Top Korean Songs of 2012

Hi there, people of the world! Am I the only who feels this year flew by faster than B.A.P made comebacks? No? Well, I know this much because my writers and I have once again joined our forces to serve up McRoth’s Residence‘s annual Top Korean Songs of the Year post for a fourth year now, and I am more than proud to present it to you today in all its glory.

Every year the TKSO format sees improvements, and of course I’ve gone and given it one more tweak to make it even better than the last. This time, TKSo2012 will span over two weeks. Since there are a total of 50 songs on this end-of year list, I’ll be revealing five songs a day (Monday – Friday) for the next two weeks until we’re stuffed with the best in Korean music. Then, starting December 17, I’ll be revealing my picks for best albums of 2012, which should be fun and exciting and stressful. Yay. There will be a total of ten albums, both of mini or full-length nature, and will be revealed two albums a day for that entire week. **starts brewing coffee**

So for those of you new to the TKSO experience, here’s how it will work:

> There will be a complete 50 song list for Top Korean Songs of 2012, which will include some songs from the first 25 (check out the Mid-Year Roundup here) and some chosen from the second half of the year. Each of my writers (sans TESTAMENTVM, who’s swamped with schoolwork atm) has contributed one new song/single/track that was released between July 1 and now. Because I went ahead and integrated the Mid-Year Roundup and the Honorary Mentions to this list, some of those will take their final bow here as well.

Basically, most of the work was already complete six months ago, but this final list represents a complete picture of the best music released this year (according to us), including work from the second half of 2012. It’s my favorite post to work on as a K-blogger and I’m sure it’s one of your favorites to read as well.

Now, for a few thank-you’s:

First off, I am forever grateful to lolpenny, drowningn00b, TESTAMENTVM, Compliant, and Renshukki, as well as Budy (who reviews music videos) and NaRae (op-ed writer) and all my past writers for contributing their time and their ears. McRoth’s Residence wouldn’t be the amazing home for passionate music junkies that it is without you. Thank you. And thanks too, to you, my fellow readers, for spending your precious time here. You’ve made blogging fun and meaningful, and thanks so much for always being awesome. I hope we meet right back here again next year, when we do this all over again.

Now, without further ado, go on you badass people and enjoy and share the first five Top Korean Songs of 2012, chosen and presented by McRoth’s Residence, and don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the next batch of awesomeness!

~ McRoth

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10

TKSo2012 single 01

2NE1 – “BE MINE”

2012_2ne1_be mineBe Mine” is a refreshing “I Don’t Care“-style song that maximizes 2NE1‘s vocal strengths by (finally) giving most of the song to Minzy and CL, and putting Park Bom in a better position to excel by keeping her within her range and within a respectable volume level in the chorus.

(editor’s note: Oh, and it’s their most interesting work since “Lonely“, which surprised me, as this was something put together by the fans. Goes to prove that Korea would actually prefer 2NE1 sounding less club-y and more, well, 2NE1-y.) – Compliant

More from 2NE1 this year:
“Be Mine” MV | “I Love You” MV


after-school-flashback-02While ‘Flashback’ wasn’t After School‘s strongest project, they were still able to pull off one of the best b-side releases this year, and that came in the form of my absolute favorite, “Timeless“.

“Timeless” is one of those few songs that enables itself to mix great vocals, emotion, meaning, and a sense of drama into a giant, yet soft magical puzzle. Though the balance shifts up and down at times, it fits together beautifully and unleashes a rather flattering and warm feel that pushes the direction of an imaginary experience of loneliness to a deep sense of belonging. The great harmonizing of Raina and Jung-Ah were put into good use, and the lyrical meaning remained kept and synchronized onto one wonderful melody.

