Milking this for like two weeks has surely annoyed people, which makes the Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018 even better.
Any song released by a Korean artist in 2018 is eligible to be included on this list.
#50 – JBJ – “Call Your Name”
In terms of musical output, I’ll definitely end up missing JBJ more than WANNA ONE. Not only do JBJ place their goodbye song here, but they have a bunch of songs that fell just short of recognition as well.
While groups usually opt for downbeat sappy partings, JBJ decides to go out with a bit of energy at least. The lyrics of “Call Your Name” are definitely covered in sentimental notes — which always seems a tad awkward for temporary groups, honestly — but there’s a definite bounce to the verses that move things forward, with the intermittent synth bursts in particular providing assistance. Where it excels it the chorus, as the instrumental adds strings and the song soars a bit with a rush of energy that includes the nice touch of drum fills. Again, not something you’d usually associate with songs meant to make fans weep and that’s a good thing.
Based on their output this year, it sucks there will be no time to develop their burgeoning sound further, and that’s definitely a major drawback of these types of situations.
#49 – DAY6 – “Days Gone By”
“Days Gone By” is almost painfully retro, copying off the notes of 80s synth-rock and almost feeling like a remaster from that era. That said, I’m not mad about it because DAY6 pull off the sound wonderfully. The era-appropriate bouncy guitar riff provides a familiar energy, which was a great foundation to build on. The synths laid over the top help keep the mood appropriately light, and while the boys perform well vocally, they do so by not trying to outshine the foot-tapping instrumental.
Meanwhile, the chorus melody is simple but addictive, and it swells to eventually deliver an effective anthemic quality. Despite being an unapologetic retread, in a weird way it was a breath of fresh air because nothing else that was released this year sounded quite like it, and that definitely helped it jump out at me.
#48 – Hyolyn Featuring GRAY – “Dally”
It’s rather baffling to me how I bypassed “Dally” as a song initially, perhaps I was mesmerized by the … uh, artistic qualities of the music video, I dunno. Regardless, I’m glad I did eventually come to appreciate it muscially, as the collab with GRAY is amazingly replayable.
The synth is rather trendy but has a nice rhythm to it, and Hyolyn herself helps power this forward at every turn. Obviously the atmosphere being set is a sensual one, and while the chorus is simple, it’s also necessarily infectious. The repetitions of “dally, dally” and “you better stop, you better stop” are nicely utilized and are at the core of what makes “Dally” as memorable as it is.
#47 – Class Mate – “Feel Good”
“Feel Good” is a bit odd for me, because it’s primarily influenced by
Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky“ in the verses, but also has hints of borrowing the rhythm from Yamashita Tatsuro‘s “Ride On Time“ in the chorus. Given my affinity for those two songs, I’m certainly not complaining and it thus didn’t take much for Class Mate to suck me into this one.
The energy, atmosphere, and harmonizations all stand out as highlights, but the whole song is keyed by the chorus. While the verses keep things pumping along and are fun in their own right, the chorus has multiple refrains that are addictive and memorable. So while “Feel Good” is inherently derivative, Class Mate have done exactly what they set out to do, and the result is an eminently listenable song with replay value out the ass.
#46 – Big Bang – “Flower Road”
As far as melancholy songs dedicated to fans go, “Flower Road” is definitely one of the best, somehow crafting a song built around an acoustic guitar that doesn’t bore me to tears. While the barely mid-tempo pacing could be a detriment, it never falls into a typical lull, partially due to the smart composition and clever bursts of bass and synth.
Mainly though, the reason “Flower Road” excels is Big Bang themselves, as they have the charisma to carry a song like this. The members all have distinct markers that make it easy to differentiate them from one another, but those differences are complementary and help keep the listener on their toes without distracting from the song itself. So while the formula used is rather simplistic, the verses always feel fresh and keep things flowing along until the jubilant chorus arrives, which has a melody and refrain that embeds itself in your brain before too long.
