Fancam Feels: “Wolf” Drama Version BTS

Goddamn this fancam behind-the-scenes, by which I mean “Good job, camera girl – your camera position is perfection!”

KAI FOCUS. Good lord, my poor poor pedonoona heart. Kai totally knows there’s a fancam focused on his mug the whole time. Bitch is so aware of it.

And then he flashes a heart. Fucking boy. This fucking boy.

Suho with the tissues touching Kai’s face. It’s a beaut. I love watching EXO interacting with each other.

SHINee Shimmery Splendid!

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So the date for the SHINee/EXO-K show in Manila was announced two Saturdays ago and I was not ready for the onslaught of feels that swooped down over me as the news broke. I’m so happy that I was with a friend of the cause when I read the tweet. Otherwise, I could have spazzed right then and there and strangers would have had to step over my body. September 7 is so close you guys, and in my newly assimilated vocabulary started throwing around buzz words like “iponing”, which as I’ve learned, literally means “to save up ” in Filipino K-pop fan-speak. Lord knows those concert tickets don’t come cheap. #Iponing it is, then. That, and hwaiting! 

Is this my first K-pop show? No. My first K-pop show was very recent – it was last month. I caught CNBLUE at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. I vacillated between getting a general admission ticket at 700Php a pop (about $17) and getting a decent seat – Upper Box or Lower Box which ranged from 4,000Php to 6,000Php ++. As I stood in front of the ticket booth with little over a month’s worth of rent, the thought of acquiring patron tickets for 8,000Php++ (about $200) flashed through my mind. Why not. Something like electricity coursed through my body realizing I was about to spend a significant chunk of my income on a concert of a band whose members I can’t even identify and whose discography I just started listening to a week prior. Normal people would save up for dental surgery, payment on a car loan or a house, insurance. K-pop fans do iponing precisely for moments like this. It was a defining moment, in my newborn state as a K-pop fan. Part of me was curious about how soon I’d regret shelling out for Upper A box seat tickets at 4,700Php (about $115.) I’m still waiting for it to sink in.

Is this my first K-pop show for a group that I stan? YES. It’s TWO groups that I stan so DOUBLE THE FEELS. (Well, technically 1.5 the feels because only EXO-K is in the lineup.) My brain hasn’t absorbed the EXO-K part of the feels yet. But SHINee. SHINee. Fucking SHINee. Not only will I do iponing,  I will also do tambling, or doing cartwheels for the sake of accomplishing something. For you Onew, Minho, Key you frickin’ diva, Jonghyun, Taeminnie. While I muster up the willpower for iponing, I imagine how the show will play out, mapping future memories as scenarios get added. I start building the SHINee Shimmery Splendid show in my mind.

Here’s my dream set list:

  1. Lucifer
  2. Sherlock
  3. Why So Serious
  4. Hello
  5. Electric Heart
  6. Breaking News
  7. Stand By Me
  8. Bodyguard
  9. Dream Girl
  10. Replay
  11. Ring Ding Dong

On their Japan Arena Tour 2012, the boys did a couple of covers – “Amazing Grace” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”. I’m not sure if either song holds any kind of cultural significance to the band or to the audience, but I didn’t get it. “Amazing Grace” sounded awkward and out of place. Not to mention, difficult to deliver unless one had Aretha Franklin –level pipes. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” just sounded weird and dated, and I failed to appreciate it musically within the context of the show. I appreciated it on an absurd, entertainment “What is going on?” level, but I like weird out-of-place crap like that. I’d probably want each member to have a portion all to their own, to sing one song that would best show-off their strengths as performers, but off the top of my head, here are some highlights:

1. “The KKK Took My Baby Away” (Ramones) – Key would cover this. On the reality show “One Fine Day” he expressed his love for the Ramones, which completely sealed my allegiance to Almighty Key. His favorite Ramones song is “Oh, Oh, I Love Her So.” The fact that he liked the Ramones came as no surprise to me. It felt right that he would be into them. I imagine Key sporting a Johnny Ramone haircut, either a white t-shirt or a vintage Mickey Mouse t-shirt, a leather jacket, and tight ripped jeans or jean shorts. He can wear whatever shoes he wants to make the look completely his. It would rock so hard.

2. Since this show is happening in Manila, and as an audience we love it when foreign artists address us in Filipino, I would want to give Onew an OPM ballad that would showoff his vocals. OPM simply means “Original Pilipino Music”, and it’s generally used an umbrella term to describe contemporary Filipino music. I’m so tempted to give him a Ryan Cayabyab piece like “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka”, but I’m not sure if Onew can handle the phrasing. I think as an audience we Pinoys are forgiving when it comes to foreign idols taking on anything local to connect with us, such as an OPM song, or even a simple greeting in Tagalog but we love it even more when it exceeds our expectations. I honestly can’t decide what piece to give him because I am imagining too many OPM songs I want him to take on.

3. “I Don’t Care” (Icona Pop) – again, Key would take the lead. I imagine him doing this if only to hear him screaming the line “YOU’RE FROM THE 70S BUT I’M A 90S BITCH”  I love it!

4. Minho would sing some freaking Air Supply ballad and everyone goes wild.

5. Just for he hell of it I want Jonghyun to do Usher ‘s “You Make Me” or “Burn”. If not Usher,then Craig David.

6. I know Taemin does covers sometimes, but I haven’t heard him do any in English. Help me out, guys. I’d probably settle for a dance cover just to see him bust a sweet move.

Album Review: EXO, “XOXO”

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Here is a list of random EXO events leading up to their first album that details my slow death by stanning:

1. News of the group’s “comeback” was starting to become the K-pop equivalent of Martin Scorsese winning an Oscar before he won his Oscar.

2. There was a member with pink hair who reminded me of a Chinese Weetzie Bat, for some reason.

3. His name was Luhan. He looked thirteen but was actually twenty-three.

4. The group had four Chinese members. This was an oft-quoted fact and a quote that was oft-mocked, mainly because of the way it was said and who said it. It was one of the group’s leaders, Kris Wu who did.

5. A short clip containing “AYO WASSUP KREASE?”/”AYO WHAT’S UUUUUP?” that was looped ad infinitum was available on Youtube. This call and answer sparked EXO stans to mock Kris once again, but I was captivated by the dirty bass of that “AYO WASSUP KREASE?” Not since T.O.P has there been a more appealing absence of an audio-video lock. This time, it came in the form of one Park Chanyeol.

6. The group’s name was derived from a concept originating from the group’s mother company, SM Entertainment about the boys coming from an EXO-planet.

7. EXO was made up of two groups – EXO-K, who promote in Korea, and EXO-M, who promote in China, but they are to be viewed as one.

8. The group released a bizarrely titled mini album that came out in 2012 consisting of six bizarrely composed tracks.

9. SM Entertainment released twenty-three teasers to showcase certain members of EXO. Kai, one of the group’s lead dancers was in eight of them.

10. The dance rehearsal video clip for  EXO-M’s”History” stayed on my browser tab for ten days.

If the “History” dance rehearsal video clip was anything to base EXO’s comeback and my future as an EXO fan/stan by, it promised intense times ahead. Opening with EXO-M’s backs to the camera, hands planted into pockets start fanning out fabric when the pulse kicks in. The choreography makes no sense, yet it mesmerizes. What in the world are these boys doing? What is that and is that even a dance step? Every squeak the group’s sneakers make on the wooden floor of that rehearsal studio sounds like part of the song. When the boys slide across the floor, you could hear it in your head.

EXO was everywhere and nowhere during the long wait for their comeback. “Everywhere” meant they were all over my Tumblr feed. (“They” meaning photos of a pink-haired pixie boy named Luhan flooded my daily feed as he arrived at an airport. There were hundreds of these shots spread over a dozen different angles and varying picture resolution. I liked the color of his hair – like fading strawberries left out in the sun, and his skin almost as white as Johnson’s Milk Bath. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this beautiful, lonely-looking creature with invisible pores! Luhan – stanning EXO was all about this boy from the get-go!) “Nowhere” meant that the group had not yet announced an official date for their comeback and EXO stans were getting antsy, making inside EXO jokes to pass the long wait to comeback stage. Rumors abounded. EXO-M’s leader Kris allegedly disappeared or left or temporarily fucked off to return to Canada on family/personal business. “Everywhere” meant fics. “Nowhere” meant endless re-blogging of “MAMA”-era gif and photo sets.

