the lines were rehearsed, but no one cared. Hearing English, even if it was stilted or a little broken, was eminently charming and endearing. The effort made to try and speak in the native language was much appreciated by American fans that were visible moved by Infinite’s efforts.

Upon leaving the theatre we were greeted by crowd of patiently waiting parents. One couple, whose teenage son and daughter had yet to emerge, had been looking forward to this night. They are big Infinite fans. (OK, they like Big Bang, too! Shhhh.) Mom and dad had a date night while they waited. How do they feel about their kids listening to Korean music? “It has a great beat. If the music is good, it doesn’t matter. And there are some English words thrown in.” (laughs) “My daughter has taken it as an opportunity to learn some Korean.”

Before they left the stage, Infinite was already talking about coming back. I think they were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic welcome they received. Or perhaps by how American the audience was? Regardless, there is a large crowd that will be waiting for them to 다시 돌아와! (“Come back again!”)

choreo4 production2 choreo2

[BIBIMBEATS] Why We’re Obsessed: What to love about YG survival showdown “WIN: Who Is Next?”

YGWhoIsNext

I’ve never been a fan of Korean talent shows. Sure, watching JY Park’s all-too-enthusiastic reactions on KPop Star is entertaining. And the fact that The Voice Korea got big names like Kangta and Leessang’s Gil in judges’ chairs is impressive. But the reality is you can only listen to stiff covers of 2NE1’s “Lonely” so many times before it loses its luster, and the one-per-episode elimination pattern gets redundant after a while. Despite producing many more star singers than their American counterparts, Korean talent programs have become something of a dime a dozen. But then YG Entertainment CEO Yang Hyun-suk announced the premise of new boyband competition “WIN: Who Is Next?” and things started looking a little more cutthroat.

“WIN” introduces viewers to two groups of boy trainees – Team A, a group of five with the average age of 20, and Team B, six trainees averaging at around 17 years of age. Some trainees are familiar faces recruited from previous talent programs, while others have trained under YG for years, living apart from their families with the motivation that one day they would finally debut. Both teams had no idea about the competition until CEO Yang revealed it to them in the first episode. At the end of the year, one team will be chosen by viewers to debut under the name ‘WIN’. The other team will be disbanded, some returning to training and others losing their contracts entirely. The trainees that had once practiced alongside each other are now teams put against one another. The stakes are high, and knowing that the YG is preparing to pull the plug on some hard-working trainees’ dreams is as torturous to watch as it is addictive.

What initially drew me into the competition was the sheer talent of YG’s rapping trainees. Surely if you’re sharing a label with the likes of GD&TOP and Epik High, being able to rap and rap well is something of a prerequisite. The most buzzworthy rapper is Team B’s 18 year-old leader B.I. Far before being recruited as a trainee, B.I first got a taste of fame collaborating with MC Mong for the 2009 single “Indian Boy”. Now a teenager, his experience and confidence have given him wisdom enough to lead Team B, both producing tracks and choreographing for the group. Team A leader Song Mino is also a rapper worth watching. At 21 years old, he grew up in the underground hip-hop scene with idol rapper Zico. Like Zico, Mino was originally going to debut with Block B before alleged contract issues. Seeing B.I and Mino battle it out as both talented rappers and disciplined leaders is such a huge element of the show, as it seems like the moment you prefer one, the other does something that resets the bar.

The presence of former talent competition contestants also makes the show exciting. Over the summer, Superstar K2 semifinalist Kang Seung-yoon already enjoyed a solo debut through the company. However, on “WIN”, he trades his acoustic guitar in for a studded snapback and performs as a member of Team A, creating quite the juxtaposition. Seung-yoon could start off an episode preparing for a solo stage on M Countdown only to end it completely failing CEO Yang’s expectations for the month’s group assessment. Team B’s Koo Jun Hoe started off as just another contestant on the first season of KPop Star before being picked up by YG after the ending of the show. Having already faced public rejection on a previous program makes being a part of “WIN” an all-too-familiar scenario for him, something CEO Yang reminds him of throughout the program. In fact, having such past experiences is a constant theme for both trainees, a source of both anxiety and motivation during team challenges.

