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.