|Sin's K-Pop Roundup 2022 Part 1/3|
It's finally here. Did you know there's a k-pop tag? Hooray!
Greetings! Sin here to challenge/reinforce your preconceptions about k-pop and its fans with a roundup of the previous year in Sput’s least familiar genre/culture. What you see before you is as in depth a coverage as you’re likely to find anywhere release-wise, or at least I hope so - I’m sure I’ve forgotten one or two releases here or there, but I’m not faffing about any longer publishing this list, I’ve been basically non-stop listening to this shit for ten months at this point to bring it to you and there comes a time where I can’t be asked to go any further. I plan to make this an annual thing and hopefully with that in mind, next year’s edition will be that much quicker.
So before I get started, I thought I’d jot down a couple of disclaimers for the maximum of four people who will bother to read this:
1. As much as I feel I can claim k-pop superiority over pretty much anyone on this website, on the off chance some random stan account sees this, I’m probably missing tons of details or weird culture things - I don’t particularly care about fan culture or the day to day details of who opened a new instagram account and stupid dating rumours, nor fanbase rivalries or any of that shit. I like the music and I jam it, and I try to be familiar with the most major news headlines relating to the industry. I apologise if I get things wrong, I mostly just care about how things sound.
2. Naming conventions for formats in k-pop are fucking stupid as hell, so I’ve adapted it to my own system for the purposes of this list. Albums are still albums, mini-albums, EPs and singles with more than one track are classed as EPs, and loose singles with just the one track are designated as just singles. Repackages are basically just deluxe editions and only rated based on the new tracks.
3. Acts who only released loose singles throughout the year are represented in the section at the end as lone singles can’t be added to the Sput database (as much as some people try), whereas loose singles released by artists who also released at least one more substantial project are attached to their respective entry in the main list.
Ice Cream Cake
4. I’ve included my favourite tracks (those I’d rate a 4/5 or above) in the Iconic Jams section under each release.
5. My scores usually don’t count things like tracks that were released ages ago and have been shoehorned into the current releases, or alternative japanese or english versions of old songs because I’ve usually already heard them at that point and don’t really care about re-listening to the same song with different words etc. Compilations and such will be rated based only on new songs.
The list has extended far past the readability standards of a singular entry, and obviously past this archaic website’s own limitations, so this list will be split into three parts sorted alphabetically. With all that out the way, let’s get to the point of this whole thing.
Take a Chance
Complete With You (EP)
This exemplifies a problem you’ll see a lot with boy groups who aren’t tied up with the more edgy in-your-face aesthetics and sounds - slow, dull ballads everywhere the eye can see. This is not the worst by far in terms of quality but it’s a style that takes a hell of a lot of personality to pull off and this doesn’t really come close. There is one group track here that’s decent but the rest are mediocre solo tracks from each member. Not worth it.
A to B (EP)
Starts off pretty well but slides in quality with each successive track. Marginally better than the previous effort, this is more dance-pop territory and thus more energetic but it’s still painfully generic.
ICONIC JAM material: PARACHUTE
Take a Chance (EP)
Damn ok this one is solid actually, it's way more fun and carefree than their other releases this year and has a couple of really solid bops, especially the housey Sugarcoat. Good improvement.
ICONIC JAM material: Sugarcoat, Complicated.
The Little Name (Single)
It’s decent. A bit lacking in any kind of hook to really grab attention so kinda melted into the background, but decently enjoyable.
Trouble? Travel! (Single)
A bit catchier, a bit more energetic, a bit better overall. I do think her voice is really solid, perhaps could use an actual killer instrumental in the future.
Adorable REbirth (EP)
A dud pretty much. Again the vocal performance is great, but the songs themselves are so lifeless.
A rather disappointing sophomore slump. There are two pretty good tracks here (Girls, Illusion) and then three that just straight up fail to be interesting or engaging in any sense. The tacked-on previously released singles at the end of the EP are generally pretty good, but why exclude their best song Next Level if you’re gonna compile the other loose tracks? Just kinda bizarre all the way through, hoping for better next time.
ICONIC JAM material: Girls, Illusion.
Girls Gone Vogue
A whole lot of mediocre nothing.
I’m not sure I’m a fan of the idea of an American Eurovision, but if the winner’s this good maybe I should be more on board. Maybe not very adventurous, but very well put together and catchy.
ICONIC JAM material: Wonderland.
Girls Gone Vogue (EP)
This is all rather pedestrian. She can do a lot better as evidenced by Wonderland - the performances here are just way too low-effort, and the instrumentals are perfectly fine but lack bite. It’s still decent, but disappointing.
First Howling : ME
First Howling : ME (EP)
On the fence with this, Under the skin is clearly a really good pop rock track but nothing else lives up to that standard and I don’t really get a sense of a strong identity behind the group.
ICONIC JAM material: Under the skin.
