Current Tunes #5

AKMU – How People Move
Since my trek to the Blackpink concert earlier this month, my interest in K-pop has reignited a bit. I only just discovered this brother-sister duo, and I am obsessed with them. They have such a unique style and sound that is incredibly pleasant to listen to. This particular song, an upbeat, jazzy number, is easily my favorite. If you are intrigued by the intimidating world of K-pop, but aren’t a fan of “standard” pop music in general, AKMU might be the best place to start.

Blackpink – As if It’s Your Last
Aaaand speaking of K-pop, I’ve been on a Blackpink kick ever since attending their concert at the Prudential Center. This song is my hands-down favorite. It gives me “magical girl” vibes, if that makes any sense – it’s kind of like a classic anime opening, with a more modern twist in the rapping parts.

Chloe x Halle – Wolf at Your Door
This selection comes from the album “For the Throne,” which features songs inspired by Game of Thrones. It’s my favorite song on the album, mixing R&B with lyrics reminiscent of favorite characters and scenes from the series. I love the sound of this one the most, though I do have a few of the other tracks from the album on my recent playlist as well. If you’re mourning the end of the show, give this song – and the rest of the album – a listen.

Raleigh Ritchie – Time in a Tree
Aaaand speaking of Game of Thrones, Grey Worm – or Jacob Anderson, also known as Raleigh Ritchie – is a recording artist! I’ve liked a lot of his previous work, and his lyrics always convey a powerful message to make the listener think. In this song, I especially like the refrain, but also “I get wound up, from the ground up / And I don’t know why / Turn the sound up, drown the noise out / Swallow, don’t cry / Got an anxious heart, and it’s stone made / Can’t take paper or heartbreak.” He’s great – if you haven’t listened to him before, give this song a listen!

A Perfect Circle – So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish
Who doesn’t love a topical rock song that references what is afflicting society during this day and age? I sure do. And this one is super catchy. Worth listening to just for the lyrics.

Utada Hikaru – Don’t Think Twice
This song serves as the English theme for the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III, released this past January for the PS4. The predecessors of this song – Simple and Clean, and Sanctuary, the themes for Kingdom Hearts I and IIrespectively – pop up in my playlists now and again, but this one is a new addition that is frequently played. It might mean more to me as a fan of the series, because it makes me think of the game when I listen to it…. but also Utada is queen.

Zac Efron and Zendaya – Rewrite the Stars
I am not on the The Greatest Showman bandwagon. Haven’t seen it, and don’t plan to – though I love all of the actors in it. But I gotta say, the soundtrack is a banger. I’ve only recently listened to the soundtrack in depth, and I adore this song the most. Gotta love the whole “star-crossed lovers, but we can’t be together because society hates it” angle. It works, and this song sounds beautiful and has a crazy good replay factor. Also, I love Zendaya.

(My Game of Thrones season 8 post will be on Monday!)

Recharge

The past couple of weeks have been an odd combination of relaxing and wild – hence the total lack of blog posts last week. But it has also been a much-needed breather.

At the end of last month, my best friend and I drove down to Williamsburg, Virginia to visit another friend who moved there last autumn. And it was a wonderful time to reconnect and recharge, hopefully for all of us.

Over three days, we explored the area and found a delicious cupcake shop (I got the carrot flavor) and an incredible used bookstore called Mermaid Books, where I scored a 50th anniversary edition of my favorite Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath. I could have stayed there browsing the titles for hours. We also stumbled across a World Market, so I stocked up on my favorite foreign cider, Rekorderlig. I haven’t had it since I went to England five years ago, but it’s one of the few alcoholic drinks I actually enjoy, so I was happy to find them.

But the best part, of course, was getting to spend time with friends. We played boardgames, card games, and I dominated at Mario Party… for once. We had many rounds of Mario Kart, also… I stick to Dry Bones with the Comet bike and slick wheels, and it works for me. It was good to get away from work and just enjoy spending time in a new place with people I care about. And the friend we were visiting has an adorable dog, who enjoyed jumping on me every morning, which, as someone who loves with an aloof cat, was nice. I’m so glad I got to make the trip, relax, and experience a new place, and I’m grateful my friend asked us to come down and visit her. I also drove the two of us there and back – the longest road trip I’ve ever taken my car on, and as someone who fears the highway, it was a great experience.

