Friday, April 20, 2018

JMusic: The Legends TVXQ!: 'Love Line' & 'The Chance of Love'

Hello, there beautiful readers! I hope all is going well in your lives. If not, I hope that whatever is burdening you lightens, even if just a little. The past few days for me have been great! I treated myself to some Ben and Jerry's ice cream because why not? Life is short, treat yourself every once and a while.

A little treat from me to you is this week's Juicy Jam, 'Love Line' and 'The Chance of Love' by TVXQ!
so juicyyyy
For those who do not know, TVXQ! is a legend in the K-pop industry. They hail from the second generation of K-pop groups which include other big names such as Big Bang, Super Junior, KARA, 4Minute, SHINee, 2PM, and so many others. Sadly, as fans of kpop become younger and younger and the genre gains newer fans, they do not know of these groups or are not interested in knowing the music of these groups. BUT! I am here to remind you that if it weren't for these trailblazers, your current faves would not be here. It was these groups that the members of EXO, NCT, A-Pink, and BTS for example listened and looked up to while growing up. They paved the way and gave them someone to aspire to be, a dream to chase. So know your history people! Plus, it's great to see just how far these groups have come. To see how their styles and members have changed AND you get a good laugh from the horrible hair and outfits. So give them a chance!
Exhibit A: bad hair, bad outfits, but happy idols. 

TVXQ! (which I have just discovered stands for Tong Vfang Xien Qi and roughly translates to 'rising gods of the east') also known as Tohoshinki (in Japan) and DBSK, which stands for Dong Bang Shin Ki (their Korean name) is a South Korean boy group under SM Entertainment consisting of members Jung Yun-Ho, stage name U-Know Yunho and Shim Chang-min, stage name Max Changmin. They are SM's longest lasting and most profitable group, debuting in 2003 originally with five members. Due to contractual complications, three of the members left the company eventually going on to form the group JYJ, leaving us with these two extremely talented men. Because of their talents, success and experience, its only fitting that TVXQ is dubbed the Kings of K-Pop.

In 2015, the duo announced that they will start their mandatory two-year service in the Korean military. Of course, fans were sad, I was sad! But they didn't depart without leaving us a gift.  They released an amazing album and two fantastic MVs for Yunho's and Max's solo songs 'Champagne' (a tiny, pre NCT dream Jisung can be found here!) and 'Rise As One' respectively. (I highly recommend listening to this album and watching these MVs. I listened Champagne on repeat for the whole summer, it's that good!!!)

Max and Yunho

This brings us to today. The kings are back! U-Know Yunho (I KNOW YUNHO! I just love that) and Max have returned from their military service and they got right to work. Reminding us just how phenomenal they are with the release of their ninth official Korean studio album and the seventeenth album overall, New Chapter #1: The Chance of Love and it, of course, did not disappoint. This album is described to have a fresher, more mature and metropolitan sound, and I just love it. There is not one song that isn't a bop. The album is a treasure and the title tracks, 'Love Line' and 'The Chance of Love' are pure gems. Let's get into it!

'Love Line' aka the best airline CF ever

This track came just in time for spring and summer. The instrumentals are fairly minimalistic. The smooth synth sounds and twinkling percussion under the silky falsettos and light, dulcet tenor tones of Max and Yunho give way to an overall breezy and summery sound. I love this song! It's relaxing, carefree and a lovely showcase of their beautiful vocals. I hope it makes you feel just as content as it makes me. 

The choreography is uncomplicated as well. We still get a look at their dancing ability, with the duo performing fluid movements that seem effortless but require just the right amount of finesse to execute. The MV itself is just as "pure". The cinematography is beautiful! The camera work added just the right amount pop and dimension and the vibrant colors are a breath of fresh air. We also a got a look at the domestic side Max and Yunho with the two completing simple everyday tasks with a loved one by their side. So normal, so "slice of life". By the end of the MV, I also really wanted to travel. I felt like I watched the best airline commercial. (Korean Air, this could be marketing gold!) Some may find this song boring but the purpose of 'Love Line' is to portray the simple things in life. It's an appreciation for the sometimes taken for granted, unfussy moments. 

