Rising Artists to Watch in 2019

2018 has been a rich year for music as has expanded the limits of its genre, style, and more. With the start of 2019, learn more about who will expand and lead the music scene for this year.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Zacari
Zacari is a new signee of the most prominent Indie Label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) which consists of artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, SZA, and more. Comparing himself as the “lone wolf,” Zacari delivers a new style of music—an amalgamation of Jazz, Soul, Hip-Hop, and lo-fi. The R&B singer first appeared in the public by featuring in Kendrick Lamar’s song “Love.” The song gained significant spotlight due to his mellifluous voice and unique R&B beats style. Then, he featured in the song “Redemption,” Black Panther album, one of the best Original Soundtrack for 2018 consisting of major artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Khalid, and Swae lee. Recently, in 2019, he posted his first single, “Don’t Trip,” which has been on the rise for popularity in all music streaming services. The new single has already been appraised by critics, gleaming hope for his upcoming project many TDE fans.

Prominent songs: Don’t trip, Love, and Wat’s wrong

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Source:XXL Magazine

Gesaffelstein
The French DJ was already producing with major artists such as Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Daft Punk from 2013; however, the public did not know him as he worked behind the spotlight of these artists. The recent album, “My Dear Melancholy,” by The Weekend solely features Gesaffelstein, gaining attention from the public. Following his feature, he releases a new single in collaboration with The Weekend, topping the charts. Unlike other EDM and techno artists, he carries a dark and threatening yet enchanting style of music. Finding himself in the public more than usual, many are keeping an eye on his punk-rock EDM music.

Prominent Songs: Lost in the Fire (feat. Weekend), Pursuit, Viol

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Source: BBC

XXX
The South Korean Hip-hop duo XXX-rapper Kim Ximya and producer FRNK-is an outlier in any Hip-hop scene. Rather than gaining popularity from Korea, they first caught the eye of the international community. In 2017, they were the first Koreans to feature in Maison Kitsune Fashion Show playlist for its after work exhibitions. Despite their relative silence with only two album releases, XXX is considered as one of the most subversive hip-hop groups. Working with frenetic electro beats and dark and vitriolic style, the duo continues to be on the rise while being the outlier in the music industry.

Prominent songs: Flight Attendant, Sujak, Dior Homme, and Ooh-Ahh

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Source: The Korea Herald

Aries
Starting from a home-made youtube channel that remixes popular songs, Aries only has 8 songs released, yet most of the songs were able to rack up 1 million streams on Spotify. Merging late-stage emo and modern hip-hop, his music delivers a wide range of emotion such as rage and sadness in a flip of a dime. There’s not a lot of information about Aries, yet his music is a paradigm of the current trend in rap music-emo. However, unlike Lil peep and other emo-artists, his songs feature some light moments, establishing a diverse spectrum of his style.

Prominent Songs: Carousel, Racecar, Sayonara

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Source: Youtube

Masego
Though an underground musician, Masego continues to establish a strong fan base, transforming avid, hardcore hip-hop fans into fans of jazz and soul. With his hit song, “Tadow,” Masego represents the younger generation of jazz hip-hop (as jazz was one of the most used genres in hip-hop beats by many hip hop legends). Collaborating with few R&B and unique artists such as TDE’s SiR, Masego’s style soothes out every R&B song.. Employing modern DJ sets and his iconic saxophone, his music has the elements and formula to become one of the most funk-styled artists such as Outkast.

Prominent Songs: Navajo, Pink Polo, and Tadow

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Source:Vibes

Ella Mai
With her first debut album, “Ella Mai,” two of her songs were nominated for Grammys; moreover, her song, “Boo’d up,” was considered as a ‘breakthrough hit’ by charting in the Billboards. Although Ella Mai may be considered as a typical now-days R&B singer, she is able to have the perception of 90’s heartthrob emotions with break-up anthems, soulful ballads. In other words, she was an affinity for classic R&B artists. The already bright start of her debut album illustrates the bright future of her career, hyping many R&B fans.

Prominent songs: Trip, Boo’d Up, Whatchamacallit, Everything

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Source: Billboard

Blueface
Blueface has stirred almost all hip hop community debating about his style and controversy. Coming from the Crip gang, the Los Angeles Bluface represents the younger generation of gangster rap with the mix of trap and trendy beats. The carelessness and young energy engendered by the rapper attracted many younger followers to his fanbase. Most of his beats conform to the trend; however, his offbeat flow is what catches Internet’s attention, polarizing many rappers and fans. Consequently, the stirred controversy left the young rapper in the spotlight, getting co-signs by Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, and other artists (even Kendrick Lamar took Twitter to acknowledge his young presence).

Prominent Songs: Thotiana, Bleed it, and Studio

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Source: Youtube

Colde
Appearing as the third Korean artist in the Colors Studio-an aesthetic music platform channel in Youtube-the R&B singer Colde is on the rise in the Hip-hop scene. Originally, Colde was in the OFFONOFF hip-hop duo; however, he currently came off as an independent artist, fully revealing his talents. Having a strong connection with mainstream artists such as Dean, Crush, and Punchnello, Colde continues to dominate the Korean music charts. Similar to Dean and DPR Live who both performed in the Colors Studio, Colde continues to build an international fanbase.

Prominent Songs: Your Dog Loves You, Poem, String

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Source: Pinterest

Reason
As the newest member of the indie label TDE (along with Zacari), the Compton native Reason is one of the most anticipated rapper this year. His debut album, “There You Have It,” fully divulges his true rhyming skills, accounting his life story of how his come-up from Compton. Similar to major artists in TDE such as Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar, Reason excels in telling his success story and the struggles of his neighborhood.

