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What's going on with Rainbow's "concept"?
What's going on with Rainbow's "concept"? And how do "concepts" work in general in K-pop? Even though performers do sometimes change 'em like costumes, that doesn't necessarily mean those very performers aren't committed in some deeper way to what the concepts mean. Or at least it doesn't mean that they're not committed in the audience's eyes, or that we don't hold them accountable on the basis of our (or someone's) sense of what they're doing with the concepts and who they appear to be behind the concepts.

I find Rainbow's switch from "the sexy dominatrix image"* of "A," "Mach," and "To Me" to the new one on "Tell Me Tell Me," whatever it is (cheery and serene and bright but at a half-knowing half distance?), jarring:

Music seems to be included in the concept of "concept." As it should be. Except the music on "Tell Me Tell Me" is meh compared to what Rainbow were doing a couple of years ago in "A" etc.

For what it's worth, I don't believe that in Korea — or in America, for that matter — there's a split between "authenticity" and "artifice." The two concepts aren't opposites. You're still committed to what your artifice says about you, even if what it says is convoluted, multiple, and indirect. Or if you're a phony, that doesn't have to do one way or another with how much art or artifice you employ. E.g., if I as a writer use irony and scare quotes all over the place, which I do, that doesn't mean I'm not held accountable for what I communicate via the irony and scare quotes. If it's strong, it's strong. If it's bogus, it's bogus.

Relevant here: HyunA's switching up onstage between being engaging and being tough, which mixes with and plays off of her lovably passionate neediness and dorkiness on reality TV. Being the provocateur onstage and the lovable dork on reality TV (which is hardly offstage) is a canny strategy, even if it's all quite genuine. Makes her simultaneously special but still apparently in the range of her audience. (AG talks more knowledgeably about this than I do. Have to go now, but later I'll add links to the HyunA discussion, and also to the discussion during our problematic-video series of Raina, Nana, and Lizzy shifting back and forth between their After School role as p-dolls-like sexpots and their role, in the first several Orange Caramel offerings, as leggy model types jammed into costumes from kiddie picture books.)

[Insert 10,000-word essay on Dylan's ongoing image and musical changes in the Sixties and early Seventies as a continual — and self-conscious — dance of engagement with and repudiation of his audience(s), and of Bowie and Madonna doing interesting things with the lie that you can be in control of style. Also, about the Stones losing some of their force when they went from the multiple viewpoints and scary personas of "Heart Of Stone" and "Under My Thumb" etc. to the outright fiction of "Midnight Rambler."]

*In the words of their agency DSP Media. Actually, the full sentence is worth perusing, since the description is for "Mach" alone, the claim being that "Mach" itself constituted a concept switch from "A": "They've only shown innocent and sexy sides. They will show an image that will be upgraded. They will transform into the sexy dominatrix image." Perhaps "A" was merely "sexy." So, is the current concept in "Tell Me Tell Me" a downgrade? (Hmmm. I notice that in the "Mach" writeup DSP was using the word "image," not "concept," the latter being more common, and what Soompi used. Of course, "image" might be the work of a translater.) Do the concepts accumulate (that is, you add a new concept without necessarily losing your commitment to the old, even if the concepts seem very different)?

Can't say I'm seeing "Mach" as having much of a dominatrix look. Maybe "dominatrix" was some publicist's pipe dream. The sound maybe has a tiny bit; it's fundamentally a SweeTune dance rouser, but with a dark background tone — though that's hardly any more prominent than its spirited James Brown shout-out.

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Does DSP hate rainbow?

The Real Cz at Soompi is very unhappy with "Tell Me Tell Me."

Does DSP Hate Rainbow?

The music to "Tell Me Tell Me" is by the previously unknown-to-me Red Rocket, who apparently are a team (says allkpop.com, who says little else about them). "Mach" and "A" were by SweeTune, and "To Me" by the (also unknown-to-me) Daishi Dance and A.I.P. Daishi Dance is a "famous Japanese composer/DJ" (says allkpop) who "performs in the heart of Sapporo, creating melodious house mixes that feature vocals conveying grief and discontent" (Wikip). He also co-wrote Big Bang's "Haru Haru" and After School's "Shampoo," and presumably a load of other stuff too.

Here's his live remix of "To Me," in Tokyo:


Edited at 2013-02-23 04:57 pm (UTC)

Big Bang Heaven too.

I gotta go, but maybe I'll come back later. I think Concepts are important because idols-have-to-be-uncontroversial means they can't have really interesting images (as people). That would make the stage performances and music really boring, though, so "performance concepts" play a big role in livening things up.

There's also the fact that idols tend to try out lots of concepts and stick with the ones that work best. So as a fan, you kind of have ownership of the concept, since you're who determines what it is.

EDIT: Which isn't to say that they're totally fictional, either. Stage performances are like acting, obviously the effect is better is the performer can relate to what's going on onstage. And the variety-show image is like acting in a long-running television show, if the role is too far from your real personality it'll start to show eventually.

Edited at 2013-02-23 05:35 pm (UTC)

I have a feeling the individual song concepts were stronger two or three years ago than now. SNSD still do them to some extent and have maybe been the biggest purveyors of this 'thing' with the exaggerated style changes like a carnival, although other big groups like the Wonder Girls, T-ara and many others have been in on it as well.

When I say they're not as prominent now I mean that newer groups seem to settle on a group concept more than new roles they take on every new promotion. You have the tough hip hop groups, the flirting with rock groups, the elegant groups, etc.

