Edited by Yoon
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
City Pop has become one of the most popular genres in the K-pop market recently. With the resurge of the 8090 retro vibes and the success of artists like Yerin Baek, the genre became the new black among the MZ generation. You can also feel City Pop in IU’s 5th full album Lilac.
City Pop refers to a loose category of Japanese pop music that centers around the romantic hype that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. It combines musical elements such as jazz, disco, soul, and funk with electronic instruments such as synthesizers to give off sophisticated and urban vibes. The genre started to see a light of day in Korea in the 2010s, and artists such as Kim Hyun Chul and Yoon Soo Il are considered the first artists to use Korean City Pop. More recently, City Pop made comeback as indie bands and K-pop groups released songs that incorporate the genre.
EXID – Night Rather Than Day (2017)
EXID bodied out the “vintage” before City Pop became a thing in earnest in the industry. “Night Rather Than Day” is the title track of the group’s 3rd mini-album Eclipse. The same idea continues on to “LADY,” and you can feel EXID’s charms in their megahit songs “UP&DOWN” and “AH YEAH.” The song combines uptempo with disco sounds to create the City Pop beat. And it isn’t too fast and it isn’t that high, so if you want something to listen to during the relaxing night, this is the song for you.
Yubin – Lady (2018)
Along with Yerin Baek, this is one of the most frequently mentioned songs when it comes to Korean City Pop. It’s Yubin’s solo debut song, and its funk and disco sounds and Yubin’s matures vocal techniques are quite impressive. The music video showcases the Japanese styling in the 80s and 90s, and you can see that she has actively borrowed everything about City Pop. At the time of the release, the song failed to catch the public’s attention due to a somewhat unfamiliar sensibility. But the song was unveiled on the YouTube channel “MMTG” and more and more listeners are hoping for it to climb up the charts again.
Brave Girls – We Ride (2020)
Even Brave Girls, who recently became the hottest topic with the resurge of “Rollin,” also challenged the City Pop genre before. “We Ride” is rising up the charts again with “Rollin,” and it’s the song that emphasizes all four members’ unique tones and highlights their strength as a group. The flute sounds and the lyrics that illustrate the dry feelings of an old couple harmonize well. Like that, the retro vibe is directed with a “sentimental” vibe.
Yerin Baek – Square (2017)
This is the most popular Korean City Pop song. Even before its release, the live video of the song trended on YouTube as a video that pleases the listeners. And even after the release, it showed great results on the music charts. The song was also nominated for the Song of the Year Award at the 2021 Korean Music Awards. It certainly has the City Pop’s unique emotional vibe and freshness, and the entire lyrics are written in English. Above all else, the lovely atmosphere that the song is well expressed.
YUKIKA – SOUL LADY (2020)
When we talk about City Pop, we can’t leave out this artist, YUKIKA. Even her background is intriguing: she is an artist from Japan, the birthplace of City Pop, who came to Korea to release Korean City Pop in Korea. “SOUL LADY,” released in 2020, is the song that truly combines K-pop’s current trend with J-pop’s retro trend. Despite the fact that Korean isn’t her native language, her delivery is flawless, which makes this song even more imposing. YUKIKA’s first full album SOUL LADY revolves around City Pop. At the same time, it reminds us of Takeuchi Mariya’s “Plastic Love,” one of the best City Pop songs in Japan, wowing us with its impressive quality. The fact that she calmly sings the autobiographical story of a person who dreams of becoming a singer in another country is also quite attractive.
*Other recommended songs:
DAY6 “days gone by” (2018); IU “LILAC” (2021); IZ*ONE “Merry-go-round” (2020); ATEEZ “Take Me Home” (2021); Bronze “Melody (with LUNA) (2020)”; TWICE “SAY SOMETHING” (2020); George “After a Long Time” (2019); Mew “My Type” (2019); Wonder Girls “Faded Love” (2015)
Editor Yoon: I love music, especially K-POP, and I dream of becoming an A&R person, lyricist, artist, etc. I will cover various articles, including song reviews, artist reviews, and K-pop market analysis.
Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.