Friday K-Pop Fiesta - January 26th, 2024

Loss, determination, heartbreak, and hope make for a bit of an emotional Fiesta this week.

Friday K-Pop Fiesta - January 26th, 2024
IU compresses a K-drama into 5 minutes with "Love Wins All". Source: IU Official

Sometimes when running through things to listen to in K-Pop, I tend to run through phases. I'll tend to like groups one week, soloists the next, want a nice ballad the week after that and then a total dance banger to round out the month. The cool part of K-Pop is its sheer variety, and it's "something for everyone" deal, just due to sheer content.

This week was more of a soloist/dramatic song week for me. Sometimes you need something that has meaning behind it, that you can connect to and feel like the artist has put something of themselves into. So without further ado, onto the emotional rollercoaster!

WJSN Seola - "Without U"

It's been way too long since we've seen WJSN together - the puzzling part is that Starship managed to retain most of the latest roster this last go-round for contracts, yet we haven't seen much of them as a unit. I'm still holding out hope that we see that this year sometime, but until then WJSN member Seola has us covered with "Without U", a nice and catchy dance pop tune that hides the pain of reliving memories that were once shared but are now solo.

Seola has always been a solid vocalist but I also feel like she's able to communicate the message of her song through her visual presentation very well. Many of us have experienced some kind of loss in our lives and sometimes, songs like this are good ways to remember we aren't alone in that regard.

VCHA - "Girls of the Year"

I've never been much for survival shows, especially ones from the West, so when A2K Project (America 2 Korea) showed up, I was, understandably, not paying attention for the most part, even with someone who tends to be a fount of entertainment like JYP himself. Combine that with the relatively young age of this group and I kind of decided to wait until debut to see what was up.

While I still probably won't readily identify with VCHA, "Girls of the Year" deserves a fair shot if for nothing else the curiosity of how an American group in the K-Pop style works. The dancing and singing talent is still there, and even though this song is certainly big on the "Western Pop" style - heck, even big on the old 90's bubblegum Western Pop, I think - it's a fun listen. And it pulls on your heartstrings a little. This is, after all, a group assembled of individuals who have worked hard to get here, relocate, and inevitably attempt to succeed in a market that is highly competitive - but the wholesome "we made it" energy is nice. Bonus points to whoever had one of the members watch themselves on stage in some juxtaposition of going from fan to idol - it really hit the message home.

(G)-IDLE - "Wife"

Ok, first things first. I'm not going to be one of those people who "got the meaning of this song" on first listen. I'm a slow burn type of person when it comes to this stuff - I need a few listens to really understand something. That said, my first reaction was a predictable "what did I just watch?"

"Wife" feels like to me one of those songs that Soyeon might have put together in her spare time, a fun little project that seemed a bit too "unserious" for a K-pop release. But full albums allow you to toss in all kinds of interesting experiments and that's definitely what "Wife" sounds like. The brutality of the English aside, there seems to me (unless I'm missing a quote from someone in IDLE) big "idgaf" energy with this, as if IDLE knows how strange and also socially interesting the song is but embraces the concept anyway. Will it be remembered more for its meme-worthy lyrics than the message? Perhaps, but fun little songs like this are honestly welcome just for the novelty factor.

IU - "Love Wins All"

Fans out there today are way into newer generation groups like NewJeans, IVE, RIIZE, LE SSERAFIM, ZB1 and more, but there is obviously still room at the top for sustained, solid K-Pop artists. IU, long known as a well-respected and love artist in South Korea, is one of these. She can go decently long without something and then when it drops, still capture a ton of attention and appreciation.

"Love Wins All" is just the latest example of this, and proves she's the master of the emotional ballad for a reason. This time around, with the help of a bit of drama and a touch of sci-fi/apocalypse (oh, and that guy with the single letter for an artist name from that K-Pop boy group you might know about), IU tackles the idea of love even in the worst of situations.

This was basically a drama-in-an-MV but it's not any less heartwrenching for its short length. IU and V make a great pair and each plays off of the other in terms of being able to take some small solace from the horrible things happening in the world. It's probably a bit of an on-the-nose reminder about what's out here for realsies, and even though the ending is...well you'll have to see for yourself, but even though it is what it is, I was left satisfied. Well worth a watch or two.