Published on June 8th, 2013 | by deejaymich0
Music Matters Live K-pop Night Out 2013: Tunes for every palate
Following last year’s success, K-pop Night Out, a part of the three-day Music Matters Live festival, made its second return at Clarke Quay’s Fountain Stage on May 24. But before we go there, let’s go one day back to the press conference held at Ritz-Carlton.
Except for M.I.B, it was everyone’s first time in Singapore. All of them shared the same level of enthusiasm to perform for our local audience. After all, the event was also going to be streamed live on YouTube, allowing fans around the world to experience it as well.
First up was veteran Lena Park. The Korean-American singer started her career in 1993, but it wasn’t till 1998 that she released her first Korean album. As of now, she has released eight Korean albums. She was an absolutely joy to interview not only because of her fluency in English – she gave each question much thought before answering, and provided great insights.
Park has been a part of many collaborations, the latest one being a feature on ‘What Would Have Been?’ off PSY‘s album. When asked to choose someone from the line-up she’d like to collaborate with, she said that she’d love to collaborate with any of the artistes. Just don’t ask her to dance, because the girl says that she’s a terrible dancer which contributes to why being in a girl group has never crossed her mind. That said, she loves the camaraderie that she sees in K-pop groups.
Next up was AOA, the girl group that dances and plays their own instruments. Leader Jimin and main vocalist Choa did most of the talking as the girls were still quite reserved overall. Seolhyun and Youkyung were not present, and the latter not being there meant that they were not going to be playing their instruments, which was really a pity.
The girls have been juggling between their five-member band and seven-member dance stages, but Jimin expressed that they are open to tackling other genres and even forming sub-units. However, I do believe they will stick to their rock roots for a while. Choa showed her gratitude to their sunbaes FTISLAND and CNBLUE for always giving them advice, especially regarding rock music.
SPICA was a joy to have around too. The girls are older than the average rookie, so that meant that they were more open with their answers and I totally appreciated that. They were also not afraid to poke fun at each other, which made them feel a lot more personal. Their answers were very thoughtful – leader Boa even went on and on for one of her answers until the translator had to stop her mid-way because she couldn’t catch everything she was saying! Boa then feigned a defeated look while Jiwon ‘comforted’ her amidst the laughter in the room. Later on, Boa told us that even though Jiwon may look shy, she is really the mother of the group. Aww!
Music is all about different people coming together to come up with an end product, so the girls also had their own ideal artistes that they wanted to collaborate with: the list included Norah Jones, Madonna, Pitbull and Akon. Those are some really big acts, but since all of them trained for five to ten years prior to their debut, I’m sure they can hold a candle to these international stars.
Going from performing in front of a mirror to finally in front of an audience is no easy feat. Moreover, this was the girls’ first international showcase and they were worried whether or not their music would be well-received here. However, the fans have been really nice to them so far and I’m sure that overpowered all their nerves.
The affable boys of M.I.B were up next. Don’t be fooled by the cool image of these hip-hop artistes – they generated the most laughter from the floor that day. I think it definitely helped that they had a decent command of English and were already familiar with Singapore. Even sleepy-looking Kangnam joined in the fun – he pointed to SIMS and asked us if we were surprised that he is the youngest, making the maknae smile bashfully. They didn’t have any secrets to spill about each other, but they all agreed that Kangnam is the one with the most secrets and called him ‘Secret Man’.
When talking about their dream girls, each of them became a little bit more reserved. Cream likes a girl with the same mindset as him, and it’d be great if she was cute too. Kangnam looked distressed while trying to answer, and Cream helped him out (or not) by butting in, “morning cute, night sexy”, much to the vocalist’s embarrassment. SIMS said he likes girls who can the play the guitar, and was adamant about it even when the others said he was lying. 5Zic likes a girl with a beautiful mind. Seriously, leader… and you called SIMS a liar.
The members are interested in appearing on variety show Infinity Challenge, but expressed that they have not considered acting or hosting yet because they want to focus on their music. As compared to last year, M.I.B said they were glad that their set was going to be longer this time and that they were going to perform new songs as well.
Finger-style guitarist Park Juwon and harmonica player Jeon Jeduk were next. They both agreed that there has been a growing interest in indie music and events like Music Matters Live help spread awareness and expose international fans to a wider range of Korean music (after all, Korean music is not just K-pop!).
They were both pretty reserved, but I was sure that they would be able to express themselves more through their instruments.
