K-Pop Unmuted: October 2018 Roundup

On Episode 36 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Tamar Herman and Alexis Hodoyán take a look back at a busy October in Kpop. We discuss NCT 127‘s “Regular,” BTS’ RM‘s “seoul,” BoA‘s “Woman,” EXO’s Lay‘s “Namanana,” fromis_9‘s “Love Bomb,” and April‘s “Oh My Mistake.”

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of October 2018 in K-pop’s and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted 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.

WJSN, April, & MIXX: K-Pop girls trying to take 2017

It’s been well documented in the last few weeks that girls dominated K-pop in 2016. Rookie groups like Twice, Gfriend, and BlackPink found their footing quickly and built on it well. Among the other girl groups there was some great work too. Cosmic Girls (WJSN) had one of the songs of the year in “Secret,” and member Cheng Xiao made a name for herself in a number of variety shows. Long suffering DSP group April continued the fight despite a number of member changes and less than spectacular songs. Compared to those two, though, MIXX are real minnows. Their funky cutesy debut from 2016 “Oh Ma Mind” was wildly underappreciated in a year that needed more great girl group debuts. Each of these groups came back this week in order to try capture that new year spirit.

“I Wish” by Cosmic Girls

I had more anticipation for Cosmic Girls coming into 2017 than any other group. “Secret” grew to be one my most listened to songs of 2016 and portrayed an elegance that few rookies can claim. That’s why “I Wish” has been so disappointing. The verve of “Secret” was immediately palpable and infectious while this is a bit flat.

Produced by Glory Face (Twice’s “Woohoo”) and Long Candy (Ailee’s “Mind Your Own Business”), “I Wish” feels like it has the potential to be something interesting. The combined guitar and synth riff that open it have an appropriate space-like feel. It becomes a quirky new jack swing track by the time the vocals kick in. There’s a sense that the producers were trying to recreate what did with “Secret” but failed to capture the epic scale that he so accurately found. Musically the details are there: the spontaneous use of auto-tune is great as are the ‘90s drum rolls.

Vocally is where “I Wish” falls down though. In particular the failure to use Dawon at what she is best at. Each of the girls are pitched quite obviously to give the song some more feminine qualities and Dawon can easily hit these notes. But she works much better as a counterpoint with a stronger less breathy vocal. In other WJSN songs like “Secret,” and even more so in “Bebe,” Dawon cuts through the tension with power and without ever losing the tone. Without using her for this, the song feels like it goes nowhere.

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“April Story” by April

In almost the exact opposite circumstances to Cosmic Girls (they even stole their producer), April entered 2017 on the run of a number of weak singles. The style they were going for was well trodden and nothing (except for a dancing egg) set them apart. “April Story” doesn’t stray too far from that but adds to it and makes it better than before. brings the orchestral dramatics of “Secret” with added Gfriend-style guitar riffs.
It’s clearly a sound that fits with the fairy tale concepts that April continues to favor, and honestly suits the concept far better than most of their previous songs. The song is a story about the seasons personified as people and April’s member sing as a girl from spring in love with a boy from the Land of Ice. She loves him but knows they can’t live together. It’s a simple story (similar to Lovelyz’s “Destiny”) but is brought to life thanks to’s dramatic song production. GFRIEND’s “Rough” is the obvious comparison thanks to the balletic orchestra but those strings also bring to mind WJSN’s “Secret.” Especially the bits in between when the strings flutter for a moment. It builds the tension right back up after the chorus in two seconds. Again, there is nothing original about them but April have grown with this release. The production is a step up and helps the fairytale look a little less childish.

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“Love in a Sudden” by MIXX

MIXX are the group to get behind this week. With their first two singles the fresh girl group have cultivated a unique sound. “Love in a Sudden” is similar to “Oh Ma Mind” yet still fun enough to warrant more listens.