Note: sput hates ampersands, they're usually listed as &TEAM.
The prolific group once again comes through with an album it’s hard to pick holes in, but struggles to have enough standout moments to elevate them to the top tier of k-pop royalty. Lead track Dilemma is really good, as are a couple of other tracks, but the rest just kinda melts into pleasant background jams, especially towards the end of the record.
ICONIC JAM material: Dilemma, Single Rider, Free & Love.
Park Chorong and Yoon Bomi of Apink team up for a little duo/subunit that has a surprising amount of heart in it. The title track is predictably slick and glossy, and the other two hold their own quality-wise as well. Hoping for more from this unit.
ICONIC JAM material: Copycat, Feel Something.
There’s part of me that recognises that this isn’t really the most fully-formed set of songs and lacks a bit of conviction or strong identity, but for what it is it’s pretty fun. Will need to show more on any follow-up though.
ICONIC JAM material: ILYSB.
Drive to the Starry Road
Drive to the Starry Road (Album)
ASTRO have never really been that interesting, unique… or good, really. Colour me surprised then that the group tracks here aren’t too bad - lightly funky little vibey approximations of bops. Oh, but then half the album is terrible solo tracks. Why???
The Beginning : 開花
The Beginning : 開花 (EP)
Sounds like everybody else.
The Beginning : 始作 (EP)
The World EP.1 : Movement
Beyond : Zero (EP)
Basically two new tracks and an intro, plus a load of Japanese versions of old songs. Don’t care about the alt language versions so all I’ve got to go on are the unfortunately pretty mediocre newbies. Oh well.
The World EP.1: Movement (EP)
ATEEZ to me have always been just ok, nothing better or worse. This doesn’t change that at all. It’s well-produced, but this style of dramatic dark edm trap-pop is a recipe for ear fatigue in anything but a microdose, and the trip here is not worth it. Guerrilla is a good track though.
ICONIC JAM material: Guerrilla.
Spin Off : From The Witness
The World EP.Paradigm (EP)
Sometimes k-pop intros are way better than the rest of the release, this is no exception why is it so good? Only one new proper track (Paradigm) here anyway, and it's pretty lame. Meh.
ICONIC JAM material: Intro: Siren.
SPIN OFF: FROM THE WITNESS (EP)
Some really fun clubby remixes and a great lead track (HALAZIA) that surprised me in how addictive it is. Maybe one day they’ll put out a proper consistent release.
ICONIC JAM material: HALAZIA, WIN (June One Remix), I’m the One (Eden-ary Remix), Take Me Home (IDIOTAPE Remix).
Intersection : Blaze
Intersection : Blaze (EP)
Aside from that tragic opening track, this is somewhat serviceable for that k-trap boy group sound. Lacks a bit of oomph though.
They really need some better instrumentals here, there’s a clear subduing of their vocal power to compensate for how lifeless these tracks sound.
Absolute Zero (EP)
Some really catchy synthpop production here especially on the brilliant 4th track. It’s nothing too new but it gets the job done.
ICONIC JAM material: We don’t care no more (feat. June One).
Do you want to hear an awkward and even lazier approximation of Post Malone at his least interesting? Well, if you do then great, but this does absolute zero for me. Waste of a Seulgi feature too.
2번째 공주님 (heroine again) (Album)
Really wonderful and dreamy indie pop, great vocals, feels almost like some more guitar-leaning j-pop than it does a typical k-pop release. I’m a complete sucker for that kinda thing, so this is perfect.
ICONIC JAM material: 마법의 낮 (magical day), 발레리나 (oh oh), ... (dot dot dot), love me 100, 나의 세상에서 (my world).
Blue Sky (EP)
Oh man this is bad haha.
SPACE MULAN (EP)
This one got a little attention in online circles and for good reason - it really feels like it’s pushing the boundaries production-wise for k-pop with its blissed-out 2-step style, but the key aspect here is just how great the execution is. It really feels like for possibly the first time k-pop producers are at the forefront of trends seen in western pop music rather than a couple of years behind and this is a prime example of that phenomenon. Not that there was anything wrong with previous trends in k-pop, but often in the past the more western-influenced styles seemed like more of a reaction to what had been happening abroad, rather than actively propagating a movement at its genesis in tandem with other originators. Back to the music though, if you like PinkPantheress you’ll like this.If you want a bit grander and more melodic take on the style, you might like it even more. All I can say for certain is that it’s really fucking good, and I eagerly await more.
ICONIC JAM material: 1-2-3, SPACE MULAN, SATELLITE (feat. CHE & Yonko), GO! (feat. Eelittlee), IN THE BATTLE.
Love or Loved Part.1
Love or Loved Part.1 (EP)
A whole lot of nothing, but the novelty of hearing Soulja Boy on a k-pop track did lend this a little more intrigue than it would otherwise afford.
B.I & Chuu - Lullaby (Single)
I like Chuu on this, but everything else is boring as fuck.
