In the 25th episode of of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Tamar Herman, and Alexis Hodoyan discuss the history of Super Junior, the group’s recent comeback with Play and ”Black Suit,” and some of our favorite songs from the Kings of Hallyu.
Let us know what you think of Super Junior’s latest and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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Like each week, the KultScene team mused a bit this weekend about our favorite releases from South Korea over the past seven days. With comebacks from some popular boy bands, including B.A.P, and long overdue releases from male idol group members, like Highlight’s Lee Gikwang and Super Junior-M’s Henry Lau, there was a lot to appreciate.
“Honeymoon” by B.A.P (Released Sept. 5)
This week B.A.P served us a plate full of aesthetics with “Honeymoon,” a mellow yet trance inducing EDM track off of their seventh single album Blue. Even without watching the music video, the song and beat painted a beautiful picture (seriously, all that blue). Each member played a valuable asset in this song, and as much as I bias leader Bang Yongguk (his rap verse in “Honeymoon” was the smoothest transition of all time), vocalists Himchan and Jongup’s voices and parts stood out the most. This was a wonderful song to end the summer and to start off the fall.
“That One (Live Band Ver.)” by Henry (Uploaded Sep. 6)
Although Henry had that horrible music video a few months ago (I don’t even want to reference it by name), as an ELF, I’ve been cautiously keeping track of this new journey of rebranding he seems to be on. The previous single, even though the song wasn’t that bad, was a mess, so I was excited when he came back with “That One.” This track is also R&B but sans the tryhard-ness of The Song That Shall Not Be Named. This week, Henry released a live version of “That One” complete with a full band in a ver BBC Live Lounge kind of way. On this version, Henry shows that he’s been working on his singing chops and that he’s done with the gimmicky pop stuff (although I love his previous singles). SM has always sold Henry as a true musician, always making him incorporate his violin playing on every opportunity, so seeing him perform with a live band like this makes sense and seems organic. With “That One” and this particular version of it, I think fans have a better picture of where Henry’s going with his music these days and what he’s capable of doing.
“What You Like” by Lee Gikwang (Highlight) (Released Sept. 4)
I’ve followed Gikwang (aka LEEGIKWANG) since the beginning of his career, and when I heard that he was having a solo comeback, I was thrilled. His EP One is his first since a short-lived solo career as AJ, aka Ace Junior, before BEAST’s debut in 2009, and the lead single “What You Like” is one of the most addicting future bass R&B tracks out there. With a carefree sense of sultriness, it’s a track built for body rolls, which Gikwang is all too happy to deliver during his performances. The song demands repeated listens with subtle sound effects lying beneath the bouncy melody. And while it’s not reinventing the wheel since “What You Like” sounds like much of the music popular in South Korea right now, and it’s essentially a male version of Chung Ha’s “Why Don’t You Know,” Gikwang is in his element and he makes the musical style his own.
What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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.
Each week, the KultScene crew look back at their favorite new K-pop songs and performances of the past week. In the first full week of July, we liked new music from Red Velvet, and older versions of songs by EXID’s LE and Super Junior.
“Cream (Solo Version)” by LE (Released July 7)
When EXID’s Street album came out last year, a clear stand out for me was the b-side “Cream.” And while they never released it as a single in Korea, they did a Chinese version to promote themselves in said market. Being the queen of suggestiveness and double entendre, LE wrote this song about eating cream and it ruining their bodies because they get fat. It’s been said that cream stands for some other creamy substance, and with this solo version, she’s basically proving that theory right. And I’m living for it. Just by the English lyrics, “I love the cream cream cream/ All over my body” and “Baby boy love me up all night” at the chorus, we get a clear picture as to what’s she’s singing about. But lyrics aside, this stripped down version and the fact that she also sings makes the version more sensual. “Cream” solidifies my thought that LE needs *clapping emoji* a *clapping emoji* solo *clapping emoji*. Like, yesterday. Move over CL and Hyuna (who she actually taught how to rap and has written for, by the way), LE is the baddest queen in K-pop.
Over the years, Red Velvet has become that group in the K-pop industry. With quirky outfits and infectious hooks, the group has, throughout the past year, delivered addictive music and markedly unique stylings with impressive consistency. “Red Flavor” is trademark Red Velvet, but with tighter production than that of their previous release “Rookie” (at least in my opinion). While this release is very reminiscent of their past two promotional cycles, the electro-pop is notably smoother at some parts of the song, specifically the prechorus sung by Wendy and Seulgi, calling back to their first EP’s title track “Ice Cream Cake.” Still, the chorus preserves the brash, loud quirk that the group has pursued most ambitiously with songs like “Dumb Dumb” and more recently, “Russian Roulette” and “Rookie.” Overall, “Red Flavor” is a valuable addition to the group’s repertoire, albeit slightly exhaustive. This release makes me wonder how much further they can pursue this kind of concept before it wears down. As great as “Red Flavor” is, the song makes me want to see something new from RV, and hopefully their next comebacks will make that a reality.
