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2014 in Review: The Good, The Bad, The WTH?

2014 has been one heck of a year, to put it mildly. We’ve laughed, cried, and been furious and vastly disappointed. There has been good music, and there has been awful music. We’ve gained biases (oh, Ahn Jae-hyun, Lee Jong-suk and Kim Woo-bin)(and Park ChanYeol and Song JaeRim), and perhaps even written some off for being huge jerks that should have their butts kicked (more on this later).

While we usually do a few separate articles to recap the end of a year, this year will be one special “The Good, The Bad, The WTH” post.

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Let’s start off on a high note, before we start depressing and angering everyone.

As usual, we would like to first offer suggestions on what 2014 (non-MAMA nominated) rookies to check out. I admit, I haven’t been super impressed by the rookies this year, but a few did delight and surprise (no pun intended).

rookies15urprise (Yoo Il, Seo Kang-joon, Gong Myung, Kang Tae-oh, Lee Tae-hwan)

Who knew a group built around the concept of hot models-actors-singers would actually be good? 5urprise’s debut song, “From My Heart” has the sound of a sweet OST. This group isn’t just a bunch of pretty looks and height. They can really sing. This makes them an impressive surprise that raises some expectations for their future.

Almeng (Choi Ryn, Hae Yong)

The co-ed duo Almeng got their start on K-Pop Star Season 3, where they were in the top 5. It’s easy to see why. Their debut album, compoSing of Love is a hip-hop/indie/pop hybrid that is a joy to listen to. The duo is also pretty quirky, as evidenced in their MV for “Phone In Love.” Also, be sure to check out their “Half an Hour.”

B.I.G/Boys In Groove (J-Hoon, Benji, Gunmin, Gookmin Pyo, Heedo)

B.I.G is pretty good in terms of talent. You have to look no further than Benji; the boy can PLAY the violin. So, interest was pretty piqued at what the group would release when they debuted. Okay, I wasn’t a huge fan of B.I.G’s debut song, “Hello.” It was interesting, but not anything I’d listen to regularly. However, they came back with “Are You Ready?” and well, yes! I am ready! The song is super-duper catchy.

JJCC (E.co, Prince Mak, Eddy, Simba, Sancheong)

rookies2JJCC is truly a group of idiots: just watch their JJCC Take #1 and other random videos they post on YouTube. Although Prince Mak was missing from their debut, “At First,” they still made an impression. (Eddy and his glorious locks + vocals.) Their second release, “Bing Bing Bing(One Way)” is what sealed the deal them being a group to look out for. The dance was pretty awesome. Also, the song was so catchy, it was hard not to randomly start singing the hook.

Kiss&Cry (Dia, Bohye, Haena, Soyumi)

One of three girl groups with power vocals, Kiss&Cry are/were a group to behold. Kiss&Cry’s debut track, “Domino Game,” was a Latin-infused sassy song. And their dance was spot on. The continued the sass with “Revenge/Bad Girl.” Their status is completely up in the air, due to the company not having the budget to support them. However, the group should still be on the list. Also, at least DIA is still releasing solo music, so go check that out.

LEGEND (Listen, Roi, Jaehyuk, Lito, Chansung)

Ah, LEGEND: the group that totally sneaked up on you. (I’m looking at you, Jaehyuk.) The group lurks along the boundary of a vocal group and a k-pop boy group. The group made an impressive debut with “Left Out,” but their latest track “LOST,” sealed the deal. These guys are a group to pay attention to: they combine impressive vocals, nuanced musicality with the rappers, and good choreography. If you want cuteness, check out the MV for “Out of My Mind.” If you need further proof that the group is talented, just check out leader Listen’s covers. He’s pretty great.

rookies3Lip Service (Bipa, Cora, Anna)

Lip Service is a vivacious female trio (former duo). They had a great debut with “Yum Yum Yum” (we can get behind any song about how tough it is to diet), but their follow-up comeback “Too Fancy” went under the radar. (there wasn’t much about it out there at all.) Recently they went for the sweet with “Puppy Love.” There’s no denying that Bipa can rap and the group has attitude for days. Let’s hope these girls explode in the coming year.

