Friday K-Pop Fiesta - February 23rd, 2024

Veteran acts and resilient stars highlight this week's K-Pop Fiesta.

Friday K-Pop Fiesta - February 23rd, 2024
TWICE proves their longevity in their 13th mini album with "ONE SPARK". Source: JYP Entertainment (YouTube)

I've been thinking a bunch about longevity in K-Pop lately. Part of that might be because my favorite group, Dreamcatcher, is currently on tour in Europe right now - their 5th time through, by the way - but they're also celebrating their 7th anniversary. The "7 Year Curse" is often referred to as a milestone in the industry, mostly because it's the maximum allowed length of an initial K-Pop contract for artists, but quite a few groups don't seem to make it that far.

The industry's pretty competitive and saturated (some would say overly so), so to survive, you've got to have that blend of sustainable fan base, company backing, financial solvency, and straight-up guts to keep at it. Thing is, there's different paths to get there, and the diversity of such groups is why I keep being interested in the music - and this week's picks on my playlist reflect that.

TRI.BE - Diamond

I had this track on my draft before learning of the untimely and sudden death of TRI.BE's producer and legendary talent Shinadong Tiger. Don't know the guy? He's had a hand in producing some of K-Pop's most iconic hits, including 4 Minute's "Hot Issue", EXID's "Up&DOWN", Momoland's "Bboom Bboom", and more. "Diamond", performed by newer group TRI.BE, will end up being part of the last bit of music he was a part of. I probably wouldn't have been into K-Pop as long as I have without him, and he'll be missed.

That aside, TRI.BE has managed to stick around in the scene seemingly through a mix of sheer determination, and a discography with tracks that have the hand of EXID Main Rapper and veteran LE/Elly's guiding them. The result is that sort of uniqueness and dash of multi-cultural influence which may not resonate as much with the South Korean general public but which attracts a certain type of K-Pop fan like myself who seeks out "something different" than the norm. "Diamond" is in that same vein, returning to TRI.BE's Afrobeat roots with a mix of memorable rhythm and catchy K-Pop style vocals that have become the group's signature. Three years in, TRI.BE is still kicking, and is well worth the dive for more than just the norm.


MAMAMOO is my second favorite K-Pop group, in part because of the group's "rags to riches" story from obscurity to South Korean general public recognition as one of the industry's most-respected veterans, but also because of the individual talent of each of their members, each of whom brings something unique into the scene.

Rapper Moonbyul recently released her first full-length album, and it reflects much of her contribution to MAMAMOO - an undeniable charisma that is magnetic, great flow and beat to her rapping style, and a fearless attitude to her stage presence. But it also allows her to show off some of her versatility as well. "TOUCHIN&MOVIN" has some of that groovy musical tone that has put catchy tracks like BTS's "Dynamite" permanently on my playlist and more importantly, highlights Moonbyul's singing, which reminds us that she wasn't originally slated to be MAMAMOO's Main Rapper but instead plied her trade as a vocalist. I love that she gets to show off that vocal talent in such a song that is upbeat and fun, and it's worth a listen if you need a lift in your day.

IU - "Shopper"

There's a reason why soloists like IU stick around for a long time in the K-Pop scene, even through the firehose of debuts from tons of acts. It isn't just about talent and skill, a savvy business mind to take advantage of opportunities or about expanding visibility through other endeavors like acting and endorsements - all of which IU has done in her nearly 16-year career. It's also about the ability to continuously re-invent your sound while still remaining true to the things that make you uniquely appealing to fans.

IU, like other soloists I've followed who have hit it big (Girls' Generation's Taeyeon and SHINee's Taemin come to mind), has done just that, and it's more apparent than ever in her latest releases. I talked about "Holssi" and "Love Wins All" on previous Fiestas and "Shopper" is yet another track that explores something different from IU's sound and message. With the help of DPR Ian, the song's fairytale-like nature makes this electro-pop tune charming and exuberant in its presentation. And from a story standpoint, it's layered. You may think it's about parodying consumerism, but to me, it's about an energetic, whole-hearted pursuit of your hopes and dreams - something that I think a long-time artist like IU is well-suited to singing about.


Every so often I hear about people who are "worried" about TWICE's current relative appeal, about how they don't command the attention of the South Korean general public like they did in the biggest parts of their rise to prominence, or about worries that some of its individual members are "only" selling a certain amount as opposed to some of the more recent groups and soloists out there.

Considering TWICE is closing in on ten years in 2025, continues to sell huge arenas for concerts in the West, and is releasing bangers like "ONE SPARK", I think they'll be just fine. And it seems that TWICE's recent songs, like "I GOT YOU", are as much of a reassurance to that nervous set of fans more than anything.

"ONE SPARK" is in that same vein, a feelgood dance tune with a generous amount of English singalong value that carries with it the sort of reflective "we've done it together and succeeded" energy that only comes with years of being in a highly competitive industry. The birthday cake celebration, the lyrics that highlight a commitment to retaining the passion that's kept them going, all the friendship and team shots - they're meant to say TWICE will be just fine - better, even - in their current direction. Backed by one of K-Pop's "Big 4" companies but also their undeniably long-lived skill as a team, TWICE are made women, and they've got plenty left in the tank.

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