Edward1849’s Recommended Top 20 K-Pop Songs of 2013
Edward1849 is the long-time curator of our Weekly Music Chart.
Happy Holidays everyone. 2013 is another wonderful year for K-Pop. It has really become the main genre of music in Asia now and also getting more worldwide attention. Many K-Pop artists have become international “Hallyu” stars with fans all over the world.
This is the 12th year I am writing this year end post. If you are not familiar with it, this is not about the biggest stars and their songs but some of the great songs I’ve listened to throughout this year that you may have missed. You won’t see too many big name idol artists on this countdown. But as usual, when we get closer to the top, more familiar names will appear.
It’s a great year for hip-hop music. Seven of the twenty songs are of this genre, including the No. 1 and 2 songs. As always, there are many ballad songs here as it is my preferred genre. Also, there are also many collaboration songs as it has become increasingly common today.
Note that this top 20 list is only the author’s opinion. It does not reflect Soompi’s weekly music chart and the 2013 Soompi Awards.
Let’s start the countdown. Just like the past, it will go backward from 20 to 1 to be more interesting.
20. Outsider (feat. Lee Soo Young) – 슬피 우는 새 (Sad Bird)
Two artists with extremely contrasting styles collaborate on this song. Outsider is known as the Korea’s (and perhaps the world’s) fastest rapper and Lee Soo Young the ballad queen. This song is about a wife who waits for her husband who has gone afar for so long that she dies and becomes a fossil. Outsider hit No. 2 on this countdown in 2009 with his breakthrough hit “Loner,” while Lee Soo Young was regularly in the top 10 of my list in early to mid 2000s. It is nice to see both artists back on the year end countdown.
19. 21GRM (Narration by Song Moon Sun of Miji) – 달콤한 안녕 (Goodbye Sweetie)
21GRM is a rookie male trio debuted this year. Even though they did not get too much attention, their song “Goodbye Sweetie” is one of my favorite songs from a male group in 2013. It is a pop and hip-hop style ballad about a man saying goodbye to his love. Even though it is painful, he still loves her and they have many sweet moments. The vocal harmony is very impressive, makes it a comfortable song to listen to any time of the year.
18. Mocozi – Love Song
Mixed folk rock indie trio Mocozi released their first album “The Voice Traveler” this past summer. The title track “Love Song” is about story of the lovers as implied. It is a refreshing guitar driven, easy listening folk rock song.
17. Electroboyz (feat. Park Soo Jin) – 떨려요 (Feeling Nervous)
Most fans remembered Electroboyz’s “Ma Boy 3” with After School’s Nana. This is the follow up song without much fanfare. Star Audition’s Park Soo Jin is the featured vocalist in this song. She owns a Jung In like voice at such a young age, making a lasting impression on the song. The best part I like about this song it’s the harmonica arrangement. Brave Brothers has written many hit songs in 2013, perhaps this super sweet love song is my favorite.
16. 5who – 다이어트 (Diet)
Indie mixed trio 5who released three songs in 2013, the last one being “Diet.” It is an upbeat song with acoustic sound about everyone’s dream of having an slim look, athletic body in the summer.
15. Pearl’s Day – 들리나요 (Can You Hear Me)
I admit having a fetish for female-fronted modern rock bands. This is one of the finest of this genre in 2013. After 2.5 years hiatus, Pearl’s Day returned in 2013 with a EP “Blind Letter.” Well known in the Hongdae indie scene, Pearl’s Day’s “Can You Hear Me” has vintage modern rock guitar sound, sending a message to fans who have been waiting for their return to hear them.
14. Ailee – 연인의 향기 (Scent Of A Woman)
Ailee has many hit songs in 2013, and perhaps this one goes unnoticed. One of the theme songs for the Strawberry Extreme Festival, “Scent Of A Woman” is an up-tempo rock and jazz mixed tune. You may be surprised that I choose this Ailee song over her other more popular songs. But this song shows a style we don’t often see in her.
13. Davichi – 거북이 (Turtle)
Davichi is the most active female group in 2013, having many hit songs. “Turtle” is a preview single of the duo’s second album “Mystic Ballad.” It is a sad love story about a person who slowly tries to forget one’s lover. Davichi’s perfect harmony makes this song a favorite during spring time. I like “Turtle” more than the other two hit songs “Just The Two Of Us” and “Be Warmed” from the same album.
12. Lee Seung Chul – My Love
Always a fixture on my year end countdown, the only surprise this year is that Lee Seung Chul is not in the top 10. I feel that “My Love” is a bit too plain compared to many of this past hit songs. Nonetheless, “My Love” is still a big hit in Korea this year and spent many weeks on the chart. This mid tempo rock ballad may not be a top 10 overall but still deserves a spot in the top 20.
11. Soyu, Mad Clown – 착해 빠졌어 (Stupid In Love)
After helping Geeks to launch their career last year with “Officially Missing You, Too” (No. 9 in my 2012 countdown), Sistar’s Soyu is lending her voice this year to another relatively unknown rapper Mad Clown, who is known as Korea’s Eminem. “Stupid In Love” is a hip-hop ballad about a girl who is hurt in love and a bad boy who is full of hateful words. This song hit No. 1 on many rankings in October.
Now onto the top 10.