“Sorry Sorry & Bonamana” by Super Junior (Performed July 8)
There’s something incredibly sad about watching Super Junior appear on stage with only three members as they did at last night’s SMTown. Even when a fourth member, Heechul, appears mid-way through “Sorry Sorry,” there’s something disheartening about seeing what was once a revolutionarily large group be driven down to only a handful of people. (But don’t even get me started how they have nine backup dancers to get things up to SuJu’s original OT13. Or how Henry and Zhoumi could and should have most definitely been part of the performance, and Super Junior in general…) With the recent protest by fans against Sungmin, Kangin still on hiatus after the second drunk driving incident of his career, plus the rest of the members in the army, Super Junior’s available four members still delivered energetic performances, with the four —Leeteuk, Shindong, Heechul, and Yesung— stepping up to fill in the void left by the loss of the Super Junior’s mass of members. It’s not my favorite Super Junior performance by far, but seeing them persevere in spite of the virulent outpouring of hate they just received makes this one of their most memorable lives of all time.
What was your favorite K-pop release of the week? Tell us what you think 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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Every week, the KultScene crew share some of our favorite K-pop releases of the past week and discuss why exactly we were impressed by them. This week, we liked new releases from Teen Top and Super Junior’s Yesung.
“Love Is” by Teen Top (Released Apr. 10)
It’s the sad truth that very few K-pop groups are able to recover after their peak popularity, but Teen Top is attempting just that with “Love Is.” Their first song without former member L.Joe, their latest single is an angst-driven synthy dance-pop track that sounds like it would fit in the group’s repertoire of a few years ago more than some of their recent releases. The single is a throwback to their earlier Brave Brother-produced hits, which is fitting since they’re working with the producer once again. It thrives where you’d least expect it, playing one rhythm against one another, most prominently during the sweet chorus when the vocal melody contrasts sharply with an angered “No, no” response. They didn’t reinvent K-pop, but this group needed to show that they still can release a good, Teen Top-style song even with one less member, and that’s exactly what they did.
Even though I’m an ELF (Super Junior’s fandom) and love the KRY subunit, I haven’t enjoyed Yesung’s solo ventures thus far. “Hibernation” didn’t really change that, but it’s definitely a step in the direction of slow songs I can stomach. It’s a pretty mellow, easy going, little song. It’s devoid of Yesung’s usual powerhouse vocals, which actually benefit the track. He sticks to a flat, sweet tone that compliments the sentiment of the song. It’s not flashy or meant to destroy your feelings, like he usually does. “Hibernation” is literally and figuratively a warm up release for Yesung’s upcoming album. There, we will find those powerhouse belts he’s known for. And while it’s not my usual cup of tea, I’m not deaf; I can recognize talent, of course.
What was your favorite song of the week? Let us know 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.
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Each week, KultScene’s writers highlight a few recently released songs from Korea that we’re big fans of. The middle of November has surprised us a bit and we picked some music featuring acts like KNK, Super Junior, Buzz, and upcoming girl group LOOΠΔ.
“U” by KNK (Released Nov. 18)
I’m about to make a bold statement, but it’s one I’ll stand by until the end: KNK is the only worthwhile 2016 male debut group. With their newest release, “U,” the quintet further establish what’s been clear from the get go: they’re really not doing anything new in K-pop, but what they do, they do it well. Angsty and powerful performances, tight choreographies, and killer visuals; what’s not to like? We all joined the K-pop fandom for some variety of these reasons. “U” is a dance track reminiscent of, like everything else they do (no shade!), TVXQ. It’s a solid piece, and like KNK, it’s not breaking any molds or offering anything new, but it’s good nonetheless.
”Sweet Dreams” by Kim Heechul & Min Kyung Hoon (Released Nov. 19)
Super Junior is known for their dance hits and main vocals, but I’m probably one of the few people in this world who think that most K-pop fans out there are sleeping on how good Kim Heechul is as a vocalist. Over the years, he’s released several collaborative tracks with popular rock vocalists and “Sweet Dreams” with Buzz’s Min Kyung Hoon is another solid rock ballad that emphasizes just how good Kim Heechul is as a vocalist. Plus it’s a really emotionally-wrought rock ballad that deserve multiple listens. The music video, featuring the pair, Twice’s Momo, and the cast of Knowing Brothers is comical and heartbreaking, and the perfect vehicle for this song. The video also was preceded by a teaser image that spurred many rumors of SM Entertainment featuring a same sex couple in the video, so watch closely for the quiet love triangle.
”I’ll Be There” by Hyunjin & Heejin of LOOΠΔ (released Nov. 16)
Exciting new girl group LOOΠΔ continues to tease their debut. While a group with 12 members, only two have so far been revealed and they already have three songs and music videos out. Their latest track “I’ll Be There,” a duet between the two known members Hyunjin and Heejin adds another element to what they have shown already. It’s a synth-infused disco bop that showcases a more fun, energetic side to them. No info is out yet but it also sounds like it continues their collaboration with producers Monotree. Whether Digipedi did the video or not is harder to tell. Given these three releases I am getting seriously hyped for LOOΠΔ despite the time it seems to be taking to debut them all.
Have you listened to these? Which song of the past few days did you like? 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.
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Think you are a K-pop genius? That may very well be so, but our latest K-pop quiz will put that to the test. There’s nothing as simple here as “what group is Umji a member of?” (Gfriend) or “what year did 2NE1 debut?” (2009). Know how many members there are in Super Junior? Too bad!! Oh no, this is all about the little facts, that only the most fanatical K-pop lovers will know.
Take the quiz and let us know how well you fared in the comment section! A word of warning: Most of KultScene’s very knowledgeable team of writers did pretty poorly when taking this quiz so… Take your time while answering the questions!
