Edward1849’s Recommended Top 20 K-Pop Songs of 2014
*Edward1849 is the long-time curator of our Weekly Music Chart*
Happy Holidays everyone. It’s that time of the year and I find myself writing this post once again. It is increasingly difficult in recent years to select 20 songs for my list. There are so many great songs and artists to choose from, and as always I like to find a balance between underrated songs you may have missed this year and hit songs you are familiar with. I spent the last two days narrowing down from 50 songs to 20. Unfortunately some of the great songs I have to regret to take them out!
2014 is another great year in Kpop music. The main themes this year are:
1. Comeback artists – I don’t mean artists coming back from a few months to a year releasing their new albums. There are many well respected veteran artists coming back from long hiatus and released their new albums in 2014. Many of those are ranked in my top 10 this year.
2. Collaborations – In recent years there are more and more collaborations in Kpop. This year a lot of these collaborations have gone on to hit the top of the music charts. You will also find some of these duets in my top 20 list, even though it may not be the most popular ones.
3. Rookie class – After a down year in 2013, several new artists have impressive debuts in 2014. Stay tune to see who will be included in my list.
If you are not familiar with my recommended top 20 list, it consists of various music genres but few are the regular Kpop dance hits. You also won’t find too many idol artists here. My goal is to recommend some good songs you may have missed in 2014. In the past, there are a lot of unknown artists in the ranking, but this year I think most of the artists on the list are familiar names. Again, songs are more familiar as we get closer to the top.
Note that this list is not related to our Soompi Weekly Kpop Music Chart and it will not have any effect to the ongoing Soompi Awards 2014 voting. Everything is just the author’s opinion.
As always, we are doing a true countdown. Songs will be listed backwards from No. 20 to No. 1.
20. Dickpunks, Jun Jiyoon (4minute) – 소울메이트 (Soulmate)
Genre: Pop Rock
Album: Dickpunks X Jun Jiyoon Digital Single “Soulmate”
We started off with a collaboration songs. There are many collaboration hits by idol group members with underrated artists. I am surprised this song is not more popular as it has an easy listening, relaxing melody. It teams up 4minute’s Jun Jiyoon and rock band Dickpunks, who is runner up of Super Star K4. Dickpunks lead vocalist Kim Tae Hyun has great chemistry with Jun Ji Yoon, who also does the cute rapping in the song.
19. Park Shi Hwan – 다만 그대를 (I Just Loved You)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: Park Shi Hwan 1st Mini-Album “Spring Awakening” Track 1
Here is the first rookie singer to appear on our list this year. Park Shi Hwan is another artist who contested in Super Star (K5) talent show before making his debut. “I Just Loved You” is one of the title songs from the singer’s debut mini-album “Spring Awakening.” Written by veteran hitmakers Park Geun Tae and Shim Hyun Bo, this song samples the late Kim Kwang Suk’s “I Love You But…” It is a pop rock style ballad with an additive melody that seems perfect for the song’s spring time release.
18. The Lime – 술 한잔 하고 나면 (After A Drink)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: The Lime Digital Single “After A Drink”
This is a song of loneliness, describing the feeling after having a drink. It is the third single released by a new faceless artist who goes by his stage name The Lime. “After A Drink” is a powerful ballad full of sad emotions. It has additive melody with a powerful chorus and great arrangement reminiscent of drama OST songs.
17. Loco, Mamamoo – 이 노래 (This Song)
Album: SBS Drama “My Lovely Girl” OST Part 1One of the three drama OST songs on my top 20 this year. While this drama was a big disappointment in ratings, I really like “This Song.” It is a collaboration between rising rapper Loco and rookie female quartet Mamamoo, whom in my opinion is the most talented debuting female group since 2NE1. I could have easily chosen any of their songs for this list, but I opt for “This Song” which has an easy going melody to sing along. Mamamoo has worked with a lot of artists this year and they showed great chemistry with Loco.
16. Lina – Not OK
Genre: Rock Ballad
Album: Lina 3rd Single “Not OK”
This is another song unknown to most listeners. It is a very nice rock style ballad about one’s selfishness which is “Not OK.” Lina made her debut back in 2008 with “My Reminiscence” but she was not active again until this year. She sings with a lot of emotions on this song.
15. Lucky J -들리니 (Can You Hear Me)
Album: Lucky J Digital Single “Can You Hear Me”Another rookie to make my list, even though Lucky J should not officially be considered a new artist. All three members have a lot of experiences in Kpop. Both J’Kyun and Jessi (formerly known as Jessica H.O) had solo careers for a few years, and J-Yo was a member of the male group Touch. Lucky J reminds me of 8Eight with their lineup. “Can You Hear Me” is their first single. It is a hip-hop style R&B song. Each member’s distinct style is reflected in the song.
