Saturday, January 16, 2016

Top 15 K-Pop Songs of '15

I was watching a video by JREKML, a Youtuber who makes videos about Korean Pop so he does first reaction videos and album reviews and all that. Things a K-Pop fan like me would spend hours watching and browsing around on Youtube. I thought it was a fun list to come up with and from watching his video, I found new songs to listen to! 

I think there's a misconception surrounding K-Pop. I think (and know) a lot of people take K-Pop to be very bubblegum bright and upbeat with high-pitched vocals and a very cheesy dance-y music video. They're not wrong about synchronised dancing; that remains to be one of K-Pop's forte and they can never go wrong with their choreography. 

If you were to ask me if I had been exposed to Korean pop earlier would have I liked it then, I would out right say no. I have listened to k-pop in the past for the sake of it but I really wasn't attracted to the music then. It's a lot of different now, a lot of groups have tried (and are trying) to distant themselves from the K-Pop cliché and it's really, really working. I am constantly surprised and impressed with the music they put out every damn time. 

And the best thing about K-Pop is that because there are just so many groups and singers in the industry, they are always coming with newer music and even if I wanted to take a break, I can't! 

This is the first year I've tried out K-Pop and it hasn't let me down and I don't think this is a phase. I'm in this way too deep now to leave so soon! 

For K-Pop fans, here is my list of my favourite songs this year! 

(Also note that I'm still very new to the world of K-Pop so don't think I'm going around as if I know everything!)

#15 Pour Up by DEAN featuring Zico

When I first heard this song, I wasn't particularly into it. Until the other day, I listened to it again and found it so hypnotising, I'm just so charmed with DEAN's music in general.

I'm already really swooned with his voice, but the music he makes brings something new to the table which is something I always appreciate in the Korean industry. It's new and it's fresh and it's definitely something the newer music loving generation would love.

DEAN's vocals is undeniably good; I am in love with him. He also btw, looks like a damn model so that helps. But seriously, his voice is so sick, so RnB with the right amounts of jazz and husky tones.
He is relatively new to the Korean music scene. He has an English song which is just equally really wicked, it's called 'I'm Not Sorry' with Eric Bellinger. If you're not into Korean songs you should try and give that a listen.

 I'm hoping for a full album in the near future because he really should be recognised more for his music - I feel that he can contribute a lot more to the Korean music industry from an RnB standpoint as he should.

I looooooooove this song. It has such a weird and mysterious vibe about it and I almost felt like it was an experimental track by Red Velvet. It's a very mellowed song and it's far far from being a hyper up beat track like Dumb Dumb (which btw I ABSOLUTELY love, the style aesthetic of the music video was just so on-point for me). This one was almost monotonous but there was something about it that I absolutely loved. There were no runs, no impressive vocals. It was just them singing. It's admittedly an odd song (with an odd music video) but I loved it as soon as I listened to it. It's a pity they didn't promote this song as heavily as they did with the rest. 'Ice-Cream Cake' and 'Dumb Dumb' was very uptempo very bright very cutesy and Automatic is a lot more mature in sound. This was the first song of RV that I truly enjoyed. Their previous songs (pre-Yeri) weren't too impressive for me. Their latest album is however, the bomb. I can't wait for their next one! I'm also a big fan of Wendy and Seulgi and personally, I find their vocals so genuinely impressive.

(Also by Red Velvet, 'Oh Boy' and 'Campfire', such such catchy and fun songs to dance to)

This song feels like a good time. You listen to it and you imagine yourself in an open-top car riding with your mates, hair flying with the air and everyone singing and dancing along to this song. It's different from what K-Pop is now and I appreciate that perspective brought forth by SHINee. The album is after all, called 'Odd' so it was expected for them to release pretty unconventional and experimental music. It's a very dance-y tune and you just want to inner your chanel Minho and show off your guns doing the shoulder dance. The song has a house feel which is usually not something I like but it works here and the song just works. I love this concept by SHINee and I've always favoured their approach to being different from what SM usually brings about. They are definitely a lot different from Super Junior and EXO in both sound and image and I like that!

