After TVXQ’s “Keep Your Head Down” narrowly beat out Secret’s “Shy Boy” in “The Prophet Blog’s Hottest K-Pop Songs of 2011… So far” list, it’s now time to kiss the past year goodbye and round up all the great stuff that was released in the second half of 2011.
Since the first list covered songs released between January 1st and July 1st, part II will look at all the flawless K-Pop released during between July 1st and December 25th.
So many defining songs were released last year that it’s impossible to fit them all onto one relatively small list, so just because something didn’t make the cut, doesn’t mean that I didn’t absolutely love it to pieces.
Proceed below… at your own risk!
33. Seo In Guk – Shake It Up
Superstar K winner Seo In Guk has had this impossibly catchy slice of radio club-pop firmly stuck in my head since it first came out. Not quite as good as Super Junior’s “Shake It Up”, but a perfectly fun and feel-good party song, nonetheless.
32. Davichi & T-ara – We Were In Love
CCM’s girl-duo Davichi joined forces with a few of the broads from T-ara for this emotional Hip-Hop ballad. What was originally supposed to be just a quick Christmas cash-in turned into one of the best singles of the holiday season, blasting into the top 10 of the GAON charts and becoming so popular that the two groups had to promote it, despite original plans not to.
The best part: Hwayoung finally getting some shine with her epic closing rap. The worst part: That CCM rushed this out as a digital single, and didn’t save it as a title track with a big fancy video.
31. Trouble Maker – Trouble Maker
Over a bed of disco-funk, Moves Like Jagger whistles, and squelchy electronica, Korea’s favorite sex kitten HyunA turns B2St’s Hyun Seung from a boy into man. The only thing that could’ve made this even better would be if Ga-In replaced HyunA — or if Britney and Justin did it back in 2002!
30. DANA&SUNDAY – One More Chance
The Grace’s Dana and Sunday returned this year as the imaginatively-titled sub-unit DANA&SUNDAY, turning themselves into the female HoMin with their urban-dance single “One More Chance”. With its unique production and melody and backing from SM Entertainment, it’s a shame that this wasn’t a bigger hit.
29. TEEN TOP – Don’t Spray Perfume
This song wasn’t just one of the best songs of the year, but also one of the most scandalously bizarre. In “Don’t Spray Perfume”, the adolescent boys of TEEN TOP brag about having a passionate affair with an older woman, but urge her not to wear perfume in case it leaves behind any smellable any traces of their barely-legal liaisons and gets the boys busted by their girlfriends. The song’s production is slick synth-pop at its finest, but it’s the boldly original concept that makes “Don’t Spray Perfume” smell so sweet.
28. Girl’s Day – Don’t Let Your Eyes Wander
I’d like to say that Girl’s Day have been on a roll this year, but really, they’ve been amazing since they debuted. They started with the autotuned weirdness of “Tilt My Head”, followed with the underrated “Nothing Lasts Forever”, then reinvented themselves as crazed cuties earlier this year for their breakout smash “Twinkle Twinkle” (which ranked #4 on my first K-Pop ‘Best of’ list). They followed-up with the adorable “Hug Me Once”, and finally closed out 2011 with the aegyo-fuelled explosion of dizzying Euro-dance that is “Don’t Let Your Eyes Wander”.
Can these flawless dolls do anything wrong?
27. Simon D – Stay Cool Feat. Zion. T
Simon D’s “Stay Cool” is one seriously smooth slice of old-school R&B — think Music Soulchild by the way of South Korea. Ideally suited to slot somewhere on your lovemaking playlist between Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat” and D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar”.
Sidenote: Check out Simon D’s album SNL League Begins at No. 19 on The Prophet Blog’s Best Albums of 2011.
26. Davichi – Don’t Say Goodbye
T-ara wasn’t the only CCM artist to smash the charts this year, with female duo Davichi giving their labelmates a run for their money with their enormously successful pop ballad “Don’t Say Goodbye”. Further adding to the song’s greatness is the grisly music video, which starts off all lovey dovey but climaxes with a truly chilling conclusion.
25. JYJ – In Heaven
I bought JYJ’s last album just because I think it’s unfair what SM Entertainment have put the trio through, despite not actually being the hugest fan of their music, but even I couldn’t ignore their stunning suicide ballad “In Heaven”. Beautifully written & arranged by member Jaejoong and completed with the group’s trademark harmonies, it’s songs like these that confirm that JYJ are gonna be a huge force in K-Pop for years to come.
24. Secret – Love is MOVE
They played the cute card for all it’s worth this year, but nobody does sexy and sassy quite like Secret do, so the saucy starlets absolutely slayed when they returned to their old image for the horny “Love is MOVE”.
Expect big things from these ladies in 2012.
23. Piggy Dolls – This Girl I Know
Poor Piggy Dolls. So talented, yet so underrated.
After debuting as three fatties with their techno-flop “Trend”, the Piggies reinvented themselves as slimline angels with a sweet new image and a quirky new sound. Their single, “This Girl I Know”, is a uniquely produced piece of oddball pop, with the Piggies bemoaning the physical and mental anguish of unrequited love over a bizarrely wonderful concoction of horns and cartoonish boings.
22. RaNia – POP POP POP
This has to be the cheapest and most generic song to make it onto this list, but there’s no denying that RaNia’s “POP POP POP” snagged me hook, line, and sinker this year. Produced by the RedOne of K-Pop, Brave Brothers, “POP POP POP” is a shameless Euro-dance anthem that sounds just like everything else that Brave Brothers has ever done before — but it’s just so damn good!
21. Sunny Hill – Pray
Sunny Hill has easily been one of the most unexpectedly amazing acts of 2011 — K-Pop or otherwise. After moving from Nega Network to LOEN Entertainment, the group received a major overhaul and returned with a bold new sound and style that put many bigger acts to shame. Their heartbreaking ballad “Pray” produced one of the best music videos of the year, and the song itself would’ve ranked even higher on this list if the Brown Eyed Girls’ hadn’t shamelessly ripped it off and then improved on it with “An Inconvenient Truth”.
20. Wonder Girls – Be My Baby
K-Pop icons the Wonder Girls made the most anticipated comeback of 2011 after returning from an extended-hiatus with their hit “Be My Baby”. The catchy jingle borrowed from Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” for the music and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” for the video, creating an impossibly infectious tune that had everyone feeling like the Wonder Girls had never even left.
19. Super Junior – A-Cha
After recycling “Sorry Sorry” for the trillionth , Super Junior repackaged their Mr. Simple album and made a stellar comeback with “A-Cha”. The exhilarating electro-pop anthem packs a truly explosive chorus (would we expect anything less from SuJu?) and the kind of ferocious club beat that Britney and Lady GaGa would sell their first-born babies for.
18. Girls’ Generation – The Boys
Asia’s finest left the structured-pop of their old hits behind and adopted a new urban sound on their chart-topper “The Boys”. The Teddy Riley-produced anthem saw the girls channeling Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl”, dropping cheerleader chants over a twisted Hip-Hop beat that made all the boys feel the heat.
17. Wheesung – They Are Coming Feat. Ailee
Before enlisting in the army, Wheesung rocked the charts with this gorgeous Hip-Hop and R&B ballad.
We all know that the man can sing his ass off, but it was his young female protege Ailee who really caught our attention with her short-but-memorable rap feature.
16. KARA – STEP
After spending most of 2011 slaying Japan with their cute charms and artificial beauty, K-Pop Kweens KARA made a colorful comeback in Korea with the glittery “STEP”. The Sweetune-produced smash is pretty much how I imagine a 1980′s workout video filmed in a Tokyo games arcade at midnight to look and sound.
Can your faves?
15. 2NE1 – Hate You
2NE1 had a huge 2011, amassing no less than four number one singles from their 2nd mini-album. Sadly, the album’s best track — the outstanding “Hate You” — was the only one of the bunch to miss the top spot, but it’s still one of the strongest tunes that the powerful quartet have ever recorded. The smooth single sees the girl-power pioneers mercilessly kicking a bad boyfriend to the curb over a slippery electronic groove, snapping selcas and doing their nails in between throwaway schoolyard taunts.
14. Tablo – Bad
When Epik High’s Tablo announced that he had signed to YG Entertainment as a solo artist, I was a little worried that he’d suddenly transform into an autotuned robot rapping over wannabe-Stargate beats. Instead, he gave us “Bad” — a stunning anti-love song that somehow manages to be totally alternative yet completely commercial at the same time.
Think of “Bad” as the darker, older brother of “Haru Haru”.
13. T-ara – Cry Cry
T-ara continued their winning streak in November with the release of “Cry Cry”. The song was simultaneously a nod to their first album, a throwback to classic turn-of-the-millennium pop, and a musical step forward with its dark lyrics and Flamenco-infused production.
T-ehwah time to love… shhh!
12. Clazzi – How We Feel Feat. 2AM’s Seulong
Clazziquai mastermind DJ Clazzi made a stunning entry into the solo market with his first single “How We Feel”. Featuring the sublime vocals of 2AM’s Seulong, “How We Feel” is a sleek serving of synth-pop and highbrow electronica that’s just as good –if not better– than Clazziquai’s best work.
