Top 8 of 2018: K-Pop Songs

Irina Lee and Grace Mak

Amassing millions of dedicated fans around the world, K-pop artists with their bold visuals, flashy dances, and catchy tunes have torn down language barriers and captivated global audiences over the past year. Groups like BTS, Black Pink, NCT, Monsta X are only a few of the K-pop groups that have crossed borders and found major success outside of South Korea. With K-pop becoming all the rage, be sure to check out this list of the Top 8 K-pop Songs in 2018.

1. Love Scenario – iKON

“Love Scenario,” from boy group iKON’s second studio album, Return, topped multiple Asian music charts upon its release on Jan. 25 and won the “Song of the Year” award at the 2018 Melon Music Awards. The lead single managed to break numerous records by remaining at number one weeks after its debut, making iKON one of the top South Korean artists of the first half of 2018. Written entirely in the Korean language, the breakup song features a simple mellow and upbeat tune accompanied by laidback, stripped-down beats. A mix of jazzy rock, EDM, and hip-hop, the single presents a more mature side of the boy group through its emotional lyrics of a love that has reached its end. Known as one of iKON’s signature songs, “Love Scenario” will easily get stuck in your head – in fact, it’s so catchy and addictive that some South Korean schools even banned their students from singing it in classrooms.

2. Fake Love – BTS

One of the many songs released this year by international superstars, BTS, “Fake Love” made its worldwide television debut at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. By garnering 35.9 million views within 24 hours of its release, its music video broke BTS’ previous record, and the song itself topped multiple real time music charts around the world. As the lead single of the boy group’s third studio album, Love Yourself: Tear, “Fake Love” portrays the dark, angsty emotions of one discovering that their love has actually been fake. A combination of grunge, hip hop, pop, trap, rock, and contemporary music, the single is hauntingly beautiful, captivating any listener that stumbles upon it.

3. Ddu-du Ddu-du – Black Pink

“Ddu-du Ddu-du” by Black Pink, a girl group known for their hard-hitting tracks that combine dark and bright elements, was yet another hit K-Pop song this year, topping multiple music charts across the world and receiving a place on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 list. The single features intense vocals and fierce raps all backed by booming trap beat. With an explosive hip-pop vibe that drives the entire track, “Ddu-du Ddu-du,” highlights the girl group’s signature blend of dark fierceness and bright peppiness. Because of their shockingly overpowering charisma, it’s no wonder how Black Pink has amassed such an enormous fanbase in the short time since their debut in 2016 and the limited number of tracks they’ve released since.

4. What is Love? – TWICE

South Korea’s “Nation’s Girl Group,” TWICE, never fails to make a successful comeback with every single they put out, and “What is Love?” is no different. Featuring bright and quirky electro-pop tunes and an innocent bubblegum vibe, “What is Love?” is incredibly addictive. This cutesy track is comes complete with adorable, easy-to-remember dance moves, fitting the adorable pure concept TWICE has embodied since their debut in 2015. Its repetitive melodies and lyrics like “I wanna know know know know… what is love?” will easily remain playing in any listener’s ears for years to come.

5. Shine – Pentagon

Pentagon’s “Shine” was released early this year, and skyrocketed the boy group’s popularity in South Korea. As one of the biggest K-Pop tracks this year, the addictive bop peaked at No. 27 on the Gaon chart and No. 10 on the World Digital Song Sales chart. The single is playful and energetic as the group’s members hopefully profess their love while confessing to be losers and nuisances. Paired with trendy moves like the “shoot dance” and laid back instrumentals similar to those in iKON’s “Love Scenario,” this song is definitely worth listening to when you just want to dance.

6. Tempo – EXO

Garnering over 17 million views on youtube with just the first day, Tempo mixes R&B, funk, disco, EDM, and ’90s house to create something EXO, a veteran of the industry, has never tried before. Though it doesn’t make for instant ear candy, the piece’s complexity shines through with each repetition. Adding on dynamic choreography and smooth lyrics to match the theme of disrupted tempo and disrupted love, Tempo doesn’t cling to the boring, rosy picture of a romance. Listeners are sure to enjoy the more ambitious attempts at musical complexity with its extended acappella bridge and seamless genre-mixing in this four minute production. Whether you’re a long-time fan of EXO or someone who’s just discovered their work, Tempo is a must-see.

7. BBoom BBoom – MOMOLAND

Cute and catchy, MOMOLAND lives up to its upbeat and refreshing style with BBoom BBoom. Although it was only the girl group’s first Billboard entry, they rose quickly to claim one of the top five positions in the world digital song sales chart. Though the group struggled with controversy surround allegations of plagiarism, the song still got over 300 million views on YouTube, and MOMOLAND gained international popularity with this song as well. Although BBoom BBoom is not the most musically complex, the repetitive sticky brass loop and electronic pulse will have you playing this song on repeat over and over again.

8. Bad Boy – Red Velvet

Straying from the typical cutesy style prevalent in the songs of many girl groups, Bad Boy by Red Velvet plays with the theme of innocence by contrasting the purity of childlike wonder and the more sexy choreography that dominated most of the music video. With this song nominated for Song of the Year for Melon Music Awards, Red Velvet also performed this piece at the “Spring is Coming” Concert in Pyeongyang for Kim Jong-Un in an effort to strengthen diplomatic relationships between North and South Korea. With dark intensity and catchy hip-hop beats seamlessly melded into the R&B song, this is a piece by the famous girl group you won’t want to miss.