Summer 2020 Music Roundup

Folklore

What I loved about this album was that Taylor Swift’s songwriting narrative bent the parameters of the typical relationship she sings about. (Does this mean the bar is on the ground? Maybe.) You don’t have to be a specific person to feel the feelings of Folklore. As if I’m on a schedule, I listen to Folklore front to back around 11 pm and think about the stories in her words and how it mixes with my own life. I was not a fan of Lover at all. I couldn’t relate to anything on that album, but Folklore was heartbreakingly bursting with every small little detail of life that I picked up as a starry-eyed little kid. I remember having this experience listening to Red when I was sixteen and spending a fall weekend in Los Angeles. Folklore brought back the classic, heartwrenching Taylor Swift lyrics that guided so many people through their young heartbreaks over the last decade, basically. Personally, I didn’t pay attention to her characterized narrative between Ines, Betty and James because I filled in the characters with people and moments from my own life.

This album came at a good time, when so many people are trapped in their own memories with limited outlets. It was calm, it was filled with anxiety about the future, remorse for the past, and simple optimism about moving on from sadder moments in life. I am thankful for Folklore. I called it the sequel to Red.

Tonight I listened to “The Lakes” again and I let my feelings about missing 2015-2018 grow. I never thought I would miss undergrad, but listening to Taylor Swift pine and dream about escaping and relating to these old authors and wanting to take time to grow personally really resonated with me. I remember being a senior at UCLA, taking dated literature classes and dreaming about what it would be like to travel anywhere with my own plans because I was struggling to find purpose in the really old words of people who had already traveled the world. When literature is unrelatable it’s hard to endure, right? I wasn’t growing enough to understand what I was reading. Now we can’t travel anywhere for who knows how long, but I too want wisteria to grow over my feet somewhere else.

Dynamite, The Record-Breaking BTS English single

I’ve been an ARMY for about two months. So much has happened. I have a Weverse account, I bought a light stick, the album Map of the Soul: 7 and Love Yourself: Her and pulled Min Yoongi and Jimin. I’m on stan Twitter. I helped stream to break the YouTube record of 101 million views in 24 hours. My life has changed and I’m in awe of the positivity that BTS has brought to my world in probably the scariest summer of my life. I bought In the SOOP and an ARMY membership. I’m here for BTS. I love their new single and I can’t wait for their next album. They said Dynamite felt like a good, positive thing in this time of suffering, and it is. It’s poppy, it’s bright, it’s inviting to all who want to take four minutes and think about having a good time dancing.

I’m concerned about their future, like any fan or friend of anyone else right now, but I’m grateful that they have a greater mission of bringing positivity and good music to the world. The can still break the records and top the charts in a time like this. Boybands are forever.

Map of the Soul: 7

I’m months late, but this album should win album of the year at every awards show for the next ten years. It makes me upset that they will never tour specifically for this album, because it is one of those albums where you have to listen to it in order, front to back, and there are no skips. It’s their Melodrama. I feel the range of emotions in “Boy with Luv” to “UGH!” and the heaviness of “Black Swan.” Someday I’ll learn to use better descriptive words for how deeply I understand everything they’ve created. Someday I’ll make words that match the tenacity of their own lyrics and music. But this is my Album of the Year.

ITZY

Their older songs “Dalla Dalla,” “Icy,” and “Wanna Be” alone have more substance than any US Top 40 pop song that has come out in the last three years or so. I can’t believe I subjected myself to listening to the local radio where they only play the most mundane stuff when KPOP has been producing quality pop forever. I’m learning more and more about the “show” of KPOP, but ITZY puts on the fiercest example of strength and power in all of their music videos. Their latest EP “Not Shy” is good but a little different than their older music. But I still like it. Before COVID-19, I think they only had a small debut tour in the US, so I’m hoping they can come back for larger audiences in a post-pandemic time.

BLACKPINK

BOOMBAYAH. Another group with an album that is nearly a no-skip album. I skip “Stay” because my brain only wants to hear the most upbeat songs most of the time. Despite their small discography, I respect the vibe. They make it work. I think their first full album carries the same message of something like “You can’t mess with me” across all of their songs. I am really excited to hear their new album that is due in October. I have listened to their BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA album so many times that when I put them on shuffle I feel like I’m listening to old friends. I even listen to the live albums because their concerts sound so fun. I love their sound and their vibe. I read that Blackpink could be Grammy-nominated, so fingers crossed! I also watched the premiere of “Ice Cream” and it was fine. It’s no “Boombayah” but in these trying times, I will take it.