14. Ailee – 잠시 안녕처럼 (Goodbye My Love)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: MBC Drama “Fate To Love You” OST Part 6
I really like two songs from this drama, Ailee’s “Goodbye My Love” and Baek Ah Yeon’s “Morning Of Canon.” I ended up choosing Ailee here as she has a great year with two chart topping songs “Singing Got Better” and “Don’t Touch Me.” “Goodbye My Love” may not be as popular as those two hits but it is almost a guarantee that if this song is promoted, it would end up as a No. 1 song as well. This song has a beautiful melody along with Ailee’s powerful vocal. Whether you watch the drama or not you will get hooked to this song.
13. Kim Hyung Joong – 사랑에 물들다 (Stained In Love)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: Color Vol. 2I always like Kim Hyung Joong for his unique voice. While this song may not be his best hits like “May Be” in 2003 or his vocal on Toy’s “One Good Person” in 2001, it is his best song in the last few years. “Stained In Love” is the second single from the Color Project. First single was Lee Ye Jun’s “Mumble” released in early 2014. This second single has a brown color theme, which can be referred to as the color of longing. It is expressed in music by Kim Hyung Joong’s smooth voice. A good song this autumn that went mostly unnoticed.
12. 2NE1 – 너 아님 안돼 (Gotta Be You)
Album: 2NE1 Vol. 2 Track 32NE1 released three singles last year and a full album “Crush” this year. Continuing on the trend that their singles are more hard core and their album titles songs are more mass appealing, both title songs on their second full album “Crush” are listener friendly electronica genre mixed with R&B and hip-hop. “Come Back Home” may be the more popular song, but I like this other title song “Gotta Be You.” If not because of so many great veteran comebacks this year, it would have made my top 10. This song has two unique parts: the intro part has synth sound and rhythmic lapping, while the chorus part has old school crossover melody.
11. Yoon Mi Rae (T) – 너를 사랑해 (I Love You)
Genre: R&B Ballad
Album: SBS Drama “It’s Okay, That’s Love” OST Part 6It’s a great two year drama OST run for Yoon Mi Rae, both on Gong Hyo Jin starred dramas. Last year her “Touch Love” from the drama “Master’s Sun” made it to No. 8 on my countdown, this year she did it again with “I Love You” from “It’s Okay, That’s Love.” If my memory is correct, this is the only drama OST song in 2014 to hit No. 1 on the music chart. “I Love You” has acoustic guitar and R&B rhythm filled by Yoon Mi Rae’s laid back, husky voice. It just missed the top 10 but is the highest ranked drama song on my list this year.
Now on to the top 10.
10. Huh Gak & Jung Eun Ji – 이제 그만 싸우자 (Break Up To Make Up)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: A Cube For Season # Sky Blue (project single)There are many many duets from idol group artists in 2014, and I like this song the best. For the second straight year, Huh Gak and A Pink’s Jung Eun Ji teams up for the “A Cube For Season” project. Last year, they sang the song “Short Hair” for the Blue color theme. This year they encore once again with “Break Up To Make Up” for the Sky Blue theme. This song is a sweet acoustic ballad about the feelings of couples that have been together for a long time, going through the cycle of breaking up and making up. It has a listener friendly melody and arrangement. Huh Gak is the only artist to repeat in the top 10 this year. His “1440” was No. 8 last year.
9. MC Mong – 죽을만큼 아파서 Part 2 (Sick To Death Part 2 (feat. Sweden Laundry))
Album: MC Mong Vol. 6 Track 10
Whether you miss him or diss him, we should agree that MC Mong produced great music. The controversial rapper is back for his first full album in five years with lots of great songs. It has three title songs, including the chart topper “Miss Me Or Diss Me.” But two other songs in the album becomes popular as well: “The Happiest Time Of My Life (feat. Huh Gak)” and this song “Sick To Death Part 2.” Part 1 of this song featuring Mellow was released in 2010 on a project album “Trauma Part 2” and it was ranked No. 11 on my list that year. Part 2 features another indie artist, female duo Sweden Laundry. Despite their not-so-perfect English, Sweden Laundry otherwise did a good job performing this song alongside MC Mong’s rapping. This is the fourth time MC Mong made my top 10, and first time in eight years. He did it three straight years from 2004 to 2006.
8. HA:TFELT – Ain’t Nobody
Album: HA:TFELT 1st Mini-Album “Me”Wonder Girls’ Yeeun made her solo debut under the name of HA:TFELT. I am surprised “Ain’t Nobody” isn’t as popular as ex-Wonder Girl Sunmi’s songs. I think it is a very unique song with a fusion of dub-step, rock ballad, and trap. It is very different from past Wonder Girls’ songs. The lyrics are about a woman going through her complex emotions after breaking up with her boyfriend.