Even if flawed, the song ravishes and dissipates those parts to reinforce itself back to one uplifting song. In addition, the presence remains calm throughout, making this one of the easiest tracks to listen to on replay. – Renshukki

More From After School this year:
‘Flashback’ Mini-Album Review
“Flashback” MV


2012_ailee_invitationTo be honest, this looks like one of the laziest picks on this list. Not only is Ailee basically the safest choice since vanilla ice cream, but “I’ll Show You” is Track 1 on her newest mini-album, ‘Invitation‘.

In the first minute or so, there’s a dramatic, tense atmosphere constructed by simple piano chord repetitions, a string section, and some simple drumming and clicking. But all of a sudden, the song thrusts the listener from a mellow cello-enriched ballad to something with exponentially more upbeat, and this is the single biggest problem I have with this song. If it’s such a huge problem, why would I even call it one of the top songs of the year? Because I’m lazy. Seriously though, the first chorus really only serves as a sampler before we run into a pause – one that’s very intentionally placed, as if to let the listener know that a crossroads has been reached, and from this point onward, one of the forks in the road WILL be chosen. This fork ends up being the new tempo (as opposed to the old, slower one) and to the song’s credit, it sticks with the new tempo. The only time it reverts to the old, slower section is at the bridge, which serves as your typical change of pace before hitting the final chorus.

The background instrumentals used for the majority of the song do nothing to take away from Ailee’s singing. In spite of their dance-heavy nature, the instrumentals manage to avoid the trap of drowning out the artist. I mean, when your artist is the #1 female pop singer in Korea, drowning her out would be a horribly stupid idea. In the slower sections, she exudes a more mature timbre by tapping into her lower range. Once the song hits the sections that get you dancing in your chair, Ailee goes straight into showtime mode, singing and belting with an utmost passion. – Compliant

More from Ailee this year:
‘Invitation’ Mini-Album Review
‘Heaven’ Review
“Heaven” MV | “I’ll Show You” MV


2012_b1a4_ignitionB1A4 is a K-Pop group that doesn’t necessarily strive as hard for Hallyu global status as most, but rather have taken to marching to the beat of their own drum. They’re one of the most under-appreciated boy bands out there, and I have only come to this realization recently listening back to their work this year. While flailing from decent songs to cringe-worthy tunes all year long, they have (at least) maintained a sense of consistency throughout their flamboyancy of a career in Korea and, to my pleasure, managed to release really enjoyable treats amid their quirky discography. One being the early 2012 release of “This Time is Over“; a song that didn’t receive as much love as it should have, but, hey, here I am showing it some because it deserves loads.

Unlike their overly chipper debut track “Ok!” and the psycho follow up single, “Beautiful Target“, “This Time is Over” lays off the crack pipe for a good three minutes. The song is a mid-tempo R&B/Pop ditty wherein B1A4 test their hand at angst and emotion. It’s definitely one of their better musical efforts, as we get a cleaner listen to their voices, their vocal unity, and versatility as a boy band.

To my surprise, B1A4 showcase a very interesting vocal range on this song. The majority of the members have a sweet lower register that is decently emphasized in the pre-chorus and rap sections of “This Time is Over”. I was totally not expecting the deep tonalities in B1A4, especially coming off of the cracked out high of “Beautiful Target”, but it was certainly pleasant to listen to them give us a different side to their style. As someone who found this song to be unremarkable before, I’ve grown to appreciate it over time and to appreciate B1A4’s efforts as a K-Pop boy band, because they’re one of the very few who actually sound like one. – McRoth

More from B1A4 this year:
“This Time is Over” Single Review
‘Ignition’ Album Review
“Baby I’m Sorry” MV | “Baby Goodnight” MV | “Tried to Walk” MV


Warrior by BAPStrong, brave and down right exciting – B.A.P proved to be one of this year’s formidable rookies, dropping mad swag, fierce rap and (surprisingly) solid vocals in their bold debut single, “Warrior”. Many months later, and the calamity of their first impression has fallen by the way side, but in no way, shape, or form does that dismiss the fact that B.A.P left a very significant mark early in the year. And quite an important one at that.

