Here’s a (lengthy) update on what I’ve been into lately, and scattered thoughts I have about the current KPop/K-music scene. I’m no expert, and I actually like (as in really like) only select groups/soloists so take everything with a grain of salt. While I will maintain proper decorum when it comes to clashes in opinions, if any, the one thing I won’t do is to apologize for having opinions which aren’t align with yours. We can have differing opinions, that’s only natural, and we can carry a conversation in spite of that.
Early warning: expletives do fly around here… Unfortunately, KPop does that to me.
Hey, What’s Up With The Watching?
So I’m back to watching dramas regularly, and I’m really enjoying them. I’ve come to accept that I won’t watch everything under the sun, and that’s okay. I’ve also reached the conclusion that I won’t write about everything – sorry, unless you can buy more time and energy for me, this ain’t gonna happen because I’ve arrived at this point where I basically feel my human limitations. I’m also happy to report that I am now content in just watching shows, without reading or writing/dissecting/discussing them. In fact, I think this works better for me these days, because sometimes I like what I like because I do; do I really need to go ten different ways to convey that? (No).
1) Secret Love Affair
Which is probably a good segue into the current It drama, Secret Love Affair. Oh boy, this one. Between myself and it, we’re definitely in an affair, I can assure you that and it’s the passionate, mind blown, shut your curtains and turn off the lights sort. Basically, that’s me when I watch it. Unlike the other bloggers and general viewers, I don’t have the time to re-watch episodes, so instead when I watch an episode I try my best to be all there. This show is such a visceral experience, and there are moments when I am in sincere awe and appreciation for it.
I initially started out with taking mental notes of my thoughts and opinions about the show, scenes et cetera but have since let them go. You know why? Because part of the enjoyment with Secret Love Affair is to relax our expectations, opinions, and rabid self and let the story unfolds itself through the wonderfully layered, heartbreakingly realistic characters. I’m not saying that the high society the show is set upon is 100% realistic, but the kind of dirt that goes on, plus the belief that money is at the top of the pyramid – I’d argue that it’s really greed, human greed, with money as the vagabond – are all things that we know for ourselves to be true in Real Life. They’re not the most interesting elements of the show and honestly, whoever enjoys watching others being ridiculed, slandered upon and the like need to question their moral ethics …which is exactly what I think Secret Love Affair‘s premise is based upon. It’s a show about ethics, explored through this elitist, exclusive world by the top 1% of society who defines, bends, breaks, alters, skews, and step on ethics in their own ways because they have the power, status, money or all of them.
Dissecting deeper, the theme of ethics and morales are explored through the highly charged relationship between our leading male and female. I hesitate to call them a couple so easily like that, because they are such well-defined individuals that to couple them together is almost an insult. What I thought was interesting as I jumped into the show was, everyone was all about how this show is about the awakening of Kim Hee Ae‘s character, Hye Won but honestly? I think it’s actually the awakening of Lee Sun Jae, the character that is Yoo Ah In‘s personal best, hands down.
He is a tour-de-force in this show, effectively stripping away any manliness, unmasking any jaded, mature depth which we know he has within him in Real Life, to completely immerse himself into this role of an innocent, rough-at-the-edges, underprivileged piano prodigy. I don’t know how he does it and trust me, I remember his tendencies to overact in the past, but in Secret Love Affair he is Lee Sun Jae. I am impressed at just how effortlessly restrained he is in here, and how he’s simply all there in each scene. You’ve got to watch it to believe it, seriously. I suspect this will be the project that’ll be remembered as his turning point, and well-deserved indeed. He is all youthful vigor, uncolored by the world, broken when the reality’s ugliness was revealed to him for the first time, and puts his heart on his sleeves unconditionally, in a way that only the young can get away with.
Another thought I had was on gender-reversal. I’m not a feminist. I don’t always believe in the need for strong female characters, and the need for every drama out there to have them, because on one hand as most people have pointed out – it’s about having a strong characters, period. The funny thing though, is that despite knowing and believing all that, I still think of Hye Won as the exception, not necessarily the rule. It’s interesting how commanding and demanding she is – almost controlling – when it comes to the volatile relationship between her and Sun Jae. It’s doubly interesting that her actions are total opposites of her words. It’s even more interesting that she made a choice – the decision she came to about this relationship of theirs, by the end of episode 8. Making a decision is a willful, deliberate act. The big theme here is ethics and morale, and for someone who’s bounded so strongly by her characteristics and no doubt, principles, at this point I wonder what’s going on in her mind.