Same Changmin same
Just living his best life

'The Chance of Love' #thelittestclubever

Alright! This masterpiece here is the TVXQ we all know and love! For those who live for the bells and whistles, this track is for you. The godfathers of kpop came back from their military service and in a few short months produced this jewel of a track. (If that doesn't scream talent then I don't know what does.) 'The Chance of Love' features an off-culture sound with swing-infused instrumentals consisting of an energetic and festive melody, pulsating and snapping bass beats, a bouncing chorus, and the harmoniesssssss. So pleasing to the ear. (I LIVE for good harmonies) Let us not forget the classic oohs-aahs but with a twist! The way those two blended the nearly dissonant sounds, the musicality! The skill!
They killed their choreography. It was confident, complex, smooth and sexy, all things TVXQ. The MV was a masterpiece and expensive. This is the type of music video that SM exists to produce. The production level was high and it shows in the chic and stylish set. The gold architecture with blue accents (an uncommon color combination in SM music videos) the lighting, the cascading diamonds, and fluttering confetti added a level of uniqueness and to the classiness of the mv. Visually mesmerizing, it was more like watching a piece of an art exhibition than a music video. It reminded me of the opulence in the remake of The Great Gatsby.  It was also reminiscent of their track 'Something' (which you should totally listen to) and had the similar gentlemanly sleek sound of Super Junior's 'Black Suit' (which you should also listen to). #swagger #refined #sophisticated

scoping out the honiesss
just shuffling through the ladies

Man! Despite being on a hiatus for two years, Changmin and Yunho did not miss a beat. Those two oozed confidence in both songs, which as a veteran group they of course have. The rest of the album carries same contemporary vibe including diverse genres such as deep house, mellow pop ballads, and sultry R&B sounds to name a few. (Listen to the album to hear other sounds. It's worth it!) It was experimentation done so, so well and they went above and beyond with execution. The duo has reached a level of artfulness and showmanship that younger groups pray they one day reach and we as fans should do well to remember that. Honestly, TVXQ was at the frontier of the Hallyu Wave (the movement of Korean culture becoming globally popular) and groups like them is one of the reasons why K-pop has the global reach it does today. 

I enjoyed writing this post! I hope it brought TVXQ some new fans and taught you guys a little something. Thank you for reading and until next time!
Jen M.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

JMusic: NCT 2018 'Empathy' (Touch, Baby Don't Stop, Yestoday, GO)

Hello, my lovely readers! Man! I really have dropped the ball these past few weeks. I'm sorry that I basically disappeared. I have been feeling a little burnt out and have been distant these past few weeks. Like I said in the last Juicy Jam post, if and when you need it, take a little time to take care of yourself, to detox, and de-stress. I guess that's what I have been doing, but I missed writing about and sharing these great jams with you and so many were released while I was M.I.A.

So I thought as a little way to make up for my absence I would write about NCT's latest album drop. The Juicy Jams for this week hail from NCT 2018s' album "Empathy".

Juicy Jamsss

The first and last time I wrote about NCT, I explained the group, their members and how they work, but there is some new information! There is a member I forgot to mention because he has yet to publically debut! His name is Kun (he is a cutie!) and he will be a member of  NCT U. Though he has yet to officially debut, he was on the Chinese version of 'Without You' and you can also find him in NCT 2018's 'Black on Black'. Also, Empathy, NCT 2018's first album has dropped! As I mentioned in the previous post, it is a collaborative project between all 18 members under the overarching NCT umbrella. It features tracks between all three groups, some oldies but goldies and some singles showcasing two or three members of a group at a time. 

NCT 2018
Credit: SM Entertainment
I know its hard to see their faces, but SM so smartly released a yearbook video and pics focusing on each member. So check those out to learn who is who! 
SM Entertainment has confirmed that there will be six MV's made for Empathy. I wrote about one, 'Boss' and I will talk about four others that have been released. The mystery here is what song will have the sixth mv????? According to Tumblr, many expect it to be ' Black on Black'.

The Juicy Jams from the Empathy album that I will cover today are... NCT 127 'Touch', NCT U 'Baby Don't Stop' and 'Yestoday' and NCT Dream 'Go'. SO JUICY

NCT 127 'Touch'

With ' Touch' (aka the best GAP denim commercial ever) NCT went a different direction. The MV, released on White Day, a South Korean holiday in which men express their love for their special someones, showcased a softer side compared to the punchy, intense hip-hop stylings we saw in 'Limitless' and 'Cherry Bomb' (both are tunes you should check out). The 90's imbued pop/hip-hop track was not lacking in any department with groovy (yes, I said groovy) instrumentals, streamlined synths, and brassy beats that hid under the vocals of all nine members. The juxtaposition of the hard-hitting instrumentals despite being a light and airy song, combined with the punchy vocals, sprinkles of sonorous harmonies and artfully placed adlibs (TAEIL) gave the seemingly simple song a very full sound. The romantic and carefree vibe contrasts with their usual, but the experimental single was like a breath of fresh air and allowed for the vocalists of the group to really shine and showcase their abilities. 

