This was the yr that the style actually moved out of Asia and into America – right here’s your information to the most effective Ok-Pop from the previous

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Taylor Glasby

Outdoors of Asia, Ok-Pop has its legions of followers however they’ve lengthy been on the periphery of popular culture, and just about unknown to the broader media and common inhabitants. Flurries of curiosity from the West round teams like Ladies’ Era and Massive Bang had been short-lived, but not one of the artists in query appeared to really thoughts, getting on with being ridiculously profitable of their authentic market and content material with their current worldwide audiences. 2017 appeared to herald a change in that sample, because of elements that vary from social media energy to a brand new generational viewers with a much more open-minded stance than their predecessors.

BTS led the cost, making appearances on a few of America’s greatest reveals, from the American Music Awards to Ellen (and charming the hosts to loss of life within the course of), however behind them, curiosity in Ok-Pop was widening, notably round its male artists. Seventeen, VIXX, Monsta X, and EXO had been just a few who efficiently toured their reveals within the US, Europe and Australia, co-ed group KARD slayed in South America and the large two-day fan conference, Ok-Con, enlarged their audiences but once more, touchdown in Mexico Metropolis and Sydney for the primary time. Subsequent yr will a pivotal one in Ok-Pop’s potential enlargement – however let’s not digress from the 12 months at hand.

There have been the standard disbandments, most notably Sistar and Surprise Ladies, however there have been a slew of debut acts that bolstered the yr. For the boys, A.C.E shook issues up with the hardstyle dance of “Cactus” and Spotlight (the group previously often called Beast earlier than ditching a member and their label) made a welcome return to the charts with “Plz Don’t Be Sad”. Within the ranks of the woman teams, Weki Meki landed a killer refrain on “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” and LOONA, who’re debuting members one after the other, had a stellar yr with the sub-unit ODD EYE CIRCLE, plus nice songs from members Kim Lip and Yves.

Different notables included HyunA’s “Babe”, SF9’s “Easy Love”, G-Dragon’s poignant piano ballad “Untitled”, a clean groove from EXID on “Night Rather Than Day”, and emotive digital bangers from Nu’est W’ (“Where You At”) and GOT7 (“Never Ever”).

Making an allowance for this listing is for idol releases, restricted to 1 tune per group (or artist), and takes into consideration each tune and MV (music video), let’s bounce into 2017’s finest Ok-Pop releases.


If it had been doable to revive the enduring 80s Valley Woman, “We Like” can be the sweet pink, hair-flipping mall rat of a tune to take action. Identical to their decades-old counterpart, dismissed for her vacuousness, so would possibly this tune be brushed apart for its repetitive refrain, which hinges on mere syllables. However, as one among many delightfully bratty moments, it’s a spotlight in a monitor that bristles with confidence. It makes you yearn to affix Pristin’s woman gang – in different phrases, it’s, like, completely bitchin’.

19. BOA – “CAMO”

With a profession spanning twenty years, BoA retains her queen standing with the statuesque “Camo”. Key to its success is respect; regardless of Ok-Pop’s worship of youth, right here every little thing accentuates BoA as she is reasonably than shoehorning her into the most recent business traits. US producers The Underdogs ship stammering electropop that highlights her husky voice and, in a way extra efficiency artwork than pop video, the lyrics’ exploration of inside guises is portrayed through CGI and projections as lovely as they’re thought-provoking.


Inside its first 30 seconds, “I (Knew It)” collars you with the clear crispness of Spanish guitar, predominant vocal Minjae’s arch, poignant supply and the echoing ‘I, I, I’ punctuating all through like a homing sign. However Sonamoo have much more to provide because the refrain involves life, cleverly layered to the place the guitar, trumpet and bass are vivid bursts but permit for Excessive.D to lift it an additional notch along with her higher vary. It’s taken almost three years for Sonamoo to search out this sort of magic, however the result’s entrancing.

