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KultScene’s 2017 Artists to Watch

Chungha Sam Kim KARD Jung Seung Hwan

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.

Weekly K-pop playlist- November 28th – December 4th

k-pop-1

As 2016 reaches it’s end, K-pop releases start to slow down in light of the new year. In previous years, December was largely abandoned by artists and reserved for the kitschy Holiday tracks. However, over the last couple of years, companies have carried on throughout the month business as usual. We may not be getting an influx of releases like before, but we’re still seeing some comebacks and random singles. So, as per usual, here are a few of our faves from the week from acts including Seventeen, Shinhwa, Hyoyeon of Girls’ Generation, and more!

“Orange” by Shinhwa (Released Nov. 29)

“Orange,” title track off of Shinhwa’s 13th studio album “Unchanging,” is a song well worth the title. As a SHCJ (Shinhwa Changjo, their fanclub name), I’m quite honored that they chose to name a song after their fanclub color. Yes, you guessed it, orange! “Orange” is reminiscent of what everything ‘90s K-Pop was, bubbly and totally cringe worthy, but in all the right ways. It’s a cheesed out love song. “My floating and fluttering footsteps go to you/ Baby I’m in love with you,” yeah, it doesn’t get any more skin crawling then this and maybe it’s because I’m a die heart SHCJ, but I’m absolutely fine with the finger and toe curling lyrics.


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It’s probably safe to say that if you listened to the song with no previous knowledge of who Shinhwa was, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that they were six guys all in their mid thirties. but if you watched the music video first, then, well, that’s a different story. Why are these guys mega dorks? It might’ve helped with the recording session, considering the fact that the members are always acting like fools, on screen and off. They’ve been together for so long, that whatever it is that you’re seeing on screen, is literally how they always act when they’re around one another; sudden tickle attacks, everyone ganging up on leader, Eric, and six guys, who just can’t stay still. Now that we’re entering the winter months (here in the Northeast), “Orange” will be a nice song to listen to whenever I need some cheering up from the cold weather.

— Tam

“That Fool” by Jung Seung Hwan (Released Nov. 30)

The talented vocalist from the fourth season of Kpop Star finally made his official debut with Antenna Music recently with the album “His Voice,” featuring the title song “That Fool.” Within hours, his songs took the top spots on Korean music charts and for good reason. The ballads on his album, and this title song in particular, highlight the emotional and passionate way Jung sings. While his voice is stable and technically skilled, the feeling he pours into the song really touches his listeners. This has also been evident from the many popular OSTs he has released this past year, including “Wind” from Scarlet Heart: Ryeo and “If It Is You” from Another Oh Hae-young. Even better, he sounds absolutely amazing live. He promoted his album on Yoo Hee Yeol Sketchbook recently, and performed “That Fool” in a way which absolutely captivated his audience. Jung Seung Hwan is going from strength to strength and I hope this continues for a long time to come!

— Anna

“Mystery” by Hyoyeon (Released Dec. 2)

Every Hyoyeon fan has dreamed of this, but to be completely honest, none of us expected it. One of many surprises from SM’s STATION project this year, “Mystery” is Hyoyeon’s first solo musical effort. A mix of Indian instrumentals and influences from hip-hop and electronica, the song is both hypnotic and dance-heavy, perfect for a hard-hitting performer like Hyoyeon to break it down. While the song hasn’t received much promotional effort from SM (it is a STATION song, after all), she is promoting the song on music shows this week, showing everyone that the queen of girl group dancers can perform both choreography and vocals in a way that no one thought she could.

— Kushal


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“BOOMBOOM” by Seventeen (Released Dec. 4)

Well, Seventeen has done it again. After “Pretty U” and “Very Nice,” you’d think they would be done with 2016, but oh no. Getting it in just right before the year comes to an end, the group put out “BOOMBOOM.” To say their new track sounds like all of their past singles sounds like a bad thing, but it’s actually not. Seventeen always find a way to take the most childish and saccharine beats and turn them into trendy, hyped-up songs. For “BOOMBOOM,” they took the bubbly guitar reminiscent of Disco era jams like “Play That Funky Music” and turned it into yet another pop gem in their discography. The amazing thing about Seventeen is that, with every release, they follow the same formula, but unlike other groups or producers, it comes out fresh every time. Seventeen’s song, with “BOOMBOOM” being no different, have the shift in beat and vocalists’ tempos that make it an exciting audible experience. Bubblegum pop has always been fun, but Seventeen have taken their signature brand to a whole new ball park of sugariness delight.

— Alexis

What was your favorite song of the week? 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: October 3- 9

K-pop Playlist Sunday: October 3-9

One week into the whirlwind of October, we’ve seen just a hint of the oncoming storm that we’ll see later this month. For this beginning of the month playlist, we have a list for you featuring a few of our writers recent faves. Jersey girl Ailee returned with her new “Home,” and K-pop legends SechsKies returned the promise of their “Three Words” to both old and new fans. And, of course, fans of the drama Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryo should check out Jung Seung Hwan‘s addition to the soundtrack.

“Three Words” by SechsKies (Released Oct. 7)

If you talk about the early beginnings of K-pop, there are a few names that come up. SechsKies, the six member group from the company now known as DSP Media highlighted for their intense popularity in the late ‘90s and their sudden breakup in 2000. So when they released their first single in over a decade earlier this week, it was something I definitely had to check out. Up until this point, my knowledge of SechsKies was primarily thanks to the drama Answer Me 1997 (sorry!) and the individual members, particularly Eun Ji Won. But then I was floored by how heartfelt ”Three Words” felt to me, a brand new fan. Combining the melodic ballad-rock sound we’ve been seeing from YG Entertainment — SechsKies’ new company– lately (particularly with WINNER) with an old school rap would have been enough for me, but I absolutely love how the song and music video begin with the group’s final farewell from more than a decade ago since the song is the fulfillment of their three-word promise: Here, Now, Us that they reassured fans with, promising that SechsKies would have a second wind. This little splice of K-pop history resonates with me, so I definitely suggest everyone should check it out even if they’re not necessarily a big fan of ballads.

–Tamar


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“Home” by Ailee feat. Yoon Mirae (Released Oct. 5)

What’s fall without an Ailee comeback? This song is much different than the rest of her music — it’s not as slow as the ballad singles she frequently drops, but certainly slower than her usual power-packed (Beyoncé-esque) sound. And it works brilliantly. The delivery of her vocals is especially fantastic on this song, mixing her lower and higher registers to make the track both powerful and emotionally evocative. I totally applaud Ailee for managing to both maintain and differentiate her sound with this release.

–Kushal

”Wind” by Jung Seung Hwan (Released Oct. 4)

I’ve been in love with Jung Seung Hwan’s voice ever since I heard it on K-pop Star 4 and I’m more than happy to hear the numerous releases he’s had over the years, mostly consisting of OSTs for various successful dramas. His latest OST, for the currently airing Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is one that I’m extremely addicted to this week. His strong vocals flow perfectly with the rich instrumentals in this track and perfectly expresses the sadness of this drama as a whole. Among the numerous stunning OSTs released for this drama, “Wind” stands out because of Jung’s emotional and distinctive voice, especially when the OST is used effectively in scenes featuring our tragic fourth prince Wang So.

What was your fave K-pop release this week? 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.