Friday, December 28, 2012

The 10 Best Korean Drama OST Albums of 2012

This year's notable OST albums, as selected by your one and only k-ballad crazed admin. If a plot of a drama makes up its body of work, then the soundtrack provides it with the much needed soul. This year was a good year in terms of the variety aspect since more than 90 South Korean dramas were released this year. There indeed was something for everyone and while I did not watch that many dramas, I definitely kept up to date with all the OST (Original Sound Track) releases so I could precisely make up such a list as this. 

Don't let the adorable picture faze you, this is serious business!

On a personal note, hope this new year brings forth lots of happiness and meaning. Let me know your choices for top Korean drama soundtrack albums and what you liked this year.

It was definitely a great year in terms of the releases that even the shows (1 here and oh, found another 1 here) that everyone agreed were beyond terrible had really strong soundtrack releases. Hopefully, for those that were victims, the soundtrack made it easier to get through the day. This list, in random order, reflects back on some of those soundtracks that stood out and made an impact.

Bonus: [Download] Love is Canon - Acoustic Rain

Everyone, time to face the music.. Let's dive right into the thick of things.


Buy it online on YesAsia here.

Arang was a visual feast with a stellar couple in Shin Min Ah and Lee Jun Ki. It entertained with its suspense and fantasies with the soundtrack playing a big part. Just like the drama, the soundtrack is partly built on suspense and strays a bit from the normal mold of drama soundtracks. The soundtrack overtly displays its rock and indie influences. The haunting yet beautiful rap track Mask Dance (epic!) by MC Sniper is laced over with a daunting melody gets better with each listen. With tracks featuring solid vocalists, it leaves little to be desired.

The song that captures all the mixed emotions is Fantasy by Jang Jae In. The instrumentals match the fantasy aspect with compositions from Prosimma Music Entertainment Co. of which Arang Love Theme along with The Legend of Arang are the grandest in style and tune. The primary composers of the instrumentals were Kim Hyun Jong and Ahn So Young, both of whom have previously worked on Protect The Boss and Can You Hear My Heart soundtracks.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

The soundtrack goes in straight for the kill immersed in its emotions just like the critically acclaimed drama (I watched and would highly recommend others do the same, maybe one of the best if not the best drama to come out in 2012). The music producers' choice in the singers they chose (4Men, Bohemian, etc) is a perfect reflection of this. It wears its heart on its sleeve and almost comes off as too strong for those not familiar with the drama but coming to grasp with its significance doesn't take too long. The epic Judgement Day featuring actor Kim Joo Won along with Lee Jung Hyun storms down with its haunting composition and is sure to give listeners goosebumps. You can attribute the haunting melodies of the OST to composers 개미 (Kaemi) (composer of Judgement Day) and Lee Kun Hyung, both of whom were responsible for almost half of the tracks on the soundtrack. It's not so much about the tracks as it is about the bare emotions and mental battles it helps unfolds. Its impact is much more far-reaching than your usual drama soundtracks that it almost reaches an unquestionable status. Take a listen to Goodbye Day by Ulala Session

Watch Joo Won performing Judgement Day on 2012 KBS Drama Awards below.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

The start of 2012 saw the immense rise of this particular historical drama and for 20 episodes, it impressed and powered its way to the become a ratings monster. In the wake of such a phenomenon, many were left with a bitter aftertaste. The absence of sense in the plot development thankfully did not make its way over to the soundtrack department. Headlined by Lyn's Back in Time, arguably the most compelling soundtrack release of the year, the album features simple yet stellar instrumentals along with the emotional tracks by Wheesung, Heora and Kim Soo Hyun.

The true strength of the soundtrack remains with its instrumentals, which provide all the suspense, heartbreak and warmth you hoped the drama would provide. The instrumentals are such a breeze and truly marvelous. Saguek dramas often provide delicious instrumentals, which make up a good amount of their massive appeal. The instrumentals are works of a team of award-winning composers (Jung Se Rin, Kim Jun Seok, etc.) within Hi Five music publishing.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

SM Entertainment did a lot of questionable things in 2012 (obviously carrying over to 2013) that attracted a swarm of critics but never once disappointed in its soundtrack releases for its star-studded dud drama remake of Japanese hit Hana Kimi. To The Beautiful You had everything going for it as a drama, the adorable yet inexperienced cast on the crossroads with the youthful plot but turned out to be a huge disappointment (at least it was chock full of eye-candy). The soundtrack, with its SM artists studded lineup, had everything going for it as well, but did a much better job bringing out its fresh ideas than the drama production team. The clear winner in the album was J-Min's Stand Up, the rock infused treat which showcased her strong voice and made her whereabouts known. The other tracks were equally strong and there were almost no fillers in the album except for the instrumentals. The instrumentals were perfect for effects in the drama but a tad bit redundant. The soundtrack was truly grand and showed everyone how a quality OST album build around idols should be constructed.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

During its run, Rooftop Prince entertained to the max with its crazy antics and character animation. It tried to take itself not too seriously and worked when it was about to falter due to the writers' keen sense of direction. The comical situations were popping yet what made them pop more were those perfect instrumentals. The placement of the scores of instrumentals were beyond marvelous. Even though the drama provided little revelation, it came and left with a spark.

