‘No Words Right Now’: CupcakKe Caps Off A Heavy Year With an $8 Million Deal

For CupcakKe, 2019 has been one hell of a ride that has had its fair share of ups and downs, from announcing that she’d be retiring from rap to sharing the results of a body transformation after a brief hiatus. She’s ending the year on the highest of notes possible, with one epic announcement: she’s signed a new deal worth $8 million. The next decade has CupcakKe’s name written all over it.

CupcakKe announced the news on Twitter yesterday (December 29), just days after revealing that she’d lost 30 pounds. “Your girl just signed a 8 million $ deal God is sooooooooooooooo good … I have no words right now,” she wrote. Soon after, she took to Instagram to reveal that she’d be giving away $60,000 to three people who need it (presumably, each person gets $20,000), a gesture most likely motivated by her reported new record deal.

Fans were rightfully ecstatic for the news because 2019 has been a rough year for CupcakKe. In January, she was taken to the hospital for a “mental evaluation” following distressing tweets that suggested the possibility of self-harm. After recovering, she went on to release songs such as “Bird Box,” “Squidward’s Nose,” and “Old Town Hoe” before announcing that she’d be retiring from music in September.

Now that she’s returned to the throne, it’s safe to say that CupcakKe’s going to take over in 2020. She’s more confident than ever, recently sharing the results of a body transformation on Twitter with a gripping caption ending with ” -ya girl is back.” We can’t wait to see what that means.

Check out CupcakKe’s jubilant tweet up above.

Halsey Is ‘Taking Showers Every Hour’ To Forget An Ex In Dynamic Bring Me The Horizon Collab

For every glossy BTS collab and dreamy pop team-up she boasts, Halsey has always worn her rock influences proudly.

Her first hit found her declaring she was part of a generation raised on “Biggie and Nirvana.” She sang on a song referencing “that Blink-182 song,” then recruited Travis Barker himself to play drums on a huge metallic rager. She recorded “Nightmare,” a nu-metal-inspired song that afforded her “a record of the wreckage of her life.”

That’s why her latest feature, a crunching stomp-pop number with Bring Me the Horizon that’s reminiscent of Linkin Park, makes sense — as much as anything makes sense in our genre-liberated music ecosystem.

The song is called “¿,” and it finds Halsey’s earthy voice coloring an otherwise industrial (yet melodic) soundscape. As darkly inward as pop turned in 2019, “¿” has a certain lightness, thanks to carefully deployed breakbeat measures and Halsey’s winking lyrics: “Oh, so tall, it broke the fourth wall / Guess our fairy tale had a few plot holes” and the endearing “Taking showers every hour and I choke on steam / Writing on the mirrors and the space between.”

The tune is featured on Bring Me the Horizon’s new EP, which is truly titled Music to listen to~dance to~blaze to~pray to~feed to~sleep to~talk to~grind to~trip to~breathe to~help to~hurt to~scroll to~roll to~love to~hate to~learn Too~plot to~play to~be to~feel to~breed to~sweat to~dream to~hide to~live to~die to~GO TO, and which dropped today (December 27).

As you wait for Halsey’s Manic album to drop on January 17, listen to “¿,” in all its Queen of the Damned soundtrack glory, above.

Lana Del Rey Pleads For Sister’s Stolen Artwork To Be Returned, ‘No Questions Asked’

Lana Del Rey revealed to fans on Thursday night (December 26) that important mementos were stolen from her family this holiday break. Among the items taken were work-related items belonging to her sister, photographer Chuck Grant.

Lana’s announcement came via a note posted to Twitter. “This week, family mementos including my sister’s entire retrospective were taken,” she wrote. “I’d love to encourage whoever took it to please consider sending any of the scans of her previous work back to us for a no questions asked reward.”

She ended the note by letting the world know how serious the situation is. “The work we lost can’t be reproduced and exists nowhere but where it was,” she wrote.

Grant’s photography has been a part of Lana’s artistry for years. Grant’s worked on photoshoots for albums such as Ultraviolence,  Lust for Life, and most recently, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, in which she took the photo for the cover.

Check out Lana’s announcement of the situation up above.

Tinashe’s ‘Stormy Weather’ Video Is A Sepia Fever Dream Of Movement

“This shit really cracked me open.”

That’s how Tinashe described her new album Songs For You in a tweet a few weeks before the album officially dropped in late November. You can hear it in how forward-thinking, raw, and yet completely liberating the album’s 15 tracks are, finding Tinashe making grand self pronouncements in style.

It’s especially evident on “Stormy Weather,” the album’s wonderfully idiosyncratic fourth tune that makes an entire galaxy out of sneakily complex percussion and Tinashe’s own midnight-purple voice. “Fuck it, gotta go with the feeling,” she deadpans midway through, before a creaking guitar solo gives the entire thing an electric glow. In the song’s artistic and expertly choreographed new video, which dropped today (December 27), Tinashe doesn’t quite glow as much as she completely fills the space around her.

