K-Pop General Entertainment Thread

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I'm already several weeks behind on Queendom 2 so I've got some catching up to do. In Round 1 of the competition, each group (or solo performer, in Hyolyn's case) has to reinterpret one of their own songs. Let's start with VIVIZ, who chose to perform a medley of two of their gigantic hits, "Time For the Moon Night" and "Rough" (aka "μ‹œκ°„μ„ λ‹¬λ €μ„œ" which translates directly as "Running Through Time" which is a much better English title and I have no idea why they didn't use that). Some notes:

* GFriend was notable for their use of orchestral string arrangements and rock guitar solos, and here they perform in front of a full live orchestra.
* VIVIZ naturally has to completely re-choreograph the original performance for three members. Note how they use backdancers to help them re-create the iconic ending sequence of "Rough".
* VIVIZ being exactly half of GFriend means that the three members have to account for six vocal parts. They do a really good job dividing up the work among them. Yuju's part was always going to be the most difficult to cover, as she was the most powerful vocalist in GFriend, but SinB and Eunha do an excellent job covering her parts.
* VIVIZ uses this opportunity to use the videoscreen backdrop to tell a story that turns out to be very interesting, as you're about to see.

First, here's the performance.


Here's the fancam version, which allows you to see the entire stage all at once.


A fan made a split-screen version that shows GFriend performing the original songs on the left of the screen (and with the audio pushed into the left channel), and VIVIZ' performance on the right of the screen/right channel. This helps us identify exactly which VIVIZ members are covering which GFriend members' parts. Something I found interesting is, VIVIZ members also swap some parts between themselves--for example, at 1:36 notice Umji covering one of Eunha's original lines, and at 2:08 Umji covers one of SinB's original lines.


I've mentioned before that GFriend's sudden and completely unexpected disbandment remains, almost a year later, one of the biggest mysteries in Kpop, as none of the girls have spoken directly, or even indirectly, about the matter. The closest any one of them came was during an instagram livestream that SinB did a few months after the disbandment where she half-jokingly said "the disbandment was my fault" without providing any context or details. But about a month ago, the dam finally started to crack. SinB revealed in an interview that, during the "Fever Season" comeback in 2019--which was just about exactly when GFriend's management agency, Source Music, was acquired by HYBE--she went into a depression that lasted all the way up until they disbanded in spring of 2021. She also revealed that the decision to disband had already been made at least a month before it actually happened, although it's still not clear whether the members drove that decision, or HYBE.


And, now we find out that the story the girls told in the video backdrop of their Round 1 performance gives us more clues about their disbandment. They identify a villain in the story and call him the "Cheshire Cat" who broke the "unbreakable glass bead" (i.e., GFriend) and forced them to "explore the unknown world". Hmmmm.

 
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I've mentioned before how getting your first win on one of the nightly Korean music shows is a rite of passage for kpop groups. Normally, the first music show win is basically the "starting line" for a successful career in kpop. And after almost 8 years, Dreamcatcher finally got its first music show win yesterday:


Eight years is an almost impossibly long time to go before getting a music show win--if you don't have a win by your fourth or fifth year, you're probably looking at disbandment. But Dreamcatcher is an odd duck. This isn't some hard-luck outfit barely scraping by. In fact, just the opposite:

* ~750,000 albums sold since 2017
* Big international fan base in the US, Europe, Japan, and Latin America
* Topnotch visual, vocal, and dance talent, and in a post-GFriend world, are arguably now the best girl-group dance team in kpop
* Blessed with a really smart management team

Who is Dreamcatcher?

Screen Shot 2022-04-21 at 10.41.15 PM.png


Dreamcatcher has an interesting history. They initially debuted way back in September 2014 as a cute/fun/energy-concept girl group named "Minx", probably best characterized as a cross between TWICE and the "Red" side of Red Velvet.


They didn't get much traction at debut, but came back in July 2015 to take another shot


Unfortunately, the comeback didn't get them anywhere either. They definitely had enough talent, and the songs are ok for what they are, but there is no way you are going to be able to compete doing TWICE and Red Velvet when you are literally going up against TWICE and Red Velvet. Good idea, bad timing.

So by early 2016, it was pretty clear they had gotten crowded out of their concept space--Lovelyz, GFriend and Oh My Girl had all debuted and were enjoying varying levels of success, and TWICE and Red Velvet had become superstars. But instead of disbanding, their management company (Happyface Entertainment) took stock in their girls, and decided to re-debut them with a new name and a new concept.

Screen Shot 2022-04-21 at 10.01.56 PM.png

The "concept that others weren't doing" was a very heavy, very dark, horror/goth concept, in a heavy-metal-guitar musical style. It was a huge understatement to say that this was a "style that didn't exist in Korea". Koreans--unlike, say, Japanese--generally can't into rock music, and certainly not heavy American-style metal rock. But Happyface fully committed to this new concept, and even added two new members, Handong and Gahyeon to round out the group.

