In the eternal words of Green Day: “Summer has come and past, the innocent can never last, wake me up when September ends.” The melancholy is understandable; gone are the fun sunshine-filled days and frantic nights of summer, replaced with the uncomfortable in-between of summer and fall.
To ease ourselves out of the summer season, choosing instead to focus on that memory of joy in the face of the nearing autumn rain, this month we ask the writers: what was your summer playlist?
Chelsea: To kick things off, summer is probably my favorite K-pop season. While dark concepts have their charm, the experimental and often bubbly tones of summer are an instant energy boost, and I take great pride in curating my “K-pop Summer” playlist on Spotify. When it comes to summer bops, girl groups excel, and this year was no exception.
First on my playlist is Le Ssarafim‘s debut mini Fearless — truly a no skip debut in my opinion — with “Blue Flame” topping my list of played tracks this summer. I like the laid back vibe that Hybe has given the group, and the energy of the album overall helped them stand out for me among a sea of rookie girl groups. Next up is, surprisingly, Kep1er‘s Doublast mini. After a lackluster debut, I wasn’t expecting much, but “Up” was stuck in my head from the minute I first heard it. While the other b sides have some questionable lyrics, the overall energy of the album just feels like summer. Rounding out my top three is NewJeans‘s debut self-titled mini. I’ve already discussed my discomfort with the group, but there’s no denying that “Hype Boy” is truly my 2022 song of the summer.
I’m curious what everyone else is listening to as summer winds down.
Gina: I agree with you, Chelsea, NewJeans‘ debut mini is one of the perfect summer bops this year, and it’s been played non-stop on my Spotify. For me, my favorite track was “Hurt,” followed by “Attention” — though I have to admit that having multiple MV’s for “Hype Boy” has made for a really fun approach, as well as a better way to familiarize myself with each member.
I’ve also enjoyed independent R&B songwriter Summer Soul‘s recent EP release Utopia, followed by its MV for “My World” — a lush, dreamy escape backed up with smooth vocals to lure anyone into cloud nine. The entire six-track EP was created with DJ and producer ROMderful, and together the two of them provide a blissful, sensual escape from the summer heat. Their distinct styles find their middle ground in this production, and they bounce off of each other’s laid-back, subdued wavelengths. Summer Soul has always been a collaborative artist who dedicated EPs entirely to partnerships with other producers, and Utopia is another success in that it keeps her signature sound while expanding on it with fresh new colors. If anyone’s looking for a chill listen to wrap up summer with, Utopia will do just the trick.
Lastly, DPR Ian’s Moodswings In To Order was an unexpectedly great late summer addition. In all its groovy, moody darkness I still found it compelling (and sometimes even relatable) during my own blue moments. While my favorite will always be his first EP Moodswings in This Order, MIITO was a great follow-up production that further expands on Ian’s storytelling journey. “Ballroom Extravaganza,” “Mood,” “Miss Understood,” and “Avalon” are summer gems that perfectly complement a late-night drive.
What kind of releases did everyone else enjoy?
Pat: As I’ve so stated in the recent Beats of the Month, my summer has been filled with tunes from the second generation, with some third generation mixed in. I associate summer with Sistar so it should come as no surprise that their hits (”Loving U,” “I Swear,” “Shake It,” “Touch My Body”) were in heavy rotation. I truly think K-pop hasn’t been the same since they disbanded. All the other songs that have tried to be the K-pop Song of the Summer just…doesn’t hit in the same way.
In addition, SNSD’s recent comeback, “Forever 1,” was joined by their previous hits of “Genie (Tell Me Your Wish),” “Holiday,” “All Night,” and “Dancing Queen,” plus some of their Japanese songs (with “The Great Escape” and “Beautiful Stranger” being go-to’s during my night walks with my husky). While there are some Red Velvet and GFriend in between, a little KARD and gugudan sprinkled in, and, of course, CLC is there as well, most of my summer playlist was from Sistar and SNSD. Yes, even before the respective surprise stage at Sketchbook and comeback.
