Hello year SIX!

I could go on and on about what Pop Reviews Now means, what it has done for me and all the doors it has opened -- in fact I have, numerous times. Which is why I won't anymore. But after six years (!) and a whopping ONE THOUSAND and thirty-three blog entries (!!!!!), I think it's a good idea to sit down and look through everything I've written. Because at the end of the day, I was able to do everything I have because of the very content on this blog, coupled with your encouragement of course! Everything starts with Pop Reviews Now. So now that I'm going back to my blogger roots I need to remind myself of what those are exactly! And for readers who haven't been reading my blog for that long, call this a sort of "crash course" on my style and ideas I consider my foundations.

This entire day spent combing through my pieces quite an emotional experience, so allow me to indulge a bit by talking about a few of my favorite blog entries from 2008 to 2013.

...the process of looking at and processing these "different" songs isn't any different from approaching "regular" or "normal" songs, but I think most of the time that's also what many of us, me included, fail to remember. We become so swept up in the novelty of these songs that claim to think "outside of the box" that we forget that no matter how different they are, at the end of the day they're still songs. Before you can think outside of the box, you need to know what box you're thinking outside of, no matter how limited or how broad, and once you've answered that, you need to decide how you're going to go about it. Everything, including art, has limits, what makes some things freer than others is the degree of those limits. These pop songs that attempt to push limits have considerably less rules and are more free to experiment, but their limits exist to ensure that they remain songs, they remain forms of art, as opposed to random sounds put together.
This is probably the piece on Pop Reviews Now that took the longest time to write, and for good reason I think. It's a lot more theoretical than all the other posts, but it reflected very well my capacity as a writer and was sort of a culmination of the direction I'd been going in for the past few years. I had a classmate and close friend read this before it was published, and aside from calling my thoughts very modernist -- "the T.S. Elliot of K-Pop writing" (compared to his literary criticism, i.e., "Tradition and the Individual Talent") -- she said that this piece had the potential to be seminal. That this was a piece to refer back to, a "framework" of sorts. And now that I think about it, my friend was right. This piece had to be written because it allowed me to rationalize one of my broadest ideas. While I don't expect other writers to refer to me (it's a huge honor but I'm nowhere near that influential!), the ideas I presented in this piece are ideas I can use in my own work. It's a very useful piece to have in my portfolio!

Which brings us back to my water analogy -- when you're thirsty, you think about what water will do to your body as a whole, but you also concentrate on the fact that it's refreshing and it actually tastes like something when you're thirsty. "Blue" has dimension, it has kick and it has dynamics, but you not only have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to hear those, you also have to be very critical. If you're not, it's just another mellow song, and in a sense it isn't that enjoyable. It's in that intellectual angle that I'm convinced that Big Bang are indeed maturing.
Aside from the fact that I've grown to really, really, really like "Blue," my review of it is one of my favorites because the metaphor I used to explain the song was, to me, pretty nifty. While I would write it a lot differently if I was given the chance -- strengthening the structure and focusing on the water analogy (and also scrapping most of the last paragraph) -- this review sort of set off a whole series of food/tangible analogies in my reviews for several months. While I no longer use them, food analogies became somewhat a "distinguishing feature" of my writing for a significant amount of time. And I still think they're one of the better features of my writing because through them I was able to simplify very abstract sounds and concepts.

I thought of mixing things up a bit this year, so instead of just laying down the best albums that came out in the past twelve months, I'm going to be talking about the albums that caught my ears, and maybe even eyes, this year. They are on the list not necessarily because they're amazing albums (but I have those too!), but because they've been talked about, or they've broken records, and basically because they've caught my attention. Therefore, I won't just be talking about the music, so I hope it's a welcome change!
Year-end lists are extremely taxing to put together, write and publish -- short lists are difficult because there's always the possibility of something being left out, and long ones are equally difficult because of the time and effort needed to write everything. Despite this they are the one constant series on Pop Reviews Now, because I think year-end lists are great to look back on (during times like this!) and are possibly the best encapsulation of both a year's worth of music and how my own tastes change over the years. This post in particular is one of my favorites (literally among hundreds of its kind) because I tried my best to strike a balance between personal preference, musical competence, and I also brought in outside factors such as sales and industry pull. And it differs from all the others because I included releases that I didn't like. So if you weren't into K-Pop in 2011 yet or missed out on a rather great year, this post is a good place to look for suggestions!

Everyone's been saying that May's the month of comebacks for kpop - f(x), SS501, Super Junior, 2PM, Rain and Hyori have all released new singles or have confirmed new releases within the month. Therefore, I think it's time PRN ventured into another part of the Korean pop industry - the music shows.
Between 2010 and 2012, music show recaps were a HUGE part of the blog. And why wouldn't they be? They're a huge part of K-Pop, definitive almost, and I thought it was only right for a K-Pop blog to talk about one of the most unique features of the industry. Also, from what you guys have told me, music show recaps also brought in a lot of readers for Pop Reviews Now. (Thank you!!) I've gotten into altercations because of these recaps, I've been criticized heavily for my stand on live performances as well as my distaste for MR removed videos, but I genuinely enjoyed this series and I learned so much from my experiences with it. This recap in particular was the post that started it all -- a recap for the April 30 episode of KBS' Music Bank with the likes of Rain, Hyori, 2PM, and where the most junior groups were F.Cuz and ZE:A. So much of the landscape has changed since (the influx of rookie groups came a bit after I started writing these recaps), but looking back on this recap is only making me want to start writing them again. It's become more and more difficult though to cover all the idol performances in a music show because of all the rookie groups, but I'll see what I can do!

Q: At the moment, what's the 'ultimate dream' so to say? What do you think you want to do for the rest of your life?
A: The ultimate dream...I would say being a musician for the rest of my life. Being a RESPECTED musician.
Before I ventured into K-Pop, Pop Reviews Now was focused on Western pop -- mostly obscure European pop, a lot of British groups (I caught Girls Aloud at their peak!), and I also dabbled in American pop. Most of my "training" was in western pop, I learned the ropes and conventions of British pop blogging, and I owe a lot of my work now to that. And it seems that even back when I was just starting out, PR agencies were interested in me because I managed to score an interview with Mnek who at the time was newly signed to EMI publishing. Since then he's gone on to write quite a number of high-profile hits, and it's crazy to think that I had the pleasure of interviewing him before his work made waves in the industry. I've had other interviews with other artists like Shontelle and VV Brown, but there's something about catching a talent like Mnek just as he was starting to make it big. Interviews are also another aspect of blogging that I want to explore more, and the direction I want to take with them is like a more recent piece I wrote on Blush.

'Everybody Knows' is a mid-tempo song and it's quite R&B-ish. The song starts out with strings and an 'orchestra' feel but then once the verses start, it progresses into an R&B masterpiece. You could feel there and then that Westlife could really sing anything, whether it be dance, up tempo, mid-tempo, R&B, soul and probably what they're most known for, ballads.
The review that started it all. Once I stopped cringing over my writing, it was really interesting to see just how much I've grown as a writer since then. But it was even more interesting to see how my goals and basic ideas haven't really changed since then -- I wanted to think critically about pop music, because I believed it could be done. Because I believed that it had to be done. While the 13 year-old me who wrote this piece didn't have as much of the tools and training to do it, the intent was there. Over the course of these last six years I've tried my best to couple that intent, those huge goals of mine, with actual applications of critical thinking. With substance. And for the next six years (hopefully!), I want to explore all the styles I can use to take that substance and present it even better.


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