Monthly K-Pop Music Roundup: January 2022

January 2022. Can you believe the first month of this new year is OVER? What a fantastic start to the year, music-wise. Group debuts, encouraging messages in lyrics, long awaited reunions – this month was oozing positivity and light! That’s what we like to see in a month that centers around freshness and possibility. These are some of my favorite releases of the month and honestly, I had a difficult time narrowing my list down to 10!

Kep1er – “WA DA DA”
Released January 3

While I’ll confess that I didn’t watch this new girl group being formed on Girls Planet 999, I have been intrigued by them since their debut. I was happy to see CLC’s Yujin in this new group and interested in learning more about TXT’s Huening Kai’s younger sister, Bahiyyih. This title track exploded onto the scene and checks a few boxes for me, so to speak. I love the variations in the melody and all the attitude, especially. The instrumentals in the chorus almost cast a spell on me when that beat drops! I wasn’t sure that I’d like the song at first, but the more I hear it, the more it gets stuck in my head. This song made it on my favorites list because of how often I caught myself singing it out of nowhere! Ha! I’m definitely curious to see what this group brings next! The group seems to have a lot of talent, so I’ll be looking forward to their first comeback. 

P1HARMONY – “Do it Like This”
Released January 3

I’ve been a fan of P1HARMONY since their debut in 2020. With each comeback, the group shows us a new side of their abilities. This particular new title track has a brighter concept than what we’ve seen from the group before and I’m a big fan. Their style has always been pretty intense and powerful, with modern and empowering messages. “Do it Like This” continues that trend with a twist. Standout lyrics include, “I’ll do everything to change the world before I die” and “Wake up from the darkness and show everyone your power.” The central message of this song is to follow in this movement of being your own person and standing firm in your own abilities. WE STAN. Something I always love about P1HARMONY is how each individual member stands out. They all have such diverse vocal and rap styles, working together to create a unique sound. Always a fan! 

ONEWE – “Universe_”
Released January 4

If you aren’t familiar with this Korean band, you’re really missing out. Lead vocalist Yonghoon has one of the purest, truly most beautiful tones; the group writes their own songs, both lyrics and instrumentals; every member of this group is dripping in talent. “Universe_” is such a moving track. “When darkness surrounds you, can I wrap you in my arms?” If a song was ever the essence of a warm hug before, it’s this one. You know what I mean? When you’re feeling low and you put on a song that makes you feel understood – this is that song! “Shall we go far away?…Will everything of you, even your whole world, become my universe?” And the guitar solo. And the music video! It’s so wholesome and beautiful. Everything that’s happening here is  a treasure. I hope that ONEWE’s music can reach more people because this group is so wonderful and that’s how I feel about that. Ha!

Kim Yohan – ILLUSION
Released January 10

I wrote a full review about this new EP from Kim Yohan here at binahearts.come already, so I hope you’ll check that out! But for the sake of this blurb here, let me just tell you…I’m a huge fan of Yohan and WEi. This EP has 5 songs, spearheaded by his title track “DESSERT” and each song brings a new flavor to this buffet of a listening experience. All the puns intended. Yohan can sing beautiful melodies, rap engaging bars, bring the energy, melt us with the softness…all of it. And this album proves that versatility! “SELFISH” encourages us to carve our own way in this life, “BAD” is that rap-focused track we crave, “Landing on You” brings some cuteness, and “STAR” wraps the EP up with a soft and warm conclusion. I’ve listened to this album a ton since its release and I’m still not tired of any of it. That’s a good sign, in my book!

JINJIN & ROCKY – “Just Breath”
Released January 17

I don’t even know where to begin with this release from the new duo of ASTRO. First of all, ASTRO is one of my main sources of musical happiness and have been for a couple of years now. Their music is consistently full of joy and positivity; this unit release is no exception. You can hear the personality in their voices and their creative choices on this title track. But if you watch live stages or their music video, it really amplifies the carefree message and encouragement to stop and take that much needed deep breath. “Please always remember, it’ll be hard, but if we’re together we’ll overcome any hardship.” The idea behind the song is a telling of Jin Jin and Rocky’s quarantine experiences, but with their signature humor thrown into the mix. They talk about missing their friends and the difficulty of it all, but they also send out that encouraging message of perseverance. It’s light hearted, it’s relatable, it’s a little bit retro – and it’s much needed!

