Weekly K-pop faves: Sept. 4-10

Like each week, the KultScene team mused a bit this weekend about our favorite releases from South Korea over the past seven days. With comebacks from some popular boy bands, including B.A.P, and long overdue releases from male idol group members, like Highlight’s Lee Gikwang and Super Junior-M’s Henry Lau, there was a lot to appreciate.

“Honeymoon” by B.A.P (Released Sept. 5)

This week B.A.P served us a plate full of aesthetics with “Honeymoon,” a mellow yet trance inducing EDM track off of their seventh single album Blue. Even without watching the music video, the song and beat painted a beautiful picture (seriously, all that blue). Each member played a valuable asset in this song, and as much as I bias leader Bang Yongguk (his rap verse in “Honeymoon” was the smoothest transition of all time), vocalists Himchan and Jongup’s voices and parts stood out the most. This was a wonderful song to end the summer and to start off the fall.

-—Tam

“That One (Live Band Ver.)” by Henry (Uploaded Sep. 6)

Although Henry had that horrible music video a few months ago (I don’t even want to reference it by name), as an ELF, I’ve been cautiously keeping track of this new journey of rebranding he seems to be on. The previous single, even though the song wasn’t that bad, was a mess, so I was excited when he came back with “That One.” This track is also R&B but sans the tryhard-ness of The Song That Shall Not Be Named. This week, Henry released a live version of “That One” complete with a full band in a ver BBC Live Lounge kind of way. On this version, Henry shows that he’s been working on his singing chops and that he’s done with the gimmicky pop stuff (although I love his previous singles). SM has always sold Henry as a true musician, always making him incorporate his violin playing on every opportunity, so seeing him perform with a live band like this makes sense and seems organic. With “That One” and this particular version of it, I think fans have a better picture of where Henry’s going with his music these days and what he’s capable of doing.

-—Alexis

“What You Like” by Lee Gikwang (Highlight) (Released Sept. 4)

I’ve followed Gikwang (aka LEEGIKWANG) since the beginning of his career, and when I heard that he was having a solo comeback, I was thrilled. His EP One is his first since a short-lived solo career as AJ, aka Ace Junior, before BEAST’s debut in 2009, and the lead single “What You Like” is one of the most addicting future bass R&B tracks out there. With a carefree sense of sultriness, it’s a track built for body rolls, which Gikwang is all too happy to deliver during his performances. The song demands repeated listens with subtle sound effects lying beneath the bouncy melody. And while it’s not reinventing the wheel since “What You Like” sounds like much of the music popular in South Korea right now, and it’s essentially a male version of Chung Ha’s “Why Don’t You Know,” Gikwang is in his element and he makes the musical style his own.

—Tamar

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: Aug. 28- Sept. 3

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The last week of August and first few days of September saw a lot of good new music from South Korea, both from new and old acts alike. Former 4Minute member HyunA made her return, boy band of the moment Wanna One released a new music video, and Produce 101 finalist Jeong Sewoon made his debut. Check out what we liked about some of their releases.

“Just U” by Jeong Sewoon (Released Aug. 31)

It feels like every day there’s some new music from a Produce 101 Season 2 alum, and the last day of August brought about Jeong Sewoon’s debut with his first EP and the single “Just U.” While I would have expected generic acoustic pop from Sewoon after what he seemed to lean towards during Produce, his debut single is a guitar-driven smooth R&B pop hybrid that doesn’t sound so out of the wheelhouse of what someone like Lee Seunggi would attempt. There’s some funk and electronica elements thrown in, and Sik-K adds a melodic rap break, turning “Just U” into the epitome of K-pop’s freewheeling nature. Jeong showed a lot of promise during the reality series and though he didn’t make it into the final lineup for Wanna One, this is a promising debut and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

—Tamar


Also on KultScene: The story of LOONA: The first five girls

“Babe” by HyunA (Released Aug. 29)

I had completely given up on the trend before these last two weeks. Thanks to the work of the new gen girl and boy groups (Victon, DIA, and Pristin in particular) there’s been a resurgence of interesting tracks within the genre. The queen of K-pop brought the best though as she returned with “Babe” a song that uses the sound as her base and roams around it trying different things. Teaming back up with Shinsadong Tiger was Hyuna’s best decision in a long time. Alongside steel drum synths he packs the chorus with sawtooth synths to contrast the softness of the verses. “Babe” also represents Hyuna’s fight back against the haters. In her own version of IU’s “Twenty Three” she teases those who simultaneously drool over her and shame her. In a great reflexive moment in the music video she literally steps off stage during her routine seemingly fed up with it and walks off to a transcendent plane where maybe she can find some peace.

—Joe


Also on KultScene: 7 K-pop music styles we’d love to hear more

“Wanna Be” by Wanna One (Uploaded Aug. 30)

While the boy group of the moment, Wanna One, released a music video for their fan song “Wanna Be,” it was their performance of it on one of the music shows that grabbed my attention. It usually takes groups awhile before they release a song dedicated to their fans, but given their finite lifetime and the fact that they actually exist because of their fandom, it makes sense that they’d feature one on their first EP. “Wanna B” might be a gift for Wannables, their fandom, but this performance is a gem in itself. All of the members stepped up their aegyo game all the way up with this one, and for having such a hectic schedule, the members look like they’re having fun while performing. The song, for its part, is bubblegum pop gold and super infectious. I especially like the fact that all the main vocalists got their chance to shine at the chorus — especially Seungwoo. If you’re a Wannnable, it’s impossible not to fall deeper for these dorks with this rendition of “Wanna Be.”

