6:05 pm - 12/31/2012
Let’s Face It: 2012 Was Not Kpop’s Best Year
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.
I like everything that T-ara has released this year, but they were obviously trying to repeat the success of “Roly Poly” and “Bo Peep” and while that did happen for “Lovey-Dovey” (released at the very beginning of 2012) it didn’t feel quite as deserved. “Lovey-Dovey” might as well have been titled “Roly Poly The Sequel”. “Sexy Love” might as well have been titled “The Lovey-Dovey Sequel”.
T-ara’s sound is practically its own genre now. The songs themselves aren’t bad. Everyone loves to shuffle to “Lovey-Dovey” and what was expected to be a bad comeback single “Sexy Love” turned out to be fantastic. But the songs are starting to blend together rather than stand out. What was once a refreshing sound for T-ara has now become nothing more than a reusable hook. At some point someone is going to say “Enough with the sequels. I’m ready for something new.”
Oh dear. Is the all mighty Super Junior going to be criticized as well? Well, not quite, because no matter what, nothing can be worse than “Mr.Simple”. “Sexy, Free & Single” was, in this author’s opinion, Super Junior’s best comeback since their “Sorry, Sorry” promotions. And that’s great right? 2012 was a good year for them!!
…And then they released “SPY” and that opinion shattered into a thousand pieces. They tried to experiment with something new and released the Frankenstein of pop songs. I’ll take “I can’t stop thinking about you girl” over “go kick it in the butt” any day of the week. At least they did one thing right. It’s not a Super Junior song unless the English lyrics do not make sense.
I can see your eyebrow lifting right now and I can feel your judgment. But Taetiseo is still a part of Girls’ Generation. My thoughts on “Twinkle” are pretty much on par to Kara’s “Pandora” – not a bad song, but not the best compared to the other tracks on the album. “Baby Steps” and “OMG” in particular would have made superior singles, but they chose to go with “Twinkle”.
“This Is War” was a powerful change for them, but like all artists, we’ve come to expect more from them. “This Is War” evokes the type of emotion that’s difficult to access and doesn’t keep me interested enough to give it repeat listens. It was an admirable effort but they can do much better.
Love her, just not that song. “Ice Cream” has a lot of misplaced sounds and is constantly playing with the tempo. The results are kind of messy, but that’s not what makes the song sting. It’s those lyrics. “My diamond ring so bling bling” “Chocolate ice cream like my dark skin” “I got 31 flavors” …I’ll stop there.
Wrapping it Up
So 2012 wasn’t the best year for comebacks, but there were some artists who came through with strong singles this year – B2ST with “Beautiful Night”, Secret with “Poison” and “Talk That”, Sistar with “Alone”, Infinite with “The Chaser”, TVXQ with “Catch Me” and 4Minute with “Volume Up”. We’re talking about an entire year’s worth of releases so there’s no way to list everyone. Some songs teetered on the brink of greatness, while others barely made it to the edge (even 2NE1′s JK comeback offering “I Love You” fell short).
The reasons why Kpop comebacks sort of flopped this year might be attributed to the focus on overseas activities, leaving the Korean promotions to take a bit of a hit this year in terms of quality.
2PM for example didn’t even have a comeback this year. 2NE1 also greatly focused on overseas activities. Another reason could be that that by focusing on new artists, established artists were left with the crust of promotional activity, entrusted instead to lean back on their popularity to carry them.
Longtime fans of Kpop will probably feel that 2012 was a decent year, but not as impressive as previous years and overall the singles just don’t stand out as much. We’ll see which ones stand the test of time and come back to this subject one year later. 2013 is on the horizon and I’m going to assume that some of the artists I’ve listed are going to step out of their comfort zones to release some really impressive comeback material next year.
Source - GTG.com