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Links to old reviews will be provided when applicable, though those ratings may be somewhat out of date.
70. H.O.T – We Are The Future (1997)
Embracing the techno dance style of its era, We Are The Future smoothed H.O.T’s rough edges for a propulsive piece of first-gen K-pop. Its influence continues to loom large over the industry, and its sweeping chorus will always be a classic.
69. BTS – Blood, Sweat & Tears (2016)
A hypnotic blend of tropical house and moombahton, Blood, Sweat & Tears sidesteps its trendy origins with a series of gorgeous vocals and lush instrumentation. When looking at this generation of K-pop, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more iconic opening line than Jimin’s airy introduction. (full review)
68. Seo Taiji & Boys – I Know (1992)
As the birth of modern K-pop, I Know‘s impact cannot be overstated. But beyond that, it’s just a hell of a good song. Seo Taiji & Boys fuse New Jack Swing with alternative rock and hip-hop to create a thrilling blend that remains as potent today as it was twenty-eight years ago.
67. BTS – Dope (2015)
The ultimate BTS hype track, buoyed by a twisted instrumental sample that explodes from the most intoxicating builds the group has ever given us. It’s a sound and structure that has been overused by many groups, but Dope represents its powerful, unrelenting pinnacle.
66. NCT Dream – My First And Last (2017)
The brilliantly bright My First & Last reinvented NCT’s youngest unit as purveyors of classic, throwback pop music. Its impossibly sunny chorus and driving beat combine to forge moments of true K-pop perfection. (full review)
65. Super Junior – It’s You (2009)
It’s You‘s repeated vocal ad-lib acts as a rhythmic through-line, but the song’s knockout punch comes courtesy of its surging chorus, which delivers one one of the most cathartic melodies of any SM Entertainment group. Though Super Junior may be more well-known for their “hook” songs, It’s You offers a deeper sentiment.
64. Golden Child – Lady (2018)
Lady goes full-on melodramatic, hanging a timeless melody over a gorgeous, piano-led instrumental. Its transition from verse to pre-chorus is absolutely killer, cascading with cinematic grandeur while retaining a taut pop structure. (full review)
63. Astro – Hide & Seek (2016)
Hide & Seek is a perfect distillation of Astro’s bright, poppy sound, melodic heft and ebullient spirit. The song is a rollicking good time, never slowing in its pursuit to deliver one sing-along hook after another. (full review)
62. Kim Sungkyu – 60 Seconds (2012)
60 Seconds is positioned as a killer blend of Infinite’s propulsive, melody-driven sound and Sungkyu’s modern rock edge. It remains my favorite title track from one of my favorite voices in K-pop. It’s just immensely satisfying all around.
61. Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – I Got A Boy (2013)
A Frankenstein tapestry of song fragments, I Got A Boy is one of the most complex, genre-smashing singles in Girls’ Generation’s entire career. You’ll either love or hate its abrupt transitions in sound and melody. I happen to find it as irresistible as it is fascinating.