On Episode 38 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, guests Gabriel Wilder and Stephanie Parker join hosts Joe Palmer and Stephen Knight to discuss impactful events of 2018 in Kpop, and to present the first round of the 2018 K-Pop Unmuted Awards.
Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2018’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.
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From humble trainees on Produce 101 to chart-topping idols in their music video for “Very Very Very,” the eleven members of I.O.I saw their lives massively changed in the course of only one year. While the group has given strong performances, memorable variety appearances, and infectious songs, it is no secret that fans of the group are apprehensive about I.O.I’s scheduled January 31st disbandment. A few months ago, we analyzed I.O.I’s unique formation regarding how members are simultaneously part of two labels and, for some of them, two groups, something largely unheard of previously in the world of K-Pop.
But with the new year ahead, infinite possibilities remain for the eleven members of I.O.I, all of whom now have public recognition and newfound popularity to take with them to future activities and musical ventures. And although we have an idea of where many of the members are going post-disbandment, it’s worth discussing how these paths may benefit or hurt them. Let’s look at each member or groups of members, and make some predictions about their largely divided futures.
So what’s next for I.O.I’s 11 members?
Im Nayoung & Zhou Jieqiong (Pinky)
As Pledis Entertainment artists, the futures of these these two I.O.I members are largely intertwined. Alongside I.O.I, Nayoung and Pinky were more quietly part of Pledis Girlz, a pre-debut group headed by their company, alongside eight other trainees, many of whom also competed in Produce 101 early last year. And while groups like Gugudan and DIA were shrouded in controversy for continuing with I.O.I members, Pledis Girlz has only recently become official under the name PRISTIN. The group is yet to debut, and yet to regularly promote on television. As a result, PRISTIN has maintained the respect of the public and I.O.I fans, especially when Nayoung and Pinky partook in I.O.I’s promotions for “Whatta Man (Good Man)” even as other members were pulled out for individual promotions.
The new group has found public exposure from Produce 101 and various pre-debut performances and promotions. As a result, PRISTIN’s growing fanbase both within Korea and around the world line them up to be one of 2017’s more successful girl group debuts, especially since Nayoung and Pinky are the leader of I.O.I and one of its notable visual/vocalists, respectively. Not to mention, some other popular competitors from Produce 101 , including Eunwoo, Yebin, and Siyeon, are in the group alongside them. With a debut slated for soon after I.O.I’s disbandment, Nayoung and Pinky have a collective future that is certain and in sight. Within this framework, it seems that, among I.O.I’s eleven members, Nayoung and Pinky are most likely to succeed within another group following the official split later this month.
Kang Mina & Kim Sejeong
Two of the most talked-about members of I.O.I, Sejeong and Mina have a clear path laid out for them after January 31st. Last summer, their company Jellyfish Entertainment had them debut in the nine-member Gugudan, which coincided with the release of I.O.I’s “Whatta Man.”. And while the group did receive attention due to the Mina and Sejeong, alongside another popular Produce 101 trainee Kim Nayoung, the group failed to captivate the public’s attention due to what was largely seen as an awkward concept backed by lackluster music. As a possible rising girl group in 2017, the group does have potential to succeed, but it is also possible that they fade into irrelevance if the next release isn’t more appealing, especially given that they are one of many new large girl groups with innocent, feminine concepts. Sejeong and Mina will have to work especially hard to bring Gugudan some credibility in the oversaturated girl group market if they want continued musical relevance in a group structure.
That being said, their options aren’t as limited as those of their group members. While she will become a full-time Gugudan member once February begins, Sejeong particularly maintains widespread popularity, as one of I.O.I’s main vocals, the runner-up on Produce 101, and a regular cast member on variety shows. Her debut solo single, “Flower Way,” was also a success, demonstrating that her individual popularity will not be quickly forgotten even if she is part of a girl group that isn’t as successful. Sejeong can and will be a strong force in 2017, but it remains to be seen how Mina or Gugudan as a whole will fare later on this year.
Chaeyeon remains in a similar situation as that of Sejeong and Mina. Under MBK Entertainment, she is also part of a struggling girl group. While DIA has made some strides in finding public popularity this year with Chaeyeon and fellow member and Produce 101 competitor Huihyun (Cathy), the group’s current state is not very competitive in relation to the larger girl group market. Unless DIA can move their image away from their controversial CEO and agency, and bring out some title tracks with wide appeal, it’s likely that the group will have but another hard year in 2017.
But like Sejeong, Chaeyeon maintains considerable popularity. One of the most active I.O.I members, she maintained positions in both groups while also acting in a drama, making variety appearances, and doing pictorials throughout 2016. While she may not have an incredibly successful group to come back to, Chaeyeon will likely remain relevant in 2017 through her various activities as a singer and actress.
While also already a member of another group, Yeonjung may possibly find herself in a slightly different situation than that of her groupmates Sejeong, Mina, and Chaeyeon. A Starship Entertainment artist, Yeonjung is the thirteenth member of Cosmic Girls (WJSN), which debuted early last year but added Yeonjung during I.O.I’s subunit promotion cycle. WJSN has definitely yet to strike it big, but they arguably show more rising potential than do DIA and Gugudan.
