Op-Ed: Top 20 K-Pop of 2017

Client: Dazed Digital (2017).


01. BTS – “SPRING DAY” (봄날)

If 2016 was Bangtan’s crowning year in Asia, then 2017 has been their rambunctious ascent into the American mainstream during which they broke so many records as a Korean pop group that ‘The first K-Pop group to…’ seemed permanently appended to their name. In light of their progress and literal and figurative noise created by “DNA” and “MIC Drop”, the mid-tempo ballad of “Spring Day”, released back in February, marks the closing of a formative chapter in BTS history but also stands its ground as a singular triumph.

Like last year’s “Blood Sweat & Tears”, “Spring Day” uses external devices (Snowpiercer, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas) to illustrate certain points, but the most devastatingly evocative moments in this slow motion, cinematic landscape of memories and wishes are quietly simple, like V listening to the train rails or Jimin holding left behind shoes on an empty beach. It deliberately avoids cliché pomp and drama, perversely compressing into thick bass and piano with a whining electronic flourish and mechanical, hissing percussion, all which act like an enveloping airlock. Within that, BTS are a clear and magnetic presence; providing the song’s harmonic thread is J-Hope, with fellow rappers Suga and RM acting as yin and yang pillars around which the vocalists wind raw, beautiful lines and a questioning, resigned chorus.

While it’s been a frenetic year for BTS, and K-Pop in general, “Spring Day” hasn’t conceded an iota of power in being able to deeply etch itself again and again into the heart as an intelligent, compelling and elegantly restrained study of loss and longing.

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