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
75. Rum Pum Pum – f(x) (2013)
Powering forward on a vaguely tribal beat, the off kilter nature of Rum Pum Pum‘s verses are chock-a-block full of interesting and mostly unexpected production flourishes. Combine this with the fantastic vocal layering of its chorus, and you’ve got a real stunner on your hands.
74. WONDERLAND – ATEEZ (2019)
The biggest and most dramatic title track of its year, WONDERLAND combined marching band percussion and an excellent militaristic hook to create a true spectacle for both the eyes and ears. In the hands of another group this approach might have resulted in a less than impressive result, but ATEEZ imbue the track with so much personality and energy that its hard to not get caught up within the performance.
73. Back:Hug – Snuper (2017)
Fusing the tired and true elements of tropical house with an ultra melodic hook, producers Sweetune proved that there was still much that could be pulled out of this now oversaturated genre. The songs ever-changing soundscape and immaculate vocal performance resulted in one of Snuper’s most complex singles yet and was yet another slam dunk for one of K-pop’s most underrated boy groups. That lush, soaring chorus is a thing of dreams.
72. I Need U – BTS (2015)
Though they would explode in popularity the following year, I NEED U provided BTS with the breakthrough that the then under rated, and under valued boy group sorely deserved. Straying from the hip-hop infused sound that drove much of their earlier work, this melancholic track carried much more emotional heft than much of their past and future work.
71. Alone – Sistar (2012)
One of the most classy songs in all of K-pop, the sultry mid tempo bounce of Alone acted as the perfect track to introduce the world to a more mature version of then rookies Sistar. Though the breathy, sleek chorus is phenomenal, it’s that synth drenched opening segment that really cements Alone’s place in the history books.
70. Without You – NCT U (2016)
An anthemic blast of power pop, the melodic bombast of Without You is easily my favourite song released by any of the ever changing NCT units. Though there have been many songs more experimental, or trendy than this, it’s hard to beat the power of a flawless melody and that massive chorus.
69. This Love – SHINHWA (2013)
After 11 years in the industry, SHINWA proved once again why they are K-pop’s longest running idol group with the immense This Love. Nothing about This Love is particularly game changing, but it’s flawless production and invigorating dance floor pulse come together to create the perfect club song. The euphoric hook at its core is just the icing on the cake.
68. It’s Me (Pick Me) – Produce 101 season 2 (2017)
The best reality tv show song of all time, It’s Me (Pick Me) provided one of the decades most galvanising and euphoric performance pieces. From its wall of layered vocals, to that larger than life hook, it pulses forward with unrivalled intent. Though a dance floor anthem, the track provides a hefty emotional sucker punch , perfectly conveying the desperation of its preformers into 3 and a half minutes of pure EDM catharsis.
67. Vibrato – Stellar (2015)
A dynamite song, the ever evolving Vibrato provided underrated girl group Stellar with their biggest and best song ever. From the oscillating string sections to that rousing chorus, Vibrato is a song that revels in its large number of pure pop hooks. But its not until the track absolutely explodes in its final moments that the true scale of the songs ambition is fully realised.
66. Beautiful Night – BEAST (2012)
The only straight up party song in BEAST’s arsenal, and a bloody good one at that. That irresistibly great dance floor beat is only a precursor to that gargantuan party starting chorus at the songs core. There isn’t anything subtle about Beautiful Night, and there doesn’t need to be. Easily one of K-pop’s most endlessly enjoyable songs.
65. Like A Cat – AOA (2014)
Home to one of the catchiest hooks in their arsenal, the effortless and sensual Like A Cat provided listeners with one hell of comeback. The slinky repetitive instrumental is an addictive addition, but it’s that that killer ”la la la” refrain that really transforms Like A Cat into one of the decades best.
64. As You Wish – WJSN (2019)
When considering all of WJSN’s past title tracks, most have fallen squarely into either the cosmic spacey vibe of Secret and Save Me, Save You or the upbeat pop of Boogie Up or Happy. As You Wish was a song that combined both sides of the group to create their best and most anthemic single yet. However it truely ascends in its final minute, where its multiple vocal explosions and unique production flourishes make it truely transcendent.
63. Bad Boy – 100% (2012)
Travelling forward at breakneck speed, the powerful electro throb of Bad Boy was the perfect introduction for 100%. That claustrophobic instrumental acts as the perfect backing for the immense chorus at the songs centre. Few tracks power forward with such conviction and that’s a shame.