Lucky J (Jessi, J’Kyun, J-Yo)

Throw three industry veterans together, something good is bound to happen. First, there’s Jessi: first generation idol who can rap and has fabulous vocals. Second, there’s J’Kyun: established rapper. Third, there’s J-Yo: impressive vocalist who was once a member of boy group, TOUCH. The co-ed group blends remarkably together and have chemistry. Their debut track, “Can You Hear Me” just screams for attention and appreciation. Lucky J is simply amazing.

MAMAMOO (Solar, Moon Byul, Whee In, Hwasa)

By now, everybody knows MAMAMOO — the second power-vocal group on this list. These girls are killer and have the power to draw tons of big names to help them (just go look at their MVs). Prior to their completely solo debut, they released several collaborative tracks. Their official debut was “Mr. Ambiguous.” The track definitely showed a lot of sass and impressive harmonies. However, “Piano Man” multiplies it exponentially. There’s no forgetting Moon Byul sliding across that bar. You can clearly see MAMAMOO is going for the jazzy, divalicious music, and they nail it. Just watch; these girls are going to explode.

Purfles (Park GeonHee, Shin EunYong, Yang WooYoung)

rookies4Purfles is the final power-vocal girl group. Their debut track, “1, 2, 3,” combined sexy and tough for a fierce concept. The track harkened back to 90s pop and had a club-banger like feel, making it stand out a bit among all the other typical cute or sexualized tracks coming out. Their harmonizing was also great.  (The lyrics were a nice change, too. I’m waiting and expecting great things from them.)

TROY (Bumkey, Jaewoong, Changwoo, Kanto)

Before debut, Bumkey and Kanto were known names due to their featuring and solos. Then, they paired up with the hunky Jaewoong and Changwoo to debut as the hip-hop/R&B group, TROY. Sadly, we may never get another TROY tune, due to the whole Bumkey fiasco. Regardless, we still have their danceable “Green Light” and the smooth “Why Are We?

Ugly Pumpkin (OmTae, Shahgoon, Wormboy)

1. This group is adorable. 2. They sound great together. That’s enough to like Ugly Pumpkin, right? The trio throws any sort of conventional ideas of hip-hop out the window and just does them. Their MV for “From Yesterday” was simple and cute. The song, however, was incredibly solid. It combines some of sounds of the 90s and overlays the hip-hop. The guys could go a long way if they keep making music like this and people give them a real chance.

There were also some quality solo “debuts” from group members. HA:TFELT (Yenny/Park YeEun of Wonder Girls) released her first solo project, Me?, which was pretty good and was a big departure from the typical k-pop fare. (Her mini is my personal favourite album release of the year. It might not have made a big splash in the industry, but that album is golden.) Additionally, Gary of LeeSsang released his solo album, Mr. Gae. This was all kinds of good and definitely recommended for the hip-hop lovers out there.

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Now, on to the 2014 rundown.

The Good

 All the old school artist comebacks

As you may or may not know, we here at K-pop Krunch love us some old school k-pop artists. This year, the legends have delivered some monstrous music that just begs for their hoobaes to bow in reverence. Rain, Park Hyo-shin, epik high1Wheesung, g.o.d (omg), Gummy, Seo Taiji, Nell, MFBTY, Epik –motherfather-High. Those names go down in the books of all things awesome. Epik High’s Shoebox was probably the best album to come out this year. They pretty much slayed everyone. All the other artists listed also took over the charts each time they released music, often with no promotion whatsoever. This solidified just how impressive the history and musical prowess of the old school artists are.

YG Slayage

No label dominated as much as YG Entertainment, and deservedly so. 2NE1, AKMU, Taeyang, WINNER, and Epik High all released impressive work. Not to mention Bobby’s rise to stardom without even debuting yet with iKon — that comes next year. (hopefully. You know how YG is.) Although 2NE1 has hit a rough patch thanks to some bullcrap situation with Park Bom (who we miss and support), nothing could really stop the label from proving why they are simultaneously loved and hated.  Still waiting for that Big Bang comeback, though.

