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NPR Music 2019 SXSW South By Southwest : Big Phony [Korea]

The All Songs Considered SXSW Preview, 2019

The annual South by Southwest music festival is our personal endurance challenge to discover as many great unknown and often unsigned bands as possible in just one week. To train for the event, Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson and I listen to more than a thousand songs by bands playing the festival, from all over the world, and try to map out a calendar to see our favorites.

On this edition of All Songs Considered we play some of the standout songs ahead of the 2019 festival, including the Ghanian artist Jojo Abot, garage rock from Blushh, the Japanese pop group CHAI, music made by robots (I'm not making that up) and much, much more.

Big Phony 'Hanging On A Thread'

Raised in New York City and now living in Seoul, South Korea, Bobby Choy channels delicate folk-pop into Big Phony, with a voice reminiscent of Elliott Smith.


The Austin 100 : Big Phony

Seoul, South Korea

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Bobby Choy, who records under the self-deprecating moniker Big Phony, was born and raised in New York City. But these days, he makes his way in his parents' hometown of Seoul, where his sad, plaintively lovely folk sound might seem like an odd fit — imagine Elliott Smith if he were trying to compete for attention with K-pop bands. Later this year, a feature film called Fiction and Other Realities will tell Choy's story; the singer wrote it, co-directed it and stars as... well, himself, naturally.

The All Songs Considered's 'Wow' Moments From SXSW 2019

Each year, the buzz in Austin, Texas, at the South By Southwest music festival can reach a deafening pitch. Our NPR Music team is here to help you cut through the noise. Every evening, we'll gather to roundup and recap the best discoveries of the day.

Keep up with our coverage of SXSW 2019 by subscribing to All Songs Considered. We'll be sharing 'Wow' moments every morning and updating our SXSW 2019 playlist with the best-of-the-fest tunes from the bands that we couldn't get enough of.


All Songs Considered has been soaking up SXSW all week, so you'll have to forgive the gang for forgetting just how many days it's been. But recommendations and giddiness abound in their latest late-night dispatch, with Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and Stephen Thompson singing the praises of artists from all over the world.

For Bob, that meant raves for Combo Chimbita, Borzoi and Seán Barna, while Robin loved Cherry Glazerr, Nanook of the North, Tamino and Big Phony. For his part, Stephen saw musicians from six continents — and came away with a long list of recommendations, including Pipo Romero, Stefan Wesolowski, 47SOUL, Jojo Abot, yahyel, Sonambulo Psicotropical and The Comet Is Coming.

International Digital Distribution : DFSB Kollective


The Korea Herald : Bubble Not To Pop Anytime Soon - Experts see K-pop going on strong for the next decade

KCONHas K-pop reached its peak? Or will it be able to keep climbing the ladder of global success?

More than 20 years have passed since the first generation of K-pop boy groups H.O.T and Sechs Kies made waves within the Korean music scene in the ‘90s. 

In 2000, legendary dance music duo Clon went overseas and mesmerized fans in Taiwan, which heralded K-pop’s overseas popularity. 

Since then, the K-pop industry has never slowed down in rolling out K-pop acts that appeal to a global audience, ranging from Girls’ Generation, KARA, Wonder Girls, Big Bang, 2NE1, and most recently, Gangnam Style star Psy and Billboard award winner BTS.

H.O.T [SM Entertainment]While it might not be the pace of the fast and the furious, K-pop experts say there is no doubt that K-pop is still enjoying its prime, and that it will continue to move forward in the next decade.

“Think about it, it’s been 17 years since K-pop first came to global attention. That’s a time long enough to prove that K-pop is not just a temporary phenomenon, but a music genre that has ‘absolute’ power and attractions,” said a music critic Lim Jin-mo during a recent talk with The Korea Herald.

“K-pop has overcome its root as Asian music, which says that there’s definitely something about it. I think those attractions are the acts’ impressive group dance performances, singers’ polished looks and chic vibes, their outstanding vocals, and lastly, production ability of their agencies. While 2PM is not as active in Korea as before, it’s still going strong in other Asian countries,” he added.

Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a Korean music artist and label services agency, also said that K-pop is not just Korean pop music to many music fans in Asia.

“K-pop is now accepted as ‘pop‘ music that is as popular as or even more popular than Western ’pop‘ music,” Cho said, adding that considering such momentum, K-pop is likely to mature and become more globalized in the next 10 years.


