Yes it’s the list that hate-readers have been waiting for all year – the list of the worst k-pop songs of 2022 according to Kpopalypse! Read on and enjoy!
Welcome to the worst k-pop songs of 2022 according to Kpopalypse! For the record, 2022 wasn’t significantly worse than the previous few years as far as shit songs go. Many songs were indeed bad, but as usual most settled for a very average and unexciting kind of shittiness as the latest round of disgusting trends swept through k-pop, and few songs were actively bad enough to meet notability requirements for inclusion in a list like this. So as you read the list below, know that these songs have been carefully hand-selected for extreme shittiness, so please enjoy these picks in the appropriate spirit!
Most people will probably skip straight to the list part and then check with shaking hands and sweaty palms if their favourite artists’ favourite songs are included here so they can then go and complain about it somewhere, but if you’re a new reader and/or reasonably intelligent you may wish to read the below dot points before you dive in. These points explain this list’s criteria and general aims.
- Songs are from 1st January 2022 to 31st December 2022, however the time window for this list actually extends a little bit before both of these dates to catch any steaming turds that may have missed making it into previous year’s lists. This list was published on 31st December 2022 but may appear earlier for some readers due to timezones.
- Feature tracks only – songs released with a music video, or as a single, or featured on live stages.
- OST songs are not eligible, because they’re almost always such complete crap that they would dominate this list and make it a very correct but very boring read.
- Songs for sporting events are not eligible, these are ignored for the good of humankind, as Kpopalypse does not do the sport ball shape.
- Christmas songs are not eligible as they are of such consistently low quality that they have their own special list of shittiness just for them.
- “K-pop” is deliberately defined a little loosely for this list as music coming from the Korean industry – songs that aren’t strictly “pop” are eligible. Songs from Koreans or backed by Korean labels trying to break into non-Korean markets are eligible. Western attempts at “being a k-pop” are also eligible.
- This list is 100% subjective, it’s all about what I think of the music. Sure, often I’ll discuss other aspects too, but that’s mainly just for entertainment, as most of these songs actually have similar flaws and repeating myself a whole ton does not make for a very fun list. The other factors don’t really have any bearing on which songs made it into here. Yes this list is biased – as it should be, because what is the point of a personal list with no bias in it – but it’s musically biased.
- The opinions expressed here are not important and do not represent any kind of “authority”. This list proves nothing except what my own subjective opinions are. Your own opinions will most likely differ. If you managed to extract any actual enjoyment out of these terrible songs, I envy you.
- If you are upset by this list, good. Maybe go and complain about it somewhere, I’m sure that will work out just fine for you.
- On the other hand if you’re thinking I’m just someone who hates k-pop in general, on statistical averages that’s actually very true (Sturgeon’s Law applies to k-pop as it apples to everything else), but know that the Kpopalypse favourites list for 2022 is also a thing so maybe go and check that out to hear some much better songs, I highly recommend it. Also you may wish to check the honourable and dishonourable mentions post for 2022 for more good AND shit songs you may have missed.
KPOPALYPSE’S 30 WORST SONGS OF 2022
30. Benny Blanco, BTS & Snoop Dogg – Bad Decisions
I guess given their low quality these days it wouldn’t be a Kpopalypse worst list without k-pop supergroup BTS aka the Nickelback of k-pop in here somewhere, so let’s just get their now-obligatory appearance out of the way quickly so we can move onto other music that people might actually care about. You know there was a time not so long ago when BTS would consistently not chart on any Kpopalypse lists at all, but in recent years their music has somehow taken a turn from “this is average” to “this is comically awful, who wrote this crap” and it’s largely due to their increasingly western-market focus and choice of collaborators. Even BTS’s own fans (called ARMYs presumably for their proven ability to invade places where they’re not invited and traumatise the local population) freely admit in their more honest moments that the group has been on a downhill slide since they changed their focus from milking their own fans’ mental illness for cash to milking international fans left in the lurch without a parasocial relationship to fetishise because all the western idol groups suck right now. Of course the BTS boys didn’t serve up quite as much easy-listening blandness in 2022 as in previous years, I guess due to them preparing to become ARMYs for real, so it’s no wonder that this track sounds lazy and rushed like nobody cared, because honestly why would they, if I was about to be shipped off to the DMZ to dodge North Korean rockets I’d probably have other things on my mind too. However the biggest musical offender here isn’t actually BTS themselves or Benny Blanco who are just being their generic uncreative selves, but Snoop Dogg, who drops some truly terrifying cringe bars of rap, even by Snoop Dogg standards. When one of the most well-known rappers of the 1990s has sunk to the level of quoting CL’s “The Baddest Female“, you know that the hip-hop world really is in a sorry state in 2022 and perhaps it’s just time to put that entire musical style to bed for a few years. It’s not all bad (meaning bad) though, they at least got one thing right here which is the video concept. A music video for a BTS collaboration song called “Bad Decisions” where the ‘bad decision’ shown is literally attending a BTS concert is actually pretty insightful and funny, coming across like a sly nudge to everyone involved that they just threw this song together for the money. I urge all readers to avoid making the bad decision of pressing play on this video, but since this is a k-pop focused website and BTS are “not k-pop” even according to their own fans, you probably won’t anyway.
29. Nature – Rica Rica
Nature’s “Rica Rica” received a lot of hate when it came out, and while the hatred itself was quite justifiable, the reasons given for that hatred definitely weren’t. K-pop fans were predictably horrified that whoever planned this concept tried to mash a few cultures together and so they screamed “cultural appropriation” to the hills, which was of course completely expected because k-pop fans are incredibly racist and want to shut down any sort of spreading of anything that isn’t considered ‘white’ just as much as any Ku Klux Klan member. However if you can get past the stupid discourse about the concept and how k-pop fans have brainwashed themselves into supporting apartheid and white supremacy for the sake of winning fanwars, there’s plenty of good reasons to hate on “Rica Rica” just from a musical standpoint. There’s no need for anybody to act like a racist piece of shit who should be killed just because they might want to shit on this song, when the music on its own divorced from any external cultural factors is already bad enough to justify the required hatred levels. You don’t need to be a qualified ethnomusicologist like Kpopalypse to detect that the chorus of “Rica Rica” is some horrible generic bullshit that sounds like the worst moments of all your favourite mid-2010s nugus, except for the part where we go into the usual hideous trap breakdown with Scotch snaps everywhere. I’d thank k-pop groups to stop appropriating Scotland’s culture like this, can’t they see it’s hurtful and problematic, I mean I’m not Scottish but I can only imagine how offended they are, and I will, because it suits my argument, even if they didn’t even notice or care. While we’re at it Australians invented sampling so can they also stop it with the shitty sampled flute loops, as an Australian I’m deeply offended that they would steal my culture like this, in fact every single song on this entire list has sampling in it somewhere which means they all owe me, and if you disagree how dare any of you speak over an Australian, we’re a minority you cunt, kangaroos outnumber us in our own country, now everyone please pay your reparations thank you.
