The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs – #70~#61

[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]

Introduction
#100 – #91
#90 – #81
#80 – #71
#70 – #61
#60 – #51
#50 – #41
#40 – #31
#30 – #21
#20 – #11
#10 – #1

70. Cleo – Ready For Love

Cleo - Ready For Love

From Ready For Love (2000)
Label: Ho Entertainment
Composition/Arrangement: Kim Dong-young
Writing: Kim Tae-yoon
Links: music video, live

The melody has a bit of that 90s Korean ballad feel – like Star In My Heart stuff. The techno accompaniment that kicks in soon washes that away, but the song remains impossibly cheery. While I don’t think Cleo ever really got out of FIN.K.L.’s shadow, this one moment was fully their own.

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The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs – #80~#71

[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]

Introduction
#100 – #91
#90 – #81
#80 – #71
#70 – #61
#60 – #51
#50 – #41
#40 – #31
#30 – #21
#20 – #11
#10 – #1

80. Zaza – 버스 안에서 (In The Bus)

Zaza - Illusion

From Illusion (1996)
Label: Three Nine Comprehensive Media
Composition/Writing/Arrangement: Kang Won-suk
Links: audio, live

It’s one of those songs where the verses are catchier than the chorus. The raspy rapping is reminiscent of CLON, themselves a contemporary of Zaza, but Yoo Young‘s smooth bridge and finish soon creates distinction. There’s undeniable groove here, and the storytelling still works too.

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The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs – #90~#81

[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]

Introduction
#100 – #91
#90 – #81
#80 – #71
#70 – #61
#60 – #51
#50 – #41
#40 – #31
#30 – #21
#20 – #11
#10 – #1

90. FIN.K.L. – 영원 (Eternity)

FIN.K.L. - Eternity

From Eternity (2002)
Label: DSP Media
Composition/Arrangement: Yoo Jung-yeon
Writing: Lee Hyori (FIN.K.L.)
Links: music video, audio, live

FIN.K.L.’s final album (at least, to date) focused on maturation, and so a ballad was picked to be the lead single. With Ok Joo-hyun leading, the four members elegantly performed this easy-listening number that borrowed noticeably from Brown Eyes-style R&B pop. A soft melody and thoughtful arrangement later, we had the definitive FIN.K.L. ballad.

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The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs – #100~#91

[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]

Introduction
#100 – #91
#90 – #81
#80 – #71
#70 – #61
#60 – #51
#50 – #41
#40 – #31
#30 – #21
#20 – #11
#10 – #1

100. 5tion – More Than Words

5tion - True Image of New

From True Image of New (2001)
Label: K-Story Entertainment
Composition/Arrangement: Kim Suk-chan
Writing: Jung Jin-hwan
Links: music video, live

A ballad-focused idol group isn’t the safest bet now, and it wasn’t then either. 5tion managed to beat the odds, and while the group never reached the lofty heights of their more famous contemporaries, debut single “More Than Words” remains eminently enjoyable with its medium-tempo arrangement and smooth delivery – and now there’s a remake, too.

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The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs – Introduction

[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]

Introduction
#100 – #91
#90 – #81
#80 – #71
#70 – #61
#60 – #51
#50 – #41
#40 – #31
#30 – #21
#20 – #11
#10 – #1

Love them or hate them, the so-called idol groups have been a major engine of growth for the Korean music industry in the last two decades. I can tell you all day about the negative effects they’ve had on the scene, but this is not the time for that. The truth is, K-pop’s idols have given us a veritable treasure trove of good music over the years. The cream of the crop can hold their own against older golden-age gems, as well as against the non-idol mainstream and indie scene’s best.

So here’s a project: let’s try to select the 100 best idol group songs in history. This is the kind of stupidly ambitious and more than a little egotistical idea that led to my (highly flawed) “Best of the Decade” series on this blog five years ago. I thought about publishing this list on Hellokpop, but it doesn’t feel appropriate – too much personal taste went into this, and even my annual year-in-reviews are pushing it in that regard.

Given the thousands and thousands of idol-group songs released over the years, I’m already guaranteed to be missing some things. So in addition to trying to be thorough in my research, I’ve also given myself the following constraints to pare down the universe of possible selections:

  • Only songs released after September 1996 are considered. That’s when H.O.T. debuted, and they are generally considered to be the first modern idol group as we know them today. Unfortunately, this means that deserving work by Taiji and the Boys, Solid, Deux, Turbo, and others are left out. CLON and Young Turks Club missed out by mere months.
  • Work by sub-units of idol groups count, but solo work doesn’t. This is kind of arbitrary, but it’s to preserve the spirit of “group” music while also ruling out group members turned solo.
    • On the other hand, permanent project units consisting of members from different idol groups, such as S, Trouble Maker and Girlfriends, are eligible.
  • Should go without saying, but foreign-language tracks released by Korean groups don’t count. (Their Korean-language re-releases do count.)
  • What constitutes an idol group? For the purposes of this, the term includes all groups whose work and activity are produced, promoted and overseen at the agency level. Usually this is pretty obvious, but sometimes it’s not: is Fly to the Sky still an idol group after leaving SM Entertainment? What about Shinhwa? So I’ve added the caveat that if a group that used to fit the above definition continues to bill itself as an idol group, then all subsequent works still count. So Shinhwa’s later works count, but only early works from FTTS are considered. Still, judgment calls had to be made.
  • Further difficulties abound with teams like UN and Jinusean, which no one in their right mind would have called idol groups in the late stage of their careers. Still, if they were promoted as idol artists at some point, they are eligible for at least part of their careers.
    • As a semantic consideration: so-called “idol bands” like CNBlue, FT Island, AOA, and LEDApple are of course eligible. However, Buzz (perhaps the prototype for these) never seemed to be billed as one, so that team is not considered.

