It’s the post that you knew had to exist, but that you also knew nobody else would dare write. It’s time for Kpopalypse to venture where no other k-pop blogger has yet gone, and bring you the very worst of Korean pop’s early years! Read on and be entertained – or not!
There’s a reason why the music element of Korea’s so-called “Hallyu wave” only started picking up steam in about 2008 – most of the music coming out of Korea was complete shit before then. There’s a simple and perfectly valid reason for this – as Korean pop is built on a foundation of western pop, Koreans simply took time to learn the ropes. To be fair, they had a lot to catch up on, having being let into the pop music game relatively late in history thanks to Korea’s fun-destroying dictatorship holding tightly onto the reins of Korean popular culture during times when popular music in western countries was exploding in many new directions. Most of the big strides in production of Korean pop music occurred only after various producers within Korea collaborated closely with producers from other countries, learning and mimicking the techniques and tools that made modern pop music productions from the west hits around the globe, and even then, perfection of those techniques took time. The research eventually paid off in spades, and Korean pop since the 2008-2011 “golden age” has (at its best) consistently surpassed the west in terms of both musical and production quality. However there were some serious bumps along the way to get to that point, and this list contains 30 of what I consider to be the biggest ones – songs that really should be forgotten about, but like a car-crash, their tragic ineptitude is too fascinatingly macabre for me to ignore.
If there’s one thing more psycho than a k-pop fan, it’s a k-pop fan who was a fan before 2008 and still hasn’t learned their lesson – people who have been following older k-pop groups have had more time to deepen their mentally unhealthy emotionally investment and perhaps will be tempted to lash out at criticism of their favourite groups and artists more harshly. So I’m not expecting any reactions to this post to be particularly rational or for anyone to even read this preamble or pay attention to anything at all except whether their bias made this list or not so they can then whine about it in the comments below or on their social network of choice. It’s a good thing that I’ve never written this blog to be popular or well-liked. However for those of you with brain synapses that are still firing in some kind of vague synchronisation, you may wish to note the following:
- All songs were originally released prior to 2008 (although in some cases the videos were uploaded later)
- Feature tracks only (because I don’t have time to listen to everything)
- No OST, sport or Christmas-related songs (or otherwise the list would be only these, which would be accurate, but boring)
- Obviously this list is my opinion, nothing more – perhaps taking what I think about music too seriously isn’t wise, as yes I do know a lot about music from a technical aspect but that doesn’t make my music taste any better than yours, or anybody else’s
- This list is about my subjective opinion of song quality and does not factor into it popularity, cultural relevance etc however it may be slightly skewed towards more known groups simply out of necessity because many lesser known early k-pop groups never even made it to YouTube at all
- If I missed something, it might be because I haven’t heard it, or it might be because I did hear it and actually liked it, and I was amazed how many people submitted songs for this list that I actually unexpectedly liked – but obviously a list like this can’t be totally 100% accurate, so just chill with the OCD pointing-stuff-out
- Perhaps you’re against a list like this entirely on principle due to its inherent negativity, in which case I wonder why you are still reading this and would encourage you to read my best of the Dark Ages of k-pop list instead, which features 30 early k-pop songs that I actually did enjoy
That’s enough of the preamble for the same old mouth-breathers who don’t read it anyway – let’s get on with the list!
30 – H.O.T – We Are The Future
Although I didn’t really start following it closely until 2011, I was introduced to k-pop by a Korean university friend in the year 2000. There’s a reason why I took eleven years to start giving a shit, and that reason was H.O.T – all my Korean friend (a self-described H.O.T fangirl) would ever really play or talk about was H.O.T, and oh my did they suck. She held them up as the pinnacle of the entire k-pop movement, which promptly made me want to not investigate any music from Korea ever again. It wasn’t just the music itself that was obviously badly written, the production was gloriously incompetent, to the point where key details of the songs were often obscured. “We Are The Future” is a perfect example of H.O.T at their worst. The song is the exact opposite of catchy with awful pentatonic melodies that somehow manage to be both rambling and simplistic at the same time, but that’s actually the best thing about the song. The squash-ball electronic bass drum was pretty common in early k-pop and rarely utilised in a worse way than here, and rest assured that it’s not just a bad YouTube audio transfer, increase the bitrate and those keys still do sound that tinny and awful on the proper studio verison, churning away that hideous 3-3-4-2-2-2 rhythm that underpins the entire song and that happily died in western dance music sometime around 1992. Vocal compression is even more lumpy and bumpy, especially in the rap parts where the volume levels are all over the place, and it’s cute listening to these boys try and harmonise their vocals without Autotune and consistently nearly hitting the correct notes. The entire effect when mashed together is a neat little microcosm of everything that’s wrong with early k-pop, and you’ll hear several more examples of each of these attributes as we explore further down this list. There’s one upside – it’s nice that they at least tackle the hot issue of school bullying in the video but it’s 2018 and school bullying in Korea is as much of an epidemic as ever so I guess this video served more as an instructional manual, perhaps they should have taken their own advice and bullied their producers into giving them some decent songs.
