Wonder Girls Are Back!
November 11, 2011 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Wonder Girls are back in Korea with a 2nd album, after a foray into the U.S. including touring with the Jonas Brothers in 2009, and an upcoming movie for Teen Nick, "Wonder Girls at the Apollo." The first single, "Be My Baby" will also be featured in the movie soundtrack. The album also includes their re-interpretation of Korean rock legend Shin Jung-hyeon's "The Beauty" - "Me, In" (link is to trailer for the song). If Wonder Girls are not your cup of tea, some other Korean girl groups:

Girls' Generation "The Boys"

Secret "Love is MOVE"

Orange Caramel "Shanghai Romance"

Brown Eyed Girls "Sixth Sense"

Kara "Step"

Miss A "Good-bye Baby"

2NE1 "I Am the Best"
posted by needled (28 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Fantastic. The guys aren't bad either.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:14 PM on November 11, 2011


posted by Nomyte at 9:30 PM on November 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is it just me or is that Wonder Girls "Be My Baby" video very influenced by the Single Ladies music video?

(The Be My Baby Nomyte linked is very clearly under the influence of something else.)
posted by kmz at 10:10 PM on November 11, 2011

Oh my god...I can't even escape this stuff on MeFi...GOOD BYE CRUEL WORLD
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:13 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

(and kmz--Be My Baby is choreographed by the person who did Single Ladies. So, yeah)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:14 PM on November 11, 2011

They are very good at me being attracted to them.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:44 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm with Joseph Gurl. We're in the midst of an interminable K-pop boom in Japan. On nearly every channel, every variety show, you've got these impeccably groomed, surgically optimised (no, seriously, cosmetic surgery, big in Korea), autotuned and choreographed to death groups of either gender. And aside from the music, the Korean dramas, with acting that makes me long for the subtle scripting and nuanced acting of shows like General Hospital.

However, as the good Senor has pointed out, they are pretty to look at.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:39 PM on November 11, 2011

I knew a girl who was very into this sort of music and it's been harder-than-usual for me to deal with the whole "but I can't get it out of my head" versus "but this is a feminist nightmare" aspect of it. It was probably worse because she did seem to really think that this was precisely what women *ought* to look like.

(The one I always get earwormed with, because it really is hypnotic: Brown Eyed Girls - Abracadabra)
posted by gracedissolved at 11:55 PM on November 11, 2011

I am ignorant of K-pop. Please elucidate how these groups aren't just Korea's version of the PussyCat Dolls.
posted by benzenedream at 12:09 AM on November 12, 2011

benzenedream, the PussyCat Dolls lack the utter committment to Sparkle Motion these girls possess.

That, and the plastic surgery. Evidently (according to one of the many variety shows Mrs. Ghidorah loves) one of the more popular surgeries for men and women is the six-pack enhancement. After all, you evidently can't have a K-pop boy band without having wispy-thin men with absurdly out of place muscle tone.

It's interesting, though, with the boom going on here, just how many albums are coming out with Japanese lyrics. KARA in particular is huge here, and I've been able to see, since their debut in Japan, the members of the group improve in their Japanese language ability at an impressive rate.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:19 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've lived in and traveled through many parts of the world, and northeast Asia is a uniquely dreadful region when it comes to popular music. I'm sure there's some sort of historical explanation for this but I'm not sure what it is
posted by moorooka at 1:26 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why can't America build androids like that?
posted by Yakuman at 2:45 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

All I can think of now is how we could expand the Eurovision Song Contest to include these parts of the planet. Ah, the possibilities!
posted by helion at 3:11 AM on November 12, 2011

It's interesting, though, with the boom going on here, just how many albums are coming out with Japanese lyrics. KARA in particular is huge here

KARA invaded Japan with a native version of their monster hit in Korea, Mister, which contrary to what one might think, is not about a street-corner hooker, but about a girl who is massively crushing on a male friend.

