EDITORIAL | MY TOP 10 of 2012

So it’s already mid February of 2013. Time flies eh? Where id 2012 go?

2012 was an amazing year for K-Pop. Comebacks and debuts in abundance and I found it hard not to enjoy at least 95% of the music released in Korea last year. So, I think it’s only right that I compile my top 10 of 2012 in retrospect. 2012, a year in K-Pop that deserves to be celebrated.

10. HyunA – Ice Cream

So, people who personally know me, know how much I adore the 4minute girl that is Kim HyunA. 2011 saw the release of her amazing debut solo mini album “Bubble Pop!” which went on to become one of the best selling and fan favorite songs of 2011. Following “Bubble Pop!” HyunA went on to see further success with BEAST’s Hyunseung in sub unit “Troublemaker” which had a massive impact on the K-charts at the end of 2011 and following right through until 2012. Since it’s chart success Troublemaker has managed to scoop up several awards including best Duo at the Mnet MAMA and more recently Best duo dance performance.

HyunA has had worldwide success appearing on PSY’s world wide smash “Gangnam Style” with people not familiar to K-Pop posing the question “Who is that!” during HyunA’s appearances even leading to rumours of US record label bosses showing interest in our Korean beauty. It’s easy to see, no disrespect to 4minute as I am a huge fan myself, that HyunA has had massive success on her own – more so than the girls as a group.

So, 2012 after the massive success of “Gangnam Style” and her own version of the track “Oppa! You’re My Style” HyunA came back to the scene as a solo artist with mini album “Melting” and lead single “Ice cream.” “Ice cream” is a funky and fresh pop track in typical cheeky HyunA style. Combining incredibly cute with insanely sexy at the same time (a concept that has become HyunA’s claim to fame) the track doesn’t disappoint and easily appeals to HyunA fans world round. However, in my opinion it doesn’t meet the standard of “Bubble Pop!” which has certainly gone down as a modern K-Pop classic. Hence, “Ice cream” places firmly at No. 10 in my top 10 of 2012.

09. T-ARA – Sexy Love

T-ARA suffered heavily in 2012 after the controversy surrounding the departure of member Hwayoung. Fans were divided and non-fans hated the girls pure based on rumor and slander. I was surprised when the girls fought back against the odds that were pitted against them and released repackage album “Mirage” with the insanely addictive, electro-pop tinged track “Sexy Love.” which despite the media controversy managed to rocket up the charts, going up for music show wins (but never actually winning) on M!countdown and Music Bank.

T-ARA fans and K-Pop fans alike know well T-ARA’s key to success since “Bo Peep Bo Peep” has been their catchy choreography. “Bo Peep Bo Peep” and its “Paw dance”, “yayaya” and the Native American dancing, Roly Poly’s “night fever-esque” routine and Lovey Dovey’s shuffle. However “Sexy Love” has got to have T-ARA’s best choreography to date with the world renowned “Robot” it’s super catchy and easy to learn.

Here’s hoping for an even stronger comeback from the girls this year. T-ARA, fighting!

08. Ailee – I Will Show You

Ailee has quickly become a household name amongst K-Pop fans, becoming one of the most popular female soloists in South Korea. Debuting in early 2012 with the gorgeous ballad “Heaven” combined with a music video starring BEAST’s Lee Kikwang, Ailee showcased amazing live vocals and stage performances. It was clear she was going to be huge from her massive vocal range, bubbly personalty and a pretty face to boot.

Then in October 2012, Ailee released her first mini album “Invitation” and lead single, the disco themed smasher “I Will Show You”. Reminiscent of “One Night Only” from “Dreamgirls” there was no doubt this song wasn’t going to be a hit. Carrying a message that oh so many people can relate to “You didn’t like me before, now I have something you want, you’re interested?” and “I will show you I will be more than this.” a positive message encouraging people who have been looked over or even bullied that you will have your time to shine.

It took some time, but Ailee managed to score herself music show wins showing South Korea and the world that she wasn’t just a fleeting thing. That Ailee and her fanbase (Aileans) are here to stay.

07. 4minute – Volume Up

First half of 2012 saw the ladies of 4minute come back as a full unit with their third mini album “Volume Up.” Now, Cube had us guessing from the moment the comeback was announced stating that the album was going to be very different to the girls previous releases and that the album would carry a very “experimental” sound. I was worried.

With the girls popularity not exactly strong throughout Asia (their singles had performed terribly in Japan) and they were constantly being over shined by rival girl groups (SISTAR in particular) would a change in sound help or hinder the girls comeback? However we definitely weren’t left disappointed when the mysterious teaser video of a vampire HyunA with a hint of saxophone was released leaving us begging for the full song to be released.

4minute’s “Volume Up” is a massive club banger. One of the best European sounding dance tracks ever to come out of Korea and has been a long lasting track on my iPod especially. It’s addictive, the saxophone is an amazing addition to the track and the girls vocals had improved massively since their debut. HyunA even getting to open the song and not with a rap! “Volume Up” definately pleased 4minute fans everywhere… but it was soon to be over shadowed (again) by non other than…

06. SISTAR – Alone

When SISTAR released their teasers for “Alone” they certainly left a lot to the imagination. They had a “In the club” feeling and it appeared SISTAR’s new song would be another dance number similar to that of previous hit “So Cool” but that certainly wasn’t the same.

Fast forward to the official release date of the full music video and the stunning mini album “Alone” was actually the complete flip side of what the teaser showcased. “Alone” is a sultry, classy R&B track that would later prove to be the 2nd biggest selling song in Korea (beaten by PSY’s Gangnam Style.) it showcased the girls big vocals and their beauty. The music video combined with the very sexy choreography also showcased the girls curvaceous figures and their natural beauty which certainly added to the songs success.

