These are my favourite k-pop songs for 2012. These songs are just the ones that I personally liked, not necessarily the ones that were the most successful. Certainly not necessarily the ones that anyone else will like, not that I care, because we all have different music taste, don’t we (and I will relentlessly and cruelly bash you over the head with mine as if it’s the gospel truth for the rest of this blog). Or the ones with the best videos (although in almost every single case I do happen to like the videos anyway – it’s hard to go wrong with k-pop videos really).
I’ve now expanded this list to 30 songs only because I want to do 30 song-lists each year, so I thought I’d edit this post to bring it into line with the other years. The reason for 30 as a number is because 30 fits neatly into the timeframe of two radio shows. Let’s get started.
30. f(x) – “Electric Shock”
I talk more about Electric Shock further down this list, but f(x) did well with this song and rightly so, cementing their fashionista image and “no chord changes for us thanks” feature-track style. If only SM paid more attention to th… nah fuck it, it’s funny to watch f(x) fans complain about SM’s deliberately niche marketing strategy. You’d think having a token tomboy in the group would be enough to tip fans off that maybe SM deliberately shifted f(x) to occupy a different market position to their other girl groups, but I guess maybe that level of perception is asking a bit much out of the average k-pop fan. Oh well, keep complaining all you want, SM will never change f(x)’s marketing and promotional strategy because it’s fucking working. Case in point.
29. Girl’s Day – “Don’t Forget Me”
There’s a common technique in audio engineering dance music where you use the response of the bass drum to gate across certain other elements of the whole mix, deliberately creating a sucking sound as the entire backing track squeezes in and out. It’s used to superb effect here, creating a great face-mashing seasick wall of noise sound that is like having dozens of cute fairies hold you down and jizz inside your eardrums one by one like the cutest bukkake porn ever. Add to this the catchy melodies and that this video marks the beginning of Girl’s Day’s image transition from their flopping initial concepts to the sexiness that they’re now notorious for, and there’s not much to dislike about “Don’t Forget Me”.
28. 100% – “Bad Boy”
I didn’t know much about these 2012 nugus when they arrived, and I still don’t because I’m too lazy to read their Wiki entry, but this song was cool. Probably one of the most uptempo songs that any k-pop boy group have released since the late 90s days when writers didn’t even know what they were doing so they just experimented with any old shit, this song comes together quite nicely and doesn’t lose pace or sound messy at all. Lack of dubstep appreciated, thanks ladies and gents – wow, imagine how shit this song could have been.
27. Dal Shabet – “Have/Have Not”
There was a point where E-Tribe were the most well-known production team in k-pop, due to their hit “Gee” for Girls’ Generation being ultra-mega huge. E-Tribe then saw dollar signs and formed Dal Shabet, their own “in-house group” to dominate the charts, and promptly set about flopping all over the place with terrible songs. Oops. E-Tribe eventually realised after several flop songs that “Gee” was a one-off and they’re just not cut out for this whole pop music thing so they have now outsourced Dal Shabet’s songs to other composers. “Have/Have Not” was the first Dal Shabet feature track not produced by E-Tribe, and it shows, by not sucking and actually being really awesome. It’s very clearly inspired by T-ara’s “Roly Poly” and why the fuck not because if you’re going to copy a k-pop feature track you might as well go right to the fucking top. Trivia: the title is usually translated as “Have/Don’t Have” but I always refer to it as “Have/Have Not” because that’s what the song title actually refers to, the concept of “the haves and the have-nots“. That’s why there are two videos for this song, the “Have Not” version above showing the girls dressed in cheap clothes and makeup fucking around in their local supermarket and also the “Have” version, which is a much more typically upmarket k-pop glam “box” video.
26. Infinite – “The Chaser”
The Chaser was a really good song – fast, punchy, aggressive, smooth, melodic – everything a k-pop boy band song should be but usually isn’t. It’s a pity Infinite don’t do more of this type of thing and less “for the ladies” crap but I guess sucking up to quivering fangirl ovaries pays the bills. The first part of this video is actually the mini-album intro song “Infinitize” and the decision to shove it onto the start of this video was a smart one because it kicks ass. It’s easy to see why SM Entertainment wanted to acquire Woollim – having upstart young companies running around releasing songs like this way better than any of their own mega-budget boy groups could manage surely must be a little shameful for them if they’re not in on it also.
