[Special] 2016 Top 50 K-Pop Songs 20-11

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20. Brave Girls – Deepened (변했어) (Deepened)
Brave Girls debuted all the way back in 2011 with a rather charming tune. Unfortunately, they lost a bit a steam and re-debuted in 2016 with a different line-up. Deepened brings us a steamy and sensual R&B/Hip-hop and what a return it has been. Definitely something that stands out from the other girl groups, the girls work with this rather emotional tune. I love how dragged out the verses sound, which helps bring the energy in the chorus despite it being on the slower side of things (at least compared to a lot of K-Pop). I also love the line “I’m thirsty for your love”.

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19. B1A4 – Lie (거짓말이야) (GOOD TIMING)
B1A4 has always released quality tunes and Lie is no different. Definitely something that continues their general “sound”, Lie has one major highlight and that is the chorus. I actually find the verses to be somewhat forgettable and generic, but it’s that soaring chorus that really brings the whole sound together. I love the small touches in the music and I think they really help bring the extra punch to the song, especially the background vocals. It’s a magical song and their first to grab my attention in a while.

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18. Rainbow – Whoo (PRISM)
Despite their disbandment later in the year, Whoo was a nice return for the girl group. It is a nice balance between the group’s cuter releases and their more mature ones. It’s catchy and a lot of fun. Definitely not their strongest 2016 song (Black & White), Whoo is just an explosion of energy. I love how the small rock elements that help keep the song afloat and give the song some edge, which is especially heard in the second half the chorus. I think every member is able to bring their own flavour to the song and it helps to provide a bit of individuality.

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17. EXID – L.I.E (STREET)
EXID had a big year this year. A lot of pressure was placed on them to move away from the “Up & Down sound” that had been staple in their last three title tracks. L.I.E brings the fun edge of EXID, but provides a nice change of pace. Not as upbeat as their last few songs, this one took awhile for me to get used to, but I actually ended up loving it more and more. I love the how the song has such a big chorus that busts right into the breakdown and LE’s rapping with the more toned down parts bring a nice contrast. Definitely my favourite of their title tracks since Up & Down.

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16. 100% – Better Day (지독하게) (TIME LEAP)
100% has had a weird history with the group’s line-up changes and hiatus. Fortunately, the group has made a return and they hit it out of the park. The group has always had title tracks that featured a darker feel to them and Better Day continues that and ups the antics. I love how dramatic and haunting the song is, which is helped by the piercing synth refrain introduced and the general ascending feel of the chorus. I also love how the vocalists change things up and showcase their upper registers.

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15. KNK – U (Remain)
KNK was one of the many boy band debuts of the year and they came with a mature image that matched their more old school K-Pop boy band sound. While their debut wasn’t my cup of tea, Back Again and their follow-up are great. U has definitely grown on me even more as I love the extra hip-hop touches that pop up. I feel it is a bit more accessible than Back Again with its two prong chorus. I’m not the biggest fan of repetitive choruses, but I really enjoy how they execute it in this song. That and the overall dramatic sound really gets me jamming along.

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14. LADIES’ CODE – Galaxy (MYST3RY)
LADIES’ CODE’s 2014 accident definitely took a huge toll on the group and it was uncertain whether they would return. Fortunately, the girls have returned and their sound is stronger than ever. While the group used to do more upbeat tunes, Galaxy provides a midtempo jazzy/R&B number that plays on the strengths of the members. Sojung especially flourishes in this kind of genre and her husky vocals really give the song some soul. It’s a bit slower, but I like the change of sound.

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13. BLACKPINK – Playing With Fire (불장난) (Square Two)
One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, BLACKPINK saw success right out of the gate. While their debut single was fun, I found the song to be very similar in sound to YG’s previous girl group, 2NE1. Luckily, their second single helped to create the group’s own sound. Playing With Fire is definitely my favourite of all their releases this year. It’s mature and sensual while playing up the synths, but it is insanely catchy and matches the image of the girls’ well. I especially love the synth refrain during the instrumental sections. It’s slick and cool.

