Whether you're a kpop fan or not, there's a good chance you know about the foreign phenomenon that was "Gangnam Style". It was nearly impossible to escape the track in 2012. PSY made a follow up single, "Gentleman", which didn't get as many hits as the first on YouTube, but people were aware of it and it still got parodied. I'm not sure if PSY or YG Entertainment wanted to make another attempt of worldwide or even viral relevancy by having this collaboration with Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion, I'm not sure what he was going by at the time), but it seemed like listeners were very split about this project. Some saw it as a great anthem for post-drunkenness, while others found it as more of an annoyance.
Jackie Chan's KPop Group Debuts: JJCC
I still find it so odd to know that Jackie Chan created a kpop group. Of all the things he could make! I guess we needed more rookies in the sea of...um...rookies? I don't want to put these boys down in the least, because I actually enjoy their music so far...excluding "Bing Bing Bing (Oneway)", I'm still trying to figure that one out. I know this is a minor statement, but it's very wtf worthy. I wish JJCC a long, prosperous life in the kpop universe. Also, check out their guest appearance on K-Populous.
BABYMETAL & Crayon Pop Open for Lady Gaga
Most people are familiar with BABYMETAL with their YouTube appearance on @midnight with their "Gimme Chocolate!!" live and Crayon Pop with their brief viral popularity with "Bar Bar Bar" and maybe their MAMA collaboration with Ylvis of "Fox Song" fame. I'm guessing because of these two moments in 15 minute musical fame sparked interested in Lady Gaga to welcome them aboard her artRAVE tour. I was tempting to go myself as Lady Gaga is on my wishlist of musicians I would love to see live, but I'm not that big of Crayon Pop fan and I wasn't planning on traveling to see BABYMETAL either. Nonetheless, I'm happy that both of them received some exposure in the States and I hope that BABYMETAL makes another round of touring here as well that's closer to home.
J-Indies Favorites Disband
Every year I have to face the disappointment of a promising j-indies band putting their musical journey to a halt. Some I'm sure I will see members in newly formed bands, but of course it is never the same. I know that indies bands disband every year, but it's nice to acknowledge some of my favorites. Some were new to me like Lil.y and EVE and others I have been following for years: LICKER, Jackman, Suicide Ali, downer, xTRiPx, and THE KIDDIE. I suppose it is less surprising, but still saddening, BLACK LINE. I'm sure fans will miss and support these bands in this new chapter of life in 2015.
Simon D Joins AOMG
After the unfortunate disbandment of Supreme Team, E-Sens tried to piece back together his rap career and Simon D impressed his fans with a brand new solo album, then things got quiet. So, I was so excited, along with the fans, that Simon D resurfaced to an amazing R&B and rap track with Jay Park and GRAY called "Metronome". I thought this collaboration was a one-shot, but fortunately for us, Simon D signed up as co-CEO of AOMG with Jay Park, so I'm expecting a lot of epicly amazing things with this new addition. Hopefully, they'll spread their live performance wings a little further into America and make a trip to the south.
Band Member Departures
Similar to the feeling of losing a band is the feeling of losing a beloved member. Whether it's creative differences, health, personal obligations, or other uncontrollable circumstances, it can be hard for both the band and fans to accept letting go of a member. A few I feel worth mentioning are Sala (Black Gene from the Next Scene), Rui (SCREW), John (Sel'm), Kazuki (Royz), Yui (Ganglion), Kifumi (BORN), and Shingo (GOTCHAROCKA). Some of these are rather surprising as they've been part of their band for many years and others may be in new or increasingly popular visual kei bands. Nonetheless, I wish them the best of luck for 2015!
