Welcome to the list you’ve been waiting for – Kpopalypse’s 30 worst k-pop songs of 2016!
What sort of a year in k-pop was 2016? Well, it was certainly a mixed bag. Many shitty music fashions such as dubstep and hard Autotune have now almost completely vanished from k-pop, but they’ve been replaced by other shitty music fashions such as trap beats and irritating sax riffs. Several other things have stayed the same – there’s still far too many ballads, too much smooth crap and way too much R&B rubbish for my liking, however many of the absolute worst songs of all had none of these characteristics. Overall I don’t know if the worst songs were any worse than last year, but they certainly weren’t much better.
- All tracks are feature tracks with MVs, and/or tracks promoted on music shows
- All songs were released between January 1st and December 31st 2016, this list was published on December 31st 2016 but may appear earlier for some due to timezone differences
- 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
- OST songs are not eligible, because otherwise this list would be completely dominated by OST songs, which would be accurate, but boring to read
- Christmas songs are not eligible, they are their own unique brand of turd and have their own special list dedicated just to them
- These are just my personal opinions on songs and have nothing to do with popularity, chart success, etc
I fully expect many people to be upset about this list, because this happens every year with regularity. However if you’re willing to upset yourself by reading my trash, that’s your choice. Don’t like strong language? That’s fine, there are plenty of other k-pop websites that cater to you – please note that Kpopalypse blog is not and will never be one of them. Like a song that I hate? Great, enjoy it! Maybe this list even helped you discover songs that you like that you didn’t even know about before, that’s totally awesome and cool. Think I’m being superior? I’ve mentioned time and time again in many articles that my opinion is my opinion only and doesn’t have any more or less value than anyone else’s, just because I express it strongly doesn’t mean that I expect (or want) you to agree. Think this article is clickbait? Bait to what? Unlike most k-pop websites I don’t even carry advertising and I actually even pay my web provider so you don’t have to see ads, believe it or not. Am I an “edgelord” or whatever? Doubtful – I actually have a big-time positive attitude to k-pop and k-pop writing in general, or I wouldn’t even bother to follow it. I’m not nihilistic in the least, and some of the things I say might be considered offensive but that’s just for laughs and because I’m an Australian and we’re all rude dickheads – “blunt” is the opposite of “edge”. So just chill, and also remember that I have a favourites list as well so feel free to head on over to it and embrace the positivity!
That’s enough disclaimers for the crybabies – let’s get stuck into the list!
30. Hoody – Like You
In the interests of continuing the high OH&S compliance standards of Kpopalypse blog, let’s start off this list with an important public health warning. All Kpopalypse readers need to be aware of Shit Music Disease and the damage that it can cause. The above video demonstrates the symptoms of this frightening and potentially deadly condition. The video begins with a plea that patients with the disease should be isolated, and follows an escaped sufferer who has broken quarantine and goes on a Fender Rhodes-fuelled rampage of shit dancing in a nearby caravan park, endangering all those around her. The highly contagious disease begins to affect one of the caravan’s residents, who begins staring listlessly and gradually succumbs to deep depression, staring into space wishing that this awful song would be over. Then some four-eyed bitch turns up for no reason and steals her fucking caravan. Moral of the story – don’t listen to shit music like this, or you will become incapacitated by depression and too sad to defend yourself and your property. I can only hope that all Kpopalypse readers take the threat of Shit Music Disease seriously and we can control this epidemic. Thank you. (A lock on your caravan may also help.)
29. Blackpink – Stay
Blackpink are the new 2NE1 in every aspect, YG has basically admitted that his groups are just generic one-size-fits-all “YG sound” rather than a specific sound for each group which is why he doesn’t bother to run more than one of these girl groups simultaneously. As Blackpink therefore perform exactly the same function as 2NE1, 2NE1’s death bell was struck as soon as Blackpink debuted. On the positive side, that means that Blackpink get to absorb and build on everything that YG learned about promoting 2NE1 visually. “Stay” certainly as a result has a neat look to it, like it was filmed in the bombed-out hospital from my Tzuyu fanfic, that’s definitely a good thing. YG almost always get the visuals right these days, if only they had a similarly good track record with their actual songs. This one is some acoustic la-la handclap harmonica fucking trash that no person on earth under the age of 60 could possibly get hyped for if it wasn’t for the strength of YG’s marketing machine. “Stay” strongly recalls 2NE1’s dull “Lonely” but it removes the one good thing about that song which is that at least “Lonely” got to the point nice and quickly and didn’t faff around with shithouse harmonica solos. This song is an asspile and Bob Dylan would be turning in his grave, if he was a. dead and b. had standards.
28. Shin Yong Jae & Luna – It’s You
You may not be aware of this, but new consumer trade laws have just been passed in South Korea, where a music video for a shitty ballad that nobody wants to hear must not unfairly deceive its audience by giving a false impression of music quality. This ballad is a very recent release and one of the first that has been impacted since this new law came into effect. The original video for “It’s You” was just Shin Yong Jae and Luna together in a room singing, but this was considered by the court to be deceptive as:
- There is a possibility that f(x) fans might see Luna and be deceived that this song could potentially be of the same quality of one of the better f(x) releases
- Those bland sleepy-time melodies could be theoretically sung by anybody with the same effect, so highlighting the singers falsely suggests that they are actually putting their own personality and style into the performance
It was ruled that as the songwriting and delivery was so wooden, SM Entertainment were legally required to scrap their existing video and make a brand new MV out of at least 50% wood products so the visuals were not considered to be falsely misleading viewers. SM Entertainment advised in an official statement that they plan to swiftly appeal this decision, but were not willing to delay the release of “It’s You” and hold back the schedule of SM Station, so they have complied with the court’s request while preparing their case. The only concession that SM Entertainment managed to gain from the court was that the use of CGI wood is acceptable, on the grounds that since the vocal abilities of many of SM’s singers have been consistently heavily simulated by technology, it would therefore be acceptable and in keeping with existing standards of “authenticity” to simulate visual artifacts in their music videos. I hope this review clarifies those confused by the visual choices in this music video, you’re welcome.
