Tag Archives: big bang

My k-beauty picks: More of the best cushion compacts

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Cushion compacts from Clio, Moonshot, The Face Shop and Tony Moly. SCREAMfmLondon

It’s time for a sequel to my first list of the best Korean cushion compacts! I’m simply enamored with this beauty innovation, and I can’t imagine ever returning to clunky traditional foundations. Korean beauty brands release new formulas and new collaborations regularly, so I’m always experimenting with the next great products.

Here are four more of my favorite cushion compacts:

Clio Kill Cover Liquid Foundation Cushion

This Clio cushion is absolutely amazing if you’re looking for a super full-coverage foundation. The Kill Cover cushion has an incredibly high-coverage formula for such a lightweight compact, and it’s great to work with if you want a really long-lasting, flawless makeup look. This is my go-to cushion for fancy nights on the town because it’s smoothing, moisturizing and brightening, and it really doesn’t require any touchups. Definitely recommended if you like full coverage foundations. You’ll be impressed with Clio’s Kill Cover compact.

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Tony Moly’s Pikachu Mini Cover Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Tony Moly Pikachu Mini Cover Cushion

Pikachu is having a big moment in Korea right now, so you’ll find various Pokémon in all the shops, on all the fashion and in all the beauty products. As I am very easily swayed by adorable packaging, I had to pick up the Pikachu Mini Cover Cushion from Tony Moly’s latest beauty collaboration with Pokémon. The line includes all kinds of Pokémon products, from face masks and cleansers to nail polishes and lip tints. This cushion is smaller than your average compact, so it’s great for on-the-go spot treatment. Although it’s cute, the formula is actually quite decent, and it provides good coverage. But I’m mostly in love with the detailed packaging, including the Poké Ball-shaped applicator sponge.

The Face Shop Oil Control Water Cushion

Speaking of adorable packaging, The Face Shop is also stocking some super cute character compacts at the moment. They have a Disney collaboration featuring a Monsters, Inc. cushion and a Mickey Mouse one, but I’m much more drawn to the darling Kakao Friends collaborations. The Kakao Friends are various characters used as emoticons on the Korean messaging app KakaoTalk. My favorites are Frodo, the dog, and Ryan, the bear. So, I had no choice but to buy this cushion compact featuring one of the best Ryan illustrations (he’s cheering for you amidst a backdrop of confetti!). It’s a light-coverage formula, so it’s best for daytime wear. This particular cushion is designed for oil control and boasts sebum-minimizing powers. But, let’s be real: I bought it for the packaging, and I’d do it again.

Moonshot's Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot’s Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot Microfit Cushion

I briefly touched on this cushion in my review of the moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX. Moonshot is the beauty brand owned by YG Entertainment, Big Bang’s record label, so all of the products are endorsed and modeled by YG artists like G-Dragon and Blackpink. I just dream of having skin as luminous as GD’s, so I am very drawn to this product. I really love the formula, the semi-matte finish and brightness of the Microfit Cushion. My only complaints are with the design: the applicator sponge broke really quickly, and the sponge inside that holds the product has gotten weirdly off-centered. While I’m disappointed with the durability of the compact, I’m still really into the product and will continue to use it.

K-beauty review: moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX

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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.

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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.

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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.

Food: Samgyeopsal, galbi and more Korean BBQ

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Love this delicious samgyeopsal: thick, fatty slices of pork belly cooked on a grill with mushrooms, kimchi and bean sprouts. It is (obviously) one of my favorite meals in Korea. SCREAMfmLondon

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We came to this restaurant near Wangsimni Station to keep the party going after the last Big Bang ‘MADE’ concert. Ordered the samgyeopsal and galbi (marinated beef short ribs). They also carry the (amazingly delicious) pineapple-flavored soju! And we love how they cook egg on the grill inside of a slice of onion. SCREAMfmLondon

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I wrote about this restaurant in my first Korean food post last year, and I still love it just as much! Nothing beats that excellent little omelette that surrounds the grill and cooks alongside your meat. SCREAMfmLondon

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Can you tell that I really love samgyeopsal? This restaurant in Hongdae plays good music, has a serve-yourself counter for side dishes, and hands out free ice cream as you leave. Couldn’t get much better than that. SCREAMfmLondon

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

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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).

