Listening to miss A’s amazing new album Colours got me thinking about the quality of music in K-pop this year so far. We’re only four months in now and already I’d claim it’s a better year than 2014 — especially for the girls. Nearly every release from a female artist has been a complete knockout, and what’s best is that there are even more great tracks hidden on their albums. Missing out on great album tracks is something I do a lot and have been wanting to change that recently. So as KultScene’s self-proclaimed girl group expert (i.e. girl group biased) I’m going to go through some of my favourite album B-sides from the girls of K-pop this year so far.
miss A Love Song
Starting with the aforementioned miss A and my current obsession with track number three on Colours, Love Song. It doesn’t look like I’m the only one enamoured with this song as miss A have been performing it alongside Only U, so maybe this is an obvious choice but it’s too good to pass up.
Love SOng starts off with a beautiful piano reminiscent of Japanese producer Daishi Dance’s work with After School on Shampoo and Rainbow on Sweet Dream and To Me. These are some of my all time favourite K-pop songs so I knew I was going to enjoy this wherever it went. But boy I did not expect it to go to the places it did. This edgy piano opening transitions into a subdued but moody verse. The intro then returned as a pre chorus before what can only be described as a crunk classical chorus. It is merely oriental strings along with a bass drum and snare but manages to be instantly danceable and energetic. This unexpected turn transformed Love Song from a great filler track to a genre-creating masterpiece. ‘’Like a tornado’’ is right.
Also on KultScene: Miss A “Only You” Music Video & Song Review
Rainbow’s lack of success with Black Swan has really disappointed me. Maybe it was the timing of a Wintery song in Spring or maybe the public is fed up with Rainbow, but I really loved their lead single and also Innocent, the album it came on. The highlight of which was Pierrot.
The name “Pierrot” has come up in K-pop a few times and usually refers to a clown of some sort. Rainbow used it in a similar way to refer to a lover who is smiling but seemingly always sad. It’s an interesting way of using a known reference to add an edge to a common style of lyric.
Pierrot mixes dancehall and Europop to great and weird effect. Its transitions have little build up but seem to work because of the quality of each part and Woori’s rap. It also marks the first ever time I’ve heard Rainbow make good use of No Eul. Her visual and voice are uncommon in K-pop but here her sympathetic vocal fits the pre-chorus so perfectly. Like Black Swan, there’s a 2009 K-pop feel to it which I love. The simple almost cheap sounding production sounds fresh amongst the dubstep and ‘90s laden songs around today.
Ga-In Free Will
In a few years time when we are discussing the great K-pop albums of this generation, Ga-In’s hawwah will be prominent in that discussion. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more complete a pop album that also has something to say. Each song touches on the theme of religion through the guise of Eve or Hawwah, as she is known in Korea and elsewhere.
So choosing a favorite off a perfect album is hard, but I’m going with the Dok2 featured Free Will. The first thing I thought of when listening to it was that it sounds like it could come off of Brown Eyed Girls’ also perfect album Sixth Sense. So this means there’s lightning fast drums, acid jazz, and some added surf guitars to make it Ga-In’s own. Dok2’s rap ,which is my favorite of the featured rappers, and Ga-In’s layered vocals also make it the most interesting song vocally on the album.
Lyrically, it seems like a normal call for people to exercise their free will. But on a concept album about religion, this of course means it’s really about letting go of the shackles of religion. Too many times it has held individuals back, and Ga-In wants you to stop believing their stories and think for yourself.
When it comes to cutesy concepts, I’m generally hard to please. I think most western fans can relate to that as it’s not something we’re used to. However, when girl groups infuse their cutesy songs with a J-pop style weirdness, then I am totally on board.
This is something Lovelyz has been doing for their past two albums and has made them my current favourite rookie act. On their Hi repackage of flawless album Girls’ Invasion, Joyland is a standout for me. Ji Ae, like in Getaway the highlight on Girls’ Invasion takes the spotlight here. Her childish, nasally voice is completely unique in the musical world and adds a certain edge to Lovelyz’s music. It can come across as annoying to lot of people, but to me, it’s a revelation, and I always look forward to hearing it. It works particularly well in the rap here, anchoring the whole song.
It’s not just Ji Ae’s voice that keeps me coming back to the song though. The twinkly synth pop reminiscent of older Kara and J-pop is one of my favourite sounds in pop. Maybe it’s an old love of anime and all things Japanese, but something about it is so satisfying and infinitely listenable to me.
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Nine Muses Choice
Coming off the back of another big member change and losing their go-to producer Sweetune, I feared for Nine Muses’ most recent comeback. But somehow they came back just as strong if not stronger with Drama. It broke new ground while sticking to the basics of what Nine Muses were. They also stuck to their formula of producing great albums.
My favourite album cut from the album is Choice. It sticks to one Nine Muses’ favorite sounds, disco. It sounds like the perfect song to go to a roller disco to. The speedy disco guitars mix brilliantly with a more extravagant electro sound. Its random musical flairs add a kind of unplanned feel to it which heightens the fun. It also includes a really weird breakdown after Erin’s rap (flawless as usual) where the beat changes for a moment before blasting back to a final chorus.
What’s your favourite B side of 2015 so far? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.