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: ‘Produce X 101’ ‘Move’ 3.14.2020 + X1 where are they now

By Nadine Kam I

I requested this “Produce X 101” concept evaluation dance last summer, while the K-pop survival show was airing, and now that it came up I don’t even know why I requested it.

Two of the trainees got seriously injured from this dance and one ended up dropping out of the competition because of it.

“Produce” became the 3rd biggest Kpop scandal in a year of scandals because of vote-rigging that went into whittling 101 trainees and formerly debuted artists down to the 11 who formed the group X1. Sadly, I was a big fan of the group and about half the members, but X1 was forced to disband in January after only 2 months of activity due to the scandal which ended up with several managers from top entertainment agencies going to jail.

This vid has the “Move” trainee team in practice before the trainers, and their TV staging. You can see the harshness of the trainee system in that they’re wearing their ranking numbers from 1 to 101, so everyone is aware of their standing at all times, same as within their companies.

The 2X speed dance is a K-pop fixture and apparently it came as a surprise to the trainees.

Maybe it’s too early for an update on the X1 members, but here is what has ensued in the aftermath of their disbandment:

Kim Yo Han, center, with cast and director of “After School.”

Kim Yo Han: X1’s center will be starring as the lead of KBS 2TV’s series drama ‘School 2020,’ which will air in August. “School 2020” is the eighth drama in the “School” series. Yo Han will play Kim Tae Jin, a promising taekwondo athlete who suffers a severe ankle injury and quits taekwondo and transfers to a vocational high school. The drama just started filming. He doesn’t have a viable group to return to, but I think he wants to be a movie star anyway and X1 gave him instant name and face recognition, a big following and this initial TV offer. As a taekwondo junior champion himself, he is perfect for this role as a competent athlete who is socially awkward! He won’t even have to act!

Han Seung Woo: Has rejoined his former group Victon, and their comeback appears to be their strongest ever! Victon just made its first full group win on “The Show” with their latest song, “Howling.” Han Seung and fellow Victon member Choi Byung-chan appeared on “Produce” because prior to their appearance on the show, Victon hadn’t been very successful.

Kim Woo-seok: He has not rejoined his group UP10tion, but is working on music for a solo project, following in the footsteps of groupmate Lee Jin-hyuk, who was rigged out of X1 but because of it has had more success with the jumpstart on a solo career than all who won a place within X1. Woo-seok can be followed on IG @woo.ddadda.

Kang Min-hee will redebut with Starship Entertainment’s Cravity.

Song Hyeong-jun and Kang Min-hee: Two of X1’s 2002 liners will debut with seven other Starship Entertainment labelmates in a group named Cravity. Starship began introducing short promo films March 15. The lineup includes their fellow “PDX101” contestants Ham Won-jin and Koo Jung-mo. Others in the lineup are Seo Woo-bin, Allen Ma, Park Se-rim, Kim Tae-young and Ahn Sung-min.

Nam Do-hyon and Lee Han-gyul: The MBK Entertainment labelmates, whose strengths in X1 were rap and dance, respectively, teamed up to perform as Pocketdolz. This unlikely duo have been the most active in their post X1 activities, starting a vLive channel, release a new song, hosting a fan meeting and making the rounds of the TV music shows.

Lee Eun-Sang: I expected him to rejoin the Brand New Music labelmates he entered the PDX101 competition with, who, during his promotions with X1 debuted as BDC (Boys da Capo). But Brand New has him promoting solo with vLives, and most recently, a starring role in As One’s music video for the song “February 29th,” which he also covered. He also released a dance video set to Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes’ “Señorita,” which he covered as one of the last releases for X1. I am really hoping for some new music by him.

Cha Jun-ho: He has returned to his agency, Woollim, implicated in the “PDX101” scandal, and has reported he is in training and awaiting debut. The most likely lineup would include fellow trainees Kim Dong Yun, and fellow “PDX101” participants Joo Chang-uk, Lee Hyeop and Hwang Yun-seong.

Son Dong-Pyo: Like Do-hyon, he is enrolled at the exclusive Hanlim Arts School that accepts only about 40 students per year for its arts-focused education curriculum. He is part of a pre-debut boy group lineup dubbed DSP N. Other members are Lee Jun-hyuk, Song Jae-won, Lee Sang-min and Park Si-young. 

Cho Seung-youn: The songwriter who also known by the names WOODZ and Luizy is continuing to write songs and otherwise seems to be in no rush to return to the stage. I think all X1 fans, called One-Its, are holding out hopes that he will be able to form an X1 subunit along with other X1 members not part of the labels able to form bigger groups. The lineup would most likely also include Kim Yo-Han, Lee Eun-sang, Nam Do-hyon, Lee Han-gyul and possibly Kim Woo-seok. It would be great if it could include some of the other Top 20 who fans wanted to debut as BY9 (Be Your Nine).

Dance Diary: SB19’s ‘Alab (Burning)’ & the question of who can represent K-pop

By Nadine Kam I

On March 7, 2020, we learned SB19’s “Alab (Burning)” in our beginner K-pop dance class. It was an outside pick emailed in by a non-student who never showed up for the dance she requested. 

