When was the Last Time that a K-pop Comeback Genuinely Floored You After Just One Listen?

So far, 2017 has given us a long string of solid tracks, as well as a handful of truly great ones. But I can’t help think that there has been a general lack of excitement surrounding this year’s k-pop offerings. Perhaps it’s due to the strong influence of certain trends, which has made so many 2017 singles sound almost identical. Or maybe it’s just that k-pop has settled into a groove that favors sure-fire familiarity over experimentation and musical ambition. Whatever the case, the past few weeks have got me thinking about the last time a k-pop comeback genuinely floored me on the very first listen.

If I were to pick the most recent tracks that have come close to this initial, sugar-rush feeling, it would probably be Snuper’s Star of Stars and Red Velvet’s Red Flavor, both released about two months ago. But if I really think about the last song that made me pump my fist in the air and cheer when it was over (true story), I think I’d have to go all the way back to Seventeen’s Very Nice in July of 2016. Despite taking influence from the ubiquitous brassy surge of Uptown Funk, that track felt like nothing else in k-pop at the moment. It didn’t need time to grow, either. Just a shot of pure energy and brilliant song construction right from the start.

I’m more than guilty of playing the expectations game, setting my preferences so high and specific that it’s almost impossible to satisfy them the first time through a song. But even so, I feel like my ratings this year have often plateaued in the high 8’s. As far as “outstanding” title tracks (rated 9 and higher), 2016 gave us thirty-six. With three and a half months to go, 2017 has only resulted in twelve. Hindsight would probably add one or two more to that list, but the difference is still striking. Maybe my standards have become higher, or maybe we’re just in a bit of a lull.

By its very nature, this blog isn’t as comment-rich as others, but I hope to hear some feedback on this post. I’m genuinely curious how others feel about this year in k-pop, and if it’s given any of you the kind of “fall in love after only one listen” track that I feel has been in such short supply. There are still some big names coming down the pike in the next few months, which fills me with hope. But right now it feels like I’m still waiting for that momentous, immediately galvanizing song of the year.


22 thoughts on “When was the Last Time that a K-pop Comeback Genuinely Floored You After Just One Listen?

  1. some of exo’s recent b sides rlly wowed me (going crazy, forever, chill and what u do, for most of the time), but thats kind of it. NO wait remember by 9muses, that was amazing. the music video together with the song in itself wass spectacular

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly probably just Red Flavor, Palette, and to a lesser extent Holiday + All Night. Even when it came to groups I love musically (Nine Muses, Stellar, Lovelyz, Mamamoo, etc.), their new releases just fell completely flat for me. I’ve been into kpop for awhile now and 2017 is the only year where I’ve felt genuinely disappointed with almost all the new content.


  3. Yeah I mean this year has been a bit slow. Not enough Sweetune releases – and also even they have succumbed to trop house-ification! So far Fingertip, Honeya by S2 (idk if you listened to that one since you didn’t review), and Knock Knock have been the track’s that I’ve gotten really excited about on first listen this year.


  4. Snuper’s back:hug for the unusual arrangement and sonic textures and nct 127 cherry bomb for being absolutely crazy. I guess I’m a fan of experimentation over anything else.


  5. Gonna have to give it to GFriend’s Fingertip, NCT Dream’s My First and Last(so in love), Red Velvet’s summer bop, and EXO’s 4th album(have it for breakfast,lunch, and dinner).


    • DEFINITELY agree with the NCT Dream song. That one actually comes close to Very Nice in the “floored me at first listen” department. I think I just really miss a more old-school, classic k-pop sound and My First and Last was very much in that vein.


