On Episode 41 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight and Joe Palmer look back at K-pop releases from March 2019. We discuss EVERGLOW’s “Bon Bon Chocolat”, DALsooobin’s “Katchup”, Block B BASTARZ’s “Help Me”, TXT’s “Crown”, Yerin Baek’s “Merry and the Witch’s Flower”, and GWSN’s “Pinky Star (RUN)”.
Let us know what your favourite K-pop track of March 2019 is in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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Just over two years since we last saw her release music, Subin will be returning soon with her biggest single to date, “Katchup.” In those two years, the former Dal Shabet member has remained ever present; she appeared at KCON LA last year and has a strong social media presence. She even changed her moniker and now goes by DALsooobin. The “Circle’s Dream” singer is thriving particularly on Instagram with K-pop girl group covers, unique promos, and constant new ways of communicating with.
KultScene was lucky enough to catch up with her and talk about her upcoming comeback, her alter-ego, and her favourite Dal Shabet track.
Congratulations on your recent successful Makestar. What was the experience of using that website like? Is it nice knowing that your fans can be one of your major backers?
“I was worried that this goal wouldn’t be achieved in the beginning, but I was surprised to hear that it was reached really quickly. Throughout this project, I realized that a lot of Korean and international Darlings are still supporting us. I often felt lonely throughout my solo career but after seeing the success of this project, I felt really supported. From then on, I promised myself to give my best to Darlings who have waited so long.”
Will your comeback be self-composed? Would you like to continue composing for yourself or work with more producers?
“Yes, I think it’s essential to include your true feelings in a song. I’ve always wanted to compose my own songs so that I could express my honest emotions. If I can meet more producers with similar vibes and feelings as mine, I’d love to work with them in the future.”
You’ve had a wonderful career with Dal Shabet that set you up to go solo and has led all the way here. What do you feel when you look back at your time with the group?
“I’ve always thought back to memories of Dal Shabet, but these days I think of them even more before I go up on stage. Before, when I used to be with my members, I wasn’t really afraid of anything, but nowadays, because I’m doing more things solo, I get a bit scared and lonely.”
From the group’s discography, are there any songs you look back on and think that was the best?
“My personal favorite song is ‘Joker.’ I think it’s a gift from heaven that I was given this opportunity to produce this song. I think I was able to go further in my solo career through that album.”
As a part of Dal Shabet, going through all manner of pop genres, and as a soloist working on ballads and more indie-influenced songs, you have experimented with a wide variety of genres. Do you have a favourite genre that you have encountered so far?
“Out of all the genres I’ve tried out, my favorite has to be indie. I believe having your own identity is the most important thing as an artist, and I think compared to other genres, the indie genre allows for a wider range of expression. Just like ‘Kieuk’ by Kiha & The Faces, I think indie is the most flexible and diverse genre.”
Some songs you have produced for yourself have been very personal and I think your work is much better off because of it. Songs like “Hate” are so full of anguish. Is it liberating to produce songs like this for yourself?
“That’s exactly how I felt! I’m so glad that you were able to empathize with my track ‘Hate.’ It seems like I succeeded with that one (lol). I wrote that song to express the suffering I felt from not being able to share with a past partner the pain he had given me. I’m personally the type that has a hard time expressing how I feel, but through writing this song, it was a freeing and healing experience.”
“Circle’s Dream” is probably my favourite of your songs. What was it like producing that? As a solo artist, do you hope to challenge your voice as much as you can as well as your composing abilities?
“I’m so happy that you like ‘Circle’s Dream’ the most, and again, this makes me feel like this track has succeeded (lol)! This song has the strongest personality/identity. I tried my best to make this song something that no one’s heard before, and to work in my own unique voice and feelings. This is the song where I challenged myself the most as a solo artist.”
Where did the ideas come from, especially for the lyrics which are great but strange? In reference to those lyrics, what does it mean to be round or angular?
“In Korea, there’s a phrase that adults commonly say, which is, ‘Live roundly.’ It means to ‘live kindly,’ but today’s world is too aggressive and offensive for us to just ‘live kindly.’ That’s why I wrote about being angular, which is the opposite of living ’roundly’ and means, ‘I don’t just want to live a life where I’m only kind to others.’”
