Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018: #10 – #1

And so it ends.

To be honest, doing the Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018 was an exhausting process that realistically doesn’t benefit Asian Junkie at all. The harsh reality is that writing lazy-ass articles about a former girl group reuniting gets better engagement than spending my free time over the period of weeks slaving away at this feature.

That said, I do this site for the arts and not the charts, and it was once again rewarding to discover songs I would likely not have even heard otherwise through the process of doing this. Furthermore, it was surprisingly informative to explore and explain to myself as much as any of you the reasons behind my enjoyment of certain songs. Also, the fact that so many of you have told me that this has helped you find new music or provided new ways to look at certain songs has contributed to making this journey more than worth it.

So all of that it to say I’ll definitely be doing this again for 2019*.

*Assuming I don’t die.

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Honorable Mentions
#100 – #91
#90 – #81
#80 – #71
#70 – #61
#60 – #51
#50 – #41
#40 – #31
#30 – #21
#20 – #11

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Any song released by a Korean artist in 2018 is eligible to be included on this list.

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#10 – IZ*ONE – “La Vie En Rose”

La Vie En Rose” was one of those songs that I thought was nice enough at first but didn’t jump at me either. The main factor in this apathy was that it eschewed a developed chorus in favor of a trendy instrumental drop that has become rather cliched in recent years. However, over time I realized it wasn’t as much of a problem as I assumed, as all of the elements of the songs are executed confidently and are charming in their own right.

Relevantly, I would argue that the song structure is actually relatively normal for a pop song. If you reframe the playful and rapid interplay between the IZ*ONE members as the pre-chorus instead of part of the verses, the impactful and dynamic bursts as the chorus instead of the pre-chorus, and the instrumental drop featuring the captivating “this is myyyyy, my, lalala la vie en rose” refrain as the post-chorus rather than the chorus, it all comes together quite perfectly. Of course, none of that would matter if the aforementioned sections don’t work anyway, but all the elements were impactful in their own right. While I didn’t mention the verses much, they keep things moving forward and set the stage nicely for the things to come. Hell, from the very start the unique combination of a plucked guitar combined with a synth helped “La Vie En Rose” become instantly recognizable.

More than anything else, the casually seductive atmosphere was utterly alluring, and rather than drowning in its simplistic underpinnings, “La Vie En Rose” serves memorable bursts and is always throwing new things at the listener. For me, it’s been one of those songs that I continue to get more and more invested in every time I hear it.

#9 – WJSN – “I-YAH”

WJSN‘s title tracks this year were pleasant enough, building on their brand of songs featuring dreamy and ethereal atmospheres. However, I definitely found myself wishing they would’ve really went for it in a chorus to punctuate the amazing work done to get the listener to invest in the song. Well, “I-YAH” does exactly that, seemingly removing the restrictions from the group and letting them really attack an epic, continuously building chorus that just gets better and better as it continues to drive forward. This … this is the kind of shit I wanted from them, and it’s absolutely amazing to see it come to fruition.

Of course, the whole thing is also underpinned by attractive synth-pop notes with orchestral type of backing, as well seamlessly integrated rapping and polished, dynamic vocals. Furthermore, while “I-YAH” was always upbeat, it managed to carry the additional energy provided from the chorus and rode that pony the rest of the way through the song. Really, this just checked off all the boxes of what I want out of a pop song.

#8 – EXO – “Gravity”

While “Gravity” doesn’t quite reach the same type of pop masterpiece status as last year’s “What U Do“, it definitely had a similar type of impact. The funky instrumental is grounded with a sultry, filthy bassline that I want to have sex with, and that alone was enough to get in my good graces.
Like how the fuck do you honestly not bounce along to this? Don’t lie, assholes. Jesus is watching.

Anyway, EXO thankfully don’t stop there, as the vocal performances are allowed room to shine as things continually build and build as the song drives forward, eventually climaxing with a jubilant “gra-vi-ty“. But it’s not just the peak of the chorus that’s noteworthy, as it transitions from the verses by going all-in on this addictive retro-funk vibe and delivers an expertly layered and developed chorus. By the end of “Gravity”, the song is just bursting with a delirious energy that cemented it as one of my favorites of the year.