Unlike her lavish “So Much Better” video, which found Tinashe in the throes of excess, “Stormy Weather” strips everything down to a sepia skeleton, focusing on the movement and fluidity of the body.

Tinashe herself leads this, rolling and bending and flexing with four other dancers. As much as she’s the center of focus, Tinashe moves either in sync with or in jarring contrast to the crew with her — the whole operation often pulses like a school of fish.

Watch the mesmerizing clip — including its clever Wizard of Oz-style reveal near the end — above (and check it out on MTV Live and mtvU).

There’s A New Travis Scott Compilation Album — And It Features Rosalía, Young Thug, And More

Travis Scott is ending the year, and the decade, on a high note with Jackboys, a compilation album from his Cactus Jack record label. It’s the label’s first collective release and is built around its roster of Sheck Wes, Don Toliver, Chase B, Octavian, and Scott himself. With features from Rosalía, Young Thug, and more, it’s the perfect glimpse of what Cactus Jack can do and what kind of energy that the label brings to the table.

Scott launched Cactus Jack in 2017. He revealed in an interview that his reason for creating a record label was to “help other artists, launch new names, and to provide opportunities.” Cactus Jack is built around one promise to Scott’s artists that he’s determined to keep in place: “No lying to the artists about album release dates or budgets of videos and albums.”

Now that the album is out, fans can finally get a chance to hear what Cactus Jack is about. The seven-track project opens with a surprise remix to Scott’s “Highest in the Room” that features Rosalía and Lil Baby. Rosalía’s cover of Scott’s ad-libs is endlessly entertaining, and Lil Baby finds ways to personify his diamonds in only ways that he can. Following that, Scott, Sheck Wes, Don Toliver, and Luxury Tax twirl around each other on the slippery “Gang Gang.”

The Cactus Jack cast all pop up throughout the album alongside its high-powered guests. Quavo and Offset of Migos bring some heavy artillery to “Had Enough,” and label figurehead Scott has some fun with Young Thug, who pops up on “Out West” to discuss all things sex. The last track, “Gatti,” features rising rapper Pop Smoke – who went viral from his hit song, “Welcome to the Party” – and splits its carnage between him and Scott evenly. It’s a fitting end to an LP that’s about slotting in guests in creative places as much as it is about showcasing its eclectic blend of talent from Cactus Jack. The excitement for the individual artists’ releases will definitely grow.

Stream Jackboys up above.

The Best K-pop B-sides Of 2019

2019 was a tumultuous year for K-pop; rocked by scandal, flagrant abuse of power, loss, and tragedy, Korean artists continued to push boundaries nonetheless, making monumental waves abroad and producing some of the year’s most dynamic, interesting work.

This year, BTS smashed streaming records, topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for a third consecutive time with Map of the Soul: Persona, and made history, becoming the first Korean group to present at the Grammys and perform on the Saturday Night Live stage. SM Entertainment supergroup SuperM debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, becoming the second K-pop artists to top the chart. EXO made their triumphant return with Obsession, an album full of broody bangers, funky pop, and sensual R&B. Twice, Stray Kids, and Monsta X sold out venues across North America. And monster rookie groups like ATEEZ, Tomorrow X Together, and ITZY didn’t just come to play — they came to win.

In the world of K-pop, there’s no such thing as “too much,” and the next release — single, album, and music video — is always around the corner. (Stray Kids dropped three EPs, five singles, and 12 music videos this year alone.) With so much work being produced, it can be easy to miss the real gems in a group’s discography.

So here’s to the tracks that often go overlooked with this listening guide to some of the best K-pop B-sides of 2019.

20. Blackpink: “Kick It”

Blackpink is known for their in-your-face anthems and bombastic bops, which is what makes “Kick It” such a standout in their catalog. It’s quintessential for the girl group, confident and filled with attitude, yet softer than their typical tracks. Its mellow trap beat is reminiscent of their debut single, “Whistle.” It’s chill but anthemic — especially as Lisa asserts, “Never needed nothing else / Just a little love from myself.” It’s the ultimate end-of-the-party song, when it’s just you and your friends doing your own thing.

19. Everglow: “Moon”

Making their debut with the banger “Bon Bon Chocolat,” Everglow only released a few songs this year, each sounding completely different from the last. They can go big (hello “Adios”), but the slow-burning “Moon” is their most intoxicating release to date. Atmospheric and playful with trap drums and a bouncy beat, it’s perfect for when you need to dance out your frustrations. With “Moon” Everglow delivers a subtle kind of alchemy, one that leaves you under their spell.

18. Oneus: “Red Thread”

2019 was the year of the rookies. So many talented units emerged, each vying to make their mark with diverse releases and fresh concepts. But no rookie group has as many hidden gems in their young catalog as Oneus. The six-member boy group debuted in January with the moody “Valkyrie,” but it’s the sweeping pop ballad “Red Thread” that showcases the depth of their musicality. Oneus has a flair for dramatics (see: “Twilight”), but “Red Thread” is uncharacteristically stripped down — allowing vocalists Seoho and Keonhee to really shine while rappers Ravn and Leedo take the song to new heights with a pinch of their signature swagger.

17. NCT Dream: “Bye My First…”

“Boom” was a fantastic single. Visually and sonically, it signaled a mature, edgier, era for NCT Dream, the teenage subunit of NCT. In contrast, We Boom‘s standout track “Bye My First…” is bright and poppy, but it still finds the group wrestling with big emotions like first love. There’s something nostalgic about the particular groove on “Bye My First…” — a combination of Jaemin and Jeno’s mellow raps, Haechan’s falsetto, and a strumming guitar that keeps the track light and fresh. It’s youthful without being childlike; this is NCT Dream all grown up.

16. GFRIEND: “Paradise”

It could be argued that any track given the name “Paradise” will be the best B-side on an album. See: “Paradise” by BTS; “Paradise” by NCT 127; and now, “Paradise” by GFRIEND. It’s a funky track with jazzy flourishes (that bassist is the real hero here) and heavenly harmonies. There’s nothing K-pop loves more than an explosive drop, which makes a song like “Paradise” the kind of groovy easy-listening that stands out among the noise. It’s not a boom; it’s a twinkle.

15. Itzy: “Cherry”

Who run the world? Teenage girls. It’s hard to think of a single rookie group that made more of a cultural impact than ITZY, the plucky fivesome from JYP Entertainment. With their vibrant sound and cool-chick energy, ITZY dominated this year with two smash singles, “DALLA DALLA” and “ICY,” which swept South Korea’s televised music shows and became mainstream hits. But “Cherry,” a B-side off their EP IT’z ICY, offers a glimpse into the band’s future. The brooding, minimalist track is an opportunity for members Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna to flex their versatility with smokey verses and a hypnotizing hook. But the song’s real power is the way in which ITZY assert themselves; they’re not asking for your attention, they’re taking it.

14. EXO: “Baby You Are”

We nearly went an entire year without a single release from one of South Korea’s biggest boy bands, but that all changed in late November with the release of their sixth full-length project Obsession. And lucky for us, when EXO commits to a record, they really commit. But what makes “Baby You Are” stand out on a tracklist jammed with dynamic pop songs and sensual R&B cuts — only EXO could put their rhythmic pièce de résistance in the middle of their album — is that it follows the formula for everything that makes EXO an undeniable force in the industry: a sticky hook, tight vocal harmonies, charismatic rap verses, and lush vocals. EXO doesn’t have anything to prove at this stage of their careers, but a song like “Baby You Are” reminds you why they’re everyone’s obsession.

13. ATEEZ: “Utopia”

Keep your eyes on ATEEZ. It’s been a little over a year since this eight-member group stormed onto the scene with their boisterous pre-debut track “Pirate King,” and the momentum has been building ever since thanks to their powerful performances and memeable personalities. The group is a little rough around the edges — with their punk-rock attitude — but “Utopia” is their most digestible pop effort yet. It’s the kind of song you can’t believe wasn’t a single (though it was later re-released as a Japanese single), an energetic mix of prismatic melodies held down by one hell of a catchy hook. It’s thrilling from start to finish.

12. SuperM: “2 Fast”

On first listen, “2 Fast” may seem like the best song you’ve ever heard. Sure, that may sound hyperbolic, but when you listen to this SuperM track, it feels like you are ascending. To where? Maybe to a place where “jopping” is universally understood. The song — from members Taemin, Baekhyun, Mark, and Lucas — is smooth and sultry, leaning into SM Entertainment’s R&B sensibilities. The bouncy synths and colorful harmonies feel reminiscent of a SHINee cut, but “2 Fast” offers up enough surprises (including an exciting mid-song tempo switch-up) to keep listeners guessing. It’s a song that, like SuperM, never settles into one singular groove.

11. CIX: “What You Wanted”

For a rookie group, a first single is crucial — especially in a year as competitive as 2019. CIX debuted in early August with “Movie Star,” a smoldering pop track with killer point choreography. It’s stylish and well-produced, but it lacks the kind of allure, charm, and energy that B-side “What You Wanted” has in spades. The song is confident, reminiscent of ’90s boy band greatness, and it hooks you immediately with its strong beat, velvety vocal harmonies, and seamless transition between singing and rapping. “Movie Star” left a good first impression, but “What You Wanted” made a lasting one.

10. Red Velvet: “Sunny Side Up”

Red Velvet has one of the most impressive discographies in K-pop, thanks in part to their versatile concept that allows them to produce energetic earworms (“Red”) and smooth R&B tracks (“Velvet”). So it’s not surprising that they’re often referred to as the Queens of B-sides by fans, and “Sunny Side Up” is a worthy addition to their catalog of hidden treasures. A standout cut from The ReVe Festival Day 1, the track is a slinky, laid-back summer jam. “Zimzalabim” was a polarizing single, but “Sunny Side Up” proves that, when it comes to Red Velvet, the vocals are the main attraction.