[Translator’s Note: The Korean expression to “live roundly” essentially means to just go with the flow. Subin explains in her answer that today’s society can be so negative and hurtful, and we can be wronged at times. It’s not always best to just go with the flow and be stepped on all over, but it’s good to discern when we need to become “angular”, or to toughen up and stand up for ourselves, instead of just being meek all the time.]
“I do think that I’m still ’round’ today, but I guess some might disagree, since the way you perceive others can be very subjective. Instead of thinking, ‘I hate that I’m so ‘round’, or too much of a ‘nice guy’,’ I try to remember that even I can hurt others without knowing it, so I try to stay humble and careful about the way I act and the things I say.”
You were at KCON LA last summer, would you like to come back to America or any other countries outside of Asia on tour anytime soon?
“As far as potential plans for America or any other countries outside of Asia, we’re still in the planning phase, so I can’t really say anything until we have a more solidified idea. As of right now, I am hoping to do something in the States and in other countries in the second half of the year!”
Can you talk a bit about who Nikita is to you? Is she a friend, an alter ego, or something else?
“Nikita is my best friend. We may look alike, but the ways we live our lives are very different. Since my career thrives when the public pays attention to me, I have to pay attention to the public’s opinion. However, that’s not the case for Nikita. She focuses and pays more attention to herself. I hope people like me or anyone who’s going through a rough time would learn how to love themselves through her.”
Finally, what is so special about ketchup?
“Out of all of my babies, Ketchup is the oldest one (lol). From all of the songs I’ve released as a soloist, this track took the longest to produce, and I put the most preparation into it. And because I put so much into this song, I can’t help but feel that it’s the most special to me.”
DALsoobin’s “Katchup” drops Mar. 5. In the meantime, check out the teaser.
What are some of your favorite Subin songs? Let us know in the comments below! Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
https://i0.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/sunmi-siren-makeup-look.png?fit=1024%2C7687681024Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2019-03-04 10:34:182019-03-04 10:34:18Subin talks gifts from heaven, alter ego, & 'Katchup' [interview]
While the year may be closing in a very sad and unfortunate manner with the passing of a K-pop icon, artists consistently delivered memorable songs throughout 2017. This year saw a lot of great moments from some of Korea’s most popular new acts, while newer acts also proved their worth with addicting, sleekly-produced music. Trop was the king of this year’s K-pop trends, but far from the only genre of music that saw its moment in the limelight.
Check out the first half of KultScene’s 2017 best K-pop songs list below:
50. “Circle’s Dream” by Subin
Subin is trapped in an endlessly repeating contradictory cycle in her self-written and composed single “Circle’s Dream.” She is told that she is round and that’s good, but then that it’s not. She wants to be angular, to pierce her lover, to make him feel like how he made her feel. Yet she is also trapping herself within a recurring musical structure, as an acoustic guitar plucks an incisive riff throughout the song. It is the only angular part of Subin’s song yet has no variation. Her stark synths come in late but their slow rhythm only accentuates the repetitiveness. Each element is perfectly realised to tell her story. Her voice completes it. Its soft and sweet but particular pronunciations like denggeureureu are key. This word alone combines both the round and angular sides to her. It has repetitions but in order to say it properly she still has to roll her tongue. Subin has enwrapped her whole song with the confusing ideas in her head. No solo idol has ever produced something of such pointed precision.
49. “Wee Woo” by Pristin
If “Wee Woo” had been released at the 2012-ish heyday of Hallyu, Pristin’s debut song would be considered legendary right now. It’s barrage of shifting sounds and onomatopoeic vocals are absolutely classic. The Pledis Entertainment regular songwriter Bumzu brings a bright and breezy feel to the whole production with disco electric guitars taking the brunt of the work. This allows the girls room to deliver the most hooks in a single song EVER. Each part is so complete on its own you could take them individually and create five more songs around them. The fact that they all come together for something that doesn’t feel so monumental is the greatness of “Wee Woo.” It’s arrogant in its effortlessness all the way down to making the primary hook out of the most simple term of jowahae nol jowahae (“I like (you) I like you”).
