K-pop Recap: January 2016

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K-pop Recap is a new set of articles aimed at looking back at the Korean music releases of each month. These recaps will include, indie, rock, pop, hip-hop and every other genre that is thrown our way. For many years there have been posts about each individual songs, but sometimes real life sets in and you realise that multiple people have released new songs and you’ve missed a whole week of updates. Now is your chance to look back and catch up. Who knows, you may even find some new songs and artists along the way.

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Rooftop House Studio (Feat: Ben)
“Whenever, That Time”

Similar to OST styled songs (hopefully a few of you will understand that). Basically it has the same vibe and style as most Korean dramas; slightly upbeat, a little bit lovey-dovey and full of cute. The vocals are very nice though, not overly powerful, but they really do blend well together. The music video could be a lot better, which feels like it was done on a very small budget.

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Gary (Feat: GAEKO)
“Lonely Night”

Being a fan of the Korean TV variety show “Running Man”, it was exciting when they began playing Gary’s (a member of Running Man) songs. This song is a ballad with an RnB flare, smooth chorus and nice trumpet work midway. The video is simple, brings out the meaning behind the lyrics in a non-fussy way, and allows the viewer to actually concentrate on Gary and Gaeko’s vocals.

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Giriboy (Feat: Swings)
“You Look So Good To Me”

As soon as the song starts there is a vibe that this is going to be an anthem. The fact that Giriboy is teaming up with Swings just makes it even more of a tune not to be messed with. There is a killer base to the simple backing track, which then allows the listener to really get into the smooth and deep sounding rap from Swings, and the soft vocals of Giriboy. The video is a little forgettable, but in terms of how it accompanies the music, it does its job.

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Dalshabet
“Someone Like U”

Being slightly biased when it comes to girl groups, it was a pleasant surprise hearing “Someone Like You”. Dalshabet are known for being cutesy and for being an ultra girly-girl group, but this track sounds slightly retro with a few modern twists thrown in. The video was bright, pretty and really allowed the girls to showcase themselves. It was really nice to see a slightly powerful side to the girls in their performance as well, instead of the usual “Aegyo girl” style.

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K.will (Feat: Davichi)
“You Call It Romance”

K.will has a vocal range that is only linked with him. Collaborations with other artists can also be a little detrimental whoever K.will collaborates with, as he has an ability to outshine them. In this case the involvement of Davichi really heightens the song to its fullest. One thing that would be nice to see more from K.will is more uplifting and slightly faster songs. We all know he is good at ballads, but a slightly more dancey or even more powerful song where he uses his vocals to their fullest would be nice. This was a safe option, but it was also a good option.

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Giriboy (Feat: BrotherSu)
“Hogu”

If you’ve been following Giriboy over the years, you’ll know that he has an ability to create something that sounds unique and forthcoming. This time round he has conformed too much to what all the other rappers in Korea are doing and fallen short of something that could have been completely different. His slow tempo’d songs are usually a favourite of mine, but it was a struggle just listening to the whole song here.

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Suzy & Baekhyun
“Dream”

As a song that came from absolutely nowhere, this was a pleasant surprise – a truly nice and unexpected collaboration. Showing off the soft jazz and ballad theme, the video keeps it simple so viewers and listeners can just concentrate on the vocals. Simple, cheeky, but adorable in every which way.

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FlaShe
“Lip Bomb”

When fighting for the top spots within the K-pop world, there’s always going to be a tough crowd to please when debuting. Especially so if you are a new female group. The track certainly won’t set the group in stone, nor will it make them the next best thing. The video looks and feels cheap when compared to other music videos done on a smaller budget which look better than this.

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Soo Ah Wong & Kim Woo Joo
“Distance”

Although this is for a web drama series, it’s the kind of song we’ve heard a hundred times before. It’s the same gimmicky sound and style which dramas seem to pump out whenever they want to promote their new series. The vocals go nice together, but the song, lyrics and the layout of the whole theme just doesn’t win me over.

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Lucky J
“No Love”

Traditional music is fading fast from the K-pop world and is usually forgotten, but this release has embraced the traditions of old and fused them with modern day vocals and rap. It was a really nice change seeing Jessi (the female of the group) singing instead of rapping – something she is more famous for; thus showing a whole new side to her rather than the forever “badass” image. Not only is this release a nod to the three members ancestry, but it’s also a nod towards the future of music.

