Staff Recommended Top 20 Songs of 2008

As we wrap up 2008, here I am again writing this post.  I’ve been doing this every year since 2002, but I must say that I had the most difficult time selecting the 20 songs I am going to recommend for 2008.  With the popularity of mini-albums and digital singles nowadays, many singers are using these paths to launch their music and their careers.  In all the years that I’ve listened to k-pop (since 2000), this year I have listened to more songs than any other year.  The quality of the music is good, which makes it difficult to rank 20 songs.


Before I go any further, I must stress once again that these songs are my personal choices only, and it has nothing to do with our soompi gayo award or weekly music chart.  Like I said above, there are so many good songs and I’m sure I have missed some good ones.  For readers who are familiar with this countdown, or familiar with my taste, I usually go for songs that are more contemporary in style.  These songs usually make a bigger impression in people’s minds anyway.  However, I do make sure that I want to cover all the genres so you’ll see at least one song from each of the popular genres in the top 20.  (Hint: many of the lesser-known songs appeared on my weekly bonus tracks before).


Just like the past years, I imagine that you have not heard of many of the songs on my list.  Perhaps that is why these songs need a push to become more recognized.  Still, you’ll find songs closer to the top more familiar with artistes that you have come across during this year.






Just like past years, we have songs that just missed the cut but are worth mentioning.  Here is this year’s list of honorable mentions, in alphabetical order of the artiste’s name.  We happen to have 20 songs here as well:



Cherry Filter – Rolling Heart
Choi Jung Chul (feat. Ga In) – 결혼 (Wedding)
Da Hye – 알기나 하는지 (If You Actually Know)
Flower Go Yoo Jin – 너 하나만 (My only)
Gavy NJ – 사랑 같은 건 없나봐 (I Guess There’s No Such Thing As Love)
Holladang – 비트윈 (Beat Win)
IU – 미아 (Missing Child)
Jang Hye Jin (feat. Suho) – Remember
Kang Chae E – 젖은손수건 (Wet Handkerchief)
Kho Uvi – 사랑한다 말하면 (If I Say That I Love You)
Krygen (feat. Cindy) – 사랑이 길을 잃어서 (Love Lost Its Path)
Kyun Woo – 나답지 못하게 (Unlike Me)
Monday Kiz – 니가 떠난 그날 (The Day You Left)
Navi – I Love You
Noblesse (feat. Daylight) – 상심증후군 (Broken Heart Syndrome)
Piano – 여자인가봐 (Must Be a Woman)
T – 말없이 울더라도 (Even if you cry without notice: KBS Drama "Bad Love" OST)
Tae Sa Bi Ae – 내 사랑 (My Love)
The Name – 그녀를 찾아주세요 (Please Find Her)
Zooropa Yellow – 널 지울게 (I Will Erase You)





1. Kim Jong Kook – 어제보다 오늘 더 (Today More Than Yesterday) *** 2008 STAFF RECOMMENDED NO. 1 SONG ***
Genre: Pop Ballad
Music: Kim Do Hoon, Lee Sang Ho / Lyrics: Yoon Sa Ra
Album: Kim Jong Kook Vol. 5 Track 4 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: All year, I’ve been struggling to find a No. 1 song for 2008, until I heard this song late in the year.  It left me no doubt that this is my top song of the year.  Kim Jong Kook won this award in 2005 with "Walking From The Same Place", and also ranked No. 4 with "One Man" in 2004, so he is certainly no stranger to this countdown.  After coming back from his military duty, fans wondered whether Kim would still be as popular as before.  The answer is a big YES.  His trademark high-pitched voice is again on display in this song.  The happy theme of this song really impressed me, especially during these times when the world is struggling with an economic recession.  Every day when we read that there are more bad news than good news. sad.gif This song not only has a good melody, but has a good theme that makes me feel better every time I listen to it. Let’s all hope that "Today is better than yesterday".




2. Brown Eyes – 가지마 가지마 (Don’t Leave Don’t Leave)
Genre: R&B Ballad
Music: Yoon Gun / Lyrics: Gary of Lee Ssang
Album: Brown Eyes Vol. 3 Track 2 Purchase this album
Watch: MV
Comment: This summer, the Korean music industry received a major boost with the return of this legendary R&B group.  Despite having only released two albums before, Brown Eyes have revolutionized today’s mid-tempo R&B Korean music.  Since they abruptly left the music scene five years ago, many groups similar to their style have debuted and found success.  However, Brown Eyes are still irreplaceable.  Yoon Gun and Na-Ul reunited to release their third album, and within days of its release, it was sold out.  In "Don’t Leave, Don’t Leave", fans once again hear the perfect harmony between Yoon Gun and Na-Ul.  Rumor has it that Brown Eyes are only reuniting to release this album.  Let’s hope this is not true and they will continue to release great music for years to come.