Lowlife Princess: Noir
Lowlife Princess: Noir (Album)
BIBI’s more westernised fusion of k-pop and r&b-ish ‘alt-pop’ treads a fine line between catchy and annoying, but luckily the brevity of this debut full-length kinda saves it from the latter. Not a bad attempt, I can’t really pin any major criticisms to it, but it definitely feels strangely backloaded, the last three tracks being a cut above the others.
ICONIC JAM material: Lowlife Princess, JOTTO.
10 tracks and 39 minutes is not an EP., stupid formatting in this industry I swear. Oh well, luckily this is largely pretty good passionate r&b - some of the more trap elements are weaker, and sometimes it gets just a little bit too slow, but there are some really tight jams here.
ICONIC JAM material: Vancouver, Beyond Love (feat. 10cm).
The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One
The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One (EP)
Billlie have been very busy this year, two EPs, each with an accompanying ‘soundtrack’ for their respective promotional material, as well as a collaborative single. Yet the problem still remains that despite their material being consistently decent and well-done, they really struggle to have much in the way of standout songs. The concepts are a bit higher effort than your regular concept group and all the ingredients for a top-tier group are there, but they just need better songs. This first EP of the year is probably their best release of 2022, mostly due to the fact that a sign ~ anonymous is one of the better tracks I’ve heard from them, but they just lack the ability it seems currently to make that step up.
ICONIC JAM material: a sign ~ anonymous.
The Collective Soul and Unconscious: Chapter One Original Soundtrack From "What Is Your B?" (Album)
Mostly instrumental snippets of songs and some surprisingly well-done classical interludes, it’s an interesting idea to officially release this material and it helps it’s of a surprisingly good standard for what it is, but definitely not essential.
The Billage of Perception: Chapter Two
Track by YOON: Patbingsu (EP)
Remake of an old song by collaborator Yoon Jong Shin, very well done by all accounts, but I’m just not too into the original song. The B-side is also very solid.
The Billage of Perception: Chapter Two (EP)
Very much the same story as the first EP, although missing the one minor standout track that one had. If you just want to jam some good k-pop then you can’t really go wrong with this, but there’s also far better choices elsewhere.
The Billage of Perception: Chapter Two Original Soundtrack From "The End of the World and the Awakening" (Album)
Again very similar to the other soundtrack, although a bit more of a jazzy piano influence in some places. Not quite as varied as the first though, so not particularly interesting outside of a completionist mindset (it’s only 13 minutes long in any case).
BORN PINK (Album)
Oh BLACKPINK, how the mighty have fallen. Actually I don’t even know if that’s true, by all metrics they’re the most commercially successful girl group around and the first to majorly crossover into the western market. But god do they need a refresh artistically - the tracks here are so ridiculously predictable and generic, and there’s not even one standout bop that makes the two year wait for this album worth it like Lovesick Girls was on their previous album. The fact is they have not evolved at all since their debut, and while the money continues to roll in for them and their production company I doubt they will, even if it comes at the cost of quality of their output. I really want to think that the muted reception this seemed to garner even from their fanbase might spark a reset, but I’m not holding out hope.
K2Y I: CONFIDENCE [Thumbs Up]
K2Y I: CONFIDENCE [Thumbs Up] (EP)
Maybe I’m delirious at this point in my journey sifting through the depths of generic boy groups, but I think this one is like… kinda good? Thumbs Up is a bop, Touch is an almost bop. The closer is a boring ballad and that just leaves an inconsequential intro. 4 + 3.5 + 2 + 2.5 = 12/4 = 3 QUICK MAFFS.
ICONIC JAM material: Thumbs Up.
K2Y II: PASSION [FUEGO] (EP)
Yeah this is more of the same but I like the songs less.
Solid title track, but what surrounds it is the same old wispy fluff of nothingness I’ve come to expect from C/D-tier boy groups.
Yeah this is more E-tier to be honest, nothing of value displayed.
Forgive Me (EP)
After 2020’s surprisingly fantastic full-length Better, BoA’s new EP keeps the good momentum flowing.with a solid EP brimming with a maturity that can only be gained by managing to stick around for over two decades in what is often a very cut-throat industry. The slightly edgier cuts here are definitely the more essential.
ICONIC JAM material: Forgive Me, Breathe.
Proving nowhere is safe from generic cutesy folk-pop! It’s fine, definitely brings a vibe that works, but it does kinda put me to sleep with how safe it is.
She’s the Boss
She’s the Boss (EP)
Really solid for a boy group. Consistent both in style and quality, doesn’t particularly grab me an awful lot other than the fantastic Why Why Why but it's worth a couple listens.
ICONIC JAM material: Why Why Why.
BE AWARE (EP)
Ahh this is much more what I was expecting from this group. Bland, unoriginal, devoid of personality. Avoid.
