2016 in Review: Day 5 – Dance and Electronic

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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

A surprising turn from 2016 was the number of very strong solo idol artists coming out to the dance/electronic arena. I think one could argue that the solos even outperformed the group work over the year. The indie scene also saw a bit of that, as AshNahzam Sue and others provided quality debut efforts. The honorable mentions category today is particularly long, reflecting the depth of the dance/electronic scene even just among those that I got to hear this year.

Important: as in previous years, the Album of the Year and Song of the Year (and their runner-ups) are not included in the genre categories. That means that, for example, there could be a dance album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that all “First Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Dance and Electronic Album 2016

HEO – Actress

Dream pop has gotten a lot of mileage lately – Rainbow99 and Aseul leading the charge – but HEO is unique even in that niche. The KMA-winning producer’s sound in this third album is a bit more dissonant and glitchy than his contemporaries’, and most importantly, consistently features strong tension-and-release rather than relying on ambience. From the strange urgency of lead single “The World Is Calm Again” to the explosive chorus of “Sleep Tight”, Actress is name-appropriately full of drama in every track, aided by Boyeong Kim‘s capable vocal performances. The production is packed tidy with layer upon layer of instrumentation, making these songs busy but somehow still not cluttered: “This Obsession” and “How To Hear From You” are examples of this done in two very different ways, one using a few beefy volumetric textures versus the other employing a lot of sharp, distinct sounds. They’re as much technical marvels as enjoyable tunes.

Runner-up Dance and Electronic Album 2016

Neon Bunny – Stay Gold

Stay Gold is a work that strongly reflects the artist’s persona. The focused production, charged lyrics, and willful destruction of language conventions (some of which I wrote about in the review) all contribute to an album that reflects Neon Bunny’s quirks, and a fiercely unique-sounding one at that. The atmosphere that Neon Bunny creates here is loungey and laid-back yet anxious and vulnerable, slipping from close comfort to imposing metaphor in a heartbeat; I’m not sure I’ve listened to anything else quite like it in 2016. Crisp sounds that blend the artist’s synthpop roots with deep house and future bass, culminating in our 2014 Best Dance/Electronic Song, further add to the distinction.

The First Ten Out


Best Dance and Electronic Song 2016

Tiffany – I Just Wanna Dance

This is that special kind of “retro” song, one that blends the best of bygone times with the best of today. The satisfyingly bouncy bass, ponderous synths and busy drums bring tidings of the eighties, while the sensational melody and instrumental flairs (bubbling pulses in the chorus, tasteful phaser transitions) buy the track currency. Tiffany puts in a basically flawless performance, taking full advantage of her rich mid-tones and playing with breathy cut-offs to her lines amidst breathless exultation. The song also benefits from great writing: Hwang Hyeon builds a surprisingly vivid atmosphere with concise lines, turning a city into a stage with its headlight rhythms, building-window audience, streetlight spotlights, and air so rainy you can feel it. “I Just Wanna Dance” is a danceable, moody, urban delight that I wish wouldn’t stop.

Runner-up Dance and Electronic Song 2016

Nahzam Sue – 사이버가수 아담 (Cyberstar Adam)

I can never really figure out if Sultan of the Disco‘s music is really serious or if they’re just messing with everyone, and same goes for their leader, Nahzam Sue. But just like the band, Nahzam Sue’s sound quality is absolutely unflinching, and that’s the big reason why “Cyberstar Adam” is so good. Dipping deep into lo-fi history, he installs an insanely catchy riff on analog synthesizer, this cascading melody that sometimes ascends and sometimes descends as it forms the song’s backbone. As funky guitars and punctuated beats (all with laser-sharp fidelity) complete the arrangement, Nahzam’s flexible yet charistmatic voice punches out the tragic tale of Cyberstar Adam, a virtual entertainer basically made obsolete and destined to be forgotten the moment he was born**. It’s all very kitsch (in an album that features a baby-making jam called “Max Love”, this is standard fare), though when you consider what the retro sound and unabashed melody represent, the theme provides a little pause for thought. Pairing that with a song this outrageously fun – I suppose that’s the point.

