[2012 In Review Series]
0. Prelude – Best Album Art
2. Best R&B/Soul
3. Best Rock/Alternative
4. Best Rap/Hip-hop
5. Best Dance/Electronica
6. Best Pop/Ballad
7. Best Crossover/Miscellaneous
8. Best Original Soundtrack
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Label of the Year
11. Rookie of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Artist of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Concluding Remarks
Welcome back to our 2012 In Review series! Today we go above the distinction of genres to recognize the best works of a collaborative nature. My rule of thumb for this category goes like this: not only must a selected album or song sound good, but it also needs to display a kind of synergy effect that makes the work equal more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t always have to mean that the synergy was unexpected, but the act of collaboration has to bring more to the table than simply another voice or instrument to change things up. This tends to be a category dominated by hip-hop musicians, but this year’s picks are relatively well-distributed across genres.
I tend to discount producer-singer collaborations for this category - Sweetune worked with Kara and Infinite on some good tracks, for example, but that’s not really in the spirit of this. (Otherwise we’d be counting everything.) I will count these types of collaborations under two circumstances: either the composer is normally not a producer by trade, or he/she is actually the primary artist.
Many of the works below have been featured already in the genre categories, so we’re skipping the one-liner descriptions for honorable mentions today. And as always, honorable mention picks are sorted by alphabetical order of artist names.
Best Collaborative Album 2012
Poetree – 사랑해, 희망없이 (Love, Hopelessly)
Collaborators: Rooftop Moonlight, ALi, Hwayobi, Jung-yup, Park Ji-hye, Jooey, Chiyu
If I didn’t know any of the collaborating artists and you told me that they were all just different vocalists for one big group, I may have believed you. The Poetree duo has a well-defined style – mellow pop-ballad with traces of R&B and soul sprinkled in – and as such, the texture of their compositions is pretty consistent. The hard part is finding vocalists that can maximize the impact of each track. Credit them for that: selecting Hwayobi and her husky tone for the old-school groove of Sunday of My Life was brilliant, as was taking Park Ji-hye’s slightly burnt-out but amiable voice for 근.자.감 (Baseless Confidence). One good decision becomes eight, and the transitions between them are seamless. It’s a tall task to make a ballad collaboration this cohesive, and Love, Hopelessly was one of the very few that worked out.
Runner-up Collaborative Album 2012
Clazzi – Infant (also selected Honorable Mention Dance/Electronica Album) (read our review)
Collaborators: Whale of W&Whale, Yi Sung-yol, MYK, Jinsil of Mad Soul Child, Hyun-song & Su-ryun of The Koxx, Christina, Im Seulong of 2AM, Kim Wan-sun, Jang Woo-hyuk, Jo Hyuna of Urban Zakapa, Kota & Jubi of Sunny Hill
Even in my original review (the rating to which I’d add another star, now), I noted the strength of the collaborations. Most striking is the unexpectedness of some of these appearances; I would never have expected Yi Sung-yol to appear in a bubbly house track, let alone handle it that well. His reassuring voice is the anchor that holds the track down. And while Jinsil wouldn’t have been as much of a leap of imagination, the way in which her vocals are used – essentially lithe, washed-out chorus backing – took me by surprise. Further, DJ Clazzi isn’t afraid to adapt his style to fit his guests’. 40 Nights absorbs The Koxx’s electro-garage, while Can Only Feel appears to be written with Kim’s voice in mind. While the tracks don’t quite come together nearly as cohesively in this one, the depth and breadth of Clazzi’s experimentation gets this album high marks.
