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Kpop Roundup — Part 1

Kpop Roundup — Part 1

The girl group whose comeback I’ve been anticipating since LAST YEAR is back. Girl’s Day EVERY DAY! Their title track is a sax-heavy, beat thumping single called, “I’ll Be Yours.” The girls look great, they sound great and it’s very catchy. My only real gripe with the mv is that it looks kind of cheap? And the dance outfits could have been more flattering. After listening to their mini, I’m glad to say that Hyeri and Yura have really stepped up vocally. They may never be as good as Minah and Sojin, but at least they’ve earned the equal distribution that of the lyrics. Speaking about the mini, IT’S AMAZING. “Thirsty” is sexy and confident, Love Again is simple and sad. Sojin’s solo has a lame name but the song is heartfelt and simple. Minah’s solo was also very simple but I liked how clean it sounds because it really gave us a chance to feel the lyrics. Don’t Be Shy isn’t a

Speaking about the mini, IT’S AMAZING. “Thirsty” is sexy and confident, Love Again is simple and sad. Sojin’s solo has a lame name but the song is heartfelt and simple. Minah’s solo was also very simple but I liked how clean it sounds because it really gave us a chance to feel the lyrics. “Don’t Be Shy” isn’t a standout but it’s a solid filler. After the long wait, I worried that they wouldn’t be able to deliver but I’ve been listening to their mini consistently since it dropped.

I wanted to like Pristin’s comeback, “Wee Woo,” but while it certainly has an “it” factor, I felt that the song stuck to the current Kpop trend of too many transitions. I couldn’t get into the song for that reason. Also, the “Wee Woo Wee Woo Wee” part is more annoying than cute. If they had gotten rid of that part altogether or lessened it, I may have liked the song better. The mv also made me feel conflicted because while I thought the girls had charm and charisma, there were too many of them and I only remembered 3 members by the end of the song. The video was also very standard fare. I’ll have to check out their mini to see if they had better B-singles.

Beast, er, Hightlight is back after jumping ship at Cube and opening their own agency. This is the first official release from the group and I thought they did a solid job of continuing their streak of decent music. I’m upset that they haven’t released another “Fiction (JAM)” but I’m coming to terms with the fact that they peaked early. “Plz Don’t Be Sad” is a fun pop outing and even though the song is just okay, the guys are having lots of fun so I feel good watching the mv. “It’s Still Beautiful” is a ballad pre- release that I found forgettable.

Dreamcatcher dropped the anime jam of the year with their latest comeback, “Good Night,” and it’s wonderful. The rock single is well matched with a creepy, mysterious mv featuring the guy from their last video and the girls as witches (my guess) who are casting spells in a cabin in the woods. The aesthetic is heavy on Victorian goth and I love how much effort was put into this comeback. The singing and rapping are great but where they truly shine is in the instrumental and the choreography. Do not sleep on the intro to this song!

Teen Top released “Love Is” and I love it. I’m kind of pissed that 100% didn’t get a better comeback, but TOP seems to have their hands full what with L. Joe suing them to terminate his contract right before this comeback. The song is pop at its best, which is lacking in Kpop these days and the main reason I got into it. The “love is gone away part is a serious earworm and the dancing is seriously impressive.

Another surprisingly good single is Monsta X’s “Beautiful.” I don’t know anything about Monsta X other than they’re signed to Sistar’s agency, Starship. And, well, that they have a good song. “Beautiful” starts off sonically similar to the singles we’re used to from other try had hep hap Kpop groups, but where “Beautiful” truly starts to shine is in the bridge’s transitions and the chorus. The chorus’ melody is my favorite thing about this song! The mv’s simplicity works in its favor because this song is generally very chill.

Oh My Girl did not release “Closer part 2” and instead gave us the cute single, “Colouring Book.” Sigh. This song feels like a departure from unique melodies and concepts to music that is closer to the Korean palette of generic. It’s cute, fresh and young, but it really doesn’t have any parts that I find to be catchy or a signature aspect of this comeback. I believe it’s doing well on the charts which I’m grateful for since they’re not a super rookie group and tend to be overlooked but I do hope they come back much stronger.

