Monday, August 1, 2011

music feature: C.N. Blue (Korean) and some thoughts

In the past, I have always been an avid fan of a lot of new music groups and singers or artists due to popularity or good looks or just how much I liked them in such and such movie or series, or if they happened to have one really good hit that I obsessed over for weeks. This has changed little, but I think my tastes have been getting a little bit better.

I won’t say that I’m a hundred percent shallow and cannot tell the difference between good music and bad music or mediocre music when it comes to who I end up following or internet stalking, but I have those moments where I pick up an interest in someone who really does have good vocals and good music. I will admit though that I typically prefer to listen to "what I like" and I don't go for the meaningful lyrics or the above average tunes or those traditionally wonderful voices. I'm not that deep of a music listener and sometimes there are no reasons why I like listening to certain songs.

Not everything has to have some sort of deep-seated meaning for me to enjoy it. I like what I like.

But anyway...

In the past, there was Raymond Lam, TVB artist who sang many theme songs for the series that he starred in as well as some that he didn’t star in. He has a very versatile, unique voice and has been able to hit notes and pitches that even a lot of professional singers cannot find. And so when he finally came out with his own albums, I went crazy like a rabid fangirl. Of course, while his voice is excellent, it was a different story with some of his music-- I don’t think he got a very good selection in his official albums, but even so, because it was him, I followed his news religiously and listened to his songs like they were my only source of nutrition. But I have to admit that the music got old really fast and I realized that not all of the songs were even that catchy or meaningful or even that interesting-- at least not enough for me to continue following obsessively.

It’s all fine, I still like him despite his bad crop of albums. He's a great actor and has an excellent voice; case closed.

In recent times, there was a little idol group called Fahrenheit from Taiwan that I followed religiously and even joined forums for. I practically fell in love with them. Yea... I wonder about it up to today, after two years of being their fan, why I had followed them for so long. To be totally honest, aside from the decent vocals of youngest member Aaron Yan and the rock-music inclined Jiro Wang, the group was pretty much disappointing in the talent and singing and dancing area. They were simply a group singing together in their first album, they played around with harmony in their second album, and then they projected a new image in their third album... and it all went to hell after that. By their third album, I think they pretty much made image a more important factor than music and it showed in their fourth and last album. It was disappointing to see them give up on progress like that and now they’re finally all separated. This group, I think, was a ploy to get four otherwise little known men out into the industry for some exposure. And I daresay at the risk of getting myself flamed unmercifully, they were really over-hyped. I mean, sure, they were four very good looking men and through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, they showed a very close-knit companionship that made you smile. Some of their songs were rather good to listen to, but in the end, they really weren't that great.

But, just like with Raymond, I followed them like a crazy fangirl and listened to their music all the time... but I never played their music around anyone else, because deep down, I knew that they really weren’t that good. I was just a really big, obsessed fan because I was in love with Aaron Yan and thought that Wu Chun was the hottest thing on the eastern hemisphere (which is probably still true).

Other groups and singers I followed really weren’t too bad, honestly. Of course, there was that slight slip into the teenage era where I idolized a young group of boys called Lollipop from Taiwan who were extremely popular among young girls ten years my junior. And that didn’t last long though. I was mostly interested in the television program that these boys had come out of called Mo Fan Bang Bang Tang wherein you were allowed to watch regularly as a large group of boys displayed talent and went through tests to become selected into the ultimate six person boy band for ultimate exposure. It was fun, interesting, hilarious, and sometimes emotional, but I enjoyed it and so that's why I liked the six little stinkers for a while.

Other groups and singers I had followed, though not as religiously, included the three person girl group S.H.E. who are known as the longest running girl group in Taiwan. The three have been together for about ten years and going-- though due to recent incidents, they have had little exposure and have been going through a rough patch. There will be another post for this group and I will currently say that I love their music because aside from all three having excellent vocals, they have also built a great enough harmony with one another that probably comes with being both musically talented as well as extraordinarily close to one another.


More posts on those mentioned above may take place in the future, but as the very first music feature post on this blog, I would like to introduce my opinions in the music arena as well as the latest band that I have started to stalk religiously on the internet.

