In this year’s midyear poll, we determined that Glam‘s “In Front of the Mirror” and Wonder Boyz‘ “Tarzan” were the most underrated releases of the first half of the year. This time around, we have all 12 months of 2013 to choose from. What comeback and/or debut that you really liked did you feel went unnoticed by everyone else? Which artist’s major release did you wish received greater exposure or coverage?
Gabrielle: I really like Raina’s “Just Go.” I had that on repeat for ages. I feel like their vocal talent goes very unnoticed. I know that obvert sexiness isn’t “in” with K-pop (unless you’re willing to deal with the backlash), but I just adored the whole single. Their English was a little sloppy with this one, but it still felt like it fell right in line with their style. I’m hoping that they get a hit that really gets people’s attention for more than just what they’re wearing.
Also Im Chang Jung’s “Open the Door” was amazingly funny to me. I thought it was even better than “Gangman Style.” The video had me laughing the entire time, and the song was crazy catchy. If anyone’s having a bad day, I highly recommend it![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLPLgJqeZJw]
Fannie: Kim Bo-hyung of Spica released a single back in October entitled “I’m a Crazy Bitch,” or “Crazy Girl,” depending on whether you want to go with the original title or the politically correct one. Bo-hyung is easily my favorite voice in Spica (out of the many great voices in Spica); in addition to having a strong voice and vocal technique, her singing also has an insane amount of emotional depth. Although she didn’t do official promotions for the song, B2M Entertainment did upload a live piano version of the song that really makes me wish she had been given the chance to perform it on music shows.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCtwi3NOb68]
The MV is just as dark and emotionally evocative as the song. Understandably, it got stamped with a 19+ rating in Korea, which could be up to a couple of factors: the fact that “crazy bitch” (미친년) is repeatedly used in the chorus in addition to the title, the fact that group-mate Na-rae has (multiple?) on-screen orgasms, and/or the violent and dark themes throughout.
Lindsay: Everything 100% did. I’m always hesitant to throw around the term “underrated” because it gets misused so often — especially in K-pop — but I have decided that this group is actually underrated, legitimately. Their vocalists are amazing, their live singing is on par with groups far their senior, their dancing is perfectly synchronized, and they are cute and funny to boot.
With that said, I nominate “Want You Back” as one of the most underrated promoted singles of the year. Sure, the MV isn’t stellar, but the song is catchy, the choreography is awesome, and there are lots of abs: legal, mature abs no less! Hopefully 100% is just having a slow start, kind of like Teen Top did, and soon they will gain the recognition they deserve.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxXCVxFZf2Q]
Shweta: I would second that, Lindsay, even though I liked their intro to “Want U Back” more than anything else on the album. It was gloriously epic. It’s a shame they’re tossed to the wayside.
Mark: I’ll admit 100% didn’t catch my attention until the sub-unit 100%V released “Missing You.” Lesser boy bands have been going with very smooth and soothing vocals this year and MYNAME has also impressed me with their r&b styling in “Baby I’m Sorry” and “Day by Day.”
I have two favorite under-appreciated songs this year. One is from Asia’s Best Performance Duo, aka Tasty. Whether they’re ethnically Chinese or Korean, they’ve been putting out great work this year and their performances attempt to live up to their label. While “Mamama” gave us a taste of their vocals while still focusing mainly on their dancing, “Day N Night” is a good mixture of decent vocals combined with excellent performance, and accompanied by a funky retro style song and concept. It could be that it’s just my song of the moment, but only time will tell.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plCqaQ4S9vA]
My absolute favorite song of the year though is still “Do You Want Some Tea?” by Hello Venus, released in early May. I think many people are turned off when they see something labelled as “aegyo,” and aegyo is a stigma that is heavily attached to this group, but this song is in no way hindered by its concept. It skillfully incorporates a classic and well recognized tune into its instrumental that works really well in enhancing the song’s vocals and melody. It’s everything you would expect from K-pop’s rendition of “Canon in D.”[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfVYOFCQufw]
Miyoko: I’d like to third 100% as well!
When I think back on my favorite releases this year, Heo Young Saeng‘s “Art of Seduction” always pops up. The music is fun, but the lyrics and MV are what really made it for me. I thought the MV was smart and hilarious (as hilarious as kidnappings go), and I really liked how the song was from this obsessed fan’s point of view. It made for a fresh concept. I did wish the song got greater exposure, but alas, sometimes the road is harder for soloists.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNgHLOFndZc]
Ambika: Perhaps it’s just me, but I felt like both of FT Island‘s releases fell a little under the radar, especially in comparison to the reception their releases have gotten before. Both “Memory” and “Madly” were on their typical rock ballad side, and they got buried under comebacks from other artists like Busker Busker, 2NE1, and Hyorin. Neither was a stunner, but I thought both were decent enough to merit more attention than they ended up receiving, and a good break from some of the flashier songs the year was wont to release. It probably would have helped if FNC Entertainment had pushed for live stages (as far as I’m aware, they didn’t) or some type of more intensive promotional scheme like they did for CN Blue earlier in the year.
Kelsey: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed AOA’s “Confused.” On the whole, it’s not spectacular, but I thought it was fairly catchy with a good dance. If I hadn’t caught their performances on the music shows, the release would have passed me by. I also think they have a real rival in Nine Muses, a group that happened to put out steady releases all year and pulled in a lot of new fans at the same time. It’s tough when so many girl groups have the same schtick for their comebacks.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGStVZfz2-s]
Laverne: This is a really tough question to answer because I tend to like lesser known groups but I think I’ve managed to narrow it down to 2 choices.First is Stellar‘s “Study.” The underlying rhythm is very catchy and Stellar manages to be cute without overusing aegyo. The other underrated release is Led Apple‘s “Bad Boys.” I’m always interested in Latin-infused K-pop songs so that immediately brought “Bad Boys” to my attention, and the song also shows Led Apple at their best — fun, pop rock. Led Apple has been consistent with their releases this year and I’d love for them to start getting more recognition in the future.
Pat: I agree with all the others who have mentioned 100%. While I am also a fan of Teen Top, I find 100%’s releases this year to be suberb. I also second the release of Bo-hyung’s “Crazy Girl” and add Spica‘s “Tonight.” While it is their first top 10 hit, I feel like the song, the music video, and the group don’t receive that much attention from the international fandom.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VSpBPqBJF8]
I also love both releases from Ladies Code this year. While “Pretty Pretty” isn’t exactly underrated , “Bad Girl” was my jam. From the beat to the vocals, it was a great debut song.
Mark: I almost forgot to mention this girl who made everyone question Korea’s child labor laws. N.CA (pronounced “en-sha”) released two solid singles this year but it’s her latest release, “Oh My God,” that really drew my attention with its addictive beat and catchy moves. Her music and performances remind us of the joys and wonders of being a kid, and in a world where young teens and adolescents are forced to behave (and look) like adults, isn’t it refreshing when they’re finally allowed to be kids?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqEPlcg5z5c]