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 month, what won and made your heart beat?
[Music/Idols] BoA, VIXX, AleXa
My May has been upheld by the second generation. From the news of SNSD’s return prompting me to listen to their hits and watch their concerts, to my reminiscing about f(x) and all that could have been. In Japan, BoA has been on a 10-week project, releasing a new version of one of her hits every week to celebrate her 20th anniversary. From the delicious new version of “Aggressive,” to the sultry “Sweet Impact,” I highly recommend y’all give it a try. Of the songs, “Every Heart” is one I hold close to, well, my heart, because it was one of my favorite anime songs back then, ensuring I never skipped Inuyasha’s credits.
Keeping with the SM Entertainment theme, a news article that absolutely tickled me was a report about how there were tremors along their building. After some surveying done by architects and engineers, it was found that the center of the tremors came from the ninth floor where, you guessed it, the dance practice rooms are located. I guess someone got their Kwangya on a bit too much.
It’s also VIXX’s 10th anniversary so of course I, as the biggest Starlight on this team, have to wave my Byulbit lightstick. I’ve been binging their albums and concerts (Utopia is perfection and you can fight me). I’ve never been upset about stanning VIXX, and will continue to love their music wholeheartedly.
Lastly, I want to say congratulations to AleXa for winning the American Song Contest (aka American Eurovision) with her fabulous “Wonderland!” It’s exactly what i envisioned when I think of a K-pop English release or a K-pop artist participating in Eurovision.
[Music/Idols] Class:y, Jeong Sewoon, TXT
Aside from the return of more established artists, I’m also celebrating how newer artists are reviving sounds of K-pop past. While browsing MVs to feature for Unsung Artists, I chanced upon Class:y‘s debut MV, “Shut Down”, and made a beeline for their EP, Class is Over. They serve up solid dance pop that’s buoyant but slightly edgy, bringing me back to the sound of mid-2010s releases like Red Velvet‘s “Ice Cream Cake“, Girl’s Day‘s “Ring My Bell“, and I.O.I‘s “Crush”. This isn’t the “too cool for you” sound that characterises many a girl crush group’s title track these days; it’s simply cool.
One of Class:y’s b-sides, “Tell Me One More Time,” is very much summer-ready with its brass synths and dynamic melody. Likewise, Jeong Sewoon seems to have skipped straight ahead to K-pop summer; Where is my Garden! is a wonderful mix of cheeky, laidback tracks and upbeat numbers. My favourite song is “Nerdy,” which proudly proclaims the value of being nerdy.
Meanwhile, our favourite moody summer boys TXT continue to dip their toes into noughties music, leaning more into R&B this time. The ordering of the tracks on Thursday’s Child is fascinating. The despair of “Opening Sequence” turns into defiance in “Good Boy Gone Bad“–which, by the way, brings up the image of TXT as snarling puppies–only to mellow down into the resignation of “Trust Fund Baby” and “Lonely Boy”, before ending on an ambivalent, but more optimistic, note with “Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go.” The album plunges and soars in a way that mirrors the roller coaster of emotions TXT have been depicting as core to the adolescent experience. There may not be a second coming of “Anti-Romantic” and “0x1=LOVESONG” here, but I find myself returning to the EP more than TXT’s 2021 albums.
[TV/Variety] Queendom 2
As I mentioned in the April Beats of the Month, Reply 1988 took over my life last month. In order to fill the gaping hole that now exists because I finished that amazing show, I decided to plunge right into Queendom 2. Compared to Queendom 2, neither Road to Kingdom nor Kingdom: Legendary War stand a chance. From the get-go, the six teams (Hyolyn, Loona, Kep1er, Brave Girls, WJSN, and Viviz) brought their best to the introductory performances, showcasing their dance skills and chemistry as teammates. It’s also been refreshing to see Mnet lean into the admiration, respect, and friendships between the different groups versus emphasizing unnecessary drama.
I was not as familiar with these six artists when I started watching, but I can now say for certain that I’ve got a bias in each. And I’ve absolutely been loving the creativity and ambition behind the performances, especially Hyolyn’s (her version of “So What” has been on repeat lately). A concern I had while watching Kingdom was the “more is more” mentality and how it proved to hurt the artists. Not only am I thrilled that the Queendom 2 contestants can perform in front of a live audience, but I’m also relieved to see that having a set amount of space can still produce top-tier stages (shout out to Loona’s “PTT (Paint the Town)” stage, which, unfortunately, did not count because they had all contracted Covid-19 during the first round). I’m very excited to follow where Queendom 2 and the six groups go in the remaining few episodes and beyond!
[TV/Variety, Dramas] Queendom 2, Tomorrow
While I have not had the bandwidth to keep up with each episode of Queendom 2, I’ve been diligently checking out the performance videos from the show. Not every performance has captured my attention, but I was struck by a couple of the stages from the unit section of the show, namely the vocal stage by Viviz‘s Eunha and WJSN‘s Yeonjung and Soobin, and the dance performance with Loona‘s Yves, Choerry, Heejin, and Olivia Hye and Brave Girls‘ Eunji. The vocal stage was a refreshing take on what a vocal showcase can be, opting for soft yet impactful singing over the maybe more expected melodramatic approach, and was an amazing showcase for Yeonjung’s incredible and often overlooked abilities. The dance stage was simply a great performance, cinematically filmed and charismatically performed…and I’m not just saying this cause I’m an Yves bias!
Another TV show, this time a drama, that has piqued my interest but that I haven’t been able to fully commit to is Tomorrow. Because time is not an endless substance (insert sad face here), I wasn’t able to watch all 16 episodes of the show, but I kept up with recaps and did completely watch the final quarter. I think Qing perfectly captures the show’s strengths and weaknesses in her review, and as she notes, it’s definitely not a show for everyone. However, I really enjoyed the parts that I tuned in for, and was moved by the show’s depth of emotional impact and the sheer performance quality on display from its leads. I appreciate a show that is ambitious even if it sometimes falls short, as opposed to a show that doesn’t try for anything new at all. Tomorrow definitely shot for the stars, and though it has its missteps, it is altogether a very compelling watch.