In the 27th episode of of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, Tamar Herman, and Gabriel Wilder reflect on the best moments and songs out of Korea in 2017, and even give out some of their own unique awards.
Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2017’s latest 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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In the 26th episode of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, Tamar Herman, and Gabriel Wilder reflect on the best moments and songs out of Korea in 2017, handing out the awards that they personally deem fit and conversing about some of the hottest topics in K-pop over the 12-month span. This is Part 1 of two year-end episodes.
Let us know what you think of K-pop in 2017’s latest 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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While the year may be closing in a very sad and unfortunate manner with the passing of a K-pop icon, artists consistently delivered memorable songs throughout 2017. This year saw a lot of great moments from some of Korea’s most popular new acts, while newer acts also proved their worth with addicting, sleekly-produced music. Trop was the king of this year’s K-pop trends, but far from the only genre of music that saw its moment in the limelight.
Check out the first half of KultScene’s 2017 best K-pop songs list below:
50. “Circle’s Dream” by Subin
Subin is trapped in an endlessly repeating contradictory cycle in her self-written and composed single “Circle’s Dream.” She is told that she is round and that’s good, but then that it’s not. She wants to be angular, to pierce her lover, to make him feel like how he made her feel. Yet she is also trapping herself within a recurring musical structure, as an acoustic guitar plucks an incisive riff throughout the song. It is the only angular part of Subin’s song yet has no variation. Her stark synths come in late but their slow rhythm only accentuates the repetitiveness. Each element is perfectly realised to tell her story. Her voice completes it. Its soft and sweet but particular pronunciations like denggeureureu are key. This word alone combines both the round and angular sides to her. It has repetitions but in order to say it properly she still has to roll her tongue. Subin has enwrapped her whole song with the confusing ideas in her head. No solo idol has ever produced something of such pointed precision.
49. “Wee Woo” by Pristin
If “Wee Woo” had been released at the 2012-ish heyday of Hallyu, Pristin’s debut song would be considered legendary right now. It’s barrage of shifting sounds and onomatopoeic vocals are absolutely classic. The Pledis Entertainment regular songwriter Bumzu brings a bright and breezy feel to the whole production with disco electric guitars taking the brunt of the work. This allows the girls room to deliver the most hooks in a single song EVER. Each part is so complete on its own you could take them individually and create five more songs around them. The fact that they all come together for something that doesn’t feel so monumental is the greatness of “Wee Woo.” It’s arrogant in its effortlessness all the way down to making the primary hook out of the most simple term of jowahae nol jowahae (“I like (you) I like you”).
48. “Beautiful” by Monsta X
Monsta X’s cultivated sound and signature unruly charms finally comes together for the consummate “Beautiful.” Perhaps because it is supposed to be representative of the group’s first studio album, the single feels particularly significant. For one, there’s really nothing quite like the opening out there. Scattered with a prominent distorted electronic beat that is quickly followed up by Jooheon’s explosive raps, the real hook is not in the chorus but here in the introduction, where the task for the listeners to not mimic the unique noises or the clever near-rhymes is near impossible. The vocalists dwindle down the excitement sometimes without sounding monotonous, almost acting like the Apollonian restraint to the Dionysian madness. The constant shower of peculiar oscillations, whirs, and horns all make up the perfectly organized chaos that Monsta X is known for, and though “Beautiful” did not grant the boys their first music show win like it should have, it will always remain a tour de force in our hearts.
47. “Where You At” by NU’EST W
With their revival in popularity following some of the members’ appearance in Produce 101 Season Two, this subunit of Nu’est (missing member Minhyun who debuted in Wanna One) released this flashy track which stayed true to their unique music style. Bursts of electronic instrumentals are mixed with a calm piano backing track and adds a lot of contrasts to the song. It also highlights the strengths of each member, with Baekho’s explosive high notes complementing Ren and Aron’s softer and sweeter voices. JR’s rapping is as stable as ever, and he definitely shines more back in his own group. It’s wonderful to see this talented group get more recognition for their talents, and I can’t wait to see the full group back together again soon.
46. “You Were Beautiful” by DAY6
The February release of the band’s “Every DAY6 Project” can be said to be their most successful, especially domestically, and it’s not difficult to see why. The raw emotions brought out by the members coupled with the sincere lyrics create a sentimental rock ballad which truly tugs on the heartstrings of listeners. The end of the bridge in particular, where Young K and Wonpil’s voices are layered, is such a beautiful and emotional climax of the song. Even though it appears simple to sing along to (and is apparently a favourite among other JYP singers for karaoking), the song is actually very vocally challenging due to the large range required, and the effortless way the DAY6 members sing it shows just how skilled and well-trained they are.
45. “Tomorrow, Today” by JJ Project
After debuting ahead of GOT7’s debut with the exuberant “Bounce,” JB and Jinyoung returned as a more matured rendition of JJ Project this year and it was absolutely glorious. The two vocalists released this sweeping, introspective song about the very-millennial topic of making decisions and fearing regrets. The track provides the perfect forum for the pair to show off how well their vocals work together, with the duo harmonizing over guitar riffs, tapping percussion, and mellow synths. “Tomorrow, Today” is reflective in its warm approach to soft rock, and hopefully we’ll see more of this from JJ Project in 2018. It was a complete turnaround from their first iteration, and definitely more suited for the pair’s artistic style and capabilities.