I don’t know if my tastes have really improved that much in present day; but I have to admit to myself that I really DO enjoy the music presented by Korean boy band C.N. Blue. Comprised of four young Korean singers, this group is actually rather becoming; all four contribute great vocals to their music. Jong Yung-hwa is the leader and one of the main vocals of the band and has also brought exposure to the group by starring and standing out in 2009 Korean drama series You're Beautiful; he also plays rhythm guitar and he can rap like the best of them.

The rest of the members include Lee Jong-hyun who is also one of the lead vocals in the group as well as plays the lead guitar. Lee Jung-shin plays the bass guitar, and lastly, Kang Min-hyuk is the drummer.

I love their music as much as I have always loved music of groups I obsess over, but I don’t have that deep down knowing that I have had about others. I truly DO believe that this group is excellent. As a band who play their own instruments, compose and write their own songs, and can perform live without any difficulties, these guys aren’t just another idol music group. Their vocals are up to par and their music really isn't too shabby.

I’ve watched a few live performances and they are the real deal. With a drummer and three who play guitar, they aren’t just a group of good-looking men who were thrown together and forced to be a popular singing idol group. Of course, I really don’t know if they were “just thrown together” but they really do work well together as a four man band. Jung Yong-hwa and Lee Jung-hyun both have excellent and strong vocals as they comprise the main singing parts of their music. And Jung Yong-hwa’s random rapping parts are just... well, I find it really sexy. Rapping is not an easy task, and to be able to do it wonderfully with a great voice and sound charming at the same time... well, I give him my ultimate thumbs up.

The music of C.N. Blue isn’t all about sad love songs and sappy romances. They have love songs and sappy romances, but others of their songs are very upbeat and catchy. Some fans have referred to them as having a style similar to that of some American rock bands such as Maroon 5; although it could be because one of their songs sounds similar to what a Maroon 5 song would sound like. Wiki describes their music as pop rock or power pop. I, personally, don't know music well enough to describe what style of rock they play, but I know what I like and these guys are really good.

In a short interview that I watched of theirs (with brief English subtitles enough for me to decipher what they were talking about) the group themselves didn't have much of a description for their music. Lee Jong-hyun admits that his music style and Jung Yong-hwa's music style is quite different and so they have to discuss what kinds of songs they end up composing. Jung Yong-hwa mentions that he would like for them to be the type of band who can sing any type of music and not simply remain in one style.

I think this is a great ambition, because sometimes when a group or a singer remains with one style for a long time, it could either be awesome or it could become bland. Soon, every single one of their songs will start to sound alike and you lose interest; or, if not, then that person's awesome-ness just continues to become even more awesome. There is no middle ground, sadly... A lot of excellent music artists who have lasted a long time, I think, have managed because they DO change up their styles every so often, attracting new fans; this is something that I think comes with a lot of experience as a singer and spending a long time in the entertainment industry.

Anyway, back to C.N. Blue, it really helps that they are truly musically talented. Did I mention the excellent vocals? As the interview went, it was revealed that Jung Yong-hwa has been learning and practicing music ever since he was very young and he knows it so well that he doesn't even have to think about the difference between a tone and a semi-tone. Having recently been interested in playing piano, I have asked that question before and I still don't really understand it. But then again, we all know that I'm not musically talented or anything.

And so what if they all happen to be extremely good looking (and almost too pretty to be true)? It’s a bonus and good looking young men are allowed to have great talent as well.

Of course, I will admit that there are many of their songs from their earlier albums that I don’t really care for too much. But the albums that gave them their big break are genuinely good. Granted, I don’t really understand Korean, but what translations I’ve been able to search out of their songs have come back with meaningful or fun lyrics to go along with their upbeat and easy-listening music.

I will admit though, the song that got them their big break titled “I’m a Loner” sounds kind of weird. But after hearing it a couple more times, you start to catch onto it. It’s neat.

On top of that, after watching some Korean dramas and listening to some Korean music, I came to realize just how good a lot of Korean people are at speaking, and even singing, in English. This group really isn't the best at English as it is still rather accented, but it's commendable that they can do it. My little world grew up in the Hong Kong based, Cantonese speaking area of the entertainment industry where English speaking was definitely NOT a strong trait. Even after flowing into the Japanese industry and the Taiwanese industry, fluent English speaking celebrities were hard to come by-- except in instances in the Taiwanese area where that artist had actually been born and raised in America or Canada or the like.

But after hearing some English being spoken by Korean artists, while still slightly accented, I'm absolutely impressed. Then my dad told me that Korea has had a lot of Americans "stationed" there for many, many, many years. English was like their second language.