Prominent songs: Better Dayz, Situations, and There You Have it

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Source: Rolling Out

2018 has already been a bright year for avid hip-hop and R&B fans. Rising artists topping Billboard hits with singles, not to mention old artists making a come back to the music industry. There are a handful of others that deserve this title and achieved more last year (such as all the members in 88rising Entertainment) yet these artists seem to hold the most amount of potential. All of them holds the prospect of being able to expand the limits of music.

Featured Image Source: Complex

Mark Park (’20)

Hip-hop: the Safe Haven for Domestic Violence

As much as we love rap, controversy always trailed rap’s trend. For more than a decade, Hip-hop has served as a political medium for representation of their community, proving to the world the power of free speech. However, trending artists brought domestic abuse and physical assault as a norm in the Rap Scene, aggravating rap’s image.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

As much as we love rap, Hip-hop has perpetually related to violence. Hip-hop is starting to become a major division in the music industry; it has expanded the scope of influence. The genre was not only a culture enjoyed by the black communities, but it also became a part of a global trend. At least 40% of the songs are categorized as Hip-hop in the Billboard charts; Hip-hop has become the most popular genres in all streaming services.

Assaults and domestic violence in Hip-hop started in the 1990’s with Dr.Dre’s assaults on Dee Barnes. The allegation has put Dr.Dre in the spotlight, damaging his rising career. From the Rolling Stones interview in 1991, he was notoriously unapologetic to Barnes, saying “I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing, I just threw her through a door.” From the recent Netflix documentary, “The Defiant Ones” and other movies based on Dr. Dre, they have censored his assault of Dee Barnes which the allegations resurfaced again. Later on, Barnes accepted Dr. Dre’s apology which was directed after “The Defiant Ones”. There were only a few rappers who were accused of domestic assaults such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and more in the past.

 

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Rapper Kodak Black (Source: Youtube)

Throughout the recent years, trending rappers always have faced charges for their violent behavior, yet, their controversy never stopped their rise. For instance, Rapper Kodak Black was convicted of a first-degree sexual assault charge on a teenage girl. While it brought harsh criticisms from the community, his songs from Spotify and other streaming services still gained popularity during that time. Similarly, rapper Famous Dex was caught on camera assaulting his girlfriend. Although XXL Magazine snubbed him from the Freshman list, he already gained 1 million streams from Spotify in a week from his debut album “Dex Meets Dexter.” As Hip-hop continues to grow and influence other trending genres, this violent pattern of behavior has entered into designers too- more specifically streetwear. Designer A$AP Bari faced domestic abuse controversy when he posted himself hitting his girlfriend on social media. Bari faced many criticisms from other colleagues, including his own teammates, A$AP Rocky. Even though his career was damaged, his fashion brand, Vlone, is still one of the most popular brands in streetwear. It seems as if the rap community views the artist and his or her songs differently, disregarding the artist’s action when evaluating their music.

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XXXTENTACION Donating to Charity (Source: The Blast)

There is still positivity that flows in Hip-hop as the genre gives room for redemption. One of the most popular rappers was the South Florida rapper, XXXTentacion (Rest In Peace Jahseh Onfroy). He was faced with seven felony charges including kicking his pregnant girlfriend while he was gaining massive popularity from the free music streaming base, Soundcloud. In early 2017, XXXTentacion was held for 8 more charges for witness tampering. All throughout 2017 and 2018, XXXTentacion has stirred controversy of constant assaults of his fans, yet, his music always charted in several streaming services. However, in late 2017, XXXTentacion started to redeem himself by starting donations challenges for orphanages and spreading positivity through his new music. His album “17” and “?” deals with depression from his actions, bringing critical acclaims of his messages and how it has saved many lives. Onfroy continued to redeem themselves, helping people in need, until his tragic end. Still, more than a handful of people protest against his music due to his past events. Therefore, it brings to the question: Should people be given second chances?

Hip-hop was always under the spotlight for its perpetual relationship with domestic violence and physical assault. The new generation of rappers is constantly troubled with allegations for sexual assault and physical harm as they create music that focuses on themselves rather than the struggles of black communities. Such controversial cases should taint their career, yet it only seems to boost their profits and confidence.

As much as I love Hip-hop, I do really see a problematic pattern within the community. Even though I know their controversial past behaviors, I still listen to these rappers such as Famous Dex, Kodak Black, or XXXTentacion. Honestly, Hip-hop is a controversial genre despite its great significance in today’s society. But if we were to only listen to those who uphold the behaviors we support (not only Hip-hop), half of our playlists should be deleted.  I’m not saying we should support these controversial behaviors, but I wanted to convey that it’s a difficult choice to make on how we judge the artists. We just have to hope for the best that these artists on our playlists do the right thing.

Featured Image: The Daily Beast

-Mark Park (’20)

The Rebirth of Neo-Soul

Neo-soul has been on the rise again after its decline in the last decade. With the reappearance of this genre in many mainstream songs, it is important to know the current trend of neo-soul and its emerging artists.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

Neo-soul originated in the late 1980’s as few artists started to deviate away from contemporary R&B by incorporating other genres of music. Neo-soul (neo meaning new) is an alternative version of soul, blending in more genres such as R&B, Hip-hop, and Jazz. It has always been difficult to differentiate Neo-soul and alternative R&B as they consist of similar elements of music. Neo-Soul is derived from 1970’s style of Hip-hop with Soul R&B while contemporary R&B originates from more pop funk genres. However, in current music industry, both genres are treated the same as there is no clear line of definition that separates the two genres.

