Why You Should Hear K-Pop at Least Once

Music is often viewed as an escape from the banality of life. Thankfully, there’s a growing genre everyone seems to be curious about: K-POP.

There’s so much interest within this genre, that fandoms for every possible K-POP group exist. One notable example can be seen in the popularity of the group, BTS. However, several people are asking the same question: what exactly makes K-POP popular, especially to American fans?

K-Pop is influenced by a variety genres and styles, such as Western Pop Music, rock, jazz, reggae, electronic dance, hip hop, rap, Latin, and more. K-POP is essentially a wide variety of music sung in the Korean language. This style of South Korea music originated in the 1940’s, athough the first official group to fit this category is the group, Seo Taiji and the Boys. The three member all-male group was active from 1992-1996, during which they experimented with various styles of music from the West (America). Just as Los Angeles is joined to hip-hop, Seoul is joined to K-POP, as most of the recording and music industries have their buildings within the city.

Fans can thank the internet & social media for increasing the popularity of K-POP to spread worldwide, especially with honorable mentions such as PSY with “Gangnam Style” and BTS “DNA”. Although they have become internationally famous through their songs, there are several other groups that I believe are worth knowing, since they have paved the way for PSY & BTS to become a worldwide sensation.

As an avid K-POP fan of 9 years, I wish is to share a few of my favorite artists that I believe would be great for beginners who are developing an interest in K-POP.

One of the first groups that deserves attention is Girls’ Generation (aka SNSD), a 9 member all-female group as determined by their name. With members Taeyeon, Seohyun, Sooyoung, Jessica, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Sunny, Yoona, and Yuri, each girl brought something specific to this group such as vocals, dance, visuals (beauty), and rap. Girls’ Generation began their career in 2007 as part of the second generation artists of K-POP. One of their most famous songs online is, “Gee” and “Run Devil Run.” While the group unfortunately does not retain all its original members, due in part to Jessica’s leave in 2014 and certain members’ contracts ending, there still remains 6 active members in this group who recently created the single, “Lil Touch”. I believe that Girls’ Generation paved the way for girl groups, since their empowering style is an obvious influence found in many following groups.

Another group whose popularity I’d like to acknowledge is Super Junior, due to their influence on the male groups in K-POP. Super Junior originally started as a 13 member male group, but debuted with 12 members. Through their active time as a group, there have been 5 different units created for Super Junior to allow members to do projects in smaller groups within the official 12 members. However, over time this group has decreased to 8 active members: Leeteuk, Heechul, Yesung, Shindong, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Siwon and Ryeowook. A few of their greatest hits include “Sorry Sorry”, “Mr. Simple”, and their most recent release, “One More Time (Otra Vez).” One reason I chose to highlight them is because their music style has begun to shift towards a Latin influence, as they’ve begun collaborating with artists such as Leslie Grace & Reik. With this new collaboration of Hispanic/Latino music and Korean Pop, there is definitely going to be a rise in popularity for this group in the near future.

Additionally, I’d like to shout out Hyuna, a solo artist who has demonstrated her dedication to her singing career despite being embattled in the middle of a controversial issue in Korea. She started her singing career as a trainee for the group Wonder Girls in the late 2000s, but went on to become an official member of the girl group, 4Minute, from 2009-2016. As the main rapper & dancer of the group, she rose to fame with her unique on-stage personality. She had released solo projects on the side such as songs like, “Change” and “Bubble Pop.” Once 4Minute disbanded in 2016, she continued to follow her solo career and releasing songs like “Lip & Hip” & “Babe”. She was also part of the trio Triple H with two members from the group, Pentagon, Hui & E’Dawn.

Unfortunately, just a month ago, her company, Cube Entertainment, decided to release a statement online about removing her due to her secret relationship with Triple H member E’Dawn because of a strict no dating policy. Though they retract their statement by stating it was not officially confirmed, she decided to leave the company with E’Dawn so that they can be free to date without a company destroying their feelings for each other. I have hope that she will continue to succeed without Cube Entertainment holding her back.

Now, of course, as a fan of 9 years, there is one group I hold in higher regard than any other. The girl group 2NE1 will forever remain my favorite for one sole reason: their love towards their fans.

2NE1 formed officially in 2009 and remained active until 2016. This girl group stands out above other 2nd generation artists as they were considered the “girl crush” type of style in their performances. The members include CL the main rapper, Bom Park as main vocals, Dara as the overall visuals of the group, and Minzy the main dancer. One of their most viewed songs on YouTube is “I Am The Best”, which will seem familiar as most commercials have featured this song for electronic products. During their active years, they had their own show called 2NE1 TV, where they allowed fans in to see their bond with each other behind the scenes from their busy lives as artists. 2NE1 also competed for MTV Iggy’s Best New Band in 2011 & won this title where they were able to perform their music for fans worldwide on MTV.

