Wednesday's K-pop show, part of Canadian Music Week, was full of awesome costumes and goofy fun.
Korean pop for beginners: It feels weird, but it doesn’t hurt.
Thanks to its sparkly, matching poodle dresses, Tron-era imagery, and general bubble-gum happiness, Canadian Music Week’s Korean music night at the Kool Haus was nothing short of magical—for reasons very different than any other show at the rest of the festival would have been magical. For Toronto music fans used to seeing bands too cool to smile and fans too cool to dance, Wednesday’s hyper-innocent boy-and-girl-band fiesta could be interpreted as either way too perky or joyously refreshing.
We’re going with the latter. It was pretty much the best.
The first four acts of the night—which took a different tone from the more alt-offerings later on—where characterized by explosive enthusiasm and smooth moves. Girls rushed the stage and squealed between the songs. The beats recalled Gaga or Timbaland, and the performers were immaculately coiffed visions of 18-year-old perfection.
A Pink: Seven sassy girls in matching, sparkly, pale-pink poodle dresses. Their jaunty movements were hypnotic, their voices mediocre, and their English-language banter lacking a certain degree of depth. “We went to the CN Tower and Niagara Falls!” one singer exclaimed, while the audience cheered. “I love Canada!” noted another. More cheers. Their music sounded like a bunch of girls re-doing the final scene from Revenge of the Nerds, as Torontoist photographer Dean Bradley astutely noted.
Teen Top: This classic boy band delivered everything their name might lead one to expect. Comprised of six youthful lads dressed like Sgt. Pepper met Kanye and then turned into a robot made of gold, the group made the ladies in the crowd go particularly wild. Think ‘N Sync crooning over a happy-hardcore beat. They sang, they danced, they made us yearn for more. They weren’t kidding when they offered to show us “crazy, hot, and sexy.” Scha-wing!
G.NA: One thing made itself clear when the beautiful G.NA (pronounced “Gina”) strutted on stage with only four backup dancers. The smaller the entourage, the better the lead vocalist. With pipes reminiscent of Christina Aguilera and weighty, Timbaland-style beats, the Alberta and B.C.-bred songstress marked a notable elevation in singing skill that continued with her follow-up, Brian Joo.
Brian Joo: Before he even took the stage, the crowd was chanting his name. “Brian! Brian! Brian!” It was only after we realized that all of his songs had more famous English-language parallels that things got weird. This U.S.-born charmer—in gold-accented duds, which seems like sort of a K-pop requirement—filled his set with Korean renditions of North American Top-40 hits. But he sure could belt them out. Jason Derulo’s “In My Head” got a particularly strong fan response, but that “falling like a domino” song seemed to do pretty well too. He also used the controversial catchphrase “no homo” at least once, to refer to his bros-only affection for a member of Teen Top.
KRNFX: This is where things got seriously real. KRNFX is a killer beatboxer who won Canada’s first-ever beatbox championship in 2010, and took the South Korean title in 2007 and 2009. While not listed on the show schedule, his brief set was the highlight of the evening. His sound is a departure from hip hop, toward something more like dubstep meets techno. The best part is that this wiz kid is from Toronto, so you too can one day experience the magic otherwise known as Terry Im.
Torontoist skipped out before the evening took a turn for the punk-ish, but can definitively say we left feeling the kind of happy that manifests itself in cartoon animals with human faces, exploding hearts, and clouds shaped like seals. These performances were fun, entertaining, and full of heart.
A perky tune and a choreographed dance really can go a long way.