25. After School – “Flashback”
This song really should have made it higher into the 2012 best-of list but I wasn’t going to include a song featuring a dubstep breakdown into the top spots just on principle. Also, while the girls look sexy and hot in those push-up under-corset things the styling really doesn’t suit Raina at all who looks awkward as fuck here and so negative marks for messing with the look of my #1 k-pop bias. Everything else is good though and this is After School’s best Korean song as a full unit except for the dubstep break. Actually I probably shouldn’t be too harsh on the dubstep part, because it does kind of suit the song’s feel, because the whole thing is pretty heavy EDM stuff so a heavy EDM break doesn’t seem that out of pla…. oh fuck it, who am I kidding, dubstep sucks and is fucking shit and should stay the fuck out of pop music and we all know it.
24. KARA – “Pandora”
K-pop producers Sweetune always seem to hit their stride with KARA and “Pandora” exemplifies their “heavy metal by stealth” approach, sneaking distorted guitar and pedal-point riffs into idol pop with barely anyone even noticing. It’s rare to hear a song this ballsy sounding and guitar-based from a female Korean pop group. The video also has KARA’s best visuals ever, seemingly inspired by Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 which is about as good a visual inspiration for a k-pop concept as one could possibly hope for. It all adds up to complete greatness, but it was probably musically a little too much for k-pop fans who probably would have preferred it watered-down and at half-speed with less awesomeness and more R&B wank.
23. Crayon Pop – “Bing Bing”
Crayon Pop just missed out on the original version of this list. Nobody gave a shit about Crayon Pop until they released Bar Bar Bar and then everyone pretended that they loved them all along to be trendy, but Bing Bing was always far superior to it and the best of their debut crop of songs. The only thing that kept it out of a higher position in this chart back in 2012 when I did this list is the cringeworthy rap section, and Crayon Pop’s songwriters seemed to realise this shortfall and later released a remixed version without the rap. Bless them – here’s hoping they one day write another song this good.
22. AOA (Ace Of Angels) – “Get Out”
I really like the concept of rookie group AOA as a creation floating somewhere mysterious and ill-defined between an idol group and a rock band, but while I wasn’t that taken with their debut “Elvis” I thought it showed a lot of promise – if only they had a better song, I thought. “Get Out” is that better song – a great rock track that blends ska guitar rhythms and pop sensibilities and is easily as good as any similar attempts that comes to mind from western groups over the last decade and a half. I hope to see a full concert from these girls one day with no mimed instruments – even though they’re not actually playing their instruments in the video, it’s clear to anyone with a musical background that they obviously can. The video also deserves special mention for the great “lets dress up the girls as attractive leading females in Hollywood films” concept which is a unique stroke of marketing genius, even if their awkward insistence on dressing up the cute guitar player as Mathilde from The Professional gives me uncomfortable Pedobear feelings despite the fact that I know she’s at least 20. And those marching band outfits are to die for.
21. Hyuna – “Ice Cream”
I didn’t like Bubble Pop much. The best thing about that tune for me was the organ-grinder noise that cut in at the end of every 8 bars, which was terrific and kept me listening, but the actual song? Certainly not terrible by any stretch, but it didn’t get me that excited. On the other hand “Ice Cream” is gold. As soon as PSY finishes messing around in her truck and that beat kicks in, the appeal is immediate, and the song never loses momentum from there. A lot of netizens don’t seem to like Hyuna for various reasons, mostly ranging from “she’s a slut” to “she’s probably a slut” but my extensive experience dealing with sexually extroverted performers ( >.> ) tells me that she’s probably a lot less slutty than most girls out there in the music biz, not that it matters because frankly if she’s hoovering the cock and enjoying it good luck to her and it’s actually no-one’s fucking business anyway. Oh and some people think she can’t sing but then she is 4Minute’s designated rapper so what the fuck do you expect, you might as well get stuck into Notorious B.I.G. because he can’t sing like Pavarotti even though he’s equally as fat. This song is good fun times, the rapping is great, the singing is fine for what it is and honestly who could ask for a better comeback from Hyuna… or a better video. One of the great things about the breakthrough of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” is that it’s drawn some attention to her.