48. “Beautiful” by Monsta X
Monsta X’s cultivated sound and signature unruly charms finally comes together for the consummate “Beautiful.” Perhaps because it is supposed to be representative of the group’s first studio album, the single feels particularly significant. For one, there’s really nothing quite like the opening out there. Scattered with a prominent distorted electronic beat that is quickly followed up by Jooheon’s explosive raps, the real hook is not in the chorus but here in the introduction, where the task for the listeners to not mimic the unique noises or the clever near-rhymes is near impossible. The vocalists dwindle down the excitement sometimes without sounding monotonous, almost acting like the Apollonian restraint to the Dionysian madness. The constant shower of peculiar oscillations, whirs, and horns all make up the perfectly organized chaos that Monsta X is known for, and though “Beautiful” did not grant the boys their first music show win like it should have, it will always remain a tour de force in our hearts.
47. “Where You At” by NU’EST W
With their revival in popularity following some of the members’ appearance in Produce 101 Season Two, this subunit of Nu’est (missing member Minhyun who debuted in Wanna One) released this flashy track which stayed true to their unique music style. Bursts of electronic instrumentals are mixed with a calm piano backing track and adds a lot of contrasts to the song. It also highlights the strengths of each member, with Baekho’s explosive high notes complementing Ren and Aron’s softer and sweeter voices. JR’s rapping is as stable as ever, and he definitely shines more back in his own group. It’s wonderful to see this talented group get more recognition for their talents, and I can’t wait to see the full group back together again soon.
46. “You Were Beautiful” by DAY6
The February release of the band’s “Every DAY6 Project” can be said to be their most successful, especially domestically, and it’s not difficult to see why. The raw emotions brought out by the members coupled with the sincere lyrics create a sentimental rock ballad which truly tugs on the heartstrings of listeners. The end of the bridge in particular, where Young K and Wonpil’s voices are layered, is such a beautiful and emotional climax of the song. Even though it appears simple to sing along to (and is apparently a favourite among other JYP singers for karaoking), the song is actually very vocally challenging due to the large range required, and the effortless way the DAY6 members sing it shows just how skilled and well-trained they are.
45. “Tomorrow, Today” by JJ Project
After debuting ahead of GOT7’s debut with the exuberant “Bounce,” JB and Jinyoung returned as a more matured rendition of JJ Project this year and it was absolutely glorious. The two vocalists released this sweeping, introspective song about the very-millennial topic of making decisions and fearing regrets. The track provides the perfect forum for the pair to show off how well their vocals work together, with the duo harmonizing over guitar riffs, tapping percussion, and mellow synths. “Tomorrow, Today” is reflective in its warm approach to soft rock, and hopefully we’ll see more of this from JJ Project in 2018. It was a complete turnaround from their first iteration, and definitely more suited for the pair’s artistic style and capabilities.
44. “Don’t Know You” by Heize
Heize’s “Don’t Know You” is a very groovy song full of percussions with a slight mixture of disco, hip-hop, and R&B, which features the soloist using deeper vocals than what we’ve been used to hear from her. The overall appeal of this songs starts at the beginning of the track with the repetitive beats and the introduction of the synth drums that follow different tonalities on the record that give great texture to “Don’t Know You.” Her famous ad-libs are also present on this song as she goes from high to low tones, which are achieved by the reverbs added on the vocal track, that create great contrast between her sexy sweet voice and her solid rap parts. The harmony is very steady throughout and creates a great chill up-tempo track perfect to dance and groove to. Heize continues to show great promise with her experimental sound.
43. “Tequila (feat. Hoody)” by G.Soul
One can’t help but want to book an immediate flight to somewhere like Bali while listening to “Tequila,” especially with the brutal winter quickly approaching much of the States. Hoody’s bewitching voice alongside G.Soul’s multifaceted vocals make for the perfect combo in this dancehall track, ideal for both a cookout and the club. Lyrically wise, “Tequila” might not be appropriate for all age groups, as G.Soul sings about only wanting a one night stand. But if you’re someone who’s over the generic “let’s fall in love” type of style that is prevalent in K-pop the majority of the time, this song’s for you. The lyrics aren’t candy coated or sleazy, but come off rather… inviting. This wasn’t meant to be a flashy song, which is what made it even more enjoyable. Although G.Soul wasn’t hitting those high notes (that I love so much) like he usually does, it wasn’t a lack felt by this song.
