Edward1849′s Recommended Top 20 K-Pop Songs Of 2012

Edward1849′s Recommended Top 20 K-Pop Songs Of 2012

Happy Holidays everyone! With 2012 about to end, it is time for my annual post counting down my favorite 20 songs of the year. What a stellar year it has been for K-Pop. It further cements its status of an international recognized genre of music mainly because of two words: Gangnam Style. Who would expect this song to break through the international market and bringing so many more new K-Pop fans. Will Gangnam Style make my top 20 list? We’ll find out below.

For those of you who are not familiar with this countdown, it is not about popular idol artists and their songs. You will still find some familiar names and songs on the list, but rather I am trying to recommend you a few good songs and artists you may have missed. Some of the songs I have introduced as a bonus track on my weekly music chart post before. You will find more ballads on the list as that’s the genre I like most, but this year I do have a few uptempo songs in the top 10.

I like the songs this year more than the last two years as I feel the quality of the music is better. That’s very good and encouraging news. Looking at my top 10 this year, I am surprised that male artists dominated the higher rankings. I swear I listen to more female singers, but male singers did have a very good year in 2012, as reflected in most music charts.  There are also many collaborations on my list.

Let’s get to the countdown.  As a tradition, I do it literally as a “countdown” so you will read it from No. 20 to No. 1 backward.  That will increase the suspense.

Click here for Soompi’s YouTube playlist of all 20 music videos on the list.

20. Magolpy (feat. Y-Brothers)  – 사랑이 떠나가요 (Love Does Not Linger)

Genre: Pop Ballad

Album: Magolpy digital single “Love Does Not Linger”

Listen To: Full Song

Comments: Anyone remember her?  Magolpy debuted as a teenager back in 2007 under SM Entertainment with the song “Flying Girl.” There were a lot of hypes about her, and some even labelled her as the next BoA. Sadly, it doesn’t work out and Magolpy became a one hit wonder. She finally came back in 2012 with a good song “Love Does Not Linger.” Her passion is very pervasive in this ballad single. She held local open auditions to find great rappers for this song, which went to Y-Brothers. Magolpy took all responsibilities; from recordings, training, design of the album cover, to the music video scenario.

19. Sometimes – 그댄 내가 사는 이유입니다 (You Are The Reason Why I Live)

Gerne: Folk/Country

Album: Sometimes digital single “You Are The Reason Why I Live”

Listen To: Full Song (thanks to Mardi09 for uploading)

Comment: It is not the first time country western sound has mixed into a K-Pop song as  SG Wannabe did it several years ago with “Lalala.” “You Are The Reason Why I Live” by male trio Sometimes is another good song and even more “country” than “Lalala.” Written by Sometimes’ member Roy, this song is a bright country number with lyrics about feeling sorry and thankful for the person who is always waiting in silence for him. (thanks to motoway065 for translations)

18. G.Na – Tell Me Now

Genre: Pop Ballad

Album: MBC Drama “A Thousandth Man” OST Part 3

Watch: MV

Comment: I usually include one drama/movie OST song on each year’s countdown. This year I have two, one from a very popular drama and one from a not so popular drama. MBC Drama “A Thousandth Man” did not generate any fanfare and did miserably in ratings.  However, there is a good song in this drama, sung by the lovely G.Na“Tell Me Now” is a sad ballad number with piano melodies. This song is about feeling empty and lonely after a breakup. It was a close call, but I choose this song over Sonya’s “Goodbye To Romance” (from another MBC Drama, “May Queen”). For the second straight year, G.Na appears on my year end list on a song from not from her main album. Last year, she was featured on Hyuna’s “A Bitter Day” which was No. 9 on my list. (thanks to motoways065 for translations)

17. The Seeya (feat. Speed) – 내 맘은 죽어가요 (Be With You)

Genre: Pop Ballad

Album: The Seeya digital single “Be With You”

Watch: MV

Comment: First thing first, I absolutely hate this group name. I was a fan with the original group Seeya, who was very popular in the mid to late 2000s, but went through tough times with membership changes that eventually led to their breakup. Even though this new group The Seeya is from the same record company and having a similar concept, why bring back and recycle an old group name? Anyway, this is not the new group’s fault. I am delighted to see talent on this new quartet. Their stage presence still needs some polish, but having a good debut song helps. “Be With You” has an additive melody and good raping by Speed. It is a medium-tempo synth pop number with sad lyrics about being unable to forget an ex-lover. The Seeya is one of four rookies making it to my year end list.

