RaNia, now currently in Singapore, had their autograph session here on the 6th of December at Rebel Boutique Club, Clarke Quay. Although consisting of seven members, only the currently active five members (leader Saem, Riko, T-ae, Di and maknae Xia; Joy on hiatus since 2011, and Jooyi is undergoing training) are in town for their Asia Tour 2012.
Easy-going and affable, the RaNia members obliged with friendly requests from fans to take polaroids or pictures together, struck cute poses for the cameras and searched for and waved at fans who called out their names. After painstakingly signing every fan’s item, the RaNia members also gave high-fives to the fans while making their way to the small stage for their showcase.
Rocking the impossibly small stage starting with hit debut songs Dr Feel Good and Masquerade, RaNia showed off their sleek dance moves. Lead vocalist Riko then stole the limelight by putting up a flawless solo performance of That’s Me, and the showcase concluded with POP POP POP, STYLE and encore song Goodbye. Albeit short, the showcase gave the fans a chance to meet and converse with RaNia, to obtain their autographs, take pictures and see them perform up close; and was also a golden opportunity for RaNia to exhibit their charms. As the RaNia’s members have proven to be able to possess both vocal prowess and dancing ability, already, many have forecasted that this group has the potential to shine. With an increasing number of love calls from countries all around the world, and having captured attention recently with their announcement of an American debut, all that is left for RaNia to do is to promote a hit song to propel this group to greater international fame.
If you never heard of RaNia prior to this, its time for an update: these girls will soon be making big waves, possibly even Regenerating the Hallyu wave.
RaNia’s rocky start
Unlike many Korean pop group these days, RaNia (Regeneration Idol of Asia) has had been hit badly by controversies and problem immediately upon their debut: being criticized for being too suggestive in their dance moves, having to re-choreograph their debut song, making changes to their wardrobe choices, losing their producer Teddy Riley and experiencing constant changes in their line-up. In the short span of a year and a half since they debut in April 2011, RaNia has indeed come a long way in a short span of time, and it’s about time these girls start getting the attention they deserve.
Initially off to a promising start, RaNia was to debut in 2010 but pushed back their debut as member T-ae had been chosen to star alongside Jay Park in Hype Nation. After announcing their debut in April 2011, it was also revealed that RaNia would be collaborating with producer Teddy Riley in order to break into both the American and Korean markets simultaneously. Originally an eight member group with members Saemi, Riko, Jooyi, Di, T-ae, Xia, Joy and Yijo, the debut only featured seven members as Yijo was absent at both promotions and debut. It was later revealed that she had visa issues and subsequently left the group after a few months.
With two songs that were originally given to Lady Gaga, there were expectations for RaNia to be off on a good start with Dr Feel Good and Masquerade. Instead, they stirred up a huge controversy in Korea with their image and choreography, which was deemed too suggestive by the audience. Altering costumes and dance moves in accordance to the criticisms levied on them by the viewers, RaNia’s image suffered a heavy blow right from the very start.
After promotions for Masquerade ended, more problems besieged the group. Teddy Riley officially called it quits with RaNia due to differences with RaNia’s record label, DR Music. RaNia’s next single single POP POP POP was produced in collaboration with Brave Brothers, who has produced many hit songs like BIG BANG’s Last Farewell , Lee Seung Gi’s I Lost My Mind, Son Dambi’s Crazy, After School’s DIVA and many more.
Member Joy had been missing from the promotions of POP POP POP, and it was only this year that DR Music released an official statement, revealing that Joy had returned to Thailand to be with her family as they were badly affected by the 2011 floods. Joy’s departure, however, remains indefinite, and DR Music maintained that they remained unclear as to whether Joy would rejoin the group in future. RaNia’s recent comeback in September 2012 with title track STYLE only featured five members, as Jooyi was on training for another project. Having only confirmed their American debut just recently after a year of trials, RaNia seems to have beaten the odds and are finally enjoying the fruits of their labour, having recently just embarked on their Asia Tour 2012 (Cambodia 1-2 Dec, Singapore 6-11 Dec, Philippines 13-14 Dec and China 16-18 Dec) to greet their fans, officially known as A1st/Afirst (Asia No 1 Sexy Shine Team Rania Supporter).
