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The 100 Best K-Pop Songs of All-Time: 40-31

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Links to old reviews will be provided when applicable, though those ratings may be somewhat out of date. 

Countdown Archive:  Honorable Mentions // 100-91 // 90-81 // 80-71 // 70-61 // 60-51 // 50-41

Full Archive Here


40. EXO – Growl (2013)

Sometimes you recognize an iconic hit the first time you hear it, and Growl proved to be a seismic shift for EXO’s popularity and influence. Its durable, addictive groove is paired with an ultra-charismatic vocal and thumping hook to brilliant effect. If you know K-pop, you know Growl. (full review)


39. Golden Child – Genie (2018)

A ray of sunshine like Genie could have easily devolved into throwaway pop fluff, but its rousing, infectious melodies are backed by a parade of robust vocal arrangements, culminating in a climactic wallop with power notes to spare. Everything is a hook here — and they’re as sharply honed as they come. (full review)


38. ATEEZ – Wave (2019)

No song that rests on “hakuna matata” as a central refrain should be this deliriously great, yet ATEEZ transform a cliche into a rallying cry through the sheer force of their personality. But, what really sends Wave soaring is its final, galvanizing refrain. It’s a piece of melody so sublime that its sheer boldness transcends the track’s tropical base. (full review)


37. EXO – What Is Love (2012)

Rather than clobber listeners with a high-octane dance track, EXO’s first pre-release spotlighted their inarguable vocal prowess. None of their slow jams have come close to bettering What Is Love‘s mysterious, downtempo funk. It’s otherworldly stuff, utterly compelling from start to finish. (full review)


36. Girls’ Generation – Tell Me Your Wish (Genie) (2009)

Powered by one of K-pop’s most iconic hooks, Genie catwalks forward with incredible confidence and ease, transforming into an edgy, staccato dance track with a chorus that washes over like pop majesty. In an age of hyper-aegyo chirps and cheerleader chants, I think fans forget just how immense a proper girl group banger can sound.


35. BoA – Atlantis Princess (2003)

Though there have been more aggressively produced and performed singles in BoA’s arsenal, none matches the emotional and melodic warmth of Atlantis Princess. Its second verse, which incorporates a gorgeous swirl of background vocals and symphonic flourishes, might just be the most sonically resonant moment of her entire career.


34. TVXQ – ‘O’ – Jung.Ban.Hap (2006)

The template for so many SM boy group releases to follow, O‘s jagged, guitar-laced beat is only surpassed by the track’s immense, layered chorus. It crashes in with militant intensity, followed by a pitched vocal hook that adds a welcome jolt of playfulness. Then, the song’s final twenty seconds slam the listener with an unbridled wave of guitar-shredding glory.


33. GFriend – Rough (2016)

Rough is one of the quintessential girl group songs of the 2010’s, encapsulating every element that makes GFriend’s music so engaging. Its chorus is an instant classic, made even more so by the gorgeous orchestral refrain that follows. Their debut-era concept of “powerful innocence” remains an unmatched highlight of the era. (full review)


32. Girl’s Day – Don’t Forget Me (2012)

Don’t Forget Me‘s glossy, propulsive production is flawless, and surprisingly hard-hitting. But, its chorus is melodic perfection, fusing a sense of desperation to a surging refrain that manages to convey an emotional complexity far beyond the track’s pop leanings. This is a tears-on-the-dancefloor masterpiece.


31. 2NE1 – I Love You (2012)

A breathlessly successful foray into European dance music, I Love You is as dynamic as it is beguiling. The song’s stop/start energy creates peaks and valleys that keep it engaging throughout. This also allows for the best instrumental builds of 2NE1’s career, with that euphoric chorus providing a sugar rush of excitement each time it rears its head.


