[#1] Infinite - "The Chaser"

Format: EP
Released: May
Territory: South Korea
Previous Best of Appearances : #37 -"She's Back" (2010) / #4 -"Nothing's Over" (2011)

Infinite's success story is one I'm more than thrilled to have witnessed from the very beginning, and actually one of my most successful "calls" (or predictions). I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I was on the Infinite bandwagon ever since I heard "Come Back To Me" for the very first time two years ago, back when everyone was unsure of them. But I realize that calling them the second Beast simply doesn't so justice to everything they've achieved.

They've come a long way in terms of both success and musical identity, but they had one, very important trait since the very beginning -- good material. Good material opens so many doors for an act that I'm probably going to spend the next two or three paragraphs talking about everything it affected, and all the doors it opened. Woolim has always done phenomenal A&R for Infinite, and has always made the right decisions for singles and re-releases -- they kept it coming, yes, but they also kept raising the bar in the process. Infinite started out with material a cut above the rest of their fellow rookies and now that as permanent fixtures in K-Pop, they carry on with material that's a cut above everyone else.

So if all an act needs to succeed is consistently good material, what makes Infinite better? It's one thing to get good songs, but it's a completely different story when those songs actually fit the act in question, and even bring out strengths. When those songs put together tell a story, and actually make sense in the process. Now whether this is Sweetune or Woolim's making, the bottom line is that someone got things right, and now Infinite are basking in well-deserved glory because of it. These amazing songs have become synonymous not only with being, well, amazing songs, but also with the fact that it's very hard to imagine them done any other way. People can try, but the original version is always one step above.

That, my friends, is identity.

And it's also for that reason that "The Chaser" is this year's #1 song -- it is everything this list aims to put forward, and everything that I, as a critic, want from a song. Infinite's musical success is made up of two elements of equal weight -- outstanding material, and confident delivery. Those two are also the main elements I look for in a song.

"The Chaser" as a song is really, really good. It's in your standard song structure of verse-chorus, etc. and it has your standard hook, but the way these ver put forward with such brevity, such mastery, is really something else. Every single element on this song, from the millions of synths running around, to the bass line that you kind of lose track of hearing, but not of feeling, was delivered spot-on. It's the epitome of a pop song -- clean, controlled and organized, not a hair out of place.

What made me like it even more is the fact that they took that control, that clean, and they played around with it. Because really, what's music without some fun? The people listening are supposed to enjoy it, but they can't do that unless the people making it enjoy it first. I hear that in "The Chaser", and I hear it in every, single detail. Effortless, but fun, but still pop.

That's ultimately what "The Chaser" is -- a very, very, very good pop song. The best I've heard this year, in fact. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. And the suspense is over! lol, seriously I was at the edge of my seat saying "When she going to release #1?!?!"

    I honestly did not see this coming...I thought it was going to be K.will or John Park for some reason. I was even placing my bets on a Lena Park song since, in my opinion, these three released some gorgeous, gorgeous songs this year.

    "The Chaser" is a great song! It was one my favourites, but it ended up like #25 on my list ^_^. Either way, awesome list and have a happy new year! May 2013 bring you great stuff.

  2. Dear Nikki,

    I have followed your Top 50 list since 2010 and they've always been enjoyable reads, I love music and reading other people's "best" or "favorite" lists is a great way to get a different perspective on music.

    I've been a fan of Infinite's music and while I'm happy that you've chosen to acknowledge them with your #1 song this year, I can't help but feel like this year's top 50 is getting a little stale. There's simply way too much focus on Kpop "idol" music. Everything on your top 50 is music released by an idol, an idol group, a member of an idol group, or a collaboration between idols (except Younha, who I would never classify as an idol). There's not a single song here I haven't already heard many many times and I'm a just little disappointed that I wasn't able to discover anything new like I was able to from your Top 50 lists in years past.

    I get that you're a "pop" music fan at the core, but why do I get the feeling that you're just nervous about touching other genres (hip-hop for example) or even venturing out to lesser known and independent acts. I know you haven't been exposed to rap as a kid for example, but you're still young, too young to be locking yourself into certain genres and out of other genres. There's so much more to Korean music than typical idol music we see day in and day out. And the ironic thing is, you've openly professed your dislike for idol culture and how that's becoming Kpop's own undoing. You're too good a writer and too knowledgeable about music to be missing out on all the great music by non-mainstream acts.

