2016 in Review: Day 11 – Artist of the Year

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[2016 in Review]

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 Crossover
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Rookie Artist of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Album of the Year
14. Staff Picks
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

My picks for artist categories don’t hinge so much on the awards circuit (or even my own picks in the series), though that is important. I try to think a little bit about both critical and commercial success, but put the most weight on how much discussion and buzz they created in one or (ideally) both of those arenas. For a music industry to stay growing and vibrant, getting people listening and talking is really at the core – and these artists have done that in 2016.

Again, no paragraph blurb today; just a short list of each artist’s released work over the year.

Artist of the Year 2016


For full-length album Melting and EP Memory with pre-release singles; various project and compilation work

It was a busy year for Mamamoo, as they snatched up both critical acclaim and commercial success with Melting and its singles before doing it all over again with a hyped EP later in the year. This has been written about ad nauseum, but I appreciate that the group has succeeded by exploiting an underexplored niche: their vocal talent and rich base of R&B and soul powers – a diverse musical palette ranging from big band to dance. They remind me a little of Secret at first, making an early splash with sound that deviates from the idol-group norm, and then shades each of Big Mama, CSJH the Grace, Sunny Hill and Brown Eyed Girls for one reason or another. But I think it’s safe to say that this team doesn’t fit an archetype, its members capable of different combinations of musicianship (particularly Hwasa‘s versatility as a rapper and vocalist) and the team capable of a different kind of music than the groups that came before. 2016 was the year that Mamamoo arrived with all of their potential, and every listener in the country noticed.

Runner-up Artist of the Year 2016

Danpyunsun and the Sailors

For full-length album 뿔 (Shofar); single “Hasta”

A couple years without a major release strengthened the Sailors’ chemistry (even with a new violinist) and deepened their sound. Shofar was such a confident album, undaunted by the pressure of replicating 2014’s Ball and pressing forward into an even stranger, more cryptic, more violently intense, and more entertaining frontier. Not only did their instrumentation remains refreshingly different – percussion that relies more on slapped cajon than drum set, beautiful but haunting violin, ringing acoustics – their compositions have evolved to be even more bold, voraciously absorbing styles from all over the world, and crafting a fiercely unique soundscape. (I wrote about the delightful experiments on several days of this series already, en route to awarding them the Song of the Year as well as the second-best album and collaborative song of the year.) They are expanding the boundaries of what is possible and what has been done, taking an important step in 2016.

The First Ten Out

2nd Moon

For full-length album 판소리 춘향가 (Pansori Chunhyang-ga); various project and compilation work


For singles “Shalom” and “International Wave”; featured appearance with Code Kunst; participation in Asura OST and Show Me the Money compilations


For EP Red Ickle and full-length album Red Planet; featured appearance with Shofar Music


For EPs Interlude and Wonderlust; single “Skip”; featured appearances with Dean, Dynamic Duo, Sam Kim, Jonghyun, Lee Jin-ah, Choiza, Penomeco, Punchnello, Loco, Geeks, and Zico

Echae Kang

For full-length album Radical Paradise; featured appearances with Core Magazine, Oksoo Photo Studio, The Barberettes, and Feel Kim; single “Night Drive” as part of Echae En Route

R&B Jay Park

Jay Park

For full-length album Everything You Wanted; featured appearances with Kirin, Davichi, Vasco, Reddy, Sik-K, Josh Pan, ELO, DJ Wegun, Kwon Jin-ah, Far East Movement, and Hyolyn; EP Scene Stealers with Ugly Duck

Ladies Code

For EPs MYST3RY (with repackage MYST3Re:) and STRANG3R


For full-length album 재의 기술 (Ashcraft)


For singles “땡땡땡” (“Ddang”) and “떠날랏꼬” (“Paradise Go”); various OST and project work; featured appearances with Zico, TK, Beenzino, Kiggen, MC Mong, and Tak


For EP I Just Wanna Dance; single “Heartbreak Hotel”; featured appearance with Far East Movement

Sources: artist images from Bugs Music; Jay Park image from AOMG official Facebook page

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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