It feels not so long ago that I put together my picks for the best 5 Things of 2013 so it’s hard to believe that 2014 is over and that we are well on our way into 2015. 2014 was a tumultuous year with joy and sorrow, good and bad, love and hate. The following are the Things I LOVED the most about 2014 in the K-popiverse.
5. Surviving the K-popcalypse
We should’ve known that 2014 was going to be a rocky year for K-pop when on the first day of the year Lee Seung-gi and SNSD‘s Yoona were revealed to be dating. It was a rough year for Korea’s premiere girl group as soon after Sooyoung and actor Jung Kyung-ho, Tiffany and 2PM‘s Nichkhun and leader Taeyeon and Exo‘s Baek-hyun were all also revealed to be dating. Hyoyeon was charged with assault by her ex-boyfriend, and then the unthinkable–Jessica was booted from Girls Generation.
It was a bad year in general for SM Entertainment with Exo-M‘s Kris and Luhan both leaving the group, which was especially sad after the stellar year they had in 2013. Sulli went on hiatus soon after f(x)‘s long awaited “Red Light” comeback due to malicious comments and harassment after it was confirmed that she was dating Dynamic Duo‘s Choiza. SM Entertainment’s stocks fell in value to the lowest ever after the departure of Luhan and dismissal of Jessica and for the first time ever YG Entertainment‘s market value exceeded that of SM Entertainment. If any good can be said to have come out of this, SM Entertainment seems to be taking extra care of their idols of Chinese descent as Henry continues to do well on Real Men, Zhou Mi finally had a solo debut, and Amber is rumored to be releasing a solo debut next month.
B.A.P. filing a lawsuit against TS Entertainment for nullification of their contract was something that a lot of fans saw coming. The group’s status is still up in the air as legal proceedings take place, but hopefully a favorable resolution is in B.A.P.’s future.
Tragedies of 2014 included the death of 304 passengers on the Sewol Ferry in April the deaths of EunB and RiSe of Ladies Code in September due to an early morning car crash, actress Kim Ja-ok‘s passing after succumbing to cancer, and legendary singer Shin Hae-chul‘s passing due to complications after surgery.
On a more personal level, Seoulbeats lost its fearless editor-in-chief Amy, who had been with Seoulbeats since its inception in 2008, to adulthood and her blossoming career outside of Seoulbeats.
With all the idol dating reveals, controversies, and tragedies that happened in 2014, it did really feel like the coming of the K-popcalpyse. But K-pop survived and so did we, its fans. With the bad, there is also good — keep reading for a recap of my picks for some of the good Things that happened in 2014
Back to the Basics: 1N2D
It took two seasons of cast mix ups and three PD changes for the venerable K-variety show 1N2D to get close to its former glory. Under the watchful eye of PD Yoo Ho-jin, who was a rookie PD during the first season of 1N2D, the current cast of Kim Jong-min, Cha Tae-hyun, Kim Joo-hyuk, Kim Jun-ho, Defconn, and Jung Joon-young have made 1N2D a contender again in the ratings race of Sunday nights. What made the show good again was the surprising chemistry of the new cast and a return to what made 1N2D stand out from the rest: brutal missions and no mercy for its celebrity stars. The writers have supplied fun and unique ideas for the shows — one of my favorites was when the cast went back to their alma maters and had a ‘Game of Chance Field Trip‘ with their hoobaes and the ‘Struggling Friend Note‘ episode linked below.
The Revival of the Korean Father: The Return of Superman
The craze over celebrity fathers taking a larger role in parent care actually started with the MBC hit show Dad, Where Are We Going? in January of 2013. KBS responded with a dad show of its own in September of 2013, The Return of Superman. With its more mundane shoots, just the celeb dads and their kids doing everyday chores and experiencing growing pains (with some trips thrown in), the show was able to capture the hearts of South Korea.
Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult: Infinity Challenge
It’s a legend in Korean variety, is the top program in its time slot, is the most watched non-drama show and has been called “the most favorite program in South Korea.” Under the innovative production and direction of PD Kim Tae-ho, the cast of Yoo Jae-suk, Park Myung-soo, Jung Jun-ha, Jung hyung-don and HaHa takes on the dirtiest, most dangerous and most difficult missions in K-variety. Along with its more comedic missions, Infinity Challenge also takes on missions that reflect the social issues occurring in South Korea by putting a satirical spin on the issue to engage the South Korean viewers’ consciousness. They even tackled their own controversies — after losing Gil and Noh Hong-chul to drunk driving arrests this year, the show set up a drinking temptation show to test the remaining members. One of their most popular episodes recently involved their ‘Saturday, Saturday is for Singers‘ show in which they coerced some of the most popular singers from the ’90s to once again perform some of their hits of K-pop long ago.
