Staff Picks: Top 15 K-Pop Songs of the First Half of 2018
The new year brings opportunities for K-Pop groups to experiment with their sound and try new concepts, and the first half of 2018 gave us just that. In the past six months, we’ve seen some of the biggest names in the industry come back with a vengeance. We asked our staff to choose their top 15 tracks released before June 20 to summarize what really grabbed our attention.
15. “Daydream” - J-Hope
BTS’s J-Hope’s solo mixtape debut predictably took the world by storm when it was released on March 2. The colorfully funky music video garnered an amazing 12 million views in its first 24 hours. As the title suggests, the music video takes us through the rapper’s daydream of being a normal kid with wishes and aspirations despite the large title associated with his name. The full mixtape, Hope World, draws inspiration from a variety of genres, including hip-hop, funk, and trap.
14. “Hot Potato” - N.Flying
The band’s first release this year had everyone screaming they were hot potatoes. N.Flying is a group with a distinct personality, and “Hot Potato” continues to show that, especially after their similarly groovy release “The Real.” The song even granted them the opportunity to become honorary ambassadors for potatoes in the Gangwon province!
13. “District 9” - Stray Kids
In a complete flip of concept, Stray Kids’s “District 9” further establishes the hard-hitting, darker concept that has caught the attention of millions. Similar to MONSTA X or B.A.P, the rookie group utilizes strong electronic, dubstep-esque beats that have been popular in K-Pop for generations. Ever since their debut following the survival program of the same name, Stray Kids has been making a distinct name for themselves.
12. “Good Evening” - SHINee
SHINee’s long-awaited return did not disappoint. The title track of the first EP of the trilogy titled The Story of Light, “Good Evening” is a deep-house track reminiscent of “View” and f(x) Luna’s “Free Somebody.” The accompanying music video tells a story that is up to viewers to decipher, with aspects speculated to refer to the late Jonghyun. It’s mystical and dreamlike, embodying the group’s unique sound.
11. “Look” - GOT7
The group’s teaser release “One and Only You” featuring Hyolyn really garnered the hype, and “Look” successfully delivered. The urban pop sound shined through with this track, with the buildup to the chorus and then the infectious trap breakdown. It embodied the sweet charisma of “Teenager” with a more formulaic pop beat that contributed to its widespread appeal. “Look” is the quintessential GOT7 title track.
10. “What is Love?” - TWICE
It’s not a list without a TWICE comeback! The cinematic video demonstrated how far the group has come since debut. While the song is charmingly simplistic, it serves as the soundtrack to the music video, which takes us through a colorful world of cinematic references, from Pulp Fiction to La La Land. Even if bubblegum pop isn’t your cup of tea, you can’t deny TWICE’s title tracks are catchy and super danceable, and when combined with the video, we can’t help but feel that innocent yearning to find love.
9. “Lo Siento” - Super Junior feat. Leslie Grace
The senior group took on K-Pop’s recent obsession with Latin-infused music by collaborating with Latin-American artists Leslie Grace and Play-N-Skillz’s for their hit “Lo Siento.” The title track for their repackage album REPLAY made Super Junior the first K-Pop act to debut on Billboard’s Latin Digital Song Sales chart, marking a major accomplishment for the group and for the genre. This hip-bumping song spiced up the charts with its authentic approach to this unique cultural fusion.
8. “Shinin’” - Jonghyun
“Shinin’” is only another reflection of how Jonghyun brought his fresh flavor to all of his compositions. The video’s blinding neon colors accurately reflect his bright personality. With a bit of an urban flare, the electropop track repeatedly reminds us that he’ll always be with us. It’s hard to think of a track so far this year that carried the same weight with its message. Poet | Artist is equally as impressive as Jonghyun’s previous albums—a real gift for his fans and the K-Pop industry as a whole.
7. “Get It” - PRISTIN V
PRISTIN V’s breakout debut came just in time for the summer. The sassy track from the sub-unit gave the older members the opportunity to showcase a more mature look and sound. Although we wish we could’ve seen “Get It” tackled by the entire group, we’re happy that Pledis Entertainment is allowing the girls to experiment with their image. The “girl crush” concept is strong with this one, and it’s hard to sit still when this song comes on.
6. “Touch” - NCT 127
Known primarily for their crisp dance moves and aggressive concepts, NCT 127 released “Touch,” which mimics the light airiness of spring. The boys overall adopted a more wholesome image accompanied by bright colors, but the song still allowed their bad boy appeal to peek through with the choreography. It was a refreshing change of pace for the boys, especially with the slew of releases from the entire NCT crew earlier this year.
5. “Love Scenario” - iKON
This mellow hip-hop track took the public by storm. Released in January, “Love Scenario” quietly became their staple hit, winning over both Korean and international audiences. iKON has struggled to become a household name since debut, but this song has become synonymous with the group’s name and has rightfully attracted positive attention from the general public. It’s easily in talks to be nominated for song of the year; it’s July and we still have this on repeat!
4. “Bad Boy” - Red Velvet
In a similar manner, “Bad Boy” has yet to slow down with its popularity. Especially after the recently teased English version at KCON New York, the public can’t get enough of Red Velvet’s R&B release. The infectious beat with the sultry vocals is a hard combination to beat. It looked like we weren’t going to see an R&B title track after the relatively quiet success of “One of These Nights” and “Automatic,” but this more mainstream approach has definitely appealed to the masses.
3. “Fake Love” - BTS
Don’t worry, they’re definitely on this list. After “DNA”’s relatively safe concept, “Fake Love” takes the BTS storyline in a completely different direction musically. It’s hard to classify what genre this song is—urban pop infused with rock elements and trap beats? It doesn’t make sense on paper, but leave it to BTS to accept the challenge. The positive reception by fans and listeners worldwide has lifted the group to an even higher level of popularity, and it is not looking to slow down anytime soon.
2. “Boss” - NCT U
NCT’s lead sub-unit really came out with a vengeance. Despite the rotation of members that excluded Ten and Taeil from this comeback, the addition of Winwin, Lucas, and Jungwoo helped to revamp the unit’s image and tackle a different concept. It’s hard to compete with NCT’s consistently solid title tracks, and “Boss” served to launch that winning streak. The dark, detached image and the menacing raps mixed with crooning vocals is bound to make any girl fall to her knees. Well done, NCT U.
1. “Shine” - Pentagon
Whether you’re a Universe or not, it’s hard to deny how ubiquitous this track has become in the world of K-Pop. “Shine” is simplistic in format compared to PENTAGON’s former title tracks, but it’s a bouncy, light-hearted song about love—how can you go wrong with that? Even the dance is catchy! There’s something unique to find in every one of the live stages for “Shine” and members E’Dawn, Hui, Yuto, and Wooseok are credited on the track; it’s easy to see how much effort the group put in to produce this noteworthy comeback. “Shine” continues to achieve personal records for the group, and there’s no sight of it slowing down!