Happy 2017! Time to get cracking on this blog. It’s been over half a year since I originally set this up, and I stupidly did it while I was still finishing school (practically guaranteeing that I wouldn’t have time to work on it). But this is a new year, and my New Year’s resolution is to actually start a blog and keep it going.
I’ve been into K-pop for almost a year now. When I get into something – especially something media related like music or a tv show – I have the tendency to go all-in. At this point I have gone through the discographies, filmographies, and history of pretty much every major group you could think of. So as I approach the anniversary of the day I stumbled into all of this, I decided to start my blog by making a list of the songs that I really liked in 2016 – my first year as an official K-pop fan.
I started with the idea of doing a Top 50, but I decided to shy away from actually ranking them for several reasons. First of all, I am not a musical expert by any means – as in I don’t know anything about music composition or vocal or rap techniques (I do however know a lot about dance and MVs, being a dancer and film school student). Also, all of the songs that I picked are mostly pop/dance tracks. I’m not really into ballads in general and I just haven’t had time to expand into other genres. So I edited it to a list of the songs I listened to most throughout the seasons.
My basic criteria for my song choice (besides liking it) was: Did I listen to it a lot when it came out? Do I still like it as much as when I first heard it? Is the music video and/or choreography interesting? I tried really hard to keep a balance and choose songs from every month and season, and I tried to stay even between male and female artists. I also tried to not put multiple songs by one group in the list, but that didn’t work out so well. I’d like to add that anything here is my own subjective opinion, just as a disclaimer!
To end my long intro, I’ll add that in January and February I wasn’t listening to a whole lot of new music. I just discovered K-pop in January through Got7. At the time, I believed that I would listen to just them and that would be it. Not in an “I’m only going to be an ahgase” way, but a “It seems like there’s a lot of groups to check out here but I’m not sure if I want to open that door yet” way. That obviously didn’t pan out the way I thought it would, but I still spent most of the beginning of 2016 discovering a bunch of new groups and their discographies. For these first few months, I’ve listed the new releases that I did hear about and listen to during this time.
Dal Shabet – Someone Like You
I didn’t get into the group itself until “Fri.Sat.Sun,” but I really enjoyed this song. After losing two members and having to change things up, I’m glad that Dal Shabet was able to revamp and release really good music this year. In my opinion, this and “Fri.Sat.Sun” are some of their best work. The song is about a girl who discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her. She wishes that he will find someone just like him so he’ll know what it’s like. I generally don’t put too much stock in lyrics because I don’t speak Korean well enough, but I like the idea. Not to mention that the song is pretty catchy. It’s definitely a tribute to 80’s pop music, with the synth, the drum beat, and even the melody. It’s kind of funny how I don’t really like actual music from the 80’s, but I do like songs that are 80’s-esque. The music video is a little cheesy, but hey – so were the 80’s.
Teen Top – Warning Sign
Teen Top was actually the first group that I got into from the previous generation (a.k.a. not GOT7/EXO/BTS/TWICE), and kind of opened the doorway to me exploring other groups from that era like 2 p.m., Shinee, Infinite, Beast, etc. They’re known for their brighter and more upbeat numbers, but I like this more mature and sultry side of them. The song is about a man noticing subtle changes in his relationship, and there’s a definite dangerous and sexy vibe to the music video (black and white makes everything sexier). The song itself is so smooth and jazzy; I especially like the bass in the verses and the piano that plays during Chunji’s parts. And of course, there’s their famous synchronized choreography.
Gfriend – Rough
K-pop was a great year for Gfriend. They already had gone viral because of that video of the disastrous performance of “Me Gustas Tu” in the rain, but “Rough” launched them into notoriety and gave them 15 music show wins. I’m more of a casual listener of Gfriend, but this song is so good that it’s in in my Top 10. A lot of people say that their music all sounds the same and it’s kind of true, but I think that “Rough” definitely stands out. It’s a beautiful love song about wanting to run through time and grow up to be with the person you love, and the string instrumentals give it a lot of emotion. The music video, the last in their high school trilogy, deals with themes of finishing high school and being able to stay close to your friends. And I absolutely love their choreography; it kept with their “powerful-innocent” concept and had a lot of interesting formations and references to time. A definite hit of 2016!
4minute – Hate
Fun fact: Hyuna almost got me into Kpop a few years ago in either 2012 or 2013. When I finally got around to actually watching “Gangnam Style,” I saw her in it and looked at her music videos too. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t advance much past “Bubble Pop.” I was so disappointed to hear of their disbandment, and I was glad that I did manage to catch their final comeback. This song definitely does suffer from “song-within-a-song” syndrome, but I happen to like both the softer verses and the hard-hitting EDM chorus. You can definitely hear Skrillex’s influence (he composed and produced the track). It’s too bad that it didn’t do well on the charts and that it ended like this, but at least the ladies ended on a note that shows off their fierce and badass selves.
