Okay, okay. When I say kpop, I mean mostly kpop, because there’s going to be some jpop and cpop in this list as well (some of it in very prominent positions), but “Top 50 K-Pop & J-Pop & C-Pop Songs of 2015” just doesn’t have the same ring to it! The only other criteria for my countdown is that the song has to be a single released between December 1st, 2014 and November 30th, 2015.
25. News – Yonjuushi (Four Musketeers)
An odd pop song, that borrows more from classical orchestration than it does from current trends. Somehow, it all works brilliantly together.
24. Bigbang – Let’s Not Fall In Love
Not the loudest or most in-your-face single the group released this year, but I feel like that earworm of a melody will give it the massive staying power that other songs lack.
23. Boys Republic – Hello
A hazy summer track that borrows the best from melodic, late-90’s boyband pop. It just sounds like a peaceful drive by the beach.
22. Red Velvet – Dumb Dumb
A schizophrenic firework of a single, catapulting Red Velvet to the top tiers of kpop. It’s all about that beat.
21. Infinite – Dilemma
For their first original Japanese release, the guys gifted us an aggressive, rock-infused pop track with a wicked guitar breakdown.
20. Teen Top – ah ah
At first it may seem underwhelming, but something about that summer sound works its way in your brain and sticks there.
19. LuHan – Medals
One of this year’s best melodies, anchored by immaculate production that gives the track a unique, stately sound.
18. HIGH4 – DOA (Dead Or Alive)
Switching between genres for a year now, the guys finally settled on something that really does them justice — a dark, dynamic dance track.
17. Seventeen – Adore U
The year’s best debut — a giant candy-coated mixture of pop and hip-hop and big, boisterous production. And really, how could I not put it at 17?
16. GOT7 – If You Do
GOT7 had a big year, and this moody, melodic single was yet another breakthrough for them. An unexpected sound for them, but one that really paid off.
15. BTOB – It’s Okay
The year’s most dramatic ballad, which at times feels more like vocal Olympics as the members continually one-up each other.
14. Donghae & Eunhyuk – Growing Pains
Criminally underrated, the soaring chorus on this anthem deserves major recognition alone. The fact that Donghae co-wrote it only makes things sweeter.
13. Gfriend – Me Gustas Tu
Kpop’s biggest breakout girl group of the year improved on their already brilliant debut track with this bubbly, ridiculously-catchy pop trifle.
12. Sungkyu – The Answer
Infinite’s leader proved his might yet again with this classy, orchestral ballad. His voice, coupled with Kim Jong-wan’s production and songwriting, is perfection.
11. Nine Muses – Hurt Locker
It’s all about that bright, reach-for-the-stars chorus. An unending tunnel of power pop vocals.
10. Wonder Girls – I Feel You
By hearkening back to the 80’s, Wonder Girls released one of the most surprising (and best) singles of their career. Just try to resist that synth riff.
9. Infinite – Bad
Working with producer Rphabet again, the guys went for a darker, more hip-hop inspired sound, but didn’t forget the drama in the process.
8. GOT7 – Just Right
One of the most unique singles in kpop this year, a bouncy summertime bop that grew more addictive each time I heard it. It’s laidback, feel-good pop done right.
7. News – Kaguya
Unabashedly cheesy, but unlike so many tracks that opted for a skeletal beat instead of a proper chorus, Kaguya erupted in a full-bodied, massive hook.
6. EXO – Love Me Right
Their most propulsive, poppy release in years, and the song that really reignited my interest in the group. SM does funk so well. MJ would be proud.
5. Seventeen – Mansae
If they wowed me with their debut, I was utterly floored with this follow-up. It’s like a whole year’s worth of pop energy wrapped up into three minutes.
4. Shinee – View
It’s hard to imagine a better beat this year. Initially, I thought it sounded a little too European, but this song turned out to be the biggest earworm of the year. Every time it comes on in a playlist, it feels like it’s summer again.
3. BTS – I Need U
A true turning point for this fast-rising group, and their highest entry ever on this countdown. It has so much more emotional heft than any of their previous singles, and that electro sledgehammer that rounds out the chorus drives it all home. Truly a timeless, genre-less pop song.
2. Super Junior – Devil
From the emotional to the unstoppably fun, Super Junior managed to release the best, most effortless single of their long career. Some songs just lift your spirits when you hear them, and it’s impossible to stay sad or upset when Devil comes on. Sometimes simplicity and a killer hook is all it takes to forge a masterpiece.
1. KAT-TUN – Dead Or Alive
Never has a Japanese track hit the top spot on my countdown, and I’m so happy that Dead Or Alive is the one to do it. I’m a sucker for dramatic, orchestral production, and this track is damn near symphonic in nature. I first heard it about a month after it was released, and was intrigued but thought the lack of a strong backbeat was somewhat unfortunate. Then, a few months later, the song appeared in a random playlist and those opening fifteen or so seconds just blew away everything I had been listening to that day. So grand and majestic… so BIG. Since then, it’s been the track to beat all year, and nothing’s been able to fully match up. It really is a transcendent piece of pop music, with all the bells and whistles I go crazy for.