유행

K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST
KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 
What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 
The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 
 

K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST

KIMHEENIM aka Kim Heechul: member of Super Junior and M&D, actor, coffee shop owner and radio DJ. 

What to expect: almost daily updates, each one cosy, good-natured and day-to-day. Phone snaps of Heechul’s exquisite Russian Blue cat, Heebum; screenshots of k-dramas and fiddly-looking video games; laugh out loud funny ‘Frozen’ photo-edits; behind the scenes shots of ‘We Got Married’ wife Puff Guo and plenty of adorable video clips of domestic life in modern Seoul, with Gunhee. 

The crowning touch: Heechul’s Instagram is not what one would expect of a celebrity. Unfiltered, relaxed, off-duty and witty - Heechul doesn’t use his Instagram to show off extravagant luxuries, but to celebrate the smaller things that make life fun. It is imbued with the same likeable, messy/happy spirit that has gained Super Junior legions of ever-lasting friends around the globe -  try and not be endeared to 희님. 

 


K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 
BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 
What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 
The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. 

K-POP X INSTAGRAM: THE BEST OF THE BEST 

BORNFREEONEKISS2 aka Kim Jaejoong: member of JYJ, CEO of luxury leather goods brand Moldir, singer/songwriter, actor & coffee shop entrepreneur. 

What to expect: a haze of heart-swelling luxury - bountiful flowers, fine jewellery, luscious Korean food, good Champagne and quirky modern art. Lots of shots of Jaejoong’s beautifully decorated home, some dreamy selfies and insta-videos galore. 

The crowning touch: Jaejoong’s Instagram is civilized, sophisticated and bound to give you some happy life envy as you gaze into Rolex watch faces and crystal Champagne flutes. But behind it all, there is a warmth, an honesty, a homeliness, a softness and a tone of appreciation that is endearing, inspiring and fun. 


ZE:A’s Dongjun, Hyungsik, Siwan and Kwanghee meet designer (and ex SHINee stylist) Ha Sang Baek and Rana of Nine Muses to take a look at the best pieces inside Siwan, Kwanghee and Dongjun’s closets and pick out some ‘casual outfits that female fans might like’ at Superdry.


K-POP X COVERS

"Mr." - M&D

KARA’s ‘Mr.’ is a k-pop classic - covered multiple times over by female and male artists, always in a fun and light-hearted tone. Why would it take any other tone, after all? ‘Mr.’ is about catching a man’s eye at a party or at a club - it is flirtatious, young, upbeat and summery. M&D, however, took the track down an utterly different path - under their skilled hands, it becomes tearfully sad and poignant: full of regret, apathy, self-doubt, oppression and heartbreak. 

Heechul and Jungmo stripped ‘Mr.’ down of everything: the heavy beat, the autotune, the bright colours, the choreography, the distinctive melody of the chorus. KARA’s ‘Mr.’ is a song that makes one want to dance and jump around and have fun and delight in youth and romance and all things carefree. M&D’s ‘Mr.’ may only be one minute and thirty-nine seconds in length, but it packs a hard-hitting, emotional punch. The delicate backing notes from Jungmo’s keyboard lightly compliment Heechul’s voice - the instrument was the perfect choice to give this cover almost the raw vulnerability of an acapella performance but retain the musicality of a studio recording.

The most moving moments of ‘Mr.’ are from 0:58 to 1:06 - Heechul’s striking, ringing, pained notes wriggle underneath the skin - he hits them perfectly; they are full of clarity. This is a moving and emotive piece of art that hits on many issues, both within human relationships and society as a whole. Heechul transforms KARA’s flirty glances at a handsome man into a deep and needy longing for a stranger. There are two types of romantic meeting in ‘Mr.’ - KARA’s ends well. M&D’s doesn’t end, because it doesn’t begin. The overall tone and the sadness expressed in Heechul’s vocals will make this a heavy listen for anyone. However, it is only after reading the lyrics in translation that the true meaning is conveyed:

'Looking pretty good, you catch my eyes. Slowly, I develop interest towards you. Tock, tock, the clock keeps flowing. I keep sending small glimpses towards you. I send away small smiles towards you. Now look at me, hey. Hey, you. You, mister. Look over here, mister. Yeah, that's right, you, mister. Come next to me, mister. Hey, here, mister. Now look at me, mister. Wanted you so, mister. What's your name, mister?' 

This is a same-sex love song or, more accurately, a same-sex longing song. It will touch anybody who has ever stared at a beautiful stranger and known that however wonderful they think they are upon first sight, they will never even know their name. It will touch anyone who identifies as LGBT, as we are all too familiar as a community with knowing that most people we meet and find attractive or fascinating or both are not even interested in our gender, never mind us. It is also intriguing in the light in which it portrays same-sex love in conservative nations with it’s sad calls of ‘Mr.’ South Korea isn’t the hardest place in the world to be LGBT, but it isn’t the easiest either. It is always distressing for a person’s innermost feelings of love and romantic attraction to be considered ‘taboo’.

If you have never heard this before, press play without hesitation. It is a work of art that is sure to linger in the heart, the mind and the soul for a very long time. 


