This week brought a lot of tears and a lot of firsts for K-pop. Let’s explore some of these top releases to come out this week.
The Late Jonghyun Returns with Posthumous Album, Poet|Artist
In late 2017, it was revealed that SHINee member and renowned soloist, Kim Jong-hyun died from suicide. After his long battle with depression, the 27-year-old decided to end his life. K-pop fans from across the world grieved his loss and SM Entertainment, the company he was signed with, handled the event as carefully as possible. After receiving permission from his family, SM Entertainment revealed it would release the album and music videos Jonghyun created prior to his early departure. On Monday, the album Poet|Artist was released and included eleven impeccable songs, including the title track “Shinin’.” Many listeners didn’t know what to expect, but were surprised by the happy theme present throughout the album. With barely any ballads or mentions of depression or suicide, it was instead an album asking listeners to dream and hope for a better tomorrow and to never give up.
.In the music video for “Shinin’” Jonghyun can be seen happily smiling and dancing along to the funky, 1980’s inspired beat. He repeatedly tells viewers he would always be with them and that together they are ‘shinin.’ It’s a beautiful message for a beautiful individual who always wanted others to succeed, despite his own inner turmoil. In the end, Poet|Artist will easily be considered one of the most iconic K-pop albums in history, but especially in 2018. Make sure to listen to other stellar tracks like “Grease,” “Rewind,” and the beautiful ballad, “Before Our Spring”(with its own music video, see above).
First Openly Gay K-pop Star, Holland, Debuts with Sweet Music Video “Neverland”
South Korea is known for scrutinizing and mocking LGBTQ people. It’s not the most welcoming environment, and something constantly ‘speculated’ by fans of K-pop idols, particularly boy groups, but one idol decided to embrace his sexuality. Holland put his sexuality as a gay man out in the open to the media and in his debut music video, “Neverland.”
In the music video, Holland can be seen with a male love interest showing off their cute relationship in the living room and in a scenic beach. It’s a beautifully shot music video but seems to heavily rely on this relationship to carry it. While it’s definitely a brave move for this young artist, and a breakthrough for South Korea…the song is lacking. Yes, the instrumentals are beautiful, but it’s his monotone voice which I find pretty jarring against the exciting instrumentals. I’m personally not a fan of his voice, but that’s purely subjective and doesn’t mean he is a weak artist whatsoever. For me, this isn’t a song I would want to listen to, but I admire his courage nonetheless. It’s a song I just find fell flat.
The Groove is Back with Nick&Sammy
In 2017, whether tropical house was heavy and EDM blasted nonstop, this K-pop listener was in need of funky beats and danceable music. Thankfully, duo Nicky&Sammy came with just that in their latest title track, “O.o.O (On or Off),” off of their second EP, When You Were Here. The song begins with rapper Sammy breaking it down while funky bass guitars play in the background. Soon, the smooth up-tempo vocals from Nick come and envelop this song. Back and forth Nick and Sammy mix together rap and singing, while trumpets blare in the background. It’s just a song to get you moving, and that goes for the rest of their EP, too. While none follow the same funky beat, the duo move towards more pop alternative rock with side tracks “Far Away” and “Run Away.” Lastly, “#valentine,” ends the EP with a sweet acoustic track. Although Nick&Sammy only debuted last year, the two show potential to rock the indie K-pop scene and overtake it.
iKON Returns (FINALLY) with Second Album, Return
After only releasing two songs last year, “Bling Bling" and “B-DAY,” iKon made its grand return with its second full album, Return. The name is fitting considering the first album released in 2015 was titled, Welcome Back. For me, Welcome Back was an iconic album delivering hits like “Airplane,” “M.U.P.,” “Rhythm Ta,” and hit after hit after hit. To me, iKon exemplifies what YG Entertainment can do now, has done in the past, and will do in the future. With major predecessors like BIG BANG and 2NE1, iKon has multiple forms of inspiration to pick and choose from and it shows. The group has style, presence, and a bit of a bad boy image to boot. Which then surprised me why the group’s second full album was so…chill. Yes, chill. Get me a reclining chair and some great headphones, and this would be the perfect album to listen to while sipping on some beer.
The album is nothing short of great, but it didn’t leave the same impact as Welcome Back. It definitely shows the maturity of this once immature group and shows their growth over the past three years. The heavy usage of piano and acoustic guitar would shock anybody after listening to "Bling Bling," one of the most "lit" songs of 2017! How could this be the same group?! Now, the boys have calmed down and shown this with its boppy title track, "Love Scenario," a song which took a couple of listens to fully enjoy. For me, it was iKon's sidetrack, "Beautiful," which truly shined and showcased JUNE's naturally low voice (something not commonly found in boy groups).
While at first, I didn't enjoy the album because each song was just too "chill," breaks in between like "ONE AND ONLY," "EVERYTHING," and "SONOSIJAK" kept the album interesting. After two or three listens, I finally understood what iKon was trying to create and excelling in. Ikon wanted to show themselves, and not the flashy clothes, silly lyrics, or dopey exteriors they were . Instead, iKon was unapologetically them and not YG Entertainment or a "younger version of BIG BANG." If this is the sound iKon plans to proceed with, well then sign me up and take all of my money!
Another great week in K-pop music, but which moment was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!
Stay Kurrent. Stay K-pop.