Finally! Here’s the final list of songs for my top twenty. Each of this song, I can only offer nice words because they made my year of listening to music so darn good. I cherish each one of these songs for their virtues, the talents involved, and lastly their impact on me as a listener. Last year, my favorite song was Super Junior’s addicting “Bonamana”. This year is a different story.
#20. “Goodbye Baby” – Miss A
JYP has a history of producing fantastic R&B artists and Miss A again makes a case for one of the most impressive female groups in the industry. They seem so perfect together, each girl harmonizing so well together that you can’t picture them separately. Goodbye Baby isn’t like Bad Girl Good Girl but it need not channel that previous track’s glory. It has its own merits—a propulsive beat, and strong lyrics make for one of the best song of the summer.
#19. “Cry Cry” – T-ara
The contrast between this song and their previous track Roly Poly is stunning; how can the same girl group deliver the kind of bright, quirky, and blatantly adolescent track and then deliver this: a stunning piece of maturely sung and written pop classic? It doesn’t add up but it works so well. The girls come across as women whose experiences are laid out for all audiences to hear in this track. The repetition in the middle is a little off but everything else sounds perfect.
#18. “Be Mine” – Infinite
Infinite has been consistent ever since they debuted last in 2010. That said, I think this is their best song to date; it captures the 80s-90s feel that Infinite channels while staying refreshingly current. The group has one of the best group vocals among the newer groups and it’s perfectly used in service of the song here. They deservedly won some awards for this song.I think that Infinite is on the way to bigger things. They definitely have their own unique style that no one else in the industry has harnessed.
#17. “Don’t Say Goodbye” – Davichi
With two of the most potent vocalists in the industry, Davichi is one of the most beautiful and impressive duos ever, like a female version of Fly to the Sky. Their return this year was met with hosannas and who can blame them? Don’t Say Goodbye is a fantastic tune that dwells on the singers’ passionate voices. Their voices are so emotional: yearning mixed with heartbreak and I love that about this song.
#16. “Abandoned” – Jay Park
One of the biggest turnarounds in the K-pop industry has been Jay Park’s miraculous return to the front of the pack after his abrupt and controversial dismissal from 2PM. Abandoned is a classy, sexy, R&B track that features Jay’s songwriting capabilities and his good voice. Admittedly, I don’t think he’s a great singer; talented, yes, but not entirely capable of hitting all the notes I like. Regardless, he shows off so much hurt and anguish like never before that I keep coming back to this song.
#15. “Mona Lisa” – MBLAQ
MBLAQ’s music has never been my style—ever. Their music has always sounded too processed, lyrically confused, and the singers are barely heard through all that auto-tuning and digitalized sound they play with. Thank goodness that they’ve come back to their roots with this track. I adore the freshness of their vocals (considering I haven’t really heard them unprocessed) and the Spanish-tinged instrumental here. Everyone is firing on all cylinders: GO is as impressive as ever, Mir delivers such a charismatic rap and even Thunder finally showed he can sing. If MBLAQ continues on this direction, I think they’re bound to break it really big soon.
#14. “Be My Baby” – Wonder Girls
Wonder Girls have been consistent with their music, often delivering amazing music with classic R&B influences or throwback sounds. They’ve done it again with their latest album and its lead single. The song offers up an impeccably produced track that shows how much the girls have improved since their debut and their travels in the US. They sing with urgency, with each new verse showing more yearning than the previous.
#13. “Don’t Go Home” – GD & TOP
Technically, this album and song was released in late December, but its impact wasn’t felt until early January and June with the release of the music video. It doesn’t matter what year this song should be considered in because Don’t Go Home remains, for me, the highlight of an epic collaboration between G Dragon and TOP. The jazzy feel to the song mixed with a bouncy hip hop flavor is so vibrant, fun, and colorful that you can’t help but feel good listening to it. Plus, G-Dragon is a double threat as a singer and rapper, equally giving charisma and charm while TOP is still as fresh as ever.
#12. “Turned Off the TV” – Leessang
Leessang’s Turned Off the TV is a slow-burner that captures the loving and yearning that guys feel when they want to have sex with a girl. The lyrics are quite funny actually and I love that their delivery seems more relaxed than what they would suggest. The chorus is delicately delivered with the aid of 10cm but in my mind it’s really about the rap duo. The rappers put their personalities into their lyrics and their delivery that I can’t help but feel acquainted with them.
#11. “In Heaven” – JYJ
Leave it to JYJ to produce one of the most heinous songs of the year (Ayy Girl) and then come back with a song that harnesses their collective talents and give us one of the best ballads of the year. In Heaven is a beautifully moving ballad with gorgeous lyrics and tear-inducing vocals. It’s scary how in sync the boys are with each other in here because each singer is so passionate about what they’re singing that it’s impossible not to be moved.
