Iraq enjoys playing music with the artist Hasan Almajidy

(MENAFN- Hip Hop-24) Hasan Almajidy is an important and essential piece of Iraqi culture. This was a religious musical formation, through cooperation with international artists in the production of sad music. He has a deep lead in the sad songs he plays as he searches for a balance between the traditional rumors within the contemporary.

Sad music in Iraq. The space available for its multiplicity of colors and global influences. And his musical works are distinguished. Iraqi musician Hasan Almajidy started making music in 2020, and thousands of people heard the high level of sad music in Iraq. For this reason, it reveals new methods in the Iraqi music industry. This Iraqi acoustic music composition by Hasan Almajidy embodies a soul as well as its own personality. Al-Shahed, as well as in current works, which vary between the Islamic religion, traditional singing, and the musical group. And the fact that he’s been sneaking around in all of these kinds of music has made him worthy of a prayer

When it comes to creating sad music that is used in religious ceremonies. Popular in the Iraqi classical genre through a television interview with the artist Hasan Almajidy, Iraq proved that it is a sad people, and creativity was made in composing sad music in the religious rituals that the Iraqi people live in the sacred month of Muharram for Muslims. Hasan Almajidy started out as a music melody for artists in Baghdad despite being an entrepreneur and owner of the hip-hop 24 Independent Artists!, OWN. Themes of longing and sadness fill his songs and give an emotional texture to the music, making it deeply touching to the people of Iraq. Hasan Almajidy also composed soundtracks for famous TV series. The sad musician sang in Iraq through his strong influence in the sad music industry. And on some of the challenges faced in Iraq in relation to music. Religious studies are especially sad


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Gen Z and young millennials’ surprising obsession

Gen Z and young millennials’ surprising obsession

(Image credit: Esther Abrami, Getty Images)

A radical new wave of artists are sweeping the previously elite world of classical music – with a little help from Squid Game, Dark Academia and fashion. Daisy Woodward explores how classical got cool.


If asked to guess what under 25-year-olds are listening to, it’s unlikely that many of us would land upon orchestral music. And yet a survey published in December 2022 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) found that 74% of UK residents aged under 25 were likely to be tuning into just that at Christmas-time, compared with a mere 46% of people aged 55 or more. These figures reflect not only the RPO’s broader finding that under 35-year-olds are more likely to listen to orchestral music than their parents, but also the widespread surge in popularity of classical music in general, particularly among younger generations.

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There are plenty of reasons for this, from the playlist culture spawned by streaming platforms that make it easy for listeners to discover new artists and types of music to fit their mood, to the solace it provided during the pandemic, not to mention the profusion of classical music in pop culture hits like Squid Game. But perhaps highest on the list is the global wave of Gen Z and young millennial classical artists who are finding new ways to be seen and heard, and – just as vitally – new means of modernising what has long been branded music’s most elite and stuffy genre.

Fashion brand Acne Studios’ younger sub-label Face recently created composer-themed sweaters and bags (Credit: Acne Studios/ Face)

Unsurprisingly, social media has played a huge part in this, as a quick search of the popular TikTok hashtag “classictok” (currently at 53.8 million views) attests. There, as well as on Instagram, young classical artists have been making use of the digital realm’s democratic potential to lift the heavy velvet curtains on their art form, presenting classical music and its storied history in ways that are accessible, unintimidating and, most importantly, fun.

For French violinist Esther Abrami – who has more than 250,000 followers on Instagram, more than 380,000 on TikTok, and was the first classical musician to be nominated in the Social Media Superstar category at the Global Awards – the journey to social media fame stemmed from a desire to share her passion more widely. “I was studying at a top institution and most of the time I was practising for exams, so the whole joy of sharing was taken away. Then, at the very few concerts I did play, there was a very specific type of audience that wasn’t very diverse,” Abrami tells BBC Culture.

She noticed that a handful of classical musicians had taken to Instagram to broaden their own reach, and decided to do the same. “I started posting a few things, and was stunned by the reaction that I got. Suddenly you have people from around the world listening to you and telling you it brightens their day to watch you playing the violin,” she enthuses. “It opened this door to a completely new world.”

Nigerian-US baritone and lifelong hip-hop fan Babatunde Akinboboye enjoyed a similarly swift and surprising rise to social media fame when he posted a video of himself singing Rossini’s renowned aria Largo al factotum over the top of Kendrick Lamar’s track Humble. “I was in my car and I realised that the two pieces worked together musically, so I started singing on top of the beat,” he tells BBC Culture. He documented the moment on his phone and posted the video on his personal Facebook account, guessing that his friends would enjoy it more than his opera peers. “But I went to sleep, woke up the next morning, and it had expanded to my opera network, and far beyond that,” he laughs, explaining that within two days, his self-dubbed brand of “hip-hopera” had caught the attention of The Ellen Show, America’s Got Talent and Time magazine.