(Note that the names given above are no more than examples; a lot of the teams I mention as eligible didn’t make the final cut anyway.)

Here are some loose criteria I considered when making the selections:

  • Musical quality. The most important thing. Production, polish, and performance all influence quality, as do less tangible things like how pleasant the whole package sounds, how emotionally appealing it is (if appropriate), how turnt can we get to it, and so on. And some songs age better than others.
  • Impact. Are you “Tell Me” by the Wonder Girls and did you orient the entire landscape of mainstream pop towards hook-songs for a few years? Congratulations, you’re on the list.
  • Experimentation. Idol music is a business where the safe is valued. A song that tried something weird and intrepid while maintaining quality gets brownie points.
  • Parity. There are certain groups who have multiple entries making it into the list. And if I’m being fair, some of those groups probably deserve to have even more entries – such is the nature of creative art. But to avoid making a boring list, and also to be able to recognize more groups than otherwise possible, I’ve made some cuts for teams that have an overabundance of deserving tracks. (They’ll still have more entries than others, just not as many as they could have had.)

The final 100 includes consensus classics as well as some songs that are probably headscratchers. Each entry contains an attempt to explain what is good about each of these tracks. Do note, though, that the little blurbs are in general not trying to justify a particular ranking, or why something is ranked over something else; that kind of relativistic (or worse, transitive) argument is much more nebulous, and to be honest, there is not a huge difference in preference between a song I put at #40 versus one I put at #80.

The list is imperfect, of course – there will most definitely be things I’ve missed. Completeness is not really the goal. But I like it a lot, and hope it will be at least interesting to skim through for you – be it a trip down memory lane, an artist discovery session, or just a good laugh.

5월 둘째주 리뷰후기 (Post-review): 이비아 – E.viagradation Part 1 (Black & Red)

For my English readers: this is a series of posts where I’ll be commenting further on the reviews that I write for hellokpop.com in the previous week, taken in a Korean context. As always, please check out my writing over there!

http://www.hellokpop.com/2012/05/13/album-review-e-via-e-viagradation-part-1-black-red/

-5월 13일에 기고한 이비아 EP, <E.viagradation Part 1> 리뷰 본문입니다. 되도록 먼저 읽어주세요.

1. 어쩌다 보니 5월 첫째주 리뷰였던 리오 케이코아의 <Missing Soul> 후기를 놓쳤네요. 그 앨범은 애초 본문에 쓴 것 이상으로 할 말은 별로 없었습니다.

2. 이옥주 누님의 내퍼 활동 시절은 사실 제가 언더힙합을 본격적으로 듣기 전이었어요. 이비아가 되고 나서야 아 이런 래퍼도 있구나 하고 처음 알았으니까. 처음엔 저도 내퍼 시절 곡이 훨씬 좋더군요. 워낙 “Shake”나 오빠 시리즈가 병맛 쩔어주다 보니 (그리고 욕을 바가지로 얻어먹다 보니…), 소울커넥션 믹스테입에서 들려주던 잔잔한 보컬과 묵직한 랩톤이 아깝더라고요. 근데 비로소 이번 EP에 와서야 내퍼와는 차별점을 두고서도 “오 이거다” 하는 색깔을 찾은 것 같아서 그 점을 높이 샀습니다. 별점이 1점대로 폭락하지 않은 이유죠.

3. 한데 말이죠. 저 리뷰 쓴 이후로 예전에 했던 작품을 좀 들어보고 있는데, 이비아한테 딱 맞는 색깔은 또 있었더군요. 이름하여 “소녀의 순정” 되시겠습니다. 이 곡은 발매 직후 들어본 적이 있는데, 왜인지 모르겠지만 그때는 별로라고 생각하고 넘겼었어요. 허나 다시 들은 “소녀의 순정”은 완벽합니다. 흥미진진한 네러티브와 재치있는 래핑이 맞물려 듣는 재미가 아주 쏠쏠한 곡이에요. 특히 2절의 “어디로 가나 보자 // 넌 오늘부로 고자 // 뭐 남자친구? X까! // 아~~!!! X발 토나와” 하는 부분이 발군인데요, 마지막 두 마디를 잇는 급작스런 비명은 이 재치가 번득이는 순간입니다. “일기장”을 뛰어넘는 이비아 최고의 명곡이 아닐까 생각되네요. 어쨌든 이분한테 참 잘 어울린다는 생각이 들었어요. 이걸로 밀고 나가도 괜찮았을 듯.

