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* My KPop Playlist Tracks: Momoland - Bboom Bboom

* My KPop Playlist Tracks: Momoland – Bboom Bboom

WARNING: This is not an earworm song. It’s fricking ear crack. Beware!

Momoland is a group of recent vintage created by Duble Kick Entertainment (then spun off to their own label, MLD) in 2016 from a reality television show called, of course, Finding Momoland. Ten girls competed on live TV for seven group positions, and studio audience members voted for who stayed on the island--er, in the group, and who got the boot. Well, that's the way it was supposed to work, but it's not how it did work out in, pardon the pun, reality. The winners of the original Momoland Star Search were:

HyeBin (Lee HyeBin) - Leader and vocalist.

YeonWoo (Lee DaBin) - Rapper, vocalist and visual of the group.

Jane (Sung JiYeon) - Lead vocalist and main dancer

NaYun (Kim NaYun) - Vocalist

JooE (Lee JooWon) - Vocalist, rapper, face of the group

AhIn (Lee AhIn) - Lead vocalist

Nancy (Nancy McDonie/Lee Geuroo) - Lead dancer, vocalist, visual of the group. Yes, she's half-American, thanks to her father, but she was born in Korea. Her parents gave her both an American and a Korean name, but Nancy McDonie is her official birth name.

Simple enough, right?

Well, that was the lineup...until March 2017, when MLD decided to give one of the rejected contestants named Daisy (Yoon JungAhn) another chance, and added her to the group. Daisy became a Jill of all trades as lead rapper, lead dancer and vocalist.

But MLD wasn't done tinkering with the lineup. Only a few weeks after adding Daisy, they decided to give TaeHa (Kim TaeHa), a rejected contestant on yet another group-building reality show (Produce 101), a slot in the group. Go figure. TaeHa became a vocalist for the group.

So Momoland became the nine members seen here, and in today's video:

Left to right: HyeBin, Daisy, JooE, TaeHa, AhIn, Nancy, Jane, NaYun and YeonWoo


The group has endured even more membership turmoil in their brief career.

Daisy was put on hiatus in 2019 for what the label called "personal" reasons, but everyone knew it was her defiance of music agency rules against dating without company permission. Yes, you can be punished in KPop for being normal and having a love life. But who could blame her for taking that risk, when the guy she had to have was Song YoonHyeong, a lead vocalist and visual (read: hottest of hotties) of boy band iKon:

Yeah, girlfriend won't be saying no to that anytime soon.

So after much hemming, hawing, and a bizarre series of mixed PR messages, their agencies confirmed that they were indeed dating. Despite that, Daisy remains on hiatus, and isn't expected back anytime soon. If ever. It may be safe to say that she is now no longer a member of the group at all, which is a real shame, as "Bboom Bboom" makes clear. She's the shining star of that MV, without a doubt.

The turnover didn't end there, though. TaeHa developed health problems in 2018 and went on an extended hiatus. She wound up leaving the group entirely in November of this year.

On the same day MLD announced TaeHas departure, they also revealed that YeonWoo would also leave the group to pursue acting.

So Momoland is very different now than it was on 3 January 2018, with six members not nine, as when their massive hit "Bboom Bboom" kicked off the new year with a bang. It was the song that told all KPop fans that 2018 would be one of the greatest years in KPop, ever--which 2018 is. The song is that good, for power pop:

Daisy's second verse solo may be the greatest KPop female rap performance ever recorded. It makes the entire song worth the listen.

Of course, some of you may not like "Bboom Bboom" the first time you hear it. It's definitely in that cutesie girl group category...but somehow not, given that the song is saying, "You're so hot that you better leave work right now and have sex with me" (exactly what that awesome rap verse is saying). Many of you may play the video, shrug that the song's all right for pop, or not all that great in any manner, and move on. You may even forget it an hour after it's over.

And then a week later, it will pop into your head and refuse to leave. It will drive you crazy until you listen to it again.

