Follow Billboard. All rights reserved. Every year, the South Korean music industry serves up a wide array of music that spreads its reach across the globe, experimenting with the limitations of popular music. The past 12 months, however, were transformative for reasons beyond the music: long-overdue conversations regarding the unjust structural and social issues became unavoidable. We went into the year disillusioned by idol culture and facing the grim realities of power dynamics in South Korea, and are coming out with increasingly loud cries to protect our idols , particularly women. With the world now truly entering what is largely being called the "Fourth Wave of K-pop", we are looking at an industry standing on the precipice of much-needed change: in terms of how it treats its stars, how they connect with fans, and how its existence is gradually becoming a normal part of global music culture. Taking this all into account, we put our heads together to determine what were the stand-out songs coming out of the Korean scene amid all of this. Focusing on singles, we named the top 25 songs of and shared our thoughts below.
Top K-Pop Songs
By learning Korean through famous K-pop songs , those icons will become your own personal language teachers. Sound too good to be true? Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. K-pop songs are rapidly taking over the world and, when it comes to learning the language, they may just be the greatest thing since sliced bread. The best thing about authentic material like K-pop? FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. But FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
Get to Know EXID ("Exceed in Dreaming")
Nowhere is that clearer than in music, where Korean artists such as BTS and Super M have become worldwide stars with rousing, inventive and damn catchy tracks, while leading a charge of K-pop acts into the mainstream. That followed a coordinated campaign by K-pop fans just days earlier, when fans came together to drown out the racist WhiteLivesMatter hashtag on Twitter by spamming it with irreverent memes and fan cams. Find this playlist on Spotify here. The record label released a remix with Sia, but this original version packs a pretty punch all on its own. Monsta X ft. The first all-English single by a K-pop group in almost a decade, this certified bop will get your head nodding and shoulders swaying 20 seconds into the track. For the lead single from their eleventh! Korean EP, Dye , the veterans on this list showcase their signature K-pop sound on a mid-tempo track, alternating between hard and soft, tender and aggressive, as the guys trade verses about holding onto love.
Former robotics engineer Lee Soo-man—founding chairman of the SM Entertainment empire, and the de facto progenitor of K-pop as we know it—is a mad scientist of the music industry. These teams of six are meant to be functionally interchangeable—performing the exact same songs, dancing roughly mirrored choreographies, and filming shot-for-shot identical videos—save for their respective languages. They release their music simultaneously, and promote it in their respective territories like local branches of a single corporate entity. In K-pop, the logic of economics frequently takes surprisingly literal form in the artists themselves. It opens with a vinyl-cackle cascade of New Age ivory, Orientalist synth pentatonics, and Afrobeat guitar accents, soon disrupted by individual track reversals and a crater-sized bass drop. Even after the familiar trap hats slither in, the intrinsic weirdness of the arrangement only deepens as it progresses. The song deliberately employs traditional Korean elements, combining them with New Order guitar, militaristic horn-patch blasts, and a well-earned key change to forge one of the most virtuosic beats in the French electro style. Their true gift, however, lies in proficient pop songs that go suddenly, beautifully mental in the second half. The driving verses and choruses recall Ace of Base-style Eurodance refracted through primetime Lady Gaga.