Saturday, October 2, 2010

Music You've Probably Never Heard before -- Turtles

Hey y'all!

Okay, so for this week I picked a band that is very close to my heart. They're not exactly unpopular, but they never achieved international fame, and indeed were only starting to come to fame in their own country when they had to disband. The band I'm talking about is Turtles. Not "the Turtles" the annoying 70s band in America, but Turtles the kpop trio from Korea. I kind of hate how generic their name is, but other than that they're awesome. Their name in korean sounds an awful lot like "go boogie", and that's their first album's title. Cute, isn't it? Keum Bi sang, Z-E rapped, and Lim Sung-hoon, AKA Turtleman, did both.

So I first heard of this band when I spent two months in Korea. It was when their fifth album had come out, Oh Bang Gan Da, and their song "Sing La La" was playing in the stores we went to. Everyone else on the trip was taken up by Wondergirls and their song "Tell Me", but I liked Turtles better. The deep male vocals contrasted with the light feminine chorus was really intruiging to me. I remember sitting somewhere it was playing, and I thought that I might never hear this band again, because at the time I didn't know their names or the title of their song.

I came home, and a few months later I decided to try looking up "sing la la la" on youtube because that part of their song was in english. I was delighted to find out not only did youtube have this song with a translation of the lyrics, but they also had several other videos of their music up. I immediately hoped to stick with this band, following them throughout the years as they got more famous and did more albums. Unfortunately, I also found out through my searches that Turtleman had died April second of a heart attack. He was found dead in his apartment by the manager at the age of 38. He was the lead of the band, so there was no chance that the girls could continue without him. His wonderful goofiness and delightful voice brought a lot to the group, and he was unable to see the success that this band would surely have gotten as they became more widely known.

He was loved a lot, and there were many heartbroken fans upon hearing of his death. It's sort of evil how people filmed parts of his funeral and you can see how Keum Bi and Z-E were crying their eyes out. And did they really need to put so many photographers there? Sheesh, give the family some privacy...
So this band only has five albums out, other than the remix album, compliations, and a Christmas album. iTunes recently put kpop in their stores, and they have a lot of Turtles on there. However, one of the really annoying things about iTunes is that they have some of their albums out under the english "Turtles" and some can only be found by either looking them up by their Korean name. I usually got to youtube and copy/paste the proper korean letters so that I can find these albums. Hopefully they've fixed it since last I looked.
iTunes has their first, fourth, and fifth albums up, as well as a remix album. If you don't wish to buy any of these, you can try them out on youtube first. I'm going to be reviewing all of the albums that I can, and I'll put up links to whatever songs I can.

Their first album is one of my favorites. It features Su Bin instead of Keum Bi, who joined the band for their second album. It's a moderately relaxed album compared to the more hyper later ones, but it's wonderful and a great intro to Turtleman. I bought this album on ebay before iTunes came out with Kpop, and this is good because it means I have a copy of the lyrics (in korean, but I'm trying to learn it anyway) and because I have the actual cd. Ebay is very unreliable for having these albums, and I was lucky to snatch it up when I did. Given that this album coincides with my true love's R&R from his deployment, it has a lot of personal significance for me.

There are a couple of rap segments, the "Turtles free" songs, but I didn't care for those on this album. They were just too abrasive for me, and freelance rap tends to be riskier. Other than these, the group does some romantic songs, as well as some fun and motivational songs. Turtles has always had a message of working together and doing the right thing in their work, and this album is no exception. "You Can Do It" comes to mind, and is the corniest song on the album. I still love it. "Hip Hop Revolution" is another track in the same vein, but is more successful and less corny. The songs that really gave this band their fame are two rap remixes of the industrial age Korean classic "Four Seasons" [version 1: ] , which depicts the life of a factory worker in the days when South Korea was going industrial. It's a haunting song, made very cool by the rap. Also check out "Everybody Boogie" [link: ].
By far my favorite song is Hyanggiroun Chueon, a song that inspired me to write. I have no idea what it means, only that it's haunted and optimistic piece that reminds me of a clear morning, free of yesterday's hurt. I really should translate this one.
Unfortunately, I haven't heard much from the second album, Turtles Vol. 2. It's not on iTunes and I only found this on youtube, -- . Crap, I love this song! It makes me want to be an extra in the music video.