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Lauryn Hill (Source:Twitter)

As neo-soul started to gain popularity in the underground music, prominent artists such as Prince, Joi, and Maxwell started the ‘neo-soul’ movement. In the 1990s, popular artists, such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill integrated neo-soul into other genres. Throughout the 2000s, neo-soul reached its apex as these artists brought neo-soul into the light of mainstream music; soon, the genre established its identity in the music industry. However, the genre quickly died out due to its rise of Southern Hip-hop. Throughout the last decade, only a few neo-soul artists entered the mainstream industry such as John Legend, Frank Ocean, and Bilal. Its popularity declined in the mainstream music until 2017 when a few artists started to categorize their music as ‘neo-soul’ again.

 

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Source:Chicago Reader

 

It all started with Frank Ocean, releasing his sophomore album, Blond. Although he released his first album, Channel Orange, in 2012, gaining high appraisals, Channel Orange was considered contemporary R&B. On the other hand, Blond was a neo-soul album, influenced from the works of Erykah Badu and D’angelo. Ocean was able to create a more unique style of neo-soul, emphasizing the story and lyrics-which is what soul is about. Songs such as ‘Nike’ and ‘Nights’ have been able to explore the more diverse genre of music with auto-tunes and eclectic beats, expanding the types of Neo-soul.

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Source:Genius

Unlike Ocean’s style, Daniel Caesar’s music consists of simple guitar and gospel beats. The Toronto-based Soul singer is on the rise as he delivers the traditional vibe of neo-soul. With the recent release of his album, Freudian, he instantly became one of the most popular R&B/Soul artists. The full-length album was able to deliver the contemporary version of Gospel songs as their similar tempos and lyrical themes gave the audience a new feeling. Although the album is more shifted towards contemporary R&B, the integration of vocal elements and gospel music can be identified as a new type of soul music.

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Many R&B artists started to consider their work as neo-soul because the genre was able to integrate other types of music. One significant genre that has been a catalyst to neo-soul’s popularity is Hip-hop. Throughout the evolution of neo-soul, it is apparent that the relationship between neo-soul and hip-hop has been firmly established with artists such as D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill. In the recent release of Tyler the Creator’s fourth studio album, Flower Boy, it introduced the mainstream audience into a more alternative version of R&B and neo-soul. Featuring new soul and R&B artists, Tyler the Creator utilized a diverse genre of beats such as funk, jazz fusion, and electric blues. From its remarkable composition of the music, it is important to recognize some of featuring artists as they were the ones who led the trends of neo-soul.

Known as an indie pop and neo-soul artist, Rex Orange County has been gaining popularity from his vibrant and intricate beats. Having released only two albums, Rex Orange County has explored the genres of fusion jazz, *lo-fi, *indie-pop, and funk, showing the flexibility of his style into different genres. Over the past two years, he has shown how diverse neo-soul can be in the styles of music that he has created.

Another artist that has brought neo-soul to the mainstream genre is Kali Uchis. Her soothing voice from Tyler’s song, ‘See You Again’ has gained her popularity. Currently, she has only released one song, featuring Tyler the Creator, which has been highly appraised of its mixture in jazz and electric funk while it was able to blend well with Tyler’s hard rap.

A final artist that has brought neo-soul to the mainstream genre is Steve Lacy. From his demo EP, made mostly from his iPhone, Lacy has created higher expectations for his upcoming album with his rap group, The Internet. His first project shows the audience the classic Southern California funk and soul. As a rising artist, Lacy brought attention to a more funk-styled soul with electric lo-fi* pop, expanding the fan base for neo-soul and indie* pop.

Neo-soul has been a vaguely defined genre throughout the music industry due to its ephemeral popularity in the mainstream industry.  But as more artists have been popularizing this genre, neo-soul can be integrated into any types of music. There are more artists that have continued the legacy of neo-soul other than from this list (such as Solange, Aloe Blac, Emlei Sande), but they have already been famed for their unique styles. As these emerging artists expand the diversity of this genre, make sure to listen to their songs before they hit the charts.

*Lo-fi: A sub-genre of music that is recorded with the lower quality compared to urban mainstream standards. Lo-Fi, meaning “low-fidelity”, highlights the imperfection of the artist’s quality, having a more artistic effect (such as Do-It-Yourself trends).

Ex: Beck, Pavement, XXXTentacion

*Indie-pop: A music genre that combines guitar pop with the style of mainstream pop music.  

Ex: Lana Del-Ray, The xx, Lorde

Featured Image Source: Kubashi

-Mark Park (’20)

Top 10 Albums of 2017

Every year, music accelerates itself, and 2017 has been the year for both new artists and major artists. Here are my best picks for the best albums in 2017.

The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.

10. The Thrill of it All – Sam Smith

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Image Source: iTunes

The four-time Grammy awarded artist, Sam Smith comes back with his new album, The Thrill of it all. Again, Smith creates another masterpiece of R&B/pop. It still was able to create a new soul, making it a perfect song for love. His brand of sadness in love marks itself again which can be exhausting but his songs still provoke sentimentality with his tender voice and softly produced beats.

Recommended Tracks: “Too Good at Goodbyes”, “Pray”, “The Thrill of it All”

9. Ctrl – SZA

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Image Source: iTunes

The critically acclaimed album, Ctrl, has been compared to many famed R&B artists such as Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and more. However, SZA’s album directly dives into her own life with stark episodes in each of her songs, all connecting to her appreciation of the solidarity in her life as she explains many experiences with her lovers, good and bad.

Recommended Tracks: “Love Galore”, “Doves in the Wind”, “Drew Berrymore”

8. Mura Masa – Mura Masa

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Mura Masa, a rising dance-pop artist, creates a light yet digestible dance-pop album with its ear-musing beats and some famed artists for features. The album, Mura Masa, depicts his relationship of love while connecting all his songs to his city, London. Despite its simplistic construction of the album, the album still stands as one of the relaxing and easy dance-pop albums in 2017.

