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K-Pop Unmuted: 2018 Awards – Part 2

On Episode 39 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 second round of the 2018 K-Pop Unmuted Awards.

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

Let us know what you think of 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.

The story of LOONA: yyxy


How do you close out a pre-debut project like LOONA’s? How do you bring the many ideas and sounds contained within the previous 8 solos and 4 sub-unit singles to an outcome? But Yves, Chuu, Go Won, and Olivia Hye were given this herculean task, and came together as Youth Youth by Young, aka LOONA yyxy to be the conclusion of the sweeping story the LOONAverse had been introducing for over two years.

The story of LOONA took a dramatic shift before yyxy. Odd Eye Circle injected a positive, forthright energy to the universe as a direct contrast to what came before them with LOONA 1/3 and yet, it still felt incomplete. Between the two of them they barely scratched the surface of complexity within the idea of girlhood. One could be passive or active, with little in between. To deal with this yyxy took a major lyrical shift and forgoed a more distinct musical identity for their era. In its place the videos took on the brunt of the storytelling while the lyrics focused on one thing. Each of the girls sang not about boys or a general idea of love but of self love. Differing perspectives of self-love combined to give us a more complete idea of what LOONA’s story was.


Also on KultScene: K-POP UNMUTED: 2018 AWARDS – PART 1

Yves fell from Eden and crashed into our hearts when she began the final saga with the deeply satisfying “new.” It turns the bounding confidence of Odd Eye Circle into something quietly simple. The heavy 80s synths feel immediately powerful. Where OEC were manic and excited, Yves doesn’t waiver, preferring a steadiness of strength felt from within.

This experience and strength of Yves’ voice proves to be crucial. Aided by just a bassy synth and fingersnaps, she convincingly delivers such grandiose lines as, “Willing to get closer to the sun / Flapping of the burnt wings.” “new” is a song about finding oneself through a variety of life experiences. She beings with love of a person, “My heart that wants to be like you / Gets coloured, filled with you,” but moves on quickly. She goes no further in mentioning this person to the point that it sounds more like admiration than love. This is where she deviates from her predecessors. This desire to be like someone else led Yves to consider her “miserable appearance.” In looking at herself in preparation, she took the time to see a new side of who she is. In dropping the pursuit of another and considering a mirror, she sees “the beam inside of my heart.”

Yves understands that the conclusion LOONA seek isn’t in being loved or loving someone but in how you come to make those decisions. It’s the in-between point of figuring yourself out and knowing what’s best for you.

Yves grabbed the LOONAverse by the throat and told it to calm down. All of the yyxy girls’ songs were a response to this and none of them took it to heart quite like Chuu. “Heart Attack,” her solo song, is what happens when LOONA ⅓ are graced with the influence of Yves. Big brass wills Chuu down a difficult path of big vocals and emotions. Her heart is unstoppable, at a level of obsession not seen before in the LOONAverse. “Heart Attack’s” music however, does feel familiar at times so it is up to Chuu to elevate it. None of the other girls matched her on record for pure personality, “This must be what thrill feels like, darling” she bellows in the chorus. Her voice shifting tone depending on just how happy she is.

Her unabashed sentimentality is no surprise given Yves’ influence. It is, at the same time, naive. Yves’ message has been missed by Chuu. She changes her whole life to suit this person, “All of my standards are set to you / Like the moon spinning around the earth.” She’s shoved along by growing layered background vocals and stronger synths to a point of apparent euphoria. Chuu gives everything to her vocal tone, a parallel to how she’ll give everything to the other she sings of. “I’ll give you all my heart /Take my heart,” she pleads. Her feelings are in whiplash. Taking confidence from Yves, Chuu goes too far in changing her “quiet heart.” It’s the response of someone who was waiting for confidence for too long and couldn’t handle it. Chuu never really had a quiet heart, just never had the support to know this.

Someone who really does have a quiet heart is Go Won. On first meeting, the third yyxy girl is slight and mysterious. Her voice is simple, barely going above a talk-sing type for the majority of her solo song “One & Only.” The straightforward synth of the track does well to back her up. It does not undermine her at any stage. It has bright piano chords to prop her up in the chorus and shimmering synths to match her as she highers her pitch rising to the chorus. Her voice is warm and unique but also innately familiar as if everything she sings we all know deep down.

