First, an update from an entry we wrote three months ago: Momoland’s “Bboom Bboom” has become a legitimate hit. (Just when I got cautious in making that prediction.) It never quite topped the official Gaon charts (they were held off by Ikon) but it lingered in the top ten for months. And, in a scene where songs have a relatively short lifespan, it finds itself stretching its arms out around the world, a feat usually reserved for groups from bigger agencies. I’ve just seen two cousins of mine, who’d otherwise not post about K-pop, talk about how “Bboom Bboom” is stuck in their heads – and they’re just among many others on my feeds. So, we’re reacting to that by featuring five songs from famed Korean producer Shinsadong Tiger, he who’s responsible for that earworm – and many others across this wave of K-pop success.
Here’s more proof that I am starting to fall by the wayside, at least when it comes to listening to the songs I’m apparently supposed to listen to and like, here’s a relatively pop-centric list of my ten favorite songs for 2017. I attribute it to the fact that I may have listened more to my K-pop library this year (it does have some therapeutic claims) and that things seem to blend with each other more this year than in previous years. In a way, it’s a good thing: finally, some parity between the slickly produced and the more down-to-earth ones. But some will say this is me selling out. Nah, nobody is saying that. Nobody cares about this thing, yes? But we have to put it out, like everybody else, so here, in alphabetical order, are my ten favorite songs of the year. [NB]
With their vocal powerhouse Solji out of commission due to hyperthyroidism, EXID has had to regroup. The group with a knack for slyly powerful pop songs – a reputation that towered over them, and somewhat bogged them down, on their last release, Street – suddenly face the prospect of another (temporary, in this case) reinvention. Thankfully, Eclipse actually delivers. Solji’s not there to kick things up a notch, and Hyelin, while capable, can’t quite sustain the high notes for long periods of time, so the group has had to go low-key and cool. LE, who’s shown her versatility before, could easily adopt, but it’s a sound that actually suits Hani (their other secret weapon, whose smoky voice reveals itself) and Jeonghwa. It’s a mini, so there’s not much of a flow across tracks, but it’s an incredibly cool collection of songs, and single “Night Rather Than Day” manages to showcase the group’s instincts under different circumstances. I know I’m probably exaggerating, but I really like this record, and it’s on track to become my K-pop highlight of 2017. [NB] | 4/5
While I haven’t had a chance to listen to every EXID song, I decided to review their first full-length release, Street, on the strength of their last three singles. Sure, “Up&Down”, “Ah Yeah” and “Hot Pink” are cut from the exact same cloth – and the first and third even sound alike – but they’re really good pop songs, a good rumble towards a killer chorus. The single that comes with this new release, “L.I.E”, does not have that. Took a while for me to warm to it, but it just isn’t earworm-worthy – and heaven knows I tried. The album does some interesting things – “Knowingly” and “Of Course” succeed in shifting the sound towards a more coy disco groove – but in tampering down their instincts we end with a lost kid looking for his parents at a crowded mall. He knows what to do, but he’s too scared to actually do it, because, well, what if it’s wrong? What if the nice guy he asks is some psychopath who will chop him up? Street tries, heaven knows it tries. It has good intentions, and LE still comes in hard, sometimes even salvaging the mess they end up with. I just wish it tried a bit harder. [NB] | 3/5