Friday, February 28, 2014

Promo: A*M*E

|Official Site||Official Facebook|

A*M*E began her musical adventure as a teenager when she joined her high school's choir. She started by performing covers from Rihanna and Justin Timberlake and eventually got recognized by producer Andy Gilbert. From there, she released a couple songs and her first single, City Lights. "City Lights" became a viral hit and soon she released two more singles, "Ride or Die" and "Find a Boy". It wasn't until "Play the Game Boy" was released that she received more commercial recognition. By 2013, A*M*E joined Epic Records collaborated with Duke Dumont and made her second commercial hit, "Heartless". As a kpop fan, she also wrote f(x)'s "Beautiful Stranger" and SNSD recorded her track, "Fugitive". Aside from being a singer and songwriter, she also distributes her own fanzine.

I found out about A*M*E on a blog formerly known as The Prophet Blog with the song "Play the Game Boy". I didn't know much about her until I had to make this post, but the little tidbits I picked up made the video for that song make more sense. Her being a fan of kpop fan doesn't really do much for me on the cool meter, but it is kinda cool and interesting. When Chad Future was trying to make his place in the genre, I felt like A*M*E would be better at it without pandering to the fans so obviously and losing her own style. Of course, a Korean American would be better suited to bridge the gap on that. Anyway, it's a little challenging to find her music and she hasn't released any albums yet. From what I've heard, she has a decent range of style and definite talent. I hope she continues on this great path.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Q&A: exist†trace

At A-Kon 24 in Dallas, TX, exist†trace held a Q&A for the fans and here are the questions asked by the fans, during this event. I want to thank their management for bringing exist†trace to Dallas and allowing the fans this opportunity. Pictures were allowed during this event, but what I have is blurry and I don't feel particularly proud enough of them to share.

Band Members
Jyou - vocals
Miko - guitar
Omi - guitar
Naoto - bass
Mally - drums

Monday, February 24, 2014

Top 5 Music Video Recommendations

"Full Moon" by Sunmi
At this moment, I'm a little speechless by a couple things JYP has been producing as of late and this video is one of them. Sunmi's newest track is quite simple with its saxophone sound and sweet, soft vocals. The color palette is nicely recycled from a couple miss A concepts which works with this vampire theme. There's a few things I don't like about this video that I can't ignore: 1) the quick vampire transitions. It's cool, but overdone in one scene 2) the weird butt wiggling dance...everywhere 3) and the rap section. Aside from that, I really enjoy this song, concept, and overall mood of this mature song. Looking forward to listening to the mini-album.

I have yet to be pulled into EXILE completely, but I was happy that a very good friend of mine shared this with me. As most of you know, it's hard for me to get into ballads and surprisingly [well, I guess not so much since it's listed], I really like this song. The music might be a little basic and familiar, but I really don't care. The combination of Atsushi's soulful vocals, R&B foundation, acoustic guitar, and slight violin is absolute perfection and beauty. The dreary and dark visual atmosphere also helps push the tone of this song. There's a little eye candy too.

"F For You" by Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige
From the visuals to the music to the guest vocal stylings, this song and video screams early 90s. I saw this video on a friend's Tumblr and figured I'd check it out, since I hadn't seen anything new with Mary J. Blige in it. I'm glad I gave it a chance, because this song has a simple beat and a catchy melody. It definitely brings in some good nostalgia dance feelings while modernizing the electronic beat and visual art.

"La La La" by Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith
It's interesting what you find on YouTube through recommendations and whatnot. This falls under that category. I didn't know what to expect from this video, but I'm quite pleased and perhaps even addicted to this catchy little tune. I really enjoy the beat and the vocals are really effective in its delivery. The story is also equally as effective and appealing. It might seem silly, but I thought it was a reimagining of the Wizard of Oz. Upon scrolling through the comments, it's possibly based on a Bolivian folk tale. I have yet to look this up, but I had fun watching the making of this music video.

"Battle Cry" by Angel Haze feat. Sia
Another random YouTube find! Honestly, I only tried it out because I saw Sia's name listed and I'm glad I did. This might be a been there done that type of concept, but it definitely has some heart and soul to its delivery, despite the closely similar melody to a particular Eminem song. Aside from that, I'm very interested in checking out more of Angel Haze's material. I hope she gets closer to the spotlight in the substance rap category this year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quick Music Review

CROSS GENE – TIMELESS:BEGIN (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: La-Di-Da-Di, My Lady

"One Way Love" sounds like your typical dance track that I can hear Pitbull using and tainting it with nonsensical brag lyrics or Enrique Iglesias. I guess it's a good beginning track to get you alert and moving, but it brings nothing new to the table. "Sky High" is typical as well with its recycled David Guetta beat and similar lyrical structure as the previous track. It does keep the energy up from the first track, but yet again nothing really new. "For This Love" builds up to the dance sound that it has created from the start, but doesn't bring anything new either. The repeated words of the title seem slightly out well as just the whole vocal track. It seems like an after thought or something. "La-Di-Da-Di" is the only reason I bothered with this mini-album. Sure, it follows the same generic sound as the other tracks, but it actually has some life and cohesion between the vocals and music. I can enjoy this track without any guilt or remorse. Plus the video is pretty cool too. "My Lady" closes off the mini with something soft and vocal driven. It does showcase that the boys do have some talent and shouldn't have to depend on generic upbeat music...although, this music is generic as a ballad. It's still pretty and worth listening to. The final track is an instrumental of "La-Di-Da-Di". I want to note to not let my negative tone toward of the genericness of this mini-album steer you away. Please check it out and have fun with it!