Recommended Tracks: “Love$ick”, “What if I go”, “Firefly”

7. 4:44 – Jay Z

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Jay-Z’s thirteenth solo album, 4:44, dazzles through the deconstruction of Jay-Z’s world, basing his thoughts on the album, Lemonade from his wife Beyonce. The album was the dreamwork of Jay-Z the songs reflect how the world goes around while leaving a legacy of all his past work. Every angle that he explores has been referenced through all his albums, but 4:44 recreates a refreshing view and discloses all his emotions and personal revelations. From its classic beats and samples to intense lyrics, Jay-Z creates a masterpiece of his end, leaving the audience with a handful of eloquent thought processes of his life to mark a legacy.

Recommended Tracks:”The Story of O.J”, “4:44”, “Family Feud”

6. The OOZ – King Krule

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Image Source: Pitchfork

The OOZ is one of the most underrated albums in mainstream culture when disregarding its high appraisals from major critics of the album. King Krule creates the album to be an alien yet perennial as this contemporary album does not fit in any time of the century. It was beyond the trend. The album is packed with 19 tracks, consisting of tender jazz, tacky R&B, hard rock, and soft hip-hop. King Krule, already prominent for his imperfections and amalgamations of multiple genres, creates a journey deep into all kinds of emotions with overwhelming beats and out of tune sounds, making the album more special.

Recommended Tracks:”Dum Surfer”, “Slush Puppy”, “Vidual”

5. Funk Wave Bounce Vol.1 – Calvin Harris

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Image Source: iTunes

Calvin Harris was able to create the perfect album for the summer vibe. Calvin Harris completely shifts direction from EDM to relaxed dance putting many fans in anticipation of the perfect chill album which Harris fulfilled. The album consists of appearances of the top artists such as Frank Ocean, Migos, Khalid, and more, making the album one of the best dance/chill album in 2017. Although the album wasn’t greater than it was anticipated from its features, Funk Wave Bounce still was the album for funky summer vibes.

Recommended Tracks: “Slide”, “Rollin”, “Feels”

4. American Teen – Khalid

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Image Source: Genius

American Teen is the debut album of a 19-year-old, dealing with daily adolescent problems of identity, love, and family. The album is packed with classic R&B tracks with its stylistic beats fit for mainstream Pop culture. With his authentic voice in R&B, Khalid may be one of the best artists to create music as for the mainstream audience. The album consists of an overall similar tone, making it easy for the audience to digest its simpleness. As the songs explore the struggles and fantasies of life, mostly derived from the millennials, American Teen can easily represent the life of an adolescent.

Recommended Tracks:”Location”, “Saved”, “Young, Dumb, and Broke”

3. Flower Boy – Tyler the Creator

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Flower Boy may be Tyler’s best album as the album strips Tyler away of his furious raps and depicts his pain in the most sincere way. With the appearance of high-end R&B and Hip-hop artists, Flower Boy is packed with ear-musing tracks while it starts to hint another side of Tyler-vulnerability underneath his aggression. While he still presents few furious raps like his past songs, most of the tracks depict Tyler’s emotions under his anger towards misconnected love and navigation of his youth. Despite all kinds of slurs from the past in his music, Flower Boy presents Tyler riddled with identity and loneliness with small innuendoes of homosexuality, a topic Tyler has always been aggressive about.

Recommended Tracks: “See you again”, “9/11, Mr.Lonely”, “Boredom”

2. Process – Sampha

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Image Source: Spotify

Critically acclaimed from mainstream publications, Sampha’s debut album, Process has been a unique masterpiece. Exploring different elements of music, Sampha offers an album packed with strange yet contemporary beats while restlessly depicting his emotional soul of his family. Unlike other soul-hitting albums, Sampha creates a vast range of his tone from nostalgic sweetness to cold and bitter sentiments. The album strips Sampha with strong depiction of his vulnerableness, creating bleak and vague definitions of his emotions.

Recommended Tracks: “(No One Knows Me) like the Piano”, “Blood on me”, “Incomplete Kisses”

1. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

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Image Source: The Magazine

There’s no doubt that 2017 has been the year of Kendrick with his fourth studio album “DAMN”. The album easily peaked the Billboard charts and quickly achieved Double Platinum after its release. From the thought-provoking lyrics to the diverse characteristics of his beats, his songs have dominated 2017’s pop culture. The album has been placed as the best album in 2017 for many mainstream publications with high regards of the album’s complexity and storytelling.

Each year, Lamar tells a different story, and in this album, he questions the coexistence of his fame with the divinity of God, musing the audience with its vivid details and evocative scene-setting when describing each of his stories. Tracks such as “Yah” or “Pride” depict his fame changing his life with his appeasing tone and playful rhymes while tracks such as “DNA” or “Element” consists of aggressive and thought-provoking language and heavy beats. The complexity of his album could be stressed in every way from the jaw-dropping story when the tracks are played backwards to the intricate samples of classic songs.

Recommended Tracks:”Love”, “Humble”, “Element”, “DNA”

Other Notable Albums:

Big Fish Theory-Vince Staples

Divide-Ed Sheeran

Reputation-Taylor Swift

17-XXXtentacion

– Mark Park (’20)

Featured Image: Neo Pak (’19)

Top Modern and Classic French Songs

Why not take a break from all the studying and immerse yourself into some French songs?

 With final exams and assignments are coming up in just under a month, high-school students are under a great amount of pressure. However, it is crucial for them to take a break at times and immerse themselves in other activities other than academics. As a student who learns French, I have listed a few classical and modern French songs that will pacify your anxiety. For those who study French, this is a great way to improve on the language. And for those who do not, these songs will uplift your day and give you an insight into a new culture. Regardless, the songs will make you feel as if you are in Paris!

