Hello all, resident kpop fan of Ravingnerd popping in to give you the scoop on what you may have missed this year in the kpop world (that’s me, Emily). Even if you aren’t a fan of kpop past Gangnam Style, South Korean artists have a lot of great music to offer. If you’re stuck in a music rut or just looking to branch out – this post is for you!
The categories are as follows:
- Music video
Note: none of these are ranked as they are all pretty awesome! I’ve included links to the music videos, the music video with English subtitles, and the dance version of each.
Music Video – this category is for kpop productions that didn’t necessarily have the catchiest songs or the best dance but rather the production that had the most theatrics, meaning, just general effects that make them stand out from the other music videos of 2012.
The Grasshopper Song, based off of the Aesop fable about the hard-working ant and the leisurely grasshopper, promotes an moral not often seen in kpop – that there is more to life than constantly working (like an ant) and that you can still earn your share (sugar in this case) by working like a grasshopper (musician, performer, etc.). This idea is especially strong considering that the song’s country of origin puts so much emphasis on hard work and study.From the insect-like costumes to the individual sets, The Grasshopper Song is one of the most phenomenal kpop videos I’ve seen this year.
Okay, I secretly don’t care for this any further than it’s video. The song can’t decide what it wants to be. But, looking onto the positives – the theme of the music video is cool. Every member is supposed to represent an element and they’re shown wielding it or using it. I felt like I was watching some kind of movie – these effects were so cool! We get things like giant birds of flame, waterbending, controlling tornadoes – sometimes I forget this is a kpop video just because of these amazing effects. This is really rare for a what could have been just a music video.
Now, I might want to put a 18+ warning on this before I send you off to watch this video because it is about female sexuality. And blatantly so. But don’t let that steer you away from this video because if you do, you’re missing what could be the best video in this category. Ga.in (member of the Brown Eyed Girls) is absolutely stunning in this video and the grandiose special effects timed well with the song make for an intense viewing experience.Ga.in knows how to be both adorable and sexy and that only helps the production be that much better.
Easily the best part of the video is the flood of YG trainees in assorted costumes completely over-taking the music video with chaos and adorable rage. We’ve even got a Joker and Harvey Dent amongst them all! I can only imagine how fun this video had to have been to make. How many companies will let their performers just obliterate a set with to the point you can’t even recognize it anymore? The kids are adorable, dressed up like members of BIG BANG, Batman’s rouges gallery and even a Lady Gaga. Totally fun video.
This production could have easily been included in all three categories. I personally have watched it more times than any other video on this list. Yoseob Yang (from the band B2ST) doesn’t have the greatest English, but if you can put that aside for the fact that he’s strapped into a harness to do a few in flight tricks and harboring a spirit alike the dancing Michael Jackson this is a great video. Yoseop’s and his backup dancers choreography along with the costumes and cafe-feel of the song make it just beautiful. This is a bittersweet story that perfectly fits the title. Definitely recommended for coffee drinkers and broken hearts alike.
Song – this category is for kpop songs that were easily the catchiest of this year. The music videos and dances probably didn’t shine as brightly as the songs themselves, so this list is mostly the songs I would suggest to people who are interested in kpop past Gangnam Style.
Although this is one of the three songs on this list that follows the basic kpop formula, it goes to shows why said formula works. To make an electropop dance track about electricity is a lot of fun. It’s nothing new in the kpop world, but there’s just something great about f(x) that makes this song stand out. They’re one of the best girl groups in the industry (which is saying something what with SNSD monopolizing it) because their voices match up so well.
B2ST – Beautiful Night | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.] (<— 2gangster4u)
B2ST (BEAST) was unfortunately not very active this year. But this song almost made up for it. This song and Caffeine did. Okay. That being said Beautiful Night is a great track. It’s currently my ringtone! It’s a great “jump around like an idiot” track and the Engrish is perfect for making up your own lyrics (eg “I lost muh money”, “I know somebody” etc.). This was a very different song for B2ST, but not necessarily a bad one.
Block B – Nillili Mambo | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
Block B throws in their own brand of quirk to a “pirate song” to make a really great song. Listening to the song makes one feel like a rapscallion running through the alleys of a port town. I also have a thing for songs that have a (I don’t know the music term for this so here we go) “carnival” motif as heard in the first bars of the singing. It gives the song the playful tone it deserves in contrast to a potential serious mood.
Big Bang – Fantastic Baby | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
If you’re new to kpop this is the song for you to listen to. I really can’t explain what made this song so great except for the lyrics. There’s plenty of English and nonsense “nananana” to keep this song in your head for at least a month. This track also has a killer bass, much like its western cousin genre. Other than that, Daesung’s belting before the chorus is great. The chopping of his voice maybe a little unnecessary but who am I to complain, really?
Super Junior – Sexy, Free & Single | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
I always get a kick out of this song because of the Engrish – it’s not the worst of this year (SuJu’s other song probably could be) but the first thing I wanted to do when I became single was definitely not play bingo. Don’t get me wrong, I like Super Junior! Just don’t ever watch anything they do in English. The song itself is really only great for the chorus but you will not get that dang chorus out of your head.
Dance – this category is for the dances that were the most ground-breaking or original from this year. The videos or songs themselves aren’t necessarily the most interesting from this year but the dances are easily some of the most memorable of the year.
