NOW KPOPPING: State of Affairs with Girls' Generation, EXO, Super Junior, & 2NE1

Sunday, October 19, 2014

L to R: CL, Sungmin, Jessica, Luhan

Dear KPOP, the wheels appear to be coming off a bit and it scares me. It scares me a lot. It scares me because of some of the "fans" that reside in "fandom" with me. 

I like to think we're all sane folks who just love cute kids who sing catchy songs but its times like these that remind me -- teen pop music (regardless of where it's crafted) brings out the crazies. For all the good that happens, there is an equal and unfortunate negative (or at least that's how it's feeling, right now), and particularly for fans who live in SM Town, the struggle has been real the past few weeks.

All I know is, if some ish comes out about SHINee, I might spontaneously combust.

Where should I begin?...


Oh, hey, Mel - you remember that English 2NE1 album you've been waiting literally years for? Yeah, that's probably not gonna happen. (I'm still gonna blame I don't care.)

But the good news is -- as I sort of predicted -- leader and my homegirl CL is officially spreading her wings and taking the US! It has been confirmed that a CL solo album in English is happening with Justin Bieber's/Ariana Grande's manager Scooter Braun at the helm. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that this doesn't sound ratchet as eff.


Hey, guys -- TaeTiSeo is back! "Twinkle" was my jam so I was so stoked to hear this sub-unit featuring the group's unequivocal "best voices" (leader TaeYeon, American-born Tiffany, and baby Seohyun) was coming back to the scene with new tunes. "Holler" is great little piece of glitzy fluff and is exactly the kind of stuff that Girls' Generation OG should be hammering out. It has just enough sass and goes easy on the cheese.

And then the group's requisite Ice Princess proved just how icy it could be. SM Entertainment and Jessica herself announced she would be leaving the group -- a group that is literally pillared on the marketing ploy of "Divine Nine" -- to focus more on her fashion line. She's already being credited as a "former Girls' Generation member".

I am a casual fan of Girls' Generation and Jessica's attitude never thrilled me, but the thought of Girls' Generation being down a member legit feels like KPOP itself has gone through a terrible ordeal. It's almost unfathomable. Jessica in particular really gets you where it hurts as her face is quite synonymous with SNSD.

As someone who's gone through group divide situations before (cough::TVXQ!/JYJ::cough::cough), I want to urge SONEs to not take sides. You do not have the full story and you probably never will. Jessica is a grown woman, she's allowed to make her own decisions. It's quite telling that SME was willing to let her go at all with no lawsuit bloodshed on either side of the coin. 

You and I both want to believe in the sisterhood of solidarity that is Girls' Generation. But, as has been said, nothing gold can stay...


Because bias is as bias does.

Riding high off the return of Leeteuk and Heechul and the success of "MAMACITA", rumors and hints of a repackaged album with even more new tunes to spazz to began to hit the net. The repackage, dubbed THIS IS LOVE (most likely after the song of the same name that appears on the previous version of the album), is out October 27th in Korea, and a music video has apparently already been shot.

With that good news, comes "bad". This past week, more rumors began to fly that member Lee Sungmin was not only in a relationship (with actress Kim Sa Eun), but he was engaged. In true SM in 2014 form, Sungmin himself confirmed the rumors were in fact true. Oh, did you hear that? That was the sound of a thousand or so ELF hearts breaking. (Just kidding -- kind of.) He and Kim will be wed in December. THIS IS LOVE, indeed.

I didn't expect this news to go over well because...well, many KPOP fans are crazy and many ELFs are legally batsh*t insane (Only13 ring a bell to anyone?). What I didn't expect was for many Korean Super Junior fans to go to Twitter to vent their frustration with Sungmin for having the audacity to have a mature, serious relationship and for wanting to -- I don't know, I'm just spitballing -- want to get married and have a family. I know he looks like a baby pumpkin, guys, but he's almost 30 years old! However, certain fans could not be calmed and managed to trend #SungminOUT on Twitter, a blatant statement that they want Sungmin "kicked out" of Super Junior (or at least for the upcoming repackage promotions).

I have no words. And for those of you who are saying that these Korean "fans" deserve clemency for their selfish remarks, here's what I have to say about that: #nope. Sungmin deserves happiness and yes, there is a divide between his obligations to Super Junior and his obligations to his own private life. Do you really think these grown men will be "everybody's oppa" forever? Sungmin getting married will not change one little thing about his relationship to fandom -- he will remain his adorable sunny self! Or at least, he would have if these crazy chicks could just cool it.

