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Kelly Clarkson - Love So Soft

 

album picks

Album Review: Red Velvet's 'Perfect Velvet' Is The Best K-Pop Album of 2017
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The Definitive Track-by-Track Ranking of Taylor Swift's 'reputation' Nobody Asked For
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Niall Horan Shows Us A Different Side Of Him In 'Flicker'
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In case everyone has forgotten, Taylor Swift started out as a country-pop singer famous for her seemingly fake Southern American accent mostly noticeable on her debut album.

But did you know that the former country pop star released a Christmas EP entitled The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection?

The 6-track EP was released in 2007 during the advent of her popularity and includes 2 original songs.

If you’re in for a nostalgic treat, listen to our top 3 picks from the EP here:

 

Last Christmas

 

Santa Baby

 

Christmas Must Be Something More (Original Song)

Photo credit: Big Machine Records

2017 has been a draining slow burn of a year. There was virtually no moment when looking at the news didn't make for a depressing experience.

At the same time, it solidified the role of music as a refuge more than ever.

We've browsed through the pool of releases in pop, R&B, rock and hip-hop, to put together a list of the best albums of the year. Here's some music for some rough times.

 

10. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Branded as 'Afro-futurism' by the 24-year-old rapper, Big Fish Theory's vision extends past the trends of the today, into the sounds of tomorrow- glacial, metallic beats seemingly fed through a wormhole from a dystopian future. Lethargy pervades his lyrics and delivery, occasionally sinking him beneath the cacophony of it all, as the bass grinds on like the machinery of circumstance. However, when his simmering anger finally emerges, he wields the relentless sonics like a weapon on tracks such as BagBak- delivering results that are raw and cutting.

 

9. Alex Cameron - Forced Witness

Glistening synthpop coupled with lyrics detailing douchebaggery of the lowest kind makes for an unsettling listening experience- while you find yourself grooving to the hook-laden music, it feels strange to do so over such misogynistic ramblings of a disempowered but delusional man (not going to quote the lyrics here, for the sake of decency, but feel free to look them up). Alex Cameron effectively highlights the ugly ridiculousness of his alter-ego’s worldview through contrastingly bright production and self-aware jabs, serving one of the more interesting releases of 2017. Also, Studmuffin96 for song title of the year.

 

8. Red Velvet - Perfect Velvet

Stylized with sticky hooks and harmonies more exquisite than anything on Western radio, while recalling a kaleidoscopic sea of influences ranging from warped future bass to throwback disco, Perfect Velvet showcases refined pop songcraft that is captivating and experimental. It’s releases like this that continue to position Red Velvet on the forefront of one of the more rewardingly daring pop music scenes out there. Our full review here.   

 

7. Paramore - After Laughter

Sadness feels truer when it is situated in the backdrop of taxing attempts to appear happy. Paramore, recalling their tumultuous history, present an evolved 80s-inspired sound that embodies this very feeling- arpeggiated guitar lines, animated synths, and their cleverest lyrics to date conjure color and mania in passionate bursts. Hayley Williams further evokes a sense of volatility through her performance- sharp inflections, spoken outbursts and varied vocal rhythms. Devastating and infectious, in equal parts. Our full review here.

 

6. The Shins - Heartworms

As our writer Donwei notes- “The Shins are always a good fall-back whenever you're in need of a dose of indie music. Having consistently put out solid albums throughout their career, Heartworms is no exception. With gems scattered across the album, the band (thankfully) retains their signature sound and heart-wrenching lyrics under the disguise of feel-good vibes.” An introspective and organic record, it is something you can always come home to.

 

5. The xx - I See You

The xx are known for recreating intimacy that emits warmth and ambiguity, akin to the substance of a shadow. They continue to advance their art form on their third album, with smarter sampling, less meekness and more curious production choices. Dangerous, the album opener, announces their renewed ambition with a brassy, garage-influenced production that is unlike anything they have put out previously. We finally see light spilling through the cracks of the monochromatic universe they've built since debut, onto new grounds. 

 

4. Phoenix - Ti Amo

Writer Teejay wrote, “If you’re looking for some fresh yet timeless synth-pop, Phoenix will never disappoint. It’s the paradox you never knew you needed. For a band that’s been part of the music scene for almost 20 years, Phoenix never lost their ability to keep up with the times while still incorporating their signature head-bob inducing songs.” Sleek, romantic, summer-kissed music that provides a respite from the chaos.