62. Error – VIXX (2014)
VIXX at their pensive best, the dramatic electro throb of Error is the best song they’ve ever put their name to. Laid ontop of a gorgeous melody, the track is home to the groups most emotionally powerful performance, growing stronger and more desperate over the songs runtime.
61. Loving U – Sistar (2012)
One of K-pop’s best ever summer anthems, Loving U is the perfect distillation of everything that makes SISTAR, and summer so great. From the buoyant verses to the fantastic chorus, every single element of Loving U combines flawlessly, to craft Sistar’s best song ever.
60. Miniskirt – AOA (2014)
Arguably the best mid-tempo to ever come out, the sexy bounce of Miniskirt proved a turning point for AOA. Though Jimin’s always iconic “hey” is one of the tracks most novel and addictive refrains, it’s the flawless production and endless supply of hooks that really elevates Miniskirt above many of its peers.
59. I Am The Best – 2NE1 (2011)
One of most iconic girl group songs of all time, the unrelenting techno beat that underlies most of I Am The Best is one of the decades best production choices. The attitude infused verses and chant like hook are excellent, but it’s CL’s commanding bridge that really sends this anthem soaring. It’s a song that would sound terrible in the wrong hands, but 2NE1 imbue it with so much energy and attitude, it’s impossible to see it any other way.
58. Don’t Touch My Girl – Boyfriend (2011)
Nobody pulls off bubblegum pop like Sweetune, and Boyfriend’s sophomore effort Don’t Touch My Girl is probably the best example of it. It’s a song that feels like you’re standing in the wind, so breezy and light on its feet that you feel like it’s fading away every time your trying to catch onto it. But Sweetune imbue the track with an excellent melody and a cavalcade of anthemic hooks to make it anything but inconsequential.
57. TICKET – 9muses (2012)
Featuring one of k-pop’s best synth loops, 9muses’s fantastic Ticket was probably their only ‘hooky’ song. Relying heavily of the repeated “ticket one way, one way ticket” refrain, the song builds to a number of euphoric crescendos, before that maddeningly catchy hook rears its head.
56. Don’t Forget Me – Girl’s Day (2012)
A tears on the dance floor masterpiece, the emotional dance floor pulse of Don’t Forget Me gifted the girls with one of the most emotional songs of their career. Though flawlessly produced, it’s that yearning chorus that really transcends Don’t Forget Me into the upper echelons of the decade. It’s might not be my favourite Girl’s Day song, but it’s damn close.
55. Fantastic Baby – BIGBANG (2012)
For many, Fantastic Baby is the answer to the age old question of “what is k-pop”. Arguably the genres most iconic track, alongside PSY’s Gangnam Style, this electronic hip-hop track is home to some of the most instantly catchy and quotable hooks ever. It’s a near perfect distillation of everything that makes this iconic group so great, and one of the best party starters you’ll ever find.
54. Complete – ONF (2018)
One of the 2018’s best songs, rookie group ONF’s sophomore effort Complete was the rare song that blew almost all expectations away from the very first listen. Though many groups have prominently used brass samples, no song has ever utilised it to such euphoric levels. One of the most propulsive and “lighting in a bottle” songs you’ll ever find.
53. I LOVE YOU – 2NE1 (2012)
Though many consider their 2011 singles run or 2014’s Come Back Home to be their zenith, I view 2012’s I LOVE YOU to be 2NE1’s undisputed peak. Few kpop songs or groups have ever embraced Eurobeat in such unique and exhilarating ways. Full of breathtaking builds and addictive hooks, there isn’t a single moment of I LOVE YOU that feels as though it’s not operating at a ten.
52. Red Flavor – Red Velvet (2017)
Few summer anthems have had such a lasting impact as Red Flavor. The hallmark of a great song, is its ability to transform our most basic emotions into something that feels truely extraordinary. Red Flavor does this with ease, providing an irresistibly buoyant blast of summer time pop, that leads to one of the most cathartic and chill inducing moments of their career during Wendy’s go for broke bridge.
51. ONE SHOT – B.A.P (2013)
An explosive statement of intent from B.A.P, the operatic bombast of ONE SHOT is more of an experience than a song. The excellent rap filled verses offer the perfect contrast to that gargantuan chorus, that stands as one of K-pop’s best. Pair that with one of the best music videos ever conceived, and you have a real show stopper on your hands.