27. EVE ft. Heechul – Melody
In a pure pop song, the chorus is your ace card. It often makes sense to play this card first, and this is what I call the “bookend chorus” style song structure, however if your chorus is pretty shit, it may not help to structure a song in this way. Most heavy rock songwriters have no idea how to write a good chorus – catchiness of the vocal line is less important in that style, so they tend to drag out the introduction of the chorus as much as possible, so by the time you hear it, the other elements of the song (like really good riffs, or whatever) have already “sold” the listener. That’s why a lot of 80s Metallica songs had all those long–ass intros in their songs before you even got to hear any vocal material at all. EVE and Heechul’s “Melody” falls between the two stools, it’s trying to sell itself as some kind of heavy song but they’re straight in with the chorus immediately, which completely fucks the whole deal. It doesn’t help that the “heavy” chorus actually isn’t that heavy anyway, being largely awash with layered strings and the guitars buried so far back in the mix that they almost sound like extra components of the orchestra themselves (which technically I guess they are, but can we bring them out of the mush a bit please). Since the “heaviness” in this song is so pissweak it would have made more sense to build up to it by putting the pussy acoustic section at 0:51 at the start instead. Taken as a pure pop song “Melody” doesn’t work very well either, the meandering Visual Kei melodic style of the vocals just doesn’t cut the required amount of catchiness here to make this pop material. This song fails at being heavy while also failing at being pop, but at least the video doesn’t fail to be amusing, with all the musicians looking completely ridiculous in their Visual Kei-lite makeup and styling, trying to look cool but just coming off as ridiculously bored. However, the best thing of all in the music video are the guy and girl in the drama sections blocking their ears, screaming and smashing instruments, embodying the perfect reaction to this song and in fact this year’s list in general.
26. Moran Lee – I’m Not Okay
It could certainly be argued that South Korea is a pretty gender-unequal place in many respects, so a feminist k-pop song like this one may have some worthwhile context over there and quite a few people can probably empathise with the lyrical messages in “I’m Not Okay”. That’s all well and good, however I wish Korean feminist musicians would take a leaf out of the west’s book when it comes to what is considered acceptable musical content to accompany a song like this. No gender revolution is going to get started with this lame Nickelback-style ballad, Korea really needs some kind of Riot Grrl movement if they’re ever going to kick this type of thought process into high gear. You need something at least as extreme as Dead Gakkahs in order to wake people the fuck up, no social movement for change ever worked by boring everyone to fucking death (which is possibly one of the reasons why so few women identify as feminists these days). Mind you, casting the politics aside the song is still shit anyway so maybe we should be grateful for the patriarchy after all – if this is the type of music that feminists in Korea are making, perhaps the oppression of women in South Korea is a necessary evil. It might be all that’s preventing Korea from being flooded with boring soft rock Nickelback clone groups, now that really would be oppression.
25. NCT 127 ft. SR15B – Switch
I can’t keep track of SM Entertainment’s new male group and their various subunits. There’s that one subunit called CUN T, not sure what that’s about, my only guess is that perhaps it’s an attempt to branch out into the Australian market, but at least it has some kind of meaning. Then there’s pedo-subunit NCT Dream, which is a name that makes sense as I guess you’re supposed to dream about them turning legal age and marrying you in ten years. On the other hand what the fuck is NCT 127 even supposed to mean, especially when it’s coupled with SR15B? These sound like labels for model aircraft parts or Cube dungeon cell block numbers rather than a group of young boys that fans are supposed to emotionally connect with. I think SM have worked out (seemingly correctly) that nobody cares about group names anymore, and are now content with just fishing out random numbers and letters from a lucky dip. I’d actually be fine with this if the music here wasn’t also written using a similar “spin the wheel whatever it lands on fuck it that’ll do” procedure. “Switch” has that same bullshit pissweak beat that SM have been using in all their f(x) and SHINee songs lately, combined with ridiculously annoying childrens-TV style nursery rhyme vocal melodies that I’m surprised they didn’t give to the pedo-subunit, and all dusted off with a finishing coat of “tropical shithouse”, the latest bullshit trend in pop music where they insert a stupid twee melody played on a $50 keyboard over the top as if this song didn’t already have enough annoying melodies in it. The resulting music is so irritating that it’s enough to make me want to punch 127 CUN Ts, but that would be illegal… I guess I can dream.
24. Hyoyeon, Min, Jo Kwon, JYP – Born To Be Wild
Remember when SM Entertainment as part of their hype-train for Girls’ Generation’s “Mr. Mr.” comeback claimed that they had lost a bunch of data and that their original video files were corrupted and they had to film it again or some bullshit, and that was laughably then used as an excuse for the final video’s crusty appearance even though all that ‘crust’ was very obviously just filter effects added in during post-processing? Well it seems that SM Entertainment haven’t completely gotten rid of that “mysterious computer bug” that keeps attacking their data and degrading the quality of their images, because “Born To Be Wild” really looks like shit and has the same filters applied about five times as much. It’s actually really annoying because it’s getting severely in the way of my Min fap, her contours are hard enough to make out as-is with that big scarf-thing around her upper body let alone with all that image-distortion fuzz over the top, however on the plus side any filter effect applied over JYP is most certainly welcome, so perhaps it’s an attempt by SM at censorship for the collective good of all of us. The song itself is even more annoying than the visual filters though with the usual crappy beats everything has now plus all that boring meandering around with that phrygian-with-raised-3rd scale because it sounds so “exotic” or whatever, it’s a pity they couldn’t “filter” the audio some more instead of the images. One day music technology will advance the point where you can buy a stomp-box or rack-mounted unit called “Roly Poly” and it will run any audio that you put through it into a Roly Poly algorithmic filter to fix the result pop-quality-wise, but until scientists bring us this invention we’ll just have to keep being vigilant about telling people that this music is unacceptable.
