After a flurry of releases, Jung Kook, EXO, NewJeans, NMIXX, and TXT stand atop our playlists
It’s been a busy past few days for K-pop and multi-stans all around have been treated to the much-anticipated comebacks of their favorite groups. As one myself, I couldn’t simply discuss one track – with so much to choose from, why not talk about all of them?
In this edition of the Listening Party, we take a look at some of K-pop’s latest, featuring Jung Kook’s ‘Seven,’ EXO’s ‘Cream Soda,’ NewJeans’ ‘Super Shy,’ NMIXX’s ‘Roller Coaster,’ and TXT and Jonas Brothers’ ‘Do It Like That.’
Seven – Jung Kook
Jung Kook arrives as the latest to make his solo debut from the K-pop super group, BTS, following Jimin’s ‘FACE.’ ‘Seven,’ featuring American hip-hop artist Latto also comes after a number of highly-successful releases by the South-Korean native, including ‘Left and Right’ with Charlie Puth, and ‘Dreamers’ for the past FIFA World Cup.
“It’s my official solo debut, so everything is a challenge and feels new and fresh. Of course, I think a lot about delivering good music and performance while working on my music. But above all, as this is my first step forward in the spotlight as a solo artist, I want to show a more mature and grown version of myself,” he shares with Variety.
Lyrically. ‘Seven’ is an expression of devotion – a love that takes no breaks – seven days a week.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (A week) / Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday Seven days a week / Every hour, every minute, every second / You know night after night / I’ll be lovin’ you right / Seven days a week
Latto hops on to provide the track an added dimension – a fiery passion borne out of that love that moves on to endless intimacy.
Going to the sun-up, we ain’t gettin’ no sleep / Seven days a week, seven different sheets / Seven different angles, I can be your fantasy
Initially, the featured verse seemed out of place. It was overtly sexual in a song that was relatively implicit in the meaning it was trying to convey. However, the track does have a clean and explicit version, and the latter erases the lack of cohesiveness I initially observed. Although, Jung Kook having that innocent and happy-go-lucky image we’ve grown accustomed to throughout the years – it’ll take a while before any of us get used to this grown-up version of him.
Musically. The track utilizes a mix of guitar, piano, and drums for its instrumental. The song follows a singular melody that plays in a loop for the entirety of its runtime. And while this would occasionally be a recipe for staleness, the playfulness of the composition, and the variety the high-hats add, make for an amusing listening experience.
Jung Kook’s vocal performance is the centerpiece of the project. He goes low, high, very high, graceful, and aggressive – he takes listeners on a journey, making full use of the full stage a solid base of a well-made instrumental provides. Not to mention, the adlibs and flourishes he adds to certain parts of the track – chefs kiss.
As an aside, interestingly, I came across a comment stating that the song was pretty much a Craig David track. And after checking out ‘7 Days’ – the guitar, the title, and the groove – I see the comparison.
Cream Soda – EXO
EXO, one of the biggest names in K-pop history, returns with ‘Cream Soda’ from their seventh studio album, ‘EXIST.’ This latest project is their first since ‘DON’T FIGHT THE FEELING,’ the special album, which came out in June 2021. This is also the first time since November 2018’s ‘DON’T MESS UP MY TEMPO’ that the group was complete due to military obligations. And yes, we know Kai had just recently enlisted, but at least he’s included in the album’s concept photos and studio recordings – that’s close enough!
Lyrically. One look at the many definitions of cream soda in urban dictionary and you would know what the track is really about. It is filled (get it?) with overwhelming desire and want, and various plays and sexual innuendos on carbonated drinks.
Uncontrollable appetite / A taste that shook my everything / I need all ya cream soda / The more it melts, / the sweeter it gets / Take my heart out / I need all ya cream soda
Musically. ‘Cream Soda’ runs contrary to what titles of the same subject matter would go for – The Weeknd’s sultry RnB releases or the aggressive hip-hop Cardi B is known for. It is upbeat and uplifting to the point that you’d be trying to sing along, forgetting what the song was all about in the first place.
The track’s instrumental utilizes a mix of brass and guitar, played at a high pace, with each note arranged to go up or down in pitch in groups of three. This rhythm is kept for the whole duration of the track, and yet staleness is easily avoided by their use of percussion, from claps and hats to snares and kicks, that keep the energy at a high level all while amusing and keeping our ears engaged.