Nigerian-US baritone Babatunde Akinboboye sings “hip-hopera” – he initially became known for his rendition of Rossini blended with Kendrick Lamar (Credit: J Demetrie)

Both Abrami and Akinboboye came to classical music in their teens, late by conventional standards, and cultivated their passion for the genre independently. This remains a driving factor in their desire to reach new audiences, which they’ve achieved on an impressive scale, largely just by being themselves. “I ended up becoming an opera influencer by sharing the parts of me I felt comfortable sharing, which is a lot,” says Akinboboye, whose playful hip-hopera and opera videos and posts – taking viewers behind the scenes of a world still shrouded in mystery  – have garnered him some 688,000 TikTok followers. “It’s a lot about how I relate to opera; my musical background was from hip-hop, but I still found a relationship with opera and that resonated with people,” he explains. “Almost every day I get a different message saying, ‘I went to my first opera today’. I think it’s because they’re seeing someone they feel comfortable or familiar with.”

‘Complex and profound’

Abrami, a similarly enthusiastic content creator, agrees: “I think putting the face of somebody not so far away from them to the genre is a big thing. That’s what I’m trying to do, to reach different types of people and create bridges, to show them that this music can really move you. It’s complex and profound and yes, it might take a bit of time to understand but once you do, it’s amazing.”

British concert pianist Harriet Stubbs is another avid proponent of classical music for modern audiences who has been finding her own ways of drawing in new listeners. During lockdown, the musician, who usually splits her time between London and New York, performed multiple 20-minute concerts from her ground-floor flat in West Kensington, opening the windows and using an amplifier to reach listeners outside. “I gave 250 concerts,” Stubbs, who was awarded a British Empire Medal by the Queen for this mood-boosting act of service, tells BBC Culture. “I did a range of repertoire from my upcoming album, and also things like All By Myself, which I chose ironically for that audience. And the thing is, people who thought they didn’t care for classical music came back every day because of the power of that music.”

The fusion of classical music with other genres is a major facet of Stubbs’s practice and, indeed, that of many others among the new generation of classical artists (see also the React to the K YouTube channel, where classical artists frequently reimagine K-pop songs with ingenious results, or Kris Bowers’ brilliant orchestral arrangements of modern pop songs for the much-buzzed-about Bridgerton soundtrack). Stubbs’s innovative first album, Heaven & Hell: The Doors of Perception (2018), was inspired by William Blake and features musical icon Marianne Faithfull. “I always wanted to tie rock’n’roll and classical music together and put them in the same space, supported by literature and philosophy and other disciplines,” she explains, adding that her next album, which she’s making with pianist and former Bowie collaborator Mike Garson, will be a “Bowie meets Rachmaninoff” affair.

Concert pianist Harriet Stubbs has collaborated with Marianne Faithfull, and is currently working on a “Bowie meets Rachmaninoff” album (Credit: Russ Titelman)

Interestingly, the current swell of enthusiasm for classical music has branched out to become as much of an aesthetic movement as it is a musical one. Digital microtrends Dark Academia and Light Academia – dedicated as they are to the romanticisation of a passion for art and knowledge through imagery – both make rousing use of classical music in order to create the desired ambience. Ascendant Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, meanwhile, uses atmospheric visuals as a powerful means of contemporising the baroque experience. Depressed by the lack of funding for music video production in the classical realm, he drummed up private sponsorship to make a 21-minute movie to accompany his 2021 rendition of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater. The resulting film conjures a compelling and suitably brutal scenario for the haunting 18th-century hymn, which The New York Times describes as “resembling a Polish remake of The Sopranos”.

“I’m really interested in storytelling. I always build an entire concept for my albums – the narrative, the photography, the videos,” Orliński tells BBC Culture. “I think now there is this whole new generation of people who really want to add to what classical music can be, to go beyond the singing and be challenged. You just have to know that the end product will be good, and that what you’re doing will serve the story,” he adds. This is certainly something Orliński has achieved in his own career: an accomplished sportsman and breakdancer, he wowed critics with his 2022 Royal Opera House debut, which found him pole-dancing in a spangled dress as Didymus in Katie Mitchell’s production of Handel’s Theodora. Other recent projects have included recording baroque tracks for forthcoming video games which, he says, was “an incredible experience” and is something he’s being asked to do more and more frequently, as the Metaverse beckons. “Sometimes you need classical music to touch the strings of somebody’s soul – a pop song won’t work.”

Classical music’s ongoing and often powerful intersection with pop culture is being foregrounded as part of the burgeoning interest in the genre, both inside and outside its famously guarded gates. The all-teen members of the UK’s National Youth Orchestra have just completed a mini tour that included a performance of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, replete with its opening symphonic sunrise eternalised by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Last August saw the BBC Proms launch its first gaming-themed programme whereby the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra took on some of the best-loved songs in video game history. While the recent autumn/winter collection from Acne Studios’ younger sub-label Face offered up one of the most direct sartorial tributes to classical music to date, presenting crew-neck sweaters, T-shirts and tote bags embellished with the faces of Handel, Mozart and Bach in celebration of “the idea that a passion for classical music is the most left-field move imaginable for a modern-day teenager”.

Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński wowed critics with his performance as Didymus in Handel’s Theodora, which included a pole-dance (Credit: Michael Sharkey)

Orliński agrees that classical music has achieved an “almost hipstery” status of late. “It’s cool to go to the opera, to know something, and that’s because there are a lot of young artists delivering music on the highest level, while making it very entertaining,” he enthuses. There is, he observes, a revived interest in classical music personalities such as Maria Callas and Pavarotti, as well as “people like Yuja Wang” who are selling out concert halls, all of which he feels bodes well for the art form. “We have a long way to go to grow as much as other genres of music, but we’re moving forward.” Akinboboye, too, is tentatively hopeful. “I think opera is definitely being a lot more bold, and I hope that it continues because I think we can catch up,” he concludes. “[Classical music needs to] be brave, to do the scary thing. And it’ll work out, because audiences are ready.”

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How music can boost African economies and increase regional integration

Before there was jazz, soul, R&B, rock, or hip hop, there was the beat of African drums. All 8 billion of us on this planet have our ancestral roots on the African continent, and the same is true for many of the most widely consumed sounds and rhythms that move us.

Music from the African continent continues to ascend to new heights, rapidly growing in prominence and popularity. Afrobeats is now one of the continent’s greatest cultural exports, with its instantly recognizable sounds often heard on street corners, shopping malls, sports stadiums, runways, and clubs around the world.

As a blend of west African music, jazz, and funk sang in English, west African, and pidgin languages that originated in Nigeria in the 1990s and early 2000s, Afrobeats has become one of the defining musical genres across Africa and globally. It follows in the footsteps of African music from earlier eras, such as highlife from Ghana and Nigeria in the 1950s and soukous from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the 1960s.

These and other African musical forms have gained prominence in recent decades, gaining widespread listenership through the efforts of African musicians. In the process, these musicians have helped promote regional and cultural integration by influencing musical styles across the continent.

With new partnership models, continent-wide advocacy and promotion, and leveraging digital platforms, Africa’s music could drive economic growth and continental integration.

African music goes global

Legendary performers such as ET Mensah, George Darko, and the Oriental Brothers International Band were key drivers in expanding the reach of highlife music. Likewise, the popularity of soukous has been propelled by famous artists, including Kanda Bongo Man, M’bilia Bel, and of course, the dynamic Papa Wemba. The unforgettable Manu Dibango is credited for popularizing makossa globally. And Fela Kuti was at the vanguard for Afrobeat music with its strident demands for economic and social justice.

Fast forward a few generations, renowned artists such as Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, and Yemi Alade are extending the prominence and recognition of Afrobeats across Africa and globally. Afrobeats and other emerging musical forms from Africa, such as Amapiano, are gaining popularity and can serve as models for further economic and cultural integration on the continent.

Amapiano, the isiZulu term for ‘the pianos’ is a muscial genre which originated in the townships of Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa in 2012. It combines local music influences with jazz and house music. It is increasingly transcending borders and entering the African and global mainstream, led by popular artists such as the Scorpion Kings, DBM Gogo, and Lady Du.

Amapiano songs now regularly trend on social media and have garnered more than a billion streams to date on platforms including Spotify and Apple Music. It is even influencing music powerhouse Nigeria, where several artists have recorded hit songs using Amapiano influences. These developments with Amapiano are helping to grow the music industry in South Africa, whose revenues in 2022 are estimated at 2 billion South African Rand ($117 million.)

Partnerships and collaboration for African music

The cultural impact of emerging African music genres such as Amapiano has room to achieve even greater economic impact. A recent report by Afreximbank (pdf) shows that music contributes only 0.1% of the GDP of the entire African continent. The Afreximbank report finds that while African musicians are enhancing their reputations on the global stage, they “still lack sufficient recognition and representation in the global market.”

While the contribution of music and other elements of the cultural economy to the GDP of most African countries is low, especially in comparison to other regions of the world, there are signs this could be starting to change.

There are potential opportunities for the music industry’s expansion in the region by leveraging new partnership models to secure support from the private sector and government. Collaborations with other sectors, including tourism, fashion, and sports, can yield further benefits for the cultural economy as a whole in Africa. This, in turn, could facilitate employment growth in the music sector, creating jobs for youth. While musicians and the private sector are driving much of this activity, governments in the region also have a critical role to play in growing the music industry across African countries.

Some recent examples of these types of collaborations led by governments come from Morocco and Zimbabwe. In Morocco, the city of Essaouira is renowned for its music festivals, architecture, history, and beaches. The promotion of Essaouira as a music and tourism destination is a result of partnerships between local and global agencies—led by the Moroccan government and the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), which designated Essaouira a Creative City for Music in 2019 and the Creative Tourism Network.

Earlier in 2022, Zimbabwe launched a five-year music strategy, which aims to ensure a sustainable music industry in the country as part of overall plans to enhance the visibility and standing of Zimbabwe’s cultural economy.

Equally important is the need for strategies to advocate, promote, and grow the African music industry. For instance, after a successful locally-led lobbying campaign, Congolese rumba was included on the Unesco heritage list in December 2021. In Zanzibar, for two decades the Sauti za Busara festival has been a platform for developing new artists and sustaining diverse music styles, with the event committed to spotlighting women and up-and-coming artists.

Well-planned regional events will also become important in driving cultural and economic impact. For instance, a collaborative contribution by Senegal, will host the eighth edition of Africa’s pre-eminent music awards ceremony, the All-Africa Music Awards (Afrima), in January 2023. This event includes collaboration between the private sector and government, with Senegalese President Macky Sall pledging greater support to the awards, citing Afrima’s role in engaging youth in the cultural economy and in promoting tourism.

