キラキラ 

A blog of Trending Asian Pop Music

Underrated K-pop Boy Groups

Ready to move past mainstream? April 29, 2022

It was about time we switched up our posting scheme a bit to include more content! The staff here at KiraKira listen to a lot of Asian pop music, especially K-pop. Of course, most international fans of the genre probably started enjoying Korean Music thanks to popular groups such as BTS, NCT, TWICE, BLACKPINK and other well-known groups; however, while K-pop is often dubbed a genre, pop of any kind is not actually a genre by definition. Rather, it just denotes music that is currently popular which can come from any genre. In this way K-pop is just popular Korean music, so often one can find even more enjoyment in lesser-known groups with unique sounds that match the taste of the listener.

Without further ado, we bring you a list of underrated boy groups and song recommendations from each. Find your new jam today and enjoy being “in the know” with some less popular, but totally worth your time, groups.

ONF – Our fist contender is ONF. While the group enlisted in mandatory military service together, they still have plenty of music that has already been released to enjoy. One unique thing about ONF is that their music videos all kind of exist in the same universe, and sometimes the storyline even builds from one release to the next. Sci-fi lovers will enjoy the dystopian future vibe of the videos and choreography. In terms of their sound the site Everynoise places them close to The BOYZ, SHINee, and ASTRO, but looking at the map they kind of exist in their own little space. Why? Because they have a unique upbeat sound that the other groups don’t capture. The only way I can describe it is fuller and more ambient than other Korean boy groups. The vocals are also very clear by comparison as well (thinking of that little acapella riff they did). Our song recommendations are “Beautiful Beautiful,” “My Name Is,” and “Popping.”

HALO – To be honest we didn’t even know much about HALO, but one of our staff has some of their music in their library. Sadly, the group disbanded in 2019, however they are still worth checking out. While they only have a small number of songs, they have a unique sound. HALO favors an upbeat style that can be encapsulated by the word “bright.” Everynoise places them close to other lesser-known groups such as SECHSKIES, GreatGuys, and DKB. Having a group that continually has a brighter (dare I say cuter?) style in K-pop when so many groups are into trap these days is refreshing, but it might have been what caused their demise in the end as the sound and concept are less mainstream. Our song recommendation is “Maria” which really shows off their happy vibes.

GreatGuys– In a similar area of Everynoise is GreatGuys, a truly underrated group. They have few songs, but they are still active. While they share a similar area to HALO, the differentiating factor in their music is that the instruments come through a bit more. One thing that can be a bit disconcerting is that it seems half their songs are happy and upbeat while the other half have a bit darker trap-pop vibe. If you like both it is great, but if you don’t it can feel like a bit of whiplash to go between the two styles. Our recommendation is from their most recent single. The song “Touch By Touch” is a wonderfully warm song that still has their unique sound. They also have an English version for international fans.

SNUPER– Lastly is SNUPER. While some groups capitalize on the retro sound, none has had better success than SNUPER. The group is on hiatus but not officially disbanded. While overall they have a more average K-pop sound their more retro Albums and EP’s are what earned them a spot on our list here, specifically their 2nd and 4th Mini Albums. The retro sound of “Platonic Love” along with the music video in a 90’s style roller rink was really fun and different. Everynoise places then in a very different area from the other groups here. Also, they are not near any very well-known groups other than 2PM. This makes sense as 2PM was very popular in the Japanese market and SNUPER is as well. They are also placed very near SS501 who you might know from their NCT collaboration. Our recommendations are “Platonic Love” and “유성.”


TEMPEST – Bad News

An Enjoyable 2010's Style Vibe March 16, 2022

A new take on the classics - I came across this song in my YouTube recommended feed. TEMPEST is under Yue Hua Entertainment and made their debut on March 2nd. While the group certainly has a fresh rookie feel, their sound and style are a nod to groups from the 2010’s such as GOT7 and SEVENTEEN.

The music video features the boys dancing in a colorful area covered in graffiti. The outfits are also colorful, and the combination of the outfits, background, and choreography immediately reminded me of “Just Right,” but GOT7. While the video didn’t have a major storyline, I think that the purposeful styling and set creation were a story in and of themselves.

As someone who got into K-pop around 2017 the 2010’s were the era of music I enjoyed and continue to enjoy the most. After GOT7’s disbandment I was sad that there continue to be fewer and fewer active groups with that sound, especially for boy groups since it seems that more aggressive trap and hard rock is becoming popular with newer boy groups. TEMPEST was a breath of fresh air for me with a cute pop concept. My favorite song on the EP was “Bad At Love.” I really liked how it was a pop style song with slight tropical embellishments similar to “Wave” by ATEEZ which is also in my top played K-pop list

Welcome back – I hope the popular sound from K-pop in the 2010’s continues to make a comeback since there are plenty of fans out there that still prefer the more pop centric style. I am curious to follow TEMPEST as they gain more fans to see the age demographic, because while they are a new group, I feel they will be appealing to younger and older K-pop fans alike.


Eric Nam – Lost On Me

An easy and relaxing listening experience January 8, 2022

Calm yet catchy - I usually don't listen to more calm music. I often find myself gravitating to the upbeat poppy song most often, but this song is upbeat yet relaxing and really pulls you in. Eric's vocals are very natural, and the more acoustic instrumentals really pull the song together. The music video matches the vibe of the song perfectly. Kudos to the director because sometimes it can be difficult to capture the feeling of a song like this visually, but this is perfect.