Born Kim – Future Color (read our review)
Collaborators: Rang Show of Black Tea, The Solutions, Crucial Star, Jolly V, Dok2, Lee Won-suk of Daybreak, Nuck of Souldive, Pento
Eluphant – Apollo
Collaborators: Kim Phil, Bumkey, Jung-in, Simple J, Jooyoung, Ra.D
Collaborators: No Brain, Lowdown 30, Simon Dominic of Supreme Team, Beenzino, Zion.T
Lee Seung-gi – 숲 (Forest) (read our review)
Collaborator: Epitone Project (Cha Se-jung)
Leessang – Unplugged (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Album)
Collaborators: Yoon Do-hyun of YB, Jung-in, Jo Hyuna of Urban Zakapa, Simon Dominic of Supreme Team, Bobby Kim and Juvie Train of Buga Kingz
Primary – Primary and the Messengers LP (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Album) (read our review)
Collaborators: Simon Dominic and E-Sens of Supreme Team, Yankie, Mellow, Jinsil of Mad Soul Child, Gary of Leessang, Garion, Zion.T, Beenzino, Bumkey, Paloalto, Gaeko and Choiza of Dynamic Duo, Jinbo, Dok2, Deez, Rhythm Power, Jay Park, Double K, G.O. of MBLAQ, Junggigo, Dead’P
Son Sue-kyung – I Am (also selected Honorable Mention Crossover/Miscellaneous Album) (read our review)
Collaborators: Dynamic Duo, K.ing, Jung Tae-chun, Yoon Do-hyun of YB, Phantom, Jang Hyo-suk, Son Seung-yeon, Yu Sung-eun, Woo Hye-mi, Ji Se-hi
Soriheda – Soriheda 2 (also selected Best Rap/Hip-hop Album) (read our review)
Collaborators: Rhyme-A-, DJ Wegun, R-Est, Kaedemelodii, Dead’P, Kang Sun-ah, B-Free, Marina Zettl, Paloalto, Okasian, Huckleberry P, Satbyeol, Hwaji, Born Kim, Soulman, Minos, Soulfish, Suda, Deepflow, Jolly V
Best Collaborative Song 2012
J-Tong – 개판 (Clusterf*ck) (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Song) (actual version here)
Collaborators: No Brain
The above video is not the version I’m talking about. I refer to the shiny new 2012 album edition, which you can listen to from that link, but it’s actually useful to compare the two versions. As you can see, J-Tong’s original had plenty of energy with that electric riff and cadence, and especially with the rapper’s characteristically charismatic flow. And then you listen to the newer version… and “plenty of energy” nothing, this is a veritable explosion of energy. No Brain’s instrumentals put a thick coat of power on the original riff, and add an especially punchy device in the deliberate, cymbal-heavy drum play. No Brain vocalist Lee Sung-woo also brings a hook with him: his higher-tone shouting endows a further taste of punk to complement J-Tong’s growl-infused rapping. This is a zany song, crafted by some of Korea’s most indefatigable musicians and resulting in more kinetic vigor than either team could have achieved alone. It’s the very embodiment of what this category represents.
Runner-up Collaborative Song 2012
Kim Jin-pyo (JP) – 아저씨 (Ahjusshi) (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Song) (read our related review)
Collaborators: J Rabbit
This is one of those cases where I can just quote myself and have it work out. (Love it when that happens.) “It’s about a girl in her teens or maybe 20s falling in love with a much older guy, who adamantly resists the relationship. The presentation is not only tasteful, but positively irresistible. Entertaining lyricism… and the back-and-forth dynamic between narrators show what JP’s music can be when everything goes right. Additional credit is due to J Rabbit; Jung Hye-sun’s ungarnished, sweet performance is picture-perfect for the song. This is a magnificent piece of pop.” Even in hindsight, JP could hardly have picked better artists to portray the eagerness of a young girl in love. His own depiction of the flustered old guy is humorous but spot-on. They each complement what the other does not have, and Ahjusshi turns out as one of the year’s best love songs (so to say).
