Tackling the great expectations of moving to maybe the most famous concert venue in the world, Madison Square Garden, was a big ask ahead of the five groups preparing for day 1 of KCON NY 2019. Each of them were more than qualified to perform there on their own merits but the beauty of a concert like KCON is how they play off of each other. Either by the order of their sets or through collaborations, these pairings can offer up interesting new perspectives on their work. On this day, they strived for a delicate sense of balance.
Opening this night was down to the now veteran of KCON, Kevin Woo, was on hand to introduce the night of concerts at Madison Square Garden. The former U-Kiss member was his usual bubbly and soft self; he tends to be a perfect MC thanks to this quality. He feels more like a friend than some random professional, so it was a true pleasure to be able to see him make the move back to performing after MCing for so long. He performed his two solo tracks, “Over You” and “Ride Along.” They are fittingly bright and breezy for his voice and look, but he’s straying into lyrical territory that doesn’t fit. The player image of “Ride Along” didn’t feel genuine, and that’s something that can come across strongly on such a big platform.
One thing Kevin has that definitely does come across, whether he likes it or not, is that he is a potent reminder of how far K-pop has come. Around since 2009, Kevin has seen almost all of K-pop’s major flirtations with breaking into the west. This gave the night interesting bookends, with Kevin himself, a member of a group all but forgotten to the world, and headliners Nu’est, a group who through an unprecedented resurgence live on amidst K-pop’s most world renowned time. They feel like they’re from the same era and yet remain very much in the zeitgeist.
The starkness of what comes in between those two was immediately apparent when Ateez took to the stage. They along with other fresh faced boy group The Boyz opened the night with dance performances to contemporary American pop tracks. True to form, Ateez went hard on Skrillex’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” As would be seen later on in the night, Ateez have a very particular style of controlled chaos while on stage. They use typically strong boy group moves in very angular and aggressive ways. It’s a style of dance that goes so well with the surprising ways in which they are growing so rapidly. It is in the very literal sense, breathtaking but also almost obstructive of the group at the heart of these dances.
In a smart move to counter this, The Boyz took a much more unusual approach by performing to teen phenom Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” Watching the 13 members walk like runway models to the cartoony synth run or move possessed along with Eilish’s distant vocals were moments totally singular over the whole weekend. Choosing to dance to these two melodies rather than the beat gives the performers themselves great personality. It’s an effective and simple way of making a dance feel like a story. Something they clearly learned from fellow large-membered group Seventeen.
As new as these two groups are they can’t compare to the absolute babies of the weekend, TXT. They were not to be held back, however, as coming along with a five track mini-album filled with gems meant they were more than qualified to be here. No one over the whole weekend would bring as exuberant a charm as they did. Decked in schoolboy uniforms, they jumped right into debut single “Crown.” The unabashed giant synths of it are probably the most infectious sounds of the year so far. It’s the kind of sound many might use to describe K-pop as a whole, so as an opener it was perfect. They took some time from there to talk and perform a short version of ballad “Your Summer.” It was energy well saved as they took a breathless last 10 minutes to blast through “Blue Orangeade” and “Cat and Dog.”
It’s hard to choose one thing that makes TXT so good but it’s just as hard to not say their choreography. It may be early days but it’s difficult to think of a group who handles such a small amount of members so well on stage since SHINee. The way they feed off each other is so important to the way they move, as if they need each other’s permission to go to the next part. They displayed a level of choreographic ingenuity that would not be topped until the weekend’s closers.
“Cat and Dog” will also go down as a great track of KCON 2019. As a song itself it expertly combines the cuter aspects of TXT with the more popular hip-hop sounds of most boy groups these days. It’s silly, brash, and best of all, earnest. This in turn makes it also an excellent bridging point from them into the next group Ateez.
As a further balancing act before that though, IZ*ONE came out with “Highlight.” “Highlight” is their most mature sounding song yet. Its stripped back R&B is helped by a pair of running synths and a trap beat, on top of which the girls eke out an elegant vocal. This gracefulness carries on in the dance as they hold up their hands and barely sway their hips, calling “look at me” in the chorus.
Not wanting to disrupt this flow too much, Ateez opened with the melancholic electro of “Aurora” and the decidedly dated tropical house of “Wave.” Ateez are burdened by the fact that every concept they’ve tackled so far has been a clear derivation of other groups. Particularly with these openers —you can’t give yourself a name when people are thinking of the groups who have done this before and better. Of course, even their next and final two tracks suffer from similar problems. This suffering only happens on track though, taken to the stage is a different story.
