Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Most Shocking/Disappointing/WTF Asian Music Moments of 2015

A band I heavily got into in 2015 has been consistently pleasing to the ears, so far. When I heard the laughter and amused shock over their cover of Taylor Swift's "We are Never Getting Back Together", I was immediately interested in hearing it. I suppose this cover somewhat doesn't fit this list, but it was hard to pass it up. I enjoyed it a little more than the original. Not sure if it's because of its sheer ridiculousness or because it's actually good. Nonetheless, this heavy rock cover now exists in visual kei history.

Taguchi Junnosuke Withdraws From KAT-TUN
The last time I talked about KAT-TUN at any length is probably 2013's list when Koki Tanaka was booted out of the group. Last year, Junnosuke made his official statement to fans that he would be withdrawing from the group, leaving half of the members. I believe the group is going to continue making music, etc., but honestly, after Koki left I really think the group should disband and stick to their solo activities.

Daichi Miura gets married on New Year's
Japan's Little Soul Prince tied the knot at the beginning of 2015 and I was both surprised and very happy about the news. Perhaps the marriage was inspiration for Daichi's new upbeat material for his latest album, FEVER. Nonetheless, I hope him and his wife's relationship continue to blossom and that the media doesn't intrude. I'm also looking forward to more music in the coming year. Congratulations, Daichi Miura!

Rania Returns with 3 New Members
Rania was a group that caused a bit of controversy with their Teddy Riley produced "Dr. Feel Good" and while they did release a couple more singles before disappearing, I started to believe that the group had one of those silent disbandments like most kpop rookies. After much training and polishing, the girls returned with three new members and one of them stirred up excitement. While I wish I was part of this excitement and not the near tail end of news fizzle, Alex became the first African American in a kpop group. As exciting as that news was, fans were disappointed to see (or in this case, not see) her in their comeback video, "Demonstrate". Her rap is featured and later there was an edit that included Alex and an explanation for her lack of appearance that involved some work visa issues. Hopefully, we'll see more of Alex with Rania as well as an album in the near future.

Eli's Marriage and Pregnancy Announcement
Kpop's best kept secret or terrible lie is for you to decide. U-KISS is a group that South Korea constantly sleeps on, but international fans adore. As a group, they haven't done too much and Eli's probably one of my least favorite members, so I don't follow any of his social media. So, from my perspective, this was a bit of a surprise, but to fans, they seemed to have already speculated that Eli tied the knot. Now, we know that he's expecting his first child. News like this makes me happy and even happier that I didn't see fuming fans complaining about it. Congratulations, Eli!

Intetsu Retires from Music
Former bassist of Ayabie (and AYABIE and any other variations of spelling of the same band) announced his retirement from music. These sorts of announcements happen from time to time and they're very understandable, especially if you know how difficult the jrock/visual kei industry is. Anybody remember An Cafe's blonde guitarist Bou? I'm still very curious the fate of what is left of AYABIE, but I want to believe that the band has disappeared considering there's only one member left. Nonetheless, I wish Intetsu luck in life and a wonderful 2016!

Tasty vs. Woollim
It doesn't seem like label disputes are coming to an end anytime soon, which is both a good and bad thing. Good, because artists are speaking up about their futures and well being as well as bringing awareness to fans on unfair conditions in the industry. Bad, because these things shouldn't happen in the first place! Being a fan of the Tasty twins, I was happy to hear that they didn't break up, but were unfortunately dealing with some disagreements with Woollim, which was around the same time as former Exo-M's Tao was being vague about his status as a member. It seems like Chinese kpop idols are having the hardest time trying to make a living in the industry and it's quite sad. Although, I'm sure they will keep their word of continuing to make music and be successful elsewhere.