9. Tomorrow X Together: “Magic Island”

The ballad “Magic Island” might not immediately stand out for listeners of Tomorrow X Together’s first full-length LP The Dream Chapter: Magic, a collection of groovy synths (“New Rules”), R&B cuts (“20cm”), and bubblegum pop (“Poppin’ Star”). But a closer listen reveals the charm of “Magic Island.” It’s a subdued track — with soft keys and airy vocals from members Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Heuning Kai — but it inevitably lulls you into a feeling of deep serenity. Warm and wistful, you’ll yearn for “Magic Island” as the days get shorter and the nights get colder.

8. Stray Kids: “Chronosaurus”

Time — catching up to you, leaving you behind — is personified on “Chronosaurus,” a highlight of Stray Kids’ March EP Clé 1: MIROH. A play on “Chronos,” the Greek word for “time” (leader Bang Chan is a self-proclaimed mythology nerd), and “Kronosaurus,” a prehistoric predator, the title is apt for this haunting track, a sophisticated mix from the group’s powerful rap line and their expressive vocalists. Stray Kids have been moving at a breakneck pace since their debut in early 2018, and “Chronosaurus” — produced by members Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han — is a candid look at how truly taxing the creative process can be.

7. Dreamcatcher: “Silent Night”

To borrow terminology from stan Twitter: Who else is doing it like Dreamcatcher? K-pop’s resident rocker girls aren’t afraid to mix it up, and while their signatures are heavy guitars and soaring vocals, “Silent Night” veers into electronic territory. The drop is subtle, as it switches up the tempo unexpectedly with soft vocals and pounding synths. But the outro is the real gem here: It’s pure and pounding psychedelic EDM. It’s an ambitious move from the industry’s most daring girls, and it pays off.

6. GOT7: “Thursday”

It’s true: GOT7’s “Page” is the B-side of the Year. Or, at least it was until “Thursday.” GOT7 has experimented with various sounds and concepts over the years, but I love playful GOT7. (Think: “Just Right,” “Teenager.”) And this love-struck song, produced by leader JB and featured on the group’s recent Call My Name EP, taps into the group’s playful side with soft vocals, smooth melodies, and a groovy beat. The hushed harmonies are there to remind you that GOT7 doesn’t get nearly enough credit for their vocals.

5. BTS: “Dionysus”

Map of the Soul: Persona is an album full of crisp bops, which makes the mere existence of “Dionysus” a damn miracle. There’s something rather raw and unrefined about “Dionysus” — a rousing prog-rock drinking song produced by member J-Hope — and that’s what makes it so profound. It harkens back to the group’s early days, when BTS’s sound felt more aggressive. The witty rap verses and explosive choreography are classic BTS, so it’s an ambitious statement to add it as the closing track to their most widely circulated record yet — a nod to the fact that, whatever you think about the supergroup’s recent musical direction, you can never take the Bangtan out of the boys.

4. Day6: “Wanna Go Back”

Day6’s discography has zero skips, but no song this year begs replaying button more than “Wanna Go Back.” The chill track is equally bright and wistful — that’s Day6’s entire vibe, after all — reflecting on the halcyon days of youth, when things were simpler, worries were non-existent, and dreams felt within reach. It’s smooth: The song has that “radio up, top down” feeling of a long summer drive. Not to mention, the song gave us one of the best surprises of the year — Dowoon’s vocal moment on the bridge — thanks to the drummer’s sweet baritone.

3. NCT 127: “Highway To Heaven”

Since making their bombastic debut in 2016, NCT 127 have carved out a distinct place within the crowded K-pop market with heavy bass lines, intense swagger, powerful choreography, and a strong emphasis on hip-hop. But the polished “Highway To Heaven” is not what you’d expect from the confident ensemble, and that’s precisely what makes it so remarkable. The shimmering synth-pop banger sounds more like a Carly Rae Jepsen single than anything in NCT’s discography. It’s structured almost entirely around the group’s vocalists — the layered vocals on the hook make it feel massive — and even the rap verses from Taeyong and Mark seem melodic. The euphoric track expands as you listen; by the time vocalist Haechan delivers his heart-stopping note on the bridge, you’re already seeing stars.

2. Seventeen: “Lie Again”

Forget the Darkteen vs. Freshteen debate; it’s all about Softteen. Of all the genres Seventeen showcased on their September release An Ode — the EDM banger “HIT,” the dark and simmering “Fear,” the R&B slow jam “247,” the energetic “Snap Shoot” — “Lie Again” is as close as they come to a ballad. Tinged with sweet melancholy, the song highlights the 13-member group’s vocal prowess, with powerhouses DK and Seungkwan reining it in to display their soft sides alongside the group’s versatile rap and performance units. But this is not your traditional slow dance. Co-composed and arranged by Simon Petren, who produced their seminal “Habit,” the track is at once tender and hefty, its subtle drop and twinkling string effects giving it that burst of energy that’s come to define Seventeen’s diverse catalog.

