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T-ara Contoversy

On the 30th July news broke that T-ara member Hwayoung would be leaving the band, effective immediately.

The news came as an utter shock to thousands of fans, as the girls have only recently been embarking on promotions for Haru Haru. The girls popularity had been at an all time peak with their music charting well and successful runs in television programmes.

Yet controversy has struck again for these girls as the reason for Hwayoung’s sudden departure was revealed – bullying.

She has allegedly been the victim of bullying for her (now former) bandmates and has suffered to the point that her agency, CCM, agreed it was time for her to go.

The story has progressed further. Following a deluge of negative feedback directed at CCM, they released further statements claiming that, not only was the decision to terminate her contract was not solely the fault of her members actions, but her own – apparently Hwayoung has become too big for her boots and had become arrogant, which was another contributing factor. One might have expected that joining late into an already established group would be an advantage; but oh no, this seems to have been part of the problem.

My reason for posting this is to condemn the actions of the agency and her bandmates. It is not to troll on any specific people, however, so not hate, please.

At just 18 years old, this talented, beautiful musicians’ career is being put on halt and it appears to be because her supposed friends and colleagues, saw her as an easy target. In a professional  environment, this is utterly unacceptable.

From all of the stories and footage emerging to back the bullying claims, including one eyewitness saying they saw member Eunjung slapping Hwayoung, it begs the question as to why they did not release the version of her becoming too arrogant, first. So, you allow the release of a story that completely decimates the reputation of several of your most valued employees, then suddenly the game changes and it was actually all her own fault.

Yeah. Coz that sounds totally legit.

Everything about the situation is just a disaster. Were it all true, then her agency should have disciplined her and corrected her attitude or fired her and have this version released first. It would have limited the damage to the entire groups reputation instead of this mess of a fiasco.

Hwayoung

KPOP is synonymous with a wholesome, butter wouldn’t melt image, generally, but I do not personally know even one person who has been taken in by all that. There have been too many suspicious reports of mistreatment, quickly quelled whispers of dire working conditions and the odd, highly public, deeply embarrassing lawsuits for big companies, regarding “slave contracts”. The public are not so naive as the industry would like.

It seems that everyone is aware of the secret black heart of KPOP and yet are willing to get involved with it anyway. The legions of screaming, obsessive fans would indicate that they are practically foaming at the perfectly sculpted mouths to be a part of it!

Creating a group so large (they have 7 members) may have worked with the nine-strong Girls Generation, but appears to have been less successful here. T-ara have always been plagued by controversy, making headlines as often for their “mistakes” as their merits, from that concept to those outfits.

All this raises the concern of how many other bands are hiding the cracks under public displays or sugar-coated friendship? Will this incident open a crevasse into which other members shall fall? It would not be the first time such a domino effect was created in the fall-out of scandal. Once Pandora’s Box has been opened, it is very difficult to close again…

We can only hope that those suffering tyranny instead of savoring success find freedom and that those whose sibling-like relationship is real stay strong in this latest unveiling of KPOP sham.

Fighting!!

SSDD

Super Junior are Still Super Seniors

The Sm Entertainment manband are topping charts only two weeks into their comeback.

I had orginally planned a different entry to come nexy but after reading a couple of articles today I couldn’t resist -I have to congratulate Super Junior on their comeback so far.

Despite an unspoken doubt hanging over whether they would be able to compete with the increasingly youthful competition, Super Junior have pulled it oput the bag in record time. Returning just two weeks ago with smooth dance-electronic track Sexy, Free & Single, they have beaten off big dog girl group T-ara‘s Day by Day to win on KBS ‘Music Bank’.

Making a comeback today on the show was soloist NS Yoon Ji, girl group GLAMc-clown and B.A.P.

B.A.P are an interesting one who I’ve supported since their INCREDIBLE debut with Warrior. Not only was it one of the best debut songs I’ve ever heard, and certainly one of the most impressive I’ve heard recently, I was dumbstruck to discover that (at the time of their first appearance on the scene) was of them was only 15 years old! Not only that, but he was one of the co-choreographers and wrote some of the rap lyrics! The kid has mad rapping skills and a really unique voice; keep an eye on him, as well as the other members. I’ll do a full entry on them for you guys later, I’m getting w bit side-tracked here 😀

So. Super Junior. Yes, excellent. … Where was I again…

So despite some heavy hitters being in the running, these boys are proving that they are more than with their salt and deserve their esteemed place in the SM trophy cabinet.

