It might be May, but we’re still listening to some great jams from January. What a wild year 2020 has been already. This year, Lunar New Year occured in January leading to a two month lull in comebacks. However, there are some great tracks still and I want people to find some comfort in this month’s music.
Taeyeon - Dear Me (내게 들려주고 싶은 말)
Dear Me is from the repackage of her October album, Purpose. The song is a message of hope, self-empowerment, and self-love. The rawness and vulnerability in Taeyeon’s voice makes this song more than another generic pop ballad. I like the uncluttered arrangement, letting here voice shine. Dear Me’s sentiment is perfect for this crazy year.
Zico - Any Song
The song that went unexpectedly viral at the beginning of the year. The repetitive melodic line is the biggest appeal spawning the Zico Challenge with various celebrities joining in. Catchy and accessible, Any Song’s jazzy groove is perfect for laidback parties. The song does become quickly tiring; however, it still holds its allure when randomly coming up in my playlist.
Younha - Dark Cloud (먹구름)
Younha has had a long career and has been thrust back into the spotlight with her collaboration with RM of BTS. That song isn’t the title track, instead we get this soft rock ballad. The song reminds me of Back to December by Taylor Swift. The structure and sound is very reminiscent of Taylor’s mea culpa. What makes this song shine is Younha’s ever compelling voice. A cathartic climax shows her at her best with rock elements supporting her. However, the song could’ve pushed just a bit more to put it over the top. I wish that intensity started from the beginning, but I understand why the song opted for a slow build.
Younha - Winter Flower (Feat. RM)
Anthemic pop is by far one of my favorite types of songs to listen to. Inspiring and uplifting, Winter Flower is about the journey being painful but ultimately beautiful in the end through the metaphor of a flower blooming in the harsh winter. Younha is soul-stirring with her silky yet explosive vocals throughout this powerful track. RM’s soothing rap verse seamlessly enters at the end of the chorus with a letter to his older self. This collaboration has been years in the making and it doesn’t disappoint. The inspirational message comes at the right time – the dark times will pass and soon you will bloom.
ATEEZ - Answer
I must admit that I never gave ATEEZ any attention until I constantly heard people listing that the group has been consistently releasing hit after hit. After the release of Wonderland, I eagerly awaited their next release. Answer begins with ATEEZ’s iconic sound and the intensity and energy never relent. There is a slight tribal sound when building up the chorus. The song has everything with standout vocal moments, hard-hitting rap verses, and EDM builds. I was looking forward to seeing them on their The Fellowship: Map the Treasure Tour on April 26. Alas, I will be content listening to their music and look forward to them coming back to LA.
IZ - The Day
Ever since I delved into kpop bands, IZ has been on my list. I want others out there to discover their music. Their discography has been solid and they just need that one break-out hit. The Day is the closest they have ever delivered. With its dreamy and nostalgic vibe, the song sounds like it came from modern rock from the 90’s. It is the definition of easy listening with an easy to hum vocal refrain. Sometimes you just want to daydream and this song is perfect for that.
Yezi - My Gravity
Yezi, formerly from Fiestar, shines as a soloist in this track. My Gravity fully focuses on Yezi as a vocalist without a hint of hip-hop. I was delightfully surprised to find that Yezi had this kind of belting in her based on her hip-hop singles. This power ballad aims for the stratosphere with its bombastic chorus and orchestration, but it felt too Frozen-esque for me. The chorus is just repeated too often for the song to really be something special. However, I like this new Yezi which is a total 180 from her attitude-charged songs.
Dongkiz - All I Need Is You
Refreshingly addictive, All I Need Is You is the perfect song to start the day. You can’t help but dance to this song with its slapping bass and rhythmic goodness with a splash of brass at the right moments. Dongkiz has been slowly going up my list with their distinct retro sound and high energy tracks. The song is just fun through and through.
Siyeon (Dreamcatcher) - Paradise
Siyeon’s first solo release is the first member of Dreamcatcher to have a solo. From the intro, the song immediately felt like an extension of Dreamcatcher’s works. Siyeon’s vocals are very recognizable as they are the foundation of the group’s many tracks. I really like the electronic elements to provide a different texture besides a blend of piano and strings. Paradise is a perfect match with Siyeon’s performance style.
VERIVERY - Lay Back
A rookie group last year, VERIVERY caught my attention immediately. Lay Back puts the boys in edgier territory. It is a solid track that provides enough of the funk influence to keep the listener’s attention. The group’s signature sound is what piqued my interest. There seems to be a divide in the song with the groups signature sound going against the trendy elements meant to capture the general public. The best part is the enjoyable building pre-chorus, but some of the transitions are jarring, leading me to tune out on certain sections.
Golden Child - Without You
Without You continues the edgier and trendier path Golden Child has taken. Beginning with muted, plucked sounds that lead to dramatic, staccato-like vocals, the song structure is very different and keeps the listener engaged. The intensity would make it seem that there would be the generic drop and build of energy; however, the song stays in this moody vibe. This is a great sonic sequel to Wannabe.
Sechs Kies - All For You
“Boyz II Men does kpop” instantly comes to mind listening to All For You. A nostalgic wave hit came over me with those shimmering synths and the drum sounds straight from the late-80’s/early-90’s. I love the little bits of brass that join in during the chorus. The track isn’t for everyone depending on what you grew up with. Sechs Kies bring a calm and light feel that sounds straight from adult-contemporary stations here.
SF9 - Good Guy
Grooving deep house sounds are the trend with kpop this year it seems with many of the songs above using deep house elements. Good Guy is no different but the energy of the chorus makes it a highlight in January. I like the layered vocals which are reminiscent of Seventeen. The instrumental keeps the song engaging with an otherwise slightly boring chorus.
BTS - Black Swan
Black Swan is part of an ambitious months-long roll-out schedule for BTS’s upcoming album. The song is accompanied by an interpretive dance music video. I love the Eastern influences used in the instrumental providing that dreamlike aesthetic. However, the vocals were jarring as they seemed out of place at times. I can see that they were aiming to please the emotional side, but it was just short of reaching that mark.
Super Junior - 2YA2YAO!
Teaming up with Zico for a hip-hop inspired track, 2YA2YAO! is a different sound for Super Junior. Once again, there is some funk influence that I have come to enjoy. Grooving straight from the first note, the instrumental oozes confidence with that 90’s sounding bass and percussion. The hard-hitting chorus is the selling point of the song with its catchy tune that you will be humming to all day long.