T-ARA – DAY BY DAY (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: DAY BY DAY, 떠나지마

"DAY BY DAY" is a nice, refreshing break from the usual electro-pop dance tracks that T-ara has been doing. There's nothing wrong with that, but I like the variety and reminder that these girls do have good vocals and don't have to rely on catchy hooks. Although, this song's chorus is pretty memorable. "HOLIDAY" sounds like a slightly weaker rehash of the title track. It's kinda boring and lacks the little bit of heart and feeling "DAY BY DAY" has. The vocal melodies sound a bit lazy to my ears too and the chorus is awkwardly constructed. "떠나지마" brings back the group's electro-pop sound with a slower, dramatic tempo than usual. At times, the beat sounds a little weird in areas due to the beautiful vocals and I think the rap could've been left out completely as it distracts from the somber tone. "HUE" gives us a break from the slow tracks to dance a little. The vocals are still at this soft level as the previous songs, even though it's upbeat. It doesn't carry the same joy and fun as "Lovey Dovey" or "Yayaya". "사랑놀이" has a washed out vintage electro-pop sound and a little more lively vocals than "HUE". If they were trying to cover the internal struggles within the group while recording, I don't think they did a very good job of it through the rest of the single. It's not terrible, but it lacks life and heart.

EvoL – Let Me Explode (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: I'm sorry, 우린 좀 달라

"폭파해줘" is a decent introduction to EvoL's debut release. It has a simple beat and gives each member a chance to weigh in vocally with their various skills. It's a fun, repetitive song that effectively gets the energy up. "I'm sorry" could've gone either direction of generic, rehash of 2NE1 or something impressive. Although the music isn't all that special, the vocals make up for it. This is a different, slightly softer side to the girls' vocals and I appreciate it. Even the rap section works out effortlessly. "Magnet" was a track that was kinda put out there for the fans through a dance video and it's really good. The beat doesn't stand out that much, but this feels like a track for the rapper(s) to stand out more than anything. "우린 좀 달라" was what led me to check out more of this group. The song is kinda generic electro-pop, but the vocals are very explosive and I really love the energy that this song brings. It's definitely a track I could listen to over and over again.

D-Unit – Welcome to Business (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: I'm Missin' You, 늦잠, Stereo, Luv Vision

"Crush" features Dok2 in an electro-pop song with a couple vocal distortions here and there. It's nothing new, but it is easily enjoyable. Each girl gets a chance to sing and it's a good introduction song to their debut album. "I'm Missin' You" was an interesting choice of a debut song, but it was what got me listening to these girls in the first place. It's nothing you can't get from 2NE1's "I Don't Care", but it's a little more upbeat and there's a little more interesting musical transitions in it. The vocals are nice, but I wish there was less auto-tune as the girls have pretty good voices. "늦잠" is a slower track with very impressive vocals and smooth, easy R&B beat. Honestly, I like this track more than "I'm Missin' You" and I hope people who accuse them of being 2NE1 copycats check out this track as well as the rest of the album. "Turn the Lights On" is a bit on the generic side with a simple dance beat that pounds the speakers. It's kinda downtempo in the vocal area, but it's not that bad of a song. They really need to lay off the auto-tune. Fortunately, "Stereo" does everything the previous track tried to do. The vocals are more lively and the music flows more easily. It's simply a fun track you can dance to. "Good Bye Tata" keeps the energy up with another fun track. There's more electronics and bloops and bleeps in this one than "Stereo". Like "늦잠", "Luv Vision" is another wonderful treat for the ears. It has a smooth R&B beat and beautiful vocals. Between the two, I think this is the best display of their vocal abilities. I really love this song! "기념일" is a slightly more upbeat acoustic fused electro-pop song. The vocals are a tiny bit strained in places, but it's a pretty basic song. "주말이 오기전에" closes off this debut album with electro-pop club vibe with an announcer and everything. It's definitely a party track. Unfortunately, the music kinda drowns out the verses here and there.