—Alexis

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Let us know your picks and 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: August 20-27

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Things are starting to slow down in K-pop as they gear up for the big comebacks of the fall. This, however, doesn’t mean we didn’t like any new releases this week. Without a big K-pop group having a comeback this week, other artists who are a bit more low key or up and coming were able to shine. Here’s what we especially loved this week.

“We Like” by PRISTIN (Released Aug. 23)

As much as I’m easy to like girl group songs, I was honestly not excited about PRISTIN‘s “WE WOO.” “We Like,” however, really made up for the weaknesses and the excess of aegyos of their debut song, delivering something powerful and deliciously catchy this time. The chorus and post-chorus are the absolute foundation of the song. The combination of the rock’n’roll influenced instrumental, appealing chord progression, cheerleader-ish hook, and hectic post-chorus remind me of some girl power British pop songs of the 90’s. Another positive point for me is the insertion of the background vocals to the hook right in the start of the song, instead of saving them for later, like it’s usually done. The pre-chorus works perfectly; the verses are full of different variations, avoiding any possibility of boredom; the rap is on point; and the bridge is absolutely awesome. It’s everything a song like this should have, focusing on the vocals and creating tension to end the song with just the right energy. The writers and producers of “We Like” didn’t save intensity in any point of this track.

—Ana Clara


Also on KultScene: BlackPink & 2NE1: Unexpectedly Different

“Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Cherry Coke (Released Aug. 23)

Clicking random videos earlier this week on YouTube, I found this gem called “Don’t Kill My Vibe.” I was instantly drawn in by the lo-fi, chill R&B sound of the song. While the soft vocals are a given when it comes to female R&B singers in Korea, Cherry Coke’s works well with the song’s overall production, which is a lot more free. I don’t know a lot about the singer, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out for her after this song.

—Alexis

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: Aug. 7 – 13

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Each week, KultScene’s team gives you a taste of their favorite new Korean music of the past few days. The second week of August 2017 brought some new music from Gugudan’s subunit Gugudan 5959, the debut of Produce 101 group Wanna One, and a special anniversary celebration from former Girls’ Generation member Jessica Jung.

“Ice Chu” by Gugudan 5959 (Released Aug. 11)

Between this and their last single, “A Girl Like Me” Gugudan are proving that they can hold down chaotic tracks with relative ease, and they pack a huge amount of musical details into standardly structured songs. With “Ice Chu” the first (and hopefully not last) release from sub-unit Gugudan 5959, made up of maknaes (youngest members) Mina and Hyeyeon, the pair deliver a funky summery disco track. Brass takes the frontline for the gloriously fun chorus but as the song progresses more electronics are added to change the tone, notably at Mina’s second rap and the voguing breakdown in place of a bridge. The thing that really sets apart Gugudan is that they add personality to their music through their vocals, especially Mina whose raps here are just the right amount of sweet and cheeky. In what feels like a particularly crowded battlefield of new girl groups forming out of I.O.I’s corpse, none of the other groups can claim this yet.

—Joe


Also on KultScene: Wanna One’s ‘Energetic’ song & music video review

“Burn It Up” by Wanna One (Released Aug. 10)

After participating in the second season of competition show Produce 101,Wanna One finally made their debut this week. And while fans voted for “Energetic” to be their debut track, they also released a music video for the runner up “Burn It Up.” On this track, the boys showed a darker, sultrier vibe than the bubbly and, well, energetic from the debut track to match the hard-hitting EDM sound. “Burn It Up” is not particularly bringing anything new to the table, but as a Wannable (their fandom name), I was obviously sold on the choreography, the styling, and the waterworks on the music video. Although Wanna One has plenty amazing dancers, with “Burn It Up,” the rest of the guys showed their growth as performers, mainly Guanlin and Jaehwan. For me at least, this video shows that Wanna One isn’t just a group of popular members who got through solely based on looks or likeability. And even with a couple of more seasoned performers, the group looks cohesive and proved they can go up against any other boy group.

—Alexis


Also on KultScene: BlackPink & 2NE1: Unexpectedly Different

“Summer Storm” by Jessica (Released Aug. 10)

With Girls’ Generation’s long-awaited 10th anniversary comeback crowding the airwaves this past week, the release of Jessica’s third mini album has been shown markedly less attention. And that is truly a shame, because My Decade’s single “Summer Storm” is nothing short of a pop confection, as Jessica’s signature sound becomes ever more clear with each release. The song begins with the musical twinkle of a Disney movie: she hits notes lightly but with poise and precision, mixing Korean and English lyrics with greater ease than most K-pop artists can (fitting of the Korean-American singer). While verses carry a building sentimentality and nostalgia, they quickly, but effectively, move into an infectious chorus, characteristically uplifting despite lyrics centered around what seems to be a breakup. But the conspiracy theorist and Golden S<3NE that I am, I can’t help but question Jessica’s lyrical motivations. “Will we be able to go back?” she asks, calling herself a fool “tied up with the memories.” Is she talking to a lost love, or maybe her former groupmates? As tension builds during the bridge and resolves into the final chorus, Jessica makes it clear that she still has mixed feelings towards someone. And on her 10th anniversary, she unwinds that anxiety into a song that is unapologetically her own, adding further definition to her budding career as a singer-songwriter.

—Kushal

What was your favorite K-pop song released this week? Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Weekly K-pop faves: July 31 – Aug. 6

k-pop playlist faves songs kpop august july 2017

The first week of August was filled with a lot of truly great releases from the K-pop industry, raising expectations for the month. In this week’s playlist, KultScene’s team liked new music by the rock boy band The Rose, girl group CLC, and GOT7’s JB from his solo on JJ Project’s new EP.

“Sorry” by The Rose (Released Aug. 2)

The song starts strong right off the bat with power vocals from guitarist Woosung, who sets the tone for the rest of this beautiful, moody song. His voice balances out very nicely with the other vocalist of the band, Dojoon, who plays the keyboard, and though they have unique and vastly different tones, the pair blend together to create great harmonies which really intensified the emotions of this rock ballad. The song feels like a cross between DAY6 and Jung Joon Young’s music style, but as a fan of both these artists, it’s pitch perfect to me. The music video featured gorgeous cinematography and visually striking sets as well, giving the band a very classy yet diverse image. This was a very promising debut for the band and if they keep churning out such tunes, they definitely have the potential to go far and make it big in the industry.

—Anna


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“Where Are You?” by CLC (Released Aug. 3)

Of the new generation of girl groups, very few people (nobody?) would consider CLC to be a contender. I wouldn’t have either until their most recent comeback with “Where Are You?” I have always liked them, but they remained firmly below a number of groups. What makes them stand out though, is their total disregard of an identity. Many use it to criticize them, but in an environment where groups like Blackpink and GFriend are totally redundant, it’s so refreshing. Especially so with a song like “Where Are You?” which brings the recent Japanese city pop revival trend to Korea for the first time. Produced by Armadillo, “Where Are You?” is a shimmering laid back track perfect for a relaxed summer evening. Its retro synths and saxophone are deployed to perfection alongside their best vocal performance to date. Sorn gets a special shoutout for her part in the chorus. It’s the chorus in general where the girls sing together is the detail that really makes this song work.

—Joe


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“Fade Away” by JJ Project (Released July 31)

Being an IGOT7, the thing that made me stan JB was his buttery smooth vocals and my faith in his ability to pull off an R&B song, if JYP ever gave him the opportunity. My belief was validated when the singer uploaded a few tracks to his SoundCloud account earlier in the year, displaying the smooth crooning that he doesn’t get to properly show off with his group. A JB solo is far fetched at the moment, so when the JJ Project comeback was announced, I was ecstatic. Verse 2 is a solid album, but the track that won me over is hands down “Fade Away.” On his solo song, JB brought the emotional rawness of his SoundCloud songs into the album. R&B is pretty hard to pull off in K-pop, but I’d argue that, in terms of idols (and excluding Taeyang), JB is the only vocalist able to do the genre justice. I don’t know where this man is pulling all these emotions from (it’s only imagination, right? *sobs*), but it’s quite refreshing in a scene that dribbles with the robotic. I just wish they’d bring some of this into GOT7’s music — or at least give JB the damn solo he’s always deserved.

—Alexis

”One Last Time” by Girls’ Generation (Released Aug. 4)

While there are many nice listening experiences on <b>Girls’ Generation</b>’s anniversary album <em>Holiday Night</em>, it’s “One Last Time” that kept drawing me back in. While not as epic as Ariana Grande’s single of the same name, the Girls’ melodic b-side is sheer pop perfection. The melancholic song has a pretty basic, and honestly simplistic, melody, but it’s the soaring vocals and beautiful harmonies that keep me coming back for more. I’m a sucker for a heartbreaking love song, and with “One Last Time” Girls’ Generation’s definitely achieved that; even if you don’t understand the language, it’s obvious that the eight women are expressing pain and heartbreak through the wailing, soaring expressiveness of their verses. (Also make to check out “Fan” on the album, if you’re looking for another great b-side!) 

—Tamar

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: July 3-9

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Each week, the KultScene crew look back at their favorite new K-pop songs and performances of the past week. In the first full week of July, we liked new music from Red Velvet, and older versions of songs by EXID’s LE and Super Junior.

“Cream (Solo Version)” by LE (Released July 7)

When EXID’s Street album came out last year, a clear stand out for me was the b-side “Cream.” And while they never released it as a single in Korea, they did a Chinese version to promote themselves in said market. Being the queen of suggestiveness and double entendre, LE wrote this song about eating cream and it ruining their bodies because they get fat. It’s been said that cream stands for some other creamy substance, and with this solo version, she’s basically proving that theory right. And I’m living for it. Just by the English lyrics, “I love the cream cream cream/ All over my body” and “Baby boy love me up all night” at the chorus, we get a clear picture as to what’s she’s singing about. But lyrics aside, this stripped down version and the fact that she also sings makes the version more sensual. “Cream” solidifies my thought that LE needs *clapping emoji* a *clapping emoji* solo *clapping emoji*. Like, yesterday. Move over CL and Hyuna (who she actually taught how to rap and has written for, by the way), LE is the baddest queen in K-pop.

— Alexis


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“Red Flavor” by Red Velvet (Released July 9)

Over the years, Red Velvet has become that group in the K-pop industry. With quirky outfits and infectious hooks, the group has, throughout the past year, delivered addictive music and markedly unique stylings with impressive consistency. “Red Flavor” is trademark Red Velvet, but with tighter production than that of their previous release “Rookie” (at least in my opinion). While this release is very reminiscent of their past two promotional cycles, the electro-pop is notably smoother at some parts of the song, specifically the prechorus sung by Wendy and Seulgi, calling back to their first EP’s title track “Ice Cream Cake.” Still, the chorus preserves the brash, loud quirk that the group has pursued most ambitiously with songs like “Dumb Dumb” and more recently, “Russian Roulette” and “Rookie.” Overall, “Red Flavor” is a valuable addition to the group’s repertoire, albeit slightly exhaustive. This release makes me wonder how much further they can pursue this kind of concept before it wears down. As great as “Red Flavor” is, the song makes me want to see something new from RV, and hopefully their next comebacks will make that a reality.

— Kushal


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“Sorry Sorry & Bonamana” by Super Junior (Performed July 8)

There’s something incredibly sad about watching Super Junior appear on stage with only three members as they did at last night’s SMTown. Even when a fourth member, Heechul, appears mid-way through “Sorry Sorry,” there’s something disheartening about seeing what was once a revolutionarily large group be driven down to only a handful of people. (But don’t even get me started how they have nine backup dancers to get things up to SuJu’s original OT13. Or how Henry and Zhoumi could and should have most definitely been part of the performance, and Super Junior in general…) With the recent protest by fans against Sungmin, Kangin still on hiatus after the second drunk driving incident of his career, plus the rest of the members in the army, Super Junior’s available four members still delivered energetic performances, with the four —Leeteuk, Shindong, Heechul, and Yesung— stepping up to fill in the void left by the loss of the Super Junior’s mass of members. It’s not my favorite Super Junior performance by far, but seeing them persevere in spite of the virulent outpouring of hate they just received makes this one of their most memorable lives of all time.

— Tamar

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: June 12-19

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As summer is almost here, K-pop’s beginning to get busier and busier. Last week we sadly saw the Queens of the Summer bow out, and while we’ll miss them, that opens up the playing field for more artists. Some of the songs released this week aren’t necessarily “summer anthems,” but we liked them as if they were.

“What’s My Name?” by T-ara (Released June 14)

T-ara’s latest (and possibly final) release both maintains and builds on their sonic character in their eighth year together. While maintaining their usual high-voiced, electronic sound, the group manages to incorporate some EDM and eurodance-inspired themes on this new track. And coupled with a markedly different choreography when performing live (one that capitalizes on Jiyeon and Hyomin’s girl-on-girl appeal that was first showcased in their live cover of “Troublemaker”), the group undoubtedly shows growth, which is great to see as netizen comments and public reaction in general finally becomes the least bit more friendly. This is both an era of hope (one we never thought we’d see after their destructive scandal) and fear for Queens, who are seeing T-ara become more likable again while also being threatened by a possible disbandment. At least in my opinion, I’m hoping that the group continues. While netizens used to make fun of the group for having too much “determination,” I really do hope they maintain it and continue with it. They are a group worth keeping around, no matter what haters have to say at this point.

— Kushal


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“We Loved” by Bolbbalgan4 & 20 Years Of Age (Released June 13)

There’s really something special about Bolbbalgan4’s success. With each new release, the duo does phenomenally because of their sentimental, yet realistic, lyrics. For “We Loved,” the pair brought the mellow vocals of soloist 20 Years of Age into the mix to contrast with Ahn Jiyoung’s rather rough, but sweet, voice. The swaying melody belies swaying melody and snapping beat belie the song’s earnest, verge-of-break-up lyrics. A romance coming to an end is sad, but “We Loved” makes it feel natural. “Our time has stopped,” is such a poignant, mature approach to the end of a relationship in a way that few Korean love songs depict. It’s no surprise “We Loved” is topping Korean music charts; this is no idealized version of romance, it’s just straight and simple reality.

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— Tamar

“Whiplash” by NCT 127 (Released June 14)

Throughout 2017, I haven’t been particularly excited about any entire K-pop mini album or full album. Until NCT 127’s comeback, that is. While “Cherry Bomb” is the, well, bomb single we’ve been waiting for as far as boy groups go, their b-sides are nothing to scoff at. But that doesn’t come as a surprise, as the group has always had fiery b-sides that rival the singles, and on this album, “Whiplash” is such song. It’s a mid-tempo hip-hop track lead by Mark and Taeyong’s rap and has an easy bounce that makes it fun to listen to. The composition might not be as intricate as “Cherry Bomb” or even “0 Mile” (another b-side on the album), but it’s this stripped sound what makes it fresh and so unlike SM Entertainment songs. NCT 127 truly are the super rookies to look out for.

