This past Friday the three surviving members of Ladies' Code performed at a memorial concert in Tokyo dedicated to the memory of EunB and RiSe, who were killed almost a year ago when the group's speeding minivan skidded off a rain slicked expressway outside of Seoul and crashed into a retaining wall. Joining them for the show were fellow artists Kim Bum Soo, Ivy, YDG, Rumble Fish, Sun Woo and Han Hee Jun.
Girls' Generation recently dropped a new studio album, their fifth full length work, entitled "Lion Heart". The album topped most of the major digital album sales charts in Korea as well as Billboard's World Album Chart. The lead single, also called "Lion Heart", topped most of the real time music charts and won the top prize on all six TV music shows this past week.
We're still waiting for the English language debut of CL of 2NE1 but she reportedly has finished recording the album and filming a music video for the lead single. In the meantime she has been making the rounds as a guest performer at alt music festivals across North America and this past Sunday night walked the red carpet on the arm of her fashion designer friend Jeremy Scott at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles.
Today (3 September) marks the one year anniversary of the accident that claimed the lives of EunBi and RiSe of Ladies' Code. To mark the occasion Polaris Entertainment released a new version of the group's single "I'm Fine Thank You", recorded primarily by the label's other performers: Kim Bum Soo, IVY, Rumble Fish, Sun Woo and Han Heejun, along with surviving Ladies' Code member Sojung. A studio version of "Smile Even If It Hurts", recorded by Sojung and the other two remaining members Ashley and Zuny and performed at their recent memorial concert in Tokyo will be released on the 7th, the anniversary of RiSe's passing (EunBi died at the scene of the accident).
On a lighter note Birdie Buddy star Uee, better known as a member of the girl group After School, was spotted at the basic training graduation ceremony for TVXQ's Yunho (U-Know), an event normally only open to family and close friends. It has led to speculation that the two singers were dating before his enlistment but her label quickly put out a statement saying that they were just good friends.
Speaking of TVXQ, it looks as if their hiatus will now last only two years as the other half of the duo, Changmin (Max), is due to enlist on 19 November, the same day as Super Junior's Siwon. SM Entertainment also announced that two other members of Super Junior, Donghae and Eunhyuk, will also be donning camouflage beginning in October. The group just finished promotions for their latest single "Devil" and prior to that the subunit comprised of Donghae and Eunhyuk released a mini album of their own.
2NE1's leader CL opened up to a San Francisco DJ in a recent interview about how she first met Scooter Braun, what the other members of the group are up to at present and how she's a "studio rat" when she's working on new material.
Some controversy over the past weekend regarding the views expressed on Twitter by Super Junior member Siwon, who as previously mentioned in this thread will begin his enlistment in the military following the completion of his current TV drama.
K-pop stars aren't known for expressing opinions on current events, apparently to avoid controversy with fans who may not share the same point of view. In a past interview Siwon told a reporter that he refuses to accept acting roles where he would portray a sexually androgynous character because he is a devout Christian. His direct quote at the time: “I will respectfully refuse any such offers. While I respect all genders, I do not wish to acknowledge homosexuals as I have been taught that God created Man and Woman with specific characteristics and duties. I realize that with globalization, there are many [entertainers] who do not share my views. There are those who are value-oriented and those who are success-oriented. However shouldn’t an actor deliver an image to his audience through roles he chooses to portray, based on his beliefs in life?”
Over the past weekend he retweeted comments made by a conservative pastor named John Piper in relation to the case of Kim Davis, the elected county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples on religious grounds and was briefly jailed on orders of a federal judge for her stance. Siwon was compelled (by whom isn't clear) a short time later to issue this statement on Twitter in both Korean and English: "I deeply apologize for many of you who've been hurt by the re-tweets I posted today. I re-tweeted a source that has another opinion about legalizing gay marriage. However, I belatedly realized that this was not just a matter of posting a source's opinion after reading many tweets sent to me. My thoughtless tweets hurt a lot of people, and I'm humbled by the fact that I gave pain to a lot of fans, staff, and everyone else. I would like to communicate and learn more in the future. Again, I apologize to everyone I hurt with my re-tweets." He then removed all of his tweets on the issue, including the apology.
