K-Pop Bracket Pt. II: The Bracketing

 

If you missed part one of our totally necessary K-pop bracket, you can find it here!

It’s probably worth noting that all results were unanimous after Round 1, meaning we’ve left behind the land of 2-to-1 splits. That’s bad news if you wanted thoughtful debate about the merits of different bands, but great news for Kelsey, Amanda and I when it comes to playlists at parties—we’ll all be so content with each other’s choices!

Kpop bracket (3)
Yes, the winner is already filled in. I never promised suspense.

ROUND 2

BTS (1) vs. B1A4 (16)

Full disclosure: even though I voted for them in Round 1, I didn’t want to watch another B1A4 video. I suggested we skip it, watch something fun with BTS and advance them. The others didn’t think that was in the spirit of the exercise. But we didn’t even watch the whole B1A4 music video ultimately. So yeah, you can probably guess how this is going to go. Anyway, Kelsey hadn’t seen the video of BTS playing Flinch with James Corden, so it was our civic duty to show it to her.

Videos: BTS “Flich w/ BTS” vs. B1A4 “What’s Happening?

Judges’ Thoughts

Kelsey (K): Do I even need to say BTS?

Stephanie (S): I think any video where J-Hope falls down is a winner. Also, I didn’t want to watch more B1A4 in the first place. BTS.

Amanda (A): BTS. I had already forgotten B1A4 existed by the time we got to the second round.

 

Winner: BTS (3:0)

J-Hope flinch
Pictured: A winner. (Source)

CNBlue (9) vs. FT Island (25)

The You’re Beautiful match-up we’ve all been waiting for! Maybe? Okay, not really. While Jeremy is clearly superior to Shin Woo, CNBlue has a little more going for them than FT Island. The only FT Island song that ever really left an impression is “I Wish.” Amanda and I got into a debate about which CNBlue music video to watch. She claimed “Sorry” was superior, and I was arguing for “Puzzle.” I ended up deferring to her, but after being underwhelmed by the rewatch of “I’m Sorry,” we watched “Puzzle” anyway. That may have fudged things a little more in CNBlue’s favor, but we can all agree that A.N.Jell would have beat both these groups, so it ultimately doesn’t matter.

Videos: CNBlue “I’m Sorry” and “Puzzle”  vs. FT Island “I Wish

Judges’ Thoughts

K: FT Island has its charms, but CNBlue is the clear winner.

S: It’s funny that these two groups are going head-to-head because when Amanda and I discovered FT Island, we immediately compared them to CNBlue. Our general thoughts were that FT Island is a little more creative in their music videos, but CNBlue edges them out musically. “I Wish” has things going for it. Well, mostly it has Hong Gi’s headband and the fact that when he sings “jokesseo,” it sounds enough like “queso” to pretend he’s singing about cheese. “I’m Sorry” is fine, and their youthful disobedience is fun, especially the bassist being angsty on a bus. I genuinely like “Puzzle” as a song, and the video is bright and dynamic while staying true to the band’s more subdued style. Plus, there are some great beauty shots of Jong Hyun. CNBlue continues to have the edge.

A: CNBlue. I don’t really care about either of these bands other than CNBlue has beautiful members and Jeremy is an immense joy on You’re Beautiful. I struggle to pick between them because I don’t really care about either, and though as a whole I tend to prefer listening to CNBlue a little more, the lead singer of FT Island has a superior, distinct voice. Ultimately CNBlue won for me because of superficial reasons. Just look at them.

Winner: CNBlue (3:0)

CNBlue Puzzle
Pictured: Superficial reasons (Source

EPIK High (29) vs. iKon (20)

Amanda and I can admit that in this round we let catchiness sway us, and we chose the objectively inferior band. In our defense, we’d been watching a lot of videos, and fun and a shorter runtime go a long way in situations like this. iKon had both working in their favor, and the way we were judging groups didn’t really allow us to take in everything great about EPIK High. We just want to use this platform to say that EPIK High is awesome.

