Every story has a beginning, and k-pop’s idol world starts with first generation groups like H.O.T. Though their music is forever tethered to the 90’s, their experimentation paved the way for many of the genre’s tropes that are still in use today. Here’s a look at my top ten favorites from their singles run (and yes, I know that their goodbye track holds incredible sentimental value for fans, but I’ve always been more about uptempo material).
10. I Yah! (1999)
Its noisy verses tend toward scream/shout overkill, which is understandable given the song’s subject matter. But I Yah’s layered, symphonic chorus reels it back for a real knockout moment.
9. Outside Castle (2000)
Opening with an extended symphonic intro, Outside Castle quickly transitions into a stuttery bit of early 00’s pop with a heavy touch of operatic production drama.
8. Line Up! (1998)
With its uncharacteristic song structure, Line Up is basically several tracks in one. Some are much better than others, but there’s no denying that vibrant rock guitar work.
7. Wolf & Sheep (1997)
Highlighted by its trendy hip-hop sound, Wolf & Sheep is driven by one of the group’s simplest, most laidback chanted hooks.
6. Git It Up (1999)
Git It Up’s familiar baseline echoes the group’s debut track, but builds on that sound with its heavy metal guitar assault and surprisingly multifaceted chorus.
5. Hope (1998)
Many of H.O.T’s singles made their mark on a boisterous style of hip-hop or party-starting sing-along, but Hope earns its place on the list through the strength of its uplifting pop melody.
4. Warrior’s Descendant (1996)
Kicking off with that iconic riff of rubbery bass, Warrior’s Descendant marked H.O.T’s mega-successful debut into the k-pop world. While it (mostly) lacks in melody, the track’s addictive hip-hop playfulness has endured through the decades.
3. Full Of Happiness (1997)
Though its affected verses recall gargling just as much as actual singing, Full Of Happiness’s sugary pop hook takes no prisoners. Its incessantly upbeat, repetitive chorus is among the group’s catchiest moments.
2. We Are The Future (1997)
Moving into a techno dance style, We Are The Future smoothed the group’s rough edges for a propulsive piece of k-pop that melds their hip-hop influences with an anthemic hook and non-stop energy. Purely speaking, it may actually be my favorite H.O.T song, but you simply can’t discount the track at number one.
1. Candy (1996)
One of k-pop’s most iconic tracks, if not the most iconic. Candy practically invented the idol group summertime smash, bounding forward on its crowd-pleasing, sing-along hook. Some songs just make you feel good, and Candy captures the pure bliss that comes along with the best of pop music. It may not be the group’s most artistic or interesting moment, but it’s one of the genre’s most important, enduring touchstones.