Whether it’s Western pop or K-pop, the fourth quarter is always the most exciting time for big pop releases. Everybody rushes out their albums and your fave is battling someone else’s fave and we all have fun little stan wars. It’s great. October is looking especially juicy for K-pop this year: We’ve got the tarnished IU and T-ara putting out their first post-scandal releases, Taeyang and Kahi coming back after several years away from the solo spotlight, the almighty Nine Muses with their first full-length album, new stuff from underdogs like Block B and AOA, and a whole lot more.
I’ve rounded up the ten most anticipated K-pop comebacks of the bunch and ranked ’em all from least to best. Only the officially confirmed or strongly rumoured returns for October made the list, so that means no miss A, B1A4, Sunmi, or TVXQ.
2NE1’s obviously not getting a high spot here because we’ve already had two comebacks from them this year, and neither of them were very good. (Personally I liked that generic mess “Do You Love Me,” but I know I’m in the minority.) The artificially fierce foursome are still capable of the odd slam dunk here and there (see: “Scream,” “I Am The Best,” and “Hate You”), but overall they’ve never been able to match the fun of their To Anyone album, and probably never will again.
[Confirmed: Digital single or album, untitled, October]
Nothing against Taeyang because he’s hella sexy and “I Need a Girl” is undeniably gorgeous, but there’s nothing exciting about a Taeyang comeback. He epitomizes YG Entertainment’s American-lite paint-by-numbers style, and while his songs are never actually bad, he offers nothing that you can’t already get from Jay Park or Ne-Yo.
[Confirmed: Unspecified new album, untitled, mid/late October]
SHINee’s never had a bad comeback and they probably never will, but we’ve already heard from them twice this year (thrice if you include “Selene 6.23”), so that lessens the anticipation a little. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how they’re received now that Jonghyun’s back in business and Taemin and Key are enjoying the spoils of variety show stardom thanks to their roles on We Got Married.
[Confirmed: 5th mini-album, ‘Everybody,’ October 14]
Jaejoong brought J-rock and visual kei to Korea with January’s dramatic “Mine,” so I can’t wait to see what he’s got up sleeve this time around. The only concern is that he’ll pull a Junsu –who followed up the brilliant “Tarantallegra” with the derivative dance-pop sludge that is “Incredible”– and leave his unique style behind for album No. 2. Pray for the best, y’all.
[Confirmed: Unspecified new album, untitled, late October]
Yes, the long-awaited Kahi komeback is actually happening! More than a year since graduating from After School and two-and-a-half years since her techno ballad, “Come Back You Bad Person,” slayed us all, Kahi is finally ready to release a new mini-album. If the last few singles from Pledis Entertainment artists like NU’EST, After School, and Son Dam Bi are anything to go by, the new Kahi stuff is gonna be pretty amazing.
[Confirmed: Second mini-album, ‘Who Are You?,’ October 10]
5. Girls’ Generation/TTS
Normally a Girls’ Generation comeback would rank right at the top, but since The Divine Nine already served up 2013’s most dazzlingly different slice of pop perfection with January’s “I Got a Boy,” I’m not quite on the edge of my seat like I would be if they’d been away for longer. I’m hoping for a return of the TTS unit so we can get another bubbly bop like “Twinkle,” followed by a full group comeback early next year.
[Rumoured: Late October]
4. Seo In Young
Seo In Young has been on absolute fire for the past year, and her May mini-album, Forever Young, is one of the best K-pop releases in recent memory. After a brief foray into balladry with the beautiful “Let’s Break Up,” Ely’s returning to dance music with the Gaeko-assisted “Please Love Me.” Chances are that it’ll give Sunmi’s “24 Hours” and Lee Jung-hyun’s “V” a run for their money as the year’s best K-diva single.
[Confirmed: Digital single, “Please Love Me” featuring Gaeko, October 4]
3. Nine Muses
Since hooking up with Sweetune in 2011, Nine Muses hasn”t released a single that’s been anything less than a total knockout. Everything they’ve put out is perfect, and the replay value is always through the roof (January’s “Dolls” is still on HEAVY rotation). There’s no doubt in my mind that their upcoming single, “Gun,” is going to be every bit as incredible as all their other Sweetune smash hits have thus far.
[Confirmed: First studio album, ‘Prima Donna,’ October 14]
It’s unfortunate that IU has to settle for being the biggest female soloist in Korea when she should be one of the biggest female soloists in the world. When stans are arguing about who the top pop divas of today are, IU’s name deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga. I guess we can call her the new Hikaru Utada?
With that said, what’s not to anticipate about an IU comeback? She’s never released a bad single, she shows artistic growth with every release, almost all of her b-sides and filler tracks are great, and “Good Day” remains one of the best pop songs of the past ten years. Modern Times is gonna be epic, and that’s a fact.
[Confirmed: Third studio album, ‘Modern Times,’ October 7]
Under normal circumstances, I would’ve placed IU at No. 1 in a heartbeat, but there’s just so much riding on T-ara’s return that there’s no one else that could’ve topped this list but them. Yeah, I know IU had a scandal too, but the fallout was nothing like T-ara’s — and even if it had been, I still think IU would’ve eventually made a full recovery. The sheer anticipation to see what T-ara will do next and how everybody will react to it is almost too much to handle!
“Comeback” is a term used in K-pop to refer to any artist that’s releasing new music, but T-ara actually has the chance to make a real comeback in the dictionary definition sense of the word with “No. 9.”
Plus, have you seen the official teasers? Eunjung has long hair!
[Confirmed: Mini-album, ‘No. 9,’ October 10]