The Kpopalypse 2015 favourites list is here! Read on to discover what Kpopalypse liked the most in 2015!
For my money, 2015 wasn’t much of an improvement over 2014. It wasn’t much worse either. After a peak between 2008-2011 and then a sharp decline, K-pop quality seems to have now flatlined according to Sturgeon’s Law which states that 9 songs out of 10 will generally be shit. That’s fine, because I don’t mind sifting through nine pieces of shit to get to one good song, as a radio DJ I do this sort of thing all the time. Now you are the beneficiary of my investigation as I bring to you the best songs of the year, according to me! Some things to note:
- This list is inclusive from January 1st 2015 to December 31st 2015 and was published on December 31st 2015. It may appear at a different time for some due to timezone differences.
- Yes these are really my opinions, I haven’t included anything for clickbait/edginess/troll purposes (although if you find yourself trolled I consider this an acceptable secondary outcome).
- If this post is too sunny and positive for you (doubtful), I have a worst k-pop songs list for 2015 as well, so why not read it instead?
- Only k-pop feature tracks with MVs or music show promotions are included, because I can’t listen to everything. Also it makes the post more visually interesting if there are videos.
- Songs by k-pop artists in English, Japanese or other languages do count for this list, but covers of popular western songs do not.
- Whether something is popular or unknown is not a factor in this list. I don’t care what won an award, how many fans something has, etc. – that’s all herd-mentality stuff that doesn’t interest me in the slightest.
- Songs for OSTs, sporting events and Christmas songs are not eligible for this list, although none of them would have gotten into this list even if they were.
- Contrary to popular belief of those who don’t really read my posts properly (and probably won’t read this either), I’ve never once claimed that my music taste is better than anyone else’s. Yes I do have a music industry background (teaching, management, touring, composition, audio engineering, production, blah de blah read the FAQ if you give a shit) but no that does not make my music taste “better”. If you enjoyed songs on my worst-of list and hated songs on my favourites list, that’s totally fine. The primary purpose of both the favourites AND the worst-of lists is laughs, entertainment, something for you to read to take your mind off the pointlessness of existence, discovery of songs for those of you who don’t keep track of k-pop closely, creative writing fun times for myself, and documentation of songs for myself so I have a nice reference that I can link to friends and others who ask what I like and dislike. Hopefully you enjoy the lists. If not, that’s fine but why people who hate my posts continue to read and comment about them is a continual mystery to me.
Okay, that’s enough preamble, time to count down the list!
30. T-ara – So Crazy
For those who haven’t noticed, much-maligned yet commercially successful k-pop songwriter Bravesound tends to write songs in pairs – almost every reasonably well-known Bravesound song also has an “evil twin”. I’m guessing that Bravesound habitually writes two songs with the same feel and farms them out to different agencies, and MBK has a tendency to consistently wind up with one of the “twins” (check the similarity between Teen Top’s “To You” vs SPEED’s “Pain The Love Of Heart” as a good example). T-ara’s “So Crazy” is a bit like the evil twin of AOA’s “Heart Attack“, and it’s a slightly softer iteration of the same type of idea (although I believe it was originally written before), it doesn’t quite contain the addictive melodies and squared-off dancefloor stomp that make “Heart Attack” so great but it makes up nicely by substituting it with some sexy tremolo guitar and interesting rhythms of its own. It’s clear enough at this point that T-ara don’t give a crap about Korea and that this is a previously-rejected feature track which has been sort of lazily thrown out there by MBK to satisfy the group’s core audience and tide them over until the next T-ara song for the market that actually matters (China) comes out, but it gets on the tail end of this list anyway for being funky and cool. It’s far from the best T-ara song out there but even a 2015 T-ara lazily phoning it in for the weak Korean market are still better than everything else released in k-pop this year… except the next 29 songs.
29. Romeo – Lovesick
Apparently this group have been accused of copying Infinite, which is a hilarious theory to me given that every single k-pop boy group ever is copying various shades of New Kids On The Block, New Edition, Backstreet Boys, N-Sync, Boyz II Men, One Direction, etc etc fucking etc. If we’re going to start trying to throw copyrights onto “a bunch of guys with stupid hair standing around in suits” then it may be legally impossible for any agency to create another k-pop boy group song ever again. Some people would probably be pretty happy about that, including me because it’s no secret that I prefer the girl groups more but let’s wait up before we throw Romeo to the Capulets because “Lovesick” is actually pretty damn impressive. If you’re actually able to stand watching the creepy camera stares and blinding white-on-white shots that take up about 75% of this video you’ll find a decent song here complete with pedal point harmony, cool 80s style drum machine fills and no shitty breakdowns to kill the momentum. Infinite fans are just jealous that this is the kind of quality song that they wish Infinite made this year but didn’t, and if Infinite DID make this song, all you haters would be all over it like white on rice.