Fast-forward to January 2017, and Minx made their re-debut as Dreamcatcher.


The re-debut went off ok--Dreamcatcher's debut single album, "Nightmare", sold ~3500 copies, which isn't terrible, and amounted to twice what Minx ever sold. So they came back less than three months later with their second single album, "Fall Asleep in the Mirror":


This one sold ~10k copies, still not great, but at least they tripled their sales and were finding an audience. So they pushed the girls hard and came back again less than four months later, this time with a mini album.
 
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Dreamcatcher's first mini-album dropped in July 2017 and featured the lead single, "Fly High", which wasn't quite as dark as the previous two lead singles, "Chase Me" and "Good Night", but still featured a very heavy guitar attack.


This time around they sold ~15k copies, and started making sales inroads in Japan. Happyface also noticed that they were getting some real traction in foreign markets like North America, Europe, and Latin America--markets that previously hadn't shown interest in any Kpop groups that weren't top names like Girls Generation, TWICE, or GFriend. So they decided to organize a world tour, focusing first on Europe and Latin America. This was a pretty ballsy move by a group whose total career album sales at that point amounted to a rounding error compared to what TWICE was selling. Dreamcatcher spent 2018 and 2019 touring all over the world, while grinding out four more mini albums (each selling a respectable ~35k copies), and, at the end of 2019, releasing a full-length Japanese-language album.





Notice that "Piri" and "Deja Vu" marked a minor course-correction in Dreamcatcher's sound. You could hear them sanding the edges off a little, making their music a little more accessible, but without compromising any of its power. Plus they were moving away from their original horror/goth concept.

At this point its worth noting another interesting aspect of Dreamcatcher's music: it is almost entirely composed by one songwriting team, LEEZ & Ollounder. This is a pretty unusual approach for kpop girl groups; the only other kpop girl group I know of that does this is STAYC. Obviously it has been a very successful approach for both groups.
 
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2020 marked a major turning point up in Dreamcatcher's career. They started the year off by releasing the first album in their "Dystopia" trilogy, "Dystopia: the Tree of Language", which sold ~60k copies.


In August 2020, they released "Dystopia: Lose Myself", and this time they broke the 100K album sales mark. There are not many girl groups who can sell 100k albums on a regular basis. Dreamcatcher had suddenly become a pretty big deal.


In January 2021, the final album in the "Dystopia" trilogy dropped, "Dystopia: Road to Utopia".


And in July 2021, Dreamcatcher released a summer-themed album, "Summer Holiday", which is pretty funny, because your typical girl-group summer album usually features fun, lighthearted tunes (examples here, here, here, here, here, and parodied here) for listening at the beach. Not exactly Dreamcatcher's wheelhouse, but people must have liked it, because it sold 130k albums, just like the last "Dystopia" album did. The title track "BEcause" was about as lighthearted as Dreamcatcher gets, which is to say, not so much.


So, by fall of 2021, Dreamcatcher had sold three 100k+ albums in a row, and after almost five years of grinding, had become a legitimate top-rank girl group. So why couldn't they get a music show win? Well, basically because (1) none of their songs ever spend much time on the Korean music singles charts, and (2) most of Dreamcatcher's fans live everywhere except in Korea. So even though album sales are factored into the scores for these music shows, fan voting and singles chart performance are also big factors, and without those it's tough to win. For anyone who cares how these scores are calculated (they are slightly different for every different show), watch this.

But Dreamcatcher finally broke through with their most recent album, "Apocalypse: Save Us", which was released last week, and featured the title track "Maison":


"Maison" marks another minor course-correction in Dreamcatcher's sound, mainly by adding some piano and synths to their guitar attack. Koreans love synths, which possibly helps explain why "Maison" is actually hanging around the top of the Korean singles charts. Combine that with massive sales for this new album, and it apparently was enough to finally push Dreamcatcher to a music show win.
 
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All right. After a shameful one-month layoff--which could arguably be counted as an almost two-month layoff, really--it's time to get this thread back on track. There's a gigantic punch list to work through:

