K-Pop General Entertainment Thread

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Let's showcase Fromis9's adorability and chemistry. English subtitles available.

Here, six of them are celebrating the Lunar New Year by dressing up in traditional Korean costumes and cooking various dishes.


Here's Seoyeon, Nagyung, and Jiheon being cute while making pottery.


Here's Saerom, Jisun, and Jiwon taking a woodworking class


Here's Hayoung, Gyuri, and Chaeyoung learning how to paint

 

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Yeah you beat me to it. Fromis9 came back a few days ago with their new single album "Talk & Talk"--not even four months after releasing their last single album, "9 Way Ticket". This is an unprecedented level of activity for them. Fromis 9 is not new--they debuted in January 2018, after releasing a pre-debut single "Glass Shoes" in late 2017--but their activity over that 3.5+ year period has been rather disjointed:

2018: released two mini albums and a single album
2019: released one single album
2020: released one mini album
first 9 months of 2021: released one single album

So, their first year was extremely active, with three album releases. Then, up until last week, their activity slowed way down to a one-release-per-year cadence. Generally such a slowdown indicates that a group is struggling, but oddly in this case, it was just the opposite. Their sole 2019 release, the single album "Fun Factory", was a huge success, selling almost as many copies as Fromis9's first three albums combined. And their subsequent two releases--2020's "My Little Society" and 2021's "9 Way Ticket"--sold at roughly the same ~50,000 copy rate, which is solid performance by a kpop girl group. If it seems like bad management to slow your operations down so dramatically after reaching such a level of success, your instinct would be correct, but not for the precise reasons you might imagine.

To understand this better you have to go back to where Fromis9 came from--MNet's "Idol School" survival show. "Idol School" was a follow-up to MNet's hugely successful 2016 idol survival show, "Produce 101", the goal of which was to form the project group "I.O.I" with a one-year contracted lifespan. "Produce 101" was a new type of idol survival show--where previous idol survival shows like "Sixteen" and "Finding Momoland" were run by single talent agencies pitting their own trainees against each other, "Produce 101" invited a mob of 101 trainees from dozens and dozens of different agencies. This was an attractive strategy for both the survival show and for the agencies--the survival show gets a lot of fodder for creating tv content, and the agencies get a chance to give their trainees valuable stage experience, while also creating an opportunity to make a share of money from the resulting project group, assuming of course any of their trainees actually made it through the final selection. "Produce 101" was a big ratings success, and the project group it created, I.O.I., had a great little run, selling 200k albums and charting a number of singles.

Based on that success, in mid-2017, MNet decided to create yet another new type of survival show with yet another slant. This time, instead of recruiting trainees already signed to agency contracts, MNet decided to cut out the middleman and recruit contestants straight off the streets. "Idol School's" conceit was that they could take any girl, regardless of skill or talent, and train them to be an idol in 11 weeks at their "Idol University". The only hard qualifications were, you had to look pretty, and you couldn't already be contractually bound to any talent agency. It was an interesting idea, but for whatever reason, the "Idol School" TV show did not get nearly the ratings that "Produce 101" got. And, the group that "Idol School" produced--Fromis9--did not have nearly the initial success that I.O.I. had in its first (and only) year. The problem was, the people who ran MNet were much better at the business of producing TV shows than they were at the business of managing idol groups. Their solution was to immediately get back to what they were good at, and in mid-2018 they followed up their "Idol School" idol survival show with "Produce 48", which reverted back to the successful formula that "Produce 101" used, i.e. casting girls already under contract at a wide variety of talent agencies/management companies. The new twist that "Produce 48" introduced was to include Japanese idols under contract to the AKB48/HKT48 idol group family. This was interesting because the AKB48 idol concept is very different from the Korean idol concept, but that's a topic for a different time. In any event, the "Produce48" TV series was a hit, almost as big as the original "Produce101", and the product of the competition was the group IZ*ONE, which was contracted for a 2 1/2 year lifetime.

MNet now had not one, but two project groups to manage. To MNet's parent company's credit, before IZ*ONE debuted, they recognized and addressed their deficiencies in idol management and formed a new subsidiary, Off The Record Entertainment, to manage both IZ*ONE (which they guided to a hugely successful debut in October 2018) and Fromis9. And Fromis9 immediately benefited from this infusion of professional management. For example, let's compare and contrast Fromis9's early work, to their work after Off The Record took over starting in September 2018.

2017/2018:



Post September 2018:




The difference between bad management and good management really jumps out, doesn't it?? Remember, this is a group composed of girls that were cast with only one governing criterion: that they look pretty. And yet all their early stages and musical content featured extremely conservative styling that utterly failed to highlight their stunning visual talent and energetic, bright personalities. Fortunately, Off The Record righted the ship and put Fromis9 back on course. Unfortunately, given IZ*ONE's monster debut and artificially limited shelf life, Fromis9 spent the next 2 1/2 years sucking hind tit behind their labelmates, which explains why their activity dropped off a cliff despite the success that professional management brought them.

But thanks to IZ*ONE's disbandment, MNet's parent CJ ENM has apparently decided to get out of the idol management business. They shut down Off The Record and sold Fromis9 off to cash-rich kpop industry giant HYBE, which put them under their Pledis Entertainment subsidiary, who immediately got to work on Fromis9's behalf. And that brings the Fromis9 story up to date.
Ace analysis there JRR III it really captures it. I'm glad Mnet finally stood back and realized these groups had genuine talent aside from just looking cute. Reminds me of that Japanese game for promoting bands -- like they realized they might have a "AKB48" with Fromis9. I've always liked their shows... they actually remind me of a traditional style overall with modern up to date hints. It is good to see this.
 

