Qualifications: Released December 10th to December 15th
Check out part one of my ‘Top 100 Songs of 2018’ here list , and at the end of part two is a full Spotify playlist of 100 songs.
Love Is You ft. 블루디 (Blue.D) by 승리 (Seungri)
Album: The Great Seungri | Release: July 20, 2018 | Listen
While Seungri can hold his own with Retro Pop track like lead single “Where R U From,” R&B Seungri will always be the superior Seungri. With the help of YGX artist Blue.D “Love Is You” takes us back to his flawless 2013 solo album “Let’s Talk About Love.”
Other Memorable Seungri Releases: Where R U From ft. 민호 (Mino), 셋 셀테니 (1, 2, 3!), 몰라도 (Mollado) ft. 비아이 (B.I)
Serendipity by 지민 (Jimin)
Album: Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer’ | Release: August 24, 2018 | Listen
We finally got the full version to Jimin’s solo “Serendipity” with the release of BTS’ album “Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer’.” This such a beautiful and flawless song and it’s unfortunate that it was robbed of the promotion it deserved, and Jimin the solo moment he deserved.
seoul by 래프먼스터 (Rap Monster)
Album: mono. | Release: October 23, 2018 | Watch
As someone born and raise in NYC, I relate to Rap Monster’s “seoul” so much. “seoul” is about realizing in adulthood that the hometown you loved in childhood isn’t as great as your remembered, and dealing with the love hate relationship of wanted to leave because of all they terrible things about it, but not being able to leave because of the nostalgia and his love for the “soul” of the city (pun intended). The sentiments of this song are driven home 90s Hip Hop beat. In verse four he raps about his friends being able to leave Seoul with ease, but he is stuck because he feels attached even to the things he hates,
“Friends easily say they’ll leave
I look and nod but I cannot smile
I hate to admit it, but
I even love your hatred and disgust
I love the fishy smell of Cheonggyecheon
I love the loneliness of Seonyudo
Even the sigh of some taxi driver
Who says it’s a good place to live if you have the money
I love you.”
Other Memorable Rap Monster Releases: badbye (with eAeon), everythingoes (with NELL)
Sunshine by 후디 (Hoody)
Album: Sunshine | Release: October 22, 2018 | Watch
Hoody and Crush are each other’s everything in sweet and soulful Cha Cha Malone produced “Sunshine.” The unofficial Queen of AOMG Hoody was M.I.A in 2018, only making a few features, then later in the year she surprised fans and released this collab.
Lay Your Head On Me by 크러쉬 (Crush)
Album: Lay Your Head On Me (Single) | Release: November 16, 2018 | Watch
Crush collaborated with Fernando Garibay, the producer behind hits like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” “Karaoke” by Big Freedia and Lizzo, and much more for his song “Lay Your Head On Me.”
With nothing but a guitar Crush is a source of comfort as he belts out this soulful song that he released a preview for fans of his solo World Tour.
Other Memorable Crush Releases: wonderlost [Album], 넌 (none), Stevie Wonderlust (With Band Wonderlust), 잊을만하면 (Bittersweet)
Dance The Night Away by 트와이스 (Twice)
Album: Summer Nights | Release: July 9, 2018 | Watch
Twice put an EDM spin on their usual Bubblegum Pop sound with “Dance The Night Away.” We can thank Swedish producers Jonatan Gusmark and Ludvig Evers aka Moonshine for this refresh in Twice’s sound.
Other Memorable TWICE Releases: Chillax, HO!, Dejavu
Late Night by 로꼬 (Loco) & 그레이 (Gray)
Album: Late Night (Single) | Release: November 28, 2018 | Watch
Loco and Gray have returned with another bop for their catalogue. The AOMG duo shirk their responsibilities to stay up late with a woman. This addictive Electronic Hip Hop song features references to labelmates pH-1 and Simon Dominic while the video has a cameo from more AOMG members ELO, Woo Won Jae, Ugly Duck and Code Kunst.