The First Ten Out

Amber & Luna – Heartbeat (Featuring Ferry Corsten, Kago Pengchi)

F(x) – All Mine

GFriend – 시간을 달려서 (Rough)

Hugh Keice X Park Soyu – Jasmine Hotel

Hyomin – Gold

JIDA – High (Featuring Rachel Lim)

Mascota Blue – Change It If You (Featuring Fimm)

Nu’est – 여왕의 기사 (Overcome)

Puer Kim - Gem

Puer Kim – Pearls

Suran – 떠날랏꼬 (Paradise Go)

Honorable Mentions


B.A.P – Noir
Berry Good – Very Berry
Floating Island – Diving to the Ground
GFriend – Snowflake
Idiotape – RE
Infinite – Infinite Only
Kirara – Moves
Luna – Free Somebody
Nue’est – Canvas
Nu’est – Q Is.
Ohheejung – 주근깨 (Freckles)
OTAR – Unspoken Scenery
Red Velvet – Russian Roulette
Saebyeok – Division
Sistar – 沒我愛(몰아애) (Insane Love)
Taemin – Press It
Taeyeon – Why
Twice – TWICEcoaster: Lane 1
Uhnee – 눈빛이 나 (Twinkling Gaze)
Vixx – Kratos
W – Desire


April – 팅커벨 (Tinker Bell)
Aseul – Loveless
Ash – 재회 (Reunited)
Ashmute – Heaven
Azito – 시작하는 소리 (The Beginning Sounds)
Banalog – 잠수부 (Diver)
B.A.P – Skydive
Berry Good – Angel
Block B Bastarz – Make It Rain
BoA X Beenzino – No Matter What
BRLLNT – Go Deep (Featuring Jeebanoff)
Casker – Put Me Back
Casker – 외계어 (Alien Language)
Clazziquai Project – Make Up Break Up
Ele – Nobody
EXO – Monster
Floating Island – Diving to the Ground
Floating Island – My Room, My Holiday
Goldmund – One
GOT7 – Fly
HeeJin [LOOΠΔ] – ViViD
HEO – This Obsession
Heureun – Highway
Humming Urban Stereo & Risso – Get Married
Idiotape – 가지마오 (Don’t Go)
Jay Park & Kirin – City Breeze
Jay Park & Ugly Duck – 우리가 빠지면 Party가 아니지 (Ain’t No Party Like an AOMG Party)
Joe Won Sun & Jinsil [Life and Time] – Mismatch
Kil Gun – #내아래 (#Under Me)
Ladies Code – Galaxy
Ladies Code – The Rain
LAZMOD – 평행선 (Parallel Lines) (Featuring Na Hyun)
Lovelyz – 그대에게 (For You)
Lovelyz – 나의 지구 (Destiny)
Love X Stereo – Beauties Die Young
Luna – Free Somebody
Luna – Galaxy
Millic & Room306 – Belief (Millic Remix)
Nahzam Sue – Till the Sun Goes Up
Nahzam Sue – 좀비보이 (Zom-B Boy) (Featuring Nucksal)
Neon Bunny – New Moon
Neon Bunny – 빌딩의 숲 (Forest of Skyscrapers)
Ohheejung – 주근깨 (Freckles)
Oh Ji Eun Seo Young Ho – 이것은 아마도 사랑 (This Is Maybe Love)
Oh My Girl – Liar Liar
Oohyo – 청춘 (Youth) [Night Version]
OTAR – Blue to Orange
Palgou – Hold Me
R3hab, Amber, Luna – Wave
Rainbow99 – Calendar
Red Velvet – Cool Hot Sweet Love
Red Velvet – Russian Roulette
Romeo – Treasure
Room306 – Road Movie
Saebyeok – Oblivion
SHINee – 1 of 1
Smells and Reno – U
Spacecowboy – Grotesque (Featuring Paloalto)
Spica – Secret Time
Susanghan Girl – Vanilla
Taemin – Press Your Number
Teen Top – 사각지대 (Warning Sign)
Tiffany – Fool
Tiffany – Heartbreak Hotel (Featuring Simon Dominic)
Tiffany – I Just Wanna Dance (Kago Pengchi Remix)
TOYO – Hornet
Twice – TT
Uhnee – 구름이 닿을락 말락 (Ferris Wheel)
Vixx – Fantasy
W – 미식가 (Gourmet) (Featuring Why)
Wonder Girls – Why So Lonely

**By the way, Adam was a real Korean-made “cyber singer” – sort of a precursor to modern vocaloids. A CGI character voiced by a real singer and given a whole virtual personality, Adam was created by Adamsoft and debuted in 1998 with full-length album Genesis which sold over 200,000 copies. He became relatively successful; had his own fan club and got some public support as a successful tech venture project. But the damn thing was so expensive to animate back then that a middling sophomore album tanked the company. Ironically (in light of Nahzam Sue’s song), Adam is reportedly making a comeback in 2017: a tiny announcement concert was crowdfunded in April 2016, and as of writing there is a consortium of sponsors who are crafting multi-platform content using the character. Perhaps Hellokpop will be reviewing an Adam album in the near future. (Korean readers can do some light reading-up here.)

Sources: album art and Tiffany header image from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review


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