Miyavi on The Ellen Show
Remember when Angelina Jolie casted Miyavi for her movie? Well, I thought it was pretty good and I think people should definitely check it out, but this entry is about a specific promotion that Miyavi did. Sure, he did some promotions in other outlets like most movie stars, but this was one of those great moments that make you hope non-American Asians get treated better than Psy did. Not only did he talk about his experiances with "Angie", but he also performed which was quite enjoyable. This was definitely a moment I felt proud to be a Miyavi fan and I hope he gets more opportunities like this in the future.

Nugu Faves Disband
Yeah, I actually know the term for not so popular kpop groups and it's sad that disbandment news isn't as out there as jrock, or even jpop, groups. Some announcements were a surprise, and even a disappointment, for me like Wonder Boyz, Tiny-G, SPEED, and C-Clown. Some announcements I didn't care too much about like Bob Girls, F-Dolls, and Jewelry. And others I wasn't too surprised over and either felt sadness or nothing at all like EvoL and GLAM. Nonetheless, some of these groups or specific members I would love to see them continue in the music industry. Usually the saying goes, "Gone, but not forgotten", but I'm sure majority of kpop fans will forget these groups as soon as they finish reading this entry.

BABYMETAL Win GQ Men of the Year 2015 in Japan
Whether you agree or disagree, but I believe BABYMETAL is one of the most amazing groups that have come out of Japan recently along with FEMM. I've gotten a handful of friends into the group and it's exciting when they release new material or venture outside of Japan. Seeing this piece of news was something I couldn't pass up and I hope my fellow BABYMETAL friends get as much of a laugh over it as I did. Somehow these three young girls won GQ Men of the Year in Japan. I guess there's no barrier that these girls can't break.

JRock & Visual Kei Favorites Disband
I admit some of these bands probably deserve their own disbandment entry for their sheer contributions to the visual kei world, but it's easier to combine some of my personal favorites into this entry. ViViD was a band I was surprised how quickly they moved onto a major label, while being under PS Company. Of course, not being as big of a cash cow as the GazettE or even Alice Nine., ViViD slowly faded in the background of their senpais and bowed out the limelight last year. ZORO, significantly lesser known, was forced to evolve their sound after losing about half of its members. I enjoyed the evolution and experimentation of this duo, so once the releases began to slow down, I was not surprised that disbandment was an inevitable end for them. Amber Gris had a similar fate, when I noticed their releases dwindling to nothing. Lycaon and Moran had a rough history with losing members either through musical differences or natural causes, but somehow managed to keep pushing forward with new member additions and a change of sound. Out of these visual kei bands mentioned, I think their disbandment hurt the most for me. In my eyes, their music was reaching to its peak and now the journey is over. Last band I want to mention by name is DAZZLE VISION. It's unfortunate that I never got a chance to see them live in the U.S., but I'm thankful for the 12 years of intense music they've shared with us. I know there are other various visual kei and jrock bands out there that have announced their unfortunate disbandment and I wish all of them the best in whatever they decide to pursue in the coming year.

Last Minute Reunion Tours
Despite being in America, I still get excited when my favorite bands reunite for a couple lives or even a tour. Sure, some bands announced their reunion lives earlier in 2015 like Fatima, SKULL, and the god and death stars, but it's the last minute ones that really took me aback. Dio - distraught overlord announced a reunion tour for Europe, which made my heart skip a beat, even though I won't be attending. Simply the thought of these five talented men coming together one more time on stage makes me happy. Another little band by L'eprica plan to return this year. Oh yeah, and Versailles came back for Kamijo's 20th Anniversary...or something.

Se7en Leaves YG Entertainment
After serving his military time, Papa YG reached out to the now free R&B singer SE7EN and presented a renewal contract. Unfortunately (and possibly fortunately), that contract did not get signed. I know SE7EN had a rough 2014 with his massage scandal and his relationship with his long term girlfriend, but it was sad knowing that new music would not be coming out in 2015. From what I read, I can totally understand the decision, whether the factor of YG simply not having time for him because of iKON, WINNER, and whatever else b.s. new projects he has coming soon, but I still hope SE7EN finds a label home and resume his rivalry position with Rain. One can only dream~

