Saturday, 19 November 2016

On the possible resurrection of Nine Muses

Earlier last month, Star Empire announced that Nine Muses member Moon Hyuna had officially left the group, making her the third member to depart this year following Park Minha and Euaerin (real name Lee Hyemin.) Hyuna was one of the group's main vocalists alongside Pyo Hyemi, Lee Keumjo and Park Kyungri.

Hyuna's departure only added fuel to the already on-going rumours that the girl group was disbanding, now that there are only five members left, four of whom are in a sub-unit called Nine Muses A which released an mini album titled "Muses Diary" back in August.

It's been three months since the release of "Muses Diary" and no one really knows the fate of Son Sungah, the only remaining member not included in the sub-unit. Hearsay has it that Sungah's contract will expire next year and she has already decided not to renew it. If it's true, disbandment is very likely inevitable, after six years of seven mini albums, one full album, a concert and a sub-unit album.

In a turn of events, just this week Hyuna announced the launch of her entertainment company, Moongom House, and that the company will release Hyuna's photobook (titled "Sweet Remedy") and a mini album of self-composed songs. Mines everywhere rejoiced over the news, mostly hoping that Hyuna will recruit the former muses especially Ryu Sera, who's started to gain wide recognition as an indie artist (although in my humble opinion it's unlikely that Sera would want to do that, and neither would Minha who's debuted as an actress under J-Wide Company) In other words, fans are hoping that the golden line-up of Nine Muses will reunite under Moongom House, even if they don't get to use the name "Nine Muses."

While entertaining these hopes, one is reminded that even with such an underrated girl group that's never won a single award there's a chance they would be able to pull a Shinhwa. For those uninitiated, Shinhwa is the epitome of K-pop longevity, debuting under SM Entertainment in 1998 and since 2011 has released albums and appearances under their very own company named after themselves.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Hi from Malang!

In Malang, East Java, at the moment for a cousin's wedding. Blogging from my room's balcony which overlooks the swimming pool.
I had a transit in Surabaya, the province's capital city, just yesterday. It was the first time I was in Surabaya in 23 years.
Funny exactly a year ago I was in Frankfurt for a transit to and from Gdansk...

Monday, 22 August 2016

Remembering those who left too soon (note: they're actually still alive)

This post is dedicated those K-pop starlets who left the spotlight even before their 15 minutes of fame were up. There are so many to choose from, and so I've decided to divide this dedication into several posts and each post will feature four former upcoming K-pop stars. Please note that I'm not going to list any groups that actually left a lasting impression although they disbanded soon after debut (such as The Ark) and whose former members are still pretty much under the spotlight with various visibility (such as the girls of Kiss&Cry.)

1. Jaeyoon of Chocolat
Yes, yet another entry on Chocolat, but this time it focuses on their criminally overlooked main singer Jaeyoon (real name Lee Eunjung.) The world got introduced to Jaeyoon through Chocolat's 2011 debut single "Syndrome." By the time Chocolat released their second single "One More Day" in February 2012, Jaeyoon was no longer in the group. Chocolat's label Paramount issued a statement that Jaeyoon would not be able to join the promotion of the group's second single due to some grave illness that the company refused to specify (it was then rumored to be either swine flu, colon cancer or injuries from a car crash.) One year passed and Jaeyoon was still nowhere in sight amidst Chocolat's promotional activities for their third single "Black Tinkerbell." In late 2013, while still not issuing a statement on Jaeyoon's whereabouts, Paramount debuted new member Lori Thomas before Chocolat completely vanished into oblivion. It turned out that Jaeyoon wasn't sick, as in 2015 someone revealed on Chocolat's official cafe daum pictures of a far more mature Jaeyoon singing at a jazz club. So apparently, uri Jaeyoon is alive and well, pursuing a career as a jazz singer which was more dignified than having to take a backseat to the group's bevy of mix-raced members (Tia Cuevas, Melanie Aurora Lee and Juliane Alfieri) who were the main selling point (Chocolat was marketed as Korea's "first multiracial girl group" after all.)

Jaeyoon is the blonde chick with almost no camera time at all.

2. Sarah Wolfgang of Tahiti
Sarah Wolfgang, of Caucasian American and Korean descent, was slated to debut with the girl group Tahiti in 2012 under the stage name of Hanhee. She left the group just before the group's debut, later citing severe stress as the reason in a 2014 interview with Reddit. Later that same year, Wolfgang opened The Dog Cafe in Los Angeles and as of now The Dog Cafe has gained a vast publicity simply for being the first cafe in LA that lets patrons play with all kinds of dogs while enjoying their cuppa and encourages them to adopt the dogs.

That's Wolfgang promoting The Dog Cafe

3. Sarah Eckhoff of April Kiss
Sarah Eckhoff, who is half Thai and half German, debuted as the maknae of April Kiss in 2011. Perhaps because of the fact that Eckhoff is of Thai descent, the girl group was marketed as the female 2PM, in line with 2PM's Thai-Chinese member Nickkhun Horvejkul. Extra spotlight was also put on Eckhoff for being exceptionally talented in languages (fluent in Thai, German, English and quickly learning Korean) and hard-working (according to this September 2011 article on All K-pop, she didn't show that she was homesick.) That marketing ploy actually secured the girls some publicity and their debut single "Hello Bus" gained so much hype. Soon April Kiss was performing at major music events such as Music Bank, but just as the public interest was quickly piqued by their debut, they lost interest just as quickly and so the group disbanded...even before they could release a proper music video for "Hello Bus"! These days, Eckhoff still remains in Thailand, having graduated from Assumption University, Bangkok, in 2015 as a Business Administration major. It's not clear whether or not she has any activity in the show business.

Eckhoff is the one in a checkered colorful sack dress and sporting a bob.

4. Myung Sarang of Baby VOX Re.V
If you've been a K-pop for at least as long as I have (since 2001), you may very well still remember the first generation idols, those who debuted in the second half of the 1990's and reached peak fame in the early 2000's. Amongst such idols was Baby VOX. Baby VOX disbanded in 2006 and a year later a resurrected version of the group, simply named Baby VOX Re.V (standing for "Renaissance Voices") debuted. Baby VOX Re.V consisted of all new members which included then 16-year-old Myung Sarang, who is half Korean and half German. Myung appeared in Baby VOX Re.V's video for their debut single "Shee", which was later banned for being too sexual (and so far my research has shown nothing about sexualization of a minor in that case.) Just like Chocolat's Jaeyoon, Myung left before the group released their second single "I Believe" in 2008, with their label DR Music citing that she had to move to Singapore to follow her parents. Myung has recently revealed her current whereabouts on a social media site under her real name, but that and other details will be undisclosed to protect her privacy. In sum, the multilingual beauty (fluent in Korean, German, French and English) is now pursuing a corporate career in Germany after gaining a Master's degree in The UK.

Myung is the tallest one - enough said.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Back from hiatus!

After about three months I'm back everyone!

Now I'm not crazy about this rookie girl group, but I guess they're worth noticing.

See the scene where all the girls are sitting and smiling at the camera? What does that remind you of? A similar scene in Girls' Generation's "Gee" video which was out back in 2009! Or maybe that's the intended effect?

Debuting just last June, Gugudan was formed after two of the nine members appeared on Mnet's "Produce 101", a survival show where 101 female trainees from various labels are pitted against each other. The girls share a management company with Vixx, who is already famous for its dark concepts, and that being said it's no surprise that Gugudan seems to follow that route. Except of course being a girl group with mostly teenage members Gugudan won't have dark concepts...I can see them becoming a mix of Girls' Generation and Orange Caramel. Girls Generation for the amount of members they have and Orange Caramel for the playful concepts inspired by famous fairy tales.

I can also see member Kim Sejeong, who already gained massive popularity in "Produce 101" (appearance starts at 0:42), as the next Im Yoona!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

On waiting...

"If 'love' is another way to say 'waiting'...
Then I want to call you 'love' as well."

Fourteen years and counting...


Saturday, 30 April 2016

The annual thing...

Happy birthday, Andreas Hermanu!
You never reply my e-mails, hence this public shout-out.
Whether or not you're married, whether you decide to have a barbecue again or go overseas to celebrate, I hope you're surrounded by love on your special day and may your last birthday before officially entering middle age-dom be memorable!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The vampire/goth edition of K-pop

This one entry is dedicated to Simon Bacon and Eva Gledhill, two world-renowned British researchers with a penchant for vampires, monsters and all things gothic. I met Simon and Eva at the third "Celebrity: Exploring Critical Issues" at Mansfield College, Oxford, UK, in July 2014.