The demo for what would be EXO’s “carrier single from their first album” leaked on Tumblr. The title was “Wolf”. With only EXO’s mini album “MAMA” to judge the group’s strengths by, I liked the track immediately. I didn’t know what I was waiting for when I clicked on play. There was a flute-like instrument slinking across a blank page, and then a rude sounding rap part without any apparent melody or direction. It was exciting – where was this song taking me? The words sounded wet and slightly sticky, and it dropped beats of its own counter to the ones laid on the track. Then the second verse came rushing out from the opposite direction, its pace not even following the tone set by the first one, but then there’s another dirty-as-hell syllable stretch and I’m hooked being passed back and forth between the non-melodies. The vocals sounded weird and creepy against the cascading blips and the scratches that punctuated the measures. Recorded an octave lower than what would appear on the final single, the vocal tracks sounded more menacing and malicious on the demo track than on the single SM Entertainment would eventually stamp their approval on for release. The high-pitched “Ah sarangheyo” came out more like a jeer than what we would have on the final product. The song’s middle eight was like a weird mating call. The vocals on the demo version in general were raw. Without much technical cleaning-up on this track, some vocals did shine more than others.

I liked “Wolf” a lot. The track that appeared as the first track of “XOXO” was cleaned up, engineered so that its once-mangy fur now shone in the spotlight. The album track lost some of the bite from the original mix and tamed it to the point that it no longer sounded threatening. Good for pop, but the glossiness made it a little less interesting.

“XOXO” had two versions – “Kiss” had the EXO-K tracks in Korean, and “Hug” had the EXO-M tracks in Mandarin. Both CD’s carried the original final version of “Wolf”. “Kiss” had bonus tracks of the EXO-M version and a Korean version while “Hug” had bonus tracks of the EXO-K version and a Mandarin version. That’s three times more “Wolf” in every serving per CD. These are inclusions I don’t really understand, but these must have choreography implications for EXO down the line. True enough, as of this review’s writing, the shoot for the Mandarin version of the song has just recently wrapped. (For all intents and purposes, I won’t try to differentiate between “Kiss” and “Hug” versions unless someone’s vocal performance stands out against either version. I have no Korean nor Mandarin background, so can’t even comment on the lyrics.)

“Baby Don’t Cry” is “XOXO”‘s second track. This sounded familiar as it was featured on Teasers 1-23, with Kai taking the lead. There’s the ebb and tide of piano keys leading the track in, all soft caresses before the beat and rattles drop. I’m not sure if Kai is the only one who knows the choreography of “Baby Don’t Cry” as he has performed snippets of this song during several group appearances since the album was released but he has done it so well, I always think of him slinking across my screen when this track plays, regardless of which version happens to be playing.

“Black Pearl”‘s muffled bass visually strengthens the third track – it sounds like a secret being dredged up from the depths of the sea. The chorus is refreshing, splashing bursts of “hey”‘s in the background.

“Don’t Go” is thematically similar to “Baby Don’t Cry”, but on its own is also a strong track. A version of this track has also been previously released as part of Teasers 1-23. This makes me wonder just how many songs EXO has actually recorded but haven’t released. I’m guessing they have at least another album’s worth of material just waiting to be mastered. Exciting!

Gears shift on “Let Out the Beast”, and it’s great that the album refers back to the “Wolf” motif established earlier on the album. This track has some great hooks, but whether or not it has legs remains to be seen. Rumors that the drama version of the “Wolf” MV are really for “Let Out the Beast” are circulating. That would make for an interesting story arc for “Wolf”, so I hope this is true.

“365” has been previously described by a lot of reviewers as sounding like a One Direction B-side. This sunny piece of bubblegum pop sticks out because it’s the only track that sounds the way it does on the whole album. It’s a nice little break from all the tension of the other tracks.

It’s back to darkness and tension again on “Heart Attack”. It doesn’t really live up to its title because this one feels like a steady pulse rather than skipped beats and palpitations. I feel like maybe the songwriting team could have done more with this song, like maybe added a middle eight or a bridge to break the monotony. Still, it’s a good song that doesn’t deserve skipping.

“Peter Pan” on the other hand, sounds the way you might imagine a song with that title should sound like. It almost begs to be included as the closing credits for a sweet romantic anime for teens. This song suits Luhan’s vocals well on the “Hug” version. The harmonies work really well as the track swells towards its climax. I could write a fic around this song, that’s how good it is.