 

3. Kelela - Take Me Apart

A synthesis of the corporeal and surreal, Kelela delves in the physical- the throbbing ache of love and desire- amidst the hazy atmospherics courtesy of experimental electronic producers like Jam City and Arca. On her previous effort Cut 4 Me, she came off as more of a decorative edge to the main body of her producers’ works, but on this album, she takes over the spacey, off-kilter beats, imbuing her vulnerability into their alien quality. Emotional yet forward-thinking, Take Me Apart is the best R&B release of 2017.

 

2. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Kendrick continues to show the world why he is the among, if not the top of the rap royalty of this generation. Top tier flow, delivery, punchlines, storytelling and beats. Through arrestingly personal narratives, he seeks optimism and humanity in the bleakness of the world, delivering a masterpiece of a rap album.

 

1. Lorde- Melodrama

I was slightly hesitant about ranking this as number one, albeit it seemed like a predictable pick- but upon another spin of the record, I can't imagine another album in its place. It's no wonder why Melodrama resonates deeply with so many- as writer Solihin pertinently puts it, "Rather than wallow in the depths of pubescent grief, the New Zealander wrestles with it, comes out on top and wears its skin as her own for all to see. Expanding her minimalist sound to accommodate the emotionally chaotic narrative, Lorde's sophomore outing vividly and poetically captures the maddening ebbs and flows of late teenage-hood, lending listeners glimpses into her synesthesia-hued world."

The very concept of a home-grown Korean pop (K-pop) act might sound oxymoronic to anyone completely insulated from that particular hyper-polished, acronym-dominated world. Coupled with the Internet’s insistence on ridicule, the premature death of BEAUNITE (aka #BEAUNTIE) – a local 13 member girl group with capitalistic, cartoon-like plans of world domination – could probably be seen from a mile away. Schadenfreude aside, this was a sign that the genre had finally attained peak cultural penetration by transcending into meme territory and provided an excellent opportunity for those unschooled to educate themselves about the forces behind this flaming trash heap of a debut.

For instance, it was news to a K-plebeian like yours truly that reality shows are part and parcel of being in a South Korean “idol” group which in turn is distinct from the definition of a K-pop “artist.” BEAUNITE falls under the former (or at least is inclined to) which panders to the more cosmetic aspects of society that rewards superficiality over talent. Slumming it and toiling as a “trainee” is mandatory, say K-pop gatekeepers who expect their idols to be nothing less than jacks of all trades on top of conforming to narrow beauty standards, of course. There is nothing new about fans vocally expressing discontent with the purported misrepresentation of their genre (or in this case, their country as well) but BEAUNITE’s presumptuous lack of content and prior experience explains the unanimous uproar against them.

We’d love to say we were declined a comment after reaching out to the group’s representatives but we knew better than to assume that actual adults (let alone Singaporean helicopter parents) were actively supporting this endeavour. Instead, we turned to Linda, our newly-minted K-pop correspondent to shed some light on this recent development.            

S: As our resident K-pop expert, what do you think of BEAUNITE’s “debut”?

L: They seem to be a harmless bunch of Koreaboos* who have their heads a little too far up in the clouds. People take issue with the “K-pop” branding - the fan community has gatekeeping tendencies and gets offended when a non-Korean group with no prior training (the average idols trains for years under their company before getting to debut) claims the label. You might have heard of EXP Edition, a K-pop group that only consists of Caucasian members. They garnered negative reactions from K-pop fans and the Korean public for similar reasons stated above.

S: So can K-pop exist outside of Korea?

L: The industry has developed strong global ambitions in the last decade - many groups promote in Japan, where Korean members learn Japanese and release music exclusively in the language. I've actually seen this used as a defence for EXP Edition: if Japan can accept a Korean group releasing music in Japanese, why can't Korea accept a non-Korean group doing K-pop?

There's also EXO, one of the most popular K-pop groups. They debuted with a concept where they have 2 subgroups, EXO-M and EXO-K: 6 members sing in Korean while the other 6 (4 of them Chinese) sing the same song, but in Mandarin. The Chinese members of EXO-M were still considered K-pop idols since they were backed by a Korean company. This leads me to believe that a Korean company somehow has to be involved in order for a fully Singaporean group to be validated as a legitimate K-pop act. Simply appropriating K-pop elements like what BEAUNITE appears to be doing isn't going to work, with or without high production value.