28. NU’EST – Again
Nu’est debuted with one of the best boy group songs in k-pop, so it’s kind of fitting that for their ‘breakup’ song they’re leaving us with one of the worst. I suppose it’s a good way to get people to demand a reformation – “you can’t leave us with this shit, come on! Come back so you can end on a high note!” and who knows, maybe it’ll work and they’ll come back soon with something better, which honestly wouldn’t be that difficult given how bland this is. It’s rare that a song gets on this worst list just for being purely unexciting but Nu’est have managed it, and “Again” is really just “Face” with everything that was good about that song dulled down into BTS-style millennial post-grunge sugar-pop nothingness designed for people who don’t think too hard about life. I’m sure the inevitable reformation is being planned right now with remixes of “Face” going somewhat viral again, no breakup can ever really stand firm against bucketloads of cash, although if their reformation song ends up being another bland snoozefest like this I can safely say that there’s no cash here. Oh well, I guess all that time being backup dancers for After School Blue taught them nothing.
27. P1Harmony – That’$ Money
Pro tip for people attempting to climb in the corporate world: if you’ve ever been to a corporate function where everyone is dressed in lavish suits and dresses and looks super rich, and there’s one guy wandering around chatting to all of them who’s just in casual clothes and looks like a bum, don’t be rude to them because that person is actually the CEO. That’s because people with actual money don’t feel the need to show off, or even want to – they’d rather you didn’t know they were the richest person in the room. On the other hand, completely broke people like 99% of rappers can’t stop talking about how much money they want you to believe they have, but trust me, the rap game is just as rigged as the k-pop business, they mostly fucking don’t have shit. So with that in mind, I suppose it’s kind of fitting that this boy group on FNC Entertainment here sing about money, because they sure as fuck wouldn’t have a single cent to their name, after all FNC is the label that never paid AOA a cent during the time when those girls were genuinely A-list Korean stars. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you enjoy watching young idols being tortured while you get lied to and treated like a bitch plus also tortured by this horrendous Autotuned nonsense, this song’s for you.
26. NewJeans – Hype Boy
“Hype Boy” actually doesn’t start off too badly, but when it hits the one minute mark everything turns to complete shit. With the vocals, hi-hats and bassline all sounding like they’re gyrating on three different swing ratios (although it’s such a confused sonic mess, who can even be completely sure what’s going on without looking at the original separate tracks on a digital audio workstation), this is a song designed for those crusty people you see at concerts who always clap half a beat behind everyone else. Even though they’re clearly aiming for some kind of 90s pop jam, it’s not really a successful retro sound because even though girl pop in the 90s sucked just as badly as this does, at least the drum machines worked back then. This musical disaster is all the more astonishing because it’s HYBE behind it – sure, it’s pretty common for them and other big labels to release absolute garbage from time to time, but it’s very rare when you get to hear a track from a huge agency that’s just literally broken. The song was still quite popular anyway, which either means that HYBE’s sub-Rotta aesthetic for NewJeans is actually next-level marketing genius, or people who can’t count correctly is a huge untapped market in k-pop.
25. Sohyang – To The World (Hope Song)
What’s worse than a Korean ballad? A Korean ballad with a ‘saving the world‘ theme. I’m all for saving the world, so let’s talk about that for a moment. Did you know that Kpopalypse does not have children (or at least none that I’ll admit to in court) and that part of the reason why is that childbirth is the single biggest factor negatively influencing the environment? For every child you have, your carbon output increases by 20 times, and that’s if you’re recycling at your optimum level (I know you don’t believe this but it’s been studied extensively, you don’t have to take my word for it). It’s not just carbon however, all the main facets of planetary destruction are completely driven by human population – less people means less people polluting, less people consuming the planet’s limited resources, and less people fighting in environment-destroying wars. It also potentially means less people involved in producing shitty Korean ballads about hoping for a better future. Look at all those people scrolling by in the end credits and weep for our planet, all of these people really thought they were doing something positive when all they did was convert oxygen and electricity into carbon and a shit music video. However I don’t want to be too negative and instead end on an appropriately hopeful note, so let’s all be hopeful together and hope for a better future with no climate-change-triggered natural disasters, no warlords like Putin sending people to die because he’s insecure about his height, and no more songs like this one.
24. My Teenage Girl – Surprise
I don’t follow Korean idol competition TV shows, so this song I’m showing you here, I actually have no idea what it’s about, even if it’s at least blatantly obvious who it’s for. I suppose I could go and research more about it but I don’t want to type “my teenage girl surprise” into a web browser search engine because I’ll probably just end up on a list somewhere, so I’m just going to assume that it’s a show where a bunch of shitty parents sell their children to the machine in the hope that they might get some return on investment for agreeing to be in this disturbing pedo-pandering crap sorry I mean “healthy porn for men“. I mean who the fuck even calls a group My Teenage Girl in the first place, at least NewJeans tried to at least pretend they were baking cookies or some bullshit, this is just blatant. So due to my general ignorance with regard to background information here, I’ll have to limit my criticism to the music, and that’s fine because it’s easy enough to criticise. For the first stretch it’s mostly just a sine wave over a beat with the usual insipid yelping that the girl groups all do now instead of melody because heaven forbid we have catchy pop music these days, so it kind of sucks in that basic generic way how everything sucks now. However that’s just the opening stretch, the quality really starts hitting the skids at about 1:07 where everything suddenly takes a left turn to yololand and the girls try to inject some ‘baby’s first swag’ into the proceedings but it doesn’t work and all the “all eyes on me” bullshit rings hollow because the girls sound as frightened as they look. Just look at their faces at the very end when they’re doing that “ending fairy” bullshit, these poor girls are honestly terrified, can you even imagine how they are treated once the cameras are turned off. To put it into perspective how bad this sounds, JAV star Ichika Matsumoto did some novelty rap song thing with some other JAV star Yui whatshername and the song sucks even more dick than they do because they can both barely even rap at all (no shit they’re literally running out of breath in some parts) and yet it still sounds more confident, more fun and more like they know what they’re doing than what anyone does in “Surprise”. That’s probably because they’re actually enjoying it for real. Why do you think Yua Mikami has put her k-pop idol dreams on the backburner for the last few years yet continues to appear in relevant drama productions every month, it’s important to be respected in the workplace, I bet JAV actresses thank their lucky stars that they’re not k-pop idols every single fucking day.
23. Min Chami – Jump Jump Jump
Regular readers of my reviews will know that I’m a little biased in favour of a lot of the “new 80s throwbacks”, because they tend to put melody and harmony first rather than relying on sound effects, shouting and silly segues. However what you have to keep in mind when listening to any of that stuff is that actual pop music from the 80s sounded mostly really bad and nothing like the better 80s throwback songs do. For example when we think of old school rap we think of all the cool socially aware stuff, but the reality is that for every “The Message” or “Night Of The Living Baseheads” there were about ten thousand songs that sounded like “Funky Man” and “Zip Zap Rap”. So if nothing else Min Chanmi is certainly authentic because “Jump Jump Jump” is certainly as authentically shit as anything that came out of the time period that relates to all the synth sounds she’s ripping off. That is, until the one minute mark when baby’s first keyboard melody kicks in and the song transforms into children’s TV theme time. After that of course we have trap because why wouldn’t we, k-pop is mostly about chasing trends rather than making good music so you might as well throw the whole box and dice in there, fuck it. Basically we’re in genre hopping bullshit land once again, except that unlike NMIXX this is at least rhythmically fairly seamless, pity that it’s also pretty seamlessly terrible.