28. Dynamic Duo ft. Nafla – J.O.T.S.
When Dynamic Duo aren’t suckling at the twin teats of yolotrap/R&B hybrid bullshit and soft smooth p-funk inspired slop like every other Korean rapper ever these days, they unquestionably still have the ability to pull out something decent. “J.O.T.S.” (Jump Over The Slump) sounds to me like the type of track that they dearly want to produce all the time but rarely do because lord knows actual decent rap music doesn’t pay the bills in 2015. After all Dynamic Duo are older as Gaeko points out at the start of the first verse – they’re old enough to remember the ancient (but not that ancient) quality days of hip-hop that the style has fallen so very, very far from since. The music here rocks an atmosphere similar to Diabolic/Immortal Technique’s “Frontlines” but the beat’s got a little bit more pace and is dirtier, two very welcome improvements. If I was Sulli I would appear in a nudie film so Choiza could fap to it as a reward for not writing stupid trendy bullshit for once, but I’m not, so all I can do is thank him and Gaeko from the bottom of my sweg.
27. A.KOR – Always
When “Always” came out people commented that A.KOR had finally stopped copying 2NE1 and were doing something softer. Of course those people were wrong, A.KOR are just copying a different side of 2NE1 now, the mid-tempo laid-back pop side rather than the bzzzt-bzzzt-bzz-bzz-bzzz-bzz-bz-bzzzzzzt-bzzzzt-bz-bz-bz-bz-bz side. The result is great because Shinsadong Tiger hasn’t had his brain cells all shoot out of the eye of his penis and into Han Ye Seul’s snatch like Teddy has and therefore he still actually has some vague idea about how to write a pop chorus. Blackjacks can’t stand it of course (check out the wacky like/dislike ratio on the video plus all the general moaning about Kemy everywhere as if she’s the only person in the group) but fortunately their sandy vaginas only contributed to the global reach of this great song which would have probably sunk without a trace had 2NE1 fans just learned to shut the fuck up and not say anything.
26. D.Holic – Chewy
D.Holic might have an unfortunate name which seems purpose-built for making puns but they’re one of the most promising new groups to come along in a while, simply because whoever is writing their songs isn’t afraid to do some different shit which really stands out in a genre where musical progress tends to happen in very small increments. The messing around with diatonic modes to give things a faux-Middle Eastern feel reminds me of f(x) and 2NE1 at their peak but D.Holic’s songwriter has got a bit more harmonic sensibility and actually includes matching chords in his music at the same time, wow imagine that. The production is also great with clear elements across the mix, not too many layers of noise and nice juicy sub-bass but without the boring slow beats that are ruining so much of k-pop right now. I wouldn’t be too hopeful about the girls’ actual careers (I’ve heard one member has already left) but as far as probable flash-in-the-pan nugus go this’ll do nicely while the rest of k-pop spins itself in relentless circles of “anything you can do, I can do exactly the same way”.
25. MBK Project – Don’t Forget Me
Here’s a song that I theoretically shouldn’t like, but I do anyway. Featuring members of T-ara, SPEED, The Seeya and DIA, “Don’t Forget Me” both looks and sounds like a Christmas song, but mercifully it’s just a “winter comeback” which is not quite the same thing (especially where I live). Usually “winter songs” are so maudlin and boring that I just can’t listen to them, but MBK show one again that they’re the masters of the “ballad that isn’t”, creating a song which has a smooth ballad feel but is pushed along nicely by brisk chord changes plus a faster BPM than about 90% of Korea’s hip-hop comebacks in 2015. The styling is amazing given the puffy-jacket-and-beanie limitations the video directors were constrained by, and T-ara’s Snowyeon in particular is looking better than she ever has. The whole thing is really cruisy and nice, never once falling into dull R&B/yolo/vocal wank territory, and if you don’t feel like waving back at Eunjung when she waves at the camera at 1:35 then you’re a cold unfeeling machine as sociopathic as Dara+ and you should probably be deactivated by the YG ice cream truck for the greater good of humanity.
24. Pure Boy – Wedding Day
You can always tell the “innocent male” k-pop group concepts because the members are wearing so much white all the time, which is a western cultural import as white represents virginity, clean sheets and fluffy bunnies, plus they have cheesy names like “Pure Boy”. In reality, like most cultural artifacts, “white = purity” is not grounded in reality – fluffy bunnies fuck all the time, white sheets are handy mainly for hiding cumstains and the young men in Pure Boy are probably just as likely to be dicking some nugu girls as they are to be masturbating each other in their dorms. Concepts like these never age well for those down-the-track scandals, and if it were me debuting a male k-pop group I’d call them something honest and straight to the point, like CUMRAG. Anyway these white-clad smiling young men sure do have themselves one hell of a decent song so who really gives a fuck, and it took me a while to get into this but once I closed my eyes, stopped watching the cheesy wedding crap in the video and imagined I was listening to After School Blue’s sequel to “Wonder Boy” being covered by the Pet Shop Boys then it all kind of fell into place for me. The only thing I’d really like to know is why does it say “The Look” in the bottom of the screen the whole way though, I know Koreans like English words and shit but there should be a legal limit to how much real-estate they should take up in a music video.
