2019 Kdramas: The Best Ones To Watch Right Now. Part 2.

In Part 1 I very quickly ran out of space to discuss the many Kdramas of 2019 that I considered worth watching. With well over a hundred having been shown so far this year there’s a lot to choose from.

 

 

Korean dramas are known for for both having set tropes that re-occur with regularity; the main leads having known each other in childhood and been parted by a tragic incident, the ‘cold’ boss who no one understands, or poor girl makes good for example. But it is also full of the weird and wonderful, the fantastical, and the mysterious. All of which make many Kdramas unique.

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So I’ll start off with a drama with an unusual premiss that I haven’t seen before. He Is Psychometric is about a young man who can ‘see’ into someone’s past by touching them. He is also able to do it to objects that have been touched. The trouble is he doesn’t know how to use this ‘gift’, and to fully understand what he sees. It takes some help and friendships to guide him to success. Murders take place in the past that have repercussions for the three main characters. This is a fairly dark drama and may be a bit intense for some viewers, but the mix of tough reality and the search for the truth that ties them together was quite gripping. At the beginning I had some inkling of where the story was going, but much of what I didn’t know was doled out slowly over the course of the drama, heightening the drama and emotions.

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As the main lead Park Jin Young from Got7 did a good job portraying his unusual character, and was very ably supported by Shin Ye Eun and Kim Kwon. Overall it kept my interest and I’d recommend it if you enjoy police/mystery/paranormal type dramas. There is somewhat of a romance but it is not the main plot. (16 episodes.)

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In contrast to the dark slice of life that was He is Psychometric, Clean With Passion For Now was a much lighter slice of life although it did have the main characters having intertwined traumas in their pasts. This drama had a rocky start as Kim You Jung fell ill with hypothyroidism before filming began and by the time she was well enough to continue her co star Ahn Hyo Seop had to step out due to conflicting schedules. Yoon Kyun Sang stepped in to fill the role. I mention this because quite a few viewers didn’t like the age difference between the main leads, however I was willing to give them a little slack because of this turmoil and also because the character didn’t necessarily act that much older.

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Jang Sun Gyeol, the main character, is a fairly successful businessman in the cleaning world, mostly due to his mysophobia, the fear of germs.  However, as so often happens in the land of Kdrama he is forced by circumstance to deal with Gil Oh Sol who is a total slob. Thrown into the mix is Choi Ha In a mysterious doctor who has some connection to her past. There are some dark parts that help explain the characters early relationships with each other. Overall the show was actually quite entertaining and worth viewing if you want to watch something with endearing characters, solid friendships and a happy ending, but I’m not going to tell you it was much more than that. (16 episodes.)

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Level Up was somewhat similar in than it was fairly pleasant and innocuous and fine for an easy watch. The cast did a good job with their characters although I think a few of us are waiting for Sung Hoon to get a role where he can show he has a range of emotions. The drama takes place in the world of online games and is also notable for Baro, from B1A4, as having the role of the second lead. The story moves along quite well and it kept my attention enough for me to finish the drama. (12 episodes.)

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However the ‘lite’ drama that won me over the most so far this year was The Secret Life Of My Secretary. (Well along with Her Private Life  see Part 1. )  Kim Young Kwang has been a favorite of mine since seeing him in White Christmas back in 2011 and I enjoy his acting.

 

 

In The Secret Life Of My Secretary he ably plays the role of Do Min Ik a somewhat superior being who can tell what someone is thinking just by watching their mannerisms and expressions, giving him an advantage in the cutthroat ‘family’ business. He is assisted by his secretary Jung Gal Hee played by relative newcomer Jin Ki Joo. Gal Hee is a little unkempt and clumsy, rushing about forever at Min Ik’s beck and call. She even does the most menial and degrading jobs making her somewhat of a pariah to the other secretaries. They cannot understand her.

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How then do these two finally fall in love? Well through the growth of love and acceptance of course, this is a Kdrama after all.

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Due to a frightening incident Min Ik ends up with ‘face blindness’ which means when he looks at people’s faces he sees a blurr. Being able to still recognise Gal Hee by her trademark red cardigan he begins to rely on her more and more to help keep his secret from those around him.

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Never a cold character in the mold of so many chaebol main leads he becomes more gentle and understanding as the drama unfolds. While Kal Hee becomes more confident  and capable becoming the strength within their love. Things happen to mix them up for a while, especially with the character Veronica played by Kim Jae Kyung, but even if love doesn’t quite conquer everything it triumphs in the end.

There are a few others that I’ve watched all the way through including Hotel Del Luna which I just finished last night so it looks like a Part 3 might be on the way.

Have a great day everyone.

All photo credits to original owners.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

You may also enjoy Easy On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors, and  My Favorite Dramas of 2018.

A Wonderful Guide To Kpop Merchandize.

It is not often that I come across a website that I endorse and share with everyone, but today I want to recommend Dominic’s Kpop Merchandize Guide. It is obviously a labor of love and as such is chock full of useful information for Kpop fans. This is not a website to buy merchandize, but a place to learn more about it and to find out just what was released for each particular comeback, album or concert. This is particularly useful for fans and collectors. And just plain interesting for everyone.

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So far he has covered 45 groups and soloists and is working on adding more. So just what is his guide about? Well let’s take the information available for the merchandize for just one group. I’ll choose Stray Kids as an example.

