With the 2010’s coming to an end, I thought it would be appropriate to countdown my top 100 tracks that defined the decade for me.
This was a decade that really saw K-pop grow from a domestic industry into an International phenomenon. Musically, we also saw a growth in the quality of music production, as well as the general number of tracks released. Though this resulted in multiple tracks that provided unique, exciting soundscapes, it also resulted in many that felt as though they were too beholden to certain trends than carve out their own identity. Over the course of this countdown it should become quite obvious which trends I prefer, and which I don’t.
Honestly, I’ve been wanting to make this list ever since I saw Billboard make their own best of the decade list. Whilst I did enjoy many of the picks on that countdown, it seemed as though many of the placements were based on cultural significance rather than quality. And while I do understand that cultural significance and success on the charts are a big part of a songs appeal, it leaves many other underrated and under appreciated songs in the dark. Hence, I’ll be trying to compile my list based purely on my enjoyment of these tracks musically. But before we get into the countdown, here are some rules!
- Song must be released between 1st January 2010 and 31st of December 2019.
- Song must have an accompanying music video and be promoted as a single, regardless of whether another song on the album is also promoted (double title tracks)
- No Japanese or Chinese singles eligible for the list.
- Only 4 songs per group group, or else most of the list would be dominated by my bias groups (oops)
- I won’t be taking into consideration cultural significance, music video quality or chart success.
- This is all PURELY my opinion, so don’t get too mad if your favourite song doesn’t make the list
Lets get started then!
100. Beat – 100% (2014)
One of K-pop’s most consistently underrated groups, the dark electro-pop of Beat just sneaks its way into the decades best tracks, thanks to a number of dynamic production choices, and truely epic chorus. In the age of languid trap beats and murky dance beats, the straightforward bombast is truely a breath of fresh air. If you want to go dark and edgy, this is how you pull it off.
99. I Got A Boy – Girls Generation (2013)
One of K-pop’s original “Frankenstein” songs, I Got A Boy is a thrilling ride from start to finish. From it’s abrupt transitions, to its endless supply of instantly quotable hooks, there’s never a moment where the track lets up. Not to mention the insane “let’s bring it back to 140”, which remains one of kpop’s most unexpected, yet brilliant production choices. It’s not one of the genres most iconic tracks for nothing.
98. Love Me Right – EXO (2015)
One of K-pop’s most deliriously funky tracks, the infectious and utterly thrilling Love Me Right is a dynamite pop song from start to finish. From the production, to the vocals, everything is streamlined to perfection, and is a track that’s almost guaranteed to get you grooving.
97. Mona Lisa – MBLAQ (2011)
The best use of Latin influence in any K-pop song to date, the unflagging dance beats and fantastic harmonica sample combine to create MBLAQ’s best song ever. It’s all killer, no filler and one of the genres most unique tracks ever. While many groups now adays attempt to embrace the latin trend, MBLAQ paved the way.
96. Now Or Never – SF9 (2018)
The chorus and bass-line. That’s all. Easily their best song
95. Secret – WJSN (2016)
One of the biggest growers ever, the restrained electro-pop bounce of Secret proved to have insane replay value. But that’s not to say the song itself is any slouch. Secret is a fantastic distillation of everything that makes Cosmic girls such a fantastic group. From it’s ornate and dreamy chorus, to the fantastic arrangement it quickly established a signature sound for one of K-pop’s most interesting girl groups.
94. Heart Attack – AOA (2015)
After a slew of sultry smooth comebacks, Brave Brothers gifted AOA with their most bombastic single yet. Heart Attack is one of K-pop’s. most frantic production, leaving almost no time for the listener to breath. The club beats are turned up to 11, and the production, relentless. Nothing about it is restrained, and its all the more better for it.
93. Blue – Bigbang (2012)
From over the top bombast to deceptively simple, the mellow Blue remains one of veteran boy group BIGBANG’s best songs yet. Though the melody may seem inconsequential at first, the ever-present beat and seesaw synths combine to create a song that blossoms into something truly extraordinary the more you listen to it.
92. Up & Down – EXID (2014)
The song that single handedly shot, then nugu group EXID into super stardom, the quirky and extremely fun Up & Down still remains their strongest effort yet. From the attitude infused verses to the anthemic chorus, there is never a dull moment in Up & Down’s endlessly inventive brew.
91. Ah-Choo – Lovelyz (2015)
A wonderful combination of standard aegyo tropes and 80’s inspired synth pop, the excellent Ah – Choo gave Lovelyz their biggest hit yet. It’s a near perfect distillation of what makes them so great, combining instantly catchy hooks, with a surprisingly anthemic backing track courtesy of producers OnePiece.
90. Everybody – SHINee (2013)
The best use of dubstep elements in any kpop song ever, the dynamic dubstep of Everybody threatens to go off the rails multiple times during it’s 4 minute run time. It’s a testament to SHINee’s fantastic vocal performance and the excellent sing along chorus that this absolute monster of song manages to such an enjoyable ride.
