1. “20 Essential K-Pop Songs.” The following Pitchfork list offers a modest introduction to the hugely saleable genius some of the world’s best songwriters, producers, and performers can achieve when working in close cooperation.
“As the lead single for a blockbuster K-pop album, ’Rum Pum Pum Pum’ came shrinkwrapped in a blindingly bright music video. And its performances on Korea’s half dozen ’Top of the Pops’-style battle shows—an exhaustive gauntlet all acts must pass to credibly promote a single—were all tightly choreographed, schoolgirl uniformed cheers. While these common tropes and marketing tactics often signify trivial music in Western pop, a peek beneath the surface of this track reveals a remarkable feat of songwriting. While retaining the familiar structure of a pop banger, ’Rum Pum’ makes unlikely esperanto of Middle Eastern funk guitar, clangorous samba polyrhythms, the Yuletide classic ’The Little Drummer Boy’, exactly one bar of flamenco tap dance, and the ad-libbing knock of mid-aughts Timbaland. Then there’s the jazz technique of brushing circles around the beat during the bridge, about the most counterintuitive move one can make in a commercial medium where an explicitly stated beat is fundamental. The lyrics are equally intrepid, exploiting a bit of wordplay in Korean to make a love song all about wisdom teeth: ’What to do? You probably expected one/ Who grew up straight/ But I’ll be crooked and torture you/ I’m not easy!’ Virtually every moment of the song features a compositional quirk worthy of scrutiny.”