Algorithm-based recommendations on Youtube tend to be fairly stale: they depend on culling videos of similar topics and music of similar genres, based on what you have previously clicked and liked. This is a snore. Why push things people already have a sense of, when you could be sharing serendipitously random novelties? And so for June’s Unsung Artists segment, I present the strange, the forgotten, and the unknown – a mixed sampler of songs to encourage listeners to venture beyond the boundaries of their regular K-pop diet.
Shindong x UV – “Marry Man”
Super Junior’s Shindong teams up with the comedy musical duo UV in another SM Station release. Reminiscent of past UV releases that parody contemporary culture (debut song “No Cool, I’m Sorry” poked fun at couple breakups), new single “Marry Man” humorously tackles the social norm of marriage, and the pressure to commit as a fundamental stepping stone of life. Follow Shindong, Yoo Se-Yoon and Muzi as they strut and hip-thrust their way through a couple’s Jeju honeymoon, an absurd Greek chorus persistently nagging the newlyweds: “Things will get hard / you really don’t know!”
The Origin – “Beautiful Woman”
The Origin is a collaborative tribute album that pays homage to legendary rock musician Shin Joong-Hyun 40 years after his debut. Known in South Korea as the “Godfather of Rock,” he honed his musical skills by listening to American army radio stations, before eventually developing his own brand of Korean psychedelic rock that seized the youth of the ’70s. The wide variety of independent artists featured in “Beautiful Woman” show the extent to which his influence still persists in today’s rock scene, as a larger-than-life figure who is foundational to understanding the globalization of Korean music.
WeAreYoung – “99%”
Comprised of the duo Kyung Min and Ki Hoon, new indie group WeAreYoung seems to be vying to become the male version of Bolbbalgan4. They, too, sing with childlike innocence and acoustic guitars; their MVs are similarly dictated by pastel shades on sunny days. (It’s as though their band name wasn’t obvious enough.) Third single “99%” focuses on a love triangle, in which the boys are too scared to express their true feelings – a simple sentiment we can all still empathize with, long after we’ve left adolescence.
Nick & Sammy – “Baby You Love Me”
After appearing for a showcase at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March, singer-songwriter unit Nick and Sammy finally make their official debut! Already famous online for their numerous covers and medleys of K-pop songs in English, it’s not too surprising that first single “Baby You Love Me” would also be an English song that caters to international fans. But considering that both members were also raised outside South Korea (Nick from Austin, Texas and Sammy from Adelaide, Australia), it will be interesting to see how their pop-rock sound may evolve for a domestic Korean audience.
Jero – “Traffic Light (ft. Beenzino)”
Jero, formerly J-Yo of the disbanded hip-hop group Lucky J, continues to make inroads towards a successful solo career by channeling his inner Michael Jackson. Here’s a smooth voice, perfectly suited to carrying the elements of funk; paired alongside the MV’s vaporwave aesthetic, the release perfectly encapsulates the Millennials’ nostalgia for a lo-fi ’80s we never got to experience.