Sober ft. Ummet Ozcan by 효연 (Hyoyeon)
Album: Sober (Single) | Release: April 18, 2018 | Watch
Hyoyeon finally hit it out of the park. The former SNSD member has released a few solo singles since the group ended their activities as 9, but none have quite hit the mark. However, with this venture into EDM, Hyoyeon, now going by DJ HYO, has finally found the thing that works best for her.
“Sober” is about seeing one’s self in a new light following the breakup of a toxic relationship. The music video was particularly exciting because of it featured women of different skin color and body types interacting with their body in different ways, a rarity in Kpop.
Boss by NCT U
Album: NCT 2018 Empathy | Release: March 14, 2018 | Watch
NCT U blurred the lines that separated them from NCT 127 with this electro-hip hop song and the addition of WinWin and Jungwoo (originally in NCT 127), but we’re also introduced to newest NCT addition rapper Lucas. NCT U still stay on brand lyrically, keeping that grown and sexy energy with lines like “I am the absolute boss that you want.”
Rubber Band by 아이콘 (iKon)
Album: Rubber Band (Single) | Release: March 6, 2018 | Listen
iKon tackle the feeling of being in a tense relationship that no one wants to end with deceptively summery R&B song “Rubber Band.” Like “Love Scenario,” “Rubber Band” never builds the way their previous songs have and it works, really well at that. The only thing to be criticized is that there was no official video.
주인공 (Heroine) by 선미 (Sunmi)
Album: 주인공 (Single) | Release: January 18, 2018 | Watch
Sunmi combines British Pop and Tropical house for song “Heroine.” Before getting to the heart break of “Gashina,” on “Heroine” we see Sunmi come to the realization that this relationship is about keeping the show that is her boyfriend and his happiness going in spite of the fact that she is getting hurt.
Producer Teddy was accused of plagiarizing Cheryl Cole’s “Fight For Love” for the song, but he has denied it, maintaining that it is his original song.
Other Memorable Sunmi Releases: 사이렌 (Siren), Black Pearl
Citizen Kane by 혁오 (HYUKOH)
Album: 24 : How to find true love and happiness | Release: May 31, 2018 | Listen
Hyukoh’s lead singer, Oh Hyuk, wrote this song after a particularly rushed taxi drive, that felt more high speed chase than it did drive, while in Hong Kong. It explores both his experiences with taxi drivers as well as the unique experience of taxi drivers themselves who meet and talk to totally strangers on a daily basis.
The song beautiful contrasts a fast and chaotic instrumental with melodic breaks of deep, earthy chants and harmonizations.
Other Memorable HYUKOH Releases: LOVE YA!, Gang Gang Schiele
빛이 나 (Shinin’) by 종현 (Jonghyun)
Album: Poet l Artist | Release: January 23, 2018 | Listen
On “Shinin’,” the lead single from “Poet | Artist,” Jonghyun reaches into his musical past and blends the tropical house and disco vibes of his 2016 album “She Is” and SHINee’s “1 of 1” album. He sings about wanting to be close with this person he loves, his devotion expressed with the sentimental chorus of “Always be with you~.”
Make Up ft. 크러쉬 (Crush) by 샘김 (Sam Kim)
Album: Sun And Moon Part 1 | Release: October 23, 2018 | Listen
Sam Kim the runner up on Kpop Star 3 in 2013, made his official debut two years later. This year he released two part album “Sun And Moon.” For the first single,“Make Up,” Sam Kim collaborates again with Crush. For “Make Up,” where he pleads for his girlfriend to take him back after a break up, Sam Kim steps away from his usual more indie, folk sound and leans all the way in to R&B, with a slight touch of rock.
Other Memorable Sam Kim Releases: The One, It’s You ft. 지코 (Zico)
잘가라 (Goodbye) by 홍진영 (Hong Jin Young)
Album: 잘가라 (Single) | Release: February 7, 2018 | Listen
Trot’s princess Hong Jin Young is back with “Goodbye,” a chic farewell to a lover. Hong Jin Young makes a clean break from her now former boyfriend with no regrets, asking him to forget her since she will do so with him, as she has “many more” aside from him.