3. Yuri – 가슴아 제발 (Oh Heart, please)
Genre: Pop ballad
Music: Shin In Soo / Lyrics: Yang Jae Sun
Album: Yuri Vol. 2 Track 1 Purchase this album
Watch: Live Performance
Comment: She is not Sung Yuri (FINKL), Kwon Yuri (SNSD), or Yuri (Cool). This Yuri is a highly-regarded young female R&B singer. She debuted in 2001 at the tender age of 16. After a long hiatus of 7 years, she is back with her second album. In between, she worked with a lot of other artistes, the latest being MC Sniper’s "For You". "Oh Heart Please" is a more pop-style ballad to her standard. The songwriting team of this song also wrote many hit songs for MC The Max and Shin Hye Sung in the past. Yuri reminds us of Lena Park in this powerful ballad, and that tells you how good her vocal skill is. Perhaps the surprise song in the top 5, but definitely one of the best ballads I’ve heard in 2008.



4. Brown Eyed Girls – L.O.V.E.
Genre: Retro Pop / Dance
Music: Lee Min Soo / Lyrics: Kim Lee Na, Miryo
Album: Brown Eyed Girls mini-album "With L.O.V.E." Track 2 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: Which artiste made the most progress in 2008?  I think 8 out of 10 people will say Brown Eyed Girls. They used to be the best-kept secret in k-pop, with their enormous talent flying under the radar.  Not anymore!  This song proved to be the turning point of their career, as they went from underrated to one of the most popular girl groups in Korea.  Not only that, this song started a new trend of retro dance hits of the 80s style.  I am not a big fan of dance hits, as this is the only song of the genre ranked in our list this year.  But I think this song is very well-written, perhaps the best-written pop/dance songs from a girl group since Jewelry’s "Again".  Boy, that’s a long time ago.



5. Kim Dong Ryul (feat. Alex) – 아이처럼 (Like a child)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Music + Lyrics: Kim Dong Ryul
Album: Kim Dong Ryul Vol. 5 Track 5 Purchase this album
Watch: Live Performance
Comment: A huge phenomena in Korea in 2008 was the popularity of the reality TV Show "We Got Married".  During this year, so many songs featured on this TV show have hit the chart.  This was the very first song – the theme song of the Alex and Shin Ae couple.  Ironically, Alex is featured in this song.  Many people even forget that this song was originally sung by Kim Dong Ryul, who is one of the most respected singer-songwriters in Korea.  His 5th album "Monologue" was one of the very few albums which sold over 100,000 copies in 2008.  It’s more amazing considered that Kim did not even come out to promote his songs actively.



6. Baek Chan (duet Lee Soo Young) – 무슨 사랑이 그래요 (What Kind Of Love Is This)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Music: Bang Shi Hyuk / Lyrics: Kang Eun Kyung
Album: Baek Chan mini-album "The Analogueman In This Digital World" Track 1 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: Two singers – one been a regular on this yearly list, the other becoming a regular – collaborate on the best duet of 2008, in my opinion.  Despite it being released only a little more than a month ago, this song managed to rank in our top 10.  Lee Soo Young has been a regular on this list over the years, and Baek Chan scored his first top-10 hit last year with his group 8Eight’s "Forget Love And Sing".  Baek Chan is the rapper for 8Eight.  Little did we know that he is also a good singer.  His voice matches very well with veteran Lee Soo Young’s in this song.



7. Ibadi – 끝나지 않은 이야기 (Endless Story)
Genre: Jazz Ballad
Music + Lyrics: Geojung (a.k.a Enock)
Album: Ibadi Vol. 1 Track 3 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: You may not be familiar with Ibadi, but you may have heard of Horan, Clazziquai’s female member.  Ibadi is Horan’s other project group.  She is the leader and also the lead vocalist. While Clazziquai’s music is a combination of jazz, fusion, and pop, Ibadi brings us acoustic jazz and folk songs. Horan’s smooth voice plus the poetic lyrics blend perfectly with the beautiful melody of this song.  Ibadi’s album "Story Of Us" is one of the best albums that I’ve heard in 2008.



