From Red Velvet To BTS, The Best K-Pop Songs Of Q1

Jacques Peterson | April 17, 2017 10:00 am
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K-Pop is off to a great start in 2017. Sure, the whole tropical-house thing is getting a little out of control, but there’s an influx of great girl groups to listen to and the boy bands seem to be experimenting more than usual. The world of South Korean music moves at lighting speed, so I’ve rounded up Q1’s (January, February, March) best tunes. You can stream all the songs in a playlist at the bottom of the post.

Newcomers K.A.R.D and superstars BTS have filled the void left by YG Entertainment’s 2NE1 and BIGBANG as the new favorite stars for Western listeners, while JYP Entertainment have staged a major comeback with TWICE and GOT7. But as always, you can’t go past SM Entertainment when it comes to the best and most interesting K-pop around. Between NCT, Taeyeon and Red Velvet, they had a number of entries on this list, including the year’s top tune. Check out Q1’s finest below.

25. Kasper — “Lean On Me”

A melancholy hip-pop ode to using questionable beverages to treat rejection and heartache.

24. Risso Feat. Ban:jax — “010”

Indie darling Risso swapped her quirky synth-pop sound for synthesized R&B with a ‘90s hip-hop bounce.

23. MASC — “Tina”

Refreshing because it ditches the usual hip-hop and electro-heavy club bangers of most Korean boy bands for danceable pop-rock with a vintage Maroon 5 chorus.

22. Hwang In Sun — “Hwang Ya”

Taking notes from legendary club queen Lee Jung-hyun, this campy K-diva throwback is a much needed return to a sorely missed era of K-Pop.

21. K.A.R.D — “Don’t Recall”

With just two singles under their belt, newcomers K.A.R.D have already trumped YG Entertainment to become one of South Korea’s best purveyors of top forty American-inspired K-Pop.

20. MIXX — “Love is Sudden”

During their brief time together, the short-lived MIXX gave us this unique combo of R&B and girly synth-pop.

19. Melody Day — “Kiss On The Lips”

An irresistible tropical summer bop with soda can sound effects and a Wonder Girls-inspired music video.

18. Taeyeon — “I Got Love”

Girls’ Generation’s queen bee finally ditched the acoustic ballads and showed off her sensual side on this experimental urban-pop number.

17. NCT 127 — “Limitless”

SM Entertainment’s ambitious NCT project served up this synthesized hip-hop jam and proved once again that they’re one of the best male acts in K-pop right now.

16. B.A.P — “Wake Me Up”

Who knew that something so angsty and serious could be this catchy?

15. LOONA’s Yeojin — “Kiss Later”

If IU was still 16, this is exactly what she would’ve released in 2017, and that’s definitely a compliment.

14. DREAMCATCHER — “Chase Me”

2017’s most unique new group did the unexpected by blending K-Pop with J-Rock, and it worked.

13. DAY6 — “I Wait”

Gorgeous, emotionally-charged idol rock from a band that deserves to be bigger.

12. Brave Girls — “Rollin”

Yet another tropical tune, this time with added Justin Bieber flutes. Brave Girls brought sexy back at a time when every other girl group is doing cutesy.

11. 2NE1 — “Goodbye”

2NE1’s ballads were always better than their electro bangers, and their final single just so happens to be one of their best.

10. Suzy — “Yes No Maybe”

Tropical and house-y without being generic, this underrated slice of melancholy dance-pop would’ve been a hit had Suzy’s girl group miss A released it.

09. BtoB — “Movie”

Five years into their career and BtoB land their biggest hit ever with this fun and funky throwback.

08. BTS — “Spring Day”

Korea’s biggest boy band tugged on the heartstrings with this hit, which is basically K-pop’s answer to the Mariah Carey classic “One Sweet Day.”

07. NCT Dream — “Dunk Shot”

This tame 1993 track was remade into a shimmering bubblegum extravaganza thanks to NCT Dream and SM Entertainment.

06. TWICE — “Knock Knock”

A song that originally felt too safe after the more innovative “TT”, “Knock Knock” quickly proved that sometimes the catchiest pop tunes can also be the most straightforward.

05. HIGHLIGHT — “Plz Don’t Be Sad”

Best known for their emotional ballads, the boy band formerly known as B2ST staged a stunning comeback with one of the year’s most cheerful dance anthems.

04. 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.

03. Block B — “Yesterday”

Block B finally delivered a worthy follow up to “H.E.R.” and proved once again that they’re at their best when they’re experimenting with rock music and other genres outside of the typical hip-hop boy band box.

02. LOVELYZ — “WoW!”

Both the weirdest and the cutest K-Pop song this year, “WoW!” is a majestic synth-pop oddity that sounds rooted in earthly funk and soul, but at the same time feels alien and out of this world.

01. Red Velvet – “Rookie”

Red Velvet’s “Rookie” is a testament to the barrier-breaking, musical diversity of the K-pop genre. Produced by The Colleagues (an American hip-hop duo accustomed to crafting tunes for rappers 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane), “Rookie” is a pure bubblegum ditty based on old-school funk and R&B. Huh?! It also renders lyrics in pop music irrelevant, showing that all you really need is an amazing melody and a simple, repetitive chorus to win over any listener. Like many great SM Entertainment songs, it was slammed at first for being too unconventional, but the “lookie lookie!” hook soon proved irresistible and “Rookie” became the biggest earworm of the year.