The rankings for Asian Junkie‘s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018 starts now, so I suppose the mess can truly begin.
Sorry in advance for only doing 10 at a time, but after all the work I put in for this, I fucking deserve to milk it.
Any song released by a Korean artist in 2018 is eligible to be included on this list.
#100 – Bolbbalgan4 – “Travel”
While I haven’t been all that enamored with Bolbbalgan4 as everybody else in recent years, their simplistic style understandably has widespread appeal. With “Travel” they’ve definitely taken a step forward in my book, keeping their acoustic roots but speeding up the tempo to create an addicting dance-pop offering.
While the choral refrain can get a bit repetitive over time, the bouncy energy and timeless sound paves over any quibbles. “Travel” is just exceedingly easy to get into, and the feel-good quality it exudes from every note is the perfect recipe for any sunny summer day.
#99 – Babylon Featuring VINXEN – “One More Night”
While I’m a fan of r&b, a lot of the time I feel like many artists within the genre confuse lazy and boring for seductive and emotional. Thankfully on “One More Night” at least Babylon seemed to understand the difference, giving the song a bit of tempo with a surprisingly funky instrumental that stars a vibrating bassline.
The chorus stood out in particular with a memorable “just one more night, night with you” refrain that’s always something to look forward to. Risking blasphemy, there’s also seemingly Michael Jackson-inspired falsetto runs to close that work excellently.
“One More Night” doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, that’s definitely true. However, the level of execution is more than sufficient to craft an eminently listenable effort.
#98 – BTOB’s Ilhoon – “She’s Gone”
As somebody that was unfamiliar with BTOB‘s Ilhoon, “She’s Gone” was an unexpected gem. Ilhoon acquitted himself well here despite being tasked with both singing and rapping, not exactly taking it to the next level but never faltering either.
Regardless, it’s definitely the production of “She’s Gone” that’s the star. While the central melody never quite achieves what I desired, the instrumentation compensates for that, as it comes at the listener with this infectious bluesy rock core that has guitar riffs stealing the show. I came away from it feeling like there was another level lurking inside of “She’s Gone”, but even as is, it’s a subtly addictive track with a solid replayability factor.
#97 – ACE – “Take Me Higher”
After getting over the 180-degree change in direction for ACE‘s sound, “Take Me Higher” reveals itself as quite the addictive and jubilant track. It does rely a ton on the chorus at the center of it, as everything on the periphery is rather ho-hum. Thankfully then, the chorus is a standout, bursting with energy as the “take me higher” refrain definitely has that impact on the listener aurally.
While I can be a cynical curmudgeon, feel-good songs like this always have a place in my heart, likely because they they provide a brief escape from the constant reminder that humanity was a mistake and the extinction of our species would be a gift to the universe.
#96 – WJSN – “Save Me Save You”
Like many WJSN singles, “Save Me Save You” is less about a signature hook-y moment and more about creating a whole atmosphere for the listener to immerse themselves in. Well, it’s incredibly successful on that front, continuing their spacey synth-pop sound and crafting a mature, fantastical song.
While the melody was nice, the peak of both the chorus and the song itself left me a bit wanting. “Save Me Save You” just lacks a bit of punch somewhere that would’ve taken it over the top, but regardless, it’s just a beautiful overall experience.
#95 – Lovelyz – “Like U”
Lovelyz have especially excelled lately at selling an atmosphere through their music, and efforts such as “Like U” are evidence of that. The verses could use a bit of work, but the build of the dreamy pre-chorus is well done, and then things drop back down a bit heading into the chorus. That’s where “Like U” successfully gets into catchy hook-song territory with the “you about you” repetition embedding itself into your brain immediately.
The pacing is a preference and the one on this doesn’t quite mesh with my own, but “Like U” is still effective because it supplements the track’s general ambiance with a nice impactful moment in the chorus. Also, the replayability of the song was a pleasant surprise.