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First off he goes through chronologically listing all the official merchandize available. In the case above you can see what was available for Unveil [Op.01: I Am Not] from light-sticks, the photo-book through to the set of 10 photo cards. This is repeated for I Am Who, I Am You, and Unveil.

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He next writes about their albums and then finally has a brief biography and photos of each member of the group.

As you can see there’s a lot of information, even from a relatively new group. There’s so much on the BTS pages, yes pages that it is pretty amazing looking though everything.

So please go check out his website and help support this amazing task he has taken up. He has created a wonderful resource for fans.

Have a great day everyone.

All photo credits to original owners.

 

2019 KDramas:The Best Ones To Watch Right Now.

South Korea produces a large number of TV and Cable dramas each year, many of which are never seen outside of Korea. However, thanks to streaming services such as Kocowa, Netflix, Viki and others overseas fans are getting to see far more than they did a few years ago. This is a good thing on many levels, but it means that some mediocre Kdramas sometimes slip through and appear on our screens.

How then to tell which, of the over 100 dramas already shown in Korea in 2019, we should watch? Maybe we like a certain actor or actress so we’re happy to watch whatever their current drama is. Or the writers are known for their fantastic stories. Perhaps we look at recommendations or ratings from people or websites we trust. We all have differing preferences, likes and dislikes that determine what we choose to watch, but hopefully you will find at least a few kdramas to enjoy from the ones discussed here.

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As the years have gone by I have become more ‘picky’ in the ones I watch all the way through. After a decade watching Kdramas I now pick and choose rather than watch everything available so my choices have perhaps become much more personal. I only watched 7 from start to finish, 6 are ongoing or I have watched the majority of the episodes and 11 dramas fell into the watched a couple of episodes but couldn’t keep my interest category. So that means I’ve only watched some to all of only about 20% of the Kdramas produced so far in 2019. If I’ve missed your favorite please let me know in the comments section below.

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If one goes by the Neilson viewing statistics, and awards then everyone should watch Sky Castle which won 4 awards at the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards and had a viewership rating in the 20% range. That means over 1 in 5 Koreans watched it when it aired on TV. I watched a few episodes and I can see why it was so popular in Korea. It is about what wealthy parents are willing to do to ensure their child’s academic success. This is actually a very polarizing topic in Korea as poorer people can’t go to these lengths and so their children are at a disadvantage in a country where education is king. As for me, well it was well acted and everything but I didn’t finish it.

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Another well received drama was The Last Empress a 52 episode alternate universe drama which had viewership in the mid teens percentage wise. It also received 2 awards at the SBS drama Awards. Now for me to give a 52 episode drama a chance it has to really grab me and 4 episodes in it still wasn’t doing it. It was an interesting premise with the Korean Royal family still ruling Korea into current times, the cast was solid, Jang Nara, Shin Sung Rok, and Choi Jin Hyuk, so if you have the time you might very well enjoy it.

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So by now you are probably asking what I did enjoy. Probably my favorite so far this year has been Search:WWW, a show I almost passed on as the synopsis didn’t really grab me. In fact the first couple of episodes were a little difficult to watch as not all the characters were particularly nice. But I found myself caught up in their lives and the reasons why they acted the way they did. In many ways it is a ‘grown up’ drama following the lives of three powerful women showing the sacrifices and the things they had to do along the way to get to their current positions. There are two romances in the drama although they are not the main focus. There’s also betrayal, redemption, friendships and Scarlet, perhaps my favorite female character of the year in any Kdrama. The cast did an amazing job showing all the emotions of their characters and Lee Da Hee stood out to me as an actress to watch.

 

Another cast member to watch is the male lead Jang Ki Yong who has been on a roll lately with his drama roles. Perhaps not conventionally handsome and with a slight understated acting style he slowly grew on me. He also appears as the male lead in Kill It a much darker and intense drama where he plays the role of an assassin.

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Kill It was fairly popular placing 14th on Ranker last time I checked. I enjoyed it even though the subject matter was quite grim. There was a love story of sorts between the two leads, but it was the crime and mystery that was the main focus. It also focused on how the family you make for yourself is often healthier than your blood family even if you were drawn together by bad circumstances. Nana did a good job as the female lead and the story held together well.

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For those days when I wanted something softer and more romantic I found myself watching Her Private Life. Although I have somewhat mixed feelings about Park Min Young as sometimes she comes across as being a little smug she has an impressive resume to her name and is a favorite of many. She was fairly well suited to her role but it was Kim Jae Wook who stole the show. We all deserve a boyfriend like his character, Ryan Gold. He was sexy and understanding, and he talked about his feelings. He was an adult and acted like one which was a pleasant change from the male lead in so many dramas. And the kissing scenes, well there were plenty of those too. Overall a pleasant easy Kdrama for when you don’t want to think too hard and want to just enjoy something ‘easy’. Her Private Life was ranked 4th on Ranker last time I looked so quite a few other people enjoyed it too.

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I have to admit that I didn’t watch Kingdom, the period zombie series on Netflix because I’m not a huge fan of horror, but it got great reviews and was popular with many people. I did hear that people didn’t particularly like how Netflix showed a certain number of episodes as ‘season 1’ and then after a while releasing another set number of episodes as ‘season 2’. For Kdrama watchers this seems like they are unnecessarily dragging it out. But that hasn’t taken away from the fans enjoyment. Just from my friends talking, if you like horror/zombie movies you should definitely watch Kingdom.

