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10 October Korean Releases to Have on Your Radar

From CNBLUE to IU, f(x)’s Luna, Golden Child, bugAboo and more, here are some of our favorite picks this month

Rolling Stone India Oct 31, 2021
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Along with record-breaking artists such as IU, TWICE and Youngjae making their highly anticipated comebacks, October saw veteran acts like CL, CNBLUE, f(x)’s Luna, Epik High and Super Junior’s Donghae illuminating the musical scene with their soundscape.

This month also saw K-pop groups define their artistry with compelling concepts– aespa turned to a new chapter in their meticulous metaverse universe with “Savage,”K-pop powerhouse NCT 127 celebrated Halloween early with a supernatural-themed concept in “Forever (Vampire)” and SEVENTEEN embraced the global resurgence of punk rock in “Rock With You,” showing the group’s commitment to evolving their artistry.

October would be incomplete without K-artists celebrating ‘firsts.’ Take for instance K-pop hitmakers, TWICE who released their first official English-language single titled, “The Feels”. The upbeat track got the group their first entry into the Billboard Hot 100 chart, placing TWICE at number 83. Rapper and songwriter CL also celebrated a ‘first’ with the release of her debut studio album, Alpha. BLACKPINK’s Lisa also had a reason to rejoice with the release of “SG”–her first high-profile collaborative single as a solo artist with DJ Snake, Ozuna and Megan Thee Stallion. 

Out of over 20 Korean releases this month, here are 10 of our favorites:

“DDARA” by Golden Child

K-pop boy group Golden Child kicks off October with the suave new jack swing style single, “Golden Child.” 

Dressed in fitted back suits, Golden Child’s latest single stems from a universal truth of life- staying true to yourself; “Mouths that trap you/ Watch out, keep change/ We just keep dreaming.” Keeping the music video simple, the group incorporates expressive choreographed moves to match the upbeat synth-percussion beats. 

“Madonna” by f(x)’s Luna

South Korean vocalist Luna brings all the drama and fervor in her latest music video, “Madonna.” Stylized via a multi-genre approach, the track opens with a nostalgic ballad mix, declaring Luna’s aspirations as a child to “be like Madonna”; “When I grow up/ I wanna be like Madonna.” 

Luna leaves no leaf unturned as she switches between a breathy vocal performance to a melody rap, matching the synth-trap ensemble of the track. At a surface level, the single pays homage to the pop icon Madonna, but as the song progresses, Luna unapologetically celebrates her artistry: “From any sort of angle, I’m a veteran/ I’m on my way, under my feet are red carpet, so proudly/ I mean, I won’t apologize ’cause I’m a foxy bitch!/ I’m ready now, makin’ my mama proud.” 

“Cold Blooded” by Jessi

No one delivers an anthemic, empowering track better than Korean-American rapper, Jessi. In collaboration with Mnet’s dance survival program, Street Women Fighter, Jessi released “Cold Blooded” mid-October.

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Co-written by Jessi, “Cold Blooded” is a fast-paced synth-hip hop track, celebrating Jessi’s determination, resilience and power; “Look at me, look at me now/ I got the crown, this is my town/ I do not, I do not fuck with you clowns.” Choreographed by Street Women Fighter’s dance crew, the track delivers a powerful and engrossing viewing experience as the dancers exhibit a ferocious routine. 

“California Love” by Super Junior’s Donghae ft. NCT’s Jeno 

Co-written and co-composed by veteran K-pop star Donghae, “California Love” is a sensual R&B-hip hop single featuring NCT’s vocalist, Jeno. The single offers a blend of sultry guitar riffs and rhythmic bass beats, creating a dreamlike melody that stays with you.

Singing about an enticing love affair, the duo often breaks into theatrical-like performances, swaying to the rhythmic beat. We also get glimpses of Donghae performing swing-style choreography between skyscrapers thrown into the mix of varied visuals.

