One of my favourite Nugu groups is back! Victon dropped “Eyez Eyez” and I guess I’m a stan because let’s be real, there’s nothing about “Eyez Eyez” that makes it more than a B-side. But there is something about my feeling for Victon that make this single a total bop. The intro and outro, along with the moments in the chorus with the music break are clearly the best parts of the song but everything else is generic. The music video colouring and camera shots, the choreography, the rap verse, etc. It has all been done before, both better and worse. I’m hoping their next comeback is more unique.
SNSD’s kid leader, Taeyeon, is back with her first full-length album. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to enjoy it since I have a complicated relationship with Taeyeon but I decided to give it a try. Honestly, the full album doesn’t beat my affection for “I” and it’s not as left field as “Why,” but it does show a growth and willingness to try new sounds and genres while also sticking to what she does best. She’s also promoting “Fine,” even though the superior “Feel So Fine” is right there on the album. The music video for “Fine” is standard fare for a contemporary or adult alternative, female solo artist. I spent a couple of days listening to this album and the verdict was that the only songs to skip are “Fine,” “I Got Love,” and “Eraser.” “Time Lapse” is my favourite thing about this album with “Fire” and “Feel So Fine” being a close second and third respectively. I did find the production too heavy handed on some of the tracks (like “Fine” and “Sweet Love”) which took away from the song’s charm. The only petty comment I can make is that her album cover is tragic!
Subin from Dal Shabet is back with her solo EP Circle’s Dream and she continues to shine with these underrated bops. The sound is similar to Ingrid Michaelson and Regina Spektor in the best way, especially with the title track “Circle’s Dream” and “Moon.” “Swing” and “Strawberry” are ballad tracks and while “Moon” is good, “Strawberry” is where Subin truly captivates. The piano-driven single is simple in composition but Subin elevates every moment with her voice. She’s not a powerhouse but her range and control allows her to reach highs and lows that you do not expect. Please don’t sleep on Subin or Dal Shabet!
Basically, anything heavy with the synth sound is going to be a major win for me. I have an unabashed love all things synth. BAP is back as a 6-member group with “Wake Me Up” and they continue to impress. The song is another slow banger with a heavy beat keeping an intensity that thumps right into you. I love the dododododo parts and the “wake me up” in the chorus that is almost half a beat too slow. The production on this song is top notch! The rapping is also impressive from both rappers, which is a rare feat for me but I like their choice of unique flows. Lyrically, the song is very important as it brings awareness to depression with the most impressive verse coming from the leader, Yongguk, who opens with “Vive La Revolution” and is coming from a break brought on by anxiety. More impressive is the music video which displays an dystopian society full of people with mental illnesses who need to “wake up” and fight. The video works because the people are normal and from all over the world and this isn’t a typically Kpop mv where everyone is pretty and perfect and white or very fair-skinned. The emphasis in this mv is a sense of normalcy grounded in their pain and suffering. Depression can and will happen to ANYONE. I applaud BAP for not only tackling a difficult and often hidden topic, but for doing so in such an inclusive manner.
BTOB is back with “Movie” and while the song is just okay, the mv is where this comeback is at. The wonderful personalities of the members and the movies they chose to parody pulled me into the song which is in stark comparison to my first listen where I quickly forgot the song after a couple of minutes. Even the nod to Suicide Squad was cute and I’ve been over that cosplay for a long time. I loved the MJ-inspired dance moves and how much fun everyone seems to be having. This doesn’t top “I’ll Be Your Man (MASTERPIECE),” but it’s good enough and seems to be doing quite well on the charts.
GFriend aka slayfriend are back with “Fingertip,” which is an video game dream come true. The ‘80s-influenced production, amazing mv visual effects, compelling choreography, and (of course) the girls themselves continue to raise the bar and breath fresh air into what is becoming a stale and repetitive industry. Gfriend do not come back for the sake of a comeback! They are willing to try new sounds and concepts as a means of challenging themselves and their contemporaries. I love it! “Fingertip” is a guitar riff heavy single that reminds me of video games soundtracks at old school arcades. The tang tang tang is so damn catchy. I did wonder if I’d have an issue with the heavy use of guns in the mv and within the choreography but it felt otherworldly rather than a serious aspect of real life. The mv is stunning and while the plot is hard to follow, it doesn’t matter because it a feast for the eyes. This is hands down the best female group comeback this year.
Eric Nam and Somi dropped the mv for their duet “You, Who?” Eric completely dominates this duet with Somi showing both her age and lack of experience as she struggles to keep up. I will commend the wardrobe department because this is the first mv she’s been in where she isn’t dressed to seduce older men but what really grinds my gears about this is that Eric is a smooth 28 while Somi is like 15 years old. It’s weird and I don’t want it. He had a lovely collaboration with Seohyun for her debut mini, they could have worked together again.
