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?
“You are a star, more radiant than the moonlight”
K-pop is such a treasure trove of great songs, that for me at least, it often happens that I’ll have a song I love, listen to a lot, and know next to nothing about. I won’t have watched the music video, seen performances, or know more than passing details about the group who made it. The song probably made it to me through the shuffle feature after I played past the end of a playlist, or through a recommendation from a friend or trusted reviewer. The fact that I never investigated further isn’t because I love the song any less than others, but there are only so many hours of the day. Some songs just remain “that song I really like.”
Such is the case with Astro‘s “Knock,” a track I’ve likely played dozens if not hundreds of times, and which came to me, ironically, thanks to a Seoulbeats review I read as an example piece during my training period here. I think it’s a magnificent pop song, hitting a rare sweet spot between rousing, cheerful, and poignant.
Of course, in light of recent events, the song has grabbed my attention in an entirely different way. A few days ago, with my “most played” playlist on shuffle, “Knock” came on and I was hit with a wave of emotion. That prompted me to go down the rabbit hole of the song in the way I’d neglected to before, so I watched its ethereal music video and impeccable music show stages, and read the lyric translation for the first time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the song’s emotional tenor, the lyrics in particular struck a chord. With every new drop of information, my love for the track only increased. It is as excellent as I thought it was, indeed more.
I have nothing left to say that somebody else can’t say far more eloquently and knowledgeably. But if and when you’re feeling up to it, I recommend “Knock,” a remarkable song brought to musical life by, among others, a truly remarkable person.
Remembering Moonbin, and a Variety Treat from Monsta X’s Minhyuk Pre-Enlistment
April has been a difficult period for K-pop. The sudden tragedy of Moonbin’s passing has cast a shadow over a lot of the current activities that can’t be ignored even though the calendar is jammed with schedules and comebacks. It’s news that is still surreal even if you’ve grieved people like Jonghyun, Sulli, and Goo Hara. It’s never easy and no words feel like enough. I’ve been feeling reflective as a fan who mainly knew Moonbin through his close friendships with other ’98 liners like Seventeen‘s Seungkwan and Viviz’ SinB. I’ll be adding Siena’s recommendation to the queue as I explore Moonbin’s music. We have lost an artist and a beloved person. I have been exploring and remembering his music and work while we mourn his loss, and that has been some solace.
My month has been filled with tears as Monbebe saw Minhyuk off to his military service at the beginning of April. Monsta X‘s new YouTube channel has been a resource for distraction and humour in these trying times. The friendship date episodes may remind viewers of the Inssa Oppa series that starred Hyungwon and Minhyuk in various improv comedy skits as Minhyuk takes on the starring role. The editors and members give him space to shine and really show his personality and capability as an entertainer. Saying goodbye to an idol is always difficult, but as a fan, it’s a comfort to see he is surrounded by people who care enough to give him a proper send-off.
Songs of Hope for Spring from Bol4 and Twice Seventeen
Much like the month in K-pop, my own experiences of April pendulated between joy and sorrow. I received good news career-wise, got to see my close friend’s curious baby for the first time, and eagerly anticipated Seventeen‘s comeback with FML and “Super“. But I also felt shock and grief over bittersweet news from a friend, and over Moonbin’s passing.
Because of the weight of these events, I wasn’t sure if I should share the music picks I’d put together earlier in the month–upbeat, hopeful tunes. But perhaps we all have different ways to grieve, and some readers might like to add these songs to their May playlist anyway. Music can, after all, be a balm or an escape, and not just catharsis.
As Sophie put it so elegantly in the Ready to Be album review, Twice‘s music shimmers with effervescence and celebrates life to the fullest. B-side “Wallflower” is the chic older sibling to “Fancy“. While the latter sees the group putting themselves out there to pursue a crush, “Wallflower” kicks things up a notch by fashioning Twice into self-assured women who are capable of coaxing a shy love interest out of being a wallflower to take the spotlight with them. The production is fittingly laid-back, favouring crisp hi hat synths and only lightly filtered vocals, reflecting Twice’s easy confidence as they take on this active role.
Also an icon of youthful energy, Bol4 and their latest EP Love.zip featured heavily on my April playlist. It contains Bol4’s signature playful acoustic sound, made even more charming by Jiyoung‘s relaxed talk-singing, and her delivery, which is a little grumpy at times, and soothing at others. Though compact, the EP brims with an array of uplifting emotions: playfulness (“Chase Hard Love”), hope (“Friend the End”), freedom (“Rome”), comfort (“Good Night”). And that’s something we need in this moment, more than ever.
(Lyrics via YouTube. YouTube. Image via Fantagio Entertainment.)