Posts Tagged ‘Year’

Best of 2018: Top 15 K-Pop Singles

What a difference a single year can make.

2018 was arguably (and this really is arguable because music is so subjective) a significant step up over 2017 for that unique range of K-Pop sounds that have kept people like me connected – however loosely – to the industry for so long. But 2018 was also the year that I spent the least time listening to K-Pop since this list has been a thing. That’s not necessarily an indicator of the future – for the first half of the year it wasn’t clear whether the podcast I relied on for most of my K-Pop exposure was on hiatus or actually done (It turned out to be the latter) and I also stopped listening to the curated playlists I would normally enjoy while running because of a shockingly persistent knee injury. During that lengthy period I only really listened to the biggest-name releases, though I eventually readjusted my habits – quite late in the year it must be said – and took in a whole bunch of K-Pop at once. That probably had an impact on my positive outlook for the year, because I didn’t have to wade through as much average sameyness, but I maintain that I still find this Top 15 stronger than last year’s. Take that as you will.

The list only considers songs that have a corresponding music video (with one odd exception) and have a significant amount of Korean lyrics within them. It’s an audio-first critique, however – Some of these MVs I hadn’t actually seen before I sat down to write this. It’s restricted to one song per act. Oh, and if this is just about the only K-Pop stuff you’ve watched this year, I recommend hovering over each video and turning off the automatic captions as you go. They’re distracting and usually not exactly poetry when translated. That’s just the way I do it, though. You do you.

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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15. POP/STARS – K/DA

What’s that? This doesn’t count? I’m using a League of Legends promotion as clickbait? I am outraged at the mere accusation. Have you heard this song? Against all odds, what could have come across as a cheap attempt to cash in on LoL‘s sizeable Korean player base is in reality a hyper-polished production effort worthy of a top tier K-Pop label, complete with affectionate nods to such tried-and-true Korean music video tropes as rapid-fire freeze-frame poses, member-specific sets, stationary expensive cars, minimal footage of actual dancing and an ultra-serious group logo stinger. Featuring just enough Korean language to count for this list – duly provided by a third of (G)I-DLE – POP/STARS was composed almost entirely at RIOT Games, which seems unfair to the rest of K-Pop because it is a banger. Check out the hologram-infused live performance of the song at the LoL World Championships if you fancy.

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Best of 2018: Five Special Awards

That’s right, after a few years of an unchanged formula I am finally mixing things up a bit. The gaming trends list was fun but when I was looking at the viablity of doing it again the patterns of 2018 just looked (depressingly) like more of the same. So I am taking a page out of all kinds of other publications’ books and doing five different lists so truncated they only have one entry on them. Some of these awards are almost specifically tailored to one entry, while others I could probably have made into at least a top five but I only have so much writing time at this point in the year so that would be less than ideal. Let’s give this a try.

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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Best Game Publisher

Sony

This one is a games media favourite and one I’ve always wanted to cover on this blog. While major third party game publishers would usually have a good shot at taking this kind of award (which might usually cover both published games and general media presence), Sony’s own range of PS4 exclusives from their own stable were just too good to ignore this year. They probably would have won this on the strength of God of War and Spider-Man alone, but the admittedly polarising Detroit: Become Human was also a tremendous achievement in its own right. Sony didn’t have the best E3 this year by their standards, but they still grabbed plenty of headlines with their debut gameplay showcase of The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima while continuing to prove an old truth – if you want a pile of fantastic single-player games, pick up a PlayStation console late in its life cycle.

Runner-Up Ubisoft

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Best of 2018: Top 10 Disappointments

I have a love-hate relationship with this list. I try and keep it reigned in but really this always ends up as a procession of the things that grind my gears about the entertainment media I consume. There’s no pattern or point to it, but clearly it doesn’t need one because it’s always one of my most read lists. Another thing I also try to do is make this list representative of all three kinds of media I cover here, but I always struggle to come up with genuine worthwhile disappointments in movies and K-Pop – the former because it’s just super easy to avoid movies I hear aren’t worth watching and the latter because it just always feels a bit forced. So this year my Top 10 Disappointments List is finally what its been threatening to be for years – 100% about gaming. Except for the honorable mentions. Um, enjoy?