    You keep talking about identity, and how creating and carrying that identity is as important as putting out real good music, but idol group identity is practically "manufactured" by record labels and A&R, I highly doubt any of the Infinite boys had enough creative input to lead to where they are today. For that alone Younha should be recognized ahead of them, or even Ailee. Then what about Psy, a true artist who spent his entire career crafting his own identity, mostly by himself, and never wavered, never betrayed who he is, to finally hit it big with Gangnam Style. Knowing you, that song is probably the spawn of satan, and I'm not saying it should be a #1 song, or top 10 or even top 20 or 30 song, but not even an ounce of recognition for an artist that's been doing it right for years and gained something no other Kpop act will EVER achieve?

    Let's forget Psy for now. How about even someone like K.Will? Who quietly put out an amazing album that went unnoticed by everyone under the sun? Or Nell? Urban Zakapa? Leessang? Busker Busker? I'm not even going to test you with godly releases by Primary and Clazzi, because the list of true artists that released music that craps all over mainstream idol music is endless.

    I have absolutely nothing against Infinite and none of this is directed at them or your choice, I've been wanting to comment as you were counting down because I'm seeing a worrisome trend. Is this really about "good music period" or just "good music from acts you know/like/respect and people who look good and can perform well on stage"? I'm certainly getting the impression it's the latter. That's fine if that's what you intend this list to be. I have no right to tell you what to do nor will you let anyone tell you what to do. This is not a critique against you, because I really appreciate the time and effort you put in every year to do this, but just food for thought. It'd be nice if you would be willing to expand your range and next year we can see some non-mainstream acts on your list getting recognition for truly good music and not for popularity or mainstream accessibility.

    1. Hi Rage(X?). That's a really interesting observation, and thank you for wording it so well. ;D I get where you're coming from, and I did like the K. Will lead single and the Busker Busker one (the one that was all over the place, at least) throughout the year, but like you said my thrust is different. I guess it's always been different. People like Busker Busker and maybe even K. Will on certain occasions, despite the fact that they're treated as pop acts, are also treated with a sense of superiority to idols. You said so yourself, and even I can't help thinking that way sometimes too. Not to discount the fact that they *are* most often better, and it goes without saying that they're talented. But the thrust of my writing, has always been to make people see that you *can* take songs like "The Chaser" or songs by other idols seriously. That doesn't mean they're always better, but that being critical doesn't just have to be for "serious" music. Because even if Infinite had little to absolutely no hand in their musical identity and their A&R, *someone* did (Sweetune, Woolim, whoever), and I want people to know that *someone* is in fact serious about this music they take for granted. Because more than anything, I've seen firsthand the amazing things that can happen when people take the pop-y-est of pop seriously, and I want to see those things again.

      I hope that clears things up for you, and I'll also keep your comments in mind for the coming year, since I have no idea what I'm going to do and I'm just counting on other people to give me input. ;D

  3. I can't believe you missed f(x)'x Beautiful Stranger and 2ne1's I Love You among others throughout the cycle of best songs, but anyway, The Chaser is a good. It has musicality, recall factor and the best production. I fear it might begin though Inifinite's "formulaic" songs since their breakout song "Be Mine" and "Paradise".

    1. She did do Beautiful Stranger early on. Listed as #48 or something like that.

  4. I am so glad Infinite is first on your list at least, because Woolim has done phenomenal things with them and it's nice to see them take the spotlight occasionally, instead of groups like SNSD, Big Bang etc.

    Also, I can't help but agree with "RageX" a few comments up. I'm a huge fan of mainstream pop music, which is why I found your blog in the first place, but have been following k-ballad singers for a while and find it really sad that many phenomenal singers who would blow these idols out of the water (in countless different ways) are so much more unnoticed. I appreciate what you're doing in writing about pop music in a more serious way, thinking about the music, performance, package and delivery. But would still love to see non-idol singers featured more often for a little contrast and perspective. Great job with this blog anyway!


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