44. “Don’t Know You” by Heize
Heize’s “Don’t Know You” is a very groovy song full of percussions with a slight mixture of disco, hip-hop, and R&B, which features the soloist using deeper vocals than what we’ve been used to hear from her. The overall appeal of this songs starts at the beginning of the track with the repetitive beats and the introduction of the synth drums that follow different tonalities on the record that give great texture to “Don’t Know You.” Her famous ad-libs are also present on this song as she goes from high to low tones, which are achieved by the reverbs added on the vocal track, that create great contrast between her sexy sweet voice and her solid rap parts. The harmony is very steady throughout and creates a great chill up-tempo track perfect to dance and groove to. Heize continues to show great promise with her experimental sound.
43. “Tequila (feat. Hoody)” by G.Soul
One can’t help but want to book an immediate flight to somewhere like Bali while listening to “Tequila,” especially with the brutal winter quickly approaching much of the States. Hoody’s bewitching voice alongside G.Soul’s multifaceted vocals make for the perfect combo in this dancehall track, ideal for both a cookout and the club. Lyrically wise, “Tequila” might not be appropriate for all age groups, as G.Soul sings about only wanting a one night stand. But if you’re someone who’s over the generic “let’s fall in love” type of style that is prevalent in K-pop the majority of the time, this song’s for you. The lyrics aren’t candy coated or sleazy, but come off rather… inviting. This wasn’t meant to be a flashy song, which is what made it even more enjoyable. Although G.Soul wasn’t hitting those high notes (that I love so much) like he usually does, it wasn’t a lack felt by this song.
42. “Wake Me Up” by Taeyang
It is no news that Taeyang can hold a ballad like no other, and in 2017, he gave us two great ones. “Wake Me Up” doesn’t have the same degree of emotional complexity of “Darling,” the other single from the album, but it’s its apparent simplicity what makes this song amazing and addictive. Objectively speaking, it’s a very linear song with no surprise factors when it comes to its structure. It might even seem like Taeyang doesn’t have much to say in “Wake Me Up,” but it’s definitely not because he’s lacking emotions. In reality, what we see is that he just doesn’t know what to do with them. Everything in “Wake Me Up” sounds gorgeously inconclusive and mysterious — from the airy sounds and atmospheric, echoed beats, to the lyrics that offer more questions than answers. No wonder the most touching moment of the song is when he’s constantly repeating “Is it love?” while delivering breathtaking high notes. Overall, Taeyang’s vocal performance amidst the ethereal instrumental creates just the right vibe for a song that is about love, but mostly about confusion and doubt. After so many years, you can still count on Taeyang to get you in your feels.
41. “Honeymoon” by B.A.P
Coming out during the fall when it should’ve been a summer jam, “Honeymoon” is a delightful EDM track from B.A.P’s seventh album Blue. The whistling at the beginning of the song left the remainder open for interpretation; this song could’ve been a sweet one, much like the title suggests, or a somber one. I’m glad it wasn’t the latter. “Honeymoon” puts listeners in a lighter mood, whereas previous songs were dark and heavy, all the while still executing a clear message. “With the overflowing stars from beneath the palm tree. A film on the shining freedom and bright youth,” they sing. Through this track, B.A.P wants to remind us to live life to its fullest, fulfill your heart’s desires to its grandest and emphasises that today’s youth will be the game changer in society going forward.
Taking the bubbly girl group image and tossing it out the window, MINX re-debuted early this year under the name Dreamcatcher. Not only did the group have a new name, but they also gained two new members and an interesting concept and sound. Taking the term re-“vamp” quite literal, the group came out with a dark and creepy concept straight out of a horror movie. The video for “Chase Me” takes references from classic horror movies like The Shining but also has cuts to choreography to showcase the girls dance moves. The song begins with pianos and then picks up at the chorus. Adding31 to the darker image, the song melded hard rock elements with a dance pop track to create something very dynamic. There’s something about the mixing of heavy rock instrumentals and feminine voices that is very appealing. Although the song sounds like it’s straight out of an anime, it is also an interesting new sound that’s refreshing to the K-pop world.
39. “Never Ever” by GOT7
Ever since debut, GOT7 have switched up their sound with every release, experimenting with different styles and concepts, and their first comeback of the year was no different. “Never Ever” follows in the same angsty direction as “If You Do,” yet this track mixes electronic and trap sounds while giving it their signature bubblegum spin. Vocally, JB and Youngjae can always be counted on to deliver outstanding choruses and ad-libs. But reveal of the year was that “Never Ever” is probably the song where the rap line is collectively most stable and the flows, while different, work together. GOT7 is building up a name as a dance group whose choreographies are insane, and “Never Ever,” with its glitches and heavy bass, is the perfect performance track in their building discography.