CL's Solo Efforts
2014 was not a very good year for 2NE1 and for most of 2015, it was stressful for Blackjacks as well. YG continued to tease big plans and many people hoped for the resurrection of 2NE1 in the form of new music, but alas we received news of leader CL embarking her debut in the U.S. Most were disappointed by the news and others were...concerned and for very good reason. I have my own personal history when it comes to CL that will most likely be shared at a more appropriate time, but in short, I enjoyed "Baddest Female" and "MTBD". Being compared to Iggy Azalea and making lazy/questionable material such as "Dr. Pepper" and "Hello Bitches" doesn't bring good feelings. While the two songs may be occasional guilty pleasures, for the most part, it's not a good representation of kpop or CL's talent. More importantly, the fate of 2NE1 this year is up in the air and perhaps YG will have more time for them while Big Bang serves their military time.

Westerners Notice Keith Ape's "It G Ma"
As much quality music that Asia has to offer, mainstream America always picks either the "bizarre" or cringeworthy. Whether I like them or not, BABYMETAL, Psy's "Gangnam Style", Crayon Pop's "Bar Bar Bar", and even Ylvis's "Fox Song (What Does the Fox Say?)" [despite not being Asian related)] I would prefer them over the travesty that is Keith Ape's "It G Ma". For the longest time, I avoided the song, only hearing seconds of it and coming close to it with a sample of OG Maco's equally cringeworthy "U Guessed It" and Untouchable's goofy "Crayon". It wasn't until my brother pulled it up and I witnessed all 5 minutes and 45 seconds of trainwreckage. While it had some hilarious quotables throughout, it was a song I didn't want representing the khip-hop genre...despite the trend going in the direction of more trap sounds. In the end, I hope 2015 is the end of Keith Ape's monkeying around, because he's truly a joke to the genre and there's way better talent out there.

Dir en grey Keeps Busy
In 2014, I mentioned that frontman Kyo was keeping busy with his art, social media, and his side project sukekiyo. Now Die has put together his own side band as well by the name of DECAYS. Whether you like them or not, their music (at least "SECRET MODE") was definitely not what I expected from Die, let alone him doing vocals. Shinya also modeled in California for h.NAOTO and Toshiya and Kaoru have either put together their own fashion line or participated in some modeling. It's nice to see the guys keeping themselves busy with side projects, but I also hope that they're getting some rest in between before the next Dir en grey album.

Black Gene Suspend Activities
After hearing the announcement of Megamasso's 1 year hibernation, which is really unrelated unless you roleplay with me, it was interesting hearing Ryouhei's lolita pal Rame and crew announce their suspension of activities. The whole news was kinda confusing in its wording as a friend and I were trying to decipher whether this was a hiatus or a disbandment. More interesting is vocalist ICE has signed to UNION ENTERTAINMENT for a side project. In the end, I'm hoping the band is simply taking a break in activities in hopes of coming back as a bigger and better band.

Exo-M's Tao & f(x)'s Sulli Withdraw From SM Entertainment
So, 2014 was the departure of Exo-M's Kris and Luhan and SNSD's Jessica from SM Entertainment and the beginning of a little game of Battle Royale for Exo. Most of you know that I love Exo-M and I had my prediction about the group as whole since the start; I just wish it hadn't gotten this bad. My worries started to grow when Tao began to dwindle from activities...and his health was deteriorating. Eventually, Tao threw in the towel and my heart greatly sunk. With only half of the Exo-M members left, it's hard for me to get excited about new music as I'm not to fond of Exo-K's musical chemistry. Honestly, I'm not too excited about this supposed U.S. tour they're having this year. As for Sulli, I'm not too surprised that she left and I think some of f(x)'s fans felt the same. I know there's a few jokes floating around about her decision involving her current beau Dynamic Duo's Choiza. Whether her relationship is related or not is unknown, but it's also possible that her health may be a possibility. Of course, no one will know the real reason unless they're directly involved. Nonetheless, I was happy that f(x) continued as a foursome and gave us "4 Walls".