The music video features Eric Nam looking handsome as usual but in a more relaxed loose-fitting style in various natural environments like the beach and a garden. The video is color graded to have a sort of warm sepia-tone giving it a sort of nostalgic comfortable feel. The video is also filmed with a sort of dream filter that overexposes the light in the background giving it a dreamlike look. It is the kind of lighting you might find in some Korean or Japanese dramas. The color grading is quite similar to "The Tasty Florida," however here I think it is actually used to signify how the subject is dreaming and reminiscing about the past as they try to let go and move on.

I would place the song in the "Easy Listening" genre rather than simply pop. You could totally play it in a café, and it would fit the vibe perfectly. Eric's vocals are very smooth and natural, and as aforementioned the instrumental track is more acoustic in nature. It really allows the vocals to stand out. I love when he sings "I'm still findin' sliver linings." His vocals are beautiful, and the progression of the notes is so nice, the way they fall down is almost like we are feeling his emotions fall as he thinks about his bittersweet past love right before the upbeat chorus which could symbolize trying to move on and be happy.

Let's support Eric! – Having watched Eric all the way back when he was still doing After School Club, it is great to see how far he has come. It is great to see him working on his own projects where he can be himself. Make sure to stream or purchase his music as well as listening to his podcasts and web shows! Not only is he a talented musician but he is also a wonderful interviewer and host.


TWICE – Formula of Love: O+T=<3

They are back with their traditional sound...and English December 5, 2021

An album worth a listen from start to end - Usually I review a particular song, but this entire album was so good that I had to mention the whole thing. While the song "Scientist" is catchy there are so many other gems in the collection and almost all of them are new songs too! It was also surprising to see how much English was included.

It appears TWICE is taking a more international approach with this album with the English tracks and the return to their more traditional sound. I feel like the sound is more reminiscent of their music around 2017 when they were releasing hits like "Heart Shaker" and "Knock Knock." In reality that was the sound that got them popularity and it is good to see them return to that style. Another fun thing about the album is that the songs blend nicely together, so you can just set it to play in any order and enjoy. It is rare to find this long of an album where all the songs mesh so well together.

My favorite songs on the album do not actually include the title track. My number one favorite is "ICONIC" It is the perfect mix of Korean and English as well as being such a power song. More hardcore TWICE fans can correct me if I am wrong, but is this the first TWICE song with swear words? I love to listen to it while I am commuting. Do you know how powerful it feels to walk through a train station with "Damn, I got it! I'm iconic!" blasting in your AirPods? Also "CANDY" is such a warm fuzzy song. I could listen to the smooth vocals all day. It is the kind of song I would imagine to have a really cute colorful concept with cupcakes if there were a music video. Lastly, I really like "Moonlight" it has a mysterious, tropical, and upbeat feel. To be honest you can't go wrong with liking any song on this album.

I implore you – Buy this! Buy it now!


Y.M.C.A. – Like you have never heard before!

The song you didn't know you needed. November 12, 2021

A classic with a twist - This song is not new by any means, but it still pops up on social media and at sports meets from time to time. I actually heard this particular version at my school's sports meet and was surprised since I never knew there was a Japanese version of the song...and a disco techno version at that. The original song by The Village People was released in 1978 and a cover by Saijo Hideki was released a year later in Japan with fully Japanese lyrics. This version was then covered in 2017 by Generations from Exile Tribe. Keeping up? Let's just say a lot of covers happened and now we have the latest edition to the Y.M.C.A. club.

Okay, so what is there not to love about the music video? It is bright, colorful, and almost a sensory overload in the best way possible. We have CGI, laser lights, eccentric fashion, sweeping camera angles, hip-hop-esque choreography, and one big dance chorus at the end. If you haven't watched the video yet perhaps you are intrigued enough to take a moment and do so. I think the video does play off the 70's style fashion and colors, but it takes it to a whole new level. To be honest it is a lot to take in, but I am not mad at it at all. In fact, I quite like it.

The song is much faster than the original and has a kind of disco-techno feel. The dance break is very much techno sounding while the song as a whole would verge more on electro-pop. It is kind of hard to place in terms of genre, but it is catchy. The only thing I struggle with a bit is the slight change in the melody of "すばらしいY.M.C.A." when it goes a bit lower than expected so if you are familiar with the original it sounds a bit off considering the rest of the song matches the original melody almost exactly. One thing I would like to mention is I really like the Japanese line "若いうちはやりたい事何でもできるのさ" meaning "you can do whatever you want when you’re young." Something about it just makes the song feel more inclusive of young people in general rather than just young men, but that is just my personal take.

Should you add this to your karaoke list? – Yes, yes you should.


Blue – WONHO

Summer isn't over just yet... October 20, 2021

It's fall...or is it? - WONHO recently came back with a new EP called Blue Letter. The title track BLUE is a summer bop that will have you singing (and maybe even dancing?) along. Let's enjoy the last bit of summer with WONHO. I have seen WONHO's music on my recommendations for a while, but the video and beautiful physical EP were what really caught my attention. The physical EP photobook is wonderful and comes with a poster too and the whole look is supposed to have the feel of a letter due to the EP name being "Blue Letter." If you actually buy photobooks and CD's I recommend getting a physical copy of this one.

I really liked the music video. It has a very nice summer vibe and I personally thought WONHO looked especially handsome in the football uniform. I guess if I could describe the music video in a succinct way I would say it is "if high school musical was football instead of basketball themed." It has a fun "get your head in the game" feel that while sports are the theme it is really more impressive due to the singing and dancing. Also let's be honest, no one is complaining about the lack of a jersey in some scenes, but if I am being honest with myself I think I liked the bedazzled shorts and jersey best. What a look! There was also an aquatic theme video released that was really cute and I liked it just as much as the main music video so make sure to give it a watch.

