We are at the middle mark of 2021! Crazy how time flew by.
With that comes a new list, one that I have been meaning to do ever since the year started. I’ll be listing out fifteen of Korean pop music’s best efforts for the year, and this time, I won’t be putting them in any order. It is merely just a list of the best tracks that have made their way into our earlobes for the year… so far.
And what a half-year it has been! From the likes of BTS buttering up our eardrums to STAYC catching up to us ASAP, the outlook of the genre’s music is fantastic for the remainder of the year. Without further ado, let’s get to the list of 2021’s best Korean pop efforts, with the hope that you might agree (or disagree) with what I’ve got here…
So, I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but I wanted to review more obscure K-pop works moving forward because, being influenced by the Brave Girls phenomenon, I wanted to bring some real hidden gems to the forefront. Not that I have much influence but I’d love to see a lot of newer groups get some shine in the spotlight, and every bit of help counts!
That said, today I have my focus on a recently debuted girl group by the name of woo!ah!, of NV Entertainment. While they’re relatively unknown, they made a small splash as a six-member girl group meant to wow you with their charms and talents. After the leave of their maknae, woo!ah! makes their return to the K-pop scene with a drastic change in concept, but one that (at least, I myself think) doesn’t take away from any of their youthful charms and performing prowess. They return with “QURIOUS“, and spelling aside, consider me curious how this single will be.
Opting to go for a ‘bad girl’ concept while still trying to be cute might be a strange combination, but will it mesh or did curiosity kill the cat on this release? Read on!
Guess who is back? It’s not Koda Kumi back to do an anime opening for Black Clover, no! IT’z ITZY!
Making their return after their fandom-related release, “MIDZY”, the five-member girl crush group is back to slay the game with the new release “GUESS WHO“. It’s a release that’s been long coming, with their last girl-crush concept being that of “Not Shy”, which I reviewed last year to rave reviews (I’m not shy to say I’m an ITZY stan). This time the girls tackle an even fiercer concept, joining the Korean mafia with this aesthetically-pleasing release. Knowing they have the ability to put a hit on the general public, I’m sure they have the potential to be respected mafias as time goes on.
That said, the girls also brought a bevy of new tracks to keep us on our toes, having their fans guess who, out of the six tracks including the title release, is the true hit-maker. Is it the mafia in the morning? Or is it something more along the lines of… tennis? You’ll have to read on!
While 2020 wasn’t necessarily a great year for all of us, no matter how many times I say it (and remind ourselves), there were still some shining glimmers of hope in the K-pop community. Some bands disbanded, some companies had to fold under, but others persevered, and 2020 became a year where debuts kept pumping out one by one.
STAYC is one of those debuts, coming from High Up Entertainment, a company founded by the producer duo Black Eyed Pilsung (and I know you’re thinking about some way that formed from Black Eyed Peas… that’s irrelevant, lol). The duo is a huge force in K-pop, having produced hits for the likes of TWICE via “TT” and CHUNG HA for “Roller Coaster”. Following the likes of Shinsadong Tiger and Brave Brothers, the pair formed their own executively-produced group. And the hype is real for STAYC, with two actresses already on the team, and their previews showcasing a group filled with visuals… it isn’t hard to believe they can go big.
Their first effort, appropriately acronym’d like the Korean-English way it is, “Star To A Young Culture“, looks to make these girls stars to, well, the younger culture. But is this teen-pop girl-group actually accessible to everyone including an oldie second-gen K-pop stan like myself, or is it merely just kiddy fodder? Read on!
I’ll be making more of an effort to review some newer releases, as well, and to kick things off, I’ll be taking a look at HYBE’s new boy group ENHYPEN, formed through the reality competition I-LAND. They had a debut that wowed me (and frankly, that review will be coming, lol), and I’ve had my attention on them going forward. There’s some anticipation here for this review, especially because the boys continue with the horror concept that was introduced in their first effort; you know I love me some horror concepts!
Their first comeback mini-album is titled “BORDER : CARNIVAL“, which, based on previews, takes the boys into a more party-like territory than the dark lonely feel of their previous effort, but it still has some spooky blood drenched all over it (the aesthetics are also the chef’s kiss).
With this mini-album, the boys attempt to elevate their border series to carnival status, but is this going to be bloody brilliant or is this just all dried up with nothing for us to get our fangs on?
With the resurgence of Brave Girls and other girl groups now receiving some form of attention in the Korean pop music universe, I thought it was about time to dig up some old tracks to go through myself! Better yet, I thought it was even more appropriate to dig up some of the old Brave Brothers-produced tracks for review.
Having been of the second generation fanbase for Korean pop music, it is no surprise I know a lot of the tracks produced by Brave Brothers, even the ones earlier than AOA. Dude’s been around since BIGBANG’s first few dents into K-pop, and now he continues to be a household name due in part to his work with his own girl group Brave Girls. But back in 2011, he was all over the place, and it didn’t take long before Teddy Riley’s own girl group RaNia took a piece of the Brave cake.
Released in 2011, RaNia decides to “rock da show” with a track from Mr. Brothers himself, but is this a grand ‘pop pop pop’ song from the mini “Time To Rock Da Show“, or is it time to say ‘goodbye’ to any chances of you listening to them even in 2021? Jesus, that’s 10 years ago too…
Next up on the Brave Girls spotlight is a song that many people don’t actually know is part of their discography, hidden amongst their more recent releases. That song is “Yoo Hoo“, a summer jam that will have you thinking back to the fond days of when SISTAR and AOA ruled the charts as ‘summer queens’. Brave Girls, on the heels of their rolling success with “Rollin'”, has declared that they would like to be the next ‘summer queens’ to rule the charts, having already made waves with the almost-summery-like tracks “Rollin'” and “We Ride”.
“Yoo Hoo” might just be a precursor to the kinds of full-on summer tunes that Brave Girls will be releasing come the next few months, but is “Yoo Hoo” a knock-out track worth yoo-hooing too, or is it too cold for us to take a dip? Read on!
Up next on the artist spotlight for Brave Girls is the under-the-radar single “Byeonhaesseo”, otherwise known as “Deepened“. Before they were rollin’ up the charts and ridin’ the waves of fame, the four current Brave Girls were part of the seven-member line-up in 2016, having been introduced alongside Hayun as the second generation of the group. With original members Yoojin and Hyeran by their side, the group revamped themselves following a long hiatus.
“Deepened” is definitely Brave Sound in nature, but with its melancholic tone and R&B-like feel, is this track worth your love or do you deserve better? Let’s take a look!
You must know about Brave Girls now! If you haven’t already read my last review, you should check it out, but remember when I mentioned how Brave Girls had been receiving some hot attention lately? Well… it looks like that attention has skyrocketed them to incredible fame, going so far as to reach records and win their first ever music show trophy (with many more wins incoming).
I decided to take things up a notch with the reviews and put the artist spotlight on Brave Girls for the next few reviews, and there’s no other review to make than “We Ride”, the most recent comeback from the girls prior to the success of “Rollin'”. Being that this was their last effort before they made discussions about disbanding prior to their rise in fame, “We Ride” did not fare well on the charts initially but is now seeing a #WeRise of sorts. Following up after “Rollin'”, is this single worth the ride into Brave Girls’ discography, or are they simple just driving as a one-hit wonder? Read on!