SISTAR found themselves up against 4minute on music shows but as usual – SISTAR prevailed but who can blame people for preferring “Alone” over “Volume Up” when “Alone” was at the time such a breath of fresh air compared with other releases in the country at the time. “Alone” solidified SISTAR as a force to be reckoned with in Korea… watch out Girls’ Generation. Which leads me on to my 5th favourite track of 2012.

05. Girls Generation TTS – Twinkle

I was very skeptical when SM TOWN announced Girls’ Generation would be debuting it’s first official sub unit. Consisting of members Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun, TTS, appeared in teaser images resembling what I can only describe as faeries? It was definately “Girls’ Generation-esque” in image, but what would their music sound like?

Now I would never call myself a massive Girls’ Generation fan. I do like them and I have purchased a lot of their music but they are very hit or miss with me. However, I was very surprised when the mini album was released, immediately purchasing the full album via iTunes I was addicted. Every track on their album was perfect in all it’s SM TOWN high production glory and “Twinkle” was definately not what I expected.

An old school R&B (and slightly disco/motown) sounding pop song. Catchy sing a long English “T-Twinkle, T-Twinkle…” funky beats and a gorgeous music video (starring the boys of EXO) very typical in SM TOWN style, SM TOWN definitely hadn’t cut any corners when delivering Girls’ Generation’s first sub unit to the world.

I don’t think “Twinkle” will ever get old. (Even if my favorite song from the mini album is “Baby Steps”)

04. EXO-K – History

I apologize on behalf of any EXO-M fans but since this is my top 10 K-Pop tracks I am focusing purely on the Korean language version of EXO-K’s teaser single “History.”

As everyone knows, EXO-K debuted thier first teaser starring Kai at the back end of 2011 and went on to release teaser after teaser featuring different songs, members and insane choreography. The first full MV they released as the R&B ballad “What Is Love?” which showed to the world just how much vocal power the boys of SM’s brand new boy group had. Next up was the very SHINee-esque track “History” a power house pop song with insane beats, addictive melody and superb synchronized choreography. An instant favorite to many, “History” for me beats out their official debut track “MAMA” in terms of song, dance and concept.

The boys debut mini album and “History” especially has left fans imagining just what the boys have in store for us next… but let’s not get our hopes up thinking SM TOWN will reveal anything any time soon since it has almost been 1 year since their debut and we are still no where near a come back.

03. Boyfriend – Love Style

Boyfriend debuted in 2011 with the aegyo filled “Boyfriend” much to my disappointment not fulfilling the expectations of the dark and rather sexy teaser video which was released prior to their debut. It took until the release of their first mini album “Love Style” for me to fully appreciate them (and then become a little obsessed) and I did end up loving their previous tracks once I had “Love Style” wedged into my mind.

From the release of the songs teaser I had a feeling the track wasn’t going to disappoint. It retained the boys cute image but it wasn’t overly cute. “Love Style” is a funky and happy song that’s able to slap a smile right onto my miserable face. Not only the lead track itself but the mini album in its entirety is a fantastic listen. It’s brilliantly produced and comes across as more of a “concept album” than anything with each song having a similar feel or sound.

If you’re a skeptical K-Pop fan like myself and have yet to give the boys of Boyfriend a listen, definitely start with “Love Style” I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

02. SHINee – Sherlock

As I’ve been a massive fan of SHINee (and happily call myself a Shawol) since their debut, SHINee have yet to disappoint me. However, I will hold my hands up to say when they revealed their “Hippy French Boy” concept photos I panicked. Now, everyone knows SM TOWN’s concepts never seem to match the final product but still, I was worried – and then they used the dreaded word “experimental” and “new” when describing their comeback track “Sherlock.” a song that would be a mash up of two brand new songs both “Clue” and “Note”.

Thankfully, “Sherlock” turned out to be one of the boys best songs to date. Amazing use of strings, solid beats, your typical SHINee melodies and strong vocals from all members. “Sherlock” definitely was a breath of fresh air in terms of SM TOWN releases. Their “mash-up” concept was a hit world wide, the Japanese version charting as high as No.2 on the weekly Oricon chart.

I’m very excited to see what comes of SHINee’s comeback with “Dream Girl” hitting digital stores in three days time (19th of Feb). Fingers crossed this ones another hit for the very talented SHINee boys.

01. TEEN TOP – Be Ma Girl

Liking TEEN TOP since “No More Perfume On You”, 2012 certainly solidified my place as an “Angel” because, frankly, all three releases from the boys in 2012 was K-Pop at its best. “Crazy”, becoming their first big hit securing music show wins, the amazing sexy R&B track “To You” and the summer pop song “Be Ma Girl” TEEN TOP are certainly on course to become one of K-Pop’s giants.

“Be Ma Girl” is one of those tracks that gets you on your feet dancing, laughing, smiling and singing a long. The song is as colorful as the concept behind the song, the music video especially showcasing just how bright the song is. It wasn’t their most successful song of the year, but to me it was their stand out track and will live with me as one of my all time K-Pop favorites for years to come.

TEEN TOP have already revealed their pre-release track “I wanna love” with a more mature image, let’s see what the boys have in store for us when their first full length album “No.1” hits stores at the end of February!

Other favourites that didn’t quite cut the top 10: B.A.P – No mercy, BIGBANG – Fantastic Baby, G-Dragon – Crayon, 2NE1 – I Love You, BEAST – Beautiful Night, 100% – Bad Guy, INFINITE – The Chaser, Miss A – Touch, Ga in – Bloom…

Let us know what you think of our top 10 and what your 10 ten of 2012 were!

All videos credit to the respective groups/labels official youtube channels!

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