I am currently not following any bloggers who are writing in-detailed about Secret Love Affair, and it’s really because I am enjoying this on a visceral level, truly and deeply, and revel in how I arrived at my discoveries and thought processes. I’m not rabid, obsessed and drowning in feels – it’s like this great work of art before me, and I’m adamant to maintain and demonstrate my respect for it, so I’m not really interested to read about how others can’t get enough of it. Sometimes over-analysis kills, even though we can’t help it, so because I can – I will exercise that right. When this show wraps though, I plan to follow Betsy’s takes on it because her analyses have always been my favorite (see: Heartless City).
Last but not least, a part of me do believe that this show will resonate to people differently, based on age groups and life events. I don’t mean this unkindly, but I think folks who are married/older/have exposure in working world/experienced love/appreciate music will have a much, much deeper connection and devotion towards the show. It’s one of those rare cases where “it’s you drama, it’s indeed you.” It’s like coming across an epic novel, but being too young to understand it fully. Wisdom does come with age and experiences, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re not enjoying the show on a similar level as other bloggers and watchers. Personally, I don’t think I’m 100% all-there either, but I understand enough of the themes explored and challenged in this show to enjoy it. Also, this just means that this show will likely go down as a keeper – it’s one of those that require you to revisit it when you feel like you’re more mature, or in a different phase than you last were with it.
2) Bride of The Century
I can’t remember if I mentioned this, but I actually did watch this a few days before leaving to Hawaii. I made it through to episode 8, and a few nights ago picked it back up with episode 9. Good news and bad news to follow. The good news is that I rather enjoyed it the first time I watched it, and the bad news is – that was all the good news I have about the show. I decided to give it a go because the drama sphere was rabid about it, and it being billed as a lighter fare fit my cup of tea exactly then. Honest, honest opinions?
I thought Bride of The Century was like My Girl redux v2.0, or more like every single Kdrama out there that has been there and done that with every cliched, overused, trite plot points. It’s like a really bad version or poor cousin to My Girl, save for the acting by the heroine. The plot is mediocre, the baddies are one-dimensional, and the ghost arc, while interesting, is pretty much the only thing about the plot that I’d continue watching for.
I personally don’t get why people are all over Lee Hongki and his acting because not only is his character a dick – a cute dick, but still no less whiny – he is over-acting like nobody’s business here. I don’t mean to hate on the poor boy, trust me I’ve no intention to do that, but with all the praises he’s garnered from the bloggers, I guess it’s my fault that I over-expected. By the time episode 5 or 6 hit and I realized that his serious expressions means Broody, bulging eyes means Shocked – you get the picture – it’s hard to get in line with everyone who’s raving about him.
Fortunately, not all is lost. Yang Jin Sung can definitely act, and it’s kind of amazing how she’s so distinct as two characters with the same face. To begin with, this doppelgänger thing is kind of ridiculous but okay, I will roll with it. The only thing is, to have the brother, step or not, fall for the girl who looks like your sister? Er show, what the hell? Ick.
In short, I’ve dropped it. I think I’ve reached a point where I started to openly ridicule the show, snorting aloud and whatnot at the ridiculousness and cheesy, extremely cheesy, dialogue that I need to let it go, for everyone’s sake. My best takeaway about the show is the following quote:
What is the use of dressing up in branded goods from head to toe? You as a person need to be high end.
– Na Doo Rim, Bride of The Century (2014)
Preach it, sister!
This show is a masterpiece.
More later, in a separate review, because it deserves its own limelight.
4) Other Dramas
I thought it’s noteworthy to share that I have just downloaded oldie Jdramas namely Strawberry On The Shortcake and Honey & Clover, and have plans to (re)watch them eventually. Will the first-time sentiments hold? Hopefully, I will write about them too. Sometimes the desire for older shows creep in, and here’s one of those times. I’m also debating picking up Long Vacation again because that one is such a classic love story rom-com done right, and I kind of miss that genre. Before anything though, high on my priority is Miss Korea because I have heard so many wonderful things about this show, and I suspect it is my cup of tea. Now that I’m out of my emotional funk, I can appreciate and am definitely in the mood for a heavyweight and tonally introspective show.
