2013 was a high-concept, musically diverse year in K-pop. Hip-hop hadn’t yet taken over, and melody was still king. Instrumentals aimed for the rafters of stadiums, bringing in explosive guitar, sledgehammer beats and bombastic electro riffs. Songs played around with structure in artful, unexpected ways, often polarizing opinion before unveiling themselves as future classics.
Here are fifty of those classics, ranked all the way up to my favorite song of 2013!
Curious what I thought about other years? Check out all of my year-end countdowns here!
40. Henry – Trap (ft. Kyuhyun & Taemin)
Joined by two of SM Entertainment’s heavy hitters, Henry’s solo debut still managed to showcase his musical charms by hinging the entire track on an insanely addictive piano loop.
39. Lee Hi – Rose
One of Lee Hi’s most stirring singles, Rose places her evocative vocals over a surging instrumental that brings the drama while remaining nuanced and vulnerable.
38. Jay Park – Joah
A warm, singalong slice of old-school r&b/pop, Joah is by far my favorite Jay Park song, and miles away from the kind of westernized, swag-filled content he now releases.
37. Girl’s Day – Female President
Arguably Girl’s Day’s hardest hitting track, this female empowerment anthem marked an aggressive, guitar-and-percussion shift that still stands out within their discography.
36. Spica – Tonight
Tonight effortlessly combines Spica’s big vocals with a melody that’s in constant climb. It’s a gargantuan pop song, performed with a go-for-broke intensity.
35. Block B – Be The Light
Be The Light was the first time Block B showed us a softer, more emotive side. To call this the greatest Bigbang song that Bigbang never wrote would be accurate, though a bit of a disservice to the beautiful performance that the guys bring to the track.
34. Demion – Ask Her Out
One of K-pop’s most underrated songs, Ask Her Out circles around a mammoth chorus, underlined by ceremonial slabs of bright, exuberant brass. (full review)
33. Sunmi – 24 Hours
24 Hours‘ insistent electro thump perfectly mirrors the urgency in Sunmi’s breathy performance, crafting a tense arrangement that feels as if it’s constantly trying to catch up with itself. (full review)
32. 2NE1 – Missing You
2NE1’s strongest ballad, made even more so when the beat drops out and the song warps into a compelling choral arrangement for its stunner of a conclusion. (full review)
31. Taeyang – Ringa Linga
Easily the most uptempo offering from Taeyang’s singles run, Ringa Linga almost sounds more like something bandmate G-Dragon would release, equal parts hip-hop and sing-song melody.