Here’s looking at you, Deep Cuts.
Dreamcatcher – “Trap”
While the rock influence is still there on “Trap“, like many of Dreamcatcher‘s b-sides on ‘Alone In The City‘, they went a different direction with the sound. The group has proven they could do well on EDM efforts with “Sleep Walking“, and this is another example of that.
The verses are actually rather gentle despite the quality riffing at the start (that probably should’ve been utilized further), and the best part about this song is the outstanding build with the booming drums in the pre-chorus. The “nal joyeo oneun trap” exclamation signifying that arrival of the chorus is the obvious standout, but it also pairs nicely with the throbbing synths of the instrumental drop. I wouldn’t have preferred it as a title track over either of the ones they actually did use this year, but it certainly has that type of quality.
Dreamcatcher – “July 7th”
I sometimes look for excuses to keep Dreamcatcher songs out of features like this and year-end articles due to perception issues, but at the heat death of the universe nothing we do will matter anyway, so honesty is most important. “July 7th” seemed like a likely casualty of this feature initially, as it’s not bombastic or necessarily complicated as the rest, and its core is rather downbeat reggae.
Amusingly, that ended up being the appeal of it, as the simple beat never tires due to the bells and (literal) whistles. Furthermore, it allowed Dreamcatcher to showcase their ability a bit, and the dreamy atmosphere was another plus. It’s not attention-getting, but it’s one of those sounds you unconsciously find yourself being drawn into and grooving with as it plays in the background.
BoA – “U&I”
The lack of hype for BoA‘s ‘Woman‘ album has been bizarre to me, as not only is she a legend in both Korea and Japan, but almost two decades into her career she’s releasing some of the year’s best pop efforts. The circlejerk of hyping everything famous artists release should benefit her, but doesn’t for whatever reason (older female?), and as a result gems like “U&I” are lost even further into the void.
The pounding beat helps create an upbeat dance floor vibe, and the
outstanding grumbling, pulsating throwback 80s synths powers the whole thing constantly forward. The power chorus seals the deal here, with the “neowa na na na na” and “bend the universe” refrains standing out as both impactful and addicting. The replayability of “U&I” has proven to be a strength over time, and BoA has continued to add to her legacy here.
EXO – “Gravity”
Unlike seemingly many others, I haven’t been much of a fan of EXO‘s title tracks this year, but “Gravity” basically makes up for it. “What U Do” ended up as one of my favorite tracks of last year, and while this is a different type of sound, it left the same type of initial impression.
Its funky sound is underpinned by a sultry, filthy bassline, and the vocal performances shine as it builds and builds to a “gravity” climax in the chorus that punctuates the whole effort. The chorus is thankfully even more than that, however, exploding into this addictive Jamiroquai-esque vibe. While many go for subdued and pensive on b-sides, “Gravity” is at the core of the album and it undoubtedly holds the best moments from EXO this year.
Zion.T – “Ideal”
Checking in at under two minutes, “Ideal” is so short that it’s appetizer more than entree. However, it packs enough quality into its time that the listener definitely ends up wishing it was twice as long.
The core beat and the snares that interject provide a catchy and uptempo foundation, and along with the piano/keyboard, Zion.T himself stars with an array of vocal rifts. Meanwhile, the chorus is a smooth offering that manages to level everything off nicely. More than any one thing standing out, it’s the whole rhythm and feel that was the star of this easily replayable song.