What was your favorite (or least favorite!) question? Have any other random bits of trivia you think we should have included? Share your thoughts and results in the comment section below or on Facebook, or Tweet us your results @KultScene. 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/2016/11/IMPOSSIBLE.jpg?fit=1024%2C7687681024Tamar Hermanhttp://kultscene.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/KULTSCENE-LOGO-2018-TRANSPARENT-RED.pngTamar Herman2016-11-14 18:03:392016-11-14 18:11:11This is the hardest K-pop quiz ever
Each week, Korea introduces us to a variety of new songs. Each week, KultScene’s writers pick a few to introduce. In our latest article, some of our team focused on Momoland’s debut, Super Junior’s Kyuhyun’s finale before heading to the military, and Standing Egg’s recent foray into a bit of a different sonic style.
“Jjan! Koong! Kwang!” by Momoland (Released Nov. 9)
It’s not every week a debuting group makes history and it’s never usually as fun as Momoland. They are the first K-pop group to debut using the crowdfunding website Makestar, a platform made famous by charismatic girl group Stellar. Momoland used Makestar to raise money for their debut and they used it well. “Jjan! Koong! Kwang!” is a Duble Sidekick pop explosion of synths, catchy hooks, and the first ever Bora-inspired rapper. Not that we really needed that; the track still delivers thanks to its pure sweetness. I have a feeling Momoland could be coming for your cutesy faves. It pains me to say that, yet again, Kyuhyun’s new song isn’t as good as “
New material from Super Junior or a solo from one of its members generally signals the same thing: someone’s enlisting soon thereafter. And with one Kyuhyun left, his newest release “Still” (together with his other release “Blah Blah”) means it’s his last hoorah before he goes into the army. It would’ve been amazing if “Still” (or “Blah Blah,” for that matter) matched up to the perfectness of “At Gwanghwamun,” but alas, it’s still a solid track. Personally, the music reminds me of Mexican balladier-superstar Luis Miguel’s ‘90s-early ‘00s albums. Like the songs on those albums, “Still” has the air of romance and lets the vocals take certain stage — although with a full band, the performance would be to die for. Moreover, while somber, it still wraps you up deliciously in its melancholy, which, to be honest, who in the US doesn’t want to right now? (Apparently half of the country, but I digress!). It’s a weak send off, yet Kyuhyun showed what he’s the master at: gut-wrenching ballads and stellar vocals.
I’ve been a fan of Standing Egg for several years now (check out “Little Star”) and their newest song “Voice” offers something brand new . The group tends to be a bit mysterious, hiding their identity in favor of working with different artists, but “Voice” features Standing Egg (Egg#2, I believe) singing the powerful ballad. “Voice” keeps the group’s signature soft melodies but laid over the classically inspired strings is a heavy rhythm and strong, building vocals. Even though it switches things up from being the typical indie song Standing Egg is known for and heads into the realm of midtempo rock ballad, “Voice” is such a pleasure to listen to. The relaxing vibe is still there, albeit a bit hidden, and the music video is absolutely gorgeous. And heartbreaking.
Did you like any of these songs? What was your favorite song of the week? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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Every weekend, KultScene’s team of writers put our heads together to highlight some of our favorite releases from the past week. This Weekly K-pop Faves playlist has a lot of variant styles and features recently released singles by Heize and Dean, M&D (aka Heechul of Super Junior and Jungmo of Trax), and GFRIEND.
“Ulsanbawi” by Kim Heechul & Kim Jungmo (M&D) (Released July 12)
A few days after I casually told someone that I felt it was a pity K-pop hadn’t spread more of Korea’s homegrown sounds, SM Entertainment’s resident (loveable) fools released a brand new trot song. “Ulsanbawi” is actually a trot-rock hybrid created by Super Junior’s Heechul and Trax’s Kim Jungmo (mostly Jungmo). It’s not a song I’ll listen to every day but its release is definitely something that K-pop fans should be aware of thanks to Korea’s long history with trot (the title is also innately Korean- it references a mountain range.) Heechul, who is also a member of of the Super Junior-T trot subunit, shines on the song with his overwrought vocals paired by Jungmo’s electric rifts. It’s not SM Entertainment’s usual MO but I’m definitely a fan. (I.O.I/DIA member Jung Chaeyeon stars in the music video, so there’s also that fun bonus of seeing Heechul act like a vagrant bum.)
“And July (feat. Dean, DJ Friz)” by Heize (Released July 17)
I wasn’t here for “Shut Up & Groove,” but Heize and Dean’s newest collaboration “And July” is a step up. On this new release, Heize’s vocals aren’t as piercing as the first song and the synergy between her singing and rapping are balanced better. Dean, as usual, kills his verses and I’m here for anything that includes his “Ooh’s,” which is a standout in the song, to be honest. The lyrics, I assume, probably talk about a romantic relationship, but the interactions in the music video between the two artists looks more like a petty war between siblings. It’s cute, but if the lyrics are romantic, then it’s a bit weird. Nevertheless, it’s an easy, mellow listen and I’m glad Heize is slowly finding herself as an artist.
