Rock group Buzz has been around for over a decade, not particularly well known to international audiences but beloved in Korea for their emotive ballads. 2017 has seen plenty of ballads in k-pop, but we haven’t really had one of those big, bombastic Lim Chang Jung style belters. That dry spell has officially ended with the stirring, ridiculously gorgeous The Love (사랑하지 않은 것처럼).
I’m a sucker for a no-holds-barred rock ballad, but the style only works if the performer has a voice that’s up to the task. Luckily, The Love is all about Min Kyung-hoon’s soaring vocal. I’m not sure that we’ve heard a better straight-up vocal performance this year. His rich tone drips all over the ambitious melody, tackling a never-ending string of sustained power notes. Just when you think he can’t reach any higher, the song finds a new crest. I love vocalists like this, whose powerful tone seems to be rooted in somewhere deeper then themselves. K-pop doesn’t necessarily give us many lighters-in-the-air stadium moments, but The Love is definitely aiming for (sad) anthem territory.
There are more than a fair share of k-pop fans who automatically skip over the ballads. I can be guilty of this too. So often Korea prefers an overly maudlin sentiment, which doesn’t always make for a sonically diverse set of tracks. But if any 2017 ballad is going to be worth your time, it’s this. The Love feels like Jung Joonyoung as performed by Roy Kim… and are there really many things better than that?