Last year, as most years in K-Pop tend to be, was an emotional rollercoaster as the genre continues to grow in volume. With the higher quantity of artists comes a higher influx of music, whether that music is actually good is subjective.
However, here are the 25 songs I felt encompassed my year in K-Pop. Remember: these are the top 25, not the only 25 songs I liked, so don’t get angry if your fave is not on the list. Feel free to let me know your favorite songs of 2017!
“A Girl Like Me” was gugudan’s breakthrough comeback. Although they boast three Produce 101 alumni, they weren’t really able to grasp the general public’s attention until this release. Hopefully, we’ll see more of their quirky concepts in 2018.
This charming duo never fails to deliver tunes that pull at the heartstrings. It’s no wonder they’re digital beasts on the charts—they channel the same folk-pop, singer-songwriter vibes that make IU so appealing.
The infectious horn loop serves as the foundation for SEVENTEEN Leaders’ battling tones. Woozi’s falsettos really steal the show, but all of the boys have commanding auras that demonstrate why each serve as the leaders of the thirteen-man group.
Taeyeon’s daring release left the music industry shook. “I Got Love” truly showcases the versatility of Taeyeon’s vocals as well as twists the popular horn hook heard in many K-Pop songs. It’s dramatically sexy. It’s hard to find any other female releases like it since it is such a risk to take.
EXID are seasoned masters of the sexy concept. Though they returned to it with the spunky “DDD,” they really switched it up with their first comeback of the year, giving us a more flirtatious, light track that shows their versatility even without lead vocalist Solji.
Heize’s ability to blend well with anyone she collaborates with shines through in this chill duet with Jay Park. It’s a little different than most songs dedicated to Sundays. Nonetheless, it’s so good you’ll want to listen to it every day of the week.
The blend of traditional and modern elements in both the song and the music video really made “Shangri-La” stand out amongst all other releases this year. Only VIXX could pull off the sophisticated execution of their fan choreography.
EXO really demonstrated their prowess as any song off of their most ambitious project yet, The War, could’ve been the title track. “Forever” left fans especially perplexed as to why it wasn’t promoted more. Their intense lyrics about maintaining this love forever suits the heavy, desperate bass behind it.
Happy-sounding songs about bad relationships seem to be all the rage in South Korea. Though Zion.T sounds upset in his lyrics, we can’t help but groove to this relaxed, groovy beat.
The popular rap competition Show Me the Money 6 boasted a star-studded judges panel this season, which meant some amazing collaborations. This one in particular, with contestant Killagramz and renowned artists Dean and Zico, is tailor-made for getting the night started. All artists demonstrate impressive flows over this Dean-produced beat.
This duo is too talented for their own good. There are several theories behind this song, including that it’s a metaphor for debt collectors and the music video’s an homage to the popular film Jurassic Park. The creativity behind AKMU’s concepts and compositions always leaves their fans intrigued and waiting for more.
Sunmi’s solo career was already a hit in South Korea, but her single comeback this entire year propelled her to the top of the top. With this song came one of the most iconic choreographies in all of K-Pop, there seems to be no slowing down for this pop princess.
This Pledis Entertainment girl group debuted with a force (and this undeniably catchy song). “Wee Woo” is a step above typical bubblegum pop, mixing girl crush elements that make it more appealing to a wider audience—the same concept that made disbanded group I.O.I so popular.
R&B artist Sik-K put in work this year, releasing two astounding EPs as well as countless features with Jeong Sewoon, Jay Park, and more. He has solidified his name as an R&B staple; this banger with Crush is only the tip of the iceberg to his extensive discography.
This song has quickly become a staple in any K-Pop fan’s playlist. They have yet to release a full-length album, but when they do, you can rest assured that it’ll ensue world domination for BLACKPINK.
NCT127’s discography is phenomenal; I could’ve picked any song off either of their mini-albums and it would’ve placed just as high. This song, in particular, hooked many fans with its candid lyrics, unceasing bed squeaks, and indisputable flows from Mark and Taeyong. Please listen to their Cherry Bomb mini-album if you haven’t already.
Brave girls delivered this underrated, sexy, EDM gem. The fact that it had a catchy hook, women dancing on top of stools and werewolf imagery and it still didn’t reach the top of the charts is beyond me. Stop sleeping on talent!
I know BTS had a record-breaking year and there were several group tracks I could’ve chosen from, but I had to pick the one that made me cry every single time I heard it. This dreamy R&B tune makes you feel like you’re floating in between galaxies with your significant other. I couldn’t think of any better way to introduce BTS’s biggest project to date.
Like Sik-K, Jay Park added several great releases to his track record this year. Not only as an artist, he also saw major success through his labels AOMG and H1GHR MUSIC, through being a judge on Asia’s Got Talent, and through his new record deal with Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation. This carefree summer song embodies the effortless swag that Jay does so well.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the ambitious LOOΠΔ project, you should probably do so before all of the members are revealed. Over the course of 18 months, a single member will be revealed with an accompanying unique song and concept each month until the 12-member group’s official debut in 2018. Odd Eye Circle is a subunit consisting of members Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry. Their second comeback as a subunit is fresh and funky, only further increasing curiosity and anticipation for what’s to come in LOOΠΔ’s future.
Though they lost a member and hadn’t released a lengthy project in over a year, WINNER returned and completely swept the charts with this spunky, tropical house jam. The monochromatic style of the music video displayed a sleek, fresh take on the group’s new image. It’s easy to say WINNER released nothing but hits this year. This song is rightfully mentioned in the conversation for song of the year.
Whilst collaborating with numerous talented artists this year, Dean found the time to compose this mellow love song that feels like a relative of his immensely popular “D (Half Moon).” The addition of Yerin Baek’s buttery vocals help orchestrate this dialogue about the confusing nature of young love.
I really struggled to choose between one of Red Velvet’s title tracks, but I chose this one because I streamed it more than any other girl group song this year. Off of Rookie, their first mini-album of the year, this song is tame compared to the album’s title track. It’s in its simplicity that I find it so appealing—utilizing the group’s strong harmonies over a piano melody and upbeat tempo. It radiates Ariana Grande vibes, easily making it a hit.
GroovyRoom’s production on this track is absolutely insane. Up-and-coming Sik-K’s subtle use of autotune contrasts rookie pH-1’s sing-rapping style. There’s no doubt the hook is incredibly catchy. The music video’s aesthetic is also so visually appealing—what better way to round off the track than with seasoned veteran Jay Park’s glimmering vocals? H1GHR MUSIC is taking over the K-R&B industry, combining forces over this addictive track.
Taemin’s latest project has to be one of the boldest in all of K-Pop. This simmering, alluring track demands attention from all who dare to listen. Taemin’s borderline androgynous style further challenges the standards of masculinity. The choreography isn’t fixating because of its complexity, but rather its seamless intertwining with the music backing it. Some wouldn’t dare to even think about tackling a concept so provocative; it’s testament to Taemin’s musical taste that a concept so daring would suit him so well. “MOVE” is only a glimpse at the intricate musical production behind his second full-length album. From the resonating ballads to the striking red of the album cover, everything about Taemin’s comeback commands your attention, thus demanding its spot at the top of the list.