The song is upbeat pop. It has a slight tropical undertone and a lot of syncopation and percussion throughout. To be honest the background track is mostly percussion and the vocals are what really carry the tune especially in the chorus. The song really shows off WONHO's higher register a bit and even in the higher parts of the chorus his vocals are still very smooth. The bridge fits well but I personally liked the chorus best since it had a smoother feel than the more punchy syncopated (and slightly repetitive) bridge. I also love how the song starts and ends the same way with the syncopated symbols which almost sound like a ticking clock.

So? – I think this song is a bit different from WONHO's other music in the fact that it is a bit more melodic, and I like that. The song, video, and physical EP are all beautiful and totally worth your time.


Life Is Beautiful – ONEUS

Enjoy Summer Vibes with ONEUS September 12, 2021

Summer Pop for All - ONEUS is a lesser known K-pop group, but they are totally worth a listen. Their newest comeback “Life is Beautiful” is a wonderful summery tune that will have you singing along right away. I ended up coming across their song on my new music playlist from Apple Music.

The music video doesn’t appear carry any sort of major storyline or deeper messages, but the director did a wonderful job matching the video to the sound and feel of the song. Everything from the color grading to the outfits and filming locations are aesthetically pleasing. Even though I usually prefer a bit more storytelling, I think this video is perfect as it is and just gives you the good feeling of being happy while enjoying life. The juxtaposition of the beach and gym could symbolize making the most of every day regardless of wherever you are. Overall, the video was a win for me.

The song is the thing that really caught my attention. I knew I would like it from the first few seconds. I hear major parallels to earlier One Direction songs and this song specifically also sounds similar to some of Superfruit’s discography. The song it reminds me of most is Vacation. The chorus is the best part. It is very easy to sing along with. This song was also released in Korean and English. I usually tend to prefer the Korean version of songs, but I think for this single the Korean and English version are both equally good. I was really impressed with how well they made the English lyrics fit the syncopation and cadence of the song while still sounding natural.

Overall – If you area a fan of upbeat pop music or if you were ever a fan of groups like One Direction, this song is for you!


You can't sit with us – Sunmi

Sunmi Back to Impress August 9, 2021

Sunmi Impresses Us Again - Sunmi’s new music video unsurprisingly came across my YouTube recommended page. One thing that really sets Sunmi apart from other artists I listen to is the fact that her music isn’t just catchy, it’s also unique to her. She is able to come back with various concepts, but still maintain a sound that is hers alone. This new song "You can’t sit with us" does just that by combining her sound with a new retro style.

The retro sound is augmented in the video by the ringing phones, but those have been removed in the actual track (which is fine since one can hear the music better). The song is heavier in synths than her usual music, but that’s what gives it the fun retro feel. The chorus is so catchy, and I love how there isn’t any holding back in the lyrics with “You can’t sit with us, oh I hate you…” which is loud and clear and really packs a punch vocally and stylistically. The lyrics appear to be addressed to an ex-lover who messed up and wants to come back and hang out with the friend group. They are in for a rude awakening for sure when they are met with “you can’t sit with us.” The rest of the EP is also just as good. I can’t even choose a second favorite song, but 1/6 and Narcissism are wonderful.

I really like the retro/nostalgic feel to the video with the styling of the bedroom, store, and dresses. The colors really pop, and they did a nice job color grading the video to make it kind of dreamy and faded. I also love how Sunmi’s videos always have a sort of dark undertone (think of her song Noir). The moment when she throws the flower pot out the window, I was not expecting it to fully take out the guy! I also was not expecting the zombies. To be honest I personally hate zombies, so I wasn’t that much of a fan of having them in the video, but I understand the reasoning of portraying an ex-lover who comes crawling back as a zombie. The love is dead, but the person won’t give up. Zombies are a perfect representation.

What To Do Next – Go listen to this EP right now! K-pop lovers will be immediately captivated by this collection of songs, and the average pop listener will also find themselves jamming out to tunes that while being energetic and upbeat are still very easy to listen to.


Permission to Dance – BTS

A New Sound July 11, 2021

Generic Pop (but still fun) - I came across this song on TikTok right after it was released. It was really cool to see how fast the new song spread across social media. As of the writing of this article it is also trending number 1 on YouTube and also hitting the tops of various global charts. It was not surprising that the group chose to do another song in English to reach a global audience, however the song really departed from all of their previous styles.

The song is basically generic pop. In the past even after entering into the US market BTS continued to sing in Korean or keep certain Korean pop elements in their songs. Even songs like Dynamite and Butter had more rap versus and sounded like K-pop even if they were in English. This song on the other hand is just standard pop music. While it is very enjoyable to listen to, it doesn’t sound like BTS. It sounds like One Direction meets High School Musical and the lead up to the first chorus has me wanting to sing “I wanna dance with somebody” as if the writers sampled Whitney Houston. I think the collaboration with Ed Sheeran really came out in this song (maybe more than intended?)

The video was really well done. It features various masked individuals from what appears to be different countries around the world dancing to the song interspersed with shots of the boy’s wonderful choreography. I will say the choreography is unmistakably BTS and maintains their unique style. Throughout the video we see the motif of purple balloons. I think the ARMY (fan group name) color is purple. At the end everyone removes their masks, and the balloons are released into the sky. It seems to be a song of encouragement to keep working together during these hard times of the pandemic so that everyone can eventually be free to fly and return to a normal world. I really like the visuals, colors, and overall concept of the video.

