The year just keeps getting busier and busier with comebacks, and June was no different. July promises to be an even more jam-packed month, with last month’s releases giving us a promising taste of the hits that will soon define this summer. 

This month’s Unsung Artists all have the retro-inspired nostalgia that tends to define summer comebacks. “Kick It 4 Now,” “Jump,” and “Touch+” take us back to the ‘90s and early 2000s, while “#menow” and “I Need Love” have a twinge of throwback elements that remind us of music’s more recent past. Each track holds a type of nostalgia perfect for everyone, all catchy enough for at least one to end up on your playlist this summer. 

The New Six – “Kick It 4 Now”

“Kick It 4 Now” may be a whole blast from the past, but it’s also a complete reintroduction to P Nation group The New Six (TNX). Here, the six-member boy group trade their school uniforms and tough exterior prominently featured in their last comeback, “Love or Die,” for Y2K-inspired all-white outfits and a new jack swing track with an old school beat. 

TNX have repeatedly had a knack for nostalgia in some shape or form, but “Kick It 4 Now” easily brings their affinity for the old up a notch. For one, the track’s easy-to-follow, bouncy beat adds to its carefree feel, and the simplicity and repetition of earwormy lines like “Nostalgia, deja vu/I’m comin’ back to you” in the post-chorus undoubtedly harken the track back to first-generation K-pop or even Western boybands of the ‘90s and early 2000s.

What really ties it altogether, however, is the visual elements in the MV when paired with the song itself. First, there’s the choreography. The moves are perfectly on beat, simple, sharp, and big, especially during the chorus and the post-chorus, which is where the group really nails the retro factor. Then, there’s the matching outfits (turquoise jumpsuits, all-white and all-black ensembles) paired with a futuristic stage and other sets more likely to be found in a previous K-pop generation’s MV than the one we’re currently in. But, even though much of “Kick It 4 Now” is inspired by the old, The New Six put their all in to make it feel fresh and new again. 

fromis_9 – “#menow”

Fromis_9, the latest in a long line of “summer queens,” are back with another title track perfect for the season (as with last year’s “Stay This Way” and the previous year’s “We Go”). “#Menow,” which comes from the group’s first studio album, Unlock My World, isn’t their most stand-out title track, but it does cement their knack for the wispy, retro-inspired sound they’ve stuck with across their last few releases. 

While the MV for the track doesn’t scream summer either (the members don black dresses and tights for most of the choreography scenes, which also take place inside an auditorium), the breeziness of the melody, particularly in the chorus, surely does. The members’ vocals are light and airy, sailing over the subtleties in instrumentals behind an even lighter beat throughout most of the track. It’s catchy, bubbly dance-pop to a tee, just as expected for a June release. 

TripleS + (KR)ystal Eyes – “Touch+”

If nostalgia is the name of the game, TripleS’s second subunit, (KR)ystal Eyes, is winning. Another new jack swing-inspired track, “Touch+” is easy-going and straightforward, despite what the many parentheses and plus signs between the group’s name and song title let on. The formula isn’t anything new, and the melodies almost blend together up until the rap break near the end, but the addition of the members’ bright, youthful vocals and the stark beat changeup between the chorus and verses adds an unexpected charm to the song to keep listeners engaged until the very end. 

The MV matches the song’s youthful, upbeat aura entirely, primarily featuring the members at school and in uniform, hanging out in various spots across campus, from the bleachers to the gym to the stairwell. Many of the choreography scenes are framed as the members simply hanging out and singing and dancing together for fun as a means to pass time outside the classroom, which nicely pairs with the relaxed nature of the track. It’s not the most unique of concepts, but it’s surely executed well — especially for a first comeback.

DKB – “I Need Love”

Ah, the good ol’ helipad-as-a-stage backdrop in boy group MVs. It seemingly hasn’t been done in a while, but DKB is bringing it back with their latest track, “I Need Love.” There’s something so nostalgic about K-pop MVs that primarily take place on a blank, white rooftop (or helipad) atop a city skyline, as with many third-generation boy group MVs, and that nostalgia factor comes out in full force throughout this particular MV and track too. 

Aside from the helipad drone shots and choreography scenes (in which the nine members also opt for Y2K matching pink outfits), “I Need Love” has other makings of a summery, laid-back comeback. For the most part, it’s an airy tropical house pop track that also features some beat and production change-ups for a few interesting, albeit unexpectedly intense, moments. The sporadic structure of the track can leave pieces feeling emptier than necessary, as with the pre-chorus, but the chorus puts it all back together, thanks to the catchy repetition of “I need love” and a fuller instrumental backing. Between the tropical house inspiration and throwback visual elements of the MV, DKB has some tricks up their sleeve with “I Need Love” that will hopefully continue into the rest of this summer’s releases. 

P1Harmony – “Jump”

P1Harmony is the latest group to jump on the second-gen-inspired K-pop comeback (a la Enhypen’s latest release especially), but still in their own style and signature sound. Like all title tracks from the six-member group, “Jump” is lively and bombastic from the first click of the button on Soul’s turntable in the MV. The track largely centers itself around its hip hop-inspired moments, although finds itself in the alt-pop genre during its chorus. While the contrast between the two is tricky and can be stifling at times, they still manage to flow between one another freely enough so that the members’ vocals can make themselves known just when they need to (Theo and Keeho in particular). 

The MV has its cheesy moments, but that also adds to its second-generation-inspired charm. This transpires during the chorus scenes especially, in which the members perform the choreography on a small, square stage surrounded by a clearly CGI’d crowd and bright, colored strobe lights. The constant switching between the straight-on, below, and above camera angles during these scenes also adds to the MV’s oddball nature, which in a strange way only makes the track that much more endearing.

(YouTube: [1][2][3][4][5]. Images via MODHAUS, P Nation.)