 Turtles Vol. 3, another not on iTunes, has several videos on youtube. These include the fun and vibrant "Bingo" [linkie: ] which is about enjoying your life even though it's hard. This song is so much fun that I don't know how anyone couldn't love it. Another is How Many, my favorite of this band for all albums. Again, I don't know what this song means (given my love for non-worded music, not surprising I still like it), but it has to be about helping others, at least what I gather from the music video. It's about a guy helping a blind girl, who fails to understand what he has done for her. It's actually very sad, as you can see here: . Ashipjiman [listen here: ] is a cool hip hop beat that simply but effectively done.

Turtles Vol. 4 is the album that really helped get Turtles on the scene, and they won their first award for their song Bihaengi or "Airplane" [listen: ]. This is the most contented song I have ever heard in my life, and it's pure bliss to listen to. Also, the "Turtles Free" songs on this album are a lot better. Turtles Free 4-1 is more of an introductory piece, but 4-2 is absolutely terrifying in a wonderful way, and it's a total contrast to the usual happiness of Turtles music.
"Funny", the second track after Turtles Free 4-1, is a fun song and perfect to exercise to. "Yeah" [linkie: ] is another fun one. There are more mellow songs on here, the best of which is "To My Half", a song that now brings me to tears because of this youtube video --

The songs "Trip", "Remember Me", and "Move" are three fun tracks that are well worth listening too, but "Must" is too silly even for me. It's fun, but not my preference. This album competes with the first for being my favorite, though if I hear more of the third then I might change my mind.

The remix album is okay, but I really only like the first track of it. I've been listening to techno for years, and I know when songs don't need mixing. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped a lot of artists from doing so, particularly noob mixers who can't tell which songs they should let alone. Some songs are just too good to do that too. Then again, if you get a good artist then they can surprise you. I'll go more into that another time.

Turtles Vol. 5, Oh Bang Gan Da, is okay. It ventures too far into the mainstream pop realm, and honestly all singers are better the further away they stay from today's terrible pop. The title song is pretty good. "Sing La La" is one of the two songs that stick out in popularity, and of course I love it. It's about letting yourself have fun and dance, but the music video is about shopping too much. Seriously, you've got to see it. Why not when you can just click this link?

The other song is "My Name", a song about being just [link: ]. It's a little harder than their normal songs, but it's very passionate. It reminds me of waking up early, and I need to figure out how I can make it my alarm on my phone.

There are a few good song on the fifth album, as well as a couple of corny ones. It's a grab bag of good and okay, making the album suffer overall from the lack of song cohesiveness. I would get into the specific tracks, but I don't know how to spell these in english letters. There's the "Miami Remix" of Sing La La, but this is really unnecessary and not that well done. There's also "Logo Song Collection", which I feel is an unnecessary shout out to their record company. I'm still glad I have it, though, and it's well worth listening to.

Overall, for people my age this is a hearkening back to the music of the eighties/nineties, in a sense, because these songs are happier and about love, rather than the depressing, boring songs of today that are about sex. Foreign countries, please don't copy America's or Britain's music of today, and keep an eye on Europop. We're going through a very bad period right now and I don't want you to have to do the same thing. Honestly, music is about communicating your soul for the blessing of others, not about sex or wearing stupid outfits. If the music isn't more important than the artist, then the music suffers. Mozart and Beethoven are remembered for their skill, not their extravagance. Don't reward people that croon endlessly about dull things to dull music. So what if music like Turtles is sillier or Techno isn't as pop-accessible? Too many genres today sound like mainstream pop, like country, R&B, and others. You, the listener, are the one that decides where this ends.

Turtles is a happy, fun band that I will always love and treasure. I heard that the girls are joining up with this other dude to make a new band, and I really hope they succeed. I will definitely look into that and have a listen.

For those who want to see a full discography of the band, here you go:
Saranghamneedah, Lim Sansaengneem.

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