Okay, we're finally back. And to kick off 2019, we'll take a look back at ten of the coolest (or dopest to use a more fleetingly trendy vernacular) KPop songs of 2018, performed by female artists or girl groups. Now, these aren't necessarily the "best" songs, or even necessarily our ten favorites. Huh? Well, some of them are but no, they're ten KPop tracks and their corresponding videos that someone who's never experienced KPop or thinks they don't like KPop might really enjoy. Even if they won't ever admit it. Something your music nerd friends would like. Maybe.
K-Pop is a single-song-and video-driven universe and most albums are more E.P. length (or mini-album) than L.P. length. And usually, almost invariably, they offer the lead track (often mistakenly called a "title" track) or single, with one, two or three additional tracks thrown in to show a little of the artist's range, the obligatory ending ballad, and often an instrumental version of the lead track. And just like any genre, often your favorite track, the most compelling track is not the single. Singles are foisted forward by the music companies to establish a group or artist's concept more than anything, so often you'll find tracks that show an unexpected side of an act. We're going to drop ten of our favorites on you from 2018.
10. "Metronome" - Weki Meki
Formerly known as i-Teen Girls and renamed, mercifully, sort of, Weki Meki in 2017, this young octet already has three minis to their name, including Lucky, which featured the single of the same name. Easily the standout track, "Metronome" features a future bass sound and an addictive hook.
Thanks to icecreamftcake for the lyrics and Spanish translation.
9. "열기 (9)" - LOONA
Created by a subsidiary of a subsidiary of Ilkwang Group, a South Korean arms trade chaebol, who wanted to create a K-Pop supergroup, but lacking superstars to make up the supergroup, carefully went about the business of creating them, one month at a time, and even creating three subunits before the entire group's actual debut. Along the way, they fostered one of K-Pop's most unusual cult following, the Orbits, and the internet meme, "Stan Loona" (yes, this is them). The group's Korean name is actually 이달의 소녀, or idal-ui sonyeo, which means, "girl of the month." The twelve members came together after one of the most drawn out and expensive promotional pre-debut campaigns in, well, probably ever, and released the E.P., entitled, simply [+ +]. This track, with a sound and feel reminscent of the sultry LOONA girl-crush subunit, Odd Eye Circle, is pronounced "yeolgi" and means, "heat." And with its lumbering, ominous, smoldering, slowly-building instrumental track, it highlights each of the members' diverse vocal styles effectively, peeling them off one at time, then in unison, while it pounds eerily into your mind.
Thanks to Cosmic LOONA for the English translation and lyrics.
8. "Hit That Drum" - Red Velvet
SM Entertainment's elite girl group continued churning out content in 2018, including the sterling repackage The Perfect Red Velvet, and three E.P's, Summer Magic, RBB, and the Japanese E.P. #CookieJar. As usual with Red Velvet, their singles were disruptive and polarizing, surprising and unpredictable, and their albums, completely laden with gems. "Hit That Drum" is a frenetic tribal blast of a song, created by Norwegian K-Pop hitmakers Dsign Music, who've written several RV tracks in the past, including one of our favorites, "Oh Boy" from The Red. Starting with a pounding percussive intro, quickly ensnared in a snarling, growling synth track, "Hit That Drum" features some of the things we love the most about RV, in particularly, their crisp harmonies forged from a diverse quintet of vocal styles, and in particular, lead singer Shon Seung-wan (Wendy) hitting and holding a completely epic and goosebump enducing long note over the bridge. Hit it!
Thanks to • m i n a m o c h i • for the lyrics and English translation.
7. "Twilight" - Oh My Girl
Oh My Girl will forever be remembered in K-Pop annals as the group that gave us the paradigmatic "Closer." Since then, they've had some hits but nothing as masterful, haunting and mesmerizing, despite their obvious vocal skill and undeniable charisma. With their sixth E.P., Remember Me, Oh My Girl included the upbeat "Twilight." The track features a snappy, perfectly timed rap break by the groups dedicated rapper Kim Mihyun (Mimi) and an explosive EDM dance break, led by lead dancer Yoo Shi-ah and Mimi. Here's a live version:
6. "Spotlight" - Pristin V
With Pristin's ten-piece full unit mired in whatever mires performers at the Pledis Entertainment headquarters (see After School, Orange Caramel), the company introduced the quintet subunit Pristin V, featuring leader Im Na Young, lead vocalist and visual Kim Min Kyung (RoA), main vocalist Jung Eunwoo, lead dancer Kang Yae Bin (Rena), and the face of the group and maknae, China's stunning Zhou Jieqiong or Joo Kyul Kyung. The subunit's fierce girl-crush sound netted them a #8 peak on Billboard's US World Charts with the single "Get It" (네 멋대로) but not much else, while the b-side "Spotlight" caught the attention of a lot of international K-Pop fans (as opposed to South Korean K-Pop fans), actually reaching #19 on the aforementioned Billboard US World Charts. We haven't seen much or heard much from them since, and hope they don't evaporate like other Pledis favorites like After School and its priceless subunit Orange Caramel.
5. "Aitai Tai" - Red Velvet
Red Velvet's first Japanese language E.P. #CookieJar featured this peppy gem, composed by MonoTree, who've also composed quite a few tracks for LOONA and other K-Pop groups. "Aitai Tai" or "I Miss You, I Always" is pure J-Pop ear candy electronic with the trademark RV vocal kaleidoscope pierced with shimmering synths. Okay, this is probably technically J-Pop, and it's the second Red Velvet track on the list, but it's addictive enough to include, hopefully.
Thanks to RVHeart Subteam for the lyrics and Vietnamese translation.
4. "Star Wind Flower Sun" - Mamamoo
Vocal powerhouse quartet Mamamoo graced 2018 with three E.P.'s, the first of which was the remarkable "Yellow Flower", which featured this slowly-building and emotional ballad, "Star Wind Flower Sun." Written by the group's leader Kim Yong-sun, better known as Solar, with a rap from their dedicated rapper, Moon Byul-yi, or Moon Byul, the song highlights the groups vocal prowess with a haunting melody.
3. "What's In Your House?" - (G)I-DLE
2018's super rookies were Cube Entertainments sextet, (G)I-DLE, who broke onto the scene with their E.P. i am and a hot single, "Latata." The E.P. revealed a musical maturity perhaps beyond the group's youth, with many of the songs and lyrics co-written by their leader, the twenty-year-old Jeon So-yeon. Our favorite track featured a slick R&B background, sleek, almost whispered vocals, punctuated by one of our favorite rap breaks of the year, and a shimmering middle-eight.
Thanks to Mitknhom for the lyrics and English translation.
2. "Pick Up The Phone" - DIA
The most surprising of this list comes from a group that's relatively languished since their well-received debut after being formed by MBK Entertainment in 2015. DIA, short for either DIAMOND or Do It Amazing, has release several decent E.P.'s since then and their latest was the solid "Summer Ade" which featured the single, "Woo Woo." The most powerful track on the album is this dazzling number, "Pick Up The Phone," bristles with urgency and is powered by towering synths and lead vocalist Lee Joo Eun's pleading vocals.
Thanks to Spring Fairy for the lyrics and English translation.
1. "U&I" - BoA
Our final track comes from the Queen of Korean Pop, Kwon Bo A, or BoA, who graced us with quite a few great tracks in 2018, enjoying a prolific burst of releases, all solid. "U&I" is a dazzler from her L.P. Woman, co-written by two of our favorite indie artists Sumin and Jinbo, along with the Swedish songwriting and production team known as The Family.