Recently, former EXO member Tao (Huang Zitao), got into hot water with some BTS ARMY members when he became agitated after some girls in Iceland—who believed he was “somebody” but didn’t know for sure—asked him if he was a member of BTS.
He explained he had been in EXO, information that drew a blank.
After the girls left, he went on a rant to his cameraman, telling him to cut out that part because it was embarrassing to be mistaken for another group’s member, and how EXO was much bigger than BTS at the time he was in the group, but now all of a sudden he was assumed to be a member of BTS simply because he was Asian. It didn’t help that he is isn’t even Korean, but of Chinese descent.
? Tao’s encounter:
ARMY was riled by his rant, but let’s look at the situation from Tao’s point of view for a moment.
I get that there are times when people say you might look like so-and-so if you happen to actually resemble a certain person, but in this cases, no, Tao doesn’t resemble any member of BTS, not even if you squint or are partially blind.
Anyone who’s woke would be agitated by the racism at play here. It happens when K-pop groups promote themselves in western countries. There are videos of groups passing out fliers in L.A. and New York, with people asking them if they are BTS. When they answer no, the people are suddenly disinterested and walk away. So rude.
The take-away when these kinds of things happen is that there are people who think all Koreans, or Asians in general, look alike, and these people can’t be bothered to really look at them and take note of their individual features, personalities and charms.
To these kinds of people, BTS is not Jin, J-Hope, Suga, RM, V, Jimin and Jungkook, but a featureless mop-topped Asian mob that descends in unison down red carpets and onto their small screens.
I’ve seen this in my friends as well, who cannot even distinguish the members of a much smaller group like Shinee, with only five members who look drastically different. One friend said she could only recognize them by hair color and I had to explain that is no basis for recognition because K-pop stars change their hair color all the time.
Is it really that hard to just look at a person? Granted, South Korea does have a largely homogenous society, and combined with rampant plastic surgery, many of their features are more similar than that of a multi-cultural nation like the United States. But failing to look beyond ethnicity makes someone less of a person, and more of a curiosity or object to be ignored. And maybe that is the insult Tao was really reacting to.
I couldn’t resist taking a stab at Ziko’s any song challenge. It’s such a fun song and the choreography is supposed to be simple enough to allow anyone to take him up on the challenge.
Even though the choreography is pretty easy, I still had my challenges. First of all this was my first time trying to dance solo, and just to be different from the thousands of other found videos online, I decided I needed a different backdrop. In Hawaii, heading to the beach is a no brainer because everyone loves to see blue sky and blue ocean.
The only problem was I was heading to the Big Island so I needed to do it quickly and it was on a holiday and everyone was at the beach.
So, in addition to trying to remember the sequence of the choreography, I had the additional challenges of sun in my eyes, wind whipping my hair into my face, and hundreds of people walking by, including those so oblivious as to pass behind me while the camera was rolling. Doh!
There’s a lot of pressure when people are walking by which made it harder than it would’ve been if I had stayed home.
? Zico and Mamamoo’s Hwasa show the challenge choreography:
In fact, it would have been easy to stay home and not do this at all, but I love this song and was compelled to be in the moment. Perhaps it’s 2020 energy at work, which is about tackling your fears before you can attain abundance. It’s supposed to be a momentous year for those willing to take action toward achieving longtime dreams.
Plus, I can relate to a song about getting older and feeling tired and bored but recharging by putting on any song and dancing any way you want.
It’s such an upbeat, fun song that earned Zico the honor of creating the first all-kill song of 2020, meaning it topped six major Korean music charts.
? The official video:
In spite of the public situation I put myself in, and my inability to smile where necessary due to those conditions, I got through the dance and survived, so I await the next challenge!
Note: For the sake of having a personal archive of dances, I said I would be posting my beginning dances from last year but I have at least 52 since last March. And I’m definitely more excited about what I’m doing now, so going forward, I think I will start posting those videos with the theme “On this day last year” until I’m all caught up. I will start to post those older videos in mid-March.