The changing themes keep the program varied and interesting. In addition to learning about the different trainees’ talents and backgrounds, the show begins each episode with a new challenge for both groups to work on. In one, Yang Hyun-suk brings in Taeyang and G-Dragon as coaches to each team, working with the trainees directly and teaching them a routine to present in competition at the end of the episode. In another, the teams meet with trainees from JYP Entertainment, battling it out through vocal, rap, and dance performances in something of a ‘label war’. The challenges in “WIN” take the otherwise well-honed trainees out of their comfort zone, often resulting in both new highs and new lows for the competing teams.

Personally, I love Team A’s mature image as much as I love Team B’s wild image. When watching an episode, I always envision how great it would be if YG just debuted them as one giant part-B.A.P, part-EXO supergroup. The response so far from viewers seems pretty split down the middle, but with good reason. It’s hard to see such promising talents and know that some of them won’t get a chance to debut. The optimist in me won’t rule out a twist ending, but of course, only time will tell. In the meantime, stay strong, fellow “WIN” viewers. As for Teams A and B, we’ll see you at the finish line.

US Fans: MNET offers full episodes of “WIN: Who Is Next?” on their official YouTube Channel complete with English subtitles. Check them out here.

[BIBIMBEATS] Track-By-Track: G-Dragon, ‘Coup D’etat’ – Why GD’s Most Polarizing Album Is His Most Important Yet

Back in March at a press conference for his ‘One Of A Kind’ promotional tour, G-Dragon created media buzz for his controversial response to a question asking how he’s changed over the past four years. Four years ago, upon the release of debut solo album ‘Heartbreaker’, G-Dragon considered himself an idol – someone with ‘cute, adorable and varied looks’ who still had a lot to learn. Fast-forward to 2013 and he’s very much an artist, putting more thought into the creative process in hopes of reinventing K-Pop as a whole. It’s with this in mind that the title for his second full-length effort ‘Coup D’etat’ is fitting. Pairing a wide variety of genres with a cynical undertone, G-Dragon puts the limitations of Hallyu under a punk sense of scrutiny. And with a list of guest collaborators that reads as something of a ‘Who’s Who’ in rising talent, ‘Coup D’etat’ will easily be the album that takes G-Dragon from a Korean idol to a global music star.

“COUP D’ETAT”: ‘Coup D’etat’ opens up with the greatly anticipated title track of the same name, a thickly layered trap-and-bass created in collaboration with Mad Decent producers Diplo (MIA’s “Paper Planes”, GD&TOP’s “Knockout”) and Baauer (“Harlem Shake”). The overall low-tempo creates a stark and declarative contrast to the steady stream of party anthems GD started with “Crayon” and “One Of A Kind”. While it didn’t fare as well on live music charts as other tracks on ‘Coup D’etat, Pt. 1’, it is by far the most important track in that section of the album. It’s a song that takes G-Dragon out of his safety zone as an idol and projects him directly into artistry. Is it a good K-Pop song? No, not really. But GD seems to have never considered it to be one. Classify it as a bold EDM track, and it introduces the audience to something a bit more challenging and outside of the box. It catches attention and allows the listener to take it from there.

“NILIRIA” featuring Missy Elliott: The next track “Niliria” puts GD and hip-hop veteran Missy Elliott together in something of a Hype Williams dream collaboration. Tribal beats paired with futuristic instrumentation were always something of Missy’s trademark, but throw in G-Dragon’s flair for inflection and the track is taken to a whole new level. During GD’s verse, he announces that “Niliria” is not only just a collaboration but ‘an international diplomacy through rap’, leaving his audience only anticipating more global hip-hop stars to step up next. (Earlier this year, both G-Dragon and rapper Ludacris’ camps confirmed a collaboration single was recorded for future release, although it didn’t make it to the final stages of production.)

“R.O.D” featuring Lydia Paek: Lydia Paek is no new name to YG Entertainment superfans. She’s written songs for a number of artists on the label’s current roster and is responsible in part for hits like 2NE1’s “I Love You” and Lee Hi’s “1 2 3 4”. Her YouTube channel showcases a wide array of vocal and dance covers, her adaptability as both a singer and dancer creating much fan hype for her own debut. While production on her own EP is indefinite, “R.O.D” is the first time Lydia steps into the YG focus as a recording artist, laying down the song’s chorus with almost a dancehall feel despite its choppy dubstep influence. The track also shows a huge growth in the style of YG staple producer Teddy, the stripped down, contemporizing bridge bringing ‘R.O.D’ a sense of hip-hop maturity reminiscent of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.

