Friday, May 10, 2013

The Best of the Best of Korean Music in 2012 (according to MY standard)

So I made a draft for this post way back in January on MS Word because of writer's block and in some sort of a weird twist of fate, found it when I am hit by writer's block (again). Sure, it's already May 2013, and in K-pop, stuffs from 2012 is already irrelevant (sorta), but hey, we can never have enough of list in our lives (at least, mine is), and maybe this can be some reminiscent sorta post? Haha! Though it's more like I feel that it's a waste to throw it away orz

So why an award (kinda) list? That’s because;
  1. I can cross-post this to that other blog because I'm lazy like that. 
  2. Korean award always irks the hell out of me because of the no attendance no award policy (what?)
  3. Most online award are filled with fan votes and it pissed me off when the better candidate losing out just because the fandom is smaller OTL
So way to fix this? Make my own! Like a boss.

Bear in mind I’m no music personnel (and I seriously can’t tell one weird tone to another) so this list is purely created from how much of the song/artist I’m enjoying for the past year. You don’t have to agree with me on anything from this, but it sure is good if I can share and introduce some songs you may never know before. So yeah.

Now, on to the list!


John Park

I admit I never heard of the guy before Falling came out and remember gushed over his voice like whoaaa, which is really something; as it reminds me of the likes of Lee Hyun (8eight) or V.O.S/December; the kind of deep and smooth voice. In K-Pop where vocals are usually the secondary stuff (unfortunately) John Park stands out from the rest. It also helps the MV is so. awesome. it remains in my Top 5 of the best I saw all year. But best debut? Yes, Knock is one solid, if not gorgeous debut album, (I love almost all the songs and I'm not even that big on jazzy stuff, mind you) and when his name immediately pops up in my head for the award despite it happen on February amidst the ginormous amount of debuts? That's a winner.



I can go the easy way out and choose Ailee because that's just what one do when there's a female diva in the making (case in point: Heaven and that awesome Halo cover) but my definition for best debut is when I can like the debut album of the said rookie and effectively earns mad respect from the jaded me. And among the many (like, many) debuts, Spica is a gem I so luckily found. Sure, Painkiller is not technically the song they debut with, but Painkiller (the re-packaged album) is just so. so. awesome. I cannot choose my favorite song like I wouldn't believe they are rookies if I don't check their wiki page. They have great vocals, the songs are awesome, and this came out on March yet still pawns the rest of female debuts like a boss they are. What more do you want, Korea? D:


B.A.P - Warrior

B.A.P (which apparently stands for Best. Absolute. Perfect, yup) debuts on January with Warrior and pawns every other group that debuts around the similar time like a warrior they are (sorry can't resist putting that out lol). The song is loud, full of swag, have a hell of a rap segment (I never believe Zelo is 15, like, that's the closest to Outsider level of speed rapping I ever see in K-pop, and Outsider is untouchable), and basically just a big badass of a song. Pair that with the strong and brilliant choreography and I was convinced that B.A.P will be the debut of the year (until John Park happen). Their releases after that never grab me like Warrior ever did, somehow (and this is a group that pull a Infinite the year before with their crazy promoting and constant releases), but till the end of 2012 I keep looking out if there's other song (or group for that matter) that can brew up such a storm because hello there, competition! (clue: it never happen).



Well, duh. No, I mean, really, now. Do I have to elaborate this? No? Yes? Because no other thing can steal the spotlight Psy got from Gangnam Style, and certainly, nothing can discredit him from this award. Love him or hate him, you can't deny it; dude is literally being oversea most of the year really. And before people argue about all those concerts or tour or whatever, just putting this out; screw overseas, Psy technically put his stamp on the whole freaking planet with one song and one video! So yeah. Though following that logic maybe I should rename this to Best Worldwide Activity or something...



I swear no comeback in 2012 boggles my brain like Boyfriend's did. For starters, I love the song; which is so. good. and actually suits them, which leads to the mind-blown because Boyfriend have always (as far as I'm concern anyway) puts out/promote songs that I don't like because the cuteness makes me cringe (sans You & I, which remains the only reason they are not relegated to irrelevant in my mind; prior to this, anyway). And the concept, damn. Their stylist deserves a raise because I'm yet to find an outfit I don't like during the live performances. Though what cements it is their re-packaged album, (which I download out of the whim after listening to I Yah) because I don't remember when was I this impressed with a full album after U-Kiss' Neverland (and that's one awesome album). Hell, I was so surprised that I actually like half (or more) of the songs from the album! As I can never tell who's who in this group aside from the fact that there's a twin, if they pull another release like this I might pay more attention to them, so congratulations, guys, you impress me with your music! Now don't go back to cutesy songs! OTL  


