Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Trust Me On This: Listen to K-Pop

As soon as someone says ‘K-Pop’, what everyone automatically thinks about it PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ and that horrific horse-dance that was played continuously for a good year after the song was released. This, unfortunately, has given us a certain expectation when we hear about the genre of K-Pop. We expect hilarious dances, exaggerated facial expressions, odd and bizarre music video concepts and slightly disturbing lyrics as people attempt – and fail – to sing along. But recently K-Pop has been on the rise, to the extent where even the biggest consumer electronics company in the world, Apple, is recognising it’s popularity. When the new iPhone 7 was introduced, a K-Pop album cover was shown on the screen of their presentation.

As a huge fan of the K-Pop genre, I felt like it was my duty to shed some light on why you should start listening to it yourself and recommend my top ten K-Pop albums to get yourself into the genre. Believe it or not, there are songs in this underappreciated genre that everyone will like, whether you prefer rock, upbeat songs, ballads, rap, dance, R&B, or whatever else. There is a K-Pop group out there that you will like – it’s just a matter of opening your mind and shedding yourself of the popular opinion of “it’s Korean therefore it must be bad”.

Why Listen to K-Pop?
Honestly, in my own opinion, it is simply of a better quality than some of the same-old, same-old music we hear nowadays on the radio and on the charts. The whole music industry is different in Korea. Artists start training as young as twelve years old and are expected not only to sing well – and show diversity in their genre ability and vocal range – but also must be good at rapping and dancing. Their music concepts are more meaningful, their videos more high quality and thought through, their songs more deep and inspiring then your common drunken, sex obsessed party music. Celebrities too are realising just how impressive Korean artists are compared to American. For example, following a recent trip to Korea, major film actress Chloë Grace Moretz (starred in the ‘Kickass’ movies, ‘If I Stay’ and ‘Carrie’) tweeted about just how skilled K-Pop artists are.

Not only that, but Emma Stone (starred in ‘The Amazing Spiderman’, ‘Easy A’ and ‘Zombieland’), on American interview show CONAN, told him that she was obsessed with the Korean girl groups ‘2NE1’, a group who Will.I.Am has already collaborated with, and ‘Girl’s Generation’.
Not to mention the fact that Justin Bieber is rumoured to be releasing a song with one of the richest and most influential K-Pop stars, G-Dragon (formally known as Kwon Ji-yong), member of the group ‘Big-Bang’.
With so much to offer that American and English groups don’t, it isn’t hard to see why K-Pop is attracting so much more attention now.
The artists have a wider range of talents, produce and create music at a much quicker rate and are always on tour or promoting or doing something to bring more attention to their music.

My Recommendations

Big Bang – MADE 
The album that first got me into K-Pop, I highly recommend this a starting point for anyone. Released in four separate mini-albums, ‘M’, ‘A’, ‘D’, and ‘E’, it includes hip-hop tracks such as ‘Zutter’, acoustic ballads such as ‘If You’ and, the song that started it all for me, the upbeat dance song ‘Bang Bang Bang’.

EXO – Ex’Act 
Arguably the biggest boy group in Korea, EXO are legendary for their catchy dance songs like ‘Monster’, their lively acoustic songs such as ‘Heaven’ and their beautiful piano ballads like ‘Stronger’. Fun fact: Justin Bieber and EXO performed in the Tokyo on the same night, JB’s concert ended halfway through because nobody turned up! Everyone went to see EXO instead.

BTS – Young Forever
Shown on the previously mentioned iPhone 7 announcement, BTS is another group famous for their variety: the sensual ‘House of Cards’, the fast tempo dance track ‘Fire’ and emotional while still being upbeat song ‘Save ME’ are but a few of their major songs. Known for being philosophical, they have an entire album coming out next month based on classic novel ‘Demian’ by Hermann Hesse.

iKON – Welcome Back
More of a hip-hop and rap oriented group, iKON’s album contains two songs with hard beats and impressive rap skills – ‘Dumb & Dumber’ and their head-nodder of a song ‘Rhythm Ta’. Despite their hip-hop focus, their debut song was a cutesy love song called ‘My Type’ and they even do well with emotional ballads such as ‘Apology’.

Monsta X – The Clan Part One: Lost
This group has two of the most impressive rappers I have ever heard – sure I don’t understand what they’re saying but the speed is still massively impressive, especially in their song ‘Stuck’. The track ‘Unfair Love’ has a pop-rock vibe while their slow, ballad song ‘Because of U’ is even more sweet because it was dedicated to international fans.

Day6 – Day Dream
Acoustic guitars and soft but strong vocals are the main strong point of this band – yes I say band, they do actually play their own instruments. ‘Letting Go’ is an emotional but pleasant song, while their songs ‘Blood’ and ‘Hunt’ have a more jazzy feel to them while still maintaining their pop-rock (mainly pop) image.

FT Island – Where’s the Truth?
Pure, raw, unadulterated rock. Heavy on the guitar solos, intense drumming and gravelly vocals – they even sing some of their songs mainly in English, such as the awesome ‘Take Me Now’ and ‘Out of Love’. They do have more fun songs such as ‘Paparazzi’  and ‘Mask’ but this group is seriously an undisputed favourite.

GOT7 – Flight Log: Turbulence
Only recently released, this album is one of the best this group has ever produced. The sequel album to their previous ‘Flight Log: Departure’, this song is a lot more heavy on the bass to create amazing songs such as ‘Hard Carry’ and ‘Skyway’, while still having lighter, airy songs such as ‘Prove It’ and ‘My Home’. An all around amazing group with a unique style.

Jay Park – Evolution
Known for his more, ahem, risqué songs, Jay Park’s album certainly doesn’t disappoint. With his not so risqué and classic lively rap song ‘Joah’, and his deeper, more intense song ‘Metronome’ featuring Simon Dominic and Grey, this man went from being kicked out of Korea to becoming the CEO of one of the biggest record labels in Korea: AOMG.

Drug Restaurant - Escape to Hangover
A group that can only be described as a combination of ‘Muse’ and ‘Arctic Monkeys’, this group should appeal to a wide range of students here. Their head-banging ‘Omg’ is a definite must listen to – the music video is a little wild but it’s still amazing -, while their other songs such as ‘Alibi’ and ‘Sunset’ are also extremely impressive. 

I can appreciate that K-Pop will not be for everyone, but in all honesty a lot of people dismiss the genre without properly giving it a chance. Don't let PSY's god awful song ruin your interpretation of all Korean music (although, I do admit that I have 'Gangnam Style' on my iPhone and do listen to it as a not-so-guilty-guilty-pleasure). 

Give it a chance, you never know - you may just stumble across a group you love!

- Abbie Grice