23. Okasian & Brian Chase ft. Keith Ape – Underwater Bank
It’s so easy to criticise this, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, and Okasian even looks like a fish in this video with that hanging jaw and vacant stare. Maybe that’s what the whole “underwater squad” thing is about with these guys, you all thought it was something meaningful but it’s just a reference to Okasian looking like a mud carp. Hey I guess if you’re always underwater, that means that you never need a shower, because you’re perpetually clean all the time, which just isn’t hip-hop at all. The whole “no showers = hip-hop” thing actually checks out in reality too – before I started the Kpopalypse radio show at the beginning of 2012, I used to do another show on my radio station late at night, and the hip-hop show was always on before mine, I’d usually be arriving at the station at around the time those guys were in the middle of their broadcast. As a result of this I’ve met almost every well-known rapper in Australia, because those guys would come into the station to do interviews quite frequently. When I say “met” I only mean in a “passing by them in a corridor” sense, I wouldn’t actually speak to them much or anything, because I really have nothing to say to Australian rappers – I generally prefer to have a nice comfortable expanse of a few thousand miles of ocean between myself and any rap guys. However when I did get close to them it was definitely true that these Australian underground rappers didn’t look after their hygiene all that well, what a bunch of stinky assholes. When I was out looking for property to buy a few years back I examined an apartment that was tenanted and the guy who lived there was some nerdy shut-in, my girlfriend at the time said that the place smelled like “semen and despair”. That’s a pretty accurate description of what many members of the Australian hip-hop community smell like. Sorry I know this is all tangenital and irrelevant to the song, but it seems like Cohort Crew didn’t spend any real effort in writing this lazy bullshit so I sure as fuck am not going to spend any of mine in reviewing it properly.
22. Loopy – Goyard
And then there are some songs where the music is actually pretty good, but any worth that the song could possibly have had is completely ruined by bad vocals. When I talk about “bad vocals” here I am NOT referring to bad singing technique that k-pop’s legions of vocal-obsessed nuts argue about but I personally couldn’t really give any fucks about, instead I’m talking about bad vocal choices – there’s a big difference between the two, let’s make that clear. You can be the best singer in the world but if you choose to sing something completely inappropriate for the backing track, it’s going to sound bad whether your delivery is technically perfect or not. Even though it’s still an awful trap beat instead of something resembling actual rap music, the ambience in “Goyard” is quite nice (especially before the beat begins) and the right type of melodies over the top could have turned those backings into a really good song. What it absolutely didn’t call for is some asshole jumping around singing “and I’m ballin’ and I’m ballin’ so haaaaaaaard” and various other stupid yoloshit that nobody wants to hear, which absolutely 100% kills any kind of mood that was generated by the instrumental. Also correct me if I’m wrong but is this entire song just about what brands of clothes the guy wears, and how this makes him “ballin'”? I realise that lyrical standards in rap music have sunk so low that talking about how your own clothes supposedly makes you cool for an entire song is actually a standard accepted kind of thing for hip-hop now (actually I blame RUN-DMC for starting that bullshit trend), but the fact that he raps about it at sloth lemur speed with the most flat delivery possible doesn’t really sell me on the idea. I don’t even know what the fuck a “goyard” is supposed to be but I wish Loopy would take this song and go fuck off to it.
21. Dean – Bonnie & Clyde
When I talk about the artists I like and dislike in k-pop, I talk more about hit/miss ratios than the actual group itself, and the reason why I highlight this is because it’s an acknowledgement that I’m interested primarily in the qualities of the music that I find satisfying (or not) to listen to. Yes, being able to have hot girls in a music video is definitely nice and can certainly make a video more watchable, and I certainly also appreciate some groups who struggle through adversity with various insignificant controversy amplified way beyond rationality by k-pop’s hive-minded gossip-believing social justice brigade (both in Korea and elsewhere), but at the end of the day, I like or dislike something because of the music and that’s it. As most k-pop performers don’t have anything to do with writing their own material but just get farmed out songs from various either in-house or freelance songwriters, most groups that I allegedly “stan” have therefore had at least one song get on a worst-of list like this one. It’s also entirely mathematically possible for the same reason that these same groups could again have songs on worst-of lists in the future. However sometimes I find an artist and think to myself “wow – there’s no way possible that they will ever come up with anything even remotely good”. Dean is one of those rare artists. You can tell that Dean is a self-made artist who writes his own songs, and it’s this reason that will always keep him far away from music quality, because all his songs are consistently absolutely terrible, always the same weak, generic, slow boring trap-infused R&B-infused junk. It’s a safe bet that nothing of worth will ever come from Dean, unless he breaks with tradition and suddenly consents to someone else actually writing a song for him. He’s unlikely to do that however as he probably wants to collect some royalties (fair enough too) so I guess we’ll just have to tolerate endless bullshit songs like these. And no I refuse to spell his name the stupid way with the symbols or whatever the fuck, that’s a privilege you have to earn on Kpopalypse blog by occasionally releasing music that isn’t completely redundant.
20. DIA – The Love
When I was a young person just getting into guitar playing, one of the film concepts that really interested me was the 1989 film “Roadhouse“, starring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer keeping the peace with his fists in a very rough nightclub. I never saw the film at the time as it was R18+ rated for whatever stupid reason and I didn’t meet age requirements, but I knew about the film’s existence because blues guitarist Jeff Healey played in the film quite a bit so I was exposed to it through his music videos. What fascinated me about the film’s concept was I heard that there was a cage in front of the stage to protect the performers in the club from the extremely dangerous audience, and I wondered if any venues existed like that in reality. Sure enough I did eventually find such a stage in a Ministry video a few years later, but I actually think DIA’s fans are more dangerous and the barrier is more justified in DIA’s case. Ministry’s crazy fans just sort of run riot and have a good time destroying shit, there’s something far more creepy about the hypnotised zombie horde that watches DIA singing and doing aegyo behind what looks like bullet-proof security glass in this absolutely terrifying video. The exclusively male audience don’t seem to be registering any coherent emotions at all and only seem to get into the hideous music through forced participation, they clearly hate the generic mid-paced ballad as much as any other sensible person would but are just so transfixed by the DIA girls themselves that all they can do is stand there and gape, dimly holding fansigns and staring blankly like those robot-people who line up outside Apple stores and gaze through the glass ten days in advance waiting to exchange their iShit5a for a iShit5b with 2 extra megapixels or whatever. At the end DIA and their fans do some group wave thing while the glass lifts up but you know that it’s just a distraction exercise to keep their hands where security can see them, and if any of them get out of line and make one step forward one of the girls will flex a pelvic muscle that triggers a duress alarm wired to her crotch and that glass barrier will slam straight back down again. The quick action of the barrier might possibly crush one or two of the fan horde to death in the process, but it’s more important to keep the girls safe, they’re an important investment you know, whereas anyone willing to standing in front of a pane of glass and tolerate this music for whatever reason is probably in a mentally vegetative state that scarcely qualifies as human life and might be best put out of their misery.