As the group’s main vocal, Yeonjung has brought them forward considerably, but unlike her I.O.I groupmates, she is not the most popular member of WJSN. After seeing a huge surge in popularity last year, member Cheng Xiao currently carries the group in popularity. WJSN will likely move further and further into the public eye as time goes on. While their current track “I Wish” isn’t faring incredibly well on the charts, it’s doing much better than past tracks “Mo Mo Mo” and equally as well as “Secret,” demonstrating that this promotion cycle may be the precursor to a much more successful one in the coming months. For both Yeonjung and her group, there is definitely hope, and with her shining vocals, the chance for solo promotions definitely exist in the near or distant future.
Considering that Chungha is under no-name label M&H Entertainment, fans have worried about her future after I.O.I’s disbandment. But as I wrote in KultScene’s Artists to Watch 2017 list published earlier this month, Chungha shows a lot of potential for success. One of the higher ranking trainees on Produce 101, Chungha’s variety of talents made her an instant stand-out both before and during I.O.I’s promotions. And given that her company has announced that she will debut solo in 2017, what’s to say that she can’t continue to stand out in the future? With a good song and concept, Chungha will have no trouble utilizing her incredibly strong dance, remarkably stable vocals, charismatic image, and English-speaking skills in future performances. Chungha is undoubtedly one of the most versatile members to come out of I.O.I, and her trendy and international appeal makes incredibly hopeful about her future. All it will take is a company that really works for her, and I’m praying that M&H is exactly that this year.
Sohye’s future is largely undetermined, except for the vague answer of “acting.” Currently under her own management, she plans to spend her time training and debuting as an actress this year post-I.O.I. It is still not clear, however, whether she will remain under her one-woman S&P Entertainment or if she is still related in anyway to her previous agency, Redline Entertainment. And while she constantly receives hate for her untrained musical abilities, Sohye has found herself a cult following during her time under Produce 101 and as a member of I.O.I. Although she isn’t the strongest singer or dancer, it is possible that she is an incredibly talented actress, and while netizens and international viewers were quick to call her useless or untalented, her real charms may have yet to be seen. As a result, I hold out hope for Sohye as well — after all, she may not hit it big on music shows, but she may be instead destined for drama primetime slots sometime soon.
Somi’s situation is very curious. Unlike that of her groupmates, we know very little about her future, except that she has now been bumped up from trainee to artist under JYP Entertainment. Currently a huge trend in Korea and closely associated with labelmates TWICE, many predict that JYP will add Somi to TWICE as its 10th member, giving the already explosively successful group another huge asset. And while there is a chance that this happens, I think (and hope) that JYP is smart enough to go in a different direction with Somi.
At only fifteen years old, the I.O.I center doesn’t need to debut in a girl group immediately. She can continue with variety appearances, pictorials, and possibly solo music releases or acting stints before she debuts in JYP’s next girl group, which will probably debut in at least a year or two from now. As one of I.O.I’s most popular members and one of the bigger trends of girl group K-Pop in 2016, Somi holds the power to bring any future JYP girl group to immediate public spotlight. So while I don’t think Jeon Somi will disappear this year, I don’t think we’ll be seeing her “Like OOH AHH” anytime soon.
Kim Doyeon & Choi Yoojung
While there are few details, Doyeon and Yoojung are clearly destined to be members of Fantagio’s next girl group. The girls’ agency, however, has yet to make any major announcements about this girl group — we do not know the group’s name, how many members it will have, when it will debut, etc. But we do know that Doyeon and Yoojung have also been promoted to artists under the label, and their young age (both are only 17 years old) gives them some time before having to debut. It is likely that the group will debut probably earlier than later in 2017, and it’s even more likely that these two will bring a lot of attention to their debut.
Yoojung specifically has found immense popularity as a strong stage and variety personality, while Doyeon is also a trend for her visuals and versatile talents. As a result, there is nothing stopping these girls from being incredibly successful, making their future group’s success a strong possibility as well. Not to mention, the group may possibly have sisters Lee Chaeyeon and Chaeryoung of JYP Entertainment’s survival show SIXTEEN, as the rumor mill says that they have transferred to Fantagio to debut alongside Yoojung and Doyeon. Having four members with previous public exposure, the members of this group have little to worry about right now. We will likely see lots of Doyeon and Yoojung in 2017, working hard to ensure their new group’s success.
While the “Cherry Blossoms” will eventually “Fade” at the end of this month, it’s clear that the members have a lot going for them. Dividing now into what may possibly be six different girl groups (counting already debuted groups along with Pledis Girlz, Fantagio’s upcoming girl group, and JYP’s next girl group a couple years away) and an actress, the eleven members are truly embodying the group’s name “Ideal of Idol.” While the futures of each group vary in likelihood of sustained relevance, it is clear that each individual member of I.O.I doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. As fans, we are definitely downcast about the disbandment of such an amazing girl group, but we can find solace in the fact that our “Dream Girls” will remain active in the industry in coming years. And whether apart or together, I.O.I’s legacy will live on.
Who do you think will be Kpop’s rising star this year? 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.
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New year, new Kpop. As 2017 begins, we are watching closely for artists both new and old to stand out with better music and performances. And especially following the 2016 Kpocalypse, nothing is entirely predictable. Anything can make your fave popular — a funny variety appearance, a trendy CF, or a “Sha Sha Sha.” So we ask: Who will be the trend in 2017? KultScene’s writers Anna and Kushal break it down across Male, Female, and Coed lines to give you our prediction of 2017’s rising stars.
