Hi, Tumblr. I referred yesterday to being on semi-hiatus; well, that’s going to become a full-on hiatus, and go on for a little while. If you come back to my main page in the next couple days and find nothing but an “On leave” text message, that’s why.
At the risk of being overly self-absorbed and melodramatic, I have been low of late; and the stream of GIFs feels more overwhelming than helpful. More to the point, fangirling has felt less like a fun distraction and more like an exercise in willfully blind complicity. I have been watching This Is Infinite, and whereas at this time last year Ranking King was a lovely, goofy tonic when I needed it, now all I can see is how damn tired they all are, how the makeup in Episode 2 seems to render them shiny and waxen, how artificial and constrained it all feels.
I know: perhaps better to coat the gentlemen in layers of artificiality than to have the public believe themselves entitled to something “authentic.” That’s what I mean, by the complicity: too much investment in an industry running heavily on contempt for its performers, its staff, and its fans. I feel like even my imagination has been corrupted.
(I don’t have the best strategy for going outside Tumblr, either: in the last 24 hours I have read about the gruesome murder of a mother and her 3-year-old, death and fire in Kiev, the (disputed) mess in Venezuela, the potential collapse of the entire oceanic food chain, rape during the Civil War, and the murder of a mother of three by a drunk driver. And then I wondered why I was feeling down.)
I am still thinking about my question about reading music writing. At this point, a year after I started playing around on Tumblr, it would probably be a good thing for me to step back and say: okay, so why am I playing around on Tumblr? What am I doing that’s useful, that might be helpful, that might be in the spirit of tikkun olam? I do believe in the possibility of fangirling for the greater good; but I don’t think that’s what I’ve been doing lately.
Have a lovely time, in the meantime.
While I still have power: this video, from WFAA in Dallas, is of a longtime sports reporter — and, since it’s relevant to my point, middle-aged white man in a pinstriped suit — expressing support for Michael Sam, mocking the critics of Michael Sam, and quoting Audre Lorde in his support for Michael Sam. I’m not entirely sure he’s got the quote right, but that’s a relative nitpick.
B1A4 - LONELY
They’re Misters Lonelys…
Jessica Doyle: To set the scene: B1A4 has been around since 2011; they hadn’t been performing regularly since May, which is centuries in K-pop time; two of the five members had been well-received in dramas and a third in solo performances; they needed to be able to capitalize on this momentum and make Who Am I? a success, or risk a long-term reputation as second-tier. Thus “Lonely” is playing it safe. “Safe,” in B1A4 Land, does not guarantee “straightforward”: this is the group that brought you the happiest song ever about being cheated on, after all. What looks like a plain old breakup song ends up, upon closer examination, revealing itself as a just-post-breakup song: that moment where genuine grief has blurred into self-pity and self-pity is fighting off the knowledge that it’s time to pack up and move on. The repeated “Hey” functions as a reminder that the narrator may call himself lonely but doesn’t have the luxury of denying all company. It appears that Jung Jinyoung has pulled off the difficult trick of creating a popular hit (Who Am I? has sold so well that rival groups’ fans have accused B1A4’s management of artificially inflating album sales) without blanding himself down. From a long-term perspective, a triumph — in the immediate act of listening to the song, it takes too long to get started; and Baro’s rap feels even more superfluous than usual; and Sandeul’s hook is even more fleeting than usual. There is room for improvement, Jinyoung. I grade harshly out of love.
Madeleine Lee: I’m picturing some Project Runway-esque challenge where Jinyoung had to make a single in two days using only an 80s karaoke instrumental, some outtakes from the group’s last few singles, and his own G-Dragon impression. The result isn’t bad, but it sounds awkward compared to the other (better) tracks he wrote for the album. You get the sense he could have used a few more days to hammer out those melodic transitions. Could be worse, I guess; he could have called it "Something."
Alfred Soto: A sucker for block chords on synths, the well-arranged vocals made for adequate harmonic fills. Does the lead singer say “hunky dory” over and over? I hope so.
Edward Okulicz: It doesn’t come together until the last minute, when the various bits of melody stop dancing around each other and link metaphorical arms and sway and glide through the speakers. Before that, if you ignore the super-smooth beat, it makes me think it could have been written for, I don’t know, Atomic Kitten or something.
Megan Harrington: B1A4 are a throwback to boy bands of yore in all the best ways: matching outfits, that dance move where co-ordinating arms and legs are extended in a leading bow (I think this dates back to Victorian-era boy bands?), and, most importantly, singing sad candy pop. You don’t need a translation to recognize the juxtaposition of mineshaft teenage heartbreak with the over-saturated hues of pop at its purest. To be a bit grim, I don’t think most people experience ecstasy, but the world is full of despair. Maybe “Lonely” isn’t going to see you through the tunnel of decay, but it makes feeling awful a celebration. If you’re young enough that you’ve never experienced the death of romance, “Lonely” subtly suggests the perverse pleasures of pain. If you’re old enough to feel jaded about love, “Lonely” is winking conspiratorially while it drags you around the roller rink.
Anthony Easton: This repeats and crosses signals enough to be called manic, until the whole thing collapses into a slow-down. The collapse has a laconic, skilled charm, suggesting a set of skilled aesthetic choices, and I wonder if the noise was a counterpoint to the claims of isolation?
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Those damned “yeah” triggers are back, a Greek chorus of sorts carried over from the bouncy nonsense of "What’s Happening?". They show B1A4’s gift, which is also their crippling flaw: every emotional state is treated as thought it’s a sunburst bro-down.
Patrick St. Michel: Has enough of a pop going for it to avoid being a tedious ballad, but still a little too close for comfort.
Brad Shoup: “There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone.” So said Franz Kafka, and dude was a man who could appreciate the complexities of a large scale work. Our men ignore Frankie at their peril. Someone might possibly escape their singing, but from their repetition, certainly never. When B1A4 have once accepted and absorbed The-Dream and Bone Thugs, they no longer demand to be indulged. Jesus, that fucking key change.
Fortunately, this happened before Ice Siege II: Dark Territory began its run. It would’ve driven me crazy to not know whether “Lonely” got as much pushback as “What’s Happening?” did on TSJ. But this time around newcomer Megan seems charmed — hi, newcomer Megan! I think your Ecuador is beating my France — and did Brad just write “our men”? He’s pushing back, reasonably enough, against Jinyoung’s Key Change of Certain Sentimental Doom, but I suspect it won’t be long before he’s cooing over cute duckies like the rest of us poor souls.
Hi, Tumblr. This is what we’ve got to look forward to down here. I have spent part of the day apologetically explaining to editors that I don’t have backup child care for when schools close and the National Weather Service is all, “Don’t get on the roads. Seriously. Don’t.” Of course, right now I can apologetically explain things to editors — all indications are we should enjoy our electricity while we’ve got it.
So! Do not expect me around much for the immediate future. If you haven’t already, see Kay and MJ’s collaboration breaking down the B1A4 sales-fixing allegations for Beyond Hallyu, and this review of “EXO Showtime” for the One Shots by Danice, who’s in the K-pop Writers’ Workshop with me this month. Also feel free to meditate on whether “Boy in Luv" is a youthful but compelling sophomore effort for Bangtan Boys or a clunky, misogynist, and not particularly impressive sophomore effort for Bangtan Boys — I’m leaning towards the latter, with some disappointment, but we can discuss it later.
(Also later: responses to the responses about music writing. Y’all who have chimed in, thank you! I want to give them serious consideration, and the combination of cabin fever, Winnie the Pooh videos on repeat, and impending deadlines has warped my ability to give anything serious consideration at the moment.)