1. My track record of posting every single Oh My Girl comeback stage since I started covering them in 2020 is now ruined, given that I stopped posting regularly in this thread right after Oh My Girl came back in early March, and the promotions ended well over a month ago. But self-respect demands that I at least post and comment on a few of the stages from the comeback.
2. Kwon Eun Bi (former IZ*ONE) came back in April with her new mini-album "Colors", which is outstanding, and must be covered.
3. I stopped posting Queendom 2 performances, not because there weren't any good performances but because I got lazy. So that must be fixed.
4. Yerin (former GFriend) made her solo debut a couple days ago with her mini-album "Aria", which is 100% Yerin top-to-bottom
5. I'VE came back a few weeks ago with their second single album "Love Dive" which is a colossal hit.
6. Babysoul (former Lovelyz), who is now calling herself by her given name, Lee Su Jeong, came back with a new solo mini-album.
7. Attention TWICE fans: JYP's latest girl group, NMIXX, debuted all the way back on February 22. That's how far behind I am.
8. Last week, HYBE debuted its first girl group since 2012, LE SSERAFIM, under its Source Music subsidiary label. Source is of course the startup agency that debuted the legendary GFriend back in 2015. LE SSERAFIM features two former members of IZ*ONE, Sakura and Chaewon, which--like I'VE-- means they debuted with two experienced members who bring a huge fanbase with them. Judging by the solo careers (Kwon Eun Bi, Yena, Jo Yuri, Kang Hyewon) and new groups (I'VE and LE SSERAFIM) that IZ*ONE has spawned, it is arguably the greatest launching pad for musical talent in girl group history.
9. Startup agency FCENM debuted its first girl group, ILY:1, in April, largely cobbled together from girls who participated in the Girls Planet survival show that formed Kep1er, but didn't make the cut in the end. ILY:1 is notable for reviving cute/innocent concept in a world where cute/innocent concept is dead. In a similar vein, Elris--which enjoyed some marginal success for a few years as a fun/energy concept group, moved to a new agency who rebranded them as cute/innocent concept, and re-debuted them with a new name, Alice. Not sure what to make of this trend.
10. Yet another survival-show girl group debuted last week--CLASS:Y from the "My Teenage Girl" survival show. This group is a strange case--three of the members are 14 years old, and the average age of the group is only 16. This is the youngest girl group to debut since April, who struggled for many years arguably because they debuted so young. I have yet to discuss the April disbandment, or the Lovelyz disbandment for that matter--those are still on my list.
11. Finally, it's time to revive my review series of SNSD/Girls Generation covers--this time around it's "Kissing You", we're going to discuss the legend behind this song, and I'm going to argue that there is a cover version out there that is actually superior to the original.
 

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I've mentioned before how getting your first win on one of the nightly Korean music shows is a rite of passage for kpop groups. Normally, the first music show win is basically the "starting line" for a successful career in kpop. And after almost 8 years, Dreamcatcher finally got its first music show win yesterday:


Eight years is an almost impossibly long time to go before getting a music show win--if you don't have a win by your fourth or fifth year, you're probably looking at disbandment. But Dreamcatcher is an odd duck. This isn't some hard-luck outfit barely scraping by. In fact, just the opposite:

* ~750,000 albums sold since 2017
* Big international fan base in the US, Europe, Japan, and Latin America
* Topnotch visual, vocal, and dance talent, and in a post-GFriend world, are arguably now the best girl-group dance team in kpop
* Blessed with a really smart management team

Who is Dreamcatcher?

View attachment 97915


Dreamcatcher has an interesting history. They initially debuted way back in September 2014 as a cute/fun/energy-concept girl group named "Minx", probably best characterized as a cross between TWICE and the "Red" side of Red Velvet.


They didn't get much traction at debut, but came back in July 2015 to take another shot


Unfortunately, the comeback didn't get them anywhere either. They definitely had enough talent, and the songs are ok for what they are, but there is no way you are going to be able to compete doing TWICE and Red Velvet when you are literally going up against TWICE and Red Velvet. Good idea, bad timing.

So by early 2016, it was pretty clear they had gotten crowded out of their concept space--Lovelyz, GFriend and Oh My Girl had all debuted and were enjoying varying levels of success, and TWICE and Red Velvet had become superstars. But instead of disbanding, their management company (Happyface Entertainment) took stock in their girls, and decided to re-debut them with a new name and a new concept.

View attachment 97916

The "concept that others weren't doing" was a very heavy, very dark, horror/goth concept, in a heavy-metal-guitar musical style. It was a huge understatement to say that this was a "style that didn't exist in Korea". Koreans--unlike, say, Japanese--generally can't into rock music, and certainly not heavy American-style metal rock. But Happyface fully committed to this new concept, and even added two new members, Handong and Gahyeon to round out the group.

Fast-forward to January 2017, and Minx made their re-debut as Dreamcatcher.


The re-debut went off ok--Dreamcatcher's debut single album, "Nightmare", sold ~3500 copies, which isn't terrible, and amounted to twice what Minx ever sold. So they came back less than three months later with their second single album, "Fall Asleep in the Mirror":


This one sold ~10k copies, still not great, but at least they tripled their sales and were finding an audience. So they pushed the girls hard and came back again less than four months later, this time with a mini album.

It's a tough choice, but I pick Jiu. :love:
 

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All right let's pick up where we left off with Queendom 2. Given the workload I just assigned myself, I'm going to restrict myself to posting about WJSN and VIVIZ performances. And maybe one Brave Girls performance.

Queendom 2 is a highly-elaborated competition, with complicated scoring rules, all designed to heighten tension and drama. I'm not going to get into that aspect of it, mainly because it's time consuming, but also because I don't really care that much about the competition itself. However you can find details about that on their wiki page if you're interested.

