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.
February 2020 Overall Thoughts
What to say about February 2020? As the month went on, it became increasingly hard to feel invested in the K-pop industry when the bulk of South Korean news centered on the country’s Covid-19 outbreak. I predict a thin slate of releases in the coming weeks, as avenues for promotion are narrowing. Health and safety is far more important than pop music, but it’s impossible not to feel a sense of gloom hovering over K-pop as a whole. Hopefully, things will improve quickly and we’ll be back to normal soon.
Sadly, the actual music coming out of K-pop agencies this February felt uninspired. There were a few bright spots, and my top choice of the month was a very easy pick. But, too many of the comebacks felt like copies of each other. Specific trends (moody for boy groups, over-caffeinated chanting for girl groups), held the industry captive, making it difficult to distinguish one song from another. I’m not a fan of either of these trends, and that’s made the past month kind of demoralizing.
The tracks that salvaged February were almost all from girl groups, and they make up my entire top three this month. To be fair, female-fronted releases outnumbered their male counterparts this February, which is relatively rare in K-pop. And, most of the notable boy group comebacks (BTS, The Boyz, Pentagon, AB6IX solos) fizzled to some degree. If my monthly round-up accounted for b-sides, GFriend’s stellar Labyrinth would also find a spot in the top three. In fact, many of the month’s b-sides were stronger and more interesting than the title tracks they supported.
February 2020 also resulted in a new low on my ratings scale. For the first time in over four years, a song received a score within the 2’s. I think most of us can agree that it deserved this dubious honor.
So, where do we go from here? My current thoughts on K-pop strongly mirror the way I felt throughout most of last summer. That stretch of disappointment broke with an incredible October 2019. With so much uncertainty swirling around the industry and the world at this moment, I’m not entirely confident we’ll see that kind of redemption in the very near future. I remain optimistic because… I always do. But, a ho-hum month like this really strains that positive outlook.
Month Cumulative Rating: 7.4
(compiled by averaging the scores of every K-pop review from this month)
J-Pop (and C-Pop) Worth Your Time
Hey! Say! JUMP – I Am (review hopefully coming soon)
Sexy Zone – Far East Dance (review)
AB6IX – Rose, Scent, Kiss (Lee Daehwi solo) (review)
BTS – ON (review)
Everglow – Dun Dun (review)
GFriend – Crossroads (review)
iKON – Dive (review)
LOONA – So What (review)
Moonbyul – Eclipse (review)
Sunmi – Gotta Go (review)
TOP THREE SONGS
3. Rocket Punch – Bouncy (review)
2. 3YE – Queen (review)
1. Dreamcatcher – Scream (review)
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of January 2020
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of December 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of November 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of October 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of September 2019
Top Three K-Pop Songs Of August 2019
My Top 5
I totally agree that Scream is undoubtedly this month’s highlight. It always feels great to hear a song so fully realized and so sure of where it wants to go, and I can only hope this is the first entry in a new Dreamcatcher saga. It already feels like a classic.
The other standout for me would have to be LOONA’s So What, even if it falls short of being the classic that could have been (I mean,that bridge!). I really think there’s a lot of potential within those girls (Max & Match by Odd Eye Circle is one of my favourite k-pop minis) and when all the pieces finally fall into place, we’re in for something great.
I’ll happily join the ‘Labyrinth should’ve been the title’ camp, by the way.
PS: This is my first comment in this site. Please, pardon if my English is a bit rough.
And thanks, NICK, for all your incredible work here, the way your love for k-pop can be seen in all your articles really makes me smile!
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It’s always so funny to me when I read an extremely well-written post with perfect grammar and more carefully thought-out sentences than 90% of comments online, and then I see “excuse my rough English” at the end of it. You’ve got nothing to worry about!
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You’re so kind! Thank you ♥️
This month was drinking from the fire hose of new releases. I just know that there will be ones that I have passed over the first time around, and will download in the summer and will grow to become my favorite by year end. There will also be the exact opposites – songs I download in February and in a few weeks’ time I will have had enough of it. For the record, I bought: 3YE “Queen”; Weki Meki “Dazzle Dazzle”; Dreamcatcher “Scream”; Cherry Bullet “Hand’s Up”; Rocket Punch “Bouncy”; Loona “So What”. We shall see what lasts.
That said, it was also a good month for ballads.
Someone called Steady release “One Fine Day”. He sounds just like Boy Kim and Roy Kim, and gives me my Roy Kim fix during his exile.
Kim Yeon Ji formerly of the SeeYa released “When the Wind Blows”. I swear this is the nth song about wind and wind blowing I have heard in Korean music. Does the wind blow especially fine in Korea so that it warrants all this music about it? Kim Yeon Ji does them all one better with a beautiful lyric soprano that just gets cleaner and brighter the higher she goes. A slow burning stunner. There is a fan cam on youtube of her busking last week, so those high pipes are for realz.
As the expression goes, I see Sejeong (of Gugudan) on an OST, I click buy = “All of My Days”. Gaho also released another OST, this one not quite as octave-busting as his usual, but better than most others in any case.
There is a tiny group called Alphabat who have been through multiple ringers and somehow still exist in some fashion. This month of existence, they sing a nicely sung song “Again”. It is fairly straightforward mid-tempo pleasantness, but I am a sucker for 3/4s time.