New Heroes by Ten
Album: New Heroes (SM Station) | Release: April 7, 2018 | Listen
Ten was given a moment to shine after not participating in any NCT group promotions this year, through this SM Station x 0 release. With “New Heroes,” Ten takes a stab at the quintessential summer EDM song with a message of keeping positive in the face of negativity and to “learn from the lessons” of life, a theme of Station x 0.
생각나 (Thinking Of You) ft. 오반 (Ovan) & 수민 (Sumin) by 숀 (Shaun)
Album: Take | Release: June 27, 2018 | Listen | One To Watch
Shaun had quite the year this year. He debuted back in 2010 with indie group The Koxx, but the group went on hiatus in 2013 so that the members could begin enlistment, and after being a DJ and producing for groups like EXO, f(x), and BTS for a few years he released his album “Take.” When it skyrocketed to the top of the charts in July, surpassing BLACKPINK, BTS, and TWICE, it lead to a chart manipulation rumour. He and his agency have consistently denied any wrong doing, and it was announced he’d be enlisting in 2019.
Controversy aside, Shaun released on of the best albums in 2018 that holds its own against the best in the genre. The lead single, “생각나 (Thinking Of You),” a Tropical-House Dance song featuring Ovan and one of the year’s breakout artists, Sumin, is a captivating earworm that evokes memories of young love.
Other Memorable Shaun Releases: Take [Album]
Big Wave by 정일훈 (Jung Ilhoon)
Album: Big Wave | Release: March 8, 2018 | Listen
Jung Il Hoon made his solo debut this year with mini album “Big Wave.” He departs from the energetic Pop songs we know him for as a member of BtoB, and draws influences from Rock with lead single “She’s Gone.” On song “Big Wave” however, he draws us into a trance as the song starts with Ilhoon humming over an electric guitar as it slowly builds. He sings about pushing through and remaining “professional,” in difficult times and feelings of loneliness.
Other Memorable Jung Il Hoon Releases: Big Wave [Album]
달리 (Dally) ft. 그레이 (Gray) by 효린 (Hyorin)
Album: Dally (Single) | Release: April 23, 2018 | Listen
Following Sistar’s disbandment in 2017, Hyorin did some rebranding with the help of AOMG’s Gray and YouTube choreographer Aliya Janell. Aside from her questionable and extreme tanning at times during this promotion, Hyorin really knocked this reinvention out of the park. We know Hyorin is a strong singer, and “Dally” allows her to be that great singer, but brought her ability to be a performer front and center.
Other Memorable Hyorin Releases: Bae, See Sea
Always, All Ways ft. Chancellor by 보아 (BoA)
Album: The 1st Mini Album- One Shot, Two Shot | Release: February 20, 2018 | Listen
BoA enlists the help of Chancellor to pull of this sensual R&B number. “Always, All Ways” is a dark and sultry in a way that is fresh for one of Kpop’s Queens. BoA is allowed to show off her vocal strengths as well, instead of pushing the sometimes too high notes, she sticks to a lower range that shows off the best aspects of her voice. Hopefully BoA will stay on this path a bit longer and continue to work with R&B heavy hitters like Chancellor to keep giving us gems like “Always, All Ways.”
Other Memorable BoA Releases: The 1st Mini Album- One Shot, Two Shot [Album]
Slow by 쏠 (Sole)
Album: Slow (Single) | Release: | Listen | One To Watch
Sole hasn’t released a ton of work this year, only her single “Slow,” and two features, but I still think she is one to keep an eye out for in 2019. Her work with Gaeko’s “Vacation” & Joo Young’s “처음 (First)” were a nice teaser for what she is capable of as a up and coming singer in K-R&B, and enough for me to look forward to more from her.