Right from the beginning, Go Won understands the importance of self-love. “When that shadow takes a step towards me / Even the darkness feels bright,” she sees light in everything because she pours light onto everything. She doesn’t need no garden of Eden.

Olivia Hye, yyxy’s final girl, is someone who sees almost no light. She took Yves’ message as a betrayal. Her song “Egoist” is not a celebration of self-love but a lament for the heartache of how she reached it. Olivia still held onto the idea that true fulfilment came only through love of another. She was not prepared to lose them or to hear that her ideals had been wrong this entire time. “I wanted to despise you /But my heart wouldn’t let you go,” she ekes out at the beginning. Her voice, a strained apathy, fits these words perfectly.

The track’s opening piano chord starts a fraction of the way through like we have barged in on her revelation. The piano drops when her sadness turns to anger, though. Her rage slowly distorts the song into a whirling industrial clash of defiant synths and destructive percussion. The melodic whistle from the chorus is coerced into a desperate scream. The song’s expressiveness mocks the cold flatness of Olivia’s voice. To make matters worse Jinsoul follows this. Her self-referential rap is full of temptations about being in an “endless cycle” together. She is a voice that Olivia does not need right now, and it shows. As the song progresses it has nothing to else to offer. Olivia’s voice, still inert, doesn’t convince us of the words she’s singing. She still sings of fate, a fate she fears was taken from her prematurely. Her anger is still focused on the person leaving, rather than her own inadequacies.


Also on KultScene: THE 12 LOONA SOLO SINGLES RANKED

The conflict inherent in Olivia Hye and her song seemed to be a great jumping off point for LOONA yyxy to come together as a unit. Instead they did something strange: “love4eva” is a song made to situate LOONA within the larger world of K-pop. Almost every major detail links them to two other era-defining girl groups of their time, Girls’ Generation and I.O.I.

Starting with producer E-Tribe, even the announcement of their involvement was treated as a big coup. E-Tribe are known for a number of iconic hits like Hyori’s “U-Go-Girl” and Super Junior’s “It’s You,” but none quite as legendary as Girls’ Generation’s “Gee.” Their involvement was a statement but how they used the feature from Canadian artist Grimes locked in the comparison. Much to everyone’s surprise, her only involvement was in the song’s intro. Her English language declaration of LOONA’s finally being together is a riff on not just Tiffany and Jessica’s intro for “Gee” but the many times K-pop has done this the years over. The lyrics as well are a such a generic take on first love that it could be parody. The wonderfully ridiculous line about kidneys comes close to convincing me of that.

Even before Grimes’ part, it’s easy to spot the I.O.I connection as well. The precise, rolling synths immediately recall that group’s best track “Very Very Very.” “love4eva” strives for the breathless energy of that song but can’t quite go past imitation. Right at the end, yyxy go on to refer to the choreography of “Very Very Very” too, as in their ending pose they continue moving along with a heart gesture. It’s smaller than the other references but in ending the track it leaves the imprint of all of those other ideas in our mind.

This all combines to position LOONA as a group following these two. It would be hard to argue that anyone other than Girls’ Generation is the the most definitive K-pop girl group, and I.O.I were the first group since them to change how the industry worked by making competition shows the new most lucrative debut plan. LOONA have decided that they are next, stating that their form of marketing is what future girl groups will be copying.

This, unfortunately, is the final legacy of yyxy. They jumped the gun on the anticipation of their debut by dropping a genuinely interesting thematic exploration in favour of something more palatable for a larger audience. Regardless of quality, “love4eva” and LOONA’s debut single, “Hi High,” are a digression from what made LOONA interesting in the first place, their focus on the girls themselves. It was the distinction between the solo songs and the diversity of sounds and ideas that were used to build characters that made LOONA connect with so many. That yyxy could have four separate songs about self-love, all with different perspectives was frankly beautiful. They worked to define the impossibility of identity, and it sadly remained impossible to carry through to the finale.

What do you think of the LOONA yyxy era? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2018

One of the most important aspects of any K-pop single is its accompanying music video, and though 2018 is over, it’ll be a while before we’re over the MVs released by Korean artists throughout the twelve month period. Taking a look back, the KultScene team took a look at what exactly makes one music video better than another, and several writers shared their perspective on why one K-pop MV or another from last year is superior and memorable in its own way.