Taemin, “Press Your Number”
When I first heard this, I thought it sounded like a Bruno Mars song. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of his unreleased tracks. It’s a very smooth and sensual number about a man who keeps calling his lover to get back together. Taemin, one of the Kpop kings of dance, adds to the sexiness with his fluid and spellbinding dance moves. The plot, like most SM music videos, is kind of difficult to follow. From what I gathered, Taemin was a gang leader who robbed a convenience store and kidnapped a girl, but he kind of fell apart after his gang got arrested and hallucinated that he kidnapped himself? I don’t know, I was kind of too busy giggling at his attractive multicultural gang to really pay attention. There’s definitely a lot of beautiful imagery, though. I didn’t listen to this song a whole lot back when it came out, but I found it growing on me as the year went by. Now it’s one of my favorites.
Mamamoo, “You’re the Best”
This song is so. much. FUN. Mamamoo has a very retro-jazzy feel to their music, and their killer vocals make listening to them really enjoyable. “You’re the Best” pushed Mamamoo into mainstream popularity and netted 8 music show awards. It’s easy to see why. It’s incredibly hard to not move along to the music when this song comes on. It’s brassy and bold and the harmonizing vocals give me chills. The music video has a simple yet sweet story of the ladies falling hard for an employee at their hotel, only to discover that the attraction is very fleeting. The whole number perfectly fits their bright and fun-loving image.
Wendy (Red Velvet) and Eric Nam, “Spring Love”
This year SM Entertainment started SM Station, dropping weekly releases by various singers and groups at the agency. It was a great move that allowed the artists to explore all sorts of different genres and establish a sound that might vary from what their groups normally do as a whole. “Spring Love” is by far my favorite of the releases. It’s a sweet love song with a pretty melody and clean vocals. Eric and Wendy’s voices match really well, and I love their harmonies. It reminds me of walking with my boyfriend on a spring day, which is exactly what it advertises.
I’ve been talking so much about Got7 that they have to be on my list, right? I love all of their stuff, and was so excited to experience a comeback with a group that I liked. Listening to their whole discography in one go gave me the impression that they’ve been trying to find themselves musically, so I was really excited to see what kind of style their new album would be. From what I saw online a lot of people didn’t like “Fly” all that much, but I actually really enjoyed it. The synth pop sound and percussion gives it more of a Western feel, but it sounds so upbeat – which fits the song because it’s about being optimistic about a new relationship. I think that this really fits the group’s fun and happy go lucky image.
Oh My Girl – Liar Liar
This year there seemed to be a trend of what I call “earworm”songs. I don’t know the specific definition or “earworm,” but I mean almost bubble-gum pop sounding tracks that have very catchy and repetitive choruses. They’re the type of song that grows on you; at first listen you might not like it all that much, but it gets stuck in your head and stays there until you can’t help but sing along. “Liar Liar” was the first type of this song that I encountered, and there will be plenty more on this list. It’s a fun and bubbly song filled with aegyo contrasting a strong drum beat. It talks of a girl’s uncertainty about the guy that she likes, which is taken one step further in the fun and whimsical music video. All of the girls live together and are hiding that they’re crushing on the same guy (B1A4’s Gongchan, their label sunbae). The video is so colorful and interesting and gives me Alice in Wonderland vibes. All in all, a very fun track that was probably my favorite out of Oh My Girl’s three (!!!) comebacks this year.
BTOB – Remember That
I’m not innately drawn to ballads for some reason, but there’s a lot in “Remember That” that I really appreciate. BTOB has four extremely talented singers, and their vocals and harmonies are so beautiful. I’m a sucker for good harmonies. I love the acoustic guitar that opens the songs and introduces the verses, and the song has a feel that just reminds you of spring. There’s also some strings here that really adds to the emotional atmosphere of the song. Both the song and the music video express a man looking back on times with his ex lover. It’s sad, but it’s not overly melancholy or dramatic. It’s a beautiful song about someone wistfully reminiscing.
NOTE: All videos belong to Cube Entertainment (4minute and BTOB), Happy Face Entertainment (Dal Shabet), JYP Entertainment (GOT7), RBW Entertainment (Mamamoo), SM Entertainment (Taemin and Eric Nam/Wendy), Source Music (Gfriend), TOP Media (Teen Top), and WM Entertainment (Oh My Girl)