“Baby” has some old-school 90’s boyband touches and a chorus that annoys me because I know the songwriters snuck in one too many Bieber references in there. Damn it!

The closing track, “My Lady” is my favorite next to “Wolf”. This is another notorious Teaser 1-23 track and another “Kai as lead dancer” one at that. “My Lady” scored pretty low on other reviews, but I will fight for this track, and it’s not just because I get wet every time I see Kai’s dance. “My Lady” sounds light-years more mature than anything else on this album. There’s some slinky guitar and snapping that takes me back to the 80’s for some reason. It sounds like something that sidles up to you from the 80’s, carrying a secret message from the past, but in a good way, in the best way even. This track skates dangerously toward some serious Hall and Oates shit, I’m not kidding. I imagine Kris bringing so much to this track, even though it’s really Chen that brings in the muscle vocals-wise on the “Hug” version, and actually that chorus is pretty tricky. So much love for this track because it’s all eager to please with “I’m rushing into your heart” and then reverting back to their native tongue when they get flustered. “Don’t be too late” – a line that captures my pedonoona imagination with premises of curfew and an early bedtime on school nights. This song is a life ruiner.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “XOXO” makes it to my Top 2013 albums. It certainly has been instrumental in sealing my K-pop pact. I listen to this album straight through without skipping anything, and I don’t mind if it loops right back to the beginning. It’s a very solid first album that marks an intense and memorable comeback from EXO. There’s a lot of complex stuff happening throughout the album that will engage older listeners and those curious about K-pop. This thing’s got some fangs, but they’re baby wolf teeth for sure, the kind that tickle as they bite.

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TTLY Judging You RN

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“I love romantic comedies. I feel almost sheepish writing that, because the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years or so that admitting you like these movies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity. But that has not stopped me from watching them.” 

Mindy Kaling, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”

Mindz, I feel you.

Why is it so difficult, and even in some cases problematic for anyone over the age of 16 to acknowledge their interest, fondness, and even love for K-pop? What’s with the fan-shaming? Why must K-pop be a secret, guilty pleasure for smart women? What’s with these homies dissin’ my boys? I have so many questions.

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Do a search for “bubble tea” on Google and Sehun’s image appears as a top result!

It’s Not Your Cup Of Bubble Tea

Every genre of popular music will have its share of haters and all those haters have their reasons for hating a particular genre of music. It could be as simple as “It doesn’t sound good to me”, which is entirely valid. However, oftentimes hating on a musical genre does not even stem from the fact that something does not sound good to one’s ears, rather stemming from the listener’s own refusal to absorb a particular musical genre. This is true of people who claim to “hate” country music when they cannot even name five country albums and think Shania Twain is where country music begins and ends. (News flash, country music haters: it doesn’t.) The same is true for rap music or hip-hop, any kind of heavy metal music and polka. The reputation of the musical genre precedes anything that may honestly represent it, so why bother listening anymore? Who has the time to listen to all kinds of music and weed through all the bad stuff? Well, that’s just being lazy and elitist. If you’re fine with being lazy and elitist in your consumption of popular culture, then that’s your prerogative.

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One misconception you might have about this photo is that it was taken in the 80’s. Because Sussudio.

Misconceptions (of  You and Me)

The type of media a person consumes has become an index for how we perceive a person’s character in the same way the type of font a person uses has become an index for how we perceive a person’s IQ. When it comes to choice in literature, chick lit has had its share of being knocked around some. Mention that you’ve read/are reading/will read “50 Shades of Grey” and watch how people react. K-pop is just one of those things that have been added to this same index. A love for K-pop must indicate some shortage of good sense in general because if you are smart, you would listen to more intelligent music. Well it doesn’t work that way. Besides, who’s to say that someone who enjoys K-pop won’t be able to appreciate other genres of music? That’s just being presumptuous and narrow-minded.

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Maybe we can do the twirl!

Act Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size

K-pop is a young musical genre that targets a young audience. It’s fun, instantly appealing, hook-laden – the very same building blocks that make up any Western pop music track ranging from the early Beatles to Justin Bieber. A lot of the songs have melodies that are easy to hum and remember. Yes, you can dance to it. Teens like it, therefore it’s childish to like it. If you think like that, then don’t ever bitch to me about feeling old or whine about your lost childhood if you keep rejecting things that make you feel young.

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…but is it (fan) art?