K-POP X VOGUE: REAL REALNESS

PART THREE

"A Guys" - N.O.M 

In the September of 2013, two groups debuted. Both called NOM, one punctuated N.O.M, one simply NOM, they are very different groups with very different concepts, yet are frequently mistaken for each other. NOM are a simple, cute boyband, yet to have much success, who promoted a track called ‘Pretty Noona’ - something many have said was a rather low-budget rework of SHINee’s May 2008 debut ‘Replay’ or ‘Noona Is So Pretty’. N.O.M, however, are the first k-pop group in history to have every member come out as gay. N.O.M is an acronym for ‘Nature Of Man’ - a sure illusion to being born that way. They are a four piece, called JK, Nio, Kom and Q, and as of right now, have only one song. Unsurprisingly, they haven’t got very far. Even in the world’s most liberal nations, leather bar harnesses, leggings, military caps and mockeries of the sexual confusion and ambiguity of the nation’s pop culture isn’t the man on the street’s idea of a summer anthem. 

'A Guys' confused most people upon first listen. I remember supposing it only really relevant as a piece of surreal sexual art, as they are clearly and openly gay, yet are singing about women - they must mention women nearly a hundred times? Yet, I swore I heard sexy boys mentioned, too? I didn't understand. Then, after a little bit of research, and stumbling across a rather good explanatory article, I got it. In the South Korean music industry, there are next to no openly LGBT stars. However, this really doesn't mean that there aren't any LGBT stars. The art produced by some male k-pop artists is incohesive - most romantic art will be about straight love, with a few, often very passionate, same-sex performances throughout their career. Artists may say or do things that indicate that they are gay, bisexual, lesbian or gender flexible, yet, due to South Korea's conservative political climate, are rarely interviewed about it and are often forced to or choose to remain elusive about their orientation.

N.O.M’s ‘A Guys’ is complex, yet simple. Musically, it is simple. It has a fairly standard electronic beat but is nicely layered and is always a pleasing listen. At three minutes and twenty-four seconds, I tend to feel that, for such an enjoyable composition, it is over too quickly. Repetitive, the lyrics, mostly in English, drill into the mind: ‘Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls’. The lyrics are where the complexity lies. N.O.M sing about girls in every line, but it isn’t as simple as that. How many pop songs now, particularly Western, but Korean too, are exploitative of women?  How many bombard the mind with a silly, over the top, aggressive masculinity? Perhaps ‘A Guys’ means ‘Alpha males’? Or, perhaps it refers to ‘A’ blood type men within South Korean blood type personality philosophy? 

The lyrics of ‘A Guys’ mention women. A lot. We’ve covered that already. However, they are not particularly romantic. They are more a musing, a consideration, an obsession. The main chorus uses that classic k-pop trick: accent play. T-ARA’s ‘Bo Peep Bo Peep’ is the most notable example of this: ‘bo peep, bo peep’ sounds like ‘fuck me, fuck me’ when spoken with a Korean accent. AlphaBAT’s ‘AB City’ is another example. ‘A B C D’ sounds like ‘AB City’ when spoken with a Korean accent. In ‘A Guys’, ‘sexy voice’ becomes ‘sexy boys’ when spoken with an accent and ‘nice legs’ becomes ‘nice regs/rack’ - something hazy and confused. N.O.M tell a woman that they ‘want her sexy voice/boys, see her body figure, like her nice legs’. They tell her that she’s ‘like a shining star’ and that they’ve ‘adjusted themselves to her style’. The most pivotal lyrics are these: ‘Look around, I’m the nicest guy. All of the monsters that surround you. Look at me and my wrap skirt. A thriller under the vague light. Feel it. All of my physical.’ It sounds like a poor translation, but look a little deeper. Is the implication that the cross dressing man or gay man is more sensitive compared to typical, hyper-masculine ‘monsters’? Does the ‘vague light’ reference both the hazy lights in clubs and gender play? Do they love the woman or are they jealous of her? Do they want her or want to become her? 

Fashion-wise, N.O.M didn’t mess around. Many male k-pop units have worn militaristic clothing, many have worn leather harnesses, many have worn eye jewels, many have worn leggings. However, Nature Of Man are the first group to wear them all together, with very little else. The outfits are reminiscent of something you may see on a dancer or go-go boy in an Itaewon gay bar. The video girl wears skeleton make-up that was also used in Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ video as she caresses an emotionless looking member of N.O.M. Red lipstick, black feathers, army medallions, white patent boots - it is all very glamorous, yet very defiant. It is glamorous in the way that it presents gay identity and symbolism, not in any sort of fairytale or airbrushed manner of glamour. 

In the January of this year, SM Entertainment composer Hwang Sang Hoon came out as bisexual to ‘Sports Seoul’. He wanted to help South Korea’s LGBT community and improve how bisexuals are perceived. From 2002 to 2007, he was in SM Entertainment male group Black Beat. He said some rather moving and notable things, when asked: ‘We are under the impression that there are many people in a sexual minority group in the entertainment and arts fields?’ Hwang’s response was: ‘I don’t know if it’s because they are people full of talent. I guess it seems that there are more of them compared to other fields, but I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know how you’d establish detailed statistics based on just what people say, when there are also those who hide. However, outing someone is sheer murder. Exaggerating a few rumours that you heard by accident is criminal. You should come out on your own terms and when the people around you give you enough strength to do it. There are many people who commit suicide because they are outed. It is a serious issue.’ Gay activist, actor, restaurateur, politician and socialite Hong Seok Chun said this when asked a similar question: ‘There are people around me who thought of coming out but there were always problems with family or work. The problem is not just coming out to your friends or family, but to all of Korean society. I have talked to the very famous couple that people keep talking about.’ When asked their names, he said he wouldn’t reveal them as ‘he is someone who keeps secrets.’ Being LGBT in South Korea isn’t easy and being a closeted celebrity in any nation in the world sounds like an incredibly hard life, full of sadness, distrust and hiding. N.O.M had the confidence to show the public that they were gay, to make art that directly involved their identity and to add four more LGBT South Korean celebrities to the roster, supporting the nation’s community. They faced homophobic internet comments and unpleasant ‘reaction videos’ full of laughter, from many people from all over the world, but they must have expected that. How brave. 