Baby Don’t Stop by 텐 (Ten) & 태용 (Taeyong)
Album: NCT 2018 Empathy | Release: March 14, 2018 | Listen
“Baby Don’t Stop” was created for NCT’s star dancers Ten and Taeyong to have their moment. Ten’s sweet vocals are anchored by Taeyong’s contrastingly gruff and breathy raps. We’re even thrown a curveball and get a moment of Taeyong singing. In a group like NCT, whose concept is a constant rotation of members, it is more than easy for each member to get lost in the chaos, so it is refreshing that these two get a moment to have their talents front and center.
Washed by Dumbfoundead
Album: Cafe Bleu | Release: November 2, 2018 | Listen
In 2018, Dumbfoundead released uncharacteristically melodic album, “Cafe Bleu.” Dumbfoundead, coming from a battle rap background, has typically gone for more bass heavy, trap instrumentals especially in the last two years with albums “We Might Die” and “Foreigner.” For “Cafe Bleu” he has opted for chill vibes, even opting to sing on some songs.
For “Washed” he reflects on getting older and feeling older in lines like “I feel so ancient They say Asian don’t raisin Went from young and the dangerous To making all of my payments.” Despite the new sound, he holds on to the boastful Dummie we know and love, reframing his getting older as aging into the position of trailblazer, one owed respect with lines like, “Old enough to be a sample I just want a couple thank you’s And watch them bow down to my ankles.”
Other Memorable Dumbfoundead Releases: Cafe Bleu [Album]
주지마 (Don’t) by 로꼬 (Loco) & 화사 (Hwasa)
Album: The Hyena On The Keyboard Part 4 | Release: April 21, 2018 | Listen
Mamamoo’s Hwasa and Loco flirt with temptation on their song “Don’t.” This deeply sensual song tells of the two fighting temptation to drink alcohol in fear that it will push them to give in to other temptations. These two had such palpable chemistry that the song achieved a perfect all-kill.
말라깽이 ft. 이센스 (E-Sens) by 자이언 티 (Zion.T)
Album: ZZZ | Release: October 15, 2018 | Listen
Former Amoeba Culture labelmates, Zion.T and E-Sens reunite to take on the public’s criticisms of celebrity’s looks. “This song’s for all the malla gangs,” malla comes from the Korean word “malla jjaeng i” meaning to be scrawny. Zion.T claps back at the people who call him too skinny with expression of confidence in how he looks, “I don’t know why y’all askin’ me how many burgers I can eat, I’m already fat enough.” He also slips in not so subtle reminders that he’ll still be successful and rich no matter what they say, “All my songs become number one fella, and Imma buy a big building motherfucka.”
Other Memorable Zion.T Releases: ZZZ [Album]
I Want You by 샤이니 (SHINee)
Album: The 6th Album- ‘The Story of Light’ Ep. 2 | Release: June 11, 2018 | Listen
“I Want You” is the second single from SHINee’s three part album “The 6th Album- ‘The Story of Light’ Ep. 2.” “I Want You,” using deceptively upbeat tropical synths that we’ve come to crave from SHINee, tells the story of someone who doesn’t want to accept the reality of a loss a relationship, an emotional message for the members and fans.
Kiss & Make Up by Dua Lipa & 블랙핑크 (BLACKPINK)
Album: Dua Lipa: Complete Edition | Release: October 19, 2018 | Listen
After a strong comeback, BLACKPINK wrapped up their year with a collaboration with English singer, Dua Lipa. “Kiss and Make Up” made it to Billboard Hot 100, peaking at 93, and 36 on the UK Singles chart, making BLACKPINK the first Kpop group chart there. This collaboration serves as another example that international collaborations can be bi or multilingual and be successful, that Korean artists, as well as non-English speaking artists, don’t and shouldn’t have to speak English, to be embraced.
In addition to solo debuts for each member, an American debut is in the works for BLACKPINK in 2019, hopefully that will include more collaboration like this one.
Fallin’ by 쎄이 (SAAY)
Album: CLAASSIC | Release: May 21, 2018 | Listen
For her album “CLAASSIC,” SAAY wanted to reinterpret the R&B and Soul music from the 60s-90s that inspires her.
