one girl's journey across kpop paradise

The next big thing in k-pop: SPICA

To be absolutely honest, the past couple of days I think I’ve hit a peak with my k-pop. I go in and out of cycles of being obsessed with k-pop, and I think the recent attention put on SHINee has kind of died out, now that they’ve been performing on music shows for three weeks. A lot of established groups aren’t promoting new songs right now, so it’s been kind of dead on the radar. There are always a lot of new groups promoting, but I feel like there are so many of the same kind of groups that pop up all over the place that I’m starting to get a little impatient and sick of keeping up with k-pop a bit. I hate to say it, but I do need breaks from my beloved k-pop world at times too.

But I randomly stumbled upon SPICA yesterday and I’m been obsessed, watching all their MVs and listening to their first mini album. I think that in the mass sea of new girl group debuts, they have something special and could really succeed.

Some background information – SPICA is a new group that debuted back in January, though they didn’t start actively promoting until February. They’re managed by B2M Entertainment and are produced by the famous Lee Hyori.

Here’s the song that caught me:

For me, the first couple of seconds of a song is very important, because it sets the tone for the rest of the song. This song, “Painkiller,” begins with a haunting piano tune and a fantastic voice. Hooked from the start. And then the set seems to mainly be an abandoned alley (that’s all too familiar for us k-pop fans), but there’s something I like about the way this MV is executed. Someone on YouTube commented that the song gave off the feel of a “tragic romance” and I have to agree – it has a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel to it, somehow.

I think each member is really unique-looking and I think pull off the badass girl attitude without seeming pretentious or like they’re trying too hard. I love the outfits – there’s something about them that I like, can’t exactly put my finger on it – but everything about this group strikes to me as mature and professional, like they’ve been doing it for years.

Then I did some research and realized that they have been doing it for years. The youngest member is 23, and the oldest member is 25. Thank goodness. Most of the new groups (both boy and girl) have been way too young. Zelo – B.A.P – I know people love you, but 15? Really? The girls of SPICA have been in the business for a while. BoA, the lead vocalist, was Infinite’s vocal trainer. Bohyung was supposed to debut with 2NE1, and Jiwon almost debuted with T-ARA. These girls have been training for a long time, and I think it really shows.

Now, I’m not encouraging companies to train their talents for a long time or anything. I just think it’s better to debut your talent once they’re older and more mature – not only are they better performers then, but they’re more capable of handling the stress of being in the spotlight so often.

Here was another one of their singles, “Russian Roulette”:

The video starts off with the girls gathered around a circular table. BoA instigates a russian roulette game – for no given reason – and the girls take turns with the gun. The entire atmosphere of the MV is very sophisticated; it reminds me a bit of Casino Royale (2006), the suspenseful, mysterious, dark aura really works for these girls. The outfits in this part of the MV are fabulous. Admittedly, I’m really into fashion, and I felt like these outfits were sophisticated chic without trying too hard (like I’ve already iterated about the previous video). The song is catchy, not as heavy as “Painkiller,” but still very memorable.

Kim Bohyung, maknae

Kim Bohyung, maknae

With such good vocals on the MVs, I was a bit apprehensive when first watching their live renditions, worrying that it wouldn’t be as good as in recording. I mean, every group live won’t sound as good as their recordings, but I think SPICA did pretty good, considering they have only been performing on music programs for a bit over a month. I think they have room for growth, but I think they’re waaaay underrated right now. They’re flying mostly under the radar, and I think they deserve more recognition! If you like them, tell your friends about them :)

Advertisements

SHINee’s choreography, will you marry me?

I’m not even joking here. The choreography for their latest song, Sherlock, is absolutely brilliant.

The music (which I’m just finally starting to like) and the music video aside (which was interesting, but did not properly showcase the choreo), SM finally released the practice video of Sherlock yesterday. And judging by all the comments on its YouTube page, people are really loving the choreography for this song. I personally have deemed it my favorite choreography in all of the k-pop dances I’ve seen (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot).