“BLACK” featuring Jennie Kim (KOR.) / featuring Sky Ferreira (ENG.): “Black” stands alone as the album’s only true ballad and showcases the talents of up-and-coming YG trainee Jennie Kim and American indie-pop girl du jour Sky Ferreira in the Korean and English versions, respectively. The two collaborators have two distinctive ways of singing, giving the song almost an entirely different feel depending on which version you’re listening to. Sky’s breathy delivery brings angst to a song that is already somber in nature, while Jennie’s voice provides a layer of vulnerability throughout. While having Sky work with G-Dragon may be toward his image’s advantage, it seems like almost a waste of a collaborator. However, Jennie’s work on “Black” is not only sufficient but brilliant – perhaps enough to even gain her substantial recognition even before her official debut.

“WHO YOU”: “Who You” tells the story of an ex-girlfriend who’s moved on and seems almost thrown in to reassure fans that have been skeptical throughout the album thus far that the ‘old G-Dragon’ is still alive. The poppy synthesizer played throughout matched with the ‘do-do-do’ of the chorus is much more Bruno Mars than it is the ‘MC-eating PacMan’ we found boasting his way through the first few tracks. The aggressive attack of his delivery slows down and softens up, making it sort of a strange fit when paired with the rest of the album, though still a fun and enjoyable track.

“SHAKE THE WORLD”: It’s no wonder that “Shake The World” introduces listeners to the second part of ‘Coup D’etat’. It was chosen as part of the 30-second teaser announcing the new album, as the title song for YG’s new reality show ‘WIN’, and is an all-around strong introduction to the natural progression taking place with G-Dragon as an artist. In fact, one could easily put “Shake The World” next to the first album’s “A Boy” as something of a growth marker. Fidgeting and frantic, the song is far removed from K-Pop, having less in common with PSY and more with Die Antwoord. (Also, pardon my fangirl, but everything past 1:15 should come with smelling salts. It’s hands down the coolest I’ve heard between GD and Choice37.)

“MICHIGO”: Originally released as a promotional single for global messenger app LINE, I wasn’t immediately sold on “MichiGO”. Everything sounded like I had heard it before in “Crayon” – that same ‘hip-hop meets house’ party track now turning into a formula helping both G-Dragon and YG Entertainment make a whole bunch of endorsement money. However, within the context of ‘Coup D’etat’, the song goes from being someone else’s commercial to being a part of GD’s attack. It flows in nicely after “Shake The World” to further solidify that glitchy, futuristic sound that’s evolving. Do I think it’s his most original track? No, but it’s really awesome to bump in my car.

“CROOKED”: Upon first listen, “Crooked” reminded me a lot of BIGBANG’s “Oh My Friend” collaboration with Korean rock outfit No Brain. But both lyrically and musically, the song seems to want to rouse up the same in-your-face rebellion found in “Coup D’etat”. (Is there any wonder why these both became the promoted singles?) I love the ‘Anarchy in the UK’ style of the music video, a continuation on the theme of doing away with the politics of constrained image and sound. The song has shown to be wildly successful both in Korea and internationally – proof that despite all of this artistic overhaul, G-Dragon can still write a hook.

“RUNAWAY”/“I LOVE IT” featuring Zion.T: “Runaway” seems like something of a throw-away track, similar to “What Do You Want?” from the GD&Top album. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. “I Love It” is only slightly better, the way the song builds into full-out cowbell-laden disco track enough to keep the listener from being entirely bored throughout. As a big fan of both Zion.T and German electro-house producer Boys Noize (who also worked with BIGBANG on Alive track “Feeling”), I expected a lot more from “I Love It”, but perhaps knowing what both are capable of when as their best is what so easily let me down.

“YOU DO (OUTRO)”: This song has quickly become my iTunes’ sleeper hit. The very basic hook and stripped down production still remaining very ‘hip-hop’ gives the end of the album a very early 00s Neptunes sound. It’s no wonder that upon releasing the album in full, Neptunes’ own Pharrell Williams is on Twitter begging GD for collaboration.


“No, seriously. Please happen.” – Me and every other N.E.R.D/G-Dragon fan

But if anything, just the fact that ‘Coup D’etat’ has made him a blip on someone like Pharrell Williams’ radar is putting him in a prime location. If ‘Coup D’etat’ is nothing more than a catalyst for breaking out of the ‘aegyo hip-hop’ image K-Pop is known for and being taken more seriously, G-Dragon is well on his way. Will he pull it off? Time only knows. But the buzz he’s created doesn’t seem to be dying down soon.