Also -- there's a lot of dudes in KPOP and this will mark the first time a "still popular" male idol is tying the knot (to my knowledge). The only other person who's attempted to marry whilst still an idol was Sunye of Wonder Girls...and then she promptly got pregnant and fell off the face of the earth (well, you know what I mean). It's not an easy line to walk and no doubt Sungmin has already done the math. He's not stupid, guys -- he knows what's at risk. By acting crazy, you're only making it harder 1) on Sungmin, 2) on Super Junior as a group, 3) on the rest of Super Junior as grown men who will likely also want to get married at some point, 4) male KPOP idols on the whole.

I've said it once and I'll say it again -- how fandoms of established acts like Super Junior react to "controversy" will set the tone for younger fandoms. Take a cue from Elsa and Let. It. Go. I promise, Sungmin and SuJu will still love you if you're supportive. In fact, I'm pretty sure they will love you more.


And another one bites the dust. 

Following on the heels of former member Kris's departure from the mega-boy band, fellow Chinese member Luhan (also of EXO-M), has filed a lawsuit to nullify his contract with SM Entertainment. This now leaves only four members in the Chinese sub-group EXO-M.

Luhan, Kris, and also former Super Junior member Hangeng (also Chinese) are/were all represented by the same law firm, which is starting to paint a different picture -- suggesting that SM artists (particularly of Chinese descent) are being "lured" away from the Korean media mecca. A fresh rumour is teasing that Luhan may not even be the last of the EXO boys to be "seduced" away from Korea and the group that birthed them.

As I said with Girls' Generation, take everything you read with a grain of salt. While I like to poke fun at EXO itself, there's nothing funny at all about a group you stan falling apart piece by piece -- trust me, I get it. Two members leaving the group (allegedly "separately") is a really big deal, regardless of how large the group is to begin with. 


Meanwhile, still no word from f(x)'s Sulli. Sigh.

HEAR THIS: Lindsey Stirling Bows with Stellar DubStep Violin & "Shatter Me"

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All in favor of generic DubStep breakdowns taking several seats for a good long while (or at least, slinking back to the sweaty EDM-fueled clubs it came to us from), say 'Aye'?

Now -- all in favor of creativity returning to the format, reinvention, and overall genre fusion? You can't say no to that, right?

Lindsey Stirling has been orbiting my radar for awhile now. Born of the YouTube Generation, she gained mainstream popularity thanks to the strides she made on America's Got Talent. She's since toured the world, released a few albums, and had a handful of fab collabs (that rhymed) with the lovely kids in Penatontix.

What makes her stand out is her organic melding of classic violin with electronica and dance music. Her latest single, "Shatter Me", which features ace Lzzy Hale of the metal group Halestorm literally shattering the public with her searing vocal delivery, has a lot of exciting ingredients. It's catchy as all hell. It's sonically unique and intense. And it's gaining adds at Top 40 radio stations hand over fist. 

Everything about this is giving me Evanescence vibes in the mid-00's, when Amy Lee's big, classical vocals soared over hard, metal-inspired beats. The difference here for 2014 is a DubStep breakdown is here, too, but with a virtuoso violin in counterpoint.

It's no surprise Stirling is so in demand in Europe -- her amplified violin lends itself well to the dancy-Celtic/Nordic music lover. It's highly possible that "Shatter Me" will be one of those outer echeleon, select market goldmine hits that will not only gain her new fans (me being one of them) but will lead to enough popularity to further fuel Stirling's already lucrative touring prowess.

HEAR THIS: Charli XCX is a "London Queen"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, you are definitely a "London Queen", Charli. That's a statement you can take to the bank, especially since it's coming from your resident New York Queen.

While I (and the world) originally pegged her for her dark pop pastiche, Charli XCX is turning into the perfect popstar for 2014, don't you think? "London Queen" is a fab rebel yell -- a little bit Ramones homage, a little bit Marina & The Diamonds (first era, of course), a little crunchy guitar with hand (boom) claps, a lot bit lovely.

Yes, I love "Boom Clap", too but this Charli is the one I really adore. I feel like this is the kind of real rallying cry that Taylor Swift was trying to do with "Shake It Off", but ends up feeling so much more organic here.

"London Queen" is one of the newest morsels unveiled from Charli's upcoming sophomore album, Sucker, due out before the end of the year. I was already hands in after "Superlove" alone -- but you can definitely file that album under my 'Most Anticipated'.