23. Lovelyz – Hi~
Lovelyz are only ever good when they’re working with songwriters OnePiece, who consistently get it right – whenever their feature tracks are farmed out to other producers instead we get crappy Fender Rhodes-driven shitballs like “Shooting Star” or generic-as-they-come “Into The New World” clones like “For You” (because k-pop apparently doesn’t already have enough of those yet). OnePiece (the name makes me cringe because it’s the same as a lame anime or something but anyway) are working a signature sound into Lovelyz but they only get to write 50% of their feature tracks, probably because decent songwriters work at premium rates, only one good song per album is necessary for promotions, and so Woollim have nothing to lose by farming out the other tracks to different people and playing lucky dip. I’ll save a full discussion of Lovelyz’ songwriting inspiration for another time, but in the meantime “Hi~” is bouncy, melodic, has some cool harmony and doesn’t drag on any longer than it needs to, unlike my blogs, so I’ll stop this write-up right here because now I feel self-conscious, gee thanks Lovelyz you cunts.
22. Purfles – Bad Girl
Nugu girl group Purfles win again in 2015 with a catchy as hell, upbeat number that sensibly plays down the members’ vocal talents in favour of a stomping bass-guitar driven funk beat which unlike 99% of limp k-pop funk excursions might actually threaten to create a dance situation on a dancefloor somewhere. Using a bass guitar riff to drive the beat plus keeping the chorus ultra-simple are the factors which carry this song, it means that the constant breakdowns when some girl goes off into vocal solo land don’t get too irritating because it’s offset with some simplistic upbeat fun. Of course if this version is too high quality for you, you can always listen to their godawful insipid, cheesy disgusting jazz remake for fuckheads which strips every last ounce of fun and excitement out of the song and replaces it with endless self-serving vocal showing off to cater to the ever-growing “oh wow look how well she can sing never mind that they just threw the song’s melody in the gutter” nauseating, shallow vocaphile crowd. Of course I’m sure that you’re not that kind of utter pathetic loser because only smart people with good music taste read Kpopalypse blog, I’m just sharing this information in case you need to know about this… you know, for a friend.
21. Pocket Girls – Bbang Bbang
Pocket Girls were that “other” nugu group packed with big boobed models to enter k-pop in 2015 along with Bambino, but there’s an important difference between them: Bambino’s “Oppa Oppa” was a crappy piece of music whereas Pocket Girls’ “Bbang Bbang” absolutely rocks. Say whatever you want about Pocket Girls and their big boobs/surgery/makeup/cheap video/nugu status/fancams/ludicrous race queen image or whatever other bullshit that has nothing to do with music that you think is more important than the fact this song rules, because I couldn’t care. What I do care about is that “Bbang Bbang” is a great upbeat track with cool synth riffs, offbeat rhythms and not too much syrup in the mix, with a beat as rock-solid as these girls’ chests. Actually musically it bears more than a passing similarity to Badkiz’ “Ear Attack” to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if the two songs share the same songwriter, and hey I’m cool with that because I think that if you’re gonna copy something you might as well at least copy something that is fucking cool. The only weak spot of any note is the dubstep breakdown, a genre that k-pop is gradually learning not to flirt with, but it’ll probably take a few more years yet for that sound to completely vanish, in the meantime it’s not enough to ruin this great song, or my fapping rhythm.
20. Stellar – Vibrato
After many years of trying different things, Stellar’s agency have finally worked out for sure which side their bread is buttered on and “Vibrato” is exactly the sort of concept that their fans want, to the extent that it’s easy enough to get confused and accidentally call the song “Vibrator“, which would be an apt title given that the excellent breakdown and subsequent climax has multiple speed settings. Of course there’s really no need for me to make up any extra innuendos when the music video full of all kinds of very obvious imagery that shows that the video directors know exactly what they’re doing, and also exactly what you’re doing. More importantly for me however, the song is actually a pretty awesome Sweetune track and typical of the kind of musical consistency the group have been rocking ever since “Study“, with a pacy electro-funk sound spiced up with cool keyboard stabs and bass guitar. “Vibrato” treats me like an adult, conceptually, visually and most importantly musically, which is a refreshing change in a genre packed with twee nonsense melodies, cringeworthy ballad slop and fake pretensions of “innocence”.
