It is now summer in the northern hemisphere; a season that not only brings out the sun, but also rays of bright and sunny K-pop tunes. This week we ask our writers: do you look forward to K-pop in the summer? What do you love about summertime releases? Whose summer tracks do you love?
Qing: Actually, the whole idea of seasonal songs is fascinating to me because I live in a tropical country. It wasn’t until I studied abroad for a semester in Williamsburg, VA that I realised rain is not just rain, but gloom, and sunshine is happiness.
I don’t anticipate K-pop in the summer more so than in other seasons, because I pretty much like what each season has to offer. But I definitely love the more cheerful tunes and lively concepts we get. I find myself leaning more towards upbeat but not too high-energy songs, the kind that makes you feel happy but also relaxed.
When I think of summer releases, B1A4 springs to mind. “Solo Day” is irresistible with its twangy guitar instrumentals and whistling, and I always find myself bobbing my head along to it. I also love the retro, jazzy vibe of Girl’s Day‘s “Darling“. The use of English in its chorus makes it easy to sing along to. Rounding off my list is an old K-pop summer track that I chanced upon on radio several years ago: UN‘s “Wave”. Gfriend recently covered it for a CF with American Tourister, but I prefer the infectious sunniness of the original. If you search for the MV on YouTube, you will get to see the duo prancing around a beach box set in Hawaiian shirts, complete with random English words popping up on the screen (“traveling you”, “ocean colure scene”, “fun!! fun!!”). It’s a hoot.
Pat: I’ll be completely honest: summer is the only time I listen to Sistar. Which is weird because I usually hate their songs. But in summer? The songs that are always on replay are their songs. It’s like I can’t go on a summer trip or even a regular drive without blasting “Touch My Body,” “Loving You,” and “Shake It” and singing along. I don’t know what it is about them, but Sistar are my go to’s for K-pop summer bops.
Mark: Summer is a great season because of the tremendous spike we get in the volume of releases. I’m not exactly sure why everyone tries to pack in a summer comeback but maybe it’s because school is out and the target demographic has the time on their hands to drive up sales. Summer is also the only time certain groups make comebacks. Veteran groups which come back only once a year generally choose summer as the time to do it.
Sistar is probably the best example of a group that only comes back in the summer. You’re also likely to get your yearly dose of Infinite, Exo, AOA, and Girl’s Day in the summer. I have much respect for these groups because they are well established and don’t shy away from the dense competition. It’d be so easy for them to make a comeback in the middle of winter and slay the charts for weeks on end but where’s the fun in that?
And due to the intense competition, I believe summer is also when the best music comes out. My favorites from each of the last three years are Infinite’s “Back,” AOA’s “Heart Attack,” and I’ll just say BTS‘ “Fire” is currently the front runner for this pending year.
Erianne: I personally love summer K-pop releases because it’s usually the time when K-pop songs/concepts are its most unapologetic in terms of campy-ness. Bright colors, cheesy concepts, and the occasionally shallow, yet LSS-inducing lyrics–I sometimes live for that in K-pop. As much as I love profound and dramatic concepts and lyrics or narratives in K-pop MVs and releases, summer releases don’t usually try very hard in that aspect, but they do so in the best way possible. Instead, they make up for it by trying to “out-summer” each other in terms of who can perfectly embody certain aspects of the summer season.
A good example would be SHINee‘s “Married to Music” release last summer. SHINee talked about how summer is usually a time for friends to go out on trips and tell silly ghost stories. When SHINee first released teasers for the Married to the Music MV, one might think that it’s absurd for a group to come up with an eccentric, Halloween-themed concept for a summer release, but once you find out that it was basically trying to bring out that summer experience of silly, summer campfire ghost stories, it makes perfect sense. With that, I think SHINee’s “Married to the Music” is still my favorite summer release to date. It’s got all the elements that make K-pop the fun genre that it is AND it reflects an aspect of the summer season in a unique way.
Gaya: The main reason I love summer K-pop is the sensation I get from watching MVs of idols frolicking in the sun, while I’m all bundled up in blankets with a mug of hot chocolate — K-pop does not get any more escapist for me than in summer. And when it is actually summer in my neck of the woods, I have a playlist of recent summer bops ready to go!
Said playlist is mostly just f(x), though, because that is the group I associate most with the season. Pink Tape is my go to when I’m driving, windows down, sunnies on, and fingers dancing on the wheel as I try not to burn myself. I even got to experience Red Light in sand and sun: I reviewed the album on the beaches of Far North Queensland, a region that averages 35 degrees C in winter.
Chelsea: Sometimes K-pop takes itself too seriously with dark, crazy concepts, so the summer comeback season is the liberating time of the year where anything goes.Tracks are generally more upbeat and ear-wormy while MVs aren’t afraid to be a little more silly and bright than usual. Not to mention, it’s also the time of year where girl groups rule. Like Gaya, summer releases for me are often a form of escapism. There’s no such thing as summer vacation in the grown up world, and I need all the vicarious beach frolicking I can get — K-pop understands that.
When it comes to summer sounds, I’m drawn towards tracks that make me want to dance, but not actually break a sweat while doing so. SNSD‘s “Party” is the perfect summer jam in that regard. However, my number one summer track for the past five years has been f(x)’s “Hot Summer.” I know people say Sistar are the queens of summer, but as Gaya pointed out, f(x) have killed it will all of their summer releases. Something about f(x)’s group dynamics fit well with the summer season, without ever resorting to the more conventional beach/pool party MV, and each album they released up until 2015 automatically became my soundtrack for summer.
In addition to the high energy summer bops, K-pop summer comeback season is also a great time for more quiet, understated releases that fit perfectly with the monsoon season I have to endure every June/July. Big Bang‘s “Let’s Not Fall In Love” last summer was perfect for two weeks of no sunshine.
Lo: For me, summer K-pop is all about the car playabilty– I love songs that sound best blasted from my car when I’m driving with the windows down. This is the time of year when I get fun, low-key songs I can just chill and drive to, and fun upbeat jams I need to share with other drivers as I embrace the season.
My all-time top summer song is by Sistar, the chronically underappreciated “I Swear”. I love the theme of ‘get out and enjoy life while you can’ that goes so well with the summer season. It’s light, it’s breezy, it’s fun, WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO ADORES “I SWEAR“? Seriously, it’s the perfect summer jam.
Other than that, I fluctuate. Right now, it’s “Galaxy” from Luna‘s Free Somebody and “A Glass of Water” from B1A4’s Solo Day mini. I tend to gravitate towards b-sides anyway, and both of these have the “let loose, live life” vibe I like in my summer jams.
Pat: I do! “I Swear” is the perfect summer jam – it so vastly underrated sometimes, it makes me sigh. But I think that’s just a testament of how many summer songs Sistar has. They have that summer vibe that even songs like “I Like That” which, on paper, should not sound or have a summer vibe, but it still does. I can only think of one other f(x) song (also from Pink Tape) that hasn’t been mentioned and that’s “Airplane.” Lyrics-wise, it’s not really summer-y, but it totally has that chill, “let loose, live life” vibe that is perfect for summer nights.
What about you, readers? What are your favorite K-pop summer tracks?