Block B – H.E.R – Album and MV Review

After the ‘Jackpot’ promotions were cut short (due to the Sewol Ferry disaster) It was great to see Block B back with a follow-up mini album a short while later. The promos promised something fun, slightly off-kilter and most of all… very VERY pink!

Block B are a group whose MVs I always enjoy, as they’re usually a bit deranged with a hefty side of tongue-in-cheek winking at the camera – this is not a group who are afraid to destroy their idol image on camera at all.

Their last two promo cycles were ‘Very Good’ – bank robbing themed mayhem, and ‘Jackpot’ – circus themed mayhem. So in keeping with this tradition, ‘H.E.R’ is appropriately full of riotous pop colour, excessive and exaggerated aegyo, and a fun time is had by all.

When the first concept photos were released I will admit I was slightly taken aback – was Block B going to do a cute concept? It just didn’t seem… Block B. That’s not to say that they don’t have some lovely slower and romantic tracks in their discography, but they’ve never really been boy band cute. They’re more… chaos that is barely restrained. It’s like they are all ‘idols…. pfffft we’re here to have a good time!’

Thankfully ‘H.E.R’ throws the cute out the window (sort of) and embraces the silly, over the top joy that the feeling of being in love brings. It’s literally a cute concept on crack, or addled with caffeine and ADD… But it still manages to poke fun at the usual tropes of cute kpop while having a lot of fun romping around. The song has a really bright and upbeat tempo and like a lot of KPop this year, is somewhat of an homage to music styles from the past. This has a brassy 60’s pop feel, and the over saturated candy colours in the MV reinforce that connection. It’s catchy and fun and still has the distinctive Block B feel. Zico has done a really great job producing a cohesive body of work that captures their personalities and showcases their talents.

The live stages were a heap of fun as well, and best of all, we were treated to a few performances of ‘Jackpot’ as well.

MV Moments

Candy-Coloured Set

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I immediately loved all the pastel and pop styling! Especially as it looks like one big surreal play-set. I think they had a lot of fun just goofing off in a lot of the shots for this MV. There is a choreographed dance routine, but most of the MV is just romping around

Golf Shenanigans

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This GIF is a few scenes spliced together! But I laughed so much at the set-up and then the payoff for this.

HER

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So the chorus is very catchy! I especially like the kaleidescope effect where the basketball hoop shots are all smushed together.

Zico and the Ostrich

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This is so incredibly strange and dada-esque that it delights me – Zico also has a rather expressive face and makes some great GIF moments here.

1+1 Promotions

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So cute! Also rather clever as I remember seeing these all around the super market when we were in Korea. P.O’s noona-slayer pink (bright pink!) hair is also a highlight.

Taeil’s Heart

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So sweet! And another echo of the kaleidescope imagery in the set and the pop-art sequences.

U-Kwon slaps the aegyo out of Zico

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Hands down, the best part of the whole MV. My bias!!! But really, this is too funny. The show within a show is a great conceit as well.

Endless Block B

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The show interview pulls back to show the premier stage performance of Block B, and again to show Block B as the band playing the instruments. You can never have too many Block B members in shot at the same time 🙂

Album Review

In a sea of black and subdued albums ‘H.E.R’ and its bright candy pink packaging definitely stands out from the crowd! Unlike other groups, there is no consistency to sizing or styling with any of Block B’s previous releases. Each album is distinct from the last – which makes for an interesting and eclectic shelf arrangement.

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‘H.E.R’ is a 15 x 15 box enclosure (yay boxes!) constructed from a matt laminated card that is screen printed, foiled and spot uv highlighted. Interestingly it’s an interlocking die-cut rather than a cut and glue. (The print and design part of me likes to see how these albums are made, it’s a big part of the reason that I buy a physical copy, because they use so many interesting design techniques). This is a cheaper method, but the corner mitres are snug and the inner flap has an additional layer glued to it to add weight and improve the finish.

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I like the paisley design that is subtly printed on the black too! It’s a super feminine touch to an already overwhelmingly pink album. The cover is also a magnetic closure with a ribbon pull tab that is printed with their logo.

