2018 I went from a filthy casual K-Pop listener to a full on fan, I have converted to the dark side. The last time I was this into K-Pop was back around the Run Devil Run days of Girls Generation. I used to keep tabs on them throughout the years but I never had gone back into that side for a while. I had followed the 48 groups in Japan for what seems like forever.
Produce 48 was ultimately the catalyst for me getting back into K-Pop as it had opened my eyes to new girls and songs that was super easy to listen to like Blackpink. My toes were always dipping into the waters of K-Pop, now the temperature was good enough for me to finally dive in. Check out my playlist on Apple Music.
Red Velvet – Bad Boy
Early jam of the year, a coworker told me to give Bad Boy from Red Velvet a shot and damn this song was smooth. I like the R&B style and it has a lot of heavy bass. I actually didn’t add it to my rotation on Apple Music until about a month ago. I was more hooked to older songs like Peek-A-Boo and Red Flavor throughout the year but I can’t deny Bad Boy’s excellence. Even the English version is an easy listen. It even placed #1 on Billboard’s Top 20 K-Pop songs of 2018, very much well deserved.
BoA – One Shot, Two Shot
This was ultimately the reason for me to get back into K-Pop. I loved BoA way back to her Valenti days and I was really more of a fan of her J-Pop versions of her songs. When I heard she was putting out a new single, I had to hear what it was about. Not only did I dig the vibe of the single, it just seemed very BoA-esq. Highlighted by a really great and stylish dance that fits her to a tee, it also takes you on an easy-going ride that gets anyone up of their chair. Very early add to my rotation this year and I have been jamming since. More people these days need to follow this once Queen of K-Pop now, she’s putting out some great stuff. Amor just came out and it’s masterpiece.
Blackpink – Ddu-Du Ddu-Du
It seemed like no one could escape the power of Blackpink and Ddu- Du-Ddu-Du. It was Girl Crush in your face and this time with more attitude. This awesome foursome keeps killing it and it’s all power all the time. Every video is a real trip to watch and the black and pink color scheme is so iconic among K-Pop fans. Boombayah is still my favorite from them and hopefully we get more from the group next year.
TWICE – What is Love?, I WANT YOU BACK, YES OR YES
Who has been secretly a TWICE fan for years? This guy! Everybody knows TWICE, I’m super surprised how many people and kids here know all about TWICE, ask about buying their CDs and playing their music videos. TWICE seems to be rolling nonstop the last few years. They are no doubt, the Queens of K-Pop and Asian Pop music right now.
What is Love?
I love the movie tropes and themes that they used in their music video. From Pulp Fiction, Ghost, La La Land, even made fun of an Acuvue commercial. They even did Greatest Showman during the MAMA Awards. This song is cute and infectious, same goes for the dance. Every girl group around the world seemed to know the dance by heart. This super sweet and catchy single landed TWICE their third Song of the Year win in a row at MAMA. Congratulations.
I WANT YOU BACK
I have a bias for this song as it’s my favorite Jackson 5 song. I was surprised that they did a cover of it and I felt they pulled it off well. The English is pretty good, the colors are piping and bright, and it has that early 70’s feel. I really dug this arrangement, it had enough of that TWICE spin to make it their own.
YES OR YES
Another themed music video, going to what looks like an abandoned amusement park. Love the plaid outfits and they threw me off with some different hairstyles and color. Song is super infectious and they went super heavy on the graphics for the video, can’t take our eyes off it. I like the dance for Yes or Yes as well, it does seem a lot more energetic in comparison to their last few singles. Another catchy ear worm to end the year with from TWICE.
Daichi Miura – Blizzard
The theme for Dragonball Super Broly the Movie has me all sorts of hyped for the release. Great enough for me to add to my workout list and power up like a Super Saiyan. Simple PV otherwise, nice blue tones for being stuck in a frozen cave. I can clearly remember the song playing in the background to one of the DBS Broly trailers and all the sweeping punches and Goku’s face being shown into the wall of an ice mountain. For the song to be the backdrop to the trailers gets my nothing but hyped.
fromis_9 – Love Bomb
I would not have known about the group if it wasn’t for Jang Gyuri from Produce 48. There was her story about already debuting with them and her returning to a survival show even after being in the group. I’m glad I knew about her because fromis_9 and Love Bomb is a jam. Perks your spirits up and is a very easy listen. The video is cute where they all have wicks on top of their heads and they are trying to make each other explode. I do love the hand drawn smoke and explosions. the dance is very cute as well, high energy throughout the whole time. I hope to hear more from them next year.
Produce 48 – Nekkoya (Pick Me)
This was the song of the summer. It was the ear worm of the year and the start of my viewing of Produce 48. The video came out to so much hype and as a 48 fan, I was very curious to how the girls would do and where they were placed. The video became a confirmation of which 48 girls would appear, Sakura, Kojimako, Tomu, Jurina, Juri, MiyuMiyu, OdaEri, Chiyori, Miru, I knew all of them. then I recognized all these cute Korean girls, of course Lee Kaeun because she was the Korean center opposite Sakura but I was also curious about the others.