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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.

Food: Lamb skewers, fried cheese and more

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A new restaurant just opened up on my street specializing in lamb skewers on a cool rotisserie grill. Fun and delicious! SCREAMfmLondon

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I could not resist the strange fried cheese on a stick while wandering the streets of Myeongdong. It was surprisingly appetizing and mozzarella-y. SCREAMfmLondon

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This summer, YG Entertainment launched its first restaurant. Samgeori Butchers in Hongdae has since been visited by YG artists such as Psy, Big Bang, iKON and Winner. The menu features delicious thick-cut pork served with a variety of tasty dipping sauces, pork fried rice, jjigae and more. SCREAMfmLondon

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Check out this atmospheric, candle-lit burger at Burgeroom181 in Songdo. The selection there is a little lacking, but this was the best “cheese halo” I’ve ever had. It was not, however, the best burger I’ve ever had. It’s a good place for a solid, middle-of-the-road burger. SCREAMfmLondon

PEACEMINUSONE at Seoul Museum of Art

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G-Dragon’s PEACEMINUSONE exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art. Tracy Emin’s neon work appears in the “(NON)Fiction Museum.” SCREAMfmLondon

G-Dragon is a masterful multimedia artist. Not only does he produce some of this generation’s most interesting and cutting-edge pop music as a member of Big Bang and as a solo artist, but he’s also delved into other styles of art. He’s an influential, worldwide fashion icon (he recently collaborated with designer Giuseppe Zanotti to launch a fantastic collection of glitter-covered footwear), and this summer he presented a collaborative, mixed-media exhibition called PEACEMINUSONE at the Seoul Museum of Art.

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Gwon O-sang’s painted sculpture “Untitled G-Dragon, A Space of No Name,” based on Raphael’s “St. Michael Vanquishing Satan,” shows G-Dragon as both St. Michael and Satan. SCREAMfmLondon

The exhibition included G-Dragon’s work alongside pieces from 14 other contemporary artists and teams including Park Hyung-geun and Bang & Lee, whose works ranged from photo illustrations to sculpture installations.

PEACEMINUSONE: Beyond the Stage included a “(NON)Fiction Museum” featuring clothing and accessories G-Dragon designed and wore during memorable performances, furniture from his own collection and other items of inspiration.

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Mannequins from Big Bang’s “Bae Bae” are featured at G-Dragon’s PEACEMINUSONE exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Although evidence of G-Dragon’s pop culture influence was certainly present, it did not overshadow the other artists’ works or GD’s overall vision, which was kind of cerebral. He explained “PEACEMINUSONE” as his vision of the world — the meeting point between peaceful utopia and imperfect reality.

Live-ish: G-Dragon ‘AWAKE’ Hologram Concert

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K-live: the k-pop experience. SCREAMfmLondon

The future is now.

Your watch doubles as a cell phone, cars can drive themselves, and I have appeared onstage as part of a hologram concert.

This is no glitchy “Star Wars”-style hologram, either. This is the real deal. Hologram concerts should be everywhere — this cutting-edge telepresence technology is impressive, interactive and super fun.

K-live, located near the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, is a dedicated k-pop hologram concert hall hosting regular hologram performances from artists including Psy, Big Bang, 2NE1 and, for a limited time, a G-Dragon solo show.

Before the main event, you’re able to mill around K-live and enjoy various interactive stations. There’s a “welcome square” where you can get in a car with Big Bang holograms and, later, dance to “Fantastic Baby” with them. There’s a window where you can ring a doorbell and wait for Psy to appear (if there’s any reason you’d like to do that). There’s a garden from which you can get a great view of Seoul and sip very expensive music-themed drinks. There are bronze handprints where you can compare your gigantic monster hands to the stars’ delicate and dainty ones (I’m about 60 times larger than Park Bom, in case you were wondering).

My favorite is the live photo booth where the life-size hologram of your choice will appear onscreen beside you. Not only will they pose for a photo with you, but they will look right at you and talk to you as well. G-Dragon gave me such a tantalizing once-over in the photo booth that I felt a little flushed moving into the concert hall for the show.