Rather than including a photocard, you instead got a random ‘paper doll’ of a member enclosed. I got Jaehyo! It’s a wonderfully kitsch inclusion that makes me love the album that much more.

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The photobook is also a lot of fun, featuring bobble-headed shots of the members posing with props. It’s totally cute – in a kind of exaggerated hyper-adorable way – it’s almost like they’re dolls with their tinted pink cheeks and toy scale props.

I’m quite tempted by the Special Edition as well which includes a DVD and extra photoshoot with a larger photobook, but it may have to wait until I am more financially solvent! there are too many albums to buy this year!

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The mini album has 6 tracks in total that are a kind of grab bag of styles and sound. I enjoyed the rough version of ‘Very Good’ and the ballad ‘Embrace Me Now’.

This was a great comeback and it was fantastic to see them get a few more wins under their belt too!

“Just a little bit of you”

And bonus dance practice in super cute onesies!! All dance practices should be this adorable!

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Infinite Fanclub – Inspirit 4 Recruitment

Joining an official K-Pop fanclub might seem like an odd thing to do as an International based fan – particularly as most of the benefits of being a member only apply to events and concerts that are held in Korea – but it’s another way to support a group while getting a nifty card with your name on it that you can flash to prove you’re a literal die-hard card-carrying member!

This year, I decided that I’d sign up for as many of my groups as I could – Sure it’s a total indulgence, but it’s fun at the same time. Typically, fans tend to only join one fanclub – but I love so many groups and I have no problem at all supporting all of them at the same time! (Though October is going to kill me as it’s a month of back to back comebacks for boy groups that I adore and love and I can’t choose between them and will be torn for who to support the most for music shows…)

K-Pop groups usually have specific sign-up periods for their official fanclubs (generally a 2 week window of time) once a year (and sometimes not even that!! SHINee open your registration again already!!). Depending on the group, sign-ups may be via the official Daum cafe,  an email address, via the record company website, or through a third party website. It used to be very difficult for a fan not based in Korea to join, as you’d often need a Korean postal address, or even a Korean SSN (Social Security Number) and the whole process was in Korean (as you’d expect) But these days, recognising that the Hallyu wave has brought the world to their door, more and more groups are adding an ‘International Fan’ option.

Once you have registered and paid, your membership is then valid for one year. Typically the benefits include:

  • Instant level-up in the Daum fancafe so that you have earlier access to behind the scenes photos, messages from members etc. This is really great for me, because I’m a total lurker when it comes to the fancafes, as my Korean fluency is still pretty sketchy and I slightly hyperventilate at the thought of having to write a post in order to accumulate participation points.
  • Early access to purchase concert tickets or concert ticket lotteries
  • Participation in a fansign or fanmeeting event
  • Preferential access for things like music programs during comeback schedules
  • Special fanclub goods that often come with messages from your group
  • A card with your name and membership number on it

Some groups don’t extend all of these benefits to international fans, so if you’re joining to have access to a fansign/fanmeeting for when you’re in Korea, be sure to read the fine print! And these benefits only apply to concerts and events held in Korea during the year that your membership is valid; if your group comes to your country, being a member will not give you early access to tickets. To take advantage of the benefits while in Korea, you’ll need to be able to navigate the fan cafe & understand some Korean to find out dates, times and the application process for fanmeetings, or be a whizz with google translate (or be like me and stalk Tumblr tags for helpful people who write tutorials on how to do things!) And even then, nothing is guaranteed!

Recruitment notices are posted in the fancafe and you might get a cute youtube video notice as well – you just need to keep your eyes peeled (or stalk Tumblr tags or Facebook groups)

So far this year, I have joined the following fanclubs: The costs are in Australian dollars and each membership works out to about $60-80 once shipping is factored in. Most of these were super easy to sign up for, as the third party website that they used (Interpark) had an option in English and accepted foreign credit cards. The hardest part is joining the fancafe and applying for your level up LOL!