19. Ailee ft. Yoon Mirae – Home
This is some fucking painful bullshit song for sure but I love watching the video. Now that I’ve seen Ailee naked, when she puts her clothes back on again she looks even better because my imagination doesn’t have to work as hard to imagine what’s under them anymore, this definitely allows for some smooth, satisfying Ailee-fapping action. All the clothes here look fantastic too, except for that silly 80s denim Madonna thing, and that other black midriff-exposing thing, but Ailee has a nice chunky appealing midriff which really helps my fap along so I don’t mind. I’m not any kind of expert about dance, but it seems to me that Ailee can’t really dance very well, nevertheless I do get a lot of enjoyment out of watching her try so it’s fine by me. Also Yoon Mirae isn’t in the video at all so that’s another positive. So there’s lots of reasons for me to like this. Pity about the stupid song which combines a lazily-written trap beat (aren’t they all) and some clunky thudding piano of boredom, plus the usual 76 layers of Ailee’s annoying overdubbed vocals screeching in my ear. I guess I can deal with it though, after all at least Ailee consistently looks great while making bad music so I hope she has a long career with many more music videos whether she gets another song on my worst lists or not.
18. Yoona & 10cm – Deoksugung Stonewall Walkway
People always say I’m a “YG anti” (whatever that phrase even means in real terms for international listeners with no anti-cafe involvement) but SM have a strong showing on the shit-list this year, so maybe that general (incorrect) consensus will change to “SM anti” soon. The truth is I’ve got nothing against any of the big agencies themselves who I’m sure hire a lot of good honest folks, and I even applaud some of their ideas for expanding the scope of their musical product. To take one example, I believe firmly that SM Entertainment’s “SM Station”, their “one feature track per week for a whole year just because” project, is one of the best ideas that any k-pop label has ever had and I’m really happy that SM decided to go down this path. Not only did the project strengthen the brand of SM overall but it also forced the label to branch out and try projects that would normally be seen as beyond their domain, like Inlayer and… well, just Inlayer really. Unfortunately it also meant that we had to put up with this shitty song with Yoona the most boring member of Girls’ Generation and 10cm who are a bland coffee-shop snooze band that are so shit even Korean Indie got sick of them after three albums. Yoona makes sure she is photographed in the video in only the most boring locales possible so she doesn’t get overshadowed, with the camera mainly pointing upward just in case her features are accidentally upstaged by a particularly interesting paving tile or blade of grass, and the song keeps up the theme making sure never to excite or interest at any stage. The overall effect is basically musical rohypnol and ladies should be wary of leaving their MP3 players and mobile phones unattended in pubs and clubs lest guys with impure intentions attempt to slip this song into their playlist while they’re in the bathroom powdering their nose.
17. EXO – Lotto
This song will probably get hated on a lot for the use of hard Autotune which is actually quite an untrendy sound these days, but turning the vocal effects off wouldn’t have resulted in any great quality lift here. (In fact all k-pop fans everywhere should be grateful for the use of hard Autotune in songs like these, as the robotic voice is often preferable to what your biases actually sound like in reality.) Let’s not get distracted from the main point however – the real issue with “Lotto” isn’t how they’re singing but what they’re singing, as well as what they’re singing over. No amount of vocal effects could have hidden those corny melodies and horrible beats, both of which leap out at the listener right from the beginning. EXO doesn’t even sound like an SM group here, at least awful songs like “Wolf” and “Growl” had SM’s signature high production values going for them if little else, but “Lotto” just sounds like the kind of crap any shitty agency can churn out. At least the video is well-produced and entirely appropriate to the musical content – at the start of “Lotto” is a girl running away from something, and it quickly becomes evident when the song starts that she’s made the correct decision. Later on some dogs are also running, and that’s probably because dogs hear sound at 10 times the volume of humans, in fact the EXO boys seem to love animal cruelty as there’s also some ugly birds in cages being forced to listen to this crappy song. The girl then gets tied up and forced to listen to “Lotto” over and over, because why would anyone listen to it otherwise except to write a review like this one, but then Korea’s music quality special forces enforcement unit come and save the day, beating the living shit out of EXO and rescuing the girl from this trash. It’s good that she’s free now but I’m sure she’ll have PTSD for the rest of her days.
16. Blackpink – Whistle
“Whistle” is a really hard song to review because certain parts of it are actually quite acceptable. There’s a bit with acoustic guitar which is nice, and the rap parts are… well, they’re not exactly Rakim but certainly they’re better than CL’s rap parts, so as far as I’m concerned that’s a step up for YG. Let’s just get the rest of this review over with because we all know how it’s going to end – that “whistle hook” is fucking shit. “Whistle like a missile”? “Every time I show up, blow up”? Did YG run out of English speakers at their HQ with a free day to go over lyrics and proofread to make sure the rhymes met some kind of appropriate standard, or does someone over there actually think that this is acceptable? Next they’ll be rhyming “Saturday night” with “feelin’ alright” and “sitting alone” with “waiting by the phone” like the worst of 80s glam rock. Also the actual whistling itself sounds like ass. The weird phrasing in the verse isn’t very nice to listen to either, it seems to be designed so asthmatics can squeeze out a few syllables in between using their ventolin puffer or getting intra-muscular injections, if they’re writing verse lines like that it means there’s probably some health problems in the Blackpink camp that we don’t know about yet, so when you hear about them later just remember that Kpopalypse called it first. Anyway all the poo sections add up to a fair chunk of the song and are enough to kill any momentum generated by the decent parts, leaving us with a tune which carries on the consistent post-2012 2NE1 tradition of being generally pissweak trendy bullshit.
