OK. 2013 is staring us in the face and if I look back at the long stretch of 2012 behind me, I see fields of rookie artists and a lot of lackluster comebacks. In general people will look back at 2012 as the “year of Gangnam Style” and at the MAMAs 2012 it was proclaimed over and over again that 2012 was “the year of Kpop.”
But does one song’s mainstream success define the success of the whole genre?
The way I see it, 2012 punched out a few outstanding songs… and a lot of tracks pulled out of the folder labeled “Back Up Title Tracks (Use on Short Notice)”.
First up, 2012 was by far the year of YG as most of this year’s outstanding selections came from them – “Gangnam Style”, “Fantastic Baby”, “Bad Boy”, and “1, 2, 3, 4”. Titles that don’t even require me to state who they’re from – we already know- and we’ll likely be blasting and singing to them well into 2015.
Now, as for the songs that were pulled out of the aforementioned “Back up” folder… I’m not going to pick on any rookies since with new artists we’re never sure what to expect. With established artists it’s a different story. Because established artists have debuted and been given time to soak up the spotlight, there’s a certain level we expect them to reach. It’s not unreasonable to have high expectations. Most of these artists have undergone enough training for five debuts, and once they’ve had a taste of that stage, they’re ready to face our criticism.
Kara’s first release of this year was “Pandora” and the consensus across the community was pretty much “Yeah, it’s good, not their best”. The last words are important. This song attempted to straddle two different sounds and while it managed to find balance in both the light and dark elements of the song, at its most basic levels it’s weak as a title track. In the long run, it’ll be songs like “Mister” “Honey” and “Step” that will keep KARA afloat as a staple of the Kpop boom.
The graduation of Kahi aside, After School is still totally capable of carrying its status as a three-year veteran of the Kpop scene (considering how quickly new groups pop up – three years might as well be legendary). But lately their releases have not been promising. Splitting the group into a Red and Blue group last year was an ill achieved way of releasing a single. This year they released “Flashback”. The dubstep bridge couldn’t save the song from the uninspired melody and recycled beats. In the overall arch of After School’s career, there have been much better singles. “Flashback” unfortunately is one of their weakest.
Oh it pains me to even have them on here, but here’s the thing about SHINee. All their releases have been amazing, including “Sherlock” but here’s the other thing: “Amigo”, “Replay”, “Love Like Oxygen”, and “Lucifer” were all better. You know it. I know it. And I’ll bet you your next SHINee CD purchase, they know it too.
“Electric Shock” was played so much in Korea at the time of its release I would start to hear it… That “E-e-e-Electric” chorus in complete, hushed silence. No doubt the song is catchy and gets in your ears. That doesn’t make it outstanding and moreover, not one of f(x)’s finest releases.
Oh U-KISS. We could write a whole Shakespearean tragedy about you. U-KISS has released some stellar songs in the past – in fact, this might be the only year that I feel U-KISS wasn’t up to par with their previous work. “DORADORA” was a mess, a hot mess, but a mess nevertheless. It wasn’t consistent and failed to live up to its predecessors “Man Man Ha Ni” “Neverland” “0330” and “Shut Up”. That was followed up with “Believe” which was not bad, but not memorable either. “Stop Girl” however was the opposite of “DORADORA” in that it was refreshing, easy on the ears and well harmonized. But because it plays safe, it falls slightly short of being a heightened memorable release, something that U-KISS definitely needs.