29 – Me Too – Last Kiss
Of course this list isn’t all about just popular groups, and I had never heard of Me Too before I started researching this list. Obviously not related to the #MeToo movement, but perhaps equally as unpleasant for anyone caught within its clutches, given the choice between listening to this song one more time and being chased around a leather casting couch by a naked, lubed-up Harvey Weinstein… well, okay, I probably would pick the song actually as it’s not quite that bad, but it’s not significantly better, either. The vocal melody is the main problem with “Last Kiss”, those long sustained notes just lack movement and their grating quality drags everything else right the fuck down. The sections where the girls shut up aren’t much better, and that flat, bland beat is pretty low down on the scale of reggae jams, even Paris fucking Hilton had a more authentic-sounding reggae backing track than this. The only thing that’s left to enjoy is the dancing, and good luck with that, the autistic swaying on offer here shows just how far k-pop choreography for the women has come. Gfriend probably watch this video every day to motivate themselves to do better and never look this atrocious.
28 – JYP – I Have A Girlfriend
I’ve always liked JYP’s retro flair, but like a lot of k-pop producers, he took time before he started hitting the right notes. Early JYP tracks are nothing but one disaster after another, but strangely, he saved some of the very worst of them for his own solo projects. I’m not sure what possessed him into singing falsetto and whispery over an acoustic ballad punctuated by that “break” noise from James Brown/every 80s rap record ever/every modern keyboard’s in-built sample bank ever and that horrible only-people-who-sniff-their-turds-like-dogs-can-hear-it high pitched synth whine. I’d compare the song to Extreme’s awful ballad “More Than Words“, but that’d actually be an insult to Extreme, as their song has a much better chorus and much more harmonic variety than this, plus no shitty R&B singing. Worst of all, JYP doesn’t even whisper his own name here (and it’s actually a song that would suit that, after all he whispers damn near everything else), what is even the fucking point.
27 – Smash – Never Ending Story
On my favourites of the early days of k-pop is an excellent song by a group called Click B, called “Love Letter“. More recently, k-pop girl group Berry Good also did a version of that great song and made it even better. Now imagine the same song at half-speed, with all the excitement and fun systematically leached out of it and you’ve basically got Smash’s “Never Ending Story”. They’re trying to go for that same fun, anthemic, uplifting vibe but the arrangement is just dragged down with way too much plodding R&B shit for that to be a possibility, plus it doesn’t help that the the same three notes are just mixed and matched for most of the song’s singing parts. It’s all encapsulated nicely by that “puppet dance” at the start (or whatever the fuck it is that their choreographer thinks they’re doing) which is clearly meant to be cute or something but just comes off as seriously creepy, mainly due to the wrong tempo. The end result is a bunch of boys swaying around in a pedestrian manner to mismatched music looking like they don’t really mean any of it, as if k-pop wasn’t already glaringly inauthentic enough.
26 – Bubble Sisters – Bubble Song
Korean pop gets a lot of flak for cultural insensitivity, so it’s great to see Korean pop artists breaking down cultural barriers and trying to relate to the predicament of black people by painting their faces dark and singing completely godawful early R&B-influenced fucking shit. Sure, they don’t really succeed with the face-painting or the music here (unless by “succeed” we mean “just as awful as what it’s copying”), but the thought is what matters, and I’m glad that the efforts of Bubble Sisters were appreciated at the time and that these girls weren’t misunderstood by anybody. These days they might have a more precarious time of course, but who can even keep up with the rules about this shit now. I remember back in my school days my mixed-race class would all paint our faces black and white and whatever other colours we could for “indigenous day class” or whatever it was called and do these weird dances, with the underlying message fairly obviously being “don’t treat people differently because of their skin colour, it’s the person inside that counts”. We thought we were being the most “progressive” non-racist kids ever in history by doing this, but these days people would take out-of-context photos which would go viral and then we would be cast out of the education system and branded neo-Nazis by a Twitter hate-mob. Oh well, until society takes the shit-coated dick out of its ass just know this:
- This song sucks
- The chubby girl is seriously cute
25 – H.O.T – Outside Castle
Yes, it’s H.O.T again. A lot of Kpopalypse readers are probably expecting H.O.T’s “Candy” to be on this list too, and guess what – it isn’t. Sorry to let you down, but “Candy”, while certainly a fucking long, long way from “good” or even “average”, “basically acceptable”, “doesn’t suck a thousand cocks” etc, was certainly still H.O.T doing what they did best, making simple pop music with basic hooks and undemanding, unsophisticated melody for fangirls to sing along to and fawn over. “Outside Castle” on the other hand is anything but, a completely convoluted self-important fucking mess of a song that features all the usual H.O.T characteristics – terrible warbling melody that frequently falls just shy of the correct notes, nothing harmonically of interest whatsoever, and muddy-as-fuck production that ruins what little appeal the song could have had. Nowhere is the latter more evident than at 2:07 where the rap starts and it is mixed so terribly that half of the words just fade into nothingness, and yes once again it’s not just the terrible YouTube video transfer, the original recording actually sounds like this too. Of course we have to put up with these horrible quality transfers because official SM Entertaiment uploads of these videos don’t actually exist (for good reason), but the best high fidelity in the world would just make you realise the true shittiness of what you’re listening to. Your k-pop prince is definitely in another castle.
