Beyond Hallyu’s A-Z of K-Music Part 1
From pop to rock, hip-hop to trot, Korean music has a wide range of avenues a person can go down when trying to find a song to fit a mood or situation. If you think back over the hundreds of artists that debut each year now who would be the ones to stand out to you amongst all the talent and beautiful faces? This is a question I found myself thinking about for a while recently, so for the readers of Beyond Hallyu I have compiled an A-Z three part list of my essential music and artists.
Below is Part 1 of Beyond Hallyu’s alphabet of music from A-H. So check out our YouTube playlist and have a read:
A) Brown Eyed Girls – Abracadabra
We start off our list with the 2009 hit song from talented R&B/Vocal group Brown Eyed Girls (B.E.G). Debuting in 2006, the group were able to show that a group needed not rely solely on youth and image. They originally debuted as a ‘faceless group’ choosing to make themselves known for their talents instead of their images.
The group slowly changed their musical outlook, drifting away from their familiar R&B ballad sound firstly with single ‘L.O.V.E’ in the first half of 2008 (from their first mini album ‘With L.O.V.E’) and again with a second mini album ‘My Style’ with the single How Come. This change saw them establish themselves as one of the top female groups in Korea.
However, it was ‘Abracadabra’ that would mark them down in K-pop history as one of the greatest groups to ever be established as not only were they able to company depart from previous styles (the song won the 2010 Korean Music Award best dance/electronic song of the year award) but also showed how easily they were able to establish themselves as ‘sexy bad girls’ with a video that would leave fans begging for more. I salute you Brown Eyed Girls and mark you a worthy A on my list.
B) Beenzino – Nike Shoes
Beenzino, a popular and influential rapper who has been a well-known presence in the underground hip-hop scene since his debut. Being signed to Illionare Records has clearly helped the rapper as he has lent his talents to many artists featuring on songs from Paloalto, Epik High, Dynamic Duo and K.Will to name a few. But this alone is not the only reason for his numerous appearances on other artist’s music, instead it is due to his remarkable talent to embody any song he is featured on and ensure that the listener knows that they are hearing him instead of another artist.
He has maintained his position as one to watch with popular album ‘24:26’ featuring songs such as Aqua Man, Boogie on & on and Nike Shoes. These songs have proven popular both within and outside of the hip-hop loving community, making him a go to choice for music fans. Although he cannot yet be called a veteran, it’s easy to see that this is only the beginning of a long career.
I picked this particular song to be part of the list, firstly, because of the amount of times I have listened to it according to iTunes (over 450 at the time of posting, though I am sure it will continue to rise steadily) and the fact that this in particular shows just how well he works with fellow hip-hop artists to create a varied type of music designed to attract many listeners.
C) Casker – Wonderful
Casker is an electronic pop/lounge duo formed by Yoong-jin Lee (Vocals) and Juno Lee (Produce, Compose, Arrange, Computers, Synth, Samples). Starting out in 2003 they released their first album ‘The Planet Built with Steel’ (an album which would be re-released as a new edition again in 2009) and have released a number of wonderful albums throughout the years.
2007 saw them hit a new popularity when their song ‘Mocha’ was used in hit drama Coffee Prince allowing the group to reach a wider population of listener and cementing them as a go to easy listening group. Last year saw them not only take part in Pastel Music’s 10th Anniversary Album but also saw the release of their 6th album keeping them in high regards with alternative music fans both in and out of Korea.
They have been compared to many groups since debuting, most commonly Clazziquai Project, due to the use of similar concepts though it is easy to differentiate between the two, as Casker give off a much more mellower and somewhat less ‘poppy’ sound.
This particular song is a favourite of mine because of the mixture of calming vocals from Yoong-Jin mixed with a get up and dance backtrack which makes the listener want to jump around making this a song that could easily be played in many different atmospheres; from a club to a gathering of friends.
D) Crayon Pop – Dancing Queen
Crayon Pop a group who in my own opinion are very overlooked and underrated. Now I myself admit that on first listen I was not a fan but it was after many listens (which were not by my own accord) that I found myself drawn to this cheerful and bright group.
Debuting first in Japan they filmed the video for their first release ‘Bing Bing’ there before debuting with it in the summer of 2012. This was followed quickly by another song ‘Saturday Night’ which like the first song was released and promoted in both Korea and Japan at the same.
Crayon Pop has managed to build up a loyal and loving fan base internationally by maintaining a bond with fans (mainly through their twitter which they often reply to fans on). This has helped them continue to rise in popularity; something that was shown with their sold out Japanese Mini-Concert that resulted in fans who couldn’t get tickets asking for (and receiving) another concert performed a month later. It looks like 2013 could be the year of Crayon Pop.
