The 50 Best Songs of 2012: Introduction and Rules

If there’s one promise that I never, ever, fail to make, it’s that once December comes, Pop Reviews Now is back in full swing. Regardless of whatever I have going for me in the “real world”, no matter how much school work I have piled on me, December is best of month, and nothing can ever change that. Which is why it’s time again to show you guys the fifty songs that made my year worthwhile. For the fifth time!

Best of month has come a long way, from just giving you guys a run-down of the songs I liked, to categorizing them by month, and finally to the format majority of my readers are familiar with. For those who are new to best of month, basically December is catching-up month -- all the songs, acts and releases that I liked but didn’t have the chance to talk about, or even the ones I did talk about, I’ll talk about them now. Posts will be daily, and sometimes I’ll even have as many as three or four posts out in a day.

But more than a promise or a legacy, this year's list is particularly special to me because of the things I went through while trying to get this point. I think my absence for most of November has explained part of it, but really, the road to publishing this post alone was long and full of stress, drama, and my own fears and insecurities. My coursework this semester is no joke, I'm taking subjects like double Japanese, classical critical theory, contemporary criticism -- you get the point. I was studying on the first day of classes, and I've been under constant stress to read difficult texts and do taxing schoolwork. When I wasn't studying I was dead from all the studying I'd already done -- finding time to fix this list, rank and schedule everything, was the first, and biggest, challenge.

I also had no drive to write over the past few weeks. No matter how hard I'd try, nothing decent would come out. Add in a host of people telling me off and saying, one way or another, that I'm inferior and that I don't matter, and you have a discouraged me. What I find amusing though is that the source of my recent stress actually clarified a lot of things for me. I expected my criticism classes to be cut and dry -- for my professor to tell me that there's only one way to do this and another to do that, and I expected the readings to be a lot like the people who criticize my writing. I expected wrong.

Different ways of looking at an art work are just as appropriate, just as valuable, as each other. Despite what a lot of people think of me and my writing, my criticisms are valid, and they matter. And probably the biggest thing to come out of all this was my realization that saying that doesn't make me arrogant, it only means that I'm not ashamed of my opinions. I'm not ashamed of what I think, because I have no reason to be. It's about time I stop regretting my opinions the moment I publish them.

You might see a change in the way I write and approach the songs on this year's list, and these changes will remain for long after I publish the review for my favorite song of the year. That's because after four years of wandering, trying looking for a framework for my reviews as a whole -- I've finally found it.

Going back to the actual list, I had a really hard time trimming the list down to fifty this year, because of the sheer number of releases. There were artists who I wanted to put on the list because I liked them, but in the end didn't make the cut because they paled in comparison to the songs on this year's list. But there were also a lot of ties in terms of song quality, and even more instances where artists had a whole army of noteworthy songs out this year that I spent days trying to debate over which one to include. There are even some pretty big names in K-Pop, and some "regulars" on my previous best of lists, who are no-shows this year, which even I was surprised over.

Before we get to the songs themselves, I need to set some basic rules for eligibility. There are so many kinds of songs, so many releases, so many projects, and working with fifty songs is no joke, as some of you may know. These rules were made to make things easier, as well as answer questions like “why wasn’t this song included?” or “why does this artist get more than one song?”


1. All songs must be on an album, single, EP (mini-album in Korean terms) or digital single first released and promoted between January 1, 2012 and November 29, 2012.

  • Foreign re-releases of songs originally released prior to 2012 are eligible, as long as the original version was officially released before January 1, 2012. For example, The Wonder Girls’ “Nobody” was originally released in Korea back in 2008, but a new Japanese version was released this year -- the Japanese version is eligible. However if, for example, I choose to put in the Korean version of After School’s “Rip Off”, the Japanese version is no longer eligible (and vice versa) because both songs were released in the same year.
  • If a previously-released album was given a re-release in 2012, only the singles released for and after the re-release PLUS the added tracks are be eligible. Tracks that were on the previous album released before 2012 will be disqualified.

2. The songs must have been performed by a Korean artist regardless of the territory they were released in, whether Korea, Japan, or the US. For example, DBSK/HoMin’s “ANDROID” was written by a team of European producers, with lyrics by a Japanese, and released in Japan, however Yunho and Changmin are Korean, therefore “ANDROID” is eligible.

