Sunday, August 9, 2020

[PLAYLIST] KPOPPY's first half of 2020

This year... what the hell is this year?!

Gonna try to focus only on music for this post, but I (and the rest of the world) have been on such a rollercoaster that I feel like this playlist is going to be cobbled together from superficial enjoyment ... more than usual anyway. It has been hard to pay attention and listen to full albums and curate more thoughtfully since the start of the year. And, of course, the industry has also been disrupted, so it's a whole mess. Phew.

The 'noise war' trend has carried over from last year. Bombastic brassy EDM fanfare still dominates the idol scene. Strong vocal effects and autotune are still in fashion to my despair (heeelp!!!). Outside of that, lots of strong R&B stuff, which I've appreciated.

[Link to the full playlist on Youtube]

My 30 favorites in chronological order:
More thoughts and features in the full post.

Here we go!

j-hope - Ego
-- I loved the idea of BTS calling back to earlier music and creating new songs using elements of the old. I loved the idea of exploring Jung's archetypes of Persona, Shadow, and Ego. I was close to loving a lot of the tracks on MOTS:7... if not for the vocal production that has become an ongoing barrier to my enjoyment of BTS's work. 'Ego' is one of just a few songs in that album I can freely enjoy and I love it. Puts a smile on my face and makes me want to dance!

-- Boy group tracks are very few and far between for my first half playlist. 'Reveal' works by having a solidly catchy chorus. Hooks have been lacking lately as a result of certain trends, but we get a nice hook here.

Cherry Bullet - Hands Up
--  Pretty much any girl group that keeps the vocal range a little lower than the average is at an advantage for me. The slightly odd, but fun integration of Für Elise here manages to make this a memorable track.

-- It's that rising note in the chorus that gets me every time. Overall catchy and also one of the few times this year where the rap part/bridge successfully fits into the rest of the song.

Dreamcatcher - Scream
-- Will there be a time when Dreamcatcher doesn't have a spot in my playlists? As long as they stay on this path, not likely. Love the percussiveness. Love the scream. Love their commitment to the dark fantasy imagery.

SE SO NEON - Midnight Train
-- I've fully fallen in love with this woman and her voice. So!Yoon! and Se So Neon (band) are consistently putting out some great-sounding rock tracks. I'd also recommend looking up a live performance of SoYoon. She has this charismatic stage presence that effortlessly embodies cool. Hearing young women shriek UNNNNIIIEEEE at her while she's ripping away at her guitar is a joy.

-- Hell of a vocal on this. Ahn Yeeun finds this midway point between something quite traditional/pansori and contemporary rock. It feels both retro and refreshing to me at the same time. (Also the abandoned pool is back!)

Younha (feat. RM) - Winter Flower
-- This makes me want to cry. It's really special that RM got to work with Younha who he's been a big fan of for ages. He's great on the track. Feels like one of those old classic female singer/male rapper collabs that used to be so common. Just a beautiful piece overall.

Yunsae - DRRG
-- One of my favorite indie discoveries this year. Easy breezy and sweet. Good vibes. Shout-out to the TWIK podcast chingus for embracing the DRRRRGGG!

-- This one is top 5 for me. You don't know how much you're craving a good solid conventional sounding pop song until it comes along and you just keep it on a loop for a few days. Wherever I go, you're my home!

DEMIAN - Cassette
-- More of that percussive quality I love some much. The moody tone and more understated vocal is very appreciated.

-- Probably my favorite ITZY song so far... probably because it's so different from their established sound. Heh. Super fun.

Stella Jang - Villain
-- My #1 of 2020 thus far. I don't even know what to say about it. Just top-to-bottom, lyrically, vocally, visually, everything... love. We all pretend to be the heroes on the good side, but what if we're the villains on the o-ther!

Hajin - Daydream
-- Killer groove on this one. Not sure what idiophone that is... synth marimba? Dunno. So good. And some legit dancers letting loose for the MV. Fantastic all around!

Chung Ha - Stay Tonight
-- My #2 for 2020. Still pretty sure this is my favorite Chung Ha track so far. Catchy as all hell. Great choreo. I'm all about it.

Ra.D (feat. Jinbo) - Open It Up
-- Just gonna dance all day long to this, okay? No need for anything else.

LUCY - Flowering
-- Lucy is the debut I'll have my eyes on. Hoping for more great stuff from them and a commitment to keeping that violin in there. This is also top 5 for me. Great sound. LUCY, fighting!

Agust D - Daechwita
-- When you break out the traditional instruments, I'm on board 99% of the time. No exception here.

ONEWE - End of Spring
-- Absolutely love the vocal melody and choosing to drop the music away for it. There's also a rock version, but I'm quite content with the original. The mix seems more balanced. Definitely an Avicii thing going on, but I'm into it. Fun video as well.

Moonshine - Broken Glass
-- Just jam.

Alrighty, some special shout-outs for songs/B-sides, albums, and performances.

Only one ballad made it into the top 30, but here are a few more ethereal/pretty ballad-ish tracks I liked a lot:

Well done to OTC's 'Going Out' for still being a bop on re-release with the full debuting group.

BTS's 'Black Swan' Art Film is wonderful with its contemporary dance performance. Very much appreciated the intention there. While the vocal production on the song is a challenge for me to listen to, BTS's choreo for it is quite cool.

Chung Ha's 'Stay Tonight' really takes the cake for me in terms of pop choreo. We got so many special performances of it that are gorgeous. I'm partial to STUDIO CHOOM's version. Also want to give some props to ITZY's 'Wannabe' choreo, which has some iconic elements and is well-performed.

Some English-language tracks I was into:

A few pieces with a traditional/fusion sound:

Albums... I'm waaaaay behind with this, but the faves I've heard so far (Spotify links):

One last gold star to Jeon Jungkook for providing a BTS song with a throwback sound to their earlier work with 'Still With You' (Soundcloud). It was a special free release for FESTA in June (BTS's debut anniversary) and I have listened to it many many many times. Very similar to BTS's 'RAIN' from waaay back. Jungkook's recent solo song on MOTS:7 has such intense autotune throughout that I can't bear listening to it. It depresses me to hear that done to a voice I love. But the vocal production on 'Still With You' is very minimal by comparison to the rest of the group's recent work, so listening to it is pure heaven and a relief. And if there's anything I need in 2020... it's relief. Thanks, kid!

That'll do it! 
I swear I'll get to the 2019 full playlist. Slowly but surely ticking off things on a huge to-do list. I'll get there as long as the 'Rona doesn't get me first. Not saying that to be funny. This virus, and what it's doing to my country (ie. making it absolutely clear that we've been hanging by half a thread over a burning trash heap), is nightmare-ish.

Hope you're all faring okay out there!

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