A K-pop act’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. Sometimes, b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
PSY’s ninth album proves his continued relevancy. It’s solid as a rock – filled with highlights that draw upon his unique artistic perspective. Tracks like Dear Me and Everyday lean into the anthemic qualities I’ve always enjoyed in his music, while the Jessi-featuring Ganji is great, attitude-fueled fun. But, I must write about the album’s biggest WTF moment, which just happens to be an instant standout as well.
Now (이제는) is an example of multiple worlds coming together in ways I never would have expected. Go back in time 10-15 years and you’d catch me in the middle of an obsession with cheesy, little-known 80’s movie musicals. Side note: If you’ve never experienced 1980’s The Apple you need to change that asap. I promise it’ll be the most unintentionally funny thing you watch all year. It’s lowkey the best movie ever made.
Another campy movie you’d find in my collection was 1984’s Voyage of the Rock Aliens, which included the song When the Rain Begins to Fall – sung by Pia Zadora and Jermaine Jackson. The track had little to do with the actual movie, but went on to become a big hit in Europe. Almost forty years later, it appears on PSY’s new album, recorded in Korean and featuring Mamamoo’s Hwasa. What an unlikely turn of events! It makes me wonder how PSY first heard the song. Was it one he enjoyed as a kid? One he always wanted to cover in the same way I always wanted to include Stan Bush’s The Touch on my imaginary pop album?
Whatever the case, for me this is a wondrously weird combination of past and present interests. It’s also a massive dance track. So far, the best retro tracks of 2022 have been covers of 80’s classics (looking at you, Jump). I’m not sure if this says anything beyond the fact that “retro” is best when dripping with nostalgia. PSY and Hwasa imbue Now with plenty of power, giving it a serious makeover that makes the original’s synth riff even more immense. The two voices sound great together, and I love the gutsy level of energy they bring to their performances. I also love the Hi-NRG gloss of the production, which borrows from disco, video games and even a bit of city pop. It’s a loving ode to the era, updated to sound crisp and vital today. And it’s freakin’ weird, which is always a great thing.