#7 – MOMOLAND – “Bboom Bboom”

While everybody around these parts jokes about the curse I put on relatively nugu groups whenever I give them glowing reviews, here’s one I said deserved to be their breakout from the start and it actually turned out to be the case, as MOMOLAND found themselves shooting to relevance behind the relentless energy of the viral smash “Bboom Bboom“.

Look, this was always destined to be adored by me. After all, the acoustic guitar strums to start the song is recycled from literally the greatest song of all time in “Nyam Nyam Jjop Jjop” by Hyerin and Junghwa of EXID, which indicated to me right away that this was going to be the shit. Much like in that song, the instrumental quickly transitions to something a lot different, and the listener is inundated with a pulsating, driving beat that serves as an energetic foundation to build on. And build it does. The verses themselves keep the song moving forward, utilizing ad-libs to make sure the listener remains engaged. Then the pre-chorus introduces a rapid-fire percussion that builds and builds, and thankfully there’s a payoff at the end. The chorus is obviously the highlight, as it utilizes a disturbingly addictive refrain that results in an earworm to end all earworms (at least for this year).

“Bboom Bboom” was released over a year ago, and since it was so popular I’ve heard it almost non-stop for a year, but I’m still not tired of it. It’s fresh, upbeat, and catchy, which never goes out of style, and the addition of the brass elements is just the cherry on top of this glorious effort that deserves all the popularity it brought MOMOLAND.

#6 – THE BOYZ – “Giddy Up”

I’ll be honest, THE BOYZ could just loop the chorus of “Giddy Up” over and over again and it would probably be enough to be ranked highly on this list. It’s just an insanely addictive chorus, as it explodes jubilantly with an unforgettable “giddy giddy up” hook that embeds itself into your brain from the get-go. “Giddy Up” doesn’t stop there, as injections of falsetto vocals and the “go run run run” slow down provides subtle twists that all end up working to create a groovy, multi-layered effort.

The rest of the elements are strong as well, with the uptempo beat and guitar twangs creating an outstanding foundation, and it ends up funky but with a comfortable blend of retro and modern sounds. The bridge is worth mentioning as well since it does excellent work as a change of pace, walking the tight rope of switching things up but not feeling alien to the song.

With an appeal centered on its special chorus, “Giddy Up” is just a ton of fun from start to finish and it’s endlessly replayable in a borderline unhealthy way (for me at least). Giddy giddy up, bitches.

#5 – Dreamcatcher – “YOU AND I”

The atmosphere of “YOU AND I” is established as dramatic from the beginning, with a piano line contrasting nicely with the horror-movie strings and the booming drums that enter next helping to relay an ominous mood to the listener. While the verses are rather understated, the pre-chorus ends up being a standout, building things to a frenzy with the addition of orchestral strings, booming tribal drums, and a haunting chanting vocal, all of which are outstanding. All that work ends up being cashed in with a chorus that further incorporates the drums and allows the hard-rock guitar riffs to shine, building a satisfying apex for everything that comes before it.

The vocals from Dreamcatcher are perhaps among their best, with no wasted motion throughout and with enough punch to keep up with the pacing and intensity of the song. It’s an almost menacing performance to setup the atmosphere and concept, and they manage to pull it off before exploding into something more pop rock. The chorus itself generally eschews a hook-y quality, opting for something better developed and well-rounded, but still possessing the standout moment of the “baby, you and I” refrain. Additionally, the bridge features the instrumental dropping out momentarily to give “YOU AND I” a moment of calm, only to launch into an epic constant assault of a finish.

Given my affinity for rock/metal being weaved into K-pop, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one as well conceived, impactful, and memorable as this ends up ranked here. If one simply doesn’t enjoy the harsher tinges of any rock influence at all and chooses to stay within their pure pop comfort zone, then that’s fine, but I feel by doing that many are missing out on stellar efforts like this.

