Monthly K-Pop Music Roundup: September

Welcome to our first monthly music roundup! Each month, I’ll highlight some favorite releases – both title tracks and b sides – from Korean pop to rock to RNB and everything in between.

September brought us some highly anticipated debuts, collabs, and comebacks; there was a lot to listen to! This month felt like we were saying goodbye to summer songs and we starting shifting towards fall. We had some bright, upbeat tracks while we also got some strong ballads and warmer tones. You never know what to expect this time of year!

Here are 10 of my favorite releases this month, in order of their release. Leave a comment below, letting us know what your favorites were!

STAYC: STEREOTYPE
Released September 6

STAYC gained a ton of popularity with their last comeback and titled track, “ASAP.” I, personally, think I like their new “STEREOTYPE” even more, though. The message of the song is youthful and relevant, as they encourage us to love people as they are, rather than judging them for being different. The composer of this song really knew what they were doing, as it’s got an addictive quality to it. There are so many acrobatics going on in the background that every time I listen to it, I hear something new. It’s the kind of song I’ll probably never get tired of, which is amazing. This rookie group has got some stellar vocalists! We hear that in their new title track, but also in their b side, “I’LL BE THERE.” The instrumentals are really stripped down and simple, so that the girls’ voices get to be front and center. They have so much range and the tones of the individual members really stand out. I’m excited for what this group does next!

Lee Hi: 4 ONLY
Released September 9

This entire album deserves a spotlight. 4 ONLY is Lee Hi’s first album since joining AOMG and it’s dripping in her signature flavor. The title track on this album is “Red Lipstick”, which features rapper Yoonmirae on the track, as well as a bunch of other familiar AOMG faces in the music video. This track is fun and groovy, as Lee Hi encourages us to throw on some red lipstick and keep dancing, no matter what. The album also has songs like “Savior” with B.I as a featured artist. “Savior” is the third song that this duo has released together, once again proving that they’re a perfect pair.My favorite b side, however, is “Bye,” which has so much attitude and swagger to it, it makes me smile for some reason. Ha! With 10 songs in total, Lee Hi’s 4 ONLY album has something on it for everyone.

ATEEZ: “Deja Vu”
Released September 13

Once again, ATEEZ opened up voting for fans to choose their next title track. They shared videos of group members having other celebrities (such as Jessi, PSY, and MAMAMOO’s Moonbyul) vote for their favorites, as well. The winning song was “Deja Vu,” which might be one of my favorite ATEEZ tracks ever. It’s the kind of song that’s full of smaller ear-candy moments, adding up to a memorable track. San’s high note in the first verse, Hongjoong’s signature chuckle in the rap section, Mingi’s vocal moment in that second verse…the list goes on and on. It’s enough to make us all, “go insane.” The music video and choreography have garnered a lot of extra attention for the group, as well, which we love to see.

WONHO: “BLUE”
Released September 14

I was pleasantly surprised by this new release from WONHO, because if I’m completely honest, I haven’t loved his solo tracks. But there’s something about the brightness in this song that connects with me a little more. Or maybe it was just released at the exact right time for me to find it enjoyable. Who knows?! I like the MV concept with all the nods to football; it feels really youthful and fun, which I generally enjoy. I also feel like WONHO’s vocals shine really well in this style of song, since he tackles some fun note progressions. He gets to show off those high notes, which I will always root for. The lyrics reference the ocean and diving, yet I’m kind of glad the MV wasn’t ocean themed? That would’ve been a little too on-the-nose for me. Ha! Overall, this song has helped me wave goodbye to summertime and I like it.

Seori: “Dive with you (feat. eaJ)”
Released September 15

Earlier this year, Seori became a K-household name with her feature on TXT’s “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” and now she’s back with her own song to further solidify herself in our minds as a vocal treasure. On this new song with eaJ (aka Jae from DAY6), we hear touches of influence from artists like Sia in the vocal slides and vibrato. The lyrics paint a picture of some of our favorite romantic KDramas, and the MV feels like scenes from a movie. The MV has gained attention for being inclusive, showing different kinds of couples and experiences. This song came up on a random shuffle for me recently, and it stopped me in my tracks. It’s an A++ from me, for sure! [Note: This song was originally released in August, but the MV dropped in September.]

MAMAMOO: I Say Mamamoo: The Best
Released September 15

This month, in addition to all this new music from so many artists, MAMAMOO dropped a compilation album, featuring a variety of new versions of old favorites. The track list includes a rock version of “gogobebe,” a traditional version of “AYA,” and a remix of “HIP”. There are a total of 23 songs on this album, so there’s bound to be something to make every MooMoo out there. As for their new title track “하늘 땅 바다만큼 (mumumumuch)”, the ladies of MAMAMOO remind the world why they’ve had such longevity and success in their career. The lyrics tell a love story, full of references to classic fairy tales. The track is groovy, full of cute moments, and filled to the brim with attitude. These are all prime ingredients for every MAMAMOO hit, as we all know. After years of more intense, hard-hitting tracks, this song feels so breezy and light, allowing their bright personalities to really shine. It feels like a break and a gift for their fans.

NCT 127: “Sticker”
Released September 16

The thing about NCT is that they’re ear-worm masters. You know what I mean? Every title track they drop buries itself into your head and whether it’s the kind of song you’d casually jam to or not, there’s no denying that it’s got a little something special. Haechan, Doyoung, and Taeil shine on this track, in particular, as the vocal kings they are. Mark’s rap section also brings a new flavor to the flow of the song, as it usually does. As a whole, NCT doesn’t ascribe to any particular mold and I’d say that everything they release has its own flavor; nobody’s doing it like they are. This comeback is a whole experience. The music video, the choreography, the outfit stylings, the whole concept…dare I say that it’ll “stick” in the KPop genre for a while to come?

ITZY: “LOCO”
Released September 23

Sometimes I feel a little nervous when ITZY releases new music because I really want to like whatever it is, but I’m afraid that I won’t. Ha! I was pleasantly surprised by “LOCO,” though! That beat in the chorus makes me want to clap along every time; it’s an infectious melody. My favorite part of this song is probably Yeji’s “oasis for this kitty” line because it’s latched itself in my brain and pops up at the most random moments! I’ll be taking out the trash and suddenly, “oh-ay-sis chan-neun kit-ty” is coming out of my mouth. That’s the ITZY effect, though! The members gave us an English version of their new title track, which is a fun listen, too. This comeback is full-on youth-overload and every song on their album fits that bill!

KEY: “BAD LOVE”
Released September 27

SHINee fans, rejoice! Production-wise, this might be my favorite release of the month. It snuck in with just a few days left in September and really declared itself the winner. In this one song, we get a collection of trends that have been floating around in the KPop world recently, like that 80’s beat, but it still stands apart as original. The way the pre-chorus softens before the beat drop and intensity of the chorus is chef’s kiss. The chorus as a whole is so, so good. If anyone was to teach a master class about how to attack high notes flawlessly, KEY would be the best person for the job. He makes every note change sound so simple, but based on how I was singing along in my car…it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Ha! KEY is King.

CL: “Lover Like Me”
Released September 29

Speaking of releases that snuck in at the end of the month, we have this dynamite single from CL. It seems like it’s an all-English release until CL hits the rap section, which she does in Korean. This is the kind of song that highlights how versatile of an artist she is. The vocals are so smooth and her tone is beautifully clear. Then when she starts rapping, this whole other beast comes out. She seamlessly switches between the two styles and the trap beat in the chorus holds it all together. This song is the second pre-release single behind “SPICY” leading up to CL’s new album, ALPHA. The contrast in styles between the two singles should have us all excited to hear what CL has in store!

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