THANK YOU (EP)
Since they basically completely refreshed their lineup in 2016 (in fact none of the OG members remain since 2017), Brave Girls have been one of the most consistently excellent girl groups out there, and this is no exception. Title track Thank You sounds very much like it could be a Dua Lipa song (in the best way possible) and the deeper, pumping house remix completely works for me. The production here is extremely solid, and kinda encapsulates the fact that this group seems to be a vehicle for going all in on perfecting a particular style at the slight loss of a more varied listen for each release. Very recommended.
ICONIC JAM material: Thank You, Love Is Gone, Thank You (Remix).
The city-pop revival shows no sign of losing steam and this album proves one thing - it’s really hard to fuck up this style. Guest vocalists range from decent to fantastic (praise be to YUKIKA). Maybe not essential, but it’d be hard not to enjoy your time with this record.
ICONIC JAM material: Touch (feat. Jue). Without the Star (feat. Hoody), Time Slip (feat. YUKIKA).
Be Together (Album)
It’s not often an album is able to make me uncontrollably yawn every couple minutes. Somebody tell Max Richter no one needs that Sleep album anymore.
Three new tracks here, but none of them really feel like anything other than odd throwaways. Born Singer is an interpolation of J. Cole’s Born Sinner, and doesn’t do much to justify its existence other than being a mildly curious crossover. Yet to Come sounds like any old lazy b-side. Run BTS is the best of them, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. The rest of the compilation is pretty well curated but I only care about the new tracks which are unfortunately pretty mid. Sorry.
Sorry girls, but Nayeon stole your thunder and Popped way harder just two weeks after you did. Would have helped if either of these songs were anything more than decent. Woeful lack of content is mainly what doomed this group, but that aside there’s not much they offered that nearly every other girl group isn’t doing better.
Very generic, passable but does little to stand out and there’s very little chemistry on display.
Tropical Romance (Single)
A lot better. It’s still generic, but there’s a lot more oomph and energy to this one.
Broken Clock (Single)
Good vocal performances, lacklustre instrumental.
A decent send-off for an unremarkable group. It's good fun, but a similar story to bugAboo in which there’s a billion other groups worth your time over this, and their disbandment goes to show you need more than adequacy to stand out in the industry.
ICONIC JAM material: Jiggy, Don’t Mess With Me.
Sweet chilled pop tunes that don’t really evolve beyond that limited scope.
Last Scene (EP)
I’m not gonna call this amazing or essential, but it’s really good for the more laidback adult contemporary style which can often feel lazy and unexciting. Not that this is particularly energetic or different or anything, but it certainly can’t be faulted in its execution.
ICONIC JAM material: Photograph, I Don’t Even Mind.
Cherry Wish (EP)
Epic driving synthpop anthems are so in right now, and Love in Space is right up there with the best of them. The rest of this EP doesn’t slouch around either - pretty much every song is filled with hooky goodness, gloriously busy and attention-grabbing production and bubbly summer vibes. Full-length soon please!
ICONIC JAM material: Love in Space, Broken, KKa KKa, My Boo.
Bare&Rare, Pt. 1
Bare&Rare, Pt. 1 (Album)
As a followup to the great but bloated Querencia, this new album falls a little short. You’d expect a project less than half as long to have trimmed the fat, but the bop-to-not ratio is about the same in a much smaller package for some reason. It’s pretty good for most of its brief runtime, but I expected something a bit more consistent and with a couple more highlights.
ICONIC JAM material: Sparkling, California Dream.
The Code (EP)
Just kind of exists in that amorphous zone projecting mediocrity and anonymity.
Pinky Swear (Album)
Fun in places, but far too milquetoast overall to leave much of an impact.
ICONIC JAM material: Wonderling.
'OK' Episode 1: OK Not (EP)
Very boring. Very generic. Very NEXT.
Class Is Over (EP)
Very derivative, and certainly not essential, but the first three tracks are just about good enough to salvage the terrible last two. Seriously if you wanna know what bottom of the barrel k-pop sounds like peep the back end of this.
Lives Across (EP)
The eponymous first track is another one of those almost-annoying-but-actually-just-restrained-enough-to-be-a-bop bops, and the rest is at a decent enough quality to make this a clear improvement over their debut.
ICONIC JAM material: CLASSY.
No standout track here (there’s only two) but luckily again more quality controlled than the debut. Still rather throwaway in the grand scheme of things though.
It’s all done (Single)
Solid r&b that’s just maybe lacking a killer hook.
Slick vibes here, infectiously carefree.
ICONIC JAM material: Amoo-rae-do.
Naksan Park (Single)
Another solid vibe, but again doesn’t have much pulling me back in.
Wake up (School of Rock) (Single)
More of the same.
GREEN VELVET (EP)
Really loving this one, much more house-influenced that the preceding singles and it suits her so much. Groove in spades.
ICONIC JAM material: Yellow funky (KOREA), Twinkle, Green velvet light.