1. Twice: “Love Foolish”

Full disclosure: Every B-side on Twice’s Feel Special EP is deserving of a spot on this list. It’s their most mature, sonically arresting release to date with spectacular production and individual writing credits from members Nayeon, Jihyo, Dahyun, and Momo. But it’s main dancer (and, on this track, rapper) Momo’s electro-pop “Love Foolish” — featuring dark synths, heavy bass, and sensual spoken-word bits — that might be Twice’s best B-side ever. Moving beyond the saccharine sound that’s made them Asia’s most successful girl group, it’s proof that Twice are capable of so much more than cheery hooks. They’re nine young women who have a lot to say. But the question is: Are you ready to listen?

The Best K-pop B-sides Of 2019, From Twice To BTS

2019 was a tumultuous year for K-pop; rocked by scandal, flagrant abuse of power, loss, and tragedy, Korean artists continued to push boundaries nonetheless, making monumental waves abroad and producing some of the year’s most dynamic, interesting work.

This year, BTS smashed streaming records, topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for a third consecutive time with Map of the Soul: Persona, and made history, becoming the first Korean group to present at the Grammys and perform on the Saturday Night Live stage. SM Entertainment supergroup SuperM debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, becoming the second K-pop artists to top the chart. EXO made their triumphant return with Obsession, an album full of broody bangers, funky pop, and sensual R&B. Twice, Stray Kids, and Monsta X sold out venues across North America. And monster rookie groups like ATEEZ, Tomorrow X Together, and ITZY didn’t just come to play — they came to win.

In the world of K-pop, there’s no such thing as “too much,” and the next release — single, album, and music video — is always around the corner. (Stray Kids dropped three EPs, five singles, and 12 music videos this year alone.) With so much work being produced, it can be easy to miss the real gems in a group’s discography.

So here’s to the tracks that often go overlooked with this listening guide to some of the best K-pop B-sides of 2019.

  1. Blackpink: “Kick It”

    Blackpink is known for their in-your-face anthems and bombastic bops, which is what makes “Kick It” such a standout in their catalog. It’s quintessential for the girl group, confident and filled with attitude, yet softer than their typical tracks. Its mellow trap beat is reminiscent of their debut single, “Whistle.” It’s chill but anthemic — especially as Lisa asserts, “Never needed nothing else / Just a little love from myself.” It’s the ultimate end-of-the-party song, when it’s just you and your friends doing your own thing.

  2. Everglow: “Moon”

    Making their debut with the banger “Bon Bon Chocolat,” Everglow only released a few songs this year, each sounding completely different from the last. They can go big (hello “Adios”), but the slow-burning “Moon” is their most intoxicating release to date. Atmospheric and playful with trap drums and a bouncy beat, it’s perfect for when you need to dance out your frustrations. With “Moon” Everglow delivers a subtle kind of alchemy, one that leaves you under their spell.

  3. Oneus: “Red Thread”

    2019 was the year of the rookies. So many talented units emerged, each vying to make their mark with diverse releases and fresh concepts. But no rookie group has as many hidden gems in their young catalog as Oneus. The six-member boy group debuted in January with the moody “Valkyrie,” but it’s the sweeping pop ballad “Red Thread” that showcases the depth of their musicality. Oneus has a flair for dramatics (see: “Twilight”), but “Red Thread” is uncharacteristically stripped down — allowing vocalists Seoho and Keonhee to really shine while rappers Ravn and Leedo take the song to new heights with a pinch of their signature swagger.

  4. NCT Dream: “Bye My First…”

    “Boom” was a fantastic single. Visually and sonically, it signaled a mature, edgier, era for NCT Dream, the teenage subunit of NCT. In contrast, We Boom‘s standout track “Bye My First…” is bright and poppy, but it still finds the group wrestling with big emotions like first love. There’s something nostalgic about the particular groove on “Bye My First…” — a combination of Jaemin and Jeno’s mellow raps, Haechan’s falsetto, and a strumming guitar that keeps the track light and fresh. It’s youthful without being childlike; this is NCT Dream all grown up.

  5. GFRIEND: “Paradise”

    It could be argued that any track given the name “Paradise” will be the best B-side on an album. See: “Paradise” by BTS; “Paradise” by NCT 127; and now, “Paradise” by GFRIEND. It’s a funky track with jazzy flourishes (that bassist is the real hero here) and heavenly harmonies. There’s nothing K-pop loves more than an explosive drop, which makes a song like “Paradise” the kind of groovy easy-listening that stands out among the noise. It’s not a boom; it’s a twinkle.

