We’re now getting closer to the end of Asian Junkie‘s Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2017, and the decisions on where to rank the songs started to get disturbingly difficult at this point.
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.
40. Hyukoh – “Die Alone”
Given my general attitude towards life, did you truly expect a song that includes a refrain in the chorus of “we all die alone, we are all alone, lord come take my soul” to not make this list? Fortunately, “Die Alone” is more than just harsh realities about our inevitable end, as the variety provided by the acoustic and electric guitars of Hyukoh were remarkably versatile here, with their inclusion in the song’s foundation, the ramping up of the chorus, and the creation of the restrained bridge. All of it adds up to a song that’s hauntingly memorable, even if it’s not exactly something you’d want to spin at a club.
39. Davichi’s Lee Hae Ri – “Pattern”
In a way, “Pattern” is a shame, as it showcases the kind of dynamic, creative songs Lee Hae Ri is capable of performing. Everybody knows she’s vocally capable, so four minutes of her proving that over a generic ballad instrumental is not interesting, but by contrast this song had substance to it that made it appealing.
The underlying beat is simple but it drives the track to prevent it from stagnating. Meanwhile, the song cultivates this constant swelling feeling, and it’s released in a chorus with a resounding climax. Still though, what makes this a standout is not her vocals while belting, but rather how her talent allows for the execution of creative vocal patterns (like the pace and tone changes) without making a mess of things.
38. Oh My Girl – “Perfect Day”
Oh My Girl utilizing a pop-rock edge on “Perfect Day” was surprising, sorta reminiscent of something Avril Lavigne might’ve done on her best day. The dreamy pre-chorus is definitely right up their alley and sets the table for a rather surprising chorus that’s more forceful than thought they were capable of. The melody of the chorus combined with the abrupt staccato delivery make it a true standout, especially when it’s accompanied by a choral backing in the latter half of the song.
37. VAV – “Dance With Me”
“Dance With Me” is so shamelessly a throwback 80s dance track, and I kinda love VAV for it. The upbeat electro funk foundation is set off by the brass highlights throughout, and it’s punctuated by a jubilant chorus with the memorable “dance with me tonight” serving as the song’s linchpin. The vocal performances by VAV are noteworthy as well, as they never put a foot wrong, and their harmonies were excellent.
36. Giriboy – “Express Highway”
“Express Highway” delivers the type of sound you’d expect based on the title, which is an ideal chill song to jam along to during a nighttime drive. The off-kilter underlying beat sets the tone, and the xylophone synth during the intro and chorus give the song a light and playful vibe.
The work of Giriboy himself helped immensely, as he flowed comfortably in a relaxed manner, alternating between a simplistic sing-songy rap style and a more conventional style with pace. The purposefully mechanical delivery of the chorus provided a different sound as well and made it all the more catchy. Additionally, Giriboy uses the highway as a metaphor for his life, especially as it applies to his career, love life, and loneliness, and the cleverly constructed lyrics help reinforce “Express Highway” as a song worth celebrating.
35. LOONA’s HeeJin & HyunJin – “My Sunday”
Gonna be honest, putting “My Sunday” on this list is something even I didn’t expect. The song from the unit of HeeJin and HyunJin will never jump at anybody and seems largely forgotten even by LOONA stans, but it was among my most listened to songs of the year (granted, it was released in January), and when I circled back I realized why.
While “My Sunday” is heavy on the acoustic guitar, thankfully it’s paired up with percussion that gives it a nice rhythm as opposed to settling into shitty coffee house territory. While there’s no new ground being broken, it’s the type of chill-out track with a foot-tapping core that’s right up my alley. A significant part of the appeal was that the song doesn’t try too hard vocally to be cute or powerful, choosing instead of keep things subdued at the start and slowly working up and up and up throughout the song. In the end, it’s just a pleasant morning listen that inadvertently ended up as a personal staple.
34. N.Flying – “R U Ready”
“R U Ready” is a silly party song at its core, but the combination of power pop and EDM makes it work far better than it should. The chorus is something that’s so easily chantable, and though it starts with minimal backing, it ends with a build behind the “are you ready oh oh oh ohhh” refrain that serves the opposite purpose of many songs in that segues directly into the deliriously aggressive rap sections done over EDM. While all of N.Flying successfully project this devil-may-care vibe, the rapping in particular truly sets them apart by being able to convincingly execute songs like this.
