G-Dragon – ‘Heartbreaker’ and EXO-M – ‘Wolf’ | Holiday Review Series: Post 19

Here’s a post to officially introduce a new category added to this blog, because I now find existence of electronic K-Pop undeniable and essential to acknowledge. Better late than never, aye? However, only the ones that are explicitly electronic are going to be featured on this blog. Hence why I added the word ‘electronic’ in front of the word ‘K-Pop’.

‘Heartbreaker’ was the first electronic K-Pop track that got my attention back in 2009. I was pleasantly surprised by how well produced it was. The layers seem to build then pop with every beat, creating a pulsing sway that’s just as snap-worthy as the literal snaps in the piece. I recently found the English translation of the lyrics, and I was even more surprised. Such a devilishly haunting and hypnotic melody was accompanied by bitterly sad lyrics of resentment. In fact, I was so surprised, that I wanted to re-evaluate my thoughts on the track. Yet, I still decided to write a good remark: I consider it very innovative to combine the different emotions that both track and lyrics create, because it accurately represents the complex emotions involved in the word ‘heartbreak’. After that, G-Dragon collaborated with Diplo and Baauer for ‘Coup D’Etat‘. Then, he and another K-Pop star CL from 2NE1 went to work with Skrillex and Diplo for ‘Dirty Vibe‘. All that just proves, once again, that electronic K-Pop should be considered part of E/DM.

Now, allow me to introduce you to EXO, who had two wins and one nomination at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2013. EXO includes EXO-K and EXO-M, the difference being EXO-K focuses on promotion in Korea and EXO-M focuses on promotion in Mandarin/Chinese-speaking locations. EXO-M even have members from China, and do covers of originally Korean songs in Mandarin Chinese. Evidently, in both music production and promotion, the Korean entertainment industry fully harnessed and expanded their influence in the Asian music markets by creating relevant content for both Korean and Chinese fans.

When I first the Chinese version of their song ‘Wolf’, I found it quite funny and odd. After all, it’s a bit odd to hear them saying: “I’m a wolf, a wolf, a-woo~”. Also, they sang their lyrics in a fairly monotonous fashion, eliminating many crucial tones required for comprehension. Along with the foreign accents of the Korean members in EXO-M, some of the lyrics became quite difficult to understand unless one decides to look up the lyrics on a search engine. I guess that’s one of the many problems with singing in Mandarin. Consider this: No matter how people sing in English, the pronunciation is still there for people to understand. Unlike English, in most cases, the tones in Mandarin have to be spoken properly for the listener to understand what was spoken. For the sake of comprehensibility, I would rather hear EXO-M rap this without following the original, monotonous melody. On the other hand, removing all that monotonous chanting takes away the hypnotising element of mystery.

In terms of production, I’ve got nothing negative to say. This song crawled its way into my head like an ear worm because of its descending notes, Dubstep influences, and a tiny bit of Trance kicks in the breakdown. In fact, I have to give kudos to the Korean pop industry for incorporating electronic music into pop correctly and innovatively. I’ve heard too many American and Chinese pop producers incorporate Dubstep in very lazy ways, thinking that ear-piercing wobbles automatically makes a track relevant in popular culture, with no consideration on harmonious balance. The wobbles in this track are quite clean, and do not dominate the layers of sound unpleasantly at all. That’s why it’s brilliant.

If you have any electronic K-pop tracks that you would like me to review, feel free to submit your suggestions through the contact form.


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