#10. “0330” – U Kiss
I’ve never pegged U-Kiss as a mature group but after a few changes in the lineup, they released their first step to maturity. 0330 displays the boys’ vocals like never before, expresses more emotion than all of their previous material put together, and its raps are charismatic. It’s an impressive improvement that shows U-Kiss’s incredible potential.
#9. “What Can I Do?” – Seungri
Seungri may be the maknae of the infinitely talented Big Bang but that doesn’t mean we should disregard Seungri’s talents. Although he doesn’t have a lot of range, this song still shows how much he can do with that limited voice of his. The longing and yearning he imbues feel real to the listener. His voice is fresh yet mature and is aided by YG’s impressive streak of productions this year. No doubt, the most impressive solo release among Big Bang’s members.
#8. “Ma Boy” – SISTAR19
When Hyorin and Bora came out with a new song without the other two, I was excited. Hyorin is still the best singer among all the female idols while Bora is a charming and fierce rapper. Ma Boy is an impressively sexy track mixed with tinges of emotion provided by Hyorin. No other SISTAR song gave Hyorin the opportunity to explore the reaches of her voice while still remaining admirably sexy, charming, and most of all, very SISTAR.
#7. “Sixth Sense” – Brown Eyed Girls
Brown Eyed Girls delivered perhaps the sexiest female performance of the year with a song that sells the sex without being overtly pornographic. There’s something incredible about the female empowerment that is derived from this track. The confidence that they imbue and the passion with which they sing helps make the girls sexier. Sixth Sense sucks you in and leaves you breathless while wishing you can be with or be the girls singing.
#6. “Good Day” – IU
Any active K-pop listener knows how beloved “Good Day” is. It’s one of the quintessential songs to describe 2011, a year best described by the career highs that many artists achieved. IU received a huge surge of popularity after this track and no wonder; this track delivers on emotional sincerity, good old-fashioned pop music that stands out among a throng of overly familiar music, and an irresistible talking point in the form of IU’s impressive three-octave range. Yes, IU was probably in danger of becoming overexposed, but in the end, how can one resist pure talent and hard work?
#5. “Only Learnt the Bad Things” – B1A4
B1A4’s debut single “OK” was a solid if fluffy introduction to this group of country boys trying to make it big in the entertainment industry. However, what made B1A4 my favorite new group this year was this song. “Only Learnt the Bad Things” has the sound of an instant classic: its brassy sound is reminiscent of 90s R&B mixed with modern chimes. Its lyrics are poignant and heartfelt, well-written for upstarts, and the vocals are impressive. With this song, B1A4 seems destined for bigger things.
#4. “Keep Your Head Down” – TVXQ
TVXQ may only have two men left in their ranks but this duo is still firing on all cylinders. The marching beat and the rock music fused to the instrumental add to the storm brewing in this song. Despite the breakup, these boys were able to adjust to the new team dynamic and deliver a passionate and angry song. Keep Your Head Down shows off Changmin’s incredible voice and Yunho’s swagger while offering a glimpse at raw anger done right. Although they may not perform as 5 again, this new dynamic is still incredible.
#3. “Tonight” – Big Bang
Big Bang’s comeback song was a revealing track that hinted at the potential direction of the music scene of 2011. It has very futuristic synths, splashes of guitar, the signature YG hand clap, and an impeccable delivery of rap and vocals. While the boys are sprayed with auto-tune, it’s done appropriately. This is perhaps the best use of vocal enhancement and manipulation I’ve heard this year. We don’t get cheesy, cheap, or trite. Instead, we get a banging song ready for the clubs, proving once again that Big Bang is still one of the best groups in Korea.
#2. “Fiction” – B2ST
I was caught off-guard by the dramatic improvement of B2ST’s music since their debut. I’ve said this before and it’s worth noting again that Fiction is a master class of emotional singing and lyrics matched by a stunning piano backdrop, beautiful harmonization among the boys, and an uber-charismatic rap. It’s just beautiful, raw, and moving. A masterpiece even.
#1. “Lonely” – 2NE1
It may not represent the K-Pop music scene of 2011 the way most of the songs on this list do but Lonely is honestly my favorite song of the year and my pick for the best too. The spare instrumental—acoustic guitar and a few other strings—adds to the despondency of the lyrics while the girls’ singing not only showed genuine loneliness and melancholia but also showed immense maturity. No other song for me hit all the notes quite as well as this. It’s a career-best song for the girls and I hope to hear more of this side from them in the future.
There you go! My list for my favorite songs of 2011! 🙂 I hope you enjoyed that and kindly share your own version of my list!