Tag Archives: music

A complete and thorough guide to BTS’s ‘오,늘’ Exhibition

BTS’s 2018 exhibition, ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ at Ara Art Center in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Sunday was an emotional rollercoaster.

After getting my phone stolen on Saturday night, I spent the morning checking in at the police station (2 hours), trying to dance away my pain in the studio (2 hours), then navigating the task of buying and activating a new phone (1.5 hours).

Finally, it was time to see my spot of brightness in this dreary world: the seven boys of BTS. Using a map the police had graciously drawn for me on a Post-it, I found my way to the ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ exhibition at Ara Art Center. But the adventure didn’t end there! Without a phone to show my booking confirmation, I had to beg and plead to be let into the exhibit.

When the staff eventually took pity on me and allowed me to enter, they told me not to worry about the phone and “just enjoy your BTS!”

Honestly, what would we do without them?

“Past the end of this cold winter / Until the spring comes again / Until the flowers bloom again / Stay there a little longer,” soothes BTS in 2017’s “Spring Day.” SCREAMfmLondon

Guides are available in multiple languages to help visitors work their way through the ambitious, four-floor exhibit. On the first page of the guide is a romantic inscription: “In the middle of this vast ocean / I sing for someone who will listen to my voice / In the middle of this vast ocean / I hear a song that comforts me / A story we build together, you and I.”

The first rooms, entitled “BTS BEGINS” and “DOPE,” feature golden discs engraved to depict each member’s unique personality and then some beautiful portraits of the beautiful boys themselves.

Jimin, Jin and J-Hope as seen in the “DOPE” room at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Next comes the “MIC Drop” room, which contains photos of BTS’s significant wins on award shows, from their first Korean music shows to recent achievements abroad like the Billboard Music Awards.

The “MIC Drop” room at BTS’s ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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Then a mirrored hallway leads you to “Young Forever,” one of many rooms filled with never-before-seen photos of BTS throughout the years. You’re not supposed to take pictures in there, so I didn’t, but other people definitely did, so I’m sure they’re all online somewhere by now.

This is one of the most crowded rooms, and it’s hot in there, too. In here, I felt like the chaperone of a school field trip, peering over the shoulders of young fans all giggling over how cute Jimin is in the pictures (which he is, of course).

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Next up is the “BANGTAN ROOM,” partially made up to look like the boys’ old studio spaces with computer monitors, equipment, polaroid photos and other personal touches.

Computer monitors looping through old videos in the “BANGTAN ROOM” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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I tried so hard to take a picture of Namjoon’s cute little “Give Up” tomato sculpture lamps from behind the glass, but the glare was too real.

These little lamps were created by Case Studyo based on Dutch artist Parra’s original fiberglass sculpture “Give Up.” I love them, and I love Namjoon’s aesthetic, and I love Namjoon. SCREAMfmLondon

Lyrics from BTS’s “Whalien 52.” SCREAMfmLondon

This nearly wraps up the first floor of the exhibit. The next stop is “We On,” which is absolutely one of the coolest parts of the whole thing, bringing to life several of BTS’s most memorable music videos and allowing fans to step into the sets and be a part of their worlds.First comes the set from “I Need U,” featuring the bathtub scene where we see Jimin in the video, as well as some doodles added by the boys upon their visit to the exhibit.

Jimin in “I Need U.” Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The “I Need U” set at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Namjoon drawing his BT21 character Koya on the bathroom walls at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

Then there’s me! SCREAMfmLondon

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Across from this are the blue train cars also featured in “I Need U.”

BTS in “I Need U.” Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The “I Need U” set at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The next set is from the “Spring Day” music video: the Omelas hotel, a reference to Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” about a utopian city named Omelas that is in a perpetual state of happiness as long as one child is kept in constant misery.

Yoongi, Namjoon and J-Hope in the “Spring Day” music video. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The “Spring Day” set at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Should I stay or should I go? SCREAMfmLondon

Then comes the Magic Shop, a set from BTS’s “Fake Love” teaser. Here, you can exchange your fears for something positive.

