December capped off a fantastic year in music in the best way possible – more great music to enjoy! Many artists released Christmas special singles and covers of old classics, and some artists brought some high energy to warm those cold bones. We had some debuts to remember, as well as some long awaited returns. Bands, OSTs, boy groups, girl groups, soloists, Korean lyrics, English lyrics, oh my! This was another month where there was something for everyone to enjoy.
These were our top 10 new releases of the month!
EVERGLOW – Return of the Girl
Released December 1
The first track, ”Back Together,” feels like a warm hug between the members of EVERGLOW and their fan base. The second song on the album is the title track, “Pirate,” which invites girls all over the world to get on board their EVERGLOW pirate club ship, which is something I’d sign up for in a heartbeat. I could probably write an entire blog post about the way the song was composed but I’ll save that for another day. The third track on the album, “Don’t Speak,” shows a cute side of EVERGLOW that we didn’t even know we needed. It’s probably my favorite b side on the album because I love when these girls show different sides to their personalities. The next two songs, ”Nighty Night” and ”Company” have a similar flavor, which is one that stands out in EVERGLOW’s entire discography now. The intensity goes up, we hear some beat combinations we’ve never heard before, and overall it’s a nice shakeup for the album. I enjoy listening to this album all the way through!
IVE – ELEVEN
Released December 1
“ELEVEN” will probably go down in history as one of my favorite debut title tracks of any group ever. The composition, the lyrics, the vocals… everything is memorable and strong and addicting. This song also is a great example of how beautiful some small vocal details can be as multiple vocalists show great skill in skipping around from note to note, throughout the song. This song has so much flavor and stands out to me among other songs that are popular right now for its uniqueness. With their debut, IVE also gave us one b side called “Take It”. This b side has a similar style to the title track, so naturally, I enjoyed it too. I look forward to hearing more from IVE in the future. Their 2 songs easily get stuck in your head and leave you wanting more.
Xdinary Heroes – “Happy Death Day”
Released December 6
I won’t lie…I was pretty sure this song was not going to make it on my list of favorite releases this month. However, there’s something about this group and something about the song that made me keep listening to it. There’s so much dissonance happening between the instrumentals and the vocals, so at first I didn’t care for it. But the more I made myself listen to it, the more I realized that there’s actually a lot of good stuff going on with this song! I’m also just really excited that another one of the bigger companies has a new band that they seem to be promoting really well. So I’m hopeful about what they have planned for this young group. I think another reason this song grew on me over time was because it reminded me of the music that I listened to when I was in high school. There’s something about that emo, grunge band sound that feels like an anthem. I find myself especially singing along with the line: “I’m so sick of the fakes!” Ha!
MINO – TO INFINITY.
Released December 7
Another great album so early in the month! The kickoff song, “LOVE IN DA CAR,” stands out because it’s full of actual car sounds. Ha! I can’t really listen to that song while I’m in the car anymore, because I keep thinking that someone is honking at me. But it’s a riot of a song and it’s just the first one. The title track “TANG!” is a really catchy song that reminds of his song “FIANCÉ” at times. I love the way Mino plays with the beat of the song; he raps around it quite a bit. The chorus can be a little repetitive at times, but the verses are interesting enough to make it one I keep coming back to. There are 8 other songs on the album, ranging in styles and variations. Mino never disappoints!
Monsta X – The Dreaming
Released December 10
Monsta X released another all English album this month and I have to say, it’s a no-skip album for me. With 10 tracks, including the pre-released “One Day,” this album has a nice variety of songs. “You Problem” and “Blame Me” are the ones I probably play most often. Both of them (along with others on the album) have a very nice combination of western and KPop popular sounds. Since they’re in English, I was able to pick up on the lyrics quickly and was singing along in no time! Their English album from 2020, ALL ABOUT LUV, was a good one, but The Dreaming has a little extra oomph to it. It’s more mature and there’s a lot about it that feels really “Monsta X.”
ATEEZ – ZERO: FEVER EPILOGUE
Released December 10
These gentlemen released “The Real” back when they competed on the TV show Kingdom as their big finale single. It was good then. But for me, it got overshadowed by everything else Kingdom was giving us. With this newest album, ATEEZ re-released “The Real,” with a few changes (aka the Heung Version) and it feels so fresh and new to me. It packs in so much fun, youthful energy, and style. It’s quickly become a go-to song for me! This album also includes a couple other songs they performed on Kingdom, some Korean versions of previously released Japanese tracks, and a few new songs. Of these, “Turbulence” is my favorite. The balance among the vocals, the cadence of the lyrics in the chorus, the airiness in the instrumentals…I love everything about it. It shows a nice side of ATEEZ, as well, since we’re so used to focusing on their high energy and intensity. It’s like a breath of fresh air! Overall, this is a strong album with a nice variety from the boys of ATEEZ.
FTISLAND – “UNTHINKABLE”
Released December 10
FTISLAND hasn’t released a new Korean album since 2017. Now that all 3 remaining members of the band have completed their mandatory military enlistments, they’re back to music. Their new EP has 5 new songs on it, but the title track “UNTHINKABLE” just really caught my attention this month. It’s no secret that lead singer Lee Hongki has a voice for the record books, but he just really reminds us all of what he’s capable of with this title track. He effortlessly soars to high notes, holds beautiful vibrato, and emotes so well that you don’t have to know Korean to understand the emotions of the song. A stunning and memorable comeback, for sure!
ONEWE & ONEUS – “STAY”
Released December 21
These brother groups have released a couple of songs together over the years and I’m always glad when they do. Both groups have such strong vocal lines and talented rappers, so when they all come together it’s like an overflow of talent. ONEUS’ Seoho and ONEWE’s Yonghoon lead each chorus and I just find their voices to be so stunning together that it might actually be ridiculous. The lyrics talk about how the winter time makes them miss someone special, wishing they’d come back to stay. Since the music isn’t full of sadness and is upbeat at times, it adds a layer of hopefulness for the future. That slight contrast is nice! I loved this collaboration and smiled my way through the music video, as well.
V – “Christmas Tree”
Released December 24
I was not expecting this song. Released as an OST for the drama Our Beloved Summer, V really came in and shook things up. The majority of this song is in English, which was one of the things I wasn’t anticipating. But it also has a really acoustic and soft sound to it. V’s unique vocals blend with that airy instrumental sound in a stunning way. There’s longing, warmth, nostalgia, and intimacy layered up in this song. It feels like his time working with Coldplay has really rubbed off on his own musical style. This sounds like something the band would record and release on any given Tuesday. But V’s super unique and recognizable tone makes it special. The title makes it sound like it’s going to be a Christmas song, but it’s more of a love song. Regardless – big fan!
IU – Pieces
Released December 29
IU snuck in at the tail end of the month to release a simple EP with 5 songs. In a video on her Twitter, IU explained that this album had 5 unreleased songs that work together to create an image of herself. Each song has a different sound, representing a different side of herself. “Drama” is light and youthful, “Next Stop” is warm like a lullaby, “Winter Sleep” is like a heartfelt OST, “You” expresses longing and loneliness, and “Love Letter” is reflective of a past love. While each song has a unique feeling to it, they all feel like IU. They’re all inviting, honest, and sweet. I’m one of those people who thinks everything IU releases is gold, but I also firmly believe that her music and her talent speak for themselves. This album was a surprise, but a great way to cap off the month and the year!
What were your favorite releases of December? Let us know in the comments!