Due to the fast pace nature of K-pop, it’s easy to miss comebacks of artists, of which there are tons. However, the comebacks of some artists outshine and have greater impact than some others. That’s not to say that other comebacks are not good. Some gain more attention and make a lasting impression. Whether it be to the extended time period since the last time the artist released music in Korea, scandals that put careers in question, or the sheer magnitude of what their comeback accomplished, the artists below made their mark on the K-pop scene to cosmic proprotions. (In chronological order)
On February 29, BIGBANG officially made its K-pop comeback; and what a comeback it was. The group had not released music in Korea since early 2011, which wasn’t too extensive in time. However, the group had been rocked by scandals that threatened the group’s popularity. In 2011, Daesung was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident, and G-Dragon was involved in a marijuana scandal. I won’t go into details about the scandals, but there were a lot of worries and concerns regarding the future of the group. However, the group came back this year, and were probably better than ever. BIGBANG released music videos for tracks “Blue,”Bad Boy,” and “Fantastic Baby.” Later, for the special album, Still Alive, the group released the music video for “Monster.” Alive was a massive success for the group, and so was their Alive GALAXY Tour 2012. The group took 5 spots out of the Top 10 on Billboard K-pop’s Hot 100 and charted at 150 on Billboard 200, making them the first Korean artist with a Korean album to do so. The album would also lead to Big Bang racking up numerous end-of-year awards and nominations. The album, so far, has won the “Bonsang Award” at the Melon Music Awards and “Best EP (Mini-album)” at the So-Loved Awards in Europe. “Fantastic Baby” netted the group “Best Male Group” and “Artist of the Year” awards at the MAMA. The tour itself also won the “Guardian Angel” award at MAMA (don’t ask; I have no idea what that means). As for music shows: “Blue” won the triple crown on SBS’ Inkigayo, once on M! Countdown, twice on KBS’ MusicBank, and once on JTCB’s Music on Top. “Fantastic Baby” won twice on M!Countdown. Overall, BIGBANG’s comeback was a huge success and only further solidified their status as one of the best groups in the world.
If there was one new-er group (non-rookie, but also non-old school hahaha) that had been gone from Korea for way too long, it was SHINee. The group had not released a Korean album in almost 2 years. People were aching for a SHINee comeback, and we got one in March, with the EP Sherlock. The group’s title track, “Sherlock,” was a hybrid track of 2 other full tracks: “Clue” and “Note” (I personally liked the two together much more than separate). SHINee released dramatic and dance version MVs for the track. With a quirky dance and nice hook, the song was a success for the group. The song topped the charts in March and netted the group awards. “Sherlock” won twice on MusicBank, the triple crown on Inkigayo, once on M!Countdown, and twice on Show Champion. The dance itself won the group “Best Dance Performance–Male Group” at the MAMA. The album was also a success for the group. On March 27, 2012, Sherlock placed 10th on the Billboard Weekly Heatseekers Album and 5th on the Weekly World Albums charts. Even though the concept was exceptionally strange (if not creepy hahaha), Sherlock was a great comeback for SHINee, who had been away for a while.
The return of the legendary SHINHWA. What else can you say? This marked the first old-school comeback of the year. Four years had passed since the last time the group had been together as one, due to their military service. However, the group came back in March, with their album The Return, and showed why they were considered legends. I’ve already spoken about the group, so I won’t go into specifics. SHINHWA exhibited their talent as a boy group, with a powerful song and dance for the title track, “Venus.” The fact that all the members are over 30 only made it more impressive. “Venus” did well on the charts, and even won once on M!Countdown. Although they didn’t win much, the group once again took their place in k-pop fan hearts as legends in the industry.