These next two are technically late January, but I didn’t hear them until early February.
Lee Hae Ri of Davichi “Just Cry”. Davichi are hardly known to international kpoppers, but have a super fantastic career in Korea the old fashioned way: by being helluva good singers. This song is this year’s installment.
PARADISE find them on itunes all caps PARADISE “Fate”. Kpopera holy cow.
* 6/8’s time.
dmn wordpress non edits
Ah, if only I liked ballads 😦
My Top 5 of the month
1. Scream – Dreamcatcher (easy pick)
2. Rose, Scent, Kiss – Daehwi
3. Bouncy – Rocket Punch
4. So What – Loona
5. Going Crazy (I know this came out last month but I discovered it at the start of Feb so I just rolled with it lol)
Yeah overall it was a month that was pretty bland when it came to big name releases. Luckily most of the album tracks this month were great. Labyrinth especially!
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Actually, going crazy came out last year, but let’s not talk about how yg haven’t debuted treasure
I am only here for Bang Yedam. Our little boy as grown up and … and .. and … and still hasn’t debuted yet.
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Me too, I only care about him (and Junkyu to a lesser extent), is a shame that such a talent is being wated away in the YG dungeons…
Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn not even IZ*ONE in the honerable mentions? You must’ve liked that song even less than I thought you did, especially considering it was originally rated higher than both BTS’ and GFriend’s comebacks. Also quite surprised you liked Bouncy so much considering it was def one of my least favourites of the month, though I’m definitely appreciating your number one pick. Overall, my top 3 would’ve been:
1. Fiesta – IZ*ONE
2. Scream – Dreamcatcher
3. Crossroads – GFriend
and honerable mentions to:
So What – LOONA
Eclipse – Moonbyul
Rose Scent Kiss – Daehwi
I, too, am shocked with it.
Honestly, I understand. I listened to the song once, thought “This is alright” and just kind of forgot about it.
This was sort of my experience, too. I don’t dislike the song, but I haven’t really had any desire to listen to it again, either.
Maybe Nick just manually censored IZ*ONE doing what people suspect those public broadcasts were meant to do?
Bouncy is still polarizing to me depending on my mood, but when I like it, I like it a lot. Also, the “I love me, so love yourself!!” lyric is the most deliciously stupid use of the English language in K-pop so far this year.
Eyes top 3.. ..(blink, blink).. ..:D
Another rare instance in which I fully agree with your top three! The monotony of kpop has also been wearing on me lately – my saving grace is that I don’t have to constantly write reviews in which people complain about the problems I present! I applaud your patience.
Anyways, Scream is my top song of the year so far, and as a massive Dreamcatcher fan I’m glad that one of their title tracks has fully resonated with you!
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Please see my response to the comment below for the rare occasion when my patience finally snapped! Haha
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never did i think i’d see a white kpop reviewer making covid-19 about their “appeal to kpop” … “the uncertainty around the world is breaking my enthusiasm” nice self centering and additional fear mongering at that bro! shut down your page if kpop is that unappealing to you “nowadays” and please donate to the outbreak while you’re at it
also, “impossible sense of gloom over kpop” ??? asians don’t care about covid nearly as much as you want them to, that’s just you and the western world. even if the virus went away completely you’d still be bitching about their music
You must be fun at parties.
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Um… you’re putting a lot of words in my mouth. Please, PLEASE don’t put quotes around words that you cherry-picked from my writing, re-arranging them as if you’re directly quoted something I said. It isn’t accurate or fair.
I’m not sure exactly what you’re wanting me to do here. Of course I was going to mention the outbreak, because it (rightfully) is being taken seriously around the world — especially in South Korea. Many to most K-pop-related articles and news stories over the past weeks have centered on the outbreak in some way or another, and it’s a gloomy subject. I’m not sure where you’re seeing fear-mongering, but it would be ludicrous for me not to assume that the crisis will (again… rightfully) affect the industry… at least in the short term. It’s a serious situation around the world. It will be affecting everything in some way or another.
As I stated clearly in the write-up, “Health and safety is far more important than pop music”. The fact that you think I’m equating Covid-19 with my personal enjoyment of K-pop is honestly offensive to me. The fact that you bring race into this is such an unnecessary reach. I’m not sure where I stated that I want Asians to care about the virus as much as I do. Frankly, I hope everyone around the world cares about it, and I hope the industry minimizes risk during this unpredictable time.
I usually try to be kind when replying to comments like this, because that’s the sort of discourse I want to encourage, but I’m honestly getting tired of these aggressive responses to my personal thoughts on music. “Bitching about their music,” as you so kindly put it, is something I have done every single day for over four years. Do you know how much time and effort this website takes on a daily basis? Please don’t come questioning my motives, or my right to have an opinion on a music industry I love dearly. Above all, be civil. If you can’t do that, don’t bother reaching out here.
You’re not doing anything wrong, Nick. I know it’s irritating when some idiot takes a dump on your lawn, but, sadly, this is the internet. When they pass out keyboards, they don’t bother to screen for social etiquette.
P.S. Don’t take it personal because that person obviously has no clue with whom they are addressing.
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