Hundreds (if not thousands) of songs are released each year in Korea, but only a fraction receive full title track promotion. This leaves behind many buried treasures in need of a spotlight. Here are forty of 2017’s best:
20. LOONA (ODD EYE CIRCLE) – LOONATIC
A fizzy rush of layered electro pop, giving Odd Eye Circle a disco punk makeover that works wonders. (full review)
19. NCT 127 – 0 Mile
A percolating jolt of retro house-influenced pop, featuring one of NCT’s most stately, underrated choruses.
18. SEVENTEEN – SWIMMING FOOL
Another knockout from the group’s Performance Team, Swimming Fool takes off where the deep house of SHINee’s View left off.
17. GFRIEND – PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH
An over-earnest title, for sure, belying a lush piece of symphonic dance pop with a soaring, quintessentially GFriend chorus. (full review)
16. GOLDEN CHILD – WITH ME
A thrilling blend of electro-swing and boisterous boy band pop, With Me lent Golden Child a fresh sound that blended perfectly with their charms. (full review)
15. NCT 127 – SUMMER 127
A missed opportunity for NCT to rule the summer, relegated to b-side status even though its deliciously 90’s deep house eclipsed its album’s title track. (full review)
14. ASTRO – YOU SMILE
An enormous slab of synth-driven 80’s power pop, anchored by one of Astro’s most addictive, sing-along choruses yet. (full review)
13. SHINEE – ABOAB
A high-octane dance track, powered by the year’s most explosive brass riff that grows more immense and overpowering with each repetition. (full review)
12. NCT 127 – GOOD THING
Another wasted opportunity for a global hit from NCT, Good Thing delivers a celebratory anthem with an effortless chorus. (full review)
11. EXO-CBX – IT’S RUNNING TIME
A k-pop reinterpretation of Bryan Adams’ immortal Summer of ’69, and that’s by no means a bad thing. One of the year’s most rousing tracks. (full review)
10. PRODUCE 101 (NATION’S SON) – NEVER
A “b-side” so strong that it went on to enthrall all of Korea as the popularity of Produce 101 began to swell. Of the many tropical house tracks this year, Never most strongly utilized its anthemic melody to transcend the genre.
9. RED VELVET – ZOO
An impossibly quirky slice of tropical dance pop, sampling the sounds of wild animals as the girls deliver unmatched charisma on the chirpy hook. (full review)
8. GOLDEN CHILD – WHAT HAPPENED?
A glimpse at the sound that should drive Golden Child’s next comeback — all glitchy, aggressive synths and potent charm appeals tied together with an irresistible sledgehammer chorus.
7. SNUPER – HIDE AND SEEK
A sophisticated overhaul of Snuper’s Sweetune-assisted sound, Hide and Seek effortlessly blends a variety of vocal textures with its colossal, two-part chorus and Latin-influenced instrumental. (full review)
6. ASTRO – DREAMS COME TRUE
A buoyant, strings-driven burst of summertime pop. Dreams Come True packs more sheer happiness within its three and a half minutes than almost any other track this year.
5. ONF – ORIGINAL
A brilliantly percussive piece of megawatt dance pop, highlighted by the immense instrumental riff at its core. More than strong enough to act as a title track, Original may just go down as ONF’s calling card.
4. EXO – WHAT U DO?
A “song of summer” that never was, What U Do‘s enormous chorus is too good to remain buried on an album. As one of k-pop’s leading groups, this is the kind of monumental pop melody EXO should be giving us on the regular. (full review)
3. WANNA ONE – WANNA BE (MY BABY)
A perfectly-calibrated playground for Wanna One’s immense charm, Wanna Be is the biggest triumph yet for promising producers 1Take & TAK, melding impressive synth work with a refreshingly spirited hook.
2. ONF – DIFFICULT
A brilliant mix of k-pop songcraft and inventive production that features the most potent synth riff of 2017. It’s the kind of song that sneaks up on you, growing more addictive with each play. Easily one of the most enduring tracks that k-pop had to offer this year. (full review)
1. TAEYEON – TIME LAPSE
A stirring collaboration between Taeyeon and genius composer Kim Jong Wan. There are pop songs, and then there are moments like Time Lapse that transcend the genre. It’s easily my favorite track Taeyeon has ever released, and a stunning spotlight for her powerful, emotive vocals. Songs this enveloping and affecting don’t come around very often. (full review)