And again.

And again.

And then you are fricking hooked on it and can’t stop. Even if you turn off your stereo/computer/iDevice, it will stick in your head for hours until you listen to it again.

Welcome to the “Bboom Bboom” addiction that had it rack up around 300 million views within a year of its debut (the view count is close to 400 now). And those views are legit earned, not the product of video clicking farms, as skeevy YG Entertainment is rumored to house to promote their videos.

So if you don’t want a song to get in your head and drive you crazy to hear it to death, then don’t start now.

I did warn you.



Fandom name: Merry-Go-Round, often shortened to Merries.

Light color: None as of yet.

Yes, the "Bboom Bboom" MV is spoofing 80s home shopping networks and early 80s MTV videos. It makes no bones about paying homage to Tony Basil's "Mickey," in particular. Hence the dog ear hairstyles, high-top socks and other early 80s cheerleader motifs.

Pay attention to the left side of the screen during the shopping channel portions of the video. It will give you a guide to who the artist is for that scene--a fun, clever and helpful way for people unfamiliar with the group to learn the names of the members. That's effective marketing.

JooE, the woman in pink and white dancing like an idiot at 1:24 (and otherwise acting like a fool over her drink)? She's making fun of a series of commercials she did for Tropicana in Korea where she dresses the same and acts the same way over their beverage. It's not every day that a KPop video lampoons the ads of someone paying one of its stars to represent them, so what she's doing is far more subversive than it seems at first.

NaYun suffers from a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BBPV), which is a fancy name for getting inner ear disturbances that cause vertigo. She had to take a hiatus in the summer of 2018 because her symptoms had grown too severe for her to perform.

Daisy lived in Canada for 11 years. The more groups I cover, the more often you'll see mention of artists who have lived overseas, or who are from foreign countries. KPop members stopped being exclusively Korean well over a decade ago. That's also around the same time that the media censors quit banning coverage of anyone with dyed (especially bleached) hair, artist or not, and why we've seen an explosion of rainbow-hued do's in KPop ever since.

As if it's any surprise given how lovely she is, Nancy has been an actress and model since she was a young child, and was the video vixen in Snuper's 2017 "Stand by Me" MV.

My KPop Playlist: K.Will - Please Don't

K.Will (Kim HyungSoo) is a solo singer/songwriter in the vein of Billy Joel, but more pop-oriented and with a better vocal range (yeah, I said it). He debuted on the Starship Entertainment Label in 2007.

His 2012 hit, “Please Don’t” is a lovely ballad of a guy not wanting his love to leave, but the song is less memorable than its controversial and iconic music video, probably the most famous MV in all of KPop outside of “Gangnam Style.” Hundreds of people have taken the “Please Don’t” reaction challenge on Youtube, to hilarious results. But watch it to the very end to see why there’s such a fuss about it:

Yeah. That's why it's been viewed and reacted to so much.

Note: As is often the case with his MVs, K.Will does not appear in this video at all. All three of the characters featured are famous Korean celebrities, though.

The main guy is portrayed by Seo In Guk, an actor and solo recording artist.

The woman is portrayed by his labelmate DaSom of the defunct girl-group Sistar. She, too, is also an actress.

Her fiancée is portrayed by actor Ahn Jae Hyun.

I don't know why K.Will opts not to be in his music videos. It’s not that he’s ugly, and it’s not like he appears in no videos at all. He plays a minor role in his own “Day 1” MV (oh my God—it’s so sweet, it’s instant tooth decay!), and he appeared in Mamamoo’s debut MV, “Mr Ambiguous.” He also seems willing to promote his songs by doing live performances on music and variety shows:

So why not appear in his own MVs?

