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 – “HOOKED”
JYP’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
JOHN PARK – “FALLING”
As 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
JOKWON FEAT. JUNG HO SUK – “ANIMAL”
This 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
K. WILL – “BUTTERFLY”
I’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