CMJ 2014: Mel's Most Anticipated Artists with Kate Boy, Alexz Johnson, & More!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

L to R: Kate Miller-Heidke, Alexz Johnson, Phebe Starr, Kate Boy

After several hours of combing through Spotify and, I've finally come to a conclusion in terms of which showcases I intend to hit up during the CMJ Music Marathon -- beginning this coming Tuesday, October 21st, and ending on Saturday, October 25th. Keep your eyes locked to my Twitter and my Instagram (both @melismaticdiva!) for lots of updates during this crazy five day fest as I'm sure updates here on the blog proper will be quite slow (in the spirit of October, I may become a literal zombie. YOLO, am I right?). 

While I'm not revealing my full schedule just yet (although -- if you're going, hit me up on the social medias and we can compare notes), here is the handful of artists that are absolute musts for me to catch (and basically what I've set up my entire week around):

Undeniably at the top of the list. They are Swedish-based (so good pop music is inevitable) and are headlining Neon Gold's showcase (so the whole lineup should be brilliant).

I've been a fan of this Canadian songstress since her Instant Star days! She literally just released a fab new album (as in just two days ago) called Let Them Eat Cake, too. 

This Aussie indie has released quite a bit of tasty pop morsels over the years and I'm relishing the chance to finally see her live.

A surprise find through my guerilla Spotify binges and another Aussie (perhaps this is the part of me that is so bummed I missed out on Sheppard last year?). I'm really stoked to see what she's like live.

The party begins on TUESDAY! WAHHHHHHHH!

CMJ 2014: 7 Tips to Survive CMJ

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's October, people -- which means three things: 1) ComicCon (which was EPIC, by the way). 2) Halloween. 3) the epic CMJ Festival.

Yup, it's almost time for CMJ craziness! After last year's insanity in which I somehow packed in 13 bands in four days, I couldn't be more excited for the new faves that this year will bring. (This year's goal: more than 13 artists during the festival's span.) Since we have a little bit of time before opening kick off and since several of you readers have approached me saying you'll be attending the festival this year for the first time ever, allow me to present to you Mel's Tips to Survive CMJ...

1. Listen to As Many Bands As Humanly Possible BEFORE the Festival Begins.
Over a thousand bands will be playing CMJ. Let that number sink in because it's freaking overwhelming. You're gonna want to get the most of out this experience and to do that you need to know where to start in terms of who you want to see.

Since this can feel a bit like you're suddenly black-and-white Dorothy in a bright, dazzling technicolor Oz, allow yourself some time to peruse who will be playing. This means picking apart CMJ's website and spending some quality time with your Spotify account. Don't bank on listening to everyone, but try hard (and keep an open mind).

2. Know the Banner Bands and the Buzz Bands.
Every year there's a handful of artists that are what a lot of bloggers like to label the "Banner Bands" and the "Buzz Bands". Banner Bands are familiar faces just on the precipice of a serious breakthrough in popularity. Perhaps they have a large following in another country. Maybe they opened for one of your fave bands. They are usually the bands that CMJ will use on a lot of their marketing material. Buzz Bands may not be well known outside of ardent scourers of The Hype Machine, SoundCloud and the general music underground. But without fail, a handful of bloggers will openly state they are "the band to watch" and word will travel and exponentially multiply.

Words to the Wise: When attending CMJ, know the bands that will be bringing the crowds. If you passionately want to see this artist, be prepared for the fight for prime audience placement. 

3. Plan Your Route in Advance & Be Realistic.
CMJ offers a fantastic scheduling service that allows you to really plan your "itinerary" so to speak. This is imperative for folks who like to party hop and head to more than one venue in one night. That being said -- especially if you are not New York savvy -- be realistic with your choices if you are wanting to do a multi-venue night. I wouldn't recommend trying to see a showcase at Webster Hall and Music Hall of Williamsburg in one day. General knowledge of NYC geography and subways is a must. If you don't know the area, download the Hop Stop app for your smart phone. It gives you subway/transit directions by plugging in two addresses. This also helps if you're looking for places to find a quick bite to eat, coffee, etc. etc.

Also, schedules are for the most part strictly upheld in terms of performance times -- don't bank on arriving late and being able to see your fave.