With the recent successes of SHINee’s Sherlock and F(x)’s Electic Shock, as well as BoA‘s imminent comeback (yeah you heard me, haven’t you been listening to the web whispers??), all ontop of the countess awards SM‘s artists have already accumulated, I’m betting that cabinet is more of a spacious room by now! Or perhaps a small shed… maybe not even that small a shed… with a seperate wing, just for Girls Generation

The interesting thing now will be to see if they can fend of the feisty ladies of 2NE1, who have already begun promotions for dance ballad I Love You and have already topped all the charts SJ haven’t managed to cling onto.

Even moreinteresting, will be seeing how they fair against – wait for it… the mighty G-Dragon!! Ohhhhh yeah, GD himself is making a reappearance soon promoting solo material, following the success of album Alive, with BIGBANG.

All in all, it’s an interesting time to be caught in a chart battle. You’ve got the sweetness of T-ara, the rockin’ indiviuals of 2NE1, suave Super Junior, and to top it off, the promise of returning big hitters. Add some shockingly talented newbies and I would say we have a very exciting few weeks in store.

(Yo! I got a full list of performances at KBS ‘Music Bank’ performances for ya, right HERE)

SSDD

… And here are some music vids. Now, don’t say I’m not good to you… 😛

SUPER JUNIOR – “Sexy, Free and Single”

First, there was Sorry Sorry. Then, there was Bonamana. Most recently, we had Mr. Simple. And now, they have come back once again.

That’s right, SM E’s man band have returned, with the Supermen of Super Junior dropping their new track Sexy, Free and Single.

Super Junior, Sexy, Free and Single

Super Junior, Sexy, Free and Single

Released on 2nd July 2012 the video has already devoured almost 2.2 million hits on YouTube as well as thousands of comments.

Now ladies, I know what you’re all thinking; Sexy, Free and Single? If only it were all true! We have known for some time that funny man dancing lead Shindong is engaged to his girlfriend and other member have been linked to celebrity lady friends. For example, it was strongly suggested a few months ago that the gorgeous and multi-talented Donghae was dating, as well as the continents favourite man candy Siwon. While none of these, bar Shindong, were ever confirmed, they broke the hearts of thousands of women with the allegations, however joking, and admittances of previous love affairs with unnamed women.

But all is well! As this song seems to profess, they are all up for grabs, and even if we have no confirmation on their relationship status, it seems to make no difference in the eyes of their admirers as the boys break out with yet another excellent dance track.

They are continuing their run as a 10 member group, with the effeminate and outspoken Heechul having left for military service in September of last year. However, April has seen the return of member Kangin, who now returns from his own stint in the military, marking the end of a three year hiatus. How Elfs react to him reclaiming his place on the Super Throne remains to be seen, but initial reaction and hype appears positive.

Sexy, Free and Single is a dance track with a flavour of R&B. The combo is not uncommon in KPOP but has been particularly successful for Super Junior, who use their superb dance skills and smooth, mature style to deliver a sophisticated and sexy performance.

The head-bopping cool of the track works to the tone of each member, rapper and sub-vocalist Eunhyuk delivering a particularly impressive middle verse, reinforced by the more melodic tones of Donghae and Yesung.

The whole thing is topped off by injections pure Super Junior talent with the trademark sounds of power vocalists’ Yesung, Reowook and baby of the group Kyuhyun maintaining a level of ballad pop and soul throughout that no Super Junior song could ever be without.

The result is a polished song and interesting sound. However.

Yes, I’m sorry to break it, but it is not without its faults. Nothing major, but what kind of review would this be if a couple of holes weren’t picked in it?

While the sound is a polished and electronic hit, of the sort we have come to expect from SM Entertainment following the recent exploits of F(x) and EXO, it is a little samey. There is no significant difference between this and what we might expect to hear from their last album Mr. Simple (which you can buy here). They could be from the same disc.

As for the styling and the video, again, there have been some errors. One of the scenes is almost identical to the main scene used in their own mega-hit Bonamana and while that might have worked once, re-using sets so entirely seems a little repetitive and, forgive me, lazy.

Sexy, Free and Single

Look familiar to anyone?

Anyone have a Mirror Mirr

Their starting scene is reminiscent of one used by 4Minute in their video for Mirror Mirror, but they restyle it with their own distinct look.

The final mistake that is begging to be commented on is – what the hell are they wearing!?

At times it has to be questioned if their stylist had ever seen clothes before. Or had any kind of exposure to the media… Or ever seen anything that was not a horror movie!

