September started off what is turning out to be a long string of boy group comebacks, and my tastes are reflected accordingly. I really do try to stay balanced and listen to both girl and boy groups, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out. I confess that I spent most of my attention on EXO and BTS: the former because they’re my favorite group, and the latter because I was really impressed with their latest music. However, many groups reminded me that I shouldn’t be forgetting about them either.
I was a little wary of B1A4 buying into the tropical house trend, but they took the style and made it their own. “Rollin'” is just as appealing and catchy as the rest of their hit songs. The music is soothing, the dance is fun and carefree, and the music video is beautiful. A lot of the music I like is pretty intense and energetic, so it’s nice to listen to something a little more low-key. It’s now my go-to song when I want to relax.
When EXO released “Power” at the beginning of September, I really wasn’t planning on putting it on my list. But the truth is that I grew to really love it over the course of the month. I listened to it constantly (and I still do). Sure, it’s not their best track. And sure, it’s a little cheesy. It’s admittedly a strange choice for a group that’s arguably the biggest act in K-Pop right now. But I can forgive all of that, because EXO my favorite group and it’s so freaking rare to see them having fun. Even if it’s just for the cameras, getting to watch them goof off and be silly is a treat for fans.
“DNA” reminded me that all of the hype surrounding BTS is well-deserved. It takes a clear step away from their previous work, but there are still plenty of traces of their signature style. There’s an immense amount of care and attention to detail. Per usual, everything is interconnected: from the lyrics to the choreography to the music video’s aesthetic. It’s easy to enjoy at surface level, yet there are lots of small details to enjoy if you care to look closer. Pop music doesn’t need to be layered and complex to be enjoyable, but BTS shows us that it can be.
*GFriend, “Summer Rain”
Full disclosure: I really just put this here because I felt I should include a girl group. But to be honest, “Summer Rain” is probably my favorite of the three songs GFriend put out this year. It’s very pretty and elegant, and I love how the piano is one of the key instruments. While it’s a little too similar to some of their other music for my liking, it does show off their more delicate and emotional side. “Fingertip” was bold but flawed, and “Love Whisper” was way too safe. “Summer Rain” strikes a nice balance in between.
Pentagon started off by following all of the popular boy group trends, but they’re really coming into their own this year. Both of the singles they’ve released truly sound unique, especially “Like This.” I listen to a lot of music, and I’ve never heard anything like it before. It’s soft and sentimental, but at the same time it’s moving and powerful. If you look at everything together, this comeback showcases all of Pentagon’s potential: beautiful vocals, strong rapping, picturesque dancing, and flawless visuals. I’m happy they’re taking steps to stand out – especially musically – and I hope that it will pay off.
*Favorite Aesthetic Music Video: B.A.P., “Honeymoon”
(My definition of an aesthetic MV: A classic music video that’s primarily designed to be eye-catching. There might be a concept, but there’s not necessarily an obvious story or plot to tie it into. They’re mostly visual candy. These kind of music videos catch my attention mostly if they have interesting technical elements: color schemes, production design, lighting, cinematography, editing, etc.)
Compared to the dark aesthetics of B.A.P’s recent music videos, “Honeymoon” looks like an idyllic dream. The members wander a gorgeous paradise, where the grass is an unnatural shade of green and the ocean is a calming blue. But “Honeymoon” is about breaking away from life and societal pressures, and I love that there are hints of that throughout the music video. Though B.A.P appears to be isolated from the rest of the world, images of Himchan holding pills and Yongguk smashing an outdated computer show small reminders always remain. It’s more of an idea than a storyline, and there isn’t really any conclusion. But I’d like to think the final shots – the clear nod to The Last Supper, Yongguk pouring wine on a tombstone labeled B.A.P – signify closure with the past while looking towards a new future, a true willingness to let go and move on.
*Favorite Concept Music Video: Bobby, “Runaway”
(My definition of a concept MV: A music video that is somewhere in between an aesthetic music video and a story music video. There is a definite concept, and everything in the video helps to visually solidify it. There is usually some kind of story, but it’s more of a situation. There generally isn’t an ending or resolution, or if there is it’s ambiguous. Or in some cases, the story is put aside in favor of the visual elements.)
