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Links to old reviews will be provided when applicable, though those ratings may be somewhat out of date.
50. SHINee – Dream Girl (2013)
It’s hard to find a better distillation of pure pop hooks and production force than Dream Girl. Its kaleidoscopic wave of melodic twists and turns brilliantly sets up an explosive chorus anchored by SHINee’s mighty vocal blend. It’s funky, fresh and full of confidence.
49. Bigbang – Blue (2012)
With its seesaw synth and touches of acoustic guitar, Blue built upon the mellow restraint of some of Bigbang’s earlier work, tethering it to a melody so limber and deceptively simple that the weight of its mood and emotion washes over you before you know it.
48. Super Junior – Sorry Sorry (2009)
Sorry Sorry is Super Junior’s most iconic moment, and one of the most ubiquitous, enduring K-pop songs of the millennium. Its fuzzy synth loop and skeletal beat translate effectively to any culture, spawning thousands of cover dances. But, the original is still the best, in all its staccato glory.
47. Wonder Girls – I Feel You (2015)
Total reinventions are rare in K-pop, but I Feel You‘s retro band approach overhauled Wonder Girls’ image and utterly perfected the icy coolness of 80’s synth pop. It set the template for Sunmi’s future solo career, and stands as one of the most convincing nostalgia trips the industry has ever offered.
46. EXO – Love Me Right (2015)
One of the funkiest tracks EXO ever produced, Love Me Right is a streamlined dance-pop thrill-ride. The freewheeling chorus is as bright and alive as the group has ever sounded, propelled by slapping percussion and a warm, explosive vocal arrangement that nimbly rides the track’s insistent rhythm guitar. (full review)
45. Beast – Fiction (2011)
No song has better defined Beast’s sound and image than Fiction. Just when you think you’ve played it into the ground, the melodic builds and melancholic production pull you back and make every beat feel fresh again. It’s a song that reveals itself over time, with an unexpected weight and impact.
44. Boyfriend – I-Yah (2013)
A hard-hitting sucker punch of Sweetune-produced dance-pop majesty, I-Yah bounds on powerful rhythm guitar and synth accents to die for. That overpowering, layered hook is as aggressively awesome as K-pop can be, and at just over three minutes the track is all-killer, no-filler perfection.
43. Red Velvet – Red Flavor (2017)
A gleeful jolt of summertime bombast, the thrilling Red Flavor blends its off-kilter vocal rhythm with an impressive volley of rambunctious pop hooks that just keep on coming. It has quickly become an inescapable anthem of the season, though its limitless energy is a treat any time of the year. (full review)
42. Snuper – Back:Hug (2017)
Dabbling in 2017’s tropical trend, Back:Hug pushed its overused elements in surprising direction, resulting in a track that transcends genres. Its moody, complex verses are a total treat, but the propulsive pre-chorus and soaring hook make this one for the ages. It’s one of the best, under-known tracks of its era. (full review)
41. ZE:A – The Ghost Of Wind (2013)
The Ghost of Wind‘s operatic vocal sample is inspired, but the funky dance track would be outstanding even without it. Spotlight must also be given to the ridiculously gorgeous strings arrangement, which lends the track a sense of ornate drama that stands apart from anything else in ZE:A’s underrated discography.