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.
Rock music and Korean girl groups don’t usually mix, but newcomers DREAMCATCHER have changed all that with their Japanese rock-inspired sound. Their third single, “Fly High,” might be their catchiest yet, with a soaring Bratz Rock Angelz chorus offset by harder Babymetal-style breaks.
Brightening up the Korean summer are LABOUM, who have been on the rise this year despite debuting back in 2014. Their latest effort, “Only U,” is a bubbly summer bop with retro production and delightfully cheesy horns that sound like they belong in an early ‘90s sitcom.
Another group with a similar sound to LABOUM’s is female duo Limesoda with “Z Z Z.” The frothy track, which is an ode to beauty sleep (seriously), mixes sugary retro-pop with more modern elements like hip-hop and a little dubstep. It’s incredibly addictive and probably my favorite K-pop tune right now.
Boy band Monsta X have never been a favourite of mine, but they’re starting to win me over with their latest single, “Newton.” After the noisy rap and electro of their past releases, “Newton” is a refreshingly lush euro-pop with just the right amount of hip-hop thrown in. After last month’s “Shine Forever,” the boys seem to be moving in a dancier direction and it really suits them.
Meanwhile, upcoming girl group LOONA (who have yet to officially debut) are back with another solo single, this time from member Choerry. The LOONA solos so far have showcased either really cute vibes, or sleeker, sexier sounds, but “Love Cherry Motion” is the first track to combine the two. It’s sweet and bouncy synth-pop until the post-chorus, which drops into squiggly electro and, at one point, a Middle Eastern groove.
Over in Japan, J-pop queen Utada Hikaru is back with a beautiful new single, “Forevermore.” With its symphonic production, the instrumental recalls Fiona Apple or Tori Amos, but Utada’s vocals and the romantic lyrics take it to a much lighter, happier place. Take a listen below.