Hoshi’s K-pop Awards 2012: January to June

Hoshi interrupts your daily dose of anime with her picks of the best of the best in K-Pop in the first half of 2012.~

~Pardon this sudden Kpop intrusion on an anime blog, but when college kicks me out of my free time, the easiest, less time consuming thing I can follow is Kpop. Now, this past December was the first time I had ever immersed myself into checking out music award show results for K-pop. Usually I just ignore them and distance myself from any fanwars that occurs because of such things, but I thought, “Hey, why not?”. I ended up seriously disappointed in some of the winners that were chosen (specifically for the MAMA awards)! Of course, I’m not saying they didn’t deserve it, but I had expected other artists to be chosen. Like any other biased fangirl full of rage, I thought I’d take my frustrations out on the internet and name my own choices on who should have won by writing a special for Metanorn. Life and laziness, however, likes to kick me in the ass and by the time I had adequate time and feelings to write it, it was too late to post any such thing. That it is why I waited till summer ladies and gentlemen to bring you my own ‘awards show’ for Kpop in the first half of the year! From best album to best title songs, this is Hoshi’s first half of her Kpop Awards of 2012!

Disclaimer: Now, there’s no way in the world I can listen to EVERYTHING in Kpop, so some artists have obviously been missed. There are also some groups/artists that have been purposely missed as I don’t like the music they bring out, etc. (For instance, I didn’t include rookie group BAP because I don’t like their music that much, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how talented they are). This is basically what I, personally, found enjoyable and this list should not be taken so seriously. Think of it as a recommendation list!

Infant – Clazzi

Favorite songs: Star Child (with Christina / Rap MYK), How We Feel (with Seulong of 2AM), Sexy Doll (with Kota and Jubi of SUNNY HILL / Rap MYK)

Okay, so this isn’t technically Kpop, but I don’t believe this is considered indie either because of Clazzi’s popularity. Anyway, Clazzi’s first solo album is a totally different road from his work with Clazziquai Project. It’s all electronic here with some serious club beats to keep you pumped up and dancing; though there is the occasional mellow tune to slow you down, a beat is still alive and pumping. I will say that some tracks sound a tad messy and with too much repetition can get tiring, but I still believe this is one entertaining album. All around a well put together album with sick beats and amazing, unique vocal talents from the mainstream and indie scene.

The Return – Shinhwa

Favorite songs: Hurts, Be My Love, Move with Me

Now despite being into Kpop for three years, I’m still quite oblivious to the older Kpop groups that started back in the 90′s, so hearing about the legendary Shinhwa returning, I had no particular feelings for this news. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t know how talented these men are. It took me a while to listen to their new album as I didn’t want to make it seem like I was jumping on the Shinhwa bandwagon acting like an old fan, which I obviously wasn’t. So I finally gave the album a try and it turned out to be quite fantastic. The album as a whole feels very fresh. The electronic tracks are light and not so obnoxious sounding, while the ballads are sentimental and highlight the group’s passionate vocals (especially in ‘On the Road’ and ‘Hurts’). There’s a good balance of up-beat and slower-paced songs. The album also has an old school quality to it, but at the same time is modernized just enough to grab hold of the current generation of listeners. Shinhwa’s 10th album has certainly convinced this Kpop fan to check out their early releases.~

Other nominees (Good Picks): IGNITION – B1A4, New Breed – Jay Park

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Males: ALIVE – BIG BANG

Favorite songs: Ego, Still Alive, Feeling

With all the scandals that occurred after their comeback last year, it was a sight of relief to see these men come back together to do what they do best: singing, dancing, and making music. With their fifth mini album, Big Bang comes back with some interesting variety in sound that is, overall, a little different than their usual releases. There’s more of a pop/electronic vibe going on instead of the usual hip-hop undertones (with the exception of ‘Still Alive’ and ‘Bad Boy’) and they have also brought in acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and other instruments to enhance certain songs, giving them a style that I wouldn’t really expect from Big Bang. However, being a long time listener, there’s still that sense that yes, this is Big Bang with their quirky and cool style. In a way, it’s classic Big Bang, but upgraded, modernized. I specifically choose the special edition (which includes the Korean versions of ‘Ego’ and ‘Feeling’ from the Japanese version of ALIVE, a longer version of ‘Still Alive’, and two new songs, ‘Monster’ and ‘Bingeul Bingeul’) because of the variety, which gives us so much more for our ears to experience. Still Alive is definitely one of Big Bang’s best, even if it strays a bit away from their usual sound.

