Blue’s K-pop song picks from the first half of 2012

Favorite musicians of all time? The Beatles. Favorite music genre? Hip hop. Favorite Korean musicians? Epik High. Leessang. Yoon Do Hyun.

I probably don’t belong to the typical K-pop listening demographics who frequent major K-pop news and fan sites. In fact, upon hearing me hum along to a 1960s hit song by Bae Ho, a friend visiting from Korea remarked, “I was born, raised, and lived my entire life in Korea. And yet until now, I’ve never met anyone (our age) who knew and listened to old Korean songs like you, and of all places, living in America!”

So it may come as a surprise to some to learn that I too listen to the current K-pop “idol” music bombarding the air waves. Or perhaps it’s not too surprising after all, considering my age places me smack in the middle of that generation which first embraced and fangirled over the earlier idol groups like H.O.T., Sechkies, and S.E.S.

Back in college, I once overheard a girl list obscure band names and then proclaim that she had good music taste. Instead, my criteria for what is good music is much simpler.  “What sounds good to my ears?”

I learned that if you have an open mind (and ears), you’d be surprised to find “good music” from the oldest of Korean folk songs, to 1960s Liverpool, and yes, even the most fleetingly popular “K-pop songs” that are “in” one moment and gone the next.

Truth be told, I find it increasingly difficult to find good K-pop songs in recent years. But there must have been something good in the Seoul air this year or perhaps there was some change in me, for after wandering away from the mainstream K-pop music scene the last two years, I was pulled right back in by the newly released songs of 2012. And so, based purely on my own personal preference, I’d like to share with you my top k-pop song picks from the first half of 2012!

8. U-Kiss “Doradora” 

The body wave dance that accompanies the chorus to this song is so… WIN!

7. MBLAQ “It’s War”

Love Mir’s rap part in this song.

6. Shinhwa “Stay”

Shinhwa made a comeback after a four-year hiatus. I was never a fan of Shinhwa’s music in the past, but there’s something about “Stay” and how it reminds me of 90s K-pop music that just… gets… to me. I really think Shinhwa would have done better to promote this song as their main track instead of “Venus.”

5. Teen Top “Going Crazy”

One day Bella teased me for falling for jailbait upon hearing me describe 2PM boys as “hot.” I replied back, “I think I should be okay as long as I don’t start fangirling over Teen Top or something. Now that would be disturbing!” Fortunately, I’m not at that point yet, but you can count on Brave Brothers to produce some addicting tunes.

4. CN Blue “Still in Love”

If you’d asked me earlier this year, I would have thought this song would surely top my list until the end of this year. But alas…

3. Busker Busker “Cherry Blossom Ending”

I first learned about Busker Busker while watching the second episode of On Style’s Lee Hyori’s Social Club Golden 12. Curious, I looked them up online, learned that they were a contestant on Superstar K3, and fell absolutely in love with the lead singer Jang Beom-jun’s voice and style.

2. Big Bang “Blue”

I’ve liked Big Bang’s music ever since their debut, but I found all their newer songs disappointing after “Last Farewell.” And so when I heard that Big Bang released a new album, I didn’t have a very high expectation. But within the first five seconds of hearing their title track “Blue,” I was in love. So much so that I ended up playing it again, and then again, and again…

*Brown Eyed Girls “Cleansing Cream”

And in case you think this list lacks female representation, well, I must admit I prefer Korean songs sung by male vocalists. But if I were to have done a similar list like this in 2011, there’s no question in my mind that Brown Eyed Girls’ “Cleansing Cream” would have easily topped the list.

Finally, (my) number one song from the first half of 2012 goes to…

1. Big Bang “Monster”

What can I say? 2012 was Big Bang’s year.

Do you agree or disagree with my list? Please share your song picks from the first half of 2012. And here’s to hoping that the second half of 2012 is even stronger than the first!


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  1. joonni

    You know my heart skipped a little when I saw this on my twitter feed. <3
    Because I have liked K-pop my whole life, I had sort of a (very short) momentary crisis in college when I thought, "Does my taste in music suck?" But I soon realized that music is something that is very visceral and so particular to each person's taste, that to judge someone has having "good" or "bad" taste in music in unnecessary.
    I think there is music that many people could agree on as being innovative, as reflecting a generation, as a high quality production, but the terms of "good" and "bad" are to vague and general to have real value.
    So I'm happy to listen to music that makes me want to dance, or makes me want to sing, or makes me want to cry. If it affects me and sounds "good" to my ears…that's all I want from music…to move my heart and soul.

    I thought I would like idols less and less as I get older and I am, not in depth but in scope. I think once I like an idol group, I like them as much as I liked one ten years ago. I just don't like as many as I used to. There's just too many of them and I can't even bother to give them a try.

    Busker Busker's "Cherry Blossom Ending" has been on repeat for a long time now on my iTunes. I think the lead singer's voice has a tint of old-fashion in it. And I'm loving the acoustic sound this year. That's why CN Blue's "Still in Love" is also on my favorites list. I absolutely love Jung Yong Hwa's voice. While retaining his own style, he is capable of singing a lot of different genres and when he sings, you can tell he is enjoying it.

    Have you heard the song "The Song that Gets Worse When You're Feeling Bad" by the "new" group 형돈이와 대준이? It's completely addictive and hilarious. The whole group is hilarious. A 30-something comedian and a rapper duo. I love it. Reminds me of UV.

    1. blue

      Hey Joonni,
      I agree with everything you said! I couldn’t have said it better.

      And I heard that Jung Hyung Don formed a duo, but I haven’t listened to their song yet. Since I really like UV, I’ll definitely check it out too. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. estel

    I like Monster…but man, their styling is scary. Tae-yang’s divided mohawk? And was it Seung-ri wearing those glorified football pads? I liked TOP’s pseudo cowboy hat, though.

  3. Iviih

    I listened to Blue and Cleansing Cream so much!

    But I also listened to Falling – John Park over and over again <3


    And Sunny Hill's songs because I find they unique and fun :))

  4. puddingpie

    Hi, so happy to see you post again! ^^

    I love all your top k-pop song picks, Blue. Besides all that, I listened to all Leessang songs, Ulala Session (their ballad rocks!), Cliff Parade by Nell, Xia Junsu, Tomorrow by Tablo feat Taeyang and Heaven by Ailee (She has great voices I tell you).

    I really enjoy these songs till my heart’s content =)

  5. shl

    Thank you for sharing these! I know very little about kpop (apart from kdrama OSTs) your top songs are a great introduction for me. Thank you again!

  6. Indigo

    Heh, I find it funny that Blue likes “Blue”.

    When it comes to K-pop then I’m often more charmed by the visual beauty of it (dancing, music, video, pretty idols etc) than the song per se. There are actually only a few idol groups that make music that suits me, Big Bang of course is that one group that gets all of my attention. So for me K-pop isn’t only about music, but everything that goes along with it. It is sometimes really intresting to observe from a non-Korean perspective. And watching it spread all over the world is quite a phenomenon.

  7. Malta

    Love MBLAQ and their R&B / Hip Hop style, but I’m not into the video what with all the guns and stuff.

  8. elena

    I have recently found a really COOL K-pop site called GURUPOP. There are so many nice K-pop fans to spazz with. Also you get interact with the K-pop stars by the weekly live show called GURUPOP Show. http://bit.ly/LMekDL

  9. longtimelurker

    Loved DORADORA! How about some Seo In Guk? I’m converted after AM1997 XD I’d recommend anything by INFINITE. They debuted back in 2010, but it was their 2011 ‘Be Mine’ which well and truly got me on board :D

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