Tuesday, January 1, 2019

[PLAYLIST] KPOPPY's Best Of 2018 : The Eclectic Mix

Why was this so excruciating to narrow down to 30? Why did I like so much music this year? Maybe instead of becoming more cynical as I get older, I get more easy to please. Regardless, this mix of 30 eclectic choices in Korean music for 2018 is heavily expanded in the full post with some extra categories full of songs that could easily qualify for my top favorites. I'll have honorable mentions and some indie stuff and some hip hop stuff and album recommendations and really it's all too much, but I'm compelled to include everything. It's my blog and I'll do what I want!

Fashion-wise, the strappy/bondage-esque styling continued along with over-sized pieces and wide-leg pants coming back for the gentlemen. The mullet contagion is still spreading and I'm not happy about it.

MVs often get filmed at the same sets. In recent years, music videos had trends of being shot in abandoned pools/bathhouses and then wind farms. Over the last year, the most popular place continues to be this building...

LOONA, Stray Kids, SOYA, Jerastar (seen here) and at least a dozen more artists have all been seen at this distinctive building with the circular architecture.

The Latin rhythm playlist I started early in the year continues to grow though I have a feeling this musical trend will not have the same staying power as Tropical House. I feel like it may have already peaked? I'm sure there will be more songs following the style, but I'm getting the sense something else will take over instead. We still have a lot of 80s pop and 90s hip hop sounds going strong.

The usual rules! Only songs with music videos. No OSTs. No repeating artists. It's all my subjective and personal taste. My goal with the final playlist is that no matter what song comes on I have the same feeling of, "OH, I LOVE THIS SONG!" for every one of them. So, we have the playlist, some notes on it, and then anything goes at the end of the full post for honorable mentions (chalk full of good stuff this year!).

[Link to the full playlist on Youtube]

My 30 favorites in chronological order:
Notes on selected tracks and all the other shout-outs and recommendations in the full post.

I'll mostly be skipping over the tracks I already wrote about in the first half of the year playlist post.

-- I didn't expect this track to hang in there all year, but it did! I'm a big fan of both Oh Hyuk and CIFIKA's voices, so that's a match made in heaven. And like I've always said on KPOPPY, we embrace weird around here. 

JBJ - My Flower
-- 'My Flower' is still my favorite boy band release of the year. The chorus is super infectious and I always end up doing the little dance to it.

NCT U - Baby Don't Stop
-- Still my #1 song for the year.

Sojung (Ladies' Code) - Stay Here
-- I said this on Twitter, but Sojung's 'Stay Here' and Gaho's 'Stay Here' are my two favorite ballads of the year. I think of them as fraternal twins. Sojung's is a little more peace-giving and Gaho's is a little more epic, but I love them both dearly, and have been listening to them all year.

Heize (feat. Gaeko) - Jenga
-- Heize is on quite a roll lately. Love this video, love the jazzy feel of the song, and Heize's eye makeup is perpetually perfection.

Mad Clown X - Ailee - Thirst
-- The structure of this song is just classic and familiar. Male rap verses and a female vocal chorus. Mad Clown's rap has a nice energy and Ailee's killer vocals are totally satisfying and bubbly for the rest. Sometimes you just need a straightforward bop that gets you jumping. This is that track.

Jay Park, Simon D, Loco, GRAY - Upside Down
-- My pure rap pick for the year is this collaboration. I recommend checking out the lyrics. It's an uplifting and encouraging message. GRAY's production on the track is really nice. There are these ethereal synths that burst throughout and waver in the background that give lots of space for the rappers. Hip hop songs like this, where it's just a relay from one rapper to another often get boring for me, but the track keeps it interesting and bouncy for me.

-- These ladies came out of the gate swinging this year. LATATA turned into quite the hit. I think it's the most successful iteration of that Latin rhythm trend hitting K-Pop. Great sounding track and the kind of choreography in the chorus that sends dancing K-Pop fans flocking to learn it. Soyeon's charismatic presence and performance is really special. She's having a great year along with her participation in the K/DA collab.

Dreamcatcher - YOU AND I
-- At this rate, there's a strong possibility Dreamcatcher will make every list for the rest their career. Love these ladies. They have some of the most energetic live performances and best choreography. And they're sticking to that light horror, magical, supernatural narrative in their MVs, which is unique and well-executed.

ONF - Complete
-- Dude, this chorus. I don't know what else to say about it. Beyond catchy. Not that it's terribly unique these days, but the name I've given this song in my head is 'Fun with synths'. When MonoTree's production is on... it's so fun.

SHINee - Our Page
-- I had a very difficult time listening to or talking about SHINee all year, which is a shame because their work was so solid. Their 'The Story of Light' series was so beautiful. I loved a bunch of SHINee songs, as well as the work from the guys who had solo projects. It's just--still difficult. 'Our Page', the video, the origin of the lyrics, and with all of its context, is the one that completely emotionally wrecks me

Hyolyn - SEE SEA
-- Hyolyn is still bringing the summer, as per SISTAR tradition. She's off doin' her own thang on her own label, wearing what she wants, dancing how she wants, and living her best life.

-- This is probably my 2nd or 3rd favorite song of the whole year. I don't even know what it is I like so much about it. The whole thing is layered with soft effects and heavy reverb making it feel both moody and dreamy. I also really like WOODZ/Luizy's voice. He easily swings between more of an R&B singing quality and a rapping cadence that stays pleasing to the ear throughout. Lovely. 

-- Yet another boy band track that has an irresistibly catchy chorus. I think the melodies in the verses are really pretty and then you get this pounding chorus, but those melodies continue to develop all the way through. It gives me a smooth climbing or rising feeling and then the thudding chorus is a nice contrast. NA NA NA NAnanaa.

