“Let me hold your hand again and again and again.”

“Hold My Hand” by Lee Hi | So, the first K-pop act I fell in love with – and arguably the K-pop act that led me and Shalla to be a couple – has returned. How’s that for a gloopy love story? Anyway, Lee Hi has returned with a new album Seoulite, produced by Epik High‘s Tablo. Or, well, it’s half the album; the second half should be out next month. These Koreans, they make album releases so complicated. So, no album review just yet; it’s now up to me to write about one of her two new singles. “Breathe” is a straightforward yet feels-y ballad written by SHINee member Jonghyun, but as it’s early in the morning I’m writing about “Hold My Hand”, a lovely, swing-y pick-me-upper that just makes clear that YG Entertainment are molding her into an Adele/Meghan Trainor hybrid. I don’t mind. It sounds good either way. [NB]

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How to collect Korean pop music, part five: the solos and duos course

How to Collect Korean Pop MusicOf course, K-pop isn’t all about the groups. For one, some members of some groups leave to go solo. Some start solo and then join groups. And some, well, some stay solo. You get the idea. So, in this week’s installment of How to Collect Korean Pop Music, we look at the many solo and duo acts that dot the K-pop landscape. Much like the boy and girl groups, their sound runs the gamut from straightforward ballads to edgy hip-hop, and some soloists have become big successes around the world.

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Swap week two, day three: Niko takes on Epik High

Swap Week 2015“Happen Ending” by Epik High featuring Cho Won-Sun | I’m still posting the official music video here, for I’m a sucker for rules, but it’s really more for their other single “Spoiler”; the song only kicks in four and a half minutes into the whole thing. Thankfully the YouTube page of the hip-hop group (and recent Manila visitor) is nice enough to compile their live performances of the song, where they collaborate with several female singers, mostly under the YG banner. Lee Suhyun (of Akdong Musician) is a little too young for this, I think. Lee Hi is cold… and I like it. (Obvious bias.) Minzy (from 2NE1) is similar to Hi, but it’s not as gloomy. Younha surprisingly brings gravitas to this – it’s a mix of acceptance and sadness, and her blending in really plays nicely. And Cho Won-Sun (from Roller Coaster – not a pop band, I must add), who performed it in the album version, gives a wizened feel to the female vocals. Okay. I haven’t talked about the actual song. It’s nice. Or maybe I’m saying this after listening to it repeatedly? [NB]

“하늘에 빛나는 저 많은 별.”

“It’s Over” by Lee Hi | I need to stop myself from screaming. Right now. I just found out that Lee Hi finally unveiled the MV for her new title track “It’s Over”. Yes, after months and months of teasing from YG Entertainment! I’m basically five days late, but who cares right? I’ve waited so long for this comeback. The jazzy song immediately swept the music charts, another all-kill for the rookie. Her debut album First Love will be divided into two parts – the first set of tracks was released last March 7th, and the second won’t be out until the 21st – and both parts will have their own title tracks. Rose, for the second. You might have read about her before in this blog. She’s this tiny sixteen-year-old who conquered the stage with her retro vibe. Her second offering, thankfully, features modernized jazzy tunes that fit her soulful vocals. I used to fear that the company might convert her into the usual gummy artists of today. “It’s Over” is quirky, cute, and well, jazzy. One question though, why is she so into breakup songs? And why am I into them as well?

“니 그런 동정 따윈 필요 없어.”

“1.2.3.4” by Lee Hi | Yes, I’m writing about K-pop. Rainy introduced this song to me last week, perhaps hoping that I’d listen. It helps that Lee Hi has this gooey, delicious, sexy voice – I shouldn’t say this because she’s 16, or 17 – and this song has a swinging, Mayer Hawthorne-ish vibe. We had a conversation about K-pop being in its own world, not exactly fitting in with the rest of my playlist – although, then again, my biases lay towards guitar music and the older pop stuff. It helps, we figured, that this song has that, well, swinging, Mayer Hawthorne-ish vibe. It’s not gonna make me a convert, but it’s nice to see that the Koreans can go past the bubblegum, like we’d all conveniently assume. (I told Clarence, she of the Keane backgrounders I posted last September, that I’m amazed at how intense their efforts are in releasing these things. Spin‘s write-up on the Korean pop industry is a must-read. This was all before PSY, though…) Too bad YG Entertainment is angling her as part of another group. (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)