Whether you’re a veteran, a newbie, or a complete fresher at this – Korean Pop music (commonly abbreviated as K-pop) is a world unmatched. It’s deeply entrenched with artistic excellence and a fierce dedication to fanservice, and it has literally used the blood, sweat, and tears of the artists involved to get to where it has.
K-pop is intriguing, catchy as hell, mesmerizing, hooking, and various other words synonymous with captivating and intoxicating.
I don’t mean to sound intimidating when I say this but it’s true – you either love K-pop or you absolutely hate it – there is no in-between. You’re either a stan, or you just aren’t. Now, I’m gonna run you through some iconic moments in K-pop that have come to define my experience as a (rather infamously called) “K-Poppie.”
1. “Fire” by BTS
With its hypersonic beats, a chorus that will leave you speechless and a choreography that will absolutely blow your lid – this is the first song I suggest to the Muggles seeking an entry into the mystical realm of K-pop. Fire is an absolute bop about embracing your youth and breaking the rules to live your life lyrically and it’s honestly enough to get you hooked single-handedly.
2. “Don’t Wanna Cry” by SEVENTEEN
Another boy group that deserves a lot more recognition than it gets is SEVENTEEN. Composed of 13 (extremely talented and beautiful) men who will sweep you right off your feet – Don’t Wanna Cry is bound to become a favourite even if you are the occasional close-minded xenophobe who might not want to embrace languages other than your own because the drop that follows 울고 싶지 않아 (Ulgo Sipji An-ha) which literally translates to “don’t wanna cry” is catastrophically catchy.
I mean it.
3. “Monster” by EXO
EXO is, like, 50% of the reason I got into K-pop when I did and this song is honestly a masterpiece. With its brilliant vocals (EXO’s vocalists invented singing – I’m not joking with you here), splendid choreography, and visuals that will leave you speechless, this one’s for the ages.
4. “Red Flavor” by Red Velvet
You know that summer anthem that gets you tapping your feet and singing along to it the minute you hear the first five seconds of it? That’s this song right here. I’d be lying if I said this song did not define my summer of 2017 with its ultra-mesmerizing and catchy visuals, composition, and tone. The song is bound to take you to a land even non-revluvs enjoyed.
P.S. Revluvs are Red Velvet stans and you don’t have to be one to understand why this song is as iconic as it is.
5. “Likey” by TWICE
This song by girl group royalty, Twice, was interpreted the way almost every Twice song is at first: not well. Twice is known to have cute concepts since their debut and while everyone isn’t a huge fan of this fact, their fans remain true to the girl group that delivers adorable and catchy bops every single time. Likey is a whole bop and it’ll have you emulating the choreography in no time, even if you resisted it at first. I’m serious.
6. “As If It’s Your Last” by BLACKPINK
If you don’t BLACKPINK, you’re living under a rock. There, I said it.
BLACKPINK have been known for their powerful and unique concepts in contrast to the usual tone of girl groups in K-Pop since their debut and their debut hit Boombayah was nothing short of a viral sensation on YouTube. As If It’s Your Last with its playful vibe lays in stark contrast with their older singles Boombayah and Playing With Fire. Nevertheless, it happens to be my favourite by the girl group.
7. “Cherry Bomb“ by NCT (NCT 127)
This song was a defining moment for SM Entertainment’s youngest boy group. Following similar yet somehow different vibe from their older singles – Firetruck and Limitless – NCT were already gaining popularity when this extremely catchy bop hit our ears. And let me tell you, collectively caught everyone’s attention. I’d never bothered to pay attention to NCT until their subunit, NCT 127, hit me with this hit. (Pun absolutely intended).
8. “Blood, Sweat & Tears” by BTS
I can’t name a song more iconic than BS&T when it comes to BTS – or K-Pop in general, for that matter. This song caught hearts, ears, eyes, and every other external and internal bodily organ possible. From its heart-piercing vocals and rap to a bridge that left us all in awe with our jaws touching the depths of hell.
I know the chorus rang in your head whilst you read this. I know it did.
9. “View“ by SHINee
With its indie house vibe and a soft house chorus which goes deep into the synth, this song is literally what got me into K-pop. Before I heard View, I actually had a very fabricated presumptuous view of K-pop being nothing but autotune, colored hair, and over-the-top tacky concepts. But Shinee changed all of that for me with this one song. They’re truly the Princes of K-pop as they are often called.
10. “Hero” by MONSTAX
If you’ve heard this song, then the minute you read the title, you heard the post-chorus drop in your head, didn’t you? This catchy, hypersonic single with its equally heart-thumping music video was an instant hit amongst fans and non-fans alike. I, personally, did not even know of MONSTAX until last year, which is when I heard this bop. Needless to say, things changed drastically after that.
11. “New by Yves” of LOONA
LOONA has yet to debut, but their members and subunits have already caused enough of a stir to be talked about at length. Trust me, stanning a group that hasn’t debuted as yet is a feat in itself. I got into this girl group, thanks to member Yves’ single New because of the song’s retro-pop vibe, along with the costume and choreography. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
P.S. Stan! Loona! You! Cowards!
12. “My First and Last” by NCT (NCT Dream)
I actually went from saying “NCT Dream is too cute for me” to claiming every single member of NCT as my son and adding every song they’ve ever released to my favourites playlist because I’ve heard them so many times. My First And Last remains the ultimate favourite though, with its retro pop-rock vibe and jarringly innocent concept. NCT Dream are a powerhouse of talent and bops, honestly. And contrary to what my past self might claim, NCT Dream are way more than just a cute concept.
If you haven’t already lept into the (overwhelmingly awesome) world of K-pop as yet then I hope this list has managed to make it happen. Because let’s be real here, music doesn’t have a language and not being able to understand what they’re saying – at first go – should not stop you from enjoying good music.