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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Taemin - Danger

"It's my show time"

This is the new Michael Jackson single we've been waiting for, and it comes from Korea and... not Michael Jackson. It makes sense, though, since Korea is one of the places that still gives a crap about the Jacksons' sound (another reason why I love K-Pop). Taemin is a member of the amazing group Shinee, and he's actually the first to go solo. He's the youngest member, known especially for his dancing. With Danger, he gets to show that off, as well as pay tribute to his idol, MJ. This song had me from the first verse. It's produced by Danish genius (and favorite of this blog) Thomas Troelsen and you can definitely tell. Those "bom bom bom" bits in the verses are among the best pop song pieces I've heard all year. It truly is what Michael might have sounded like had he gotten his start in this era. Like most of k-pop, it also benefits from the ridiculously cool music video, so I'm posting that today rather than just the song. Enjoy!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the mini album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Robin - Parasta Just Nytt (ft. Nikke Ankara)

I love it when an artist is at that point in their career where they're on an undisputed roll, releasing excellent single after excellent single with barely enough space between each to fully appreciate them. Now, Robin's never really taken too long of a break between albums (you can't when you perform in this fickle genre), but it was definitely a pleasant surprise to hear that his next one's out in late September, not even a year after his last. Since Boom Kah hit last fall, he's cemented himself as Finland's most reliable pop star. Kesärenkaat is one of my songs of the summer, and now we've got this totally different, but totally awesome follow up. Parasta Just Nyt sees him going full-on aggressive rap, which is intercut with heavy verses and an almost operatic hook that only gets better the more you hear it. It's like Eminem's Lose Yourself for the Finnish set. It's also the sound of a teen singer growing up and branching out, and I couldn't be more excited to hear what else he's got in store for us.

Parasta Just Nyt (ft. Nikke Ankara) by Robin on Grooveshark

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Dragonette & Mike Mago - Outlines

"Outlines of the heart"

So, this was uploaded a month ago and somehow it totally passed me by. That's very unusual for a Dragonette song, since I try to follow them pretty closely. After all, they were one of the first bands I featured on this blog. This track is a collaboration with house producer Mike Mago, but it's more than some fancy dance beat. Pleasingly, this is an actual pop song that just happens to be a club track as well. The hook, especially, is fantastic. It represents that melodic side of the band that I really love. It's also giving me strong 80's vibes. If this is a taste of the kind of thing we might expect on their new album, I'm definitely excited!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Fooo - Suitcase

"We got a home wherever we go"

I am loving how frequently we can count on a brilliant new release from The Fooo. I feel like we get treated to a new song almost monthly, and not only that but an accompanying dance video as well! No doubt about it, these guys are working hard. And as they firm up their rabid fanbase in Sweden, I can see them making huge inroads internationally in the coming months. Suitcase is another hiphop-inspired dance track from the guys. It's funny, because a lot of what I like about their music intersects with what I love so much about k-pop: new sounds, an ear for a bubblegum hook, sharp dancing and tons of swagger. I could do without the annoying schoolyard chant that makes up much of the hook in this track, but I'm still loving the song in general.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lisa Scinta - 1992

"Just kids in the dark out under the stars"

I was actually sent this track by the song’s producer/co-writer. Now, I get a lot of music sent to me daily and unfortunately 99.9% of it just doesn't fit with my blog and/or my personal taste. But, I could tell by the accompanying email that this was going to be something worth sharing. The artist is Lisa Scinta, and this is taken from her new EP of the same name. The song itself is a bombastic, expertly produced slice of nostalgic pop. It kind of reminds me of something that could've been on Carly Rae Jepsen's last album -- bubbly and poppy without the feeling of any corporate maneuvering behind the scenes. In other words, it feels like the work of an artist who truly loves and understands pop music, and it's the strength of the song that pushes this over the edge. It has a timeless quality about it, and the production choices are right up my alley, particularly the added Michael Jackson-esque guitar towards the end!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the EP here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Eva & Manu - Cinnamon Hearts

"We're young, fresh blood runs in our lungs"

Mondays are the kinds of days that you need a little bit of jauntiness in your life. Honestly, though, when don't you want a jaunty pop song? Eva & Manu have supplied this in abundance with their new single Cinnamon Hearts. Now, I don't really know what a "cinnamon heart" is, but it's not hard to get into the vibe of this song. From the boogie beat to the slowed down, dramatic hook to the post-chorus synth attack, this is a great mid-August feel-good singalong. The duo hails from Finland, which has been churning out pop hit after pop hit this year. Looking at their other tracks on youtube, it seems like this is a lot poppier and uptempo than their usual sound. Hopefully it's not a one-off, because I could use more of this!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Spica - I Did It