Classic

1. Je Suis Malade – Lara Fabian 

Released in 1994, this song is simply beautiful: Fabian’s passion, thoughts, and feelings show in her powerful voice. After hearing a couple of times, the tune will get stuck in your head—in the next minute you will be walking off singing the words ‘je suis malade!’

2. S.O.S d’un terrien en detresse – Daniel Balavoine and Dimash Kudaibergen 

Balavoine is a prominent french singer during the 20th century for inspiring other singers such as Jean-Jacques. One of his famous songs, “S.O.S” became a massive hit globally when it was released. The music is exemplified even more by a modern singer, Dimash Kudaibergen. Try listening to the both and compare the two!

3. Ne Me Quitte Pas – Jacques Brel 

Translated into “Don’t leave me” and released in 1959, this song will pacify your hectic mind with his soothing voice. A perfect song to listen after a long day of studying or working.

4. Non, Je ne regrette rien – Edith Piaf and Madagascar 3 

Other than being sung by a female singer, this short yet potent song may sound familiar when you hear it. Perhaps at a local cafe? At a Jazz concert? Piaf’s vibrant voice with the dulcet instrumental will immerse you into Paris, drinking a cup of coffee. It has also been included in Madagascar 3 as an adaptation; a bit strange but worth a watch!

5. Papaoutai – Stromae 

Having over 400 million views on Youtube, this modern song by Stromae became the top best selling single in Belgium and quickly spread to the world. It is well-known for not only its catchy lyrics ‘Papaoutai’ but also its incredible music video that features a young boy talking to a mannequin father. Stromae later claimed that the absence of the father represented his own as Stromae’s father died in the Rwandan genocide.

6. Derniere Danse – Indila 

Indila is alongside with Stromae in modern day french songs. Besides the eloquence, the song touches on a serious issue in today’s society: racism. For me, Indila’s clear voice aided me in better grasping the French accent and pronunciation in addition to its beauty.

7. On Ecrit Sur Les Murs – Kids United 

Unlike the others listed, this song is sung by Kids who are part of the ‘Kids United.’ If you do not look at the music video, it is nearly impossible to determine whether or not young kids sang it.

8. C’est Chelou – Zaho

Although the music video may seem peculiar, the catchy repetition will remain in you for a long time. The next thing you know, you will be walking out of your exam singing ‘C’est Chelou’!

A lot of the modern day songs tend to spin-offs from classical songs like the Madagascar. Furthermore, the modern ones tend to focus on more of social and personal issues like Stromae and Indila.

The songs are great for students and adults alike to take their minds off of the workload and submerge into the French culture.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: Celine Yoon (’19)

The Effect of Music In Our Lives

An article that delves into surprising effects of music in our lives.

All I want for Christmas is ____. There is no doubt that all of you readers either sang aloud or thought to yourselfyou” Songs have the profound effect of generating memories or nostalgia. Mariah Carey’s hit Christmas single is extremely famous and when people hear this on the radio or in a cafe, they can’t help but imagine a snowy winter day with the fireplace burning and a smooth hot chocolate in hand. One may think that this is just some random side effects that great songs hold. However, it has been proven that there is actually a science behind this sensation. Music, in fact, has many correlations with the brain and its various functions. Whether it is the Mozart effect or its role in treating Alzheimer’s patients, music has been the subject of various different neurological experiments.

My sister always had the habit of listening to music whilst studying and eventually I joined her as she turned on Taylor Swift or Mumford & Sons, studying aside her while we bobbed our heads up and down together. This is very common amongst many students at KIS, as a simple glance at the library during autonomous block can tell you. Many enraptured students can be found with earphones while taking notes or solving equations. However, the question is: is there a correlation between listening to music and effective studying? A phenomena known as the Mozart effect proves that listening to Mozart’s music actually induces a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as spatial-temporal movement. Additionally, in a book written by Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect, the scientist proved that listening to Mozart temporarily boosted one’s score on one portion of the IQ test. So maybe listening to Ed Sheeran’s new single while cramming for an AP test won’t give you the results you seek, but perhaps hitting up some Mozart playlists on youtube will assist you!

The Notebook is a movie that many girls and many more (although perhaps unwilling to admit) boys enjoyed that came out in 2004. Heartthrob Ryan Gosling and beauty Rachel McAdams reduced many viewers to tears as they depicted a young couple that fought through hardship for their love. The ending scene shows Allie (McAdams) as an elderly senior who has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease and reveals that the whole movie was actually Noah (Gosling) describing their relationship to Allie. What if I told you that this heartbreaking scene could have been avoided if Allie was treated with some musical therapy? Well, this is partially accurate and could be possible. Recent research has shone light on how music can be used to treat Alzheimer patients. According to Music and Memory, a non-profit organization that works to provide elderly with the access to music, there has been a case where one of their patients suffering from Alzheimer was reawakened to an old song that he used to listen to. This story was produced into a movie Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. The movie gained immense popularity and provided great support for the organization.

The next time you’re shuffling through your phone to turn on your guilty pleasure song, stop for a moment and try to appreciate the various positive effects music can bring to your life. Include some Mozart to your playlist to enhance your studying and introduce some music to your grandparents that they may have listened to when they were younger!

What would you murder for?

“…is it fast life, money, and clothes?”

