The summer is often a busy time for K-pop. It brings about catchy and sunny tunes, fun music videos (sometimes filmed abroad), bright and wild colors, and it is a time when girl groups thrive. In previous summer roundtables, we have asked about favorite summer comebacks, favorite summer tropes, and more. This time, we do something a little different.
When it comes to summer, the days and nights are different in terms of their vibe. Summer days invoke the image of beaches, fun getaways, pool parties, and spending time with friends. Summer nights bring to mind campfires, fireworks, barbecues and rooftop gatherings, and watching the sun set then partying the night away until the sun rises.
For this month’s Roundtable, which is part of our larger Decade in Review series, we ask the writers: what are your favorite summer tracks of the past decade (2010-2019)? Each writer is allowed to chose two songs: one representing the upbeat and sunny summer days, and one song to represent the chill and laidback summer nights.
Qing: K-pop dabbles in many genres, but I’m of the belief that it’s most in its element when it taps on the “pop” in its name. Even more so than spring, summer is the best time for this genre, and the soaring melodies it brings, to shine.
I was surprised to find that while strong melodies dominated many summer releases in the earlier half of the decade, the songs didn’t always feel summery (aside from the discography of summer queens Sistar), possibly because of the strong electronic influences. The debuts of Red Velvet and Seventeen in 2014 and 2015 seem to have ushered in a renaissance of pop, and accordingly, my picks gravitated towards songs in the recent five years.
Packed to the brim with energy, Red Velvet’s “Red Flavor” wastes no time at all introducing its earworm of a chorus. Despite this, the song never gets boring thanks to a host of weird, fun sonic details: the thwacking of drumsticks, a distorted male-sounding vocal synth that garbles in and out of the instrumental line, a syncopated thudding of drums. Yet it never sounds overwhelming, and the members’ bright, sweet vocals are treated with a light touch that preserves their melodic quality.
Seventeen’s “Our Dawn is Hotter than Day” shares a similar sense of balance. The vocals are simple but clear, and the instrumentation, while straightforward, is enchanting. The pattering, gurgling synths are consistent, yet variable in the images they conjure: at times, they feel like stars dotting the night sky; at others, the languid, warm breeze of summer nights.
An honourable mention goes out to Spica‘s “Tonight”, which fills me with nostalgia for summer roadtrip nights I haven’t even experienced. I couldn’t justify it as “laidback” or a daytime release, but it’s an underrated gem worth checking out.
Pat: Summer is my favorite K-pop season, so choosing a song from the decade was difficult. Looking through the options became increasingly harder the closer I got to 2019, reflecting how K-pop has evolved and become crowded in comparison to the seemingly simpler years of 2010. My selection for summer nights is Shinhwa‘s “This Love.” There is something about that pulsing beat and the smooth transitions that makes me ease into the night, and brings to mind disco balls and hours of dancing, before crashing into bed as the sun rises for a new day.
Even more difficult was choosing my favorite Sistar track for the summer day category. Of course, it was going to be from Sistar, the Summer Queens. After essentially listening to their tracks released during the summer, and agonizingly removing “Touch My Body” and “Shake It,” I ended up with “I Swear” as my choice. “I Swear” is a bit like the older sister of “Loving U” and it has many of the same summer tropes, in terms of sound and music video. What put “I Swear” ahead is the easy flow and rhythm throughout, making for a listening experience that brings to mind chill days in the sun, or in the shade, and watching the waves crash onto the sand.
Siena: I have to be honest: Summer is my least favorite season. I’m a sweater-weather, cup of coffee, curled up in a corner with a good book kind of girl. Summer is basically the polar opposite of that, so we are frenemies on a good day, and when the humidity goes up, so do my heckles. That’s when you’ll find me hexing summer from the safety of a highly air-conditioned space.
One of the few things that I do enjoy about summer is its K-pop. As Qing and Pat noted, summer and K-pop just go together, like hot weather and lemonade. I’ve been loving a lot of the K-pop of summer 2020, but for my official picks, I’m going to go just a little further back in time.