Wonder Girls – Like This | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
Now this kind of thing is pretty rare for a kpop video too. The basic premise is that the Wonder Girls learn a dance, grab some back up dancers and go out in public and dance to it – inviting members of an outdoor shopping mall to do so too, You get all sorts of shots of little kids dancing (so cute) and assorted old ladies just doing their own thing to the beat of the song. The dance itself isn’t anything innovative but the fact that they recreated the spirit of a flash mob for a music video is just so much fun.
TVXQ! – Catch Me | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
I used to be in colorguard, so my affinity for using props in a dance shows when I list TVXQ! here. Changmin and Yunho are the only actual members of this group, but their back up dancers deserve a lot of credit for making this dance so phenomenal. I don’t know how to talk about this without spoilers, but the most I can say is keep a close eye on the gauntlets that everyone in the troupe are wearing. You’ll be wanting a pair by the end of the dance.
INFINITE – The Chaser | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
I had a hard time placing this in any category, but seeing as INFINITE is a dance group, they deserved to be put here. This dance, these dancers. They command the stage and they own it. The choreography is reflected in the music and vice versa, which is really neat. The attention to detail in the moves is something anyone who appreciate visual arts can get a kick out of it. This choreography asked a lot out of INFINITE and they gave it back full force.
SHINee – Sherlock | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
As much as it pains me to say, SHINee is the cleaner of the two boy bands that made it to this list. No amount of deceptive camera angles or props can prove me wrong. They look so good in comparison to everyone in this category. It also helps that the dance is the second easiest to do on this this, so I can only imagine how many fans or dance collabs covered this. Generally, I thought the execution was spot on, but as for the choreography the only “wow!” moments were the beginning of the chorus and the deceptive staging at the beginning.
PSY – Gangnam Style | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.] (<— 10/10 choreography)
Oh, here’s the video you all know! Do I need to talk about it? I’m sure you all know the dance already, which is awesome! PSY did worlds of good with Gangnam Style, inspiring people to become interested in kpop. Granted, the dance itself wasn’t terrifically difficult it did serve its purpose to be the one dance move everyone knows and recognizes regardless of your interest in kpop. It’s a lot of fun, even when you do it wrong. Heck I was learning it at 4am the summer when I waited up all night for the video to come out.
Misc. – this category is kind of a grab bag of songs/videos I couldn’t fit into the other categories simply because they have very unique things about them. Word to the wise, this category delves deep in kpop and may contain things that may not yet be culturally acceptable to a casual fan or have not yet been exposed to in Western media yet.
Lee Hi – 1,2,3,4 | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
Lee Hi is a rookie, coming out of the Korean version of “The Voice”, to watch since she was mentored by Big Bang’s TOP (blue haired guy, deep voice). Lee Hi imitates her mentors’ style really well and I hope to see her branch out and find her own performance personality soon. To put it in a nutshell, Lee Hi is South Korea’s Adele and god is she such a badass little 16 year old.
Miryo – Dirty | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
I would encourage you, if you like female pseudo-rappers, to familiarize yourself with Miryo’s work. Dirty is a tragic and also kind of WTF kind of video that emphasizes Miryo’s own rapping/vocal tics. A member of Brown Eyed Girls ( like Ga.in from earlier) Miryo’s already established badass reputation is not something to be taken lightly as she clearly yells “what the [censored]” near the end of the video.
B1A4 – Baby Goodnight | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
Here’s where the whole “western media can’t handle kpop” thing comes in. B1A4 plays up their aegyo (term meaning “sickeningly cute behavior”) for their fans. And it rocks because if you pay attention to the video, they’re singing about cheating on a girlfriend but mask it with cutesy poses and outfits. No one on earth could get away with that, save for B1A4. Also, the main rapper is a tiny little guy – you would not expect that brutal, manly voice coming from him. Pretty awesome if you ask me.
VIXX – Superhero | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
Warning: excessive Engrish past here. This is my favorite rookie group that debuted this year but oh my goodness the Engrish is hiliaribad. With gems like “Show we gonna make it rookie time”, “Race is exciting” and “come fantastic world” you probably won’t take VIXX seriously after this. But if you listen to the lyrics (in real English) it’s a creative way to present a superhero theme without actually mentioning Superman or Wonder Woman (they don’t know any other DC heroes over there is seems).
Roh Ji Hoon – Punishment | [mv] [mv ENGsub] [dance ver.]
Oh look! Another potential 18+ label here. If you liked the chick (Hyunah) from Gangnam Style you probably have bad taste but Roh Ji Hoon is her male counterpart as the experimental soloist of CUBE Entertainment. Man is he fabulous. The only beef people have with his song is that it’s written like a boy band song, but only sung by the only guy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though if you like his voice. Also worth mentioning is that nasty nasty dance. Arguably those are the most flexible male torsos of the year.
That being said, this concludes a fabulous year of kpop! It seems like kpop is starting to grow bolder than it has been in previous years, but of course what kind of music industry doesn’t change over time? 2012 has been a good year to be into kpop for any kind of fan. I can only hope that it keeps going upward and the groups we will have to say goodbye to in the future (SuJu’s members growing older, Brown Eyed Girls dissipating) will have pleasant tomorrows and the rookie artists (VIXX, Lee Hi) we were introduced to work as hard as their predecessors to keep the Hallyu wave going.
P.S. HAH! You clicked on the English subbed version of Sexy, Free & Single, didn’t you?