“Navillera” by GFriend (Released July 11)
They’ve done it again! GFriend has brought out another catchy bop to continue the summer K-pop rush. While I wish it stood out a little more compared to their other releases, I’m pretty satisfied with the way it came out — as always, GFriend is powerful and strong, but catchy and innocent at the same time. It’s good to see them bringing out their charms in a song that can easily be left on repeat for days on end. “Navillera” tells the K-pop world that GFriend has their own trademark style among girl groups. While other groups have been trying to ride the “GFriend reign,” none of them compare to these girls. GFriend is here to stay, in both their K-pop relevance and their musical style.
Share your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us onFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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When it comes to Super Junior covers just about every other boy band, and some girl groups, has covered “Sorry Sorry” at some point. Yes, it’s an iconic song with an iconic dance by an iconic group that represents an iconic time in K-pop history, but it’s also a very predictable choice. “U” isn’t exactly a refreshing song to cover either, but done by Seventeen, well, it changes things. No other group can cover Suju better than them, really, since they have the chops, numbers, and talent. I even dare say that they’re an upgraded product of the Super Junior model — and this is coming from an ELF! Because even if they didn’t change the song’s arrangement much or the choreography, it still feels like Seventeen put their own flavor in it. I would’ve appreciated an original rap, but the purist in me also likes it as is. This massive group is proving that they deserve to be one of the next generation’s top tiers and I’m looking forward to even more Super Junior covers.
“Oh Ma Mind” by MIXX (released 3 may)
“I’m a sinner captured in a cage called you”
It’s not a sin to desire MIXX, nor do you need this boy to be your hero. You’re not a little princess, just a regular princess who can ride a white horse just as much as a prince. Tired gender tropes aside, MIXX have crafted maybe the best debut of the year so far (in a year of few great debuts). “Oh Ma Mind” is one of those classic K-pop tracks where it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. It mixes vocal and musical styles to create something they can call their own. The vocals are typical for a cutesy girl group, fragile and sugar laced. The music is a funky mix of R&B and tropical synths that gleefully bounce. It also has a wonderfully fetishistic music video directed by production team of the moment, Digipedi. Given their involvement, a closer look at those gender stereotypes might yield some interesting results. But that’s an issue for another time. For now, let’s just bop and play some tennis.
This comeback by K-pop’s favourite sibling duo may be two years late, but the wait was definitely worthwhile. One of two title songs off of their latest album “Spring Vol. 1/Puberty”, “Re-Bye” is an addictive track that fully showcases little sister Suhyun’s great and improved vocals. The accompanying music video is also a delight to watch, set in an opera house with the two siblings as undercover detectives. It’s both playful and thrilling, part of which can be credited to the arrangement of the piece and also to the vocal ability of the siblings. Their growth over the past two years is extremely evident in the maturity of their album as a whole and this was one of YG Entertainment’s best releases so far. Even though they came back at a time with a lot of K-pop competition, Akdong Musician stands out and will continue to do so in the industry. Here’s looking forward to the next release!
“Green Window” by Akdong Musician/AKMU (released 3 May)
Like Anna, I’m another one who is a big fan of AKMU’s album, “Spring Vol. 1/Puberty.” But while the singles were decently solid, it was the b-side “Green Window” where I truly think the brother-sister duo shines. I really hope that they create a third music video to match the upbeat sound of “Green Window,” which I personally think thing is the song that most fits the album’s springtime theme. The song’s production recalls AKMU’s debut album “Play” with it’s almost juvenile instrumentation and hopeful lyrics; it’s almost impossible to listen to “Green Window” without feeling inspired. The song’s rainbow motif reflects the relative age of AKMU (both siblings are in their teens) while the lyrics themselves show insight into the human condition. The song is pretty fast paced throughout, but the staccato build into the bridge’s harmony and eventual synth sound is just inspired.
What was your favorite song this week? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
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2015 is the year that could do little wrong when it came to Korean music, and just when KultScene’s staff thought we were done adoring songs from last year, we decided it was time to single out our favorite non-singles. The list, compiled by several members of our staff, takes into account personal taste and the overall quality of songs as we strive to highlight the overlooked B-sides from some of K-pop’s best albums.
30. Infinite – “Between Me And You”
Undoubtedly one of Infinite’s best ballads to date is “Between Me And You,” a song that allows all the members to show off their extremely emotive vocals. Less vocally impressive members, such as Sungyeol and Sungjong, held their own in this track and showed how much they improved since their last album. Unlike most ballads, this song didn’t get boring, mostly because of the drum beat that was present throughout the song and the passionate raps provided by members Dongwoo and Hoya. This track proved that Infinite is more than just a dance group as the members showed off their great vocal talent, revealing that Infinite still has a lot of potential to grow.
29. Red Velvet – “Lady’s Room”
You honestly cannot find a cuter song than “Lady’s Room” on Red Velvet’s stand out album “The Red.” The song is about friends opening up about the boys that they like, talking together in the “Lady’s Room,” and overall enjoying the company of one another. It’s perfect for Red Velvet’s fresh and youthful image, and the song’s composition is filled with synth undertones and absolute sweetness. It’s an adorable ultramodern take on the typical girl group pop song, with crisp vocals and playful back and forths between the members. The falsettos and harmonizations in the chorus show Red Velvet’s cohesiveness as a vocal quintet as opposed to the dance-ready choruses of many of their other songs. Seulgi’s “follow me” line is a standout favorite, but the song’s continual playing with different tones and styles is just absolutely fitting for the fun girl group known for its constant reinvention of itself.
28. TVXQ Yunho – “Komplicated”
2015 was Yunho’s time to shine. The dream-inducing rhythmic track “Komplicated” is a trip dance song that would be perfect at any club. Heavy house influences on the trippy song fit with Yunho’s vocal color and preference towards dance music. The song starts off slow with pounding beats and quieter wailing sounds before giving Yunho a moment to let his vocal color show. And then the listener is slowly drawn towards the spiraling, pounding dance breaks. The song is minimalistic with a true emphasis on the music rather than the lyrics, while still giving Yunho a chance to show why he’s considered one of K-pop’s most versatile singers. MonoTree is credited with editing the warped vocals on “Komplicated,” and he’s done an absolutely phenomenal job creating one of K-pop’s best house songs of the year.
27. Shinhwa – “Alright”
“Alright” has a feel-good vibe, one in which you’ll continuously find yourself twiddling your fingers and nodding your head back and forth. There’s an immense sense of sexiness that exudes from their (well) aged voices. What’s great about Shinhwa, and I say this in the most positive way, is their lack of skin exposure; their sexiness is purely in their natural charisma. The members are now well into their mid 30’s, and with that said, it’s admirable seeing them toy around with new genres of music. The incorporation of ChaCha Malone and GRAY from AOMG in composing and arranging this song, lightly sprayed a swag element to the track.
26. ToppDogg – “O.A.S.I.S”
When I think of ToppDogg, hard hitting, rap based songs like “Follow Me” come to mind, so when I first heard “O.A.S.I.S,” it was a pleasant surprise. Especially considering another artist, Crush, released his own yummy R&B song with the same title last year. But rather than being a carbon copy or a lesser version, ToppDogg’s “O.A.S.I.S” is a funky, disco-ey symphony displaying all the right sounds from the ‘70s. This track showed the boys’ versatility, how they’re not stuck in one genre and are open to more croony sounds. And even if the oasis in question is a girl, the true oasis is the song itself for being incredibly smooth and delicious to the senses.
25. GOT7 – “Put Your Hands Up”
Disguised as a party song, “Put Your Hands Up” doesn’t imply raising your arms in the air and waving them like you just don’t care. For this B-side on their “MAD” album, GOT7 play with the idea of arresting a girl who doesn’t realize they’re into her. Instead of relying on the talented vocal line, “Put Your Hands Up” is a rap-driven earworm reminiscent of their senior’s “Hands Up.” The hip-hop influence was very visible on this album, but the jumpiness and easy to follow chorus is what makes “Put Your Hands Up” super fun.
It seems as though GOT7 is all about making their listeners feel good nowadays, and it’s definitely working in their benefit! “Feeling Good” allowed members Bambam and Yugyeom, who are less likely known for their vocals, to give you a taste of their serene and soothing voices without taking the shine away from the already skilled JB, Jr., and Youngjae. “Feeling Good” is filled with charming melodies that’ll easily swoop in and wrap you up into a bundle of greasy GOT7 feels. Considering how young the group is, GOT7 certainly knows how to get your hearts fluttering with their pleasantly delicate voices and sweet compliments of one’s beauty and fullon wonderfulness. Instant swoon, is it not?
23. Kim Sungkyu – “Daydream feat. Tablo & JW”
Kim Sungkyu, the main vocalist of Infinite, released a great solo album in 2015 filled with songs of different genres, but “Daydream” was one of the standouts. Sungkyu’s calming voice along with the leveled rapping by Borderline (Tablo & JW) was perfect and created chill vibes for the whole song. Despite only having one main melodic strand, the song never got boring because of the various ways the repetitive melody was presented, a sign that shows the high production quality of this song. The emotions in the song were shown well through Sungkyu’s voice as well, which went from appropriately soft and mild to loud and full of feeling at different points in the song. It’s not a typical song to get hooked onto, but it’s definitely an earworm in its own right.
22. G.Soul – “Dirty”
Words can’t begin to express how amazingly versatile of an artist G.Soul really is. “Dirty” is different than anything that he’s done since debuting. Not only does it incorporate deep house music, but it’s also sung in English! I kept forgetting that I was actually listening to a Korean artist and not an American. The lyrics were slightly raunchy and in your face, not the norm for a number of Korean singers, but G.Soul’s always pushing different boundaries. And maybe it’s because “Dirty” was in English, but as soon as he let out that first soulful note, my heart started doing somersaults. It blows my mind as to how well he can continuously pump out all these EPs and transition from R&B to neo-soul to house music with little to none promotions and still make it all work.
21. Nine Muses – “Yes or No”
Nine Muses tried hard this year. Three albums but little to show for it in terms of success. What they do have, however, is this delicious slice of disco. “Yes or No,” for those who venture past their singles, is a song about waiting for a reply to that risky text you sent a crush. It’s a lighter look at Nine Muses. Luckily, their wide ranging vocals survive the trip and the sound here allows both high pitched and low pitched vocalists to shine. It even has an adorable Instagram video which matches nicely with the modern look at love the song gives us.