- Day6’s March release is the single “How Can I Say” and it’s their best release this year. The build up starts with a sick cool beat that is very now in music but you can feel their rock sound slowly creep into the song before climaxing at the chorus. The chorus is reminiscent of Canadian rock groups like Sum41 and Simple Plan. These releases keep getting better and better!
- Brave Girls are back with Lollin errr “Rollin” and it’s a cute, dance-along single. I still don’t know any of the members and this song doesn’t make me want to take the time to get to know them. They need to connect with music listeners more as the most interesting news about this comeback is that there’s a clean mv version due to the 19+ rating for the original version.
- Everyone’s favourite oppa group, Shinhwa, decided that what the fans truly want is not the V App they’ve been teasing since December but a Shinhwa colouring book. It goes on sale shortly. I’m getting ready to un-stan.
- Sulli and Choiza have broken up, further leaving to believe that love is a lie. Here’s to hoping that she levels up and dates G-Dragon next. Can you imagine the outcry?
- Lee Hyori is aiming for a comeback in late May or even later and she’s going to self-produce the new album. Let’s hope that doesn’t include plagiarism! Though even if it does, I’m just happy to see her.
- Suzy lost weight in her ears and this is apparently news.
Nat’s Corner: I received this message on Twitter and decided to answer it here as 140 characters makes it difficult to respond appropriately.
What do you think of Teyeon still borrowing other people’s songs for her albums when she has already established herself as a powerhouse in the industry? Is it laziness or just SM trickery?
Personally, I don’t think she is the best pen-man ship.
She is a performer, she can sing and all but truly reflecting to write might be a step harder for her. But that being said, even Seobaby wrote 2 songs in her mini. Jessica wrote everything in her albums back to back.
Tiffany tried her hand at some song? But I don’t know if they were on her album..
Like I’m just tired of Teyeon getting all that praise as artist when she only do half of the work.
Honestly, it makes me appreciate Korean artists more than idols. At least what they sing about is personal and come from them.
I don’t necessarily believe that all artists should write their own music. The best example of this is Whitney Houston, who spent her career singing songs given to her and I never in my life felt emotionally disconnected to her music. Whitney Houston is not just a powerhouse singer, but she is exceptionally skilled at infusing the right emotions into other people’s lyrics. It would have been interesting to have gotten more insight into her life through her own compositions and I do believe that we, the fans, may have sensed all that was wrong in her life much sooner for it or she may have felt the therapeutic aspect of writing. The other side of it is that there are songwriters that should stick to doing that. Diane Warren and Babyface come to mind easily as people who have written many of my favourite songs, but who should not have strayed from their zones.
Now, Taeyeon is not Whitney (not even close) but she is very good at breathing emotions into songs written by other people. Maybe she’s bad at writing songs or she’s afraid to try? Either way, it doesn’t take anything away from the songs I do like from her. I also don’t think Taeyeon positions herself as a “true artist”, and it’s mostly her fans and the public who have placed her outside of the idol narrative. During promotions for “I”, SME did try to present Taeyeon as an “artist” by saying that she self-composed the album and even included her in the track listings but I remember Taeyeon being open about not writing any of the songs.
When it comes to English-speaking musicians, being a singer-songwriter is more important and a lot of the artists that I listen to do self-compose. In comparison, I look at the Kpop machine as one that works with a lot of moving parts. I don’t expect these idols to write and when they do, it’s great but it’s not like that will make the song better or worse. Especially considering that idols are generally not chosen for their musicianship. They’re selected for their looks and for basic singing/dancing skill that can be improved upon. In some cases, when idols can go beyond the boy/girl relationship-themed songs and delve deeper, self-composition does become important. Above I mention BAP’s current comeback and how it deals with serious mental health issues that affects them personally. That ties their music to who they are as people and when you combine the music video/lives of the song, you get the feeling that this is not just a song for them. Jessica’s “Golden Sky” is important because it’s a song for the fans so it should be one written by her.
Is Taeyeon’s artistry overrated? In many ways, I do believe so. She lacks power on the live stage in comparison to her Western counterparts and contemporaries like Ailee or Hyolyn. She relies far too heavily on AR and MR. Her studios always sound better than her live performances if I’m honest. I also find that it pathetic that fans like to bring up her performance of “Devil’s Cry” even though it’s widely known she lip-syncs every performance of it. If you’re going to hype up a performance, then at least use a live one! Her dancing is also nothing to write home about.
It’s great to see that some idols prefer a more hands-on approach to their music and I don’t mean to sound like I don’t appreciate it but the things I get from Kpop overall are not dependent on whether an artist self-composes. In this case, Taeyeon not doing so while Tiffany and Seohyun do is not that big of a deal for me. I’d take Taeyeon’s entire discography over Seohyun and Tiffany any day.
Natandy lives in the 6 but has regrettably never met Drake. She loves Kpop, comic book movies and her favorite 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 at the Music Mind (themusicmind.com).
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