Brave Girls (Feat. DKB’s E-Chan) – “Pool Party”
Album: ‘Summer Queen’
Release Date: June 17
It feels like I’ve heard this song about a dozen times before in my life. So why is it here? Well I’ve enjoyed it every single one of those times, and Brave Girls‘ take is no exception. I’m a simp for basic pop tropes sometimes, what can I say? Yes, the central “pool party” hook is solid and so are the playful synths along with the rest of the summer notes that swarm the instrumental. But honestly? The part that I remember every single time is the rap by Yujeong of all people (not even the guy brought in for the rap), which is kinda just a bunch of words that happened to rhyme, and yet the rapid, rhythmic delivery has created a Pavlovian response in my brain where I crave it. Anyway, Brave Girls provide truth in advertising here, and it’s honestly a better summer hit than “Chi Mat Ba Ram“.
ATEEZ – “Eternal Sunshine”
Album: ‘ZERO : FEVER Part 3’
Release Date: September 13
“We shine like eternal sunshine” is a nice cap to the chorus and effectively sums up the general soundscape of the track. The dominant synth line that we’re introduced to immediately is gorgeous, and the instrumental only grows from there. The chorus bursts forward with an energetic melody, as it exudes this feeling of bopping along to the beat while on a grassy hill and being cooled by a gentle breeze. The rapping is almost a bit distracting on ATEEZ efforts in this vein, but nothing gets in the way of the repetition of the soaring, mood-making chorus that ramps up even further in the back half to deliver a stellar conclusion.
Rohann (Feat. Chillin Homie) – “Comin’ At Ya”
Album: ‘BE RIGHT BACK’
Release Date: October 3
So basically Rohann shits on auto-tune reliant rappers, fake rappers who put on an act for fame, and basically anybody who he feels like lacks the skill to be in the scene. He backs this up by showcasing his impressive flow that features clever internal rhyme schemes and is amplified by his engrossing delivery. Rohann relies on just a consistent bass and repeating guitar riff, essentially using “Comin’ At Ya” as an argument that this style is superior to most of the other contemporary Korean hip-hop out there, and quite frankly I can’t say I disagree with him.
YUQI ((G)I-DLE) – “Bonnie & Clyde”
Album: ‘A Page’
Release Date: May 13
One listen was all it took to appreciate the brilliance of “Bonnie & Clyde“, as it has an instantaneous earworm appeal that demands attention. A retro disco mix with a rock tinge to it, there’s an undeniable driving energy that underpins the entire effort. It starts on the gas and simply never lets up, but it’s smart enough to still have a build within the arrangement, making the payoff of the chorus feel like a significant release. YUQI‘s voice is a breakout star here, as everything from the deeper tones of the verses to the truly explosive chorus is impressively executed. It’s also hook-y thanks to the “we don’t need money” and “modern version Bonnie and Clyde” exclamation points that make it difficult to shake from your head. Just a complete effort and one of the best songs of the year.
TWICE – “ICON”
Album: ‘Formula Of Love: O+T=<3’
Release Date: November 12
While “The Feels” was given all the promotion, the also all-English “ICON” is the better musical effort, with TWICE mustering up as much bravado and confidence as they’ve probably ever shown. The sass fits them quite nicely because the mature vibe allows them operate in more natural vocal ranges, with the true standout of the song being the pre-chorus collab between Jeongyeon and Tzuyu, which leads into an emphatic rhythmic chorus with delightfully memorable hooks.
Synsnake – “Acceleration”
Release Date: May 26
“Acceleration” starts extremely aggressively, with the band absolutely hammering away and a growling vocal leading the charge, but that abruptly gives way to a calm melodic side to the music and surprisingly ethereal pop vocals. Eventually the two meld together, playing off each other astonishingly well and creating the kind of mashup of two seemingly opposed styles that is right up my alley. It’s definitely on the heavy side, but given the right listening mood, it’s not hard to see the appeal.
MRSHLL (Feat. Yoon Mi Rae) – “DATE NITE”
Release Date: October 28
Did I think I’d get a slow-jam ode to masturbation out of the title? No. Did I anyway? Yes. And honestly, it’s quite amazing musically, as it’s pitch perfect in hitting all the throwback tropes of baby-making music. Sensual verses and a groovy chorus get an assist from Yoon Mi Rae‘s rap verse … except it’s all for seducing yourself instead of a lover. I’ve always loved MRSHLL‘s vocal because it’s instantly recognizable and helps him put his own twist on anything, even if I didn’t expect it to be this.
ONEWE – “Veronica”
Album: ‘Planet Nine : Alter Ego’
Release Date: June 16
The instrumental is what makes “Veronica” tick, starting with an exuberant violin hook that drops into an instantly memorable electric guitar riff that ends up central to the song. There’s a bounciness to the percussion that helps to sell the bright, melodic ode to love. I don’t mind instrumental-focused choruses, I just think if you’re gonna do one then it better bring something that would be listenable as a standalone track, and this one has that quality in spades. They seem to know it too, as the bridge is primarily just a guitar solo, and that’s smart because it drives this release home with authority.
Red Velvet – “Pose”
Release Date: August 16
While the composition is probably a bit reserved to truly be an f(x)-esque effort, “Pose” does harken back to a sound that may have been handed to them. A quirky, off-kilter beat powers the instrumental, and Red Velvet deliver a cool and composed performance, approaching this with the requisite confidence and poise. The pre-chorus is probably more chorus-like with its melodic vocals than the rapid-fire rhythmic chorus is, but both are memorable in their own way and carry out the song’s mantra of empowerment.
Dreamcatcher – “Whistle”
Album: ‘Summer Holiday’
Release Date: July 30
A straightforward, breezy EDM track, the pulsing beat almost never relents and the titular whistling provides contrast and helps create a lighter soundscape. But what stands out most about “Whistle” is Dreamcatcher‘s vocal performance, which is among their best as a unit. It showcases their ability to exude smooth, controlled confidence and also reach back for something more dynamic and powerful when necessary, all while still operating within the confines of the song’s gentler atmosphere.