Of course, then we had Avengers: Endgame and The Long Night, which were events in their own right, and equally as emotionally draining to watch. And I got to go to a free screening of Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart, which was especially cool. Then my best friend took me to a BLACKPINK concert in Newark on the 2nd. Now, I’ve said it before… I am what is called a “novice” when it comes to K-pop. I’ve always been more of a J-pop and Mandopop girl, but I was more into K-pop during the early days of SHINee, the Wonder Girls, and Super Junior, and I’ve followed almost the entirety of BoA’s career. Other than what my friend has played in her car, I don’t really seek it out. I do like it a lot – I just find the fandom to be a bit overwhelming. I also accompanied my best friend to a B.A.P. concert in D.C. back in 2017, and it was a blast, but I am definitely “well meaning mom at an anime convention” at such events.

20190502_202534_hdr134745674902261769.jpgI didn’t know anything about BLACKPINK going into the concert – like, I didn’t even know their names – but I have come out a fan! I can see why so many folks are drawn to their music and style. Their songs are major bops. My favorites have to be “As if it’s your last” and “Boombayah” but I was dancing along to all of them! These four girls are definitely a force, and I’ve had their tracks on repeat in my car all weekend. I can’t wait for them to put out more songs!

I think these last couple of weeks have been the whirlwind recharge I needed. I look forward to throwing myself back into writing and blogging!

B.A.P. Concert in Washington D.C.!

Let it be known, before I launch into this post, that I am not a K-pop aficionado. I do harbor a long-running deep love for J-Pop/J-Rock (Do As Infinity, L’arc-en-Ciel, Ayaka, Ayumi Hamasaki, Every Little Thing, Utada, FLOW, etc) and an appreciation for C-Pop and Mandopop (Jolin Tsai, Jam Hsiao, S.H.E., Mayday, Leehom Wang, etc), and while I enjoy K-Pop, my dedication level hovers somewhere above “knowing what Gangnam Style is” and below “creating K-Pop only blogs/twitters and knowing all the former and present members of Super Junior.” One might say I am a casual.

So a couple of months ago, I got a text from my best friend, which read: “Would you….. possibly hypothetically go with me to see a kpop group in dc?” I thought about it, and ultimately settled on, “Why not?” I may not be a mega-fan, but I figured it would be an interesting experience, regardless.

And it definitely was an experience. Now, bear in mind, the following observations are from someone who is not super-involved in the K-pop fandom, so please forgive any ignorance on my part. No offense is meant by anything said in the following blog post.

I might be a novice, but I am aware of the far-reaching scope of K-pop  – it’s basically a global phenomenon with a massive, dedicated fanbase. I know a handful of bands/artists, but I was more or less clueless about B.A.P. going into the concert. My friend actually made me a Google doc about the band/members to study beforehand, but needless to say, I didn’t retain much. However, no amount of research could have prepared me for what I was going to face at the Warner Theater in D.C on April 9th, 2017.

17862549_10210247446681689_2903302992777542961_nDuring the ride down to D.C, my friend (who is a K-pop expert) briefed me on what to expect, so I felt more or less equipped to handle things. However, more details trickled through over the course of the day, as she would casually mention, “Oh, by the way, there will be whistles,” and “Oh, just so you know, it’s going to start with a D.J.” and “There’s like, sort of a dress code…but don’t worry about it” – I half expected her to tell me the boys would land onstage after descending from the ceiling on trapezes. Outside the theater, we were given posters to wave during a particular number… and since I didn’t know any of the songs, my friend assured me she would alert me in advance. Once we entered the venue and got to our seats (in the balcony), she also mentioned, “It’s good we’re not in the orchestra seats, because it gets crazy down there,” and a girl sitting near us assured me, “Oh, it’ll get crazy up here too.”

And they were not wrong. All thoughts of being prepared were whisked away from me as the buzz began to build. Whistles were going off and fans were screaming well before the opening – and once the D.J. (A performer named D.Shoo, who was awesome!) actually began, the hype was ramped up to about a 1000%. Now, the Warner Theater is the sort of venue built for ballets and – so that sort of atmosphere, colliding with the passionate fervor of K-Pop fans and the colorful, flashing lights and screens, was a bit jarring at first. Folks were jumping up and down, whistles were blaring, everyone was standing and cheering, girls (and maybe some guys) were loudly proclaiming their love for certain members of the group, and the main act hadn’t even begun yet.