— Alexis


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“Always” by the Top 20 Produce 101 trainees (Released June 17)

The second season of Produce 101 came to a shocking and extremely bittersweet end on Friday night, with exciting performances put up by the trainees right before the reveal of the final 11 members of Wanna One. The last performance of the 20 trainees, “Always” however, is definitely one which I will remember for a long time. The emotional performance, coupled by a beautiful song which showcased the much improved vocals of the trainees, was made even better because of the song’s heartfelt lyrics. Despite the various controversies and upsets that came along with this season, it was evident that through it all, these trainees have forged close bonds with each other and will deeply miss the time that they have spent together. The song was a fitting way to close off the season, and though I’m sad that it’s over, I’m looking forward to see the trainees continue to move towards their dreams.

— Anna

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: June 5-11

The boy bands cometh! Seriously, though, this past week had the KultScene team falling in love with a lot of new music courtesy of some old, new, and TBD K-pop acts. We enjoyed songs from idol bands FTISLAND and DAY6, and solo songs from two of B.A.P’s members as well as some music from this season of Produce 101. Take a listen and comment below to let us know what song of the week was your fave.

“Open Up” by KNOCK of Produce 101 season 2 (Uploaded June 8)

I think I’ve made my obsession for Produce 101 season 2 pretty clear throughout these lists since the show began. Last week, I chose “Never,” a concept evaluation song from the show, as my fave because it was the one that resonated with me the most. The dance and overall sexy concept, however, definitely went to “Open Up,” but I chose to go with musicality over thirst. So when M! Countdown gave me the opportunity to cheat the system and go for another Broduce song, I took it. KNOCK, the name the team made up for this evaluation, ultimately won on the show and got to perform “Open Up” on M! Countdown. And while, other than hairstyles, they didn’t change mostly anything, it was still a sultry performance. We already know Dongho (aka Baekho of Nu’est) has the sexy thing down, with his velvety smooth vocals. The surprise, however, was Daniel, who hadn’t shined vocally. “Open Up,” to me, sounds like Nu’est’s last album. Dongho singing the chorus is a big part, but musically, it could blend right in. At a time when a lot of boy groups are going the cute route, it’s nice to see the darker concepts are still alive and well.

— Alexis


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“Shadow” by Daehyun of B.A.P & “Try My Luck” by Jongup (Released June 8)

After receiving much positive feedback of their solo performances from their ‘Party Baby!’ World Tour this past spring, B.A.P vocalists, Daehyun and Jongup released a collab album for their fans, titled “DaehyunxJongup Project Album – Party Baby”. This special album includes two self written tracks, Daehyun’s “Shadow” and Jongup’s “Try My Luck”.

Daehyun is B.A.P’s first member to release a solo single and to perform it live on music programs (including Show Champion, M Countdown, Music Bank and Inkigayo.) There was a sense of newness seeing him going with a more dance focused track, considering how fans are used to hearing Daehyun belt out his high notes and killer falsettos, which were not the main focus but he still tried incorporating them into this single. “Shadow” has an addictive beat with narrative lyrics. “If I try to touch you, just as a dream I had yesterday, you start to become faint”, a love that is fading, a love that more or less becomes a shadow. Not only did Daehyun steer away from the expectant ballad but by featuring youngest member and rapper, Zelo, he added a distinctive tone to the song.

With Jongup’s well known admiration for Chris Brown’s music and dancing style, it was no surprise to see him release an R&B track. “Try My Luck” has a beautiful mixture of both hard and soft melodies with a few unexpected transitions (like everytime he starts rapping!) The lyrics are direct and bold, “I know that feeling, I know what you want. Only the two of us can do it, you know how I’m feeling” and along with hiss passionately infused odic voice, it’ll make anyone get weak in the knees. Jongup went from having very few lines in B.A.P’s songs, to now writing his own music and very much slaying at it.

Both “Shadow” and “Try My Luck” allowed Daehyun and Jongup to truly show off their depth, range and versatility as singers, outside of B.A.P. Hopefully there’ll be another project album in the future, this time with more solo tracks and from the other members!

— Tam

“I Smile” by DAY6 (Released June 7)

After six months of non-stop single releases, DAY6 finally dropped their first full album, “Sunrise” comprising of the 12 new tracks they released this year and two remixes of their previous title songs, “Congratulations” and “Letting Go.” Needless to say, given the fact that the album is literally made up of ¾ title track worthy songs, it is such a musical delight to listen to. The title track of the album, “I Smile”, in particular, is such a bittersweet and heart wrenching song disguised beneath its cheery sounding title. I may be wrong about this but this song is one of the band’s more musically complex tracks, with chord shifts occurring so quickly and the song constantly moving in an unexpected direction (that instrumental section!!!) The members definitely killed it with the vocals this time, especially Sungjin, who set the tone for the song right off the bat. The accompanying music video is also beautiful, both aesthetically and in terms of its meaning, and I’m proud to say that the members have really picked up some subtle acting skills since their debut. Overall, this has got to be my favourite DAY6 release of the year and maybe of all time, and I hope with this album people will start waking up to their talents.