Unsurprisingly, the vocals are where it’s really at. It’s a solid performance from each member, whether on a solo line or during a group vocal. While the release in its entirety was a vocal masterpiece packaged inside a three-minute track, most memorable to me was the soft falsetto at the pre-chorus and the harmony of voices singing in different registers in the chorus. From beginning to end, there are no flaws in this regard and EXO is simply using this track to show off at this point.
Super Shy – NewJeans
Lyrically. The track talks about someone that is (surprise) super shy and wants to pursue someone they’ve set their eyes on despite their bashful nature. Unfortunately, however, there’s nothing really impressive about the lyrics. What’s worse, there’s a lack of variety and an overabundance of repetition. It’s only a two-minute and thirty-second track – it’s a shame they even struggled to fill the runtime.
Although, they do manage to get a lot right to compensate. And perhaps the lack of variety ended up helping their cause because it’s so catchy it’s managed to get stuck in my head.
I’m super shy, super shy / But wait a minute while I make you mine, make you mine / I’m all nervous ’cause you’re on my mind all the time / I wanna tell you but I’m super shy, super shy
Musically. ‘Super Shy’ initially felt too familiar, almost as if they were recycling a sound they’d previously used. And it undoubtedly screams NewJeans through their use of laidback and subtle synths, but no, this is fresh from them. Apparently, they sampled ‘The Powerpuff Girls’ theme song – it all makes sense now!
There’s not much to say about the vocals except that it was impressive, and that one of my favorite parts of the track was the soft head voice when they sang “You don’t even know my name, do ya?” in the refrain.
What’s key, however, was the percussion used. It was rhythmic and upbeat and contrasted with the laidback synth and the calming vocal of the track. In all honesty, it saved the song from growing stale from all the repetition going on. And speaking of instrumental variation, ‘Super Shy’ reaches its peak in the last 30 seconds of the runtime when it elevates into another gear through the introduction of additional kick drums and digital high-pitched vocal chops.
Roller Coaster – NMIXX
Lyrically. According to JYP Entertainment, ‘Roller Coaster’ “compare[s] the emotion of overflowing love felt for the first time to a roller coaster ride. It also contains NMIXX’s love, which is thrilling and mysterious because no one knows where it’s going to bounce while surprisingly growing larger as we get together.”
Shooting star roller coaster, ri-ri-ride / We cut through the wind, so incredible / Run, make me feel so high, na-na-na / How do you feel right now? How incredible / Let’s ride, hold on / Going down, going up with you / We go to the top and stop
The track’s lyrics perfectly capture the emotion they are trying to convey. It is bubbly and cheerful. If I had to nitpick, my complaint would be that the second verse is too short as it only had three lines.
Oh numerous extraordinary things / And one star among them / Come here, my dear
Musically. Variety is the name of the game – NMIXX just doesn’t stop trying to keep you engaged. Everything is thrown at you, from vocal chops to 808s, and yet it remains a cohesive track. NMIXX was earlier known for their messy releases – living up to their name by smashing together different genres whether it made sense or not. It’s safe to say that listening to their past songs was a confusing experience and it’s interesting to see how they’ve evolved from that.
And don’t get me started on the vocals. Adlibs upon adlibs, flourishes that elevate an already solid base of a vocal performance to even higher heights.
Do It Like That – TOMORROW X TOGETHER and Jonas Brothers
TOMORROW X TOGETHER joins the Jonas Brothers for the groovy ‘Do It Like That.’ This comes after their latest EP ‘The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION’ which features songs such as ‘Devil by the Window’ and ‘Sugar Rush Ride.’
Lyrically. ‘Do It Like That’ talks about a growing attraction for a beloved. Regardless of what they do or how they act, their unique quirks just endlessly draw them further in.
You get me so off track, yeah / Been spinnin’ for miles / But I think that you like that / Can’t deny it / You bringin’ my life back / And you doin’ it in style / You came with that jet pack / Now we flyin’
Unfortunately, there isn’t much going on lyrically and it can be repetitive at times. Even worse, some lines come across as awkward and don’t roll off the tongue as naturally as they could’ve. I wasn’t aware the writer’s strike extended into the music scene; it could’ve been done better.
You sendin’ signals and them waves go far / Got people dancin’ up on top of their cars / You sendin’ signals and them waves go far / Yeah, oh, my God / Don’t know how you do it like that
Musically. It’s your standard funky pop song – almost an inferior version of the Jonas Brothers’ ‘Sucker.’ The track’s saving grace however is the vocal performance. The ability to switch between registers and the playful melody in which they deliver their lines elevates what could’ve been an uninspired and skippable release into a rather catchy and pleasant one.
Lyrics courtesy of Genius