Friday K-Pop Fiesta - October 20th, 2023

Releases old and new make up my K-Pop listening for this past week.

Friday K-Pop Fiesta - October 20th, 2023
Chuu finds a hopeful message in “Howl”. Source: CHUU Official

There’s a lot going on in the world this past week, and while I’m doing my best to pay attention to events, think about them, and empathize with those directly affected, there’s always a need for me to go relax with some tunes at end of a particular harrowing day. Now, you might think that K-Pop’s sometimes-bright themes and colorful videos would be what I’d retreat to, but that’s not necessarily the case for me. After all, my favorite group is one that typically does dark concepts and I tend to draw comfort more from something catchy and interesting to listen to, rather than what mood it puts out there.

Combined with the fact that recent work has meant I’ve had to play a little catch-up or give prior releases some listens, I’ve got a pretty mixed list this week. Let’s dive in!


I’ve liked Sunmi for a long while now, and she’s a cool veteran presence in the midst of all the rookie standouts that are out in the K-Pop world these days, at least as far as my playlist is concerned. Part of what draws me to Sunmi is not just her music, which has the kind of lowkey dance vibe that I prefer - it’s also her concepts and videos, which have spanned the range of campy to slightly disturbing.

I first got into Sunmi with that years-ago collaboration between her then-label JYPE and Brave Brothers, with Full Moon, and it was partially because the music video was the kind of horror-creepy that told a story while also embracing its vampire-concept characters. “STRANGER”, returns to this nine years later, only this time instead of fanged bloodsuckers Sunmi has embraced being a Frankenstein-inspired monster. The difference is that the song itself is also like the character she plays - seemingly stitched together from different parts, broken up by a repeated spoken verse that seems almost chant-like in its presentation. Some fans aren’t quite sure what to make of it, or even might dislike it, but I find it intriguing and interesting as someone who’s liked most of Sunmi’s music no matter where it’s meandered to over the years. If you approach it with an open mind, you’ll probably appreciate it more than not.

(G)I-DLE - “I DO”

Somehow, I missed this during the summer when it came out, and part of it might have been because this is an all-English track. Typically I tend to wait around for these since most English tracks I’ve seen produced for K-Pop groups have a distinctly different style than those produced on for the South Korean public, and tend to be just a bit too “Westernized” for my tastes.

But IDLE’s “I DO” is an exception to the norm for me. Part of it might be the music video. Those people who are old enough to remember the classic 80’s movie “E.T” (where an alien crash lands on earth, befriends a human boy, learns about Earth culture in a funny and whimsical way, and eventually escapes a government bent on experimenting on him and finds his way home) might not be in K-pop’s target demographic. But those outliers, like me for example, would absolutely love this video, which generally follows the same plotline. The song’s plea to listeners to realize only IDLE would love them the best is mostly wholesome (though when you couple it with the “P-S-Y-C-H-O-TIC love” vibe of later track “I WANT THAT” it gets funny to me) and you can really feel the emotion each member puts into their lines.

Dreamcatcher - “REASON”

It’s probably not going to be a surprise to readers who know me that Dreamcatcher ends up on these lists pretty often. All the songs in their discography are constantly on my listening list, but to prevent some kind of unreasonable bias where all the songs are Dreamcatcher songs, I have to be fair, right?

That said, I returned to their January 2023’s 3rd fan song “REASON” because of their recent performance of the song at M Countdown in France this past wee k. Many of Dreamcatcher’s songs are seemingly tailor-made for concerts, and this is one of the best recent examples. It is unapologetically a hard rock ballad, an energetic and vocally-strong track that was created to tell fans how important they are to the group. It also allows the members to freely wander a concert stage, as they did here to the large arena crowd, and hype them up, which is exactly what happened in Paris. There were plenty of social media posts from non-Dreamcatcher fans who were impressed by how fun their performances were, and that’s pretty much exactly what “REASON” has been from the start.

CHUU - “Howl”

The unfortunate fate of twelve-member group “LOONA”, whose conflict with company BlockberryCreative (BBC) followed a winding legal and emotional trail that ended in the group winning its freedom, had a flashpoint and a beginning in standout member Chuu. Her marked rise in popularity prompted her to battle with BBC over contract terms and eventually to her departure, a non-amicable split that served as the fulcrum for the entire group to seek the same. There’s many more details to this saga, but that’s the Cliff’s Notes version, and time is better spent on Chuu’s most recent musical release instead.

Chuu’s appeal to LOONA’s fans and to the South Korean general public has been rooted in her boundless energy, bubbly personality, and a seeming optimism in the face of, well, pretty much anything, that has endeared her to people. “Howl”, I think, is in many ways the musical expression of that attitude, even in the face of the adversity that she’s faced and which has been constantly reported on by outlets and fans over the past couple of years.

The song, a synthy, airy, and whimsical tune, delivers a hopeful message that acknowledges that the world isn’t always a place of rainbows and kittens, but that there’s support and comfort to be found in loved ones, cherished friends, and people that will be there for you. In the video, those companions just happen to be some fun and fantastical creatures that, to nobody’s surprise, Chuu befriends and connects with. In the face of such much difficulty happening, songs like “Howl” remind us that no matter how hard it is, or how brave a face you have to put on for it, there’s hope for better - a message that I think a lot of folks could use right about now.