Music

Is BTS Low Quality Music?

Recently, I saw a DKDKTV video in my feed that grabbed my attention. It was called “BTS is Low Quality Music”. Of course, I couldn’t scroll on by after that. I had to see what this was about. The video was an answer to Parkgaedae’s video “BTS is McDonald’s” (which he has since deleted). His premise is that like McDonald’s, BTS is very popular but they produce low quality music.

Now, before I begin I would like to preface a few things: #1 I’m an American (African-American to be exact) and I have never been to South Korea before. #2 I’m an ARMY, I’ve been a fan of BTS for about 1.5 years (I’m multifandom, so I stan a lot of groups). #3 I don’t know any Hangul (my little sister can read and write it), I know a few words in Korean but I don’t speak the language.

I tried to approach this video in a logical way instead of just saying “BTS is amazing and you’re a hater!” I tried to figure out Parkgaedae’s arguments and look at his and DKDKTV’s premises.

His first argument was that people think BTS’ music is catchy, they’re handsome, and nice but their music is low quality. Now, I didn’t get to watch the original video because it was taken down, but in the clips that DKDTV referenced, he never defined “low quality music”. David (from DKDKTV) talked about how Kpop has a reputation for being “fast food music” essentially mass-produced and “factory made”. I understand how you could think this if you only listen to the catchy choruses of comeback tracks that are released twice as often as western artists. But if you look at the song credits and see how many Kpop artists are producing they’re own music, if you examine the lyrical genius, and observe a studio recording session of a kpop group, I believe your “fast food music” mentality might be changed a little.

Particularly BTS, if you’ve ever watched RM’s Vlives where he breaks down the album in his studio: recounting writing processes, funny production moments, and exclusive demo tracks, then you would see all the care that they put into their music. I’m assuming Parkgaedae is not an ARMY and I wonder if he’s ever asked any of us why we like BTS. Because he seems to think that it’s only because we “think they’re handsome and nice” which is a factor, but at least for me, it’s more about how much they’ve impacted the world and individuals with their message. It’s about how they’ve taken their pain and struggle, worked hard and risen to fame, yet still stayed humble and appreciative. It’s about how they create amazing music about real issues and encourage people to love themselves.

Parkgaedae’s next point was that Koreans have immense national pride in BTS and it’s displaced. He referenced the fact that the first thing Korean people mention to his American friends is BTS and their place on the Billboard Charts. He (and his American friends) are rather disgusted that a country would be so proud of a boy group.

Danny (from DKDKTV) agrees that it’s irritating to him (as a Korean) to hear Koreans always asking foreigners if they know BTS, Gangnam Style, Park Jisung (soccer player) etc. David pointed out that if it’s the easiest thing to talk about or have in common: whatever thing your country’s known for. Parkgaedae likened it to him as an American talking about how amazing McDonald’s is. Mentioning how far it’s spread across the world and how many people consume it. That “feeling is what a lot of foreigners get when Koreans take a bunch of pride in BTS.”

What I think Parkgaedae missed in his analogy is that we as Americans don’t HAVE to do that to feel like we matter as a country. We take for granted that the rest of the world looks up to us, we assume that they consume American food, music, and products. We assume that we’re the most important on the world stage so we don’t even try to find common ground. (Please note that I’m not saying all Americans believe this and I’m also not saying that every country “looks up to us”, I’m simply saying that seems to be a prevailing mindset among the general American public.)

When you’re excited about something, you tend to mention it as much as you can. Think about those recently engaged people who talk about their ring, engagement story, and wedding plans every time they have an opportunity. Listeners understand this because it’s exciting and it’s new, it’s something to be proud of. Another possible component to nationalistic pride in BTS is the feeling to have to prove oneself or country. If you’re a part of a minority group you’ve probably experienced the feeling of standing in a room where you had to prove you are good enough. Having to have something in common with the majority culture and show that your culture can “hang with the cool kids”. This is something that Parkgaedae probably has a hard time fathoming as a white American male, because his culture is the dominant one. If you’re a minority and a person or thing that is appreciated in general society comes from your culture, you generally want to leverage that. It’s interesting to me how it seems the majority of the people upholding the rhetoric of “you’re talking about Black Panther too much or you shouldn’t take pride in BTS” are white males.

Parkgaedae’s final point is that Koreans should take national pride in Hangul instead. They should be proud of this amazing alphabet that is beautiful and systematic rather than promoting a pop boy group. While I agree that Hangul is amazing (it seems so organized and efficient but also gorgeous to write) and should get more love, I have an issue with this point. Rather than making a video about how cool Hangul is and how it deserves more recognition, he comes off as a bully telling another ethnicity and country what they should and should not take pride in. Somehow he thinks it’s his place to dictate how people should show their pride in and admiration of their own culture. The fact that he’s telling Koreans what they should promote/be proud of rather than telling other cultures/people groups about this cool thing and promoting it himself seems like a very backwards thing to do. I believe he partly did this to get views: make a video bashing BTS in order to get millions to watch it, but since he removed the video, he probably wasn’t prepared for the response.

The final thing I want to say is in agreement with David. BTS is one of the biggest promoters of Korea to the world (at least from my American point of view). They’re part of the reason that my sister is and I want to learn Hangul and Korean, they’re part of the reason I’ve research the politics and history of South Korea, how I know what hanbok is and even some Korean recipes. They’ve used Korean traditional music in songs that have taken over the charts, spoken in Korean at major awards shows, and promoted a message to the world that South Korea can be proud of. Like their music or not, their impact is undeniable, as evidenced by their winning the Korean Order of Cultural Merit for “outstanding meritorious services in the fields of culture and art in the interest of promoting the national culture and national development.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Advertisements
Life · Pleats

Thankful Ramblings + OOTD

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since I’m one of those people who must dress up for Thanksgiving, I thought it’d be in order to do an outfit of the day. But, of course I can’t leave it at that, so here’s 3 things I’m thankful for:

IMG_3074.JPG

Doing what I love

I’m so thankful that God has allowed me to do what I enjoy everyday. I’m thankful for supportive parents who encourage me and friends who share in what I enjoy. It’s amazing to live in a time where I can get instructions on any skill and share my thoughts within seconds. I’m thankful for the connectivity and creativity that the internet brings.

IMG_3075

Kpop

I know it might seem like not that big of a deal, but it’s no accident that I discovered Kpop this year, God makes everything happen for a reason 🙂

I’m thankful for the new friends it’s brought me: in real life and over the internet. I’m thankful for the happiness and inspiration it brings me.

I’m thankful for BTS at the AMAs, Monsta X’s First Win, and EXO’s continued success (together). I’m thankful for B.A.P, BigBang, Seventeen, Got7, NCT (all of them), Pentagon, KNK, CNBlue, Taemin, GD, Heize, and all the groups and solo artists I’ve yet to discover!

IMG_3076.JPG

Lasting love

This year in October my parents celebrated their 20th anniversary. It’s amazing to me, the love they have for God and each other that’s allowed them to stay together this long. And not just barely together existing in the same space from day to day, but truly loving each other and thriving together.

Today is not only Thanksgiving, it’s my paternal grandparents’ 50th anniversary. Today in 1967, my grandparents began their lives together and their amazing legacy. Almost everyone who was at their wedding has since passed away, but not only are they still alive, they’re still together. I’m so thankful for all the celebrations of lasting love that this year has brought so far.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What are you thankful for?

Music

Kpop Comebacks Review –September

Kpop comebacks were lit this month, so I thought it would be fun to review some that I watched/listened to and enjoyed. I’m evaluating the music videos in five categories: concept, aesthetics/cinematography, fashion/beauty, choreography, and song. I’ll be discussing my thoughts in each of these categories, giving a one to five rating in each one, and then granting an overall score out of a possible 25.
BAP: Honeymoon

Concept: This video sparked lots of questions for me as it refers to the concept. Why is Yongguk’s hand bleeding? Why is Zelo trapped in the dark while the other members are on the island? And what’s with the TV in the forest? If y’all have any answers to these questions or if you can direct me to a fan theory that does, definitely comment below. Anyway, I enjoyed the classy/elegant concept in this video. (3)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: Scenery wise, this MV was probably the most stunning I’ve ever seen. I believe it was filmed on Jeju Island and I appreciate the move from a warehouse/garage/set that most groups tend to go for to an outdoor area. The aerial shots were killer and the editing was on point. (5)

Fashion/Beauty: Mullets reigned in this concept, and I have to say I am not a fan. I didn’t like the way Yongguk’s hair was styled at the table scene in the end but in the forest parts it was cool. Youngjae gets props for looking classy and not succumbing to the mullet pressure. And the all white end looks truly saved the day. (2)

Choreography: There was no dance at all in the MV, not even a head bop, but a couple of days later we received a lit dance practice. Jongup definitely came to slay this choreo with Michael Jackson-esque moves and he came mullet-less yay! The synchronicity is on point and the sweeping line dance move in the first chorus floors me every single time. Unfortunately, this video is an excellent example of a Kpop pet peeve of mine: unnecessary back-up dancers. All the members were trained in and are competent in dance. Why do we need extra people to muddy the waters? (4)

Song: With a breezy, chill feel, this song quickly became a current favorite of mine. The whistling at the beginning and the chord changes in the bridge are wonderful. Jongup’s vocal performance was flawless . I was also intrigued by the position of Yongguk’s rap, putting it at the end rather than in a verse was a nice touch. (5)

Total: 19

Pentagon –Like This

Concept: Parking lots and apples? I don’t really know but there seems to be pain and difficulty here, especially looking at the lyrics with the video. (2)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: I like the use of different locations and lighting techniques. Also E’Dawn’s car scene displayed excellent angles. (4)

Fashion/Beauty: Pentagon is a group where generally all the members look amazing in many concepts. Jinho with blonde hair worked and Yan An lived up to his status as official visual. Wooseok with a hat was a look, but underneath the hat his fluffy, shaggy hair cut irritates me to no end. Bangs don’t suit Yeo One well in my opinion but he rocked them considering. The real star in the visual department for me this comeback (and kind of every comeback) is Yuto da! His black parted hair is my favorite look of his so far, it really frames his face well and looks natural. (4)

Choreography: The amazingly talented Kino choreographed this dance and he killed it. In terms of choreography it’s probably my favorite of the September comebacks, yes, even over BTS’ DNA. Like This showcases a powerful yet graceful style that I admire. It’s nice to see such emotionally charged choreograpy like this (see what I did there). The use of slow motion at the bridge is masterfully done so it doesn’t seem cheesy. My absolute favorite move is the one in the chorus at “weonan dan hanaye becheul” it expertly shows all the emotion in that line through movement, so even before I looked up the English lyrics I could sense the desperation and determination. (5)

Song: This song is essentially about determination “Even if I fall and my knees bleed, I’ll keep on running like this.” It’s a beautiful message backed by a beautiful vocal performance. The line distribution is impeccable, especially for a ten member group and the ratio of rap to vocal doesn’t feel uneven at all. I especially love how the positioning of E’Dawn’s energetic rap breaks up the songs mellow feel. (5)

Total: 20

BTS –DNA

Concept: This concept is fun and bright but with enough of a hardcore feel. It’s perfectly and totally Bangtan. (4)

Aesthetics/Cinematography: The camera angles at the beginning of JK’s whistle, the use of shadow in the choreo scenes, and the vibrant colors make this MV pop. It’s an excellent example of gorgeous cinematography, all you artists need to get a pen and take a seat. (5)

Fashion/Beauty: Taehyung with gray hair, Jungkook with a part again, Yoongi somehow slaying powder blue, Jin’s black hair making an appearance, and Namjoon with rust colored hair made this a lit era. J-Hope’s color was nice but the bangs aren’t my favorite. Let me know if you want to sign my petition: Bring Back Hoseok’s Forehead. Jimin’s “noodle” hair looked rather strange to me even though it was poppin’ in Serendipity. In terms of fashion, Tae gets an award for best dressed but I love Kookie’s silk shirt and Yoongi’s tank and button down combo (which I recreated here). Honestly, all the looks were lit in this MV, even Hoseok’s jersey over sweatshirt look grew on me. (4)

Choreography: We saw classic Bangtan with pelvic thrusts and head bopping, but we saw lots of fresh takes on the choreograpy. Taehyung did a sweet solo, Jin was the center in a dance scene (he’s come so far), and J-Hope slayed the ending. I love the part where they link hands in a formation and the ending “la, la” dance especially. (5)

