I have decided to finally create my own awards for my favourite genre of music – K-Pop. You might be thinking “Baron what are your credentials in music, specifically Korean pop music and why does your opinion hold weight?”
Anyways, I listened to more of this genre this year than any other year in the past, in fact I hardly listened to any Western pop music this year and just really only listened to K-Pop. I also opened my mind to new artists who I have not liked in the past. I also regret to inform you that your bias may not show up as I found that many big groups this year were quite disappointing in their music.
So how will I be evaluating these artists? First and foremost, it’s about whether they appeal to my senses the most. A group/an artist consistently creating great (not good) content that helps to give new definition to the genre itself is a huge plus. There are a lot of groups who are kind of stuck in the rut of creating well produced and performed music but nothing about their sound is unique or different. Clout plays a role too, but not a big one. Clout meaning that the artists come from a big label, have many music show wins, or have sold many albums. The reason why I think clout matters is because when the clout is just so strong, it can’t be ignored because it’s the type of clout that helps define the genre (like ranking first in Billboard, who could do that though?).
So consider this: album of the year can be, the album that impacted the world the most in terms of sales, or it could mean the album that I liked the most. How about both? I will also attach all the Spotify/YouTube links to these artists so you guys can quickly sift through their discography, Anyways let’s get on with the nominations.
Rookie of the Year
In all honesty, I almost skipped over this category entirely. The rookie groups this year weren’t very impressive. Well they were, all fourth generation groups are impressive. They’re almost all equally talented. After twenty to thirty years of K-Pop, these fourth generations groups have to be talented.
Most of these picks are definitely here because of clout too but in my opinion, one of these groups is better than the rest. For me, it’s not even close either. But I will listen to all their music more thoroughly to figure out just who exactly I think is most deserving of my coveted rookie of the year award.
ITZY – WANNABE
BTS – ON
TAEMIN – CRIMINAL
SEVENTEEN – HOME;RUN
Stray Kids – GOD’S MENU
This is a list of songs that I feel had great energy and choreography, beyond just the song being enjoyable. I’m looking for performances that made me get hype. I’m talking about elaborate choreography, elaborate sets, empowering anthems. I really do believe that this group of artists dominate the stage whenever they’re on too. I highly recommend you watch these performances in case you haven’t already. These artists have all helped to define the genre in 2020.
Male Solo Artist of the Year
This list was kind of hard because realistically, it’s a two person race and without having to mention which two it is, it should be pretty obvious. With that being said, the remaining three spots are justified in being there as well. They’re great artists that help define the genre and create not only good singles but good albums. All five of these men have done a great job with not only creating captivating singles and comebacks but as well as great B-sides. You should listen to all their albums, seriously.
Female Solo Artist of the Year
This is one of the most competitive categories. However, very few of these artists actually released albums this year. Just goes to show how good those singles and performances were! These women are great vocalists, performers, and definitely help define the genre. What’s more impressive is the history of these women in the industry. Sunmi and Taeyeon debuted originally in 2007! IU debuted a year later in 2008. Hwa Sa debuted in 2014 and Chung Ha debuted in 2016. These women have put in the freaking work to be at the top of the class. Stan these ladies.
Best Male Group of the Year
NCT, we’re only going by one of their many iterations. NCT with their ensemble cast of members have been nothing but consistent this year providing release after release. Also, their sale numbers are also pretty nuts. That being said, all of these groups have just been releasing so much music, even with the pandemic slowing down the world. At one point it felt like Stray Kids had a release once a month. Can we also just talk about TXT and how amazing their concepts are as a second year group. Seventeen and BTS remind me a lot of each other as well. They enjoy trying new sounds within the genre and are incredible at dance, vocals, rap, and production. All groups are deserving of awards but only one is MY best male group of the year.
Best Female Group of the Year
I’m sure you’re looking at this list and you’re seeing one huge group being left out. I don’t care. This is by far one of the weakest years for female K-Pop groups. I had a really hard time differentiating certain groups because of how cookie cutter everything sounded. And there were other groups who tried to do something new and instead just flopped. These five groups though, were pretty consistent throughout title tracks and albums. As you can see four out of five of these groups do girl crush really well. BlackPink’s one and only comeback did not miss this year. Itzy proved that their rookie year was not a fluke. Mamamoo kept belting out those vocals. GFriend produced one of the best albums of the year. And Everglow made what I consider anime music and it made me feel hype. These girl groups killed it this year.
Album of the Year
I stand by these albums as great albums. Front to back, good albums that sound great and have done well in sales as well. We don’t have to talk about BTS because we’re all already aware but both of Seventeen’s (mini) albums have sold over one million copies each. Baekhyun sold over one million units as a SOLO ARTIST. Taemin’s haunting vocals charm his listeners like a siren beckoning to sailors. Taemin is the Michael Jackson of K-Pop, he’s simply the top echelon of K-Pop. Walpurgis Night is in my opinion, the best girl group album this year and maybe the best girl group album last year too if it were released in 2019. It has a great combination of dance songs, generic girl group songs, and slow jams that can really round out anyone’s night. Realistically, they are all winners and deserve to be listened to.
Song of the Year
These were the five songs that I thought stuck out above the rest this year. These artists flexed their range and talent on these songs. You know what I hear when I listen to these songs? I hear energy, I hear emotions, I hear producers that know what they’re doing to bring out the best of these vocalists. I hear something that was tuned to sound amazing. When I hear Dynamite, I hear dancing and a good time. When I hear Eight, I hear a young person missing her friends but still hoping for the best. From Maria, I hear a song of strength and resistance. With Idea – I hear this generation’s greatest solo performer. And with God’s Menu – I hear DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO.
Artist of the Year
TOMORROW X TOGETHER
I am aware that this list is dominated by men and is almost only between two labels. I know this. But girl groups this year were disappointing. And the options for best female artists were also abysmal considering the quality of work, compared to the quantity of work. Baekhyun only released one album but it was an amazing album, he also worked as the leader of the Avengers of K-Pop. None of the top female artists even released a full album this year. Although GFriend’s Walpurgis Night is an amazing album, I just don’t think the quantity of work was there compared to these groups. We’re also talking about PERFORMANCE, which is something that these acts absolutely serve in.
Listen, if we’re talking about quality of work, performance, consistency over time, quantity of work – this is it. There’s no better in my opinion. I can understand taking out one of these groups out for another big boy group but that’s it. I really don’t think that you can find many other K-Pop artists doing it at a level like these guys are. What other group sold better numbers than Seventeen this year? No one but BTS (and NCT but I wouldn’t consider their albums as consistent as TXT’s or Seventeen’s). No solo artist outsold Baekhyun. Taemin is Taemin. TXT is creating art and have such a unique sound that is almost impossible to be replicated (unless you’re Enhypen). This is the best of 2020 in my opinion.
Comeback boxing day 2020 for the results!