Woah woah woah, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a K-Pop review post on here so I’m back with a new one since there’s been a few new releases this month! It can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming with all that’s going on in K-Pop nowadays so I’m not going to speak on everything and everyone. Rather, here are a few of this month’s releases that caught my ears and my attention:
Starting off, we have J-Hope of BTS who recently released his solo album ‘Jack in the Box’ not too long ago. The album consisted of 10 tracks total and we got two MV releases: one for ‘More’ and the other for ‘Arson.’ I honestly don’t really keep up with K-Pop releases anymore in terms of teasers and I’d rather just wait until the entire album is released so I can listen to the entire thing in one sitting instead of waiting in desperation and excitement. However, I gotta admit that I was actually really looking forward to J-Hope’s solo album. The photo teasers were eye-catching and J-Hope is definitely one of the members in BTS who stands out in terms of his stage presence, energy, and charisma. I think that charisma definitely shines and comes through in this solo album.
ARMYs and BTS fans have associated J-Hope to be the energetic, cheerful, and happy one in the group and it’s an image that has been with him for a long time. I think he wanted to present a different side to himself with ‘Jack in the Box’ and kind of deviate from that image a bit with this album. He wanted to experiment, but also be loud and confident in showing who he is behind that smile and that energy. I don’t think energetic J-Hope and darker J-Hope is exclusive in that he can’t be both or show both sides to him. If anything, I think it only proves how diverse and talented J-Hope is. He can be one and the other. He doesn’t have to just showcase one side to his personality forever.
After listening to the entire ‘Jack in the Box’ album, the stand-out tracks to me were definitely towards the latter end of the album in which ‘= (Equal Sign)’, ‘Safety Zone’, and ‘Future’ were my favorites. I think his decision to pre-release ‘More’ and then release a MV for ‘Arson’ was quite interesting. Those two tracks honestly didn’t do too much for me and it in a way sort of reminds me of his first mixtape ‘Hope World’ when his chosen title track was ‘Daydream.’ ‘Daydream’ ranked towards the bottom in terms of my favorite songs on that album (which doesn’t really say much because I really enjoyed all the songs in ‘Hope World’ lol).
I know that ‘Hope World’ and ‘Jack in the Box’ are two completely different albums that showcases two completely different sides to J-Hope. I’m also aware that one album was released 4 years ago and the other just a week ago. J-Hope has grown and learned so much within that time span so it only makes sense that ‘Jack in the Box’ contains a much more mature, sophisticated, and intense charisma that differs from what we got with ‘Hope World.’ However, I will always have a special place in my heart for ‘Hope World’ and maybe ‘Jack in the Box’ will one day fit in there somewhere too. But for now, ‘Hope World’ is my favorite between the two J-Hope solo albums. Also, here’s to hoping Hobi gets plenty of rest after his solo promotions.
Recommendations: = (Equal Sign), Safety Zone, What If, Future
CHOBOM (A PINK)
With the amount of girl groups that have debuted in the 3rd generation and now 4th generation, it can be easy for older groups like A Pink to be forgotten. The competition is tough and there are strong girl groups out and about in the industry. Heck, there aren’t many 2nd generation girl groups still active. But A Pink is here to prove all of us wrong and they still send us a friendly reminder every once in a while that they are here to stay.
Chorong and Bomi recently debuted as a sub-unit called CHOBOM and released a single album titled ‘Copycat.’ I normally wouldn’t have checked their song out except they appeared on one of the more recent ‘Running Man’ episodes to promote their sub-unit and that was our first preview of their title track ‘Copycat.’ Since the song hadn’t been released yet at that time, they could only perform to a small portion of the song and to my surprise, the track immediately caught my attention. I was in desperate need of the full release.
‘Copycat’ is a cute, bubbly, simple pop song which reminds me a lot of the type of songs we used to get with 2nd generation girl groups. The song actually contains a chorus and the chorus is catchy as hell. It also plays to Chorong and Bomi’s strengths where their vocals aren’t grating in this song. While I could do without the little switch-up towards the end of the song, I liked the track overall and quickly found myself putting it on repeat. Heck, I was already repeating the little bit of the song that we got on ‘Running Man’ so I was excited when they released the entire thing two days later.
While I’m a bigger fan of the song than the choreography, ‘Copycat’ feels refreshing and even a bit nostalgic. It brings me back to the 2nd generation days and even reminds you a bit of A Pink’s earlier concepts during their debut (I sound like such a boomer saying such a thing, but then again, I think I’m getting too old for K-Pop lol). ‘Copycat’ might be underwhelming to some folks, but I like how simple it is. I like that it’s not in your face or I like how Chorong and Bomi actually sound comfortable in the song. It’s also nice to see that sub-units are still a thing in K-Pop. It’s always been a thing and still is a thing, but it again just brings me down memory lane and reminds me of how frequent sub-units used to be (pstttt SISTAR19, Orange Caramel, TaeTiSeo).
