Is it about now in the Top 100 Korean Songs Of 2018 rollout where the rage starts to build if you don’t see your faves included?
Any song released by a Korean artist in 2018 is eligible to be included on this list.
#80 – SF9 – “Go Back In Time”
“Go Back In Time” is a dramatic offering featuring an underlying beat that has a solid tempo to it, but it’s the background guitar and strings that separate this from more generic sounds, and the arrangement uses SF9 themselves well. In particular, the “lalalas” of the pre-chorus were an intelligent choice, as one usually expect that element after the chorus hits. Instead, it was used to effectively set the table for the rather clever “tic tic tic” gimmick. The chorus uses that to kick-start a melody that’s upbeat and bright but which also has a distinctively darker underpinning that works musically and thematically, ending with an appropriate “go back in time” refrain.
By the end, this is a surprisingly expansive-feeling effort, as it continues to swell and swell from what was a rather subdued start. While the template is definitely straightforward, “Go Back In Time” successfully finds more than enough addictive pop elements to help it stand out.
#79 – BLACKPINK – “DDU-DU DDU-DU”
While I suspect many will consider this a rather low ranking for “DDU-DU DDU-DU“, it’s actually quite a personal shock that it even made the list. Back when BLACKPINK released this, I was somewhat on the fence about it and leaned negatively if anything, but eventually it managed to win me over.
The whistle-y snyth combined with a trunk-rattling bass were always draws, as were the crispy snares. The pre-chorus was also done well, building the anticipation for the chorus drop. But what I didn’t like was the chorus because it came off quite repetitive, especially in conjunction with the onomatopoeia-driven choral refrain of “hit you with that ddu-du ddu-du du” being looped. With time, I came around a bit on the instrumental-heavy chorus, and so here we are now.
Honestly, not that much has changed. I was skeptical about whether the chorus would age like shit or not, and fortunately it has proven itself to be quite impactful, which led to “DDU-DU DDU-DU” growing on me in the end.
#78 – Red Velvet – “Butterflies”
“Butterflies” is somewhat of a safe effort, especially relative to the directions that Red Velvet have proven they’re willing to take their music. However, that characterization of the song doesn’t necessarily have to be a pejorative, as the end result is just an excellent piece of synth-pop.
The verses don’t standout because they’re rather gentle, but upon closer inspection the xylophone-sounding keyboard effect is what keeps things interesting. That’s really all that needs to happen because the chorus is outstanding, kicking things up with a thumping beat and distorted synths echoing throughout the refrain. The template of “Butterflies” may be a familiar one, but Red Velvet execute the hell out of it and the result is quite the addictive song.
#77 – MONSTA X – “Jealousy”
While I appreciate MONSTA X‘s consistently aggressive concept, when they do take the foot off the gas pedal a bit, that seems to be where their music is at its best. “Jealousy” is a prime example of this, as it’s lot more melodic, stemming from the vocal-driven chorus and employment of synths that end up crafting a poppier offering than their usual hype hype and more hype fare.
Of course, it’s still MONSTA X, so there’s gritty rap stylings in the verses and bridge. However, everything about this revolves around the instantly catchy chorus with a refrain revolving around a “jealousy” that’s sung a bit drawn out to successful effect. It’s noisy and bombastic, but the chorus centers everything back to pop roots, which makes it work nicely.
#76 – Nine Muses’ Kyungri – “Blue Moon”
“Blue Moon” stands out thanks to a pulsating beat that underpins the sexy and sensual tone for the duration of the song. It’s not poppy, choosing subtlety over noise, and that works exceedingly well for the atmosphere it’s aiming for here.
The use of silence in the build was also a good choice, as it helps to almost artificially give everything that comes after it punch, and the excellent drop that hits in the chorus effectively highlights the throbbing bassline that keeps me coming back for more. While “Blue Moon” is definitely one of those efforts that was much more effective as a whole package considering it had Nine Muses‘ Kyungri to utilize, the song itself was surprisingly strong on its own merit.