“IDOL” by BTS

Doesn’t matter if you look into BTS’ music, videos, performances, fan-dedicated released content or even the fandom-driven activities on or offline. Whatever it is, there is always so much going on that you might either get confused or fascinated, but never bored. The music video for “IDOL” is no different. Filled with dozens of references (some that only fans will get, some that only Koreans or Korean culture aficionados will get), the music video plays with a lot of stereotypes that are often attached to BTS, to K-pop “idols” and just generally for being Asian men. Displaying a powerful choreography and a deliberate overwhelming aesthetic, the boys show that they don’t have a problem with whatever is it that you think they are (“idols” or “artists”). Because, at the end of the day, they are confident enough in their skins to be anything —or everything at once— while still being, above all things, themselves.

—Ana Clara

“Lullaby” by GOT7

“Lullaby” was not only a blessing to the ears but visually just as impactful. Aesthetics, aesthetics, on top of freaking aesthetics. There was never a dull moment visually or sonically throughout the three minutes and forty-two seconds of the music video. With the exception of the first three seconds, the video was never without vibrant colors, compelling backdrops or snazzy outfits. Colors aside, GOT7 kept the viewers anticipating what was to happen next with each scene, especially since each member had separate sets and themes. And although there were many individual scenes, the members always brought it back together with a unified group choreo and some fancy footwork. But speaking of footwork, the highlight of the music video definitely goes to go to Mr. Dance Machine Kim Yugyeom, as the astounding dance break and sharp moves of his solo stole the show. Even if you didn’t like the music video as a collective whole (don’t lie to yourself, you liked it), there were more than enough things about it individually that should’ve pulled you in.

—Tam

”Apple Box” by nafla

On paper, nafla’s “Apple Box” reads like an organized crime agenda (“put the money in an apple box,” possibly referring to a common way of accepting business bribes), but in action it reveals to be much more comedic. Under the creative direction of Digipedi, the music video portrays gang activities rather facetiously — a brutal beating in one scene is mitigated through deliberately cheesy special effects and nonsensically looped clips. In another, gambling is done with apples instead of currency. Ultimately, these all act as red herrings for, as the least suspecting character (a hostess perhaps?) makes off with a chest of golden apples, we are forced to contemplate the ignorance of these traditionally male organizations. Because of its quirky approach to one of film’s most enduring genre’s, “Apple Box” may be nafla’s best work to date.

—Shelley

“Singularity” by BTS’ V

Captivating in its theatricality, the music video, or comeback trailer as it was dubbed, for V‘s “Singularity” ahead of the release of Love Yourself: Tear is an exhibit of the sort of artistry that BTS has thrived on over the years. With a luxurious blue-red-purple color palette recalling that of the group’s 2016’s “Blood Sweat & Tears,” this new music video stunningly represents the struggles with one’s self and the various masks that we wear. With watery allusions to the Greek myth of Narcissus littered throughout, the vivid cinematography enhances the impactful song as V explores the lush neo soul sound. And if that weren’t enough, the music video for the song graced us with one of the year’s most inspired choreographies, giving new meaning to the idea of dancing with oneself.

—Tamar

“1, 2, 3!” by Seungri

Big Bang’s Seungri breathes life into “1, 2, 3!,” his first solo comeback in five years, with a ’50s-inspired video set in the singing and dancing world similar to that of Grease. Like the musical, the music gives insight into his character, our hotshot hero who only loses his cool once he is bewitched by the heroine, played by a stunningly gorgeous Anda. As he grabs her hand and pulls her into a swing, he sings: “When I count to three, you’ll fall for me.” An ensemble dance cast, all outfitted in mid-century modern pomps, tea-length dresses, and oxfords faithful to the era, further integrates song and video by filling out the percussive claps and the hook’s polyphonic three counts. After taking us from one period set to the next, it all comes together celebratorily at the end with a nod to the iconic dance scene from Pulp Fiction between our leads and in a single freeze frame moment, we know he was right. It’s this kind of happily ever after that can make society nostalgic for a past it never knew. Between this and the one-take style reminiscent of Broadway productions, “1, 2, 3!” just feels like an immersive experience that is more motion picture than music video.