I can pretty much identify most of the Korean participants now. I went all in after it kicked me in the face with bass and the now iconic movements of the dance, so many memorable parts. I did like that it did start with Korean lyrics and then halfway switch to Japanese. I kind wish they released that mix instead of all Korean and all Japanese versions. Now that the song belongs to IZ*ONE, Jang Wonyoung centers the group but in my eyes Miyawaki Sakura will always be the true center of Nekkoya. No longer do I think of Kimi wa Melody, or 12 Byo as her songs. Nekkoya will always be Sakura’s song.
H.I.N.P. – Rumor
Arguably the 2nd most popular song to come from Produce 48 is Rumor. A blend of moombahton and trap genres make Rumor so memorable. Quick drums, long bass lines, perfectly placed silences all with alluring choreography complete with twerking and dynamic arm movements all make Rumor an awesome listen and an attractive watch as so many try to emulate the dance moves. Some of us are still salty that this didn’t end up being Go Yujin’s song (very much my feelings months ago) but every lineup has been able to do Rumor justice.
Original PD48 lineup was amazing with Chowon rapping, the IZ*ONE Showcon had Minju at center and Chaeyeon killing her part (step on me vibes), but the one constant with all of them has been Kwon Eunbi. As the main vocal of Rumor, Kwon Eunbi has been synonymous with Rumor and it should be safe to say it’s her song. I decided to go with the IZ*ONE version at MAMA concert in Japan. That pop from the fans when they knew Rumor was playing was insane. Plus this is the first time we get all 12 members perform with Jo Yuri taking the vocal lead with Kwon Eunbi becoming true center during this performance. Straight fire.
Nogizaka 46 – Synchronicity
My lone 46G song that I enjoyed this year goes to Synchronicity. I love the simple video with the simple white dresses that dialed into the dances of each of the girls. What always caught my attention was that none of the girls were mouthing any of the lyrics until the very end where Maiyan gets the final line. Probably what got me the most was the lyrics, finding someone to sync your heart and emotions with was also simple but resonated with many. I hoped that Ikuta Erika was going to center the 29th single but having Shirashi Mai center also felt just right.
For Nogizaka’s 20th single this was definitely worthy and it has some great b-sides highlighted with Against with Ikoma Rina as center and the infectious Tokitokimekimeki by the 3rd gens. This would end up being Ikoma Rina’s last single and sadly starting the domino effect of Nogi’s mass graduations. I didn’t enjoy any of the other singles this year as they went safe and put out very plain summer and winter singles that just didn’t grab me. Lets hope they will go for a more unconventional sound in 2019.
IZ*ONE – La Vie en Rose
To say that I’m All In with IZ*ONE is an understatement. The build up from Produce 48 to the final 12, the teasers, all the vlives, the dance practices, IZ*ONE CHU, everything all culminated into the debut of La Vie en Rose. I didn’t think anyone predicted the style of song they went with, as everything that came out beforehand were high energy songs from other groups. They made such a huge impact by going with a slower mid tempo song with longer mid bass progressions leading up to a hype pre-chorus and bringing it back into the same groove throughout the song.
The video also differentiates from other groups be being colorful but having more pastel and muted shades allowing anything red to shine brightly. They also went with more group shots focusing on the dance and they didn’t resort to any computer graphics to overwhelm anything on-screen. It allows you to focus on the girls in front of your screen and that can translate better for any live performances they do. If you were following the girls before debut, the emotions all went into overdrive during the release of their music video. Like most WIZ*ONES, many tears of happiness were shed after first viewing of La Vie en Rose, many manly tears from myself. Their immediate successes and awards such as winning Best New Female Artist on MAMA and Rookie Award at the Asia Artist Awards justify a super strong debut for these monster rookies.
It will be interesting if they go all out for a Japanese version as they are set to debut in Japan February 6. I also wonder if their second single will continue their sultry girl crush style or go more for an energetic turn like most groups go with.
Our staff has devoted a lot of content themed around IZ*ONE in the last part of 2018.
Give our polarizing podcast centering on IZ*ONE’s debut a listen here: Indoctrination to the IZ*ONE Infantry
Check out Greg’s opinion of the COLOR*IZ album in his review.
Also check out my article on the Kihno versions of COLOR*IZ in my in-depth review.
Sunmi – Heroine
Jennie – SOLO
AKB48 – Jabaja
NMB48 – Yokubomono
Red Velvet – Really Bad Boy
And that’s my highlights of 2018! What were your favorites in the last year? Hopefully you were able to enjoy great content like the ones I geeked out for in 2018. Let’s keep the fun rolling in 2019.