42. “Wake Me Up” by Taeyang
It is no news that Taeyang can hold a ballad like no other, and in 2017, he gave us two great ones. “Wake Me Up” doesn’t have the same degree of emotional complexity of “Darling,” the other single from the album, but it’s its apparent simplicity what makes this song amazing and addictive. Objectively speaking, it’s a very linear song with no surprise factors when it comes to its structure. It might even seem like Taeyang doesn’t have much to say in “Wake Me Up,” but it’s definitely not because he’s lacking emotions. In reality, what we see is that he just doesn’t know what to do with them. Everything in “Wake Me Up” sounds gorgeously inconclusive and mysterious — from the airy sounds and atmospheric, echoed beats, to the lyrics that offer more questions than answers. No wonder the most touching moment of the song is when he’s constantly repeating “Is it love?” while delivering breathtaking high notes. Overall, Taeyang’s vocal performance amidst the ethereal instrumental creates just the right vibe for a song that is about love, but mostly about confusion and doubt. After so many years, you can still count on Taeyang to get you in your feels.
41. “Honeymoon” by B.A.P
Coming out during the fall when it should’ve been a summer jam, “Honeymoon” is a delightful EDM track from B.A.P’s seventh album Blue. The whistling at the beginning of the song left the remainder open for interpretation; this song could’ve been a sweet one, much like the title suggests, or a somber one. I’m glad it wasn’t the latter. “Honeymoon” puts listeners in a lighter mood, whereas previous songs were dark and heavy, all the while still executing a clear message. “With the overflowing stars from beneath the palm tree. A film on the shining freedom and bright youth,” they sing. Through this track, B.A.P wants to remind us to live life to its fullest, fulfill your heart’s desires to its grandest and emphasises that today’s youth will be the game changer in society going forward.
Taking the bubbly girl group image and tossing it out the window, MINX re-debuted early this year under the name Dreamcatcher. Not only did the group have a new name, but they also gained two new members and an interesting concept and sound. Taking the term re-“vamp” quite literal, the group came out with a dark and creepy concept straight out of a horror movie. The video for “Chase Me” takes references from classic horror movies like The Shining but also has cuts to choreography to showcase the girls dance moves. The song begins with pianos and then picks up at the chorus. Adding31 to the darker image, the song melded hard rock elements with a dance pop track to create something very dynamic. There’s something about the mixing of heavy rock instrumentals and feminine voices that is very appealing. Although the song sounds like it’s straight out of an anime, it is also an interesting new sound that’s refreshing to the K-pop world.
39. “Never Ever” by GOT7
Ever since debut, GOT7 have switched up their sound with every release, experimenting with different styles and concepts, and their first comeback of the year was no different. “Never Ever” follows in the same angsty direction as “If You Do,” yet this track mixes electronic and trap sounds while giving it their signature bubblegum spin. Vocally, JB and Youngjae can always be counted on to deliver outstanding choruses and ad-libs. But reveal of the year was that “Never Ever” is probably the song where the rap line is collectively most stable and the flows, while different, work together. GOT7 is building up a name as a dance group whose choreographies are insane, and “Never Ever,” with its glitches and heavy bass, is the perfect performance track in their building discography.
38. “Love Story feat. IU” by Epik High
One of the two title tracks off of Epik High’s new album, “Love Story” is a beautiful song about love lost. The steady drum beats coupled with the sometimes frantic sounding piano and, later on, the smooth orchestra creates a complex yet easy sounding melody that balances well with IU’s sweet voice and the rap verses of Tablo and Mithra Jin. Along with the concept video of a girl reminiscing about her past relationship through videos and photos on her phone, it sets the perfect setting for a song about heartbreak and loss. As expected with most of Epik High’s collaborations, the group and the featuring artist blend perfectly to portray the story being told.
37. “Wake Me Up” by B.A.P
A lot of the times, K-pop consists of clichéd lyrics and similar concepts. There are times when a number of artists will put out a string of songs, music talking about love, relationships and breakups. Again, the repetitiveness. Just when you feel like you’ve had enough of that sappy stuff, B.A.P appears with an eye opener like “Wake Me Up,” a track that touches on societal issues and mental health to stimulate one’s ear buds. The song has a compelling beat, a sound so strong, it’ll act as the pillar that will hold you up when one is fighting off their inner demons and struggles in life. “This is an endless tunnel, in darkness with no light. Wake me up, wake me up. I need to find myself,” they sing. B.A.P wanted to push awareness and wake up a society that looks away and pretends that issues like racism, judgement, and depression aren’t real issues because these things are very much on going and continue to be real life problems.
