Arnold’s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2016: #100 (Eric Nam) – #76 (Day6)
Arnold’s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2016: #75 (NU’EST) – #51 (Jonghyun)
Arnold’s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2016: #50 (SISTAR) – #31 (Taeyeon)
30 Billy Carter – “The Dog”
Billy Carter‘s immense and ferocious “The Dog” is a slick and hyper rock’n’roll anthem that throws all caution to the wind. While the majority of it is rooted in rock, the underlying percussion elements add a lot of extra flavor to the mix.
29 Wonder Girls – “Why So Lonely”
Release Date: 7/5/16
The lush vocals of the Wonder Girls might be standard fair, but the group’s decision to experiment with reggae in their comeback single “Why So Lonely” was a pleasant surprise to hear.
28 Crush – “우아해 (Woo Ah)”
In this wobbly R&B number, Crush sounds his most progressive in a while. The singer’s voice dissolves beautifully into the air while the instrumental around him pulsates relentlessly as if attempting to maintain its form.
27 Nucksal – “악당출현 The Villains (Feat. ODEE, Deepflow, Don Mills, Wutan)”
Sometimes you just have to keep things simple to produce great music, and that’s what leads Nucksal to success in “The Villains,” his massive omnibus of badassery. It’s a downright treat to hear so much hip-hop talent on one song.
26 Kwon Tree (권나무) – “물 (Water)”
Kwon Tree, who continues to keep things considerably bare in his music, figures out a way to win my heart this year with the simple, yet unusually hypnotizing “Water.” Songs like these are the reason why folk is such a hit in Korea.
25 HEO – “Pyre”
Release Date: 11/28/16
Haunting and riddled with layers of peculiar synth work, HEO‘s “Pyre” is a sweet example of what electronic music sounds like when it isn’t afraid to go a little dark and experimental.
24 GFriend (여자친구) – “시간을 달려서 (Rough)”
Leeching off nostalgia never fails in Korea, and that’s exactly what GFriend did this year with “Rough,” the juggernaut girl group anthem that succeeds by remaining true to the bulletproof formula that’s worked for everyone from SNSD to APink. It’s innocent-sounding but sure pulls out all its trump cards the closer it gets to the finish line.
23 LADIES’ CODE – “Galaxy”
LADIES’ CODE is an underestimated girl group. Their dreamy “Galaxy” is one hell of a single, as it dabbles in jazz, soul, and ambient elements to produce an exemplary moment of genre fusion. This is what K-pop sounds like at its most sophisticated.
22 Oohyo (우효) – “청춘 Youth (DAY)”
“Youth (DAY)” (there’s a ‘NIGHT’ version, too) is a soothing soft-rock single that falls gently on the ears. The song is delivered in a near whisper by Oohyo, whose soothing vocals reverberate throughout without ever overwhelming the senses.
21 이상의날개 (Wings Of The ISANG) – “붉은하늘 (Crimson Sky)”
Release Date: 9/6/16
Though Wings Of The ISANG don’t produce an utterance until near the end of the song, “Crimson Sky” could have really continued without vocals and I would have been just as captivated by its scope and beauty. Yet, it’s precisely when the vocals enter that every semblance of composure comes crashing down.
20 SHINee – “Feel Good”
Release Date: 10/5/16
SHINee‘s retrograde to the 90s led to a fountain of fabulous arrangements and modern twists on old tricks on their 2016 album ‘1 Of 1.’ One standout b-side was the spacious electro track “Feel Good,” which stacked chant-like vocals from the quintet on top of delicious synths and a groovy-as-all-hell hook. The song aims to get you moving and easily succeeds at it.
19 Heize – “Shut Up & Groove (Feat. DEAN)”
Heize and DEAN complement each other exceptionally well in this super hip, super suave single. Heize spits fire on one end of the spectrum while DEAN decorates “Shut Up & Groove” with his smooth vocals throughout on the other.
18 Lang Lee (이랑) – “신의 놀이 (Playing God)”
Release Date: 10/22/16
“Playing God” by Lang Lee is a quirky lo-fi-esque folk song that will charm the pants off of anyone. The delicate touch of distant flutes and a resonant cello offer a warm atmosphere in which Lee lets her magical wonder flow.
17 NO BRAIN – “위스키 블루스 (Whisky Blues)”
NO BRAIN‘s “Whisky Blues” is one of a couple songs off their 2016 album ‘BRAINLESS‘ that strays a bit from their standard hard-hitting sound and instead channels the group’s boldness through the lens of a powerful blues ballad. The end result is a raw and emotional moment from one of South Korea’s legendary bands.
16 Big Phony – “Hanging On A Thread”
“Hanging On A Thread” is a breath of fresh air upon first listen. It’s one of Big Phony‘s most melodic releases, with strung out melodies dancing against a shimmery instrumental and a touch of vulnerability embedded in the singer’s voice that holds this delightful song together.
15 XXX – “승무원 (Flight Attendant)”
XXX‘s “Flight Attendant” is a trippy song with little regard for sensitivity. One of its greatest takeaways is the hypnotizing aspects of its instrumental and vocal processing, both of which effectively build in intensity as the song unfolds. The other is the overuse of the word “bitches.” Feel free to keep tabs on how many times it’s uttered in this for ultimate lols.
14 Taemin – “Press Your Number”
Taemin‘s comeback single “Press Your Number” is surprisingly sophisticated for the singer. The song possesses a funky groove that is well paced and allows Taemin to flesh out some of his cleanest vocals on a solo project to date. Taemin tackles each verse with fervor and the outcome is one of the strongest R&B singles to come out of K-pop in a while.
13 BewhY – “Day Day (Feat. Jay Park)”
Release Date: 7/9/16
“Day Day” wouldn’t have found itself as high on this list if it weren’t for BewhY being a damn good rapper. It’s his unique skills and vocal inflections that ultimately set this apart. The tight instrumental and Jay Park‘s slick breakdown only help to elevate this song to top-tier status.
12 Danpyunsun And The Sailors (단편선과 선원들) – “모든 곳에 (High And Low)”
Listening to the sheer energy with which Danpyunsun And The Sailors perform “High And Low” is an experience all on its own. This operatic single is both transportive and engrossing with a majestic air about it that lingers well beyond its finish. The intensity of all its dynamic build-up is one of many things to look out for.
11 BTS (방탄소년단) – “Fire”
Release Date: 5/2/16
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop, Dance
BTS‘ “Fire” is a loud and ground-shaking banger that leaves a lasting impression with every listen. It’s a high-energy single that understands how powerful bangers work, landing every one of its exhilarating verses with precision. The only other boy group to release music this explosive is BIGBANG, which is truly saying something.
Getting close now.