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.

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

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

“I Wish” by Cosmic Girls

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

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

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

Also on KultScene: K-Pop & the Collective Body Part 2: Seventeen, Cosmic Girls, & NCT

“April Story” by April

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

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“Love in a Sudden” by MIXX

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

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

Which of these songs do you prefer? Who do you hope will be successful? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Weekly K-Pop Faves: May 1-7

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“U” cover by Seventeen (May 5)

When it comes to Super Junior covers just about every other boy band, and some girl groups, has covered “Sorry Sorry” at some point. Yes, it’s an iconic song with an iconic dance by an iconic group that represents an iconic time in K-pop history, but it’s also a very predictable choice. “U” isn’t exactly a refreshing song to cover either, but done by Seventeen, well, it changes things. No other group can cover Suju better than them, really, since they have the chops, numbers, and talent. I even dare say that they’re an upgraded product of the Super Junior model — and this is coming from an ELF! Because even if they didn’t change the song’s arrangement much or the choreography, it still feels like Seventeen put their own flavor in it. I would’ve appreciated an original rap, but the purist in me also likes it as is. This massive group is proving that they deserve to be one of the next generation’s top tiers and I’m looking forward to even more Super Junior covers.

— Alexis

“Oh Ma Mind” by MIXX (released 3 may)

“I’m a sinner captured in a cage called you”

It’s not a sin to desire MIXX, nor do you need this boy to be your hero. You’re not a little princess, just a regular princess who can ride a white horse just as much as a prince. Tired gender tropes aside, MIXX have crafted maybe the best debut of the year so far (in a year of few great debuts). “Oh Ma Mind” is one of those classic K-pop tracks where it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. It mixes vocal and musical styles to create something they can call their own. The vocals are typical for a cutesy girl group, fragile and sugar laced. The music is a funky mix of R&B and tropical synths that gleefully bounce. It also has a wonderfully fetishistic music video directed by production team of the moment, Digipedi. Given their involvement, a closer look at those gender stereotypes might yield some interesting results. But that’s an issue for another time. For now, let’s just bop and play some tennis.


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“Re-Bye” by Akdong Musician (released 3 May)

This comeback by K-pop’s favourite sibling duo may be two years late, but the wait was definitely worthwhile. One of two title songs off of their latest album “Spring Vol. 1/Puberty”, “Re-Bye” is an addictive track that fully showcases little sister Suhyun’s great and improved vocals. The accompanying music video is also a delight to watch, set in an opera house with the two siblings as undercover detectives. It’s both playful and thrilling, part of which can be credited to the arrangement of the piece and also to the vocal ability of the siblings. Their growth over the past two years is extremely evident in the maturity of their album as a whole and this was one of YG Entertainment’s best releases so far. Even though they came back at a time with a lot of K-pop competition, Akdong Musician stands out and will continue to do so in the industry. Here’s looking forward to the next release!


“Green Window” by Akdong Musician/AKMU (released 3 May)

Like Anna, I’m another one who is a big fan of AKMU’s album, “Spring Vol. 1/Puberty.” But while the singles were decently solid, it was the b-side “Green Window” where I truly think the brother-sister duo shines. I really hope that they create a third music video to match the upbeat sound of “Green Window,” which I personally think thing is the song that most fits the album’s springtime theme. The song’s production recalls AKMU’s debut album “Play” with it’s almost juvenile instrumentation and hopeful lyrics; it’s almost impossible to listen to “Green Window” without feeling inspired. The song’s rainbow motif reflects the relative age of AKMU (both siblings are in their teens) while the lyrics themselves show insight into the human condition. The song is pretty fast paced throughout, but the staccato build into the bridge’s harmony and eventual synth sound is just inspired.


What was your favorite song this week? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.