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.

Big Ocean, Day6, Jinjin, N.Flying, and Onewe Usher in the Changing Seasons
— Victoria

I feel like every year when the weather starts to turn warm and the flowers start blooming again, I rediscover some of my favorite bands: N.FlyingDay6, and Onewe to name a few. The N.Flying drought is killing me while the core instrumental members JaehyunChahun, and Dongsung serve their military service, but luckily for me, Onewe finally released a new EP, Planet Nine: Isotropy One of the songs, “Meteor Shower,” has become one of my most frequent leaving-work-on-a-sunny-warm-spring-day anthems lately. It might not be the group’s strongest release, but it’s still a really enjoyable album.

A total wild card new debut song I’ve been hyping up lately is “Glow” by Big Ocean. The song in itself isn’t overly impressive, but it accomplishes its intended pop candy summer soundtrack sound really well. The bouncy vocals and bass lines are coupled with an ear worm of a chorus and rounded out with tasteful production and synthesized wave sounds (a reference to both the group’s name and also beach vibes.) It also seems worth it to add, while the song is fun and catchy on its own, the members and their mission are a refreshing new addition to the K-pop scene. All the members identify as Deaf, feature Korean sign language in their choreography, and make a conscious effort to include differently abled people in their social media presence as well. They’re still a super rookie group, but I’m rooting so hard for them to succeed in future releases as well.

The last song that I want to give a little shout out for is Astro Jinjin’s new song featuring posthumous vocals from Moonbin, another member of Astro who so tragically passed away last year. The song is a good listen, and getting to hear Moonbin’s vocals for maybe the last time on an Astro release is emotional and, when paired with the message in the lyrics, a motivational tearjerker to say the least.

The Conspiracy Chapter: Hybe v. Ador, & JaeFriends 
— Chelsea

Safe to say most of the K-pop world for the last week of April was caught up with one thing: Min Hee Jin versus Hybe. Not even just the K-pop world, the general public. So much so that Min’s press conference was live-streamed in my office. The line “Can I not have a shaman friend?” will forever be iconic. But it was the Twitter-verse that really kept me entertained as the details unfolded. On K-pop Twitter, the conflict—arguably between two parties that are unlikable and shady in their own way—grew into so much more than a potential coup; it became a conspiracy. 

Within just a few hours of Hybe’s initial statement, every fandom suddenly found their own connection to Min. She became the villain behind G-friend‘s disbandment, TXT‘s lack of promotion (?), BTS member’s tax info and enlistment dates leaking, and of course, the rushed debut of Le Sserafim. I am 1) amazed at how K-pop fandoms can connect invisible dots to make things about their own bias group and 2) how Min lost the sympathy of most of the K-pop fandom while winning the support of the general public. Her press conference? Unhinged. K-pop Twitter? Equally unhinged. And sometimes, I just like to bask in the chaos while maintaining journalistic neutrality. 

I do my best not to buy into conspiracies. But the YouTube algorithm obviously wanted me to think a little harder. So, it autoplayed the K.Will episode of Jaefriends. As someone who got into K-pop at the tail end of second gen, I didn’t realize just how far the two went back — with K.Will being the demo singer for “Hug.” Nor did I know that K.Will was initially under Big Hit and Bang Si-hyuk produced his first album. The episode was fun because I got to learn about all the behind the scenes connections between DBSK and K.Will, and experience the second-hand joy of Jaejoong watching the “Please Don’t…” MV for the first time. But it also ignited that tiny, Twitter-inspired corner of my brain that now thinks Hitman Bang really is everywhere. And now, I might be ready to connect some invisible dots of my own. 

A Chaotic Month for Girl Groups
— Eileen

April has been quite the hectic month for K-pop fans, especially if you casually follow a lot of girl groups like I do.

Kep1er are reportedly preparing their final album to be released in May before disbanding soon afterwards. Of course, there are rumors of a possible contract extension as is the case for many survival show projects. But as someone well-accustomed to these temporary groups, I know that the chances of it happening are extremely low.

Meanwhile, Cherry Bullet and Nature have already officially disbanded. Both were expected but still upsetting nonetheless. I always thought Cherry Bullet had immense potential since their debut, but FNC Entertainment ended up giving them a scarce one comeback per year schedule despite gaining more attention after some members appeared on Girls Planet 999. And while I’m less familiar with Nature, I remember hoping that “I’m So Pretty” would be their breakthrough song when it first came out. “Girls” was also a very interesting release, and it’s disheartening that the group never really took off.

Another act that appears set to disband is Alice with member Sohee planning to leave the entertainment industry after getting married. Perhaps I’m just being pessimistic, but considering their most famous member is retiring and the group hasn’t released new music in over a year, I’m afraid we won’t be seeing an Alice comeback anytime soon.

I’ve also been keeping my eyes on the Hybe v. Ador situation which has subtly reminded me of what happened with Fifty Fifty, and sincerely hoping that NewJeans can continue to promote without any issues in the future.

(Maeil Business News, Naver [1][2], New York Times, YouTube[1][2][3][4][5][6]. Cover image credit Han Myung-Gu/WireImage via Billboard. Images via FNC Entertainment, Swing Entertainment, and WakeOne)