MALE Artists to Watch in 2017: Jung Seung Hwan, Sam Kim (Antenna Music)
Of K-pop Star fame, these two singers made their much anticipated debuts in 2016 and while their styles of music are different, they both have equal potential to make it big in 2017. Beginning with Sam Kim’s pre-release single in March with “Mama Don’t Worry,” he then made an official debut in April with his full-length EP I Am Sam.
Each of his songs are so musically inspired and creative that they bring a new life and freshness into the K-pop industry and “No Sense” illustrates that completely. The fact that he’s only going to be 19 this year just means that he still has a lot more room to grow as a musician in the future. Most recently, he also released an amazing OST (“Who Are You”) for popular airing drama Goblin and has been gaining a lot of recognition for the soulful track.
Jung Seung Hwan on the other hand, only made his debut recently in December with his album Voice. He achieved an “all-kill” on Korean music charts with the release of his album, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise for the singer since he had previously topped charts with the covers he sang during his stint on K-pop Star. His naturally emotional voice makes him the perfect choice to sing sorrowful ballads and OSTs, as proven by the successful sound tracks he has been releasing, even before his official debut. In particular, his OST for Oh Haeyoung Again hit the right notes with the Korean public and has achieved a long-staying popularity even with the many other releases of 2016. (I heard the song playing in shops at least 5 times when I was visiting Korea in December.)
Ballads aren’t new in K-pop, but the way these two artists reinvent the genre in their own ways keeps their music interesting and strengthens their individual identities as musicians. Here’s hoping that they’ll discover their well-deserved success in 2017!
FEMALE Artist to Watch in 2017: Kim Chungha (M&H Entertainment)
Originally one of Produce 101’s underdogs, Kim Chungha quickly rose to fame last year as a member of the trendy, nation-produced I.O.I. Among many younger, cuter members, Chungha’s sexier, more charismatic image immediately stood out to I.O.I fans looking for a member with an edgier side. While she rose to fame as a dancer and choreographer, she is by no means a weak vocalist. Chungha has impressed fans left and right with her dancing skills, from improvising “Partition” during her first Produce 101 audition in January to performing on Mnet’s dance show Hit the Stage months ago. The crowning achievement of her tenure as an I.O.I member, however, is the choreography to the group subunit’s song “Whatta Man (Good Man),” which she herself crafted during the summer.
Without a strong company behind her, Chungha’s rise to relevance was largely unprecedented, but definitely welcomed by fans throughout the K-Pop world. While she has enjoyed success as an I.O.I member, many were worried about her future after the group’s upcoming disbandment at the end of January. It was announced at the end of 2016, however, that Chungha would debut as a solo artist under her label M&H Entertainment in the first half of 2017. The decision to give her a solo debut was probably one of the smartest things her label could do, given that 2017 is already going to be flooded with newly successful girl groups and newly debuted girl groups that have yet to find success. The oversaturated nature of the market makes her solo debut something the Korean public and international fan community will quickly embrace — no new members to learn, no new group name to start stanning. In a world of cutesy and energetic girl groups, Chungha’s charisma will likely stand out, giving her another edge in the intensely competitive market of female K-Pop artists. Chungha is definitely multi talented, and her ability to handle multiple skills and concepts puts her immensely ahead in K-Pop game this year.
COED Artist to Watch in 2017: K.A.R.D (DSP Media)
While they haven’t officially debuted, the four members of K.A.R.D have already made huge waves in the K-Pop universe with their pre-debut track “Oh NaNa,” which was released early last month. Voted by KultScene’s contributors as the 5th Best Song of 2016, the track has yet to chart in Korea, but has remained near the top of worldwide K-Pop charts for almost a month. Their music video has also accumulated over 4 million views, and their YouTube channel has over 180,000 subscribers (keep in mind that they have already overtaken their label DSP Media in subscriptions, which is the channel with every single KARA music video ever…).
With the kind of international attention the group is receiving, it isn’t long before they get similar love in Korea. The inclusion of masculine male rappers and infectious female vocals creates the ultimate mix of boy group and girl group fans alike. Instead of competing for the top spot among boy groups or girl groups, they amalgamate what makes each type of group work in a co-ed unit that stands out. While rising groups like Cosmic Girls and fellow DSP artist APRIL are trying to stand out in the girl group world this year, and new boy groups like VARSITY and Top Secret look for success on the other side, K.A.R.D has relatively no competition. They have entered a niche of K-Pop that hasn’t been touched in years, and with the kind of visuals, talents, and musical quality with which they’ve started, it’s only a matter of time before they become a force to reckon with in the K-Pop world.
Additional content courtesy of Anna Cheang.
Who do you think will be Kpop’s rising star this year? 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.
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After experiencing one of the best years of Korean releases in 2015, the expectations were high for 2016. This year, however, we were all bamboozled on every front imaginable, making 2016 a monumental year but not necessarily for the reasons we expected. Big names in K-pop disbanded, Korean R&B arose as hip-hop did in previous years, and a dominance of new girl groups became evident. It also marked the year the generational shift began, with older groups falling to the wayside to make room for newer acts. Even though we didn’t get to see strong comebacks by more established acts, the newer ones started, or continued, with a bang.
As every year, the KultScene staff determined what songs we thought were above the rest. And after fierce competition, we narrowed it down to the 50 best of 2016.