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12. Red Velvet – Russian Roulette (러시안 룰렛) (Russian Roulette)
While many felt their ballad, One of These Nights, was a bit dull, I absolutely loved it. However, it is no doubt that the group really works great with their upbeat numbers. Russian Roulette is a nice change because it combines the fun characteristics of their “Red” songs, while also providing something a bit more streamlined like their “Velvet” tunes. This is all sorts of catchy and I actually really enjoy how fun the verses are. The chorus isn’t as bombastic, but it slides right in and provides some cute hooks with the funky and robotic backdrop. It’s a girl group doing old school video game music.

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11. PLEDIS GIRLZ – WE (WE)
PLEDIS GIRLZ have already planned their debut under the name, PRISTIN, for later this month, but last year the group released this pre-release number. Riding off the success of Produce 101, WE features the members that didn’t make it into I.O.I and a few new faces. Synth paradise, WE dwells in the realm of the more innocent sounds, but don’t let fool you. This is one heck of a song. I think what I enjoy most of the song is the feeling it gives. It is difficult to explain, but it really helps to create a nice united sound and image for the group, which especially felt by the last chorus where things are brought up a level. It’s a bit generic, but it’s a well-crafted pop tune.

[Special] 2016 Top 50 K-Pop Songs 30-21

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30. Infinite – The Eye (태풍) (Infinite Only)
Every year it is easy to count on Infinite to bring an exciting synth-driven pop tune. The Eye is really no different and continues the signature Infinite sound. A return to the more dramatic sound compared to last year’s Bad, The Eye could be seen as a follow-up to 2014’s Back. The synths give the song a sense of urgency while also providing a haunting backdrop to the powerful chorus melody. The interesting addition is the instrumental breakdown that happens after the chorus. While it doesn’t particularly fit into the rest of the song, it is an interesting addition. A great addition to their discography.

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29. Ailee – Home (feat. Yoon Mirae) (A New Empire)
Ailee had gone 3 years of releasing similar title tracks. While they were all good songs, the fact is that Ailee could easily pull off many different styles due to her thundering vocals. Home was a welcomed departure and pulls elements from songs of the US Billboard Charts. It’s definitely much darker than her other material, but probably more dramatic than those big showstoppers as the instrumental is relatively haunting. I also like that Ailee doesn’t really blast off the high notes until the end to really finish the song off.

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28. ASTRO – Breathless (숨가빠) (Summer Vibes)
2016 seemed like a great year for new boy bands. There was just a lot of choice and some excellent songs came from all these different groups. ASTRO was one of the biggest breakthroughs with their lighthearted and innocent sound. All three of their title tracks from last year were excellent, but I chose Breathless because the whole song is quite solid. Breathless fits the summer feeling perfectly with its bright arrangement and exciting vocals. It’s a bit cute at times, but doesn’t do it overwhelmingly. Refreshing.

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27. PENTAGON – Can You Feel It (감이 오지) (Five Senses)
PENTAGON was another stellar boy band debut of 2016. While I wasn’t that impressed with Gorilla (partly because it was odd to sing along to), Can You Feel It impressed me to no end. It’s a bit more on the standard boy band sound and does a good job of blending pop with some hip-hop elements. I just really enjoy how big it sounds, especially when the chorus comes in. While a bit bare, it just has a lot of energy. It really is a rollercoaster with its many high points and breaks.

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26. STELLAR – Crying (펑펑울었어) (CRY)
Since the group’s change to the sexier image, STELLAR has continually released excellent music. Working with Brave Sound this time around, Crying ditches the overtly sexual edge for something a bit more mainstream. While not as strong as 2015’s Vibrato, I love the bright sound of Crying that contrasts the sad lyrics. The song is perfect for a drive with its continuous thunder beat and funky synths. Maybe a little more on the generic side of the group, but the girls sound great and the songs is just a lot of fun to sing along to.

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25. VIXX – Dynamite (다이너마이트) (Zelos)
VIXX is well known for their darker sound. While Dynamite is dramatic, it brings us a bit more 80s funk instead of the haunting synths and aggressive vocals. More lighthearted, Dynamite is seriously catchy. The great thing about this song is that it still sounds like a VIXX song. Every part of it seems thought out so well and each part stands out. It never has an area where it gets dull. The verses are slick, while the chorus comes thumping in with style. The middle eight also provides a bit of a breather before we get jolted into the chorus. Totally fun.