It’s a line from a song, “Señorita” by Vince Staples, a 23-year-old rapper from Long Beach, California. He’s perhaps the “realist” gangster in the public world, having been through gang violence and drug trades, both as a perpetrator and a victim. Yet, he’s also one of the least pretentious rappers. He cares little about money or fame; all he wants to do through rap is to reveal gang life as it is – no glorification.1

In a symbolic sense, Vince Staples represents the polar opposite of today’s society, a society that is riddled with superficiality and “fakeness.”

maxresdefault.jpghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OAYMMod9Wo

As students of an international school, we like to think that we know more about the world than other “average” students of our age. But in truth, we understand little about this world and the people in it. We think of ourselves as special and superior, when in reality, we are just fortunate, blessed, and spoiled. We understand little about how it feels to be oppressed and to fear everyday. Most of our sadness and frustration come from first world problems. As much as we hate to admit it, self-sympathizing makes us feel better. We are happy people, drugged with money. And we are no different from the former President “Princess” Park.

And so we are fake. We don’t have to be real because we have no real issues to worry about. We worried about Trump only when he was an issue. The same goes for South Korea’s corruption scandal – we think of it as a one-time issue, but it’s still the main topic of discussion in news today and amongst the real, “average” people whose lives are directly affected by little changes in politics. We live inside the fake capsule of money while others have nothing to protect them. Their lives are dependent; hence, they are not free.

It’s disheartening that ones with power sometimes don’t understand the ones without power. There’s little that can be done about it. Such is the case with the United States’ installation of THAAD in South Korea. Short for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, THAAD is a defensive missile system against nearby, threatening missiles. The United States installed THAAD in South Korea for their own benefit against North Korea, supporting the decision with a fake gesture of hospitality towards South Korea – that THAAD will help protect South Korea. The consequences are rather hostile than hospitable, because China has reacted by banning Korean tourists and businesses.2 South Korea – a small nation in midst of turmoil – can do nothing against the U.S. policies, nor against Chinese policies. We are dependent on them. We are not free.

In order to fight against the fake, we have to first become real ourselves. It’s understandable that KIS students do not have the emotional motivation that less fortunate people surely do. Besides, the greatest fighters against the fake and injustice are those born into misfortune, those with overflowing emotional motivation; think Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Tupac, or even Hyeonseo Lee, who came to speak for us KIS students.

Those people fought for freedom because they wanted it “for real,” not at a superficial level. That’s why they were willing to become criminals in the eyes of the criminals, and why their impact is still felt today.

For us KIS students to become real, we simply have to walk out of the fake capsule and remove our spoiled lenses, so that we can truly see the world. Here in this real world, you can walk the path to self-actualization and find what you truly want – perhaps something that you would murder for, against the unjust standards of the society.

-Roger Han (’17)

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/oct/26/vince-staples-summertime-06-hip-hop
  2. https://qz.com/923890/china-retaliates-against-thaad-antimissile-system-and-bans-tourism-to-south-korea/

Featured Image: http://reaphit.com/vince-staples-senorita/

La La Land: A Review

Simultaneously the biggest hit and the most heated debate of 2016: La La Land. Does it deserve its glory? Read what writer Hope Yoon has to say about it.

Seven Golden Globes. Fourteen Oscar nominations. Endless critical acclaim. With all the colors and nostalgia a movie can muster, La La Land marked a fireworks-ending to 2016.

But for a movie so successful, it was not a universal pleaser- in fact, it turned into a downright divisive topic amongst audience members who rated it differently, from a life-changing movie to a mediocre disappointment. The 21st-century Hollywood musical left us with a looming question few dare to answer: was it overrated?

I am no critic, nor am I an extraordinarily frequent movie-goer. And, admittedly, I have next to no knowledge about films. But I am a lover of words, music, theatre, and most importantly, stories. So I will give what I have on this movie, including my takes on the criticisms it has received. Read further for an entirely personal review of La La Land– unprofessional, subjective, and heartfelt.

To begin with: in terms of cinematography, the film reached a level of excellency that even its harshest criticizers find difficult to disagree with. It was a technical and visual delight, with breathless shots and fearless use of bold color in both the sets and the costumes. What’s more, the impeccable acting by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling made the scenes and characters seamlessly believable. Everything was perfect to the eye.

But when it came the the ear, the debates picked up volume. Being a musical, the songs had significant weight in the overall progression of the movie. While for some, it was the best original soundtrack of recent years, for others, it lacked any memorable tunes that carried themselves beyond the theatre into nodding heads and tapping feet. But in the end, music can only be evaluated through individual taste, and it happened to strike my chord. I thought the soundtrack was a delight, and this opinion intensified as I listened to the songs on repeat after watching the film itself. In contrast to songs that have hit me with a catchy boom upon the first listen and then turned increasingly boring as I put them on repeat, the La La Land soundtrack drew me in further every time I played it. In other words, the addiction deepened instead of tapering off. And what more can be said about the lyrics- especially in the climax piece “Audition”, which seems to embody everything the film is about?

Some people found dissatisfaction in the fact that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were not Broadway-level singers (or dancers), but I found it to be a deliberate choice. It would have been easy to cast doubles for a “perfect” musical, but the film chose to forgo that to prioritize reality and genuineness. Personally, I felt that the slight drawl of Gosling’s voice and the subtle quiver of Stone’s notes made the characters mesh with the music better. The music was a vehicle and an enhancer for the film as a whole, not a purpose in itself. If what I was looking for in La La Land was extraordinary vocal prowess, I would be browsing Youtube covers of the songs instead. And besides, La La Land sets itself apart in that the songs blend effortlessly into the scenes and dialogue, escaping the often choppy talk-then-sing transitions of other movie musicals.

Another pick that viewers had on the movie was its lack of diversity, questioning the casting choices as a mere result of star power or an attempt at gathering a bigger audience, sometimes getting into the question of white privilege. But I feel that this is a separate debate from analyzing the movie itself, and for convenience, will keep my scope to the content of the film.