Unfortunately, when the member Bom Park’s name started appearing in the news for a controversial scandal involving medication and being prescribed them in a different country that doesn’t follow South Korea’s laws, the girl group fell into a hiatus for about a year and then appeared in the 2015 MAMA Awards in South Korea for what would be the last appearance as a group. A few months later, the girls officially announced their disbandment, and ended their time together with their heartbreaking song, “Goodbye”.

Since this group had been my favorite for years, it broke my heart…to the point where it almost felt like I was going to quit my interest in K-POP. But being part of this fan-base reminded me that, even though they are no longer together as a group, we should still support them in their solo endeavors. As of right now, CL is trying to debut as an artist in America, Bom has made a recent appearance in the Netflix show YG Future Strategy Office and has been teasing a possible comeback, Minzy is a solo artist who just graduated university, and Dara is back home in the Philippines doing talk shows & traveling the world.

As a K-POP fan, I can wholeheartedly tell you that the dedication you put towards the genre goes a long way into helping you connect with not only the artists, but the culture surrounding the genre.

With that said, there’s actually a lot more that goes into supporting an artist’s music. Of course, you an buy merchandise from trusted sites or shops, attend K-Con Los Angeles or New York for an ultimate K-POP experience, and create forums to connect with other fans around the world. Honestly, just being an international fan allows you to gain so much respect for the artist and their dedication to become a well-known sensation. There’s so much heart and soul that goes into the music and choreography alone, that fans are willing to make the artist has taken the time to take care of themselves. They will even ensure that an artist eaten or slept enough before seeing them live.

Overall, I recommend that everyone jump into the so-called “bandwagon” and show your support for the K-POP community. It’s amazing to see that K-Pop as a whole is finally being represented in the United States with plenty of support from American celebrities. One thing is for certain; K-Pop won’t be fading away anytime soon.

Interpol @ Open Air Theater

People thought rock was dead; Interpol showed us otherwise.

Legendary post-punk band Interpol came to shred underneath the disco ball at the CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theater, just one of many stops on their North American tour promoting their sixth studio album, Marauder. Completing the night’s bill were indie-rock trio Sunflower Bean and punk duo The Kills – a lineup which had several of my friends drooling with envy when I told them I’d be in attendance. Which, if I’m being honest, left me more than a little confused. Who listens to rock anymore? Punk hasn’t been cool since the Arctic Monkeys abandoned ship and indie-rock is teetering on the edge of irrelevance post-Mac Demarco. Although these claims may border on outrageous, it cannot be denied that the rock genre has been eclipsed in recent years by pop, EDM, and hip-hop.

Clearly none of the groups on stage got that memo.

Kicking off the night in outfits that would make any art hoe scream “yassss queen,” Sunflower Bean came to rock n roll. Straying from the Fleetwood Mac-influenced sound of their studio recordings, the trio amped up the energy with ripping solos from guitarist Nick Kivlen and raw, throaty vocals from singer/bassist Julia Cumming. With their blonde heads a-banging and trousers a-sparkling, Sunflower Bean’s entire existence pays homage to the genre which birthed them. Unfortunately, the band did suffer from the Indifferent Crowd Syndrome (ICS) that commonly plagues opening acts. Despite seemingly fazing the band, they still left the stage with this bold statement: “We’re Sunflower Bean and don’t you forget it!” Don’t worry, girl, I won’t.

Tunes to scope out: I Was Home, Twentytwo, I Was a Fool

Up next came the skinny-jean clad duo The Kills. The most notable aspect of their performance was the “the strut;” considering it’s been 15 years since their first LP, singer Allison Mosshart’s ability to own whatever stage her leather boots find themselves is downright impressive. Limbs rolling, long blond hair flowing, her control and ease over the environment is almost enough to compensate for the incomplete sound produced by the two guitars and drum kit. With moody, analog interludes, experimental guitar synths, the Kills are looking to take the genre somewhere. Where exactly, they have no definitive answer.

Tunes to scope out: Doing It to Death, Baby Says

At this point in the show, I was still inclined to believe that rock n roll is dead. Sunflower Bean and the Kills were both great bands, but neither seem to have the potential to revive the ailing genre. But as I furiously typed notes into my phone, I heard it. Life. The audience roars and rises to their feet as Interpol arrived to save us all.