—Shelley

“One and Only” by Go Won

Of all the videos for LOONA’s pre-debut project, none feel as suited to and in need of its trappings quite like Go Won’s. As the second to last girl of the month, Go Won’s “One and Only” came late into the game. And it would almost seem that she would have too many obligations to the lore to have any sort of personal identity. Instead, along with LOONA regulars Digipedi, she finds herself within it all. Unlike her lyrics, which are confident from the start, the video shows this self-discovery in action. She begins covered in shadows, trying to embrace whatever light she can, but is still afraid of the temptations of Choerry’s apple, or the chase of Yves and Chuu. It’s in the act of watching herself where it comes out. Looking and singing into a mirror, watching her shadow dance to her own song, or imagining herself a princess with a crown on her head. The 1:1 aspect ratio helps her, making each image have an obvious and single point of focus. One image, one thought. Despite this, allusions to David Lowery’s A Ghost Story from 2017, reminds of the dangers of the never ending cycles of LOONA’s own universe as well as that of our own. Go Won finds a way out of her draping, suffocating sheet but how long is it before her time comes back around and she has to do it all over again?

—Joe

“Dally (feat. Gray)” by Hyolyn

Hyolyn is a hip-hop diva in full control of her life, her body – and of your attention! – in “Dally,” the second music video released under her own label, BRID3 Entertainment. The artistic concept of the video is pretty simple – but seriously, do we need anything else when we have a team of such skilful dancers, led by a magnetic performer like Hyolyn, executing one of the most difficult choreographies seen throughout the year? In “Dally,” it’s hardly possible to take your eyes off of Hyolyn, or to doubt that she has everything it takes to keep wowing us with her self-managed works from now on.

—Ana Clara

“Now or Never” by SF9

As time passes, SF9’s concepts continue to get more charismatic and sexier *phew, wipes sweat.* And it is totally working on their behalf. The group’s previous tracks and music videos had flavor to them but “Now or Never” really took it up a few big notches. The song and styling were both executed to perfection as the concept had just the right doses of cool, seduction, and dreaminess. The choreography was simple but alluring, and it played well with the bass. And how about that Michael Jackson homage? Classy. The cinematography was exquisite; the colors and abstract backgrounds made this music video fitting to be played at a museum. The track itself is solid but the visualization and styling gets an A+.

—Tam

“What Is Love?” by TWICE

Sometimes it pays not to take yourself too seriously, and when ruminating on the immensely philosophical question of “What Is Love?,” TWICE served us up with one of this year’s most fun music videos. Throughout it, the nine women parodied the likes of La La Land, The Princess Diaries, Romeo & Juliet, and a wide range of movies from across the globe while trying to depict what the idea of love look likes. They then paired casual scenes of the nonet chilling at a slumber party while watching the films with elegant scenes where they perform the questioning choreography, serving up one of the most fun visual experiences of 2018. Since their start TWICE has always exuded a sense of infectious vibrancy in their music videos and “What Is Love?” overflowed with that to the nth degree.

—Tamar

“Moonlight” by Neon Punch

Neon Punch’s “Moonlight” is how you make an effective K-pop music video on a smaller budget. It’s a classic example of the genre with no real story, just the members dancing, singing, and looking pretty in random locations. Its first minute is so brilliantly made though that all those tropes feel fresh. Song and video seem to become one, as they bounce off each other, reacting to each turn. Extremely simple but great visual effects are used to make this melding feel real, as the music bends the visuals while it builds and releases. This also makes the editing feel musical all by its own which gives the video great impetus to keep moving. As the effects start to dwindle the editing keeps the same sense of pace and wonder that they had built up. The funkiest bass line of the year feels at home among these vibrant visuals.

—Joe

”Instagram” by DEAN

Sitting alone in a warehouse full of random objects, DEAN strums a skateboard as if it were a guitar. He sports a short mullet under his cap, along with generously slitted eyebrows, a (potentially appropriative) grill, a bandage under his right eye, and black overalls that cover part of his sweatshirt. Like the feed he scrolls through, he is a mess of different aesthetics and styles. “Instagram” the song is about endlessly scrolling through the app in moments of sleeplessness, reflecting our loneliness and insecurity back to us as we see others enjoying themselves on our screens, and the song emulates that.

