Hello and welcome to Asian Junkie‘s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2017.
Unlike my troll editions of this in the past, this one is actually genuine. It was a year-long project where I tried to listen to as much music coming out of Korea as possible for this list. While it was a lot of work, it was also surprisingly fun, and I think I learned a lot in the process.
Due to this being a ranking, mess potential is always comically probable, but I’m not sure it has to be that way. Look at this list less from the viewpoint that one stupid blogger’s taste in music must directly align with yours, and more to think about songs you’ve already heard before in a different way or to discover songs you may have never heard before.
Honorable Mentions are songs that either just missed out on the Top 100 or that I found noteworthy for one reason or another. The songs are not ranked and are just listed in alphabetical order.
Any song released in Korea during 2017 is eligible to be included on this list, and just remember that it’s just one dumbass blogger’s opinion, so don’t get all bent out of shape over it.
ACE – “Cactus”
ACE provided a tutorial on how to make an impactful K-pop debut, and a significant part of that was the unveiling of their song, “Cactus“. I had legitimately never heard hardstyle EDM utilized in K-pop before, and while I actually didn’t enjoy the drop all that much in terms of music, it definitely shook me up and made me pay attention. There’s so much shit crammed into “Cactus” that it’s definitely jarring, but the end result works surprisingly well, and ACE deserve credit for taking K-pop in a new direction.
A Pink – “Five”
People seem to believe I dislike most of A Pink‘s singles in recent years because the songs sound the same or because I personally hate them. In reality, a group sticking with a sound that works is fine by me and I actually like the A Pink members, especially on variety. A Pink’s sin in my eyes is that in recent years they’ve been releasing beige and boring tracks over and over, whereas before they would release catchy bubblegum bops like “My My” and “No No No” over and over.
A Pink’s “Five” utilizes essentially the same hook as “LUV“, and while it’s definitely a derivative and safe effort, the self-plagiarization isn’t exactly the worst idea. I don’t think A Pink need to radically overhaul their concept, I just think they need to go back to making addictive fucking songs, and “Five” is a step in the right direction exactly because it’s so similar to “LUV”.
Dash – “Up Down”
“Up Down” doesn’t reinvent the wheel as it’s an R&B jam about fucking with no surprises, but there’s something to be said for executing a sound well, and Dash certainly does so here. It floats a bit between a true slow jam and a mid-tempo pop song, but handles the balance well and the chorus is catchy enough for it to have mainstream appeal. Songs like this out of Korea are often more cringe than something you’d actually like to use in the bedroom, but “Up Down” gets the job done.
DPR Live – “Text Me”
I’m not one of the many who are head over heels for DPR Live, but “Text Me” is definitely his most well-rounded effort. It’s smooth like most of his releases are, but there’s enough going on in this where it doesn’t bore me to death like his other songs do. Honestly? For better or worse, my favorite thing about DPR Live songs is waiting to see how he works the “coming to you live” part in.
Eddy Kim – “Heart Pound”
Eddy Kim‘s “Heart Pound” never quite peaked as I would’ve liked, but it’s pleasant sounding throughout and gets a place here for triggering my nostalgia for Bobby Caldwell‘s “What You Won’t Do For Love“.
IU – “Jam Jam”
IU is usually at her musical best when she steps away from her tried and true formula for mainstream success in Korea. While “Jam Jam” lacks a true impact moment, the throbbing disco-esque beat paired with IU’s understated breathy vocals make for something rather unique. Quite frankly, I’m still bitter that this didn’t get the acid trip music video that it deserved.
Jang Moon Bok & Sung Hyun Woo – “Don’t Be Afraid”
The shocking part about the inclusion of “Don’t Be Afraid“? It’s partly because I love Jang Moon Bok, Sung Hyun Woo, and their story, but it’s mostly because this is a legitimately quality chill-out hip-hop track. Knowing their background also helps “Don’t Be Afraid” hit lyrically because the listener knows it’s coming from a place of authenticity.
“Don’t be afraid, because your existence in this world is more special than anything else, don’t be afraid, you’re more beautiful than any star or flower, tonight I’m thankful, that we can listen to this song together.”
LOONA’s Kim Lip – “Eclipse”
LOONA had an unbelievable 2017, and while Kim Lip‘s “Eclipse” didn’t quite make the Top 100, it easily could’ve. What took “Eclipse” down a peg for me was discovering that without the amazing music video and Kim Lip being attractive, it’s not as effective of a package despite still bringing solid quality to the table.
PSY (Featuring Big Bang’s G-Dragon) – “Fact Assault”
“Fact Assault” was not aurally appealing to me at all, but I had to give it a mention because it’s PSY (with the help of G-Dragon) fighting back against common criticisms he gets domestically and abroad.
Rick Bridges – “Burn”
“Burn” lacks a signature moment in the chorus that would’ve put it all together, but the sound made me think of an Asiatic version of Bubba Sparxxx. Basically a complete unknown, Rick Bridges proved in 2017 that he’s a powder keg of potential.
Seulong (Featuring Beenzino) – “It’s You”
“It’s You” is a collab between Seulong and Beenzino, and while the vocal sections are solid enough, it’s definitely the rap parts that excel and make the song noteworthy. There’s nothing fancy going on here and it uses a familiar template, but everything works together so fluidly that it’s a successful effort anyway.
SEVENTEEN – “Clap”
The guitar riffs definitely appealed to me from the get go, but no matter how much I tried to get into SEVENTEEN‘s “Clap” to understand the hype surrounding it, the song always got less interesting as it continued on. It’s a quality song with a nice chorus and instrumental, but it misses out on the Top 100 because it doesn’t really go anywhere after it peaks about a minute in.
Skilleto – “Get High”
Skilleto‘s “Get High” was one of the best surprises I stumbled upon all year while forcing myself to listen to dreck for the sake of this list. The song’s old-school hip-hop sound combined with a performance that reminded me of Cypress Hill‘s B-Real was a breath of fresh air.
SNUPER – “My Girl’s Fox”
SNUPER had an amazing year, and “My Girl’s Fox” is a solidly catchy pop song, but it was far from their best in 2017. However, I had to include it here because of how much certain sections reminded me of Billy Joel‘s “My Life“.
Subin – “Circle’s Dream”
I was on the verge of skipping past Subin‘s “Circle’s Dream” about 30 seconds into my initial listen, but things got considerably better after the beat kicked in. While I still would’ve liked it to go somewhere further after that, the minimalism at play was appealing in its own way. It’s not the kind of sound I normally enjoy at all, but the calm performance combined with a hook that was confusingly memorable managed to create a song that surprised me in the end.