Popping the K-Pop Cherry on Crayon Pop, BESTie, Wa$$up and More

Crayon_Pop_Bar

Exploring new music can be an exhausting and unpleasant task. After all, it takes work to even listen and appreciate music that one is a fan of (speaking of which, reviews of SPICA’s “You Don’t Love Me” and Ga-In’s “Fxxk U” are around the corner), let alone approach new works by unknown commodities. However, as groups like KARA and the Wonder Girls die and even SNSD seems to be approaching the golden age of “only” releasing one thing per calendar year, it becomes necessary (and even fruitful!) to branch out and experience new music, even if some of it ends up to be utter crap.

Steven Hyden of Grantland, an excellent writer on American music, had this to say on music streaming services and how new “experiences”, even the most unpleasant, can be rewarding:

If we’re really talking about a service catering to life-enriching music-related experiences, something important is being left out. I’m talking about the value of the “wrong” song. The “wrong” song isn’t fulfilling upon first listen. It might in fact be a song you think you never want to hear again. It’s certainly not the sort of thing you’d want on an uninterrupted loop. It is death metal or trap rap or mainstream country. It is the very thing that will send you scurrying to a curator who can dutifully edit out music you find disturbing. But the “wrong” song isn’t really wrong, it just isn’t immediately gratifying or instantly amenable to your sensibilities. It’s challenging.

Here’s another way to define experience: It’s a process of seeing and doing things that makes you wiser than you were before you saw or did those things. Music can only be transformative if it is allowed to reach people who will be noticeably changed by their exposure to it. Put a different way: Think of how many songs you love that you hated upon first listen. Aren’t those the songs that often end up meaning the most? That’s the essence of true discovery, when a song punctures the veil of your own myopia and proves you wrong. It’s what makes being a music fan genuinely thrilling sometimes.

For this writer, that experience would be KARA’s “STEP”, a song that grated immensely on first listen and is now a permanent fixture on any recommended K-Pop list I make. Music discovery is time consuming and not without its pitfalls but that “work” is what led to Nine Muses, SPICA, GLAM and a host of others making frequent appearances on this blog. So, below is a cursory glance into some of the groups that are either new or ones that I’ve put on the backlog for whatever reason. Each will be given a spin based on a random video. Hopefully, one or two of these groups will puncture my myopia.

If it seems like I’m not giving a group a fair shake, or if the single chosen isn’t representative of the group, let me know. Also, recommendations are always welcomed.

Without further ado:

 Ladies Code – “Bad Girl”

Chosen because it has “Bad Girl” in the title and I’m shameless. A piano intro is always welcomed, as is the submarine motif. Ladies Code seems to be a pretty standard girl group, inoffensively pretty and averagely pretty by K-Pop standards. But hey! They included a white guy and a black guy in their music video so they have that going for them. The song is forgettable but it isn’t grating, which seems to be a theme for Ladies Code. The song ends and I can’t recall what it sounds like five seconds later. At least there were guns and knee high socks for reasons.

Pros: Knee-high socks, GUNS

Cons: I can’t remember anything else

Verdict: Probably a pass. Nothing is worse than a video which refuses to stick out for any reason.

BESTie – “Love Options”

Youtube gave me this one first, so why not. Dance pop is a surefire way to hold attention for three minutes so this already makes the BESTie experience a positive one. The signature dance move is what would happen if Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” choreography was set to Robin Sparkles’ “Let’s Go to the Mall”. The siren blaring in the background helps give the song an edge but it is also needlessly stressful and I keep expecting for someone to get shot, perhaps from a stray bullet from the Ladies Code set for “Bad Girl”.

Pros: There’s only four of them, so putting names to faces would be easy. Dahye. The dance pop sounds like SISTAR and Brave Brothers is attached.

Cons: “Love Options” sounds so much like SISTAR’s “So Cool” but it doesn’t have Bora’s legs. The sirens make me think someone may have died in my area.

Verdict: Will probably investigate further. Dahye will inevitably make Waifu Wednesday, so might as well pretend to know what I’m talking about.

Kiss&Cry – “Domino Game”

Chosen because they’re one of the first rookie groups of 2014. For a rookie group, Kiss&Cry has a pretty rich and mature sound (apprehension over rookie groups always boils down to being scared of being hit with a fistful of aegyo). Horns and a rather great percussion beat lend “Domino Game” a bit of a Latin funk vibe. The members look pretty and the choreography actually tries to do something with the various breaks. As far as first impressions go, this is a pretty great one.

