Welcome to the Kpopalypse favourites list for 2016!
2016 wasn’t a great year on average for k-pop, but the good songs were really, really good. As good as k-pop’s Golden Age? Definitely not, but good enough for me to maintain my interest in k-pop and make me feel like I’m not wasting my time following the genre, and that’s the important thing!
- Only feature tracks with MVs, and/or tracks promoted on music shows (because I can’t listen to everything)
- All songs were released between January 1st and December 31st 2016, this list was released on December 31st 2016 but may appear earlier for some due to timezones
- K-pop songs in languages other than Korean are still eligible – if the Korean pop industry is driving it, it’s still k-pop for the purposes of this list
- Korean covers of western pop songs are not eligible unless they are significantly changed from the originals rather than a carbon copy
- These are just my personal opinions on songs and have nothing to do with popularity, chart success, etc
- No I’m not saying my opinion is better than yours, you dipshit – don’t read what isn’t here
Let’s get this list started!
30. A-Daily – Chu
Once again the Kpopalypse favourites list starts off with a nugu, and that’s probably going to piss some people off because I know a few of you readers hate it when I have nugus in this list, but hey it’s not my fault if they sometimes have better songs than your trendy bullshit corporate high-flying dick-sucking groups. A-Daily were previously featured on Nugu Alert so it’s good to see these girls getting somewhere at least in terms of music quality, if not their actual careers, but hey this song has about 40,000 hits and their best music video yet so they’re officially out of the Kpopalypse nugu zone now, I guess that’s progress of a sort. “Chu” is just a straight-ahead four-to-the-floor 80s style pop song that actually sounds vastly similar to another western 80s style pop song that I can’t remember the name of, but who gives a shit because all these k-pop groups are copying something, somewhere, and always have. In the meantime you could copy Kpopalypse and listen to this great song, if you wanted.
29. DIA – Mr. Potter
DIA’s “My Friend’s Boyfriend“. Red Velvet’s “Dumb Dumb” and “Ice Cream Cake“. Oh My Girl’s “Liar Liar“. LaBoum’s “Shooting Love“. Everything by Twice. What do all of these songs have in common? The answer is they’re all grating listens to a greater or lesser extent due to the predominance of irritatingly present vocals and general rampant studio overcooking where everything in the mix is turned up to eleven and fighting for equal space, all the time. DIA’s “Mr. Potter” is another one of these songs, which is a shame – but it’s also the best one yet, and probably about as good as this particular style of k-pop (haven’t thought of a name yet but let’s go with “screechy bullshit” for now) is going to get. What makes “Mr. Potter” a better song is that there’s some nice descending harmony throughout and cool ambience in the chorus that actually gives you a reason to dive in between the 56 layers of ultra-compressed sonic mush, although I can forgive you if you didn’t notice because they were doing the Girl’s Day style ass swinging move during that part. Anyway if Twice or Red Velvet did this song it would be huge, which just goes to show that in the business world of k-pop it’s all about the name and the music is a secondary consideration for most. That’s a pity for DIA’s careers I guess at least until one of the girls can solidify themselves as 2017’s “most fapped over” but none of it affects me as I don’t give a fuck as long as I like the song. Shout-out to all the DIA fans I hope you’re both doing well, stay safe this new year.
28. K-Tigers – Hero
Speaking of MBK, do you miss their old group Co-ed School, the one that was split off into boy group SPEED and girl group F-ve Dolls because MBK (then CCM) were smart enough to realise that nobody actually gives any fucks about co-ed (mixed gender) groups? Do you like DSP’s new group, K.A.R.D, if not for their song, but just because it’s great to finally have an idol co-ed group in k-pop again after all this time? Well if so, wakey wakey hands off snakey because you’ve probably been sleeping on K-Tigers all this time. Fuck K.A.R.D and their trendy fucking joyless bullshit music because it sucks, whereas K-Tigers’ song “Hero” is rocking, upbeat and cool with chunky guitars, lots of vocal variety and lots of fun. Also fuck Jackie Chan – why the hell he didn’t see the obvious-as-day opportunity to train his own k-pop group JJCC in the direction that K-Tigers are going in I have no idea, perhaps he was scared that some young kids would upstage his own martial arts skills, but now that K-Tigers exist, that’s his problem not ours. Sure, the boys and girls of K-Tigers may not be the stunning lookers that you’re used to watching from k-pop idol groups, but that’s because they’re trained in kicking your weak soft K.A.R.D-liking ass first and giving a fuck about what you think of their appearance second. Oh and here’s a bonus video of them doing this song live so you know it’s not CGI:
The best thing about this is that the girls get a dance routine that’s equal to the guys in terms of physical movement. Of course the girls can’t do those crazy flips like the guys can because they know creepy fans reaching to try and find something in nothing will freeze frame it right when their underwear gets flashed and make them look like someone harassed them, but this is still way more than what girl groups usually get to do in k-pop songs. Anyway you’d better be nice in the comments even if you don’t like this song because K-Tigers can smash you like Bruce fucking Lee.
