NOW KPOPPING: 2NE1, Ailee, Crayon Pop, EXO, KARA, SHINee & TVXQ!

It's been almost a month since we last talked KPOP and in a world as insane as the South Korean music scene, that means a million bajillion things happened (and that's just with the artists I'm interested in and/or aware of). For those of you who are less KPOP-obsessed, here is the Cliff Notes version of what you need to know about.

First off, yes -- I've placed another order at KollectionK.com.
It's currently in US Customs so hopefully I won't have to wait too much longer. I know how popular my previous post was (see link above), so I'm really excited to continue to share these little goodies with you! Rather than clump together another ginormous review post, I'm thinking I might break it up into smaller posts based on brand (spoiler alert: my order this time 'round includes four brands, two I've never tried before). Keep a keen eye out for that, hopefully beginning prior to Christmas.

Label Mergers
Not totally unlike the situation here in the US, a pretty important label merger was recently confirmed. Media Titan SM Enteratinment (TVXQ, BoA, Girls Generation, Super Junior, SHINee, yadda yadda) has acquired Woollim Entertainment (their main clientele being boy band Infinite, who recently stopped by New York for some live shows). Now, does his mean Infinite is now a part of SMTown family and could appear in their live concerts? Well...not exactly. Woollim is now considered Woollim Label, an "independent" structure under the SM umbrella. But I suppose anything is possible. There's also rumors running rampant of SISTAR's label Starship Entertainment merging with one of the bigger conglomerates as well...

TVXQ! Celebrates A Decade In Music
December 26th has a special significance to a large portion of KPOP listeners. It is the anniversary date of TVXQ's debut in Korea and this year will mark their official ten year anniversary. SM Entertainment has confirmed their seventh Korean album will be released in conjunction with this anniversary in January 2014. Given TVXQ, together or apart, will always been my Ultimate Faves, look for a nostalgic, fangirly type post dedicated to my favorite TVXQ cuts in celebration of our OT5's ten year anniversary.

KARA Continues the '2013 Girl Group Curse'
I guess I just can't stan Korean girl groups. 2013 brought us the hiatus of the Wonder Girls following leader Sunye's marriage and pregnancy (spoiler: it was a girl and her name is Hailey!). Now, news has been confirmed that not all is well in the world of KARA -- their label DSP announced rapper and American-born Nicole will be ending her contract with her company which suggests her bowing out of KARA. Rumors are running rampant that Nicole solely wants different representation but still wants to participate as a member of KARA. This type of thing is very messy regardless of the territory you're in so suffice to say, it doesn't look good. In addition, youngest member JiYoung's contract with DSP is up in April of 2014 and rumor has it she is looking to leave the company (and KARA) to further her studies. Nothing has been confirmed for sure -- and this hasn't been the first time KARA's lineup has been tweaked. Still, pretty sad considering their success not just in Korea but in Japan, as well. Ladies, we'll always have this -- the song that truly turned me on to your catalog.


2NE1 Apparently is "Missing You"
YG enjoys tormenting its fans. That is just fact. This supposed 2NE1 comeback album -- we've been waiting for so long I'm not even sure if there is an album at this point. Our fab four dropped another crumb following 2012's stand-alone(?) "I Love You" and this year's "Falling In Love" and "Do You Love Me?", and no, it doesn't have "Love" in it's title. The song is called "Missing You". While the video is beautiful and includes a nude CL, the song is one of those ballads that is pretty when you hear it but lacks a tangible chorus to recall it by. It's like YG took all of the aspects that I love about 2NE1 and squeezed them dry. Yes, it's the winter and ballads will be coming fast and furious, but haven't we had enough of the midtempos from our BadAss Babes? The conundrum with 2NE1 is this: their ballads give them credibility in Korea where the group's (read: CL's) fashion and bravado often draws criticism, while their noisy uptempos and crazy fashion get them international attention. So what to do? Where to go? Fellow International fans -- I really do fear we will end up "missing" out.


Understanding Crayon Pop
I've explained the aegyo concept, right? If you're still a big confused -- Aegyo is a Korean concept that basically means acting super-innocent or "cute". It's more commonly associated with young (teenage/early 20's) girls than boys, but boys can still have aegyo. It depends on the person whether or not you find this attractive (a lot of Korean men seem to find it very attractive...which is confusing to people like moi).

