The beginning of 2009 jumped out to a great start. I was still reeling from that awesome showdown between Big Bang and DBSK at the SBS year-end events and the hits kept on coming. I think it was simply the trend where hip hop and pop blended smooth electronica in their songs that made them all so unforgettable.
This chapter’s gonna show you a myriad of artists, so strap yourselves in. We go from TBNY, to Untouchables, an up-and-coming solo act named AJ and rounding it out with Super Junior’s breakout hit that would eventually become their most successful song. All of it went down in the first quarter of 2009.
This was back when Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” was on replay non-stop. Even with me, a man who didn’t listen to the radio or kept up with American pop culture, I couldn’t escape it whether I was out at the gym or at this internet start-up company where I was an intern. Man, you couldn’t escape it. That’s not to complain though. Say what you want about Lady Gaga, “Poker Face” got in your blood. Your head will bob, no matter what you’re doing.
Those were good times. I only had three months of college before graduating, I just started practicing Wing Chun with a legit sifu. And as per usual, what made it all memorable, was the music I discovered.
In the last chapter, I discussed Big Bang’s collaborative performance with a hip hop group called Dynamic Duo. It was the first I had heard of Dynamic Duo and was impressed. Thus, I was more open to solo and underground hip hop acts. The first I discovered, was a hip hop duo called TBNY.
The unit of Yankie and TopBob, TBNY was a frequent collaborator with Epik High, but more than anything…their mini-album “Hi, Side-A” was everything I loved about that 2008/2009 era. It’s like a blend of Clazziquai and Daishi Dance that made hip hop easy to listen to for my liking.
TBNY FT MELLOW:
Then…there was Untouchable.
On January 8th, 2009…Untouchable released their full-length album, “Quiet Storm,” and I’m telling you…every song, every single song on that album was solid gold. It spawned the timeless hits “Tell Me Why,” “It’s Okay,” and this song, “Driving Me Crazy.”
UNTOUCHABLE – “DRIVING ME CRAZY”
Untouchable consists of two all-star underground rappers that fought their way into the mainstream. Sleepy and D. Action hailed from a crew of rappers called Jiggy Fellaz, much like the way Method Man and Rza came from Wu-Tang clan. Mind you, back then, I was still a novice when it came to hip hop and I’m sure people can call Untouchable a sell-out for their more pop sounding music…but I shit you not, “Quiet Storm” was one of the best albums of the year. And if it wasn’t for Untouchable, people like me would’ve had to wait years until “Show Me the Money” before we heard of other all-star rappers coming from Jiggy Fellas like Basick or Vasco.
Haha! Jiggy Fellas “Get Down” wouldn’t be released until 2010, but I had to share it now. That raw gritty sound would eventually find its way to replace the smooth electronic I had grown so fond of in the 2008-2009 era. But I just needed you to see the arsenal behind Untouchable. Jiggy Fellas, you’ll see them again in future chapters. So be on the look out.
And lastly with Untouchable, I’ll leave you with this gem that they’d also release in 2010. “Merry Go Round” is a classic with me, not only because its one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard…but you can sense the emotion of each rapper and singer. You don’t need to understand the Korean language. The sentiment’s transcendent.
While Untouchable was tearing up the charts with Big Bang in early 2009, we had solid releases from UKiss and S. Korea’s answer to the Pussycat Dolls, a girl group called After School. However, when it comes to creating waves and a glimpse of future elites, another challenger entered the stage.
This is AJ. AJ will eventually have two debuts in 2009. This one, as a solo artist…and his more significant one as a boyband member later on. And as awesome as I thought this debut was, it’s the rivalry he competes in that makes the other one unforgettable. The first time I saw “Dancing Shoes,” my ears perked up. I recognized the talent instantly because he sounds like a legit successor to Se7en. He had the same smooth vocals, better dance skills…the only thing he lacked when it came to Se7en was stage presence.
You see how the dude damn near needs an army of backdancers to make the performance seem grand? Se7en didn’t need it. He had backdancers, but didn’t need it. But still. This was AJ’s debut. He has plenty of time for improvement and from the launch, there seemed to be nothing he couldn’t accomplish. I had high hopes for him, to say the least.
However…despite how awesome AJ’s debut was…there was another group watching from the scenes and was like, “hold my beer.”
Around this time…DBSK was in Japan promoting their 4th Japanese album, “Secret Code.” Even though, I was happy to see Big Bang dethrone them in the last chapter, my heart still went out to DBSK. They were the group that hooked me into kpop to begin with.
That “Secret Code” album dropped at the same time as my graduation from college. I had completed my internship and the company hired me as a full-time employee. But while my immediate future “seemed” secure…my long-term future was uncertain. This was a precarious time in my life where I was being pulled in so many directions. I had my whole life in front of me and I wasn’t the type to yell, “YOLO!”
Nah fam. I actually do things like deliberate and make plans. I consider the pros and cons of a direction and set goals. The idea of waking up everyday accepting whatever comes…that’s just not me. Listening to “Doushitte” was like medicine to my soul. Between that and “Kiss the Sky,” you had to give it to DBSK for being the world-class crooners they were. And while they were tearing it up in Japan, their brother group Super Junior…they were the ones who were like “hold my beer” after seeing AJ’s debut.
Super Junior debuted in late 2005. After four years of slugging it out with the best of them, they released their breakthrough hit “Sorry Sorry” off of their third studio album and it went on to be the best-selling album of 2009. It was undeniable. Much like Wonder Girl’s “Tell Me,” the song is infectious and you couldn’t escape it. It stayed at the top of the charts throughout the year and Super Junior milked the song for everything it was worth.
But still…As is the curse of SM Entertainment releases…Sorry Sorry was the only song I liked off of that album. I moved over 150,000 off of pre-sale albums and I can’t respect that. All that means is that you have over 150,000 diehard fans who will accept anything you give him, but it doesn’t translate to the merit of your work if once they get it, nobody likes it…save for this one song.
Regardless, they definitely receive recognition and praise for “Sorry Sorry.” It was the last album to feature original members Kibum and Hangeng. Their follow up album to be released in 2010…hahaha, well see for yourself.
I don’t know about you guys, but it’s like someone said, “Hey! Sorry Sorry worked. Let’s try that again.” It pretty much sounds like the same song except replaced with a word that sounds weird. Cringy. I remember listening to it once and telling myself, “never again.”
But still. Gosh, I know it sounds like I’m crapping all over these guys, but that’s because I always felt they had so much potential. Despite my argument against them being touted for their pretty boy image, they had amazing vocalists like Ryeowook, Sungmin, Kyuhyun, and Yesung. Not to mention the rapper, Eunhyuk is one of the top five dancers in all of kpop. Yet, their label promoted them for image and instead of going the bold route of creating something new, they played it safe and continued try and cash in on what was already selling.
That being said…One can’t think of kpop in 2009 without thinking of “Sorry Sorry.” And if you like that choreography and it reminds you of something, it’s probably Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” performances. SM hired the same choreographer. It was a treat to watch this video of Donghae and Eunhyuk practicing in SM’s mythical cloud room. Eunhyuk’s the one in the white shorts. Enjoy: