Psy (YG Entertainment)
As the countdown to 2015 approaches, the assessment of the year’s best songs, albums and industry newcomers is in full swing. Rounding out the year, Billboard’s top picks of the 10 best K-pop albums of 2014 land the feisty K-pop icons of 2NE1 the crown.
The ladies’ second full-length album, “Crush,” was praised for cleverly exploring hybrid genres including reggae and R&B and landed them at the No. 1 spot, beating out other much awaited K-pop heavy-weight comebacks such as Seo Taiji and Rain.
The magazine referred to opening the album with its eponymous single, which is not the album’s lead track, as a sign that although the group’s sound is maturing, the ladies have not forgotten where they come from. “ ... opening the record with ‘Crush,’ with its bewitching Middle-Eastern vibe and aggressive attitude similar to their signature hit “I Am the Best” proved that the girls know where their roots lie and they’re happy to treat fans while still evolving as artists.”
According to Billboard, “Crush” debuted at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, marking the highest chart position and biggest sales week for a K-pop album ever. The album was released on Feb. 27 and came nearly four years after the group’s first full-length album, “To Anyone.”
2NE1 (YG Entertainment)
In somewhat of a surprising twist, taking second place on Billboard’s stamp of the year’s best K-pop albums is a band that would not even be labeled as a K-pop act by locals. Popular indie band Nell beat out the likes of K-pop starlet IU for the No. 2 spot with the band’s latest sixth full album, “Newton’s Apple.” Coincidentally released on the exact same day as 2NE1’s album, the magazine referred to Nell’s record as the strongest Korean rock album of the year.
“ ... ‘Newton’s Apple’ highlights Nell’s vocalist/chief composer Kim Jong Wan’s clever and honest songwriting skills. ... All the lyrics are wrapped in warm, lush arrangements and instrumentals that enchant the listener simply by themselves,” Billboard wrote.
With IU and Seo Taiji taking the third and fourth spots, respectively, rounding out the rest of the Top 10 lists are HA:TFELT (known best as Yenny from the Wonder Girls), Taeyang of Big Bang, B.A.P., Epik High, CNBLUE and Rain’s “Rain Effect.”
As for Billboard’s list of the year’s 20 best K-pop songs, Beast took the top spot with the boy band’s single, “Good Luck,” followed by Seo Taiji & IU’s “Sogyeokdong” and G-Dragon & Taeyang’s “Good Boy.”
Of course, no Korean music chart would seem complete without one of cheekiest faces of K-pop. Despite his fading presence from the mainstream international spotlight this year, Psy has still managed to infiltrate the magazine’s year-end round-ups with the artist’s 2-year-old viral phenom single “Gangnam Style” being ranked at No. 14 of the year’s most streamed songs.
Psy was also listed as the 15th most streamed artist of 2014, beating out global superstars Chris Brown, Eminem, One Direction and Maroon 5.
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)