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Such small hands. SCREAMfmLondon

Once the doors are opened, the fans are led into the holograms’ air-conditioned lair, where we first have individual headshots taken. Floor-to-ceiling screens show a variety of different flickering images of G-Dragon, which immediately brings life to the room. There is a designated “standing zone” near the front of the stage as well as some bleacher seating in the back. Both options are awkward, as there are only about nine people in attendance, but we all mostly opt to stand up front.

When the show begins, it’s with a brief film on G-Dragon through the ages: footage shows his baby rapping at age eight (adorable!), his trainee days, the debut of Big Bang, the launch of his solo career. But, still, (the narration tells us) he wonders who he really is… And then he remembers… He’s G-Dragon!

The curtain lifts, and the G-Dragon hologram appears onstage particle-by-particle like he’s traveling by Wonka Vision. When he takes a swipe at the air, his hands appear on screens at either side of the audience. It’s spectacular.

Finally, the hologram becomes completely fleshed-out. It no longer looks like virtual reality — it could really be G-Dragon as he breaks into his first song, “Heartbreaker.”

There are dazzling visuals coming from every angle, costume changes and bubble machines as GD’s hologram powers through a medley of “Crayon” and Big Bang’s hit “Fantastic Baby.” The crowd goes wild! Girls are screaming all around me, and it’s hard to believe that none of this is real.

After “Fantastic Baby,” the energy shifts as GD explores his sensitive side. Onscreen, he rifles through a box of mementos from past loves, including (of course) the photo booth pictures of us, his adoring audience. He flips through them, commenting on a few.

“It’s totally over with you!” he announces about one girl, crumpling up her photo and crushing it underfoot. Beside me, she gasps indignantly.

“I wonder if you still turn red when you drink?” he asks wistfully about another.

Then, oh, god, my photo appears onscreen.

“I really miss you,” he tells me. He flips through more photos — my goofy face photoshopped next to him in romantic embraces. The indignant gasping from the crowd intensifies as GD approaches the telephone and begins to dial.

As I’m watching, I’m grabbed from behind by staff members who escort me swiftly up the stairs toward the back of the stage, where a payphone has suddenly become illuminated. It rings, so I answer it.

“Uh, hello?” I literally say out loud, even though I’m well aware I’m talking to a hologram. Instead of an answer, I see my own image materialize onstage as a hologram. Whoa.

As the opening bars of “Who You?” begin playing, GD walks casually back out onstage, heading straight toward me. Our holograms coexist on the same astral plane, and all is right with the world.

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Doesn’t it look like we exist in the same dimension? But he is a hologram and I am a human — it can never be. SCREAMfmLondon

He proceeds to serenade me — it’s very suave. He even gets down on one knee and reaches for me. The other girls in the audience are panicking, but I’m fully engrossed in My Moment. It’s truly magical. GD’s hologram twirls around me, playfully interacting with my hologram. I’m still standing at the phone booth and, in hologram world, light rain begins to fall as the song comes to a close. GD produces an umbrella from thin air and smoothly pops it open over both of us. Then, he tilts it toward the audience, covering our faces as he leans in for the kill.

I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s just so realistic. Feels just like a real kiss! Who needs space travel? This is the most exciting use of technology I’ve ever seen.

A K-live staffer offers me his hand as I stumble back to my original position in the audience, trembling slightly with adrenaline after my adventure through space and time with G-Dragon.

I’m taking some time to recover when the YG “KRUNK” bear appears in the crowd and starts reeling people in to high five and dance with him. After this brief interlude, KRUNK is whisked backstage and then reappears as a hologram onstage. He removes the head of his bear suit to reveal none other than G-Dragon himself! Natch.

The bear suit dissolves as “Crooked” begins. This performance is the most surreal of them all. They take full advantage of the medium to play with the size and position of GD and his backup dancers, as well as his interaction with the scenery. It’s very cool, and I wish I could live in this hologram wonderland.

It’s a little sad rejoining reality after such a strange, futuristic experience. But on my way out, I’m handed two free tickets to another hologram concert for my participation in the show.

So, maybe I will get to live in hologram wonderland after all…

G-Dragon “AWAKE” Hologram Concert
100-196 9th Floor Lotte Fitin, 264 6-ga Eulji-ro Jung-gu
7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday through July 31
Tickets are 33,000 KRW.
For more information, visit www.klive.co.kr.

Live: Big Bang at Olympic Gymnastics Arena

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Fans arrive at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena to see Big Bang’s first concert of the 2015 MADE World Tour on April 25. SCREAMfmLondon

Approaching Olympic Park in Seoul this weekend was like arriving in Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. The expansive sidewalks were lined with banners billowing in the wind — each one depicting a member of the five-piece K-pop group Big Bang sporting a ridiculous hairstyle. Above them floated giant, luminescent balloons displaying phrases like “빅뱅 IS BACK.” It was magical.

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Big Bang’s official light sticks are so cool until you’re trying to see around them in the crowd. SCREAMfmLondon

The moment had finally arrived for Big Bang’s much-anticipated comeback after about three years of the members focusing on solo work and not releasing any new group material. The momentous occasion was marked with two consecutive concerts at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena on April 25 and 26 — and I attended them both.

The MADE 2015 World Tour dates in Seoul served to usher in a new era for the band. Here’s the plan: Big Bang will release an EP on the first day of each month from May to September of this year (“M,” “A,” “D” and “E”). Each EP will feature two new singles — until September, when the full-length studio album “Made” will finally be released. It’s kind of complicated. I love it.

The first two songs — due to be released May 1 — were introduced at this weekend’s concerts. And they are both killer tracks.

The group presented “Loser” first by screening the official music video, which was filmed just a few weeks ago in downtown Los Angeles. One scene shows G-Dragon sprawling out despondently across Spring Street as the ol’ Metro Rapid lumbers past. Truly a merging of my favorite worlds.

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T.O.P rocking that hairstyle like only he can. SCREAMfmLondon

The video is exactly the kind of music video I love — a classic strung-out, rock ‘n roll aesthetic to match the song’s maudlin theme. Taeyang spray paints messages about sin at a trailer park, Seungri smashes some furniture, Daesung gets his ass kicked out front of a convenience store, T.O.P wears his pajamas outside. It’s perfect, and it perfectly matches the song’s gorgeous lyrics. In the first verse, G-Dragon admits, “Honestly, I’ve never fit in… / Love was already forgotten to me, who was alone. / I’ve had enough of hopeful love songs.”

After screening the video, the band reappeared onstage in a revolving platform of windows and mirrors to perform the song live for the first time. In fact, they performed each of the new songs about three or four times each (if you count some of the a capella bits) both nights, which sounds like it would be annoying but was actually wonderful and super effective in harnessing the excitement for the first EP release. Now I don’t want to listen to anything else. ‘Cause I’m just a loser, loner, a coward who pretends to be strong~

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Seungri in the foreground with T.O.P on the big screen. SCREAMfmLondon

During the live performance, Seungri really sold “Loser,” carrying the chorus and adding emotional flourishes to his act. Seungri’s overall performances really stood out at both of the Seoul concerts. In between “How Gee” and “Feeling,” he appeared onstage with a set of turntables to try his hand at DJing, which was a cool way to introduce yet another style of music to Big Bang’s already eclectic repertoire. Seungri was terribly affable and charming during all of his spoken interludes too, but the real highlight was the unexpectedly sexy dance he delivered during “Strong Baby.” Also, his is the only 2015 Big Bang makeover that doesn’t look kinda stupid.

At the midpoint of the band’s three-hour long concerts, each member took the stage solo to show off their individual strengths.

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G-Dragon, Seungri and Daesung perform in Seoul on April 26. SCREAMfmLondon

T.O.P made an impression with his intense rendition of “Doom Dada” in a Piet Mondrian-print suit. Definitely in the running for best wardrobe change, but slightly edged out by G-Dragon in calf-length fur, combat boots and gold, glittery jackets for his “Good Boy” duet with Taeyang and solo performance of “Crooked.” G-Dragon is an incredible artist, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring to be in his presence while he’s doing his thing. What a joy it is to be in the same universe, the same country, the same room as Kwon Ji-yong.

