Well, 2017 has finally come. That typically means taking sometime to look back on the year past, the good moments and memorable events. As for me, I’m here to talk about some of my favorite things in Asian entertainment in general: OSTs. OSTs, or original sound tracks, can really make and break a drama for me. Luckily, there were some absolutely great ones released in 2016 that I feel compelled to share, in no particular order.
As a disclaimer, my pool of OSTs is limited. These are all coming from dramas I’ve either watched first hand or were popular enough that the soundtrack got a lot of exposure. As such, I may be missing out some real gems. So if you have any OSTs released this year that you loved, make sure to share in the comments!
1. “Can You Hear Me?” by Jooyoung
First up is the soulful ballad “Can You Hear Me?” by solo artist Jooyoung. The drama it originates from, Remember: War of the Son, is a tearjerker and this song is along the same lines. There’s something beautifully emotive of Jooyoung’s voice, which is chocolatey and smooth and very distinctive. Jooyoung doesn’t really belt on attempt any sort of vocal acrobatics in this track but he does slide into his upper register quite nicely. It’s altogether one of the most memorable OSTs of the year for me. This song and the drama it belongs to are both heart-aching on their own. Put them together and you’ll need some tissues handy. Speaking of sad things, Jooyoung is currently still in the middle of his mandatory service right now. But I eagerly await the day when he can begin releasing music again in the near future. Hopefully it’s something as impressive as this track.
2. “My Time With You” by Vanilla Acoustic
Sung for the Kdrama Cheese in the Trap, this next OST is called “My Time With You” by Vanilla Acoustic. It’s been some time since this drama aired, but I remember being veritably obsessed with this song when it was first officially released. The vocals aren’t particularly powerful or soulful. But there’s something about this OST that stands out to me nonetheless. It’s sweet and soft and altogether just lovely. Even the delicate piano instrumental of the verses sound special to me somehow, coupled with the sweetness of the chorus. The song is noticeably low-key as a whole. Quite frankly, I still don’t fully understand exactly what draws me to this song so strongly. All I know is that I love it. I can’t say I’m too familiar with Vanilla Acoustic either, other than my vague understanding that they are a K-indie group. But they did something right here, and I have to give them props for it. I might have a love-hate relationship with the Kdrama this OST features in, but the feelings I have for this song are all love.
3. “Talk Love” by K.will
What’s a list of the top OSTs of 2016 without a Descendants of the Sun OST on it? Up next is K.Will’s track for this hugely popular drama entitled “Talk Love.” This wasn’t the most popular OST to come out the drama, but it was undeniably my favorite in the outstanding ensemble track list of DOTS OSTs. K.Will’s distinctive vocals and a bright instrumental make this song a little cheerier than most others on this list. I especially love the vocal harmonies that it’s layered with, the ones that immediately hit you as soon as the track begins. There’s also a very cute whistling motif that adds some playfulness to this song. In general, “Talk Love” is a feel good OST that that manages to use K.Will’s strong, clear vocals to deliver a song that is little less brooding than others. I have to say, when it comes to DOTS, I actually enjoyed the soundtrack more than the show itself. I’ll admit to dropping this megahit drama in the early episodes. However, I won’t drop this track from my playlists anytime soon.
4. “Today Too” by Kim Bohyung (SPICA)
The fourth OST on this list is from the Kdrama The K2. It features the vocal talents of Spica’s Bohyung in a track called “Today Too.” I’m a sucker for Bohyung’s vocals in any case, but she really pulled through with this power ballad. It starts off strong with a jump immediately to the chorus where Bohyung’s singing really gets to shine. The impact of the chorus was balanced perfectly with the much softer sound maintained across the verses however. Bohyung has the ability to go from soft and delicate to forceful and emotive with the right instrumental and this song really showcased that. All in all, it’s not an unusual sound for a kdrama OST, but it’s altogether a beautiful, welcome addition to my list.
5. “Wounds of Separation” by Zhang He
Up next is an OST from the Cdrama God of War, Zhao Yun is the song “Wounds of Separation” by Zhang Ye. Chinese historical dramas always deliver some beautiful OSTs and this song is no exception. A whimsical instrumental and Zhang Ye’s smooth vocals create a track that equal parts lovely and gloomy. There’s something about the “La la la LA’s” in this song that just speaks to me. They are simultaneously melancholic and mystical somehow, and the effect is really beautiful. Overall the song is just light, airy, and really easy on the ears. Zhang Ye manages to portray emotion in a way that isn’t particularly overbearing or forceful, and the effect is quite nice. Hmm, I’m just now realizing I put two of Yoona’s dramas on this list. I promise I’m not a biased fan, Yoona just must have a knack for picking dramas with some great OSTs.
