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The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2015 (Day One: 50-41)

Top 50 Singles of 2015This week, we’re journeying back half a decade to look at K-pop’s best releases of 2015!

2015 was a prime year for K-pop. It saw the return of industry royalty, as Bigbang blitzed the market with no less than seven singles. It acted as the launchpad for many of today’s top acts (Twice, Seventeen, GFriend, Monsta X, Oh My Girl, DAY6, etc) and fostered the growth and resurgence of others (BTS, Red Velvet, BTOB, GOT7). In fact, I think the case can be made for 2015 being the start of a whole new K-pop generation.

It was also a year without one definitive musical trend. This allowed for a diverse palette of sounds and ideas. At the same time, many of K-pop’s modern genre touchstones (house, tropical, EDM, trap) really began to flourish in 2015. The year was transformative in so many ways, and this list will only touch the tip of that iceberg.

Each day this week, I’ll be counting down ten of the year’s best, until number one is revealed on Friday.

**Note: This countdown covers January-December of 2015, which means there may be some overlap with my old 2016 countdown, which included 2015’s December releases as well.

Honorable Mentions


50. B1A4 – Sweet Girl

Anchored by Jinyoung’s impeccable songwriting, Sweet Girl‘s addictive disco groove goes down easy. The song may feel more subdued than much of their work, but that strings arrangement pulls it together with flair.


49. Brown Eyed Girls – Warm Hole

When it comes to title tracks, K-pop rarely gets this… explicit. But, Warm Hole‘s tongue-in-cheek concept is incredibly fun, especially when paired with the instrumental’s 60’s-influenced swagger. Leave it to Brown Eyed Girls to do whatever the hell they want.


48. Dickpunks – Let’s Play In The Han River

Dickpunks may have K-pop’s most baffling band name, but their music is far more reserved than you’d expect. With Let’s Play In The Han River, they conjure the ultimate ‘summer festival’ singalong, pulling influence from decades past to create a track that bounds along and endless supply of good vibes.


47. DAY6 – Congratulations

One of 2015’s big debuts, DAY6 stormed the scene with the anthemic Congratulations. From its stomping drum beat to the surging chorus, the track quickly established DAY6 as the type of band who could merge sentiment with strong melody and unyielding vocal performances.


46. JYP – Who’s Your Mama? (ft. Jessi)

K-pop’s elder statesman refused to ‘act his age,” teaming up with Jessi for the funky Who’s Your Mama?. The song is basically a caricature of his persona, but the hooks are too indelible to pass off as pure novelty. Once that brassy breakdown hits, it’s hard to resist the pure force of JYP.


45. Twice – Like Ooh Ah

Little did we know that Like Ooh Ah was the formal introduction of K-pop royalty — a group who would reign atop the industry for years to come. This may not be my favorite Twice song, but all the ingredients for their success are here: addictive chorus, hooky verses and personality for days.


44. HIGH4 – D.O.A (Dead Or Alive)

HIGH4’s D.O.A pulls the rug from underneath you at every turn, inverting K-pop expectations by bringing its rap verse up front, clearing space for its atmospheric chorus and punctuating that space with nuanced vocal ad-libs. I’ll never get over how fantastic the abrasive, descending synths work as rhythm for the verses.


43. Road Boyz – Show Me Bang Bang

You’d be forgiven for responding to this song with a big: “Roadboyz, who?” Their short-lived stint in K-pop idoldom lasted about two music videos, but they debuted with this perfect ode to second-gen sounds — just as those sounds were starting to fall out of fashion. It’s pure propulsion from start to finish.


42. Stellar – Vibrato

During this period, Stellar received criticism for over-sexualization, and the concepts were indeed driven by exploitation rather than artistic desire. But, Vibrato‘s controversial video belies just how amazing the song is. This is electro pop at its most inventive, charging toward a climactic shift in rhythm that sends the track off on a breathless high. Fun fact: this was one of the first singles produced by the now-ubiquitous Monotree production team.


41. Kim Sungkyu – Kontrol

Sungkyu cemented his status as one of the industry’s most accomplished idol group soloists with his 2015 mini album. Kontrol pushes his sentimental sound in an edgier direction, driven by atmospheric synths that forge together for a knockout drop during the song’s hammering chorus.


NEXT: NUMBERS 40-31

23 thoughts on “The Top 50 K-Pop Songs of 2015 (Day One: 50-41)

  1. Heh, the JYP “Who’s you Mama”, Brown eyed girls, and Stellar Vibrato are classic of kpop. Though not on my list, I appreciate them. Warm Hole and Vibrato were the high water mark for sexy concept in kpop, and then the tide receded very quickly away from this.