Here are the reasons why this dance stands out for me:

  1. The energy and freshness of the moves – I think I’ve seen this video like a bajillion times and I’m still amazed by how fresh the moves are. I’ve never seen these moves in k-pop before. It’s not your usual hip-thrusting and crotch-grabbing antics (which I’m not saying I dislike, lol NU’EST and EXO) – it’s really new and there’s no overt sexual moves, which I *really* like. Rookie groups, take some pointers from SHINee.
  2. How every member gets a chance to shine – the way this dance is choreographed, everyone has at least once or twice (usually more) to shine. When they’re in the spotlight, the other members are either completely still or doing a “backup” move. For Minho and Onew, the two weakest dancers in the group (but how much they have improved! So amazing!), they had many chances to be in the spotlight, and I really appreciated the choreographer for this.
  3. The collaborative nature of the dance – Most times, everyone in a group dance learns the same moves, and they try to make it as synchronized as possible. So you’d have 5-7 people on stage doing the exact same move at the exact same time, and if that was successful, then they would be praised for “amazing” dancing. (Infinite, I’m not criticizing you by any means) Take this move in which Jonghyun is in the center – all the members are collaborating to make a more impressive overall move. Coming from a theater background, I find this very impressive, and a big step in the right direction. K-pop, more of this, please :)

I think that’s the general gist of why I really love this dance. Plus, it really brings out the best in SHINee’s talents. Taeminnie’s rocking it as usual, Key’s fierce as usual, Jonghyun is surprisingly sexy here (like seriously outshining the rest in that category, sorry my bias Key haha), and Minho and Onew have improved a lot. I’m so impressed.

I cannot talk about the choreo without mentioning the choreographer, the world-renowned Tony Testa, who choreographed for the likes of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. He even flew to Korea to teach SHINee the choreo. K-pop, you’re really stepping up your game here, and I am more than happy to have been a loyal fan from the (almost) beginning.

And here’s the practice dance video again, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

The Joys of Being a Fangirl

And today I will take a break from what I usually post about to talk about one of the greatest joys of my life…being a fangirl.

I have to be totally 100% honest when I say that the reason I got into Korean culture and learning the language is because of k-pop. K-pop and Korean dramas, but mostly k-pop. K-pop, with their attractive boys and girls, pretty costumes, beautiful sets, catchy songs, and sexy dances, is really, really appealing. And, like many other young girls, I fell madly in love with perhaps the cutest boys on earth.

But it’s not just the visual factor that keeps me going. Reflecting back on my almost three years as a pretty fervent k-pop fan, I have come to realize that what makes me coming back for more is the incredible level of unity and friendship I feel within the k-pop community. It’s not just me and just me liking a song or a music video or a boy group. It’s me, spazzing out with thousands of other fangirls and fanboys AROUND THE WORLD when the music video comes out.

Lately I’ve been keeping up with the SHINee and Infinite fandoms on Tumblr, and I swear, the level of dedication of fans is so awe-inspiring and just downright incredible. When Infinite’s Woohyun celebrated his 21st birthday back in February, there were dozens upon dozens of Inspirits who created picture sets of his best photos and wrote long, emotional letters dedicated to him. And then the thousands of Inspirits liked and reblogged the crap out of the photo sets. I was among them. I even sent Woohyun a tweet saying happy birthday.

 

And I know there’s a little mistake in the last sentence, but that’s okay. It was my little contribution to the millions upon millions of fans that want to reach out to the idols. Hell, I’m learning Korean so that I can understand my favorite idols. When I understand a whole sentence they say, a little bit of my heart warms up, knowing that I’m a little bit closer to them. The fact that Woohyun probably never read my tweet is saddening, but I’m okay with it. He has so many fans that do so much for him and the rest of the Infinite members – I just wanted to show my support in the very small way that I could.

Now on to SHINee. The past two weeks have been crazy hell for Shawols everywhere. Ever since SM announced that SHINee would finally be making a comeback after 18-something months of Korean prime-time inactivity, Shawols have been ecstatic. Finally, their five beloved SHINee boys would be coming back with a new single!! I’d just joined the SHINee world about two months ago, so I can’t really express the emotions of a true die-hard Shawol, but I could really feel the amount of love for the boys hardcore Shawols have. Last week alone, Shawols on Tumblr were going crazy trying to predict when SM would be releasing each of the five members’ individual photo teasers. My Tumblr dashboard was filled each night around 7 pm with antsy Shawols wondering what the hell had happened to SM that they weren’t uploading the photo teasers. All of us waited and refreshed our Tumblrs with bated breath as the teasers finally came out, one by one. And when the photos came out, Tumblr Shawols did what they did best – edit and collage the hell out of them. And then the notes piled up. Soon, each of the members had collages with up to 2-3,000 notes. The power of Shawols.