19. Hello Venus – I’m Ill
We didn’t really get the big dancefloor-stomping club hit from T-ara this year like we did the last two years, but Hello Venus have stepped up to the plate in their absence and delivered something pretty similar in look and spirit to “Sugar Free” and “Number Nine“. It’s not quite as good as either of those T-ara songs but “I’m Ill” is close enough and will do nicely until T-ara’s epic Chinese mega-hit drops early next year and lays waste to the entire planet by forcing millions of Chinese to all access the Internet at the same time and heat up the planet to boiling point with their relentless simultaneous fapping. Maybe you should get some environmentally-conscious faps out of the way now to Hello Venus so that way when T-ara comes out you won’t be all fapping right at the second the video comes out but will need some recovery time, therefore allowing the heat effect to become more staggered. You know you want to – one of the girls in Hello Venus looks pretty close to Jiyeon anyway, that might help you along a little.
18. Nine Muses – Sleepless Night
The most surprising thing about this song is the quiet intoning of the word “Bravesound” in the intro. You could be forgiven for not even noticing, after all it’s such a common feature to hear his name at the start of k-pop songs, but it really hits me here because “Sleepless Night” is the kind of mesmerising ambient swinging dreaminess that I didn’t know Bravesound had in him. Even more astonishingly I can’t think of another song he’s done that sounds exactly like this one, but perhaps this song’s evil twin hasn’t been written yet (but if history repeats will probably go to an MBK group when it does). Sure there’s not exactly a whole lot happening in this song in the way of variety, but it’s okay in this case the repetitive groove is an asset – once an ambience is set up the key to making it work is not to fuck with it. The revolving-door of girls look like quite an asset too with the typically impeccable Nine Muses styling, they even manage to make puking into a toilet bowl look fashionable and sexy. I’m not sure if they’re promoting vomiting as a symptom of bulimia or drunken debauchery but either way I’m sold.
17. Smells & Reno – Nothing
Believe it or not, dubstep doesn’t have to be total fucking useless trash. Festering cancers on the global musical landscape like Skrillex have of course ruined dubstep for everybody (their butchered shithouse version that most k-pop emulates is actually technically a different genre called brostep but I’ll just call it dubstep anyway from here on in because everyone else does), and have tarred the reputation of not only themselves but much of electronic music as a whole, a great shame. Smells & Reno actually get dubstep right with “Nothing”, an excellent track that is high on the slow electronic dub groove and moody vocal samples and mercifully low on the WUBWUBWUBBZ ZZRTBBZZTTTT WEEOOWWWWEWWW FFTTZTTTZZ WUWBUBWUBW. The neat little video even tells the story of someone who is a failure at life and can’t do anything right just like Skrillex, how sweet and heart-touching.
16. History – Might Just Die
Speaking of which, classical music and dubstep, two genres of music that are completely useless and crap, yet when they combine in this song the result is great, probably because the chorus has a nice easy-to-follow melody which keeps everything else glued together and stops it all from falling into the shitter. Also harpsichord and dubstep wubwub is actually a pretty sweet combination here, who would’ve thought? It also probably helps that dubstep is incorporated across the whole song, rather than just appearing awkwardly in the breakdown and fucking the pace of the entire tune like in 99% of k-pop (or even worse, cutting in and out schizophrenically like SHINee’s disastrous “Everybody“), making “Might Just Die” the first k-pop idol song that truly delivers on the promise of Younique Unit’s “Maxstep“. Plus there is guys dancing if you’re into that sort of thing, although I’m pretty sure the guy in the center has some serious paint or CGI on his abs at 2:40 because his stomach looks like the fucking Alien, I’d be afraid to touch that thing just in case he did a body roll and broke my fucking hand in half.
15. 4Minute – Crazy
Wow, 4Minute are back and not sucking for once! There sure have been a lot of shit songs from 4Minute from pretty much the start of 2013 onward, and “Crazy” has finally broken the drought. The group are at last getting back to being decent by surprisingly yet thankfully throwing away the Bravesound tracks which didn’t suit them and muscling in on 2NE1’s old turf with a tough beat and some bold eastern-style backings – I guess since 2NE1 aren’t interested in making songs like that anymore, someone’s gotta run the old neighbourhood. “Crazy” is pretty much infused with the yolos but it still works out okay because there’s some fucking pace to it and the drums really thump you over the head enough to compensate, only in the breakdown does it revert to the more typical bounce bounce yolo check my swag type fluff that everybody else in k-pop is doing now, but that doesn’t last long so I can forgive it. Welcome back, girls.