Videos: EPIK High “Born Hater” vs. iKon “Bling Bling

Judges’ Thoughts

K: iKon. “Bling Bling” is kinda basic, but “Born Hater” drags on a bit.

S: I agree that “Born Hater” is a little long. Plus, it’s got all those featured artists, which feels unfair—hey Mino, nice to see you again even if Winner lost in the first round. I mean, Bobby and B.I. are in it, so it would feel a little disingenuous to pick it over iKon. “Bling Bling” may be a little bit stupid, but I do like it. iKon.

A: iKon. “Born Hater” is great, but “Bling Bling” is really the perfect song to listen to when it’s past midnight and you’re a little drunk. Actually, let’s be real; I’m very basic, so “Bling Bling” is great at all times. Sorry, EPIK High. Don’t hate me.

Winner: iKon (3:0)

G-Dragon Haru.gif
But Tablo’s daughter Haru wins cutest child with great taste in K-pop stars. (Source)

B.A.P. (21) vs. SHINee (5)

By some miracle, our first instinct wasn’t to just put on “Ring Ding Dong” and shut this competition down immediately. We went with “1 of 1” because Kelsey hadn’t seen it. It’s a great song and video, don’t get me wrong, but it does leave more of an opening for B.A.P to pull a surprise upset. (Although, let’s be honest. That was never going to happen.)

Videos: B.A.P. “Honeymoon” vs. SHINee “1 of 1

Judges’ Thoughts

K: “1 of 1” is a lot of fun. What exactly is happening in “Honeymoon?” SHINee.

S: I like “Honeymoon.” Amanda says it’s because I’m an inexplicable, often infuriating person, but I like to think it’s because I embrace the facts that life is colorful and sometimes people have weird, blue mullets. That being said, SHINee is SHINee, and I love the throwback feel of the “1 of 1” video. I’m really the only chance B.A.P. has at a vote, but I have to go with SHINee.

BAP Honeymoon
Sweater: Amazing. Hair: Terrible. Life: Colorful. (Source)

A: Stephanie is an inexplicable, often infuriating person who somehow finds “Honeymoon” enjoyable. “1 of 1” shows SHINee giving us some nice ’80s throwback fashion and dance moves—in other words, it’s precious, but what’s crazy is that this isn’t even them at their most delightful. SHINee in a landslide victory.

Winner: SHINee (3:0)


EXO (2) vs. Block B (18)

I think I’ve made our opinions of EXO fairly clear. We chose “Growl” because it’s the one song we can all agree is a legitimate jam (even though I might have suggested “Ko Ko Bop”). I don’t think, however, our fondness for Block B has really been illustrated. In Round 1, I said they were a good match-up with Monsta X, but that was probably a little misleading. Block B was definitely going to win. They’re a band with a sense of humor and self-awareness that’s hard to beat. I think a lot of bands try to replicate what Block B does *cough* Highlight *cough*, but they come off as poor imitations.

Videos: EXO “Growl” vs. Block B “Yesterday

Judges’ Thoughts

K: This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I think Growl drags a little. It’s enjoyable, but I was ready for it to end. Block B.

S: I like “Growl” a lot, but it does feel slow compared to “Yesterday”. The choreography is amazing in “Growl,” but I’d rather watch a fun Block B video.

A: One of the best things about K-Pop is its over-the-top aesthetics and blend of all the genres, but sometimes this creates songs and music videos that feel labored and exhausting. These two songs are both K-Pop standouts because they seem effortless. “Yesterday” reminds me of some of the goofier alternative rock acts of the 90s but with more pop sensibility and Zico’s always on-point rapping—what’s not to love? That might sound busy, but Block B pulls it off, creating a breezy tune that’s true to their brand. EXO songs often feel basic—not basic in a catchy, crazy “Bling Bling” way but basic in a boring, uninspired sort of way. But “Growl” is irresistible (except for Kelsey, somehow) because it’s just a simple jam with a simple video in which the group performs impressive choreography in a parking garage. Still, I’m a sucker for Zico and those silly Block B antics, so they win this round.  

