In celebration of The Bias List’s fifth year anniversary, I’ve embarked on my most ambitious project yet. After years of hemming and hawing, I’ve finally ranked what I consider to be the best 100 songs in K-pop.
There will never be a definitive list of this nature, because it’s impossible to rank something that’s inherently subjective. Please feel welcome to agree, disagree, argue and justify, but at the end of the day know that this list is personal. If we happen to share a similar taste in music, it may match closely to your own list. If not, I hope you enjoy reading (and discussing) anyway!
Links to old reviews will be provided when applicable, though those ratings may be somewhat out of date.
80. 2NE1 – I Am The Best (2011)
As a hype track, I Am The Best represents the peak of what YG Entertainment has to offer. Attitude and charisma fuel the track, but that elastic beat is a modern classic, and a perfect foil for 2NE1’s unflagging bravado.
79. Boyfriend – Love Style (2012)
Take everything that was great about 80’s power pop, throw it in a blender, and you’ve got Love Style. Each refrain, and every punchy rhythmic turn, could have functioned as a lesser song’s entire chorus. It’s just hook after hook after hook.
78. Shinhwa – This Love (2013)
This Love‘s anthemic club sound stands as the definitive highlight of Shinhwa’s post-enlistment material, pulsing with dancefloor bliss. It uses a well-worn pop/EDM structure to tremendous success, building to a sky-high, euphoric chorus.
77. Sunmi – Heroine (2018)
Heroine moves from sultry and beguiling to slap-your-face commanding with effortless finesse. As you would expect from K-pop’s most magnetic diva, Sunmi sells both moods with equal ferocity. (full review)
76. Bigbang – Lies (2007)
Lies was the first indication that Bigbang would grow into more than a typical r&b/hip-hop trend-follower. The song’s melodic, propulsive chorus became emblematic of its era, quickly growing into an angsty K-pop classic.
75. After School – Shampoo (2011)
Shampoo‘s lush, shimmering trance beat is instantly recognizable, underlining a gorgeous, wistful hook that perfectly showcases what After School (and producer Daishi Dance) are capable of. It’s one of those songs that just envelopes you.
74. UP10TION – Tonight (2016)
There’s something so effortlessly jubilant about Tonight‘s brass-kissed instrumental and goofy, funk-driven chorus. It’s stuffed to the brim with playful moments — endlessly endearing and impossibly catchy. This is what K-pop summer sounds like! (full review)
73. Taeyang – Eyes, Nose, Lips (2014)
Eyes, Nose, Lips is the modern Korean R&B ballad to end all Korean R&B ballads. From the moment its ultra-dramatic piano intro crashes in, the song takes hold, pulling us deeper into its raw, emotive melody.
72. Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Gee (2009)
Certainly SNSD’s most iconic single, and one of the best-known songs in all of K-pop. There’s no denying the power of Gee‘s bubblegum blast, which spawned countless cover dances and helped kick-start a legendary career.
71. Shinhwa – Perfect Man (2002)
The pinnacle of Shinhwa’s SM Entertainment material, Perfect Man encapsulates the millennial boy band sound, pulsing along a polished, strings-assisted funk groove. But the real star is the song’s megawatt chorus, which is among K-pop’s most iconic.