Music Scene: Women soloists and boy bands battle it out on K-pop and J-pop charts

Gone, by Blackpink's Rose, tells of a painful breakup.
Gone, by Blackpink's Rose, tells of a painful breakup.PHOTO: ROSES_ARE_ROSIE / INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - This month, big names are fighting it out on the K- and J-pop charts, with new music by female soloists as well as established boy bands such as BTS, Super Junior and KAT-TUN.

Check out these 10 releases on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

1. Ballad

Film out

BTS

The K-pop boy band's new Japanese ballad may be a little more sentimental than what some fans are used to from the popular septet.

Produced by Japanese rock group Back Number's Iyori Shimizu and BTS member Jungkook, the melodic track has a clean sound that is popular in J-pop.

2. Pop

Like Water

Wendy (Red Velvet)

K-pop girl band Red Velvet's Wendy makes a comeback with her first mini-album. She spent much of last year recuperating from painful injuries, including a pelvic fracture from a stage accident.

Most of the songs on Like Water, including the title track, are emotional ballads showing her vocal prowess. The album gets off to a strong start with When This Rain Stops. The simple instrumentals allow her vocals to shine through.

3. Pop

Roar

KAT-TUN

Most of their discography is still unavailable digitally but, to celebrate their 15th anniversary, J-pop boy band KAT-TUN have released their single Roar on various streaming platforms.

The track starts with a piano, somewhat tentatively, before giving way to an explosion of string instruments. It remains uptempo, with a catchy chorus showcasing the trio's falsettos.

4. Pop

LILAC

IU

The K-pop songstress' fifth studio album continues to show her maturity in a fun, breezy way.

Shaking off the cutesy songs of her early career, IU flaunts her versatility and comfort with different genres.

Her light, sweet voice and airy high notes come through in the city-pop title track. Coin is a good old-fashioned disco number; the slower R&B-infused Empty Cup is a real jam; while Troll, a collaboration with R&B artist Dean, is a reggae-inspired catchy tune.

5. Pop

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Kang Seung-yoon (Winner)

The first full album by South Korean boy band Winner's leader and vocalist has been a long time coming.

Kang Seung-yoon has a great voice and has a hand in writing and composing all the tracks. He starts off strong with Iyah, a soft-rock track with lyrics that feels like a letter to his younger self. His deep, rich voice complements the song's rawness.

Winner fans should check out Better, which features member Mino rapping. It blends rock, which Kang seems to favour, with hip-hop, which Mino leans towards.

6. R&B

Do Re Mi Fa Sol

Park Bom featuring Changmo

In this R&B collaboration with rapper Changmo, singer Park Bom, previously of the now-disbanded girl band 2NE1, sings about her need for straightforward love: "Play my heart so it's easy for me to understand/Love me like do re mi fa sol fa mi re do, yeah."

7. Original soundtrack

Adrenaline

Solar (Mamamoo)

Are you one of those binge-watching South Korean series Vincenzo? Then you must check out Adrenaline, an English number featured in the dark comedy-drama by Solar from girl group Mamamoo.

Befitting the Italian mafia background of the lead character, the song is smooth, sexy and moody, culminating in almost-operatic high notes near the end.

8. Pop

R

Rose (Blackpink)

Another Blackpink member has made her solo debut. Rose (above) is the second member of the popular K-pop quartet to do so, after Jennie in late 2018.

R comprises two tracks, both of which are English releases that Rose herself had a part in writing.

On The Ground is an electronic dance music-pop track that reflects on her rise to fame as one of the most successful girl groups in K-pop, while Gone is an alternative rock ballad with an electric guitar accompaniment that tells of a painful breakup.

9. Hip-hop

BIJIN

Chanmina

The Japanese rapper's new single ("bijin" means "beauty" in Japanese) is a playful yet emotionally resonant track with an ominous melody. In it, Chanmina switches between a rapper's swagger and high-pitched, anime-like vocals.

The lyrics talk about how women face pressure to be beautiful. Chanmina also hits back at her early critics in her career: "Back when I was only 17/ Remember what you said to me/You can't be beautiful. You can't be famous/An ugly b***h like you shouldn't be a singer".

10. Pop

The Renaissance

Super Junior

The veteran K-pop boy band's 10th album mixes modern and trendier music with a dash of nostalgia.

One of the more experimental tracks is House Party, which starts off like a regular funky, disco-pop song but shifts into the trap genre in its second verse before going back to disco again. It can be a little odd and jarring to listen to but is a commendable effort by the nine-man band at trying something new.

Fans looking for that quintessentially Super Junior flavour will find it in The Melody, a great showcase of the group's pop sensibilities and varying vocal qualities, as well as the rearrangement of their 2014 song Raining Spell For Love.