  6. Itzy: “Cherry”

    Who run the world? Teenage girls. It’s hard to think of a single rookie group that made more of a cultural impact than ITZY, the plucky fivesome from JYP Entertainment. With their vibrant sound and cool-chick energy, ITZY dominated this year with two smash singles, “DALLA DALLA” and “ICY,” which swept South Korea’s televised music shows and became mainstream hits. But “Cherry,” a B-side off their EP IT’z ICY, offers a glimpse into the band’s future. The brooding, minimalist track is an opportunity for members Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna to flex their versatility with smokey verses and a hypnotizing hook. But the song’s real power is the way in which ITZY assert themselves; they’re not asking for your attention, they’re taking it.

  7. EXO: “Baby You Are”

    We nearly went an entire year without a single release from one of South Korea’s biggest boy bands, but that all changed in late November with the release of their sixth full-length project Obsession. And lucky for us, when EXO commits to a record, they really commit. But what makes “Baby You Are” stand out on a tracklist jammed with dynamic pop songs and sensual R&B cuts — only EXO could put their rhythmic pièce de résistance in the middle of their album — is that it follows the formula for everything that makes EXO an undeniable force in the industry: a sticky hook, tight vocal harmonies, charismatic rap verses, and lush vocals. EXO doesn’t have anything to prove at this stage of their careers, but a song like “Baby You Are” reminds you why they’re everyone’s obsession.

  8. ATEEZ: “Utopia”

    Keep your eyes on ATEEZ. It’s been a little over a year since this eight-member group stormed onto the scene with their boisterous pre-debut track “Pirate King,” and the momentum has been building ever since thanks to their powerful performances and memeable personalities. The group is a little rough around the edges — with their punk-rock attitude — but “Utopia” is their most digestible pop effort yet. It’s the kind of song you can’t believe wasn’t a single (though it was later re-released as a Japanese single), an energetic mix of prismatic melodies held down by one hell of a catchy hook. It’s thrilling from start to finish.

  9. SuperM: “2 Fast”

    On first listen, “2 Fast” may seem like the best song you’ve ever heard. Sure, that may sound hyperbolic, but when you listen to this SuperM track, it feels like you are ascending. To where? Maybe to a place where “jopping” is universally understood. The song — from members Taemin, Baekhyun, Mark, and Lucas — is smooth and sultry, leaning into SM Entertainment’s R&B sensibilities. The bouncy synths and colorful harmonies feel reminiscent of a SHINee cut, but “2 Fast” offers up enough surprises (including an exciting mid-song tempo switch-up) to keep listeners guessing. It’s a song that, like SuperM, never settles into one singular groove.

  10. CIX: “What You Wanted”

    For a rookie group, a first single is crucial — especially in a year as competitive as 2019. CIX debuted in early August with “Movie Star,” a smoldering pop track with killer point choreography. It’s stylish and well-produced, but it lacks the kind of allure, charm, and energy that B-side “What You Wanted” has in spades. The song is confident, reminiscent of ’90s boy band greatness, and it hooks you immediately with its strong beat, velvety vocal harmonies, and seamless transition between singing and rapping. “Movie Star” left a good first impression, but “What You Wanted” made a lasting one.

  11. Red Velvet: “Sunny Side Up”

    Red Velvet has one of the most impressive discographies in K-pop, thanks in part to their versatile concept that allows them to produce energetic earworms (“Red”) and smooth R&B tracks (“Velvet”). So it’s not surprising that they’re often referred to as the Queens of B-sides by fans, and “Sunny Side Up” is a worthy addition to their catalog of hidden treasures. A standout cut from The ReVe Festival Day 1, the track is a slinky, laid-back summer jam. “Zimzalabim” was a polarizing single, but “Sunny Side Up” proves that, when it comes to Red Velvet, the vocals are the main attraction.

  12. Tomorrow X Together: “Magic Island”

    The ballad “Magic Island” might not immediately stand out for listeners of Tomorrow X Together’s first full-length LP The Dream Chapter: Magic, a collection of groovy synths (“New Rules”), R&B cuts (“20cm”), and bubblegum pop (“Poppin’ Star”). But a closer listen reveals the charm of “Magic Island.” It’s a subdued track — with soft keys and airy vocals from members Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Heuning Kai — but it inevitably lulls you into a feeling of deep serenity. Warm and wistful, you’ll yearn for “Magic Island” as the days get shorter and the nights get colder.

  13. Stray Kids: “Chronosaurus”

    Time — catching up to you, leaving you behind — is personified on “Chronosaurus,” a highlight of Stray Kids’ March EP Clé 1: MIROH. A play on “Chronos,” the Greek word for “time” (leader Bang Chan is a self-proclaimed mythology nerd), and “Kronosaurus,” a prehistoric predator, the title is apt for this haunting track, a sophisticated mix from the group’s powerful rap line and their expressive vocalists. Stray Kids have been moving at a breakneck pace since their debut in early 2018, and “Chronosaurus” — produced by members Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han — is a candid look at how truly taxing the creative process can be.