20. Gang Kiz – “Honey Honey”
Gang Kiz was one of the biggest rookie group commercial disasters in k-pop, certainly the biggest for 2012, with a lot of money being poured into them for basically no result (although a lot of that money was just in flights and accommodation so it’s not really the “biggest budget film clip ever”). I’ll never completely understand why Gang Kiz bombed so hard. All I can think of is that because this song is fairly similar to T-ara’s “Lovey Dovey” which was a huge hit, people already had that song and didn’t want to effectively buy the same song twice. They probably shouldn’t have sampled that “woo ooh ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooh” bit because that kind of makes the similarity really obvious. Anyway who cares because the song itself is great and I actually think it’s even a little bit better than “Lovey Dovey”, I think of it as a 2.0 version. I certainly bought the goddamn thing, think I give a fuck if no-one else did? Whatever reason it bombed, it certainly wasn’t because the song sucked, because it doesn’t. The video is seriously entertaining too, it doesn’t completely make sense to me (especially that ending) but it’s a nice ride and it’s also a good video accompaniment to T-ara’s Paris & Swiss photobook which uses many of the same locations.
19. Sistar – “Loving U”
More holiday videos and this time the Sistar girls are off to Hawaii. Hey, here’s some trivia for you – apparently most of Hawaii is a dirty polluted shithole because apparently there’s nowhere to put rubbish and most of the island is just kind of slummy and smelly with lots of poor people because there’s also fuck-all jobs. Or so I’ve been told, I don’t know how accurate my sources are, maybe it really is a paradise, what the fuck would I know, I’ve never been there. Anyway, Sistar are only visiting the nice touristy areas so I guess that doesn’t matter much for the purpose of this post. The song is really good anyway, nice and bright, with some great vocals as always by these girls and it’s even got a little bit in the middle that rips off The Beach Boys’ 80s acoustic ballad “Kokomo”, which is a song that everyone reading this probably loves but would never admit to because it’s not “cool” like their 60s stuff that everyone pretends to like just to be hip but nobody actually listens to. And hey it beats shoehorning in a trendy-but-awkward dubstep breakdown (which is why a few of your favourites probably didn’t make this list). So there. And I didn’t even mention how Sistar
have the best bodies in k-pop are really talented and I admire them so much. I’ll even forgive them for holding those horrible Dylan-esque cardboard signs.
18. Spica – “Russian Roulette”
Spica on the other hand actually aren’t that pretty or at least not in that typical k-pop modelesque way. That’s a good sign though – whenever you see girls in a k-pop group and they are not the kind of girls that you would cut off limbs for just to get their attention, you know that they have been put in the group for some other reason besides their physical appearance. As it turns out, Spica have some killer voices and while “Russian Roulette” doesn’t showcase it as much as “Painkiller”, that’s probably what makes it the better song, certainly the one that I prefer, probably just because it’s more upbeat. Also it doesn’t share the same title as a Judas Priest song, I guess that might also help, because most things look a bit shabby in comparison to Judas Priest amirite. You’ll notice that ballads don’t get much of a look-in in this chart of mine here, I really think most k-pop ballads are pustulent, putrescent worms on the face of the Korean music industry and that they would just go away… with very few exceptions.
17. Yangpa ft. Lee Boram (SeeYa) & Soyeon (T-ara) – “I Know”
Here’s an exception. Yangpa is a k-pop veteran having been in the industry since at least 1996. This new song has “Core Contents Media trot-esque ballad” written all over it, as it’s basically the same melodically and structurally as T-ara’s “We Were In Love”, “Day & Night”, etc… just without the rap. And to be honest I’m happy for the absence of rapping in ballads like this. This is certainly the best iteration in terms of instruments and so forth and it’s a ballad without the horrid R&B-lite trimmings that are fashionable nowadays and ruin so many slow songs in k-pop and elsewhere. Say what you want about CCM and their shithouse PR and their CEO who says and does the most bizarrest things with seemingly the image-sensitivity of a brick (although I do like how much he makes netizens cry), the one area where CCM consistently delivered in 2012 is the songwriting department, and that is what matters when you’re making music, not the other bullshit and gossip which you can frankly all bash up your ass. Also I like this video because T-ara’s Eunjung is in it who is always great on screen without exception and I also dig the one-take thing which is a refreshing change from the schizophrenic cutting that characterises k-pop videos generally (espcially CCM’s ahem).
