The new year began with an auspicious start for K-pop when both GOT7’s JB and BTS’s Rap Monster each released new music through SoundCloud on Jan. 1, continuing a trend of K-pop idols showcasing their artistry through less traditional release routes.
Rap Monster (Kim Namjoon) uploaded the melancholic “Always” to BTS’s official SoundCloud account on New Year’s Day in South Korea. The song is a synth-infused reflection over the way life has turned out, “If I ever meet God, I would tell him this/That life is coffee that I never ordered.” On the band’s official blog, Rap Monster revealed he recorded the song in 2016 while facing hard times and used those emotions as inspiration.
“Always” is the first non-album solo release from Rap Monster since 2015’s RM mixtape, although he had a solo on last year’s record-breaking Wings.
JB (Im Jaebum) launched a SoundCloud account under the name Def Soul, the pseudonym he adopts when producing music for GOT7. As the new year began in South Korea, he uploaded an ambiguously-titled playlist, 1/? vol. 1, featuring three brand new songs. “Holic” and “Bad Habit” are smooth, alt R&B tracks, while “Sin” incorporates heavy hip-hop elements. Both “Sin” and “Bad Habit” feature the rapper Jomalone, while “Holic” is an entirely solo track.
SoundCloud is increasingly being used by K-pop singers as a tool to release informal, typically self-composed songs. BTS’s members share a SoundCloud account that they update frequently, while JB is the second member of GOT7 to open an account on the site. Bandmate Youngjae was the first to create a public account on the site in October.
As Korea’s music industry diversifies and grows more popular internationally, many K-pop artists are moving towards self-produced music. BIGBANG, Seventeen, BTS, EXID, SHINee, and GOT7 are some of the more popular K-pop acts with members recognized for their songwriting skills. Both Rap Monster and JB have produced multiple songs for their respective acts. JB has eight songs licensed by they Korea Music Copyright Association, while Rap Monster has over 60 songs accredited to his name.