LIKE INTERGALACTIC WARRIORS, THE K-POP SUPERSTARS BRILLIANTLY ADOPT THE POWER RANGERS AND SAILOR MOON ON THEIR LATEST RELEASE ‘FM’
By MTV Iggy
April 1, 2015
By Adrienne Stanley
Crayon Pop is a five-member girl group that distinguishes itself from its contemporaries in Korean music via catchy dance tracks paired with eye-popping concepts. Crayon Pop’s Geummi, Ellin, Soyul, Choa, and Way captured the hearts of male and female K-pop fans through their delivery of iconic cuteness that is on par with Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon. The group debuted in 2012 with the electro-pop track “Saturday Night” but won over legions of worldwide fans in 2013 with “Bar Bar Bar” and the infectious choreography of the Straight-Five Engine dance. We sat down with Crayon Pop before they descended onto the streets of Austin, Texas for K-Pop Night Out at SXSW 2015.
The interview with Crayon Pop was held in a nondescript conference room, which made their space-age costumes for “FM” breathtaking. Their black jumpsuits paired with white gloves and boots, helped Crayon Pop fully embody an aura of intergalactic soldiers who were brought to earth as musical peacekeepers. Present fans at Elysium on March 19 for K-Pop Night Out had the opportunity to witness the video premiere of “FM,” along with the dynamic choreography of its live performance. When we ask about the time invested in learning new choreography, Way says, “It usually takes a day or two for us to learn all the moves, but it takes about a month to get comfortable.”
“FM” opens with a video game launch screen before segueing into scenes, which depict the members on a barren horizon, evoking the feel of the iconic Japanese series, “Super Sentai.” “Super Sentai” served as the counterpart of the long-running American live-action series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. When they are not referencing the “Power Rangers,” Crayon Pop evokes the imagery of the ‘90s Japanese shōjo manga series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. The incorporation of recognizable Asian pop iconography and the brilliant use of Crayon Pop’s dance friendly vocals makes “FM” one of the best K-pop concepts of 2015.
Ellin provided an explanation of their “FM” concept, stating, “Unlike the cute image from ‘Bar Bar Bar,’ we are portraying the image of a charismatic female warrior; we are mature women.” Soyul adds that a major part of the concept is, “Crayon Pop’s charisma.” When we ask to describe what fans can expect from their upcoming release, Soyul explains, “We have lots of fun choreographies in our new song. We hope that our fans do many parodies of us because we are known for [having] fan covers of our videos.”
Crayon Pop delivered their debut performance for American audiences during the height of “Bar Bar Bar” at the Korean entertainment convention, KCON 2013. Their charming personalities and evolving concepts have caught the attention of notable musicians including Lady Gaga. Their K-Pop Night Out performance marked their US return, since the group appeared as one of the eclectic opening acts in Lady Gaga’s 2014 ARTPOP tour. The pop icon became interested in the group after seeing the video for “Bar Bar Bar” and placed them alongside other dynamic Asian acts including the vocaloid Hatsune Miku and thrashing metal idols, Babymetal.
Way speaks positively about the opportunities that resulted from performing with Lady Gaga and their perspective on appearing before US fans. She says, “We were able to tour in America for about a month, so we improved how we communicate with American audiences. We are more relaxed now. We hope to come back more often because we are not here most of the time. It is still somewhat awkward for us, as our English is kind of bad.”
While they continue to learn English, many of their international fans are studying Korean. Crayon Pop exemplifies the borderless cultural exchange of the Hallyu (or Korean wave), where many non-Korean fans have embraced acts for their sound, even if there is a language barrier. Their K-Pop Night Out stage opened with a video montage of “Bar Bar Bar,” as it was performed by the group and worldwide fans. The global impact of “Bar Bar Bar” was evident as scenes of the Crayon Pop’s Korean performances were juxtaposed with fans in Russia and a multicultural delivery of the Straight-Five Engine dance at New York City’s Korea Day Parade.