Winner is back and they really really want you to know that there are only 4 members now. In all honesty, I expected to hate this comeback because of my current feelings towards YGE using mental illness to pass the blame for his inadequacies onto his employees. The truth is that I find “Really Really” to be a fantastic single. “Really Really” is continuing the tropical trend in Kpop that BTS and KARD started but they don’t try to replicate what we’ve already seen and instead give us the YGE take on this trend. What Winner does best is combine what we expect from a boy group but with teeth. Thankfully, the teeth is light hep hap and not full on Jay Park. It feels authentic and like these guys just started humming a melody and created a song out of it. “Fool” is boring. I won’t talk about it. The “Really Really” mv is typically for YGE which sucks because this is such a lovely song. They could have made it more sentimental which is closer to the feel of the song. Chart wise, this comeback feels like a success and I believe it’s well deserved.

Taeyeon is already coming back for her fans wallets by re-releasing her debut full album along with the soft rock, power ballad single, “Make Me Love You.” The song tries to emulate one of my favourite genres of music but fails because of a lack of emoting from Taeyeon. Which is so not like her? Generally, I feel a lot of things listening to Taeyeon and generally they conflict with my love of her voice and my distaste for her as a human being, but this time she’s too restrained when she needs to match the tempo. The thing about power ballads is that you need to build to something and follow through. In “Make Me Love You,” the song is consistently bland throughout. The mv is continuing with this soft, pastel aesthetic with curly hair that I’m not a fan of. I think she should have released another single instead.

SM Station is back with S2 and a fresh new round of random releases. While I am not a fan of all the SM Station releases, I do appreciate the freedom it gives the company and their artists. We would have never gotten a release Ten’s “Dream In A Dream” as a traditional comeback. The song is a basic love song but what elevates it is the Japanese influenced instrumental, the NCT U aesthetic in the mv and of course his dancing. Even if you’re not a fan of the song, the video is quite soothing and pleasing to watch. On the otherhand we have a fairly run of the mill release from Red Velvet with “Would You.” The song doesn’t do much to give us anything new from Red Velvet musically and the video isn’t anything to write home about. The only Exo K member I like, Baekhyung, has also release a Station single with “Take You Home” and he sounds lovely. Beautiful voice, beautiful video. I look forward for music that challenges him.

  • Unit Black is a newly-formed unit to rise Boys24 from scandal and overall poor reception. The single “I’ll Steal Your Heart” uses the new trend of tropical beats but somehow the song still manages to fall flat for me. The chorus is especially jarring.
  • MVP is a nugu group from PH Entertainment. Their debut, “Take It,” is energetic and reminds me of early Exo in a good way. I’ll be keeping an eye on this group.
  • MiSO released the Hyuna tribute single “KKPP” and I’m already a fan. Apparently, she’s already debuted in the girl group Girls Girls? The single works for me because I find Hyuna’s voice grating for entire songs while MiSO doesn’t use that tone consistently. The live performance for this video is so impressive as well. It’s rare to find this much confidence on stage so early in a K-artists career. Please give her a listen and ignore all the dabbing.
  • Okdal are not new to the scene, but I don’t listen to a lot of K-indie so they are new to me and I’m glad to have stumbled across their music. They recently released the single “Love Advice” with the song being just that. It’s a song filled with love advice in a frank and honest manner to a quirky indie melody. I find that sometimes I need to cleanse my musical palette with simplicity and this would be a great go to song for that. Their singles “Intern,” “희한한 시대,” and “내가 사라졌으면 좋겠어” are also worth a listen.
  • Young Cream has released the latest hazy rap single featuring my past crush, J-Boog from B2K (aka Omarion and his backup dancers). The single is called “Better Know” and it’s not terrible. That’s all I got.
  • Melanie Lee of the recently disbanded biracial kpop group Chocolate gave a rather interesting interview with Kpopapocalypse about her experience in the Kpop world. I wanted to mention it because it’s important for young Kpop fans to know that it’s not all pretty eonnies and oppas. Melanie is frank about her battle with depression and how it was handled by her agency. Please give this a read.
  • Shinhwa’s Eric is getting married to someone 12 years his junior. Congrats, I guess. I think only the fandom really cares about this news but all Shinhwa news is should be worldwide internet killers!
  • Eunji has come back with “Spring Day” and even by Apink’s standard’s this song is a total snooze fest. I’m still a fan but one listen was all I could manage.
  • Speaking of my basic queens, Apink released their 6th anniversary single, “Always.” The song feels refreshing in a way that clean melodies and great vocals tend to do. Apink fighting!
  • Black Pink’s mv “Playing With Fire” and “Whistle” hit 100 million views on Youtube. That’s great for a nugu group, even with the power of YGE behind them.
  • Forbes 30 Under 30 picks Jessica, Eric Nam, Sam Okyere, Jay Park and Kris. Congratulations to these stars as they deserve the recognition.
  • Sechskies will be releasing a comeback in time to celebrate their 20th anniversary. The single features Tablo. I look forward to this comeback as it’s going to be their first “real” comeback and I believe they will be promoting this on music shows as well. But mostly I’m excited about anything that gives me more Eun Ji-won.
  • Hyolyn and Changmo released the EDM collabo “Blue Moon,” furthering her reputation as the queen of collabos. Overall, the song is like any EDM single you’ve heard on the radio but Hyolyn’s voice is certainly not your run of the mill voice and that will elevate any song. Even this one. I liked it.

