It’s halfway through 2016 while I’m writing this, and I thought that since 2016 has been pretty low quality so far, it would be nice to look back at some of the great and not so great songs from previous years. I never did get around to an honourable/dishonourable mentions post to accompany the “Golden Age” best and worst lists like I did with all the other years from 2012 onward, so now’s a good a time as any! Read on for what Kpopalypse thought were some good and not-so-good songs from the Golden Age of k-pop!
A few things before we begin:
- Feature tracks only
- Lists are alphabetical, not in order of preference
- My opinions only, nothing to do with commercial success etc
- If I dragged your bias, or didn’t include your favourite song, I guess it sucks to be you but maybe check my best and worst lists from the same period before you write that 500 word essay on Reddit about how much of a cunt I am as if it’s news to anybody
After School Red – Into The Night Sky
Although Bravesound got a lot of justified flak for writing cookie-cutter shit during the Golden Age, they had a few good songs even back then and this was one of the best. Features a video so non-OH&S compliant that there were actually vehicle accidents on set, After School fans should stop whining about a lack of a comeback and just be grateful that their biases weren’t incinerated in 2011 by a stray cigarette lighting up all that petrol.
BigBang – Tonight
Before the sweg disease really took hold over G-Dragon and ruined 90% of his creative output, BigBang had a reasonably solid discography. Imagine if that didn’t happen and what great songs we could have had from 2013 onward from these guys. Oh well. Notable that this was recorded back in the days before the vocalfaggotry disease really took hold of k-pop, and people Autotuned their choruses and didn’t care if you knew because they knew you weren’t a disgusting piece of shit who placed vocal technique on a pedestal above song quality. Ah, those were the days.
E.via – Hey! (Can I Rap?)
E.via/Napper/Tymee/whatever she’s calling herself this week never topped “Hey! (Can I Rap?)”, and I feel that she never fully exploited her “fastest rapper ever” reputation even here, not that it really matters when the song kicks this much ass. Note that the first 40 seconds of the video are actually a completely different song on the same album but it works pretty nicely as a contrasting intro pisstake on girl group aegyo.
4Minute – HuH (Hit Ur Heart)
A song purpose-built to be weaponised by the South Korean government, “HuH” not only had a stomping beat and 4Minute’s most polished backing track up to that point but added the cherry on top of lyrics that were basically rubbing it in the face of North Koreans “hahaha, we have all this modernity and freedom while you live in a society trapped in the 1950s”. Of course k-poppers bragging about their freedom and independence is pretty comically ironic to anybody in the know about what things are really like for k-pop groups, but the illusion of kick-ass independence was certainly as entertaining as 2NE1’s version of the same lie.
Girl’s Day – Nothing Lasts Forever
Actually this song is pretty shit until it breaks into one of k-pop’s best ever choruses.
Hong Jin Young – Love’s Battery
This song unfortunately doesn’t come with a video (EDIT: okay, it does, but it sucks) but it was a big single back in the day anyway, so here’s the ridiculously attractive Hong Jin Young doing a live version on the radio a few years later, who is so hot that she can even rock disgusting sport attire and make it look cute. However if that’s not your taste you can always check the Orange Caramel version.
Girls’ Generation – Hoot
Lots of people hated this song but I preferred it to the sickeningly repetitive anthems “Genie” and “Run Devil Run“. Definitely this is the best iteration of the “James Bond inspired” musical idea that SM Entertainment seems to try out with all their groups once they’re been around for a few years.
Infinite – Be Mine
Infinite were (and still are) one of those boy groups that break the mold a little bit by occasionally actually having someone write proper songs for them, instead of the usual pentatonic-scale warbling fucking bullshit that infects most male k-pop group songwriting.
IU – You & I
This song was the start of IU’s gradually calculated coming-of-age until her Eunhyuk medical visitation scandal forced her label to drop the pretense a couple years later, no doubt much to IU’s relief. It also foreshadowed “The Red Shoes” quite a bit musically, containing much similarity in the melodic lines and heavily-orchestrated arrangement.
miss A – Bad Girl Good Girl
Everyone talked about the bad-ass miss A girls invading the prissy ballerina dance studio and about the girls’ individual attributes in dance, TV variety shows and histories before joining the group but nobody discussed the carefully stripped-back arrangement and haunting keyboard backings in the chorus which are the real stars of this song.