VICTON – “Chronograph”
Released January 18

Guitars and groove. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this new release from VICTON. And I love both of those things. Ha! The group has said that the song expresses a “record of time,” which is the meaning of the word “chronograph.” They say they “don’t want to miss a thing” in the “love chronograph.” They “gotta save it all,” as they record the time with the one they love. Before Hanse’s rap, Subin says, “How do I pace it? Every moment not with you is wasted.” This song is enexpectedy sweet somehow. Ha! I like the maturity of the vocal style and the brightness of it all, that’s for sure. There’s something refreshing about the energy of this song. It’s got a lot of layers and I feel like I hear something different each time I listen. That makes it so that I never get tired of hearing it – win! 

YUJU – [REC.]
Released January 18

I had to do a little research about YUJU because I was unfamiliar with her as a soloist. What I learned is that she was a member of the girl group GFriend, which disbanded in 2021. I also learned that she has writing credits on quite a few songs, including GFriend’s “Apple” and “Mago,” which is a song that still pops into my head from time to time. When YUJU released her album this month, I noticed a lot of buzz around her, so I had to check out the video for title track “Play”. Immediately, I thought her voice was captivating and that remains true through each song on the album. I put this album among my favorites of the month because it intrigued me! I enjoyed exploring the different elements of each song and I think my favorite ended up being “The Killa.” Without any information about YUJU, you can just hear her experience in the music industry; she has so much control and knows how to use her “instrument.”

Moonbyul – 6equence
Released January 19

MAMAMOO’s rapper+ returned this month with a solo album! A couple of the tracks were released at the end of 2021 as singles, but reappear on this album with a few other, newer songs. The re-released songs are “Shutdown (feat Seori)”, which is a nice shakeup in the genre and a smooottthhh listen and “G999 (feat Mirani)”, which is definitely a throwback kind of song. The newer title track, “LUNATIC,” tells us to “keep it real, do what you want.” One line that I particularly love is when she expresses that her MBTI can be confusing, as she goes back and forth between E (for extroverted) and I (for introverted). I feel that!!! I feel like Moonbyul is truly one of a kind and she’s been only getting better and better with each release!  And she even gave us an English version of “LUNATIC” on this EP. Keep the music coming, Moonbyul; we’ll keep listening!

PENTAGON – IN:VITE U
Released January 24

I was really looking forward to this comeback from PENTAGON because they’re a group that ALWAYS delivers. Each comeback has a different feel and another layer of growth and maturity. This newest EP is no exception, and it also welcomes Jinho back from his military service. The title track “Feelin’ Like” is crazy infectious, and in my opinion, the b sides for this EP are just as good. It’s a no skip album for me. “One Shot” feels like watching a movie; “The Game” is a genre bending RIDE; “Call My Name” has those “hey ya hey ya hey ya” chants that remind me of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”; “Sparkling Night” has an airy synth pop vibe; and “BAD” carries a lot of emotion, best emoted with an acoustic guitar in hand. This album belongs in a museum, and I’ll stand by that idea for a long time to come!

Wanna One – “Beautiful (Part.3)”
Released January 27

Formed through Produce 101, boy group Wanna One’s career ran from 2017 to 2019. However, fans were beyond blessed by a reunion and performance from the group at the recent 2021 MAMA. “Beautiful” was released in 2017 followed by “Beautiful (Part. II)” in 2018. This continuation is so heartwarming for Wanna One fans! What I especially love about it is the way it continues and varies from the other 2 releases. The original turned into a call to their fans to come to them, where they’d be safe and valued. Part 2 was the final song on their final album before the group’s contract ended and felt like a reflection of their time together, both with one another and with their fans. Then for part 3 to be released as a special gift to fans is just BEYOND. “I still remember you, deeply carved in my heart. You are still a beautiful light.” This song is one of my favorites of the month because of how special it is! 

What were your favorite releases of January? Let us know in the comments!

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