Tracks featuring top soloists Ali and Baek Ji Young make the soundtrack intriguing while Jay Park's light pop song Happy Ending bring it to a just closing. The instrumentals in the soundtrack are similar in style and tone to the ones in Sungkyunkwan Scandal. The songs are more somber and emotional than the instrumentals, which have a certain innocence and lightheartedness to them. Everything would have been more perfect had the one mysterious song been included.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

It was certainly a disappointing year for the famed Hong Sisters, whose production Big failed to make logical sense with its weak story-line (refer to the picture) even whilst having a solid cast and the versatile Gong Yoo. The drama overall had solid acting and was entertaining but the plot weakened the overall feel. On the other hand, the production team had a fruitful year, recruiting composers Sweetune (Kim Seung Su), Cho Young Soo, Ahn Young Min and singer-songwriter Venny. The soundtrack is a treasure with some obvious quirks (thanks to Venny & Kim Ha Na) along with powerful ballads by Davichi, Noel, Huh Gak  and Park Sang Joon. Beast and Suzy (Miss A) both bring their energy and idol fusion. The valiant effort of singer Venny should be praised as she composed both of the tracks she featured on.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

You knew this was coming, right? Technically, Reply 1997 didn't have an original soundtrack due to the difficulty in re-creating the 90's musical scene. The drama helped itself an immense amount by choosing 90's songs when there was nostalgia going around. Deserving of its high praise, the drama had the right amount of charm and humor to go along with its pre-meditated wits. Both the drama and its soundtrack managed to triumph over other high-profile shows and created a syndrome unlike any other. Sometimes, in all the hoop-la, simplicity usually takes a back-seat but as evident, the production crew for this drama did its job with utmost sincerity. Due to popular demand, the director's cut OST album containing the two cover duets by the lead couple and other old 90's hits was released, which quickly garnered 12,500 pre-orders. The two cover duets, All For You and Just The Way We Love both maintain its original vibes with a refreshing twist. It also helps that the leads, Seo In-guk and A Pink's Jung Eun-ji are both strong vocalists.



Daesung's song Lunatic was the only track officially released as part of the OST since the other songs used in the drama were covers of originals. On a creative front, one song release shows a major lack in originality and creativity when other dramas are constantly stepping up their game in the OST department but becomes understandable once you take a closer look at their situation. What's Up broadcast network MBN is not one of the major channels and therefore is more restricted on spending fronts. The other factor might be YG's lack of interest in OST releases, which is reflective in the lack of participation by YG artists in soundtrack releases (Gummy the exception). Being the minimalists that they are, Daesung and YG Dancers involvement in the drama didn't entail much on the soundtrack side. Therefore, Lunatic was released and became the only release to implement Daesung's vocals. The drama is heavily infused with the cast covering original songs and when you have duets such as the following, the lack of original soundtracks becomes an afterthought.



Buy it online on YesAsia here!

This soundtrack might have been the clearest choice to many but in my initial thoughts, I never had it as one of the best. The heavy rock sounds initially came off as unpolished and without substance which was a direct result from a lack of knowledge of the drama's youthful plot and significance. After some research and a closer look, I found the soundtrack refreshing and admirable for being the perfectly not-perfect fit for the drama. It manages to be one of the few soundtrack in recent memory that directly infuses the significance of its counterpart (the drama) and reflects the characters' hardships and growth.  Its sound can entirely be attributed to veteran songwriter Lee Jae Hak, who was the principle composer and lyricist for almost all of the songs. It balances its heavy rock tracks with soft acoustic indie sounds without much damage to its quality. Some of tracks unfortunately do come off a little too strong lacking in some aspects but that is to be expected with an ambitious project such as this. Overall, the soundtrack stays true to its youthful core and inspires along with the characters that face life's hardships.


Buy it online on YesAsia here!

King 2 Hearts is proof of the all-around quality year in drama-land. In a different year, this drama might have been one of the highlights but took a back-seat once the talisman possessing cable network channel tvN took over with its army of Flower Boys and 1997'ers. The soundtrack does manage to hold its own with its featured line-up of strong vocalists. 

Just like her previous tracks, Taeyeon's Missing You Like Crazy topped the charts once it was released. The other tracks keep on a solemn grip and follow the usual route of a ballad. This soundtrack doesn't take risks yet manages to fill a void with its innocence and emotions. The one exception might be Super Kidd's track that manages to strangely pop out of nowhere with a questionable composition style that seemed rushed. Nonetheless, the soundtrack strong and stays in a medium without revealing itself vulnerable.


The following soundtracks missed the mark by a tiny amount and certainly would have been invited to the party had it been '20 Best' instead of '10 Best' which I had initially planned but proved too much. In alphabetical order.

Cheongdam-dong Alice OST (2012 - 2013)

Dr. Jin OST 

Dream High 2 OST

Faith OST

Five Fingers OST

A Gentleman's Dignity OST

I Miss You OST (2012 - 2013)

Nice Guy OST

Queen Inhyun's Man OST

The Sons OST


[Info Source: HanCinema, Komca, Gaksital Wiki KoreanHi Five Website, Reply 1997 Wiki]
[Photo Source: Beautiful You OfficialArang OfficialGaksital OfficialMoon/Sun OfficialRooftop Prince OfficialBig Official WebsiteReply 1997 OfficialHanCinemaNaver BlogKing 2 Hearts]
[Video Source: asiandreamvod, hoiticmbckpop, sbsmusic1ybistop1, cjenmmusic, mnetwphong095, cjenmmusic, mbckpop @ YouTube]

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