Well, hello there. As a largely image- and personality-driven genre, K-Pop sees a lot of emphasis placed on idol groups and individual performers. Choreo, live stages, merch, variety appearances – all are essential elements of the complete K-Pop package. And yet... none of it would mean anything if not for the music!* *notwithstanding certain groups that seem to think otherwise ddd For just a moment, I’d like to take a step back from the stage makeup and sus styling to shine a spotlight on Sweetune, the production team responsible for dozens of beloved classics. If I have to conduct this entire countdown using only my own scores… so be it. But I’d love if you would join me! As a general rule, I’m not going to regurgitate the Wikipedia articles for everything we cover, but I will try to highlight the most noteworthy (and occasionally cringeworthy) bits. In this vein, let’s begin with a brief Sweetune primer: Sweetune has been at least 15 people, but it’s currently 11 people, and it mostly seems to be 2 people Confused? Let’s back up: the Sweetune team currently consists of 11 members, working as “music producers, composers, songwriters and engineers” (to quote directly from Wikipedia asdfgh, I’m such a hack). Two of these members are the team’s founders, Han Jaeho and Kim Seungsoo. They're also the only names that appear consistently in production credits... to the extent that I feel kinda bad for the others. Well, it seems that some of the others felt kinda bad too: three members split from the team in 2014, going on to form MonoTree, responsible for a boatload of other forum faves. (If y’all behave yourselves, maybe I’ll run a sequel rate; God knows a bunch of you will jump at the chance to rate LOONA songs for the 500th time nñn) Another former member was Kim Boa, who went on to debut as the leader of SPICA – more on her later. Honestly, it’s hard to find much in the way of Sweetune history; their official(?) website isn’t particularly helpful, though “Sweetune Woks” does sound promising. Sweetune’s tended to work with artists across multiple comebacks K-Pop is Pop, meaning agencies want hits; building a cohesive discography isn’t always a priority. Of course, there are exceptions, and a number of the acts we’ll be discussing have worked with Sweetune across numerous comebacks, spanning several years – most notably KARA, INFINITE, 9MUSES, and BOYFRIEND. Other acts worked with Sweetune for fewer comebacks, but the period proved transformational – Stellar is probably the best example here. This trend has tapered off somewhat in recent years, and the acts have become… conspicuously more nugu fffff. Perhaps we’ll dig into this a bit later. Or perhaps not, since it makes me a bit sad! Sweetune has a signature sound Here at forum dot popjustice dot com slash forums slash k hyphen pop dot thirty-three, we love the following: • Bops with many beats per minute • Noisy bops (when performed by women ONLY) • The 80s’, or more specifically, songs that remind us with the ‘80s but with better production Lucky for us, Sweetune has served all of the above! The last point is probably what they’re most broadly known for. Personally? For me, a Sweetune production is all about the layers – synths & guitars & horns & deeper synths & bongos (!) & voices stacked up to the cosmos. Also: a heavy focus on melody that gets passed between instrumentals and vocals; if you can recognizably hum any 4 bars of a K-Pop song, there’s a good chance it’s a Sweetune production. My Credentials Let’s get this out of the way: I didn’t know the vast majority of these songs prior to this year. I think the first Sweetune track I (knowingly) heard was Beautiful by fucking TARGET; for reference, it came out the same day as TWICE’s Fancy. I’m not exactly long in the tooth here. But 2020’s had a funny way of chopping & screwing everyone’s sense of time. So while I could swear I started working from home three weeks ago, and binged Love is Blind last Wednesday, I also feel like I’ve been sitting with these songs for an eternity. The tracks linked below have been some of the only joy I’ve experienced in the past 6 mirthless months, and I’ve developed a lot of affection for the material. So… here we are! Of course, not having been there for a lot of these releases means I’ll be leaning on you to help fill in the blanks. Tidbits I’ve missed, context I’ve overlooked, forum memories… I want to hear it all! Which brings us to… The Rules The next post will include 92 songs for you to rate. It’s a lot! I urge you to give them all at least a few listens before scoring – I found many of them took a few weeks to properly sink their hooks in, and even the most unassuming tracks have details worth noting. … except for one, but we’ll get to that. Send me a PM scoring each song from 0 to 10. Decimals are fine – get as specific as you want (within reason, i.e. don’t be a twit about it)! And, as usual, you get a single 11 to give to your favourite song of all. I encourage you to use as much light and shade in your scoring as possible by taking advantage of the whole scale. I have some ideas about how to showcase everyone’s absolute favourite songs, and variety in your scores will help make sure you’re spotlighted; again, more on this later. Finally, commentary please! It makes me look good, plus it helps you get a word in even if you need a break from the forum messery. The Deadline You have until Tuesday, December 15th at 11:59 AM MST, so get cracking! … but actually, it’s super important to me that everyone feels they have enough time to sit with these tracks. I’d rather delay a bit if it means more participants! So let me know in the thread if you’re feeling a different timeline. And… that’s it for post #1! Thanks for skimming!