My guess is that it’s a business decision: Three of his MVs feature his former labelmates from Starship Entertainment--DaSom, SoYou and BoRa, all from the now-defunct girl group Sistar, so maybe it's a scratch each other's backs thing. Then again, all three of those guest artists were far more famous than he was at the time the videos were made, so the real reason for his absence could be even simpler than that: Putting famous people in your MVs gets more people, and a more diverse audience, watching them, which can increase interest in your work, and thus generate sales.

Whatever the reason, it’s his schtick, and it works for him. Why change it?


K.Will became an online sensation early in his career when videos appeared on YouTube of him singing songs by Mariah Carey and Celine Dion—often in their registers. So, yeah, he can get up there in pitch.

He has worked as a producer and vocal coach for other KPop artists, including the group Rain and actor Lee MinHo, star of the mega-hit KDrama sensation, Boys Over Flowers. Of course this means that K.Will is a highly-respected personality in the Korean music industry.

PS: I'll explain one of the big questions left dangling about the plot for "Please Don't" in a subsequent post in this thread. It will all make more sense then.

My KPop Playlist: Brown-Eyed Girls - Abracadabra

Brown-Eyed Girls is a quartet that debuted in 2006 with Nega Network. In 2015, they left that company at the end of their contract, and signed with Mystic Entertainment. The group consists of:

JeA (Kim Hyo Jin): Leader and main vocalist

Miryo (Jo Mi Hae): Lead rapper

Narsha (Park Hyo Jin): Lead vocalist

Gain (Son Ga In): Lead dancer, vocalist, visual of the group and maknae.

Left to right: JeA, Miryo, Narsha and Gain.

In 2009, sex wasn’t anything new in KPop videos; however, while it existed, it was implied and hinted at, as in TVXQ’s megahit, “Mirotic,” rather than expressed outright. Network censorship tended to be strict, and exceptions were rare. Brown-Eyed Girls decided to change all of that with the second single from their third album, “Abracadabra.”

Directed by New York University film school alum Huang SuA, this may be the greatest KPop MV of all time for not only the insanely catchy electronica song, but also the storyline, cinematography, and of course the iconic, hip-swaying “arrogant dance.” It’s certainly one of the most artistic MVs, and won rave reviews as a game-changer for the KPop industry.

Here’s the “but,” though, and a big one: “Abracadabra” is a twisted and downright disturbing video with open displays of girl-on-girl action, voyeurism, and such BDSM staples as rough sex, riding crops, bondage and dungeons. Not all of those things are necessarily disturbing, but I’d say that the video’s blatant hints about bestiality, poisoning, animal cruelty (very brief!) and murder-suicide take it into the land of creepy. So if any of that triggers you, fair warning.

But I’ll let everyone else judge it for themselves:

If you’re like most first-time viewers, you can’t take your eyes off this video, and end up hitting the replay button, to make sure you saw all of what you thought you saw. Rest assured: You did see it. Every freaky second of it.

Brown-Eyed Girls could get away with this concept because, unlike most KPop girl groups, they were grown women when they signed with their label rather than young girls, thus they had a maturity and willingness to take risks that other, younger bands wouldn’t dare attempt so early in their careers.

KPop has never been the same since this MV, because sex had finally entered the KPop formula. Granted, it took a while for others to have their own turn at it, but more groups followed in Abracadabra’s wake, for better or for worse. Nowadays, it’s a rite of passage for even the cutesiest girl groups to put out at least one video with a sexy concept at some point in their careers. And while many have done the concept well, none have ever touched the mastery that Brown Eyed Girls displayed here.

Although Brown Eyed Girls have had hits since “Abracadabra,” none has been as pioneering and memorable as this. They may always live in its shadow. Then again, what a hell of a shadow to live in.

Here’s a live performance, to let you know that the video isn’t the only hyper-sexy thing about “Abracadabra.” So is the uncensored choreography, and the costume choices, too. Unfortunately, the performance comes at the end of several long months of promoting this song day after day after day after... So the vocal performance isn't as good as it could be. Gain, in particular, sounds tired. The pickings for songs as old as this aren't always the best, though:


I have tried in vain to discover the name of the luscious man portraying the sadist in the video. No luck. Maybe if someone knows Korean better than I do?