Enter Crayon Pop, a idol quintet who debuted last year simultaneously in Korea and Japan. It should surprise no one that this aegyo concept is also a pretty popular idea in Japan as well. Since debut, the group's success has been striking. They are definitely not my thing, but their whirlwind success is impossible not to notice. One of their biggest hits, "Bar Bar Bar", features their now trademark color-coordinated matching outfits with bird-formation choreography and it is so nauseatingly cute it makes Girls' Generation's "Gee" look like child's play. They recently were interviewed in the UK and talked about their desire to work with more Western artists like One Direction (despite not speaking English) and "performed" with 2013's Viral Songmakers of the Year Ylvis (you know, the "What Does The Fox Say" people) at the recent MAMA Awards. I say "performed" because despite the pairing being promoted as a collaboration, it was basically just Crayon Pop doing "Bar Bar Bar" with Ylvis dancing alongside them. So...


People Are Still Trying To Make EXO Happen
Also at the MAMA Awards, the boys in Super Junior 2.0 EXO won the coveted prize of Album of The Year for their record XOXO. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was pretty enraged by this -- not only because I don't believe they deserved it (I'm well aware these type of awards are fan-voted/fixed so, it wasn't too much of a surprse) but by the "fan" egoism associated with it. I could rattle off a number of KPOP albums that were much more interesting -- bias not included -- but as a sacrifice to the so-called "EXO Fans" who enjoy sending me comments on Twitter, allow me to re-iterate this. I did quite like "Growl" -- the one redeeming aspect of this album (probably because it sounds like a SHINee song. Yeah, you were thinking it, too.). You can go on all day and night about vocals and ballads, but when the only thing that is served up proportionally is "Wolf" (Kenzie, girl -- seriously?), I'm kinda not gonna accept those arguments. 


SHINee Dubsteps to "EVERYBODY"
Speaking of albums that should have won Album of the Year (cough cough, hint hint), my SHINee bb's have gone ahead and released another Korean EP after dropping not one, but two full(er) length albums in Korea in 2013 alone. Unfortunately, the EP did very little to wow me. Lead single "Everybody" is fun, albeit redundant and monotone (and not in a "Lucifer" kind of way). Also, boys -- the dubstep thing was a little latebus when Super Junior-M did it with "Break Down", and that was back in January. However, the choreography is incredible. SHINee continues to set an incredibly high standard when it comes to dancing that I'm fearing none of my other faves can match at this point.


The Ailee/AllKPOP Debacle
I haven't spoken much on this blog about solo idol Ailee, a Korean-American soulstress from Jersey who gained a lot of traction for her big voice and formally debuted in Korea in 2012. While I was never an ardent fan of hers, I was always impressed by her voice.

This month, my feelings for her changed following a scandal that has rocked the KPOP fandom. AllKPOP.com, an admittedly popular mega-portal site for international fans of Korean idol music, "broke" a story featuring a menagerie of nude images of Ailee pre-debut (I'm guessing she couldn't have been much more than 18 years old at the time). They claimed they reported the images as a part of their journalistic integrity, but as the hours passed and more details regarding the situation surfaced, it became clear this was not integrity at all, but a vindictive attempt to sabotage Ailee's burgeoning career. Ailee's company confirmed the photos were indeed of her and claimed that the pictures were unveiled at the hand of an angry ex-boyfriend who (get this) is employed at AllKPOP.

A part of me feared that many "netizens" would place the blame on Ailee's shoulders, given their history of pointing the finger at the victim (aka "slut shaming"). I was most outraged at the cavalier attitude and vocal social media stances taken by not one but several decision-makers at AllKPOP regarding the situation -- it wasn't just rude, it was downright sexist and chauvinistic. Admittedly, I'm vocally no fan of this website because of prior instances similar to this (but obviously, never this gratuitous in an attempt to be relevant and "important" in the KPOP community). Instead, netizens and the KPOP fandom chose to surprise me as support rallied all over the globe in favor of Ailee. AllKPOP lost thousands of Twitter followers overnight, including some idols themselves, the majority being from the US or North America -- Jay Park, Amber of f(x), Min of miss A, G.NA, Kevin of U-Kiss.Meanwhile, Ailee took home Best Female Vocal Performance at the MAMA Awards, accepting the award in person and with grace despite the controversy.

I'm not here to tell you all what to do with your KPOP fandom, but I am saying this. If you were like me and never took the time to get into Ailee's music -- now is the time for that to change. You can start with this one, it's pretty indicative of the situation. Stay strong, girl!



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