This was not one of the easier lists to compile. FTIsland have dozens of singles to choose from, and I’ve liked almost all of them. But, if I were to rate their discography as a whole, the scores would be pretty even across the board, with a few major peaks standing out from an otherwise flat line of consistent quality. The bottom half of this list was shuffled so many times, with many excellent tracks falling by the wayside. Bottom line is: FTIsland is the best Korean rock band of our era, idol or not. Here’s ten of their best, but there’s so much more beyond that.
10. Puppy (2015)
Definitely on the lighter, more gimmicky side of the band’s sound, Puppy is irresistibly fun and goofy, and a necessary counterpart to their darker output.
9. Friendship (2008)
Bringing a slight country-rock edge, this early Japanese track isn’t one of their most well-known, but its bright festival energy remains one of their most uplifting moments.
8. I Hope (2009)
With its propulsive instrumentation and surging chorus, I Hope is an early, ultra-catchy peak for the group.
7. You Don’t Know Who I Am (2016)
FTIsland at their most radio-friendly — the midtempo pop stomp of You Don’t Know Who I Am is pure singalong bliss. (full review)
6. To The Light (2014)
Lee Hongki’s vocals lend themselves well to ballads, and To The Light is one of the band’s best. Whether performed in Japanese or Korean, its explosive chorus hits hard.
5. Freedom (2013)
Though the group has always been rock-based, their few flirtations with electronic influences have also yielded success. Freedom is the best of them, and an unadulterated burst of energy.
4. Like Birds (2011)
Though it may be a cover, Like Birds’ soaring chorus provides the perfect melody for the band to transform into a classic FTIsland anthem. It’s one of their most galvanizing, feel-good releases.
3. Bad Woman (2009)
An early career standout, thanks to its pleading, key-changing chorus and symphonic backing. It offered a glimpse into what Hongki was capable of when he cut loose, and remains one of the band’s most instant melodies.
2. Take Me Now (2016)
The band’s reinvention as a harder hitting rock group may have started a year earlier, but Take Me Now represents the pinnacle of that sound. It’s all heavy, claustrophobic riffs and giant, shout-along hooks. (full review)
1. Severely (2012)
In many ways, the essential FTIsland ballad. It crests with stadium rock guitar and an undeniable, weighty sense of dramatic bombast. This is all tied to a chorus that is so effective in its catharsis, giving Hongki a spotlight for his powerful, heart wrenching vocal performance. Severely feels older than it is — like a Korean rock classic that’s been around for decades.