Females: Electric Shock – f(x)

Favorite songs: Let’s Try, Love Hate

Just as the title states, this mini-album is purely electric with the sweet, harmonious voices of f(x) swirled in. It’s certainly a step-up from their previous releases, which, while sounding decent, had no flow. This time around there’s a central theme, but each song is still its own unique piece. The sound theme isn’t repetitive to the point where each song sounds the same. The vocals as well have stepped up this release as there’s more diversity and the lines are actually evenly distributed among the members. It’s as if f(x) has been testing all these music styles, releasing messy mini-albums, and finally found a perfect fit with Electric Shock. Overall, a very bright and fun album to keep you running cheerful and energetic.~

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Males: Sherlock – SHINee

Favorite songs: Alarm Clock, Stranger

After a year of promotions in Japan, SHINee finally came back to the Korean music scene with this semi-interesting mini-album. Though as a dedicated SHINee fan (Shawol as they call it) I at first couldn’t bring myself to buy the physical copy of Sherlock, and not because of the…awkward (yet fun!) covers for it. It wasn’t as well put together as their previous flawless mini albums have. It’s not that the songs weren’t good, but well, two of the songs were mashed up for the title song ‘Sherlock’ and one track, ‘Stranger’, was already released on their first Japanese album. I felt cheated in a way, as a fan, but the three other new tracks were incredibly delightful (or rather epitomes of PERFECTION) and had me swooning over SHINee just as much. I recommend the mini album, but not as much as their previous releases.~

Females: Wonder Party – Wonder Girls

Favorite songs: R.E.A.L, The DJ is Mine

I had never particularly liked Wonder Girls until their album Wonder World came out back in 2011 (which was the best album of the year in my opinion). I’m still not necessarily a big fan, but if they’re releasing something new, without a doubt I’ll check it out, especially after this mini-album. Part party-pumping pop songs, part soulful love songs about sad breakups, Wonder Party is certainly a party of a mini-album. Whether you want a light tune or a serious danceable track, there’s something for everyone’s taste. Overall a more mature feel/vibe is present in this release, from their vocals, sound, and even lyrics. However, I choose f(x) because their mini-album was a tad more interesting, but that doesn’t mean this is an unimpressionable release; it’s probably one of the better mini-albums in their discography.

Other nominees (Good Picks): Touch – Miss A, Spring: 5 Songs for Love – J.Y.Park, Twinkle – Girls Generation TTS (TaeTiSeo), Sweet Rendezvous – Nine Muses

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With the current trend among Korean music companies to debut as many new groups as possible with hopes of at least one hitting big (in 2012 alone there have been more then 60 new groups), it becomes hard to choose just who to listen and give your support to. Out of the many, many candidates, I’ve found a few gems that I believe are some of the best in rookie groups so far; however, I can only pick two, so here are my personal top two rookie groups of 2012 so far. (My other recommendations and ones that I recognize as really great debuts will put into the other half of this post!)

 Releases: Potently (Digital single); Russian Roulette (mini album); Painkiller (Repackaged song)~

SPICA may not have gotten as much as attention as other female rookie groups, but they’re certainly gaining more with their talent. Out of any debut girl group this year, SPICA are the only ones who have my complete attention. Both of their releases were outstanding; catchy pop tunes with a mix of R&B coupled with their wonderful, soulful vocals. I don’t think any rookie group this year (so far) can compare! They have managed to stay away from the female rookie group cliches that always manage to kill my interest, and have a cool, sleek style that I love. I urge you to give these lovely ladies a try.

 

Releases: What Is Love (Prologue single); History (Prologue single, included with MAMA); MAMA (mini-album)~

Probably one of the most anticipated debuts this year as SM kicked up the fancy-smancy factor by giving these boys 21 TEASERS to tease us fangirls with, along with two prologue singles complete with music videos. They furthered tortured us by separating these 12 adorable boys into EXO-K, who promotes in Korea, and EXO-M, who promotes in China, and having them release the same songs in both Korean and Mandarin. Being a fan of practically every group SM has debuted, I felt it was my duty to give some support to EXO but now I’ve become a full-fledged fan on my own will (as you can tell with this recommendation). Not only do these boys have likeable (and adorable) personalities, but they bring out some powerful vocals and slick dance skills. The only tragedy is that they haven’t had a new release yet. However with the few, full songs they have, I’ve come to love every single one of them, from the intense ‘MAMA’, to the lovely ‘What Is Love’, and to the catchy ‘History’. I recommend checking out SM’s newest group, who have a lot to offer, if only SM would give them a new release.

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Recently (thanks to tumblr actually), I’ve been finding more and more Korean indie bands and artists to listen to, so I felt the need to give them their own section in this ‘award show’. Korean indie, as well as other more underground music genres such a hip-hop, is a hard genre to get into as their music isn’t as readily available for download as the more mainstream K-pop. You can find a few notable artists however on itunes and buy albums on websites such as yesasia, but for people like me who need to actually listen to an album before buying it and have no money, it’s quite difficult. Luckily, tumblr has some great blogs that give out indie songs to listen to and I’ve managed to find some of my favorite groups from there. I highly recommend checking out Korean indie (as well as Korean hip-hop and rock) when you get tired of the typical Kpop formula. Now with some pure luck, and some intense livejournal/google searching, I present to you some of my favorite indie picks of 2012 so far.

