Category Archives: Music

I recorded a k-pop song at King Studio in Gangnam

The next big thing in k-pop: me. SCREAMfmLondon

“I’m not good at singing,” I whispered into the microphone.

“I know,” came the engineer’s frank reply through my headphones. My self-deprecating cackle resounded through the recording booth.

Last weekend, I visited the King Studio in Gangnam — a professional recording studio where Korean stars like VIXX, Seo In-guk and Apink’s Jung Eun-ji have recorded music — for my own solo recording session.

Now, I’m pretty far from being a k-pop star myself. One main obstacle I tend to encounter is that I have no talent. But don’t worry! For a price, anything is possible.

At King Studio, customers can choose any song they’d like to record, and the staff will prepare your debut single for as low as 78,000 KRW. And the staff is phenomenal. The engineer is exactly the kind of tough-love vocal coach I dream about having in my fantasies starring me as a JYP trainee. They put forth incredible effort to make nervous customers feel at ease and offer all the guidance you need to nail your track.

For some totally absurd reason, I chose to sing “Spring Day” by BTS, which would have been difficult even if I had singing talent.

I know!

But you have to let King Studio know your song choice ahead of time so they can prepare for your recording session. I spent the day and a half I had before my scheduled time practicing the two rapped verses at 50 percent speed and slowly working my way up until I was able to kind of proudly and kind of confidently rap along with the original song. I didn’t practice the singing bits at all.

I know!

Great place to give yourself a pep talk before recording at King Studio in Gangnam. SCREAMfmLondon

When I finally arrived at King Studio, I was given a short tour of the cozy basement space. They took some photos and videos of me fixing my hair in the vanity mirror and admiring the framed album art that hung on the walls.

Before recording, they gave me a chance to listen to the music they’d prepared for me and to peruse the lyrics. I was shaking when I entered the booth, pulled on my headphones and began to rap.

Unfortunately, despite all my preparedness, I struggled a lot with the first verse. I had a hard time keeping up with the song’s rhythm, and as a non-native speaker, I stumbled over quite a few of the Korean words. And this was the rap! The slower rap of the two! It bummed me out that I wasn’t totally killing it as I’d envisioned.

And then it was time to sing. Until that very moment, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d actually have to try to hit the actual notes in the song. I’d always just sung it jokingly in a weird kind of monotonous baritone.

But — bless their hearts — the lovely King Studio staff was totally patient with me and didn’t even recoil in horror that much. They kindly coached me and praised me when I tried harder. It wasn’t long until we’d grown comfortable with each other and understood the best methods for working together.

My wonderful sound engineer hard at work at King Studio. SCREAMfmLondon

By the time I reached the second rap, I was feeling way more confident. And I didn’t really kill it (like, AOMG isn’t going to be knocking on my door any time soon), but I definitely maimed it, at least.

“Wow!” the engineer exclaimed after I finished spitting my sick verse.

“Yeah, I practiced a lot.”

“I can tell.”

“Only this part.”

“I can tell.”

After that, I felt much more at ease in the studio. We worked in the booth for about an hour and a half, until it was starting to get really hot in there and not just because of my fire Korean rapping skills. They kept playing the track back to me to see if I was happy with it, and I kept trying not to cringe and/or laugh hysterically at my terrible pronunciation and tuneless voice.

But it was so much fun! I had the best time, and I didn’t want to leave. Forget a single — I want to record a whole EP!

This is where the magic happens at King Studio. SCREAMfmLondon

After my recording session was finished, they did a quick interview with me and took a few more photos for their Facebook page (where, by the way, you can listen to the first line of my song, which is the most of that song I’ll ever play for anyone ever).

King Studio was such a blast, and now that I’ve tried it, I’d really love to go back. I’d love to go back and choose a different song. A much easier song. But, hey, no regrets! You’re only an idol trainee once.

For more information on King Studio, visit www.kingstudio.asia, or check out www.onemoretrip.net for booking information.

Learn k-pop dance at Dancejoa in Los Angeles

dancejoa

Dancejoa studio in Koreatown, Los Angeles. SCREAMfmLondon

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that Dancejoa is one of the best things about living in LA. I only wish I had found out about the studio sooner!

It all started when I determinedly decided that I was absolutely going to learn the choreography for G-Dragon and Taeyang’s song “Good Boy.” I did learn it (eventually), but I also learned that dance is perhaps my secret passion in life, and I haven’t quite been the same since. I’ve logged a lot of hours at the studio in the ensuing years, and I like to think I’ve come a long way since I stumbled through my first dance cover video with Dancejoa LA several beats behind everyone else the entire time.