From the warehouse room’s walls leak black paint, becoming screens that play a stream of videos and images characteristic of a social media feed. As the images spread further across the room, the video abruptly goes black. “Sometimes I feel alone, even when I’m with a lot of people,” a strange voice says in the dark. The video cuts back to the warehouse, and DEAN begins laughing hysterically, overtaken with the misery of his sleepless Instagram scrolling.

The video is simultaneously simple and complex, capturing a very unique relationship between phone and human, account and user. Using social media is repetitive and endless, an unhealthy distraction we know all too well. In bringing the feed to life in all its chaos and stress, the video highlights the emotional and psychological toll we endure in using social media every single day.

—Kushal

“Playlist” by DPR Live

“Playlist” is a colorful adventure following DPR Live as he vies for the attention of a mysterious woman. The song incorporates tribal and bossa nova beats as Live maintains his signature rhythm and swagger. While the song is a new turn for DPR Live, the music video expands the Latin trend in Korean music by including some aspects of African influence in Latin American culture through instruments and religion. From the beginning we are met with vibrant colors, gravity defying visuals and psychedelic art transitions set in a replica of a Peruvian neighborhood. Stand out moments include the shaman’s rain dance and spinning neon umbrellas during the instrumental breakdown of the song, as “Playlist” offers a glimpse of the creativity DPR Live has in store for the future.

—Nnehkai

“Kiss Me Like That” by Shinhwa

Simplicity is key and Shinhwa had that and then some in the “Kiss Me Like That” music video. The styling was sharp and neat; the linen button ups and suspenders? Crisp. Those blue silk suits? Elegant. “Kiss Me Like That” doesn’t have a pivotal climax but that worked out perfectly because it really didn’t need one. The music video gives a sense of relaxation. It doesn’t make you think or analyze. You just gotta kick back, grab a mojito, and enjoy the guitar strings. The video wasn’t over the top, just very clean, straight forward, occasionally flirty and wholeheartedly fun to watch. Shinhwa’s just really out here living their best life on that ship though. Next course of action, petition to have Shinhwa do a yearly cruise with fans (like New Kids on the Block)!

—Tam

“Egotistic” by Mamamoo

Kicking off with a guitar riff, tropical plants, and neon buildings that add an Old Havana-like vibe to the video, Mamamoo is bold in aesthetics throughout “Egotistic” as they issue a warning of a lover scorned. How can anyone forget the intensity Hwasa’s stare-off with a jaguar?
The Flamenco inspiration is apparent in the core of the beat of the song, the choreography, and the flowy dresses the ladies wear in the video. Their take on Latin-inspired tracks plays up the girl crush concept Mamamoo has become known for with fiery makeup, confident attitudes, and sexy dance moves. They also included the ultimate girl crush move: dancing in a ring of fire in front of buildings while executing a choreography filled with hair flips and and seductive shimmys. Overall, “Egotistic” captures a small portion of Latin America’s musical richness and is welcomed contrast to the highly mainstream trap beats that accompany the usual Latin trends in K-pop.

—Nnehkai

”Something New” by Taeyeon

Inspiring fan speculation and theories since it was released in June, Taeyeon’s “Something New” music video is, like the artist it belongs to, uniquely enigmatic and hard to place. Beginning on the red carpet at a ritzy celebrity event, the video quickly transitions to a hotel, where Taeyeon instigates a fight by suddenly throwing a hammer at a suited man during an elevator ride. The fighting then continues with her hotel room’s maid-turned-murderer, who leaps at the singer with a knife during a room service delivery.

It’s around this point when “Something New” begins to feel more like an action-packed spy blockbuster than a music video for an SM Entertainment artist. The scenes are fast-paced and cinematically captured, and they move artfully with the pace of the song. Most interestingly, Taeyeon takes the fights in stride, seemingly unfazed by them after they happen.

The end of the video, in which Taeyeon shoots suitcases of cash over a cliff facing the sea, is probably the subject of the most interpretation and discussion. Worth noting to most theorists is that Taeyeon has never been shy when discussing the hardships of celebrity life. Is the cash a representation of the net worth she’s built over the years? Are the fight scenes emblematic of encounters with online and offline haters? While it seems that “Something New” is an in-depth commentary on the difficult life of a celebrity, the beauty of the music video lies in the fact that it is truly up to interpretation. For dropping one of the most cinematic and mysterious MVs of the year, Taeyeon gets a nod from me.

