Attempting to keep up with new releases is exhausting. And the never-ending quest to discover an act before they hit >1000 plays on Bandcamp is all but rewarding. Having given up full-time music writing a little while ago, more often than not, I find myself feeling a mix of FOMO and IDGAF about new, local music while compiling my Spotify playlists. With this feature, we (that is, I) aim to put together a weekly mixtape—without being a judgemental asshole(s).
For what might seem like the last one of these playlists, I’ve rounded up the most vocal, on-brand and desi stans in the country from the wild, weird and wondrous world of K-pop. Perhaps it’s the wonder of it, or maybe I’ve missed the entry-point by miles, butI wrote to a bunch of people to help me understand their attachment to the genre and what makes it so special for each one of them. That said, there’s a bunch of excellent K-pop content out there on the internet, and literally a Google search away (All of ours is here).
“Euphoria” by BTS
“K-pop as a genre is quite interesting. My journey began with Girl's Generation group. But, I got fully invested in K-pop groups after BTS, which has now become the world's biggest band. If I were to recommend someone a song that started my journey, I would recommend BTS for sure. They are a group of 7 members: vocalists, dancers, rappers, music composers, songwriters. They do everything, with full freedom. I would recommend “Euphoria”: it has a storyline and happens to be a go-to song for me. I would also suggest “Young Forever”. From their latest album, I would recommend “Mikrokosmos”.”
— Monica Yadav, journalist at Bollywood Hungama
“Epiphany” by Kim Seokjin (BTS)
“I had to really think about which BTS song I should recommend—and so many great ones came to mind—but “Epiphany” really keeps calling out to me. But first, a bit of background: I started listening to BTS in late 2017, and each time I heard a song, I fell more and more in love with not just their music, but also their persona and their message. There is one strong narrative that keeps coming up over and over again in their albums and songs: love. They explore all types of love: falling in love, being jilted in love, heartbroken, lovelorn and also self-love. BTS has, very consciously, built a story around the journey of seven boys towards loving themselves, and that self-love is the actual answer. This, cleverly, is the name of their final album in their Love Yourself trilogy: Answer, and “Epiphany” is its introduction. It is sung by Seokjin, the oldest member of the group and also a tremendously powerful vocalist. I swear I was crying ugly tears the moment this song dropped. The slow, soft-paced song rises to an unbelievable crescendo of Jin's high notes. "I'm the one I should love in this world, shining me, precious soul of mine"—this really spoke to me. The song is a literal ‘epiphany’, a realisation that love begins when you love yourself.”
— Supriya Joshi, writer, comedian and actor
“Move” by Taemin
“It's absolutely mesmerising and addictive, and has this great ’80s techno-funk vibe to it that I absolutely love. Taemin debuted as a solo artist in 2014 but he's been a part of the group SHINee for 10 years now. SHINee was my first introduction to K-pop in 2012. I feel like since I've followed them for so long, I've been able to watch Taemin grow so much as an artist and I'm so proud of what he's achieved. Do check out "Move", Taemin will not disappoint!”
— Ruchi Sawardekar, filmmaker
“Hala Hala” by Ateez
“I've been following ATEEZ since their pre-debut days and they are the game-changers K-pop’s fourth generation was waiting for. "Hala Hala" from their second EP Treasure EP.2: Zero To One (2019) is a power anthem built of hard trap and wavy synths cut with interludes of the delicate piano. The rap is ferocious, the vocals soar effortlessly and there’s confidence in every beat, every word, as they promise they will rise above all. It’s jaw-dropping, dynamic and dangerous at every turn. I still get a shiver down my spine while listening to it and I’ve had it on repeat since it dropped in January. To me, ATEEZ is the perfect representation of where the K-pop movement is heading now: young, creative artists who write and produce tracks from the get-go, take control and reforge the system to birth a product that is pure talent, flawless execution and wholly their own. A great band to start your K-pop journey with.”
—Riddhi Chakraborty, senior writer and producer, Rolling Stone India
“Haru Haru (Day by Day)” by Big Bang
“You can’t mention K-pop without mentioning BIGBANG. This 5-piece boy band put K-pop on the world map and is probably responsible for revolutionising the sound and style of K-pop. They say Big Bang made YG Entertainment (their music label) and not the other way around. Of course, the original song is what they’re famous for but true to their evolving selves, they started doing a laidback acoustic version for most of their live concerts later on and that’s what really works. It’s stripped off its original need to stand out so badly that everyone takes notice of it and it plays more to its strengths. It’s no wonder that this is the anthem for Big Bang fans. It’s melancholic: it’s about a guy letting go after the break-up and wishing happiness upon his ex, but it still resonates with V.I.P.’s (the name of Big Bang’s fandom) and rightly so. The videos of their live concerts during this song give you goosebumps because of how well the fans literally sing this song with them. It’s harmony.”
—Prerana Manker, filmmaker
“Do You Love Her Now / Her” by Jai Paul
“I’m out here breaking my own rule, by not picking a K-pop song that I ideally should’ve been doing, but well… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Jai Paul re-emerged earlier the week after the infamous leaks of what was to be his debut record in 2013, and dropped the same album… but this time, it’s official. That said, he also blessed us with two new singles, both of which I’ve been severely enjoying and grooving to on flights, car rides and sitting on my bed, which tend to explore a less frantic, almost searching mood in Paul’s material. I’m excited, and conflicted whilst writing this because there’s so much goddamn new music coming through and I don’t know if there will be more of these playlists in the coming weeks.”
—Naman Saraiya, Producer @ VICE Asia
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