During the past few years, South Korea’s music industry has grown exponentially thanks to the help of global superstars BTS, who have emerged as one of the biggest boybands of the 21st century. The fast-paced and exciting K-pop industry has reached far beyond the South Korean borders, becoming one of the biggest Pop markets in the world. Today, we highlight the top K-pop releases of May 2022.
NCT DREAM – “Beatbox”
In the past few years, SM entertainment has been overwhelmingly transparent about its interest in 90’s American hip-hop and R&B, with almost all the groups in the company having at least a few tracks influenced by one or the other genre. Their very interest in the genre has also helped them gain some of their best music produced, such as the tracks ‘Bad Boy’ by well-liked girl-group Red Velvet and ‘Call me Baby’ by illustrious boy-group EXO. With the recent release of ‘Beatbox’ by NCT DREAM, it seems like the company is still riding the wave of 90s hip-hop and R&B, and just like their previous releases of the genre have demonstrated, ‘Beatbox’ is also one of the more refined tracks coming from the NCT sub-unit. The highlight of the song is the post-chorus faux beatboxing which smoothly transitions into an impressive vocal delivery by main vocalists Haechan and Renjun. In addition, the modernized music video, choreography, and fashion styling increase the likeability and novelty of the 90s-inspired track, which helps keep things more exciting.
GOT7 – “NANANA”
A year and five months after GOT7’s departure from their ex-label JYP entertainment, the seven-member group delivered their highly anticipated comeback as artists under Warner Music Korea. While rumors circulated about disbandment, the members promised their fans they would reunite again. Following a year of solo releases and activities from each member, the group finally decided to return to the K-pop scene as a group once again, releasing a new self-titled EP with the title track NANANA. The record is more laidback than the group’s previous releases, blending synth-pop, r&b, and trap beats. Contrary to the recent EDM-infused tracks with fast raps and noisy beat drops by 4th generation boy groups, NANANA feels like a breath of fresh air.
The song doesn’t rely too much on gimmicks like popular rap stylings and intense beat drops. Instead, it flows easily. In addition, while comparing the track to the releases of their peers and even their previous work, you find that NANANA is more mature and refined. The song is a more suitable taste for older K-pop stans rather than newer and younger fans. The lyrics dwell on the excitement and anticipation of meeting someone. Moreover, ‘NANANA’s music video is one of the group’s most visually pleasing yet, with an array of scenes displaying various color schemes from cool to warm and bright, as they sing and dance inside their flowerful home high up above pink clouds.
KANG DANIEL – “Upside Down”
Three years into his solo career, Kang Daniel has released a remarkably good amount of solo music. The ex-Wanna One member is not the most popular soloist amongst international fans. However, even with the lack of global popularity, Daniel still manages to deliver quality music, as shown through his track “Upside Down.” The song starts as a mellow R&B track which transitions into a mid-tempo chorus accompanied by bright synths and metallic clanging. “Upside Down” offers an outstanding balance between R&B and bright pop with its driving synth pads, drums, applause, and whistle sounds. However, the bridge is where the song shines. The heavy bass and the guitar riff bounce off each other as the song starts transitioning to its outro. And while Daniel might not be the most cavitating singer in K-pop, his vocals still complement the track’s suave production, creating something euphonious.
SEVENTEEN – “HOT”
To kick off their eighth year as a 14-member group, SEVENTEEN released their fourth studio album titled Face the Sun with its title track, “HOT.” As the group transitions into the next phase of their career, it’s clear that they want to keep their position as one of the most popular K-pop boy groups right now, with “HOT” being a prime example of this. “HOT” follows the same unvarying formula as other recent K-pop comebacks from 4th and 3rd generation groups. However, even with their addition of flashy gimmicks like autotune singing and heavy beat drops, SEVENTEEN makes it work. It’s not their best release, by any means, but it’s still fun. The track is mostly pop and hip-hop-influenced, driven by a spaghetti western guitar and electronic beats. The chorus of the song feels like an attempt to gain a viral TikTok sound, and the dance moves accompanying the chorus could be described the same way. Even though this should be annoying in any other case, somehow it isn’t. “HOT” is energetic and catchy and has all the formulas of distraction to make a listener ignore all its disappointing factors and still have something enjoyable to listen.
Astro – “Candy Sugar Pop”
Astro are one of those K-pop groups that aren’t considered the most popular amongst the 3rd gen, but they still have managed to be on the radar for the past few years, thanks to the help of member Cha Eunwoo and his well-known drama roles. Their single “Candy Sugar Pop” is most closely reminiscent of the previous K-Pop songs heard during a time when bubble-gum pop was still quite popular. The track is fun, buoyant, and everything a K-pop fan expects from a comeback. The bold synths and catchy hook carry the track, while the chorus lifts the track even further molding the track into a certified head-bopper. With the release of this track, Astro are separating themselves from the newer trends and styles heard from K-pop groups right now and going back to the previous trends of bubble gum pop and retro and in some way, ironically it helps them stand out from all the other K-pop groups right now.