Now this is a countdown that I bet not many of you expected huh. And honestly, it’s one that I wasn’t even considering until around a week ago. Much like the rest of the world during lockdown, I started to get really into streaming shows on sites like Netflix. And through that waste-man like behaviour, I got into watching K-drama’s. Big time. Of course I had watched some before (‘While You Were Sleeping’ remains superior), but this was the year that I sought out different K-drama’s for the sake of watching them. Through that I got to watch many great shows both old and new. And others that were…. not so great (cough, ‘W’ ,cough).
And one great part of watching K-drama’s is the variety of soundtracks that you sometimes run into. And I know OST’s have received a lot of negative rep from the international community and while much of that is true, there are a lot of great aspects to drama Ost’s. Some of Korea’s most iconic songs originate from drama’s and true to form, there were some really great OST’s this year.
So here are my 10 favourite OST’s from drama’s that were released this year, with a couple of honourable mentions!
Heize – You’re Cold (It’s Ok Not To Be Ok)
Ha Hyun Woo – Diamond (Itaewon Class)
IU – Into The I-land (I-LAND)
Stray Kids – Hello Stranger (Pop Out Boy!)
10. Jung Jin Woo – Dive (Mystic Pop Up Bar)
I still haven’t brought myself to watch ‘Mystic Pop Up Bar’ but Dive is one of those OST’s that you just can’t ignore. Its jubilant, motivational rock based sound is right up my alley and Jung Jin Woo gives a suitably dynamic performance. I bet this is one of those tracks that will only get better while watching the show.
9. Sonnet – Sad (The World Of The Married)
The highest rated drama in Korean cable history achieved such for good reason. ‘The World of The Married’ is a thrilling drama only bettered by its perfectly dramatic ost. Sad is my favourite of the bunch, perfectly conveying the sheer emotional distress faced by the majority of characters in the show through a hard rock lens. It’s just an absolutely heart-wrenching track.
8. Davichi – Sunset (Crash Landing On You)
My favourite drama of 2020 had an equally dynamic soundtrack that succeeded thanks to its impressive tie in to a number of scenes in the show. As such, I have a huge soft spot for tracks that I otherwise would not care much for. Sunset is one of those, acting as your standard Korean ballad that’s elevated by an incredibly emotive performance by Davichi and some great thematic tie ins.
7. Red Velvet – Future (Start-Up)
A great OST that manages to skirt the line between mid-tempo and dance track, Future was the perfect musical introduction to the widely popular (and very good) ‘Start-Up’. It marked the return of Wendy to the group and her instantly recognisable vocal tone really elevates Future into something great.
6. TXT – Your Light (Live On 2020)
Another OST that finds its place on the list purely because of musical merit, Your Light is a sparkly pop track that harkens back to TXT’s debut era sound to great effect. I don’t think I’ll ever watch the web drama it’s attached to but the song is way too strong to ignore. It really goes to show how great TXT are at this kind of jubilant pop.
5. Gaho – Running (Start-Up)
These kinds of driving pop songs are what I live for and Gaho seems to be the man I can fall back on whenever I need them. Running is my favourite OST from the recently aired ‘Start-up’ and its propulsive guitar driven pop sound and uplifting melody is not only a great addition to the drama, but is a great track on its own. But few voices could elevate a track like this into such an endlessly repayable piece and Gaho is most definitely one of those.
4. Kim Feel – Someday, The Boy (Itaewon Class)
One of the only drama OST’s to nearly brings me to tears and give me goosebumps at the same time, Kim Feel’s Someday, The Boy is a true tear jerker in every sense of the word. Not only does it tie perfectly into the more emotionally resonant aspects of Itaewon Class, but Kim Feel’s powerful vocals inject so much emotion into the track that it’s hard not to become completely engrossed in it all. ‘Itaewon Class’ might have had a somewhat inconsistent plot but its soundtrack is just fantastic.
3. Cho Jung Seok – Aloha (Hospital Playlist)
A brilliant cover of a 2001 hit by co-ed band Cool, Aloha went onto become one of the most popular domestic hits of the year. And for good reason too. I’ve only gotten through the first few episodes of Hospital Playlist but it didn’t take long for Aloha to sink its teeth into me. The laidback instrumental and comforting melody work in perfect tandem, giving us a track that feels like the aural equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold night. It soundtracked much of the middle months of the year for me and has since gone on to become a personal winter classic.
2. Baek Yerin – Here I Am Again (Crash Landing On You)
A gorgeous piano ballad and the track I consider to be the one true theme song for ‘Crash Landing On You’, Here I Am Again is pure K-ost perfection. When looking at the track from an OST perspective instead of a song perspective, it’s hard to really find a fault with it. Here I Am Again ebbs and flows over a constantly engaging instrumental and finds a pitch perfect melody that just radiates emotional urgency. It played during some of the most memorable moments of the drama, elevating some already strong story beats into some truly unforgettable moments. It deserves to be right up there with some of the classics of the genre.
1. Gaho – Start Over (Itaewon Class)
There’s this one scene in the fourth episode of Itaewon Class that transformed Start Over from being a very strong OST and song to being one of my favourite tracks of the year. It was such a transformative moment for me that whenever I hear that opening drum beat, my mind immediately goes to that one scene. Something that for me is a sign of a great soundtrack. In fact, it actually has gone onto become my most played song of the year according to Spotify. Beating the likes of Answer, Goblin and even Pporappippam!
Much like what Here I Am Again is to CLOY, I consider Start Over to be for Itaewon Class. It’s the definitive soundtrack to the show, encapsulating all the key themes and everything great about the show into one tight musical moment. But Start Over also managed to outgrow its drama status and become a song I really enjoy for its musical merits. Gaho imbues the entire track with a great sense of pathos and just steals the show during the rousing two part hook. As I’ve said before, this kind of motivational guitar driven pop is my SHIT and no other variant of such a song in recent memory has managed to feel quite as euphoric as Start Over.
It’s a track that soundtracked most of the year for me and helped me get through some pretty challenging times when I lacked the motivation to really move forward. And that’s what makes Start Over my favourite K-OST of the year.