World star Psy’s 2012 breakout hit, which rose to No. 2 on the Billboard 100, and the unabating global fever for BTS may bode well for future K-pop artists. Despite its unprecedented rise, however, the current state of K-pop can’t be free from concerns about a lack of diversity. While many quote in unison the declining musical diversity as one of K-pop’s longtime problems, Im said it was not an open and shut issue.

“It would be great if K-pop could escape from excessive dependence on teen idol dance music and incorporate diverse genres ranging from folk, rock and even to Korean traditional music. But do you really think international fans would listen to them? This is a complicated matter,” Im said.

Unless the K-pop industry sees another breakthrough even more influential than Psy and BTS over the next decade, Im claimed that it could be hard for the industry to sustain the international spotlight.

“The K-pop industry can’t rehash Psy forever. In the end, people will get bored with similar tunes of idols such as B1A4 and BTS. That’s the reason why the K-pop scene should give birth to another hit star that can propel the industry to the next level,” Im said.

Addressing the concern that the K-pop genre needs to be refined in a way that can accentuate the dynamic diversity of Korea’s different music genres as well, Cho said the Korean music chart system is partially responsible for K-pop’s lack of diversity,

“With all of the major Korean music charts funneling most types of Korean music into just one, single ‘K-pop’ chart, it is impossible for Korean music acts of different genres to be fairly recognized, ranked, and respected in their own respective genre charts,” Cho said.

Although teen idol dance music has been one of the most popular genres in Korea, urban music -- namely hip-hop and R&B -- has been becoming a more popular genre on the top 100 K-Pop singles charts, shows data released from Gaon Music Chart last year.

“It’s like asking a figure skater, speed skater, and ice hockey player to all compete on the same rink for the same gold medal in the same Olympic event,” he added.

CJ E&MProspects for K-pop in 2030

Is K-pop‘s future grim? 

Im projected that globetrotting K-pop acts will expand their ground from the US, K-pop’s main overseas market, to China and its neighboring countries in the near future as K-pop continues to go more global.

“S.M., for example, has been fixing their eyes on Asian countries. That’s the reason why they initially created TVXQ in 2003, which translated into ‘Rising Gods of the East’ in Korean. In the same context, S.M. had divided EXO to two sub groups -- EXO K and EXO M -- to target Korean and Chinese fans, respectively,” Im said. 

Although K-pop acts haven’t been able to perform in China as actively as before since Korea-China relations soured last year over the deployment of the US THAAD missile system in Korea, Im believed the diplomatic spat between the two countries won’t last forever.

In order to tackle the lingering problem of limited definition of K-pop, Korea Creative Content Agency has been launching overseas musical events such as “K-pop Night Out” at SXSW that aim to help Korean musicians enter overseas markets.

“We are making efforts to financially support and make room for musicians from various genres to gain a foothold overseas,” said Ji Kyeong-hwa from KOCCA’s Music & Fashion Industry Team.

“It is true that foreigners perceive K-pop as Korean idol music, but we hope K-pop doesn’t get limited to such a narrow definition. I think more and more non-idol Korean artists will earn recognition by foreign fans in the next 10 years through such projects to promote various types of Korean music.”

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)

Featured Commentator : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)


Pitchfork : PSY’s “Gangnam Style” Changed Pop Music, Whether You Like It Or Not

Earlier this week, “Gangnam Style” was knocked off its perch as the most viewed video on YouTube. Korean pop star PSY had held the title since November 2012, when he became the first person to reach 1 billion views, then 2 billion, breaking YouTube’s view counter in the process. Alas, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s plodding Fast & Furious ballad “See You Again” finally leap-frogged over “Gangnam Style”—a changing of the guard that arrives just as PSY’s hit celebrates its fifth anniversary.

Released July 15, 2012, “Gangnam Style” immediately reached the top of South Korea’s music charts, as one would expect from PSY (real name Park Jae-sang), a rapper boasting nationwide success over the previous decade. But nobody expected anyone abroad to notice. K-pop, with its controlled star-grooming system and skilled performance groups, was starting to get attention internationally and inspire an avalanche of trendpieces. “Gangnam Style,” however, looked and sounded nothing like the K-pop norm, its big EDM chorus poking fun at the upper-class Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam.

