I don’t like cosplaying as a hobby.

While I was preparing for my Japanese studies as an incoming middle schooler, … I discovered cosplaying and a plethora of other Japanese stuff like anime, manga, gyaru (girl) style, visual kei style, …………

Anime and manga fans who cosplay – dress up as their favorite characters – were such “eye-candies” to me as a kid. The homemade or “professionally-made” costumes they wore were much more colorful, detailed, and unique compared to the Halloween costumes you’d see at your local party stores.

But soon after discovering the hobby, I realized that cosplaying is far from glamorous.

Continue reading “I don’t like cosplaying as a hobby.”

North Korea, Why K-Pop? Why Red Velvet?

Red Velvet – a South Korean K-Pop girl group – recently performed at North Korea.

North Koreans, and Kim Jong-Un, loved the performance much to Red Velvet and the world’s surprise!

skynews-red-velvet-north-korea_4270828

Of all the cultural exchanges that have to be evaluated and approved by the Kim regime, why K-Pop? Why Red Velvet? Why are they allowed to gain exposure in North Korea – a country that punishes its citizens for accessing foreign entertainment, especially South Korean stuff.

It’s the “Red Flavor”.

Yeah, I’m referring to Red Velvet’s song “Red Flavor”. Go listen to it below if you’ve never heard of it.

“Red Flavor” is one of Red Velvet’s many songs that give the girls a playful and delightful image. It’s easier for guys and girls to enjoy Red Velvet’s presence and music than those of other popular K-Pop singers that have a powerful image.

Also, maybe Kim Jong-Un isn’t too comfortable showing K-Pop acts like “South Korea’s Beyonce”, Ailee, because he doesn’t want his citizens to feel powerful and autonomous?

Aaannd, maybe North Koreans want to share their pride for their country with “Red Flavor”.

 

 

Image result for north korean red dancers
North Korea Mass Game Performance

Synchronization and Asynchronization

Both synchronization and asynchronization have been characteristics of K-Pop, but synchronization has stood out the most.

Synchronization in K-Pop was influenced by Japanese pop (J-Pop).

Asynchronization is a characteristic that K-Pop has refined recently when their choreography became heavily influenced by that seen in Western music videos.

Order, unity, and harmony in K-Pop and Red Velvet’s choreography make them seem a bit more appealing to North Koreans than, I guess, listening to solo artists like Justin Bieber dance with total asynchronization with his dancers to electronic music.

Gender

Going back to my point about how Kim Jong-Un might not be comfortable with showing “powerful” music and entertainers to North Koreans yet, Red Velvet is a favorable candidate to Kim because they’re girls. Male acts in K-Pop generally have a masculine and strong image, although there are some cases where male acts have a “soft” and cute concept.

Imagine if BTS was invited to North Korea. If they performed “Not Today” to North Koreans, then either people are going to react with patriotism or feel autonomous. It’s a 50/50 I guess.

BTS is South Korea’s most popular K-Pop act ever. They’ve won American music awards and have been guests at American shows. The group’s style is kinda reminiscent of 90’s boy bands infused with some street hip hop style and various other unique music genres. It’s really hard to describe their style. If you listen to their other songs, you’ll see that each song and album are vastly different from each other.

North Koreans might not be ready for BTS’ creativity and messages behind their songs. The messages behind Red Velvet’s songs don’t really seem “deep”. (I don’t mean to come across as offensive towards Red Velvet.) Really, their songs are just simply “bops”.

“Stay” by BLACKPINK vs. “Lonely” by 2NE1

Yay! Another song review!

Actually, they’re two song reviews!

maxresdefault.jpg
so happy

I chose to review “Stay” by BLACKPINK and “Lonely” by 2NE1 because both songs have the loneliness theme and are quite known for their unique acoustic melody.

(I was thinking about reviewing the song “Stay Together” by 2NE1 instead of “Lonely”, but I guess it’s better to go with “Lonely” because it’s popular like “Stay”.)

I’ve been a K-Pop fan since 2007 (when I was just starting middle school), and I’ve been a fan of 2NE1 ever since I stumbled across their MVs for “Fire” and “I Don’t Care” (in that order) when they just debuted. So, I’ll try to do an analysis of both songs without letting my inner 2NE1 fangirl influencing my comments too much, and compare the songs to other notable songs I’ve heard in K-Pop.


Since not everyone knows much about YG Entertainment and their singers, here’s a brief description of the company, 2NE1 and BLACKPINK.

(Note: When K-Poppers say “YG”, they’re usually referring to the company, and sometimes the CEO that the company is named after.)

