It’s time for another episode of Kpopalypse Nugu Alert! Let’s check out some more nugus!
It’s mid-2022 at the time of writing, and k-pop musical trends can be summed up pretty simply at the moment. Your average mid-to-uptempo k-pop songs these days consist of the following:
- some weirdly burping synthesiser riff and an electronic drumbeat to start the song
- A verse with several random-sounding melodies
- some kind of slowing down in the pre-chorus where the beat drops out
- A chorus is that is basically a whole bunch more yelling over even more electronics
- melodies in all of these sections have little do with each other, or any of the backings
- a rap somewhere just because
- maybe there’s a chord change somewhere if you’re lucky
The reliance on machines to do the work of songwriting and arranging isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in unskilled hands automated processes can certainly lend themselves to repetitive results. A form of creation where cut-and-paste can be used as a quick go-to method naturally leads to many songwriters cutting and pasting the same kinds of material over and over. So what you tend to find is a strong sense of deja-vu with many k-pop comebacks, where the technology lends itself to being re-used in familiar forms. So what do we do about this? Probably nothing, but I think it’s at least important to highlight that experiencing the same type of song over and over can be just as boring as continually reading the same lines of text. Don’t get me wrong, the reliance on machines to do the work of songwriting and arranging isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in unskilled hands automated processes can certainly lend themselves to repetitive results. A form of creation where cut-and-paste can be used as a quick go-to method naturally leads to many songwriters cutting and pasting the same kinds of material over and over. So what you tend to find is a strong sense of deja-vu with many k-pop comebacks, where the technology lends itself to being re-used in familiar forms. So what do we do about this? Probably nothing, but I think it’s at least important to highlight that experiencing the same type of song over and over can be just as boring as continually reading the same lines of text. Wouldn’t you agree?
So I thought it would be helpful for my musical health and yours to focus this episode of Kpopalypse Nugu Alert on some music created with traditional rock music instruments – guitars, drums, bass, and (non-sequenced) keyboards. I think the k-pop fans call it “organic” or something… oh wait, no, “organic” is what k-pop fans call mega-huge groups with the backing of massive corporations and agencies with ties to organised crime who exploit their artists with creatively stifling contracts, NDAs and no freedom. My bad.
The usual criteria applies:
- Less than
20,0002,000 views on official channels (let’s keep it ultra nugu!)
- If any of these people have a dating controversy it probably won’t be on your favourite tabloid news site
- Relevant to Kpopalypse
BYBE – 1.2.3
The video for BYBE’s song reminds me a lot of the debut song “Dirty House” from ex-Winner Taehyun’s rock group South Club, where he wandered the streets doing “rebellious” things like smoking a cigarette, spraypainting CGI’ed “graffiti” and generally doing his best to try and exude a “gosh I’m not in a poncy boy group now, I’m a real badass rock star, watch me do the naughty things that would upset my mother” vibe. Of course this was completely laughable and stupid, and so is BYBE’s video, but fortunately BYBE has a much better song to go with it than South Club did. I don’t know if BYBE also has a similarly dark big-three boy-group past that he’s trying to make people forget, or if he just thought the idea was cool (thought wrong but anyway), in fact I don’t even know if BYBE is the name of a singular person or a group of people, but hey the results are cool musically with more of a focus on a 60s rock vibe than some weird funk hybrid so I can dig it. The lyrics are a neat touch too – ‘just wear something you like/my baby just look so right’, then ‘let me know when you’re ready’… this is the exact same shit I say to my girlfriend when we’re getting ready to go out. I feel like deep down BYBE understands me.
