The MBC K-pop event: HyunA and Queen will shine; EXO K have nothing to lose

The MBC K-pop and culture showcase at the indigO2 sold out in around 3 hours. For those who didn’t get tickets, what are we missing out on? Here’s LKL’s predictions:

The headline acts

4Minute

Cube Entertainment’s girl band 4Minute came to London last year for the United Cube concert in Brixton. In hindsight, I think I was slightly harsh on their performance. It’s tough singing live when you’re also leaping around energetically, and last December 4Minute weren’t pitch-perfect. But after the event, it was the songs by 4Minute which were sticking in my brain as much as those by BEAST, with solo act G.Na not getting a look-in despite giving a more polished performance than the bands on the night. Here’s Heart to Heart, in a slightly more ponderous version than you get on their recorded album 4 Minutes Left:

EXO K

At the United Cube concert last year it was boy band BEAST who stole the show. BEAST had been around for two years prior to their London appearance – their debut release was in October 2009. There are those who are thinking that it will be EXO K who will be the stars of the show this time. But EXO K’s dubut single MAMA (video below, beware the long intro) was released only three months ago, in April, so the first question to be asked is whether the tough training from their creators SM Entertainment will enable them to shine given their rookie status. My other reservation about EXO K is whether their songs are good enough. There’s no question that they have the moves, but we haven’t heard a good tune from them yet, and they’ll have a tough time if we’re expecting something as good as BEAST’s Fact and Fiction from them.

Norazo

This duo act from LOEN Entertainment is the wild card. Known for their clever lyrics (which might fall flat in front of a non-Korean audience) and quirky looks (which work well in their videos, but which might be difficult to get across live) Norazo are the most interesting of the three MBC acts billed as K-pop. I hope the on-stage production team come up with some magic to present this act to their best advantage.

Their song “Curry” (video below, another long intro) was included at #8 of the “21 Greatest K-Pop Songs of All Time” – a somewhat offbeat selection from Spin magazine

K-Culture beyond K-Pop

So if K-pop is what’s getting the punters through the doors, what else is on the programme?

Queen

We’ve seen gugak fusion band Sorea in London before – their aim is to bring traditional instruments to a pop music audience, presenting new pop-inspired compositions. We’ve also seen the Sookmyung Kayageum Orchestra, who focus on arranging western popular music for the Korean instrument. Queen, according to the publicity, follow a third route: they “will be presenting a completely unique harmony of music combining traditional, Korean melodies with classical composition. Their spectacular stage performance includes a variety of customary instruments such as haegum, daegum, electric violin and gayagum as well as vocals performing traditional narrative song.”

Their music is not readily available on YouTube, but the pitch sounds interesting, and their set could actually be the musical highlight of the evening. The challenge for the production team will be to make their tracks visually interesting: you can’t leap around when you’re playing kayageum. Sorea have in the past solved this problem by appearing on-stage with b-boys. Let’s wait to see how Queen addresses the issue.

QUEEN

Park Sul-nyeo

Hanbok designer Park Sul-nyeo shot to fame a couple of years ago when photos of her fashion show, shot in the COEX Aquarium, circulated round world media outlets. I can’t see how a stage fashion show can cap that, but we’re sure to get a riot of colour.
Hanbok by Park Sul-nyeo in the COEX Aquarium

Some time during the evening will be a performance from the K-POP cover dance Europe champion team.

My overall prediction for the highlights of the evening? Queen will bring musical quality, while 4Minute, with their back catalogue of tuneful, energetic numbers and three year track record, will be the mainstay of the show. And if former Wonder Girl HyunA is let loose to sing her Bubble Pop again, that will be the standout moment. But maybe EXO K will sweep everything before them. It’s always good to have a surprise, and LKL hopes to bring a report of the event sometime next week.

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