Photo credited to the San Diego Union Tribune

Let me paint the scene for ya. A dark stage. Simple white spotlights cast light from behind the band, creating an eerie shadow of a band already dressed black. Then a single white light behind center stage rises to meet the disco ball, splaying light out to the crowd. It’s a simple set-up, but effective; Interpol’s music can speak for itself. You get the feeling they are at the service of the music. The band has mastered a suave rock sound that seduces you with every melancholy lyric singer Paul Banks wails with his haunting twang, and I am hit by a wall of sound, filled with textures and colors I’ve seen before, but perhaps not in this combination. Every song “bangs” and I can’t help but move my body to the beat, swaying my head back and forth so that I could hear every note. You can listen to Interpol’s entire set with your eyes closed, the music is a show in and of itself. And then it’s over, and I feel as if I’ve been abruptly woken from a sweet dream. The band humbly exits, it’s duty to the music completed: “We are Interpol, and that’s what we got.”

So, much to my chagrin, rock does live! It has bands like Interpol to keep its heart beating, and an audience desperate to consume it. The problem is that we’ve heard all these sounds before. Interpol’s music is superb, but the band has done little experimenting in their long career. I guess it’s true, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, but sticking with a sound that just works isn’t enough to compete with pop and hip-hop artists who cater to fans with an incessant appetite for new content. Interpol’s Marauder is enough to keep rock alive, if only just alive.

Tunes to scope out: If You Really Love Nothing, Evil, Pioneer to the Falls

Review by: Michaela Alejandra

88Rising Music & Arts Festival at Los Angeles State Historic Park

This year marked the first ever 88Rising Music Festival: Head in the Clouds.” More importantly, this was the very first Asian-American music festival in North America.

With an attendance of 2,500 or so, 88Rising does not rival the big dogs such as Coachella or Lollapalooza, whose attendance is in the hundreds of thousands. However, this is not to say that the touring festival was not filled with an equal amount of passion. 

It was held at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, a fitting location considering the festival is a major milestone for Asian-Americans. 88Rising is a mass media company that covers all aspects of a musician’s life, from management and production to everything in between.

By representing artists such as Rich BrianKeith ApeHigher BrothersJoji, and more 88Rising is becoming more known and respected in the music industry. It is a one of a kind company that truly aims to support Asian artists and underrepresented people in music. In addition to their star-studded lineup, 88Rising brought out Anderson .Paak and MadeinTYO and had them perform some of their own original songs. L.A. natives DUCKWRTH and Dumbfoundead represented their city and introduced their fellow artists to their hometown (several of them had never been to Los Angeles). Nonetheless, all the artists had undeniable chemistry with one another.

The festival itself is very organized – especially considering it is the first of its kind.

There were the usual merchandise booths, eateries, and a second stage with local DJ’s dipping their toes into the pool of live performance. This festival was the very first stop on their tour across the nation, and hopefully the first of many more tours to come. A company with as much ambition and passion as 88Rising will grow exponentially as they add more and more artists to their unique label.

Review by: Eduardo Orozco
Photo by: Eduardo Orozco

Florence + The Machine at Viejas

 

To simply call Florence + The Machine’s performance unforgettable is an understatement.

Kicking off their “High as Hope” tour, the band brought to old fans and new fans alike a raw and riveting show, all at the Viejas Arena. The concert was opened by Kasami Washington and his crew, immersing the audience into the night with some soulful jazz. Between his songs, Washington shared some words of wisdom and encouraged people to see the beauty in diversity and the importance of culture. Washington said, “We do not tolerate our differences. We celebrate them.” Washington’s message aligned beautifully with the theme of Florence + The Machine’s tour, where they hoped their new music would inspire and invigorate listeners through a time of oppression and activism.

Watching Florence + the Machine perform is akin to watching art. Giving herself over to her music completely, Florence danced and twirled and pinned to the rhythm. At one point, she went into the crowd, and for a moment, disappeared. Not only was her music amazing, her feel was artistic and energetic. The flow of her dress and the wooden stage complimented the earthy and natural tone of her music wonderfully.

One of the highlights of the night, was when Florence herself encouraged each and everyone to turn and embrace one another. Whether it was a loved one or a stranger, everywhere, the arena instantly became filled with warmth and affection. There was so much love. Next, she asked for all cellphones to be turned off and put away. “This moment cannot be kept, but only remembered.” Miraculously, all the tiny screens and glowing lights disappeared, and the arena was filled with people who were wholly in the moment. 

That night, Florence + The Machine earned many new fans. Through her pure, yet powerful sound, Florence won over new fans and old fans all over again. Her ability to draw people, as well as create stories expressed in her music is a gift to behold. Since the lyrics are so truthful and genuine, her songs couldn’t help touching and bringing the audience together. As the band ended their set, applause filled the arena while the audience begged for an encore. Tiny, but beautiful camera flashlights filled the arena with the hope of just one more song. Returning to a wave of thundering approval, the group ended their concert with the songs “Big God” and “Shake It Out.” Overall, the entire experience was phenomenal.

Photos By: Veronica Yoo
Review By: Veronica Yoo