Digitization in music

A diverse array of artists from across the region are now using digitization to reach new audiences and markets. Part of the success of genres such as Amapiano can be attributed to streaming and social media platforms. Digital technologies, including mobile and e-commerce platforms, offer another potential area for the music industry to contribute to further economic and cultural integration in the African region.

With mobile phone subscriptions at 46% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, and internet connectivity surpassing 50% in countries including Egypt (at 71%) and Ghana (at 53%), musicians have a key digital platform through mobile phones for the distribution of their music.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), one of the legacies of the covid-19 pandemic was the acceleration in the shift to e-commerce and digital platforms for cultural economy activities which includes music. Estimates are that revenue from digital music streaming in Africa will grow to $500 million annually by 2025, up from $100 million in 2017.

The way forward for Africa’s music

Diverse musical genres have historically served at the forefront of cultural and economic integration worldwide, and Africa is no exception. While platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and TikTok are popular for streaming music from African artists, questions arise about the economic dividends per stream captured by the artists.

Here lies an opportunity for musicians, artists, the private sector, and governments to drive economic growth from Africa’s music sector. Investing in Africa-led and locally-owned streaming platforms could potentially address some of the bottlenecks around earnings.

Additionally, innovative financing programs from agencies such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and governments could stimulate economic activity and fuel job creation within the music industry. And as a medium-term intervention, governments can collaborate through platforms such as the African Union to pledge funding and other interventions to increase the contribution of music to the region’s GDP.

Since that first drumbeat was sounded until the present day, diverse music genres from across the African continent have served to entertain and inspire globally. They have served as the marching rhythm for social change while gaining greater prominence at home and abroad. And with the right collaborations and investments, the impact of a growing and more dynamic music sector will reverberate across the African continent.

In the years ahead, these actions will strengthen the foundation for greater integration and prosperity and serve as a blueprint for other sectors of the cultural economy in Africa.

How classical music said thank you to the Queen in 2022

In classical music, as in all the arts, 2022 was supposed to be a new dawn, a joyous surging back to life after the dismalness of two lockdown years. In the event, it was – but only up to a point. 

Numerous events were curtailed or hampered because of illness, and the Proms lost two headline artists, Jonas Kaufmann and Freddie De Tommaso, to bouts of Covid. And the return of audiences to live events has been tentative. Only for the biggest names have venues been able to fill every seat, and most orchestras report audiences are still about 15 per cent down on pre-pandemic figures. 

Brexit continues to exert a huge drag, imposing maddening bureaucratic delays and costs on anyone who wants to travel to the EU to perform – and vice versa. The ­Russian invasion of Ukraine was another blow, as organisations rushed to disinvite Russian soloists, give back tainted Russian money, and cancel concerts with Russian music (though there was also an upside, in the rush to programme fine Ukrainian composers we’d never heard of).

These headwinds were expected. What was not expected, and came as a nasty shock, was the sharp dec­line in listeners to the BBC’s classical music station, Radio 3, which lost one in six of its listeners in the third quarter of 2022. Commercial stations Classic FM and Scala Radio were also sharply down, by 6.5 per cent and 9.5 per cent respectively. There was much anxious speculation that just as listeners were losing the habit of going to concerts, they were also losing the habit of turning on the radio, as well.

Underneath the temporary choppy seas of rising costs and falling revenues run deeper, less vis­ible currents of social and cultural change, to which musicians and organisations must adapt. Classic FM now offers playlists organised by “mood”. In a nod to younger listeners’ preference for spiritually “immersive” music, Radio 3, once the home of strenuous high-mindedness, has invited Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds to curate his own series, Ultimate Calm, which explores “how classical, contemporary and ambient music can soothe the soul”. The fact that some musicians still talk in terms of musical experience as a effortful “going on a journey”, whereas others now see it as a lucid, thoroughly wide-awake process of following the unfolding logic of a piece, shows that there are competing visions of what classical music is or should be.

What’s making us happy: A guide to your weekend listening, viewing and reading

This week: How to kick our holiday parties up a notch, when to put up your Christmas lights, and recipes for sweet treats.

Here’s what the NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Midwest Modern Twitter account

I spent the first 22 years of my life in the Midwest, in the Chicago area, and then in Michigan for college. So, I have a lot of pride in the region. Architecture is my first art love. And one thing that keeps both those appreciations alive is a Twitter account called Midwest Modern. It’s run by Josh Lipnik, @joshlipnik on Twitter. He mostly posts photos of buildings, but he will also post designs of things from all around the Midwest, both in big cities and small towns, of buildings from over the past century and even earlier. I think he has a really great eye, he sees value in just about everything. The account brings the beauty of the Midwest to the Internet. – Danny Hensel

Unclear and Present Danger

I recommend the podcast Unclear and Present Danger. It is hosted by Jamelle Bouie and John Ganz. The initial mission is to talk about ’90s, post-Cold War thrillers. However, they are expanding it in certain ways, including through their Patreon. I find it to be a really nice balance between fun, but also serious and analytical politics. It’s a really smart way to take popular culture and engage with its very specific moment. They also talk about The Firm and The Fugitive. They talk about a lot of films with political content that is a little different from straightforward post-Cold War films like The Hunt for Red October. – Linda Holmes

Recipes from my mom

I don’t know if it’s just because we’ve been talking about The Fabelmans which is in the context of my childhood or if it’s just the season. But I have been thinking about a couple of my mom’s holiday recipes. I am not a baker. I don’t really know how to do it, but I used to love when she would start making things. She would allow me to stick my hands into it and squish the dough together. They were just amazing. There were two things she always made. One of them was bourbon balls, and the other one was shortbread. The shortbread only had three ingredients. It had four cups of flour, a cup and a third of sugar and a pound of salted butter. Obviously good for you.