16. 4Minute – “Volume Up”
Back to the dance floor numbers, and the appropriately-titled “Volume Up” sure is a subwoofer-wrecker, great for airing out your car stereo system and removing the dust and spiders, or freaking your pets right the fuck out. Definitely my favourite 4Minute song ever, with a great brooding atmosphere which is nicely complemented by the expensively gothed-up video (over $130000 spent on set design alone, apparently). Some people don’t like the high budgets on these things, but I think those people are losers who just have the wrong attitude to life – I look at this stuff and think to myself “they spent that money on me, on my entertainment, God bless them”. God bless those outfits and bodice-clutching dance moves, too. People rave about Hyuna in 4Minute all the time naturally but I think Sohyun steals this one, at 1:53 here she looks devastatingly gorgeous with the black funeral dress and that skull on her lap, hopefully when I die bits of my corpse will also get to be in a 4Minute video one day and she can fondle them. I should try to find out where I can sign up for that.
15. Phantom – “Burning”
I’m not a massive fan of the guy groups. It’s more than just sexual preference (although that is undeniably a factor and for any k-pop fan to deny that sexuality plays a role is to just not be honest). I just like the sound of female voices in this style of music better, in that sense I feel that it’s no different to someone preferring strawberry icecream over chocolate or vice versa. Also I think songwriting for the guy groups is more generic generally, they all do the same tricks, they all have the soaring high-vocal chorus, similar melody lines etc, it’s just overall less experimental in a genre where experiments are generally pretty low-key as it is. My point being, when you see me highly recommending a guy group song as one of the best of the year, you know that it fucking impressed the shit out of me. This song certainly did. I like the melodies, I like the way the rap is intelligently written and integrates seamlessly into the song without wrecking the general mood, I like the post-rock guitar sounds and most of all I like the fact that it sounds like an actual band but it’s not some conservative throwback sleepytime Playschool crap like Busker Busker who no doubt would seem like a “nice change” from all the electro idol pop to people actually living in South Korea but sounds exactly like The Wiggles to the rest of the world who have actually heard what indie hipster crap music is meant to sound like and can see that Busker Busker isn’t even half as good as the last 5 completely shithouse Weezer albums no-one bought. Anyway Phantom are great.
14. miss A – “I Don’t Need A Man”
I’ve got to admit, I didn’t like this when I first heard it – at all. I was literally jumping up in my chair going “holy hell what is this fucking shite JYP you fucking cocksmoker I didn’t want this R&B fucking shit aaaaaarrrgh”. Then it was stuck in my head for the next week non-stop and I had to apologise to JYP for calling him all those names. He truly is a genius. Once I warmed to it, this song is so relaxing with those sine-wave keyboards and that “dit dit dit dit dit” thing, and the perfect integration of rapping and sung vocals, it just seamlessly grooves along, like a massage for the ears. Sonically it’s utterly unique in k-pop, nothing sounds even a little bit close to it. JYP sure has some eclectic listening going on because he’s always doing something different to everybody else, and he rarely gets it wrong. Sure, he’s often a bit retro, and GOOD. There should be more of it. And what fucking great lyrics in this song. Okay, there’s the obvious irony that they do need at least one man (JYP) to write their songs, but then everything in k-pop is a fraud so I’m cool with it. If you want “integrity” you’re in the wrong music genre, go listen to… oh wait, no other music genre has any integrity either, because integrity is a fictional concept in music that’s just used as a marketing tool to make you buy stuff… so never mind. Also, I think Min and Jia are both way sexier than Suzy, to the point where they make Suzy look astonishingly bland. Just putting that out there.