"I don't care what you want me to be"

Here's a nice little oddball that neatly bridges this blog's English-language history and my newfound love of K-pop. Spica is a successful Korean girl group, though I admittedly am not too familiar with them myself, and they've decided to record an English language album for the Western market. The only other k-pop artist I remember releasing a full-length was BoA, but I'm sure there have been others. The thing about this language shift is that it usually results in pretty sucky music. This might be the single that turns the tide. The production, melody and (multiple) hooks are on point, sounding like a nice crossover between West and East. I still kind of wish it was sung in Korean, but the English lyrics are not bad and the pronunciation is pretty spot-on. Wouldn't it be exciting if this was a big success?

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their music here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Dami Im - Gladiator

"Gonna fight for your love"

What a voice Dami Im has! I'd go so far to say she's my favorite X-Factor winner ever, but a lot of that is going to depend on the material she's given when it's time for that all-important debut album. After being initially underwhelmed by her last single, Super Love, I found my affection for it growing each day. I hope the same thing will happen with this song. On the surface, Gladiator seems way too trendy and melodically familiar, but that special essence that Dami brings to a song should push it over the edge for me. If someone like Demi Lovato was singing this (and honestly, it sounds like one of her dirgy self-empowerment anthems), I'd probably dismiss it outright. And if I'm being completely honest, I still want more from Dami, because she's better than this kind of soundalike material. But it's still Dami, and she can make even a mediocre song special.

Gladiator by Dami Im on Grooveshark

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, August 04, 2014

HyunA - Red

I love a little troublemaking in the otherwise well-oiled K-Pop world. HyunA is part of girl group 4minute, but she's really become a huge solo star on her own. Red is her new single, and it's a ridiculously catchy, bratty piece of pop. The images in the video are reminiscent of Miley Cyrus's recent party girl transformation, and HyunA's delivery certainly amps up the bad girl charisma. The lyrics themselves are your standard bragging about how sexy and cool she is, and the chorus borrows from an old Korean kid's playground rhyme (or so I'm told). Of course, most people reading this blog won't be able to understand the lyrics anyway. You'll be too busy freaking out over the beat and that wickedly melodic bridge leading into the spazz attack of a chorus.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the mini-album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Infinite - Reflex

I've long admired 7-piece K-pop band Infinite, particularly for their lush, string-laden productions that expertly blend East and West. But, for some reason, I've hesitated when it comes to their full albums. After a quick preview, I stupidly dismissed their latest full-length, Season 2. But now that the album's been re-released as Be Back, with an excellent new title track, I was tempted to give it another listen. Thank god I did! I am in love with this album! I even like the ballads, which is rare for me. But Infinite's synth-drenched dance tracks are its bread and butter. Reflex is a late-album highlight that sounds like it's straight from the 80's. In fact, it reminds me of a K-pop group covering a Rick Astley song. Weird, I know, but it all comes together perfectly. Also check out their new single, Back, which has an awesome, cinematic action music video.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JS16 & Erkka - Girls On Film

I'm usually all about the melody, but sometimes it just comes down to the beat. There are bits and pieces of a vocals in here, sampled tremendously from Duran Duran's Girls On Film, but they pale in comparison to the gargantuan, driving beat that propels this track. It sucks you in like a whirlwind and throws you out the other end dazed, dizzy and totally thrilled. It's simply all about the production. Fans of Duran Duran will probably get a kick out of it too, even if the band's contribution isn't huge. It's perfect if you're looking for a summer workout song.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Hedegaard - Happy Home (ft. Lukas Graham)

"We got a lot of love and a happy home"

This is one of those songs that really captivates you and forces you to stop whatever you're doing to listen. And even more impressively, it manages to do this with minimal production. It's all about the vocals, melody and lyrics. Hedegaard is a Danish DJ and this song was actually a huge hit earlier this year (#1 for 19 weeks!), but is still enjoying success because its soulful singer, Lukas Graham, is currently blowing up. Graham's own music isn't really my thing, but I am in love with the slightly electronic, completely emotional drama displayed here. I'm not sure how I missed this track when it was first released. For those of you that share this fate, I consider it my duty to feature it today! You will fall madly in love.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

GOT7 - A

"I know you want me"

