Happy birthday Kim Jonghyun!

By Nadine Kam I

Couldn’t let the occasion of Jonghyun’s birthday (4.8.1990-12.18.2017) pass, and this year was a special one because April 7 (the 8th in South Korea) was the evening of a pink Super Moon.

Shawol associate Jonghyun with the Super Moon because he wrote the song “Selene 6.23” about the beautiful unreachable Super Moon he saw that evening in 2013.

I made a couple short music videos to celebrate Jonghyun’s life and music. The first one for a general audience is intended to provide a moment of calm, beauty and relaxation in these stressful times of self-isolation and worries about Covid-19.

I used his song, “Blinking Games,” as a backdrop to a travelog of Hawaii scenery, plus one from Portugal. I originally wanted to use my footage from Spain and Portugal, but for some reason while I was there I uncharacteristically shot video in vertical formats that don’t transfer well to YouTube!

The second video for his fans has the same song plus imagery of Jonghyun over the years. The song “Blinking Game” is from his “The Collection: Story Op. 2.” He created Op. 1 and 2 specifically to comfort people after hearing from so many of the walking wounded who called in to his late-night radio show “Blue Night” to commiserate, knowing that he was a kindred, compassionate spirit who suffered from depression.

I credit these two albums with curing my insomnia after my husband died, because Jonghyun’s voice was so soothing. Before discovering his music, I tried to listen to meditation apps, some an hour long. After the hour I would start up another hour, getting more worked up and stressed out as 4 a.m. became 5 a.m. and I knew I had to wake in two or three hours. It was the stress that led to even greater inability to sleep.

When I played Jonghyun’s music, I felt awash in calm and because his voice is so transportive and riveting, I could focus on it completely, quieting my own circular thoughts. I’d fall asleep in about 20 minutes, never making it to the end of the disc.

If you look up the English translation for “Blinking Game,” it probably won’t make much sense because it’s based on Korean idiom meaning “to not hurt, even if you place it in your eyes,” meaning to love someone so much that to draw that person so close as to have him/her in your eye doesn’t hurt, whereas even the tiniest speck of dust would hurt. There really isn’t an English equivalent. The closest might be “apple of my eye.”

I hope you enjoy the snippet of song and the videos. The whole song can be heard here:

Dance Diary: Red Velvet’s ‘Psycho’ & the psychology of costume

By Nadine Kam I

On Feb. 13, 2020, took a second stab at Red Velvet’s “Psycho.” We had started with the lead-in to the chorus on Jan. 9, but didn’t get to complete the chorus and ran out of time to shoot a class video after that session.

I kind of felt I did better the last time because my head was in a better place. This time, we were supposed to learn Everglow’s “Dun Dun,” but our teacher forgot she had taught all she was going to teach of that dance the previous week, when I couldn’t attend.

So I showed up dressed for “Dun Dun,” and as a beginning dancer, switching gears messed with my head a little. As I mentioned in my last post, I feel that costume contributes to my confidence level. I suppose there’s a similar kind of psychology at play when athletes don’t want to enter the field/arena without their “lucky” underwear, socks or whatever ritual they perform to get themselves psyched up for a game/match.

The she took requests and I wanted to finish up BTS’s “Black Swan” but the kids wanted to do “Psycho” so I was outvoted. Oh well.

I love the boldness of Seulgi’s black lipstick in this image.

The costuming for “Dun Dun” and “Psycho” are totally different. “Dun Dun” is a more powerful dance, and “Psycho” has a femme fatale quality, so it just felt wrong dancing “Psycho” in sportswear!

I love the Victorian, romantic, bewitching, dark and unbalanced vibe of Red Velvet’s music video, wardrobe and makeup, and just to get a little of that essence, I showed up to the first class with black lipcolor.

This time I didn’t have the clothes or makeup, so it just didn’t feel right and I couldn’t get into it.

👁 Here are the videos:

They’re baaack: BTS’s self-reflective ‘Map of the Soul: 7’ is breathtaking

By Nadine Kam I

A shot of a 19-year-old woman from Waipahu is one of the first we see in closeup in the new BTS “On” Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima” music video.

She’s Sienna Lalau, a choreographer from The Lab who now resides in L.A. and was also responsible for coming up with the whiplash choreography for BTS’s “Dionysus” and the J-Hope and Becky G collaboration “Chicken Noodle Soup.”

