With Divinity 36’s release, Gentle Reader, I got quite a few of you asking me about “the music that influenced the godsong” in these books.
Of course there is a ton of K-pop, because these books are all about music as a form of entertainment, influence, and power. So I mulled and whittled and finally came up with this list of 10 for you.
10 Influential Songs Behind the Tinkered Starsong books
Tinkered Starsong in general is influenced by my research into Kpop and the surrounding industry (both how this interfaces with Hallyu and what lead up to it – mostly J-pop and 1980s & 90s boy bands), but my playlist for these books is mostly comprised of Kpop.
But you’re probably reading this because you want specifics…
Leaving aside Kpop briefly to start, this song is first one all my playlists for these books several reasons.
First… it’s great and even if you’re a strictly Kpop person, I urge you to try it.
I hesitate to call it Jpop but it’s from an amazing Japanese musician Ayumu Imazu and I believe it’s all his own work (singing, composition, arrangement).
Why does it start all my playlists?
- There’s something about the stark loneliness of it that really typifies the beginning of Phex’s journey.
- The use of color in the music video is striking. The way it moves from darkness to single tones to over-saturated barren rooftop (moon-living anyone?) to the billowing fabric interiors (the Dyesi love their puffy fabric furniture) to the golden sun-shower (Phex’s life with Missit and his role in a pantheon) it all very much mirrors Phex’s character journey.
- The blood is certainly a foreshadow of things to come.
- Candy colored hair!
- Emotional resonance: There is a yearning wistfulness to this song that similarly underpins Phex’s character even if he doesn’t know it’s there yet himself.
This song was used for the credit sequence of Japanese series Eien no Kinou about a boy whose dead boyfriend stays alive as a succubus zombie. If you like my books, don’t watch it, it’s amazing but very sad.
For Tillam’s song of loss, Five AKA Tillam’s Lament, early in the series (Divinity 36 chapter 2), when Phex experiences godfix for the first time, I drew on two songs: GOT7’s Encore and The Rose’s Sorry.
Encore is GOT7 saying goodbye to a whole chapter in their lives. They did not disband as a group, but they did manage to close out their contracts and move on while keeping their group name. This was, until them, relatively unusual in the Kpop industry (see BEAST et al). There was no guarantee that GOT7 would get to stay GOT7, as in Kpop the studios have iron control over branding and artists names, group names, even lives.
(That’s whole other minefield I don’t want to talk about here. I’m also not really interested in talking about group scandals or celebrity gossip for reasons I hope are made pretty darn obvious in the Tinkered Starsong books.)
GOT7 was the first Kpop group I got interested in. Basically they sucked me into this madness.
Sorry is one of my favorite songs in general.
I adore Woosung’s voice (the guitarist). The Rose is a band, not a boy group, and I used Woosung’s voice as a reference for one of my characters as well. (More on that in a different post.)
Guess which character?
Both Encore and Sorry have a lingering sense of loss to them – this innate sadness and regret. But it’s being transmitted to the listener in entirely different ways and tones and arrangements. I like the way these songs make us feel an absence – but in different ways.
These are two of my favorite wet recordings in Kpop – AKA they haven’t been tinkered with by production (that much). I like the raw scratchiness.
3. Speed’s Don’t tease me
And then I ran across this video of long defunct Kpop group Speed and their killer trick dancing. It was their specialty at the time.
From a dancer perspective, the fact that they do some of their biggest tricks late in their songs is particularly HARD.
Of course, I did also researched professional cheerleading for the grace partner work and Missit & Phex’s duet.
What? You doubt me?
One of Speed’s trick dancers Kim Yoo Hwan (white shirt in the video above) would go on to appear in a Korean BL called The Tasty Florida (Viki) and you get a peak at the abs that being a lifetime acrobat has given him. It’s… impressive.
4. BTOB & healing by example
My research for the parts when Missit, a major god, lowers himself to perform with Phex and his pantheon (mere potentials and then demigods) in Demigod 12, involved in part the collaboration segment of Kingdom: Legendary War (episodes 7 & 8 on Viki).
Let me explain… no there is too much, let me sum up:
- You need to know about BTOB: Kinda the legends of vocal ability among Kpop boy groups, but less well known outside of South Korea because they (grew to) specialize in ballads and these simply aren’t as popular globally. Here’s BTOB on Killing Voice so you can sample most of their best songs. If you just want to skip to them at their most vocally impressive that’s I’ll Be Your Man and it’s here. This combination of vocal layering with rap is very Kpop and difficult to do well. (You should know BTOB are all also utter goofballs.)
- You need to know about Kingdom Legendary Wars: Korean reality TV show that pits groups against each other, and (in this case) showcased some younger groups (like Ateez and Stray Kids), popular established groups (like iKon), but also one comparatively older group, BTOB. The social, linguistic, and body language interactions between the different groups because of age, experience, and popularity was fascinating and definitely helped to inform how I conceived and wrote the interactions between Tillam (older & super popular) and Asterism (new babies on the galactic stage) in Demigod 12 & Dome 6.