13. 2NE1 – “Scream”
Okay, so I can’t give you a video of 2NE1’s “Scream”. Why not? Because all the video versions available either have half the song missing, or have had the audio fucked with in some way to get around copyright control (which works, but it makes the result borderline unlistenable and thus defeats the purpose). Blame shitty Japanese record labels who police YouTube with an iron fist. I suppose I could have put “I Love You” here instead which is a good song but I really thought “Scream” was the standout track for 2NE1 this year, so in lieu of the actual video here’s a gif of Bom being more attractive than everybody reading this and also showing that 2NE1 basically has the right attitude to life:
You can’t see a picture of Bom on the Internet in Korea these days without netizens whining about the “plastic surgery monster”, “she’s addicted to plastic surgery I hope she gets the help that she needs” etc but to be honest I think they’re just jealous of her astounding beauty and she’s had very little work done. She looks the same to me today as she did in 2009. Seriously. All that shit you think is a changing face every other day is just the effects of erratic sleep patterns, various quantities of studio makeup/lighting/Photoshop, diet, exercise, that lymph node disease that she has which makes her face swell up from time to time, your inability to set the aspect ratio of your TV correctly, you being a pedantic cunt and dozens of other factors. Besides, who cares anyway… how is getting plastic surgery really any different to getting a tattoo or a piercing or those fucking hoop things in your ears or a spike through your cock or any other number of things to modify your appearance to make yourself look more [fill in the blank]. Sorry about the lack of video, but “Scream” is awesome.
12. Girls’ Generation/SNSD – “Paparazzi”
SNSD’s relative lack of performance in the Japanese market this year compared to previous years really hasn’t surprised me, as I really thought “Flower Power” was beyond average, and don’t even get me started on “Twinkle”, “Dancing Queen” or “All My Love Is For You” – ugh. Some songwriters over there at SM really need to re-read that part of the Cultural Technology Handbook that tells them how not to write a song that sucks acres of cock. On the other hand, “Paparazzi” is brilliant, one of their best songs ever, with a driving, propulsive beat and some great keyboard riffs, it’s right up there with “Mr. Taxi” as one of their greatest moments. SNSD will never translate to the ultra-cynical-about-girl-groups western world in the way that some US pundits (who have probably been bankrolled by SM in some shady media play that far outstrips anything YG or CCM have been doing lately) are predicting, but if they can keep doing songs this good I don’t really care who likes it and who doesn’t. I also like the audacity of them building a whole city street on a theatre stage complete with actual paved bitumen and working lights and then chucking some water around so it looks like it’s just been raining… honestly who thinks of this shit, they need a medal or something. I’d love to know what this video cost them.
11. U-KISS – “Believe”
U-KISS are a group that really should be bigger than they are in Korea. But then, Korean netizens are generally pretty clueless about what constitutes listenable music in general not to mention a whole host of other things so it should be no surprise that they don’t really give a shit about this awesome group. Fortunately, the rest of the world’s k-pop fans have really latched onto U-KISS and they have a big following in several countries, especially here in Australia where I get requested to play them nearly every time I broadcast! The Eurodance-inspired “Believe” has got to be their best song this year and it’s so good that the sight of multiple effeminate eyeliner-sporting guys prancing around can’t ruin it for me, nor can the cringeworthy rapped intro or the disturbingly narrow road tunnel that they dance in… who builds roads that narrow? Maybe it’s designed to be one centimetre smaller than the width of a sasaeng taxi, but I still wouldn’t feel too safe dancing there, what with Korean driving being what it is. I like it how there’s a light in that tunnel, implying that there’s a motorcyclist patiently waiting for them to finish their dance routine so he can get through, must be the only time I’ve ever seen a Korean on the road give way to something. It’s only a matter of time before “rookie group squashed by truck while filming a music video” is a headline on shitty k-pop news sites, it’ll probably be one of the only actual true and newsworthy things they write about that year.