Closing with the heart-stopping duo of “Say My Name” and “Halla Halla,” Ateez made sure they wouldn’t be forgotten. The group left absolutely nothing on that stage; their sweat is now a permanent fixture of Madison Square Garden. It felt like they never had to stop, and could keep destroying the stage for the rest of the night. The chaos was still controlled but they were almost ready to let it go. It was a stunning display of control when they seemed to not want it at all. There’s aggression in K-pop dances, but nothing ever came close to feeling violent until rapper Mingi jumped over someone and seemed to headbutt the air. A funny but in some ways alarming moment.
The Boyz kept a serious air to the night but still calmed things down, as they began their set with “No Air.” Although a fitting follow up to what Ateez had brought, it felt lacklustre and even anonymous alongside them. This was put to bed immediately though, as the boyish charm and confidence of “Right Here” filled the place with glee. “Right Here” is one of those rare songs that starts off as if it’s already at top gear and yet at every turn still manages to find something small to lift it further. Making it not only a great song but an exceptional live experience. Also it was a smart move to put in the middle of their set, as closer “Bloom Bloom” is a lesser but still fun track that carried on the great energy of “Right Here.”
Needing to slow things a bit after that explosive one-two punch, Baekho and Minhyun of Nu’est came on for a cover of Adam Levine’s “Lost Stars.” Slowing things down was all this performance could really off as it’s not a good enough or well known enough song to otherwise justify inclusion. Certainly not with the potential vocal abilities of the two men singing it.
Nothing can really inject life into night quite like a Twice knock off, though. IZ*ONE were next up with just that on recent b-side “Airplane.” The cute vitality of the track and the girls more than made up for “Lost Stars,” as well as giving the night its tempo back. Unfortunately, they undid all of this right after as they played two games that took up at least 10 minutes. It would be ok if the games were fun but, it was clear that most of the audience were not paying attention after the first two or three minutes.
In fairness to IZ*ONE, they have the songs to once again reignite things. They ended with a brisk quartet of singles “Violeta,” “La Vie en Rose,” and Produce 48 tracks “Rumour” and “Pick Me.” Despite the cute image many might of them have, all of IZ*ONE’s tracks have major punch to them. This is emphasised really well live, as the bass in the choruses of “Violeta” and “La Vie en Rose” hit hard, but the melodies are never lost. No one carries this idea as well as Lee Chaeyeon. Their main dancer was one of the true highlights to watch over the whole weekend, earning her the nickname, the goddess of wind, with power and grace always together and never at odds.
There is no better group to headline this night and to unite all the ideas that have come up than Nu’est. Newly back to full strength as former Wanna One member Minhyun returned earlier in the year. Nu’est have been hard to pin down as a group thanks to changes like this, but they have consistently shown an unquestionable level of stability in sound and performance. They brilliantly mix the harder aspects of the dubstep and hip-hop that pervades their work with a slower sensuality in how they actually navigate these influences. Even up to their latest single “Bet Bet,” which they opened with, this continues. The battle between the ruthlessness of JR and Baekho, and the softer falsettos of Minhyun and Ren are on full show here. Aron sits in the middle somewhere, filling in gaps so as the others don’t quite lose themselves.
From there it was pure joy. “Love Paint” was the best song of the weekend, “Segno” so sweet and uplifting, and closing duo “Look” and “R.L.T.L (One Morning),” an exemplary rendition of the dubstep, dance music work they do. The only problem was that they were one song short. “R.L.T.L” was a good song to end on but only if we had known beforehand. As it was it felt like the perfect setup for “Overcome” to drive us home. But as soon as they finished, the lights went up and the other groups started to come out to say goodbye. There was definitely a slight feeling of being cheated. This was something their labelmates Seventeen would learn from though.
From Kevin Woo through Nu’est all the way to TXT, K-pop has been through too much to recount. KCON is always good at trying to tell this story of K-pop in a few hours and this night was no exception. The flow of every group’s set and the transitions between them felt natural and propulsive. Everyone had their place and performed it to the best of their abilities.