Wow I’ve written quite a bit and haven’t talked about all the other Kdramas that I wanted to recommend so I guess a part 2 will be coming shortly. Please wait for it.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits go to original owners.

You may also enjoy My Favorite Kdramas of 2018 and Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First.

 

 

Imfact 1st Meet And Live Tour 2019: In Dallas.

The August heat in Texas is incredibly draining with every single thing taking an extra effort, but even the oppressive temperatures couldn’t keep IFs from coming out to see Imfact at Southside Music Hall in Dallas. With Studio PAV’s line number system for VIPs fans didn’t have to line up really early as your place was determined by when you bought your ticket. I was number 31 and although at the far end, got front row seats. Yay.

 

 

The evening started early for Imfact and VIP IFs as the CD signing, hi touch and group photos took place before the concert.

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The guys were pleasant, friendly, and sweet trying hard to smile and make eye contact with everyone. Taeho said ‘I love you’ to a few fans which set their hearts racing.

 

 

The crowd were excited and happy as they waited in the cool air conditioning for the show to start, but that was nothing compared to the screams as Imfact came on stage. The noise level rose to an almost deafening level as Imfact sang some of their most popular songs.

 

 

I was surprised at how many songs they played in a row with no break. They just kept singing and dancing, keeping the audience happy and excited. When they did take brief breaks it was to say how happy they were to be in Dallas…….and that Dallas was very hot.

 

 

I started the evening with no set bias but it soon became obvious that I narrowed it down to two very quickly.

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Jian had caught my attention early in the evening while he was doing the fan sign etc. He had a slight pout and furrowed brow at times and my line buddy and I had fun imagining what he was thinking. It wasn’t quite resting bitch face, but something close. Then as the show began he quickly dominated the stage with his rapping and dancing skills. It was hard to take my eyes off him to see what the others were doing.

 

 

However Taeho managed to do just that. Although somewhat diminutive, he had a very strong stage presence and my eyes kept veering towards him. He had a lovely voice and a cute smiling face, which created wonderful ‘eye smiles’ for us all to enjoy. I also think that maybe he was looking at me from time to time, and later in the show he handed me a red rose so he definitely got my focus for much of the evening.

 

 

That’s not to say the others didn’t give strong performances, they did, but fans all know once you somehow decide on biases they’re the ones that grab most of your attention. After the first long set of group songs they showcased each of the members strengths in individual and sub group stages. This was when Jian and Taeho cinched their places as being my favorites.

 

 

Ungjae, Sang, and Jeup all performed well and showcased their talents, especially their vocal abilities, but once again it was Taeho and Jian who stood out for me. Taeho’s version of UpTown Funk really got the crowd involved. His dancing skills were amazing and I could have watched more. He really had the crowd mesmerized.

 

 

Jian’s solo was lively and very watchable, but watching him closely he wasn’t singing all the lyrics live. Understandable when you saw the amount of energy he used while bopping and dancing around the stage, but still a little disappointing.

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However he more than made up for it a short while later. I love it when groups get the audience involved and Imfact did just that by doing a set of Queen songs. Jian was fantastic as Freddie Mercury and later during the snapshot event I told him that, and he said ‘I am Freddie Mercury’, which was cute. He was joined by Taeho and Jeup and they collectively got the whole venue singing and shouting along. We Are The Champions never gets old when sung by an enthusiastic crowd.

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The other cover that they did showed their humorous side as they sang Gangnam Style with a surprise ‘Psy’ played by one of their managers. I do like it when groups don’t take themselves too seriously and can have fun with the audience. Everyone was singing and dancing along.

 

 

During the evening they performed all their main songs such as Tension Up, Feel So Good, as well as Nanana which I highly recommend you listen to if you are unfamiliar with Imfact. It was ranked at no. 13 on Dazed Magazine’s list of Kpop songs of 2018. Also their fist song Lollipop and most recent Only You are well worth listening to as well.

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The evening wound down with sad farewells and audience interactions, and it was obvious none of us wanted the evening to end. And in a way it didn’t as after the concert and a clearing of the floor of chairs Jeup, Taeho, Jian, Sang, and Ungjae came out to take snapshot polaroid photos with their fans. I bought 5 tickets one for each member, but the lines were so long and it was getting so late I ended up taking 2 with Taeho and Jian and 1 with Jeup. The quality of the polaroids was dreadful, but having those brief moments and memories with the guys was worth it for many fans.

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I got back to my hotel at midnight and headed back home early this morning. Over 600 miles driving (almost 1,000 kilometers) round trip, gas and hotel bill plus tickets. Was it worth it.

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Hell Yeah.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Photos 2, 4 and last one to Studio PAV, the rest to me.

You may also enjoy VAV: Dallas 2019 and Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time, 2009.

 

 

Monsta X ‘We Are Here Tour’ Texas 2019.

Monsta X, a seven member ‘idol’ group from Korea was formed through a survival type reality show called No Mercy back in 2015. The show was intense and dramatic as it whittled away the contestants until only the best remained. While I’m not particularly a fan of this kind of show, as I get caught up in all the emotions, I will admit that the whole experience bonds the resulting members together like nothing else. The way they interact and enjoy each other’s company now looks like ‘family’. They tease, help, support, and love each other as brothers would.

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Monsta X has had numerous hit songs and they are well known for their charismatic and powerful dance moves. They also take part in the creation process as various members have produced, choreographed, written, and composed for their multiple albums.