36. “Palette feat. G-Dragon” by IU
As one of Korea’s most prominent artists, IU on “Palette” seems to be comfortable with her fame and life, assuring both herself and her listeners that she’s changing in ways she embraces. Her lyricism uses cute examples, from changing color preferences to hair length, to demonstrate that she, “Knows a little bit about [herself] now.” The song’s instrumentals are a more alternative play on classic, theatrical IU releases. While the trademark ticking noises and sound effects are present, the song itself is slower and wispier, updated to match a more modern vibe that she seems to have grown into. The top female star of Korean music in the past decade, IU demonstrates that she remains focused on making hits, but now, on her own terms. With the help of a strongly performed and well-placed rap break from G-Dragon, IU on “Palette” lets us further into her excited, changing young adult world. Where she goes next from here, however, we’ll be watching.
35. “Dinosaur” by AKMU
AKMU is known for creating beautiful music, but with “Dinosaur,” the duo really surprised us: they finally added some EDM to their music while managing to make it their own. The electro beats and synths that appear through the track’s melody seem very stripped down and almost make it feel like an acoustic electronic song. The opening guitar in the beginning of the song especially feels like an homage to their earlier music. The synthetic kickdrums that blast before the beautiful notes from Suhyun during the chorus melody and are present through the whole track, giving it an unique mystery to the track. We also get more singing from Chanhyuk instead of his typical talk-like rap, which was surprisingly beautiful. Their voices blend and harmonize perfectly with the synthetic beats that made it an upbeat chill song for the summer. AKMU really had a lot of fun creating this track and used every tool that electronic instruments can give you as a producer. The song is simple but very detailed with a beautiful, heartwarmingly catchy harmony and a light beat that is very uplifting and instantly makes you feel good.
34. “Dream In a Dream” by Ten
SM Entertainment’s Station project has produced a bit of a mixed bag this year, delivering some truly great pieces of music amid a majority of lackluster ones. But “Dream In a Dream” was one of its glorious high notes. The ambient, east-meets-west styling of the song serves to relay the performance-heavy music video, which highlights Ten’s immense dance skills. Providing a soundtrack to the highly-stylized, contemporary dance video, it’s a song filled with drama and passion. But even as a stand alone track, “Dream In a Dream” delivers something truly special through its symphonic instrumentals relaying Ten’s echoing declaration of love. Lush synths and pulsating beats guide the track as it layers traditional Asian strings and into the atypically-structured melody. So far, Ten has participated in both this and NCT U’s “The 7th Sense,” two hauntingly beautiful, choreography-focused singles, and if this is the direction SM continues pushing him in, it may be the thing that could breathe new life into this era of all-too-similar K-pop male acts.
33. “Shall We Dance” by Block B
Ever since Zico cemented his status as a hip-hop icon in Korea, Block B has pretty much taken a backseat on the ride. And after a couple of quirky, even cutesy releases, it seemed the group had gone awry of the sounds and concept they made a name with. That’s why when they dropped “Shall We Dance” it was way more impactful. More in tune with the “trendy” sounds Zico is known to produce for his solos, the track explores different urban Latino sounds, which particularly stood out this year when artists are still releasing trop-house songs. “Shall We Dance” is groovy, smooth, and just as the title suggests, dance provoking. Being an older male group with a diverse lineup of talented members, it’s important for Block B to color outside the lines and continue to push the envelope as they have always done. And with this song, they did just that.
32. “Girl Front” by ODD EYE CIRCLE
“Girl Front” felt like a particularly important moment for LOONA. When LOONA ⅓ debuted as a unit they were still fairly unknown, a weird project group going about their own thing. By the time of ODD EYE CIRCLE, they had significantly grown with more people both at home and internationally taking notice. The fact that they absolutely nailed it came as no surprise to me, but how they did it was so impressive. By combining the songs of three girls (Choerry, Jinsoul, and Kim Lip) producers Ollipop and Hayley Aitken created something unprecedented in K-pop. “Girl Front” has the peppiness of “Love Cherry Motion,” the dense, propulsive beat of “Singing in the Rain,” and the electronic sheen of “Eclipse.” It’s a miracle that it all comes together to form something coherent let alone this good. The girls give it the last edge of excitement with non-stop vocals as they bounce off one another with glee, building a climax of unstoppable motion and further push forward the most exciting story of the year.