27. Berry Good – Don’t Believe
The latest fucking bullshit trendy fucking pop style for fuckwits is apparently that twee melody that always comes up as part of the choruses now, and is something that I’m reliably informed by caonimas is called “tropical house”. The “tropical” part is I suppose referring to the high synth melody always sounding like it’s being played on a synthesised pan flute or similar backward-ass instrument, and the “house” part is presumably because people who like this bullshit music don’t ever leave the fucking house. Although the result usually sounds like ass, there’s one huge redeeming feature of this style of pop song, which is that while the synth melody is playing the vocalists often shut the fuck up for a while, which is fantastic. Most k-pop in general is far too crowded with needless vocals over every single second of the song and doesn’t let the instrumental track breathe at all, so I’m actually not completely against this new development if it spaces out the vocal parts a bit. Berry Good definitely have the best configuration of this style out of anybody this year in k-pop with “Don’t Believe” which also has a great chorus proper and generally sounds like a classic 80s pop song whether you take away the “tropical” part or not, which just shows how good the rest of it is. Anyway, you’d better to learn to start liking this fucking shit sound in general because everyone and their cat is going to be jumping on the “tropical shithouse” bandwagon in 2017, and you can bet most of them won’t get it as right as Berry Good do here.
26. Oh My Girl – Windy Day
British rock group Queen had an odd progressive rock sound consistently for their first few albums, which I know quite well because I was a big Queen fan when growing up and collected them all avidly. Everyone knows “Bohemian Rhapsody” of course, but Queen actually had a shitload of songs like that which aren’t quite as well known. After about the fourth or fifth album Queen veered more in a traditional pop/rock direction which probably suited them a little better and created most of the songs people now know and love about the group, but they still returned to their early semi-progressive sound occasionally at various points in their careers. Whoever wrote Oh My Girl’s “Windy Day” was probably a fan of that sound too, and I’m certainly not suggesting that “Windy Day” is structurally similar to those early Queen songs, but the strong piano focus, modal guitar riffs, and especially the close-written vocal harmonies all do quite strongly echo the early Queen style. As an extra bonus, all eight of the girls in this video are more attractive than Freddy Mercury was in 1975, and probably have less diseases than he did in 1985, so what’s not to like?
25. Stellar – Crying
Bravesound do something in k-pop that most other songwriters don’t dare – they keep their songs relatively simple. Your average k-pop song is actually reasonably musically complex (just check how involved my tabs posts get if you want proof of that), whereas Bravesound tends to adhere more to the school of “four chords, a melody, a beat – fuck it, it’ll do”. That might seem like a criticism but in pop music it’s often the simple things that work best, and Stellar’s “Crying” works better than anything else they did in 2016, and most of the rest of k-pop too for that matter. It’s still musically multi-layered up the ass but the dreamy rotating chord progression and synth counter-melody underpinning the vocal lends “Crying” a similar quality to what I liked about last year’s “Sleepless Night” from Nine Muses. It’s also worth noting that Stellar have gone for another “innocent concept” this time which for Stellar basically means “more skin exposure than usual, but with more smiling and brighter clothing colours”. Those fucking trolls, I love them.
24. Nine Muses A- Lip 2 Lip
I feel sad for Australia, we can’t get this type of ska-lite pop music right ever, and it’s not like we haven’t had several awful attempts at it. Australian ska-pop music is routinely afraid of brisk tempo and decent production and at current progression rates it’ll probably be about 2050 AD at the earliest before we finally create something as good as “Lip 2 Lip”. However even Korea’s pop producers could learn something from this song – Sojin’s whispered rap part is fantastic, showing an important production lesson which is that dynamic subtlety works. Most k-pop songs are “everything equally loud, all the time” so listening to them gets very wearying, taking the vocal volume back a notch occasionally can really make something stand out to great effect. That doesn’t mean that the song has to turn into bland coffee-shop mush either, as “Lip 2 Lip” demonstrates by backing off on the volume but keeping the pace going. Of course the rest of the song is great too, but honestly half of the time when I click on this one I just sit there and loop Sojin’s part over and over again.
23. Very Very Good Life – Dance
Do you know why so-called “indie” music (whatever that term actually means to anyone over the mental age of six) coming out of Korea is usually fucking crap? It’s because these guitar-pop bands don’t ever bother to write songs with any fucking melodies, they think “hey everyone we play real instruments, look, we really do, we’re not an evil corporate k-pop idol group, so you have to like us” is all it takes to get them over the line. Of course they’re mistaken – just like it wasn’t good enough for Hillary Clinton to say “vote for me because I’m not Donald Trump, otherwise you’re a racist sexist scumbag”, it’s not good enough for Korea’s shoegaze bands to say “we’re not part of the evil soul-sucking corporate criminal pop machine, so therefore you have to fucking like us or you’re a bad person”. What a good band needs to realise is that if they’re writing three minute songs with verses and choruses and pop-style hooks, they’re competing on the same playing field as the most ultra-commercial k-pop stuff whether they like it or not, at least as far as a pure music fan is concerned. I don’t give any fucks whether the songs I like come from the dungeons of SM and YG or the green fields of altruistic free-range DIY-band goodness, I only give fucks if the end result is good, because I’m basically a cunt so moral questions about how my favourite music is generated don’t concern me. Very Very Good Life have produced a result that is indeed good, and I don’t care if they crushed the skulls of newborn babies and drank the blood and brains to come up with the creative inspiration for the melody and harmony, it fucking worked so whatever. As an added bonus, the lyric video is really useful for practicing your Korean pronunciation if you’re a Korean language noob like I am.