“Fallin’” opens with Chuck Bernard’s 1970 song, “Everything is Alright Night,” before it warps into SAAY’s sultry voice set to a bluesy instrumental. What a LONG way SAAY has come since her EvoL days. She leaves those days behind with “Fallin’” a soulful and sultry song that reframes SAAY as a capable vocalist, and even more capable artist.
Other Memorable SAAY Releases: Circle ft. Tish Hyman, Sweaty ft. 크러쉬 (Crush), Jaam
Club 33 by 기린 (Kirin) & 수민 (Sumin)
Album: Club 33 | Release: December 10, 2018 | Listen
Sumin and Kirin combined forces to surprise fans with an end of the year homage to New Jack Swing and 80s/90s R&B in the form of their album “Club 33.” The title song of the same name is dreamy, and oozes that sensuality that is unique to 80s R&B.
Kirin has made a name for himself in the Korean music industry for always drawing from New Jack Swing for his songs such as “City Breeze,” a 2016 collaboration with Jay Park.
Sumin and Kirin do this 80s/90s R&B thing so well on their own, but together they took it to a whole other level.
Remember by Katie
Album: Remember (Single) | Release: June 6, 2018 | Listen
Katie made a bang with her debut single “Remember.” The music video for the song, that sounds like something out of an Apple commercial, featured bold, and rich visuals as well as some big names in Korean Rap including CJamm, Sik-K, Los, and more.
However, in the tradition of YG Entertainment this talented woman artist was put through the wringer to get there. After winning Kpop Star in 2015 and signing with YGE, it was three years before we got “Remember,” which only happened after she left the label to join AXIS, a label started by former YG creative director, Seong Jin Shin aka SJ “SINXITY” Shin and since that release she’s been M.I.A. Her other singles that were scheduled for release this year were postponed with no exact release date, and we have yet to get new music from her. Hopefully she’ll be given a chance to do more with her talent in 2019.
오늘 (Today) by 신용재 (Shin Yong Jae)
Album: Present | Release: April 13, 2018 | Watch
Is a year complete without Shin Yong Jae? I always think I know who he is as a singer, but with every new song he still takes my breath away and l am left in utter awe.“Today,” is scaled back for Shin Yong Jae, but not by much, he mostly avoids those spine-tingling swells and high notes, choosing instead to stay in his lower register. “Today” is more perfection for Shin Yong Jae’s discography. An artist. A legend.
Other Memorable Shin Yong Jae Releases: Present [Album]
Up All Night (Dream On) ft. 뮤지 (Muzie) by 킬라그램 (Killagramz)
Album: Princess | Release: February 24, 2018 | Listen
Killagramz gained popularity in 2017 when he appeared on SMTM6. This year he released his second mini album, “Princess,” inspired by Disney Princesses because of his dream to work at Disney Land. On “Up All Night (Dream On),” Killagramz comes together with Muzie, best known as one half of the duo UV, for a house music, electronic tribute to Sleeping Beauty.
Forever Young by 블랙핑크 (BLACKPINK)
Album: Square Up | Release: June 15, 2018 | Listen
While “DDU-DU DDU-DU” is the boastful and bold BLACKPINK we love, “Forever Young” shows a softer side to the group while still staying loyal to the groups signature EDM sound.
BLACKPINK does do the EDM and Tropical House songs well, but the members have much more versatile voices that are capable of more than this. Hopefully in 2019, we’ll see the members venture into other genres and styles.
사랑을 했다 (Love Scenario) by 아이콘 (iKon)
Album: Return | Release: January 25, 2018 | Listen
iKon had their best year yet and it all started with the uncharacteristically chill “Love Scenario.” A cleaner and quieter instrumental, more even line distribution, all as a they look back, fondly, on a relationship show maturity and musical growth for this group.
Other Memorable iKon Releases: Return [Album], New Kids: Continue [Album]
Look by 갓세븐 (Got7)
Album: Eyes On You | Release: March 12, 2018 | Listen
Got7 showed of their capabilities as a group with “Look” as everyone got a chance to shine, the dancers, the singers, the rappers, on this cohesive and trendy track. They’ve struggled to completely nail their promotional songs, with some successes, and more misses, and the true gems being found in their b-sides. “Look” is the Got7 that needs to happen more often.