Yes, the allusions to the campy 80s film 9½ Weeks is intentional. Gain, the masochist in the video who also wears the smoking hot one-piece short-shorts outfit in the dance scenes, studied the film in preparation for her role. Speaking of that wardrobe choice: Really, Gain, that outfit barely covers your hoo-ha and ass as it is, but you had to roll up the hems, too? Girlfriend, you’re making me question my sexuality here.

And yes, Psy blatantly parodied this video in his hit song, “Gentleman.” Guess what? The woman who gets the better of him in that video and does the arrogant dance at his side is none other than Gain herself. One of my all-time favorite KPop video scenes is when Gain pulls the chair out from under Psy the Jerk. If you've seen the video, you know why he deserves it here:

Ha! You show him who’s the boss of arrogance, Gain!


Spoiler alert: The real culprit in the MV is the voyeuristic rapper. She's the master manipulator whose jealousy set everything in motion.

My KPop Playlist: Got7 - You Are

After that last KPop post, we need something fun and bouncy and uplifting. Free of controversy, even.

Enter: Got7

Got7 is a--you guessed it--7 member boy band signed to the JYP label. They debuted in January of 2014, and have been a success from day one. The members are:

Left to right: Mark, YuGyeom, JinYoung, YongJae, Jackson, BamBam, and JB.

Who Does What:

JB (Im JaeBom): Leader, main vocalist, songwriter.

Mark (Mark Yi En Tuan): Lead rapper and visual.

Jackson (Wang Jia Er): Main rapper, vocalist and face of the group. Understatement on that last part.

JinYoung (Park JinYoung): Lead vocalist and the second face of the group.

YoungJae (Choi YoungJae): Main vocalist.

BamBam (Kunpimook Bhuwakul Bambam): Rapper, vocalist.

YuGyeom (Kim YuGyeom): Main vocalist, rapper, maknae.

As you may have guessed, the names in parentheses don't all look Korean. That's because Got7 is a truly international group: Mark is an American of Taiwanese descent, Jackson is Chinese (Hong Kong), and BamBam is from Thailand. The other members are, of course, Korean. Still, that nearly half of Got7 is not Korean is unusual in KPop; however, it's done nothing to put a dent in their popularity. They are one of the most beloved groups in the industry.

Note: The photo above is a rarity in that 1) it shows a KPop group with all of the members having normal-colored hair for a change. That doesn't happen often these days. 2) It's one of the few photos to show a serious side of Got7. It was tough to find one that wasn't goofy. That's because their typical image is of being the clown princes of KPop. They don't take much seriously. Except their music. They do have serious songs, even dark ones, but, for the most part, they are a "happy" group, with personalities to match. And that makes them one of the most lovable bands in all of KPop.

As if they wanted a tune to match their adorable image, Got7 released "You Are" in 2017, and it's one of the most joyful and uplifting songs about the power of love ever composed or performed. However bad your day has been, this song penned by leader JB will lighten and brighten your mood, but with gentle persuasion, rather than banging you over the head or yanking you around. You don’t even need to understand any of the lyrics to feel happy and better about the world while listening to it. The music and vocals do the job across all language barriers. But if you want to know the lyrics, an English translation is available with a click of the CC button:

Definitely one of Got7’s crowning achievements.

The live performance I've chosen will be a major deviation from the usual formula. Rather than showcasing their talent, I'll demonstrate why I consider Got7 the clown princes of KPop. This is NOT a definitive or even great performance of Got7 or "You Are," and it's not supposed to be. The point of the "Van Live" series is for a group to be silly and have fun. And that's exactly what anyone can expect from this boy band, most of the time, especially near the end when they all join in for the chorus and don't care if they're all in tune or not, just like normal friends singing along to the car stereo:

What a bunch of goofballs. I love them to pieces for being so crazy and carefree.

