Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


Midnight Sun2011 was a glorious year for BEAST and it was only fitting to see them keep the momentum going in 2012.

This year, rather than aiming for the angst of “Fiction“, they headed the exact opposite direction for their 2012 single “Beautiful Night“, which took cues from the party vibes of the summer, and unloaded an array of bright synths and a trendy beat. We were so accustomed to BEAST being mopey, that for a few moments this entire song felt uncharacteristic of them. But as the song unfolded, so did most preemptive expectations of their music. This release was so good, that it couldn’t have come from anybody else.

“Beautiful Night” felt like a reinvented version of “Bad Girl“, musically, which is the one song that helps me remember that this fresh new phase in BEAST’s music derives from a style they’ve done before. Not executed properly then exactly, because “Bad Girl” was pretty freaking bad itself, but now that it’s polished, it’s a clear sign that BEAST and Cube Entertainment have come a very long way since their humble beginnings. Both entities have grown, and it shows in spades today. – McRoth

More from BEAST this year:
‘Midnight Sun’ Mini-Album Review
“I Knew It” Single Review
“Living Without You” Single Review
“Beautiful Night” MV | “I Knew It” MV | “Midnight” PV


"Bad Boy" by BIGBANGWannabe-gangastas or not, “Bad Boy” laid down more swag than K-Pop was ready for and made the guys of BIGBANG sound totally badass over an urban beat and slick melodies.

“Bad Boy” has a really nice groove that is carried through the bass line with subtle crisp snaps cutting through the tension. I even think they could have gone without all the ambiances in the background, because “Bad Boy” has such a strong flow that it would have been even more masterful with a simpler arrangement. Having just the drums, piano, and percussion leading Big Bang down the ghetto streets of New York City would have been excellent, you guys. – McRoth

More from BIGBANG this year:
‘Alive’ Album Review
“Blue” Single Review
“Blue” MV | “Bad Boy” MV | “Fantastic Baby” MV | “Monster” MV


2012_block b_blockbusterThey have had it rough this year, but if Block B knows anything it’s how to keep it moving, and that they certainly have. With promotions for “Close My Eyes” clouded with controversy, the feisty boy band returned with the reincarnation of “Nanrina” from earlier this year – “Nillili Mambo“; this time, with twice the fierceness and even more thrills and shrills to boot.

“Nillili Mambo” is Block B’s most ambitious single to date and one of their most eccentric yet. Lathered with big strings that trill in suspense every two measures, brass ferocity, and a dynamic melodic style, this song is as theatrical as they come. Yet Block B manages to inject just enough mainstream appeal for it to spark with excitement and intrigue in the ear of the beholder. And let me tell you, my ears are twerqing. – McRoth

More from Block B this year:
‘Welcome to the Block’ Album Review
“Close My Eyes” Single Review
‘Blockbuster’ Album Review
“Nillili Mambo” MV | “Nanrina” MV | “Close My Eyes” MV


2012 boa lookinBoA might have hiccuped during her Hurricane Venus era, musically, but she (thankfully) returned to her roots this year with the release of ‘Only One‘: BoA’s 2012 comeback mini-album.

Yet, it wasn’t until she dropped “Lookin’” featuring The Quiett for Younique Unit a while later that it fully hit me – the old BoA is back, y’all, and she’s here to stay. And I’ve been a happy camper ever since.

“Lookin’” pits BoA against a swift hip-hop beat, sprinkled with glittery synths and a light guitar riff, that she prances over with her unique nasal singing. The drops are so well defined and tight that you can almost picture BoA dropping mad skills on the streets to this track. It’s a fresh example of how BoA can remain contemporary without sacrificing quality for trends and silly shenanigans. She knows who she is as an artist and this song encompasses everything there was to love from BoA’s old school tunes and everything there is to expect from her in the future. – McRoth

More from BoA this year:
‘Only One’ Album Review
“Only One” MV | “Only One” MV (Dance Version) | “The Shadow” MV


BtoB - Press PlayAno the award for Most Improved goes to … BTOB!

Some say that K-Pop is stuck in the 90s, and there hasn’t been a release this year that supports that statement as strongly as BtoB‘s ‘Press Play‘. With the 90′s revival smash “WOW” at the reigns of one of the year’s most impressive rookie albums, BtoB have hit a gold mine when it comes to musical identity and specialty. The biting snares and full-on new jack swing production was executed beautifully in “WOW”, and the fact that I have yet to tire from it is a testament to Cube’s success with this enthusiastic number.

True to its name, “WOW” surprises with its slick use of falsetto in the pre-choruses and countless hooks and whistles that chime in every other measure. It’s a thrilling single if I ever heard one and, hopefully, one that has paved the road for more to come. – McRoth

More from BtoB this year:
‘Press Play’ Mini-Album Review
‘Born to Beat’ Mini-Album Review
“Father” Single Review
“Insane” MV | “Father” MV | “Irresistible Lips” MV | “WOW” MV | “I Only Knew Love (Lover Boy)” MV

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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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