I'm a fan of SHINee and even their Married In The Music comeback was good (my favourite from that album was Chocolate) because they're a bit more experimental with their image and music. Part of me thinks that SM feels like they've already accomplished SHINee and they've passed that stage of trying to impress a huge audience (they're now doing that to EXO) so now they're just doing their own thing. I hope their next album involves a lot more of Jonghyun's sound and producing because he is a such a hidden treasure (he helped contribute to Playboy by EXO) and I looking forward to more of them.

Also, I can't get over Key's 'Girl Power' tank. I love him.

When I first heard this song and saw the music video, I wasn't really feeling it. The music video was odd and vague and maybe I was trying too hard and too long to make out what it meant that the song just breezed through and didn't do much to excite me.

Then I saw their stage performance.

The only other song I like by f(x) was Milk. I wasn't a big fan of their songs but like with SHINee, I love how they're not your conventional K-Pop group... especially seeing how they're (both) from SM. They're escaping from that clichéd idea of what you typically would think first when you mention 'k-pop girl group'. They are far far far far from that (can you imagine Amber with a Red Velvet 'Dumb Dumb' concept... I didn't think so).

I listened to the whole album and it pretty much cemented my initial thoughts about them. They're different. Their music is different and they're kinda like the female version of SHINee in terms of how distinctive they are as a group.

4 Walls is dreamy. I've heard Red Light, Rum Pum Pum Pum and the like and they're very hard-hitting and I personally wasn't so big on that so as hyped as their comeback was, I kinda expected them to just be another group I tried to listen to but never invested in.


Compared to their last few title tracks, 4 Walls is pretty breezy and easy to listen to and I realised that it wasn't their intention to be hard-hitting and strong. It was meant to be fresh and vague like how their music video was portrayed. It's a game of contrasts, we have vocals like Luna, Victoria and Krystal who have pretty soft and pretty voices but they're all accompanied with eclectic electronic beats and it's a fun and funky marriage between the two. You can't help but dance or at the very least bop your head to. Also another favourite of this album is Diamonds.

Their cool girl image is everything; I think out of all comebacks this year, my favourite in terms of stage outfits and overall look was by f(x). I looked forward to all of their music broadcasts performance to see what they would wear. There's a word in the lyrics that I felt perfectly summed these girls; 'mysteric'. A mystery and mystic. They are just that! It was refreshing to see them after a string of girl groups with predictable songs and cutesy dance and aegyos. Don't even think of getting f(x) to do any of that. They got no time for that, they're too busy being out-of-your-way cool.

I wasn't a fan of any of their title tracks except for this. I don't know if this was an actual title track. There was no music video for this one and they only really performed it a few times on stage.

They released a string of songs this year and I wasn't a fan of any. 'Party' was too much and too bright (even with the music video which just looked really thrown together at the very last minute and bordered on overexposure in 99.9% of their shots, too bubble pop annoying and it just kinda passes you over like a breeze, it was an incredibly lacklustre comeback given that they have been in the industry for a while now). But I thoroughly enjoyed 'Check'. It shifted from 'Party' and is more sexy in approach and in music. When they performed 'Party' live, they had flowers in their hair and had fringed tops and white crop tops. For 'Check', they ditched all that and opted for fishnet tights with shorts and mini skirts with a black cropped corset-like top, worn over a very loose checkered shirt. It was very sexy, it exuded a more mature SNSD which I very much prefer. A review I read worded it perfectly,

"If SM had the guts to give SNSD a legitimately sexy concept like Girl's Day or Hyosung, then they could set the stage on fire with this"

It emanated an electro/RnB sound which I was very much liked and I think SNSD could have done super well if they had released an album that was consistent with this kind of music.

Also maybe I couldn't help but compare SNSD with Wonder Girls so while SNSD was promoting Party, Wonder Girls was challenging themselves to a whole new level by coming back with a risque and different concept. I think the fact that as senior groups in the industry, I would have liked it if SNSD challenged themselves a bit more with the music they put out (like how Wonder Girls effortlessly did).

Like I said earlier, as much as I identify EXO as my first K-Pop love, their latest album had its hits and misses.

When they had their first concert for this album, I actually woke up at 9 am and live streamed the concert (dedicated Korean fans would stream for poor international fans like us) and it was purely just AUDIO. And you kinda have to bear with the screaming fans to even listen to the music but even then, I KNEW I was going to go crazy for this song.