I don’t follow Bobby very closely, but I’ve always seen him as a tough and charismatic performer. So the sentimental “Runaway” was a complete surprise. We see a Bobby who’s introspective – and maybe even a little vulnerable – as he wanders aimlessly and runs around in frustration. We see many shots of him as a child as the song depicts the unexpectedly heavy responsibility of adulthood, as well as an emotional reenactment of what’s probably him leaving his parents to go to Korea. His treasured Winnie the Pooh doll even makes an appearance. Bobby is often depicted as the powerful rapper, so this more personal side is a very welcome change.
*Favorite Story Music Video: EXO, “Power”
(My definition of a story MV: A music video that clearly has some kind of narrative, with the soloist or members often playing characters and not versions of themselves. Ideally there is a beginning, middle, and end. There must be some kind of resolution, or a promise of one if the narrative spans several music videos. The story should ideally be easy to figure out, but it can also be cryptic and give lots of visual clues like BTS’s trilogy.)
I’m a self-professed pop culture geek, so I love that EXO has fully embraced their superhero concept. They usually prefer music videos on the artsy side, so it’s great to see something so light-hearted and fun. The story is fairly simple, but there are so many great little goodies to appreciate. If you like comics, superheroes, sci-fi movies, arcade video games, or all the above, you’ll probably get a kick out of watching “Power.” It’s incredibly gimmicky, but that’s also kind of the point.
Most Impressive Moves: BTS, “DNA”
I literally only have good things to say about this dance. In my opinion, it has no flaws. It’s engaging and entertaining from beginning to end. Everything is on point, from the formations to the musicality to the nature of the movements themselves. We all know how much I love to analyze, but in this case I think it’s best to just watch and enjoy.
Choreography I Want to Learn: GFriend, “Summer Rain”
GFriend is still sticking to their “powerful innocent” concept, because the dance is a lot busier than the song itself. However, there’s a notably softer and more graceful side that fits the atmosphere very well. I like dances that visually reference song lyrics, so I love all of the raining and umbrella imagery. “Summer Rain” certainly doesn’t compare to “Rough” (my personal favorite), but it’s still very enjoyable to watch. It reminds me of the kind of dances I used to perform in high school, so there’s a bit of nostalgia there too.
*B1A4, “Love Emotion”: This basically has everything I love about B1A4, and it’s a great showcase for their sweet vocals.
*EXO, “Sweet Lies”: I love everything about this, particularly the vocals. (When D.O. sings, I get chills!) I almost like it more than “Power!” EXO’s sexy songs always get to me.
*B.A.P, “Rewind”: I love the guitar here. “Rewind” is a little softer than most of the music B.A.P has recently released, but it still has that trademark intensity. It doesn’t really vary in energy, but it feels like a something’s slowly boiling up until the end.
*GFriend, “Rainbow”: I really like “Summer Rain,” but I kind of wish that “Rainbow” had been GFriend’s title track this time around. It has their trademark energy and electric guitar, but it also sounds a little more unique and interesting than either single the girls released this summer.
*Bobby featuring Katie and DK, “Secret”: I’m living for this chill R&B style song. I know enough of iKON to know DK doesn’t really get a lot of lines, so it’s nice to hear him here.
All of the songs on this album are so different from each other, and I love it. My favorites are “Intro: Serendipity,” “Mic Drop,” and “Go Go.” Which admittedly are all the songs everyone is talking about, but it’s for good reason. Jimin sounds so good on the intro, very soft and romantic. It’s the perfect kind of song for him. “Mic Drop” is the cool swaggering song we all needed, especially after that Billboards win. And “Go Go,” my favorite, is chill and fun yet very relatable to our generation.
NOTE – All songs and videos are from Big Hit Entertainment (BTS), Brand New Music Entertainment (MXM), Cube Entertainment (Pentagon), Source Music (GFriend), SM Entertainment (EXO), TS Entertainment (B.A.P), WM Entertainment (B1A4), and YG Entertainment (Bobby)