The results for our “Most Underrated Release of 2013” poll are in! Although there were many excellent nominees that deserve more attention from the K-pop community the official poll winner was a tie between GLAM’s “In Front of the Mirror” and Wonder Boyz’ “Tarzan.” Congratulations to both songs for winning a little more recognition, but let’s not forget the two runner ups, Nine Muses“Wild” and MBLAQ’s “Smoky Girl,” both excellent songs and MVs that we encourage you to check out if you haven’t already. Now on to the winners!

Lindsay: Something I’m always looking for in K-pop is a unique music video. There are too many boxes and identical rooms, as I’m sure our readers have all realized by now. Wonder Boyz’ “Tarzan” was a welcome respite from the typical MV formula with its unusual storyline, innovative use of animation, and addictive dance moves. Speaking of the dancing, there was just the right amount of hip rolling, fancy foot-work, and sexy arms in this choreography. Not to mention the Tarzan chest-banging point dance, which once you’ve seen it you’ll find yourself doing every time the chorus comes around.

I was particularly taken with the scenes where the members appeared as the characters in classic adventure stories — Young Boy as 007, Master One as the “bad guy” in Tarzan, and Bak Ki Chi as Tarzan himself. The MV really is a story of imagining oneself in an improved life situation, something more exciting and special than what you have, and the use of the movie and comic book graphics to visually represent those imaginations was perfect. Also, how mind-blowing is the difference between how K looks in the drama scenes and in the dance scenes? Amazing what a little makeup and blue hair dye can do.20130625_seoulbeats_wonderboyz2

Combine the interesting MV with the ridiculously catchy song and you just can’t beat this release. The repetition of the word Tarzan and the pre-chorus with Master One rap-singing in his deep voice are hypnotic. It amazes me that a song with such an addictive hook can have less than 300,000 views on YouTube. Sure, YouTube views aren’t everything, but add that to the fact that you can’t even get Wonder Boyz’ mini album on iTunes and it becomes clear that there is a lack of proper marketing for this group.

Miyoko: I agree that companies need to stay on top of their marketing. Our other winner was GLAM’s “In Front of the Mirror,” which largely went unnoticed despite its awesomeness. In fact, GLAM has yet to receive the love that one would expect of a girl group with great vocals, fly dance skills and quirky image. Not only is the single unavailable on iTunes (when the others are), but also Big Hit Entertainment refuses to give them a proper mini-album.

In looking at GLAM’s brief history, they’ve put out three songs with three distinct styles. “In Front of the Mirror” appears to be the biggest departure from their dance beats, but it follows their most consistent thread: songs that are simultaneously fun and meaningful. GLAM’s playful and cute style pervades all their videos, yet it’s not all fluff; they’re known for their empowering messages. “In Front of the Mirror” is their most emotionally vulnerable song, but combined with the video it’s also very thought-provoking.

20130620_seoulbeats_glam+infrontofthemirrorWhile their take on trot music is interesting, particularly with its seamless blend of rap and melody, the song is greatly enhanced by a video that adds social commentary and an emotional arc. The lyrics talk about not feeling pretty when looking in the mirror, which affects self-esteem and relationships. The girls change from acceptably stylish outfits to ones that make them happy. In the process they experience a myriad of humorous frustrations; tight shirts ripping, the quandary of heels, bra padding falling out, etc. The girls find happiness by the end, jumping around and acting silly, which retains GLAM’s youthfulness and keeps the video light.

The video can be read as a message about accepting who you are and feeling beautiful about it, which is fantastic in itself. However, there’s another layer of contention as the song indicates it’s not just about getting past beauty standards once, it’s about breaking through them every day. The lyrics emphasize how looking in the mirror is a repeated act, and the video shows the cycle of what people, particularly women, experience daily. While we’d like to think the characters are going to accept themselves from now on, what we’re watching is something that will be repeated again tomorrow, which highlights how beauty standards are so ingrained that this emotional journey is a daily process.

20130625_seoulbeats_glamIt’s not all depressing, however, as GLAM injects their trademark rebelliousness in the video. It boldly highlights the words “not OK,” which indicates that this repeated cycle is not okay, in addition to the singer’s self-conscious feelings. The end of the video echoes this sentiment with Miso’s sassy wink as she says, “I’m not pretty,” which really seems to say, “Actually, I am, no matter what you say.” “In Front of the Mirror” delivers a tight song, well-executed MV and fun performance. It’s also layered and makes us think, proving that GLAM’s the girl group that has it all.

Both “Tarzan” by Wonder Boyz and “In Front of the Mirror” by GLAM are releases that stood out from the crowed. Although there will always be songs that don’t get enough recognition we are happy to have had the chance to give these gems a little more attention. You voted them in so share your love for these releases in the comments! What is your favorite part about the songs or MVs, readers?

(Ent102, Big Hit Entertainment)