Block B - Blockbuster (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 닐리리맘보, 장난없다 (No Joke), Halo

Before the big label scandal, Block B released an album. The album starts off with a booming R&B influenced track, "11:30". It has a unique sound mixing said R&B influenced elements and horns, but the pounding beat is a little distracting from the well tamed vocals. Then there's this unnecessary "Interlude" leading to "닐리리맘보". This song got me pretty pumped for this album. It has an interesting pace as the vocals and the backing melody are fast pace, but the forefront sound is a little slower. Either way, it's pretty interesting and has an addictive chorus. "Mental Breaker" continues that steady hip-hop influenced sounds from the previous tracks and makes it a little more minimalistic during the verses, focusing on bass guitar and a simple drum beat until the chorus. This definitely has a fun little chorus that has an interesting gentle electro-pop build up. "장난없다 (No Joke)" doesn't quite flow right after a fun track like "Mental Breaker", but meh, I really like this track. While "11:30" gave the singers a chance, "장난없다 (No Joke)" showcases the rappers in this bombastic, bass driven track. "Movie's Over" slows down the tempo a little and mixes both vocal styles together in his soft hip-hop track. "넌 어디에" feeds all those ballad lovers with piano, violin, and beautiful singing. "로맨틱하게" brings the tempo up a little with slight jazz lounge tone. It has a tiny hint of fun and a good light-hearted vocal delivery. "했어 안했어" is a mix of electronic elements and hip-hop. It has a nice transition of softness in the verses, then picks up during the chorus. "Halo" is one of my favorite tracks from New Kids on the Block and the perfect introduction to their mini-album. In this instance, it is the last lyric track on the album. It's still an enjoyable song, but I think the track arrangement overall could've been organized better. The final two tracks are instrumentals of "닐리리맘보" and "Mental Breaker".

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rant/Review: Heroes of Cosplay

I've been asked by a few people what my thoughts are on Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay. Did I enjoy it? Did I hate it? Did I think it misrepresented or properly display the cosplay community? Well, there are many directions I could go with this post, so I'll try to break it up into digestible pieces.

Why did it take me so long to respond to this request?
Initially, I wanted to wait for the heat to die down and to collect my thoughts in a reasonable manner. I also wanted to gather viewers, participants, and cosplayers and supporters' thoughts. There's the usual explanation of being busy and working on other stuff. I still wanted to please my readers with my thoughts on the show, even though I don't want to make it a habit of reviewing television shows. So, let's get to it!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Q&A and Press Conference: Blood Stain Child

During A-Kon 22 weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the fan Q&A and press conference. So, here are majority of the questions compiled together for your enjoyment. Forgive me for the massive delay.

Band members
Sophia: vocals
Ryu: guitar
G.S.R: guitar
Ryo: bass/vocal
Aki: keyboard/programming
GAMI: drums

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Live: Oni-Con X

Oni-Con X
[2013.10.25] Galveston Island Convention Center in Galveston, TX
featuring: ALSDEAD & Saber Tiger

Maki: vocals
Shin: guitar
Yousuke: bass
Setsua: drums

First up was ALSDEAD! Before their set began, Timothy of Babel Entertainment walked on stage and gave us the well as permission to take pictures without flash. Since the crowd wasn’t as big as A-Kon, a few of us had fun responding to what he had to say like, “flash makes pictures look crappy anyway”. After being disappointed by the cancellation at SoniCon 2010, I was very excited for this show and honestly, I wasn’t disappointed. Although, I was a little worried when the show began. It felt a little uneasy, but eventually the confidence built inside the band and feelings between the band and the audience meshed together very well that evening. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of ALSDEAD to the point that I can name songs off the top of my head when hearing it, but I know enough to point out favorite songs and what not. The energy between the crowd and the band was amazing! We got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Setsua while one of the staff members brought a cake to the stage, which was cute. Yousuke tried his best speaking to us in English. Naturally, it was a cute attempt and I always enjoy when the crowd doesn’t criticize these jrockers for trying and just simply encourage them while giggling light heartedly. While Maki entertained us with his voice and interacted with his bandmates from time to time, it was hard to resist Shin strumming away in front of me and teasing us with his bare thigh sneaking out of the slit in his skirt. He was fully aware of it too. How do I know that? He took the time to do some skirt flashing for us. Damn that man! He would twirl and dance and prop his foot up on the speaker, letting that slit show off that bare skin. Maki had a lot of energy and passion as he sung each song. The selection was a good mixture of intense and energetic to more melodic and somber where you could feel the pain pouring out from every word.

Filmed by rineXsona

Saber Tiger
Takenori Shimoyama: vocals
Akihito Kinoshita: guitar, leader
Yasuharu "Machine" Tanaka: guitar
Takanobu Kimoto: bass
Yasuhiro Mizuno: drums

Once ALSDEAD’s set was over, there was a 30 minute break while they set up the equipment for Saber Tiger. Most of the people in the room left to do whatever they wanted to do. Personally, I know a little bit about Saber Tiger. I have at least heard of them and that they have a place in jrock history. I also know that the late great hide and D’erlanger’s Kyo was part of the band as well. Looking them up on, I see that D’erlanger’s drummer Tetsu and Rolly [most would know him from Suicide Club] was also in the band. Anyway, I patiently waited with one of my friends at the front for the show to start and, similar to ALSDEAD, their start was a little bit rocky. Yasuharu, on guitar, was either a little behind or ahead of the rest of the band which turned my friend off from listening any longer. Before she left, we noticed that a lot of the crowd didn’t return, but who was there was pretty responsive and enjoyed the performance. During the performance, Takenori took some time to introduce the members to the crowd. His English wasn’t that bad either. It was a unique and personable introduction, which are always nice. Yasuharu was known as the machine because he can play anything like a robot, Akihito was the band’s leader, Takanobu was homesick, and Yasuhiro was the youngest of the band. As for the music, I could understand what my friend’s complaint was but eventually they did sync up. It wasn’t anything like Seikima-II, but it was very energetic and fulfilled that same feeling. I was entertained and I definitely enjoyed the music a lot more live than the one little PV I saw on Oni-Con’s page. It’s kinda sad that some of the crowd never returned and gave these guys a chance because I didn’t regret any minute of it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quick Music Review