NEXT: NUMBERS 30-21

38 thoughts on “The 100 Best K-Pop Songs of All-Time: 40-31

  1. Pingback: The 100 Best K-Pop Songs of All-Time: 50-41 | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. I never wished the day would come …….. well , it came………………. AND I WASN’T PREPARED!!
    NICK!!
    It’s hard to know that this time Golden Child’s Peak is the first one I have to calculate!
    It feels so wrong!
    Then , ATEEZ! NO!
    *Big Dramatic Gasp*
    Welp , At least GFriend and Girls Generation can go on! but …………..2NE1! You know what I’ll get over my misery quick
    Peaks:
    Golden Child’s Peak: 39 (Peaked Song: Genie)
    Ateez’s Peak: 38 (Peaked Song; Wave)
    Boa’s Peak: 35 (Peaked Song: Atlantis Princess)
    Girl’s Day’s Peak: 32 (Peaked Song: Don’t Forget Me)
    2NE1’s Peak: 31 (Peaked Song: I Love You)
    We lost The Two Woolim Groups! Go On Infinite! Win it for us!

    Liked by 1 person

      • This is my prediction on The Top 10:
        10. Infinite- Man In Love
        9. SHINee – Sherlock
        8. SHINee – Lucifer
        7. Infinite – Be Mine
        6. Infinite – Paradise
        5. TVXQ – Catch Me
        4. Infinite – Back
        3. TVXQ – Rising Sun
        2. G Dragon – Crooked
        1. Infinite – The Chaser

        Or NCT U’s Without You might be there also

        Liked by 1 person

        • I just hope Last Romeo made it to this list. It’s one of the best, most underrated Infinite songs ever.

          On another note, I love Crooked but most of the time I find myself reaching for the N.Flying cover (which is from a low-quality VLive), which I only discovered like last month or so. Admittedly Seunghyub is no GD (much as I love the man) and I’m just really biased for N.Flying but god the instrumentals in the cover. The Kwangjin/Hun bass and guitar solo is especially sick.

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            • Here’s a link! I hope I didn’t get your expectations too high. Unfortunately there’s not a studio quality version, like I said it’s from a VLive that was recorded with a potato. A huge part of my affection for this version is my love for N.Flying, I admit, but I love the treatment of the song as a straight-up rocker.

              Also, this is from 2016/7, before Hweseung joined the band, so Seunghyub handles most of the main vocal duties, with Hun and Kwangjin backing him.

              Like

          • NFlying covering “Crooked” was awesome. Crooked could even go harder rock, imagine an Imagine Dragons cover. The whole GD catalog is so ripe for covers. I keep waiting for a “One of a Kind” cover with that awesome glissando raw material to work with. Or Mamamoo (back when they actually sung) covering “Untitled” in harmony.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Imagine Dragons aren’t exactly the first name I’d look at for “harder rock” 😉

              Anyway, wow, I felt that parenthesis. Mamamoo are vocally talented but after Decalcomanie I feel that the songs they’ve gotten are rather uninspired, even Hip which I enjoyed at first didn’t have a lot of staying power…

              Agreed with you on GD. Honestly I’m tempted to pull out my guitar and remix some of his stuff given that I have quite a bit of free time on my hands these days… once I’ve finished the two other remixes I’ve been making on my computer anyway ahahaha

              Like

  3. OK, this is pretty predictable for the “Rough” part, although I really disliked the “powerful innocence” or whatever GFriend is about, the thing I really want to talk about here is “Genie”.

    I always favored SM’s approach to music compared to many other companies (not that I strongly identify with Lee’s ideology which is worth some digging actually), but the overall stage and concept design of “Genie” is a very cynical exploitation of the mindset of average South Korean man who cannot resist the idea of women selected partly because poster attractiveness dressed in military-ish uniform telling them to “tell me what you want”. It also established Girl’s Generations quintessential status in SK. Since then, all SM GGs have done some kind of military concept, and they are huge improvements over “Genie” (“Red Light” and “Power Up”)

    Note: I don’t know if S.E.S has done something like that, but I tend to believe the answer is no, so basically Girl’s Generation started it.

    Also I like ‘O’ – Jung.Ban.Hap more than “Rising Sun” apart from the halftime part which is probably the point?

