This phase didn’t take as long to compile as the other two, but posting it did. Why? Because 1 – I wanted to wait to catch any last minute gems, and 2 – I kept spend more time listening to my list rather than finishing the damn thing. (ha-ha)
As always, there are several popular songs in here and several ‘that’s a top song of 2010?…oh..kay‘ songs. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed my entire list and and if you missed the past Phases or are curious to see what else I’ve written, you can catch every special ever in the “Specials” page at the top. For convenience, here’s Phase 1 and Phase 2, as well as My Top Kpop MVs of 2010, the shocking Bonus MVs of 2010 and, uh, that’s about it.
What’s in store for 2011? Well, you’ll have to stick around and find out. I’m trying to put together a GD&TOP review (my copy came in today, by the way, so I’ll post photos of the cool packaging soon), but we’ll see where things go in January.
Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s go…
Transfixion – “Never Say Goodbye“
Transfixion is one of those bands that I retreat to when I need a nice, classic fix of alternative rock, and after listening to their awesome World Cup song this year, I think they did a good job with this one. As I’ve mentioned before, this group puts out the kind of songs that I consider stadium anthems and this one is no different. The feeling to bust out a lighter and wave it in the air in a swaying crowd of fans takes me over every time.
TRAX – “Oh! My Goddess“
Being one of the top manufactured pop-rock bands in Korea, this year, TRAX really carved that notion into stone with this song. This one leans heavily on the pop side of the spectrum, but even so, nothing takes away from the simple likability of it. There’s nothing complicated about the instrumental, yet the whole thing still manages to satisfy my appetite for an easy listener.
Code V – “화해하지 말아요”
I couldn’t have compiled a list of top Kpop songs and not have included the gem of all underrated boy band-gems of the year. There’s a special quality to this group of singers. Not only are they vocally capable of blowing off the roof of any building, but the chemistry with which they perform is something worth commending. If they cared enough about their mainstream stature, they could easily blow some of today’s top idols right out of the water. I mean, this song isn’t anything grand, but the grace Code V carry the song with really appeals to me.
B2ST – “Clenching a Tight Fist“
Out of the mounds of songs B2ST released this year, this one happened to sit well with me. For one reason or another, they never structure their songs exactly how I’d like them, and the production is always close, but no cigar. However, as if a light bulb flickered in their heads, they made it work with this song. If anything, I am glad to see a group who were in shambles to begin with start picking up the pieces and figuring out a style and sound that suits them and is executing it well. It gives me hope that maybe these robot idols can in fact deliver their content as perfectly as they are programmed to do.
2NE1 – “Go Away“
Three singles (Can’t Nobody, Go Away, Clap Your Hands), which to choose. I like them all to a certain extent and for different reasons, but this one seems to me as the one that encompasses everything that is 2NE1 the best. It’s sassy, melodic, and well produced. 2NE1 are the whole package for me when it comes to a pop group. They are a joy to listen to on a recording and even more so watching them perform. In 2011, I’d like them to explore their style even further and, you know, drop the whole auto-tune thing. Processing is okay, but over processing is not. They’re really pushing it right now and it’s unnecessary.
Ga-in (Brown Eyed Girls) – “Truth“
Ga-In did an interesting thing with this song and “Irreversible” and that was to use the exact same accordion riff for both songs. It’s like she said: “Hey, they kind of sound the same, but are totally different once you actually listen to them. Here, your choice!” I prefer this one for its haunting melodies and the fact that it draws out an even deeper emotional response than the other.
Lee Jung (Feat. Leessang) – “Breaking Up“
Lee Jung dropped one of the most relaxing songs in October. When Kpop was releasing excrement out the wazoo, all I had was this and a few other decent songs to enjoy (as well as a lot of stuff that wasn’t Korean what so ever) and I have to say that it really stuck out during the most uneventful month of the year.
JYJ – “Be My Girl“
The world went all kinds of crazy when JYJ dropped “The Beginning”, and even if I criticized its production quality, the truth is when you’re talented and good at what you do, even a shitty effort from crap producers can’t diminish the value of a brilliant singer. In this case, we have three of those. Junsu is my personal favorite and the guy sounds amazing in this song (as do the other two.) I’d kill a ho to work with a voice like theirs.
2PM – “I Can’t“
This is 2PM? Doesn’t sound like it, but it’s definitely them. I am all for boy bands putting shirts on, laying off the eye make up and singing. Just. Singing. Weirdest thing is that as much as I feel like this is one of their highlights as musicians for me, I can’t completely give in to the fact that…THIS IS 2PM. Well played, boys. That’s all I have to say. Now, don’t you have some go-go dancing to do or something.
Hwangbo – “I Am Still Beautiful“
To be entirely honest, I use this song, among a batch of others, to help me fall asleep when I need it. I don’t mean any disrespect by saying that, but the pace, instrumental and color of Hwangbo’s voice work in such a dreamy way that it sets my mind at ease – without boring me – every time I listen to it and, hey, that’s not an easy thing to do!