For me, summer nights are all about something that makes me feel energetic and cozy as I sip some sweet tea that only Texas can make. This is when Rothy’s “Stars” joins IU’s “The Visitor” and “Empty Cup.” When Wheein’s “Pink Cloud” joins Taeyeon’s “LOL” and “Something New.” While I love the energetic tracks for the daytime, it’s all about relaxation in the evenings.
Oh. And Woodz’s Only Lovers Left. Morning, afternoon, and night, Woodz is always welcome.
Qing: For me, this summer was all about the girls, who gifted us with variety and were boosted by great vocal production. I often reached for Nayeon‘s sweet, straightforward bubblegum-pop-based IM NAYEON; the uplifting “No Problem” is my favourite alongside title track “POP!”. WJSN‘s small but mighty single album Last Sequence had all of my heart with its sensual and vulnerable mid-tempo tracks. And like Chelsea, I greatly enjoyed NewJeans’ airy, laid-back R&B/ pop track “Hype Boy”.
While not a summer release, I’ve also been returning time and again to Eric Nam‘s There And Back Again. I shared in our podcast earlier this year that Eric really seems to have found his groove with this album. It’s upbeat but melancholic; the production trains focus on his great vocal range, letting his voice take centre stage, but it also knows when to experiment with vocal filters to underscore the message in the lyrics, like on “Wildfire”.
If there’s anything this summer has shown, it’s that slowly but surely, production choices that don’t cake K-pop artists’ vocals in layers of indiscriminate autotune are re-emerging. It’s about damn time.
Janine: I live in a hemisphere where the weather cycle is running opposite to the Hallyu world so my “summer” playlist is more like a Motivation To Get Through Winter playlist. I’m not sure of the effect that has on my choices — I think I’m drawn to energetic releases that celebrate the excitement of summer and songs with beats that are equally as appropriate as a soundtrack to jumping jacks in the frosty mornings or a drowsy shuffle to a warmer room.
I sometimes use the Seoulbeats Mixtapes as shortcuts to finding new tunes and the Summer Breeze playlist has been a part of my regular rotation for the past few weeks. I can state categorically that hearing the sparkling notes opening WSJN‘s “Sugar Pop” is a blast of warmth on a wintery day.
Continuing with the Nayeon love, “POP!” has woken me up on many a frosty morning. In fact, many of my summer staples have already been shouted out: Sistar, Woodz, Eric Nam, and SNSD are critical elements to feeling warm and happy.
I will mention a few acts that have been making balmy, carefree tracks that I will be dusting off when the weather is warm enough to have a pool party. Moon Jong Up’s debut EP Us is perfect for a warm night. NCT’s Ten and BamBam are another two boy group breakaway stars whose work is suited to the warmer months. I recommend queuing up “Slow Mo” with “Paint Me Naked” for a good start to your day.
Eileen: With the long-awaited return of SNSD with “Forever 1,” Nayeon’s bubbly solo introduction in “Pop!”, and the impressive debut EP from NewJeans, this summer was filled with many fun and lively tracks. Amid all the vibrant releases from girl groups these past few months, Ive’s latest single “After Like” was particularly memorable for me. Though it doesn’t overtake my liking for “Love Dive,” the sparkling disco-inspired song fits well with the playful summer season and the group’s “chaebol crush” image that they’ve developed with their first two singles.
Jo Yuri’s title track “Love Shhh!” and B-side “Rolla Skates” from her EP Op.22 Y-Waltz: in Major were also pleasant summery additions. While her captivating voice really shines in ballads, Yuri sounds just as great in upbeat songs, and I hope she’ll produce even more energetic tracks in future albums.
The last of my playlist highlights is Tempest’s recent comeback. There hasn’t been as much discussion about rookie boy groups this year compared to female acts, but Tempest’s bright and youthful sound feels fresh and helps them to stand out among their peers. “Can’t Stop Shining” and the rest of the songs on their EP Shining Up are a nice follow-up to their high-spirited debut with a lighter ambiance that’s perfect for the summer.