Song: This song is so catchy. Everyone shines with JK slaying pre-chorous, Tae singing in his low register, Jimin’s breathy vocal coming through, and Jin’s sweet soft voice. Our rap line came with it too: J-Hope’s excited tone and Namjoon’s aggressive one contrast perfectly. Yoongi rapped a lot in this song and I couldn’t be happier, and there’s nothing more adorable than his pronunciation of “real love”. The bass line was poppin, especially in the second verse, and the whistling of the melody was an ingenious way to make sure that every single ARMY is hypnotized by this bop. One of my favorite things about older eras of Bangtan was Jungkook rapping and we got our golden maknae showing his gifts once again in this song, and no I didn’t forget about our Chim Chim because he slayed his rap too. I can’t forget that Namjoon and Yoongi co-wrote this song. I’m so proud, BTS fighting! (5)

Total: 23

I watched a lot of comebacks in September so if you want to see a part 2 featuring B1A4, EXO, Lay, and others comment down below. Also be sure to tell me your thoughts on these comebacks if you’ve seen them and if you haven’t tell me your favorite song release of September, Kpop or otherwise.
Stay fly,
~Akilah

Music

Kpop Convo

The week of June 11, 2017 will go down in History as the time I was introduced to a seized by Kpop. My friends and I traveled to a music production camp in Indiana but Never Ever expected to become Stuck in new fandoms. We met a new friend there who showed us videos. I was captivated by the Beautiful visuals and Dope dances, before I knew it I was All In. This post is basically a conversation about Kpop so I hope you Like It. My favorite songs, videos, groups, and dances are Limitless so we won’t get through all of them, at least Not Today, but I hope this serves as a Very Nice introduction.

I can’t begin to talk about Kpop without first mentioning Monsta X. They were the first group I stanned (supported, loved) and they’re still one of my favorites. Beautiful: the first song I liked, first dance I learned, first video I loved. Minhyuk was my first bias (favorite member) then I added Shownu and I.M. but basically, it’s the whole group. Monsta X is such a multi-talented septet: every single member can dance, sing, and rap not to mention they’re all visuals. Watching variety shows with them is quite rewarding because they seem to have so much fun together and are talented actors. I fully recommend Monsta X-Ray seasons 1-2. In terms of videos: if you’re new definitely check out the Beautiful and Stuck MVs. if you’re an OG Monbebe but are still looking for more check out Amen dance practice.

E-X-O! When I first watched Monster I honestly didn’t like EXO. I was really confused by the concept but the more I watched and researched the more I was captivated by the concept behind EXO. I don’t have all their storyline details together so I won’t explain it here (maybe a future blog post?) but you can see most of it in the Mama music video. SM Entertainment (EXO’s management company) is my favorite member of the “big three” (YG, JYP, and SM Entertainment). Their concept genius is out of this world, but concept genius isn’t everything. SM has a reputation of ill treatment and I hope that they treat their idols as individuals made in the image of God from now and into the future. In EXO my bias is Sehun (yehet!) and my bias wrecker is Lay (Yixing). If you’re looking for the coolest rap and set design check out Overdose. Or for a fun live performance check out Lotto. The Eve is my ultimate favorite: the dance, flawless; the song, beautiful; the lyrics, deep: “Weak lights are running, the moment the darkness flees we must wake up to this new morning.”

One semi-rookie group I can’t get enough of is KNK. Also known as Keunakeun which means great or to be great. KNK stands for K-pop kNocK as in “knocking on the door of Kpop.” I stumbled across their MV Knock and it’s become one of my favorite songs: it’s addictive and the dance is quite original. If a sweet love song is what you’re looking for, definitely check out Angel Heart for all the feels. KNK are such dorks they are always laughing hysterically and falling on the floor (don’t ask me why). My bias is Seungjun because he is good at everything: singing, dancing, rapping. On stage he looks so cold, model-y, and chic, like he doesn’t even need fans. Yet off-stage he acts like a 6’3″ 5 year-old. Youjin is my bias wrecker because vocals be fi, and he’s a graceful dancer. Honestly, they are sort of underrated so you should definitely check them out. They’re so silly and cuddly and I promise you’ll love them.

Don’t let this conversation be one sided, Please comment about your favorite groups and leave some song suggestions to Save Me some trouble.