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24. SNUPER – Platonic Love (지켜줄게) (Platonic Love)
SNUPER is another debut of 2016, but they came in full force with this 80s Sweetune jam. A bit on the sweeter side, what really makes this song is that wonderful 80s refrain that pops up during the instrumental breaks. The verses are decent, but the chorus is definitely where the song shines best. Its fast-paced vocal arrangement is catchy and works wonderfully on top of the sparkling musical arrangement. I do wish the song has a bit more power at times as it does just glide across, but it is mostly saved by the amazing refrain.

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23. SHINee – 1 of 1 (1 of 1)
New Jack Swing is one of my favourite genres. Most of these songs tend to be upbeat and a lot of fun to listen to (woo Janet Jackson), so I was really happy when I heard SHINee was going to try their hands at it. 1 of 1 isn’t as stellar as last year’s View, but it is an excellent song. It does embody the early 90s R&B vibe and while the melody is a bit slower than I expected, it is still very catchy. I enjoy how it never really explodes with energy and keeps on a constant level throughout. It’s a quality tune.

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22. SISTAR x Giorgio Moroder – One More Day (One More Day)
Another song that is recalling music from the past, One More Day was released as a special single by SISTAR. Unlike the slick I Like That, One More Day has a much more dramatic and sounds like it could have a ballad version of it. Giorgio Moroder is famous for his disco works (woo Donna Summer) and this screams disco. The verses are a bit and a little forgettable, but it’s the thundering chorus that captures the attention. While repetitive, it is quite haunting and the melody blends so well with the haunting synth-driven music.

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21. A Pink – Only One (내가 설렐 수 있게) (Pink Revolution)
A lot of people give A Pink flack for not changing up their sound, but I am one who actually enjoys their mid-tempo pop tunes. Only One is pretty much the successor to 2014’s LUV with its calmer feel. Many said it was boring and while I can see that at times, there are a lot of fun twists in the song that keep it afloat. I love how the chorus takes an unpredictable turn and how the song dives into a funky instrumental breakdown after the chorus. The girls also sound stellar and it really helps show off some vocals.

[Special] 2016 Top 50 K-Pop Songs 40-31

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40. EXO-CBX – Hey Mama! (Hey Mama!)
One of the only subunits to make the list. EXO-CBX comprises of some of the stronger singers from boy band EXO. Hey Mama! is a funky upbeat pop tune with some retro flare to it. As an SM tune, the song is extremely polished and everything feels like it flows together so well. I especially love the chorus where the hooks are so well intertwined and executed. I really enjoy the use of woahs and woos throughout the song as they are so well placed. The boys also sound fantastic and Chen really brings it.

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39. I.O.I – Very Very Very (너무너무너무) (miss me?)
I was actually contemplating putting this song on the list because I wasn’t sure if I actually enjoyed it that much. However, when I took it for another spin, I realized that it is a well-produced catchy pop tune. I.O.I were one of the biggest phenomenons in K-Pop this year and this was probably their strongest track released. Very Very Very is quite repetitive and not particularly explosive, but there is something intoxicating about its simple hook laid on top of a fun video game sounding backdrop.

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38. Wonder Girls – Why So Lonely (Why So Lonely)
Despite just recently disbanding, Wonder Girls have had a wonderful ten year run. Why So Lonely was their last major release and was part of the girls’ “band” approach. A contrast to the 80s synth-driven I Feel You of 2015 (which is amazing), Why So Lonely brings us a laid back reggae sound. I’m not the biggest fan of reggae, but this song is seriously stellar. The girls sound amazing on top of the relatively dreamy feel of the arrangement and there are enough twists and turns to keep the song exciting. It’s too bad this is how we end it.

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37. Yuri x Seohyun – Secret (Secret)
The only song from SM’s project “SM Station”, Secret is a fun collaboration between Girls’ Generation members Seohyun and Yuri. I love me some EDM and Secret just delivers. There are times where the song sounds quite robotic, but what really makes the song is the great build up to the chorus and the funky beat that bounces in for the breakdown. What I love is as the song progresses, the chorus becomes fuller. The girls also sound great and I was pleasantly surprised with Yuri’s vocals.

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36. Nine Muses A – Lip 2 Lip (입술에 입술) (Muses Diary)
How unfortunate one of my favourite girl groups has gone through so many member changes and dwindled to 4 (5) members. Nine Muses A is a subunit of Nine Muses and features only half of what we had during the group’s last release. Lip 2 Lip is a retro-styled pop tune, similar to TWO X’s Over. However, this one is much more polished and the hooks are more evident. I wasn’t particularly impressed at first, but the song has some fun elements that help keep is catchy and interesting. I love the little touches in the arrangement that give the song some fun.

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35. UP10TION – Attention (나한테만 집중해) (SPOTLIGHT)
Despite releasing a lot of material, boy band UP10TION have yet to have that major breakthrough. Still, they have gained a large fanbase. Although the group has released some great songs, my favourite has got to be the slick Attention. Unlike the summer splash of Tonight and the bombastic Winter Night, Attention does its work by its smooth vocal arrangement on top of a pounding beat. My favourite part is the pre-chorus where the songs hooks gradually bring us into the brass-filled chorus.

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34. Song Ji Eun – Bobby Doll (바비돌) (Bobby Doll)
Secret has always been one of my favourite groups and it’s nice to see the group still releasing solo material. While I wasn’t in love with Hyosung’s this year, Song Ji Eun delivered. Bobby Doll is a stark contrast to 2014’s bubbly 25. More on the sensual side, Bobby Doll is definitely darker and more in tune to what the singer has usually released although this is by far her most aggressive song. With that said, it’s amazing. I love the hooks in the chorus and Ji Eun steps it up by even rapping at parts. Her angelic voice surprisingly works for the song as well.

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33. TWICE – TT (TWICEcoaster: LANE 1)
Definitely one of the biggest groups of the year, if not the biggest girl group, TWICE has dominated with a string of exciting pop hits. While Cheer Up was catchy, TT was definitely the winner for me (although nothing tops Ooh-Aah). TT brings listeners something a little more on the toned down side, although it still has TWICE’s signature aegyo style. TT’s highlight is definitely the chorus where the delivery is much more melodic compared to their other material, although the repetitive hooks do pop up. The music’s smooth feel definitely gives balance to the exciting vocal arrangement.

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32. GOT7 – Fly (Flight Log: DEPARTURE)
I have never been a big fan of GOT7, but after listening to some of their music, I’ve come to appreciate some of their songs. I’m not a huge fan of the hip-hop style that many K-Pop boy bands come out with, which is why Hard Carry wasn’t particularly interesting. However, Fly blends pop and hip-hop in such a well laid out way. I absolutely adore the chorus with the soaring hook intertwined with rapping. It’s a really well done fusion and shows the group can take on mature material in a polished manner. It never goes over the top.

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31. Berry Good – Angel (Angel)
One of the buried girl groups of the year, Berry Good has a strange name that doesn’t quite match the group’s stellar material. Angel is a gorgeous example of what groups from smaller companies can come up with. While there are times where I wish the song was tweaked (like the odd bird sounding oohs), there are too many pros to this song. The soaring chorus that explodes with energy. The song doesn’t have to rely on repetitive hooks to get the job done as the melody is catchy enough and tied with the uplifting musical arrangement, it creates a bigger and more grand sound.

[Special] 2016 Top 50 K-Pop Songs 50-41

A bit late with doing this as I have been fiddling around with the list for the last few weeks since 2016. Discovered some new songs and revisited old ones which resulted many songs going up or down. I tried to stick to one song per artist (subunits and soloists are separate) to give the list a bit more diversity or I would be stuck with a few of the same artists. Note: This is my own opinion from the previous year and there were a lot of songs I couldn’t add to the list that I also found were great.

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50. Bangtan Boys – Blood, Sweat & Tears (피, 땀, 눈물) (Wings)
Among international K-Pop fans, BTS has been one of the groups on the forefront. Probably one of the most popular idol songs among the int’l community, Blood, Sweat & Tears is an exhilarating upbeat tropical house tune. It’s definitely a very polished piece and has some really stand out parts, like the chorus that builds into an intoxicating instrumental breakdown. It starts so low because I do prefer BTS doing a style more along the lines of last year’s Run.

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49. J-Min – Ready For Your Love (Ready For Your Love)
Despite being under SM, J-Min has pretty much been under the radar. But that doesn’t stop this song from being one of the strongest solo pieces of this year. Straddling between ballad and uptempo pop tune, Ready For Your Love is an emotional song that has such gorgeous elements and helps the listener hear J-Min’s stunning vocals. I love the opening chorus line that dives into the dreamy musical arrangement.

