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 from the month of June.
Yubin – Lady
Wonder Girls have always been considered the absolute queens of retro in the K-Pop universe — their final full-length album, REBOOT, is considered a masterpiece in 80’s pop nostalgia and one of the strongest Korean records ever made –, so it’s very fitting that the official solo debut of former member Yubin also takes a look at the past for inspiration. However, “Lady” is also quite a surprise; Yubin is known for her talents as a rapper, but in this track there’s not a single line of rap, rather opting for a disco diva singing style to enhance the overall city-pop-like production. It’s in the execution of this concept, both sonically and aesthetically, where “Lady” really hits, Yubin simultaneously projects energy and sophistication in every note, and if this is the musical path she will take in her future solo endeavours, we’ll be definitely on board.
Blackpink – Ddu du Ddu du
When it comes to Blackpink, YG Entertainment is taking a “quality over quantity” approach, which generates tons of anticipation every time they bring something new. “Ddu-du Ddu-du” is an interesting comeback, not necessarily in the music/production sense (it’s pretty much a slow, bass-heavy Teddy Park track by-the-numbers), but in how skillful is the group performance-wise. All four girls are up to the task, and at the height of their powers — particularly Lisa and Jennie, which completely slay their rapped verses — but there’s also lots of magnetism in the melodies and the hooks. This is a well-rounded track, and a bonafide chart-breaker.
Taeyeon – Something New
It’s no exaggeration to say that Taeyeon is a national treasure in Korea. She’s one of the country’s most recognizable faces, both as part of Girls’ Generation and as a soloist, but there’s no doubt that she’s perhaps the most versatile pop star in K-Pop as well. “Something New” is an attack to the pleasure centers, a 90’s R&B-leaning track with a vibe-oriented, multi-layered production, especially on the vocal front, where Taeyeon’s voice shows the width of her range. Is she about to hit us with her own Velvet Rope? One can only hope.
Minseo – Is Who
Minseo is no stranger to that coffeehouse, jazzy, folkish sound we commonly associate with the indie-oriented regions of K-Pop, but “Is Who” takes things to a whole new level. The manouche jazz influences all over the track match perfectly with her adventurous, coquettish vocal performance, and there’s even space for a badass violin solo that would make Stéphane Grappelli proud. It’s the month’s breakthrough single.
DAY6 – Shoot Me
If there’s a band in Korean pop that is constantly pushing themselves as songwriters and in terms of production, that’s DAY6. Last year, we saw a very active young band improving single after single, but in 2018, they have laid back a bit and taken their time to release something truly exciting. “Shoot Me” is kind of a departure for them; more electronic elements, a little more drama via the synth strings, and even a reggae-flavoured guitar, but they have made every ingredient work. They’re still incredibly gifted hook builders, and that “bang bang” chorus stands as one of the catchiest and most powerful in their short but accomplished career.
UNB – Black Heart
We love songs where there’s a lot going on at the same time, and most importantly, we love songs with busy productions melding elements from disparate styles to create something unique. UNB‘s “Black Heart” fuses jazz piano and hard-edged EDM for a single that is as explosive and exciting as it is plain weird, and at the same time, it is unmistakably a LDN Noise/Ryan S. Jhun project — previous singles by SHINee and Red Velvet are pop classics with a experimental twist. They’re among the best in the world at that.
NeonPunch – Moonlight
K-Pop that follows the traditions of house music is becoming kind of a tired trend already, but there are still some singles in which the style is put to great use, such as this sugar rush of a comeback. NeonPunch‘s “Moonlight” displays the performance strengths of the group, offering some dynamic depth in the mix (that staccato synth in the back glues the entire track together in a masterful way) and the arrangements (themselves reminiscent of different eras in electronic music) are a small History lesson to be learned. And there’s still a good song underneath the disco strings. That hook slaps.
ELRIS – Summer Dream
Last month, AOA gave us “Bingle Bangle” a bubbly track that felt like the definitive summer anthem of 2018, one that could compete with some of the most bopping Sistar jams, but boy has it been topped. ELRIS‘ “Summer Dream” possesses something AOA’s single, or any other this year, lack: a precise combination of sparkling cuteness and lowkey nostalgia. Summer is not only about pool parties or trips to the beach, it’s also about remembering those that were part of the most wonderful moments you’ve lived; this song expresses both sides, and the complex chord progressions and melodic turns are pure magic. ELRIS focused this entire new project on this season, and they have definitely delivered.