March was a doozy this year.
For whatever reason, the universe decided to punish me with the flu dead in the middle of SXSW. Therefore, I was unable to go to any of it this year. Given how much talent I had at my fingertips – from Red Velvet, XXX, and Galaxy Express to the likes of Miyavi and MFBTY – I’m still pretty ticked off by the whole thing. On the bright side, I saw SHINee! Words were hard to come by to describe how amazing it was, but I did my best here. Also, I’m seeing Miyavi in Houston in a couple weeks, which is exciting and makes up for about half the experience I missed at SXSW. So there’s that!
Anyway, welcome back to another edition of ‘These Songs Are Rad’, a monthly look at everything hot and poppin’ in the music scene in South Korea. From indie gems to K-Pop hits, these were my favorite songs of March. Let’s get it let’s gooo.
Dok2 – “Ambition And Vision (Feat. Beenzino, 창모, 김효은, Hash Swan, The Quiett)”
Talk about a badass stream of features, man. Dok2, who just wrapped up celebrating his 28th birthday with a goddamn illionaire concert, has also dropped a fantastic album titled Reborn. In it, you will find “Ambition and Vision”, a clean and classic-sounding track that does an excellent job of shining a light on the fresh talent under his new label, appropriately named Ambition Musik. If anything, this is illionaire’s proper introduction to the company’s new phase in their pursuit of world domination. Given how well done this is, I’m ready to see what else they have cooking.
Echae Kang – “Dizzy”
You guys should know by now what big of a fan I am of Echae Kang. Everything she touches turns to gold (IMHO) and, of course, she doesn’t disappoint in her latest release, “Dizzy”. Her delicate voice, accompanied by hazy supporting harmonies throughout, sits perfectly on top of a bluesy instrumental. It’s the perfect song to listen to while chilling outside sipping on an ice cold lemonade. I’d personally spike mine with a shot of vodka, but that’s just me.
Eyedi – “Best Mistake”
If you like Ariana Grande, then you will enjoy Eyedi. “Best Mistake” is similar to Ari’s “Into You”, just not as fully realized in its potential. Regardless, Eyedi’s latest single is gorgeous in its own way. Her voice, for starters, has a very alluring quality to it that works really well with this groovy and sensual arrangement. And if you’re looking for an English version, you’re in luck. Eyedi has provided English versions to three of her songs on Mix B (including “Best Mistake”) along with their original versions in Korean.
Highlight – “Plz Don’t Be Sad”
As a longtime BEAST fan, it pleases me greatly to see that the remaining members have decided to stick together, now named Highlight, to continue making music, not just for themselves but for the fans. And what better way to kick off this new chapter than with “Plz Don’t Be Sad”, quite possibly one of the group’s strongest efforts in years. It is not only easy to get into, but it features every member’s skill well without leaving anyone behind. *cough, cough*
IU – “Through The Night”
The overall effect IU has on listeners, the charts, and the music industry is similar to that of Adele and Beyonce. She goes away for a while only to come back to shake the music world back to life with the blink of an eye. Her newest single “Through The Night” did just that this month. And with good reason. Aside from the fact that this is an IU song, it’s actually a stunning ballad in its own right. The verses are beautiful, some of my favorite from her, that lead up to a gorgeous chorus that brings out IU’s warm vocals. It’s simple, effective, and has go-to noraebang song written all over it.
OOHYO – “PIZZA”
I like that OOHYO has a sense of humor in her music and her new single “PIZZA” is the perfect example of that. Its slick electronic aesthetic is contrasted with fun lyrics about how much it sucks eating pizza by yourself. It’s an upbeat song with a rather moody undertone, especially with that somber piano, which makes it quirky, fun, and hilariously angsty.
Park Ji Yoon – “Winter”
Park Ji Yoon knows how to craft a ballad. That much is a given, and her new album parkjiyoon9 is packed from front to back with them. Some (maybe most?) are unfortunately forgettable, but a few stood out to me, like “Winter”. While it’s a rather standard ballad, something about it has stuck with me. The melodies in the verses allow Park Ji Yoon to bring out a lot of emotion. The icing on the cake, however, is how nicely she leads the song into this beautiful trumpet interlude. The song closes with Park humming, bringing the whole thing to a peaceful finish.
PIETA – “Island”
I’m not familiar with PIETA, but “Island” is one of those songs I came across randomly on YouTube that I ended up enjoying. It was released very late in February, so it wasn’t until March that I was able to really soak it in. Much like the rest of this tracklist, PIETA’s song is very mellow and atmospheric. It takes me outside of my head for a minute, which I think is something I’ve been looking for a lot in music, recently.
PRISTIN – “Wee Woo”
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been this excited about a rookie girl group in a while. PRISTIN‘s “Wee Woo” is everything I like in my girly pop music: it’s high-energy, features an addicting hook, and is occasionally fierce as fuck. The middle eight slays me every time, though I do wish there were stronger vocals in here to listen to.
Whale – “Scientist (Electronic Version)”
What better way to end this run of mellow songs (completely unintentional, I swear) with yet another mellow tune. I never thought I would see Whale back with an EP, but the woman came through. “Scientist” is very much on brand for Whale; it’s an electronic song, yet very folksy at the same time.
It’s tough to beat an album that has as many featured superstars on it as Code Kunst‘s Muggles’ Mansion. From start to finish, this album lays out a bed of sick compositions with impressive rap and vocal performances from a number of today’s top tier and up-and-coming artists.
Some of my favorite include songs from Lee Hi, whose singing is damn near magical on “X”, and “Don’t Shoot Me MAMA” featuring 카더가든 (Car, The Garden), who provides one of the most spine-tingling moments on Muggles’ Mansion. The emotions are raw and palpable here, even on rap numbers like Nucksal‘s “Perfume”, which details a metaphorical “scent” he carries around with him representative of his hustle.
Code Kunst injects a lot of feeling into each of his productions on Muggles’ Mansion, and each artist that he employs matches them perfectly. Nearly every minute that ticks by on this album is not just profoundly moving but worth surrendering to completely.
IU returned in March to kickstart her comeback and did so the only way she knows best: by dominating the charts like the queen that she is. “Through The Night” is not only still sitting at the top of the charts, but it broke records getting there. Since streaming sites changed their chart systems earlier this year, IU is the first artist to hit #1 within an hour on Melon. With her upcoming pre-release set to feature HIGHGRND artist and critically beloved musician Oh Hyuk, y’all better get used to IU’s staying power, because she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Here’s what the Top 100 songs in Korea look like right now.
Considering that my top ten picks for March consist mostly of under-the-radar songs, I decided to omit this section this time. That, and I’m reaching the point where I’m starting to collect a lot of music that I would rather discuss in full on a review later. I guess that’s one of the many fun parts of running a music blog.
Speaking of omitting sections, I completely forgot to ask you guys for your favorite tracks of March. Oops. On the other hand, several of you have been persistent at tossing review recommendations my way, which is great. I’m really looking forward to sharing those with you soon. And if it seems like I’m taking forever, just keep in mind (aside from the fact that I’m an adult with a full-time job and a life) that I do my best to give albums a fair amount of attention through heavy rotating and thoughtful writing, especially if there’s a score involved. I hope some of that is coming across in the reviews I’m writing recently. I’m getting my groove back, you guys, slowly but surely, so bare with me.