Winner: Block B (3:0)


2PM (10) vs. NU’EST (26)

“Hands Up” was the only other 2PM song that we could think of. Since we’d already watched two NU’EST videos, we decided to revisit our new favorite song, “Face.”

Videos: 2PM “Hands Up” vs. NU’EST “Face

Judges’ Thoughts

K: NU’EST

S: “Hands Up” is even more basic than “My House,” which is almost impressive. The music video is a little better, but still, 2PM basically won by default in the last round. “Face” continues to be just plain delightful. NU’EST.

A: NU’EST. How is it that I haven’t heard “Face” until tonight?

Winner: NU’EST (3:0)


Big Bang (3) vs. TVXQ (14)

Is TVXQ’s scandalous sex appeal enough to defeat Big Bang? No, the answer is clearly no. Since TVXQ was only really included because of “Mirotic,” we just watched it again. (Our process is clearly flawless if you ignore all the flaws I’ve already pointed out.) Kelsey had never seen Big Bang’s glorious debut, so we put on that all time classic “La La La.”

Videos: Big Bang “La La La” vs. TVXQ “Mirotic

Judges’ Thoughts

K: “La La La” is terrible, but I’m still picking Big Bang.

S: “La La La” is a treasure. Big Bang.

A: Big Bang had the worst debut and somehow became the greatest band. That just makes me love them more.

Winner: Big Bang (3:0)

La La La Big Bang.gif
Pictured: A terrible treasure (Source)

VIXX (11) vs. GOT 7 (6)

I like “Scientist,” but the only other VIXX songs I could think of were “Chained Up” and “Shangri-La.” We went with “Chained Up,” because I guess we weren’t feeling fan dancing. When picking the greatest GOT7 music video, there’s really only one option. It should be noted that we also watched an episode of Real GOT7 and one of the group’s appearances on Weekly Idol before we started this bracket because we wanted Kelsey to know that we love these men because they are unreal human beings, and it has little to nothing to do with their music.

Videos: VIXX “Chained Up” vs. GOT7 “Just Right

Judges’ Thoughts

K: “Scientist” was okay, but I don’t care for “Chained Up.” Unlike Amanda and Stephanie, I am not overwhelmingly charmed by “Just Right,” but GOT7 still gets my vote.

S: As the person who selected “Chained Up,” I’ll argue that those white suits and red chokers are great. I also know who Leo is, and being able to identify a member is more than I can do for a lot of groups in this bracket. On the other hand, I know who every member of GOT7 is, and “Just Right” is an amazing song. GOT7.

VIXX Chained Up
Even if I didn’t vote for VIXX, I stand by this look. (Source)

A: GOT7. “Just Right” is amazing, but it should also be pointed out that it is terrible. Six gorgeous men and Yugyeom put on makeup, get their hair dyed and styled, and don trendy outfits to explain to young women that they shouldn’t worry about their appearances because they are beautiful just the way they are. Uhhh. . . mixed messages? It’s also a terrible music video in which the members have shrunken down to the size of dolls and are singing to a prepubescent girl in her bedroom, so yeah, that’s creepy. But somehow it’s one of the most delightful and catchy things to ever happen. GOT7 is the greatest of guilty pleasures.

Jackson Just Right
Damn it, Jackson! You’re teaching a young girl about inner beauty. Maybe lay off the sexy eating! (Source)

Winner: GOT7 (3:0)

 

At this point we abandoned any attempt at process. We stopped watching videos for each round and just did what our hearts bid us. In our defense, we knew all the bands we were dealing with pretty well at this point.

Kpop bracket (2)

ROUND 3

BTS (1) vs. CNBlue (9)

No videos necessary. We’d already watched three CNBlue offerings, and between the three of us, we’ve watched an alarming amount of BTS-related content.

Judges’ Thoughts

K: CNBlue can be lovely, but BTS is the clear winner.

S: CNBlue had a good run. I’ll always love Jong Hyun’s face, but I have to go with BTS.

A: BTS. Jong Hyun’s beautiful, but he’s not worldwide handsome.

