Friday K-Pop Fiesta - March 29th, 2024

Music with dark moods clash with those with high energy in this week's Fiesta.

Friday K-Pop Fiesta - March 29th, 2024
ARTMS begins their journey in the post-LOONA era with "Birth". Source: Official ARTMS (YouTube)

As South Korea moves from Winter months to the Spring, I feel like on some level you'd expect the K-Pop releases to change with them - not exactly super bright summer vibes, but certainly a bit peppier than before. That's not to say there aren't some high-energy bangers during colder climes, but I do think that as the weather gets warmer, in theory the music should match that kind of mood.

But this is K-Pop we're talking about. The sheer volume of releases and the constant jockeying for position means those that do differently tend to get a bit more attention than others. And while company backing, especially from the "big 4" (HYBE, JYP, SM, and YG) doesn't hurt, there's still a desire by idols to really make a statement with their releases. That's the kind of stuff I saw hitting my playlist this week, so let's get right into it!

ILLIT - "Magnetic"

As I've said before, to really get into a group to the point of following them closely I need to be invested from an artist, music, and video/stage/choreo presentation standpoint. This makes it pretty tough for me to get into later generation groups these days, as the age gap increases and the ability to relate decreases. And it gets tougher for me for survival show groups, who I tend to think lack a bit of that organic team feel by the very nature of their origins.

As such, you'd think ILLIT's debut song "Magnetic" starts out behind the eight ball for me, and I'll confess they'll probably be filed into the pile of groups for which I only listen to the music. Still, this song is ultra-catchy, especially the chorus, and it's low-key in its chill simplicity. That sort of mood is what has rocketed fellow HYBE artist NewJeans to massive popularity and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that the song is also about trying to get someone they like to notice them doesn't help the comparison, but it ends there given the unique video presentation. This group, assembled by JTBC reality show R U Next, has a lot of potential, and having the music be this relaxing yet energetic dance tune ensures they'll be around for a while.

ARTMS - "Birth"

Ever since LOONA's unfortunate yet freeing departure from Blockberry Creative, there've been speculations about what any music would sound like once the various members had split up. With regards to ARTMS, we got a little bit of a taste of that with the 2023 Odd Eye Circle subunit song "Air Force One" but arguably, but with the full group (comprised of LOONA alumni JinSoul, Haseul, Kim Lip, HeeJin, and Choerry) we'd only heard teases through a fan-voted initiative on which song would premiere first two months ago. Fellow ex-LOONA group Loossemble's "Sensitive", I think, handled the high-energy and fun dance bops that typified the group's discography with songs like "Butterfly".

"Birth", I feel, is perhaps the first track of the post-LOONA era that has that sort of mix of lore, interesting song structure, and fantasy-like presentation that has charmed much of their fanbase. I'll admit it right now - the song's often dissonant shifts in tone and music aren't quite for me, but I'm nevertheless drawn in by what feels almost funereal in its dark presentation. This isn't a happy song, and even might be one that draws upon the harrowing experience of LOONA's split from ARTMS, and that plus the deep lore that fans are already pulling from it make it worth a watch. The group's full album will be out in late May, but pre-release singles will make their way out before then. While "Birth" isn't quite my jam, it's enough for me to see how the rest turns out on the album.

BoA - "Emptiness"

Sure, there are all these newer groups and artists these days, but a few are still around and doing amazing work. BoA, who I've followed and been listening to since her debut way back in 2000, is obviously one of these. The interesting thing is that as BoA has matured and evolved her music, so has my taste. A lot of her early work was the kind of cheery and high-flying music that I loved to listen to on my drives or just when running errands or working out.

These days, however, my musical preferences are more nuanced and I tend towards songs with a bit of depth and good presentation behind them, and that's what "Emptiness" is to me. Like Taeyeon, BoA is the sort of artist that I feel comfortable predicting that I'll like no matter what she decides to put out, and this darker, moodier track is no different. Internal day-to-day struggles with your own worth and how worthy you are in the eyes of others (especially a significant other now gone) are filled with the kinds of moments BoA sings and depicts in the video, and the slower pace and darker lighting make for a song that has feelings I've health with. BoA's been consistently relatable to me on that front for a while, and I'm glad for that trend to continue.

Purple Kiss - "BITTER SWEET"

The B-side game that Purple Kiss has put forth every since their debut has always been really strong, and the trend continues with "BITTER SWEET" of the group's new BXX album. I know there are fans who have wondered where the witchy concept and slightly experimental sound went to these past couple of title track releases, and those fans are likely to find it here, where dance beats mix with cool verses that play around a bit with the meter.

If this isn't enough for you, I also think that "Heart Attack" (penned in part by member Chaein) will certainly inspire that "older" Purple Kiss mood, but "BITTER SWEET" seems like the type of track that we might get to see a future performance video for, much in the way that prior B-side "Pretty Psycho" did. One can hope, but for now, this track, and the other B-sides on the album, are regular additions for me even if title track "BBB" might not quite get there.

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