22. 100% – Better Day
One thing that k-pop is really good at doing is ripping off the visual style of Wong Kar Wai’s iconic film “2046“, and for some reason each time they do so, the music is really good too. There’s no logical reason for this quality synchronicity than I can think of, yet it seems to be the case regardless. What makes this even more improbable is that the “2046” colour scheme and the “It G Ma” colour scheme are almost identical, however everybody knows that “It G Ma” is worthless trash music for life’s fuckheads, whereas “Better Day” is some fucking cool shit. Anyway I’ve given up trying to understand the logic behind it, but what I do understand is that 100% have given us another great song with some cool vocal lines, nice chord progressions, punchy rhythm that never “traps out” and no bullshit trendy concessions to whatever the latest dick-sucking fad is in western music right now. I don’t even mind that the chorus has that balls-cut-off quality and the vocal improvisations near the end are a bit cringe, because the song is fast-paced and energetic enough that these sections actually suit the song instead of coming off as show-off wank, a point we’ll return to later in this list.
21. Iron – System
So here’s how to do a slow rap track properly, pay attention class:
- No trap, proper drums with fucking balls
- No faggot-bitch R&B vocals
- Occasional parts where there is no vocals of any kind for some space
- Nice ambience but not afraid to also throw in harsh sounds
- A nice little musical twist
- un-PC lyrics, no fucks given
- Animal cruelty
Of course when I talk about animal cruelty I’m not talking about the birds. Most vegans have never even met a chicken close up because if they did they’d quickly realise that chickens are objectively gross squaky creatures that are good for nothing but easily digestible protein and target practice. Therefore nothing cruel happens to any birds in this video. I’m talking about Iron being cruel to the real animals – insane YG fans, the same fans who repeatedly accuse me of being a YG hater even though 2NE1 has had more best-of entries in Kpopalypse list history than Crayon Pop, and who had to go and downvote Iron’s video a ton of times just because he’s calling out GD&TOP at the end of the song for… well I’m not even sure what actually, but who cares? It pissed a lot of people off who probably deserved it, so I’m cool with it.
20. Hyomin – Sketch
When I was growing up I used to play computer games on the Commodore 64 a lot, because I was a fucking lonely nerdy loser and computer games didn’t bully me or say “I really like you – as a friend” and then never speak to me again. Most of the games were shitty back then of course just like most computer games are these days, but one of my favourites was International Karate, a one-on-one beat-em-up tournament type game where you would slowly progress through the karate gradings as you won fights. The game had a lengthy synthesiser tune that accompanied all the action, written by Rob Hubbard, arguably the reigning master of Commodore 64 SID-chip computer music. The tune started off slowly, and then after about four minutes of play, the song would kick into a higher gear. I never got really great at the game, the reflexes of the higher levels were a little bit beyond my gaming skill level, and because the tune started again from the start with each new game, plus there was no way to save your game, I very rarely got to hear the second, faster section of music, but became very familiar with the slower first part. Maybe that’s why I like faster songs more these days, because I was deprived of listening to the higher-level music of that game, but regardless, Hyomin’s “Sketch” has a similar ambience to the game’s first slower section, which are both really cool pieces of music with some uncharacteristically well-written pentatonic harmony, which is just as impressive for a computer with only three simultaneous sound channels as it is for a video I can only last about three minutes of fapping over and which by all rights they could have slotted any old bullshit music over the top of if they had wanted.
19. Alice Vicious – Luna
Alice Vicious (formerly known as “LiVii”) is an ultra-nugu yolo-lite k-pop artist who has been consistently shithouse throughout her entire career and I had pretty much consigned her to the yolo bin forever, but I think she’s pretty attractive so I’ve been following her career very closely anyway despite expecting nothing musically from it. What I certainly didn’t expect was “Luna” which is actually new territory for her in that it’s a really good song. Sure, the song starts like it’s forming into a jumbled fucking amateurish mess like everything else she’s ever been involved with, but then at precisely the one-minute mark it segues into astonishing coherence with a fantastic chorus that redeems everything. For once Alice is exploring actual melody instead of just intoning disjointed English over some crappy 2000s-era excuse for a hip-hop beat, and the result is for some reason way better than it should be. Even the sonic choices actually match for once – the toy keyboard sounds are great and finally her “Fisher-Price yolo” aesthetic fits with the song in a way that makes actual musical sense. Now that she’s making good music finally, we just have to convince her to stop wearing that baggy hippie tent fucking thing and stick to the lolita dress… actually the lolita dress doesn’t work that well on her either. Fuck, can this woman even dress herself? Maybe she’s one of those people who has fantasies of being a baby and gets other people to dress her and change her underwear every time she has a shit, I wouldn’t put it past her, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’d heard about k-pop this year. Not that I give a fuck, if she keeps making songs this good I would clean up her poop.