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. RDR HDR?

It’s probably best to get this out of the way as soon as possible: This is the only time that Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to show up on this blog over the next two weeks. To be clear, a large part of that is because I don’t get along with the Wild West setting, I’ve never understood Rockstar’s open-world control scheme and despite some beautiful environments and compelling storytelling, I find most of the game’s mechanics unnecessarily obtrusive. I gave it a go anyway because the hype around the game was understandably at fever-pitch and I heard the Xbox One X version would run at a native 4K resolution.

Boy oh boy, does RDR2 look incredible on the X – but from the beginning something was off. The High Dynamic Range calibration in the menus had a maximum luminance of roughly half most modern games and its recommended setting for a display like mine was only a fifth of that maximum (I have one of the brightest sets on the market). I tried five different settings on that slider but I only ever got two impressions – Either the HDR highlights were missing in action or blindingly white. This was particularly noticeable in the game’s prologue, when the snowy surroundings appeared to be literally made of light across entire surfaces. It wasn’t until a Digital Foundry video a few days after launch that my suspicions were confirmed: Despite its beautiful art direction, animation and resolution, the HDR in RDR2 is fake. As it turned out, that utterly baffling tidbit (alongside the fact that my brother ended up finishing the game anyway) was the last straw and I didn’t pick Red Dead Redemption 2 up again.

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Best of 2018 Intro

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to dust off your wistfulness, drag out those opinions and pretend like this last year wasn’t the fastest you can remember, because we’re counting down all sorts of bits of entertainment media!

And by all sorts I mean three very specific sorts. Even though I spent a lot of the first half of the year binging TV shows (mainly Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Black Mirror, The Good Place and Jane the Virgin) back-to-back for the first time in my life, that shift was hardly big enough for me to change anything here. It’s movies, videogames and K-Pop all the way to December 31st. The lists are mostly the same structurally as last year, except for one major change that might help balance the media representation a bit – Goodbye gaming trends, hello special awards!

Whether you’re with me for one list, all ten, or just this intro, thanks for your time. We get started tomorrow as usual with my Top 10 Disappointments of 2018! Yay for positivity.

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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Best of 2017: Top 15 Movies

Here we go – Last one of 2017!

This year I hardly hid the fact that I went a little crazy with my movie-watching. With enough 2017 cinema visits under my belt to do a top ten three times over, I figured this was as good a year as ever to expand the list to fifteen. I may have lacked the time to write up full reviews over the last twelve months with enough consistency to make it worthwhile, trying a new approach instead, but right now is the time to get into my favourite films of the year with some actual detail. I happen to think this is a very strong list worth recommending to a wide range of movie fans, with only one or two spicy picks that I seemed to like more than most people. Thank you for reading.

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VR BEST OF 2017 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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15. Power Rangers

Yes. I know 2017’s Power Rangers isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shaking acting or plotting, but I just had to have it on this list. The original Power Rangers show was one of my absolute favourite things as a kid – I was obsessed with it. I watched this movie with a stupid grin from ear to ear for almost its entire run time, because Dean Israelite manages to nail the important parts of what I loved about the show back in the day, cheesiness well and truly intact. I particularly enjoyed the slow burn of getting to know the main cast Breakfast Club style before the real action kicks off late in the piece. RJ Cyler as a new interpretation of social outcast Billy steals the show in every scene not featuring Elizabeth Banks’ hammy Rita Repulsa, who just seems to be having the time of her life acting opposite Bryan Cranston’s gruff Zordon.

