Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


2012_girl's day_don't forget meKnown for being overtly childish and cute, Girl’s Day stripped that level of superficiality away in “Don’t Forget Me” and made due with a far more genuine sweetness commonly heard in girl groups like A Pink and Rainbow. To no one’s surprise, it worked wonders for everyone.

“Don’t Forget Me” is a classic pop jam with a very common structure and composition. But rather than being a generic carbon copy of everything else out there, Girl’s Day’s charms surprisingly shine through really, really well. While the production value isn’t the cleanest (where’s the breathing room, guys?), the girls still hit their mark as singers. Each member brings their A game and even give us really beautiful streams of melodic moments in the verses and middle eight. It’s cute, but honestly done and I think that’s the greatest achievement for Girl’s Day with this single. – McRoth


2012 guten birds you in the mirrorIf you are at all a fan of k-rock, this year was the best yet. And if women were your thing, you were in heaven.

Women in rock took the stage and blew me away. From well-known names like 3rd Line Butterfly and Younha, to newer bands like Mamalady – 2012 was the year of lady rockers. For me, it was the debut EP by newcomers 910Birds (pronounced “Guten“) that encapsulated not only female rock, but rock in its entirety, especially their guitar rock-fest “You, in The Mirror“. From the amp feedback, the drum solo and the off-the-chains guitar riffs, it brought the fury I love in hardcore rock. They cleaned up the rough edges and killed on their EP, ‘팔랑귀‘, especially front-woman Moho with her stellar guitar-shredding skills. And thanks to “Top Band 2“, more people saw their talent than little old me. – drowningn00b


2012 Handsome PeopleWhile the world took to dancing to PSY‘s “Gangnam Style” this summer, it was Handsome People‘s “Woowei Woowei” that inspired me to shake my ass.

Serving Maroon 5 realness right from the very beginning, “Woowei Woowei” is one of the funkiest tunes to be released this year. The chorus alone is masterfully addicting, but it’s the entire package of groovy guitar work, head-bobbing basslines, and falsettos falsettos FALSETTOS EVERYWHERE that really take this jam to next-level awesomeness. – McRoth


2012_humming urban stereoThis year brought a lot of electro-indie music; everything from the dulcet tones of Casker to the rock-pop 80′s vibe of Glen Check. With partying the main focus for much of this year’s synth, one act stood out for me among the rest: Humming Urban Stereo.

Teasing his public for close to a month, his latest album, ‘Sparkle‘, was worth the wait. Coming in just in time for TKSO, this record is on constant repeat. It’s fun, full of bright moments, and a throwback to 80’s and 90’s dance music. The party begins with the bubbly “Hey You“, with Sugar Flow singing with no care in the world except to have fun and be ridiculous. The middle eight includes a phonetic primer for language learners, and won my heart with the lines: “Hey, hey you, who are you? Buena Suerte!

‘Sparkle’ will be my go-to party music for months to come. – drowningn00b


2012_infinite_the chaserThe lead single off Infinite‘s 2012 comeback mini-album, “The Chaser“, follows along the same resonant path as last year’s “Paradise“, but amps up the pace and the 80s percussion elements so that they flow a lot smoother than ever before. It’s a really big song with a heavy bassline and strong rock moments, and it took me a good three or so listens to come to grips with how weighty it is. After several months of indulgence, I grew to adore every aspect of this song, particularly the traditional-yet-contemporary Korean instrumental. It was actually really fantastic for a pop song.

And do you know what – that’s probably one of the greatest takeaways from Infinite’s music: that they manage to remain musically consistent, while still delivering unique and interesting material that sounds as fresh as their last. – 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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