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Songs ranked between: 100 – 76
Songs ranked between: 75 – 51
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
50. JANUS – Boyfriend (2012)
One of K-pop’s most majestic sounding tracks, the ornate and dramatic Janus stands as a high-water mark in Boyfriends incredible discography. Titled after roman god ‘Janus’, it’s one of those songs I feel would play as you walk the stairs up to heaven. Its orchestral arrangement is breathtaking, and once that heavenly chorus hits, all bets are off.
49. Red Light – f(x) (2014)
Though we might never hear another song from f(x), there was a time when they were releasing fantastic pop song after fantastic pop song with no end in sight. And in a discography full of weird, experimental songs, Red Light is probably the most obscure, featuring a hodgepodge of elements that effortlessly complement each other to create a masterful listening experience.
48. Me Gustas Tu – GFRIEND (2015)
A dynamite sophomore effort, the powerful innocence of Me Gustas Tu provided one of the best sugar rushes of the decade. It’s a pure pop package, stuffed with addictive hooks that fully revel in the songs bubbly, pop infused brew. But it’s the dynamic arrangement and soaring electric guitar that transform what could potentially be another generic girl group track into one of the decades finest.
47. VERY NICE – SEVENTEEN (2016)
One thing that’s mostly forgotten in 2020 kpop, is it’s sense of fun. Back in 2016, SEVENTEEN capitalised on this severely under-appreciated emotion to gift us one of the most deliriously entertaining tracks of the decade. There isn’t a single weak or boring moment in VERY NICE‘s thrilling brew. It opens at 100 and stays that way for its entire run time. Sometimes all you need is a heavy jolt of energy, and VERY NICE provides just that.
46. Solo Day – B1A4 (2014)
I love ”road trip” songs, and Solo Day is right up there with the best of them. It’s the perfect summer song, filled to the brim with anthemic vocal melodies and an unrelenting sense of joy. It’s just one of those songs that you can imagine blasting while driving down an endless highway. The kaleidoscopic harmonies and pure pop explosion at the tracks climax are just the icing on the cake.
45. Bad Girl, Good Girl – missA (2010)
Many girl groups have gone for the “cool” concept recently, but all the way back in 2010, missA absolutely nailed it with this incredibly addicting blast of sassy pop. Though I don’t particularly enjoy this “sing-talk” style, there is just something incredibly charming about the minimalistic arrangement and sticky hook. Rarely do groups hit a home run on their first try, but missA achieved it with ease.
44. Love Style – Boyfriend (2012)
One of the most frantic productions in all of kpop, the dynamite Love Style is an expertly crafted synth pop anthem, courtesy of producers Sweetune. The first time around the track might feel a little too overstuffed, but once the constant barrage of hooks finally settles in, there is no escape. Impossibly catchy and full of unexpected twists and turns, it’s a trip from start to finish.
43. Growl – EXO (2013)
One of the most universally loved songs in all of k-pop, the nimble RnB groove of Growl not only gave then rookie group EXO the biggest hit of their career, but also one of their most addictive songs. Honestly, that genius backing track alone would have been enough to land it within the top 100, but it’s the fantastic hook and immensely satisfying harmonies that really seals the deal.
42. What’s Happening – B1A4 (2013)
An unadulterated blast of pop song perfection, the quirky as hell What’s Happening remains B1A4’s best upbeat offering yet. It’s an impossibly package filled to the brim with addictive hooks and a shout to the skies punchy chorus that absolutely soars. . Very few groups can imbue an otherwise pop song with so much weight, but it’s B1A4 we’re talking about here. Even Baro’s out of nowhere raps feel absolutely necessary to the whole package.
41. FINGERTIP – GFRIEND (2017)
From one synth pop anthem to another, the ballsy propulsive FINGERTIP proved a little to jarring for many upon its release. But for me it’s always been a high water in girls discography. It’s a gargantuan track, expertly melding elements of 70’s funk, 80’s synth pop and 90’s techno into one relentless package. And by the time the bombastic electric guitar solo hits, resistance is futile.
40. Energetic – Wanna One (2017)
Wanna One might not have had the best discography of all the produce groups, or the best lineup, but they for sure had the best debut song. Tackling the now oversaturated genre of deep-house (which I do enjoy), Energetic proved to be one of the decades most addicting boy group tracks. From it’s rhythmic opening bars to the pulsing dancefloor hook at its core, it’s a track that’s streamlined to perfection. And though its everpresnt electro thump and flawless production are as good as they come, its the groups undeniable charisma and performance that really makes Energetic such a treat.
39. Fiction – Beast (2011)
One fo the most emotionally powerful tracks in all of kpop, the dark, emotive dance floor pulse of Fiction remains Beast’s most iconic and strongest track. Full of riveting melodic builds and heart wrenching vocal phrasing, there isn’t a single moment where Fiction feels as though it’s plodding, a rarity for many songs of its nature. It’s one of those songs that hits you almost immediately, but blossoms into something truly extraordinary the more you listen to it. The serene hook Is just heavenly.
38. Better Day – 100% (2016)
After a 2 year hiatus, 100% not only returned with the best album of their career in ‘TIME LEAP’, but also their best ever single. Produced entirely by Sweetune, the synth driven greatness of Better Day breathed new life into a group that seemed as though they were on their last legs. Though I don’t really pay attention to the vocals in a song, I would be a fool to not talk about the vocal work in Better Day. It transforms the otherwise strong falsetto led chorus into a magnificent spectacle that demands to be heard.
37. 9 and Three Quarters (Run Away) – TXT (2019)
Many groups over the last few years have gone for the classic teen anthem, but no song was as polished, and powerful as TXT’s breathtaking Run Away. This is all thanks the songs megawatt chorus, which hits like a truck each time with propulsive rhythms, soaring melodies and fantastic vocal layering. In an era of drop choruses, Run Away’s two part chorus proved an absolute necessity, recalling everything great about some of the best boy group tracks of the last generation. Apart from its compressed vocal processing, it feels like a truely timeless pop song.
36. Catallena – Orange Caramel (2014)
One of the weirdest and most offbeat tracks to ever grace the k-pop mainstream, Catallena fuses everything that made Orange Caramels past tracks so enjoyable into one irresistibly fun package. A flawless blend of trot, slinky disco beats and a hilarious Punjabi folk sample, there isn’t a single moment within this almost otherworldly track and music video that’s boring. Catallena is K-pop at its most obscure, and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.
35. Love Bomb – fromis_9 (2018)
One of the quirkiest, yet most powerful tracks of the last decade fromis_9’s brilliant Love Bomb was one of 2018’s biggest and best surprises. The stuttering beat that underlies the tracks character rich verses are excellent, but it’s that expansive chorus that truly soars. It somehow manages to be both incredibly catchy yet emotionally resonant all at once, leading to some of the most goosebump inducing builds of the groups young career. I’m awaiting some great things from them in the future.
34. News – 9Muses (2012)
9Muses were one of those groups that rarely put out a bad single with their 2012-2013 singles run still in my opinion, being one of the most consistently strong in kpop history. On first listen, there isn’t really much of a central hook that anchors News, instead it’s a number of fantastic smaller hooks that come together to create an exhilarating centrepiece. Combine that with some of the most dynamic verses in their discography and you’ve got one of the most flawlessly produced and expertly performed tracks in all of k-pop. Sera’s stare will forever remain iconic.
33. Secret Garden – Oh My Girl (2018)
Truely one of the most beautiful songs of the last decade, the excellent Secret Garden is emotive mid-tempo girl group fare streamlined to perfection. The bass line is absolutely sublime, providing distortion to an otherwise smooth arrangement and adding in significant melody. Add that to a fantastic choreography and immensely satisfying central hook, and you have a masterfully crafted song that captures everything great about Oh My Girl.
32. Shampoo – After School (2011)
While compiling this list, I came to the realisation that I really really adore emotive dance floor anthems. There’s just something about them that feels truely special, and After School’s Shampoo is right up there with the best of them. From the glossy production to the wistful chorus, it’s one of the most gorgeous songs within After School’s consistently strong discography. It’s a real shame that they haven’t released anything since 2013.
31. Tonight – Spica (2013)
Although the fantastic Russian Roulette just barely missed out on the top 100, Tonight was the Spica song that truely connected with me the most. Combining the groups powerful vocal blend with a constantly rising melody, Tonight is a song that hits you right off the bat. To put it simply, it’s just a gargantuan pop song performed with absolutely nothing to lose. Easily one of the most nostalgic and emotive anthems of 2013.
30. MIROH – Stray Kids (2019)
Arguably the best two part combination of big beat drop and soaring hook in k-pop history, the immense Miroh was easily the strongest song of its year. Framed by an ever-present chant like hook, the track rockets towards a gargantuan beat drop that truly ignites Miroh’s intense energy. The drop itself isn’t anything limp, it’s a magnificent centrepiece that feels satisfying from the first listen and cranks the energy up 100. It’s a song that’s performed with go for broke intensity and one that I doubt Stray Kids will be able to top any time soon.
29. I-Yah – Boyfriend (2013)
The song of their career, the dynamic guitar and synth fuelled prowess of I-yah cemented Boyfriend’s status as one of K-pop’s most consistently strong boy groups. Though the production and backing track are fantastic, it’s the divine vocal layering of the chorus that really puts I-Yah into a league of its own. Add to that a last minute key change, and you have a phenomenal song that was truely undervalued upon its release. It’s basically TXT’s aforementioned Run Away stuck onto a more riveting melody.
28. Mamma Mia – KARA (2014)
Speaking of undervalued upon release, the relentless dance floor pulse of KARA’s Mamma Mia was another track that inexplicably got thrown under the bus. Many questioned whether or not KARA would be able to comeback after two of the members left the group, and Mamma Mia gave them the perfect answer. Not only does it feature the best opening 30 seconds in k-pop history, Mamma Mia as a whole is a statement of intent. Its fantastic disco production and soaring hook are one for the ages.
27. Figaro – 9Muses (2011)
The funkiest track within 9Muses’s discography, the impossibly addictive Figaro is their undeniable peak. Working with Sweetune for the first time, Figaro proved that 9Muses were more than just a group of models. It’s an example of a group operating at their full potential, attacking almost every moment with equal ferocity and vigour. Makes sense since the members were apparently enraged after the disaster that was No Playboy. Though all the elements may seem a little to simple at first, it’s only a matter of time till the genius hook latches onto you and refuses to let go.
26. Sugar Free – T-ARA (2014)
The most bombastic, powerful and sophisticated song within T-ara’s discography, Sugar Free proved that almost every other club oriented k-pop song before it were pussies. Few songs are so in your face bombastic that it actually works. The bass is turned up to 11 and head banging to 20. Add onto this unrelenting bombast the best chorus of their career, and you have one of the most showstopping tracks in K-pop history. It’s a thrilling experience, and the type of song we don’t see enough of these days.
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