Hope World

J-Hope, Hobi, Hoseok … the name of an icon. I can’t believe Hope World was released in 2018, when I was still in undergrad. This album, despite being only a FEW songs, is the most concrete, prolific, perfectly themed album I have ever heard in my life. It’s a concept that carries you the whole way. The music, the tone, the lyrics, the visuals. This is Bangtan’s secret. This proves that BTS is a powerhouse of music and creative endeavours because everyone is so individually talented they can create their own PERFECT concept album in the form of an EP and it is still a no-skip album two years later. Hope World is timeless. The thematic planning that went into this album so much that J-Hope needs to cite Jules Verne in a Time Magazine interview about his mixtape shows that there’s depth to this music that you can rediscover forever. The music, the lyrics, the beat, the features… they all flow into each other perfectly and create a synchronized experience of J-Hope’s Hope World.

Mono

Namjoon did one Vlive explaining Mono and then left it alone. Again, this is Bagtan’s secret. Namjoon created a deeply emotional (and maybe more personal than anyone will ever know?) mixtape that has zero skips and shows his abilities to bounce between genres with ease. I relate to so much of “seoul” and “moonchild” and “everythinggoes.” They are perfect songs and they are small gifts to the world that we might never hear any more of, but they exist on Spotify for us to rediscover right after the 11 PM Folklore listening session. Mono is angst about the world, growing up, gaining responsibility and learning how to trust yourself. This album came out when I had just started grad school, and I know I would have related to it very well. But I am here now with a different perspective than 2018, and I have a good appreciation for it now.

Monsta X

Monsta X knows how to sell Monsta X. Their EP Follow: Find You is a perfect collection of pop bangers and pop ballads. Their English album All About Luv has done so well on US music charts too, so listening to their entire discography from beginning to now is such an interesting musical journey. They have really great songs that show off their talent and they are really great at emoting when they really get into it, which is why Follow: Find You is my favorite. They can go from a sultry club song to a sad love song immediately. Whatever they add their voices to, they improve and make it better than anyone else could. They’re a bit darker thematically compared to BTS, but it’s not a comparison of skills at all. They have a distinct vibe and they deliver. They are also dealing with the pressure of being internationally famous in a very normal way, which is why listening to their music, learning their stories, and enjoying the experience of Monsta X is a cultural phenomenon that I really enjoy and value. I have so much respect for Monsta X. I bought a ticket to their Live X Live show and I purchased the postcard merch because I’m trying to save the USPS. They rescheduled their US tour and it begins in April 2021 – and I’m terrified for that – but I know that when the day comes when I get to dance to “Monsta Truck” at the Forum, it will be a great day.

~~

These are the only artists that I have listened to in the last months. It’s really exciting to find more groups and songs that pique my interest. I have a playlist called “KPOP bops” where I keep track of every KPOP song that makes me pause my music and Google the artists.

Three years have passed since I attended the VMAs. Lorde was on that award show circuit that year for Melodrama, which came out that June, and I’ve never recovered from how definitive Melodrama was for my life in 2017-2018. Melodrama is more than just an album; it’s a moment in time in everyone’s life.

KPOP is helping me through this pandemic. I’m not hopeful for any concerts in 2021. I’m not hopeful for anything I could normally be hopeful for in 2020. I’m lucky that the internet exists and I can live in a world where BTS is active and producing amazing stuff constantly. So if you’re feeling bored in quarantine, maybe open YouTube.com and type in (first: “Dynamite BTS”) “Boy with Luv BTS” and fall down the same hole that I did, and get stuck in the beautiful world of BTS. I’m so excited for their new album. Whenever it comes out, I’m ready. Whenever they want to do something, I will watch and listen.

Somewhere in my years of college, this blog became a way of memorializing the special moments in my life that mostly took place at concerts or major events in LA. It felt really awkward for the past two years because I wasn’t living in LA and I didn’t have as easy access as I used to. But now, we are in a completely different and bad situation. The only way that these experiences will come back is if we have compassion for others and do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. This isn’t me saying “wear a mask so I can go to a concert,” but more of “wear a mask so we can stop the pandemic.” Please wear a mask, please wash your hands, and practice social distancing! Oh, and stream Dynamite!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s