I left you a treat, comment if you find it!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Life · Pleats

Quote of the Moment ~Virgil Abloh

“At the end of the day, it’s your body of work, and the amount of work, and the refinement of that work that will define who you are as a creative,” ~Virgil Abloh, Fashionista

While reading an article on fashionista.com I stumbled upon this statement by Virgil Abloh, creative director of Off-White. It caused me to stop and re-read it, then ask myself: how do I want my body of work to define me? In 2017 the body of work for creatives is not only a sketchbook, collection, or portfolio, instead it encompasses every image we post on social media, every word we speak or write, and even every outfit we wear. Personally, I want my body of work to reflect my life for Christ, love for people, and passion for beauty. What do you want your body of work to say?

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Life · Pleats

Am I Wholly Consumed By Fashion?

Over the weekend I went to a homeschool convention (yes I’m homeschooled in case you were wondering), there were a host of inspiring seminars and speakers there. At the end of one of the sessions, the lead speaker mentioned the advice of a musician to those interested in pursuing the arts as a career. This musician said that if you don’t wake up thinking about your art, go to bed thinking about your art, and think about your art every chance in between, then you should not pursue it as a career. She said in order to make it in the arts you must be wholly consumed by your art.

This continually replayed in my mind over the last couple of days. As an aspiring fashion stylist and makeup artist, I’m entering an arts enviroment. Fashion is one of the toughest fields to enter, and hustle is mandatory. Sometimes I question if I have what it takes. Does fashion wholly consume me?

The answer is no. And it never will. I will always have other passions, other dreams, other loves. I don’t always wake up thinking about fashion, sometimes it’s a great book, or new idea that rolls around in my brain. Even this blog is not wholly dedicated to fashion; food and literature are huge parts too. I argue that the other interests and consuming thoughts a person has play a huge role in his or her success. The writing that I can bring to the table may eventually help my fashion career, but if I was wholly consumed by fashion I couldn’t improve my writing skills.

So, if we’re not to be wholly consumed by our art, then what should we be consumed with? The answer is God. More specifically the Holy Spirit. He should penetrate and illuminate every crevice of our being. Consumption by any worldly thing is dangerous, only God should be our complete obsession. As Hebrew 12:28-29 says: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

In short, I am not wholly consumed by fashion. I love fashion, I couldn’t imagine my life without fashion, style, and beauty, but I am wholly consumed by God. He is the reason I wake up, go to bed, and live in between.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What do you think? Should we be wholly consumed by art?

Plots

The Struggle is Real: Representation of the Middle Passage in Literature

ship

Every race, culture, and member of humanity has a struggle. And their struggles are what make stories, stories that are written on paper, stories that are published, that we pick up at our libraries and bookstores. These stories are the ones that we read, that expose us to new ideas, comfort us, and give us a window into someone else’s experience.

But why is it that one group of people’s story gets repeated over and over but another’s are only whispered on certain days? Why is it that there is a plethora of stories about the horrors of the Holocaust, but comparably fewer about the Middle Passage?

The Middle Passage is the journey slaves took from their homeland of Africa to the unknown soil of America. They were packed together tightly in the bowels of the ship, like they were nothing more than common cargo. Buckets of freezing water were tossed onto their bruised bodies. They were forced to dance to joyless beats for “exercise”. Young girls were ritually raped by sailors. And all these horrors were only the beginning of the life of hardship that was waiting for them in the Americas.

There are many answers to the question of why there are so few middle passage books, especially in MG and YA historical fiction. But one answer lies within the fact of who tells the story.

We all want to feel comfortable. Most books that are popular and receive the most exposure are written by white Americans. It’s much more comfortable for Americans to sympathize with the Jews, some of them are Jewish themselves and had ancestors with first hand knowledge. The Holocaust happened far away. And was the fault of the Nazis.

In contrast these authors great-great-great-grandparents could have been slave owners, deck hands and ship captains. It hits so much closer to home.

Also, writing about the Middle Passage would require more research, since  there are probably not any witnesses like there are for the Holocaust.

Because these stories are difficult to hear and to write is all the more reason to hear and write them. I do not discount the Holocaust and I believe it should be remembered. Nor do I think the Middle Passage is the only story of a struggle that needs to be told. But it is an important part of the history of America and of the world. And it must be remembered and told.

I have read a few excellent books about The Middle Passage that I will feature in an up coming post.

Until next time

Stay fly friends

~Akilah

Have you read any good books about the Middle Passage or other unknown struggles?