Welcome to KPOPALYPSE‘s favorite songs of 2014! It’s time once again to run through my list of the best songs of the previous 12 months!
10. Badkiz – Ear Attack
I figured that I was probably going to like this in some way before I even clicked the video — any group with a name describing themselves as “bad” is already a welcome change from all the boring fucking goody-two-shoesness that goes on in K-pop before they’ve even done anything. It makes me sick how fucking nice K-pop artists behave to everybody, especially people who don’t deserve niceness in any way, shape, or form (netizens, the media, their own crazy fans, stupid people, in general). Most artists in other genres besides K-pop that I like are lucky to stay out of jail long enough to complete a tour, so even if the song was seriously knob-polishingly awful, I can at least get behind a group full of self-proclaimed assholes.
The song being called “Ear Attack” was an even better sign, because K-pop doesn’t have enough music in it which actually attacks me instead of trying to lull me into a stupor like a parent trying to placate an emotionally underdeveloped infant into going to sleep in its own soiled nappy so mummy and daddy can get some fuck-time in. The song thankfully delivered on this promise and then some, with a constant driving beat that doesn’t compromise for weak breakdowns, an annoying (to others, not me) whistles and chants filled chorus, and even a fun, slap-happy video.
Best of all, it’s by a nugu group nobody cares about, so I can appreciate it without being swamped by any awful fanbases since there’s probably only about three fans of this group right now.
9. Henry – Fantastic
Okay, so Super Junior M’s Henry may look like an Asian Rick Astley, but he’s got the songs that Super Junior themselves haven’t had in at least five years. The intro to this may be the corniest shit this side of Chad Future, but that’s only because Henry is in fact the man that Chad Future wants to be. However, nobody’s ever going to write a song this good for Chad, because any K-pop songwriter getting regular work would be crazy to give him something this good instead of their lazy offcuts.
K-pop as a whole is kind of like the shittiest music imaginable buffed and shined to perfection, proof that you can polish a turd once you get used to the smell, and this turd smells damn good with great melodies throughout and SAW’s Hi-NRG sound pilfered extensively. The only thing wrong with it is a crappy breakdown, but then if the best K-pop feature track ever can have a shit breakdown, so can this.
8. TAHITI – Oppa You’re Mine
TAHITI are one of the best groups in K-pop for the sheer consistency of the songs that they get handed. They honestly don’t have any shit feature tracks at all, but on the other hand, nothing of theirs has stood out for me quite like this song. It’s just a really catchy and slightly doo-wop inspired dance-pop number, and those “ooh-oooh” parts on the way to the chorus are some of the sexiest backing vocals you could ever want in a K-pop song.
7. Puer Kim – Manyo Maash
Not only does Puer Kim easily win the race for K-pop buxomness, she gets pretty close to the top of the musical tree as well with this great, dark song. The video’s so-obvious-that-even-netizens-noticed shade of SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment’s high-gloss productions is the hilarious icing on the severely generous cake, and the only downside of Puer Kim’s debut is that now I have to piece my bias list back together.
6. Tae Jin Ah – I Love You Darling
This song didn’t get an MV because Tae Jin Ah is self-aware enough to realise that nobody wants to see his wrinkly, sagging ass gyrating in a box, but it was a feature track that was promoted by Tae Jin Ah on music shows, so it qualifies for this list. Another important qualifying factor is that the song is fucking cool as shit — trot music sounds like Chinese restaurant music often, but not this time, there’s too much coolness going on here.
Tae Jin Ah doesn’t give a shit that he’s old as fuck in an industry dominated by people less than half his age, and since Koreans have a huge “respect your elders” culture for some reason, and a lot of K-pop fans like Korean culture, that means you should like this song. It also means that because I’m also old as fuck, you should all respect my opinion about everything on this list and if you don’t then you have to donate me your lunch money. Do it, it’ll make you “more Korean”, I promise.
5. f(x) – Red Light
Probably the most musically forward-thinking K-pop song ever, “Red Light” threw f(x) fans for such a curveball and gained such a negative reaction that I felt compelled to spend the next six months telling all the other K-pop fans how wrong they were about it in the most offensive manner possible.
Often mistaken for a trap song, “Red Light” actually could best be described as “post-trap”, eschewing the 16-beat mechanical shuffle that defines trap, instead stealing its textures and marrying them to the rhythms of metal — while also adding f(x)’s usual monotonal bridge and chorus hooks — and topping it off with enough subwoofer-wrecking sub-bass dives to prolapse Amber’s anus.