And no KPOP collection could be complete without mentioning T-ARA (pronounced Tiara), whose latest song, Cry Cry, has a Thriller length music video. But for me their most notable single is the hugely catchy and danceable Ya Ya Ya, the music video of which is cartoonishly offensive from an American point of view.
posted by xigxag at 4:54 AM on November 12, 2011

ll I can think of now is how we could expand the Eurovision Song Contest to include these parts of the planet. Ah, the possibilities!

For armageddon, you mean? A supergroup made up of Wondergirls, Dana International, and Ruslana.

Kill me now.
posted by spitbull at 4:56 AM on November 12, 2011

> All I can think of now is how we could expand the Eurovision Song Contest to include these parts of the planet.

Well, the songs are already coming from Swedish songwriters anyway.
posted by needled at 6:54 AM on November 12, 2011

Oooh! New pop music!

[Turns down Kei$ha, listens to YouTube links]

Hmmm, I like the Kara "Step" song, but the rest seem a bit, um, light? That's not a very good criticism of pop music. How about: the songs aren't "rocky" enough? Too tinny? Any musicians help me out here?

I love the Sugababes (Round Round, Hole in the Head) and Girls Aloud (oh lots: Biology, The Show, Love Machine) but the original Sugababes lineup has entirely been replaced and I don't like the newer stuff and Girls Aloud have split up, so I'm a bit lacking with modern pop. The Saturdays (Ego) don't push my buttons for some reason. I love Katy Perry, but she makes me feel dirty. So I'll keep trying K-Pop/J-Pop but it isn't working for me yet.

Thanks for the post, though! I might find myself humming Wondergirls, and then I'll have found myself a new band!

Ah, and in musical terms, how does this all relate to the Spice Girls? Did they draw from East Asian pop traditions, or vice-versa? How does East Asian pop relate to the US market (more country, more rock, and more R&B - less pop? Is that right?) versus the European market (more dance)?
posted by alasdair at 7:17 AM on November 12, 2011

(Sorry, it seems quite Anglo-centric of my to post "here are some British bands!" into a K-Pop thread: my apologies. I was just musing aloud on what I did like in the hope someone could point me at what I might like.

OK, downloading Kara in iTunes - I love the Internet! And Unicode.)
posted by alasdair at 7:27 AM on November 12, 2011

Double eyelid surgery is also pretty popular over here. Parents sometimes buy it for their little girls when they graduate middle or high school. One of my male students who is 12 years old told me that he was scared that he might have to get plastic surgery because everyone else is, so he would be at a disadvantage if he didn't.

alasdair, if you find an answer to any of those questions, you should let me know!

While K-Pop drives me insane for the most part, I do really love 2ne1's 아파

other songs that I can stand are:
Girls Day Twinkle Twinkle
Jaurim (not a girls group, sorry) Sorry, I Hate You
T-ara Like the First Time
2ne1 I Don't Care

and everyone should watch "Iteawon Freedom" because the video might deserve its own link on the front page of me-fi
posted by meows at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would say some of the Korean girl groups take their inspiration from the Spice Girls (e.g., the name Wonder Girls, although musically the producer of the Wonder Girls seems to draw from Motown in the 60's). American R&B seems to be the main influence for mainstream Korean pop (hilariously lamented in 불나방스타소세지클럽's song R&B, with lyrics about giving up being being an indie musician since it's not popular and it doesn't help him get the chicks, and instead will buy himself some new threads and practice singing R&B songs in Korean karaoke joints).

I agree there's a lack of "rockness" to a lot of Korean pop, and I think a lot of the Korean non-major label music as well. Yoonha tried to go in a bit of rock direction with her Japanese releases such as Houki Boshi or Te Wo Tsunaide but her Korean releases have that "lighter" kpop sound. ThisBoonga Boonga Record projects
posted by needled at 8:12 AM on November 12, 2011

oops, my comment got mangled.