The biggest point of contention is, almost certainly, the plot- and especially the ending. (At this point, I advise readers who have yet to watch the movie to skip to the final paragraph in order to avoid spoilers.) The broken romance between the two leads left many heartbroken and some simply puzzled. The heartbroken argue that the ending was unsatisfactory and turned the build-up and the excellent chemistry into a sham- a hollow ending that only leaves what never was. The puzzled wonder why the break-up was necessary in the plot, questioning whether the ending was a stretch to add an artistically sad element to the movie. And to make matters worse, the ending swerve wasn’t the only part of the plot put into heat. Many simply found the character development shallow and the scenes riddled with cliches. Plainly put, not deep enough.

I have personally found it difficult to admit to such people that I loved the film and its plot, including the ending. Liking something popular despite such criticism makes me feel somewhat juvenile, or that I’m possibly missing something that deeper thinkers see, having shallower ideals. But the plot did not present me with any issues, and I was certainly happy with the ending. I agree that the story uses many well-trodden tropes and themes, including the starving artist, obsessive passion, and the contrast between dreams and reality. The romance between Mia and Sebastian was built with a series of meet-cutes. But cliches are cliches for a reason- because they are widely relevant, impactful, or relatable- and even the same theme can be portrayed for a thousandth time and still be a great work of art if it is crafted with skill. That is the job of the storyteller.

Personally, I found Mia’s struggle as an aspiring artist in society and especially her breakdown as she began thinking that she simply wasn’t talented enough to be deeply touching. The dialogue had no fancy symbolism but was honest and real- almost as if the lines were searching for that one artist sitting in the audience, just to deal a singular gut-punch and leave the rest of the crowd wondering where the depth was to be found. And Emma Stone’s complete embodiment of the character brought the emotions to a culminating explosion in the climax. We’ve all heard this story before. It’s only because the storyteller was talented that it was able to bring tears to so many eyes.

Some blame the movie for being sugarcoated, but it takes plenty of picks at Los Angeles and the irony of the performing arts industry. Yes, the film decided to make both Mia’s and Sebastian’s dreams come true, and it frankly did leave me wondering if the film would have changed for the better had that not been the case, but after a length of pondering, I came to the conclusion that the decision to deal individual happy endings was inseparably tied to the ending and the message. The movie wouldn’t have worked out this way and sent the same message had only one of them realized his/her dream, or neither.

To me, the ending didn’t feel like a stretch to squeeze in some sadness. While most commonly cited as a romance, the film isn’t ultimately about the romance. It is driven by the relationship and certainly says something about relationships in general- but the more important story is that of two individual artists. The cutting forward into the split ending illustrated that so many things in life really could work- and if something doesn’t work, we would like to demand a reasonable and understandable problem as to why it doesn’t work- but the reality is that some of those things just don’t. Life is defined less by perfect clicks and cause-and-effects and more by subtle nudgings of different circumstances or pure chance, guiding the ball down the hill in one of its millions of paths.

One of those subtle workings of life may have been that I watched this movie exactly at the point in my life when its lines would hit me over the head. Apart from countless viewings of Youtube clips and songs, I have watched this twice in theatres and have cried at exactly the same points throughout (there were four); of course this review would have to be biased. I would say La La Land is not a sad film. It reaches out to certain people, and it doesn’t for some others. It was a fearless revival of classic movie musicals rendered with modern brilliance, dancing with colors and music and life, ultimately giving hope to millions of people worldwide to chase their dreams- no matter what they are and how slim their chances may be. This may be a naive or reckless message- but the film doesn’t shy away from showing the pitfalls, failures, and sacrifices. Besides, the whole point of the movie is that the message is indeed naive and reckless, but that you should go for it anyways. A dream-lender, spark-sender, reality-bender. The world needs more of this.

-Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

Cover Image: La La Land poster

Phantom Singer: The Ultimate Musical Korean TV Experience

You’ve never seen a TV music show quite like this before.

No one ever expected this kind of music show to appear on Korean television, not by a long shot. The typical Korean music shows like Mnet’s “Super Star K” and SBS’s “K-pop Star” had dominated Korean music TV for a long time – so long that viewers were getting bored of watching essentially the same TV show over and over again for years on end. Therefore, when JTBC’s “Phantom Singer” first aired on November 11th, 2016, viewers were shocked by the sheer amount of top-end quality, classical music that was being shown on Korean TV for the first time.

The show’s aim is to create a four-member male Korean crossover quartet, much like Italy’s Il Divo, and the endgame is almost here, with the last episode of the show airing on January 27th. According to Kim Hyung-Joong, the producer of the show, “the winning team will receive 100 million won in prize money and will be given an opportunity to record their own album. They will also officially begin their career as a crossover quartet, performing tours and concerts.”

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PC: JTBC

When the first description of the show was released, it seemed like the show was only going to incorporate classical choral singers, which had many viewers turn away from the show in the beginning. However, the first episode of the show presented viewers with an incredible variety of male singers, quite arguably some of the best yet unknown Korean male singers there are.

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PC: JTBC

The novelty of “crossover music” was what truly attracted more and more viewers to the show, and the unbelievable talent of each and every singer that had been and/or still is on the show resulted in an extreme boom in popularity for the show. So far, we’ve seen and heard an amazing diversity of songs, including Italian folk songs, Korean songs for children, and even American pop songs like Beyoncé’s “Halo.”

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PC: JTBC

The final episode of the show already aired on January 27th, and the three quartet teams had already sung their first two songs as the first part of the finals on January 20th. They sang their final two songs during the final episode, but we won’t spoil you with who won just yet!

