75 NU’EST – “R.L.T.L (Real Love True Love) (One Morning)”
Release Date: 8/29/16
In an unexpected turn of events, NU’EST provided one of K-pop’s strongest electro-pop tracks of the year. “Real Love True Love” is a dreamy piece of music that feels fresh and subtly progressive.
74 B.A.P – “Skydive”
B.A.P returned to their signature loudness this year with “Skydive,” a ferocious uptempo that features an electro-rock instrumental that succeeds in being as ambitious as its corresponding music video.
73 BLACKPINK – “불장난 (Playing With Fire)”
BLACKPINK‘s softer approach to music is a pleasant sound to hear coming from a YG Entertainment group. “Playing With Fire” might lack the gutsy attitude a lot of us remember from 2NE1, but their cleaner style and tighter vocals is something I can get behind.
72 Kiha & The Faces (장기하와 얼굴들) – “ㅋ”
If you’ve ever poured your heart out via text to someone expecting something meaningful in return but received a lousy ‘lol’ instead, Kiha & The Faces feels your pain and dedicates “ㅋ” to you.
71 The Quiett – “Ride To Atlantis”
Release Date: 4/29/16
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop, Instrumental
The Quiett is one of Korea’s finest beat-makers, and this year he offered a full album’s worth of some of his best work in the form of ‘Q Train 2.’ The jazzy “Ride To Atlantis” is only one of a slew of transfixing instrumentals to find on the extended collection.
70 Jay Park – “Aquaman”
Jay Park has learned through trial and error the formula to produce great R&B music, and he succeeds in waves with “Aquaman.” Just disregard the lyrical cringiness about cunnilingus to appreciate its finer details.
69 MOBB – “빨리 전화해 (Hit Me) (Feat. KUSH)”
This year, WINNER and iKON unit MOBB were able to find a sweet spot between each member’s style with “Hit Me.” Mino and Bobby hop from bulletproof verses to addicting melodies with ease in this balls-to-the-wall hype track that I can’t seem to let go.
68 NCT U – “The 7th Sense”
“The 7th Sense” is eerie, rhythmically interesting, and features impressive vocal moments from Taeyong, who convinces in his deep, swag-tastic delivery, and Doyoung, whose smooth singing hovers beautifully above the song. When it slips into an R&B refrain, that’s when I raise a curious eyebrow and wonder what else this unit has to offer.
67 MAMAMOO – “넌 Is 뭔들 (You’re The Best)”
Vocally the tightest girl group around, Mamamoo offered some interesting pickings this year, the strongest being the feisty “You’re The Best.” Its chorus is pop music gold, with enough vocal twists and turns throughout the verses to get even the prickliest person to shake their ass.
66 Park Hyo Shin – “Home”
Park Hyo Shin‘s ability to find your heartstrings and tug on them is only part of the reason he’s beloved by many. His ear for crafting immersive ballads without fault is another, and he accomplishes both masterfully with “Home.” The song opens softly then gradually expands to occupy every nook and cranny of your heart (if you have one).
65 10cm – “봄이 좋냐? (What The Spring?)”
Be it indie or mainstream, 2016 was a great year for folk artists. 10cm‘s “What The Spring?” brought the feel-good, light-hearted color of the group’s music back to the airwaves after several years of obscurity.
64 IDIOTAPE – “단발머리 (Short Hair)”
Release Date: 4/22/16
Genre: Rock, Electronica
Compared to the band’s previous endeavors, IDIOTAPE‘s 2016 ‘RE‘ EP was a tame take on the group’s otherwise ferocious spin on electronica. Still, songs like “Short Hair” delivered en mass. The playful mid-tempo pleases with a welcomed softness and an exhilarating instrumental.
63 W – “카우걸을 위한 자장가는 없다 (No Lullaby For Cowgirl) (Feat. Whale)”
Singer Whale chooses her projects wisely. This year, she reunited with W to release “No Lullaby For Cowgirl,” a fun single that dances between country and electronica. It opens innocently only to drop the beat a minute later in what is one of the most unique entries on the list.
