The Big Three’s artists dominated as expected in 2014, and other non-big-three artists like A Pink, Girl’s Day, BTS, VIXX, Orange Caramel, and B1A4 among others produced many fan-favorite hits that dominated the scene. Of course, there are some hidden gems that barely earned attention. Hopefully, you will give them a chance!
Amor Fati “Say the Word”
Since AOA has seemingly ditched their band concept in favor of sexy, cookie-cutter K-Pop themes, there are very few (read practically non-existent) girl groups who fulfill the girl-band concept. Enter Amor Fati’s “Say the Word” that easily fills the girl-band void. The girls sing beautifully and play instruments well. They have hints of Sikkim’s Genesis of Pink, so fans of them may enjoy Amor Fati.
The Barberettes “Little Girls”
The Barberettes: Young ladies with old souls. Brilliant! The ladies channel the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s with ease and class, and they make old songs sound brand new again. Their concept is singing. There’s no glitz, glamour, hardcore dancing, and screaming fangirls and boys. Nope, they’re all about purely singing and it’s wonderful.
Bay.B “Que Sera Sera” (listed as “Quecera Cera”)
The Bay.B girls did a lot of covers on YouTube, so it’s great to see them release fresh music that’s all their own. Bay.B sports powerful vocals and an old-school feel. They’re all about vocals over visuals, a refreshing change of pace from today’s K-Pop. If you enjoy pure singing, then Bay.B is for you.
Chaness, subunit of LPG, debuted this summer with “SeSeSe.” While it’s not the strongest song vocally at points, it does show Chaness’ improvements as artists and as storytellers. “SeSeSe” is sensual without being overtly sexy. Its ballroom music soundtrack helps its sensual feel, and its beat may make you want to dance along.
Dia’s vocals have a special type of emotion wrapped in them that it’s hard to tell to pinpoint what exactly one hears when listening to her sing. There is joy in her melancholy, sadness in her happiness, but everything comes together to create a woman who knows how to make a listener feel her words. “Paradise” has simple instrumentals that fade into the background to allow Dia to shine. If she decided to stay solo over returning to Kiss&Cry, it would be 100 percent okay if she keeps releasing music like this.
J.Min “Shine” and “Hoo”
J.Min (To the Beautiful You) made her long-awaited Korean appearance with “Hoo” and followed it up with the equally impressive “Shine.” She plays guitar and sings, showing her talent. She’s different from other SM artists in that she’s not the stereotype of a dancing machine, and that’s why she should have fan attention.
Lucky J “Can You Hear Me?”
J’Kyun, Jessi, and J’Hyo come together to form Lucky J, a co-ed trio with great voices that created a pretty epic song. Jessi’s voice has rawness and scratchiness that makes it unique and memorable while fitting the tone of the song well. J’Kyun and J’Hyo add a surprising sense of softness to Jessi’s hard edges. Together, beauty exists.
Mario ft. Kim Boa (SPICA) “Damages”
Mario’s speedy rap and Kim Boa’s singing and soft rapping pair nicely. Kim provides the emotional response to Mario’s seemingly angry verses to create a multi-layer song that could please any type of listener whether that person is a rap-lover or has an appreciation for a pretty voice.
Michelle Lee “Without You”
Michelle Lee was our first cover girl when K-Crush was established, and rightfully so! She provided the world with a beautiful song that paired with an equally beautiful and moving MV starring Yunji Collier as young Michelle. The song may be a power-anthem for the broken-hearted, but with the video, it’s a song about self-acceptance and gaining strength in a closed-minded, racially charged society where people seek tolerance. The song struck a chord with K-Pop bloggers and those who create reaction videos because of its message.
When anyone thinks of Trot music, many foreigners think of older audiences enjoying the music. 2014 rookies, Ouigee, dabbled in the Trot genre and created a fun, youth-oriented track about a short relationship gone wrong that can help Trot gain younger audiences. The Ouigee members have great charisma and a nice sense of fun about them, which makes them—and this song—not to be missed.
Puer Kim “Manyo Maash”
Puer Kim generated a lot of buzz on K-Pop forums with “Manyo Maash.” First, the mannequins with the SM and YG references made it seem like she was hinting at both companies mass-producing similar-sounding artists (no comment), but she denied this, but it still had fans buzzing. However, the song is perfectly retro and simple, making it a great jam for those with old souls.
Purfles “1, 2, 3”
Purfles had one of the best K-Pop girl group debuts for 2014… but few knew about it. The MV they debuted with was on the weak side, but it gave them the opportunity to focus on their vocals which are, to date myself, “all that and a bag of chips.” They’re loud, they’re proud, and their vocals just kick a whole lot of butt.
If listeners are fans of Davichi, WINGS are right up their alley. Sony’s rookie duo was strong out of the gate with “Hair Short,” but “Blossom” is where they bloomed with heart and emotion. WINGS effortlessly flow from slow-to-mid-tempo ballad to create an interesting dynamic.
Yery Band “Romeo Mannequin”
Korea’s rock side often gets forgotten since pretty boy and girl groups dominate for young audiences. However, the rock scene shouldn’t be forgotten. 2014 gifted us with Yery Band, a hard-edged rock band who wasn’t afraid to push the envelope with their bloody, truly 19+ rated-MV. Yery Band channels Japan’s Visual Kei trend with the group appearing in Gothic clothing, tattoos, and harder-edged than the traditional candy feel of K-Pop. While the song is angsty and the video flips the “damsel in distress” themes, the MV does get old quickly because of all the death and destruction and constant geysers of unrealistic blood splatter. However, the song should have gotten more attention, MV aside.
Who were your favorite under-the-radar groups and singers for 2014? Share below and let us know!