My KPop Playlist: Ladies Code - Galaxy

This will be the most depressing thing I will post about KPop. So get your hankies ready.

Ladies Code formed in 2013 as a five member group with members (left to right): Sojung, RiSe, Ashley, EunB and Zuny.

Today, Ladies Code looks like this:

The members are now (left to right), Sojung, Zuny and Ashley.

Unlike TVXQ, it wasn't a contract dispute that changed the membership so drastically. And it wasn't the suicide of a member, as happened with SHINee after Jonghyun took his own life. It was worse that that, even. Far worse.

Most Korean pop stars have scary-busy schedules, where they get up early in the morning to tackle a packed calendar of "schedules," aka appointments and events. On any given day, they may wake up at 8, eat breakfast on the way to their first radio interview of the morning, then make an appearance at an army base to perform a few songs, then go to a college campus to perform a few more, then they're off to make the rounds of variety shows, do print or television ads, record new songs, and of course squeeze in a dance practice as well. If they get home at 3 a.m., they're lucky. And then it starts all over again the next day. Days off? Give me a break. They don't get days off. And neither do the managers or other support staff.

It's a recipe for disaster. As Ladies Code got to learn, all too harshly.

On 3 September 2014, at approximately 1:30 in the morning, Ladies Code was at the end of one of those long days, coming back to Seoul after performing at a concert for television station KBS. It was raining, and their manager was driving 85 mph in a 62 mph zone. He lost control of his vehicle before hitting a patch of water and hydroplaning across the road. And then came a sickening smash into a retaining wall.

Needless to say, all of the members were badly injured, none worse than EunB, who was declared dead on arrival at the hospital where she was taken. RiSe was in critical condition, but lingered for four days before dying as well. Sojung had injuries severe enough that she required months of rehabilitation and recuperation. Although Polaris, the label managing Ladies Code, said that Ashley and Zuny suffered "minor" injuries, the funerals of EunB and RiSe told the ugly truth: Zuny wore a neckbrace and needed assistance to walk, and Ashley could barely stand under her own power, people literally holding her up while she dragged her feet along the ground. That's what they call "minor" injuries?

Even worse than all of that, the deaths of EunB and RiSe were only one in a long series of tragedies that hit Korea in 2014, after the sinking of the ferry MV Sewol and numerous other terrible events that struck K-Pop itself that year, like how the father of Super Junior's Leeteuk killed his parents and then himself. There's a reason 2014 is considered one of the most awful years in Korea's history.

But as for Ladies Code, there would be one major question they had to contend with after 2014: How do you come back from something so horrifying? Their heartbroken fans were almost certain that they could never get back together and make music again.

I don't know how they managed it, but the remaining three members of the group pulled themselves together to release a spectacular comeback song in 2016 called "Galaxy." It's moody, jazzy, gorgeously engineered, and with a video loaded with symbols of how they are now a trio thanks to the tragedy they had suffered...but had no choice to move on from:

Holy cow--did you hear how they stripped down everything at 2:05 and all you can hear is Ashley's breath? That is incredible stuff, engineering-wise. I love it when an amazing song gets matched with an equally fantastic production. And then there's that video...

I have loved this song beyond all reason since the first time I heard it--when I myself was in the hospital, recovering from an operation. I didn't know the words, or even who Ladies Code was at the time, but it spoke to me, somehow. I could feel the pain in their voices, but also the determination to keep going, and to stay strong. It was exactly what I was going through at the time, so "Galaxy" will always be special to me, for that reason. Everything about it is absolutely perfect as the first major comeback for a group that had suffered such a terrible tragedy, in showing respect for the members they had lost, but also acknowledging the present and how they could still make music on their own.