I thought I had said all I was going to say about Chen’s marriage announcement on Jan. 13, but just wanted to elaborate a little more on the different reactions East and West.
In the West, fans seem mostly chill, but in Korea and Japan there is anger, talk about withdrawing their support for Chen, and demands that SM Entertainment oust Chen from EXO.
For SM and EXO, there are financial repurcussions from the announcement. Yesterday, Nature Republic announced that it will not renew EXO’s contract to represent Nature Republic in their ad campaigns after a 7-year relationship. That could be simply be a matter of the group reaching it’s 9th year and the members getting older. Certainly, there are a plethora of fresh faces that would make good candidates to sell beauty, such as star rookies TXT and other groups making an impact such as NCT Dream (if they were to stay with SM), Stray Kids and Ateez.
The announcement could just be a coincidence, or the announcement may simply have reinforced feelings that, like EXO, EXO-Ls have aged out of the market for Nature Republic, which is more of an entry-level beauty brand.
So, I just did a reaction video with a friend from Japan, who could help explain from her perspective why fans in Japan and Korea have given up on Chen. We also talk about the likelihood of him being kicked out of EXO as some fans are requesting.
It really doesn’t help that his fiancée lacks the judgment and maturity to keep their personal life private. What is fueling fans’ ire even more are the photos she has posted on her Instagram feed of their home, the bed they share and stacks of Hermés boxes, which some fans are assuming are gifts from other fans, even though Chen announced last summer that he would no longer accept gifts from fans.
Comments translated by Allkpop include: “His girlfriend is making a scene trying to become famous” and “She must be super happy that all of her newlywed furniture was paid for by fans.”
? Some background as to how Korean fans have felt about EXO dating in the past:
BTS is not only a music phenomenon, but a cultural phenomenon, and one reason for the group’s popularity has been its use of its influence to foster optimism and forward thinking around the globe. This time, they’ll be doing it through art, with a new global project called “Connect, BTS,” a series of large-scale art projects involving 22 artists and five cities on four continents.
The intent is to connect people across continents, via art. The first work, an immersive audio-visual forest experience titled “Catharsis,” by Jakob Kudsk Steensen, opened yesterday at the Serpentine Galleries in London. Other works will be unveiled Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York through spring.
Kim Taehyung is the group’s resident art lover and painting enthusiast, and during tour downtimes is known for seeking out museums and galleries. He has surprised gallerists around the world by walking into their galleries and openings unannounced, and leaving with purchases.
You can read more about the project at the links below:
While BTS is once again building bridges around the world and spreading their brand of positivity, inclusiveness, culture, artistry and intelligence, it made me think of their detractors, for whom BTS seems to be a trigger for their xenophobic and homophobic sentiments.
BTS’s army of fans has a history of going after such detractors, and in doing so, amplify their rants. Two of the biggest trash talkers have mocked Army for doing just that, and in so doing only spread the negativity and increased the audience of those pot-bellied buffoons with dinosaur-age thinking.
They think of Army as no more than “a bunch of teen-age girls,” but already those “teen-age girls” are a force to be reckoned with and will be the ones wielding political might in the future. Yes, they pool their resources to do some pretty fangirl things, like buying billboards in Times Square, newspaper ads and subway ads to celebrate their favorite K-pop stars’ birthdays, but following BTS’s lead, they’ve also used their numbers and resources to build wells in Africa and fund humanitarian projects around the globe. Connected through a love of BTS, they’re able to mobilize for good causes.
So, going forward, I am not naming those major detractors in favor of suggesting a new tack. That is, just ignore the naysayers. The impulse of Army has always been to protect and defend BTS, but for the most part, the antis are nobodies who want attention. So, don’t give it to them. Don’t give them a voice so they can just go back and crawl back under the rock from which they emerged.
The ones most vocal in the west most only reveal themselves to be intellectually inferior, racist homophobes. History will have no place for them, but BTS is already in the pantheon of greats as musicians. As a force for change, fostering peace and diversity, they are doing much more than politicians. Imagine if they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize sometime in the future. Then the whole world would have to pay attention.