Garbage - Not Your Kind of People (2012, USA) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Blood for Poppies, I Hate You, Sugar, Battle In Me

At the time, it was amazing how many of my childhood artists and bands were coming out with new material. I was excited and ready to indulge in it all. I've been wanting to review this album since its release and I'm glad I've decided to quickly review certain things with minimum detail, because honestly...I haven't listened to this album in a long time. Although, I was happy to hear that a good friend of mine fell in love with Garbage because of this album recently. So, how do I feel about their latest album? Well, to some extent it doesn't sound like Garbage. It fits in with what's playing on rock stations, but still maintains certain aspects of their signature sound that I grew up with in the 90s. The album displays a good range of that. Perhaps I can squeeze in some Garbage time to properly re-appreciate this album.

Dagoba - Post Mortem Nihil Est (2013, France) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: I, Reptile, Yes We Die, Kiss Me Kraken, The Great Wonder

I'm very new to this band and I was a little skeptical whether I would like them or not when I saw them live. I can't get into too much detail about the live experience as I'm in the process of getting the report posted here, but it made me check out their latest album. I don't think I'll ever be super into metal music. The genre's very miss miss hit with me. That's probably a very good way to describe this album as it ranges from very heavy metal to less metal growling. Don't let my negative comments discourage you from checking out this French metal band, because they're really awesome. There's a lot of energy and aggression that you could easily lose yourself in.

Jessie J - Alive (2013, UK) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Thunder, Breathe, I Miss Her, Excuse My Rude

It feels like its been forever since Who You Are was released and I was getting a little concerned. Not because of the time gap, but the visual changes and comments made. When I saw "Thunder" posted on YouTube, I was psyched, but also a little nervous. Fortunately, what I heard and saw eased my worries. The video wasn't very noteworthy as it's very simple, but it was great to hear those powerful vocals make its way to my ears and not sound like something Katy Perry could pull off. Similar to her previous album, this one does a little experimenting with sound and genre here and there, so it might sound a bit noncohesive. Somehow I can excuse it in places. For the most part, I think she's slowly moving away from the bubblegum pop Katy Perry sound. No offense to Katy or anything. She still has silly songs that don't compliment her range like "Excuse My Rude", but like "Do It Like a Dude" I really like this song anyway.

Childish Gambino - Because the Internet (2013, USA) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Crawl, Telegraph Ave, Pink Toes, Life: The Biggest Troll

Due to my request to review Camp, I was curious what this new album might sound like. I wasn't sure where my feelings would fall as I really liked Camp, but I wasn't too fond of Childish Gambino's previous work. I'm not sure if I can compare the two albums and say if I like one more than the other as I listen to a lot of stuff and my mood shifts when it comes to what I want to listen to when I'm not catching up or whatever. From what I gathered from a couple music reviews, this is a commentary on internet culture...I suppose. Correct me if I'm wrong. When I really paid attention to the beats and content, I did slightly pick up on that theme. At those times I did pay attention, mostly to lyrical content, I did notice that at times the content was weak in areas and was able to understand comments on being blinded by Gambino's gift for selecting mesmerizing beats. Perhaps whenever I seriously concentrate on the lyrics I'll be more aware of it. For now, I enjoyed the album and I'm glad I gave it an open-minded chance.

Stromae - Racine Carrée (2013, France) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Ta Fête, Papaoutai, Bâtard, Formidable

I think one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to music is that I'm open to trying new things. It all started when I saw the music video for "Papaoutai" and I figured why not give his album a shot. I didn't know what it would sound like or even what genre it would fall under. I'm still not completely sure where to classify it, but I guess electronic is kinda close. Honestly, there's a lot of genre mixtures from track to track. This album is simply something you'd have to experience on your own to figure out whether you would like it or not.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Can't Remember to Forget You" by Shakira feat. Rihanna
I'm a casual fan of Shakira, meaning I don't really keep up with her new releases very actively, but I do enjoy her music. Since I haven't watched anything new of hers for quite some time, this was like a breath of fresh air compared to everything that's clogging up the pop stations. The dynamics between her and Rihanna were surprisingly good. The song is pretty good and I enjoy the mix of rock and Shakira's exotic signature sound. But I can't help but compare think of her collaboration with Beyonce when watching this. Anyway, I'll have to look out for the album.