Other Memorable Got7 Releases: Lullaby
너네 집 (Your Home) ft. 신세하 (Xin Seha) by 수민 (Sumin)
Album: Your Home | Release: August 10, 2018 | Listen | One To Watch
Sumin wrote and produced her album “너네 집 (Your Home)” almost entirely on her own, choosing to create an album that is packed with the 80s Synth Pop meets R&B meets House style that she does best.
The lead single of the same name features another up and comer, Xin Seha, and is a dreamy homage to the best parts of 80s music.
Other Memorable Sumin Releases: Your Home [Album], Club 33 [Album]
Wine ft. 지소울 (G.Soul) by 주영 (Joo Young)
Album: Fountain | Release: March 2, 2018 | Listen
What a collaboration. Joo Young’s music always drips sex and sensuality, paired with G.Soul, another master of the art of injecting music with raw sexual energy, makes “Wine” the best offering of Korean R&B this year and one of the best of all time. It tells the story of Joo Young and G.Soul having regret about causing pain to the person they loved in their relationship, and turning to a glass of wine to forget the pain. When the glass breaks the memories that were left in the empty glass are gone forever.
“Wine” was one of G.Soul’s last projects he worked on before enlisting in December of 2017 and what a parting gift.
Other Memorable Joo Young Releases: Fountain [Album]
Lock You Down (Special Track) by 샤이니 (SHINee)
Album: The 6th Album- ‘The Story of Light’ Ep. 3 | Release: June 25, 2018 | Listen
“Lock You Down” is a special track off of SHINee’s three part album “The Story of Light,” which was recorded with the late Jonghyun. This song being about wanting to capture and hold onto the happiest memories is an emotional, and fitting tribute to the late member.
Other Memorable SHINee Releases: The 6th Album- ‘The Story of Light’ Epilogue [Album]
No Answer by 지소울 (G.Soul)
Album: I’ll Be There (Single) | Release: December 25, 2018 | Listen
In his last solo release before enlisting, G.Soul sings about depression. “No Answer” tells of G.Soul’s struggle with depression and his search to get through it but not being about to find the answer. He shares that he turned to writing and music to deal with the things he felt in lines, “So I’m writing down. I had to let it out cause I’m down/ Wouldn’t be me if I made sense, It’s hard to make sense.”
Other Memorable G.Soul Releases: I’ll Be There
Instagram by DEAN
Album: Instagram (Single) | Release: December 26, 2017 | Listen
“Instagram” is an anthem for Millennials. The stripped down instrumental helps drive home the feelings of loneliness that comes from constantly comparing one’s self to the lives people present on Instagram. DEAN strikes a cord with lines like “This damn information age. There is definitely a problem these days, knowing more makes you more miserable,” that perfectly sum up the feeling of being over whelmed and bogged down by having all this knowledge in the palm of your hands.
Other Memorable DEAN Releases: 하루살이 (dayfly) ft. 설리 (Sulli) & Rad Museum
Lo Siento ft. Leslie Grace by 슈퍼주니어 (Super Junior)
Album: The 8th Repackage Album- ‘The Replay’ | Release: April 12, 2018 | Listen
Coming from a label like SM, where many artists have a rich, on going, and unapologetic history of racism without acknowledging or apologizing for it, and from an industry like Kpop where cultural appropriation is rampant, “Lo Siento” is a surprisingly well executed example of what cultural appreciation looks and sound like. “Lo Siento” is a flawless weaving together of the Spanish, Korean, and English languages, as well as more traditional Spanish music and Hip Hop. This is thanks to the collaboration with Latin singer, Leslie Grace, and Latin producers, Play-N-Skillz.