Yireh is an excellent teacher with amazing dancing talent and style. She makes everything look cool and effortless (even when I, myself, am dying and sweating profusely). But most importantly, she is a really effective teacher. Actually, Yireh is one of the best dance teachers I’ve ever had — she breaks everything down so well and teaches so clearly that I never feel confused or left behind even during difficult choreography. The classes are so well-organized and well-run. It’s really a pleasure to attend Dancejoa.

The schedule is also very well thought-out. There are two classes on Tuesdays, two on Thursdays and two on Saturdays. On the weekdays, it’s usually a one-hour girl group dance followed by a one-hour boy group dance. The Saturday classes are a bit longer (one and a half hours) and consist of one k-pop dance and one hip-hop routine.

The songs are broken down and taught in sections spread out over the course of a month so you can learn the entire choreography, which I love!!! You feel so accomplished after learning an entire full-length song. And having four weeks to work on it gives you enough time to digest the lessons and practice at home before coming back to add more.

I also love having so many varied dances to choose from. If you like cutesy Twice dances, they’ve got ’em! If you like super-intricate EXO dances, they’ve got ’em! If you like badass hip-hop dances, they’ve got that too! And if you like it all, you can just come learn everything. The schedule is posted in advance on Facebook.


Last year, Dancejoa moved to a new location. It’s easy to find and has its own (very small) parking lot out back. Some of the classes get quite crowded, so I’d recommend coming early to make sure you can find parking (but what else is new, LA?). There’s also a weird random wall in the middle of the studio that limits the space a lot, but Yireh is great about moving around so everyone can see and splitting big classes into groups so everyone has a good chance to practice.

I really can’t recommend Dancejoa enough. I’ve discovered a love for dance that I didn’t realize I had, and it’s made such a big difference in my life. Thanks, Dancejoa!

Students practicing GD and TOP's "Zutter" choreography at Dancejoa in LA. SCREAMfmLondon

Students practicing GD and T.O.P’s “Zutter” choreography at Dancejoa in LA. SCREAMfmLondon

Dancejoa Dance Studio
3859 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, Calif.
For more information, visit www.dancejoa.com.

K-beauty review: moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX

20160826_175310-1

YG Entertainment’s cosmetics brand Moonshot presents its special Lucky Box event for Big Bang’s 10th anniversary. SCREAMfmLondon

As K-pop’s greatest boyband, Big Bang, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, its label, YG Entertainment, has pulled out all the stops so fans can make the most of the occasion. From concerts and an art exhibition to an in-theater movie and a line of makeup and skincare products, there is no end to the festivities.

I picked up the moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX for 70,000 KRW (about $62.70) at the BIGBANG10 concert in Seoul. The box features about six products from the cosmetics brand Moonshot (also owned by YG Entertainment) that are advertised by Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE2’s Dara. Here is my rundown of the box’s contents:

All in One Moisturizer ($21.40)

First of all, this is a men’s product intended to keep your face soothed and moisturized after shaving your beard. Although this is not a problem I really have, I’m sure I’ll get some use out of this product anyway. It’s supposed to contain the qualities of a toner, lotion and an essence combined, and it’s said to even out the skin tone. If I never use it, at least I’ll have it on hand in case GD wants to spend the night.

Moonshot's Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot’s Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Microfit Cushion SPF 50+ PA+++ ($23.05)

This product is one I really love! It’s a layerable foundation with a light formula, and it really creates a smooth, poreless look. The Microfit cushion has become my go-to cushion compact for traveling and for going out. It makes the skin look flawless, and I really highly recommend it.

20160826_175633-1

Moonshot Cream Paint in 104 Pink Punch. SCREAMfmLondon

Cream Paint ($20.58)

This cream paint is a multipurpose lip and cheek tint with a creamy texture and a powdery finish. I received the cream paint in color no. 104, pink punch, which is a bright magenta color that I quite like. I don’t normally wear lip or cheek products, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to experiment with this one and see how it turns out for me.

Line Performer Pencil ($14.82)

This is a waterproof pencil eyeliner that I received in color no. 01, deep black. Most intriguing is the included blending applicator and sharpener. This pencil is supposed to be great for both smokey eyes and sharp cat eyes, but I’ve pretty much transitioned to exclusively using eyeliner pens, so I haven’t taken the time to try this out yet.

