50 SISTAR – “I Like That”
A year isn’t complete without a showstopping girl group banger, and SISTAR, being the fierce four that they are, delivered in spades with “I Like That.” The song falls in line with the group’s brand of punchy pop — saxophone riff, earth-shaking climax and all.
49 DEAN – “D (Half Moon) (Feat. Gaeko)”
“D (Half Moon)” might have not been as successful among international fans as some of DEAN‘s trillion other releases and features this year, but back on home turf, this smooth, ear-tingling ballad won the hearts of coffee sippers everywhere.
48 Park Jimin – “ANSWER”
Release Date: 8/23/16
If you like the spunk of the late Aaliyah, then Park Jimin‘s “ANSWER” will find a place in your music library. The severely underappreciated singer delivers one of the slickest R&B performances from a female voice this year in this surprisingly soulful b-side.
47 Block B – “Toy”
Block B found a nice groove this year, opting to go for a far less noisy single than usual with “Toy.” The chorus is one of their strongest, transitioning perfectly into a bass-heavy instrumental then back to colorful verses before repeating the whole process all over again.
46 SECHSKIES (젝스키스) – “세 단어 (Three Words)”
What was once old is new is old is new again, and everything about “Three Words” seemed outdated on paper. Yet, SECHSKIES‘ hit comeback single felt pleasantly refreshing to the ear and succeeded in cementing the group further as K-pop legends.
45 UNICORN – “Blink Blink”
If you fused f(x) and Red Velvet‘s sounds together, you would end up with the madness that is UNICORN and everything happening in their lead single “Blink Blink.” This high-octane banger is smothered with infectious melodies that culminate in a fantastic chorus that will more than likely leave your sweet-tooth aching for days.
44 Echae En Route – “Night Drive”
Echae En Route‘s uniqueness lies in vocalist Echae Kang‘s masterful hand at crafting music that takes classical music out of the realm of obscurity by blending it with modern arrangements. “Night Drive” is exemplary for that exact reason, as the processing on both the instrumental and vocal track is elevated tremendously to achieve a near state of euphoria.
43 3rd Line Butterfly – “나를 깨우네 (Awaken)”
For a song over 11 minutes long, there’s a point one reaches while listening to “Awaken” that the passage of time ceases to be of concern and every glimmering detail of its expansive composition is effective in liberating the mind.
42 EXO – “Artificial Love”
Release Date: 6/9/16
In an ideal world, EXO would stick to releasing deep electronic tracks like “Artificial Love” because, as this proves, they execute it exceptionally well. From the funky verses to the back and forth exchange between members in the second half of the song, this is what EXO sounds like at their most experimental.
41 BTS (방탄소년단) – “피 땀 눈물 (Blood, Sweat & Tears)”
With K-pop’s love affair with Western trends in music, it was only a matter of time before moombahton took stride in South Korea. BTS launched the genre to full-blown status this year with their anthemic “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” scribbling ad-libs and catchy melodies all over it in true K-pop style.
40 BLACKPINK – “휘파람 (Whistle)”
BLACKPINK‘s standout moment of the year came in the form of “Whistle,” the most sophisticated and edgiest girl group single to enter the fray. From Jennie‘s crisp raps to Rose‘s unique vocals, this group’s spunkiness is refreshing to hear at a time when frillier songs are taking the reigns of K-pop.
39 John Park – “Higher”
Release Date: 7/15/16
Dreamy, airy, and downright pretty, “Higher” by John Park is the cathartic pop ballad that many of us have been waiting for since the talented singer first made a statement with his memorable debut single, “Falling.” Consider “Higher” that song’s hotter older sibling.
38 Sugardonut – “Imagine, Close Your Eyes”
Release Date: 4/22/16
Sugardonut committed to releasing a single each month this year, and while most of those were solid efforts, “Imagine, Close Your Eyes” was by far the most memorable. The song’s energetic arrangement creates a marvelous world of sound that captivates me every time.
37 B1A4 – “거짓말이야 (A Lie)”
Thematically, B1A4 never stray too far from their easy-going, major-key sound. And why would they when they do it so well? “A Lie” soars unlike any of their previous singles, creating an immersive soundscape filled with warm tones and dreamy melodies.
36 Urban Zakapa – “널 사랑하지 않아 (I Don’t Love You)”
If there is going to be emotional damage from a ballad, expect Urban Zakapa to take full responsibility. From this group’s powerful delivery to the song’s overwhelming build up, Urban Zakapa invites you to ugly-cry as they spill their heart out in this passionate number.
35 SEVENTEEN – “아주 NICE”
SEVENTEEN bring an unmatched level of energy to K-pop. Their united sound is both campy and incredibly infectious, and the group nail both elements perfectly in “아주 NICE.” The song remains cheeky during the verses while catapulting itself through an onslaught of brass in the chorus to blow your socks off.
34 J-Min – “Ready For Your Love”
J-Min‘s “Ready For Your Love” is a sublime four minutes thanks to its choice of chords and melisma-filled singing. It’s a tense and suspenseful moment in music, layered with spacious synths that pull you into J-Min’s trance and never quite let go.
33 I.O.I – “Whatta Man (Good Man)”
While I.O.I doesn’t possess nearly enough fire to hold a candle to the source material of “Whatta Man,” the group still dug deep to offer one of this year’s showstopping performances. Each second that ticks by is met in earnest by a group that carries themselves with dignity with every belt and rap verse in this tremendous K-pop anthem.
32 ZICO – “BERMUDA TRIANGLE (Feat. Crush, DEAN)”
Release Date: 11/28/16
“Bermuda Triangle” is a dramatic urban single that fills in the gaps of its hollow composition with crisp verses, smooth vocals, and trademark timbres courtesy of some of 2016’s heavy hitters. The song takes a second to pull you in, but once it does there’s no turning back.
31 Taeyeon – “Why”
“Why” broadened Taeyeon‘s identity as a soloist this year. The singer built on the foundation she paved with 2015’s “I” and evolved from it. The song itself carries Taeyeon’s smooth vocals through a mass of cleanly-produced EDM, a genre her company has been openly obsessed with all year, and manages to win big with its sweet hook and bouncy beat, both of which adheres to your brain almost immediately and offer us a glimpse of Taeyeon’s allure as a powerful singer on a dance track.