14. Block B Bastarz – Zero For Conduct
Block B’s new “Bastarz” sub-unit gets this year’s “metal by stealth” award, the chorus of “Zero For Conduct” is pretty much just groove-metal with the guitars replaced with keyboard-triggered-brass. I wouldn’t expect the majority of k-pop fans to get the connection, but some of them certainly at least picked up that there was something different about the song even if they couldn’t put a name to it:
“Bobbing your head real hard to the beat” is also known as “headbanging” and that’s a metal thing. Any song that inspires that sort of movement can generally be regarded as metal, and the comment is right that it’s a completely different feel from BigBang’s “Bang Bang Bang” which has a totDING-DING-DING-DA-DING-DING-BOM-BOM-BO-BOBOBOOOOMMM-BOMMMBOOOM-BOBOBODING-DING-DA-DING-DING-BOM-BOM-BO-BOBOBOOOOMMMDING-DING-DA-DING-DINGBOM-BO-BOBOBOM-BO-BOBODING-DA-DING-DING-BOM-BOM-BO-BOBOBOOOOMMM-BOMMMBOOOM-BOBOBODINGally different kind of sound. Groove metal isn’t exactly my favourite type of metal but hey it’s k-pop which is usually soft as shit especially these days with 99% of fans being tiresome ballad-preferring vocal-obsessed bores so when it comes to metal influences I’ll happily take what I can get, cheers Block B.
13. Lizzy – Not An Easy Girl
Clearly a song that Lizzy wrote after finding out she was on an old Kpopalypse bias list, I can’t tell you how hurt and rejected I felt to be told “don’t poke around”, because Lizzy is just so pokeable. I guess she realised that since Raina was higher on the same list that I wasn’t actually looking at anything serious with Lizzy but just a bit of fun, so I guess kudos to her for being perceptive – there goes my “use Lizzy to get to Raina” plan. I guess k-pop girls are just like Pokemon, you can’t “poke ’em all” – most of them are pretty easy to catch but there’s always one or two that are just impossible to get hold of so the full set increases dramatically in value. Anyway once I got over the fact that my game had been totally busted wide open by this ultra-perceptive woman I had to sit back and admit that the song was pretty damn fine, I don’t think I’ve ever danced so much on the outside while crying on the inside. Gosh I hope she doesn’t say anything to Raina about it.
12. N.Flying – Awesome
Easily the best Korean male idol/rock group hybrid ever created, “Awesome” beats the pants off of everything by CNBlue, FTIsland and everyone else plowing this particular road. The secret to this song is that the cyclical chord progression has an ascending structure that never changes (apart from one tiny breakdown) and constantly propels the song forward, making it sound like it’s always building up to something more. It’s the opposite to most Korean rock/idol hybrids where the big song-driving chorus hook either has a static four-chord structure like FTIsland’s “Pray” or works in circles of descending fifths like CNBlue’s “Hello“. Breakdowns to just the voice and piano emphasise the continually pedaling structure even more and the overall effect is tense and exciting, which is what anything passing itself off as “rock” should definitely aspire to be, instead of fucking boring plodding bullshit like Nell or whatever.
11. Primary ft. Choa, Iron – Don’t Be Shy
Who would have thought that k-pop would actually one day do dub reggae correctly? Most k-pop flirting with Jamaican music styles sounds to me a bit pissweak and limp but Primary fucking nails the dub reggae sound and atmosphere here in a way that I never thought I’d hear, right down to the shitty trademark tin-can equalisation and analog delay. I’m surprised not because I think Korean producers are incapable of this or anything, or even that it’s that difficult, but just because dub reggae isn’t exactly the trendy sound right now. To top it off both AOA’s Choa and rapper Iron sound fantastic – Choa gives an appropriately lazy vibe with her vocals sensibly never allowed free reign to completely dominate the mix, and Iron sounds like he’s just smoked his own body weight in marijuana which of course is the perfect sound for this kind of groove. All that suspicion on poor innocent Bumkey but he never did any tracks that sounded remotely like this, if I were Korean anti-drug enforcement I’d be busting down Primary’s front door right now, this track is hard evidence that he’s clearly got a stash in there somewhere.
10. Tren-D – Affection (Jung)
Not an original song but a much improved reboot of an old tune by Young Turks Club, “Affection” oddly combines the former with a snatch of Salt N Pepa’s iconic experiment in having as few rap lyrics as possible in a rap song “Push It” to create something better than the sum of its parts and almost as good as Tren-D’s previous non-hit “Candy Boy“. The melody and harmony moves in a fairly predictable trot-style formation but it’s carried along nicely by exactly the right level of instrumental detail and a bouncy beat that even one of the most bizarre and pointless breakdowns in the entire history of k-pop can’t ruin. The girl with the “R” enclosed in a diamond freaks me out though because it’s identical to the “restricted” symbol for adult movies and bookstores in Australia, which makes me think that these girls are part of some new plot to spread acceptance of porn through k-pop. If so, Tren-D please know that Kpopalypse has your support and is backing you all the way.