The bottom line - Needless to say, it can be a bit conflicting for some listeners with the new sound, however I am sure it will still be a global sensation. The song is catchy and only longtime fans might be a bit offput but will still probably enjoy the song which has a good message.


Chi Mat Ba Ram – Brave Girls

Rollin' 2.0 Has Arrived July 4, 2021

Rollin' 2.0 - This song came up on my shuffle since I already listen to other Brave Girls songs. I was surprised by how much it sounded like Rollin' and also pleasantly surprised that while it sounded like Rollin' it did have a new vibe. I knew I wanted to share it with all of you as soon as I had a chance to sit down and write on the blog.

The song sounds like Rollin’ 2.0. It is clear that the group played it safe with a song similar to the one that brought them into the spotlight, and to be honest, I’m not mad about it. The lyrics even include “Rollin’ in the deep” which is obviously a reference to their previous song (and I personally believe has nothing to do with Adele). The bassline in Rollin’ really matches up with the background vocals in Chi Mat Ba Ram even though the songs are in a different key. They both have a strong almost forceful chorus that really punches with a heavier sounding bass in the background. In fact, I actually put the songs back-to-back in a playlist and they almost blend together in a good way. Rather than trying to play the new song off as something unique it almost appears to be played in conjunction with Rollin’ and I really like that. Both songs have elements of tropical house music mixed in with more common pop elements. One thing that did surprise me was the similarities between Chi Mat Ba Ram and a lesser-known Japanese artist called TEMPURA KIDZ. The group released a song a few years ago called Cider Cider and the voice clippings used in Chi Mat Ba Ram heavily mirror the style used in Cider Cider. To be honest after listening to both songs I was surprised how similar they are in style. I even got a second opinion from an objective listener who listens to neither K-pop nor J-pop and they agreed that the songs were quite similar. It isn’t uncommon for producers to pull inspiration from lesser known songs and artists and the similarities are uncanny enough that I almost wonder if there was some sort of inspiration pulled from the TEMPUR KIDZ songs.

The music video is bright and colorful. I really enjoyed the visuals. The song not only sounds summary, but the video also backs that up with the visuals of the beach and various outdoor activities. It appears that the video’s message is along the lines of “get out there and enjoy summer.” We see an office environment with sticky notes on the wall and papers on the desk that eventually get blown away and the office gets transported to the beach. I think the message is perfect. Take a break from work and enjoy summer. One thing I did notice was that the video reminded me a lot of TWICE’s Dance the Night Away. I’m not sure why they felt the need to include so many backup dancers in the beach scenes since it makes it look like TWICE. I think it would have been more dramatic and unique to have the girls dancing on the beach alone, but this is a small criticism since overall, the video was fun, colorful, and just made me think of eating fruit and ice cream on a hot summer day.

Final Thoughts - If you were a fan of the Rollin’ craze, you have to listen to this song too. I recommend putting this in a playlist back-to-back with Rollin’ to enjoy a fun summary vibe that just keeps going. Also, those who are fans of tropical house music would probably also really like this song. Certainly add it to your playlist if you get the chance.


Sneakers – Ha Sung Woon

A Song For Pride Month June 27, 2021

A Covertly LGBTQ+ Supportive Song - I’m sure there are people who will disagree, but I really do think this song was made in June to celebrate pride month, but as with most Kpop songs it is not overtly gay, but with a bit of analysis one can clearly see the messages of support portrayed. I ended up coming across a TikTok showing the MCB music performance of this song and was immediately interested because the choreography was interesting. Many commenters were also saying there were references to LGBTQ+ support so I had to check for myself.

The song is bright and summary. It is certainly pop, but more along the lines of ambient pop. I am really not sure where to place it in the spectrum of pop or even Kpop. It has similarities to The Boyz music. It reminds me a bit of mixing together “Keeper” and “Boy.” The song lyrics talk about running and breaking free from entrapment. We can clearly see this in the lyrics when he sings “My tired heart was trapped in a golden cage without a break.” The song also seems to have references to Greek mythology. The lyrics “Sneakers with wings, spreading my arms and going higher, take me away with the dazzling light,” This would appear to refer to Talaria of Mercury the flying sandals of the messenger god Hermes. I was curious if Hermes had any sort of LGBTQ+ connections and after a bit of quick research it does appear that Hermes had both male and female lovers which might also forward the speculation about the songs message.

Watching the video made me more firmly believe that the song was for the LGBTQ+ community. The video fades in with a shot of a boarded-up door with a lock. We see Ha Sung Woon sitting on a couch eating snacks and drinking beverages, but it seems he can’t be satisfied with the food or drinks that run out before he can consume them hinting at being unfulfilled. He gazes at pictures of a forest which could symbolize mystery and the beyond (also mentioned in the lyrics). As he searches for another beverage, he comes across a rainbow pair of sneakers. By putting them on he is transported into the forest where he can run free. This, to me, seems to symbolize that when he can fully express himself, he becomes free and fulfilled. If LGBTQ+ individuals can safely express themselves, they also feel free. It is also important to take a look at the filters used for the different locations in the video. The light when he is inside is dark and faded…almost nostalgic. Sometimes people withdraw to the safety within themselves, but still long to express their true feelings. Eventually he tears the boarding off the door to run out of what appears to be almost like a bunker built into the side of a hill. After he exits, he dances freely around and even on top of the concrete structure symbolizing overcoming the barriers that were confining him. I also think the rainbow shoes and hair are very purposeful. The album cover also features a much more predominant rainbow.

