Monday, August 12, 2019

[PLAYLIST] KPOPPY's first half of 2019

Better late than never. 2019 makes me tired just thinking about it.
Much of my experience for the first half of this year was through the lens of mod responsibilities on /r/kpop dealing with one massive scandal after another. So tired.

What trends do we have going this year? Well, autotune is back. I had noticed it becoming prominent again more in the indie hip hop realm last year. It just grew and grew from there until now most mainstream Idol stuff has strong elements of it. My hate for noticeable autotune can't be overstated. I'm left desperately hoping this doesn't continue for long. Latin rhythms are still present (my playlist is still going), but it seems I was right to question if they would last. There has been a throwback fusion to the tropical house of the last couple years mixed in with the Latin pop sound this summer, but we're getting less straightforward Latin pop already. I'll generally say that Hip Hop is just fully a standard part of almost everything. That's not an especially new thing, but it has reached this point of being absolutely pervasive. I'm fine with that, just ditch the autotune, please!!!

I'm pretty well convinced BlackPink was the catalyst for most girl groups to be doing some form of Girl Crush as a concept. Almost all debuts have been in that vein this year. Boy groups still seem to be doing their general range of synth-y Hip Hop in streetwear. Strappy bondage stuff is still in play a little. Mullets are still in. Autotune and mullets, man. Send help.

Oddly enough, the trend that kept hitting me in the face was the presence of a certain color. This chartreuse, fluorescent, acidic yellow-green has been everywhere for some reason. I even checked to see what the Pantone color of the year was, but that's a coral pink. This neon highlighter green is the vivid opposite of that.

Every shot in this little collage is taken from a different MV, except for KEY who has two from his, including that last totally green square. And these were just the ones I thought of grabbing. There were tons more. I can't recall ever seeing such an obvious color trend like this before.

BTS is still driving K-Pop's global energy. From my perspective, the dialogue through news and social media outside the scene assumed this was just a flash-in-the-pan trend that would die quickly. Lately, I've picked up on some surprise and confusion that it seems to be growing in presence instead of fading as they thought it would. BTS's global success was built on a worldwide grassroots movement of hyper-engagement... I'm not sure what it will take for them to understand that's why they'll continue to burn hot and bright as long as they're active. And BTS content is always active, even when they take breaks. I can't imagine military service is going to change that much, especially if they go in staggered groups. Anyway, BTS still killin' it.

Music! Let's go! I think my personal taste might show more in this playlist than ever before. If you've followed Kpoppy at all, you'll know I like R&B, Rock, pretty melodies, epic ballads, and strong vocals in a lower range.

[Link to the full playlist on Youtube]

My 30 favorites in chronological order:
Featured MVs, B-sides, and more thoughts after the jump.

-- This is pretty endlessly listenable to me. He's in his military service now, but he had a hell of a run as a soloist apart from his band over the previous year. Made me realize he might be the driving force behind why I like so many of The KOXX's tracks. Seems like he just knows how to create beautiful, catchy, melodies.

-- I want to give this awesome lady a huge shout-out. I've said before she was my top favorite from Produce101's first season and her potential was so obvious I hoped she'd be able to fulfill that. Since then she has become one of the best female soloists ever in K-Pop and I couldn't be more thrilled for her. Absolute killer performer. I hope she's able to just keep going and going and loving what she does.

-- Bit of an unusual pick for me here. It hits a lot of the marks for girl group songs that I typically don't warm up to, but the hook on this song is so good. Even the slightly whiny 'na na nana' part in the chorus doesn't bother me much. Sounds unique. I also enjoy that background electric guitar.

-- Top ballad of the year so far. Each time I hear those opening piano notes I just want to close my eyes, breathe deep, and let it wash over me. So pretty.

-- I continue to love what Sunmi is doing with the irreverent tone of her MVs. This is my favorite so far. So delightful and dark at the same time. *sneeze*

-- Don't envy the pressure on these guys for one minute having to come up under BTS, but they're off to a solid start. They share some good elements with their sunbaes, high energy performances with some unique and empowering lyrics/writing. Super fun choreography.

-- Autotune aside, great debut! The build to the chorus is great and then the chorus itself hits all the necessary K-Pop notes for catchiness and choreographic appeal.

-- This one satisfied the itch I've had for BTS's older sound after the last couple eras went in a very different direction. I love the choice to build a new song with an older one. Curious to see if they continue to do so with the trailers for the rest of the MAP OF THE SOUL era. Anyway, give me a Rock instrumental on a Hip Hop track and I'm a happy camper.

-- Another unusual pick for me. Twice is often a hard sell for me. JYP's sing-talky chant style for a lot of their discography so far is not my thing. But that chorus is just too damn good. Nice variation. I responded quite well to their whole recent album actually. Took me by surprise.

-- I almost slept on this one, but each time it came through on my playlist I got more and more attached to it. The melody moves beautifully and then there's a fun key-change in there and overall it's just full of good feelings.

-- BVNDIT's debut didn't quite do it for me, but this follow-up is my favorite Idol girl group track so far. This chorus is so interesting to me, especially for a girl group. Those little flute-ish flourishes throughout the song are also a cool choice.

-- SWJA seems like such a fascinating woman and artist. Her work always feels so introspective and thoughtful. Lots of little ear candy surprises in this one. Beautiful tone in her voice. And also a beautiful MV.

Okay, a few albums and B-sides to mention.

BTS's Mikrokosmos has turned out to be my favorite track of the year thus far. I was super in love with it immediately and then the way they performed it on their most recent tour at the end of concerts formed an even stronger emotional attachment. The fireworks going and all that. Still frustrated that there's some extraneous vocal processing in BTS's work since the Love Yourself era started. Without that, this song might be like top 10 of their entire discography, which is super tough competition. Regardless of the production qualms, I love the hell out of this cheesy nostalgic anthem of joy and solidarity.

I guess we're keeping it in the family with this one, but TXT's 'Nap of a star' is my favorite MV. It's gorgeous and visceral. The song is pretty chill too and is a perfect fit for the visual experience. But yeah, just a stunning music video that can't go without a mention.

I will be praying for less autotune and mullets, while embracing the chartreuse for the rest of the year. None of the lead promoted tracks so far have provoked me into completely cheering at my computer screen. Seems like there were already a few last year by this point. Hopefully something will get me fully jamming in the second half.

That'll do it. Happy summer, y'all! Wear sunscreen!

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