NOW KPOPPING: 2NE1, Henry, 4Minute, SHINee & EunHae

I've been MIA (not the artist) from writing for a little bit, I've missed the chance to get all giggly and excited about some of my favorite Korean artists who've already made a bow at creating a banger for 2013. We've seen returns from SISTAR, EXO, After School, and MBLAQ and despite enjoying at least some of their previous works, all of their new work left me relatively unenthused. Here's what has caught my attention -- and to be fair, bias probably does have a lot to do with it.

2NE1 - "Falling In Love"
It feels like it was eons overdue, so when you finally get to hear "Falling In Love", I will admit I felt a little...underwhelmed. YG, I waited FOREVER. FOREVERRRRR. On paper, we are presented with a beachy-feel, sunny 2NE1 with a twinge of sex appeal and a lot of reggae bends. The results are somewhat mixed, however -- half of the group looks totally in their element (not difficult to guess which two), while the other half tries but looks more than a little bit awkward (again, not difficult to guess which two). While the song is relatively generic at first glance, CL does have some fun, catchy rap lines. Honestly, if this was CL's solo venture, I would have been behind it more so that what we ended up getting with "The Baddest Female" (ya'll - let's not talk about that one). It's fun for the summer months, but I'm hoping they will come harder will follow up singles. We didn't wait this long for just alright -- we want full-out, balls-to-the-walls 2NE1. I have faith in my fierce foursome (say that four times fast) that the 2013 tune we were waiting on will come soon enough. While we wait, this will inevitably grow on me.
 
 
 
SHINHWA - "This Love"
Veteran boy band (more like man band at this point) Shinhwa returned with their 11th album back in May. That is literally ages ago in KPOP time but it would be doing us all a supreme disservice to not give a nod of uh-may-zing to this epic piece of dancefloor club pop, complete with vogue-ing. Yes. Vogue-ing. Your Backstreet Boys could never! Your reasoning is moot.



HENRY - "Trap (feat. Kyuhyun of Super Junior & Taemin of SHINee)"

On a totally different plane, SM Entertainment came out of total left field (sort of) back in May announcing their first male solo project in 13 years via Taiwanese-Canadian Henry, a spotlight "new" member of Super Junior via their Mandarin subunit Super Junior-M. For fans of "Mochi" (as many affectionately call him), all signs were pointing toward the promotional push -- he's co-written songs for his SuJu hyungs (despite not being an "official" member of Super Junior, whatever that means), collab-ed with BoA, was featured during Girls' Generation's promotional comeback blitz for "I Got A Boy" and participated in the Korean variety competition show MasterChef Korea. Henry can sing, dance, write songs, speak a handful of languages, play violin and cook -- which makes him literally every girl's dream. "Trap" made its bow on music performance shows in early June and includes Henry playing piano in addition to singing. So few of these capable idols actually get to perform with instruments and often when they do, they are of the drudgy ballad variety, so it's hard for me to not praise him. Finally, Henry's getting the attention he deserves. I hope Zhou Mi is next.

 
SHINee - "Breaking News"
The SHINee project plows forward at a dizzying pace -- after releasing two full-length Korean albums and singles in "Dream Girl" and "Why So Serious?", they recently dropped their sophomore Japanese album Boys Meet U (yes, I just cringed, too), which includes their Japanese singles "Dazzling Girl" and "1000nen, Zutto Soba ni Ite" and a re-worked version of "Sherlock". The most recent release from the project is the uptempo "Breaking News", which like "Dazzling Girl" before it, was co-written by boy band veteran Drew Ryan Scott (of Varsity Fanclub/After Romeo fame). It's not as earwormy as "Dazzling", but it does the job well and we get to see all five of our boys back dancing in formation again. But Key -- boo boo, stop it with the shorts and the leggings underneath combo. You're killing me and not in a good way.


4MINUTE - "Is It Poppin'"
My love/hate relationship with the female quintest Korea loves to pick on swings more on the love side this go-round. In my humble opinion Name Is 4Minute, their fourth (appropriate) and latest mini-album is their strongest and most cohesive yet, expanding on the current trend du jour in being totally disjointed and arguably uncohesive. Brave Brothers-produced single "What's Your Name?" just barely stays on the good side of the atonal divide (complete with dog barking sound effects?), but it really bodes well in this case that the single was my least favorite of the set. For fans of minimalistic "twerk" tunes, 4minute are your gals. "Domino" was by far and away my fave cut for its country-inspired interpolations which were much more effective to my ears than anything subunit 2YOON was able to do a few months prior. "Is It Poppin"? was a surprise single that can be sandwiched in like a re-packed hit for this era. It was Cube's attempt at making 4Minute -- known for their sexy bravado -- rock a cute concept. I prepared for the worst after genuinely liking Name Is 4Minute, and the results were quite favorable. I've never seen all five members look so genuinely happy (as opposed to so stoic and awkward like they were during last year's Volume Up). Ladies -- you've found your niche.


DONGHAE & EUNHYUK - "I Wanna Dance"
Bias, Bias, Bias, Utter Bias. Fangirl, don't care. It's not nearly as catchy as "Oppa Oppa" (which as you recall is utter brie encased in mozzarella) but considering this was released in Japan first (but will be coming to Korea shortly, you lucky ducks), it's a clear nod that SM understands the SuJu-brand of fanservice. You either love it or you hate it, but it's gonna make you smile with its I-Am-Who-I-Am-And-I-Have-No-Shame either way. (The Running Man? Disco Fingers? Sunglasses at Night? I want to explode! THIS SHOULD NOT BE CUTE AND YET IT IS! HELP ME!) I think it's time to accept we might never get that puppy-eyed, hopeless-romantic Donghae solo track (ladies, it's always gonna be "feat. EunHyuk"), so we might as well dance along. (Also -- the fashion is so utterly horrendous. You both should take all your clothes off right now. Now...continue where you left off with that choreo. Kthanks.) And on a Side Note: regardless of Super Junior being treated as old men that are being rotated off into the Army (cries forever), at least Donghae understands the YouTube generation. I hope the oversight of his access to the SMTown YouTube Channel is never formally realized and he continues to upload more random pointlessness. Where did I put my popcorn?


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