I don't know why I initially slept on this song. I think it's because GOT7's debut track earlier this year was a little underwhelming, and they're from JYP, which is my least favorite of the big three Korean agencies (although I love its president, Park Jin-young). Jin-young wrote this track, and it's pretty evident because it has that soulful, addictive beat and feel to it that characterizes the best of his music. It's a ridiculously catchy single, and the seven (!) band members carry it off perfectly. I particularly love the music video, which reminds me of an old musical or something. If this was in English, it could easily be a big hit in the States. Either way, it should feature prominently on your summer playlist.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the mini album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bleachers - Like A River Runs

"When I fall asleep, I can see your face"

In a summer that has been (for me, at least) entirely dominated by international music, Bleachers' debut album has been a nice American surprise. Bleachers is the side-project of Jack Antonoff (of fun. fame). The album was released last week after three amazing singles. Those singles remain the best portion of the album, but the rest of the songs aren't exactly slouchers. Maybe a little more mellow, but still good. Like A River Runs is a late-album energizer, with surging production and a shout-along chorus. It represents what I consider the best qualities of Antonoff's music. If you like this, you should also check out his work with the band Steel Train. The song Bullet, in particular, is a nice aural companion to this one.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, July 21, 2014

G.R.L. - Ugly Heart

"Your face is a work of art"

I am shocked that his song hasn't been a total smash worldwide by now. Honestly, it's only a matter of time. It's already blowing up in Australia. I'm not a huge fan of girl groups, so it takes something special for me to stand up and pay attention. G.R.L. are that something special. From their attitude/charisma to their campy, fun style to their surprisingly amazing songs, they are bound to be the next big thing. Honestly, they remind me of the Spice Girls a little in that they're both incredibly refreshing and utterly packaged. Sometimes strong branding isn't a bad thing. Each of these girls seems to inhabit their own cartoony character. Oh, and let's not forget about the song. This is a solid gold hit, through and through. The melody is amazing, the lyrics are great, and the whole thing reminds me of classic, 90's pop goodness. Check out the fab music video below and find yourself converted.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, July 18, 2014

2NE1 - Crush

Crush is the fourth single taken from 2NE1's newest album of the same name. Add to that the three promo singles the group released last year and they've been quite prolific of late. I've been enjoying/obsessed with vocalist Park Bom on the reality show Roommate recently, so that's pulled me back into this excellent album. Crush is the opening track, and for some reason initially I dismissed it as being a bit of filler. It's amazing what a dynamite music video can do for a song! My love for the chorus, in particular, has been reinvigorated. There's so much attitude and swagger. The music video is for the Japanese version of the track, but not understanding either language, I just subbed this version in for the original Korean version on the album. I actually kind of prefer the sound of the Japanese language on this.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

B1A4 - Lonely & Solo Day

B1A4 are my latest obsession in K-pop. They have one of the most random names out there (the b's and a's stand for the members' blood types... yes, really), but their singles run has been spectacular. They have a youthful, poppy energy about them, sort of like the Korean One Direction. Most impressively, nearly all their singles (ie: their best tracks by far) have been written and produced by their leader, Jinyoung. Jinyoung also has the kind of charismatic voice that really appeals to me. It kind of reminds me of G-Dragon. Lots of character and texture in the vocals. I want to post both of their singles from this year, because they're quite different, yet both amazing in their own right. First is Lonely, which is probably my favorite ballad of 2014 so far. I just can't stop listening to it. It's like a perfect 80's/90's boyband throwback, with a gorgeous melody. Then there's the new summer single, Solo Day, which is the perfect kind of song for a day at the beach. It just oozes sunshine.They're both great videos, too.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their albums here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

f(x) - Vacance

I know that I just posted an album track by Korean girl group f(x) last week, but the album is so good that I've got to share another as part of k-pop week. Vacance (French for "vacation?") is a whopper of a track. It ranges from sugary bubblegum pop to new wave to surging 80's power ballad all within three minutes. The end portion of the chorus is my absolute favorite part, where it gets all dramatic. Melody is so important in pop music (I'd argue that it's the most important ingredient), and this is a masterclass in constantly changing, uber-effective melody. It reminds me of something UK production group Xenomania would've come up with for Girls Aloud. Excellent, addictive stuff!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Henry - Fantastic

"It's gonna be fantastic"