It’s crazy to think that Produce 101 was six years ago and that I.O.I. really paved the way in terms of survival groups and survival competitions and all that good stuff (which I don’t watch anymore either because of how rigged it all is or how emotionally attaching it can get). CHUNG HA has definitely risen to be one of the more successful members post-I.O.I. and it’s been interesting to listen to her songs over the years. She debuted with quite the success off the bat after I.O.I. and has been a steady force in the K-Pop industry as a solo artist.
CHUNG HA recently returned with a new album called ‘Bare&Rare, Pt. 1’ which consists of 8 tracks. While ‘Sparkling’ is the title track, I don’t think it was the track with the most sparkle. I understand that the song is very public-friendly which is why it was chosen as the title track, but there were a few other tracks on the album that ranked higher on my list in terms of favorites. ‘XXXX’ and ‘Crazy Like You (ft. BIBI)’ stands out to me, but ironically enough, ‘Louder’ is another song that I really enjoyed (and that song leans more towards the poppier side on the album). I guess when CHUNG HA has delivered hits like ‘Roller Coaster’, ‘Gotta Go’, and ‘Stay Tonight’, a part of you wants her to continue to deliver songs with a similar concept or sound. ‘Sparkling’ isn’t a bad song by any means, but it also doesn’t do much for CHUNG HA who we know has the charisma, energy, and stage presence to do a whole lot more. Her potential is undermined with ‘Sparkling’ and it’s such a shame to see because she’s so good.
Recommendations: XXXX, Crazy Like You (ft. BIBI)
I’m probably the only one in this world who isn’t caught up with aespa given that they’re SM’s newest girl group and darlings. I’ve always been more of an f(x) and Red Velvet gal so I wasn’t all that into the girl group when they debuted (I just learned their names the other day lol). I remember watching ‘Black Mamba’ once when it first came out and then sort of got distracted with other things that I never really went back to check out their other stuff. However, that all changed with their latest comeback in which ‘Illusion’ off of their album, ‘Girls’, caught my attention.
There’s just something about ‘Illusion’ that is so catchy and the choreography to the song is also fun and eye-catching. I’m also a fan of Ning Ning’s voice and she’s the member who stands out the most to me in terms of live performances and stage presence. aespa, as a whole, doesn’t hit it for me just quite yet in terms of that overall group charisma, but I think they’ll eventually get there over time. It feels as if all of SM’s groups feel underwhelming at first, but then somehow, someway, over the years, they improve tremendously and grow to become a group that SM can add to its long list of successful groups (I don’t think I really need to spell out the list but psttt, SNSD, EXO, SHINee, Super Junior).
‘Illusion’ is probably the only aespa song that I’ll be putting on repeat anytime soon, but if there’s anything we know about SM, that probably won’t last for too long. Just like with all their other groups, aespa will continue to rise and succeed and plant their foot in the industry.
When speaking of solo artists, SUNMI is also another artist whose name is often brought up in the conversation. While I don’t think she has yet to release a follow-up song that is on the same level of success, popularity, and impact as ‘Gashina’, her songs since then have been successful in their own ways.
I’ve been in and out with SUNMI’s solo career so I’ll admit that I haven’t been the most caught up with her recent releases. But I have grown fond of the songs which I did check out like ‘Heroine’, ‘pporappippam’, ‘LALALAY’, and ‘Siren.’ With her latest title track ‘Heart Burn’, I decided to give it a listen and now I’m sort of addicted to it.
Off your first listen, ‘Heart Burn’ isn’t flashy and it sure is no ‘Gashina.’ It’s just a simple, laidback song that reminds me of ‘pporappippam’ in a way. But I also like that ‘Heart Burn’ isn’t flashy and loud. It doesn’t need to be and yet can still also be so appealing and relaxing to listen to. What probably stands out more with the song is the choreography. The performance for ‘Heart Burn’ is gorgeous and pretty and proves just how creative SUNMI can be when she wants to be.
Even if SUNMI doesn’t necessarily release another ‘Gashina’, it’s obvious that she doesn’t need to. That song opened doors and roads to her successful solo career and cemented her position in the music industry as a solo artist. One can even argue that she had already hit success with her previous solo tracks ’24 Hours’ and ‘Full Moon.’ Nonetheless, SUNMI’s one of those artists who I listen to every single song. But when I do decide to check in and give her most recent release a listen like how I did with ‘Heart Burn’, I don’t regret it. She’s reliable and solid in that aspect.