Following G-Dragon’s solo, the band premiered its second new song, “Bae Bae,” with a lyric video followed again by a live performance. “Bae Bae” is another brilliant track — so different in tone from “Loser” but nonetheless cohesive. It’s a more seductive, R&B-style track with a mellow, guitar-driven chorus. G-Dragon and T.O.P both deliver killer verses (GD’s intonation on each repetition of “bae bae” is so perfect — I don’t know how he does it). My favorite line is GD’s “Is she a person or an angel? / Oh, Jesus, bae bae!”

There was never a low point at either of Big Bang’s two Seoul concerts this weekend. Both shows were exceptional from beginning to end.

For two days, I had the pleasure of spending three uninterrupted hours watching pop music at its absolute best. It’s truly a sight to behold. I feel like I have seen a lot of things, but I have never seen anything like Big Bang. Onstage, they bare it all: the dedication and work ethic, the unique talents of each member, the genuine enjoyment of the craft, the fun-loving energy, the limitless creativity, the catchiest hooks of “Fantastic Baby” and “Stupid Liar,” the powerful range of “Blue” and “Bad Boy,” the outfits, the dancing, the special effects, the thought put into every moment.

You may have seen a lot of things, but you have never seen anything like Big Bang.

Capsule drama reviews: Pinocchio, Nineteen, etc.

‘Mary Stayed Out All Night’ (aka ‘Marry Me, Mary!’)
Starring: Moon Geun-young, Jang Keun-suk and Kim Jae-wook
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 16

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Photo courtesy of ACC Korea.

The bad news first: “Mary Stayed Out All Night” has the worst soundtrack. The show is supposed to be about indie rock, but all of the music is just terrible. The songs keep getting worse as the story progresses. If I had to listen to “My Precious” one more time, I was going to freak out. But the good news: Kang Mu-gyul looks really cute singing them. He looks really cute doing everything. He is the cutest. So I somehow managed to endure the soundtrack — even though that chorus of “She’s Mine” (“My woman, she loves me so very much! / My woman, she says I’m the greatest man she’s ever met!”) continues to haunt me.

The story follows Wi Mae-ri, who is out partying with her friends in Hongdae when she accidentally runs Mu-gyul (the stylish lead singer for a local indie band called Absolute Perfection) over with her car. They decide to get extremely drunk together and become fast friends, as you do when someone runs you over with their car. However, Mae-ri’s horrible deadbeat father has secretly arranged for her to marry a wealthy family friend, Byun Jung-in, and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. So, Mae-ri enlists Mu-gyul’s help to pretend that she is already married — just until her father calls off the nuptials. As you can expect, hijinks ensue.

The first half of “Mary Stayed Out All Night” is much better than the second. I enjoyed the fashion and the bohemian aesthetic; I enjoyed the growing chemistry between Moon Geun-young and Jang Keun-suk; I enjoyed looking at Jang Keun-suk a lot. But the show became more frustrating as it went on: Jung-in was never fully fleshed out as a character, Mae-ri’s father never showed any redeeming qualities, and I was just sick of everybody’s inability to communicate. Ultimately, though, I still thought this was a really good find. But that awful music…

‘Nineteen’
Release Date:
Nov. 12, 2009
Director: Jang Yong-woo
Starring: Choi Seung-hyun, Lee Seung-hyun and Huh E-jae
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated

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Photo courtesy of CJ Entertainment.

“Nineteen” just so perfectly captures what it’s like to be 19 — the first of many years spent in the limbo between childhood and adulthood. It’s beautiful.

The movie focuses on three 19-year-olds from different walks of life. Seo Jung-hoon is kind of a slacker, satisfied with living at his parents’ house and working at a café. Park Min-seo is the meek rich boy who has a hard time interacting with other people and feels like he’s failed to live up to his parents’ expectations by not getting into a top college. Cha Eun-young just lost the hair stylist job she was using to support herself and her terminally ill mother in the hospital. The three of them are brought into the police station for questioning when a mutual acquaintance is found dead. They all feel as though the police aren’t listening and aren’t taking them seriously and are treating them like kids, so they miraculously escape police custody at the same time on go on the run together across South Korea.