#4 – Drunken Tiger – “Mantra”

Thanks to things like ‘Show Me The Money‘, terms like “swagger” are now almost a comically outdated term, especially when used unironically within Korean hip-hop. However, that’s exactly the kind of projection of confidence that Drunken Tiger deliver with “Mantra“. Notably it’s not a forced or tryhard or labored effort, it’s something that just is for Tiger JK.

Aside from establishing its hip-hop bonafides, the instrumental is a fantastic foundation to build on thanks to the old-school feel that was helped along by the boom-bap beat and brass-heavy interjections. But it’s the execution by Tiger JK that takes this to the next level with his unique reggae-esque flow, which has always successfully differentiated himself from anybody else on the scene. It’s instantly recognizable and immediately puts his own stamp on things, and he absolutely goes off flawlessly on this.

That’s more than enough for a hip-hop song to win me over, but on top of that it provides an addictive chorus with mainstream appeal. Despite being rapped for the most part, it’s clearly separated from the verses thanks to a consistent refrain that’s assisted by a catchy rhythm and has impactful moments with the call-and-response “what!” and “ho!” shouts woven in seamlessly. And as a Drunken Tiger fan since I discovered “Is Ack Hizay” through file sharing over AIM, I could not be happier that the name is being retired on such an impressive note.

#3 – GFRIEND – “Memoria”

Memoria” was a standout song from the first time I listened to it, and it still managed to count as a grower for me because I didn’t quite realize at the time how much I loved it. While it’s not a throwback to their energetic and aggressive ‘powerful innocence’ like “Flower Garden” was, the gradual development of “Memoria” was far more impressive.

The song has a pensive and reserved start, taking time to develop, but the verses remain engaging as it builds thanks to symphonic underpinnings that one can just feel is itching to burst forward, and boy does it ever. Starting with the pre-chorus, things kick up a notch in both pace and dramatic instrumentation, where it then transitions into a chorus that delivers a burst of energy behind GFRIEND‘s beautiful sweeping harmonizations. Most notably, the chorus starts to swell and just when you think it hit its peak it continues to swell until you wonder how far it’ll go. It’s the type of chorus that absolutely required singers that could deliver and GFRIEND thankfully did so appropriately, creating a epic feel to it like Minseo‘s “Zero” on steroids.

I literally cannot remember the last time a Japanese-language release by a K-pop group appealed to me on this level. It’s definitely been a few years, if not longer. But “Memoria” was captivating, and the uplifting chorus and expansive atmosphere makes it a special, special release.

#2 – ONF – “Complete”

Complete” commanded my attention from the first note to the last, standing out for being able to convey that quality alone. The synth-driven instrumental is a bright and comically infectious one that just keeps pushing things forward with a glorious melody, providing only rare pauses to allow the listener to reset before launching back them back into the wonderful fray. Hell, in the post-chorus it even adds fucking brass and electric guitar as if to make the instrumental appeal directly to everything I love. I’m convinced this was a personal gift to me from whoever produced this, and I’m thankful.

Honest to god I still have no clue who ONF are, but they play their role well here, utilizing an appropriately rhythm-based delivery to the verses. Then of course there’s the chorus, which manipulates the “you complete me” line and somehow makes it a catchy hook. I dunno how but it does and it is amazing.

Truly there’s not a whole lot of explanation to be done here, as there’s nothing particularly original to “Complete”. It’s definitely trendy as hell, but it’s just the best of the best in terms of mashing all the good shit out there into one song, and since I heard this for the first time there are just not many songs (if any) that I listened to more all year. Makes me giddy (giddy up) every time it comes on.

#1 – Dreamcatcher – “Full Moon”

While I’m conscious of the perception of a Dreamcatcher fan ranking a Dreamcatcher song as the best of the year, the only reason they are currently my favorite group is because their music drew me in, so this really only makes sense. And realistically, literally the entire list is biased towards my likes and dislikes, so hand-wringing over it comes off rather pointless to me.