YG Entertainment

The company was founded and is headed by Yang Hyun-suk. He was a K-Pop singer in a male group called Seo Taiji and Boys. That’s where YG Entertainment got it’s hip hop identity from – Hyun-suk’s hip hop idol background.

The company is focused on the hip hop genre. The YG songs you hear don’t really sound like “classic hip hop”; rather, their songs are more hip-hop-influenced or they creatively infuse the genre with other genres in a similar way to what mainstream American pop songs do.

Their first Asian mainstream success started with the singer Se7en. (I’ve never listened to his songs nor do I know anything about him. I’ve just heard YG artists mention his name in talk shows.) Se7en didn’t gain American mainstream success then (and now, sadly).

It was YG’s desire to compete with the American music industry and to popularize hip hop in South Korea that led them to create South Korea’s most successful hip hop solo singers, groups, and producer (Teddy).

YG’s first mega-success came from the five-member boy group BIGBANG. The group debuted in 2006, and steadily rose to success with songs like “We Belong Together” (2006) (a remake of Mariah Carey’s song, featuring Park Bom of 2NE1 before 2NE1 debuted) and “La La La” (2006). The song that first marked their legacy in K-Pop is “Haru Haru” (2008).

So why did I talk about BIGBANG? Well, read on!

2NE1

2ne1-main1.jpg
(from left to right) – Bom, Minzy, CL, and Dara

Not long after BIGBANG had breakthrough successes with “Haru Haru” and other Korean and Japanese singles, YG announced that they’d debut their first girl group – 2NE1.

2NE1 is known as the “sister group of BIGBANG” because both groups became the most notable figures of Korean hip hop, are very experimental with their music and fashion, and their closeness with each other (hence the term “YG Family”).

The name 2NE1 means “New Evolution of the 21st Century”.

The group was active for 7 years, from 2009 to 2016.

BLACKPINK

maxresdefault (1)
(from left to right) – Jennie, Rosé, Lisa, and Jisoo

Not long after the disbandment of 2NE1, YG announced that they’d debut a girl group that has the looks and talent – BLACKPINK.

BLACKPINK is known as the “2NE1 copycat” simply because they debuted with four-members and with two MVs like 2NE1.

Other than those similarities, both groups are extremely different stylistically; 2NE1 is known for it’s “powerful” image, while BLACKPINK has a “bubblegum” image.

(According to Jennie Kim of BLACKPINK, the group’s initial concept was a “powerful” image. Since the group didn’t debut with such a concept, she’s hoping that the group can have songs and MVs that are “a little less girly”. Jennie’s comment just further enforces the idea that BLACKPINK is a “2NE1 copycat” to those who don’t really analyze both girl groups.)

The name BLACKPINK means “classy” (“BLACK”) and “pretty” (“PINK”). Moreover, the color “BLACK” is added in front of “PINK” as to say that the group is more than just looks – they are talented as well.

BLACKPINK debuted in 2016 and is still active.


I hope my brief summary of the groups was good to read. Did you learn anything new?

Okay, now onto the song reviews! (LOL.)

(Note: I’ll be reviewing the songs without knowing the English-translated lyrics at first.)

Melody

Both songs have a plucking style.

The strumming in “Stay” seems to stand out more than the plucking, especially when the guitar strumming is emphasized with the “humming” of a harmonica. I guess it’s because the composer was going for a “campfire song” feel.

The melody of “Stay” makes you shift between sadness and happiness, while “Lonely” just invokes deep sadness throughout the whole song.

Because of how the strumming pattern stands out more in “Stay”, if I wanted to learn how to play the song on my guitar, I can easily learn the song’s chords and happily play the song without knowing the plucking pattern.

And since the plucking pattern stands out more in “Lonely”, I wouldn’t really be satisfied with playing the strumming pattern for the song.

(Most online sources post guitar chords for songs, and those chords are either accurate or pretty close. Whenever I come across guitar tabs online, they’re kinda off.)

As a guitarist, I love plucking. But if I had to choose between these two songs to learn, I’d pick “Stay” because of it’s tone (mood). The acoustic melody and plucking style of “Lonely”, while they’re so unique and beautiful, just makes me… sad. And that’s a feeling that I and a lot of people are uncomfortable with.

And you know, that’s probably why there a more views for the “Stay” MV than the “Lonely” MV – because people just don’t want to feel totally sad when they hear a song.

MV Styles

Both MVs have subdued, muted colors.

The “Lonely” MV focuses more on gray tones and has greater contrast in color tones, while the “Stay” MV has neon colors popping in front of gray backgrounds even though the contrast isn’t that high.