  14. Dreamcatcher: “Silent Night”

    To borrow terminology from stan Twitter: Who else is doing it like Dreamcatcher? K-pop’s resident rocker girls aren’t afraid to mix it up, and while their signatures are heavy guitars and soaring vocals, “Silent Night” veers into electronic territory. The drop is subtle, as it switches up the tempo unexpectedly with soft vocals and pounding synths. But the outro is the real gem here: It’s pure and pounding psychedelic EDM. It’s an ambitious move from the industry’s most daring girls, and it pays off.

  15. GOT7: “Thursday”

    It’s true: GOT7’s “Page” is the B-side of the Year. Or, at least it was until “Thursday.” GOT7 has experimented with various sounds and concepts over the years, but I love playful GOT7. (Think: “Just Right,” “Teenager.”) And this love-struck song, produced by leader JB and featured on the group’s recent Call My Name EP, taps into the group’s playful side with soft vocals, smooth melodies, and a groovy beat. The hushed harmonies are there to remind you that GOT7 doesn’t get nearly enough credit for their vocals.

  16. BTS: “Dionysus”

    Map of the Soul: Persona is an album full of crisp bops, which makes the mere existence of “Dionysus” a damn miracle. There’s something rather raw and unrefined about “Dionysus” — a rousing prog-rock drinking song produced by member J-Hope — and that’s what makes it so profound. It harkens back to the group’s early days, when BTS’s sound felt more aggressive. The witty rap verses and explosive choreography are classic BTS, so it’s an ambitious statement to add it as the closing track to their most widely circulated record yet — a nod to the fact that, whatever you think about the supergroup’s recent musical direction, you can never take the Bangtan out of the boys.

  17. Day6: “Wanna Go Back”

    Day6’s discography has zero skips, but no song this year begs replaying button more than “Wanna Go Back.” The chill track is equally bright and wistful — that’s Day6’s entire vibe, after all — reflecting on the halcyon days of youth, when things were simpler, worries were non-existent, and dreams felt within reach. It’s smooth: The song has that “radio up, top down” feeling of a long summer drive. Not to mention, the song gave us one of the best surprises of the year — Dowoon’s vocal moment on the bridge — thanks to the drummer’s sweet baritone.

  18. NCT 127: “Highway To Heaven”

    Since making their bombastic debut in 2016, NCT 127 have carved out a distinct place within the crowded K-pop market with heavy bass lines, intense swagger, powerful choreography, and a strong emphasis on hip-hop. But the polished “Highway To Heaven” is not what you’d expect from the confident ensemble, and that’s precisely what makes it so remarkable. The shimmering synth-pop banger sounds more like a Carly Rae Jepsen single than anything in NCT’s discography. It’s structured almost entirely around the group’s vocalists — the layered vocals on the hook make it feel massive — and even the rap verses from Taeyong and Mark seem melodic. The euphoric track expands as you listen; by the time vocalist Haechan delivers his heart-stopping note on the bridge, you’re already seeing stars.

  19. Seventeen: “Lie Again”

    Forget the Darkteen vs. Freshteen debate; it’s all about Softteen. Of all the genres Seventeen showcased on their September release An Ode — the EDM banger “HIT,” the dark and simmering “Fear,” the R&B slow jam “247,” the energetic “Snap Shoot” — “Lie Again” is as close as they come to a ballad. Tinged with sweet melancholy, the song highlights the 13-member group’s vocal prowess, with powerhouses DK and Seungkwan reining it in to display their soft sides alongside the group’s versatile rap and performance units. But this is not your traditional slow dance. Co-composed and arranged by Simon Petren, who produced their seminal “Habit,” the track is at once tender and hefty, its subtle drop and twinkling string effects giving it that burst of energy that’s come to define Seventeen’s diverse catalog.

  20. Twice: “Love Foolish”

    Full disclosure: Every B-side on Twice’s Feel Special EP is deserving of a spot on this list. It’s their most mature, sonically arresting release to date with spectacular production and individual writing credits from members Nayeon, Jihyo, Dahyun, and Momo. But it’s main dancer (and, on this track, rapper) Momo’s electro-pop “Love Foolish” — featuring dark synths, heavy bass, and sensual spoken-word bits — that might be Twice’s best B-side ever. Moving beyond the saccharine sound that’s made them Asia’s most successful girl group, it’s proof that Twice are capable of so much more than cheery hooks. They’re nine young women who have a lot to say. But the question is: Are you ready to listen?

Drake Has ‘No Desire To Ever Mend Anything’ With Pusha T — And More Revelations From Lengthy New Interview

Drake spent most of 2019 at Toronto Raptors games, celebrating the Toronto Raptors’s NBA Championship win, and releasing songs to commemorate the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship win. He also teased work on a new album, released a collection of loosies, and popped up on with festivals and features here and there. This is all to say his 2019 has resembled a fairly standard one for a rapper not directly in album mode. Maybe that’s why he’s feeling reflective.

On Christmas Day — just a day after he debuted the loosie “War” — Rap Radar released a lengthy two-hour interview with the man himself in conversation with Elliott Wilson and Brian “B. Dot” Miller (who is also an MTV News correspondent). In it, Drake speaks freely on the specter of his lingering Pusha T beef, which burned hot in mid-2018 but was never officially resolved, as well as his ongoing cold war and seemingly frayed connection with Kanye West.