20. f(x) – “Diamond”
“Diamond” encapsulates what makes f(x)’s album cuts so good. Like many of the best songs on “Pink Tape” and “Red Light,” it starts off one way and slowly but surely becomes something completely different by the end. In this case, we start off hearing a plodding hip-hop beat, Luna’s vocals working to make it even heavier as she delivers each syllable with an assured confidence. The song is carried like this for a while longer before Luna herself turns up again to begin lifting the song off its feet. Her 30-second long pre-chorus with Krystal adds a growing sense of euphoria ready to burst after a long build up. It then drops into a fierce electro chorus. Only f(x) could carry such an array of elements in the one song and not allow it sound a mess. “Diamond” is full of surprises, each one of them a joy.
19. MFBTY – “Let It Go feat. Yoon Junhyung”
MFBTY’s “WondaLand” is a pop album unlike anything else from K-pop in recent years. Every song is different, and “Let It Go,” featuring Beast’s rapper Junhyung, doesn’t hold back. The travel-oriented tune starts off with simple enough piano tune that leads into Yoon Mirae’s English intro before turning into Tiger JK’s devil may care rap about finding happiness and throwing away burdens. Yoon Mirae picks up the song with a spitfire “f- you” rap that references Kelis’ “Milkshake” before returning to her singsong English lines. Junhyung joins the couple on the track with his own building rap. The song’s message is exciting enough, but it’s the constantly differentiating stanzas and musical styles each singer utilizes throughout the track that made us fall in love with this MFBTY hip-pop song.
18. Hyuna – “Get Outta My House feat. Kwon Jung Yeol of 10 cm”
For Hyuna’s solo work, we’ve come to expect the ultra sexualized EDM banger with a catchy chorus or hook. And that’s fine, we all grow into liking those earworms. However, for her latest solo mini album “A+,” Hyuna showed us she’s growing and exploring more sounds. The perfect example of this is “Get Outta My House,” a slow tempo almost ballad where she talk raps about kicking a guy out of her house and the relationship. Hyuna’s voice can come off nasally and borderline annoying at times. But with “Get Outta My House,” she’s finally found the right flow for her tone, which is even sexier and goes better with her overall image than what she normally does. “A+” was solid, especially coming from Hyuna. So if she continues to drop tracks like “Get Outta My House,” we might be able to fully take her seriously as a rapper.
17. EXO – “Promise (EXO 2014)”
EXO’s “Love Me Right” repackaged album definitely saved the best for last. Closing the group’s second studio album is “Promise (EXO 2014),” a track that is as poignant as it for the members as it is for the fans. Firstly, member Lay helped compose and write the lyrics for both the Chinese and Korean versions, while members Chen and Chanyeol participated in the lyric-writing of the latter, giving the song a great deal of personal meaning. The alternate title “EXO 2014” emphasizes the importance that the year 2014 was for the boy group, and it’s not difficult to figure out why. It alludes to former Chinese members Kris and Luhan’s departure, and as if that is not depressing enough the funereal piano melody and string sections only makes listeners feel worse. But this is not what the group wants us to take away from the sentimental track. Despite all the trials and tribulations, they want to convey their appreciation for the fans who have stuck by them through all of their trials and tribulations. “Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you,” raps Chanyeol. Even if you have a distaste for all things ballads, please make an exception for “Promise (EXO 2014).”
16. Kim Sungkyu- “Alive”
Sungkyu’s silky voice is at its very best in “Alive,” which showcases a perfect combination of wonderful music production and great vocals. The unconventional but wholly appropriate music instrumentals in the background of this track stand out on their own but also enhance Sungkyu’s voice, creating this addictive and touching track. With lyrics such as “I’m better off just longing for you, that’s right, I have no other choice,” the best part of this song is its emotional climax, where Sungkyu is singing passionately and the instrumentals are on the brink of overwhelming his voice. The hopelessness is conveyed in such a clear manner that even non-Korean listeners would be able to understand the pain and meaning behind the lyrics, a trait that makes this song a really amazing one.
15. GOT7 – “Good”
With such a positive start to the song, how can one not automatically feel good? Sure, when looking at the lyrics, some will probably question why and how GOT7 can be so “full” of themselves, but if the members are able to confidently sing it, then where’s the problem in that? If you’re well put together, whether it’s your outfit, hair, makeup or all of the above, then why not strut and show it off? Self-confidence and self-loving can only start with you. But lyrics aside, not only will “Good” have you in a delightful mood whilst listening to it but it also shows the diversity and unique vocal techniques with each member’s voices. The smooth blending of members JB, Jr., and Youngjae’s voices will surely have you swooning in no time. You don’t have to worry GOT7; we’ve already fallen for you.
14. Jonghyun – “Deja-Boo”
One of the best things to have happened to K-pop was SHINee’s Jonghyun’s album “Base,” and one of the best songs to have hit us was “Deja-Boo” off of said album. With this song, we see a smoother side to the SHINee leader that was previously masked in the group’s more dynamic productions. Throw in Zion T. as a feature into the mix, and now you can pretty much bet on a pretty solid R&B track. And as the intro song as well, it sets the right tone for the rest of the album. The song, laced with finger snaps and a mellow bassline, is flirty yet funky, just like its coy lyrics about a woman who Jonghyun swears he encountered before. There may not be a climax moment, but the varied structure – some singing abbreviated with soft murmurs – makes it nevertheless very addicting. Trust Jonghyun to deliver yet another well written and composed song.