16. Dozennote – Stay Away

Genre: Rock

Album: Dozennote digital single “Stay Away”

Listen To: Full Song (thanks to Mardi09 for uploading)

Comment: This is another rookie making my list. After searching many sites, I was not able to  find too much information about Dozennote. All I know is that they are a five member mixed group. “Stay Away” is a trendy, rhythmical number about a couple’s breakup story. With lyrics such as, “Was I the only one who didn’t know about who you met every night,” this song is something anyone can listen to and relate to. This song has good pop elements and rapping. If sung by an idol group, it might have become a huge hit song. (thanks to motoway065 for translations)

15. Mood Salon – 목련 (Magnolia)

Genre: Indie Rock

Album: Mood Salon Vol. 1 Track 2

Listen To: Full Song

Comment: Mood Salon is a well known underground group in Korea. When you search on YouTube you can find a lot of their live performances in pubs and concert halls. They finally released their first full length album in 2012. There are two title songs in the album. I like “Magnolia” much better as it has retro style tango sounds that are expected to capture listeners’ ears.

14. Ha Hyun Gon Factory – Feeling (feat. Chae Won)

Genre: Light Rock Ballad

Album: Ha Hyun Gon Factory February 2012 digital single

Listen To: Full Song

Comment: Like Yoon Jong Shin, this group led by former Click-B member Ha Hyun Gon is releasing a digital single every month. Most of the group’s songs in 2012 are very good. I like the February release “Feeling” the most. It is a British pop number with beautiful melodies. From the introduction, listeners can hear the soft acoustic sounds that flow beautifully with Han Hyun Gon’s vocals. The song is about gradually falling in love with a woman. The lyrics express this feeling of anticipation well.

13. Lee Ha Yi – 허수아비 (Scarecrow)

Genre: R&B Ballad

Album: Lee Ha Yi digital single “Scarecrow”

Listen To: Full Song

Comment: You gotta be impressed with Lee Ha Yi, the runner up of the K-Pop Star competition.  She burst into the scene late this year and already making a big impact, thanks largely to her husky voice well beyond her tender age.  While “1,2,3,4” is the song most people are familiar with, I am choosing her follow up single “Scarecrow” instead.  Lee Ha Yi does a great job bringing out the lyrics of this JYP written ballad with her deep and mature vocals.

12. Heora – 달빛이 지고 (Moonlight Sets)

Genre: Pop Ballad

Album: MBC Drama “The Sun That Embraces The Moon” OST Part 1

Watch: MV

Comment: Theme song from one of the most popular dramas of 2012, “The Moon That Embraces The Sun.” There are many good songs in this drama. Most people that I have talked to who watched this drama, including myself, like this song the most even though Heora is the most “unknown” artist participating on the OST.  This is a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics, got my vote for the best OST song of the year.

11. Kim Jung Min and Kiroy Y – 바라보다 (Looking At)

Genre: Pop Ballad

Album: Kim Jung Min & Kiroy Y digital single “Looking At”

Watch: MV

Comments: Two male singers that I like a lot collaborated on the ballad “Looking At.” Kim Jung Min’s husky voice opposites Kiroy Y’s smooth voice. It is a sad, yet beautiful number with lyrics based on Kiroy Y’s past experience. The song is about realizing love after leaving a loved one.

10. Bobby Kim & Kim Tae Woo – 그런 걸 (Girl)

Genre: R&B/Dance

Album: Bob&Kim digital single “Girl”

Watch: MV

Comment: Another all male collaboration from two singers I have a lot of respect for.  “Girl” is an exciting number with big band acoustic sounds. This song is perfect for the holiday season. Listeners can hear Kim Tae Woo’s powerful vocals and Bobby Kim’s soft vocals mesh well together. This track holds lyrics about falling in love at first sight. Even though the song has released for less than a month, it makes into our top 10.

9. Geeks (feat. SISTAR Soyu) – Officially Missing You, Too

Genre: Hip-hop Ballad

Album: Geeks digital single “recode, episode 1”

Watch: MV

Comment: Hip-hop duo Geeks lands at No. 9 this year with “Officially Missing You, Too.” This hip-hop style ballad features the vocal of SISTAR’s Soyu, perhaps a major reason this song is popular. “Officially Missing You, Too” is a sequel to Geek’s “Officially Missing You,” which is a hip-hop version of Tamia’s original song. “Officially Missing You, Too” samples the original song with a new intro. Soyu’s great vocal surprised many fans. She is perhaps the most underrated member of SISTAR.

8. Vanilla Acoustic (feat. MC Sniper) – 반지하 로맨스 (Half Basement Romance)

Genre: Indie

Album: Vanilla Acoustic Vol. 1 Track 1

Watch: MV

Comment: When Sniper Sound meets acoustic sound, the result is a top 10 song for 2012.  Indie mixed trio Vanilla Acoustic has been around since 2008.  Like the group’s name suggest, their music is of acoustic genre and they are very active in the underground scene.  The group finally released their their first full length album “Half Basement Romance” in 2012.  The title song of the same name is able to crossover to the pop scene with the help of MC Sniper.

