Monday, August 25, 2014

NOW KPOPPING: f(x), Super Junior, SHINee's Taemin, EXOpocalypse & More

Mel's first KPOP post in...oh, I dunno...six months? I'm not exactly sure where I should begin. Admittedly, I've been a bit out of the loop and being able to look at KPOP through a further apart glance has suggested the wheels are starting to come off a bit. The genre has been full of flux and drama over the past few months but there is one very important reason why I'm jumping back aboard this crazy bandwagon...

The long-awaited return of my second favorite KPOP boy band is incredibly imminent. Super Junior's seventh full length album, backed by the upcoming release of title track "Mamacita" will be firing and hitting next week. Did you get that? Next week. Now hold on to your hats, boys & girls, because the concept is...Cowboys. This could go a myriad of ways and the majority sound dreadful so let's all keep our fingers & toes crossed that this go-'round will be worth it. It's been two years since we've had Super Junior in the saddle (see what I did there?), and three army switcheroos. Heechul, who left during the Mr. Simple era, is back and leader Leeteuk, who left following Sexy Free & Single, is too. However, this leaves us short of the golden-throated Yesung who enlisted just over a year ago. It also quite possible will be the last SJ comeback before my bias Donghae enlists. Ergo, this is important news -- whether the comeback track is terrible or not. Let's hope for not.


Speaking of Donghae, he alongside his boyfriend best friend Eunhyuk made good on their promises of a full album (in Japan, at least), which was released since we last chatted KPOP. Get this -- it was called Ride Me. Hold for applause. The pair also embarked on their own duet tour in Japan and have released an additional single earlier this month called "Skeleton". The song sounds very Tohoshinki dark and dirty, complete the epic chorus line "I just wanna see you naked" in English falcetto. Is it hot in here? It feels hot in here.


A lot has gone down in the f(x) fandom. The group released their latest full length Red Light in early July. The concept: cats. I know what you're thinking but the output was actually quite admirable (and is what gives me hope that "Mamacita" might be salvageable). "Red Light" the song was actually quite Pussycat Dolls sultry (maybe that's where the "cats" idea came from?) and Red Light the album seemed to me to be their most cohesive set yet.

Then, the troubles began. Not long after their comeback, rumors started running rampant and full tilt about a relationship between second youngest member Sulli and Dynamic Duo's ChoiZa -- a tabloid story that has been making the rounds since last summer, the most prevalent being that Sulli is/was pregnant. Both parties in the couple have actually confirmed their relationship earlier this month. If you're wondering why it's a big deal, ChoiZa is 14 years older than Sulli, hence the raised eyebrows. Not long after more "proof" broke about the two, Sulli mysteriously disappeared from all f(x) appearances, adding fuel to the pregnancy rumors, and promotions for the Red Light era seemed to be abandoned. SM Entertainment confirmed Sulli is still very much a member of f(x) and that the group is not disbanding -- however, the circumstances do not look good. To add insult to injury, SM Entertainment have quickly ushered out a new quirky baby girl group to promote by debuting Red Velvet, a four-piece mostly made up of gals from their fledgling SM.Rookies offering. While their debut single "Happiness" has been fairly successful, they hold no interest to me. Best of luck to the girls but...sigh.


While we're talking about SM Entertainment's dramas, I guess it's time to talk EXO. The boy band I love to hate (#sorrynotsorry) went through a ton of drama since we last chatted, beginning in May when member Kris (better known as the leader of their Chinese subunit EXO-M and now primarily known by his given name Wu Yifan), abruptly left the group and filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment to nullify his contract. Lest we all forget, EXO has been active only for about two and a half years. He has since headed to China to pursue a full time acting career and the result has been a lot of bad blood among the remaining eleven members, not unlike the situation when Jay Park made his exit from 2PM in 2010. Also, Kris has hired the same law firm who represented Han Geng in his similar-ish lawsuit against SM whilst leaving Super Junior, which has inevitably re-opened still fresh wounds within Super Junior. Long story short -- not a good situation.

