East Beat: Your Guide To Week’s Best Asian Pop Songs Featuring BoA & HyunA
The world of pop music moves fast, especially for those who enjoy the sounds of the East and the West. Keeping up with the Hot 100 is hard enough, let alone knowing what’s going on in Japan and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it K-Pop scene. To help you stay on top of Asia’s hottest pop music, I’ve put together East Beat — a handy guide of the best K-Pop and J-Pop (and beyond!) songs of the week.
Sex kitten HyunA made a return this week as part of the new project group Triple H. The trio’s nineties-inspired EP, 199x, is a winner from start to finish, but there are two clear standouts: lead single “365 Fresh,” which is a deliciously shameful knock-off of Bruno Mars’ “24k Magic,” and “Sunflower,” which puts a K-Pop twist on old-school West Coast hip-hop.
BoA’s best known as one of K-pop’s biggest dancing queens, but the veteran diva is just as strong when it comes to ballads. On the melancholy mid-tempo “Spring Rain,” she sings about seasonal heartache over twinkly synths and an R&B beat. Speaking of ballads, LOONA 1/3 go for a more unconventional style with “Sonatine.” There’s no bassline or drum beat to be found, with the girls simply harmonizing over piano melodies and classical strings. There’s also a random (and completely glorious) tango break in the middle.
Another quirky girl group, LOVELYZ, returned this week with “Now, We” — a dreamy piece of bubblegum pop that gently builds before exploding into a sugar rush of a chorus. LOVELYZ usually get more experimental on their album cuts, and B-side “Aya” is no different. It’s cutesy K-Pop distorted through a funhouse mirror.
Korean-Chinese boy band EXO-CBX hit Japan with the silly but addictive “Ka-CHING!” The boys’ last money-themed single “LOTTO” was a little try hard with its hip-hop style, but “Ka-CHING!” is pure fun and that shines through.
While we’re on the topic of multi-country acts, meet CHERRSEE. The Japanese girl group were created by Korean hitmaker Brave Brothers, who has clearly modeled the girls after K-Pop idols. Their new single, “Cry Again,” is a polished piece of disco-tinged ’80s dance-pop that rivals some of Brave’s best Korean singles from the past year.
Taking a far less commercial approach is Japanese idol act Maison book girl with “Sin Morning.” With plinky production made of jerky guitar riffs, sharp strings, and xylophones, it’s a strange track that still manages to be super catchy, like all good pop music should be.
Sounding perfectly primed for the Billboard Hot 100 are Sekai no Owari (a.k.a. End of the World) with “One More Night.” The Tokyo-based band are making a grab for global stardom which explains why this one’s sung in English. With its groovy sound and addictive post-chorus instrumental, don’t be surprised if “One More Night” cracks American radio at some point.
Over in China, SNH48 spin-off 7SENSES serve glossy hip-pop on their self-titled debut single. Just like Japan’s CHERRSEE, this looks and sounds like K-Pop in the best way possible.