"Carpe Noctem" by Aural Vampire
Visually, there's not much going on. It's a simple band centric video with moments of the duo in different sceneries, know what? I really don't care! This song is absolutely amazing and addictive. It's a slightly new and fresh addition to Aural Vampire's sound. The visuals mix both light and dark to the usual gothic themes associated with them. Exo-Chika continues to allure viewers with sensuality and elegance and I am so pumped for this new album!

"FLOWER" by Yong Junhyung
Yeah, I know this isn't all that new, but do you guys seriously look when these things get released when I post them. XP Anyway, this has been a bit of a struggle. First, I wasn't sure if I liked the song, then I became a little addicted to it. Next, I wasn't sure if I liked the video enough to recommend it. I guess that dance practice video made me a little more hesitant. Like I said, I really like the song. It's a big improve from "You got some nerve". The visuals are very artsy and tries to fuse b-boy/hip-hop style to it. I guess a merge of B2ST and solo artist. The choreography isn't all that fitting, in my opinion, but the video and the song is worth checking out for sure.

"Fxxk U" by Gain feat. Bumkey
**Gore & Language Warning**
I must admit and please don't hurt me I wasn't as impressed with this video/song combination like a lot of fans, but I do like both...obviously. I didn't know what to expect after "Bloom", but it's a nice consistent production of mature work that I think South Korea needs to be exposed to. First was embracing female sexuality and now abusive relationships. The music has a lovely contradictory upbeat sound to it while the lyrics are very harsh and blunt. The visuals reflect that to some extent, although the color palette is quite bold yet faded. I think this was a good choice to grab people's attention to Gain's new release.

"Yum Yum Yum" by Lipservice
You might think I'm crazy with this pick, but this is seriously one of the most amazing things I've seen in kpop this year. The visuals are bright and fun like the song and the lyrics, yet it's simple and focuses on the girls being silly and dancing. I like the borrowed snippets of inspiration they slipped in there like the pseudo-club scenes and the guy dancing in the foggy space. If you're curious about the lyrics, it's about going on a diet, but having a hard time fighting the love of eating food. I can see a lot of girls getting into this. My only criticism is I wish that the girls were a little thicker? I know thin girls can have big appetites too, but there's a line about having a "fat belly" or something which seems awkward. Nonetheless, the silly earworm is quite wonderful~

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review: The Powerpuff Girls Special

Rant: KPop Comebacks

Even though I've involved myself in kpop, there's still a few things I don't understand. I could probably make a list, but there's not much to add in list form. According to the title, I'm going to question comebacks. I bet you're wondering what there is to be confused about when it comes to comebacks. Well, there's plenty to be confused about such as the word, the meaning, and the hype.

When I think of a "comeback" I assume that an artist/group went away for whatever reason. Maybe they were on hiatus, had a major event or scandal occur, or had an injury or sickness. In kpop's case, someone went off to the military and finished their service time. Majority of "comebacks" do not fit any of these categories. Another definition I thought of is an old one which is a response to someone or something. This also doesn't fit kpop's definition.

For the longest time, comebacks frustrated me because I didn't understand the purpose of them. Fans get all hyped about SHINee and B.A.P, for example. They do a promotion for a song for a few months, then the "comeback" shortly after with a new song to promote. So, I realized a "comeback" is just a new release...which is stupid! Why would they call it that!? All this time of complaining about fans getting excited about a group's comeback and it's simply a new release. Seriously, I've yelled at the screen, "Comeback? They haven't gone anywhere!"

Aside from the questionable wording and definition of "comeback", another thing that confuses me is all the hype put into it. I'm sure companies spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for promotional materials and gimmicks, but it seems so excessive. They hype up new and supposedly different concepts, but usually it's nothing. How many times are companies going to push this "brand new" sexy concept that just reflects previous sexy concepts like Sistar's "Alone", Girls Day's "Something" and AOA's "Miniskirt". Perhaps my whole deal with concepts will be for another post. The point is everyone goes crazy over these "comebacks" even though the group just finished promoting something off the same CD. I guess all this comes from growing up with the American music industry and even later Japan's industry.

Despite America being more dependent on albums, there's not too much beforehand. Once the first single or music video is released, there is a gradual build up of hype and promotions through labels, management, critics, and fans simultaneously. Usually hype comes if the artist has been inactive in the music scene for a long period of time like Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. Or the initial single or video has caused major conversation among the public like Rihanna's "Pour It Up" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines". Nonetheless, I wish I could change the whole meaning of "comeback", but you won't see me saying or writing about a comeback if the group doesn't fit my standards. They will be called new releases because that's what they are, like VIXX's "VOODOO DOLL" is a new release while Rain's "30Sexy" is a comeback. So, don't try to correct me or anything when I mention new kpop material.