10. Ailee – “I’ll Show You”
What a killer song from this girl. “I’ll Show You” is essentially an updated k-pop reimagining of “I Will Survive”, as it has a near-identical song structure and is just as awesomely catchy, but benefits a whole lot more from modern production, and Ailee being both more talented and prettier than Gloria Gaynor plus the fact that this doesn’t have an “overplayed gay club anthem” vibe to it… well, not yet, anyway. It’s been a karaoke favourite in Korea for a while now so I reckon it’s only a matter of time. It doesn’t have quite the same message as “I Will Survive” though, as that cheeky little smile Ailee does at the end of the video indicates that the whole “Okay, so you dumped me – fine, I’ll tart up my image and look uber-hot and get attention from other guys and have an awesome life and destroy you mentally by rubbing it all in your face enjoy your loneliness mwahahaha” was actually just a sneaky ruse to get her man back, changing the meaning of the song from female independence to female relationship manipulation… but then this is Korea where aegyo is considered an actual desirable quality instead of something that would just irritate the shit out of someone, so I guess no-one should be surprised. Personally I think Ailee looks better as the dorky girl at the start than later on when she’s all generically glammed-up, which for me further chips down any kind of “empowerment” message this thing is meant to contain, but without the visuals there’s no denying this song is one of the most brilliantly written disco-anthem vocal showcases out there.
9. Wonder Girls – “Like This”
Netizens, being generally stupid and concerned with everything but actual music, are quite obsessed by the notion that JYP fucked up by trying to break Wonder Girls in the US, and that they’ve lost fame because of that and the label is in financial trouble and, and… stuff. Personally, I don’t consider being the third-largest label in k-pop a precarious scenario, but netizens are nothing if not drama queens whose perception of the realities of the music industry is microscopically tiny. Think I give a fuck anyway, this song rocks. It’s the kind of upbeat R&B/hip-hop fusion that the US forgot how to make circa 1992 and its debatable that they even came up with anything this good before then. Loving that old-school beat and the sunny lyrics, and the fact that the vocal wank isn’t dolloped on too thick. The video looks like it would have been a ton of fun to make too, and it’s got a great spontaneous, down-to-earth vibe that suits the song perfectly, even though it’s actually a carefully-planned affair that was months in preparation, like any good flashmob is. It’s good to see k-pop giving a nod to flashmobbers, and it’s also good to see Wonder Girls in general doing their thing, because they are a group that really should be more popular.
8. T-ara – “Day By Day”
If I was rating 2012’s songs by video quality instead of song quality, this would be #1 by a country mile. T-ara’s “Day By Day” video is a post-apocalyptic leather-clad swordfighting, muscle-bike-riding, blood-spilling, bitchy-stare-giving epic (well, half an epic – the “Sexy Love” drama version video contains the conclusion to the story here) that makes Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” look like something you shot in your backyard with a portable video camera, a few drunk friends and a reject-shop makeup kit. The song itself is almost as good as the video, an obviously Ennio Morricone-inspired mid-tempo ballad that would fit equally well in a spaghetti western or indeed just about any other epic movie if it wasn’t already in the one that CCM made for it. And yes, I know the linked video actually has two songs on it (the other one being the also Morricone-esque and almost-as-awesome “Don’t Leave”), but the dance version of this song’s video is a bunch of near-unwatchable hastily-edited high-strobing seizure-inducing slop so I felt strongly compelled to use this one instead to maximise your viewing pleasure. Don’t thank me all at once, now.
7. Orange Caramel – “Lipstick”
I’ve been waiting for Orange Caramel to finally release a goddamn album for ages, and when this song came out as the lead single I nearly hit the roof with joy – it’s exactly the kind of upbeat trot-meets-Stock-Aitken-Waterman silliness that I’ve always loved about their best songs and that I hoped they would continue doing. The k-pop gods are looking after me. If SAW were capable of productions this catchy and crisp I probably would have bought those Kylie Minogue and Mel & Kim records back in the day. I’m not sure what drugs the video director was taking though, the video doesn’t have even have visual references to lipstick anywhere in it and is all about… table tennis. Because, well, of course, right? Hey, at least it’s different. I honestly can’t say I’ve seen a music video remotely like this, ever, and in an era where we’re seeing a lot of “people dancing in a room with oddly-lit geometric shapes” type videos dominating k-pop lately, it’s honestly refreshing.
