2012 In Review: Part 13 – Artist of the Year

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[2012 In Review Series]

0. Prelude – Best Album Art
1. Introduction
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! Artist of the Year is a particularly difficult-to-pick category. It’s similar to the rookie category in that the body of musical work takes priority followed by the magnitude of extra-musical impact made, but this isn’t so easy to do when the potential pool is so large. This year I got off lucky since there was a no-brainer candidate, but selecting the others took even more thought than the genre categories did.

As always, honorable mention picks are sorted by alphabetical order of names. Again, there are only three picks, since I’m only listing entries that were seriously considered for one of the top two spots at some point.

Artist of the Year 2012


Notable activity: Released 6th album Psy 6th Best, single Gangnam Style

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Song of the Year Runner-up for Gangnam Style

That picture is from Psy’s free concert held on October 4. Over 80,000 people filled up Seoul Square for perhaps the world’s greatest party of horse dancing, and Psy had a couple of really quotable lines at that event. One of them was his greeting: “I am a singer who is in his 12th year since debut. I am a singer who is entering the prime of his career in this 12th year. And I am a singer who, after 12 years, is a rookie again in countries overseas.” How remarkable has 2012 been for this guy? Since his culture-shock debut album in 2001, Psy has been an iconic figure in K-pop. He’s produced sing-along hits like Bird and Champion and We Are the One. His adult-only concert antics are legendary by now, with similar attempts like Park Jin-young‘s and G-Dragon‘s always under his shadow. He’s probably the single most often-censored mainstream artist. He’s also one of the only Korean celebrities to have survived multiple incriminating scandals. The point is, Psy’s always done things differently, done them his way. And as I hinted at yesterday, the success of Gangnam Style wasn’t so much Psy adapting to the world, but the world catching up to him. His is a story of consistency and drive. As a result, the world will remember Psy from 2012.

Artist of the Year Runner-up


Notable activity: Released 4th album Supersonic (read our review)

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Album for Supersonic; Honorable Mention Rock/Alternative Song for Set Me Free; Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Song for 소나기 (Rain Shower)

There are your everyday comebacks, and then there are comebacks like the one Younha had this year. I’m not talking about commercial success – although a few songs did chart well – but rather the circumstances surrounding it. Her promising career, fresh off of a critically acclaimed and seminal sophomore album, went off the rails in 2009 with a shorthanded and ill-prepared half of a third album. Her other four releases that year, while not as disastrous, were just as rushed, and her sales base in Japan crumbled as well – with two singles selling less than 400 copies each in the first week. Combined with a murderous schedule of concerts, performances, and other functions well into 2010 that led to health issues and hiatuses, and a late-2010 single that tanked her image, it’s a wonder that Younha was still active.

But she hung in there, and she came back. She became the emcee of 별이 빛나는 밤에 (On A Starry Night), one of Korean radio’s oldest and most iconic shows. She got an award for it. She won the year-long legal battle against her old agency that had been the root of so many issues. She competed on Immortal Song and I Am a Singer. She started to write and compose again and filled up her fourth album with the stories she wanted to tell and the sounds she wanted to pursue. Younha returned to us triumphantly, and the year that she’s had is a testament to her resiliency and musical commitment. If you’re a music fan, that’s great news. One critic called Younha “the last heroine of the analog era” – dramatically appropriate – as she now stands poised to take her career in a thrilling direction. Of all the comeback stories this year, hers may well be the best.

Honorable Mentions

Busker Busker (also Rookie of the Year)

Notable activity: Released debut album Busker Busker and EP 마무리 (Finish); performed promo theme for KT olleh


Notable activity: Released first album 모히칸과 맨발 (Mohawk and Bare Feet) (read our review)

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Best Collaborative Song and Honorable Mention Rap/Hip-hop Song for 개판 (Clusterf*ck); Runner-up Rap/Hip-hop Album for Mohawk and Bare Feet; Runner-up Rap/Hip-hop Song for 사직동 찬가 (Sajik-dong Anthem)

Park Ji-yoon

Notable activity: Released 8th (or 2nd, depending on perspective) album 나무가 되는 꿈 (Tree of Life) (read our review); Festival Lady for the 6th Annual Grand Mint Festival

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Song of the Year for 나무가 되는 꿈 (Tree of Life); Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Album for Tree of Life; Honorable Mention Collaborative Song for 소리 (Sound)

What do your picks look like for this category? Discuss with us in the comments, and join us tomorrow in Part 14 as we unveil the Album of the Year!

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the reviewer and not of hellokpop as a whole.

Sources: Photos – Donga ETV, Zum News, Daum Music artist pages


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