8. Evan (feat. Sol Flower) – 울어도 괜찮아 (It’s okay if you cry)
Genre: Pop / Urban Jazz Ballad
Music: Nicols Brinck / Lyrics: Park Chun Hyo
Album: Evan Vol. 2 Track 1 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: A very impressive song from former Click-B member Yoo Ho Suk, now known as Evan.  Evan made his solo debut last year with the song "Men Are Also Helpless", bringing us an urban jazz style that not too many singers in k-pop are using as their style.  The song also showcases Evan’s vocal skills which we may not have heard too much in the Click-B days.  Female R&B singer Sol Flower lent her vocal briefly in the song, which further increases the song’s likability.



9. Vn Juhee – Wish Dayz
Genre: Rock Ballad

Album: Vn Juhee digital single Vol. 2 Track 1
Watch: MV
Comment: You always hear audition stories like "I accompanied a friend to the audition, turned out I was the one being selected". laugh.gif This is the case here. I discovered this song by accident while looking for another song, and I am loving it so much I have it ranked in the year-end top 10. It has a simple melody with guitar and violin arrangement, and lots of English in the lyrics, making it quite a westernized song. The singer’s real name is Hong Ju Hee and she released a debut single, "Promise", back in 2006. This is her second single.



10. Epik High (feat. Youn Ha) – 우산 (Umbrella)
Genre: Hip-hop ballad
Music: Tablo / Lyrics: Tablo, Mirtha Jin
Album: Epik High Vol. 5 Track 15 Purchse this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: Both singers are considered top-tier artistes in k-pop, and they got together to score their first year-end top-10 hit in a genre that neither of them is being known of.  Epik High are known for their electronica hip-hop songs, and Younha specializes in piano rock.  They showed good chemistry in this hip-hop ballad.  Even though this song was only the third single of Epik High’s "Pieces, Part I" album, it generated a lot of interest among internet charts in Korea well before the artistes officially performed this song on stage.  I especially like the atmosphere when fans all open their umbrellas while watching Epik High and Younha perform this song live on stage.


11. Kim Dong Hee – 헤어질 땐 말없이 (Breaking Up Without Notice)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Music: Hwang Se Joon / Lyrics: Cho Eun Hee
Album: Kim Dong Hee – "Halfway" Track 1 Purchase this album
Watch: MV
Comment: A nice piano intro arranged song.  Before debuting as a singer, Kim Dong Hee was a vocal trainer of Zia & Big Bang and was a live chorus vocalist for Fly to the Sky & Tei.  She debuted last year and had success with her 1st single "You".  Having spectacular vocal skills and a bit of huskiness in her voice, Kim Dong Hee handles a wide range of ballads.  "Breaking Up Without Notice" is a great pop ballad with a beautiful melody and an attractive piano intro that showcases her emotional voice nicely. The song is written by the same combination who wrote Tei’s "Love Leaves A Scent" and "Same Pillow".



12. Suh Young Eun (feat. Han Kyung Il) – Goodbye
Genre: Pop Ballad
Music: Yoon Min Soo / Lyrics: Yoon Min Soo, Min Yeon Jae
Album: Suh Young Eun mini-album "Walk In The Desert" track 3 Purchase this album
Watch: MV
Comment: Perhaps I am a little biased in recommending this song, as Suh Young Eun is also one of my favorite female singers in Korea. This song is a duet with Han Kyung Il. Both of them are so underrated and they have such good voices. They bring out the best of this powerful ballad, which is written by Vibe’s Yoon Min Soo. Most of Suh Young Eun’s hit songs in the last few albums are happier ballads, but this is a sad song. The beginning is quite plain, but when it gets to the chorus, the melody really picks up and the piano arrangement perhaps increase the sadness of the song.



13. PDIS (feat. Joo Hyun Mi) – 사랑한다 (I Love You)
Genre: Hip-hop / Trot
Music: Yoon Il Sang / Lyrics: Cho PD
Album: PDIS Project Album Track 4 Purchase this album
Watch: MV
Comment: If we count style points, this song is second to none in 2008.  When cutting edge hip-hop music blends with traditional Korean trot sound, the chemistry is surprisingly wonderful.  PDIS is a project group formed by rapper Cho PD and songwriter Yoon Il Sang.  They first collaborated on Brown Eyed Girls’ "Hold The Line".  In 2008 they released their own project album, and the first single of this album "I Love You" featured Joo Hyun Mi, one of the biggest female trot singers in Korea.  Her vocal mixed well with Cho PD’s rap in between.  Definitely a fun song to listen to.



14. W & Whale – RPG Shine
Genre: Alternative Rock
Music: Bae Young Joon, Han Jae Won / Lyrics: Bae Young Joon, Whale
Album: W & Whale Vol. 1 Track 6 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: Ever since the debut of Jaurim, many female-fronted Korean rock/modern rock bands have emerged.  W & Whale are not exactly a new band.  The male trio W have been in the music industry for a while.  Their song "Shocking Pink Rose" was one of my favorite.  With the addition of female vocalist Whale, the group re-named themselves W & Whale.  One of the most successful crossover rock songs of 2008, it has a light rock beat and electronic sounds.  A captivating voice and dreamy melody make for a fantasy-like combination.



