The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2013 (Day Three: 30-21)

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!

30. Miss A – Hush

Hush reinvented Miss A as purveyors of powerful, structurally diverse dance pop. It has a tremendous build, supported by strong harmonies and a killer vocal arrangement.

29. 2PM – A.D.T.O.Y.

A.D.T.O.Y pairs slow-jam r&b with symphonic strings and a stuttering beat. The track is one long series of builds and releases, pulsing forward with a compelling sense of pathos and a newfound emotional maturity that allowed 2PM to go deeper and more resonant.

28. Teen Top – Rocking

From the breakneck pace of its refrains to the aggressive siren call of that unflagging beat, Rocking is like its own dance-pop generator, constantly spinning off energy only to come back stronger again and again.

27. VIXX – Hyde

A paranoid attack of gothic synths and taut rhythmic structures that wind themselves to the point of breaking, Hyde is a chase that never ends, and provided for some of the most dramatic and innovative choreography the group has given us.

26. JYJ – Only One

As the only JYJ song produced by Sweetune, Only One is a pairing of the powerhouses. The track merges robust vocals with propulsive production and soaring melodies. What else could you possible want?

25. Block B – Very Good

The heaviest single in Block B’s arsenal, with an abrasive hook that shares as much with punk rock as it does K-pop. It’s also the best use the group has ever found for maknae P.O.’s rough, commanding vocals.

24. Heo Young Saeng – The Art Of Seduction

Heo Young Saeng’s pairing with Sweetune reached its zenith with the funky, synth-drenched Art Of Seduction. The song’s gorgeous vocal layering supports a killer disco hook that’s stood the test of time.

23. B.A.P – One Shot

One Shot knows how to use B.A.P’s best and most characteristic affectations. The rap is on point — menacing and charismatic. And the chorus, with its operatic backing and immense flair for the dramatic, gives the track the aura of a blockbuster.

22. EXO – Wolf

Wolf fuses traditional instrumentation with a mammoth dubstep beat, supporting a skittering, anything-goes melody that leads to some goosebump-inducing power notes. (full review)

21. Girl’s Day – Expectation

Expectation ushered in a more daring sound and image for Girl’s Day. It’s impossible to resist the song’s explosive hook and that fabulous pinwheeling melody during the verses.



17 thoughts on “The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2013 (Day Three: 30-21)

  1. Pingback: The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2013 (Day Two: 40-31) | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. Damn, every single track here is killer. I would have One Shot somewhere in the top 10, but this just proves how strong of a year 2013 was. I never really liked Very good, but there is no denying it’s unflagging energy. Looking forward to the top 20!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another good list. As expected, Sweetune gets bonus points. I am not as big a fan of the JYJ one (sounds like a long form commercial to me), but the Heo Young Saeng is a new fantastic discovery for me!
    VIXX = Kings of high concept. That outro is a killer.
    Teen Top “Rocking” is on my list at number 11. Rocking will forever be the mainstay on my workout list as it is crazy good for crazy cycle workouts.
    Block B “Very Good” I have a fondness for songs that kick in and never stop.
    BAP “One Shot” is their defining song. Also surprised it isn’t ranked higher, at least in the teens.
    EXO “Wolf” – never got into it. Its just Too. It is also of the SM era I call “dear lord what are you wearing?”.

    I also have on my list in the 20’s:
    Teen Top “Miss Right”
    F(x) “Airplane”
    Ailee “U&I”
    Super Junior “Hero” (in Japanese). Mostly for sentimental reasons. It’s a mid-tempo ballad that runs a minute too long, and I like to convince myself the trumpets are real. (They sound really close to being real. Maybe sampled and fed through a synth.) The song is great live – they actually sing the song almost wholly without backing track, all of them not just K R Y! The exception is the heavy Ryeowook recorded backing on the chorus over which they ad lib live. SuJu didn’t release any original Korean albums in 2013, only Chinese and Japanese.


    • The Heo Young Saeng album has another fantastic Sweetune production called “Life.” I may even like it better than the title track, actually.

      On f(x)’s Airplane: It totally would’ve been in my top twenty if it was released as a single/title track

      On Hero: It’s so funny that you mention how this song is a minute too long, because I’m of the mind that almost every J-pop song is a minute too long. I don’t know why they love their 5+ minute singles over in Japan, but their pop song structures definitely tend to be more indulgent when compared to the tautness of K-pop. Maybe it has something to do with the very popular karaoke market?
      Also, Hero is pretty good — mid-tempo or not!


  4. There’s some tracks I don’t like here like Teen Top’s Rocking (this style never really appealed to me), JYJ’s Only One (it does sound like a long form commercial like Mymagoogle said), Heo Young Saeng’s The Art Of Seduction (I just don’t like his voice, the backing is cool though) and EXO’s Wolf. I can get behind Wolf’s instrumental and sung parts but whatever else they’re doing on top of the track and the concept are just horrifying to me.
    The REST of the list though?! Absolute madness! Great songs!


  5. Pingback: The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2013 (Day Four: 20-11) | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  6. Pingback: The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2013 (Day Five: 10-1) | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  7. “One Shot” is in my opinion the best song of 2013. Nothing touches it conceptwise and empowering. It was risky for the time but perfectly done. An evergreen bop too underapreciated alas


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