Haute Couture – Glen Check

Favorite songs: French Virgin Party, Vogue Boys and Girls, 60′s Cardin

Glen Check is now a two-piece band (the drummer left not too long ago) consisting of singer/guitar player June-One Kim and bass/synthesizer player Hyuk-Jun Kang. Haute Couture is their first studio album after releasing three EPs in 2011 and it is just a spectacular album. It has the perfect sound that I love: upbeat for me to want to continuously listen to, yet mellow enough so that I feel somewhat at peace. A lot of the songs are oddly calming due to June-One’s monotone-ish voice that surprisingly fits among the upbeat sounds. He also sings just in English with no hint of Engrish in sight. There are so many great multi-layered melodies going on in every song that each piece is just so…interesting! Without a doubt Glen Check’s Haute Couture is one of my favorite Korean indie albums of all time and definitely worth the listen no matter what genre you’re into.

Beyond the Sky – Black Bag

Favorite songs: White One, Beautiful Morning

Now onto a completely different style than Glen Check, Beyond the Sky is Black Bag’s debut EP that showcases more of a classic rock style. It is clear of any synthesized or electronic sounds with more focus on the guitar and vocals. Without the muddling of too much background noises, this gives the overall EP a crisp, freshness to it. The sound may be simple, but each song has a different tone that keeps the EP interesting and continuously refreshing. It’s quite the…chill album that I wouldn’t mind listening to while cruising around in my car. Obviously another highly recommended album.~

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This section is dedicated to title indie songs to which I can’t buy or listen to the full albums that they come from. These were honestly just too good to pass up.

1. Love Dance – THE KOXX

Probably my absolute favorite song in all that I’ve heard in Korean indie. While the video provides some hilarious car riding shenanigans, there’s something about this song that makes my heart…soar. It’s probably the combination of the simple, lovely lyrics and the calming, yet upbeat, music. I love this song so much I have no more words…

More picks~ Show ▼

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 Now onto the potentially-controversial grand finale, where every and any title songs was up for consideration (except new artists/groups).~

15. Alone – Sistar

At the bottom of the list is the sultry Sistar with what I like to call their sexy ‘Slit-Dress’ Dance. The slow chorus at first threw me off completely from this song, but…the video, from sexy shots of Sistar to the colorful clubs of Las Vegas, and the overall mature woman vibe, I just couldn’t stay away. The song still seems a little lackluster however, which is why they’ve only made it to #15 at the moment.

Let’s continue on~ Show ▼

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And the last minute squeeze of this half is:
Love Style – Boyfriend 

My favorite babies boys managed to make a comeback during June, but I found myself unable to fit them in any of the categories. However, because I love these boys, I couldn’t resist squeezing them in here. ‘Love Style’ is a sweet Spring tune with a music video filled with floral print suits, pastel colors, and of course the fresh faces of Boyfriend, who have improved through all their releases since their debut last year. Now I can only hope they’ll come back before the year is up!

Overall Thoughts: Without a doubt the best months were March and June, where March brought on a slew of legendary male group comebacks with Shinhwa, Big Bang, and SHINee; while June brought on another legendary comeback sweep with f(x), Wonder Girls, and other incredible music. 2012 so far has definitely not been lackluster. There have been a lot of fresh sounds, as well as an increasing trend in electronic sounds and dubstep that makes Kpop even more westernized in sound. In some cases, this new trend has worked for songs, but in others, it obviously hasn’t. Either the dubstep is placed at the most random part in the song, or the electronics just make a song too messy and more annoying with each listen. Personally I have been trying to find more fresh and genuine sounds this year, which is probably why I have been occasionally switching to indie music. Even so, 2012 has certainly been entertaining and the second half is getting better and better with each month.

With that, thank you for reading this extremely long post! My writing has gotten pretty rusty with each episodic I postpone. I also have a hard time writing about music (which I hope to improve on in the future), so I will not say this is my best work. Also, I’m planning on attending KCON in Irvine, California on October 13th, so if you’re going and you want to to tell me directly in my face that I’m too biased with SHINee, have horrible choices, or argue about anything in Kpop, then hit me up! We can set a battle time. Thanks again for reading! I’ll be back in January (hopefully)~!

