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 August.
Red Velvet – Power Up
Since 2015’s “Ice Cream Cake”, Red Velvet has been SM Entertainment‘s go-to group for the reliably experimental and the delightfully messy, and this month’s single “Power Up” follows that tradition of the untraditional. However, the tune not only displays the quirky elements and exuberant jumps that make RV classics such as “Red Flavor” stand out, it also shows the girls taking hyper-complex melodic turns, like the retro-leaning introduction, which makes a stark contrast with the hook’s atypical chant. This combination would sound annoying in lesser groups, but the magic here lies in the balance of the execution; Red Velvet can pull this off easily, ’cause they’re already the complete experts at it. They’re consistently that good.
DIA – Woo Woo
We’re seriously impressed with super-producer Shinsadong Tiger’s impressive run this year; he already put Momoland back into chart dominance earlier this year, and his constant work with EXID has brought us one of the most consistent singles sequences in recent memory in K-Pop. Along with those accomplishments, we should now add DIA’s summer highlight “Woo Woo”; a Miami bass-indebted monster of a track that is putting this already experienced group back in the spotlight. They have been kind of irregular in the years following their debut, but they sure are very talented and share an intresting group dynamic, and this über-funky track finally puts those elements to work wonderfully.
Without the shadow of doubt, if there’s someone we need to call the Summer 2018 MVP, that’s the talented Hyolyn. No wonder why she’s in this K-Pop highlight reel for the second month in a row, and for the third time overall this year. After a smash like “See Sea”, the Sistar girl returns with a track as funky, as punchy and as memorable as some of her former group’s finest, particularly in the way she delivers the chorus. “BAE” is a hefty dose of pure sunshine, and it manages to capture that special essence of summer, where wide-eyed optimism is mixed with a touch of nostalgia.
(G)Idle – HANN (Alone)
This. This is the kind of single we all kind of wanted from a group like (G)-IDLE, a grity track that could show the entire group’s sonic potential, but the overall result, the sonic path they’re carving and the risks they took both visually and musically have blown us away. “Hann (Alone)” moves away from the trop-house template of their debut single, instead aiming for a darker, more cinematic touch. There’s an extra dramatic flair via the atmospheric synths, but it’s the way the chorus melodies are woven into the mix that heighten that drama, resulting in something elegant and impactful.
LOONA – Hi High
LOONA is one of the most interesting K-Pop groups in History, so interesting in fact that they have built an obsessive fan base, an ambitious set of roll-outs with an interconnected narrative universe in their visuals, and an impressive catalog of singles by solo projects and sub-unit, and this all happened before their official debut! But now, a full-fledged Loona is upon us after almost two years of build-up, and despite the somewhat disappointing early single “favOrite”, they return to form with “Hi High”, a tune that reflects the group’s main attributes — hectic, technicolor synths, fast-paced beats and an unsettling atmospheric foundation. The sonic premise of this band (K-Pop that takes cues from the experimental/soundcloud scene) is still there, and it’s finally paying off as a complete unit.
BTS – IDOL
The biggest boy-band in the world is back after last May’s smash single “Fake Love”, and we’re definitely proud to announce that the BTS we originally fell in love with is back. By this, I don’t mean the sound — new single “IDOL” is a mish-mash of ingredients from so many different trends it’s amazing how confounding it can be — but the attitude to the music — a group willing to embrace their weirder side without fear of polarizing their immense fan base — what we’re talking about, the thing that draws us back to them every time. “IDOL” is indeed weird, a maximalist display of sounds ranging from traditional Korean instrumentation, to South African kwaito music, to elements from the remnants of the trap and EDM pop trends, and the vocal delivery maintains that intensity for the song’s entire runtime.