My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

It’s been such a wild ride.

So, I know undergoing this ~K-Pop Awakening~ (I now say with a hint of an eyeroll @ myself) has been weird, not only for me but also for my friends and probably everyone I know as well. K-pop, as I learned, can pretty much completely take over a person’s life, and I now realize I am a living example of this. Where is my shame, though? Do I have any? I really don’t think so anymore.

I learned a lot by entering the k-pop community. First: there is rarely such a thing as a casual fan. You either hardcore stan a group (or more than one, in most cases) or you don’t. Gray areas don’t exist, and once you catch feelings for a group, there’s no turning back.

Second: k-pop fans have no chill. Contrasting to my last point, this can vary from fan to fan. You can show your love for your group in small ways such as wearing items of jewelry or clothing adorned with the group’s relative symbols or your bias’s name, whereas other times fan groups with numbers in the hundreds or thousands get together and purchase ad space in Times Square to honor their bias group’s anniversary or plaster their faces on a bus for their birthdays. How they manage to pull it off is beyond me, but there is no denying the love they have for these groups and members is real.

Third: the k-pop community is one of the most accepting communities I’ve ever been a part of. Aside from fan wars (which is a completely different story), every person I’ve met and disclosed my “I don’t know what is happening to me but I love it” spiel to has given me a look of sympathy and said “it’s okay, I’ve been there too and I know what you’re going through and you will be okay,” followed by an exchange of how we discovered our bias groups and/or consequently gotten sucked into the k-pop void. It’s comforting to know that having your entire mindset and lifestyle taken over by this stuff is not only not unusual, but it is rampant, and you form an immediate bond with everyone else who this has happened to. In losing yourself, you find others.


Fourth: K-pop groups don’t come to America very often, but when they do, everything happens so fast. I am used to western artists announcing a tour anywhere from several months to more than a year before they actually hit your city. This gives you plenty of time to plan when you can go, maybe save up for a ticket or at least purchase it and make the money back later, but for k-pop groups, you get maybe a month or two’s notice before they begin a tour. This is stressful as h e c k. Not only are you bewildered that your bias group is coming to America at all, can you actually go? And if you can, can you afford it?? (Ticket prices are no joke, even the cheapest seats are half of one of my minimum-wage pay checks). If you’re able to take off school or work (which many, if not most k-pop fans go to that extent to do), you’re set… that is, as long as you’re part of a major US city. Likely, if you live anywhere that’s not NYC, LA, or Chicago, among other factors (being underage/can’t travel by yourself, can’t drive, can’t take off school/work, etc), you have to face the agony knowing your favorite group is in your country for once but it’s impossible for you to go see them.

Being a k-pop fan is not easy, especially when your dream is to see your favorite groups live even once in your life. In stanning these groups, both your pride and your wallet often ache with frustration.

That being said, in a surprising turn of events…

I got to see both of my bias groups within a month of each other!! Something I thought I would never get to do in this lifetime!!! Especially considering I’ve only adopted this lifestyle for a mere few months, whereas most of the k-pop fans I’ve met have been into this stuff for years. I’d be lucky to catch even one group’s show, but for once the stars (and my bank account, miraculously) aligned and I managed to see both of the two k-pop groups I fell in love with over the fall! Continue reading “My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month”

My K-Pop Awakening Part 2: K-Dramas Are Ruining My Life

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

Hey there! It’s UIC Radio’s Sonia!

If you’re reading this blog, you may know a little bit about my emergence into the world of k-pop, but if you don’t, be sure to check out my previous k-pop blog My K-Pop Awakening! In this series of my K-Pop Awakening, I hope to enlighten you in my discovery of K-Dramas and how they quickly took over my life, thoughts, and emotions, as well as recommend some really good (and some questionable) dramas for you to check out!

The ever-evolving k-pop void consumes me once again.

When we last spoke on this subject, I told you all about the ~*cultural awakening*~ I experienced back in mid-September, in which I discovered my now favorite k-pop group, EXO. I briefly mentioned my discovery of a K-Drama titled Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, which lead to my k-pop expert/friend/roommate Pearl to point out which actor is in EXO. What I didn’t mention was that I actually got into the show, and actively kept up with it until its completion.

