[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]
100. 5tion – More Than Words
A ballad-focused idol group isn’t the safest bet now, and it wasn’t then either. 5tion managed to beat the odds, and while the group never reached the lofty heights of their more famous contemporaries, debut single “More Than Words” remains eminently enjoyable with its medium-tempo arrangement and smooth delivery – and now there’s a remake, too.
99. Super Junior M – 태완미 (Perfection)
“Perfection” looks and sounds like a descendant of TVXQ‘s “Mirotic”, and indeed the two songs share composers in Troelsen. There’s a little less focus on vocals, with the kinetic synths picking up the slack instead, but that palpable tension hasn’t gone anywhere. Dry, robotic chorus melody and interesting lyrical diction (“opus”, “projectile”) for what’s ultimately a song of seduction further set “Perfection” apart.
98. SS501 – Love Ya
Most of SS501’s discography is filled with edgy, passionate, serious dance tracks. “Love Ya” is one of those all right, but at a point in time when the five members could bring a little weight to the composition. The orchestra backing and softly sung chorus makes for heavy atmosphere, and given that, “Love Ya” is a sleekly produced and pleasantly dramatic tune that knows to end before things get over the top.
97. Sunny Hill – 베짱이 찬가 (The Grasshopper Song)
Sunny Hill and Loen figured they were onto something with the success of (and mixed opinions on) “Midnight Circus”, so they pushed the envelope a bit further for “The Grasshopper Song”, a morbid adaptation of both Aesop’s fable and a children’s jingle into a commentary on workaholic and competition cultures. With more purposeful sound design (disturbing and stilted) and tight construction, the second time was the charm and Sunny Hill’s career finally took off.
96. Luv – Orange Girl
“Orange Girl” is more than just an opportunity to see Jeon Hye-bin donning a happy-go-lucky concept early in her career. With Nick Manic in the credits, the track has traces of good American bubblegum of the time in the pop-rock accompaniment and smooth refrain. Even the slightly cringe-worthy lyrics are forgivable in the lens of infectious cheerfulness.
95. Hans Band – 오락실 (The Arcade)
The sister trio had novelty value, but that wasn’t all. The simple progression of “The Arcade” had satisfying synergy with the youthful exuberance of Hans Band, and the members’ no-frills singing (particularly Kim Han-saem‘s) was a refreshing change of pace. Of course, the song’s family-oriented lyrics was both timeless and timely in 1998 too.
94. High4 – 봄 사랑 벚꽃 말고 (Not Spring, Love or Cherry Blossoms) (Featuring IU)
High4’s debut single was really random and really good. It’s legitimate to ask how much of this breezy, addictive spring pop is due to IU’s presence – the answer is “a lot” – but that doesn’t detract from the final product. There is no actual harmony here until the last line, but the three people who sing still have a nice rapport, with Kim Sung-gu bringing husky weight to IU and Baek Myeong-han‘s lithe flow.
93. 2AM – 이 노래 (This Song)
2AM was criminally under-promoted early in their career, and that of course includes this debut single. It’s a straight ballad with unmistakable JYP influences (not always a bad thing), and the austere arrangement works well with the confessions of a man who “only has this song to give” to his lover. Bonus: we revisit a Jo Kwon who was known for his 2567 days as a trainee before the antics that made him famous.
92. Sistar – Loving U
Summer fits Sistar like a glove – their best works mostly tend to be jolly estival jams (“I Swear” wasn’t too far off from making this list itself). A chorus that’s more woo-ing vocalization than lyrical turns out to work just fine, paired with warm brass timbres and almost constant double-tracking ensuring a pleasant cascade of voices. “Loving U” does its job very well.
91. Sugar – Secret
This is probably one of my weirder selections on the list. “Secret” wasn’t particularly a huge hit on release, nor have people dug it up and conferred cult classic status. But it’s got the easy, bold melody of a Joo Young-hoon dance track and a wonderfully mid-2000s arrangement: that piano double tap is kind of like Se7en‘s “Passion” in rhythm and Ha Yoo-sun‘s “Question” in texture, the flowing string like TVXQ’s “The Way U Are”, the nonsensical rap insert like basically every idol track back then… it’s got a little bit of everything. “Secret” is maybe not a masterpiece on its own, but it’s a nice cross-section of the good that the era had to offer – and I like that enough to merit inclusion.