4. 아무쪼록 잘 됬으면 좋겠네요. 국내에 여성래퍼 드문 건 하루이틀 있는 얘기가 아니지만, 이게 별로 나아질 기미도 안 보이거든요. 윤미래, 리미, 이비아 다음으론 진짜 가뭄에 콩 나듯 보이니까… (요즘 졸리브이나 예요같은 분들이 기대되는데 이 얘기는 나중에 하고요.) 이런 씬에서 홀딩잇다운 해주고 있다는 것만으로도 응원하고 싶습니다. 이번 EP가 초석 하나는 탄탄히 깔았으니 <Part 2>를 기대해 봅니다.

P.S. 이비아 트위터 태그라인 보고 빵터짐…

4월 마지막주 리뷰후기 (Post-review): MC 스나이퍼 – Full Time

For my English readers: this is a series of posts where I’ll be commenting further on the reviews that I write for hellokpop.com in the previous week, taken in a Korean context. As always, please check out my writing over there!

http://www.hellokpop.com/2012/04/29/album-review-mc-sniper-full-time/

-4월 29일에 기고한 MC 스나이퍼 6집, <Full Time> 리뷰 본문입니다. 되도록 먼저 읽어주세요.

1) 트랙수가 많은 힙합 앨범을 보면 괜히 기대되곤 해요. 이 정도 분량을 뽑아낼 정도면 퀄리티도 대박이겠지…하는 심리라서요. 조PD 7집마냥 실망스런 경우도 있지만 어쨌든 약 15곡이 넘어가는 앨범은 높은 확률로 수작입니다. (백퍼 경험에만 의존한 추측이에요.) 이번 MC 스나이퍼 앨범도 그런 의미에서 상당히 기대를 했습니다는 개뿔이고 사실 한참 듣고 있을 때까지 트랙수는 거들떠보지도 않았습니다. 왜 그랬는지는 모르겠는데 어쨌든 덕분에 20곡이라는 상당한 분량에 의한 허황된 기대는 피했어요.

2) 그렇다고 앨범이 그 정도인 건 아니고요. 본문에도 설명했듯이 감정의 활용에 있어서 저격수 씨는 분명 발군입니다. “인생”이나 “Piano”같은 곡은 애초에 보기 힘들기도 하지만, 설령 누가 한다 해도 스나이퍼만큼의 감동을 끌어내는 경우가 드물어요. “음유시인”이라는 별명으로 대변되는, 투박하면서도 잘 보면 의외로 섬세한 표현력을 지닌 가사와 비장한 퍼포먼스가 낳는 효과라고 볼 수 있겠는데요, 이 실력은 6집에서도 건재합니다.

이러한 스타일이 있기 때문에 “할 수 있어” 같은 곡이 소화 가능한 거겠죠. 이걸 다른 래퍼가 한다고 생각해보세요. 대참사가 눈에 선합니다. 5집 “마법의 성”처럼 손발이 퇴갤하다 못해 미립자 단위로 분해되는 수준은 아니지만 후렴이 좀 오글거리는데, 그나마 스나이퍼 버프로 커버가 되어 나머지는 별 문제없이 넘길 수준입니다. 가사도 뭐 본인의 이야기일수도 있고 누군가에겐 힘이 될 수 있을테니 너무 평가절하하고 싶지는 않군요.

참고로 본 앨범의 보너스트랙 격으로 “할 수 있어”의 리믹스(?)가 수록되어 있는데, 김지수씨와 함께한 버전입니다.그리고 한 300%는 더 듣기 좋더군요. 원곡에서 2% 부족한 게 보컬로 채워진 것 같기도 하고, 무엇보다 그놈의 후렴이 바뀌었다는 점에서 확인사살입니다.

물론 감정과잉도 보입니다. 박완규씨랑 함께한 곡이나 “거울자아”의 1절… 필은 좋은데 그러다 랩까지 뭉개지면 존망.

3) 스나이퍼 하면 또한 특유의 “뽕기”를 빼놓을 수 없죠. “논현 랩소디”에서 아주 제대로 보여줍니다. 가사가 걸쭉해서 부담스러우시다면 “Job Korea”가 기다리고 있고요. 둘다 뽕기작살입니다. (“Job Korea”는 이 앨범 통틀어서 스나이퍼의 래핑이 가장 좋게 들리는 곡인 것 같습니다.) 근데 “민초의 난” 같은거 한번 더 안해주시나…

4) 결국 이 앨범을 살린 건 저 두가지에요. 첫인상은 한 2점에서 2.5점 줄까말까한 정도였는데, 좀더 찬찬히 듣고 음미하면서 재평가한 점수입니다. 분량 대박인 앨범 치고는 기대이하지만, 언급한대로 비슷한 처지인 조PD 7집보다는 확실히 좋네요. 다만 리뷰한 이후로는 도통 손이 안 가요. 한계인듯.

P.S. 우왕 비도승우당