Mondello’s Mom’s Shortbread
4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 lb (four sticks) butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut butter into flour and sugar with knife. Crumble mixture with fingers, and pat mixture into Pyrex dish. Bake for 45 minutes (10 mins into baking, poke some holes with fork). Cut shortbread into squares immediately after removing from oven (DO NOT WAIT FOR COOLING) but leave in the Pyrex dish. Remove to platter only when completely cool.

… And then, of course, you pop them in your mouth and they’re so good. The shortbread is really simple. I’ve been finding recipes online that have everything from baking soda to vanilla to salt and all kinds of other things. This recipe has just three ingredients, which I thought was fantastic. – Bob Mondello

Gemini Rights

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I recently discovered Steve Lacy’s album, Gemini Rights and I have been listening to it for the last few weeks. It is for me, a no skips album. I love the song “Bad Habit.” It doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio right now, which I think is partially why it’s been so successful and, for me, such a revelation.

“Bad Habit” is a song about having a crush on someone and thinking that they weren’t into you, but then realizing maybe too late that they actually were. And questioning why you didn’t pursue it. The whole album is great. One of my other favorite songs is “Helmet,” which is kind of like Stevie Wonder meets Sly and the Family Stone in the best way possible. Steve Lacy was a guitarist and producer with The Internet and in his solo career he’s making some really interesting, fun, groovy music. – Aisha Harris

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Aisha Harris

Last week, our friends on the Book Desk launched their annual “Books We Love” guide – a cornucopia of recommendations for the year’s 400-plus(!) best reads. (Which includes our very own Linda Holmes!)

I rarely watch movie trailers, unless I’m already in a theater and forced to sit through previews, or it’s for a franchise where there’s little room for surprise or novelty to begin with. Which is why I’m fully on board with Vox critic Alissa Wilkinson’s argument against viewing trailers as a general rule, because most of them are really bad at conveying what a movie is actually about. Go in cold! You might like some films better if you did.

If you love Christmas music but can’t stand the new stuff or are a little over the old standbys, then check out the days-long Spotify playlist “FaLaLaLaLa Sentimental Christmas Shuffle-List.” It’s mostly songs of the easy listening/jazz variety circa the mid-20th Century, and features lesser played versions of familiar songs (Jackie Gleason – yes, from The Honeymooners – singing “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”) as well as novelty songs you’ve likely never even heard of (“When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter” by … Captain Kangaroo?).

NPR’s Pilar Galvan adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

15 Best K-Pop Girl Group Songs Of 2022

While I’m as much of a boy group stan as the next girl, it’s undeniable: 2022 was the year for girl groups. Even if you’re a casual K-pop listener you can tell this by your playlists — delivering bops year-round, both beloved veterans like TWICE  and rookies like LE SSERAFIM peaked in their success and creativity when releasing new songs for fans. Think viral choreographies, start-off-with-a-bang debuts and the comeback of beloved concepts when it comes to the best K-pop girl group songs of 2022.

And, as the end of the year nears and strings out speculations of which group will take the Song of the Year (SOTY) award home, the debate is more heated than ever on who will become the successor of notorious tracks like aespa’s “Next Level,” the winner of Korean Music Awards’ SOTY last year, and BTS’ quintessential chart-topper “Butter.” 

The stakes are high, but so is the possibility that a female group could take the prize home — even after boy groups made themselves comfortable in the spot. Boy groups have been the winners of Melon Music Award for Song of The Year for five consecutive years and have been honored with the MAMA Award for Song of the Year since 2019.

Having that in mind, here is a list of 15 contenders that ran 2022 and stood out among the K-pop tracks released this year.

“Attention” by NewJeans

Under the wing of HYBE — the same company that manages K-pop titans BTS — NewJeans entered the industry unannounced, and yet made a big noise with their debut song “Attention.” Part of their self-titled EP, the single tackles R&B and early 2000s groove and counts on minimal instrumentation to give the spotlight to the catchy vocals and verses. With a unique and playful aesthetic, the group was instantaneously popular and placed this single among this year’s most memorable K-pop moments.

“Tomboy” by (G)I-dle

Smash hit “TOMBOY” took the K-pop world by storm since it was released. Recorded for their first studio album I Never Die, the iconic “yeah, I’m a tomboy” fits into a fierce instrumental and electric guitar full of personality. There’s no need to say that the single was catchy — it stayed not only in my mind, but also at the top of the charts, debuting at No. 2 on Gaon’s digital charts.