3. Each artist is entitled to one unique entry wherein he/she/they is/are credited as the main (and not the ‘featuring’) act, per territory, country, and/or language. The purpose of this rule is to show the variety in the music released this year, and prevent certain acts from fully monopolizing the list. For example, The Wonder Girls had Japanese, Korean and English releases this year - the list allows one song per language/country.

  • For duets: for example, Jokwon’s "Heaven”, which features GLAM’s Miso, counts as solo work for Jokwon because he is credited as the main artist on the track. Therefore, no other songs from Jokwon’s “I’m Da One” are eligible if “Heaven” is included. However, any further solo work from GLAM’s Miso is still eligible, so long as it follows all the other rules (ie, she is the sole artist).
  • Songs featuring solo artists, or songs in which they are given second billing, are eligible, and will be counted as separate from all other material the said solo artist released over the span of the year. For example, Jay Park is featured on Younha’s “Driver”, so if that song is included, his other solo work, such as tracks from “New Breed”, are still eligible.
  • For idol group members, drama and movie sound tracks are counted as regular songs, with all other rules applying. For solo acts, if the song is done as a solo act, it counts as his/her one eligible entry. However if it is done as a duet or in a group, the first rule applies. For example, Ailee, SISTAR’s Hyorin, T-Ara’s Jiyeon released “Super Star” for Dream High 2 -- the song counts as Hyorin and Jiyeon’s solo work outside of their respective groups, and it is also Ailee’s other entry, songs from her EP “Invitation” are still eligible.
  • Company/label-wide songs, such as those from/commissioned by SMTOWN, YG Family, JYP Nation, etc., are counted as separate entries, as long as the artist officially credited is the entire agency/label and not individual artists, or all acts under the agency participate -- actors, models, etc included. For example, SMTOWN’s “Dear My Family”, the theme song of “I AM”, which features Yunho, Changmin, Yesung, Jonghyun, Taeyeon, Luna, Luhan, Chen, D.O., BoA and Kangta, is eligible over and above all other entries from DBSK, Super Junior, SNSD, EXO (K and M), BoA and Kangta already on the list.
  • Solo and sub-group work by (an) artist(s) in a group are eligible. They will be counted as separate acts from their group of origin, but only one song from each division is eligible. For example, SNSD’s TaeTiSeo released “Twinkle” this year, Taeyeon alone recorded “Missing You Like Crazy” for MBC’s “The King 2 Hearts”, and SNSD proper released “Paparazzi” in Japan -- all three songs are eligible. Also, EXO-K and EXO-M are counted as two separate groups because M and K are made up of different members -- their entire debut EPs are both eligible.

4. Remixes, demos, and other versions of a song are not eligible, regardless of whether or not they follow all of the other rules. Therefore, tracks like “ANDROID -modest gothic remix-”, or “To You (Slow B. Ver.)” are not eligible, however the original versions of “ANDROID” and “To You” are.

5. Live performances are eligible only if they are featured on an album officially released by the record label or can be bought via iTunes, Melon, and/or other digital music stores.

But aside from all the technical rules, I thought of clearing up some musical things this year as well. In the past, a lot of people have questioned not only the presence or absence, but also the rankings, of a lot of songs I've featured so I thought it would be a good idea to explain how I choose from the songs that are already eligible.

First off, I obviously have to like the song. Usually by the time I have to start ranking and cutting-off the list, there are around 100 or more eligible songs that I personally like, for a number of reasons. But the problem is that most of the time, I like half of those songs just because I like listening to them, and not necessarily because they're good songs. Yes, this list is still a list of my favorite songs, but a fraction of what makes these songs my favorite is the fact that they're also good songs to begin with, and that I can justify that.

Most of the songs this year are on the list because the songs themselves are good -- good arrangements, good melodies, and the list goes on. Some of the songs are on the list because even if they're not outstanding songs, the way they were delivered (on the recording) was outstanding. But at the same time, some songs are not on the list if they're just rehashes of the same artists' previous releases -- if they're too boring to be salvaged by the fact that the song is good, they're not on the list.

As we go higher and higher, and I guess by the top ten or fifteen, the songs start being both -- outstanding songs delivered just as spectacularly. But that's not to say that the bottom songs aren't good, because they are. Which is why we start tomorrow with songs #50 and #49!


  1. Looking forward to the list. This year has been a great one for kpop!


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