As established, I am a grouchy lady during the summer. So, to get me in a sunny, beachy, summer-day state of mind, it is going to take a song so joyfully irresistible, even I can’t glower it down to size. Luckily for me, Weki Meki’s “Tiki-Taka (99%)” exists. It is three minutes of unadulterated pep, all sparkling high notes and breezy synths, with a cute but cool choreography as the cherry on top. “Tiki-Taka (99%)” is a magic joy pill, and I’ve yet to tire of taking it.
Summer nights are more my style. As an incurable night owl, even I can appreciate the poetry of the summer wind rustling through an open window on a balmy evening. Loona’s 2016-2017 epic rollout campaign, with a new member debuting through a solo track almost every month, provided several songs perfect for summer nights. My personal favorite is Kim Lip’s “Eclipse”, which blends laidback vibes with sultry sophistication into a dreamy musical cocktail. Now that’s a summer mood I can get behind.
Sara: I really love summer, a revelation that has hit me only in the past few years (except I hate the heat with every fiber of my being). I especially love the music, the vibrant sunsets, and the memories made during this season. Many of the good memories I associate with summer are related to concerts. One of my favorites was The Rose’s show in New York (which was actually a last-minute decision). That is why whenever I hear the opening notes of “Red,” I think of the day my sister and I stood outside for hours, surrounded by the sounds of the city, waiting for the doors of the concert hall to be finally opened. Woosung’s lilting voice and the explosive chorus of “Red” take me back to bright colors, screams of joy, voices filling the concert hall, and laughter.
My first choice for my summer night song was Seventeen’s “Our dawn is hotter than dawn,” but since Qing mentioned it already, I will go with Shinee’s “Selene 6.23.” A Shawol friend introduced me to this song when I first got into Shinee. I love everything about it, from the effortless blending of the members’ voices, to the inspiration behind the song, to the heartbreaking lyrics. There is something very peaceful about listening to this song (especially the concert version) and looking up at the bright moon on a summer night. The moon is hundreds of thousands of miles away from Earth, yet it shines so brightly, even more so when there is a supermoon, like the one that inspired Jonghyun to write “Selene 6.23.” The lyrics are about the fruitlessness of reaching someone you love, but Shinee, instead, is able to bring their fans — their international Shawols, in particular — closer to them through this song.
Kameka: Forcing me to choose just two Kpop summer releases is nothing short of agonising. Although, like Siena, I’m more of a cooler seasons gal myself, I cannot deny that there is something special about Kpop summer songs that made writing this a nigh-impossible task.
My number one summer pick will always have to be Red Flavour, but since Qing has already excellently described everything I love about it, I’m choosing to go for my second pick — Mamamoo’s “Yes I Am“. Although not “specifically” a summer song instrumentally or lyrically, it is bright and energy-filled, and its quirky electronic blips and vocoder-like effects on the post-chorus vocals cemented this song as one of my favourite releases ever essentially the moment I heard it. Alongside “Red Flavour” and “As If It’s Your Last“, it defined my 2017 summer. All three of these songs were released within two weeks, resulting in the closest thing to a spiritual experience a Kpop release cycle has ever given me.
My summer night pick would have to be NCT 127’s b-side “Sun & Moon“. This song essentially transports me to an eternal summer night, and is filled to the brim with emotions I can only describe as warmth, nostalgia and a tinge of longing. It also possesses one of the most beautiful soundscapes I’ve ever heard in Kpop. The way the lush, melodic, flowing synths blend with the members’ soft vocals is truly something else, and makes me want to go on an endless drive throughout the night.
As an honourable mention, I do have to bring up LABOUM’s “Between Us” — simply made for soft, cool and breezy summer nights. It is very difficult for anything to win over “Sun & Moon”, but “Between Us” came far too close to ignore altogether!