“Nxde” by (G)I-dle

(G)I-dle completely upped their game in 2022, and that’s why they deserve two songs in the list. There, I said it. 

“Nxde,” unlike “Tomboy,” has its charms based on the single’s bold message and string instrumentals as it was dropped near the end of this year. The cabaret-inspired concept draws on different musical textures to  announce the edgy verses like “now I draw a luxury nude” and the Marilyn Monroe and Bansky-inspired visuals. 


Considered “rookie of the year” by some, Starship Entertainment’s IVE is an undeniable fourth generation success. 

Ever since their debut with “Eleven,” the group has been conquering ears all over the world due to their energetic sound and charismatic performances. And with “Love Dive” — a strong contender for this year’s SOTY — the sextet expands on their atmospheric songs and delivers a true, well, dive into their talents. With different tempos and siren-like vocals, verses like Wonyoung’s “narcissistic, my god I love it” stick around even after the song is gone. 

“Shut Down” by BLACKPINK

While BLACKPINK’s long-awaited comeback brought hits like “Pink Venom” and the Born Pink album to match, “Shut Down” reestablished the group’s place as one of K-pop’s greatest after almost two years of hiatus. 

The powerful single brings groove and the slick announcement of a, well, shut down while highlighting BLACKPINK’s strongest traits: charged musical production and the sweet blend between traditional South Korean instruments and hip-hop influences.

“Feel My Rhythm” by Red Velvet

Leave it to Red Velvet to deliver a stunning performance of both energetic raps and delicate melodies. “Feel My Rhythm,” released as part of the mini-album The ReVe Festival 2022 — Feel My Rhythm, references their more carnaval-esque side, as it’s an energetic synth-pop song. 

Similar to their 2019 hit “Psycho,” the production is atmospheric and matched with a creative concept and dream-like visuals.


After successes like “ASAP,” “SO BAD,” and “STEREOTYPE,” STAYC has proven that they don’t miss. “RUN2U” is no different: With a heavy synth chorus, this song reaffirms their recognizable pop sound and tells a story of good girls gone bad.

“Talk That Talk” by TWICE

Powerhouse TWICE couldn’t be left out of this year’s list, just like they haven’t been out of the charts for the past seven years. 

With hits in their discography like “FANCY,” “TT,” and “The Feels” (among countless others), the nine-member group released “Talk That Talk” this August. It’s described as a retro pop song that aims to throw it back to the early 2000s. With a Y2K-inspired MV, the track follows TWICE’s tendency to coin addictive lyrics and brings their star power as strong as ever.


What you looking at indeed. This year, rookie girl group LE SSERAFIM gave netizens much to talk about, sweeping the charts with the single “FEARLESS,” which dropped in the first half of 2022.

Following HYBE’s brand of elaborate productions, the lead single is a funky dance pop track and was part of their highly-anticipated debut. Like their name — which is an anagram for “I’m Fearless,” by the way — this song hints at their strength and their message of (and I quote), “I don’t give a sh*t.”

“Hype Boy” by NewJeans

Yup, another one. 

Part of the same EP as “Attention,” NewJeans’ “Hype Boy” has also been met with praise from fans. Reimagining the 2000s sound, this single stays true to the group’s trademark of intoxicating melodies and a minimalistic yet atmospheric soundscape.

“Up!” by Kep1er

Recorded for Kep1er’s first comeback, “Up!” brings out a more sonically mature and laid-back side to the rookies we saw performing “WA DA DA” earlier this year. Combining punk and house music, the title song is energetic, groovy, and deliciously summery. Just as the verse goes, this track will cast a spell on you and ask you to follow them up, up, up. The volume’s going up, alright.

“Generation” by tripleS

Even though it’s part of a pre-debut project, tripleS’ single “Generation” is woven with nostalgia. From its addictive la la las to the groovy guitar and cheery trumpets, the track is reminiscent of the 2016 to 2018 K-pop scene — at least to older listeners like me — and is part of the mini-album Acid Angel from Asia, sung by a subunit of the 24-member group. 

Set to debut in 2023, the group is under the label MODHAUS and has been revealing its members for the past year, with two subunits announced so far.

“Step Back” by GOT the beat

Brought together as a part of the supergroup Got the Beat, familiar (and, well, insanely popular) voices like BoA, Taeyeon, Seulgi, Karina and more sing one of 2022’s most remarkable tracks: “Step Back.”

An experimentation with R&B and hip-hop, the single is built on instrumental variations and, as expected, unique vocals. Although it was met with mixed reviews from critics due to its controversial and stereotypical lyrics, the union of these iconic women in a subunit sure made an impact.

“Ring ma Bell (what a wonderful world)” by Billlie

With “GingaMingaYo (the strange world),” girl group Billlie sure was no stranger to K-pop listeners this year. But despite entering the Gaon chart in the first half of the year, the lead single was not the only time the rookie artists would sneak their way into playlists in 2022. Take “Ring ma Bell (what a wonderful world),” for example.

Even though it’s not their most popular release, this daring song relies on rock n’ roll to present a new side to the fourth generation group, one much bolder and angstier. It also shows how Billlie is still in the process of creating themselves.