Dahee (GLAM) & Lee Jiyeon Charged with Blackmail
This news was a bit on the unusual side, especially for kpop. GLAM isn't part of the big leagues like SNSD or 2NE1, but Dahee and model Lee Jiyeon's target, Lee Byung-hun, is a very high profiled star. At first, it was uncertain who Dahee's accomplice was or what their motivations were. The details are still partially unknown and I'm not expecting it to get any clearer than what I know or anyone who reads Seoul Beats and Asian Junkie. I don't know much about Lee Byung-hun other than the very few little things I've seen him in, but apparently he has a controversial reputation and may even be on the unlikable list for some. I don't know anything about his habits or his relationship history, but either way, blackmailing is never acceptable, especially when you're at the bottom of the barrel of idoldom. The whole situation was an amusing read to say the least and it seems like Dahee and her partner in crime will be apologizing for quite some time. I suppose the future of GLAM is bit unknown at this point as well.
Janghyun Leaves Sunny Hill
During Janghyun's mandatory military service, the ladies of Sunny Hill continued to produce music for their fans and send their well wishes to their composer and leader. Upon his return, fans were excited for another gripping and unique concept from the group a la "Pray" or "Midnight Circus", but was given the news that Janghyun would not be returning to the group. Instead, he has decided to continue being a producer, which is great news as I believe he makes high quality work. I still find it strange that all the kpop sites I follow have not mentioned this news whatsoever, but I'm glad I found out about it and can share with you guys. I wish Janghyun and the remaining members of Sunny Hill the best of luck for the new year!
2NE1's Series of Unfortunate Events
YG Entertainment has been quite busy in 2014, considering some other "speculations" were unsurprisingly postponed (i.e. Any new material from Big Bang or that mystery girl group). The kpop world was introduced to WINNER, iKON, and Akdong Musician and we finally received some new material from 2NE1 (which will be reviewed momentarily). Despite releasing a new album for their precious Blackjacks, 2NE1's more controversial news stood out a little more: Minzy's plastic surgery and change in her Twitter handle, one of CL's live performance misusing Muslim incantations, her potential U.S. debut, and her unsatisfying and confusing collaboration with Skrillex, Diplo, and G-Dragon. But the member who took the cake was Park Bom as she attempted to bring home amphetamine tablets from the U.S. This scandal caused Bom to pause all activities meaning she had to depart from the reality show Roommate and absent from any live performances with 2NE1. Then there was that minor diss rap news from A.KOR's Kemy too...
Kim Hyun-joong's Domestic Abuse Case
Most people are aware that kpop fans are very delusional, otherwise the saying "oppa/noona didn't mean to" wouldn't be a popular mocking phrase among the well adjusted set. When it comes to domestic abuse, all statements like that should not exist, especially when so much concrete evidence exists. I like one or two songs by Kim Hyun-joong, but I am not a fan of his. Even if I was, I wouldn't excuse his behavior toward his former girlfriend nor try to convince others that he doesn't deserve punishment for what he did. It was sickening to read fans defending his actions and even more appalling how long it took for things to move along with this case. There might some moralistic discrepancies, but either way I find it unexcusable that he was allowed to continue live performances abroad while he was actively avoiding the police to place a statement. It's probably wishful thinking, but I hope the consequences of his actions catch up to him sooner rather than later.
Even though band revivals are temporary events, they're pretty exciting when they do happen. It's like a second chance to have that live experience with the band and the fandom in an intimate setting enjoying music. A lot of these live revivals I wish I could've attended such as Pierrot, SIGNAL, D'espairsRay, Transtic Nerve, LuLu, Otogadead, Psycho le Cemu, and Doremidan. More exciting is that some of these revivals are more than just a one or two day live event, but a reboot of activities such as Rin, MY BACTERIA HEAT IsLAND, and D.I.D. I'm looking forward to hearing more music and hopefully I have a chance to indulge in a live performance as well.
Hideto (Amber Bullet), Yuuza (~E'm Grief~) & K (Moi dix Mois) Passes Away
I am a casual listener of Amber Bullet and I don't quite know the members' names, but it was sad to hear that their bassist Hideto had been struggling with an illness. I'm not really a fan of Moi dix Mois or ~E'm Grief~, but a passing is worth mentioning, especially since I know people who are very fond of these two bands.
