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Songs ranked between: 100 – 76
Songs ranked between: 75 – 51
Songs ranked between: 50 – 26
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.
- 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
We’ve reached the final stretch!
The following songs on this countdown are (in my humble opinion), 25 (Well actually it’s 26) of the greatest kpop tracks, not only of the decade, but of all time. All of these songs are the standard to which I hold most modern comebacks to, and are exactly the type of songs that lured me down the k-pop rabbit hole in the first place. Though my top 6 were set in stone, the order of the other 19 songs were switched around so many times, I’ve lost count. It was incredibly difficult to rank songs that I essentially think are flawless. Hence, you can pretty much randomly assort most of these songs, and I still wouldn’t have much problem with it.
But before we get into the cream of the crop, let’s have a look at (in no particular order) 15 songs that just narrowly missed out on my list of the top 100 songs of the decade!
Honourable Mentions To Top 100:
Heart To Heart – 4Minute (2011)
I Will Show You – Ailee (2012)
B.B.B (Big Baby Baby) – Dal Shabet (2014)
Eyes, Nose, Lips – Taeyang (2014)
You & I (Park Bom solo) – 2NE1 (2010)
Side Effects – Stray Kids (2019)
Get Out – AOA (2012)
Good Bye Bye – Nu’est (2014)
If I become an Adult – Bonusbaby (2017)
G.R.8.U – VIXX (2013)
My Heart Says – So real (2014)
Angel – Berrygood (2016)
Pheonix – ZE:A (2012)
Oh! My Mistake – April (2018)
What’s Wrong – T-ARA (2010)
Each of those tracks within the honourable mentions are fantastic songs in themselves, and were easy standouts within their respective groups discographies. But let’s now look at the songs that were good enough to make it into the top 100, but were unfortunately omitted because of the 4 songs per group rule!
Man In Love – INFINITE (2013) ~ Top 25
Nothing’s Over – INFINITE (2011) ~ Top 35
Glass Bead – GFRIEND (2015) ~ Top 60
Sweet Girl – B1A4 (2015) ~ Top 60
Last Romeo – INFINITE (2014) ~ Top 65
She’s Back – INFINITE (2011) ~ Top 65
Jumping – KARA (2010) ~ Top 70
Bad – INFINITE (2015) ~ Top 75
Beautiful Target – B1A4 (2011) ~ Top 75
Bounce – Boyfriend (2015) ~ Top 80
Wild – 9Muses (2013) ~ Top 90
Good evening – SHINee (2018) ~ Top 90
Dream Girl – SHINee (2013) ~ Top 95
Now that it’s time for the big guns, here are the top 26 songs of the decade as per my own musical tastes!:
25. Tried To Walk – B1A4 (2012)
A soaring piece of anthemic pop, Tried To Walk is one of the most melodic and emotionally powerful tracks in B1A4’s fantastic discography. A massive shift in musical direction from their previous comebacks, the track positioned the group in a more mature light. And the results were fantastic. I have a huge soft spot for these synth drenched pop-ballads and Tried To Walk Is right up there with the absolute best. From the gorgeous synth riff that anchors the songs brilliant hook to Jinyoung’s lush symphonic composition, it truly proved that B1A4 were one of a kind.
24. Pandora – KARA (2012)
A propulsive beast of a song, KARA’s Pandora is one of those tracks that doesn’t once allow you to catch your breath. The track was produced during Sweetune’s imperial phase, and carries every single one of their musical hallmarks. Along with T-ARA’s Sugar Free it’s one of those rare girl group songs that feels extremely ballsy in its overall presentation and curb stomping musical direction. The combination of that aggressive synth riff and propulsive beat are a match made in heaven, with the addition of resounding electric guitars in the background being the icing on the cake.
23. Navillera – GFRIEND (2016)
Coming off the biggest hit of their career, Gfriend proved that they were more than just a one hit wonder with the propulsive dance floor assault of Navillera. Not only was it a hit on the charts, but it was also one of the best songs of their career. Rather than opt for, or conform towards any certain girl group stereotype, Navillera pulses forward with the kind of unrelenting energy that’s almost unheard of in todays k-pop landscape. With its anime-esque arrangement, sky high vocals and another killer electric guitar solo courtesy of producers Iggy and Youngbae, the songs retro synth pop pulse is one of K-pop’s best.
22. Expectation – Girl’s Day (2013)
A full on dance floor assault, Expectation is Girl’s Day’s biggest and absolute best song. From the propulsive verses to the gargantuan multi-refrain hook at the songs core, every single element seems almost pre programmed to deliver the biggest and most aggressive musical sucker punch possible. But with almost all their best songs, Expectation really ramps up during the bridge, which creates one of the most invigorating builds the industry has seen till date. It’s a watershed moment for one of K-pop’s biggest (and often forgotten) hitmakers.
21. Lonely – B1A4 (2014)
Lonely may not be B1A4’s most propulsive, silly or popular song, but it is most certainly their best. Now I may not be a ballad person, but I when I hear a good one, I absolutely fall in love. Such is the case with Lonely, which might just be my favourite Korean ballad of all time. Though much of that is a lie since Lonely leans much more towards RnB than pure balladry, there’s no denying the emotional weight this track conveys throughout its four minute run time. The repeated “lonely, lonely lonely” hook is one of the groups most catchy, but it’s the almost flawless production and pristine melody that elevates this into a league of its own.
20. Lupin – KARA (2010)
The earliest track on this countdown, KARA began the decade with a bang thanks to the orchestral synth bombast of Lupin. Laid over a sinister marching band instrumental, it’s all at once majestic, eerie and powerful, acting more as a statement of intent than just another song. Combine that with an innumerable number of unpredictable production flourishes and the gorgeous vocal layering and harmonies at the songs core and you’ve got one of the most aggressively produced, yet serenely performed tracks in the industry’s history. It’s a combination that in theory shouldn’t work, but if one group was destined to pull it off, it had to be KARA.
19. Be Mine – INFINITE (2011)
Though Before The Dawn‘s ‘scorpion dance’ had brought them some prior fame, it was the perfectly streamlined Be Mine that really shot INFINITE into super stardom. Not only is it one of the most iconic boy group breakout tracks of all time, but it’s also one of the best. To put it simply, Be Mine is the perfect pop song. Devoid of any momentum killing breakdowns, or pointless diversions, everything plays out as smoothly and as streamlined as you would expect it to be. It’s one of the most flawless distillations of Sweetune’s 80’s synth pop sound, propelling forward on a dynamic combination of rhythm guitar and electronic beats.
18. Platonic Love – Snuper (2016)
Many songs have taken blatant inspiration from A-Ha’s legendary 1980’s hit Take On Me, but the Snuper’s Sweetune produced retro opus, Platonic Love is heads and shoulders above the rest. Not only does it perfectly re imagine the musical landscape from the era it is so obviously trying to take inspiration from, but it actually improves on many of the negative aspects that those tracks had. The chorus especially, is pure bliss transforming from the addicting clipped delivery of its opening lines to the resounding post chorus hook that is bound to instantly get stuck in your head. From the ever-present programmed drum beat to the sprinkling of icy synths around every corner, it’s a perfectly timeless piece of pop music, and one of the best Snuper has ever put their name to.
17. History – EXO (2012)
Few debut rollouts have been as perfectly engineered and well executed as EXO’s. Though they were first introduced to the world through the pensive RnB groove of What Is Love, it was the jagged funk of History that cemented them as a group to look out for. Since History, EXO have tackled funk many many times during their career, yet this track still stands as their best attempt yet, powering forward on a bed of stuttering electronics and bucketloads of hooks. It’s one of the groups most effortless tracks, harnessing both their youth and undeniable charisma into a flawless distillation of crisp , uncluttered song craft.
16. Blood Sweat & Tears – BTS (2016)
The undisputed masterpiece of BTS’s now burgeoning discography, the lush atmospheric Blood Sweat & Tears was a song that melded the oversaturated genres of Moombahton and Tropical House into one of the most invigorating productions of the last decade. Every single moment of the song is infused with so much pathos, that it transforms what could be an otherwise anti-climactic hook into one of the most dynamic centrepieces of its decade. Most importantly, the track has depth. The vocals and swirling instrumental fuse to create an almost sensual atmosphere, one that we unfortunately haven’t seen the group tackle since. It was the first K-pop song that I truely loved, and while there are 15 other songs that I now consider to be stronger, few are captivating as Blood‘s hypnotic brew.
15. The Star Of Stars (유성) – Snuper (2017)
Easily one of the best uses of Tropical house in any song ever, The Star Of Stars (유성) is one of the most exhilarating and refreshing productions in recent memory. Stuffed to brim with persistent electronics and a propulsive beat, The Star Of Stars (유성) features an absolute whopper of a chorus. It’s easily one of the most instantly catchy and dynamic centrepieces of the decade, powering forward with a robust central melody and an even stronger post chorus hook. The chorus absolutely soars, providing a more satisfying listening experiences than any tropical house song I’ve ever heard. It’s all breathtaking stuff, and is the masterwork of K-pop’s most underrated boy group. It’s flawlessly produced, taking a multitude of rather standard musical tropes to create a “lighting in bottle” pop song that leaves you feeling refreshed after every listen.
14. Love Options – BESTie (2013)
Easily the strongest and most underrated track ever produced by the prolific and often great Bravesound, Love Options is a non-stop barrage of some of k-pops catchiest hooks from start to finish. Forget your TT’s and Gee‘s, the sheer catchy-ness of this track is almost unmatched. But then again, if catchy hooks was the only thing that Love Options had going for it, then why is number 14 on the list of best songs of the decade? Well, that’s because apart from arguably being the catchiest track in kpop history, this song also has one of the most dynamic and propulsive backing tracks the industry has seen. Though it may not seem like it, just try listening to the 80’s remix of Twice’s Likey which uses this song as the backing track. You won’t be disappointed. Easily Bravesound and BESTie’s masterpiece.
13. Monster – Bigbang (2012)
The perfect chorus. There are few songs that I can confidently say have a near perfect centrepiece, but Bigbang’s magnum opus Monster is definitely one of them. If the rest of Monster is operating at an 11, then the hook is at a 20. It’s absolutely incredible, and one of the most rousing moments in the groups excellent and always consistent discography. That’s not to discount the rest of the track, which harbours the most emotional and flawless melody of the groups illustrious career. It’s a testament to the incredible songwriting and production that this song still manages to provide an incredible emotional sucker punch on each listen, almost 8 years on from its release. It’s all at once haunting, emotional, cinematic and a full realisation of everything Bigbang as a group stands for.
12. Paradise – INFINITE (2011)
Following up your breakout hit (and one of your best songs) is not easy, but INFINITE proved that they were more than up for it, returning with one of the most beautiful and grandiose songs of their career. Paradise is a song that builds and swells unlike any other, constantly growing into a magnificent aural showcase that takes full advantage of the groups unique and electrifying vocal blend. The masterful vocal layering, courtesy of producers Sweentune causes the entire track to play out more like a symphonic movement, culminating in an absolutely gorgeous falsetto led hook that resounds like a choir of hundreds. The instrumental is equally grandiose, drenched in lush orchestral and rock based influences that send the track absolutely soaring into the stratosphere. Few tracks are as theatrical and instantly addicting as this.
11. The Ghost Of Wind – ZE:A (2013) / Love Ya – SS501 (2010)
Yes, I know there are two songs, but since it’s my blog I guess I’m allowed a bit of leeway here. These two songs were so closely tied and so similarly arranged, that it was almost impossible to leave either of them out.
A flawless union between ornate musical influences and classic pop song craft, The Ghost Of Wind is ZE:A’s underrated masterpiece. It’s a riveting brew, full of swirling operatic samples and classical instrumentation that expertly complements the tracks multitude of instant hooks. It’s one of the groups most sophisticated works, carried by a more mature performance and thumping dance beat that aligns perfectly with the tracks serene sense of beauty. Compared to most of the other tracks in ZE:A’s discography, The Ghost Of The Wind presents the most timeless melody, which truely elevates it into not only ZE:A’s best track, but also one of K-pop’s finest.
Their last title track as a group, the orchestral bombast of SS501’s immense Love Ya still stands as one of their strongest pieces of work. I absolutely adore tracks that utilise classical and orchestral elements, and Love Ya stands as one of this genres peak achievements. Much like ZE:A’s Ghost of wind it’s the most grandiose arrangement that the group has ever put their name to, with a lush soaring hook that remains almost unparalleled by anything else in the groups discography. Not only that, but it also contains a phenomenal beat perfect rap break that truely transforms Love Ya into one of a kind.
10. View – SHINee (2015)
Though deep house has become one of the most overused and oversaturated genres in recent memory, it was all the way back in 2015 when veteran boy group SHINee released the very best example of the genre with the extremely addicting View. Not only is it one of the most refreshing summer songs ever made, but that insistent dance floor thump is also one of the group most memorable. The production and performance seem effortless, but at the same time instantly captivating. It’s a song with absolutely no fat on its bones, coasting along on an unshakable, almost hypnotic groove that feels as though it’s pulling you back for further listens every time track comes to its end. Though many have tried to replicate this sound, none have come close to touching View’s flawless brew.
09. MAMA – EXO (2012)
To think that three of the best songs within EXO’s discography are all found within their masterful debut album. Though the densely layered funk of Histroy proved EXO were a force to be reckoned with, it was the exhilarating and ambitious nature of their official debut MAMA that stands as their finest moment. It’s a tense brew of strings, rock guitar and militaristic percussion that strongly recalls Queens iconic We Will Rock You. The production here is an excellent distillation of SM entertainments SMP sound, further enhancing the tracks rock opera inspired bombast. The chanted pre-chorus, is also something that we wouldn’t ever see K-pops current musical landscape, but it works as the perfect build towards Mama‘s biggest and best moment. The gargantuan refrain that acts as its chorus. Now I have heard a lot of choruses in my life, but few match the theatrical bombast of Mama. It’s vocals are immaculately layered, creating an absolutely larger than life moment and one of the most ear striking pop moments of the last decade.
08. CROOKED – G-DRAGON (2013)
A punk rock anthem for the ages, not only did G-dragon’s Crooked surpass almost everything he has ever composed for his own group, but also every other solo song the k-pop industry has ever seen. Rather than just a song, Crooked is more a character study, tackling the themes of loneliness, depression and addiction hidden behind the tracks confident angst ridden delivery. It’s one of the industry’s most raw tracks, so full of emotion and pure character, that its hard to imagine anybody else other than G-dragon performing this one of a kind song. The song plays out almost like you’re listening to someone’s imminent descent into madness. This is best demonstrated during the final moments, where the song breaks into an all out frenzy before everything comes crashes down bringing the song to its abrupt, and almost premature end. It’s a thrilling experience and easily equates to one of the most powerful tracks in K-pop history.
07. Back – INFINITE (2014)
Back is a track that is so perfectly and ingeniously produced, that the first time I listened to it, I literally got out of my chair and punched the sky in delight. Infinite had worked with producers Rphabet before, most notably on 2013’s dynamic Destiny, but Back was really where this partnership reached its zenith. From the melodic, dramatic balladry of its opening verse to the gargantuan electronic drop at its core, there isn’t a single moment where Back doesn’t provide an immense sense of drama. It’s one of the groups most desperate and emotionally powerful singles, playing out like one perfect moment after another. The hook is simply euphoric, powering forward with the kind of larger than life appeal and beat perfect vocal melodies that are almost non-existent now adays. The way it transitions so effortlessly from orchestral ballad to full out dance track still floors me to this day, and is still one of the most flawless distillations of this particular style of songwriting. It’s easily Infinite’s most cinematic moment, and one of most brilliantly conceived productions of the last decade.
06. Lucifer – SHINee (2010)
One of the most iconic songs in kpop history, Lucifer is a perfect distillation of SM entertainments patented “SMP” sound, and the song that single-handedly kickstarted my descent into the K-pop rabbit hole. It’s an exhilarating mix of frenzied electronic beats and hard hitting synths which imbue this Yoo Young Jin produced masterpiece with an almost otherworldly and futuristic atmosphere. It’s also a brilliant example of a snowballing song structure, which although usually relegated to slower tracks, works wonders here. Following this structure, the minimalistic opening hook transforms into an absolutely mammoth double time refrain by the time the song reaches its frantic final bars. This results in an immensely satisfying and rewarding listening experience, and one that almost forces you to instinctively head for the repeat button so you can hear it all again. The ever-present synth riff is also brilliant, acting as one of the catchiest pieces of instrumental that the group has ever given us. In fact, that single riff has probably tormented (in a good way of course) my psyche more times than the actual song has. It was my first ever K-pop song, and still remains one of the best.
*Also the choreography is freaking amazing, anyone who hasn’t checked it out should ASAP
05. Rough – GFRIEND (2016)
GFriend’s debut era “powerful innocence” sound was one of Kpop’s most fruitful, and the symphonic bombast of Rough was its undeniable pinnacle. Not only is it one of the biggest digital hits of the last decade, but it’s massive ornate chorus is also one of the best. Rough is one of the decades most robust and quintessential tracks and one that showcases the true power of a dynamite production. The inclusion of distorted guitar and strings is an inspired touch, but it’s that flawless production and cavalcade of instantly memorable refrains that truly cements its place as one of the decades most powerful and best girl group singles. There isn’t much else to say other than it’s the closest this decade got to Girl’s Generation’s monumental masterpiece Into The New World.