The dance is made up of classic, simple Voguing moves - it is sensual and beautiful but simple. However, they perform in heels, which is naturally impressive. The realness in ‘A Guys’ comes from the dancing - fierce, challenging, unique, bold, fun. It comes from the music, too - memorable, danceable, professional, clever. It comes from the styling - striking, thought-provoking, avant garde and a special symbol of a really special sub-culture. But what makes ‘A Guys’ so real is that it is real. N.O.M had the confidence to come out as they debuted. They could have repackaged themselves, found success and been a part of the next generation of male k-pop artists. But they didn’t. Their commitment to the LGBT community in a country where it is often overlooked in its purest form is not only admirable but inspirational. And it has paid off. Whilst the NOM behind ‘Pretty Noona’ have had limited success - their video has gathered a smaller number of views on YouTube than N.O.M’s, N.O.M have had a different kind of success. Naturally, ‘A Guys’ isn’t fit for music television programs, so they are performing mainly at nightclubs. The nightclubs include Club Octagon - a huge Seoul nightclub, that is gay friendly but by no means a gay club. Jaejoong, G-Dragon, SHINee, Girls Generation’s Sunny, Jay Park and the Wonder Girls have all either DJed, performed at or attended events there. Club Octagon has been called the best nightclub in South Korea. They have also performed at other large nightclubs and modelled in a magazine shoot. It isn’t the world. But it is real. 


K-POP X VOGUE: MDNA REALNESS 

PART TWO

"Vogue" - Jo Kwon

One day last year, I was listening to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’. I’d been listening to EXO’s cover of DBSK’s ‘Mirotic’ a lot at the time and absentmindedly tweeted my desire to hear the twelve piece cover the Madonna classic. I searched for other covers without results, trawling YouTube for potential SHINee, U-KISS, ZE:A, TVXQ, JYJ, Super Junior… even k-rock groups FT Island and CN Blue takes on the song. Then, a few days ago, I discovered Jo Kwon’s solo stage at 2AM’s December 2013 ‘Nocturne’ concert in Seoul. An extravaganza of empowered and chic happiness, sensuality and fun, it is a work of genius. But what else would we expect from k-pop’s favourite diva? 

Musically, Jo Kwon altered next to nothing. While I am still to discover the cover of my dreams: a light, wispy, slightly autotuned yet articulated rework by a large male or even female k-pop unit, this has enriched my musical life and found a place in my heart very quickly. It’s always a point of debate when critiquing covers: what makes a good cover good? Does it need to change the song and readapt it to make it an artist’s own? Does it need to offer some new perspective? Does it need to be along the same lines or entirely different? The magic in Jo Kwon’s cover is the drama of it all. Jo Kwon focused mainly on performance and fashion and interactions with dancers and staging and this shows a perfect understanding of the spirit of ‘Vogue’.

'Vogue' opens with a fierce little remix of some of the song's later lines: 'don't just stand there don't don't just stand there ladies la la ladies strike a pose', before Kwon's delicate, feminine, slightly hazy Korean accented English drifts and echoes through the verses. On first hearing, I questioned whether Jo Kwon was singing or if it was just a performance cover set to Madonna's original recording. But, after a few more plays, I noticed the distinguishing features that Jo Kwon's vocal talents provide.. His poised imitation of Madonna is full of cleanliness and his thin accent makes each lyric blend into the note it accompanies. 

As for the dance, Jo Kwon’s seven years and ten days of training paid off. His movements are flaw free, sharp and exquisite. He executes a very complex routine with utter panache and utter confidence. And he does it in a pair of very high heels. A fantastic black and white outfit was employed for Jo Kwon, and in the same way that the routine treats Kwon’s backing dancers as essentials, rather than padding, the styling does too. It is almost as if every backing dancer’s outfit is a tiny piece of perfect decoration that could have been the centerpiece if nobody had pitched Jo Kwon’s black, wide legged pants; tailored white shirt; leather harness; satin evening gloves and heeled ankle boots - a look reminiscent of Madonna’s updated Jean Paul Gaultier conical bra, first made in pastel pink silk, then reworked in black leather (to be layered over pinstripe monochrome tailoring, much like Jo Kwon) for her MDNA tour. 

Every detail of this stage was carefully orchestrated. Monochrome background graphics, provided by a very large set of cinema screens, alternated throughout from optical illusion esque patterns, to the logo of Vogue magazine, to photographs of Jo Kwon during his ‘Animal’ era - decked out in leather, feathers, studs and spikes. A huge troupe of fabulous backing dancers, each one of them striking in their own ways: bare chested, black pearl men in leather jackets; a statuesque, avant garde male model with long, shining black hair; young, sexy and energetic leggy girls in Louboutin thigh boots. A cream sudan chair, constructed like a ladder, used to lift and lower Jo Kwon down a long catwalk. Acrobatic yet sensual interactions between Kwon and his dancers: Jo clambers onto a male dancer’s back (no easy feat in stiletto heels) whilst he bends his leg into the sky to the sound of Vogue’s instantly recognizable spoken word verse and loud cheers from the audience. There’s another lovely move in which Kwonnie grabs and holds the toe of a dancer’s boot whilst she engages in a complex and impressive back bend over another female dancer. And behind all these tricks, there’s just presence. Fierceness. Hair flipping. Finger snapping. Realness. 