Nudged along by the likes of Britney Spears and T-Pain, the song’s visually overwhelming video proved a winner on YouTube. PSY’s goofy “horse dance” would become 2012’s most inescapable pop culture touchstone, one so ubiquitous that it reached the NFL and country music award shows.

Today, “Gangnam Style” is mostly remembered in the English-language realm as a novelty. PSY himself seems content to move on, telling Reuters earlier this year, “It was probably the biggest trophy the world could have given me. It's now something on the shelf I can admire from time to time.” Yet five years on, it’s also one of the most influential songs of this decade, altering the pop landscapes of both the United States and Asia.

“Gangnam Style” is the most successful song from Asia, ever. Save for the unexpected 1963 Hot 100 chart-topping success of Kyo Sakamoto’s “Ue O Muite Arukou” (a wistful tune about the failure of youth protest movements, renamed “Sukiyaki” by a British DJ and sold as exotica), actual efforts at crossing over to the American market have failed. Prior to “Gangnam Style,” K-pop groups Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls attempted U.S. crossovers, with English-language songs and Nickelodeon specials. By accident, PSY achieved success beyond any of them. “He proved that a Korean artist didn't have to be young, pretty, and skinny to become a global K-Pop star,” Bernie Cho, president of Korean digital music export agency DFSB Kollective, tells Pitchfork. “He also proved that a contagious worldwide hit wasn't contingent on singing a song entirely in English.”

Yet for all of its accomplishments, “Gangnam Style” lacks one critical milestone: It never actually topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 2 behind the bottom-tier Maroon 5 cut “One More Night.” “Gangnam Style” garnered solid radio airplay for a song sung primarily in Korean, but it existed primarily online as something to watch. It certainly wasn’t the first huge hit to gain traction this way—earlier that year, Carly Rae Jepsen had used YouTube-born buzz generated by artists like Justin Bieber lip-synching “Call Me Maybe” to top the charts—but PSY’s success with this strategy was in some ways without precedent. “Gangnam Style” was K-pop’s big crossover moment in America and around the world, really, but it never got the one trophy that would have cemented this in many people’s minds. And that’s because Billboard didn’t count YouTube plays towards chart placement in 2012.

This policy changed early in 2013 because of “Gangnam Style,” as implied in interviews with Billboard officials. With YouTube plays integrated into the chart formula (which later grew to include streaming data), suddenly a dance number soundtracking a meme could grab the top spot. This change almost certainly would have come about eventually, but PSY’s spotlight-grabbing breakthrough accelerated the process. Afterwards, viral hits became a constant across genres, with artists using memorable videos or you-can-do-it-too dances as a way to gain attention (alongside more cynical and bizarre attempts at chart-crashing). Thanks to its surprise success, “Gangnam Style” helped usher in the streaming age in the West.

In Korea, “Gangnam Style” was treated as a point of pride, highlighted by a massive PSY concert that attracted over 80,000 fans. Today, you can visit a giant bronze sculpture in Seoul that's modeled after PSY’s hands, mid-pony move in the “Gangnam Style” video. “That song was strongly interpreted as a heroic achievement by nationalists, with K-pop ‘conquering the world,’” says Mimyo, K-pop critic and founder of the site Idology. “There were tons of useless articles like, ‘The dance moves are from our ancestors being horse riders.’”

Elsewhere, views of Korean artists’ videos tripled following “Gangnam Style,” according to YouTube data. “Korea finally acknowledged that an international K-pop market was possible,” Mimyo says. Though the West was more aware of Korean music than ever before, America wasn’t the primary target. “Asia has always been the target,” Mimyo adds, noting the inroads Korean music had made across the region the decade before.

PSY proved especially popular around the continent, topping charts across Southeast Asia and in China, even appearing on Chinese New Year TV specials—a valuable inroad to a burgeoning market. Anecdotally, I’ve seen “Gangnam Style” chicken restaurants in Indonesia and multiple street vendors selling PSY-shaped balloons in Singapore, four years after the song’s success. Whereas he was a popular, funny meme in America, PSY ended up a popular, funny performer in Asia: He continues to release albums and videos that do well commercially across the region.

