2013 in Review: Day 14 – Miscellanea and Loose Ends
[The 2013 in Review Series]
0. Prelude – Best Album Art
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop, Ballad and Folk
7. Jazz, Crossover and Other
8. Best Collaborative Work
9. Rookie of the Year
10. Song of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Album of the Year
13. Staff Picks
14. Miscellanea and Loose Ends
15. Concluding Remarks
A series of articles like the last thirteen can only tell part of the story, of course. There are many things that happen in the K-pop industry other than just the music itself, and even when it’s about music we’d be remiss to wrap up 2013 without mentioning some works that, for one reason or another, didn’t quite make the cut for our “award” section of the series. Today we’ll talk about our reactions, thoughts, and comments on a variety of K-pop topics from 2013 – events, trends, releases – that we didn’t get to cover over the last two weeks, arranged into a few categories. It’s by no means comprehensive – these are just a small sampling of the kinds of things that grabbed our interest in 2013.
Hellokpop writers Pau and Sun Lee contributed to this article; their comments are credited to each writer. All other comments are my own.
1. Special Comebacks
–Hard to call it a comeback in the traditional sense, but HOTSechsgodRG was at once one of the most ridiculous and one of the best things to happen in 2013. Fifteen years ago this combination of first-gen idol members would have dominated the charts and everyone else may as well have gone home. Now can we do this with FIN.K.L, S.E.S, Baby V.O.X, and Chakra?
–One name that I thought I would never see again in K-pop made an under-the-radar comeback in 2013: H. The 38-year-old that was doing Rain‘s thing before Rain was Rain still looks like he’s got it, in his first single in 10 years:
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(Now Rich just needs to come back for real and we’ll be partying it up like it’s 2003.)
–Sun Lee: “Another thing is the much-awaited comeback of Sunmi. I’m a big Wonder Girls fan and just receiving a news about them makes my heart jump – how much more if it is about the comeback of a former member that I really miss!”
–Pau: “Cho Yong-pil‘s comeback – he may not have the most number of popular fans around the world but his successful comeback after years, to me, proves that music is ephemeral and needs no numbers. It’s a bond between the listener and the singer. It’s not dependent in age, concepts or looks. Cho Yong-pil is definitely an icon!“
—Lee Hyori‘s artistry is growing. I didn’t like Monochrome that much, but the improvements from Korea’s most popular female artist were undeniable.
–Meanwhile, Jang Pil-soon‘s return wasn’t ground breaking, but at this point, her brand of natural folk seems the most appropriate for the veteran.
–Older R&B ballad icons The Position and As One also released new albums, their first in six and seven years, respectively. Neither were completely gone, doing some soundtrack work here and there, but c’mon – actual EPs!
—Busker Busker didn’t have an explosive sophomore comeback, but I’d say they pulled their weight.
–My most anticipated comebacks that didn’t happen in 2013 although there were real chances that they would: Boni, Taeyang, 40, Masta Wu
–Now that P-Type‘s third album is no longer vaporware, my most anticipated comebacks that didn’t happen in 2013 because hell, they weren’t going to happen: Jinusean, Jinusean, JINUSEAN, Lee Sora, Lee Soo-young (with a non-remake album)
–Sun Lee: “Some of the most shocking events for me were the photo scandal about Ailee and the incident where Girls’ Generation‘s Jessica was pushed by one of the airport security guards. I won’t talk about the issue about Ailee because it is already done and everyone has moved on.
When I first heard about what happened to Jessica, it broke my heart such that I almost went inside my computer and punched that guard. For sure everyone has moved on, but just thinking about that makes my mouth curl downwards. I know that the guard must have been feeling a lot of pressure especially if you have nine pretty ladies to protect, but no matter what situation he is in, as a protector at that airport he must have a great presence of mind – being prepared for whatever situation that might occur. Security must never initiate harm to the passengers or people waiting. He should never do that to anyone, whether she is a member of South Korea’s girl group or just a fan.”
–With the Rain controversy followed by Se7en and Sangchu‘s illicit activities while enlisted, it was a matter of time before the soldier-entertainer system was abolished. Perhaps we’ll see a more effective system in the future, because there is still merit to the idea of employing these celebrities (particularly musicians) in unique capacities.