And man, was it a wild ride.

When I found the initial 6-minute trailer for Scarlet Heart, I immediately knew it was going to be over the top and super dramatic (hence the key term “drama”). But my incessant need to lovingly troll my roommate fueled me to pursue the drama further and actually invest time into watching it.

For some context, as Pearl Girl explained to me upon my discovery of this trailer, Korean dramas were “unoriginal, over-dramatic TV crap with terrible casting and acting.” Naturally, this ignited the incessant troll in me and I couldn’t help but try to bug her more by watching the first episode and annotating each scene as she tried to hide *evil laugh*.

Somehow I managed to talk her into watching some of the episodes with me and, luckily, I dragged her down with me as all my free time became devoted to obsessively waiting for another new episode to post on my new best friend Drama Fever, a free online service where you can stream literally hundreds of dramas.

While it was my first official drama and holds a place in my heart, Scarlet Heart turned into a hot mess halfway through the series. The story was hard to keep up with, the main characters were doing inexplicable things that were beyond any comprehension, and I was immediately salty at the screenwriters following the death of my favorite character (who was arguably one of the best characters, if not the only one).

Was it trash? Yes. Did I love it? Heck yes. Do I hate myself for loving it? Slightly. Would I binge all the episodes in one go to get the nostalgia out of my system? Absolutely.

Since the finale of my first ever drama, I like to think my K-Drama palette has since improved. With that being said, here are a few more recommendations of some of my favorite dramas I’ve seen so far: Continue reading “My K-Pop Awakening Part 2: K-Dramas Are Ruining My Life”

My K-Pop Awakening

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

I have experienced a cultural awakening.

Earlier this semester, my friend/roommate Pearl and I were sitting at our kitchen table working on homework when I decided to take a quick break and scroll through Facebook, when I came across a video of Buzzfeed’s The Try Guys acting out scenes from Korean dramas. This ignited a conversation between us about Korean entertainment, dramas, and music.

Before I came to UIC, I grew up in suburban Chicago in a town that… let’s just say didn’t have a whole lot of diversity. So I wasn’t introduced to much music outside of the weird alternative stuff I was into, and the mainstream hip hop and cringe-worthy country music (that I avoided at all costs) that the rest of my high school was into. The only occurrence of Korean entertainment of any kind I experienced in high school was Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

Naturally, coming across this video on Facebook talking about Korean entertainment, I showed it to Pearl (who is Korean and speaks Korean), and immediately she went off on a rant about how K-Dramas are so cheesy today, listing off all the different tropes and reasons why it essentially sucks. Also naturally, being the troll friend that I am, for the next hour or so, I dove headfirst into YouTube to search for over-the-top K-Drama videos that I knew Pearl would immediately hate me for.

The first K-Drama series I got into: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, of which one of my favorite K-Pop group members is a character in!

Throughout the next few days, this trolling of my Korean friend escalated to me discovering current K-Drama tv show trailers, which then escalated to K-Pop music videos. I thought I would just find a few goofy videos to send her and watch as she grimaced throughout them, only to go on with my business and forget about it.

What I didn’t expect was how much K-Pop content actually exists on the internet. One music video leads to another, and then another, and then another. What’s happening to me is what has happened to every other person I’ve spoken to about discovering K-Pop:

I’ve fallen into an endless void, one that I have no plans of trying to escape.

K-Pop is like nothing I have ever experienced. Each and every music video has the highest production value of any music video I’ve ever seen before. The outfits, the choreography, the scenery, the props, everything just looks so cool. One of the most popular K-Pop groups I was introduced to is EXO, a boy group made up of 9* (I can still barely keep count, honestly) members who have some of the catchiest pop songs I have ever heard, not to mention their music videos: coordinated outfits, pastel hair, dreamy lighting – the works of some of the best K-Pop music videos.

*Note: the group used to consist of 12 members but is now down to 9 as of last year.

One of my favorite EXO music videos, “Monster.” Just look at that synchronized choreography.

And it doesn’t just stop there: popular K-Pop artists are frequently invited onto well-known variety shows to do what’s called fan service, which often involves the actors or singers playing games or doing crazy things in order to give back to the fans who adore their work.

