On Episode 43 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Alexis Hodoyan, Tamar Herman, and Stephen Knight look back at Kpop releases from June 2019. We discuss Chungha’s “Snapping,” Sulli’s “Goblin,” Yesung’s “Pink Magic”, Monsta X’s “Who Do U Love,” NCT Dream’s “Don’t Need Your Love,” and Stray Kids’ “Side Effects.”
The year 2018 is passing by so fast. Can you believe that we have only five months left until 2019? When it comes to K-pop, a lot can happen in a matter of a few months, but so far we’ve already been taking notes on the music styles that have been trending in charts and album releases.
While some styles are always present, like electronic dance music (Sunmi’s “Heroine”) and R&B (Red Velvet’s “Bad Boy”), and some trend styles of 2016 and 2017 are still popular, like tropical house ((G)I-dle’s “Latata,” CROSS GENE’s “Touch It,” etc.), we chose three less frequently heard musical styles that have been present in a lot of comebacks and B-sides so far this year.
Check some of them out below:
Disco / Electropop / Retro K-pop Sound
When 2017 ended with the tragic news about SHINee’s Jonghyun, I thought the K-pop industry would have a hard time hyping fans up again. But when Momoland released the catchy and comic “Bboom Bboom” a few weeks later, I was smiling again. This was exactly the kind of fun we needed! The song was produced by Shinsadong Tiger, the same producer behind some of T-ara’s most legendary hits, like “Roly-Poly” and “Lovey-Dovey,” and so “Bboom Bboom” immediately gathered comparisons with T-ara and their disco-themed hits. But, whether people were mad or glad about the similarities, the fact is that “Bboom Bboom” led Momoland to huge success. The group then repeated the formula and released “Baam,” also produced by Shinsadong Tiger.
In late May, girl group AOA had its first comeback without former lead vocalist ChoA, releasing their Bingle Bangle EP full of fun and upbeat songs. One of those songs was “Ladi Dadi,” an electropop summer jam that recalls the same vibes of the catchiest hits of K-pop circa 2010-2012. Is 2018 making people nostalgic about the old days of K-pop? All we can say is we’re having so much fun with these retro sounds!
ALSO ON KULTSCENE: K-POP UNMUTED JUNE 2018 ROUNDUP
Mid-tempo Piano Hip-Hop
In late January, iKon scored a perfect All-Kill on Korean charts with their hit “Love Scenario,” a mid-tempo hip-hop song with a minimalist production and a bright piano accompaniment. Just a few months later in April, it was Pentagon’s time to show they could “shine” with the same musical approach, releasing the catchy and cute “Shine.” And even if it wasn’t a title track, let’s not forget “Kangaroo,” a great b-side from Wanna One’s first special album, 1÷x=1 (Undivided). “Kangaroo” is a fun hip-hop song produced by Block B’s Zico, with light beats and a mid-tempo cadency sweetly accompanied by piano chords. Those 3 boy groups killed this style and gave us some of the best songs of 2018 so far!
ALSO ON KULTSCENE: 7 K-POP MUSIC STYLES WE’D LOVE TO HEAR MORE
Caribbean & Latin Influences
In the last months of the year 2017, we could hear a few K-pop songs with influences of Caribbean and Latin music, such as SF9’s “O’ Sole Mio” and AOA’s Jimin “Hallelujah.” Little did we know that it would continue in 2018! In April, Super Junior caught the world by surprise when they released an iconic collaboration with Dominican-American singer Leslie Grace, the sensual “Lo Siento.” Later in May, it was BTS fans’ time to get delighted when they heard a flavour of salsa music on the group’s third full studio album Love Yourself: Tear with the irresistible “Airplane pt. 2.” The song was promoted on music shows and became an instant fan favorite due to the mention of cities and countries around the world, a reference to mariachis as a metaphor for the septet’s life on the road, and, of course, the Latin feels. More recently in mid-July, girl group MAMAMOO also continued their path of exploring different music genres in 2018 by releasing “Egotistic,” an elegant song full of Spanish guitars.
I think it’s safe to say Latinx and Caribbean fans are happy for seeing their culture being represented like this!
What’s your favorite sound of K-pop so far in 2018? 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.
April picked up in a big way over the last week with releases from some of our favorite K-pop artists. In this week’s K-pop faves list, the KultScene team wanted highlighted some music from soloists and boy bands alike.
“Honestly” by Eric Nam (Released Apr. 11)
Eric Nam made his long anticipated comeback with his first EP in two years this week, and the amount of effort he put into it is evident, especially from his title track “Honestly,” which he co-wrote and composed. A departure from his usually sweet and gentle image, “Honestly” features the stronger use of electro-synth to create a colourful track that allows Eric to show off both his moves and his vocals. Accompanied by a vibrant music video filmed in Mexico, the track is very dynamic and sets the tone for the rest of the EP, which is a masterpiece in itself.
“Me & U” by Super Junior (Released Apr. 12)
This week, the legends Super Junior came back with a repackage of last year’s Play. Along with the latest single “Lo Siento” and all the previous songs, Replay has a few new songs, including “Me & U.” This song perfectly blends the pop sounds we know and appreciate Super Junior for modern lite-R&B. “Me & U” perfectly exemplifies how the group, with all the members over 30 and a 13-year-old career under their belt, are moving forward sonically. It’s a great spring song to bop along to.
‘Yet’ by Drunken Tiger (Released Apr. 13)
The king is back, and he’s going hard as always! I am not a “today’s music sucks, bring back old school *insert music genre name*” kind of person, but wow, how I missed Tiger JK’s powerful deliver and deep lyricism. Since “Yet” marks the last album he’ll release under the name of the group that changed the scene for rappers in Korea, he surely has a lot to say – and he says it with a furious, cathartic flow, with the little “drunken” vibe that is his trademark. It is a blessing to see Tiger still going strong, almost 20 years after his debut. I’m all for having different styles and generations shining together. If hip-hop has welcomed new trends, it is because people like him paved the way for the genre to be what it is today, and Tiger’s story is definitely one worth listening to.
What was your favorite song of the week? Let us know in the comment section 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.
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.
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.
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“Red Flavor” by Red Velvet (Released July 9)
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.
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“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.
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.
Also on KultScene: WINNER’s ‘Really Really’ song & music video review
“Hibernation” by Yesung (Released Apr. 10)
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.
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.
Also on KultScene: This is the hardest K-pop quiz ever
”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.
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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.
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!
Also on Kultscene: Which K-pop generation do you belong in?
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.
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 “
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“Still” by Kyuhyun (Released Nov. 9)
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.
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“Voice” by Standing Egg (Released Nov. 10)
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.