Music Scene: Soloists Sunmi, D.O. and Shota Shimizu shine

Former Wonder Girl Sunmi and Exo member D.O.
Former Wonder Girl Sunmi and Exo member D.O.PHOTOS: MIYAYEAH/INSTAGRAM, SMTOWN/YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - The past month has been a strong one for K-pop soloists, with comebacks from former Wonder Girls Sunmi and Ha:tfelt. There is also the first mini-album from Exo member D.O., who completed his military service this year (2021).

In J-pop, it is the turn of R&B artistes such as Shota Shimizu and Maliya to shine.

Check out these releases on streaming platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music.

Pop

1/6 by Sunmi

K-pop star Sunmi, a member of the now-disbanded group Wonder Girls, has churned out an enviable string of hit singles in her solo career. And 1/6 is her first EP since 2018's Warning. It opens with Sunmi's brash and cheeky rendition of retro pop song You Can't Sit With Us. The music video has a creative zombie apocalypse concept and a thrilling action scene.

Other tracks to check out include Call, which has a pulsing electronic beat that makes it a catchy earworm.

Pop

Summertime by Ha:tfelt

Another former Wonder Girls member with new music is Ha:tfelt, also known as Ye-eun. Summertime is a collaboration with South Korean rapper Keem Hyo-eun and its lyrics speak of a bygone summer fling. Ha:tfelt sometimes draws out her notes so there is a fluidity and sense of yearning to the song.

R&B/Soul

I Can't Make You Love Me by Kinda Blue and Hwasa

Girl group Mamamoo's Hwasa works with the mysterious rookie artiste Kinda Blue on I Can't Make You Love Me - a love song with depressing lyrics set to a soulful melody. Kinda Blue almost whispers his parts at points, conveying a quiet desperation. Meanwhile, Hwasa hits those low notes beautifully, immersing listeners in the emotions of the song.

Pop

Empathy by D.O.

The long-awaited mini album from D.O. - one of the main vocalists of boy band Exo - comes after the completion of his military service.Known for his singing ability, D.O.'s first solo album leans heavily on theacoustic guitar, especially in the cheery and romantic opening number Rose.

Other standouts include the breezy I'm Gonna Love You, a collaboration with rapper Wonstein, and the ballad My Love, a good showcase of D.O.'s vocals.

Pop

Strawberry Gum by Ha Sung-woon featuring Don Mills

Soloist Ha Sung-woon, previously of boy bands Hotshot and Wanna One, released his album Sneakers earlier this year. He recently repackaged it as Select Shop, with a few additional tracks, including the funky Strawberry Gum. It is an immensely fun song with a smooth, charming chorus and a catchy hook.

Pop

Dumb Dumb by Somi

Somi, former member of K-pop girl group I.O.I, has a short song out. The whistling overture and verses are not particularly memorable, but the dirty bass that anchors the chorus is.

R&B

Hope by Shota Shimizu

Popular Japanese R&B singer-songwriter Shota Shimizu's latest album leads with the soaring Curtain Call, which features rock band One Ok Rock's frontman Taka. The message is a hopeful one, about picking oneself up after failures and seeing one's dreams to the end.

There is also the simple, stripped-back Koiuta, which means Love Song. It is a reflective ballad that mourns the end of a relationship with lyrics like: "I can't love you anymore/I can't be loved by you anymore."

Folk

Waikiki Lonely Boy by Hiraidai

Japanese musician Dai Hirai, who stylises his name as Hiraidai, has released a string of singles over the past month, including the popular Mirror Mirror. But do check out Waikiki Lonely Boy, a folksy song with a ukulele accompaniment. It is a comforting and easy listen that harks to the singer's well-known love for Hawaiian music.

Indie

Into You by Maliya featuring edbl

Japanese singer Maliya's Into You is produced by London-based indie artiste Ed Black, better known as edbl. Her sensual voice lends the slinky track a languorous, sultry quality, making it the kind of song to play on a lazy weekend spent with a lover.

Pop

Hikari by Eill

J-pop star Eill's new song is for the Fuji TV drama Night Doctor. Hikari is an atmospheric number with lyrics that evoke the night sky.