As always, I include a live performance, but this time with all of Ladies Code as they were before the accident, and with more of the sound that was their signature then. This video comes from a radio interview program, and most of the time, groups don't take themselves too seriously in these spots. Still, Ladies Code sounds quite good here. Not as polished as they usually sounded live, but their personalities show more, which I like about the video:

RIP EunB and RiSe. Your bandmates did you proud with their comeback.

My KPop Playlist Tracks: TVXQ - Something

Korea's SM Entertainment does one thing better than anyone: Finding premium vocal talent. TVXQ is one of the primary entries proving that point.

TVXQ consists of leader Jung YunHo (right), also known as U-Know to his fans (I call him Living, Breathing Sex on Two Legs—but maybe that’s just me), and maknae Shim ChangMin (left), who goes by the nickname of Max. Given that he has quite a few octaves in his range and that eternal chipmunk-cheeked baby face, ChangMin is the lead vocal and “aegyo” (cuteness) master of the group, while YunHo tends to cover the rapping, dancing and raw sex appeal. But don’t think that YunHo isn’t a terrific singer in his own right, because he is, far better than many a lead vocalist in other groups. It’s only that ChangMin is so very good that YunHo doesn’t get as much recognition for his vocal talent as he would in another group.

Originally a five-member a capella group formed in 2004, TVXQ became such a huge sensation after their debut that at one time their fan club was purported to be the largest in the world, with over 800,000 members. It’s not difficult to understand why. Just look at them:

From left to right: Xiah “Xia” Junsu; Park Yoochan—aka Mickey; Kim “Hero” Jaejoong—the original leader of TVXQ; ChangMin and YunHo, circa 2009.

So what happened that the group now has two members instead of five?

In 2009, Jaejoong, Yoochan and Junsu sued SM Entertainment for subjecting them to what they considered slave contracts and unfair earnings distribution. After winning the case, the litigants left SM to form the group JYJ (based on the English initials of each member’s first name), while YunHo and ChangMin retained the SM representation and TVXQ name as a duo. Having the power of SM behind them has enabled TVXQ to be more successful than JYJ after the split, although neither group attained the heights of popularity they had as one unit. These legal disputes are becoming a constant in KPop, and SM seems to get more of the ticked off artists than any other label.

Still, YunHo and ChangMin have fostered a reputation in KPop as a group that enjoys taking chances and deviating from the norm. That would explain “Something,” a luminous send-off of 1930s swing standards, replete with punchy brass and funky stand-up bass married seamlessly to modern music sensibilities and production values. If you love jazz or just plain good pop with great singing, you will probably like this song. It’s not every day you will hear a freestyle jazz breakdown in any pop song, never mind in KPop, but TVXQ not only pulls it off, but YunHo comes up with a great dance routine to go with it!

It’s really something. And that’s saying a lot, coming from TVXQ, who have had several stellar and sometimes strange hits over the years, such as “Hug,” “Tri-Angle” and “Mirotic” when they had five members, to “Humanoids,” “Spellbound" and “Chance of Love” as a duo.

Once again, I’m providing a live performance, but of a song that is 180 degrees different from “Something,” to show that TVXQ is nothing if not versatile:

That fringe of hair falling over YunHo's eyes slays me. It's damned unfair for one man to be so scary sexy.


TVXQ probably has more names that they’re known by than any other group: Their primary name is in Chinese: 東方神起. For those who don’t know Mandarin, it’s pronounced Tong Vfang Xien Qi, and hence the abbreviated name of TVXQ. In Korea, the way to say the same thing is Dong Bang Shin Ki, so that gets abbreviated to DBSK there. And because 東方神起 also has a Japanese kanji reading, they get yet another name in that language: Touhoushinki. Whatever the language, all of these names more or less translates to “Rising Gods of the East.”

If that’s not enough, the TVXQ abbreviation sometimes comes with an exclamation mark added on, like this: TVXQ!

Whew! That’s a lot of names for one duo.

-- -- -- -- -- --

Despite being the baby of the group (he was only 16 when they debuted), ChangMin came up with the name for the enormous TVXQ fan club: Cassiopeia.