04. STEP – KARA (2011)
IZ*ONE’s recent comeback Fiesta might have come close to the festive sound it was aiming for, but almost 9 years prior KARA’s breathtaking STEP was the track that pretty much defined the word festive. There have been many party starting tracks In K-pop, but few have ever come close to STEP‘s jubilant blast of dance pop perfection. From that immense 80’s inspired synth pop dance beat to the gorgeous vocal layering, there isn’t a moment where the track lets up, rocketing to it’s gargantuan hook from the moment you hear that opening synth loop. It’s an absolutely euphoric listening experience, and an example of a group performing at their definitive peak. I have stressed the severe lack of “fun” in recent pop music, but for a song like STEP this isn’t an issue. It’s one of the most deliriously enjoyable tracks ever released, pulsing forward with a brilliant sense of propulsion. Sweetune have produced many fantastic girl group songs both before and after this track, but none have ever come close to touching this masterwork of modern dance pop.
03. Closer – Oh My Girl (2015)
An ethereal, almost otherworldly listening experience, Oh My Girl’s sophomore effort Closer is one of the most perfectly streamlined and flawless productions of the last few years. A sharp right from the marching band beat of their solid debut Cupid, Closer painted the group in a much more mature light and took their fairy tale concept towards more serene levels. In retrospect, it’s difficult to understand what makes Closer so damn good. The instrumental itself is absolutely breathtaking, and that breathy vocal delivery phenomenal, but if I had to really pin it down to one element, it would be the songs ingenious structure. The track feels as though it’s constantly in motion, transitioning effortlessly from verse to chorus to second verse to rap break without any seemingly present bridging section between segments.
Everything blends together almost seamlessly, a rarity in almost any pop song. The chorus itself is extremely potent, right down to that incredibly catchy “cmon cmon cmon” hook. The track however, truely reaches chill inducing levels of brilliance during the last third, when the incredible harmonies of the bridge along with K-pop’s best rap break combine to create a knockout finale to an instant classic. Oh My girl have returned to this style of lush synth driven atmospheric mid-tempo many times since, but I doubt they’ll ever be able to top this Closer‘s unrivalled brilliance.
02. Sherlock (Clue + Note) – SHINee (2012)
Give me a more memorable opening refrain to a kpop song in the 2010’s than Sherlock‘s iconic “SHINee’s back”. Exactly. You can’t. Sherlock‘s opening moments are more exhilarating than many songs manage to be throughout their entire run time. The idea of “Frankenstein” songs have been long present in within the K-pop industry, but SHINee’s masterwork Sherlock takes this approach literally, fusing two less album tracks into one gargantuan piece of genre bending pop. The rubbery baseline that opens the track (taken from Clue) is instantly captivating while the dynamic brass sections (taken from Note) imbue to the track with an overwhelming sense of grandeur.
However, nothing comes close to the tracks gargantuan shout to rafters chorus, which overwhelms in the best way. This is the kind of megawatt hook that can make or break a track, and the mighty Sherlock revels in this kind of over the top bombast. It’s chill inducing, giving me goosebumps on more than one occasion. There’s not a dull moment in the song; the rhythm is driving, the horns are jubilant, the chorus is so triumphant, it’s just the perfect testament to SHINee’s power as performers. The climax of the song itself feels more like a victory lap than an ending, and for a song as bombastic and brilliant as Sherlock (Clue + Note), it’s more than deserved.
01. The Chaser – INFINITE (2012)
For anyone who knows me, this was probably the most obvious pick on the list. It had to be The Chaser. I mean what else could it be? In my mind, no other song has ever been able to match the sheer, unrelenting bombast of Infinite’s world changing The Chaser. Often dubbed by many as “the song that saved kpop” The Chaser is a perfect blend of symphonic synthpop and sheer unadulterated pop bombast. It encapsulates everything and anything a K-pop song can be if the genre is used towards its full and extravagant potential. It’s concurrently both fast, punchy and aggressive, however still smooth and melodic.
Although the tracks constantly inclining structure could have caused problems in the final product such as a weak or underwhelming chorus, The Chaser manages to pull off a chorus so utterly breathtaking, so utterly magnificent that I am floored every time I hear it. The breathtaking vocal layering supported by the bombastic trumpets and synths in the backing track are so perfectly arranged and fine-tuned to fit Infinite’s vocals that I could never imagine any other group performing this song. Throw in a last minute key change and chill inducing build and you’ve got one of the greatest pieces of pop music ever written. Honestly, I could go on about the greatness of The Chaser for paragraphs upon pages, but alas this isn’t the time. But one this is for sure, and that is that The Chaser is the greatest K-pop song of all time, and I doubt it will ever be topped.