The ladies of K-pop did all right in 2014. Did I listen to more girl groups and female idols than I did in 2013? Probably not, but new players and favorites have emerged!
The Female of The Species
I’m going to start with Old Guard girl group Girls’ Generation, who had a couple of shakeups this past year. First, there was the ByunTae brouhaha in June, and then of course, the bigger blow that was member Jessica exiting the group in October. However, before all that went down, Girls’ Generation released their fourth mini-album, “Mr. Mr.” in February.
“Goodbye” – Girls’ Generation
Not sure if this was some sort of weird foreshadowing, but there you go.
“If I Were You” – 2NE1
“If I Were You”, a classic torch song that maximizes all four members’ vocal styles and capabilities, comes from 2Ne1’s second album, “Crush.” I wish I could learn the words to this song, because it seems like the type of song I’d do in videoke joints after a few rounds of San Mig Light (or soju shots!)
“Not Today, Not Tomorrow” – 15&
The duo of Park Jimin and Baek Yerin released their compulsively listenable debut, “Sugar” in May. It was a sassy mix of r&b, jazz-pop and some new jack swing (must be a JYP thing). Consistent all throughout, the ten tracks that made up “Sugar” were all killer, no filler and definitely one of the best from K-pop in 2014. “Not Today, Not Tomorrow” stands out as my favorite because of all the “Suddenly I See” vibes. “Not Today, Not Tomorrow” is the perfect track to be played during your short but triumphant walk from the coffee shop to your work station as you ignore that dude you dated that turned out to be a huge ass.
“25” – Song Ji Eun
Oozing with so much self-assurance and confidence, Song Ji Eun sings like there’s no such thing as a quarter-life crisis. Her ode to being “beautiful, young and free” is yet another Power Walk Along The Hallway playlist favorite. Turn up!
“OK” – Strawberry Milk
The Crayon Pop sub-unit of identical twins Choa and Way has sensibilities leaning closer to J-pop than K-pop, at least on their single, “OK.” The debut track is relentlessly cheerful and infectious. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s refreshing to have a song like this that has zero grams of angst and cynicism. Eventual comparisons have been made with Orange Caramel, another K-pop sub-group whose quirky MV’s have become somewhat of a trademark for them, but lest one think that Strawberry Milk can only do aegyo and not much else, their debut mini-album also has “Please Let Me Know,” a track so 180 degrees from the first two tracks that precede it on the EP, as a gentle reminder that these girls can do straight-up ballads alongside the more quirky stuff.
“I Got A Feeling” by Lodia
This track is double-pronged- it can be your Saturday club jam or it can be the soundtrack to your Monday morning run. Lodia is an electro-pop duo who composed and produced their debut track. Not much is written about them in English, but I dig them and hope they have a comeback soon.
“Paper Heart” – f(x)
Like their label-mates Girls’ Generation, f(x) lost one of their members this year. In July, SM Entertainment announced that Sulli was taking a hiatus from all f(x)’s activities, confirming the end of the group’s promotions for their second album, “Red Light.” f(x)’s songs have always been a little more exciting and adventurous than their sunbaes Girls’ Generation, so it’s a shame that group activities have been suspended until further notice.
“Umbrella” – Younha
I feel like including this track on this list is a little like cheating, since a version of this song by Epik High was released in 2008. I loved the Epik High version, but the solo version by Younha has the song stripped down to its bare bones. It sounds as fresh now as it did then.
“Get The X Out” – Sunny Hill
Sunny Hill’s first album, “Sunny Blues” was a pretty solid effort. Its first track, “Player” hinted at a cheeky direction with its faux gospel cries of “Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!” in its chorus, and the fourth track, “Get The X Out” sounds like it could segue into The Dresden Dolls’ “Coin Operated Boy” while ushering out the offending party with a circus orchestra and a dancing bear.
“Thinking Of You” – Seo In Young (Feat. Zion T.)
I used to really like Swing Out Sister, and this track really reminds me of their sound, that sort of throw-back to blue eyed soul-tinged pop.
“Iron Girl” – Ha:tfelt (Ye Eun feat. Hyelim)
JYP Entertainment’s releases in 2014 were so far the most consistent among the Big Three in terms of album cohesiveness. Former Wondergirls member Yenny debuted as a solo artist in July with a gorgeous album of new material, entitled “Me?” With songs that depart from the usual idol formula, “Me?” is an introspective exploration of a singer/songwriter’s next steps as she transitions from bubblegum to a denser, more layered type of pop. The first track on “Me?” sets the tone of the debut – surefooted and strong, vulnerable yet determined.
“I’m Different” – HiSohyun (feat. Bobby)
HiSohyun is a project sub-unit by YG Entertainment made up of Akdong Musician’s Lee Sohyun and powerhouse vocalist Lee Hi. Featuring the ever-charming Bobby, The Boy Who Can Do No Wrong (even though he did and people still thought it was cute), it’s obvious that this track takes its musical cues from where Lee Hi’s debut album left off, which isn’t bad. In fact, it’s great – the track is sassy and soulful and shows off the contrasting styles of the two lead singers. I hope YG doesn’t stop here and gives these two at least a mini-album next.
“Touch My Body” – Sistar
I’m putting it out here and saying that this is my favorite track out of all the songs included in these lists. What can I say? I’m a total sucker for shorts that look like granny panties and totally owning what would otherwise be the most embarrassing choreography this year. This song is everything I love about K-Pop – it’s fun and funny, hooky and trippy. I’m thinking of making this my new “I’m Gonna Get Laid” cheer dance.
And if you think this track can’t get any more perfect, here’s a version with a jazz guitar arrangement. Jjang jjang jjang!
So far I’ve got forty tracks down and ten to go! ^^