Eat Your Kimchi's Simon and Martina on their weekly show on SBS PopAsia radio weigh in on the issue:
THE DIVA FROM JERSEY IS BACK, KICKING BUTT AND TAKING NAMES:
I'm referring of course to the one and only Ailee, who dropped her first ever full length album yesterday. The title track above from "Vivid" is "Mind Your Own Business" and shows off the vocal pride of Leonia, NJ, in all her glory. Beginning with Thursday's M Countdown she'll be working all of the TV music shows promoting the song and the album.
I got a chance to see all of Ailee's comeback stages either live or in the case of Inkigayo on tape this past weekend and while this fanboy gives her an A for enthusiasm the fact that a recent injury to her right foot forced her to perform seated with her walking boot clashing with the rest of her stage attire diminished it somewhat.
Meanwhile I'm counting down the days until I venture down to Newark to see Big Bang live on Sunday. They're in North America now and this image from their first show last Friday in Las Vegas has the netizens buzzing:
Yes that is indeed actress Zhang Ziyi backstage with fellow actor Choi Seung-hyun, better known in the K-pop world as Big Bang member T.O.P. The picture above (and yes, HappyFan, those are finger hearts they're making) was posted on the Instagram account of Yang Hyun-suk, the head of Big Bang's label YG Entertainment. Lots of celebrities make it backstage to meet the lads but in this particular case T.O.P and Zhang also reportedly had dinner together after the show, although as it was the first time they had ever met and Zhang is actually engaged to Chinese rocker Wang Feng not much should be read into this aside from two people having an interesting conversation about their lives and careers.
Yang Hyun-suk has been rather chatty of late, to the bewilderment of his own publicity department. With the recent debut (finally!) of his new hip-hop group Ikon he also mused about Big Bang's future after their current world tour, noting that their contract with his company expires next year. He was rather coy about what will be next for them, but do remember that none of the members have performed their military service yet. He also revealed that PSY (remember him?) will make his comeback before the end of the year and that he's waiting to see how CL's long awaited English-language debut fares before making any further plans for her group, 2NE1. At some point early in 2016 he will also debut a new girl group.
Ikon had their maiden concert this past week in Seoul with a special appearance by fellow YG group Epik High, and by all accounts it was a rousing success. Here is the video of the experience Nichola from the My Korean Husband blog had:
This past Sunday I ventured down to Newark to see Big Bang conclude the US leg of their Made World Tour. The show was easily the best 2+ hours I have spent in quite some time as the fab five were at the height of their entertaining powers.
This was the best picture I could get from my perch in the balcony with my not-so-smart phone:
The show was advertised as starting at 8pm but got underway 25 minutes late. It began with the first segment of a mini movie of the lads within which the concert played out; the subsequent segments were shown during their costume changes. Most of the songs from their show were from either their current "Made" series of mini single albums (the full album is due soon) or from 2012's "Alive". Each member also had a stage where they performed one of their solo songs. Seungri and Daesung each performed a song I was heretofore unfamiliar with, while the enigmatic T.O.P burst through with his 2013 hit "Doom Dada". Taeyang brought the house down with an emotional rendition of "Eyes Nose Lips" and G-Dragon closed the solo stages with "Crooked". G-Dragon also had unit stages with T.O.P ("Zutter") and Taeyang ("Good Boy"). There were a couple of breaks where the guys spoke to the audience in English: the members' rank in descending order of fluency were Taeyang, G-Dragon, T.O.P, Seungri and Daesung. G-Dragon for most of the show was actually understated in his appearance in contrast to his usual stage persona: despite his solo success he looked that night very much part of this group (even in a turtleneck!). As the most fluent in English Taeyang had the more meaningful interactions with the crowd, while Daesung played the court jester with his mop top and playful demeanor, even breaking into a brief Michael Jackson-inspired dance solo in one segment and taking a turn behind the drum set for another type of solo.
