As the end of the year and the end of the decade draw near, K-pop artists looked to leave their mark, cement their legacies or redefine themselves in November 2019. IU pursued timelessness with one of her latest releases, inactive Super Junior member Sungmin made his long-awaited return to the industry, breakout Wanna One center Kang Daniel had his second solo comeback, Victon attempted to capitalize on their post-Produce 101 fame, and Eric Nam made a big international push with his first all-English album. On top of that, there were many other influential and noteworthy November comebacks that Seoulbeats was unable to cover. Here are seven significant comebacks that celebrated the start of a new era. 

(G)I-dle, “Lion”

(G)I-dle first debuted their latest song “Lion” on the finale of the reality show Queendom, before releasing the fierce accompanying music video in November. Although they didn’t win the show, (G)I-dle still crowned themselves queens of the jungle, successfully tackling this darker concept.

This six-member Cube Entertainment group have been a force to be reckoned with since their debut in 2018, and “Lion” seems to be the group’s effort to shed any remaining rookie status after holding their own against veteran groups like AOA and Mamamoo on Queendom

The choreography in the MV is simple and clean, allowing the members to give great performances and facial expressions between all the pawing and clawing. Thankfully the dance has other good key points as the crown move has been overdone in 2019, in particular being a trademark move for Itzy used in both “Dalla Dalla” and “Icy.” While animal themes are also nothing new in K-pop, “Lion” has such clarity, conviction and impact that it stands apart from the pack.  

The MV depicts the members’ struggle to get to the top by showing Soyeon, Minnie and Soojin dodging arrows, pacing in cages and tending to battle scars. In the first chorus, the group wear plain, primitive brown and black sacks. After Shuhua marches in wearing a bedazzled mane-like cape and Soojin claws her way through with amazing finger jewelry during the second verse, Minnie gives herself a proper crown and the group changes into their royal splendor, taking their rightful places in their palace. The song and MV are spot-on metaphors to their ascendancy in the K-pop scene.

Hyuna, “Flower Shower”

K-pop fans were shocked one year ago when Cube Entertainment unceremoniously cut Hyuna, one of K-pop’s biggest female soloists and one of their most profitable artists, from the company for having an undisclosed relationship with labelmate E’Dawn. But living up to her confident image, Hyuna took this “scandal” in stride, signing with Psy‘s label P Nation and releasing an effervescent new song, “Flower Shower.” She sings:

They’re all looking at me now, all of this attention
I don’t hate it
Flowers bloom again, just gotta let it go, OK

The sound, styling and choreography of “Flower Shower” find a balance between sweet and girlish and sassy and assertive. Hyuna, who is known to wear provocative, revealing ensembles, frolics through a dreamy landscape wearing modest, vintage dresses and a veil. She’s also being tended to by birds and bees like a Disney princess while singing that she just wants to be your flower.

But her coy act drops when the chorus hits. She stares into the camera, sexily sticks out her tongue, wiggles her hips and demands the object of her affection “shower [her] with flowers” and “bring it, bring it babe” if they’re going to keep up with her. Because whether they’re with her or not, Hyuna is making her own flower path and her vibrancy won’t be deterred by the obstacles she faces. “Flower Shower” is creative, joyful, quirky and quintessentially Hyuna.

Dawn, “Money”

With his high-toned, nasally rap delivery, stage presence and lyric-writing skills, E’Dawn was one of the stand-out members of his former group, Pentagon. Although he had the makings of a potential solo star, he was still early in his career when was booted from Cube, a potentially career-ending development. Along with Hyuna, E’Dawn — now known as Dawn — also moved to P Nation, where he made his solo debut with “Money.” 

“Money,” which Dawn helped co-produce along with Psy, is an emotional, mid-tempo hip-pop song that sits right in the pocket of moody charisma and apathy that suited him so well, especially in his releases with the subunit Triple H

The song is about desperately chasing money and its false promises of happiness and answers, with Dawn wondering, “You’re clearly dirty but why do you shine?” This contrast between financial success and its cost is as evident as the nose on his face, adorned with a bandage encrusted with diamonds. Dawn looks chic but also like a small child playing dress-up in his oversized leather suit. He seems successful but sings that he wishes he could just ask his parents for answers. 

The video spotlights the chorus’s chic, lackadaisical choreography but allows Dawn to roam about a gloomy warehouse during the verses. As he runs around snarling at his inner demons in the second verse, it’s easy to be reminded of G-Dragon swaggering down the street in “Crooked.” After breaking the hold money, and symbolically perhaps his old company, has on him, the color palette shifts and the grimy warehouse is emptied, showing Dawn happy, free and showered with flower petals. Maybe a reference to “Flower Shower” or to the flower path that lies in his future.