62 Monsta X – “걸어 (All In)”
“All In” brings Monsta X to their finest moment in their career yet, providing an excellent blend of vocal prowess (thanks to Kihyun) and sharp rap elements from Jooheon and I.M., whose dynamic alone is furiously intense.
61 Lim Jeong Hee (임정희) – “Crazy”
Lim Jeong Hee pours her heart out in “Crazy,” a chilling ballad that keeps the instrumental relatively simple for the sole purpose of focusing squarely on her vocals. Lim belts all over this one, making “Crazy” one of this year’s finest moments in female vocal showmanship.
60 Guten Birds (구텐버즈) – “밤신호 (The Night Signal)”
Release Date: 9/27/16
I appreciate the pings of vocal nuances in Guten Birds‘ steady mid-tempo “The Night Signal.” The song possesses a quiet aggression about it that is nicely paralleled by vocalist 모호‘s delicate delivery.
59 Taemin – “Soldier”
Release Date: 2/23/16
Taemin‘s solo work continues to prove that his potential stretches far beyond his dancing obligations on stage. “Soldier,” a stripped down b-side, provides one of Taemin’s most emotional performances to date.
58 Cha Ji Yeon (차지연) & LDN Noise – “My Show”
It’s a shame Cha Ji Yeon‘s collab with LDN Noise went relatively unnoticed over the summer, because it’s not only one hell of a dance anthem, but also one of LDN Noise’s strongest productions all year.
57 TWICE – “TT”
Release Date: 10/24/16
TWICE was inescapable this year. They struck big early on with “Cheer Up,” but lightning struck again for the girls with their autumn comeback, “TT.” The song’s mystifying arrangement lent a spooky backdrop to a slew of relentless hooks I still can’t seem to shake off.
56 HyunA – “나팔꽃 (Morning Glory) (Feat. Isle Qim)”
There’s something to be said for an artist that sees trends before they fully materialize and is capable of both capitalizing on them and furthering their own sound in the process, and HyunA accomplishes this with “Morning Glory,” her smoothest effort in years. To think this song came from the same artist that released “Bubble Pop” years ago is astounding.
55 Hyosung (전효성) – “나를 찾아줘 (Find Me) (Feat. D.Action)”
Sometimes, good-ole classic K-pop arrangements are the remedy the doctor ordered, because “Find Me” by Hyosung checks off all the boxes of what a standard power pop anthem is supposed to sound like and slays them to a bloody pulp.
54 Kim Feel – “괴수 (Monster) (Feat. Echae Kang & Sang Ji Koh)”
Release Date: 11/8/16
Icy, emotive, and transcendent, Kim Feel‘s “Monster” fiddles with crescendos in such a way that each rise and fall of the intricate violin and bandoneon instrumental leaves as much of an impression as the singer’s gut-wrenching performance.
53 Don Mills – “Stuffs In The Head”
Release Date: 7/8/16
The inauspicious instrumental of Don Mills‘ “Stuffs In The Head” succeeds in setting a tight and tense listening experience, one that is amplified by Mills’ groggy bars and heavy-leaning hook.
52 ZICO – “너는 나 나는 너 (I Am You, You Are Me)”
Mellow music found a home among mainstream airwaves in 2016, with heavy hitters dialing tempos back and broadening arrangements to accommodate fluidity. ZICO‘s “I Am You, You Are Me” did this effectively well, as the rapper dusted off his pipes to croon for a verse or two, sounding pretty great in the process.
51 Jonghyun – “White T-Shirt”
Release Date: 5/24/16
SHINee‘s Jonghyun is known for his overt sensuality, and there sure is a lot of it on his debut album ‘좋아 – The 1st Album.’ Perhaps that’s why “White T-Shirt,” a toned down, groovy number, stood out so well as one of the singer’s freshest b-side tracks on the collection.
More to come soon!