As for the professional reviews of the show itself click on these links:
As for my other experiences that day I started out at 11am after topping off the Prius and checking the tires for the drive down to Stamford, where I caught the Metro North express train at 2:55pm for Grand Central Terminal. After a subway ride to lower Manhattan and the PATH train from the World Trade Center, a station and an area still very much a work in progress despite the completion of the Memorial and the new tower (picture below), I arrived in Newark at around 5pm in plenty of time to catch the vibe before the show.
Truth be known there wasn't much greeting me in Championship Plaza outside the Prudential Center when I got there: a food truck, a couple of lame bean bag toss games, a lone tent selling official tour merchandise (which was pretty sparse, as I'll explain shortly) and a DJ spinning mostly Big Bang songs to get the gathering crowd in the mood for the show. A queue had already formed of VIP level fans to get early entrance for the sound check while the rest of us waited. Finally we were let in with the written and verbal warnings not to bring in outside food, selfie sticks or any kind of dedicated audio or video recording device. After the metal detector and the wanding I got my ticket scanned and ascended the escalator to the main concourse.
I had time to do some walking around and found only three further tour merchandise stands, each selling three t-shirt designs (none in XL, sadly), cell phone cases (designed to fit Iphones, so nothing there for me either), sticker sheets and art dolls of the members (the latter at $130 each!). They also had a sign at one saying that they sold out (presumably at Saturday's show) of the signature light sticks which no serious fan of Big Bang can do without. Disappointed that I have no souvenir of my experience I made my way up another escalator to the upper level where my seat was located. The section of both concourses behind the stage was roped off but so too was the area behind the section of the upper concourse at the opposite end of the arena. Patrons who had tickets for the section of the balcony blocked off lined up and had their tickets exchanged for seats elsewhere to try to fill up the remaining sections, but I was unaffected though slightly inconvenienced. The crowd itself, or at least what I saw of it in passing, was mostly female and Asian, but curiously the people around me in the section of the balcony I was in were mostly Caucasian. I would very likely have been among the oldest fans in the building that night, but that didn't deter me from having a good time.
After the show ended at around 10:45pm I had to make my way back to Grand Central, mindful of the fact that the last train back to where I was parked in Stamford leaves at 1:53am. The PATH train leaving Newark at 11:20 was packed and only eased somewhat at Journal Square station as many connected for the train heading up the other branch for midtown Manhattan via Hoboken. On the way down I had taken two subway lines (the 5 to 14th Street and then the R) to get down to Cortland Street near World Trade but it was only another couple of blocks to the Fulton Street station from where I caught another Lexington Avenue train, the 4, back uptown. The subway map doesn't clue you in to just how close everything is in Lower Manhattan, an area I hadn't been to in fourteen years, so I had to relearn that lesson. Anyway I got back to Grand Central in plenty of time so I got on the next departure, a 12:25am local terminating in Stamford, and started to unwind from my day out. I arrived at around 1:30am, paid just $8 to get my car out of the garage and drove two exits back up I-95 to the closest McDonald's for dinner before I continued the rest of the way home, which I reached just around 5am.
Back at home relaxing Monday night I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Ailee was this week's guest on Arirang TV's After School Club! Her right foot was still in a walking boot but she said that it's healing. As it turns out, she broke her toe while filming the music video for "Mind Your Own Business" (hopefully NOT in the scene where she kicks the guy in, umm, the most sensitive part of the male anatomy). The full show is embedded below:
Ice You attended a boys band event? A friend (his wife was unavailable) took his 11 year old daughter to a Taylor Swift concert last week in Toronto...he said it was the 1st time he has never lined up to go to the men's room in Rogers Arena...I assume it was the same for you.
Is traffic and parking that sever that it's more convenient to take multiple modes of public transportation to downtown NYC?