The wardrobe for the “Lonely” MV doesn’t seem to compliment the song. The girls seem to be rocking a punk-styled look, which I guess is supposed to emphasize their strong-woman image instead of adding anything meaningful to the song.

But the clothes BLACKPINK wore in the “Stay” MV kinda compliment the song (I guess?). The girls are wearing clothes that make them seem youthful, which I guess makes sense since the song has a “campfire song” feel.

Another thing that I just noticed while watching the MVs for this review is that the “Lonely” MV has background extras while the “Stay” MV doesn’t. Yeah, I mentioned how “Stay” doesn’t seem as sad as “Lonely”, but I’m surprised that I can feel the song’s up-beatness in the MV while watching the BLACKPINK members prancing around without any background extras to lighten the mood of the ghost town.

Which MV is better? In my opinion, “Stay” because of how the song and MV gets you feeling lonely but not-so-lonely at the same time.


That’s it for the reviews! I have class coming up. I wrote this blog post just before class, and I don’t think I have any time this semester to edit draft posts.

I can’t wait to review other songs I’ve been listening to like “Gashina” and “Heroine” by Sunmi.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you’re into any K-Pop songs and singers.

~EDIT~

Okay, I have time to say a few things in this blog post!

MV Styles

I wanna add one more comment about 2NE1’s “Lonely” MV – I love the muted color scheme because it’s pretty uncommon in K-Pop MVs.

Vocals

“Lonely” is a difficult song to sing, in my opinion. Why? Each member of 2NE1 (well, not so much Minzy) has such unique vocals. I don’t mean to bash on Minzy; I just think that Minzy’s parts are pretty easy for anyone with a stable voice to sing. CL’s raspy voice, Dara’s cute and childish voice, and Bom’s nasal voice are pretty difficult to mimic. Okay, maybe CL’s voice isn’t as special as Dara and Bom’s voices, but it’s definitely much more distinguishable than Minzy’s voice.

On the other hand, “Stay” sounds pretty easy for anyone to sing. Rosé (the first girl who sings in the song) has an airy voice that seems unique, but it has been proven by other vocal trainers that it’s possible for any singer to mimic Rosé’s voice just by practicing the same (bad) vocal technique as her. Jennie is another singer from the group that is often praised for her vocals, and I gotta say that she does have a nice-sounding voice even though it’s nothing “special” really (compared to Rosé and Bom’s voices). Lisa and Jisoo are supposedly the weakest vocalists in the group, but they’re voices are quite pleasant to hear even though it sounds like they’re mostly “sing-talking”.

So, I think “Lonely” has the best vocals of the two songs not just because of 2NE1’s unique vocals, but mostly because of Dara’s pleasant voice. I mean, apart from the string instruments heard in the chorus, Dara’s voice alone really sets the mood for the song! When I listen to “Stay”, the instrumentals seem to be the ones that are setting the tone of the song, not anyone’s voices in BLACKPINK.

Okay, it seems pretty unfair for me to pick a song just because of one person’s voice, LOL. I don’t know what else to think. It just feels like everyone else in 2NE1 is “supporting” the mood set by Dara’s voice in “Lonely”. Usually, it’s the other way around in most 2NE1 songs; Dara’s voice would be “drowned out” or “in the background” while the three other members of 2NE1 would set the mood with their voices. And that’s what makes the vocals in “Lonely” so good – the softness of Dara’s solemn voice combined with the vocal “cries” of everyone else.


That’s it for the reviews! I have class coming up. I wrote this blog post just before class, and I don’t think I have any time this semester to edit draft posts, and to compare “Stay” and “Lonely” with other K-Pop songs (as promised earlier in this blog post). Maybe I’ll do some follow-ups in another blog post.

Re: “… I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”


There are those that empathize others without putting in the effort to totally understand them, and those who wish that they really understand who they are empathizing.

Being one of those types of people is alright; it is only human to value each other’s lives.

However, it is outright inhumane to simplify other people’s life stories.

Despite the good intention behind Ms. Lena Dunham’s comment (to relate to women who had gone through abortion such as her mother and friends), her trifling comment implies that it is easy for anyone (including herself) to understand the emotional turmoil and stressful decisions that abortionists dealt with through impregnating oneself and signing the paperworks.

I hope that Ms. Dunham realizes that putting oneself into the shoes of others only makes you relatable to who you are mirroring on the outside, not inside.

Although I believe that killing people (including unborn babies) is never morally justifiable, I also believe that people have the right to control their lives.

I may not go through great lengths to understand abortionists, but I care about them and am trying to reflect my sympathy through this blog post.