What’s interesting to me is that I was never into American boy bands (I was just slightly too young for NSYNC and Backstreet Boys) and loathed other current boy bands (One Direction… don’t hate me fandoms, you have your things I have mine) that other fangirls my age were into throughout high school. But this? Endless videos of various different performances, behind-the-scenes, alternate music videos, and top-quality fan service? This is can get behind.

I know I’m in too deep. Everyone else knows, too. But I am not ashamed. I’ve gone so far as to make a Spotify playlist of all my favorite EXO songs that I’m still adding to. I’ve already ordered band merch online. I’m already picking up on the verses despite only knowing extremely limited Korean. Those I have outed myself to as a new K-Pop fan have divulged all their favorites to me as well. I am a heightened version of myself. There is no stopping me.

I still have a lot to learn and even more to discover, I am merely scratching the surface of what K-Pop has to offer. I want to delve into other genres of K-music as well, this is only the first wave of my discoveries. As soon as I recover from the high of absorbing all this content all at once, I will only continue to ascend to a higher understanding of K-Pop and more. So be sure to check out the upcoming blog once that happens.

In the meantime, enjoy another EXO music video below:

-Sonia

Sonny Apollo – ADVENTURESINPARADISE

Hey guys! What, I’m back again so soon?!

As you may know, I now co-host a show with my friend Pearl on Wednesdays from 4-6. Last week, on April 27th, we had our last show of the semester, and on it, we featured a special guest and returning UIC Radio visitor, Sonny Apollo!

In the past, Sonny appeared on Pahhhsitive Thinking with Elif and Push Love with D-Red. Now, to announce his very own upcoming EP, ADVENTURESINPARADISE, Sonny joined us on air to give us the details in an exclusive interview.

Local Chicagoan, Sonny made his way over here from the east coast, and embarked on quite a journey of both musical and self-discovery. Music has been a part of his life since Sonny was as young as 3 years old. He finds influences in Prince, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder, among others. He explains he received a mix tape from his parents with a melting pot of different artists, giving him exposure to inspiring talent at a young age.

Sonny’s upcoming EP, ADVENTURESINPARADISE, involves messages stemming from self-expression, self-exploration, and sexuality, or as Sonny put it, the “Plight of the Milennial.”

Sonny introduced the instrumental track for his upcoming song off of ADVENTURESINPARADISE, “Zoo.” To conclude, Sonny revealed that ADVENTURESINPARADISE will be released in late July, and the first official single will be released late June.

Sonny Apollo on Midnight with Pearl Girl and Sonia Universe

Sonny will also be performing live shows very soon. For specific dates for the releases and shows, be sure to follow Sonny on Twitter, and Facebook, and check out the full interview below:

-Sonia

Hometown Heroes and Monthly Gathering: Communion – April

Hey everyone! It’s been a while. Finals are right around the corner (literally), and I’ve been immersed in assignments, projects, and studying up to my ears. But I took a quick sanity break from that this past Wednesday, April 20th to head up to Schubas with my partner in crime, Pearl Shin, for the April edition of Communion Chicago!

This month’s lineup featured up-and-coming bands Cyn, AyOH, Jakubi, and Brother StarRace.

 

Continue reading “Hometown Heroes and Monthly Gathering: Communion – April”

Oh Daughter!

On Friday, March 11th, I attended Daughter‘s (@ohdaughter on Instagram and Twitter) show at the Metro, and after dealing with the possibility of a certain political figure and his supporters appearing on my campus earlier that day, it was exactly the tranquil music environment I needed to refresh.

Daughter, consisting of members Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli, and Remi Aguilella, formed in 2010 in London. They released their first EP His Young Heart in 2011, followed by their second The Wild Youth later that same year. After signing to a label in 2012, the band recorded and released their first full album If You Leave.

Daughter is currently touring for the release of their newest album Not To Disappear that was released this past January. The album features singles “Doing The Right Thing” and “Numbers.”

Arriving at the Metro on Friday night, I was ready for a night of calm, ambient indie music, and that is exactly what I got.

