Tuesday, December 18, 2018

G.C.F. 3J @2018 MMA Practice: The idol as modern day shaman

When BTS performed “Idol” at the Melon Music Awards (MMA) on December 1, 2018, they included a special intro. The dance line--Jimin, J-Hope, and Jungkook--each had a short folk dance-inspired solo. The juxtaposition of the shamanistic folk dances with BTS as contemporary Korean idols touches on a deeper understanding of what it can mean to be an idol. It’s something we see from Japanese idols like Takizawa Hideaki and his long running stageplay Takizawa Kabuki but I hadn’t yet really come across anything like it from Korea. The linking of the traditional art forms with the modern aesthetic, drawing parallels between the old folk culture and a new folk culture still being developed.

(A trailer for Takizawa Kabuki 2018 (滝沢歌舞伎))

The MMA performance was good--don’t get me wrong--but it wasn’t great. Not when your point of comparison is Takizawa Kabuki or, indeed, the women of the Takarazuka Theater Troupe who specialize in just this type of performance.

(Long trailer for the Moon Troupe’s Nobunaga, which I wrote about here.)

The stage lighting was distracting, a large screen projecting a swirling mass of colors behind the performance, as if the producer had been unsure of the dancers’ ability to hold the audience’s attention on their own. The drape of the Jungkook’s and J-Hope’s coats did not flow right, concealing rather than emphasizing their movements. To properly showcase a stage dance like this, the fabric needs to flare out, a swish of the arm or leg should move the fabric outwards, a real life echo of the movement. Jungkook and J-Hope’s coats bunched up and hid their figures.

I’m sure I would have forgotten all about this stage in the rush of end of the year performances if Jungkook hadn’t released another of his Golden Closet Films: “G.C.F. 3J@ MMA Practice.”

Set to the jangly beat of Alex Lustig’s Under Pressure, Jungkook shows us what the performances were supposed to look like, drawing more shamanistic energy from the movement of their bodies, filmed in black and white, dressed in simple rehearsal clothes, than the full performance overly busy stage set managed to do.

Just compare the way Jungkook captured J-Hope’s plain t-shirt flowing with his movements to how the costume coat bunched and concealed.

Jungkook gets it.

The film is short, just about a minute and a half, but it is powerful. The long sweep of Jimin’s arms as he wields the fan; J-Hope crouching, all coiled tension like a tiger ready to pounce; and Jungkook himself, face concealed beneath a hat, displaying the formidable power in his body as he leaps into the air, the fabric he’s holding flowing perfectly around him, highlighting the graceful movements of his arms.

They are not in costume. The music is far from traditional. And yet the magic is there. The idol as modern day shaman.

Jimin rehearsing the fan dance

My favorite sequence: Jungkook captured in the mirror as J-Hope dances. The way his shirt flares out with his movements is beautiful. It is such a shame the way the MMA costuming concealed rather than emphasized.

Jungkook-Director, face hidden for the mask dance. The way he leaps into the air as if gravity is nothing...

Friday, December 14, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 8

Episode 8 covers the rise of JYP Entertainment, the start of K-pop's frustrating relationship with America, the surprise hit "Gangnam Style", and a discussion of how BIGBANG and Arashi were both the biggest band in the world in 2012. The setlist for episode 8 is very heavy with American R&B and Soul influences so prepare to have more horn sections and backbeats than could possibly exist on American radio today.

And just a note, my schedule has been busier than I expected coming into December and this is probably going to be the last episode before the holidays. I will try but I can't promise.

Anyways, please enjoy today's show! And let me know if you have any comments or questions. I'm having fun talking about things I want to talk about but I'm more than happy to answer questions or get some other discussions started.

The songs played are:

1. "Hadakanbo" by Yamashita Tomohisa, performed live on Hey!Hey!Hey! on January 31, 2011

2. "Elevator" by Jin-Young Park

3. "Intro" by G.O.D.

4. "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers/"그대 날 떠난 후로" by G.O.D.

