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These 20 K-Pop songs represent a fantastic array of veteran artists, popular idols, ballad crooners and talented rookies.

10. "Beautiful Night" - Beast

The charismatic boys of Beast returned after over a year to the scene with "Beautiful Night" -- a track that mixed dazzling synthesizers, the boys' powerful delivery, and an accessible dance production to really make you want to party throughout any "beautiful night."

9. "Cherry Blossom Ending" - Busker Busker 

Busker Busker brought something new and sweet this year with their smash debut hit. The indie band proved it was a sound to be heard above the din with its concoction of Beom-June Jang's charismatic vocals atop simple melodies.

 

8. "Gangnam Style" - PSY 

The inescapable track that brought K-pop to the masses, “Gangnam Style” stands out not only for its slick, electronic production but also for its deeper critique on high-class society. Next time you’re doing the horse dance take a closer look at the lyrics.

 

7. "Only One" - BoA 

K-pop queen BoA made her long-awaited comeback this year with the catchy mid-tempo “Only One.” Along with fellow K-diva Son Dam Bi, BoA reminded us why she was such a superstar in the first place in a track that showed off her sugary vocals and a music video for her impressive dance skills.

 

6. "Flashback" - After School 

The lyrics of After School’s comeback track tell of missing a past love and wanting to “Flashback” to be with them. But the industrial, dance track also appears to be a nod to After School’s original sexy concept when they debuted in a style similar to the Pussycat Dolls in 2009. Whatever the meaning, it worked and fans were wowed by their charismatic comeback.

 

5. "Bad Boy" - BIGBANG 

The boy band phenom had an extraordinary year with a slew of hits, including club-banger “Fantastic Baby,” melancholic jam “Blue,” and angst-ridden “Monster.” But the hip-hop/R&B mid-tempo “Bad Boy” outshined them all. The boys take turns showcasing their individual talents, as they emotionally croon, rap and sing about being a “bad” boyfriend over producer Choice 37’s head-bopping beat.

 

4. "I Love You" - 2NE1 

Their past discography features a slew of self-empowerment anthems, but 2NE1 delved into a completely new topic for their 2012 single; love. Each member sounds completely in her element in the atypically structured half-melancholy, half-euphoric track where the biggest moment doesn’t come until the very last section.

 

3. "Memory of the Wind" - Naul 

Naul, the 12-year R&B veteran, tugged the ears and hearts of music listeners with his soulful flute ballad.  “Memory Of The Wind” is comprised of heart-ripping yet hopeful lyrics that Naul takes to another level with his beautiful vocal performance. Naul’s work is affectionately known as “healing music” in Korea and definitely mended a few broken hearts this fall.

 

2. "Alone" - SISTAR 

2012 was a year of experimentation for SISTAR who always banked on the success of the high-energy cheerful dance tracks. “Alone” marked a true change of heart and sound in the slow disco groove single. The members presented their strong vocals alongside the vulnerable head voice to show a strong evolution to earn them their second K-Pop Hot 100 setting up the bubblegum pop track “Loving U” to be their third No. 1.

 

1. "The Chaser" - INFINITE 

INFINITE’s masterpiece single “The Chaser” takes listeners on a ride the second they start the track. With an introduction packed with forceful vocals, dynamic guitar licks, and dramatic violins, it almost sounds like the track will never find a true direction. But at just 50 seconds, the song evolves into a waterfall of 80s synthesizers (courtesy of super producer Sweetune) with the same vocal energy brought back to the explosive trumpet-driven chorus. The track puts INFINITE and Sweetune truly at the forefront of 2012 proving risk and innovation in K-pop can trump all.

 

Text by Jeff Benjamin and Jessica Oak.

20 "Catch Me" - TVXQ

TVXQ The K-Pop kings came back this year with a major electronic track. With a thumping bass and emotional piano backing, the duo paired their ethereal vocals with hulking roars and further proved why they have lasted in this industry for over a decade. WATCH THE VIDEO
 
19 "Love Dance" - The Koxx

While EDM acts like Calvin Harris and Kaskade saw bigtime crossover success this year, The Koxx could give them a run for their money with "Love Dance." The indie band got dance-y with sputtering synthesizers with the song's best moment coming when its chorus builds to a moment of rock euphoria.

 
18 "Touch" - miss A

The dark disco feel of miss A's "Touch" showed a true change of form from the foursome's previous cutesy single "Good-bye Baby." The track got about as sexy as miss A could legally get as member Suzy was still not an adult in Korea (the legal age is 19), but expect an even more mature evolution when she does turn 19 next year.

 
17 "One Of A Kind" - G-Dragon

With a knocking hip-hop beat that any of today's biggest rappers would kill for, the BIGBANG leader showed off his impressive knack for flow and lyrics with his EP's opening track. The track put his talent at the forefront in comparison to silliness seen in single "Crayon."

text by Jeff Benjamin and Jessica Oak

 

10 "Beautiful Night" - Beast

The charismatic boys of BEAST returned after over a year to the scene with "Beautiful Night" -- a track that mixed dazzling synthesizers, the boys' powerful delivery, and an accessible dance production.

 
9 "Cherry Blossom Ending" - Busker Busker

BUSKER BUSKERBusker Busker brought something new and sweet this year with their smash debut hit. The indie band proved it was a sound to be heard above the din with its concoction of Beom-June Jang's charismatic vocals atop simple melodies.

 

 
• Q&As: One Direction, 5 Interviews
• COVER STORY: One Direction
• OVERVIEW The Year in Pop
• YEAR-END ISSUE: Order It Here

• HUB: The Year In Music 2012
• 2012 CHARTS: Hot 100 Songs
• 2012 CHARTS: Billboard 200
• 2012 CHARTS: K-Pop Hot 100
 

2012: The Year In Music - Main Page