22. (G)I-dle – My Bag
(G)I-dle had some great songs this year, including some great songs that only received dance practice videos for some reason. They also had “My Bag” which was definitely not one of those songs. As usual with anything (G)I-dle, Soyeon dominates most of the screentime and music by delivering all the song’s “hooks” (although I’m not sure if you can actually call a chorus this terrible a “hook” but anyway) and leaves the rest of her group to pick up the musical scraps as she usually does. That’d be fine at least for us if any of them had anything to actually do, but the entire backing track is just one single boring unchanging riff, and there’s really a limited amount that can even be done to rescue it or make it interesting. This means that we can probably 100% blame Soyeon for this nonsense, so let’s hope that next time she downloads a pirated DAW it has a virus on it that makes some of her tracks more interesting.
21. CIX – 458
The next time you’re out and about and you see a Ferrari parked anywhere, just find something that can cause damage to it, like a baseball bat or a golf club (about the only thing these sportball utensils are good for), or a length of lead pipe and just go your hardest, do your best to smash the fuck out of that thing. I’m sure somebody will get upset, maybe there’ll be some douchebag in the car playing with their phone who was just patiently waiting for the energy on their game to tick over, or maybe some bystanders will consider all the spraying shards of glass to be offensive, you never can tell what upsets people these days. However I urge you to do it anyway and give it your best shot, and if anyone complains just scream at them “this is for 458”. If you have some spraypaint handy you could even paint “458” on the car after you’re done, or failing that just scratch it into a side panel with your house keys or a nail file, and see if that sends a message. You’ll definitely be making the world a better place.
20. Jay Park – Bite
There’s a lot of things that I really don’t like about Korean culture, but there’s a few things that I do admire as well and one of them is their incredible commitment to alcoholism, the Korean drinking culture is strong enough to rival that of my own country. So when I heard that Jay Park was starting up a soju brand or whatever, I was pretty excited, I mean this is the guy who was kicked out of a boy group because he said “I hate Koreans, ya stupid cunts g’arn get fucked ay” and some people thought he was sincere but I’ve been around enough drunk people to know when it’s the alcohol talking. You know from a statement like that, that if Jay knows anything about anything, he knows about getting fucked up, and from that we can guess that the soju he’s making is pretty good quality, or at least decent strength. Then when I heard that Jay Park was retiring from the k-pops completely I became even more excited, here was his chance to focus heavily on his new venture instead of his weak R&B music and perhaps manage to get large enough in the alcohol business to go global and get some of that soju exported to Australia. My girlfriend doesn’t really know anything about Jay Park but she does know about soju and she thinks it’s alright, so I was looking forward to seeing if Jay Park could surpass Chum-Churum’s yoghurt flavour (her current pre-mix soju bias) with his own brand. Anyway it all turned out to be a lie, he hasn’t quit k-pop to get on the piss at all and is going to focus on doing more piss-poor R&B instead plus floating a girl group so look forward to that musical disaster I guess, in the meantime here’s some shit song he did that’s so terrible he couldn’t even be bothered flashing his abs again for the video, depriving us of its one and only possible useful function. Jay does tour a lot apparently so next time you see him live in your area maybe throw some soju bottles on the stage and see if he gets the hint.
19. Red Velvet – Birthday
Red Velvet are like a lot of the other recent SM Entertainment groups, in the sense that investing in the effort to click the play button on anything they do is a very “high risk, high reward” scenario. Sometimes you get something truly great, and sometimes you get some absolute bullshit like “Birthday” – very rarely do you ever get anything in between. SM Entertainment like to take musical risks, they’re not good at doing “average”, it’s either great or it just isn’t, and Birthday really, really, really isn’t. The problems with the track start almost immediately as whatever that song they’re sampling in the intro is twisted and detuned when the drums come in, which sounds kind of cool but then they do the most conservative and lame thing possible to the resulting loop which is to make a I-IV-I progression out of it. Literally any other choice would have been better, even just leaving it where it was tonally would have been preferable but no we have to do a boring blues thing. Then in come all the warbling improvised melodies one by one and of course they throw weird nursery rhyme shit in there too because that’s a thing in k-pop now for some reason nobody has been able to determine because the last 2895 songs with that sound all sucked and flopped. Of course we also have pre-chorus sections where the beat drops out because every song has that now so far be it for anyone to not follow every last trend in existence, and to top it all off there’s a chorus which is so unmemorable that I’ve been listening to this song for the last half an hour on loop while writing this review and I still can’t remember how that part goes. At least they manage something here that they couldn’t achieve in “Zimzalabim” which is that the wardrobe department actually gave the girls some clothes that suit them really well, so at least Red Velvet fappers will be catered for which seems to be a good chunk of their audience judging by my Twitter feed. I’ve never been that way inclined myself with this group given that I still mix up half the members so you do you I guess, just keep the sound down while you jerk it because the rest of us are trying to listen to better music over here, thanks.
18. Woo – Pandemic
This is a song by someone called “Woo” and it’s called “Pandemic”. Just let that fact sink in for a moment, and then before you play the video, just try to imagine in your head, what something like this would sound like and what type of musical travesty awaits your ears. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s probably nothing like how this sounds – I mean yes you probably did imagine a rap song of some type with weak-ass COVID themed lyrics (as if we all aren’t sick of hearing about that fucking disease by now) but not one like this. First impressions are actually quite good – the intro piano part is quite moody and nice, with the video aptly setting the tone, it actually sounds like a foundation for some good rap beat material. Then the promised beat kicks in at 0:29 and for the first second or two everything seems okay, but hang on… something’s wrong, what’s that strange noise? Did a car just drive past my house at a very similar by slightly detuned frequency, adding some weird mud to the bass response? Wait that’s actually the fucking bassline? For some reason whoever wrote the track literally just programmed the bass parts out of tune with everything else, there’s some parts in the loop that happen every time where the note in the bass is on a completely different scale to the note in the piano that’s setting the tone and when those two notes collide it just sounds awful, turning what could have been a very atmospheric backing into something that just sounds incompetent. This probably won’t bother everyone who hears it – if you’re listening on really shit speakers or you just have terrible pitch perception perhaps you won’t even notice anything wrong, but it sure bothers me, and it seems to bother the people surrounding him at 2:15 also, as their faces all look a lot like mine did when I heard this tonal mess for the first time. The weirdest thing of all is that at 2:49 the song moves to a completely different riff and bassline which actually fixes the problem with the track but by then he’s stopped rapping and the whole thing is pretty much over anyway, so I’m thinking maybe someone just didn’t pay the engineer and this guy is just being trolled like that a friend of mine’s deadbeat band tried to scam a CD mastering engineer so he sent the demo mix with the bass removed to the pressing plant instead of the final product.
