January, the sleepy month, the start of a new year and in this instance a new decade. Maybe you had hoped to be married to your coffee-cup enjoying perhaps some snow scenes and quiet ballads. Unfortunately, 2020 has given no such respite. A novel strain of coronavirus has spread to 25 countries including South Korea with 12 confirmed cases.

In the K-pop sphere, we’ve seen X1 disband following the controversy surrounding voting rigging in the Produce series. While on the brighter side of things, we did have Zico‘s PAK single “Any Song” and a slew of comeback announcements from BTS to Pentagon and Loona. In between all of this, there were 8 Unsung Artists we just have to talk about:

Bobby (iKon) – Rest Your Bones

Bobby, Jay and Ju-ne of iKon have each this month released non-singles onto YouTube. This is seemingly in anticipation for iKon’s 3rd mini-album release, “i Decide” which is a 5 track affair arriving February 6th. Interestingly “i Decide” will also feature B.I despite his departure from the group.

Chronologically and under the moniker of “iKon-On” Jay first released a cover of Ella Mai‘s “Trip”. Followed by both Bobby and Ju-ne releasing “Midnight”. Now while both these singles are wonderful b-sides and well worth checking out, it’s Bobby’s “Rest Your Bones” that truly stands out.

Bobby is, of course, the SMTM3 winner and has in the fashion of SMTM 777 winner Nafla provided a track showing off both his singing qualities alongside his rapping ability. Its accompanying MV sees Bobby split into two locations serenading his audience with directed stares into the camera.

The instrumentation of the track is as bare-boned as the title of the track. “Rest Your Bones” features a charming guitar loop flanked by quieted 808’s and correspondingly gentle arrangments. As such Bobby’s intimate vocal performance takes centre stage on the MV. Bobby had hoped to create an atmosphere similar to that of a LieV show allowing his song to blossom into a love song with its accompanying MV.

Vinci – Can’t Erase

You’d be forgiven for not knowing who Vinci is, being the newest addition to the Korean R&B landscape. Vinci released his debut single album Loverdose on January 3rd. With the accompanying MV “Can’t Erase” Vinci has shown his quality as an artist who can string mood together with heartbreak in stunning fashion.

Armed with a falsetto that could make Zion.T blush Vinci pines all across “Can’t Erase” in a LED-lit space. Its visuals that have more in common with a Bladerunner world than that of our 2020 world. While an ever-imposing and futuristic computer spits out worlds of colour that hypnotise Vinci. This machine is the only other object in the MV that ties it to the lyrical content of the track; which speaks of trying to delete a lover from one’s mind.

How can I erase you,
If I still love you, I cannot let you go

You come back to me,
Everytime I see your pictures on my phone

Overall, the “Can’t Erase” MV is a great introduction to an artists aesthetic while also providing a mood that matches everything Vinci croons. While Loverdose is a stellar start for the world of Korean R&B.

Sechskies – All For You

Ah! Finally, a ballad of sorts arrives right at the end of January in the shape of “All For You”. The title track from Sechskies first mini-album coming after an amazing 23 years in the industry. Those somehow unfamiliar with their sound should know its steeped in 90’s soul and gentle yet soaring vocals.

The MV for Sechskies is painted in blue and yellows. Truly setting the tone for what would once have be expected of a January release. Since there is no lead vocalist in Sechskies each member takes their turn to spin their vocals into the mix, harmonizing at its climaxes. The instrumentation of the track belongs to decades’ lost sound, think Lionel Richie‘s “Hello” and that era of sound is found here.

This definitely feels like a time capsuled sound that has found its way back into a 2020 consciousness, bridging the gap between balladry and bygone R&B rhythms. Therefore, if anything “All For You” is worth a listen to see if it speaks to your tastes in music especially on an early morning filled with yellow tones.

Rei Ami – Dictator

Rei Ami is the independent artist currently taking the US by storm. With only three singles to her name, she has accumulated millions of streams on Spotify. As such Rei Ami has organically etched a place for herself in the US alternative hip-hop scene. Having been interviewed by both Nylon and Fader her profile continues to grow and “Dictator” is her latest offering to her fanbase.

“Dictator” has a similar song structure to her previous single, “Snow Cone” in having a track that is split in two. “Dictator” starts off as a house on fire, with sharp and drunken guitar loops booming through her all-conquering and empowering lyrical output.

