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.
H1-KEY’s newest single album has been a wonderful surprise. Not only is the title track strong, but it’s eclipsed by two b-sides that are even better! Catch ‘n’ Release borrows some madcap Orange Caramel energy and tethers it to a super-hooky arrangement, while Heart Light is a straight-up summer banger.
To me, this group has an obvious second-generation sound, from the way they deliver their vocals to the robust nature of their songwriting. It’s a welcome characteristic, especially as so many of their peers are opting for the exact same fourth-gen approach. Heart Light could have been a big, successful single around 2012-13, melding anthemic rock influences with propulsive EDM catharsis. The track also has a ton of BLACKPINK in it – especially when it comes to the girls’ vocal performance. (On a related note, we’d be quite lucky if next month’s BLACKPINK comeback sounded anything like this!)
While I don’t think Heart Light’s melody is super interesting or memorable, the overall vibe is so fun and fresh that it hardly matters. There’s a sense of largeness here – suitable for outdoor festivals in a way most modern K-pop doesn’t even attempt. The fact that something so widescreen would come from such an under-known rookie group is quite thrilling. If H1-KEY stick with this sound and further develop it, they could be real dark horses in the industry. They certainly have my attention.