the mind reels

The Orange Caramel - Digipedi Connection

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Orange Caramel’s current ‘quirky cute’ concept is not the result of a stroke of marketing genius or eureka moment. It was more evolution than pivot, the move from what began as your run-of-the-mill saccharine cute concept with “Magic Girl” to concepts that only seemed to becoming increasingly more odd with each comeback. Granted whether or not “Aing” and “Bangkok City” qualify as odd is more of a matter of personal taste than something that can be objectively proven. It was not until 2011’s “Shanghai Romance” that the oddness became something intentional, played up for comedic effect in the video where Orange Caramel tries and comically fail to impress their love interest played by Nu’est’s Minhyun.

To put it another way, “Shanghai Romance” was a critical turning point in the evolution of Orange Caramel’s image. It was the first time that they were willing, at least temporarily, to go against the mandate that female idols most always strive to appear ‘pretty,’ showing a willingness to use humor even at their own expense. All of this has carried over to their subsequent releases, evidenced by their stage costumes for “Catallena” which were literally decorated with food for “Catallena,” and painted eye teasers for “My Copycat.”

Yet while much is owed to “Shanghai Romance” for Orange Caramel’s current concept that has aided them in their rise to popularity, their current aesthetic style that has characterized their last three releases is not. When “Shanghai Romance” is viewed against the releases that followed it — “Lipstick,” “Catallena,” and “My Copycat” — they clash. The former’s concept is all about working weirdness into the more typical k-pop aesthetic, tucking it into details while with the latter Orange Caramel is trying something new. Through these releases they have been working to define and cultivate their own unique style, one of offbeat concepts, garish colors, and outlandish costumes that more often than not feature bows and are set in flat spaces, against brightly colored backgrounds against which Orange Caramel appears almost cartoonish.

Fig. 1 Shallow Space

Fig 2. Solid Colored Backgrounds

Fig 2. Solid Colored Backgrounds

It is this visual style that Orange Caramel owes some of their current success, and for that Digipedi deserves most of the credit. With the exception of their costumes, the duo has been behind the concept and videos for the group ever since 2012’s “Lipstick.” That sushi concept for “Catallena?” According to an interview with noonchi, that was their idea. And those vibrant, sometimes clashing color palettes and flat settings? Also them. In fact, that Orange Caramel has such a consistent visual style is mostly the result of their working with Digipedi, whose own iconic style has become part and parcel with that of Orange Caramel’s.

Such a dynamic has the potential to turn out badly, mimicking Orange Caramel’s parasitic relationship with their parent group After School, whereby the Digipedi style becomes known as the Orange Caramel style. But for now Orange Caramel and Digipedi have managed negotiate a much more symbiotic relationship. Orange Caramel’s rise in popularity, again due to their concepts, has not resulted in the usurpation of their style, but only positive attention being directed back at Digipedi. The concepts that Digipedi has created for Orange Caramel have been some of their more inventive and creative like their hybrid, “Spot the Difference” / “Where’s Waldo” for “My Copycat.” Orange Caramel has reaped the rewards of that video as well, in both attention and the organic viewings and re-viewings that are encouraged by its game-like nature. 

In the near future it may be impossible to talk about Orange Caramel without making reference to Digipedi just as it was once impossible to talk about SISTAR without mentioning Brave Brothers or KARA without Sweetune. After all the ‘who’ of Orange Caramel has as much to do, if not more, with their specific image as much as it does their music. For that, Digipedi deserves their due.



Posted on August 26, 20147 notes • Tagged: #orange caramel #kpop

Sunny Hill: The Almost Girl Group

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To hear the conspiracy theorists tell it, the withdrawal of Janghyun, Sunny Hill’s sole male member, from the group earlier this year is all LOEN Entertainment’s fault. Once Sunny Hill became five members, they never gave him a proper, conventional role in the group like “lead vocal” or “main dancer,” other than “leader.” Instead they made him into more of a ‘group-member-at-large,’ who wrote lyrics and produced their music, appeared in their music videos, and sang on their non-single tracks, but did not usually appear on stage with them. Then while he was away completing his military leave they shifted Sunny Hill’s image to something hyper-feminine with “Darling of All Hearts” where there was no place for him except in the background.

Except, of course, this reading of the situation may or may not be true. A case could just as easily be made for the converse, i.e. this is what Janghyun really wants to do and was his decision, because he has never spoken publicly about it. Not that it seems to matter to fans either who who have shown that they are loathe to give up on him and are always find him new roles. First, it was a means of the defense against whoever referred to Sunny Hill as a girl group while he was away in the military. Now it is as a synecdoche for the Sunny Hill of yore deployed mostly by Internet commenters. To write “I miss Janghyun” is to say, “I miss when Sunny Hill was a co-ed group who released songs with a deeper, more socially conscious bent.” It is a conscious rejection of what they are now, a group composed of four female members Jubee, Seungah, Kota, and Misung, and thus befitting of the ontological label of girl group.