It's very different from what they've done and I seriously seriously wish it was one of their title tracks. This is very classic SM to shy away from songs that were just a little bit risky and just a little bit different. It has a very sexy feel to it and as if the title name wasn't already going to drive me up the wall, then comes in Chanyeol with his disgustingly husky voice and he actually sang a bit which officially won me over a million times more.

It remains to be one of my favourite ever tracks by EXO and I feel like this is so underrated! Even for EXO! A lot of people tend to favour 'El Dorado', 'Beautiful' and 'Promise' but this is the real winner for me. It's different from what they usually put out and it's a lot more mature in sound (note that this song was produced by Jonghyun and the more I listen to it, the more Jonghyun I hear) and has a very sultry undertone to it. Everytime Chanyeol goes, 'Gwenchana', I go a bit mental. Just a bit.

The rhythm to this song has so much soul in it. I wish they released more music like this!! This is one of the songs that I just cannot skip whenever it comes on on my shuffle. I just cannot bring myself to say no to Jongin's 'Hey. Playboy' in the first few seconds of the song.

#9 Dead Leaves by BTS

I love BTS because i) They hella cute ii) They make their own music which for me, as a K-Pop fan, is a lot more enjoyable to hear because I just appreciate it a lot more when it's them who wrote and composed the song. WAY too much talent in K-Pop goes wasted when their agency is strict with the type of image they want their groups and artists to portray. Like for example, I know Chanyeol has so much potential in him as a singer-songwriter so I find it so incredibly frustrating that SM is so hard on them. I like EXO's songs but I think it's about time they atleast have a say in the songs they sing and perform to. Also, line distribution in EXO is so tiring and so unfair. They've improved but not as much as I'd like them to. Petition to have SM back up.

Jung Kook's runs in the first 10 seconds of the song already stabbed me right in the heart. This song is just so well-made and so well-composed - everyone gelled together so well from rap to vocals to ad libs to runs. I can't get over this song, too good. So RnB, so body-rolling kinda song, the kinda song you just want to jam to all the time. My favourite line in this song is

"I want the you that wants me again"

And to hear Jung Kook and Jimin sing and harmonise that line SLAYS ME. Every single time. I'm almost angry as to how good these kids are.

I love BTS lots and lots and lots because it's not enough that they already write and compose their own songs, their songs are actually so freakin' good. Like, so x infinity good. They are from a small company so for them to come this far and establish themselves is pretty huge not just to them but to us fans also. And to know that they got to the level they are now because of the MUSIC they put out is even more impressive seeing how they were very much involved in the production of the last 2 albums. They go to both ends of the spectrum - they have really loud, pumped up songs you just want to jump to (like Dope, Fun Boys, Ma City and 뱁새) and they also go really slow and sweet (like Hold Me Tight, Love Is Not Over, and Butterfly) like this song. It shows how experimental they are and how much they want to explore with music.

Also, what I love about BTS is how well everyone's voices go together. I'm SUPER impressed with how well they harmonise with each other! I don't know where they learn to harmonise with each other that smoothly. They're like babies in the industry but yet they show so much maturity.

The chemistry between the boys work. Like you see them and you listen to them and you see and kinda just get how well of a match there are as a group. The rap line (Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope) compliment each other so well - they have such distinct voices and rapping styles especially with J-Hope. If you know BTS, you know J-Hope and you know how he acts (like a fool, but a cute one) and his rap will seriously remind you of him because he raps exactly like how he acts if that makes any sense. Like I said, I admire BTS as a group because their management and agency allow so much freedom with the type of music they want to produce as well as a lot of creative space for them to play around with. Which is exactly what they SHOULD be doing in order to grow as respected artists in the industry.


For those who follow Running Man (and if you're into K-Pop you must have at least heard of Running Man and its members!), this is a song by one of its cast members; Gary.

This might be the only time I have ever really loved an all-rap song. It was accompanied by Miwoo's vocals for the chorus but for the most part of it, it was Gary's rap. I think he is still such an understated rapper. His fame from Running Man might be greatly overshadowing the fact that he is first and foremost, a rapper. His whole album was really, really good but this song (which is also his title track) was it for me. I'm such a fan of Gary, both as a Running Man member and as a rapper so I was really happy that this track was as good as I hoped it would be.

