2013 in Review: Day 1 – Introduction

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[The 2013 in Review Series]

0. Prelude – Best Album Art
1. Introduction
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

2013 has almost passed us by, and it’s time to review the best of the best that music has had to offer in Korea. As a critic – but more so as a listener and fan of music – this is the best time of the year: there are no review scores, no flaws to be highlighted, no criticism to be levied, and instead it’s about recognizing as much as we can the artistic talent, dedication and effort that made the year special.


Series Structure

As in the last two years, our 2013 in Review series is a two-week special. In the first week, we begin by surveying the year’s best albums and songs categorized into six broad genre areas – R&B and soul, rock and alternative, rap and hip-hop. dance and electronic, pop and ballad with folk, and jazz with other smaller scenes.

Week 2 will begin with particular recognition of outstanding collaborative work of the year, and go on to reveal the rookie artist, song, artist, and album of the year. Of course, there are limitations to all this when the series is written by one reviewer; so on Day 13, we’ll bring you the year-end picks of other Hellokpop writers, editors and other staff. On Day 14 we’ll discuss some things that don’t quite fit anywhere else – musical, cultural and industry trends of 2013, odds and ends from the year that are interesting enough to mention but not germane to the other categories, and thoughts on the year from other staff members. We conclude the series on Day 15.

Note that two categories from the 2012 series – Best Original Soundtrack and Label of the Year – have been dropped, and the 2011 series’ Best Vocal/Rap Performance category remains dormant for another year.


Descriptive Statistics

This year’s series is, numerically, bigger than ever. A total of 3,427 tracks released as single cuts between December 1, 2012 and November 30, 2013 were reviewed at various points in the year (with the caveat that a large portion did not pass initial rough ear tests). About 160 EP and LP albums from the same period were reviewed in more detail, adding to the track count. A total of 211 albums (with duplicates across certain categories, and some under incomplete review) and 480 songs were initially chosen as candidates, which was eventually narrowed down to the 65 albums and roughly 280 songs you’ll see featured in coming days.

As always, the disclaimer: the review pool was not complete by any means – not even close. Many of those single cuts came out of EPs and LPs that were not reviewed in detail and many niche scenes were only superficially covered. Still, I hope that this can be one of the most comprehensive English-language 2013 round-ups found on the Web.

Join us tomorrow as we embark on Week 1 of the series, with a look at the best R&B and soul music of the year!

Sources: Photos – Fromm from Asia Herald; B-Free and Okasian from Mucon

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