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Shin Hye Sung
“Roco Drama”

With the members of SHINHWA all making a comeback as a group once again, and now having a small break to focus on solo promotions, it was a nice surprise to see Shin Hye Sung come back with a powerful song. This showcases his soft vocals, his never-aging demeanor and a piece of work he can call his own.

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Baechigi
“Walkak”

Smitten with the introduction of the song, with some soft blues (reminiscent of the sounds of the anime Cowboy Bebop), there is something about the vocals of Moowoong and Tak with the feminine undertones of Yeoeun of “Melody Day”. There is a retro feel to the song, which is enhanced with the effects used throughout the music video.

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Yoon Jong Shin (Feat: Tablo)
“The First”

Yoon Jong Shin is well known throughout the Korean music industry as a writer, producer and director of music videos. He has had a yearly project for a few years, where each month he will produce a new song and collaborate with upcoming idols who he feels have the chance to make an impact within the Korean music industry. This time he has incorporated the rap vocals of Epik High’s Tablo, which accompanies the soft almost jazz sounding backbeat. It’s simple, it’s crisp, and it’s clean. It’s also different from most of the songs being released at the moment.

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Jung Yong Hwa & Sunwoo JungA
“Hello”

This collaboration between Jung Yong Hwa and Sunwoo JungA will completely blow you away! Their vocals with the slow and mellow music meld together to create an amazing piece of symmetry. As a musician Yong Hwa has grown in leaps and bounds, but this song has done more than showcase the skills of the male counterpart – in addition this has introduced me to the vocals of JungA, who has a soft yet slightly unkempt and husky voice. Beautiful and stunning, all in one.

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Park Yu Chun
“How Much Love Do You Have In Your Pocket”

Showering his fans with one of his first solo releases in a pretty long time, Park Yu Chun (formerly a member of DBSK/TVXQ, under the name Mickey) brings a heartwarming ballad with an emotionally challenging MV. The moments where we see Yu Chun singing with his musicians behind him, gives him an angelic and beautiful outlook which accompanies the song really well. Also, has Yu Chun’s vocals gained even more strength? His vocals here are smooth and endearing.

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Teen Top
“Warning Sign”

It’s really good to seen the Teen Top members back in the charts with another uplifting, mellow and pretty darn addictive song, something Teen Top fans have become accustomed to. The styling of the MV in monochrome, textured settings, then using bold colours to promote their chorus and the use of “Warning Signs” allows fans to get a closer look at their favourite members. The dance is still on par with their previous songs, and unlike their last release, this new single will go far.

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Ryeowook
“The Little Prince”

Being biased towards Ryeowook’s soft and slightly higher pitched voice, more than any other K-pop idol (due to liking Super Junior), there’s also the fact that Ryeowook is very understated as a solo artist. The video is beautifully done, visually stunning as it tells a story whilst staying mythical. Ballads seem to be the way for solo artists, but this is slightly upbeat as a ballad.

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Zico
“I Am You, You Are Me”

Fans of Block B will be used to hearing Zico use funny voices, going hard with his lyrics and rapping, and sometimes making guest appearances on some big names within the hip-hop genre. This time round he has decided to showcase his vocal skills,. While some of his quirky vocals are scattered throughout the song, there is a serious yet playful effect when coupled together with the MV. A very clever concept with bright colours, great fashion and a simple set.

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G-Friend
“Rough”

Yet another good release from another upcoming big name within the girl groups of Korea. Vocally, G-Friend are one of the top girl groups at the moment. Their rookie status is not shown through their songs or performances. The video is a little cliché and a bit predictable. A little less story and more profiles and dance routine would have benefited the song a little more. The song itself is upbeat, slightly retro once again, and reminiscent of something that would likely be released by Korean boy group Infinite.

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Crush (Feat: Taeyeon)
“Don’t Forget”

Many know Crush as being a prolific producer from Korea. Not too long ago he made his debut as a singer himself and managed to gather a strong following of fans. His vocals are smooth and soft and fitting towards the video, which shows some very cold and snowy scenes of Korea in winter. The song itself is simple in terms of melody and when played as an instrumental it all becomes one very chilled song. Great for studying too!