One thing is for sure: NMIXX worked hard this year. Since their debut in February, the JYP girl group entered the charts with first single “O.O” and hit the mark with their later release “DICE,” known for its challenging choreography and unique jazz backdrop. Don’t let it fool you, though: Incorporating hip hop and trap into the classical instrument mix, the track is bold, and more musically complex than their energetic debut.

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12 of the Best Podcasts About Pop Music for SEO

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There’s this sexist notion that women are incapable of being true music fans, when in reality, it is often the fangirls who are powering the music industry and forecasting the future of sound. Name 3 Songs sprang from the idea that a woman might be asked the insulting question, “you like music? Name three songs.” On their show, co-hosts Sara Feigin and Jenna Million discuss feminist issues in music and pop culture, taking a critical lens to the music industry, artists’ careers, the media’s contribution to controversy and sexism, and industry’s role in creating and upholding sexist archetypes. It’s a celebration of pop and the women who love it. Filled with interviews and smart commentary about why gay men stan divas to reject the patriarchy, why we love to hate on girl groups, the cultural impact of celebrity abuse cases, and so much more, Sara and Jenna will give you a greater appreciation for the cultural value of pop.

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Weyes Blood is the voice of her generation, Nickelback sound heinous – the week’s albums

Weyes Blood, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow ★★★★★

Natalie Mering, who goes by the name Weyes Blood, laments that “we have all become strangers, even to ourselves” on the opening track of her beautiful new album, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow – a woozy daydream from a hauntingly romantic balladeer whose music offers comfort to the loneliest souls.

At 34, with songs about solitude, the natural world, the power and fragility of women and how technology has shaped modern romance, Mering become a critical darling with a cult following. Sitting somewhere between Joan Baez’s 70s social justice-fuelled folk and Olivia Newton-John’s hyper-feminine 80s pop, Mering’s exquisite, timeless voice and hymnal harmonies hold a nostalgic appeal that unites the Spotify generation and their parents alike. She describes herself as a “nostalgic futurist”.

Mering grew up within a staunchly Pentecostal Christian family in Santa Monica and began making music as a teen – adopting the moniker Wise Blood in reference to Flannery O’Connor’s 1952 collection of stories. She may not have observed the strict morality of her God-fearing parents, both musicians, but her voice and compositions pay homage to the songs she heard in childhood: gospel and hymnal paeans.

Since then, Mering’s compositions have leaned into glorious baroque madrigals, tenderly layering melodies and harmonies as if she were adorning a human body with pearls, coats and scarves.

In the Darkness, Heart Aglow is Mering’s fifth album, and the second in a trilogy dedicated to the fallout from climate change (beginning with 2019 album Titanic Rising). Her lyrics pine for the natural world, with Mering believing that our collective destruction of forests, land and sources of water have fostered division and alienation. Titanic Rising was met with rave reviews, but this record – which spans steely indie-rock and strummed country ballads – might just be her magnum opus.

On the epic, multi-layered harmonies of Children of the Empire, she reimagines a Beach Boys/Shangri Las doo-wop fantasy that is gorgeous when it could have so easily become overwrought. The luscious orchestral compositions (tuba, sax, organ, multiple violins and cellos), riddled with brief interludes of manic keyboards, stormy strings and thundering piano chords, build empires and shatter them within minutes.

Titanic Rising addressed the transient beauty of nature, doomed to human sabotage. It troubles her still, and there is an existential fear and surrender within her lyrics, clear on the ambient beauty of God Turn Me Into a Flower, which puts Mering’s angelic voice under the spotlight.

The song examines how our desire to appear as the flawless creature we curate on social media fights a higher power. What if, in our imperfect present, we are exactly as God intended us? “You see the reflection/ And you want it more than the truth/ You yearn to be that dream you could never get to,” Mering sings. “Cause the person on the other side has always just been you/ Oh, God, turn me into a flower”. Like our planet, this album is a rare thing of wonder. Cat Woods

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Band Moving Boxes brings mathy midwest pop-punk whatevercore to local music scene | Culture

Moving Boxes, a new Raleigh/Charlotte-based math rock band, are establishing themselves as a band dedicated to the surrounding communities with a unique sound that stems from the creative involvement from all members.

The band was conceived when JT Sutek, a first-year studying industrial design, wrote a few songs in January that did not fit the style of his Charlotte-based metalcore band, Forever We Roam, which he plays the guitar for.

The band started as a duo after Sutek contacted Sophie Biancofiore, a student at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, who Sutek met as staff at a music school. The two recorded the songs Sutek had written previously, titled “Dakota” and “I Don’t Want to Fall in Love.” Here, Biancofiore was established as the lead vocalist and lyricist for the band.

After playing a few live shows, Biancofiore began to take up the bass guitar and the duo decided they could use a drummer. Sutek reached out to Noah Santos from Davidson, North Carolina, who Sutek had previously played in a band with, to play drums for their live shows. After playing a few shows, Sutek and Biancofiore offered Santos full membership in the band.

Being a band less than a year old, Moving Boxes has already released two singles, a six-song EP and is currently in the process of writing and recording a self-titled album. 