50. “The Closer” by VIXX
VIXX made a name for themselves with dark, weird concepts that they’ve developed throughout a few comebacks after their debut in 2012. However, ever since last year, the sextet has been experimenting with their sound. And after last year’s releases and another one earlier this year where they veered towards SHINee’s funky pop territory, VIXX went back to more somber, fantasy concepts with “The Closer.” This time, however, instead of relying on the pop-heavy vocals, they mixed it up with early 2000’s R&B for a smoother sound. This track showed just how much the group has grown artistry-wise and proved that what they do, they do it well. A group known for two power vocals in K-pop, the highlight goes to Ravi who, thank goodness, has been on a steady non-cringeworthy rap stride as of late. Now that the cutesy boy band trend is coming back, a concept group like VIXX is highly appreciated. Stay weird, kids.
49. “Secret” by Yuri and Seohyun of Girls’ Generation
There has never been a better commercial jingle than “Secret,” Yuri and Seohyun’s collaboration with Pantene. Yes, the shampoo. “Secret” is a full-blown EDM song that veers towards generic, but the execution by the pair is filled with energy and surprises. Seohyun’s well-recognized as a great vocalist, but Yuri comes into her own in “Secret,” and the song never falls flat, despite the song’s chaotic composition. Pounding beats come to near complete-halts before sonic builds to the whispery choruses. The song is a glorious show of the pair’s diversity as singers and leaves us wanting to see what this duo could do together as an actual Girls’ Generation subgroup. Hint, hint, SM Entertainment.
48. “Don’t Believe” by Berry Good
Perennial underachievers Berry Good rounded out the best year of their careers with this superb slice of tropical house. Jettisoning their trademark big vocals, they let producers Nassun and Big Tone weave “Don’t Believe” into something altogether more professional sounding than usual. The girls bring a restrained pain that rises with every part, starting out with some sort of hope but eventually concluding that “all of me is meaningless.” It makes the catharsis of the dance break more down to earth. Instead of the euphoric joy of “Angel,” Berry Good eke out a final goodbye to love through music and their bodies.
47. “Why So Lonely” by Wonder Girls
This song breathed life into the Wonder Girls brand, which had been fading even after the group’s return last year with “I Feel You.” A self-composition mixing K-pop’s trademark sultry female vocals with a unique retro reggae sound, “Why So Lonely” gave the group new relevance as the song blasted up the charts and into fans’ ears. In both band and dance form, the song is catchy and relaxing, and proves that an older group can, in fact, survive and thrive in the constantly changing world of K-pop. After “Why So Lonely” received so much success this year, fans are excited that at least some remnants of Second Generation girl groups will remain intact, but with their contracts expiring in January, we can only hope that Wonder Girls will continue to develop their self-composed sound in the future.
46. “I’m Good” by Se7en
Feels like a current K-pop trend is to go with the kind of instrumentals present on the song, but I’ll admit it’s a great trend. The song feels a bit more current and there’s just enough variation artists can spin on this type of instrumental to make it sound different from song to song. Where “I’m Good” excels isn’t on the instrumental however; it’s on Se7en’s emotional and silky vocals. I also like the use of repetition in the song, it fits in with the beat and adds a layer of depth to the lyrics of the song.
45. “Flower” by Bada feat. Kanto
To celebrate her 20th anniversary since debuting as a member of first generation girl group S.E.S, Bada released her Flower album, and the title track is one of the most invigorating electropop tracks we’ve seen this year. The composition is subtle, but intense thanks to gentle synths and the pounding beat. Bada’s soft vocals blend with the building electronic rhythm, reminding listeners why she was one of the most popular K-pop singers of the ‘90s, while rapper Kanto aids a snappy rap to the mix.
44. “Sting” by Stellar
Charismatic girl group Stellar continued their great run of singles and staked their claim to be one of K-pop’s greats with “Sting.” Produced by Monotree member GDLO, “Sting” utilizes tropical house to create a breezy inquisitive mood. A multitude of sounds combine to great effect, giving layers to the song that build with each listen. Synth wails, funky guitars, and simple bass grooves highlight Stellar’s incisive manner of questioning. Along with Digipedi’s best video of the year, Stellar confront male ineptitude with brazen confidence. Their sting, both satisfying and necessary, lingers in the skin.
Lee Hi’s debut will forever remain as one of K-pop’s best, and because she raised the bar so high for herself already, it was going to be understandably difficult for her to outdo herself. “Hold My Hand” comes close, though. The song is the latter of the two title tracks off of her Seoulite album, and is yet another stellar throwback to Western soul influences. Lee Hi’s husky voice suits the doo-wop vocals and bassline of the track well, not to mention that the harmonization of her backup singers lends it some musical authenticity. The diminution on “again” towards the end of the song resolves the overall ‘60s girl group vibe she was going for effortlessly, at the same time leaving listeners on a soaring high with the progression in the background vocals. “Hold My Hand” is one song we can all listen to again and again.
42.”All Mine” by f(x)
f(x) may not have formally promoted in 2016, but their clapping EDM SM Station song “All Mine” was one of the year’s best party songs. After 2015’s onslaught of EDM, K-pop took a step back from the genre, but f(x) has always been able to take tried and trued genres and put their own spin on them. “All Mine” is bright and uplifting in its electricity, with the foursome’s voices belting (plus Amber’s rap) above the pounding beats. Plus, f(x) released it with a self-made video featuring Krystal scaring Amber and their friendship is absolutely adorable.