Opening for Daughter was Wilsen, a “dream folk” indie band from New York whose whistling skills are incomparable. Their EP Magnolia was released in May of 2014, and recently released a single titled “Centipede.” Wilsen started off the show with an ambient sound that set the mood for the night.

Wilsen, photos by Pearl Shin

Following Wilsen was the headliner of the night, Daughter. The band came on stage and opened with their song “How” off of the new album. The crowd was packed tight inside the venue in anticipation for more new music. Every song that they performed was met with an uproar of applause and cheers from the audience. Continue reading “Oh Daughter!”

Communion Chicago: February

2016 is off to a great start and so is the return of Communion in Chicago!

In my previous Communion blog, I gave you all the basic information about what makes Communion special. This month, I was excited to return to the monthly gathering of up-and-coming music fans from all over Chicago.

This month’s lineup was full of variety in the best sort of way, featuring performances by Moonrise Nation, Whiskey Shivers, LOLO, and Allan Rayman.

To start off the night, Moonrise Nation, a Chicago native band comprised of members Arden Bee, Eva Bee, and Emma McCall. An indie rock trio, Moonrise Nation has a dreamy indie pop sound that gives emphasis to its fairy tale-like name. All 3 female musicians are incredibly multi talented, as seen during their performance when they would shuffle around on the instruments and play flawlessly. Moonrise Nation’s indie pop set mixed with fun, dancey and slow, daydreamy songs made for a great introduction to the night.

Photos by Pearl Shin

Next up in the lineup was Whiskey Shivers coming all the way to Chicago from Texas with an entire group of friends with them. The moment the band stepped on stage, it was already a southern-style party. And how could it not be a party when the five members, Bobby Fitzgerald, Andrew VanVoorhees, James Gwyn, Jeff “Horti” Hortillosa, and James Bookert arrived barefoot and smiling, ready for a good time.

The band’s eclectic combination of country, bluegrass, and folk immediately made me begin tapping my foot and urged me to want to dance. There were others in the crowd who had the moves better suited for their music than mine, and were just as much of a spectacle as the band was. Whiskey Shivers’ set was full of foot stomping, banjo plucking, and quick fiddling fit for a southern party that anyone could enjoy.

Photos by Pearl Shin

Following them was LOLO, a duo comprised of leading woman Lolo and guitarist and backup vocals Josh. Lolo immediately proved her musical talent as soon as she began singing with her strong, blues-y voice. Often times she got so into her songs that she would fall to her knees while hitting strong, drawn-out high notes, eliciting a loud applause from the crowd.

LOLO’s combination of indie, rock, and blues throughout the set proved to be a groovy dance and love party full of excitement on so many levels. The duo’s contribution to the coming together event of Communion was certainly a good one.

Photos by Pearl Shin

To wrap up the night, Allan Rayman provided us with an obscure, intriguing performance. Storming onto the stage to sit down to a glass of red wine at a table draped with a black tablecloth, Allan Rayman slowly gained the attention of the audience by silently sitting still until they went quiet. He proceeded to walk up to the mic and begin his set.

Allan Rayman’s sound is kind of a combination of rap, r&b, and rock. Between songs, Rayman would sit back down at the table, sip his wine, as a voice came through a speaker in the form of a supposed ex girlfriend arguing about their relationship. He would then return to the mic and recite his songs, which often sounded like they were about a change in love. As he sang, he danced in gyrating motions. The entire spectacle captivated the audience.

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Photo by Pearl Shin

At the very end, Rayman finished his last song, and immediately stormed off the stage and out the door. Everyone loved it. It was the kind of performance that made you go “okay… cool.”

Overall, Communion proved once again to bring people together in the best way to celebrate music. This diverse and exciting lineup drew in all types of audiences to collectively enjoy it together. Communion gave me a taste of today’s up and coming artists and has left me an appetite for more, once again.

Calling All Bands!

Welcome back, UIC! I hope your semester is off to a great start.

Are you in a band, or do you know someone in a band? Have you always wanted to be the best of the best? Are you currently attending UIC? Then enter to participate in UIC Radio’s third annual Battle of the Bands!