6. “Alive” by Vixx
“Alive” is the sixth OST on the list and it was sung by Vixx for the kdrama Moorim School. Oddly enough, one of my favorite 2016 OSTs comes from one of my least favorite 2016 dramas. But while Moorim School couldn’t hold my interest, this song certainly did. It’s a quirky mix of the eighties synths that start the song and Vixx’s signature dramatic sound. I just love how powerful this song is. Even though it blends traditional instruments like violins with some very modern techno beats it doesn’t come off as discordant and altogether is just a fun, exhilarating track. Vixx actually released two very good OSTs for this drama and it was really a toss up between choosing this song and “The King” for me. Either way, despite their lackluster drama of origin, these OSTs have a well-deserved spot on my list.
7. “Who Are You” by Sam Kim
From my current favorite Kdrama of the moment, “Who Are You” by Sam Kim is the most recent release on this list. This was a tough choice, given that Goblin has a number of fantastic OSTs, but something about Sam Kim’s tone and the booming of percussion in this ballad sets it apart from the rest. Sam Kim’s voice is so strong that he doesn’t need much supporting vocals, harmonies, or a dynamic instrumental to make an impact. More than sad, this song feels dark and contemplative. And I love it. I didn’t have to think long about “Who Are You” before adding it to my top 10. Though I have to say, it did hurt not putting more than one Goblin OST on this list. Shoutout to Punch and Chanyeol’s OST “Stay With Me” and Ailee’s “I Will Go to You Like the First Snow” – both are which are killing it on Melon months after their release. Their hype is very much warranted in my opinion.
8. “My Clan” by William Chan
Now we come to another CDrama OST, this one entitled “My Clan” and performed by William Chan. This song comes for the action-packed drama The Mystic Nine and is appropriately epic for an opening title song. It’s definitely different from all the other ballads on this list. In fact, I could totally see this song fitting as anime soundtrack; it just has that kind of dynamic sound to it. I am hesitant to call it rock, but know that is the genre that fits this song the best. It’s high energy, but still dark, and overall a very unique and memorable song from the plethora of OST releases this year. William Chan was also the leading actor of this drama, so it is quite cool to see him so actively involved in the OST for it, and the opening song no less. The drama as a whole featured some great music, with the second opening theme narrowly missing a spot on this list. And the use of traditional Chinese opera music throughout the drama was also a beautiful addition to the soundtrack. There was a real blend of genres, and I loved it.
9. “For You” by Chen, Baekhyun, Xiumin (EXO)
Perhaps I am a bit biased in putting this on my list given that my ultimate bias sings in it, but I love the OST “For You” regardless. Performed by Exo’s Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin, this OST featured in the Kdrama Moon Lovers. This drama is another that produced a myriad of fantastic OSTs. However, I felt that a lot of them sounded a little too modern to suit the sageuk they featured in. Fortunately, “For You” did not fall in this category. This song presents a distinctive instrumental overlaid with the colorful vocal tones of ChenBaekXi in a dynamic little piece. It’s very obviously a ballad, but is neither basic nor uninteresting and I have to commend everyone involved- the singers, songwriters, and producers – for that. So have a listen, join the debate of who sings the “Da da da da ra’s” in the song (it’s Chen, fight me), and prepare to be swept away by heavenly vocals. A prelease to the actual drama it features in, I remember listening to this OST on repeat in the days that preceded the first episode. Months later, it still hasn’t lost its charm.
10. “Can Be Thought Of, But Not Said ” by Cui Zi Ge
Finally, the last OST on the list is the absolutely gorgeous track “Can Be Thought Of, But Not Said” by Cui Zi Ge. This song was sung for the low budget Cdrama Go Princess Go, but the quality of this song reflects none of the limited funds the producers faced. While this list was in no specific order, this is hands down my favorite OST of 2016. I’ll admit some ballad OSTs can border on generic and repetitive. But this song manages to sound timeless and utterly unique in both the instrumental and vocals. I think the best way I could describe it is “ethereal.” The swelling of string instruments and some softer electronic instrumentals give it a strange, but unearthly sound. Otherwise the background music is simple and clear to compliment and the female singer’s phenomenally beautiful voice. It’s slow and sad and so unbelievably perfect. Go Princess Go is primarily a comedy so it was a little unexpected to find such a melancholic song in it. However it did suit the more serious parts of the drama, and was an easy choice for my favorite 2016 OST.
Well that’s it for my top ten OSTs of 2016. Do you agree with any? Or are there any notables released last year that I missed out on? Share your thoughts in the comments below!