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2022 has started off strong, with many strong performances and concepts. Chloe, Elif, and Sara define what a good comeback is, and discuss the various artists who caught their eye in the first half of the year.

Sara: Per usual, it’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through 2022! These past few months have been chock full of comebacks, so, personally, it was pretty difficult to narrow down my list to three. Whenever I evaluate a comeback, I mostly consider how an artist executed their overarching concept and how their newest era builds on their artistic identity. The title track MV is taken into account, as well as the choreography and styling, but the strength of the album holds the most weight for me.  

This is why (G)I-dle are slotted at number three on my list. I love how they ran with a punk-rock tinged mystery vibe, which carried through their “Tomboy” MV and the rest of the tracks of I Never Die. The production isn’t always the strongest, but it is the most cohesive—yet different—(G)I-dle work so far. I especially love the depth of storytelling that is on full display in I Never Die; it truly feels like you’re watching a noir film as you wade further into the album. 

What are your criteria for a top-notch comeback, and how did (G)I-dle end up on your lists? 

Elif: Indeed, the first half of 2022 has flown by very quickly! Admittedly, I lacked the time to check out many comebacks due to other commitments, so while reviewing, I realized that most of the comebacks I enjoyed were by female artists or girl groups. When I think of a top-notch comeback, I pay attention to the combination of a good track, dynamic choreography and an adequate concept, that completes it all. Therefore, (G)I-dle topped my list.

Their EP I Never Die and with it’s lead single “Tomboy” hit all the right notes for me. I have been a fan of (G)-Idle since their debut, so with the protracted controversy surround Soojin, I had lost all hope for the group. The only thing that could save them was an immaculate comeback, and this is exactly what they delivered. The punkish, edgy appeal works perfectly with the storytelling of the album. The song selection is very cohesive and the members are glowing. 

I see that we all picked (G)I-dle as part of our top 3. What made you go for them Chloe and what makes a successful comeback for you?

Chloe: The first half of 2022 was a bit of a surprise for me in the sense that most of my favorite comebacks also came from girl groups! As an avid fan of several boy groups, I tend to allot most of my time and attention to them, but it’s the girl groups that really caught my eye (and ears) these past few months. 

For me, a successful comeback encapsulates much of the same things both of you already mentioned. In particular, that’s whether the comeback as a whole reflects the artist’s growth while still feeling true to their core concept, the strength of the title track, music video, and album, catchy and innovative choreography, and the members’ or artist’s ability to fit the concept even if it’s more uncharted territory for them (whether that’s through styling, performance, etc.).

I wasn’t as familiar with (G)I-dle prior to the release of I Never Die and the title track “Tomboy,” but this comeback was certainly a great first introduction to the group for me. The punk-rock-emo trend certainly isn’t for everyone, but I thought (G)I-dle and each of the members fit the concept exceptionally well (especially via killer styling) and made it feel true to their group and their larger story. On top of that, the “Tomboy” MV was visually outside-the-box and very eye-catching, and blended seamlessly into the group’s comeback stages on music shows throughout the promotion period. 

Sara, I see that Woodz’s punk-inspired comeback also caught your eye this year! What put him at number one on your list?

Sara: I’ve been following Woodz casually since he released “Different” in 2018, but his Colorful Trauma album made me fall head-over-heels for him! Woodz took me back to summer days and the ‘80s rock my uncle would play in the opening track, “Dirt on my leather,” which made me love the song even more. Plus, “I hate you” and its MV plays so well with the 2000s punk-rock aesthetic while creating something wholly his.

Woodz combines a memorable tinge of humor alongside the museum setting to push the dichotomy found in the lyrics, the anthemic production, and the high collar location even further. In the end, “I hate you” sticks with you, just like the rock influences of the rest of Colorful Trauma (especially “Dirt on my leather,” “HIJACK,” and “Better and better,” which bursts with emotion and shows the softer side of punk-rock Woodz). As you mentioned in your album review, Chloe, Woodz truly is a musical chameleon, and Colorful Trauma is proof of that. 

Woodz may be an established artist, but rookies Ive also are definitely showcasing their many sides! How did this powerful group make it on your list, Elif?

Elif: First of all, I have to say that I am a huge fan of Woodz. Especially his solo debut EP Equal was phenomenal. I enjoyed Colorful Trauma too, but it was not as memorable as his previous works to me. I had a bunch of contenders for the number two spot in my head, but ultimately I went for Ive, because I absolutely “Love Dive!”

It is simple, yet incredibly infectious. The members’ voices blend well together and the echoing “Woo” during the post-chorus is just irresistible. Whether it is the “It’s so good, so bad” or the “Narcissistic, my God I love it,” Ive songs always have these impactful parts, that make me listen to their songs over and over again. What I like the most about this comeback is, however, how well it fits the group. The members are very charismatic and young (Leeseo was born in 2007), so the high-school, sparkly concept is inevitable, but among the groups that do it, Ive really manage to pull it off in a memorable way. They don’t go overboard and keep it quite natural. Another huge factor is their professionalism during performances making every stage worth watching. All in all, for a group that just debuted, they seem to have found the key to creating catchy songs with well-thought concepts. I look forward to how Ive will evolve from here!