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Best of 2017: Top 15 Games

Here we are. Time to count down my favourite videogames from a truly phenomenonal year for the medium (The best in ten years?). There are some games on this list that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone even remotely interested, but the real measure of 2017 is the games that don’t make the list because I just didn’t have time to get into them. And no, I don’t just mean games other people liked but didn’t really grab me. I’m talking Horizon Zero Dawn, Cuphead, Yakuza Zero, Steamworld Dig 2, Night in the Woods, Tales of Berseria, Golf Story, Gang Beasts. Games that in any other year I would have been all over. Games I’ve already seen on many other top ten lists across the internet.

Part of this can probably be attributed to my conscious decision not to ignore good games on the 3DS as long as they were coming out. I clocked nearly 200 hours of combined 2017 playtime on my 3DS according to its activity log – mostly on trains and buses – and if it weren’t for the Nintendo Switch overshadowing it on every big site and YouTube channel I would have been shocked that I wasn’t seeing some of these 3DS games on more people’s lists. Of course, the Switch was still a thing, so there are more Switch games on this page than on any other console. The rest of the numbers are made up by some delightfully surprising indie and triple-A games gripping enough to help me temporarily forget about all the other games I could be playing. What an insane year.

A game qualifies for the list if I play it for over five hours or finish it. You’ll see the platform on which I played each game in parentheses next to its title.

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VR BEST OF 2017 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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15. ARMS (NS)

Major new IPs from Nintendo are rarer than a PC without Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds installed, so it’s a big deal when one comes along. Following in the spiritual footsteps of 2015’s Splatoon, ARMS is an attempt by Nintendo to refresh what players can expect from a fighting game, in much the same way that Splatoon injected new life into the shooter genre. Taking stylistic cues from Blizzard’s Overwatch in the character design department and infusing these designs with Nintendo wackiness, ARMS is a charming game with deceptive mechanical depth and phenomenonal 1v1 duel multiplayer. Though the rest of its modes are inherently less deep and the game’s single player mode is basic at best, ARMS is my pick for most improved game of the year post-launch, with extra incentives, modes and characters now part of the package. And let’s not forget that theme song, which slots right in alongside Nintendo’s catchiest first-party tunes. ARMS should not be overlooked by anyone buying a Switch.

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Best of 2017: Top 10 K-Pop Albums

As we roll into the business end of these countdowns and the final hours of 2017, it bears mentioning how difficult I found it to finalise these last three lists. You’re about to see two Top 15s where previously there was only one, but I very nearly made this one the third. If it weren’t for the fact that I couldn’t find another list worth cutting down to compensate, I would have. 2017 was that good of a year for K-Pop albums – especially in their shorter “mini” format. I’ve often joked that all a K-Pop album has to do to get my attention is not put its MV track in the first slot, and maybe divide some group members up for solos/duets (i.e. just not be generic) but I can’t even fall back on that crutch this time, because so many albums did just that in 2017. Some even went a step further in the structural experiment department.

Wow, this is such a nerdy list.

I consider mini-albums to be between four and seven tracks long. Anything shorter than that is a “maxi single” or “single album” (Not even my words), anything longer is a full album.

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VR BEST OF 2017 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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MINI ALBUMS
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5. Eclipse – EXID

They say necessity is the mother of invention and in the case of EXID’s Eclipse that certainly rings true. By all means, on an album you can pair off your members or give them solos to spice things up and make the group feel more like everyone is putting in work, but when you’re also down not only your most gifted vocalist, but one of the most gifted vocalists in all of K-Pop, you need to take things a step further. Eclipse somehow works without the incapacitated Solji thanks to a heavy injection of driving electronic bass as well as some truly impressive fill-in work from secondary vocalist Hyerin. Album opener Boy is the tone-setting stylistic codifier, giving each able member her own unique stanza but leaving the hook entirely electronic. Its lyrics are a prologue of sorts to MV track Night Rather Than Day, which works far better as an audio-only throwback to the group’s early sound (The video is pretty awful). But Eclipse‘s greatest achievement is How Why, which has such a booming chorus that I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of electro-EXID.

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