Like most Novembers in the K-pop world, this month had no shortage of comebacks — from both seasoned and rising artists on the scene. Jungkook proved he is the “golden maknae” with Golden, his solo debut and also the final BTS member to release a solo project. Fourth generation powerhouses Aespa and Stray Kids brought the “Drama” and the noise in their respective comebacks (on the same day, too). Aespa’s older sisters, Red Velvet, as well, fought for space in this busy month, leaning between their “red” and “velvet” concepts in “Chill Kill.” 

But for now, let’s take a look at some other notable voices who carved their names — and their music — into November 2023. 

Giuk (Onewe) — “Scratch” 

Onewe might be on a hiatus right now, due to the eldest members serving in the military. But that hasn’t stopped their youngest. Giuk — formerly known as CyA — released his solo debut this past April and recently followed up with his sophomore project, Rise Waves.

In the lead single, “Scratch,” Giuk Giuks, essentially. Like many of his songs, he takes a small image or idea and shapes a devastating love story out of it. This time, he uses the word “scratch” and the Japanese movie Even If This Love Disappears From the World Tonight (2022) as inspiration. Beauty and sadness blend together, sharing the same side of the coin, which is only further emphasized in the evocative MV. 

“Scratch” opens with an air of mystery. Giuk moves around a semi-dark room, some light filtering in, while moving boxes are stacked around him. Loss hangs around him when a scrapbook falls in front of him. Giuk flips through it, first pausing on a photo of him and a girl sitting side-by-side. However, as the song begins, watchers notice that the girl’s face is blurred out. 

Giuk reveals the reason for this scrapbook in his lyrics: “Every day, I write it down in my mind that went blank.” His girlfriend — as the rest of the MV seems to suggest — may have passed away, but it is Giuk who lost his memories and struggled to remember this love. To do so, he made a “scratch in [his] soul,” as a way to beg himself to remember. 

Even though the story of “Scratch” is nothing less than devastating, the song’s sound is the opposite of sad. Giuk leans into pop-rock as a unique channel for emotional catharsis, building a place to release those feelings with electric guitars, piano chords, and heavy drum beats. He burns up, fire flaring around him and his band during their music-playing scenes, and lets it all out. The “Scratch” MV concludes with fast cuts, flashing between memories, emotions, and papers flying all over the set. At the end of it all, Giuk is certain of one thing: “I won’t let you go.” 

Weeekly — “Vroom Vroom” 

Unless you count the 2022 single album Play Game: Awake (which featured three tracks), Weeekly hasn’t had an EP-length comeback since August 2021. It’s been a hot second since we heard from Weeekly, so their new ColoRise album is much-appreciated. True to the Weeekly identity, ColoRise playfully combines the words “colorize” and “rise.” Of course, it is hoped that an album with “color” in its title will have, well, lots of color. Luckily, the main track, “Vroom Vroom,” pulls through on that front. 

Besides opening with a shot on the beach, “Vroom Vroom” is Weeekly to a tee. Color and fresh feelings form the foundation of the title song, although the track also has an undercurrent of something else. Something that feels a little like growing up, like seeing the world a little differently and acknowledging it. 

Zoa kicks off this Weeekly return with a powerful line, singing, “Time to be brave.” Together, the six members strike on a path less traveled, deciding to follow their path of their hearts. The pre-chorus sums up the start of this adventure:  

Wherever the road leads, it doesn’t matter in this moment

Draw a one-of-a-kind map

Eyes on you, eyes on me

All the fear melts away

While none of these themes are new, it is refreshing to see — and hear — a car/driving/”vroom vroom” song founded on friendship and carving a new path for the singers. 

The MV brings this focus to the forefront. Even though there are many solo scenes in “Vroom Vroom,” as one does in K-pop MVs, the other members are never far behind. After a solo shot, the camera will pan to another member, who may be moving inside the frame or who may be still, or the camera will zoom out to show all of the Weeekly girls. They have each others’ backs, no matter what.  

“Vroom Vroom” is an easy-listening track emphasizing a “we are free” message. The new release from Weeekly has a summery vibe while also possessing a coziness that is reflective of the cooler months. As we head into the last few months of 2023, Weeekly discovered their footing in togetherness, something all of us can think about, too. 

Kiss of Life — “Bad News” 

Kiss of Life may have only debuted in July, but they are definitely making a splash in the K-pop industry. Having accumulated over 2.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify and garnering 17 million views on their debut MV “Shhh,” the Kiss of Life girls are now back with their sophomore project. In this first comeback, members Belle, Natty, Julie, and Haneul fight for justice and stand up for themselves with deeply-rooted confidence. The album, Born to be xx, features the lead single “Bad News,” which has already drawn near to the numbers of their debut MV in the past two weeks. 