Chloe, I can see that Red Velvet has topped your list! As the queens of concept, what were the things you liked about their comeback?

Chloe: As you mentioned, Elif, Red Velvet are indeed the queens of concept, and “Feel My Rhythm” is no better example of that. As I mentioned earlier, I really went for strength and cohesiveness of concept when coming up with my rankings (Woodz and Ive were also both strong contenders for that reason especially!), which is why Red Velvet top my list.

I thought last year’s “Queendom” was a solid return to the scene for the group after a lengthy hiatus, although it didn’t feel as ‘Red Velvet-y’ as their previous releases to me. “Feel My Rhythm,” especially with its hyper-realistic depiction of classical art pieces meshed with subtle hyperpop and fittingly classical musical elements, elegant and dreamy styling, and eccentric sets and editing choices, feels like a necessary return to the Red Velvet we all know and love — only all grown up.

The MV itself is a work of art, especially considering the production and post-production teams’ ability to seamlessly edit and incorporate the live action painting replicas into the rest of its visual elements and overall storyline. I also thought that the rest of the album, The ReVe Festival: Finale, felt nicely connected to the off-kilter opulence of “Feel My Rhythm,” while still offering a healthy dose of musical diversity and some of the group’s best vocal performances to date. Side note: the city pop-inspired “Bamboleo” is easily one of my favorite b-sides from this year so far — Joy’s background vocals during the bridge always scratch the right part of my brain!

Sara, I also loved the concept fellow SM Entertainment artist Suho returned with following his military service. What was it about his comeback that put him at number 2 on your list?

Sara: I loved Suho’s solo debut, Self-Portrait, so I had high expectations for his sophomore project. One thing that stood out about Self-Portrait was the strength of the concept, which allowed Suho to take an intricate look at who he may be as a solo musician. Grey Suit takes the strengths of his debut and pushes them even further.

As I mentioned earlier, execution of a concept throughout the album, the MV, and the artist themselves is my main criteria when looking at successful comebacks. Suho connected the German novel Momo and the Men in Grey to his album about time, love, color, and loss. Not only does the overarching concept deserve applause, but Grey Suit also sees Suho taking some more musical risks. Tracks like “Hurdle” and “Decanting” play a little more with funky basslines and seductive neo-soul textures while also establishing Suho’s songwriting abilities. It is impressive how literary and artistic inspiration bleed into his solo work and how he balances all these elements.

And that concludes my list! Elif, what about Jessi’s comeback captured your last slot? 

Elif: Like I previously said, I had a bunch of contenders for the last slot, but Jessi made the final cut with “Zoom.” Yes, she didn’t release a full album, however the song was fun, bold, fierce and came with a really nice message on top. Additionally, the opening sequence with the dance portion that was all over TikTok was quite enjoyable.

What I liked the most about the song is that she both rapped and sang; Jessi has nice vocals and I always wished she would showcase them more, so this song was in that sense great for me. However, the best part was arguably the central criticism towards all the social media hype and artificiality. Both the lyrics and the video highlighted this quite well without being too serious and still keeping it playful. Particularly, the promotion of unrealistic body standards is something we barely see covered in K-pop, so I appreciated Jessi going there. Jessi obviously has an amazing body herself, but she openly talks about getting plastic surgery and is often exposed to criticism about her appearance.

Whenever I listen to “Zoom,” I enjoy it but simultaneously have in mind that it is an exuberant assessment of the social media craze especially in South Korea. So keeping this in mind, Jessi rounded out my top three!

Chloe: My final pick, Monsta X, were definitely the dark horse in the race to make my list. However, I put the veteran group at number two on my list because their comeback with mini album Shape of Love and title track “Love” felt their most veteran in sound, look, and feel yet, even following 2021’s One of a Kind.

Dazzling, glitzy, and performance driven, the MV for “Love” is without a doubt one of the group’s best to date. Even in the midst of their second comeback without Shownu as he completes his military service, Monsta X still manage to appear whole, and still as powerful and sophisticated as ever, only this time under a funkier, brighter guise.

Similarly, Shape of Love is also Monsta X at their most refined, mature, and surprisingly, their most lowkey. “Love” is surely one of the group’s least hardcore title tracks, but this time, it feels fitting. The rest of the album follows suit, with “Wildfire” and “Burning Up” as particular standouts — both with writing and production credits from Hyungwon, I.M., and Joohoney — a surefire sign of the group’s continued confidence after seven years in the game.

Readers, what were your favorite comebacks of 2022 so far? And who are looking forward to seeing in the second half of the year? Let us know in the comments!

(Youtube [1][2][3][4][5][6]. Lyrics via YouTube. Images via Cube Entertainment, SM Entertainment)