Secret – Starlight Moonlight
Some people compare Secret’s “cute” songs to j-pop but those people are objectively wrong and are most likely focusing on image rather than actually opening their ears. Nowhere in the j-pop canon will you find a recreation of the 60s girl-group flavour that can hold a candle to this in terms of replicating and honouring the original appeal of the Motown sound, in fact J-pop groups consciously steer very heavily away from this sonic palate even when their image comes close. Sadly, Secret themselves also steered well away from this sound not long after this came out, and haven’t been back in this musical territory since.
Sistar – How Dare You
Although it rotates the same four chords throughout, “How Dare You” has a weird structure that I haven’t heard in any other k-pop song in recent memory, where the whole thing is bookended by a chorus that only appears at the start and end. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it works here pretty well and maybe someone else should give it a try this decade.
T-ara – Apple Is A
T-ara had several stabs at the “descending rotating fifths upbeat pop” song during the early part of their career, but “Apple Is A” (actually a CF for an apple company) beat all of them by being faster, perkier and just better.
T-ara – Cry Cry
They also out-Britneyed Britney “never been kissed” Spears with this faux-flamenco reworking of her early hits. T-ara during the Golden Age was pretty much unstoppable musically and it’s just as well that they gradually wound down their Korean activities in favour of collecting 120 times the money in China, because Korea’s native pop music fans have proven again and again that they don’t deserve music of this quality.
2NE1 – Ugly
Speaking of ugly things like Korean netizens, 2NE1 were another group that were consistently hot during the Golden Age and while they sadly were unable to keep up the quality after 2012 as well as T-ara did, there’s no fucking with their better material from back in the day. This masterfully-written and boneshakingly honest lighter-waving anthem for low self-esteemers must have brought them to tears every time they sung it.
UV ft. JYP – Itaewon Freedom
The funny thing about k-pop’s 80s reinventions is that the 80s weren’t actually this 80s. Back then nobody put on clothes like this and put up fluro lights and went “wow we’re being so 80s”, this was just normal shit.
BONUS SONG THAT I DIDN’T LIKE, BUT I PROBABLY LIKED IT MORE THAN YOU DID
Girls’ Generation – The Boys
Although Teddy Riley’s reinvention of SNSD into some kind of awkward high-heel stomping I-don’t-know-what-were-you-thinking wasn’t a complete success, this song remains the first high water mark of SM Entertainment’s current production values both musically and visually. The architecture both sonically and visually nearly succeeds in rescuing this song from itself.
Co-ed School – Too Late
Everyone whines about the potential of Co-ed School but the reason why MBK (then CCM) broke them up into their separate sub groups (5Dolls/F-ve dolls and SPEED) was because this shitty retread of Britney Spears’ “If You Seek Amy” proved that there was no potential.
C-Real – No No No No No
No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
Dal Shabet – Supa Dupa Diva
Hilariously, some dumb people read my “MR Removed is bullshit” article and all they got out of it was “he hates Dal Shabet”. That’s of course nonsense, Dal Shabet have appeared many times on Kpopalypse favourites lists as regular readers will know. What I really hate is E-TRIBE’s shitty productions and this is one of them.
G.na – I Already Miss You
It seems obvious in retrospect that this is just an advert for a callgirl with some worthless, thoughtless music plopped over the top. All that’s missing is the phone number at the bottom of your screen. By the way, I’m voting for the Sex Party in the upcoming federal election in Australia. Finally, a political cause that I can agree with! I think G.na would approve.
GP Basic – Jelly Pop
If this came out in 2016 nobody would bat an eyelid at this swag-influenced crap because so much of k-pop sounds just like this now. But this was 2011, where some actual quality was expected of girl groups. Oh how standards have lowered.
HAM – So Sexy
Most of you k-pop noobs probably haven’t heard of HAM (Heart And Mind) and there’s a good reason for that. This screechy mess was the worst out of the three feature tracks that they came out with before HAM vanished into the k-pop ether.