24 – Shinhwa – Eusha Eusha
Yeah yeah, this song copies Manfred Mann’s “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy” at the start, and while the imitation isn’t great, everything that comes after it makes that moment sound like a fucking masterpiece of pop. That fucking dead electronic “thunk” of a squash-ball bass drum is back with a vengeance, and did I mention that Shinhwa really can’t hit their notes any better than H.O.T because they just can’t, the poor guys, fine on the dancefloor but seriously out of their depth in the vocal booth like most groups back then who had no electronic pitch-correction to help. All of you kids who complain about too much Autotune in pop music, which I agree that there was definitely a point in k-pop music history where the voice box was overused, as a general rule you should be grateful that the modern “soft” Autotune exists because you don’t want to know what your bias sounds like without it. Music technology is here to make you think that your fave is a genius at everything, when in fact they’re mainly just a genius at making you feel like they’re a genius. That’s the idol game all over, and Shinhwa know how to play it as well as anybody, the proof being that they can make mature adults swallow incredibly dull songs like this.
23 – Shin Woodo – You In The Mask
Co-ed groups (groups with both male and female members) were actually very common in the early days of idol pop. It was true then way more so than now, where most labels have realised that it just doesn’t make good marketing sense to interfere with your fanbase’s fap rhythm by having the wrong gender crash the screen while you’re trying to work up a rhythm to your fave. Not that it even matters who is whatever gender when the music is this bad. I guess one of the rap guys must had spat in the audio engineer’s coffee or fucked his girlfriend, because you can barely hear him at all, but then maybe he’s doing us all a favour by burying his shitty raps right at the back of the mix. Maybe he could have placed a few more things back there, like those horrible singing vocals, the stupid played-out breakbeat, the chords… fuck it, why not the whole song, right at the back of the hall where I can’t hear it, thanks.
22 – Deux – In Summer
Deux’s “In Summer” starts off sounding like Kenny G taking a big fat saxophone shit all over Gfriend’s “Love Whisper“. I listened with interest, thinking that Love Whisper is quite a good song so when the saxophone shuts the fuck up we should actually have an okay track here. Unfortunately, it was not to be the case, as whoever wrote this turd of a song for Deux didn’t have the melodic sensibility of Gfriend’s songwriters, and wasn’t able to come up with anything worth listening to. Then I nearly fell out of my chair at 1:20 when the producers of this track reach a new level of incompetence even for early k-pop and do something that it’s almost impossible to do on any track even deliberately, they play a drum machine out of time. Musicians will know how ludicrous this is, as drum machines actually keep their own time quite well without any human intervention, so to fuck up this bad you actually have to try really hard, or maybe he just spilled coffee into the mixing console or whatever. In any event it can’t be deliberate, because… no, it couldn’t be… why would someone even do that in a pop song… oh wait it’s not actually like that on the original recording, they just fucked up the video version somehow. Guess the video editor didn’t know anything about actual music (as often they don’t) and just cut the song itself to ribbons to fit in with the video’s visual because the boys couldn’t dance in time to the beat, never mind that it completely destroys the feel of the song. Oh well, who cares anyway, song is shit.
21 – TVXQ – Hug
When I left out TVXQ completely on both my Golden Age of k-pop list as well as my best of the Dark Ages list, people were mad. How could I leave out such a culturally relevant group? They have so many songs, surely I had to like at least one of them enough to get on? Clearly these people (like everybody) didn’t bother to read the preambles at the start of these posts which always clearly state that the lists are just my own subjective personal taste only and cultural relevance, popularity etc is not a factor at play. Nevertheless, I hope that TVXQ fans worldwide are now happy that their favourite group finally made a list of mine for a change, even if it is the most dicksuckingest early songs of k-pop list, at least it’s recognition, right? I’d go on to talk about the musical qualities of this song that make it so atrocious, but people who regularly read my writing will know that I hate these awful rim-tapped smooth ballad things, and the rest of you aren’t even reading down this far anyway because you’re busy reporting me for being a cross between Hitler, Stalin and that kid who stole your lunch money at recess. Did I mention that even though I don’t like this song, it’s good to see this duo’s early work although I wonder who the three back-dancers are. (Hey SM Entertainment, link to my Patreon is on the sidebar thanks.)
20 – JYP – Kiss
Easily JYP’s worst song ever, “Kiss” actually has decent production, a rarity for early k-pop, but which is probably to be expected in this case as I’m sure JYP helmed it himself because why wouldn’t he. Unfortunately the song is more of that whispery Michael Jackson sound, and it’s not even Michael in his vaguely good phase, but his latter-day era when he was making total bullshit music instead, so this song is just total wimpy, mincing, crotch-grabbing crap. Just like Elvis impersonators ignore the young hunky Elvis and only ever impersonate the ugly fat latter-day Elvis because it doesn’t require them to keep up a youthful appearance and they can pretty much let their body go to seed and still pull it off, k-pop stars who try to copy Michael Jackson only ever go for the “Dangerous” and later-era stuff which is all castrated yelping, high-production gloss and no melody to speak of, because it doesn’t require them to actually think about what they’re writing or make it catchy or interesting in any way beyond “here’s a cool beat and a bunch of effeminate gasping nonsense pretending to be something that you can sing along to”. It’s just not enough and JYP should know that of all people, the fact that the person behind this also made something as beautifully simplistic as “So Hot” is surely a miracle.