In any case, it’s sort of appropriate that a fan song take the crown in 2018 of all years. Throughout this ranking you’ve already seen a bunch of them included, as companies have apparently decided that not making a song dedicated to fans boring dreck was probably a good idea. Well Dreamcatcher decided to make “Full Moon” … uh, the best song they’ve ever released.

“Full Moon” is attention-getting from the start, welcoming the listener with a nice violin intro, but the verses are rather calm initially, with an underlying piano carrying the instrumental. However, the guitars enter to help soon enough with a light assist from drums, successfully creating this swelling sense of build that’s honestly worthy of being a peak of its own. The release that follows in the chorus is jubilant, with the pace picking up along with the volume of both the instruments and the vocals, and the flurry of drums towards the end especially checking in as a standout moment. It’s an addictive chorus that’s arranged nicely so that there’s multiple hook-y moments, capped off by a gentle, almost zen “full moon“. For good measure, the brief bridge was another successful element that only continued to make sure “Full Moon” had more than enough diversity of sound and changes of pace that it never becomes tiresome.

At the time “Full Moon” was released, I didn’t necessarily believe it was better than Dreamcatcher’s singles, but it’s definitely a song that was a standout immediately and continued to endear itself to me as time passed. It walks the line beautifully between their harder rock edge and the more ethereal verses, hitting all the right notes on both fronts and creating a contrast that’s rare to find executed as well as it was here.

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Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018

#1 – Dreamcatcher – “Full Moon”
#2 – ONF – “Complete”
#3 – GFRIEND – “Memoria”
#4 – Drunken Tiger – “Mantra”
#5 – Dreamcatcher – “YOU AND I”
#6 – THE BOYZ – “Giddy Up”
#7 – MOMOLAND – “Bboom Bboom”
#8 – EXO – “Gravity”
#9 – WJSN – “I-YAH”
#10 – IZ*ONE – “La Vie En Rose”
#11 – Oh My Girl – “Twilight”
#12 – Dreamcatcher – “Mayday”
#13 – 015B & Youra – “My Hair Is Green”
#14 – PENTAGON – “Shine”
#15 – (G)I-DLE – “HANN”
#16 – SATURDAY – “Mmook Jji Bba”
#17 – SHINee – “Chemistry”
#18 – HALO – “OMG”
#19 – LOONA YYXY – “Love4eva”
#20 – TWICE – “What Is Love”
#21 – Drunken Tiger – “YET”
#22 – BTS – “The Truth Untold”
#23 – IU – “BBIBBI”
#24 – CHERRY ON TOP – “HI FIVE”
#25 – BoA – “Recollection”
#26 – A Pink – “I’m So Sick”
#27 – SHINee – “Our Page”
#28 – Sunmi – “Black Pearl”
#29 – Eric Nam – “Float”
#30 – APRIL – “Oh My Mistake”
#31 – SOYA – “Artist”
#32 – GIRLS ON TOP – “HOLA”
#33 – INFINITE – “Pray”
#34 – Sunmi – “Siren”
#35 – Red Velvet – “Bad Boy”
#36 – BTS’s J-Hope, RM, Suga – “DDAENG”
#37 – (G)I-DLE – “MAZE”
#38 – NU’EST W – “Dejavu”
#39 – CLC – “Black Dress”
#40 – SEVENTEEN – “Thanks”
#41 – BoA – “Woman”
#42 – Han Yohan Featuring NO:EL & Young B – “Bumpercar”
#43 – Fromis 9 – “22nd Century Girl”
#44 – GFRIEND – “Flower Garden”
#45 – SHINee – “Who Waits For Love”
#46 – Big Bang – “Flower Road”
#47 – Class Mate – “Feel Good”
#48 – Hyolyn Featuring GRAY – “Dally”
#49 – DAY6 – “Days Gone By”
#50 – JBJ – “Call Your Name”
#51 – XXX – “What You Want”
#52 – INFINITE – “I Hate”
#53 – BoA – “U&I”
#54 – BTS – “Paradise”
#55 – Dreamcatcher – “What”
#56 – MRSHLL – “Come Over”
#57 – MAMAMOO – “Starry Night”
#58 – LABOUM – “Turn It On”
#59 – Gugudan – “Be Myself”
#60 – 14U – “NEWS”
#61 – UNB – “Black Heart”
#62 – N.Flying – “Hot Potato”
#63 – (G)I-DLE – “LATATA”
#64 – SNSD’s Taeyeon – “Something New”
#65 – BTS – “Fake Love (Remix)”
#66 – GFRIEND – “TIK TIK”
#67 – TWICE – “HO”
#68 – N.Tic – “Do You Know Who I Am”
#69 – LABOUM – “Between Us”
#70 – Lovelyz – “That Day”
#71 – NCT’s Ten – “New Heroes”
#72 – Weki Meki – “Metronome”
#73 – BTS’s RM – “Seoul”
#74 – Block B’s Park Kyung Featuring Sumin – “Instant”
#75 – INFINITE’s Sunggyu – “True Love”
#76 – Nine Muses’ Kyungri – “Blue Moon”
#77 – MONSTA X – “Jealousy”
#78 – Red Velvet – “Butterflies”
#79 – BLACKPINK – “DDU-DU DDU-DU”
#80 – SF9 – “Go Back In Time”
#81 – GFRIEND – “Time For The Moon Night”
#82 – Dreamcatcher – “Trap”
#83 – Lovelyz – “Bizarre”
#84 – Minseo – “Zero”
#85 – Zion.T – “Ideal”
#86 – Chungha – “Cherry Kisses”
#87 – WINNER’s Mino – “Fiance”
#88 – CLC – “To The Sky”
#89 – Jang Moon Bok Featuring Yoon Hee Seok & So Ji Hyuk – “RED”
#90 – MOMOLAND – “BAAM”
#91 – Choi Sam – “Kkotbaem”
#92 – Up That Brown – “What Is It”
#93 – NU’EST W – “Help Me”
#94 – Golden Child – “Genie”
#95 – Lovelyz – “Like U”
#96 – WJSN – “Save Me Save You”
#97 – ACE – “Take Me Higher”
#98 – BTOB’s Ilhoon – “She’s Gone”
#99 – Babylon Featuring VINXEN – “One More Night”
#100 – Bolbbalgan4 – “Travel”