The verdict - This song is very fun and upbeat. It is perfect for summer. The fact that it features rainbows so predominantly and had many references to concepts associated with the LGBTQ+ community it certainly appears to be a song made in support of Pride. With the Kpop music industry being more conservative it is not surprising that all of these signs are coded and won’t probably be obvious to people who are not LGBTQ+ listeners; however, it is still very thoughtful and heartwarming. I think viewers can determine the message for themselves, but it is certainly possible to interpret the song as a message of support for sexual minorities.


riBBon - BamBam

Former GOT7 Rapper Making His Solo Comeback June 19, 2021

An intriguing mix of styles - As a big fan of GOT7 I was heartbroken by their disbandment, but at the same time I knew that the members would all come out with their own unique music. I was really excited when I saw BamBam was releasing his own solo EP. I found it through the premier of the riBBon music video on YouTube. The song is unique, and the video is colorful and fun.

The title track on the EP is cleverly named riBBon capitalizing the two “B’s” for BamBam. It has a vaguely Latin beat. It almost sounds a bit like bachata. If you don’t believe me, take a listen to Dile Al Amor by Aventura. One can clearly hear some similar elements. It is almost as if we took Paper Plane by NCT127 and mashed it together with bachata and then sprinkled a bit of the GOT7 Present: You album on top. The song is overall chill and gives off a relaxing vibe. It is certainly something nice to put on in the background while studying. The song lyrics are a mix of Korean and English. I am sure this is because BamBam’s primary fanbase is in Korea after being part of GOT7, but I would really love to see him come out with some songs in Thai now that he has more creative freedom. He has a large fanbase in his home country so I think it would be completely feasible and fun. It is also interesting to note the lyrics “See a better version of my side. I’m like a feather now I feel so light” could be a nod to the fact that he is starting a new chapter of his life and being reborn as an independent artist with more freedom to express himself in his work.

To be honest I liked the music video even more than the song. I’m not sure how much BamBam was able to control, but the aesthetic of the video really matches BamBam’s colorful eclectic style. He appears throughout in various floral and bold suits. The video clearly blurs the lines of what is stereotypically masculine even for Korean idol standards. While it is generally accepted in Korea that even male idols wear makeup and care about their looks the different poses throughout the video don’t conform to what we see from typical male idols. I think the shot that stood out the most was of BamBam crawling like a cat which does not evoke typical constructions of the masculine image even in the Korean pop culture scene. The music video also clearly focuses on standing out and being different as we can see in the scene where BamBam sits in the middle of the backup dancers all clad in pink and in the same position while he turns around to sing wearing midnight blue. The chess board motif is rather hard to unpack as it could refer to being controlled by a company that he has now overcome, or it could be metaphor for trying to navigate life. Whatever the case, when we follow our hearts and do what we want (breaking the rules of the game) we become happier and like a ribbon floating in the breeze. A ribbon is such a perfect choice since it can be something that ties things down, but when untied can float freely, so it’s up to us to untie ourselves from social convention.

My final thoughts - If you are looking for something that verges a bit off of the traditional K-pop path, but still maintains some of the key characteristics of popular songs and artists this release is for you. I also really hope people take time to think about the meaning behind this song and video because it is not simply fun to listen to but also thought provoking as well, especially when the song is paired with the visuals of the music video.


Don't Fight The Feeling - EXO

Funk Makes Another Appearance June 12, 2021

Danceable Funky K-pop - This week EXO released a new special mini style album. I happened to be browsing YouTube and noticed it was trending and just released. I don’t listen to as much EXO music, but I am a big fan of their song “Power” and often use it to wake up when I am tired. What surprised me more about this release was not the title track, but how much I loved the special album as a whole. I don’t often listen to whole albums, but these songs all fit together so nicely. Also, if you stream on Apple Music the cover art is animated which is kind of fun. If you purchase the album on Apple Music you also get the digital photobook which is cool.

The song is hard to describe in words alone. The first word that came to mind while listening was “groovy.” Perhaps one could describe it as funk inspired pop fused with house music. I think what makes it so funk sounding is the heavy bass. It is not distracting, but it really fills out the audio giving the song a very warm feeling. I think it is clear that we can see similarities to the new NCT127 release with the beat especially with the light syncopated pre-intro followed by a more danceable beat and fuller sound. I also notice nods to BTS with their release of Butter which also had a funkier sound. Every so often there are musical trends that sweep the K-pop scene and funk seems to be the current obsession. About a year and a half ago it was Latin beats and style. As I mentioned before I am also a fan of the other tracks and not just the title track. I highly recommend listening to the whole album in the order intended since it feels like one long and wonderful song. I think “No Matter” was my second favorite track.

In terms of the video the overall style was nice and aesthetically pleasing, but there didn’t seem to be much of a story or message at all, or if there was it wasn’t super deep. The video might have been made more to show off the highly polished choreography, but similar to my critique of NCT127’s new release where there wasn’t much of a message. At least in the NCT video there seemed to be some messages about ecology and saving the environment, but in the new EXO video it just seems like cool choreography paired with flashy images of space and industrial futuristic elements. I personally prefer music videos with some sort of story or message so the video was a miss for me, but EXO fans will certainly enjoy the choreography and styling of the boys.

The bottom line - I would recommend this release specifically for the music. It’s not often I like to listen to a whole album, and I rarely purchase my music these days in favor of streaming, so an album I like in full and actually purchased should be enough of an indication of how great this release was. Even though the video wasn’t too in depth it was still enjoyable. Overall, I would recommend this to K-pop lovers from any fandom.