On a sidenote, for kpop fans who complain about so and so having too many comebacks, I think if enough fans "protest" it, then maybe the industry will change its ways. My guess behind these multiple "comebacks" is the assumption that fans are fickle and lack dedication to some extent. If a group doesn't release something after a certain amount of time, then it is assumed that the group will be forgotten and abandoned by fans or in danger of disbandment. I think this factor says a lot about kpop fanbases, companies, and marketing teams, if that's the case when it comes to "comebacks". I suppose I could elaborate a little more on this theory, but I think that's a different post completely.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Live: Ones to Watch

Ones to Watch Tour
[2013.08.07] House of Blues in Houston, TX
featuring: Big B, Icon Fore Hire, & Redlight Kings

I've been to the House of Blues, but I've never been in the Bronze Peacock. It's a smaller venue at the House of Blues, which was appropriate for the evening's performances.

Big B

Usually I would check out bands beforehand, but I don't think I did that this time. So, I listened to Big B and Redlight Kings with an open mind, which I think a lot of people should do when they come across bands that aren't familiar with.

Big B's set was quite enjoyable and not something my friend and I normally would listen to. It was a mixture of reggae and rap. The crowd seemed pretty calm and a few were brave enough to openly show their enjoyment to the easy beats and melodies. Despite the hesitant nature of the crowd, Big B exuded charisma and confidence in his performance. He interacted with the crowd which they positively responded to. I wouldn't mind seeing more of him live for sure. After his set, I immediately went to his merch table and bought his latest album, Fool's Gold. He was there, drinking water, and expressed his appreciation. Definitely a good person and a good musician.

Icon For Hire

It seemed like most of the young crowd was here for this band and I figured out that they weren't really the headline, but I was willing to stay for the final band. This was their first time performing in Houston and I hope it isn't their last either. Anyway, the members filed onto the stage with a dramatic instrumental from their album, then Ariel pumped some life into the crowd. It was nice feeling the tension release from the crowd. The band and the crowd's energy was very well balanced. The band would give some, then the fans would give back. They played a lot of my favorite songs and it made me appreciate Scripted a lot more. They also played some tracks from their upcoming album, which they had for pre-sale at the merch table. Ariel talked to the crowd a lot too. More than I'm used to, but I am not complaining in the least. The most memorable talk was when they were setting up an old keyboard. She started idly playing a few keys and telling us how she felt very vulnerable when creating the new album. The band had more control of their music content and such. For a moment, I thought she was gonna burst into tears as it eventually led to "The Grey". Each track exuded passion and energy no matter how soft, aggressive, energetic, or dark the song was. Here's what I remember of their setlist:

Cynics & Critics
Sugar & Spice
Watch Me
Make A Move
The Grey
Off With Her Head
Get Well

Redlight Kings

While meeting the members of Icon Fore Hire, the band's set started, but it sounded kinda old Southern-ish with their intro...or maybe I've watched too much Django Unchained thanks to dad. Anyway, my friend and I noticed that most of the young crowd was gone and all that was left were older adults. Listening to the music definitely fit that age group. it was entertaining watching them rock out with their beer in the air. As for the music, it was good. Nothing I would invest in, but enjoyable. Their singer/guitarist definitely had lots of charm and subtle charisma. He had a pleasant voice and a smile to match. I'm sure these housewives and mothers loved that.

I had a fun time with my friend and she enjoyed herself as well. We both unfamiliar with a lot of the music and I was happy to see a band I was newly a fan of, especially on their first performance in Houston. As mentioned briefly, I got to meet most of the members of Icon For Hire. They really care about their fans and I really adore bands like that. Their feelings toward their fans doesn't come off as fake either, it's definitely genuine as they hung out long enough to meet every person. Granted that this wasn't a big crowd due to most of the performers not being mainstream famous or anything, but that's still something. All the members were really nice and I got to learn some new little factoids about Ariel and her clothing line that she creates herself. Anyway, I'm looking forward to another live with Icon For Hire and maybe even Big B.

with Shawn, guitarist of Icon For Hire

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Return of the Notable Rookies of 2012

Back in 2012, I made a post about some notable rookies that debuted that year. I contemplated making another list for the end of 2013, but honestly there wasn't much to talk about. So, I figured I would revisit these rookies and post an update of them one year later.

When I think about or least see an update from this subbing channel I'm subscribed to, I check out these guys. It seems like they've tried to broaden their visual and vocal range with more mature concepts like "HELLO". They're latest release I've seen is "Sleep Talking", which isn't that bad, but it's shot in a way that has been used before by B1A4 and later A-JAX. KPop is really running out of ideas. I'm sure they're still the underdogs, but they still haven't gain my attention to follow them.

Not too much has changed with this group as far as my feelings are concerned. I'm in the process of reviewing their first full album release for you guys, so I can't say too much about it. I know lots of people have been complaining about the overexposure of this group, but you can't help that when you come from a company with lots of power and money. It's not their fault. Anyway, EXO-M seemingly appears to be the more successful one between the two. I've learned from Exo Showtime that the members, personality-wise, are more likeable, but let's focus on the music. It seems like the group is gradually growing into their talents. They try to do something to display their synchronization as a 12 piece group, like "Growl" and then something to show off their vocal range, like their latest, "Miracles in December". I haven't listened to their latest release as I write this, but just based off that one song, it's probably one of the most depressing Christmas songs ever. It's beautifully composed, sung, and performed, but thanks for the little push off the edge of the cliff, guys. Yesh! I'm looking forward to more new material, but I hope that SM paces things for them, because they are clearly overworked.