-- -- -- -- -- --

Unlike many other KPop acts, TVXQ never accepts gifts of food or drinks from “fans,” and with good reason: In 2006, a deranged anti-fan gave YunHo a drink spiked with a super-glue type of adhesive. If it hadn’t been for his immediate bad reaction to the poisoning, and the even faster response of his managers in getting him to the hospital, he would have died. I don’t know what’s wrong with people to do something so spiteful, for such a ridiculous reason. I’m only glad that YunHo survived the ordeal so well.

My KPop Playlist: Mamamoo - Decalcomanie

I don't have many favorites in this life, but my favorite girl group, hands down, is Mamamoo, a quartet who debuted for the boutique label Rainbow Bridge in 2014, and are renowned for their vocal prowess. Yes, I have a thing for vocals, why do you ask? I also like that they are not a cutesie girl group. It's rare for me to like cutesie girl groups or their songs. I like some. But not many. That's because I prefer for women to sing as women, not some idiotic sexist purity ideal, and I'm not much of a fan of bubblegum music, which most of the cutesie girls put out. A big reason why I love Mamamoo is that they don't play that bullshit purity game. They and their material veer to the mature and sometimes even sexy, but they are never annoying about it, unlike a certain famous rapper I could name.

Mamamoo consists of (clockwise from the right) Solar as lead vocalist and leader of the group, Moon Byul as lead rapper, Whee In as a main vocalist and Hwa Sa as a vocalist, rapper and maknae, or youngest member of the group. Every KPop group has a leader and a maknae, even if they're only a duo. The leader is usually (not always) the eldest member of the group, as Solar is in this case, and is supposed to be responsible for looking out for the younger members and keeping them in line. The maknaes are expected to show deference to their elders. In return they are absolved of leadership responsibilities and get babied quite a bit. However, not every leader is enthused about the role enough to impose their will on a group, and the occasional maknae falls into the "Evil Maknae" category, a rebellious troublemaker who is disrespectful to elders in a way that amuses fans. Hwa Sa can be a little naughty sometimes, as maknaes are allowed to be, but rarely to the point of being an Evil Maknae.

Now that the KPop cultural lesson is over, it's time for the music. Mamamoo has covered a shocking array of genres, and done all of them well: 40s swing ( "Piano Man" ), late 50s/early 60s boogie woogie ( "Ah! Oop!" ), sweeping 60s lounge ballads ( "Don't Be Happy" ), 70s power pop ( "You're the Best" ), ethereal slow jams ( "Starry Night" ), angry, Latin-fusion breakup songs ( "Egotistic" ), and more. I could have picked dozens of songs as representative of their sound. How is it possible that a group of such recent vintage could rack up so many outstanding songs? Well, again, it comes back to the vocal talent. When you have the pipes, you can crank out the great tunes.

Still, I could pick only one song here, and that had to be their 2016 smash hit, "Décalcomanie," a French art term for transferring an image or design to another surface, which creates a mirror image in the process. Mamamoo will play with that mirror theme and its implications of equal and opposite reactions throughout the video, in numerous ways. The opposites reacting theme means that this is not a light or fluffy song or video, but a driving, passionate tour de force about sexual awakening and the power of sexual attraction. The video's plot and even its look, from clothes to symbols to locales, reflect both.

Note: The beginning and middle part of the video will feature a completely different soundscape from "Décalcomanie." It's not part of the song itself, but a pair of excerpts from a Mamamoo Christmas song called "Memory" that gets used as filler for the relevant scenes. KPop often does these illogical leaps to or from unrelated music in their videos. Why? I don't know, but I thought I'd provide the warning.

English lyrics are available by clicking the CC button at the bottom.

