2016 hasn’t been the brightest year in K-pop, or even the world for that matter. But with Thanksgiving coming up in the US, we think it’s a good time to remember and reflect on the more enjoyable moments of this year, and share what we are thankful for in 2016.
Lauren M.: Even though the real world kinda sucked in 2016, K-pop provided a lot of distractions this year. There were scandals and messy moments, but a lot of good things as well. For starters, I’m thankful for Monsta X‘s “All In“, which was one of my absolute favorite comebacks. The ear-wormy song and the apocalyptic MV worked together perfectly. I was also thankful for female solo artists like Suran, Saero, Subin, Kitti B and Luna, who brought some of the best songs of the year. And I can’t forget HighGrnd, the only part of YG Entertainment that actually seems to be productive these days, because they released my top song of the year, Code Kunst‘s “Beside Me”.
Lastly, I’m thankful for BTS. Not only did Suga finally drop his long-awaited mixtape, but their massive success this year with their album Wings really hammered home that, sometimes, the underdogs do win and hard work does indeed pay off. Seeing them headline KCON this year was a major highlight for me. Also, Rap Monster continues to be my favorite person in K-pop. From making a cover of Troye Sivan‘s “Fools” to producing a fan song that included both genders to “Reflection”, his unabashedly personal solo song on Wings, this was a year where his fans got to see many different sides of him. But all of the members of BTS got a chance to shine in different ways in 2016 so, basically, it was just a really good year to be a BTS stan.
Pat: K-pop has always been my getaway from life, so I’m also happy that K-pop has continued distracting me and providing me with joy. While there were a lot of messy things said and done, there are things I am thankful for. First of, thank you SHINee for being so reliable, especially Jonghyun. I have a lot of love for Jonghyun that goes unsaid, but his compositions have always been a favorite, and I love listening to his She Is album. Additionally, I don’t know how, but I found myself listening to more and more female artists this year. From my ever so problematic favorite, Taeyeon, to gugudan (yeah yeah, I can’t believe I have “Wonderland” on my phone either, hush), to Red Velvet (“Bad Dracula” included, so I guess we can all conclude I have bad taste in music), to Luna and Amber‘s releases, and, I honestly can’t believe I’m even admitting this, Blackpink. Yes, I have been so pessimistic, and “Boombayah” did them no favors, but “Playing With Fire” is such a jam for me.
Which brings me to something else – I cannot believe we’ve had four, four!, promotions from YG artists that weren’t problematic at all! That would be WINNER‘s EXIT promos (well, E anyway), AkMu, Lee Hi and Blackpink’s Square Two promos. Oh right. There was iKon as well. I guess that’s five? So I’m thankful for these artist for at least having YG production MVs I can enjoy, guilt-free, minus “Boombayah” that is.
Finally, because I am VIXX trash and I would not be me without bringing VIXX into this, I am thankful that I now no longer have to defend Ravi’s English because it’s clear now. No longer do I have to tell people what he was saying in “Voodoo Doll,” for no, it was not voodoo gibberish and there were actual, real lyrics; and believe me when I say that it feels good not having to do that. And his rap is getting palatable, thank the K-pop Thanksgiving Turkey.
But mostly, I’m thankful for Blackpink’s Jennie and Red Velvet’s Seulgi.
Qing: First, on the music: 2016 has been great for the ballad-lover in me. From Seo In-guk‘s “Seasons of the Heart”, Red Velvet’s “One of These Nights”, and the offerings from AkMu, Lee Hi, Eric Nam, and Sandeul, there have been lots of great releases that I can see myself going back to often. SM Station has also churned out great ballads like Heechul and Wheein‘s “Narcissus”. I’ve also been loving the summer releases, especially Wonder Girls‘ “Why So Lonely“, Eric Nam’s “Can’t Help Myself“, Sistar‘s “I Like That“, and Astro‘s “Breathless“. And lastly, I’m very pleased with the increased involvement of indie bands and singers in OSTs.
