Review

2015 in Review: Day 15 – Staff Picks

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[The 2015 in Review Series]

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Staff Picks
16. Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

In 2015, tastes are diverse here at Hellokpop. As per tradition, today we bring you an aggregation of a few staff members’ personal favorite picks. Be sure to check out their selections as well as their reasoning for each pick!

This year, the following staff offered their thoughts:

CL, Writer
Sun Lee, Writer
Seckvoon, Public Relations (Asia region) and Writer

Album Art

CL: Topp Dogg – The Beat, Ugly Duck – Whatever, Peejay – Walkin’

Sun Lee: IU – Chat-Shire (runner-up: Taeyeon – I)

(On Chat-Shire) “This album is probably one of the most controversial album of 2015. The album cover itself made a lot of buzz and ticked even non K-pop fans’ curiosity. The Alice in Wonderland theme of this album makes you want to explore the song and the entire album.

(On I) “The simplicity of this album cover gives justice to the whole concept that Taeyeon wants to portray. The grass and the white border give a fresh and free-spirited feeling, especially for those who would want to listen to K-pop for the first time.”

R&B and Soul

CL: Zion.T – 꺼내 먹어요 (Eat) (song)
Runner-up pick: Dean – 풀어 (Pour Up) (Featuring Zico)
Honorable mention: Crush – You And I

(On “Eat”) “Using food analogy as a way to figuratively express the pile of things you’ve yet to clear off your plate, and the anxieties and stress that is strung along with it? Zion.T knows what’s up, and he certainly knows how to make your day better – his soothing vocals and comforting lyrics conveys his desire to for his music to console those who find themselves in a tough patch in life, or a rough day. Seeking to be the hope for those who need it, “Eat” is a sweet, sincere reassurance that listeners can count on when they need that little pick-me-up when the going gets tough.”

(On “Pour Up”) “Dean is one of those gems I stumbled across by chance, and the singer-songwriter’s (he is accredited with writing EXO’s “Black Pearl”, and recently produced the group’s chart-topping “Unfair”) sophomore single, “Pour Up”, is a heavenly, heady cocktail of R&B and muted bass beats that plays to Dean’s velvety, captivating vocals. Zico’s rap break also doesn’t break the sensual illusion Dean has arranged by the latter’s quarter of the track. “Pour Up” is a brilliant track of its genre, and I love to see what Dean will bring to the table in his future releases.”

Sun Lee: Yerin Baek – Frank (album); Zion.T – No Make Up, Primary – Don’t Be Shy (Featuring ChoA and Iron) (song)
Runner-up picks: Crush – Oasis (Featuring Zion.T, Zico), G.Soul – Home

(On Frank) “Another musical genius from JYPE. Her simple yet delicate voice make it hard to stay away from the entire album. This is an example of an album that you can play over and over, very good album selection for long hours of driving.”

(On “No Make Up”) “If it is R&B then definitely it is Zion.T! His soulful voice and smooth music accompaniment make the song more lovable and to the point that it gives you a courage to love yourself just the way you are.”

(On “Don’t Be Shy”) “Like the music video, the song is intriguing enough for you to keep on listening to the song to know what the song really portrays. With Primary’s genius musical arrangement plus ChoA’s smooth and clear voice, this song is truly one of the best R&B songs there is.”

(On “Oasis”) “The fresh vibe of the song and the music video make it one of the best R&B songs of 2015. Did I tell you how much I like Zion.T?

(On “Home”) “The 15 years of training was actually shown in this song. His soothing voice makes you want to go home and sleep all day.”

Rock and Alternative

Hyukoh - 22

CL: Hyukoh – 22 (album)

“Hyukoh is a band that was thrust into the limelight this year, all with good reason – lead singer Ohhyuk’s unique yet pleasantly soothing vocals compliments the many genres infused into 22. His vocals exude an unexpected level of emotional potency in all of its aching, husky softness, and the juxtaposition between the album’s musical maturity and outward simplicity makes it quite a delightful, mesmerizing listen. 22 is an album that you shouldn’t miss out on!”

Recommended tracks: “Comes and Goes” / “Big Bird” / “Mer” / “Hooka”

Sun Lee: Day6 – The Day (album); Hyukoh – 와리가리 (Comes And Goes) (song)

(On The Day) “JYPE producing a rock band could be pretty unusual for the fans but who cares when it is actually very much worth it. I want to say “Congratulations” to JYP for taking the risk in making Day6’s debut happen!

(On “Comes And Goes”) “This surprisingly awesome group create music in way wherein you would want to listen to all of their song. The alternative sound of their instruments gives you a good light feeling as if you are in the clouds.