U-Kiss – Stop Girl

So way back on September I wrote these on my Facebook page:

Being at home and watching Inkigayo this afternoon makes me cringe at the amount of groups there are (who are these people? Where do they come out from? How much is the population of South Korea even?! O_o??), the songs which are so similar everything just seem to blend together (like, it doesn't matter if it's a boy group or girl group, NONE of them leave any impression to me), and how I was so out of touch with the whole thing (the last release I even bother listening was Super Junior's, and I refuse to label Phantom as such, so yeah, brick me). I was almost convinced that my days as fans are numbered by now but noooo U-Kiss just have to comeback with a damn AWESOME song. Like, this might be one of the best release from them so far and one that may be a highlight for me this year.

Really, where do I start? I was already a goner when the music start and the R&B sound actually suits them so much and wouldn't be out of place in their Neverland album (which is one awesome album) and the simplistic melody works to their advantage as everyone can show off their vocals clearly (yes, even Kiseop :'D) and the English lyric actually works and sound so damn well, even when comes from members that are not that proficient in the language (read: Soohyun). The high note and ad-lib nearing the end is glorious like damn and when all music gone and just them finishing the last line ala acapella? Like whoaaaa~ Seriously, me and my dongsaeng was spazzing like YOU HAVE NO IDEA from the minute Hoon kicks off the song till the last note. It is THAT good. (And it actually took a whole lot of me calming the heck down and listening to it on repeat till now to come up with this -somewhat- sensible post. Believe me you don't know how hard that was.

The black and white MV along with the chess motif makes the whole picture look classy (or maybe I'm just bias like that) and I can't remember for the life of me when was the last time they have girls in their MV but the inclusion of them makes it a whole more interesting. The choreography is smooth and in-sync with the sound and while it's kinda limited in the MV, watching the performance of it makes me appreciate it a whole lot more. Frankly speaking, in the flood of autotune and synth in K-Pop songs today, it's songs like this (which have none of it) that come out as a fresh breathe in the air.

When I write this eight months later, May 2013, I'm still racking my brain if there's any song that evoke a similar reaction of fangirling like this last year. (There's none.)


Block B with pirate concept for Nilili Mambo

If I really have to pick an honorouble mention for best comeback song and even best comeback in general, Nilili Mambo and Block B will be it. The group returns to music scene after scandal-filled first half of the year with a full album Blockbuster (which I'm yet to listen in full) but the title track Nilili Mambo is glorious. It's huge, loud, catchy as hell, with brass band ensemble and generally the funkier yet still badass step brother to B.A.P's Warrior. And what other way to pair the song with a pirate concept? The music video is fun, filled with (fail) moments, and the most important part is it's unique and suits with their (generally) bad-boy persona. In K-pop scene where concepts are generally the been-there-done-that ones, recycled, or downright stupid ridiculous in some if not non-existent, a fresh one like this stands out. And when they damn works it to the T, I swear no other concept comes close to this for 2012.


Kim Sunggyu (Infinite)

2012 starts the trend of solo venture from an idol; usually the vocals or sub-units (though Super Junior has done this for years now) and no solo debut that is as successful (to me) than Infinite's leader and vocal (I swear I can never differentiate main vocal and lead vocal; aren't they one and the same? O_o??). Another Me is a glorious effort; as it's fundamentally different than Infinite's songs, thus showing what kind of artists Sunggyu aspires and shaping up to be outside of the group. Sure, I may or may not anticipate it like mad because Nell is involved with making the album, but I've loved his solo song Because from their first album for the rock-ish sound (and I love it before I found out it was which was written by Nell's Junghoon) so I know the combination of the band and Sunggyu will be brilliant; for his voice actually goes really well with this kind of music. The intro Another Me is in my list of intro-that-should-be-a-full-song-damn-it, the title track 60 Seconds fast become my jam it's crazy (and I put the band version instead of the original MV because that's how I roll), Shine (written by Jong-wan) gives me so much feels and 41 Days is the next Because and hands down my favorite song in the mini. Hell, I even prefer his acoustic version than Infinite's for Only Tears (and I'm still looking for the mp3 of the Japanese version he did on the Arena Tour concert because he sounds extremely good and I'm bias like that) and I Need You actually grown on me and did I mention it's a ballad? Seriously, it's like Woollim just hit a jackpot and I for one is interested to see the direction they will take after this.