41. “Love Paint” by NU’EST
As far as underrated male groups go, NU’EST, by far, takes the top spot. Truth is that since debuting, the group has consistently delivered complexly crafted pop perfection, and “Love Paint” is no different. This song starts out with orchestral elements before turning into a smooth yet futuristic R&B ethereal experience. The juxtaposition between the first part of the song and the chorus is one of the most layered and interesting transitions of the year. It’s a real K-pop tragedy that NU’EST is slept on popularity wise. One can only hope that they survive another year and drop more pop defying jams.
40. “Home” by Ailee
Unlike her usual K-pop sound, Ailee showcased the more sultry side of her with R&B release “Home.” Listeners are probably used to hearing uptempo and lively songs from her, but her best vocal performances are the ones like this. “Home” might not have an impactful punch or intense climaxes throughout the song, but it’s still enjoyable and still allows Ailee to apply her versatile vocals. For someone who’s been called Korea’s Beyonce on multiple occasions and still puts on outstanding performances, she’s still rather underrated. This song had so much potential, especially when you have a powerhouse vocalist like Ailee and the legendary Yoon Mirae on the same track. Unfortunately, the song was not as well promoted this time around as previous songs. It could’ve done better, especially with non K-pop listeners, if there was a little more promotion than what was done. It kind of makes one wonder if this song would be better recepted if there was an English version? Hey Ailee, how about that?
39. “Take Me Now” by FT ISLAND
With a definite lack of rock representation on Korean music charts, FTISLAND does their best to fill that gaping void. The band continues to move far far away from their Korean pop rock roots with their latest self-produced album Where The Truth. The title track “Take Me Now” is probably the hardest rock song they have put out to date, at least in Korea. Although it’s not a sound that most fans are used to, it definitely shows the direction the band has been driving towards these past few years. Throughout the song, Hongki’s voice alternates between haunting verses to a blaring chorus that showcases all of his vocal abilities to a T. The rest of the band does a great job keeping up with the intensity of the song through combined soft and hard vocal progressions to make the dynamic song complete. From the looks (and sound) of it, FTISLAND definitely shed their pop idol band label to make the music that they want. So throw your fists in the air and get ready to rock out!
38. “Crying” by Stellar
If you’re going to play it safe after two years of being the most divisive girl group in Korea, then Brave Brothers is your man. With “Crying,” Stellar have shown they can a rock a classic Brave Sound track just like the rest of them. The tempo is high, the synths aggressive, and the vocals diverse. Like all great Brave Brothers tracks, the details are what make the potentially generic songs not so generic. Especially the delay in Hyoeun’s vocal in the second verse and the layers of synths in the chorus. Even when playing it safe, Stellar are still one of the great K-pop girl groups. You can catch me crying at the club listening to this.
37. “Rough” by GFRIEND
Rookie girl group GFRIEND is known to release catchy dance tunes and “Rough” is no exception. With the mix of synth and orchestral instruments, the song creates a more sentimental melody while still remaining upbeat and catchy. The lyrics and the vocals are crisp and bright and seem to have greatly improved from their last release giving a more matured feeling, leaving fans excited to see what else the girls can accomplish.
36. “Someone Like U” by Dal Shabet
2016 kicked off strong with Dal Shabet dropping “Someone Like U” early in January after losing a couple members. They made their comeback by going back to their 80’s synth-pop sound by way of a Brave Brother’s jam and delivering pop flawlessness. The dance track is a big fuck you to that ex who you didn’t even like that much in the first place and now is breaking up with you. And what’s more relatable than a spiteful song dedicated to your ex you can dance to? “Hey! Go meet someone stupid like you,” is truly what we all would like to tell our exes. Dal Shabet is one of those girl groups who sadly don’t get the recognition they deserve. However, “Someone Like U” goes down as one of the best songs in their discography ever.
35. “I Am You, You Are Me” by Zico
Zico has already established himself as a rapper of speed and power, but here he brings it back down to a crawl, preferring grooves over hard beats. Everything about Zico’s “I Am You, You Are Me” is hypnotic and infectious. Something about the chimes or the fingersnaps or the ooh’s of the backing track makes me feel like I entered a place that I should not have, and to say the least, it’s indulgent. The song confirms the Block B frontman’s versatility and artistry, and not for nothing his solo career is one of the best there is in K-pop currently.
34. “Me Like Yuh” by Jay Park
It seems like you just can’t go wrong when Jay Park sings over a Cha Cha Malone track. This time, Cha Cha and Jay tried their hand on one of 2016’s biggest trends, the Caribbean inspired, tropical dance song. After establishing himself as a rapper last year, Jay dropped his album Everything You Wanted and is, well, everything we wanted: an R&B album, which is what the performer does best. His clear standout of the year, “Me Like Yuh,” is somewhere between Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” but with Jay’s signature high-pitched, honey R&B vocals that’s all about the groove and how the song feels. Jay may rap about asses and sex all the time, but there’s just something about when he gets a bit romantic and vulnerable that comes across genuinely. Jay and Cha Cha are a match made in heaven that we can only hope lasts for a very long time and results in many bomb releases.