Yoongi visits the Magic Shop in the “Fake Love” teaser. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

The Magic Shop at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

I have an animated discussion with the keeper of the Magic Shop at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The final music video set in this section of the exhibit is from “MIC Drop,” but this room has some cool video and audio elements, so you’re not allowed to take pictures.Across the hall, there is another room of unreleased pictures (this one called “Spring Day”), which leads into “Love Maze.” “Love Maze” is a literal maze of mirrors, some of which have been autographed by the members of BTS. I completely neglected this part, though, because the other rooms on this floor are so cool. Which brings me to…

The next room  — another amazing highlight of the exhibition: “Tear,” a room filled with flatscreen TVs showing never-before-seen dance practice videos! Again, no photos or videos were allowed, so I just took my time taking in the videos that spanned the years of BTS’s existence.

The second floor concludes with the “ARMY BOMB” room, which houses the fence as seen in BTS’s “FIRE” music video. On the wall, there is a video projection of the band from a concert on the 2017 Wings Tour, and fans feel as if they are standing inside in the official lightstick itself.

The first room on the third floor of the exhibition is “Whalien 52,” the blacklight paint-splattered set from J-Hope’s “MAMA” scene in the Wings short films.

J-Hope in BTS’s Wings short film “MAMA.” Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

J-Hope and Jungkook take photos inside the “Whalien 52” room at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment.

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Then there’s me! SCREAMfmLondon

Around the corner is the “House of MASKs,” showcasing the masks worn in the “Fake Love” music video and featured in Taehyung’s “Love Yourself: Tear” comeback trailer, “Singularity.”

The “House of MASKs” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The next room, “DNA,” presents several of BTS’s most popular song lyrics in artistic formats that cover all of the room’s white surfaces.

The lyrics to BTS’s “Magic Shop” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

The lyrics to BTS’s “MIC Drop” at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Following this is another great highlight of the exhibition: “If I Ruled the World,” a room displaying costumes the BTS members have worn in different music videos as well as representative gas masks the boys designed to go along with the outfits.

The “If I Ruled the World” room at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Jin’s costume from the “Blood Sweat & Tears” music video at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

J-Hope’s costume from the “MIC Drop” music video at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

Yoongi’s “Not Today” costume and Jungkook’s “DNA” costume at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

A closer look at Yoongi’s crushed velvet gas mask. SCREAMfmLondon

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Taehyung’s “Run” costume at the ‘오,늘’ exhibition. SCREAMfmLondon

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A hallway full of videos entitled “Tomorrow” leads the way to the next and final floor of the exhibition.

First up: another room of unreleased photos (these ones from live performances) called “Wings.” In the center of this room sits the phone booth prop that Namjoon used in his Wings short film “Reflection,” as well as onstage during the tour. The booth is covered in quite a lot of cryptic writing and poetry, so it was thrilling to finally have the chance to inspect it up close.

The fourth floor also features some polaroid photos of the boys in a room called “RUN” and a room of kind of Harry Potter-style moving portraits called “Blood Sweat & Tears.” I wish they’d let us take pictures in this room because Namjoon’s portrait was peak cuteness, and I still dream of it at night.

Finally, fans are invited to write down their feelings on the exhibit in the ARMY capsule in a room called “IDOL.” Overwhelmed, I just wrote down my feelings honestly (they were: “Namjoon is cute!!”) and exited through the gift shop.

The layout of the BTS exhibition at the Ara Art Center. SCREAMfmLondon

And there you have it: a room-by-room, thorough and detailed account of BTS’s ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’ exhibition. ARMY af.