19 – SMTOWN – Paradise
As soon as I told people I was making this list and solicited suggestions, Kpopalypse readers from everywhere started spamming me every single SMTOWN release since the dawn of time for inclusion. Of course I couldn’t include the excruciatingly bad “Dear My Family” because that’s already on another list in pretty much identical form, and most of the rest of the SMTOWN releases are Christmas bullshit which is always ineligible, otherwise these worst-of lists would actually be nothing but Christmas songs, which would be accurate but dull. So instead you get “Paradise”, which is just plain, simple SMTOWN bullshit at its most formulaic, with unexciting melodic choices, no surprises anywhere and the whole “we’re all in this together for you and everyone aren’t we just one big happy family who never fight or have a bad word to say about anyone yeahhhh” gang-vocal vibe. Of course we know that’s pretty rich coming from the employees of Slave Contracts R Us, but I can swallow untold quantities of fake bullshit as long as the song is good (I’m a k-pop fan after all so I’m used to being lied to and shat on by companies on a daily basis). Unfortunately in this case the song is musically an empty vessel, that rings hollow like the promises of k-pop agencies that they are giving their staff three square meals a day and adequate time off.
18 – swi-t – I’ll Be There
“Wait” I hear you cry “you’ve had plenty of SM and JYP in this list, where’s the YG artists? WHY ARE U SO BIASED KPOPALIPS OMG U YG STAN”. Well here we are with swi-t, and if anything I’ve got to give YG props for the cool group name which is right up there with T-ara for erudite English wordplay cheese factor. Also the visual presentation is pretty decent for the day, and you can really see YG’s futurist style slowly evolving. Unfortunately the song itself is genuinely terrible, with the most laughable verse melody imaginable, so basic and comical that it would barely even make the grade for a nursery rhyme let alone a pop song, which really puts the brakes on any sort of ultra-modern sophisticated whatever the fuck they were going for. The chorus is marginally better, but it’s a pretty fucking small margin, and you’re going to have either the thuddingly moronic “duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh DUH DUH” of the verse or the whimpery “I’ll be theeearrr” of the chorus crushing through your skull all day and making your brain shrivel after listening to this trash only once, I swear. Sometimes being “catchy” is the enemy.
17 – X-Teen – National Charter Of Education
There was a really bullshit hip-hop trend that was alive in the US for about two years or so, where people would rap really fast, just spewing out sort of dumb lyrics that didn’t actually mean anything, just lots of diggity-diggity sylllables, cartoon references and dumb crap. The chief proponents of this lyrical style were Fu-Schnickens and Das Efx who combined their nonsense-lyrics with incredible rapping speed, and nobody gave a fuck because even though they had good beats, their lyrical style was just a gimmick that kinda sucked (and both groups knew it, gradually distancing themselves from the style they pioneered with subsequent releases). That’s kind of how I feel about X-Teen, the difference being that I don’t actually know what X-Teen are rapping and it could in fact be the most profound words ever (maybe it even is judging by that self-important song title), but the way it’s delivered is so corny and so in line with the aforementioned groups that I just can’t listen to it anyway. You can blame that stupid song that Fu Schnickens did with basketball player Shaquille O’Neal for ruining X-Teen for me and getting them on this list. Fuckity-fuckity-fuck it.
16 – 1TYM – Without You
As someone originally schooled in the “fake-hop” world of Seo Taeji & The Boys, ballads were never YG’s strength. YG’s commissioned ballads always just degenerate into stupid shit like this song, and the biggest offender to musical truth, beauty and justice here is that chorus melody with the horrible wide-interval thing. I’m not sure if he planned this as song type of singing exercise to get his group’s throats warmed up, but great signing exercises often don’t make great music. Maybe he was going for a Bone Thugs & Harmony feel, but then this song is too light and pussy even for that crappy limp group, so who knows. What I do know is that this song is really bad and YG should have stopped it with the ballad nonsense 15 years ago.
15 – CSJH The Grace – A Little Bit Of Good
Ahhh, CSJH The Grace, we all knew that they had to be in this list eventually. For pure hit-miss ratio, CSJH The Grace are easily the worst long-running group that k-pop has ever seen to date, possessing not one solitary good or even semi-acceptable song. It was probably in fact CSJH The Grace alone that held back the fortunes of the Hallyu wave throughout the mid 2000s, a wave which immediately started surging forward as soon as they became unofficially defunct, surely not a coincidence. Of course it was “unofficial” as SM Entertainment have a habit of being too chickenshit to officially announce disbandments (so they can string along the fandoms for as long as possible, hi f(x) fans by the way how are you) but anyone sensible knew that SM was going to forget all about this group as soon as Girls’ Generation arrived on the scene. But why was CSJH The Grace so shitty and toxic not just to their own fortunes, but to k-pop as a whole? The answer is simple – unlike almost all other k-pop groups of the day, they could sing, therefore they faced the same problem that Mamamoo are currently experiencing. If you’ve got a k-pop group full of good singers, nobody bothers to write actual songs for you, they just give you “wank templates” instead and let you fill in the blanks. They figure that since you can sing, you’ll be able to lift up the quality of whatever lazy offcuts they give you, so they just palm off to you the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel dregs and save the actual songs with well-written melodies for other groups that need more “guidance”. Nobody from overseas wants to hear this vocal jerk-off wank, so musical stagnation and a total lack of overseas penetration was assured. It’s not the girls’ fault of course, and in fact I feel sorry for them – imagine being trapped in a group so obviously doomed to failure. Imagine them seeing Girls’ Generation’s meteoric rise and thinking to yourself “that could have been my group, if my label weren’t such cunts”.