Youtube views at the time of writing: 1295
Notable attribute: the cat they prepared for the video wasn’t willing to tolerate this level of rockstar posing so they just flash a photo of it at 1:47
Nugu Alert rating: very high
Ether – Shape of love
If Ether (and once again, is Ether a person, or a group, I don’t know) certainly have one thing going in their favour , it’s their instrument budget. Looking at this in Australian currency, the Taylor guitar the singer is holding looks like the BT-2 which would start at $749 if it’s a base-model, which is looks like it might be due to the lack of binding or a scratch plate. A Sire Marcus Miller bass is a difficult thing to find at all in Australia but I’d ballpark that at around $1000 give or take a few hundred depending on how high-specced your model is. The red Fender guitar with the gimmicky “road-worn” nitrocellulose for that crappy boomer “aged” look, the prices for that start at a cool $1949 for the Mexican’ made model, but go up to the fucking sky for a USA “custom shop” model. The Nord Stage 3 keyboard looks like the 73 key version rather than the 88 key, which means I could pick that one up for a very reasonable $5529 (discounted from an already-low price of $6499!). The Tama kit could be anything but you’re looking at about $2000 there for the base model. Overall, that’s a lot of money they can obviously afford to spend on gear and we haven’t even talked about amplifiers or effects yet, between this and the way they dress I don’t even think they need a hit. If you see them on the street I think just smile and wave and ask them if they have any change to spare, and also compliment them on those kick-ass keyboard and bass solos. At least they’re putting that money to good use.
Youtube views at the time of writing:645
Notable attribute: obviously this video is mimed, but if you want the real deal check out this (genuinely) live version which only had nine views when I stumbled across it
Nugu Alert rating: extreme
Shady – The Doll Factory
Now Shady have the right idea, buy ten cheap guitars instead of one really good guitar. If you want something heavier, and who wouldn’t, then Shady has you covered with “The Doll Factory” which is an unusual song because it moshes with heavy riffing and even some two-handed guitar tapping, but is also in 3/4 time. The video is unusual too, with the visual being perfectly synced to the audio at all times except when it isn’t, so a lot of the time we’re watching the group play and sing a completely different part of the song to what we’re hearing… for a while, until it then locks back in again to how it should be. I guess stitching together all the performances from all the different venues and keeping the SMPTE code matching for each one was a struggle beyond the budget of this production. Also the Korean subtitles are an odd choice because of the way they’ve been applied, I know it’s a lyric video but they’re so big, bold and in the way of the action that they’re virtually knocking the performers off the stage. Still, the song is powerful and unusual to the point where not much else really matters, so check it out.
Youtube views at the time of writing: 433
Notable attribute: water stand at the front of the “Alleyway” stage is very thoughtful, more venues should do this
Nugu Alert rating: extreme
Sugar Coated Lies – Deram Dream
Now here’s a really decent pop song delivered in an appealingly lo-fi rocking kind of way. Sugar Coated Lies have an unusually muted yet distorted twin guitar attack that propels their song along neatly, and it really is a good tune if you can get past the lack of the usual sheen you’re probably used to being spewed out from the k-pop world. Change the rock instruments out for electronics, pitch the vocals up a bit higher and you’ve basically got a Twice song here, but of course we don’t want to do that because we’re not a bunch of incredible fucktards and the song sounds cool as it is without stupid machine-driven triplet hi-hats and some random guy turning up to say “skkrt skkrt” between verse lines for no reason. Note that while the vocal posture might seem odd to those raised on a diet of “brrt brrt brrt” and scotch snaps, it’s actually normal – “swallowing the mic” vocal technique is pretty standard for independent rock bands where whatever mic you’ve been given to use at the shitty dive of a club you’re playing is likely to be barely working in the first instance and you have to almost bash your front teeth into the grille to ensure that you’ll even get a sound out of it. Tip for singers, if you can’t afford to bring your own microphone to a show, a can of Glen 20 will get you through a night of having to use the dented SM57 the support band singer shoved up his ass because he thought he was GG Allin.
Youtube views at the time of writing: 365
Notable attribute: singer has the Beatles sticker on her guitar upside down, so it looks the right way up to her when she looks down at her instrument – she’s looking after #1
Nugu Alert rating: extreme
That’s all for this episode! Kpopalyspe Nugu Alert will return in the future, with more nugus!