Wave Riders, how are all of you? It has been a long time for everyone… we have all been busy but we wanted to close 2015 with a BANG and what better way than to look back at this year and the best releases K-Pop wise? There is no way these could be put in order (we would be well into 2016 before I can successfully attempt to do that)- so to eliminate bias here are my top 10 K-Pop releases of 2015!
N.Flying – Awesome
My favourite debut this year – I am sad that more people didn’t pay attention to FNC’s latest group as the Rock/Rap sound was one that was definitely refreshing to hear in the world of Kpop. The whole mini album had a feel of Nu-Metal lite; a sort of watered down Linkin Park circa 2001 and growing up on that sound, I loved it. Awesome was like it’s name, awesome and brilliant. I wonder if people will look back on it as too ahead of it’s time; kind of like Wonder Boyz with their ‘Tarzan’ release.
EXO – Call Me Baby
This was the comeback to break all comebacks. I was lucky enough to be in Seoul at the time when this release was happening and was extra lucky to grab myself tickets for M!Countdown for their first Mutizen comeback (tickets sold out in like 10 minutes). There was a lot of hype around this and Call Me Baby exceeded expectations. With a New Jack Swing mid-90s vibe with an MV and routine that only emphasised their visuals even without their insane popularity, this was easily one of the best K-Pop songs of one of the last few years, let alone 2015.
BTS – I Need U
It is no secret about the love that I have for BTS. They are a group that, musically, can do no wrong. And 2015 was the year that they finally reached the heights of their senior groups and their popularity amassed to the point where in showcase concerts their fanchants and cheers are almost at EXO level. I Need U, their lead single from the HYYH Part 1 album was a departure in sound from previous leads with a more subtle but still incredibly hard hitting approach. It garnered them their first set of mutizens as well as a new legion of fans. I truly think 2016 will be BTS’s year.
Red Velvet – Dumb Dumb
Red Velvet are a group that go from strength to strength. After the earworm that was Ice Cream Cake (which I was pretty non-plussed about at first and then I fell for it after hearing it EVERYWHERE in Seoul March 2015) Dumb Dumb came out of nowhere and dropped like the banger it was. The sound that Red Velvet have is akin to what I expected F(x) to have (and I’m surprised SM are still unsure about what the latter’s sound IS) but nevertheless I am excited to see what these girls are going to bring out next. For me, this was THE girl group release of 2015.
GOT7 – Just Right
I was in a weird place with Got7 – I liked them but there wasn’t a single that grabbed me enough to make me go, “Hey, yeah this group is really good!”. Just Right was that much needed single for me- with a immediately grabbing intro and a very colourful MV (not to dissimilar in it’s use of colours like B1A4’s ‘What’s Happening’). Afterwards they released Mad which propelled them further into the public spectrum with a grittier image but in this writer’s heart Just Right was indeed just that.
VIXX LR – Beautiful Liar
This is indeed a surprise entry – Eternity was (almost) unanimously JaK’s favourite single of last year but since then their follow up singles haven’t had the same impact. The group’s first Sub Unit consisting of members Leo (vocalist) and Ravi (rapper) which was indeed a surprise combination, but the result was a stunningly dark song about unhealthy relationships that I certainly was not expecting. Could the unit have worked better if the vocalist was Ken or N? Maybe, but Leo matched the dark and moody feel of the lead single. The mini as a whole left a lot to the imagination but Beautiful Liar was simply brilliant.
Sunggyu – Kontrol
More people need to sing the praises of the leader of Infinite. Considering the style of what Infinite releases is not actually the style that Sunggyu personally leans towards (He joined Woolim because he was a fan of K-Rock group Nell) it’s nice to hear him go back to his roots. His second mini album, 27, is one of my overall favourites of the year and single Kontrol was, for me, the standout track of the two singles that he released from it. If it is not one that you would think of checking out, use this as my recommendation to definitely give it a listen- you will not regret it.
Big Bang – Bae Bae
The undisputed kings of K-Pop had the biggest comeback stories of the year with two singles per month to make sure that after three years of individual or collaborative releases they could dominate as a group again. Without a doubt their most popular single out of the 8 released was Bang Bang Bang but for this author the standout track was Bae Bae. A gentle trap sound with highly erotic undertones (and a rather bawdy MV- TOP and that syringe? Come on now!) this was Big Bang grown up and unafraid to show their sensual side.. and I loved it. And to be honest, they are the only group in mainstream Kpop who would be able to get away with doing it.
SHINee – View
Despite how incredibly popular SHINee are, I can’t help but feel sometimes SM does them a disservice. They are brilliant, but their lead singles could have been chosen better (let’s us not talk more about the ‘Symptoms’ injustice of 2013). But from their Odd album, View was finally a good choice. It was a sound not too dissimilar of 90s UK House & Garage and fans ate it up (so did I). The MV… well, yeah but the song is great for a nice early evening drive with the windows open along the motorway.
Wonder Girls – I Feel You
With two much older siblings than myself, I grew up on 80s music and adore the sound as it takes me back to happy times. So this long-awaited comeback was right up my street- the gentle vocals, the hazy, soft-focus visuals of the MV, the leotarts, the keytar… it was all a perfect package! I admit I was late to the original Wonder Girls hype train the first time around… I just hope it is not too late for these girls to reach the heights they once had.