Is traffic and parking that sever that it's more convenient to take multiple modes of public transportation to downtown NYC?
Yes, I'm strange like that. Seriously though, I drive for a living in and around Boston so I'm well versed in how to handle traffic and parking issues. New York City, on the other hand, is an intimidating place to navigate on four wheels and unless I have to I avoid driving into the city altogether. Sadly most road trips south of New England require either going through or around the metropolis, but for my now infrequent jaunts into Gotham itself I usually drive to southern Connecticut, take the train to Grand Central and get around on the subway. Going to Newark requires an additional step: the PATH train service from either midtown or the World Trade Center, which are more frequent and less expensive than the NJ Transit trains out of Penn Station. I had also utilized the Chinatown buses out of Boston but the one company remaining on the route along with its establishment-backed competitor have slightly reduced schedules that make this option less appealing now.
Two more reviews from this past weekend's Big Bang shows:
Seungri took time out while the lads were in Las Vegas to hit the links.
T.O.P admiring a work by Willem de Kooning at an art gallery in Toronto. The eldest member of the group is keenly interested in art and architecture, with most of the pictures on his Instagram account devoted to those fields. He recently replied to a female architecture student who posted about being discouraged and was contemplating dropping out of her studies at university, encouraging her not to give up.
T.O.P also posted the photo above on his Instagram with the caption "Young Bae with Anil Gupta". The former is Taeyang, while the latter is a famed tattoo artist in the US. Since none of the lads have fulfilled their mandatory military service yet I'm wondering if Taeyang's growing collection of body ink is going to cause him grief at the recruiting office when that day finally arrives for him to enlist.
In non-Big Bang related news, PSY is definitely coming back next month, even going so far as to shoot a music video for the lead single.
With promotions for Girls' Generation's recent album concluded the members have dispersed for various projects. The sub-unit TaeTiSeo (Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun) will probably return at some point before year's end, but Taeyeon is now on the charts with her solo debut entitled "I".
Soloist IU, who is due for a comeback any day now, recently revealed that she has been dating fellow musician Jang Kiha, eleven years her senior, for the past two years.
Well as you can plainly see there is now a definite date for PSY's next album. It curiously comes the day before this year's MNet Asian Music Awards show (aka the MAMAs) in Hong Kong, so there is the possibility that he will grace that stage with the lead single. As yet there is no word on his attendance or for that matter any YG artist, which is strange considering the big year Big Bang had as well as the debut of iKON.
Speaking of awards shows, the first one of the season was held this past weekend. The MelOn Music Awards are determined solely by digital sales and online votes. Big Bang was in attendance and took home Song of the Year ("Bang Bang Bang") and Artist of the Year as well as the Netizen Popularity Award. Best New Artist awards went to GFriend (female) and iKON (male), while Album of the Year was won by EXO ("Exodus"). In somewhat of an upset Mr JYP himself, Park Jin Young, won Best Music Video ("Who's Your Mama?").
In case you're like me and missed the show when it streamed live online relive the moments in the videos below:
Returning to Big Bang for a moment, the streaming service DramaFever will debut its first ever original production, BigBang "MADE" World Tour,on Wednesday 11 November for North American viewers only. The show covers the group's second show in Newark (the one I attended) as well as off stage views of the lads.
IU's new album "Chat Shire" dropped recently and despite not doing any of the TV music shows its lead single "Twenty-Three" topped nearly all of the real time music charts in Korea:
Controversy has found the "Nation's Little Sister" in the form of some lyrics on one of the other tracks on her self-produced album entitled "Zeze".
This photograph was taken at a function at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 4 November celebrating the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and the Republic of Korea. By now you all recognize the distinguished gentleman in the center as the President of the French Republic, Francois Hollande. The seven Korean lads flanking him are members of the K-pop group Block B, who were the only such group to attend this function which was also hosted by Minister of Ecology and former presidential candidate Segolene Royal. Block B performed before a sell-out crowd at Le Bataclan back in February as part of their European tour, the same venue that was the scene of so much carnage this past Friday evening. Most of the 129 confirmed deaths (as of this writing) from the wave of terror attacks across the French capital that night occurred at that concert hall.