And based on some early numbers, there are more who want to hear their messages. Today their management company Big Hit Entertainment announced that “Map of the Soul: 7” has sold a record 3.42 million preorders in its first week of availability, making it likely that the album to be released Feb. 21, will top sales of last year’s chart-topping “Map of the Soul: Persona,” which sold 2.685 million preorders in its first five days.
HONOLULU — In my corner of the world, people seem to need three weeks to recover from the holiday season, as slowly the social calendar is beginning to fill up with events.
But K-pop never rests, and in my anguish over the terrible treatment of X1 and their disbandment and the excitement of Treasure being liberated from its prison at YG, I overlooked the Jan. 7 announcement that BTS will drop the next chapter of its “Map of the Soul” series on Feb. 21.
Pre-orders for “Map of the Soul: 7” is going on now, and two days later Big Hit Entertainment released a beautiful comeback trailer, “Interlude : Shadow,” featuring Suga (Min Yoongi). This song makes me feel really sad to think of all that he and BTS have been through to get where they are, only to find how lonely it is at the top.
Ah, it’s so good, but I’m glad I didn’t know this was going to be out ahead of time. I probably would have tried to record a reaction video and end up crying as soon as his singing kicked in.
So instead, check out this explainer from DKDKTV’s Danny Kim on the Jungian perspective that defines the “Map of the Soul,” and a music producer’s perspective on the song.
Congratulations to A.C.E.’s Kim Byeongkwan, who became host of Arirang’s “Pops in Seoul,” a K-pop music and news program on Jan. 6, taking over for Stray Kids’ Felix Lee (Lee Yong Bok), who had held the position since last July, but is leaving on a world tour with his group.
Byeongkwan should do well because he has such an outgoing personality and as the main dancer for A.C.E, he’ll be able to keep up the K-pop dance lessons that became so popular when Samuel Kim and Felix were hosts.
I’ve been seeing a lot more of Byeongkwan lately, after having wondered how well he was doing after finishing in fourth place on the K-pop survival show “Mixnine.” The show was to create a debut group out of the top nine finishers from either a girls- or boys-only team, but the debut never happened. He was really talented but one can only follow so many people, and because I arrived at “Mixnine,” going backward in time after having watched YG “Treasure Box,” I continued following the YG participants, Choi Hyun Suk, Lee Byoung Gon and Kim Jun Kyu.
I was reminded how outrageous Byeongkwan can be when he and A.C.E’s Wow released a cover music video of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” last month, which is so awesome.
I’m really going to miss Felix’s Aussie accent, but looking forward to what Byeongkwan will show us in the months ahead.
? A comparison of Byeongkwan and Felix’s dance lessons:
Yesterday came the shocking news that no stan ever wants to hear, that is, Chen (Kim Jongdae) from EXO is getting married. Not only that, it’s probably because his fiancée is knocked up!
He was my second bias, after my forever bias Jonghyun, but since then I’ve moved on and I’m not really that shocked. We never know about the personal lives of K-pop stars because their companies don’t want to risk alienating fans who want to believe their idols are available. But I did see some photos circulating of Chen with his alleged girlfriend from time to time, and thought well, why wouldn’t he have a girlfriend? He was my bias because I saw his good qualities as a person who over time has taken good care of EXO members, and would make a great husband and father one day because he’s so kind, caring, humble, capable of doing man chores (in spite of having everything done for him as an idol), and good with kids.
? Other EXO members are not that helpful so cooking chores often fall to Chen and D.O. This episode was funny, when the meat he was cooking blew off the grill and he looked so sad, but he was able to rescue some:
Even though EXO is one of the biggest groups in the world, he never came off as being arrogant or egotistical.
After the news broke, someone asked me how I thought fans would respond and while this kind of news is usually met with vitriol from stans who claim ownership over idols, I think Chen, being who he is, has a calmer fandom who will be more happy about the news than bitter.
There was a time when Exols begged EXO members not to date until after the age of 50 (usually idols wait to announce the news after military service when at 30 they are considered over-the-hill). At the time Chanyeol quipped, “Then we will date just before we die!”