    Like

    • SNSD was always about pandering to one sex while still appealing to the other sex. Somehow at the same time being the girl next door and the unobtainable perfect girl. Innocent yet not. Legs legs legs. High heels.

      Military dress theme was inevitable. All the boy groups do military dress at some point, why not the girls.

      Its no wonder with the sexy concept video like Genie, as but one example, that the western press gets girl group kpop wrong, because they can’t really hold and resolve both at the same time in the head without just calling it too sexy, strippers, blow up dolls, sex trafficking, and all sorts of other real true headlines about some kpop gg getting misconstrued somewhere in the world. (All real examples from akp over the years.) Despite in the west JLo and such going around nearly naked shaking more in more ways than any kpop gg ever would. For that, the headline is cultural acceptance about bodies of color, or the commentator will get excoriated. Go figure.

      So yes, agree.

      Like

  4. Wow, I’m really happy to see “Don’t forget me” up here! It’s one of my favorites from Girls’ Day and I barelly see people mentioning it.

    Also, I’m from Brazil and love your site! I’ve been reading it for some time now, but it’s my first time leaving a comment.

    Like

  5. So in the end, Mama and What Is Love grew a lot more on you than Growl eh.
    Also, *gasp* Miroh might just end up in top 20 after all(!!!!).
    I’m crying :’)

    Don’t Forget Me would be higher for me, top 20 for sure. I might already have 30 definitely-in-my-top-20 songs by now hahah.
    Both EXO songs are a tad bit higher, just because.
    O and (the older) Genie a bit lower, somewhere in 51-70.
    Atlantis Princess and (the newer) Genie would be much lower, 81-100.
    Rough and I Love You get honourable mentions.
    Wave gets… cookies :).

    3rd gen group songs which make it into top 30:
    • SEVENTEEN – Very Nice (!)
    • TXT – Crown
    • NCT U – Without You (!!)
    • Gfriend – Navillera
    • Snuper – The Star of Stars (!!!)
    • Stray Kids – Miroh (fuck yeah!)
    • ONF – Complete

    7 out of 30 isn’t that bad eh, considering the various shitty trends (I’m looking at you, trapcrap and tropical shithouse) that have been plaguing kpop in the past few years.

    Like

  6. I would have put EXO “Growl” much higher, because it is such a classic song with a dance that everyone covers. But there is only so many places to go. At this point, it really is just a question of what else is left on our top top lists to cram in.

    I would think Navillera shows up in the 10’s or 20’s’. Also Very Nice, Crown, Miroh, Lucifer, Sherlock, Mr Simple, Rising Sun, BoA Number 1, Bang Bang Bang and/or Fantastic Baby, Kara Step, PHS Wildflower, another Red Velvet, Cheer Up, OC Catallena, T-ara. That’s 16 right there.

    Plus more EXO, More BTS, which? HyunA Bubble Pop? Any Mamamoo? Pentagon “Shine”? Did I miss f(x) Electric Shock on an earlier list? Even more SHINee, RIng a ding, View, etc?

    And then there are the ones I would throw into the top list, just because they are my favorites. Nu’est Face, Oh My Girl Closer ….. ok I will stop now.

    Like

        • Well, now, that would be interesting for once to leave out a big big group like Twice. I really would expect to see at least “Cheer Up”, as it was the standard cover song for both younger girl groups and boy groups for well over a year or more. Even Kyuhyun and the rest of SuJu covered at least one verse and chorus on every single variety show they were on for a long long while, which is to say all of the variety shows.
          So we shall see what happens!
          Hey, your list, your rules, your blog, your rankings.

          (I personally like Knock Knock the best in the Twice catalog.)

          (heh heh I suppose BP is also missing too. I don’t think blinks visit here much except once a year when one more song is released.) (ooof doof)

          Like

    • …Wannaone/IOI? I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘Energetic’ but that would be the only Wannaone song I would be surprised to see…

      Like

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