I guess that makes sense.

Before anyone starts to get insulted by the sudden awe that I have about Korean's speaking really good English, I assure you that this in no way was a means to be rude or insulting or racist. I am Chinese, born and raised in America and I grew to speak English the American way (slang and poor grammar slip-ups included). I grew up watching TVB series wherein people who tried to speak English typically sounded heavily accented despite believing that their English is really good. I understand that Asian languages and English are extremely different and hard to learn one or the other because my parents aren't entirely fluent in English either. And I also know some older women and older men who like to think that their English is perfect even though no one, not even their children raised to understand heavy accents, can decipher a thing they're trying to say.

But sometimes it's nice to be able to hear an Asian speak English without an accent so that I can actually tell others, "See, not all Asian people speaking English sound like they drop all their plurals and miss every other word. We don't all sound like Kung Fu Chicken... or whatever you all like to call us," And then gracefully tell them to "Try speaking Chinese without an accent, THEN we'll talk." Because I have also come across a lot of American people who truthfully think that they are pronouncing Chinese characters exactly the same way as we do and that they don't have a stupid accent.

But anyway, getting OFF of my soap box...

Back to C.N. Blue, other information about them can be found at their wiki site: C.N. Blue wiki.

Another good site to follow for these guys would be the English fansite CNBLUESTORM which I will gladly add as a link on my sidebar as soon as I get around to it. Through CNBLUESTORM you may also find other sites that have info on these guys as well as their official YouTube site where there are currently four official MVs uploaded plus some teasers.

I have never been an avid follower of Korean music despite one of my favorite artists being Boa Kwon of Korean origin who has hit it big in both Korea and Japan-- I had always listened to her Japanese songs. But after watching a little series called You're Beautiful that dealt with the "behind-the-scenes" story of an all-boy band wherein music was a major part of the show, I decided to search out music by C.N. Blue as well as their "older brother" group F.T. Island. I really enjoyed the soundtrack from You're Beautiful and found that, even though Jong Yung-hwa doesn't get to sing too much in the series, he is a leader of his own boy band. And so, since he had such a unique rapping voice and awesome singing voice, I decided to follow C.N. Blue, and to my pleasure, I ended up liking their music. It also helps that Yong-hwa played the role of the sweetest and most romantic Prince Charming I've seen in a long time and made me fall helplessly in love with his character, thus falling helplessly in love with him.

Case closed, Jung Yong-hwa and C.N. Blue are my new obsessions.

You're Beautiful and C.N. Blue could be said to be my catalyst into the Korean entertainment world. Because before the drama series and this rock band, I had never really bothered with Korean entertainment despite it being extremely popular in all Asian countries. I had watched a Korean series before You're Beautiful, but aside from showing me that Korean drama series had some good actors and good story lines, it really didn't do much for me.

So I'm ecstatic. I've got a new boy band to stalk on the internet, and I'm happy that they have great musical talent and all four of these men, I've come to notice, are extremely good looking and almost too pretty to be true. Yes, they are very pretty. Men don't like to be described that way, but I can't help it-- they really are very pretty.

As an end to this article, I share some highlights about C.N. Blue:

My favorite member currently is Jung Yong-hwa due to the role that he is cast as in the series You're Beautiful-- he was the "Prince Charming" I fell in love with almost too easily. You would have to watch the actual series to know why-- but if no one sees it, then maybe I'm just really easy to please. When I heard him rapping a part to one of the series' songs, I was hooked to him. He is currently starring another new series, Heartstrings, and I am hooked to that series as well.

My favorite C.N. Blue song to date is 'Love Light'. I also enjoy listening to 'Love Girl' as well as a newer song that is said to be written by Yong-hwa for Heartstrings.

I would definitely recommend C.N. Blue's music to anyone. And if you find that you like them, here's also a small advertisement for their labelmate F.T. Island, a five person all boy rock band where fellow co-actor from You're Beautiful, Lee Hong-ki does the main vocal.

C.N. Blue started off their career in Japan and managed to make it onto Oricon charts. They were a huge hit in Japan before they started releasing in Korea. So all four of these young men are bilingual in Japanese and Korean... maybe trilingual as their English isn't too bad either. I wonder if they'd try to learn Chinese so that they can expand into the Chinese arena. That would be fun.

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