The Bias List is a K-pop blog that also covers a fair amount of J-pop. But along with most music fans, I enjoy tracks from all around the world. So, I thought I’d start a monthly round-up of some of the non-K-pop songs that have caught my ear. No ratings — just highlights!
After a two month break, this feature is back with a vengeance. I really haven’t listened to much K-pop these past two months, so I have a lot of global treasures to share!
February 2022 Edition // March 2022 Edition // April 2022 Edition // May 2022 Edition // June 2022 Edition // July 2022 Edition // August 2022 Edition // September 2022 Edition // October 2022 Edition // November 2022 Edition
Alok & James Arthur – Work With My Love
A straightforward club track, but that “Lola’s Theme” sample is 2000’s nostalgia at its best.
Ava Max – One Of Us
Another month, another great Ava Max track. This album (finally out next week!) is shaping up to be a no-skip affair. Dancing’s Done is another stellar b-side released during the past few weeks.
Benjamin – Hoida Mut
The year is still young, but this is far and away my favorite song of 2023 at the moment. It’s pretty much perfect in my eyes, especially if you like synth-driven pop music. Hoida Mut is one of many tracks from Finland’s UMK23 competition I’ll be sharing this week. The country has quickly become my go-to spot for massive pop bangers.
Darin – What’s The Point
Darin’s best material has often been covers of other artists’ songs. En Apa Som Liknar Dig and Viva La Vida are still in heavy rotation. His propulsive, synth-drenched version of Johnossi’s What’s The Point easily joins this list. It’s absolutely fantastic.
Erika Vikman – Maailmanlopun reunalla (Dance D’Amour)
Speaking of covers, Erika Vikman’s stint on music variety series Vain elämää kausi bore incredible fruit. This is one of ten turbo-charged reinventions. She throws all the bells and whistles on top, as usual.
Generations – PARTY7 (GENEjaNIGHT)
I keep hoping this will get a music video and break Generations’ so-so string of recent singles. This is how I like the group best, powered by a breathless dance beat that bounds with exuberance.
Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha
Another UMK23 entry, Cha Cha Cha seems to have captured the hearts of the public. I love its mix of quirky EDM and shout-along rock. And in a cool evolution, the track actually gets more melodic as it goes.
Kid Phenomenon – C’Mon
Exile Tribe gifts its pre-debut units with original songs, and Kid Phenomenon’s C’Mon is the strongest of the bunch. Their group name is quite silly, but this satisfying retro beat is surprisingly slick.
Official HIGE DANdism – White Noise
I probably should’ve written a full review of this because I think White Noise is my favorite Official HIGE DANdism single in years. The spiraling instrumental during the verses is so cool and I love the driving energy of the arrangement.
Portion Boys – Samaa taivasta katsotaan
Yep, more UMK23 music! This is what you get when you throw the kitchen sink at a bombastic dance pop track. It’s got a bit of everything (including tons of electric guitar) and is shamelessly cheesy. But, if you love this sort of schlock the way I do, it’ll be love at first listen.
Robin Packalen – Girls Like You
The last UMK23 song, I promise! Given my longtime admiration for Robin’s music, this should’ve been my favorite entry. The song ends up being too generic for its own good, but I’m still enjoying that roller-rink ready disco groove.
Shania Twain – Giddy Up!
I’m always ready for some 90’s nostalgia and Shania’s country-pop earworms are still welcome in 2023!
The Last Rockstars – The Last Rockstars (Paris Mix)
This supergroup of J-rock legends needs no introduction, but The Last Rockstars gives them the grandiose sound they deserve. At first I was put off by the obvious rhyming pattern, but further listens have convinced me this is the aural sequel to Imitation Rain I’ve been anticipating for years.
Unite Up! – Storm’s Eye / Break Border
After years away, I’m slowly dipping my feet back into anime (the Trigun update caught my attention). I love series about the idol industry, and Unite Up has been a ton of fun so far. These songs come from different fictional idol groups (JAXX/JAXX and Anela, respectively) and are honestly better than most actual idol music. The vocals in Storm’s Eye are particularly nice.
Yuma Nakayama – Weekend
I haven’t been a fan of any of Yuma Nakayama’s recent comeback singles until Weekend. This one is a definite hit, as long as you’re up for some sprightly, clap-along cheer pop.
Hey Nick! I’ve been meaning to ask you if you would consider doing an album review of Girls’ Generation’s first album (and throw in their song “Beginning”). It’s such a distinct and definitive album, and one of their best. And I really would love to hear your thoughts on the album and each track!
My favorite right now is SZA’s Kill Bill, as well as NOIA’s Eclipse de amor (feat. Buscabulla).