Liberty : In Our Cosmos
Liberty : In Our Cosmos (Album)
Competent saccharine boy-pop. Almost irritating in its inoffensiveness, but it manages to cut through the marshmallow fluff with a couple of decent cuts.
ICONIC JAM material: Adrenaline.
New Wave (EP)
Oh dear, what is this? And I was just praising them too. This is like hearing a focus-grouped (even more so) cover of that already terrible Justin Timberlake Can’t Stop the Feeling track six times, just slices of inane slightly groovy (to the point that term is borderline offensive by association) PG-pop. And thanks for ruining the phrase Party Rock just when it became ironically enjoyable again. Blegh.
Who Am I
ZERO 2 (EP)
Very generic EDM-pop, but I do like the confidence of the performance. Better songs is really what is missing here rather than an issue with the group itself.
Who Am I (EP)
This maybe gets a bit of an unearned boost because I took a much-needed break from bingeing this shit, but I liked this a fair bit more than I expected to. Vocals are very strong, and whilst I’m not always craz(x)y about the sonic palette of the instrumentals, they do have a fun energy to them.
ICONIC JAM material: REQUIEM, LION, REAL.
Sequence : 7272
Sequence : 7272 (EP)
This straight up floored me with how confident and complete this sounds for a debut, cutesy dance-pop girl group is such an overcrowded market at times but this feels so refreshed and youthful. It’s maybe a little saccharine for most tastes, but if k-pop to you peaked with Girls’ Generation releasing Gee (understandable), then this is everything you’ve been missing.
ICONIC JAM material: 72.72Hz, Pop? Pop!, Manito, Toi et Moi, Euratcha!.
Sequence : 17& (EP)
Two more fantastic tracks (LOVETICON especially). Really excited to see what the future brings with this group, I hope to god they get the attention and backing they deserve. Did I mention they’re all 17? (at the time of recording anyway). Very few groups this young sound this mature (well except one this year, we’ll get to them).
ICONIC JAM material: LOVETICON (♡TiCON), ANDING (&).
Season Note (EP)
I like what this is going for, I really do. Unfortunately it’s just such a dull and dreary realisation of this kind of cutesy balladry that it’s hard to stomach.
American Gothic (EP)
Solid if somewhat generic r&b in the vein of a tamer SZA. Voice is fantastic, and some of the little flourishes are real nice, but the songs don’t particularly go anywhere unfortunately.
ICONIC JAM material: Cheese in the Trap (feat. Jay Park).
Not much of anything going on here worth paying attention to.
Moodswings in to Order
Moodswings in to Order (Album)
Really solid alt r&b. It sinks a bit into background music at times but I like the production a lot, and when it hits like on Ballroom Extravaganza it really hits. Maybe it's a bit of a stretch to call this k-pop, but I thought it worth talking about anyway.
ICONIC JAM material: Miss Understood, Ballroom Extravaganza, Sometimes I’m.
Apocalypse : Save Us
[Apocalypse : Save us] (Album)
Whilst key group tracks such as MAISON and Starlight are demonstrative of what is yet another solid outing for the always enjoyable queens of slightly-edgy pop rock aesthetics (minus the rock most of the time), where this album really shines is with the latter half of this record’s collection of solo tracks. Showcasing an impressive amount of differentiation between members, styles on offer shift wildly between tracks (which, if not clear, is a good thing). They’ve still got it.
ICONIC JAM material: MAISON, Starlight, Cherry (Real Miracle), No Dot, For, Beauty Full.
[Apocalypse : Follow us] (EP)
The most impressive part of this is that this is probably the weakest Dreamcatcher release in a long long time and it’s still pretty damn great. The emphatic polished alt rock of VISION and anime opening-core of Fairytale are excellent, there are just slight issues with consistency in the other two full songs here.
ICONIC JAM material: VISION, Fairytale.
Really solid first half, let down slightly by a more run-of-the-mill second. Groovy and bouncy to the max at it’s best though, and I find the more subdued production approach (compared to many of the ‘darker aesthetic’ boy bands) to be very well done. Recommend this quite a bit.
ICONIC JAM material: Villain, Switch.
Villain: ZERO (EP)
Aside from GAME this is a big step-down. It’s only a three-track single album, so maybe I shouldn’t expect too much, but the addition of some really lame rock-ier sections kinda dooms this before it begins.
Villain: The End (Album)
Not quite as interesting as the first instalment of the Villain series, although much better than the second, this album is surprisingly replayable/jammable - nothing particularly sticks out as annoying or ill-fitting, for the most part the songs are enjoyable, and MONSTER is a really fun bop. Creative in how many styles they attempt within the half-hour runtime, but missing a couple more highlights to elevate it to the next tier maybe.
ICONIC JAM material: MONSTER.
Nothing new or interesting. Pass.