After being away from the music scene for four years, Nell came back in April. Known for their melancholic, angst-sy, yet soothing, sound, the band continued the trend. Their comeback album, Slipping Away, was a success and swept the real time charts. On April 10, 2012, Nell released the MV for “The Day Before,” which featured actors Lee Min Ki and Song Jae Rim. The album garnered a MAMA nomination for “Best Band Performance” and a win for “Best Rock” award at the Music Style Awards. In November, Nell released a surprise teaser on their webpage, and in December released a mini-album, Holding onto Gravity. They subsequently released the MV for title track, “White Night.” The album and title track were once again a success for the band. Nell continued their reign as one of the favorite bands in Korea.
Park Jin Young
Known mostly by K-pop newcomers as CEO and producer at JYP Entertainment, fashionista, and judge on K-Pop Star, Park Jin Young (a.k.a JYP) is also an artist who has been in the business for 19 years. After not releasing any music of his own for three years, JYP returned as an artist in April 2012. On April 22, he released “Someone Else,” a duet with Ga-In. The next week, JYP released his single “You’re the One,” from the album Spring-5 Songs for 1 New Love. Not only did his duet do well chart-wise, “You’re the One” did well on the charts, as well. He also participated in a commercial for Reebok (with 2PM’s Taecyeon and Wooyoung, and miss A’s Suzy), including appearing on the endorsement track “Classic.” Recently, JYP performed in front of large crowds for his 19+ concert, “Bad Jazz Bar.” This year, JYP showed why he was an award winner in the 90s, and that despite his age, he’s a consummate performer who always puts on a show.
When PSY made his comeback, no one would have expected him to become an international sensation, even PSY himself. After being away for 2 years, in July 2012, PSY released PSY 6 (Six Rules). Although the album is filled with great songs, it was lead track, “Gangnam Style,” that led to unimagined success. The MV went viral and has garnered over 1 billion views, making it the most viewed and most liked YouTube video in history. PSY’s special version with HyunA of 4minute, “Oppa is Just My Style,” has also done well on YouTube. This success has not been without scandal and difficulties. PSY was hit with allegations of anti-American sentiment and has had to deal with backlash against k-pop. However, PSY became a megahit this year. He’s signed with Schoolboy Records in the United States and has appeared on numerous shows. Most recently, he performed “Gangnam Style” at “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve,” with MC Hammer, Noh Hong Chul, and Yoo Jae Suk. It would take a while to list all of PSY’s accomplishments and awards, so let’s just say PSY had an amazing year.
BoA is without a doubt the Princess of K-Pop. However, she had been away from Korea for two years. When it was announced that she would be making a comeback in July 2012, people were understandably excited. On July 22, BoA released Only One and the MV for the title track, “Only One.” “Only One” was an all-kill and stayed on the tops of charts for weeks. The track also peaked at number 2 on the Korean Billboard Chart. On August 18, BoA released the MV for “Shadow.” BoA has also announced that she will be holding her first solo Korean concert, “BoA Special Live 2013 ~Here I Am~,” to be held on January 26, 2013. K-Pop’s Princess showed why she had such a title. With powerful dancing and vocals, BoA’s comeback was impressive.
On October 23, Epik High officially made their comeback, with the release of 99. Epik High has had quite the tumultuous career. Member Tablo had been the subject of a rather ridiculous and disgusting scandal, that should have never occurred. Many began to doubt Tablo would ever be able to come back to the music scene. He returned under YG Entertainment with his solo albums, Fever’s End: Part 1 and Fever’s End: Part 2, in 2011. When Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz finished their military service, questions began to circulate about whether or not the group would make a comeback, as well. At the time, the two were also not signed under a label, due to their relationship with Woollim Entertainment having ended. However, it was subsequently announced the two had also joined YG Entertainment. With their come back, Epik High was still the same Epik High. The group started off as controversial, with their no-nonsense lyrics. That trend continued with their latest album, which is aimed at uplifting and encouraging the masses. On October 19, the group released MVs for their dual title tracks, “UP” (featuring 2NE1’s Park Bom) and “Don’t Hate Me.” The trio won “Best Rap Performance” for “UP” at the MAMA. Their pre-released track, “It’s Cold,” which featured Lee Hi, ranked high on the charts, and was a success for the group. 99 also placed 10th on MelOn’s End of the Year Chart. Most recently, Epik High put on a fantastic performancep of “Cypher 2012” with Simon D and Dynamic Duo at the SBS Gayo Daejun. With their return, Epik High brought back their energy and talents that had made them one of the top hip-hop artists in Korea.