Block B were especially heartbroken about this and released the following Tweets:
A couple of weeks ago YG Entertainment released a teaser image on social media with the phrase "Who's Next?" along with the date/time combination of 11/21 at 2100 (Korean time). Since Korean civilians are not used to the 24 hour clock some took the double mention of the number 21 to mean that the girl group 2NE1 would be making a comeback on that date.
Then within the past few days the Instagram accounts of YG's CEO Yang Hyun Suk along with 2NE1 members CL and Dara and Big Bang members G-Dragon and Taeyang released a series of images each consisting of just one letter. The puzzle was finally solved earlier today with this image:
The song referenced above is actually CL's long-awaited English language debut, produced not by YG but by Scooter Braun's label SB Projects. This is something that has been anticipated for months so it will be interesting to know how it sounds.
In other news, MNet finally got around to inviting Big Bang and iKON to the MNet Asian Music Awards, which are now just two weeks away. Another late addition to the lineup is Mr JYP himself Park Jin Young.
Making sure that all of the Big Three were mentioned in this report we have this new track from SM Entertainment boy group EXO. The tune is billed as a collaboration with Disney's upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, although it is unclear whether "Lightsaber" will be heard in the worldwide soundtrack or just in Korea.
Staying with SM for a moment we recently had a comeback from the now four woman ensemble known as F(x). They've been topping the charts and winning music shows with their new album and lead single, both titled "4 Walls.
JYP Entertainment's new nine member girl group Twice is the latest to receive mention on this side of the Pacific via Jenna Marbles' YouTube 15 weekly show on SiriusXM's Hits1 channel with their debut single "Like Ooh-Ahh".
Three more recent comebacks coming up in my next post...
As promised here are three recent comebacks of note. The first is "Young Wild and Free" from the boy group B.A.P. who have been on hiatus for the better part of a year and a half, mostly due to a contract dispute with their label which appears to have been resolved.
The girls of EXID are back as well with the digital single "Hot Pink"
A lineup shuffle preceded the comeback of girl group Rania with their new EP "Demonstrate". Among the new members is Alexandra Reid (not believed to be related to Tasha Reid AKA Yoon Mi Rae), reported to be the first African-American in recent history to become a member of a K-pop girl group. Because of visa issues she wasn't involved in the main filming of the music video for the title track (there's a second version where she's edited in performing her rap break) but she has been with the group on their current rounds through the TV music shows, beginning with this performance from 6 November on KBS2's Music Bank.
In YG news teaser images have been released from two of the tracks from PSY's forthcoming album, both of which appear to be collaborations. One is with hip hop/R&B artist Zion T and the other is with Xia Junsu of JYJ.
The song and dance video from CL's "Hello Bi+ches" appears to be what would be described as a warm up track for her actual English language debut which will occur when the full album is released in the near future. The dance crew accompanying the 2NE1 leader in the video may be familiar to some of you: the ReQuest Dance Crew out of New Zealand also appeared in the video for Justin Bieber's recent hit "Sorry"
The first set of performers for next week's MNet Asian Music Awards has been announced, and as I speculated PSY will be among them, along with CL, Big Bang and iKON. Also taking the stage will be Bangtan Boys, GOT7, Zion T and a special collaboration stage featuring F(x) and a British duo most of you may remember from '80s and '90s, the Pet Shop Boys. Given the various schedules that have to be juggled for artists to attend the show in Hong Kong FNC Entertainment, whose artists include the girl group A Pink as well as boy bands FTIsland and CNBlue, announced that they will not be attending. The show will stream live through this link and likely also air on MNet America from Midnight-6amPST/3-9amEST Wednesday 2 December so grab some of your favorite caffeinated beverage and tune in.