2018 BTS Exhibition ’24/7 = Serendipity (오,늘)’
Ara Art Center
26, Insandong 9-gil, Jongno-gu
Tickets are 18,000 KRW.
The exhibition runs through October 28.
For more information, visit www.ticket.interpark.com.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms at D Museum

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Flynn Talbot’s “Primary” installation is one of nine works of light-centered art on display at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

The most popular art hotspot in Seoul right now is D Museum — a new exhibition space in Hannam-dong operated by Daelim Museum. The museum’s inaugural exhibition is “Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms,” which has been drawing crowds with large-scale light installations, sculptures, videos and interactive works by international artists.

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D Museum in Hannam-dong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

The exhibit leads visitors through a maze-like space divided into nine rooms showcasing different pieces. The hallways (as well as many of the rooms) are darkened almost entirely as all of the artwork uses light as its medium.

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Flynn Talbot’s “Contour” depicts a human fingerprint, showing the light within yourself. SCREAMfmLondon

The journey begins with the neon installation of Cerith Wyn Evans, a British contemporary artist. “Neon forms (after Noh II and III)” are inspired by Japanese Noh theater.

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Cerith Wyn Evans’ “Neon forms (after Noh II and III)” at the D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Next came one of my favorite rooms: Flynn Talbot’s color-changing piece, “Primary.” The light sources are concealed and the room is completely dark, which really gives you a chance to focus on the work and enjoy its strange, soothing qualities as the colored lights gradually shift from pink to blue to orange and everywhere in between.

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Flynn Talbot’s “Primary” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Another favorite piece is Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “Chromosaturation.” Before entering the room, everyone is required to slip cloth covers over their shoes to protect the installation. The room is filled with different walls and shapes suspended from the ceiling. Different colored lights create interesting images when they catch all of the dimensions of the room.

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Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “Chromosaturation” at the D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

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One of the most popular rooms featured in D Museum’s current exhibition, “Spatial Illumination—9 Lights in 9 Rooms.” SCREAMfmLondon

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Such a fun room to explore. SCREAMfmLondon

After leaving the “Chromosaturation” room, visitors ascend the stairs. As you climb, Studio Roso’s “Mirror Branch” installation becomes visible. This piece is comprised of thousands of tiny mirrors forming the shape of a tree, which casts bright, twinkling reflections and bouncy shadows around the room and down the stairs.

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Studio Roso’s “Mirror Branch” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Next, you open a door and are transported into a very cool room: “My Whale” created by a Russian creative group of sound engineers, musicians and visual artists. The tunnel is lined with mirrors, creating the illusion that it goes on infinitely. The room plays whale songs and its pulsing light projections change in time with the sounds.

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Tundra’s “My Whale” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Paul Cocksedge filled one of the exhibition’s largest rooms with his piece, “Bourrasque,” which looks like sheets of lighted white paper blowing in the wind.

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Paul Cocksedge’s “Bourrasque” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

I particularly enjoyed Dutch artist Dennis Parren’s room. His “CMYK Corner” and “CMYK Wall” are specially-designed lights that project cyan, magenta and yellow on the surrounding walls. These pieces are simple but intriguing, hinting at the deconstruction of light.

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Dennis Parren’s “CMYK Wall” at D Museum in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

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I love this from every angle. SCREAMfmLondon

Parren also presented a CMYK installation called “Don’t Look Into the Light,” which uses its audience as the subject. The colorful shadows and shapes you create as you move through the space are really fun.

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Lots of selfies happen in here. SCREAMfmLondon

“Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms” is definitely a cool exhibition, and it’s totally worth checking out if you enjoy wandering around in the dark, appreciating neon and/or taking lots and lots of Instagram photos. I’m very curious to see what D Museum will present next.

Spatial Illumination – 9 Lights in 9 Rooms
D Museum
5-6, Dokseodang-ro, Yongsan-gu
Tickets are 8,000 KRW for adults, 5,000 KRW for students (ages 8-18), and 3,000 KRW for children (ages 3-7)
The exhibition runs through May 8.
For more information, visit www.daelimmuseum.org.

