A Look Back on Five Years of #1s

One of the reasons why I continue to run year-end lists is to document not only what happened over the course of the year, but also to document my personal tastes, and the growth of my writing. Looking through past #1s, and even past countdowns as a whole, was like looking through summaries of each stage of my progress as a blogger -- my choices, and the reasons I gave, say so much more than just why they were my #1 songs of the year. Putting this post together was an experience in itself.

While this year's Top 50 countdown was a chance to remind myself of why I write, this post itself is a remembrance of why I continue to write. I still have such a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I've been writing for five years, that I really have achieved as much as I have. Just with year-end lists alone, in the span of just five Decembers alone, around 150 days give or take, I have written about over 300 songs. That's insane! Which is why looking back at what I've done served as that little push I needed earlier this month to reinforce that I'm not going to stop writing, because this is truly what I love doing.

(click on the album covers to go to the original reviews ^_^)

The only non-Kpop #1, Jordan Pruitt topped my very first year-end countdown. Looking back on it now there were so many other great songs from 2008 that I would name my favorite song that year, but I understand my choice because it reflected a lot of views I now see as my foundations. I started blogging to write about music I liked, to be able to justify and analyze exactly why I thought certain ways towards songs, and that remains the starting point of all my reviews. "Unconditional" was a song that I really, really, enjoyed, and it's a song that I had forgotten how much I liked until I listened to it again to write this. My taste in music has grown exponentially since 2008 (my shift to K-Pop is the most obvious), but what has remained constant is my love for beautiful, timeless melodies -- "Unconditional" is just that. It's a beautifully-sung, timeless melody that has not lost its touch even after five years.

2009 was a really messy year for me because I was in between Western pop and Kpop -- it showed in the way I ran my year-end countdown, and it showed in my rather haphazard choice of a #1 song. Like 2008's #1 I would choose otherwise if I were to re-do the countdown, but I understand my choice. This was the year I was trying to get a hold of what exactly I liked in K-Pop, I was trying to develop a taste more specific than just "K-Pop" (because that's too broad to be a legitimate taste), and my default action was to look for something familiar. Something that sounded like the Western pop I liked. That came from the Hwanhee's "심장을 놓쳐서" -- the synth lines, the string section, the groove it had. I still think it's a great song, in fact I still listen to it every now and then, but I also think SNSD's "Genie", Super Junior's "It's You" and After School's "Because Of You" should have been stiffer competition than they were, because now I see those three as Kpop staples.

My choice for 2010 was, first and foremost, a matter of personal taste. It was probably more of a matter of personal taste that the other K-Pop #1s, but I definitely don't regret choosing JYJ's "Long Way". I still think the same way about the song, that it is an effortlessly gripping song that I still enjoy up to this day. Would I have chosen a different song from the Top 50? No. As good as some of the other songs were, like After School's "Bang!" (which in hindsight I would have ranked higher), this is a choice I stand by. Maybe in another five years I'll think differently (maybe), but for now I think this was a deserving #1.

I regret my 2011 choice even less. My opinion on DBSK's "Back To Tomorrow" is equal parts personal taste and "objective" musical reasoning -- the balance that I like to maintain as much as possible, even until now. Because as I have learned over the past few years, reviews are all a matter of personal taste, and finding ways to articulate that personal taste. "Back To Tomorrow" is the #1 that best-embodies that I think. I talk for days about how I feel when I listen to it and how beautiful I think it is, but I can also talk about things like the contrast between the strong, lumbering, constant, bass line and the playful, sharp synth line that make the chorus that much more beautiful. I can talk about how unafraid the song is of charging straight into an explosion like the ones at the choruses, and how equally unafraid it is of quieting down right after. I can talk about how the melody is effortlessly sung, and how that effortlessness is what contributes to the epic nature of the song. So despite all the great songs that came out in 2011, I wouldn't choose differently.

I chose "The Chaser" for a reason last year and after seeing what Infinite had to offer this year, I definitely wouldn't choose otherwise either. While I couldn't have predicted that they'd hit #1, early on I knew Infinite would rank high on my future best-of lists, as they did -- they went from #37 in their debut year, to #4 in 2011. And of course, #1 last year, which I think was the right timing, both because of the song itself and because of what they've released after it. "The Chaser" was Infinite's musical peak (the EP it came from not so much, but I take it as an individual track) in terms of production quality, identity, and execution. Like I said in my review of this last year, it's a very, very, very good pop song. And what I wanted to prove the most last year is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a pop song. That it is not "inferior," because it is still music. And because of that it has no excuse not to be a good song. "The Chaser" is proof of that.

What's next? You'll find out soon enough -- tomorrow I start counting down this year's Top 10 songs. One entry a day until New Year's Eve, when I reveal my SIXTH #1 song!

If you follow me on Twitter @noxrivera, please also follow @popreviewsnow -- all updates on the blog, especially this countdown, will go there from now on! ^_^ (But personal opinions and general fangirling will still be on @noxrivera)


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