9. Minx – Love Shake
Once again “Love Shake” is not an original song for Minx but a cover of an excellent non-feature track by Dal Shabet however to say that it’s a cover isn’t really accurate either as both groups are under the same agency (Happyface Entertainment) so it’s the same songwriting and production team on both versions. Oh well, I guess the agency realised the error of their ways by not throwing it out there originally and Minx are now the beneficiaries of this awesome song, and fuck knows why Dal Shabet never got to put it out with a music video and some performances but whatever, at least we get to hear it again. The new Minx version is barely any different with only some very subtle changes in levels but it is a slight improvement overall, just sounding a little bit neater. It honestly wouldn’t even surprise me if they didn’t actually replace most of Dal Shabet’s vocals, because you know people sing on each other’s records uncredited all the time, just because group X is on the front of the box and in the video doesn’t mean that group Y or solo person Z didn’t actually do the vocal part. EXID’s LE could probably afford a private yacht if she was paid western rates for all the uncredited work she does on other people’s albums. Just saying.
8. AOA (Ace Of Angels) – Heart Attack
I never thought I’d hear AOA do another song that matched the quality of “Get Out” but “Heart Attack” is such a great bouncy number that it almost made me forget that their band unit existed… you know, just like how everybody in Korea forgot that it existed back when it was active. With the right equipment you could probably condense all the hypocrisy about the AOA band concept into a solid object and use it for something productive, like the guy who sucked the smog out of China’s air and baked it into a solid brick. “Heart Attack” is such a great song and FNC wisely milked it to fuck, with choreography versions, eye-contact versions, let’s all dress in tight pink clothes versions, individual member versions, fapper in the audience versions, grindcore versions, Kpopalypse cat reaction versions etc etc. It certainly cemented the group’s fame and for once something that I like is actually popular in Korea which is kind of nice I guess although I don’t give a fuck really as long as there is the token five-second Chanmi part in the video. Jaehyo fans, I know how you feel.
7. Shannon Williams – Why Why
Everybody lost most of their cum in 2015 fapping to Twice’s debut song “Like ‘Ooh Ahh’” but it never had a jizzball’s chance in hell of a place on this list and the reason is right here. Shannon’s song is basically identical but massively superior in every single aspect, helped along greatly by about 67 less layers of clutter from random-sounding instruments and vocal lines cutting in plus no annoying girls yelling “Twice!” at really inappropriate times. Everything in “Why Why” actually serves the quality of the song rather than the desire of a producer to fill every last available space in the frequency field with random fucking crap. This song also notably breaks the “Curse Of Chad”, showing that solo performers from countries other than Korea can break into k-pop and perform a song with actual quality high enough to get on my favourites list. She doesn’t even look ridiculously cringeworthy in the process which is something of a miracle. Hopefully her presence in the k-pop scene won’t inspire any crazies to start being delusional about “making it in k-pop” – just remember kids, Shannon Williams hasn’t exactly “made it” yet herself and is probably busy scrubbing bricks in the Bad Thoughts room for an extra buck in between dance practice sessions and taking endless selcas with Dani.
6. 4TEN – Why
Super-ultra-nugus 4TEN (aka Poten) have not one but two uncanny-valley girls in the group who look like their faces have been constructed entirely from Project Luhan’s factory seconds plus a third girl who would probably look acceptable if she wasn’t rocking the worst bowl-cut this side of George Harrison. I almost want to tell off the one generically-k-pop-pretty member of the group for letting the team down, but it doesn’t matter a bit because this is a subtly-80’s-infused pop gem of the type that many girl groups used to do well in k-pop’s Golden Age but now mostly suck at. 4TEN might fail at getting their hair and makeup done properly but even though they’re the antithesis of fap they win at having a nicely anthemic upbeat pop song, and that’s all that really matters for this list. This song came out right at the start of the year and the few people who listened to it back in January 2015 (the video is stamped November 2014 but it didn’t get on their official YouTube channel until 2015, which is always the release date I work from for these lists) have probably mostly forgotten that it exists by now so I hope they appreciate my rehighlighting it here as a community service.
