Listening: K-Pop, January 2018

It may only be a month into the new year, but there was no time to lose in K-pop. It only took three days for a group to bring a chart topper: “Bboom Bboom” by Momoland. And later weeks brought stunning follow-ups, redeeming comebacks as well as solid debuts from new groups. Great singles came in droves, but it’s also worth highlighting the mini albums that feature them along with the included deep cuts.

Here are five K-pop mini albums from January that rewarded a lot more than just the featured single.


Chung Ha

“Roller Coaster” pops more vibrant than “Hands on Me” to introduce the former I.O.I. member. While the production awes, Chung Ha’s got more than enough space to show off her voice, which channels a bit of Ariana Grande from the Xtina reboot of “Bad Boy” and the reggae workout of “Do It.”

To Heart


The title track presents the Idol School program finalists as an April type with heart-fluttering strings, but the girls got a lot more range. Arcade-game fireworks, Twice-channeling kitchen-sink pop, whistle-synth wistfulness: they tackle a lot yet what remains best is their debut single, now with a better intro.



If the rap breakdown of “Bboom Bboom” threw you for a loop, wait ’til you get to “Curious.” I’ll just say after the chorus, the beat collapses in a relatively unexpected way for a song opening with an acoustic riff borrowed from Hailee Steinfeld. The other two stick to their course, but play just as shiny.

Match Up


The video for “Diamond Girl” presents a duo full of antics, and what follows the single in Match Up does right to further define that personality. They borrow giddy slap-bass funk and an assorted box of synths to write songs posturing cool, but not entirely the picture-perfect version of cool.



After a series of colorful jams, VAV dim the lights a little for the slicker “Spotlight.” But once the first impression has made, the group continues with a more flashy affair in line with their usual tricks. Over hiccuping bass lines and glamorous synths, the boy band gets ready to show game.

Other favorite releases from January:

  • Dreamcatcher celebrated their one-year anniversary into their new look with “Full Moon,” equipped with a blazing chorus that blasts through as strong as their other singles.
  • Hip-hop girl group Girlkind debuts with “Fanci” that lives up to the swagger promised from such a concept. And that IKEA tee!
  • The January LOONA girl Go Won’s sparkling “One & Only” hits more modest in pleasures first than the past few releases, but the self-love lyrics make up for the lack in the production department.
  • While Infinite’s Top Seed as an album filled maybe one too many soft songs to impress, the vocal play in the hook of “Tell Me” stuck around.
  • JBJ’s offered “My Flower” over “True Colors” as the promo single for their latest True Colors. It’s a more proper “single” single anyway. That hip motion in the choreography also helps.
  • Oh My Girl brought the dreamy “Secret Garden” for their comeback that definitely lit up more than their last outing, “Coloring Book.”

Recommendations welcome. Please let me know if I missed a release!



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