Manifesto : Day 1
Manifesto : Day 1 (EP)
Oh no, they flopped! These guys were one of the better boy bands of the last couple of years, but this is just lazy trend-hopping and the vocal performances are atrocious. This is what I imagine people who don’t really know anything about k-pop think BTS sound like. Do better next year.
Three new tracks as far as I can tell. Also not worth your time.
Prelude of Anxiety Chapter 1. '21st Century Boys'
Prelude of Anxiety Chapter 1. '21st Century Boys' (EP)
Prelude of Love Chapter 1. 'Puppy Love' (EP)
A carbon copy of the last.
Epik High is here pt. 1
Epik High Is Here (Part 2) (Album)
I mean, this is definitely a late-career album - by and large the performances are competent and convincing, but there’s zero energy here and it becomes a slog to get through later in the album. It’s decent in small doses.
There and Back Again
There and Back Again (Album)
Solid alt-pop r&b shit, very western-coded. Great voice and a couple of great tracks, but very short and not adventurous enough for a higher rating.
ICONIC JAM material: Any Other Way. What If.
The veteran group’s first material since 2019 is a three-track single that unfortunately serves a whole lotta mid. Lead track Fire is possibly the worst of theirs I’ve ever heard, and the others are nothing better than B-side material compared to their previous work. Disappointing.
I debated whether or not to include this in here, but as she is a member of Blackswan I thought it’d be silly to leave it out - basically this a short trap/drill release from a black artist in Korea - it’s noteworthy mostly for that, but it is pretty solid outside of just being a bit of novelty. Will be interesting to see if Fatou’s career takes off or if it becomes influential at all within k-pop, because it’s a promising start and a lot more faithful to Western styles than a lot of k-pop rappers.
THE FIFTY (EP)
A largely successful debut. The synthier dance-pop area of the scene is more than a little crowded at the moment, and it remains to be seen if they have the consistency or strength of personality to last, but for now this is a very promising release.
ICONIC JAM material: Tell Me, Lovin’ Me, Log in.
Midnight Guest (EP)
The opening track here (Escape Room) is so lavish and intricate and detailed that in any other group’s release it would be THE big single. For fromis_9 it’s just another opener. Big single DM more than justifies its hype with an ever so slick nu-disco-ish chorus and some lovely little synth flourishes. This level of quality is justifiably expected for the girls at this point, and the small dip into trite balladry with Love is Around is more than made up for by those that surround it. Another excellent release.
ICONIC JAM material: Escape Room, DM.
from our Memento Box (EP)
Lead single Stay This Way is a great slice of nu-discopop, but it’s the b-sides that shine here. Up And continues their trend of fantastic openers with a truly infectious chorus. These girls can’t help but consistently show everyone else up, and the subtle 2-steppy drum flourishes on display here gel excellently with their sound.
ICONIC JAM material: Up And, Rewind.
Sea of Moonlight (Single)
A surprisingly uninspired and lazy cut from a group that rarely ever misses.
I Never Die
I Never Die (Album)
I’m not sure what went wrong for (G)I-DLE this year. True, they have always come across as a little unsubtle and occasionally tacky, but beforehand they’ve usually managed to balance this out with sincerity and some powerful performances, especially from leader Soyeon. This just comes across as deep as a puddle through confusion over what it wants to be. Does it want to go kpop-rock? Does it want to stay on the edgy trap-pop wave? Does it want to go all-in on mature r&b? Who knows, because while it tries all of these, it sticks the landing with none.
I love (EP)
I somewhat respect the balls to opt to release a song like Nxde, and even more so to make it the lead single. I can safely say however, that it’s an absolute stinker. It goes for the glamorous and the brimming with style, but ends up closer to a strip club bathroom. With the exception of the genuinely refreshing moodiness of Change, little is recoverable here, although there are brief moments that indicate that they could make this work in the future. It’s just a shame they can’t now.
ICONIC JAM material: Change.
Arcade : V
Arcade : V (EP)
I like the really low-budget synthpop angle on display here - Take You There is almost Hellogoodbye-ish. It’s a shame though that there’s a couple of weaker spots that bring down the moments in which it shines.
ICONIC JAM material: X-Ray.
FOREVER 1 (Album)
What exactly do you say about possibly the most important girl group in k-pop history at this point. Their 7th full album is a victory lap - they may have been gone five years, but it doesn’t feel like a beat was missed the entire time. Sure, their sound is a little dated by this point, but I think the choice to stick to what they know and do oh so well is a salient one. I now what I fucking want when I go for a Girls’ Generation album, and this is it in spades. If you are particularly romantic about those 2nd gen vibes, then this is the pick of the bunch in 2022 for you.
ICONIC JAM material: FOREVER 1, Lucky Like That, Closer, Freedom, Paper Plane.
Really enjoyed this one! What every boy group ep should be - fun, energetic, bouncy, and most of all - consistently good. Couple of great cuts here.
