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?

[Music] Stella Jang

I have a particular fondness for the quiet beauty and witty lyrics (also see “Villain”) in Stella Jang’s songwriting, and as the days grow shorter and colder, I find myself putting her new EP, Stairs, on repeat. All the songs have a gentle hopefulness in between the comfort of watching the sunset with a friend and the feeling of cozying up with a warm cup of coffee on a cool, rainy day. I’m especially fond of two of the songs, “Let’s Go Home” and “Some Days.”

“Let’s Go Home” is light, hopeful, and sunny. The MV shows various characters carrying out their busy working lives before retreating home, rewarding themselves for adulting another day. While some of the characters meet up with friends or venture out to enjoy the sun sinking behind the Seoul skyline, Stella stays home with comfy socks, yummy snacks, and a blissfully lonely beer. The song is peaceful and catchy, hammering home the mentality that there’s nothing wrong with taking a rest now and then (taking note of that one myself).

“Some Days” tells kind of an opposite story. Accompanied by only her own piano playing at the beginning, Stella crafts a story that “on some days, without any reason” there might be loneliness and sensitivity, despite one’s best efforts to practice self-care or be productive. The contrast between the verses and chorus is addictive, and the upbeat, relatable choruses bring a bit of light to the otherwise melancholy song. However, the gentle refrain of “Today’s a pretty good day” coupled with the suspension in the transition makes my heart tighten a little. While the lyrics are happy, the slight bit of dissonance in the cadence of the music gives it very much a “today was hard, but some things made it a pretty good day I guess” kind of feeling.

I’m kind of in love with all of her music, but the way Stella captures these subtle, nuanced hints of emotion makes my heart go squee in a way that feels very vulnerable and down to earth. I recommend checking out the whole EP!

[Idols] Seventeen’s Racy Kimbap and Jaejae’s Excellent Emcee Skills

I live in the tropics and my air conditioning bailed on me last week. Mercifully, it has been replaced, but I ended up with some backlog at my day job, so I haven’t been in the right headspace for dramas or books. Instead, like Janine and Sara, I’ve been catching up with Seventeen content.

I’m a self-confessed lazy ass fan, so I actually haven’t watched most episodes of Going Seventeen. The “Tribal Games” episodes, which bring back popular K-variety games of the past, were an absolute joy to watch. The lip-reading game had me laughing so hard I actually cried. I don’t think I can ever look at kimbap again, regular or nude, without hearing Hoshi‘s hoarse screaming, “The kimbap!!! Is RACY!!!” I also loved how Wonwoo lit up at every movie charade turn because he knew all the answers, and how The8 worked multilingualism in his favour to get Seungkwan to guess an onomatopoeic word that The8 himself didn’t know.

I also enjoyed Seventeen’s MMTG episode tremendously, and came out of it with a lot of respect for emcee Jaejae. Beneath her hearty laughter and overflowing excitement, I could see her sincere respect for Seventeen, and the hard work that she put in to make sure even the shyer members like Woozi and Wonwoo felt comfortable and got to speak up. Seventeen have always been diligent on variety shows, but the safe environment that Jaejae created for them brought out a side that I usually only see on Going Seventeen. Her efforts paid off in how the members were totally at ease, laughing loudly and seal-clapping, tossing around jokes and freely offering up interesting stories to her. I was delighted to find that MMTG features a number of second generation idols, and I’ll be checking out more of the show for sure.

[Groups/News] TXT’s lore, HYBE’s plans

I’m a sucker for groups with ongoing lore and their own universes: first Exo, now TXT. Of course, companies have varying levels of success with these concepts — and half the time I think they’re not nearly as intricately planned out as fans like to theorize on Twitter. Nonetheless, trying to put together all the pieces is a fun task. Last week, TXT (finally) dropped their “Frost” MV, expanding their Star Seeker universe and leaving fans with more questions than answers. “Frost ” is the shortest and least complex installment so far, but it managed to connect previous references to Tteokseom Station and introduce their animal companions. Quite honestly, I don’t know what it all means, but “Frost ” was one of my favorite b-sides, and I have no complaints about steampunk Taehyun and BeomgyuYeonjun‘s perplexing sweater also left a lasting impression. 

However, it appears the lore won’t be limited tolong form MVs and animations. This week HYBE announced their business plans going forward, and it was quite a mixed lot. I first rejoiced when I read that TXT, Enhypen, and even BTS would be putting out their own webtoons that expand on their individual universes. Webtoons are my favorite way to practice Korean and waste time, so combining them with K-pop was a dream come true. I then cringed when I saw HYBE had partnered with both Naver Webtoon and Wattpad— out of all the potential platforms — to make this happen.

Even more concerning was HYBE’s plan to move into the NFT market. Aside from being horrible for the environment, NFTs just don’t make sense for the consumer. It all seems like a cheap ploy. Add digital photocards to the equation, and it looks like HYBE is searching for every possible way to get fans to spend money without having to physically produce anything. Overall, the business plans were frustrating to say the least — don’t even get me started on closing Vlive to move to Weverse — but at least I can read the Star Seeker series and see what Taehyun’s cute little squirrel buddy gets up to in 2022.

[News] HYBE’s plans
— Janine

I have been left out of most K-pop culture-related news for the past few weeks due to work taking over my entire life. I occasionally pushed my head above water to find my comfort k-drama tainted with news of dating violence that has only become more complicated over time. Apparently, there is even more information coming out about it that would require too much mental effort for me to follow. 

I looked up from my computer again, to see that HYBE is again occupied with strange business/publicity endeavors Does anyone else remember that BTS also means “Beyond the Scene“? Am I the only one who remembers that? Corporate initiatives are an ever-evolving landscape of abandoned ideas. I hope and pray that the NFT project will be forgotten soon, for the reasons Chelsea mentioned, and also I don’t want to have to understand anything about NFTs! I am trying to live my best life as a vapid, frivolous adult fan-girl who has miraculously survived a pandemic! I only have one thing to say to HYBE which is the same thing I’ve said to all the dudes who try to explain this to me over dinner, “I do not care to understand the economics of tradeable digital assets.” 

I can only access simple thoughts and emotions outside of working hours so the thing that has brought me K-pop joy is listening to Ikon’s “Killing Me” on repeat. Kingdom: Legendary War is over but the connection I have made to “Killing Me” is forever. I was working too hard when the song was originally released in 2018, during its resurgence in May, and now rather than having an association with a doomed love affair, “Killing Me” is a song that reminds me of long office nights. Don’t start a relationship with a conglomerate, folks, it’s really one-sided.

(YouTube [1][2][3][4][5], image via HYBE)