At the end of each month, I look back at my three favorite title tracks by K-pop artists. I take my own ratings into account, but there’s a bit of wiggle room as certain songs tend to grow or fade.
July 2019 Overall Thoughts
How do I adequately describe just how much of a crippling disappointment July was?
Well, it was easily the most underwhelming July in K-pop I can ever remember, and one of the weakest months of releases in years. This is surprising, because July has always been a high point for me. Pre-2018, it was a month that consistently delivered some of my absolute favorite title tracks of each year. It was a month stuffed with high-profile comebacks and bright, exciting sounds.
None of this was the case over the past few weeks.
Add this underwhelming slate to an equally underwhelming second-half of June, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone through such a sustained stretch of disillusionment with the state of K-pop. I spent much of the month listening to older songs (and looking back at summers of years past), because very little new music was presenting anything beyond the same lifeless, joyless blend of trendy r&b and hip-hop.
Here’s the problem, and I’m going to preface it with a clarification: I don’t claim to own the definition of K-pop, nor do I presume that my ideas or preferences are somehow better than anybody else’s. But lately, it feels like K-pop is going out of its way to cater to people who hate K-pop.
I get that this is a business, and an ever-expanding market intent on global dominance. But, I would rather see people naturally drawn to K-pop for what it offers, rather than idol groups being shoehorned into existing Western tropes. What first drew me to K-pop wasn’t that it sounded exactly like American top 40. Quite the opposite, in fact. It didn’t have to grovel or twist to fit international trends or cultural preferences. It incorporated some of them, sure, but was otherwise expansive, ambitious and unlike anything you could find anywhere else on the planet. I miss that kind of K-pop. It still pops up here and there, but it’s slowly getting lost in a sea of sound-alike tropical bops and languid shoulder shrugs of “chill” hip-hop. In trying to appeal to everyone, I fear that it’s starting to lose what made it special in the first place.
Usually, this temptation to go generic is countered by a handful of strong, interesting tracks. That balance has resulted in a few standout months this year (May, March… even January), but not much stood out this July. Because of this, my honorable mentions list is pretty slight — especially for this time of year. My top three picks are all solid and quite diverse in style, but I don’t think any will be threatening the upper echelons of my year-end chart come December. A special shout-out goes to songs by NCT Dream, KNK and (maybe) VERIVERY, which could have filled that third spot just as easily as the group that ended up rounding out my picks.
All of this doom and gloom makes it sound like K-pop and I have parted ways. Of course, that’s not the case. I closely follow more idols now than ever before, and just dropped hundreds of dollars on bookings for KCON. So, my interest in K-pop hasn’t necessarily waned. But, my frustration has grown. It’s not fun to be frustrated, but I’m frustrated because I care. I don’t care about streaming records or sales or chart achievements. I care about the music. None of this matters if the music loses its unique spark.
As we head into August, I’m ready to flip the page without looking back. I’m already feeling more optimistic about a few upcoming comebacks than anything released these past five weeks, so we’ll see how it all pans out. One thing’s for sure: it’s time to turn this bummer summer around.
Month Cumulative Rating: 7.5
(compiled by averaging the scores of every K-pop review from this month)
J-Pop Worth Your Time
Taemin – Famous (review)
TVXQ – Hot Hot Hot (review)
GFriend – Fever (review)
Ha Sungwoon – Blue (review)
Hyoyeon – Badster (review)
KNK – Sunset (review)
Nature – I’m So Pretty (review)
NCT Dream – BOOM (review)
VERIVERY – Tag Tag Tag (review)
TOP THREE SONGS
3. DAY6 – Time Of Our Life (review)
2. ITZY – Icy (review)
1. Dongkiz – BlockBuster (review)
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of June 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of May 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of April 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of March 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of February 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of January 2019
It’s gotta be the first time I don’t agree with you on the top 3, safe from Day6. I found Icy to be disappointing and, although I will be listening to it in the future, kinda repetitive, especially with the lyrics.
I agree with you that this month’s releases were… eh. However, most of the songs you disliked or hated I quite actually enjoyed. I guess the biggest problem this July is that there wasn’t a standout track.