BAP – $38 plus separate shipping costs that we didn’t find out about until it was too late 😦 So alas we never got the fan goods
2PM – $35 plus $25 shipping costs – came with card and box of fan goods (pin set, bookmark, postcards)
Teen Top – $28 plus $17 shipping – card only – you can buy the fangoods ‘Angel Box’ separately without being a member
Infinite – $36 plus $35 shipping – came with card, postcard and light-stick
EXO – Free, online only registration, no direct benefits
GOT7 – $38 plus $29 shipping – came with card and box set of fan goods (stickers, postcards, card holder)
VIXX – $27 plus $29 shipping (made separately via international bank transfer, so the fees were HUGE) will come with card and goods

Infinite had their 4th fanclub recruitment for Inspirits earlier this year. It was all handled through Interpark, who also helpfully added shipping costs automatically, so required no effort whatsoever!

2 months after the sign-up I received a package via DHL. It was a pretty hefty box and I was surprised as during sign-up the ‘fan goods’ weren’t actually listed – we just knew it would be something.

Much to my joy, it was the new lightstick of GIANTNESS!

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We also got our card as well as a postcard with printed signatures and messages. It was all super cute, but I was mostly excited about the lightstick. Buying one of these and paying shipping costs more than the fanclub membership itself, so this was a win for me!

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The lightstick is really pretty – and has a cut-out on the top in the shape of the logo, so when it lights up it casts the same shape – so clever! So now I’m armed with an official lightstick for the next Infinite concert that we go to!

Special bonus – my ultimate bias Sunggyu posing (as only he can) with this glorious piece of merch!

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Sunshine Awards

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Well I clearly FAIL at life (and reading blog notifications) so this is EXTREMELY late – but I shall answer all the lovely questions from Aimee (Confessions of a Noona Fan) and Sue (Mamafangirl)

The Sunshine Award is nominated for bloggers who are positive, inspiring and who like spread a little sunshine with their blogs (which is my ENTIRE feed, because you all bring shared joy into my life).

The Guidelines!

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate a few other bloggers
  • Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you nominated.
  • Notify the bloggers on their blog.
  • Put the award button on your blog.

First up – questions from Aimee:

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

Well, this has been going on for more than 10 years now! We started together writing our collaborative project on Livejournal, which then spread to fangirling over Stargate and other shows and now Kpop on a new platform (WordPress). I think it’s really that I like to share things that I love with total strangers and it gives me an outlet for all my terrible jokes and fun observations.

2. What is your favourite thing to blog about?

Kpop! I like to make GIFs of my favourite moments from shows and MVs and then talk about why I like them!

3. How would you, ideally, spend a day off?

Well, I have a lot of days off now! So I spend them reading, watching KDramas and procrastinating on the internet. But my ideal days are always spent with my friends. We have SO MUCH FUN when we all get together that it breaks my heart a little whenever I have to get on a plane and go home.

4. What do you like doing to cheer yourself up when you are feeling down?

I listen to music – specifically my SHINee or FTIsland playlists 🙂 I also really like going for a walk when I’m in a bad mood because by the end of it I feel much better (listening to bright happy songs at the same time also helps)

5. What are the top 5 songs you currently can’t get enough of?

*consults i-Tunes*

That would be:

Lucky Star – SHINee
Eternity – VIXX
Back – Infinite
Orange Sky – FTIsland
1AM – Taeyang

6. You’ve won front tickets to any concert of your choice. Who are you going to go see?

SHINee! And you and Emily are right there with me to sob uncontrollably (and totally be pulled up on stage to be serenaded like in my crazy dream because it’s TOTES going to happen) 2015 is going to be my year of SHINee concerts so be prepared!

And now from lovely Sue!

1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Probably my island-of-boys. This is our theoretical tropical island where we have kidnapped all of our fave idols and make them sleep in cute boypiles and do aegyo and performances all day long. But you mean real world right? I’ll be really boring and say Melbourne – because so many of my friends are there and living in the same city would be amazing!

2. What was the best concert, gig, performance, or festival you’ve ever been to?

Robbie Williams ‘Swing When You’re Winning’ in Manchester was an AMAZING live performance (and one of the first really big stadium gigs that I ever went to way back in 2002) In recent times, that would be Infinite’s ‘One Great Step’ in Hiroshima because we were soooo close to the front and it was a magical experience to be up close and personal with one of my favourite kpop acts.

3. What is your go-to karaoke/noraebang song (or your hairbrush-mic in the mirror song if you’re shy)?

LOL so embarrassing… *cough* Well… my songs are all pretty 80’s and 90’s because that’s my era! My go to song would probably be ‘Eternal Flame’ by the Bangles which I sing horribly off key and basically wing it through the high notes and ‘When the Lights Go Out’ by 5ive. Noreabang wise… well I enjoy butchering all the Hangul because I can’t quite read and keep up with the lyrics – my aim in life is to get through SHINee’s ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Why So Serious’.

4. Choose one: Would you want to be a rock star or a movie star?

Movie Star because it seems like less work! Have you seen all these idol reality shows? They never sleep at all! VAMPIRES!

5. If money or time was not a concern, what one thing would you love to try or learn how to do?

I would love to be able to play the piano – but like genius level good – by ear – you know where you listen to a song and can then play it back. I feel that this would be a great talent to whip out and impress people with. Plus I could play all the music that I also love listening to.

6. Who was your very first celebrity crush?

My first boy crush was probably Jonathan Brandis who was on Seaquest: DSV (OMG I just horribly dated myself didn’t I?) I also had feels for Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, New Kids on the Block (totes had all their albums… on tape and would religiously collect all the TV Guide covers and magazines with them in it) and not going to lie… but my high school years were ALL about Fox Mulder and his broody UST with Scully (and I voraciously read ALL the fanfic – back in the day when it was Yahoo Communities that were invite only and locked message boards! And you had to wait like 5 minutes for the page to even load on dialup in the snow both ways)

My Questions:

1. You’ve just met your ultimate bias in an elevator and have 60 seconds with them all to yourself. What is your reaction?

2. What is your favourite non-title track from any of your favourite groups and why should we listen to it?

3. If you could re-write the end to a drama or MV that disappointed you, what would you change?

4. When was your last moment of feeling pure happiness?

5.  What were the last 5 songs you listened to?

6. What are 3 essential things you always pack in your bag when you go out?

I nominate:

Anyone who wants to answer!!

Infinite – Be Back Repackage – Album and MV Review

I’m back – after a break of many moons! And there is so much kpop to talk about! I’ll have to restrain myself to albums and singles that I have actually bought (which is still like… 30 things! OMG… so many posts to make…)

I’ll kick it off with my strong contender for song of the year…

Anytime Infinite has a comeback makes me a happy fangirl, so the very moment that they announced a repackage for ‘Season 2’ I had a countdown clock in place. Not that we had to wait long at all, as this promotion followed quickly on the heels of ‘Last Romeo’. ‘Back’ is certainly my favourite song of the year so far – and that’s fending off some very stiff competition in what has been a very good year of songs and concepts from all the groups that I follow and collect.

I might be a tad biased (Infinite being my second favourite group and home to my ultimate bias Sunggyu) but this is a solid song full of the familiar Infinite sound and excellent vocals. It starts with a slow buildup, steadily moving towards the drop where the full orchestral sound kicks in and it gallops along from there. Best of all, there’s some great line distribution in this song – everyone has something – and for a 7 member group that’s pretty good! This has had heavy rotation on my i-Pod and playlists and the more I listen to it, the more that I love it.