—Kushal

What were your favorite K-pop MVs of 2018? Let us know your picks in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

K-Pop Unmuted: LOONA Debut

On Episode 34 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, M.O. Kng joins Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, and Tamar Herman to discuss LOOΠΔ’s debut with [+ +] and the single “ Hi High.” We also talk about BTS’ “I’m Fine,” BerryGood’s “Green Apple” single and “Free Travel” album, and (G)I-DLE’s “Hann.”

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

Let us know what you think of LOONA’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.

K-Pop Unmuted: Stan LOONA

On Episode 33 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Joe Palmer takes Tamar Herman and Stephen Knight on a walking tour of the Loonaverse. In anticipation of LOOΠΔ (LOONA)’s official debut, we discuss the individual members, the roles of each major sub-unit in the Loonaverse, some of the group’s more interesting releases, and other LOOΠΔ lore. We also talk about Lovelyz’s “Wag-zak,” Minseo’s “Zero,” and Triple H’s “Retro Future.”

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

Let us know what you think of LOOΠΔ’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.

The 12 LOONA Solo Singles Ranked


Finally after a year and five months, the very last LOONA girl, Olivia Hye, was revealed. It’s a testament to the time and effort put into the project that so many people were eagerly anticipating this moment and the moments still to come. LOONA has given us probably the most interesting debut roll out in K-pop (all music?) history, considering that twelve girls were rolled out over that year and a half through twelve solo singles, 4 sub-unit singles (with more to come), and countless fan theories about what it all meant. To look back on this all before the last unit finish out the debut project we ranked the twelve solo singles.

12. “Around You” by Hyunjin

Hyunjin has the undesirable position of starting us off with her solo track “Around You.” Produced by Lee Juhyung of Monotree, “Around You” is by no means a bad song. Its reverberating piano refrain is in fact a gorgeously simple riff to build a song around. It is helped along the way by some more crisp stabs of the keys and glances of guitar details. Structurally the track falters though. By moving towards a more conventional chorus and adding more parts “Around You” loses the fragility of its opening. That frailty worked wonders with Hyunjin’s equally weak voice as she sang of her foolish patience, and if it had remained small and instead gone for a big change at the climax it could have held onto that power longer. This begs the question though, could Hyunjin have even been able to pull that off? I guess we’ll find out with LOONA’s debut.

 

11. “Love Cherry Motion” by Choerry

Choerry is the member of LOONA who exists on all sides of the Mobius. To the uninitiated that just means she can interact with any of the other members right now. She’s also one of the most energetic of them all and musically both of these traits are very clear in “Love Cherry Motion.” Her bubbliness comes through right from the beginning and makes the song as fresh as it should sound for the summer. Its pre-chorus delves into deep bass EDM territory and finally culminates with Middle-Eastern style synths to change things around. Switching genres on a whim is an overdone staple in K-pop at this stage and “Love Cherry Motion” feels like LOONA was pandering to that. Without her story, the song would be just another version of that. Producers Ollipop, Hayley Aitken, and Kanata Okajima do handle it well though. They let the darker sound take over for the bridge before transitioning back into the softer side with an ease they seemingly wanted to avoid at first. They tell the story of Choerry’s flexibility in the story of LOONA but also how it feels for a young girl to fall in love.

10. “One and Only” by Go Won

The last few girls of the LOONA project were unlucky in that they had to live up to increasingly high expectations. It’s a somewhat unfair prospect given that the solo songs as a whole are meant more as calling cards for the particular members rather than singles built to chart. Go Won’s “One and Only” is, like her, slight and mysterious. Produced by Darren “Baby Dee Beats” Smith, “One and Only” is shimmering but simple synth pop. Go Won delivers an equally simple vocal in variety of ways amid the synths and processed drums. She half-chants half-raps her wonderful feelings of self-love brought on by the moonlight, raising her pitch with each line, mimicking the ascending synth; Go Won’s self-love is simple but comes from hard, repetitious work. But, apart from the bridge, “One and Only” undergoes essentially zero structural changes. It is straightforward to a fault, the song doesn’t really have to go anywhere, but that’s because Go Won doesn’t either. She is happy being her one and only.