Kicking off this week in k-pop is Henry's amazing new comeback track. Henry hails from Canada and, despite learning Korean, is a bit of a fish out of water in the country. He's parlayed this fact (and his natural charisma and charm) into an incredibly popular career as both a singer and an in-demand reality tv star. Check him out in the popular Real Men series and you'll see why. The guy's got a great, endearing personality. Not only that, but he's a savant at violin and piano. The former instrument makes a breathtaking addition to this new song, which is already one of my favorites of the summer. I LOVE when classical music mixes with pop and dance, and the fusion is absolutely brilliant here. This is ridiculously catchy stuff, full of personality and a mammoth beat. Unfortunately, while the accompanying mini album is still good, it doesn't sound at all like this title track. I'm of the opinion that all of Henry's future music should include the violin. And he should also be a worldwide star. Just saying.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Ten Reasons YOU Should be Listening to K-Pop

It's K-Pop week here at alienhits! Many of you longtime readers have undoubtedly noticed that more and more Korean music has been featured on this blog the past several years. It may seem like a lot, but I'm actually holding back. I'd say about 50% of the music I listen to nowadays is of the k-pop variety. So, I need a whole week to focus on my favorite new musical region, starting with an overview today. I present to you, the ten reasons YOU should be listening to k-pop.

1. It’s more diverse than you think
In other words, it’s more than Gangnam Style. Sure, the k-pop industry is built upon that highly produced hybrid of dance, r&b, electro and hip-hop, but delve a bit further and you can find pretty much every genre represented in the community. In fact, the last three albums released from YG Entertainment's (one of the biggest agencies and star-makers in Korea) artist roster range from quirky folk-pop, old-fashioned r&b and futuristic hip-pop.

2. They have the art of distribution down
There’s no endless waiting around for your k-pop fix. It's not uncommon to have an album announced a week or two before it's released, followed quickly by several music videos and a full-on promotional tour. It’s wham bam, thank you ma'am. And they've learned the art of mini-albums (or what we'd call EPs in the West). This allows for more music, year round. Plus, if you decide to buy the physical albums (and you should), you’re rewarded with mini-pieces of art, quite often packaged in elaborate boxes and innovative design.

3. Big budget music videos
Miss the days of impressive, futuristic promo videos like Michael and Janet’s Scream? Well, most k-pop mvs are like mini movies, filmed with a glossy look that puts Western videos to shame. I don’t know how much they spend on these things, but they look like they’d cost millions of dollars. Plus, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a new one the day each album, single or mini-album is released.

4. Prolific album releases
Speaking of releases, it’s not uncommon for one group to release several mini-albums, or even several albums, a year. This means consistency in quality is sometimes an issue, but with so much music to prune from, who’s complaining? Multi-year waits between your favorite artist’s music releases are rare, while they seem to be the norm in the West.

5. They look damn good doing it
Beyond the gorgeous aesthetic appeal of most of these Idol Bands, their avant garde fashion and styling is compelling all on its own. You could put a G-Dragon video on mute and still be riveted just by the visuals. Plus, the dancing (and there’s a lot of it) is always on point.

6. It’s East meets West
More than any other Asian country or region, Korea's musical output is a real melting pot. It has that traditional Eastern appeal, and obviously the lyrics are mostly Korean, but it borrows heavily from Western inspirations as well. That makes it the most approachable Eastern music to foreigners. I don’t speak the language, but I still feel I understand most of what’s going on, especially from an aural perspective. Plus, a lot of the songs are co-written or produced by Europeans and even Americans. In fact, one of this blog’s favorite Danes, Thomas Troelsen, was my initial bridge into the world of k-pop with his great work with the band EXO. It’s an amazing, worldwide collaboration.

7. You can find a translation for almost anything
Many music videos feature English subtitles now, and if they don’t, it’s usually pretty easy to find them. Compare this to regions in Scandinavia, which are very tricky to find subtitles for. I wish they subtitled Sweden’s Melodifestivalen like they do many Korean shows.

8. Their “American Idol” equivalent is about fifty times better than ours
It’s called K-Pop Star, and it’s amazing. The judges actually know and critique music and music theory, the talent is unbelievably impressive, and it’s producing stars left and right -- most recently with Akdong Musician and Lee Hi at YG Entertainment.

9. The multifaceted talent is incredibly impressive
Much of the music might seem highly produced and processed, but behind the scenes, many of these superstars are ridiculously talented. It’s not uncommon to find a singer/dancer/rapper/composer/multi-instrumentalist. They take their music seriously in Korea.

10. It's a big pool, and you'll get addicted
It might seem overwhelming at first, but start with the big two agencies (SM and YG) and move from there. You'll quickly fall down the rabbit hole and have a hard time clawing your way back up!