Anyway, I was linking to an early release of T-ara, TTL (Time To Love), brought to mind by the British girl groups linked to.

And there was also an explanation for 불나방스타소세지클럽 (approximately "Bool Nabang Sausage Club", a now defunct indie band, the name being wordplay for "Buena Vista Social Club", and translating into something like "Fire Moth Sausage Club". Its former members still pop up in Boonga Boonga Record projects.
posted by needled at 8:17 AM on November 12, 2011

Please tell me Iteawon Freedom was satire...

Is there a good streaming radio station for Kpop? It seems ideal for my work environment - light and happy enough to keep me going, with vocals in a foreign language so I don't get distracted.
posted by rednikki at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2011

alisdair - the Kara song is using a particular retro synth sound that is very trendy in US pop music right now. The others aren't.

I don't know if I'd call it "lighter" or "rockier" - "The Boys" has way more bass to it and Sixth Sense has that intense cello riff. That synth riff is really the distinguishing item.
posted by rednikki at 10:30 AM on November 12, 2011

Yep, "Itaewon Freedom" is satire. It's from a comedy musical act called UV, with a guest appearance from JYP (or Jin-young Park), producer/Svengali behind the Wonder Girls, Miss A, and boy bands 2pm and 2am, among others.
posted by needled at 12:22 PM on November 12, 2011

Pfffft... Needs more Wall of Sound.
posted by Mike D at 1:57 PM on November 12, 2011

I can name exactly one band from Korea, Arne von Brill, but I don't think they're actually Korean.
posted by cropshy at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2011

As far as I know, most who pay attention to Western/English language music now shun the girl/boy band trend. I, too, used to raise my eyebrow at the trend, but I've come to love a lot of these groups. While I don't follow Wonder Girls as closely as other Korean pop acts, I do admire them and their perseverance. Here's a brief from a recent conference of theirs:

After being asked whether she wanted to just enjoy college life like a regular student, group member Yubin, 23, burst into tears.

“I want to continue my studies, but being a singer is the path I’ve chosen,” she said, as tears began to fall. “There’s a lot to learn in this field, too.”

All these idol group kids, they work hard. Most start training to sing and dance between ages 9-13, and "debut" as young as 13/14. They are under constant scrutiny from many angles. Now that the world is going through a hallyu/K-pop wave of sorts, they are gaining many English speaking fans and said fans are bringing their own voices and perspectives to the table, influencing how these idols present themselves. (Sort of, lol.) It's all very interesting (and cool!) to me.

I'm still puzzled as to why JYP Ent. sent the Wonder Girls off, at the top of their prime in South Korea, to debut in the US and didn't bring them back as soon as it was apparent that it was not successful. No where near the same level as success as they had been in South Korea. Different acts from East Asia (e.g. Utada, BoA) have tried their footing in the American market and did not make so much as a dent either. I have no confidence that say, Khalil Fong, to choose a drastically different artist that's still very influenced by Western music, would fare well either. There's a lot of factors as to why no one has made a successful transfer so far, race, English skills, market trends being among them, so I'm not gonna go into depth about it.

Anyway, I bought the album, "Wonder World," a couple days ago. It's gonna be really fun to blast it in the car. Especially this song: "Girls, Girls."

Other Korean girl group songs I like (and I linked to translations of songs that don't do the usual pandering-to-the-male-demographic that girl group songs/singles usually do):

Girls' Generation "Lazy Girl" "Wake Up"
2NE1 "I Don't Care" "Hate You"
Sunny Hill "Midnight Circus" (not quite a girl group, since they have one guy, but still!)
f(x) "Pinocchio" "Nu ABO"

While K-pop is far from most feminist ideals, it's not exactly a nightmare either, imho.
posted by one teak forest at 8:55 PM on November 12, 2011

Itaewon Freedom was in this previous FPP (which is also worth checking out). And thanks guys for making me have to watch this video 6 more times.
posted by azarbayejani at 1:34 PM on November 13, 2011

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