- I don’t like the competition aspect of Kingdom AT ALL. What I enjoyed most were the episodes where the groups were split by specialty (rap, vocal, dance) and had to collaborate. It was so fun to watch behind the scenes of how the performers interacted over the creation of music. These highlighted the different personalities, ages, and types of artist. I’ve only done collaborative dance myself, so the difference in how the rappers vs the singers behaved was particularly informative, from both a creative, social, and linguistic perspective.
If I were to identify with any fandom it would most likely be Melody, but hopefully you can see from the Tinkered Starsong books that the behavior of band fandoms in general, and the nature of celebrity and parasocial relationships, is something I struggle with both as an artist/very minor celebrity myself and a consumer of pop culture.
So while I’m always happy to talk Kpop and I often have groups/songs I am currently ear-worming, I try not to focus on individuals or take any kind of proprietary interest in them or their private lives.
5. Kingdom’s Colors
The Kingdom performance of Colors (for obvious reasons if you’ve read these books) from a rap unit (Bang Chan, Changbin, & Han from Stray Kids – AKA 3racha, Minhyuk from BTOB, Hongjoong from Ateez) is a favorite of mine from this show.
I happen to loathe autotune (I know, I’m OLD) but I forgive it for this one, because of the collaboration aspect. (However, that is why it’s not on the official Tinkered Stars playlist.)
If you end up watching Kingdom, the behind the scenes of this rapper collab is my hands down favorite part of the whole show. (Although BTOB’s cover of Back Door, and Stray Kids’s utter joy at seeing legends redo their song, is a close second).
In writing and thinking about Phex’s character journey as he comes to love performing (first with Missit and then with his own group), not just doing it because it’s his job – I thought about these kids in 3racha’s recording studio and their utter joy rapping together.
6. Kingdom‘s Love Poem
The other performance I loved from this show is a ballad, Love Poem in which 3 main vocals of 3 different groups do nothing but sing (Jongho of Ateez, Eunkwang of BTOB, & Seungmin of Stray Kids). Their behind the scenes collaboration in Kingdom is part of what makes this resulting performance magical.
After watching them interact with each other over harmony and vocal choices behind the scenes, you can see in this performance how Eunkwang is providing the emotional foundation and support that both controls and allows the other two much younger singers to push themselves and shine. He gives them confidence with his voice but also his personality. (Here’s a professional talking all about it.)
I came up with the concept of a pantheon’s sun long before I saw this performance, but in this version of Love Poem Eunkwang is being a vocal version of Phex the sun. You can hear some of the other idols refer to this in the reaction version of Love Poem.
7. BTS’s Stay Gold
This wouldn’t be a blog about Kpop if I didn’t mention BTS.
Before you ask, I’m not Army, I don’t consider myself a stan of any group. But someone close to me IS Army so I have osmosed quite a bit about BTS. Also, as the Kings of Kpop, one must pay attention to them if you’re as intersted in the intentionality of the Kpop industry (which I very much AM – the soft power aspect is beyond fascinating to me).
Stay Gold is by no means BTS’s most popular or famous song, but it is one of my favorites of their’s (along with Spring Day and their cover of Born Singer). However, after meeting Missit and knowing Phex’s feelings about the golden god, I bet you can guess why I picked this song?
Yeah, it’s pretty much Missit’s theme song.
Before you ask, Phex’s theme song is Guard You by Young K (Day6).
8. Color Rush OTS
Okay I do really enjoy this theme song but mostly this pick is because I love the BL it comes from (Color Rush on Viki). It’s gay paranormal romance about a boy who can’t see color until he meets his soulmate. (Yes it’s all an allegory for coming out and sexual awakening.)
Sure the chemistry is a little awkward but the show is really good (as BLs go) and this scene (which they basically used whole-cloth for the music video) is LOVELY. It’s all about a burgeoning romantic relationship and interactions with color from someone who has never really seen or played with color before (yes color = love/sex) and can only do when he is with this one person.
Obviously, this kind of complex relationship between art, color, emotional resonance, and experiencing love for the first time all comes into the Tinkered Starsong books.
Also, there is a whole theme along the lines of “what it’s like to see and be seen by others.”
Color Rush isn’t really on my top BLs list because that post is so dated (this show hadn’t released yet) and there have been so many BLs since I wrote it I was exhausted by the idea of updating it. I think I might do a Part III soon, though.
9. Phex & Missit’s Duet
In terms of the famous duet, or series of duets, that Phex and Missit perform in Demigod 12, I was thinking of a lot of different things while coming up with it…
Musical theater duets, ballet duets, and so forth.
For some inspirational videos…
- you can look at Ten & Winwin (Thai & Chinese dancers from Kpop monster group NCT) doing a modern choreography piece to Lovely by Billie Eilish (the video above) or
- this famous stage performance of BTS’s Black Swan or
- Jimin & J-Hope’s dance for Boy Meets Evil in Hong Kong (2016)
But in reality this duet owes the most to my own dance experience from childhood through university.
This is the one video I could have a lot to talk about, since my actual training is in dance (modern jazz and contemporary, also most social dancing). But I think that’s pretty clear in the books when you read my descriptions of gracing. At least, for me, those bits were a lot easier to write than the singing bits.