Winner: BTS (3:0)


iKon (20) vs. SHINee (5)

It’s a battle of the debuts! Well, it’s close enough; “Rhythm Ta” was iKon’s second music video if we’re getting technical. Both iKon and SHINee have their own special appeals, but based on the hyperbolic way I’ve spoken about one of these bands, you can probably guess who is going to win.

Videos: iKon “Rhythm Ta” vs. SHINee “Replay

Judges’ Thoughts

K: Why is everyone’s debut so terrible? Why do Amanda and Stephanie like “Replay?” Obviously, I’m picking SHINee, but these are valid questions.  I feel like I keep saying this, but “Rhythm Ta” just keeps going.

S: Oh noona, you’re so pretty. SHINee all the way.

A: Aww, SHINee! “Replay” is one of the most precious songs to exist. “Rhythm Ta” is wonderfully basic, but I literally replay “Replay” whenever it comes up on my playlist.

Winner: SHINee (3:0)


Block B (18) vs. NU’EST (26)

As far as we’re concerned, NU’EST peaked with their debut. We watched more than one debut song for this bracket, and NU’EST wins that contest. Too bad that’s not what this is about. We didn’t bother to look for another NU’EST video, but we wanted to continue to expose Kelsey to the greatness that is Block B.

Video: Block B “Her

Judges’ Thoughts

K: I like NU’EST, but I like Block B more. It’s fun and colorful, very K-pop. Block B.

S: NU’EST, what a wonderful surprise you have been. “Face” is certainly a delight, but Block B is genuinely better. “Her” features the pinkest hair I’ve even seen, and at one point, Zico hangs out with an ostrich. Can you beat that? Well, NU’EST can’t. Block B.

A: What an absurd video from a bunch of absurd men. I’m with “Her.” Block B.

Winner: Block B (3:0)

Block B Her
Pink hair! Absurd men! An ostrich! (Sources 1, 2)

Big Bang (3) vs. GOT7 (6)

Winner: Big Bang (3:0)

 Kpop bracket (1)

ROUND 4

BTS (1) vs. SHINee (5)

Judges’ Thoughts

K: I can appreciate SHINee, but I don’t have nearly the level of affection for these guys that Amanda and Stephanie do. It’s BTS all the way.

S: Oh, this one hurts. This is probably the most difficult decision of the night. I like BTS’ music more and recognize that it’s generally superior, but SHINee makes me so happy. I’m going with BTS, but SHINee will always be in my heart.

A: SHINee has impressive vocals, Minho’s beautiful arms, Taemin being Taemin, and they earn the unique distinction of being both fantastic and elastic. However, they don’t have the depth of those pretentious Bangtan Boys who manage to deliver hit after hit while pushing boundaries. With a heavy heart, I choose BTS.

Winner: BTS (3:0)

shinee-fantastic-elastic
Gentlemen, it’s been an honor. (Source)

Block B (18) vs. Big Bang (3)

Judges’ Thoughts

K: Big Bang.

S: Block B is great, but come on. It’s Big Bang.

A: Duh, Big Bang.

Winner: Big Bang (3:0)

 Kpop bracket

FINAL ROUND

BTS (1) vs. Big Bang (3)

Judges’ Thoughts

K: I said I would vote for Big Bang at the beginning, and nothing has changed. I love BTS, but Big Bang are the kings.

S: Honestly, after the SHINee vs. BTS round, this is easy. I like BTS a lot and look forward to seeing what they do next, but they aren’t Big Bang. No one is Big Bang. Also, I already wrote them in as the winner in pen, so there’s no going back.

A: I think even BTS would choose Big Bang. Both are at the top of their game when it comes to catchy hits, range and existential crises. But I can still easily list off several things that make Big Bang superior to BTS, at least in my mind. ARMYs certainly have strong reasons to favor BTS, but this crew goes hard for the OG boy band.


Winner: Big Bang (3:0)

Big Bang Fantastic Baby.gif
*Gasp* I did not see this coming. (Source)

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