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K-Pop Roundup: June 2017

K-Pop Roundup: June 2017

By: Natandy

Nugu girl group LOOΠΔ dropped the goldmine “Eclipse.” The production is sultry as member Kim Lip never tries to over-sing the lyrics, instead choosing to compliment the single with simple, breathy runs. The mv has a sexy red and black filter which adds to the mood of the song and Kim Lip dances seductively either alone and with backup dancers. I’ve found these pre-releases from LOOΠΔ are hit or miss but I appreciate the time and effort, along with the versatility they put into the production. They’ve managed to give us many concepts as they fit the individual members and that’s a great way to introduce the group to the public.

Day6 continue to impress with their June release, “I Smile,” and their album, Sunrise, which is basically an amalgamation of their monthly releases and the addition of 2 previously released songs, “Letting Go” and “Congratulations.” “I Smile” is a song about heartbreak and exes. Lyrically there’s an emphasis on the title and the instrumental/mv punch up those parts of the song. I enjoyed all the aspects of this comeback. Truthfully, I did not know much about Day6 before 2017 and now I want to see them live.

My girls T-ara are back with this final (?) comeback. Unfortunately, they are without Soyeon and Boram whose contracts have ended with hell aka MBK. The title track is “What’s My Name” and I’m honest enough to admit it isn’t their best (though it is LOADS better than Tiamo) but the mv’s cute and the girl’s look lovely so there’s not much to hate about it. The mini includes 4 solo’s, 3 additional group song’s, a Chinese version of “What’s My Name” as well as its instrumental. The standouts for me would be the “Thriller”-influenced “Reload”, Qri’s bad girl theme song, “Diamond,” and Hyomin’s “Ooh La La.” While I didn’t notice the absence of Boram vocally, Soyeon was sorely missed in their group ballad. Overall, it was a solid end to a long and drama-filled career with MBK. Special shout to my girls for bagging their first win in 5 years!

Seventeen continues to grow in fanbase and popularity even though they still only have 13 members (though I guess calling themselves Thirteen may have been somewhat controversial?). Their current release is the Beiber-sounding “Don’t Wanna Cry.” Now I say that as a compliment because the Beib’s has been releasing decent music since his last full-length album. Seventeen keep it simple and emotional vocally while investing in the visuals and choreography. This culminates in a mv that is visually effective, with music that is pleasant to hear.  I haven’t been hooked on a Seventeen release since “Mansae” but this song is already growing on me. I look forward to their future releases.

Twice had yet another comeback that I love. “Signal” is a high-paced, toe-tapping good time and it was the first single from them I downloaded. It has also proven to be the most controversial of their comebacks with certain fans of a boy group saying the girls had copied the superhero concept. Apparently, this boy group had a patent on super powers established well after the years and years of superhero content we’ve received in fiction. This song also proved to be quite divisive among fans who either loved or hated it. To that, I say Signeul bonae Signal bonae! The song is so damn catchy that I still can’t get the lyrics out of my head. This is probably how most felt about IOI’s “Very Very Very.”

Kpop Star 6 runner-up Kriesha Chu had her official solo debut with “Trouble.” The song is produced by BeastLight’s Yong Jun-hyung and it’s cute. The song and mv are very age appropriate, the dancing is cute and she sounds great. My only issue is her clothing. Why is she wearing so many waist trainers on the outside of her clothing? Kriesha is Filipino born and American raised but she seems to have been well received by the Korean public so far. Let’s hope it remains that way as I do believe that her best is yet to come.

Speaking of Kpop Star 6, Kim Sohee has debuted as both a solo artist and with a new group called Elris. Out of the two, I prefer her solo single, “Spotlight.” The smooth, R&B sound suits her vocals while still allowing her to display her BoA-like dance skills. Elris’s debut track, “We First” is bland and basic girl group fare. The video game intro led me to believe that the single would be unique but then the song started and it fell into too common musical ground. Hopefully, Hannus Entertainment goes in a different direction for their comeback.

Big Bang’s G-Dragon dropped his self-titled EP, Kwon Ji-Yong to great success. GD is a main rapper but his singing voice has always been extremely soothing to me and in “Untitled, 2014,” he sounds simply wonderful. The rest of this EP is the hip hop we expect and honestly, it’s really good. “Intro, Middle Finger” has a dope beat and has GD lamenting on the annoying facet of being famous including people saying they know fellow BB member, Seungri in their efforts to talk to him. “Bullshit” is catchy but still makes zero sense to me in translation. Unfortunately, I can’t get where my DOG’s at Que pasa
개집에 Mi Casa out of my head. “Superstar.” Money not being able to buy happiness is the main theme but you somehow don’t feel that bad about it because of the upbeat production. No lie, I was bopping to his pain. “OUTRO. 신곡 (DIVINA COMMEDIA)” is the only single that felt that it could have been done by anyone else and still come out sounding great. His unique personality didn’t come out to me as much. If you’re going to give it a listen, I can provide a Youtube link.

