As Korea spends one more day celebrating the Lunar New Year, putting new k-pop releases on hold, it’s a good time to spotlight one of the most promising new j-pop groups of 2016. FlowBack debuted last year, and Heartbreaker was released in December, but the song is too good not to share — even a month later. Though k-pop and j-pop share much of the same foundation, there’s usually a noticeable difference between the two countries’ musical output. But of all the current j-pop groups, FlowBack feels the most like a Korean idol group, taking their inspiration from western influences and putting a focus on tight choreography and formations.
The group has released three music videos so far, but Heartbreaker is their crowning moment. Longtime readers of The Bias List will know how much I love retro, 80’s concepts, and FlowBack has perfected this synth-driven sound. But while the syncopated beat and stabs of warm, wobbly synth lay the bedrock for the song’s success, it’s the strength of the melody and performance that really shoots it into the stratosphere. Few j-pop groups within this genre incorporate hip-hop that actually works, but FlowBack’s secret weapon is rapper Judai, who brings a very modern touch with his impeccably paced verses. It’s an excellent contrast to Heartbreaker‘s old-school chorus.
Speaking of that chorus, it’s thrilling to hear a dance-focused track truly embrace a full-throated melody for its central hook rather than relying on a trendy EDM instrumental riff or breakdown. While relatively simple in structure, Heartbreaker‘s hook is the kind of earworm that only grows more addictive the longer it plays. There’s a tautness to the refrain, trimming any fat to deliver a potent blast of perfectly realized pop. The same can be said of FlowBack as a whole. They’re an incredibly exciting prospect, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.