All photo credits to KCON USA
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https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/MCD_KCONNY1D_078.jpg?fit=2400%2C160016002400Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2019-07-19 14:42:252019-07-19 14:42:25KCON NY 2019 ‘M! Countdown’ day 1 recap
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.
https://i2.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/KultScene-50-best-K-pop-songs-of-2017-50-26.jpg?fit=1024%2C7687681024KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2017-12-22 05:12:512017-12-22 10:02:4250 best K-pop songs of 2017: 50-26
Like every week, this weekend our writers put their heads together and picked their favorite K-Popreleased of the past week. Soloist Jay Park came back with a new song, Nu’est returned with their second album of the year, and I.O.I added a track to the drama, “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.”
“Me Like Yuh” by Jay Park (Released Sep. 1)
If you’re able to get through the cringey line of “I’d even dye my hair blond for ya, I can be your Justin Beiber,” “Me Like Yuh” is actually a pretty dope song. Detracting from what’s trendy in South Korea (trap, mainly), Jay Park taps into the Caribbean/deep house hybrid sound that is hot right now Stateside — all thanks to Cha Cha Malone, of course. For this fresh track, Jay refrains from rapping and serenades his love interest in his signature high-pitched voice. It;s more in tune with “Nana” rather than “Mommae,” or anything he’s released as of late. While most fans hate when Korean artists sound like mainstream Western music, “Me Like Yuh” has a nice groove that seizes your body and makes you dance and sway. I, for one, can’t wait for Jay’s album to drop. Even if it contains “Aquaman.”
“Love Paint (every afternoon)” by NU’EST (Released Aug. 29)
While their little brother group Seventeen has shot to immediate success, it’s Pledis Entertainment’s NU’EST whose sound I’ve always been drawn to. Their latest, “Love Paint,” is filled with melodic synths and vocal harmonies that take the group’s sound into new, more artistic territory. (I can’t help but think of SHINee vs EXO at Korean music powerhouse SM Entertainment, where the former older group has been able to develop their own unique experimental style versus EXO’s more typical K-pop sound.) Between the pre-chorus builds and the underlying orchestral accompaniment, plus a really well delivered rap that sounds like it belongs on mainstream American radio (or at least “Show Me the Money!”), this is the sort of pop R&B I want to see more of from this group.
”I Love You, I Remember You” by I.O.I (released Aug 30)
Shortly after the group’s release of “Whatta Man” which changed my opinion of this group’s vocal prowess forever, I.O.I released their first OST for currently airing drama “Scarlet Heart: Ryeo.” The relatively slow and sweet ballad is definitely unexpected coming from this lively girl group and while not all the members were able to show off their unique styles or voices through this release, the song was good as a whole. The spotlight was also cast on a few members in particular, such as main dancer Chungha, who wowed this time not through her dance but through her stable and strong vocals. Rapper Yoojung stood out as well, especially since she did not get as many singing parts in their previous releases. The OST proved the potential and versatility of IOI and I hope that they’ll experiment with different genres of music in the future tracks they release.
What’s your favorite song from last week? Did it make our playlist? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Untitled-design-8.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024KultScenehttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngKultScene2016-09-04 21:33:232016-09-04 21:35:40Weekly K-pop playlist: August 29 - September 4
NU’EST are bad guys and they know it. They’re back with their first solo digital singleI’m Bad in celebratory of their third anniversary. Unfortunately, one of the members, Baekho, wasn’t able to partake in this production due to recovering from having his vocal cord nodules removed. Nonetheless, this is NU’EST’s tribute to the fans, and they’re here to showcase their glistening masculinity and mature side.
https://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/NUEST1.jpg?fit=700%2C479479700Tam Huynhhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTam Huynh2015-03-11 19:10:242015-03-16 02:10:13NU'EST 'I'm Bad' Music Video & Song Review
Despite K-Pop being a mainstream genre within a somewhat conservative culture, there are some idols who push boundaries with their lyrics, clothes, music videos, looks, etc. So it comes expectant that even in a country that has Confucian dogma you can find some black sheep in the bunch defying other aspects of society that ultimately end up damaging individuals, like gender roles.
What are gender roles, you ask? It’s the set of behavioral norms one “must” follow depending on whether you’re male or female. You know, blue and toy trucks for boys, pink and dolls for girls –that type of thing. But the problem with binding gender roles goes far beyond pants and dresses. Trouble arises when society limits people to these set rules and don’t allow or look down on the ones who choose to flourish outside of them.
This list is exactly about that; those male idols who choose to push and bend society’s notions on gender and are successful at it.