But Is It Art?

It’s so easy to dismiss K-pop as a highly manufactured, mass-produced product rather than an actual real musical genre because K-pop is a highly manufactured mass-produced product. But so are sports cars, and yet a lot of people regard sports cars to be works of art. There are pieces arguing against K-pop as a “legitimate” form of music available for your reading pleasure all over the internet, and those are laughable because they remind me so much of that J. Evans Pritchard Introduction to Poetry from “Dead Poets’ Society”. There is no shortage of pompous, self-important reasons why K-pop isn’t real music, as if real music was something that was meant to be validated through Pitchfork articles rather than being validated through the actual enjoyment of the thing. Shiny males in tiny pants sing the songs, therefore it’s not done by real artists. (Have you seen their thighs in tight white pants? How can you say that isn’t art? Excuse you – that is pure fucking poetry!)

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Kekeke, Jejeje 

Along with being a measuring index for personality, character, taste and mental capacity, an acknowledgment of liking K-pop has an economic stigma, and it is from this stigma that all other stigma associated with liking K-pop branch out. Here in the Philippines, declaring a love for K-pop immediately puts one in the “masa” (literally, “the masses”) or even worse, the “jeje” category  (someone who belongs to a below average economic class and is therefore “uneducated”.) An economic stigma has been set just because one says she likes underage-looking singers with pink hair, implying that the masses (and those lower in economic standing) are mindless drones who do not practice any kind of discretion when it comes to the media they consume as they do not possess the faculties for critical thinking.

But there’s more. It isn’t enough to be labelled as poor. Declaring your love for K-pop sends out the message that one is “cheap”, “classless” and “lacking in breeding”. This line of argument has spurred on some K-pop fans to argue “Who the hell are you calling cheap?! We spend thousands on shipping fees alone”,  a statement which, while disproving the “poor” claim is a misguided rebuttal that reinforces the argument’s points on K-pop fans being “classless” and “lacking in breeding” rather than dismisses it. Just like any fandom or subculture, it takes all kinds.

The encompassing logic behind the overall elitism breaks down like so: You like K-pop because you like dumb music. You like dumb music because you have bad taste. You have bad taste because you are stupid. You are stupid because you are uneducated. You are uneducated because you are poor.


 

Saying you like K-pop out loud in a conversation with other adults can get you any of the following: the side-eye (“Is she being serious, or she being ironic about it?”), the eye roll/nose wrinkle (“That’s so manufactured and stupid! I don’t approve of this!”),  or even nervous laughter (“I don’t get it, but okay…”). However way you choose to express your love for K-pop – you will be judged aggressively.

While I could care less about what other adults might think of my interests, these stock reactions serve as a reminder that these people are no fun, and that it’s their loss if their attitude towards something that gives me so much life is dismissive at best, and outright rude at its worst.

Being a card-holding, full fledged adult female balancing work, personal and inner life, I am allowing myself to like whatever it is I like without feeling creepy, stupid or judged about it. And what I like is K-pop. You can judge me all you want, but I’m judging you right back.

So I’m A Little Traeped On This Fancam Today

My day started with me following a link to this video – a fan cam of EXO’s rehearsal during the Korea-China Friendship show held recently. It’s awesome for a number of reasons:

1. Kris Focus – Kris’s gawkiness is rather majestic, I think. His discomfort at having to maneuver his body through choreography is cringe-worthy, but I can’t tear my eyes away from the hot mess that is Kris Wu. He’s got some go-to hand movements that he employs when he’s required to freestyle for the camera, and he shows them off here in all his self-conscious glory! Check him out flailing his arms and just having fun.

2. Luhan – When the drums kick in, he starts clapping and bouncing around to the beat and it’s too too adorable. I love how Luhan reacts to music, like he’s just got to DANCE.

3. Kai – Kai the danseur, off to one side leads the dance practice. It’s so automatic for him ❤

4. The fancam videographer’s little laugh – Somehow I know we’re laughing at the same things.

5. Chanyeol – God, boy you are so long.

6. When Kris and Xiumin start dancing with each other – It ends with Kris back-hugging Xiumin!!!!

7. TaoRis – I don’t really ship them, but when TaoRis get together it’s just fun to watch for some reason.

8. Siwon Derp Face Action

9. Kyuhun Cameo

10. EXO moving as one huge wolf pup pack.