My Favourite K-pop of 2020 Quarter 1: From ANS to Weki Meki

It’s safe to say 2020 has been a weird year so far, what with everyone being stuck inside and the world coming to a bit of a standstill because of coronavirus.

It’s affected the world of K-pop, naturally, with some releases pushed back and, on a more physical level, Korean music shows filming without audiences. With that in mind, the groups and artists that have released music so far this year have done incredibly well to keep going in what must have been quite scary and challenging conditions.

Groups like Hinapia, (G)I-dle and Blackpink all pushed back their comebacks that were scheduled, though (G)I-dle only delayed until April. So, had those releases happened, this list would probably look a little different.

Here, I’ve decided to take a look at my favourite releases – title tracks only – of 2020, between January and March. To qualify for this list, they had to have been released between January 1 and March 31, 2020.

This time around, my list is solely made up of comebacks, though there have been a number of brilliant debuts too, like Cignature, who I see big things for, and Dreamcatcher member Siyeon’s solo debut.

So, in alphabetical order, based on title tracks alone, here are my favourite K-pop releases between January and March 2020.

ANS – Say My Name (released January 10)

Say My Name is the first release from ANS – also known as Angel N Soul – with eight members, with Haena and J being revealed as new members in December 2019. The song is the group’s first comeback, following their pre-debut track Wonderland and debut track Boom Boom in 2019.

It’s a lively track with a staccato chorus that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head. The song has an industrial vibe, with sounds that mimic sirens and plenty of bass-heavy beats. But rather than Say My Name being a wall of noise, the song incorporates calmer interludes before dropping into the chorus.

The lyrics exude confidence, with the members knowing all eyes are on them and that everything they do is worthy of the spotlight. It’s a powerful song with a haunting feel to it that is felt throughout, though especially during the ending of the song with the repeated “la la la” section.

The music video is the perfect blend of the girl crush concept. There are the edgy costumes, the glamour and the powerful dance moves expected in the genre. But what’s most interesting about the MV is the ending.

ANS released their pre-debut song Wonderland as a five-member group, with a secret sixth member being included at the end of the music video. Similarly, Boom Boom was released with six members, though two more members joined in December before their January comeback.

At the end of Say My Name, after the song has finished, the eight members pose though a ninth girl joins them – though her identity is masked in the shadows.

Nothing has been revealed about the potential ninth member, though it definitely adds an element of excitement to the rookie group.

Cherry Bullet – Hands Up (released February 11)

I was excited for Cherry Bullet‘s latest comeback, as I enjoyed their debut last year with Q&A. Their first comeback Really Really didn’t really do anything for me, though. Hands Up blows their first two releases out of the water, for me.

Hands Up is the first comeback since members Mi Rae, Kokoro and Lin Lin left the group, taking them down to seven members. As well as a line-up change, Cherry Bullet completely overhauled their image and concept.

They went from the cute concept to girl crush, going for a more mature look and song style. I’ve been playing it non-stop since it was released and watched every single music show performance of the song too.

It’s a fun song, with the lyrics about having a good night dancing rather than talking. Perhaps the lyrics are a little too mature for Cherry Bullet at the moment, with their youngest member being just 15. There’s talk of getting drunk (the legal drinking age in South Korea is 19), though I suppose it could be more figurative than literal.

The chorus is repetitive in the best way and catchy, as is the choreography. Both are on a constant loop in my head, as is the pre-chorus of “what about you, what about you, what about me”.

If you’ve listened to the song – really, you should – you’ll notice it sounds familiar. Hands Up samples Beethoven’s Fur Elise – yes, that song you learn on the piano when you’re a teenager. But rather than sounding dated, Hands Up is modern and young.

The music video incorporates much more of a street style, with edgier outfits and no cute pink dresses in sight. There’s still the common K-pop trope of neon lights, but it doesn’t look or feel out of place.

I hope Cherry Bullet stick with this concept for at least another comeback.

Dreamcatcher – Scream (released February 18)

Dreamcatcher came back in February with their first full album, Dystopia: The Tree Of Language, and the title track Scream. Sadly, they returned without member Handong, who is in her native China completing promotions on the show Youth With You.

While Handong is missed, the choreography incorporates the missing seventh member with a masked dancer. It will be interesting, then, to see how Handong slots into the song if and when she returns to Dreamcatcher, which she hopefully will.

As with all Dreamcatcher title tracks, Scream is heavily influenced with rock sounds, though this time there’s an almost operatic feel too. It’s dramatic and moving, with the instrumental chorus almost attacking you with its short sharp bursts of sound. The song builds between each chorus, with the verses and bridges serving as warm-ups for the intense chorus.

The lyrics are darker than usual K-pop songs, with the metaphors talking about something all idols face – online abuse. The song discusses how meaningless the trolling is, though how painful it can still be. It’s where the masked dancer – and indeed Gahyeon’s mask choreography – comes into it. Everyone can be anonymous online, as if they are wearing a mask.

The music video is magical and mystical, with the focus being a tree of life and its energy being taken away or destroyed. It ends with the members walking away from the blackened tree, all wearing black hoods and the words “to be continued” over the top. It’s reminiscent of Dreamcatcher’s debut, Chase Me, and its follow up Good Night, which clearly followed the same storyline.

The rest of the album is well worth a listen too, especially Red Sun, which Dreamcatcher performed alongside Scream on music shows, and Black or White, which they closed out their promotions for the album with.

Everglow – Dun Dun (released February 3)

Everglow have found what works for them and seem to be sticking with it. I’ve seen Dun Dun described as Adios 2.0, and I can definitely see the similarities. It’s powerful and has a strong chorus and choreography like Adios did. But can you blame them for not straying too far when they achieved success with Adios last year?