Save - NCT127

A Collaboration with Amoeba Culture June 5, 2021

A collaboration that mixes NCT127's old and new sounds - I am a long time NCT127 fan. I love all of the subunits of NCT (including WayV since they are 100% a part of NCT). Amoeba Culture is an independent label and according to Soompi the lyrics of the song focus on "saving valuable aspects such as love, Earth, memories, dreams, and the future." The song has a mix of the newer NCT heavier trap sound mixed in with more vocal aspects. The video is very futuristic and does a nice job blending natural elements with technology.

We can clearly hear trap elements in the song and the song is a strong nod to Fire Truck. If you listen to both songs back to back you can really hear the similarity especially with the bass, but rather than go for a pure trap sounding song they added in more vocals. This is more reminiscent of their Superhuman mini album if one were to generalize the sound of the songs on that album as a whole. Yet, the song still adds in a bit of that edginess we can feel in the newer NCT songs like gimme gimme which verges on dubstep (of which I personally was not a fan). This new song will probably please listeners from any NCT127 era or any NCT subgroup since it really plays on elements from everything and overall even though it is trap-esque it still would overall fall more under the more general pop umbrella. One element I do really like is the recitative "save you save me save our memories" that is spoken throughout the song keeping the beat. Also the distorted voice that starts the song is just fun and make the song instantly danceable.

In terms of the video I think it perfectly matches NCT's aesthetic. I don't think it particularly feels like NCT127, but as for the "Neo Culture Technology" idea it works perfectly. I really like the future Star Wars style look to the video that is paired with plants here and there to bring in this idea of synergy created between nature and technology. In fact we can think of NCT in this way. Music, a part of nature, is mixed with technology to create something entirely new. There also seems to be a sub-theme of environmental activism. I think that the group appears to be using music to save memories as well which is kind of a cool way to think about music as a carrier of history and memories. The video has elements of "saving" such as save buttons and data chips. My only critique is that there isn't much of a story being shown in the video rather than just symbolic elements with the dance. I think the lyrics of the song could have easily made for a story type music video where they boys save someone or something or do some sort of time travel, but overall I was still pleased with the video.

My recommendation- I think all NCT fans will like this song and I think it is also less trap and dubstep sounding compared to their newer music so it will appeal to a much wider audience in general. If you like upbeat pop music in general this one is for you. I hope to hear more songs like this from NCT127 in the future!


Action - CHAI

Alternative Japanese Pop Music that's Outside the Box May 30, 2021

A group that purposefully defies the rules of J-Pop - My best friend introduced me to this group after she read about them on the New York Times Instagram page. The group is called CHAI and they have four members who's goal is to subvert the concept of cuteness in Japanese culture. To become music sensations is an even more bold way to do this considering that most female Japanese music groups play off of a cute aesthetic. Think of groups like Morning Musume or AKB48 that dress in cutesy outfits, use high voices, and really play off of the kawaii culture. On the flip-side you have CHAI. They are still cute, but in their own way that isn't defined by the current rules. One of the first things I noticed is there seems to be a bit of a nod to Yami Kawaii, a fashion movement which roughly translates to "sickly cute." Rather than use traditional concepts of kawaii fashion it employs motifs of pain and sickness with a sugarcoated cuteness. Yami Kawaii uses things like syringes as jewelery or might subtly include patterns or motifs related to sickness or pain such as guns or blood, but the overall concept of the fashion still follows the rules of normal concepts of kawaii.

The song has a sort of funk foundation with a lot of recitative phrases placed over top of the beats and base. One thing is for certain, the song is not overtly melodic, but it certainly isn't just speaking or rap. There is also a fair amount of purposefully used autotune to distort the girls voices so they become another instrument rather than the main focus. Of course a listener will probably focus on the voices, but there is so much more in terms of the beats and other layers of instrumentals and percussion. The first time I listened to the song it reminded a lot of Perfume's Speed of Sound which has a similar concept of seemingly nonsensical lyrics with vocals used as an instrument rather than a focus. I would really love to know if Mana, the member who creates the group's music derived any inspiration from Nakata Yasutaka who produces Perfume's music, but also has a more electro-alternative style for his personal group Capsule. The song may or many not be aimed to be played at clubs, but they way the beat is constructed it would be very easy to mix in a club environment. Whatever the case the more you listen to the song the more you want to keep listening.

As for the music video it features the members with the lyrics of the song written, printed, drawn, and pasted on their bodies. They show the parts of their bodies, or at times other objects with the correct lyrics in time with the song. The music video is very postmodern in style. The style portrays how our fragmented words and actions can come together to create art. The video also seems to play off of labels and body image as the lyrics literally label the girls' bodies. We get an arm here, a leg there, sometimes a hand and we don't know who's appendage is being shown almost like we have to build the person ourselves from fragments we see. This could be seen as having them be part of the music, or it could also show how society labels any and everything it can and it is up to us to construct a positive or negative meaning from these fragmented labels. I still notice some elements of darkness in the overall happy video. The fragmentation almost feels slightly like EXID's Up & Down music video that combats the objectification of the female body and in the video conjoins parts of the member's bodies in odd ways that makes the viewer purposefully confused and slightly uncomfortable. I can't quite put my finger on it but there is something almost necropastoral about CHAI's music video but instead of necropastoral it's like necrokawaii. Cute with a dark twist. (Those teeth in the video are just a bit disconcerting, the filter used is slightly muted, the writing on everyone's body make the viewer question the more happy surface of the song.)

