Late last year, Utada Hikaru made a surprise return from her now 3-year hiatus from the industry (GUH) with a brand new release: “Sakura Nagashi,” the theme song to Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Re-Do. But she made it clear from the get-go: She’s not returning to music—yet.
That being said, she might be tippy toeing (REFERENCE) her way back later in 2013.
Although it’s only been two years since Utada Hikaru announced a hiatus from music, her absence from the industry has already been made achingly apparent. Mercifully, out of nowhere, she’s returned to us–if only for a brief moment.
Note to my readers: This is an essay, not a regular update. A little bit personal (raw), as Lindsay Lohan would say.
“Maybe a reason a lot of people like or connect with my stuff is because, on a basic level, as human beings, everyone feels that loneliness as an outsider. May it be at school, at home or the society, you feel lonely sometimes, or you are not the same as everyone else, or you don’t belong. That sort of feeling comes out strongly in my music, no matter what language. Maybe that’s one way people can connect with my music.”
- Utada Hikaru, February 2009
Music, like anything else that arouses the senses, is inextricably tied to memory.
At the time that Utada Hikaru’s Exodus was first released back in October of ’04, I was just coming into my own as a sophomore in high school. And by ‘coming into my own,’ I mean slowly embracing the fact that I was hungrily gawking at the boys in gym class far, far more often than I was at the girls, which was approximately never.
Granted, the fact that I was gay didn’t come as much of a surprise. My mother once had to be called into my preschool because I kept kissing the boys in class, and it was “becoming a problem.” Yet coming to terms with one’s own different-ness at exactly the worst time in anyone’s life to be different is no easy feat. Just ask Lady Gaga.
Exodus–along with Britney’s In The Zone a year prior (more on that for another time)–was my refuge.
It’s been a long time coming (and something that’ll make my K-pop Krazy friend Prophet Blog wet himself with delight), but it’s time I finally acknowledged the wonder and splendor of the force known as Girls’ Generation.
Now, I myself am more of a J-Pop connoisseur than K-Pop girl group guru (I go hard for Utada Hikaru, Namie Amuro, Koda Kumi and Ayumi Hamasaki in particular), but it’s all but impossible not to notice the extraordinary influence of Korean girl groups making their way overseas.
Girls’ Generation–sometimes referred to as SNSD (an acronym based on their Korean name)–is by far one of South Korea’s most popular acts. After their debut back in 2007, the nonet (that’s nine members) has gone on to win countless awards and smash dozens of records in both Korea and Japan, most notably for their 2009 international smash hit “Gee,” the Ke$ha-penned “Run Devil Run,” as well as their #1 Japanese hit from earlier this year, “Mr. Taxi.”
(By the way: Think a nine member group is crazy? Check out AKB48, a J-Pop group consisting of 59 members to date. Go ahead. Just try and remember their names.)
Now, quite excitingly, Girls’ Generation are set to make their official mark stateside (well, worldwide really) with the release of their third studio album The Boys, due to hit iTunes on October 19, followed by a US single release via Interscope Records sometime in November.
“The Boys” is the album’s lead single, which was recorded in both Korean and English. Today, the full song hit iTunes and the video has premiered (in both languages) and…well, it’s absolutely incredible. (To be fair: J-Pop and K-Pop videos usually slay Western videos. This is certainly no exception.)
Featuring some truly ferocious choreography, the ladies work it out in some sort of icy snow palace while rocking sky-high stilettos and killer haute couture threads. For fans of girl groups of any kind, the video relentlessly delivers everything that a good girl group video should: Fierce poses, glamorous looks, glossy styling…it’s everything!
And as for the song itself? Crafted by Teddy Riley (Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga), “The Boys” is a solid modern R&B/dance-pop effort with some attitude–a welcome change from the all-too-grating sugary-sweet sound that K-Pop girl groups tend to churn out on the regular. The chorus is an instant ear-worm. Plus, for those easily offenced by a foreign tongue hitting their ears, their accents aren’t even that strong at all–a key factor in helping them to crossover to the West.
As an English debut, “The Boys” is a pretty massive introduction for the group. I’m incredibly excited to see what the international response is to Girls’ Generation–especially in America. Yay for global pop recognition!
“The Boys” was released on October 19. (iTunes)
It’s been a minute since I last wrote about Kimberly Caldwell.
In case you’re less than familiar and/or new ’round these parts, Caldwell was the throaty seventh place runner-up of American Idol: Season 2. More importantly, she was (and remains) my favorite American Idol contestant, second only to the inimitable Kelly Clarkson.
Back in ‘the day’ (freshman year of high school to be exact), I was known as the one with her pictures of her plastered all over my binders Well, those that weren’t already covered in Britney and Utada pictures. When she got voted off, I cried and cried for days on end. Stunningly, it would still take two years for me to formally whip my hair out of the closet.
After seven years of waiting, Caldwell released her much anticipated debut single “Mess of You” last February, Caldwell announced plans to release her debut album, Without Regret, in April of 2010. I even got the chance to interview her! Then the album got pushed back to June, and then December, and now it’s apparently coming out in April of this year.
In the meantime, she’s back with a brand new beat: “Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys,” a hook-filled electro-pop rock anthem produced and penned by Tommy Henriksen, BC Jean and Zac Maloy.
Much in the same vein as Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up” or P!nk‘s “Stupid Girls” and “U + Ur Hand,” Caldwell’s rowdy rock affair is a formal declaration of war against fuckery of all varieties: Boozers, users, losers, and all the other riffraff that threatens to ruin (or enhance?) your fun while you’re just trying to have a good time with your friends in the club. Worst!
So instead, why not join Kimberly in taking that party over and dancing until you die? Sounds about right to me!
“Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys” is without a doubt the most fun, radio-friendly cut Caldwell’s recorded to date–perhaps even catchy enough to garner some serious mainstream interest! Will she? Who knows.
At the very least, I’m still rooting for her…eight years and counting.
“Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys” was released on December 3. (iTunes)