Gina: This was one of the hardest Roundtables for me to ever attempt, since so many options also translate into “no options.” How do you narrow down nine years’ worth of golden summer gems into just two choices?! Nonetheless, I persevered and sought to see the end of this debacle.
For “day,” my winning choice was Wonder Girls’ “Why So Lonely” – a groovy, reggae-inspired track that delicately balances traces of apathy in an otherwise dance-worthy mood. It slowly sticks in your ear with its chill tunes, guaranteeing a replay after one listen. I personally think this is one of their signature comebacks, as it sheds a different light on the usual summer love scenarios. Not to mention the colorful styling, barbie aesthetic, and modern retro concept all helped the girls shine their best before their goodbye.
Meanwhile, for “night” I chose G.Soul’s “Tequila” ft. Hoody. This was a harder debate, but I wanted to bring G.Soul’s underrated masterpiece to light. Simply put, “Tequila” is a track that will outstand the test of time – the instrumental layering is simple but insanely addicting, coupled with G.Soul’s suave vocals that leisurely dance throughout the song. Not to mention the MV is reminiscent of a gorgeous Gucci ad (the top comment on YouTube voiced out my thoughts as soon as I scrolled down upon listening). Everything from the vibes emitted to the amazing video aesthetic was such a surprise to come upon as a Korean song, even within the R&B/hip-hop scene. H1GHR Music did a great job for him as soon as he signed up, and the result is a masterpiece that I listen to way more often than I should. Please take a few minutes to change your life by feeling new types of ways!
Aaron: I have been trying to remember the moments where K-pop intersected with my summer nights. For some reason, Loco & Gray‘s “Summer Go Loco” keeps flooding my mind with vibrant colours! So I have to give my summer days of the last few years that track as its soundtrack. It is a record that bubbles with energy and is often overlooked for its older cousin Jay Park & Gray‘s “Drive” despite being just as catchy. Whether you’re lost on the beach or chasing friends through the city, this track goes loco.
“It’s like the photo in the frame, has come to life”
As for summer nights, while BTS‘s “Intro: Singularity” hits the midnight mood perfectly. I must go with offonoff‘s “Dance/ 춤”, the amount of nights spent skating to and dancing to this track is outrageous. The texture of this track lives in a hot summery night, filled with a gentle energy that expands the mood of any room it plays within. This is largely due to the floating guitar melody that dances alongside Colde’s vocals. Vocals which switch from being behind the mix of the track to the front, From a gentle falsetto to a rap-lead verse at the song’s centre. If this track doesn’t get you in the mood to dance the night away, I don’t know what will!
“When the night comes I think of you”
Xiao Qing: It was really difficult to find two songs that were released under the specified time period because I live in a tropical country, and everyday is summer for me, so my brain started associating songs with summer even if they were released in November. After listening to my own summer playlist and checking their release dates, I finally found two songs that fit perfectly.
Even without having to sift through my playlist, the first song that came to mind upon hearing the word “summer” was Sistar’s “Touch My Body”. It’s hard to believe that this song came out 2014, and continues to remain one of Sistar’s more iconic tracks in their discography. Its fun, fresh, and flirty melody sets the mood for what summer should be, and so it’s the perfect song for starting one’s day. Another strong contender was Hyuna‘s “Bubble Pop” – I may have been eleven at the time of its release, but I sure as heck attempted to learn the dance.
As for summer nights, I’ve chosen Day6‘s “Feeling Good”. It makes me think about driving down a highway during a hot summer night with my friends, and the song perfectly captures the feeling of not having a care in the world. I personally associate summer with freedom and youthfulness, and “Feeling Good” best represents those ideas. There is something so liberating about “Feeling Good”, and the number of times I’ve felt like going for a jog at night while listening to this song is too many to count.
What are your favorite summer releases of the decade? Please let us know below!
(YouTube , Images via Starship Entertainment, SM Entertainment, Pledis Entertainment, Shinhwa Company, Fantiago Entertainment, Cube Entertainment, RBW Entertainment, JYP Entertainment)