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.57.43 PM.png

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 10.59.06 PM.png

You can decide whether VIVIZ (who placed third) or WJSN (who placed second) did a better job in the first round. I already posted VIVIZ's performance of "Time For The Moonight/Rough" a few posts back, so just scroll up to watch it if you haven't yet. I'll wait for you here.

Ok, you're back, so let's review WJSN's performance. WJSN's "As You Wish" is really their only hit single (they are more of an album-oriented group), so they were kind of stuck with using it as their choice of "representative song". But they did a really great job with it. Note that they use a big hourglass as a prop, and the hourglass breaks pretty early on in the song. This scattered sand all over the stage which created a serious hazard, but these girls are professionals so they didn't let it disrupt their performance. However several of them were crying afterwards because the hourglass gave meaning to the performance, and by breaking it, they believed they let themselves, and the audience, down.

Here's where it happens. One of the backdancers emerges on the right of the frame, bringing the hourglass to center stage, and you can see it's already leaking sand as she makes her way to the front. Then when she turns it over, the glass falls out of the frame, presumably smashing. So there's sand everywhere.





Here's a good screencap from a few minutes later that shows the problem. You can clearly see all the broken glass and sand from one of the orbs of the hourglass, while the other orb is lying intact right at front and center. Exy must have seen the orb on the stage but she can't do anything about it while she's on the ground because she knows the camera is on her.

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 11.25.18 PM.png

A minute later, Seola makes what appears to be a couple attempts to kick it forward, but she misses it completely the first time, and barely grazes it the second time. Fortunately, the performance ends without mishap.



Eunseo, who is known to hold herself to the highest performance standards, was on ending-fairy duty, but struggles to hide her unhappiness. She burst into tears immediately after the performance.




Exy (the group leader) and Seola were also distraught after the performance.

 
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All right, let's move on to the second round of performances.

Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 12.43.59 AM.png

So, it's worth taking a moment to note that SinB of VIVIZ and Eunseo of WJSN have been best friends for almost a decade, since before either of them debuted, as they both went to high school together. Umji (VIVIZ) was also classmates with SinB and Eunseo, and Yeorum (WJSN) is also friendly with the VIVIZ members. So the two groups know each other well and are familiar with each other's work, which explains why they chose to perform each other's songs for this segment of the competition. But the songs they chose are a puzzlement to me. Back in Queendom 1, Oh My Girl established the criteria for success in this round: you choose a song out of your competitor's catalog that is outside their normal musical style, but can be easily modified to your musical style. Oh My Girl's challenge was to pick out something from Lovelyz' catalog, and they chose "Destiny", which IMO fit both criteria--Lovelyz' style was light and sweet, but "Destiny" was melodramatic and intense, and a little out of their wheelhouse. For Oh My Girl, however, dramatic emotional intensity was well within their range (examples here, and here, and here). So it wasn't surprising that their interpretation of "Destiny" knocked it out of the park. The end result was, they stole the song from Lovelyz and made it their own.

With that in mind, let's start with WJSN, who chose to cover GFriend's 2016 smash hit "Navillera":


Q. Is "Navillera" outside GFriend's wheelhouse?
A. Absolutely not. In fact if you had to pick a song from GFriend's catalog that unmistakeably defined their "powerful innocence" style, Navillera would be in the top five.
Q. Is WJSN specially equipped to reinterpret "Navillera" in such a dramatic fashion as to make it their own?
A. Well...I can't imagine how, but maybe I'm wrong. Let's see what WJSN did.


It's an interesting performance, and very well done, but there's no way you can say they stole this song from GFriend.

This begs the question: what would be a better choice? Well, let's start with WJSN's signature style, which is synth-heavy, always leaves room for Exy's raps, and showcases their incredible depth of vocal talent (possibly the deepest vocal talent in kpop, with five legitimate main vocalists in Exy, Dayoung, Dawon, Soobin, and Seola). Most importantly, WJSN is not afraid to creatively stretch themselves--they have some of the most innovative b-sides for a mainstream kpop girl group, to wit:



Now, with that in mind, I would have chosen GFriend's tragically overlooked b-side, "Love Spell", from their final album, "Walpurgis Night":


This is an outstanding song that is way outside GFriend's normal musical style. They do a great job with it, but it's so different that a lot of fans probably didn't know what to make of it. However WJSN is absolutely not afraid of a song like this. While GFriend chose to produce "Love Spell" in a 60's garage-rock psychedelic style--quite a bold choice--WJSN could easily change this up to fit their own synth-heavy musical style and really make this song their own.

Oh well. It's a shame nobody asked me.
 
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OK let's get to the 3rd round.

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 12.08.18 AM.png

This one's a weird one. They split all the groups up into teams. There is some weird gamesmanship involved with which song each team gets to perform, which I won't bother to explain because I don't really understand it myself. Suffice to say that the team that finished first in the Dance Unit challenge got screwed out of the song they wanted to perform, but still won the challenge battle, so it didn't even matter in that case.