BTS’s “On” choreography was created by 19-year-old Sienna Lalau, from Waipahu, who also appears in the music video.

This time there were many more moving parts as the boys fronted an army of 30 backup dancers and the Blue Devils drum and bugle corps who created a martial vibe for the anthemic song, filling the role of a marching band that, on the recording, was performed by musicians from the UCLA Bruins marching band.

So, are you ready for another BTS takeover of the media? Every release brings a flood of reports from, not only music publications and websites, but the likes of Time and Forbes magazines, the L.A. and New York Times, the Washington Post, the U.K.’s Guardian and Telegraph, and many, many more newspapers and magazines, including many a fashion bible such as Vogue.

This video is so fierce, there were many times that I forgot to breathe,
especially at the dance break.

They already appeared on “The Today Show” on Friday morning, and this is their late-night schedule this week:

Monday, Feb. 24
“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”: The BTS Special will have them enjoying quintessential New York, from Katz’s Delicatessen, to the subways to Grand Central Terminal, where they will perform “On,” the lead song for their latest full album release, “Map of the Soul: 7.” How they managed to takeover the always-busy train station is beyond me. At 10:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

Tuesday, Feb. 25
“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: During their last appearance of the show, they recorded a carpool karaoke segment. No doubt they’ll be singing some songs off their latest release, but question is, will James be singing the Korean lyrics, or just sticking to English? At 11:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

This comeback is an important one and the number 7 is significant as a representation of the number of members, the 7th anniversary of their debut, and marking their rise from rags to international stardom. The album may also be their last as a septet because the oldest, Jin (Kim Seek-Jin) will turn 28 this year, the tail end of the mandatory age of enlistment for the South Korean military.

👁: Some background on the recording of “On”

While continuing their use of positive messaging, the album is certain to be an emotional roller coaster for ARMYs because of its autobiographical nature, recounting their story since coming together as a group, which every fan knows was not an easy road. In spite of the appearance of seeming overnight success they achieved in the west, it was not the case in South Korea where they were reviled in the underground rap scene, attacked by mainstream K-pop fans and endured so much that up until two years ago, they had considered disbanding. To this date, the average South Korean does not know who they are.

There is a lot of reference to pain and shadows that early on, they had no coping mechanism to deal with, save for their own isolated camaraderie. They have since come to accept that it was those hard times and those experiences that shaped who they are today, their message to fans being that—knowing everyone goes through hard times—you can face the worst scenarios and come out stronger if you refuse to give up.

It’s a story that resonates with millions of fans around the globe and helps to explain the group’s international stardom.

Dance Diary: BTS ‘Black Swan’

By Nadine Kam I

I wanted to dance BTS’s “Black Swan” choreography ever since they debuted it in the United States on James Corden’s “Late Late Show” on Jan. 28.

After putting in my request at our beginner K-pop dance class, I finally had the opportunity to learn the last chorus during a Hawaii Dance Bomb class on Feb. 10. I was hoping we could get to the end of the song but unfortunately we couldn’t. I was hoping for a follow-up class, but that looks unlikely.

We took so much time to learn just a brief segment that we ran out of time to record the dance as a class as usual. Afterward I wanted to film a reaction to the video with one of my friends in the class, and when we finished we decided to give the dance one more try and see how much of it we could remember. It’s funny how so much is forgotten the minute we walk out the door, and after no more than a half hour we struggled to remember which parts came next.

👁 We tried a little bit of the last chorus at the end of this vid:

Anyway, because BTS performed the dance barefoot, I went barefoot the whole class—which was pretty typical every time I took a modern or contemporary dance class—and continued to dance it barefoot on the concrete outside.

I was afraid it might be painful but because it is more of a modern dance piece there were no jumps that might have caused pain. A few weeks ago I tried to learn Dawn’s “Money” by myself, and even on a wood floor it became painful because of all the jumps he does.

