Album of the Year
Personal Pick: I’m so glad to have discovered Kim Sawol. Her music is absolutely beautiful. I can’t express enough how much I love this album, but just take my word for it – you should check it out.
Prediction: Considering the circumstances regarding E SENS – his drug abuse and time spent in prison – it’s very interesting for him to release an album while still in prison. That gives The Anecdote a very rare sort of appeal. A similar case would be Varg Vikernes of Burzum making ambient music during his sentence. The end result is a very dark and personal set of songs. Great beats and top-notch rapping. Having E SENS become so notorious within the korean hip-hop scene might help him win a few awards.
Song of the Year
Personal Pick: I’m so glad to see Kim Sawol getting such well-deserved attention. “Bedside” is a great example to show off her artistic skills.
Prediction: Hyukoh‘s “Comes and Goes” has gotten a quite lot of attention as well, even from people who don’t usually care for indie music. It’s been a big part in helping them rocket into stardom.
Artist of the Year
Personal Pick: 2015 was THE year for Hyukoh. They participated in Infinite Challenge‘s Summer Music Festival and singed with Tablo‘s label HIGHGRND. This sudden success for the band is great to see. Having a relatively unknown indie band become a sensation overnight is amazing.
Prediction: After a 4-year long hiatus, BIGBANG has been dropping hits on a monthly basis, with G-Dragon and T.O.P working on the music and lyrics as usual. While I personally think it’s a cheap move to promote so many songs within just a year, I have to admit it worked out great for them. Though we probably won’t be seeing them for a while considering their coming military service, this was still a huge year for them.
Rookie of the Year
Personal Pick: OOHYO really impressed me with her new album. She just keeps growing as an artist, I can’t even imagine what she has in store next.
Prediction: Hyukoh. No explanation needed.
Best Heaviness Album
Personal Pick: 10 years into their career, Black Medicine has finally released their first album Irreversible, and it goes to show that there are still new metal bands with high potential. While I’m not the biggest fan of stoner metal, I still thoroughly enjoyed this album.
Prediction: With their new industrial-groove sound, Crash is still going strong. Although Untamed Hands in Imperfect World was released in late December of 2014, it certainly is a great comeback after the band’s 4-year hiatus.
Best Rock Album
Personal Pick: Eastern Sidekick‘s Total Reflection is a continuation of their gritty garage rock sound, and it sounds great. The album cover, for some reason, reminds me of King Crimson‘s classic In the Court of the Crimson King.
Prediction: Keeping in mind that this album took 35 days to record, The Monotones really put a lot of effort and hard work when making Into the Night. Great guitars, gotta love that dirty distortion, so many layers to each song. Though the band is still young, they’ve grown tremendously as artists.
Best Rock Song
Personal Pick: Hot off the heels of winning Top Band 3, Asian Chairshot has been nominated for their hauntingly beautiful song “In the Rain Shower”. I’m hoping the band will continue to evolve and gain more fans.
Prediction: Lowdown 30‘s “Hotter” is a quite psychedelic track – you can smell the 70’s influence from a mile away. Pretty simple and repetitive, but still a lot of fun, very catchy. The saxophone solo is a nice touch. The music video, with its green-screen effects, is very similar to Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid“.
Best Modern Rock Album
Personal Pick: When I was informed that The KOXX would be releasing another album, I got really excited. With the members under mandatory military services, there was a long period of silence on their part as artists. Finally, they dropped the single “Trojan Horse“, and while it wasn’t included on the album in question, they did perform the song at MAMA 2015, which was a pleasant surprise as well. The album itself is what we’ve come to expect from The KOXX – unique and over-the-top rock songs.
Prediction: Hyukoh’s 22. Judging from the amount of nominations they’re getting, yeah, they’re clearly doing good.
Best Modern Rock Song
Personal Pick: While I really enjoyed The KOXX’s album, their song “Echo” didn’t really stand out to me. For this category, I’m going with Pony‘s “Waiting for the Day”. I discovered them somewhat recently, and I’m glad to see them here.