  6. Funnily enough, one of the only songs that has done that for me this year was ONF’s Original….prior to their debut! They performed it at a kpop festival in May as a pre-debut promotional activity, after which there was one lone fancam uploaded. Maybe it was partially fueled by my intense hope that B1A4 and OMG’s new brother group would fulfill my expectations, but the song just blew me away on first listen, even with the poor quality of the recording. Once their debut album released I found myself wishing they had gone with that or Difficult as their title track, as both songs have an energy that lends itself to the kind of “floored-at-first-listen” feeling that you’re talking about and that ON/OFF, as much as I love the song, lacks due to its its more laid-back sound and slightly disjointed arrangement(of course I know a song doesn’t necessarily have to be energetic to floor you, but still I feel like it’s an important element for boy group debuts to have these days in order to really ‘grab’ people right out of the gate amongst the heavy competition).

    Otherwise, as others have said here, Red Flavor is one of the only title track releases this year to impress me on first listen. It felt like such an anticipated return to their 2015 sound that I nearly cheered when the rap section came in, simply because I had missed it in their songs so much.


    • ONF’s album is one of my favorites of the year so far, but it took a couple of listens to really click. I have very high hopes for their second comeback, though.


  7. I was not expecting to fall in love LaBoum- Only U at all. I thought it was going to be another attempt to replace Sistar as the “Queens of Summer”, but this really blew me away! It’s like an homage to 1960’s summer songs. I don’t know about you, but LaBoum sure saved summer for me.


  8. Hey Nick! I’m an avid reader of your blog, I Agree with you, compared to last years this year’s releases are a bit lackluster.(by compared to last years ive been reading through your Top 50.) Though this year, i did not expect to be a K-pop fan because of TWICE’s Signal.
    Hope to see a Good Review on their next comeback 🙂


  9. I’d have to go all the way back to 2014 and pick out T-ara’s Sugar Free. It was just loud, anthemic, sexy, in your face with a big middle finger to all the other groups out there worrying about losing fans by not being explicitly sexy or cute (fitting into a box). The other big one for me would be from the same year, EXID’s Up&Down. Not only was it fun to root for the underdogs, but the song was just absolutely fantastic in its own right and different from anything else out there.


  10. The playful disco funk in Top Secret – “She” won me at first listen.

    Most of Dreamcatcher’s songs are also first-listen winners. The way guitars are used give that anime opening feel. Is it also because of short pre-choruses that take you to the hook quickly that create that effect? Maybe I’m only thinking of Fly High.


  11. limitless by nct is still my favourite 2017 song
    other than that, it was pretty boring… exo’s album has been the only interesting thing around recently imo, especially their repackage song boomerang


  12. The one song that I’ll never forget my initial reaction to is Red Light by F(x). My best friend slept over that night and the mv came out at night while the first performance of it was at like 3am that same night. From the first note until the end, my jaw was on the floor. I don’t think I said anything other than “Oh My God” the whole time, because I had witnessed perfection. I proceeded to listen to it an incessant number of times in the next few days until I knew all the words, and eventually even learned the entire dance. That song will always have a very special place in my heart. If we’re talking about this year though, Snuper’s Star of Stars (and Hide & Seek), EXO’s Forever (The War was their best album for me since Overdose), and Red Velvet’s Zoo have been the closest for me.


  13. I’ve had a few songs that hit me right away.
    Mamamoo’s Yes I Am I thought was instantly brilliant.
    Winner’s Really Really is so infectious its hard not to dance to.
    GD’s Untitled, 2014 was so unexpected it almost made me cry.
    Seventeen’s Don’t wanna cry had a bid impact (Although I must admit to pack its full punch it has to have the dance with it)
    Sistar’s Lonely I think is easily the best mid-tempo of the year and is potentially my favourite track from them ever
    What has ended up being my favourite and most played song this year is As if it’s your last and last year I had a incredible reaction to Playing with Fire which will probably be one of my favourite songs of all time, it was instant magic to my ears.


  14. Thanks a lot for this post, I was asking myself if I was the only one thinking about how weak 2017 was compared to 2016. There were a couple title tracks that hit me hard this year, though–the first one that comes to mind is NCT 127’s “Limitless.” Agree with you about “Red Flavor” too, I’m losing my mind waiting for “Peek-a-Boo”


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