Several of the neck pieces by-passed being reminiscent of bondage and went straight to paying some sort of homage to Hannibal Lector! Leader Leetuk in particular seems to have suffered at the hands of the stylist-from-hell and seems never to be free of bondage-like apparatus throughout the video; his displeasure for which seems apparent in the fact that he never smiles in the video.

Unhappy leader Leetuk in bizarre bondage

The look was saved by some wise choices and thoughtfully individual styling for each member for much of the vid, their individuality shinning. Not an easy feat in a 10 member group. Suave sophistication was also well executed in a series of tailored black suits.

So, we have reached the final word.

Overall, I would say this is a great track and one that I immediately liked, as I am sure fans will too. Far too often recently it has taken several listens before a songs hook has really drawn me in, the exceptions being SHINee, Sherlock, F(x), Electic Shock and BIGBANG, Monster. The new, mature vibe and chilled tone suits their age – they are no longer trying to pretend they are still competitors with the youngsters currently dominating the market. They have reached the level of maturity currently occupied by idol favourites Shinwa. But as the recently returned supergroup have also proved, they are not nearly ready to be put on the shelf yet.

Even the dance has a relaxed limber to it, using moves that show that they are talented; they just don’t necessarily have to break themselves to prove it.

In a nutshell, despite being a little more similar to their old stuff than I would have liked, Super Junior have yet again pulled it out the bag, proving once again why they deserve to keep their pop King crown.

Super Junior, Sexy, Free and Single

 

Support them by buying their new CD here

 

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom for KPOP Body Image

**This is a piece I wrote about a month ago, sorry it’s a tiny bit outdated, but I don’t feel it really makes a difference. Enjoy! :)**

There may be hope for the KPOP body image after all – but it’s a Secret!

I previously commented (extensively) how disgustingly thin some Hallyu stars are. Well Now I’m going to flip the coin.

That’s right, despite my rhetoric; there is a positive side to that argument! Amazing, I know.

As I said before, not every female in the industry is invisible side-on. There are those who are of a more voluptuous persuasion or at the very least, bear some semblance of a human figure.

Now I’m not back-tracking entirely – there are still a shocking number of women I feel are falsely representing beauty – but, credit where credit is due.

Secret

Secret

SECRET, another girl band, is one of the few exceptions in a weight loss obsessed culture. They are all voluptuous girls, with real curves to be proud of, at a healthy weight. They have had some plastic surgery, but when they look that confident and sexy, in complete contrast with their peers, who cares!?

They have, of course, got one that might be considered “the thin one”, but surprisingly, when she was young, she was far from the glamorous svelte form she boasts now. She was a tubby youngster, but after setting out to become a pop star she decided to start eating right and exercising regularly, and look at her now – stunning, slim and best of all, healthy.

Hyosung

Hyosung

To be honest, this is a bit of a disappointment to me. I don’t think she will take it too far in order to be in line with rivals such as T-ara and Kara, but I was proud of her for being just that tiny bit larger than the other girls. It suited her bubbly personality and allowed her to be coined “The Korean Beyonce”, thanks largely to her impressive curves.

She was one of those girls who not only pulled off curvy, she owned it! With an hourglass figure she had the sort of body I envied, and wished I had the confidence and physique to pull it off with such style.

At 8 ½ stone, she was hardly big at any rate! In terms of Body Mass Index (BMI), the scale used to measure if a person is a healthy weight, that would place her exactly within her healthy margin in accordance with her height. But now she is endeavouring to slim down her thighs and cheeks. The question now is whether she will still be able to pull off those super sexy dance moves with the same flavour.

The rapper of their group Zinger, was told at one point that she was too fat and had to lose weight. And would you know it – she refused! She stood true to her curvy form and said no! She looks fantastic, a little powerhouse with boobs and a bum and sas and an attitude to match. She too is very tiny so her explosive personality would be out-of-place in some stick thin wisp of a woman. Besides, could you really take some cocktail stick seriously if she was spitting rhymes?

So here I have a little message for SECRET (as if they are actually ever going to read this – especially since I’m pretty sure none of them can read or speak English lol)

Basically what I’m saying is, SECRET, you all look fantastic, you are all gorgeous women and if there were more with your confidence to pull of the “real women” look, the world would be a better place. You are an inspiration to women who want to accept their shapes regardless of external pressures and simply be comfortable with themselves. Women are not all perfect mannequin shapes, and to maintain such a figure takes an unrealistic effort. Keep doing what you’re doing and I look forward to seeing what you come out with next.

 

The KPOP Weight Issue: Media Pressure, Personal Choice, International Expectations or a National Obsession?

So perhaps the title is misleading – I think the answer lays within them all, and in yet more contributing factors. But we’ll get to that.