👁 BTS “Black Swan”

Just watching the dance ahead of time, I knew it would be painful in other ways, such as trying to match their wide and low stance. The flexing of their backs made me realize it was an area I had to work on because my back is too stiff to get the arch and flow of their swanlike stretches. I spent about three days trying to stretch and flex my back without the help of an exercise ball, which I really should get. I also kept up my plies and tendus, adding squats, just to prepare for a few minutes of dance! Even though classes are an hour long, about 15 minutes is spent in warmup and socializing, and much of the time we are walking through the moves. We are only dancing at 100 percent for about 10 to 15 minutes.

This dancer outlines differences between major Korean entertainment company dance styles. I favor sexy SM style and Big Hit (BTS) style, but this explains why I feel so tired and hurt so much every time after dancing BTS! Turn on subtitles.

Yet … a day after class my muscles were aching, from my core to back of my thighs. I mean, BTS puts a lot of rigor into the dance but I hadn’t felt pain after a dance class in a long time so I thought I had done enough prep. That just shows how grueling BTS choreography continues to be. I haven’t hurt for a long time after many of the other boy dances that call for a lot of powerful and rapid movements. When I look at the video of myself, I see I’m putting in a quarter of the energy BTS puts into their performances.
I know the millions-strong ARMY already respects and admires BTS, but if they tried their dances they would respect them even more.

Dance diary: Taking on Zico’s ‘Any Song’ challenge

By Nadine Kam I

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.

BTS ‘Map of the Soul: 7 Shadow: Interlude’ shows Suga’s power

By Nadine Kam I

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.

Reaction: Lee Jin Hyuk ‘I Like That’

Wanted to try making a reaction video, and couldn’t think of a better place to start than with Lee Jin Hyuk’s solo debut song and music video, “I Like That.”

I teamed up with my friend, filmmaker Titus Chong, for the video, a 10-year K-pop fan vs. my year-and-a-half status. He sees the big picture of K-pop while I admit I tend to be a solo stan, picking and choosing just a handful of favorite groups and individuals.

For those watching the video, for whom K-pop is a foreign subject, this is Jin Hyuk’s story.

He debuted as a member of Up10tion in 2015, but the group had only moderate success, which led him and Kim Woo Seok to join the cast of the K-pop survival show, “ProduceX101” earlier this year. Although the show is intended to allow the public to “discover” and vote for new faces who would go on to form the group X1, the two among a handful of similarly already debuted individuals whose groups were only moderately successful. Perhaps unfair to newbie trainees, all the already debuted individuals did quite well on the show.

From the beginning of the show, I was a huge fan of newcomers Kim Yo Han from Oui Entertainment, and Song Hyeongjun from Starship Entertainment. Yo Han and Woo Seok quickly became consistent rivals for the Top 2 out of 101 spots.

I didn’t really notice Jin Hyuk until midway through the run, when he knew he had to make a move to get noticed. During one of the battles for position (rap, vocal, dance, X), he took on the difficult X-challenge of having to show skill in two areas. He picked rap and dance.

He expected stellar individuals would be joining his team. But he was wrong. The most talented individuals, who could choose their songs first, opted to play it safe and stick to one specialty. The ones on the bottom had no choice but were stuck with the difficult double-tasks that no one else wanted to risk. So Jin Hyuk was really stuck with the worst performers that he had to train in both rap and dance. At times it looked like he would lose his mind and there was no hope, but miraculously, he pulled it off, and it cemented his place in viewers (voters) hearts, which only continued as he was able to show more facets of his personality as the cameras began to focus on him.

👁 I made this mini video for Jin Hyuk after “ProduceX101″ended:

He even reached the No. 1 spot. So it came as quite a shock to everyone, when after consistent placement in the Top 3 for several weeks, during the finale he fell to 11th place and was eliminated. As I said in the video, it was such a shock that I cried for seven days, as did many others who said they couldn’t sleep.

Sleuthing fans who could not believe the finals results, started adding up the public vote numbers and found quite an anomaly, such that there is a continuing investigation into the allegation of rigged voting that ended up subbing in two to three members illegally because the public had to pay to cast their votes. You can read more about the scandal here.

In previous years, Jin Hyuk would have been the 11th member of the group, but the rule was changed this year to include the “X,” with the 11th spot reserved for the one with the X-factor, someone who didn’t make the top team but had accumulated the most votes through the show’s run. That person was Lee Eun Sang, but I actually believe that Eun Sang did make it to the Top 10 on his own (he was well within the Top 10 weekly during the show’s run), but was rigged to be the X because of his status as a promising newbie, which fit the show’s narrative best. Another top vote getter on looks alone was Kim Min Kyu, but he had little talent, so he might have been rigged to finish outside the X category as well because he didn’t show the same promise as Eun Sang. His votes were dropping toward the end of the show’s run, but I feel he had so much support in the beginning, he might have gotten more votes during the show’s run than Eun Sang.

