It’s KMA season again! I haven’t prepared myself very well this year, but I’m going to try my hand at this guessing thing regardless. The selection committee had a few surprise nominations up their sleeve as always (at least, they were surprising to me), but a couple of those were some of my own favorites from 2015. Predictions ahead!
Album of the Year
I’m really surprised to find two hip-hop albums nominated. I mean, both The Anecdote and Yanghwa are absolutely deserving, but I can’t think of another year where hip-hop has had this much success on the awards circuit. I liked Into The Night, but I do wonder at its inclusion here.
Personal Pick: It comes down to The Anecdote and Suzanne for me, both landmark works in their respective fields in my view. Slight edge to E Sens for managing to live up to the insane pre-release hype.
Prediction: The committee has not been shy about incorporating public reception, yes? In which case I think The Anecdote will have enough traction to be the pick.
Song of the Year
Also surprised to find “Bae Bae” here, though I found it fun. And “Who’s Your Mama” has to be the most bewilderingly well-received single of the year for me. The entire crop of nominees here is surprising, actually!
Personal Pick: Loved Hyukoh’s 22 like basically everyone else last year, and though I think “Hooka” might have been the better pick, “Comes And Goes” was undeniably addictive.
Prediction: I feel like Hyukoh basically has this locked down. “Comes and Goes” is what catapulted them into the spotlight, meeting that elusive bar between critical and commercial success better than any other 2015 single.
Artist of the Year
I keep forgetting Big Bang even made a comeback in 2015 – that splintered album release kept my attention away too much. “Bae Bae” really was good, though. Deepflow, although losing a lot of his thunder to E Sens last year, absolutely deserves the nomination too.
Personal Pick: I picked Hyukoh for my review series on Hellokpop and would do so again. Bridged over to the mainstream nearly overnight without flinching on musicianship.
Prediction: I think Hyukoh goes for the double crown.
Rookie Artist of the Year
Hyukoh and Oohyo each had an EP or longer release in 2014, so in my mind they are not 2015 rookies. I wasn’t sure how much attention Flash Flood Darlings had been getting throughout the year, but he’s popping up on all these year-end lists so I had no need for concern!
Personal Pick: Eliminating the two 2014 rookies, I’d have to go with Gongjoong Doduk. Took my breath away the first time I heard “White Room”. I mean, even he’s not really a rookie since he’s done some work as Hyoo before… but I’ll let that slide.
Prediction: Could the committee possibly give Hyukoh a triple crown…? They could, but not for this category. I’ll go with Gongjoong Doduk here and save that for later.
Best Heaviness Album
New category! And a much needed one. I did not know about Enemy Inside before, and have barely gotten to hear Abstract at all. Crash was a welcome return early in the year.
Personal Pick: I don’t claim to have a ton of expertise in judging metal albums. But I really liked Black Medicine’s easy yet weighty melodic riffs.
Prediction: The opinions I’ve read on Abstract illustrate it as perhaps one of the best in the last several years. So I see that as a probable pick, if it’s a shared viewpoint. I imagine it’s got to be borderline impossible for an EP to win, so Crash is probably safely out.
Best Rock Album
I’ll probably pine on this every year, but I am confused about the category distinctions! Why is SYX not in modern rock when The New Normal is? Good look for Billy Carter to make it. No qualms about the nominees themselves, really.
Personal Pick: I gotta go with SYX; it was my overall album of the year. Endlessly experimental and hauntingly beautiful.
Prediction: I have a distinct feeling that The Monotones will win, having nominated to the overall album category.
Best Rock Song
I enjoy that it’s almost a copy and paste from the albums list – all great picks. I do think “Time” by Loro’s deserved a look, if “Nore1” is considered eligible for the category.
Prediction: Hard to tell, but I think the Asian Chairshot, Eastern Sidekick, and Billy Carter tracks all lack a certain oomph. Similar with “Into The Night”. “Nore1” nets Yi his umpteenth KMA, I’d guess.
Best Modern Rock Album
This category is way more interesting than rock this year, to be frank. I didn’t get to listen to Electron Sheep and am regretting it, since it seems like one of the most highly acclaimed albums of the year.