Dun Dun is Everglow’s signature sound, with Mia’s vocals and E:U and Aisha’s raps, Yiren’s chorus introductions, Sihyeon additional vocals and Onda’s charm present throughout.

With this comeback, Everglow attracted plenty of criticism for featuring Mia too heavily, with her having the vast majority of singing parts and also a dance break of her own. However, it seems logical that Yue Hua (Everglow’s company) would do this. Mia is the best singer in the group, so will obviously receive the most lines. She’s also completely captivating when she performs, with her stealing focus from the group’s debut. Chances are, if you remember one member from Everglow, it’s Mia. Aisha also gets a heavy chunk of the song but, like Mia, she’s eye-catching and powerful, so it’s an obvious choice.

Best K-pop Debuts of 2019 – January to April

I would like to see more of Onda and Sihyeon, and E:U as she seems to be getting fewer parts. But I don’t see anything wrong with Mia and Aisha being featured the most when they are the ones I’m naturally drawn to when I watch Everglow performances anyway.

Unsurprisingly, given the sound of the song, Dun Dun is about being powerful, so powerful that you’re trapped by Everglow’s spell. It’s fitting too, because even after just one listen, Dun Dun will forever be in your brain.

Itzy – Wannabe (released March 9)

I’m going to be honest (what else would you expect on my own blog?), Wannabe didn’t hook me as Itzy‘s previous two title tracks did. But it is a major grower and I’m now obsessed with it, which I had hoped I would be.

Wannabe continues the theme of Itzy’s previous title tracks – Dalla Dalla and Icy – discussing self-expression, the important of being yourself and not allowing others to dull your shine. It’s a nice message, but after three title tracks I’m hoping their next comeback will go down a slightly different path. The Itzy members are incredibly talented, so I know they have so much more that they could offer.

Ryujin shines in Wannabe, with her iconic shoulder dance making serious waves on social media. I’ve tried it, it’s seriously hard. Yeji is, as always, captivating whenever she’s on-screen. Yuna adds that element of fun and youthfulness, being the youngest member of the group. Chaeryeong is my favourite member of Itzy and will always be the star to me. She brings an air of innocence to the music video, hiding as drones follow her.

As for Lia, I have seen criticism towards her, saying she’s lazy because she doesn’t complete the choreography to the same standard that the other members do. Regardless of whether she does or not, Lia shines when the camera is on her. Her facial expressions make you watch her and she can switch from a serious death-glare to a sweet smile flawlessly.

The group as a whole is well-rounded and everyone has their rightful place in Itzy, so criticism – especially when it’s attacking the ability of members – needs to stop.

Anyway, the styling for the music video is perfect. I was hooked on the concept for this comeback since the individual teaser images were released, which is why I was slightly disappointed when the song didn’t catch me like Dalla Dalla or Icy, especially did.

Regardless, as I’ve said, I can’t stop listening to Wannabe now. The track is taken from Itzy’s first mini-album, It’z Me, which features seven songs in total. As well as Wannabe, Ting Ting (featuring Oliver Heldens) is also a must-listen.

Kard – Red Moon (released February 12)

Red Moon was the song that finally got me into Kard. I’ve wanted to get into them for a long time, as the group are effortlessly cool. They’re more my age, too. For whatever reason, though, their previous releases haven’t done anything for me.

But Red Moon really got me and has been on high-rotation for me since it was released in February. Since then, I’ve also gone back and listened to Kard’s other music again and did enjoy it this time. I have no idea what changed, but I’m now a proud Kard convert.

With the members being in their mid to late 20s, the song is naturally more mature. It deals with romance in a less innocent way than bubblegum K-pop. It has a sexy feel to it – and that’s not just because all four members are stunning visually. It seamlessly incorporates Korean, English and even Spanish, bringing a Latin feel to the song which I’ve noticed is actually common for Kard.

I think what I have disliked about Kard before is that their songs can sound disjointed. The chorus is clearly a different sound from the rest of the song, but it works well and like any good chorus gets stuck in your head. It also makes a point of the second half of the chorus sounding different, with the lyrics “switch it up” preceding it. But it gives Red Moon an extra level of flair, which makes for an interesting listen.

The music video is styled immaculately, mixing street style with high fashion and glamour effortlessly, with a strong choreography that fits both the male and female members very well.

Everything with Kard is very well thought out, and I’m so glad that Red Moon was the song that made me go back and proper listen to and appreciate the group and each member.

Weki Meki – Dazzle Dazzle (released February 20)

On paper, there’s nothing special to Dazzle Dazzle to make it stand out from any other K-pop song. It’s a pretty standard bubblegum sound, the usual pastel colours and cute concept. It’s definitely a move away from Weki Meki‘s last few comebacks. But something about it got me hook, line and sinker.

While I mentioned that it’s very run of the mill K-pop, that’s what I love about the music genre. I love the uplifting sound, the colourful concepts and the fun choreography. The “dazzle, dazzle, dazzle me” leg movement is completely out of place to me in this choreography, yet it’s also my favourite part. It’s just, put simply, a fun song.

It was just a digital single, which I think is quite telling. Did Fantagio (their company) predict it wouldn’t go down quite as well with fans? Was it just to keep the appetite for Weki Meki going until a proper comeback? Whatever the thinking, it was a good choice to me.

The song is about wanting someone to pull out all the stops to impress you. It’s about wanting a guy to be confident and show you why you should want him. With lyrics like it has, I’d have expect a girl crush concept rather than the cute and airy styling it has. But the sound of the song – melody and instrumentals – fit well.

My only real criticism of the song is that Doyeon isn’t featured enough for my liking.

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