I guess the stupid rivalry or whatever fans are making up are still going between B.A.P and EXO, but whatever. I think they have new competition in rookies BTS and GOT7. Anyway, like EXO, B.A.P have probably released the most material out of everyone in this list, which is ridiculous. The interesting thing is that their material has improved since the notable list was made. "Coffee Shop" was simple, smooth, and gave the vocal chorus a chance to shine. Despite it's laughable Engrish, "Hurricane" was a fun, high energy song that was easy to dance to. "ONE SHOT" is probably my favorite and most strongest release they've ever made visually and musically. "Badman" wasn't as strong as "ONE SHOT", but it was still a vast improvement from their earlier work, such as "Power" and "No Mercy". I won't be calling myself a Baby anytime soon, but I'll definitely continue to follow these guys and hope that TS Entertainment doesn't burn them out with these constant releases.

Six Bomb
Despite having a catchy track in "Chiki Chiki Bomb", the low budget video and unpolished live skills didn't quite hook enough fans. There was potential in the group and, as mentioned before, buried within their mini-album in a song called "Baby Boy". Six Bomb had a short life span and disbanded in 2012.

As much vocal potential and energy this group had, ChAOS also had a short life span. While I didn't like their debut song, "She's Coming", I at least acknowledged that they had voices, but the song was very underwhelming and borderline insulting. "Racer" presented some interesting things to the table and had a cool build up. At least they tried with their artsy video for "Kiss Kiss".

I've declared in a few places that this group is my favorite female kpop group. They have amazing vocals and a mature look to them similar to Brown Eyed Girls. They had a strong start with "Potently" and "Painkiller", but I didn't enjoy their follow ups, "Lonely" and "I'll Be There". So, I was a little nervous when I watched their latest, "Tonight". It took some time to warm up to it, but in the end, I enjoyed this fun song. It's not as mindblowing as "Painkiller", but I still enjoyed it. It looks like they have something coming soon called "You Don't Love Me", so I hope it brings back the fire in this group and people recognize their overwhelming vocal talent.

Not much has been happening musically with this group. Apparently, 3 of the members left the group and are now part of BESTie, which isn't anything special or new from what we have now. LE has been featuring a few artists' songs and there was an announcement that they would be coming back with two new members, which they've already named. That's about it. Not much to comment on here.

I'm not a huge fan of this group, but I was definitely on the support train. So far, every release had been pretty good and there was a nice little break for a moment. "INSANE" came out and it took some adjusting, especially since the visual concept had been recycled before. I learned to enjoy it, then "Snake" and "Stay With Me" came out and I was deeply disappointed and a little insulted. A-JAX went from mature and sleek to pedo-bait in boy scout uniforms and cuteness. I really hope they go back to their roots and ditch the aegyo routine.

JJ Project
I guess this duo was a temporary project? I really don't know. I wasn't closely following them anyway. I almost got mad when I found out about GOT7 and thought JJ Project was just a throw away, until I learned that they're part of the group. I guess this is equivalent to Bang Yong Guk and Zelo before B.A.P debuted. I haven't listened to their first release yet, so this is just based off their "Girls Girls Girls" video, which isn't that bad. I wanted to add it to my recommendations, but there's nothing special about the video aside from some choreography moments. The song's kinda unique in the kpop world and the guys are easily likeable off stage. My curiosity is definitely piqued though.

Not much has been going on with this group either. I'm really hoping they don't fall into oblivion, because they have too much going for them in the talent department. Unfortunately, they're still in the shadows of B2ST. [Pun not intended] Their latest release, "Thriller", still looks and sounds like leftover B2ST material and it doesn't help that this video was released after VIXX's "Hyde", which has a similar dark concept. It's still pretty good, if you ignore all those factors.

This group has become a bit of an after thought and I wouldn't put it past South Korea to think the same of this group. It seems like their strength might lie in Japan, but it's still unsure if they'll fall in the same international trap U-KISS is in. Without looking at my iTunes library, I can't think of any stand out songs after "La-Di Da-Di", which isn't a good thing. I'll probably continue to check on them and their status every now and then though.

What can I say about this flawless duo? Well, they remain flawless. That's always a good thing. I may not listen to them often as they make a lot of ballads and some of them fall in the drama OST sound of ballads, which I usually dislike. They might not keep my interest with those songs, but their voices are still amazing and breathtaking. Honestly, I think their strength lies with R&B and I think they should stick to that kind of sound, then they can have some range with more uptempo melodies and slow jams.

Similar to CROSS GENE, this group has become a bit of an afterthought and I don't think they've released much either. As mentioned in the notable list, I was really impressed with "Far away...Young Love" and I was hoping they would continue to grow in that direction. When "Shaking Heart" was released, it just felt like a lesser version of B2ST, so obviously not as impressed, but not completely let down. It was still alright. They did what they could with what they were given and I guess that's all you can ask for in a rookie group. Hopefully, the company and the fans give them a chance to a grow a little more, before making a decision to disband them or anything.

