Welcome back, everyone, to another Seoulbeats Roundtable!

As we fast approach July, let’s take a moment to reflect on the first half of what has been a tumultuous year. Among other things, we’ve had couple reveals and break-up reveals, YG albums, yet another idol sue SM, old-school comebacks, some pretty promising debuts and some nice new music to boot.

So, what has been the stand out event of the year in K-pop so far, for you?

Pat: One word: Kris.

Apart from Kris leaving, and just as I was warming up to him, I’ll be very biased and say the various comebacks of the boy groups, especially my favorites: Vixx, Infinite and Block B. For one thing, I actually understood what Ravi said in the intro at first listen and Hakyeon has made me tear up more times than I can count during “Eternity” promotions. As for Infinite? A return to their old sound with a very nice album to boot.

Honorable mentions are Haru and her fabulousness and all the jokes on Tumblr about Baekhyun and Taeyeon dating.

There were dozens of dating “scandals,” none of which actually interested me because a) I find all of them fake and just really effective PR (if not a bit strange as a tactic, but, hey, whatever gets attention, right?) and b) I just don’t care. What was more interesting to me was the music coming out of SK this year.

20140619_seoulbeats_gummy2Firstly, we can just say Taeyang’s comeback was one of the best from any artist in possibly the last five years. It was almost flawless. Then the comebacks of Fly to the Sky, 4Men, Wheesung, g.o.d. and Gummy made a really big impression, showing they’re not only still relevant but more impressive musically than their juniors. The most noteworthy, if not talked about, debut obviously was Lee Michelle and she and Dima taking a very mature and powerful approach for her first song. I’m waiting to see what they deliver for a follow-up and if it maintains the integrity of the first song.

Then from the indie and hip-hop fronts, some of the most incredible artists either came back or gave us their first efforts with unique and interesting concepts and sounds: Eddy Kim, small-o, Dynamic Duo, Crush, Ugly Pumpkin, Illap, and the Barberettes, to name just a few of the indie artists and debuts that really impressed me this year. Though many may possibly find K-pop disappointing this year, Korean music was just generally brilliant so far.

Andy: SME’s drama has, of course, been the most public. It was almost like there was some possibly image-damaging news every month.

As to the music, I’m loving the rise of more non-idol group artists. Soloists and more indie artists are doing a fantastic job so far. Not to mention the continued growth of R&B and hip-hop in popularity and attention.

Gaya: My highlight has to be that time Exo performed “Overdose” live on… oh no, wait.

20140626_seoulbeats_nuest_ren2014 has been an eventful year so far, but I think my choice has to be news of Nu’est‘s comeback. Firstly because: FINALLY; and secondly because my bias Ren shows that he looks good with his hair styled any which way. You can do your worst, stylists, but Ren will always prevail! But seriously, I am looking forward to what my fave rookies have got in store. Nu’est have a lot of ground to make up thanks to Pledis‘ mismanagement, but I have faith that they’ll come back with something that at least I will enjoy. I liked “Sleep Talking,” so my hopes are still up!

Johnelle: The K-pop highlight of the first half of 2014 for me has been the official debut of Akdong Musician under YG Entertainment. It was a little bit scary wondering what would happen to the quirky duo under YGE, but their album Play still reflected much of the charm of the Akdong Musician I loved from K-pop Star. The album has been on repeat much since its release–the actual physical album is also very appealing. The MVs for “200%” and “Give Love” were just adorable, too (I want a part three!)

Mark: Yes, I totally have to second AkMu. I did not follow them on K-pop Star so their amazing presence for such young performers caught me completely off guard. In addition, all of YG’s productions (minus Psy) so far this year have been spectacular. Can’t wait to see what the second half of the year has in store!

Lo: SNSD dating. Just… so many all at once. What happened? Did SM forget their paparazzi bribes?

20140419_seoulbeats_toheart_key_woohyun_thecelebrityJoyce: For me, the formation of Toheart was pretty shocking — the formation, that is, not exactly the actual music. A variety show appearance, or a photoshoot for the both of them… maybe. But a entire album and music show promotions and all that stuff? I definitely did not expect SM to approve of it.

And I’m on the same page as everyone else who mentioned the SNSD scandals. At this rate, the whole of SNSD will be revealed to be attached by the end of this year.

Oh yes, and Beast and Infinite getting their own variety shows!

Kelsey: Everything having to do with Crush so far has been wonderful. I love his voice and he has a great album full of R&B jams with commendable production. He has definitely contributed to the rise of R&B that Andrea mentioned, and was one of a handful of debuts to get excited about this year.

Idelle: AkMu was a pleasant surprise for me as well! Like Mark, I hadn’t followed them in their talent-show journey either, but Chan-hyuk‘s talents in composing and Soo-hyun‘s lovely lilting voice eventually drew me in. And overall they’re just adorable, really pleasant and totally not obnoxious or offensive in any conceivable way, such a rarity — crossing my fingers for them to mature well in this cutthroat industry.

And, like everyone else, the previously unimaginable laxness of SM’s Personal Relationships division. Shouldn’t someone be getting on this already?

(Images via: SM Entertainment, Jellyfish Entertainment, Nylon, Pledis Entertainment, The Celebrity)