31. “I Wait” by Day6
“I Wait” was the first release of the group’s ambitious project, which set a high bar for their following monthly singles. The opening of the song draws the listener in with somber synthesized keyboard notes and dreamy vocals. The mellow beats gradually increase to the more aggressive instrumentals of the chorus, showcasing a much harder sound than what the band has been previously known for. The song continues to bounce back and forth between a softer sound and the heavy chorus, which creates and interesting medium. The video itself isn’t really anything special but somehow still complements the song with the changing graphics and effects. Overall, “I Wait” fulfilled its purpose of drawing in the audience with a new sound, showcasing the band’s versatility and ability to deliver quality songs throughout the year.
30. “MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix feat. Desiigner)” by BTS
“MIC Drop” was already a good song before Steve Aoki’s remix, but with his production, the producer added the aggressiveness that the track needed to be fully solidified as an anti-haters anthem for BTS. He did this by converting the hip-hop track into a hip-hop, R&B, and EDM infused song that made us remember the old BTS from their debut era. The track is energetic and gets you pumped up as soon as you listen to it; V’s deep voice and RM’s raps are major highlights from this record. The lyrics take a very sarcastic tone that even if they seem cocky it makes us sympathize with them. With the new added English lyrics in the chorus, the song makes everyone want to stand up against haters and face them off. BTS creates yet another ode for outcasts and bullied kids all over the world by once again taking on topics that usually K-pop bands don’t talk about.
This ballad stands out with its somewhat unconventional structure and chord progression, but it’s truly beautiful and addictive when listened to in its entirety. The way that Taeyang’s smooth voice connects the various parts of the song elevates it and showcases his impressive range and ability. His raw emotions are showcased front and center here too, especially with the way the song “progresses” in intensity from verse to verse. It’s soothing and intimate all at once, and allows Taeyang to present a more honest side of himself, as compared to being a charismatic star glorified by the limelight.
28. “Hola Hola” by KARD
Over the course of three project singles, KARD was able to develop a musical formula that worked. The tropical house and dancehall that undergirded “Oh Nana,” “Don’t Recall,” and “Rumor” provided a strong foundation for when they finally did make their official debut with “Hola Hola,” a timely and bright synthy number perfect for the summertime. Being co-ed is more than just a gimmick for this group; the exchange between tender vocals and throaty raps is the contrast listeners need to keep engaged. The chorus, on the other hand, shifts its weight onto an island beat, and while it would be easy to dismiss this sudden move as overly simplistic, the hypnotic effect is undeniable. It sweeps the carpet from under our feet and displaces us in a chimerical paradise. It is a nice recess from Jiwoo’s spunky rap midway or from any other strained moments, providing us with a sensual and personable comfort. “Hola Hola” only marks the beginning, but already the internationally beloved group has been dealt a good hand, and are making all the right plays to keep momentum going.
27. “Cherry Bomb” by NCT 127
Without a doubt, “Cherry Bomb” definitely encapsulates the sound of NCT127. The different mixes of genres that create a very fresh and futuristic sound create a unique style for the band that has everyone falling in love. The track starts off with a heavy bass and the repetitive “Hurry, hurry, avoid it, right Cherry Bomb feel it yum,” then goes off to Mark’s and Taeyong’s rap, with the pair proving to be the real standouts for this track, while the bridge explodes with Taehyun’s, Doyoung’s and Taeil’s beautiful vocals that melt any listener’s hearts. The song is filled with background synth noises, singed hooks, and creepy sounds that create a very chaotic but interesting track that is reminiscent of the album cover and the title of the song. It’s a classic, sassy and rebellious track and shows great direction for the boy band.
26. “O Sole Mio” by SF9
Is it possible for someone who lacks rhythm AND coordination to find themselves swaying ones hips and body with precision to the entrancing latin sounds of “O Sole Mio”? This track comes from SF9’s third mini album, Knights of the Sun, only one year after their debut. Rather then SF9’s usual upbeat dance tracks, “O Sole Mio” is captivating in it’s own mellow way. The transitions between the vocal and rap lines were smooth and well-versed, building up to a tender climax without it ever being over the top. The fusion of latin pop to K-pop is still new, but, let’s be real: we all could’ve used a break from some of the generic sounds we’ve heard this year, and the fresh sound of “O Sole Mio” delivered just that.