ICONIC JAM material: Replay, Knocking on My Door, Miracle.
Wow, I was not expecting something this solid from a group who’s previously come across to me as just another derivative of better groups. Seriously, this thing kicks so much ass, in large part to the fantastic production job. Second half is leagues ahead of the first, but I can’t particularly complain about anything here. A surprising success.
ICONIC JAM material: Two, Don’t Care About Me.
Athletic Girl (Single)
It’s good for what it is, but these jerk rap aesthetics are about five years out of date in the k-pop world and a decade elsewhere.
Heart Light might be the most basic of these three tracks, but I don't know, I guess there’s something there so sugary and addictive to me that I can ignore how basic it is. Much more of a dancey pop-rock flavour here than on the previous single and it suits them, but I’m left looking for a slightly more compelling set of hooks on future releases.
ICONIC JAM material: Heart Light.
Everything here has been done better and with more inspiration by everyone else already.
Strange World (EP)
Serviceable at times - the duet is nice. Not particularly attention-grabbing though.
Wonder Girls veteran Yeeun (aka Ha:tfelt) dropped this laidback set of tunes in 2022. What’s here is of decent quality, but feels very much like a stopgap between major releases. Definitely not essential, but it’s good nonetheless.
Track 2 is called Sad Goodbye and should have been one, because it never gets any better after that. I’m not sure what went wrong here, my limited experience with her previous work has been nothing but positive, however this made me physically yawn. Safe, plain and all too mediocre - the title track is pretty good though.
ICONIC JAM material: Undo.
Picks up in quality towards the end, but this is another pretty generic boy group album with a tragically yawn-inducing midsection.
AFTER SUNSET (EP)
Good background noise and a solid effort, but there really isn’t anything here that grabs your attention.
Hyoyeon of Girls’ Generation goes deep(pun intended) into edm rap territory here. Parts of this sound like a slightly updated f(x) release - the attitude is definitely there. The highs here (DEEP, Punk Right Now) are addictive, but when this falters it's just as annoying as you might expect.
ICONIC JAM material: DEEP, Punk Right Now.
Half of this is pretty good and the other half is terrible. The gulf in quality between the two final tracks is hysterical - Layin’ Low is a really good piece of slick r&b and Waka Boom is an annoying in your face barrage of irritating 2015 edm sounds. Confusing as a whole
ICONIC JAM material: Layin’ Low (feat. Jooyoung).
A case of an industry veteran who should know better. The title track kinda swings around to being fun in a campish way, but everything falls apart after that. Bad Dog is like an Avril Lavigne c-side with even less bite. Picasso & Fernande Olivier is just bizarre, I’m not even sure what happens to her voice on that one. The instrumental to Dinga Dinga/whatever sounds like the guys who write Spongebob Squarepants background music warming up. Watch Me doesn’t even have the decency to be intriguingly bad like the others, it's just disappointingly ok. Alright it kinda sticks in my head I'll give it that. I’ve liked her solo material before, but I’m not sure what she was thinking with this.
Bridge of Dreams
Bridge of Dreams (EP)
Bit of a mixed bag with this debut, certainly nothing here is strong enough to differentiate them from the hundred other artists that sound exactly like this. There is promise though - La Luna is a decently fun romp, and GOT’YA (which was technically a 2021 single) is lowkey an anthem. Opinions reserved for now, but I’m hoping they follow this up with something that shows some progress.
ICONIC JAM material: GOT’YA.
My Time (Single)
Very stripped back instrumentally, but this track has a surprising amateurish charm to it that feels pretty unique compared to a lot of what’s going on elsewhere. Has the spirit of that very early Girl’s Generation work, and whilst not quite as polished, for the most part it hits the right notes.
This is even more PinkPantheress-coded than Bébe Yana and you’d be easily forgiven for getting the two mistaken. Fortunately it’s a pretty great artist to take heavy inspiration from.
ICONIC JAM material: Signs.
Expands her sound a little bit more, with some pretty nice r&b vibes rearing their head on Wow Game, and some fantastic glitchy vocal chopping on highlight Round & Round. Keep an eye on her.
ICONIC JAM material: Wow Game, Round & Round.
The synthwavier cuts on here are solid, but the last two tracks bring it down hard, really low effort.
Love in Bloom
Love in Bloom (EP)
Neither track massively stands out, but this is pretty damn catchy and I find the performances to be pretty strong. Cutesy dance-pop vibes achieved, but needs a bit more oomph.
Que Sera Sera (Single)
Oh look, here’s the oomph. A bit too sickly for most, but for those with less sensitive teeth this is a feast.
ICONIC JAM material: Que Sera Sera.
Thanks to… (Single)
For a ballad from a random unknown group it’s pretty good. Doesn’t equate to an awful lot though.
Wanna Know (EP)
Title track is terrible Fifth Harmony worship that's a decade late, the rest is fine. Needs a big dose of personality if they want to stand out, because this is vibeless.
