Top Korean Songs of 2012

TKSo2012 single 01


2012_ninemuses_sweetrendezvous_01As I’ve commented before, coming up with anything remotely interesting to say about Nine Muses has proven to be difficult on the account that they’re not remotely interesting to begin with. However, my shade for Nine Muses finally reached its peak this year with the release of “Ticket” off their ‘Sweet Rendezvous‘ mini-album.

“Ticket“, Nine Muses’ early 2012 single, was by far their strongest, most invigorated release yet. It had the same retro vibes as its predecessors with a more contemporary approach that was blended beautifully. But what was particularly special about this single was that it’s the first time where Nine Muses had come across as personable to me. Nine Muses’ past singles had walked the fine line of being too safe and too unchallenged as musical endeavors, causing them to read as dead and spiritless dolls, vocally and aesthetically. But “Ticket” finally captured all the correct elements – the striking beat, the graceful melodies, and climatic structure – and allowed Nine Muses’ vocals to shine and their charisma to surface. It was the strongest song on “Sweet Rendezvous” and the one piece of the puzzle that tied everything together with a golden bow. – McRoth


2012_parkjiyoonLike fine wine, Park Ji Yoon’s “Tree of Life” only got better with time.

An early surprise during the year, this song wiped the floor clean in the indie scene. It is the only song from 2012 that makes my skin prickly from the first note, and it’s moved me to tears more than a few times. NoReply’s production is slow, melodic, and plaintive, never rushing and never slowing down. And it is that combination of superb musicality and gorgeous singing that elevates “Tree of Life” above indie music, and genres, period. Simply put, Park Ji Yoon’s “Tree of Life” is perfection. – drowningn00b


2012_primary_poisonAfter last year’s gloomy era of hip-hop, the pendulum swung the other way, back to the carefree and partying ways of hip-hop. Grandline Entertainment led the way in many ways, with Hi-Lite and 1llionaire Records close behind; even Verbal Jint and Leessang lightened things up with their comebacks this year. It took the better half of Supreme Team, E-Sens, and producer Primary to bring the genre to its essence, though; of struggle and perseverance.

Starting with pencil on paper and a piano, E-Sens spends the entire track telling his story of selfishness, self-doubt, pride, and the awful mix that becomes in a person. It’s an arresting track, without lyrical composition, just three long verses. For his part, Primary dropped his partying ways that makes the bulk of “‘Primary and the Messengers‘ LP to make real the words on paper. Strings usher in the drama and the drums bring out the rough notes in the story. Hip-hop, and art in general, helps to illuminate human emotion, whether it’s happy or sad. E-Sens’ “Poison” tells of man done with the bullshit and wanting to reach inner peace. Whatever the language, the message was delivered with clarity. – drowningn00b


PSYLike, need I even have to explain this one to you guys? I could have been incredibly anal here and excluded PSY‘s “Gangnam Style” for being a complete rehash of 2NE1‘s “I Am The Best” and for lacking an actual chorus, because by all technical levels it’s as stupidly flawed as any YG song is these days. Yet, those discrepancies are so incredibly minute next to the overwhelming effect of the song and its impact on everyday life – including my own – that PSY has managed to supersede all logic and seep his way into the halls of pop culture fame. Like, I don’t even know what the hell I’m trying to say, but all I know is that it would have been a crime and a dishonest move to not include “Gangnam Style” on here.

All I have to say: great job, dude. You’ve been yourself from the beginning, and you’ve paid your dues. Your hard work will go down as the meme of 2012. – McRoth


perfect-fitWhile most of you know this lovely lad from his acting endeavors, especially from this year’s massively successful “Reply 1997“, I for one first fell all over Seo In Guk for his music.

Perfect Fit‘, his most recent mini-album, might have went overlooked by most, but it did give way to some pretty satisfying numbers, one of which was the crisp, uplifting pop track, “Time Machine.” This ditty is a laid back song that possesses a clean drum kit that keeps the whole thing tight and in place. What really shines in this are the melodies, which are exceptionally pretty and catchy, contrasted with just the right amount of intensity by Swings’ rap verse at the middle eight.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Marriweather and Usher, Seo In Guk serves up a delight that echoes the heart of their music in this track, as well as the EP it derives from. – 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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