K-POP X VOGUE: RETRO REALNESS 

PART ONE

"This Love" - Shinhwa 

In the August of 2013, Shinhwa released ‘This Love’: a heavy backbeat that hangs in the air with wispy, daydreaming vocals delicately placed upon it. ‘This Love’ rhythmically builds to a big, energizing chorus, whilst supporting itself on some skillfully placed single piano notes and some unassuming but solid vocal solos from Eric, Minwoo, Andy, Jun Jin, Dongwan and Hyesung, and packed with beautiful, swirling lyrics: ‘Like a star that has seen the sun, I revolve around you… Like a bee that has seen a flower petal, I revolve around you… The firelight - the moment I’m trapped in your burning eyes.’ It is a composition meant for the background - it is wonderful, vibrant, enticing - but yet, doesn’t overpower Shinhwa’s centerpiece choreography. ‘This Love’ is one of those songs that just had to exist - it isn’t a surprising composition, it all plays out much as you might expect, but it plays out in near perfection. 

The eye-catching, central focus of ‘This Love’ is the bold, intriguing, androgynous choreography.. Shinhwa gave good face for their take on Voguing. For anybody unfamiliar with the cultural context, Voguing began in Harlem, New York in the 1960s, in the ballrooms. Not waltzing-evening-gown-male-lead-dancing-with-the-stars ballrooms, though, if that’s what you were thinking. The ballrooms that birthed Voguing were LGBT collectives, mainly made up of people from African-American and Latino communities. If you were a gay or transgender immigrant in ’60s America, chances were you were poor, your life was difficult and you didn’t have much to enjoy, much that you felt truly made you happy. Chances were, you didn’t have many places where you could truly be you. Thankfully, in the America we know today, the pressure of LGBT life isn’t as great, but it isn’t non-existent either. Unfortunately, in the South Korea of today, the hardships faced by LGBT people can be intense. Voguing is about letting loose, being fierce - being who you are and feeling full of glamour and confidence because you are you are, not in spite of it. Influenced by the dramatic allure of fashion poses used in Vogue magazine shoots and on runways and by the glamorous Pharaohs and Queens depicted in Ancient Egyptian art, Voguing is intended to look defiant, defined, feminine and bold. To put it into a k-pop context, think male divas and girl group dance covers. 

Shinhwa set out to ‘take the strengths of Voguing and change them to fit Shinhwa’. The main adaption that Shinhwa made was taking Voguing from a freestyle, dance battle setting to a sleek and neatly choreographed k-pop music video. Voguing is also more typically performed solo and Shinhwa performed it in a group, with backing dancers. Pretty much every other major aspect of Voguing stayed - Shinhwa went all out and it really payed off. Voguing is a striking and distinctive dance style and is pretty hard to suppress - the natural and elegant androgyny of the movements will always catch the eye and capture the imagination. Shinhwa took the most significant and archetypal movements of Vogue culture and linked them together seamlessly, forming a neat and memorable routine. There are a lot of candidates for the most iconic scene of ‘This Love’ - in my eyes though, it can only be the zoom-in at around 1:03. A fantastically imagined group fashion hunch, led by Minwoo, complete with fierce, challenging model facial expressions. The backing dancers also did a wonderful job. They interacted with Shinhwa effortlessly and sometimes even stole the show with their perfect moves - the fact that Shinhwa didn’t mind this happening was what made this so professional. Building an entire routine out of Voguing moves cannot have been an easy feat, but Shinhwa nailed it and created what I believe to be one of the finest male k-pop routines of all time.

Over the course of promotions, Shinhwa kept it simple, chic and mature in nicely tailored, monochrome suits in various decadent textures, like fine cotton and silk. They worked prints, but nothing too bright or popping: camouflage; paisley; patchworks of grays, blacks and creams. Shinhwa are one of the longest running k-idol groups and this was reflected well for this concept. Sophisticated pieces like collared shirts, blazers, waistcoats and ties made up the bulk of the wardrobe for ‘This Love’. The sheer quality and sumptuous fabric of these pieces kept them from looking like old men. Accessories like belts of metallic leather and chains; jet black, glossy ankle boots and stacked bracelets brought vibrancy, style and relevance. The subtlety of them, however, kept Shinhwa from looking like teenage boys.

'This Love' was a perfectly pitched concept, from every angle. Shinhwa are a vintage k-pop group. The biggest stars of today grew up with Shinhwa, and the most interesting thing about their career is the way it has changed with not only the Korean entertainment industry, but Korean society itself. Shinhwa have been growing and developing their aesthetic, their music and their public face since 1998. Retro realness, indeed. 


K-POP X COVERS

"Crazy" - Kim Heechul

Kim Heechul’s under appreciated live cover of female solo artist Lee Jung Hyun’s ‘Crazy’ is a hidden k-pop gem. Full of painful, poignant sadness and biting, honest and raw lyrics, this is a snappy, angry yet desperately vulnerable song. It is almost like a couple arguing, played out through performance. With Heechul’s natural stage presence, this is a fairly easy feat. In the original, it is an energetic electronic track, that is hazy, heavily autotuned and murky. Heechul had members of Super Junior and k-rock group TRAX rework it with him into a rock version, a fairly unexplored genre for Super Junior. Another interesting point is that Heechul sings this song to a man, and kisses another male artist - in the case of this wonderful, pieced together fan made video with remastered audio, Sungmin and Jungmo. Wild, varied and frantic energies and emotions are expressed within this performance: desperate hatred of an ex lover; begging for his return; manic laughter; frantic denial; deep and passionate and sudden kisses. The song has a Miss Haversham air of the sad desperation involved in convincing yourself that a relationship will mend itself, and that an absent man will return once again. Lee Jung Hyun has an acquired taste of a voice - it is very unique and very theatrical. Heechul’s is perhaps more listenable and relaxing, with his rough and ready yet skilled and memorable vocal style. If you are unfamiliar with this cover or it has been a while, or you simply haven’t heard it with remastered audio, there is no better time than right now. I must forewarn you, however. Any attempts to pry the punchy ‘Negero dorawa’ from your mind over the next few days will be pointless - this hook will become firmly stuck in your mind. Lyrics below: 

No matter what, just erase him from your memory. 

