Saturday, January 14, 2017

Top K-pop Songs of 2016

2016 came and went, leaving a plethora of great songs behind. I must say, last year had its share of negatives: many of my favorite groups including 2NE1, f(x) and Girls' Generation were absent, Big Bang didn't drop their release until the end of December and a lot of amazing groups disbanded. On the bright side, groups such as BTS showed their immense growth, Twice convinced Korea that they are the "nation's girl group" and SM Entertainment kicked off their SM Station music project. I was also very happy to see new groups like Blackpink and NCT debut and group members like f(x)'s Luna and Girls' Generation's Tiffany have their solo debut.
Anyway, here are my absolute favorites of this year. My list is a little belated because I just couldn't decide on the order! All are title-tracks and the ranking is based only on the song because I don't necessarily like or watch the music video. Finally, this is my opinion, but feel free to comment on your favorites!

18. Luna - Free Somebody
Luna debuted as a soloist with this funky house track, that is equally futuristic and retro. Free Somebody is about sharing someone's dreams with the world. There is a mixture of piano and edm, while the music video is a mixture of cartoon and chromatic film. Be sure to check out the full album, it is just as great!

17.  Nu'est - Overcome
Overcome, from their album 'Q is', is Nu'est's first release in 18 months. It's the average k-pop song, but the greater-than-average vocals make it worth listening. I liked Nu'est's debut song and they've caught my attention once more with this. In my opinion, the "knight is shining armor" theme adds a nice touch as well.

16. Ladies' Code - Rain
Ladies' Code are left 'drenched' after a rainstorm-like relationship. This group was once known for their groovy music, but Rain is mature and melancholy. There's elegant piano, haunting electronic elements and solemn vocals. Perfection, and the music video is very pretty too!

15. Block  B - Toy
I was really impressed with Toy which was written and composed by Block B's leader, Zico. The narrator of the song is suffering from a parasitic relationship in that his girlfriend receives love and affection without giving any in return. She is just using him, and the guy knows that soon, he will be thrown away like a toy. As far as Block B songs go, Toy is in a class of its own. Rather than their normal loud, bodacious sound, this is rather reserved.

14. Lee Hi - Hold My Hand
Lee Hi showed us her inner 'seoulite' hipster. Hold My Hand is a simple jazz-pop number with a substantial amount of English. She has made music in the soul genre since her debut, and even though Lee Hi's voice is more mature, she's still just as playful!

13. Jun.K - Think About You
As the main vocalist of 2PM, Jun.K has a lot of potential for a successful solo career. This track, which is a r&b ballad with hip-hop elements, is proof. In short, Think About You is a passionate apology and a confession to the person who is on his mind.

12. K.A.R.D. - Oh Na Na
Only once in a blue moon, do you see a 'co-ed' k-pop group like K.A.R.D debut. These rookies are a group of two female vocalists and two male rappers. Their tropical house track is making waves, despite the lack of hype promotions. I love the combination of exotic reggae elements and electronic dance. Before the end, you'll hum to the rhythm of Oh Na Na. Don't miss out!

11. EXO - Monster
For each of their releases, EXO puts on a new persona while keeping their signature style. In Monster, EXO are rough rebels. Their hard exterior makes them seem unapproachable to the girl, hence the term 'monster'. That won't stop them though as they creep into her heart just like this song will!

10. Taeyeon - Why
Why is a trendy, summer song with an ambiguous genre. There's r&b, acoustic guitar and edm all woven into this track. Also, in the third quarter of the song, there's some whistle-ly synths. Overall, I liked this side of Taeyeon! It seems that she stepped out her comfort zone of ballads and gave us something totally unexpected.

 9. Blackpink - Playing With Fire
At a time when 2NE1 and 4minute are gone, Blackpink bring to the table what other girl-groups don't: music without a defining concept. Most other girl-groups are either cute/child-like or flirtatious. Blackpink are neither or both, depending on how you look at them, Playing With Fire showcases their natural charisma with a catchy, tropical house composition. The girls' vocals are displayed throughout and there is a reference to one of G-Dragon's songs in Lisa's rap. "The color of my heart is black." 

8. Zico - Bermuda Triangle
Zico and Bermuda Triangle have definitely been on a roll in 2016 despite the deviation from mainstream pop. He didn't make this golden track alone though, and teamed up with Dean and Crush who are aces in their own right. The result is a dangerous trio and a booming song! Basically, the lyrics are a bravado of Zico's career laced with wit and tact. Musically, Bermuda Triangle is all over the place and all together at the same time! (My clean ver.)

7. Ailee - Home
Since the beginning of her career, Ailee has released one pop song or ballad after another, each featuring her loud vocals and strong personality. It's nice and all, but her discography sounded like a broken record. So I was so happy when she finally released a single that is contrary to her signature style! Home is a simmering r&b track. It's dramatic, elegant and reaches a climax during rap-queen Yoon Mirae's verse. 
6. BTS - Blood, Sweat & Tears
BTS are notable for having a part in the the writing and composition of their own music (which isn't common in k-pop). With each new album they show a different side their artistry, and this time around the concept was serious and mature. Blood, Sweat and Tears is edm mixed with other flavorful genres and the result is thrilling. The vocals, the emotion, the chorus all comes together perfectly!

5. NCT U - Seventh Sense
NCT is SM Rntertainments newest group. They are very unusual, and I have to admit their styling is bad, but the song is great! Seventh Sense is the debut track of an NCT sub-unit and it is somewhat simplistic. I like the trap and trance feel. I would never expect this sound to come from the cookie-cutter world of k-pop. (My Clean Version)

4. Brave Girls - Deepened
In 2016, Brave Girls were re-vamped and re-styled with different members. More importantly, they dropped a single bigger than their name. That is to say, Brave Brothers has a rep for making (somewhat) mediocre, but popular, songs with a typical sound for female artists. Deepened is atypical in that it's underrated and has a sizzling, slow-tempo beat that is not common in his girl-group productions. (At least not to my knowledge.)

3. Ladies' Code - Galaxy
I love, love love this song. Ladies' Code really prove themselves to be ladies by being classy and elegant. Don't doubt this song's ability to take you back the 90s! The r&b instrumental in the background is layered with soothing sounds. I notice the lyrics of Galaxy express wanting a love that is 'out of this world', true emotions that are like a ray of light in darkness.

2. BTS - Save Me
With airy vocals and a whistle-synth instrumental, Save Me is light and refreshing. The lyrics express deep longing for someone. That emotional heaviness is reflected in the dreary setting of the music video. BTS is a seven piece group, so it's natural that one member would get shorted on lines. However, in Save Me each member gets put under a spotlight. Vocalists; Jin, Jungkook, Jimin and V showcase each of their vocal colors and rappers; Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope spit their own verse. 

1. Blackpink - Whistle
Like I mentioned earlier, Blackpink doesn't have a specific concept and are multidimensional. In fact, Blackpink has two sides: 'Black' which is tough and edgy, and 'Pink' which is soft and feminine. This dual style is apparent in Whistle which is my absolute favorite of the year. I appreciate the trendiness, the style and the overall sound of the song. The beat and whistles add uniqueness, but the "hwi-param param param" chorus is what set it off for me.

Honorable Mentions:
Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
Zico - I Am You, You Are Me
Monsta X - Stuck
Lucky J - No Love
EXO - Lotto
Winner - Baby Baby


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