Best of Music 2010

“You’ve probably heard or read, many times over, that the world of music is a fragmented one–all of us paying attention to our own personal scenes, streams, and cubbyholes, barely aware of what’s happening in the next one over. So when December rolls around, we have this annual problem: It’s harder and harder to say what defined the year. It depends on what music you follow, which magazines or websites you look at, whom you talk to, and how your ears work…

That said, every December, when it comes time to make these kinds of lists, it feels steadily harder to say anything authoritative about which records were the ‘most important. The best any one person can say is ‘This was my year.'”

– Nitsuh Abebe’s “The Year in Pop

Arranged in release date order, from top to bottom, left to right:
f(x)’s “NU ABO,” Taeyang’s “Solar,” Miss A’s “Bad Girl Good Girl,”
BoA’s “Hurricane Venus,” Kanye West’s “Monster,” Glasser’s “Ring,”
Kanye West’s “Lost in the World,” JYJ’s “The Beginning,” SM the Ballad’s “Hot Times”

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Abebe’s passage describes how I feel about “best of” lists to a T. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge music buff and I’m not very well-rounded when it comes to music. So what I come across becomes my music of the year.

This was definitely not a Kpop-filled year, despite what you might see on my list, because Kpop was, for the most part, pretty shitty. I got sick of everything I was listening to and switched gears mid-year to American music. Didn’t supremely love anything, but it was nice being back in the American music scene. The nice thing about American pop — and I use pop very loosely here not to describe mainstream, but to describe all our pop culture — is that there is so much variety. Whether or not you know where to look for it is a different story, but there is so much of everything that you won’t ever be bored. If you are, you just aren’t looking in the right places.

There are two albums I absolutely loved this year, and that’s Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and Glasser’s “Ring.” Kanye was the spit, rhyme, grit mastermind, and Glasser was the fantastical, experimental, whimsical debut. Two very different genres and both influenced me in very different ways. I was obsessed with Kanye’s album if not to catch all his puns and understand all his disses because what I liked about the album is that everything is quickfire. Blink and you miss it. Glasser was pretty amazing with transporting you into this fantasy world with her trinkles and ethereal sounds. I don’t listen to her music for her lyrics, I listen for the sounds, which is a completely opposite experience with listening to Kanye.

Two runner-up albums are BoA’s “Hurricane Venus” and Taeyang’s “Solar.” BoA is a veteran but she’s never impressed me with her music. This album was surprisingly low-key with a good mix of fast-paced songs and more romantic ballads. This is the first album from BoA with which I clicked, and I grew to love “Hurricane Venus” the song itself a lot more than I anticipated. There is something so deeply impressive about a pop star who can give a powerful and flawless performance and like I’ve said many times before, I like BoA because of her skill. I have no sentimental pretenses in my relationship with her as a fan, like I may for other Kpop acts. To a certain extent, Kpop is two-fold: music in conjunction with personalities. BoA never won me over with her personality, and that’s perfectly fine, because I don’t feel like I should excuse musicians for their lack of talent just because they have a great personality. I like BoA strictly for her skill and that’s completely okay with me.

With Taeyang, I didn’t immediately like “Solar.” There were a couple of songs that I liked more than others, but overall, this album didn’t leave an impression on me. But the beauty of Taeyang as an artist is that he has an extremely likeable voice and he has the ability to draw you into songs. In addition, for all the flack I give Teddy, I’ll be the first to admit that there is something undeniably great about his work, even if the quality has gone down over the last year to year-and-a-half. So when you put catchy beats together with a very convincing voice, you’ve got a winner. Almost 90% of Taeyang’s work is what I consider to be “growers.” You might not be completely convinced at first, and you might even go as far as to think that it’s not as good as you want it to be, but something about his voice and the music will keep you listening, and after long, you will grow fond of his songs.

Two great singles are f(x)’s “NU ABO” and Miss A’s “Bad Girl Good Girl.” There’s something so weird and different about “NU ABO” that I couldn’t help but be intrigued. The flow of the song is so odd and angular. It’s almost as if certain parts of the song jut out at you but then you look at it and feel it out a little bit and it becomes interesting and almost mesmerizing. This song made f(x) more interesting as a group, because as far as debuts go, f(x)’s was pretty weak. And they still haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s definitely a stepping stone for f(x) to go on to do more things and grow more as a group.

Miss A’s debut is also a grower. I often feel like JYP has a tendency to shove his songs and creations down your throat in a “LISTEN TO ME” and “LOVE ME” and “FIND ME IMPRESSIVE” way, and that obviously turns me off. This one kind of flitted by and because of how easy going it was, I was instantly impressed and listened to the song more and more. And then JYP killed it in bad way with “Breathe,” so now we’re back to square one :(

I’ve exhausted all I wanted to say ever about “Hot Times,” so I’ll leave you alone with that.

As for JYJ’s “The Beginning,” I didn’t love this album. I very barely liked it. I don’t mind the departure in style, because this album was meant for a different audience, but the songs were not so standout that they blew my mind. I think it was the combination of their image and the lyrics and the mediocrity of everything that disappointed me a little.

So then what compelled me to put this album on my 2010 list is what I saw when I watched them live. All the songs on this album (save for “Be My Girl,” probably) were made a million times better with their lives. This was my first time watching any of DBSK live, and it’s just hard for me to accurately describe how I feel about these guys as live performers. As I strip away the frills of my fangirldom — meaning I don’t watch variety shows with them anymore, I don’t really keep up with what they’re doing outside of their music — I thought that I would stop caring about them as performers too. And I’m glad to say that they are still as good as I always thought they were.

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So that was my 2010 music. Hope yours’ was more fruitful in terms of music, and here’s to a better 2011.

  • zerohundred

    Reading this made me realize that I also got bored with Kpop at some point. I haven’t listened to so much English music in years. There were a few good songs, but for the most part it was a dry year for Kpop.,

    • hapacalgirl

      Reading this made me realize that I really should make one of these lists and put into perspective the type of music I have listened to this year.

      • thekors

        totally agreed. although i’m not sure if i have enough vocabulary in my head to construct a proper review. but big point for me this year was definitely Brown Eyed Soul’s comeback. their 3rd album isn’t their best, but the mini albums released prior to that were really good.

  • b

    you hit the nail right on the head with boa and taeyang, i couldn’t have said it better myself.

    and kanye’s album was sick nasty. definitely agree, i love how hip hop is allowing for so many differences in the recent pop age, and i credit kanye to partially changing what we define as hip hop and making it more main stream and definitely a lot more creative.

    lastly nu abo, was such a stunner to me. i didn’t even know who f(x) was until i saw nu abo performed live (the mv was lack luster). then amber left, hahaha, so if she comes back i’m excited to see what they bring in the future.

    i also made a transition back to american pop this year because despite my fangirling for a certain group and a few shining moments, kpop did not impress me at all in 2010. with the return of gd and top/big bang/yunho and changmin in 2011, hopefully the coming year will be a little more promising.
    wow, sorry i wrote a novel LOL…