    I have Kim SungKyu’s “Kontrol” much higher – in the 20-29 bin, and Twice “Ooh Aah” in the 30-40 bin.

    I also have in the 40+ bin in some order:
    Taeyeon – I ee yii ee yii ee yi-ii-ii-iiiiiiiii
    Jonghyun – Crazy
    Amber – Shake that Brass

    The last one because darling daughter loves to play this one more than I would, maybe because she plays brass, and thinks that she shakes it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • On an semi-related note, I hung out with my eonnie last week and did the semi-annual half-year in kpop revue. Over drinks of course. I do a showcase of songs I like from 1H’21, plus other notable releases (eg Butter) and events (eg Kingdom).

      Her vote for the comeback of the 1st half was 2pm “Make It”.

      Yasss, good choice eonnie. Ajumma’s clearly love this comeback. The FB SuJu sites I visit all have memes of Elf multistanning with 2pm.

      Like

    • Does that mean that you don’t expect any of those 3 songs to make it to top 40? Knowing Nick’s taste Taeyeon is for sure outside of the list, but the remaining 2, maybe, somehow, possibly?

      Like

      • Its my personal parallel ranking.
        If I were to guess, I would say Taeyeon I is probably higher on Nick’s list and yet to come, Jonghyun is a maybe – his “DejaBoo” or “End of Day” is more likely, and the Amber is a probably not.

        Like

        • I’ll spoil one right now and say that “I” is not on my list. I’ve never really cared for that song. To me, it sounds like it should be soundtracking a Hallmark movie.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Well then. My list is only 42 long, as my ipod is much smaller than your ipod, so these three are essentially my honorable mentions.

            As a spoiler, I bet that I will have way way more Kyuhyun on my list than you on your list. I think that is a pretty safe bet, yes?

            Like

  2. I found that Vibrato, despite its overtly sexual themes, is much better than I remember and I would probably rank it higher on my list. It’s so incredibly catchy and it makes me remember exactly how underrated Stellar’s music really was in spite of their label hyper-sexualizing them. The chorus is really quite spectacular and the song soars at the end.

    Really looking forward to seeing the rest of the Top 50. 2015 is probably my favorite year of K-pop ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was obsessed with BEG´s Basic album, i love pretty much every song. Like Oh Ah was so much fun! Good times. Stellar in the list is a bittersweet addition considering what the girls were living at the moment.

    Like

  4. Yaaaas so glad to see Warm Hole on here! One of my unapologetic faves. Nobody has ever done it like Brown Eyed Girls imo.

    I had never heard of Dickpunks before but their name was just so absurd that I just had to check out the song lmao and I actually really liked it! Don’t judge a book by its cover I guess?

    Anyway, I have a feeling I’ll end up discovering more awesome new-to-me tracks on this list. 2015 truly must have been a truly insane year for K-Pop if there are so many iconic tracks this low on the list!

    Like

  5. Yesssss. “Vibrato” is one of my all-time favorite Kpop songs.

    I got so annoyed about the backlash for their risque videos, when Kpop as a whole is sexualized (just not always so overtly). It’s too bad the public can’t just let pop music be about the music sometimes.

    Great list so far. Gotta check out the few I haven’t heard. Looking forward to the rest of the list even though I’m still bitter about “4 Walls,” haha!

    Like

  6. I started listening to Kpop in 2015, primarly for girlgroups though I sometimes heard Infinite and Shinee, and I think Vibrato would place 1st for me if I made a list like this. I used to be a huge Twinkle. Looking forward to the rest!

    Like

  7. I agree with the list though I can’t get over ice cream cake not being here.

    On an other note, finally a big name comeback this month. Not only D.O’s solo debut but Dreamcatcher are also making a comeback

    Liked by 1 person

    • The DC comeback has my curiosity piqued. A summer comeback and the possible start of a new series or standalone while at peak popularity? Their only real summery comeback was Fly High all the way back in their debut year. I wonder if they will go for something more mainstream to try to build a domestic fandom or stick to the same path…. I’d love to see them dabble in some sort of upbeat punk meets K-Pop title track, personally lol.

      I’m also sad about ICC. I still love that song… it always felt more like RV’s actual debut than Happiness. ICC & Automatic really laid the groundwork for the group RV has become.

      Liked by 1 person

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