U-KISS are better than your oppars aka EX(wh)O

Hearing Alone for the first time was like every holiday had been mixed together and stuffed inside a pie.

 

While I have been MIA for the past several months, I assure you my ears have been awake and working hard. Where some groups have been doing shit-all (that means you, EXO) others have been working their pretty, sculpted backsides off to no avail.  Arguably, EXO’s success—which has come about from one mere, mediocre mini-album—is riding off the power of their company and label mates’ established names rather than their own merit and hard work. Because of this, I find it difficult to not to shed a tear for the poor souls on lesser known labels whose talents are just as good as—or perhaps better than—the power groups of SM, YG and JYP Entertainment.

Yes, I’m looking at you, U-KISS.

  U-KISS-Stop-Girl-Wallpaper-u-kiss

U-KISS have been so prolific in my absence (actually, I haven’t gone anywhere—I’ve just been lazy) I’m actually using this semi-opinionated rant article as a mass review for the stream of releases in Japan and Korea over the past few months. Following DORADORA, our little workaholics have released eight MVs, two Japanese singles, two mini-albums, one full-length album, and two digital singles that no one actually remembers. The point is U-KISS have done more in seven months than some groups (coughexocough) have done their entire career. Is this the result of the age-old quality vs quantity debate? Maybe. Or a testament of label power? Most definitely.

As fun as it is to rip on EXO—their fans are so blindly and hilariously defensive it’s actually sad—that is not the point of this article. I’m here to glance over U-KISS’ recent endeavours and lament over their continued but unjustified lack of notable success. I know I’m supposed to be (relatively) unbiased but get over it: U-KISS are awesome and deserve my love and your money.

DORADORA was very quickly succeeded by yet another mini-album; The Special to KISSME hit our screens just one month after DORADORA with title track Believe. While notably lacking the edge and style of the previous release, Believe was certainly fresh and easy listening. I mean, how could it not be with all those pastels and aqua? Written by member AJ, the track was catchier and more likeable than anything called Believe should have been. Thus, AJ’s decision to take a brief hiatus from the band to pursue tertiary education was the saddest day of my life. (It wasn’t really, because I’m not insane.)

AJ’s departure did not leave the hole I thought it would: Stop Girl was an amazing mini-album and despite its ballad-like appearance, it didn’t make me want to kill myself as ballads tend to do. If that isn’t a credit to U-KISS’ talent then I don’t know what is. The black and white MV was poignant and the inclusion of an English version of the song was very much welcomed. Another highlight of the Stop Girl mini was accompanying ballad Time to Go. I’m not really sure what it was about September that made me so welcoming to slower tunes, but I certainly won’t complain because this album quenched a thirst I didn’t know I had.

Somewhere in between Believe and Stop Girl were Japanese releases, Dear My Friend and One of You. I don’t really have a much of an opinion to offer on these tracks because Japanese music labels are monumental tight-arses when it comes to offering full-length videos on YouTube, thus I have never given them more than a once over. Evidently, they were not that memorable—much like digital singles Cinderella and Gangstar Boy which no one outside the diehard KISSMEs have even heard of. Rounding out 2012 was yet another mediocre Japanese ballad by the name of Distance. It was … nice. And that’s all I’m going to say.

If 2013 is not U-KISS’ glory year then something is horridly wrong with the world. The year has started strongly in the industry, headed by new releases from big guns SHINee and Super Junior M. While I think Breakdown is brilliant and my ears like Dream Girl much more than my eyes do, my highlight so far this year is U-KISS’ latest Japanese single. Hearing Alone for the first time was like every holiday had been mixed together and stuffed inside a pie. And if there’s one thing I like, its pie. Alone is dark, gritty, catchy and undeniably sexy. Even Kevin with his androgynous looks and borderline homosexual mannerisms had me swooning. The sheer joy this song had AJ forgotten in seconds. But let’s face it—what group actually needs three dedicated rappers? In any case, this song had me cursing avexnetwork more than ever for being so narrow-sighted and backwards and not having HD version of their music videos posted in full to their YouTube Channel. Believe it or not guys, free public exposure is actually helpful. Who would have thought?

No comeback, however, is official unless it takes place in Korea.  While I question the decision to release so closely to SHINee I strongly commend U-KISS on their comeback stages. Personally found title track Standing Still had much more of an impact than SHINee’s eye-murdering Dream Girl. If wardrobe was anything to take into consideration then U-KISS would have won hands down because God knows SHINee’s stylist should have been euthanized years ago.

Taemin's awful wardrobe in DREAM GIRL

Standing Still is an amazing showcase of vocalists Hoon, Kevin and Soohyun. As with much of U-KISS’ discography these three carry the bulk of the workload, and with well-earned justification.  And Hoon’s blond hair is just smokin’. Appearance aside, Standing Still is a solid track and I regret to say I’m unable as yet to locate a copy of the full album, Collage. How about you import some Korean CDs other than TVXQ, eh Japan?