This song was picked as it shows Crayon Pop for exactly what they are: a fun loving, talented group who are outside of what I see K-pop as at the moment. Their dance is not serious but fun and they mainly wear tracksuits whilst performing it, showing that a song doesn’t need an overly sexy concept and attire to gain attention from fans.
E) BoA – Eat You Up
Debuting at the young age of 14 BoA was a star from the outset. Originally signed up after being spotted at her older brother’s audition she underwent intense training that saw her obtain popularity not only in Korea (often being called the ‘Queen of Korean Pop’) but also in Japan two years later, making her one of the first Korean stars to make a breakthrough there.
However her aim for the top did not stop there as in late 2008 she made her US debut with the album ‘BoA’, releasing the single ‘Eat You Up’. Through the song would not make as much as an impact as many had been expected (due to a lack of promotion) it would gain some acclaim in the US by reaching the Top 10 in the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play.
She is not only an acclaimed and successful singer but also a model, producer and TV star. In 2011 she became a judge on hit TV show K-Pop star, alongside Park Jin-Young (JYP) and Yang Hyun-Suk (YG), a popular show that would produce stars such as Lee Hi and come back for a season in late 2012. BoA will have her first Hollywood debut in Cobu 3D which has yet to have a set release date but it is clear to see that BoA’s star continues to shine brightly.
If you look outside of the fact that this was her US debut song, I always felt that this song was rather catchy and it remains one of my favourite songs by BoA.
F) Dynamic Duo – Friday Night
Hip-Hop wonder team Dynamic Duo initially started out as members of underground group kod before starting CB Mass (Critical Brain Mass) alongside fellow rapper Curbin. As CB Mass they released 3 albums before disbanding and creating Dynamic Duo, due to public disputes between the three that Curbin had been stealing money from the group.
As Dynamic Duo it is clear to see that Gaeko and Choiza have known one another since childhood as they clearly have a deep friendship and connection. This has been shown with all of the music they have released since their very first album ‘Taxi Driver’ in 2004 (an album which quickly became the best-selling album of that year).
Success continued for the duo with their second album ‘Double Dynamic – Operating Manuel’ which won beat hip hop album at the Korean popular music awards 2005. They have released 5 albums to date (as well as featured both together and separately on many other rappers albums) and continue to make their mark on the Korean hip-hop mainstream scene, making them popular with fans. They participated in the Korean cypher at the 2012 Gayo Daejun alongside Epik High and Simon D (supreme team) and continue to feature on many songs alongside popular and rising artists (they feature on ‘Beenzino – Aqua Man’ as mentioned above).
This particular song was picked as it’s an upbeat and high paced song that features vocals from Simon D and was popular in Korea when released in 2011.
G) G.NA & Sanchez – Beautiful Day
Successful soloist G.NA has had many hit songs since debuting back in 2010 beginning with the popular song ‘꺼져 줄게 잘 살아 (I’ll Back Off So You Can Live)’ which featured Jun Hyung of Beast. The song reached the peak position of 2 in various charts at the time cementing G.NA as a soloist to watch and gaining her an OST song with ‘키스해줄래(Kiss Me)‘ for drama Playful Kiss.
She would continue to make her mark on the music industry with popular songs Black & White and Top Girl a year later, earning a grand slam for winning on all three music shows with Black & White. Her 2012 comeback with ‘2HOT’ would again see her rise in the charts and she has continued to put out music that fans feel drawn to (along with her MV’s).
Sanchez is a member of Phantom who debuted in 2011. He would make an appearance in Verbal Jint‘s video for ‘You Look Good’ in which he played the lead alongside NS Yoon-G that same year. In November the group would upload a video titled ‘Freddie ‘Phantom’ Mercury Singing the Boys (SNSD)’ to YouTube alongside another video which made fans wonder about the group. Later that month they would release their first single ‘Hole in Your Face (얼굴 뚫어지겠다)’. They have since released two mini-albums.
I picked this song as it really shows the vocal talents of both artists, not only separately but also together. I was aware that both could sing but it was not until I heard this particular song that my interest in both was peaked.
H) Haha (Ha Dong-Hoon) – Rosa
Popular entertainer and musician Haha has had a long and somewhat varied career since debuting with the group Zikiri in 2001. A career that seen him go down many paths, from musician to comedian, television personality, MC and back to a musician. However no matter how many shows he appears (such as Running Man) it is always his music that stands out to me.
Haha is an artist that stays true to himself and constantly shows his love of his favourite musician, Bob Marley. His eclectic mix of reggae tones, pop and hip-hop makes him a stand out amongst many performers and also makes him a favourite of mine, not for his TV persona but for his music.
I picked this song for the list as this one clearly shows his musical influences along with Haha’s own mix of humour.
Let us know what your A-H playlist would have been in the comments below and join us next time for Part 2 of our Alphabet of Korean Music. For now enjoy!
Click here to listen to our other BH playlists.