7. Boohwal – 사랑하고 있다 (And Love)
Genre: Rock Ballad
Album: Boohwal Digital Single “And Love”Perhaps lost in the shadow of all the great comebacks in 2014 were legendary Korean rock band Boohwal, who released their first new song in two years. Boohwal has undergone numerous lineup changes over the years. “And Love” is a lead single of their upcoming 14th album to be released next year to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary in the music industry. This song is a powerful guitar driven rock ballad. It really reminds me of one of Boohwal’s greatest hits “Never Ending Story,” which is also the only other song they made it to my year end top 10 list back in 2002.
6. Kim Dong Ryul – 그게 나야 (How I Am)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: Kim Dong Ryul Vol. 6 Track 5One of the most respected singer-songwriter in Korea, Kim Dong Ryul takes time to produce his music and that’s why he always have long gaps between his albums. “How I Am” is coming from his sixth album, his first full album in six years. Despite no promotion, this song reached No. 1 on many music charts and even won on SBS Inkigayo, a rarity for singers not performing. While I admit that “How I Am” is not as good as Kim Dong Ryul’s past great hits like “Saying I Love You Again,” “Like A Child,” and “Saying The Truth When Drunk,” it is still worth a spot in the top 10.
This year’s top five includes four songs by big name artists. Let’s find out who they are.
5. IU/Seo Taiji – 소격동 (Sogyeokdong)
Album: IU Digital Single “Sogyeokdong”/Seo Taiji Vol. 8 Track 2 This is the same song sang by IU and Seo Taiji. IU released her female version first, which was treated as the lead single of Seo Taiji’s 8th album “Quiet Night.” It is a very special collaboration between Korea’s National Sister and Korea’s legendary musician. Three weeks later, Seo Taiji himself released the album including this song. It is Seo Taiji’s first full album in five years. “Sogyeokdong” is a true electronic, trap style song very different from the electronic dance hits you hear in Kpop everyday. Perhaps only the legend himself can pull this out. I ranked both versions in this spot. Which version do you like better? There is also a duet version between the two singers on Seo Taiji’s comeback showcase.
Seo Taiji version:
4. Taeyang – 눈, 코, 입 (Eye, Nose, Lips)
Genre: R&B Ballad
Album: Taeyang Vol. 2 Track 2“Eye, Nose, Lips” is probably the most well known song in my countdown this year. It is also one of the top hit songs in all of Kpop in 2014. I am very surprised that Taeyang released such a listener friendly song, a sharp contrast to his last hit “Ringa Linga.” Obviously this song is a gift from Taeyang to all the fans. “Eye, Nose, Lips’ is the title song of Taeyang’s second full album “Rise.” The attractive piano intro of this song immediately draws your attention. Taeyang did a good job on this song portraying a man who yearns to be with his ex-girlfriend. A great song all around.
3. Taibian – 배영하는 물고기 (Backstroking Fish (feat. DIA))
Album: Taibian 2nd Mini-Album Track 2A surprise here with an underrated song ranking this high. Hip-Hop duo Taibian has been putting up good music all year. They had singles “Morning Star” and “Island” earlier in 2014, and capped off with a great song “Backstroking Fish.” On this song, Taibian collaborates with female vocalist DIA, who is also an underrated artist. This ballad has a beautiful melody with heavy hip-hop beats. DIA’s emotional vocal sings about regrets on a past love relationship. It is a sad song with great lyrics.
2. G.O.D – 우리가 사는 이야기 (The Story Of Our Lives (feat. Megan Lee))
Genre: Pop Ballad
Album: G.O.D Vol. 8 Track 6In my opinion, none of this year’s comeback artists brings back more memories than G.O.D. One of the greatest and most popular male group Kpop ever has, G.O.D makes a grand comeback in 2014 with a full team of five members. They released their 8th album, their first album in nine years. G.O.D also holds comeback concerts in Korea and worldwide, selling out in every one of them. “The Story Of Our Lives” is the title song of their 8th album. This Double Sidekick written mid-tempo ballad is vintage G.O.D style. It conveys a simple message about our busy daily lives and how we can forget the importance of our family. The song has a simple but touching MV. I am very close to putting this song as No. 1. Welcome back G.O.D and we all hope you will continue to make a lot of good music in years to come.
1. Epik High – 스포일러 (Spoiler)
Album: Epik High Vol. 8 Track 4Another comeback artist captures our top spot this year. You must be wondering why it isn’t the more popular “Happen Ending” getting the nod. Both songs are very good but I like “Spoiler” better, part of the reason is that “Spoiler” is purely an Epik High song which doesn’t feature another artist. “Spoiler” is one of the two title tracks from Epik High’s 8th album “Shoebox,” their first full album in two years. The song is about people who doesn’t want their significant others to have a change of heart. It narrowly edges G.O.D’s song for my top spot in 2014. Congratulations to Epik High.
This is the end of the countdown and I hope you like some of the songs and also discover some good songs you may have missed in 2014. See you again next year.