5) KPop Star 3
I am so fucking pissed off with this show.
There, I said it. It started off so damn well, until we reached the Top 4. Sometimes I really, really hate the Korean entertainment system. Of which I have no say, I get it, but it’s like it’s so fucking obvious this show is rigged, and to allow – even commend! – “judges” for their favoritism, biased opinions, and whatnot – UGH. One might argue that I am biased myself which okay, I accept, but honestly … Okay, I can get by the elimination of The Shorties despite my outrage when I first learned of the news, but Kwon Jin Ah over Sam Kim and Bernard Kim?
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me.
Everyone is talented, no doubt, and yes in a year’s time it’s not going to matter who won in this stupid little show, but you’ve got to remember what comes with the winning prize, and what it means. Plus, maybe I’m just a big, big believer of fair play and the spirit of competitions – one could argue no one deserves it any more or less, ergo any of them deserve the top 2 spots, but Kwon Jin Ah have been solid from Day 1. The one time she faltered, similar to The Shorties, they’re immediately eliminated unlike the boys, who’ve been hits and misses but are clearly judges and show favorites so they’ve been repeatedly saved. Ugh, I can’t even. Just cos she’s not the norm in the cookie-cutter of KPop and idol-world. I expect to hear news of Yoo Hee Yeol signing her to Antenna Music, because the other two judges don’t deserve her.
Done with you show, I am so fucking done with you.
Dear fangirls, you win. There, take the crown, trophy, your oppa, everything. You win.
Hey, What’s Up With The Current KPop Landscape?
1) Team B to perform and be part of the YG Family tour
I hate YG. I fucking hate YG.
I want to be above the whole Team B versus WINNER thing, but then he drops the teaser introducing Team B. Then he inserts them into the YG Family
World Japan tour, coolly sidling them up next to WINNER and oh! Apparently they’ll be doing collaborations with WINNER and the other artists?! In the grand scheme of things yes, everyone wins, so why are we complaining? I get it, but there’s such a thing called integrity and keeping your words, for God’s sake. What the fuck was the point of the stupid WIN: Who Is Next show, YG? You can media play for all you like, but don’t do it at the expense of young folks’ emotions. Don’t threaten all-or-nothing and dangle the carrot just close enough for them to taste, and then take it away with vicious words for the world to witness. Don’t tell the public that they get to make a decision through paid voting, that their decision will be honored and accepted, when all along you hold veto. “Papa YG knows what he is doing.” Please, fuck that. Also, papa? Ha. Ha.
If he knows what he is doing, he’d stop announcing things he conveniently not deliver. If he knows what he is doing, he’d stop with the now-expected repeated delays and shifting of dates, regardless who the artists are. If he knows what he is doing, he’d walk his damn talk. I don’t care how talented he is, nor do I care that he’s brought together BIGBANG and 2NE1, global pop icons, and that the quality of music is great. Talent and past successes don’t excuse the principle of the matter that he does not walk his damn talk. Are we supposed to just forgive and let it slide, over and over, because the quality of music, when finally released, are grade A? Does that excuse shitty and poor management? No.
Does it excuse this dickish, shitty move of making WINNER crawl and earn their deserving spotlight, only to go “Oh hey, guess what? Team B will join you after all!” Share the stage again, let’s kick off WIN: Who Is Next v2.0, why don’t we?
“Everyone wins,” you said. Yeah maybe, but there’s such a thing called principles. There’s another thing called timing. There’s yet another thing called respect, especially on how it goes both ways. You need to respect the boys and the fact that WINNER earned their spot, and live up to your words about the debuting date. Yes they have endorsement, fan meets, are invited guest performers, but these are stuff which are part and parcel of the root of the matter: debut. By that I mean, to debut in their own light and realm, within their time to shine.
No, I do not like it at all that Team B is part of the YG Family tour line-up.
I do not understand the adoration, border lining cult chaos, with this girl. I think she is badass, I have a hard time digesting the fact that we are of the same age because obviously we’re doing extremely two different things on wholly different scales, and I am glad she is a better role model for young girls to idolize than say, Miley Cyrus. But honestly, 2NE1 as a group is now a joke. It’s basically ‘CL & the girls’, and the media play and constant stream of compliments by YG himself about her, only her, is just further cementing her status. I think she’s talented too, but that ego, damn that ego, it needs to tone down a notch because fact: you can be all swagger and confident without being obnoxious. They can exist separately – yes, believe it.