#75 – INFINITE’s Sunggyu – “True Love”
The rhythm and pacing of “True Love“, primarily in the verses, almost made it seem like a Korean version of Tom Petty‘s “Freefallin’“. Suffice to say, I thought the verses were a standout part of the song, which I almost never say about ballads. I don’t often talk about vocals either, but INFINITE‘s Sunggyu definitely impressed, effectively expressing emotion, building the song up slowly, and showing necessary restraint instead of trying to wail over everything.
Despite my admiration for the verses, the chorus is just as special, as it imbues the listener with the spirit of the lyrics. It’s nicely fleshed out, containing not only the explosive “true love” peak, but also moments that aren’t forwardly hook-y but are just as appealing. “True Love” doesn’t complicate things, and the result is just a … beautiful song, which is not a description I often use.
#74 – Block B’s Park Kyung Featuring Sumin – “Instant”
“Instant” has a funky groove to it with some alternative influences, and the sound is reminiscent of Jamiroquai, which is not an act I associated with K-pop previously. It’s a rather off-kilter arrangement, which works to make sure it doesn’t bog down, and the chorus is just addictive and conceived well even if it lacks hook-y qualities.
Meanwhile, Park Kyung acquits himself well as a vocalist, using a playfully sing-songy style with obvious hip-hop influences permeating through his flowing delivery. Sumin‘s contributions are also appreciated and I came away wishing she was even more involved. Lyrically, the song draws parallels between everyday life and fast food, lamenting the inherent shallowness of things, which matches the whimsy nature of “Instant”.
While this won’t ever be mistaken for a pop anthem that demands attention, the foot-tapping instrumental, the catchy melodies, and the personable performances definitely grew on me and helped “Instant” attain considerable staying power.
#73 – BTS’s RM – “Seoul”
“Seoul” is definitely not a song I would’ve expected to find appealing, but over time it won me over. Despite the ethereal vibe, it avoids bogging down into boring territory, which is my usual issue with many of the songs in this mold.
The underlying beat while BTS‘s RM is rapping subtly keeps pushing things forward, and it then segues seamlessly into the infectious chorus. While it didn’t latch onto me immediately like a pop hook would’ve, I did eventually catch myself humming it randomly while going about my day. It just has an alluring property to it that makes it memorable, and the “if love and hate are the same words, I love you Seoul, if love and hate are the same words, I hate you Seoul” refrain hits all the right notes.
Basically, this track just goes along perfectly with drives home at night through the city. The atmospheric, vibing type of efforts don’t click for me often, but RM made it work on “Seoul”.
#72 – Weki Meki – “Metronome”
“Metronome” initially caught my attention because the instrumental started off with intriguing finger snaps paired with a piano, creating something that had an airy bounce to it. Amusingly, that quickly was wiped out by an absolutely disgusting synth as it transitioned to an industrial sound. The pairing of the two opposite ends of the spectrum doesn’t seem like it should work, but it’s a nice fusion of retro and futuristic, and the contrast ends up working for it beautifully.
Weki Meki themselves honestly don’t have a ton to do as the instrumental completely dominates the song here. Even the chorus isn’t so much reliant on a vocal hook as much as it does on the rhythm of the delivery. But they execute the important role of just not fucking it up, which can be harder than it sounds, and the result is an intensely memorable song.
#71 – NCT’s Ten – “New Heroes”
“New Heroes” reminds me of an Imagine Dragons song but like with a much better grasp of nuance. NCT‘s Ten injects a gentleness into the verses, a sensitivity and vulnerability that was rather striking, which is something I didn’t expect to get from this.
While it has less of the developed chorus that I typically prefer and more of a shouted refrain accompanied with an EDM drop, I think it actually works out quite well. The “we’re the new he … roes” exclamation is actually rather unforgettable once you hear it, and the instrumental centered on brassy synths is appealing in itself, primarily due to the fact that’s it’s not smooth and predictable.
I feel all alone getting hype about “New Heroes”, as I’ve rarely seen anybody else talk about it much. However, whatever it lacks in originality it makes up for in replayability, and I haven’t tired of hearing this come on yet. I wish I could dance worth a single fuck because this song makes me want to do it every time.