5. "Tell Me" by Wonder Girls/"Nobody" by Wonder Girls

6. "Gangnam Style" by PSY

7. "Fantastic Baby" by BIGBANG

8. "Cotton Candy" by Daesung/ "Turn it up" by T.O.P./ "Wedding Dress" by Taeyang/ "High High" by GD & T.O.P./ "VVIP" by Seungri

9. "Tonight" by BIGBANG

10. "Cafe" by BIGBANG

11. "Alive" by BIGBANG

12. "Bad Boy" by BIGBANG

13. "Love Situation" by Arashi

14. "Tokei Jikake no Umbrella" by Arashi, performed live at Arafes

15. "Face Down" by Arashi/ "Meikyuu Love Song" by Arashi

16. "Wild at Heart" by Arashi

17. "P.A.R.A.D.O.X." by Arashi

18. "Disco Star" by Aiba Masaki

19. "Sakura" by Arashi

20. "Fukkatsu Love" by Arashi

21. "Can't Stop Feeling" by 2PM

YamaP with a live performance of "Hadakanbo" and my apologies that this isn't the one I played in the show. I had my files confused.

JYP performing a medley of his hits at the 2015 MAMA Awards:

The futuristic "Fantastic Baby" where Big Bang fight the forces of NO MUSIC:

A live performance of "Cafe":

"Wild At Heart" live with choreography:

And for comparison, this is how groups like the O'Jays performed.

And one of my favorite television performances from Arashi over this period, the dramatic "Sakura":

Friday, December 7, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 7

In this week's episode, I talk about what was happening in Japan while SM Entertainment was getting sued by Super Junior and DBSK. Listen to Arashi make it to the top, the saga of A.B.C-Z and Kis-My-Ft2, and about Japan's weirdest male idol group... Golden Bomber.

The songs played are:

1. "A.Ra.Shi" by Arashi, live at the Asia Song Festival in Seoul, Korea, 22 September 2006.

2. "Love So Sweet" by Arashi

3. "Truth" by Arashi

4. "Believe" by Arashi

5. "Let Me Down" by Arashi

6. "Kis-My-Calling" by Kis-My-Ft2

7. "Daybreaker" by Kis-My-Ft2 and A.B.C-Z

8. "Everybody Go" by Kis-My-Ft2

9. "Za ABC Five Stars" by A.B.C-Z

10. "Hara Hara Hira Furu" by A.B.C-Z

11. "Heavy Rotation" by AKB48

12. "Memeshikute" by Golden Bomber

13. Yanya Yanya Night by Golden Bomber

14. Japonica Style by SixTones

15. "Neeeeeee!" by Golden Bomber

Here is the trailer for "Takizawa Kabuki", the Japan-focused revue put on annually by Takizawa Hideaki aka Tackey & Tsubasa's Tackey:

Here is the video for SixTones's "Japonica Style", produced by Takizawa:

And the Gachupin Challenge Series, a takeoff on the Gachapin Challenge Series:

Friday, November 30, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 6

This week I deep dive into 2007-2009 in Korean boy group world. It is a WILD ride so buckle up and get ready to listen!

Next week I'll pop back over to Japan but I had to take some time with these years for reasons you'll understand...

The songs played are: 1. "La La La" by BIGBANG (Live performance from opening linked)

2. "1TYM" by 1TYM

3. "Crazy" by Se7en

4. "Lies" by BIGBANG

5. "Don't Don" by Super Junior

6. "Sorry Sorry" by Super Junior

7. "Purple Line" by DBSK

8. "Mirotic" by DBSK

9. "Gara Gara Go" by BIGBANG

10. "Destiny of Love" by Shinhwa

The links should take you to the PVs where appropriate. You should DEFINITELY watch them.

For a look at proto-YG idol group 1TYM in action:

And here is Koda Kumi with DBSK:

For whatever reason the Koda Kumi style of diva is now out of style in Japan but the mid-2000s was the heyday of American-style "sexy" singers.

And here is the Chinese-localized Super Junior M with "Super Girl":

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Burn the Stage: The Movie (2018)

The elevator pitch for Burn the Stage: The Movie (2018) is “BTS tour documentary.” And, yes, the film was crafted from footage taken with the band as they traveled around the world on their 2017 Wings tour. It’s material that’s already been mined for the YouTube Red series Burn The Stage, as well as numerous DVD releases (all of which I own) including the 2017 Memories DVD set as well as three (3) separate performance DVD sets (Seoul, Saitama, and Osaka) which all contain extensive behind the scenes footage.