Bae Sun-yong – The Lady of Seba (Featuring Park Ju-won) (also selected Honorable Mention Crossover/Miscellaneous Song)
Bulhandang – 한 길을 걸어가라 (Walk One Path) (Starring Keeproots, P-Type, Rhyme-A-, Wimpy, Minos, Daephal, Sean2Slow, Garion) (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Song)
Choi Baek-ho – 뛰어 (Run) (Featuring Park Ju-won, Malo) (also selected Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Song)
Double K & Loco – Home (Featuring Jinsil of Mad Soul Child) (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Song)
D-Story – 부탁이야 (Please) (Featuring Hyun-joong of M.A.C., Xena)
Ga-in – 시선 (Gaze) (Featuring Yoon Jong-shin) (read our related review)
Goodmorning Heaven – Goodmorning Heaven (Starring Lee Sang-mi of Ex, Jung Yu-jong of Daybreak, Park Soon-chul of Oh Ji-eun and the Wolves, Jo Jun-yong, Lee Myung-joon; featuring Harim)
Grand Mint Band – So Nice (GMF 2012 Version) (Main sessions: Kim Sun-il, Kim Jang-wun, Jung Yu-jong of Daybreak, Yu Jung-kyun, Jang Dong-jin, Jung Su-wan of Serengeti, Lee Su-ryun of The Koxx, Kang Min-suk, Im Young-jo, Kim Dong-hyun, Kim Myung-gi, Jo Jung-hyun, Kim Sung-hwan, Kim Hye-bin, Lee Da-hye; featuring Ko Young-bae of Soran, Kwon Jung-yeol of 10cm, Kim Hyuna of Lalasweet, Oh Ji-eun, Sweet Sorrow, Thomas Cook, Lucia). As an aside, I’m fairly certain that 26 people credited in one song is a 2012 record.
Lena Park (Park Jung-hyun) – You Don’t Know Me (Featuring eAeon) (read our related review)
MC Sniper – 할 수 있어 (I Can Do It) Song Version (Featuring Yiruma, Kim Ji-soo) (read our related review)
Nam Soo-rim – Drive Me To The Moon (Featuring Park Ji-yoon) (read our related review)
Oh Soo-min & Rex.D Project – 어색한 인사 (Hello)
Park Ji-yoon – 소리 (Sound) (Featuring Park Asher)
Park Myung-soo & Jung-yup – 꿈이었을까 (Endless Dream)
Siberian Husky – Real Sound (Featuring Lee Sung-soo of HarryBigButton)
Skull & Haha – 부산 바캉스 (Busan Vacance)
Soran & Kwon Jung-yeol of 10cm – 미쳤나봐 (Maybe Crazy)
Soul Fish – What We Do (Featuring Okasian, GLV, Paloalto, B-Free, EVO) (also selected Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Song)
Sunghoon – Ma Boo (Featuring San E)
Wanted – Like You (Featuring IU)
What do your picks look like for this category? Discuss with us in the comments, and join us tomorrow in Part 10 as we recognize labels that had the biggest years!
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the reviewer and not of hellokpop as a whole.
Release: January 17, 2012
Distributor: Loen Entertainment
For a guy who has his own name in a group’s name, DJ Clazzi is overlooked rather often. He’s the leader of Clazziquai Project, even, but with people like Alex and Horan being the group’s frontpeople, the producer and composer has mostly escaped public notice. So as opposed to most debut releases from other group-turned-solo artists, Infant is an introduction to the man himself, as well as his solo work. A sort of meet-and-greet, if you will.
Just so we’re clear, Clazzi still doesn’t sing in this album. He instead takes the 015B approach and brings in an all-star cast of supporting artists (more on them later). So everything we get to know about him through Infant is told through beats and sounds, which is fine. All right, so what do we learn from this little rendezvous?
For starters, we find out that he’s interested in a more “serious” brand of electronica than what he’s done before. Infant is a purely electronic album, delving into house and club tunes and relying on dense beats and complex synths. There’s a disconnect between this and Clazziquai’s music. That group’s very best works have been mellow house tracks (Come To Me and the rest of 2004′s Instant Pig come to mind), and even the more danceable songs like Love Again (2009) retained that philosophy. Infant focuses more on danceability than groove and embraces less shades of pop. As a result, it’s by nature a little less accessible than Clazzi’s past creations.