As with the post about Jonghyun, I'm sharing a live performance to demonstrate that KPop's popularity doesn't mean the talent is fake or manufactured. Some is, but not all. Mamamoo is firmly in the real deal category, as their live shows attest. Like "Décalcomanie," this particular video is from 2016, when Mamamoo appeared on Immortal Songs 2, a music showcase where current artists perform covers of classic tunes from Korea or beyond, based on a particular composer, artist or theme. Although Mamamoo has been on the show multiple times, I chose the cover of Yoon Soo Il's 1989 hit, "Wonderful Confession," because I like the energetic arrangement, and the performance is so damned good. Their combination of power vocals and beautiful harmonies is sex for your ears.


Most people wonder what the heck Mamamoo means. Simple: It's a baby-babble portmanteau of "Mama" and the Korean word for radish, which is "moo." The Mama portion expresses Mamamoo's belief in the creative, nurturing and life-giving power of music, while the moo/radish represents an earthy yet piquant sensibility. Put the two together, and it adds up to Mamamoo and their desire to approach music like a baby does when making sounds: instinctively, organically and with a whole lot of sass.

Fandom name: Moo-Moos, AKA Radishes. Moo-Moo is a child's way of saying the plural of radish.

Fandom light stick (de rigeuer KPop concert item): A radish, of course, sometimes with a mustache on it. Why the mustache? I'll explain it if anyone really wants to know.

Mamamoo writes many of their lyrics, and arranges their own choreography.

Décalcomanie is not the first music video where Mamamoo flirts with gender-bending or cross-dressing. They outright do the latter in the video for their 2015 song, "Um Oh Ah Yeah," with hilarious results.

Any KPop fans?

Because I'm crazy about the genre. It's almost all that I listen to anymore.

I have over 100 different KPop artists in my music library. And that means thousands of albums, EPs and singles clogging up my hard drives. But even I have favorites, and singer/songwriter Jonghyun of SHINee was always my bae, a Korean term for bias or favorite.

I don’t know why I was drawn to him, of all the KPop artists out there. It wasn’t his personality, although I found him suitably endearing.

It wasn’t his looks, because scores of KPop artists exceed him there. Not that he was ugly. He wasn’t, in any sense of the word. But if it’s pure looks, then Baekhyun of Exo or nearly every member of Super Junior definitely leaves him in the dust.

He wasn’t the sexiest or most charismatic guy in KPop, either. That’s Yunho of TVXQ or T.O.P of Big Bang, hands down.

He wasn’t even the best vocalist, male or female. He was up there, to be sure—WAAAAAAYYYYY up there, as in Top 5 KPop vocalist material, but KyuHyun of Super Junior, Chen of Exo and Taeyeon of SNSD were (slightly) more talented.

Yet Jonghyun was my bae despite all that, and I realized it was because he was good enough in all of those categories, overall, to make him stand out. Sort of like winning on total points, rather than one category. There was simply something special about him to me. And so I became a fanatic watching hours of videos of him on YouTube, whether it was music videos solo or with his band, SHINee, or goofing off on a variety show.

And then, in a flash, he was gone. He took his own life on 18 December 2017, after a long battle against depression.

I have had favorite celebrities die and grieved their passing, but none hit me like Jonghyun’s suicide. I cried so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I almost went to the ER, because my chest was aching so much that I thought I might be having a heart attack. And even now, I can still break down in tears when I see videos like “Replay,” or when I see him in happier (or what only seemed happier) times with his SHINee bandmates.

Only a month after his suicide, SM Entertainment released “Shinin’,” the first track from his final album, finished not long before he died. I almost couldn’t bring myself to watch it, but I braced myself and hit the play button on Youtube. There were tears, but I managed to smile through them, probably much like he had done all those years with the pain he felt. Somehow, I felt connected to him, and soothed by the song’s promise that he would always be there. As long as there are the videos, and the memories of his many fans, he will indeed be with us.

And anyone who thinks his talent was all studio magic and KPop glitz, well, how about a live performance?

RIP, Jonghyun. You did well.
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