Monday, December 28, 2015

The 2015 Honours List

Throughout this year, we have all aged; grown wiser and more experienced. However, time has also ravaged our once youthful looks, and we are left with a feeling that maybe we could have put our time to better use. I, for one, used my time absolutely perfectly: listening to lots of shit music, some mediocre music, and a decent amount of good music too now that I think about it. I won't bore you with my wonderful opinions on music that isn't performed in Korean and will instead focus all of my buzzwords and poor reviewing skills onto describing my 15 favourite singles of the year created by folks who hail from the same general area as JYP. How I have chosen to construct this is through using the best song from each of the months of the year, whilst adding in three extra tracks at my own discretion to bring it up to a more pleasant number. I know that you readers have not been privy to four of my honours lists, so I will flag up how every song on the list fits into the magnificent puzzle of my opinions. Once more into the breach my friends, before we are done with the crushing mediocrity of 2015 for good.


화 (Mad Clown feat. Jinsil) [Best of January]

If you cast your mind back to January, you may notice that there is very little that is worth remembering in the slightest. All except for this song about how an angry glasses wearing nerd feels great anger towards a woman, thank God guns are not legal in Korea. Mad Clown is one of the real success stories of Show Me the Money 2, having signed to a pretty large label and seen a fair amount of success in features and solo EPs. I find his style of rapping to be skilful and technical but sometimes it can be not particularly interesting to listen to for any real length of time. Fire is good because the instrumental directs Mad Clown's flow whilst allowing him to play with the beat just enough to retain his flavour. Starship have also worked out that Mad Clown isn't particularly good at conveying a positive emotion so he came in sounding straight up angry on this, which works with the swanky horn in a pretty major way. Jinsil does her job more than adequately as a chorus girl disguised as the other side of the conflict. At the end of the day I just really like horns on rap music and I think Mad Clown is a good rapper so this song performed admirably in giving the people what they want. Shame that the rest of January was shite.


Devil (Super Junior) [Best of July]

As I said in the July Honours List, Super Junior have aged like wine, going from representing everything bad about old K-Pop to the SM artists with the most consistently high quality output. Granted, I still couldn't tell you how many members make up SuJu, or the names of about half of them, but their music is increasingly grabbing me as an innocent bystander. 'Devil' is very much in control of its atmosphere, meaning that the listener finds themselves wanting to dance without explicitly being told to; a cheap tactic relied upon by all too many club #bangerz. You may also notice the prevalence of the horn once again, expect that theme to run throughout this list. While on the topic, I might as well say that the instrumental works as well as it does because it sounds like they got in actual session musicians to play the actual instruments heard in the backing track. I have no problem with electronic music, but if you want the sound of guitar, it is undeniable that the method which will give you the best result would be to call in a guitar player instead of getting a producer to insert a vaguely approximated MIDI sample. Super Junior are dads of the K-Pop scene, but they are doing it better than so many awful groups of children.


Everest (Huckleberry P) [Best of November]

Hi-Lite records have remained relevant and high selling despite the fact that their roster of artists is one of the most deeply unappealing I have seen on any record label in history. I mean, they are the home of The Cohort, I don't believe much else needs to be said. Despite the shitness that emanates from wall to wall in the Hi-Lite offices, one sole person wants to project an air of quality onto their work. Step forward Huckleberry P, a rapper who is both skilled and sounds good on record. After still not quite being able to comprehend his speed on the fairly decent 'Bassline' then I think I began to consider myself a fan of sorts. 'Everest' ensured that I stayed that way with its moody production and wonderfully measured delivery on the part of Mr. P. It is also in contention for the edgiest music video of the year as Huckleberry P attempts to climb a mountain of homoerotic thoughts as the jazz piano plays in the background. It's the type of thing I would expect to see in a Herzog film, yet we are given such high art in swaggy music videos. Truly, 2015 was a wonderful time in which to be alive.


Awoo (Lim Kim) [Best of April]

Lim Kim falls into the art pop bracket, in that she is able to straddle the line between K-Pop and K-indie and both sides still like her. A critics darling who the public also cry out for, think Kendrick Lamar or Carly Rae Jepsen, but with more songs about cats. In 'Awoo', pop sensibilities are zhooshed up with a bit of indie flair, despite sitting very clearly in the court of the former. Kim has a rather odd voice which is used to her advantage, creating a song around this key appeal of hers, instead of being provided with generic pop production and hoping for a cheap hit. No, 'Awoo' will stand up because no-one else could have made this song work in quite the same way; there are more technically gifted singers than Lim Kim currently working in Korea but they are not necessarily able to provide the same slightly flirtatious tone, the same style of vocal cadence, the fact that her voice actually does sorta sound like a cat. Whilst I can't say I am overly sold on the rest of her stuff, including that which she has done with Togeworl, I can see myself bumping 'Awoo' for years to come