15. Hello Venus – Glow
You don’t even need to turn up the sound on this one to know that the song sucks, the completely bored expressions on the faces of the girls say it all. You don’t have to take my word for it, just fucking look at them:
It’s hard to imagine the video director saying “okay girls, this song is really boring so try to strike some poses that match how we feel about it, are you ready? Okay, lights, camera… 1 2 3…okay, look bored, go, action! Yep that’s great, keep working it, you’re really nailing that ‘fuck I’m bored of this shit song’ look, keep it up! Turn the head a bit, that’s it… don’t forget to barely keep your eyes open…”, because why would a company undersell their own song like that. All I can guess is that maybe it’s some kind of protest. Perhaps the video director and the group manager were having a fight about which song to record a video for, and the director wanted something upbeat but the manager insisted on “Glow” against the wishes of everyone else, so the director was like “fine, I’ll give you a fucking video if you want one, just don’t expect me or the girls to put in any effort whatsoever for your shit song”. I wish Hello Venus and their crew all the best in their industrial action, I hope it turns out okay for them and their rights to a fair wage and better songs than this crap are respected.
14. Red Velvet – One Of These Nights
Just after the one-minute mark the image of one of the girls disappears into a coffee cup which seems appropriate as a slow descent into coffee-shop bullshit is a pretty accurate metaphor for this entire side of Red Velvet’s musical output. I can never remember if this sort of stuff is supposed to be the “velvet” side because it’s so smooth and featureless or the “red” side because it’s the sort of music a prostitute working a red-light district might put on to relax herself while preparing a pre-anal sex enema so the client doesn’t get shit stuck on his dick when he pulls out, but it’s certainly the side that SM always get wrong. “One Of These Nights” is even worse than the usual for this type of song though, at least the horrid “Automatic” had some sort of pulse even if it was necromanced from a shitty S.E.S song, and listening to “One Of These Nights” makes me think that in retrospect I was a little too harsh on “Automatic”. Fans of Red Velvet will no doubt think I’m hating on these girls but no – I’m the REAL fan because I’m sticking up for them, I want them to have better music and better treatment. It’s not their fault that their label sees fit to give them garbage like this for 50% of their comebacks. If anything it’s the rabid Red Velvet fans who are actually hurting the group by lying to themselves and everybody else that this kind of music constitutes an acceptable comeback. Girls’ Generation didn’t become the #1 female k-pop group in Korea by featuring bullshit music like this, and Red Velvet won’t either.
13. Girls’ Generation – Sailing
Speaking of which. I always thought that “Girls’ Generation” was an interesting name for a group, and in fact one of the best group names in k-pop, because “the generation of girls” as a phrase could suggest a female youth movement of empowerment and fun, or it could also imply an assembly line of lookalike robotic unfeeling female factory creations being constructed from chemical reactions and nanotechnology. The better songs from Girls’ Generation probably embody both of these characteristics to some extent, and that’s why every single Girls’ Generation ballad ever is a complete fucking waste of time, the mere act of ballad-creation completely rubs against their entire concept and reason for existence as SM’s perfect upbeat fun-dispensing pleasure-droids. Speaking of rubbing, there’s only one true use that any Girls’ Generation ballad has, and that’s staring at Sunny’s tits in the video, which tend to move less during ballad material allowing for easier boob volume and contour perception. Unfortunately the video for “Sailing” doesn’t even have any of the girls in it, thus robbing this song of its only function. Instead we get some sort of bizarre message-in-a-bottle crap which would make a far better backdrop for a side-scrolling shoot-em-up computer game than a music video, and the final boss isn’t even Sunny’s left nipple but just a stupid silhouette of the girls so I think it’s time to no_clip out of here.
12. Flashe – Lip Bomb
Flashe’s “Lip Bomb” is easily one of the most painful and monotonous k-pop listens going in 2016. The harmony of the backings to “Lip Bomb” reminds me of “Rum Pum Pum Pum” by f(x) as it’s just one solitary chord that doesn’t change throughout the entire piece. However that f(x) song actually had some interesting and quite complex melodies and rhythm going on to balance out the lack of harmonic content, whereas “Lip Bomb” has leaden plodding drums and pretty much sticks to four melodic notes in a pentatonic scale for 90% of its running length, meaning that for the entire duration of the song nothing really happens at all. Maybe all those horns are supposed to help but they just crowd out the mix even more, fighting for space with the vocals and making everything even more irritating. The best word I can use to sum up this song is “broken” – just one chord change or different note somewhere would have been enough – it might not have saved this song completely but at least would have extracted it from this list, but that was evidently deemed not a good idea by whoever conceptualised this aural waterboarding. Proof that nugus can have a song just as bad as anyone, and that contrary to popular belief, nuguness does not guarantee Kpopalypse stanning!
11. CLC – No Oh Oh
While we’re on the topic of nugus, poor CLC are never going to catch a break in the k-pop business with donkey turds like “No Oh Oh”. The entire song seems to have been written by someone with a fairly thin grasp of tonality, because it’s hard to imagine someone writing a song that sounds like this deliberately. It actually starts off great with that DJ Premier style beat but then at the ten second mark the vocals and guitar samples come in and the whole song takes a swift turn into Wrongtown and never comes out. The chords on the guitar don’t really seem to have a proper relationship to the vocal line, it’s like they’re built from completely different scale modes (and they may or may not be but don’t ask me to pick it apart because I’ve listened to this song enough times in my lifetime), so when the chords change the melody doesn’t seem to match over the top of it. Then whoever wrote this shit of course had to throw in that hideous Beyonce-style fourth-interval thing that they’ve ripped out of “Crazy In Love” just like every k-pop girl group songwriter ever, and then comes the chorus with way too much annoying brass and nausea-inducing sub-bass. The silver lining is that 2017 sidebar girl Sorn will be unaffected by any shit music karma from “No Oh Oh” given that she gets about 0.75 seconds screen time total in the music video, let’s hope the other members of CLC were fairly compensated, I reckon they’re owed a three bedroom house each for appearing in this junk.