Super Junior – Spy

I might be the lonely one that likes this, and definitely minority when there are the likes of SHINee and Infinite on 2012, but what matters the most and the point in a choreography that I look out for is the flow, as in how smooth is the transition and how coordinate they are when a member switch places with others (a reason why I love watching U-Kiss's performances). And damn if Super Junior utilize that like a boss for Spy. The thing about choreography (I'm no expert so this is from my observation) is they have to coordinate so that when a member is singing, the person will be in the center, or in front. The common way of doing this (and prominent when they have backup dancers on stage) is make the member sing their part and dance with the backups (or a couple of the members) while the others walk to the back and go back to position (TVXQ does this a lot when they were 5 and more so now with 2 members, at least Purple Line and Superstar came to mind when I was typing this).

Now, back to Super Junior, they don't need backup dancers (they are lots of them on the stage already anyways) and instead of doing the usual route where the singer is at the center, Spy scatters them everywhere and makes them move about along with the song (which I bet is a hell for cameraman on music shows; I hardly find one performance that does the whole choreography justice) but a sight to behold in the dance version of the MV. The choreography is on point, it suits the whole, well, spy concept, and it's a pleasure to see the flow works so well, like, one part Kangin is at the left, then he's switching about to the right, but everything is so smooth and shows their effort. Also, they hardly recycle the moves, and there's variety; one time they are 3-3-3, one time in a circle, and so on. Plus for the opening where Kyuhyun jumps over a member and starts the song as if he's out from a door (or between Donghae and Eunhyuk) which is just brilliant in my book. Though in the end the best thing about this is it's fun (of course the song adds to that with the lulzy) but when I can never get enough of watching how seamless they move, that's a proof of engaging, and brilliant choreography to me.

Honorouble Mention: U-Kiss - Intro + Stop Girl [for the amazingly smooth transition between songs]


Infinite – The Chaser

The difference between this and above is while I love Spy choreography, the complexity (if I can call it that) makes for bad camera work, and that takes the joy for watching the performance. While Stop Girl was thisclose to snatch this, I love it more when they perform with the intro, which was, unfortunately, only during comeback stages. So the best choice is the third place in my choreography list, and it's a damnclose battle between Infinite and TVXQ. Now, they don't call TVXQ the king of live performances for nothing; I'm yet to watch a single performance of Catch Me and Humanoids (even I Don't Know with the glorious hand pointing choreography during comeback stages) and not think of them worthy of the throne, but then there are some instances where their outfit is questionable enough to make me cringe while watching them dance so manly on stage (pink, guys? Seriously, what's your stylists doing?).

On the other hand Infinite is consistent with black/dark outfits and it brings out the performance and make it easier to relate to by the audience (me). The choreography is good (I know a friend who become an Inspirit thanks to the performances), the song is one of the best releases on 2012 (can't say the same on the mini, but I digress), and Infinite never disappoints when it come to performance, so for their consistency on stage I'll award them the Best Dance Performance. (Before people ask about SHINee, Sherlock don't really grab me somehow, so that basically rules them out of the contender list. I mean, I must like the song first to fully appreciate the performance, so yeah.)  

Honorable Mention: TVXQ – Catch Me [for the best use of back-up dancers in a performance]



Ok, here’s the thing. I love Junsu; like, he’s my biggest bias ever in K-Pop fandom. And I was spazzing like a madman when his first solo album came out. But Tarantallegra did nothing much to me and his ballad also kinda blend together like all those OSTs for drama (sure, one even become an OST for a drama) so yeah. On the other hand K.Will has totally brought his A-game to the table and mad respect to the guy for making a ballad interesting (I mean, ballad), with a fuse of R&B and hip hop sprinkled in. Please Don't and Butterfly are among my absolute jam for December 2012, and you know it's good when I can jam to a freaking ballad, so yeah. For giving me faith in Korea's balladeer once again, K.Will is my Best Male Artist of 2012.



I'm cheating here I know, because I choose Lyn just because of one song, but I'd be damned if I don't because I don't listen to much female singers last year this is one. awesome. song. And it's ballad. Like, seriously, ballads bore me. Especially OST ballads because they tend to be all melancholy and sad and whatnot and being, well, ballad-y. Hell, not even Junsu-sama escapes the ballads-bore-the-hell-out-of-my-skull curse. Because of that, when a ballad is good, it stands out so much and definitely leave a mark for me. Back to the song, Back In Time is special in that it is grand in the historical Korea kind of way with the instrumental. Sure, still sad (duh) but that's where Lyn come in; as her voice lifts the song and definitely injects the right amount of emotion needed to convey the song to the audience. And for an OST song, it makes me want to watch the drama, and that, definitely fulfills its purpose as a, well, OST song (duhhh). And it won't happen if not because of Lyn. And for that matter, and giving me a ballad to hail for the year, I hail Lyn as 2012's Best Female Artist.