—Yoo Se-yoon turning himself in after DUI might have been the most unintentionally funny controversy of the year. Not that DUI is something to be taken lightly, but imagining the confusion on the police’s part after the guy walks himself over to fess up is priceless. It also only took him about three months to return with self-deprecating jokes regarding the incident, which I’m sure is some kind of record.
–Illegal sports gambling remains a bane for this industry.
—Ko Young-wook is done in this industry and likely all others after being convicted as a child criminal offender, which means Roora has the unfortunate title of having three of its four original members being indicted for criminal activity at some point (with Ko and Shin Jung-hwan being thrown out of show biz for good). That also makes 100% of Shinnago convicted, and as Tak Jae-hoon was also sentenced probation for illegal gambling in December, Country Koko shares the same ignominious title.
—The Quiett and Crucial Star both found themselves in hot water after illegally continuing for-profit music activities while serving in the military. A bit more respect goes to the latter for coming clean, though.
—Roy Kim had his trial by fire, going through the plagiarism controversy with little fault of his own. Tough break for the young artist, who got no help from his agency in dealing with the fallout.
3. “Control” diss battle
–Controversies don’t always have to be emotionally distressing, and the “Control” diss battle that lit the hip-hop scene on fire last summer was endlessly entertaining (as well as meaningful). In just a week, Korea had seen the fiercest and largest-scale clash of diss tracks in its history, instigated by Swings. Who knew Kendrick Lamar‘s diss would fire up a whole another scene across the Pacific?
–First, a partial list of participants (compiled mostly from Hiphopplaya’s summary): Swings, Ugly Duck, Take One, Deepflow, E-Sens, Gaeko, Simon Dominic, Yasu, VEE X KILLA, Nafla, Obaka Power, Diz’one, i11evn, Dead’P, Jebag, Fatdoo, Nuol, Nuttyverse, Donutman, Jay Moon, Bluechan, Tarae, Junweather, Konsoul, A June & J Beat, Fameboy, Hanul, JS, Sijin, Tymee, Deffinite, Reflow, Innovator, MC Hansai, YDG, ApheLiA.
–Generally, big-name folks stayed away from this one (although a good number commented). So the fact that we saw the likes of Deepflow, E-Sens, Gaeko, Simon Dominic, and Dead’P participate was encouraging. Swings himself had two of the better tracks in Hwang Jung Min and 신세계 (New World).
–As fun as it was to see back-and-forth duke-outs and to celebrate some of the actually good tracks that came out of this, there’s also rhyme and reason to it all. (Pun unintended.) I do think that some piercing comments were made throughout this thing: Take One’s Recontrol, where he criticizes the commercialism rampant on the scene and reminds Swings himself that he is not free from it, is a good example. Deepflow’s Self Control and Dead’P’s Rap Game Control were also words to note down.
–This thing started going south when the blind attacks and personal backstories became completely dominant over actual substance. The feuds between Swings and Ugly Duck, Swings and Simon Dominic, and E-Sens and Gaeko were entertaining at first, but quickly turned fruitless (and actually kind of tragic, in the case of the latter). Outsider refused to respond to CMYK‘s disses (Tymee did respond in part), and even though their case might need some explaining, it’s probably just as well that we didn’t have another emotional mess spilling over.
–The feud didn’t leave as much of a constructive legacy as I’d hoped, but it was a step in the right direction.
–Emcees that I wish would have entered the fray because it would have been AMAZING: Defconn, Cho PD, Verbal Jint, UMC. Just like old days. We may never have recovered from the summer…
–Emcees that I wish would have entered the fray because they were called out: J-Tong, San E, Mad Clown, Zico, J’kyun
4. Other Happenings
–Sun Lee: “Besides from the shocking incidents that happened this 2013, there were more things to be happy about. Girls’ Generation wrote more history when they won the Music Video Award at YouTube’s annual video awards.”
–Pau: “I did believe [Lee Hyori]’s getting married but not at the age of 33. She’s the Queen and finally found her King who, apart from all the men who wanted her as a bride, has respected and loved every inch of her.”
–Sun Lee: “Sohee‘s contract expiration is also shocking, but instead of sulking over that I know that she knows what to do and if she want to seek change, then her fans should support her. Most fans want to control their idols, which is one thing that will not happen.”
–Pau: “Roy Kim’s decision to finish college is an inspiration! In spite of all the fame and fans he already has (and of course, the money), he has chosen to finish his degree. May this event be an ideal for fans to not forget about education while the world busies itself to be the “it” kid!”