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Now that we've got Fromis9's backstory out of the way, let's get to their new single, "Talk & Talk". Here's the music video:


First: 18 million views after 1 week? Nice work.

View attachment 65180

Second: It's a cute song and a cute video. It's a song that celebrates the female joy of talking--specifically in this case, talking on the phone, but also talking face to face. This is especially relevant given how modern social media and communication technologies have undermined the archetypal female need to talk by attempting to replace it with texting and social media posting. This is of course part of the Jew/CIA plot to undermine not just intergender communication, but intragender communication as well.

And, the song's video gives us some insights into Fromis9's challenges since their formation in 2017. Let's examine what's going on here.

* First, the video starts with a callback to Fromis9's last video, "We Go", which was a very innovative video that I covered here, and another solid hit for them.
* Then we see nine girls who all live in the same apartment complex (the "Flover Apartments") who enjoy talking on the phone with each other when they can't be in the same room together. (What's a "Flover"? That's the name Fromis9 gives to their fanbase. So, immediately this video communicates the idea that these girls wouldn't even be together without their fans--a very insightful and respectful observation).
* As the video progresses, we see the girls interacting with each other not just on the phone, but physically in real life--an important observation regarding healthy human relationships.
* Towards the end of the video, the power goes out. The girls react immediately--first by checking up on each other, and then by assembling in their leader Saerom's apartment. Saerom herself seeks out the girl most in need--Hayoung--and brings her back upstairs.
* In the end, the power goes back on, and the girls celebrate, and return to their own apartments.

So let's put this in context of Fromis9's history, which I recounted in the above post. We have a group that was brought together in the same building (literally in this case, as--like all korean idol groups--they all moved into a dorm together after they were formed), and continued to live there thanks to the support of their fans, aka "Flovers". They come to know each other happily, but they live subject to "power outages", which is clearly analogous to the long hiatuses in group activity MNet's management company, Off The Record, subjected them to in favor of their labelmate IZ*ONE. And during those periods of neglect, the members looked out for each other under the watchful supervision of their leader, Saerom.

Which brings me to a larger subject I have been meaning to address: the critical value of leadership in these girl groups. The entire idea of "female leadership" seems absurd as females are staggeringly incompetent at organizing or managing any kind of organization. But I'm going to argue that's not a completely fair characterization. Females are indeed useless at organizing or managing organizations that include men, but in organizations composed 100% of females, women are capable of this skill--a skill that's critical to the success of any 100% female organization. And kpop girl groups have made a very useful laboratory for examining this kind of skill. JYP himself put it in a nutshell that female idols could understand:

View attachment 65167

A broader survey of girl group leadership is a topic for another time, but suffice it to say that every girl group that has achieved some measure of success owes a portion of that success to the group's leader. And Fromis9 is no exception. Saerom deserves her share of credit, not just for keeping this group together under difficult circumstances, but helping it succeed. And succeed they have--after almost four years, they achieved possibly the most meaningful milestone of success that every kpop girl group hopes to achieve.

View attachment 65179

It's ironic of course that they defeated Kwon Eunbi, the former leader of IZ*ONE, but I'm sure Eunbi didn't hold that against them.


That's Jiheon, the youngest, completely losing her composure in the face of achieving such a monumental milestone as Saerom comforts her.



Right after their win, they thoughtfully did a reaction video thanking their fans for sticking with them for so long. Poor sweet Jiheon could only articulate one word: "Thank you".



When I was in Asia (Korea), I saw too the Female leaders among their group. It is a little bit of a pleasant shock to see a brave girl stand up and say...."I speak for us"... These leaders I think kept Korea together through a lot of hard times. I remember teaching Female High Schools and Colleges where the leaders-women would suddenly speak up and direct the other girls. They are the first "call" in talking to the group. Interestingly...they promoted these leaders were instinctively for "Better Futures"...and this is where I got this... Woman saying we need a better Future and Men responding to it-- this is ancient Asia tbh. It was very honest and forward there. It wasn't for "rights" so much as it was for better living and keeping their "space" to be their own. To be honest, I really want to see this progressive "innocence" with women back here in the US. It was disheartening to leave Korea and see the corruption of this kind of innocence here in the USA with MSM. Like are there traditions Women should follow? Is there courtship? That's what revolutionized me the most. The girls in Korea were very tactful as well without too much MSM culture thrown in...and kind of rejected it completely in classes. Looking cute and mastery of the material of focus was #1. Fromis9 really brings that back. Cute, Fun and Better Futures with a touch of flirty innocence. I think MNet hit a real winner with their formation. If you want to ever form a production...let me know in private chat. Kind of not joking.
 
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JR_Rustler_III

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Fromis_9 is notable for doing SNSD/Girls' Generation covers. Given that Girls' Generation is the greatest girl group of all time, you get a peculiar situation where all girl group trainees learn how to dance many of Girls' Generation most iconic hits (especially "Into The New World") but rarely actually perform them after they debut, because few dare to expose themselves to comparison to the indisputable all-time greats. But Fromis_9 either didn't know enough to be scared, or didn't care.

Let's look at some of Fromis_9's SNSD covers. First is their cover of "Into the New World":


Here's the fancam version, which allows you to see the full choreography, which is deceptively complicated:


For example, in this clip, Jiwon (in center position) has to nail a high note, and then has to backpedal blind way to her left without tripping or getting in Saerom's way, who is coming all the way into center-left from the far back left.