Idiot, you idiot. 

Don’t be like this!

Don’t lean on memories like a fool. 

He won’t ever come back. 

So don’t cry anymore. 

I’m crazy because of you,

I was crazy when I was with you, 

I didn’t realize it would be like this. 

Devoting everything I had to you, 

And I learn a lesson, 

Just because I love you. 

How could you leave me? 

I didn’t realize it would be like this. 

My heart’s wounded,

Trapped in memories,

And I’m in pain.

It would be better if you weren’t in this world. 

I will forever hate you, 

and forever resent you. 

What am I supposed to do now? 

It would be better if you weren’t in this world. 

How am I supposed to live? 

Can’t you return to me, once again? 

I love you. 

I will get down on my knees in front of you and beg. 

I promise to love you to the point of death. 

Since I miss you so much, 

I think I’m going to go crazy. 

Return to me. 

Don’t leave me alone like this. 

My heart is closed off. 

I went crazy when you left, 

I didn’t know it would be like this. 

My heart’s wounded, 

Trapped in memories, 

I didn’t know it would hurt like this. 

I miss you so much, 

I feel like dying, 

What am I to do? 

I will live only for you, 

So, please,

Return to me. 

I can no longer love anyone else in this world. 

How am I supposed to live?

Can’t you return to me once again? 

I love you. 

I will get down on my knees in front of you and beg. 

I promise to love you to the point of death. 

I miss you so much,

That I’m going to be crazy.

Return to me. 

No matter how long it takes,

No matter how far away you are,

I will wait until the day you return. 

I will no longer cry in front of the mirror,

Since I know you will return to me. 


Show! Music Core x 400th episode special 

On March 8th 2014, iconic k-pop television show ‘Show! Music Core’ reached a huge milestone of 400 episodes. To celebrate this, many k-pop artists performed special stages: covers, comeback specials, collaborations… Today, hallyuhighfashion will be making comment on as many of these exciting stages as possible. Enjoy.

MISS A VS SISTAR

"Alone" - miss A

SISTAR’s ‘Alone’ is a definitive k-pop single: definitive in its sexiness - it is one of the most naturally sexy pieces of art you could ever imagine; definitive in its sadness - a pleading break-up song, full of lyrics as biting to the listener as: ‘my heart, that you have abandoned feels so hollow, it feels like an deserted, empty street’; definitive in its style - its breathy, sexy vocals are some of the most memorable of a whole roster of breathy, sexy girl group singles; definitive in its styling - who could forget those patent pencil skirts and stilettos, glistening in red and black? It is also a k-pop single that has withstood endless covers, re-adaptions and dance covers, by both female and male artists - it still feels very much SISTAR’s, they haven’t lost it in the fray. 

miss A and SISTAR are similar - they are both four piece k-pop girl groups. But yet, their differences become very apparent during projects like this song swap. miss A’s ‘Hush’ and SISTAR’s ‘Alone’ aren’t a world away from each other - sensual, feminine, breathy, delicate. However, ‘Hush’ is about sex, ‘Alone’ is about heartbreak. ‘Hush’ is memorable because it is barely there, it is about empowered feminine sexuality, yet whispers quietly. ‘Alone’, on the other hand, is a big song - loud and sad, it drills into the soul and floods the mind. Hyorin, SISTAR’s main vocalist, is known for her huge, powerful, Beyonce-esque voice. ‘Alone’ is rich in poignancy; ‘Hush’ is rich in cleanliness. The trade-off has yielded some fairly intriguing results. miss A reworked some key elements of ‘Alone’ and imitated others. They slightly shifted the iconic, punchy chorus into a more delicate and more noticeably autotuned version - this is nice and gives their cover its own unique quality. miss A’s ‘Alone’ is chic and cold and unimpressed. Feelings of frustration are more noticeable than the feelings of distress that are evident in SISTAR’s version. The area in which miss A most differentiate themselves from SISTAR are vocal solos - miss A are a Korean/Chinese group and Fei’s opening solo with her pronounced and conscious Korean is pleasing to the ear. Suzy’s solo has a girlishness to it, but is challenging and defiant, too. Min brings a wonderful, dazed, distress and Jia’s bitter rap verse and light vocals are the focal point of the recording. All in all, I don’t think that this cover is groundbreaking - but who was expecting groundbreaking anyway? 