Nell – The Day Before

When I first saw this, I gushed like mad over the song, the MV, the voice, the melody; everything really. I spammed people with the link to this on Facebook and even after a year, still, this only warrants one comment; gorgeous. This is the one responsible for my (almost) obsession with Nell (believe me this will not be the first and the last time you'll see them in this list) as it leads me to download their 5th album and yeah, the rest is history. But this is the award for the music video, and the MV is, like a friend said, one of the best music videos she's (and I've) seen in awhile and basically unbeatable till the end of the year. The editing/cinematography, the plot, (which sparks gazillion of theory on the net; of course, I have my own theory on what happened) and the two actors (Lee Min-ki and Song Jae-rim) convey the emotion brilliantly, that the end result comes down to one thing; it's heartbreaking as hell. For me and my very limited Korean ability, this music video is powerful enough to make me sad even when I don't understand the lyrics. And that is a sign of a good, if not brilliant MV; to convey meaning and effectively connect with the audience.

Honorouble Mention: Naul - Memory of the Wind, John Park - Falling, Yang Yoseob - Caffeine, and special mention: Orange Caramel - Lipstick [for the most lulzy music video of the year I swear]


Im Taekyung – Who Is Crying [from Immortal Song 2 Ep. 76 - Bae Ho Special]

I first heard of Im Taekyung as one of the guy that alternates with Junsu in Mozart musical, but even then it was just a name. It isn’t until I took the liberty to download the whole episodes of Immortal Song 2 (yes, from Ep. 1) that I was blown away by the power of his voice; being a crossover tenor and musical actor. His rendition of the songs in the show can be a hit or miss with me but when it does hit, damn. From the start with the heavy beat of piano to bringing the melancholic feel of the sound with each note to hitting those entire notes flawlessly as the sound escalates, and the ending, damn, the ending. When all music is gone and all’s left is him and his voice, I totally thought he will go with highest note at the final ‘jeok-shi-ne’ part, turns out he drags the ‘ne’ with so much restraint, like a whimper, along with the piano beat like the beginning, bringing everything to full circle and make me wait with bated breath at the last of the sound. Damn, totally brilliant. I can’t for the life of me think of any performance that manage to top this from the whole of 2012 thus the honor for the Best Live Performance goes to Im Taekyung-nim. (Yes, it's a -nim. He deserves it I swear.) Now can anybody actually help me with the English translation for this song's lyric? OTL

OT: This actually shows that simplicity is the best; the guy simply stands and sings throughout the whole thing like a boss, yet still manage to move people and give a memorable performance. Perhaps I’m jaded enough that no amount of crazy dancing and synchronization (not to mention I always end up wondering if the performance was indeed live or lip-sync, ha!) left much impression to me by the end of the music shows. Though relieving all these make me want to woe myself for missing this particular episode of IS2 on TV and have to settle with the downloaded version. Sure, still nice, but still; imagine this with the glorious HD. Ugh. D:


Nell – The Ending

Again, technically speaking, no other song (and I mean, NO. OTHER) that comes as close to Psy’s Gangnam Style on 2012. I heard it played on the park by the youth club in Labuan, blasted through the speakers of a Chinese family’s car strolling nearby the beach in Miri, in the rows of shops at the centre of Dungun town, played by the radio in the car and the video on MTV; it was freaking everywhere! And that was just in Malaysia, uh. Despite that though, I have to admit I’m in the minority that don’t obsess or going crazy over it (gasp!). Sure, it’s catchy and all but I prefer his previous single Right Now to this, which was out on 2010/2011? Or maybe because I keep staring at the blonde dancer in the video; damn if that guy doesn’t stand out among the rest. :P

Enough about that though, if I were to pick a song that caught me more than Gangnam Style, and possible contender, it’ll be Big Bang’s Fantastic Baby. Because really, now; nothing beats that awesome ‘Wow, fantastic baby’ to me. Plus for Daesung got to show off his high note! No offense against Taeyang; the part where both of them go against each other (?) as the music escalates to the climax and of course, leads to ‘wow, fantastic baby’ part was among the standout of the song to me BUT even that doesn’t enough to snatch the song of the year award. Why?