VAMPS Tour with Apocalyptica & Sixx:A.M.
As someone who has been into the jrock scene for a decade, I've learned to accept that Hyde would never come to Texas. So, when it was announced that VAMPS would be joining Apocalyptica and Sixx: A.M., I thought there was a typo or something. That moment when senpai notices your state. Anyway, I was surprised to see so many VAMPS fans in Houston to show their support and it seemed like non-fans enjoyed themselves as well. At some point, I will post my concert report here, but in short, my friend and I really enjoyed ourselves and I really hope that Hyde recognizes that Texas does need some attention from him and his bands.

MBLAQ Comes Back as 3
In 2014's list I mentioned the departure of Lee Joon and Cheon Doong (Thunder) from the group as well as a discontinuation of the group's musical career. I was surprised, along with fans, to find the group releasing a music video as a trio. It was a little depressing not seeing the group whole and there's even speculation that the song is about "Lee Joon betraying them". I think it was somewhat confirmed that the departure was inspiration for the break-up song, which hurt my heart a little more. I guess this is how DBSK fans felt when they split. Nonetheless, it seems that Joon is continuing his modelling and acting career. I'm sure Thunder is doing well...I don't really follow him as much. In the end, I hope all the members, former and current, follow their dreams and find success in 2016.

Wonder Girls, Brown Eyed Girls, & Big Bang Make a Comeback
Just a reminder that this is a real comeback. 2015 was a great year for old favorites to make their appearance, especially when they're futures were so uncertain. 2013 put Wonder Girls on hiatus as two of the members decided to part ways to pursue other interests and many fans were unsure of disbandment. Surprisingly, some members returned to the group and released an amazing retro, band-centric album that I'm looking forward to reviewing here. Brown Eyed Girls and Big Bang have been busy with solo material, which is all well and good, but it seemed like such a long stretch for a group effort, especially Big Bang. Brown Eyed Girls did not disappoint with a release of a mixture of mature, sexy, and fun music videos and Big Bang going all out with back to back releases leading to a hopeful album with their MADE single series. I'm looking forward to the future of these groups, especially with some of the changes implemented in their sound and that that Big Bang album actually comes into fruition.

B.A.P Continue With TS Entertainment
2014 brought a lot of contract disputes in kpop and B.A.P was part of that list as well as rumors of other TSE artists taking legal actions with the label. After the news was posted, there wasn't much detail to follow up the group's silence. Suddenly, teasers for an upcoming mini-album was posted and some kind of news was put up. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's confused about the whole situation, but I suppose it's nice that we have the boys back with new material.

TGM Events Fail to Highlight BTS
Sadly, I wasn't able to post my own complaints about kpop lives before this event occurred, but I'm still planning on posting my own grievances when it comes to kpop tours in the U.S. BTS's Highlight tour with TGM Events and Community 54 was actually a show I was thinking about attending, but sold out after I waited too long. Of course, I'll go into more details about my perspective on the whole ordeal and more later, after I tweak my original post. Most people, whether you're A.R.M.Y or not, know about the tragedy that was the Highlight Tour: sold out show in Atlanta, fans getting locked out, V.I.Ps being treated like regular tickets,...oh, and leader Rap Monster receiving a death threat over something he said. Clearly, this brief summary of what happened doesn't cover half of what happened, but I hope this teaches fans to be more cautious, other promoters to learn from TGM's mistakes, and that it doesn't hurt kpop groups from traveling to the U.S.

ADAMS' Shota Passes Away
During a performance in Poland, Shota passed out on stage and was immediately rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke and passed away after hours of struggle. It was very shocking news to hear, especially after promoting the duo and adamently listening to their music. Every tour made me hopeful for a U.S. debut, but alas we lost a truly talented and passionate musician. More detailed news on Shota's passing can be found on Shattered Tranquility and a heartfelt message was posted by Shota's wife. My thoughts and prayers to Shota's family, friends, and fans. May his music live on!

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