It’s a fun adventure, and it’s infinitely relatable. What do you do when you’re on the run from the law? Compete in a rap battle and spend all your money on flamboyant sunglasses? Well, yeah, when you’re 19. It’s a pretty silly movie, but, at the same time, it speaks to the Millennials’ anxieties of growing up and finding a place in the world. And T.O.P performs a couple of goofy raps, so there’s that.

‘Pinocchio’
Starring:
Park Shin-hye, Lee Jong-suk and Kim Young-kwang
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Episodes: 20

pinocchio

I laughed really hard at this scene on the bus. Photo courtesy of iHQ.

“Pinocchio” is a romantic drama with a very heavy-handed overarching message about truth. Sort of like an Ethics in Journalism class with a romantic subplot.

For allegorical purposes, the story takes place in a world where a “Pinocchio syndrome” exists that makes those afflicted hiccup when they lie. Choi Dal-po and Choi In-ha are adopted siblings (more or less) who both aspire to become TV news reporters for different reasons. In-ha — a Pinocchio herself — wants to follow in the footsteps of her estranged mother who has a reputation for being a heartless but powerful news anchor. Dal-po wants to get revenge on the reporter who destroyed his birth family by spreading a sensationalized story that blamed his firefighter father for the deaths of many of his colleagues.

The drawn-out, Hamlet-style revenge-seeking and uncovering of the past was the most intriguing part of “Pinocchio.” The actual romance was neither exciting nor really charming. Although, I do believe I am the only viewer who is in strong opposition to Dal-po and In-ha as the endgame “darling couple.” I was really rooting for Seo Beom-jo —the spoiled rich boy who actually showed tremendous character growth and was one of my favorites throughout. He learned so much, and, although he struggled with it, he was always a good guy at the end of the day. And he was not related to In-ha at all, which is a plus.

‘Flower Boy Ramen Shop’
Starring:
Lee Chung-ah, Jung Il-woo and Lee Ki-woo
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 16

flowerboys

Photo courtesy of tvN.

“Flower Boy Ramen Shop” is part one of the three-part “flower boy” series of dramas that also includes “Shut Up Flower Boy Band” and “Flower Boys Next Door.” This one is okay. I wasn’t that into it, but then I began to find Jung Il-woo very endearing, so I had to finish it.

It takes a while to even get to the ramen. At first, Yang Eun-bi is studying to become a teacher, but she quits after her father dies and leaves his ramen shop to her and some mysterious narcoleptic stranger he apparently wanted her to marry. Which she figures is just as well because teaching was getting weird considering the strange affair she was carrying on with one of her high school students, Cha Chi-soo, who is also (naturally) an extremely wealthy heir whose family controls the school. At the ramen shop, she and the creepy stranger who inserts himself into her life take a group of cute misfits from the high school under their wing to revamp the restaurant’s image.

First of all, I find it very annoying that Eun-bi just lets Choi Kang-hyuk burst into her life and make himself at home, despite all of the Very Binding Legal Documents That Are Clearly Written In Crayon he produces to prove his ownership. It’s not a very well-made drama, the acting isn’t that great, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Nonetheless, I guess I must be a sucker for cute rich boys learning the harsh realities of the world or something, because I still really wanted to observe Chi-soo’s personal growth and ensure that he and Eun-bi lived happily ever after.

What’s in my DramaFever queue this month?

‘Boys Over Flowers’
Starring: Ku Hye-sun, Lee Min-ho and Kim Hyun-joong
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Episodes: 25

boysoverflowers

Photo courtesy of Group 8.

“Boys Over Flowers” is probably the perfect introductory drama — it is so extra.

The story follows Jan-di, a plucky girl from a working class family who receives a scholarship to attend the exclusive Shinhwa High School, which is populated primarily by rich assholes. She faces some of the most hardcore bullying I’ve ever seen depicted on screen (the kids light her bike on fire!). The most fearsome of the students are the F4 clique: Jun-pyo (the gorgeous heir to the Shinhwa fortune who owns a surplus of fabulous coats), Ji-hoo (the insufferable Nice Guy™ who cries while playing the violin alone in the woods), Yi-jung (the playboy who is popular at school because he’s such a great potter) and Woo-bin (I’m not even sure what his story is, but I’ve grown fond of his silly hats and random usage of English slang).