Here's the SNSD debut stage for reference:


And here's a side-by-side comparison a fan put together of the SNSD original and the Fromis_9 cover, with the audio split (I believe SNSD is in the left channel, and Fromis_9 in the right channel), which really showcases the quality of Fromis_9's vocals. (Note the slight timing discrepancy due to the slight difference between the dance break choreos). The fact that Jiwon can match Taeyon's high legendary high notes is a remarkable achievement in and of itself, given that Taeyon is possibly the greatest idol vocalist of all time.


Now, let's be fair. While Fromis_9's vocal performance is outstanding, their dance formations aren't always crisp here, and their overall energy level simply doesn't match SNSD's. But that's an almost impossible comparison to make as SNSD's raw physical power has never been matched on stage, ever, by anybody. Bottom line is, this is easily one of the best covers of this legendary song ever performed by any single idol group.
 
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For reference, let's look at some other "Into the New World" covers.

Arguably, Dreamcatcher is the only other group that has come close to Fromis_9's cover:


The problem with Dreamcatcher's cover here is, they perform a truncated 3-minute version, where Fromis_9 did the full, 4-minute-plus version. So right off the bat, they get disqualified. To give credit where credit is due, Dreamcatcher's formations here are crisper (although they have an easier time given there are only 7 members to choreograph), their energy level is higher, and while their vocals are strong, this song is defined by its high notes, and on that score Jiwon gets the edge.

Here's another side-by-side comparison with SNSD, (SNSD is in the left channel, Dreamcatcher in the right channel). You can clearly see the section that Dreamcatcher truncated.


Dreamcatcher also performs this cover live. Here's a fancam of a live performance that is even stronger than the one above--but again, it is a truncated version:


Lots of groups have done truncated versions--GFriend being the most notable. This one is 1:36 of an over 4 minute song--such a severe truncation that you can barely even call it a cover. They do an incredible job but all it does is leave you wanting more. It's puzzling to me why they never performed a full cover of this song.


Apropos of nothing, here's a video compilation of GFriend performances where different members' shoes come off while performing. It's funny to see how each of them react.

 
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Probably the best 3-minute cover version of "Into the New World" was performed by Oh My Girl-- but frustratingly, all we have for evidence is this concert fancam:


Everything about this cover is outstanding--the dancing, the vocals, the high notes, the energy, and especially the dance break, which is by far the best cover of the two-girl version of the dance break choreo (SNSD would sometimes do a two-girl break, and sometimes do a solo break). But Oh My Girl never performed this cover on a TV stage, and never documented this live performance on DVD-quality sound, so we are forced to compare apples to oranges. It would be amazing to see them perform the full 4:25 version on a TV stage with concert-quality sound. There is a good chance that they could easily match--or possibly even surpass in some respects--the original version.

Let's continue with some "all-star" special-stage covers. Here we have a 9-member supergroup composed of members of IZ*ONE, Weki Meki, and G-IDLE doing a not-quite-full cover version (they sliced about 35 seconds off):


The advantages of using an all-star group to cover this song should be obvious--you can cherry-pick members to match up with SNSD's lineup. And given the level of talent in these three groups, it's not surprising that they delivered a solid professional effort--certainly more polished than Fromis_9's cover but not nearly as satisfying. Most surprising was the dance break--Chaeyon from IZ*ONE is possibly the greatest idol dancer alive right now but the dance break wasn't particularly special. I'm guessing that, given how busy IZ*ONE was at the time, they simply didn't have much time to prepare for this stage.

Next up, GFriend, I.O.I., Red Velvet, and TWICE collaborate in a legendary mob scene of a cover--that's fully 31 girls they're sending out there. When you throw this much spaghetti up against a wall, a lot of it is going to stick, but this really looks more like a jailbreak than a legitimate cover. The action doesn't start until 2:36, which makes it a sub-3-minute cover:


Here's the fancam, which is fun to watch for a few reasons:

* Irene smacking Wendy's butt at 1:12 so she doesn't forget her solo
* All the girls cheering Yuju on at 1:24 as she cues up the legendary high note
* Jeongyeon screwing up the choreo at 1:56 and Somi catching it out of the corner of her eye and cracking up
* Jeongyeon and Somi sharing another laugh at Jeongyeon's misadventures from 2:14 to 2:21

 
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JR_Rustler_III

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But probably the most popular cover of "Into the New World" isn't the best version, but certainly the most surprising one. It happened during the Produce 101 idol survival show, when two five-member teams of contestants ("blue team" and "pink team") were pitted against each other to cover the same song, and one of the contestants--Yeonjung--shocked the world with her staggering vocal talent, effortlessly nailing all the most difficult vocal parts of the song by herself.


I had to show the facecam because, annoyingly, there is no unedited version of the Blue team performance extant. The only video available that shows the entire team's performance is one intercut with reaction shots.


Yeonjung's teammates did a good job covering all the less challenging vocal parts, making this one of the best vocal covers ever performed of "Into the New World". And in fact two of her teammates would later go on to join successful idol groups--Chaekyoung to April, and Gyeongwon (aka Yuha) to Pristin and Hinapia. Yeonjung survived the competition and joined the resulting project group, I.O.I., and then when I.O.I. disbanded, went on to join WJSN/Cosmic Girls as their main vocalist.

