Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018 is back because I can in fact get things accomplished when I want to.
Any song released by a Korean artist in 2018 is eligible to be included on this list.
#90 – MOMOLAND – “BAAM”
“BAAM” always feels like it’s moving, which gives it obvious appeal. Both the lively verses and seductive pre-chorus set things up nicely, and while the chorus ends up leaning heavily on the “bam bam bam” repetition to hook the listener, the production does flesh things out nicely around it as well.
Of course, “BAAM” is comically blatant about the lack of originality involved in its conception, as Shinsadong Tiger plagiarized himself either directly or indirectly to get this sound for MOMOLAND. That said, it’s honestly just nice to hear the template for T-ara‘s music making a return, and if they’re going to be given a retread sound then it might as well be an awesome one.
#89 – Jang Moon Bok Featuring Yoon Hee Seok & So Ji Hyuk – “RED”
When I started supporting Jang Moon Bok, it definitely didn’t have anything to do with his music. I just loved the way he fought through becoming a national joke and ended up making it further as an idol than most of the wannabes who mocked him could ever dream of.
But, uh, funny thing about that. Following his showing on ‘Produce 101‘, he started releasing music like his collab with Sung Hyun Woo in “Don’t Be Afraid“, which ended up as an Honorable Mention for the 2017 list. Now with “RED“, and this time supported by labelmates Yoon Hee Seok and So Ji Hyuk, he’s comfortably made the Top 100.
That’s thanks to the trio working surprisingly well together, seamlessly handing off to one another throughout. The beat shines because it has an especially unique sound, like a mix of a plucked guitar and a keyboard. Things escalate appropriately for the chorus, where the “she’s like re-eh-eh-ed” refrain is addictive as hell. It’s an offering that definitely grew on me over time, especially after I was able to find audio of decent quality, as it led to an appreciation of the instrumental that I didn’t have before.
#88 – CLC – “To The Sky”
While it may initially seem like “To The Sky” is a cutesy girl group offering, a look under the hood reveals a surprisingly impactful instrumental that underpins an effort that carries the kind of energy perfect for a concert. Everything is always moving forward, and the chorus gets an infusion of a keyboard riff, which combines with the “run to the sky high” refrain that’s simple but works well.
Cube Entertainment never seemed to know what direction they wanted to take the group, and it’s a shame that now they will probably have to fight to avoid their company’s dungeon with the emergence of (G)I-DLE, but at least CLC definitely seemed to find their identity in 2018.
#87 – WINNER’s Mino – “Fiance”
One thing I always beg established idols to do is take some fucking risk with their music, because no matter what cacophony of noise they shit out, it’ll still chart at #1 even if it sucks. Well Mino of WINNER ended up taking a chance in that spirit on “‘Fiance“, and the resulting sound was predictably imperfect but nevertheless fascinating and worth the experiment.
The fact that I enjoyed this despite him putting effects on rapping — one of my pet peeves — is a remarkable accomplishment in itself. Of course Mino helps things by doing a nice job of expressing the tone shifts in the lyrics and gets a lot of assistance from the instrumental, which melds a booming bassline, samples from trot songs, and traditional instruments shockingly well, and he especially scores big with me on the latter two inclusions. As for the chorus, it’s quite explosive and is where the sing-song delivery works best.
“Fiance” definitely ended up a bit radical and disjointed, a song that can easily teeter on the edge of love and hate for listeners, but it ended up falling on the right side of things for me.
#86 – Chungha – “Cherry Kisses”
Is Chungha as close to a modern BoA as we’re gonna get? It’s honestly looking that way. And it’s honestly sort of fitting because her surprising rise stems from being a reality show contestant representing whatever the fuck MNH Entertainment is instead of being a major company darling that was constantly being hyped as ‘the second BoA’. Can’t force shit like that, man.
Anyway, while there’s definitely tropical vibes on “Cherry Kisses“, it does at least keep things focused down the r&b path more than anything. The result is this casually addictive song with a delightful chorus that has a memorable “cher-ry kisses kisses cher-ry kisses” refrain at its center. For the most part “Cherry Kisses” gives off such chill vibes, but it also has standout moments where it truly soars.
#85 – Zion.T – “Ideal”
More appetizer than entree, “Ideal” seems unfortunately brief. However, it packs a ton of quality into the time it does have, and the run time actually ends up enhancing the replayability of it in the end.
The core beat and the snares that interject provide a catchy and uptempo foundation, and along with the keyboard, Zion.T himself provides a perfectly executed vocal performance. But more than any one thing standing out, it’s the whole rhythm and vibe of “Ideal” that ends up as the star of the show.
#84 – Minseo – “Zero”
“Zero” is extra as hell and way overdramatic … so right up my alley then. The song’s epic atmosphere is set by the orchestral arrangement and backing choral vocals, but even the simpler moments excel. The verses are rather calm but the momentum is kept going with bursts of violin and a constant foot-tapping underlying beat.
Of course, the standout moment in “Zero” is obviously the soaring central melody with its surprisingly memorable refrain that’s not hook-y but is rather just a complete chorus. Meanwhile, the uplifting effect of Minseo‘s vocal is the backbone of this pleasantly vibrant effort, and it serves as both a reassuring influence and a burst of energy. The theatrical scaling of “Zero” is obvious from the get-go, which is why it would fit right in on a soundtrack, and I’m not one to use that characterization of a song as a pejorative.
#83 – Lovelyz – “Bizarre”
“Bizarre” is an upbeat and bright song with a disco-esque feel to it, and the verses do an outstanding job of engaging the listener and driving things forward. A surprise snare-heavy breakdown fits thematically, and it sets things up for the happy-go-lucky chorus that takes full advantage of string instrumentation.
It’s all an undeniably fun package and Lovelyz successfully toes the line between cute-endearing and cute-annoying without crossing it, the threshold of which is subjective but important, and I thought the balance was just right. Thus “Bizarre” is a captivating effort that’s something a bit more mature than it seems at first blush and interesting beyond being just catchy.
#82 – Dreamcatcher – “Trap”
“Trap” maintains Dreamcatcher‘s rock edge, but it’s definitely an EDM-heavy effort, and the group successfully prove here that this type of sound is also in their wheelhouse. The verses are actually rather gentle despite the quality riffing at the start (which should’ve been utilized further), and the outstanding build with the booming drums in the pre-chorus is a standout in itself.
Of course, the “nal joyeo oneun trap” exclamation signifying that arrival of the chorus is the obvious peak, but just as important to that working is the throbbing synths of the drop. While things could’ve probably been tighter here and there, the central refrain is hard to forget, and that always helps since it gives the listener something to look forward to and adds a sense of tension.
#81 – GFRIEND – “Time For The Moon Night”
Following the excellent “Fingertip” last year, I soured on the direction GFriend were taking their music with “Love Whisper” and “Summer Rain“, and I expressed as much. For that I hilariously got labelled an anti despite liking literally every other single they released. Fun times with fandoms!
Source Music thankfully seemed to agree that things weren’t trending the way they should and opted to use a different production team for the first time in the group’s history, and the result was an improved single in “Time For The Moon Night” as well as an excellent year for GFriend’s music in 2018.
The verses aren’t as spectacular as the ones from their previous best, but they get the job done, and the chorus is delightfully pensive and dramatic. It’s appropriately mature since this effort serves as a transformation of sorts, and even if the chorus doesn’t immediately grab you, it’s definitely something that’s subtly memorable in its elegance.