18. Luna & Jambinai – From The Place That Is To Be Erased
Jambinai are a great, unique-sounding band, but they’re also a complete one-trick pony, they constantly do the same shit all the time – the sort of group who like French doom band Monarch could play any one of their songs at any of their shows for any length of time and the net musical result while undeniably great would be basically the same each time. In a way they’re a lot more formulaic than an idol pop act, because k-pop idol groups will mix up styles with each comeback (due to often working with different songwriters each time), whereas Jambinai pretty much just change the length of their drone, which weird rhythm they’re using and where they put the spazzed-out erhu sections. This is why adding a k-pop singer works so well for them, having f(x)’s Luna dropped into the mix means that now they have to work within a more tightly defined structure, because k-pop girls are used to things being melodic and also have schedules to go to and can’t sit around for 20 minutes while some guys in a band smoke weed and jam out the same drop-tuned chord into the ground and scream angsty bullshit about how they hate the government or whatever. So now we get all the things that make Jambinai great like heaviness, spazzy erhu, that other fucking weird long Koto-style instrument etc but in a tight time format that you don’t have to be completely fucking munted to appreciate – but we also get Luna channeling Ozzy Osborne over some serious stoner-rock riffage, and generally making things way more interesting than they would otherwise be all throughout the song. Luna even cries a bit at the end as she sheds a tear for the pussified Korean music scene after fuckblasting our asses with the type of heaviness that Korea’s so-called rockers wouldn’t dare explore. Hail Luna, hail Satan.
17. Fiestar – Apple Pie
Fiestar had a great year in 2016 and “Apple Pie” is one of their best ever efforts. The song is a very disciplined pop tune with not a moment of running time wasted, and the style as well as the musical textures strongly echo what was good about mid-period Girls’ Generation. Try listening to “Apple Pie” and Girls’ Generation’s “Run Devil Run” back to back and you’ll probably get the picture as both songs have cool synths and a great swinging rock feel, but I actually prefer Fiestar’s updated version of the same idea which carries a bit more of an emphasis on rhythm and less focus on super-crowded vocal layers in the chorus. The look of the video is also astonishingly good with all the girls looking freakishly outstanding, espcially Yezi who is ultra-careful not to blow her newfound “fierce” image by smiling too much and instead just sort of smirks a bit while posing in very shape-defining ways that meet Kpopalypse approval. Whoever is the brains behind Fiestar right now knows exactly what they’re doing with their music and image, and while I’m sure Fiestar won’t ever be appreciated in Korea as much as I feel that they should be because most Koreans would rather sip lattes and listen to bullshit, at this rate Fiestar are still making a nine-dash line straight for my heart.
16. April – Tinker Bell
When Chris Hansen gets home from a hard day of making pedophiles use furniture I’m pretty sure he turns up his home stereo and listens to April’s “Tinker Bell”. I can just see him now, saying to himself “it’s a shame that I can’t be open with people about my love for this great group because they will all think I’m a hypocrite, but damn this song is good, it’s their best one by far” as he hums along to the catchy chorus and mimics the girls’ arms-waving dance in the privacy of his lounge room.
“What’s going on?” his wife will yell from upstairs, hearing the thumping of his feet through the floorboards reverberating up the walls.
“Nothing, honey” Chris replies, cursing himself under his breath that he was so desperate for his April fix that he forgot to remove his shoes.
Chris’s wife comes down the stairs and eyes the TV screen before Chris can change the channel. “Oh. April again. You know that one of those girls is only 14, don’t you?” she says.
“It’s just research, dear… for a new book I’m writing… ‘How To Catch A K-pop Predator'”, Chris stammers, still humming along to the song.
His wife rolls her eyes. “Uh-huh. Your foot’s still tapping!”
Chris looks down and stops his involuntary foot motion. “Honey, it’s not how it looks…”
“You promised me you wouldn’t be like this, Chris!”. She storms off into the bedroom and slams the door behind her.
Chris can hear his wife sobbing through the wall. He considers going in there to console her – no, it’s the wrong time, that would just make her even more upset, maybe later. Chris takes off his shoes, puts them neatly by the doorway, plugs a pair of headphones into his stereo’s audio output and then turns up the volume once again. “I’ve got to get that arms-waving thing in the chorus just right so I can be a true Fineapple”, he mutters to himself, moving his arms in time to the music as nervous sweat forms on his brow.
15. Dorothy – Purple Lips
“Purple Lips” might sound from the song title alone like it’s describing a night out with Kim Hyun Joong but actually the song sits somewhere in between miss A’s “Touch” and Sistar’s “Alone” in terms of both sonic and visual presentation, which is definitely a positive thing all round. Of course the sound production isn’t as polished and clear as either of those two songs, and on the visual front we get projections and relatively simple sets instead of elaborately constructed A-list creations because Dorothy and their agency are both nugu as fuck and don’t have tons of money to throw around on this shit. Not that any of this is super-cheap mind you, there’s still a large chunk being spent here compared to the sort of video a western non-commercial group might put out, and I’m sure all these girls are still accumulating house-deposit sized debts to their company. It’s all worth it for me though, and this song brought me back to the days of only a few short years ago where plenty of other k-pop girl groups were doing songs like this. Hopefully the world of k-pop can work out how to get back to this quality level, or music fans might need to find a way to give purple lips to a few songwriters and CEOs, maybe they can hit up Kim Hyun Joong for tips on how to accomplish that in a fangirl-friendly manner.
