Monthly Archives: April 2017

Korea Times Music Festival–whoot! whoot!

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So, if I was able to fall asleep after, you know it must have been exhausting–the KTMF was four-and-a-half hours of long! But fun. Lots of fun.

Actually, the concert was four-and-a-half hours. (Bastarz sang all of three songs–if there’s only one group you want to see, this is not the venue I’d recommend.) Before the concert was the festival, which mainly seemed to be booths where they’d spin a wheel and you win stuff. Honestly, at this point in my life, I don’t feel a need for more stuff, but people seemed to enjoy it.

And there were a lot of people.

It had what I think every festival could use–a giant cup of ramen walking around.

Not shown: The concerned little girl who did not think that giant cups of ramen should be allowed to walk around.

My main regret from deciding to kind of avoid the festival side of things is that (since you can eat in the Hollywood Bowl) everyone around me had the most delicious-smelling Korean food, and I was very jealous (I made do with a lame sandwich from the concessions stand). If I do this again, and I might, I’ll have to investigate and figure out where that food came from.

This was my first time going to the Hollywood Bowl, which was really cool. (And I second the advice to walk there from the Hollywood and Highland Metro station–it’s less than a mile, and it’s a gradual slope. It only gets steep once you’re inside.)

 

I’m sharing so many pictures of the Hollywood Bowl because I was too far away and my phone camera was too crappy to get good pictures of the actual concert, especially once it got dark and everything was backlit.

But I did get a good one of Haha’s hair being blown so it looked silly (it was windy), while Tiffany’s hair just looked wind-blown and glamours. (They were the MCs.)

And I tried really hard with Bastarz and managed to get all of one shot:

As I mentioned, KTMF is really long–there were introductory performances as well, so I think we saw something like 15 or 16 different acts? It’s also attracts a range of ages, and the music isn’t just idol pop. (There were some grannies sitting near me, and it was funny to see what made them plotz. Believe it or not, a Black gospel choir from Crenshaw and DJ Doc both did the trick)

Because the festival was so big and diverse, it’s kind of hard to talk about it in a coherent fashion, so I guess I’ll talk about what stuck out to me.

Bastarz

I’ll start with them, because why not? Like I said, they only did three songs (“Make It Rain,” “Charlie Chaplin,” and “Conduct Zero”)–they were funny and weird, of course, and there were quite a few honey wands in the audience (alas, I forgot to pack my little one). There were three big video screens on the stage, and the cameramen were shooting the three of them so that each one appeared on a screen. But that actually made them look cool and organized, so it triggered the Block B Chaos Effect, and one of the feeds went dead and stayed dead for the rest of the concert. (You tempt the Block B Chaos Effect at your peril, show technicians!)

I don’t really like normal idol performances

It was interesting to see where Bastarz/Block B fits on the idol-other musician spectrum (basically: We’re trying to idol, but we’re not very good at it).

Most of the performers were not idol performers, and in all honestly I was very thankful for that, because I enjoyed the normal idol performances the least by far.

Why? Well, there’s just not a lot of actual stagecraft going on there. The boy groups (Victon, NCT 127) danced very well but didn’t do a whole lot in the way of singing, so it was like watching a dance troupe perform to a song they downloaded from the Internet. Apink and Tiffany sang more and danced less, but it was all devoid of spontaneity. No one was working the audience or getting everyone going, because there just wasn’t any room for that.

In contrast, the hip-hop groups (Skull & Haha, DJ Doc) were VERY good at riling up the audience. (And DJ Doc was just like, “GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS UP!!!”–they didn’t give a shit before they were respected industry seniors, and they certainly don’t give a shit now. The grannies didn’t mind.) The non-idol soloists (Kim Yeong Im, Cho Hang Jo, Chu Ga Yeoul, Min Kyung Hoon, and Gummy) were just amazing musically, so even though I wasn’t familiar with their stuff, I’d gladly watch any of them live again.

But all that musicality and stagecraft was just missing from the idol performances–even if I liked the songs, the idol format was just kind of blah.

Haha is a very funny man

Very funny. He barely speaks English, and yet I, who understand precious little Korean, thought he was hilarious (he and Tiffany kept sparring over the correct pronunciation of “McDonald’s”). When he came out to perform with Skull, he was wearing dark glasses, but then he whipped them off to sing “soulfully” into the camera for “Don’t Laugh”–and in the process he dropped them, so he had to retrieve them from an audience member afterward.

The English-only crowd should stay away

Not that they’d come anyway, but the whole thing was largely in Korean with only occasional English.

Which meant that the patter could get a little dull, but sometimes I understood it. Like Kim Yeong Im asked if we wanted an encore, which we most certainly did, and then she said something along the lines of how she was happy to hear it because she wasn’t sure how she’d hold up against all the younger idol groups, and then I believe she implied that Haha had given her a hard time about all that.

Then she performed and was great, and Haha ran out and threw confetti on her.

And NCT 127 will forever be to me The Group of Young Men Who Don’t Speak English Well and Are Very Self-Conscious About It…Plus Two Total Bros (yeahahahahah).

P.O actually gave English the old college try (“Yes!” “The weather is nice!”), which was delightfully awkward (although his pronunciation was very good). He read his patter from a card, which resulted in things like, “I’m so happy [pauses to squint at paper] to be here.”

[ETA: Here’s a fan cam:

So cute!]

So, I had a great time! And it was a handy excuse to travel someplace where you can actually see the sun, which God knows I needed!

ETA: I know some non-Americans were upset that there wasn’t a big crowd to greet Bastarz at the airport–guys, Americans don’t do that, certainly not like people in Asia. I think the members of Block B are used to that by this point.