17796405_10210247446841693_3183343088456269860_nNaturally, when the group members – Yongguk, Daehyun, Jongup, Himchan, Youngjae, and Zelo (I only had to google, like, 2 of those – I’m getting better!) – actually emerged onstage and launched into their first number, the crowd totally lost it. I looked down into the orchestra and it was a literal sea of flailing arms, hands waving those little bunny monster wand things (Matokis, I think?) and screaming. A fan up in the balcony had some sort of light-up sign, as well. At some points, it got so loud that I feared I would lose my hearing for the following day, and my friend and I both had to work at 5AM the next morning, so that would have been less than ideal. Luckily, the ear-ringing ceased on the car ride home.

Even though I went into the experience mostly unprepared and unaware of what was about to ensue, I was completely blown away. From the moment the concert began, the crowd never lost their intensity- we were on our feet the entire time, and B.A.P. did a fantastic job keeping the energy level at it’s peak the entire night, even during “slower” numbers. It took me a little while to adjust to the ardent nature of the crowd, but I settled into a zone and found myself having an excellent time. It barely even felt like 2 hours, and even though my friend and I had been walking around D.C. most of the day beforehand, the exhaustion didn’t hit me until the car-ride home. Also, I can say, with 90% certainty, that I was the only person in the audience who didn’t know any of the words. The fans knew exactly when to join in with the next lyrics and didn’t even need any sort of cue – it was seriously awe-inspiring.

17523631_10210247447161701_8871979680167774961_nMy favorite performances from the event were “Wake Me Up,” “Feel So Good,” “B.A.B.Y,” and “Spy” – at least, I’m pretty sure those are the titles. I had to google it. But I enjoyed all of it, and at no point or during any song did I think anything like, “Meh, this one’s just okay.” I also enjoyed the “Baby’s Lounge” segment, where the band members were charismatic and entertaining and got a window to interact with the crowd. I was surprised that they didn’t take more of a break between numbers – there were really only a couple of times where they stopped for a “costume change,” and they performed most of the songs back to back, which has to be exhausting. Regardless, they never lost their momentum and it kept the crowd enthused. I was jamming out to pretty much all of the songs – I’m not the type to really “let loose” and go crazy with the dancing and arm waving, but I did my share of “stand a sway” and moving to the rhythm. I let out a few “Wooo!”s of my own. The members each have their unique talents and voices, and they combine and complement one another in a way that makes a spectacular sound – plus their dancing/choreography is superb and was executed to perfection. “Feels So Good” and “B.A.B.Y,” were on repeat in my head for a couple days after – they are SO catchy. Not a single number or performance fell flat – as someone who knew pretty much nothing going in, I came away from it with a big grin on my face.

17884498_10210247447401707_6298726364486903065_nNow that the concert is over and I have had time to process, I can declare that, while I liked all of them, Himchan is my favorite… or I guess he would be my “bias?” I’m still not entirely clear on the terminology. Like, there’s something about “sons”? Or was it “children”? My friend tried to explain it to me but I was more or less like a well-meaning, yet clueless mom at her kid’s anime convention. The people around us in line and the girls sitting behind us were chattering on about their “biases” and all sorts of things and my friend could follow every word, but I was lost.

Despite my lack of knowledge, I also came away from the event with a new admiration for the dedication and persistence of the K-pop fandom. I can understand why some people think being that level of “fan” is obsessive/unhealthy, and it is a little overwhelming/off-putting at first to an “outsider” who is unfamiliar with the lingo and the customs, but honestly, as long as someone doesn’t let a passion or an avid interest affect their life in a negative manner, or allow it to completely consume their existence, or use it as a means to cause harm to someone else, then I don’t see the issue. Everybody’s got something they love – I’d be the same way at a Lord of the Rings event or something, and once I got used to the atmosphere, I no longer felt out of place. Even though I’m not at that level when it comes to K-Pop (and I likely never will be, though I do intend to broaden my range) I  can’t wait to add B.A.P.’s discography to my mp3 player so I can jam out while I’m at the gym. My interest in K-Pop might not be as off-the-charts as it is for some, but it certainly has been reignited. I wasn’t even upset that we didn’t get home until after midnight and I had to get up at 4 to go to work – the fatigue I felt the following day was worth it.

If my friend hadn’t invited and brought me along with her, I likely never would have attended a K-Pop concert of my own volition – so I’m grateful she included me. I consider the experience a valuable one, and can say, without a doubt, that it “feels so good” to have had the chance to witness B.A.P. perform live, and I might even venture out to more K-Pop shows in the future.