— Anna


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“No Better Days” by FTISLAND (Released June 7)

Disclaimer: I’m a huge fan of FTISLAND. So when I heard “Wind” as their 10th anniversary track, paired with a remake of their debut single “Love Sick,” I was a bit disappointed. Then I listened to it in earnest and was excited by the amazing instrumentals at the end. But I don’t want to talk about the title of FTISLAND’s anniversary album. Nope, I’m all about the first track, “No Better Days.” The power of the track is no joke and it’s exactly what I wanted. Powerful drums, soaring vocals– not just from vocalist Hongki but also from Jaejin while the other members provide backup harmonies– this is one of the most dramatic songs on the album. And I love it.

— Tamar

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.

Goodbye, SISTAR: our thoughts & memories

sistar lonely disbandment breakup break up kpop k pop korean girl group band 복사본

By Ana Clara Ribeiro and Kushal Dev

The Queens of Summer are officially gone. SISTAR had their last comeback on May 31th with the song “Lonely,” which we’ve mentioned before on our Weekly Faves. While it’s sad to see one more iconic girl group disband, especially one that didn’t give any signs it would, the best way to say goodbye to Hyolyn, Bora, Soyou, and Dasom is to celebrate and remember the good things, just like they did in their last music video. KultScene’s writers Ana Clara Ribeiro and Kushal Dev talk about their favourite memories of the group, what they liked about them, and their feelings about the disbandment.

Their Mark

Ana Clara: If K-pop were high school, in my opinion, SISTAR would definitely be that group of hot popular girls that all the boys want to date and all the girls want to be like or hang out with. Even the name of the group alludes to the idea of sorority and female friendship. I’ve always been amazed at their dance skills (that leg lift on “How Dare You,” oh my God), Soyou and Hyolyn’s vocal abilities, and how they dance and sing so well while always looking flawless and smiling non-stop in the highest heels! I mean, is there anything they can’t do?

But more than that, I think what made them unique was the union of all these traits plus the “summer feels” in their music and videos. There are lot of groups who do sexy concepts, but SISTAR distinguished from the others because they weren’t just sexy; they were unapologetically “Queen Bees” and they had fun with it. It’s not like they were shaking their awesome bodies and being all gorgeous only for the pleasure of their viewers; they were actually enjoying themselves and bringing the party with them, wherever they are.

Actually, the fact that SISTAR is disbanding even in spite of no signs of decadence basically reinforces the metaphor of the Queen Bees of high school. It’s like they’re graduating. We may not know what are they gonna do now, but at least they’re saying goodbye with honors, leaving an untouched impression to their seniors, and having a blast in their last vacations together in Macau.

Kushal Dev: K-pop groups will come and go, and new fans will, at least at the current rate, pile into the genre in higher and higher numbers. Just like 2NE1, Wonder Girls, and KARA, SISTAR is another group that cannot be forgotten, even after their disbandment. As a girl group, they really are nothing short of legends — who else can have nine straight title tracks go number one? No one in recent memory, that’s for sure. SISTAR is, as a friend of mine told me in her despondence after reading the disbandment news, the icon of the Korean summer. To represent an entire season, to push out of the genre of K-pop in any context and be able to contribute to the larger culture, that is what makes a group not only a K-pop group, but also a force of nature in itself.

There are very few groups whose charisma, prowess, sex appeal, and talent flow so naturally — onstage, in music videos, or even live, as many fans have claimed. It’s not just their music that has launched them so far upwards; they make their beauty and glamour look effortless. Not every Brave Brothers song is a hit, not even Black Eyed Pilseung hits the Melon roof — the hits don’t make SISTAR, SISTAR makes the hits.

And it’s important to keep in mind that the group, often compared against the generation’s most formidable competitors Girls Generation and 2NE1, came from nowhere near the Big 3. Starship Entertainment might be a notable name in the K-pop industry now, but it was SISTAR that put them on the map. Compared to the Wonder Girls or KARA or anyone of the like, SISTAR came from relatively nothing, and to be able to stand next to them as comparable equals is legendary and forever impressive.

Even in their disbandment, they continue to redefine standards for girl groups around them. As we all know, girl groups are falling left and right these days, often without any sort of warning, last release, or promotion. 2NE1 and Wonder Girls received some praise for doing a last song release, but neither promoted, and only 2NE1’s “Goodbye” even received a music video.

SISTAR, on the other hand, never fails to outdo the rest (and, if you don’t know me as a writer, I say this as a diehard Blackjack and a casual Wonderful). Of all of these groups, SISTAR maintained all four members to the end and released a last song, with a music video, and a full week of promotion. They not only sang their title track “Lonely,” but performed multiple medleys of their hits across broadcast stations last week. The entire K-pop community should applaud SISTAR for setting the bar so high, as we can only hope that on the fateful day that our faves fall apart, they do something as special as SISTAR did for their fans in their last days together.


Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: Sistar

Personal Memories

by Alejandro Abarca

AC: “So Cool” was one of the first K-pop songs I heard, and the first song from SISTAR I came across. I have so many good memories about it, it’s hard to chose only one. As a Brazilian person, I can’t help thinking of the funny jokes people make about this song, due to the fact that “so cool” sounds like a pejorative way to describe a specific part of the human body in Portuguese, and joking about the fact that this is a polyglot song since we can hear Korean, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

However, as someone who joined the K-pop fandom years after “So Cool” was released, I remember my impressions when I heard this song for this time and I was so elated by the contagious rhythm and those amazing girls that seemed “so cool” — actually, a little more cool than my ignorant mindset would expect from an Asian group. This song and music video were among the things that opened the doors for me to explore, research, and understand K-pop better.

