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 October 2019.
SuperM – Jopping
Yes, we’re opening this round-up with a controversial statement (according to the ocean of negative initial reactions following this release): “Jopping” is really good, only slightly more disjointed and structurally adventurous than what the current trends are suggesting. The track opens with blasting industrial synths, aiming at the kind of ambition such a supergroup — with members of legends SHINee and EXO, along with new era superstars NCT — was originally supposed to signify. Nevertheless, the true gems are in the production, from the robotic synth work to the impeccable vocal mixing, and the balanced but fairly eclectic use of several electronic rhythmic styles and how they’re incorporated into a cohesive trap/dance tune. Even the distorted guitars feel at home here.
ATEEZ – Wonderland
ATEEZ is still not as well known as they should, but one thing we can all agree on is that they are brilliantly committed to their core concept: Their “pirate” aesthetic can be felt all over in the new single “Wonderland”, especially in the sea shanty-like hook — kudos for the sparse beat production, it makes the melody and the intention much clearer — and most importantly, in the faux-horns throughout. Highly recommended for those who think the K-Pop is getting a bit boring lately.
Lim Hyunsik – Dear Love
BTOB is one of those groups that are replete with talent; they have some of the greatest vocalists in the business, a consistent catalog of singles and album tracks, and their members have embarked in some interesting solo outings and side projects, and yet, they’re still not quite there when it comes to international recognition, which is a bit painful considering the quality of their solo songs alone. Lim Hyunsik’s “Dear Love” offers a perfect balance of OST romantic balladry and showstopping soft-rock with a slightly harder edge, with his vocals showing the full expressive range and a power rarely heard from him in the main group. The arrangements are sober and elegant, and the reverberated guitar lead adds an extra dimension of greatness. An undeniably great ballad.
Nu’est – Love Me
Pledis powerhouse Nu’est has always been in the vanguard of the K-Pop sound; they were one of the first to experiment with dubstep and future bass back in the day, and they were leading the deep house trend shortly after that, extending those elements into today. “Love Me” continues on the house sound, rather condenses it to the most effective elements, putting the iconic house piano at the center of a streamlined structure rich with catchy melodies and whistled leads. It is more of the same, but what an execution.
Taeyeon – Spark
Exactly how does Taeyeon do it? She has been perhaps the only idol group alum with a spotless solo track record, crafting memorable hits and some of the most impressive K-Pop songs in history in the process. “Spark” is her latest outing, showing some soul power along with an exquisite sound, with organic instrumentation complete with bluesy guitars and tambourines, but the true wonder resides in her extremely clean yet expressive and strong vocal performance, which enhances and controls the overall retro sound. Tracks like these remind us why she remains at the top of the K-Pop game.