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No, I’m not on Instagram

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I’m getting people clicking over to BlockB.com from Instagram, which would be totally cool if it was people on Instagram saying, “I love Block B! Learn about them here!” or something, but what I’ve found has been a little odd.

So, just to clarify:

  • BlockB.com is NOT the official Block B website. That is here.
  • Unless BlockB.com gets hacked or something, I am solely responsible for its content–the website is not a group endeavor, I have no assistants, and there is no “they” there. If you want something changed or have a question, please contact me via the form located on the FAQs page–don’t engage with some rando.
  • I can’t control whether or not people link to BlockB.com, so I just have to say that even if the people link there in a way that seems to imply that they have some affiliation with or control over that website, they do not.

BlockB.com’s theme songs!



This is why you recycle

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I have many things to do today, but it’s been bothering me (I am not compulsive I am not compulsive I am not compulsive) that Block B’s performance in the Japanese market is becoming even more opaque.

But the penny dropped that, now that they’re releasing their Japanese versions internationally, I could actually look up non-Japanese markets on iTunes and see what was happening with the Japanese versions of Block B songs there.

Which turned out to be quite an eye-opener!

Excluding Japan, the largest music markets are the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France.

Looking at Block B’s album sales on iTunes in the United States:

Americans are never getting over Blockbuster! NEVER!!

The Japanese version of Yesterday (which includes “Yesterday” and “Walkin’ in the Rain”) outsells the Korean version (which is just “Yesterday”). You see that in the other large markets as well.

And if you look at the top U.S. singles–wow.

Yeah, 8-19 are Japanese releases.

And this isn’t just happening the United States, by any means. Here’s Germany:

The United Kingdom:

And France:

Dudes–“Movie’s Over” came out almost five years ago. This is–this is fucking brilliant, is what it is. Fucking brilliant.

Look at that!

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Some photos came out recently from Zico’s Polham campaign and his Marie Claire shoot.

I know I make jokes about it, but I honestly think all the time Zico spent taking weird pictures of himself has helped him be a better model–and in my opinion, he’s a really good one. I mean, if you look at these pictures, all of them are visually interesting, but in none of them does he look like the standard heartthrob. The fact that his build is kind of weird (broad, knobby shoulders; long, skinny arms and legs; big feet and hands) just makes his pictures look more angular and striking.

Honestly, this is true for a lot of good models–people think that models need to be pretty, but prettiness can actually be a handicap because it can come across as bland. Good models stand out from the crowd because they have a definite look that people respond to almost viscerally.

FYI: If you’re thinking about buying physical CDs

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I link to retailers over on BlockB.com, and while I’ll occasionally go through and check the links, I don’t do that all the time.

Which means that I was quite surprised the other day when I was poking through YouTube and thought, “Oh, this looks interesting! I wonder what she has to say!”

Aaaannnd discovered that a bunch of the CDs are now out of print!

So, yeah, I had to do some editing over there. This has happened before–when Block B was resurrected back in October 2013, Seven Seasons drastically underestimated demand for Very Good, so there was a short period right after its release where you couldn’t find that CD to save your life. Then Stardumb let months go by before getting more copies of Block B’s older albums made. But unlike before, this is affecting CDs from both labels in pretty much the same way, which makes me wonder if there’s not something going on with the CD manufacturers.

Anyway, like she said, the regular edition of H.E.R, Very Good, and the Repackage version of Welcome to the Block (which has more songs than the regular version) are now in short supply. You can still find them on places like Amazon (and the special edition of H.E.R is still everywhere), but you may have to get them used or pay quite a bit for them (which is kind of a gamble, since these aren’t limited editions and the labels can always get another batch made).

Where we are now

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Since yesterday/today (depending on where you live) was/is Block B’s sixth anniversary, I thought I’d do a bit on where Block B is now.

Some things I hope are obvious: “Yesterday” did very well in Korea and remains on Gaon. The members still seem to be quite busy, and more stuff is coming up. “She’s a Baby” is doing great.

It seems like Block B is mainstreaming (or at least attempting to mainstream) in Japan, which is nice. I did a recent post on their reception in Taiwan (TL;DR: like the Second Coming); I want to point out that the Music Fun Party there three years ago got a little press (and attracted maybe a thousand people, if memory serves?), but nowhere near the level of coverage their recent concert did. So definitely a lot of progress has been made in that market (and although it’s harder to measure, I think a lot of progress has been made in China as well, even if monetizing those fans remains a challenge).

What other measures can we look at?

This is the past year’s traffic stats from BlockB.com–they’re a little screwy because I did some search-engine optimization in December 2016, which boosted views. Still, you can see that, even including only two weeks’ worth of data for April, the average number of unique visitors is more than 4,000 a month–and even before December, there are only two months where there were fewer than 4,000 visitors. Compare that to earlier years, where most months BlockB.com did not reach the 4,000-visitor mark. So that’s a nice upward trend from the English-speaking crowd.

Another thing to look at is YouTube views–those can also be a bit screwy because fans will campaign to increase them. Presumably all the videos have been campaigned upon, though, so hopefully the campaigns cancel each other out, and the YouTube view count gives us an idea of actual audience size.

Back in the day, both “H.E.R” and “Jackpot” took four days to get to one million views on the CJ E&M and Seven Seasons channels. “She’s a Baby,” in contrast, is past two million views in two-and-a-half days. “H.E.R” has been up for two years and has 20.9 million views; “Toy” has been up for one year and has 21.6 million views; “Yesterday” has been up for two months and has 11.5 million views. (For some historical perspective, in its first six months, “Very Good” only got to 5.6 million views.)

So, you know, again the trend seems to be that the audience is getting bigger and bigger, and it sort of doesn’t matter where you look. That’s all good. And I’m going to point out that just because BTS does well abroad doesn’t mean that no one outside Korea is listening to Block B–it’s not a zero-sum game!