Not long after this, it was revealed and confirmed by SM Entertainment that EXO-K member Baekhyun is in a relationship with Girls' Generation leader TaeYeon, inevitably a sore subject for many a SONE. The resulting onslaught rained on TaeYeon's Instagram page where she expressed sorrow for not being truthful to her fanbase. The sheer amount of hate and ridicule slung at her truly makes heart hurt. It also lead to a momentary uprising against EXO and Baekhyun in particular. It appears all is calm now for the most part but the days of Girls' Generation's innocence and reign as Korea's National Girl Group may officially be coming to an end. SM also confirmed popular members Tiffany and YoonA were also in relationships, with Nickhyun of the aforementioned 2PM and actor Lee Seunggi, respectively.


A bright shiny beacon in the drama-filled SM Entertainment landscape would inevitably be a member of SHINee. It was announced earlier this month that the group's baby, 4 year old (just kidding...kind of) Taemin would be the first of the group to attempt a solo shot. This is a pretty big deal -- in recent memory, only Henry of Super Junior-M has been allowed clearance to strike out on his own officially. Taemin's solo EP, Ace, was released on August 18th and the title cut (a sexy, slow jam) was written #1 bias, TVXQ!'s Changmin! Surprise, surprise -- it actually was the reason why I forgave the seeming oversight of offering up Taemin over the more charismatic Key or vocally exciting Jonghyun. (But seriously, Minnie -- I'd rather it have been a TVXQ! jam any day. Just saying.)

But to be fair -- I get the hype over Taeminnie. He's grown into handsome boy-man (but that nose to ear chain thing has got to go). We all knew he's had the moves since the beginning, but he has also really grown into his voice and it shows (when its not being vocoded to all hell). The Michael Jackson comparisons are easy for SM to grasp at, so I don't fault them for it. And for those of you who are hurt like me about the Jong snub, my BB co-wrote album cut "Pretty Boy". Also -- Teddy Riley co-produced "Wicked" (which quite possibly could have been a SHINee leftover) and one of my fave under-appreciated producers Adonis Shropshire (who's credits include most infamously Danity Kane, Day26, Dream, and Kristinia DeBarge) co-produced "Play Me", complete with Aaliyah homage.

Joke aside, download Ace right now. It's worth it. I wasn't expecting a mini album of R&B-tingled goodness from SHINee's maknae, but I'm glad its here.


As I mentioned back in November, girl group KARA, of which I was a casual fan, has undergone a second lineup change -- but their first since really securing popularity. Fan favorite member Nicole and youngest member JiYoung have both officially exited the group and their company, DSP Entertainment, for good. Nicole is working toward a solo debut with a new company while JiYoung confirmed she was leaving the group to focus on her education. Rather than saying die, the remaining three members (Seungyeon, Hara, and leader Gyuri) re-grouped and DSP launched the "reality" program Kara Project to find a new member to join the group, allowing viewers to vote for their favorites out of a possible seven DSP trainees. Almost 20-year old Youngji has been declared winner.

The group released a new single with their new member called "Mamma Mia" and are set to start a new tour in Japan this October. I'm happy to say it's just as catchy, lively, and sexy as their past hits like "STEP", "Lupin", "Mister", etc.


Not long after I rued the Kara debacle, the youngest original member of the Wonder Girls -- fan favorite Sohee -- also bowed out not just of her group but of her company JYP Entertainment (who has since gone on to have many more problems of their own) to focus on acting over singing. This coupled with leader Sunye's extended absence given her marriage and the birth of her child led to utter uncertainty for the future of the group and its three remaining members -- Yeeun, Lim & Yubin. Back in March, JYP offered a statement saying the group is definitely not disbanding, however any attempt at future plans is quiet.

That is, until this past July, when one of the group's requisite big voices announced her solo debut. Yeeun (or Yenny), performing under the name Ha:tfelt (meaning "heartfelt"), released her album, Me?, in late July. The album should be noted for its decidely un-idol-like feel. All seven of the songs were co-written by Yenny herself. 


You're probably saying to yourself, "Mel -- the majority of this sounds like bad or sad news. Tell us something happy already!" No worries. Through the sad malaise that is the state of the KPOP world (to me anyway), I may have found a new gal group to root for. 

They're called MAMAMOO and they debuted the day after my birthday, back on June 18th. Signed to "indie" label WA (which is also home to prominent hip hop duo Geeks), this lively four-piece girl group ranges in age from 19 to 23 and their debut single "Mr. Ambiguous" is handclappy and effervescent. Overall, the group has a jazz-y kind of sound that complements the focus being on their vocals foremost (respect). Think Lee Hi meets Secret during their "Poison" era. Fingers crossed for more from these ladies...

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