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 July.
Apink – I’m so sick
2018 has a been kind of a breakthrough year for producers Black Eyed Pilseung; back in January, they rose back to notoriety for their amazing work on Chungha‘s “Rollercoaster”, a track that both embraces and improves upon the most recent trends, bridging the gap between the ethereal and the immediate. For their production on Apink’s “I’m so sick”, they took the often tiresome tropical formula, and add all sorts of experimental flourishes, exciting atmospheres, and a distorted guitar climax to boot. This track heralds a new era for Apink, one where they leave the cute, “safe” pop of previous singles in favor of the audacious.
Holland – I’m not afraid
Holland‘s main claim to fame was the fact that, earlier this year, his debut was the first for an openly gay K-Pop idol; however, this huge sign of progress came with an incredibly dull opening single. Now, he’s back with a brand new sound and an even bolder stance, as his comeback song “I’m not afraid” takes his original message even further. Sonically, it’s definitely more solid and cohesive. The track embraces 80’s synth-pop and disco, in a way that feels more connected with Western artists like MUNA and Troye Sivan, both widely associated with the global LGBTQ community. It’s a smart choice, not only because of this but because it fits Holland’s vocal performance like a glove. It works both as vibe and function.
Mamamoo – Egotistic
Mamamoo is here in your K-Pop Bulletin for the third time (!) this year, but this is no bias — not much, at least — and it’s definitely no accident. They’re not only the most vocally advanced of the bunch, they’re also one of the most elegant pop groups in the entire world. For their new single “Egotistic” they go full Latin-summer-pop mode, displaying elements like nylon-string guitar arrangements and Caribbean-style percussion, but with enough R&B flavor via their singing performances (especially from Solar) to create something unique, and still true to the Mamamoo sound.
GFriend – Sunny Summer
Sometimes you just need a song that puts all the pieces you love in a K-Pop song together to truly make your Summer. That’s the big intention behind the new GFriend single; a sun-kissed, candy-wrapped, undeniable banger. It contains everything there is to love from Gfriend — lush instrumental progressions, powerful brass accents, one of their punchiest beats ever — and is enhanced by impressively layered vocals. Double Sidekick keep producing wonderful summer smashes: ever since the SISTAR days, it’s pretty much their thing.
Triple H – Retro Future
Yes! The nostalgia trip of the summer of 2018 comes to us courtesy of non-other than HyunA and CUBE Entertainment‘s project Triple H. K-Pop is a scene that openly takes multiple elements from all eras of pop, Western or domestic, but they rarely go as far as to outright sample one of hip-hop cornerstone singles, taking stylistic references instead, or doing interpolations at most. But right there is where “Retro Future” really hits; the way they work around such an obvious sample — Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” — is remarkable, we get great hooks and raps from Hui and E’Dawn, and of course, HyunA’s unmistakable sensuality rounds up the track perfectly. Retro Sexy Music, indeed.
Hyolyn – See Sea
There’s a strong consensus among K-Pop fans that SISTAR were the queens of the Summer smash, so it’s no surprise that one of the group’s key members returns for a mid-July wonder of a single. “See Sea” is a bit of a departure from the hip-hop-heavy style of previous single “Dally”, taking the slightly nostalgic, breezy tropical route instead, but this change works completely in her favor. Hyolyn‘s high-pitched, airy vocals and melodic sense bring a lot of power to these hooks, and the beat is playful enough and never gets lost in this dynamic. Black Eyed Pilseung and their trademark technicolor synths have done it again.