Wednesday, September 6, 2017

K-pop? Nah. B1A4? Yes, please.

I have never been on the k-pop bandwagon. Although I have some favorite Korean songs, most of them were from movie or drama soundtracks, e.g. Goong, The Classic, Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Through the years, I've only had two favorite singers, Kim Jeong-hoon and Lee Hong-ki, and never bothered to look for more.

One of the reasons may be because these k-pop groups are more of the louder autotuned hip hop or techno types, which are not really my genres. I'm also not a fan of celebrities who look and feel rehearsed. You could say that these are my impressions of k-pop and their idols in general.

Enter B1A4

B1A4 from left: Gongchan, Sandeul, Jinyoung, Baro, Shinwoo

Last month I watched Love in the Moonlight and got interested in one of the supporting actors. Usually when I watch a film, I check out the cast, and from the ones I liked, check some of their other works. This actor's name is Jinyoung, and he's a singer, a member of a group called B1A4. Because I wanted to hear how he sounded, went straight to YouTube, and voila!

Well, I was not really impressed. His voice was fine and unique, but a little high pitched, not exactly my taste. Then I checked out his group. The first one I saw was a dance practice video. I didn't know these existed in the k-pop world. These should have been available in the 80s and 90s so we didn't have to see just segments of the dance steps in music videos, but I digress.

First video I saw was called Lonely:

These were some of my thoughts while watching: crazy kids; nice song; love the choreography; that tall guy is the best dancer (his name, Shinwoo); what a nice-looking bunch!

Then I showed the video to my sister. After the song ended, she stayed on, although she was supposed to be doing laundry. So we picked another dance practice, this time Solo Day. The song quality was consistently good. It was something you can sing along and dance to. The dance steps looked so fun that I promised myself I would try to copy when nobody's around. It was nothing like the usual techno/hip hop k-pop music I hear, but something that was actually k-"pop".

When the dance ended there were more behind-the-scenes clips of the boys playing around. Then suddenly one of them belted out a song in what was an undeniably glorious voice that my sister and I exclaimed at the same time (see video clip below). Even in that short song, we could tell he was special. Wow!

To make the long story short, I became an instant B1A4 fan (or bana – I just can't with these bizarre k-pop terms). It's been a week and I cannot stop listening to their albums on spotify and watching videos about them. I was fortunate enough to have the house to myself one day. Two hours and two drenched shirts were spent trying to follow dance moves without much success. I had the worst pamaol (muscle aches) for the next two days.

Here are some things I learned about this group: 1) their leader Jinyoung (that actor I talked about) has been their main composer and producer since 2014; 2) Sandeul, the main vocalist, is a singing contest king; He is also currently considered by (2016 ranking) as the third best k-pop idol vocalist (read their very detailed vocal analysis of Sandeul); 3) WM, their agency, gives them freedom to do their own thing.

And here are some things I love about them:

Melody. Like I've always said from previous blog posts, for me melody is the first important thing in a song… and B1A4 makes good melodies. Their albums are really easy to listen to that non-k-pop fans might be able to appreciate. They do, however, have some electronic songs on their albums, but are calmer and more melodic than the usual. Then again the keyword is melody. Their strength lies in catchy tunes c/o the charismatic leader, and in ballads---because Sandeul!

Versatility. Aside from the cheerfully wholesome dance pop, pop/rock, and ballads, their songs have hints of other genres including acoustic, hip hop (c/o Baro, in-house rapper and beatboxer, and Shinwoo who also tries his hand at composing), reggae, funk/jazz and soft rnb/soul.

B1A4 crazy gif
"Dili na sila maniguwang (They will never grow old)," said my father.
Personalities. I don't know how other groups are, but B1A4 look innocent, sweet and hilarious when they are together. They remind me of my favorite Taiwanese group, 5566, in that they never run out of things to laugh about. They make even the most ordinary things fun.

B1A4 fun gif
Playing before the radio show.
Although always playful, the boys are definitely very down-to-earth and natural, not trying to act cool or sexy. Professionally and personally, especially when they talk about life in general, they are very mature. They take work seriously and always think of ways to improve. They love their fans, respect their elders and each other. It's amazing how the other four look up to their leader, and how everyone looks after each other. They're like real brothers, which is enviable for a friendship.

Talent. Sandeul's voice. Jinyoung's composition. Baro's rap and beatboxing. Shinwoo's dance moves (Although after several viewings, I now find Sandeul to be almost as good and effortless as Shinwoo. While Shinwoo is more freestyle and grace, Sandeul is all about precision and poise. Gongchan, the youngest, is a close third.) Gongchan is said to be good at math! Lol I don't know what else to say except that Gongchan has his moments. Given more time and training, he could still develop his already beautiful soft tone and vibrato. Every one of them also pursue acting.

Below is a video of Sandeul in a duet singing contest:

Looks. Have you seen them? Probably the most good-looking k-pop idol group. And before I forget, they make beautiful music videos. (link to Youtube playlist of their MVs)

Alright I've finally written it all down. I felt the need to so I can move on with my life, ha! And my sister is getting tired of hearing Korean songs. But, they're just too adorable and highly underrated… so spread the love because they truly deserve more recognition.

I'm pretty late in the fandom, so I wish for them several more years of great music and good time together. I still want them to improve as singer-songwriters and mature as artists. Honestly, they should write an acapella song. That would be interesting.

Here's a spotify playlist of their best songs:


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