Fun fact: despite this legendary vocal performance, Yeonjung's team actually lost this head-to-head competition. This was partly because Blue team's dancing wasn't that great, but mainly because Pink team's leader was Somi, who was by far the most popular contestant in the show--she eventually finished in first place. What made Blue team's defeat even more bitter was the embarrassing failure of Pink team's main vocalist--the backstory of which is best left for another time.

 
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CrackSmokeRepublican

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Just wanted to post this one too on Loona's new Special Clip "Not Friends"....really liked Kim Lip's chorus with JinSul at 3:30:


The actual vid MV which is a FPS-Gamer Uprising vid. (Shock) Yeah they probably follow our thread here JRR is my bet...jk...still good...it is a long call from "Love4Eva"...maybe too matured at this point looking back:

 

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But probably the most popular cover of "Into the New World" isn't the best version, but certainly the most surprising one. It happened during the Produce 101 idol survival show, when two five-member teams of contestants ("blue team" and "pink team") were pitted against each other to cover the same song, and one of the contestants--Yeonjung--shocked the world with her staggering vocal talent, effortlessly nailing all the most difficult vocal parts of the song by herself.


I had to show the facecam because, annoyingly, there is no unedited version of the Blue team performance extant. The only video available that shows the entire team's performance is one intercut with reaction shots.


Yeonjung's teammates did a good job covering all the less challenging vocal parts, making this one of the best vocal covers ever performed of "Into the New World". And in fact two of her teammates would later go on to join successful idol groups--Chaekyoung to April, and Gyeongwon (aka Yuha) to Pristin and Hinapia. Yeonjung survived the competition and joined the resulting project group, I.O.I., and then when I.O.I. disbanded, went on to join WJSN/Cosmic Girls as their main vocalist.

Fun fact: despite this legendary vocal performance, Yeonjung's team actually lost this head-to-head competition. This was partly because Blue team's dancing wasn't that great, but mainly because Pink team's leader was Somi, who was by far the most popular contestant in the show--she eventually finished in first place. What made Blue team's defeat even more bitter was the embarrassing failure of Pink team's main vocalist--the backstory of which is best left for another time.

Thanks for putting it all in line. Just nice to see a good SNSD song get covered as they came up back in the day. Takes real skill to cover it. Liked GFriend's cover especially (because unexpected).
 
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The actual vid MV which is a FPS-Gamer Uprising vid. (Shock) Yeah they probably follow our thread here JRR is my bet...jk...still good...it is a long call from "Love4Eva"...maybe too matured at this point looking back:
Yeah, it's a solid effort and definitely showcases their versatility, thanks for posting. I like Loona but was sort of disappointed with their recent "Paint The Town" comeback, so I never got around to posting about it.
 

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Let's continue on with Fromis_9 covers of SNSD. Next up is their cover of SNSD's legendary "Oh!"


So, what immediately jumps out here? First, the camera work is terrible to point of inducing nausea. This was shot on a festival stage and whoever directed the cameras should be fired. Second, as I'll get into in more detail, the styling choices are all wrong. This stage was performed in July 2018, only six months after Fromis_9 debuted, and remember that Fromis_9 didn't start getting professional management until shortly after this stage was performed, which almost certainly explains the bad styling choices. Those are the negatives, and both of them were completely outside the girls' control. What was within their control was the vocal and dance performance--and the vocal performance was excellent. But the dance performance is very difficult to evaluate due to the disgraceful camera work.

Let's back up, look at the source material, and develop a framework for analysis.

First, the original music video. The song is sung mostly in Korean, and partially in English; but if you listen very carefully from 0:14 to 0:27, below the music you'll hear an opening narration in English (almost certainly voiced by either Jessica or Tiffany, who both grew up in California, and thus speak fluent American English) that explains the theme of the song.


Second, here are the lyrics translated into English, which reveal the song is about a girl who is determined to change herself in order to attract a particular boy's attention.


Third, we need to examine the choreography and dance performance in detail. Unfortunately SM never gave us a decent-quality static-camera choreography version of the music video. What we do have is a "dance video" of the Japanese version of the song, which unfortunately doesn't use a static camera (which means girls go out of frame from time to time) but is still relatively useful for examining the choreography:


We also have an almost-unusably-low resolution (240p at best) "dance practice" video which was probably shot by one of their managers using his crappy 2009-era cellphone camera--and worse, he didn't back up far enough as girls drift out of frame as the formations widen. Arggghhhh.

Screen Shot 2021-09-16 at 5.56.25 PM.png

 
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Examining the choreography videos reveals a lot about what makes SNSD unique, and why they are the greatest girl group of all time. The choreography of this song--like the choreography of many other SNSD songs--features several distinguishing characteristics:

* Every single girl is always uniquely contributing to the overall choreography, whether she is moving, or in a static pose
* Even static poses frequently have moving elements (i.e. hand & arm movements)
* Not all moving choreography is the same--sometimes moving girls are used to create a dynamic background for a foreground performer (or performers)
* As the song builds to a climax, the girls increasingly move together, until all nine girls blend into a single, seamless choreographic element with nine differently moving parts

Furthermore, every member of SNSD shares a signature dancing style--very powerful and deliberate flowing movements, punctuated by sudden stops and starts, that are strikingly reminiscent of a lioness stalking her prey:



Let's start our analysis by looking at a slice of the dance video of the Japanese-language version indicated in the above post:



This clip starts with 8 of the girls loping backstage swinging their interlocked hands back and forth forming a dynamic background for Jessica to move upstage for her solo. When Jessica finishes advancing she steps aside into a static pose while Taeyon, Sooyoung, and Yoona advance forward in a classic SNSD triangle formation while the remaining five girls pivot forward at backstage into five different static poses. Then Jessica backs up a few steps into another static pose while Taeyon, Sooyoung, and Yoona stop advancing, pivot towards Jessica, vamp, pivot forward, and vamp again. Every move and pose is calculated and executed deliberately, but powerfully.

