Wow, August wasn't completely deplorable. Let's see what my embarrassing taste has seen me listening to on repeat this month.
"다 비켜봐" (Song Mino feat. Zico and Paloalto)
In the last series of "Show Me the Money," Vasco got himself caught up in a lot of controversy for having a rock-based song in what was supposed to be a trv kvlt hep-hap competition. Now I don't have a problem with a rock-based beat, the issue is that Vasco's song, "Guerilla's Way," was utter wank and sounded like a Linkin Park album track. This series, human phlegm-stain Zico produced a far more competent rock beat than my one true love Nochang did. I like the people on this song far less, but it cannot be doubted that "다 비켜봐" is a very good song that matched well with all three of the performers and featured some very impressive instrumentation wherein all of the sounds actually resemble the instruments they are trying to emulate (maybe Zico has bought some more instrument packs for Ableton Live since working on "Zero For Conduct"). Zico's vocal part is fairly superfluous, and he sticks out like a sore thumb around his growly compatriots. But this doesn't hurt the song too much, because the bits that matter are Mino's better-than-usual verses and Paloalto's exceptionally shoutable chorus. I wasn't supporting Team ZiPal, but this song pushed them into being a tolerable team.
"GXNZI" (Basick feat. Vasco)
As superfluous as Zico was in the previous entry, I very much doubt that anyone this year is going to have a feature spot that added less to a track that Vasco's appearance in Basick's Jiggy Fellaz football chant: "GXNZI." This is, without a doubt, the eventual winner's best song that he put out in the entire "SMTM" competition (even if "Stand Up" had a better performance because he remembered what he was supposed to say). The verses are tightly packed and, at points, insanely fast, and the chorus is triumphant and dramatic. The beat sounds like they took part of the score from the Bourne films and just told the most hip-hop dad in the entire Korean peninsula to see how many words he could say before his three minutes were up, only taking a break to shout "KEEP BANGING!" with his loud friend with the shit hair. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and buy a Jiggy Fellaz snapback, so that I can fit in with the wizened old men of K-hip-hop (and LE from EXID).
"거북선" (Ja Mezz, Andup, and Song Mino feat. Paloalto)
I apologise for this month producing a complete sweep of the best by songs from "Show Me The Money." I felt justified in this because they released MVs for most of the songs this time around, low budget though they were. "거북선" is yet more testament to Zico's skill as a producer. The usage of the gayageum in the beat is the best thing about the entire song, because it tricks you into thinking that it isn't a trap song. Everything else about this song feels fairly unashamedly trap, but the odd instrumentation transports it somewhere else so you don't need to feel apologetic and ironic for listening to it. The three rappers work particularly well because of their differing styles that all meld with the trap nonetheless. Ja Mezz is the walking '90s throwback and sounds genuinely threatening when he opens his verse with "What's your name?" Andup has his high pitched shouting thing going on, and Song Mino has his low pitched shouting thing going on. This song came from before the performance rounds and blew every song that came after it out of the water. Maybe Zico should keep his mouth shut and exclusively work on beats. The world would be a richer place.
"Stalker" (Beat Win)
The best thing about this song is that the vocals sound like they were composed for a different beat, but the producer pulled out at the last minute so they vaguely improvised something that doesn't actually work. Also, the song is about following someone and generally being creepy, which is great for your bad-boy image, especially as you look like I could beat up all of you (Note: I can beat up very few people, and you are five of them). Also, the braces dance was way better when Girl's Day did it. Stop trying.
"Just Like U" (Primary feat. Yankie and Jessi)
I feel bad for including something that my boy Yankie was involved with in this section. Truth be told, he isn't even that bad, nor is Jessi. The problem is Primary went back to making the same song he always does after doing something genuinely fantastic with "Don't Be Shy". I am tired of Korean RnB being the same song over and over again, with Primary being the chief proponent of this derivative, faux-funky drivel.
"Dream Candy" (APRIL)
For folks who thought Lovelyz were not quite boring enough, have the latest offering from DSP who have debuted a bunch of teenagers and are really trying to corner the pedophile market. It sounds like a Christmas song, a bad Christmas song. Avoid it at all costs.
I should note that August has been a really good month actually, so the following awards will basically just be me trying to promote other songs I liked.
Most improved artist
From what I can tell, DinDin was one of the dudes in "Show Me the Money 2," but he didn't capture the public's imagination in the same way as Swings or Mad Clown who actually benefitted from it. His song "Pour" was released in August, and it's basically a club anthem about drinking. But goddamn if I didn't get a lot of raucous enjoyment out of it, sitting on my own. Plus, it is a marked improvement over this piece of shit song he did in May with a 4-year-old. He jumped from a 2/10 to a 7/10. I like to see people self reflect and produce something more worthy of their stature.
Most exciting production for a nugu pop group
"Shadow" (The Legend)
1theK have put all of these guy's back catalogue on their channel over the past month, and I was fairly impressed with what I heard, nowhere moreso than in their song that actually dropped in August. It starts out sounding slightly odd, but once it got to the chorus, I was on board and pleasantly surprised by the richness of the production across the song, combined with some interesting vocal lines. When the second verse comes along, I like the production here, too. Goddamn I think I like a nugu boy group other than 24K. This is a new experience for me, but seriously, this is some good shit.
Most exciting production for a nugu rapper
"Queen Cobra" (Nob.K feat. Don Mills)
In case you hadn't guessed from what I named the best of August, I like folk instruments in non-folk instrumentation. Even if Don Mills is his usual disappointing self, nothing takes away from how fun the South Asian instruments are across the verse and how satisfying the chorus is, in the trashiest way possible.
Best pastiche of a bygone era
"I Feel You" (Wonder Girls)
I know that this would have been many people's pick for the best of August, but I need to keep my hip-hop cred going so can't succumb to this New Romantic tribute. This song would definitely be superior without Yubin's rap, but the rest is really very solid and gets even better the more I listen to it. JYP is probably my favourite producer in the K-Pop scene, and he has really outdone himself with how lush he gets absolutely everything to sound. He even makes the Wonder Girls sound like they can sing, which is impressive in itself. Seriously, this shit wouldn't sound out of place in the back catalogue of an unashamed '80s throwback group like Future Islands, and it would have been a discredit to all at JYP if I hadn't mentioned this somewhere.
Best non-'SMTM' track
"Where U At?" (JJCC)
I am far too positive this month. Don't worry, I have a feeling September will be all kinds of shite. "Where U At?"' has just my kind of danceable production with a very prominent bassline (all bassists like it when we can hear ourselves). JJCC always seem to have somewhat decent songs, but we're never going to get over the fact that Jackie Chan created them. Due to this, every song is a disappointment, because it doesn't feature my main man Chan dropping a sick verse next to his boiz Simba and Prince Mak (these stage names are fantastic).
August was good. Maybe I will be more vitriolic next time.