Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


2012_sexy-free-and-singleThe light-disco style of Super Junior’s 2012 comeback single “Sexy, Free, And Single” deviated from the tired ‘SJ Funky’ vibes of their past three singles and welcomed elements that were equally familiar as they were fresh to listen to under these voices. Donghae and Eunhyuk tackled a way more derivative form of disco in their duo track “Oppa, Oppa“, which was comical first, but kind of fun and refreshing to hear from them as well. I got a similar response when I listened to “Sexy, Free, And Single”, except in this case the reward was two fold because the proper time and attention was given to the track, resulting in a dance number that filled more technical voids than a silly duet.

One great thing about “Sexy, Free, And Single” was the vocal performance itself. SM Entertainment is known for high-end productions, but this song in particular did a fantastic job of utilizing Super Junior’s vocal tonalities. Everyone from Ryeowook to Yesung sounded glorious, which helped loads in piercing through the merky synths, which by all accounts was probably the least polished piece of this winning single. Really nice job, boys. – McRoth


2012_taetiseo_twinkle02Yes, SM Entertainment totally jumped on the retro/funk bandwagon (those trendhumpers), but as we all know, it’s all in the execution. And by God, did Girls’ Generation sub-unit Taetiseo steal some of Secret’s big brass swag in “Twinkle” (see that’s what happens when you go to Japan, TS Ent! People steal your swag).

Furthermore, thanks to some serious gospel voicing, we now have concrete, beyond-all-doubt proof that Tiffany and Seohyun (otherwise known as Seo-Empress around these neck of the woods) can actually sing. Amen to that. – TESTAMENTVM


2012_teen top_to youI really liked the musical approach TEEN TOP took for their second single this year, “To You“. The motif of its host album (‘aRtisT‘) was very different from January’s ‘It’s‘, but stylistically the departure wasn’t a dramatic one. The beat was still dance-pop, and very reminiscent of SISTAR‘s “Alone“; given both were composed by Brave Brothers, that much didn’t surprise.

If anything, “To You”, allowed a broader tasting session of TEEN TOP’s vocal range and diversity as a boy band. As someone who’s never quite gotten over how much Niel eats everybody else’s lines, the fact that the spectrum was widened this year was a pleasantry worth savoring.

Now, if only Ricky had a voice worth some lines of his own … – McRoth


2012_vixx_rock ur bodyWith so many idol groups roaming the streets of Korea, it’s easy to understand how groups like VIXX go overlooked by many – myself included. But that didn’t stop me from opening an ear of curiosity to what they had to offer this year and dear Lord was I excited by what I heard.

VIXX’s music is best distinguishable by its fruity use of glittery arpeggiated synths, which come in heavy waves throughout their second 2012 single, “Rock Ur Body“. It’s an extremely synth inclined musical style for a rookie group, but they’ve been doing such an exemplary job of it that it could very well become their niche from here on out. “Rock Ur Body”, as true to its name as it could get, provides a progressively explosive structure of rap, hooks, and a fist-pumping break down. Delivered by a surprising set of competent vocalists, VIXX’s “Rock Ur Body” is as snappy as a drag queen’s go-to show stopper. – McRoth


Younha - SupersonicWhile this list was organized in alphabetical order, it’s worth noting that – if I had ranked these in a best-of countdown – this song would have reigned as champion and taken the title of Best Song of 2012.

It’s fitting then to see Younha‘s “Run” close this two week special post, because not only am I being honest, but vouching proudly for this song’s standing as one of the greatest moments of the year.

“Run” is magical first, and overwhelmingly powerful second. Its spirited light-rock instrumental lifts Younha’s airy voice off the ground, and takes us with it on this incredibly moving adventure. As the title implies, there is a heart-pounding urgency here – thanks to the drum kit – and its this uplifting momentum that makes me want to scream and shout and jump incessantly for the love of all that is holy in this world. Thanks, Younha. – McRoth

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45 thoughts on “Top Korean Songs of 2012

  1. B.A.P! Warrior definitely set the trend for this year… after Warrior, rookie groups are going for the bad-ass dark concepts..
    the song is definitely memorable and i never get tired listening to it.. still my favorite B.A.P song. its almost a year and im still blasting this song in my car..hehe

    • i doubt ‘warrior’ was much of a trend-setter; that streak of dark concepts started before that in the last few months of 2011. Kpop trends are partly based on the seasons and u tend to get more uplifting tunes in the summer and dreary, somber ones in winter; there are exceptions to that but these general trends are nothing new really. I also suspect that a lot of these more mature concepts (not just dark or bad-assed ones specifically) are becoming more prevalent because the public are tired of the cutesy gimmick and companies are picking up on that change in demand.

      • I agree with you about warrior being conceptually ‘trend-setting’, as pop everything is perpetually repetitive. But as far as setting a level of production value and quality, BAP were definitely one of the first to execute K-Pop in a far more cleaner package than before. 2010 was a hotass mess compared to how things work now. Which is a great thing.

        The cutesy thing lasted foreverrrr.

  2. Yes yes yes yes and yes. I really agree with today’s songs. Every song on Epik High’s most recent mini has grown on me more and more with each listen except for “UP” (I just really can’t get down with Bom on the chorus. It’s too grating to my ears). “Don’t Hate Me” isn’t my top fave from the album, but definitely such a great song to watch them perform live. And then you bring in Ga-in!!!! HER MINI ALBUM SLAAAAYED.