6. f(x) – “Beautiful Stranger”
“Electric Shock” was the big and I mean BIG hit for k-pop’s biggest label SM Entertainment this year, sweeping international download charts in almost every country in the world with Internet access, it was the first genuine k-pop international cross-cultural hit, beating PSY’s “Gangnam Style” to the punch by over a month and even topping high-profile comebacks by SNSD, TVXQ and Super Junior, something I’m sure SM didn’t expect given how little promotional energy they seem to put into f(x). However “Electric Shock” mini-album track “Beautiful Stranger” is actually an even better song, and I’m convinced that f(x) would have gone even more ballistic globally had this song been given the feature-track treatment instead. Only featuring three of the girls (Amber, Krystal, Luna) and being essentially a showcase for Amber’s rapping, it doesn’t suffer a bit for it and has a similar mood and rhythmic feel to “Love The Way You Lie”, but with better singing, more interesting melodies, more charismatic rapping and the added bonus that you don’t feel forced to imagine Eminem and Rihanna’s crappy recent dysfunctional relationships while you’re listening to it. No official video of this song exists, so here’s the only thing I could find.
5. miss A – “Touch”
This was by far the sexiest “sexy” comeback of the year, because the group didn’t just look sexy, but the song actually sounded sexy, something that’s usually completely forgotten with any kind of sexy comeback. Just for example, there’s no way anyone could get aroused by the music to Gain’s “Bloom”, regardless of how hot the video was, I mean, it’s written by the same songwriters who wrote IU’s hits, and it certainly shows. On the other hand JYP clearly exercised his “ladies’ man” muscle to bring us this track, and if those low “mmmm” things at the end of the verse phrases don’t get you going, then I guess you’re just not into girls. Women liked the track too, and I know this because everywhere I went when this was released, they were into it. It was a female who thrust the “Touch” mini-album in my hand initially and said “you MUST buy this or I’m not talking to you”. When I was on holidays in Sydney earlier this year (to see the Super Junior concert that didn’t even end up happening because the tour manager broke a toenail or something) I would walk into random gift shops in Chinatown and this song would come on and all the girls behind the counter would start signing it and doing the dance movements, no shit, it was a miss A stage everywhere I went. I wouldn’t have been surprised if people started throwing rose petals everywhere. And to think so many journalists and bloggers liked “Lips” more – proof that you don’t need to know anything about music to be a journalist or blogger. Yeah, “Lips” is great too, but it doesn’t have the same sexiness or Jia going “mmmnmmm” and it doesn’t have that cool pitch-bendy keyboard thing so anyone who likes it better than “Touch” can suck it, because JYP doesn’t care about your opinion and neither do I.
4. T-ara – “Sexy Love”
T-ara related music in this list a lot because T-ara are a lot more awesome than most other groups – for sheer consistency of song quality, regardless of all other factors, almost no-one in k-pop can hold a candle to T-ara, and anyone who genuinely hates this group just doesn’t like Korean pop music, period. For those not up with the latest k-pop gossip, you may not know that T-ara were majorly hated on in 2012 in Korea, over some rumours that they bullied former member Hwayoung out of the group, that grew just because they chose to tell her off for her slackness via Twitter instead of privately. The rumours were/are obvious bullshit, of course (as was the laughable “evidence” netizens collected to support their case, all thoroughly debunked at http://hyotheleader.tumblr.com/post/30319546274/rumor-vs-fact-t-ara-bullying-case-full-compilation ), Hwayoung was actually removed for some pretty good reasons, and I sure know that if my bandmates said they were going home to rest their broken ankle and then fucked off to the beauty shop to get their nails done instead I’d give them a serve on Twitter too – that doesn’t mean I’m a bully, it just means I have some fucking standards for human behaviour. In the music industry that’s an asset which is all-too-rare! But since Korean netizens are mostly school age bullies/bullying victims themselves, they don’t understand much about how the real grown-up world works (let alone the music biz), so the false rumours struck an emotional chord with them and hence they still can’t let it go to this day. Especially hypocritical as netizens were practically begging CCM on hands and knees to kick Hwayoung out before the controversy happened – be careful what you wish for, hey kids. So that is why you’ll see really weird like/dislike ratios on this video on YouTube, etc, in case you were wondering. This song was recorded and produced at the peak of the controversy and it shows, with a reinvigorated T-ara bringing their A-game and slamming out a great Kraftwerk-meets-Kylie Minogue-circa-“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” dancefloor stomper with Mike Tyson ferocity. When T-ara wear flats instead of high-heels, you know they’re not fucking around, and the robot theme reflected in both the image and music (and copied from SNSD’s “Visual Dreams”? Well, SNSD copied it from Kraftwerk so fair’s fair) is a sly “fuck you” aimed directly at netizens for not allowing the girls to be human and act like humans. One of their best songs ever, it would have probably got #1 had they used the slightly superior rhythm track that appears in the teaser at 10:23 in the Day By Day video (above) instead of the one they ended up going with.
