Hello Asian Junkie readers! My friends call me Hojo and I am a weirdo who loves big ol’ sappy ballads. One of my top K-pop songs of last year was a ballad (s/o to AKMU). Sometimes I go on internet radio and do a show that’s only ballads. I worked in a karaoke bar for 6 years and yet I still love ballads. AJ wanted some people to come on the site and wax ecstatic about ballads, so here I am.
KoreanPuffDaddy seems to have the long-form, single song pieces taken care of so I’m going to try to sift through the debris of album tracks, OSTs and indies, and hopefully talk about some great/not so great/iconic/abysmal ballads. And we can find out together what doth make a good ballad in 2020.
Solar X Kassy – “A Song From The Past”
Nothing weird, just two friends dressed in all white singing a 90’s R&B ballad. The best part of the melody is the back half of the chorus when the strings and the voices go their own ways. Bridge feels a bit rushed. Solar sounds kind of tired on here? Even when she belts it it doesn’t quite feel right.
CRACKER – “Tunnel”
Aww yeah here we go. “Tunnel” is a meat and potatoes ballad featuring a perpetually falling melody that neither evolves nor surprises. This is pure unadulterated melodrama: the strings, the way it all drops out in the second verse, the sad sack timbres of both CRACKER and Kim Hoyeon. By the numbers and extremely satisfying.
LOONA – “365”
LOONA and ballads have a sordid history, with the planned “La Maison” album being scrapped late last year. So to have them prerelease their requisite “song for the fans” before their most recent comeback is perhaps a bit of sugar after a bitter pill. While the song is a fairly mediocre piano ballad, it’s interesting to see their individual vocals put side-by-side on equal ground. The proven singers all acquit themselves easily but it’s Yves who really surprises here; she has some drama in her vocals that some of the (allegedly) more polished singers in the group lack. I think she could be really good at some OST work in the future.
V.O.S – “I Miss You”
Some very nice harmonies coming in from R&B stalwarts V.O.S. Even though the members are pushing 40, they’re still able to belt it out. Choi Hyun Joon’s jaw is out of control at this point.
Yerin Baek – “Here I Am Again”
Yerin Baek had an amazing 2019, with her self-released album doing real numbers and getting an all-kill with “Square (2017)”. This success likely led to the opportunity to sing for the biggest drama in recent memory, “Crash Landing on You”. The lavish rock ballad gives off real Trisha Yearwood vibes and fits Yerin’s smoky timbre wonderfully. Will be a karaoke staple for years to come.
It’s been a real pleasure to see Yerin Baek finding a distinct and successful voice after being shoehorned into the idol role for so long.
VOISPER – “Keep Going”
The instrumental sounds a little cheap but I love how they are living up in that falsetto range for half the song. Very brave for them to harmonize up there.
8eight – “Fool Again”
How are you going to comeback after 6 years and rehash your biggest hit? Bold move. Anyways both sound like the only Keane song anyone knows so let’s just call it here for now.
Like what you hear? Have a song that needs to be hot-take’d? Should I cover some older songs? Maybe I should do a themed editorial or something? Hit me on Twitter if you wanna talk shop.