4. When In Doubt, Stick Around for the Full Night.
To some, this may seem like the lazy way out but heed my call. If you're unsure of where to begin, find an artist you're really interested in seeing (this is particularly useful if they are positioned to be a "headliner" or "mid-level" and not the first act of the night). Then head to that venue early and stay for the whole night. It's less stress, you'll definitely get to see the artist you were interested in -- and the bonus is you might get to know a handful of great new artists. CMJ itself is about music discovery, so keep an open mind -- you don't know who you might see play and really enjoy.

Perfect example: Last year, some of my favorite performances were of people I wasn't even there to see! AJR was a surprise opener at the top of the showcase that I attended solely for Neon Hitch. Strange Talk and ASTR played just before Betty Who. Panama Wedding performed just before NONONO. Genres are a non-issue and if a showcase is arranged under any kind of theme or heading, they would let you know beforehand. A lot of these performances are arranged somewhat haphazardly based on the open availability for the artist.

Also, you never know who might be a bonus late addition to the bill. AJR was added to the showcase set up last minute. Same goes for NONONO when I saw them for the (unexpected) second time while waiting to see Betty Who.

5. Wear Comfy Shoes.
Real Talk: I'm about 4'11. That's really short. While my first inclination in any situation is to wear a cute pair of heels, CMJ can be really exhausting. Like REALLY exhausting. This festival is much less about how you look and more about the people and artists you'll meet. Err on the side of being comfortable because you're gonna be doing a lot of walking/standing and waiting around.

6. Limit What You Carry With You.
This is especially true for the ladies. These showcases get packed. Don't be that girl with the ginormous purse. Here's the basics of what you need: your CMJ pass (if you have one), your phone, your keys/MetroCard, a mobile phone charger, and enough cash to get you through the night (paper over plastic, people -- a lot of these venues require a needless tab to use a credit card).

7. Know Your Venues & Get There Early.
Do some research on the venues if you've never been there before. The smaller they are, the quicker they will fill to capacity -- so the earlier you should head over if you want prime positioning.

Have something to add? Be sure to leave it in the comments!

HEAR THIS: 'X Factor UK' Offers a Super Junior-like Boy Band

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stateside, the whole X Factor thing just didn't pan out. Like crash and burn didn't pan out. With the exception, I suppose, of regular Bo$ses in Fifth Harmony (who placed third in the second season), our version of the British sensation series wasn't offering up much of anything and was cancelled earlier this year.

However, across the pond, the UK's original version of the X Factor is a veritable factory for great pop. Amongst their finalists: Leona Lewis, Same Difference, Alexandra Burke, now defunt JLS, Olly Murs, Rebecca Ferguson, the juggernaut that is One Direction, my beloved Little Mix, and James Arthur. Now well into their eleventh(!) season, the show needs to find a fresh way to kick up excitement in a country where good pop is quite literally demanded. (An obvious choice -- the inclusion of Lizzy Pattinson, the elder sister of sparkly vamp Rob, in the 'Over 25's' category.)

Currently in contention in the groups category is boy-girl band Only The Young, who recently covered the ace tune "Ghost" by Ella Henderson (another alum from 2012).

They have a great sound and harmony so the potential is there. Maybe they are the second coming of A*Teens we all are secretly craving (AM I RITE, FELLOW MILLENNIALS?).

However, the buzz is on the "new boy band" concept being pushed into contention. A troupe of eight boys, who all auditioned as solo artists but apparently didn't make the grade, was waffled together into a group of doe-eyed teenage adorableness. This is a commonly-done practice on the X Factor and in the case of my beloved Super Junior, the situation was also quite similar. These boys don't have a group name yet and it's still quite early to tell if this will have legs, but the group offered up a cover of Leona's "Run" and I had to admit they weren't quite bad. And you have to admit -- "Run" is not any easy song to sing.

In terms of the UK market (and indeed, pretty much anywhere outside of Asia), the "mega boy band" concept is a new and scary prospect. (In the US, we currently have Girl Radical as I've spoken of before. ) However -- as a teen idol act, as long as the teenage girls dig it (and from what you can tell in the video clip of the jaw-dropped, starstruck, near to tears gals in the audience, I'm guessing they do), it might just work. I mean, what's a few extra faces in a lineup? If anything, it increases their chances of a random teenage fan (or you know...a blogger in her twenties) falling for someone in the group.

Now, if these dudes can whip up and execute well some great choreography, my boys in Super Junior could (eventually) have some competition.

PS - The name suggestions offered by Pop Justice are utter gold. My vote is for Love Octually.

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