Rap and Hip-hop

CL: P-Type – Street Poetry (album); Tablo, Joey Bada$$, Code Kunst – Hood (song)
Runner-up picks: Peejay – Walkin’; Ugly Duck – Whatever (Featuring Mayson the Soul, U-Turn)
Honorable mention: Eluphant – Man on the Moon

(On Street Poetry) “With juicy, dynamic rhythms and intricate spitfire raps, P-Type’s latest album is an explosive effort, and the rhyme-maker churns out an enthralling spin of solid tracks with amazing flow with equal parts of style and substance. The collaborations featured on Street Poetry add a splash of colour to his structured raps, and P-Type’s impressive charisma and skills makes the album one of the more memorable listens of the year.”

Recommended tracks: “Do The Right Rap (feat Huckleberry P)” / “Neanderthal( feat Minos, Justhis)” / “Gwanghwamun (feat Taewan)” / “Don Quixote 2 (feat The Barberettes)” / “Vice Versa (feat Sunwoo Jung-A)”

(On Walkin’) “With an eclectic but equally smooth mix of electronica, funk, jazz, R&B and hip-hop, Peejay’s masterfully rendered beats provokes a sweeping chill escape with all of its groovy liveliness. WALKIN’ features exceptional musical stylings and finesse – I’d expect nothing less of the mastermind behind one of my favourite tracks, Beenzino’s “Dali Van Picasso”. Personally, WALKIN’ is reminiscent of the late Nujabes’ work, and it’s great to see more jazz-infused hip-hop being introduced into the streams of the genre.”

Recommended tracks: “Reborn X Choice 37” / “I Get Lifted X Beenzino” / “Tim”

Seckvoon: Jay Park – Worldwide

Sun Lee: Big Bang – MADE (album); Big Bang – Bang Bang Bang, Big Bang – Bae Bae (song)
Runner-up pick: iKon – Rhythm Ta

(On MADE) “All of the album contains the awesome hip-hop sound of Bigbang. I guess no further information as needed as the entire MADE series album is such a gem.”

Dance and Electronic

CL: BTS – 화양연화 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life) Pt.1 & 2 (album)
Runner-up pick: G.Soul – Dirty
Honorable mentions: Brown Eyed Girls – Basic, SHINee – Married to the Music

(On The Most Beautiful Moment in Life) “Delicate, poignant yet raw in its entirety – BTS manages to perfectly encapsulate the flurry of emotions associated with youth – its breath-taking beauty, forlorn heartaches and feelings of uncertainty – in the group’s two-part album release. A running signature of lush, dreamy synthesizer coos and subtle beats flows through both albums, although the aggressiveness of the boys’ hip-hop foundation is not lost in the mix as well. BTS’ empathetic lyrics and ability to craft touching, relatable tales blends amazingly well with their new sound – a musicality I hope that BTS will expand and experiment more on in the future! Moreover, both of BTS’ title tracks’ MVs (“I NEED U” & “Run”) are accompanied by a connected storyline that had its fair share of fan theories, with a soft aesthetic and visuals that aptly depict the beauty and pain of youth through the eyes of the boys.”

Recommended tracks:

Pt 1: Intro: “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life” / “I NEED U” / “Hold Me Tight” / “Path”

Pt 2: “Whalien 52” / “Ma City” / “Dead Leaves” / “OUTRO : House of Cards”

(On Dirty) “First of all, it is a total travesty that JYP kept the absolute gem that is G.Soul hidden in his dungeon for the past 15 years – but I digress. G.Soul, and his stunning vocals, released two EPs and a digital single in 2015 alone – but with good reason, Dirty stands as my favourite release among the three.

I was pleasantly surprised at the creative mixes and the overall quality of Dirty, as prior to this EP, I had associated G.Soul as a more sentimental performer more suited for ballads, rather than the chill vibes of deep house. G.Soul’s silky-smooth, sensual vocalizations works well across tracks with R&B and jazz influences, and his relaxed yet earnest approach when it comes to delivery adds a dreamy undertone that plunges the listener into a state of tranquillity his voice is able to invoke.”

Recommended tracks: “Dirty” / “Crazy For You” / “Till I Die”

Sun Lee: Wonder Girls – Reboot (album); Wonder Girls – Rewind (song)

(On Reboot) “This album, I would say, is one of the most anticipated album of 2015. Wonder Girls never failed to amaze their fans as they embraced new kind of music. The album showed the musicality of all the members as they embrace electronic sound.”

(On “Rewind”) “The rich sound of the synthesizer make the song a sound that you can listen to over and over again. Sunmi’s musical improved can be displayed through out the song. It was nice to know that she is the reason behind this song.”