A simple strumming of a guitar begins the song and immediately grabs listeners’ attention. Smooth yet powerful vocals provide additional strength behind Kiss of Life’s story in the “Bad News” MV. Mystery, rebellion, and justice weave their way into the often nighttime or dimly-lit scenes as the four members fight back against people who have wronged them. And Kiss of Life give a warning that something new, something a little different is on its way, singing in the pre-chorus: “Runnin’, runnin’, runnin’, runnin’ / Something’s comin’, comin’, comin’.”

They fight for justice in all aspects of their lives, whether these actions are very public or not. (Viewers are sometimes privy to these scenes through shaky and static CCTV video footage.) From predators who follow them on trains to bullies in schools to even people who disrespect their art while their members stand on stage, Kiss of Life will not accept any sort of harassment. The members go even further, too, standing their ground in a protest where police surround their loud calls and actions. Signs featuring messages like “If not now, then when” and “We Need A Change” on them further underline the members’ own messages in “Bad News.” 

But above all, Kiss of Life gain strength through community. Natty, Belle, Julie, and Haneul may struggle with their own battles, but, in the end, they can come and fight together. Scenes of the girls driving in a car are moments of brightness in the darkness of “Bad News.” Camaraderie and friendship provide them with the strength to always stand up for themselves and others. 

Catch the Young — “Youth!!!”

A debut at the end of the year? Quite the move. But that’s what Evermore Entertainment did with their new boy band, Catch the Young. November 1 marked their debut with lead single “Youth!!!” (yes, there are three exclamation points) and the seven-track album Catch the Young: Fragments of Youth

This name and title track perfectly encapsulate one of the newest groups on the scene and their unboundless energy. We have reached that point where none of the members in the band were born in the ‘90s; maknae, keyboardist, and vocalist Jungmo was born in 2007. The other four members, Namhyun (drummer), Kihoon (guitarist), Sani (bassist), and Junyong (main vocalist and keyboardist), range from 21 to 23 years old. 

“Youth!!!” with its enthusiastic title brings an even more enthusiastic energy. Bright and bouncy synths lay the foundation for this youthfulness, and Catch the Young makes sure to never let go of this energy in the MV. All in all, it is a pretty standard K-pop debut, focusing mostly on capturing the members’ faces and them playing their instruments. There are some sweet moments where the five gather on the beach, having reached their road trip destination, to continue singing “Youth!!!” (and what better way to express “youth” than running around on a beach?). Wide smiles, an abundance of laughter, and, just in general, very good vibes characterize this debut, providing a much-needed energy reboot. 

But what ensures that “Youth!!!” — and thus, Catch the Young — stand out are its lyrics. The five young band members ask, “Are you happy right now?” and “Are you living your life?” By pondering on these questions in their debut track, Catch the Young celebrate their youth and their hard work leading up to this momentous day. They are not stuck on being young, but rather seem to prefer to reflect and learn from the experiences of their youth. With beaming smiles on their faces (because they have reached this moment), they emphasize, “Tear, sweat and toil will always be / the trace of our dreams.” Catch the Young recognize what led them here to their debut, and thus they can say: “Remember my youth.”

Viviz — “Maniac”

As Viviz near their second debut anniversary, SinB, Eunha, and Umji have been carving out their very own dreamy soundscape. Versus comes 10 months after their last comeback at the beginning of 2023. The trio’s new track “Maniac,” which features an understated yet bouncy bass hook, is one of realization. With lyrics such as “A zero-sum game with no answer” and “Icе-cold biting words throw them to be shattered,” the Viviz girls do not hesitate to declare, “This love is maniac.” 

The MV reflects this understanding that their relationship has gone beyond sour — it’s twisted. The first few scenes of “Maniac” feature SinB driving with the roof down, already on the move, while a dusty pink treatment is cast across the shots. Later, Viviz are found in dreamy flower fields, a hazy filter casting a softness on the purples, pinks, and blues. 

Meanwhile, the choreography scenes contrast the rose-tinted glasses look. In fact, it’s as if those glasses came off, and Viviz fully understand the situation they were in. Their dancers wear all black, except for a shock of a pink detail on their wrists. The wide-eyed romantic lens the Viviz girls used to hold no longer exists, and this is only emphasized through their styling choices. Jeans help the three stand out in the center, but their colorful flowered tops link these choreography scenes with their past perspectives. They understand that they had this view, but it has changed now (hopefully for the better). 

Neverending darkness surrounds Viviz and the dancers too, save for a spotlight cast over them. The opening shot of this choreography features Viviz holding onto each other, a line of connection and support with their dancers. Together, they all dance on the pavement, the dotted white lines curving and disappearing into the darkness, while they also move around a jagged crack in the road. Even though the staccato bass line and earworm chorus (“This love is maniac”) gets this track stuck in listeners’ heads, the lyrics and the MV tell a different — yet significant — story. 

YouTube[1][2][3][4][5]. Lyrics via Genius Korea[1][2]. Image via BPM Entertainment.