Nat’s Corner

I’m back with another interview, but this time it’s with Nicki (@blaquevelvets on twitter). Nicki likes Exo (sigh) and is a huge Chanyeol fan (double sigh) and is also a huge Blackpink fan. We spent a lot of time talking about drama, K dramas, Kpop and being black while loving these things.

How did you get into Kpop?

I got into Kpop by first watching a lot of K dramas. I always liked the songs in the background and stuff and one of my mutual’s would always post CL on my timeline, and I thought she was damn hot. I started casually listening to idols and groups like DEAN, 2NE1, etc. but never really getting into them until last summer when I felt the need to do things differently and wanted to be happier than I was.

‘House of the Dragon’: Who Runs Westeros?

People do tend to find Kpop through dramas which is interesting because dramas usually use OST’s which are generally ballads and not the type of music people classify as Kpop. Do you listen to Korean music outside of the Kpop umbrella?

For me it was a lot of finding the singers and groups that sang the song and then listening to other stuff by them. Like I knew DEAN and Beenzino before Exo or Bts. I listened to a lot of indie Kpop before any mainstream stuff just because it was easy to study with and smoother? And like you said I think it’s because I watched so many dramas that I initially listen to a lot more ballad type music.

I definitely get that. The idol world can be a lot and foreign music that is similar to the types of music you would generally listen to in your native tongue is an easier to transition. Ballads and indie music go hand in hand. Music has always been very important to me so it’s good to hear that you got into it as a form of self-healing. But you also thought an idol was hot which is like 100% for most of us as well. Guys and girls, it doesn’t matter in the idol world.

Yes K dramas and idols groups just have me so shookt.  I can’t help it they’re so beautiful. Haha.

Which artists are your favourites? Anyone’s that would be a surprise?

You know my favorites. As a true Kpop fan girl that’s basic in every way shape and form. I like groups like Exo, Red Velvet, Blackpink and sighs Mamamoo. I like Heize, Dean and Punch’s voice! I really love her voice. Also, I like Yoon Mirae, Jessi and Cheetah.

When it comes to guys I tend to like them as groups but I enjoy soloist girls.

So, no surprises?

No. I told ya I’m basic! Ha. I also like Linus’ Blanket

Going back to your point about these stars being beautiful; they absolutely are but we also hear about the bad side of it too. With the extreme dieting, plastic surgery, constant injuries, mental health issues, fans that go too far, etc. I know that it’s not all glitter and gold and yet, that doesn’t detract from the beauty of it, if that makes sense.