UIC Radio is currently accepting applications for local talent and UIC bands to participate in this upcoming March’s Battle of the Bands.

In order to compete, at least one band member must currently be a student at UIC. Applications are due February 7th. Enter here!

TanZen performing at UIC’s Battle of the Bands 2014 (via UIC News)

Remembering David Bowie

Sad news in the world today upon hearing of the death of a legend.

bowie 1.10.15

With the first day of classes upon me, I was getting ready for bed (a.k.a. laying in bed scrolling through my various news feeds at 1 in the morning) when I first read the headline: David Bowie Has Died.

I was in disbelief. It seemed so surreal. My head was in a fuzz and I couldn’t think straight. David Bowie, the legend he is, couldn’t be dead. It had to be a hoax… Right?

But sure enough, after seeing several news sources confirm, reality set in: David Bowie passed away surrounded by his family at the age of 69, following an 18-month battle with cancer.

The first person I thought about was my mom – she was on a plane and wouldn’t be hearing the news for several more hours. It’s because of her that I even know of David Bowie in the first place; she’s been talking about him and playing his music for as long as I can remember. It was through her stories of living through the glam rock era that ultimately helped shape who she is today. My mom was going to be devastated.

While I was never able to fully experience the Bowie era or see him live (cue the “I was born in the wrong generation” monologue), I was still able to feel the effects of his art today. So many of my favorite artists credit their inspiration to Bowie, and I find that these artists, and many other regular people I know today, say they thank Bowie for giving them the courage to be weird, unusual, and wholeheartedly themselves. I find many times where I fit in that majority.

When I visited the David Bowie Is ___ exhibit last year, I got a glimpse at his legacy and how it helped shape the art world today. All around me were mannequins of his body, wearing the exact costumes and outfits he wore in his legendary music videos and performances. It was like he was in the room at so many different stages of his life all at once.

Two days before his death, on his birthday, Bowie released a new album, titled Blackstar. With that, he also released a music video for the song “Lazarus,” later revealed as a goodbye to his fans.

The lyrics feature eerie lines, such as the opening “Look up here, I’m in Heaven!” and later on “You know I’ll be free / Just like that bluebird / Now, ain’t that just like me?”. The release of this new record was “a carefully-orchestrated farewell to his fans,” as his producer put it.

So, today we say goodbye to the legend that was David Bowie, who touched our lives in too many ways to list. We say goodbye to Ziggy Stardust, the Man who Fell to Earth, the space oddity, David Bowie. Whether we know it or not, we all have something to thank him for.

Thanks for showing me it’s okay to be my weird self, Bowie. You will be greatly missed.

Chicago Communion Recap

Earlier this month, I attended Communion Residency Chicago: a showcase of the best new and upcoming music, at Chicago’s very own Schubas bar and music venue.

The Communion tour started off in London in 2006, and was founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons, Kev Jones of Bear’s Den, and producer Ian Grimble. From there, the monthly live music night became a welcoming place for music lovers and artists to gather in celebration of music. The monthly show transformed further as it grew into a record label and publisher, as well as expanding its monthly shows to cities all over the UK and US.

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With Thanksgiving coming up, the feeling of coming together was strong at this event. I attended several large shows the past couple of months, so returning to the small, cozy venue was very welcoming to me.

I was able to interview the two main acts of the show: Minor Characters, and AudioDamn!.

Minor Characters is comprised of Chicago natives Andrew Pelletier, Shelby Pollard, Adam Wayne, and James Ratke. The band describes their sound as growing from indie pop to a more folk-indie rock. They officially created Minor Characters in 2011 and have since released 3 LPs, and they find influence in some of their favorite bands such as The War On Drugs and Wilco. Check out the rest of the interview below:

The second act, AudioDamn!, comes all the way from Germany. The members Oliver Wimmer and Ali Grumeth met through playing in previous bands together, and were later joined by their friend Daniel Mudrack. Their sound is described as soul and rock with a “rock and pop attitude.” Their interview can also be heard here:

Communion will return to Chicago again next month on Wednesday the 16th. If you want to get in on the best upcoming music with your fellow music lovers, be sure to find event and ticket information here!