The K-Pop Bulletin: November 2018

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  November. 

EXO – Tempo

EXO 엑소 'Tempo' MV

The main reason why EXO is perhaps the most consistent major boy-band in the last 5 years is because of their enviable ability in applying their trademark vocal dynamics into every different concept they work on, no matter how seemingly disparate they may seem. In last year’s “Ko Ko Bop”, they put the EXO stamp on light reggae-flavored pop, and with “Tempo”, a combination of future bass and something from the “Love Me Right” era, they double down on their balanced-yet-ever-exciting team delivery, which makes even the trap breakdown a fiery moment. And there’s even an a capella bridge — without a doubt the track’s most pleasant surprise.

HYO (Hyoyeon) – Punk Right Now (feat. 3LAU)

Hyoyeon‘s gritty delivery, incredibly catchy, rhythmically pleasing rap, and tongue-in-cheek humor, are strong elements on their own, but “Punk Right Now” holds up because of its monstrously good instrumental. 3LAU‘s sweet, punchy synths, hard-hitting beat and percussive flourishes fit HYO’s flow like a glove, especially when she rolls her r’s, to mimic the Las Vegas producer’s stuttering synths. And most importantly, it’s impossible not to dance to it.

NCT 127 – Simon Says

NCT 127‘s brand of bass-heavy, bounce-inducing, minimalist hip-hop has undergone a serious update with “Simon Says”. Instead of the understated, looping rhythmic patterns of previous singles, this track goes wild on samples, noises, and even the traditional haka war cry from New Zealand. We also get some fascinating melodic interactions, especially in the bridge, where it’s all about high drama. The NCT universe, however diverse and complex, is getting surprisingly more consistent.

Nu’est W – Help Me

The production in this track is simply mind-blowing, not only because of the diverse sonic sources and the seamless way they are displayed, but because of its sheer force. From the moment the beat hits, “Help Me” just takes over you; but then we go through beat changes, atmospheric synth shifts, trap hats that interact with  session drumming, string arrangements and a beautiful, piano-led final refrain. And Nu’est W‘s vocal work is up to the challenge provided by this massive, devastating instrumental.


Twice – Yes or Yes

This is Twice as effective, as streamlined and as hook-heavy as it can get, and as it always should be. That said, that spoken intro (and its evident tone deafness) is not gonna age well. It almost ruins the entire thing, but “Yes or Yes” is just so beautifully constructed — funky session playing, in-your-face synths, a two-part chorus with a catchy refrain at the end — it easily overcomes that hiccup. It’s a total display of imperial power.

Gugudan – Not That Type

Gugudan have tried many different concepts, styles, and even attitudes, but in “Not That Type” they might have found their definitive form. This track is a gleeful, anthemic slice of dance-pop that, most importantly, is built around party-starting brass arrangement and stadium-filling hooks. And they manage to ride a fast-paced dembow beat without resorting to the typical tropical pop trend. That in itself is kind of impressive.


Lovelyz – Lost N Found

If we’re going to talk busy instrumentals, lush strings and synths, and advanced structures, we need to discuss Lovelyz. From their debut, they have relied on some of the most ethereal, ebullient soundscapes in recent memory. but their evolution is noteworthy, as they keep pushing forward, both in intricacy and in their overall sonic arsenal. In “Lost N Found” we can hear some funky session playing, a plethora of synths that jump around the track, strings that flow as rivers, and even key changes that somehow make the hooks stand out. Producer Spacecowboy is on to something revolutionary here.


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