She’s basically female G-DRAGON at this point and the blind lovin’ – that oppa-and-unni-can-do-no-wrong mentality – is bothersome. Frankly I don’t even know why I care because no, this is none of my business indeed, but the fixation with a girl who hashtags everything like it’s the coolest shit in this planet, don’t you know?? And fans of hers who single out those who think otherwise because CL is the coolest shit around town, according to them, and if you disagree then something is wrong with you because she is a goddess – perfect, confident, beautiful, badass –
Please, there’s a thing or two to learn about classy.
3) The fixation with all-kill and charting #1 on music charts
I can get behind the perks, like endorsements and whatnot (which equals to revenue, something that’s definitely necessary) but the way KPop is right now, it’s like you’re only It if you’re #1 on some weekly music chart. Your credentials, talents, and popularity are only cemented if you chart your way to the top. I get it that the K-entertainment sphere is saturated and extremely competitive, hence this, but if this is what defines good music, then that’s a shame. Trends come and go; the real deal is a song’s sustainability. It’s not merely about hitting the next big hit, it’s whether you’ll keep listening and remember the songs two, three, six months and a year from now.
4) VIPs & BIGBANG
I get it that the relationship between a fan and artist, especially in KPop sphere, is no funny business. I get that, but honestly… sometimes VIPs are so self-righteous that it annoys the crap out of me. I love BIGBANG – dude, I even went to their concert when they performed in New Jersey and last summer, I flew to Singapore specifically to catch the special screening of the Alive tour – but I am not in love with them, and newsflash? Not everyone is!
They are the most popular group at the moment and their global reputation is no joke, no kidding, and the adoration to the point where this love feels unconditional and must be protected at all costs – I get it, really, but my goodness, it doesn’t make you above and beyond anyone, that you adore them over other groups and singers. Similarly, it doesn’t make them superior over other groups, in a way that everyone has to bow and give way to them. Clearly it matters a lot to you, so go ahead, you do that, but don’t force, push, shove and insist others to do the same. Don’t belittle or deem others as less than cool for not rooting for BIGBANG in the same scale that you do. Maybe they are your life, maybe you’ve been there in each of their ups and downs, maybe their songs have been there for you during your most troubled times – I hear ya, this devotion and love aren’t something to laugh about.
But man, you’ve got to relax these territorial emotions.
In all seriousness, there’s no need to measure the love, devotion, and belief of each person who claims interest towards your favorite oppa and hyung. No one has any rights to impose upon another, period.
5) Akdong Musician
Enough rants – happy music! I am so into Akdong Musician‘s 200% right now, it’s not even funny aha. I absolutely adore the track, and I am in love with PLAY. I am so relieved that they were left on their own to do their thing, present their own music and retain their flavor because frankly, they’re just about the most real thing in KPop right now and I love that. The MV is also incredibly, wonderfully, and poignantly done. Love it.
6) 2000 Won
Fact: At this point, everyone who were in KPop Star seasons 1 and 2 will have debuted before Lee Seung Hoon. Plot twist indeed, ugh. But 200o Won is back! Hopefully, long enough to stay and cement their name. Their debut’s been really low-key which is rather unpleasant to stomach, but good things take time. I have them under my radar and I’ve given the album a listen. I love it. I could do without the lip-sync and rather weird texture of the MV, but I don’t dislike it. Congratulations on the debut, boys! I hope your Korean audience gives you lots of love, all of which you deserve!
7) Park Hyo Shin
He isn’t part of KPop, just so you know. I’m ending this Timeout on a light and introspective note. Presenting to you poetry in its most beautiful, wholesome form: Park Hyo Shin‘s Wild Flower. The lyrics are beautiful and heartrending, his voice is mesmerizing, and the MV is on-point. This, my dear, is what differentiates singers from musicians. In fact, I’ll even go so far and say that here’s a visual distinction between artists and musicians. I hold the latter to a higher value and with deeper appreciation, because they let their music speak for them and not the other way around. The MV is also proof that great hits take you by the ear, but great music takes you by the soul.
Once again, happy Friday and have a wonderful, wonderful weekend ahead!