I say outside, because I don’t consider them to be K-pop at all but Pinoy pop. This is a Filipino group trained in K-style by a Korean entertainment company, who perform in English and Tagalog, promoting in the Philippines. What I find with these sort of groups—like the Z-Girls and
Z-Boys—is that they are Kpop lite at best. Their music and vocal style is closer to American than Korean pop and their choreography doesn’t come close to the difficulty level of Korean groups.

They are, however, an extension of the K-pop industry overseas, insurance that after K-pop’s heyday passes—after all, music moves in cycles and it may one day go the way of J-pop—there will be regional stars created around the globe in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, China and India, who continue to enrich the Korean entertainment companies that invested in forming these groups.

I didn’t like the song and didn’t really want to learn the dance, but it gave me an opening to talk about one of the big controversies among Western fans of K-pop, which is, what makes K-pop K-pop?

For the Korean entertainment companies, it has become easier in recent years to fill their artist ranks with talented youths from China, Japan and Thailand, who—unlike their countrymen—don’t have to enlist and disappear into military for two years, throwing groups into long hiatuses from which few have been able to recover.

The clash of cultures hasn’t always been easy. EXO lost three of its four Chinese members who sued to be released from their “slave” contracts, citing long hours, second-class citizen treatment compared to their Korean counterparts, and health issues as a result of intense labor with little time for rest. BlackPink’s Lisa often receives hate, in part, due to her part-Thai ancestry.

This specter of having fewer Koreans in K-pop was a big debate in our University of Hawaii K-pop class last summer. As minorities who don’t like to see appropriation of culture, the class was upset when our professor showed us videos of an American Caucasian male group, EXP Edition, trying to perform as K-pop artists in Korea. For us, their lack of talent added to the cringe factor, but Koreans who watched them perform liked them because they were flattered that white people would want to emulate them!

You can expect this debate to continue as the globalization of K-pop has inevitably given rise to people of every nation who want to follow in their tracks. Right now, it feels wrong, but as they say in this video, you can expect it to happen as each music form evolves. White men in rap weren’t accepted until Eminem came along, and now of course, every Korean idol group has its rappers as well.

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.

A hit in the west, mukbangs started at the Korean table

By Nadine Kam I

If you follow Korean culture, you’ll eventually arrive at the mukbang.

Mukbangs started out true to the meaning of the word that translates as “eating video,” based on early variety TV shows that had hosts following guests on eating adventures. They took off in South Korea because of its highly social culture. In the absence of friends or family, people found they were a comforting way to vicariously enjoy a meal with others.

These days, mukbangs have become more commonly associated with the trainwreck spectacle of watching people gorge on massive piles of food on par with competitive eaters.

Food is one of the first subjects people tend to think of when they hear the word “Korean.” When I mention K-pop, people often start making associations and talk about K-dramas and how they make them hungry because the characters are always eating. That is part of Korean branding. Its democratic government knew South Korea would never achieve power through might, so they pushed soft power, winning people over with their food, music, entertainment and culture. It worked as interest in such soft subjects has boosted South Korea’s economy through interest in its electronics, food and beauty products, its tourism industry and enrollment in Korean language schools.

K-pop stars have to continuously come up with ways to keep fans entertained and one of them is through eating segments on their live feeds, travelogs or video diaries. BlackPink’s Rosé is one of the cutest eaters, maybe because of her chipmunk cheeks. I need to watch and learn from her!

I am constantly in restaurants because I write about them for a living, so mukbangs were a natural extension of what I was already doing. Bringing them back to their original form, the intent is to introduce some of Hawaii’s new restaurants, popular and trendy places, holes-in-the-wall venues that people may miss, and high-end restaurants that some may not be able to afford but still want “to experience” through the camera lens before deciding whether or not to commit their hard-earned dollars to a firsthand visit.

My latest was a visit to Don E Don restaurant at 919 Keeaumoku St., which is best known for red pepper pork spareribs and sea salt spareribs, differing from many Korean restaurants that tend to focus on beef.

It’s a relatively small space that tends to fill up quickly at peak lunch and dinner hours, but worth checking out.

Dance Diary: SF9 ‘Good Guy’

By Nadine Kam I

On Jan. 30, 2020, I took on chorus choreography for SF9’s “Good Guy” during my weekly K-pop dance class. Even when it looks fairly easy and doable, it never is because of the speed of these songs.

In this video, I wanted to show more of the process and the false starts as we make our first few attempts at the dance at 100 percent speed. We generally start at 50 percent, and move up to 75 percent before taking on this challenge.

I wanted to show this because the bane of one of my former hiphop and heels—and perhaps every—dance teacher is encouraging new students to try a class. People who have watched my videos—no matter how sloppy we look—nevertheless are intimidated and tell me they don’t think they could ever do the moves shown.

I tell them I am just as uncoordinated as they believe they are, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. Because I always love a challenge, I see it more as fun than intimidating.