“The Weekend” by BIBI

K-R&B vocalist-songwriter BIBI teams up with musical collective 88Rising on the brand new single, “The Weekend”– also a part of 88rising’s upcoming album, Head In The Clouds 3.

Written by Dava and produced by Max & Kyle and Pinkslip, the single sees BIBI questioning the foundation of her ‘relationship.’ Wanting more than one night stands, BIBI expresses her carnal desires to be loved in a way that goes beyond sex; “Yоu оnlу саll mе оn thе wееkеnd/ Yоu оnlу lоvе mе whеn wе frеаkіn’/ Yоu gоt mе јumріn’ оff thе dеер еnd/ Yоu оnlу саll mе оn thе wееkеnd.”

Complementing BIBI’s breathy vocals, “The Weekend”’s composition stems from slick retro beats and a rhythmic hook, giving the track a slight Eighties dance-pop feel. 

“Strawberry Moon” by IU

South Korea’s leading soloist IU paints a picture of a dreamy date in her latest pop-rock digital single, “Strawberry Moon.”

Co-written by the vocalist, “Strawberry Moon” explores the emotional rollercoaster one experiences during the earlier stages of love. Presented as an exaggerated commentary, the track compares the feelings of romance to a strawberry-colored moon, deeming the latter to be a far less improbable fantasy. The blend between acoustic guitars and sweet piano notes brings out IU’s soulful vocals as she sings; “Over our youthful selves/ A big strawberry moon, one scoop/ Will you let me care you, ayy-oh.”

“Love Cut” by CNBLUE

K-rock band CNBLUE returns after four months with a wild west-inspired concept in “Love Cut.” Sonically, the track is a mix of classic rock with its pulsating string-percussion ensemble and a hint of disco rhythm to match the Wild West concept. 

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Co-written by member Jung Yong Hwa, CNBLUE’s latest release focuses on the importance of discarding relationships holding you back to find your freedom and grow. While they recognize the process of letting go of unnecessary ties (especially a romantic one) does not come easy, the members are fairly confident in their ability to bounce back from the emotional punch; “Love cut, I’m going to cut this love away/ All memories, all sadness/ It will hurt, but it will heal right away/ I’m sick of this love.”

“bugAboo” by bugAboo

Making their debut on October 25th, ATeam Entertainment’s latest girl group, bugAboo established a zestful and promising identity for themselves with their debut release, “bugAboo.”

The sextet comprising Eunchae, Yoona, Rainie, Cyan, Choyeon and Zin delivers a fresh soundscape with a mix of bass and brass-percussion, solidly carrying the rhythmic quotient of the track. A loud and confident declaration of the group’s arrival, “bugAboo” celebrates the very essence of championing one’s resilience and determination; “Hey this world call it bugAboo/ Ya keep it secret my own way/ I don’t need na na na na na nutha/ Prick of bugAboo.”

“Let It” by CL

Showing a different side of her artistry with every release, South Korean rapper, singer and songwriter CL followed up her October 20th release “Tie A Cherry” with the somber number “Let It.”

Inspiring others to follow their heart, CL gets up close and personal on her latest release; “Don’t worry it can go/ Always do what you feel/ Regrets comes with rewarding without doing it/ Like me, I always do what I feel.” Structured between rhythmic piano notes and percussion beats, “Let It” is CL’s personalized note to her fans who’ve looked up to the powerhouse for inspiration, strength and motivation. 

“Face ID” by Epik High

Following their moody ballad single, “Rain Song,” Epik High returns with a social commentary on social media versus in-person interaction in their latest bass-synth release “Face ID.”

Featuring notable rappers Giriboy, JUSTHIS and Sik-K, “Face ID” stems from the trio’s personal experiences during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantined in our homes, humans were pushed to keep their interactions strictly virtual. Exploring the lack of in-person interaction, Epik High’s took this opportunity to curate an energetic track about seeing one another; “See, everybody gangsta until they’re face to face/ Their guard is quick to get unlocked Face ID/ Everyone is stuck at the start line, afraid to take a step.”

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