Monday, October 31, 2011

Great things can happen when the industry forces an idol group with a limited budget to stand out.

So much money, time and effort goes into idol group release these days - flashy music videos, heavily produced and processed singles, and whatever else money can buy - but at the end of the day, all that really matters is how the group delivers all that flash. There are some who can pull it off, but many (and I mean MANY) fall short - the endless gimmicks have become a way to hide the fact that majority of groups these days have next to no solid musical talent.

Cue DGNA/The Boss.

As an idol group they fall short of a lot of things, they're not under a major talent agency, flashy music videos and overseas producers are out of the question, they've hardly promoted in Korea, they've never won any music shows, they don't consistently top charts and whatever else the standard idol group has to do these days, they most probably don't. But you see, that situation made them the group they are. That's why they're special.

In a sense, because the best their talent company can give them are a bunch of generic songs, they have to find another way to stand out and not be another kpop casualty. They have to push themselves, and in turn, the industry's boundaries, in order to stand out. And what's that way? Well, for starters they all have to actually have good voices.

All five of them can sing. Three of them have stunning yet flexible voices. Of course they're still very young and they haven't been around for long so there are so many things they have to even out in terms of their individual vocals and their group dynamics, but they have their foundations strongly planted. They know how to pull off five-part harmonies without out-singing each other, but they also know how to make their voices shine as soloists. Does that remind you of anyone? Of course it does. ;D

These never-ending DBSK comparisons exist for a reason. DGNA are being compared to DBSK, for me at least, because both groups are lightyears ahead of their peers and because both groups take the current sound of the industry and do it better than their counterparts. The two groups, despite debuting and promoting under different circumstances, are the best voices of their generations.

However, it took DBSK a long time to reach that level, and it will take DGNA long as well. Prior to "O Jung.Ban.Hap.", the reason why DBSK always lip-synced their performances was because they simply didn't have the vocals to do it. Watch any live performance of "Hi Ya Ya", and I promise you 3 minutes of horror. Before becoming the best vocal group kpop has ever seen, DBSK was just like everyone else - nurtured by SM Entertainment, so they never had to challenge themselves vocals-wise. Until Japan came along.

The Japanese industry is rigorous, it's cut-throat, and being signed to a major label does not guarantee success, much like the American industry. DBSK had to stand out, and the only way to do that was to sing, and sing well. DGNA have to stand out in Korea because of their agency's limited budget, and the only way to do that is to sing, and sing well.

"Lady" just solidifies the theory. It's a simple release - generic ballad with all the stereotype elements, simple video, limited promotion and not-so-staggering sales - but what makes it better is that they can sing it well. Live. With minimal accompaniment.

This is the first time since DBSK that I've heard such strong five-part harmonies from an idol group. Each voice is very clear, very sure of what it's doing, and what has to be done, and trust me, after years of singing a middle voice, being sure of your harmonies while being on the same wavelength as the rest of the group is extremely difficult.

Their harmonies are not 100 percent smooth yet and their voices are only about 85 percent on the same level of intensity with each other, but those qualities are not the type of things you can just learn in a day - they take years of singing together, and years of pushing yourself as a singer. In short, they take time.

As individual singers they are outstanding. Mika and Karam have always been the stellar voices, but that guy who does the middle 8, when he goes up for that high note his voice is so bright. If it was up to me, that guy will be their permanent high note-hitter. Seriously, I cannot stress how stunning a bright voice is, and that high note he hit was almost blinding-bright. Well, before he closed his mouth and lost it.

Even with the rough edges, the are easily the most talented group of their generation. They just have to keep going and keep pushing and keep standing out until they actually get somewhere, because if talent is any basis they'd be sweeping charts left and right, and I'd like to think at least a small fraction of the Korean buying public still puts a premium on actual talent.

*drops to my knees and begs for forgiveness* I can't even begin to fully explain why I haven't been writing, so I'll try to give you guys a condensed explanation. Basically, college has drained my brain more than I thought it would so I spent the past few weeks of semestral break just not thinking seriously about anything partially to rest from my first semester in college and partially to brace myself for the second semester where I have four lit subjects, intermediate Japanese, and geography. (LOL that was a long sentence) That and I now have a weekly column on soompi, so if you've been reading the single reviews and you wondered why it sounded a lot like me, well, it IS me. ;D

So what's in store for PRN during the last stretch of 2011? A lot. If you've been reading my tweets lately, yesterday I was starting to finalize the 50 songs for my "best of 2011" countdown. I don't have rankings or anything yet (which I should probably start on already, actually), but I have revised the rules and right now there are 54 songs on the list. The 50 songs will be locked by November 25, to give me time to start writing the reviews. Like the previous years, the rules will be released on December 1, the countdown starts on December 2 with song #50, and ends on December 31, New Year's Eve, with song #1.

Between now and December, I'm also thinking of bringing back my music show recaps, just as a way to ease myself back into writing on a regular basis, since 50 reviews in less than a month isn't exactly an easy task. If all goes well, I'll probably start this Friday with Music Bank! :D

And, as always, thank you so much for sticking with me. I haven't been the most consistent blogger around, and I'm really really sorry about that. D:

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