When I was asked to review Bebop's new MV, the name rang a bell in my head. For some strange reason, the group name sounded familiar. It turns out I have seen the name before, no not from the Ninja Turtles but it was right in my iTunes library. The newly debuted idol group—consisting of three members—had featured on one of indie pop/electronica band Humming Urban Stereo's tracks back in 2012. The song is called "Love Jam" and it featured, I believe, A-Yeon and Ju-Woo, but I could be mistaken. The two girls laid their vocals on the song and one of them (Ju-Woo) even appeared in the music video. Hence, Bebop is not completely new in the music scene judging from their past collaborations with Humming Urban Stereo, but I am assuming the release of the single "I am the Best" (not to be confused with 2NE1's song) marks Bebop's official debut as an idol group.
"I'm the Best" is the title track on Bebop's mini album called 'Between Calm and Passion,' which dropped a little over a week ago on the 14th. The music video for "I'm the Best" came out the day before. I will be focusing mainly on the title song and the MV, but if you want to check out more of Bebop, I encourage you all to listen to the rest of the album. Present on the album are sounds incorporating pop-punk with a bit of swing, and there is also a ballad song and an acoustic song for those who may enjoy softer music.
The video begins with all three girls—A-Yeon, Ji-In, and Ju-Woo—sitting around a table enjoying delectable pastries (share please?), with classical music playing in the background. You would think the scene should rightfully show the girls reveling in a giddy, gossip fest over a nice cuppa but they all look far from giddy. In fact, all of them appear pretty tense, maybe even hostile, scorching each other with their gazes all the while seductively sticking dessert into their mouths. Just as I am about to yawn from a lack of action, the classical music abruptly stops and we are shown Ju-Woo squirted on the face with a pudding-like substance (at least I hope that was pudding). Suddenly the whole atmosphere and the scenery changes to something more sinister, and the warm colors that were present throughout the beginning disappear completely, changing to a chilling blue-grey. Then we get to witness someone slap the sense out of Bebop. The slapping is actually a lead-in to a fight amongst the girls which will ensue throughout the song.
After the slap scene is when the music jumps in, and if you don't know already, Bebop's music can be considered rock. And guess what? The girls each play her own instrument. An idol group playing—particularly an idol group made up of all females—instruments is relatively novel in the K-Pop scene since most boy bands' and girl groups' focus is on vocals and dancing. Plus the mainstream rock scene in South Korea is male-dominated, so seeing a rock group consisting of all females was like a breath of fresh air.
Let's delve a bit deeper into the music now. "I'm the Best" is a sprightly song with lots of energy. Though I said the group is rock earlier, I feel that the label is too generic. Nowadays there are countless sub-genres subsumed within the giant category that is rock. And as someone who listened to nothing but rock music in her teens, "I'm the Best" can be most aptly described as punk—pop punk to be exact. The first impression of punk in the song is the fast-paced drumming which does not slow one bit until the song ends. Actually the whole song has a speedy rhythm to it, the rapid strokes of guitar and bass also creating a peppy, punk mood. Another element of punk I noticed in the video was the whole 'grunginess'. The set is a run-down looking garage, enclosed by dull grey walls with graffiti scribbled on them. Even Bebop's outfits seemed to be emanating the punk style. I mean come on, it's pretty blatant: the leather jackets with spikes, jean vest, Chuck Taylors, combat boots, leather, bondage…I don't know if the girls can look any more rebellious. Maybe if each girl had paper clips as earrings, donned lip piercings and rainbow-colored mohawks, and had tattoo sleeves. However, considering the prohibitive nature of the Korean popular music industry, that's not likely to happen.
Moving on, if there was one thing I didn't quite understand in the video initially, it was the fight scene amongst the girls. But after careful consideration of the title and listening to the lyrics several times, there is more to the fighting than I thought. The song title's literal translation is "I am the Main" not "I am the Best" and each girl is viciously putting up her best fight for the main spotlight. Even in a group with just three members, one of them might easily outshine the other member with her goddess-like, other-worldly looks, vocals, charms, popularity and whatnot (think Hyuna and Suzy). The lyrics also allude to the 'fake' air that a lot of girl groups have to maintain for the media, even though they may actually want to get at each other's throats in real life (Eat Your Kimchi actually mentioned bullying within K-Pop groups in one of their older videos). You may innocently believe that all Korean pop group members are besties for life but that is most likely not always the case. You never know what goes off-camera or behind the scenes. Bebop somehow managed to sing about two such somber topics in a fun, light-hearted, comical manner.
Before I finish up, let me just quickly recommend this band to everyone. Check them out especially if you want to listen to something new from the K-Pop scene. I am just hoping the group will release more punk-ish songs in the future. The Korean pop music scene sure needs more diversity.