Welcome to the meat of Asian Junkie‘s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2017, where shit starts to get real.
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.
60. MVP – “Take It”
MVP definitely had one of the better debuts of the year, as they brought the off-kilter, relentlessly aggressive “Take It” to the table and made one heck of an impact. The song drags the listener into the deep water immediately with a killer electronic riff, and at times it even reminded me of something that PSY might work with, especially during the “right now now now” refrain during the chorus. Honestly, it could probably be higher, but the lyrics fucking weird me out, man.
59. BTS – “Not Today”
I’ll end the suspense and let people know “Not Today” will be BTS‘s only appearance on this list. Be pissed if you want, I don’t care, but the way this has worked out is honestly amusing. This is BTS’s breakout year … and in my view they’ve managed to do it with easily their worst music since their debut year. In every year from 2014 to 2016, they would’ve had a bunch of songs ranked in my hypothetical Top 100, but I wasn’t feeling much they did musically in 2017.
58. Gallant & Tablo & Eric Nam – “Cave Me In”
“Cave Me In” is just a masterclass in terms of creating an atmosphere for the performers to thrive in, and Gallant, Tablo, and Eric Nam get the execution right to make everything work. The ethereal soundscape is so smooth and easy to listen to, and it matches the vocals of Gallant and Eric Nam perfectly. Remember when I mentioned that Tablo’s showing on “Fire Water” was disappointing? Well, just contrast that with what he does on “Cave Me In”, with cleverly written and creatively delivered lyrics that absolutely boost this R&B gem. Night and day.
57. NU’EST W – “Where You At”
Liking “Where You At” or not basically comes down to whether the listener thinks NU’EST W executed the chorus effectively. The tonal shifts during the verses are used extremely well, especially the pre-chorus basically being a gigantic trick on the listener. It’s actually effective because when the real deal kicks in with an authoritative scream of “WHERE YOU AT” it has an increased impact, and the instrumental drop that goes along with it is a gloriously unique squeaky synth.
56. SNUPER – “Back Hug”
“Back Hug” is trendy as hell with its tropical influences, but SNUPER manage to make it work brilliantly. The instrumental can get a bit busy at times, but the polish the song exudes throughout is palpable. Ultimately, what makes it a success is the melodic, foot-tapping chorus, which benefits from the “this love” refrain that primes the listener for what’s about to come.
55. TWICE – “Knock Knock”
The fact that TWICE can’t sing for shit — at least in terms of vocal-wanking high notes that everybody seems obsessed with — means the production has to get creative to make things work. The result has generally been a lot of songs that are pleasantly addictive throughout, have a bunch of fun ad-libs, and come equipped with an earworm hook, much like “Knock Knock“. It’s a song that seems like you should hate it with everything in your goddamn soul, but when you hear the shit come on during award shows or on a playlist, you know you’re out there doing “baby knock knock knock knock knock on my door” shit like a goddamn idiot because you remember it. Don’t lie to me. Don’t lie to yourself.
54. PLAYBACK – “Untold Story”
“Untold Story” is a bit understated, but the clapping sound, the beat, and the background keyboard synth combine to create a perfect 90s-style jam. Things build to a peak right before it drops into the chorus, which kicks up the pace a bit and has memorable refrains of “I go I go, you go you go” and “I know I know you know you know“. PLAYBACK themselves help the song out a lot because while their vocals are all varied, their interplay end up working and elevate the entire effort.
53. KARD – “Don’t Recall”
As much as I loved their debut with “Oh NaNa” (unfortunately at the end of 2016), it was “Don’t Recall” that really proved to me that KARD had arrived. The underlying tribal-esque synth beat was immediately intriguing, but it was the chorus where things really took off. While the instrumental drop works because it’s great in and of itself, the song benefits from the fact that it only happens at the end and there’s a whole vocal section before that’s even better.
52. Hyukoh – “2002WorldCup”
“2002WorldCup” is a relentlessly fun, upbeat festival song from Hyukoh. Oh Hyuk‘s wonderfully unique vocal paired with cleverly cute lyrics about young love combine comically well on a song that I can spend all day tapping my foot along to.
51. April – “Just As We Are”
While initially listening to the start of “Just As We Are“, I was happy that at least April appeared to have added a darker quality to their usual fluffy style, even if things seemed a bit sparse. But halfway through the verse, it suddenly picks up speed before the damn thing explodes into a jubilant chorus that continues the momentum and packs a hell of a melodic punch. It doesn’t necessarily have an earworm hook, but the entire chorus kinda serves that purpose. Basically, if you hear it playing and get to the chorus, you’ll end up remembering that you love it.