Alice Nine Leaves PS Company
Another band decides to leave the evil clutches of PS Company to return back to their roots. I'm sure fans cheered for victory as I don't feel that Alice Nine's activity have been very...productive. From my perspective, I see the GazettE as the most active group while Alice Nine focuses more on their show and occasionally will release a single or something. When they do release music, it seems like a hollow shell of what originally pulled me into the band. They've already released pictures of their new look and logo. Since things have been going pretty well for Miyavi and SuG post-PSC, I'm hoping the same good fortune will come for Alice Nine.
Joon & Cheon Doong (Thunder) Leave MBLAQ
Compared to the Japanese music industry, I never really hear any big news about members leaving a group nor fans making a huge deal about it. Most departures seem pretty quiet, maybe due to the fact that the group isn't very popular, or it is simply labelled as a graduation of sorts like After School. Hearing this was very surprising, but seemed understandably necessary in a weird way. I haven't gotten around to seeing Lee Joon as an actor, but I've heard many good things which makes me extremely happy. Reading the news seemed like a tug of war of unconfirmed information, but soon it was settled (or at least mostly settled) that MBLAQ's legacy would be discontinued. I wish things turned out better for them during their musical journey and I sadly have to put part of the blame on Rain for neglecting what he started, but I look forward for what's to come for these five young men.
TS Entertainment Contract Dispute
It's been a rough year for kpop and I'm guessing some fans are having flashbacks to 2010 (give or take a year). Personally this news is not that surprising, but for others, I guess they were blinded by the consecutive releases. Anyway, B.A.P as a whole filed for nullification of their contract as they hadn't received the payment they expected. This case is somewhat similar to what happened with Stardom Entertainment and Block B last year. Block B is doing quite well under their new label Seven Seasons, so I'm hoping the same will come with B.A.P along with some much needed rest. There are rumors that labelmates SECRET and Untouchable may be joining the lawsuit bandwagon. Hopefully, we will hear a fair conclusion to this unfortunate situation in the coming year.
SM Entertainment Back Lash
I am not the biggest fan of SME's and their supporters are the worse~ Sure, a few good and interesting things have happened for them like giving solos to SHINee's Taemin and Super Junior M's Zhou Mi and next year SHINee's Jonghyun and f(x)'s Amber. Unfortunately, the massive black cloud overshadows any excitement SME has delivered to its followers. The set of news dealt with up and coming boy group EXO and the other with one of Korea's most popular female groups SNSD. I haven't forgotten about them giving f(x)'s Sulli a hiatus during their "Red Light" promotion or that one of the members of Super Junior is getting hitched, it just doesn't stand out as much as what happened with Kris, Luhan, and Jessica. The first strike against SME was Kris (EXO-M) filing lawsuit, then Luhan (EXO-M) followed suit and demanded financial compensation for promotions. No matter how you read Jessica's situation, in my eyes, SME booted her out of SNSD as it sounds like she was committed to the group, but wanted to also venture in other smaller projects. It is possible to maintain a musical career and put together a line of merchandise; American artists do it all the time! Even some Japanese artists do other side projects alongside their musical career. Since I'm very anti-SME, I'm hoping more idols (in general) will continue to speak up.
Ladies' Code Car Accident
2014 seemed like a year of management lessons for the kpop industry: how to handle saesang fans, deal with dating "scandals", settling contract lawsuits, and, in this entry, safety and scheduling issues. There are many great discussions about Ladies' Code's car accident, most of them pointing out the problem of managers trying to cram too much in a day. Please check out these insight links about the incident: Eat Your Kimchi, Asian Junkie, and Anti-KPop Fangirl. I know in America we are told to pull over if we're feeling too tired to drive and to slow down when the weather conditions aren't very favorable for driving above the speed limit; these are tips that have been brought up as well. Nonetheless, it was very unfortunate to lose such talented young ladies, EunB and RiSe, especially at the rise of their musical journey. I hope this incident will change the way managers schedule idols' activities and that car safety regulations will become stricter.