38. “Love Story feat. IU” by Epik High
One of the two title tracks off of Epik High’s new album, “Love Story” is a beautiful song about love lost. The steady drum beats coupled with the sometimes frantic sounding piano and, later on, the smooth orchestra creates a complex yet easy sounding melody that balances well with IU’s sweet voice and the rap verses of Tablo and Mithra Jin. Along with the concept video of a girl reminiscing about her past relationship through videos and photos on her phone, it sets the perfect setting for a song about heartbreak and loss. As expected with most of Epik High’s collaborations, the group and the featuring artist blend perfectly to portray the story being told.
37. “Wake Me Up” by B.A.P
A lot of the times, K-pop consists of clichéd lyrics and similar concepts. There are times when a number of artists will put out a string of songs, music talking about love, relationships and breakups. Again, the repetitiveness. Just when you feel like you’ve had enough of that sappy stuff, B.A.P appears with an eye opener like “Wake Me Up,” a track that touches on societal issues and mental health to stimulate one’s ear buds. The song has a compelling beat, a sound so strong, it’ll act as the pillar that will hold you up when one is fighting off their inner demons and struggles in life. “This is an endless tunnel, in darkness with no light. Wake me up, wake me up. I need to find myself,” they sing. B.A.P wanted to push awareness and wake up a society that looks away and pretends that issues like racism, judgement, and depression aren’t real issues because these things are very much on going and continue to be real life problems.
36. “Palette feat. G-Dragon” by IU
As one of Korea’s most prominent artists, IU on “Palette” seems to be comfortable with her fame and life, assuring both herself and her listeners that she’s changing in ways she embraces. Her lyricism uses cute examples, from changing color preferences to hair length, to demonstrate that she, “Knows a little bit about [herself] now.” The song’s instrumentals are a more alternative play on classic, theatrical IU releases. While the trademark ticking noises and sound effects are present, the song itself is slower and wispier, updated to match a more modern vibe that she seems to have grown into. The top female star of Korean music in the past decade, IU demonstrates that she remains focused on making hits, but now, on her own terms. With the help of a strongly performed and well-placed rap break from G-Dragon, IU on “Palette” lets us further into her excited, changing young adult world. Where she goes next from here, however, we’ll be watching.
35. “Dinosaur” by AKMU
AKMU is known for creating beautiful music, but with “Dinosaur,” the duo really surprised us: they finally added some EDM to their music while managing to make it their own. The electro beats and synths that appear through the track’s melody seem very stripped down and almost make it feel like an acoustic electronic song. The opening guitar in the beginning of the song especially feels like an homage to their earlier music. The synthetic kickdrums that blast before the beautiful notes from Suhyun during the chorus melody and are present through the whole track, giving it an unique mystery to the track. We also get more singing from Chanhyuk instead of his typical talk-like rap, which was surprisingly beautiful. Their voices blend and harmonize perfectly with the synthetic beats that made it an upbeat chill song for the summer. AKMU really had a lot of fun creating this track and used every tool that electronic instruments can give you as a producer. The song is simple but very detailed with a beautiful, heartwarmingly catchy harmony and a light beat that is very uplifting and instantly makes you feel good.
34. “Dream In a Dream” by Ten
SM Entertainment’s Station project has produced a bit of a mixed bag this year, delivering some truly great pieces of music amid a majority of lackluster ones. But “Dream In a Dream” was one of its glorious high notes. The ambient, east-meets-west styling of the song serves to relay the performance-heavy music video, which highlights Ten’s immense dance skills. Providing a soundtrack to the highly-stylized, contemporary dance video, it’s a song filled with drama and passion. But even as a stand alone track, “Dream In a Dream” delivers something truly special through its symphonic instrumentals relaying Ten’s echoing declaration of love. Lush synths and pulsating beats guide the track as it layers traditional Asian strings and into the atypically-structured melody. So far, Ten has participated in both this and NCT U’s “The 7th Sense,” two hauntingly beautiful, choreography-focused singles, and if this is the direction SM continues pushing him in, it may be the thing that could breathe new life into this era of all-too-similar K-pop male acts.
33. “Shall We Dance” by Block B
Ever since Zico cemented his status as a hip-hop icon in Korea, Block B has pretty much taken a backseat on the ride. And after a couple of quirky, even cutesy releases, it seemed the group had gone awry of the sounds and concept they made a name with. That’s why when they dropped “Shall We Dance” it was way more impactful. More in tune with the “trendy” sounds Zico is known to produce for his solos, the track explores different urban Latino sounds, which particularly stood out this year when artists are still releasing trop-house songs. “Shall We Dance” is groovy, smooth, and just as the title suggests, dance provoking. Being an older male group with a diverse lineup of talented members, it’s important for Block B to color outside the lines and continue to push the envelope as they have always done. And with this song, they did just that.
32. “Girl Front” by ODD EYE CIRCLE
“Girl Front” felt like a particularly important moment for LOONA. When LOONA ⅓ debuted as a unit they were still fairly unknown, a weird project group going about their own thing. By the time of ODD EYE CIRCLE, they had significantly grown with more people both at home and internationally taking notice. The fact that they absolutely nailed it came as no surprise to me, but how they did it was so impressive. By combining the songs of three girls (Choerry, Jinsoul, and Kim Lip) producers Ollipop and Hayley Aitken created something unprecedented in K-pop. “Girl Front” has the peppiness of “Love Cherry Motion,” the dense, propulsive beat of “Singing in the Rain,” and the electronic sheen of “Eclipse.” It’s a miracle that it all comes together to form something coherent let alone this good. The girls give it the last edge of excitement with non-stop vocals as they bounce off one another with glee, building a climax of unstoppable motion and further push forward the most exciting story of the year.
