Want to Get in on K-Pop? Start with These Songs
Find an entry point based on your favorite music genre
In case you haven’t heard, K-Pop isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. With hundreds of releases and new groups releasing tracks each year, K-Pop is no longer just pop: It’s got tinges of hip-hop, the catchy bubblegum faction, the rock-inspired hits and the conceptual in-betweens. It attacks the idea of pop from various angles, shining different lights on the genre to get prismatic results. Far-ranging influences and experimental producers have found a home in Korean music, relishing in the malleability of the genre.
That said, there’s no doubt about it: K-Pop has something for everyone. It’s only a matter of knowing where to look.
Ahead, we get you started on the right foot by recommending songs you ought to be listening to depending on your taste in music. Ready to dive in?
If you’re into pop songs with catchy hooks, listen to these:
While more diverse as a whole, K-Pop wouldn’t be what it is without tracks that stay true to its snappy melodies and earworm quality. If that sounds up your alley, try listening to Momoland’s Bboom Bboom. Chances are you’ve already heard this chart-topper—after all it’s currently all over Philippine television and social media. TWICE’s Likey is another promising track with its adorable bubblegum pop quality and a chorus that’s bound to get stuck in your head. Listening to Red Velvet’s Red Flavor, an ode to summer that was released last year, is akin to cutting a fruit open (and not just because the music video features more fruit than a juice commercial would). With lots of synth and feverish percussion, the entire song is bright, peppy and might just be the perfect addition to your playlist.
If you’ve got a soft spot for R&B, give these a go:
If old school R&B is your kind of thing, look no further. Odd Eye Circle, a sub-unit of upcoming girl group LOOΠΔ, delivers just that with the sleek, ethereal-sounding Sweet Crazy Love. The second track in the list above continues that same lush flow. Pluhmm, the most recent single by HA:TFELT (otherwise known as Ye Eun of Wonder Girls fame), pushes a subtle kind of sexy to the fore with beautifully layered production. The music video is a visual treat, too. The last track on the list is a classic: SHINee’s Replay. Released on this very day ten years ago, Replay was the iconic first track released by the quintet.
If you live for retro pop, try these songs:
Lady, EXID’s latest release, marks a venture into a completely new territory for the girl group. From the trumpets and disc-scratching sound effects in the intro down to the bellowing adlib before the first chorus kicks in, the entire song feels like a flashback to the 90’s. Like Lady, SHINee’s 1 of 1 falls into the new jack swing genre. The track is simple and playful, and while it was only released in 2016, it calls on a sense of nostalgia. The last track on the list, Blooming Day by EXO’s three-man sub-unit CBX, stitches together a simple beat, flowing vocals and a little razzle-dazzle to create something that absolutely drips retro vibes.
If you like EDM, you’ll love these:
Since making it out of a boy group survival show in 2017, Nu’est has finally gained the public recognition they’ve long deserved. Reinventing themselves as Nu’est W in the absence of one of their members, they released their most intense title track yet. Where You At is grounded in EDM, but plays up the group’s individual strengths to elevate it into more than just a track you’d hear on the dance floor. Highlight, the second track above, is a peek into the capabilities of Seventeen’s performance unit. Over the course of the song, the beat gradually builds to a high point that bursts into an explosive final chorus. All Mine, a track by girl group f(x), is punchy and saccharine, reminiscent of something Iconapop would release.
If you’re a hip-hop fan, add these to your playlist:
Exposed to more surveilling eyes now more than ever, BTS continues to expand their horizons musically. Ever adventurous, the group has continuously experimented over the past few years. Despite this, it seems they haven’t forgotten their beginnings. Outro: Tear, with a dramatic intro that leads up to an aggressive beat and spit-fire rap, feels like a call back to their older tracks. Jealousy, a seductive cross between hip-hop and EDM plays off the strong sound that Monsta X’s past title tracks have crafted over time. The last of our recommendations marries the best qualities of hip-hop and R&B to create Dally, Sistar member-turned-soloist Hyolyn’s captivating duet with rapper Gray.
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