Awesome K-dramas

When it comes to dramas, we are sadly big slackers. (It takes a big thing — boredom, bias, etc.– to make me watch a drama.) This year, I did manage to watch some pretty amazing dramas, and a lackluster one — Doctor Stranger — that lead to watching actually good 2012/2013 dramas — School 2013 and I Hear Your Voice. First, there was Emergency Couple. Not even Clara could downgrade how great the drama was. The cast chemistry and cute story arch makes it a must watch if you need something funny to watch. Following that, Hotel King and Triangle gave you the tense, passionate thrills. Even though they were long, the plot was engaging and you really had no idea where things would head.

its okay thats loveWe also saw some older heartthrobs light up the small screen in great dramas. It’s Ok, It’s Love, which starred the delicious Jo In-sung, made a big impression on us. From the impressive plot, characters, and well-thought out portrayal of mental illness, the drama was superb.  (There are not a lot of dramas that I like, but that one was as close to perfect as can be.) Fated to Love You also saw the return of Jang Hyuk and Jang NaRa, together once again on the small screen. Their comedic chemistry is undeniable, and the whole cast added to the emotional journey of fate and love.

Misaeng. That’s all that needs to be said. (I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s amazing.)(Have yet to watch it, but it’s on my list)

 Sungmin’s Marriage

On a personal level, there is no overwhelming interest in the marriage. We’re not Sungmin (or Super Junior) fangirls. However, this is pretty HUGE in the K-pop world. You have an active idol — as in they just released new music a few months prior — tying the knot. A guy doing it no less. Fangirls are freaking rabid, and yet, he was brave enough to go through with it. The fact he even beat Shinhwa down the aisle makes it better. Second generation idols (Sunye of Wonder Girls married in 2013 and has a child) are beginning to defy the general practices of K-pop; which is great.

(I don’t care eh eh eh eh~)

The Bad

Tragedy

There was a lot of mourning in SK this past year, and not only in the entertainment industry. The sinking of the Sewol ferry was both terrifying and tragic; so many young souls lost that could have been spared had the owners behaved in an ethical, smart, and moral manner. [(disgusting pieces of sh**) the owner and co not bought a (dying) ferry and trafficked to make it legal and seem okay for usage (money hungry idiots). I am still disgusted that this has happened at all.]

ladiescodeAnother shock was the car crash that ended two young girls’ lives, EunB and Rise, and traumatized the rest of the girls in Ladies’ Code. The fact that this could all have been avoided, had the manager not been driving like a madman and had the girls not had a schedule so packed that the rushed driving had been a necessity, makes it even more heartbreaking. This tragedy shows one of the biggest flaws in the K-pop industry, one that is need of revision. Time might be money to some, but not to the extent of losing lives. Nothing is worth that much.

Additionally, two old school artists died tragically.

Joanne’s death was a surprise to everybody. Over Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, she lost her life in a horrible car crash. (I admit, I do not know much about the incident, only that something seems suspicious and that her death is being investigated.) Shin Hae-chul also died, shockingly, from medical complications (re: likely malpractice).

Our thoughts are with all of the families that have lost so much this year.

Music Overall

This year has been pretty disappointing when it comes to music. Groups just didn’t deliver what we were expecting, despite impressive sales. (Yes, I’m talking about EXO. “Overdose” sucked. I don’t care what anyone says. Sales = popularity not quality.) Many had relatively stale music that took no risks and sounded like every other pop song out there.  And many groups that could have brought some great music didn’t release anything. Overall, it was a down year.

Contract Drama

Aaah real life drama. What is there to say, besides that SM Entertainment needs a huge revamp regarding their CEO and the idiots that run the company? We’ve already discussed their mess, so we won’t do it again here, except to add that Luhan has jumped ship as well. Something is seriously wrong at SME.