3. BigBang – “Monster”
BigBang were also no strangers to controversy in 2012, and while the rumours surrounding them had maybe a little more believability than the derp-circus of blatantly obvious netizen lies that haunted T-ara, I really couldn’t give two fucks once again. G-Dragon could be passing the blunt with Snoop
Dogg Lion while Seungri makes a stunt-cock cameo in his next “Doggystyle” (Lion-style?) video shot in the back of a panelvan driven by Daesung while riding over pedestrians and I just wouldn’t care. At all. Half the artists that I like outside of the world of k-pop have trouble staying out of jail, so why should I apply different moral standard to this genre. If Burzum can still have fans so can anyone in Korea. Also that thing Jesus said about people in glass houses not throwing stones, and I don’t mean to get all Jesus on you and shit but I thought that was one of the better bits of a book that I largely disagree with. Once again, just like T-ara’s “Sexy Love”, “Monster” was a calculated reply to their haters, made a little more obvious with that fantastic chorus that you will have lodged firmly in your head after you hear this song for the first time, or any other time for that matter. The whole thing is so utterly well-crafted, treading exactly the right line between emotionally engagement and danceability, and if I were a heterosexual female I’d probably lose my shit over this group and saesang them everywhere, even Seungri Taeyang with his Mickey Mouse hairstyle.
2. IU & Fiestar – “Sea Of Moonlight”
This song is such an obvious rip-off of a-Ha’s 80’s new wave hit “Take On Me” that it’s not funny, not only utilising the same chords and structure but even the same keyboard tone. However, I can’t bring myself to hate them for it – in fact quite the opposite: “Take On Me” was one of the very best pop songs of the 80s, and for IU and Fiestar (and whoever actually wrote this) to not only rip that song off wholesale but improve on it is a thing of sheer beauty. The whole song is brighter, sunnier, better produced not to mention far better executed and listening to “Take On Me” after hearing this is like taking off your comfy slippers and putting on boots made of lead that are two sizes too small. Fiestar hadn’t yet debuted when this came out, and the video cutely plays on the theme of IU being a mother figure, taking them under her wing and helping them on their way to implied success in life and the music industry. It’s too early at this point to tell how Fiestar’s career will pan out for them, but that girl who wears the beanie at the end that looks like the reservoir tip of a condom is really cute so I hope she at least has a long career.
1. Rania – “Style”
I must admit, I had long given up on Rania as a crappy group that I would never have any interest in whatsoever. “Pop Pop Pop” and “Dr. Feelgood” were both go-nowhere songs that did absolutely nothing for me (with great visuals though I must admit ahem), and when I heard that my bias in this group, the Thai girl Joy (who had the cutest English speaking accent ever), had quit to focus on god only knows what, I really had stopped giving a shit about them even marginally. So I’m as surprised as you are that they’re #1 on this list. So what happened? Well, they got YG to write a song for them instead of Teddy Riley, that’s part of it, but even by YG’s generally extremely bloody high songwriting standards this song is amazing. Perfect synth arrangements, vocals that are sparse enough to let the music breathe but thick enough to provide a catchy chorus where it counts, lyrics that address the familiar k-pop theme of possessive men in relationships but with metaphors sophisticated and clever enough to rival any rapper, this song honestly doesn’t have a single thing wrong with it and makes all similar recent attempts at 80s synthpop by the likes of La Roux and Goldfrapp look positively half-assed. Brilliant. The only mystery to me is why YG outsourced this amazing song instead of keeping it for one of their in-house groups, but I guess I don’t really care who sings it tbh as long as I get to hear it. Hell, I don’t even miss Joy anymore. Much.
Thanks for reading this self-indulgent nonsense, I hope you enjoyed it, or at least got a laugh out of how crazy I am. Feel free to share your equally worthless opinions below in the comments.