But Burn the Stage: The Movie creates something far, far bigger out of these bits and pieces. The behind the scenes content on the performance DVDs is straightforward tour documentary footage and--I discuss this at length in my reviews(s)--the the YouTube Red series feels like an American-style reality show.

Burn the Stage: The Movie is neither dry documentary nor voyeuristic reality show.

Burn the Stage: The Movie takes all that footage and uses it to tell a story pulled from the lyrics to “바다” or “Sea”, a hidden track only available on the CD version of Love Yourself 承 Her and written by the three members of the rap line.

In the end, we reached the mirage

And it became our reality

The scary desert

Became the ocean with our blood, sweat and tears

But why is there this fear

In between the happiness?

Because we know too well that this place is really a desert

(Translation taken from here)

The film opens by taking the audience with BTS as they move from the mundane space--a grubby Min Yoongi backstage shoving a banana in his face because they haven’t had time to eat all day--to the sacred. On stage. They’ve reached the mirage in the desert. An ocean of light sticks, an ocean of music, an ocean of emotion. For a couple of hours this won’t just be a sticky floored venue full of plastic seats, it’s a cathedral.

And then we all go back to reality.

This is something BTS understands. Specifically, I think it’s something Min Yoongi and Kim Namjoon understand. The film is anchored by their philosophical outlook on what has happened to the group as they’ve skyrocketed to international celebrity and director Park Jun-Soo must have had some long discussions with the pair to be able to capture their words so clearly.

We follow BTS as they travel and put on concerts, natural in front of the cameras as their every move has been tracked for years now. We’re pulled back and forth from the normal 20-something guys hanging out and doing their jobs to The Idols On Stage.

Kim Seokjin, Jeon Jungkook, and Park Jimin being the greatest hotel drinking buddies ever. Jin, Jungkook, and Jimin making fans cry with emotion during their solo songs.

Min Yoongi, Kim Namjoon, and Jung Hoseok alone at their laptops. Suga, RM, and J-Hope holding court on stage as fans go crazy all around them.

Kim Taehyung off in his own world. V’s handsome face making an audience go breathless with wonder.

Jungkook happy about getting to walk around New York City.

Yoongi getting red faced halfway through a bottle of wine.

Seokjin trying his best to make every single person around him smile.

Hoseok wandering through an empty stadium floor wondering what the fans see.

Jimin unable to stop thinking about his mistakes.

Jungkook unable to stop thinking about snacks.

Everybody thrilled that Taehyung brought his dog to work.

Everybody teasing Yoongi for being unable to shut up about the Billboard Awards.

Everybody crying with emotion in front of the fans at the final concert.

The guys doing cannonballs in a swimming pool while Yoongi watches off to the side with a giant glass of wine.

They are people; they are idols.

In one of the interview segments for the film Namjoon says something like, I know that people see different things in us and that’s okay. The implication--as I took it--was that BTS has come to terms with the parts of the audience that only see what they want to see. Whether it’s the fans who only engage with the surface levels, the catchy songs, cute faces, funny memes. The fans who only know “V” and “Jin” and don’t feel the need to see beyond to Kim Taehyung and Kim Seokjin. The fans who comb through interviews trying to prove various “ships” with elaborate YouTube video compilations. The fans who put words in their mouths, twisting statements to reflect their own political motives. The fans who listen but don’t hear.

Why do they like us? It's a question Namjoon, in particular, anguishes over.

It's okay that some fans only like the pretty faces. It doesn't mean he's not doing good work.

“Your success in America is because of the music.”

“Your success in America is because you guys have a fun image.”

“Your success in America is because of the crazy fans.”

I see ocean, I see desert, I see the world

Everything is the same thing

But with a different name

It’s life again

Everything is the same thing, but with a different name.

One of the most powerful images in the film comes early, during their stop in Chile. Jeon Jungkook overheated and faint, unable to stand or even keep his eyes open, being propped up while the make-up staff fixes his face to get him ready to go back on stage. And then seeing him a few moments later we see him dancing on stage as “Jungkook,” as if he hadn’t just collapsed.