As expected, miss A borrowed SISTAR’s pencil skirts and stilettos. In my opinion, SISTAR’s choreography is almost impossible to perform in flat shoes - it can be done, but it isn’t easy. The delicate moves, posture and femininity needed all come twice as easily when in high heels. During promotions, SISTAR changed up the styles, colours and textures of their pencil skirts for live performances, but miss A went for their iconic black. I feel that miss A managed not to look like they were dressing up as SISTAR, merely that they were taking their costumes and adding their own spin. Their own spin actually didn’t look that far away from their ‘Hush’ promotions - black, gold chains, leather, long sleeves, sexy textures like mesh and lace. The glistening shine that came from black patent leather pants for ‘Hush’ returned, this time through eye catching patent red stiletto heels. 

miss A did a good job. Did they do a triumphant, awe-inspiring, magnificent, earth-shaking job? No. But they did do a good job. And there’s a little something to this cover… maybe you’ll find yourself coming back to it again from time to time. 


K-POP X 2014  

To celebrate k-pop in it’s full glory this year, hallyuhighfashion will attempt to collate as many of this year’s comebacks as possible under the tag: ‘2014’. Happy New Year!

"Whatcha Doin’ Today?" - 4Minute

I don’t know what I expected when I sat down to watch 4Minute’s latest video “Whatcha Doin’ Today?”. I had a vague k-pop music video blueprint in my mind, of course. There would wonderful styling, there would be sharp choreography, there would be futuristic sets. I hoped but didn’t expect that by the end of the video, I would be applauding, glued to my screen, dazzled by the modernity and the creativity that I had just witnessed.

Let’s start with the music. “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” is three minutes and forty-one seconds of classic k-pop goodness. Opening with a hook of kitschy, high harmonies, then sliding into an extended vocal solo by Sohyun that you can really get your teeth into - packed full of delicately pronounced rolling Korean and expressively spun notes. Jiyoon then launches into one of the finest rap verses I have ever heard in female k-pop. Hard edged, feminist, fierce, bubbling, challenging - Jiyoon is one of the members of 4Minute most neglected by the media. In my opinion, her extraordinary talents have been largely ignored. She keeps excellent rhythm - one special incidence of this is a fantastic, bouncy little segment of her verse, where she precisely aligns her rapping to her gestures and dancing. I feel this is much in tune with the Seoul school of hip-hop - that rapping is something to be practiced, something to be studied for years of one’s life, something to be examined. In South Korea, rap is a foreign import - hip-hop culture germinated in the Bronx of the late 1970s but I feel has found a rather fitting summer home in the Seoul of the present day. Seoul is a 24 hour mega city, bustling with life on every corner and down every alleyway. It is one of the most ethnically homogenous large cities on Earth, yet, like with any city of enormous size, you will find every kind of person living there. Growing up in Seoul, one must feel that the only way to have their voice heard over the swell of the crowds they encounter each day is to shout. What is hip-hop but learning to talk boldly, loudly and distinctively? Learning to make your unique voice, culture and perspective your greatest asset, not a downfall in a uniform urban setting?

The song, actually, like many of 4Minute’s latest offerings, is very intricate and evenly balanced. The hook is scant - it glides swiftly over the mind, maybe occasionally reappearing after it has been a couple of days since you last heard it. It is not designed to become stuck in your mind, but of course, like most k-pop hooks, there is an earworming quality to it. The most genius element of the composition of “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” is the simple but wise division of solos. There seem to be three major ways to split roles in k-pop production. Either roles are divided solely on perceived merits of members and feelings of the ‘untalented’ group members and the public at large are cast aside to achieve technical excellence. Members may end up with barely any vocal solos on an album, or in the worst cases, their whole career, particularly if they are one part of a very large group. The second method is to quickly chop between soloists. This means solos are largely brief, but everybody has a role and it can create some noticeably pleasant differences in the song’s vocal styles - a kind of xylophone effect. The third way, the way of this song, is the simplest. Sohyun, Hyuna, Jihyun, Gayoon and Jiyoon’s individual talents were all used to their fullest potential on this recording. Hyuna’s indisputable, recognisable vocal talents and characterful rap style that have made her solo career so wildly successful. Jihyun’s delicate, decadent and sumptous girlish voice that softens the sharpness, confidence, masculinity and incredible speed of Jiyoon’s rapping. Gayoon’s light, unassuming, bouncy and memorable vocals that twang with fun and emotion. Sohyun’s technical brilliance, vibrant cuteness and deep relationship with the aural elements of the Korean language. Using a simple method of dividing solos, based around allocating an individual their own verse, no stone is left unturned.

Fashion wise, this video is a triumph. A wonderfully sexy Hyuna enters purposefully, clad in a delicious mixture of feminine sportswear, playful pearls and beautifully cut sequin pieces. She drapes herself seductively across a lamp post and sashays forward, followed by 4Minute’s troupe of glossy, patent leather French maids in kitschy baby pink bob wigs, jewelled cat-eye reading glasses and tacky silk silver evening gloves. Some vigorous twerking follows. It is at this point one realises that they are in for a visual delight. A dance break follows, where each member shines in a metallic look worthy of a little ‘oohing and aahing’ - linger a little but not too long, the best is yet to come. Sohyun’s solo segment involved two of my favourite outfits of the video: a striking transparent PVC miniskirt, teamed with a monochrome patent crop top with some tiny floral touches, a well proportioned scarlet mini-bag and a really great necklace and some unusual suspenders that crown the look. She then spring cleans in a dark avant-garde cross between bunny girl ears and devil horns, some sheer polka dots, some denim and some socks with silver slingbacks. Then comes one of the most intriguing visual juxtapositions of a video overflowing with them - Jiyoon performs her entire rap verse sitting on an immaculate toilet, in an immaculate toilet stall, holographic sweatpants around her ankles. She includes some pretty assertive hand gestures too, including some that skirt around the sexual. I dont know about you, but rarely have I seen a female artist secure and cool enough to take on such a striking scene. Her t-shirt slogan reads ‘flower’ - perhaps a laughing reference to the false modesties many women try to bestoy upon themselves? She is crammed in by 4Minute’s large group of footmen dressed in Burberry Prorsum’s iconic Spring/Summer 2013 metallic suits in brilliant turquoise and hot pink. These are the finest fashion treats of the entire production. The suits are innately beautiful and cannot look unpleasant, but were styled up very skillfully with gold brogues and baby pink socks, designed to reference the clothes worn by footmen in charge of horses and carriages in high societies of old.