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They began their 3rd World Tout back in April in Seoul and followed that up with shows in Asia, Europe, and Australia. They then have stops in North and South America before concluding their tour in August. Monsta X favored Texas with two stops, with one in Dallas and then the second in Houston and I was lucky to be able to go to both. Texas is big, bigger than many countries, ( it is over 1,300 kilometers north to south and east to west ) so having 2 shows out of their 18 city tour in one state was not all that odd of a decision. But it wasn’t all Texans in the audience, fans had flown and driven from all over the US as well as from other countries.

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The Dallas show was their first US stop and the tension was high. I did feel they were a little stiff and nervous as the show began, although that was hard to discern as they performed some of their most popular songs to start off the evening. I don’t necessarily have a bias within the group as I feel they all have their strengths so I just let my eyes wander to see who they were drawn to. This perhaps enabled me to spot some of the cute interactions that happened between members while the spotlight focused on another member. Often it is these small moments of closeness, teasing or support that draw me to feel more towards the group and Monsta X really showed their love and support for each other throughout both shows.

They were perhaps more relaxed and were teasing each other more at the Houston stop than at the Dallas one. This is one reason to go to more than one show. Although the set list may be the same the actual experience is different each time you see them. They performed all their hit songs and started both evenings with powerful and amazing performances of Shootout, Hero, and Trespass. This really got the audience fired-up and they stayed that way the whole evening. The energy within the venues was electric. ( I secretly think Kpop performers like coming to Texas because of the unbridled, very loud and extremely enthusiastic responses from the fans.)

Each of the seven members, Shownu, Wonho, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, I.M, and Jooheon who now wishes to be called Joohoney are all extremely talented. Their individual skills were showcased during the evening in performances involved just two or three of them at a time. The incredibly evocative performance of Mirror by Shownu and Wonho showed off their contemporary dance skills as well as the strength of their bodies. The drum solo from Joohoney and the rap duet by him and I.M. were bold, and a little brash and supremely confident. They totally owned the stage. They went from intense performances to playing a game of flip the bottle and being totally cute in a blink of an eye. You could tell they were really enjoying themselves.

 

Minhyuk, Kihyun and Hyungwon somewhat took me by surprise with their adult rated performance of Myself.  Their performance was sensual, bold and charismatic, drawing the audience into their world. It was a wonderfully executed routine with just the right amount of dynamism and sex appeal.

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Which was totally different vibe from when they were dressed as schoolboys!

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Sometimes the breaks between sets can be kinda a letdown but a couple of my favorite parts actually took place when Monsta X were off stage taking a break and doing a change of outfits. They had filmed two short stories for us to view on the venue’s big screens while we waited. The first was loosely based around the theme of a ‘Montube’ channel with each member giving advice and tutorials to Monbebe’s (their fandom’s name). For example Wonho was a fitness instructor, Hyungwon gave fashion advice, and Minhyuk a beauty consultant. Each part was cute and sweet with the underlying message that we should take care of ourselves and that Monsta X loves us. The video also had funny moments and times when they teased us with innuendo and suggestive wording.

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The second video was much deeper and darker with the theme being ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’. This one was melodramatic and full of angst that drew the audience in and then played with our feelings. I.M was Envy, Hyungwon pride, Kihyun loneliness, Minhyuk agony, Joohoney greed, Wonho sloth, and Shownu wrath. Each mini story tugged at our emotions and the audience reacted with audible sounds from screams, to almost hysterical laughter. I could hear people shouting out messaged of sympathy and concern, including one person who was so moved by Minhyuk’s agony that she shouted out, “I’ll kill the bitch.” Fortunately the video didn’t end on a low note, but instead showed how each of the members were made stronger through the love and acceptance of their group mates and an understanding that they themselves were responsible for the ‘prison’ they were in. ( Deep.)

The evening was thoroughly enjoyable with the guys mixing up the night with sweet and cute moments followed by sexy and adult ones. The list of songs included all their hits as well as lesser known ones and I think they sang well over 20 songs. They had breaks where they just talked with us the audience and told us what was in their hearts. They truly are a caring group of young men, and appreciate the love of their fandom.

They put every once of energy into their performances and I want to say how much we all enjoyed the show. The passion and joy we saw as they sang, rapped and danced with skill and precision was inspiring, while the love shared between them and their fans was meaningful and touched all our hearts.

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Monsta X thank you for being you, and I wish you happiness along with a long and successful career.

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Thank you to my two friends Laura and Melanie who were at both concerts with me. While I often go to concerts by myself, it is always more fun with friends.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Debora Marzec.

You may also enjoy 2018 Monsta X 2nd World Tour ‘The Connect” in Houston     and Monsta X Beautiful In The USA: Chicago.

Black Pink: In Your Area. Fort Worth 2019.

After a harrowing drive north through yet another mega Texas storm I checked into my hotel across the street from the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena around mid afternoon. There were a lot of people outside, some in lines, and some just hanging out, but nothing like the crowds for BTS. The city didn’t seem to have as much planned out for the Black Pink fans as they had for BTS. (No port-a-potties, or blocking off the street or any of the other things they did for BTS.)

My favorite Fort Worth bartender had a prime spot at the bar waiting for me so I could watch all the goings on while I waited for my friends to arrive at the venue. Not too much later and I was out the door joining in and mingling with the crowds. Because of Black Pink’s commercial relationship with Kia there were a number of photo ops for fans with cut out figures etc. You have to look really closely to spot the Black Pink patch on the Kpopjacket.