33. LABOUM – “Only U”
Honestly? “Only U” is incredibly vapid. Also honestly? When songs are as catchy as this, I don’t give a shit. The instrumental is upbeat with appropriate brass elements, and the verses are delivered by LABOUM all bubbly and peppy. Yet this song’s success revolves around the retro chorus. It’s clearly the centerpiece of the song and understandably so, as the refrains of “I really really love you” and “la la la la la la I’m really really good girl at tteugeoun good girl” strike pop gold and are so easy to sing along with (an adult male caught doing this would be embarrassing, but it’s definitely never happened to me since I’m so cool). The cherry on top is the repetitions of “only you” being cooed in the middle of the chorus before it launches back into the latter of the aforementioned addictive refrains, which makes for a smart change of pace.
Things could’ve gotten messy near the end with how busy things were, but honestly all it does is cut out the inferior parts of the song and continually adds and subtracts elements around the chorus, which definitely gets no complaints from me.
32. FT Island – “The Night”
“The Night” stands out because of the liberal use of Auto-Tune to create this fuzzy effect on the vocals, but it makes sense considering the lyrical content that revolves around alcohol. The explosive chorus has a hard edge to it and contains “drink up” being scream-sung, yet while the song is about a drunken night, it’s definitely not romanticizing it. Rather, it’s tackled from a regretful tone, basically a dude chastising himself about life choices resulting in having to drink problems away. The drums and guitar at the foundation of the song also deserve to be highlighted, and they do get a deserving solo, but throughout the song they create the dramatic atmosphere that fits this effort so well.
31. George – “Boat”
Not sure if people thought I was joking about George‘s “Boat” or not, but I truly do love it because it’s chill as fuck in a rather timeless way, with a chorus that’s instantly memorable. Plus, the song is about wondering whether he can get away from the city life bullshit and hack it living simple and free, which makes the content relatable and the sound relevant. It definitely uses a simple formula, but it’s a frequent listen of mine and I still get excited to hear it every time.
30. Limesoda (Featuring MC Gree) – “Z Z Z”
“Z Z Z” is a song that’s basically about wanting to sleep all day, so as far as I’m concerned it’s the most lyrically relevant and relatable song of the year. Seriously though, it’s relentlessly peppy and bright thanks to Limesoda, and it’s punctuated by an earworm of a hook in the “miineun jamkkureogi kkureogi, nan kkureogi kkukkukku kkureogi” refrain. It is absolutely undeniable. I will fight you.
29. Dreamcatcher – “Fly High”
“Fly High” focuses more on crafting a pop anthem than maintaining a hard rock edge, but thankfully Dreamcatcher manage to find the appropriate balance. The driving instrumental is a constant, even during the softer moments of the verses, and it picks up steam when it surges forward at a breakneck pace during the outstanding chorus that’s punctuated with appropriately explosive vocals.
Despite drifting closer to the mainstream, there are obvious moments of aggressive guitar riffs that help maintain the feeling of lurking darkness, and being able to make those moments feel organic is a significant part of what makes “Fly High” a success.
28. Suzy – “Yes No Maybe”
When it was announced that Suzy would be making a solo debut, I wrote off that it would be anything interesting musically, so “Yes No Maybe” was quite the shocking revelation. The sleek instrumental creates an foreboding atmosphere, and Suzy thankfully stays within her range and delivers an airy but emotional performance. The chorus puts the finishing touches on the dramatic effort with the impactful “yes no maybe” refrain and an ending that mixes the whimsical and troubled.
27. KARD – “Rumor”
The main thing “Rumor” revealed is how people just go along with whatever narrative is popular instead of thinking for themselves, as many called KARD out for doing the same sound for a third time in a row following the earlier releases of “Oh NaNa” and “Don’t Recall“. The problem? Uh, it wasn’t that similar, as “Rumor” is basically reggae-lite or reggae-pop and the other two weren’t.