This past Sunday, I woke up at around 6 am to find out that the music video teaser and the digital album would be released soon. Shawols once again scrambled together to wait for the teasers, and then also edited and gif-ed the hell out of the short 39 second teaser. But it wasn’t until this morning (Tuesday) at 11 AM that I truly felt the love. Apparently, at 11 AM Tuesday (00:00 Wednesday KST), the full music video was to be uploaded onto SM’s home page on YouTube. The time came and went, and with no music video uploaded, Shawols went absolutely NUTS. They spammed the comments section of the music video’s teaser video like there was no tomorrow. For a whole hour, I turned on automatic comments and just watched the comments streaming in like the opening of a dam. A dam that had been in hibernation for EIGHTEEN MONTHS. It was probably one of the most amusing hours of my life. Here are some memorable YouTube comments that I’ve saved:

 did the uploader fall asleep?

guys. just breath…there OMG WHERE IS THE FUCKING MV???

sm is too busy preparing for exo’s new teasers

I’M GOING CRAAAAAAAAZZZY!!! >:((((((
STOP JOKING AND UPLOAD THE MV RIGHT NOW!!! -____-

Not here yet? I faked sick and didn’t go to school for this! *anxious*

I am eating popcorn while reading comments on atomatic mode LMAO (dead serious)
I could seriously wait hours while doing this lol so helarious XD

only SHINee can get a over a million views for a 39 second teaser :P

I am very very frustrated right now.

OMFG SM, YOU’VE JUST TROLLED US.
GET READY FOR SHAWOL’S REVENGE
LOL
BRING THE BOOOOOOOOOOOOYS OUT

IM SO FURIOUS YEAHHHHH~

maybe SHINee will upload short videos telling us where to look for the MV

Oh I’m so curious Yeah~
Oh I’m so curious(what SM is doing now) Yeah~

This is not the reality we wanted.

EVERY REFRESH = NEW TOP COMMENT. POWER OF SHAWOLS

Calm the fuck down, people. It’s not like SM had been punctual before. Give the slowpokes some time to figure this shit out.

people we broke youtube again ……

This went on and on. Until people had to go to sleep, or school, or work, or they simply grew tired of waiting and decided that SM simply wasn’t going to release the video at that time. It’s still not released, and we Shawols are at a loss of when SM will release it. But one thing is sure – through this ordeal, I learned the power of Shawols and k-pop fans. In the span of an hour, SHINee’s music video teaser accumulated over thousands of comments. Oh how I love you, my fellow Shawols.

When people think about the demographic of people who are k-pop fans, they think they’re all pre-teen Asian girls. They could not be more wrong. I’ve encountered k-pop fans from all around the world – England, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore – just to name a few. People who don’t speak Korean at all and who cannot understand the language nonetheless devote tons of their time to Korean music and culture. This absolutely astounds me. How this has happened is completely beyond me, but it really floored me. At this time, I realize that I have never been more proud of being a k-pop fan. I truly believe k-pop has the power to change the world. It already has. It’s brought people from thousands of miles away with nothing in common to become a tight-knit community of people who have to come to understand and love each other. If that’s not world-changing, I don’t know what is. K-pop doesn’t have to be a charity to change lives. I know of countless people whose lives were changed by k-pop, and thus they give much of their time and energy to giving back to the stars who changed their lives.

As long as I live, I will remember this special and precious time of my life – when I was a k-pop fan. I don’t think it will last forever, and I certainly don’t believe any of the other k-pop fans expect it to either, but it’s just such a unique thing that I will forever remember and treasure. Thank you k-pop and thank you fellow fans, for making my life so much brighter and warmer.

10,000 Views! + A little wisdom from my friends

Hello everyone!