14. History – Queen
This could have easily been worthless trap garbage like 99.9% of boy group comebacks this year, but instead it shocked the hell out of me and probably quite a lot of other people too by having an actual beat. Yes it does go a bit trappy in the pre-chorus but that’s just an interlude to break up the sections of the song that you actually want to hear. Unlike say, Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang“, the trap elements in “Queen” know their place – NOT the main event. Even more astonishingly, “Queen” also subscribes to 2016’s other main trendy bullshit newsletter – the sax riff hook, and gets that right as well. The riff could have easily been some annoying crap, but instead has been utilised unusually well, sitting back in the mix a little and only really sticking out during that electronic pitch-bend part upon where it doesn’t really sound like a saxophone anymore anyway. The end result is great and rappers all over Korea should be embarrassed that this idol-group song goes way harder than 90% of their soft weak pussy beats.
13. Girls Girls – Girls Girls
This song fucking sucks and does nearly everything wrong. The girls in Girls Girls’ “Girls Girls” all are way over-styled to the point where they ironically look like tragic ladyboysboys except not as attractive (ask anyone who’s been to Thailand and if they’re being honest they’ll tell you that the majority of ladyboys do actually “pass” astonishingly well), the song is packed full of insipid yolo bullshit and the backings are just irritating and stupid, with the usual crap beats everything has now plus dumb tinkly-bells shit and some weird xylophone/woodblock crap that really just sounds like ass. However what this song does right, it does very right – at 1:00 “Girls Girls” from the girls called Girls Girls completely flips on its head and comes together with an astonishingly great minor-key chorus that is one of the best that k-pop has ever produced, just like LiVii’s song earlier in this list but even more so. Then in the breakdown at 2:25 things get even better again where the same chorus melody is shunted over a completely different harmony that breathes new life into the same already-awesome melodic line. If only the song had proper verses and didn’t spend the other half of its running time in absolute suckland, there’s no telling how high the Girls Girls girls would have climbed on this list with “Girls Girls”.
12. Cross Gene – Noona, You
A lot of people didn’t like “Noona, You” because they felt that the song was a bit all over the place structurally, and I certainly get why it threw some people for a bit of a loop however the perception of the song as “messy” isn’t as accurate as it seems. “Noona, You” actually follows something fairly close to a rondo form, which is pretty unusual for k-pop, but it’s also actually quite a disciplined structure. Even better, the “A” part of that rondo form (essentially the chorus) is actually a tune straight out of the Roly Poly school of pop hooks with the same i-VI-III-VII progression, and is fucking awesome, and it’s used a lot. As soon as the song starts sound a little bit like it could go off the rails into some weird bullshit-ass fucking bitch territory for cockheads BAM that main theme comes straight back in and everything is saved – which is exactly how a rondo form is supposed to work in classical music, too. Just as Roly Poly demonstrated, you can have awful segues and shitty raps if you want but if they’re brief and you’ve got a fantastic hook hanging it all together a song can still work really well. “Noona, You” doesn’t waste any time, keeping the tempo fast and any excursions off the beaten track short and to the point, and most impressively of all still clocking in at a brisk three minutes total. If Girls’ Generation’s “I Got A Boy” or T-ara N4’s “Jeon Won Diary” had this type of songwriting discipline in effect I probably would have liked those songs as well, and Cross Gene now have the honour of k-pop’s first genuine “expanded song structure” that actually works well enough to get on my favourites list.
11. 4ten – Severely
When “Severely” came out, a lot of people compared it to some Japanese anime theme tune or whatever, even though it sounds nothing like that fucking shit, just because whenever k-pop fans don’t recognise a sound in a Korean pop song immediately as something k-pop has done before, they always revert to their default fallback position which is “oh that sounds Japanese” because the alternative (that it might actually resemble something western – oh no!) is just too fucking terrifying for these Asian-fetishising fucks to even contemplate. However, they have short memories – if you cast your mind back to the dying days of k-pop’s first Golden Age in 2012, you may remember Kara’s “Pandora” and if you do you’ll probably remember what a great kick-ass song it was, and for me 4ten’s “Severely” comes off a bit like what “Pandora” would have sounded like if producers Sweetune tried to make it with about 50% of the money. All of their usual Kara-tested elements are there from the keyboard riffs to the fast beat and the distorted guitar squeals here and there, just in a less polished, rawer package. Having said that, 50% of Sweetune’s money is still far from low-budget – details that confused k-pop fans like the distorted voice in the intro are obviously aesthetic choices rather than production errors, which I thought was pretty fuckin’ obvious (they even telegraph it by using that shitty Shure Super 55 microphone in the video) but for some really odd reason everyone gave 4ten stick about it when boy bands do the same shit in their intros and nobody cares. Anyway I like “Severely” at least as much as “Pandora” because getting the same results with less money is kind of cool, like hiring the “budget” hooker from the escort agency because you’re poor and she turns up to your doorstep and she’s some really cute fat chick who actually is sexier and better in bed better than the “premium” girl they sent last time who wouldn’t even let you come on her face because she had other clients later and didn’t want to have to do her makeup twice that night.
