Asian Junkie‘s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2017 continues to chug along.
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.
80. Nell & GroovyRoom – “Today”
“Today” starts as a relatively laid-back song, but it continues to build and build until it explodes at the end. It’s an appropriate production from GroovyRoom that represents the transition of a person who goes from being unsure of their own feelings to somebody that accepts things will get better, but for now they want to dwell in misery a bit. Relatable songwriting that matches what’s happening instrumentally shouldn’t be a surprise coming from Nell, and that element helps compensates for the song being a late-bloomer.
79. SNSD’s Taeyeon – “I Got Love”
I was rather pissed at “I Got Love” for a while because there was so much amazing going on in the verses between the snare and funk instrumental and Taeyeon‘s haunting and sensual vocals creating an incredible atmosphere that was among the best I’ve ever heard from her. However, I couldn’t get over the chorus just being a bizarre instrumental drop after all the build, and the letdown was honestly terrible. While I still wish “I Got Love” was given the payoff it deserved, I did come around on how much the chorus detracts from the song, because the more I listened to it the more I realized the positive elements far outweighed the negative ones.
78. SHINee’s Taemin – “Move”
“Move” is a lot better as a complete package than it is as a standalone song. However, despite the chorus being hard to distinguish, the bass synths do such an amazing job of creating a head-nodding groove that it’s always a wonderful listen. If Taemin would’ve given the chorus even one dynamic moment, this song would’ve likely ended up much higher because it’s so easy to get into the controlled sensuality of his delivery throughout.
77. Red Velvet – “You Better Know”
If it’s impact moments you need, Red Velvet is here to deliver on “You Better Know“. It’s a standard mid-tempo summer pop song, and while the build is slow, the anthemic EDM payoff in the chorus delivers the energy and addictiveness that you want. One of the themes you’ll find while reading this list is that successful execution can go along way, and Red Velvet does exactly that on “You Better Know”.
76. Reddy (Featuring G.Soul) – “The New Birth”
“The New Birth” features a generic beat and sparse production in general, but that matters a lot less when it allows Reddy the room to shine and G.Soul‘s voice can be used as an instrument in itself to carry the chorus. The two leads on a song like this have to bring their best in order for it to work musically, and thankfully that’s exactly what happens.
75. DIA – “Can’t Stop”
On “Can’t Stop“, DIA basically refurbish the sounds of A Pink and GFriend, so it’s something you’ll feel you’ve heard a million times before. The song even makes the mistake of leaving the verses with rather sparse instrumentation, and it’s just way too lightweight. Thing is, uh, the chorus absolutely bangs. It’s an melodic explosion with an amazingly addictive refrain that’s easy to fall in love with, and that makes up for an awful lot in my book.
74. SNSD – “All Night”
K-pop utilizing disco elements always seems to connect well with me, and SNSD doing it on “All Night” is no exception. The production is surprisingly fluid, especially when one considers that it weaves in house elements for the chorus. That mix of past and present is at the core of what makes the song so appealing, and the “all night, all night, all night” refrain helps make it catchy to boot. While “Holiday” seemed like a how-do-you-do-fellow-kids effort that would’ve made more sense for them a decade ago, “All Night” is a much better representation of where they are musically, as it’s still fun and melodic but also has a subtle maturity. That said, I need SNSD to never rap again unless they want to add to the vault of unintentional K-pop comedy.
73. Akdong Musician – “Dinosaur”
Talk about a shocking turn for Akdong Musician, who usually don’t appeal to me much because they stay in their world of acoustic indie songs. However, they showcased the capability to tackle anything on “Dinosaur“, as they went with EDM and knocked it out of the park. While the drop is largely synth-driven, the use of a repeated falsetto “ooh-hoo-hoo-hoooo” adds so much to what otherwise would’ve sounded like a lonely instrumental, and it has the added benefit of easing the transition back into the sung chorus. Whenever Akdong Musician return, hopefully it includes more adventurous efforts like “Dinosaur”.
72. NiiHWA – “Can’t Stop”
“Can’t Stop” effectively emulates a 90s R&B track by providing something sensual that still has a pop edge to it. The underlying beat gives it a sense of pace, and the background synth going up the scale is a standout production moment. NiiHWA himself thankfully stays within a reasonable range that’s befitting the song’s atmosphere, and the result is a thoroughly smooth and funky experience.
71. BoA – “CAMO”
The growling synth beat on “CAMO” immediately sets the tone for what’s to come, and it’s a sound that works surprisingly well for BoA‘s seductive lower register. It’s definitely where it seems she operates best as her releases mature, and while it’s a rather shocking turn for anybody who has followed her from when she made her name with youthful dance numbers, it works nevertheless. That said, much like with Taeyeon’s “I Got Love”, there’s so much amazing build here that the rather understated chorus appears as a bit of a letdown. However, BoA delivers a better payoff on “CAMO” with a nice “ca-mou-flage ooooh-ooh” refrain.
70. SF9 – “Watch Out”
During certain sections of the song, it’s almost eerie how much “Watch Out” reminds me of something N’Sync might’ve done with its keyboard-driven melody. SF9 help make it powerful as well for periods, especially with biting lyrics wishing an ex meets somebody as terrible as the ex. However, overall it gives off a rather playful vibe in a alright-have-fun-with-your-shitty-life sort of way, and the hook helps make it a memorable effort.
