K-pop songs for skeptics

“Uh… I don’t really like that kind of music” is a sentence which every casual K-pop fan has heard from those in their lives, sometimes accompanied with either a look of disdain or a smirk. But what kind of music do they mean? Ballads? Hip-hop cyphers? Alternative rock? A synth-heavy club music banger? Bubblegum Pop? Laidback jazz-influenced pop? Alternative pop that.. suddenly morphs into dubstep? Because, yes, all of these fall under the broad umbrella of “K-pop.”

What do we mean by K-pop though? Pssst. Our podcast has the answers.

https://soundcloud.com/hellohallyu/ep-1-what-is-kpop

Here are two personal lists from us on the songs we’d recommend to someone who’s new to K-pop and is a little skeptical on what it has to offer. Of course, this comes with all the caveats that accompany such lists.

First, from Rimi.

  1. EXO, “Growl” – Classic boy group energy. Must hear!
  2. Oneus, “Lit” – Traditional + modern fusion music with the usual K-pop energy. Plus you can see the potential of a rookie group right here.
  3. BTS, “Boy With Luv” – Simply because BTS are Rimi’s bias, arguably the biggest thing in K-pop right now & this song has western pop vibes.
  4. Taeyang, “Eyes, Nose, Lips” – Ballad everyone can be emo to.
  5. Stray Kids, “Hellevator” – Dark & depressing lyrical value combined with club banger synths that are so popular these days.
  6. f(x), “Pretty girl”– Because girls sing about more than just boys.
  7. Mamamoo, “Egotistic” – Powerful song with Latin-music vibes.
  8. Twice, “Likey” – Bubblegum Pop at its cheeriest.

Second, from Sadhana

  1. MonstaX, “Hero” – Such a great hype song.
  2. Winner, “Empty” – B side track that was one of the first songs that got me into K-pop.
  3. TVXQ,  “Mirotic” – This is a K-pop classic, but no less hypnotising after all these years.
  4. BTS, “Cypher Pt 4” – You don’t need to know Korean or look up the lyrics to appreciate this song. The rap speaks for itself. (Yes, K-pop groups do Cyphers too.)
  5. Red Velvet, “Sunny Side Up” – This is a laidback but summery pop song that showcases this girl group’s effortless vocals.
  6. Day6, “I Would” – Well, Day6 aren’t exactly K-pop, although some people call them an “idol band.” They’re an alternative rock group that make  fantastic pop-rock songs mostly in Korean. It was super hard for me to narrow down one song from their discography because I’ve been, ahem, having a Day6 moment. And having said that, will recommend another song, Congratulations, the English version of one of their songs. It’s one of the few K-pop songs that I think sounds as good in English as well.
  7. IU, “Palette” – This is also filed under “Not K-pop but well, K-pop” since IU is a solo performer who makes pop ballads. This song in particular, though it seems simple, is a very nice exploration of what it means to truly Become an Adult.

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Sadhana C

I'm interested in technology, culture, and the business of Hallyu. I currently work full time in tech and have previously reported on start-ups. In my free time I like to read fiction and learn languages.

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