Astro, “Blue Flame”

For the past couple of years, Astro have deviated from the boyish, charming image of their earlier releases and attempted to find their cooler, more mature look and sound amid turbulent times at their label, Fantagio

Astro’s evolution seems complete with “Blue Flame,” which amps up the intensity far beyond “Crazy, Sexy, Cool,” “Always You”  and “All Night.” Not a wink, smirk or boyish smile is to be seen in this MV, which establishes a cold, dark and sensual mood from the opening moments. The members are styled in all black, draped in chains, straps and buckles that would not be out of place in a Monsta X video. Neither would the flashes of abs and chests these ensembles give — or the moments where the members are just plain shirtless.

Astro slink through simple black, white and blue sets filled with delicate curtains and flowers juxtaposed with aggressive wolves, chains and fire. These images complement the lyrics of the song, which depict a relationship in which a partner has grown cold but the singer is still captivated and burns for them.

This video and concept might be the most successful of Astro’s reinvention. The verses allow them to show off their visuals and facial expressions as well as their husky-voiced rappers, while the chorus’s faster tempo and high-energy percussion highlight the group’s sharp dance abilities and musicality. The heavy drum beats and blaring horn in the chorus help emphasize their moves and give them more impact and power. “Blue Flame” proves Astro can bring the fire and sets them up to sizzle in the future.

Hinapia, “Drip”

Quite a few nugu girl groups tried to make their mark before the end of the year, such as Nature, BVNDIT and Ariaz. But the underrated girl group to watch in November 2019 was Hinapia and their debut track “Drip” off their fittingly titled digital single album “New Start.” 

The five-member group from OSR Entertainment contains four members of the recently disbanded Pledis girl group Pristin: Eunwoo, Gyeongwon (formerly Yuha), Minkyeung (formerly Roa), and Yaebin (formerly Rena). Three of those members were also part of the one-song Pristin subunit Pristin V, and the visuals, sound and choreography for “Drip” from 1Million’s Tina Boo could have easily been a fitting successor to “Get It.” 

While the concept of Pristin V was “villains,” in “Drip,” Hinapia are “ice queens” seducing the listener into a dark, enchanted dream. At first, the visuals don’t seem to match the empowering lyrics, as the members are all shown trapped in various settings like a bedroom, a bathtub, a cage, a well and a room full of cameras. But Hinapia prove that they aren’t damsels waiting to be rescued when they help each other break out of each situation and leave destruction in their wake.

All five members fit this sultry concept and each member has ample moments to shine in this smaller group. The MV ends with Eunwoo confidently striding out of the overturned tub toward a dripping, golden future, a narrative fans certainly hope comes to pass. 

CIX, “Numb”

Amid a year stacked with boy group debuts, C9 Entertainment rookies CIX managed to capture fans’ attention back in July with their debut “Movie Star.” It certainly helps that their lineup is stacked with survival show stars, including former Wanna One member Bae Jinyoung, but “Movie Star” had an effortless, chic quality.

Their followup release “Numb” also begins with a groovy, R&B vibe with heavy drum beats and claps and dreamy synths. But instead of strutting the runway like models, the five members are in school uniforms languishing in a destroyed school building. In the lyrics, they reminisce about their lost “days of innocence” and dream of “turning everything here back to square one.” But what sounds like a potentially sentimental song takes an unexpected turn at the chorus. 

The beat drops and a distorted EDM sound surges in. The members intensely shout-sing the chorus, proclaiming that they’ve gone numb to the trauma and injustices they face and encourage other youth to take a step, take a stand and open their eyes to reclaim their lost innocence. The choreography amps up with this change. The first few chorus moves have an aggressive edge, but when Bae Jinyoung’s sweet voice comes back in, the steps revert to being more smooth and lyrical.

Altogether, the track does a successful job of establishing sultry R&B as CIX’s wheelhouse while branching out just enough to show their ability to be harder-hitting and to tackle more thoughtful, emotional subject matter. 

Rainbow, “Aurora”

A charming, versatile and colorful group, Rainbow disbanded in 2016, but all seven members reunited this year to celebrate their 10-year anniversary with a special album, “Over the Rainbow.” While rainbows streak across the sky during the day, the album’s title track, “Aurora,” refers to the colors that dance across the night sky. 

In the MV, the members are childhood friends who bury a treasure box. Although they drift apart over the years to pursue their own passions and dreams, they joyfully rush back to each other and join each other on stage. The song has a sweet, sentimental message and offers a glimmer of hope to long-time K-pop fans that older groups might be given the opportunity to release new music together again.

(YouTube [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]; Images via Cube Entertainment, OSR Entertainment. Lyrics via pop!gasa, P Nation, C9 Entertainment.)