MIXX’s song tells a story about a girl coming to a realisation about her sudden love. Unlike April though, MIXX find fairy tales to be no comparison to “the warmth of your hand” or “the sweet night air.” It’s a decidedly bouncy track. Producer Majinchoee (마진초이) laces the R&B beat with bright synths and there’s a breeziness to the way MIXX deliver it. It’s a chilled out vibe but their excited voices prop the song up. The major R&B sounds come in and out, peaking at the end with a great vocal solo while the rest of the girls are playful and talkative, punching out repeated phrases with glee. It’s similar in its laid back structure to “I Wish,” but “Love in a Sudden” succeeds much more thanks to the idiosyncratic nature of MIXX.

Which of these songs do you prefer? Who do you hope will be successful? 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.

Weekly K-pop Faves: April 24-30

k pop songs from april 2016 kpop korean tracks releases

This week, some of the major contenders for K-pop’s biggest boy and girl group acts from the new generation made comebacks. As summer nears in, the competition is just starting. And while we may or may not be feeling these comebacks, here are our faves from this week we can’t stop listening to.

“This Love” cover by GOT7 (Apr. 28)

This. Performance.

Yep, I’m ready to renounce GOT7’s cute and playful concept if they go the sexy beast route they displayed on their cover of SHINHWA’s “This Love” on “M! Countdown.” This would’ve been everything had JB been on it (he’s recovering from a hip injury), but the rest of the kids still pulled off an amazing performance without him. However, JB’s exclusion was a great opportunity for the rest of the members to shine — and boy did they! Youngjae was indisputably the star vocalist, since he got all of the high pitches and harmonies leading up to the chorus. Yugyeom also got some velvety croons in there and while Jr. left much to be desired vocally, I forgive him since his main task was body rolling. I can see what they were going for having Jackson sing in a deep, raspy voice, but he still has a long way to go vocally. And as for Mark………………. Y’all, I’m just going to say he killed it. Bam Bam also, both choreography and rap-wise.

While it was only a cover, I can only hope we see more of this sexy, “If You Do” spin that we NOW know works with them. Their JYP sexiness a la 2PM is finally showing, and I love it.

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— Alexis

“Exquisite” by CocoSori (Apr. 29)

That Babymetal influence. CocoSori a female duo made up of….Coco and Sori look like your average cutesy group, but thanks to an injection of heavy metal they have their own flavour. “Exquisite” straight looks and sounds like Orange Caramel but halfway through the first verse the screaming starts with some clips of a weird cat. Even without the screamo parts, this is an aggressively hypnotic track. Guitars withstand the whole song and the vocals while cute most of the time are delivered at unintelligible speeds. The song and video were made to get across everything about this group in three and a half minutes. In reality, nothing about this group justifies having heavy metal a part of their concept. All it does is help them stand out alongside their their hyper videos that feature giant cats with shiny eyes, lots of cosplay, and space warps.

— Joe

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“Tinker Bell” (April 26)

While April hasn’t really managed to stand out amongst the fierce competition of K-pop girl groups, “Tinker Bell” changed that for me. While I wasn’t expecting much during my first listen, I was caught off guard by a build around 50 seconds into the song that for some reason resonated with me. April is still very much a girl group (emphasis on the girl), but “Tinker Bell” comes off as sweet and fitting for the spring weather without being too juvenile or overly saccharine. The song falls safely into the genre of bubblegum pop, but has electronic influences and string elements that combine together to create a bright song that is perfectly suitable for the bright fairies of April. And, as for the video, I absolutely adore the Disney themes and that choreography with the star is just inspired.

— Tamar

What was your favorite song this week and the whole of April? 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.

Artist Spotlight: April

Artist Spotlight April

DSP Media’s rookie girl group April entered the scene last August and has released three albums since then. They’ve also had their fair share of pre-debut drama and member departures, even though it’s only been less than a year since their debut. With so much going on for them however, why is it that April remains so unknown and underrated?

