With the GMA Network adaptation of the Korean smash television series “My Love from the Star” nearing its finale, to be followed up by “My Korean Jagiya,” a GMA original series starring Heart Evangelista and Alexander Lee, formerly of the K-Pop band U-Kiss (then known only as “Alexander”), it is pretty obvious how much of an impact Korean entertainment has made on the local showbiz scene. Not to mention the multitude of dubbed Korean dramas that air on various local networks.
On the most recent trip to New York City, one of the first stops after settling in was to an area of Manhattan dubbed “Koreatown.” Stretching for a couple blocks along 32nd street, a less than five minute walk from Penn Station, the streets are lined with Korean restaurants, cafés, cosmetic shops, markets, among other establishments.
On this particular trip, it was the first time stumbling upon Koryo Books, a large store in the middle of Koreatown that sells cosmetics and K-Pop merchandise. Turn to the right, and the walls are lined with new releases from K-Pop artists. Walking further in and the store also sells books and various other K-pop related merchandise, like calendars and key chains.
Throughout the stay in New York City, might have stopped in three or four times to browse the new selections and, of course, picked up a few albums. What was interesting is many of the CDs came with free posters – along with extra goodies that typically come inside the CD cases, which often times look like books.
Having been a fan of the Mnet reality show “Produce 101,” which whittles down 101 candidates to a band comprised of 11 members, watched both the formation of the girl group I.O.I after the first season and am now anticipating the debut release by Wanna One, the boy group formed following this year’s season. After already purchasing I.O.I’s first CD on an earlier trip to Hong Kong, immediately went for their follow-up album “Miss Me?” after spotting it on the shelf. Also picked up Gugudan’s follow-up album “Act. 2 Narcissus;” Pristin’s debut album, which includes Zhou Jieqiong and Im Nayoung of I.O.I among its members; and a couple albums from the hugely popular group Twice, including their most recent release “Signal.”
Adding all the songs to a playlist, quickly gained a preference for many of the songs from one album in particular.
Having started as a music reviewer, recruited out of high school by central New Jersey newspaper “The Home News Tribune,” had the opportunity to review pop release at the time (around the early 2000s) and had pieces published about artists including *NSYNC, Mandy Moore, and Lara Fabian. Soon, was back in that mindset and, looking past personal preferences for singers like I.O.I and Gugudan’s Kim Sejeong and the catchiness of songs like “Signal,” including the often-emulated dance sequence, overall, Pristin’s debut album delivers a lot of great tunes; from those to dance or workout to, to ones needed on those quiet evenings at home.
Their debut single “Wee Woo” is a fun, upbeat song where each of the 10 members sings about liking somebody, with the chorus repeatedly proclaiming “I like you.” Nayoung and Kyla trade rap portions following the first chorus, picking up the pace of the song even more. Towards the middle of the song, they try to cast a spell on their crush and, in the video, ends with an unknown mystery as the camera zooms in on Jieqiong (or Kyulkyung) as her eyes widen to what appears to be a pleasant surprise.
Their follow-up, “Black Widow,” moves away from the lovesick to a sexier tone, singing about being able to attract somebody, pull them in, take them, and “fly away.” A part of the song seems to be a throwback to their prior release, talking about their “old me” being gone and that “weak” version having faded away.
One of the favorites, one that can be played on repeat is “Over N Over,” a ballad that opens with a soft piano backing. The song talks about devoted, unconditional love and a willingness to wait for this love as long as (as the song suggests) one listens to the song “over and over again.” The song closes with an admission of not being able to wait and the memory of first meeting coming back “over and over” again.
Another favorite that sees multiple plays is the single “Running,” a perfect song for aimless wandering, which goes back to dreaming about a crush.
The album peaked at #4 on the weekly Gaon album charts and #10 on the monthly charts.
All the CDs gathered from the past trip are all entertaining in their own ways. Much like the K-Pop industry itself, every act is built on some unique quality, which makes the experience unique based on the artist.
Despite the praises for Pristin, still loving the single “A Girl Like Me” by Gugudan, as many have said in other reviews, it’s a huge shift from their “Wonderland” debut./WDJ