“Gangnam Style” served as a dividing line in K-pop, intentionally or coincidentally. Before, the “Korean wave” was an emerging industry using the internet to reach as many people globally as possible. With the potential revealed by PSY clear, K-pop agencies started tailoring new and rising groups towards Asian markets, featuring members from Asian countries beyond Korea in an effort to connect with those nations. And it’s working.

“Traditionally, international ‘pop’ music in Asia has been synonymous with popular Western music acts,” Cho says. “However, over the past decade, more and more songs on international ‘pop’ music charts in Asia are not sung in English but in Korean because K-Pop artists are now outselling, outperforming, and outranking Western superstars.” Korean acts have become so big that it has sparked various kickbacks, ranging from Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou calling on compatriots to stop doing the “Gangnam Style” dance, while Japanese broadcasters have at times refused to let popular Korean outfits appear on their airwaves. Real-world politics have also reached K-pop, highlighted by China’s decision to “ban” entertainment from South Korea last year over the country’s decision to install the U.S. THAAD missile defense system. China is reportedly lightening up on the policy, but Korea’s entertainment industry has been affected significantly so far.

Despite politicized backlash, K-pop has become the standard sound in Asia. As for America, K-pop heavyweights like G-Dragon and CL have failed to connect widely here, and PSY himself never reached anything near the same level of success (unless you count a Super Bowl commercial for pistachios), but still, the genre has achieved an impressive level of stateside success. Acts like SHINee, EXO, and Seventeen sell out several-thousand-capacity venues around the country, while KCon gatherings in New Jersey and Los Angeles attract tens of thousands of fans alongside top-level acts. Recently, BTS—another boy band pulling off successful treks around America—attracted attention after beating the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez to win Billboard’s fan-driven Top Social Artist Award. Like PSY, they never planned to expand outside Korea, but have become the country’s biggest pop act and are now starting to collaborate with Western pop acts. For them, at least, there's a blueprint.

“PSY proved to critics and pundits alike that just being a 100 percent Korean version of himself was the real secret sauce to international success,” Cho says. “He wasn't Korea's Usher, Britney Spears, or Justin Timberlake. He was just Korea's PSY.”

Written By : Patrick St. Michel (Pitchfork)
Featured Commentator : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)


BBC World Service : The Arts Hour World Tour - Seoul Korea

Featured Artist : Love X Stereo
Featured Commentator : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)


Metro UK : Artist of the Day - Love X Stereo

Metro.co.uk and record label Killing Moon pick out the new artists you should listen to today.

Love X Stereo sound like: The kaleidoscopic prom band in an alternate-universe High School Musical.

Similar artists: Metric, Shiny Toy Guns, The Naked & Famous, Goldfrapp, LIGHTS

Their story: Love X Stereo are a duo from Seoul, South Korea – populated by fugitive astrophysicist Annie Ko and skate punk rocker bloke Toby Hwang – who make stellar dream-pop anthems.

They’ve been trucking since 2012, releasing several EPs over the course of the last five years and wowing audiences at festivals across Asia and North America.

Most recently, the band have started making in-roads to the UK following a flying visit to Wrexham to play up-and-coming showcase festival Focus Wales for a couple of shows.

The band continue their sonic assault on 2017 via the release of their brand-new album 37A.

What’s so great about them? Love X Stereo are quite frankly and criminally underrated considering the quality of music that they make.

Out of 200 bands performing at Focus Wales 2017, many of whom were playing on their own turf and indeed bringing the home crowd, Love X Stereo successfully stood out as one of the most accomplished and articulate artists of the weekend.

Despite consistently having to punch above their weight class in such situations, and backed up with little more than raw musical talent and a fierce DIY work ethic, throughout their career thus far the band have flourished.

Creating a relentless touring schedule has earned them numerous citations both domestic and internationally – for example, they were named as one of the top three acts at the Culture Collide Festival 2014 in the US.

They are not devoid of fresh ideas in terms of releases either – the band are currently unveiling 37 (hence the album title) new tracks with accompanying videos via creative community platform Patreon.

Most-streamed track on Spotify: Hide and Seek (over 470,000 listens so far)

Most-recent video

iframe width="775" height="436" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jmNUsH_F2LI?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

What will they be doing in 2017? Continuing to unveil new tracks from their latest album 37A by way of a new video for each track. 10 tracks of the album are available for audio streaming on Spotify right now.