Starship’s new breadwinners, Monsta X, released “Shine Forever” and while I’ve never been interested in Monsta X, the song is great. The EDM-influenced production never lags, the vocals are clean without being too robotic and their rap verses are close to being the best I’ve heard all year from an idol group. The mv is another artsy mess with “acting” and none of the solid dancing that made me pay attention to them in “Beautiful.” But I do believe that even with the demise of Sistar, Starship should be in good hands going forward.

Nine Muses released the seriously underrated “Remember” and at this point we’re all just counting down the days until they officially disband. Now a 4-member group (Sungah is off doing… stuff? DJing?) the ladies offer a more even distribution of vocals that truly allow their individual sounds to be better displayed. The mv is dark and sexy which should come to no surprise. I could have done without the murder mystery but they do look lovely in their dresses and sure know how to wear a bathing suit. Vocally, Hyemi and Keumjo do most of the heavy lifting and I believe that they do a wonderful job of it. Sojin’s whisper rap oddly works here while Kyungri holds her own as leader and centre of the group. Their EP did not stand out to me on my first listen but I’m willing to give it another chance to get a hold on me.

Also happening in Kpop:

  • Hyoyeon dropped “Wannabe” featuring San E and it was the appropriative mess that we all expected. The song goes for a hip hop sound with the verses while the chorus abruptly changes into a pop sound and it feels like whiplash every time the song transitions. She looks terrible in the music video and the live performances that I’ve seen. The mv also uses black men as props while San E claims he’s a feminist.
  • WJSN are back with the frantic “Happy.” It rides on the wave of IOI’s “Very Very Very” and Twice’s “Signal” but isn’t as catchy. I think it might be difficult to create music for such a large group and that’s why they have yet to really make their mark in the industry. Happy doesn’t make me happy.
  • April dropped “May Day,” a song that includes familiar video games sounds and a retro chorus. The song works because it’s not a energic race from beginning to end like many of the nugu songs we’re seeing from girl groups.
  • My basic favs, Apink, have a comeback and I’m excited! Hopefully it retains the level of basic I appreciate from them without dipping into Eun-ji level of snooze.  
  • Chung Ha of IOI fame debuted with “Why Don’t You Know” featuring Nuksal and the single is doing quite well on the charts. I don’t find her look or her sound to be appealing but it’s just a debut so there’s plenty of time for that to change.
  • Known problematic idols, Mamamoo are back with “Yes I Am” and it has a groovy, retro sound. The girls sound great as usual. Of course, being known problematic idols, there was going to be controversy. The single “Age Gag” had the girls in bindi’s in the original version before their company reuploaded the mv without the bindi’s. No apology has been offered, probably because “Yes I Am” is doing incredibly well in Korea. They don’t care about their international fans or the world outside of Korea it seems.
  • Blackpink dropped the shelved 2NE1 single “As If It’s Your Last.” This comeback is not a double release and is supposed to display their pink concept (as opposed to the black concept shown through past singles). The song is a grower but does not bring anything to the table that could highlight their strengths as a group. That is probably the reason 2NE1 shelved it as well. The best part of the single is the chorus where they truly shine. The release of this single is newsworthy in that the girls cracked the Billboard top 30 and they also had the most music video views on Youtube within 24 hours.


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Nat’s Corner:

I was going to discuss TOP but that’s apart of a much larger issue so I’ll save it for its own post. Instead I’m going to celebrate supergroup and Thot Queen’s Sistar.

Hyorin, Soyou, Bora and Dasom debuted as the fierce 4-member group, Sistar. The group was Starship’s first group and second act after K. Will. On June 1st 2010, they debuted with the single “Push Push” where they cemented their legacy of high heels, sexy concepts and summer bops. “Shady Girl” was released soon after that. The mv stars Super Junior member Kim Heechul and brought us their worst hairstyles to date. We don’t talk about this era very much for that reason. In the same year, they came back again with the iconic bop “How Dare You.” It had wigs, flexible leg kicks, manhandling men and c-o-n-f-i-d-e-n-c-e.

In 2011, we saw the introduction of the subunit Sistar19 featuring Hyorin and Bora. They dropped the crowd pleaser “Ma Boy” and showed the girls how to correctly perform a body wave. In April, they told us I wanna rock with the super fun “So Cool.” I like to think of this as their transformation into smooth sexy which focused on how good the girls looked rather than on the lack of clothing.