Let’s put praise on hold for a minute and remember: no band is perfect. While U-KISS’ music and vocals are definitely up to snuff their choreography blows more than an underpaid prostitute. This is not really a reflection on the talent of U-KISS themselves but more the rather strange inspirations of their choreographer. How about we take a moment to remember the enraged chicken of the Neverland video.

U-KISS - Neverland Dance

But if the industry worked on dancing prowess alone, there would be some serious eyebrows raised over Super Junior’s success. Yes, that is an unveiled stab at Heechul. Possibly Yesung. Definitely Ryeowook.

And on that note …

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[MV] SUPER JUNIOR DONGHAE&EUNHYUK – Oppa, Oppa (Japanese Ver.)

Considering how popular Kyary Pamyu Pamyu seems to be (you have no idea how much this legitimately baffles me) if Japan don’t lap this crap up I will genuinely be surprised.  

I first became acquainted with Oppa Oppa when I saw a fancam of Donghae’s Super Show 4 solo (shockingly—read: obviously—featuring Eunhyuk) on YouTube. I said it then and I’ll say it again now—Oh dear Lord what were they thinking? Despite the copious numbers of WTFs floating around in my head, I still followed each and every one of Donghae&Eunhyuk’s Korean promotions during December last year. The single has since been ported across to Japan so could this be the start of a new Super Junior sub-group? Oh God I hope not. But I kind of do.

All ridiculousness aside, I love this song. Why? I have no convincing answer for you aside from the fact it’s just so stupid it works. That and it’s catchy as hell. I can’t even give the song itself a proper review because I don’t even know where to begin. All I can say is there is no one more perfect in Super Junior for a concept as ridiculous as this. What can I say? Ridiculous works for these two.

D&E 'Oppa Oppa' Screen Cap 01 D&E 'Oppa Oppa' Screencap 02

Watching this video I really feel like I’m looking at deleted scenes from an Austin Powers movie. Undeniably inspired by the disco era, Oppa Oppa features everything you could possibly want in a music video: simple dance steps, catchy chorus and vomit-inducing costumes. How could anyone say no? Obviously I’m taking the piss because everything about this song makes me want to smash my forehead against a brick wall because I feel it lower my IQ with each play through. But considering how popular Kyary Pamyu Pamyu seems to be (you have no idea how much this legitimately baffles me) if Japan don’t lap this crap up I will genuinely be surprised.

Now, you may be getting the wrong impression so I’ll reiterate—I really love this song. I’ve listened to it so many times my IQ is in negative triple digits and I continue to go back for more like a shameless glutton. It’s just so catchy and so much fun I can’t say no and the more ridiculous it seems with each repeat the more appealing it ultimately becomes. The reason being Donghae and Eunhyuk just do not take themselves seriously. I mean,  how could you when you’re rocking out in a car like a gangster?

The brilliant part of this whole project is how successful it was bound to be with very little effort on SM Entertainment’s behalf. Putting Donghae and Eunhyuk together for a side project would draw enough attention on its own due to the undeniable chemistry the two have, which is obviously and quite smartly exploited by SM in this case. But love or hate EunHae no one can rob this song of the credit it deserves in the catchiness factor. Next to Big Bang’s Fantastic Baby, Oppa Oppa certainly ranks as one of the year’s most likely tracks to get stuck in your head for days on end. It has plagued me for months now.

Despite my usual disinterest in Korean-Japanese re-releases Oppa Oppa has transferred quite smoothly and works just as well in both languages. Of course the hook line ‘Oppa Oppa’ was never going to be translated into Japanese (it just wouldn’t work) but as a whole the song seems to have retained its unique character. The words flashing across the screen are certainly a delight because it adds to the overall tackiness of which this PV reeks. But hey, it’s working for them so why not? Though, for the life of me I cannot understand why Tokyo and London were expressed in Japanese while New York and Paris were not.

D&E 'Oppa Oppa' Screencap 04

Considering how badly Shindong wanted to be involved in this song when the duo were promoting in Korea—he even went as far as to make his own MV[1], which for the record had more time invested in it than SM Entertainment’s ‘official’ version—it’s great to see he finally got his wish and made a cameo in the Japanese PV. I’m not entirely sure why Sungmin is there but I’m never sure why Sungmin is anywhere. Can someone please explain/justify his inclusion in Super Junior M for me?

D&E 'Oppa Oppa' Screencap 04

It’s really hard to express how bad this song and PV are while still conveying how good it is. Everything about it is laughable but there is a little something that makes it endearing. Maybe it’s the obvious amount of fun they’ve had promoting this song or maybe it’s simply just down to how catchy it is. Regardless, Oppa Oppa is one song I love just as much as I hate it and I sincerely hope Donghae&Eunhyuk churn out more of these shenanigans for the sole purpose of my amusement.


[1] You can see his version here on SM Town’s official YouTube page.