Rap songs are a little hard for me to like because I've always personally preferred listening to vocals and all the runs and things the singers would do in between but this song had that also. Miwoo comes in during choruses and her vocals are so sharp and she does all the runs but still manages to not overpower Gary as the main character in this song.

The "I can you standing there" bit (if you've listened to it, you would know what I mean) sounds weird and odd on its own but with the song, it fell into place perfectly. The overall rhythm and track for this song was already very top-notch for me and so with Gary's rap and Miwoo's assisting vocals, it was only bound to be a hit for me.

#7 Hot Enough by VIXX

Now, I've heard of VIXX's music in the past and wasn't a fan.

Until this came along.

I was going through my Twitter feed and someone had RT'd a Vine of this song being performed at their comeback stage and I was so, so, so mesmerised by the music within the 6 seconds of the Vine but the retweet didn't come with a name of the song. But I knew it had to be in their new album because they had just made a comeback a day before. So I studied the Vine. There was no singing and it was just them dancing. So I looked at what they were wearing and Youtube'd 'VIXX's comeback stage' and searched for videos where they were wearing the same outfits. And tadaaaaaa, Operation Vixx started. I saw the video then I watched more. And curiosity killed the cat (me) and before I knew it I was already in my 3rd hour of Youtubing VIXX (the best thing about learning about a new group [not new per se, they were just new TO ME] is that 85% they have already done a variety show and 100% they've done about a thousand interviews so you have lots of material to work with hahaha). 

This song was the song that I couldn't get into the shower with without first downloading it into my phone. I always take that as a good sign because it shows how much I like the song that I can't go through the 20 minutes of shower without listening to it. And if you've seen their live performances for this song, you will DIE. This song is soooooôòóöoooooo sexy and it's basically saying that the girl is hot enough that the guy's melting and he can't take it. I cry. 

It's meant to be very sexy sounding and so the dance moves had to reflect that. Lots of body rolls. *SYNCHRONISED* body rolls. All 6 of them. I cry. Leo's vocals in here was so apt and so on point because of how naturally husky his voice is and I just can't. This song is everything. 

#6 If You by Big Bang

Big Bang has definitely done it for me. One of my favourite ever songs in 2015 is definitely 'If You'. Even my mum, the very apparent K-Pop h8r, when she heard this song
"Eh, what's this? Really good!" and she only ever plays this song and Loser in the car to the point I'm like "Ok mum, let's change CD's....".If You starts with a simple guitar playing and TOP sings in here. Beaut. TOP is the rapper in the group but man, he can carry a tune. It starts off really slow and then steadily builds up (still, very slow) to the chorus with GD's part. The very simple yet melodious accompaniment of the guitar and the drums compliment the vocals in this song without overwhelming it all. If you're into slow emotional songs, this is pretty damn amazing, I'm telling you. So heartfelt and when you read the lyrics, you're just SO DONE with Big Bang. The song is basically saying;

"If you don't mind, let's start again""Are you doing fine? Because I'm not and I really want you back


This song is a definite departure from their previous tracks and they take it back a notch (actually more than just a notch... they take it back a whole lot) by releasing this goldmine of a tune. It's such an acoustic treasure and safe to say, one of my favourite songs in 2015 by far.
(You should also listen to the live versions of this song where Taeyang slays it. All. The. Damn.Time.)

Yo. Wonder Girls. Queens. The first K-Pop song I listened to waaaay before I even got into this whole desired mess was Nobody. And it might have been the same for a lot of people. No one could escape that tune. Combine the catchy chorus with a cutesy dance and you have yourself a phenomenon.

They've taken on the '80s as their concept this time around and it included everything. From outfits to music video to background music, it was really impressive on all fronts. It was a risky concept to undertake but it worked for them. A lot of comparison has been made with SNSD but personally, I much prefer Wonder Girls. Their comeback this year had a lot more cool girl aesthetic compared to SNSD and their music was a lot more unique and different.

Perhaps the best part of this whole comeback was each of the girls took on an instrument and their teaser videos was crazy, they had like a minute solo of them just playing (and slaying) the instruments and it was SUCH a fresh of breath air coming from a girl group. Seeing how the whole of K-Pop (and especially in girl groups) is very heavily synthesised, to see Wonder Girls in this new concept was truly the best bet JYP could have made. 