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Krunk was also out and about and there were also some ‘cover’ dancers performing to a decent sized crowd. Not being able to get close I can count myself fortunate to have hugged a large sized Krunk while in Korea.

Confusion seemed to have been a byword for this concert. Firstly there was the fiasco over the ticket sales and the adding of another date, to then abruptly cancel the second date. Fans scrambled to buy, or sell, tickets as information swirled about the interwebs. Tickets were selling for prices in the many hundreds of dollars and as low as $19 at one point. Then on the day of the concert the information for those lining up to get in with seated tickets was worthless. One long line formed over the course of the day, but no one told those fans there were actually 8 lines open. This caused some fans to barely make it into the arena in time for the start of the show was actually a little delayed. Staff rushed to get last minute fans in, only to leave no one helping direct fans to their seats. The ushers showed up right when the concert started.

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People in line can be the best. I hung out with a great bunch and also got to speak with a few people I’d met at previous concerts. One lovely young lady gifted me with some fan bracelets she had made which was sweet of her. (Thank you if you read this.)

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Once inside we all split up as we had seats dotted all around the venue. Thanks to a friend I had a good seat. Even so unfortunately my camera wasn’t really up to the occasion, particularly with the very busy and glaring back screens they used. I understand them wanting to wow the audience, but I felt it would have been better if instead of competing with Black Pink for our attention they could have enhanced the girls in a better way. Again my apologies for the poor quality photos.

The roars from the crowd as Black Pink appeared on stage were thunderous, almost deafening. Made up of four young ladies, Jisoo, Jennie, Rose, and Lisa, each with a diverse background Black Pink debuted in August 2016 with hits such as Whistle and Boombayah rising to the top of various charts almost immediately. Being the first girl group to debut from YG Entertainment in the 6 years after 2NE1’s debut there were unflattering comparisons on the one hand and high expectations on the other.

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I think between group and solo songs they performed about 20 songs, with all their top hits featuring prominently. They kicked off the night with a powerful rendition of Ddu Du Ddu Du, and mostly kept the momentum going. All four of them appeared confident and in charge of the stage, although it was somewhat unfortunate that they often looked dwarfed by the shear size and emptiness of it. Particularly when they were performing their solos I wondered what their set/stage designer had been thinking. The only saving graces were the large screens, and of course the decent sound system which allowed their voices to wow the crowd. The vocal and happy crowd also did a lot to keep the excitement at a peak level.

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When they came up to the ancillary stage it allowed me, and many others, to get a better look at them and really hyped up the crowd. All four of them are remarkably pretty as well as being talented and when they spoke the audience hung on every word. With at least 2 of them being fluent English speakers it was easy for them to interact with their fans. (Blinks)

One of the highlights for me was catching their more intimate and candid moments on the big screen so I could see the ‘real’ them.

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One of the downsides was the kinda tacky commercial they ran between sets for Kia. With most Kpop groups coming up with interesting, unique, or even just really cutesy videos to fill the time between sets, Black Pink fell down in this area. The Kia advertisement just wasn’t that good, except perhaps for the last second or two, which had a cute visual at the end. However, their choice to allow the live band to have one intermission to showcase their skills was a good one. They really kept the crowd pumped up and enjoying the music.

Another favorite part was at the end when it really seemed they didn’t want to leave the stage. They sat down and chatted for a bit which was wonderful……and cute.

They seemed to be happy with all their gifts perhaps particularly their cowboy hats.

When the final farewell bow was taken they slowly sank beneath the stage, leaving the crowd happy and exhausted. Black Pink put on a solid performance and wowed their US fans. Their promise to return was met with joy and a little scepticism as we all know just who makes those decisions. But we were so very happy that we had seen them here in Fort Worth and that their whole tour was a success, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed their have a bright and happy future and come back and see us real soon.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy A Look At Some Of My Favorite Dance Practice MVs   and  The Beauty Of Korea.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Debora Marzec.

 

NCT 127 Neo City-The Origin Tour, Houston 2019. Thoughts.

2019 has already been a huge year for Kpop in the US, more tours, more groups, more stops, and bigger expenses for fans. But that has left fans with hard choices to make. Very few of us have the time, money and transportation to see them all, although a lot of fans really do try. ( I’ve meet fans who follow their favorite groups to every stop on the tour, and others who go to every concert within driving distance of where they live, but the regular fan nowadays often has to pick and choose. )

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Having managed to get front row at VAV’s Dallas concert, I knew that good tickets for NCT 127 were going to be harder to get and indeed I ended up a fairly long way back. That’s not to say the view of the stage wasn’t bad, just that they were tiny and to see facial expressions I had to watch the big screen for much of the time. Maybe that’s why it took me a little while to really get into the concert.

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I had been looking forward to a NCT USA tour for a long time and particularly since I saw them perform at the Busan One Asia concert in 2017 where they were probably the most dynamic act of the evening and one of my favorites. So even I was surprised that I wasn’t ‘wowed’ from the moment they came on stage. It wasn’t really that there was anything lacking in their performance, in fact far from it. Their first songs were polished and their performances energetic and professional. Their dancing was on point and their singing and rapping too. Everyone around me was so happy, excited and cheering and screaming like crazy. But for me there was just a little something lacking for the first part of the evening. I guess for me they lacked that extra ‘spark’ that captures every iota of one’s attention. That tug on your senses that just pulls you into a world of their making.

