Friday K-Pop Fiesta - December 1, 2023

Taeyeon frees herself from toxicity, a new type of hybrid girl group catches my attention and more as we kick off December's K-Pop playlist.

Friday K-Pop Fiesta - December 1, 2023
Just Taeyeon with some casual arson, nothing to see here. Source: SMTOWN (YouTube)

I’m more of a group rather than a soloist follower in K-Pop, but there are exceptions - most of them due to the fact that the soloist has to grab me from a musical and emotional presentation standpoint. With only one person, the pressure is on to showcase talent even when the soloist has a bevy of backup dancers to help out. But that’s obviously not an issue with the right person - like Taeyeon, for example.

We’ll get to her at the end, but here’s the other stuff I’ve been listening to this past week!

QWER - Discord

Given the fact that there are K-Pop groups that do rock (Dreamcatcher) and K-Rock groups that do a bit of pop (Rolling Quartz), seeing QWER as an idol band group was a bit odd to me at first, as if they were serving some kind of middle ground between the two. But “Discord”, on its face, is actually pretty catchy to me and as someone pre-disposed toward rock sound, was worth a listen. There’s also a sense of self-awareness with this group, who I’m told takes full advantage of being online personalities, as there’s a bunch of imagery from that kind of influencer-like sales pitch in this video. It would normally seem a bit cringeworthy, but here is charming and fun. I’ll be curious to see where they go.


TWICE is in the latter part of their careers now, and occasionally I see laments from fans that they aren’t as popular in South Korea anymore, not drawing the attention they used to when they became one of 3rd gen’s biggest selling juggernauts. I can’t agree on such takes, especially since they’re still selling out their international tours and doing pretty good solo projects, with all signs pointing to a comfortable maturation of their sound.

Of course, remixes are more of a Western thing, which makes this one of “I CAN’T STOP ME”, one of my favorites from their discography, even more interesting given that it’s all in English. The collaboration with BOYS LIKE GIRLS makes this song the dialogue that it might have originally been if it was sung by more than one artist, and it turns out to be really comfy-sounding to me - probably because I haven’t actively listened to the song since its release in 2020.

Purple Kiss - 7HEAVEN

Underrated groups are part of my bread and butter when it comes to K-Pop. Sure, there are groups with a big following that I appreciate (see TWICE above) but when it comes to groups I prefer to listen to that come up on my playlists, I like groups that are doing something different or who aren’t really seeing much visibility because of it. Purple Kiss is one of these, and even though “7HEAVEN” is a bit closer to the more formulaic wholesome K-Pop concept you see from a summer tune, this one still gets me due to the talent of who’s involved. The group has seen mild exposure (and perhaps a bit of difficulty because of scheduling) due to rapper Yuki’s winning spot in the group for Queendom Puzzle, but for me, it hasn’t really affected my enjoyment of their discography, which highlights some solid vocals and dancing. With it being a bit chillier around where I am now, I could use a bright song that reminds me of the warmer weather.

Taeyeon - To. X

Girls’ Generation, along with KARA, were the gateway groups by which I entered into K-Pop fandom after years in the J-Pop world, and part of the reason for that was vocalist Taeyeon and her undeniable charisma and talent. When she went solo, she proceeded to validate my appreciation of that with hit after hit, from light and airy ballads to deep and emotional compositions. “To. X” is pretty much the latter, and it deals with a concept that I think we see quite often in Western music but not as much in the K-Pop world due to the industry’s need to present the “clean and available” image that idols put forth. That concept is getting out of a toxic relationship and dealing with narcissists, and the pre-comeback leadup to this, with Taeyeon featured prominently with a man who would play the "ex-boyfriend” in the MV/relationship, was one which turned a lot of heads.

I looked forward to the music when it dropped and Taeyeon didn’t disappoint. The imagery is amazing, with all the mental trauma and self-reflection of a relationship gone sour and the realization of having to take a stand. The song has Taeyeon’s trademark mid-to-high range vocal but there’s a weight to it that makes what she’s singing about more powerful. I’ve yet to listen to the rest of the album, but if this is the title track, I can’t wait to hear the rest.

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