Pros: They sound like veterans, “Domino Game” isn’t a cutesy-bubble gum pop song like I had feared and there’s only four members to remember.

Cons: No one immediately stood out and there are so many girl groups that Kiss&Cry could easily get lost in the shuffle.

Verdict: Will keep tabs on. More music like this and they’ll have another fan.

Hello Venus – “Venus”

Picked because it had 3 million views which was more than I could see for others by Hello Venus. This is one of those groups that I always said that I’d check out and never got around to. The hook of “ooooh-oooh-oooh” is dumb but fun. The singing style is also fairly light but as far as cheery music goes this works well.  The verses and the musical differentiation between the verses and choruses are fairly addictive. “Venus” is the type of song that falls under the category of “guilty pleasure”, not because it’s particularly embarrassing, but because it tries so hard to be cheerful that it works in spite of itself, like a puppy that pisses on the floor because they’re so happy to see you.

Pros: Hello Venus is the type of music that is only prevalent in K-Pop, the kind of sugar-sweet pop music that is produced without a hint of irony or edge. Also, some fairly pretty members.

Cons: Good god, someone take Crayola colored hair dye far away from all K-Pop stylists.

Verdict: Truthfully, this one grated on me as it seems engineered to be earworm music. I may hate it because it worked but I’ll probably swear by Hello Venus by this time next year.

Fiestar – “I Don’t Know”

Another group that I swore I would pick up and then never did. Fiestar is everything that I fear about exploring new music. “I Don’t Know” is cute “try hard” material seemingly derived from a cross breed of the Little Drummer Boy and Candy Land. On the bright side, there’s hand-to-hand combat and bouncing boobs, so Fiestar has that going for it. On the other hand, there’s the music which is boilerplate K-Pop pop synths and it’s a chore to get through.

Pros: Street Fighter meets K-Pop. A couple of the members are breathtakingly hot.

Cons: I don’t want to listen to it again.

Verdict: I love having eyes and regret having ears sometimes.

Wa$$up – Wa$$up

Somehow, Wa$$up completely flew by my radar despite the fact that the group seems engineered to court any and all hype and “controversy”. A group built on jacking Miley Cyrus isn’t off to the best start. The actual song for “Wassup” sounds like something G-Dragon would shat out after a couple nights on molly at a rave. The singing that is employed is the Hyuna affected rap-singing that ends up being neither. The video is so cheaply trashy that one can’t say that “Wassup” didn’t accomplish what it set out to do with it’s much publicized twerkathon (ironically, there isn’t much actual twerking in the video). Of course, Wa$$up wants so desperately to be shocking that it just ends up being predictable, like any episode of The Following or a Zach Snyder film.

Pros: Wa$$up seems to know what it wants to be and has a fairly specific vision for itself as a group.

Cons: What it wants to be isn’t very interesting.

Verdict: Going to run for the hills now.

Crayon Pop – “Bar Bar Bar”

Yup, hadn’t bothered with Crayon Pop until now. Maybe starting with “Bar Bar Bar” is unfair, given that it’s seemingly struck a nerve with most people who follow the genre but given that this has been a huge “black hole” in my K-Pop knowledge, better now then never. It’s easy to see why “Bar Bar Bar” has garnered attention both positively and negatively. The song has all the subtlety of a jackhammer but the hook is fantastic and the visual gimmick of those damn helmets is inexplicably cute. There’s no richness to the production and the cheer aspect of the vocals, when combined with the lack of a strong bass and an overabundance of snare makes “Bar Bar Bar” sound like it belongs in a K-Pop version of Bring It On or on the field of your local high school football game. “Bar Bar Bar” is guaranteed to get lodged in the brain and that is probably why it is loved or hated by everyone who hears it.

Pros: Unlike most of what came before this, I won’t have any problem recalling which one is Crayon Pop or which song is their’s. “Bar Bar Bar” could easily be put on repeat for an hour and I wouldn’t want to kill anyone.

Cons: I could easily see why someone else would want to kill me after having this on repeat for an hour.

Verdict: Fuck death, gonna ride this Crayon Pop train so hard.