14 – OPPA – Winter Girl
Yes there really was a group called OPPA. The group name alone is probably enough to get them on this list, but it certainly doesn’t help that they have this shitty ballad, which is all bells (of course), the dreaded Fender Rhodes (of course) and super-slow drumbeats (of course). However it gets even worse (of course), proceedings only become more stupid and pointless at 2:27 when the song segues in what surely has to be the most poorly implemented, inappropriate, mood-destroying bridge section in all of Korean pop. Nobody wants to hear a slowed-down breakbeat with some moronic vocal stab at the start and end, randomly inserted into what is trying to be some kind of “sensitive ballad” or whatever. It’s like they couldn’t just settle for the song being boring, turgid and insincere, and had to also add comical, incompetent and trend-following into the mix just to complete the set. Probably the only benefit of this song without the break is that it could probably put someone to sleep fairly easily, and they even had to ruin that.
13 – Fin.k.l – Blue Rain
Actually the worst group name in k-pop has to be Fin.k.l. Don’t tell me what it means, I don’t want to know. Actually in fact someone did tell me what it meant a while back but then I swiftly forgot because my brain had to store more important information that day, such as the density and viscosity of the last turd that I did. The only good thing about this group is that Lee Hyori left it and did a few solo songs and some of them weren’t too terrible. Oh and also they were unusually attractive for an early k-pop group, most of these old groups (male and females alike) were too trend-following to really get any of the styling right, and spent most of their time looking like a cybergoth’s ecstacy-fuelled nightmares. Anyway onto this song and it’s another crap ballad that is completely forgettable, or if would be if the improvised vocals in the second part of the song didn’t come out and rape your eardrums in the most catastrophic way. I know some people will think I’m “trivialising rape” but actually I think that it’s the people who don’t recognise those vocal improvisations as rape are the ones who are doing the trivialising. Just because I’m making a worst-of songs list doesn’t mean I was asking for it. My ears feel violated by this song, in fact I think I need to take a shower so I feel less dirty. In the meantime I urge all listeners to not go down the dark alleyway of Fin.k.l because I cannot guarantee your safety.
12 – Chakra – Hey U
The complete mess of utter crap that is T-ara’s “Yayaya” actually has a historical precedent, which is Chakra’s “Hey U”. Both songs have basically the exact same problem, there’s just too much utter shit going on at once for the ear to reasonably follow, and thus care about, so the entire song tends to just get filtered out by the brain as white noise. However “Yayaya” had one redeeming feature – it was produced by people who understood what they were doing sonically (if not musically) so at least there was the possibility of listening to it to appreciate the art of putting something like that together, even if the result was ultimately a failure. Not the case with “Hey U” which also has a staggering incompetence in the realisation of the sonic concepts, as elements are added and subtracted from the mix for seemingly no reason. On top of this there’s all the other issues that “Yayaya” had – no melody to speak of, no harmonic variety, stupid raps with nonsense words and even shitty fashion sense. It’s like someone tried to create an entire k-pop package with as little reason to exist as possible. At least getting on this list might give a few people a source of entertainment, so all that money painting sets the same ugly colour didn’t completely go to waste.
11 – Knock – Don’t Cry
Knock emulates probably the most tired and loathed genre in all of western popular music – the 1980s power ballad. The difference between a regular ballad and a “power” ballad is in the type of musical approach – regular ballads have subtlety and dynamics, power ballads do not. The song starts off with that cheap sounding DI’ed-straight-into-the-desk piano keyboard, before the inevitable strings and leaden drumbeat come in, smashing you in the face with their “feels” like you’re a docile moron who can’t laugh or cry without someone holding up a big cue card telling you what your own emotions are. Of course, then the Golden Age happened where YG rose to prominence and Korea gradually forgot about this style of ballad now that mood-altering drugs were more readily available, and it’s just as well, but even within the low, low standards of power ballads, “Don’t Cry” [generic ballad name #682] isn’t even remotely well-realised. Thanks, but I’ll cry if I want to.
