Best K-Pop Of 2015

18 December, 2015

Since I started writing about archery in 2012 I have developed a deep fascination with Korea. In 2015, me and Ms. Infinite Curve were lucky enough to finally go to Seoul and see for ourselves. Since that trip, we’ve never quite stopped looking up the latest in K-POP, the homegrown pop music of the Han peninsula. There are seemingly a million channels on Korean TV solely devoted to this vast industry, with so many bands that you sometimes wonder if K-POP is some kind of national service that all late-teens have to go through

K-POP is almost like Greek theatre; it follows a tiny set of rules, around which wild invention can spring. It is an eternally youthful world, a utopia of the young, fulfilling narrow roles and just occasionally, breaking out of them. It reflects a hierachical society, where artistic decisions are taken well apart from those chosen to execute them. It is, however, full of incredible creativity, flawlessly executed. Oh yeah, and the key words of the chorus are always sung in English. It’s just how it goes.

It’s manufactured, oh yes –  in the same way that network TV in the US is manufactured, vast teams of competing creatives in search of the gag that gets the biggest laugh. You don’t watch, say, Friends and think ‘wow, this isn’t reflecting the realities of flat-sharing in New York’. You enjoy the zingers, the interplay, the running jokes, the setups. You appreciate on one level or another, the work that has gone in – the precision manufacturing. You might try thinking of K-POP the same way. 

Unlike the decades of Western music and radio play that preceded it, K-POP is a purely audiovisual medium. Your appreciation of the following may depend upon your tolerance for squawking RnB hybrid bangers, bright colours, narrative videos, ridiculous costumery and youth. Always youth. And it’s spreading further round the world every year: you only have to look at the crowds that turned up in London to see girl group {fx} in 2015.

Anyway, here are our favourite tunes of 2015:

  1. Boys Republic – Hello

An epic mid-tempo ballad that wouldn’t have gone amiss on a mid-period Take That album, this nags at the heartstrings. Love the glycerine tears. Love them.

2.  Anda – Touch Official

It’s a bit easy to say this the ‘Korean Rihanna’, but if she is, damn is she good at it. Damn. 

3.  BIGBANG – Zutter

An offshoot of a larger boy band, this is K-HOP with a sense of humour. Bad boys out of their depth. Something like that anyway.

4.  TWICE – Ooh Ahh

Too many of them to count. Stands out with the belting 90s chorus. Stronger than the rest (and there’s plenty of ‘the rest’).

5. Red Velvet – Dumb Dumb

Big RnB belter with a title hook so nagging you’ll be singing it walking down the street. And again tomorrow. And the day after that. Incredible video, too.

6. Park Hyo Shin – Shine Your Light

I have to describe this one as ‘the Korean Sam Smith’. Really just an incredible song. Seriously, if Sam Smith banged some English lyrics on this soul burner, he’d have an(other) international hit. Hello? Sam? Are you listening?

7.  BTS – I Need U

One of the biggest hits of the year in Korea, this bunch of not-very-bad bad-boys have a superweapon chorus that will never leave you. I’m serious. You are stuck with it.

8.  KYUHYUN – The Day We Felt The Distance

Big ballad suitable for reality TV, but we really just love the one-shot video for this. Boy meets girl, boy forgets girl, girl remembers, snow, erm, something.

9.  Girls Generation – Catch Me If You Can

One of the biggest, and best.

10.  Neon Bunny – It’s You

A curio, this one – a K-Pop artist operating outside the management company / studio system. This fills a gap somewhere between fizzy indiepop and FKA Twigs. Recommended.

For more on K-POP and how it ‘works’, you might want to read this 2012 article by Spin magazine.


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