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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!