  3. I found my way here after seeing a B1A4 fanbase retweeting a tweet regarding your top korean songs of 2012 tweet. Tbh, I was expecting you to do a title track review/response like any other site so I was quite surprised that you talked about this time is over. That song is one of my favourite B1A4 song and I agree that it did not get as much love as it should have so I appreciate it a lot that you wrote about it :) Thank you ~

  4. I like most of your choices. I agree 100% with what you wrote about BAP. I loved warrior and wish they’d just promoted it for 6 months rather than release any of their other recent tracks. Also BtoB Wow was one of my biggest jams of the year and made me fall in love with the group. Surprise to see Ailee’s new song here rather than ‘Heaven’. I’m a huge fan of the girl but find her newest song soo boring. Block B did great this year too.

    Other songs I’ve loved this year are Cross Gene La di da di, Exid Every night (my standout song of the year tbh, never tire of it), Vixx Superhero and Exo what is love (Exo M version).

  5. Just notice under More from EXO this year: “This is Love” Review. Shouldn’t it be “What is Love”?
    and how do you use ‘ and ” for song/album titles? At first I thought you used ‘ for albums and ” for singles, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    • You’re right: it is “What is Love”. I’ll fix that.

      And if you’re confused by how reviews looked/look, it’s because I use ” for all album/single in the titles of reviews, whereas I use ‘ for album titles and ” for singles and track titles within the reviews themselves.

      Another thing that confuses is that, at one point, reviews were posted FIRST on Asian Junkie (we’re buds and have had a little agreement about my reviews being on his site), so he would edit them for his site and I would then post them once they were public. That stopped a few months ago, so now reviews follow the ‘ and ” rule that I prefer.

      He just ” ‘s everything … lol Sorry for the confusion.

  6. While I 100% agree that DJ Clazzi’s work with 2AM’s Seulong “How We Feel” is one of the under appreciated great songs out there, that song was released in mid 2011 :))
    Oh, and female vocalist Whale took part on that song too.

    • I’m well aware. Yet, as it belongs to an album that was released this year (Infant), its appearance still honors the free-standing rule (established last year) that songs are eligible to be on our TKSO list if they were released in one shape or form in 2012. Since Infant was officially released in January 2012, “How We Feel” and every track on the album qualifies. By this logic, Orange Caramel’s “Shanghai Romance” is also be eligible to land on this list :o

      I hope that clears things up a bit. Basically, any song qualifies to land on a 2012 best-of list if it was released as a single or as a part of an album within the span of a year.

      In this particular case, I wanted to feature ‘Infant’ and I felt this song was/is the strongest representation of the quality of that album :)

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  8. So many great songs off this list so far. K.Will definitely made a amazing album this year and Jo Kwon made himself stand out with his performances of “Animal.”
    Hmmm….creating a playlist of these songs doesn’t sound like a bad idea. :)

  9. ♫ ticket one way, ticket one way ♫ There’s a reason why this is my most-played song out of the ones I added this year.

    And PJY’s album is one of very few K-pop albums I could listen to the whole way through.

  10. “Eric’s lulzy rap in Venus”? how? then what’s Andy’s & Junjin’s rap parts then? lolz. That’s really the 1st I heard from various reviews (fan’s & non fan’s) for Venus or The Return ablum. Not being bias but aside from the poise & harmony from the main vocalists, Eric’s rap part in Venus is one of the highlights and it adds also edginess to the song (as well as Junjin’s part)

    • lol you’re so right! It’s not just Eric with a lulzy rap, but everyone else, too haha

      Just kidding. But really, I just gotta giggle when Eric says “E R I C” :P Anyway, the song itself is great and thanks for your commentary.

  11. Great list! Me and my BF (who I converted to Kpop this year) have been jamming out to this playlist for the past 2 weeks. It was great to relish favorites that I liked but never downloaded (how did I forget to add Run when I already added Supersonic and If We Changed??) and songs that I missed, ex. Seo In Guk and B1A4. Happy Holidays the whole team and here’s to another year’s worth of music v(^_^v)♪

    • That’s great to hear. I’m glad that the songs are worth sharing to fresh-converts and that it helped you find newer jams along the way.

      Cheers and happy holidays to you and your family, too!

  12. Love the list! The only songs that I would also include are something from EXID (I absolutely loved ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Every Night’) as well as T-ara – putting their scandals aside, Day by Day and Sexy Love were very enjoyable songs.

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  14. If I tell the truth…I’ve never actually listened to these bands before although I have heard of a couple of the bands…I mostly listen to groups like BEAST, BigBang, EXO-K and Super Junior and occasionally 2PM

  15. I’m just now seeing this after half a year, but I feel the need to comment anyways. “Angel” as on of the best songs of the year? Whoooooa, I really have to disagree. It’s the only song on that album that I find really annoying. “Machine”, I think, is a much better song. It just absorbs you.

    I’m super glad that “Don’t Hate Me” is on this list! I LOVED that song so much over the year. I may not listen to it as much anymore, but I still rock out whenever it’s playing.

    John Park’s “Falling”. Just thinking about it makes me relaxed and happy. :)

    Oh, my gosh! “Rock Ur Body”! I loved that song more than “Don’t Hate Me”! For about five months straight, I played that song every day. It’s just super fun.

    The only song I think is missing from this list is “Stop Girl” by U-Kiss. Even if it wasn’t super well known, it was still groovy (in a good way). I enjoy it so much that I’ve trained my non k-pop friends to finish my sentence when I say “Stop Girl”.

    • Aw, I loooove “Angel”, especially the M version. It’s just so light and soft compared to the heavy-hitting mini-album. That said though, I also love “Machine”, too. I still rotate that song when I listen to K-Pop.

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