sun 21/07/2024

MBC Korean Culture Festival, Indigo2 | reviews, news & interviews

MBC Korean Culture Festival, Indigo2

MBC Korean Culture Festival, Indigo2

A superb showcase for the high-dollar, high-glitz world of K-pop

EXO-K: immaculately choreographed bubblegum pop

The rise of Korean pop (or K-pop, for short) in Europe has been steady; conceivably, all that’s needed for the common or garden music fan to become enraptured is one crossover artist. Countless new acts sprung up following the first wave of K-idols - G.O.D., SES, H.O.T., Shinhwa - and a new one continues to appear almost every week, unveiled after years of training.

They often live in boarding schools with strict diets and no guarantee of success, a regime for which the Korean culture industry is estimated to have generated some $3 billion. 

K-pop has started influencing western mainstream music, often breaking trends before they catch on in the UK, Sweden and the USA. Hoping to push the high-dollar, high-glitz world of K-pop further into the hearts of its European fans, Korean broadcaster MBC went all out on the budget at the Korean Culture Festival in London. Chart-topping boyband EXO-K topped the bill, with star turns from girl group 4Minute and eccentric duo Norazo.

K-pop has no interest in subtleties when there could be drama

There was overwhelming evidence that pop idolism hasn’t been lost in translation. The excitement for these A-listers was so heightened that the audience squealed at a mere breath. Even the compere's announcement that British Korean War veterans were in the front row inspired vociferous high-pitched screams rather than a more obvious round of applause. The surreal nature of the evening continued, not least when a translator appeared on stage to decode the acts’ scripted hellos.

Unlike a western pop concert, this show had no gaps. Between each act we were treated to a variety of surprise turns: a performance of samul nori, a genre of traditional percussion music, or fusion group Queen appearing unannounced, their flautist springing around the stage to an emotional house beat. The stage belonged to Korea, with musical consistency a minimal consideration. The winners of a UK K-pop dance competition were given their 20 minutes, the young audience squealing at a glimpse of the boys’ torsos as they performed to SNSD’s “Taetiseo’s Twinkle”.

EXO-K’s immaculate choreography restored their strand of bubblegum pop to its natural era: the late 1990s. They appeared hyper-charged throughout their short set and performed flawlessly. “History”, one of their biggest songs, possessed the same witchy sharpness that *NSYNC exhibited on their third album Celebrity. The epic rock and stabbing bass on “Mama” was again proof that K-pop has no interest in subtleties when there could be drama. It was a living recreation of the unique world of K-pop videos (see below).

4Minute offered an even bigger treat for pop fans - a sassy, ferocious delight which delved deep into the best elements of current western chart music. The urban edge on “Huh” didn’t hold back, while the breakdown on “Hot Issue” had more purpose than Cheryl Cole’s latest album manages to dream up in its entirety.

Follow @Natalie_Shaw on Twitter

4Minute's sassy, ferocious delight delved deep into the best bits of current western chart music


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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