Music Scene

Wintry soundscape in J-and K-pop

The five-piece girl group Red Velvet (above).
The five-piece girl group Red Velvet (above).PHOTO: RED VELVET/FACEBOOK
THE REVE FESTIVAL FINALE
THE REVE FESTIVAL FINALE
SWEATER
SWEATER
K-pop boyband SF9’s (above).
K-pop boyband SF9’s (above).
Super Junior’s Heechul (left) and comedian Lee Soo-geun (right).
Super Junior’s Heechul (left) and comedian Lee Soo-geun (right).
The Japanese idol group Arashi (labove).
The Japanese idol group Arashi (labove).

Winter melancholy and end-of-decade gratitude and reflection permeate numerous releases in the past month. The Straits Times highlights 10 new J-and K-pop releases.


1. DANCE POP

THE REVE FESTIVAL FINALE

Red Velvet

SM Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

The five-piece girl group Red Velvet closed their trilogy of The Reve Festival EPs with The Reve Festival Finale. The lead single Psycho is a sultry dance track about a romantic infatuation.

Though their promotions for this track have been disrupted by member Wendy's injury - the 25-year-old sustained injuries to her face and fractured her pelvis and wrist after falling during a rehearsal - the track still debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's World Digital Song Sales chart.


2. SEASONAL

SWEATER

Ailee

Rocket3 Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

K-pop diva Ailee, known for her powerful vocals, released a seasonal song for Christmas last month. The ballad Sweater - about missing a loved one - showcases the singer's range as she hits the high notes effortlessly. The song is available in English and Korean.


3. POP

FIRST COLLECTION

SF9

FNC Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

K-pop boyband SF9's  first full-length studio album in Korean leads with the dance-heavy track Good Guy, a suave and confident track blending synth beats with the use of the piano in its verses.


4. POP

365

Loona

Blockberry Creative

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

The 12-member girl group Loona released a track dedicated to their fans last month. The song, 365, promises that the group will "shine" on them.

The pop ballad is an easy listen, with a harmonious blend of vocals and soothing instrumentals.


5. POP/R&B

WINTER BUTTERFLY

Hyuk (Vixx)

Jellyfish Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

Boyband Vixx's vocalist Hyuk has branched out on his own for a solo EP. The title track Winter Butterfly is a warm and comforting ballad, featuring Hyuk's haunting vocals and lyrics he penned himself.

The EP is a five-track that showcases his ability not just to sing, but to also compose - the melodic duet If Only, performed with female singer An Da-eun, is a standout.


6. POP

WHITE WINTER

Woojoo Jjokkomi

SM Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

The newly formed Woojoo Jjokkomi is a collaboration between Super Junior's Heechul and comedian Lee Soo-geun  who joined forces for the simple ballad White Winter as part of SM Entertainment's digital music channel's project for the season.

The music video is a highlight as it features the JYP Entertainment girl group Itzy, of which Heechul has said he is a fan.


7. POP

MIXTAPE: GONE DAYS

Stray Kids

JYP Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

Mixtape: Gone Days is a glib and rebellious takedown of the older generation stuck in the past, one that often starts sentences with the phrase "back in the day" unironically.

The eight-member Stray Kids proclaim in this track - which deftly uses autotune to distort members' voices for a playful, modern sound - that they are the new generation which will take responsibility for the future.


8. POP/HIP-HOP

UNSTABLE MINDSET

Younha

C9 Entertainment

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

The soloist Younha returns with a mini album - a five-track EP ranging in genres, with the track 26 having a punk element and One Day Of Twenty featuring a sweet mid-tempo sound.

The track with the most hype is Winter Flower, which features RM, the leader of BTS. He comes in mid-track with one of his signature raps, tackling the thorny issue of mental health.


9. ELECTROPOP

ARASHI: REBORN

Arashi

J Storm

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming platforms

The Japanese idol group Arashi have released a new version of their debut song A.Ra.Shi (1999). The new version is a remix with autotune and new lyrics clearly dedicated to long-time fans of the group, thanking them for being by the group's side.

A highlight is the music video that was created in a special collaboration with the hit anime series One Piece, featuring animated versions of the five members.


10. POP ROCK

WE DO

Ikimonogakari

Epic Records Japan

Watch it on: YouTube

Hear it on: YouTube

We Do is three-piece pop-rock band Ikimonogakari's first full studio album in five years. It leads with the title track We Do, an uplifting number to get listeners' hearts pumping .

But it is the track Sayonara Seishun (Goodbye Youth) that pulls at the heartstrings. The ballad is a touching tribute to the band's days of adolescence and musical beginnings since their formation in 1999.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2020, with the headline 'Wintry soundscape in J-and K-pop'. Print Edition | Subscribe