Saturday, December 24, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Hi there everyone. My name's EmLem. When I'm not shaping today's youth, or out being a scholarly pilgrim at the Kansai temples of Japan, I'm attending Kpop concerts in Osaka.

Okay so that's not entirely true. But it's not entirely false, either.

The other weekend, I attended my first Kpop concert, because ELove invited NeoShiso's ladies and a handful of us said, sure, why the hell not?

Permit me to put the brakes on for a moment; I can hear some of you wondering just what on earth is "Kpop"?!

An excellent question. In the vein of Jpop and Jrock (being Japanese pop and rock respectively), Kpop is Korean pop music!

I went to see Super Junior, which appeared to me about the equivalent of a Korean large (about 13-member?) boy band. The first concert I ever went to was Backstreet Boys, so I figured this was about up my alley.

And of course I love to experience new things, right?

Although my boy-band U.S. concert experience is far enough in the past that a comparison between that and this is meaningless, I will nonetheless use that middle-school attended concert more than ten years ago as a background for describing this one (it was, after all, my background for experiencing it).

First off is the prep and priming. Backstreet Boys are easier for me to understand, being American first of all (and therefore, producing songs in English). I heard them on the popular radio very often and knew most of their songs to the point that I could sing along.

As for Super Junior, they are Korean (but release songs in several languages). The exposure to their songs has been limited to YouTube videos at ELove's, and her varied attempts to educate me on their names, styles, special skills, and likability. I don't really listen to the radio in Japan (surprise surprise) and even if I did, I don't think Super Junior is mainstream enough to be on the radio. And even if they were, it would probably be the Japanese versions of whatever songs have been released with Japanese versions, which aren't all of them, or aren't all the best songs, or isn't the best version of the song.

Let me give you an example of this. One video that ELove showed me was Tai Wan Mei ("Perfection"), which is a really fun song that I enjoy a great deal. The version she showed me is the Chinese version of the song, which according to her sounds cooler than the Korean (while the Japanese version sounds stupid).

That brings up an interesting comparison between western boy groups and those here near the eastern edge: these groups are releasing songs in several languages, because their audience is spread over several countries, which have different languages. Western groups can, in their native tongue, reach a much wider audience with the same version of the same song. Super Junior is, by necessity, more versatile. They don't necessarily speak the languages in which they sing or record songs, but they do know many of their songs in several languages.

 But those several languages do not frequently include English. So this leads to another aspect of the difference of intelligibility. Not understanding the lyrics does not always mean a song is less enjoyable. Although I personally appreciate lyrics very much, it also means that a good sound can be ruined forever for me if the lyrics are (and they frequently are, in popular music) totally stupid (I won't get started on this because it'll go on for paragraphs). Kpop songs may be totally inane, but I don't know that just by hearing it, and this prevents me from hating on the songs. I can just have fun with them!

Something else fun: the level of ridiculousness at the Super Junior show is much higher than I remember it being with American boy bands. SJ doesn't seem to take itself that seriously. Their entrance was, naturally, epic, but by the end they had charged out onstage dressed as a random assortment of characters (seriously, ranging from Steve Jobs [too soon?], to Gollum, to Marilyn Monroe, to Hulk Hogan, to Britney Spears), and later on, they pranced around dressed as the cast of The Sound of Music. They were clearly having fun being ridiculous, so it was hard not to laugh along with them.

There are a lot of members of this group, which is its own way kind of ridiculous, but I'll attempt really quickly to give an overview of what I know of the members*. To be fair, I'll look up the spelling of their names, and also include a picture. Then I'll tell you what I know about them, which in some cases is jack.

*The matter of members is a bit confusing for me sometimes, as members are part of SJ in different capacities, and also some members are absent because they are serving in the Korean army as per the requirement of their country.

I'll go in SuperShow poster order. Also, I've pillaged the internet for these pictures because I thought visual aids would help. For this reckless usage I apologize to the internet. Find more with google!

 Kyuhyun sang "Isn't She Lovely" as his solo and is totally charming. He's officially one of my favorites. There's also something about his face (his mouth) I really like (since you wanted to know that). His costume was Steve Jobs, and apparently he is also a bit of a video game nerd? He's adorable.

Sungmin is a cutie, and is most memorable to me for the fantastic figure he cut as Marilyn Monroe during the costume bit. His solo was a Korean song I don't know, so it was pretty but I wasn't as engaged. Yeah, mostly all I remember is that he's a babe, and made an excellent Marilyn.