Sure, they have a loyal group of supporters who have followed them since the start (especially for Chaewon, who was part of the “Kara Project”), but their fan base has remained stagnant over the year, unlike fellow rookie groups such as TWICE and Oh My Girl. For a group that has produced consistently good music, April really deserves more attention.

They kicked off their journey in August 2015, when the original six members released their first mini-album “Dreaming.” With their title song “Dream Candy,” April really sold their image as pure and innocent young girls, which seemed especially appropriate for this group with an average member age of 16-17. Although this cute concept led to April’s eventual blending in with several other girl groups who were all using similar concepts, it would be hard to imagine this youthful and energetic group of girls doing anything else.

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While I wasn’t immediately taken by their debut, mostly because of how similar all the members looked and the rather mediocre quality of their title track, once I listened to their whole album I realised that they had a lot of potential, both as individual members and as a group. There were standout tracks that I really enjoyed and gave me faith in the group, such as “Hurry Hurry.” It had the catchy melody that “Dream Candy” slightly lacked, and also much less auto-tune so I could enjoy the unique voices of the members better. All in all, the album was merely a stepping stone for this group, as evidenced by their subsequent releases.

Three months later, along with the news about the departure of leader Somin, came the news that April was making a comeback with “Boing Boing,” a new mini-album. Despite the member shake-up, April didn’t seem to be too affected by the change and came back with an even better song than before. “Muah” still had the same identical styling and cute dance that “Dream Candy” had, but with a more addictive melody and less auto-tune. The music video was also more entertaining because it had a storyline that was both adorable and suitable for the members. They weren’t proper and perfect little girls this time, rather they fantasized about romantic encounters with cute guys, just like most teenage girls. This made them more endearing, in my opinion, because they acted more like themselves and not as if they had just come out from a K-pop idol training factory. Each member was also given more time to shine as there were more individual scenes this time around, allowing fans to enjoy April’s individual charms.

Towards the end of their whirlwind year, in fact, even before finishing their “Muah” promotions, DSP media announced that April would be releasing a Christmas album.

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I was skeptical about this because April seemed to be releasing way too many songs for a rookie group but at the same time I was excited to see what they would have in store for their fans. “Snowman” was a definite success in my books because it showed their growth and slight maturity as artists, despite the short period of time since their debut. The style of their music video was very much the same as the previous two releases and, despite the lack of a proper storyline, it was a sweet video filled with scenes of the members preparing for Christmas.

The best part of the release however, was the song itself. “Snowman” didn’t just fit the winter and Christmas theme perfectly, it was also a platform for the members to show off their vocal chops in a way that they had never done before. Even less vocally impressive members were able to sing without much auto-tune this time, and the two main vocals, Chaewon and Jinsol, simply amazed me. I had known for a while that Chaewon had a great voice, but the fact that Jinsol, the 14 year old maknae (youngest member) of the group, had a voice that was stronger than all her fellow members shocked me.

Jinsol’s voice has a very unique tone that makes it instantly recognisable and despite her young age she controls her voice well, it’s powerful when it needs to be and subtle in the quieter parts of the song. The two main vocals had more adlibs on this song as well, allowing it to be more layered and nice to listen to.

Although they probably spent a lot of their time recording songs and practicing for their countless stages, April somehow found the time to do some variety as well. Apart from having their own variety program, “Here Goes April,” they also guested on well-known programs such as “Weekly Idol” and “Let’s Go Dream Team!.” Although they are still very young and inexperienced, (with the departure of Somin, who was their oldest member, their oldest member is only 18 years old) there’s a lot of potential for April because they’ve proven (albeit in minor ways so far) that they’re able to let go of their pristine idol images for the sake of good entertainment. Energetic members like Jinsol are also able to hype up the atmosphere so I’m really looking forward to their future variety programs.

Since their debut April has given us many venues to see how hardworking and talented they are. Though they are still starting out, and they have a lot of room to grow, they’re also very young and brimming with potential. I trust that their troubles are over and from now on, as long as they keep improving with every song or album that they release, they’ll definitely be successful and go far.

What do you think of April? 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.