Music

K-Pop Roundup - September 2014

Amidst tragedy and controversy throughout the month, September also offered up some more great k-pop, especially from veteran groups like 2PM, T-ara, and Girls' Generation-TTS.

September was another month marked by tragedy and controversy. At the beginning of the month, girl group Ladies’ Code was involved in a car accident, ultimately killing members EunB and RiSe. Less tragic but still shocking, at the end of the month, SM Entertainment announced that Jessica would no longer be part of the iconic girl group Girls’ Generation. The American-born singer was the first of the nine members to be signed to SM, but after tensions rose between her, the group, and their management from Jessica’s relationship and other business ventures, Girls’ Generation officially announced that they would “continue as eight”. It’s hard to imagine SNSD without all nine members, and this incident marks the end of one of K-pop’s greatest successes. Outside of this, though, there was plenty of good music throughout the month.

 
2PM – “Go Crazy!”

For the title track to its seventh studio album, boy band 2PM pantomime ride motorcycles, fly across the moon E.T.-style, do “The Bernie” a whole lot, and, well … go crazy. It’s an up-tempo dance track that’s over-the-top and lives up to its name. The verses sound like a sped up “Billie Jean” and the chorus is designed to incite a huge sing-along. It’s not the most interesting track, but it’s pure fun, and for a song called “Go Crazy!”, it’s exactly what you want.

The music video really captures this sensibility. The performers' silly motorcycle dancing apparently gives them the power to break through walls and fly through the air. Mostly, it gives them an excuse to look silly and have fun. It’s unlikely that the motorcycle dance will catch on the same way that PSY’s horse dance did, but it makes for a pretty entertaining music video. It seems like “Go Crazy!” is exactly what it’s trying to be. 2PM has been around for a while, and it has definitely made better music than “Go Crazy!”, butit has also made worse.

 
T-ara – “Sugar Free”

After both Jiyeon and Hyomin made their solo debuts this year, T-ara is back with a new mini album, the redundantly titled And&End. T-ara has always had trouble figuring out exactly what it should sound like, and this time around the act has teamed up with Shinsadong Tiger for a Big Room EDM single, “Sugar Free”. Now, if you’re going to make a vapid Big Room EDM song, it helps to get such a talented producer and songwriter working with you, and “Sugar Free” is as good as one could hope it to be. Not that it’s all that great, though. It’s full of trashy synths with cliché buildups and stock dance beats. The vocals are ironically saccharine and overly processed. But for a full-on dance track, it does its job.

The music video, though, should come with a warning. If you’re epileptic or sensitive to flashing lights, please stay away. It’s meant, I suppose, to recreate the feeling of being at a big EDM show, but it can be quite overwhelming. Someone even went as far as counting every cut in the video and drew up some statistics: there are 671 cuts in the 233-second video, an average of 2.88 cuts per second, with the average length of each shot at 0.35 seconds. In other words: watch if you dare.

 
Teen Top – “Missing”

Just listening to “Missing”, it might not seem like a particularly sad song. The singers' voices sound pained, but the music is mostly light a breezy. The production is warm and sleek. The song starts with classic boy band stacking harmonies singing “You’re my star”. But when you listen closer, or especially if you watch the music video, you can see that Teen Top’s latest single is much darker than it sounds. It’s a song about a slowly unraveling relationship. This is not the most unique subject matter, but it is delivered with a harsh honesty.

The music video goes deeper to show infidelity and the anguish of what they’re going through. C.A.P. cheats on his girlfriend, played here by actress Lee Ho-jung, causing her to cheat on him with L.Joe. Throughout the video, the two of them look miserable, tormented by guilt. They kiss again at the end, but it still seems, especially according to the lyrics, like they’re not meant to be together. For such heavy subject matter, though, “Missing” is a very enjoyable track. It shows off Teen Top’s excellent vocal skills and the performance bits of the video capture some subtle but effective choreography.

 
Girls’ Generation-TTS – “Holler”

It’s been two years since the last release from the Girls’ Generation sub-unit TaeTiSeo, so I was very excited when they announced this comeback. Their first mini-album was great not just because Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun are arguably the best singers in SNSD, but also because the music was an exciting change of pace for the girls. “Twinkle” was brassy and posh, with intricate R&B chord changes. “Holler” is the same way. The verses are driven by a chromatic saxophone line, the shouted chorus is as in-your-face as it is catchy, and the bridge has complex, unexpected harmonies. The music video is a bit of a mess, but with a single as strong as this, it’s not taking away too much.

The song, though, is actually not wholly original. It was originally released, with different lyrics, by the Japanese singer Mizrock in 2007 as “Hello Me!” Another song on the new mini album, “Adrenaline”, is also a remake, this time of the Velvet Angels’ song of the same name. For what it’s worth, “Holler” is better than the original Mizrock track. The “oh” sound in “holler” works better for the melody than the “eh” in “hello”. Also, Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun are just better singers, and the new production is more interesting and exciting. But it is still a bit odd that SM Entertainment decided to do this for its sub-unit’s highly anticipated return.

 
Ailee – “Don’t Touch Me”

On her last single, “Singing Got Better”, American-born singer Ailee was broken and hurt. It was an empowering song about getting over a bad relationship, but you could still hear the pain. For her new song, though, she’s tough and defiant. On “Don’t Touch Me”, Ailee revels in her ex’s pathetic attempts at reconciliation. She casts him off with a short and stern “Don’t touch me” and a whole lot of “Get out!”s. “Don’t Touch Me” is female empowerment song: Ailee is refusing to hear a man out or give him the benefit of the doubt. She admits that she’s hurt, but she’s staying strong and sticking with her convictions.

It’s hard not to relate this song to Ailee’s personal life, specifically the violation of her privacy last year. Nude photos of the singer were leaked, allegedly by an ex-boyfriend she had recently left who works for the American K-pop site AllKPop.com. Nothing in “Don’t Touch Me” references the incident directly, but—especially with the more recent mass leaking of nude celebrities photos—the song takes on a very powerful subtext about personal space, consent, and female agency.

Like “Holler”, the music video for “Don’t Touch Me” is nothing special. But here, it matters more, because the song’s powerful message provided a great opportunity to do something special with the music video. Instead, the video just shows Ailee in various settings and costumes singing along with the track. Either way, it’s a powerful message and a great comeback for the singer.

* * *

With the line-up change to Girls’ Generation and the tragic deaths of EunB and RiSe, it will be interesting to see what happens to both groups going forward. For the rest of the industry, we can look forward to more great Fall releases.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.