10 – G.O.D – Dear Mother
Keep in mind my mother’s wise words “if you can’t accept the communicator, you won’t accept the communication”, note that all the reason I need to hate this song is in the lyrics and theme of the song and video, so rather than talk about how it’s yet another shit ballad, let’s take a look at the meaning and message of this song to see how exactly morally bankrupt and disgusting it is. “Dear Mother” tells the story of the sad brats of G.O.D and how they were complete cunts growing up, and probably still are today. In the first verse they talk about how they whined to their parents for better food, and they were so annoying about it that rather than listen to these little cuntholes, their mother caved in and bought them noodles and starved herself instead because that was better than listening to these little fuckheads go on and on about not wanting to eat their vegetables. Then in the second verse the kids get bullied at school over their crappy lunches that they still didn’t want to eat, so they punch out the bully, and instead of defending them the mother rightly says to the principal and the bully’s mother “these little faggot kids I raised don’t even eat the food I give them anyway, I’m a bad mother, do your worst”. Then in the third verse the kids get a restaurant and serve people all night but don’t even invite their mother because they’re selfish shitcunts, so she fucking kills herself, finally smiling for the first time in her life because she looks forward to not having to deal with her idiot sons for once. Am I supposed to cry about this or something? Sounds like a story of assholes being assholes to me. Just ask Megan Lee about that shit.
9 – Angel Heart – Scarlet Eyes
There’s only really one good visual kei group and that is X Japan, all the other Japanese Visual Kei groups are varying degrees of suck. However I cannot find a single Japanese visual kei group who are anywhere near as shit as Korea’s horrible visual kei knockoff group Angel Heart. Even when visual kei was right into its dreadful “let’s try and be Korn in baby doll dresses and moan a lot” phase they never got quite down to “Scarlet Eyes” levels of suckitude. There’s no real need to get into the technical details of why this song is completely hopeless, because if you’ve managed to listen to it for at least thirty seconds it should be completely self-evident. You don’t need someone to write you an essay on the chemical properties of methane when you already instinctively know that shit smells. How the group themselves thought that this was release-worthy I have no idea, but let’s just say that the guitar player has balls bringing a Parker Fly into his video because that is one butt-ugly guitar, and leave it at that, because I really don’t want to shit on these guys too much, it must take serious guts and determination levels to bring out something like this for general public consumption and I have to admire it.
8 – Lexy – Tears
Before YG had CL pretty much donning the Koran as a costume (and why not – fashion and design is about the only thing orthodox religion of any kind is good for), there was Lexy, YG’s token “baddest female” making k-pop fans all culturally aware of Africa and stuff. The video is a fun dance party with an exciting fusion of African jumping-around and not-so-African jumping-around, with also lots of face painting and wearing colourful things. Getting in a bit of appreciation of African culture is probably a healthy thing for k-pop fans, and it might help some of them tone down the racism a bit if they can see people from different cultures getting along so well like in this video. There’s even a hot lesbian scene with an ex-T-ara member at 1:30 to get the LGBTIQXYZABC folks on-side but I’m not sure how old she was during this performance so please check before fapping. Anyway all this cultural diversity is really cool and neat but the song is some incredibly boring monotonal shit without even any chord changes where they just sort of let Lexy off the chain to sing a bit, add drums and just kind of call it a day. It’s cool to be all diverse and stuff but I wish these k-pop agencies would learn that you can’t carry a song on cultural awareness alone.
7 – S.E.S – Twilight Zone
S.E.S were another one of those terrible early k-pop idol groups that never had anything good, constantly treading and retreading and retreading again and again the territory pioneered by Australia’s questionable “Australasian idol group” Girlfriend a few years before, to the point where it’s almost impossible to discuss S.E.S meaningfully without mentioning them. Sensibly realising that there just isn’t that much money in the pop end of Australia’s music market, Girlfriend were designed by their Australian agency from the ground up to conquer both Australia and Asia’s pop markets, and they made a small amount of headway in both before falling victim to “third album syndrome” as they mutated into the horrid “adult-oriented” GF4, missing their market completely and then disintegrating. On the way they were the first girl pop group to do the cringeworthy “girl power” feminism-lite sloganeering that The Spice Girls would later popularise, and the fanbase of Girlfriend as a result was predominantly female (which is why their “mature” switch didn’t fly, it wasn’t properly timed and their young female audience wasn’t ready or interested). It was S.E.S that mainly picked up where the original pre-switch Girlfriend left off, treading the uneasy line between pandering to female independence and male sexual interest, with songs even more terrible than Girlfriend’s worst. “Twilight Zone” was by far their biggest failure as a song, a tune so frighteningly bereft of anything interesting that the producers apparently though that adding telephone tone-dialling noises to the backing track would help it sound better (and no that’s not just video sound effects, those shitty-ass beep beep noises are on the original audio). They may not have even been wrong to do so, it’s the only memorable aspect to the track, and for me it brings back memories of being on hold for extended lengths of time to government agencies, a far more enjoyable activity than listening to this or any S.E.S song.