69. Code Kunst (Featuring G.Soul, Epik High’s Tablo) – “Fire Water”
Code Kunst uses a pace on “Fire Water” that’s rather plodding, but that actually helps successfully create a dreamy soundscape for the artists to operate in. It’s truly perfect for G.Soul‘s sensual vocals, and he essentially makes the song his own here, including executing a surprisingly memorable chorus. Tablo is usually among the highlights of any song he’s in, but came off shockingly average here. Still, it’s such a relaxing and easy listen that I always find it irresistible.
68. Day6 – “I Wait”
The verses of “I Wait” definitely build slowly, and for stretches you’re not quite sure which direction it’s going to go. Thankfully, Day6 eventually settle on a more upbeat rock sound than I expected, and it gives the song a perfectly punchy payoff in a chorus that justifies everything else that surrounds it. Especially pleasing is the back half of “I Wait”, where it truly becomes the energizing, mainstream rock effort that one could imagine ONE OK ROCK tackling. Day6, please stick with this shit like this. I’m begging you.
67. EXID – “Night Rather Than Day”
When I initially heard “Night Rather Than Day“, I wasn’t all that fond of it, mainly because it sounded more like an EXID album song than a single. However, over time I realized the smooth, retro instrumental was undeniably enjoyable. It’s definitely a softer sound than what we’re used to from EXID, but what eventually sold me was how memorable the understated chorus ended up being.
66. Rick Bridges – “Get Down”
“Get Down” hooked me from the moment that xylophone-sounding synth was included to be paired with the bass. The rapping ability of Rick Bridges itself was also a highlight, as was the hook repeating “get down” and “we on“, which definitely created an addictive payoff. In the end, I found the replayability to be off the charts, and this song alone made me thankful I slogged through all those mixtapes.
65. SNUPER – “Hide And Seek”
As many of you know, SNUPER jumped onto my radar with “Platonic Love” back at the start of 2016, and I’ve been a low-key (I think) fan since then. However, nothing could’ve prepared me for their output in 2017, and “Hide And Seek” was one of their standouts.
The instrumental is trendy with tropical house influences, but it avoids trend-riding averageness by including what sounds like flamenco elements. Somehow this ends up working, as the verses drive the song harder and harder before the rapid-fire refrain of the chorus hits. Hell, they even end up doing the instrumental drop right, as they easily could’ve just left it there by itself but instead sung over it with airy vocals. 2017 should’ve been their year to rise.
64. JJ Project – “On&On”
For me personally, the inclusion of JJ Project‘s “On&On” is one of the biggest surprises of this list. Back when it was released, I completely wrote it off after an initial listen. However, when I stumbled back across it as I was compiling this list, I realized I couldn’t deny my enjoyment of it.
The pacing, tone, and lack of explosiveness isn’t usually my thing … but I swear to god all I can hear over and over after a listen is the “put your glasses on” refrain and the rest of the chorus. Surprisingly, it’s basically a song that encourages the attitude of not giving a shit what other people think and just doing you, but it just doesn’t sound like it because the vocals are so gentle and pleasant (a contrast that works for me). Honestly, this might be a low ranking because I have a feeling this will age better than others on this list.
63. Huckleberry P (Featuring JUSTHIS, EK) – “One Of Them”
I find it difficult to rank songs like “One Of Them“, because on a day-to-day basis, I would much rather listen to many of the pop and rock efforts ranked below it. However, Huckleberry P, JUSTHIS, and EK combine here to make something that leaves a lasting impression.
I have an aversion to most Korean hip-hop songs that feature the artist trying to be hard, as it generally just comes off inauthentic and silly, especially when it’s just mumblerap over trap beats or something. However, this is one of the more genuinely hard-hitting Korean hip-hop tracks I’ve heard this year, specifically because it doesn’t overstep into threats that will never be realized. Rather, it sticks with sending clear, stinging, verbal messages to others in Korean hip-hop, and that makes it resonate because it adds a realness and bite to it.
62. BIG – “1.2.3”
How in the fuck is this the same group that came out with so much hep-hap crap over the past three years? I honestly couldn’t believe I was hearing funky disco from BIG, and hopefully this is the direction they go in the future cause whatever they were doing before sure as shit wasn’t working anyway.
“1.2.3” is produced well as a whole, with verses that keep pushing the song forward and a chorus that ramps things up by dropping in a bumping bass and includes a memorable “1, 2, 3” hook. The song never feels like it has a dull moment but it also never feel overwhelming either. Rather, it’s just pure fun from start to finish.
61. CNBLUE – “When I Was Young”
It seems odd at first for a group of guys in their late-20s to sing a song called “When I Was Young“, but it actually makes sense to me. I suspect many people in that age range can relate to CNBLUE‘s feelings here as work start up, leisure time shrinks, and your circle of friends gets tighter. While the lyrical content was a bonus, the actual strength at play is the smooth electronic-infused sound. It doesn’t necessarily peak in the chorus through anything the instrumental does, though. Rather most of the song relies heavily on CNBLUE’s vocals, and thankfully they’re up to the task.