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!