거북선 (Ja Mezz, Andup &Song Mino feat. Paloalto) [Best of August]

Say what you will about Show Me the Money and its ridiculous forced drama and turf wars, the songs that came out of it this year were of a surprisingly high quality. None moreso than this first elimination round effort from Team ZiPal. What we all discovered about Zico this year is that we were happy to keep him around provided that he shut his mouth and stayed as a producer. Admittedly later in the year we became increasingly happy for him to make his own annoyingly good music again. Anyways, 'Turtle Ship' incorporates traditional Korean instruments over trap drums; the chorus is about going to war in the title vessel, whilst the rappers on the track generally brag about how great they are. I admit it, only the production sounds like a positive aspect when I explain it like that, but every rapper has a style so distinct from each other that they bounce off each other to create unrivalled energy that they were rightly praised for on the show. It's a shame that after this began the witch hunt for our saviour Blacknut, we saw Super Bee become more vocal, and the final turned out to be really very underwhelming indeed; if they had ended after Episode 6 then we would have had nought but happy memories.


 Spell My Name Right (Yankie) [Best of May]

I want to direct all of your attention to this free download of Yankie's album 'Andre' because you all deserve to be happy. Yankie released three songs with MVs this year, any of which could have ended up on this list, but I ultimately used that fact that 'Spell My Name Right' had topped an honours list as a main point of leverage. I have nothing against feature verses; they add versatility to a track, and it can be cool to see your favourite artists working with one another, but I am also impressed when a rapper so effectively carries a track for its whole duration; switching up flow constantly, and sounding like they are enjoying themselves whilst doing it. DJ Pumkin's beat is somewhat clumsy, but it does allow for Yankie to get louder and louder during the chorus and filling the verses with even more bombast than Yankie's machine gun flow already provides them with. If you liked this then I do recommend you check out the album because the dude came through with something that feels whole, rather than a title track surrounded by filler. In order to bring balance to the world he did release a shit song with Jessi, but that ended up on Primary's album rather than his own which means that Yankie gets off scot free.


Sober (BIGBANG) [Best of June]

I guess that I will be given shit for admitting to liking a song from YG. I apologise dear reader, we cannot all be edgy contrarians like you. 'Sober', much like the best song that G-Dragon ever did as a solo artist, has a hugely chantable quality to it; it had me jumping along and singing to words about how you needed to get wasted because your girlfriend stopped sucking your dick. BIGBANG have got to a point in their career where they are able to exercise a fair amount of creative control, and because of that 'Sober' actually sounds like it has life to it, too many boy groups this year debuted with incredibly bland songs which were trying to present focus group created ideas of what 'cool' was. BIGBANG's music sounds like they are making what they want to make, warts and all, and 'Sober' is the song that I have chosen to represent this quality, primarily because so many of the other songs were simply god awful.


Diving (Zizo) [Best of December]

Many an edgy hip-hop fan will rue the day that beats became more important lyrics, yet I like to rue their existence because for a song which namedrops Macaulay Culkin in the first line to still be good, the beat has to be helping. Zizo should have been a Show Me the Money 2 success story, reaching the final would usually give you enough of a platform to launch yourself, however much like the eventual winners Soul Dive, Zizo has seen nothing but underground acclaim. He dropped this very recently and it has the best beat of the year, overlaying a fat synth with a melodic higher synth and a children's choir. It sounds triumphant despite the fact that neither myself nor Zizo have achieved all that much in the past three minutes. Zizo has merely wandered around New York pretending to be from the streets whilst I have been lying on my back contemplating what to masturbate to next. Watching Bambino fancams has never felt so accomplished.


Like OOH-AHH (TWICE) [Best of October]

I can come across as a pretty pretentious guy, I do not deny this fact. However, my love of German cinema and American literary criticism does not stop me from falling deeply in love with a pure pop jam. I tried to watch SIXTEEN but found myself largely disinterested, I kept up with the final lineup and chose Jeongyeon and Sana as my favourites because they were the hottest. When the song dropped I remember thinking 'This is some pretty good stuff' but it was a slow burner and I found myself returning to listen just one more time every hour like clockwork. It was a dangerous drug and I was hooked on whatever the fuck 'colour pop' is. Sure the rap break is utter shite and Jeongyeon gets basically no lines, but I can't hear the hate because I am screaming the chorus too loudly and staring at Sana too much. I have ended up with another group to stan which I didn't plan for, I wanted to keep my heart as cold as humanly possible.


Shadow (The Legend) [Discretionary Addition]

The Legend used to be a ballad group, and it shows. They also hired someone who knew how to use this to the best of their abilities to give us some genuinely ambitious pop production. This song very neatly fits into the specific style of pop which can be defined by its ridiculous amounts of pathos that are usually laughed out of the room for taking themselves far too seriously. However, The Legend not only have the singing chops to imbue what they are saying with a degree of passion, but they have a song that sounds like it deserves to be taken as seriously as they are singing it. The beginning of a verse to the end of a chorus has a slow crescendo with the beat buoying on the vocalists, ending with what is potentially the best chorus of the year. The Legend should be used as a lesson in taking a male ballad group and allowing them to indulge in vocal wankery whilst still bringing forth a song that is worth listening to; they don't just need to create static songs which feature them singing over a generic set of piano chords.


Mood Swing (Seulong feat. Blacknut) [Discretionary Addition]

You may have noticed that I really like songs with a controlled atmosphere, I have already mentioned this quality about a couple songs so far and I will mention it a few more times before the list is out but I want to draw the most attention to it here because without its controlled atmosphere, this song would be absolutely nothing. Seulong sounds on breaking point throughout the verse and then the instrumentation for the chorus explodes in the most low-key manner possible and he sounds like he is letting loose in some way. The Blacknut verse is fantastic and keeps with the mood, a surprising fact since he is usually known for writing songs in which he challenges people to a fight. I expect quality from him, but not as a featured artist necessarily, so this was a true revelation. Seulong proves to us that Korean RnB doesn't all need to be boring attempts to copy Zion T's boring music, and instead you can make a song which sounds like it was performed by the saddest jazz band in the world.


Black Swan (Rainbow) [Best of February]

I don't like to deal with absolutes, not least in matters of subjectivity, but the Korean public were straight up wrong with regards to 'Black Swan' and it causes me great pain to think that we only got half the live versions of this song that we expected because its sales figures were so pitiful. At this point just pretend I went on another diatribe about how precise the control of the song's atmosphere is so I don't need to repeat myself; make it a compelling diatribe, I have a reputation to uphold. I don't particularly care about any group on DSP which is odd considering both Rainbow and KARA have made some of the best Korean pop songs of all time, and AJAX aren't even awful. Is it the willingly indifferent such as myself who allowed Rainbow to flop so badly? We are all happy to enjoy songs and complain when they aren't given enough promotion time, but where are we all when it comes to actively supporting the group? I'll tell you: wanking. We are wanking because Hyunyoung is on screen and gyrating to this fucking fantastic chorus.


Wow Wow Wow (Jun Jin feat. Eric) [Best of September]

I am as surprised as you that not one, but two members of SHINHWA made a good song. Admittedly it was the same song and Eric didn't even do that much to deserve any credit but that doesn't detract from my sheer shock and awe that they are capable of musical quality outside of the utterly fantastic 'This Love'. To me, Jun Jin is now the coolest guy alive and I would do anything to be him, looking and sounding so suave in this wonderfully moody sounding anthem which I absolutely adore, despite being unable to place my finger on exactly what imbues the song with such a high quality. Maybe it is the huge drums, the dissonant synth, the velvety vocals, the urgent manner in which the song breaks into the chorus. I just said the main fantastic things about it using a contrived writing device, accept my opinions and swiftly move on please, I still have two more entries to write and very little else in my magical bag of writing tricks.


Take Care of You (Giriboy) [Best of March]

I lionised it upon release and lo and behold it is just as fantastic as the day it came out. Giriboy is far from the most talented rapper with regards to interesting flow but he weaves together everything he has in a song which carries a mood that I don't believe I have associated with a Korean hip-hop song before: heartfelt. The lyrics are narratively good enough that I get a little something in my eye just reading along to them as Mr. Boy seems to be pouring his soul out over the fantastically minimalist Nochang beat. Giriboy can come across as something of a neighbourhood wasteman who likes to sit on his laurels due to the fact that girls want to fuck him and he works on Swings' record label, but sometimes he is able to pull it out of the bag and truly justify his place alongside the rest of JM. This song just ticks all of the right boxes for me and I am surprised as you that it has not made it to the top spot. Eagle eyed readers will notice that I have only used two of my three allotted discretionary additions which adds to the huge amounts of mystery and suspense surrounding my favourite song of the year. I would hate to keep you waiting any longer lest you suffer a heart attack due to hyper-anticipation.


The Time Goes On (BewhY) [Discretionary Addition]

I used to be hugely derisive off Korean hip-hopp, in my pretentious and stuck-up fashion I considered myself something of an aficionado on the genre and I thought that there was very little skill in the Korean scene and that everything was nothing more than a clumsy mating ritual. As this list would indicate, I no longer think that way; but many hip-hop heads do still shun the Korean scene. I would like nothing more than to direct them towards the work of BewhY, who still flounders in the underground whilst CJAMM can find mainstream success. This song rounds off his ridiculously superb album 'Time Travel' and it comes across as contemplative, defiant, purposeful; all whilst fitting in about three songs worth of lyrics. The fact that BewhY went out so early on Show Me the Money is ridiculous because he is doubtless one of the top five rappers in Korea, but he ended up against recognisable faces. 'The Time Goes On' has a fantastic progression which culminates in the cello-backed final verse before erupting into a triumphant final chorus; BewhY understands that in order for the most energetic bits of a song to work, there must be a moment of calm in order to provide perspective. I find it ridiculous that I didn't include it on the honours list back in March, and I thoroughly recommend that you listen to it many hundreds of times.


  1. 1. "Shattered" by BoA
    2. "I" by Taeyeon
    3. "Hurt Locker" by 9MUSES
    4. "So Crazy" by T-ara (I have no idea why AOA's label scrapped this awesome song)
    5. "Wiggle Wiggle" by Hello Venus
    6. "I'm Ill" by Hello Venus
    7. "I Feel Good" by Cupid (nugu group; cheap-as-hell music video but catchy song)
    8. "Stress" by Taeyeon
    9. "Papi" by f(x)
    10. "4 Walls" by f(x)

    1. This anon is my nigga. We have the same top song for 2015.

  2. 1. Love You Dear by The Solutions
    2. Star Shell by NELL
    3. Hopeless Love by Jimin Park
    4. Ice Cream Cake by Red Velvet
    5. Married To The Music by SHINee
    6. Hot Pink by EXID
    7. Paradise Lost by Gain
    8. I by Taeyeon
    9. Catch Me If You Can by Girls' Generation
    10. REALiTi and Flesh Without Blood by Grimes

    Wait, what do you mean the two tied for #10 aren't KPOP? Fuck off, she's friends with G-Dildo.

    1. Kill v Maim was clearly the best song on Art Angels so either way you are wrong.

    2. I hate to tell you this but you are wrong. Flesh Without Blood was the best. THE. BEST.

      Granted, all of her songs are THE. BEST. so it's not like it's that much of a competition.

    3. Art Angels was a fairly mediocre album imo. I bump Kill v Main and Realiti though.

  3. Yankie for the win my friend.
    Also, I got a copy of his "Andre" album for Christmas, too happy about that.

    Since everyone is posting their top ten I'll post mine (title tracks)

    1. Red Velvet - "Dumb Dumb"
    2. Seventeen - "Mansae"
    3. SHINee - "Married to the Music"/ f(x) - "4Walls"
    4. Stellar - "Vibrato"
    5. BTS - "Run"
    6. Purfles - "Bad Girl"
    7. Yankie - "Sold Out" (feat. Tablo, Zion.T and Loco)
    8. Lovelyz - "Ah Choo"
    9. Crayon Pop - "FM"
    10. BoA - "Who Are You?"(Feat. Gaeko)

  4. Being boring as hell and doing my own top 10:

    1. Lim Kim - Awoo
    2. G-Friend - Me Gustas Tu
    3. Park Gyuri & From The Airport - The Little Prince
    4. EXID - Ah Yeah
    5. 4Minute - Crazy
    6. Nine Muses - Hurt Locker
    7. Hello Venus - I'm Ill
    8. Soyumi - Shake Me Up
    9. Stellar - Vibrato
    10. Red Velvet - Dumb Dumb

  5. 10) Tahiti - Skip
    9) D.holic - Murphy&Sally
    8) OMG - Cupid
    7) EXID - Ah Yeah
    6) Red Velvet - Ice Cream Cake
    5) Lovelyz - Ah Choo
    4) D.holic - Chewy
    4bis) Crayon Pop - FM
    3) Rainbow - Black Swan
    2) Nine Muses - Hurt Locker
    1) Stellar - Vibrato

  6. I like the Lim Kim love and Twice. Your description of Suju is also spot-on: "Super Junior have aged like wine, going from representing everything bad about old K-Pop to the SM artists with the most consistently high quality output." Siwon in particular just keeps hotter each year.

  7. Gfriend, twice, craypop, rv.