10:42 am - 11/17/2012

The New Yorker Reviews Alive Tour in New Jersey: The K-Pop Escape


I love you baby, I’m not a monster.”

That’s the line that Taeyang, of the South Korean boy band Big Bang, crooned to an undulating sea of light-stick wielding fans at the Prudential Center, in Newark, the other night. To my immediate left, pressed against the gray iron bars that separated us from the V.I.P. mosh pit, a thirteen-year-old girl in a silver sequin tank and top hat voiced her devotion in squeals and screams. Behind us, two boys in tuxedos elbowed their way up front, armed with flash-ready iPhones. “O.K., do me first,” one instructed the other, as he leaned back against the bars, fingers raised high in the shape of a V. “Get two!” he ordered, before being edged out by a new tide of photo-seekers.

My fellow concertgoers need not have worried about time constraints. Their idols—G-Dragon, T.O.P., Seungri, Taeyang, and Daesung—rapped, roared, stomped, and thumped onstage for two more hours, buoyed by a dizzying and ever-multiplying array of props, platforms, and video-screen projections. G-Dragon, the most baby-faced of the group, greeted the audience from behind an impasto of smoky makeup while Taeyang strutted in braids and a bandanna, plus pants that fell well below the natural waistline. Even though the quintet has been around for six years—with hiatuses in which band members pursued their own solo albums—Alive Galaxy is their first sixteen-country-wide world tour. Perhaps, in honor of this inaugural occasion, little expense has been spared in making a first impression.

I missed their much-touted emergence onstage (via silver spaceship-like canisters) and subsequent vehicular jaunts (via gilded Segways and low-rise bicycles)—damn my own snail-paced vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike—but was as mesmerized as the rest of the arena as we watched Daesung ascend, affixed with life-size wings, over and above our upturned faces. If the pageantry and spectacle threatened to overwhelm the music—fire-breathing dragons and a rotor-spinning helicopter were a few of the digitalized backdrops—it did so with the crowd’s blessing: they roared more enthusiastically with the arrival of ever more elaborate fantascapes.

From where I was standing, with the cavernous stadium opening out to its glittery theatre of small, almost anime-like figures, the world momentarily felt like a giant video game. It reminded me of the first time that I heard this music: in the classroom of the Korean middle school where I was teaching eighth-grade English. My students had gruelling schedules: ten hours of school plus cram academy plus private tutorials (for those with the means) plus homework plus daily lectures from parents and teachers alike on the perils of failure if they should ever deviate from their schedule. (Unsurprisingly, the country has consistently led in high-school test scores, even among their industry-prizing neighbors.)

But during their recess, those fifteen glorious minutes between lunch in the communal canteen and sixth period, they would enthusiastically introduce me to two sanity-preserving graces: video games and K-pop music videos. I was hopeless in mastering the former, so my new teachers quickly began tutoring me in the latter. “You don’t know Super Junior! How about SHINee?” my shyest thirteen-year-old tsked upon my pitiable profession of ignorance. Inevitably, the boldest ones among them, boys in identical blue-and-white uniforms down to the plastic slippers they flapped on their feet, would bend their limbs in imitation of their favorite break-dance moves. If the juxtaposition of their sailor-style attire and the hip-jiving dance steps seemed jarring, so was the precision of their reproduction. Somehow in the precious moments between eating, sleeping, and their all-encompassing sprint toward success, they had found time to study something else.

Back to Big Bang: G-Dragon, lauded for his contribution—fairly unique among packaged pop sensations—to the writing and composition of the band’s hit songs, is commonly acknowledged as the creative heart of the group. Early in the night, he performed his solo, “One of a Kind”: “(Hello) My name is me and choice / (Hello) Yes sir, I’m one of a kind,” the twenty-four-year-old singer belted out. It’s not hard to imagine G-Dragon, dubbed the Lady Gaga of Asia, meaning it. His adolescent fanbase back in Seoul, however, are likely only mouthing the words.


The New Yorker, BBupdates
neumi 17th-Nov-2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
Eh, seems more like a op-ed than a concert review, but whatever. Good to see the boys talked about, though I preferred Billboard's review.
g_lovesbb LOL What?17th-Nov-2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
"It’s not hard to imagine G-Dragon, dubbed the Lady Gaga of Asia,"
benihime99 Re: LOL What?17th-Nov-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
It's nothing new

Edited at 2012-11-17 09:33 pm (UTC)
obviousgirl 17th-Nov-2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
It's this what Flo Ridia's manager called him when she first saw him?
benihime99 18th-Nov-2012 08:43 am (UTC)
It's what a lot of people call him since his heartbreaker day

Edited at 2012-11-18 08:44 am (UTC)
45s 17th-Nov-2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
but that comparison is spot on
law_oneofmany 18th-Nov-2012 08:30 am (UTC)
there's less meat and violent motifs on GD's part
45s 18th-Nov-2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
give him time! hahaha ;-D
deeinanutshell Re: LOL What?17th-Nov-2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
everyone with an ~unusual~ sense of style or expression is lady gaga obvs
mjspice Re: LOL What?18th-Nov-2012 04:45 am (UTC)
LOl Ikr? They forget that Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Queen, Bjrok & many others did it all before her.
markthatcoin Re: LOL What?18th-Nov-2012 06:05 pm (UTC)
forreal. the concept of "reinvention" is such a huge deal to western artists but in kpop that's just another a tuesday afternoon news story.
mjspice Re: LOL What?18th-Nov-2012 04:43 am (UTC)
PFFT Well he IS in a way I suppose. XDDD
phililen3 Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 07:10 am (UTC)
It would have been HILARIOUS if GACKT had fallen off his chair laughing like that...
mjspice Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 10:28 am (UTC)
LOL He would've but precious bbs Jon & Takumi were there. XD
phililen3 Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 01:24 pm (UTC)
I keep fantasizing about him releasing an Enka album..... I would sell my mother's bags for it...
mjspice Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
lol but he hates Enka! XDD
phililen3 Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
But his voice is PERFECT!!!!! TTTT
I wish that on a drunk night, he would magically find himself at the recording studio and record the night away, sign for the recordings to be released and only wake up when the CDs were on the shelves.^^
mjspice Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
LOL Did you watch the Sket Dance episode?? XD

& the reason why he's got a voice for that cuz his family was into Enka & Jazz. XDD
phililen3 Re: LOL What?19th-Nov-2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
I saw the Enka clip. I wish that song would be released officially... I am too broke to be wishing for these things, but...
b1gay4 17th-Nov-2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
this seems really rushed
unicornios 17th-Nov-2012 10:22 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm, okay.
djlancerock 18th-Nov-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
did they ask the girl if she was 13
markthatcoin 18th-Nov-2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
lmao libel
mjspice 18th-Nov-2012 04:44 am (UTC)
I'd rather have seen the concert with my own eyes than read this review tbh.
markthatcoin 18th-Nov-2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
all the american reviews/op-eds about the concert are weird to read. idk how to comment on a kpop concert outside of the context of the kpop bubble. kpop is so unlike... reality?
trashsocialite 20th-Nov-2012 03:10 am (UTC)
This. It's hard to read reviews when these people have no idea that this is...normal? Like seeing Seungri with the panda's head on him only solidifies the fact that we get it, we are in the know and if you aren't in the know, or in the concept of understanding what these trinkets mean, than you will never get it. It just seems weird and over the top and foreign. But seeing the tons of tiger's on stage for G-dragon, or what the wings on Daesung represent, makes us one, it forges a bond between us as VIP's.

It's a weird thing, maybe I'm just being weird? I hope that made sense.

Wonderful icon btw.
markthatcoin 20th-Nov-2012 03:57 am (UTC)
yes, all of the things that you said! i have all of those emotions and thoughts; now i feel (oddly?) touched and in touch with the kpop community. this may be a really weird moment but i am embracing it.

ty ^^
trashsocialite 20th-Nov-2012 04:17 am (UTC)
Lol. Yeah, I felt bad because my bf didn't really get it, even tho he likes Big Bang and loves Fantastic Baby, but that's cause he isn't in it like that. Same as these reporters who go in and like the music but don't really get it. I think that's what I like about k-pop. Even tho I love the polished dancing, and the attractiveness level of the singers, it's probably the community, the fan club, the culture of being a fan that I love even when it pisses me off. I didn't necessarily feel it totally at the Big Bang concert (I think it was cause of a bunch of different factors) but at the 2ne1 concert when CL called us blackjacks I was....enthralled. I was committed to being a blackjack at that very moment no matter what YG does because she acknowledge us in that very moment and it felt perfect. It felt...real....like we mattered and I never felt that way as a non-Asian in an Asian based fandom.