20160826_175953

G-Dragon’s signature scent by Moonshot: GD Eu De Toilette. SCREAMfmLondon

GD Eu De Toilette (65,000 // ~$58.22)

The Lucky Box came with a small sample of G-Dragon’s signature scent, but I actually purchased the full-size, 50 mL thing because I really dig the scent. It’s advertised as a unisex fragrance, so it’s a bit more subtle. A breakdown of the perfume shows three different groups of scent: the top layer being grapefruit, lemon, tangerine and cottonwood; the middle layer is sage, seaweed, jasmine and bamboo; and the base layer is ambrette, cedarwood, musk and patchouli. I really enjoy this fragrance, and I’m really happy with the purchase. It doesn’t even give me a headache after wearing it for a while — the true test of any perfume.

Multi Protection UV Bouncer ($28.81)

This is kind of a base product that moisturizes the skin while providing protection from UV rays. It can be used as a primer under foundation, and the gelly formula can be cooling, soothing and refreshing. I imagine this would be a nice product to use during the heat of the summer, but as it’s moving into fall now, maybe it’ll have to wait until next year.

Everything Else

The rest of the Lucky Box is filled with postcards and pictures of GD and Sandara Park, Moonshot’s two main YG models, as well as a commemorative BIGBANG10 sticker. Some Lucky Boxes allegedly contained signed Big Bang CDs or tickets to the art exhibit, but I had no such luck. All-in-all, I’m happy with my Lucky Box and I’m glad I had the opportunity to pick one up and participate in all the Big Bang 10th anniversary madness. Keep it coming, YG. I’ll probably buy anything G-Dragon is trying to sell me.

Live: WAPOP [Collaboration of K-Drama and K-Pop]

20160630_200913

Dance performance team Blue Whale Brothers performs in the WAPOP concert at Children’s Grand Park. SCREAMfmLondon

When a friend offered me free tickets to a “k-drama k-pop concert thing” called WAPOP, I, of course, just had to go see the live combination of these forms of entertainment.

WAPOP is an ongoing event that takes place at 8 p.m. every single Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The name comes from some strange combination of “Wow Pop” and “World & Asia,” and the event is clearly marketed toward tourists specifically from China. The website is offered in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, but a lot of the pre-show content deals with the relationship between South Korea and China, and a lot of the dialogue is in Mandarin.

The performers change from night to night, but the current players frequently include 24K (my favorite rookie group from last year’s Dream Concert!), A.Cian (my favorite rookie group from this year’s Dream Concert!), Bloomy and Minx.

In addition to the k-pop concert, WAPOP also offers live k-drama performances, b-boy dancing, and wild laser light tricks. The whole thing is virtually hosted by actor Lee Byung-hun, who escorts the audience on a train ride through space and time via incredibly deluxe 260-degree panorama video projection.

20160630_204515

The duo Meivley performs a song from the original soundtrack of the popular drama “Descendants of the Sun.” SCREAMfmLondon

When I imagined “live k-drama,” I basically just figured they’d show an episode of “Boys Over Flowers” on the big screen and be done with it. However, the k-drama bits are, in fact, very cool. The big screen is used to show key scenes from popular shows like “My Love From Another Star” and “Descendants of the Sun” while live musicians and dancers perform dramatic scenes on the stage.

When Lee Byung-hun first drops us off in the Joseon Dynasty for some Korean culture, the historical drama is augmented with hip-hop dancing to the tune of a traditional Korean stringed instrument, the gayaguem. The k-drama scenes make great use of the stage and the theater’s technology.

20160630_205555

Minx performs T-ara’s “Roly Poly” onstage at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

In between each k-drama performance, a different rookie idol group takes the stage to perform a few songs — usually two original songs and one cover.

On the night I attended, girl group Bloomy performed first, introducing original songs “흥칫뿡” and “Because of You,” which are both surprisingly excellent. The group is really new (they debuted in February), but the performance was legit. The second girl group, Minx, was less impressive, but they performed a fun cover of T-ara’s hit song “Roly Poly,” so that was something.

A.Cian, the only boy group that night, closed the event. I remember loving their catchy single “Touch” the last time I saw them live, and they delivered again at the WAPOP concert. Their dancing is over-the-top cute, their outfits are over-the-top stupid, and they are overflowing with fanservice. The perfect combination. They, naturally, closed the show with a cover of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” because that’s what you do when you’re targeting an audience of tourists.

20160630_210139-1

A.Cian performs their single “Touch” at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

I actually really enjoyed the whole show, and I ended up downloading both A.Cian’s and Bloomy’s albums when I got home. Loved it and would totally do it again.