Initially, this group gave me some really good feelings and I was looking forward to what they were going to do in 2013. I wasn't expecting to turn into a proud Starlight at the end of the year. Release after release, VIXX has consistently gotten better with every concept thrown at them. They have even be given the title of "Princes/Kings of Dark Concepts" by fans and I kinda agree with that, but just overall, they are a solid group. They're probably the most solid group on and off stage out of all the male rookies in this list. I do hope they take a little break though, before they start release more new material...and do another set of performances in the U.S.

Apparently, D-Unit has this rotating third member system, which I think is stupid. It's just as stupid as the T-ara leader rotation system. Anyway, I was surprised that JNEY from GP Basic was featured in their latest video and just assumed GP Basic was done. Upon investigation, they're gearing up for a comeback, so I'm looking forward to that. I still have their mini-album in the lineup for review, so I can't say much there. What I can say is that the group seemed to have detoured a little from the hip-hop concept. Whatever it is, I'm not particularly feeling it, but I do want to hear more of them.

This group falls in the same category as C-CLOWN and CROSS GENE. If they happened to be in my feed with new music, I check it out, but not super attached to them. They haven't really done much in the release department, but I can say that I love "Want U Back" way more than "Bad Boy". As generic as the sound, concept, and visuals are, it's a song I can listen to more than once and sometimes dance to. They still have a lot of talent potential and I wouldn't mind seeing more of them. Make it happen!

Maybe because the company was occupied with disputing with Block B and creating a replacement with ToppDogg, but not much has been happening with this group. It's a little saddening that there's so little activity, especially since I kinda like them more than D-Unit. They did make "Get Up" during the label mess, so I hope they release more amazing and unique material or go to a different label to pursue that greatness.

Since this was the only group on my list that I dislike, this will be different than the others. Have my feelings changed toward them? No, not really. They still remind me of SNSD and don't suit my tastes. Their latest release, "Miniskit", I guess is their attempt to be sexy. Too bad Girl's Day did a better job with the skirt teasing. Hopefully, this is the last time I'll be talking about AOA to this extent.

I wasn't super impressed with this duo, but I did like them a little bit more than JJ Project. Despite the assistance of Infinite H in the songwriting, their follow up single for "MAMAMA" just felt the same as their debut track, a long choreographed commercial. I just convinced myself that Tasty was nothing more than a dance duo and that they should completely ditch trying to sing or whatever. Fortunately, they redeemed themselves with their latest release, "Day'n Night". Their music still sounds like 90s boy band pop, but the content had a little more substance than the previous two video releases. I hope Tasty gets to polish up on the sing abilities.

Another group to add to the list with 100%, C-CLOWN, and CROSS GENE of groups that I check on every now and then. It doesn't look like they've been doing much. Their latest video is "U R SO CUTE", which isn't overly cute. It's more sweet than anything. Unfortunately, it's not as impressive as car commercial "Hurry UP", but I hope they gain momentum and play around with their potential some time soon.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"30SEXY" by (Bi) Rain
I don't care what anyone says, but I love this song and this video. Bias aside, it's quite simple and gives the kpop genre a refreshing slick and mature approach. The choreography might not be the most complicated thing, but it fits the tempo and confident attitude of the music. Rain definitely hasn't lost his touch in his moves and his vocal range. I can't wait to listen to his album completely.

"ZOTTO MOLA" by Gary (LeeSSang)
I love LeeSSang, so naturally I was excited about this solo project. Similar to Rain, Gary did a double single promotion and I'm sure one is gonna get some huge racial debates over...that I'm not gonna discuss here. This might be boring to some, but this was Gary's vision and it feels just right for this slow building, dramatic, and old school sounding song. It feels poetic and forces you to engage in the words occupying the visuals. I'm really looking forward to hearing this whole project.

Now that the band has taken a break and Takeru got whatever he needed to get out of his system with Uwakimono, we can get to real Heavy Positive Rock this band is known for. This is a comeback, kpop fans! I think this what the band wanted to do while in PS Company and now they are free to take their music to the next level. I'm definitely excited to hear their new release under the new label.

"SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH" by Dir en grey
Despite this video being almost completely band centric, with bits of random scenery shots and live footage, there's something about it that seems a bit poetic in the new footage. The dramatic hand movements, thoughtful slow motion placement, and then there's the song. It's quite amazing. I really like the melody and transitions throughout the song. It doesn't have too much screaming and squealing either. Great atmosphere and tone. I'm looking forward to listening to the new single and slowly getting pumped for whenever that next album is released.

"Manyo Maash" by Puer Kim
I didn't expect to like this song or video, but obviously I did, otherwise it wouldn't be in this list. This video has some great simplistic visuals and substance that support the lyrics and tone of this song. It's very straightforward and makes you think about the industry and whatnot. The song is very easy on the ears and has a nice, catchy melody to it without sounding generic. I'm curious what the rest of her material will sound like.