1. FT Island’s Hongki
Hongki, the charismatic lead singer of the Korean pop rock band FT Island, embodies what we regularly associate with the word “rockstar.” Onstage and through his TV appearances, Hongki always displays his I-don’t-give-a-damn persona, whether he’s being snarky with his remarks or challenging FNC Entertainment’s CEO publicly. Hongki takes his strong personality everywhere he goes and doesn’t only do it for show.
But the thing that’s most “punk rock” about the singer is probably his love for nail art. Hongki wouldn’t be the first rockstar to don nail polish to compliment his style, but he definitely is unique in that he released a book completely dedicated to nail art called Lee Hong Gi Nail Book. The 144-page long book includes the singer’s stories and insight on nail art and is a best seller in Korea, Japan, and China.
Over the years, men have pushed through the taboos and social awkwardness of getting manicures and pedicures, and it’s no longer a rarity to see a man at a salon getting these procedures. But to rock full-on designs and flashy colors? That’s not what many heterosexual men would willingly do. Nail polish has always been marketed for women, and with that, branded as a feminine product. The fact that Hongki got past his and other people’s prejudices to the level of rocking and spending $45,000 a year on nail art is commendable.
Nail art doesn’t take away anything from Hongki’s personality or look, it merely enhances it. After all, it’s just paint and design on nails.
Rappers and fashion have come hand-in-hand since the ‘90s, when artist began flexin’ their designer clothes and jewelry in music videos and lyrics. However, no rapper has ever reached fashion icon status and respect from the fashion world like G-Dragon has. A man liking clothes and shoes and accessories has been periodically accepted over the years, but a love and fascination for it is almost exclusive to women and gay men.
This is where G-Dragon makes his mark. He’s a rapper, a producer, and a lyricist, and is respected as an artist in the entertainment business. The fact that his artistry translates over to his amazing range in his fashion styling does not detract from his musical talents or his “manhood.” With his fashion, the BIGBANG leader is a chameleon; he goes from avant garde to streetwear in a second and kills it every time. His style is always changing and evolving with time and trends, and he has never shied away from pushing gender boundaries with his fashion. A good example of this is last year’s Vogue Korea editorial, where he posed with model Soo Joo, both of them styled identically to look like twins.
Androgyny is not a look that has been on the mainstream and widely accepted, it is mostly reserved for the arts. But G-Dragon, with his small built and extraordinary fashion, has been making a case for bending gender since his debut. Can anyone logically make a good argument against a man wearing a skirt? Well, G-Dragon can make a good one for it.
3. NU’EST’s Ren
Even before debut, Ren made headlines for his appearance. Not because he had ulzzang status or beast idol features, but because he was pretty. No, not handsome, pretty. You know, that term society uses to describe girls exclusively and is somehow demeaning to tag boys with that…
NU’EST’s maknae personifies the group’s concept: being different and unique and not being afraid to show it. Ren contrasts his pretty boy image and charms with powerful performances. With this, he challenges society’s notions of masculinity and femininity by living somewhere in between them under his own terms; he even calls himself pretty.
Just like androgyny, a man having feminine traits does not make him any less of a man. Ren promotes a healthy lifestyle that works well for him. And if anyone thinks that someone’s “manliness” is challenged by a guy listening to Lady Gaga or knowing all of the girl groups’ choreography and can deliver them spot on, is only unsure of their own identity.
4. 2AM’s Jo Kwon
2AM’s Jo Kwon has made a name for himself for various reasons, but most of it comes from his innate talent. The singer prides himself in having been a JYP Entertainment trainee for seven years before debuting and is a member of that agency’s ballad male group. Standing on stage wearing a suit and serenading the audience with his powerful vocals, Jo Kwon is a completely different person than what he showcases on TV: the male diva.
Viewers witness Jo Kwon’s flamboyant personality when he fiercely dances girl group choreographies on variety shows or when he wore Jeffrey Campbell’s heel-less hoof shoes during his solo promotions. Furthermore, he recently took part in the Korean adaptation of the musical Priscilla, playing the dual roles of Adam and Felicia.
Because of this, the singer gets called gay left and right. Everyone has an unsolicited opinion on his sexuality, but the reality lies in that Jo Kwon has repeatedly denied those allegations. That being said, the public must respect his stance. And, of course, the reality we live in is not that simple. The singer garnered lots of criticism and hate over his participation in Priscilla, leading him defend himself on Instagram, when he obviously didn’t need to do so.
The fact that a straight man undertakes what society perceives as effeminate traits and behaviours and displays them for the mainstream audience shows how forward thinking some youth are. What Jo Kwon does is good entertainment and is well-received by the public; his sexuality is irrelevant. Even if he’s not gay himself, he’s paving the way for future queer celebrities to be accepted.
