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 won and made your heart beat?

[Dramas] Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (aka falling for Kim Seon-ho)

This week, I stumbled across the first two episodes of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha on Netflix. As an avid 2 Days & 1 Night Season 4 watcher, I dove right in when I saw the drama stars Kim Seon-ho and pairs him with one of my favourite romantic actresses, Shin Min-ah. When I started watching the series that follows a big-hearted but outwardly cold city dentist finding community in a seaside village, I said aloud in my empty house, “this is very much my shit”. So far, the conflicts threatening our main couple are misunderstandings that feel very realistic and their resolutions feel earned, but that’s not what makes me excited. 

Our romantic male lead is a super-competent, hardworking, civic-minded, down-to-earth man who insists on being paid minimum wage which for me, a typical anti-capitalist millennial, is a real fantasy. Imagine going home to a man that will carry a granny to watch television at the seniors centre and he is a certified plumber!

As an avid reader of romance novels, the prospect of a very useful male romantic partner has been dangled before my eyes in many guises. Sometimes, the male lead is a contractor who owns his own business and will replace the kitchen countertops at just below retail rates. Sometimes, he is a salaried worker with a passion for DIY and will repair the outdoor deck as a romantic gesture. Sometimes, he’s just a skillful negotiator who knows the best vendors to get the female lead a good deal from a predatory agent. In Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, the writer Shin Ha-Eun imbues Hong Du-Shik with every quality of a Very Good Man and I love it. The secret sadness that led him to become a small-town hero will doubtless be revealed in time, but for now I’m enjoying watching Kim Seon-ho smile and perform skilled labour under the watchful eye of a charming group of neighbours. 

[Music] Reminiscing and preparing for the future with Day6

As the date for Young K‘s much anticipated debut solo album draws closer, I’ve found myself going on a lengthy stroll down memory lane in exploring Day6‘s discography. As a fan of the group since their pre-debut days as 5Live, the group has accompanied me through some major life changes. I remember the way my heart dropped when it was announced that Junhyeok was leaving, the anxious wait for their comeback Daydream album, and how I played that album on repeat for my family’s eight hour road trip that spring. Day6 has come a long way since then, releasing album after album and making a name for themselves as the idol of idols. Most of all, however, they’ve established themselves as my lifelong group.

As a writer, I’ve explored Day6’s music in the past with contemplation about what their future holds. As a fan, however, all I can say is that I hold equal amounts of trepidation and excitement for upcoming news. Will Jae aim more towards the West with support from 88rising? How will Sungjin and Young K’s military enlistments affect the group as a whole? What will Wonpil‘s next musical be? And of course, our beloved lucky star, Dowoon—how will his path to Youtube stardom continue? 

In many ways, it feels like I’m preparing for the end of something, and only time will tell how Day6’s future evolves. Yet, no matter how things go, I can honestly say that following them has been a privilege. From their first live showcase in a club that held 500 people to playing for over 15,000 people at Jamsil Indoor Stadium—every moment has been the best part. 

[Music/Idols] Tidbits of happiness from Red Velvet, TXT, and Hyuna & Dawn

Video warning: Flashing lights

So, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks moving halfway across the United States and acclimating to a new University environment. It’s been a busy, busy time, and also one with a lot of emotional ups and downs. I feel so lucky to be able to participate in an in-person academic program (well, at least until the next, worse COVID-19 variant comes around. Sigh), but it is also really overwhelming being around so many people after so long.

All this is to say that my Hallyu content has been bite-sized and geared toward silly, non-brain-intensive entertainment to balance my real-world adventures. One unexpected treat have been Red Velvet’s “Queendom” stages. The members seem to be having tons of fun together and that gives the performances a real positive energy. I’m also completely obsessed with the over-the-top set decorations from their first week of promotions. On The Show, when feather confetti started raining down as purple drop lights sparkled like crazy and a giant vaguely galactic mobile hovered over it all, that’s when I knew this was a comeback I could get behind. On a related note, “Pose” is one of my favorite things Red Velvet have ever done. It’s the quirky delight I didn’t know I needed. 

I’ve also been following TXT’s “Loser=Lover” stages. As I wrote in my MV review for the track, I think it’s an amazing comeback for TXT. Their August 22 stage on Inkigayo was maybe the best live performance I’ve ever seen from them, full of insane energy. It’s just another piece of evidence that this pop-rock thing is a really good fit for the group, and I for one hope to see much more of this style from TXT.

Finally, looking ahead, I am very excited for HyunA and Dawn’s upcoming collab. The teasers so far look to be weird and wonderful and I’m hoping that “1+1=1” (what’s with all the math equations in K-pop right now?!?) will be the dose of serotonin I will most definitely need to survive my first week of University classes!

[Dramas/Music] Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, great albums from Stray Kids, Halsey, and the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings soundtrack

As of this week, my last year of graduate school is in full swing, and I’m knee deep in the work for my thesis project. For me, that meant comfort TV and new, inspiring music.

Like Janine, I started Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha and am already finding it satisfyingly tongue in cheek hilarious, and breathtakingly scenic. As a Southerner from a firmly landlocked state, I have never wanted to live in a small coastal town so bad in my life. The feeling of knowing your neighbors and not being able to go anywhere without bumping into someone is however a feeling that I am all too familiar with. I can’t wait for the next episode!

On the listening side I am equally obsessed with three new albums as of today: Stray Kids’ NOEASY, friend of K-pop (or at least BTSHalsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, and the companion album for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I am once again completely blown away and enthralled with Stray Kids’ nuanced production skills and witty songwriting, and it will probably be in my queue often. I love all the songs but I keep finding myself gravitating back to “Cheese,” “The View,” and “Red Lights.” “The View” makes me FEEL THINGS.

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power has been a refreshingly, angrily female album with an unimaginable amount of depth in the songwriting. Halsey talks about the inspiration for the album, but I still feel like I’m teasing out new details with every listen. My favorites right now are probably “Bells in Santa Fe,” “I am not a woman, I’m a god,” and “You asked for this.”

The Shang-Chi album finally came out today! After all the hype it has been getting, the variety of music and representation on the album certainly delivers! I love Mark Tuan, NIKI, Rich Brian, Audrey Nuna, and all of DPR already, so I can’t wait to add it to my rotation and get familiar with all the fire tunes.

[TV] Girls Planet 999 (aka the things I do for Choi Yujin)

After the Produce 101 voting scandal, I said I would never, ever, ever get back together with MNet. Yet. Here I am, back to watching Girls Planet 999 every Friday night to cheer on one of my fave gals from CLCChoi Yujin.

Don’t be fooled by the name—Girls Planet 999 is essentially Produce 101 in all but name. There are some twists though. The 99 girls selected are part of three smaller groups, 33 girls being Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. One girl from each forms a “cell”; so a cell comprises a K, C, J member. This is important because, and here’s the big twist that differentiates it from Produce 101, a cell is ride or die; if I’m understanding correctly then the votes for the three members of a cell are cumulative. So there’s a chance that an individual may have enough points to be saved from elimination, but if the others in their cell did not bring in a lot of points, they would still be eliminated. Vice versa, if two people in a cell are massively popular and the third person is not, then that third person would be saved from elimination due to their cell. But I may be misremembering all of the mechanics of how voting goes. Maybe it’s a vote for one cell and not per member. Honestly, it’s a twist that has me intrigued and confused but it’s early days yet! I have time to wrap my head around the mechanics (and…y’know, not skip the parts where Yeo Jin-goo explains how it works).

Ultimately, there will be 9 members who make it to the final group. Will it be composed of only 3 cells? Or will it be a mix of 9 girls from the cells that make it to the final? Tune in to find out. And tune in to find out how enraged I will be if Yujin doesn’t make it to the group. Or Su Rui Qi or Kawaguchi Yurina. But, like my favorite VIXX song, I’m ready to get hurt again.

(Billboard, Instagram, YouTube[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]. Image via Netflix, tvN)