How does this square with the lyrical content of the song? Well, we have a girl who is determined to get her man, and is making changes in her life to do so. Presumably he's a football player, so she gives herself a makeover, adjusts her attitude, and joins the cheerleading squad. The choreography leaves no doubt that this girl is not just trying to put herself in front of her man--instead she is embracing her inner sexual predator, and going on the offensive.

To really get a sense of how these girls perform, let's take advantage of some terrific fancams of a fanmeeting performance in Los Angeles in 2010. This is a very small venue which afforded a few lucky attendees some amazing close-ups, and fortunately for us, they brought high-quality video cameras to document the performance for posterity. Here are two front-row fancams from about 15 feet apart--the first is positioned in front of the stage, front row, about halfway left of center, and is shooting in glorious 1080p hi-def:


The first 45 seconds or so of video are sloppy and zoomed too far in, but the cameraman eventually gets control of himself. He zooms out sufficiently to get all the girls in frame, and then does a pretty good job alternating between full-stage shots and closeups for the rest of the performance.

The second camera is on the audience's left side of the stage, front row, and not far from the front corner. This guy is literally pressed up right against the stage and is getting some terrific low-angle shots that afford amazing closeups of the girls, especially of Yuri (#21 in your program, #1 in your heart), while also keeping all of them in frame for most of the performance. He's shooting in 720p but he's in so tight, the lower resolution doesn't make a difference.


What you'll notice is just how well the girls play to the crowd. While technically their live dancing isn't as crisp as in the studio version--it never is, for obvious reasons--the performance not only doesn't suffer for that, but rather, rises to a higher level, in the same way that great live bands always outdo the studio versions of their songs on stage.

Now let's look at a couple of key slices of the same part of the performance shot from two separate angles. The first slice captures the moment leading up to the climax of the song, where Sunny (#12) advances to front and center, only to suddenly play hard to get, insouciantly turning the girls around to give the audience their backs, before spinning right around again to writhe sensuously in a classic teaser move. Here it is from the front:



Look how Hyoyeon (#32), the group's main dancer--who is also one of the all-time great idol dancers--throws an extra dollop of sauce onto her part.

Now here is the exact same bit, but shot from the left side of the stage:



Two things: first, what looked, from the front of the stage, like an over-elaboration by Hyoyeon, now looks like a coordinated undulating wave initiated by Hyoyeon when viewed from the left side of the stage. This is incredible, like watching birds flocking, or fish schooling. Second, at the end of the clip, look how Yuri thoughtfully plays directly to the audience stuck on the left side of the stage.

Speaking of Yuri--who, along with Sunny (#12) and the sexy beanpole Sooyoung (bobbed hair, #24), are the stars of this performance--below is a clip from slightly earlier of her seamlessly freelancing some first-class fan service into her dance routine. We are also treated to a stunning closeup of Yuri's legendary 10/10 body, which was in peak physical condition at the time. They called her "honey thighs" for a reason.

 
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Let's stay focused on this 2010 LA concert. And I discovered it actually was a concert, not a fanmeeting--the venue was the Staples Center in downtown LA, which holds ~15,000 people, and the reason I got fooled was the strangely tiny size of the stage. The reason for the tiny stage was, SM Entertainment was working with Samsung to film the concert in 3D in order to promote Samsung's new 3D TVs, and for whatever reason the 3D camera setup required putting the artists on a very small stage.

Here's the climax of the song where all the girls form up on Jessica (#22) into a single undulating creature and and stalk upstage. The front-stage-left fancam got an incredible closeup:



and here it is simultaneously from the left side of the stage




Anyway, because 3D TV was a total flop, there are very few copies extant of the special 3D concert video they shot, but someone (either at SM or Samsung) managed to edit a 2D version out of the 3D file, so we actually have a professionally shot version of this specific performance. The sound quality is a little off (and Jessica momentarily forgets that she's using a hand mic for this performance at the 0:30 mark, whoops), but it's way better than the sound in the fancams, and it makes for a good third video perspective of the entire performance:


IMG_4723.JPG

Let's wrap this up by including a performance the girls did a few days earlier at a music festival in Incheon. The video features typically-poor festival camerawork, so it's hard to get a full sense of the quality of the performance, but it clearly doesn't achieve the incredible energy level the girls brought to the LA stage a week later.

 
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So, who else besides Fromis_9 has covered "Oh!"? Well, as far as I can tell, it's a short list:

* Fromis_9
* Oh My Girl
* Pledis Girlz (which is what Pristin was called when they were still trainees, before they debuted)

As far as Pledis Girlz go, the YouTube video of their cover performance is not marked as such, but I'm 98% sure it actually was a dance cover where they lipsynced over SNSD's vocals in playback. No shame in that, trainees (and even idols) do it all the time for fun--but I'm only discussing full covers here so I'm not going to include it (you can see it here if you'd like).