But Exols are getting older themselves, and with lives of their own, I hope they can be more understanding of idols’ private lives than younger fandoms.
Also, Chen never put himself out there as being flirtatious or available. He’s really reserved, so he probably never had the kind of rabid, immature followers that someone like BTS’s Jimin has, because Jimin is so blatant in his courting of Army.
? EXO Chen & Xiumin on “The Return of Superman”:
Following is a translation of Chen’s letter to fans, breaking the news:
It’s just sad that Chen had to be so stressed and worried about putting the word out there, but I think his sincerity and heartfelt love for his fiancée will win the day and win fans over to continue to support him in his group and solo projects.
? EXO Showtime Haunted House episode, in which Chen was the kind one who gave heat packs to the cold “ghouls”:
Of course I am speaking from an American perspective and things are a little different with fans from Korea and Japan who are really angry and are not only giving up on following him but asking him to leave EXO, rather than taint the group.
A friend from Japan explained Japanese thinking by comparing it to revering their emperor as a god. Just like an emperor, there is a mythology surrounding idols and the Japanese don’t regard them as ordinary human beings. They must be above human frailty. These fans also pay a lot of money to support these artists and in return demand a certain degree of loyalty from them by giving the appearance of being “perfect,” single and therefore, obtainable. Even my friend who is able to be rational and cognizant of the illogical behavior of fans, says it is hard to escape that mentality drilled into them from childhood.
So now in Japanese (and Korean) social streams many are saying they won’t support Chen, knowing the money they spend on music, merchandise and concert tickets will flow to his wife and child. I’m really sad to hear that in Asia he is getting death threats and several of his fan sites have closed down, as people who had claimed to love him are abandoning him.
That raises questions about his future with EXO if he were to become a stain on the group’s future activities because most of their financial support comes from Japan fans. EXO is SM Entertainment’s biggest cash cow and they really have no replacement as newer group NCT hasn’t begun to match their success.
? Chen was No. 4 on iHeartRadio Ellie Lee’s rundown of sexiest men in K-pop, 2017:
Chen is one of EXO’s main vocalists, and would be sorely missed since other vocalists Xiumin and D.O. are now serving in the military, and as a ’91 liner, Suho should be announcing his enlistment some time this year, leaving Chen and Baekhyun as the only main vocalists. Baekhyun cannot carry EXO by himself with vocal duties that can’t be filled by rappers Chanyeol and Sehun, and dancer Kai.
So I don’t know how SM will take the demands for Chen’s removal. I can see where it will be a problem for sponsors such as Nature Republic, if fans refuse to purchase anymore items related to Chen.
The best news would be to see him following in the footsteps of Hyuna and Hyojong, who are showing there are second acts in K-pop for those strong enough to stand up for themselves and their relationships.
If others are brave enough to come out, people in Asia will slowly have to accept the idea that idols are not gods but only human. It may take a generation, but hopefully at some point in the future they won’t have to hide their relationships. I think it’s better to be honest up front then to hit us with a surprise later. Isn’t that true of any good, honest relationship?
It’s funny how we lose motivation so quickly after the new year. Last year I wanted to post my dance videos to track my progress over time. I had some catching up to do, as this thought occurred to me after I had already built up a 6-month backlog of videos.
Well, now I find myself 10 months behind, so I will probably try to bunch them up. These dances are from March 9 and 16, 2019, Pentagon’s “Naughty Boy,” Twice’s “Yes or Yes” and EXO’s “Love Shot.”
At any rate, this is a good time to talk about my journey to date. When I started, I didn’t know what I was getting into. A friend wanted to learn to dance, and it sounded like fun so I said OK to K-pop dance. I didn’t even like K-pop. I was the only anti in class and I couldn’t understand why women my age were gushing over young boys. Whenever the teacher asked for requests for favorite songs or groups, I said I didn’t know any and that I was just there for exercise. This was in late February 2018, but by the end of April I was hooked.