Yet despite meeting the bare minimum requirement to be considered a girl group, it is not a category where Sunny Hill seems to fit. Part of this is because of their history—it is hard to reconcile the group they were only two comebacks ago with the direction they have taken now. The other part of this is that there is more to being a girl group than being a group composed of girls. The identity of ‘girl group’ is an active identity that needs to be performed or “done.” Girl groups wear specific type of clothes, lots of heels, do aegyo, and wax poetic on variety shows and interviews about their diets and beauty regiments. They release music that is often as inoffensive as their images, delivering songs that are often about the tried-and-true topics of love and relationships, or rah rah cheerleading type songs. Viewed in conjunction, these actions and cues create a certain perception of girl groups from how they actually are to what is to be expected from them.

Sunny Hill has only started to put into the work towards fitting the girl group category, which may be why it feels as if they are quite not totally there yet, but they are working on it. Their latest release, a track from their upcoming album, Sunny Blues, “Once In Summer” is a quintessential girl group release. The video is all white dresses, flowers, and close-ups of the member’s faces matching the tone of the song as a ballad with lyrics that reminisce about a summer love. Furthermore as a song related to summer and released in the summer, it is fitting into the current summer song trend in k-pop that is being led by, yes, girl groups.

And to think that a mere three years earlier Sunny Hill critiqued girl groups in their song, “Let’s Talk About feat, Zia,” from their mini album Midnight Circus, when that is now in fact their new reality. They are a girl group, or at least or putting in the efforts to become one which based on the teasers released for their new album, they will have no problem achieving this. After all, they are still the same group that was behind some of the most interesting concepts in k-pop, only now their image is changing. That energy they once directed towards executing those concepts is now being directed elsewhere to produce a new, different result. It is an exciting time for Sunny Hill, dampened only by the fact that I am finding it difficult to shake the fact that I really miss Janghyun.



Posted on August 14, 20143 notes • Tagged: #sunny hill #kpop

—Lee Jung-hyun in response to the question, “How did you come up with the idea to use a fan & do dance moves with the mic?” during an interview for ARIRANG’s segment, Showbiz Korea



Posted on August 6, 20143 notes • Tagged: #photoset #kpop #lee jung hyun

Quick Take: HEYNE’s “Red Lie”

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There does not seem to be a whole lot of ways left to innovate on the cute concept to make it feel fresh other than to subvert it à la Pungdeng-E’s “Cotton Candy” or wait until it can be branded as retro like k-pop circa, 2008. This makes the ‘quirky cute’ of groups like Orange Caramel the sort of last frontier of cute. Yet despite Orange Caramel’s success with their concept, they have not sparked some sort of trend akin to that of the current trend of sexy concepts. Instead groups continue to do cute as they have always done it, aiming to build appeal on familiarity and comfortableness This holds for those in the young, cute, female soloist camp as well, who despite themselves being something of a novelty, have stuck to the traditional cute concept, as if audiences would find too much newness all at once off-putting.

With the release of her digital single, “Red Lie” though, rookie and young and cute female soloist, HEYNE appears to be trying her hand at her own brand of quirky cute. But it is not so much the song itself, which is your usual song about moving on after a betrayal from a boyfriend, as the video where the offbeat nature really shines. The video is shot in a mix of one-shot camerawork, a continuous narrative style, and no division of space, meaning one scene regularly bleeds into another and HEYNE often appears simultaneously in a single shot. While one HEYNE dances or carries a bushel of balloons or an umbrella, another, helped by men in Tyvek suits, is meting out punishment of bouncy balls and squeaky hammers to the man who has betrayed her, easily identifiable by the Pinocchio nose — proof of his ‘crime’ — that he wears. Who also happens to be a literal blockhead, as in his head is literally a block with a face built of basic geometric forms: of two circles for eyes, a line for a mouth and another for an eyebrow, and a solid block of color for his hair.

It is all just so ridiculous! Of course it is in the best possible way. Here the quirkiness does not shock or disgust, although it may potentially confuse, but much like her zany off-stage persona that has earned her a cult following among international fans, it endears. It keeps her cuteness from feeling too generic or performed, but gives it character and the sense that HEYNE has made it her own. It is a cute concept made for and according to HEYNE.



Posted on July 29, 20142 notes • Tagged: #kpop #rookies #heyne

oldtypenewtype:

Legendary Idol Eriko was a T.V. show that was actually loosely based on a real idol Eriko Tamura. This is an advertisement for VHS release of a music video and vol. 3 of the show. Newtype issue 12/1989
Eriko Tamura - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Idol Densetsu Eriko Opening ”Textless” - YouTube

oldtypenewtype:

Legendary Idol Eriko was a T.V. show that was actually loosely based on a real idol Eriko Tamura. This is an advertisement for VHS release of a music video and vol. 3 of the show. Newtype issue 12/1989

Eriko Tamura - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Idol Densetsu Eriko Opening ”Textless” - YouTube



Posted on July 22, 20149 notes • Tagged: #anime #eriko tamura #idol densetsu eriko