Leader Saem Riko
Maknae Xia Jooyi
Do check out our gallery below:
Picture Credits (without hellokpop’s watermark): Jooyi’s Facebook
Special thanks to Jig Asia Entertainment Ptd Ltd for inviting hellokpop to RaNia’s showcase!
Pictures credits by Kenny@Hellokpop
Event covered by YunTing@hellokpop
Release: October 19, 2011
Distributor: SM Entertainment
How can you tell Girls’ Generation is a big deal? Why, over the amount of debate they can generate, of course. Few artists can create the kind of sharply polar reactions that SNSD’s third studio album The Boys garnered upon its release on such a huge scale. There was unbridled praise right alongside vicious criticism, both domestically (as in, within Korea) and overseas, and that’s just the listeners. Critics were similarly divided – I’ve seen professional reviews that declared The Boys one of the better idol-group albums of the year, as well as ones that pronounced the album a resounding failure. Oh, and I hear that SNSD’s been selling a few albums, too. So yeah, they’re a pretty big deal.
Seriously, now. The nine members of SNSD are now, for all intents and purposes, the faces of one of the largest, richest, most influential entertainment agencies in the land – SM Entertainment. (I see you, BoA and TVXQ fans. Sorry!) Four years removed from debut, they’ve developed into not only arguably Kpop’s most popular idol group, but also into economic movers and shakers. Just like anyone else who’s been in that position before them, they have a particular standard to live up to. People want to know that they belong in that position. That’s why The Boys falls on such a critical time in this group’s history: succeed here, and SNSD cements their spot. SM knows that, and The Boys is the result.
I said before that this album’s been debated over, and naturally the most oft-debated topic is the merits of its lead single The Boys. Let’s take a look. Immediately noticeable is the way that this track sheds former SNSD formulas: this is most definitely not a hook-song, does not indulge in cutesy mannerisms, and has practically minimalist instrumentation compared to former productions. What we have here is a hard-hitting melody, clinically sterile string rhythm, and dense, abrasive synth textures. They achieve the intended effect: The Boys sounds sleek and attitudinal. Tension is controlled well, as the relentless beat ramps up suspense with periodic breaks by the rhythmic, chant-like hook. SNSD takes to the new theme well: listeners have heard this group’s brand of harmony dozens of times, but that chorus of “Bring the boys out” is as coolly chic as they’ve ever sounded. It’s a slightly different tack than that in Run Devil Run, but I think at least in terms of vocal performance, The Boys is better.
Whether this track is actually engaging is another question, though – it has its share of problems. That chorus melody (chant and all) sounds sleek, but it becomes monotonous fairly quickly; it doesn’t sound like an issue of arrangement, since the track’s structure sustains tension so nicely. It’s just that the melody itself is not very interesting to begin with. Combined with the very generic lyrics (the English version is marginally better than the ho-hum Korean, but they’re both pretty bland), the track doesn’t exactly leave a strikingly memorable impression. Too, The Boys still has remnants of the SMP “genre” embedded in certain aspects. Sure, Teddy Riley co-composed this (and it sounds like the guy’s definitely lost a bit of his old touch), but from the sounds of it, Yoo Young-jin and crew had a pretty significant contribution themselves: the track retains Yoo’s preferred style of melisma in the closing minute as well as the predictably jarring breakdown section before the final chorus. And boy, that breakdown. I’ll say this: if SNSD is not going to run with a dedicated rapper, they may want to can the rap parts. Yuri, YoonA, Hyoyeon, and Sooyoung all sound like they’re way out of their zone there, and the section as a whole nearly throws the whole track off (the English version gets it even worse). Things like this disrupt the track’s unity, and keeps it from reaching its full potential. The Boys is ambitious, but the payoff isn’t as great as it should be.