On the indie front, I’m quite enjoying Noel Gallagher’s Easy Now; he’s finally released an Oasis-worthy tune. Seems the brothers might be burying the hatchet and [fingers crossed] getting the band back together. (Huge Britpop fan here;) Other favorites include boygenius’ $20, and Debbie Friday’s So Hard to Tell. I’m also excited that the New Pornographers are releasing a new album soon; they just dropped a decent tune, Really Really Light. Although Canadian, they’re kind of Britpop-adjacent, in that they’re influenced by power pop & 90s Cool Britannia. Speaking of, seems a new Gorillaz album should be coming out too; Damon Albarn’s work is usually high-quality, the man’s a workhorse.
Off-topic: An article from a variety show quotes JYP. This is what we have been saying here all along, the clever lipsyncing, the heavy reliance on auto-tune and production-polished vocals, the not-live “live” performances, the current preference for visual > dance > >>singing, it just does make a sustainable career. Go down the list of idols from 1st gen, 2nd gen, 3rd gen still actively promoting. They all sing and dance live while holding an actual mic.
“During that time, ITZY was seen seeking advice from J.Y. Park. He shared, “Which of the idol stars can hold a mic and sing while dancing at the same time? That’s the one who will last.” He elaborated, “The ones who can dance and sing live will survive.””
Currently in love with Lexie Liu’s latest album (and have been obsessively streaming since it was released in December)… ngl it’s looking like Magician will top my spotify wrapped for 2023 which is NOT a bad thing
I have recently discovered Lexie Liu and fully agree on the hotness. Fyah.
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My highlights of the past two months:
-SEEING A RINA SAWAYAMA CONCERT!!! She’s an absolutely insane live performer, sang the whole time while dancing, and I was right at the front so she saw and complimented my cowboy hat. Best night of my life!
-Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard by Lana Del Rey, I feel like Lana always returns when I need her most and her voice has never sounded better
-The News and C’est Comma Ca by Paramore, I’m so beyond excited for their new album!
-The Me Before You EP by Denise Kim, Denise was my favourite singer in Secret Number and her EP is absolutely fantastic pop-rock, I’m really impressed.
-Married in Mount Airy by Nicole Dollanganger, it’s been five years since her last album and this was well worth the wait. Simply beautiful.
-Love from the Other Side by Fall Out Boy, FOB are one of my all time favourite bands and I was eager for their return. This song sounds like everything they’ve done before distilled into the very essence of what they do, and I LOVE it.
-Metal Kingdom by Babymetal, it’s nearly SIX MINUTES LONG! And a really good song! I cannot wait for their new album.
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Literally cannot wait for the new Lana album. From what I’ve heard its gonna be 77 mins long and have lots of “weird” elements.
Oh you could make up a Eurovision Contest from Finnish contestants only it seems. Being invested in Eurovision since forever + being from a country with history of disappointing contestants it makes be insanely jealous! Tough choice for the Finnish audience though, my fav is definitely Benjamin but there is nothing that screams Eurovision more than Portion Boys. God I love this show entirely too much xD
I haven’t listened to much music in general in the past 2 months tbf but 2 of my favourite artists are back with new material and they are both releasing albums this year I am so hype.
Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. Literally think she has been in the peak of her career since 2019, my favourite female singer of all time. The new album sounds like its gonna be wild based off the collabs, run length (77 minutes!) and the song titles.
Sleep Token – The Summoning, Chokehold, Aqua Regia, Granite. They have released 4(!) singles in 2 weeks and every one is different. The Summoning is my favourite in particular cos it is an insane mix of rnb-alt/prog metal for 3 and a half minutes, then goes into some kind of atmospheric instrumental synth for another minute and a half before some kind of jazz funk ending? And it is horny af. My favourite male singer of all time (tho I think Chokehold might be a better capture of his vocals though out of the 4 singles).
i mean idkbu but im just waiting for the day nick gets into enstars
Are you me? LMAO
i mean idkbu but im just waiting for the day nick gets into enstars
how’d you find it?
It’s Finland’s song competition to pick the act they’re going to send to Eurovision. It’s a strong bunch of songs this year!
Thanks for these recomendations Nick, I´ve been listening to K-Pop less and less lately. I´m just tired of the same old effects, sing-talk, and extremely processed vocals, my favorite thing about K-Pop was the fun, happy songs and lately they haven´t delivered. I love listening to other country´s music (I mean, that´s how I found K-Pop in the first place) and Japan is definitely part of my playlist, but I´m surprised with Finland! I didn´t know they had such fun songs. This is exactly what I needed, thank you.