It’s just a pity that SME fucked up the visual side of things a bit, f(x)’s “dark” look really doesn’t suit them, and only Luna is styled flatteringly. No wonder Sulli didn’t give a cao ni ma about staying in this group a minute longer than she had to, but I don’t really give a shit because this rocks.
4. T-ara – Sugar Free
Life must suck being both a Korean netizen and a female K-pop fan who appreciates music. You’ve got T-ara’s “Sugar Free” on your phone playlist because it’s obviously the best T-ara song since “Roly Poly“, combining the newer signature T-ara dual-melodic chorus anthem assault with the sonic stylings of ‘Absolute First Album‘. However, it’s not trendy to like K-pop’s reigning global EDM disco queens right now, so you have to go incognito — you keep your love for “Sugar Free” hush-hush and make sure nobody’s looking at your phone screen when you play it.
You can’t keep it a secret forever though — one day someone grabs your earbuds out of your ears without warning just to fuck with you, and as soon as they recognise the song, you get swiftly ostracised, and before you know it you’re the school bread-shuttle. The bullying gets intense, with your former school friends getting you to buy them bread wrapped in T-ara merchandise just before class so you’re always late, forcing you to fap to a different T-ara member every day in the school toilets before class even though your heart belongs to Block B, making you sing to “Sugar Free” at the top of your lungs with your skirt around your knees and your bra on your head in the middle of the school oval while they throw rocks at you from the edge — life seems unbearable and each school day brings a new T-ara-related way for them to terrorise you. Even the teachers can’t put a stop to it — one day a teacher decided to get to the bottom of the situation by confiscating everyone’s phones and going through them, as she figured that whoever didn’t have “Sugar Free” in their music directory must be the anti T-ara bully … but the bitches who bullied you secretly had T-ara on their playlists as well, so that didn’t help.
T-ara and the activities of your school peers start to blend and warp inside your own head, and eventually it becomes impossible to separate the two, or to listen to T-ara without quivering and crying just out of knee-jerk reflex. Oh well, maybe once you graduate high school you can run a netizen comment translating site, inserting subtle editorial bias against T-ara here and there where you can. That’ll show everyone who’s really in control, won’t it? Won’t it?
3. Berry Good – Love Letter
People are often asking me about early K-pop songs that I like, and will I mention or list them somewhere, but honestly I haven’t done a “best-of” list that goes back any further than 2008 simply because I could count all the decent K-pop songs that existed prior to then on one hand and still have enough fingers left to go bowling.
Click B’s “Love Letter”, however, was one of them, but now it’s completely redundant as the team behind 2014 nugus Berry Good just made it a hell of a lot better. Here’s how they did it:
-Someone removed the crap New Kids On The Block-style late-80s keyboard stab bits
-They also got rid of the shitty guitar parts
-Berry Good are hot girls
-Berry Good are not Click B, who are fugly guys
-Cool arpeggiated keys and synths
-Look, another nugu group where one of the girls looks like Sulli, holy fuck
-The video is pretty
-Better production on this version by a fucking mile
-Teddy bear has stitches across its skull like something out of a horror film
-Berry Good’s version has more random English words that will annoy uptight netizens
-Headbanging guitar-bunny at 1:28 rocks hard
-Tacit acknowledgement in the story that marriage is a boring time-wasting expensive wank
-Berry Good are female
Best of all, Berry Good shade the rubbish early K-pop artists by playing a bunch of vinyl at the start of the video that makes them so bored that they actually fall asleep on the fucking vinyl album sleeves. They don’t like any of that bullshit any more than I do.
2. Year 7 Class 1 – Oppa Virus
Imagine if the people behind AKB48 actually had noteworthy songwriting skills and a song like “Heavy Rotation” actually rocked in a punk-rock-meets-“Jump“-era-Van-Halen kind of way instead of sounding like a children’s TV show theme sung by a bunch of JAV whores on a 15-minute break from catching jizz in fruit bowls. Well, you don’t have to imagine it anymore, because here it is courtesy of some more Korean nugus, Year 7 Class 1.
I’m not sure what’s with the weird group name, but then, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what’s with any K-pop group name, so I can deal with it.The school uniforms are cute, and when the girls put their pom-poms behind their butts and bounce them for the “oppa” chorus line, it’s an iconic moment in K-pop girl dance as fapworthy as T-ara’s “bunny twerk”.