JYP commented that he wanted them to learn an instrument so that they could contribute a lot more in this album and be more involved with the making of the records which was a brilliant idea. I really am a huge fan of singers and groups who have a say in the choice of music they perform which is why maybe I prefer them over SNSD. In terms of popularity, SNSD wins but in terms of music, Wonder Girls take the cake. I also like JYP's stance in differentiating Wonder Girls from the rest (the bubble gum pink side of K-Pop is still very much prevalent) and seeing how they can already be called seniors in the K-Pop industry, I think a change such as this was very appropriate. I don't mean to contrast and compare, but even the senior of groups in SM are still stuck with the same kind of genre they were singing 8 years ago. It's fun, it's cute, it'll be a hit but it can be tiring. A change of pace, a change of sound is always encouraged especially when senior artists are already in a position where they can take risks in music. So they should! And with JYP, they did! 

Unfortunately, the '80s vibe that they exuded didn't really have the biggest impact with today's audiences. I think to a certain degree, JYP must have known that the music they were bringing to the table isn't geared at young audiences who wouldn't have yet appreciated the '80s. But nevertheless, I appreciated the effort and the risk taken was a bold but necessary one.

I first heard of this song from a 15 second preview that they released before the actual album came out. And I needed nothing more than that 15 second preview to get me hooked. It has such an old school rhythm to it but without it being too much that it felt out of place. It exuded a very-cool-girl-in-the-'80s-who-wanted-nothing-to-do-with-you vibe which had me floored. It's not exactly the song you want to party to but it's an amazing soundtrack to when you're in the car and just want a song to jive through. They still got it, these Wonder Girls.

Guys. This is Fantastic Baby #2. This is an anthem. This is 2015's song. I wasn't into Korean pop back when Fantastic Baby was HUGE but even then I knew of Big Bang and I kinda knew who G-Dragon was. 

I get it now, guys. I get the hype.

Big Bang is just in a league of its own. Which is why even when I was rooting for EXO for the MAMA's, I still really wanted Big Bang to win. Because overall, I enjoyed almost all of their songs (except for Sober) from albums M to E and they WROTE AND PRODUCED every song. I understand now why the Koreans are crazy over GD and TOP. They are a force to be reckoned with in the Korean music industry. I've watched their old shows when they were still trainees (super super young, mind you!) and they were already arranging vocals for songs and GD was teaching the others how to harmonise. And this all before even they debuted. Which makes it all the more impressive. 

Bang Bang Bang is a banger (sorry i just had to). I was surprised as to how much I like it because I don't usually listen to songs like this. Ever! I have to tell you first and foremost, that with any kind of music, I am never biased! I always listen to music first before looking at the singer. So even with Big Bang, although they were huge and it was hard to refuse the hype surrounding them and their music, I still really liked this song! Just like how I like Clarity by Zedd and Foxes. SUCH an unlikely song for me to like (seeing how I don't listen to club songs like that) but I just really freaking love the song. Same with Bang Bang Bang. It has that something that makes you just wanna GO WITH IT.

It's loud, it's obnoxious, it's addictive, it's Big Bang GOLDDDD!! It's such an anthem and I love how they went really strong in the verses and the chorus is just G-Dragon in all his fabulousness going 'Bang Bang Bang!'. I love it, I LOVE it! This song is such a great tune to have at parties to have everyone jumping, it's just that kinda song. The kinda song you don't know why you love but you just do. Everytime my sisters and I would go for karaoke, we ALWAYS have this song on and I swear it is the BEST Korean song to sing to during a karaoke session. It turns you up and you find yourself so exhausted from singing/dancing/going crazy over it. It's also worth to note that my youngest sister (who fails to understand K-Pop) loves this song and she sings this at karaoke sessions with HER friends. I am proud of her. Truly.

#3 Erase by Hyorin featuring Joo Young

I got into Running Man before I got into Korean music and one of the very first songs I dabbled into is this song. So it's quite sentimental that way. It's also a song that I introduced to Tania when I begged and begged her to give Korean music/drama/variety show a chance. Like I've said before, Tania and I, we are on the same page when it comes to music so I knew she was going to like this song.

It's a ballad by Sistar's frontwoman and Joo Young who is a solo singer and they're both under the same company. I first saw the dance practice video for this song and immediately fell in love with this song because of how complimentary both their vocals were and the song was just so, so damn RnB. I think this was the song that brought K-Pop to my attention and this song basically shut me up. I had til then thought Korean music was reminiscent of Super Junior's 'Sorry Sorry' and SNSD's 'Gee'. Very processed with no impressive vocals and a repetitive line of chorus (although I still do listen to them heh heh).

With Hyorin's runs and Joo Young's ad libs and the rap in between, it just all mixed so well and it was ever since listening to this song that I became a fan of Hyorin and Joo Young as vocalists.

And to show you how much I love this song,

Which brings me to my #2. I love EXO. They are every bit responsible to as to why I've been so into K-Pop. They were the first group in K-Pop that I properly loved and although personally these days I'm more into BTS, I always will love EXO and when I saw their performance on Gayo Daejun yesterday, I'm reminded on why and how much I love them. Call Me Baby is my #2 most played song on my playlist and when it first came out, I was in love! I'm not being biased by the way! There are songs on that album that I didn't quite like and than there were some that I absolutely loved. This was one of them. Call Me Baby in particular was such a journey (wow I sound emotional) because I had been following their teasers weeks before so the hype had been steadily built over the weeks and to finally listen to this song was a big deal for EXO fans. And even with a lot of hype, this song still fulfilled my expectations and went beyond it! I had this on repeat for a good 2 weeks straight... AT LEAST!! Everytime it comes on my shuffle, I still sing my heart out. I even have the chorus choreography DOWN, don't mess.

Although EXO was famous even before this, this song brought them to superstar level overnight. They won ridiculous amount of awards for this and deservingly so. It has such a good hook and I've probably contributed about a 1500 views on my own on Youtube. This song also managed to drag my very anti-kpop cousin through the mud. She was in London over the spring break and she kept wanting to watch the music video all the time, "Nadia, I can't lah, I have to watch it again". Best part was when we were walking along Regent Street and she legit stopped in her tracks and pulled me to the side and took out her earphones to watch the music video. Crazy, Misha!! But this song, man. Does things to people.

It was ridiculously easy for me to pick my #1. This was in their 2nd part of their album which got released not too long ago and when I heard this song, it was over for me. I loved it from the first beat to the last. Everything about it is ridiculous good. I was just so taken aback as to how brilliant this song was. Whenever something big happens in K-Pop (award shows, music broadcasts, comebacks, etc.), Tania and I are always texting each other back and forth and we listened to this album together but I hadn't reached this song yet and she texted me back (I'd post the screenshot of our convo here but way too much cursing and lots of incomprehensible chatter) saying "Yooooooo OUTRO THO" and I knew I had to listen to it right away.


I love the whole album but this song is *magic*. Everyone's vocals here were *ridiculous*. The composing of the song is *gold* and I'm just *dead*.

It's hands down the best song I've listened to by BTS and in K-Pop in general. It's only a 2 minute + song and it's their outro so there weren't any rap lines here. I don't think I could handle a full length song for this because I would just be gone.

I feel like even if I wasn't already so in love with BTS, I would have fallen head over heels for this song anyway. It's super sultry and melodious and the whole track is made of idek what kind of magic. It's so good that I don't even want to listen to it often because I don't want to get bored of it. Amazing. I'm so proud and so happy for BTS because the music on this album and their previous one has been the type of music they're really comfortable with. Like, they've finally found their sound. I was not a fan with their previous title tracks (though their other songs were still very good!) and their whole image was a bit too much for me so I'm really glad they've found their sound and their style with this album and with Part 1. 

I also love that they were involved with all of the songs in the album - shows how much of an artist they are. To sing is one thing, but to produce and write is a whole other and especially in the K-Pop industry where creativity can be quite stifled, it's refreshing to see a boy group like BTS to be very involved with the making of the album. Just makes the whole product so much better.


So there's that!

Phew! I had this post in Drafts for the longest time because as you can see, it's such a long post and I had a hard time narrowing it down (buat gaya macam seksa) but I finally got my top 15.

I cannotttttt wait for more comebacks this year and for more great great songs and to see what kind of music we can expect in 2016.

Eeeep, exciiiited!


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