My top three this July are:
3. UN Village by Baekhyun – in my case, the song got better after a few more listens
2. BOOM by NCT Dream
1. Time Of Our Lifes by Day6
As for albums, special shoutout to NCT Dream’s WE BOOM and Baekhyun’s City Lights.
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Everything you wrote before the list resonated with me on so many levels! I also have no intention of giving up on kpop ever but I have this same growing feeling of dread and the disbandment of almost all my favourite groups hasn’t helped.
I stopped listening to other music after I found kpop almost 5 years ago because it’s crazy and bright and different (which is my definition of kpop and I like Icy for being exactly that). I really don’t want it to turn back into the depressing crap I escaped from. It’s selfish but I sometimes wish kpop was still unknown because how is changing what attracted people to it in the first place a success?
I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in my frustration. I don’t want to be that old K-pop fan shaking their fist at the newbies, but I’ve seen this same thing happen too often when other industries/genres have become more mainstream. I hate to see something so unique start to blend in with everything else.
My top 3 would be
3. Hyoyeon – Badster
2. KNK – Sunset
1. Nature – I’m So Pretty
with Itzy closely at #4 for sure.
3. TAEMIN, Famous
2. TVXQ!, Hot Hot Hot
1. KNK, Sunset
It says a lot about the month that two of your top three were Japanese songs!
My top 3:
1. Produce x 101 – Boy
2. Dongkiz – Blockbuster
3. Produce x 101 – To My World
It’s probably cheating to include produce but, hey. Those 2 songs are what impressed me the most this month
My top 3 this month would likely be:
1. Sunset – KNK
2. Boyness – Produce x 101
3. To my world – Produce x 101
With honourable mentions to:
4. Icy – ITZY (would be 2 without produce)
5. Movie star – CIX** (would be 3 without produce)
6. Time Of Our Life – Day6
7. Boom – NCT Dream
and pretty much all the other songs from Produce X 101 bar Monday to Sunday…. that sucked.
** im legit surprised you didn’t like movie star, it grew on me immensely over the first few listens! I mostly attribute that to the overall chic’ atmosphere and that smooth af chorus. The only thing that puts me up higher (other than KNK’s excellent Sunset) is that god awful rap break.
Prevents me from putting it. up higher*** idk why I missed words ahah brain just froze up
I actually like Movie Star less than when I reviewed it…
I’m just so sick of this dark, moody sound. It’s not something I ever gravitate towards.
1) Gaho “Fly”
2) Day6 “Time of our lives”
3) KNK “sunset”
Honorable mention to
4) “Pat Pat” theme song to Kang’s Kitchen 3, featuring Mino and PO on vocals and a special rap break by Kyuhyun
5) W24 “solfamiredo” technically released 30 June
my personal ranking:
1) NCT Dream “Boom”
2) Dongkiz “Blockbuster”
3) Hyoyeon “Badster”
5 – ITZY – ICY
4 – Nature – I’m So Pretty
3 – (Reserved for the number 3 song that never arrived)
2 – (Reserved for the number 2 song that never arrived)
1 – (Reserved for the number 1 song that never arrived)
Hahaha! Very accurate.
Absolutely. Hey, I nominated two not-pop songs.
I like Nature “I’m So Pretty” as well, but it is a guilty pleasure. I don’t know the lyrics but I have a hunch that it is the antithesis of the recent CLC and G-id(l)e songs.
I like Nature’s song, too, but find that I’m not always in the mood to listen to it.
I’m back and commenting after a month of poor cell service (vacation), and… oof. Just oof. I’m pleasantly surprised that the cumulative rating wasn’t lower.
Now I’m wondering… what does the korean populace see in k-rnb and k-hh? After all, in the end Korea is the one calling the shots for its own music. Something must have changed in their public mindset if they now prefer songs like Humph! and What a Life to (insert k-POP song here).
The thing is, from what I can tell none of these songs have done especially well on the digital charts. They’re doing fine (and selling boatloads of albums) based on name recognition alone, but none has blossomed into the kind of ubiquitous summer hit that we usually see. In fact, Korea’s digital charts seem to be clogged with ballads right now, which is really unusual for this time of year.
And yeah, that cumulative rating? It’s about as boring and dull as could be expected. That was the problem with July. There weren’t even that many big misses — just an unending sea of ‘meh’.
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