 

9. “Eclipse” by Kim Lip

Kim Lip changed it all. From the opening chords of “Eclipse” and Lip’s more mature voice, it was clear LOONA were starting off on a new path. “Eclipse” grows with impassioned ease, building an eclectic bed of sounds through which Lip can sing between. Even from just the music video she was by far the most natural performer, blatantly a girl the group could be built around. Produced by Daniel “Obi” Klein and Charli Taft, “Eclipse” was a new style for LOONA with a silky variety of synths. The bridge is a moment to savour, fingersnaps and gorgeous vocals slowing things down to reveal the depth of what Kim Lip can do. Over time however, “Eclipse” grew somewhat tired. It feels too busy in comparison to LOONA’s more simple moments and not busy enough compared to what the ODD EYE CIRCLE girls would do after her. Its impact came from its surprise factor but couldn’t hold attention much longer after that.

8. “Egoist” by Olivia Hye feat. Jinsoul

Closing out the solo cycle of LOONA was Olivia Hye and her song “Egoist.” Olivia enlisted Jinsoul to feature as well as taking on her future bass sound. “Egoist” is a less volatile and unfortunately less interesting take on what Jinsoul previously displayed, though. The production, by Artronic Waves, LAB301, and Pablo Groove, is filled with great and varying details, from the repurposed whistles to the always growing percussions. Olivia can’t quite match the song for personality though. She is at first cold, and from among bassy moody synths and piano she sings of a broken relationship. She’s hiding her feelings, and in their place she only shows pain. As the song moves forwards, stronger more expressive synths take over from the piano. They lift Olivia not to express her emotions but forget them. She learns to love herself but unconvincingly so, leaving the song a bit lacking.


Also on KultScene: WJSN’S “DREAMS COME TRUE” MUSIC VIDEO & SONG REVIEW

7. “Everyday I Love You” by Vivi feat. Haseul

LOONA’s sole Chinese member Vivi faced a similar challenge as Hyunjin, failing to make her song strong enough to stand alone despite her weak voice. For this, the LOONA team went for a throwback vibe. On “Everyday I Love You” Vivi reveals her feelings through hushed, breathy vocals over some quintessential 90s beats, while synths shimmer as a guitar nervously plucks out an accompaniment. Everything comes together for an exciting chorus. In the absolute highlight of the track, the aforementioned guitar slides to introduce the chorus, it’s a cliched technique at this stage but that is precisely why it works so well. Horns join as Vivi pushes her small voice to high pitched delights. It’s one of the most simple but fun moments in all of LOONA’s discography.

 

6. “Vivid” by Heejin

LOONA began as they meant to go on, with Heejin and Monotree releasing “Vivid.” As an opener it is odd but no less polished than everything that followed it. “Vivid” is a brash confident offering from Heejin. Her voice goes up and down with ease, as she inflects her words with a cheeky rasp over filtered brass and piano. Her ease as a vocalist and acting in the video were a clear warning that these girls were here for serious business. At first watch I thought she was a new soloist, completely ready to take on the likes of Lim Kim with a more youthful quirky take. But even knowing that she is only one small part of an unknown whole doesn’t change how good this was though.

5. “Heart Attack” by Chuu

Vocally none of the girls quite matched Chuu in terms of personality on their solo tracks. She teases us at first, leaving small breaths between each line as she gradually rises to the chorus. As soon as she reaches it though, she drops the intensity only to rise it towards the end once again. From there she doesn’t have a chance to breathe, showing some of the biggest vocals LOONA has seen, with raps and adorable little “ooh oohs” for added color.” Ollipop and Hayley Aitken return to the LOONAverse to once again bridge gaps between the girls. Here they bring back the orchestral elements of LOONA ⅓ but don’t shy away from more modern beats and details. They weave a variety of horns, pianos, and synths around Chuu’s voice, constantly challenging her to one up herself. She matches them step for step and they come together brilliantly on the climax, letting go of any restraints that might have been holding them back.

 

4. “New” by Yves

Yves bit the apple and led LOONA out of Eden with her solo track, “New.” Similar to Kim Lip she opened her era with supreme confidence, showcasing strong vocals and dancing as she easily performs to the retro stylings of Brooke Toia, Daniel Caeser, and Ludwing Lindell; it’s 80s synth pop through a modern lens. The production is deceptively simple, with just synths, a beat, and Yves’ voice. In the first verse, the beat doesn’t fully reveal itself at first, starting with just finger snaps and a bass drum but in the second one, an ascending high hat is added, slowly rising to the chorus. Those same few elements are used in the chorus and to great dramatic effect: the synths are heavy and satisfying, and Yves’ vocals airy but totally under her control. This magnificent drama tells a story of self-confidence, a tale that Yves acts out with such sincerity.