The lyrics are for a goodbye song, but also sorta hilariously guilt-tripping fans into not leaving them as they head off to the military, which I thought was rather clever in its own right. All of that helped make “Flower Road” an effort that was surprisingly enjoyable for anybody, fan or not.
#45 – SHINee – “Who Waits For Love”
“Who Waits For Love” utilizes a trendy sound centered around moombahton, but instead of feeling like a retread of something a ton of others have done, as usual SHINee provided a refreshing take in their own style. The atmosphere is dramatic and intense, which helps compensate for a tempo and energy in the verses that vacillate between emotional and sleepy.
The setup ends up working because the chorus is a superstar, with an explosion of vocals and the instrumental picking up the pace and complexity. At the center of it all is the “who waits for love, who waits for love” refrain that’s nicely drawn out, and it’s appropriately bold and pained. The impact is instantaneous and SHINee themselves help make it one of my favorite hooks of the year.
#44 – GFRIEND – “Flower Garden”
GFRIEND‘s sound has matured of late, but “Flower Garden” is a welcome throwback to the powerful innocence sound. The orchestral instrumentation combined with retro synths creates a propulsive bit of dance-pop that also has this swelling feeling of anticipation throughout, and it even comes with a guitar solo that was always something the listener could look forward to from GFRIEND.
For such a bright effort, “Flower Garden” has a surprisingly dramatic atmosphere that culminates with the non-stop energy of the chorus and its addictive melody. It’s not quite as iconic as the GFRIEND era that it seeks to imitate, but it gets all the elements right and that’s more than enough to create a hell of a song.
#43 – Fromis 9 – “22nd Century Girl”
While “Love Bomb” was what drew many to Fromis 9‘s music, “22nd Century Girl” is the song that put them onto my radar. It’s upbeat and energetic, and the whole effort is touched by this dreamy atmosphere that’s powered by driving synths. There’s a freshness to it, yet it’s definitely not some kind of overly cutesy mess, as both the instrumental and performance have mature foundations.
The chorus isn’t quite the knockout punch that would’ve made this one of the better songs of the year, but it definitely has a catchy melody that at least continues the momentum the verses generate. Regardless, the star of the show is undoubtedly the instrumental anyway, as it takes the listener through twists and turns that help it avoid becoming repetitive and keeps the replayability disturbingly high.
#42 – Han Yohan Featuring NO:EL & Young B – “Bumpercar”
Unapologetically loud, bombastic, and aggressive, “Bumpercar” was a welcome change of pace. The underutilized (in Korea) rap/rock combination works excellently with the right touches, and the trio of Han Yohan, NO:EL, and Young B collaborate to show us how it’s done.
The drum fills and guitar riffs lay a solid foundation for the rappers to flow over, and the electric guitar inflections help the instrumental to stay fresh. The pre-chorus is oddly catchy and a perfect segue into a chorus that’s powered by riffs that would fit in at a metal concert, and it even comes with an appropriate refrain that involves a lot of screaming. As Han Yohan himself points out in the hook, there’s no grand meaning to this song, it’s just something you put on when you want to fuck shit up.
Well it definitely achieves the goal of capturing that particular mood, but within all the noise there’s always a certain rhythm or melody to everything. It’s a fine line for everybody between what sounds like just noise and what sounds like an aggressive melody, and “Bumpercar” ends up toeing my personal line expertly by always maintaining a certain cohesiveness to it.
#41 – BoA – “Woman”
“Woman” is an extremely stylish and slick production, with the appeal of the instrumental revolving around a dirty bassline and synths that add a funky edge to it. The almost spoken call-and-response format of the pre-chorus somehow manages to be engaging as the song builds, and the explosion of energy in the chorus was a much-needed payoff. The refrain quickly proves memorable and impactful, performed with a rhythm that makes it easy to groove with and is punctuated by an acapella run.
BoA herself is an asset here, as she exudes the necessary confidence and charisma to execute this type of image. “Woman” is a nice reminder of what she’s capable of and how far she’s come from like the “Can you feel the brightness love!?” (not complaining, I remember it for a reason) era to be delivering a song like this at a time like this.