One Way – “Rainy Days“
One Way are one of the few groups in Kpop that have a firm grasp on the kind of sound they want to be recognized for. They’re as urban as Kpop will get and for such a popular group, they still manage to keep those ‘underground’ vibes flowing through their songs. I admire them for making music that is true to who they are without selling out to the masses. “Rainy Days” is pleasant and refreshing and has been on replay for hell know how long now.
B2ST – “I Like You Best“
Who knew B2ST would appear twice in my (my!) special?! Yeah, that’s what happens when people actually care to improve their skills and release better than average songs…and I care enough to acknowledge their efforts. This is what a good pop song from a Korean boy band of this generation should sound like; up beat, catchy, and tolerable. It nicely spotlights the traces of talent in the group all while engaging you with enjoyable verses that aren’t as cheesy as you’d expect.
PSY – “Right Now“
And the award for wildest song on Phase 3 goes to the ‘i will poke fun at myself and remain extremely relevant while doing so’ solo artist, PSY! I kept my enthusiasm for PSY’s comeback locked up while school decided to rip me a new one, but now those times are behind me and I can calmly exclaim: “This is fucking amazing!” This song is one of the densest things I’ve heard. God knows how much he engineered this to be perceived so loudly, and not to mention the actual content, which is so energetic, that a man three sheets to the wind would have no trouble snapping back to reality at the sound of the first beat. Loves it.
Girl’s Day – “Nothing Lasts Forever“
One of my not-so-guilty pleasures finally makes its grand entrance. Girl’s Day had a terrible beginning, releasing one of the worst things I’ve ever heard in my life (Link). Having been tucked away as the girl group that shouldn’t have existed, they pulled a complete rise of the phoenix move with “Nothing Lasts Forever” and blew my mind. Granted, its got iffy verses, but the overall effect of the song is strong and pretty much explodes epicness at the end. The transitions are spot on, I think, especially from the middle 8 to the finale.
Vodka Rain – “Difference“
Vodka Rain has become one of my favorite bands in Korea. It’s thanks to their style, which hits close to home and always seems to trigger several pleasant memories for some reason. What I like about this specific song, though, is how it transitions from being a rock song to a rock song with auto-tune. Almost electro-rock, which for me doesn’t sound like a bad combination at all.
Jieun And Wolves – “넌 나의 귀여운!”
Here’s that band I said I discovered and fell in love with; it’s Jieun And Wolves, y’all! I’m in the process of ordering their latest album because I want to jam to this in my car, full blast, and in the highest quality. Everything about this song is awesome. The verses, chorus, bridge – it all works perfectly and not to mention the lead singer, who has a lovely voice and adds that extra dimension to the band. God, having the ideal frontman/woman makes all the difference…
SM The Ballad – “Hot Times“
I remember throwing a fit when I first heard the teaser to this song because I was just not in the mood to have 4 guys yelling their heads off. Thank goodness the actual thing offered so much more than that. The group is made up of some of the best SM male voices and what they did here is not only blend them well, but allow each voice to shine at the right moments of the song. For me, though, Kyuhyun stole the show. He showed off his higher range, as well as melt my insides with his lower register, which he so cleverly intertwined between phrases.
GD&TOP (Feat. Park Bom of 2NE1) – “Oh Yeah“
Of the two songs G-Dragon and T.O.P. are promoting, this one’s my favorite. The production is awesome and I have no complaints with this song or the rest of the album. Pretty sweet way of closing the year, to be honest. I love hearing something from YG that isn’t completely over kill, but still remains completely energetic. These two didn’t make a song just to give you something good to hear, but made a song that exudes the energy it expects the listener to express and feel from it. That’s what happens with “Oh Yeah”. Basically, they want to get you moving. ::check::
Sheean – “Shut Up and Listen To Your Mind“
Here’s a wild card for you. Sheean, who’s apparently a famous electronica/pop singer in Korea (goes to show how much I have yet to discover), decided to drop out of nowhere and grace my ears with this song, and y’know what? I think I like it. She’s worked with Japanese act FreeTEMPO before (“Beautiful World” and “Power of Love“) and has just dropped her latest EP “Every Day, Every Night”. I can only handle electronica by the morsel, but with Sheean, it’s more about the influence of the genre and I’m all for a song that gives me a taste of epicness and does it well.
Jang Jae In – “Please“
To close this chapter in Korean music, (of course!) I chose a depressing song. An absolutely beautiful one, if you ask me. It’s a heartbreaking song and I love the way Jang Jae In (Superstar K finalist or something) interprets it with broad phrasing and a powerful use of crescendos.
That just about wraps things up here. I’ll definitely do this again next year and, hopefully, to a much larger audience. I want to keep reaching out to awesome Kpop and not-so kpop bloggers out there and spread the love. Kpop was pretty meh this year, and as history has proven, at one point it was amazing and if Korea plays its cards right, 2011 could possibly bring the awesome back.
Now, if you excuse me, I have a shot or two waiting for me as I ring in the new year.