17. Kim Min Jong – Endless Night
The weirdest thing about SM Entertainment is that while their high profile comebacks for groups like NCT, aespa and Red Velvet are very futuristic and forward thinking (often for better and worse), when it comes to ballads SM are suddenly the most conservative and backward of k-pop agencies that you can imagine. “Endless Night” is a great example of SM’s ultra-conservatism, if SM were your parents they would be the type to ban mobile phones, social networks, not let you go out at all, control your diet and you could only shower when they said it was okay, and I’m not even being hyperbolic here, we know this is true because that’s actually what SM really do to their trainees. However the appeal behind conservative thinking is that “it’s reliable and it works”, so it’s even more of a fucking inexcusable joke when it just doesn’t work and a song like “Endless Night” comes up, which is really trying to not take any risks but ends up taking some anyway just due to sheer incompetence. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about just listen from about 2:40 onward as the ridiculously peaked vocal mix just starts tearing the asshole out of the input channel, like how was that not spotted, but of course we have to crank the vocals up to the max so everyone can go “ooooh my bias vocals so stable” even though it’s actually a machine doing all the stabilising. It’s quite normal for SM to occasionally be this bad, but usually these days it’s because of bad artistic choices, rather than because someone just fucked up. This type of music style was perfected in about 1942 so we’ll just patiently wait a few more decades for SM to finally get it right I guess.
16. Olivia Hye – I’ll Be Your Spring
Blockberry missed the mark on a lot of things in 2022 – making any money, paying their artists, paying their staff, organising a tour, having decent health policies in place, utilising their “Loonaverse” lore for any damn purpose at all, writing press releases that weren’t obviously full of shit etc etc, but one of the most stunning ways in which they’ve completely dropped the ball is with not understanding the appeal of their “products”, that being (let’s be real here) the Loona members. Case in point is resting bitchface queen Olivia Hye, whose potential has been pissed up a wall so thoroughly by Blockberry since day one that four and a half years since debut not only does she still not have a worthy follow up to “Egoist“, but someone actually thought throwing out this lazy fuzzy-jumper ballad was a good idea. There were a lot of terrible ballad feature tracks in 2022, just like in any other year of k-pop, but there was only one terrible ballad feature track with Olivia Hye in it, who is about as suited to this type of saccharine-sweet material as Kanye West is suited to his latest political direction. The girl should be, at the very least, doing guest spots on Dreamcatcher and Rolling Quartz songs, or ideally joining a punk band or driving a tank into wherever the latest Russian/Ukrainian frontline happens to be, god knows she’d have the motivation for all of that right now after everything Blockberry have put her group through. She’s so far out of her depth on this Sweden Laundry reject tier nonsense that it’s hard to even quantify, with the guided computer-corrected vocals strangling every last drop of life out of her performance, not that the music was interesting enough or the pay good enough to deserve any performance effort out of her anyway so I can’t exactly blame her for holding back but damn the results sure are bland. To put things in perspective, this random video of Olivia Hye opening a watermelon with a spoon has about two thirds the traffic of her actual song, probably cost a lot less money, and is way more entertaining so anyone bummed out by this song perhaps go and check that video out instead and get your Olivia Hye fix that way.
15. INI – CALL 119
Okay, so I’ll admit it, this was one of those songs that I forgot about after I shortlisted it for worst-list inclusion, and then rediscovered months later after much intervening time of completely ignoring it, and when I heard it again my initial thought was “what’s this doing here… it’s kind of… tolerable, I guess? Did I shortlist this for the wrong list?” I mean that intro beat is definitely decent, and the weird janky hip-hop feel of the verse kind of works alright I suppose. But then I got to about 1:24 and the penny dropped, I realised at that point why I’d put it in. Yes it’s yet another boy group song where the disaster starts at the chorus, and you’re definitely going to be on the phone to “the 119” (which I can only assume is the Korean shit music disease hotline) if you expose yourself to too much of this insipid yelling bullshit. I’m not sure why people suddenly decided that we didn’t want any actual music in our boy group song choruses anymore, but it seems that that’s the trend for now and it sure has been applying the hurt to song quality this year. Let’s hope that if you’re in this unfortunate scenario of having clicked play on this video without being sufficiently warned of the dangers, that “the 119” respond quickly and you get the help that you need.
14. Girls On Top – Step Back
“Step Back” is a song that comes with an outstanding, amazingly kickass backing track… for a rap song, and I would love to hear a version of this with someone like Gwangil Jo going hard over the instrumental, that would potentially be rap song of the year material, not even joking. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge decided to write standard singing parts over the track instead, and what a disaster those parts are. Now I know what you’re thinking, but there’s nothing wrong here with the singing, or even the style in general. Taken in isolation, the singing parts are actually fine, the problem is that those parts have almost no tonal relationship whatsoever to the backings that surround them. It’s like the beat-writer and the topline-writer were two pigheaded narcissist personalities engaged in some sort of weird power struggle, writing the most conflicting opposite-ass parts on purpose just to spite each other and see who would back down and agree to co-operate with the other one’s ideas first. Clearly, nobody did, so this horrible sound collision is what we get. The final drop of urine in the lemonade is that the group name “Girls On Top”, the song title “Step Back” and the presence of SM’s female A-list together on the one song, all combine to imply that we’re getting a “powerful women” concept with boss bitches putting weak men in their place, but the lyrics of the song are actually about women fighting over how other women can’t have their ‘next level’ man. The fact someone thought this limp lyrical theme was anything other than a complete fart in the face of everyone involved reveals the lie of female empowerment at SM Entertainment, they should have just renamed this weak shit “Girls On Top As Long As He Says It’s Okay”.
13. YooA – Selfish
As soon as Yooa starts singing, this sounds terrible, although I’m not sure if we can call it singing in the traditional sense because it’s obvious that it’s just a repeatedly looped sample from the way they chop it off dead whenever it segues into a different vocal line. Not that it matters – whatever it is, it gets old, very very quickly, you’ll tire of that “I want you” hook long before she’s even finished
singing pretending to sing it while it loops the first time at the twenty second mark, let alone the twenty eighth time, which is how many times you’ll have to hear it if you plan to endure this song in its entirety. However that’s not all the shittiness that “Selfish” has to offer by a long shot, the real fun starts at 1:08 which is when that weird chanting chorus-like thing (I’m not confident enough to identify it as an actual chorus) comes in. While the chants are pretty painful as you would expect, what’s even stranger and more painful still is the weird high-pitched reedy tone they’ve overlaid onto it which sounds like a dial-up modem playing the bagpipes. I’m yet to identify the specific instrument but once you hear it you can’t unhear it and it’ll bother you potentially for the rest of your time on this planet. To top it all off, nothing about the video even looks any good, which is an impressive feat given that they’ve obviously got a high budget here plus Yooa who is one of k-pop’s best looking people generally, I’m kind of blown away that they found a way to make everything look this bad with these people invoved and this amount of money spent. I’m not sure what’s with the underwater theme either, Yooa should have learned by now that messing with sharks always leads to bad musical results, chiki chika chu
12. Dbo ft. Digital Dav – Rockstar Lifestyle
Dbo isn’t new to these worst lists, and he’s back again for 2022, doing what he does best – encapsulating everything that is bad about Autotuned R&B-rappers. Strangely “Rockstar Lifestyle” contains no actual rock, and possibly even less lifestyle, but does contain Dbo’s latest “avatar” proving that AI idols really did dominate this year. The song of course is tragic that I needn’t even speak on it but I will quickly mention that if you think it sounds bad at the start just wait until Dbo takes his voice up an octave for no apparent reason. Usually I’m very much all about “music taste is subjective” but I can’t honestly even imagine anyone actually liking this, but presumably at least someone does, whoever you are please let me know what you hear in this song and also how you get by from day to day, like do you have a carer who travels with you everywhere to make sure that if you see a dog turd on the side of the road you don’t bend down to pick it up and smear it all over your face or what. Just curious.