Other Memorable Super Junior Releases: One More Time (Otra Vez) ft. REIK, Super Duper, Animals
꿏길 (Flower Road) by BIGBANG
Album: 꿏길 (Single) | Releases: March 13, 2018 | Listen
Most male groups/artists before leaving for mandatory military service leave fans with a farewell of some kind, it is typically a letter or a song. For one of the Kings of Kpop, they decided to put their beloved and distinctively BIGBANG twist on the standard acoustic ballad. Packed with sentimental lyrics like “you are the motive in my music,” and “rest for a while along the flower path,” “Flower Road” is BIGBANG’s impeccable parting gift to VIPs, and the Kpop industry, for the next few years as the members serve.
Bad Boy by 레드벨벳 (Red Velvet)
Album: The 2nd Album Repackage- ‘The Perfect Red Velvet’ | Release: January 29, 2018 | Watch
Red Velvet decided to finally trade in their Bubblegum Pop persona and bring their darker sound to the forefront last year with their 2nd album and it’s lead single “피카부 (Peek-A-Boo).” Then they took things even further when they dropped “Peek-A-Boo’s” more sultry sister, “Bad Boy.” The song’s combination of 90s R&B and Trap broke Red Velvet out of the realm of f(x) comparisons and made for Red Velvet’s best release to date.
Other Memorable Red Velvet Releases: 한 여름의 크리스마스 (Christmas In Summer) (With You),
암 (Agree) by 민호 (Mino)
Album: XX | Release: November 26, 2018 | Listen
With “Agree” Mino takes on antis and their hate comments. He details the way the hate comment he receives has affected him, the super fast pace hinting at the paranoia he’s developed about who he can trust, as described in lines like “ah, ah and on the plane, the person in the seat next to me, that’s not my fan.” Mino also touches on how the hate has affected his physical health, talking about having a “panic disorder” and addressing his recent “10 kilogram weight-loss,” emphasizing the toll it’s taking by saying, “it wasn’t fitness that got rid of my fat.”
“Agree” is Mino humanizing himself , as a celebrity he often has the opposite done to him. He uses this song to be bold and direct to the people who hate on him that their words are more than just comments on the internet.
Other Memorable Mino Releases: 시발점 (Trigger), 아낙네 (Fiancé), 불구경 (Bow-Wow) ft. 양동근 (YDG), 알람 (Alarm)
데몰리션 맨 (Demolition Man) ft. 김종서 (Kim Jong Seo) by 사이먼 도미닉 (Simon Dominic)
Album: DARKROOM | Release: June 15, 2018 | Watch
“DARKROOM,” named after Simon Dominic’s recording studio, comes three years after Simon Dominic’s last album, “￦ & ONLY,” and after a two year hiatus from TV, Social Media, and with the exception of a few features, Music. As expected of an album following an extensive two year break, “DARKROOM” shows a big shift in Simon’s style. Instead of his usually loud, upbeat songs, “DARKROOM” is stripped down and bare.
Lead single “Demolition Man” is the most raw and exposed song on this album that narrates his struggles with depression during his two year hiatus. The title signals a return to his roots as it references his stage name, a combination of Simon Phoenix from “Demolition Man” and Dominic, his christened name. The song opens with Simon Dominic building up to screaming confessions of his self-hatred, self destruction, and shame,“I keep fuckin’ saying ‘suicide, suicide,’ but I’m the biggest coward in the world.”
The discussion around mental health in Korean Entertainment has slowly been happening more often, and in the last year we’ve seen more and more celebrities be more open and detailed about their own struggles. “Demolition Man” is sobering, and is one of the most honest and no holds barred discussions about depression and self destruction, and coping with it that we’ve gotten from a public figure in the Korean Entertainment industry.
Other Memorable Simon Dominic Releases: DARKROOM [Album]
와플 (#Hashtag) by 종현 (Jonghyun)
Album: Poet l Artist | Release: January 23, 2018 | Listen
Like IU with “삐삐 (Bbibbi),” Jonghyun takes on hateful comments on the internet with “와플 (#Hashtag)” from his posthumous album “Poet | Artist.” Jonghyun employs wordplay to address internet culture and the ways people hide behind the internet to criticize celebrities. 와플 sounds like “Waffle” in english, which resembles a hashtag and in Korean translates to “saying lots of useless stuff.” Additional it sounds similar to 악플 which means “malicious comments.”
