It’s no secret that Kpop suffered heavy losses this past year. The entire country collectively mourned for 3 weeks, leaving many schedules canceled and new releases pushed back. While I didn’t listen to them, the Ladies Code crash rippled to all parts of kpop, and other stars went through injury. Lastly, many prominent kpop stars pushed back against their contracts, switching companies or all together leaving the Kpop scene. Yet I found I was at no shortage of fabulous songs, and like last year, I had to cut songs from the honorable mentions section, let alone the top 10. So without further ado, I give you the music videos that I thought were the best this year. Scoring is biased towards the song, but the video also has a heavy weight to how high the song is placed on the list. Cultural relevance and years in the industry also have an impact on how well the song scores.
10. TVXQ- Spellbound
This year has been a fantastic one for swing, and the trend started with TVXQ on the first of the year when they came out with “Something”. “Spellbound” is the even better follow up to their first song of the year, adding a Vegas style flair to the “One shot” box style video that SM is known for. One thing that particularly impressed me about the video is that the backup dancers actually interacted with the camera instead of trying to blend in.
9. F(x)- Red Light
I rather liked the dark styling in this video and the almost round like song. It was an extremely different and memorable song. The draw backs to it were the lack of a climax and how loud the background layering comes through on headphones. It wasn’t mixed as well as I would have liked. All of the ladies were styled well to their personalities and the stylist left behind the usual Katamari ball of weird accessories.
8. Purfles 1,2,3
The first of several rookies on my list, Purfles took their solid harmonies to the bank on this club style Kpop song. Their name is kinda dumb, and their company is small so their distribution is limited, but I advise you to actively promote these girls and the other rookies on this list. All of the groups feature strong vocals, something I feel we need more of in Kpop. Purfles are still working on reaching cohesion live, but if their introduction video tells me one thing, its that their vocal talent may be rough, but its real. Also workout sections of songs are my soft spot, not to mention that her boxing was actually decent.
7. 2ne1- Come Back Home
This is the song I arguably have the most bias with. 2ne1 is my favorite band, and I identify as Blackjack when asked by another Kpop purveyor. This song sits at number 7 because is a slightly above average song with amazing production value. The song does not reach the level of quality I expect from 2ne1, but I spent weeks watching nothing but this music video. It looks gorgeous and has a story worth unraveling.
6. Kiss & Cry- Domino Game
Can we have more trumpet please in songs? The Latin flare and beat is so good in this Kpop song and the dance follows suit. The vocals are very strong, although whether the strong vocals continue after the loss of a member remains to be seen… its not for certain that the group will even be making a comeback. I hope that even if they do not make it back, that more rookie groups will be following in their style, strong vocals, strong image, strong dancing. Strong is sexy.
5. EXO K- Overdose
I think this song slammed its way onto my list because I (wrongly) attribute it to bringing back Kpop. It was the first song to be released after the ferry accident, and I was grateful to them. The ferry tragedy affected me like it did other Kpop fans, but it also occurred during my student teaching and I felt the tragedy a little differently as a teacher myself. Kpop was my way to bring me out of my funk and I was very happy when news of an EXO comeback came my way. Usually I like the M version of the song better, but for this release, I think the K version is much stronger.
4. Block B- Her
Block B’s move to Seven Seasons seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered for the group. While the lines really aren’t balanced anymore, it seems like Zico having a greater hold of creative control on the group has allowed the members to make videos that adhere to their sense of humor. In addition to that, the songs sound different, and that’s not only musical styling. Zico’s writing doesn’t rely on the same tropes that other pop songs seem to use, and so the words sound different than the typical “saranghae” nonsense. I would love to see more releases from them, or even subunit work.
3. Taeyang et ala- Eyes Nose Lips cover project
By itself, “Eyes, nose, lips” is a simple but forgettable ballad. The original song was well sung, and while Taeyang was shirtless for the entirety, the shooting never focused on what he looked like. Here is the original:
YG did a very smart thing with this song and allowed other artists on their label to reinvent the song in their style, bringing out the cover project. The first is the brother sister duo AKMU, who did the song in a soft spring-like indie style.
The second was the English rap ballad version done by Tablo of Epik High. Taeyang sings the bridge on this version in English. The lyrics are decent; listen to this one carefully.
The third and final YG cover is by Lydia Paek, a choreographer under YG. Her cover is a English Ballad. Lydia is formerly of Quest Crew, a dance crew based out of LA, so her English is very accurate and slang infused.
Lastly, while he is not under YG, Eric Nam, a Kpop artist born in Georgia did a verbatim English translation of Taeyang’s original song.
Now all of these songs separately would not be enough to make it onto the list, but together the concept of “Eyes, Nose, Lips” is enough to make it to the third spot on the list.
2. Mamamoo- Piano Man
This song nearly became my number one song of the year. Mamamoo debuted at the beginning of this year, but they seemed to be on very few Kpop fan’s radar. This song however, is a brilliant use of their vocal talents to deliver swing music that uses excellent piano that was clearly live recorded for the song. The video evokes a 1920’s speakeasy, and each idol is cast as a different person inside the club. What is even more spectacular than the video is the live performance, which not only sounds exactly like the recording, but every single performance version differs from the others. They do a different action or add a different flavor sentence to the blank spaces of the song. It gives the viewer a reason to sit through all the live versions to find the differences. It also shows how talented these girls are, to remember which version is happening at which show. There are at least a dozen live performances, and if you like this song even slightly, I encourage you to watch a live version… or two… or 8.
1. Spica- You Don’t Love Me
Do I even have to explain? I hope the 3 rookie groups mentioned on this list this year reach the vocal prowess that Spica just is. The styling of the video uses a lot of 40’s and 50’s makeup, hair and outfits, and while this is a box video, they actually interact with the set, to hilarious fashion at the end of the song. Their take on the use of butt padding in the industry is amusing as hell and the whole thing is quite frankly perfect. The only issue I’ve ever had with it has been the English translation of the song being not quite as girl power as the video is, but since I can’t speak Korean, it’s not really an appropriate complaint, nor would it change the spot on the list if I added that problem into the equation.
At the end of every list, I add five slots for videos that didn’t quite make it on the list. As for my honorable mentions:
1. Everything that Orange Caramel touched this year. Seriously, they had Catellena and My Copycat for main songs which both had awesome videos. They had a great commercial video for Baskin Robbins called Abing Abing, and my personal favorite Gangnam Avenue. If I liked their group concept even a tiny bit more than I do, any one of these songs could have been on the list.
2. High4 and IU- Not Spring, Love or Cherry Blossoms. This was huge in Korea, especially because they really like seasonally themed music. This is the first time I really enjoyed a song centered around the start of spring and how the writer did not want to have to deal with love blossoming.
3. Kara- Mamma Mia. I was pleasantly surprised with this song; I was worried with the loss of 2 members that Kara was not going to fair well. This song was really good.
4. Masta Wu ft. Dok2 & Bobby- Come here. It’s a guilty pleasure to be honest. I liked the stripped out mixing and I’m rather a fan of the flow of all the members featured. I have no idea what they’re saying and I think if I did I probably wouldn’t like it as much as I do. I’m trying to stay blissfully ignorant.
5. Got7- A. As you may be able to see by my lists, I enjoy female groups far more than male groups, because I like their singing a lot more. What carries this song is the video, especially the dancing and the humor used and how sometimes they intertwine the two. It’s also pretty damn catchy considering most of the chorus is AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYEEEEEEE.
Hoping for a good 2015 for Kpop. Have a happy New Year everyone.