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Fortunately as the evening progressed I felt both myself and them get more in sync and into the rhythm and feel of the evening. Towards the end of the evening a couple of the boys commented that they hadn’t been in peak condition and they thanked the audience for giving them strength. So maybe that was what I was sensing. I also noticed that as the show progressed the camaraderie between them seemed to become more relaxed and natural which is always an aspect of Kpop that I enjoy. The brotherhood and friendship between members has an appeal and charm not often seen on the usual American concert stage.

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The venue, the Smart Financial Center in Sugar Land just outside of Houston, is large and somewhat cavernous but the color changing light-sticks, the vocal and appreciative crowd  and the better than average Kpop concert sound system soon made it party city USA. The audience were loud, raucous, and so very excited to be there. I could see almost everyone stood up and waving their light-sticks while so many were dancing and singing along. The roars from the crowd would swell and recede like the ocean as certain songs were played or particular biases were featured on the big screen. And like the ocean there was always a constant underlying sound from the watchers. If the sound of happiness could be bottled that’s probably what it would sound like.

They performed their most popular songs as well as some new ones and mixed up the evening between hard rhythm thumping athems and slower tempo ballards, which is when you really realize just how talented each group member really is. One of my favorite songs was probably when Johnny played a keyboard solo that segued into Regular. At this point they had my full attention as they managed to make putting on their jackets as sexy as heck.

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I was hoping for a little bit more pole dancing type action when I saw the metal framework appear on stage for Wake Up, but it was used more for climbing and dramatically posing than anything risque. They also used it for Baby Don’t Like It which was  notable for a couple of ‘skinship’ moments which drew loud cheers and screams. Still a very unique and interesting stage prop and they used it to good effect.

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Along with the dynamic songs for which they may be better known I enjoyed the slower ode to their fans, “you are my” Angel which was a pleasant lyrical interlude.

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Some other favorite bits were the solid choices for video ‘fillers’, particularly the light hearted ‘dance battle’ that took place in the past and the MV for Highway to Heaven. Highway to Heaven was one of the yet to be officially released songs which they have been showcasing this tour. If you haven’t heard it yet you are in for a treat on May 24th.

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I also enjoyed the times they spent between sets speaking with us. It was then, even after seeing them being so professional and masculine with their power songs like Cherry Bomb or Chain that one could see that they are still young in so many ways. Being a mixed nationality group I wasn’t surprised at the ones speaking English, but I loved the charm of the native Korean, and Japanese, speakers as they did their best to get their thoughts across to their fans. (NCTzens)  Although a translator was used from time to time it was easy to see and feel the members earnest desire to communicate with us on a personal level.

It seems from their stories that they enjoyed Houston and were able to get out to the Zoo and the park. Some fans were lucky to spot them while they were out and about and get photos with them. We also heard that they ate a lot of food and apart from Yuta complaining a little about the price he had to pay, ( his turn ) they all said they enjoyed it. More than one also said that they hoped/planned to come back to Texas, which is always good to hear.

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None NCT 127 related I also enjoyed the pre concert camaraderie of the fans waiting outside the venue on a very hot day, the previous concert buddies who stopped by to say hi and the new friends I met in line. There’s a special feel to being a Kpop fan and on the whole they are a very inclusive and welcoming group.

On that note I’ll finish up for now and wish everyone a great day.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Photo credits for photos 2,5,6,7,9 and 10 to Raquel Gonzales who kindly let me use some of her photos because my phone acted up on me and ‘lost’ all but a couple from the hundreds I took.  (photo credits 1, 3, 4, & 8 to me.)

You may also enjoy Ateez: The Expedition Tour in Dallas and The Unique Faces Of Kpop.

VAV: Dallas 2019.

VAV’s second visit to Dallas was billed as a ‘Meet and Greet’ but with the exception of stage sets it was pretty much a concert with some crowd interaction and fun bits thrown in from time to time. Backstage breaks and costume changes were minimized leaving the hyped up crowd with more time to appreciate their favorites. The boys were on point and the whole evening was a blast from start to finish.

 

 

 

The day started mid afternoon as fans gathered outside the venue. After some confusion with the queuing numbers the VVIP ticket holders were allowed into the Southside Music Hall just after 6pm. Still being carefully kept in lines according to our numbers everyone waited  for the first of the ‘perks’ that usually are available at shows put on by Studio PAV. We were handed our free album and then got to say hi, get our album signed and then have a quick hi five or hand shake. This time we weren’t too rushed, although the time never seems to be long enough. The boys were friendly and cute, being particularly endearing when chatting with a couple of child fans.

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We then relined up and waited for our group photos. Putting 12 fans in each photo with the 6 group members was a bit too crowded and some people had to crouch down at each end of the line. This actually worked out great for me as I got to have a few moments chatting with Lou who was extremely charming.

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The group photos took a while as both VVIP and VIP ticket holders got this perk as part of their ticket. Once again we were kept in numbered lines as we waited to be allowed into the area in front of the stage. Although things happened between 6pm and when the concert began shortly after 8, there was a lot of just standing and waiting. I was lucky to be front row although off to one side, which meant I didn’t get good photos of them all as they seemed to have a set order in which they stood whenever they were chatting and interacting with the audience.