First of all, fans of the genre will know that KPOP is an acronym used for Korean Popular Music and Popular Culture, though the predominant genre within that is pop, not so closely followed by hip-hop and R&B. Predominantly the genre is saturated with the sort of overly sugary cuteness that aspires to be sexy through the lavish use of hot pants and swishy hair.

An issue almost as important as the music itself has always been the image that came with it. The mere term ‘KPOP’ walks hand-in-hand with the term “idol”, and the face of an attractive young Korean – who is, almost without fail, stick thin. That is, at least where the girls are concerned. The guys often go for the overly muscular, 6 pack and pecks of steel image, if they are not trying for the androgynous, waif-like feminine figure favoured by those boys unable to achieve the so-called “chocolate abs”.

For some time now there have been concerns about the image these girls and boys (for few of them could really be called women and men) are presenting to the public, not to mention the impact it must be having on their own bodies.

The age range of an “idol” can be anywhere between 12, as demonstrated by GP Basic, to over 30, as can be seen with After Schools Kahi and Brown Eyed Girls Narsha and Jea. They average out in their early 20s, though training for the profession can begin in their early teens. Making it into a band, recording an album and finally being shown to the general public through release of an EP and performances on variety and music shows, is known as “debuting”. It is frequently referred to in terms of, “back in their rookie days”, or, “when they first debuted”…

In this way Asia runs their music industry in a completely different fashion to the West. For sure, Asia does have a thriving underground and Indie music scene, it just isn’t really paid all that much attention to in terms of media coverage. You really have to search to find people.

This stands in total contrast to here, where the club singer is king and the underdog the champion. Take newcomer-turned-superstar Ed Sheeran. Here we see a 21-year-old man who has worked himself from the guitar strings up, travelling to America with nothing more than the clothes on his back and the lyrics on his lips, hoping to catch a break (which he did – thank you Jamie Foxx!). Less than two years on and he has millions of YouTube views, a platinum selling No. 1 album, a string of hit singles, sold out concert dates, a world record and a Brit Award!

Stories like that just aren’t really heard of in the South Pacific.

This is just one of countless examples of how the two sides of the globe handle the music industry entirely differently.

In Asia, there is an incessant pressure to maintain a certain, very specific image. One may not be blamed for sometimes thinking, especially when it comes to girls, that if you’ve seen one big eyed, contact lensed, glossy haired selca taken from a flatteringly high angle – you’ve seen them all. If you’ve seen one girl doing a puffer fish faced peace signing pose, you are just as likely to look at the girl next to her and see her doing the exact same.

And what do all these lovely ladies have in common?

They are all further homogenised by their pale complexions and severely malnourished bodies.

Asian people are a naturally smaller, fitter, thinner group of people than, for example, the deep-fried-mars-bar loving Scots, or the quadruple McCheese Burger, quadruple by-pass Americans. It all comes down to staple diet and environment. They just live healthier in terms of their eating more fish and rice and vegetables, meat being eaten only sparingly.

Yet that does not excuse nor account for their bizarre and utterly inexplicable obsession with weight loss!

They seem completely obsessed with how thin girls are. To them, a girl we would deem slim, or athletic, would be a large girl, fat. A girl we would deem skinny may be lucky enough to only be bordering on fat, but is still likely to make it in to their plus size equivalent. This is not a healthy attitude to have.

Many companies and record labels have taken to monopolising the diets of their artists so as to maintain their “milky” complexions and super skinny frames.

I am ashamed to say it, but SM Entertainment, label of SHINee, Super Junior, TVXQ, Girls Generation and F(x), amongst others, is one of the most publically guilty of this.

Following scandals involving a court case with three ex-members of TVXQ, several nasty details of the way it often treats its artists were revealed. While the boys of that ill-fated court battle seemed to suffer the worst in terms of a “slave labour” contract, the girls certainly did not escape the evil hand of the KPOP diet enforcer.

Girls Generation, or SNSD as they are often known, are thought of as being amongAsia’s most beautiful women. The nine strong supergroup was formed in 2007 by SM Entertainment and have become one of the most successful and influential bands the continent has ever seen.

But.

This fame has come at something of a price with regards to their image. Following extensive plastic surgery to enhance the already naturally beautiful girls, as well as a strict exercise and eating regime, a new look was created.

In conjunction with the popularity of their music, the national obsession with their “look” began. Specifically, it was not their clothes which captivated people, nor was it their exquisitely crafted faces (plastic surgery is so common in Asia that it caused little more of a stir than is paid to any other plasticised celebrity). Oh no, it was an obsession with their painfully skinny bodies.

