Best Male Group – SHINee
This really was a no brainer for me. SHINee is one of the hardest working groups in the business between 4 month tours in Korea and Japan every year, dropping singles and albums in both countries, not to mention each individual member has a schedule full of their side projects as well.
In 2015, alone, SHINee had their ‘I’m Your Boy’ Japanese tour, while releasing their Japanese single, ‘Your Number’. JongHyun released his first solo album, ‘Base’, in the midst of their Japanese activities along with his radio show. SHINee was the only Korean artist to be invited to China’s Lunar New Year Program, ‘Chun Jie Wan Hui‘, and in May they released their 4th full length Korean album, ‘Odd’. Their video for ‘View’ set records for the group, and then did a three day concert in Seoul plus promoted the album with multiple wins.
Following up to that was the ‘Odd’ album repackaged as ‘Married To The Music’ which came with four new tracks and a new round of promotions for the group. ‘Married To The Music’ also was welcomed with open arms setting records worldwide and getting international recognition as one of the top K-Pop tracks of 2015.
Rounding out the year, JongHyun released a second solo album, ‘Story Op.1’ along with his own series of solo concerts. SHINee presented SHINee World IV and released their second Japanese single, ‘Sing Your Song’ and already released the music video for their fourth Japanese album, ‘DXDXD’ released on the 1st. This is on top of MinHo and Onew being in new dramas this year, TaeMin working on his comeback album, and Key having his own television show and multiple musicals to boot.
I think it’s apparent why I, as a Shawol, chose SHINee as the Best Male Group for 2015.
Best Female Group – SNSD (Girls’ Generation)
So Nyeo Shi Dae (소녀시대) has had one amazing year. After a bit of controversy, the now 8 member senior girl group of SM Entertainment, released a slew of singles and an album this year. Starting off 2015 with ‘Catch Me If You Can’ as their newest Japanese single, the group started off with a bang. A Korean version was also released later.
The girls really kicked off the summer with ‘Party’ and their round of promotions would end up setting a record for them not only for award shows, but putting them at over 100 music show awards won in their career. Following that series would be the release of their fifth studio album, ‘Lionheart’ which came with two title tracks, ‘Lionheart’ which gave a 1950’s feel in sound and costuming, and ‘You Think’ which brought them back to modern day with an edgy feel.
Girls’ Generation also had their own television show, was super active on the V app during their promotions, a solo concert, and a Japanese tour. Phantasia in Seoul was held in November while they ring in the new year as the only South Korean girl group to have their fourth tour in Japan.
Individually, a lot of members worked on their own scheduling such as Sunny having a radio show, and TaeYeon released her first solo album, ‘I’, and had her own solo concert as well. Girls’ Generation – TTS made a comeback also with ‘Dear Santa’ which was written by SNSD’s maknae, SeoHyun.
They definitely had one amazing year which makes them my top pick for Best Girl Group.
Best Rookie Group – Seventeen
Pledis Entertainment’s newest rookie, Seventeen, are a force to be reckoned with. Known as the “Self-Producing Idols” the thirteen member group literally can do it all. To get ready for their debut, they had their own reality show Seventeen Project: Big Debut Plan. At the end of the show, because the boys were able to pass the multiple tests given, they debuted. It really had me on my seat watching the show, even though I knew they would succeed.
Split into three units, Hip-Hop Unit is lead by the group’s leader S.Coups. WonWoo, MinGyu, and Vernon join him and also are responsible for the raps in their songs. Performance Unit consists of Dino (Maknae), Jun and The8 (the only Chinese members of the group), and Seventeen’s choreographer, Hoshi, leads this troupe. Rounding out the last part of the group is the Vocal Unit. This unit is lead by their composer of SVT, Woozi, followed by JeongHan, SeungKwan, DK, and Joshua.
The guys released ‘17 Carat’ as their first mini album. It was a slow start for sales, but the fan base is huge. After their first comeback, with their second mini album, ‘Boys Be’, they really skyrocketed as newcomers taking 2015 by storm. Their success was so great, they actually had to order more ‘17 Carat’ albums and their second album had 30,000 pre-orders before it even was released. The second album put them on Billboard’s ‘21 Under 21’ and their album debut at #1 for their World Albums list.
To round out their year, not only do their fans grow by the day, but because of their constant involvement on SNS platforms, they got their own channel on the V App and wrapped up their first solo concert ‘Boys’ Wish’.
These boys are a powerhouse and I adore them. Not only can they do just about everything, but they also are making waves with collaboration stages, like that at the MAMAs. This is why they are my choice for Best Rookie.
Best Rock/Indie Band – CNBLUE
CNBLUE has been one of my favorite bands for a while, but I really feel 2015 was an amazing year for them. It started with Jung YongHwa, leader of the band, releasing his first solo album, ‘One Fine Day’. This album was a different sound than what you had heard from the band as a whole, but you could definitely tell that it was YongHwa’s album, and it hit #1 on the Billboard World Chart.