See, not all K-Pop is repetitive hooks and bastardized Western beats.
11. Brown Eyed Girls – Hot Shot
Before coming back to slay us all with the best K-Pop album of 2011, the Brown Eyed Girls warmed everyone up with this spicy Cuban drinking anthem. Only BEG could make a song about getting wasted sound so damn sophisticated.
10. INFINITE – Be Mine
INFINITE is the best boy band since BIGBANG, and they were finally able to prove it this year with their smash hit “Be Mine”. Over a roaring synth-pop beat courtesy of the brilliant Sweetune, the boys swoop in like lovesick knights in shining armor to turn a friend into a lover. Along with Rihanna’s “We Found Love”, it’s the most romantic uptempo tune of the year.
9. 10cm – Hug Me
K-indie duo 10cm had one of the year’s most surprising hits with their breezy ballad “Hug Me”. Simple, sweet, and a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek, “Hug Me” is a beautiful little ditty about wanting to be held by a lover after a bad day — even if it’s so tight that bones are broken!
8. Yoon Mi Rae – Get It In Feat. Smokey Robotic (English Ver)
After suffering through a year of Nicki Minaj, Kreayshawn, and assembly line K-rappers, the Queen of female Hip-Hop returned with a samurai sword and a spitfire flow to slice the competition with the roaring “Get It In”. Throw in a clubby breakdown and an indie-twist courtesy of Smokey Robotic, and you’ve got one of the strongest Hip-Hop tracks of 2011 — not just in Korea, but anywhere on the planet.
7. IU – You & I
IU didn’t quite match the quality of the 110% flawless “Good Day” with her comeback track “You & I”, but just as expected from the adorable singer, the song is still one of the year’s finest. From it’s spine-tingling Tim Burton-esque intro to IU’s heavenly voice gliding through the cinematic production, “You & I” is a perfect example of why this girl is not only Korea’s Sweetheart, but one of Asia’s most talented rising artists.
6. Nine Muses – Figaro
A handful of girl groups did the disco concept this year, and while T-ara may have won hands down in the style stakes, musically, it was the Nine Muses who came out on top. Their throwback “Figaro” boasts influences from classic Italo-disco to the chic sounds of 1970′s NYC nightlife, all polished off with Sweetune’s trademark synthy sheen. Easily the most underrated K-Pop song of the year.
5. Brown Eyed Girls – Cleansing Cream
The Queens of K-Pop returned to their ballady roots with the chilling “Cleansing Cream”. Better than both Sunny Hill’s “Pray” and their own “An Inconvenient Truth” put together, BEG managed to turn a concept as simple as putting on makeup into the year’s most haunting and poignant ballad.
4. Brown Eyed Girls – Sixth Sense
When the Brown Eyed Girls promised that they’d be back with something as good as “Abracadabra”, they weren’t frickin’ kidding. From the genre-bending production to the unbeatable vocals and truly epic music video, “Sixth Sense” encompasses everything that defines BEG and puts them head and shoulders above every other girl group in the world.
3. LeeSsang – Turned Off The TV Feat. Yoon Mi Rae and 10cm’s Kwon JungYeol
Hip-Hop duo LeeSsang bagged one of the biggest monster hits of the year with the racy and romantic “Turned Off The TV”. The sweet indie-rap track sees the LeeSsang fellas trying to get their girlfriend to switch off the TV and come to bed for some lovemaking, but in typical female fashion, she’s too tired and just wants to cuddle. Humorous and heartwarming, it’s not hard to see why this was one of the most successful singles of 2011.
2. HyunA – Bubble Pop!
4minute’s HyunA became a sexy viral sensation this year thanks to her seriously hot hit “Bubble Pop!”, but there’s a lot more to this song than just the jerk-worthy visuals. Like Britney’s “How I Roll” on speed and kimchi, “Bubble Pop!” is essentially the Korean version of a “Single Ladies”, “Umbrella”, or “Toxic” — the kind of bubblegum banger that’s bound to go down in the pop history books as one of the most shamelessly addictive and enjoyable pop anthems ever.
1. miss A – Good-bye Baby
miss A’s “Good-bye Baby” may not be as groundbreaking as “Sixth Sense” or as instantly-arresting as “Bubble Pop”, but you know what they say: Slow and steady wins the race. While everybody was busy trying to outdo each other, miss A were just busy doing themselves. With it’s blend of mature R&B, sexy pop sensibilities, and the total flawlessness that is Jia, this defiant kiss-off to a bad boyfriend is one of the best songs that JYP ever produced.