#94 – Golden Child – “Genie”
“Genie” is such an annoying song in a way, as it’s just a constant assault of happiness and bliss. It’s unapologetically peppy with a bright rhythm that never lets up and constantly pushes the song forward. The whole effort is just rock-solid from start to finish and leaves one feeling invigorated in the end.
While Golden Child didn’t end up placing any more songs in this ranking, they did have a bunch of songs (like four or five) that placed within the next 50 spots but ended up cut, so 2018 definitely represented a musical breakout year for the group. Hopefully they follow up with a successful 2019 and keep pushing in this direction instead of taking the foot off the gas pedal like one of 2017’s biggest musical breakout groups in SNUPER.
#93 – NU’EST W – “Help Me”
“Help Me” is a lot like WANNA ONE‘s “Energetic” for me in that I don’t actually fancy the song much at all. The verses aren’t all that memorable and the overall sound NU’EST W employ is the same moody one that seemingly every boy group in K-pop uses at least once a year nowadays.
But fuck there’s just that one moment that’s undeniably impactful and elevates the entire thing. It’s a rather grand chorus considering the rest of the song, exploding into the intense “oh nal wihaeseo help me” refrain that’s appropriately angsty as hell, and … I mean it kinda brings the whole thing together. Like I wouldn’t seek out “Help Me” for a listen, but if it ever were to come up, I’m definitely keeping it on because I know that refrain is coming and I wouldn’t dare miss it.
#92 – Up That Brown – “What Is It”
I wasn’t entirely sure back in early January if “What Is It” would hold up at the end of the year, as while it was definitely funky with a wonderful brass-heavy chorus, I was skeptical about how the relative simplicity of it may age.
Well when I listened to it again for this ranking, thankfully I could feel the “sexy
goo groove” of Up That Brown in all its glory, as the song is still an incredibly pleasant listen and features a foot-tapping rhythm throughout that’s fortunately rather timeless.
#91 – Choi Sam – “Kkotbaem”
Kkotbaem is Korean slang that’s used derogatorily towards women, something like a succubus, and you’ve likely seen it thrown around before by netizens. Well Choi Sam using it as the title of her song isn’t even for the purpose of reclaiming it or anything like that, rather on “Kkotbaem” she kinda uses it as something of a taunt, as if to say that it’s cute that you call her names and stuff but actually how about I add a little fucking murder to the equation. So yeah, it’s awesome.
“I’ll bite you then chew your bones whole and then swallow,
I’ll spit blood on the torn flesh and the mark is gone,
Scream more, weep and wail more,
Try to escape, try more, more, a little more,
You remember my teeth but you don’t know all of them,
I open my mouth, so get a close look inside,
I suddenly close it and burst your skull,
Spread the rumors about me with your crushed face,
Say I’m a floozy bitch.”
It starts off with this vivid imagery from the jump and never lets up, and I feel like is the type of shit everybody should actually be yelling “yasss queen” or whatever the fuck to.
But other than the shocking nature of the lyrics, there’s also social commentary involved, as the choral refrain makes a point about who is responsible for her attitude.
“I’m still groveling, because you broke my legs,
Everybody’s groveling, because they broke us,
Still groveling, groveling, I’ll bite you off,
Then I’ll devour you all.”
She builds on that later on in the song.
“Yeah, they all blame me,
In that case, if everything is my fault regardless,
If even me being born and living is my fault,
The me who lives in a biased ‘equality’,
Doesn’t feel like wanting to stay here anymore,
What other things do you think I can do?
Um, how far do you think I’ll go?”
I’ve always said there’s too many girl crush concepts and not enough man killing concepts nowadays. Fucking useless kids. Seriously though, “Kkotbaem” is moody and brooding, not in a generic way but in a real way where you can feel the rage that has been built up seeping out of every bar.
Still, it’s hard to figure exactly how to rank this, and I could easily see this being way too low. Like it’s not something anybody would likely seek out for a drive to Las Vegas or some shit, and I’m not all that enamored with its musical qualities, but it’s quite remarkable in terms of the impact you feel and the impression it leaves.