Staying true to form, SM used their typical box sets for the MV but it allowed for the excellent use of color theory, making it aesthetically pleasing and giving each member some solo screentime (so you can finally get a chance learn who is who before they change their hair again!). It featured a lively and youthful NCT playing tug of war and exuberantly performing the choreography (there is a dance version as well, so you can get a better look). The pastel backgrounds, jumping in piles of feathers and the flirty bright smiles made the mv a fitting companion to the confessional lyrics and the sweet sound of the song. I couldn't help but smile as I watched this mv. I wanted to buy new jeans but it also made me the softest person ever. It was like I was invited to the best barbeque. SO WHOLESOME. SO FLUFFY.   

NCT U Ten & Taeyong 'Baby Don't Stop'

Credit: SM Entertainment
Look at that smolder
Right! So 'Baby Don't Stop' is a blessing from above (or below??) provided to us by two talented NCT U members, Ten and Taeyong. The two came together and delivered a captivating and magnetizing track. It was fitting as Ten's comeback into the k-pop scene after healing from injuries and gave us a peek into his hidden musical abilities. (We want more Ten!) The poppy, house tune immediately starts with powerful bass beats over the introduction of sensual synths, with splashes of instrumentals reminiscent of 80's nostalgia video game music and THE WHISPERS. It felt like I was being told a juicy secret. They added an intimate (and very necessary) ASMR element to the single, making it seem as though they were speaking directly to the listener of their want for them (swoons). Ten's airy, and smooth AF tenor vocals were a perfect counter to Taeyong's deep and gravelly rap. But, Taeyong also gave a little testament to his versatility when he showcased his vocal abilities. (Is there anything he can't do?)

Accompanying the music is a well-produced MV. The duet flaunted their dancing prowess with sharp yet sleek choreography in various states of undress, reminding us they are two of NCT's main dancers for a reason. Filmed in Ukraine (same place as the Boss mv), the building's architecture adds another level to the MV. It elevates the choreography and NCT as a group, challenging themselves and setting them apart from others by choosing a live location instead of building a set.

NCT U 'Yestoday'

Credit: SM Entertainment

NCT U's 'Yestoday' (after two years in the making!) is the fifth mv out of six released for the group's latest album Empathy. The track written by Taeyong was originally intended as a duet with Taeyong and Doyoung. The cleverly named track grew to include rappers Mark and Lucas, with all four of them reflecting on their regrets, past loves, and memories of yesterday while chasing after their dreams of today. 

The rap trio delivers these sentiments over a  chill-hop (a combination of r&b, jazz, hip-hop and a bit of lo-fi) vibe infused with an 90's hip-hop feel, background instrumentals that played with the stereo sound, going from ear to ear and Doyoung so smoothly executing the chorus with a silky finesse and a melody that suit him so well. As someone who slept on Doyoung's musicality, he woke me up and shined in this comeback. This song was another excellent portrayal of his talents. Of course, the rap trio killed it as they as always do with Taeyong getting the bulk of the time (understandably with it basically being his creation), and Mark slaying me (per usual) with his verse. (He is just so authentically and innately good!) Lucas, little baby Lucas came through and displayed his skill as a rapper despite just debuting. 

(WARNING: If you have yet to see this mv and suffer from photosensitive epilepsy or migraines triggered by visual patterns, do not watch or proceed with caution)

The MV matched the funky brass instrumentals well with neon, trippy animations and sprinklings of visual effects so subtle that you don't notice them unless you paying close attention. That, coupled with the old-school, grungy/garage aesthetic and the mood-lit but colorful set made for an aesthetically pleasing and mesmerizing music video. 

NCT Dream 'GO'

Credit: SM Entertainment

peep Renjun in the clout glasses. love it

Though not discussed in same detail as the other videos, NCT
Dream (my children) released an mv for their track 'GO'. The cute babies of Chewing Gum (my guilty pleasure) are no more, showing us the maturity they've gained in the two years since in Go. Though I am not their target audience, I have a soft spot for them and enjoy many elements of the song and these boys can sing! Here are some gifs and
the mv for your viewing pleasure!

Well, that's all folks! I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope it makes up (even a little) for my absence. If you gained a little more of an understanding and appreciation of NCT and how they work, or if you're new to the group and developed some, then I did my job! I was thoroughly pleased by this comeback and concept and SM did a lot of work providing behind the scenes clips and vlives to make fans feel a little closer and learn a little more. If you'd like to watch those, they can be found on the SM youtube and vlive channels) Go give the album a listen if you have not, there is something for everyone on there, all of them 👌👌👌 I have to say my favorite song from Empathy, musically is 'Yestoday' and visually is Boss (I'm a sucker for sharp, group choreography). 

As usual, thank you for reading! Until next time!
Jen M. :)