My recommendation- Listen to this group if you want to think and subvert traditional societal concepts. CHAI is clearly working hard to show how we don't have to be confined to the boxes created by society and the music industry. Lastly, I was surprised to find that the artist had left a note under the music video. It certainly forwards the postmodern theory, however it seems to also focus more on individual happiness and breaking away from the norm as well. Thus I leave you with a message from the artist...

“The world as we know it has changed,
but even with that, it's still a world where nothing really changes.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if there more ACTION rooted in happiness?
Be the change that you want to see!...
I'm going to be the pioneer in seeing the world I want to see, meeting the people I want to meet!
We start off by expressing the fun in ACTION with this music video♡
Why don't you join us?!
It's that type of song♡”


Touch By Touch - Great Guys

Colorful Upbeat Kpop May 23, 2021

Happiness packaged into a song and video - I found Great Guys through an Edward Avila interview. The group was very relaxed and funny. I was especially drawn to Horyeong who is quite humorous and outgoing. When I head their song I also liked it as well and wanted to review it here so more people could get to know this wonderful group.

The sound and visuals of the song go well together. When listening to the song alone it certainly sounds like K-pop, but when paired with the visuals I got some Japanese pop music vibes with the pastel suits and the focus on vocals and harmonies. Those small sections really remind me of U-Kiss and their Japanese Action album. Other than those small sections the song is very much Kpop, but much more along the lines of SNUPER. The song as a whole reminded me of SNUPER's song Plutonic Love with a slightly less retro vibe. However, I think we can still feel some retro vibes from this song as well.

The music video consists of the members at a carnival and also in a reflective structure reminiscent of DDP. I love the pastel suits. Even though that concept is not super original in the Kpop scene for boy groups I feel like the group gives it their own style. From the Avila interview they also mentioned that the girl at the beginning is Russian and her mother translated English to Russian to guide the girl on stage directions which is interesting. There is also a multi-ethnic cast for many scenes and I think the goal of the song and video are to promote coming together which is really wonderful. There is also an English version of the song and video. I was very impressed that they re-recorded the music video and lip-synced to the English lyrics.

My recommendation - This song has a great message about coming together and you can tell the group put a lot of work into it. I recommend checking out this group not only for their music, but also for interviews and other clips since they are a lot of fun in general. I think that is the beauty of Kpop. When you look past the surface groups that are most popular it is possible to find gems like Great Guys!


Butter - BTS

Bruno Mars Meets Kpop May 22, 2021

A funk inspired pop sound I would be remiss not to review the latest BTS hit. They have done it again with an easy to listen to song just in time for summer. It certainly embodies the direction they have gone with their most recent works and as much as long time fans might have qualms with the fact that it is geared toward a more international audience no one can deny the fact that 3.89 million people streamed the YouTube premier and as of this post the music video has been viewed about 98 million times.

The sound of the song is as the title of this post mentions...Bruno Mars meets Kpop. I personally like Bruno Mars and Kpop so I am happy with this sort of punk pop fusion going on. It might be jarring for long time fans considering the fact that BTS started out as a hip-hop/rap group, but I think overall this sound appeals to a wider audience and also shows their ability to cover many different types of music effectively. The track was only released in English as of now, and the pronunciation is on point too.

The music video feels very similar to their other most recent works like Dynamite and Boy With Love. It features bright colors and a bit of purposeful over-saturation. The dance choreography is in great synchronization as usual, but is not as visually complex as some other Kpop idol style choreography. The hair styles are a nod to more vintage looks, but Junkook's purple hair was a total win for me.

Would I recommend this song? I think this is the perfect Kpop song for summer as well as for any newcomers to the Kpop scene. Less adventurous (read American) listeners will like the more western style pop sound and English lyrics, but world wide listeners will appreciate how the song still maintains a Kpop sound especially with the rap verses and colorful well produced music video that few other artists could rival.


MUỘN RỒI MÀ SAO CÒN - SƠN TÙNG M-TP

Exemplifying the feeling of late nights, May 16, 2021

The song perfectly captures the feeling. This song was trending on Japanese YouTube and as of this post still holds #26 on trending music. The song is in Vietnamese and talks about a one sided love that keeps you up all night, and when you do fall asleep you dream about cuddling with that person. The lyrics are warm and fuzzy on the surface with a slightly melancholic undertone which is exemplified by the music.

The sound of the song is unique and I think the only song I can equate it to is "Instagram" by Dean. Not so much in how it sounds but more so in how it feels. I was really impressed by the emotions the song was able to make me feel. I really had that exact feeling of staying up late at night thinking about someone. Somewhat happy...somewhat melancholy. It is a song I could actually listen to at night to calm down.

The music video is well done. It is interesting that it is in a 1:1 ratio. Not so common, but not unheard of. I think the style fits with everything in the video being rather square possibly symbolizing being stuck inside a box. I absolutely love the paper cutouts of buildings with the lights that flicker on and off. The paper town reminds me of Perfume's "Nee" music video. The video along with they lyrics seem to portray how one-sided love is happy in some respects but has an underlying loneliness.

Would I recommend this song? Yes I would! I think that it is a song you can listen to while relaxing. Not only does it conjure up emotions, but it also is just nice to listen to. As someone with a lifetime of one-sided loves the song also really resonated with me too.


เพื่อนเธอ (Just Friend?) - BOY SOMPOB

Angelic Voice Sompob, May 8, 2021

King of Thai Original Soundtracks If you have watched enough Thai media you have probably come across BOY SOMPOB. He is well known for singing many theme songs for TV shows including the popular Love By Chance series. Not only are his songs fun to listen to, he has the voice of an angel.

