This was a crazy month for K-Pop. There was so much going on it took me all the way through September to catch up! It’s probably because I spent most of August focusing on SNSD’s 10th anniversary and Wanna One’s debut, but there were plenty of great new releases. Sometimes these posts are biased because I just keep mentioning the same groups over and over again…but this time I’m going to try and cover as many as I can!
Wow, it feels like this comeback was forever ago
thanks to SM’s messy one-week promotions. I think we all agree Holiday Night wasn’t quite what we were looking for. It was good, it just didn’t seem like tenth anniversary quality. But given these ladies’ schedules and all that contract renewal drama, I’m grateful we got an album in the first place. And I personally love “Holiday” – it’s so bubbly and infectious! It’s just one of those songs that automatically makes you happy. SM definitely did them dirty with the general quality of this comeback, but “Holiday” was my go-to song for August.
Everything about “Gashina” is on point. Good song, great music video, fantastic choreography. Though my K-Pop tastes are often as mainstream as it gets, this fierce break-up anthem is a refreshing change from the sea of cute and bubbly music we’re often used to. It’s a song that both K-Pop fans and casual listeners can enjoy, which is perhaps why it’s so popular. I’m going to cover to that amazing dance later, so for now I’ll highlight the music video. The images are beautifully composed and highly stylized, but its heart is a very simple and relatable story of Sunmi acting out after being dumped. The charts aren’t lying – just get on board with this gem!
*Pristin, “We Like”
I really didn’t want to like this song at first. I was at my max for songs with random noises as the hook, and hearing “dudududududu” was almost the last straw. But of course, this song is incredibly freaking catchy. I held out for a good week before I was happily singing and dancing along. The cutesy parts water down the girl crush concept a little bit, but the sassy parts are fierce. Also, I think it shows Pristin is capable of lots of different sides. Just like with “Wee Woo,” they’re very aware of their target demographic and how they fit into the bigger picture. I’m pretty sure they’ll be the next big girl group, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they explode in popularity in the next few years.
*Wanna One, “Burn it Up”
(Feel free to ignore the music video because it’s terrible) Despite Wanna One debuting with “Energetic,” all signs point to “Burn it Up” being the intended title track. It has a trendy hip hop sound, it talks about Wanna One dominating the stage after their Produce 101 hardships, and it features Kang Daniel flashing those abs of steel. It also does a better job of showing off all the members – especially my faves Seongwu and Minhyun. I like “Energetic” just fine, but “Burn it Up” is closer to my personal tastes. In any case, both songs prove that Wanna One will be a major force to contend with for the next year and a half – and not just because of their crazy fandom!
CLC, “Where Are You?”
CLC gained some attention earlier this year with their fierce “Hobgoblin,” but I still maintain they’re massively under-appreciated. “Where Are You” brings them back to their signature retro sound, slowing things down to a 90’s style R&B ballad. Although it’s very low-key and subtle, everything about it is effortlessly beautiful. The girls sound soft and pretty, they dance elegantly yet delicately, and the music video is just gorgeous. Not to mention that every single member looks flawless. I try very hard not to use this blog to shamelessly plug my favorites…but please, please, please check CLC out!
Golden Child, “DamDaDi”
This song is so addictive. While it mostly sounds like something out of the 50’s or 60’s, it also reminds me of early 2000’s bubblegum pop. The highly stylized performance makes me think of musicals like Grease, Hairspray, or even High School Musical. And I love all of that stuff, so in my opinion “DamDaDi” is only made up of good things. While I wouldn’t say boy groups with bright concepts are rare, “DamDaDi” is particularly refreshing. I actually can’t help smiling whenever I listen. I put them in the “underrated section” because they literally just debuted, but I hope that things go well for them!
*Favorite Aesthetic Music Video: Jeong Sewoon, “Just U”
(My definition of an aesthetic MV: A classic music video that’s primarily designed to be eye-catching. There might be a concept, but there’s not necessarily an obvious story or plot to tie it into. They’re mostly visual candy. These kind of music videos catch my attention mostly if they have interesting technical elements: color schemes, production design, lighting, cinematography, editing, etc.)
We’ve seen the “boy meets girl” idea so many times at this point. While “Just U” doesn’t necessarily give us anything new, it does have a lot of fun visual elements. There are many clever little things that illustrate what it’s like to have a crush: time turning backward, two doors that lead to the same place, reading a book titled “love,” etc. Some of them are subtle, a tennis match mirroring the back and forth (my favorite part is that the ball is green one way and pink the other). Others are more easy to guess, like a low battery appearing over Sewoon’s head that fills up when he gets close to the girl. But I think we can agree that all of it’s adorable.
*Favorite Concept Music Video: VIXX LR, “Whisper”
(My definition of a concept MV: A music video that is somewhere in between an aesthetic music video and a story music video. There is a definite concept, and everything in the video helps to visually solidify it. There is usually some kind of story, but it’s more of a situation. There generally isn’t an ending or resolution, or if there is it’s ambiguous. Or in some cases, the story is put aside in favor of the visual elements.)
I’ve always thought Leo and Ravi were an interesting combination for a subunit. They just seem so different, but it always works. The cool thing about “Whisper” is that it plays up that contrast, portraying tsundere Leo in a cool blue and charismatic Ravi in a deep red. But the color scheme is just the tip of the iceberg – we can see little details in everything from the lighting to the production design. The entire video is a beautiful testament to how two total opposites complement each other so well.
*Favorite Story Music Video: gugudan5959, “Ice Chu”
(My definition of a story MV: A music video that clearly has some kind of narrative, with the soloist or members often playing characters and not versions of themselves. Ideally there is a beginning, middle, and end. There must be some kind of resolution, or a promise of one if the narrative spans several music videos. The story should ideally be easy to figure out, but it can also be cryptic and give lots of visual clues like BTS’s trilogy.)