Since I started this blog back in August, it’s been about eight months of me blogging about Korea and its beautiful language, people, culture, etc. And thank you lovely people for visiting my site, whether through references or just randomly stumbling upon it from Google search. I’m truly grateful.

Since I’m not longer in Korea right now, I haven’t been able to update the blog regularly with experiences and stories from Korea – because I’m no longer there. However, I’ve met a lot of people with equal amounts of enthusiasm for the language and culture, and I just wanted to plug them a bit.

If you’re looking for a network of friends to study Korean with you, go to Self Study Korean. The site is run by a bunch of really awesome people from all walks of life with one thing in common – their love for the beautiful language that is Korean. I’ve been frequenting it because not only does it help me in my journey to mastering Korean, there’s a feeling of community and belonging on the site.

If you’re looking for a Korean pen pal, go to Interpals. You can pick what language you want to be your target language, and you can make friends who you can share languages with. I think the website is fairly safe, and I haven’t heard any creepo stories from it, so I think you will be okay trying to find friends on it.

If you’re looking for a westerner’s perspective on Korean culture, go to Noonablog. Paula, the writer behind Noonablog, has been living in Seoul for the past couple of years, and she has a lot of insight into Korean culture. She’s also into fashion, so a lot of her posts are about fashion (happy for me ^^), and I’ve met her personally (she’s awesome), so I promise you you won’t be bored by her blog!

If you’re looking for a good website for authentic Korean merchandise, go to G Market. This website is one of Korean’s largest e-markets, and it has everything, from clothes to cosmetics to food to furniture. The prices are decent, and they have worldwide shipping. I haven’t personally bought from the website, but I have friends who have, and I’ve heard no complaints. If nothing else, the endless pages of cute clothes (and the guys’ clothing section has a lot of cute models ^^) should keep you occupied.

Right now, I’m a little out of ideas, but if you think of any other good resources for Korean-related things, let me know! And also, if you want me to blog about anything in particular, feedback is always appreciated <3

 

Korean Survival Skills [At a Restaurant]

Hello everyone!

I’ve decided to start a new series called Korean Survival Skills, for those of you who may be so brave to travel to Korea without proficiency in Korean. In Korea, it’s quite necessary to know how to speak the language to get anything done, but if you’re feeling feisty, read my guide and hopefully you’ll be able to order successfully! Let me know how it goes!

Caution: I’m not a fluent speaker by any means. These are just the basics I’ve learned through experience. If I mess up the grammar or phrasing, please let me know and I will fix it. The romanization isn’t the standard way to romanize, but I made it so that it sounds most logical to English-speaking ears.

[At your arrival]
Waiter: 몇분이세요? (myot bun i seyo) [How many people are there?]

You: 한(두/셋/넷/다섯/여섯/일곱/여덜/아홉/열) 분이에요 (han/du/set/net/tahsot/yeosot/ilgop/ahop/yeol – bun i eyo) [One/two/three/four/five/six/seven/eight/nine/ten people]

Waiter: 이쪽으로 오세요. (I jjokero ohseyo) [Come this way]

[Ordering]
(Calling over the waiter) You: 저기요! (cho ggi yo) [Excuse me (lit. over there)]

Waiter: 뭘 주문하시겠어요? (mwol chumunhashigessoyo) [What would you like to order?]

Here you have several options.

If you’re ordering something with numbers, you can say –

# 번 (하고 # 번) 주세요 (# bon hago # bon chuseyo) [Please give me number # and number #)

And the #’s – 일 (il/one), 이 (i/two), 삼 (sam/three), 사 (sah, four), 오 (oh, five), 육 (yu, six), 칠 (chil, seven), 팔 (pal, eight), 구 (ku, nine), 십 (ship, ten), 십일 (shibil, eleven), 십이 (shibi, twelve), 십삼 (shibsam, thirteen)….

And if you’re not ordering with numbers, just replace the # signs with the name of the food.

If you’re ordering BBQ, the way they sell meat is in the servings per person. So if you have four+ people, you’re supposed to order four+ servings, but some places you can get away with ordering two or three, if you’re lucky.

