We’re only a month or so into 2018, and there have already been a number of notable releases that have flown under our radar at Seoulbeats. Luckily, our Unsung Artists series gives us a chance to take a look back at those singles worth discussing.

Let us know your thoughts on the picks below, and share your own January 2018 picks as well!

Penomeco, “L.I.E”

Fanxy Child member Penomeco and Block B leader Zico not only continue the relationship they forged as schoolkids on this track, they also continue their relationship with SM: Penomeco’s “Hunnit” was a 2017 Station single, while Zico had featured on f(x)‘s “Traveler.” Now, the Zico-produced and Penomeco-performed “L.I.E” sits on SM’s YouTube channel, outside the Station discography. The exact dealings that led to this development are unclear, but the arrangement could be beneficial for all — our two hip-hop darlings get exposure to fresh eyes, SM adds to its stock of authenticity, and I get to discover a great artist.

Penomeco is a double threat to be recognised, a proficient rapper and even better singer, as he feeds his girlfriend lies about why he’s been avoiding her. Are the pressure of his job and other obligations getting to him, or is he using these things as an excuse to let their relationship fall by the wayside into non-existence? Maybe it’s a little bit of both, of guilt and procrastination represented by Penomeco sitting in front of a door marked “exit.” It’s clear he’s thinking about leaving, but he doesn’t want to take the steps to actually do so himself, and so he just sits and waits.

Car, the Garden, “Island,” ft. Oh Hyuk

While one-man act Car, The Garden is a gifted singer in his own right, Oh Hyuk’s particularly mellow tone is perfect for the softness of “Island” and juxtaposes nicely with the sharper guitar and percussion. This is perfectly accompanied by the MV, in which model Kim Min-yong‘s languid movements from blue to yellow, inside to outside, belie her startling actions: the building block towers glide down as they are knocked over. The song title may refer to a feeling of isolation, but the sewing metaphor that threads its way through the rest of the lyrics gives hope to the idea of making an effort to work with one another’s differences, unlike what we see above in “L.I.E.”

Just let me cut and sew
I’ll sew together our differences
Let me cut and sew
I’ll sew together our differences

Jo Jung-chi, “Perks of Break Up,” ft. Fromm

From musician and We Got Married alum Jo Jung-chi comes “Perks of Break Up.” Featured artist and personal favourite Fromm guides us to catharsis with Jo’s folksy tambourine, dragging synths, and dirty guitar, listing all the ways we move on after the end of a romance: going back to study, eating out with friends, having one-night stands. It all visually culminates in an office worker dancing his way out of heartbreak. The inclusion of the janitor reads like an act of self-love and -compassion, pushing our forlorn salaryman to action, while also recognising his feelings as valid through reading the notes.

Girlkind, “Fanci”

We had Bulldok for a while, but since their disbandment, the question of whether this generation of girl groups would produce an act that could convincingly pull off a hip-hop concept was on the lips of many a fan. Whether Girlkind’s debut would classify as such is not completely clear, but this peppy EDM tune paired with nice choreography and a distinct lack of affected mannerisms veering into cute/sexy concept territory is refreshing indeed.

Considering their agency, Next Level Entertainment, is smaller in size, the relative roughness of the MV and audio is understandable. Hopefully, fan interest will encourage the agency to invest more in the group going forward, leading to a higher quality product for fans to appreciate and tout.

Holland, “Neverland”

Is this the best version of “Neverland” out there in K-pop? God, no. It will, though, likely be the one that is most remembered for being the official debut of openly gay singer Holland. Who would have thought that you could portray an LGBTQI relationship so cutely, with no more angst than absolutely necessary? You don’t need to Wedding Dress them, torment them with abusive men, or cloak them in ambiguity–just treat Holland like any other young kid in love.

The MV is absolutely stunning, but it is a shame that the same care and attention weren’t given to the aural side of things, especially the vocals. Holland may not be the strongest singer out there, but he is also let down by the production that often places him too low in the mix to even be properly heard. There are so many ways to augment someone’s singing, and enough popular acts out there to show that this method is successful. The thought that the same care taken for the visuals of this single wasn’t taken with the vocals is confusing at best and infuriating at worst. Holland has a decent tone, if slightly nasal, and the instrumental for “Neverland” is fine; it’s up to Holland and his team to work on the production side of things so that they don’t let their talent, and his fans, down.

Readers, what other songs and artists from the last month do you want to highlight? Let us know in the comments below!

(Pop!gasa[1][2], YouTube[1][2][3][4][5]. Image via: )