A switch came in May when we did EXO-CBX’s “Blooming Days.” It’s a really difficult dance and at the time I didn’t want to be recorded on videos, but even without seeing how I looked, I never felt good about it, so I knew I had to go back for some remedial technique, having never danced in my life. Also, prior to starting K-pop dance, I was living a sedentary life for 30 years, but I wanted to lose some weight and become stronger as I thought about issues associated with aging, since I am no spring chicken and want to remain ambulatory in my old age.
I also had regrets about never having taken dance classes when I was a child, the result being I was never a good mover, and never had the coordination one develops when making those brain-to-limb neural connections in childhood.
I’ve made some interesting discoveries along the way. I once thought that dance is a purely physical activity, but I have learned the physical part is the easiest. I believe that dance is 1 part physicality, 1 part musicality and 1 part mental strength.
The hardest part is mental, not only remembering the moves—which I have extreme difficulty doing—but also having the focus and confidence to get out there in the first place. You really have to believe you can do it. I struggle with the mental challenge of dance, and it’s not something that instructors—who are typically natural movers and naturally gregarious—can help me with. I feel like what I need is a good sports coach.
Although K-pop is one of the few styles that requires no dance experience to get started, to improve my lines and form, I added on ballet, modern, jazz, hiphop, heels, some African-Caribbean and body mechanics, everything employed by K-pop choreographers. I did all that for the next six months and came out of it ready for the camera by February 2019. Well, imperfect of course, but I wanted to track any improvement over time.
Even though I’m still not very good, I am enjoying the journey, and I both see and feel some improvement. I have a long way to go, but along the way, I hope I can inspire others to get up and move. Don’t let the fear of learning something new stop you from getting started. You may surprise yourself. I know I did.
On the same day we heard the sad news of X1’s disbandment came happier news that Treasure, the group formed by YG Entertainment via the survival show, “Treasure Box,” will finally debut after a year spent locked in YG’s Treasure Box.
I don’t know whether YG’s CEO at the time, Yang Hyun Suk, had any plans to actually debut the group. He had an alleged history of taking easy money from survival shows and gambling it away, leaving his groups in the lurch. He was forced to resign last year after a series of scandals.
Since then there have been some changes to the Treasure concept, with the boys finally being allowed to write their own music. The group, originally to be called Treasure13, a combination of the two units formed from the show, Treasure and Magnum, will now consist of one 12-member unit called Treasure.
Members of the original Treasure unit are Haruto, Bang Ye Dam, So Jung Hwan, Kim Jun Kyu, Park Jeong Woo, Yoon Jae Hyuk and Choi Hyun Suk,
Members of the original Magnum unit are Mashiho, Kim Do Young, Yoshinori, Park Ji Hoon, Asahi, and Ha Yoon Bin, a rapper who left the company last month to launch a solo career.
Treasure is set to debut this month. Looking forward to seeing what they will come up with.
After 4 agonizing months wondering about the fate of X1, the sad saga has come to a close with the group disbanding on Jan. 6, 2020, when members’ agencies released an official press release reading:
“Hello. This is Play M Entertainment, Yuehua Entertainment, TOP Media, OUI Entertainment, MBK Entertainment, Woollim Entertainment, DSP Media, Starship Entertainment, and Brand New Music. The X1 members and each of the agencies negotiated under the condition of unanimous agreement, but we could not come to an agreement, so we have decided on their disbandment.”
This came a week after happy news, when CJ ENM, the company that formed X1 through the K-pop survival show “Produce X 101,” announced it wanted to move forward and support X1 in resuming its activities. It was not purely altruistic, but one way they were going make up the money needed to pay back participants adversely affected by the rigged survival show.
But the individual companies could not come up with a unanimous agreement on how to move forward, so they had no choice but disband for the well-being of their trainees/artists, some of whom will continue to be suspected of getting into the group unfairly. Half the members are 17, too young to deal with a scandal that would continue to plague them for the term of the 5-year contract if it had been allowed to continue.