Personal Pick: The New Normal was the pick for my catch-all rock category. It’s a densely packed, sonically surprising album that brims with energy and creative melodies.
Prediction: Probably King of Noise, with all this praise going around. This is honestly an extremely strong field – I could see any of these five winning.
Best Modern Rock Song
Even stiffer competition! I’m not sure Goonamguayeoridingstella had a particularly strong single in that album though – it was definitely greater than the sum of its parts. “Waiting for the Day” is a pretty surprising pick. Lovely to see Faulocity, though I would have nominated “Big Crunch” instead; I would also have deemed The Solutions’ “Love You Dear” and anything from Silica Gel’s EP as worthy nominees.
Personal Pick: From the field, I think I’d take “Comes And Goes”. Addictive from the get-go, I tell you what. “Echo” is pretty close.
Prediction: Hyukoh’s triple crown happens right here!
Best Folk Album
So I thought I did a better-than-usual job of keeping tabs on folk this year. Evidently not – I missed over half of these! Both of my favorites – Kim Il-du and Kim Sa-wol – made it, so at least there’s that.
Personal Pick: I picked Suzanne as my folk album of the year, but Soul of the Moon and Stars was my runner-up album of the year across all genres, so technically the latter has the edge. But frankly it was extremely difficult, and it’s basically a toss-up. I adored the way Kim Sa-wol constructed such weirdly and uniquely clinical atmospheres.
Prediction: I think Suzanne had the dazzle and “wow” factor, and takes the win. Could be the start of a dynastic career.
Best Folk Song
Again shooting in the dark, basically. I said last year that I wanted to see Monoban nominated; I got my wish!
Personal Pick: I don’t think Kim Sa-wol’s “Bedside” is even the best song on Suzanne, but I’d still take it here. Monoban was close.
Prediction: Kim Sa-wol did get a Song of the Year nomination, so we’ll see her song picked here.
Best Pop Album
Someone please tell me why Reboot is not in the electronic category! Happened last year with HA:TFELT’s lead single, too. I was not high on Chat-Shire, but otherwise a good-looking group. Thrilled to see Fromm get her well-deserved nominations, and Ravie Nuage lived up to their own high standards. I would have included Lucia’s Light & Shade, Part 2 if there was more room.
Personal Pick: It has to be Moonbow. (Actual pick.) Fromm might be one of the most convincing and gifted melody-writers around Korean music today.
Prediction: This one is pretty hard, actually. There isn’t a pick that I think would run away with the award. The EPs are relatively weaker and I don’t think Autumn Vacation was impactful enough, as moving as it was at certain points. The committee might agree with me on how well put together Moonbow is, so I’ll pick that.
Best Pop Song
The committee picked the right song out of Moonbow to nominate: lead single “The Aftermath” was good, but “Moonlight Dancing” was the real heart of the album. That Ravie Nuage album had some killer singles (“Windy Day”, “Headache”), so it would have been good to see one here. Since I’m plugging Lucia here, I’d be remiss not to mention “The Moon and Sixpence”. And finally, I’m legitimately surprised to not see Taeyeon’s “I”; I would have thought it had the right mix of critical and commercial momentum.
Personal Pick: Enjoyed Okdal and loved “Moonlight Dancing”, but “Springirls” was the best out of this bunch. Unpredictable, chic, and uses grunts as rhythm.
Prediction: As confused as I am about it still, JYP probably gets the nod with “Who’s Your Mama”.
Best Dance & Electronic Album
I personally thought 4 Walls was a little disappointing, but I still believe f(x) deserves the nomination here. High standards for that group and all. Trampauline and Oohyo, more or less expected picks; did not expect to see We Are The Night show up.
Personal Pick: Well, I picked Wonder Girls and Reboot… but since they’re in the category above, I go with my runner-up pick, Marginal. It reminded me of a more detached, cynical version of Heureun’s last album, and that’s a great thing. Cumeo Project was really, really close, though.
Prediction: This is also a tough one. It probably comes down to Marginal and No Youth Flowers, but I’ve heard a bit more buzz on the former, so I’ll lean on that.