Also on KultScene: K-POP UNMUTED: JAZZ & K-POP

3. “Singing in the Rain” by Jinsoul

Behind the languid chorus of “Singing in the Rain” lies LOONA’s most complex song to date. Jinsoul’s luscious future-bass track (produced by Caesar & Loui) juggles a number of sections, all of which come together in the end to crushing effect. It opens with the most exciting and varied drum beat I’ve heard in years, and slowly rises and falls. The complexity is helped by her vocal range, as she was the first one to rap and sing in her song giving “Singing In The Rain” an edge when it comes to the second verse. A different pre-chorus is also added for the second chorus, lending the song a surprising, driving intent. It’s essentially a series of overlapping and intersecting circles, growing in intensity with every new one added. The track culminates with the genuine Hollywood euphoria Jinsoul had been looking for. “I used to be untouchable and dangerous” she sings, suggesting a wicked unpredictability to her.

2. “Kiss Later” by Yeojin

No track was helped more by Monotree and LOONA’s dedication to using real instruments and orchestras than “Kiss Later”. Yeojin’s solo is a Broadway musical-inspired pop explosion that really fits the young girl’s voice. It starts off with a soft, shimmering melody, and Yeojin uses her tinny vocals to great effect before the song crashes into a frenzy of strings, horns, and percussion. It’s such a satisfying pay-off, and lends the rest of the song an unwavering kinetic energy. The music blends masterfully with Yeojin’s voice as she likes to talk-sing at times, even as she playfully follows the pointed details of the track with great strong syllables. As the youngest member of LOONA, her anxieties are rendered almost like a game. She understands that there are adult concepts at play and can avoid them, but doesn’t, and still has the most fun out of anyone. There hasn’t been a song in the last few years that quite matches “Kiss Later” for fun on every level.

 

1. “Let Me In” by Haseul

Ending LOONA’s first year was Haseul, with her soft voice whispering confusion of her identity on “Let Me In.” The song is the key to understanding the first five girls of LOONA, a track that rejects common pop rules in favour of building a unique world. Written and Produced by 오레오 [Oreo] and arranged by 웅 킴 [Oong Kim] “Let me in” is a purely orchestral song with no regular beat or modern instruments. Among this Haseul restrains herself at first. Her voice, pitched beautifully high, tells of a love so strong she feels like she is becoming one with her lover. These joyous feelings are highlighted by stunning musical details, including the tweets of a piccolo, delicate pulls of a harp, and, most of all, the strings that constantly change. It builds a sense of history made believable thanks to Haseul tiptoeing right up to her range; her voice is strong but vulnerable. Overall, Haseul and “Let Me In” define the identity struggle that the whole LOONA project was about. On the cusp of womanhood, these girls felt the push and pull of various paths and this song contains the dangers and joys of all those paths.

How would you rank all of LOONA’s solo singles? Let us know in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

K-Pop Unmuted: 2017 Awards – Part 2

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.

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

Let us know what you think of 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.

K-Pop Unmuted: 2017 Awards – Part 1

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.

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

Let us know what you think of 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.

50 best K-pop songs of 2017: 50-26

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.

—Joe

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”).

—Joe

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.

—Shelley

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.

—Anna

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.

—Anna

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.

—Tamar

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.

—Alejandro

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.

—Tam

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.

—Ana

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.

—Tam


Also on KultScene: DAY6 explores love & friendship through recent ‘Every DAY6’ releases

40. “Chase Me” by Dreamcatcher

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.

—Katherine

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.

—Alexis

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.

—Katherine

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.

—Tam

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.

—Kushal

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.

—Alejandro

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.

—Tamar

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.

—Alexis

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.

—Joe

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.

—Katherine


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

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.


Also on KultScene: Astro ‘Dream Pt. 02’ Album Review

—Alejandro

29. “Darling” by Taeyang

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.

—Anna

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.

—Shelley

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.

—Alejandro

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.

—Tam

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.

The story of LOONA: ODD EYE CIRCLE


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.”


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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.


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“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 FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.