wow, I sure do ramble. lol. But yeah, I'm totally there even if I don't really have rl friends into it.
markthatcoin 20th-Nov-2012 04:53 am (UTC)
it's probably the community, the fan club, the culture of being a fan that I love even when it pisses me off. i had that in the early 2000s as a kid discovering internet fandoms. i'm not sure i have it with kpop, but i don't think that's what i need it to be. i never considered myself a blackjack or a vip until within the last few months. it all clicked for me and seeing bigbang was just that surreal tip-me-over-the-edge moment. it's so crazy to see them in this country and feel so intensely connected to 5 people on a stage and thousands of people in a crowd. i never in a million years thought i would have that feeling about bigbang before 2ne1, considering i didn't even pay attention to bigbang until the Tonight EP. i feel like i'm losing touch with my 2ne1 feels and it's really sad.

i'm lucky i have my sister (who was into it before i was, but isn't nearly so deep) and a single korean friend whom i pulled into it (her parents make fun of her for paying little attention to korean pop culture until our 20s)
trashsocialite 20th-Nov-2012 07:27 am (UTC)
Yeah, that was me in the late 90's (showing age here), with discovering fandom and being apart of people who finally got me. I feel ya there. I only consider myself a vip because of what these 5 men have done for me. I started liking them in '07 (again, showing age and time in the kpop fandom) and I remember being so infatuated with dirty cash and when haru haru came out, it was all I listened to. It was the first real kpop group I listened to and they always connected to me in some way. I think it was the look and feel of them. It might be because I was a 1tym fan too and I could see a bit of that within them. I also really loved lexy at the time too so I was all over YG.

I understand it clicking. It's not anything like just watching video's or interviews or anything. It might be because I had vip tickets for 2ne1 and seated tickets for bb. But, it def made me feel...satisfied. Like at peace. I'm ok if I never see them again. I know that I at least got to see them once and that's ok. I have a few things that irk me about them but over all I am happy to see them and the show.

I love 2ne1 no matter what. I don't care what people say, I love cl. I love her realness and her try hardness. She is an ultimate idol to me because she is so beautiful but I think she has no idea she is. I truly believe she wears what she wants without even realizing how stupid it looks and that's part of her charm to me. I just love how free she is and how different she is from being on to being herself. That ability to transform and change is so appealing to me. I dig that character approach to her. As mean as that kinda sounds.

Tho I will agree that this shit is getting redic. I loved, I love you and I am ready for another mini album that is much better than the last.

Lol, lucky you. My sister thinks its so weird and always picked on me for it. She always told me I was strange and different. I use to have kpop friends but they were kinda....hm....a lil too much and shit went down. I wish I had friends to talk about it with but I'm ok just dicking around on the internet too.
markthatcoin 20th-Nov-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
Lol now that I think about it, it was definitely late 90s for me as well since I had grown out of pretty much all my fandoms by the early 2000s. I didn’t get into kpop until ten years afterward. I know the exact moment: an indie music blog posted Bonamana. It took me a few months to grow out of SM; that was the tail end of a good era for snsd and suju, but I don’t even listen to SM artists anymore. I was attracted to certain sounds in kpop because it was the antithesis of what I was getting from Canadian indie, British dancepop, or Scandinavian twee. Funny to think about it like that.

I don’t think I would have enjoyed the bb concert as much as a vip; I had a great view from the lowest tier. It’s not the proximity that mattered so much as dancing all crazy with them. I’ve always loved going to indie shows to share the feelings of those particular moments with the artists. I didn’t go to 2ne1 because I’m not ready to see them until I fall in love with them again. This time last year I would have paid who knows how much money to see them. A few weeks ago I was a rowdy angry yg stan. Now I’m just hoping to be pleased. In reality I am a patient person so I was still pretty amazed to see how riled up I could get over 2ne1. I love all the girls but I think it’s going to take another season of 2ne1 to reconnect with them.

If I didn’t have my sister and my one kpop friend, idk… I’ve always had someone to share my fandoms with, and I’m not always the one most emotionally involved. My friends probably fear the day I get into something no one likes: they will ALL receive texts and tumblr reblogs about it and someone will eventually have to pretend to care lol.
trashsocialite 20th-Nov-2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
Lol. That's cool. My first kpop song was Lee Jung Hyun's summer dance and it was so cheesy but I remember listening to it all the time. The first SJ song I heard was Knock out and I thought it was boring. I never really paid attention to them tbh. I think Sm is kinda....boring? I hate to say that since I am slowly liking more and more of their songs but it's a pretty set formula which I'm not really into musically. But it was a good era for SNSD, (tho I'd argue that their Japanese stuff is killing it)

I listened more like 1tym, h.o.t, see and all that stuff when I first got into it in 9th grade. That was almost 10 years ago~! Wow....crazy how time passes by. I remember that was when I first got on lj and a user that use to be popular uploaded all this stuff and that's where i started from. I liked it because it was a lot better than the music in N.A.(USA) imo and since I am attracted to Asian men it was perfect for me.