Stay tuned for the second and final half of our Best K-pop Songs of 2017 list, which will contain the top 25.
What was your favorite release of the year? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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The last full week of February saw a lot of new releases from K-pop’s female acts, some of which caught the attention of KultScene’s team. Continue reading to hear which new songs by Lovelyz, TWICE, and Dal Shabet’s Subin won us over.
”Knock Knock” by TWICE (Released Feb. 20)
I’m not a TWICE stan but I can’t deny that their title releases have always been addictive and catchy, albeit sometimes a little annoying. When they made their comeback recently I was expecting much of the same, but “Knock Knock” proved to be a surprise. Yes, it has a concept and melody that we’ve come to recognise as TWICE. But this was the first time I genuinely liked every part of the song (especially the bridge!) and thought it suited the group very well. The accompanying choreography is definitely one of my favourites so far and this no-longer-rookie group definitely feels more comfortable now. Their comeback has felt a little undermined in light of BTS’s immense success but the song has still done remarkably well and I hope TWICE only goes up from here!
It seems like everyone I’ve spoken to about Subin’s “Circle’s Dream” either compares her to Lorde, Lim Kim, or both. The low-key instrumentals–including what sounds like a whimsically plucked ukulele– act as the backdrop of the Dal Shabet member’s vocals, which are somehow simultaneously sonorous and mellow. Even as playful as Subin sounds rolling her ‘r’s and singing sweepings “woos,” the song is actually about being hurt by love. The single’s style–and Subin’s solo work in general– is such a fresh approach to a topic that K-pop’s covered before, it’s really a pity that her solo efforts are getting essentially ignored. Dal Shabet had one of the best K-pop songs of 2016, and “Circle’s Dream” highlighted the fact that it’s not just by accident: Subin is an artist not to be overlooked.
”WoW!” by Lovelyz (Released Feb. 26)
Lovelyz are the best girl group of the new generation. Sadly rethreads of older groups are hogging the limelight so no one really knows this. “Destiny” was one of the most complete songs of 2016 and every single by Lovelyz since their debut has been good or great. “WoW!” is their biggest departure to date although nothing is lost in the transition. Lovelyz retain the synthpop style that dramatizes their potentially overbearing cuteness. On “WoW!,” produced by Lovelyz regular Onepiece, they add a level of quirk. The structure is odd, opening with a rhythmic talk-sing of the title with funky guitars. It then moves onto handclaps and eventually the surprising, but oh so satisfying, chorus. As usual Jiae is the secret weapon of Lovelyz. She perfectly captures the saccharine cuteness while still being totally weird. Her babyish, high-pitched “jyae ippeo” adds another whole level to the song, keeping it constantly exciting as opposed to maybe just a bit different. Lovelyz put effort into their music that goes unnoticed but revives the K-pop cutesy girl group sound every time.
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The last week in June was kind to us girl group lovers. A string of releases from old and new groups brought K-pop back to life after a slow month. They also brought with them a number of familiar sounds with two groups showing influences from recent times, and Brave Brothers doing what he does best with his favourite girls. The rookies also show us that if a company has a member in I.O.I or participated in “Produce 101” then expect them to debut very soon.
“This Place” by Subin
First is probably the most well-known of this group yet has had the least promotion for her music. Dal Shabet’s vocal goddess Subin released her first mini album “This Place” alongside a digital single of the same title. She previously dropped her debut single, the underrated “Flower,” in May of this year to little fanfare as well. Whatever Happy Face’s strategy is, it does not involve actually promoting Subin. Nevertheless, they are fitting her with music that sounds like it’s coming from every inch of her body.
The lyrics certainly do, anyway. They have an ephemeral beauty to them just like her voice, which tails off as she breathes out each syllable. “Swept away to the wind, The leaves that walk, Something sweeps away my spirit,” she slowly lulls us into the song. Subin croons alongside a crisp piano, reminiscent of Joe Hisaishi’s work on the films of Studio Ghibli. Each note is pronounced and reverberates beside Subin’s voice. It hits the ballad sweet spot of being simple but not boring, emotional but not maudlin.