10. Wanna.B – Why?
Wanna.B have been around for a while now but haven’t made any dents in any Kpopalypse charts up until this point due to making incredibly average tunes despite at least always looking great. “Why?” changes all this however, the light electro feel and syncopated handclapping beat make this song the spiritual successor to Wonder Girls’ “So Hot“, but bolstered with spicy 2016 production values. If there’s one flaw that JYP’s 2008 material had for Wonder Girls it’s that the sonics were just a little too thin and reedy, but whoever made this track for Wanna.B has the mix calibrated correctly so those bass drums hit you in the nutsack as they should, but not to the point where it weighs down the mix with too much glugginess. The video is equally spicy with some Saturday Night Live-grade sneaky crotch-grabbing action and it’s good to see Wanna.B reliably continue their tradition of looking incredibly good in music videos. I guess it’s to be expected for such a fancam–friendly “pin-up concept group” (think Bambino, Pocket Girls, PPL, etc), but it’s also nice to get some decent music on top of that, which unfortunately doesn’t always happen. The air-hostess outfits and general hotness this time are just icing on the cake rather than the cake itself, and we should all be grateful.
9. Lovelyz – Destiny
When I dropped a dog-whistle post earlier this year which explained the hidden messages behind some popular k-pop songs, a few people asked me to post some more about it or maybe even turn detecting dog-whistle concepts into a regular series. I’m probably not going to do that because most of my educational posts are in the spirit of “teach a man to fish” so my idea is that you should be able to detect these things for yourself now (and people call me condescending? I credit my readers with a lot more intelligence than any other k-pop site by refusing to pander to simply spoon-feeding information), but Lovelyz have a fairly advanced example of dog-whistle with “Destiny” so it’s probably worth bringing up here. When “Destiny” was released many people compared it musically to j-pop, which seems to be a catch-all type of position that k-pop fans revert to whenever they hear pop music sounds that are unfamiliar to them. However the strings, circle of fifths progression and hook here are all straight out of commercial 1970s disco-pop, with the only real link to modern pop music of any sort being the brisk keyboard stabs which really help lift the song out of the turgid mess that it could otherwise have easily been. Many fans also called the concept “innocent” but that’s even more incorrect, anyone who has seen 1970s softcore Playboy/Penthouse bedroom photography will instantly recognise the clothes and hair styling here as well as the prying extreme close-up camera, plus notice how almost every single shot is either in or just outside a bedroom. The visuals reinforce the retro concept of the song with the constantly spinning camera and use of circular objects and motifs, suggesting that it’s “destiny” that everything that goes around comes back around, including music fashion, clothes fashion, hair fashion, interior design fashion, fap fashion and Lovelyz charting on a Kpopalypse favourites list once again.
8. Sugardonut – Imagine, Close Your Eyes
Somewhere in “Worship Raina You Fucking Whores”, the book of Rainaism, it is written that in the beginning, there was an industrial dance couple called Tank & Mary. Tank & Mary released several great dance videos where they would go to various locations and dance to industrial songs and due to their uncanny style and “idgaf if you’re watching me and you think I’m a dick, here’s my cool moves” vibe they became a small Internet viral sensation. Many people no doubt clicked on their videos just to laugh at their odd fashion and the audacious randomness of them dancing in odd locations while bemused bystanders looked on in confusion, but they also had several admirers, including myself. As someone who finds both their caonima-style attitiude as well as industrial dance music in general appealing, I enjoyed watching their videos, so I was a bit saddened a few years ago when Tank & Mary decided to stop uploading dance videos and instead focus more on cosplay interviews. Since then there has been somewhat of a void in my existence which has caused me great sadness and anguish, however I’m happy to announce that Sugardonut has now filled this gaping chasm in my life with “Imagine, Close Your Eyes”, a song which also features a random male and female dancing in various locations in a style which definitely isn’t exactly the same as Tank & Mary but isn’t too far removed either. Not only that, but the music while being about as far removed from industrial dance as it’s possible to get, is really really cool. I’m not so much into the fairly dull Coldplay/Mumford & Sons-ish verses, but they’re just a build up to an incredibly kick-ass chorus and keyboard riff which on their own make the song more than worthwhile. It’s a pity that nugus Sugardonut haven’t made anything even remotely this good since, but then to be fair, hardly anyone else has either.
7. Sistar – I Like That
Well, I didn’t see this one coming. I always like to think that my predictions are pretty on-point, at least relative to the laughable bullshit predictions that some of the more mainstream k-pop sites make. However even my super Boram ESP powers have limitations, and I certainly couldn’t have guessed Sistar getting a song into my top 10 for this year. Sistar are one of those groups that for the last few years has just routinely lazily shat out exactly the same feature track with minor variations every Korean summer, so it’s a real shock to the system to see them once again investigating actual decent music. “I Like That” is certainly moody and dark, but not in a limp, soft, boring way like so many Korean songs this year, it’s a fast number that punches you in the face straight away with no-nonsense rhythm and chilling sampled vocals, and only ups the ante from there. At 0:24 when Dasom smiles at the camera it’s like she’s saying “it’s okay, you’re not about to die, this is just a k-pop song, you can calm down” and some reassurance like that is definitely needed as if there’s one commercial k-pop song in 2016 that comes off as the soundtrack to riding a motorcycle off a cliff late at night with the lights off then this is it (that’s a compliment, by the way). On top of this, the girls even look great – all of them, even the ones that I wouldn’t routinely fap to (which is all of them). The breakdown is a bit ill-advised but that’s really the only thing wrong with it, and the high quality of “I Like That” is proof that anything can definitely happen in the world of k-pop. I’m sure Sistar will return to their usual boring summer bullshit songs in 6 months, but until then this is great, and all is forgiven.
