“너만 와준다면 뭐든 할 수 있었어 워.”

“마스크” by Stellar | Stellar weren’t supposed to survive – not the departures of Jeonyul and Gayoung last year, or if you go further, not the shift in image from 2014’s “Marionette” that drew a ridiculous amount of flak. Stellar weren’t destined to be one of those groups on K-pop’s top two tiers; that’s just how it is. Yet I liked them. I quite liked them, particularly from that point when they shifted their image, away from the (ill-fitting) candy pop of their 2011 debut “Rocket Girl” and towards provocative choreography and edgy songs. That was them at their most sublime. “Mask”, in particular, had that wiggly, reverb-y bass that kept pushing the song forward, turning it into one of K-pop’s most underrated tracks, perhaps ever. (And, of course, there’s “Sting”, playful and coy and cunning – still one of our favorites.) The last two singles were misfires (the last one was shockingly cringe-y) and the line-up changes last year – one in, two out, one more in – were definitely rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Yet I rooted for them, for some reason. I knew they will never be successful; that’s almost always down to luck, and with so many debuts to keep track of, chances just get slimmer. Stellar weren’t supposed to survive – and this Sunday, they ceased to exist – but they were my underdogs, and they were many others’ underdogs. If they weren’t to be successful, they were going to make us happy, never mind if they were hit and miss. [NB]


“…hinding-hindi makasabay sa hangin ng aking buhay.”

“Hari Ng Sablay” by Sugarfree | We’ve been doing this feature for three years now, and only now are we getting around to Sugarfree. I have waited for so long to be able to add them to the list. (Just in time, turns out, for yesterday their entire discography went live on Spotify.) I have also agonized for so long about what song to put in. Sure, “Hari Ng Sablay” is the obvious choice, a track whose conceit alone brought it to the zeitgeist. But I have been into the band from the moment I first heard “Telepono” in a car in Alabang. I sang my heart out to “Mariposa”, cried my heart (figuratively) out to “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak”… I have seen them a few times – they were all school gigs; Ebe Dancel would always slot “DLSU” in the lyrics for “Dear Kuya” – and while I wasn’t there at their farewell gig, my heart broke nonetheless. I’ve always known this deserves a theme week. But Sugarfree – yes, a band whose musical ambitions belied their frills-free exterior; whose crunchy musicality, keen sentimentality and occasional winks to the listener endeared them to millions. I can’t not include them. [NB]

“왜 자꾸 그녀만 맴도나요 달처럼 그대를 도는 내가 있는데?”

“Destiny” by Lovelyz | To borrow an oft-used term in these circles, I slept on “Destiny”. I definitely slept on “Destiny”. This song was released almost fourteen months ago and the first time I chanced upon it I just brushed it through. Now I play this constantly, relatively. Lovelyz is one of those girl groups that appear in many places but aren’t quite hitting their peak yet. The specialty, as expected from members their age, is cute and innocent, but this song somehow feels much more… essential. (I’d use “gravitas” but the song does use gravitational orbit as a theme, so no.) I can imagine them taking the place of APink someday: their seat of purity, slowly evolving to maturity; their vocalists, quietly powerful. (If you’re stuck with comparisons between Kei and Eunji, you must listen to this song on repeat, too.) That is, if they play their cards right. [NB]

“오늘 나 나 예쁜 거 맞지?”

“맞지?” by Unnies | Considering how (pretty much) obsessed I have become with the second season of Korean variety show Sisters’ Slam Dunk these past few months – it just ended last week – it was inevitable that I write about this song. To recap: the show combines seven Korean personalities in the pursuit of a girl group. They did it last season – it was the “dream” of a former cast member, actress Min Hyo-rin – but this time the stakes got higher, so high that the show didn’t realize it was on borrowed time and, when it became clear the ratings weren’t going higher and the show won’t go past the original sixteen episodes, ended up rushing through the process. I was meaning to mention this show earlier, as an example of the system that made K-pop so dominant on their side of the world, and slowly becoming prevalent elsewhere (just look at the traction BTS got at the Billboard Music Awards a weekend back). But then I continued watching for the chemistry, particularly the inspired casting of actresses Han Chae-young and (clasically-trained vocalist!) Kang Ye-won, peeling away their cold exteriors to reveal dorks deep inside. (And, later, the many mukbang faces of trot queen Hong Jin-young.) The show’s over, for now, so that’s one less thing to watch on Mondays. I really made time for this, but I know I’m not a Korean who holds sway over television decisions over there. If you have time, watch the sixteen episodes. Binge if you must. [NB]

“When I hear those drums late at night, I know I’m in love.”

“Two Doors Down” by Mystery Jets | Jeany mentioned them yesterday, so perfect time to write about them again. Yes, we talked a lot about British indie in the early days. This was before earthings! was born. It’s a funny sequence of events. I first heard Jeany while listening to a podcast of Danny Wallace’s first seven-week stint on 6 Music. She was talking about what she can see outside of her apartment’s window in Times Square. A few months later, we started to chat – and it’s not because I sought her out after the podcast. It just happened. We haven’t ever met offline but she’s one of my closest friends. Our early conversations were soundtracked by the resurgence of British indie in the latter part of the noughties: we were left adrift by XFM, began listening to the first version of NME Radio (which had this Mystery Jets song on high rotation, which is why I loved it) and then both decided we preferred the BBC better; me to 6 Music, she to Radio 1, with the inevitable crossover. So, there’s that. An origin story. And I still love this song, even if I haven’t listened to it in years – this happens when you decide a so-called music blog is worth doing. [NB]