Happy New Year! Yes, it’s now 2015. The first few days into the new year. A time for renewal, reflection…and rewinding that 2014 K-Pop playlist!
I had a load of favorite songs last year–singles and non-singles alike. Despite the crazy, heart-breaking, scandal-filled year, there was some fantastic music! So much so, I felt compelled to create a countdown of my top 20 favorite singles of 2014 by male artists.
It was hard to choose, but I think I was able to narrow it down. Some of these songs may not have been the most popular, or even performed by the most popular artists, but they are the songs I kept going back to during the year. These are singles I listened to on repeat. Songs I can still listen to today and think “Wow, that’s a tune!”
So, without further ado:
20. Rain – 30 Sexy
After two years of serving mandatory military service, Rain released his long-awaited comeback. On January 1st, no less. What a way to start 2014! This song was everything I wanted it to be. Mature, sexy, and so very danceable. And that falsetto was magic, but Rain’s regular tone sent me into the atmosphere, amongst the other happy, fluffy clouds.
19. HALO – Fever
2014 was the year of the rookie for me. And, for the most part, they didn’t disappoint. HALO has become one of my favorite rookies of the year. And this song began the love for me. Nothing like a good old-fashioned, ’90s-throwback boy band song to get me moving! The video is typical boy band fare too, complete with finger points, eye gazes, and lip rubs. Ahh, boy bands. You just gotta love them.
18. LEGEND – Left Out
Another rookie group I fell for on first listen. LEGEND is a boy band with a more American boy band sound, which I found refreshing. And all the members remind me of members of other groups, which is probably another reason for my immediate love. I mean, who doesn’t want to fall in love with a maknae rapper who looks like a cross between EXO’s Chen and Tao?
17. LU:KUS – So Into You
And yet another rookie group! This song I loved because it brought back memories of Super Junior music when I loved Super Junior. This song just gets me up and dancing, and it immediately landed on my workout playlist right alongside “Bonamana.” There’s also a member who gives off MBLAQ’s Thunder vibes, which isn’t bad at all.
16. MBLAQ – Be A Man
Speaking of Thunder, this song would be one of his last as a member of MBLAQ. This amazing song was ridiculously overlooked last year. It was so much better than the lukewarm reception it received. I would venture to say it’s the best song MBLAQ ever released. It showed off G.O’s and Seungho’s crazy good vocals and allowed the group to continue its growth into a mature man band. Sadly, they’re a 3-piece group now, with Joon also gone, but this was a great song to end their 5-piece run.
15. C-Clown – Let’s Love
This song made me give attention to C-Clown. Actually, it grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to! As soon as I heard it, I was hooked! No exaggeration, this was on repeat for 2 solid months. The harmonies are brilliant, the rock/hip hop/pop hybrid speaks to me, and Rome in that video is just everything! And that darn, little maknae Maru better just stop. His amazing dancing makes me forget just how young he is.
14. WINNER – Empty
To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by this song the first few times I heard it. In fact, I really didn’t get the appeal and was puzzled that it won so many awards. But once the debut hype died down, I gave it another listen. And I ended up loving this song! This is one of my go-to songs when I’m stressed and need to unwind. Their vocals are lovely and Mino’s low-toned rapping melts me.
13. TEEN TOP – I’m Sorry
This song has Changjo to thank for me loving it so much. He makes the video. His dancing in that amazing suit makes my jaw drop, and the way he walks away at the end…aagh! I replay that endlessly. But the song itself is also fabulous! It’s got a retro R&B vibe, with smooth vocals and a chorus that just grooves. So many great ’90s-music memories spring to mind when I hear this song.
12. Block B – H.E.R.
I haven’t loved a Block B song this much since “Mental Breaker” in 2012. This song is insanely catchy, and you can’t help but want to jump around and do the point dance while you sing along. Or is that just me? This is my favorite type of Block B song because it’s so sunny and bright and gives me life. The dance practice video is even better than the official MV, because you can see the fantastically fun choreography…and they’re wearing onesies. Come on, animal onesies!
11. BTS – Just One Day
Bangtan Boys had a few releases this year, but I couldn’t put them all on this list or risk boring you, my poor readers. But really, so many great releases! “Boy in Luv” and “Danger” were amazing, but my favorite BTS song in the first half of 2014 absolutely has to be “Just One Day.” I loved the video, and the choreography was magical, but it was the lovely Suga rapping that sent me over the edge. His voice is mesmerizing, and Jungkook’s voice is so pretty. I still swoon when I hear this song.
10. HIGH4 (with IU) – Not Spring, Love or Cherry Blossoms
Now this is a debut song! Written by IU to be sung by her and HIGH4, this song is light and lovely and just the kind of song for a spring day. HIGH4 was introduced as an insanely charismatic group with lovely vocals and smooth rapping. And I couldn’t get enough. Their subsequent songs–“A Little Close” with Lim Kim and “Headache“–were stellar, but this song with IU is exactly the type of music I hope they do more of.
9. VIXX – Eternity
Excuse me while I fangirl. EEEEEEEEEP!!!!! Oh dear me, this comeback did me in. I was done with life after hearing this song. On first listen, it became one of my new favorite VIXX songs, right along the exceptional “On and On.” And the video, with the intricate concept-choreography that VIXX does best, just put the nail in my fangirl coffin. They killed it, and killed me in the process! And Ravi’s blue hair is just everything.