I agree. The things a lot of these idols go through is a lot and for so little money that they actually get to keep. Even the plastic surgery, my friend and I discuss it often too because it’s not just the celebrities in Korean that do it, every day people as well.

I have to confess that I tried to watch Unpretty Rap Star and stopped because of the cringe. What are your thoughts on Korean hip hop?

I haven’t watched a full season of Unpretty Rapstar, just clips of people I like. I hate the constant editing, messes up with the flow of the rap. I don’t think I’ve heard Korean hip hop. A lot of the stuff classified as hip hop to me just sounds like pop. I think a bit of the problem with Korean hip hop is that the rappers will be rapping about experiencing that I’m very sure they’ve never had which kills the authenticity of it.

Yoon Mirae and Jessi (from what I’ve heard from them) do feel closer to an authentic version of hip hop than say, Jay Park or BeWHY. I wonder if women in general are less try-hard? Though some would argue that CL and G-Dragon are pretty much the same try-hard beast and both are often labelled as hip hop “artists” rather than pop stars.

I’m gonna agree with you on that one. I do think the woman are less try hard. And like I love CL a lot but I really don’t think she’s hip hop. She’s pop to me and like there are a lot of artists who have way better flow. G-Dragon I really don’t have an opinion on, but I think he’s very poppy. I heard he was basically Drake which means he’s not actually hip hop at all.

The Grammys would disagree about Drake but I certainly agree here.

Don’t talk about the Grammys. I’m so salty.

I have tried to forget that terrible night ???? But moving on, what’s your favourite part of Kpop/Idols/K Dramas?

My favorite part of K dramas is how predictable and dramatic it is? As someone who watches a lot of TV, I just enjoy the fact that I can count on the first lead to end up with the first lead and that if I find myself falling for the second then I don’t have to be all invested and can quit it. I love how overly dramatic shit is… like why does the car crashes be so dramatic? I saw a drama where the men definitely should’ve been crushed to pieces but he survived. I was like mm ok. And then ya know there’s always some form of Rich/Poor forbidden love and it’s so overly cliched but in a good way. Hahaha I also like that most dramas are just one season so you get x amount of episodes and that’s that. The end. What I like about listening to and watching Kpop idols are seeing how hard they all worked to get to where they are. That’s why I hate peoples who are always negative and hating on one group over another. Like get a fucking life to be honest. They worked hard, some of them didn’t eat for months and slept on the cold ground. Hahaha! I also like that most dramas are just one season so you get x amount of episodes and that’s that. The end. What I like about listening to and watching Kpop idols are seeing how hard they all worked to get to where they are. That’s why I hate peoples who are always negative and hating on one group over another.

I also like that most dramas are just one season so you get x amount of episodes and that’s that. The end. What I like about listening to and watching Kpop idols are seeing how hard they all worked to get to where they are. That’s why I hate peoples who are always negative and hating on one group over another. Like, get a fucking life to be honest. They worked hard, some of them didn’t eat for months and slept on the cold ground.

I have a love/hate relationship with the slow-motion hand grabs/falls/etc. Why are dramas so extra?

Oh, I hate the hand grab. Like my instinct is to always cringe and pull back.

I love hand touching in romcoms/dramas in general but the slow-motion aspect kills me. Also why is it important for couples to walk up to each other and stop with that sliver of space in between? Who stands like that??

Don’t let me start on extra. I was watching a drama and it started with a car and I knew they were going to crash two seconds later. And on top of that at the funeral the policemen came to arrest the father and it was so dramatic and I was like nope not going finish this one. The slow motion shot from thirty different angles. Like yea I totally stand that close to my boyfriend all the time. ????

The 30 different angles need to die. I started expecting it in NA television too ????What about the weird, closed mouth kisses? Ugh.

OHMYGOD. like is that how y’all kiss your boyfriends??That’s why I’m such a big Yoon Eun Hye fan. Ma good sis be KISSING. She doesn’t do that closed mouth open eyes awkwardness. I was watching Love Forecast and they were drunkenly kissing and I was like please tell me it was in the script for it to look so hideous and nasty.