IU – Marshmallow
If you’re an actual human being with emotions and intelligence (as opposed to say, a Korean netizen, a fan of k-pop vocals, or a regular Netizenbuzz commenter), it’s easy to watch this and feel sorry for IU. You can tell just by looking at her that she feels shitty about the insipid horrible music and sly pedophile-pandering that her label forced on her during the first few years of her career. When she finally criticised it all directly in 2015 everyone threw a shit-fit and pretended that they weren’t complicit, but the fact is that back in the day everyone thought IU was oh so cute, the “Nation’s Little Sister” even, a title that she always rejected even while the media and fans forced it onto her. She knew that you were disgusting, even if you didn’t. The real reason why IU makes you feel uncomfortable is because you should be uncomfortable, because you deserve to be. Maybe you should listen to this song a few more times as punishment, you certainly have earned it.
Piggy Dolls – Know Her
As a chubby-chaser who is reasonably physically fit myself I find this video offensive because it implies that only fat guys like fat girls. That’s all the reason that I need to hate on this song, the horrible music is just icing.
Rania – Dr. Feelgood
Teddy Riley’s song for Rania could have been outstanding but is a failure only through sheer repetition. Like a lot of death metal songs, it sounds great for the first 30 seconds until you realise that that’s all there is and that it’s not going to significantly change or do anything interesting.
SHINee – Ring Ding Dong
Before BigBang’s descent into swag there was SHINee, one of those incrediNG-DING-BOM-BOM-BO-BOBOBOOOOMMM-BOMMMBOOOM-BOBOBODING-DING-DA-DING-DING-BOM-BOM-BO-BOBOBOOOOMMMDING-bly underrated groups full of talented performers. How can anyone not respect the incredible hard work and dedic-DING-DINGBOM-BO-BOBOBOM-BO-BOBODING-DA-DING-DING-BOM-ation of this group of five young men, doing their best in k-pop? There really should be more SHINee fans, don’t you thinDINGk?
Sistar – Push Push
This really bad song was quite a shock to the system in 2010 when we expected Sistar to actually be good but that was back before they decided a few years later that they would turn the tables on their whole concept and release four years of absolute garbage songs in a row.
Super Junior – No Other
Isn’t it cute how Siwon pretends he’s into girls, just for the benefit of SuJu fans. If you can stand the atrocious music long enough to get to the part where he ties some girl’s shoelace, look at that awkward smile, a clear case of “wow I’m so not into this but hey, it’s a job, so…”.
Taeyang – Wedding Dress
Some people seem to think that this is like the high-point of quality for YG solo tracks, and while it’s certainly not the worst, it’s still an absolute bucket of trash, the epitome of weak, lame R&B shit for the kind of softcock k-pop fans who have ruined the style for everybody else. If you like this song there’s no doubt that you are part of the problem of why k-pop sucks so much now, companies are spending all of their time catering to you and your shitty music taste and have forgotten that it’s the fast, fun, upbeat jams that are what got people all over the world into k-pop in the first place.
The Grace (CSJH) – My Everything
Of course it wouldn’t be a dishonourable list from the Golden Age without including the one group that did more than any other over an extended period to bring down the quality of k-pop as a genre overall. It’s hard to even know where to start when criticising this, so I’ll take the group’s suggestion and just say it’s their “everything”. A perfect example of how to do every single thing in a k-pop song wrong.
The Grace (CSJH) – One More Time, OK?
The only group consistently shit enough that they can get on a Kpopalypse dishonourable mentions list for the Golden Age twice.
BONUS SONG THAT COULD HAVE BEEN GREAT BUT WAS COMPLETELY RUINED BY EXCESSIVE VOCALFAGGOTRY
Brown Eyed Girls – Sixth Sense
This song starts off fantastic with that tough rhythm, and then quickly fucks it all up with absolutely terrible blues-based melodies typical of k-pop’s worst boy groups, plus so much annoying vocal caterwauling that by the end of it you’ll be going out to the local rubbish dump with an air rifle to shoot stray cats because the noise they make when they run around with a pellet up their ass is more pleasant. Sure, the girls look great and the video concept is cool but it’s all wasted on overblown music that tries to impress rather than actually be impressive.
That’s all for this list! Hopefully you enjoyed this list of my worthless opinions on music from the Golden Age of K-pop! Kpopalypse lists will return in 6 months with more unwelcome opinions that you didn’t ask for, when I wrap up everything in 2016! In the meantime, don’t forget the Kpopalypse roundup series for your weekly dose of k-pop shade and occasional rare good songs!