You can tell from the icon (and Mina’s presence) that this music video is going to be super cute, but it also has some of gugudan’s signature quirky flair. Everything looks sugary sweet when the girls arrive in a colorful land of ice cream people – that is, until they start terrorizing the citizens by eating their toppings and melting them with hair dryers. They even toss a poor man’s baby back and forth and drop him. And of course they do all of this with the most angelic smiles on their faces, which makes it even more unsettling. The freakiest part is when they accidentally freeze themselves in the end, apparently turning into the ice creams they were holding in the dance scenes this whole time. I’m actually kind of impressed with how twisted this got.
Most Impressive Moves
NCT DREAM, “We Young”
Okay, we all know I’m pretty heavily SM biased. But there are reasons why they’re the agency to beat, and one of them is flawless dance. When it comes to choreography, every single SM group has at least an above-average level of difficulty. Even NCT Dream, their baby group, looks like a well-oiled dance machine that’s been running for years. Skill levels aside, the choreography is fun and entertaining to watch. Even though there’s an intense amount of footwork and movement, it looks so breezy and effortless.
Sonamoo, “Friday Night”
Sonamoo is another group that I feel is truly underrated, and their dancing is where they shine. If you look at their more upbeat routines, they’re easily on par with top girl groups like GFriend and Red Velvet. “Friday Night” is a little flashier and a little less focused on technique, but it’s a style that suits them well. Sometimes you just want to strut your stuff and look fabulous and this dance is perfect for that. It’s got all the classic moves: power posing, hip shaking, sashaying, and even a little booty bouncing. It’s textbook girl crush, and it’s fantastic.
Choreography I Want to Learn:
Sunmi is known for iconic choreography (“24 Hours,” anyone?), and “Gashina” does not disappoint. I was actually pretty neutral on the song until I saw the dance. After that, I was playing it all the time. It has everything: it’s sexy, it’s fierce, and it’s even got a dash of cuteness to round things out. The best part is the chorus, because it’s badass but it’s also incredibly easy. Even if you aren’t the best dancer, you’re pretty much to guaranteed to look cool when you do the gun move.
Pristin, “We Like”
“We Like” is a very fun and easy choreography that’s a good choice for beginners. I like how there are parts that are cute and then parts that are sassy. The girl crush concept is a little watered down in the song and the music video, but it’s at its strongest here. Xiyeon and Kyulkyung’s parts are a personal highlight, and the last minute or so is straight up fierce.
*Hyuna, “Party (Follow Me)” featuring Wooseok and “Purple” featuring E’Dawn (both from Pentagon): I wasn’t a huge fan of “Babe.” I respect that she was going for something different, but the fresh-faced innocent feel just wasn’t a good match for someone known as the free-spirited queen of sexy. I personally think that “Purple” would have been a better fit for what she was trying to do. It’s light-hearted and laid-back, but it also has a sexy undercurrent. (I get that she probably wouldn’t want to promote with E’Dawn just after Triple H, though) “Party (Follow Me)” falls more in line with what Hyuna’s known for, but it’s a bop in its own right. And while E’Dawn’s voice complements Hyuna’s, Wooseok’s provides a nice contrast.
*GFriend, “Falling Asleep Again”: I’m notoriously picky with my ballads, but there’s something about this one that’s just so soothing. The girls’ voices sound so clear and pretty. I actually use this song to help me sleep sometimes (yay insomnia), and sometimes I literally feel like I’m floating away as I’m listening.
*DIA subunits, “LO OK” (BCHCS) and “Darling My Sugar” (LUB): I have so much trouble with DIA. I really want to get into them, but it seems like their agency wants to saddle them with a generic version of whatever the latest trend. That’s why I like their subunit tracks so much – while they have that cutesy flavor that’s so popular right now, they also have a quirky twist that makes them more memorable. I hope to see more of this kind of image from them in the future (and best of luck to Yebin and Somyi on The Unit!)
*Samuel featuring Chungha, “With U”: This was definitely a Produce 101 collaboration that needed to happen. As artists, the two soloists seem very well suited to each other. Their voices and musical styles match, and they’re both dancing machines! I usually don’t like low-key music, but I really love this R&B duet. It reminds me of the kind of stuff that I used to listen to when I was a teenager.
*Wanna One, “Wanna Be (My Baby)”: While I like “Burn it Up” and “Energetic,” this one was actually probably my favorite of their new tracks. Interestingly enough, it’s the closest to what I imagined their concept would be. There’s a side that’s very smooth and suave (Seongwoo’s line in the chorus) gets me every time, but it’s also pretty light and bright. And the dance is filled with so many references to Produce 101, which I love.
So I was pretty neutral on ONF’s debut. I thought it was pretty good, but ultimately not enough to grab my attention with everything going on in August. But I definitely want to mention their album, because I think it’s really good. All of the songs flow together really well, and it makes for really easy listening because it’s so relaxing. It’s perfect to have in the background while you’re working on something.
I did it! I finally got through August! Now onto all of the September stuff. Luckily there isn’t quite so much new music, so hopefully I can catch up quickly!
NOTE – All songs and videos are from Brave Entertainment (Samuel), Cube Entertainment (Hyuna and CLC), Jellyfish Entertainment (VIXX LR and gugudan5959), Makeus Entertainment (Sunmi), MBK Entertainment (DIA), Pledis Entertainment (Pristin), SM Entertainment (SNSD and NCT Dream), Starship Entertainment (Jeong Sewoon), TS Entertainment (Sonamoo), WM Entertainment (ONF), Woollim Entertainment (Golden Child), and YMC Entertainment (Wanna One)