Moving away from the lead single: true to the recent trend among SM artists’ works, The Boys (the album now) is full of quality uptempo pop. These aren’t anywhere near as bold as The Boys (the track), but on the whole are much more polished. There’s the requisite Hitchhiker synthpop in Telepathy; while it isn’t as quirky as some of his other works (F(x)‘s Sweet Witches comes to mind), the deep synth is pleasant and the track has a lot of spirit. The production becomes aggressive in Trick, with the verses and bridges powered by heavy, rough synth tones and the chorus riding upon a speedy club beat; it’s another very good track in the series of modern-europop songs that SM Entertainment has been importing. Kenzie‘s slap-bass-toting, seductive Oscar rides a visceral groove; in the meantime, Top Secret follows the tradition of last year’s Hoot with its theatrical, brass-driven accompaniment. (It’s less campy this time around.)
The dropoff from there is pretty sizable, though. Vitamin is a pleasant cheer-up song, and 봄날 (How Great Is Your Love), the only true ballad on the album, gives SNSD some breathing room to sing, but neither are great. The remainder all suffer from at least one significant issue: 제자리걸음 (Sunflower) - another Hitchhiker track, by the way – uses SNSD’s falsettoes a little too liberally, which in turn makes the song sound floaty. While both Say Yes and My J have fairly attractive instrumentation, the melodies are unremarkable and the tracks unsubstantial. (Taeyeon and Tiffany have good vocal outings in the former, though, and Sunny stands out in the latter.) Lazy Girl is probably the flattest track on The Boys, employing a retro melody with dubious execution and overly heavy synthesizer.
Really, the four uptempo tracks are the core of The Boys – they form the substantive, high-quality portion of this album, and any of them could probably serve as centerpiece singles for most other girl-group albums in recent memory. It’s interesting how that is, though: does the relative dullness of the slower tracks and the lead single say more about SM’s questionable track production and selection, or about SNSD members’ being more proficient at uptempo pop? It’s probably a little bit of both. On the one hand, Sunflower, Say Yes, etc. are all crafted without the same attention to detail and quality as the dance tracks; in the case of the track The Boys, it’s more a case of muffed execution in a new genre, and while I’m not going to blame anyone for trying something new, the end result is less than great. Now, on the other hand, SNSD does sound much more comfortable in the densely electronic tracks. Trick is particularly notable: not only are the rich, magician-themed lyrics interesting, but SNSD members also perform with flair. They audibly take more freedoms with their parts, with tonal shifts, embellishments, varied intonation, and more. Perhaps the composer might have “instructed” this stuff (we’ll never know), but regardless, SNSD was able to pull this off and do it convincingly. Not so much in, say, How Great Is Your Love: most members, with the exception of Taeyeon, Seohyun, and maybe Tiffany, have difficulty filling in the gaps left by the lack of dense instrumentation. They don’t sound bad, but rather overly cautious, and therefore the song leads them, not the other way round. That doesn’t work too well in slower tracks.
Still, the good stuff is really pretty darn good, and that’s generally what defines an album – more so than the bad stuff. The Boys plays upon SNSD’s and SM’s strengths, while taking the group in a gutsy new direction. That’s my favorite thing about The Boys: SM didn’t sit complacently and churn out more of the stuff that put its flagship group where it is today. (I’m looking at you, TS Entertainment.) As I’ve noted already, that experimentation in the lead single didn’t turn out so well this time. But so long as SM and SNSD are willing to be this bold, they’ll hit a truly great one – another Gee – soon. In the meantime, listeners get to enjoy The Boys – it’s a well-put-together, pleasant pop album. Consider that spot at the top defended and cemented for now.
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. The Boys
2. 텔레파시 (Telepathy)
3. Say Yes
5. 봄날 (How Great Is Your Love)
6. My J
8. Top Secret
9. Lazy Girl (Dolce Far Niente)
10. 제자리걸음 (Sunflower)
11. 비타민 (Vitamin)
12. Mr. Taxi (Korean ver.)
13. The Boys (English ver.)
Photo credit: maniadb