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PC: JTBC

As of January 20th, in first place is “Forte di Quatro (포르테 디 콰트로),” consisting of Ko Hoon-Jung (고훈정), Kim Hyun-Soo (김현수), Son Tae-Jin (손태진), and Lee Byeo-Ri (이벼리). Second place is “In-Gi Hyun-Sang (인기현상),” comprised of Gwak Dong-Hyun (곽동현), Park Sang-Don (박상돈), Baek In-Tae (백인태), and Yoo Seul-Gi (유슬기). In third place, but certainly not the least by any stretch of the imagination is “Hyoong-Spresso (흉스프레소),” made up of Ko Eun-Sung (고은성), Kwon Seo-Gyung (권서경), Baek Hyung-Hoon (백형훈), and Lee Dong-Shin (이동신).

These three teams represent the perfect embodiment of the essence of JTBC’s “Phantom Singer,” as there are opera singers, choral singers, musical actors, a rock artist, and even a brilliantly self-taught singer!

Make sure to keep an eye out for which finalist team ultimately won, and give yourself a treat by listening to one of the show’s past performances; there isn’t a single one that’ll disappoint you.

– Daniel Park (‘17)

Featured Image: JTBC

Expressive Algorithms: Can Computers be Artists?

Can computers create art? Can this art ever be valued for creativity? And, unavoidably, what is art?

Technology that brings computers increasingly closer to humanity: artificial intelligence. With the steady development of various programs that mimic human thought, the rise of artificial intelligence has lent much fear-driven inspiration to apocalyptic stories, in which humans are overpowered by robots in a crushing defeat— a crumbling Tower of Babel. The pop-culture archetypes are only reflections of an anxiety that is becoming very much real in society. But the fear that computers may someday steal one’s job seems to be limited to stereotypically formulaic careers, completely evading the realm of artists. After all, it is difficult to imagine how codes can replace the composer, painter, or poet. But scientists are already making progress in creating artistic robots, posing multiple questions that push the boundaries of contemporary thought: can computers create art? Can this art ever be valued for creativity? And, unavoidably, what is art?

For instance, take AARON, a computer program that produces paintings. With a human partner, it can experiment with colors and shapes, resulting in dynamic, large-scale works that would not seem out of place at a modern art gallery.

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A Painting by AARON

Or consider Google’s Deep Dream Generator, which allows the visualization of a computer’s “dream”- or, more accurately and less romantically, a visual depiction of patterns that the program pulls from a blank canvas of white noise, resulting in a fascinating, hallucinatory work of “art”.

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A Computer’s “Dream”

The diversity of creative programs stretches far beyond paintings, across the wider spectrum of the Arts- Magenta is a program by Google that can compose original art and music. Although the songs produced autonomously by the program do not hold much entertainment value without human intervention, the program is continuously being developed, lending unlimited potential to how original or enjoyable these songs could eventually become.

Language, considered to be a singular and exclusive gift of humanity, is no exception. The fickle rules and patterns of sentences are being coded into computers with increasing caliber, and machines have already gained the ability to replace generic sports article writers. This is why literature is far from evading the pursuit of technology. For example, a novel written autonomously by artificial intelligence after only being given selected sentences and parameters by the human developers made it past the first round of a Japanese literary prize. The lead developer, Hitoshi Matsubara, said: “so far, AI programs have often been used to solve problems that have answers, such as Go and Shogi. In the future, I’d like to expand AI’s potential [so it resembles] human creativity.”

However, we must question what gives art its value in order to evaluate whether these works, or even more advanced and autonomous works created by robots in the future, could qualify as art. Say technology advances to the point that a robot can make autonomous plot choices and create a novel that is indistinguishable from one written by a human, or can create a song or a painting in a similar manner. To the audience, the work may inspire the same feelings and even cause an original realization about the human condition- despite the irony of that situation. If that were to be, put very crudely, the purpose of art, it may even seem reasonable to state that machines can create art.

But there is a distinction between art and entertainment. It may be a fine line, but things that entertain cannot be considered art before it begins with the desire to express something. And this very idea of expression- of creativity- is something human by definition. As a rough analogy, we would not consider a chimpanzee’s painting worth artistic value unless it was the product of a conscious decision made by the chimpanzee to express an idea or emotion. It merely holds entertainment value in that the concept of a chimpanzee artist is interesting. Another way to think about it is a computer that can generate conversational responses based on mass data of human texts- it cannot be a conversation if the computer is not conversing with its own intent. A painting expressing sadness cannot be art until the computer can experience sadness. Art may very well be the only realm that computers cannot enter, not because they are not smart enough, but because they inherently fail to be human.

Computers can generate entertainment- they may one day produce ideal music, literature, and visual art that is even more pleasing to the senses than work created by humanity. But this, created purely in the aesthetic sense, would still not be art.

Let us return to the initial question- will the rise of artificial intelligence endanger the jobs of artists? It cannot ever undermine the value of true art, but it may invade part of the art industry that is fueled by the search for entertainment. In other words, a large portion of consumers of music, literature, and visual arts can be satisfied with entertainment. If it gives them the same experience, the intent of creation would not matter to them. This means the livelihood of many human creators are indeed at a great risk, jeopardized as the world of binary and digital encroaches upon the world of sentiment and analogue.

But the optimist would like to think that enough artists will remain in the world to value each other’s humanity and the endless will to create. That in a world where the definition of humanity is perpetually shifting from what humans can do to what computers cannot, art will remain standing to shine a light on the spontaneous, eccentric, and insane.

-Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

Sources:

Cover Image: image created by Magenta, Google’s artificial intelligence project

http://www.iflscience.com/technology/artificial-intelligence-dreams/

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-33677271&sa=D&ust=1485009093776000&usg=AFQjCNFaGDhFrQlHJfh2nIDpY919dQ4Sgw

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/japanese-ai-writes-novel-passes-first-round-nationanl-literary-prize/