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 September.
Sunmi – Siren
Two things are very true about the Wonder Girls: 1) They were the undisputable queens of retro-pop, not only in the Korean scene but in the entire pop universe, and 2) They’re perhaps the only band that can create musically accomplished and commercially successful solo careers out of each one of their members. Sunmi‘s return with “Siren” proves that she’s only getting better, more focused on concept and sound, and offering stronger hooks. Production-wise, Frants‘ 80’s-tinged electro beat provides a thrilling framework for Sunmi’s energetic, Pretenders-influenced melodies. A stunning track, through and through.
GWSN – Puzzle Moon
Out of all the small trends that have captured the K-Pop landscape in the past few years, pop-house with obvious 90’s reminiscences is one of the hardest to get right. Of course, 2015 was a triumphant year, with both f(x) and SHINee giving us masterpieces, and Luna‘s solo single “Free Somebody” remains one of the decade’s best, but for a newcomer, and especially a non-SM artist, to come up with a solid pop-house single is extremely difficult. Fortunately, GWSN‘s “Puzzle Moon” excels in its execution, bringing us something undeniably catchy, but balanced, wrapped in mystique but never feeling overdone, and it manages to hit us with a badass half-time rap breakdown and lots of fun synth work.
The Boyz – Right Here
The Boyz is a group that’s heavily committed to coming at us with as much exuberance and complexity as possible. The great thing is that they’re perfectly able to pull it off, both vocally — every single line, ad-lib and harmony hits the right places despite displaying complicated arrangements — and in the production — for “Right Here” they recruited Albi Albertsson and his hyper-kinetic, effervescent style is all over the track. The Boyz still need to shake off their circa-2013 SHINee and pre-2016 VIXX influences, but with enormous bangers like these, can you complain?
Oh My Girl – Remember Me
Oh My Girl, since their 2015 debut, has been one of the most consistent girl-groups in K-Pop, and one that constantly tries to explore new sonic areas without ever abandoning their core musical and visual concepts. “Remember Me” starts with a thumping EDM beat and a distorted bass, something unusual in an OMG production, but quickly enough, the lush melodies, the symphonic compositional approach and the tension-building flourishes we know and love reveal themselves. The song uses these disparate elements to play with our expectations, resulting in an engaging, exciting track, where no second is wasted.
WJSN – Save Me, Save You
When you have a solid sonic palette and an easily recognizable visual identity, and you want to maximize your impact, you have two options: you either subvert your audience’s expectations and come up with an entirely new concept, or you double-down on the ingredients that your community fell in love with. WJSN has done the latter, resulting in an incredibly lush, majestic single. “Save Me, Save You” is a summary of everything we love from the Cosmic Girls — Blankets of strings, airy vocal harmonies, space-inspired synths and lots of sci-fi iconography — boiled down into four powerful minutes. It’s a good lesson: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Seulgi X SinB X Chungha X Soyeon – Wow Thing
This little number is, by far, one of the most interesting, exciting K-Pop tunes of the year, and one of the most fascinating collaborations in recent Korean pop history. SM Station is SM Entertainment‘s corner for their most adventurous, experimental endeavors, but this supergroup, sonically and conceptually, comes from absolute left-field. Each one of these women have very different voices and styles, pulling from different pop traditions, and yet they meld perfectly in this wonderfully layered piece of turn-of-the-century R&B-pop beauty. It’s like the Korean Lady Marmalade moment we all secretly wanted.