31. “I Wait” by Day6
“I Wait” was the first release of the group’s ambitious project, which set a high bar for their following monthly singles. The opening of the song draws the listener in with somber synthesized keyboard notes and dreamy vocals. The mellow beats gradually increase to the more aggressive instrumentals of the chorus, showcasing a much harder sound than what the band has been previously known for. The song continues to bounce back and forth between a softer sound and the heavy chorus, which creates and interesting medium. The video itself isn’t really anything special but somehow still complements the song with the changing graphics and effects. Overall, “I Wait” fulfilled its purpose of drawing in the audience with a new sound, showcasing the band’s versatility and ability to deliver quality songs throughout the year.
30. “MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix feat. Desiigner)” by BTS
“MIC Drop” was already a good song before Steve Aoki’s remix, but with his production, the producer added the aggressiveness that the track needed to be fully solidified as an anti-haters anthem for BTS. He did this by converting the hip-hop track into a hip-hop, R&B, and EDM infused song that made us remember the old BTS from their debut era. The track is energetic and gets you pumped up as soon as you listen to it; V’s deep voice and RM’s raps are major highlights from this record. The lyrics take a very sarcastic tone that even if they seem cocky it makes us sympathize with them. With the new added English lyrics in the chorus, the song makes everyone want to stand up against haters and face them off. BTS creates yet another ode for outcasts and bullied kids all over the world by once again taking on topics that usually K-pop bands don’t talk about.
This ballad stands out with its somewhat unconventional structure and chord progression, but it’s truly beautiful and addictive when listened to in its entirety. The way that Taeyang’s smooth voice connects the various parts of the song elevates it and showcases his impressive range and ability. His raw emotions are showcased front and center here too, especially with the way the song “progresses” in intensity from verse to verse. It’s soothing and intimate all at once, and allows Taeyang to present a more honest side of himself, as compared to being a charismatic star glorified by the limelight.
28. “Hola Hola” by KARD
Over the course of three project singles, KARD was able to develop a musical formula that worked. The tropical house and dancehall that undergirded “Oh Nana,” “Don’t Recall,” and “Rumor” provided a strong foundation for when they finally did make their official debut with “Hola Hola,” a timely and bright synthy number perfect for the summertime. Being co-ed is more than just a gimmick for this group; the exchange between tender vocals and throaty raps is the contrast listeners need to keep engaged. The chorus, on the other hand, shifts its weight onto an island beat, and while it would be easy to dismiss this sudden move as overly simplistic, the hypnotic effect is undeniable. It sweeps the carpet from under our feet and displaces us in a chimerical paradise. It is a nice recess from Jiwoo’s spunky rap midway or from any other strained moments, providing us with a sensual and personable comfort. “Hola Hola” only marks the beginning, but already the internationally beloved group has been dealt a good hand, and are making all the right plays to keep momentum going.
27. “Cherry Bomb” by NCT 127
Without a doubt, “Cherry Bomb” definitely encapsulates the sound of NCT127. The different mixes of genres that create a very fresh and futuristic sound create a unique style for the band that has everyone falling in love. The track starts off with a heavy bass and the repetitive “Hurry, hurry, avoid it, right Cherry Bomb feel it yum,” then goes off to Mark’s and Taeyong’s rap, with the pair proving to be the real standouts for this track, while the bridge explodes with Taehyun’s, Doyoung’s and Taeil’s beautiful vocals that melt any listener’s hearts. The song is filled with background synth noises, singed hooks, and creepy sounds that create a very chaotic but interesting track that is reminiscent of the album cover and the title of the song. It’s a classic, sassy and rebellious track and shows great direction for the boy band.
26. “O Sole Mio” by SF9
Is it possible for someone who lacks rhythm AND coordination to find themselves swaying ones hips and body with precision to the entrancing latin sounds of “O Sole Mio”? This track comes from SF9’s third mini album, Knights of the Sun, only one year after their debut. Rather then SF9’s usual upbeat dance tracks, “O Sole Mio” is captivating in it’s own mellow way. The transitions between the vocal and rap lines were smooth and well-versed, building up to a tender climax without it ever being over the top. The fusion of latin pop to K-pop is still new, but, let’s be real: we all could’ve used a break from some of the generic sounds we’ve heard this year, and the fresh sound of “O Sole Mio” delivered just that.
Stay tuned for the second and final half of our Best K-pop Songs of 2017 list, which will contain the top 25.
What was your favorite release of the year? 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.
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As the final bars of LOONA ⅓’s “Sonatine” slowly faded out, the digital effects opened a new door for LOONA. On the other side of it are Kim Lip, Jinsoul, and Choerry. As a trio they are ODD EYE CIRCLE, a name that necessitates capital letters thanks to the moon-evoking imagery of the word “odd.” These three represent the next chapter of the LOONA story.