Speaking of our girl, I’ve been rewatching Coffee Prince and she is so magical in this drama. Talk about a commitment to the craft! I know you love Yoon Eun Hye and Gong Yoo, any other actors that you enjor?

Coffee Prince !!! ???????????????????????? She really did that though. I really get shook every time I rewatch that or Goong. I need her back in my life.

I liked Lee Dong Wook from before his reaper days. I really enjoyed My Girl with him and Yoo In Na when she was in Queen Hyun’s man. I’m a fan of Ji Sung, Ji Chang Wook, Jang Nara, Han Ji Min, Hyun Bin, Gong Hyo Jin and Park shin Hye. I also like Lee Sung Kyung a lot and I know she can make it really big. I know I’m supposed to Lee Jong-Suk but I haven’t watched anything where he’s blown me away as yet.

Going back to Kpop, do you find it to be a hassle sometimes?

Of course. I try to stay away from the drama. Coming from “stan” twitter as it’s called you’ve matured and learn when things just aren’t worth it. It’s a hassle to see all the fights and drama every damn day and it’s usually over things so trivial.

What about hassles with the inherent problematic nature of Kpop itself?

A lot of Kpop, as catchy as it is, has been heavily influenced by black culture. There’s even Korean’s in music videos with dreads and such and honestly as a black woman it’s very problematic because on one hand you’re enjoying this but on the other you’re the same person who called out western artistes for doing the same thing.

Every other week there’s something new like the recent Mamamoo controversy and while I think it is possible to enjoy the genre, it can get tricky when your favs are problematic. I started writing about Kpop to figure it out tbh and I still don’t have “the answer” but that’s also why I like talking about Kpop/K dramas with other black fans because there’s got to be good here if we’re still bumping to it.

Ohmygod. Don’t even mention the Mamamoo controversy. You know how much I LOVE Mamamoo like those girls are so talented and it literally shattered my heart to see that as something they did whether 2016/2017. I appreciate the apology but still it’s hard. My best friend and I discuss it all the time. like you just know a lot of the hip hop scene of Kpop are messy and it’s like UP to what point do you accept?

I had already been turned off Mamamoo after Hwasa used an obscure version of Irreplaceable (with the N word) for a Beyonce cover. There’s also been numerous examples of them labelling Hwasa as the “black member” (insert eye roll at this stale joke that idols like to make), not to mention the problematic nature of both Décalcomanie and (Um Oh Ah Yeh). As a person who wasn’t a huge fan of them, it’s easy for me to say they have good songs but not support them. I understand that it’s probably harder for a fan like yourself.

Yeah since the whole incident I’ve been finding out more and more things that they’ve done and it’s like damn. And I think that’s the problem with Kpop. We give a lot of them a pat on the back because they don’t know any better, but if you’re so enamored with our culture shouldn’t you do some research?

I feel like we could talk about the struggles with stanning Kpop for a long time. My last question is why we are you still here and what do you want to see for the future?

Honestly? I don’t even know why I’m still here. I think I really enjoy the music and the whole K culture in general. I think it’s admirable how hard the idols work even if I don’t fuck with a lot of their music. Haha. In the future though I definitely would like to see more awareness of others in Kpop. You know the recent incident of Mamamoo doing black face? As a (former?) Moomoo (please don’t laugh) it was such a hard blow to me and I hate that the excuse was ignorance. If Kpop idols and groups want success on an international and wider scale then they have got to become more informed and let’s be honest, if they can know enough to dab and hit dem folks, and use a lot of hip hop culture, why can’t they be more aware?

Thanks to Nicki! Next week will include messy outtakes from this interview.

Natandy lives in the 6 but has regrettably never met Drake. She loves Kpop, comic book movies and her favourite genre to read, write and watch is fantasy. You can find her on Twitter (@ashleyt17) where she is constantly confused about How To Get Away With Murder and gushing about Kpop/K dramas.

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