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Links to old reviews will be provided when applicable, though those ratings may be somewhat out of date.
60. TVXQ – Why (Keep Your Head Down) (2011)
Why is a stomping thunderclap of the classic TVXQ sound, reinvented for two performers after the group’s messy reconfiguration. Its hair-raising vocal riffs and impish, sinister rap wouldn’t work in lesser hands, but Yunho and Changmin bring home the song’s intensity with utter conviction.
59. Brown Eyed Girls – Abracadabra (2009)
Few girl group songs have been as enduring or influential as Abracadabra. From its new wave-inspired bridge to the instantly recognizable electro beat, it’s the group’s most iconic moment and a walloping dance track. Even after a decade, its jackhammer hook feels fresh and vital.
58. Bigbang – Haru Haru (2008)
Haru Haru is the pinnacle of Bigbang’s work with Japanese producer/DJ Daishi Dance, drawing on their hip-hop style but draping it in melodramatic pop melody. The dynamic beat and repeated piano sample give the track an immensely satisfying “tears on the dancefloor” oomph, fueled by the group’s expressive performance.
57. ATEEZ – Wonderland (2019)
Wonderland fully harnesses ATEEZ’s pirate aesthetic for a modern “hype track” reinvention of the classic sea shanty. The track offers boundless intensity and commanding vocal turns, flipping expectations by structuring its verses as rowdier and more grandiose than its droning hook. (full review)
56. BTS – I Need U (2015)
I Need U was the moment when BTS fully embraced their own musical perspective. From its gorgeous harmonies to the crushing, dubstep-influenced instrumental, the song surges and crests like few others. It remains the most emotional piece of music the group has given us, paving way for a series of releases that would build from its incredible quality.
55. Seventeen – Don’t Wanna Cry (2017)
Borrowing elements from western EDM trends, Seventeen improved upon the genre with the majestic, emotional Don’t Wanna Cry. It was the first real departure from their usual funk-driven pop, and could have been a complete disaster. But, it managed to inject an incredible sense of resonance into an overly-familiar format. (full review)
54. VIXX – Error (2014)
Error stands as the most bombastic, emotive pop that VIXX ever put their name to. Each and every melodic turn sweeps in with full grandeur, lending the track a larger-than-life, almost operatic, quality without sacrificing its taut K-pop structure. It’s the culmination of many dark, high concept ideas from the group, and acts as the perfect climax to their thrilling discography.
53. B1A4 – Solo Day (2014)
Few Korean tracks have so perfectly captured the feeling of lazing at the beach, or driving around with the top down on a sunny day, as expertly as Solo Day. B1A4 have always delivered fantastic final-minute crescendos as part of their deceptively simple pop songs, but the gorgeous harmonies that close this track may be their most satisfying.
52. Akdong Musician – 200% (2014)
200% was Akdong Musician’s splash into the K-pop world, and it perfectly encompasses what’s so amazing about their quirky sound and undeniable star power. The song’s playful blend of acoustic hip-hop is unmatched, feeling as effortless as it is flawlessly crafted. It’s a genius debut, and sounds nothing like any other song within the industry.
51. Seventeen – Mansae (2015)
The explosive Mansae proved that Seventeen were here to stay. It’s a perfect collage of everything that makes the group exciting, from the charismatic, ever-changing verses to the punchy, shout-along chorus. When fans complain that they want the group to return to their debut-era sound, it’s because of pop stunners like this. (full review)