Writing the previous entry to this series on LOONA was a much easier task than this addition. With the added benefit of hindsight, I knew what had come after the first five girls of LOONA so could more easily chart their progression and what that meant in contrast to the three girls who would become ODD EYE CIRCLE. When the three of them did finally come together though, there was a whole new clarity to the ideas behind LOONA. Whereas the first five girls’ were moving towards a group identity as a whole, ODD EYE CIRCLE traces individuals.
The musical timeline of this trio’s solo singles are sort of backwards. You could probably look at them in forwards or backwards chronological order but for me going from Choerry to Kim Lip makes the most narrative sense. Choerry’s solo single, “Love Cherry Motion” acts as a bridge between ODD EYE CIRCLE and the previous girls. She moves away from the physical sound to something a bit more modern but with such a classic pop sound that it isn’t immediately obvious. The bubbly synths are helped by drum samples and wonderful slap bass straight from Girls’ Generation’s “Party.” Of course, it becomes quickly obvious that LOONA are moving in a new direction when the post-chorus breaks hits. The first break comes with no notice and overflows with heavy bassy electro. It’s the darkest moment of LOONA’s entire discography without going too deep into seriousness.
By itself the sudden genre change isn’t exactly a shock in K-pop anymore. As the song progresses, the break changes though. Middle Eastern sounding synths are added to the second chorus, galvanizing the second half of the song into a major change. From that break it turns into a bridge in a similar style, but not quite as heavy as before. The song slowly adds the brighter elements of the beginning before finally transitioning back into the original sound. As the bridge between both groups of girls, Choerry simultaneously shows both styles in contrast and in unison. Moving from an abrupt transition to a smooth one, she starts to bring the pop and EDM sounds together in search of a synthesis.
The lyrics mirror this as they tell the story of a girl falling in love. Similar to the previous girls she’s shy and naive, “Though I don’t know from A to Z, what love really is, The tips of my ears are tingling.” LOONA 1/3 were almost fearful of the mystery of possible love but Choerry is excited, similar to Yeojin, not a surprise given she’s the second youngest. She’s the continuation of the maknae’s (youngest’s) story; the sustained excitement about the future of LOONA lies with the youngest girls. She starts off nervous but right at end sings that “Our special days start today.”
Jinsoul preceded chronologically Choerry with her tumultuous future bass track “Singing in the Rain,” but her song propels ODD EYE CIRCLE’s mythos. Completely shedding any memory of the first five girls, she moves into an edgy digital space. The sawtooth synths and explosive percussion of her song have a dangerous unpredictability to them. Jinsoul is experimenting in the grey area between Choerry and Kim Lip. She’s the first to rap and does so with relish, adding ad libs to pre-choruses. That pre-chorus changes for the second chorus as well. “Singing in the Rain” is what happens when a group is trying to figure itself out. It’s not as experimental as “Love Cherry Motion” but it’s still not a completely polished product.
Jinsoul is much more direct as well, “For the sin of swallowing, up the afternoon sun, I’m right here, so hot,” she coos in the chorus. It’s a forwardness unknown to the other girls. She’s a girl in love, not waiting for someone but taking the lead to the point where she sings loudly about it in the rain.
The actual first girl of ODD EYE CIRCLE to debut was Kim Lip. It was quite a jump from the emotional orchestra of LOONA ⅓’s “Sonatine” to the sci-fi R&B of “Eclipse.” Compared to “Love Cherry Motion” and “Singing in the Rain,” “Eclipse” is stunningly simple. Kim Lip rides the beat with ease, her voice restrained but with a deceptive range. It has none of the eccentricities of Choerry and Jinsoul’s tracks, but feels at home beside them. As soon as she opened the song with “This is our fantasy,” it was obvious a new era had begun. Kim Lip represented a clean break for LOONA, one of sensuality and maturity.
Despite progressing LOONA’s sound, the three girls didn’t have too much in common apart from a sense of modernity. So instead of coming up with a single style that compliments them all, ODD EYE CIRCLE mashed all three separate sounds together. Their debut single, “Girl Front” has the propulsive percussion and sawtooth synths of “Singing in the Rain,” the pop sheen and slap bass of “Love Cherry Motion,” and the vocal details and oh-so-smooth bridge of “Eclipse.” Thanks to its sheer peppiness and strong chorus, “Girl Front” doesn’t buckle under the pressure of those three tracks but instead the hyperkinetic vocals carry it to a euphoric climax.
“Girl Front” is miraculous not just for putting these songs together but for incorporating them so wholly. It works to highlight the trio as individuals before bringing them all into one. Each girl sings a line from her solo track and has a part of her choreography at the beginning of the the collaborative song, making it clear that their identities are not totally defined by the group that is LOONA or even ODD EYE CIRCLE. This entire project is clearly not just an extremely long teaser for a 12 member girl group but promotion for soloists and all manner of units.
As the centrepiece of ODD EYE CIRCLE, it is also the exact opposite to what the LOONA 1/3 did lyrically. It’s a song about the girl confessing first. ODD EYE CIRCLE are similar to the other girls in that the waiting is making them anxious but for completely different reasons. They are not concerned with big questions of what love might be for them, they just want to fall in love.