The song focuses on the vocals with light ethereal acoustics in the background. One thing that listeners will notice is how smooth Sompob's vocals are. He can belt out clear notes with seemingly no effort. The song does have some common undertones with other Thai pop music especially being more vocal, but it also stands out in its own way. The song is far more melodic than other Thai pop music on the market especially if it is compared with pop groups like SBFIVE or even more classic hits like กระดุ๊กกระดิ๊ก.

For the music video, I watched the live version which is just Sompob singing with live instrumentals. Despite it not being a performance style video, I think it fits the calm vibe of the song and again shifts the viewer's focus to the vocals rather than the video itself.

The bottom line...If you are new to Thai pop music, start here. It's calm, melodic, and easy to enjoy.


Guilty - BULLET PINK

The new song trending in Japan, May 4, 2021

They're trending and yes, they are boy band! I came across BULLET PINK on TikTok and thought they were a legitimate new girl group debuting, but after watching the music video I recognized Takuya Kusakawa (六角 祐太) from seeing him in a TV drama. It appears that this group is a kind of promotional stunt by the parent company, Stardust Promotion, INC. I'll give them credit since it is a unique way to advertise. I was also impressed that the members took it seriously and in the end made a fun music video that can be seen as a commentary on both gender and the "cookie-cutter" feel of the idol industry. This might not have been the intention, but it does make a nice commentary.

As for the song itself the verses hint at a more typical J-POP style vibe and are almost just recitative with the chorus pointing more toward a more K-POP sounding style. This appears to be becoming more and more common in Japanese pop music, especially with idol groups. I really enjoy the random English comments like "You're so sexy" and "You suck" that come right before the chorus giving the song a very playful vibe.

In terms of the music video it really gives me a G-Friend or Apink feeling (not simply because of all the pink), but it has the sweet innocent look with a twist. Even just the style of the outfits mimic that sort of look that many Korean girl groups use in their more cutesy videos. Provided Japanese female idol groups also use this style and have for many years, but this video is much more reminiscent of K-POP overall which isn't surprising considering the influences of the hallyu wave on music world-wide.

The bottom line...Would I recommend this song and group? Yes! They are cute and something totally different from anything I have seen up until now and the song is catchy and a nice fusion of Japanese and Korean pop music sounds.


Born To Be Wild - JO1

Is it J-POP or K-POP? May 1, 2021

Whatever the case it's catchy! I found this song through an advertisement on TikTok so it is clearly being heavily promoted by the company, however it is not uncommon for albums or singles to get advertising in Japan. The song caught me off guard since I thought it was a K-POP group because of the dance in the music video as well as the song itself. The advertisement also focused on the part of the song that was most like K-POP. This is not surprising since even in Japan K-POP sells very well especially with the younger demographic.

The song sounds very much like K-POP, in fact it sounds quite similar to "Super Human" by NCT127. After listening to "Born To Be Wild" I went through my library since I knew it sounded like something I had heard before and I was actually shocked by the similarity after I listened to "Super Human" again. The songs both start with a sort of acapella harmony and then add in a deep bass beat. Overall the song sounds like a Japanese inspired version of "Super Human." This is not a bad thing by any means since the song is still quite unique and is not a copy by any means. I think it will sell well here in Japan for sure since it embodies what the younger market likes about K-POP, but does it in a Japanese style.

The music video looks like K-POP. If you asked ATEEZ to do an NCT "Touch" concept you would end up with this aesthetic. Even the styling of the idols looks to be emulating K-POP as well with their outfits and hair colors. I do really like the kaleidoscope parts since I think that adds uniqueness to the video. The production value seems quite high as well with good camera angles and color. I also couldn't get over how smooth everyone's skin was! The video could also serve as a sink-care ad if the company desired.

The bottom line...Would I recommend this song and group? I would certainly recommend this group both K-POP and J-POP lovers alike. After listening to some of their other songs I can say they have a unique sound that actually makes them stand out in both markets. I also listened to "Shine A Light" and was impressed with the K-POP/J-POP fusion vibe.


Rollin' - Brave Girls

A Classic That Made a Comeback April 28, 2021

Did you listen to this before it was popular? K-POP veterans are surely flexing their clout at this moment. "Rollin'" by Brave Girls was released March 7th, 2017 and didn't gain much traction at the time. In fact it was more famous for being a popular song with the military since the group had performed it it for a number of military benefit events and it had simply stayed in that realm for a period of time until those videos were recently popularized on the Internet. Due to the spread of these videos the song has become a chart topper four years after it's release which is quite uncommon.

The song is energetic and danceable. The original version, which is the most popular, has an electro style sound and is very smooth overall. My favorite part is the synthesized portion right after the chorus. It just has such a happy and upbeat sound. Of course, anyone can easily sing along to the chorus as well which makes the song easy to enjoy for speakers of any language. The original version is no longer available on iTunes so check other streaming sources or just watch it on YouTube. I have linked the "new version" which is good, but the original is best.

Usually I would comment on the music video, but I think in this case it is far more fitting to comment on the military stage performance that gained the group such popularity in the first place. One can see the amount of excitement and energy provided by the military audience as well as the translated comments showing how the song and performance practically became a tradition in the military as well.

The bottom line...Would I recommend this song and group? 100%...support Brave Girls after all this time and look into their other songs as well, but if you like pop music in general you will enjoy this hit song. You have probably already heard it as the song is also trending on TikTok as a sound as well.


About

Kirakira works to pull together interesting asian pop music from many different countries including Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and more. Expand your music horizons by finding your new jam today!


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