October was an action-packed month, and delivered both autumnal mid-tempo greatness plus a surprise rush of exuberant, high-energy dance fare. In light of the recent Itaewon tragedy, it feels like music to uplift and nourish the spirit is needed more than ever. In line with that, we hope these songs can bring you warmth or bursts of energy if you find yourself wearing the weight of the world heavily.
ALICE – “Dance On”
It’s hard not to be moved by underdog stories, and ALICE’s return is one to a tee. Formerly known as ELRIS, the group’s status has been uncertain since early 2020, and they have since undergone extensive rebranding, plus a label switch. This comeback feels especially triumphant given the lengthy hiatus they endured while in limbo.
It’s fitting, then, that ALICE returns with one of the most exuberant, irrepressibly joyful songs we’ve seen this year. “Dance On” is a liquid shot of happiness. The group is in marvelous, self-assured vocal form here, delivering the larger-than-life chorus with glitter-coated conviction that could perhaps rouse even the biggest dance-pop cynic.
What makes “Dance On” so successful is that conviction. If you’re looking for something sonically inventive, this retro-influenced track is not necessarily going to check off that box. Instead, the song squares its efforts on strong vocals and a melody that shines without production flourishes.
The MV is similarly familiar territory. The shots of the members dancing amid sparkles, diners, and tennis courts aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, but does it matter? In an era of music that can sometimes feel too slick and cool for its own good, ALICE prove here that capturing an emotion with verve is powerful. “Dance On” is pop magic.
Jin — “Astronaut”
If you’re seeking a source of comfort, Jin’s “Astronaut” is a balm for tired hearts and chilly nights. The BTS member’s first and only solo release before military service, “Astronaut” is gentle and inviting, cocooning the listener in warmth. The lyrics are heartfelt, with the chorus an invocation of the space of strength and possibility his fans open up for him. “When I’m with you,” Jin sings, “there is no one else…I get heaven to myself.”
This mellow, reflective track takes its time, unhurriedly carrying the listener along the song’s emotional thread. The production is spare, with synths the main accompaniment to Jin’s soothing lower register. “Astronaut” feels the most western influenced of recent K-pop releases, and looking at the production team it’s easy to see why; Coldplay frontman Chris Martin is credited as a co-writer of the song.
A central quality of “Astronaut” is its sincerity, and its commitment to allowing the narrative to unfold without any inclination to stir things up for the sake of it. The MV is focused on simple pleasures, with Jin forgoing the chance of being an astronaut to instead revel in the goodness of life on Earth. It ends with a poignant shot of a card that says “home” next to a drawing of the planet. It’s a reminder that we’re all connected, in more ways than we think.
Treasure – “Hello”
It’s impossible not to smile listening to “Hello,” a song that is such unadulterated, upbeat pop it’s almost shocking coming from YG‘s premier boy group. Bursting at the seams with energy, in “Hello” Treasure deliver the kind of full-throttle experience that has been missing from mainstream K-pop recently, and thus feels vaguely nostalgic, recalling the megawatt sounds of the mid 00’s. The track’s swirling, gigantic synths are practically impossible to resist.
“Hello” succeeds because Treasure lean completely in to the song’s exuberance, sidestepping the usual expectation of boy groups to play it cool. Here they are wholly immersed in the moment, jumping for joy in increasingly colorful sets throughout the MV. As Treasure say “goodbye to loneliness” in favor of beginnings–a “new love” that will make everything bright again–their optimism is infectious.
This indefatigability is what makes Treasure so compelling: even after stripping away the song’s layers of neon and flash, here is a group that seems to wholeheartedly enjoy what they do, and thus sell the larger-than-life nature of “Hello.” When they sing “where have you been all my life?” (the song’s refrain, which will be enmeshed in your memory for days), you can’t help but believe they’re talking directly to you.
DanJerous — “High Five”
If the name DanJerous is unfamiliar to you, you’re not alone. This sibling duo are actually successful Youtubers, who have accumulated quite a following doing K-pop dance covers, especially on TikTok. At the behest of their followers, they took on a new challenge: singing and performing their own K-pop song! With their single “High Five,” they’ve succeeded in spectacular fashion.
The MV, which follows the siblings parodying themselves as they record a dance cover to their own song, is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, pulling back the layers of the creative curtain. “High Five” is bright and joyful, with the refrain “Clap, clap, I do it my way” a rallying cry for us all to join their movement and “high five” each other a little more often. It might seem easy to dismiss this song as mere fun, but the window into the behind-the-scenes efforts of influencers contributing to the K-pop sphere elevates the song beyond that.
Beyond that, “High Five” is, at its core, a reminder of the power and necessity of connection. It all seems to start from the little things, and this song reminds us how those small gestures can be the seed of much bigger, more profound moments, not unlike the story of DanJerous themselves, moving from K-pop dance covers to bonafide K-pop stars.