10. CocoSori – Exquisite
This song both looks and sounds like the result of a corporate committee meeting where a bunch of people sat down and cynically thought up the most soulless, dumbed-down ways possible to make a shit pop song go viral on the Internet:
“Don’t forget to add cats! The Internet loves cats!”
“Just cats on their own aren’t enough, they need to be special – like superhero cats or something.”
“Maybe they can shoot laser beams from their eyes?”
“Yes, that’s it! So random! The internet loves random things!”
“Now what about a bit where the girls float around in space? The rest of the time they can be in the kitchen because randomness AND contrast!”
“We should definitely get them to do something phallic in that kitchen. Think how much money PSY made from that guy waving his crotch in a lift.”
“Hey, what about the song? Should we write one of those?”
“Nah we’ll worry about that once we’ve done the really important stuff. If we can’t write a good one we’ll just speed whatever shit we’ve got up really fast so people will compare it to anime theme tunes and then nobody will care what it sounds like anyway. K-pop fans are dumb enough, they’ll swallow it.”
“If we fuck it up really bad we can just add a random metal section that goes for 5 seconds as a distraction, MORE randomness and contrast together!”
“It might also be a good time to trigger some more cat images. If we want virality, more cats is always better than less.”
“Yeah good point. Hey have we thought about latex aprons?”
9. S.E.S – Love [story]
I first found out about k-pop in 2000, in my ethnomusicology course that formed part of my music composition degree at university. Ethnomusicology is the study of music within culture, and as part of the course work everyone in the class had to do an audio-visual presentation and lecture on some aspect of music from a different culture. I can’t remember what I did at the time, probably some boring bullshit, but one of the girls in my class was from South Korea and she did her presentation on k-pop. This was all new to us – in 2000 k-pop was decidedly un-hip globally so finding out about it was a real revelation. Her lecture was for me easily the best and most interesting of anybody’s in the entire class even though I wasn’t into k-pop at the time, but I remember thinking to myself “hmm… I wonder why she’s focusing only on boy groups – surely there are also girls in this style?”. At one point in the lecture she briefly skirted around the concept – “oh and there’s girl groups too, like S.E.S, but there really isn’t enough time to cover them” and that was all the mention that girls got in what was roughly a 20-minute presentation. I never found out that answer to why she gave the female groups the cold shoulder and had just assumed that she was a thirsty fangirl, until about 12 years later when I heard S.E.S for the first time. Then it all made sense – what feeling, thinking human adult could possibly foist these appallingly corny Z-grade TLC ripoffs onto a group of k-pop virgins? How could anyone listen to their dull, smooth, poorly-produced, weedy-sounding dance-lite and feel anything other than utter revulsion? Clearly, the Korean girl in my class was acutely aware that the other students would have watched S.E.S and concluded that k-pop was a musical style which had nothing to offer the world. I’m sure that a Korean girl in an ethnomusicology class in 2011 would have covered the boys but also made a beeline straight for Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, 2NE1, T-ara, miss A, 4minute etc as well, and why not? Those groups were all flying high at the time and actually had songs people wanted to listen to, unlike S.E.S who never made a single worthwhile musical note at any stage in their careers and remained forever in the shadow of their (also rubbishy but at least semi-interesting) male contemporaries. Even SM Entertainment don’t seem that convinced on S.E.S’s merits, releasing this song with one of those lazy cobbled-together “here’s bits from all their other videos where we’ve tried to sync up the movements to the music a little bit because we couldn’t be fucked spending any more money than absolutely necessary on this shit” style music videos. It’s just as well for SM that all S.E.S’s songs are so generic that they were easily able to fit the music over unmatched visuals and still make it work visually, but it’s a pity for the rest of us. I’m not even sure if this is a genuine new song or just a crusty old one dusted off and rereleased to promote the scary up-and-coming shitbirds that S.E.S no doubt have prepared for us in 2017, but if SM are actually going to dare to foist this off onto us via SM Station in late 2016 as an actual release, implying that this is music worthy of being held against new material quality-wise, then they will continue to appear on these lists until they learn.
8. Eunji ft. Hareem – Hopefully Sky
There’s some ballad songs that make a great impression immediately from the very first few notes – as soon as you hear the opening acoustic guitar plucking and sweet melodies, your day is just immediately brightened and suddenly you feel better about yourself and the world. Then there’s also “Hopefully Sky” which is some bullshit song that nobody would care about if Eunji wasn’t in it doing Eunji things like singing insipidly about bullshit and smiling at nothing for no reason like she’s on the special needs spectrum. It’s hard to even write about this song at all given its near-total blandness, but the harmonica deserves a special mention. Harmonica is a squeaky-gate instrument at the best of times that is capable of reducing the quality of nearly any song, but devastatingly cancerous when applied to such a low-hanging bar as the standard k-pop ballad formula. I assume it’s Hareem who is responsible for the harmonica part, so I’m going to blame him for all of this this fucking shit and that way my perfect Apink angels can get back to making the good music that they… oh wait, sorry I forgot Apink are shit 90% of the time just like every other k-pop group ever, oh well it was a nice thought.
7. Minje – Do
2015’s #1 piece of shit “It G Ma” truly was an awful song, a disgusting blot on humanity, a tune created by fuckheads, about fuckheads and with fuckheaded listeners squarely in mind as the target audience, hence why I made sure to take a big, fat, highly-deserved shit on it last year. However if Cohort Crew kidnapped me and held a gun to my head and I had to desperately scrape to find a stray compliment for that terrifying absolute bullshit song in order to stay alive and fap another day, I would say that the electronic sounds in and of themselves weren’t too unacceptable (even if they were used to create a truly worthless song) and that at least the total lack of singing meant that there wasn’t any R&B in it. However if the kidnapper was Minje I would have no such way out, as “Do” is like “It G Ma” if it was made with “real” instruments and was a complete R&B borefest instead of a bunch of lame shouty yolosloth. The guitar backings are truly woeful with the guitarist seemingly just noodling around on any old shit to fill up space in the mix, the rhythm is about as monotonous and uninteresting as rhythms in pop songs get, and then there’s that falsetto vocal which is usually a bad idea in any k-pop song but especially here as “Do” didn’t need to sound any more like being kicked in the nuts than it already did. I have no idea who Minje even is, but if he approaches you on the street asking you if you “Do” I would suggest that you politely tell him that you “do not”.