Final Verdict: Crayon Pop and BESTie are going places. Jury is out on Kiss&Cry and Hello Venus. Wa$$up can twerk off a cliff.

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21 comments

  1. Fleur De Seoul · · Reply

    For Crayon Pop, they’re the only band that you can get away with “they look all the same” because they have identical twins in the band. Two of the faces are literally the same. Have fun learning the difference between those two.

    For the rest of the groups, I’m fairly certain I haven’t seen any of their singles. Or have seen about half of a video and stopped…. I think I saw the song by BESTie because I remember they stole Miss A’s revolving wall. But that’s pretty much all I know.

    1. Oh god, I’m never going to differentiate them.

  2. Some comments, personal opinions and recommendations:

    Ladies Code – “Bad Girl” is a good choice, Pretty Pretty is awesome too and I would chose that instead of Bad Girl. It has grown on me, I like the music, the dances, the voices, I find awesome even the fact that they mention their names in the lyrics

    BESTie – Love Options is the best of their 3 singles and the catchier one, good choice.

    The Kiss&Cry song reminds me of many songs, Ailee? Beyonce? And also Wings by Little Mix (like Female President) on 2:44. The chorus was not my style, I think all 4 sexy songs were better than that, but in 2013 almost all of the rookie groups’ second song was better than the debut, so I’ll wait to see more from them.

    Hello Venus : The 3 singles I know are about the same in my preferences. They’re gonna keep the cute style for a long time and they deliver it well.

    Fiestar: I saw that MV and I forgot it, untill I watched their first MV, Vista, and was very impressed engrish aside.

    About Wassup I was the same as you, I finally watched their singles and NomNomNom is their best. Nari is hot.

    Crayon Pop became the meme group, that’s not necessarily bad. I like all their singles.

    Other nugu recommendations are:
    GI – Beatles and Gi Yeuk
    Tiny-G – Miss You
    Tren-D – Candy Boy (their dance is cool)
    Chocolat – Black Tinkerbell
    Evol – Get Up
    and some from more known groups that I didn’t find by searching in this blog:
    A Pink – No No No
    Rania – Style (also engrish alert at the start)

    1. I love EVOL… But after that Block B mess went down they got shoved onto the backburner for Topp Dogg (or some other nugu boy group their company put out). Luckily Say (the leader who has a great voice) releases covers on Youtube, but I wish they would get another chance.

    2. Gonna save some of those recommendations for when I do this again. A Pink’s “No No No” was one of my favorite things last year and I know Rania and your engrish alert is on point.

    3. KoreasTina · · Reply

      Two X – Ring Ma Bell. There was potential for some EPIC ENGRISH here with Eunyoung’s line “Bell, bell, ring ma bell, ring ma bell…”
      However, she managed to pull it off just fine. Also the actions to said chorus got through the censors how (fast framing of crotch aka bell?)?
      Bwahahaha bell…
      Also you gotta feel for the poor girl, getting rejected by VIXX’s N twice. Crying on international tv… Eunyoung is sexy, cute and deserves better. Shame on you N (yet I still love you).

  3. Crayon Pop is unadulterated pop music joy, and has a great success story from promoting themselves in the streets to being signed by Sony Music.

    ‘Bar Bar Bar’ was what got them noticed but my favourite is still their debut single ‘Bing Bing’, followed closely by ‘Dancing Queen’. There are many versions of ‘Bing Bing’, starting from when they were Hurricane Pop (Serang, instead of Way) but my favourite performance is the one below where they looked like they just woke up and stumbled onto stage to perform in sweat suits they slept in.

    Not many girl groups can get away with chewing gum or sucking on a lollipop while singing and dancing. Love their attitude and they’re a breath of fresh air in the saturated girl bands scene, but they need to stop their helmet wearing as it’s getting old. ‘Lonely Christmas’ was also kinda dumb.

    Now if you excuse me, I need to go listen to ‘Step’ by Kara again.

  4. Finally Crayon Pop. All members are cute (except Ellin. Who unarguably fucking hot), their songs are a great good zombifying virus on everybody’s ear, and they have great personality. If only Ellin have personal twitter or instagram, though.

    About fiestar, you’re choosing a wrong song, slugs. Listen to “VISTA” then you maybe will love these girls.