“Shake It” is another song that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen without reminiscing important moments of my life. When I had my first contact with it, I was a little more advanced in my “K-pop journey” and I remember paying attention to the melody and production, taking notes about how the song calls down on some old Motown songs and about the number of hooks. I’m not saying “Shake It” is the greatest song in the world (especially because I later discovered that they had released something extremely similar before, “Touch My Body”), but for some reason it came to me in a moment where I was beginning to see K-pop as a real movement that involves the work of so many people (writers, producers, choreographers, directors, singers), and not only a bunch of loud electronic beats with random people jumping with colorful clothes. It’s one of the songs I’ve listened the most during that moment, and it’s a personal memory that I will always cherish.

KD: I really didn’t know about SISTAR until their explosive hit “Alone,” only a few months after I got into K-pop, but I was definitely interested after watching the music video and hearing the song. Just like the experience that many other fans had, SISTAR totally crept up on me — as I was falling head over heels for 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation, SISTAR kept hitting me with good songs, starting with “Alone” and then with “Loving U” months later, when I started to realize that, with consistent jams, the group is worth my full and undivided attention. Most of the K-pop world realized that around then, which is why a K-pop summer couldn’t really be a K-pop summer without SISTAR from then on.

I don’t remember why, but I remember the day that “Touch My Body” came out as a horrible one for me, and I was so stressed about God knows what (probably school or some petty high school BS), sitting in front of the computer screen when the video came out at 11 p.m. EST. I clicked on it excitedly, only to be completely uplifted by the song’s immediate and explosive catchiness. In the days of “rookie rookie” and “knock knock knock knock on my door” (I am saying this also as a fan of both Red Velvet and TWICE), it’s hard to come by songs you absolutely love on first listen. And SISTAR, on that difficult day, gave me exactly that — a song that, in precisely one listen, made me excited about K-pop and music in general.

I also remember spending the rest of the summer trying to sing the song’s acoustic version, which they put out later on and had me hooked for awhile. Anything SISTAR did was outright iconic — the best memory as a STAR1 is being able to watch them become icons and come into that role within the industry.


Also on KultScene: Disproving the 7-Year Curse: The Slow, Painful Death of 2nd Generation K-Pop Girl Groups

What Could Have Been

AC: It’s a shame that SISTAR is disbanding right now, because musically speaking, I think there are still a lot of things they could explore. When SISTAR released “I Like That,” I was surprised because I thought it sounded different from their previous stuff, and now I just wish they could have continued from there. I would have loved to see how they matured artistically as a group. SISTAR had some of the best vocals in K-pop and tons of charisma and stage presence; they still had a lot to offer.

Also, since they have always stuck cohesively to their concept, it wouldn’t be that difficult to plan their next moves because there would be no drastic changes to be made in their trajectory. They’re not young enough to do an “aegyo” concept for the first time (neither did they need it), so they wouldn’t have any option but to release more sophisticated music. That probably wouldn’t be profitable (and it explains the disbandment), but as a fan, that’s something I really wanted to see.

KD: While fans (including myself) typically associate SISTAR with the sun kissed, summer beach girls they have been these past few years, people forget that their initial concepts were nothing like that, and the hit that rocketed to top tier status, “Alone,” was very far from that kind of thing (after all, “Alone” was released in April, and was one of SISTAR’s few non-summer comebacks). A lot of international STAR1’s and Knetz (Korean netizens) alike were wondering what a return to non-summer SISTAR would be like, as fears that the group would eventually wear out the summer concept moved through the fandom once in a blue moon.

I would even go so far as to postulate that maybe “I Like That” was a response to that discussion — while it was still a summer comeback, the concept and its aesthetics were relatively closer to “Alone” than anything else. While I am so, so happy to see them as the summer icons they are, SISTAR could have possibly done more outside of one comeback (or a comeback with a follow-up remix mini album) a year between the months of June and August. For an industry-dominating girl group, summer simply might not have been enough time for them to leave as much impact as they could have. In my opinion, sky was the limit for them at their peak, and I wonder what else they could have done.

But I am happy they stuck to what made them great and didn’t try to do so much that they turned their usually positive reviews into mixed ones, or alienated/tired fans out with too many promotions. A summer SISTAR was, perhaps, the optimal SISTAR, and I am more than willing to accept that and be proud of it as their dedicated fan.

The goodbye

AC: Now that I think about it, the music video for “Lonely” is perfect to end a story like SISTAR’s. Their music and videos were always supposed to be fun, and it’s very honest and touching that their last focuses on the ephemerality of life, as if they recognize that fun times and summer always come to an end.

The scene in which Hyolyn and Soyou take a picture together made me feel very emotional, it was a beautiful metaphor for capturing a memory of something that will never come back, be it youth or just a nice moment in time. For me, the music video conveys honesty, vulnerability, lucidity, and is a harmonic and heartwarming end to a story told in the totality of their music videos, as if Hyolyn, Bora, Soyou, and Dasom waved goodbye to us saying that no matter how great their journey was, it will as well be forgotten.