The Vocal Unit challenge is another case of VIVIZ and WJSN teaming up. They chose IU's "Hold My Hand" which is one of my favorite IU songs and a great choice. For reference, here is IU performing it live:


Here's the Eunha (VIVIZ) + Soobin and Yeonjung (WJSN) version:


Really a terrific rendition. Eunha is the de facto main vocalist here, as she gets ~40% of the lines. Not because she's necessarily a better vocalist than the other two (who are both legitimate main vocalists, Yeonjung being legendary even), but probably because the song fits her vocal quality and range better. Regardless of the reason, it was a winning formula.

Screen Shot 2022-05-25 at 3.52.00 PM.png

Yeonjung's fancam revealed that she gracefully forestalled a serious mishap in the last twenty seconds of the performance, never losing her composure or focus for a single moment. The mark of a true professional.

 
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Next up is the Dance Unit challenge. The big surprise to me was that SinB's team finished in third, because SinB is probably the best dancer out there. Let's try to figure out how that happened.

We'll start with the 2nd place finisher, which was a Starship Entertainment reunion, as it is composed of the soloist Hyolyn (ex-Sistar) and Yeorum and Eunseo of WJSN. Yeorum is a seriously underappreciated dancer and it is good to see her getting featured here.


Yeorum really killed it.



The real surprise for me was Eunseo (in the red vest). I expected Hyolyn (yellow) and Yeorum (pink) to excel but didn't know what to expect from Eunseo. She more than held up her end. Apparently spending all that time around SinB has paid off for her.

The 1st place finisher was composed of Eunji from Brave Girls and HeeJin, Choerry, Yves, and Olivia Hye from Loona. Eunji is an interesting case as Brave Girls isn't known for their dancing, but she is known to be an outstanding dancer. This happens sometimes--for example, Mijoo from Lovelyz is an excellent dancer but Lovelyz simply wasn't a dance group, so she never got many chances to showcase her talents.


Well, it was a terrific performance. I don't know much about Loona, but the girls they rolled out there definitely knew their business. Ironically, this was the song that no team wanted, but the team choreographer really made the best of it.

Finally, here's the last place finisher, which featured SinB and Umji from VIVIZ and Xiaoting, Kim Dayeon, and Hikaru from Kep1er:


The performance is certainly fine as far as it goes, but the obvious problem is, the choreography isn't that interesting, and the camerawork isn't great either, which is simply bad luck as it was out of their control. Also SinB's huge talent doesn't get effectively showcased, which was an odd choice. Overall, it was a missed opportunity.
 
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Ok we're almost caught up, as we are now up to the performances featured on the latest broadcast.

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 1.35.45 AM.png

Let's start with WJSN. I was thrilled to see WJSN choosing to perform "Pantomime". Real WJSN fans know this is one of their defining b-sides. It took guts for them to show this song off, as it is definitely out of the kpop mainstream, and probably won't get the audience votes it deserves, but they owed it to themselves to expose this masterpiece to a wider audience.


They rearranged/remixed the song to make it suit a musical-theater production, which had the benefit of making it more normie-friendly, but not to the point that it compromised what makes the song interesting. And the high-production-values musical-theater presentation really suits their exuberant off-stage group personality well, which they rarely showcase on stage as a full group--their 2017 lead single "Happy" being a rare exception. Of course, their Chocome sub-unit, which I enjoy so much that I actually broke out into its own thread for their last comeback, does a better job reflecting the group's goofy and chaotic off-stage personality on stage, but sadly it only functions as an outlet for four of the members, and not the whole team.

Anyway they knock this out of the park. My favorite part was Dayoung's steadicam close-up, which was 100% warranted.



The finale was perfect, featuring fireworks, a mob of back dancers, and above it all some crazy aerial stunts.



Dayoung can barely contain herself under normal circumstances, but in this performance she is 100% in her element and can't hide how she feels when it ends.



Forget about the competition, the real meaning of Queendom is found in performances like this, where a veteran group gets to showcase a side of themselves they have never revealed before. Oh My Girl used Queendom 1 as a launching pad to take their career to the next level, and while WJSN has had a pretty successful career already, IMO their immense talent is underappreciated and they sort of hit a ceiling in 2020 that they are struggling to break through. But even if Queendom doesn't do anything for WJSN's career, I think the personal satisfaction that the members clearly got from pulling off this brilliant performance will make it all worthwhile.
 
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Ok, I jumped the gun when I moved ahead to the 3rd round. We need to back up to the 2nd round "cover song battle" because I forgot about VIVIZ, who chose to cover WJSN's "Unnatural".

First, let's start with the original:


For the reader's benefit, I'll repeat my criteria:

Q. Is "Unnatural" outside WJSN's wheelhouse?
A. Nope.
Q. Is VIVZ specially equipped to reinterpret "Unnatural" in such a dramatic fashion as to make it their own?
A. Well...I can't imagine how, but maybe I'm wrong. Let's see what VIVIZ did.