I pray that those who are contemplating on and have decided on what to do with their child(ren) the very best.

baby-phillip-05

Review of CL’s “Lifted”


As a BlackJack (2NE1 fan), I know that former 2NE1 member CL is no stranger to experimental music. In fact, I adore her for pioneering K-pop culture by creatively infusing all sorts of different styles and genres, and, in effect, efficaciously marketing it toa diverse global audience.

When I first heard her song “Lifted” (before the music video came out), I immediately thought of two 2NE1 songs that include reggae in them: “Come Back Home” and “Falling In Love”.

These three songs not only amplify the diversity in K-pop culture, but it also further breaks down cultural, language, and geographical borders.

However, “Lifted” is a much more successful song than “Falling In Love” and “Come Back Home” in that it epitomizes the K-pop culture as something that is not strictly Korean.

I’m impressed by how the song is clearly sung in English. As a native English speaker in America and someone who has been listening to foreign music for a long time, I find it difficult to understand songs when the singer(s) speak English either with strange pronounciations and/or grammatical mistakes.

Hearing CL speak English makes it so much easier for me to connect with her and Koreans in general, as well as allow her to connect with people who enjoy listening to English songs (especially those who do not even understand English).

I also love how the music video takes place in New York City. The choice of setting proves to the world and the whole music industry that K-pop is like a chameleon in that it can adopt whatever new characteristics it comes across by anywhere while retaining its original Korean character.

Beyoncé’s “Freedom” From Different Angles (Part I)

My analysis of Beyonce’s song “Freedom” from viewing the music video and live performance.

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move
Freedom, cut me loose!
Yeah, freedom! Freedom! Where are you?
‘Cause I need freedom too!
I break chains all by myself
Won’t let my freedom rot in hell
Hey! Imma keep running
‘Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves

 


 

Beyoncé cry for “Freedom” in her sixth and latest album Lemonade can be viewed from different angles.

In this post, I analyze the messages I got from viewing the “Freedom” music video.

 

25-beyonce-lemonade-cover.w750.h560.2x.jpg

 


 

Music Video

(Click here to view the music video)

 


 

African Americans had their freedom stripped mostly by early Europeans and European-Americans.

This is represented by how everyone in the video was dressed in what seems to be old-fashioned, European-styled clothes.

Although African Americans assimilated into the European and European-American cultures when they were enslaved, most Europeans and European-Americans never wanted to infuse the African culture into theirs.

 

Without freedom, people are lifeless.

Not only do the dresses make African Americans look European, but they also make people look like dolls.

Even though dolls look human, they do not have souls and a life, therefore having no freedom. Moreover, dolls do not have control over their bodies; they are manipulated by their users.

African Americans were portrayed as dolls in the video because their superiors (slave masters, those who are racist towards African Americans, etc.) dehumanized them in order to suppress their freedom.

 

quvenzhane_wallis.png

 

Without confidence, freedom is hard to achieve.

The African American ballerina in the video displayed a lack of confidence in the way she occassionally stumbled, halted, kept her head down, and averted her eyes away from the audience.

Even though the ballerina seems like a good dancer, there is an invisible yet visible, and intangible yet tangible force that hinders her from expressing her full artistic character. (That force most likely comes from European and European Americans because of the reasons I mentioned earlier.)

 

The journey to freedom can feel frightening.

The ballerina’s clumsy dance can also show how frightened she is by her audience. Her audience not only outnumbered her, but they were also binded together by darkness. Because of how her audience was not expressing any sentiment towards her dance, she tried to ignore them and stay within her small and brightly-lit stage (a.k.a. her world).

Freedom may have be restricted to that small, warm stage, but the ballerina was not afraid to fight against her fear of the large, cold world that encapsulated the stage she desired to be in.

 

It takes at least one person to get freedom.

While others never dared to step onto the stage, Beyoncé and the ballerina each got freedom of expression and to think for oneself when they were on the stage.

In addition to that, both women show that as long as one has the willpower to get freedom and acts upon it, then freedom is guaranteed.
1280_michaela_deprince_lemonade_parkwoodentertaintment_001.jpg

 

Women lack freedom.

The long dresses in the video narrow the focus of viewers on the faces and body movements of the dissatisfied-looking women instead of their curves so that the women can better communicate how they lack the freedom to express their bodies not only in front of other men, but also in front of themselves and other women.

That lack of freedom should not only be blamed by men, but by women as well. Women who do not try to express a positive definition of female beauty make themselves essentially promote the dehumanization of themselves and other women.

 

 

The dream of freedom is timeless.

