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!
20. Ailee – U&I
From its gargantuan brass opening to that thundering beat and belt-it-out chorus, U&I is the pinnacle of Ailee’s discography. She’s yet to match the potency of its bombastic arrangement or the blistering melody, which matches Beyoncé for pure power.
19. VIXX – G.R.8.U
VIXX’s lighter tracks often go unloved compared to their more daring material, but G.R.8.U‘s punchy production and soaring hook retain their intense sound while supporting an effortlessly fun burst of pop.
18. Beast – Shadow
Shadow boasts a gorgeous melody, dark, dynamic production and a hook to die for. Beast rarely sounded more evocative, with an elegant aura that makes the most of each members’ talents.
17. Kang Seung Yoon – Wild & Young
Wild & Young surrounds Seung Yoon’s vocals with a chugging guitar riff that feels powerful and assured even as the BPM is more laid-back. The track surges with anthemic drive, building to an irresistible sing-along chorus. (full review)
16. VIXX – On And On
Forget about Thriller! If anything sounds like the undead pulling themselves from the ground and lurching around to a beat, it’s this hard hitting electro dance track.
15. Nine Muses – Wild
Wild is pure Sweetune through and through, with an edginess that offsets all the musical polish. From its unflagging beat to the insistent wall of layered vocals, the song never lets up.
14. SHINee – Everybody
Everybody is a schizophrenic beast of a song, with a blistering dubstep breakdown and intense choreography. At times, its sheer cacophony threatens to derail the structure, but that singalong chorus always brings us back.
13. f(x) – Rum Pum Pum Pum
With a bass-heavy (almost tribal) syncopated beat and more interesting, off-kilter production touches that you can count, Rum Pum Pum Pum is a perfect pop song laid on top of an instrumental that keeps challenging itself to get weirder.
12. EXO – Miracles In December
EXO’s most gorgeous ballad, fueled by the interplay between its gentle verses and soaring chorus. Billed as a holiday song, it’s effective no matter the time of year. (full review)
11. SHINee – Why So Serious?
Why So Serious sees SHINee tackle stadium rock in their own bright, off-kilter style. It’s as goofy as it is potent, with a knockout chorus and energy to spare.