Kim Jong Kook
Kim Jong Kook is another artist who spent a long time away from the music scene. Due to being away since 2010, people new to k-pop were unfamiliar with his talent. Although most people know Kim Jong Kook as Sparta Kook or Tiger from his role on “Running Man,” Kim Jong Kook (a.k.a KJK) actually is an old school singer, and a former member of the group, Turbo. He is mostly recognizable by his high-pitched voice, which is jokingly referred to as a “mosquito voice.” In October 2012, KJK released his 7th album, Volume 7: Journey Home. The album featured appearances by former Turbo member, Mikey, as well as fellow Running Man cast-mates HaHa and Gary. On October 31, he released the MV for title track, “Men Are All Like That,” which starred actor Song Joong Ki. The title song placed high on the charts for several weeks. Despite not winning any awards, KJK’s come back stands as an example of how talent knows no age or time.
Why do I have these two in a special section, other than because I can? Honestly, the come backs of G-Dragon and Block B were ones I thought were exceptional in their own regard, especially considering how they both had a hand in the songs on the albums. Though perhaps not using the same standard as the ones above, and more of my own personal bias, I’ll explain further, below.
As I mentioned above with Big Bang, in 2011, leader G-Dragon (a.k.a GD) was involved in a marijuana scandal. Naturally, his career was questionable. However, like all great artists, they can not be kept down. On August 25, 2012, GD released the first MV for his solo comeback, “One of a Kind.” In September, he released the album by the same name, One of a Kind. He subsequently released MVs for “That XX” and “CrayOn.” GDs comeback album was an example of why he is considered one of the brightest young artists in Korea. From the boastful “One of a Kind,” to the retrospective “That XX,” to the dance hit, “CrayOn,” One of a Kind is a versatile album filled with personality, and a huge success for GD. “That XX” actually achieved a “perfect all-kill.” One of a Kind received a MAMA nomination for “Best Album.” All of the tracks from the album occupied the top positions on all major music charts, which also resulted in a “perfect all-kill;” placed first on the Billboard World Album Chart; and entered the Billboard 200 Chart at 161 for the week. “CrayOn” led GD to receive “Best Male Artist” at the MAMA and a “Top 10” award at the Melon Music Awards. It also won the triple crown on M!Countdown. Three years had passed since GD had released a solo album, and he came back with a bang.
As written in a previous post, Block B faced a ridiculous scandal this year. Although they made a comeback earlier in the year, it was their comeback made after the scandal that made the lasting impression. The group came out swinging on October 17, 2012, with a fantastic album, Blockbuster. The album charted at number 1 on the Gaon Chart and number 10 on the Billboard World Albums chart. Title track, “Nillili Mambo,” charted at number 10 on both the Gaon and Korean Billboard charts. Despite previous backlash, Block B’s comeback received a lot of love and respect. They were nominated for a “Bonsang Award” at the 22nd Seoul Music Awards, and the “New Rising Star Award” and the “Popularity Award” for 27th Golden Disk Awards. “Nillili Mambo” was nominated for “Best Male Video” for the MTV Best of the Best Awards. In Europe, “Nillili Mambo” won “Best Music Video” at the European KPop Awards. At the same awards, Block B won for “Best Hip Hop/R’n’B Group,” “Best OST Song” for “Burn Out,” and “Best Album.” Blockbuster also received “Album of the Year” at the German Korean Entertainment Awards. From Zico singing, to Taeil scatting, Block B made their presence known and showed that they were not going anywhere.~~Andy