The moment had been captured fetishistically in the YouTube series with the camera lingering on Jungkook’s distressed form, on the worried faces of his bandmates. The film captures it much differently. Director Park Jun Soo doesn’t show us Jungkook’s distress, he shows us Jungkook’s strength.

Burn the Stage: The Movie asks where that strength comes from? What made Jungkook get back out on that stage? What motivates them to keep going when they’ve reached past any dreams they may have had for themselves five years ago? Where do they go from here?

There are no answers but the questions raised were good ones. BTS talk about redefining success in a healthier way than measuring numbers on a chart, very aware that the ride at the top only lasts so long. They want to figure out a way to keep going, to stay happy, to stay healthy, to not burn out or get bored. They play around; they work hard; they treasure each other like family; and they get time off to recharge.

I walked into the theater not quite knowing what to expect from Burn the Stage: The Movie and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was... this. I’ll need to see it a few more times to really pick through the imagery but I think director Park Jun Soo did an excellent job finding the moments that would have the most impact and using some of their most evocative songs. I can’t have been the only one in tears every time the strains of “Outro: Wings” came on or who got goosebumps of pleasure as her favorite song “Ma City” kicked off.

BTS are seven guys but BTS are only “BTS” with the help of the crew, the lighting and sound, the director, and the love and emotions of the fans.

Those seven guys may not have been in the theater with us but BTS was.

I cannot wait to see it again (and again).

(a.k.a. Hey, Big Hit, release the DVD soon, please)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 5

This week, in Japan, we go from the Golden Age of Johnny's Juniors through the debut of KAT-TUN and, in Korea, SM Entertainment's trials and tribulations with Shinhwa and the hard slog of DBSK's early years.

(And just a note: I didn't realize next week was Thanksgiving. I thought it was two weeks from now. But I'll be taking a week off so you'll have to wait an extra week for episode 6!! Sorry!! I leave you on kind of cliffhanger but believe me it's worth it.)

The songs played are:

1. "Yumemonogatari" by Tackey & Tsubasa

2. "Dangan Liner" by Arashi

3. "Sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana" by SMAP

4. "Kibou ~Yell~" by NEWS

5. "Seishun Amigo" by Shuji to Akira (Kamenashi Kazuya and Yamashita Tomohisa)

6. "Keep the Faith" by KAT-TUN

7. "Real Face" by KAT-TUN

8. "Kitto Daijoubu" by Arashi

9. "From the Beginning to Now" by Ryu (Theme to Winter Sonata)

10. "Perfect Man" by Shinhwa

11. "Hug" by DBSK

12. "Balloons" by DBSK

13. "Boku no senaka ni hane ga aru" by Kinki Kids

Here is "Seishun Amigo" performed live on TV Asahi's Music Station on October 28, 2005, with trainees from at least three now-active groups. Have fun picking them out!

The video for "Balloons" featuring the disturbing animal costumes and plastered on fake smiles:

Friday, November 9, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 4

I was a little wary of posting this episode today due to the current tensions around BTS's sudden cancelation from Music Station. The short version is that the relationship between Japan and Korea is complicated and it's always disappointing to realize that there are international fans who remain sort of willfully blind to the history and culture of the countries that the groups that they like come from. In fact, that's one of the reasons why I started this project.

ANYWAYS, this week's episode picks up the roots of K-Pop in the 1990s while still following the next chapter of the story in Japan with SMAP.

Please enjoy!

The songs played are:

1. "We Are the Future" by H.O.T.

2. "Bitulgorinun sesang" by Hyun Jin Young

3. "Turn up the Radio" by Sinawe

4. "Nan Arrayo" by Seo Taiji and Boys

5. "Can't Stop!! Loving!" by SMAP

6. "Aoi Inazuma" by SMAP

7. "Cheon sang yu ae" by Roo'Ra/"Omatsuri Ninja" by Ninja

8. "Warrior's Descendant" by H.O.T.

9. "A+" by Sechs kies

10. "A Better Day" by JTL

A look at a rookie Hyun Jin Young in action:

Seo Taiji and Boys on the MBC Talent Show April 11, 1992:

And because I love her: SHINGO MAMA!

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