S: What should BEAUNITE’s next step be?

L: BEAUNITE shouldn't be discouraged from pursuing their passions for music/dance, but they should do away with the K-pop group label. There is nothing wrong with covering K-pop dances, but when you publicly designate yourself as the official maknae** of the group, or adopt a fake Korean name, you should probably reflect on your life choices. Their Koreaboo syndrome is a result of an ever-growing Hallyu*** craze here – there's a line between appreciating a culture and fetishizing one, and many K-pop fans here definitely belong to the latter. Still, it's sad to see really young girls being the target of so much hate.

Well, one thing’s for sure – I sure hope Xuan, the self-proclaimed meme queen, can at the very least appreciate the fact that she had a hand in creating a late but definitely great viral phenomenon.

 

Photo credit: BEAUNITE

*A non-native Korean who is obsessed with Korean culture to the point where they denounce their own national/native identity and proclaim that they are Korean. These people typically start off as K-Pop fans, but some Koreaboos also start off as StarCraft II or League of Legends fans since they are very famous competitive sports in South Korea. The word “Koreaboo” itself comes from the term “weeaboo”; a non-native Japanese person who is obsessed with Japanese culture.

**Maknae is a common Korean term used by older people, generally young adults, to refer to the youngest in a group. It's often used as a title in place of their name.

*** “Korean wave” or “Korean fever,” it refers to the sudden increase in popularity of South Korean culture around the world in the last ten years largely due to the Korean entertainment industry boom and the popularity of kdrama and kpop.

That's exactly what happens when the music takes over.

Camila Cabello has recently accepted the 'Breakthrough Artist' Award at Billboard's Women in Music last week. Apart from receiving her deserving title, the singer-songwriter started the show with a performance of her chart topping single, Havana.

The songstress stripped down the performance with minimal instrumentation so that her amazing vocals could take centre stage. With just a guitarist, cajonist and pianist, Cabello was able to elevate the song to a whole new level that really showcased her Cuban roots.

In the middle of the song, at approximately two minutes and twelve seconds into the performance, Cabello was so consumed by the music that she made a hilarious eye twitch. Many fans have observed the unconventional facial expression and have pointed it out it the comments section of the video.

The 20-year-old singer acknowledged her involuntary eye movement and addressed it on Instagram by posting a two-part series of her performance tape with the caption, "i do love a good eye twitch" followed by some emojis of the girl who shrugs her shoulders.

 

Photo Credit: Billboard

The season of giving is upon us once again.

If you are thinking of what gifts to get a fandom-obsessed person, you have come to the right place. Put aside the usual CDs, biographies and posters, we have got some interesting finds for you.

Regardless of whom they idolise, we’re sure you will find something suitable here!

 

1.     Pins - For the ones that like it subtle.

Beyonce Lemonade Pin | One Direction Pin Set | Drake Pin

 

2.     Iron Ons – For the ones that like to jazz up their outfits.

Justin Bieber Patch | Sia Patch | Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You Patch

 

3.     Stickers – For the ones that want to spice up their life.

Spice Girls | Fifth Harmony | The 1975

 

4.     Phone cases – For the ones that cannot keep their hands off their idols.

Shawn Mendes | Maroon 5 | Ariana Grande

 

5.     Notebooks – For the busy ones.

Selena Gomez | Troye Sivan | Rihanna

 

6.     Totebags – For the ones that love shopping.

Sound of Music | Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour | Taylor Swift’s Squad

 

7.     Mugs – For that morning tea or coffee.

Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk | Mariah Carey | Justin Timberlake

 

8.     Figurines – For the ones who love collectibles.

Shakira | Amy Winehouse | The Beatles

 

9.     T-shirts – For the ones that aren’t afraid to tell the world.

Harry Styles | Shawn Mendes | Halsey

 

10.Keychains – For the ones who never wish to lose their keys.

David Bowie | Troye Sivan | Kanye West & Kim Kardashian

 

11.Socks – For the ones that are always on their toes.

The Rolling Stones | Steve Aoki | Big Bang

 

12.Earrings – For the ones that like to keep music by their ears.

5SOS’ Safety Pin | Drake | Justin Bieber

 

Happy Holidays!


Picture Credits: Giphy, Lyashenko - Freepik.com