See, it's weird for me because I am use to this shit by YG, it doesn't bother me. I like that their artist are on a strict schedule or killing themselves. I like their freedom and I am ok with waiting. I've just accepted this about his style of management and I learned with BB not to get pissed. It was almost two years before the Tonight EP came out. I feel ok with that and learned to just relax. I don't know...I like that they aren't that active but still have star quality. I guess to each their own. I get the...resentment but for me personally it doesn't bother or affect me much. I love them and just relax until its time to let them out. Plus, I guess I am just happy he's getting more trainee's and letting artist relax since it really was only like 6 acts before with YG. He really did keep it a very small company for a LONG time.

Lol. That's cool. I wish me and my sis were close but it is what it is. I just babble about it to the boy and he listens and let's me complain and rant and it works. I'm not worried about it since I am not on a lot of social media sites. I dislike twitter and I have NO IDEA how tumblr works so I just stay quiet lol.
markthatcoin 21st-Nov-2012 05:06 am (UTC)
i find SM is quite boring. i want very much to stan all bands on all labels but the songs bleed together. so do their mvs considering... they reuse the same set in every one, basically. and YES the current snsd japanese songs are AMAZING! i cannot get over them! i'm so excited to be excited over an SM product!

i was too late for 1tym/hot/etc, but at the time was really into american bubblegum pop and that's hardly what koreans were producing. i never got into r&b or hiphop until these last few years in kpop lolol. i missed all of the drama between 2ne1's debut and Tonight EP just because i wasn't very deep into kpop at the time... but i too am at that point where it's like, ok, i'm upset but not personally offended. but every so often i forget to be rational.

my sister and i didn't get close until the last five or six years... i forced so many of my tastes on her from a young age that i get alarmed when i realize that these days she has her own opinions lol. i've been off twitter for a while because it just moved to fast for me, except i checked it a lot today because of seungri (lmao!). i don't really get tumblr either but i use it to keep track of mvs and gifs and pics that i like, so i always know how to get to "that one gif of gd riding a little car in the crayon vid" lol.
trashsocialite 21st-Nov-2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
This. It lacks any creativity in my opinion. The only group I like from SM is f(x) but again, limbo land. So I rock the singles when they come out but have no real attachment to them. And yes, same sets over and over! It is maddening in some senses lol. Yes they are. I am excited for I am a diamond and animal. They sound so good. I can't believe I actually like an SNSD song. But then again, I think their voices match that image much better than their Korean image and sound. I dislike the sexy image for them cause I don't think the girls really like it. I like their simple, cute image.

Yeah, most people are and it's cool to see some people into them but it is def an older time and a much older image. It can be kinda funny to some people but I like it. lol. There wasn't much drama that I remember, but I do remember waiting forever for Tonight and 2NE1 debut but it was more a fight against Blackjacks and 4ninus (I THINK that's the name of 4 min's fan group, idk :/) lol. And them fight more who copied who and everyone laughing at 2NE1 trying to be the female Big Bang so they were kinda doomed from the start imo. Yeah, I don't know. I get it cause it's easy to be upset or mad that you don't have access but it's def different with Kpop artist join English language based sites like twitter or Facebook. It's def strange to see this new kind of landscape effect and change how kpop is produce and interaction with fans. So I get the hate but I'm just happy people know who they are and I have some way to get information tbh. lol. Guess I am just selfish in that regards.

Ahh I totally get that. That's where me and my sis were at. But we are in VERY different places of our lives. She is married with two children and I'm just working and trying to figure out school. It is hard to connect when you're in different stages of life, imho.

Haha! I love Seungri on twitter and I like him now a lot more. I dig how hyper active he is even tho he annoys me at time. Yeah, I guess I'll have to check our tumblr and see what's up with it. It seems good for the EXO community and all these nugu. I guess it's something that I will have to check out soon and see how it works. I had one in the beginning sand then stopped when I realized I was boring, lol.
phililen3 19th-Nov-2012 07:11 am (UTC)
What did I just read.
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