Every Breath You Take: Bad Guys
I couldn’t say enough good about Bad Guys, a gritty crime thriller starring Kim Sang-joong, Ma Dong-seok, Park Hae-jin and Jo Dong-hyeok. The story is fast paced and blurs the lines between the good guys and the bad guys, keeping you on your toes when trying to figure out who to root for. A must see, even if through your fingers for the brutal and bloody scenes.
Everyone knows about Misaeng now, the K-drama about the every day struggles of an average person trying to survive in the cutthroat business world of South Korea. It is one of the best adaptations of a drama from a manga, or in this case webtoon, I have ever watched. PD Kim Won-suk brought to life the trials of Jang Geu-rae, played brilliantly by Im Si-wan, and made his life significant with no makjang plots, birth secrets, love affairs or rich chaebol to save the day. Kang So-ra, Kang Ha-neul, Byun Yo-han, Lee Sung-min and the rest of the cast did an outstanding job of making life’s every little triumphs something worth fighting for.
Nothing Compares to You: You From Another Star
It seems like You From Another Star aired ages ago, but there is no denying that it was one of the greatest K-dramas of 2014, if not of all time. It took every K-drama cliche and turned it inside out or made fun of it. Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun were flawless as star-crossed lovers who through their affection for each other learned to become human. Its appeal is undeniable as it made beer and fried chicken viewing parties a thing, the lipstick that Jun Ji-hyun wore during the drama a hot commodity and Kim Soo-hyun the ‘it’ boy of 2014 — he hasn’t done anything but CFs and promotions of the drama since. Let’s hope the reported US adaptation of the drama doesn’t ruin our fond memories of it.
I Knew I Loved You – K-dramas that started late in the year and missed the cut, but are great: Pinocchio, Healer
Un-Break My Heart – K-dramas that broke hearts when they didn’t live up to expectations: Three Musketeers, High School: Love On, My Secret Hotel, The Night Watchman’s Journal
Love Takes Time: K-dramas that had a rocky start but got better as they went a long: Tomorrow’s Cantabile
Foolish Games – K-dramas that played around with their formulas too much to be enjoyable: Blade Man, Surplus Princess, Modern Farmer
For most international K-pop fans, Seo Taiji was like this mythical K-pop figure we all heard about in passing when idols talked about their musical influences but never knew. It wasn’t until he came back this year with new releases and intimate interviews that a lot of us got to know the man, not the legend.
A year with new music from Nell is a good year indeed. Their album Newton’s Apple was a solid end to their Gravity trilogy, which included 2012’s Holding Onto Gravity and 2013’s Escaping Gravity. I loved their song “Four Times Around the Sun,” and their MVs are always excellent.
Epik High’s comeback album Shoebox was just a great release with hit songs from beginning to end with epic collabs. It all began with “Born Hater” a song with DJ Tukutz‘s simple, yet awesome beat and accompanying raps by Tablo, Mithra and friends done effortlessly calling out all the haters in the world.
The Name Says It All: Winner
In spite of their group’s gimmicky name, which I’ll never forgive YGE for coming up with, Winner had a formidable debut. Their album was exceptional, their performances were flawless, their songs grew on me, and I just might be addicted to Kang Seung-yoon‘s voice.
The Unambiguous Rookie Girl Group: Mamamoo
If a rookie group doesn’t immediately catch my attention with their music — they’ll soon be erased from my K-pop radar. But with a mix that is part Wonder Girls and part Sistar, Mamamoo made an impressive debut with the song “Mr. Ambiguous” and its star-packed MV. They have big voices and know how to use them.
The Super Siblings: Akdong Musician
Many worried that K-pop Star 2 winners Akdong Musician would lose themselves in the force that is YG Entertainment. How could the sweet and quirky sibling duo of Lee Chan-hyuk and Lee Su-hyun possibly keep their wide eyed innocence and introspective look into every day life in swagtastic YGE? Somehow they did, and CEO Yang Hyun-suk took a hands-off approach to Akdong Musician‘s album, leaving the direction of the production, writing and composition of all the songs on their first album Play in the capable hands of Lee Chan-hyuk. The result was an album filled with earnest songs telling tales of youth, their dreams and their experiences in life and love. I loved them even more for their music videos.
1. The Year of BTS
Although BTS had a memorable debut in June of 2013, in my opinion they didn’t make a name for themselves until 2014. They began turning heads with the release of their mini album Skool Luv Affair in February of 2014. I believe the title song “Boy in Luv” off the the album is what really got them noticed along with their TV shows and variety appearances. By the end of the year, BTS was on everyone’s lips and literally everywhere. But with great popularity and exposure comes great responsibility, stress, sleeplessness, expectations and thousands of demanding fans. Hopefully, BTS continues to have a great 2015 and nothing happens to them like my pick for #1 of 2013.
Those were my top Things for 2014 — here’s to hoping for an even better 2015!