Random Shuffle Review: H.O.T – Hope

With over 3,000 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.

The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!

Year Released: 1998

Apart from the colorful SoBangCha, K-pop’s first big boy band boom coincided with a similar trend in the rest of the world. As groups like Backstreet Boys and ‘Nsync were taking over the States, H.O.T had already cemented their place as a driving force in Korean pop. There are some surface similarities, but even then K-pop (and SM Entertainment, specifically) challenged itself to push harder and more interesting. H.O.T’s songs covered a wide breadth of social issues, and many of them drew from unexpected elements like heavy metal and hip-hop.

With this in mind, Hope (빛) is one of the group’s most classic-sounding boyband tracks. And as much as I love their more experimental work, I simply can’t resist a killer melody and emotive performance. Taken from their third album Resurrection, and paired with a mini-drama music video, Hope knows exactly what it wants to be and channels all of its energy in that direction. It could be my nostalgia talking, but as soon as the song’s 90’s hip-hop beat rushes in, a sense of calmness comes over me. The production is simple, taking that groove and augmenting it with strings and sharp synth textures, but the instrumental unfolds with the fervor of a sermon.

However, Hope really comes to life during its chorus. As a relatively new force in the Korean music industry, modern K-pop has few tracks old enough to be considered all-time classics, but Hope’s refrain is one for the ages. It swells in all the perfect moments, conveying a healing energy that leaves room for the guys to deliver a vocal that feels conversational rather than over-rehearsed. Hope’s verses are equally strong, fusing melody and rap together in a complimentary way. The two segments build off each other, crafting a track that never loses its sense of purpose or drive.

 Hooks 10
 Production 9
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.75



5 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: H.O.T – Hope

  1. I hadn’t heard this before, thank you Nick.

    Was this written by the same songwriters as SNSD “New World”? They quote Beethoven “Ode to Joy” liberally throughout for example starting at 3:39 and again at 5:48, perhaps other places, which also implies that the chord changes for the entire song are the same as the “Ode to Joy”. SNSD “New World” famously quotes the Dvorak “New World” 9th Symphony for its verses.


    • Nope, it was written and produced by member Kangta… and I imagine he’s still rolling in the royalties.

      Thanks for identifying the Beethoven inspiration. I knew I recognized it, but my knowledge of classical music pretty much extends to: “hey, haven’t I heard that somewhere before?”

      Anyway, this is a total classic. I’m not Korean and obviously didn’t grow up with this, but Hope gives me such a jolt of nostalgia and comfort. It’s one of H.O.T’s masterworks.


      • It’s the first musical work of Kangta, main vocal of the group. He composed, wrote and arranged it when he’s 18 years old, such a talent.
        I love this song and the oboe sound in the background also the lyrics so much.
        This song gave Korean people so much strength in 1998, when the country suffered from a financial crisis. 10 years later, Korean Government used it to publicise the Kaesong industrial complex. And 20 years later, Korean TV News used it as background music to report 2018 inter-Korean summit. And this year, after 22 years, this song’s used again in a Korean TV campaign encouraging people in covid-19 period. It’s really timeless.
        Yes, I’m a H.O.T. fan, and now NCT fan too^^
        Thank you for giving a high score to this masterpiece.

        Liked by 1 person

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