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VAV initially debuted in 2015 under A Team Entertainment and have had a few members leave and others join since then. Last night’s show featured six of the current 7 members, with Jacob currently promoting in China. Although they have a somewhat limited repertoire they easily and entertainingly filled in any gaps with introductions, question and answer sessions, and audience participation rewards. The rewards provided the fans with some wonderfully humorous and touching moments and while we all wished we could be the ones up there on stage, we were thrilled for the ones chosen. One was a selfie with the group, another a serenade, and yet another a personal fan cam of the group.

 

 

 

The highlight had to be the little girl who came with her dad. She was so precious, and she melted everyone’s hearts. That twirl and their faces smiling at each other and laughing was just wonderful.

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The evening was filled with music and dancing as well as all the laughter and fun. Of course they performed Thrilla Killa and they profusely thanked their fans, Vamps, for helping them reach 22 million views on YouTube. (Almost 23 mill today and you can check it out here.)

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Another fan favorite was Senorita,  and keeping with the Latin theme everyone thoroughly enjoyed their cover of Despacito, with the whole audience singing along.

 

 

 

I spent much of the evening not only enjoying their performance but also their shear joy at being in front of their fans. I thought St.Van would break his face he smiled and laughed so much. But then he took his jacket off and that kinda changed my thoughts a little.

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The others all had their moments too, but as I mentioned earlier not all of them spent much time my side of the stage. Also making me smile and feeling happy to be there with them and to be a part of the excitement and collective passion is as much a reason for making the effort to go to concerts  (often over a 5 hour drive) as the music. And in general Kpop artists excel at ‘fanservice’, the little touches like eye contact with audience members, the wink, the nod the smile. All these things VAV did and more.

 

 

 

There were many special highlights throughout the evening, one being the surprise birthday cake for Ayno. The staff pretended there was a technical malfunction and dimmed the lights before bringing the fan gifted cake onstage. I actually think he was genuinely surprised as we had all sung Happy Birthday to him earlier in the evening.

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Later someone also managed to get a birthday crown passed to him which he wore for a while.mvimg_20190501_215853

They posed for photos with the audience as the evening started to wind down.

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And after a rousing encore they finished the concert part of the evening. Even though it was after 10pm they still had one more part of the night to complete. Perhaps the main thing that sets apart the shows put on by Studio PAV is the ‘Pick A Pose’ snapshot session. Even though they have raised the price to $20 per polaroid taken by an amateur volunteer there were still extremely long lines to take advantage of this opportunity. Of course I did so too.

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The fans pay the money, even though the picture quality is poor just to have those brief moments one on one with their idols, biases and crushes.

Even the mega thunder storm that drenched me to the bone on leaving the venue and the hazardous driving conditions with flooded out streets could not dampen my high spirits of having had such a fun night out. If you get the chance go see VAV in concert, you won’t be disappointed.

Have a great day everyone.

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Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Mostly Debora Marzec.

You may also enjoy Ateez: The Expedition Tour In Dallas and Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time, (around 2009).

Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time? 2010.

I fell in love with Kpop in 2009, which was arguably the best year ever for Kpop. It was a year of so many songs that later became classics. And of some which changed the face and feel of Kpop forever. So a look at any year after that is going to be a bit of a letdown. However 2010 was still a year of some great songs and some still recognizable dances. Show someone some of these dances and they can instantly tell you the artist and song.

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It was also a year when Kpop had much more variety. There were bands such as CNBlue and FT Island, ballad groups like 2AM and 4Men, as well as a lot of soloists singing everything from OSTs to Hip Hop. There was a lot of experimentation with style and format too which led to some fantastic girl groups who created girl power ‘anthems’ that have since become iconic.

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It was also a time when I still followed girl groups as well as the guys.

Not all my favorite songs from 2010 fit this title of ‘Best Dances Of The Time’ but here are some of my choices that do. With most of these the dance helps make the song a ‘package’ of all that’s wonderful about Kpop.

I’ll start with Hyuna who has been selling her sex appeal in a powerful fashion for years. Her first solo song ‘Change’ was flagged as being ‘inappropriate to minors’ which didn’t seem to bother her as she is still pushing boundaries to this day.

Another 2010 song that may surprise some of you new to Kpop is Psy’s song Right Now. Released 2 years before Gangnam Style, it too was banned from those under 19+ although the ban in his case was for an ‘obscene lyric’. Psy had already been showcasing his nonconformity for years in Korea before he became a worldwide phenomenon and Right Now helps you understand that Gangnam Style really just didn’t appear out of ‘nowhere’.

Miss A debuted in 2010 as JYP’s new girl group. Now sometimes just known as the stepping stone for Suzy, who has gone on to acting and success as a product endorser, as well as having a solo career as a singer, Miss A was a fun and entertaining group. With the right support they could have been really successful. Bad Girl, Good Girl had some great lyrics about judging someone by their looks.

Infinite was well known for their dancing and if you look at their MVs you can see moves that seem familiar. It’s because some of their moves were improved upon by succeeding generations of Kpop groups and are still around today. Come Back was perhaps not their best song ever, but the dance helped the audience engage with this one.

One can’t talk about 2010 without a mention of Girl’s Generation. (aka SNSD) Although they debuted back in 2007, it wasn’t until 2009/10 that they became really popular with a slew of hit songs that earned them the label “The Nation’s Girl Group.” While Hoot was perhaps not their most famous song of 2010 people fell in love with the arrow shooting part of the dance and you could see people copying it on all the variety shows.

One also has to mention SNSD’s brother group, Super Junior. Formed way back in 2005 they were an even larger group than SNSD, with 13 members at their peak. They too hit their stride in 2009 and have continued ever since, albeit with different lineups of members. I personally enjoyed Bonamana which used some of Michael Jackson’s moves in their choreography.

