2017 was a bittersweet year for K-Pop. Legends like Wonder Girls and SISTAR officially called it quits, our favorite stars got into all kinds of awful scandals, and worst of all, we lost SHINee’s Jonghyun, one of the greatest idols to ever hit the K-Pop scene, to suicide.
Despite all the darkness, there was still plenty to be grateful for in 2017. It was a banner year for female soloists, BTS took over the world, and the inescapable tropical-house and reggaeton trends spawned a lot of great bops (don’t even try to deny it). Check out thirty of our faves from the last 12 months below.
30. EXID — “Night Rather Than Day”
I’ll admit that I like “DDD” more than this, but “DDD” also literally sounds like three other EXID singles. “Night Rather Than Day” gets bonus points for originality, with its smooth acid jazz groove a rarity for not just EXID, but K-Pop in general.
29. Suzy — “Yes No Maybe”
Tropical and house-y without being generic, this underrated slice of emo dance-pop would have been a hit had Suzy’s girl group miss A released it.
28. DAY6 — “I Wait”
Gorgeous, emotionally-charged idol rock from a band that deserves to be much bigger.
27. 24K — “Only You”
A-list boy bands like VIXX and NU’EST released future-bass style tracks this year, but it’s the relatively little known 24k who did it the best.
26. Samuel — “Candy”
Rising star Samuel took a trip back to the ’90s and channeled Korea’s first boy band H.O.T. on his sugary sophomore single.
25. EXO — “Ko Ko Bop”
K-pop titans EXO have been accused of losing relevance as newer boy bands have started to ascend, but the group proved their haters wrong by dropping one of the biggest (and the best!) songs of their career with the reggae-EDM hybrid “Ko Ko Bop.”
24. MOMOLAND — “Freeze”
MOMOLAND’s quirky, circus-themed “Freeze” came and went without a trace this year, which is more of a reflection on the group’s obscurity in the K-Pop scene rather than the song itself. Had TWICE dropped this, it would have smashed the charts with ease.
23. Snuper — “The Star of Stars”
It was hard to pick the best Snuper song this year because Sweetune produces all their music, and everything Sweetune makes is automatically 10/10. The shimmering “Dear” comes close, but it’s impossible to go past the twinkling, propulsive beat of “The Star of Stars.”
22. DREAMCATCHER — “Fly High”
2017’s most unique new girl group made their mark with a unexpected mix of Japanese idol rock and K-Pop. It worked, with the soaring “Fly High” serving as their most accessible single so far.
21. NCT 127 — “Cherry Bomb”
Sinister synths and a sick hip-hop beat made this one of the hottest tracks of the year. Even the cringeworthy “if you’re happy and you know it” refrain couldn’t bring this bop down.
20. DIA — “Will You Go Out With Me?”
DIA finally found what should be their signature sound from now on with this aegyo-filled techno-trot track.
19. ELRIS — “Pow Pow”
With Sweetune at the helm, rookies ELRIS channeled early KARA with a burst of bitchin’ Blondie guitars.
18. Taemin — “Move”
SHINee’s youngest member proved that he’s all grown up now with this sultry electro slow-burn and accompanying Blade Runner-inspired music video.
17. BtoB — “Movie”
Five years into their career and BtoB landed their biggest hit ever with this fun and funky throwback.
16. Lee Hyori — “Black”
Newly-enlightened and pushing forty, Lee Hyori had her Ray of Light moment on “Black” — an experimental country and blues record about shaking off the superficial trappings of the music industry and returning to her true self.
15. fromis_9 — “Glass Shoes”
Somehow the bizarrely named fromis_9 from Mnet’s Idol School released one of the best songs from a survival show act this year thanks to the perky, majestic pop-rock of “Glass Shoes.”
14. Block B — “Yesterday”
Block B finally delivered a worthy follow up to “H.E.R.” and proved once again that they are at their best when they are experimenting with rock music and other genres outside of the typical hip-hop boy band box.
13. Wanna One — “Energetic”
The uplifting “Energetic” is probably one of the more generic boy band hits to drop in 2017, but it’s impossible to hear this song and not want to suddenly get up and dance. It’s the ultimate party-starter.
12. Uhm Jung Hwa — “Ending Credit”
At 48-years-old, this K-Pop legend released one of the best songs of her career with the poignant electro-pop of “Ending Credit.”
11. Heize — “Don’t Know You”
The undisputed Korean ‘it’ girl of 2017 decimated the charts with this soulful, tear-soaked groove.
10. CLC — “Where Are You?”
Cube Entertainment’s struggling girl group CLC became the first Korean artist to bring Japan’s city-pop genre to the K-Pop scene. “Where Are You?” was flawless, but also chart poison, making it one of the year’s most slept-on jams.
09. HyunA — “Babe”
HyunA’s thot anthems will always be flawless and iconic, but it was so good to see her switch things up for once with this fun and flirty summer bop.
08. HIGHLIGHT — “Plz Don’t Be Sad”
Best known for their emotional ballads, the boy band formerly known as B2ST staged a stunning comeback with this impossibly cheerful dance anthems.
07. Brave Girls — “Rollin”
Another one of K-Pop’s endless tropical tunes, this time with added Justin Bieber flutes. Brave Girls brought sexy back at a time when every other girl group is doing cutesy.
06. PRISTIN — “Wee Woo”
Newcomers PRISTIN took a risk that paid off with their strange debut single, which is built around one repetitious guitar refrain and a bunch of girls emulating an ambulance siren.
05. LOVELYZ — “WoW!”
One of the cutest and weirdest K-Pop songs this year (and that’s saying something), “WoW!” is a hypnotic synth-pop oddity with flourishes of funk and an alien arrangement.
04. BTS — “DNA”
The world’s biggest boy band dropped this candy-coated EDM banger that’s packed so full of musical bells and whistles that it completely transcends racial and language barriers for a truly global sound.
03. Red Velvet — “Rookie”
“Rookie” seems frivolous on the surface, but the song’s genius blend of nursery rhyme bubblegum pop with old-school funk and R&B shows that there’s more substance and sophistication to “Rookie” than first meets the eye.
02. TWICE — “Signal”
Out of the four singles they released in 2017, TWICE played it pretty safe — that is, with the exception of “Signal.” The girls chirp about an unrequited crush over a weird rubbery beat and perky percussion, but underneath the cutesy veneer lies a real sense of melancholy that makes “Signal” connect on a deeper level than most colorful K-Pop ditties do.
01. Literally everything LOONA released this year
Between their solo releases and sub-units, the ambitious LOONA put out a whopping ten singles this year. I could have ranked them all individually, but each one was so good that a third of this list would have been dedicated solely to the girls. From Choerry’s bouncy “Love Cherry Motion” to the sensuality of Kim Lip’s “Eclipse,” LOONA couldn’t have released a bad record in 2017 if they’d tried. Considering that they haven’t even officially debuted in their full 12-member form yet, I can only imagine how great they’re going to be next year when they finally do.