15. Namolla Family (feat. Tae In) – 너만 볼래 (Only want to see you)
Genre: Pop / Hip-hop
Music + Lyrics: Oh Se Wook
Album: Namolla Family digital single "Only Want To See You" Track 1
Watch: MV
Comment: Quietly having a good year that many people may not recognize, Namolla Family keep releasing digital single after digital single in 2008, and each song became a decent hit.  This is by far their best hit.  A very sweet song to listen to. Perhaps we shouldn’t even classify this as a hip-hop song, as the rapping is not a big part of the song. Featured female vocalist Tae In really took over for most parts of this light-hearted song.  The lyrics are very cute as well.



16. Hwa Yobi – 남자는 모른다 (Men Don’t Know)
Genre: R&B Ballad
Music: Lee Sang Joon / Lyrics: Hwa Yobi
Album: Hwa Yobi Vol. 6 Track 3 Purchase this album
Watch: Live Performance
Comment: Since returning from vocal cord surgery, Hwa Yobi has changed a lot. She has always been regarded as one of the best female vocalists in Korea. This is perhaps the most listener-friendly song that Hwa Yobi has ever produced. The song is emotional enough to fit her vocals but not exaggerated. During an interview, Hwa Yobi admits that she’s trying to appeal more to the masses now.  She has been very successful doing that in 2008, the climax being her appearance in the hit TV show "We Got Married", starring with Hwan Hee as a couple.



17. Seo Jin Young – 눈물이 글썽 (Tears In One’s Eye)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Music + Lyrics: Shim Hyun Bo
Album: Seo Jin Young mini-album "Tears In One’s Eye" Track 1 Purchase this album
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: One of my more personal choices here.  Seo Jin Young has always been one of my favorite Korean female singers that most people might not have heard of.  She debuted in 2001 when she was only 18.  Her debut song "Love Letter" was used in the KBS drama "Summer Scent" and the song was re-named "Missing You".  She also made our list when she sang the theme song for the KBS drama "Tale Of Nine Fox", named "닮은사람". Having a powerful yet smooth voice, Seo Jin Young’s ballads always have an attractive melody with a chorus where she hits the high notes.



18. Taw (feat. Joo) – 우리들의 행복한 시간 (Our Happy Times)
Genre: Hip-hop ballad
Music + Lyrics: Taw
Album: Taw digital single Track 1
Watch: MV Live Performance
Comment: One of the only two positions occupied by rookies – here both the rapper and the singer.  These days k-pop is filled with many ballads of the hip-hop style. This song here is one of the best of this genre I’ve heard this year, kind of reminds me of the song that I ranked No. 19 last year – PK Heman’s "Evergreen" (feat. Lee Ji Hye).  Ahn Hye Kyung’s narration in the beginning, then Taw’s soft rap throughout the song, plus Joo’s crystal clear vocals, make this a very addictive song to listen to.



19. Memory – Paradise
Genre: Folk Rock Ballad
Music + Lyrics: Memory
Album: Memory – "She Dreamed That She Was Flying Like A Bird" Track 4
Watch: Live Performance
Comment: The other new artiste who made our top 20 this year.  This is an ultra-refreshing song from all the pop sounds. Memory is a new female singer-songwriter who debuted just last month. Even her album title "She Dreamed That She Was Flying Like A Bird" was very refreshing. The melody is very folk-oriented, but you can classify it as alternative or even underground. Perhaps it is more suitable to perform on a college stage, but here she finds herself making our year-end top 20.



20. J-Walk – 안타까워 (Heartbreaking)
Genre: Pop
Music: Hang Sang Won / Lyrics: Kang Eun Kyung
Album: In The Season – Summer 2008 (digital single)
Watch: MV
Comment: The final position is usually reserved for a pop song and this year is no different.  J-Walk are the ex-Sechskies duo formed by Jang Su Won and Kim Jae Duk.  Back in 2002, their debut song "Suddenly" became an instant success.  Over the years, J-Walk’s music has changed a lot.  However, this song reminds me so much of "Suddenly", not the melody, but the style.  It’s interesting that this song is featured on a digital single "In The Season – Summer 2008", but not on their 2008 album.  This warm and easy-listening ballad fits winter more than summer.  Kim Jae Duk has reported for army duty now and J-Walk are not expected to have activities for a while.  Fans should cherish this song even more.



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