Brave Girls’ new incarnation is proving to better than the original. They’ve been together for five years now and still have little to show for it. Under the tutelage of Brave Brothers though, we can count on them for quality pop tracks. “Deepened” from earlier in the year is one of the songs of the year and they stay on form with “High Heels.”
It’s a classic of his, using an object as a title and as a means of expressing a young girl’s love. Also present are the catchy chants and simple structure. Doubling down on the Brave Brothers formula of total functionality, “High Heels” has a two choruses. The first is almost identical to the verse but with bigger vocals (which mark it as a chorus alongside the mention of the title) and some guitar. Layered vocals bring this first chorus to a strong climax before the second one starts immediately with the chant of “high, high, high heel.” A mix of horns add the last bit of flair. It’s such an effective way of making a song constantly exciting. This is all added to by having the rap come straight after the first double chorus as well. Hyeran is fast becoming one of my favourite idol rappers. Her delivery is strong and confident, and has an odd nasally quality I really like.
“We” by Pledis Girlz
Pledis Entertainment’s girl groups are probably my favourite of the companies outside of the top two (SM and JYP, I don’t know a YG), given their groups are consistently innovative in sound and style. That‘s probably why their latest group, the ingeniously named Pledis Girlz, have got off to a disappointing start.
Their debut (if it even is a full debut given their name) “We” is another indicator of the GFriend reign. From the opening pianos, strings, and chimes, it’s clear the direction they were going in. This brand of schoolgirl pop is GFriend’s impact on the K-pop industry. None of these songs have been particularly bad, each one hits the mark in terms of the formula. It’s getting tired though, and with little to show in ways of upgrading, Pledis Girlz look like imitators. However, two things are quite satisfying. When the beat kicks and the strings really start to move, that feeling of joy pop music gives me is brought straight back. It sounds like the opening to a delightfully wholesome kids TV show. Also, the rap is something GFriend lack, and here it’s especially good thanks to the playful delivery and the music taking a back seat.
A problem for Pledis Girlz might be their rushed nature thanks to the desperation of companies trying to debut girls from Produce 101. Gugudan are another one of these, coming from Jellyfish Entertainment with Sejong and Mina being fully fledged members of I.O.I.
Gugudan take a similarly safe route as Pledis Girlz, but with a little bit more kick. “Wonderland’s” glossy electro pop is has an energy that eclipses the other rookies of the week. It mixes a cavalcade of sounds to create something that never stops moving forward. The guitar and bass rhythm section is a funky delight that is heard in and out between verses. The vocal rhythm of the chorus bounces along with it and the twinkles and blasts of synths. It has an unpredictable exuberance that carries it the whole way through.
“I Like U Too Much” by Sonamoo
TS Entertainment’s Sonamoo took on the much harder task of copying Red Velvet. After failing with their hip-hop concept at debut, Sonamoo switched to a chaotic style of pop for “Cushion.” Calling this a copy does a disservice to these girls, though.
“I Like U Too Much” opens with supreme harmonies of the chorus. It sets out where they can go from there on in as it moves into a sweeter verse that recalls Girls’ Generation more than their younger label mates. It has another double chorus with the first being an exciting bubblegum pop of synths and the second those aforementioned harmonies. Each part is more addictive than the last all leading up to a blistering bridge of more harmonies and duelling speed vocals. The lyrics perfectly match this unstoppable force by telling the story of a girl in a love that is out of control. “Oh Baby I want to bite you, Can’t leave you alone,” they shout at an unsuspecting boy. I feel the same way about this song.
Despite increased reliance on using sounds from groups who are still a big part of the environment, Korean girl groups are in a seriously good place right now. Even if they are imitating, the youthful joy is still palpable in every note they produce. Sonamoo especially look like they can grow to be an incredible group given continued support. Which should be easy since TS has seemingly completely forgotten about Secret. All of these girls have potential to do great things in the future.
What’s your favorite of these five songs? 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://i1.wp.com/kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Untitled-design-9.png?fit=800%2C800800800Joe Palmerhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngJoe Palmer2016-07-04 10:11:192016-07-04 10:11:19The Best K-Pop Girls of June