Just try and imagine I’m sharing this list in July, when I originally intended to. I think everyone has felt the strain of the pandemic and lockdown, and while I got off to such a motivated start as time went on, so did my interest in doing anything exciting.
But here I am, back with a retrospective look at, in my opinion, the best releases from April to June.
At the start of the year, the K-pop industry was only just starting to see the effects of the pandemic however, apart from a few heartbreaking casualties (Hinapia, I will always love you), things seem to be evening themselves out a bit. Which is great for someone like me, who only really has K-pop releases to look forward to when there’s not much else going on in the world.
So, quarter two was the time for the girls. Chung Ha, Hwa Sa, Sunmi and plenty of other solo ladies brought their A-game and I’m still just as obsessed with their releases as I was when they first dropped.
But, first up on the list, Apink…
Apink – Dumhdurum
Apink only caught my attention when they released %%, so while I was interested in their next comeback, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Dumhdurum keeps a somewhat retro feel that I enjoyed with %%, but this time with an even catchier hook.
The spring time was the perfect time to release this, with its bright and airy feel that, social distancing permitting, would be a great soundtrack to a garden party.
As expected with Apink, Dumhdurum has a more mature feel than many current K-pop releases, though given they’ve been around for years this is no surprise. While I enjoy the likes of Itzy singing about being different and just wanting to be themselves, I am a 27-year-old, so listening to more age-appropriate lyrics (or at least looking to see what they mean afterwards) is much appreciated. Dumhdurum is about accepting that a romance is over and just getting on with it.
Blackpink – How You Like That
Blackpink‘s long-awaited first comeback since last year’s Kill This Love and while it went down a similar route as Kill This Love and Ddu-Du Ddu-Du sound wise, it was still a banger. Out of the three songs, How You Like That is easily my favourite. It brings an extra layer of power from the get-go with the short, sharp bursts of the horn.
The song keeps the ear interested from start to finish, jumping between calmer sections with dream-like synth melodies to the quite jarring electronic chorus. Then there’s Lisa’s rap (no Main Rapper Jennie, sadly) which carries you through the second verse, adding a different sound still. And before the song comes to an end, there’s the dance break that brings in yet another new sound.
How You Like That was an ideal choice for Blackpink to release as a pre-release to their long-awaited album, imaginatively named The Album. Excitement builds throughout the song, just as the excitement for The Album has built since Blackpink’s debut all the way back in 2016. Can you believe they’re only just releasing their first full album four years after their debut? I know, right?
Chung Ha – Stay Tonight
Surprise, surprise, Stay Tonight makes it onto this list. We’re three quarters of the way into the year and this is guaranteed to make it onto my end of year playlist – if I was to make one, of course. In fact, I enjoyed this song and video so much I wrote a dedicated post, looking at all of Chung Ha’s outfits from it. Queen.
Stay Tonight is elegant and alluring and all of the Vogueing in the choreography makes it impossible to take your eyes off Chung Ha and her dancers.
The song doesn’t go the places you expect it to – the pre-chorus build up is almost more powerful than the actual chorus, for example. I have seen critics of the song saying they were left feeling underwhelmed, but I think with the attached choreography the chorus works very well. It lends itself to plenty of posing, is punctuated to allow for plenty of different staccato dance moves. Yes, it may sound odd if you haven’t also seen the MV, but I can’t not imagine the entire dance routine when I listen to it, which is probably what makes me enjoy it so much.
I’m a sucker for a campy choreo, after all.
(G)I-Dle – Oh My God
(G)I-Dle, for me, have been silent assassins. I loved Latata when they debuted, but their next releases did nothing for me. That changed when Hann wormed itself into my “Recommended Videos” on YouTube, which they sent me down a (G)I-Dle hole and I found that I actually did enjoy their music a lot.
I don’t keep up with them like I do my favourite groups, but I always make sure to check out their new releases, and, surprisingly, I was hooked on Oh My God the first time I listened to it.
The chorus has a really eerie sound to it and has that (G)I-Dle sound that only they have. You can tell one of their songs from a mile off and I think it has something to do with the members’ voices. Despite being young, their voices are strong and unique and they really stand out in a world full of bubblegum K-pop.
Oh My God and Lion, both from the mini-album I Trust, were on my most played for weeks and they’re still regular listens months later.
Hwa Sa – Maria
I’m saying it now. Hwa Sa’s Maria is my song of the year. There is not a single thing I dislike about this song or MV. From the lyrics, to the styling, the choreo and, of course, Hwa Sa’s voice. Maria is a masterpiece.
Hwa Sa has a swag and a sass that I don’t see in any other K-pop idol, and she really owns it. Her dancing in the MV looks effortless, probably because the choreo fits her style so well. Her styling is Kardashian-esque in places and high fashion in others. Her voice is beautiful and while I love her in Mamamoo, I wouldn’t be mad if they let their contracts expire and she carried on solo.
The chorus choreo is simple enough that it can be picked up quite easily, which is a problem when I listen to Maria anywhere other than my bedroom. I find myself on the cross trainer at the gym doing the little hand flicks and fighting to not do the hand positions.
A special mention needs to go to LMM from the mini-album, as it’s such a beautiful ballad with an equally as stunning MV.
I really don’t know why I haven’t added Maria to my physical album collection yet, either.
Nature – Girls
I had been aware of Nature for a while and their previous release Oopsie (My Bad) was on my regular playlist, but Girls really made me take notice.
It was a complete step away from the look and sound they usually had, going for a much more grown up, sinister and “horror” concept. The music video even had to be censored for regular broadcast due to the graphic and violent elements.
The song is about wanting a love that the person you want it with isn’t giving, or at least that’s how I interpret it. It has a spooky, air-like quality to the chorus, while the verses sound like a longing for love.
The MV is exciting and shocking and is a welcome change to Nature’s concept. If this is the road they continue down, I don’t doubt they’ll do very well.
Sunmi – Pporappippam
The final song of the list for quarter two and it’s another female soloist. The girls really were in charge for the second part of the year, weren’t they?
Sunmi came back with Pporappippam, a brilliant spring-time song with an upbeat, bouncy sound that it’s difficult not to move your hips to. It makes me want to dance around on the top of a hill at sunset, which lends itself well to the lyrics. Sunmi sings of wanting a night to go on forever, not wanting to wake up if it’s a dream.
It certainly sounds like a much better place than 2020, doesn’t it?