10. Spica – Tonight
I was debating whether to rank this song or not since it is not an original song (from German project group Micheal Mind Project’s “Don’t Wanna Go Home.”) but I like it too much. It’s the best song this year from a female group in my opinion. The eurobeat sound is very different from regular Kpop upbeat songs. Spica did an excellent job remaking this song. Each member can hold her own in their parts of the song, showing the talented quartet is about to blossom.
9. Yoon Mirae (T) – Touch Love
Every year I included at least one drama OST song in my countdown. How can it not to be this song in 2013? From the hugely popular SBS Drama “Master’s Sun” this past summer. This song is played every time the drama reached a climax point. It’s popularity extended beyond the drama as it achieved an all-kill in music charts, very rare for drama songs. It is also the first time a drama OST song is ranked in my year end top 10. The attractive piano intro will get everyone’s attention. Yoon Mirae did an excellent job bringing out the emotion of the song. We’ll hear from her again later in the countdown.
8. Huh Gak – 1440
Released early this year, “1440” is the title song from Huh Gak’s first full length album “Little Giant.” Before this song, most of Huh Gak’s past hits had a sad theme. “1440” is totally opposite. Released right before Valentine’s Day, this lovely acoustic ballad is about the exciting feeling of falling in love. The title “1440” is coming from the lyric “I think of you 1440 times a day.” This song may not be as popular as “Monodrama” in the same album, but is definitely the right song to promote at that time of the year.
7. Geeks – Fly
Surprisingly, Geeks is the only artist who has a top 10 on my countdown for the second straight year. As mentioned earlier, they did it with “Officially Missing You, Too” last year. This time, the rappers did their own singing as well with “Fly.” Earlier in the year, Geeks released their first album “Backpack” and had the top 10 hit “Wash Away” with Ailee. “Fly” was released after that as a separate single. It is an easy listening pop style hip-hop song filled with positive energy that we have the power to fly in the sky. “Fly” is one of the songs hitmaker Kim Do Hoon has written in the top 10 this year.
6. Dynamic Duo (feat. Muzie of UV) – BAAAM
Dynamic Duo’s hip-hop style is more hard core and underground but they finally have a big crossover hit in 2013 with “BAAAM” topping many charts and even on music shows. “BAAAM” is the title song from Dynamic Duo’s seventh album “Lucky Numbers.” “BAAAM” is inspired from comic books as a phrase to show surprise and exclamation. It is used in the song to show the mentality of a man attracted by a woman.
Now the excitement is building up for the top 5….
5. W & JAS – Green
Perhaps the most unheralded artists among the top five, W & JAS is not new artists. W formerly teamed up with Whale as W & Whale and they appeared on my 2008 countdown with “RPG Shine.” JAS released an album in early 2012 under the name Jasmine. Now they team up to form W & JAS. “Green” is coming from the group’s mini-album “New Kid In Town.” The meaning is green light of the traffic light, going forward with love and hope. It is a mixture of electronica, jazz, and pop genre.
4. Brown Eyed Soul – Always Be There
You can count on having a Brown Eyed name artist “Always Be There” on top of my countdown but actually it is the first time Brown Eyed Soul appears on my list as a group. Previously, Brown Eyes, NaUl, and Yoon Gun appeared many times, but it is a first for BES. “Always Be There” is a very special song Brown Eyed Soul wrote to thank their fans as they celebrated their 10th anniversary in the music industry. Brown Eyed Soul’s song are usually R&B, jazz style but “Always Be There” is a retro style simple pop ballad with a heart warming melody.
Which songs will be the top three this year?
3. Hyorin – Lonely
Wow! Despite her first solo album “Love & Hate” has only been released for a month, Sistar’s Hyorin becomes the highest ranked idol artist on my countdown this year. While her other title song “One Way Love” is more popular and being promote extensively, I prefer the more traditional ballad “Lonely”. It is about a woman who has been hurt in love many times, but still believe in it. Hyorin’s vocal perfectly reflects the feeling of this song. It is another masterpiece written by Kim Do Hoon.
2. Various Artists – Brilliant Is (vocal by Gil and Jung In)
This is another song released not too long ago, featuring an all star lineup with many of top artists and entertainers: Skull, Haha, Geeks, Zico, Mad Clown, Swings, Double K, Zizo, Soul Dive, Heo Kyung Hwan, and Kim Ji Min. The vocal part is sung by Leessang’s Gil (who wrote this song) and Jung In. Some of the artists also have their own songs in the countdown this year. It is a commercial song for Hyundai. The best part of this song is not the song itself, but the 15 minutes plus MV that shows all participating artists and citizens from different walks of life that is really touching. The MV really upgrades the song. Do you have the patience to watch the full MV? You can download “Brilliant Is” for free on Hyundai’s website.
And our No. 1 song in 2013 is……
1. Drunken Tiger, Yoon Mirae (T), Bizzy – 살자 (The Cure)
I’ve mentioned at No. 9 that Yoon Mirae will appear again and here she is. This time with her husband Drunken Tiger, and MC Bizzy on this year’s No. 1 song “The Cure.” Drunken Tiger got the inspiration from his father and wrote this song about the people who need a cure from the hardships of life. The chorus part in English “It’s a cold, cold world out there, sometimes I feel as if nobody cares, I’m down down down, can somebody save me now?” sums up the theme of this reggae style hip-hop song. Yoon Mirae’s vocal is a perfect fit to the song. It is clearly the best song I’ve heard in 2013 and deserves the top spot.