The stiff and still people shown in the black-and-white scenes of the video represent generations of people who were deprived and dreaming of their freedom.

In contrast, the individual people shown in the colorful scenes of the video show how despite how a lot of time has passed, people’s freedoms are still being overshadowed.

Throughout history and today, people hope to break free from the enduring chains set by themselves and their suppressors so that they can end the everlasting cycle of oppression.

 

People are naturally never completely satisfied with their freedom.

Despite how women want to dominate their patriarchal society, they feel incomplete. This is depicted through the female-populated garden in the video.

The garden may be reminiscent of Eden, while the women may be reminiscent of Eve. Both Adam and Eve were created for each other to balance themselves in the world.

Perhaps the women in the video have been so influenced by their enemies that characteristics of their enemies still reside within their world and themselves.

 

Beyonce-Women.jpg

 

Freedom is difficult to find.

Freedom may be in hindsight, but it is difficult to find because of how it is invisible and concealed by others.

If the woman holding a mirror in front of her face in the video represents freedom, than she indicated how only freedom can identify itself while those on the other side of the mirror cannot.

In addition to that, the ballerina’s audience may not have caught a glimpse of freedom because of how the ballerina’s awkward performance failed to release the freedom that resides in her mind and, therefore, transform the environment into one that is capable of housing freedom.

 

False freedom imprisons people.

Regardless of whether or not we realize how we and/or others possess false freedom, false freedom imprisons people. That is because some choose to live in a bubble, while others live in a bubble unwillingly.

The woman wearing a thorny head accessory in the video is redolent of the Statue of Liberty. She may be an African American, but calling herself American does not change the fact that she does not have the full freedom she wishes for in a place where discrimination towards Africans exist.

 

o-winnie-harlow-facebook

 


 

If there are any ofher ways to interpret the song and its music video, please leave a reply below. I love to learn about other people’s insights.

ERROR: Will North America Have Another Video Game Crash?

The likelihood exists.

 

From 1983 to 1985, North America experienced a dreadful two yeras of the “video game crash” (a.k.a. the “Atari Shock”). The video game industry had a massive recession; revenues suddenly fell drastically and the second generation of console gaming abruptly ended. Although America was able to recover from that dreadful period mostly due to the flourishing success of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985 and long afterwards, there are some troubling parallels to the crash with the way today’s video game industry is heading.

One of the main reasons why the crash happened is because computers were improving more rapidly than game consoles and, therefore, seemed more appealing to gamers. This is happening today with the not-so-enhanced PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii consoles compared to the advanced Apple, Microsoft, Lenovo, ASUS, Dell, HP, Acer, and other computers. While game consoles try to market themselves as an all-around entertainment system with their media streaming and library, computers are powerful enough for gamers to play games, view media, and do much more.

Another reason why the crash happened is because stores were filled with remarkably similar games. Today’s gaming market lacks originality with sequels that closely mirror their prequels (e.x. the Super Mario series), as well as new games that are near-copies of other games (e.x. Call of Duty and Battlefield). While there are game titles that do break away from that mold, they rarely become bestsellers. (When they do, their popularity grows at a much slower rate than game titles that have had a long history of success.) For that reason alone, game companies are afraid to gamble on uniqueness, and instead adhere to cater towards an audience of nostalgists and newcomers. The lack of diverse games will quickly make gamers bored, which will then cause a stagnation in the game market.

Lastly, like the video game industry between 1983 and 1985, today’s video game industry has an issue with budgeting. One of the biggest marketing failures of the 21st century is the WiiU, which did not sell as much as its predecessor, the Wii. This is largely due to the fact that when the Wii was first announced in 2005, it shocked the world with its family-friendly games and innovative motion controllers. Soon after its launch in 2006, Nintendo prospered from customers that included gamers and non-gamers; families and friends; young and old; and those that liked indoor and outdoor activities. Then, the Wii experienced a downfall in popularity due to various reasons, including how Wii game selections mostly included single player games, and how smartphones and tablets allowed their users to download gaming apps for free. The announcement and release of the WiiU surprised people, but failed to promise anything revolutionary.

If the video game industry were to experience another crash, I highly doubt that it will be as severe as the crash of 1983 since the gaming culture is immensely popular. Also, with nostalgists and newcomers supporting “recycled” games, the gaming culture will not only discontinue to evolve, but it will also leave gamers stuck in a closed community and prolonged loop of familiarity. To all the game companies (including my beloved Nintendo): Don’t just think about monetizing. If you all focus on ingenuity, then I, seasoned gamers, and curious outsiders will gladly hand over our money to you all.