With groups like 2NE1 and Rainbow disbanding and a new generation of artists coming into their own, we look back at another busy year for South Korean music.
As the year comes to a close, there’ll be plenty of shellshocked K-Pop fans, wondering how the hell it got to be such a bumpy ride. Those who follow the artists in the YG Entertainment stable suffered a triple whammy of disappointment: Minzy leaving K-Pop’s fiercest girl group 2NE1, Nam Taehyun quitting the diverse-sounding boy group WINNER, followed by 2NE1 disbanding completely. They weren’t the only casualties of 2016, with long-established female groups Rainbow, KARA and 4Minute also throwing in the towel and the reality-TV-built girl group I.O.I dismantled after the decent “Very Very Very”.
The newer generation groups, however, excelled – particularly JYP Entertainment’s nine-member girl group TWICE, whose “Cheer Up” sold by the bucketload, overcoming a controversial start to the year when Taiwanese member Tzuyu was filmed holding a Republic of China flag during a TV broadcast, angering people from both countries, between whom relations are fraught. Away from the political side of K-Pop, boy group Seventeen kept their momentum growing with the sassy earworm “BOOMBOOM”; male rookies ASTRO, KNK, Pentagon, and SF9 all offered up excellent reasons to keep an eye on them; and BLACKPINK, hands down, stole the show for the girls.
Naturally, you couldn’t move without bumping into a trap beat (a trend unlikely to wane in 2017), and if you didn’t have a table in your music video with all the members sat at it, then you just weren’t playing for keeps. Finally, let the Korean R&B star Crush lighten the mood of competition for the #1 slot with a gif that’ll keep on giving until the new year.
This list is for idol releases, limited to one song per group (or artist), and taking into consideration the whole package, both song and MV (music video). Fire up your lightsticks and dive in.
14. BLACKPINK – “PLAYING WITH FIRE”
Debuting earlier this year, BLACKPINK were widely debated to be a tribute act for labelmates 2NE1 – but by stripping the track to basics, “PWF” was a step towards their own identity. One ultra-simple hook and the vocals carried the entire track, something that couldn’t have worked without those four incredibly distinctive tones. Should their label continue to play to their unique abilities, rather than shoehorn them into a now defunct mold, BLACKPINK could easily unseat the new generation girl group hierarchy.
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*omitted part not related to BLACKPINK*