Naturally LOONA are attracted to moon symbols, so finishing off the ODD EYE CIRCLE era with something cyclical made perfect sense. The final single “Sweet Crazy Love” is positioned by its video as the prequel to ODD EYE CIRCLE. The music as well puts it closer to the first five girls than anything else ODD EYE CIRCLE did by incorporating some string work. The strings open the song but are immediately obvious as not real but rather digital violins and are soon joined by an electric drum beat. Its moody R&B atmosphere is closest to “Eclipse” in sound but doesn’t have the definite stamps of each girl. There are short references in the lyrics but no direct lifts like in “Girl Front.” “Sweet Crazy Love” is caught right between the first two eras, melding ideas and sounds from both while obviously steering closer to ODD EYE CIRCLE.
It brought this LOONA cycle to a definite close but left no hints for what is to come next. ODD EYE CIRCLE took LOONA into modernity with not just their sound but with their attitudes towards love. There are plenty of genres left for them to explore, but not as many broad themes for the last four girls to live in. Regardless of how they sound, the sense of finality is going to be a major idea. They are likely to cycle back around to the very beginning, creating an ultimate group in which the individuals are all connected but more than capable of standing on their own. Which means that the last four girls are the most important. Everything has been great and extremely well planned but it will be for nothing without an ending. Or, in this case, a whole new beginning.
What’s do you think of the ODD EYE CIRCLE era? What do you think is next for LOONA? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Untitled-design.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2017-11-14 08:09:592017-11-14 08:09:59The story of LOONA: ODD EYE CIRCLE
The middle of September brought us a lot of good music, and like each week the KultScene crew rounded up some of the songs that really caught our eye. New music courtesy of the ladies of Loona, Teen Top’s NIEL & JUSTHIS, and a cover of an EXO song by soloist Gummy really caught our eye. Take a look at our thoughts and let us know in the comment section below what your favorite song of the past few days was.
“Girl Front” by Odd Eye Circle (Released Sept. 20)
The LOONAverse continues in earnest with their second official sub-unit, Odd Eye Circle. Consisting of the last three girls to debut, Kim Lip, Jinsoul, and Choerry, Odd Eye Circle is the girl crush side of LOONA. Produced by Ollipop and Hayley Aitken with some lyrics by Monotree, “Girl Front” is essentially a combination of those three girls’ solo tracks. Both musically and lyrically it takes from each of them, the propulsive percussion of “Singing in the Rain,” the brightness and slap bass from “Love Cherry Motion,” and the smooth as hell bridge from “Eclipse.” It’s a testament to LOONA and their team that they can create a concept as complex as this while still producing great tracks. “Girl Front” is the most energetic of all their songs to date; their vocals bounce off one another with ease, a variety of synths and drums samples seem buoyed along with the girls. It’s the fizziest most exciting kind of pop there is.
“Ko Ko Bop” by Gummy (Performed on Sept. 23)
There are few things I love more about K-pop than covers that completely recreate the original song. While EXO’s “Ko Ko Bop” was a feel good summer song, Gummy swooped in and made the hit her own during a recent episode of Park Jinyoung’s Party People drenching the track with her effusive blend of sultry vocals. Paired with the accompanying live band, the soloist offered up a more mature, jazzier take on the track, an alternative to the boy band’s reggae-tinged track. If this is the sort of thing that Party People will be offering up each week, I am very much here for it!
“What’s Good?” by NIEL, JUSTHIS (Released Sep. 21)
Teen Top has always been one of those groups I casually like but never actually stanned. Most of their singles are bops, so when the members go solo, I most definitely keep an eye out for them. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Niel’s past solo, so I wasn’t expecting much this time around. And while “What’s Good?” is not particularly anything groundbreaking, it definitely shows a new side to the singer I’m here for. I especially liked that Niel’s channeling his inner Kikwang and going a more pop-R&B route, both musically and through the choreography. “What’s Good?” caught me by surprise because I had always seen Niel as a singer and not really a performer. But with this comeback, it’s clear that Niel means business and he’s gearing up to what may be Teen Top’s upcoming disbandment.
What was your favorite release of the week? 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.
As most of you will know by now, LOONA are one of the hottest up and coming properties in all of K-pop. Managed by Blockberry Creative, a subsidiary of Polaris Entertainment (Ladies’ Code’s company) their hook is that starting from October 2016 they have been debuting one girl per month with a plan to launch the full girl group when all 12 members have been revealed. It is a tease that is lasting over a year and will, according to the company, culminate at the beginning of 2018 when the group debuts. The financial and time commitment is impressive but naturally, it would be nothing without quality work behind it.
Of the girls who have debuted so far it’s easy to split them into two groups. The first five, Heejin, Hyunjin, Haseul, Yeojin, and Vivi represent an innocent image. The most recent trio of Kim Lip, Jinsoul, and Choerry have more mature images. From the outside they seem fairly interchangeable so what really makes this whole endeavour work is the music. The sounds of the individual girls each build a particular world for them and their respective groups. Each one tells a small part of a bigger story with a distinct personal touch so that when you listen to them as a whole these ideas come out naturally.
The first five girls of Blockberry Creative’s ambitious girl group LOONA represent not just the past but their potential. The quintet were painted with feminine images while their music was all imbued with classical touches. Each track is connected to the past in some way either through its style or the nature of its production, as they began to create a timeline for the story of LOONA.