Next, we visit 4Minute in their dressing room being attended to by their very sexy French maids. It’s a sigh inducingly pretty sight. They wear languid, kawaii pyjamas and sleepwear with perfectly manicured nails, coiffed hair and glitter coated, alien lipstick. Gayoon’s first solo cut involves a column of metallic pink pussy bows, some form fitting black leather pants and a male servant in yet another Burberry Prorsum treat: gold and pink, this time around. Jihyun’s Marie Antoinette worthy creation is a shift dress, covered completely by powdery, pastel roses. It is frothy, it is beautiful and it will entrance you. She has everything that Queen Antoinette would crave if she were alive today and starring in a k-pop video - stacks of elaborately iced cakes, giant lollipops, eye jewels and coloured circle lenses. Gayoon draws in the air with a sparkler whilst wearing sexy metallic pink jeans and a fantastic, slinky gold slogan t-shirt, that is tune with the pertinent lyrics of “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” - ‘a little bit of reassurance’.

If all this wasn’t enough for you in terms of fashion delights, you are in luck. There is also another set of SS 2013 Burberry Prorsum men’s suits in algae green. There are a few more of the moment, nonchalant grunge looks for 4Minute. There are some wonderful, tactile, memorable metallic knits. There are some striking glitter manicures and eyebrows. Hyuna wears a delightful minimalist red silk t-shirt, with an origami cut. And if all of that still hasn’t gained your seal of approval there is one more lovely set of metallics to close the video, with a focus on gold.

The real gem of this video, however, is its boldness and its cinematic direction. Rarely have I seen a k-pop video with more inherent surrealism. And isn’t surrealism directly futuristic and therefore directly forward thinking? Dancing is, of course, used. But not in the typical k-pop way - there was no routine, there was no perfect cheorography. 4Minute, instead, had a party. They freestyled, they twerked, they jumped up and down. Any chereography was stylised and pointedly surreal. The cut speed of “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” was eye blurringly quick, hypnotically quick. But, yet, not over the top. 4Minute weren’t in a crazed fit of hyper-activity, merely an appropriate trance, naturally induced by the bright lights of post-modern Seoul. This was also a landmark video in many ways: it included edgy sexual scenes, some of them homoerotic. And whilst, over the years, there has been much male/male k-pop homoerotica on stage, during performances and on television shows, it is a lot rarer in music videos. Another point of note was that mostly, when we see male/male kisses within k-pop media, they are between stunningly attractive young idols. In 4Minute’s video, the actors chosen were slightly older and maybe not as traditionally attractive. This is important for many reasons - older people are scarce in any youth media these days, particularly in any sort of sexual or romantic light… Add to that the fact that it is a same-sex kiss scene, and you have yet one more reason to find “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” utterly captivating. The main quality that this video leaked and overflowed with was maturity. It was artistic, conscious, considered, thought provoking, subtle. This is not only the finest 4Minute video I have ever seen, but one of the finest k-pop music videos I have ever seen. It is every reason that I fell for the genre in the first place, condensed into a few minutes: a high art take on pop culture, energy, youth, vibrancy, a never failing attention paid to fashion, intense care taken over every note, a modern and glamorous approach to LGBT culture, music videos that are lessons on the art of the music video… How magical to see all these bright and bold qualities still so exuberantly alive in 2014. 

Since this is hallyuhighfashion, we’ll finish with one last fashion game: most of the looks in this video are showy and surreal but not stagewear and nothing would be lost in translation if it was to be used as street style inspiration. How about deciding on the look that you covet the most? Write in into the ask box, and I’ll reply and give you a free promo, too. Have fun. 





Show! Music Core x 400th episode special 

On March 8th 2014, iconic k-pop television show ‘Show! Music Core’ reached a huge milestone of 400 episodes. To celebrate this, many k-pop artists performed special stages: covers, comeback specials, collaborations… Today, hallyuhighfashion will be making comment on as many of these exciting stages as possible. Enjoy.

"Something" - Girl’s Day x Boy’s Day 

Girl’s Day’s sensual yet heartbreaking January single about the end of a relationship with a cheating boyfriend has been one of the biggest k-pop successes of the year so far. So, naturally, the announcement of a group of male artists performing a dance cover to celebrate 400 episodes of Music Core was met with much excitement. Boy’s Day - a special stage sub-unit made up of NU’EST’s Ren, BTOB’s Minhyuk, VIXX’s Hongbin and A-JAX’s Seungjin - didn’t disappoint. Most members of Boy’s Day are no strangers to androgyny - the feminine appearance of NU’EST’s Ren, who uses the Japanese word for lotus flower as his stage name, brought NU’EST huge attention at debut. His looks are so strikingly delicate that he has been asked to show his Adam’s apple during interviews. In 2013, VIXX Girls, performed energetic covers of ‘So Hot’ and ‘I Got A Boy’. BTOB went up against VIXX Girls in a dance battle with an impressive cross dressed dance cover of A Pink’s ‘NoNoNo’. Unfortunately, thus far in their career, A-JAX haven’t had much attention paid to them, but they have performed a fun girl group dance medley at a concert in Seoul. Girl group dancing and cross dressing have been stalwarts of the male k-pop industry since some of the earliest generations of idol groups. Regularly performed on variety shows, during radio shows, as a solo stage at a concert, on down time at the Idol Athletics Championships and just about anywhere and everywhere else, girl group dancing quickly became widely popular in male k-pop. An important factor in this was the discovery of a guy at a dance contest called Hyunmin who could ‘dance like Lee Hyori’ - the video went viral, he appeared on a variety show and Fly To The Sky’s Brian Joo got up to dance with him. That was about six years ago. It’s 2014 now, and girl group dancing and cross dressing have become refined arts for some male k-pop artists. K-pop audiences are used to seeing stunning transformations, involving elaborate wigs, perfect mastery of dance steps, complex make-up and carefully selected costumes. 

