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 take a look at the finest releases of March 2019.
TXT – Crown
In a year already flooded with fascinating debuts laced with immaculate productions and unique sonic identities, it’s time for Big Hit Entertainment — BTS‘ agency — to participate with a new group with less of the dark and dramatic concepts and more of the colorful and upbeat traits. Yet, as usual with Big Hit, the production is flawless and carries a tremendous punch. TXT ditches the more hip-hop-oriented trends, instead aiming for a cheerful electro-bounce, but the true stars are the guys themselves who pack a lot of personality in the hooks, especially for its call-and-response structure. “Crown” is already a bona fide hit, and it announces the beginning of the Spring season with a bang.
Sunmi – Noir
At this point, we just know Sunmi can do no wrong. She released our favorite K-Pop single of 2018 and followed that with an autumn smash. For Spring 2019, she is back with the nostalgic and incredibly elegant synthpop track “Noir.” This track feels a bit more restrained than her previous hits, but Sunmi’s magnetic presence and talent for melodic hooks work wonderfully alongside the atmospheric and laid-back aspects of the production. There’s even a trap breakdown in the second verse, which Sunmi rides effortlessly.
Park Bom – Spring (feat. Sandara Park)
We miss 2NE1. We really do. And there’s no bigger proof of it than watching this little number by former member Park Bom climb the Korean charts and catching ears around the world with remarkable speed. But speaking of “Spring” from a standpoint of pure nostalgia is completely unfair because the single itself is kind of a breath of fresh air, a departure from the punchy sound we usually associate with Bom’s legendary band. There’s a choir arrangement, a mid-tempo beat that slowly builds up into a dramatic final chorus, and yes, a guest appearance by fellow 2NE1 girl Sandara Park — which is the song’s highlight, in my opinion — all wrapped up in a surprisingly subtle Brave Brothers production. “Spring” is a hit in its own right, so let’s treat it as precisely that.
Jeong Sewoon – Feeling (ft. PENOMECO)
Acoustic guitars in K-Pop tracks are quite underrated, especially when they’re not part of either jazzy coffeehouse or indie tunes, or big soundtrack ballads, which makes Produce 101’s alum Jeong Sewoon‘s new single “Feeling” all the more special. The tune is guitar-driven, but it’s an explosion of pure rhythm, and boy is it catchy; the combination of funky acoustic sounds and Jeong’s falsetto-led performance instantly reminds of Justin Timberlake‘s early solo hits, but Sewoon’s airy delivery and charm are his own. And of course, so much rhythm demanded some rap, and guest PENOMECO delivers impeccably, and offer some grit to this wonderful slice of pop.
DIA – WOOWA
On first listen, one can’t help but think “Wow, the presence of upbeat, quirky new groups like MOMOLAND is definitely creating a trend for second and third-generation groups to jump onto.” Of course, DIA‘s “WOOWA” follows this template to a T, but there’s a deeper reason for that. This is produced by Shinsadong Tiger, who is partly responsible for Momoland’s sound and has created countless hits for EXID, T-Ara, and other notable artists. Granted, the track itself feels like more of the same, but if the formula really, really works, why mess with it? DIA is still struggling with finding their own sound, and their label is still having a hard time promoting them, but they have stumbled into quite a banger.
EVERGLOW – Bon Bon Chocolat
With the deluge of girl-groups entering the industry in this first quarter, and so many others to come — some of them already announced — it is and will be increasingly difficult to stand out in the K-Pop market, but when you got an interesting concept, a set of magnetic personalities, a video that doesn’t need much budget or many elements to engage, and an absolutely astonishing track to show for, you’re guaranteed to get a lot of attention. EVERGLOW is managed by Chinese company Yue Hua Entertainment, of WJSN notoriety, and their debut single “Bon Bon Chocolat” is just out of this world. It’s weird and quirky enough, in both structure and delivery, to share space in a playlist alongside LOONA, f(x), or Red Velvet, and contains enough of an anthemic punch — just check out that impressive main riff — to win over new audiences of all kinds. I think I will just wholeheartedly agree with Mexican critic Alexis Hodoyán on this.
Stray Kids – Miroh
JYP’s Stray Kids were probably 2018’s top rookie act, and they have demonstrated to be the most consistent of the bunch, both in terms of quality and impact. For the latter, these are the kids who really bring it. Yes, there is a “chill” and “downbeat” trend going on in K-Pop, in part because of the nature of Winter season, but SK is having none of that, and “Miroh”, even with its deep house ingredients, the African influences, and the somewhat dark piano lines, still gives us some fierce rapping, gripping low-toned hooks, and tons of sheer power.