Then, there was ZE:A vs. StarEmpire Entertainment, which has died down to almost nothing (the power of money…). Megan Lee has since joined the world of contract disputes. She is seeking nullification of her contract with Soul Shop Entertainment, citing bad behavior by Kim Tae-woo’s wife and mother-in-law and unilateral career choices without Megan’s interests being considered.bap

The most shocking (and personally horrifying) drama is B.A.P’s seeking to leave TS Entertainment.  In November, the group filed suit, as a whole, to terminate their contract with the label. According to them, TSENT has lied about the financial status of the group (essentially keeping their hard-earned money), threatened monetary penalties for missing events for whatever reason (including being in the hospital), ignoring the health of the group, and keeping them from their families. Also, there’s the issue of the contract length. While 7 years is normal, the contract effectively goes further that that because it started on debut and doesn’t include their military service years. TSENT fought back saying that they’ve done nothing wrong and that the group is being controlled by a third party (where have we heard that before?). The agency continues to drag their feet as if nothing has happened. It’s a shameful situation.  (TSENT was honestly my favourite company until sh*t hit the fan. The fact that they hold my [neck to neck with 2NE1]  favourite girl group as well as my favourite male group made things even more sour. We all know SK does not see anybody of the female sex equally, nor do they get treated as such. It makes my heart hurt thinking about both groups and how they’ve been used. I can only hope that Secret gets out as well and that the girls of Sonamoo get out early.) BAP, fighting!

The WTH

Clara

Why is this girl even famous? There’s a phrase: “It’s better to be great at one thing, than mediocre at many things.” Clara should heed this advice, because she’s great at absolutely nothing. Her acting is complacent and one-dimensional, and her music sucks. Her only asset is…well, her “assets.” And even those are better on other people. She needs to go away and improve. The fact her agency, Polaris, may actually be suing her is pretty amusing as well. Her 15 minutes are up. (I have nothing to say about her…? Or nothing good, at the very least, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.)

Crimes

There have been various drug-related issues popping up in K-pop this year, but we won’t get into such things. The most shocking news came in the form of blackmail and domestic violence.

daheeFirst, GLAM’s Dahee and model Lee Ji-yeon were charged with blackmailing superstar actor, Lee Byung-hun. In exchange for money, the duo promised not to release a video recording that would threaten the actor’s career and marriage. He had reportedly befriended the two women and spent time alone with them. There were allegations of infidelity, and although some aren’t completely believing it, there’s still suspicion. Lee may have avoided the blackmail, but people still are regarding him as being, at the very least, sleazy and a horrible husband. At most, he’s seen as a grade A douchebag who disrespected his wife and may have cheated.

Second, idol-actor Kim Hyun-joong had domestic abuse assault charges filed on him from an ex-girlfriend. The evidence was damning to say the least (pictures, medical reports, texts). However, even though Kim admitted to hitting his girlfriend once, he denied all other incidences. Following an apology from Kim, there was no indictment or further prosecution. (To think think I used to like this guy. Now, he’s a waste of air.)

The truly horrifying aspect of these two situations is the penalty. The blackmailers are facing serious jail time (years). Meanwhile, the admitted abuser is walking free and even releasing new music in Japan. The audacity (and screwed up justice system) is astounding.

Netizens

Let’s face it, netizens are one of the biggest pitfalls and evils of Hallyu. They are all great when they are showing unbiased support and love. But eventually, the darkness comes out and they turn on you. When they aren’t bullying and spreading rumors about people, they mindlessly support their bias when all evidence points to the bias being a dick (see Kim Hyun-joong). They have been particularly annoying this year and are such a disappointment. (They need to eff off, the end.)

They need to realize that those celebrities they hold so high -or low- are only human; some are good and some are pieces of crap. Instead of blindly following a person, they should try and see if they are first worthy of their attention. (and maybe chill with the stalking. Humans, remember?)

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There you have it folks: our 2014 review. 2014 is a year we’re more than glad to see end. Here’s hoping 2015 is sooooo much better.

Sources

YouTube: Official Fantagio, CJENMusic GH Entertainment, Official JJCC; Winning InSight Entertainment, JK Space Entertainment, KT Music, Sony Music Korea, MAMAMOO, Purfles, Brand New Music, 1theK

Images: Fantagio, YNB Entertainment, GH Entertainment, Jackie Chan Group Korea, Winning InSight Entertainment, JK Space Entertainment, NOW Entertainment,YMC Entertainment, Crescendo Music, Brand New Music, GF Entertainment, YG Entertainment, SBS, Polaris Entertainment, TS Entertainment, BigHit Entertainment

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