Rookies have been stepping up their game in 2012, and B.A.P’s massively energetic “Warrior” set the tone perfectly. From a badass string section, to a brassy riff and fierce delivery, B.A.P were given a goldmine with this song. And of course, the fact that they’re talented in all the right places was the final emblem atop one of the most memorable singles of the year. – McRoth

More from B.A.P this year:
‘Warrior’ Review
‘Crash’ Mini-Album Review
“Power” Single Review
“Stop It” Single Review
B.A.P, Not Your Normal Bowl of BAP Op-Ed
“Warrior” MV | “Power” MV | “No Mercy” MV | “Crash” MV | “Stop It” MV


45 thoughts on “Top Korean Songs of 2012

  1. B.A.P! Warrior definitely set the trend for this year… after Warrior, rookie groups are going for the bad-ass dark concepts..
    the song is definitely memorable and i never get tired listening to it.. still my favorite B.A.P song. its almost a year and im still blasting this song in my car..hehe

    • i doubt ‘warrior’ was much of a trend-setter; that streak of dark concepts started before that in the last few months of 2011. Kpop trends are partly based on the seasons and u tend to get more uplifting tunes in the summer and dreary, somber ones in winter; there are exceptions to that but these general trends are nothing new really. I also suspect that a lot of these more mature concepts (not just dark or bad-assed ones specifically) are becoming more prevalent because the public are tired of the cutesy gimmick and companies are picking up on that change in demand.

      • I agree with you about warrior being conceptually ‘trend-setting’, as pop everything is perpetually repetitive. But as far as setting a level of production value and quality, BAP were definitely one of the first to execute K-Pop in a far more cleaner package than before. 2010 was a hotass mess compared to how things work now. Which is a great thing.

        The cutesy thing lasted foreverrrr.

  2. Yes yes yes yes and yes. I really agree with today’s songs. Every song on Epik High’s most recent mini has grown on me more and more with each listen except for “UP” (I just really can’t get down with Bom on the chorus. It’s too grating to my ears). “Don’t Hate Me” isn’t my top fave from the album, but definitely such a great song to watch them perform live. And then you bring in Ga-in!!!! HER MINI ALBUM SLAAAAYED.

  3. I found my way here after seeing a B1A4 fanbase retweeting a tweet regarding your top korean songs of 2012 tweet. Tbh, I was expecting you to do a title track review/response like any other site so I was quite surprised that you talked about this time is over. That song is one of my favourite B1A4 song and I agree that it did not get as much love as it should have so I appreciate it a lot that you wrote about it :) Thank you ~

  4. I like most of your choices. I agree 100% with what you wrote about BAP. I loved warrior and wish they’d just promoted it for 6 months rather than release any of their other recent tracks. Also BtoB Wow was one of my biggest jams of the year and made me fall in love with the group. Surprise to see Ailee’s new song here rather than ‘Heaven’. I’m a huge fan of the girl but find her newest song soo boring. Block B did great this year too.

    Other songs I’ve loved this year are Cross Gene La di da di, Exid Every night (my standout song of the year tbh, never tire of it), Vixx Superhero and Exo what is love (Exo M version).

  5. Just notice under More from EXO this year: “This is Love” Review. Shouldn’t it be “What is Love”?
    and how do you use ‘ and ” for song/album titles? At first I thought you used ‘ for albums and ” for singles, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    • You’re right: it is “What is Love”. I’ll fix that.

      And if you’re confused by how reviews looked/look, it’s because I use ” for all album/single in the titles of reviews, whereas I use ‘ for album titles and ” for singles and track titles within the reviews themselves.

      Another thing that confuses is that, at one point, reviews were posted FIRST on Asian Junkie (we’re buds and have had a little agreement about my reviews being on his site), so he would edit them for his site and I would then post them once they were public. That stopped a few months ago, so now reviews follow the ‘ and ” rule that I prefer.

      He just ” ‘s everything … lol Sorry for the confusion.