If I had to guess who was added to the roster illegitimately, I think it’s Lee Han Gyul, Son Dong Pyo and Kang Min Hee. I mean, I adore Min Hee, but he was a longshot. He’s an awkward dancer and his vocals are not trendy, but he’s cute. I believe that if he hadn’t made X1, he might have been dropped from the Starship roster because there’s nothing K-pop trendy about him.

Hang Gyul was nowhere near Top 10, and because of his Western looks, he is more popular with international viewers than Koreans, so I find it hard to believe Korean voters, the only ones allowed to vote, would have voted him in. (Producers formed this group with the intention of enjoying international success.)

Same with Dong Pyo, whose diva antics would have rubbed Korean voters the wrong way. Even now, they call him out for being disrespectful to elders. Also, although trainers loved him from the start and the producers chose him to be their opening center, he never caught on with the public and consistently dropped in the rankings into the high teens over the run of the show. I find it hard to believe he would have suddenly become popular in the final vote.

👁 This video tells more of Jin Hyuk’s story during the “Produce” run:

I, for one, find it hard to believe Jin Hyuk did not make it into the final lineup of X1. I believe it was a case where producers did not want to see two members of Up10tion in the group because again, there likely would have been an outcry from fans who believe the show is about discovering new talent, not debuting those who had already performed for years in one group. If Jin Hyuk and another strong contender, Song Yu Vin, had made it into the lineup, it would have been skewed to include several members who had already debuted, such as Han Sung Woo and Cho Seung Youn.

Anyway, for me this MV represents a promising new beginning for Jin Hyuk. I think he did very well!

Miss Trot coming to Hawaii

By Nadine Kam I

Miss Trot Hawaii Concert 2019
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 15
Where: Hawai’i Convention Center
Tickets: $35 to $250 at eventbrite, Palama Supermarket, Fabric Mart, 88 Supermarket, Tournet Hawaii or call 808.922.1122.

Miss Trot Hawaii is coming to town. It’s a concert featuring Song Ga In (featured in the promotional photo), the winner of the popular South Korean entertainment survival show, “Miss Trot,” plus five runner-ups voted by judges in the “American Idol”-style show. Joining Song will be Jung Mi Ae, Hong Ja, Jung Da Kyung, Sook Haeng and Kim So Yu.

By now you may wondering what is trot. It’s a form of music that originated in Korea in the early 20th century under Japanese colonial rule, when elites tried to mimic the latest Japanese styles due to forced assimilation and trot emerged as a melding of Japanese and Western music. As a matter of survival, Koreans had to pretend they didn’t like more traditional forms of art, music and dance. At this time, many Korean elites also adopted Japanese names. It was a sad time in Korean history, and current political friction stems from an inability to forgive Japan for atrocities dating to 1910.

In Korea, trot is known as ppongjjak, recognized by its repetitive rhythm and distinct vocal inflections. It continued to be popular into the 1960s, but became passé with the rise of K-pop, that made it feel like your dad or granddad’s music.

It has a really old-fashioned, dramatic vocal style that sounds its age, at nearly 100 years old, but what makes it interesting and topical is that Miss Trot winner Song Ga In recently collaborated with controversial artist MC Mong on his comeback album, “Channel8,” and she’s come under fire for that association.

🎧 Here’s the MV for “Fame” with Song’s vocal dominating the end:

Mong has been persona non grata in South Korea for eight years because he had pulled out half his teeth to avoid mandatory two-year military service. Apparently, those with poor health, including those without a minimum number of teeth, are exempt from service. For evading the draft, he was sentenced to a six month suspended jail term, one year probation, and 120 hours of community service. To date, his attempts at a comeback has been thwarted by negative sentiments and protests of anti-fans who have managed to block his appearances.

Will this time make a difference?

Well, online comments regarding his latest attempt has been just as negative as ever, with statements like, “All these thugs are the same … they come crawling out like cockroaches once they run out of money” and “Ok. We’ve seen it. You can go back now.”

