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.