5. Jimin ft. Iron – Puss
There’s two types of songs that came out of the first series of Korean female rapper “reality” (ahem cough splutter gasp) TV show Unpretty Rapstar: songs with AOA’s Jimin in them, and complete fucking soft bullshit with either lazy impotent trap beats or disgusting R&B slop. I know this because I bought the soundtrack – boy, what a mistake that was! I’m not sure if it’s coincidence, Jimin’s own influence, her label’s idea or something else, but for some reason Jimin is the only rapper in that entire series so far who has occasionally been given any actual beats worth a fucking shit. Just as well too because her squeaky voice works perfectly with something with some actual punch to offset it. The uniquely “irritating” quality that Jimin’s voice has and that garners her so much hate everywhere is of course why Jimin is perfect for any kind of rap music, as long as the beats actually go hard (think about how perfectly Eazy E’s annoying squeaky schoolboy voice slotted into NWA), and the backing for “Puss” goes harder than just about anything this year, incorporating modern hip-hop sounds into a beat which doesn’t compromise on catchiness, has a cool-as-shit chorus riff and actually goes at over 60 BPM, a combination which is getting harder and harder to find these days. The above video only has Jimin’s verse and that’s okay because Iron is just the sideshow here anyway but if you’d like to hear a full version with both of them, you can click here to watch the live version from the shithouse TV show that I didn’t even watch with all the stupid cuts to other rappers’ lame reactions removed thank fucking christ.
4. LaBoum – Sugar Sugar
Girls’ Generation tried hard for the retro-pop concept with “Lion Heart” and only got it about half-right, however nugus LaBoum are having a good year and have decided to take over the reigns from the Hateful Eight, injecting their version of the same type of thing with a much lighter feel that suits the material better. Borrowing about equally from 1960s girl group style and The Archies’ popular namesake, LaBoum’s producers nail the early Phil Spector/Motown sound in a way which is fun, bright and breezy and not “ironic” in the slightest. The only problem with this is that girls don’t wear bras over their pajamas, every girl I’ve ever had a relationship with is always removing the bra as soon as they get home and get relaxed, those fucking things are uncomfortable as shit. Hopefully future k-pop pajama videos show a higher commitment to gritty realism at least in this important area.
3. Rainbow – Black Swan
“Black Swan” was the first truly astonishingly different song for k-pop in 2015 that also had extremely high quality generally, and while I hoped it would initiate a trend, at the time of writing nothing else in k-pop before or since sounds even remotely like this. The different between “Black Swan” and just about everything else is the clever instrumental arrangement – at first the song sounds extremely sparse like there’s something obviously missing, but try listening to it closer and you’ll notice that there are many subtle elements to the backings which aren’t immediately apparent and gradually build as the song progresses. In a genre which thrives on hitting the listener over the head repeatedly with the obvious, this type of production approach is almost completely without precedent. The song’s main elements are kept simple on purpose so the underlying layers have room to breathe, for example the chorus is mainly just one note with a super-cool-as-fuck keyboard riff behind it providing the actual hook, and that’s about all it is or needs to be. The regular pre-chorus breakdown reduces the song again to one single note, although this time it’s Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” slowed down which perfectly matches the mood plus the general feeling of sparseness, and is about as far away from typical k-pop listening as anything I can think of. This is k-pop’s first genuine “headphones song” and I can see why nobody does this in k-pop as all that effort was definitely wasted on an audience who mostly didn’t appreciate it. Oh well, at least the video has a sexy gothic/art deco/”I don’t know whatever the fuck you call it but it looks cool” style and the group’s girls all look stunning and better than they ever have.
2. Crayon Pop – FM
Musically an update of T-ara’s “I’m Really Hurt” within the meter of “Roly Poly“, Shinsadong Tiger has customised the aforementioned song hybrid for Crayon Pop use by adding guitars, subtle industrial dance elements and more explosions, and with a template like that to work with there was no way this song was going to be anything less than great. Chrome Entertainment seem to know their audience now at least where this group are concerned, and have aimed Crayon Pop conceptually to suit with a deliberately cheap (but not as cheap as it pretends to be) and cheerful Power Ranger theme, pop culture references, illogical silliness and lyrics aimed directly at the heart of the FM (“Field Manual” – slang for people who are afraid to break society’s unwritten rules, like the rules that Crayon Pop themselves broke on their way to fame). Crayon Pop are the group that should not exist – the cavalier punks who jimmied the gates, crashed the perfect k-pop beauty queens’ palace party, pissed in the punchbowl, smuggled out all the snack food and then read about themselves on SNS the next day and laughed. They’ll probably never have another “BarBarBar” in terms of fame but to expect or even want that from them is to miss the point of why they exist. You only need to block up the palace toilet with party sausages one time to make your point.
So what’s #1, if not Crayon Pop?