6 – Big Mama – Break Away
Let’s start with the good. Whoever set up this video shoot actually got Big Mama’s Shure Super 55 microphones correctly positioned the right way around! Really it’s fucking astonishing that they got this right, but it begs the question how YG has managed to fuck this up royally every single time since with every single other artist on his roster. Yes that’s right Big Mama were a YG group, not that you would know it from the image presented because they actually look good, but then the music is absolutely godawful R&B bullshit for fuckheads so then maybe it isn’t as much of a surprise really. That brings us to the other positive point which is that the girl on the left is allowed to be big-boobed, while the other girls are allowed to be small-boobed. Usually k-pop fashion tends to drag people to the middle by trying to reduce bustiness of the busty members and increase it for the smaller members, but I’m against this type of homogenisation because Kpopalypse is all about diversity. She does look like she’s straining her back though, hunched over the microphone stand like that, couldn’t they have moved it a bit higher for her, or maybe having her bend over is the idea so creepy YG can look down her top. Anyway, the song is R&B therefore is it shit, what else is there to say really.
5 – CSJH The Grace – Dancer In The Rain
Many years ago I went to a double-concert of Motorhead and Motley Crue. I’m not a huge fan of either group but I thought I’d go because my friend had a ticket he really wanted to sell cheap to buy weed, and I really wanted to take a photo of him smoking weed so I could troll him with it, so we made a deal that I would buy the ticket really cheaply from him if he let me take a photo of him lighting up. He agreed so off I went (sorry I can’t show you the photo but I did agree not to share it on the Internet as part of the deal). The show was pretty entertaining actually, with Motorhead being obviously the better group, very no-nonsense “we’re fuckin’ Motorhead, here’s 45 minutes of our best songs, thank you goodnight”, and Motley Crue being all razzle-dazzle, circus tricks, pyrotechnics and badly-performed versions of their songs that leaned on vocal backing tracks heavily because singer Vince Neil couldn’t hit the high notes that he could in the 1980s. However the most surreal part of the night was when Motley Crue blew up the sound system. The actual stage sound still worked, but the audience sound did not, so for about two minutes we had the surreal experience of Motley Crue singing and playing while not realising anything was wrong, while all we could hear was silence, the murmur of the confused crowd and a tiny echo of the stage sound. I had a similar feeling while watching “Dancer In The Rain”, the production of the backing track here is so confused that when it cuts to those odd pregnant silences it doesn’t even sound completely deliberate, and the girls spend that little bit of time gyrating to nothing just like Nikki Sixx. Mind you when the song does get past the stop-start stuttering backing nonsense it doesn’t improve, and CSJH The Grace’s entire career and musical output is really just one big mistake as previously mentioned so I guess in a way this godawful laughable mess kind of suits them. Next.
4 – Tino – Short 4 Months
I was told something completely amazing the other week that I couldn’t believe, and which I’m still not sure is true or false. Apparently, Americans don’t have kettles. Seriously, I’m told that for all your advanced American technology (i.e bombs) culture (i.e guns) and diplomacy (i.e bombs and guns), Americans still haven’t figured out that it’s more convenient and energy-efficient to have a kettle and boil it rather than put water on the stove in a pot and heat it up. So since many of my readers are American, they therefore may not be familiar with the kettle whistle. Actually I’m pretty sure this is true, because when Public Enemy incorporated a kettle whistle into “Rebel Without A Pause” all the American reviews said “wow that production sounds so futuristic, these amazing noises I’ve never heard before are blowing my mind” while all the Australian reviews said “why is there a looped sample of a fucking kettle whistle over a James Brown beat”. So take notes: a kettle whistle is the thing at the top of the kettle where the steam goes through when the water boils and it makes a loud whistling noise, it’s really unpleasant and this is of course deliberate so you get the kettle off the fucking stove instead of burning it out while you sit on your fat ass and watch bullshit TV shows. Anyway if you’re an American who is still not completely sure what this sounds like, just listen to the fucking shit flute playing in “Short 4 Months” where the flute player can’t quite get that kettle-whistle vibe out of his fluting, it should give you the skills to adequately identify kettle whistles in your future. This has been a Kpopalypse Community Service Announcement especially for my American readers, hopefully you’ve all managed to keep alive long enough to reach the end of this paragraph and can actually hear what I’m talking about in the song above the sound of constant gunfire, sirens and people yelling at each other in your neighbourhoods.
3 – Solid – At The End Of The Night
The best thing about this video besides yet another example of correct microphone use (they love those silver mics for the big R&B snoozefests don’t they) is the grid of dots arranged in squares that is occasionally super-imposed over the performers of Solid. It means that the video actually has a use – you can freeze-frame it, print it out and then you can play Dots and Boxes with your friends. I used to dig that game as a kid because maths books with their perfect small square grids were well-designed to play such a game, but the blue and red lines made my eyes go funny after a while (I didn’t realise that I was colour blind at the time) so if I had some nice monochromatic dots like in this video I would have appreciated that. Dots and Boxes is a good game to play if you’re playing against a complete dumbass, but if there’s two smart people playing they see all the opportunities and then it’s just like playing “eenie meany miney moe”, which is racist because the original version of the rhyme was “catch a nigger by the toe” and therefore Solid are racist and you shouldn’t listen to them. Or if that doesn’t make any sense you could just not listen to this shitty ballad because it’s another shitty ballad exactly like every other one, and far worse than most of them, which honestly is a good enough reason for me.
