Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


2012_jewelry_look at me I have to hand it to Jewelry: for a group that’s flipped the script in member line-ups more times than I can remember, they’ve found a very interesting identity in this new era of their career as a girl group. No single since the departure of Seo In Young has been as engaging as this one and I’m actually and entirely genuinely excited for them for the first time since … ever.

Look At Me” dabbles in the same ole’ retro style that practically every girl group has done in K-Pop, but there’s something rather classy about Jewelry’s approach that makes this single incredibly likable. Rather than drowning in gimmicks and monotony, “Look At Me” flows effortlessly from one beautiful verse to the other. It’s pleasant and graceful, and I’m actually happy this is coming from a veteran group, because it’s great to see growth blossom right in front of me. If there’s one point of contention, though, it’s (quite obviously) the poorly handled rap section. I’m not quite sure why it was allowed to exist here, but lucky for Jewelry, it comes early and doesn’t disturb the overall execution of this jewel. – McRoth


JJ Project - BounceJYP’s most promising rookie group, and the company’s strongest release so far, JJ Project proved that having the energy of 100 suns really does make a different, and “Hooked” takes that energy and channels it in all the correct ways.

Where “Bounce” – JJ Project’s 2012 debut single – threw all kinds of styles together for the sake of ‘experimentation’ and called it a day, the duo’s b-side track proved to be a far more exciting track to listen to with an equal amount of loudness and spark as its counterpart.

A youthful and really well executed track, not to mention a track featuring one of my favorite middle eights this year, JB and JR are showing me that there is indeed still some magic left to enjoy under the JYP camp. McRoth


2012_johnpark_01As one of my K-Pop biases, it’s really no surprise to anyone that this suave mo’fo made it onto my top Korean song’s list. John Park took his sweet time to release his first official debut mini-album, but boy was it worth it.

Falling,” the lead single to his 2012 mini ‘Knock‘, is to this day the best song to be released in K-Pop this year. It moves from one measure to the next in smooth sweeps and simple structure. The guitar lead carries the groove of the song, while John Park’s voice propels it across a sea of lustrous nuances in a gorgeous falsetto (of all things) and only dropping down to his lush and husky low end for small moments of intensity and power. The melodies are fucking stunning and the chorus is one of the most memorable of the year.

It’s uplifting, airy and exceptional for a ballad, and listening to John Park’s resonant voice spew into my ears every time makes this song even more worthwhile. – McRoth


2012_jo kwon animalThis year, no solo idol released as badass an album as 2AM leader Jo Kwon‘s ‘I’m da One‘, and with lead single “Animal” spearheading this fierce movement for the singer, I hope to see way more badassery in the coming years from this diva.

“Animal”, for the sake of a better term, fucking slayed. It was a left-field entrance for a performer who derived from a ballad group, but just listening to this fierce pop single (featuring a slick rap section and everything), you know exactly where Jo Kwon’s heart lies when it comes to personal taste in music; he is a fearless pop star, and the fact that this feels absolutely fitting and right goes to show how well an artist knows oneself if you allow them the room to find out for themselves. – McRoth


2012_K.Will_part 1I’ll be honest with you – I knew it in my bones that K.Will would land on this list, but deciding which song would make the final cut was a torturous process. His most recent album was immense and beautiful and breathtaking, that it felt wrong to even begin segregating one track from another. Alas, I did come to a decision – albeit a tough one – and it honestly just came down to which track was the strongest and most compelling, and which track moved me most, which was none other than “Butterfly“.

More than being just vocally superb, like all K.Will songs happen to be, “Butterfly” manages to confine all the classic elements of sophisticated ballads here (big orchestration, strong harmonization, classic structure), yet remain as sensationally powerful and incredibly grand for K-Pop standards. A friend of mine and I were actually discussing K.Will a while ago, and talked about how uniquely engaging K.Will’s voice is and that there is no not loving it. He is a phenomenal performer and his interpretation here is yet another example of that. – 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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