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Stellar
“Sting”

Simple videos are becoming quite the norm to K-pop this year; less fuss and more attention on the idol. In this case the video is simple yet still completely off from the lyrics of the song. While the video doesn’t really fit well with the music, Stellar have certainly grown as a girl group. With competition becoming so big between entertainers, Stellar have upped their game and produced a really great song.

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Zico (Feat: Luna)
“It Was Love”

This is possibly one of the cleverest releases to come out of K-pop since Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and not for the same reason. Although the song was written and produced by Zico, it is sung by SM Entertainment’s Luna from F(x). In short, by claiming this as his own song he gets some great royalties. But not only has he done great business, he has allowed a very talented vocalist from an under-hyped girl group to get an amazing step forward in the world of solo releases. In reality this release is truly Luna’s first solo song. The song itself is absolutely beautiful, touching and a very quick favourite from January.

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YEZI
“Cider”

Known as the main rapper of Fiesta, Yezi made her solo claim to fame during her stint on “Unpretty Rapstar 2”. This time she is back, by force, and solo. Yezi hasn’t held back with her smooth rapping skills. With a killer beat for the backing track and a typical Korean girl hip-hop style, she came out fighting.

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IMFACT
“Lollipop”

ROOKIE DEBUT ALERT –  That’s right we have another new boy group to look out for. This time it’s Star Empire’s new five member boy group IMFACT, with their release “Lollipop”. They’re very similar to the likes of Madtown, B.I.G, and MonstarX, but with the added Boyfriend, Teen Top vibe. The video is fun, bright coloured and slightly cute. The song is a mix of genres with a wide selection of dance routines mashed into one. Not bad for a debut song, but maybe a little cliché for the times.

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Cross Gene
“Noona, You”

It seems that since we last interviewed Cross Gene they have grown even further as entertainers and as musicians. Vocally this is a great example of what a little time in the industry can do for a group of lads wanting to make it big. The rapping perfectly accompanies the vocalist, and the music itself is high class pop and rock. The video is fun, classy, and so full of swag you will be checking yourself. This is definitely an anthem for K-pop in January, and it’s great to see the boys back in the Korean charts once again, though there is a slight Big Bang vibe from this release, which is not a bad thing!

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The Legend
“Crush On You”

It’s great to see some really promising groups coming back in the new year, The Legend being one of them. This new release has so much American retro to it with their big lights, drive through and even incorporating it into their choreography and fashion styling. It’s a really well put together production. The song itself is fun, bouncy, easy to follow and really catchy.

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Royal Pirates
“Dangerous”

It’s been a while since we have had any really good rock bands coming from Korea, but Royal Pirates are here with their latest single “Dangerous”. Full on rock, plus a splash of K-pop, with lots of very hunky men, and you have one very awesome release. This is definitely one of those full blast on the stereo, thrash around the room kind of songs, especially with some amazing electronic mixing on the decks halfway through the song. Love it!

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NiiHWA (Feat:I Su Jang )
“Say Yes”

NiiHWA’s vocals with the accompaniment of I Su Jang are hypnotising here, putting you completely at ease as you bop along to the beat of the song. The video is once again simple, very club worthy, yet instead of telling a story, it proceeds to give you a mood. A really nice and surprising release.

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Jung In
“UUU”

Jung In always has a beauty about her, both physically and vocally. Her voice is so full of emotions. With this ballad, the amount of power behind those vocals mixed with the powerful words of her lyrics is enough to bring a few tears to the eyes. The video is beautifully telling a story, and you find yourself lost within the song and the video together. The use of classical music with the prominent piano is reminiscent of something that Adele would sing, or the likes of Sia – absolutely stunning, emotional, and heartfelt.

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Dok2, Microdot, Fassnakuh, DH-Style
“Backindadayz”

When we all be old and talking about how music was back in the days, this song of epic proportions will likely crop up in conversation. Managing to go full blown underground retro, yet sparking it up with some modern day signed and approved rapping, this is before its years and legit a song that will go down in hip-hop history. There’s a general sense of fun in the video, from the mickey-taking throughout and a look back at how these standalone legendary rappers became who they are today.

So there you have it. January has been a rollercoaster of emotions, from ballads, hip-hop representation, and a lot of retro callings, with music videos taking a simple approach and concentrating on promoting the idols rather than storytelling. January has come and gone in a flash but February has just as much to offer in terms of good music.

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