H1-KEY 2nd Mini Album [Seoul Dreaming]

H1-KEY 2nd Mini Album [Seoul Dreaming]

Rookie K-pop group H1-KEY became one of 2023’s early K-pop surprise success stories when their debut album Rose Blossom steadily climbed the charts in Korea, bolstered by the viral popularity of its title track. The organic rise was especially noteworthy because it is rare for a group from a smaller label to survive, let alone find sustained success on the charts in such an oversaturated, highly competitive industry. It led to two of the group's members, Riina and Hwiseo, appearing on the globally popular K-pop competition show Queendom Puzzle, further boosting H1-KEY's profile. Title track “SEOUL (Such a Beautiful City)” is a retro-synth tribute to the tireless energy of Seoul. The bop characterizes the metropolis as a feeling as much as a destination (“Yeah, that’s what I wanna be/Yeah, it’s where I wanna be”), and while the lyrics often hint at a darker side to the Korean capital’s hustle (“Seoul that never sleeps/It keeps stealing dreams”), the vibes of the song stay aspirational. “Time to Shine” doubles down on the dissonance of perseverance in a sometimes cruel reality, albeit with a breezier swingbeat sound: “In a world where magic doesn’t exist, try casting a spell on me who’s about to fade/Saying let’s be confident, let’s not be discouraged, and that I can do this.” It’s a similar sentiment to the one expressed in the bleak yet hopeful “Rose Blossom.” Presumably, listeners will find Seoi, Riina, Hwiseo, and Yel’s offer of comfort in a harsh, noisy world just as resonant here.

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