89. Electric Shock – f(x) (2012)
The type of hard hitting dance track that we don’t get enough of now adays, the powerful backing track alone is almost enough to carry Electric Shock to greatness. But it’s the fantastic vocal performance and sledgehammer chorus that really cements Electric Shock‘s place within the history books.
88. NoNoNo – Apink (2013)
Featuring the catchiest chorus of their career, the immensely enjoyable NoNoNo is my favourite Apink song by a mile. Combine the addictive electro bounce with instantly gratifying hooks, and you’ve got a real classic on your hands.
87. Candy Jelly Love – Lovelyz (2014)
Lovelyz came roaring out of the gate with the insanely catchy Candy Jelly Love. It’s a pure sugar rush from start to finish, and probably the best use of aegyo infused elements in any kpop song ever. Though the enchanting verses are wonderful, it’s that absolutely divine chorus that really steals the show. The oscillating synth line that underlines the hook is absolutely sublime, and they haven’t been able to match it yet.
86. Hide & Seek – ASTRO (2016)
Few things are as important as a dynamite debut, and ASTRO’s Hide & Seek is one of the best. It’s sunshine in a bottle brew is as good as they come, but it’s that unexpected emotional heft behind almost every phrase that really transforms it into one of the best debuts of all time. Hooky as hell, and guaranteed to make me smile every time I hear it, they haven’t topped this hell of a debut yet.
85. I Feel You – Wonder Girls (2015)
One of the best re-inventions in k-pop history, I Feel You is basically the entire 80’s in a song. The irresistibly smooth synth heavy pop-track worked as the ideal throwback, whilst also evolving Wonder Girl’s retro concept to bigger and greater levels. It’s breathy and simple hook is as streamlined as they get.
84. Lady – Golden Child (2018)
A synth driven mid-tempo for the ages, Lady is the high watermark of Golden Child’s young, yet brilliant discography. It’s their most melodic track, harnesing the power of a classic pop arrangment and brilliant song writing into one breathtaking package. The breathless pre-chorus and hook rank among the decades best.
83. As If It’s Your Last – BLACKPINK (2017)
BLACKPINK’s best song by a mile, the addictive As If It’s Your Last is enough to land K-pop’s most internationally successful girl group onto this countdown. Though there is very little melody to be found in it’s ever changing verse, all quibbles are forget when we hit that pure sugar rush of a chorus. They’ll never find a hook this great again.
82. Sixth Sense – Brown Eyed Girls (2011)
The Militaristic stomp of Sixth Sense provided us with the biggest and most powerful girl group track of the decade. From the ever-present stomping beat to the injections of brass, the Sixth Sense is more a statement of intent than a song, carried forward thanks to a chill inducing vocal performance and pure sense of ambition.
81. Number Nine – T-ARA (2013)
One of the best synth riffs in all. of k-pop, the club ready beats of Number Nine were a perfect opportunity for T-ara to evolve their already potent dance floor pulse to more mature levels. Thankfully this transition was assisted by a dynamite arrangement and a chorus to die for. It also gave us the iconic “I’m addict, I’m addict, I’m addict, I’m addict”. How can you not love it.
80. If You Do – GOT7 (2015)
5 years on, the hyper melodic, angst ridden If You Do still remains GOT7’s best song to date. Offering an effortless brew of r&b influenced pop, nothing about If You Do feels remotely out of place. From its ever-present rap verses, to the gorgeous emotive chorus, which remains the single best hook they’ve ever given us. Everything in the track has a purpose and thus it remains one of the best ever examples of angsty boy band pop.
79. Nothing Lasts Forever – Girl’s Day (2010)
The electronic influence that frames the majority of Nothing Lasts Forever transforms an otherwise standard pop-rock song into something that feels much more impactful than their earlier work. But all of that is childs play compared to tracks final minute, which provides one of K-pop’s most psychedelic and cathartic moments that imbues the track with a sentimental sucker punch.
78. Volume Up – 4MINUTE (2012)
The best use of the now overused brass sample, the dance floor ready bombast of Volume Up provided 4Minute with the song of their career. It’s the most anthemic piece they’ve ever put their name to and absolutely soars every time that immense chorus rears its head.
77. Roly Poly – T-ARA (2011)
One of the most instantly recognisable songs in all of K-pop, the insanely catchy Roly Poly was the song that broke T-ara into the stratosphere. Featuring one of the most deceptively simple hooks of all time, it’s only a matter of time before the addictive melody and hypnotic hook catch up with you. You just need to hear it once for it to lodge itself in your brain.
76. FACE – Nu’est (2012)
Nu’est’s first song is still by far their best. The dynamic dance floor pulse is fantastic as it is, but it’s that one of a kind hook really seals FACE as not only one of k-pop’s best debuts, but one of its best songs in general. Just ignore that out of place dubstep break down and we’ve basically got the perfect dance track.
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