6. Gfriend – Rough
Gfriend are to k-pop what AC/DC is to hard rock, and what Cannibal Corpse is to death metal – they know exactly what their audience wants and so they just keep churning out the same thing every time they come out with a new feature track, with only the most minor of variations required to technically class the new song as new. Everything that was present in 2015’s “Me Gustas Tu” is in this song too, right down to the circle-of-fifths progressions and guitar solos with oddly saturated distortion, but “Rough” adds a layer of melancholy into the mix which lifts it above the fairy-floss vibe of their previous songs. Fans got all excited about the song’s “story” showing the girls growing up, and tracing a path from “Glass Bead” to “Me Gustas Tu” to “Rough” but that was all bullshit wishful thinking, nobody in k-pop actually gives a crap about unifying video concepts and for their next song it was fairy-music back at the school gym again. A shame really because if they kept going in this direction maybe they would have had to heavy up their sound a bit more for their next comeback, and Umji could have fulfilled her dsetiny as k-pop’s Bruce Dickinson. Sadly Umji had a temporary break from the group on the day that she finished her stint as the “no reason” girl on the Kpopalypse sidebar earlier in 2016 so perhaps she doesn’t have the mental fortitude to realise her true calling, but in my dreams, it’s always there, the evil plays then twists my mind and brings me to despair.
5. Fiestar – Mirror
Holy swinging nutsack, after several years of trying Fiestar finally sure got it right in 2016. “Mirror” is held together by that constantly repeating three-note keyboard riff, around which everything else revolves. The dreamy keyboard riffs combined with the TR-808 drum machine sounds and minimal arrangement (by k-pop standards, anyway) position the song somewhere between miss A’s “Touch” and Rainbow’s “Black Swan” in terms of both sonic architecture and overall mood, which for k-pop is a great place to be and one that is sadly under-explored. Of course Korea didn’t give a shit because they hate this kind of sound these days, preferring to wank themselves into a coma over endless trap and boring coffee-shop bullshit music, which is why we get only a couple songs that sound like this per year (if we’re lucky). If the great music wasn’t enough, everyone in the video looks amazing again, especially Jei, and I don’t even like Jei. The failure of Fiestar to really get anywhere commercially after all these years is proof that Korea only cares about superficial junk like names, scandals and appearances, whereas true virtuous values of righteousness and justice like good songs and hot girls take a back seat. Koreans should thank their lucky stars that they even have a Hallyu wave at all with their shitty attitude, because they certainly don’t deserve one.
4. Hyosung ft. D.Action – Find Me
Okay, so let’s address the elephant in the room immediately – Hyosung has some very nice boobs. There, now that’s over with, let’s completely not mention boobs or anything else that could possibly be construed as sexual in this write-up and instead talk only about the song. I honestly never thought I’d see Hyosung bouncing up anywhere near a Kpopalypse favourites list ever again after everyone in Secret ditched the sound of the brilliant “Shy Boy” in favour of endless flopping Beyonce clones and saggy ballads (and Hyosung didn’t really stick out for me even back then) but hey here she is. Like most songs on this list I’m pretty sure that “Find Me” died pretty hard on the Korean charts, but I’ve never cared about chart success or failure, only if I like the song, and so it remains a firm Kpopalypse favourite for 2016. When “Find Me” busted out onto the k-pop scene, the song mainly stuck out to me because of its pleasingly firm tempo – 124 beats per minute was pretty much average pop song speed in 2011 but five years later the standard for pop songs is funeral slow and for someone always keeping abreast of the latest trends in k-pop I found the relatively fast pace to be really noticeable. The bouncy beat, perky instrumentation and voluptuous tremolo guitar are extremely welcome and in a better universe this would be a gay club anthem instead of Danni Minogue or whatever it is that people listen to in gay clubs. I’m not sure how they got this song so right when the rest of Hyosung’s solo stuff is all junk, all I can think of is that maybe it was the extra contribution of some D.Action behind the scenes. Anyway don’t make a tit of yourself by ignoring this great song..
