Tag Archives: music review

The Sol Also Rises… Again

KPOP Tuesdays:  Taeyang’s Ringa Linga
Olivia of WangGuk


Sorry that posts have been really hap-hazard this past week; being busy is a blessing, but it kind of sucks when it comes to trying to post everyday.  I’ll try my best to have a better posting week this time.

Anyway, this week was full of great comebacks by so many of my favs in KPOP that it was fairly difficult to choose which I was going to review first.  But I decided on Taeyang’s new song and video Ringa Linga.  Because it’s awesome.
There are so many comments on this video, it’s insane— many of which are a little frustrating and silly to me.  Let me start off by saying that I really love this new song from Taeyang.  It’s fresh, it’s innovative, but it’s still completely Taeyang.

The sound is a little different for Taeyang, compared to most of his past work.  I mean, there’s a lot of electro-synth-y sounds and auto-tune, the video is visually super different than most of his other ones, and let’s not forget the most exciting new aspect of this song:  Taeyang raps!  There are many reasons I love this song, but I think the main reasons are the fact that Taeyang has tried something so new and fresh and different from his past work and also that he seems so much more himself in this new image of his.
I have heard a lot of criticisms of Taeyang’s new look, all of which seem a little ungrounded to me.  Many people have been commenting things like “Oh Taeyang just copies whatever GD does” and “Oh, I just miss the old Taeyang” and other such sentiments.  Numero uno, no one is copying anyyyyyone.  Yes, Taeyang has blonde hair now and yes, he tried rapping in this song.  This does not mean he looked at GD and was just like “Hmm, that looks cool; I’ll just do that for my next video”— it means Taeyang has blonde hair now and explored rap in this new album.  These two artists are BFFs, yes, but they are so distinctly different, it’s kind of astounding to me that people could even say they’re even somewhat similar.  Because they really aren’t.  And to all who “just miss the old Taeyang”, I guess I’d simply say this:  being an artist is a journey.  Artists grow and progress; they explore new ideas and concepts and new ways to carry out those concepts.  I love Taeyang’s past work because he’s always been talented, but I love his new work because it means he’s moving forward and exploring all of his many selves as an artist— it’s a good thing that his new stuff doesn’t sound like his old stuff; it doesn’t mean he’s not Taeyang anymore, it just means that he’s exploring different parts of himself as an artist.

As for the setting of this video— it’s sick.  I love the underground, modern-day dirty-grunge-clubkid look and I love that the song matches the scene.  The colors are icy and cool, which perfectly matches Taeyang’s new personal look.  And honestly, I like this look on Taeyang— he looks a bit more chic and high-fashion to me now, and I think his stunning features pop a little bit more now.
Some key aspects about this video that really make it for me are the unique spin on androgyny, the exploration of cultural and social diversity, and the creativity behind the dance and song.  Firstly, I noticed that all of the girls in this song were sexy, yes, but not in a stereotypical way.  At one point, they’re doing their little baby-got-back booty-raises, but they’re not wearing vagina-high shiny club dresses, as expected; instead, they’re wearing these super cool almost sack-like black dresses with hardly any shape at all to them, paired with big black snapbacks.  Their dresses are loose and baggy, and they honestly look more “guyish” than some of the guys in the video— I love this!  I love this unique spin on the modern-day concept of androgyny; it’s a great challenge to how we view sexiness and I honestly think it’s a step ahead of the curve.  The subtle comments made by a simple stylistic choice— genius.

Secondly,  I love the social and cultural meshing that occurs in the setting of the video.  It’s this grungy, underground party scene, but it’s super chill and there are people from many different cultural and social backgrounds present in the video— I like this.  I also like that, at the end of the video, we see some of this modern-day grunge-clubkid hip-hop scene mixed with some traditional Asian culture and also some traditional hip-hop culture.  There’s something about the setting of the video that is inclusive yet diverse— it’s very progressive, actually.  The scene is set around these club/party kids who kind of stand as the youth of today, including all social outcasts and rebels of the day, but I like it because diversity still exists among them and cultural identity is so interwoven in social identity in the video.  It’s quite smart, I think.
Finally, let’s be honest— no one moves like Taeyang.  No one ever will.  His dance for this song is unique and progressive, so it matches the scene of the video, and his movements all perfectly bring to life the feeling of the song.  I loved it; I was impressed by all aspects of the song and accompanying video.  Taeyang has come such a far way since I Need a Girl, and I’m really excited to see where he goes next in his journey as an artist.


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O! R U L8 2?

