SHE’Z – “MY WAY”
There were plenty of girl groups that twirled their way onto the grounds of K-Pop this year, but very few left an actual impression. She’z is the exception.
To quote Testamentvm here, “part of the appeal of “My Way” lies in its simplicity – it’s a real palette -cleanser, with half of K-pop these days trying to sound either disco/retro or Europop – not to mention the headache of having to deal with left-field dubstep breaks – it’s good to hear some nice, clean, and simple pop that can rock in the shower and on the radio.”
It’s precisely that, the simplicity of She’z's debut single, that really resonates with me, as not only does the song do away with over-produced nonsense, but actually consolidates the experience to what matters: vocals, melodies, and a catchy beat. The fact that it lacks a rap section also appeases me greatly. – McRoth
SHINHWA – “VENUS”
If there’s anything to say about SHINHWA, it’s that they know how to run this game, and run it well. In celebration of 14 (that’s FOURTEEN) years in the music industry and as the longest running K-Pop boyband, these studs returned in all their glory with the trendy lead single, “Venus“.
On first listen, “Venus” came across rather ordinary, but over time it hit me that this pretty much fell in line with a lot of SHINHWA’s older jams and structures (and all things pre-2009, basically).
Gentle, bare, and formulaic, yet iconic, addictive, and really well executed. Even with Eric‘s lulzy rap sections, “Venus” carries a balanced sense of sophistication and listenability that today’s high-brow idols have forgotten existed and could learn from. With this single, SHINHWA proved that idols can still value traditional simplicity while not forgetting to hand-feed the herd their grub. – McRoth
SHIN YONG JAE – “THE REASON I BECAME A SINGER”
Shin Yong Jae is one of my heroes in Korean music, so it’s a pleasure to finally talk about him here, because if there’s one vocalist that deserves a blurb written about him, it’s this guy.
A ballad bursting with emotion and intensity, “The Reason I Became a Singer” slips Shin Yong Jae in his most comfortable skin, and not only is it one of the best songs he’s ever sung, he effing wrote it. “The Reason I Became a Singer” is sincere, yet frighteningly loud in its execution. Gentle, yet brave and declarative. It’s a piece of work worth being proud of, and the sheer power in which Yong Jae explodes through every chorus, you are made well aware that he’s carving that pride in stone. You just hear it, and that’s what makes this song one of the most special moments on his debut mini-album, ’24′, as well as one of the most special moments in his career to date.
It’s immense and absolutely breathtaking, and hands down my favorite ballad on TKSo2012. – McRoth
SPICA – “RUSSIAN ROULETTE”
If I were to pick a Spica song, it would’ve been “Painkiller” by default, but you could actually make a case for any other song on that mini-album. It seriously was that good. Although its lead single status made this seem more like a convenience pick, “Russian Roulette” was ultimately chosen because it was the most polished piece that Spica had to offer. At first sight, the song is essentially an R&B ballad hidden under the veil of a fun instrumental and some playful whistling. The intro contains a lot of the typical cheesy rapping you find in K-Pop girl group songs, but every member carries a tune with a clear but resonant timbre – be it smooth, husky or otherwise. The singing itself sounds completely effortless.
For most of the song, the pacing stays more or less the same, save for a few guitar riffs and a good bang bang bang bang bang to lead the song into the well-harmonized chorus. The latter half of the song provided ample opportunity for members to alternate solos and do what they do best as individuals – some belting here, some dolphin register notes there, and some rapping elsewhere. The one drawback was ending the song with nothing more than the instrumental and generic whistling … but that’s just nitpicking. Because I was left wanting more. – Compliant
SUNNY HILL – “THE GRASSHOPPER SONG”
Riddled with an interesting beat, cold key, and vibrant melodies, Sunny Hill‘s “The Grasshopper Song” was destined to be a favorite this year, and it has yet to let go of that title.
Sunny Hill have been pushing the envelop when it comes to eccentricity and uniqueness in their music for a couple years now, but there hasn’t been as beautiful a display of that as this single. The pace alone is so urgent, that it gets my body racing when I listen to it – yet, it’s the hypnotizing hook and pitch shifting in the vocal-processing that truly rail me in and to this day won’t let me go. It’s like a drug, or something. – McRoth