Although I’m sad this happened, I think it is best for the individuals to have a chance for a fresh start without the stigma of being part of what is now referred to in Korea as nothing but a rigged group that has already been shut out of lucrative brand deals as well as the Korean music awards shows, in spite of its popularity and record sales surpassing that of other artists.
There is some talk about members who want to continue as a group being managed by Swing Entertainment. It is too early to know who might be participating and who not, but here’s what I think of the members prospects:
Kim Yo Han: He doesn’t have a group to return to, but I think he wants to be a movie star anyway and maybe will have such offers coming his way. He got what he wanted out of X1 already, recognition of his talent outside the taekwondo circuit, and instant name and face recognition.
Kim Woo Seok: It has already come out that he was the rightful center of the group, a position that went to Yo Han because it was not good for the show’s storyline that a previously debuted individual took top honors in a program supposedly designed to discover new faces. At any rate, he has a group to return to, Up10tion, and perhaps they will benefit from his high profile and excellent performances with X1.
Han Seung Woo: The eldest of the group and leader of X1 also has a group to go back to, Victon. In his time away, the group achieved its first No. 1 music show win in three years on SBS’s “The Show,” even beating top rookies TXT. Like Woo Seok, his performances and persona won many new fans who will continue to follow him in Victon. At 25, he would need to enter the South Korean military in three years, before his X1 contract would have expired.
Cho Seung Youn: As an all-rounder known as a singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer who goes by the stage name WOODZ outside of X1, he will likely pursue solo projects and collaborations. He is also part of the group UNIQ, but I’m not sure how active they are.
Lee Han Gyul: I’m not sure about his prospects. He hadn’t been able to debut earlier and I suspect he might have been rigged into X1, which was promoted in “Produce X 101” to be an international group. His popularity just so happens to be outside of Korea. He’s a good dancer but doesn’t have a look or sound that’s trendy or desirable in South Korea.
Son Dong Pyo: Like Han Gyul, any popularity would lie outside of South Korea. His diva tendencies play well with an American audience, but he has been subject to a lot of reprimands by a South Korean community unamused by his seeming disrespectful behavior toward his seniors. Again, I suspect he was rigged into the group because he started as the show’s center, but was on a downward trajectory through the course of the show as Korean voters got to know him. Even so, he is talented and unique enough to perhaps find an audience outside of X1.
Cha Jun Ho: I have no idea how he got into X1 because he is so blah to me, with zero presence. It might have been on the strength of his looks, because he’s considered very handsome in South Korea. It was also revealed that his company Woollim Entertainment, one of three companies raided by investigators, was one with an employee sent to prison for bribing “Produce X 101” producers Ahn Joon Young and Kim Yong Bum. Fellow Woollim contestant Hwang Yun Seong told investigators he was told early on that only one person from Woollim would make it into the group. At any rate, he has a group of trainees to return to, including Yun Seong and Lee Hyeop, who would make a viable rookie group equal to TXT.
Song Hyeong Jun and Kang Min Hee: Their company, Starship Entertainment, had two of its executives sent to prison for bribing the producers as well. They have a trainee group to return to and I look forward to their reuniting with Ham Won Jin, Koo Jung Mo and Moon Hyun Bin. They are all stronger for having participated in “Produce.” It is not likely their company would want them to continue in X1 because of accusations raised against Min Hee, suspected to have been rigged into the group.
Lee Eun Sang: While he’s been away, his fellow trainees at Brand New Music Kim Si Hun, Yun Jung Hwan and Hong Seong Jun debuted as BDC (Boys De Capo). His sweet style is a perfect fit with this group. So far, they have had only small stages. Eun Sang deserves a bigger stage, and perhaps because of his X1 recognition, they will get that with his return.
Nam Do Hyon: Newly enrolled in high school, he has a bright future ahead as another all-rounder destined for a life on stage. A musician, rapper and dancer, he could go anywhere. I don’t worry about him. He has already shown maturity in his ability to endure rigorous training and schedules, and is young enough to rebound from all the negativity surrounding X1.
So, as always, stay tuned. One part of the story has ended, but another chapter has yet to be written.