Best Dance & Electronic Song
Also not sold on Bye Bye Badman showing up here – I know they worked with Glen Check and the album sounds like it, but it still probably belongs more in the modern rock category. Again, lovely to see Flash Flood Darlings get recognition.
Personal Pick: 4 Walls the album was disappointing, but “4 Walls” the song wasn’t. Incredibly satisfying house number and a good balance of the lithe and bold. They’re all sublime – I think “Polygamy” is the only one that I’d disagree with (there were tracks I liked better in that album).
Prediction: “4 Walls” has a decent chance, I think. Even on a down year f(x) can get out with a win.
Best Rap & Hip-Hop Album
What a year for this scene. There’s probably another ten albums that you could legitimately make arguments for inclusion in a five-album field. I didn’t get to check out Wavisabiroom, but it’s gotten a lot of praise.
Personal Pick: The Anecdote. It’s the kind of album that can change a scene altogether. But I have to mention that Yanghwa would have ran away with the category in literally any other year but this one.
Prediction: The committee made the guess not as straightforward by including both of the aforementioned albums in the Album of the Year nominee field. But still, I have to stick to my guts and go with E Sens again.
Best Rap & Hip-Hop Song
The committee loved Hwaji last year, so I expected to see “Yippee Ki-yay” (a fine piece, to be sure) here. Would have loved to see the Song of Wi Jaeryang project mentioned, but I don’t think it ever picked up traction.
Personal Pick: “Everest” was my actual pick for this category, so imagine my delight to see the nomination!
Prediction: Again two of these nominees are also competing for Song of the Year. I’d give an edge to Deepflow getting a consolation prize.
Best R&B & Soul Album
The top was a bit light in this scene in 2015, I think; there was only one truly outstanding album, with a lot of pretty solid works pitching in. I have no big qualms with the selections, though Baek Yerin and Han Yo-han might have deserved looks even as long shots. Primary is an omission, but perhaps the committee thought that was more on the hip-hop side. It’s funny because I thought the opposite about Samuel Seo…
Personal Pick: That one truly outstanding album was Boni’s Love. Executed with confidence in the vocalist and a no-frills production, with more than a few striking moments.
Prediction: Given the state of the field, I would be extremely surprised if Love doesn’t win!
Best R&B & Soul Song
Now I’ve got some qualms here… Nieah quietly put together a string of incredible singles, and surely a few of Primary’s singles could be considered for inclusion. I like the inclusion of Dean, as another guy who was a delight out of nowhere for me.
Personal Pick: “One In A Million” maybe wasn’t Love’s highlight, but it’s still an eminently enjoyable track that embodies what’s good about that album.
Prediction: I say Boni gets the sweep here – this is a situation where having released a fairly important album for the scene helps you out, I think.
Best Jazz Album
I missed out on half of these picks as well. So while I loved works from Hyunjung Choi, Francesca Han, and Yeom Shin-hye X Sunwoo Jung-a, I’m not sure how they stack up to this competition.
Personal Pick: Jin Kim’s The Jazz Unit was an inspiring, thrilling listen, and from what I understand, hard bop is a genre that could use revitalization.
Prediction: I know BG Salon and Juju Song have won this thing before, but I voted for Song last year and got burnt… and there’s also the issue that I haven’t listened to Reflection! I’ll go with a gut feeling and say The Jazz Unit.
Best Crossover Album
Come on! No 2nd Moon? I am very cross at this omission. Puns aside, they have the pedigree and what I thought was a top-3 album in 2015 – what happened?
Personal Pick: Again having missed out on a couple, I’m not picking very smartly here. But Salon d’O was my choice for overall best jazz album, with their engrossing melancholia and attention to detail. Hee Kyung Na was close.
Prediction: I think Salon d’O did enough to take this one home, for a second career KMA.
Best Jazz & Crossover Performance
Yikes, I’m really picking blind here! If I might make a suggestion still, I was swept off of my feet by Fairy Tale’s gorgeous Korean-traditional fusion. Incredibly fun to watch their performance, too.
Personal Pick: By rule of familiarity, I’m defaulting to Kim Oki.
Prediction: I can’t make an informed decision, of course, but Kim Oki has been extremely active these last couple of years and got into a lot of critics’ conversations. Let’s go with that.