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KPOP: May Showers Spring Flowers

Leila Khastoo reports on the last month in KPop from across the pond. And, to be honest, after reading this the increasingly popular genre both baffles and fascinates us even more than it did before. Fabulous stuff. 

The month of May conjures images of spring flowers, warmer weather, the anticipation of summer, and to some maybe Eurovision. For me, and other global followers of the Hallyu Wave, this May brought us three blooming roses known as Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun. New girl group TaeTiSeo, an offshoot of Girls’ Generation, whose name is made up of the first syllables of its members, released their premier single and music video ‘Twinkle’ on 30th April.  The girls donned their most sparkling sequins and gave us a swagger filled R&B power pop chant with a Beyoncé does ‘Material Girl’ vibe. In less than two weeks, these S.M. Entertainment golden girls topped multiple music charts, racked up over 10 million views on YouTube and swept the various Korean music awards.

Though it may seem like this month the ladies of TTS eclipsed every other KPop group on the planet, the month of May was an extremely busy time for Korean idols and their entertainment groups. First there was the debut of JJ Project, the rookie duo from Jin Young Park’s JYP Entertainment. With a little bit of Chris Brown, a little bit of Linkin Park, some heavy electronica beats, and dubstep thrown in for measure, JJ Project’s debut single ‘Bounce’ is style overload without having any one style. Similarly, the music video is dizzying with literal hand-held camera “bounces” and shaking freeze-frames – serious epileptic disclaimer. Even so, despite the fact that JY Park may have gotten overly ambitious with checking off every cool factor in his list of how-to-make-a-Kpop-star, it’s hard not to listen to the song without toe-tapping and head-nodding. And though I can’t watch the video without thinking it’s a High School Musical On Steroids version of 2PM’s song ‘Hands Up’, I also can’t help but appreciate the boys’ energy, charged up beats and colourful fashion (nothing for me tops shiny black harem-style shorts with red-white stripe detailing paired with a basketball jersey and pink highlights).

On the other end of the spectrum, this month also saw the release of Junsu’s (XIA) first solo venture outside of mega boy group JYJ. ‘Tarantallegra’ came in at #10 on the Billboard world music charts, and the song – along with its glammed-up gothic music video – confirmed JYJ’s consistency in delivering exactly what their fans want: sexy dance rhythms, tight choreography, erotica and star power. I don’t think anyone knows what ‘Tarantallegra’ means, nor do we entirely understand the video narrative and need for all that dry ice, but we just can’t help but love Junsu for those  pointy shoulder pads, strong vocals interlaced with unnecessarily fun autotune and fierce Jackson family dance moves.

And as this month started nearing its end, KPop releases too shuttled out in overdrive. G.Na showed us she can be cute but also sexy and ‘2Hot’, giving Lee Hyori a run for her money. Heavy hip-hop heroes M.I.B. came back from their electro-retro hit ‘Girls Dreams Money’ to show a softer side with ‘It’s Only Hard for Me’. And Teen Top balanced the scales with a bittersweet love letter ‘To You’, produced by the Brave Brothers.  But the real gems of the month are the comeback veterans of the industry, Leessang, who celebrated their 10th anniversary with the release of their 8th album, aptly titled Unplugged.  Bringing us back to the basics with vintage guitar hooks, analog samples, catchy melodies and no frills rapping, the album took three years to produce, which in Korean idol terms is at least 5 lifetimes. Gary and Gil keep reminding us it’s about the music and not how many backup dancers you have or how colorful your hair is. If the songs are good, people will listen.

Fortunately for us, and all those netizens who breathe Kpop online only, hair does matter and choreography can make or break you. That’s why we are all waiting with bated breath to know what will come out of the new partnership between Google and MBC and if that means more amazing concerts from Mountain View to our laptop screens. In the meantime, I think I’ll watch the Big Bang Monster teaser videos and go gaga over G-Dragon’s platinum mop-top.  Medieval!

-Leila Khastoo

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