Representing Hongdae’s indie rock scene was Eastern Sidekick. A couple of them were obviously excited about this – bassist Sang Hwan whipped out his phone and started snapping pictures while guitarist In Hyeok was all smiles throughout.
The band was asked how they differentiate themselves from other bands. Guitarist Han Kyeol replied jokingly that they are good-looking – a fact nobody denied. Their answers were pretty short, but they made sure to explain where the got their band name from: they wanted to represent the East and ‘sidekick’ is inspired by taekwondo.
There’s a rad cover of BIGBANG‘s ‘Monster’ on their YouTube channel (watch here), but the band doesn’t feel that covering other artistes will make them more popular. In fact, they said that they are not planning to make covers anymore. That definitely meant that all the songs we would be hearing the next day will be their originals.
This year’s K-pop Night Out had a larger variety of genres as compared to last year’s, which was predominantly Korean Hip-Hop.
If last year had Clazziquai to churn out experimental house music, this year, Park Juwon and Jeon Jeduk, along with the live band kicked things off with their beautiful instrumental music. Even at a venue such as Clarke Quay, the audience seemed to appreciate the tunes and the duo received a rousing response. Park Juwon was reading his lines off a script because he wasn’t fluent in the language, but the audience thought he was adorable.
After a string of originals, they ended off with a variation of the ‘James Bond 007’ theme, complete with a short snippet of Deep Purple‘s ‘Smoke on the Water’ as an introduction. Definitely the highlight of their performance.
As Park Juwon and Jeon Jeduk left the stage, fans started chanting, “AOA, AOA!”, much to the delight of the girls who were on standby off-stage. I was still hoping that they might have played their instruments, but of course that was not to be. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed their performances of ‘Elvis’, ‘Temptation’, ‘Love is Only You’ and ‘Get Out’. All of them did great but a special mention goes to main vocalist Choa, who was amazing that night – her vocals didn’t fail her one bit and her high notes and ad-libs were great!
Just before the last song, the girls stopped to greet their fans. Although their lines were obviously rehearsed (each member had one or two lines to say), their sincerity was definitely real and I really appreciated that every one of them made the effort to speak in a language that they were not comfortable in. They also asked fans to await their upcoming release – I sure hope that’s soon!
Eastern Sidekick came on next and they took the stage with their rock tunes. Front-man Joo Hwan‘s deep and raspy voice was really apt for the atmosphere. Even though Korean indie rock is not very popular among the people here, the audience enjoyed the set as the songs were really catchy. Also, though drummer Myeong Cheol did not really look the part of a rocker with his polo tee and glasses, he sure packed a punch!
The very cool yet sexy women of SPICA were up next! Already known for their powerhouse vocals, they really impressed by hitting all those notes! All their songs had a certain difficulty, so it was pretty amazing that they were able to perform them back-to-back without faltering. They sang ‘Lonely’, ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Russian Roulette’ before being joined by the live band for ‘Intensely’ and ‘I’ll Be There’, which was proclaimed the fan favourite. Pardon the puns, but their killer harmonies were so intense.
They win full marks for audience interaction as well – all the members spoke pretty decent English. Joohyun even lamented how hot it was. Boa stumbled on her words and told the audience, “wait a minute, wait a minute” before composing herself .
The boys from Jungle Entertainment wow-ed the audience next with their catchy hip-hop tunes, looking even more confident than they did last year. Apt for an introduction, they performed ‘MIB is Coming’, followed by ‘Money in the Building’ and they sounded great with the live band for ‘Hello Goodbye’. Their latest single ‘Nod Along!’ was no doubt the highlight, and that’s not only because 5Zic flashed his abs. That probably made the girls go sumi gappeo (out of breath). Their last song of the night was their debut track ‘G.D.M’ and it brought the atmosphere to an all time high.
The boys covered every single inch of the stage and made sure to shower the audience with fan-service. It was a joy to watch them perform again – their energy was really infectious.
The last act of the night, but definitely not the least, was Lena Park. It was apparent that most of the audience members were not familiar with her songs, but most of them stayed all the way anyway – because she was that good. Singing songs like ‘In Dreams’ , she impressed with her sweet and powerful voice. It was her first time in Singapore but her fluency in English helped bridge the gap between her and the audience. Her stage presence proved that she was indeed a veteran in the industry.
This year’s K-pop Night Out was great – it had all the elements down and the audience was really supportive too. It’s great to see the Music Matters initiative going strong – in fact, it’s improving every year and I’m already looking forward to the next. For those who didn’t attend, you sure missed out!