Pop and Ballad

CL: G.Soul – Love Me Again (song)
Runner-up pick: Taeyeon – I (Featuring Verbal Jint)

(On “Love Me Again”) “G.Soul’s ability to inject a hauntingly honest dose of sentimentality in his singing further proves how well he has mastered his craft. With a beautiful yet simplistic piano melody forming the backbone of the track before subtle synth beats leads “Love Me Again” to its brilliant climax, it conveys the lyrics of a man wishing for the return of his past love with all the forlornness and harrowed hope you’d expect. I never fail to have shivers whenever I listen to this track, and G.Soul’s vocals have a way with emotions you’d have to listen to in order to experience it first-hand. I prefer his live versions for maximum impact!”

(On “I”) “Taeyeon has solidified her position as one of the most acclaimed female voices in K-pop with “I”, which does justice to her impressive vocal range. With a sweeping guitar instrumental, “I” quickly ups the ante by transforming into a statement, a proud anthem with an addictive chorus that highlights and reminds the rest of the world how much of a show-stopper Taeyeon is as a performer.”

Sun Lee: Taeyeon – I (album); Taeyeon – 쌍둥이자리 (Gemini), Twice – Like A Fool (song)
Runner-up pick: AOA – Luv Me

(On I) “Seriously just listened to the entire album and you would know what I’m talking about.”

(On “Gemini”) “The song showcased Taeyeon’s delicate voice that is perfect to be called ballad. This kind of song will wash all your weariness away.”

(On “Like A Fool”) “The smooth guitar sound and the girls vocals will make you fall for this song. Chaeyeong’s rap made the song delicate and unique from any other song. The line distribution is also something to be praised.”

(On “Luv Me”) “The song is the very definition of the word pop.

Collaborative Work

CL: Primary & Ohhyuk – Lucky You!
Runner-up pick: Code Kunst – Crumple

“I’d say the actual ‘lucky ones’ are the listeners of this amazingly solid EP! Primary brings out his magic and treads into familiar territories while crossing fresh, creative thresholds in order to highlight Ohhyuk’s (of band Hyukoh) distinct vocal colour with the tracks on Lucky You. With a vibrant, groovy mix of R&B and jazz, Primary weaves captivating tunes and Ohhyuk’s magnetic huskiness will make you have the entire album on repeat in no time. It’s a feat how substantial and polished the songs feel as a cohesive unit despite it being only four tracks long. The number of tracks are my only gripe with this collaborative effort – I’m anticipating more of what’s to come from this enchanting collaboration between Primary and Ohhyuk if they decide to expand upon this in the future!”

Recommended tracks: All 4 songs!

Seckvoon: Crush – Oasis (Featuring Zico and Zion.T) (song)

Rookie Artist of the Year

GFriend

CL: Seventeen (runner-up: GFriend)

“Seventeen is a group that had an impressive track record in their debut year – not only did the group’s second EP, Boys Be, debut at the top spot on the Billboard charts, they were also the only K-pop group that received a spot in Billboard’s 21 Under 21 for most promising young artists of the year. Considering that the (adorable!) boys are armed with producing, song-writing, and choreographing talents, it’s not a surprise to see them taking to the stage like seasoned performers with their bright charms and remarkable stage presences. If Pledis decides to promote Seventeen appropriately by giving them the right tools to expand their potentials while pushing the group into the right direction without inhibiting their creative outlets, they have a good chance to become the next forerunners in K-pop in the years to come.”

Seckvoon: GFriend

Sun Lee: GFriend, Twice (runner-up: Asha)

Artist of the Year

CL: Big Bang

Seckvoon: Big Bang

Sun Lee: Wonder Girls, Girls’ Generation

Song of the Year

CL: Big Bang – Loser

“I absolutely love it when Big Bang strips down and explore the vulnerability of human sentiment, through melancholic tracks such as “Loser” that are relatable with its underlying themes of isolation and inner turmoil. It’s a subdued mirror into the members’ personal struggles, and it’s an emotional, contemplative affair. Accompanied with a haunting, catchy chorus and dark visual elements that reflect a multitude of meanings veiled behind an emotional context, “Loser” is brilliant and one of my favourite Big Bang releases to date.”

Seckvoon: Zion.T – 꺼내 먹어요 (Eat)

Sun Lee: Taeyeon – I

Album of the Year

CL: SHINee – Odd (runner-up: EXO – Exodus)

Seckvoon: Big Bang – MADE

Sun Lee: Wonder Girls – Reboot, Taeyeon – I, AOA – Heart Attack

Sources: header image and artist/album images from Bugs Music.

Editing by Adrian Cheng

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