But perhaps young listeners who don’t know his back story will have more say. His title track, “Fame,” is ranked No. 1 on Melon and “Channel,” featuring Park Bom (who has also come under fire for her participation on his record), is ranked No. 2. 

The fusion of genres in his song, “Fame” (about regret and guilt, with the message to be humble) is really cool so I can see why Song wanted to do it, to reach a whole new audience that otherwise would not be interested in trot. I think the TV show became popular for that reason. Today’s young generation is just not used to hearing that kind of powerful vocal so it sounds fresh compared to the high-pitched, nasally whine of so many K-pop girl groups.

X1 debut marked by record win time

By Nadine Kam I

So my question prior to X1’s debut on Aug. 27 was, are they going to match or top Wanna One, the previous male band formed by the “Produce 101” franchise that disbanded earlier this year after their yearlong contract expired.

Well, considering their first big win, on SBS MTV’s “The Show,” for “Flash,” came five days after their debut, they’re off to a good start. They beat Wanna One, whose first award came nine days after debut, as well as the six-day record on MNET’s M Countdown, for a boy group, held by YG’s Winner after releasing its debut single “Color Ring.”

👁: X1 “Flash” music video

Whether they continue on this way is still a question mark for me because of that cloud over the “Produce” voting process that already prevented them from debuting on KBS2’s “Music Bank.”

It’s also hard for me to be objective about the group’s formation because I was with these members for four months during the “Produce X 101” competition, and feel too attached to some members to watch them as if being introduced to them for the first time.

I like the song and video, but is the song as strong as Wanna One’s “Energetic?” I don’t think so. Because I try to learn K-pop dances, I also noticed there’s no segment in the choreography that’s particularly catchy. So it lacks that dance hook that gets people excited to perform and share cover dances, also a measure of the success of a particular song.

I feel like 11 members is too many for newbies to become close to a group. I mean I’m glad that number accommodates most of my favorites, but I think an ideal group size is five to eight. If I were new to the group, the quick edits and dark styling of the music video for “Flash” would make the members seem intimidating, and it wouldn’t give me enough time to get to know their faces or to sort out who’s dancing or singing at any given time.

Luckily, they have a built-in audience of the millions who tuned into “Produce,” and already picked out their favorites, which for me are center Kim Yo Han and sub-vocalist and X-boy Lee Eun Sang, who I think is a rising star. Only 16 by American age, he has the poise of a young adult and presence to match members of the group who already debuted with other groups prior to joining “Produce.”

He is at the center of this teaser for M Countdown, which has him confessing his fears about the stage, only to be told by the hyung line and Han Seung Woo, that they manage their nerves by taking flash selfies.

Meanwhile the maknae line’s Son Dong Pyo shares that they quell their fears by dancing.

Eun Sang thanks them, then goes off to do his own thing.

Meanwhile, at a press conference for their debut, Yo Han had promised that they would all put their hair up in apple style if they won first place on a music show. On Sept. 3, they fulfilled that promise, which delighted their fandom, called One It! Very cute as you can see at the top of the page.

>>>>>>>><<<<<<

I was also curious to see what the Woollim trainees would come up with for their W Project 4 debut. They have some strength in dancer Hwang Yunseong, vocalist Lee Hyeop and rapper Kim Dong Yun.

But overall their dancing is not as precise and powerful as X1’s, and they have a way to go before they can match those groups in the upper echelons of the K-pop world.

👁: W Project 4 “1 Minute 1 Second”

Dance Diary: Taemin’s ‘Move’

By Nadine Kam I

I wanted to dance to Taemin’s “Move” for a long time and tried to learn the choreography on my own at home.

This is where memory fails me, coz I actually made it through the entire song, but in dancing it could never remember the order of the segments. Just like working out at home, people don’t usually push themselves as much as when risking humiliation in front of other people in a class. So at home I just didn’t do the number of repetitions that would drill the movements in brain and body.

I feel like this is a dance that could be done in its entirety if given three class sessions or so, but I didn’t like the way the segments were chopped when we did this on March 2, instead of staying true to the choreography. It kind of messed me up because the flow of movement was lost.

Oh well, enjoy Taemin in action: