This is one of those features I’ve been wanting to tackle for years now. In many ways, the singles of 2012 set the standard I measure all future and past K-pop against. Song for song, it was the pinnacle of so much that I love about Korean music. It was a year of gargantuan choruses, wall-of-sound vocal bombast and musical excess. 2012 rarely did subtle. 2012 was in the business of crafting epic sounds.
As EDM began to sink its teeth into the global pop scene, and western stars like Lady Gaga and One Direction continued to lead a resurgence of megawatt melodies, K-pop found itself twisting those trends into innovative, genre-defying anthems. There was certainly an eye towards international audiences, urged along by PSY’s monster hit Gangnam Style, but the industry was not yet held captive by western trends. 2012’s slate of thrilling singles harnessed a uniquely K-pop energy that seemed to draw upon decades of influence.
This countdown will be structured the same as my year-end lists, but could have easily stretched far beyond fifty tracks. I’d consider the majority of these songs to be “top ten” worthy in many other years, with a generous handful of “number one” quality tracks at the top of the list that just happen to be some of my favorite songs of all time.
Before the countdown kicks off tomorrow, here’s a healthy dose of honorable mentions — many of which were incredibly difficult to leave off of the main list.
But that’s 2012. It was an embarrassment of riches, and truly a watershed year for K-pop.