The first half of April was an exciting burst of energy from the K-pop industry. We saw great comebacks from Crayon Pop and NS Yoon-G as well as an impressive debut from Akdong Musician. Bernard Park won K-pop Star 3 and 15& announced its first album. But practically everything came to a stop after the tragic event of April 16th. The Sewol, a ferry carrying 476 passengers—mostly school children—sank off the southwest coast of South Korea. One hundred seventy-five people were rescued soon after it happened, but since then, no one has been found alive. This caused a lot of K-pop artists and labels to delay or cancel comebacks and promotions for the second half of the month. But while it’s hard to move on from a tragedy like this, there is still a ton of great music to help lift our spirits.
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March was an undeniably exciting month for K-pop. With 2ne1 returning around the same time as Girls’ Generation, the two popular girl groups went head-to-head on the charts and the music competition shows (and Girls’ Generation did a little bit better on both). In addition to that “rivalry”, March saw comebacks from Orange Caramel and Super Junior-M, as well as the debut of a new collaboration, Toheart.
Now here’s a pleasant surprise. A few days ago the Converse sneaker company unveiled a collaboration between producer Diplo, R&B it-boy Frank Ocean, and Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon as the latest offering in its “Three Artists, One Song” single series. There have been eight previous installments in the series—all of which I have admittedly glossed over—but something primal about seeing those names in the marquee made me want to immediately investigate the results.
After the exciting start to the year, K-pop calmed down a bit in February. But despite the smaller amount of big releases, there were definitely some stand-out songs, so let’s check out a few:
B.A.P. - “1004 (Angel)”
After debuting in January of 2012, six-member boy band B.A.P. (Best Absolute Perfect) has finally released its first full-length album, First Sensibility. The lead single from the album, “1004 (Angel)”, came out on February 3rd and remained one of the most interesting songs/videos throughout the whole month. The song is more of a rock/pop style for the group, which tends to lean towards EDM and hip-hop, but it works surprisingly well for the boys, who really get to show off their vocals here. “1004 (Angel)” is a melodramatic song of lost love, with lyrics like “The reason I live is you” running throughout. But with its infectious hook and dance rhythm, it’s hard to not enjoy.
For western pop, January is usually a slow month. Most big acts wait for later in the year to drop big singles or albums, but in K-pop, January is the time to set the stage for the rest of the year. In 2013, Girls’ Generation kicked things off with its incredible “I Got a Boy” video on January 1st. So far this year, we’ve seen major comebacks from Rain, TVXQ, B1A4, Dal*Shabet, AOA, Girl’s Day, and more, as well as premiers by Rainbow Blaxx, Kiss&Cry, and others. After Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, 2013 was K-pop’s year to be recognized internationally, and it certainly succeeded. But that means that 2014 will be even more important: can K-pop continue to hold the West’s attention? Can it continue to get support, new fans, and media coverage? Or will it go out with the other fads? If the songs released in January are anything to go by, K-pop is here to stay, and 2014 is off to a great start.