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Sweet Sixteen: Favorite Singles

This year was packed with great songs from across the K-pop spectrum. Groups like GFriend cemented their place as one of Korea’s new “it” girl groups, Ladies’ Code’s remaining members finally returned to the music scene, and a new class of rookies made their debuts. This list isn’t necessarily a summary of the most popular singles released this year (sorry, Twice fans), nor is it meant to slight groups or artists that had hallmark years in terms of musical and recognition-related growth (but I still like you, BTS). To put it simply, these are the singles I couldn’t stop replaying this year.

In chronological  order of release:

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2015 Debuts: Where Are They Now?

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K-pop may be undergoing a generational shift. Many groups that led the Korean Wave’s charge are disbanding, losing members to contract termination and military service, or just generally declining. As they start to fade, more and more groups are entering the idol scene seeking success, hoping to become the next Big Bang or Girls’ Generation. Last year’s series of debuts, both from the biggest companies and from smaller ones whose groups had the talent or attention despite fewer resources, heightened the sense of a shift. Let’s catch up with the ones who’ve made a big splash in the expanding idol pool, and a few that should have but aren’t quite there yet.

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Women in 2015 (Who Did It Better)

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I’ve already written a post sampling my favorite tracks released in 2015, but I want to dive deeper into something that made 2015 special: the quality of releases by female artists. A few big names, like Sistar, AOA, and even my usual perennial favorite Girls’ Generation, were disappointments. But on the whole, from the music to the visuals to the dances, 2015 was a year of leading women and women leading.

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Fourteen Favorites: Singles in 2014

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With the year coming to a close, it’s a good time to share some of my personal favorite singles released in 2014. If you know anything about my taste in groups, then many of these probably won’t surprise you. But if you aren’t familiar with my choice of artists, maybe this will give you some idea of the types of songs I prefer. Without further ado, here are fourteen singles I jammed to this year.

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Ten Favorites: SHINee

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Narrowing this list to ten songs was extremely difficult; that’s how good SHINee’s music is. With each album, they become more enjoyable to listen to as their skills continue to improve and their music becomes more ambitious. A self-proclaimed “contemporary group,” SHINee is the epitome of versatility, floating from early 2000s teen pop to R&B ballads to complextro (a cousin of dubstep) with ease over the course of their career, and they get better and better with time.

The same is true onstage, where they are rightfully known for being some of K-pop’s most stellar live performers. Since their debut, audiences have seen SHINee grow from gangly teenagers to handsome men, and members have improved on skills they lacked when SHINee burst onto the scene in 2008. Taemin, who once had almost no singing lines, is now a powerful vocalist, Onew has proven himself as fully capable of keeping up with SHINee’s intense choreography, and their collective chemistry is something truly special (despite their past readiness to debunk the “brotherhood” image commonly conjured up by boyband marketers).

I could type pages upon pages about how wonderful SHINee is, but I should probably move on to the music. Here are some of my favorite SHINee songs:

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