In contrast to many other years in the K-pop world, this January felt oddly busy with a slew of standout releases from both veteran artists and young, promising talents, so much so that a single Unsung Artists post doesn’t feel nearly enough to highlight all of the noteworthy tracks. But for the time being, here are some releases that were particularly captivating in January.

B1A4 – “Rewind”

More than two years since their last single, B1A4 made their comeback this frosty month with a cheerful new jack swing song that is anything but cold and bleak. “Rewind” is a lot of fun, incorporating a mix of groovy bass, drums, and synths. It’s a nice addition that fits well in the group’s bubbly discography.

Having been in the K-pop scene for over a decade, B1A4’s longevity is admirable. And the tune conveys the long-held fondness between the group and fans as the members sing of their desires to rewind time in order to meet once again. While the number doesn’t necessarily aim to make a bold statement, it’s still a solid piece and a welcome announcement that B1A4 are back and here to stay.

SF9 – “Bibora”

SF9 is another older act that also returned recently. Though the group is younger and more active, FNC Entertainment seems to have relegated one release per year for the boys, which is quite dissatisfying especially when SF9’s title track for 2024 is astonishingly sleek and addictive. “Bibora” is funky deep house to the core, and the members perform the entire number with style and confidence. The fast pace and bounciness of the bass and electronic beats never wane, helping to create an effervescent sound that is incredibly catchy and tastefully done.

Hopefully, SF9 can break out of their current release cycle because their music is too much of a gem to only enjoy once a year.

Trendz – “Go Up”

Even though we’re still in the midst of the chilly winter season, Trendz’s new tropical house-influenced single “Go Up” is so bright and sunny that it wouldn’t be absurd if you mistook it to be a summer title track. The faint Brave Brothers tagline at the start doesn’t go unnoticed and gives plenty of explanation to why “Go Up” is perhaps the most joyful release to come out this past month. Its synth pluck sounds, robust guitars, and strong vocal arrangement are delightful and ensure that listeners are never bored.

Moreover, the members’ playful energy is infectious and sure to bring some warmth and a smile to your face regardless of how icy-cold January can be.

Choi Yena – “Good Morning”

Though it’s only been a little over two years since Yena debuted solo, she quickly established herself as a colorful pop rock star with a unique charm that only she can express.

“Good Morning” continues this lively sound, combining neon pop-punk and alternative rock to form a slightly dark but still vibrant atmosphere that compliments Yena’s sweet vocals in an interesting way. The tune is bound to give you an adrenaline rush and would definitely be an intense way to wake up if you were to actually make it your morning alarm. Everything about this comeback is oozing with personality, and it’ll be all the more exciting to see what direction Yena will explore in her niche.

Sistar19 – “No More (Ma Boy)”

Sistar are undoubtedly one of the most accomplished acts in the industry with numerous hits to their name. But while their last release in 2017 seems so long ago, the group’s only official subunit Sistar19 haven’t made any new music in eleven years.

As implied in the title, their latest comeback is a continuation of the duo’s debut number “Ma Boy.” Though that track has a classic second/third generation sound, “No More (Ma Boy)” utilizes trendy elements that fit comfortably in today’s generation. The tune could easily be dull and uneventful, but Bora’s and Hyolyn’s performances are splendid as ever as they uplift the song with a familiar mature air that’s sultry and sophisticated.

One can only hope that a summer comeback with the full group is on the horizon.

AB6IX – “Grab Me”

Completing their The Future Is Ours duology, AB6IX have returned with pop rock number “Grab Me.” In their previous single “Loser,” the members conveyed their pain and struggles during times of despair. This time with “Grab Me,” the boys are determined to overcome whatever hardships life throws at them and also offer a message of hope to listeners.

Its optimistic melody expresses its lyrical content well, but its potent synths and guitars give the track a big, soaring sound that really grab your ears. Its post-chorus is likely to have mixed reviews, but it’s certainly an intriguing section that makes the song more dynamic but also doesn’t overstay its visit for those who really dislike it.

“Grab Me” is a nice comeback and follow-up to “Loser,” showing consistency in spite of their past incohesive releases.

TWS – “Plot Twist”

TWS have been a highly anticipated group for some time now. After all, they’re the first boy group from Pledis Entertainment in nine years. Similar to their labelmate Seventeen when they debuted, TWS are bright and youthful with an endearing rookie-like spirit.

Lyrically, “Plot Twist” expresses the awkwardness and fluttery emotions of meeting someone for the first time, just as one would feel when making that first step on stage for a debut. Its composition is a bit unusual with well-developed verses, no pre-chorus, and a relatively short chorus. But even so, the drums, synths, and guitar sounds in the instrumental are a sparkling mix, and the boys’ cheerful energy make for a refreshing tune.

It’s just regrettable that an enjoyable song like this is barely two and a half minutes.

Seola (WJSN) – “Without U”

Since her debut with WJSN in 2016, Seola has considerably developed her musical spectrum with diverse sounds from the group, various units, and several OST tracks. Now, she embarks on another path, entering a new chapter in her career with her solo debut.

“Without U” is distinct from the cosmic sound of WJSN but also not completely unexpected from Seola. Its beginning melody might fool listeners into thinking that they’re in for an emotional and melancholic journey. And while that’s somewhat true, rather than go the ballad or mid-tempo route as you might expect, Seola opts for a subtle yet upbeat pop piece with a wistful acoustic guitar leading the instrumental. The song highlights her voice well and provides a solid foundation for Seola to continue exploring her personal musical color.

(YouTube [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]. Image via Pledis Entertainment.)