MV Moments (Performance Version)

The initial release of the MV was the story version, which features Infinite showing up to a gang fight to rescue Sunggyu’s sister armed with questionable items (an umbrella for Sungjong… really???) and receiving a pretty thorough beat down before they rally for a final showdown. It’s fairly stylised violence, but I still find it pretty hard to watch – even though I know it’s not real. I don’t know… it just makes me uncomfortable. I also have a hard time watching similar themed MVs and tend to minimise the screen / bail entirely as soon as blood appears (see: BAP ‘One Shot’, VIXX ‘Voodo Doll’, and the MV that cannot be watched ever again ever: MYNAME ‘Baby I’m Sorry’). Death and violence just aren’t my jam. So although I absolutely ADORED the song and watched every single live performance, I only watched the actual MV about 3 or 4 times. I can only watch Sunggyu being beaten in the head with a baseball bat so many times…

So it was a great relief when Woolim released the ‘Performance Version’ aka the version that focuses on the dance. Infinite has impeccable choreography as always – but it can be hard to focus on it for live stages and even in MV versions because of the camera cuts. It’s a real feat to be able to pull off a 7 member dance that has knife-like precision and is also interesting to watch.

Mirror Dance
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I really love the mirrored movements in the opening here – it’s clever as well as visually striking! Of course I’ve decided to focus on my ultimate bias here (who is looking FINE)

Can You Save Me?
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As the song picks up the pace, the dance also pulls the members into formation. I like how they all circle each other slightly too.

Back Back Back Back Back
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Body rolls… always a fave! This one is subtle (if you can call a body roll subtle) but I love it! The second one is more obvious, but I like the focus on L here 😀

Knife Dancing
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Infinite are known for their precision and this dance is no exception. It’s an odd mixture of fast and slow, but the high energy points are really great!

Dongwoo Sings!
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Normally part of the rap-line, Dongwoo has a vocal part and he nails it! (My squee was heard from miles away when we first listened to this)

제발 (Please)
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Not only do I love this dance move, but it’s a whole line for Sungyeol!

돌아와줘(Please Come Back)
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As we reach the climax of the song, the line formation here really looks great!

I Say Save Me
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And it ends perfectly as well!

Album Review

One thing that I have LOVED about Infinite’s albums this year for both Korea and Japan is how consistent they have been with their branding and packaging carrying across several years of albums and mini-albums. ‘Season 2’ was an exact mirror of their first album, with the same style slip cover and format. And now ‘Be Back’, the repackage, is also a mirror of the first album’s repackage ‘Paradise’ with the same envelope style casing! It’s a small detail, but the print nerd in me loves it!

My version of the album also came with 2 x posters. I have to laugh, because that makes 5 posters for this round of promotions and I can’t even choose which one to display – I may just have to rotate them in and out as the mood grabs me. There can never be enough Infinite on my walls!

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The outer packaging is printed on silver card with an emboss and spot UV highlight, die cut and folded into an envelope. It’s a clever way to make everything look like a present that you can unwrap. The image on the front is also version A of the poster (possibly my fave version). This is also a pretty big album! It takes up some serious shelf real estate when on display.

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Once unfolded, you have the CD mounted and recessed into black foam-core (I really love that they have the logo on EVERYTHING as well – sidenote, Infinite do an iteration of their logo for every album and I quite like this one – it’s a bit more feminine which works well with the ongoing ‘Last Romeo’ theme). Instead of a photocard, you get a giant postcard (random member) printed in colour on the same silver card as the outer packaging. Yay Woohyun! And in this first press edition, 2 x photobooks.

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The Special Edition photobook is full of candid behind-the-scenes photos from the ‘Back’ MV shoot. Lots of great photos and the paper is a good weight (not cheap feeling).

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The standard photobook is also great – the paper is a pearlised finish, so it gives the photos a slightly dreamy quality. Fans of the group will appreciate the many pages in both books – the repackage is significantly different enough from the original album to justify having both in your collection.

The repackage album has the same tracks as ‘Season 2’ but with the extra songs ‘Back’ and ‘Diamond’. Because it’s such a pretty looking album, this is my current facing outward on display showpiece for Infinite. I was super happy with this purchase and with the whole promotion cycle.

‘I want you back back back back back’

And as a bonus – the amazing dance practice video! The choreography for this dance was, as I mentioned, thoroughly ON POINT. Though Sunggyu obviously did not get the memo about wearing tight pants…