Prediction: It should be clear by now that Hyukoh are a pretty big deal. “Comes and Goes” is their breakout song, let’s just say that.
Best Folk Album
Personal Pick: I may be a bit biased, but Kim Sawol really did impress me with her new album. Her voice is amazing, and I love the 70’s influence on the instruments here. I highly recommend buying it as soon as possible.
Prediction: This is quite a tough choice for me. However, it would be interesting to see Kim Il Du‘s 달과 별의 영혼 win. The songs have a very laid-back and relaxing atmosphere which I’m sure a lot of people can enjoy. Simplistic in nature, yet a well-driven emotional ride from start to finish.
Best Folk Song
Personal Pick: Kim Sawol’s “Bedside”, of course. No surprise there.
Prediction: From what I understand, Monoban‘s “Blue Mountain Breakup” is their rendition of a traditional korean song. Whatever the case, it sounds great and is very sweet.
Best Pop Album
Personal Pick: After a three-year hiatus, Wonder Girls are finally back in the K-pop scene with Reeboot, and with that, they’re also bringing back their long-awaited band concept. While I personally think it’s somewhat tacky to have them both play instruments and dance (if you can even call it that) at the same time, the album itself is great. This 80’s-inspired synth pop sound works wonderfully. Paloalto being featued on “Candle” is also a nice touch.
Prediction: IU is going strong as ever. CHAT-SHIRE may only be a mini-album, but each and every one of the tracks stand out on their own. The great Zion.T is featured on “Red Queen“, a great choice if you ask me. The lyrics for “Zeze” have been quite controversial, but true artists are not afraid to push someone’s buttons. This will likely go down as one of IU’s most important albums.
Best Pop Song
Personal Pick: OKDAL are great at putting together such feel-good, positive tracks, and of course “희한한 시대” is no exception in that regard. Their sweet harmonization coupled with differing instruments makes this a very enjoyable listening experience. I may be a bit biased here, but you can’t go wrong with the glory of OKDAL. There’s the appeal for those who were introduced to them via their collaboration with VIXX a few years ago.
Prediction: I’m torn between BIGBANG’s “Loser” and IU’s “Twenty-three“. Both songs have very appealing qualities, though they’re two different beasts altogether. “Loser” is a heart-breaking ballad while “Twenty-three” is more of a playful dance track with mischievous attitude. The latter had some controversial lyrical themes, so perhaps that will turn off some listeners from enjoying it as a whole? Whatever the case, both of these are extremely iconic for 2015 and have a great chance of winning considering their massive success and critical acclaim.
Best Dance & Electronic Album
Personal Pick: As much as I loved Cumeo Project‘s new outing, especially for the track “I Feel You” (very trippy and relaxing with some hints of Vaporwave influence), I’m crossing my fingers for OOHYO’s brilliant sophomore record Adventure. I quite enjoyed her first EP Girl Sense, but there are a lot of improvements here, from song-writing and overall production quality. It was also nice to hear The Quiett being featured on “Seaside“, the sixth track. As with the first album, OOHYO delivers a very sweet yet thought-provoking take on synth pop with a mix of Korean and English lyrics. Even if she doesn’t win, this is an album I highly recommend to anyone, even if you’re not particularly interested in indie music.
Prediction: I’d say f(x)‘s 4 Walls has a pretty good chance to win. Despite it being their first release to only feature four of the members, they’re not showing any signs of slowing down. Unique song structures, with usage of different electronic genres ranging from Deep House, EDM and Synth Pop. The package as a whole is very artistic and colorfully vibrant, complemented by the members’ stand-out vocals. With collaborations between Zico and Carly Rae Jepsen (“Traveler” and “When I’m Alone” respectively), this is an album worthy of your attention.
Best Dance & Electronic Song
Personal Pick: OOHYO’s “K-Drama” is a soothingly upbeat and romantic song with beautiful keyboard melodies. While I highly doubt this one will win, it’s a track I keep coming back to again and again. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite track on the album, though it’s still great.