11. Weeekly – Ven Para
In a weird twist, the song that easily qualifies as 2022’s most appropriate and useful “test the bass response of your new high-end speaker system” track also happens to be one of the worst pieces of music ever created for an idol girl group in the entire history of k-pop. I certainly didn’t expect Weeekly to be the ones delivering the song though given the exceptionally high quality of their previous big track “After School“, but due to how the k-pop system generally operates a good song can come from absolutely anywhere and so can an absolute turkey. The obvious problem with “Ven Para” is that most of the harmonic information is just so swamped in extreme subs that it doesn’t even make any sense, in a pop context or indeed in any other kind of context. with only the vocals cutting through, and those vocals don’t really add any useful context either. Everything else that isn’t subs or vocals is basically just a bunch of noise buried deep in the mix and as a result the whole ordeal is really boring and incredibly difficult to care about. To make matters worse they’ve made all the girls look great except based sidebar girl Jiyoon who they’ve somehow made look awful, no wonder she left the group after this, just evidence that she has good taste and doesn’t want to deal with bullshit like being Jeongyeoned around by the stylists. Still, it is admittedly good as a speaker tester, but you wouldn’t want to listen to 35 sine tones for audio engineers for pleasure and you won’t be listening to this either.
10. Amber Liu – Lately
Amber has been collecting a lot of worst-list appearances these last few years, so I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind you that she also had one of her best-ever post-f(x) musical outings this year, a song with rapper Danakadan called “Bleedmedry” that flew under almost everyone’s radar and it was actually just a really fucking good track. Not good enough to get on this list mind you, but still good enough to be deserving of a lot more attention than it received, so I’m mentioning it here for a few reasons. Firstly I want you to note it so I can demonstrate that Amber’s particular style of singing isn’t bad by default and can work quite well when it’s paired against the right kind of musical backing, secondly so you’ll remember the song exists and maybe you can add it to your playlist if you dig it, and thirdly because I don’t want this review of the dogshit that is “Lately” to read like I’m hating on Amber because it’s trendy or something. I honestly think Amber is well-intentioned and tries hard, she’s just a bit tone-deaf to what her audience wants. Here she shoots a video for a middle-of-the-road acoustic ballad… in the middle of a road, no less (hey at least it wasn’t at a subway station), even serving tea while she’s there so we have a reason to stay for the whole song even if we hate it. Of course nobody actually turns up to the tea party, which to me seems appropriately symbolic – she knows what audience she’s aiming for but I’m not sure if that particular audience is the one that’s interested. She wants to sit down and have tea with us over a gentle ballad and say “sorry about the cultural missteps because I’m a good-hearted person with lots of love to give and I honestly didn’t mean to call my new album ‘Z!’ two weeks before the Ukrainian war broke out, that was just bad luck gosh I’m grateful the k-pop fans didn’t really pick up on that one” and that’s nice and we do empathise but we still would get way more entertainment value out of Amber saying “fuck it”, joining a black metal band and screaming “yeah I have a comment – fuck you!” at interviews when she’s asked questions about what she would do if an LAPD officer came up to her during her video shoot and told her to stop obstructing the suburban traffic.
9. NMIXX – Dice
NMIXX appear to be JYP’s “lets change up the song partway through for no reason” concept group, hence “mix” in the group title I suppose, which seems appropriate in more ways than one because when they debuted with the song “O.O” the result was very mixed reactions even from the kind of people who would usually swallow anything JYP spits out without complaint. “Was this really the mess that was going to be following in the footsteps of Twice and Itzy?” asked the collective k-pop Internet, and it was a rhetorical question of course, so we all patiently waited and hoped that the label would come to their senses in time for their next big comeback. “O.O” wasn’t all bad though, the B section in the song’s A-B-C structure was actually pretty good, and would have worked quite well as a fleshed-out standalone song of it’s own. So JYP held some feedback sessions with a control group of music fans where this issue was identified, and then for NIMXX’s next comeback, he realised the great potential of that cool middle section of “O.O” and extended just that into a full length pop song and now we have the terrific… actually, I’m sorry, I’m just kidding, nobody did anything of the sort. In fact the agency did the exact opposite instead and released “Dice”, a song that also has multiple different sections but this time they’re all more or less equally crap and there’s no redeeming element to be found anywhere. Everything’s either screechy and annoying, rappy and annoying, or just plain annoying, and of course it’s all at boring funeral tempo because if kids these days listen to anything that’s in triple digit BPMs they might get too excited and spill their vape fluid. It’s so jarring when things are changed up for no reason, especially when it changes up between three things you just don’t want to hear. Whether you love him or hate him or simply couldn’t give a fuck, just know that Donald Trump won’t be the American president ever again. Given that most people in the USA who died of COVID over the last couple years were Republicans thanks to that party’s “pray it away while you drink horse laxatives” campaign, the chance of any Republican winning in the near future has certainly shrunk, but the real reason Trump in particular is a lame duck is that he plays so heavily to the fringes. The hardcore red-shirt wearing Republican is someone who is always going to vote Republican no matter what, so appealing to that demographic in order to get re-elected is a waste of time – that guy will vote red anyway. It’s the swing voters who are in the middle politically, they’re the ones who decide the outcome of elections, and if you position yourself way out on the fringe, those people are not going to bite. In 2016 a lot of swing voters who voted for Obama previously were tempted by Trump because they weren’t sure what they were getting, it wasn’t clear what in his campaign was truth and what was lies. However in 2020 they had the proof of how politically extreme Trump was, so those people could make an informed decision that they didn’t want that again. Trump has a massive ego though so he won’t be able to resist pandering to the part of his base that props his ego up the most, which is the hardcore, and that’s why he’ll lose in 2024, not withstanding some monumental fuckup from the other side (but it would have to be new and huge, much bigger than any of the current talking points). The funniest thing about it all is that by starting the TruthSocial network for his “true fans” Trump has made it even worse for himself, not only will he not be able to campaign through it very effectively (because nobody’s signing up except people who already vote for him), but he won’t even be able to get an accurate window back of what most people actually want. His addiction to praise from “his people” means he’s surrounding himself with yes-men and is doomed for the same reason that Putin’s Ukrainian invasion has been a complete disaster for Russia. In first-person computer games played on a desktop or laptop PC the mouse Y axis should always be inverted. Inversion is the correct way to perceive a 3D space. Normal mouse controls where the mouse movement is considered equivalent to flat screen movement, like moving a pointer across a flat map, that makes perfect sense for 2D games. However in a 3D world, if you’re fully immersed in the world that’s being presented “pushing up to go up” makes no sense, because the mouse is perpendicular to the screen so you’re not pushing up, you’re pushing forward into the 3D space behind the screen, which translates to down (imagine someone pushing forward on the back of your head, it tilts your head down), and when you move “down” on the mouse, that’s actually away from the screen, which translates to up (imagine someone pulling your hair from directly behind, the force pulls you back and up – it helps if you have more hair than Kpopalypse for this mental exercise). All gamers should make it their moral and civic duty to play 3D games with inverted controls. The reason why is that flight controls in planes are inverted. An Air France flight actually crashed because the pilot, clearly not an inverter, forgot his flight training and reverted to his basic non-inverter kiddie-gamer human instinct in an emergency, falsely thinking “down is down” and pulling back (to him, down) on the control stick while the plane was stalling, which of course sent the plane up into an even greater stall instead, plummeting the entire crew and passengers to their deaths. You never know when you might be required to take the control of a passenger jet and guide it to safety in an emergency, so it’s your responsibility to be prepared. Inversion saves lives.
8. Kep1er – We Fresh
If you ever needed proof that k-pop fan culture in general is garbage for morons and that all the people who follow Korean TV reality shows are morally bankrupt cretins who should have the Internet plus any offspring they are bringing into the world forcibly taken away from them for life, you only need to look at the existence of Kep-one-er for all the confirmation you need. When MNet produced their “reality” survival show Produce 101 that spawned the group I.O.I, everyone followed along and loved it, until later when the unfair editing, behind the scenes cruelty, selling votes to fans that were later manipulated and of course pedophile pandering was revealed. Fans then got very upset about this and got swiftly on their high horse, loudly trumpeting to the moon “gosh what a problematic show, we certainly won’t support anything these people make from now on or be fooled by their lies”. So when the very same company started up a new “reality” survival show Girls Planet 999 and did exactly the same tricks again, what did those very same fans do, they watched and supported it anyway, and fell for all the exact same lies once again like nothing ever happened. Media outlets both big and small of course were equally spineless and pathetic, dutifully suckling at the corporate teat, carefully covering everything happening as if you should give a shit, as if it was somehow relevant and you weren’t being swindled and lied to at every turn. Isn’t it funny how all the people who accuse Kpopalypse of ‘exploitation’ somehow just because I have the odd titty post (which isn’t even deepfakes but just stuff that the labels themselves and their fans put out) were so quick to support the industry’s real exploitation happening right under their noses, bending over backwards and letting corporate media fuck both them and the young performers on MNet’s TV shows in the ass once again. However if you’re still on the fence and somehow, after the huge mountains of irrefutable evidence against MNet, think that anything connected to their TV shows is in any way acceptable on any level, you now have the final product, the group spawned from Girls Planet 999 which is Kep-one-er and their dogshit, trend-riding, awful cacophonous disaster of a song “We Fresh”. It’s a song that’s ironically as stale as it gets, switching up styles and melodies all over the place for no reason just like everything else does now, but even less competently. The song’s intro is actually promising but as soon as “here we go” drops at 0:30 and the song proper starts, everything just flies straight into the dumpster and never recovers. Of course nobody would make any real effort to make this sound good, because why should they – they know you’re dumb enough to watch Girls Planet 999 even though it was exceptionally well documented why you shouldn’t, so they know you’re dumb enough to listen to this throwaway garbage song too, no matter what it sounds like. Don’t worry if you’re upset by this review though, MNet will have a new show on soon to distract you I’m sure, and you can get back to supporting the exploitation that you claim to be against but in fact so dearly love. Just forgive me if Kpopalypse doesn’t tune into any of it, I’m probably doing my hair that evening.
7. James Reid ft. Jay B & ØZI – Hello 2.0 Legends Only
Apparently this song is a “bouncy summer pop track of 2021 … reimagined in a remix featuring Korean superstar, Jay B and Taiwanese-American hip-hop sensation, ØZI.” so in other words these people know what they’re doing and they have no excuse. Look at that post in the thumbnail. Hear the weak pissy R&B. Listen to them sing “hit the falsetto” at 2:40. They know this isn’t acceptable, but they get away with it only because nobody calls them out, that’s why I have to do it, and it’s not a pleasant job but someone has to step up and teach these people how obviously wrong they are and what musical decency is. It’s like those guys who catcall strangers randomly in the street and it takes their own mother in a wig to bust them and tell them to fucking stop it, it’s the only way to shock these people into reality. The YouTube channel is called “Careless Music” but that’s actually not true, this is a carefully premeditated crime against music and everyone involved deserved the harshest legal penalty applicable. Now that we’ve administered the punishment of including this trash here, let’s now move on quickly to the next offender so we don’t give these people too much attention, if we offer too much notoriety to these musical criminals there’s a risk we could become part of the problem.
6. LIONESSES – Bon Voyage
I really like what Lionesses are trying to do, it’s just a shame that they’re so fucking bad at actually doing it here that they’re literally painful to listen to. For those who don’t know, or who couldn’t detect it within the first two seconds of any of their music videos given how blindingly obvious they make it, Lionesses are the first openly gay k-pop group, and they have songs with gay concepts and gay lyrical themes so they’re pretty much just Pansy Division or Limpwrist, but k-pop, which is of course cool. The masks they wear in all their videos are obviously part of that, because Korea is so homophobic and it’s harder for people to be out over there than in a lot of other developed countries, so it’s probably partly just safety for the group members so they don’t get beaten up on the street by casuals who saw their photo one time and partly symbolic of gay people having to ‘put up a mask’ in a society that isn’t as accepting of gay culture as it should be. The statements that Lionesses are making are all fine and I totally support all of this, so when they continue to make absolute train-wreck music it’s really depressing. This hideous track with the weak beat where they constantly yelp out that one really annoying high note like they’re oh-so-happy is enough to turn the most LGBT-friendly listener into a gay-hating scientologist, it really is sandpaper to the ears and I hope that they can one day do better and write some actual melodies into their music instead of going on these horrible free-reign sub-yodeling excursions, until then I’m sorry but I’m just going to have to hate them. Oh well, on the positive side (no pun intended) at least they managed to attract a gay dating app sponsor for this video, so even if they’re wasting their time (and ours) they didn’t also waste their money and hey you might even get laid if you’re that way inclined and start using the app. Here’s hoping that Lionesses manage to swipe right on some better music in 2023.
5. UNEDUCATED KID – Celebrity Disease
I’m not sure exactly what “celebrity disease” refers to, but if Uneducated Kid says he has it, I’m not going to doubt him. The entire drama video for this song seems to be about some appropriately horrified-looking nurses who are having trouble managing his condition, and honestly if I was working in a hospital and I encountered this guy’s flaccid Autotuned raps I’d be wanting to put a needle in him to make it stop too. While most music like this is of course garbage, Uneducated Kid takes it to the next level by syncing every single line of his “rap” to the same two bars of melody which repeats over and over again despite the fact that it has no context or purpose worth a damn. It’s annoying like reading a paragraph of text that pointlessly repeats itself, and I’m not sure exactly what “celebrity disease” refers to, but if Uneducated Kid says he has it, I’m not going to doubt him. The entire drama video for this song seems to be about some appropriately horrified-looking nurses who are having trouble managing his condition, and honestly if I was working in a hospital and I encountered this guy’s flaccid Autotuned raps I’d be wanting to put a needle in him to make it stop too. While most music like this is of course garbage, Uneducated Kid takes it to the next level by syncing every single line of his “rap” to the same two bars of melody which repeats over and over again despite the fact that it has no context or purpose worth a damn. It’s annoying like reading a paragraph of text that pointlessly repeats itself. I’m sure you get the idea.
4. Jibin, Lim Kim, Sumin – Soom
Remember when Lim Kim used to make actual songs? Those were the days. Lim Kim currently continues on her latest track of producing incredible slabs of indulgent art-wank that’s designed for people who use music as a “lifestyle fashion decor statement” as opposed to something to actually listen to. This time Lim Kim has got some other people on board, and top billing goes to Jibin (who?) instead, but I’m still blaming her for this as it sounds just as aimless and pretentiously crap as her last few tracks in that typical go-nowhere style that she’s become quite prolific at, so it’s certainly got her sonic stamp on it. The only major difference this time, apart from her sucking even more than usual, is that the “song” (using the term loosely here) is split into two sections “Soom 1” and “Soom 2” both of which are tuneless garbage that’s probably designed to make a ‘statement’ of some kind but who knows what the fuck it is or who even cares. If we were still in the age of the compact disc, this is the one that you would leave sitting on your coffee table for when you have that soiree where your hipster artist friends come over and you all sip chai latte and talk about your favourite high-carbon-footprint quinoa varieties, in the meantime it’s their music taste that’s destroying the earth.
3. Homies – Broken Ferrari
I’m not sure what they mean by the song title, as the sports cars depicted here are mostly not broken and look quite fine – everything else about this nonsense however, not so much. I think it’s great how the thumbnail of this video shows two Ferrari sports cars speeding away from some “rapper” (quotes essential in this case to determine a musical classification that may not be objectively true), because when you hear this track, you’ll definitely wish that you were inside one of those cars, getting ready to put as much physical distance between yourself and these Autotuned “rappers” as humanly possible in the shortest possible timeframe. You’d better hope that the engine is tuned and the required torque is available for you to clear out and get right the fuck away across that desert before the vocals start at 0:18, although the fact that the “rappers” manage to insert both “vroom” and “skkrt” before that time means that you might still be in for some dangerous driving distraction as you piss yourself laughing from the sheer stupidity of it all. The most telling part of this song however is that one of YouTube’s latest funky features which shows which parts of a video are the most replayed, shows that the time between 1:38 and 1:48 is the most popular of all. At first I thought it was because someone has a car accident at that moment, but then I realised that during that entire stretch of time no music is playing and that definitely seems like the more likely reason.
2. Q6IX – IMAIZING
The worst thing about being someone starting a k-pop career, is that you can’t be an expert in everything yourself, nor do you really have control over the various parts that make up the machine that you’re the ‘face’ of, so at some point, you just have to trust people around you to do what’s in your best interests. When the video director says “I know the idea for this shot with the statue prop seems a bit silly, but we’ll edit it so it looks flashy and cool, you know, like that Yves video” you’re not really in a position of any power to check it and make sure that they didn’t just use a boring long shot of you just sitting there, so you just have to nod your head and hope for the best. When the producer says “that’s all the time and money we have to record vocals but don’t worry we’ll fix your performance in the mix”, well, he knows how to operate that big control room desk and you don’t, so you just have to roll with it, there’s not much point making a fuss. When the dance choreographer says “try this leg high kick move during the rap routine” you just have to smile and do your best. And you’re certainly in no position to complain when they start moving that camera by the table in and out in a weird way, I mean, surely there’s a plan behind that in the editing room that you’re just not in the loop on, they’re not going to tell you about every little thing, right? So when the final product comes out and it truly is a totally embarrassing bucket of shit and a failure on every single level, what probably hurts more than anything else isn’t watching the last embers of your career fading before your eyes, or all that trainee debt on your bank statement – it’s the betrayal of trust, the knowledge that at the end of the day, the tools were all there, but nobody cared enough to put the effort in to make things happen the way they should have. Kpopalypse however does care, and that’s why this song is here in this list, so let’s hope that the girls depicted here are safe from harm and the actual reason for the lack of caring was simple incompetence, because that’s actually the best case scenario.
1. TRI.BE – A Kind Of Magic
I first discovered k-pop in 2000, when a Korean student in my ethnomusiciology class at university introduced me to H.O.T, but I honestly didn’t like H.O.T at all and still don’t – their songs sounded amateurish like cheap demos and the production quality on their albums was simply laughable even by 2000-era standards. I only discovered that k-pop could actually be of decent quality in 2011, when I randomly picked up a Girls’ Generation DVD during a bored shopping outing while I was on a tour, and it was a revelation to me how much the scene had progressed in terms of musical and production quality in those intervening eleven years. I was even more shocked to discover that Girls’ Generation and H.O.T were on the same label – the people who produced the comically dated disaster that was H.O.T were also responsible for releasing this? Of course once I heard the classic Girls’ Generation songs of the day such as “Run Devil Run“, “Oh!“, “Gee“, “Into The New World” and so on, a thought naturally occurred to me – how could I buy CDs of this music? Yes I knew their music was all over the Internet but I wanted CDs because my car at the time only had a CD player, and it didn’t have an auxillary input so I couldn’t plug an MP3 player or a phone into there and play whatever I wanted, it had to be on CD, and yes I could burn CDs but I’d really rather support the artist (at least in theory) plus get all those nice photobooks for my trouble. After a bit of research I managed to locate one store (yes just one, in my city of 1.5 million population) that occasionally stocked physical k-pop releases, so as I was keen to fill my car with Girls’ Generation, T-ara, KARA and other second-generation k-pop artists that I was falling in love with at the time, I went down there to see what they had on offer. When I arrived, the lady behind the counter showed me the one solitary CD that she had on the shelf at that time – a “covers” compilation album, of several A-list Korean idols of the day including many of my favourites, doing versions of western songs. She seemed shocked to find out that after coming all that way, I wasn’t even slightly interested in purchasing this CD. I attempted to explain to her that I wanted to hear these groups do their own songs, not some knockoffs of other songs that I already knew and had heard a bunch of times already, and mostly didn’t even like or at least liked but had heard enough times to become bored with. Even back then, deep in my k-pop “honeymoon” period, I wasn’t dumb enough to think that the presence of “my bias” on a song was going to change the musical quality of the original tune all that radically. The lady at the store didn’t completely understand my point of view (her English language skills were very much beginner level, and my Korean language skills were completely non-existent, so there was a bit of a communication barrier that we didn’t quite overcome) but she was very nice about it, she apologised and said that she would contact me when the next shipment of k-pop CDs was due to arrive. Two weeks later, I received the promised follow-up call. I went in there and Absolute First Album was mine, the rest is history. I’d just like to take this moment to say thanks to that long-suffering employee for putting up with me, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well.
So to discuss why TRI.BE’s cover version of Queen’s 1985 hit song “A Kind Of Magic” is at the #1 spot on this list of shit, it firstly helps to draw out some lessons in the above anecdote. The reason why I didn’t buy the k-pop covers album is that k-pop idol covers of western songs are generally a complete and total waste of time, and that’s not a reflection of the artists themselves, it’s just the baseline we’re working with here in this type of scene. Let’s consider the absolute best-case scenario that we could possibly dream up, just so we can understand why this is the case. Imagine a situation with a k-pop artist covering a western song, where:
- The Korean idol involved is your favourite idol ever
- The western artist who wrote the original song is also your favourite western artist ever
- The song is also your favourite song ever
- The Korean idol happens to be one of those scarce ones who is highly talented in singing and therefore is capable of performing the original song perfectly
- The Korean idol is exceptionally fluent in both English and Korean and can perform English and Korean language versions of the song to equally outstanding quality
The result of this cover attempt would still be a complete waste of your time. Why? Korean idol music markets the idol, not the music, the product being sold literally is the idol. Companies know this, so when it’s time, for whatever reason, for an idol to do a cover song, they’re not going to go to any lengths to try and improve on the song, or even to capture any part of the essence of what made the original music interesting, because the song isn’t the product, what important is that it’s that particular idol performing it. As the song is essentially just a template to slot the idol into, at best it’s a faithful version of the original but with the usual bland high-production idol music sheen over it smoothing over any rough patches (because we’re not after “art that expresses the feelings of the artist”, we’re after “a perfect performance that reassures the fans that their idol is perfect”) and there sure as hell won’t be any attempt to change up the song to more interesting. After all, why take risks, the entire point of choosing a popular cover song is that it’s not that risky a thing to do as it’s a song that was already a hit the first time around. So in a best case scenario – “yeah, this is cool, how great that my favourite k-pop idol did this favourite song of mine and did a good job, but hey it’s already my favourite song so I could have just listened to the original.” It’s a waste of both their time and yours, because every cover song from your favourite artist is a lost opportunity for them to have presented you with something new.
So that’s a best-case scenario. Now let’s talk about this fucking mess, which is definitely very, very far from a best-case scenario.
It feels strange to write such a negative review here as I actually quite like “A Kind Of Magic” in its original form before Queen sold it off to advertisers for a cheap buck (no judgement, times are hard for celebrity rock musicians these days), and I’ll just pop the original Queen version here so you can cross-reference it to the TRI.BE version easily, or better yet, just listen to the original on its own and forget that the TRI.BE version exists, which nobody would blame you for.
The first thing that’s painfully evident when listening to TRI.BE’s version against Queen’s, is that in terms of injecting any kind of musical character and passion into the vocal lines, the girls from TRI.BE are no match for Queen’s singer, Freddy Mercury. To be fair, almost nobody else in the current k-pop landscape is either – Queen represent an extremely high bar for pop/rock music vocal performance, so I’m prepared to cut TRI.BE quite a lot of slack here in terms of singing quality, they at least get the notes correct (whether helped by pitch-correction or not), so I won’t say any more about that. In any event it’s not TRI.BE’s fault that they were told to sing this so let’s not blame the girls, they’re just doing what their masters ordered. However vocal arrangement is another issue, there’s absolutely no reason why that has to suck, and whoever decided who was singing what, and when they were meant to be singing it, should have known better. The robotic squaring-off of some vocal passages that are obviously supposed to be drawn out more (such as “what should be” at 0:36 – compare it to 0:29 in the original) as well as the shortening of a lot of the phrases where there’s meant to be a legato line is really jarring, but it’s not as jarring as that weird “ay-yah-yah” thing in the chorus which just should have been left out of the mix completely. There’s a lot of “junk vocals” in the arrangement like this which increase as the song progresses and just seem to be there for no other reason than to fill up space, I get that they’re trying to compensate for the lack of Freddy but it’s simultaneously not enough (quality) and too much (quantity), just leaving it all out would have been preferable. Also it really doesn’t help that all the girls periodically bludgeon you to death with that “It’s a kind of magic” backing vocal by all shouting it at once, it’s subtle in the original song for a reason – so it doesn’t take over the main melody line. Onto the backing track, which has no excuse to suck either as it’s all programmed, so you’d think they’d be able to at least get that right given that there’s no playing skill barrier to overcome, but no. John Deacon’s iconic bassline, one of the best in his career, right up there with “Another One Bites The Dust” and a subtle but key factor that drives the rhythm of the original song, is strangely absent and replaced with some weird and indistinct portamento sub-bass dribbling. Of course we get a garbage trap breakdown near the end of the song, which is to be expected I suppose, but what we don’t get is a guitar solo or even anything casually resembling it, Queen guitarist Brian May’s integral contribution to the song hasn’t been replicated in any manner. I’m not saying that they should have got the guitars out necessarily (although I wouldn’t have minded), but they could have at least programmed a keyboard to do some of those runs and harmonies, or at least something more than what’s happening, because it’s abundantly clear that they didn’t know what else to do in those sections where the guitar carries the entire tune except have the girls annoyingly shout a lot instead. It’s all completely unforgivable and it just shouldn’t exist.
I know what you’re all thinking – “but it’s just a special video for some shitty soft drink, it’s not even a proper comeback, what’s the big deal” but honestly, “it’s just for an endorsement” is no excuse, especially when you consider how important endorsements actually are in filling up a k-pop company’s bottom line – one could argue with a great deal of justification that getting an endorsement song right is actually even more critical than just producing a regular k-pop single. Other groups have proved that it matters when these songs are done well. Girls’ Generation’s “Chocolate Love” was nothing but an advertisement for a shitty LG phone nobody bought and it’s the song of their goddamn careers. Orange Caramel’s “Abing Abing” is an ice cream commercial that’s so good it holds up musically against their catalogue better than half of their own already-excellent feature tracks. T-ara’s “Apple Is A+” is pretty much the musical template for their entire first few years of existence even though it’s nothing but an endorsement for an apple company tackily stretched out to feature-length. If these standards are good enough for them, they’re good enough for anyone else, and if we the public are going to be treated like bitches by having adverts constantly shoved in all our orifices simultaneously like some never-ending hypercapitalist pop-culture gangbang nightmare, the least these companies can do is take a shower first and not make the accompanying music stink like a thousand unwashed smegma-infused dicks. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask.
That’s the end of this list! Thanks for reading, and if you’re still alive, please proceed directly to the Kpopalypse favourites list for 2022 in order to restore your faith in k-pop and your mental health! Kpopalypse will return in 2023!