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48. MONSTA X – Stuck (네게만 집착해) (The Clan Part. 1 Lost)
MONSTA X exploded onto the scenes last year with their style of hip-hop boy band flare. I absolutely adored Hero and it was a favourite of mine last year. While the group released a slew of songs, none has been able to live up that one. Stuck is a strong effort though. More emotional than some of their other title tracks, Stuck keeps you on your feet. The hip-hop and EDM blend creates a tornado of noise and the song flings from one part to another so quickly. The highlight is definitely the chorus with its striking, but gorgeous hook.

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47. Jessica – Wonderland (Wonderland)
Coming back to the funky mainstream feel of the tropical house sound, Jessica’s recent solo efforts have provided an interesting contrast to some of her former bandmates’ music. What I love about Wonderland is how carefree and upbeat it sounds. When the chorus explodes with the intoxicating refrain and beat, it feels uplifting. While the lyrics could be a little more on the mature side, it still strangely feels with the atmosphere the song creates.

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46. Bada – FLOWER (FLOWER)
Another soloist hitting it out of the park. S.E.S’s Bada has released great music since 2003 and FLOWER is a nice return to the music she released at the start of her career. Upping the popular EDM craze, FLOWER is an intoxicating piece that is as good as it is unpredictable. I love the strange tweaks it brings with each transition the song goes into and you can really hear it in the instrumental if you pay close attention. What I do enjoy as well is that it never strays from the middle ground. Certainly it could have had a more bombastic breakdown, but it keeps it lighthearted and perfect for Bada.

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45. Lovelyz – Destiny (A New Trilogy)
Lovelyz has always stuck to the more innocent “cute” sound and image. While Destiny does keep the Lovelyz flare, it also helps by introducing a more mature side to them. Interestingly, the song has always sounded like it was meant to be an anime theme song. The soaring synths and explosive chorus opening are what keep the song afloat. The verses do get a bit dull at times, but the chorus has such a stunning dreamy quality to it that it helps give the song an interesting touch. Not Lovelyz’s strongest effort, but a great tune.

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44. TWO X – Over (꽃혀) (Over)
Certainly one of the lesser known groups on the list. TWO X debuted in 2012 with two fun singles (Double Up being a favourite of mine) and despite debuting under the company that also housed MBLAQ, the girls never got anywhere. Over is their first release in four years and a great return. Maybe not as polished as a lot of other songs, Over is a catchy pop tune with some retro touches. What I enjoy most is how much attitude is in the song and this is really brought by the vocals and that farting beat that is played around. It’s fun and a great return!

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43. Seo In Guk – BeBe (BeBe)
Despite starting off as singer from a singing contest, Seo In Guk has made a name for himself as an actor. BeBe is a sensual upbeat R&B tune that plays well with Seo In Guk’s voice. Borrowing heavily from the recent surge of the K-R&B sounds, BeBe styles itself in a way that still gives Seo In Guk his own colour. Since R&B is my favourite genre, I was pleasantly surprised when he came out with this tune. I love the how the slow verses contrast to the sudden and fast-paced choruses. There is also a nice 90s touch in the music that helps give the song a more nostalgic sound. Probably my favourite song from him now.

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42. SEVENTEEN – Very Nice (아주 NICE) (LOVE & LETTER Repackage)
While Pledis dropped the ball with After School and NU’EST, it’s nice to see the boys from SEVENTEEN enjoying success. Their DIY way has been able to allow the group to create their own individuality and standout from their competitors. While SEVENTEEN has released a lot of stuff this year, Very Nice is probably my favourite. It follows the group’s upbeat, pop-driven sound, but also adds a bit of retro flare with its sped up 70s-styled refrain. While the chorus does blast through in a hurry, it is certainly the most memorable part of the song. The whole song sort of just goes through in a hurry actually, but it is still a solid tune.

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41. Dal★Shabet – Someone Like U (너 같은) (Naturalness)
2015 ended in a rocky way for girl group Dal★Shabet. Losing two members, the fate of the group was uncertain, but the girls pushed through into 2016 and released a stellar piece. Playing on the 80s sound they used in the amazing B.B.B (Big Baby Baby), Someone Like U brings us a more lighthearted take. The synth driven music is certainly the highlight and works well with the more unpredictable style of the transitions. Everything blends well together, but the song still has such strong hooks that every part seems to stand out. One of the group’s best.

[Digital Single] PRODUCE 101 – PICK ME

PRODUCE 101 was a huge K-Pop survival program that was broadcast in 2016. It featured 101 female trainees from different companies who went through various rounds to make it into a final group of 11 members. PICK ME was released as the theme song for the show.

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Released: December 17, 2015
1. PICK ME

PICK ME is an intoxicating EDM mess. The song starts off pretty bare with a heavy beat and an attack of synths. The girls come in with some high-pitched singing that almost sounds out of place. As the song progresses, it gains energy before entering the insanely repetitive and catchy melody that pretty much consists of a constant barrage of “pick me up”. The highlight of the song though is when it enters the instrumental breakdown and the heavy beats really come into foreplay. At first, everything about the song was odd, but it has a way to getting into your head and the song has some really clever aspects to it. I especially love the hooks in the bridge and the breakdown is intense and exciting.

Overall: This is the type of song that you either love or hate. It can be really repetitive and somewhat annoying, but I think it has some really cool parts to it and it is also insanely catchy. It’s just an overall well-produced tune.

A

[Repackaged] T-ara – Breaking Heart

Breaking Heart is the repackaged edition of their first album, Absolute First Album. It included two new songs, both of which were used as promotional songs.

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Released: March 5, 2010
1. I Go Crazy Because of You (너 때문에 미쳐)
2. I’m Really Hurt (내가 너무 아파)
3. One & One
4. Like the First Time (처음처럼)
5. Bo Peep Bo Peep
6. Tic Tic Toc
7. Bye Bye
8. Apple Is A
9. Falling U
10. You You You (너너너)
11. Lies (Dance ver.) (거짓말)
12. T.T.L (Time to love)
13. Lies (Slow ver.)
14. TTL Listen.2
15. Good Person (좋은사람)
16. Wanna Play (놀아볼래?)

I Go Crazy Because of You is different from the rest of T-ara’s songs. While still heavily electronic, the song features a much heavier beat and faster vocal arrangement. It sounds particularly similar to Britney Spears’ Womanizer. It’s laced with heavy autotune, especially the verses, which blend into the music. It makes it a bit difficult to hear them, but it’s an interesting technique and surprisingly fits in this song. The chorus is more focused on a repetitive hook and I find it zooms by rather quickly. It is a catchy song, but it’s a bit of a mess at times. A fun listen though. I much prefer I’m Really Hurt because it’s more laid back and the production is more straightforward in its delivery. The song also features a pounding beat, but the whole song tends to be on a lighter note. The music is pretty much focused on the synths though. The verses are decent, but its the chorus where the magic happens. While also utilizing a repetitive hook, this part has more melody to it than the last song and doesn’t just totally flash by. I don’t think it’s as strong as it once was, but it’s a solid listen and I love the sadness that it emits.

Overall: While I’m not as into both of these songs as I once was, they do continue the quality found on the rest of the album. Also, despite the differences, they do help to create a cohesive sound. I Go Crazy is a fun listen, albeit a bit messy at times. However, it’s one of the girls’ most recognizable tunes and for good reason. I much prefer the second song, but both are solid tunes.

A

[Digital Single] Song Ji Eun – Don’t Look At Me

Don’t Look At Me is the fifth digital single released by Song Ji Eun. It was released right before her first mini-album, 25.

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Released: September 24, 2014
1. Don’t Look At Me (쳐다보지마)

Don’t Look At Me is pretty much a follow-up to Ji Eun’s 2011 smash, Going Crazy. The music is pretty much in a similar vein with it’s dramatic atmosphere, except this time we don’t have Bang Yong Guk to pair her off. Despite that, she pulls of this song quite well. I love how heavy the beat it and I really love how the song goes in such slow way that it almost feels like the melody is dragging along. It really works well with the music. While I do feel Ji Eun gets a bit overshadowed by how powerful the music is, her sweet tone provides an interesting contrast and she is able to express the emotion of the song well.

Overall: An excellent follow-up to her other material. It keeps up the whole dramatic and dark feel of her previous releases, but keeps it fresh. The song does get a bit slow at times, but it’s all well put together and a solid example of what she is capable of.

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