While the landscape of Korean entertainment can be vast and wondrous, it’s often the little things that make us fall in love, inspire awe, evoke secondhand embarrassment, or sometimes…break our hearts. In this segment, we ask our writers: Among the many things vying for your attention this week, what made your heart beat?
[Music/Idols] Golden Child’s “Ra Pam Pam”
It’s been a massive week for me, work-wise, and all I had energy or inclination to follow was Golden Child‘s return with the oddly named “Ra Pam Pam” – and Golden Child did not disappoint. The song has a repetitive beat but a very fun melody and topline. The MV is a cinematic experience (okay, I exaggerate, but it’s very good) and most importantly – this means some Golcha comedy on variety shows!!! I’m now doubly excited about these coming weeks
[Music/Idols] Golden Child (also!)
Like Rimi, I’ve had Golden Child’s new album on repeat this week. I love all the songs, especially the Latin-infused and weirdly cinematic experience that “Ra Pam Pam” is, but honestly “Bottom of the Ocean” has me absolutely obsessed. It sounds like something a teenage boy band (a la One Direction) would have released in all its cheesy, campy glory. The structure is predictable, the topline is catchy, and the gang vocals are comfortably addictive. I was away from home most of the week helping my friends move into their new house in the sweltering Florida heat, and the song’s comfortable catchiness provided me with a bit of cool (pun intended) relief.
[Music] Nu Metal from Madmans Esprit and Bursters, K-rock from Dreamcatcher and Car the Garden
This weekend, I discovered my baby nephew likes metal. I tried playing baby appropriate Metallica via Rockabye Baby! and it did not engender the same bouncing, seven-month-old, body-rocking, headbanging baby joy as the original versions. By soothing him to sleep with 30 Seconds to Mars, I think I inadvertently turned my week into a marathon of metal.
Outside of K-pop, Babymetal has teased a “disappearance from sight” and online conversations about the Woodstock ’99 documentary which led me down a Limp Bizkit/KORN rabbit hole, and then I found myself in the hard guitar wonderland of Korean rock and metal. Seo Taiji‘s “Ultramania” activated the liminal memory of living with the discomfort of a singer’s hair whilst rocking out, but the Spotify recommendations for the song led me to find out about groups like Madmans Esprit and Bursters so I can’t complain.
My hardcore mood led me to catch up with Dreamcatcher’s new release, which is softer on the rock than previous efforts but still an interesting effort. Another rock-influenced recording that has made its way into my work playlist is “Little By Little”, a collaboration between Car, The Garden and Jung In that encourages me to stay focused despite being an unrequited love song. It’s a cover of a 2016 track that has been through a tempo change and the addition of a female vocalist. There are a number of versions, my favourite being the Seo So Neon live one, which showcases both vocalists’ husky tones and brings in some unique instrumentation.
[Music] K-rock from Rolling Quartz, N. Flying, Changmin, Trax, and Jaejoong
Janine’s mention of metal got me spiralling down YouTube rewatching some of my favourite K-rock performances. In undoubtedly biased fashion, the performance that tops that list is Changmin and Trax’s remixed take on Super Junior’s “Don Don”, and is closely followed by Jaejoong’s performance of “Mine”. I know there are K-rock bands out there, but I really like how Changmin and Jaejoong’s voices have been trained and developed to tackle the rock genre. I’m going to keep hoping they step out of the J-rock scene and explore it more in their Korean discographies. It would be really exciting to witness.
That being said, the two other performances that I really love are from bands. The first is “Blaze” by Rolling Quartz. The song is a go-to for me, and I hope they continue to explore the sound and make it more mainstream. A big yay for more female rock bands! The second is “The Real” by N. Flying. Rock may not be as palatable as Pop or Hip-hop, but I think there’s a real demand for it out there, and it would be cool to see more bands and idols dip their toes into the genre.