You: 불고기 사인분 주세요 (pulgogi sa in bun chuseyo) [Four servings of bulgogi, please]
불고기 is really popular, but you can replace it with 갈비(kalbi) or 삼겹살 (samgyopsal).

Three orders of meat: 삼인분 (sam in bun)
Five orders: 오인분(oh in bun)

[During the meal]
If you want more water – 여기 물 좀 더 주세요 (yoggi muul jom doh chuseyo)
If you want some hand wipes – 물수건 좀 주세요 (muul sugohn chuseyo)
If you want to order more food – (name of food) 하나 더 주세요 ( _____ hana doh chuseyo) 

[At the end of the meal]
If you want the bill – 계산서 주실래요? (kyesanso jushillaeyo?) 
OR 지금 계산할게요 (chigeum kyesan halkaeyo) [We’ll take the bill now]

If there’s anything I missed that you would like to know, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it! Again, if there are any mistakes, please let me know!

A Learning Stump?

More like a life stump. I’ve started school again, and I don’t know if I’m glad I’m a bit more busy now or a bit annoyed I generally have less time to study Korean.

The weird thing is that there are actually a lot of Koreans in my school, but they always travel in packs, and I don’t have any classes with them (I’m a Media major, I mean, maybe I should just change my major again to Business or something =____=), so it’s awkward to try to make friends with them. – End pointless interjection –

I’ve more or less readjusted to life back at home, sad to say, a life removed from excitement and intrigue :( Another random rant – I’m planning on going to the SM Global Audition in two weeks at NYC, so if any of you guys reading right now are planning on going as well, please let me know so that we can meet up! It would be good to have mutual support ^^ Instead of singing, I’m actually considering doing a monologue…I’m going to be so nervous omg lol

Anyway, my main point in typing this post today is to talk about a source I think is kind of awesome for helping learn Korean. And the source of the day is – K-pop Lyric Videos! The ones I’m talking about are the ones with hangul, romanization, and English translation, like so:

This is the first k-pop song I ever loved, back when I first discovered k-pop in the summer of 2009. I was a hardcore E.LF, seriously. I had “It’s You” on repeat for forever. The lyrics are actually surprisingly easy, using relatively easy vocabulary and grammar. I can understand 95% of it without the English translation, which makes me almost proud of myself. If I had started learning Korean back when I first discovered k-pop, just think of how good my Korean would be now…oh well, no point dwelling in the past.

But this Youtube user is really amazing – I’m not sure if it’s a girl or guy but I will assume it’s a girl – all of her videos have really pretty and mellow backgrounds to accompany the songs, so the video isn’t distracting. I have all of her songs on my ‘Watch Later’ list, so I just have it on the background while it plays the whole list, so whenever I’m inspired to read the lyrics, I can. It makes learning Korean less daunting and more fun!

Time to end (almost) pointless rant of the day!

Lately

Last week, my new semester started, so I’ve been kind of busy. I still try to study a bit of Korean everyday, and I think I’m improving a bit, but it’s still hard trying to understand natural Korean dialogue. Yesterday I found this interview of Kevin from U-Kiss conducted in English and Korean, and it was a good exercise trying to understand his and the interviewer’s Korean, because both of their native tongues are English (so their Korean is a bit slower than native Korean speakers’). I still can’t understand everything, but I think and intermediate level Korean learner would be able to understand most of it. Means I still have a long way’s to go!

Tomorrow I’m going to a Korean Language Exchange meet up, so hopefully it will be good and I’ll be able to practice my Korean. I really haven’t been able to practice speaking Korean to people lately, since I no longer live in Korea. Lately, I’ve been speaking Korean to my dog when I walk him, because it feels better than talking to no one at all, but he doesn’t understand anyway, so I don’t feel inhibited from speaking Korean wrong.

Next week I’m finally starting my Korean language class! It’s not at my university; it’s at a separate institution, it’s 10 weeks, twice a week, and we’ll be working off the textbook Integrated Korean Beginner 2. I looked through the book a bit, and I know a bunch of it, but I think it will be good review to reinforce the grammar and vocabulary I’ve learned in the past couple of months. I’ll update you guys on how it goes ~

Hope your Korean learning is going well!

P.S. I’ve been spending most of my online time on Tumblr. If you have tumblr, follow me!