Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


2012_buskerbuskerBusker Busker may not have won Superstar K3, but none of that matters now, as they’ve already surpassed Ulala Session (the winners) with the incredible success of their debut album (‘1st’) and follow-up release.

The winsome simplicity, and spring-like optimism of “Cherry Blossom Ending” has enraptured Korea, and despite their limited television promotions, the same kind of craze that surrounded 10cm‘s “Americano” and Standing Egg last year has resurfaced in full force for the trio.

I included this song, not only for its listenability, but of the promise it represents. Korea has often glorified kpop at the expense of its own indie scene, but it’s songs like these that give me hope that the Korean music market will one day be more than kpop. Which is good for everyone … I’m excited to see the kind of cross-pollination and collaborations that we see in American pop music now – B.o.B. x Taylor Swift, or Lana del Rey x A$AP Rocky, or Maroon 5 x Wiz Khalifa – emerge in k-Pop. – TESTAMENTVM

More from Busker Busker this year:
’1st’ Album Review
“Cherry Blossom Ending” MV | “If You Really Love Me” MV


2012_clazzi_infantIf there’s one electropop song that remained truly unforgettable this year, this one might be it, you guys. Clazzi‘s work on his ‘Infant‘ album was both stimulating and energizing, and he easily attained both in his early release of “How We Feel” featuring the fabulous 2AM‘s Seulong.

With Seulong’s subtle vocals acting as a veil in their processed state, the underlying electronica machine that carries the song is vibrant and extremely beautiful to listen to. There are moments throughout “How We Feel” when every element – from the echoing beeps, to the gritty synths – feels like an aural kaleidoscope; which, in reference to Clazzi, is a basic summation of his musical genius. – McRoth

More from Clazzi this year:
“How We Feel” MV | “Love & Hate” MV


2012_dalmatian02The bass drum in Dalmatian‘s comeback single, “E.R.“, does its best imitation of a heartbeat to enhance the E.R. effect, and sets the crisis-like tone for the rest of the song.

Large chunks of the song do end up sounding rather monotone, but it’s really the audio-fed imagery that sets this song apart.

** Also, this is a great improvement from last year. While Dalmatian did away with their bright 2010-2011 style, this sophisticated facelift offered a far more polished side to the R&B and Pop blend they touched upon early last year. – Compliant

More from Dalmatian this year:
‘State of Emergency’ Mini-Album Review
“E.R.” MV


2012_TVXQ_Catch MeWhile I polished the hell out of “Catch Me” to cater to my taste levels, I couldn’t actually choose it as a top K-Pop song (I really wanted to, though), as tampering with original music kind of defeats the purpose of a list meant to highlight music that is by and large great on its own. Thus, I caved in and went with a DBSK song anyway by choosing “Destiny” off their 2012 comeback album – an album that, for the most part, ended up collecting dust quite quickly. It was the strongest song in the collection, and a pallet cleanser of sorts.

While not nearly as explosively orgasmic as “Before U Go” from last year, “Destiny” still manages to hit all the proper R&B marks in the DBSK R&B-production rule book. It’s soft and sensual in the verses, while full of energy and finesse in the chorus. Changmin shines the best here, as he absolutely pwns the glimmering highs throughout, while Yunho isn’t far behind – much improved in his own right – adding an extra bite in the melodies. What’s great about this song is that it reaches for the same classic DBSK baby-making glory, yet remains tame and less abrasive than what they’ve released prior to it. It’s a comforting track, and next to the haphazard clutter of their unbalanced singles this year, it’s a comfort I’m more than grateful to have. – McRoth

More from DBSK this year:
“Catch Me” MV | “Humanoids” MV


2012_evia_i know how to play a littleE.via’s peculiar brand of speed rap layered over addictive synth beats with a dash of devious intentions has proven extremely hit or miss. After taking a sugar rush sabbatical with a dramatic concept album, she released another bubbly song that capitalizes on her playful streak and baby face.

Unlike the disaster that was “Pick Up! Chu,” “I Know How to Play a Little” is a great balance between her talent as a rapper and her generally whimsical attitude. – lolpenny

More from E.Via this year:
‘E.Viagradation Part 1 (Black & Red)’ Album Review
“미친 인연” MV | “0.1″ single

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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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