    Recommendation :
    Chocolat – Black Tinkerbell (Tia is hot. The song are good. Beware : Don’t ever listen to “Syndroms”)
    EXID – Every Night (It’s from October 2012. They’ve not comeback since then, but they are recording new songs now. Solji is a killer machine in kpop)

    1. Yes, FIESTAR’s debut single ‘Vista’ is very good. I find ‘I Don’t Know’ rather catchy too (and much better than ‘We Don’t Stop) but its MV is so incredibly distasteful, especially with taken with the lyrics. I think LOEN Music eventually caught on and released a “Special Clip” version of the ‘I Don’t Know’ MV without all the boobs leering. I look forward to seeing Jei on Waifu Wednesday.

      1. Shinsadong Tiger is said to be the mastermind of the video. EXID every night is also his work. Note to self : Call Shinsadong when you need help to make a pervy video.

      2. and goddamnit, i regret not having watch the special clip. Cao Lu and Jei looks wreckingball-y hot.

      3. Ok, this is a lot better than the original video.

  5. Ahhh…Crayon Pop. You jump on that train slug. I’ve been riding it since Bing Bing and haven’t regretted it for one moment.

    I find rookie groups to be an interesting challenge so I generally give all of them a listen whenever I first hear about them. Sometimes that’s a mistake (debut songs really can turn you off a group if you don’t like them) but sometimes you find a gem that you want to pass around to everyone so they can join in that shiny awesomeness.

    I agree with the others that said that FIESTAR’s ‘Vista’ is a much better song. ‘We Don’t Stop’ is also good.

    Hello Venus…I heard ‘Venus’ when it first came out and pretty much gave them up as a bad copy of Orange Caramel. I regret that now. Yeah, ‘Venus’ still hasn’t really grown on me but I’ve enjoyed the rest of their singles. Sweet, bubbly and perhaps a bit forgettable but still a guilty pleasure. ‘What Are You Doing Today’ is my pick. Also, Lime is awesome.

    I can’t really say anything about the others you tried. I think you picked BESTie’s best song (pitapat was an abomination). I actually quite like Ladies Code – I think they have potential and I’m interested to see what they do this year.

    Other recommendations:
    She’z – ‘My Way’ Ugh…I like these girls but there’s not much happening with them. Just a random single here and there.
    EVOL – ‘We are a bit different’ Not sure what’s happened to these girls. The whole Stardom Block B thing seems to have made them disappear. Fingers crossed they’ll comeback this year.
    EXID – “Every Night” Worth checking out. Again, keep your fingers crossed for a comeback this year.
    I want to say D-Unit but they lost a member and their most recent song without her didn’t impress me much. ‘Luv Me’, ‘Talk to My Face’ and their other early stuff is awesome though. Perhaps you can ignore the whole RAM being Boram’s sister thing? 😛

    1. WHAT!?! There’s more Boram’s out there!?! Why cruel world, why?

  6. I didn’t much like their debut, but I’ve grown to like Ladies Code quite a lot. They have pretty sweet vocals ( aka Sojung). Also , EunB’s butt dance is quite nice actually 😉

    Btw, Eunji and Lee Sem leaving Nine Muses ?? I’d love your opinion on it !

    1. Ok, very good arguments for Ladies Code. They will be kept in mind.

  7. Rookie groups/nugus have been the saving grace of K-pop over the last couple of years.

    Without them, I might have given up on the genre by now.

    The established groups released mostly crap over that same time period.

    1. Yup, can’t remember the last time an “established” group had a great hit worth celebrating. SISTAR and “Loving U”?

  8. Kpoptartsarebestpoptarts · · Reply

    Two things: Ladies Code is considerably more than just your “standard” kpop girl group. Sojung is outstanding, and the rest of the group is very talented. I can’t imagine anyone not liking “Pretty, Pretty”. The MV is fun and imaginative, and the song is everything that makes kpop what it is plus really good vocals. The other thing is that Lime alone sets Hello Venus apart from the crowd. She is simply amazing.

    AND STOP HATING ON BORAM!!!

    1. Looks like Ladies Code is getting some more backing than I initially thought. I’ll check out “Pretty Pretty”.

      As for Boram, my feelings are not something which I have control over. Asking me to stop hating on Boram is like asking me to stop worshiping Fei. It is done compulsively and naturally.

  9. Digging the BESTie song. Never heard of them before today.

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