KPOP Tuesdays:  BTS’s New Album, O! R U L8, 2? (Oh! Are you Late, Too?)
Olivia of WangGuk
So last week’s KPOP review was on BTS’s new song, N.O, which I love.  But this week, I found it really difficult to review any one specific music video because I was still too distracted by how amazing BTS really is.  I came to this realization after purchasing their newest album on iTunes.  This album is insanely good— by any standard.
If you’ve ever watched an interview with these guys, you’ve probably heard them say some version of what is quickly becoming their group catch phrase:  that they are striving to produce the most authentic and real rap/hip-hop.  This is a fine goal, to be sure, as Jack would say, but it is no easy task.  Hip-hop and street rap have an intense cultural history and real rap— I’m talking the purest of poetry, that sick spoken word— is not an easy mode of expression to master.  That’s why this new album impresses me so much.  When I hear the songs, I hear more than a melody and I hear more than a good beat (which is all I can really say for a lot of music these days).  I hear rawness, I hear realness, I hear something deep and tangible.  This album deals with some heavy themes, but it is by no means an intensely heavy album altogether.  It’s just real.  It’s just music done right.  It has so much soul in it; I’m honestly in love with it.
If you haven’t listened to this album yet, invest some time in it— it will be WORTH IT.  And if you’re sitting there thinking, “Yeah but I don’t understand Korean”, then look up the beautiful lyrics so that you can appreciate them, but also just sit and enjoy the insanely good rhythms these guys weave.  They are all talented members— there’s not one in the group who isn’t.  But if I’m really going to point fingers at who captured my heart in this album, I guess I’d have to point toward the group’s leader, Rap Monster.  He’s an insanely good rapper— in English and in Korean— and his voice is always so heavy and full of the burden he’s communicating in his songs.  He’s crazy talented, and I never realized just how talented until I listened to this album all the way through (on my way to my cousin’s orchestra, if you read yesterday’s post).
Anyway, I just wanted to make a post about how much I love this album because…I love it haha.  And it MUST be appreciated, it’s too good.  So check it out!

Everybody Say “N.O”

KPOP Tuesdays:  BTS (Bangtan Boys//방탄소년단)’s “N.O”
Olivia of WangGuk

Watch official video here first>>  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5GaAEHvHj0
I’m super excited about today’s post because I get to talk about one of my favorite recent MVs in KPOP.  It of course comes from a rookie group (I always fall in love with the underdogs), who debuted earlier this year:  BTS.  This group has many names (Bangtan Boys, 방탄소년단, Bulletproof Boy Scouts, etc.), but what they are gaining more and more attention for is what they choose to center most of their music around.  Most of their hit songs are social commentaries about the school system and societal expectations of students in modern-day Korea.  They’ve gained a lot of positive attention from students around the world, but they’ve also inevitably gained some negative attention from people who think their blatantly negative view of the school system and the life of a student will affect the way students view education.
Firstly, I have to say that I am of the prior opinion and not the latter.  There is no doubt in my mind that BTS is one of the most impressive rookie groups in the last three years (AT LEAST) and I definitely must say that their social commentary achieved through their songs is inspiring, rather than negative.  I have always been a fan; this most recent addition to their repertoire is easily one of my favorites from them so far.
The video starts with all the boys sitting in a small, closed, white-wall classroom and the instructors look kind of like a cross between cops and snow-troopers.  The snow-trooper-cop teachers gives the boys little red pills and then make them sit through a lecture.  Eventually, the boys get angsty and decide to overturn all of their desks and charge the teachers, even though they have police barricade-type plastic shields.  The boys escape the confines of the classroom (actually, the classroom kind of just blows up) and then the video shifts to more of their awesome choreo.

What I really love about this song and video is that the lyrics coincide perfectly with the choreography.  It’s like the words come to life through the dance, especially at the end when the whole last chunk of the video is devoted to an intensely choreographed moment.  The movements are all unique and they’re always so in-sync with each other.
As for the theme of the song, yes, it is about the negative aspects of the school system.  But, rather than worrying if songs like this might negatively affect how students view school, perhaps we should take the stance that this is already how a great number of students feel.  This song discusses the difficulties of a student’s life, highlighting such things as social stigmas, the idealized “dream life,” and the pressure of meeting parents‘ standards.  The lyrics are deep and thoughtful; just look them up.  This song is not encouraging students to view school in this manner; this song is a resonation to how students already feel.  It is a response to society and the many stigmas young people now face.  It’s a lament, yes, so it isn’t a happy song, but it also isn’t declaring anarchy, so I don’t think we should categorize it as negative propaganda against the education system— and I’m a teacher haha.  I will say that it is unfortunate that school can be so confining and stifling, but I mean, there are positive and negative aspects to any sort of system.  I have seen extremely healthy school environments, where creativity and ideas flow uninhibited, and I have also seen classrooms that can be classified as what BTS illustrates in this video.  The point isn’t to bash school— it’s just to challenge kids to see beyond the mundane stereotypical life; to truly ask what their dreams are.

However, this song challenges a lot of social norms that are unhealthily idealized, and I think that’s valuable.  It brings to question what really is the “dream life” and what it means to live life well.  The song’s chorus says “Everybody say ‘NO!‘  It has to be now or never; we still haven’t done anything.  Don’t be trapped in someone else’s dream.  We roll, we roll, we roll.”  I love this; the “we roll” brings to mind how we can just “roll” through life and just go with the flow, never striving for more than the status quo.  And they’re advising kids to live their own lives and follow their own dreams— not anyone else’s.  It’s not necessarily a “rage against the machine” move; they’re simply giving good advice.  Dreams are valuable; kids need to know that their dreams and passions aren’t stupid— they’re real.  I followed my dream (finally) and no, I don’t have my own house yet and yeah, I have no money; but this dream is better than any stable job I can think of.  I do think there is value in practicality— we do have to survive in this world (it’s why I have a day job).  But we also must not let go of our true passions— there’s a place for them in this world, and passions need to be pursued; dreams need to be lived.
So, instead of seeing this song as just another angsty teen song that’s only a bunch of kids saying “I hate school”, take a closer listen (or read) at what they’re actually saying and give a deeper thought to what living well truly means.  God gives dreams for a reason, yo.  Listen to His voice.

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