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.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

SMTown: Studio and dance class

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The studio on the fourth floor of SMTown at COEX Artium, guarded by Jonghyun. SCREAMfmLondon

SMTown Studio: Music Video, Photo, Recording, Hair & Makeup, Vocal, Dance, Dress

As you ascend to the top floors of SMTown at COEX Artium, the services become more deluxe. While you can purchase k-pop merchandise on the second floor, you can actually star in a k-pop music video on the third!

At the SMTown Studio, fans can be professionally styled with SM-approved costumes, hair and makeup; trained to create an audio recording of their favorite song; taught the corresponding dance moves; photographed and photoshopped to their hearts’ content; and filmed in a duplicate of their favorite music video. It honestly all looks like a ton of fun — especially if you have slight delusions of grandeur and a lot of money to blow.

The SMTown Studio packages range in price from about $30 (for a simple tour of the space and a commemorative photo) to $500 (for a two-hour video recording session). Most packages hover around the $100-200 range. A one-hour, one-on-one dance class costs about $100 (while a group class is around $80). A one-hour vocal training and recording session is $150, and it costs $200 (and, apparently, one and a half hours) to have your hair and makeup done.

I took a tour of the studio space that culminated in a one-hour dance class.

The tour begins at the makeup station, where marble tables are piled high with rows upon rows of blush, eye shadow, brushes and more. The walls are all covered with mirrors and “the best selfie lighting ever” (their words — not mine). I do not doubt, though, that SM Entertainment’s makeup artists could work some serious magic on us all with their superior beauty knowledge. It’s a tempting package, for sure.

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SMTown photo studio. SCREAMfmLondon

Behind the makeup station is the photo studio. It’s a pretty cavernous room decorated with yet-unreleased photos of SM artists for the guests to ogle. If you’re a fan of photoshoots, I’m sure this is a good one. I am not a fan of photoshoots, but they took a few photos of me anyway — and specified which way I should stand to make it easiest to photoshop.

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Some of TVXQ!’s costumes on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite stop on the tour is the wardrobe area. It’s a beautiful room full of costumes SM artists have worn onstage or at special events, all grouped by band and labeled with the individual members’ names. It was amazing to see these outfits up close and to examine all the details: every epaulette on SHINee’s jackets, every rhinestone on TVXQ!’s sleeves. Everything is so pristine, except for the scuff marks on the fabulous shoes. I loved it so much.

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The hard-working shoes of a k-pop star. SCREAMfmLondon

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SHINee’s outfits on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

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So much beautiful crushed velvet. SCREAMfmLondon

Next, we visited the vocal recording rooms. Allegedly, the rooms are really, really used by actual SM artists. This was emphasized many, many times during the tour. There are a number of different recording booths equipped with what is supposed to be the best, most advanced audio recording technology out there. I would not know the difference, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

From there, we journeyed through the hallways to the music video studio. The room is divided in two halves: EXO’s “Growl” on one side and Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” on the other.

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Music video set for EXO’s “Growl.” SCREAMfmLondon

This room was a little awkward for a few reasons. First, there were quite a few people sitting right in the middle of it doing some work on their computers while we’re just traipsing around, taking pictures of stuff.

Also, I happened to be there not long after Tao officially announced his departure from EXO and his subsequent lawsuit against SM Entertainment. It was a little too obvious that his name had been hastily painted over on a few of the walls while it still appeared on others. Awkward.

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Tao’s name hastily painted over at bottom right. SCREAMfmLondon

Once we departed from there, it was time for our dance lesson led by a professional SM choreographer. We stashed our belongings in fire engine red lockers that read “DREAMS COME TRUE” across the front and took our places to learn the dance for EXO’s song “Call Me Baby.”

The pace of the dance was very quick, but the instructor was patient and helpful. One hour was not enough time for any of us to master any of that, but we worked hard, and it was a blast. It seemed to go by very quickly, especially since a lot of time was taken when cameramen came in to record our practice and interview a few of us (including me, for some horrifying reason) about our interest in k-pop.