Although you will still see the hype machinery say stuff like "you'll see a totally new side of __ with the release of __" even if you don't.

Where this leaves Rainbow I don't know but the song sucks and they're performing considerably worse on the charts than the last time they were around.

Last year's D-Unit material (incl. "Luv Me") never seemed completely there, though I liked the sound and image the group were going for (colorful-sounding strong girls); but the new "Stay Alive," from the forthcoming Zico-produced alb, is unexpectedly hard, and ends up working thoroughly; the weird, treated sung part creates a genuinely strange contrast.

Though I hate what's been done to Block B, both in the trumped-up Thailand "scandal" and the nonpayment by the record company (I should say "alleged nonpayment," since I don't know the record company's side of the story), Block B's own musical mixture (boyband with virtuoso rap) sounded good only sporadically, though in theory it should have been great. I wonder if Zico might be better off just being Zico, sans band. But I have yet to relisten to his solo alb from a couple of years ago. I remember its devotion to hip-hop making it sound too dry. So I seem to be damning the guy when he does and damning him when he doesn't. But he does have great talent.

Back to Rainbow. "Tell Me Tell Me" isn't necessarily a bad song, but the arrangement brings it to nowhere land. The beats are trying to be strong but aren't, the lightness doesn't fly, the fizziness fizzles. So the track clonks around without figuring out whether to kick or to float, and does neither. Sounds like a Girl's Day song without Girl's Day. It's not really my style anyway, but it's also a botch of what might have been a good example of the style.

You were the one who originally alerted me in 2011 when four members of Kara requested that their contract with DSP be terminated, before they all ended up settling. I gather that part of the complaint was that the label was requiring promotional work without adequately informing Kara of what was going on. So the issue wasn't just who gets what money or who gets exploited, but also alleged confusion and mismanagement.

The writer at Soompi, The Real Cz, thinks that DSP is neglecting Rainbow, though I doubt that an agency would release a song that it didn't expect to do well. I wonder why SweeTune weren't involved. Do you know what SweeTune are up to this year, other than Nine Muses?

Edited at 2013-02-27 08:16 am (UTC)

From Wikipedia, regarding D-Unit, who work for D-Business Entertainment:

The group's concept includes the addition of a new member with every promotion cycle.

Before debut, D-Business confirmed that the group will increase and decrease in members at different times, which includes taking out members.
Sounds like a formula for jerking the members around. I suppose sports teams do this as a matter of course, as do most businesses, so why shouldn't musical groups? But music isn't basketball.

A not-completely-informative article at Allkpop quotes the agency ("D-Unit to come back with the addition of a very pretty 4th member"):

"From the start of their creation, D-Unit selected a concept in which team members change with different albums... The member who has joined this time possesses extreme beauty."
But she doesn't, apparently, possess a name. Maybe D-Business has noticed more than one woman in the world with great beauty and hasn't yet settled on which one belongs in the group — though I'd hope she's actually in on the recording. The article says that Zico had a say regarding who got chosen.

Actually, this seems like a publicity gimmick on the company's part. In the photo, her face is deliberately hidden:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Agreed that "Stay Alive" is their best yet and that adding a member is a dumb idea, maybe conceiveed before they debuted but nonetheless something they should've gone back on when seeing that a three member group generally is a refreshing thing to see in k-pop, when they fit each other like this anyway, and that adding more faces, pretty or not, will make them more forgettable, not more attractive.

Not sure what Sweetune are doing right now but they were very profilic last year, as main providers of music for Nine Muses, Infinite, Spica and even other groups like Boyfriend (november single 'Janus' a ST joint).

New member JNEY has been unwrapped. Also, allkpop reports, "HyunA reveals she's a big fan of D-Unit," leading commenter jo-op-pat86 to opine: "My Unit is happy to hear she's fan of the D." It's like reading ilX.

D-Unit's "Face To Face" is another good Zico production, though the vid steers them in a direction that's too sweet 'n' Disney for their sound.

In the end Zico did not have songwriting credits on Stay ALive, however

1 살아남아 (Stay Alive) (ft. Vasco) (Lyrics: VASCO | Composer: VASCO

2 얼굴보고얘기해 (Talk to My Face) (ft. Zico of Block B) (Lyrics: Zico | Composer: Zico, Yoo Sunkyun)

3 Lock Down (Lyrics: DM, Nodo | Composer: Park Jiho, Noday)

4 Alone (Lyrics: C-Luv, RAM | Composer: Stay Tuned, C-Luv, RAM)

5 늦잠 (Sleeping In) Pt2 (ft. C-Luv) (Lyrics: DM, Nodo, RAM | Composer: Stay Tuned, C-Luv, DM, RAM | Arranger: Stay Tuned)

6 허수아비 (Scarecrow) (Lyrics: DM | Composer: DM)

7 Luv Me (Lyrics: C-Luv, DM | Composer: C-Luv, DM | Arranger: Yoo Sunkyun)

(RAM being one of the members, T-ara Wooram's sister)

Live they're more their old selves. Like with Luv Me I enjoy how they go for what seems to me like classic boy band dance routines.

Wow, that's impressive.

Wikip is saying that JNey is a "guest member" who is on hiatus from her other group, kiddie pop act GP Basic. I'd vaguely remembered the latter's tepid "Jelly Pop," the tepidity seeming the fault of the singers more than the song.

The meta in this post needs some sort of joke about Beast/B2st's Fact and Fiction.

I don't follow Batoost, so I don't know what that joke is.

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