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They’re lacking members attributable to controversy (followers boycotting Sungmin attributable to his marriage) and navy conscription (two years have to be served earlier than the age of 35), however the legendary SuJu rally as seven for his or her eighth album in 12 years. “Black Suit” strikes a exceptional steadiness between its showmanship, which hustles exhausting with whistles and toots of brass, and maintaining a gentle course utilizing bass traces from a 90s panorama of post-New Version splinter acts. Its MV is as flashy and efficient as it’s nonsensical and entertaining, however completely caps this long-awaited revival of Tremendous Junior’s charismatic pop royalty.


Twice journey the ultimate loop of 2016’s Twicecoaster album with a repackaging to incorporate the only “Knock Knock”, the place the ominous opening provides approach to a complicated combine that matches the group’s knack for repetition with an instrumental that has a darker edge offset by upbeat vocals. The MV makes use of the bridge to spherical out final yr’s ‘TT’ idea, which dislodges an avalanche of cuteness, and it’s actually not possible to not come away with the “na na na, knock on my door” chorus hooked deep inside your head.


Dreamcatcher’s influences – J-Rock, anime themes, pop rock through Evanescence – are previous, but for Korea’s feminine idols, this lean on squalling guitar riffs and galloping percussion is wholly new. “Chase Me” opens with pop-friendly vocals and tinkling keys, however the refrain gleefully grabs for the throat; tightly packed and sharply produced, it places the women in management visually with a shiny tackle The Shining, whereas lyrically they lead a love curiosity on a futile pursuit. It’s Ok-Pop, however not as you understand it.


In Might, the EDM of “Don’t Wanna Cry” grew to become a profitable step in broadening Seventeen’s repertoire, however their rocket gas mixture of pop and funk, with whipcrack choruses and ebullient brass stays their ace. “Clap”, launched after “DWC”, irresistibly corrals these strengths earlier than including a unclean nice guitar riff, and this more durable model of Seventeen is buoyed by a video so extremely detailed it requires repeat viewings. It too packages up their previous by stuffing it with visible references to earlier MVs, making “Clap” a celebration of their achievements but additionally a succinct departure gate into their future.


For the winners of group survival present Produce 101 there’s a contractually brief shelf life, so Wanna One wasted no time in releasing the fan voted debut single, “Energetic”. With a thoughts to pleasing tens of millions whereas nonetheless showcasing the skills of 11 members, “Energetic” takes a well-known route – a sluggish burn piano opener that elevates into an aesthetic membership thumper with a driving groove which by no means wastes a single beat. Rappers Daniel and Woojin propel the monitor’s center ahead with spectacular drive, leaving Jaehwan’s excessive advert libs to deliver it victoriously over the ending line.


After persistently exploring darkish corners of their flamboyant pop, VIXX step onto new turf, the place future bass meets sweeps of Chinese language zither, their visuals a Zen-like world of lush pastels and flowers. “Shangri-La” is a fusion of opposing forces and delicate steadiness; jagged beats versus opulent lyrics, minimal verses into heavy choruses, and VIXX’s massive vocalists Leo and Ken tempering their showiest moments as Ravi injects his raspy type of rap with a sure tenderness. It’s swish, fashionable and – in true VIXX custom – stands alone amongst its contemporaries, however that’s at all times been the place they shine brightest.


The MV makes you surprise if the tune’s topic – a poisonous relationship – is its solely goal, however whether or not or not it’s a metaphor for girls within the music business it definitely amplifies the sinister environment of world-weary verses shored up by an invasively throbbing bass and Sojin’s rap, underpinned by a guitar line that evokes Slash’s work on Michael Jackson’s “Give Into Me”. “Remember”s energy transfer is the engulfing refrain – it’s a whirl of thumping beats, spoken phrase and excessive notes, however it’s additionally a darkish, unsettling embrace that refuses to let go for a really very long time.