Because at the end of it all, I just need to go back to that humongous playlist of mine to see that Nell’s The Ending charting at No. 2 with 237 play count -by the time of writing this, and still counting!- since April (1st is Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain with 349 play count –got an insane history behind that which shall not be spoken here). The Day Before might be the first song that I heard from the band (via the MV) but The Ending is the one that truly sets the stone for me, as I credits its awesome to be the reason I give the rest of the songs in the album a chance listen in the first place, and damn was it worth it. I really love the basic sound of it, the first guitar (I think?) that opens the song is set as my SMS ringtone since forever (to the chagrin of the youngest sister; she found it scary –something I can never fully comprehend till now LOL) and the sound of various instruments as they blends together and escalates are just, GUH. And when the music really took off at 5.05 mark? Damn that’s like my most favorite instrumental in a song ever as all the sounds come together to accompany Jong-wan’s final; almost resign narration of the lyric that keeps repeating along the song. And the lyric, you ask?

Do not try to hold onto me with those empty words
At impish expectations, all I get are guiltless resentments
-credit translation to Eduipe @ musictology

Damn, totally prompt material. No song gave me so much of them feels like The Ending and the irony of a song titled ‘The Ending’ as the first song in their Slip Away album is not lost on me. It’s the best 6.37 minute of pure awesomness I can ask in music and for inspiring so much in me (I really need to get that story draft going OTL,) Nell’s The Ending is my 2012’s Song of the Year.


Nell – Slip Away

Yes, I made a playlist for the whole album and yes, this is one and only playlist of its kind I ever made. I mean, where should I begin? After being mind-blown by The Day Before and introduced to the awesome that is Nell, I downloaded the 5th album and have it on repeat ever since because it is damn AWESOME. I remember gushing so hard with predictions that hands down Slip Away is one of the best album this year. And guess what, it remains the best album to me. From the brilliant opener The Ending, the ironical Go, In Days Gone By with the lighter tone, the gorgeous The Day Before, Standing In The Rain which contains one of the best lyrical composition of the year, simplistic melody in Losing Control, perfect English by Kim Jong-wan the vocalist in Beautiful Stranger, the marching and most rock-ish song in the album Cliff Parade, the harmony of string and guitar in Hopeless Valentine, and the beautiful, beautiful closer Slip Away which aptly lends to the title of this beast of an album. 
Just to throw this out there, I'm a picky listener, so much that if I can like (and repeat) 4 songs or more, then I deem it as awesome; 3 songs puts the album in good category, 2 being okay and 1 being, well, why am I keeping this? Sure, this scale (?) differs with the number of songs available, but you know it's a big deal for me when I love ALL the songs. Like, wow. Of course, I go on to hunt down their discography and the rest is history. For introducing me to Nell, for conquering my playlist, for making the simple act of choosing a favorite in a album difficult as hell, for being a special album like no other and mostly, for being my constant companion throughout 2012 and definitely for years to come, Slip Away is my Album of The Year.



Because I believe there's a limit to spamming this post with their songs (har har). Taken from White Night MV.

Seriously, the band sweep most of the whole X of the Year award already, can’t see this coming? Closest contender comes from PSY obviously, logically and technically I guess because Gangnam Style practically took over the whole planet, but I’m bias like that (there, I say it!) so yeah. For making a grand comeback into the music scene after the damn 4 long years of hiatus and becoming No.1 in my list of K-Artist I Want to See Live Before I Die, plus making me berating myself for not knowing them earlier; Nell is like Mew to me on 2011, where I discover new band that actually already been in the scene for awhile and I end up going crazy looking for their discography and repeating them for the whole freaking time. They totally got this in the bag when I first watch The Day Before on that fateful day on April and never let go of it ever since. No artist come crashing in my life like Nell did so it is just right that they are my Artist of the Year for 2012.


And that's it! There's a considerable lack of variety here, but hey, this is what I listened last year, and yes, Nell did conquer my playlist like a boss they are (still does actually) and people will think I'm bias towards male artists which is...hard to refute I guess. But when you have Adele conquering my playlist for female department with a dash of Sia and Evanescence (sure it's band, just) here and there I think it's justifiable that others shy away from the competition (or I'm just picky like that because I totally can't stomach all the cutesy songs from girl groups). And I think I already stand my case with ballads because ballads, so yeah

I'm yet to find my Nell and Mew equivalent of bias for 2013 (Keane and 3 Days Grace was thisclose but not quite there somehow) and I know I'll be doomed when Mew finally drop that album because OMG it's been so long since they come out with new music ;A; and Nell with the continuation of the gravity trilogy so there's a chance that I'll pay more attention on pop side of things now instead of just bands. Though Justin Timberlake came out with Mirrors which I consider his best song ever since Cry Me A River (and my pick for best music video of 2013 so far) and effectively diverts me away from the whole K-Pop side instead, so yeah.

Perhaps we'll just have to wait and see I guess.

Till then, here's hoping for more good music!

~Still-stuck-with-writer's-block Heiji

Music of the Day: SHINee - Spoiler

1 comment:

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