What’s the biggest K-pop of June 2017? Let Jeff Benjamin, the K-pop columnist at Billboard, guide you through the best hits.
Ask anyone who’s vaguely aware of the magical world of Korean-pop music and they’ll tell you things move fast. Yesterday’s hit song might be replaced by five new tracks today, only for tomorrow’s chart-topper to swoop in a few hours later. Every month, there are tons of great songs released on the K-pop scene which is why I was inspired to bring Soko Glam and The Klog readers the best that June had to offer.
Just like how The Klog brings its readers the best information on Soko Glam’s hand-picked beauty products from Korea, I’m here to bring you a curated playlist of the best pop music coming out of the country. Some tracks may be catchy singles, others may be undiscovered album cuts, while I’ll always be sure to sprinkle in a few unexpected K-pop gems even the most savvy K-pop fan might have missed.
MAMAMOO, “Yes I Am”
MAMAMOO is one of the trendiest girl groups in K-pop right now, but their latest single proved why their voices could speak louder past catchy soul-pop hits. “Yes I Am” sees the ladies confidently expressing self-love, pointing out and embracing their own imperfections. In Korea’s appearance-driven society, young people hearing a song like this not only can give them an inner confidence to accept themselves, but also makes MAMAMOO relatable superstars.
Monsta X, “Shine Forever”
Ever since I was unexpectedly blown away by Monsta X’s debut track “Trespass” in 2015, I’ve been rooting for the genre-mashing boy band who have truly come into their own this year. “Shine Forever” combines the aggressive-glitchy EDM of latest single “Beautiful” with the punchy and snappy delivery that’s made the septet stand out among their boy-band peers.
Heize, “Don’t Know You”
Singer-rapper’s Heize latest EP titled /// takes the listener through the different stages of a breakup via gorgeous R&B and fascinating rainstorm metaphors. The melancholy groove of “Don’t Know You” opens the record as Heize admits to taking a lover for granted. I’ve also got to give a shout out to the brilliant music video where Heize takes us through the “14 Ways to Lose Your Teddybear” (which may or may not be a Paul Simon reference) featuring an oversized stuffed animal representing her ex in a world of cool blue, green and magenta hues.
NCT 127, “Cherry Bomb”
The various sounds, looks and concepts embraced by the NCT groups are ushering a really exciting age in K-pop with the NCT 127 boys leading the way. “Cherry Bomb” is one of the most experimental cuts released this year with the guys delivering it with some of the most charismatic confidence we’ve seen among the new boy bands. Look out for the guys to nearly do a collective group split at the end of the accompanying music video, which is a must-watch just for the slick choreography.
Despite the weather saying differently, June was apparently the month for rainy-day, lovelorn R&B with Suran also crafting one of the month’s standout releases. While her EP got a lot of love for “Wine” (with BTS member Suga further proving himself an impressive producer by crafting a throwback-inspired hip-hop beat) and “1+1=0” (the Dean collaboration that saw the duo channeling feel-good Pharrell), I’m still enchanted by album opener “Walkin.”
Woozy, twinkling production backs Suran’s doughy vocals as she accepts losing a lover, deals with the accompanying depression and consents to move on with life on as she unconvincingly slurs, “Don’t worry I’m fine” for the kind of emotional delivery everyone’s experienced when we’re trying to feign strength despite how much we’re hurting.
Pentagon is the rising, 10-member boy band that showed how much potential they have to be major K-pop players with the whimsical, circus-themed single “Critical Beauty,” but it was one of their album tracks that truly caught my attention. “Beautiful” recalls the best kind of boy ballad (not too fast or fast, on-point harmonies, and oh-so-swoony vocal belts) by greats like the Backstreet Boys, g.o.d, 2PM, or SHINee. They’ve officially got my attention.
Sons of People, “Never” from Produce 101
Whether you knew about Korea’s sensational singing competition show Produce 101 (quick synopsis: 101 K-pop hopefuls compete for a spot in a temporary, 11-member boy band that’s basically guaranteed a ton of fame) or not, anyone in need of pristine EDM-house-pop should look no further than “Never.”
When the 101 contestants were whittled down to 35, they were split into seven-member boy bands to battle one another with songs made for the competition. “Never” was the clear standout as it topped the charts in Korea and helped the contestants hit new levels in the series. Watch the guys’ performance—led by deserving finalist Hwang Minhyun—and if you want to hear the song without the intense audience reactions and screaming, listen to the studio version below: