If you’re a K-pop diehard, or even a casual observer, you might have noticed that this month is one of the most exciting periods of new music releases in recent memory.
In August, there are new singles by world-conquering superstars, the long-awaited debut of a major new group, headline-grabbing collaborations, eye-popping visuals, hooks primed for viral moments and projects with personal undertones. There are chart implications, as multiple acts try to best their career peaks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — and, given the timing, some awards narratives to watch as well.
Here are seven things to know about a huge month for K-pop — which has already begun, but will heat up very quickly over the coming weeks:
1. BTS will prepare to explode, again.
Next month, BTS will follow up last year’s Bring the Soul: The Movie with Break The Silence: The Movie, with limited screenings starting Sept. 10 and more screenings added in the following weeks. While opening a feature film during a pandemic is a dicey prospect for anyone — a press release for Break The Silence states, “Event and ticket on-sale dates vary per territory and subject to change based on the status of local cinema re-openings” — BTS is preceding the release with a new single, “Dynamite,” that’s going to draw a lot of attention upon its Aug. 21 release.
Earlier this year, BTS achieved a new career peak on the Hot 100 chart when “On,” from their Map of the Soul: 7 project, hit No. 4 on the tally. Could “Dynamite” climb even higher? The group has revealed that the single will be sung entirely in English, which very well may persuade U.S. pop radio programmers to consider adding it into rotation. And while the single is not attached to a new BTS album, a scheduled performance at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 30 could help “Dynamite” ignite in the United States ahead of the group’s latest film release.
2. Blackpink will drop (another) major collaboration.
It’s been less than three months since South Korea quartet Blackpink hopped on a track with an A-list American pop artist, assisting Lady Gaga on her Chromatica cut “Sour Candy,” yet they’re already prepared to unleash another breathlessly anticipated team-up. Earlier this week, Selena Gomez was confirmed as the previously teased feature on the group’s next as-yet-untitled single, which will be out on Aug. 28 and included on Blackpink: The Album, due out Oct. 2.
Both “Sour Candy” and “How You Like That,” the lead single from Blackpink: The Album released in June, have peaked at a career-best No. 33 on the Hot 100; the upcoming single will aim even higher, especially considering Gomez’s recent chart success (she scored her first No. 1 last fall with “Lose You to Love Me”) and the fact that the song is arriving five weeks before the group’s most high-profile U.S. album release to date. Blackpink has hinted at achieving a full-on stateside crossover, but if their next track takes off in the right way ahead of a new full-length, they could potentially unlock new levels of U.S. success for a K-pop girl group.
3. SuperM will keep it “100” ahead of a proper album.
SuperM — which features SHINee’s Taemin, NCT 127’s Taeyong and Mark, EXO’s Baekhyun and Kai and WayV’s Lucas and Ten — made history last October with the release of SuperM – The 1st Mini Album, a seven-track EP that debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart. That feat demonstrated the commercial demand for the K-pop supergroup, and less than a year later, SuperM will return with Super One, a proper debut album due out Sept. 25.
Lead single “100,” which will be released on Friday (Aug. 14), previews the set with a compelling mix of aggressive electronica, hard-nosed rap and sky-high pop hooks, as each member gets a chance to shine and the beat shoves the listener until attention is properly paid. Despite the No. 1 album debut last fall, SuperM has yet to crack the Hot 100 chart — the absorbing “100” could quickly change that ahead of the group’s first full-length next month.
4. Treasure will be in Rookie of the Year contention.
Last week, Treasure — the 12-member K-pop group from YG Entertainment whose formation dates back multiple years, and whose music has been teased online for months — finally made its debut with The First Step: Chapter One, a two-song pack that includes the single “Boy.” Based on some early indicators, the delays did not dampen the fervor surrounding the project: the “Boy” music video is approaching 20 million YouTube views since its Aug. 7 release, and the group reaches a new peak at No. 5 on this week’s Social 50 chart.
There’s reason for enthusiasm: “Boy” is one of the season’s most purely enjoyable pop tracks, with a springy synth riff serving as its fulcrum and an arresting breakdown in its back half. Meanwhile, “Come to Me” is lower-stakes summer fun that demonstrates the still-evolving group’s stylistic range. Even during a month of multiple high-profile K-pop single releases, don’t shrug off Treasure’s delightful introduction.
5. (G)I-DLE, Kang Daniel and J.Y. Park highlighted the first half of August…
Last week, the prolific six-piece (G)I-DLE delved into tropical house with “DUMDi DUMDi,” a call-and-response banger that continued the momentum of the group’s anthemic “I’m The Trend.” If “DUMDi DUMDi” becomes the subject of a successful viral trend — that hook sounds designed to thrive on TikTok — the Republic Records-backed group could level up in terms of U.S. recognition.
Meanwhile, Wanna One’s Kang Daniel released Magenta, a wide-ranging six-song project, last week; “Waves,” a rhythmic team-up with Simon Dominic and Jamie, fits snugly into summer electro-pop playlists. And earlier this week, the K-pop icon J.Y. Park returned with “When We Disco,” a retro duet with former Wonder Girls member Sunmi that showcases both of their vocal talents above sparkling synth lines.
6. …and ITZY and Wonho have new tunes for the second half.
The girl group ITZY have had a busy 2020 after breaking through with the hits “Dalla Dalla” and “Icy” last year, and will follow up the March mini-album It’z Me with a six-song release, Not Shy. A choreo-heavy, western-themed music video teaser for the title track was recently unveiled, and the song sounds like a welcome shot of adrenaline.
And Wonho, who left the popular boy band Monsta X last October, also has his first solo offering ready to go: a mini-album titled Love Synonym #1: Right For Me. The project will be quickly rolled out ahead of its Sept. 4 release, with a heavily anticipated single, “Losing You,” due out on Friday, and a track list for the project expected to arrive next week.
7. Possible Grammy implications abound.
An interesting wrinkle in one of the more momentous calendar months in recent K-pop history is that it coincides with the Aug. 31 eligibility deadline for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, set to take place on Jan. 31, 2021. While K-pop has developed a greater presence in U.S. pop culture in recent years, the genre has thus far been shut out of the major Grammy categories; BTS performed at last year’s ceremony as part of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” remix spectacle, for instance, but the best-selling group has yet to notch a single nomination.
If “Dynamite” becomes one of the biggest U.S. hits for BTS, the group could choose to submit the song for Grammy consideration instead of one of its Map of the Soul: 7 tracks; ditto Blackpink with its new single alongside Gomez, particularly if it surpasses “How You Like That” in popularity. And while SuperM, like BTS, already a Billboard 200-topping project during the current eligibility period, the success of new single “100” could bolster its chances of being nominated.
Could a K-pop act score a best new artist nomination, or have one of their singles land in the record of the year or song of the year category? It hasn’t happened thus far, but with a slew of major releases right before the deadline, K-pop could be striding into uncharted territory come awards season.