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Links to old reviews will be provided when applicable, though those ratings may be somewhat out of date.
30. Bigbang – Fantastic Baby (2012)
For many, Fantastic Baby is the answer to the question: “What is K-pop?” Beyond that, this iconic dance track perfected so many of the tricks that have been a staple of Korean pop music for the past eight years. It’s a colossal moment for Bigbang, and still the very best display of their raucous, party-starting energy.
29. TXT – Crown (2019)
Crown is the aural equivalent of sunshine in a bottle — relentlessly upbeat but never cloying. Its synth textures evoke a strong sense of nostalgia but exist of their own accord, instantly giving TXT a unique identity. The guys’ voices are pulled and twisted just enough to give the track an incredible, fantasy-like appeal that capitalizes on their youthful exuberance. (full review)
28. Infinite – Nothing’s Over (2011)
It’s almost impossible to listen to Nothing’s Over without a big smile on your face, and that anthemic hook will rattle through your brain long after the final chorus. Stripping away the gimmicks, this is a tour-de-force showcase of producer Sweetune’s gift for a warm, timeless pop melody. (full review)
27. B1A4 – Lonely (2014)
Lonely is one of my favorite pop ballads in any language, though its percussive groove gives it mid-tempo appeal as well. Jinyoung’s songwriting is at its absolute best, surging in all the right places for maximum emotional impact. Many modern K-pop track thrive on their sense of mood, but few have captured this kind of angst so brilliantly. (full review)
26. Stray Kids – Miroh (2019)
Miroh capitalizes on Stray Kids’ incredible rap line by utilizing their talents to power the most vital segment of any EDM track: the pre-chorus build. Their breakneck pace, coupled with the hypnotic loop running underneath, forge an explosive sense of rising tension that culminates in a beat drop/chorus pairing for the ages. (full review)
25. Seventeen – Very Nice (2016)
Very Nice’s brassy instrumental hook, undercut by vocal ad-libs, is brilliantly realized, adding a dynamic exclamation point to an already potent concoction. The track crackles with relentless excitement and a sense of unstoppable energy. Its explosive arrangement goes above and beyond, resulting in a streamlined, powerhouse performance piece without a single misstep. (full review)
24. Infinite – Last Romeo (2014)
At the time of its release, Last Romeo felt like a distillation of Infinite’s discography up to that point. But, time has been kind to the track, with its sharp melodic hooks and grand instrumental marking it as a highlight in their mighty discography. The live band sound is an inspired addition to the Sweetune brew, bringing an unexpected rock heft to its soaring pop sound. (full review)
23. ONF – Complete (2018)
Complete takes flight from its very first moment, and never lets up. Its brisk pace has a weightlessness to it, yet feels tightly wound and urgent. But right when it seems like it’s about to slide into comfortable cruising territory, the track yanks you up another level with a rugged guitar-and-brass beat drop delivered straight from the pop gods. (full review)
22. GFriend – Navillera (2016)
Unrestrained by K-pop’s trio of common girl group concepts (cute, sexy, and girl crush), Navillera succeeds on the strength of its tight construction and the boundless force of its energy. It’s one of those rare songs that’s just constant build, gaining steam until it explodes with Yuju’s climactic power note. I get excited every time that opening percussion thunders in. (full review)
21. NCT U – Without You (2016)
Without You may not be the trendiest or most heavily-promoted of NCT’s songs, but its melodic bombast forges a truly transformative piece of music. Jettisoning the group’s hip-hop influences, it surges on gorgeous harmonies and a soaring, anthemic chorus. The tight vocal blend of Doyoung, Taeil and Jaehyun is pure magic. (full review)