Except that they do not see anything wrong with them being so tiny. In fact, they practically worship them as glamour goddesses, queens of fashion and with figures of the most perfect and highly enviable status.

When I first saw them, I just about made it through their music video for “Gee” before I had to turn away in disgust.

Every one of those poor girls’ looks like an eating disorder help add. Serene, smiling faces, photo-shopped, flawless skin, glazed, glossy eyes, all features of faces that are 50% natural bone structure, 40% plastic and 10% computer generated. All on a head attached to a pole thin, torso, thread skinny arms and skeletal legs.

Their waif-like appearances prompted extreme dieting in order to achieve SNSDs’ “perfect” legs, and yet there is not ever, ever, one single mention of them being anorexic in any magazine or web article you care to look at. The closest you will get is a comment at the bottom of a page, quickly swamped with fans claiming otherwise, drowning out any protests.

Why, you ask?

Because none of their “look” has been their personal choice. While they were obviously determined to succeed and willing to work extremely hard to get to the top of the KPOP ladder, their company sought to turn them into the greatest beauties the industry had to offer, whatever the cost.

They were rumoured to have been forced to survive in only 900 calories a day, coupled with an intense work out. For the hours of training Korean performers are usually expected to do – sometimes up to 12 or even 14 hours continuously, some claiming without a break or water – this is clearly not nearly enough.

For their music video for “Hoot” the boots they wore are said to have been custom-made. The official line is that it was to fit the style of the video and give it a haute couture finish. But it is more likely that the girls’ legs were too thin to fit a normal sized boot.

For someone to be that unhealthily thin there is clearly a real problem. Last year, one of the girls, Yuri, known as “the fat one” due to the fact that her thighs were not invisible from the side, went on an exercising binge, reportedly eating only vegetables in vast quantities. She dropped to a weight reportedly somewhat under 6 stone. With her height, that placed her in the category of “dangerously underweight/at risk of death”. No joke, that is the medical term for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruQVIJ5ZFkY Here is a video of her performing in that condition.

The images split fans, some in favour of the drastic diet, those who had clearly not lost their minds realising that this was completely insane and that that poor girl was damn near killing herself in an effort to be the thinnest-and-therefore-prettiest girl in KPOP. Thankfully, she soon after put back on a little of the weight, though not enough to be considered “the fat one” anymore. Was she proving a point or bowing to the insensible will of a warped cultural and professional pressure?

Now, I may be sounding a little harsh here. This is not to say that the girls are not all very pretty. They are, in fact, very beautiful. I just do not like my second thought after seeing a beautiful young woman to be – but my god is that girl ever so skinny!

SM Entertainment denied they had ever mistreated their employees and artists in this way and then started the obligatory round of interviews, with the girls talking about how their calorie intake was 1600 or 1100 or whatever it was when they were on a diet and if it went under that number it was self-imposed. Yes, because when all nine of you decide to weigh in at around 6 and a half stone, we are totally going to believe you did that to yourself. Obviously.

As recently as the end of 2011/start of 2012 they issued statements and televised interviews claiming that, actually, they ate whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted and showed footage of them backstage after performances, tucking into crisps and sweets and cake. Guesses on how long they starved for after that footage was broadcast… Especially since soon after they gave details, along with two other girl groups famed for their fat-free physiques, regarding their strict, portion controlled, content planned diet. Of course, ladies, you are totally not misleading your fans or hiding anything.

And they are not even the only culprits. The guilty parties can be seen across the board. Most of the girls you look at are the kind that needs a good McDonald’s shoved down their necks, if anything to make you feel better about doing the same to yourself!

They must not have any real kind of freedom! They are being pushed into a professionally regulated black hole of anorexia and depression. As if working under those conditions was not hard enough, they are not being allowed enough nutrients to even form correct hormones to deal with the pressure!

This national obsession is a disgusting mar on the collective psyche of a wonderful country. It is like a female version of their mandatory military service for men. All women must at some point suffer from Body Dismorphia and industry fuelled peer pressure and go on an insane diet that will leave you a cocktail stick sized sliver of your former self.

It may seem that I have a hatred of KPOP. This is absolutely no the case. In fact I have a mild obsession with it – for some reason. But I do have an issue with this. The way they often treat people is horrendous, even by the standards of an industry that is tough no matter what country you’re from. I will gladly document some of the happier stories, but with young women in Seoul starving themselves for glamour and North Korean people just thirty mile away too poor to eat, I just felt that this was an important issue.