One also can’t miss mentioning perhaps the best ever female Kpop group 2ne1. 2010 was a good year for them with multiple hits and awards, including Mnet’s ‘Artist of the Year’ award. While back then a practice video was just that, a video of them practicing, it still shows their uniqueness and personalities. Can’t Nobody was also released in an English version.

Showing their dance practice, and not those of the other mentioned groups is perhaps a tad unfair, so here is their Korean version, and English version. Just look at those fabulous outfits.

At lastly for today perhaps the best and most iconic Kpop MV song and dance and talent combination MV of 2010 there is Lucifer by SHINee.

It basically boils down to the fact that some song/dance combinations are ‘forever famous’ and for 2010 that is probably this song. (And their 2009 Ring Ding Dong may have won that title for that year too.) More than any other group SHINee encapsulates all the many facets that make Kpop so enjoyable to watch as well as to listen to. The dance, the clothes, the visuals all come together with the music and lyrics to create the ultimate Kpop experience. Seeing them all perform live was one of the highlights of my concert going resume.

Do you have a favorite Kpop ‘dance’ MV from 2010? One where the choreography is perhaps as important as the song itself.

Have a great day everyone.

All photo and video credits belong to original owners. Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

You may also enjoy Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time? Part 1 (2009),   Like Dance? Watch Kpop,  and  SHINee World V Tour in Dallas. 2017.

 

Astro: The 2nd Astroroad Tour 2019.

2019 has already been a very busy year for Texas Kpop fans. This week I travelled up to Dallas to see two different concerts. Ateez was earlier in the week, while on Thursday I attended the Astro concert.

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Although both groups are ‘Kpop’ there were some striking differences between them, including the venues and the tour promoters that they used. After the overcrowded, dark, and standing only venue, which also was somewhat disorganized, for the Ateez concert it was wonderful to experience the well run Astro concert. Even though one rarely sits down at a Kpop concert the seats themselves act as barriers to being pushed and crowded. And that also means a better view for everyone.

 

Playing on the themes of starlight and the cosmos, the six young men burst onto the stage all sparkly and bright in their stylish outfits.

 

Astro made their debut in 2016 and is made up of members Jin Jin, MJ, Cha Eun Woo, Moonbin, Rocky, and Yoon San Ha. They are under Fantagio Entertainment, and they won a ‘Rookie of the Year’ award in 2016.

 

The members are all extremely talented and very good looking, each with a charm of their own. Each had their loyal fans in the audience but they all made sure to acknowledge all the fans, including those way up at the back.

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After both Astro and their Aroha ( name of their fans ) warmed up after the introductory songs, the group paused to take off jackets and to make their opening greetings and introductions. I will say that from start to finish they seemed very happy to be in Dallas.

 

They only released their first studio album, All Light, this past January and managed to get the number 1 spot on the Korean charts and 6th on the Worldwide chart. But that does not mean that they didn’t have a large selection of songs as they have released numerous EPs. During the course of the evening they sang all their most popular songs as well as some lesser known ones. It was hard to choose a favorite, but mine was probably Crazy, Sexy, Cool.

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There were multiple outfit changes throughout the show, with them becoming more casual and comfortable as the evening progressed. They looked remarkably good dressed in all white, quite dashing in fact. And yet a little later they were cute and adorable with their animal outfits.

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These 6 young men have a pleasant, friendly appeal that easily worms its way into your heart. There really is nothing about them that isn’t nice. That in no way means that they don’t have sex appeal. Trust me, they have plenty of that. It’s just that their music is cheerful and fun, and it makes you want to dance along.

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Astro has that wonderful ability to make you feel more cheerful after listening to their music. You feel better and you feel a smile coming out for no real reason except it feels good.

 

Both Jin Jin and Cha Eun Woo made good use of their English skills while the others mostly relied on an off stage translator. Fortunately everyone quieted down enough for us to hear what each member said.

 

Apparently they liked Dallas, ate well, and thought the weather was lovely. At one point Eun Woo told us that he had woken up at 7:00am and when he looked out over the skyline of Dallas he could see both the sun rising and the super moon in the sky at the same time. He was so impressed he even left the hotel and went out for a walk.

 

Yoon San Ha had a birthday cake brought on stage for him, and he said he was very happy to finally be 20.

 

Although they were all confident and comfortable on stage from the first moments of the evening, it did seem that they became relaxed as the evening progressed. They laughed and joked around with each other. It was nice to see them interact with each other.

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The end came all too soon, even though they warned us and we knew it was coming. They spent quite a bit of time thanking us and saying how much their Aroha meant to them. They also said they would try to come back again.

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It was a really nice concert and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I do have 2 complaints. One please consider other fans when you decide to wear tall headbands, or have large fan signs. My photos are only showing part of the group in many shots because I couldn’t see through the headband someone was wearing.mvimg_20190321_185525

Second, the tour promoters pushed us through the Hi Touch so fast I literally didn’t even have time to say ‘Thank You’. I mean I’ve been through a LOT of Hi Touch lines and only one other was as fast as this. So please give us enough time to at least make eye contact.

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Astro held a great and very enjoyable concert and I would really recommend you go see them if you ever get the chance.

Have a great day everyone.

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All photo credits to Debora Marzec. Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

You may also enjoy Kpop Credentials and The KpopJacket: In Photos.