Another month, another series of K-Pop releases. March saw some pretty high profile stuff come out, but I may deliberately not include them to be a dirty hipster. Read on to find out.
Ice Cream Cake (Red Velvet)
'Ice Cream Cake' is another song released by SM which features jarring shifts between sections. Usually this isn't a good feature, but this song sounds like it is on a constant sugar rush, so it is able to work with the changes between the chorus and verse being as smooth as Lee Soo Man's arse. They also used a creepy chant as a kind of leitmotif and it doesn't ruin the whole song; the entire thing sounds like a video game boss theme and it is this childish, fast-paced nature of the song that has me liking it so much. The production is cluttered, it shifts between sections with all the grace of an elephant on ketamine, the rap break is as unwarranted as ever, and nothing happens when the listener feels that it should, but goddamn if I don't dance along whenever I listen to it. In defense of the rap break, it is better than rapping in their previous songs, but it isn't time to hail Irene and Joy as the saviours of hip-hop, save that for Choi Minho. Ice Cream Cake is dumb fun and Red Velvet should continue with this vibe, it is infinitely superior to Happiness.
Paradise Lost (Gain)
I was surprised that I didn't consider this the best song of March, considering that I had all but handed it the title as soon as it dropped. I already did a post about how great it is that Gain did a biblical concept album and this song really encompasses the high concept ideas perfectly. For one thing, the song starts out with an organ; a staple instrument in any prog rock song, but the song clearly takes itself fantastically seriously which plays very much to its favour. If the video had Gain doing a stupid dance with Narsha it would have completely spoiled the tone. Tonally, this is the polar opposite to Ice Cream Cake as every progressions is natural and the song feels like it is constantly building to a powerful climax rather than skipping several steps and starting with a climax. The scant production at the start blossoms slowly into a wholly beltable chorus and one of the best bridges since Expectation. 'Apple' is a pretty decent song for what it is but it doesn't go nearly far enough to represent the overall ideas of the album; Paradise Lost is balls-out mental, but is perfectly controlled in its madness. All K-Pop songs should have an organ feature prominently in its bridge from now on. Glitched production in the final chorus is a bonus.
Take Care of You (Giriboy)
I am pretty sure this wasn't supposed to be the main single from Giriboy's most recent project. It preceded a video with much more money behind it by a few days ,which is good, but doesn't come close to touching the unbelievably high quality of Take Care of You. A large amount of credit for this song should go to Nochang, the resident bald guy and producer at Just Music who has composed a brooding, somber beat that perfectly matches the feel of Giriboy's voice and lyrics. It was also refreshing to see a narrative song come out of the world of k-hip-hop since there are only so many times you can listen to Okasian rap about how great he is and swear into a camera. Reading the lyrics whilst you listen to this song is a pretty powerful experience as the story it tells is pretty crushing and filled with genuine emotion. I really can't see many songs being better than this for the rest of the year, the control of mood, beautiful lyrics, and god-tier production come together to form an absolutely wonderful whole. Clearly it is Giriboy's glasses that have been holding him back for all of these years.
I Am A Woman Too (Minah)
This was a pretty bad month for female solo artists releasing boring as hell songs. The following three songs kept some interestingly terrible songs off the list to the extent that I have made up categories to accommodate the others and I reserve these dishonourable three spots for songs with very similar issues. I Am A Woman Too starts nowhere, goes nowhere, never thinks about going anywhere; it wallows in its own tedium for all three minutes and twenty three seconds. Mix in some obnoxious backing shouts, bass being way too high in the mix, and the word 'love' being featured more times than I care to count, and you have a truly unremarkable song. Luckily this song is of so little consequence that you will soon forget all about it and pray that Dream Tea doesn't bother with this solo project again, or if they do, they actually give her a song rather than a collection of the most boring sounds known to man.
Wifey (NS Yoon-G feat. MC Mong)
What happened? 'Yasisi', 'Reason I Became A Witch', and 'If You Love Me' were all really good and now NS Yoon-G is given this miserable creation. The law of averages states that she is due a bad song, but I didn't expect the quality to drop quite this low. For the production they went with generic_happy_beat.mp3, for the guest verse they resort to repeating the word 'homie' more than the acceptable level of 0 times, and for NS Yoon-G's part they pull out a bunch of lyrics celebrating domestic servitude. Where is the attitude and personality of her previous songs? This song is the musical equivalent of plain yoghurt, and I am not the type of suburban white person to celebrate such a boring atrocity.
Cinderella Time (NC.A)
I distinctly remember hating all of NC.A's prior work and this continues the trend. The best thing about this release is that the video features Sungjae from BtoB so you can think about how you could be listening to a much better group whilst you endure the greatest boredom ever known to mankind. In fact, treat yourself and just listen to BtoB instead. Feels better? Good, delete this song from memory, god knows I will try.
Most Disappointing Song
Bang Diddy Bang Bang (MFBTY)
I have reason enough to expect good things from MFBTY; Yoon Mirae, Bizzy, and Tiger JK are all great rappers in their own right and they have released some fantastic songs in times gone by. Their effort in March, though, was terrifyingly poor and I would have loved to have included it on the 'worst of' list but that's the way the cookie crumbles. The production is painfully light and really detracts from any rapping quality there might have been (Bizzy was the best rapper for once) and the chorus is about as insipid as you can possibly get; it is annoying, the production doesn't really change, and they might as well be saying nothing at all. They also did 'Bucku Bucku' which was kinda OK as the lack of production suited it far more than 'Bang Diddy Bang Bang' because it really feels like they want this to be a party song, pity that it will merely fade into the background.
Most cluttered production
New World (MADTOWN)
I have no idea if I like this song or not. What I do know is that the producer had no idea when to say 'stop' during the refrain which left them with absolutely no resources to use in the first part of verses. There are points when the production straight up drowns out the voices of the members because there are just too many 'boing' sound effects - I can't for the life of me understand what is happening in the song and, whilst it is superior to 'Yolo', this just brought a new raft of problems for MADTOWN.
Best usage of someone else's beat
농담 (Rap Monster)
Rap Monster released a mixtape and never before have I seen BTS fans go so ape-shit. He is clearly a talented rapper, but most of the songs were pretty bad. This track, though, had the intelligence to use the beat from 'Oh My Darling Don't Cry' by Run the Jewels which has a better beat than basically any Korean hip-hop song because El-P is the best rap producer around. Rap Monster also raps pretty fast and does a decent job, but I am mainly there for the beat. He should exclusively use El-P beats in future.
Whenever a label you particularly like debuts a new group, there is a fear that they will tarnish their good reputation. Cube and Starship are clearly the best labels and I was kinda looking forward to CLC, but continually acknowledged the possibility that they could be worse than U-KISS. Pepe is not about a terrifying green frog (shame) but it is an enjoyable and funky debut song; hopefully next time they will go for an unnecessarily beswaggered hip-hop concept because nothing pleases me more than cutesy people in snapbacks. CLC had a fun song, they can all do their jobs well, and they are cute as fuck. What's not to like?
Until next month, good night sweet readers.