March has been a great month for boy band releases, with BTOB dropping their best (and highest-charting!) single to date with “Movie,” while smaller groups like ROMEO and MVP have continued to impress with stellar under-the-radar comebacks.
But for me, nobody has been better than B.A.P and GOT7. Unfortunately, Korea’s digital charts don’t seem to agree. B.A.P’s “Wake Me Up” didn’t make a dent on Melon, while GOT7’s “Never Ever” is going up and down between 50 and 100.
B.A.P’s underwhelming chart performance is hardly a shock. The talented group never quite blew up in Korea like they deserved to, and their growing momentum was abruptly killed when contract issues with their agency, TS Entertainment, put them on hiatus for almost a year. BTS have since hit the big leagues with a similar sound and style to B.A.P, from covering social issues in their music to being fronted by a gravelly voiced rapper. It’s turned B.A.P into more of a mid-tier niche act, rather than the BTS-sized stars they deserve to be. It's a shame, because Rose is one of the best releases of the group’s career. Title track “Wake Me Up” is one of the few B.A.P singles to meld the angst and aggression of their political or socially-charged tracks with an easily digestible dance beat and addictive chorus. With this group, it's usually one or the other. “Wake Me Up” also has a more personal touch, with lyrics about leader Bang Yong Guk’s battle with depression and anxiety that should touch fans.
Rose’s two b-sides are just as good as the title track. “Dystopia” is a successful stab at Korn-esque nu-metal, which I don’t think any other boy band but B.A.P could pull off so well. It’s interesting timing for a K-pop group to do this, considering that nu-metal kings Linkin Park just went full-blown pop for their latest “Heavy.” B.A.P also tackle synthesised funk on the beautiful “Diamond For Ya," which wraps up Rose on a more optimistic note after the drama of “Wake Me Up.”
Fortunately, GOT7 are performing much better on the charts with the final entry in their Flight Log trilogy, Flight Log: Arrival. Physical sales are through the roof, with a Billboard 200 debut predicted, and lead single “Never Ever” is at least ranking on Melon. What baffles me is that GOT7 aren’t much bigger digitally yet, which is an indicator of general public popularity. They’ve got JYP Entertainment behind them, a breakout star in Jackson, and arguably some of the best music in the boy band scene. What’s the problem?
Flight Log: Arrival is arguably one of the best boy band EPs of 2017 so far. “Never Ever” is an exciting single, dipping into trendy trop-house before flipping the sound on its head for glitch-pop chorus. The rest of the album bounces between laid back urban-pop (“Shopping Mall”, “Sign”, “Don’t Care”) and upbeat dance-pop (“Paradise”, “Go Higher”). With the exception of the final track, “Out”, there’s no filler to be found.
On the bright side, despite some struggles locally, GOT7 and B.A.P remain two of K-pop’s most successful international acts - especially Down Under! GOT7 will be in Australia next month for a handful of fan-meets, while B.A.P just toured here last year and will hopefully return as part of their current ‘Party Baby!’ world tour. So basically, if Korea doesn’t want the boys, we’ll be more than happy to take them!
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