[MVs] You.will.knovv collective, Tabber’s “2049”
Trigger warning: suicide
Surprise surprise, I’ve been following the You.will.knovv collective this week. Mokyo leaving the label was the bad news to me but conversely, Rad Museum has come out with the Brainstorm single-album as the good news. The MV for “Airdrop” featuring Wonstein is a gorgeous and playful telling and definitely worth checking out! Plus there is another MV on the way for “Exit” featuring Justhis.
What stood out from You.will.knovv this week though is Tabber‘s MV for “2049”. The MV is crafted from the 2002 horror film “Inner Senses” starring Leslie Cheung. It is amazing how well the snapshots from the film suit the Tabber track. So much so that I researched the movie and a stark moment of life imitating art shows that this was Leslie Cheung’s last film before he committed suicide. Leslie Cheung himself is an icon of HK-pop being one of the pioneers of the genre, so checking out his songs has also been a great rabbit hole to go down alongside my daily K-pop intake.
It’s particularly interesting that the film circles around a character with clinical depression, something that Leslie Cheung suffered from himself. By the film’s end, Cheung’s character is about to jump off the roof of the building he is on. Again, this is sadly how Cheung would take his own life, hence life imitating art. Knowing all that gives the MV a lot more weight and creates a poignant MV for this Tabber sleep hit. I’m also very for collaborations between film and music and this MV is a great change of pace from the MVs I’ve been binging this week!
[Music] dosii, Oohyo
If Janine has been delving into metal, then I’ve been re-discovering my love for hidden Indie gems. Spotify is a great wonderpool to scavenge for new and/or hidden acts, and this time the artist I managed to find is dosii. Specifically, dosii – her only studio album (also named ; a romanticization of the word that means “city”) is a dreamy, bittersweet mix of tracks that dwell on the strength and resonance of memories, even after love is gone. Her name is befitting for an album that’s perfect for getting lost within a bustling night city, or standing above it on a rooftop to zone out into our dreams. As I weave through the songs, half lost in memories (or my imagination), I’m prone to feeling subtle shifts in emotion – swimming through the endless scale embodying sadness to nostalgia.
Another honorable mention is Oohyo, who can turn anything from pizza to honey tea to ramen into a bitter-or-sweet love song. Quirky and straightforward in its mannerisms, her lyrics complement her catchy instrumentals. Yet, her melancholy voice adds a touch of bitterness to these otherwise witty songs, which adds layers of untold stories to each piece.
[Music] Mad Clown, TXT, Heize
I’ve been catching up on new releases recently and I’m glad that Mad Clown is back with a feature on Punch’s new release, “I Miss You”. It’s a track that reminds me of Mad Clown’s older collaborations with Soyou (“Stupid in Love”) and Bolbbalgan4 (“Lost Without You”).
In addition to this release, I’m also excited to find out the TXT sang the opening theme for the second season of Japanese anime, World Trigger. As a fan of the series, it was heartening to hear familiar voices for the opening, “Force”, albeit in Japanese. I’m excited to see what more collaborations between the two countries might pop up in future.
Lastly, I was pumped to find out Heize sang a 2021 version of Beast’s “On Rainy Days”, adding one more song for a rainy day to her repertoire of amazing tracks.
[Music] Jung Seung Hwan’s “Spring Day” cover
According to Spotify’s Today’s Top Fans, “Spring Day” is my second favorite BTS song, following only “Answer: Love Myself.” Though, I think “Spring Day” might usurp it because of Jung Seung Hwan‘s amazing itsLIVE cover. I love how softly he opens the emotional track, while piano notes accompany him, as he almost whispers “bogo shipda” (“I miss you”). Jung Seung Hwan maintains the heartbreaking core of “Spring Day,” but he also manages to reimagine the track, aided by the live band (I love the electric guitar’s presence). He decided to change the melody of the first verse, going for something that would harmonize well with the original, although it took me aback at first. Also, this version of “Spring Day” makes use of triplets, and I love triplets, so it’s no surprise that I watch this video on repeat.