Prediction: f(x) has always been known as the “hipsters of K-pop” and they’re not afraid to experiment with drastically different styles. “Red Light” brought elements of Witch House to the mix, while “4 Walls” has a dinstict Deep House approach, similar to SHINee‘s hit “View” released a few months earlier. This seems to be hitting home with a lot of listeners, seeing as it’s been getting played in various H&M stores around the world.
Best Rap & Hip-Hop Album
Personal Pick: P-Type is one the lesser-known artists of Brand New Music, but he stands out to me for his unique voice and brilliant lyrics. I remember the first time I heard him, I was amazed by his flow. This new album doesn’t let me down.
Prediction: The Anecdote is E SENS’ most ambitous album yet, I’d say, and it’s impossible to ignore its greatness. Besides, popularity always plays a big factor in award shows.
Best Rap & Hip-Hop Song
Personal Pick: Huckleberry P is one of my favorite rappers. I especially enjoy his work in Pinodyne. “Everest” is an emotionally powerful song, yet it’s never really overwhelming. It still manages to have a relaxing tone thanks to the jazzy piano. There’s no climax, but it consistantly builds up dramatic tension until the very end. His rapping deliveray is on-point as usual.
Prediction: Though not considered “true hip-hop”, BIGBANG’s “Bae Bae” has lots of catchy bars and trap-esque beats. Long gone are the days of T.O.P being an underground rapper known as Tempo, but you can’t deny he still sounds great these days.
Best R&B & Soul Album
Personal Pick: I’m not the biggest fan of Mayson the Soul, but his new release Photographer was a breath of fresh air. As his name suggests, this album is very soulful (pun intended). Too many amazing collaborations to mention here.
Prediction: G.Soul hit it big this year with his debut album Coming Home. You can hear a lot of inspiration from The Weeknd here, though that’s not a bad thing. Lots of smooth, funky grooves and soulful singing. I just don’t understand why JYP didn’t let him debut earlier.
Best R&B & Soul Song
Personal Pick: Definitely Zion.T & Crush‘s “Just” for me. I’m a big fan of both artists, and I’ve noticed that they work well together, which is quite prevalent here. This beautiful, soulful track with jazz influence coupled with Crush’s smooth rapping deserves all the praise it gets.
Prediction: Even though “Just” has a pretty good chance of winning, I wouldn’t be surprised if G.Soul took the award instead with his long-awaited debut track “You“. It’s honestly tragic thinking about how JYP never let him out of their so-called dungeon until now. But it makes the song feel all the more emotional with that in mind. It’s as if he’s saying “yes, finally, here I am, now let me show you what I can do.”
Best Jazz Album
Personal Pick: I was pleased to see BG Salon‘s 현재의 발견 included here. I find their music to be extremely underappreciated. Though the majority of their songs are instrumental, they also have some great vocals every now and then. I recently purchased both of their albums, I’ve been enjoying them both immensely. This one is definitely a must-have for any jazz enthusiast.
Prediction: Avant Trio‘s Blue Suns, while having no vocals, makes up for it in creative song-writing and excellent instrumentation. I love how in jazz, the saxophones can have very fast, complex structure yet keeps being relaxing, and that is a common element here. Gotta love that piano though.
Best Crossover Album
Personal Pick: Taking a lot of influence from Brazilian jazz and bossa nova, even to the point of singing in Portugese, Hee Kyung Na‘s new album “Flowing” stands out quite a bit. A very interesting listening experience.
Prediction: I haven’t been able to listen to all of these albums, but Park Je Chun seems to be quite popular. Feels like I may have heard of him prior to this.
Best Jazz & Crossover Performance
Personal Pick: It really is a shame to see such talented artists get little to no mainstream attention. Case in point – EungMin Cho. I’m absolutely loving Oriental Fairy Tale. There are some hints of progressive rock here, and I highly approve of that.
Prediction: Park Je Chun again. Refer to the previous category.