Last week we had a look at how the awards categories in the Korean Music Awards have changed over the years. Continuing the KMA history series today we’ll be looking at the genre distribution over the Album, Song and Performance of the Year categories, i.e. answering questions such as: Is the album of the year winner always modern rock? Was it a fair decision to make the Performance of the Year category a subcategory of Jazz & Crossover? etc.
To determine which genre an album or a song belongs to I have looked at the genre categories in which said album or song has also been nominated. If the album or song has not been nominated in any of the genre categories, it has been marked with NO GENRE.
To determine which genre an artist from Performance of the Year belongs to I have looked at the genres in which that artist’s album and/or song(s) have been nominated that same year. If the artist has neither album nor song nominated in any of the genre categories that year it is marked with NO GENRE.
As detailed in KMA Categories 2004-2014 the genre categories have gone through numerous changes over the years. For the purpose of this breakdown I have grouped them as follows:
· Modern Rock
· Dance & Electronic
· Rap & Hip Hop (including Hip Hop & Dance; Hip Hop)
· R&B & Soul (including R&B & Ballad)
· Jazz & Crossover (including Jazz; Crossover)
Album of the Year
KMA category Album of the Year (올해의 앨범, 올해의 음반) has existed since the awards were launched, alongside a subset of the genre categories that exist today. The Modern Rock category was not added until 2005, but has been the by far most frequent source of nominees for Album of the Year since. The Dance & Electronic category was added in 2007 but has yet to yield more than a couple of Album of the Years nominees.
Only in 2004 were albums nominated for Album of the Year without also being nominated in any of the genre categories. The albums in question were TheThe‘s TheThe Band, which is the only ever nomination for TheThe, and Yi Sung Yol‘s first solo album 이날, 이때, 이즈음에…. Since 2004 Yi Sung Yol has received several nominations, always in the Modern Rock category.
Album of the Year Winners
2004: TheThe – TheThe Band [NO GENRE]
2005: My Aunt Mary – Just Pop [Modern Rock]
2006: 2nd Moon – 두번째 달 [Jazz & Crossover]
2007: Swallow – Aresco [Modern Rock]
2008: Lee Juck – 나무로 만든 [Pop]
2009: Sister’s Barbershop – 가장보통의존재 [Modern Rock]
2010: Seoul Electric Band – Life is Strange [Rock]
2011: Garion – Garion 2 [Rap & Hip Hop]
2012: Kiha & The Faces – 장기하와 얼굴들 [Rock]
2013: 3rd Line Butterfly – Dreamtalk [Modern Rock]
2014: Yoon Young Bae – 위험한 세계 [Modern Rock]
Just as Modern Rock is the most popular category to source Album of the Year nominations from, it is also the most likely genre for an Album of the Year. After 11 years there has yet to be any winner from R&B & Soul, as there has been no winner from Dance & Electronic during the 8 years that the genre has been in competition.
Song of the Year
Although Song of the Year (올해의 노래) has been a KMA category since the start in 2004, it was not until 2006 that songs were considered for any of the genre categories. Modern Rock and Pop have been the top source genres for nominees to Song of the Year. The Jazz & Crossover genre only covered singles for 3 years and did not gather a single nomination for Song of the Year during this time. Songs as a part of the R&B & Soul category, however, have been around for as long as there have been a song category for genres–still there has yet to be an R&B & Soul song nominated for Song of the Year.
While the vast majority of songs nominated for Song of the Year have also been nominated in one of the genre categories, 2008 offers a curious case. That year Epik High‘s “Fan” was nominated for Song of the Year, whereas “Love Love Love” was the only song from the same album to be nominated in any of the genre categories–Hip Hop.
Song of the Year Winners
2004: Loveholic – “러브홀릭” 
2005: Cho PD – “친구여” 
2006: Yoon Do Hyun – “사랑했나봐” [Pop]
2007: Lee Han Choul – “슈퍼스타” [Pop]
2008: Lee Juck – “다행이다” [Pop]
2009: Chang Kiha – “싸구려 커피” [Rock]
2010: Girls’ Generation – “Gee” [Dance & Electronic]
2011: Hot Potato – “고백” [Modern Rock]
2012: IU – “좋은 날” [Pop]
2013: Psy – “Gangnam Style” [Dance & Electronic]
2014: Cho Yong Pil – “Bounce” [Pop]
Although Modern Rock and Pop songs are almost equally represented when it comes to number of nominations for Song of the Year, there is a clear over representation of Pop songs when it comes down to the songs that actually win the category. Even with a few nominations over the years, so far there has been no winner from Rap & Hip Hop category.
As there were no genre song categories during the first 2 years of the Korean Music Awards it cannot be stated with certainty which genre the Song of the Year nominees 2004-2005 could be considered belonging to. However, 2004 winner “러브홀릭” came from an artist nominated in the Best Rock category.
Regardless of genre, a general observation is that the winning Song of the Year is very likely to be performed by a mainstream artist.
Performance of the Year
The Performance of the Year (올해의 연주) general category only lasted for 4 years before it was discontinued in favour of the Best Jazz & Crossover Performance (최우수 재즈&크로스오버 최우수 연주) genre category. Until then, 50% of the nominated artists also had albums or songs nominated in one of the Jazz & Crossover categories. From the artists that did not have any genre nominations the same years, 3 have been nominated in one of the Jazz & Crossover categories in other years.
Each year there was also 1 nominated artist from the R&B & Soul category: Common Ground (2005); Windy City (2006, 2008) and Funkafric Booster (2007). The only ever Modern Rock nominee for Performance of the Year was Omega 3 that, according to the members’ own account, had an instrument line up commonly found in jazz trios. No other genres were ever represented among the nominees for Performance of the Year.
Performance of the Year Winners
2005: Mowg [NO GENRE]
2006: Triologue [Jazz & Crossover]
2007: Seo Young Do Trio [Jazz & Crossover]
2008: Yesanjok [NO GENRE]
During the 4 years that Performance of the Year existed, 50% of the winners were also nominated in one of the Jazz & Crossover categories the same year. Mowg has been nominated for Jazz & Crossover in other years. Yesanjok was self-described as a “Korean song and beat project” offering free jazz. In conclusion the decision to cancel the Performance of the Year category in time for the launch of the Best Jazz & Crossover Performance category does not appear to have been particularly surprising.