6. I.O.I – Whatta Man (Good Man)
I will say that Salt N Pepa were a cool pop/rap group, but with one important caveat – their musical worth was much more short-lived than the group itself. Their song “Push It” will remain one of the iconic 80s dancefloor hits and contains a keyboard riff that is instantly recognisable and iconic, and they also broke new ground with “Let’s Talk About Sex” which was one of the first ultra-commercial rap songs by a female group to have a frank (if cringeworthy) discussion about sex that wasn’t just about locating dick or pussy. Then something happened to the group, the 90s ticked over some more and Salt N Pepa grew up and started softening their sound, making pissweak boring R&B infused rap instead of the cool jams they were known for. Worst of all their 90s output was the awful “Whatta Man“, which also featured horrible R&B group En Vogue doing the vocal harmony chorus because Salt N Pepa weren’t really singers so they weren’t going to sing the hook themselves. So of course what does I.O.I do but copy the shit part of Salt N Pepa after they had stopped being interesting in any way, they should have followed Tren-D’s example and ripped off the awesome “Push It” instead. At least I.O.I have changed up the verses completely into something else because Salt N Pepa’s sure were crap, and the production on the I.O.I track is definitely better, so it’s definitely a slightly better song overall, but it still has that chorus in it which means that it is always going to be a complete stinker which can’t be saved. Some songs are just disgusting and should just be discarded like a used tissue, which I’m sure plenty of this group’s fans have in abundance. Let’s hope that anyone who bought this song respects the musical environment of those around them and disposes of it thoughtfully.
5. Jessica – Love Me The Same
One day in a parallel universe where the world is awesome enough for me to actually want to procreate and leave children behind to put up with my shit, I’ll come home from work, give my wife a hug and a kiss, and greet my two children. There’s a little while before dinner time so I’ll retreat into my study where I have the most amazing home studio setup known to man. I’ll load up into my digital workstation an acapella track of a young woman’s voice that I recorded that day at work, someone called Jessica Jung. In this parallel universe nobody knows who she is, but I plan to change all of that and make her a megastar by creating the most awesome backing track I possibly can behind her vocals. However I’ve also had to listen to awful trap music at work that day and it’s really loosened my bowels, so while the vocal track is loading in I quickly run off to take a shit. A few minutes later I emerge about a kilo lighter and much more relaxed, to discover in horror that my two children have invaded my recording studio – they’ve started the recording process without me and are fucking around with my musical equipment, recording extra tracks over the top of Jessica’s voice.
“Sorn, get off my keyboard – I’m trying to record a serious hit song here! Umji, stop messing with my drum machine, it’s not a toy!”
“But it sounds great!” says Sorn, hitting the keyboard keys randomly, making nonsensical cascading piano fills and basslines with no coherent melody or harmonic structure.
“Drums are fun!” screams Umji as she bounces up and down while smashing the drum machine pads with her fists, in a simplistic beat punctuated by the odd occasional extremely basic drum fill at the most non-appropriate times possible.
“OUT, you two!” I yell as I quickly usher them out the door and slam it behind them.
I play back the piece of music – Jessica’s vocal has been ruined by their jumbled, completely random backing track. I try to undo the changes but it’s no use, the original unmodified track is gone. “This sounds like ass, but I made a promise to Jessica to make her a megastar”, I say to myself. I think about how standards are really high in k-pop right now, and how nobody will want to release this garbage, so I blast it off into a parallel universe where maybe things are shittier in 2016 and this piece of garbage will fit right in.
4. Keith Ape ft. Bryan Chase – Let Us Prey
Yes, it’s Cohort Crew again. Everything Cohort crew do, and have ever done (and probably will ever do) is complete and utter trash to the point where it’s just comical. Keith Ape is really trying hard here to repeat his performance on last year’s worst list, shambling around like a sedated mental patient mumbling idiotic thoughtless raps to himself and generally doing his part to help destroy the global hip-hop movement and culture in general as per usual, but I couldn’t give him the number one this time. The reason is that “bitch I’m from the undeerrrrwaaaaattterrrrrr” line which is just so laugh-out-loud incompetent and stupid that I have to admit that it did provide me with a small amount of “I can’t believe they actually recorded this godawful shit” amusement before I started crying for the general direction that rap music and humanity in general is going in. However all his talk about being “underwater” seems like a very odd thing for a rapper to brag about to me because under the water is where criminals dispose of people who they have removed from society for interfering with their business – usually rappers are bragging about being the gangsters, not about being the victims. Keith Ape had better hope that k-pop’s organised-crime-connected big players don’t get any ideas from this video, if they catch wind of his terrible music, flashy sports cars and large easily-led fanbase with low standards, they might just decide that under the water is in fact where he belongs and take it upon themselves to redistribute him to the fishes. Of course Kpopalypse does not condone or wish to see extreme actions such as this, so I hope that for his own safety as well as our own sanity Keith Ape starts making better music soon.
3. Swings – Your Soul
My mother had a saying when I was growing up which is that “you can’t accept the communication if you can’t accept the communicator”. While most people would regard such a saying as a challenge to oneself to become more open-minded and look past the individual when assessing their statements, the context in which my mother often used this expression implied more that it was actually not possible to look past the individual, so there’s no point trying because your perception of them will always change how you receive the content of their message, and to just acknowledge that the bias will always exist. It’s certainly an adage that I had at the forefront of my mind when listening to this song. Sure, you could try to put aside for a brief moment the fact that Swings is generally regarded to be a complete dickhead by everybody everywhere at all times, but the fact remains that listening to some rap guy who wouldn’t know shit about shit telling me to look after my soul is like listening to Donald Trump telling me to look after my scalp. Rappers who spend about 80% of their time convincing you that they are bad-ass gangsters who would kill you in a second and the other 20% in “I love you girl and I also really care about other people and the world” soft-ass R&B land are the worst, if you’re going to be a douchebag that’s fine but let’s at least keep the particular strain of douchebag consistent. Of course as my mother says, it’s impossible to completely disregard that it’s arch-dickhead Swings who wrote this track, and for him to say that people look after their mind and body but should look after their soul equally is pretty fucking rich when it’s coming from a person who obviously routinely disregards all three. Don’t get me wrong – it’s fine for people to be dickheads, I’ve got nothing against assholes making the music I enjoy, but they should embrace their path as caonimas and leave the high-horse lyrics and soft weak pussy music at home. I haven’t discussed the shitty plodding R&B music here at all, but I’m taking my mother’s advice and disregarding the communication because of the source. Boram knows best.
2. Hwang Minwoo (aka Little PSY) – Okey Dokey
In 2013 Little PSY scooped the #1 spot on the Kpopalypse worst list with the dreadful “Show Time“, without a doubt still to this day the worst modern k-pop song ever made. As a wise person once said, “those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”, and thus as the k-pop industry has not learned anything from this musical atrocity, history has indeed repeated with Little PSY once again returning to the k-pop scene to terrorise us all. We had of course all hoped that he would have moved onto other things by now but unfortunately no such luck. Of course Little PSY is not quite so little any more, three years of growth has made him slightly more mature, and… well not really mature, his balls clearly still haven’t dropped yet… but he’s certainly less annoying… wait, that’s wrong too, he’s still fucking irritating… fuck I dunno. Anyway, the song is terrible as you will no doubt hear if you click on it which I certainly do not recommend by the way. It isn’t quite as bad as “Show Time” overall mainly because there is slightly less direct copying of PSY plus some vague attempt at a catchy chorus, but of course it all comes undone by the persistent sound of Hwang Minwoo’s wailing who still enunciates words like his baby teeth are falling out and he’s got a mouth full of fluoride paste. The video is the usual terrifying experience with creepy sexualisation that at first glance appears to be toned down a notch compared to last time, but then is weirdly replaced by Little PSY wandering around hitting people in the balls with a hammer which surely has to qualify as some kind of sexual assault. At least with PSY himself fading from the international spotlight somewhat, and Little PSY rapidly becoming less little, we probably don’t have to worry about another Hwang Minwoo comeback being quite this bad. Let’s just hope he doesn’t join NCT Dream.
So – what was the worst k-pop song of 2016, according to Kpopalypse?
1. CL – Lifted
Congratulations CL! Finally, after several years of trying, CL has scooped the coveted #1 position for… oh wait, this is the worst songs list, not the favourites list. Well anyway. Moving on.
In 1993, hip-hop was in trouble. Dr Dre’s “The Chronic” had been released a few years prior and had proven to be hugely influential. While “The Chronic” was a good album, the softer P-Funk style sound of many of the beats (a reaction to the emergence of the first laws around sampling which forbade the popular wall-of-samples approach which defined late 80’s rap) started a trend of hip-hop gradually softening, a trend which continues to this day. It looked like for a while every rapper in the US of any worth was going to go down the soft P-Funk route, but then something cool happened, a rap crew called Wu-Tang Clan emerged and started a similar trend in the opposite direction of harder beats. (This was actually the most meaningful aspect of the 1990s “East/West coast” fued in hip-hop – musical content. Californian rap mostly embraced P-funk whereas the East coast scene generally avoided the “smooth Cali sound”.) Wu-Tang Clan were the Guns ‘N’ Roses of hip-hop, a ragtag group of rappers that couldn’t keep their lineup stable and their various personal issues in check for more than one solitary decent album, with each album after their debut getting progressively worse than the one before due to the group’s gradual disintegration diluting their core sound. However what an album it was, “Enter The 36 Chambers” is full of great early 90s hip-hop songs like “Protect Ya Neck“, “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’“, “Bring Da Ruckus” and many others. Oh and there was a kinda bullshit novelty self-titled solo song by one of the members “Method Man” on the album as well, which wasn’t that great mainly due to the nonsense lyrics about getting wasted and laid but if anything in the context of the album it was really just a segue between two far superior tracks featuring the full group so it was easy enough to ignore. As a song that’s actually named after the rapper who is rapping it, surely anyone releasing an official cover version of it would make no sense, as the whole point of “Method Man” is that it’s a song by, about, and featuring Method Man.
However that didn’t stop CL, who gravitated to this song anyway, probably because as the lyrics don’t make that much sense in their original form they can be chopped and changed to suit what CL wanted to say, also giving her the freedom to remove all the explicit references that might disturb easily-triggered k-pop fans. That’s what “Lifted” is, at least lyrically. Of course CL doesn’t get the references quite right, “shorty” in the context of the song and the time period unambiguously means “female that you’re fucking” and you can watch Method Man make this very clear in an incredibly awkward moment here (my god look at the embarrassed look on her face – remember this was recorded before they were known so she’s probably his cousin or some shit doing this for free). CL’s chorus which is a condensed form of two different sections of Method Man’s lyrics basically translates to “I’m going to get drunk on super-cheap booze that only winos drink and smoke marijuana with my lesbian girlfriend”, and that’s the part of the song that makes the most amount of sense. All of this is with Method Man’s blessing who actually appears in “Lifted” at 1:35 and it’s clear by the way he’s acting that 1. he was paid a lot for this, 2. he’s acutely aware that CL doesn’t “get it” and 3. he’s way out of his comfort zone doing all that dancing and shit but couldn’t give a fuck because of point 1. It’s not all about lyrics however, but if you can get past them there’s not a lot musically to be had here either, the beat is repetitive, flat and nothing really happens apart from one brief reggae section that breaks the monotonous bass drone and stupid “whoop” noises and is the song’s only redeeming feature. CL has proven once again that she really is the baddest (meaning baddest) female in k-pop, but who knows – maybe her sixth American debut in 2017 will fare better? Kpopalypse isn’t a CL hater, so I’m wishing CL all the best on her forthcoming American advancement!
Thanks for reading! Happy new year and don’t forget to check out the favourites list for 2016 as well to hopefully restore some of your faith in k-pop!