It’s that time of year again. The sun comes out, the temperature climbs, and K-pop goes tropical!
Well, it wasn’t always this way. A few years ago, summer didn’t instantly mean tropical pop music, and I hope we’re working our way out of this persistent trend.
But tropical or not, many of my top K-pop songs each year come from the summer months. Music tends to be more upbeat and melodic this time of year, and the past few summers have definitely given us their fair share of classics. Many of these can be found on my ultimate K-pop summer playlist (though it hasn’t been updated in a couple of years…).
However, this feature isn’t necessarily about the “best” overall tracks to come out each summer. This is all about those “Songs of Summer” — music so connected with the season that it evokes instant nostalgia for sunny weather. They’re the songs I played to death and still return to every year.
So here we have my personal “song of summer” from each of the past seven years, along with runners-up and honorable mentions. Make sure to leave your own picks in the comments!
3. Hyolyn – See Sea (full review)
Holding onto the summer crown first secured by her old group Sistar, Hyolyn brought her airy vocals to this hypnotically hot track.
2. Golden Child – Let Me (full review)
Bringing an exciting dose of power pop to the season, Let Me’s bouncy, upbeat energy soundtracked all of July.
1. ONF – Complete (full review)
Released just before summer officially kicked off, the brisk, synth-fueled dance pop of Complete got the season started early.
3. Wanna One – Energetic (full review)
Released during the dog days of summer, Energetic nonetheless feels permanently fused to the season.
2. Snuper – The Star Of Stars (full review)
Sweetune take on summer, harnessing an airy arrangement and galvanizing hook that conjured images of long sunsets and beachfront campfires.
1. Red Velvet – Red Flavor (full review)
A song purposefully built for the season, Red Flavor’s boundless energy and kaleidoscopic instrumental helped lodge the track at the top of the charts and make it an instant summer classic.
3. Seventeen – Very Nice (full review)
More versatile than a simple summer song, Very Nice’s sheer force of will guaranteed it a long-lasting run through July and August of 2016.
2. Astro – Breathless (full review)
Though I prefer Very Nice as a song, there’s no discounting Breathless’s cheerful summertime vibes.
1. UP10TION – Tonight (full review)
My sleeper hit of Summer 2016, Tonight’s giddy pop energy perfectly soundtracked the carefree nature of my favorite season.
Honorable Mentions: Bigbang – We Like 2 Party, Teen Top – ah-ah, GOT7 – Just Right
3. AOA – Heart Attack
A bright, synth-fueled dance track that perfected AOA’s Brave Brothers-produced sound while offering the kind of energizing spirit that’s perfectly suited to summer.
2. Sistar – Shake It
Sistar’s last big summer-oriented title track (I Like That doesn’t quite fit the bill), Shake It hearkened back to big-chorused hits of the past and evoked instant nostalgia.
1. SHINee – View
Yes, it was technically released in late May, but View’s deep house groove felt so vital at the time that the song easily took over the summer. It remains the best example of this now-overused style in K-pop.
Honorable Mentions: Sistar – I Swear, Bestie – Hot Baby, Girl’s Day – Darling
3. GOT7 – A
A good old-fashioned blast of funk pop, A’s slick groove proved to be a one-off for GOT7 but instantly became their quintessential summer hit.
2. Sistar – Touch My Body
Another effortless summer track from Sistar, Touch My Body amped up the attitude while providing one of their most addictive hooks.
1. B1A4 – Solo Day
From its whistling hook to the gorgeous, harmony-laced climax, Solo Day is a song made for open roads and endless sunny afternoons, spent solo or not.
Honorable Mentions: Roy Kim – Love, Love, Love, VIXX – GR8U
3. B1A4 – What’s Happening?
This one skirts the line a bit, especially since it was released at the beginning of May. But, in a not-so-summer-themed summer of music, What’s Happening’s buoyant punch of power pop fit the bill.
2. 2NE1 – Falling In Love
Reggae-pop is usually not my thing, but 2NE1 proved that they could transform any genre with this catchy, attitude-laced summer hit.
1. Kang Seung Yoon – Wild & Young (full review)
Before he was a member of Winner, Seung Yoon released this anthemic rock track that carried enough seize-the-day punch to make summer adventuring seem like a great idea.
Honorable Mentions: Boyfriend – Love Style, Teen Top – Be Ma Girl
3. Super Junior – Sexy, Free & Single
With its synth-heavy, retro instrumental and breezy hooks, Sexy Free & Single became Super Junior’s most convincing summer hit since the underrated 2006 single Dancing Out.
2. Beast – Beautiful Night (full review)
Practically built to soundtrack summer parties, Beautiful Night’s fist-raising chorus and energizing instrumental ensured that the summer of 2012 remained hot.
1. Sistar – Loving U
Okay, I basically made sure I worked my way back to 2012 just so I could include Loving U in this countdown. For me, it’s the quintessential K-pop summer hit, flawlessly harnessing Sistar’s charm and generating a whirlwind of breezy, feelgood energy.