That being said, I have no idea who the hell would pay $70 for this experience. There are a million opportunities to see huge k-pop stars perform for free. So why would anyone pay this price to see some random rookie acts perform two songs alongside a video projection of Lee Byung-hun? If they sell any tickets at all, that blows my mind.

But WAPOP is a cool experience, really. I would pay, like… five bucks to see it again.

WAPOP
238 Neungdong-ro Gwangjin-gu
8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Tickets range from 50,000 to 70,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.wapophall.com.

Live: Big Bang ‘MADE’ World Tour Final in Seoul

2016-03-07_21.29.22

G-Dragon performs onstage at Big Bang’s MADE World Tour final concert in Seoul on March 6. SCREAMfmLondon

Last year, I saw the first two concerts of Big Bang’s MADE World Tour, where the group introduced the first singles from the “MADE” album series. Over the past few months, Big Bang’s “MADE” songs have dominated the charts and racked up awards while the band has performed a record-breaking tour around the world (the biggest k-pop show held in Canada, the largest k-pop arena tour in the US, the largest crowd a foreign artist has drawn in Japan).

On Sunday, March 6, Big Bang officially performed the final MADE concert back home at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul. The final show (the last of three Seoul concerts this weekend) was livestreamed worldwide and reached more than 3 million viewers. For those of us in town, the sold-out shows inspired fans to queue for hours in the pouring rain hoping for last-minute tickets (yes, including me, hello).

2016-03-07_21.30.07

Taeyang performs at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul on March 6. SCREAMfmLondon

The show opened and closed with a bang — three, to be precise. “Bang Bang Bang” was the unofficial song of 2015, sweeping year-end awards and blowing everyone’s minds with its powerful chorus, extraordinary lyrics, and ultra-catchy dance beats. The song’s best lines set the tone for the night’s atmosphere: “Today, this place is lawless. / I’ll set this place on fire to burn up your heart. / I wanna make you go crazy.” Let’s go!

Throughout the night, Big Bang powered through the majority of their “MADE” hits including “Sober” (during which the band members donned fabulous glittery jackets of varying styles), the heart-breaking ballad “If You,” and “Zutter,” the amazing hip-hop duet featuring G-Dragon and T.O.P. Last April, Big Bang introduced “Bae Bae” and “Loser,” the tracks from the first “MADE” EP, at the Seoul concerts. This time around, the group performed “Bae Bae” twice, and fans throughout the arena held up signs proclaiming “Big Bang is my everything.”

The band members treated Korean fans to their usual solo stages as well as some additional silliness. Seungri performed a dance to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” and self-proclaimed dance god/ghost T.O.P also really cut a rug in the strangest manner possible. GD sprawled out on the stage in front of me, cuddled with a stuffed panda, and then descended into the audience to cause some pandemonium — to our utter delight. The Big Bang members are ceaselessly charming and brimming with talent. There is a reason hundreds of us huddled under our umbrellas all day for the chance to see them live.

As the show wound to a close, we were all sad to see the end approaching. In addition to concluding the MADE World Tour, these shows also marked the 10th anniversary of the band’s debut in 2006. Before leaving the stage, Big Bang announced plans to hold a 10th anniversary festival this summer, earning shrieks of joy from fans who have been worried about the band’s future as the time for the members to enlist for their mandatory military service draws closer.

Finally, the band showed off their ten years of experience and expertise with an encore of “Bang Bang Bang” as well as the seminal 2012 hit “Fantastic Baby.” As always, Big Bang is a sight to behold. I fully intend to be there for the day-long anniversary festival this summer, and wherever the road takes them after that. After all, Big Bang is my everything.

Live: Epik High and JYP (separately, of course)

2015-12-13_14.22.14

Epik High appears onstage at Olympic Hall in Seoul on Dec. 12. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite hip-hop trio Epik High played two high-profile shows at Olympic Hall in Seoul on Dec. 11 and 12 as the final stops of the “Legends 3” concert series. The concert teasers featured Epik High’s Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz hilariously parodying old-school k-pop groups, as well as the heads of SM, YG and JYP Entertainment. And they kept the joke going throughout the concert — Tukutz even bravely came out onstage wearing JYP’s infamous plastic pants. It was one hell of an entertaining show.

The two concerts featured a wide array of guest artists. On the night I attended, performers included JYJ’s Junsu, Nell’s Kim Jong-wan, and Younha, among others. Junsu performed three songs: “OeO,” “Flower,” and a really boring one from the musical “Dracula” that he stars in. The band members’ families were also in attendance, including Tablo’s daughter Haru who appears alongside him on the reality show “The Return of Superman” and has become a celebrity in her own right. At one point, Tablo suddenly appeared beside me in the crowd, rapping his lines as he made his way over to Haru to have her scream into the microphone for him. But the best moments were, obviously, Epik High’s excellent live performances of songs like “Don’t Hate Me,” “New Beautiful,” “Born Hater” and “Burj Khalifa.” My high is epik. So good.