It’s got some great performances, but the choruses aren’t quite as hot as they’ve been in the past. Still, two pretty solid tracks.
People seem to not like this one much, but I don't know, this is kinda cunty. Like it’s very silly and some of these lyrics are so out of sync with the ‘bad girl’ personas they try to cultivate, but it’s pretty dumb fun. As soon as you hear the chorus of Free Fall you’ll get what I mean - it’s so odd and unexpected you can't help but smile. Trap sounds in k-pop often sound a little dated, but I find a lot of this creative and different enough to be refreshing. YMMV.
ICONIC JAM material: SNEAKERS, WHAT I WANT, Free Fall, 365.
Blah Blah Blah (EP)
More fun in-your-face girl attitude bops. Really not for everyone but I’m a sucker for this kinda style when it’s done right.
Ah so this is what they sound like to everyone else. Ok that’s not actually true, their other releases have personality and end up being quite fun: this is a chore to sit through thanks to some really low-effort songwriting and a general lack of effort felt throughout, culminating in the terrible closing track. You can do better girlies.
Love Dive (EP)
What a way to announce yourself on the big stage. After last year’s excellent bop Eleven, this is exactly the way you go about improving on a debut single. LOVE DIVE is so charismatic, creative and grand - that pre-chorus is absolutely wonderful and elevates the huge chorus so much. ROYAL is no slouch either, a great 90s house groove and an excellent vocal performance. Spellbinding release.
ICONIC JAM material: LOVE DIVE, ROYAL.
After LIKE (EP)
An absolutely glor(ia)ous sample flip in the title track, really hard to make I Will Survive sound fresh in 2022 but my god they have done it, the whole track is crazy infectious. The b-side is maybe their weakest track up to this point, but still serves up some powerful vocals and a reasonably classy chorus.
ICONIC JAM material: After LIKE.
Jack In The Box
Jack in the Box (Album)
Solid effort from BTS member j-hope, who whilst not the most technical rapper never feels out of place and rides the beats well. Production is good if a little bit campy in its ode to old-school styles, but the brief runtime prevents the project becoming grating.
ICONIC JAM material: Safety Zone.
Magic Man (Album)
Really boring tryhard garage pop rock for the most part. Sounds like those landfill indie bands from the UK around 06/07. Not worth it.
Def. - LOVE. (EP)
Slow, ineffectual r&b that does little to prove its worth.
Be Yourself (EP)
Slower, even more ineffectual r&b.
Def. - abandoned love. (EP)
Rinse and repeat.
|92||Jeong Eun Ji|
I’ll give her credit, she really gives these ballads a lot of power, and the fact they are a little more substantial than the usual generic schlock pumped out constantly by many others wins points in her favour. Can’t deny though that it’s a little disappointing overall given the energy of the first track is never replicated again.
Where Is My Garden!
Where Is My Garden! (EP)
Doesn’t really go anywhere unfortunately. The potential for solid vibes is there but it just hasn’t been met.
Like It (EP)
Really weak considering how good Stellar were at times. This feels like off cuts from that era, which are hopelessly outdated by now.
Love is Love
Love Is Love (EP)
Wow, this is some good alt-r&b! Fantastic vocal performance and a great mix of more laid-back vibey shit and moodier trap-pop aesthetics. Not really a weak track on here but the first two steal the show.
ICONIC JAM material: Love Is Love, So What.
Therapy Session (EP)
Super strong vocally and the vibes are tight, but just doesn’t stick with me as much as I want it to. Still pretty solid though.
Way U Are (Single)
Seems like an obvious throwaway track.
Op.22 Y-Waltz : in Major
Op.22 Y-Waltz : in Major (EP)
Wonderful intro track, and Love Shhh! Is a super catchy blast of dancey pop-rock that brings a lot of great old-school vibes. Unfortunately the rest of what’s on offer is rather dull and uninspired.
ICONIC JAM material: Round and Around, Love Shhh!.
Op.22 Y-Waltz : in Minor (EP)
Loveable is such a terrible choice for a title track and I’m baffled why it was chosen - Blank isn’t great but it has a bit more energy at least. Whole thing is rather disappointing and the fact the outro is the best thing here should be a warning sign.
6 Shots (EP)
Really nice r&b shit with a big 90s bend (peep that wailing g-funk whistle on Being Being) and some really satisfying production..
ICONIC JAM material: Being Being, Quiet Quality.
Just Begun (EP)
Pretty weak set of songs. Limper than Kevin Spacey in a room of of-age boys.
= (Neun) (EP)
Some of these are close to bop territory (Ready or Not, Cherry on Top), but the rest is a bit too generic for its own good
All the ingredients are here for an excellent group - great vibes, strong vocals, carefree danceability, but it just needs a little more oomph or a stronger hook to latch onto. Promising.