13. BTS – “Boyz With Fun”
Sometimes I forget how young the members of BTS really are. Their lyrics and music are usually deep and transcends powerful messages to the listeners. One would think they’re all serious and no fun, but “Boyz With Fun” showed otherwise. This song does exactly what the title states. The members are cheerful from beginning to end. It’s easy to sense their playfulness towards one another, even without watching their live performances. With it’s hooking beat, who could possibly sit still and maintain any sort of calmness while listening to this? BTS doesn’t want to be bothered with someone who’s not down to having a good time, would you? What would life be like if it was just filled with humorless and full days? “Boyz With Fun” is reminder to always fill your days with as much enjoyment as possible!
12.5 Super Junior “Stars Appear”
Due to editorial oversight, “Stars Appear” was not included in the originally published version of this list. Our bad!
Super Junior’s known for their dances, but some of their most memorable tracks throughout the years have been power ballads. “Stars Appear” begins with a simple piano melody before building into a soft rock song that is all about the group’s decade-spanning career together. The member’s vocals come together in an emotion-wrought chorus over strings and clashing cymbals, along with a lot of subtle sounds. The song comes to a sudden with an acoustic, a nearly a cappella bridge filled with Kyuhyun and Ryeowook’s smooth crooning before returning to its previously-introduced tempo. The song has plenty of parts distributed so that Super Junior’s members each get a chance to sing, but the real beauty of “Stars Appear” are the choruses, which have several members showing off their vocal colors backed by the rest. Super Junior’s a big group, but this song gives each member a time to shine.
12. miss A “Love Song”
Despite JYP Entertainment having its best year in a long time, miss A still seemed to slip under the radar compared to their compatriots. This is a shame as their album “Colours” was fantastic and this track from it, “Love Song,” is one of the best of the year. The song opens with an atmospheric piano melody that transitions into a subdued but moody verse. The intro then returns as a pre chorus before what can only be described as a crunk classical chorus. It is merely oriental strings along with a bass drum and snare but manages to be instantly danceable and energetic. This unexpected turn transformed “Love Song” from a great filler track to a genre-creating masterpiece. ‘’Like a tornado’’ is right.
11. BEAST – “See You There”
2014 was BEAST’s year — no doubt about that. “Good Luck” and “12:30” won everything in music shows and rocked our worlds. So when 2015 came around, we were perplexed by their singles that were subpar to its precedents. I say with deep pain in my heart that BEAST was a disappointment in 2015, but at least they managed to release an awesome b-side worthy of their previous album, “See You There.” The synth beats effortlessly weave into the R&B influences, with the member’s velvety vocals bringing the whole thing full circle. Not only are the lyrics, about a man wishing to meet his lover where they first met, beautiful, but it’s the perfect example of BEAST’s flawless harmonization. It’s a sweet, feel-good song, but it’s also the best in the entire album “Ordinary.”
Perhaps the song most celebrated by Inspirits for having the best line distribution in Infinite’s mini album “Reality,” “Moonlight” is an upbeat dance track that has Infinite written all over it, mostly because it sounds familiar to their old hits such as “Paradise.” Surprisingly, this track does not have any raps in it, but perhaps this is for the better because it gave resident rappers Hoya and Dongwoo a chance to show off their amazing vocal ability. Dongwoo in particular had several high notes in the track and pulled it off very well. The producers of the track should be given credit as well because of how skillfully originally weak vocalists such as Sungyeol and Sungjong were used in the song. Yes, their parts were auto-tuned sometimes, but for once, the auto-tune didn’t sound out of place and fitted the song perfectly. They were also given parts which suited their voices and allowed them to sound really good. The track was also layered with many vocal ad-libs and strong instrumentals, all in all creating one of the best songs of the album.
9. EXO – “Hurt”
EXO’s “EXODUS” album from earlier this year was absolutely stuffed with addicting songs and “Hurt” is the highlight of the non-singles. The haunting instrumental opening drops into an electropop song that is addicting that leads into a dub-pop dance break. “Hurt” stands out by giving EXO everything that the members need to shine; there are individual, building solos, there are harmonization-filled choruses, some raps that don’t detract from the abundance of heartbreaking crooning. The moody, angsty song’s lyrics are like something out of late 2000’s MySpace pages, and the narrator of “Hurt” probably could use a few hugs. “Will you take me inside the veil that covers you?” sings EXO. “Can’t you make me live?” EXO does well at being the desperate lover, and “Hurt” is the epitome of that. EXO is an idol dance group first and foremost, but the artistry of “Hurt” with its ability to seamlessly introduce different rhythms and musical styles is a standout from EXO’s discography.
8. BTS – “Hold Me Tight”
BTS’s “Hold Me Tight” is easily title track material, if only their album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1” did not already have two other singles already. The song walks us through several distinct moments, from the opening with the delicate piano instrumentals, to the body’s snaps and snares, and finally to the bridge with the muffled rap. The members’ long vibratos and angsty raps makes it one of the group’s most emotional songs, and the harmonizations throughout the verses and choruses are exemplars to the group’s talent. Moreover, the passionate mood perfectly conveys the lyrics about the regret and the desperation that accompanies a foreseen breakup. But, wait, it gets better. In collaboration with Slow Rabbit, pdogg, and the rapper line, the song is composed and written by member V, making it his first time participating in a BTS production. For a first, it is pretty impressive, but then again it is BTS, so what else is new?
