K-pop Comebacks: the third week of November


Jess Oakley, Reporter

The third week of November included more great music releases and music videos from artists in Korea. Once again, I’d like to remind you that my articles only skim the surface of an industry that is saturated with talent. This article is mostly focused on girl groups and a debut of a group that has created buzz throughout the industry from both fans and other artists. 

On Nov. 16, AKMU, who I talked about in my October article, made their first comeback as a duo after a year without producing new music. Last month, Suhyun released a solo song, but together the brother and sister duo produced and released “Happening.” AKMU is unique within K-pop, as their sound is very indie rock, and they aren’t afraid to stray from the mainstream sounds that take over the industry at any given moment. The layering of the guitar, Suhyun’s sweet vocals, and the lyrics which tell a story of losing love. The music video reminds me of “Stranger Things,” where Will has the ability to pass between two worlds, often without his own input. 

Twitter user @akdongirl answered some questions I had about the group, ranging from how she felt about the return of the musicians as a duo, how AKMU has grown as artists in the past few years and how she felt about the message of “Happening.” “As always, I highly anticipate a new AKMU comeback! When it comes to AKMU, you can rest assured that they will never disappoint in regards to their music quality and ‘Happening’ is yet again testament to that! If there’s one word I would ascribe to AKMU, out of all the million positive adjectives I have for them, ‘growth’ would be the perfect fit. AKMU are musicians who are always looking to develop their craft; they’re honest in their music in that, as they grow up and mature themselves, so does their music. Chanhyuk and Suhyun have both mentioned how they don’t want to be artists who ‘lie’ and so I believe they express their honesty through music that changes and grows alongside them! I think if anyone really familiarizes themselves with AKMU’s discography, they’d feel the same. Just compare their albums ‘PLAY,’ ‘SPRING,’ ‘WINTER,’ and ‘SAILING’ to one another – you’ll know that they can really and truly do it all.” 

Lee Suhyun herself said in an interview, “I thought it was right not to change but everyone changes. In a good way, It’s called growth.” As for how @akdongirl felt about the message of “Happening,” “For me personally, the message of ‘Happening’ feels very understanding and therefore comforting. Although the song revolves around the context of a breakup, it can very well be applied to all sorts of relationships. Terminating a relationship, whether that be with a partner, friend, family member, can be a very painful or bitter experience, but with ‘Happening,’ it’s almost like a friend is comforting me. Explaining to me that we all go through these trials and tribulations and that’s okay. The song feels wonderfully tragic, kind of like a movie soundtrack where the main character’s world is falling apart, but it’s okay because they’re still fighting through it, you know? At least that’s the sort of worldly feeling I get, and it’s beautiful! This is easily one of my favorite comebacks and has been on repeat nonstop.”

The next comeback I want to talk about is actually a debut, and one that’s been the source of a ton of controversy within the K-pop community. SM Entertainment, home to Taemin, EXO, NCT, Red Velvet, SNSD and more very successful artists, have always been a trendsetter within K-pop. It was clear when last year, the supergroup SuperM was born, the members hailing from four separate groups, coming together to form a group consisting of the “best of the best.” SuperM is still to this day one of the most controversial groups to debut, but I think SM may have outdone themselves this time. At the end of the last SuperM and NCT music videos were small teasers for a new project, called Aespa. 

Aespa is an eight membered girl group, but there is a catch. Half of the members are AI(AE) versions of the real-life members. The group has been under the scrutiny of fans of other groups since their first teaser. The group is meant to be the birth of a new era of K-pop, leading the way into a virtual world where the singers get to interact with their fans at a deeper level more regularly. The controversies surrounding this group range from acquisitions of the members being bullies, the company working with tech companies that are involved in cyber surveillance, and that it’s all a ploy to manipulate the masses. 

While I’m not too sure about any of that, I can say that the debut garnered a lot of attention. The music video for their debut single, “Black Mamba” is the fastest debut MV in K-pop history to reach 10M views, only taking nine hours to reach the goal. The music video trended #1 worldwide on YouTube as well as trending in 54 countries. The music video reached 21.4M views in the first 24 hours, the most amount of views for a debut in K-pop history. The group also gained 1M followers on Instagram in just 23 days. 

I asked two fans their opinions, and got this response from a twitter user who wished to remain anonymous, “I consider it’s a new element and it’s really innovative. I’m in love with the designs, and I think the concept will do the trick to gain more fans. The AE can contribute to making an interesting plot for the MVs story too.” 

