There are a few different ways that a person can tackle a year-in-review when it comes to music: the top ten list, a run down of the famous names that made a comeback, or teasing out some highlights (and lowlights) of the year. But because I wasn’t yet contributing to Kchat Jjigae until the fourth quarter of the year, and even now I only talk about one or two songs a week, I am going to use this chance to give some perspective on the Kpop activities of 2016 and mention a handful of songs that I wish I had been able to write about more fully.
Over the course of the year, more than 100 new groups or subunits debuted, including the likes of Astro, BlackPink, EXO-CBX, NCT, and SF9. There were more than 50 solo debuts, group members doing their own thing and talented musicians foregoing the whole group thing altogether: Bobby, Mino, Sam Kim, Suga (Agust D), and Yoochun among them. And on top of that, three previously disbanded groups, ICIA (SIDA), Sechs Kies, and S.E.S, reformed in 2016. All of these releases….these HUNDREDS of releases….do not include the singles, videos, mini albums, full length albums and collaborations that were put into the world from established and active groups. It might not have been your favorite year, but 2016 was a prolific year in the Kpop scene.
Sadly (not always sadly) 2016 also saw the disbandment of at least 37 groups. With so many new groups debuting every year, it comes with no surprise that I don’t recognize many of the names calling it quits….that is likely the reason they are, in fact, calling it quits. But there are those on the list that give my little black heart a pinch because they are no more: 2NE1, 4Minute, Led Apple, and the Ark. Welldone Potato broke up….I don’t know them, but with a name like Welldone Potato, I already miss them.
One group that has seen the highest of highs and some pretty low lows this year is YG’s Winner. They debuted as a five member group in 2014 after winning a reality show during the previous year. This was the first boy group YG had put into the world since BigBang, eight years before. In 2015, the group went on hiatus. You read that right, a successful reality show, one album (not counting the Japanese release) and then a hiatus. Winner came back with a decent album (that they largely wrote and produced themselves) in 2016 and while Baby Baby is not my favorite song on the album, it is, in my opinion, one of the most telling videos. It opens with actual footage of Winner winning (hehe) at an awards show and then the reality of just how isolated and lonely they felt in the aftermath. It is stylized and over the top and, I believe, includes far fewer shots of them eating ramen in the dorm than actually happened, but I think it proves their point. On October 12, YG announced that Taehyun, one of the most promoted members, was put on hiatus for mental health issues and then his removal from the group was announced in November.
Winner, Baby Baby
Many, many of us were particularly happy that one of our favorites, our bias of groups (if a whole group can be a bias, which I firmly believe it can) released soooooo much material this year. Our little MNET Asian Artists of the Year for 2016 released a special compilation, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, and their second full length album, Wings. Along with those, they released their sixth Japanese single and their second Japanese album, Youth. I could easily have made this a BTS: Year in Review post, but I refrained. Choosing one song to include on the list was a challenge, but I went with Fire because I LOVE the opening scene. I LOVE Suga with gray hair and attitude. I LOVE Kookie on a bike. I LOVE the aggressive dancing. I LOVE Hobi in a jacket covered in stars because stars are my favorite and Hobi is too.
There are very few girl groups that I monitor, waiting for their comebacks, poised to watch their videos. Red Velvet is one of those groups. I cannot pinpoint exactly what it is, but there is just something a little off about this group. They are just odd, one step to the right of cute, they are adorable in their super short skirts and pretty smiles, but they would cut a bitch. Their songs and videos include crazy good fashion, awesome hair, and unique makeup looks. The colors in their videos are saturated and they often look like dolls, pissed off dolls, but dolls. It all just feels a bit like commentary on girl groups. For some reason, I feel like I would get along with these girls if I were to be given the chance. This song is really pretty and sad. This video is really easy to watch, switching, like magic, from scene to ethereal scene.
Red Velvet, One of These Nights
For those of you that know me, you know I like me some hip hop, and Beenzino is a fav. He is a smart and talented mo fo. I have liked almost everything I have ever heard him do…from solos to collaborations. He hits this balance between lyric heavy rap and a lazy effortlessness that I really appreciate. Beenzino put out a lot of music in 2016 and had quite the ridiculous scandal…Gasp, this grown adult is actually openly dating…and not just dating, but dating a German model who seems to be smart, talented and beautiful all on her own. How dare he (sarcasm)?? She is the female featured in the video below. I am sad to report that Beenzino will be following about a million different kpop and khiphop artists into the military in the coming year and I am very sad. When I heard the news, my first thought was “Beenzino had better continue making music when he gets out. I can’t stand the idea of him being done.” I am very articulate in my thoughts to myself.
Beenzino, January (ft. YDG)
eSNa is all pipes. I first learned about her through her collaboration with Mamamoo in 2015 and I have reveled in her voice ever since. She is an American born and trained jazz singer and it shows in her retro style and feel. She is gorgeous, her voice is gorgeous, her look is gorgeous, and this song, released on December 27, 2016, is gorgeous. And that is what I have to say about that.
As a music obsessive with music obsessive friends, I am really anticipating what we will see in 2017. So, HAPPY NEW YEAR, KPOP and OTHER KGENRES!!!!