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Artist Representation

5 – Dreamcatcher
4 – BTS (+1 Soloist), GFRIEND
3 – BoA, (G)I-DLE, Lovelyz, SHINee
2 – CLC, Drunken Tiger, INFINITE (+1 Soloist), LABOUM, MOMOLAND, NU’EST W, Red Velvet, Sunmi, TWICE, WJSN
1 – 015B & Youra, 14U, ACE, A Pink, APRIL, Babylon, Big Bang, BLACKPINK, Bolbbalgan4, CHERRY ON TOP, Choi Sam, Chungha, Class Mate, DAY6, Eric Nam, EXO, Fromis 9, GIRLS ON TOP, HALO, Han Yohan, Hyolyn, Golden Child, Gugudan, Ilhoon (BTOB) IU, IZ*ONE, Jang Moon Bok, JBJ, Kyungri (Nine Muses), LOONA YYXY (LOONA), MAMAMOO, MINO (WINNER), Minseo, MONSTA X, MRSHLL, N.Flying, N.Tic, Oh My Girl, ONF, Park Kyung (Block B), PENTAGON, RM (BTS), SATURDAY, SEVENTEEN, SF9, SOYA, Sunggyu (INFINITE), Taeyeon (SNSD), Ten (NCT), THE BOYZ, UNB, Up That Brown, Weki Meki, XXX, Zion.T

In total there were 72 different artists (or 70 minus soloists from ranked groups) that made the ranking. Honestly a bit surprised myself at the spread.

About IATFB

IATFB
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