Choa expresses the sentiments of the group in regards to the group’s international fanbase. “When we first came [to America], we thought they didn’t know us but many fans were there,” she recalls. “Coming back, we were able to see more fans here. I hope to see more of them as we come more often.”
Crayon Pop 2015 Mini Album vol. 2-FM or simply FM marks the second mini album for the idol group. The album is the result of their work with the iconic producer and songwriter Shinsadong Tiger, whose previous credits include releases from 4Minute, T-ARA, and SECRET. To their surprise, Shinsadong Tiger was a male fan of the group, a phenomenon referred to as pop-jeossi. “Shinsadong Tiger was very comfortable when we were working with him,” says Choa. “Surprisingly, he was one of our fan. Since he liked us, he was able to give us the right song that fits us.”
The fervent presence of pop-jeossi is what sets Crayon Pop apart from other female K-pop groups. Pop-jeossi is derived from merging the word pop with the Korean word ahjussi, a term used to describe men who are significantly older (generally ages 30 and over). The male contingency of their fanbase fervently delivered fan chants and sing along with their songs during their K-Pop Night Out performance. Way expresses Crayon Pop’s sincere appreciation of the pop-jeossi, “Thank you for all of your love. Please continue to love us and sing our songs, forever.”
In addition to the pop-jeossi, Crayon Pop has established a legion of adoring fans of all-ages. Beyond “Bar Bar Bar,” their 2014 song “Uh-hee” and the subunit release “OK” from Strawberry Milk, defies the increasingly popular sexy trend among girl groups. Crayon Pop has followed the lead of iconic K-pop groups like Girls’ Generation, in establishing all-ages stage shows and musical styles that generally depict the girl-next-door. However, their quirky concepts like their “Bar Bar Bar” tracksuits and evocation of space iconography for “FM” set them apart from their contemporaries. Ellin weighs in on the differences between Crayon Pop and other K-pop girl groups, “Lots of girl group portray cute and sexy images when they release new albums. But we are different. We are easy to approach and deliver fun performances.”
Crayon Pop performing @ K-Pop Night Out / Photo Credit: Jean Libert
Their adorable vocal aesthetic has led to their inclusion on Korean drama soundtracks, including the sugary uptempo track “Hey Mister” for “Trot Lovers” and the equally infectious song “C’mon C’mon” for the idol teen drama Hi! School-Love On. Soyul details their original soundtrack appearances: “For Hi! School-Love On, Choa got an offer to appear on it before we went on Lady Gaga’s tour. Other songs fit our Crayon Pop-style, so we decide to contribute. We want to contribute more to original soundtracks that fits our style as opportunities come.”
The music video for “FM” also incorporates Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, but the essence of Crayon Pop is the group’s clever delivery of girl power. Their first collaboration with male artists was with the Chinese group DT Boys on the 2015 track “123 Happy New Year.” Geummi enthusiastically describes the project, saying, “It was our first time collaborating with a boy band. So, we were nervous but it went very well. Because of the language barrier, we had to communicate with eye contact and stuff. They adapted to Korean culture very well and even called us noona (older sister in Korean).”
Prior to their K-Pop Night Out set, fans had the opportunity to see Crayon Pop on Austin’s iconic Sixth Street, while they filmed a segment for the Funny or Die web series. Previous K-Pop Night Out participants who’ve appeared in the series include f(x) and 4Minute’s HyunA. Their “FM” choreography street performance harkens back to their humble beginnings in Korea, where the group would deliver guerrilla-style performances before unsuspecting audiences. But as fans and Korean media gathered to take in their photo, the girls of Crayon Pop were like distant galaxies from their former selves. If the awestruck reactions of passersby and audiences at K-Pop Night Out are any indication, “FM” could be the catalyst in Crayon Pop’s journey towards interstellar stardom.
Crayon Pop’s FM is now available on iTunes.