33. “Very Very Very” by I.O.I
This song is the epitome of addictive. Bringing all eleven members of I.O.I back together, this song served not only to diversify I.O.I’s limited discography, but also reassert their dominance as the monster rookies of 2016. The song uses a fast beat, infectious repetition, and an occasional rap to bring out the members’ various charms — whether it’s Yeonjung’s vocals in the prechorus, Doyeon’s killer aegyo, Yoojung’s outgoing stage presence, or Somi’s powerful roundhouse kick, each member gets to shine in ways that prove I.O.I’s unique and lovable group character. While the group may not be around for much longer, “Very Very Very” is clearly unforgettable, whether you liked it or not.
32. “Toy” by Block B”
They may be better known for their fun, hip-hop songs, but Block B really exceeded expectations with “Toy.” The sedate, dreamy track showed a softer side to the boy band through jazzy piano notes and mellow, scattered synth beats. The song’s composition layers different rhythms and melodies with sentimental vocals, to create the overwhelming, lovelorn ambiance of “Toy.” It’s different than what we’ve seen from Block B in the past, but the Zico co-composed song shows maturity to the group’s sound and we hope to see more of this style from the septet in the future.
31. “Galaxy” Bolbbalgan4
From the first note, it’s clear that this isn’t K-pop as most people think of it. In fact, calling it “K-pop” would be a disservice to this sweet song, since K-pop typically describes songs sung by K-pop idols. But Bolbbalgan4 is an indie duo that appeared on Superstar K6 in 2014 and shot to fame with this single after its release in August. The song begins with an otherworldly, high pitch tone that sounds similar to what one would expect if they licked a finger and ran it around the edge of a glass filled with water. Ahn Ji Young’s sweet, breathy vocals are backed up guitarist Woo Ji Yoon, who also provides harmonies and a quirky rap, and ‘60s inspired instrumentals blended with a medley of soft electronica sounds. “Galaxy,” the fun and innocent sound of the indie rock track, ended up making it one of the most popular songs of 2016 in South Korea.
“Bermuda Triangle” is a great fusion of captivating sounds and diverse talents. The combination of these three artists is truly a match made in music heaven. The transitions between the sick beat along with Zico’s killer raps, Crush’s (sudden and shocking) badass verse and Dean’s velvet-like vocals were smoother than butter. All three artists consistently show up and always give a stellar performance in their own individual songs, so it was no surprise that “Bermuda Triangle” was done to pure perfection. If you didn’t love this song right away, then you need to get on it. One of Zico’s earlier lines is “What happened in 1992?,” well, basically, the birth of three phenomenal musicians happened, that’s what.
29. “Whistle” by Blackpink
While this song may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it gave the K-pop world a much-needed dose of attitude. With the rise of TWICE, GFriend, and I.O.I and the disbandment of acts like 4MINUTE and 2NE1, there’s been a tragic dearth of edgy, badass girl groups. With the exception of BLACKPINK, that is. With addictive melodies and fast-paced rap sections, this song brings back hip-hop dance themes so reminiscent of K-pop a few years ago, while also including some newer, unique musical elements. As the generational shift brings us back to cutesy, feminine girl groups on top, Blackpink and their songs like “Whistle” do the important work of carving greater musical and stylistic diversity into K-pop’s current era.
28. “Overcome” by NU’EST
The saddest part of NU’EST’s history is that people think their heyday was their debut with the phenomenal “Face.” 2016 was, without a doubt, filled with the group’s most avant-garde singles “Love Paint” (no. 41) and “Overcome.” This is electropop at its finest, and NU’EST’s members at their best; their vocals and adlibs are near flawless on this brassy synth track. Layers upon layers of overdubs flit throughout “Overcome,” as if it challenged the listener to pick out the individual elements. After beginning with punctuated beats, the song incorporates scattering synths, brassy percussion, falsetto, digitized piano notes, and much more to overwhelm the senses. Then, “Overcome” ends off on a gentle, sleepy melody in a way that seems to put the whole sonic experience to rest. NU’EST, we’d like to see more of this in 2017.
27. “Navillera” by GFRIEND
Few do synthpop dance songs as well as GFRIEND, and “Navillera” was an ideal follow-up to the more sentimental “Rough” from earlier this year. The bright, rock-tinged “Navillera” wouldn’t seem out of place on an INFINITE album (and the opening drum beat callback to the opener of “Man in Love”), with its retro-tinged electronica sound. The song’s title is a reference to a Korean poem about a butterfly, and the high-pitched synths and underlying electric strings help create a quirky, fluttering sound. There’s a few verses, but the majority of the song is built around a soaring pre-choruses followed by the speedy chorus, which in actuality serves as an intro for the fast-paced dance break. The guitar solo at the end is so atypical for K-pop that it helps “Navillera” further hone in the idea that this song, and the group, is a long-awaited breath of fresh air.
26. “Bonnie & Clyde” by Dean
Where’s the sign up sheet to be Dean’s Bonnie? Because as long as Dean is Clyde, he’ll be winning over hearts. Every song he’s released has been absolute gold, and this one is no exclusion to the rule. “Bonnie & Clyde” leaves you feeling such a natural high, sitting on a cloud not wanting to get down. It’s just so damn easy to be engrossed in that sweet, bewitching voice of his.
What was your favorite Korean song this year? Share 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.
