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 welcome the new year and take a look at the finest releases of January 2019.
Apink – %% (Eung Eung)
Apink is finally coming into its own and taking an exciting new sonic direction in the process. For their January comeback, they once again enlist super producers Black Eyed Pilseung for a synth-heavy, modern-yet-classic-sounding single. “%%” offers a very interesting palette of sounds (that synth arpeggio!), well crafted vocal harmonies and percussion flourishes. Apink is building on its now signature sound and increasing their momentum.
VERIVERY – Ring Ring Ring
One thing that will always be associated with K-Pop is their fixation on retro, the scene’s uncanny ability to execute modern productions with elements from the past. A very good and recent example is VERIVERY‘s “Ring Ring Ring”, a track that screams early 90’s pop, in aesthetic, sound, structure and even energy. The arrangements are pretty slick — new jack swing percussions, R&B chord progressions, a house piano is thrown in — and the group defends the song vocally with the right amount of charm and spontaneity.
GFriend – Sunrise
I will always be impressed by GFriend‘s enormous sense of melodicism. “Sunrise” is memorable from the gorgeous, wistful piano intro, but the sped-up, dynamic song that comes right after is an even bigger surprise. The way arrangements, riffs, and vocal melodies intersect is a feast for the ears, and of course, the typical GFriend orchestrations remain one of the main ingredients, a big reason for the group’s broad appeal. And yet, “Sunrise” is not an immediate smash as previous singles “Rough” and “Fingertip”; it’s more of a grower, but one that truly benefits from repeated listens.
Seventeen – Home
This group exudes elegance. “Home” is one of those tracks that don’t seem too special on paper, a mixture of trendy, r&b-indebted sounds and more typical pop structures, but boy can they pull it off. Such a balanced production, especially when it comes to managing these many voices and sounds, is noteworthy on its own, but the resulting single — a downbeat, nostalgic piece perfect for the winter —, is a full-blown achievement.
Cherry Bullet – Q&A
This may be the first remarkable debut of the year. Cherry Bullet is part of FNC Entertainment, home of AOA, and while their debut single sounds a lot like summer-ready tunes in the vein of “Bingle Bangle”, “Q&A” is a powerful slice of dance-pop with a bouncy electro-disco beat and some badass video game sounds. If this is an introduction to Cherry Bullet’s sound and vibe, it works perfectly, because the group projects confidence and fun. If this is just the first of many concepts to come, it was the right one to debut with. It stands on its own.
NeonPunch – Tic Toc
This track is a punch to the face. The heavily house-influenced single brings its full force from the first second, and the synth melodies, the beat, and the vocal hooks grab your attention and never let go. NeonPunch‘s “Tic Toc” was produced by TENTEN, known for throwing all kinds of sounds into their productions, and here they deliver something strong and unique. There’s even a guitar solo in the last chorus, and it doesn’t feel like filler. What a good comeback.
CLC – No
When CUBE Entertainment was searching for an heir to the throne left by 4Minute, they looked to CLC to continue that legacy and build on the legendary group’s attitude-filled sound. However, 2018 proved to be a pivotal year for (G)-IDLE, their new group built around the talented Jeon Soyeon, and for many, a more natural successor to HyunA’s band. “No” actually feels like a (G)-IDLE track, and for good reason, Soyeon is credited as a writer here, but CLC deliver in their unique style, with strength, grit and sheer charisma. The intro hook itself is incredibly quotable — it will eventually become a meme in K-Pop fandom circles, mark my words —, and the thumping electro bass-based beat gives the snarky verses a good space to shine. “No” proves that both girl-groups can — and should — coexist.