Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Zaku's Top 20 Songs of 2014 (#20-11)

2014 has been a year full of ups and downs, with many hilarious plot twists we never saw coming on top of many tragedies we never wanted to experience. Regardless, 2014 was a surprisingly good year for Kpop musically. I don't know if I'm early or late on this, but since people wanted me to share my opinion on the best songs of 2014, here's my picks for the year.


  • Release from Jan. 1 - Dec. 25
  • Korean releases only (sorry Japan)
  • all tracks are fair game (meaning not only title tracks)
  • no double dipping -- a group can only appear once 

20. Hyuna - Red

Some of you may be looking at me (or rather this article) with thinly veiled looks of disgust and bewilderment at the very first entry on this Top 20 list, but hear me out.

I like Hyuna's Red because it's a solid track that delivers exactly what I've come to expect from Hyuna's overall image -- big bass, anthemic hooks, and dripping sexuality. She don't fuck around with this solo track, and I think it's her best since Change way back when. The chorus is easily the best part of the song, dropping one of the best aforementioned anthemic hooks of the year in a spray of aural fireworks, funfetti, and hookers. Who else could turn a children's rhyme into such a pussy popper?

Unlike a certain other female soloist's solo offering, it's not a pretentious mess of try-hard and cringe that tries to pass itself off as just raw hip hop. Sure it could be a trashy song, but it's something that makes you stand up and shake your ass with Hyuna.

19. AOA - Like a Cat

Since their debut as that one girl group that could allegedy play musical intruments just as well as the boys can, I never really paid attention to them. Their songs had always been solid but nothing really noteworthy to me until now when they finally dropped Like a Cat, the best of their three songs released this year.

Like a Cat starts off with random sirens that make you think this is going to be an EDM party popper or an MLG montage, but when we get a midtempo burn instead... More than a little confusing. I guess that's what held my interest until we hit the chorus. I feel more than a little ashamed for not realizing how great Choa is both visually and vocally (goddamn she's hot, why didn't anyone let me know she existed??), but now I know the Gospel Truth. The instrumental is an understated trendy rock number with the occasional trumpet for flare, something that I really enjoy these days when I'm just looking to chill and kick back. Oh, and the LA LA LA LALALALALA stuff is pretty good too, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing...

All in all, solid song that doesn't try to reach for shit it can't handle.

18. CN BLUE - Can't Stop

CN Blue's Can't Stop is another song that took a while to grow on me.

I've previously enjoyed most of CN Blue's material because they're mostly uptempo pop-rock offerings I jam to in my car whenever they come up on shuffle during long car rides, so I was eagerly anticipating their latest comeback as more of the same highs that came with Intuition and I'm Sorry. However, the only thing this song has in common with the previous song is the use of a white girl in their music video.

Starting off with a slow ballad-ey feel, I thought this was going to be one of those songs I just ignore because it's not my cup of tea. However, the bridge's buildup to the chorus changed my mind and by the time Yonghwa Title Drops the first notes to the song's hook, I was ready to jam as it transitions into a midtempo track and doesn't really shift back down into that lower gear.

I do wish that CN Blue used more Jonghyun in their title tracks as I think he's the better singer and has the more pleasing vocals, but I'll take what I can get when he does get a chance to sing.

17. Stellar - Mask

When Stellar first debuted with much hype as the girl group produced by Shinhwa's Eric, people (including me) sat up and took notice with a lot of anticipation. Their first single, Rocket Girl, immediately shit on those expectations and I sadly sat back down as they dropped off my radar as another bust. But 2014 was to be a Renaissance year for them (like several other groups it seems), and with a change in membership I never really heard about til now and a revamp in image towards sexy sex, they've successfully re-debuted in my eyes.

Between Marionette and Mask, I (quite obviously at this point) prefer the latter. Mask is a more understated song with less frills and slicker production in my opinion. I really enjoyed the parts where Jeonyul sings the "neol saranghange nae cheotbeonjjae joe / bwajugil barange dubeonjjae joe" (and Gayoung's equivalent part too) in such a great melody/rhythm that gives me tingles. Good tingles in my brain, not the genitals you pervs.

I will be waiting for their next single with eagerness.

16. BTS - Danger

BTS or Bangtan Boys or Bulletproof Boyscouts or whatever the fuck else they call themselves is one of the better rookies to release material this year.

My first exposure to BTS was through the semi-deranged rantings of my Twitter timeline that I shrugged off as unfounded hype for yet another lame-o boy group. I finally took notice of them when they played at K-CON this year, and I hopped on board the BTS Army hype train.

BTS follows in the footsteps of early Block B in the sense that they're fusing slick hip hop with an uptempo KPop vocal color in a way that both makes sense and doesn't feel as forced as many of their compatriots do. Danger is a great example, and their best single yet. A not-overly complicated (I don't want to keep saying understated) rock-hiphop instrumental lays the solid foundation for this track, and the gritty timbre of the sing-shoutey chorus and hook goes a long way towards earworm status. Furthering the Block B parallels is the Zico-equivalent in BTS's Rap Monster (yeah that's his name, and it's shit). Despite this shit name, he does a solid job at grounding the verses with his raps.

Don't let the slightly try-hard hip hop image turn you off, this is a good song.

15. Block B - Jackpot

Ever since their contract scandal and subsequent departure from Stardom Entertainment, I admit I've been apprehensive about their material in the Seven Seasons era. Though Very Good was in fact very good (cracking my 2013 list at #10 if you didn't remember), I feared it might have been a fluke or a step down hill as I had thought it wasn't as good as say Nanlina or Nillili Mambo.

Fortunately, 2014's releases were very solid and deserve to be at the top of their best songs list. As it stands, I preferred Jackpot over HER. Jackpot reminds me of a demented circus attraction, in no part helped by their pretty creepy MV though Kim Sae Ron is a qt3.14, and it shows in the fanfare-laden bombastic sound of their instrumental. Zico's rap delivery is a wonder to listen to as his flow does a great job of establishing that whimsical crazy-guy image of the song.

The chorus is a bit of a tone shift, but it makes sense within the context of the song. Maybe it's something about the year, or something about the song, but there sure are a lot of LA LA LA hooks on this list...

14. Sunmi - Burn

I blame Sunmi for kicking off the semi-trend of female soloists doing midtempo artsy concepts full of dance and similar sounds. 24 Hours was proof that someone could get that idea down pat, and several copycats have followed since (I'm looking at you Yenny and Jiyeon). Sunmi's second solo follow up to 24 Hours was a mini-album full of songs, but the Full Moon track was more of the same sound she was already doing (not necessarily a bad thing though, Full Moon was solid). Almost because of this and bizarrely following the example of Miss A and the other female groups JYP produces, I found the best song to be a non-promoted track instead of the lead single.

Burn is another EDM-pop inspired anthemic pussy popper of a song that I find JYP likes to bury in his mini albums (Miss A's Lips and Time's Up are good examples of this in recent memory). Like the title implies, the start of the song is a bit of a slow burn that quickly blows up into a conflagration of blaring synth and pounding beats I could easily see someone creating a sick choreography to. Or just shaking their drunk ass off to in the club. Sunmi's vocals are used rather sparingly in the verses and bridges in between the beat drops, but that's perfectly fine since she isn't a particularly strong singer.

Maybe it's not much more than that, and some could argue that there's a reason why this song wasn't chosen as the lead single, but this kind of thing is exactly my cup of tea.

13. VIXX - Eternity

If you've come to know my musical taste or me in general by now, I think you'd be surprised I have VIXX on any best of list let alone the 2014 list at #13. I didn't really take note of them until they performed at K-CON this year, and I found myself enjoying their songs more than I thought I would or had previously.

Thankfully, they released Eternity just in time for them to perform it at K-CON for me to jump on the VIXX train. It's a fantastic summer anthem that hits all the right notes for blasting at either a party (Korean probably or you'd get a lot of confused glances) or in the car. One thing that stands out to me is how they spend just the right amount of time in all aspects of the song for maximum impact and enjoyment. For example, the first verse is just long enough to lead into the bridge which is just long enough to build up hype for the chorus which is just long enough to deliver the punch without dragging on and on with gimmicks. You get what I mean yet?

Clocking in at around 3 minutes, it's a bit shorter than what we're used to listening to in KPop but I think that's just part of the appeal.

12. Rain - La Song

Rain, Rain, Rain. When it was revealed that he was banging Kim Tae Hee and understandably skipping out on his military duties to do so, people were enraged and jealous of him. Let's face it, any self-respecting man would take every opportunity to skip out on doing hard work with a bunch of dudes in the army to be with Kim Tae Hee in a heartbeat. They said shit like "ur career is over ㅋㅋㅋ" or "fuk u rain lemme bang her too"

Well he sure showed them, cause he's still banging Kim Tae Hee and his first album since finishing his military service contained some damn good songs. At first I didn't like La Song as much as I did 30 Sexy, but now I feel like La Song is way better. Shut up about the prevalence of LA in this list. It's a song whose blaring horn instrumental makes you want to get up and dance, and combined with Rain's cocky vocal delivery, it's a perfect party starter. La Song's obvious la-ing chorus is anthemic and burrows into your brain as much as it makes you want to shout along with it, and I found myself playing it more often these days as a time-filler for boring moments in my life.

Now if only he could lay off banging Kim Tae Hee and pursuing acting delusions in favor of more songs...

11. Taeyang - 1AM

Taeyang's image of late has been a mix of hideous hair, try-hard gangsta clothes, and a ridiculous inclination to suck G-Dragon's dragon balls. We all begged him to change his hair from the fauxhawk to change it up a little, but with the loss of the hawk and the subsequent transition to dreads or whatever the hell it is he has these days came a loss of the RnB sound we all loved in the Solar days. Damn you GD.

Thankfully, the Rise album was an almost 180 turn back into the work I originally liked from him in the first place. Though Korea and all of my female friends were enamored with Eyes Nose Lips, I much preferred 1AM.

It's strange but it's almost a comfortable intermediary between his RnB sound and his new swaghop sound that leans more toward the RnB side. The swaghop influences are there mostly in the instrumental and a little in the song structure, but the delivery is blessedly reminiscent of the Solar era. Definitely deserves to be right up there at the top with stuff like Wedding Dress or I Need a Girl, I just wish he did this kind of thing more than the godawful Good Boy with GD.


  1. I only knew 3 of these songs. Now I know 4...

  2. I was skeptical at "Red," but still wanted to give your list a chance. But then you included garbage Rain.

    Why? Why do you do the things you do?

    1. I'm all about the clubbangers... :/

    2. We all love ourselves a good banger, but these were such a mess.

    3. Which ones are messes aside from Red and La Song? l0l

    4. I was referring to those two, but while we're talking about it, "Jackpot" was a mess, too. I just like that mess is all.

    5. chin up, old bean, i loved La Song too. mad hook. 30sexy could've been good if he didn't whine nasally for the chorus

  3. I couldn't even come up with 10 songs that I liked this year.

  4. I liked all of these songs... good job! I'm looking forward to your top 10

  5. Totally irrelevant but is it weird to have sexual thoughts about women even though you're straight?

    1. Maybe. I just sucked a dick for crack even though I'm completely straight. Kind of wondering the same thing. Like I'm totally straight, but now I kind of want to do it again for free.

    2. @SF; That depends, is your name Alex Trebek?

  6. OH FINALLY KPOPAL..oh It's Zaku


    are you mixing your worst and best list?

    1. pls no judgerino, at least finish the list mayne

  7. I see we're the only two that liked Hyuna's Red

  8. you???????? like??????????? la?????????????? song?????????????????????????????????????????
    i've been thinking for the whole year that rain's comeback didn't get the attention it deserved, but that was because i loved 30sexy.

    and i just don't know about BTS; i genuinely really enjoyed a lot of the songs they first came out with, pretty sure NO is still my favourite track by them, but somehow there's an unpolished feeling to a lot of their songs where it feels like one more revision and a few cuts here and there could have made it one of the greatest songs of the year. i don't know if you know this but BTS' other rapper (who is generally more competent than his block b counterpart kyung) is called suga. he is called this because he is pale. his fans often wonder why he's such an aggressive guy in general, but i know. i *know*.

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  9. It's good to see Mask on the list, given that it was basically ignored in Korea.

  10. Glad someone featured a VIXX song.

  11. really glad to see sunmi's burn on that list. as a whole, her full moon album is enjoyable