“I have no desire to ever mend anything with that person,” Drake said (per Rolling Stone), referring to Pusha T and the dis track “The Story of Adidon,” in which Pusha revealed the existence of Drake’s son and labeled him a “deadbeat dad.” “That situation just went… you know, it just went where it went. There is no turning back.”

West, meanwhile, has remained at the center of the beef both for his much longer ties to Drake as well as the fact that he produced Pusha’s album Daytona around the time the beef went supernova. The pair have publicly exchanged words tinged with apologetic notes but have never officially reconciled. “I think that he definitely recruited a guy with a similar dislike for me no matter what he says in interviews,” Drake said.

“There’s something there that bothers him deeply and yeah, I can’t fix it for him. It just is what it is. I could never ever, ever, ever turn my back on the things that I’ve said about him in a positive light… Things have changed. I’m not just some kid that’s a fan anymore. Now we have personal situations, and like I said, a lot of his issues with me, I can’t fix them for him.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Drake addressed how he was booed offstage at Camp Flow Gnaw in November by fans expecting Frank Ocean as the surprise headliner instead (“In hindsight, I wish I would’ve said, ‘Yo guys, Frank…’ or just broke out into, ‘A tornado flew around…'”) as well as when we might be able to hear his new music in 2020.

The interview is about as long as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, so there’s obviously plenty more to dive into. Go ahead and watch the full thing in the video above.

Kanye West’s Second Album Of 2019 Is Here — But You Won’t Find Him Rapping On It

On Christmas Day, Kanye West and his Sunday Service Choir dropped a brand new album titled Jesus Is Born, a tribute to the Christian holiday celebrating, fitting, the birth of Jesus. But you won’t hear Yeezy himself laying down any bars on it. Instead, the 19-track album, which West executive produced but doesn’t rap on, is pure exultation, spanning roof-scraping praise hymns as well as secular tracks repurposed into celebrations of faith.

You’ll hear some familiar tunes. “Father Stretch” recreates West’s The Life of Pablo track “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” — which samples preacher T.L. Barrett’s gospel staple of the same name — with the notable exclusion of West’s infamous “bleached asshole” lyrics (and in fact, all traces of West himself). “Ultralight Beam” is here too, minus West and Chance the Rapper, and “Follow Me/Faith” takes the bass line from West’s “Fade” — itself a sample from Chicago house track “Mystery of Love” — as well as the song’s general structure.

But even with its secular interpolations (including of tunes by Sia, SWV, Soul II Soul, and Ginuwine), most of Jesus Is Born takes a definite, singular shape: nearly 90 minutes of praise, worship, and adoration for Jesus himself.

Jesus Is Born is the second release of 2019 for West and his gospel collective, which he first debuted in January 2019 and which has performed each Sunday. In April, West and the choir performed on a hilltop near the Coachella festival grounds alongside Chance, Kid Cudi, Ty Dolla Sign, and more. The choir also featured prominently on the kickoff track to West’s ninth album, Jesus Is King, that dropped in October.

“It’s just an idea we had to open up our hearts to make music that we felt was as pure and as positive as possible and just do it for an hour every Sunday, and have something where people can just come together and feel good with their families,” West told David Letterman earlier this year about the Sunday Service Choir on an episode of Letterman’s Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

Listen to the full Jesus Is Born album above.

Justin Bieber’s New Song, ‘Yummy’ Will Be Out Just In Time To Kick Off 2020

Justin Bieber‘s brief musical break is almost over.

The Biebs, DaBieby, whatever cool name that you want to call him, has released a new trailer that confirms that he’s going to have one hell of year in 2020. He’s dropping a new single, “Yummy,” on January 3. He’s heading across North America on a tour in the summer. A currently-unnamed album is set to drop sometime then as well. And finally, Bieber is getting his own docu-series. This is the perfect news to get during the holidays. What a Merry Christmas.

Bieber’s epic new trailer shows the singer in a desert, walking around while clips of him talking play in the background. He starts off by touching on how he’s become the person he has today.”As humans, we are imperfect,” he says. My past and my mistakes, all the things that I’ve been through, I believe that I’m right where I’m supposed to be and God is where he wants me.”

He continues on with the announcement of North American tour dates. “I’m excited to perform and tour,” he says. “We all have different stories and I’m excited to share mine.”

Bieber posted on Instagram in March that he would be taking a step back from music to focus on his mental health. In April at Coachella, Bieber hinted at releasing new music, but he didn’t say when. In May, he appeared in Ed Sheeran‘s video for “I Don’t Care.”

Bieber’s last studio album was 2015’s PurposeThe train has begun rolling to make 2020 a year for the books for Beliebers. It’s great to have him back!

Check out Bieber’s teaser of what’s to come and his upcoming tour dates up above.