Monsta X’s penchant for prime idea has at all times yielded fascinating, although at instances muddled, outcomes, however with “Dramarama” the video’s conceit of time journey for instance grief inside three relationships creates an emotionally refined, lovely visible. It’s intriguing and alluring not solely in design and cinematography however due to its ambiguity in each context and subtext – a pliability that the tune additionally possesses, for various causes. Whereas final yr’s “All In” was inflexible, opaque electronica, “Dramarama” calmly paces between a solidly funky guitar riff and the smirk of an excellent hook, permitting their particular person signatures (like Kihyun’s vocal acrobatics or Jooheon’s twitchy rap) to be highlighted with palpable ease on one among their most coherent and assured singles up to now.

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It’s straightforward to see Sia’s affect, in addition to references to Frida Kahlo, Lolita, and Thelma & Louise, on Sunmi’s video as she dances, modern type, by means of rooms, moods and outfits, however the deconstruction of the humiliation and heartbreak that comes with being dumped is totally her personal. Ex-Surprise Woman Sunmi’s hypnotic naturalism provides compelling layers to “Gashina”s already candid unraveling of the expertise as she asks ‘why are you leaving me behind’ earlier than rediscovering an virtually brutal confidence. These bared lyrics are sonically stripped as nicely – a panpipe-like synth, easy percussion and bass the one accompaniment on the verses – leaving Sunmi to reel you in along with her vocals, which she does so effortlessly and in seconds, like an invisible harpoon being fired proper by means of you.


SHINee’s youngest member’s solos are marked by sensual vocals and dramatic aptitude, however on “MOVE” the latter is scaled again to tense 80s synthwave that circles with out pouncing. Its reticence is given readability by means of the MV; tune and video full, and exist for, one another as a twin efficiency by which empty streets, expressionless dancers and fantastically fluid choreography demand consideration, however command distance by means of chilly colourations, CCTV and fuzzy VHS frames, and digicam angles which movie like a secret onlooker. For many who discover fascination and frisson within the aloof, nevertheless, the icy beats, teasing builds and the arresting pull of Taemin’s bodily prowess makes for a charming launch.


Seemingly written off after the departure of Nam Taehyun final yr, WINNER turned the tables with the trop-house of “Really Really”, which stands as 2017’s most-downloaded and streamed Ok-Pop tune. But “Love Me Love Me”, regardless of structural similarities to “Really Really”, bounces with irresistible funk-lite rhythms and stretchy disco bass, and the ad-libs, unfastened falsetto whoops, and call-and-response give it a freshness that outlasts their three different releases this yr. The nimble, playful MV, with Instagram Boomerang-style frames, 8-bit graphics and sunshine soaked backdrops, marries a way of spontaneity to the minutely crafted, and WINNER ship it in such a breezy, understated and real means you can’t assist however be caught up within the overriding jubilance.


They solely debuted final yr, however throughout this time they’ve taken big upward strides, beginning 2017 with the fizzy, clever “Baby” earlier than reaching excessive on “Crazy Sexy Cool”, which fully rejects the trop and entice dominating Ok-Pop. ASTRO’s copious charms burn shiny on this MV with a Peter Pan/Narnia influenced idea that performs on their youth even because it unveils their burgeoning maturity as artists and males. It places simplicity on the core, as does the instrumental, however the tune finds enviable sophistication with the vocalists who draw starry melodic traces from starting to finish. Their beckoning verses and candy, crystalised harmonies are counteracted by the group’s two rappers, whose light-hearted supply snaps alongside the funk bass, rounding out a very addictive replace to a traditional pop sound.  

05. NCT 127 – “LIMITLESS”

“Limitless” is a troublesome buyer who presents a like it or hate it state of affairs, and solely dogged persistence in breaking down its stable wall of sound has modified notion in the direction of it being a bit of masterpiece. Some issues stay a given – the synths and rattling percussion are so dense that the second you pry it open, it snaps shut in your fingers, whereas the refrain, regardless of a well-paced construct, at all times kicks in with a shock – however the place that felt disparate, a sinuous thread now beckons, from Taeyong’s oppressive, yawning vocal and Taeil and Jaehyun’s extra angelic tones, to the grandiose layering across the hook. An urgency additionally pulses beneath “Limitless”, drifting into an apocalyptic vibe that the MV, generally uncomfortably, conveys, making your complete package deal defiantly difficult even when embraced.