Like Lauren, I’m a BTS fan, and I can’t begin to explain how thankful I am for the whole support system that has allowed their music and their personalities reach out and into so many people. The way the Big Hit staff tirelessly source for and record Bangtan Bomb material, insert cute captions, keep fans updated even during Chuseok and right after BTS Muster to counter the fanmeeting withdrawal—there are marketing goals in mind, sure, but their efforts are also a labour of love, for the group and for the fans.
On the side of fans, I never cease to be amazed by fan subbers like Bangtan Subs who not only sub at the speed of light, but also show extreme dedication and commitment to presenting little details and tones that often don’t come across in translation. They insert copious translators’ notes on the cultural references the boys make, when the boys use satoori or speak in a satoori accent, and explain inside jokes. And let’s not forget how often the boys speak at the same time or over each other, or how J-Hope shrieks more than he speaks and how Suga is the king of mumbling. How many listens would the translator have taken to pick out everything? I can’t imagine, but I am so, so grateful someone is doing it for me, and for other international fans.
Lastly, I would like to give my utmost thanks for black-haired Suga making a comeback after three years, not just because he looks so stunning, but also, a scalp can only take so much bleaching.
Camiele: You know what, for a while I was really too mad and too full of fear to find a lot to be thankful for. There were moments throughout 2016 when I couldn’t find that happy space in Korean music that I used to–in part because of Korean artists themselves. However, I had to separate myself from the anger, claw myself away from the fear to think about moments in 2016 when music in general, but Korean music in particular, really lifted my spirits.
Firstly, I went to SXSW this year for the first time. It was also my first music festival–not a bad way to kick off my festival-going experience, right? I owe a great debt of gratitude to my friends who made it possible for me to go. They allowed me the opportunity to talk to a lot of artists: Deepflow, WYM, Jambinai, Neon Bunny, the Guten Birds, and Haihm. I’m also thankful because I got to see Dean up-close-and-personal right before he blew up to unreal status with his solo stuff. I was so close to him we made brief eye contact, okay!
I’m also thankful for being able to see G2 and No Brain for the first time when they went up to Dallas. Hearing one of Korea’s most legendary punk bands live was an experience that really did change my life and brought so much happiness to me in the span of only a couple hours. The amount of pure energy from both artists, seeing their love of what they do up close, that was something I’ll always remember.
I’m thankful for Dumbfoundead. Seeing him from where he started in the underground battle scene to where he is now, hearing the work he’s done on his latest album, his consciousness, his fearlessness, it gave me strength in moments when I was pretty sure I was ready to just say f*ck 2016 and sleep ’til the ball dropped on 2017.
So, yea, most of my happiness came from a lot of first-time experiences. But they also made me realize that there’s so much about the world I’ve yet to discover, so much that I want and need to learn and see for myself. I don’t know what else 2016 has in store for me, and I’m almost afraid to find out. But every single one of the moments I’m thankful for has made it easier for me to ignore the fear and some of the anger and just try to find happiness in the things that have always managed to lift my spirits.
Sarah: This year has been a hard year. I’m truly thankful this year that all of us have found ways, within, around, and without K-pop, to manage and keep moving forward. Even when it was K-pop itself that was causing the stress, I often still managed to find a safe space in the music we all love. That seems to be the growing trend here.
First off, I have to second Lauren and Qing and say just how thankful I am for BTS this year. Over the last few years, they’ve managed to renew much of my faith in the quality and heart of K-pop, and this year was no exception. If I could thank them in person, I would, a million times over. I would thank Min Yoon-gi for his mixtape and for opening his heart and emotions to us all. I would thank Kim Nam-joon (and of course those behind the scenes) for supporting the group and producing the amazing music we got to listen to this year. I would thank Jin and Jungkook for their beautiful voices. I would thank Hoseok (J-Hope) for his awe-inspiring dancing. And I would thank Taehyung (V) and Jimin for always being able to make me smile, and staying strong through their own personal hardships. I would thank them all for Wings, and for the time and dedication they’ve put into everything they’ve ever done. I cannot thank them enough.