—EXO sold one million copies of albums combined in 2013, the first time anyone’s done that since 2001. (Kim Gun-mo and g.o.d. were the last to do it.) Yes, that only happened after repackages, international releases and such tactics were deployed, but goodness – we’re living in a digitalized, short-attention-span, and singles-oriented era of K-pop where 100,000 copies is considered a huge success. In the nineties no one would have batted an eye at a million-seller. Now? This is pretty amazing.
5. Music and Releases
–I was actually unaware that pagan black metal was still a thing in the Korean heaviness scene until the Apparition release. (I understand that there are some others.) The titles are predictably wild: Upon Consent of the Ancient Warrior’s Soul, Blackdragon’s Authority, et cetera…
—LEOX, a student-rapper and EXCL crew-member at Seoul’s well-known Lila Art High School, has been putting out a monthly singles series called 사춘기 (Adolescence) since 2011. These things aren’t half bad, and the effort put into songwriting as well as shooting a music video with plot for each episode is commendable. (It seems like he’s finished after putting out the twelfth episode in June 2013.)
—Kris Leone didn’t do a whole lot in her debut year and the one single wasn’t amazing, but there is potential, I think – no less because Boohwal‘s Kim Tae-won is her dad. (I’m sure she’s sick of that being mentioned.)
—Girls’ Day aggravated some folks with the single 여자 대통령 (Female President). I was noncommittal until I actually heard the lyrics. This was not their finest moment.
–Does anyone have a challenger to UV‘s 설마 아닐거야 (No Way) as funniest single of the year? These are the kind of double entendres that Psy himself wouldn’t have made. The fact that they somehow got Ha Dong-qn to sing that ridiculous outro on top of the choruses puts them one step closer to The Lonely Island in my book.
—Crayon Pop is, of course, the year’s out-of-left-field successful idol group. They’re onto something.
—T.O.P‘s Doom Dada was a marked improvement. I think it was still too light on substance compared to appearance, but maybe he will get there.
—ToX‘s 계백의 병사 (A Soldier of General Gyeback) gets high marks on concept. We could use some more of these historical tie-in pieces in hip-hop, in particular.
—Here‘s my vote for “Most Intentionally (I Think) Terrible Song of the Year”. The official album promo text made me laugh, though.
–Also, my vote for “Best Intro Followed By Letdown” goes to this. Another dud in the unbelievably long line of cookie-cutter ballads from composer Pil Seung Bul Pae, but I do appreciate that this one doesn’t have a double-digit-syllable title like his other productions do.
6. Music Videos
–I don’t pick these for the main series, but if I did, the winner would have been EXO’s 으르렁 (Growl).
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—B.A.P also had a solid one in One Shot, and I don’t care even if Lee Seung-chul‘s My Love was contrived – I loved it. Similar reaction to Lyn‘s 이 노래 좋아요 (I Like This Song). Kim Hyun-joong‘s Unbreakable had the visual swagger, and Taeyang’s Ringa Linga had the choreography (especially in this one).
–The North Korea caricature and participatory choreography in J.Fla‘s 바보같은 (Foolish) Story felt like an amalgam of two Psy videos: We Are The One and Right Now.
–The UV song again. Because the video almost beats the song.
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7. Awards Season
–Names mentioned a lot in professional year-end compilations that didn’t really appear (or not that much) in mine: Broken Valentine, Kim Tae-chun, Kim Sa-rang, Sultan of the Disco, Hoegidong Danpyunsun, IAMMOHO, Sogyumo Acacia Band, Siwa, Kim Il-du, Yoo Geun-ho, Coreyah, Lee Hyori
–Names (other than the above) of artists that I listened to a lot but didn’t end up making this series (or not that much): Yoari, 2YOON, Raspberry Field, Ok Joo-hyun, D-Unit, Lee Soo-young, Ailee, BrotherSu, Autumn Break, Dok2
Sources: Photos – Autumn Break’s Clarity art from Daum Music, HOTSechsgodRG from KBS, Boni from Official Facebook, Tak/Lee/An from Sports Chosun, Swings’ New World art from Tistory blog, Take One – Recontrol art from Grandline Entertainment Twitter, Tiffany at YouTube Music Awards from NY Daily News, LEOX’s Adolescence: The Eleventh Story art from Daum Music, Broken Valentine’s Aluminum art from Daum Music; Videos – YouTube