First, they did a great job with this, I liked everything about it, it was a terrific reinterpretation. Between the WJSN cover of "Navillera" and the VIVIZ cover of "Unnatural", VIVIZ clearly won IMO. But by the criteria I outlined above, it just wasn't the right song to cover.

However the problem here is: what song out of WJSN's catalog should they have selected? This is a really tough choice, because WJSN is pretty careful to stay in its lane. They know who they are, and they stick with what they are best at, which probably explains the success they have enjoyed. WJSN is really good at giving its audience what they expect, while simultaneously expanding their style without alienating their fanbase. So we may be forced to take a different tack here.

Let's analyze VIVIZ's strengths:

Dancing: GFriend was one of the greatest dance teams in idol history. Not only is SinB one of the top idol dancers of her generation, but every single member of GFriend was an above-average idol dancer. So this is clearly their major strength.
Vocals: Eunha is a more-than-capable main vocalist, and SinB and Umji are solid in support--both SinB and Umji appeared on "King of Masked Singer" which is a hallmark of an above-average idol vocalist. But the problem is, with only three members, each member has a heavy vocal burden to carry.
Rapping: This is an undeniable weakness. GFriend rarely did raps, and when they did, Sowon usually handled them. Umji was the second rapper but this skill is definitely not in her wheelhouse.
Stage Presence: Very good, but again--with only three members, this rules out musical-theater style productions.

They key here is to find a WJSN track that they can build some strong choreography around, and build some dance breaks into, with vocals that are not challenging, and minimal raps. Maybe we should start by looking at something called..."Let's Dance"?? lol.


The rap break here is at the beginning, which makes it much more manageable as you can get it out of the way before the action starts. Or, even better, just cut it out altogether, and replace it with a dance intro. The beat is strong, the chorus is minimal and repeated three times which gives you space to insert up to three different dance breaks. Done, and done.



Another problem solved.

Just FYI, "Let's Dance" is off of WJSN's summer special album, "For The Summer" which is a terrific mini album that perfectly captures a summer vibe. With summer just a month away, put this on your playlist now.


Anyway, while we're revisiting the second round, I'll throw in Loona's musical-theater cover of Sistar's "Shake It" which was extremely well done. It got 2nd place.

 
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Ok let's pick up where we left off in the 3rd round's "fan's choice". VIVIZ fans recommended their title track from their first album, "Bop Bop!" which is unsurprising.

For reference, here is a stage mix of "Bop Bop!" that VIVIZ performed during promotions:


Now here's the Queendom performance:


How did they do? Well, it's an incredibly solid performance with some nice dance breaks and a great opening stunt:



They go with a high school cheerleader/marching band concept which perfectly suits the material, and note how they poke fun at their friends at WJSN right from the get-go:




But the real threat in this round is Kep1er, with their cover of Girls' Generation's iconic smash hit, "The Boys", back when Girl's Generation was hitting its peak. This is a bold, bold choice.

Let's start by looking at one of the original artist's performances. A great example is when Girl's Generation performed an expanded, English-language version of "The Boys" that featured not one, not two, but three dance breaks at the David Letterman Show in February of 2012. Doesn't that seem like a lifetime ago?? Yeah. The funniest part is the opening, with Regis Philbin and a very tired, very hungover-looking Bill Murray, manning Dave's couch while dressed in stupid getups.

Screen Shot 2022-05-25 at 3.28.03 AM.png

At the end of the performance, Dave tries to thank them in Korean, and presents a football to the sexy beanpole, Sooyoung, who looks like a million bucks while pretending she's excited to receive it. Meanwhile, Sunny looks like she can't wait to get off the stage and back to the hotel for a night out on the town.



Anyway here it is:


I'm pretty sure this is the first time that a South Korean girl group (or any South Korean musical act, for that matter) appeared on American tv, so it's guaranteed that SNSD was bringing their A game, and it shows. This performance is notable not just for its high quality, but because it was staged in front of a live band (which is unusual in kpop), and they are confined to performing in a very tiny space on the studio floor, thanks to the fact that the band is taking up the stage itself. In fact, they are working in such tight quarters that at 1:12 you can see Seohyun clocking Sunny right in the head.



The unusual circumstances really throws into relief what a stunning performance this was by the greatest girl group of all time. The point is, this is an incredibly high bar that Kep1er has to clear. How do they do?


Well, this is a rookie group, and they definitely lack the maturity to do the original justice. But what they lack in maturity, they try to make up with energy and enthusiasm, and they do a good job. But what's going to score them major points is the fact that they are the first girl group to ever do a full-length live cover of this song, which is a fact I was shocked to discover. IZ*ONE (here) and f(x) (here) did 1-minute covers, but the closest anyone came to a full performance was Oh My Girl, who did a full-length dance cover version back when they were a rookie group, which was a terrific performance...but it was only a dance cover lip-sync'd to the Girl's Generation vocals, so it doesn't count. Here it is for reference:


It'll be interesting to see how Kep1er scores when the 3rd round votes get tallied up in the next episode.
 