7. Ulala Session – 아름다운 밤 (Beautiful Night)

Genre: Pop/Dance

Album: Ulala Session 1st mini-album Track 3

Watch: MV

Comment: Superstar K3 winner Ulala Session checks in at No. 7 on our year end countdown. They released their first mini-album this year. Their title song “Beautiful Night” is a retro style 80s dance hit inspired by the movie “Footloose.”  With the help of PSY, this song becomes a fun song to listen to and it is like an early present for summer.  This is one of my favorite uptempo songs of 2012. Ulala Session is not the only Superstar K3 alum on this countdown as there is one more coming up.

6. Lee Seung Chul – 아마추어 (Amateur)

Genre: Pop Ballad

Album: Lee Seung Chul digital single “Amateur”

Watch: MV

Comment: Lee Seung Chul was No. 7 in my 2006 countdown with “Don’t Leave.” He made it back into the top 10 this year with “Amateur.” Always one of my favorite artists, Lee Seung Chul was more active in drama OSTs the last few years. Teaming up again with songwriter Hong Jin Young, “Amateur” is about always giving one’s best and facing challenges with passion and energy like an amateur. One can hear Lee Seung Chul’s trademark sincere voice, especially on the last part of the song with these English lyrics “When I am dreaming and I have wishes.  We will be together in our lives the dreams come true.”

5. Busker Busker – 벚꽃 엔딩 (Cherry Blossom Ending)

Genre: Indie Rock

Album: Busker Busker Vol. 1 Track 4

Watch: MV

Comment: Another Superstar K3 alum in the top 10, Busker Busker turns in one of the best albums of 2012 with their Vol. 1 debut album. Despite the lack of promotions, every song in their album became a hit, in particular the title song “Cherry Blossom Ending.” This is an acoustic number about the nervous heart of a man who wants to walk on cherry blossom-filled streets with a lover. Anyone listening to the songs will enjoy the simple melodies and honest lyrics they have to offer.

4. Ailee – Heaven

Genre: R&B Ballad

Album: Ailee digital single “Heaven”

Watch: MV

Comment: Wheesung has been in the top five on this countdown for the last three years. He didn’t make it this year as he is enlisted in the military right now, but his footprint is all over this song he penned for his prized pupil Ailee.  While “I Will Show You” is more popular, “Heaven” is a much better song to showcase Ailee’s great vocal. Before she debuted in Korea, Ailee was already an internet sensation in the USA covering many R&B artists’ songs. Wheesung discovered her, and the rest is history. She will be one of the top female artists in Korea for years to come.

3. Verbal Jint (feat. Sanchez of Phantom) – 충분히 예뻐 (You Deserved Better)

Genre: R&B Ballad

Album: Verbal Jint “10 Years Of Misreading Part 1” Track 7

Watch: MV

Comment: One of my favorite songs and albums of 2012. Well respected rapper Verbal Jint released an album “10 Years Of Misreading Part 1” to sum up his 10 years in the music industry. The title song of this album “You Deserved Better” is a pure R&B song that we haven’t seen often in recent years. This song also introduces Sanchez from Phantom to listeners. His great vocal helps this song to achieve good reviews and later helps Phantom to have their first hit single “Burning”.

2. Psy – 강남스타일 (Gangnam Style)

Genre: Pop/Dance

Album: Psy Vol. 6 Part 1 Track 3

Watch: MV

Comment: This song needs no introduction. I think all of us have heard and danced on it.  Is this my favorite song in 2012? Probably not. But is this a song that I have to recommend? Absolutely. I never get tired watching this MV and the horse dance. Regardless, this song will go down as one of the most popular songs in K-Pop history. That is certainly worth No. 2 here.

So, who beats “Gangnam Style”?  If you have read this post for many years, you may have guessed right.

1. NaUl – 바람기억 (Memory Of The Wind)

Genre: R&B Ballad

Album: NaUl Vol. 1 Track 7

Watch: MV

Comment: Many people know I am a big Brown Eyes fan. While both NaUl and Yoon Gun released their solo album in 2012, I like NaUl’s album “Principle Of My Soul” better. There is not a bad song in this album. The title song “Memory Of The Wind” is especially touching. Just the intro part already attracts you to the song. It matches the concept of his album “healing of soul.” As soon as I heard this song, I knew I was going to rank it as No. 1 this year. NaUl is the last Brown Eyed Soul member to release his solo album. He released a remake album “Back To The Soul Flight” in 2005. The quality and the depth of the music are second to none.  Just simply outstanding.

There you have it.  I hope you like my choices this year.  Be sure to give these songs a try if you haven’t.

Click here for Soompi’s YouTube playlist of all 20 music videos on the list.

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