Which leaves us with Oh My Girl's cover. Note that Oh My Girl was an 8-member group at the time, and the SNSD original was choreographed for 9, so right off the bat you know the choreography is going to be slightly different by necessity:


What I really like here is how well Oh My Girl adapted the material to their own unique creative concept. Instead of trying to imitate SNSD's playful sexual-predator take--which I'm confident OMG could have pulled off if they really wanted to, as they are that talented--they stayed true to their creative identity and put their own take on it, opting for a more passive, sweet/cute approach, while at the same time keeping the iconic cheerleader styling. This was a great way to go, while still being consistent with the source material.

ee

As an aside--diligent fans know that Oh My Girl is presently composed of 7 members, and will ask, why are there 8 members in this video? The 8th member of the squad is Oh My Girl's lost member, JinE:



JinE had a terrific figure during this era and looked especially good as a blonde sporting a high ponytail:



This was spring of 2016, about a year after Oh My Girl's debut, and sadly, by this point she had already entered a major downward spiral. She had become very self conscious about her physical appearance and apparently had started doing hard-core bulimia to get her weight down. This downward spiral resulted in hospitalizations, weight fluctuations, decreasing physical and mental health, and eventually resulted in her leaving the group. The thing is, her weight/appearance was objectively never a real issue, as she always had a cute face, and any extra weight would simply go to her thighs in a not unattractive way--in fact, fellow member Arin, who has naturally heavy legs, would get just as much shit from internet commenters about her thighs, but the difference was Arin never let it bother her. And ultimately JinE's problem wasn't her appearance, it's that she simply couldn't handle the pressure of being an idol, which involves a tremendous amount of hard work and performance stress--especially right after debut when groups are struggling to get established. Remember, the average debut age of female Korean idols is ~18, which means that many of these girls are still going to high school full-time during their first few years post-debut. This pressure gets worse for idol groups under small agencies (like Oh My Girl's agency, WM Entertainment), who operate under real financial constraints and consequently tend to push their groups very hard early on.
 

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Just wanted to post this old one from Stellar-Mask. Always found it a decent song:


Also ITZY's new one with Lia:

 

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Also ITZY's new one with Lia:
Yeah, ITZY just came back with a new album. ITZY is girlcrush but they aren't as bad as most girlcrush groups. The lead single, "Loco", isn't terrible.


However, I really don't like "Swipe" at all. It's a song that celebrates Tinder thottery--ugh.
 

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Yeah, ITZY just came back with a new album. ITZY is girlcrush but they aren't as bad as most girlcrush groups. The lead single, "Loco", isn't terrible.


However, I really don't like "Swipe" at all. It's a song that celebrates Tinder thottery--ugh.
Not a big fan of "Swipe" either after listening to it more. It is full on T-Thottery unfortunately. I guess the girls wanted to make a statement about it. Was listening to early Stellar (2013) before all of this generalized "online" crap had to be taken in to account by Kpop. Kind of liked Rocket Girl's and Fromis9's songs this year for the throwback to before "cell phones and Texts".

This old Study song really brings it all back. Kind of the Kpop world before it was over-promoted for just sexy-sells. 2012-2014 was kind of fun before it got too serious and too over-sexed. Not that I mind seeing a sexy-K Girl but they should be more like this from back in the day...like fun and not so much "cheating hearts" which after 3 years it seems to become for most Kpop girl bands. Thankfully Fromis9 kind of keeps this going in a good way:

 
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I'm way behind on so many other things--the recent STAYC comeback, namely, but lots of other stuff as well--but I really need to wrap up this big deep dive on Girls' Generation "Oh!". So let's get this done.

So, after all that analysis of "Oh!", what did we learn?

1. Despite the fact that it is less appreciated compared to other iconic SNSD/Girls' Generation songs, "Oh!" is on the short list of all-time great girl group songs, and is highly representative of SNSD's creative identity.
2. Fully ten years after its release, very few girl groups have dared to cover this iconic Girls' Generation classic.
3. Oh My Girl did a great cover by paying tribute to the iconic cheerleader styling, while adapting the attitude and choreography to their own identity.

With that said, let's take another look at what Fromis_9 tried to do. Given that the broadcast version of the cover sucked so badly, we need to find another resource. Fortunately, there's an audience fancam we can draw on. Unfortunately, it's shot from a bad angle, and suffers from sloppy camerawork.


But when I saw the title, I became concerned-- it calls the performance a "dance cover". Is it possible that Fromis_9 were lipsyncing on a live festival stage? It's not unheard of. So I went back and scrutinized the broadcast version of the performance, doing a side by side with the original SNSD recorded version. The versions were so similar that I initially thought, wow, maybe they did lipsync. But after a half dozen listens, I decided that it was a legitimate live performance that was extremely faithful to the SNS original vocal performance.

Unfortunately, the fancam didn't really give us much more to go on as far the dance performance went. I couldn't even determine how they modified the SNSD choreography--note that there are only 8 members on stage, as Gyuri had taken a leave of absence to compete in Produce 48, which means they had to make at least some changes. The only thing I learned was, they didn't adopt Oh My Girl's 8-member choreography, but rather came up with their own 8-member version. Other than that it's hard to get a sense of what happened. It would be fun to see how they would approach this today, with three more years of experience under their belts, and under professional management, but the chances of that happening are virtually zero.

Let's close this out by watching the live concert version from SNSD's 2011 tour. The best part about this is how they sprint from the main stage to the satellite stage in high heels, and then Taeyon (I guess?) counts them into the song before they all get there and they have to get into dance formation on the fly.



I like how the camera captures Hyoyeon and Seohyun (I think?) consulting/joking together on the far left at 0:44--an incredible display of confidence on stage, and a signature SNSD concert move.



The entire performance is freewheeling to the point of improvisational, really playing off the crowd, and then Yuri (of course) busts out and drives the audience wild at 2:36



They really were the best.