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About

A tired, over-dramatic 20 year old college student who likes manga and cheesy Korean boy bands. Prone to accidentally turning on her natural laziness and refusing to work for hours on end.
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24 Responses to “Hoshi’s K-pop Awards 2012: January to June”

  1. Gecko says:

    How We Feel! I love that song, although I really like LOVE&HATE from the same album as well. I kept putting it on repeat on youtube. XD
    SHINee.. Sherlock really disappointed me. I didn’t feel like it was the SHINee I liked. They’ve gotten better, but there’s so much extra energy for parts of the song that aren’t necessary to me. Like around 1:52 of the video, what is all that extra background noise things? Boyfriend kind of replaced them… well, cause they’re Boyfriend. I like their style and general lightness, in both color and music. I don’t think it’s bad to be biased to SHINee, though.
    As for your top 15, I would have had Grasshopper Song, LOVE&HATE, and Baby, Good night up a bit higher. Love Style would have been up there too. But I can’t think of 15 songs to make a list, so I won’t try.

    • Hoshi says:

      ~I agree ‘Sherlock’ had a sound that wasn’t the usual SHINee, but I loved how powerful it sounded so I found myself loving it a lot. And I think some of the extra background noise was added in the video. For some reason SM likes to do that in their music videos…
      Boyfriend kind of reminds me of SHINee when they first started out, except with a bit more colorful music, if that makes sense.

      Yeah I have some regrets not putting those songs up higher, but oh well. A top 15 list is hard to make, hahaha. I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure it out. There’s just so many great songs.

      • Gecko says:

        Boyfriend does remind me of how SHINee started out as well, although I do think SHINee started out with darker themes running through their songs. Boyfriend is super happy and light with their songs.

      • Gecko says:

        Oh wait, I forgot about Hello and Replay. I was only thinking of RingDingDong and Lucifer, those videos had so much black in them.

        • Hoshi says:

          ~I agree; Boyfriend has always had happy, light songs. SHINee’s first release had a more mellow, sweet, R&B sound, but later on, they got more electronic sounds in their music. There are some songs in their albums that have their old sound, but not as much.

  2. Zaphan says:

    What about “Gangnam Style” by PSY?

  3. Amutofan123 says:

    Mmmm, I love me some Big Bang~ Especially G-Dragon. He is my future husband.

    • Hoshi says:

      ~G-Dragon is amaaazinggggg. I bought his first solo album and I loved it. His new solo stuff is great too.

  4. akagami says:

    My sister was going “omg, you’re SOOOO biased… you’re so Shawol!” ^^ She’s my k-pop expert.

  5. akagami says:

    Oh, and I learnt something new… I always thought SHINee was a girl band, like 2NE1. I mean, for someone who knows very little about k-pop, doesn’t shiny and twenty-one sound more feminine? Like how Forever 21 is a female fashion store.

    • Hoshi says:

      ~Totally understandable, hahaha. When I first heard of SHINee, I thought the name for them was a little girly as well.

  6. Felice says:

    What about BAP?

    • Hoshi says:

      ~I’m not really into BAP’s music. I recognize that they’re quite talented but, I just can’t get into them for some reason. My friend has been pushing them on me since they debuted.

  7. MikADo says:

    I LOVE THE KOXX! and i just recently found out about Haute Couture too! hehehe indie ROCK! though i hardly listen to kpop anymore (though im a korean :P ) i love the k-indie :D im enjoying the j-rock genre too

    • Hoshi says:

      ~I started loving The KOXX after their ‘Love Dance’ song. I really want to buy their albums ;; And YES~ I can’t express how much I love Haute Couture! Glen Check is already one of my favorite indie bands ever.
      I (obviously) still listen to Kpop a lot, but whenever I get too tired of it, I’ll switch over to K-indie for a while. I’m absolutely loving K-indie too~

  8. I freaked out when I saw Glen Check and Clazzi in this, because damn the album’s all kind of amazing! XD Though my love will still be Nell’s Slip Away. \O/

    What are your thought on them? Nell, that is. Because I’m bias like that. Brick me. XDD

    • Hoshi says:

      ~Definitely all kinds of amazing!
      I actually haven’t gotten a chance to listen to Nell’s Slip Away album, which is why I wasn’t able to include it on this post.

      It’s okay I’m bias like that with SHINee all the time.
      I’ve only listened to a few Nell songs here on there on tumblr so I can’t give that great of an opinion on them >< I do like the singer’s voice and their songs are quite calming~ I really need to check out more of their music…

      • ^THIS. \O/
        Ah~ You should! I love almost all the songs, and have it on repeat for a month before I discover other songs from the band and…I think my playlist is 50% Nell by now.

        I know, that’s damn obvious LOL. Not like it’s a bad thing so no worries ha!

        The thing about Nell is their lyrics, which are usually beautiful and poetic. Add that to Jong-wan’s voice and the melody and it’s a winning combo IMO. Their early rocks are rougher in sound, and some song like Act 5 can have an eerie meaning, I never look at the song the same way again after I read the lyrics OTL.

        Go check them out! Yay for possibility of a new fan of the band! XDDDDD Yes, I act like a promoter for them everywhere orz

        And pardon the long comment, I…can go on and on if you let me talk on my bias, so yeah. >.<

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