And the Dyesi, of course. Dyesi skinsift is my own invention so of course it’s easy for me to write, I see it very very clearly in my head.
And now, back to singing…
10. Born Singer from BTS
This is one of BTS’s sort-of covers and I picked it because of the feel of the emotion of this song in this particular performance. Phex is, after all, not just a born singer he’s a manufactured one.
- This video shows both in intimacy of a group singing together contrasted to a massive stadium filled with enthralled fans.
- There is something about when the fans start singing with the group that gives me chills every time because of the sheer scope.
- The immense power of it is, in its way, an act of profound worship.
This song is at the end of this list because it is this aspect of musical art that is tied most strongly to the themes in the final book, Dome 6. Which fully explores the power and influence that music can have on its fans.
Here’s an even more intense video highlighting this feeling at a BTS concert. It’s a bit too much for me to even watch.
Playlist for the Tinkered Starsong Trilogy:
- Tinkered Starsong YouTube Playlist: Because these books are all about music becoming visible I recommend the YouTube playlist as you can also watch the MVs, and sometimes the visual is why I chose the song (not really the song itself).
- I chose c. one song per chapter (16 chapters in each book) plus a few extras, so it works out about 20 per book.
- So, if you listen/watch to the full thing in order there may be some kind of spoilers for each next book.
- That said, sometimes I chose the song for the feel, sometimes for the look, and sometimes for the concept, so it’s kinda looseygoosey and might be too allegorical to spoil much.
- I reserve the right to update this playlist. It’s not influences so much as post-book production choices. As new great Kpop comes along, I might shift some around and sub in & out.
Roughly, the song range for each book is as follows:
- Divinity 36 = Sunshower to Guard You
- Demigod 12 = Move (TNX) to Love Yourself
- Dome 6= Favorite to Remember
- Spotify playlist: Kelly and I cobbled together one of these for you too. Not all the songs I select in these blog posts are available on Spotify (certainly not the versions I like – live for example) but we did our best. It’s not in any particular order. I don’t actually use Spotify – I know, I’m old school, I just buy the songs I like. Kelly did this just for you.
- History of Kpop playlist: Because obsession almost always takes the form of research with me (I’m such a nerd) I also have a playlist that features (and tracks the evolution of) Kpop as a musical performance music industry, from some early music videos and shows to more recent stuff. It also includes pivotal moments, covers, variety shows, lives and other kinds of performances. (Interestingly, Kpop as an active music genre has been going along for almsot the same time frame as my author career. Huh.) This “history of Kpop” playlist is on both
- Singing analysis: My favorite reaction videos to Kpop that delve into singing specifically are from vocal coach Katriinka’s YouTube channel she has a delightful way of talking about song and (from a writer perspective) her vocabulary is fun too
- Rap analysis: My favorite analysis videos that go very into detail on Kpop rap are from CarKpop’s YouTube channel
- Historical & queer Kpop analysis (& silliness): DareDB channel
- Kpop new songs and charts: K-Ville YouTube
- Kpop industry gossip & news: KPOP Junkee YouTube
- Kpop fashion: George Hollins
- Research playlist: I also have a playlist of videos relating to all the research I did for these books, a few songs, some song analysis, behind the scenes stuff and talking heads on various themes tackled in these books. It’s not all Kpop, there’s a lot else going on in Phex’s journey. Big blog post coming where I talk about behind the scenes research. But the first 2 are here: Divinity 36 & Demigod 12
10 Favorite Kpop Groups, Miss Gail Just PICK!
I got asked on a live Q&A at the start of this madness,
“Yes but just name some of your favorites, Miss Gail!”
So these are my top 10 Kpop groups, based on my own playlist – how many songs of theirs I have and how often I listen to them.
Again, I’m very egalitarian. I have far more one offs than anything else. If I like a song, I like a song. I rarely go in for albums etc…
This is in order of # of songs I own, most at the top (includes solos by members).
- Monsta X
- The Rose (band)
- Stray Kids
- Day6 (band)
- Beast (AKA Highlight)
- CNBlue (band)
Remember, I really loathe autotune. So, I have very few groups that rely heavily on autotune or can’t/don’t preform wet/live well, especially for their main vocals or solo pieces. Also my core music preferences in my early music days were rock & punk (not pop). I didn’t real get into pop until graduate school in Europe.
More in this post series on Kpop?
I am a wonk over Kpop not a stan of any particular group. I’ve chosen lots of ballads (and singers who like them) primarily because they showcase vocals best. And the Tinkered Starsong series features a main character who is (primarily) a singer.
More on songs in my books?
And here’s a Playlist for Max & Bryan in The Sumage Solution.
Yours (destined to be killed by overzealous stan of some kind of another),
BOOK DE JOUR!
Divinity 36: Tinkered Starsong Book 1
The aliens are coming for us and they want our Kpop.
New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger brings you a gloriously warm and unique scifi about the power of art, celebrity, and found family.
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Tags: DEMIGOD 12, DIVINITY 36, DOME 6