 
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STAYC came back about a month ago. Who is STAYC?

* Rookie group that debuted in November 2010
* Name is an acronym for "Star To A Young Culture" (very weird, but not the weirdest girl group acronym, which belongs to Fin.K.L.)
* First girl group launched by High-Up Entertainment, which was founded in 2018 by songwriting/producing duo Black Eyed Pilseung, who has composed/produced many hits for girl groups like SISTAR, Miss A, APink, AOA, WJSN/Cosmic Girls, and most notably, TWICE--for whom they wrote many gigantic hits, including "Like Ooh Ahh", "Cheer Up", "TT", "Likey", and "Fancy".
* Six members--Sumin (leader), Sieun (father was Park Namjung, a singer who was big in the 90s), Isa, Seeun, Yoon, and J (the maknae).
* Debuted at a relatively young average age of ~17, but come across as very mature for their age

Screen Shot 2021-10-09 at 8.43.23 PM.png

I have been aware of STAYC since they debuted last November, but found their concept confusing. To me, they represented a sort of Girlcrush-Lite concept, but not Girlcrush-Lite like ITZY, but really Lite, like the Michelob Ultra Lite of Girlcrush. For a rookie group they had a very impressive debut, selling ~50,000 copies of their first single album, and their lead single, "So Bad", did pretty well on YouTube, and wasn't a terrible song I guess. But of course regular readers know how I feel about Girlcrush so I pretty much dismissed them out of hand.


Then they came back in April of this year with another single album, the lead track from which was "ASAP" which was actually pretty good. The album sold ~80,000 copies--extremely impressive--and the single climbed up into the top 20 of the digital charts and hung around there all summer. Their concept was still a little confusing to me, but they seemed to be moving in the right direction.


They came back again in September, this time with a mini-album, the lead single of which was called "Stereotype". I have to say, they really won me over with this one. They softened up their approach (to the point where it really can't be labeled Girlcrush any more), and toned down their styling, which up until now had been a little hard on the eyes. My reaction was--they finally landed on a concept/identity that makes sense in a market that is oversaturated with Girlcrush. I'm not even sure how I'd characterize it, but I like it. Apparently everybody else does too, as they've already sold 140,000 copies of the album, and "Stereotype" moved into the top 30 of the digital charts.


Selling a total of 270,000 albums in your rookie year is a huge achievement, and hitting the 140,000-per-album sales mark is a big deal, as generally that number represents a waypoint on the road to selling 200,000+ albums on a regular basis. There are a number of veteran groups who have made outstanding careers selling ~100,000 copies per album (WJSN and GFriend are two good examples), but to blow through that level in your rookie year means you are going places.
 

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Let's take a look at some of STAYC's comeback stages. First, let me say that really the only quibble I have with STAYC is, their stylists seem fixated on a signature look that embraces loud plaid in various shades of eyerape. Now generally speaking, plaid is fine (April has always done well with plaid, Oh My Girl has used plaid to magnificent effect, and even TWICE's benighted stylists have figured out how to use it correctly) but whoever is doing it here needs to dial it back a few notches.

These first two stages are good examples of what I'm talking about. The plaid is an unnecessary distraction from what are two excellent performances. What's most frustrating is, setting the loud plaid fabric aside, the stylists actually do a very good job making each girl look good.

Music Bank 9/10:


Inkigayo 9/12:


Compare the above to these next three performances, where they dialed the plaid back. Sometimes, less is more, guys.

The Show 9/14.


Music Bank 9/17


Incheon Kpop concert on 9/27

 

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The stylists also used a cheerleader look for a number of the comeback stages, which worked great and made for a refreshing change of pace.

Inkigayo 9/26


Music Bank 10/1


Inkigayo 10/3, which was their last performance stage for this comeback. I'm a big fan of props, and for their farewell stage they skillfully employ sunglasses as props. (SIDETRACK ALERT: two excellent examples of glasses as performance props are in Crayon Pop's "Bing Bing" and Chocome's "Hmmph!"). But what's most impressive is what happens at 2:42 when Yoon puts her glasses on and then almost immediately loses them, right on camera. But she maintains the presence of mind to make a no-look catch and continue on as if nothing happened:



Note that in the process of catching her glasses, Yoon also knocked her mike down. So as soon as the camera is off her, she puts the glasses back on and fixes her microphone just in time for her next vocal part.



J closes out the stage with style.



Consider the fact that Yoon is 17 years old, and J is only 16. Their confidence, maturity and stage presence is really quite remarkable.


Finally, they got their first three music show wins during this comeback. A big accomplishment for a rookie group, especially for one from a start-up agency.

 
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Let's close out the STAYC posting with a few examples of their outstanding live vocals. This group is stacked with vocal talent.





 

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Big news that needs to be posted right away: Eunha, SinB, and Umji from GFriend--who shocked fans with their sudden disbandment back in May after they unexpectedly did not sign a contract renewal with Source Music/HYBE--are forming a new group called "VIVIZ" at a startup agency named Big Planet Made. After almost five months, none of the former GFriend members have revealed any clues about their sudden disbandment, but it's interesting and a little revealing that Eunha, SinB, and Umji went with a startup agency for their new group. I'll get into that in more detail in my next post.

Their new name is based on the last three syllables of their three first names (Eunbi, Eunbi, and Umji) which gives us Bi + Bi + Ji, which in English becomes Vi Vi Zee, or VIVIZ.