The chorus mocks the convoluted way people make up rumors about celebrities, whom they don’t actually know:
That’s what they say
My friend’s cousin’s senior’s friend’s in-laws saw
That’s what they say
Those two fought
That’s what they say
They flipped the place over, turned it inside out and it was crazy
Never mind if it’s not true”
while the rest of the song critiques how much validity is given to rumors started on the internet without regard to whether they are true or not. This song is especially poignant because in his suicide note Jonghyun mentions his struggle with living in the public eye and it being a source of his sadness. It will always be hard to separate the emotion of Jonghyun’s suicide from his music because much of the things he struggled with he expressed through music, and “와플 (#Hashtag)” is a prime example of that, however, he is always able to sing with raw emotion which is what makes his music long lasting.
Other Memorable Jonghyun Releases: Poet | Artist
삐삐 (Bbibbi) by 아이유 (IU)
Album: 삐삐 (Single) | Releases: October 10, 2018 | Watch
IU takes on the internet critics and their harsh words for her and other celebrities. She calls out plastic surgery accusations, issues with her facial expression, and other gossip. Armed with her “Yellow C-A-R-D” she warns that those who are rude and violate her privacy will be hit with a “block block block block block.”
Endorphin ft. 페노메코 (Penomeco) & 펀치넬로 (Punchnello) by 크러쉬 (Crush)
Album: wonderlost | Release: July 13, 2018 | Listen
“Endorphin” is the second song off Crush’s mini album, “wonderlost.” Crush, along with his FanxyChild & ClubE$kimo crew members Penomeco and Punchnello, respectively, combine Bossa Nova and R&B to create a soundtrack for the experience the body has while high on the “feel good” chemical.
Vacation ft. 쏠 (Sole) by 개코 (Gaeko)
Album: Vacation (Single) | Release: August 21, 2018 | Watch
Gaeko has been on a vacation, an excruciatingly long one for fans, from both solo and Dynamic Duo activities, only making feature appearances here and there in the last two years. “Vacation” is his first solo release since “코끼리 (Gajah) ft. 랩몬스터 (Rap Monster)” in April 2017. As if to emphasize his need for this break, Gaeko steps back from rapping and gives his singing talents a moment to shine with this tranquil R&B earworm about needing a moment to “lay down and watch the sky.”
“Vacation” features Sole, who has been making herself known this year with her single “Slow,” and a feature on Joo Young’s comeback album “Fountain.” Coming out of the gate with features such as this one could mean Sole is gearing up to be one of the it-girls of Korean R&B, Soul and Hip Hop.
Finally, “Vacation” wraps up with an appearance from Crush so subtle you may have missed it.
Good Morning ft. 카더가든 (Car, the garden) by 페노메코 (Penomeco)
Album: Good Morning (Single) | Release: March 22, 2018 | Listen | One To Watch
Penomeco takes a walk down memory lane and shows off strong story telling skills with his second single of 2018, “Good Morning.”
Set to a steady and relaxed, but heavy beat that actually resembles the pace of someone strolling, he details his struggles, like being broke, not getting paid by his job, and being unable to afford rent, on his life long journey to becoming a rapper. At the end of the song that steady beat fades away and car, the garden (formerly known as Mayson the Soul) enters. As car, the garden sings goodbye to yesterday and good morning to a new day, the beat becomes like light and airy and the song slowly fades out.
Since his label Million Market merged with SM Entertainment, Penomeco’s audience has increased and his music has only gotten better. In addition to working with his FanxyChild members, Zico and Crush, he has featured and worked with Gaeko, pH-1, Woodie Gochild, Punchnello, Sik-K, Woogie, and more. He spent 2018 finding his lane, and now that Penomeco seems to have hit his stride, I think he will only get bigger and better in 2019, which is why he is my number one artist to watch next year.
Other Memorable Penomeco Releases: Coco Bottle, L.I.E