8. B.A.P – 1004 (Angel)
This song is so special to me. It helped me through some tough times in the early part of the year. Sitting in the hospital with my mother for weeks on end, my only solace was B.A.P and their outstanding full album. First Sensibility. This song was the single off that album, and I listened to it on repeat for weeks. The video destroyed me, especially Himchan’s acting, but the song will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s even more bittersweet now with all the legal issues B.A.P is facing. I wish those boys the very best, since they helped me more than they will ever know.
7. TEEN TOP – Missing
On first listen of this song, I fell in love. So different from anything Teen Top has previously released, Missing was their foray into a more mature sound. The vocals were unmistakably Teen Top, but the beat was smooth and gave off R&B vibes I hadn’t heard in other Teen Top songs. The best part about the song is how C.A.P seamlessly raps his way into the song, without the jarring “rap break” you hear in other K-pop slow jams.
6. Crush – Sofa
Oh. My. Gawd. Where has Crush been all my life? I don’t know if he’s called Crush because of the huge crush I have on him, or the fact that he crushes my heart into thousands of pieces with his voice. “Hug Me” was pure R&B gold, but “Sofa” just wouldn’t let me go. The groove is so intoxicating, the violins are so rich and lilting, and his voice is silky smooth. The words are heartbreaking and he sings with such passion and gut-wrenching emotion. Aagh, this song is just beautiful! And if you haven’t heard BTS’ golden maknae Jungkook’s version of this song, you must. You absolutely must.
5. INFINITE – Back
This is Infinite at their best. Not since “The Chaser” has an Infinite song thrilled me at first listen. It sounds like Infinite and then it doesn’t. Changing up their signature ’80s synth sound for a ’70s disco sound was the freshest thing they could have done. I love it more than their earlier release “Last Romeo”, which felt too serious, stuffy, and old-fashioned for them. Yes, Infinite does dramatic well, and I’d say better than any other group, but the horns in “Last Romeo” didn’t suit my Infinite expectations. But “Back” brought Infinite back to me. It made me fall in love with Infinite all over again. And the choreography does not disappoint. There is nothing better than seven gorgeous, synchronized men.
4. VIXX – Error
No! I’m still too fragile! Where “Eternity” killed me as a fangirl, “Error” destroyed me as a human being. I could not function after seeing the teaser, and could not form coherent phrases, or even human-sounding noises after I saw the full video. I cried more than I care to admit (I already admitted too much) seeing Hongbin as the lead actor, and the song itself just slays! The violins, the beat, the Ken! Aagh! And Hongbin’s robotic voice in his solo makes me lose my mind! VIXX is bad for my emotional health and mental well-being, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
3. GOT7 – Stop Stop It
Oh my word. I just can’t. GOT7 has such a strong hold on me, and they debuted less than a year ago! They’re still rookies! I loved “Girls Girls Girls” and “A” so much. I really wished I could put them on this list as well, but when I thought about it, “Stop Stop It” was the song that changed my life. I don’t know how they turned me into an even bigger fan with this song, but they did it. The ’90s feel, the retro vocoder chorus, the swag, the sexy groove. Everything about this song is perfection. JB’s vocals melt me, and his flirty, sexy dancing in the video solidifies his spot on my bias list. And with the dance practice video for this song, GOT7 has solidified their title as Kings of the Dance Practice Video. They have perfected the art, as well as perfected the art of wearing a white button-down shirt with black pants. They’ve never looked better.
2. EXO – Overdose
OMGeeeeee! A fangirl squee is about to occur! Aaaaaagh! Irrational love for this group! I have irrational, indescribable love for this group!! EXO does sexy, masculine, intricate choreo better than almost any group, and this song gave them so much to work with. I was awestruck when I first heard this song while streaming EXO’s showcase for their comeback release. And then I heard it in person–sung live by EXO-M at the Korea Times Music Festival in LA last May. I may have lost consciousness at some point. The song is such a tune! I heard it endlessly, along with the rest of the Overdose Mini Album, all summer long. Such great songs! “Overdose” does what “Growl” did in that it showcases the beautiful vocalists while giving the rappers their allotted time. But what it does better than “Growl” did is showcase Suho and Lay. I could actually distinguish their voices from the rest of the pack now! Suho has a gorgeous voice, by the way. I already knew that about Lay.
1. BTS – War of Hormone
So, really, how could I not make this song my number one? It was an immediate favorite when I first heard the Dark & Wild album, and I hoped more than anything that BTS would make it a single. To my surprise and utter happiness, they did just that! “War of Hormone” became the most played song on my iTunes for the entire year, and probably the most played music video EVER on my YouTube account. I literally could not stop watching this adorable video, and I still can’t. I smile throughout the entire video, swoon at all the right parts, and hit replay so I could do it all over again. Oh, Jimin and those red pants, Jungkook and his 18-year-old bravado, V and that lollipop. J-Hope and his “ladies first,” Jin and his beautiful lips, Suga and that sexy swagger, RapMon and that hair perfection. Sighhhhh. I will never get tired of this song, or the video. Thanks, BTS, for destroying my life.
What were some of your favorite songs of 2014? Do you agree with my list? Did I miss something? Let me know what you think in the comments below! And watch this space for the female edition, and a non-singles edition, coming soon. See you next time!