They released some short concept videos. It looks like they are going for a more glamorous and sophisticated concept than GFriend was traditionally known for, although GFriend was definitely moving in that direction during their last year together.




 

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After almost five months, none of the former GFriend members have revealed any clues about their sudden disbandment, but it's interesting and a little revealing that Eunha, SinB, and Umji went with a startup agency for their new group. I'll get into that in more detail in my next post.
So let's get into this. It took five months, but the girls are finally all situated now:

* Yerin was the first to move, and within a few weeks of disbandment, had signed on to a boutique talent agency. She's been the most active among former members, co-hosting both a TV show called "Beauty Time" as well as working on several YouTube reality shows. She also did some content sponsored by a beer company. And she has also been cast on a web drama--she had successfully launched an acting career during GFriend's early years, which then stalled after the group achieved major success in 2016/17, after which the members focused almost entirely on group activities.
* Eunha kept herself busy with light, but steady, work since the disbandment, doing an OST as well as some promotional work for the Google Play Store that leveraged her reputation as an online gamer. Presumably she had been negotiating this work schedule on her own, without agency representation.
* Sowon moved next, and on August 1st signed with IOK, a well-known talent agency that mainly handles actors, to launch an acting career. A few days ago, IOK had already gotten her cast into her first movie role.
* On August 31, Yuju signed with Konnect, a high-profile entertainment management agency recently started up by singer Kang Daniel, and she seems to be focused on developing a solo singing career
* Meanwhile, what Umji and SinB had been up to remained unclear until a few days ago. They admitted to taking some time off after leaving HYBE, but otherwise didn't share any clues. It is now obvious in retrospect that they had been spearheading the effort to organize VIVIZ, and to secure a home for it at the startup agency, Big Planet Made. Oh yeah--they've also been working in the dance studio:


That's SinB in front, and Umji in back. Umji is an excellent dancer, but SinB really is in the elite class of idol dancers.

So, five months later, the question still remains--why the sudden disbandment? I have taken a special interest in this topic due to suspicions about HYBE that I articulated several months ago. Up until a few days ago, the only information that had surfaced was from a couple of Korean entertainment reporters who speculated that, based on conversations they had with industry insiders, a rift had opened up between GFriend and HYBE regarding the creative direction and future career prospects of the group in general, and the members in particular. Other than that--nothing. All the members have been posting and livestreaming regularly on their personal social media accounts but haven't revealed even the slightest clue. But after the Big Planet Made announcement, Sowon finally cracked a little during a recent Instagram livestream. She apologized for not being able to talk about why they suddenly left Source Music/HYBE, and acknowledged how frustrated fans must feel to not know what happened, and said that it was frustrating for her, too. But she said that, "you know, due to the nature of our work, we can't reveal everything". Which obviously implies that going into detail about why they suddenly left HYBE would burn bridges and/or create career problems for them going forward. Given that HYBE is the richest and arguably now the most powerful of the four dominant entertainment agencies in Korea (HYBE, SM, YG, and JYP), it's understandable how they are treading carefully. Sowon also said that Umji had written a song about what happened, and hinted that it would be performed at some point in the future by the fully-reformed group--whatever that group might end up being called.


So, what do we know?

* All members moved pretty quickly to get their futures sorted out
* For the short-term at least, it seems that Sowon, Yerin, and Yuju are going to focus on solo activities, while Eunha, SinB, and Umji have decided to work together in what is effectively a sub-unit of GFriend.
* At some point in the future, all six members will reunite--presumably under a new name--in some capacity. At the very least, to record some songs together.
* Given how decisively the girls acted post-disbandment, leaving HYBE seems to have been the members' idea, and not HYBE's, but that still isn't clear. What is clear is that the girls aren't talking about it because they feel that doing so could create problems for them in town, which implies that bad feelings (and maybe even shenanigans) were involved on HYBE's part.
 
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VIVIZ has already started promoting themselves. First, the released their logo, which is really well done. Notice how the capital "V" also looks like a lower-case "b"--a nice callout to the Korean pronunciation of the name, which is "bibiji"

Screen Shot 2021-10-17 at 12.31.08 AM.png

Next, here is a promotional video shoot they participated in for a fashion line named UL:KIN


Here's an interview they did, talking about the fashion shoot, and about their new group. After two days, it already has 800K views, which tells you how enthusiastic fans are about VIVIZ. The members all look great--obviously well-rested, well-composed, and energetic.


It's interesting to watch their behavior without Sowon around to guide them. They have already decided that they won't have a designated group leader, which seems like a mistake to me--somebody always needs to be in charge--but I guess we'll see how it plays out. I was most surprised at how Umji seemed to dominate the conversation. She shows a much more commanding presence here than I remember her ever showing before.

They opened up a VLive channel and did their first livestream. There are english subtitles, although it's not clear if they are properly coordinated with the video.


Right off the bat, they explicitly addressed the question about who was leader, and said they decided not to designate one. Then Eunha piped up and said that, no, they actually did have a leader, only it wasn't one of them, it was Sowon...

IMG_5053.GIF

...which obviously implies they are treating VIVIZ as a subunit of a future group that will be composed of all six former members. I still think they should designate a leader of the sub-unit, but for some reason they forgot to ask me.

They also established a channel on the UNIVERSE fan-service app.


As an aside, Yerin also opened up her own solo channel on UNIVERSE a month or so ago.


There are two big fan-service apps out there right now--UNIVERSE and Weverse. Given that Weverse is owned and operated by HYBE, they probably didn't have much choice except to go with UNIVERSE.
 
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