That’s right, it’s our favorite roundtable.
The K-pop gods have, for some reason, granted you the opportunity to give a Valentine’s Day gift of chocolate to all the members of your Hallyu bias list. The gods have pulled out all the stops: a spotless industrial kitchen, state-of-the-art appliances, the best ingredients, and access to the expertise of world-renowned pastry chefs.
Except… the gods haven’t pulled out all the stops. There is a restriction: you can only use your vast resources to make only three chocolates. And no, the chocolates cannot be shared. You now have a difficult task ahead of you:
To which three of your biases will you give your chocolate (and heart)?
Siena: In what should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, my first chocolate goes to my undisputed #1 bias, Taemin. It’s not been the greatest time to be a Taemint recently. Enlistment is always a bit odd as a fan, and as a lot of folks probably know, Taemin was recently transferred from active duty to civil service because of worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression. Given the enormous pressures Taemin has been under since his very young debut, it’s not exactly shocking that he’d have some mental health struggles. However, this was not something that had ever been addressed publicly, so for it to come out this way was honestly a bit shocking. But I think all anyone can hope is that this talented man, who continues to bring so much creativity and joy to K-pop, gets all the rest, privacy, help, and time he needs. So, chocolate for Taemin, now and always.
My second chocolate goes to a member of Ateez. But where 2021’s chocolate went to Yunho, 2022’s goes undoubtedly to Seonghwa. It’s all Kingdom’s fault, specifically a blink and you’ll miss it clip of Seonghwa quietly organizing Ateez’s lunchboxes during Kingdom’s field day episode like some exasperated yet loving housewife. As a lifelong mom-friend, I have never related harder to any idol action ever. My Ateez biases change faster than the footwork in “Wonderland,” but for now, Seonghwa and his resting-embarrassed-at-his-group face reign supreme.
Last but not least, my third chocolate goes to another bias-list stalwart, the living, breathing icon known as Sunmi. She just keeps getting better and better. And though I’m now out of chocolates, I’d be remiss not to shoutout K-pop’s most quirkily adorable and recently engaged couple, HyunA and Dawn, in a Valentine’s day roundtable. Congrats to you, you adorable rascals!
Sara: My 2022, so far, has been dominated by Onewe, thanks to the release of their album Planet Nine: Voyager at the beginning of January. A few of my other staple groups have caught my attention briefly, like Seventeen because of the return of Going Seventeen. But if you look at my Spotify On Repeat and my YouTube history, Onewe reigns supreme. So, of course, someone (or someones) from this five-member band gets a chocolate. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, guitarist Kanghyun and bassist/rapper CyA claim two of my three chocolates as my current Onewe biases. (Their songwriting processes and musical skills are mesmerizing!)
Besides Onewe, my life has been overtaken by Astro. Naturally, after watching True Beauty, I figured I might as well see more Cha Eunwoo and learn more about his group, Astro. Except I did not know that main rapper Rocky would steal the spotlight. Seoulbeats’ review of JinJin and Rocky’s first unit album put the “Just Breathe” MV on my radar, and when I finally watched it, it felt like, well, a breath of fresh air! I love the duo’s humorous but relatable storyline, Rocky’s facial expressions, and the energizing choreography. So, my last chocolate goes to Rocky and his ability to make me smile.
Qing: Under normal circumstances, one of my chocolates would go to my clumsy, kitchen-savvy, giant puppy of a bias, Mingyu. But as everyone living the diamond life can attest, nothing is normal when it comes to Seventeen. Maybe it was the general havoc that came with year two of the pandemic, but I found Joshua sneaking up the bias list. With him, even dad jokes and savage remarks are delivered with incredible calm. Contrary to his gentle, composed image though, Joshua is actually quite funny. He had some iconic moments on Going Seventeen 2021, most notably the handmade ping-pong bat emblazoned with “Goodbye” in “Best Friends #1“. Take my chocolate, Shua, and carry on with your needless competitive streak in strange low-stake situations.
On the note of Going Seventeen, I’d love to give my second chocolate to the staff who lovingly caption each episode. Not only must they have suffered through multiple listens of the 13 members’ chaos to pick out what each member is saying, they also slide in the most wonderful references. My favourite instance of this is in “Dive into TTT #3” (at 19:29): when Woozi tries to turn down a drink after losing a game, the members jeer at him with a series of “Ey”s, and the staff captioned the moment “2NE1” for its resemblance to the chorus of “Fire“.
My final chocolate of this year definitely goes to Eric Nam. I’ve been listening to There and Back Again again and again. He’s finally making music that’s true to his voice and sound as an artist, and the album shines with its 2000s pop influences and a sunny, laid-back, yet wistful soundscape. I’ve also been going back to some of his Daebak Show podcast episodes, and I’m appreciating how sensitive he is as a host, always taking in his guests’ headspace and making them at home, whether it’s with a lighthearted jibe or a sympathetic word. Take this chocolate, Eric; I don’t know how else you’d pull through performing more than 50 shows.