On October 4th 2016, the music video for “Vivid” by Heejin was released. Before the music even starts there is the sound of a record spinning as she is immediately positioning herself in a previous time. What follows is a bold and brassy pop stomper. The music is grounded in physical instruments; the brass, piano and drums are pretty much all that’s there. Aside from a couple digital effects towards the end, they all sound live as well. This give the song a physicality that is the main factor in creating the sound for these girls. Heejin is painting the world she wants to see as a LOONA member, “Fill me with many colours, red, orange, yellow, green, something highlight.” She sets the stage when we didn’t even know there was one.
Hyunjin was decidedly more simple. Her song, “Around You,” is a cold piano-led ballad. She quietly coos about waiting for the boy she likes, hoping he will notice her but not expecting anything. There’s a sense of history to the way the piano reverberates, Hyunjin’s frail voice as well seems hurt. “I’m still not brave yet, So I’m leaving silently again,” she finishes the song with. Not only are the instruments acoustic but their sparseness creates a tone that is equally dense with feeling. There’s a sense of mystery that goes along with this history too that builds with each release. The mystery of these girls’ past but also of what LOONA as a whole will be.
This feeling doesn’t come from just the fact that the instruments are not electronic though. The styles LOONA used in the following releases were decidedly retro to counteract this. Chinese member Vivi’s “Everyday I Love You” is an adorable 90s throwback complete with a perfect overexposed video. The synths used are light, twinkly, and very in much in with the time of the setting in that they don’t actually do all the heavy lifting. They are accompanied by keyboards, brass, and a guitar, whose slide before the chorus is the clincher. It does extremely well to sidestep cringiness toward something that feels totally genuine and nostalgic. Vivi’s airy vocals sing “Like a fool, I’m thinking of you, And another day passes.” Vivi is trapped waiting for something. The nostalgia of her music is a barrier to her true feelings and prevents her from moving forward.
The first two sub-units of LOONA, Heejin and Hyunjin’s “I’ll Be There” and LOONA ⅓’s “Love and Live” use 80s sounds for their retro stylings. “Love and Live” has shimmering synths that combine so well with the orchestral work. The production is top class but that same classic feeling comes through. On “I’ll Be There” it’s the electronic drums. Their satisfying rolls and snaps recall the heyday of 80s electro. The lyrics for both are again about either waiting or missing a boy or wanting to prove they are good enough to be there for him. However hard they try, the girls can’t seem to get to a place of comfort with their emotions.
Youngest member, Yeojin, didn’t go with a particular time period for her sound but has a musical style familiar to anyone listening. “Kiss Later” begins with a soft, shimmering melody, Yeojin uses her tiny cutesy voice to great effect before crashing into a frenzy of strings, horns, and percussion. At only fourteen years old, Yeojin’s time waiting for love is somewhat similar to the other girls but different in intent. Being so young, her present is not like the other girls. They wait thinking of their past while she needs to wait on account of her past is not so distant. She asks the boy to wait instead. For LOONA she is the suggestion of a future that can move forward. While the other girls seem to be almost apathetic at this stage as they look towards the past, Yeojin is still excited about moving forward.
Her Broadway style song is particularly apt thanks not just to its classical nature but its timelessness. The music matches her excitement while its history is the natural fit for her current state. She is growing up and her story is an appealing enigma.
The final song of the first five girls does not bring the mystery to a close however. LOONA ⅓’s second single, “Sonatine,” is in fact titled “Unknown/Mysterious Secret” in Korean. They jettison standard pop rules in favour of an almost purely orchestral track. The string work is beautiful and helped by a Latin breakdown and small synth parts. The vocals of Heejin and Haseul are strong while Hyunjin and Vivi provide a necessary layer of vulnerability. The girls yearn for a future despite its path being unknown, yet their songs remain stuck in a sonic past they are comfortable with. It’s not a contradiction so much as they are waiting for someone, or something, to come find them, finally seeing that “A new world will be opened to us.”
Before this dramatic ending, however, someone already put out an orchestral song and did it without any electronic interference. Haseul, the proto-leader of LOONA, was the third girl with her song “Let me in.” Haseul’s beautifully restrained voice plays alongside piccolo tweets and delicate pulls of a harp. She sings about feeling like she is literally becoming the boy she loves, she is hesitant but eventually concedes to the relentless pull of the rising moon. The music provides the sense of history for her story and connects Haseul not just to her past but to nature as well. “Will I be you? Will you be me?” she asks, confused about this sudden love and change of her identity. As the girls wait impatiently, Haseul is already deep in love, to the point of losing sight of herself. She represents a possible future for each of them. A chance for them to become one with their love, a chance for all these disparate girls to come together.
When going for such a grand scheme as LOONA are, their approach was the perfect one. Building a believable fictional world requires a lot of time and effort put into details that are not always obvious. If they had gone with the same concept without this sort of music it still would have been an incredibly interesting project. What Polaris have done is create something you could almost touch, a world which these girls truly inhabit. This is all thanks to the physicality of the music. Put them in a playlist in order and listen with a good pair of headphone. The minutiae of songs like “Let me in” become even better and songs like “Everyday I Love You” which was one I ignored for a bit are given new life.