In fact, the change is what made “Rumor” their least popular release to that point among both K-pop fans and KARD stans alike. But the fact that it was closer to being reggae, and that modern electronic touches were expertly woven in, is exactly what endeared it to me. It’s relaxed but never boring, and captures the vibe it’s striving for perfectly. Furthermore, the female/male interplay during the chorus was a standout, especially paired with the understated “mallo mallo mallo” refrain even if “where you at my love” is supposed to be the hook.
26. IU – “Black Out”
IU‘s songwriting ability is such that she doesn’t only tackle the obvious emotions well, but can also effectively express subtler feelings like that of being tipsy and carefree but trying to hide it so people don’t think you’re a hot mess. It’s that specificity that makes a lot of her songs relatable instead of generic.
Perhaps just as impressive is the formidable production of “Black Out“, as it has an energy to it like so many of IU’s best do. Hell, this one even has edge, using a pounding beat that I would more readily associate with hip-hop and throwing in a guitar solo to boot. Of course, her vocal performance was on point, from the playful softness in the verses to the explosion of the dynamic chorus that makes clever reference to Virginia Woolf‘s ‘Mrs Dalloway‘ and her party. “Black Out” is just a complete song and is one of the most well-rounded entries on this list.
25. Girl’s Day – “Thirsty”
“Thirsty” sounds like it could easily be a hit by a popular American artist, and it’s probably one of Girl’s Day‘s best songs. The repetitive snaps and synths are a nice combination, and they’re complimented well by a sultry vocal performance that works to the strengths of each member. The chorus was something that stuck with me thanks to a rapid delivery, and it’s punctuated by the “dry dry dry dry I got you so thirsty dry dry dry dry” refrain at the end that segues right back into the verses. While the overall atmosphere of the song might have a softer quality, it definitely packs a potent punch.
24. 24K – “Only You”
A lot of future bass was used in K-pop this year, most by groups far more popular than 24K, and yet they still did it best. The instrumental breakdown during the chorus of “Only You” is the centerpiece of the song, mainly because the production went with this off-kilter echoing type of sound that ping-pongs around in your brain. If those effects weren’t enough, there’s also these cool stutters into the vocals and odd-ball effects like a popping sound that drives the uniqueness home. I’ll admit it was a bit confusing and jarring at first, but eventually I fell in love with the drop, and before long I also had the oft-repeated “neo hanamyeon dwae” embedded in my soul as well.
23. CNBLUE – “Between Us”
“Between Us” combines the core rock sound of CNBLUE with a dabble into electronic influences, which especially come into play during the chorus, and the result is impressive. The song hits the listener with a sample of it immediately, but the potential of the chorus isn’t entirely realized until later, when the beat kicks up a notch and is paired with soaring vocals that creates a knockout anthemic effect. The tempo changes utilized throughout the song are done in a way where it helps keeps the listener engaged and on their toes more than it becoming disjointed, and CNBLUE can safely consider this experiment a rousing success.
22. Monsta X – “Beautiful”
“Beautiful” is peak Monsta X, as we get heavy bass and dirty electronic sounds from the start to hook the listener with aggressiveness. The song then brings things down a bit for an epic vocal chorus that has a beautiful airy hook of “so beautiful” at its core, but is still powered by the reverberating beat underneath it, along with everything that surrounds the refrain. The pitfall of Monsta X songs is rarely energy, rather it’s that things get too hectic, but on “Beautiful” I felt like they truly found the right balance to give the song a unique edge but maintain enough cohesion to not devolve into noise. Hell, I even enjoyed how it ended so abruptly after all that sculpted energy, almost beckoning the listener to the replay button to properly digest what they were just hit with.
21. BTOB – “Just Say It”
“Just Say It” utilizes synths to create an upbeat funky sound that serves as the song’s strong foundation, and on top of that BTOB lay down lively verses thanks to the combination of smooth vocals and raps that have a sassy bite to them. That’s capped off with a powerhouse hook that includes memorable refrain of “tell me what you want, tell me what you need” and is cleverly repurposed in the middle of the chorus in a whispered “wanna get get your your love, so tell me what what you want” section that gives the hook one more run at embedding into the listener’s brain without seeming overly repetitive. It’s entirely worth the trouble, as this was among my favorite choruses of 2017.