50. Nine Muses – “Remember”
Nine Muses have deserved so much better over the years considering the quality of their releases, and despite being whittled down to four members as they approach their inevitable end, “Remember” adds one more success to the ledger. It runs the gamut of sounds from haunting to sexy to explosive, and the vocal performances shocked me with their quality. “Remember” reminded me of something T-ara might’ve put out at some point, except maybe slightly darker, sexier, and maturer.
49. WINNER – “Love Me Love Me”
If you want to call “Love Me Love Me” generic nu-disco in the mode of Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky“, then fine, I’m not gonna argue. But honestly, I don’t give a fuck because I love this sound and I can play shit like this all day long. The “love me love me” refrain didn’t quite reach the level of “Really Really“, but the easy-listening, carefree vibe WINNER is trying to convey comes across extremely well and that makes it a success in my book.
48. 1NB – “Where U At”
A surprising amount of impressive debuts made this list, and even putting aside their concept of murdering anybody who fucks with them, what 1NB does musically on “Where U At” is deserving of praise. The sinister atmosphere is fleshed out well with everything from orchestral strings to guitar riffs, and despite the occasional lack of pace, the listener is continually engaged by the gradual build. Perhaps the most memorable part of the song is the standout “I’m not afraid, because I will stay, neoneun wae amuleohji anh-a wae wae waeiye” refrain, which comes immediately before they launch into the addictive hook of “tonight where where where where you at“.
47. MC Sniper (Featuring Nah Deul Ee) – “The Usual Lies”
“The Usual Lies” is honestly comical in terms of how it seems to directly appeal to my favorite things. An experimental hip-hop band, not unlike The Roots, is fronted by MC Sniper and the song includes a memorable vocal feature by Nah Deul Ee. Meanwhile, the lyrics riff on how social media drives misery with the fake world it creates where everybody’s life seems awesome, which leads to people being unable to speak about being hurt or depressed.
How well known is this? Uh, I couldn’t even find it on YouTube, so I had to upload it myself to Streamable. Yikes. Sucks that something I enjoy so much is relegated to complete anonymity, but them the breaks.
46. Red Velvet – “Talk To Me”
Yeah yeah, it’s clearly influenced by Ariana Grande‘s “The Way“, but I loved that song and it doesn’t mean “Talk To Me” isn’t a standout regardless. The peppy chorus is definitely a highlight with its “talk talk to me, talk talk talk to me” refrain, but it’s the ad-libs and harmonies from Red Velvet that help the song avoid becoming a carbon copy. Nobody’s gonna confuse this for original, but the execution was on point and the result is a lot of fun.
45. BAP – “Dystopia”
Hell yes. “Dystopia” has goddamn metal instrumental sections from K-pop idols and the whole thing is appropriately angsty as hell, with equal parts fury and despair. I’m here for it. The softer sections do provide a nice contrast and are appropriate for the lyrics, but I’m not gonna lie, I wish BAP had just powered through this whole thing aggressive as hell.
44. Dreamcatcher – “Chase Me”
My favorite overall debut of 2017, this is how you do a rebrand. People can scream bias at me all they want, but I’m more than willing to defend Dreamcatcher‘s output this year. “Chase Me” was a breath of fresh air, as they successfully navigated the balance between incorporating harder rock elements and maintaining a pop-friendly sound. The push-and-pull nature of the conflicting elements at play could’ve made a mess, but the sing-along chorus is brilliant and there’s a cohesiveness in the arrangement that keeps it all together, ultimately creating something memorable and impactful.
43. NP Union – “Geeky Freaky”
NP Union is a big brass band with a rapper as the frontman? Oh fuck off, that’s like cheating in terms of earning my approval. “Geeky Freaky” doesn’t drop the ball either, as it does everything I wanted, creating a funky and fun instrumental foundation for the frontman to operate on. I resisted the temptation to put this even higher on the basis of the somewhat awkward bridge, but honestly I didn’t feel like it was that distracting.
42. MARMELLO – “Puppet”
MARMELLO aren’t reinventing the wheel here with this type of sound, but this pop-rock number is executed so well and deserved more attention than it got. “PUPPET” elevated itself above the mass of nugu releases thanks to an earworm of a hook that was punctuated by the undeniable “puppet puppet pow” refrain. Meanwhile, the instrumental is just foot-tapping goodness, and it helps the song continue to grow on the listener with increased exposure.
41. Brave Girls – “Rollin'”
“Rollin’” would probably be higher if I could ever unhear “lolly lolly lolly” as the refrain, but it is honestly distracting to an extent. Regardless, the Brave Girls song earns its place on this list thanks to its fist-pumping beat, driving melody, and a clever inclusion of what sounds like an electronic pan flute to give it that hint of originality as well. Good enough to knock you off a stool.