2 – Ryanghyeon Ryangha – I Did Not Go To School
So normally I’d put some kind of spacer image here or some kind of preamble about the worst song on this list to build suspense but in this case there is no suspense to build because we all know that it’s just going to be another shit song by CSJH The Grace so let’s just get this over with.
1 – CSJH The Grace – Too Good
Many people who love this group and are miraculously still reading this crap are surely convinced by now that I’m an anti and that I just hate their fucking guts. Not true, and to demonstrate my complete lack of bias, I asked my girlfriend to review this song. She gives no fucks about any k-pop group and she doesn’t even know who CSJH The Grace are. I did not tell her anything about the song or group beforehand, not that she would care anyway.
0.00 – “Too Good?” It already sounds pretty cringeworthy.
0.02 – [uncomfortable grimace as the music starts]
0.07 – this is k-pop? [Me: “yes”. Another uncomfortable grimace.]
0.19 – Sounds like some bad 1990s teenybopper “I’m a depressed teenage girl” kind of thing.
0.36 – [sarcastically] “Oh look I’m so deep and soulful with the filter!”
0.44 – [she looks at me, genuinely horrified]
0.52 – Okay, I’ve gotten nearly a minute in. I must really love you. [me: “…to put up with this?” She nods, sagely.]
0.57 – This is fucking abysmal.
1.07 – Wow, that’s it, I’m done. I can’t do it.
1.15 – Like I said it’s like some 1990s teenage girl whining ballad crap… that’s just the impression that I’m getting from watching the film clip, I can’t understand the lyrics obviously. Probably a good thing, because otherwise I’m sure I’d hate it even more.
1.29 – Okay, please stop torturing me. [me: “you can go whenever you want”, she quickly takes the opportunity to leave the room]
There you have it, the objective opinion of someone who gives no fucks. Hopefully she’ll speak to me again today.
That’s all for this, hopefully you had fun reading and enjoyed yourselves. Kpopalypse will return with more posts soon! Don’t forget to be civil in the comments!
13 thoughts on “Kpopalypse’s 30 worst songs from the Dark Ages of k-pop (pre-2008)”
Almost everyone is BLOWN OUT making their whole face one flat colour, giving them voldemort noses. I have no idea how an MV editor could be watching it and not think ‘Gee, this is the worst fucking shit I’ve ever seen. Are you sure you don’t want to reshoot this?’. Pre-2008 K-Pop should be lost in time for that alone if for no other reason.
Some of shit here is worse than bollywood songs. At least when you compare songs here to the song released after 2008 you can see the vast improvement that Kpop made in music production and video production. Bollywood music is still terrible today and I don’t see it changing for long period of time.
Bollywood songs are bops and I love it when it plays during movies and whenever it comes on the radio.
to correct your american and kettles thing
americans HAVE stove kettles
what they don’t have are electric kettles because of their voltage and shit
Your constitution needs an amendment to give you the right to heat water electrically.
I consider myself a bold person, but I did not have courage enough to hit any of these play buttons. It’s just…. I can’t. Really. Im still not recovered from that little PSY song in 2015 (?) worst songs. My brain it’s not ready yet.
As a preteen only allowed to listen to Christian music *shudder* I had a cassette of a group called Point of Grace, who I now know sound exactly like CSJH The Grace. I hated them then (and felt bad about it at the time) and I really hate them now. No idea who came first but now I wonder how many Grace themed harmonic girl groups are out there torturing the planet.
I am surprised you did not mention YG’s creepy behavior in the Swi-T’s review because I am pretty sure that his “groomed” wife is the member of the group. Also, I am quite certain that Ryangheon Ryangha is under the tutelage of JYP when he was much younger. However, I did not know if he composed the song or not.
Yeah his wife was in this group.
In another song they had a very young GD and Taeyang feature on it and they kinda stole the show.
There’s another song by Lexy that’s featuring Psy and you barely notice Lexy in the live performance.
It feels like YG had trouble with his early girl groups/soloists having little to no stage prescence until he finally got it right with 2ne1 but then decided to disband them and give us 2ne2 aka blackpink
I listened to the no.1 track and tbh I wasn’t offended by it. It’s not grating to listen to (Might be if it’s on very loud). It’s just that literally nothing happens for the song’s duration.
I started at a side job today, working at a coffee and bagel shop, and I was talking to a young guy coworker and I asked him what music he liked, he replied “Coffee shop music, you know… calming” I said “Haha, you mean boring”, – “Yeah, I guess”.
Americans don’t have kettles, but we sure do know what they are and the noise they make. The sound is on shows a lot and is easily identifiable.
I actually like Without You here. Admittedly, I discovered it after hearing it from the drama Reply 1997. I tend to be drawn to appropriately-inserted songs with tie-up to strong drama / movie scenes.
awww, I like The Grace and will be always salty that SM forgot about them after their first album and sent them to Japan to, once again, be forgotten. I like the first two songs mentioned in the post, but the song that you selected as #1 I don’t even remember hearing it, like it’s so boring that I’ve must skipped it.
Listening to the SMTown song made me wonder, have you listened to the YG Family songs released at the beginning of the 00’s? Like Famillienium or Hip Hop Gentlemen, what’s your opinion of them?
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