3. Snuper – Platonic Love
Even though my favourites list tends to come out a little bit after everyone else’s, I write most of the text for the song reviews beforehand, including the entry for this song which I write at the end of November where it became clear that “Platonic Love” was definitely going to end up in my 30 favourites regardless of what came out in December (which usually isn’t much). So given that it’s still November 2016 at the time of writing, I confidently predict that this song will be #1 on almost everyone else’s favourite songs list – or if not it certainly should be, because it’s fucking cool, and the only reason why my list will differ to most people’s on this point is that Snuper is about as nugu a group as your average k-pop fan is probably willing to stan. “Platonic Love” lifts the keyboard textures and general progression from a-ha’s “Take On Me” in much the same way that IU and Fiestar’s “Sea Of Moonlight” did back in 2012, and also manages to produce a similar quality song from the results, i.e one that is better than what a-ha came up with, due to better production and a much tidier arrangement. “Take On Me” had a great chorus and keyboard riff but it also had a lot of pointless wank sections in it that really didn’t add anything to the song at all, wank that you probably won’t even remember existed yourself without clicking my link and giving “Take On Me” another listen. “Platonic Love” turfs all of that random junk out onto the curb and replaces it with extra melodic parts and some short raps which is definitely the right choice, keeping the momentum of the song flowing. This song is almost complete k-pop perfection and the only thing going against it is how derivative it is, but that’s hardly an issue as since when is k-pop not 99% derivative anyway. This song is fantastic and makes me hungry for the days when 80’s pop was at its peak, it’s enough to make me want to visit the snank bar.
2. Berry Good – Angel
“Angel” was co-written by Joo Tae Young, a k-pop composer and producer who sadly died of leukemia last year, he was the same person who wrote Click-B’s excellent “Love Letter” which he then also rewrote for Berry Good. However there’s no sense in liking the song for a sentimental bullshit reason like this – people who hover over a recently-deceased musician’s still-fresh corpse like shit-munching flies to buy all their music always come off as virtue-signalling creeps to me, the time to appreciate and support people making good music that you like is when they’re alive to be thankful for it, not after they die and it doesn’t benefit them. It’s far better to like “Angel” because it’s just a fucking great song instead. Sure, that ascending pentatonic vocal run in the breakdown is a little bit painfully unnecessary (okay, so you can sing, we get it, now stop showing off and get back to the actual song thanks) but it’s not enough to wreck it and most of the other vocal histrionics actually fit quite well because the song has a fair bit of pace to it that makes a more intense vocal climax actually appropriate for once. The video also beautifully matches the theme of death and rebirth, and the entire song is clearly co-written as a tribute to Joo Tae Young. Hopefully this song can prove to Ladies Code’s songwriters that songs written after a tragedy don’t have to be boring, lame, turgid funeral marches and then we’ll have Berry Good and Ladies Code kicking ass in 2017, here’s hoping.
So what’s Kpopalypse’s #1 favourite k-pop song for 2016? Well it certainly was one that nobody guessed, but maybe that was just because nobody realised it existed, however observant readers would have noticed that it featured in Kpopalypse roundup, just like every other song on this list. Without further ado…
1. To-day – Secret
No, this is not a song by Secret, calm the FUCK down. The artist name comes first in these lists and the song name comes second, after 29 entries you should have figured that out by now. Great, glad that’s sorted, now let’s get to the real issues: what the fuck is this song anyway, how come you’ve probably never heard of To-day before, and how did she beat everything else this year?
Well, To-day is certainly a nugu, but not as nugu as you might think – she actually already debuted a couple years ago. To-day sure sounds like a fucking awkward as shit name until you realise that this girl used to go by the even more awkward as shit name of Oh!nle and debuted a couple years ago with a song called “Graduation“. Not many people noticed this however, as “Graduation” was a pretty unremarkable song, and thus Oh!nle was quickly forgotten by most and relegated to the dusty cupboards of k-pop archival lore along with Juniel’s early songs and all the other crappy IU clones of the day. Now Oh!nle has bounced back with a rebranding, calling herself To-day and coming out on SS301’s label CI Entertaiment (CI presumably stands for “court injunction”) with the coolest song this year. So what’s so great about To-day’s “Secret”?
When I first heard the light, breezy delayed-guitar intro to this song I thought “oh no, this intro is really nice but I can just tell it’s going to turn into some boring Coldplayish soft-rock mess like the last 26 solo tracks by Taeyeon, this is how all those songs start”. However I was soon happy to be wrong as the song quickly remained awesome and steadfastly refused to suck with bouncy light electro backings and melody after melody after melody – there’s so many cool melodic lines in this song that if it wasn’t for the “secret world” bit matching the song title you might not even know which part was supposed to be the hook. In this way it’s like a lighter, less synth-heavy sounding version of 2NE1’s excellent “Hate You“, although “Secret” is actually better than “Hate You” because it has more variety. Of course the real hook is that aforementioned delayed-guitar riff which comes rolling back in at all the important times, and the backings to this song are pure perfection, where nothing is over or under-done. The nugu-friendly Yongma Land video with Digipedi-esque props (I have no idea if it’s actually Digipedi’s creation) is also easily the best music video that anyone has ever created at that location, cleverly positing the amusement park as a benevolent yellow-smothered alternate-reality dreamworld where the laws of matter and physics don’t apply. I have no idea what level of the nugu dungeon To-day resides in today, and I doubt she’ll ever chance upon a song this good ever again, but that doesn’t make “Secret” any less awesome. If only web-searching up this girl’s SNS wasn’t such a complete fuckhole of a task, I’d thank her personally for helping save k-pop this year.
That’s all for Kpopalypse’s favourites list for 2016! I hope you enjoyed this list, but if it contained too many positive sunny vibes for you, remember that there’s always my worst of 2016 list that you can read instead! A very special thanks to all readers of Kpopalypse blog for supporting my writing in 2016, and Kpopalypse will return in 2017 with more postings!