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My KPop Playlist, New Year's Eve Bonus Track: Stray Kids - Miroh

Like Momoland, Stray Kids got their start on a 2017 reality show as a pool of contestants competing for 9 slots in a group under the management of one of the biggest and most respected KPop labels, JYP.

Left to right, top to bottom:

BangChan (Christopher Bang): Leader, lead vocalist, rapper and producer

WooJin (Kim WooJin): Former vocalist

LeeKnow (Lee MinHo): Vocalist, rapper and dancer

ChangBin (Choi ChangBin): Rapper, vocalist, producer

HyunJin (Hwang HyunJin): Lead rapper and visual

Han (Han JiSung): Lead vocalist, rapper, producer

Felix (Lee Felix): Lead dancer, lead rapper

SeungMin (Lee SeungMin): Lead vocalist

I.N. (Yang JeongIn): Vocalist, Maknae

Their debut came at last in March of 2018.

Last October, WooJin left not only the group but KPop entirely for personal reasons, so now Stray Kids is an 8-member band.

The group was still a nine-member unit when they recorded and released their smash hit from March, “Miroh.” As with the 2PM selection, I list it here as a party song for New Year’s Eve celebrations. I’ll confess that it’s the only release by Stray Kids that I’ve liked, but I'm not one of those idiots who writes off an artist entirely if what they've made in the past wasn't my cuppa. A new release could be that great song I do like, as happened here. What's not to like about “Miroh?” It's a total banger, with an awesome hook for the chorus, “Iiiiiiiimmmm Oooookaaaaaaaay!” Oh yeah. Plus there’s ChangBin and Han blowing everyone’s minds with their breath control in the rap prechoruses (1:46 and 3:02). How did they get in that many words that fast, and not be gasping for air? I was panting for them before they got to the end of their lines.

Anyway, put “Miroh” on at your next party and nobody will be sitting around looking bored.



Fandom name: Stay

No lightstick color yet.

Miroh means “maze” in Korean, so the song is about being trapped in a situation where you never know what wrong turn you'll make trying to find your way out.

My KPop Playlist: 2PM Hands Up

Formed in 2008 under JYP Entertainment, 2PM was originally an 11-member group called One Day that got split up into two groups: 2AM and 2PM. 2PM got 7 of the members:

Jun.K (Kim MinJun): Leader, songwriter and main vocalist

Nichkhun (Nichkhun Buck Horvejkul): Vocalist, rapper, and visual

TaecYeon (Ok TaecYeon): Lead rapper, 2nd visual

WooYoung (Jang WooYoung): Lead vocalist and dancer

JunHo (Lee JunHo): Main vocalist, lead dancer.

ChanSung (Hwang ChanSung): Vocalist, rapper, songwriter and maknae. Also possesses some of the most beautiful eyes in KPop.

Jay Park: Former leader and an American citizen who had to leave the group in 2009 after his disparaging remarks about Korea on social media surfaced. The comments were from his trainee days, when he was 17 and homesick, but there are things one simply does not do as a KPop artist. One of them is dissing Korea. For any reason. He’s managed to repair his image to become a successful solo artist, but he was never allowed back into 2PM, so now they look like this:

Left to right: ChanSung, JunHo, Jun.K, WooYoung, Nichkhun, TaecYeon

In 2018, 2PM’s contract with JYP expired. Five members renewed their contracts with the agency. TaecYeon was the single holdout, signing with 51K, but he will continue being a member of 2PM.

2PM’s hook is that they aren’t a cutesie boy band, and instead are self-proclaimed “beast mode” artists. “Beast mode” is a Korean term for being unapologetically masculine. So it’s rare for them to indulge in gender/orientation-bending fan service games, androgyny, aegyo or any of the usual Asian boy band tropes. You get this group, as they are, and you’ll like it.

In honor of that, 2PM has a habit of featuring “beasts” from the animal kingdom in their MVs. In this one, it’s a horse’s head. Not a live one, but a mask that makes several humorous appearances, so watch for it. There are also women wearing kitty ears in the background of this video.

Other motifs that show up on a regular basis with 2PM MVs:

“Hands Up” isn’t the only video where masks make an appearance, and costumes sometimes show up as well. Anything in green tends to be popular.

Humor, and lots of it. 2PM likes to laugh at themselves and at ridiculous situations.

Water and suds. But not necessarily together. Haven’t figured out what this is about, yet.

In their “party” MVs: Massive quantities of alcohol, and no shyness about how booze can make life fun. Most KPop groups exhibit a great deal of Western influences, but few of them are as close to our stereotype of a hedonistic rock band as 2PM. Life is here to enjoy, and 2PM is all for that. So of course they have a fondness for the finer things in life, and often have MVs featuring lots of hot babes (frequently scantily clad), expensive sports cars, limos, yachts, champagne and fine food, first class airfare or private planes, designer fashion, hot tubs, and so forth.

You’ll see all of those things and more in 2PM’s iconic hit, “Hands Up,” which has to be one of the biggest KPop party songs, ever. You have to give them credit: When they decide to do a banger, they go all out with it, so expect to want to get up and dance to this one:

And here’s a live performance:


Fandom name: Hottest. But of course.

Lightstick color: Metallic grey. You didn’t expect a sissy cute color from a “beast mode” group, did you?

Jun.K’s original stage name was Junsu, but he changed it at the same time that he changed his legal name from Kim JunSu to Kim MinJun, for complicated family reasons that I won’t go into here.

A dual US/Thai citizen, Nichkhun attended high school in suburban Los Angeles and thus is fluent in English. His family is rumored to be quite wealthy, and it is his largesse that enables 2PM to enjoy those finer things in life I mentioned above.

TaecYeon lived in Massachusetts for 7 years, and attended high school there.

All of the 2PM members are on the athletic side. JunHo in particular is known for doing elaborate acrobatics, although it once resulted in a shoulder injury. As soon as he healed, he lived up to the beast mode image to go right back to his old stunts. JunHo also became an internet sensation when he broke a couple of dozen chopsticks with his butt cheeks on a game show. He sometimes is known as “HoButt” for that reason.

For now, 2PM is on hiatus while assorted members are in the military service process, save for Nichkhun, who’s exempt from serving because he’s not a Korean citizen. He has spent the hiatus working primarily in the Thai television and movie industry.

TaecYeon was discharged from the military in May 2019. Since then, he has focused on his acting career. He has a starring role in a drama, The Game: Towards Midnight, which is expected to premiere near the end of January 2020.

The other four members are currently serving their tours of duty. Maknae Chansung will be the last to return to the group in the spring of 2021.

* 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.

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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.

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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.
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