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They made their title utilising strings and rock guitars as distinctive calling playing cards, however GFriend’s refusal to get sonically caught sees fixed new additions, just like the infusion of early 80s synth on final yr’s “Navillera”. “Fingertip” is, nevertheless, all these components on steroids, getting in weapons blazing on the wah wah guitars, funk bass, and pounding disco, stacked into an unapologetic tower of a tune. GFriend’s vocals are as full of life because the instrumental, bouncing off one another, off the wailing riffs and into one of many yr’s catchiest choruses, and Yuju’s outro advert libs are a drive to be reckoned with. Its MV is as exaggerated because the tune’s presence – astral projection, video video games, cosmic forces – however neither cross the road into the absurd, sustaining a cool, regular grip that makes “Fingertip” gleam brilliantly.

03. EXO – “KO KO BOP”

As one among Ok-Pop’s greatest teams, a idea for every little thing and by everybody jostles behind every EXO launch, and this comeback is not any completely different. However when unhampered by interpretations, “Ko Ko Bop” features in presence, succesful much more of a bodily response than an emotional one. Verses are syrupy with reggae-inspired beats, infused with a languorous warmth by Xiumin, Suho and Baekhyun, specifically, that’s tangible sufficient to really feel throughout your pores and skin, however the post-chorus, nevertheless, smacks like a lead glove, a skittering metallic instrumental emphasised by high-strung choreography on a blacked out soundstage. Whereas it’s uncommon that EXO performs with such an excessive push and pull, from sensual to uneasy and again once more, the visceral expertise created here’s what makes “Ko Ko Bop” exhausting to overlook.  


Crimson Velvet’s singles steadily strike gold and the marginally delirious “Red Flavor”, which opens with the mighty punch of its refrain, fully received the summer season. The members kindle heat on wave-like verses alongside the sprinting and slowing of the instrumental, the place frenetic excessive hats and a dizzying array of clicks, claps, chimes and knocks one way or the other meld by a dynamic feat of association. The eccentricity lent by the mangled chant wobbling behind the vocals is mirrored by a Skittles-bright MV that flips between sassy choreography and the women interviewing big items of fruit, however “Red Flavor” shouldn’t be seen as merely a unusual repair. It’s complicated and intimidating and that it feels so instant and identifiable on the floor is simply emblematic of its greatness.

01. BTS – “SPRING DAY” (봄날)

If 2016 was Bangtan’s crowning yr in Asia, then 2017 has been their rambunctious ascent into the American mainstream throughout which they broke so many information as a Korean pop group that ‘The first K-Pop group to…’ appeared completely appended to their title. In mild of their progress and literal and figurative noise created by “DNA” and “MIC Drop”, the mid-tempo ballad of “Spring Day”, launched again in February, marks the closing of a formative chapter in BTS historical past but additionally stands its floor as a singular triumph.

Like final yr’s “Blood Sweat & Tears”, “Spring Day” makes use of exterior gadgets (Snowpiercer, The Ones Who Stroll Away From Omelas) for instance sure factors, however essentially the most devastatingly evocative moments on this sluggish movement, cinematic panorama of reminiscences and desires are quietly easy, like V listening to the prepare rails or Jimin holding left behind footwear on an empty seaside. It intentionally avoids cliché pomp and drama, perversely compressing into thick bass and piano with a whining digital flourish and mechanical, hissing percussion, all which act like an enveloping airlock. Inside that, BTS are a transparent and magnetic presence; offering the tune’s harmonic thread is J-Hope, with fellow rappers Suga and RM appearing as yin and yang pillars round which the vocalists wind uncooked, lovely traces and a questioning, resigned refrain.

Whereas it’s been a frenetic yr for BTS, and Ok-Pop typically, “Spring Day” hasn’t conceded an iota of energy in with the ability to deeply etch itself repeatedly into the center as an clever, compelling and elegantly restrained research of loss and longing.

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