1. Lovelyz – Ah-Choo
Yes that’s right, you knew it had to be Lovelyz. Previous years have been a close race, but for 2015 the Kpopalypse favourite song was an easy shoo-in… but why? Is it because the best ever cum in my life Seo Jisoo returned? Well no, because she reunited with the group firstly with “Shooting Star” so if I was all about just celebrating her return I would have shoved “Shooting Star” in my #1 instead, however as previously discussed I thought that song was a horrible turdmonkey of a ballad (and only got left off the worst list due to extremely hot competition for utter crap this year) so that’s not the reason. Is Lovelyz #1 here to make confirmed “Ah-Choo” hater Asian Junkie suffer? Well no, because even though fighting with Asian Junkie over music taste is hilariously funny, I wouldn’t seek to define my music taste purely in relation to someone else’s and besides we do agree on some stuff occasionally (like the Choa/Primary song earlier in this list being cool). So that’s not the reason either. Is Lovelyz #1 because I find certain members of Lovelyz cute? Well no… I mean yes I do like Kei and Sujeong quite a bit but I wouldn’t put them on Raina level or even include them in my bias list at all, and in fact I probably won’t be updating that list for the start of 2016 at all because most of the 2015 debuts haven’t featured girls who can knock out the existing entrants in my eyes (don’t get me started on Twice, they’re all a solid “meh”). So no, that’s not the reason. The real reason for “Ah-Choo” being #1 on this list is, of course, and as always – I liked the fucking song more than all the others in 2015.
Further up this blog I wrote that “I’ll save a full discussion of Lovelyz’ songwriting inspiration for another time”, and that time is now. Many k-pop fans have singled out either j-pop artists (or j-pop as a whole) or Apink (and other supposedly “cute” k-pop groups) as the inspiration behind the Lovelyz songs that I enjoy, but these types of comparisons are wildly off-base in terms of both image AND music. I think k-pop fans see girls not showing that much flesh and because k-pop fans (of all genders and sexualities) are all so superficially sex-centred (and honestly, I can relate), that point of comparison supercedes all other factors for them. However as someone who grew up with 80s pop it’s blindingly obvious to me what producers OnePiece are really doing with Lovelyz.
People tend to look at 80s pop like any other style from yesteryear with rose-coloured glasses, they remember the good stuff, and the bad stuff kind of gets ignored because it gets lost in time – most of the absolute crap from the 80s is out of print and you can’t even find most of it on YouTube. The fact was that most 80s pop was actually fucking atrocious garbage from the pits of hell which was why I actually wasn’t that much of a pop fan in the 80s myself, however the best 80s pop acts were ones which had roots in the 70s UK post-punk scene like New Order. Spawned from the remnants of Joy Division, New Order combined Joy Division’s post-punk style with emerging trends in electronic and pop music to create a style that was uniquely robotic, melancholic and decidedly upbeat all at once. Their single “Blue Monday” was (and still is) the most popular 12″ single of all time, and was such a huge hit that the record label nearly went bankrupt making copies of it to fulfill the demand from consumers. “Ah-Choo” borrows a great deal from early New Order in terms of sonic textures, mood (an undercurrent of stark ennui sharply at odds with the musical and ideological values of k-pop as a whole) and even visually/conceptually in terms of a similar commitment to bizarre melancholic abstraction that New Order displayed in most of their music videos during their creative peak. Other 80s pop touchstones that are clearly evident in “Ah-Choo” include the Van Halen-style keyboard pads that also made Crayon Pop’s “1,2,3,4” so great and which not only embellishes the chords in “Ah-Choo” but provides a counterpoint melody, and the 80s slap-bass playing which is incredibly busy yet never once oversteps the boundaries of the song itself into self-serving wank-town. Vocally the group is firmly rooted in early 80s UK pop sensibilities where the song’s true melody always came first (this is pre-Shitney Houston ruining pop for everyone) and “Ah-Choo” never degenerates into the simple-minded showing off that so many k-pop vocalists these days consistently do ad nauseam, and that garden-variety k-pop fans routinely fellate themselves over. As I mentioned in 2014’s favourites list, Woollim were careful to train Lovelyz to work as a team and the singing doesn’t sacrifice any part of the song to serve the role of an individual or their ego, nor should it, in this song or any song. To top it all off, “Ah-Choo” has quite easily the best breakdown ever in the history of all k-pop to date, a sublime (and 100% trap/dubstep-free) half-time piano-and-bass-propelled excursion that slots perfectly into the song’s structure, making the a capella section after it feel like a true climax and not going a second longer than it needs to for the effect to work as intended. I wouldn’t say it’s the best k-pop song ever written, but “Ah-Choo” is certainly the best ever k-pop related cum in my life.
That’s the end of another Kpopalypse favourites list! Hopefully you enjoyed this list, or if not, hopefully you found something profound to complain about that will get you lots of dogpile comments agreeing with you about how Kpopalypse is scum on your favourite k-pop-focused circlejerky rabid hate-filled internet community! See you next year!