2015-12-06_20.37.20

The first stop on JYP’s Naughty Party “STRIP” was Incheon’s Samsan World Gymnasium on Dec. 5. SCREAMfmLondon

JYP’s Naughty Party “STRIP” show certainly lived up to its name. I don’t know what I was expecting. I definitely was not expecting it to be 44-year-old Park Jin-young himself who was stripping, but hey. I had never before seen anyone take off all their clothes in the middle of a passionate piano solo — only you, JYP.

The concert featured songs spanning the musician/producer/CEO/lecher’s 23-year-long music career, including his most recent hits, “Who’s Your Mama?” and “I’m So Sexy,” as well as a cover of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.” JYP danced impressively and was reasonably entertaining. In between songs, he presented several scenes inspired by “Fifty Shades of Grey,” including one in which he simulates sex with a woman in an elevator and another in which he’s handcuffed inside a metal cell with a dominatrix. At one point, he called a couple from the audience to join him onstage, tied them to two separate beds and grinded all up on the woman while her boyfriend was seduced by backup dancers. I was pretty scandalized, and I don’t think I’ll ever get that image of topless JYP out of my mind. Thanks a lot.

SMTown: Getting a 3D print with a k-pop star

IMG_20150831_151918

The future is now: my 3D print with Key from SHINee (featuring a photobomb from cardboard Infinite). SCREAMfmLondon

This is absolutely one of the coolest souvenirs imaginable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: k-pop is truly on the next level. The k-pop fan’s experience is unparalleled. With hologram concerts of the biggest stars and 3D-printed statuettes of fans standing with their favorite idols, it does not get any better than this.

SMTown Theatre: 3D Printing

SMTown at COEX Artium’s sixth floor houses the 3D printing theater, where fans can buy tiny, keychain-sized likenesses of SM artists or go all out with a sizable print of themselves posing proudly beside their idol of choice.

The full-size, unique figurine with an SM artist costs 625,000 KRW (that’s about $550 USD). The price is pretty fair — most places that sell 3D prints will charge around $300 for one person. It’s definitely well worth the cost to have such an incredible memento of this moment in your life while you’re still young, cute and really into boybands.

20150830_172934

3D prints of the artists on SMTown at COEX Artium’s sixth floor. SCREAMfmLondon

First, you select your favorite k-pop star and the appropriate pose. I picked Key from SHINee — a controversial choice, apparently, as the staff gave me incredulous looks, repeating, “Key? Are you sure? …Key?” throughout the process.

But I think he was the perfect choice. Of all the SM artists, I feel like Key and I are an excellent match and could totally be friends. Like, we’d really get along well and could probably watch RuPaul’s Drag Race together. Beauty fades, but that kind of spiritual connection is forever.

20150830_220410-1

Best friends forever. SCREAMfmLondon

I wanted a pose where we were interacting somehow, but I couldn’t imagine us standing in a romantic embrace with his arms around me. Plus, they had to digitally alter him so he was tall enough (“I think you are… bigger than him,” a staff member said, very delicately. “Do you want us to make him taller? Or the same size?”). We finally decided to loop one of my arms through his as he stood casually with one hand in his jeans pocket.

Next, I was led to a green screen studio where I had to hold my pose, arm crooked awkwardly in the air, while they scanned my entire body with a kind of radar and snapped several close-up photos of the details like my face and hair.

As I was scanned, the three-dimensional image materialized on a computer screen at the front of the room. This part actually turned out to be a huge hassle because the print on my dress did not scan well on the first try. I had to change my (meticulously-selected for the occasion!!) outfit to something with bright, solid colors and come back to be scanned a second time.

20150830_214524

Before the big reveal. SCREAMfmLondon

After the scanning, it takes about two weeks for the product to be printed, painted and finished. It was carefully packaged and presented with a weird little Polaroid of Ki-bum and myself outside on the patio that I now have framed on my desk because what else do you do with that?

The finished product is amazing. It’s one of the best things I own. It’s so strange to be able to hold myself in action figure form and inspect it from every angle. It’s surreal, and I love it. I will treasure it for the rest of my life. It will be passed down for generations, until the kids are asking, “Who’s that random cute guy standing with grandma?” It will be my legacy.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Café here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s Studio and professional k-pop dance class here.