-- Interesting track. It sounds really unusual for me, but in a nice way.There's also a nice balance between Baehyun's voice, which is full of tone and flourish, trading off with Loco's relatively flat and simple rapping. ReacttotheK explains this better than I could, but the feeling of marching and circular repetition and the way it reflects the lyrical intention is really cool.

Jimin Park - April Fools (0401)
-- I always manage to have some video in here that's rather creepy. Lol. Jamie's voice is fantastic, as usual, and that's all that was needed to earn a spot here.

-- I'd been loving SUMIN's voice for quite some, typically in collaborations with hip hop artists. Getting a full album and a bunch of music videos was a treat. 'WOO' is my favorite. It oozes cool. The video is rad, too. Simple, but so effective with great dancers.

Cacophony - Breath
-- Speaking of ReacttotheK... I came across Cacophony during my normal aggregation of new videos for posting through the week. Every once in a while I'll encounter an artist so interesting that it melts my brain a little bit. As soon as I had heard Rosetta and Breath I knew I had to recommend Cacophony to the ReacttotheK channel, which I promptly did on Twitter. To my delight, Umu and Kevin did a reaction to these two videos and followed that up with the full album, as well as the other musicians. Umu also went the extra mile to get in contact with Cacophony herself, which is completely awesome.

Rosetta is amazing, but Breath left me teary-eyed and gasping, which I suppose is appropriate. I'm really happy, in my very small way, I was able to bring even a little more attention to Cacophony. Her work is very deserving of it and so much more.

IZ*ONE - La Vie en Rose
-- Well, this was unexpected. I only watched a few episodes of PRODUCE48, before I gave it up, so I don't know this group like I knew IOI or Wanna One. Regardless, I love this song. It feels so well-crafted. The really aggressive percussion right at the start of the chorus is what really does it for me. Also, the choreography is beautifully designed to complement each musical element. Gorgeous video. It's the full package for me.

-- I contemplated whether this one should get a spot, but dude, I like it. It's going in! (G)I-DLE's Soyeon and Miyeon are featured alongside Madison Beer and Jaira Burns. There's Korean in there! This is totally one of those songs that gives me the impression it was designed with the explicit intention to make a hit that a broad audience would enjoy. Did pretty darn well on that front. I have no shame to be counted among the teeming masses. Yep, we range from Cacophony to K/DA 'round these parts. That's the way I like it.

Drunken Tiger - Mantra
-- I was really happy to get a Drunken Tiger album this year... the last one ever. The end of an era. Always absolutely love traditional instruments integrated into contemporary hip hop music. Yet was also a contender, but I had to go with Mantra in the end.

Okay! Let's get into everything else that was in close contention or worth another look/listen.
Honorable mentions:
Lots of love for HOLLAND and his courage. I'm keeping an eye on MINSEO, with her gymnastic vocal abilities. Happy to see SOYA properly kick off her solo career. Yubin's MV for Thank U Soooo Much is one of my favorites for pure fun. MOMOLAND's BBoom BBoom is iconic and one of the most enjoyable hits of the year. LOONA finally having their official debut as a full group was great, though I much preferred 'favOriTe' to 'Hi High', which was too high high high for me. TWICE had an incredibly busy year. I feel for those girls. They must be exhausted. Their music is not usually my thing, but Dance The Night Away was super energetic and positive.

Park Hyo Shin's 'The Day' from the Mr. Sunshine OST and his digital single 'Sound of Winter' are epic and beautiful and I still listen to them both regularly.

If you'd like to check out some artists more towards the indie end of things, check these out. I'm really big on the MOTTE and GUNTAC tracks as well as OVAN's beautiful 'Happiness'.
There was a ton of hip hop that I loved this year, especially the stuff that was bouncy, bright, and fun. J-Hope's whole mixtape is great. Yoonmirae's releases were all wonderful. Samuel Seo's ♪ plaaayin' Diablo, peelin' avocado ♪ made me lose it in the best way. Lol! BTS's rappers with DDAENG, which was released for free during their debut anniversary festivities, feature those traditional Korean instrumentals I love so much and some truly clever lyrical bravado.

A quick shout-out to some of the best choreography. As always, SEVENTEEN kicked ass with both Oh My! and Getting Closer. Dreamcatcher had my favorite girl group choreo in YOU AND I with those handkerchief props as well as IZ*ONE putting their numbers to great use in La Vie en Rose. Also props to Hyoyeon's Punk Right Now, which looks like a blast to perform and my girl Chung Ha with her clean attention detail in Roller Coaster. I didn't care for BTS's Fake Love as a song, but the choreography is killer--especially Jimin's performance of it, which makes my entire body hurt in sympathy. He hits so hard it's crazy.

KATIE's Remember will get my English language nod. Cool song and extremely cool video.

I want to give a tip of the hat to BTS's IDOL. I'm not the biggest fan of the song. For me it went too EDM and auto-tuney and didn't have as much of the traditional Korean instrumental promised in the teaser. The MV is pretty spectacular but in a similar criticism to the song, I loved the integration of traditional Korean visual elements, but the CG stuff was overkill... though I appreciated the intention.

HOWEVER, the performance of IDOL at the MelOn Music Awards was everything I wanted the song and performance to be. It is THE most spectacular live stage I have ever seen from Korea's many award shows and festivals at the end of the year.

BTS's whole set at MMA will probably go down in history as one of the most iconic ever in the industry.

Alright, to close out, a few album recommendations. I'll use Spotify links for these:
It's time to hajima! That'll do it for KPOPPY's 2018 wrap-up.
As always, feel free to comment or link me to your own favorites lists or yell things at me on Twitter @AlleyBetwixt. It's my big goal this year to get KPOPPY.com fully updated and refreshed. Have a great 2019, folks!

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