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Inside the SMTown dance studio. SCREAMfmLondon

It was a great class, though, and I was sad to leave. I could definitely imagine spending hours every day trying to perfect those dance moves, if I only could afford it.

The SMTown Studio experience was an interesting one. To be honest, the studio tour is a little boring and doesn’t offer much beyond selfie ops (and not very spectacular ones at that). I would recommend heading straight for your area of interest (singing, dancing, fashion) to maximize your enjoyment of the studio.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Café here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s 3D printing theater here.

SMTown: SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Cafe

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K-pop cafe: EXO cupcake and SHINee “Dream Girl” green apple drink in SMTown at COEX Artium’s LIVErary Cafe. SCREAMfmLondon

SMTown at COEX Artium is a sprawling, six-story k-pop hub. Located beside the gigantic COEX Mall in Gangnam (a shopping center so big it houses an entire aquarium and a huge movie theater inside as well), SMTown offers everything a k-pop fan could want: a hologram theater, branded merchandise, vocal lessons, a photo studio, a cafe, etc. And I’ve done (pretty much) all of it.

Here is my rundown of the two most accessible floors of the SMTown complex:

SUM: Celebrity Shop, Artist Goods, Artist Picks, Gifts
SMTown LIVErary: Cafe, Music, Media, Books, Special Goods

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SM Entertainment decorations lining the SMTown walls. SCREAMfmLondon

The building is tall and glittery from a distance, decorated with the names of SM Entertainment’s most popular artists: SHINee, Super Junior, EXO, Girls’ Generation (SNSD), f(x). The first floor’s Welcome Stage features a tall tower of flatscreens playing SM artists’ most recent music videos.

The second floor houses the SUM shop. This deluxe merchandise store features branded merch of all the bands and general Korean souvenirs, as well as “artist picks,” which are extremely expensive designer items worn by some of the band members. Some of the merch is cool, but the coolest stuff (tote bags with song lyrics printed on them, t-shirts, posters and pillows) are sold out or not yet for sale, despite the fact that the shop has been open since January.

Unless you’re looking to buy a pair of $400 sunglasses a member of SNSD was photographed wearing, you can find better k-pop merch in any given subway station. But they do sell a (pricey) replica of the treble clef necklace Chanyeol wears in the iconic classic “EXO Lives Next Door.”

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EXO staring at you from every direction. SCREAMfmLondon

On the building’s fourth floor is the SMTown LIVErary Cafe. This is an awkward way to say that it’s an SM-themed cafe. Some additional merchandise is sold on this floor (mostly CDs and DVDs), but the main attraction is the dessert case. Macarons and cupcakes printed with band logos are available for a (high) price, as are some tasty band-themed drinks.

The different bands all come in different colors and flavors. I ordered an EXO cupcake and a SHINee green apple-ade. The EXO “capcake” (har har) is chocolate cake topped with cream cheese frosting and a tiny EXO snapback. Someone informed me ahead of time that the caps are actually not edible, which was good to know because I definitely would have attempted to eat it. They’re about 8,000 KRW per cupcake, which is quite a lot, but they’re actually pretty tasty, and you get to keep the little hat as a souvenir.

SHINee’s green apple ade was also exceptionally delicious, and comes served in a cool, collectible “#DREAM GIRL” bottle. The drinks are super syrupy sweet and slightly carbonated, which I greatly enjoyed.

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Band logos printed on macarons at the SMTown LIVErary Cafe. SCREAMfmLondon

In the cafe, most of the tables and chairs have been signed by various SM artists. The walls are decorated with albums, plaques and a timeline of SM Entertainment’s biggest milestones. While enjoying your expensive snacks, you can try to grab a table at a listening station, where you can play SM artists’ music. It’s a cool setup, and it’s even moderately cozy, so big SM fans can end up spending a lot of time hanging out.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s Studio and professional k-pop dance class here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s 3D printing theater here.