Below are a selection of K-pop videos from 2000-2015 that have a dark theme. In the videos, the dark theme is used in a myriad of ways, from a mere cliche (as in Taeyang's "I'll Be There"), a symbol of lost innocence (in Park Jiyoon's "Adult Ceremony") to a take on Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde."

So without further ado...

"Adult Ceremony" by Park Jiyoon (2000)
At the time of the song's release, Jiyoon was only 18 years old (international age.) I have already mentioned in a previous entry that while in most parts of the world she was considered legal at 18, in South Korea she was still pretty much a minor, as the age of consent there was 20 (international age) and it wasn't until 2013 that age of consent was lowered to 19. This should come as no surprise as Jiyoon was under JYP at that time, which is (in)famous for sexualizing minors in a variety of dark themes, which would be seen many years later in Suzy Bae (real name Bae Sooji) of Miss A.

"I'll Be There" by Taeyang (2010)
This mega hit by Big Bang's Taeyang (real name Dong Youngbae) is also available in Japanese and English, but his English pronunciation isn't that clear in the song and I'm not a fan of K-pop songs in Japanese, hence this original Korean version. Find Taeyang's tribute to that iconic scene from "Nosferatu" at 02:01.

"Pray" by Sunny Hill (2011)
A main fixture on the lists of K-pop videos to watch for Halloween, "Pray" was released when Sunny Hill was a co-ed group (it remains the only co-ed group in K-pop history) in 2011. In 2014, Sunny Hill's only male member Kim Janghyun left the group after completing compulsory military service to focus as a producer for the group.

"Touch" by Miss A (2012)
The opening scene still kinda gives me nightmares, more than four years on. Oh, and by the way the album version has a rap break by one of the group's Chinese members, Meng Jia.

"Hyde" by Vixx (2013)
Vixx stands out from the rest of K-pop boy groups for its consistency in the exploration of dark themes. If blood and gore are more your cup of tea, check out "Voodoo." For more loose adaptations of famous gothic literary pieces by the six-piece band, take a look at "Error", which is their take on "Frankenstein."

"V" by Lee Junghyun (2013)
Directed by Park Chanwook, dubbed the Korean Tim Burton, "V" by Lee Junghyun reminds me of "House", a 1977 Japanese slapstick horror movie. I totally dig the vampire brides, and my favourite scene is one starting at 03:38.

"Bad" by Infinite (2015)
What makes this one special is that "Bad" was actually released during summer time, a time when K-pop is bombarded by videos around the theme of beach and pool and skin-revealing outfits (hahah here's looking at you Sistar)! I love how the "Bad" video plays with the mirror theme as much as I love Sunny Hill plays around with the crucifixes in their "Pray" video.

Fellow K-poppers, am I missing anything? Which one do you like best?

Monday, 8 February 2016

First entry in twenty-sixteen

Back from a two-month long unannounced hiatus everyone! Oh and annyeong haseyo to my Korean visitors. I got more visitors from South Korea than ever while I was away.

Been busy teaching short semester (which would be called summer school overseas but Indonesia is a tropical country) and tending to my thesis students - all but one got panicky around a week before the final draft deadline. Talk about typical.

Now on to what I wanna talk about.

I know it's super duper late but I've been crazy about this single lately.

I have almost as many followers on Instagram as she does...which is not a big number. "Clutch Bag", which was out in September 2014, is her last single so far, and as not all solo artists in the K-pop realm are as lucky as IU (real name Lee Jieun) or Eric Nam, there's not a wonder that Hi.Ni is so little known despite debuting in 2012. On top of that, there's very little information about her on the internet. Her birth date is still unknown, and a source mentions that her real name is Won Yuri. If the latter is true, there's not a wonder in the world why she goes under a special stage name (the same source says that "Hi.Ni", which is Vietnamese for "baby", was given by her dad when he was working in Vietnam) because otherwise she'd be mistaken for Kwon Yuri of Girls' Generation.

People who have listened to "Clutch Bag" complain about the rap part a lot, and at first I did find it annoying. But overtime I just got used to it - it didn't grow on me, I just got used to it. And I started listening to the song just as I started to collect clutch bags. Hi.Ni is so talented, she definitely deserves lots more love. For more Hi.Ni, check out her earlier single "Legend of Tears."