And, of course, I’m beyond thankful that I got to see BTS in the flesh at KCON LA this year!
Secondly, I’m thankful for the rookies who were actually worth a damn this year, or who I discovered this year. (This is not an exhaustive list, not nearly, I was incredibly impressed this year by so many groups) Twice, KNK, Astro, VRomance, Dean, Gugudan, Day6, HOTSHOT, and even NCT, thank you.
Thirdly, I have to say I’m thankful that Super Junior is FINALLY halfway through their collective military service this year. I cannot wait until we can get another full comeback from those crazy ahjussis. Thankfully, there is plenty to distract me from their absence until then.
Gaya: The number one thing I am thankful for this year is Luna’s solo debut. I tried my best to keep expectations low, but Free Somebody was everything I wanted and more! Liking every song on an album is a very rare thing for me, but that’s exactly what happened here — and I can tell you that if I hadn’t been a Luna fan before, this EP would have definitely converted me.
I am thankful that Sunny Hill and Lee Hi got to have comebacks after a long time; here’s hoping their next releases happen as soon as they are ready, without unnecessary delay. And while it is never nice to hear of an idol being in less than stellar health, I am thankful that idols and their companies are being more honest about caring for mental health.
Lastly, I am thankful for blond!Minho — he was mostly silver, but there was a hot minute where he was ash blond and he didn’t look terrible, it made me happy — and everyone involved in giving me my new favourite meme: Taemin with a gun.
Qing: Ah, I can’t believe I forgot about my most important thanks! I’ve been a silent reader of Seoulbeats for a number of years, and the opportunity and my circumstances aligned such that I applied as a writer and managed to join the team. Balancing school and other aspects of life with writing hasn’t been easy. I place very high standards on my writing and go about each article very carefully, so it hurts me when some commenters post careless remarks. It’s not that I am unable to accept views contrary to my own or criticism, but so often these comments touch on something I’ve already explained, or assume things about me as a person, just based on some concepts or an angle I’ve adopted. And I find myself wishing these readers had tried to understand my perspective thoroughly and thought carefully before making those comments.
Yet this opportunity to write for Seoulbeats has also provided me with the chance to learn: from reviewing and researching, and discovering little details that I wouldn’t have noticed from just watching the MVs or listening to the albums casually; and above all from other writers, who are well-versed in politics or certain music genres or gender issues and amaze me with their articles, who respond warmly to my SOS emails when I need help with reviews, and who see the effort I put into my articles and stand up for me.
Rounding off my add-on and echoing Camiele, K-pop is varied and sometimes hard to keep up with because of the messy, disappointing parts that keep cropping up. But then there are moments like this (thanks Cjontai for the tip-off), that just make me laugh out loud. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with K-pop, but then again, what would I do without it?
Lorenza: 2016 can go and choke on a spork, if we’re being totally honest. But it was also a year for growth for me and I guess I’m thankful for that, even if that growth was painful at times.
I’m most thankful for the distraction of K-pop, though. I’m thankful that Winner got a comeback that was awesome. I’m thankful for Seventeen and Twice for putting smiles on my face and continually impressing me. I’m thankful for all the variety shows that had idols on for fans to enjoy. I’m thankful I get to watch Amber on Entourage (even if her screen time is minuscule right now).
I’m beyond grateful for being able to go to KCon LA this year and getting to see SHINee, Amber, Monsta X, Turbo, and, of course, BTS live in concert.
Like everyone else said, it was a great year to be a BTS stan and I’m so so thankful we got to see them grow as artists and see them blossom. I’m so excited to see what they have in store for us next year.
I’m also insanely grateful that Lay got his solo debut. And for his body rolls.
That’s it from us! What are you thankful for? Leave a comment below!
(Images via BigHit Entertainment, SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment, Starship Entertainment, Joombas Co., Pledis Entertainment)