At this stage though, we only knew five girls (that has since changed). As stated in “Sonatine,” the future was still a mystery and few clues were left to what it was. The song itself does provide one final important clue though. As the strings swell to a close, the tiny synth details become a bit clearer. The final few sounds we hear are undecipherable but undoubtedly electronic. As it fades slowly out, the future (or present) of LOONA is quietly suggested.
What’s your favourite LOONA song so far? Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Untitled-design2.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2017-09-02 08:55:202017-09-02 08:55:20The story of LOONA: The first five girls
In celebration of our third anniversary earlier this year, KultScene has started a collaboration with K-Pop Unmuted, a podcast dedicated to delving deep into K-pop.
On Episode 21 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, and Tamar Herman discuss the most interesting K-pop releases from July 2017, including BTS’s Seo Taiji remake “Come Back Home,” Loona’s “Love Cherry Motion,” Dreamcatcher’s “Fly High,” Akdong Musician’s “Dinosaur,” Snuper’s “The Star of Stars,” and Red Velvet’s “Zoo.”
Let us know what you think of K-pop in July 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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Blockberry Creative’s up & coming girl group LOONA, who have garnered a lot of attention for their “Girl of the Month” concept, released another music video on March 13. This music video gives fans their first look at the newest girl of the month Vivi, completing their first sub-group LOONA ⅓. Everything about this group thus far has been unique and their newest release has been no different.
While “Love & Live” definitely has that bubblegum pop feel that you see in many young and freshly debuted girl groups, it’s not as catchy as it could’ve been. This is a song that will take a couple of listens before anyone is really able to sing along to it, as opposed to some of their previous releases, like Yeojin’s “Kiss Later” and Heejin’s “Vivid.” The vocals were also not quite as strong in this single, but the girls still showed off their vocal chops. As usual, Heejin shined in this song and, unfortunately, it felt like some of the other girls were pushed to the background vocally because of it.
As has become expected from LOONA, the music video for “Love & Live” was wonderfully unique and interesting. It tells a story of isolated robot girl Vivi who longs to be like her human friends, emulating them in every way, from the sports they play to the juice they drink. Most of the group’s pre-debut music videos tell a story focusing on each member that is open to the interpretation of the viewers. It’s interesting that they chose the newest member Vivi, to play the robot girl stuck on the outside of the human world, as it reflects the newest member’s need to try and find a place in an already solidified – but still growing – group of girls. What I appreciate most about LOONA’s music videos is that they tackled concepts that most newly debuted groups would shy away from. The only criticism there is about the video is that it seemed less vibrant than their previous videos, and the coloring felt dull compared to the perkiness of the song.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this was one of LOONA’s strongest releases but their talent and individuality is still very clear. LOONA represent young girl groups well, managing to not be overly cutesy while still acting their age. I’ve loved their concept of unveiling a new member every month since they’ve debuted (or pre-debuted!) and I can’t wait to see what else will come from them in the future!
Do you like LOONA so far? What do you think of “Love & Live”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Screen-Shot-2017-03-28-at-8.27.59-AM.png?fit=1146%2C6206201146Veronica Traggiaihttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngVeronica Traggiai2017-03-28 16:55:222017-03-28 17:00:26LOONA 1/3’s “Love & Live” Music Video & Song Review
Every Sunday, KultScene writers highlight some of their favorite new releases. This week, we enjoyed new music from Loona and Highlight, the revamped BEAST.
“Love & Live” by LOONA (Released Mar. 13)
I could write about a LOONA track every week if there was enough songs. March is so far the first month where a new girl has not been revealed, despite the teasers for them. It’s a little worrying given that it’s probably easy to mess up such a grand scheme as theirs. March is not over yet though so there is still hope and they were clever enough not to leave us with nothing. “Love & Live” brings together the four girls we’ve seen before, Heejin, Hyunjin, Haseul, and Yeojin for a sweet little Monotree ditty. Monotree are just so good at lifting up typically cute tracks into something a bit more substantial. The orchestral details of the verses are gorgeous and allow the synths in the chorus to pop that bit more. “Love & Live” also shows a previously hidden strength to LOONA’s marketing method: since each of the girls has had her own solo track, each of their voices are clearly distinguishable. Learning the members of a new group is always a part of getting into one but LOONA skips right past that, adding a texture to their rookie music that no others have.
”It’s Still Beautiful” by Highlight (released March. 13)
There is so much about Highlight’s first pre-release single that I could praise, but mostly it’s the optimistic message. Before releasing the fun upbeat “Plz Don’t Be Sad,” Highlight, aka the artist formerly known as BEAST, released “It’s Still Beautiful.” Ostensibly a simple ballad that shows off the band’s vocal prowess, the love song is all about remembering how wonderful a relationship was even after breaking up. As someone who was absolutely heartbroken to hear that Beast had to give up their name and begin again essentially as rookies–they reportedly are unable to perform any of their previous hits– the positive approach to looking at something that could just make you want to sit around and mope seemed like a well-intentioned message directed at Highlight’s fans, and it’s one that I appreciate greatly.
What was your favorite song of the week? Share your picks thoughts in the comment section below. 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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