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Like every week, this weekend our writers put their heads together and picked their favorite K-Popreleased of the past week. Soloist Jay Park came back with a new song, Nu’est returned with their second album of the year, and I.O.I added a track to the drama, “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.”
“Me Like Yuh” by Jay Park (Released Sep. 1)
If you’re able to get through the cringey line of “I’d even dye my hair blond for ya, I can be your Justin Beiber,” “Me Like Yuh” is actually a pretty dope song. Detracting from what’s trendy in South Korea (trap, mainly), Jay Park taps into the Caribbean/deep house hybrid sound that is hot right now Stateside — all thanks to Cha Cha Malone, of course. For this fresh track, Jay refrains from rapping and serenades his love interest in his signature high-pitched voice. It;s more in tune with “Nana” rather than “Mommae,” or anything he’s released as of late. While most fans hate when Korean artists sound like mainstream Western music, “Me Like Yuh” has a nice groove that seizes your body and makes you dance and sway. I, for one, can’t wait for Jay’s album to drop. Even if it contains “Aquaman.”
“Love Paint (every afternoon)” by NU’EST (Released Aug. 29)
While their little brother group Seventeen has shot to immediate success, it’s Pledis Entertainment’s NU’EST whose sound I’ve always been drawn to. Their latest, “Love Paint,” is filled with melodic synths and vocal harmonies that take the group’s sound into new, more artistic territory. (I can’t help but think of SHINee vs EXO at Korean music powerhouse SM Entertainment, where the former older group has been able to develop their own unique experimental style versus EXO’s more typical K-pop sound.) Between the pre-chorus builds and the underlying orchestral accompaniment, plus a really well delivered rap that sounds like it belongs on mainstream American radio (or at least “Show Me the Money!”), this is the sort of pop R&B I want to see more of from this group.
”I Love You, I Remember You” by I.O.I (released Aug 30)
Shortly after the group’s release of “Whatta Man” which changed my opinion of this group’s vocal prowess forever, I.O.I released their first OST for currently airing drama “Scarlet Heart: Ryeo.” The relatively slow and sweet ballad is definitely unexpected coming from this lively girl group and while not all the members were able to show off their unique styles or voices through this release, the song was good as a whole. The spotlight was also cast on a few members in particular, such as main dancer Chungha, who wowed this time not through her dance but through her stable and strong vocals. Rapper Yoojung stood out as well, especially since she did not get as many singing parts in their previous releases. The OST proved the potential and versatility of IOI and I hope that they’ll experiment with different genres of music in the future tracks they release.
What’s your favorite song from last week? Did it make our playlist? 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.
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August is almost over, but K-pop is really just getting started for the summer. This week saw a bevy of releases from many acts so, as usual, our writers picked out some of their favorite songs from the past week. For fans of indie, we have Nell’s first song since setting up a new company, for fans of “Produce 101” we have I.B.I’s debut, and for fans of the powerhouse Girls’ Generation we have a new song by two members, Yuri and Seohyun. Rounding things out we have some Cosmic Girls for your listening pleasure.
“Secret” by Yuri x Seohyun (Released Aug 18)
Too bad Yuri and Seohyun’s ad for Pantene didn’t come out during Pride Month, because “Secret” is tailor made for the gay club and I absolutely love it. By now, gone are the days of the electro Euro popish sound. So if SM producers have to combine this with EDM to make contemporary bangers, I’ll take it. For lack of a better, more suitable word, Yuri and Seohyun absolutely slay, both vocally and choreography-wise. The concept and song suits Yuri like a glove, and while I would’ve chosen someone else in SHY over Seohyun, she manages to not look super robotic as usual. “Secret” is exactly my type of jam and here’s to hoping for a Yuri solo.
I.B.I is a project group consisting of some finalists from “Produce 101,” the show that launched I.O.I. After being put together as a dream team by fans of the program, the group finally made their debut this week with the adorable “Molae Molae.” Light-hearted, sweet and fun, this song fully showcases the youthful charms of the group, along with their vocal talents. More than that however, the uplifting lyrics reflect the hopes and dreams of these five girls, girls who have faced failure several times in their K-pop journey but are not going to give up anytime soon. It’s a beautiful message and I’m definitely rooting for these underdogs, so here’s to hoping that this group will become a permanent one soon!
“Dream Catcher” by Nell (released Aug 18)
As the first single they’ve released in several years and also the first since departing Woollim Entertainment, I was really anticipating Nell’s “Dream Catcher.” Things could either be phenomenal or go horribly wrong. Luckily, Nell is a talented band and my worries were relatively pointless; “Dream Catcher” is a twinkling display of glorious electronic-pop. Nell is one of the most versatile bands in South Korea, able to do anything from ballads to hard rock, and the trance-evoking song is simply wonderful. The colorful, hallucinatory music video combined with the lilting synth notes that create the guiding sound to “Dream Catcher” truly evoke the idea of a fleeting dream. It’s perfect for the summer and, although it’s a bit upbeat, Kim Jong Wan’s vocals and the song’s overall style make me just want to close my eyes and simply dream.