After, CNBLUE headed to Japan in April, as is accustom for FNC Entertainment artists, and released their ninth Japanese single, ‘White’. This would mark the start of their comebacks since their last Japanese single was in August of 2014, and their last Korean album was in January of that year as well. The greatest news came when they finally released with album ‘2Gether’. This would be their Korean comeback and I have not stopped listening to it since. In September, they released ‘Colors’ and announced they would be having their Japanese 2015 Arena Tour ‘～Be a Supernova～’ for the holiday season. For both albums, all the members had a hand in writing and composing.
This is also on top of all the individual activities like JungShin MCing, JongHyun doing variety shows and dramas, MinHyuk making his rounds on variety shows and having fun on the V app, and YongHwa having his first solo concert.
These accolades and amazing music is why CNBLUE is my top pick for Best Rock/Indie Band of 2015.
Best Soloist – Kim JongHyun
I have already touched on the accomplishments of JongHyun from SHINee, JongHyun has been with SHINee since the beginning and has been known to pen songs for previous artists and his own band. In January, following TaeMin’s solo debut, JongHyun joined the fold and released his first solo album. He wrote the lyrics and music for five out of his seven tracks and worked with such talents as Zion.T, Iron, and Wefreaky. He won eight music show awards for ‘Déjà-Boo’ and was nominated for Best Male Artist for the Mnet Asian Music Awards.
During this year, JongHyun was a DJ for MBC FM4U‘s midnight radio show, Blue Night. From 12 am – 2 am KST you could listen to his show where he interviewed bands, spoke with the audience, and played some of his favorite songs. I had the pleasure of streaming it a couple times on the app and it’s surreal to listen to your ultimate bias live on the radio. From this experience, he created ‘Story Op.1’ from a special corner he used to have called ‘Blue Night Lyrics, That Man’s Composition’. He took songs he had rewritten based on callers situations, revamped those songs, and created the album. You can tell from listening to it that is has a very different feel than his first one and from his V app promotions that is held a special place in his heart.
His second solo album help launch his first solo concert through ‘The Agit’ concert series. He did so well, they had to add concert dates to the schedule because he had sold out in under 2 minutes.
On top of all the SHINee promotions and his own, I feel he definitely deserves my vote for Best Soloist.
Wild Card – Monsta X
I was really torn on which rookie group I really enjoyed more this year because there were so many but it was tied with Seventeen and Monsta X. In the end, I put Monsta X as the wild card based on all their amazing accomplishments.
Monsta X is the newest male group under Starship Entertainment. They were created out of a collaboration between Starship and Mnet for the survival show ‘No.Mercy’. They took all of Starship trainees and put them through a series of missions to find who would make the next group after Boyfriend. In the end, ShowNu, KiHyun, MinHyuk, JooHeon, HyungWon, I.M, and WonHo would make up Monsta X. Because of the singles that were released during ‘No.Mercy’, the guys were already gaining much popularity, which helped when they debuted in May.
Besides releasing some tracks before debut, JooHeon dropping his first mixtape single off of ‘JungJi’ and members participating in the soundtrack for ‘Orange Marmalade’, they came out of the starting gate with their first mini album ‘Trespass’. This debut would not be only contained in Korea, Monsta X crossed the ocean to participate in KCON LA 2015. I was able to see them live and watch their collaboration stage with GOT7. I even got a towel from MinHyuk. It just might be one of my most prized K-Pop merchandise and I didn’t even buy it. I also saw WonHo’s abs in person and I had to turn to my sister to say, “Why yes, they really are built like that”.
After KCON, Monsta X had a comeback with ‘Rush’. This album really launched them even further with such tracks like ‘Hero’ and ‘Amen’. It was so popular, they repackaged the album with a broadcast version of ‘Hero’, which was the second track off of ‘Rush’.
The guys might not have won any music show awards yet, but they did take home a few awards from the end of year shows like Melon Awards, Mnet Asian Music Awards, and Simply K-Pop. On top off all the music work, they also have a reality show they do called ‘Deokspatch (덕스패치)’ which started as trainees for No.Mercy and continued on. They will also be gearing up for their third reality show called ‘Right Now!’ that will air later in January.
They worked so hard as rookies and with solo projects, this is why Monsta X is my wild card for 2015.
2015 was such a great year for K-Pop. I wish I really could have had more categories because I listen to well over 200 bands and artists. When approaching this, I really took it from not only what I found myself listening to the most, but also a business aspect. Each group works so hard in Korean, Japan, and all around Asia. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings for not only past groups but for the upcoming rookies! We survived last year, let’s bring on this year!