Op-Ed: Top 20 K-Pop of 2014

Client: Dazed Digital.

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#1. Orange Caramel: Catallena

The comical, twisted and wonderful “Catallena” was a tune that welded itself to your brain. Building on After School sub-unit Orange Caramel’s knack for both a brilliant hook (2012’s “Lipstick”) and infusing their hyper-pop with a gleeful silliness (the J-pop vibes of debut single “Magic Girl”), its hi-NRG sparkle led it to be crowned the queen of the disco in a year where 80s synths and 70s shimmies ruled K-pop.

Yet as it brimmed with confidence, the song represented Orange Caramel turning a corner. Once seen as more of a novelty side-project, their sound came home to roost – ironically, in a song which sampled lyrics of Punjabi folk song “Jutti Meri Jandiye” and music straight out of a sweaty East Village dancefloor in ’79. With seamless use of both, it forms something like a K-pop superstrain. But the cleverest trick of all is the insane video, in which the trio of Nana, Lizzy and Raina wriggle in mermaid suits under clingfilm. Against pastel-coloured backdrops, they become pieces of sushi, curling up on foam structures fashioned as rice blocks, wearing playsuits the colour of their designated fish. They dance on cutting boards and frolick in soy sauce. The plot makes little sense – the trio desire the “gorgeous” Catallena, here played by not-so-gorgeous funnyman Kim Dae-sung dressed as an octopus – but that’s not the point. Not once did it ever seem ridiculous; rather, it shone like a beacon of intelligence, creativity, humour and empathy in a tumultuous year.

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