KD: It was nice to see “Lonely” be an actual music video, with closeup shots and everything — videos that are entirely random-clip-compilation tend to leave a lot to be desired, and leaving more to be desired in a disbandment video is never a good thing. All I could think of as I watched the music video for the first time was, “this is the last time I’ll ever watch a new SISTAR MV. Ever,” and it made me infinitely frustrated and sad.

I saw many comments and tweets about the ending of the video, the beach group photo scene in which the members’ smiles quickly became frowns, causing fans to cry and get the feels. But for me, it wasn’t that part that twisted up my insides, but the part right after, where the video cut to a black/white picture of them, overlayed with the text “SISTAR” right above it, staying stationary for a few seconds before the video ended completely. That last picture felt final, the ending page of a book, a “thank you” bow of some sort concluding their past seven years of hard work and success together.

SISTAR — you four are incredible, and you truly are one of K-pop’s most successful and respectable groups. With a clean disbandment, you will likely (hopefully) have everyone’s respect as you go your separate ways. A group like SISTAR will probably not come around for a very long time (if ever again), so I can only bow my head in sadness (bittersweet, but still sad), as I say a final goodbye. No matter what Dasom says at the end of “Lonely,” SISTAR is truly special, and fans will remember them year-round, throughout all four seasons.

by Alejandro Abarca

What are your thoughts on SISTAR’s break up? Let us know 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.

Weekly K-pop faves: May 29 – June 4

Some weeks in K-pop are busier than others, and the beginning of June was definitely full of some interesting releases. Whether it was Sistar’s farwell or the first original releases from the boys of Produce 101 Season 2 or Baek A Yeon’s return with a new EP, KultScene’s team took note. Here are some thoughts on our favorite songs of the week.

“Never” by Produce 101 Season 2 (Uploaded June 2)

By now, a lot of people are over the deep house and dem bow hybrids plaguing the global music scene — but not me. So when the concept evaluations on Produce 101 Season 2 came up and “Never” was one of the songs up for grabs, I knew it would be one of my faves. But, of course, the trainees making up the team is what made this song. “Never” probably had the best popular to talented members ratio among all the groups. Plus, the fact that they had the most talented singer in the whole competition surely helped. I haven’t watched this ep of Produce 101 yet over lack of English subtitles, but I can make out that Jonghyun was once again the leader. It’s pretty endearing to see how time and time again, he takes on the leadership role and steps away from the limelight in order to let the other members shine. This is probably the first time that Guanlin gives us an idol-worthy performance in the competition, and Woojin held his own and stepped out of the shadows of the other Brand New Music trainees (his company). Even with its upbeat breakdown, “Never” is sultry yet powerful at the same time, and the members perfectly captured and conveyed this duality. Every single member in this group is a contender for the final 11, and with “Never,” they definitely made their case strong.

— Alexis


Also on KultScene: Aeon Dream Studios talks ‘To The Edge of the Sky,’ BTS, & dreams [interview]

“Magic Girl” by Baek A Yeon (Released May 29)

At first glance Baek A Yeon’s Bittersweet EP could be ballady banality. But it’s most definitely not, with each track exploring the dichotomy of a young girl’s heart, perfectly suitable for a 24-year-old who has won over South Korea with her mellow love songs. While all of the tracks are intriguing in their own way, “Magic Girl” is so compositionally fantastical that it quickly became my favorite. With it’s ethereal synths and lilting electronic beat, “Magic Girl” feels like it’s straight off of an ‘80s film soundtrack, perfect for a lighter moment of a film like Labyrinth or Neverending Story. Although there’s no translation of the song currently available, the track appears to be, well, about the otherworldly essence of Baek, and it’s perfect. Until that one moment when the imagination meets reality and turns into a choppy piano melody reminiscent of basic keyboard exercises much like a young child would learn–just as their imagination is freewheeling and innocent enough to create an magical song like “Magic Girl.” It’s just my interpretation, but I’m in love with it.

— Tamar


Also on KultScene: Text to Text: DIA and Terrence Malick’s modern romance

“Lonely” by SISTAR (Released May 31)

SISTAR ends their legendary seven-year career with a single unlike the rest of their releases — an evocative, slow pop song, with no choreography or visual hook for listeners and viewers. Despite the more low-key nature of SISTAR’s final single, the song is conspicuously in tune with the group’s characteristic sound — loud, vocal, and powerful. As a dedicated fan of the group for five years, I am sad to see the group come apart, but thankful for the last stages and still finding myself getting hooked on this song, repeating it for hours on end and still enjoying it every time. SISTAR’s music has always had that quality, the ability to stick to your ears and invigorate no matter how many times you’ve already heard the song. Their performance and music have a valuable, long-lasting impact that will be missing from K-Pop from now on. For STAR1’s, it’s been a reflective and painful week, with fans talking about everything from the group’s long reign of success to the minute details of their music show stages this week. Thank you SISTAR, for everything. From your debut to your final stage on Inkigayo, you have officially failed to release a flop, and K-Pop will forever admire its queens of summer for that reason.

–Kushal

What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.