Obviously, all of the cute rich boys begin fighting over Jan-di’s affections, and there is a life-or-death situation in every episode. People are getting chloroformed and kidnapped left and right. It’s truly wild.

There are a lot of complaints that could be lodged about “Boys Over Flowers,” and I had to read some spoilers to make sure the ending wasn’t going to piss me off, but it’s just so over-the-top ridiculous I can’t help being hooked.

‘Commitment’
Release Date:
Dec. 6, 2013
Director: Park Hong-soo
Starring: Choi Seung-hyun, Han Ye-ri and Kim Yoo-jung
Genre: Action, Drama
Rating: Not Rated

top-school-desk

Photo courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

This is cheating because “Commitment” isn’t even on DreamaFever, it’s on Netflix. But I’m going to talk about it anyway.

Myung-hoon is a North Korean teenager who has to go undercover as a spy in South Korea in order to save his younger sister from the labor camp where they’ve both been imprisoned after their father’s death. It’s a fairly lengthy and involved film (and it involves some knowledge of the politics revolving around the Korean War), but it is surprisingly captivating throughout with a handful of sweet, action-packed fight scenes.

To be honest, I mostly wanted to watch “Commitment” as an excuse to spend two hours gazing adoringly at Choi Seung-hyun (better known as T.O.P, a rapper and member of the boyband Big Bang). He’s painfully attractive, and a talented actor to boot, so it’s time well spent.

‘Absolute Boyfriend’ (aka ‘Absolute Darling’)
Starring:
Ku Hye-sun, Jiro Wang and Kun Da
Genre: Romance
Episodes: 20

absoluteboyfriend

Photo courtesy of GTV.

“Absolute Boyfriend” is a Taiwanese adaptation of a Japanese manga novel, but it stars a Korean actress, Ku Hye-sun, and dubs over her dialogue. It’s really weird.

That aside, the show is about a single woman, Xiao Fei, who ends up purchasing a robot boyfriend from an eccentric salesman through a strange sequence of events. Once she receives her order, she feels uncomfortable about it, but it’s too late! To make matters worse, the arrival of the robot boyfriend dredges up all the hidden feelings her neighbor and best friend, Zong Shi, has for her, and he starts spilling his guts all over the place. Eventually, the robot begins to develop human emotions as well, putting a hitch in the plans. He is played by Taiwanese boybander Jiro Wang, who is completely perfect as the lovable galoot with a rockin’ body, and I could totally go for one of my own, if anybody wants to hook it up.

The show starts off light-hearted and silly, but it really takes a dark turn somewhere in the middle. There is a lot of implied sexual assault and rape that I was not prepared for or expecting (again, people keep getting drugged and kidnapped!). I found it so disturbing I had to take a break from watching the show for a while. Once I resumed, the episodes became increasingly sad as they neared the ending. This is not what I thought I was signing up for — I’m glad to have finally finished “Absolute Boyfriend” and gotten it out of my life.

‘High School – Love On’
Starring: Kim Sae-ron, Nam Woo-hyun and Lee Sung-yeol
Genre: Romance, Supernatural
Episodes: 20

highschool

Photo courtesy of KBS2.

“High School – Love On” is the best show of this bunch, and I am fully obsessed.

It’s another romantic teen melodrama — albeit a lot more realistic than something like “Boys Over Flowers” — with a fantasy twist. Seul-bi is an angel of death who suddenly takes a human form after accidentally saving the life of a high school student, Woo-hyun. Once she’s stuck among the humans, she has to decide if she wants to return to her world or stick it out in high school and give mortal romance a shot.

All of the characters are well-rounded and interesting, from the school bullies to the kids’ parents and teachers to the other angels who appear throughout. The main love triangle is possibly the best I’ve ever seen on television, as I’m equally invested in all three characters and love the unique dynamic between each pairing. Woo-hyun and Sung-yeol are such compelling frenemies and have amazing chemistry — probably because the actors playing them are Nam Woo-hyun and Lee Sung-yeol, two members of the boyband Infinite. I’m rooting for them to all end up together in polyamorous happiness.

So far, I am really adoring “High School – Love On,” and I can’t wait to see the drama continue to unfold. Thankfully, I don’t have a life, and watching dramas is all I do anymore.