South Korea has one of the fastest-growing and most sonically exciting Pop scenes in the world, so we have decided to bring you “The K-Pop Bulletin”, a column highlighting some of the hottest K-Pop singles of every month. Today, we look at the finest releases form the month of March.
WJSN (Cosmic Girls) – Dreams Come True
Yes, this single premiered on the last day of February but made its biggest impact in March. After a very irregular 2017, WJSN (Cosmic Girls) have returned to the “cosmic” part of its concept and delivered their best single since their stellar debut “Secret”. “Dreams Come True” rests in a blanket of lush, exuberant synths and orchestral arrangements, but producers Full8loom establish a solid dynamic between these elements and the girls’ vocals, displaying a whole new level of clarity and nuance that hadn’t shown in previous work. The Sci-Fi feel of the track is always there, but this is mainly a song about finding the courage to finally give yourself to someone and the performance leading up to that sweet climax sells the idea completely.
Mamamoo – Starry Night
When it comes to this group, we’re used to certain elements — a “retro” feel, incredible vocal runs, impeccable harmonies and a strong sense of showmanship –, so when we hear a track that feels more like mood music than a conventional “single” from Mamamoo, it is a bit hard to warm up to it. But “Starry Night” is all about that contemplative vibe; the folktronica guitar loop (we hear Robin Schulz‘ remix of “Prayer In C” too) and the nocturnal atmosphere capture you from the start, taking you into a melancholic landscape where those feelings of longing and regret dwell. The vocal interventions are subtle but effective, just aiding the house-pop instrumental’s incredible refrain into our minds and hearts.
April – The Blue Bird
April is such an exciting young girl-group. Most of their singles are characterized by their incredibly busy productions and complex song structures, but it is until March’s “The Blue Bird” where we can hear them just as focused and balanced as they are propositive. Their earlier singles hinted at a kind of sophistication that they have finally achieved here, with a track that contains its share of ear-grabbing hooks, puzzling chord changes and lead strings that elevate the entire experience. This can be the formula that could catapult them to greatness.
j-hope – Daydream
Mixtapes are supposed to be projects in which you embrace an explorer’s attitude and try new things, but j-hope’s Hope World tries so hard at so many different settings, it just feels forced. But even when he stumbles on hard-edged bounce-rap or hazy retro-leaning R&B (both which would sound a lot better if helmed by RM and Suga respectively), he has picked the right single. “Daydream”, with its breezy, percussive hip-house production and his playful flow, is the mixtape’s undeniable highlight; his energy and comfort in this kind of beats are unmatched, and he projects a sense of offhand coolness that is the more alluring. Definitely a good look for j-hope. We can only hope this is the direction he takes in future solo adventures.
Stray Kids – District 9
The badass flow, the interesting rhythmic patterns, the hip-hop/EDM aggression, and most importantly, that massive, rock guitar-led chorus. Stray Kids‘ “District 9” may be the year’s first true breakthrough, a track that dazzles you with its intensity from the very first second (it starts with a siren, after all), and keeps that level of energy wonderfully throughout the verses, the hooks, and the noisy drops. This is one hell of a debut, now the bar is really high.
Monsta X – Jealousy
Monsta X is one of the most consistent hip-hop-oriented boy-bands around; since 2015’s “Hero”, they have continuously topped themselves, not only in the quality of their concepts but on the very nature of their singing/rapping performances. Last year’s “Dramarama” was a massive step forward, bringing a sharper edge to their signature hard-hitting rap without losing their capacity for hook-building, but this month’s “Jealousy” has added a healthy and much-needed dose of funk. The bass-heavy, remarkably catchy production of the track feels like an even more fitting setting for the boys’ distinct voices; now we hear a band at the top of their game from the first verse onto the last chorus.