7. f(x) “Rude Love”
The love of British dance music didn’t end with “Four Walls” for f(x); “Rude Love” is a sprawling house ode to sex. While it is ostensibly a house track, it also seems to borrow from other British music of the same era. The satisfyingly simple piano is reminiscent of a Stone Roses or Happy Mondays track, and I assure you f(x) are picking the right influences. These pianos mix with the house beats to create an almost pure dance track only lifted by the dynamic vocals. The muffled refrains of “I’m wanting you baby” being particularly important to bringing it all together.
6. BTS – “Silver Spoon”/“Crow Tit”
BTS may not have a “Cypher Pt. 4” for us in their album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2”, but they do have “Crow Tit” (“Silver Spoon”), which is pretty much the same thing. On the surface, it’s one of those songs that make listeners feel bigger than life with its trap beats, but at the microlevel, it’s a track about originality, social expectations, and generational divides. The title refers to a Korean proverb “If a crow-tit walks like a stork, it will tear its legs,” which, in turn, translates into an expression about people who ruin themselves by trying to emulate those who are better. In this case, BTS are the crows who are condemned by the superior storks. But BTS embraces their crow-like position, as supported by the implementation of crow caw beats, and thank their haters (“Thanks to the stork, my legs spread”), which explains the members’ cocky tones. The track boasts of each member’s’ colorful voices, which are barely indistinguishable here, and it’s just one of their many songs that listeners have to see live.
5. GOT7 – “Back to Me”
Before GOT7 released “If You Do” and the album “MAD,” their thing was the cutesy and playful concept epitomized by “Just Right.” However, on that same album, we got other just as good lively and cute jams like “Back to Me.” Sprinkled with hip-hop, “Back to Me” is the sweetest song about wanting a girl back that allowed for the backup vocalists Jr. and Yugyeom to take the lead. It’s impossible to hear this strong and not have your heart immediately warm up and a big smile form in your face. While GOT7’s manly and fierce image was the true revelation of the year, we’ll always cherish their perfectly human boyfriend concept paired with bubblegum pop/hip-hop hybrids.
4. Red Velvet – “Time Slip”
Red Velvet has had a great year and their album “The Red” was truly a wonderful one. “Time Slip” is simply exceptional though, with its use of cohesive instrumentals and a great bass. It’s tempo is similar to that of English hits such as “Fancy,” but comparatively, “Time Slip” has more interesting sounds (a school bell was used at one point). The vocals of the members are also showcased well here and they brought out the meaning of the lyrics because they literally transported listeners to another world through this song. The song seems like a successful experiment which worked exceedingly well for Red Velvet and I’m glad that they’re defying conventional K-pop girl group standards. I’m really excited to see what else they have in store for us because they are a group with boundless potential.
3. EXID – “Thrilling”
EXID’s funk-dance songs like “Up & Down” and “Ah Yeah” are great, but the girl group’s vocal performance in “Thrilling” is one of KultScene’s favorite songs of the year. The alluring, haunting track offers up a bevy of everything that makes EXID the fierce group we know and love. The vocal talent, the seductive voices, the take no bullshit attitude… “Thrilling” is EXID at their very best. EXID’s distinct sound is clear throughout “Thrilling,” and is the grown up version of 2012’s “Every Night.” The song doesn’t hold back, and each member is given their chance to shine. The highlight is definitely the builds that lead into the singsong chanting chorus featuring Junghwa, and there’s an absolutely phenomenal harmonization towards the end of the song featuring Hani’s sultry voice lightly layered over Solji’s belting high note.
2. BTS – “Whalien 52”
BTS is known for being K-pop’s “social conscious,” as they often tackle heavy subjects such as oppression and the pursuit of happiness through their lyrics, so with their latest album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt.1” this is not any different. In particular, “Whalien 52” uses a real life solitude creature, a whale who communicates at a disparate 52 hertz wavelength, as a trope to speak about loneliness and despair. Unlike what one would expect, however, the group approaches the topics in a hopeful manner. Behind all the light piano melody and synth sounds is an inspirational song also about how one day this whale’s tune will reach someone, just as how through the right effort and persistence one can leave a dent in this world. A repetitive wailing in the backing track resembling a whale song further supports the notion of how this whale should keep singing until its voice is heard, and continues throughout the tune until it ends on one resoluting cry. “Whalien 52” attests to how an unlikely muse like a marine mammal can be incorporated into both the greater message and the production of a beautiful track.
1. Brown Eyed Girls “Wave”
In the context of Brown Eyed Girls’ album “Basic”, “Wave” plays almost like a warm up for lead single “Brave New World,” but goes above and beyond the single’s radio-friendly take on ambient pop. With less bombast, “Wave” washes over its audience and allows a build of quiet tension to pervade its entirety. The instrumental intricacies are similar to “Brave New World” but work to give us something more chilled out but with a broken hearted bite, matched by breathtaking harmonies. “Wave” contains similar funk guitars and a gorgeous slinking bassline, but it’s more mellow in its overall sound. Simple keys open up the song before a perfectly tight rhythm section and eventually a funky scratching lead guitar. Each of these elements are balanced delicately, coming in and out of the song to build the aforementioned tension and also to create a heavenly climax during Miryo’s rap. “Wave” is one of Brown Eyed Girls’ most spectacular productions to date, and it is something we’d love to see more of this sort of song from the talented vocal group.
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