 Shindong is really fun. In some of the older videos ELove showed me, he is chubby and has a terrible haircut, but in the concert itself he looked great. He's possibly the least girly of the members (so this may be why he's always the one in a dress... or that could be because he is one of the most comical), and his solo was, I shit you not, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (remixed of course). His costume was Britney Spears, and he also played the Julie Andrews part in their Sound of Music skit. He's a pretty badass dancer, though to me his face tends to look worried or concerned/confused.

 Eunhyuk, known also as Hyukee, sang a song we're calling "What's My Name?" because it required the crowd to scream his name back at him at regular intervals. The actual title roughly translates to something along the lines of "I am radiant gem handsome man Lee Hyukjae." His costume was a big white chicken. Eunhyuk does a lot of the writing and rapping and is apparently very talented.

Siwon, famous for his eyebrows,  his abs, and his love for Jesus, is not one of ELove's favorites. He does come off as a bit arrogant, but then again, he's a pop star! I personally found him delightful. Did I mention the abs? His costume was Superman, and his solo at the show was a church song, I kid you not. And while "Moves Like Jagger" might fly with Japanese audiences because, though it's in English, those into popular music would recognize the tune, church songs do not enjoy the same kind of fame in Japan. They didn't get it, but us gaijin girls sure did. Also, have you heard about this guy's abs?

Donghae is a ladies' man, and it's easy to see why. I like his face too! His solo was more of a duo (I won't say duet.. it wasn't a love song) with his biffles Eunhyuk, and we'll call it "The Rise of Oppa," oppa being the Korean term (so I'm taught) that younger females say to older males that means something along the lines of the Japanese sempai... like higher-ranking male person, or big-brother. It's a term of respect and apparently girls yell it at their concerts a lot.

Leeteuk  is the leader of the band, and I think he's a hottie. Some fans are concerned about what will become of the band when he has to go into the army. He's a really hard worker; you know how I feel about that. <3 His solo was "She," and I don't remember as much about it.

Yesung, nicknamed "The Creeper," (but for this we have an affinity)... he was Chuckie for the crazy costumes bit, and his solo was "Kiss Me." I don't really remember it either.

Ryeowook, or "Wookie" is one of the main singers with (in my opinion) the most recognizable voice. His face is really small, and he's a bit too pretty, but his solo "Moves Like Jagger" was super hot so he earned extra points in my book there. He also dressed as Gollum. Nice. [note upon editing: I just realized why his face bothers me. He really resembles one of my students -- a fifth grader who is always calling me Willy Wonka and attempting to learn curse words]

Heechul was not present physically, though he was included in one song ("Oops!") via the giant video screen; everyone saluted him, as he's currently off being in the military. He's one of the most famous members, and several concertgoers were dressed up as "Lady HeeHee" - his rendition of Lady Gaga - in his honor.

 Zhoumi - a member of Super Junior M, the subgroup formed for the business of touring in China, Zhoumi is a Chinese member who is super cute and has shoulder dance moves that no straight man could hope to do. He sang for his solo "Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson and got lots of love from Elove.

 Henry - possibly my favorite, Henry is Canadian and also part of Super Junior M (and not the 'main group'). I know he looks like he thinks he is cool in this photo, but mostly he is adorable. His solo was a sort of Bruno Mars medley in which he sang "Billionaire," "Lazy Song," and "Lighters." I got to see him play the piano and the violin.

The members also vary in their performance styles and talents. Some of them have great voices, and others are better at dancing. One or two of them do a lot more rapping than the others. This has caused them to coalesce into subgroups within the main group.. for example, "KRY" (Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung) is known for doing ballads. There are also the groups Super Junior T, Super Junior Happy, and as mentioned, Super Junior M.

If you want more, I'm going to attach below ELove's video suggestions (again with the reckless pilfering.. but I like her commentary!). Enjoy. ^_^

Super Junior Main:

Sorry Sorry Answer:

Don't Don (ooooold and everyone has Final Fantasy hair. Also Henry might make a cameo!):

No Other (aka the music video where Heechul is replaced by a pod person):

Super Junior M:

Me (everyone is adorable! especially Zhou Mi) (this vid has English subs cause I couldn't find the Chinese version on SM's official channel. I cannot vouch for how good they are):

U (everyone is hot and improves on the original. Also features Henry doing the violimbo ):

Super Girl (the Super Junior M song.  Zhou Mi makes eyes, you wish you were a gay man):

Super Junior T:

Super Junior Happy:


  1. My favorite is Sungmin, b/c I don't know if it's just the picture quality or his actual hair, but it looks like each individual hair on his head is crimped. And I love it. :)

  2. For his dance moves/previous bowl cut see the videos. ^_^