Best of K-pop 2011

Oh K-pop. Oh K-poppy K-pop. Let’s start this off, shall we?

SONG OF THE YEAR
DBSK’s “Before U Go”

I was drawing a blank about what song from 2011 I can say defined my 2011. So I worked at it backwards and tried to think which song from 2011 really stayed with me, and I think that’s the only way you decide which songs you love — the ones that stay with you for a very long time, the ones that you always find yourself listening to and appreciating, no matter how long it’s been.

And I have to grudgingly admit that for 2011, it’s DBSK’s Before U Go. I think Yoo Young-jin can be a magician when he’s not constipated trying to pump out the next Sorry Sorry-esque song for Super Junior. Before U Go admittedly is a song that’s better suited for a group like SM The Ballad to sing (and what a coincidence, my favorite song from 2010 is also a slow R&B ballad from YYJ), or just a group with fuller and deeper vocals, but HoMin worked with what they have.

It’s such a groovy song that conjures up some slightly pimptastic visuals but I love songs that have great lulls and enchanting sways built into the beat. I hate whiny ballads and so many K-ballads are whiny ballads that give off no sense of bravado and reassurance, but Before U Go does. It’s striking, fierce, and captivating.

Runners-up: Beast’s “Fiction,” “You”; MBLAQ’s “Cry”

VIDEO OF THE YEAR

There wasn’t a video I really loved this year. Everything just made my eyes glaze over. There were the more outstanding videos from Brown Eyed Girls and Sunny Hill that were really nice to look at, but never engaged me because they (especially BEG) always try so hard to have meaning and to exude artiness, and that drives me batty. Then there are the music videos that are clearly dumb and fun, like 2PM’s Hands Up and GD&TOP’s Knock Out. They’re entertaining, but they’re also so mindless that there’s nothing to salvage from the video at all.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Beast’s “Fiction and Fact”

I discovered this album late, late, late–but! Better late than never.

Ah, Beast. You’ve exceeded so many people’s expectations. These guys are just consistently good and yeah their music isn’t super creative, but you can’t hate on the guys that are consistently good singers, good dancers, and all-around good performers.

I loved “Fiction and Fact,” it’s such a solid album. Every single song on this album is good. Some songs are great, and some are not, but every song is at the very least good. I like K-pop for a lot of reasons and I don’t want to shit on an entire genre by making generalizations but it’s become so rare for mainstream K-artists to put out albums where the entire album is full of solid material, and not just one or two good title tracks and then ten filler tracks.

Beast could have definitely gotten away with putting out one or two Fiction-esque songs and called it a day because fans at this point just don’t care, but they didn’t and that is truly impressive to me, and why I think “Fiction and Fact” is the best album of the year, bar none.

Runners-up: DBSK’s “Keep Your Head Down,” MBLAQ’s “BLAQ Style”

DEBUT OF THE YEAR
Rania

Ah Rania. You’re the group that will never be. You will never get great songs and your company is not big enough to care that you do well. And I think the whole Dr. Feelgood thing ruined ya image.

I was ready to shrug and “eh” at this group but then I watched them perform and these girls are impressive as fuck. They have a ton of charisma and they can hit hard with their dancing and singing. The talent is not equally distributed but they all put on a heck of a show for what Dr. Feelgood is. Their choreography is no joke.

I also think that for a lot of girl groups in Korea, sexuality or exuding sexuality is just something you either pretend you have — for the sake of selling it — or you just have it. Give a group like SNSD something like Dr. Feelgood and it just won’t yield the same results. These Rania girls are crazy sexy, but unfortunately I think it’s this same image that they’re pegged with that they’re not doing well right now. They were just pinned into this “sexy/slutty” hell hole and they haven’t been able to climb out. They can’t ever cross into the mainstream of lollipops and IU-ness and it’s such a shame because they’re such a talented group with a lot of stage presence.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Beast

This was Beast’s year, wasn’t it? Cube has been doing extraordinarily well with their artists and I think it’s only getting started for Beast. I have to admit, the fact that Beast put out such a great album makes me extremely biased as to how well I think they did this year. I’m not sure as a group that Beast will be able to change Hallyu or control it like DBSK or Big Bang or Super Junior can, but Beast is definitely carving out a big part of the K-pop pie for Cube Entertainment and giving Cube a lot of legitimacy, which is so crucial in this industry.

I don’t think I love Beast on the same sentimental level I did DBSK, but there’s just nothing bad I can say about Beast because they have proven to be such likeable entertainers and such good performers. What I hate most in K-pop is when I have to excuse bad performers and bad music because of great personalities, but I don’t have to do that with Beast. Beast has the foundation to back it all up, and they’re only going to get better, which is why I think they’re the artists of the year.

– – – – – – – – –

I’ll be putting up separate posts for dramas and the TV landscape, so I won’t get too much into my explanations for each of the following categories.

DRAMA OF THE YEAR
49 Days

This was so hard. There were a lot of great dramas that I loved this year, but when it came down to deciding which drama had an impact on me intellectually and emotionally, I think that 49 Days wins the battle.

It wasn’t a perfect drama, there were little odds and ends that didn’t make too much sense but it was a great story, there was great acting and great attention to detail.

ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Cha Seung-won

Okay I lied, this category was hard as @#$@$^@#%. There were so many great actors this year and so many spoiled me freaking rotten with MULTIPLE projects this year so it was almost impossible to decide, but I think the biggest and greatest badass this year was Cha freaking Seung-won. How anyone manages to be as gripping and cold-hearted and deliciously villain-y in Athena and then bounce to doing the most ridiculous and gut-busting scenes in Greatest Love gets all the accolades from me in the world.

ACTRESS OF THE YEAR
Soo Ae

Moon Geun-young didn’t act this year, so I didn’t like anybody.

Just kidding.

There were a ton of actresses that acted in a lot of projects this year that I enjoyed thoroughly but there wasn’t anyone in particularly that kept my attention undivided like Moon did last year. For sheer range, I thought Soo Ae was impressive as hell. It was a good year for her, especially because prior to Athena she hadn’t been in a drama since 9 End 2 Outs. I don’t think I truly connected with Soo Ae’s characters this year, though this was through no fault of her own, only that of the writers’, but despite that, I can say without doubt that Soo Ae kicked ass this year with both her drama roles.

SOUNDTRACK OF THE YEAR
Song: Dream High by Joo, Kim Soo-hyun, Taecyeon, Suzy, Wooyoung
Album: Scent of a Woman