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?
[Idols/Music] Seventeen’s Attacca Captures the Lightness and Sentimentality of Autumn
The highlight of my week is undoubtedly Seventeen‘s Attacca. I love Seventeen’s music, but their albums aren’t always the most sonically cohesive (notable exceptions are Al1 and You Make My Day), so the diverse yet coherent sounds of Attacca came as a surprise.
It captures the lightness of autumn, with effervescent synth pop (the sweet “To You”) and cheerful, laid-back hip hop (“Pang!”). But it also dips into the sentimental side of the season with the mid-tempo, electric-guitar-laced “Imperfect Love” and the hip hop unit’s raw, melancholic acoustic ballad “I Can’t Run Away”.
Pop-rock-influenced “Rock with you” and Joshua and Vernon‘s punk-rock “2 Minus 1” were extremely nostalgic listens; they remind me of the 2000s teen pop songs that I grew up with. Seventeen have gone bigger and better with rock sounds before (“Clap“, “Call Call Call”), but there’s something very intentionally simple about “Rock with you”, as though it’s not meant to be a hype anthem but rather an uplifting, healing song.
The treatment of vocals on Attacca were murkier than necessary at times–the melodies in “Rock with you” and “Imperfect Love” are over-processed–but overall, the album brought a lot of delight and comfort to me in a tough week. It’s definitely an album I’ll return to again and again.
[Idols/Music/Variety] Seventeen’s Attaca and Variety Charms
If my life last week was consumed by Hospital Playlist, Reply 1994, and the Hospital Playlist soundtracks, this week is wholly dedicated to Seventeen.
Like Qing, I’ve been listening to Attacca on repeat. Although it’s partially because I’m writing a review on the album, I also have found myself gravitating towards these songs. I agree with Qing that there is surprising sonic cohesion, despite Seventeen pulling from a variety of genres. The last Seventeen album, in my opinion, that did this successfully was You Made My Dawn in 2019.
Attacca has a clear story surrounding the “power of love.” The production of each song emphasizes the emotion found in Seventeen’s vocals and their lyrics, which I think helps the album’s overall cohesion. At the same time, it was refreshing to see how the members pushed themselves outside of their comfort zones, like the hip hop unit, who decided to tackle a heart wrenching guitar ballad in favor of their usual aggressive sound.
Since Attacca and I have been attached at the hip these past few days, I’ve also been rewatching Going Seventeen episodes and catching up on their In the Soop season. It’s undeniable that Seventeen has a great group dynamic. It’s impossible to watch anything with them in it without wanting to be a part of their family, too. In the Soop especially shows how there is comfort in being able to rest and eat homemade food with the people who care most about you. Because of this week, I think Seventeen has usurped BTS as my ultimate ultimate group (sorry, BTS; I still love you!).
[Idols/Music] NCT 127’s “Favorite” is Indeed a Favorite
I wouldn’t call myself an NCTzen, but I have a lot of affection for NCT, especially their stellar live performances, intricate choreography, and chaotic variety presence. That being said, it’s been a minute since I was genuinely into one of their songs. Probably the last NCT release from any unit I really enjoyed musically was “Kick It”. So imagine my surprise when I checked out NCT 127’s newest track “Favorite” and found myself instantly vibing. Maybe I just really like vampires?
In reality though, I think what works for me about “Favorite” is that it blends NCT’s signature futuristic experimentation with a stronger melodic presence than they’ve had for a while, at least in a title track. The lush, romantic chorus is such a nice contrast with the staccato rhythms of the verses. It’s worth mentioning that the two new b-sides on NCT 127’s repackage, “Love on the Floor” and “Pilot”, have a similar balance. “Pilot” is also delightfully cheesy and slow-jammy, never a bad thing in my book.
Overall, I find this mixture that NCT 127 has created really compelling, not to mention a nicer way to use their strong vocal line instead of just unleashing them in pre and post choruses. Maybe this is just a one-repackage deal, but either way, I’m very happy with this new trio of “Favorite” (get it?!?) tunes.
So, this week I watched the first episode of Jirisan, a drama set among search and rescue teams that work in Jirisan National Park. It’s not my usual thing, I’m normally a rom-com girl, but writer Kim Eun-hee‘s impressive pedigree (Signal, Three Days, and Kingdom) persuaded me. And it is magnificent. Starring Jun Ji-hyun as Seo Yi-kang, the experienced and feared rescue leader, and Ju Ji-hoon as rookie Kang Hyun-jo, it slams into life, starting with a perilous rescue of a possible suicide in a typhoon. Then it adds the clear immediate camaraderie between the pair, communist messages from the war, Hyun-jo getting visions of stranded hikers, and a sense that Jirisan is semi-alive and not always friendly, and the seeds of a great drama about the forging of bond in a difficult and dangerous job are obvious.
Then, 45 minutes in, Jirisan returns to the present from 2018. Yi-kang is wheelchair-bound, Hyun-jo is comatose, and someone has been using a signal only those two used to indicate the locations of lost hikers, living or dead.
And yet, what makes Jirisan so compelling that the only reason I didn’t watch episode 2 was not that it was 3:30 am, but because it wasn’t available yet, is the writing and the acting. This is a world so real, so lived in, that it almost feels more like a documentary than a drama. No exposition of search and rescue terms or dangers is given; the audience is expected to figure it out or google it themselves. This is an intense supernatural thriller running on show, don’t tell– one line is all that’s needed to make it clear what happened to our leads, because we can see the rest.
I have little doune that Jirisan is going to be eating my brain for the next 8 weeks, and I’m looking forward to it.
[Idols] T-ara’s Comeback!
I’m super excited about T-ara’s upcoming (live??) comeback as a four-member group! It’s been a long time coming since their first 2017 comeback as four, and I’m proud of them for keeping the group strong all this time.
While the K-pop landscape in genre and aesthetics have changed considerably since four years ago, it’ll definitely be worthwhile seeing what direction they go through. Also curious for what kind of sound they’ll go for, considering their wide spectrum so far — from the infamous “Roly Poly” to “Cry Cry” or their best album ever (imo) The Absolute First Album. It would be fun to see them return to a girl crush concept, but a retro concept would also be welcome. Just glad that they are not disbanding, like so many groups within their generation have unfortunately had to so far.
(And lowkey hoping this can be possible for other future up-in-the-air groups such as SNSD, f(x), and maybe even AOA? One can only hope.)