What may have boosted my attempts from the beginning was that I didn’t listen to K-pop at all, and wasn’t even sure what K-pop dance was. I approached these classes more as fitness than dance classes. I think that if I started with the idea that I wanted to master dance, I may never have started, because I think people always assume that one must start dance at an early age and toil for years to gain proficiency. I’ve found that’s not true at all. One can start at any age and mastery comes with effort and discipline, not any prescribed length of time.

At the time, I just wanted to move, I hate exercise, and this seemed more like learning an artform than a rote workout. Even so, it didn’t take long for me to really get into it and want to improve, so that’s when I went from a single class to nine a week in many styles to gain more technical skill: ballet, hiphop, heels, Afro-Caribbean, jazz, modern, body mechanics, etc.

Yes, of course, during my first year of trying to learn to dance (I enter my second year at the end of this month, February 2020) I stepped off the floor during the filming. No one wants to be looked at and judged. But one thing dance has given me is some fearlessness. Of course beginners are going to make mistakes, but it isn’t the end of the world, and even though I am not particularly gifted, so what? I am learning every day and it allows me to enjoy dance performances with a whole new level of understanding.

Chen’s future in question with marriage news & fan reactions

By Nadine Kam I

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:

X1 disbandment brings sad end to what could’ve been K-pop’s next mega group

By Nadine Kam I

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.”

X1 on the cover of 1st Look magazine. Members, clockwise from left: Cho Seung Youn, Nam Do Hyon, Kang Min Hee, Han Seung Woo, Cha Jun Ho, Lee Eun Sang, Kim Woo Seok, Son Dong Pyo, Kim Yo Han, Song Hyeong Jun and Lee Han Gyul.

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.

2019 brought diverse Korean music to Hawaii

By Nadine Kam I

Hawaii isn’t exactly overflowing with concerts by national artists, and certainly not Korean performers, but looking back, this has been a banner year.

First, Up10tion appeared at The Republik on June 9, though without Kim Woo Seok and Lee Jin Hyuk because they were in the midst of “Produce X 101” filming.

Then in August we welcomed eSNa and Ladies Code’s Ashley Choi and Lee So Jung, who performed at the Korean Festival in Kakaako.

More recently, the winners of the “Miss Trot” Korean survival show staged powerful performances at Hawai’i Convention Center on Nov. 15. Joining winner Song Ga In were Kim So Yoo, Jung Da Kyung, Sook Haeng, Hong Ja and Jung Mi Ae.

I wasn’t a fan of trot because it is such an old-fashioned style of singing, derived from enka during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 1900s. It was the music of assimilation that began to die out with the rise of K-pop in the 1960s, but it seems to be making a comeback with a younger generation.

To give you an idea of the idiosyncratic nature of this phenomenon, it would be similar to a mass of Americans starting to sing big band, swing and boogie woogie music. I really don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon.

🎧: Song Ga In and Miss Trot concert finale

🎧: Jung Da Kyung and Sook Haeng

I was really intrigued by Miss Trot winner Song Ga In’s cool “Fame” collaboration with controversial hiphop/rap artist MC Mong, and when I went to the concert I thoroughly enjoyed the mostly upbeat, strong vocal performances. Only Hong Ja sang the sort of melancholy songs that give this genre a bad name since these days everyone seems to want to be happy, not depressed.

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

👁: Jay Park “SEXY 4EVA” at Hawaii Theatre

Then, a few weeks ago, former 2PM artist Jay Park wowed the crowd at Hawaii Theatre. I didn’t know too much about his music, so did a whole lot of cramming ahead of time, watching all his latest music vids. I’m more of an R&B than hiphop/rap fan, so thought, oh well, I’ll just go see what he’s about.

I was totally blown away by his performance. He really proved himself to be one of those prized all-rounders, great at singing, dance, rap and personal style.

The audience was so loud, they came close to drowning him out. Before the show, we were warned that we were not to take photos or video of the show. If they saw our phones light up, they said we would be escorted out. I wasn’t about to lose my phone or seat, so planned to be behaved. Well, as soon as he hit the stage, all the phones went up. They would have had to throw the whole audience out.

The concert was so amazing at one point I rushed the stage. There was a crazy girl next to me though, screaming “I love you” at Jay (hers is the voice in my video) and trying to crawl on top of her friend to get on stage. At one point I was clobbered on the head, so I decided to retreat.

After the show, my friends and I had to walk past the stage entrance to get to our cars so we decided to wait and see him exit. There had been a meet-and-greet that I could have attended, but unfortunately I thought it would be after the show. But when I got there I was told he had to fly out to Seattle immediately after the show, so the meet-and-greet had already taken place. Sad. Anyway, I’ll definitely go see him again if he comes back next year. It seems like he loves Hawaii enough to do that. And there are certainly enough people eager to welcome him.

And the year is not over. Coming up at 8 p.m. Dec. 27, Dok2 will be appearing at The Republik. The South Korean rapper launched his first solo U.S. tour Dec. 6. Tickets are on sale at eventbrite.com for
$47.12 to $131.22.