If any already-established K-pop group got hold of this song, it would be massive. Calling it now — Year 7 Class 1 are going to have a breakthrough hit one day and get fucking huge. Or maybe that’s just my optimism and they’ll end up slurping jizz in some back alley while the handicam rolls, which means they’ll have something else in common with all those AKB48 girls. Either way, at least we have this song.
1. SoReal – My Heart Says
What the fuck. What. The. Fuck. What the fuck? What the fuck is this song even doing here? Did any of you pick this as my #1 song of the year? I bet you didn’t, because I sure as fucking fuck didn’t anticipate this shit. So what’s going on?
Let’s look at all the reasons why I really should fucking hate this song. Firstly, it’s a ballad, so automatically it’s at a disadvantage right there. Also, it’s from a boy group, and not just any boy group either, but a nugu boy group specifically promoted as a “ballad group”. If that’s not enough ways to lower the odds, the song was released in fucking March, but they tacked an irrelevant Christmas intro onto it … and we all know how much I hate Christmas bullshit. It’s like Star Empire Entertainment wanted me to quit writing about K-pop so they deliberately formed a committee of important decision-making music-creation folks and sat around discussing ways that they could create a song that I would utterly despise more than anything else released this year, then moved forward with SoReal as their bold action plan. Then “My Heart Says” was released and now it’s my favourite song of the year. How did that happen?
As it happens, I like “My Heart Says” for similar reasons that I liked another controversial #1 pick — Rania’s “Style“. You see, the real reason why I hate K-pop ballads so much isn’t because I hate slow songs, but because K-pop producers have generally got no idea how to do a worthwhile slow song. K-pop producers haven’t really mastered the art of dynamic subtlety, so they fill their ballads with all this overblown shit, usually ten gazillion layers of awful vocal so there’s never a quiet moment where a voice isn’t saying something. A good ballad, however, needs good phrasing and dynamics, and “My Heart Says” and “Style” (even though the latter isn’t a ballad) have something in common — a spacious arrangement where occasionally the layers drop out and there’s some stripped-back sound. Eventually, K-pop’s signature layering and overdubs do come in, but it doesn’t start that way, which means that the song has somewhere to go, and this is important for dynamic progression. On top of that, the vocal melodies over this spacious arrangement are just very decent … and there’s even vocal harmony.
When I first discovered K-pop, I wondered why there weren’t more harmony vocals. After all, if you’ve got between four and nine singers in most groups, you might as well use them, right? I’m sure fans of this group all stroke themselves off about who can sing better than who, but that’s missing the point. If they couldn’t sing, it wouldn’t matter, because no singing talent whatsoever never stopped any of my punk bands from doing vocal harmonies, as it’s actually easier to do harmonies together than a solo vocal because each voice supports the other (just like how not everyone in a choir needs to be a good singer). SoReal gradually lay on the Queen-style harmony vocals, and it really works nicely as the perfect way to progress the song. The delayed vocals in the chorus also kick much ass, and this whole song is full of that stuff and other audio engineering smarts that keep a tight leash on the vocal histrionics when needed, and help build the song in a sensible, dynamic way. The whole thing comes off like a modern, juiced-up version of Australian group 1927’s hit “If I Could” with better writing, better melodies, and better production.
In the meantime, every other K-pop ballad is all about, “Look at me! Look how well I can sing! Listen to my voice do this amazing note! Did you hear that resonance? Did you hear my vibrato? Listen to it again! And again! Aren’t I so wonderful?! Aren’t I so technically brilliant?! Worship me! Hang on … what was the song trying to say again? Oh who cares, fuck how the song sounds, it doesn’t matter because it’s just a vehicle so I can showcase my AMAZING VOCALS, because it’s all about ME ME ME!” And it’s this cancerous, disgusting, trashy attitude that losers like Whitney Houston have brought to pop music, and which awful idol TV shows worldwide continue to propagate.
In the above video, Lovelyz‘s management are training the girls to not jerk off in the public’s faces with self-serving “look at me” ego-wank, but to instead work together as a team and sing what’s right for the audience and the material. If the girls fully take on board this attitude, and the songwriters and audio engineers also come to the party with something that doesn’t suck, I predict solid ballads coming from the Lovelyz camp in the future.
For now, though, we’ve got SoReal, who have completely fucking nailed it with “My Heart Says”.