  6. While I 100% agree that DJ Clazzi’s work with 2AM’s Seulong “How We Feel” is one of the under appreciated great songs out there, that song was released in mid 2011 :))
    Oh, and female vocalist Whale took part on that song too.

    • I’m well aware. Yet, as it belongs to an album that was released this year (Infant), its appearance still honors the free-standing rule (established last year) that songs are eligible to be on our TKSO list if they were released in one shape or form in 2012. Since Infant was officially released in January 2012, “How We Feel” and every track on the album qualifies. By this logic, Orange Caramel’s “Shanghai Romance” is also be eligible to land on this list :o

      I hope that clears things up a bit. Basically, any song qualifies to land on a 2012 best-of list if it was released as a single or as a part of an album within the span of a year.

      In this particular case, I wanted to feature ‘Infant’ and I felt this song was/is the strongest representation of the quality of that album :)

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  8. So many great songs off this list so far. K.Will definitely made a amazing album this year and Jo Kwon made himself stand out with his performances of “Animal.”
    Hmmm….creating a playlist of these songs doesn’t sound like a bad idea. :)

  9. ♫ ticket one way, ticket one way ♫ There’s a reason why this is my most-played song out of the ones I added this year.

    And PJY’s album is one of very few K-pop albums I could listen to the whole way through.

  10. “Eric’s lulzy rap in Venus”? how? then what’s Andy’s & Junjin’s rap parts then? lolz. That’s really the 1st I heard from various reviews (fan’s & non fan’s) for Venus or The Return ablum. Not being bias but aside from the poise & harmony from the main vocalists, Eric’s rap part in Venus is one of the highlights and it adds also edginess to the song (as well as Junjin’s part)

    • lol you’re so right! It’s not just Eric with a lulzy rap, but everyone else, too haha

      Just kidding. But really, I just gotta giggle when Eric says “E R I C” :P Anyway, the song itself is great and thanks for your commentary.

  11. Great list! Me and my BF (who I converted to Kpop this year) have been jamming out to this playlist for the past 2 weeks. It was great to relish favorites that I liked but never downloaded (how did I forget to add Run when I already added Supersonic and If We Changed??) and songs that I missed, ex. Seo In Guk and B1A4. Happy Holidays the whole team and here’s to another year’s worth of music v(^_^v)♪

    • That’s great to hear. I’m glad that the songs are worth sharing to fresh-converts and that it helped you find newer jams along the way.

      Cheers and happy holidays to you and your family, too!

  12. Love the list! The only songs that I would also include are something from EXID (I absolutely loved ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Every Night’) as well as T-ara – putting their scandals aside, Day by Day and Sexy Love were very enjoyable songs.

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  14. If I tell the truth…I’ve never actually listened to these bands before although I have heard of a couple of the bands…I mostly listen to groups like BEAST, BigBang, EXO-K and Super Junior and occasionally 2PM

  15. I’m just now seeing this after half a year, but I feel the need to comment anyways. “Angel” as on of the best songs of the year? Whoooooa, I really have to disagree. It’s the only song on that album that I find really annoying. “Machine”, I think, is a much better song. It just absorbs you.

    I’m super glad that “Don’t Hate Me” is on this list! I LOVED that song so much over the year. I may not listen to it as much anymore, but I still rock out whenever it’s playing.

    John Park’s “Falling”. Just thinking about it makes me relaxed and happy. :)

    Oh, my gosh! “Rock Ur Body”! I loved that song more than “Don’t Hate Me”! For about five months straight, I played that song every day. It’s just super fun.

    The only song I think is missing from this list is “Stop Girl” by U-Kiss. Even if it wasn’t super well known, it was still groovy (in a good way). I enjoy it so much that I’ve trained my non k-pop friends to finish my sentence when I say “Stop Girl”.

    • Aw, I loooove “Angel”, especially the M version. It’s just so light and soft compared to the heavy-hitting mini-album. That said though, I also love “Machine”, too. I still rotate that song when I listen to K-Pop.

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