Who’s your favorite male idol who defies gender roles? We’d love for you to share your picks with us, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, so you can keep up with all our posts.
I mentioned to one of my fellow KPOPme writers that I need to broaden my K-Pop horizons when I saw the teaser for NU’EST‘s comeback. She suggested I use that as a basis for an article (or many to follow in similar format). So here I am, about to write a Let’s Discover article about NU’EST.
Why NU’EST, you may ask? Well, for me personally, I really do not know much about them. I know Ren of NU’EST, because he is the most recognizable out of the group and he was the only one I ever really heard about. In all honesty, I thought NU’EST was a well established K-Pop group, thinking they have been in the industry for at least four years.
So imagine my shock when I found out they have only been together for two years! This was both shocking and a warm welcome to me. Shocking, because the way they were talked about online made it seem like they have been around longer. Now as I write this I realize that they debuted in 2012, which was the year that I really became interested in K-Pop, and that may be the reason why I heard so much about that at the time. The fact that they have only been together for two years meant there were only two years of music for me to discover.
NU’EST is a five-member male K-Pop group that debuted two years ago in 2012. One thing that I initially noticed is that there are only five members. It feels like the majority of K-Pop groups these days are made up of more than five members. I wasn’t sure I was counting correctly at first. I think five is a good number for a group. There aren’t too many rappers, main singers, dancers, etc. Everyone has a chance to shine and it’s easier to learn about each member.
The fact that there’s a Korean-American in the group, Aron, also shows that NU’EST wishes to appeal to international fans. I watched some of NU’EST’s videos online and there’s a lot of times that Aron speaks to his fans in English, which I really enjoy being that I am a native English speaker.
Before I listened to NU’EST’s older songs, I began with their Judgement teaser, which was what caught my attention in the first place. After watching the teaser I was intrigued. From there I began to watch their other music videos and naturally I have seen a few of them before, but they never left a lasting impression on me. I noticed that with K-Pop and other music genres for that matter, I have to like an artist at my own pace.
Judgement and their looks (let’s be honest guys) was enough for me to explore more. A quick side note, why are there four members born in 1995? They should be older!!!!! These boys, especially Baekho, have mature faces for 19-year-olds. Ok, back to the music.
I watched all of their music videos, at least most of them, and have come to the conclusion that I love Action. The chorus is what gets me. So good. I grew up in the 90’s with NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and this song’s beat and production remind me so much of those boy bands. I would recommend Action to any new fans of NU’EST. It’s upbeat and so catchy.
The five guys seem to work well together, based on their music videos and some behind-the-scenes videos I discovered. I would like more videos of them together though because a lot of the videos online are older. I did discover that on their YouTube page, they had a series of videos showing what the members were up to leading up to this comeback. It’s nice for fans to see their idols and for new fans, like me, who don’t know much about the group. Those types of videos make the idols more personable.
After watching Good Bye Bye, it’s clear to see that these boys (yes boys, they’re only 19 and 21!!) have come back with a more mature concept and look. Throughout the video, they look and act masculine, and Ren looks so different now! He looks much more mature and more handsome.
With each listen the song grows on me. At first I wasn’t really into the song, but while writing this article I’ve gone back and listened to it a couple of times and I like it more and more after each listen. Anyway, I absolutely love the instrumentals and the production of the song. They fit the tone of the song and video perfectly.
I hope NU’EST has a successful comeback with Good Bye Bye and their first full length album, Re:BIRTH. I listened to the album, and I love, love, love Big Deal. Based on the comments, the fans love it as well, and they hope for a music video (I’m totally down for a music video for Big Deal, it would be sooo good).
All in all, I’m glad NU’EST made a comeback this week so I can discover them even though they have been together for two years. That’s one of the beauties of K-Pop, there are so many groups (old, new, disbanded, still together, etc) for people to explore and a lot of them have their own style, which makes finding new music so easy.
Based on their comeback spoiler episodes on 1theK, the boys put A LOT of hard work into the new album and their comeback. They clearly love to sing and dance and are humbled by the support of their fans. For that, they have gained a new fan.
Are you guys new fans to NU’EST too or have you been a loyal fan from the beginning? What are some of your favorite NU’EST songs I should check out as I explore NU’EST’s music? If you have any ideas or topics you think we should discuss in these Let’s Discover articles leave your comments below! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr,and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.