Girl’s Day kicked off the performance, flanked by female backing dancers in eye-catching, luxuriant white maxi skirts and cropped shirts. Minah, Yura, Hyeri and Sojin wore understated but sexy black mesh versions of their trademark ‘Something’ look. A crop top teamed with an ankle grazing skirt was first seen in k-pop on Park Ji Yoon, during promotions of her mega hit ‘Adult Ceremony’, back in the year 2000. A look with clear 1990s influence, it is many, quite disparate things all at once: minimalist, sultry, edgy, effortless - and, quite fittingly in Girl Day’s heartbroken case: mourning. Girl’s Day and Boy’s Day look ready to attend a funeral - there is not a touch of colour to be seen. Yet, there is also a clear sexual element. The best pieces of styling, in the context of a musical performance, convey clear emotion and the message of the song, but never too directly. This is done here immaculately. Boy’s Day’s additions of black feathers and patterned opaque tights worked perfectly with sheer sleeves and side split skirts to convey feelings of sadness and of sensuality, all at once. 

Hair and beauty was one of the most impressive features of this performance. Girl’s Day’s pretty hot pink lips and smoky bronze eyes teamed with simple, natural hair was pleasing and they looked very elegant, but up to date, too. Boy’s Day had some of the most incredible cross dressed hair styling and make-up artistry I have ever seen. By simply adding extensions to Ren’s already lengthy hair, he looked stunningly natural. Natural enough, in fact, to go almost unrecognised in a photo with After School later that day. Boy’s Day also added personal details which increased the realism of their costumes - black and gold hair accessories for Ren and Seongjin, but none for Minhyuk and Hongbin; shades of lipstick and gloss tailored to their skin colour; different patterns on their tights. Cross dressing this effectively takes huge amounts of time and preparation and the results are evident. 

Another extraordinarily successful element of this performance was Boy’s Day’s take on Girl’s Day choreography. ‘Something’ was released this January, part of a wave of sexy girl group singles. The overtly sexual ‘cat dance’ move was questioned by the public and it was omitted completely from this performance. This was a skillful, wise decision - it kept the whole performance classy, elegant, feminine and empowered. Boy’s Day did a fantastic job of dancing in very high heels - they moved seamlessly and effortlessly, although learning to dance so flawlessly in their shoes clearly took a lot of effort. I have never seen a male k-pop artist fall over or trip whilst wearing high heels, but I can’t imagine anybody dancing with more presence in them than Boy’s Day did. 

Two points of common question with this performance were Boy’s Day neglecting to cover the song vocally, and Seongjin’s ‘over the top’, ‘try hard’ stage presence, full of winking and lip biting. Vocally, ‘Something’ is delicate, very feminine, in a high key and overflowing with complex layering. To have sung a competent to good cover of it, danced at the same time and got their costumes spot on, Boy’s Day would have had to practice for a very long time - and even if they did, would their voices even reach the key of the song? Would it have even been coherent to see such femininity juxtaposed against a masculine vocal cover? Boy’s Day lipsynched skillfully and passionately. It looked good. I would love a male readaption of the song, but it would need to be reimagined and practiced before that happens. Girl’s Day are very talented and are not easy to imitate. As for Seongjin, he is relatively inexperienced in the industry. This appearance is now one of the things that he is most known for. Personally, I think he did a wonderful job - he looked tentative, certainly but beautiful and serious. He was trying hard - but what could be wrong with trying hard and with working hard? 

As a last word, I’d like to mention the bravery involved in this performance, from both Girl’s Day and Boy’s Day. How often is it that you see Western female artists share their stage with beautiful, realistic cross dressed imitations of them? Or are they too insecure for that? Would it make them feel like they weren’t beautiful themselves, or like they ‘looked like a man’? Girl’s Day not only shared a stage with Boy’s Day but were involved in the rehearsal process and posed for some cute backstage photos with their Boy’s Day counterparts. These were actions of sensitivity and maturity, and put Girl’s Day in an endearing light. Boy’s Day had the courage to dress as women with utter seriousness, finesse and sensuality, on television, in a conservative country. Whilst they may not be the first k-pop artists to cross dress or do anything else related to the LGBT community, they are doing it this March. They are new generation artists and in the future will take the place of high up names as they retire and grow older. They are carrying on the k-pop genre in the same, forward thinking spirit in which it was started - a spirit of modernity, a spirit of intellectualism, a spirit of humility, a spirit of liberality, a spirit of globality, a spirit of hard work and, of course, a spirit of bravery. And, if you are looking for one more reason to love this performance, it happened to take place on International Women’s Day. May we celebrate femininity in every form in which it comes.