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Yerin made her solo debut a few days ago, on May 18th--the one year anniversary of GFriend's disbandment. I guarantee you that's not a coincidence. The mini-album is called "Aria" with the lead single of the same name

The title song is classic Yerin style--light and cheerful. The music video keeps things simple and relies on CGI to do most of the work:


Yerin is funny. She definitely learned a few things in GFriend, where they ran on a shoestring budget for their first two years (here she is bragging to APink's Hayoung, who is her best friend from high school, what a great deal she got on the production costs for the video).

Let's take a look at the comeback stages so far.


Music Bank 5/20. The set dressing is nonexistent--Yerin keeping it budget-friendly by using the CGI from her music video as a backdrop--but that doesn't matter, it just helps keep the focus on Yerin, who looks great. The styling is 100% Yerin, and perfectly consistent with the way she dresses in real life. She has a very well-defined personal style, and she always looks great in public, or whenever she appears on YouTube (she hosts various web shows, is in demand as a show guest, and has her own channel which hit 100k subscribers in no time flat)


Did you hear the fans cheering? After over two years (!), only just recently are fans finally being allowed to attend music broadcast stages again. Since early 2020, all comeback stages have been performed in empty broadcast theaters (FYI, don't be fooled--pretty early on in the lockdowns, after a month or two of taping stages that concluded in deadly silence, the music shows started dubbing in recorded applause at the end of performances, like a sitcom laugh track). Furthermore, Yerin's comeback coincided almost exactly with the South Korean government finally lifting all restrictions on spectator behavior. While audience events have been permitted for a while now, the audience was not permitted to cheer or physically exert themselves in any way, or make any vocal noises whatsoever. So you had this bizarre situation where audiences could only clap politely, which made for very surreal performance environments. It's good that we have some of those performances captured on video for all time, they will make a wonderful monument to human stupidity (and downright psychosis) for future historians to reflect on.

Music Bank 5/21. Yerin perfectly styled again. Her stylists are diligently adhering to Yerin's own personal style, and I would not be at all surprised if Yerin was actually doing her own styling here.


Inkigayo 5/22. Monochromatic styling this time, and making a nice contrast between Yerin (mostly in black) and her backdancers (mostly in white)


Let's get a better sense of the choreography from the full stage cam:


Soloists are always going to have more stripped-down choreography than idol groups because soloists are singing 100% of the time, but taking that into account, the choreography is well done and the backdancers look and dance great.

 

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Let's keep moving with Yerin's solo debut stages

The Show, 5/24. Yerin looking like a million bucks, again.


Yerin also promoted her b-side, "Believer" at The Show on 5/24. She uses monochromatic styling to outstanding effect just like she did at Inkigayo, but this time she's in white and the backdancers are in black.


"Believer" is a terrific song and I kind of wish she had chosen it as the lead single. She couldn't decide between "Aria" and "Believer" so she put it up for a vote among her agency staff, and they chose "Aria". I'm not sure that was the best way to go about it, but it certainly was a very Yerin way to go about it. In any event, it probably didn't make much difference. "Believer" is a bit of an old-fashioned/retro song that was written expressly for Yerin by Im Suho, who was "Iggy" in the Iggy/Youngbae songwriting/producing team that wrote all of GFriend's smash hits, and many of their b-sides, in their first three years. Im Suho knows Yerin and her personal and artistic style as well as anybody could, and he clearly wrote the lyrics to pay tribute to Yerin's upbeat, cheerful personality and bright style, and to encourage her as she set out on her solo career.


And as far as the music goes, it is very reminiscent of one of Yerin's favorite songs, Younha's hit "Password 486" from 2007, that Yerin used back when she was auditioning to get into the idol business. It was also the song she chose when she appeared on "King of the Masked Singer":


"Believer" and "Password 486" have the same kind of bright, optimistic sound and driving beat. The difference is, the original version of "Password 486" was a straight-ahead guitar-driven rocker, and I sort of wish "Believer" had been produced and arranged the same way. But that would have made it stick out too much from the rest of her album, and also would have required her to sing it on stage behind a mic stand (the way Yena performed the b-side she promoted on the music shows), or in front of an actual live band, which would have been pretty cool but again, not something that Yerin has done before.

And really, that's the point. The one thing you can say about Yerin's debut album is, she delivered something she was 100% confident performing, 100% confident her fans would enjoy, and 100% confident would be financially successful. Given that she has sold ~40,000 albums, it's safe to say that she achieved all her goals.

 
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Show Champion 5/25. She goes with the same frilly look that worked so great the night before on The Show, but this time in pink.


MCountdown 5/26. Ditto again on the bare-shouldered frilly dress look, this time in sky blue. Why mess with something that works.