It is an attitude similar to that of CL‘s “Hello Bitches” but is stunningly juxtaposed by the second half of the track which is dripping in vulnerability. The MV for “Dictator” delivers this juxtaposition in its colour changes. The first half of the track is draped in red while its second half is stained in blue hues. It’s an MV that is married to its production and elevates the track off into the clouds with the tracks lightly placed ending.

Overall, Rei Ami is a big name to watch in 2020 as she moves from strength to strength with her unique rapping ability and appealing visual narrative. With labels such as 88rising and artists such as Billie Elish and Finneas watching, Rei Ami is poised to blow up this year.

B.O.Y – My Angel

Riding off of the momentum of their participation in Produce X 101 the duo B.O.Y(or B Of You) have done something fairly hard to do. That is to incorporate an EDM influenced sound alongside a slow tempo’d rhythm. None the less that’s what they’ve done with their lead single “My Angel”

While EDM is usually a sound that ruins anything not considered a club anthem “My Angel” has managed to live in the grey space between K-pop tracks of old and the newer trends found within its musical landscape. What makes this single stand out, however, is its MV. Containing a collision of beautiful shots wrapped around a series of well-executed often solo dance performances.

It’s a visual marvel, with a seemingly loose storyline of two separate beings one the moon and the other the sun (indicated by separate tarots card). The two finally meet one another at the MV’s visual close. “My Angel” is also a fair representation of what else can be sonically found on their debut EP, Phase One: YOU just without the stunning visuals to accompany the tracks.

Colde – Don’t Leave Me, My Love

Colde returns with his reimagining of Light and Salt‘s “Don’t Leave Me”. The track itself has become a fan favourite among Colde fans and stands as likely the final MV to be released from his 2019 project Love, Pt. 1. The “Don’t Leave Me, My Love” MV joins both “I Fxxking Love You” and “WA-R-R” rounding out a beautiful trio of MV’s with this MV as its most sombre in mood and range.

The MV for “Don’t Leave Me, My Love” is a picturesque walk along with Colde. With scenes shifting from night to day, sunny weather to rainy days. It’s imagery filled with heartbreak and tangible loneliness. The track itself draws a lovely parallel to Crush where vocals reign supreme alongside piano stringings.

Don’t leave my side
Nights are lonely without you
You know it better, right
Please don’t say a word

What else can I do?
When I’m so weak (for you)

With the last track of Love, Pt. 1. having now received its MV, we turn to 2020 in the hopes it will spawn a Love, Pt. 2 sooner rather than later. Plus with his own label WAVY in full release mode, it seems that we are in for more Colde this year.

Woody – Nothing’s Gonna Be Changed

Woody is a quiet star, he first debuted in 2011 with N-Train but only really found success as a solo artist with the controversial track “Fire Up” in 2019 which somehow managed to top the Gaon chart. His newest single “Nothing’s Gonna Be Changed” is devoid of coverage but shows Woody at his best!

The MV itself is trapped in a studio space, there is no attempt at creating a narrative as found from its lyrical content. Instead, there is only shifting colours and the appearance of a female lead whose vocals go uncredited. Overall, the MV itself stands as a platform for the track in question, luckily the track itself is gorgeous.

Ong Seong Wu – We Belong

Ong Seong Wu has returned to the musical world with “We Belong”. Following the planned disbanding of Wanna One (made up from the winning members of Produce 101 Season 2). Ong Seong Wu decided to continue his path as a musical artist despite also becoming a well-sought after actor (having won both the Best New Actor and Hallyu Star awards in the 12th Korea Drama Awards).

Prior to “We Belong”, Ong Seong Wu had released the single “Heart Sign” as part of the 2019 Pepsi K-Pop Collab Project. This single, however, marks his first solo effort as a musician. The results are delightful if not predictable with a sound very familiar to any K-pop fan. Ong Seong Wu has seemingly picked up where he left off with Wanna One.

As a solo artist though, Ong Seong Wu is able to let his bubbly personality affect the perception of his sound. The MV of “We Belong” is a playful testament to this with Seong Wu’s charm carrying the mood of the song into its starlit conclusion. While instead of creating a lovers narrative with the MV, Seong Wu simply stares into the camera when delivering his most endearing lines;

I am nothing without you,
So I wanna be with you
I will always be by your side,
I won’t let go of your hand

We belong
We belong
We belong in love

And that’s the list! Who was your Unsung Artist of the month? Be sure to let us know in the comment section down below.

Vlive, The Fader, Gaon, Nylon, Twitter, Fortune, Forbes, Aljazeera, AppleMusic, HipHople, YouTube(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8) Images via Instagram, YG, Bugs! and Ong Seong Wu.