Smooth sexy was further demonstrated in the seemingly effortless “Alone.” Released in 2012, “Alone” displayed that Sistar were a force to be reckoned with. They had the looks, the styling, the vocals and the dancing. They were giving us everything! “Loving U” was the summer version of “Alone” and just as catchy! By this time, I believe that the girl’s decided against wearing pants in their music video’s and for that the world is gratefully.

2013 saw a return of Sistar19 with the smash hit “Gone Not Around Any Longer” and by this point I believe they realized they could just drop Bora and debut Hyorin as a solo artist. This had to have been in the top 5 of my most listened to songs that year. We also saw a return of Sistar with the cabaret-inspired smash hit, “Give It To Me.” That piano intro! Bora and her glitter! Soyu’s “will I even get married before I turn 30?” first verse! The glamour was everywhere and I happily sang “give it me.”

I don’t think people truly made the summer comeback connection until 2014 saw the return of our summer QUEENS and the epic “Touch My Body.” Everything about this song is an eargasm. From the use of the horns in the production, the line distribution, the lyrics and the catchy chorus. One of Sistar’s greatest strengths is that they were always able to toe the line of sexy and slutty that netizens are often adjusting based on what concept their favourites have at the time. The mv is still one of their best. Later that year, they continued their hot streak of summer singles with “I Swear.” This song is also heavy on the horns but whereas “Touch My Body” was peak summer, I Swear felt like those last days of summer that you hurry to enjoy.

Their next summer smash was “Shake It,” sponsored by Sketchers which was equally as catchy. This time, the girls gave us healthy bodies to envy and more fun than we could handle. The 2016 summer jam was “I Like That,” which is my personal favorite from them. This was a slight return to the steady beats of Alone but with more attitude. Vocally, Hyorin and Soyu sound amazing and they have a great exchange in the pre-chorus. The bridge is another part of the song that sticks to the brain easily. The mv is bloody amazing and they had the best outfits for their performances of this song.

Then in 2017, Sistar broke our hearts with the announcement that they were disbanding. The girl’s had made a pact that if one of the members wanted to leave, they’d disband. Leader, Hyorin had decided to embark on her own and the other members, along with their management team, respected her decision. By this time, the girls were involved in tons of solo activities. Hyorin being the most active with her debut solo album Love & Hate, followed by the underrated EP, It’s Me. Her debut single, “One Way Love” was a certified hit and showed the girls (except for Ailee) what solo stardom looks like. She had also collaborated with practically everyone in the industry, including my bae Jooyoung for the bop “Erase.” Soyou had become a collabo queen, creating magic with every artist she worked with. Her biggest collaboration was “Some” with JunggiGo but my personal favourite is the moody Mad Clown collabo “Stupid In Love.” Dasom pursued an acting career, acting in Real, Melody of Love and Band of Sisters. Bora has also gone into acting but has become more popular for her variety skills and her modelling.

Their last single, “Lonely,” was not upbeat but rather a poignant single about change and an inability to go back in time. They sadly muse that we must have changed too much and end with the words:

“With time
Everything will be forgotten
And so will you
That’s what’s really sad”

Showing to their maturity and how clean this disbandment has been, Sistar embarked on a good-bye tour on all of the Korean music shows where they displayed big smiles while singing medleys of their greatest hits. I’ve been through too many disbandments in the last year and I must admit that this one felt as painful as the disbandment of 2NE1 but it didn’t leave me bitter so for that I thank the girls and Starship.

Gone but not forgotten, Sistar will remain in the hearts and playlists of many of us 2nd generation Kpop fans. Their accomplishment of nine No. 1 singles in a row, along with the many accolades they received throughout their career and solo stardom have branded the Kpop world with a legacy of what talent, determination, heart and most importantly confidence can achieve. Always honest about the evils of the industry that include fake friends, gross men and unhealthy bodies, Sistar managed to live by their own rules built purely on the respect their talent garnered. Known for their work with Super Producers Brave Brothers, Duble Sidekick and Black Eyed Pilseung, Sistar always managed to give us songs that felt uniquely them. You never listened to a Sistar song and felt the presence of another group. I don’t believe that it’s ridiculous to say that there will never be another Sistar because there will never be another group to encompass the hearts of these 4 women.

Soyou said that we should all be happy until the last moment but I think they’d really want us all to be happy past that. Life is about change and accepting that change without fear. So, let’s all be happy into the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. chapters of our lives. Let’s be happy until the very end.

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/K-dramas.

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