...and, surprisingly, that wrapped up Yerin's solo debut music show promotions, after only one full week. Normal promotional schedules for debut acts generally go the full three weeks. Why was Yerin's promotional schedule so short? Did she have other schedule commitments? It's a little odd, but maybe it was just unavoidable.

Anyway, let's fill up the space with some other Yerin content. Here's the Relay Dance for "Aria", where she gives her backdancers plenty of time to shine.


Here's the entire album.


Arguably the strongest tracks are "Believer" and "Time". "Time" is an outstanding showcase for Yerin's vocal talent, and really hangs the "open for business" sign out for OST (original sound track) work. It's a mystery why Yerin did virtually no vocal work outside of group activities when she was with GFriend--every other member besides Sowon (who only did this outstanding cover of Suzy's "Pretend") did more outside work. Really the only thing Yerin did over 6+ years was this collaboration single with another idol (Cao Lu from Fiestar) and Kisum, a rapper. It was really good, and made an impression on the singles charts:


Hopefully she'll start getting more work.
 
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You have shit taste, that Sua slut is way better.
Like I said, tough choice. :ROFLMAO: I think these crafty Asians make it that way on purpose.
 

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As much of a huge fan of Viviz, G-Friend and Dreamcatcher...I'm currently looking at this vid.

 

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As much of a huge fan of Viviz, G-Friend and Dreamcatcher...I'm currently looking at this vid.
"Fearless" is ok, "Blue Flame" is way, way, way better

Covering LE SSERAFIM's debut is on my punch list. My opinion on them is mixed. I really like the girls, I really like some of the songs on the album, but I really do not like their agency, HYBE.

 

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OK, let's get to the I'VE comeback, which was almost two months ago--that's how delinquent I've been.

In a golden age of monster rookie girl groups (NMIXX, LE SSERAFIM, aespa, I'VE, and Kep1er), I'VE is on the verge of becoming the greatest rookie girl group of all time. What is most remarkable is that IVE's agency, Starship Entertainment, is a mid-size agency going up against three of the Big Four Korean entertainment agencies (JYP, HYBE, SM) as well as CJM, which is the acknowledged master at creating blockbuster survival-show project groups (I.O.I, IZ*ONE, and Kep1er, and their "misfire", Fromis_9, is after a slow start coming on like gangbusters).

I'VE came back on April 4 with their second single album, "Love Dive" featuring the lead single of the same name.

 

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You know my biggest worry about K-pop these days is that they forget a real live performance with an immediate audience. It always wasn't the best due to a drunk dude screaming at them after 3 bottles of Soju... and the bare bones support Production wise they got at these times...but some of the performances were just awesome. A lot of the newer groups look great and have a good sound for an international audience but they are for like a full on "Saturday" Night show and not an average Joe Show. Sistar, Fiestar, Bestie and Dal*Shabet were actually pretty good live. I actually look now for shows like this "Nine Muses" at DongKuk back in the day. This really gives a feeling as I remember it and for the crowd as well. Not so much vid friendly but the girls just really perform well. This is the kind of stuff I remember seeing live way back in the day. JRR you should really form a company like seriously in the US (3 Asians, 3 White girls, 2 Latinas...or something like this...Just saying...based on K-pop and all).

Almost forgot...they have to have the Marshall Stacks in the Background!!!

 
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You know my biggest worry about K-pop these days is that they forget a real live performance with an immediate audience.
Lovelyz, GFriend, and Mamamoo were all notable for performing their concerts in front of a live band.



 

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Let's post a selection of I'VE's comeback stages for the title track, "Love Dive". I'VE has established a totally unique sound that is intense, exotic, and heavy sounding without being oppressive.

MCountdown 4/7. Starship's stylists are unquestionably in the top rank, and you will see that every single one of these stages features outstanding styling.


Music Bank 4/8. Let's do the Leeseo fancam for this one. Leeseo is the "maknae" (i.e. youngest) of I'VE and just turned 15 years old. Typically the primary role of a maknae is to be cute and adorable (like Umji of GFriend, or Arin of Oh My Girl), or be a visual superstar (like Tzuyu of TWICE, or Yein of Lovelyz, or Wonyoung in IZ*ONE), and get doted on and teased by the older members. Whatever they do on stage is considered a bonus. But Leeseo is part of a new wave of maknaes (J of STAYC is another example) who project a commanding stage presence that is beyond their years.


Let's interject the performance of their b-side, "Royal" from their comeback showcase. "Royal" is a terrific b-side that gives Gaeul and Rei, who are both rappers, a chance to shine. It's unusual to have two rappers in a six-member group so you can probably expect more tracks like this in the future.


Music Core 4/9. Let's do the full-stage fancam for this one, to get a sense of the choreography, which is a little more straightforward and less demanding compared to their debut song, "Eleven". It still looks great, while putting less stress on the girls, which made sense given how active they were in the months after they debuted.


Let's also do the Gaeul fancam from this stage, which really showcases Gaeul's strong visual talent. She looks amazing in her new short haircut, and a short skirt.


 
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