Brad from Instagram wasn’t as excited, “I like that they went for something new and original but I’m not too sure I like the AE element of it. It kind of confuses me a bit, and with albums I’d rather have albums and cards of the actual members, and I’m not sure if they will make cards for the AE versions of each member. I do think what they are doing is unique and different and really caught people’s attention.” 

MOMOLAND is a six membered girl group that started out with nine members. The group debuted in 2016 and blew up at the beginning of 2018 with the song “BBoom BBoom.” The group has always shown a very fun, bubble gum themed concept. The music they come out with is fun, something you can dance to and share with friends. While the group has had its fair share of hardships, the girls have continued to show a strong face in defiance. 

Twitter user @momoland_facts said, “MOMOLAND’s newest comeback remains rooted to it’s bubblegum pop nature, yet they still manage to present a new, more mature song with catchy hooks and verses.” I couldn’t say it any better. “Ready Or Not” still maintains the poppy, upbeat style of older MOMOLAND songs, while still showing a new side of the girls, ready to conquer the K-pop industry with their sound and style. When I started writing these articles, I wanted to reach out to actual fans of these groups, so you as readers could get a sense of how important these artists are to regular people. 

I asked on a few of MOMOLAND’s twitter posts if any fans of MOMOLAND, known as Merries, would be willing to give a statement for this article. Jordan Chavez reached out to me and explained that he is a Filipino Youtuber that has posted quite a few videos about MOMOLAND. “MOMOLAND has been through so much this past year, standing their ground as a six-team group, they have tirelessly worked to bring us this comeback ‘Ready Or Not.’ All throughout the music video I was smiling. Not just because of the beautiful visuals, each member showed, but because I saw their efforts and hard work into bringing us this song. I didn’t see them lose any energy. I didn’t see any slowdown, what I saw was a group of strong-willed ladies determined to bring their A-game to their long-standing Merries and the future fans! It was such a high-energy song that they definitely didn’t prepare me for! I thought I was ready for ‘Ready Or Not.’ I wasn’t. I WAS BLOWN AWAY! The future is bright for MOMOLAND, and they are about to shine brighter!”

Last month, I covered LOONA, a girl group with 12 members that have all had a solo album, multiple subunits, and is very popular globally. On Nov. 17, LOONA released the music video for their English B-side, “Star.” The song is the English version of another song, “Voice,” that was also released on their last album, “12:00.” Every time I see the music video; I’m captivated. It’s so beautiful and intricate, the set design, the costuming, the choreography. Each and every part of the song and music video flow and create a perfect gift for the fans of LOONA, called “Orbits.” And that’s what it is, a gift. LOONA is another group that tries to be as connected with their fans as possible, sharing tweets, text messages and YouTube videos of themselves to interact with fans. The group actually bought and dedicated 12 stars for the fans, giving them each a letter to spell out “ORBIT IN LOONA” when combined. You can see how much the group loves and adores their fans, and their fans adore them too. 

I communicated with two fans about the music video, and Phoenix said this about the music video, “The music video is so beautiful, it’s like Christmas almost. All LOONA MVs are really good but there’s a vibe with the ‘Star’ MV that really makes it special.” I also asked him about his opinion on the globality of LOONA, “As for LOONA being global, it’s pretty well-known that LOONA has always had a bigger international audience than domestic. But I do think that they’re becoming more popular as more and more people get into K-pop. And with Blockberry [Creative record label] going on a PR campaign globally, I think we’ll see a lot more Orbits in the future.” 

I also asked the same questions to Karina, “It does feel like it’s a step ahead, LOONA has always been popular outside of South Korea, especially in the West, seeing them investing in the American Market seems only natural and the best strategy. I think they are already global; they are more popular internationally than domestically. They’re trying to reach a bigger public and that for sure will get their name to new places and to be even more global. Both songs, ‘Voice’ and ‘Star,’ even though they share the same harmony, are completely different songs, as in their lyrics are different giving a new experience when you listen to them. ‘Star’ surely gave the fans some nostalgia to their last English version song, ‘Loonatic,’ which is very loved by Orbits. So as much as I love ‘Voice,’ ‘Star’ is a favorite for many reasons.” 

This week had a ton of good songs, once again I am completely blown away by the talent and effort that goes into the music coming out of Korea. If you want, you can ask me questions about any K-pop release, as I do listen to them all. Ask me for recommendations as well! I’d be happy to give them. Next week’s article will focus on BTS, NCT2020, GOT7 and the long-awaited debut of EXO’s KAI as a soloist.

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