When I said I had a backlog of songs to highlight (unfortunately mostly from lesser known artists), I wasn’t joking. Here’s a track from back in September with a virtual idol, and also a relatively recent release featuring an old friend from the second generation who is getting a chance to shine.
APOKI – “Space”
The appeal of virtual singer APOKI has so far not been nearly as carefully developed as a virtual idol group like PLAVE, as she relies mostly on her music releases to reach audiences*. Surprisingly, that’s been a rather fine strategy, as she’s slowly been building up an appealing discography that covers a wide variety of styles. Despite some awkwardness in there, the important thing is there’s a real voice behind the character, and that voice has proven to be plenty capable, perhaps never more so than on the single “Space” from a couple months back.
*Though I’ve slowly been noticing more livestreams, interviews, and other content popping up elsewhere, as they seem to have figured they might have something here.
This expansive synth-pop track is basically in my taste wheelhouse, and the start features a frantic, reflecting synth and keyboard that feels like the synth cousin of “Final Countdown“. That transitions into verses that float over a rubbery, momentum-sustaining beat. It’s the kind of track that’s a no-brainer to nod along with, and even through the rap-talk section, the propulsive nature of it is never broken.
When the disturbingly addictive chorus hits with its high-flying melody, it just envelops the listener with pop goodness. For English speakers, the “I don’t want a broken heart” and “in space” will be easy to latch onto, but really the entire chorus was big and gets delivered with emotion and urgency that makes it work. Speaking of APOKI’s vocals, she turns in a necessarily great performance here, playing with rhythms and being able to hit the vocal peaks required to carry it to its potential. I could see like Ailee doing a fitting cover of this, for example, which is high praise.
I dunno, even if one finds the whole concept of virtual singers weird, I find it basically impossible to not fuck with the vocals and melody on “Space”. It’s like crack to me, settling in as a great pop track that would be talked about nonstop if any popular girl group with a decent main vocalist released it.
Band UNI – “Blue Night”
Band UNI (that’s the spelling I’m going with for now) is a relatively newly formed group, having debuted in December of last year with “DIVE“. While that was a solid debut, the most likely reason you might remember them is their drummer is former AOA member Youkyung. But now with the release of “Blue Night“, they’ve now given people another reason to be remembered, delivering an infectious rock track.
A lot of rock bands in Korea sorta lean into softer and emotional sounds, perhaps nodding towards the mainstream tastes of country, but Band UNI wholeheartedly embraces upbeat energy. The lyrics of “Blue Night” essentially talk about letting loose and being free from restrictions, and the track matches that message with a fitting soundscape. “Blue Night” surges forward with distorted guitars and vocals that are delivered with appropriate conviction, and this is never more apparent than during the burst of exuberance that is the chorus. It features a memorable refrain that’s easy to fall in line with and come back for, which is key, because you hear it a lot throughout the track.
Thankfully, that repetitiveness is mitigated a bit due to it switching things up a bit towards the end of an instrumental bridge (that could’ve and should’ve shredded a bit harder) before they go back to the well for one final reprise where the vocalist kicks things up a notch at certain points to put on the finishing touches. “Blue Night” certainly isn’t novel, but it is effective. At worst it’s an easy choice for a workout playlist or anytime you need a burst of energy, and I think the quality execution of a rather timeless sound should hold up well in the long run.