Despite Sutek residing over a hundred miles away from the rest of the band, the band credits its longevity to their deep friendships and the development of a system that keeps the band active and constantly writing new music. The band has scheduled calls every week and organized an advanced Google Drive system to keep track of their ideas.

Biancofiore said the band’s motivation to keep writing music stems from the creative involvement of each member of the band.

“I think just coming off the bat when we started playing shows, we already had like eight or nine [songs] that we either wrote together or separately,” Biancofiore said. “Just having three different people putting in that creative process, everything really helped move along swiftly.”

Moving Boxes describe their sound as “mathy midwest pop-punky whatevercore,” on their Instagram page.

Sutek said the contrast between the instrumental and lyrical elements of Moving Boxes create a satisfyingly relatable appeal to their listeners.

“I think it’s a combination of really fun music that people can dance to with really sad lyrics that they can relate to,” Sutek said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m dancing, but I think I’m also crying and I don’t know why, but this is fun and helps me not be sad.’”

Santos said the band’s unique sound stems from the nature of how involved each member is in the creative process, highlighting the individual styles of each member.

“I think we have a kind of an interesting sound because I have a background in grunge music, like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, that kind of ‘90s rock, and JT has always been really into metal, and then Sophie is like the main character of an indie film,” Santos said. “So we all come together and we’re all making music that isn’t our initial background in music.”

Sutek said the group named themselves after band With Confidence’s song “Moving Boxes” as the idea of moving boxes is intriguing because they present questions as to where one is moving from or what could be in the boxes. The band’s name took on a deeper meaning as the title of its self-titled song, which Sutek came up with when he found a box of mementos from an older relationship while packing to leave for NC State.

“It just brought up a lot of emotions and was like, ‘I need to write a song about this or else I think I might just cry,’” Sutek said. “The lyric just popped in my head like ‘packed three years of our life in moving boxes,’ and it felt so just fitting for how the band came about. What we wanted to be the instrumental to the song is very much the direction we’re going and what we want to be as a band. So it felt right to make that the self-titled song, everything just kind of fell into place for that.”

The band said the biggest venue it’s played at so far was Packapalooza, which Sutek said he signed his two bands up for during orientation, not expecting Moving Boxes to be invited to play for the event. 

Biancofiore said she was surprised by the number of people who stopped to watch the band and purchase merchandise during their Packapalooza performance.

“We totally sold out of everything that we brought and a lot of the people that were there watching us, they were just random people they didn’t know us,” Biancofiore said. “It was really just gratifying and kind of humbling.”

Looking to the future, Moving Boxes plans to release their self-titled album in the coming months and perform for a few venues in Raleigh and Charlotte.

Moving Boxes will perform in Charlotte at the Spoke Easy on Dec. 3 in Raleigh alongside Blankstate and I and the Lad, at Pour House on Dec. 20, and at Local 506 with Blankstate and The Sour on Jan. 27. More information about future shows can be found on the band’s Instagram.

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Arseny Avraamov: The forgotten Soviet genius of modern music

“We can say that with Symphony of Sirens, Avraamov pioneered the idea of using non-traditional instruments for both composition and performance,” adds Khismatov. In later works, Avraamov would go on to incorporate tools such as saws, grinding wheels, axes and sledgehammers into his music.

Instead of a traditional score, he used written instructions and musical notation so simplified that anyone could understand it. “Symphony of Sirens exemplifies a mode of music making in which virtuosity, notation or traditional methods of musical arrangement are dispensed with in favour of a more conceptual approach,” says Stubbs. “It’s about how you sequence and juxtapose elements. That’s as true for the most recent EP by [British electronic musician] Burial as it is for Avraamov.”

Symphony of Sirens was attempted just once more, a year later in Moscow, though at a much-reduced scale. Undeterred, Avraamov began plotting his next project: installing powerful electroacoustic devices on Zeppelins and flying them above Moscow. Not content with conducting a city, Avraamov now had the skies in his sights.

There were two problems though. Firstly, Avraamov was broke. Secondly, the revolutionary atmosphere in Russia that had fostered a radical, artistic avant-garde was coming to an end. “Symphony [of Sirens] represents what a lot of early electronic music represents – a utopianism, a lost future,” says Stubbs. “It was commissioned at a time when it was still optimistically held that the grand, revolutionary egalitarian prospect of the Soviet Union could operate hand-in-hand with the artistic avant-garde. Sadly, that was quashed in time under Stalin.”

The Zeppelin project never left the drawing board, and Avraamov died in poverty and obscurity. Interest in his work only re-emerged in the 1990s, and the first reconstruction of Symphony of Sirens, based on Avraamov’s notes and using samples, took place in 2008. The following year, Khismatov debuted his own reconstruction (under his preferred translation, Symphony of Industrial Horns) at a fort in St Petersburg. It later appeared at Documenta 14 and has gone on to influence a new generation of electronic, avant-garde and politically motivated composers. In 2017, Avraamov made an appearance in the BBC documentary Tunes for Tyrants, with presenter Suzy Klein heralding the Russian as one of the forgotten geniuses of music, and even performing her own tribute to Symphony of Sirens as she stood on a Moscow rooftop and waved two red flags from side to side. Long after his death, Avraamov is finally getting his due.

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