K-Pop Round Up: Oh My Girl rule, Jong Hyun is typically perfect, Boyfriend and Baek A Yeon surprises

So I was going to wait until the end of June to do a half year ranking. But Oh My Girl decided to just win 2016 this week. Before we get to that…

Honorable Mention

Boyfriend have had glorious Japanese releases. The albums Seventh Mission and Seventh Color are solid front to back listens that are bubbly, funky, and even operatic. Unfortunately, their K-Pop releases are just mediocrity overblown into campy/trying-to-be-edgy proportions. (And yet, “Supernatural” was pure pop operatic cheese and it’s wonderful.)

Because of all this, I can’t help but appreciate “To My Best Friend.” It’s wonderful. It’s restrained but lush. It’s light and swift but doesn’t speed over a cliff. It has a pretty bridge that twinkles. And even the chants are joyously boyish. It’s not on the level of their Japanese bubblegum, but it’s good stuff for pure pop fans who want a palette cleanser after BTS’s Fire.

Second Place is First Place Loser

I could have been noncontroversial and just said that Jong Hyun is a genius who deserves every Grammy even though he isn’t American. He’s a singer-songwriter who does not just skate on the cred of being a singer-songwriter. He appreciates a good hook and brings real craft and creativity to the game. But, I’m also going to say that “She Is” is more notable for being a consistent follow up than for being mind blowing in its own right. He makes songs like this in his sleep. He’s a master of his craft. But his first album pushed forward into art. I still need to dive into the full release to see if something more earth shattering is there. The single is great, but I expected this kind of great so it’s good. And considering that OMGodesses just reinvented the wheel and something new came out of no where, I want to move on.

But Before I OMG…

Baek A Yeon just mastered pop and wrote the millenial anthem, the REAL millenial anthem, “So-So”. We try to be all YOLO but that’s just to cover up our existential depression. And this song is the perfect portrait of the functional depression that the world is undergoing.

The song says what it means perfectly, so I’m going to ramble and hopefully stumble on its theme (But seriously, listen to the song with captions on):

This is a song about life not being good, not being bad, wanting “more” but not having the energy for “more.” Love is great, but you don’t have it, but life’s still not that bad. Opportunities arise, but living a “happy” life is just more work than what you are up to right now. True to pop, it’s a bubbly, fun song that is great by its own merits but portrays the melancholy of a neither good nor bad existence which pushes it into art. Bubbly, yet melancholy. That’s good pop.

Everyone is working a job they love/hate so hard for so little that it’s difficult to have the energy to care or strive for anything else. There is such expectations to be brilliant so we numb our anxiety by binging on Netflix and being okay with so-so.

P.S. JYP is ruling. I can’t believe Jia had the guts to leave Miss A. I’m so happy for her. Honestly, JYP should have just made the non-Suzy members into a sub unit to release mini-albums and then as long as Suzy does her one full album and one month of promotion with the group then Miss A can keep going. Or, be real ballsy, and just let Suzy go solo while the real heart and talent of Miss A forge ahead. But I doubt Suzy would want to risk her PR Goddess status and JYP could end up getting the backlash. Why can’t people be rational? God knows that Ladies’ Code have opened all kinds of possibilities, though. However, if JYP does not have the guts to face the fact that Suzy is the strongest and weakest link, then good for Jia for leaving.

THE CONQUERORS

I was rooting for Tiffany. I promise I was. Her single beat Jessica’s but that’s not an accomplishment. The bar was not set high.  Still, I’m happy for her. I tried listening to Tiffany’s single over and over to make it stick, though. I liked it. But it was easy to forget. Now, while the K-world continues to hate on Tiffany for no good reason and love Jessica for no good reason, let’s discuss the new underdogs who will not get the worship they deserve.

Critics are already hedging their bets on “Windy Day.” The tone: I’m not sure how I feel about this. The cultural translation: It’s too challenging for my generic tastes.

Oh My Where’s-Our-Crown have become prairie gypsy princesses. The idea of a repackage of their last album made me think this song was going to be boring. I clicked play and then was so sad to be right. And then the freakin’ chorus kicked in after only about 45 seconds and transcended higher and higher with each new line before leaving our dimension only to crash down amongst mortals again.

And then there was so much friggin’ fashion.

Matronly prairie dolls.

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Disheveled polyannas being lazy like royals. GET BACK TO CHURNING THAT BUTTER!

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But always up for some frolicking and wood nymph dancing.

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Glam gypsies in the wind!

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Wind Goddess praying to come home she’s been punished enough in this human realm!

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The back-to-nature video actually felt produced like a professional music video. It didn’t feel like a budget cut passed off as artsy (although it kinda does… It just works well because it is actually artsy, like etsy folk artsy but without the pretentiousness.) It’s more photoshoot art than cinematic art, and I’ll take it. American “beauty shoot” videos are just so self-indulgent, cheap, and boring.

But back to the music. Singing in unison like hippie angels, all this innocence over a subtle funky bass late in the chorus and it all builds to this weird, modulated Bollywood post chorus, only to collapse into another standard (and perfectly short) ballad verse before doing it all over again. The middle-eight bridge is a quick and sweet breath before the final round of glorious festival pop.

And it all works. “Hurry up and get to the chorus” has never been truer advice. It’s a production that still feels like a song, a picture of a love that sweeps you away but still makes you blush.

In other words, I don’t care how much BTS has sold, or how many trophies they’ve won. Oh My Girl just became the top group of any gender of 2016.

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