We learn that he is more than proficient at producing these sounds. In fact, the man is ahead of the curve in some ways. Star Child impresses with its subtly building, supremely satisfying torrent of a beat, while the dreamy atmosphere and washed synths of Where’s Dance carries the club tune to intoxicating heights. Meanwhile, 40 Nights adopts the rock-electronica soundset used to such fantastic effect by Idiotape and The Koxx (the latter band actually provides vocals here) and sustains it with unpredictable twists. There’s also an experimental track in Loving You, which goes for avant-garde with minimalist vocal usage and unorthodox structure. There’s a lot of different brands of electronica covered here, and Clazzi does not appear to be in over his head with any of them.
We are then introduced to some of his friends, and we are dazzled. The featured cast on Infant is very impressive; I think it’s the most diverse of any mainstream album since Leessang‘s AsuRa BalBalTa from last summer. (IU‘s Last Fantasy surpasses both if we look at featured composers and star power, but that’s a different metric.) Yi Sung-yol and Kim Wan-sun are the heavyweights here in terms of name value (throw Jang Woo-hyuk in there too if you like), but just as impressive is the array of indie artists that Clazzi has recruited. The indie pop scene, electronica scene, rock scene, R&B scene, and hiphop scene are all represented, respectively by Jinsil, Whale, The Koxx, Jo Hyuna, and MYK. Clazzi also reached out to the mainstream-group base, nabbing two Sunny Hill members and 2AM‘s Seulong. And in a final surprise move, Christina, Alex’s older sister and fourth member of Clazziquai Project, also participates in two tracks.
We marvel in the contributions of all these artists. Yi Sung-yol’s performance is perhaps the most memorable; the folk artist is way out of his comfort zone in bubbly house track Love & Hate, but still sings with that trademark mannerism. His reassuring tone is exactly what the song needs. Meanwhile, Kim Wan-sun and Whale are both in their elements in Can Only Feel and Bad Girl, respectively. Ms. Kim, in particular, puts in a mesmerizing performance that singlehandedly saves a good but underpowered track from falling into monotony. That works both ways, of course; MYK is badly miscast and Kota and Jubi are not exactly breathtaking in Sexy Doll, but Clazzi’s melody keeps the track at least somewhat engaging.
We realize, though, that something is amiss. Maybe it’s the lack of a true killing track, or maybe the repetitiveness of some of the themes (the heady club ambience concept is used a couple times too many), but with the exception of a couple tracks, Infant is difficult to go back to for a third and fourth listen. Most problematically, there’s a mechanical feel to the album as a whole. Even other purely electronic, artificial-sound albums still have sparks of emotion and/or energy to keep the listener engaged, but Infant has neither. (Even Love & Hate falls short of truly achieving one.) This is the biggest reason why, although these tracks are mostly good on their own, the album has a hard time coming together – you can’t sustain an album without that spark.
Before long, our time comes to a close. We know a bit more about DJ Clazzi and his music than we did previously. He’ll be back soon, he says – Clazziquai’s fifth studio album is coming later this year. Will he choose to assimilate Infant‘s style into this next release? Or will he continue with the Clazziquai formula? But that’s a question for another time, another meeting. For now, we part. Nice to have finally been introduced, Mr. Clazzi.
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. Bad Girl – Featuring Whale of W & Whale
2. Love & Hate – Featuring Yi Sung-yol, MYK
3. Where’s Dance – Featuring Jinsil of Mad Soul Child
4. 40 Nights – Featuring Hyun-song & Su-ryun of The Koxx
5. Star Child – Featuring Christina, MYK
6. 우리 변한거잖아 (We’ve Changed) – Featuring Im Seulong of 2AM
7. Can Only Feel – Featuring Kim Wan-sun
8. Loving You – Featuring Jang Woo-hyuk, Jo Hyuna of Urban Zakapa
9. Sexy Doll – Featuring Kota & Jubi of Sunny Hill, MYK
10. Crazy For Love - Featuring Christina
11. 우리 변한거잖아 (We’ve Changed) – Remix version (bonus track)
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the individual and not of hellokpop.