“Secret” by Cosmic Girls (WSJN) (released August 17)
Since I haven’t paid too much attention to new artists from this year, this release caught me completely off-guard. But after hearing the news of I.O.I’s Yeonjung being added to the group (which I originally thought was a horrible idea), I decided to give their new song a chance and I’m thoroughly impressed. Among the massive 13 members, I’m glad to hear some great vocals singing along with Yeonjung (who was one of two members of the group that I was actually acquainted with before listening to this song, the other being EXY). The song is catchy, but transcends the typical K-pop mold with a more ethereal sound and aesthetic. The music video is absolutely beautiful, and the song has a light/airy quality that accentuates the “cosmic” quality of the group itself. While their debut didn’t really leave me with a strong impression, Cosmic Girls shows a lot of potential for a strong future in K-pop with this release.
What’s your favorite song from last week? Did it make our playlist? 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.
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Nearly two and a half decades have passed since Seo Taiji and Boys’ “Nan Arayo” heralded in the beginning of the K-pop musical genre. Since then, there have been countless singers and idol groups who have made an impacts on K-pop as a whole and one of the most important trendsetters of the past nine years has been none other than Girls’ Generation. They have solidified their legacy with hit after hit and shown audiences one iconic concept after another. And, with such a career, Girls’ Generation is clearly a role model for newer acts. But as rookie groups GFriend,Twice, and the newly-debuted project group IOI have learned, there is a fine line between homage and copying.
It’s this differentiation that is coming to light as K-pop fans around the world criticize rookie girl groups who have clearly chosen to model themselves after one of the most successful acts of the generation. The K-pop industry is small enough that originality is always applauded, and there is plenty of that when it comes to Twice, IOI, and GFriend. But these new girl groups have taken a few lessons from older acts like Girls’ Generation and proved that there is much to be learned. Unfortunately, it sometimes leads to a “wait, was that plagiarized?” moment. There have been multiple head scratching and accusations towards groups who have a concept too similar to one of those of Girls’ Generation, but the question is worth asking: Are these girl groups copying or are they emulating?
Over the past few months, GFriend has surpassed the expectations of many, with successive hits after one another. But while their refreshing image and their pristine performances have set them apart, GFriend’s debut concept had K-pop fans around the world crying “foul!” “Glass Bead,” the first in a trilogy that followed a youthful schoolgirl concept, was attacked for sounding altogether too similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut song “Into The New World.” With similar cadences and an energetic dance while also wearing athletic gear, GFriend was initially accused of trying to garner attention for imitating Girls’ Generation.
Now, more than a year later, it’s clear that GFriend hasn’t just mimicked Girls’ Generation –they’ve imitated them as icons of a certain K-pop concept. Additionally, GFriend’s agency Source Music consists of former SM Entertainment staff members. While speculative, there’s no real question that GFriend’s production team took the example of Girls’ Generation’s debut concept and analyzed it to get the formula right. And, with two additional hit songs under their belt, it’s obvious that it worked.
While they’re down to eight members following the 2014 departure of Jessica Jung, Girls’ Generation was the first K-pop female megagroup. Girls’ Generation’s launch heralded in larger girl groups, but even now larger girl groups are far and few in between (AOA is the only other mainstream group with eight members) so Twice’s size was a tip off to the fact that JYP was going to market Twice as a group that has something to offer everybody. I was honestly surprised more people didn’t call out the Girls’ Generation comparison the minute JYP Entertainment (a main competitor of Girls’ Generation’s agency, SM Entertainment) announced that it would debut a nine-member girl group. When it comes to K-pop, size really does matter because it means there’s a higher likelihood that there will be a member to suit everybody’s taste. And Twice certainly has aimed to highlight the different sort of women in the group, with each of their music videos clearly defining individual charms and personas of the members.
But it was less their size and more the teasers for their latest song that got fans in a tizzy; the concept for “Cheer Up” at first glance looked a purple palette take on Girls’ Generation’s iconic pink cheerleading concept from “Oh!” While Girls’ Generation doesn’t own a concept, wearing crop tops, short shorts, knee highs, and letterman jackets while performing in a sports stadium harkens back to “Oh!” Once the music video for “Cheer Up” was released and it was clear that the two songs were stylistically different, the only thing that remained was the cheerleader concept. And, six years later, it’s inspiring to see a talented group put their own updated on an iconic K-pop concept that Girls’ Generation pioneered.
This week’s debut of I.O.I takes us back to “Into The New World” in a way that’s far more obvious than GFriend’s instance. While GFriend first song and music video were stylistically similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut, the concept and music video for I.O.I’s debut song “Dream Girl” harkens a bit close to home.
Like in “Into The New World,” “Dream Girl” introduces the members of the new group through their own individual aspirations including being successful as dancers, athletes, and fashion designers. Watching the music video, it would be almost impossible to say that “Dream Girl” wasn’t based on “Into The New World” as scenes are set up similarly in ways that make it near impossible to be coincidences. I.O.I’s agency, YMC Entertainment, reportedly told local Korean outlets that the music video was designed with the song’s sound and lyrics in mind, but it truly seems like a 2016 update of “Into the New World” idea. For a group that debuted nearly a decade after Girls’ Generation, it seems natural for newer groups to want to resuscitate the style of an older music video.
When it comes down to things, Girls’ Generation and their success is something that future girl groups can only hope to achieve. At the end of the day, none of these instances come across as plagiarism but instead appear to be this new generation of K-pop girl group’s imitation of a successful older act. And, as it’s said: Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
What do you think about Girls’ Generation’s legacy? Are the newer groups wrong in stylizing themselves after them? hare 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.