[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]
30. Koyote – 디스코왕 (King of Disco)
You rely on Koyote to deliver one thing: danceable jams. “King of Disco” is maybe their most danceable tune ever, lacking the minor chords and overpowered techno beats that characterize a lot of their work but instead filled with the titular disco embellishments and an easy singalong melody. Lee Soo-young (deservedly) won all the awards that year, but the runner-up was no slouch at all.
29. Sechs Kies – 사나이 가는 길 (폼생폼사) (The Way This Guy Lives (Live and Die By Pomp))
The iconic intro melody is good enough, but the shouted verse that follows is perhaps the best use of a chant in K-pop history. Often imitated, never bettered. The lyrics tell a funny tale of a self-proclaimed macho man set to a punchy beat and funky riff. It may not have been the lead single, but This Guy was the song that defined Sechs Kies.
28. SHINee – 1분만 (One Minute Back)
SHINee’s music has a flair for the dramatic, and it gets maximized in “One Minute Back”. There’s tons of tension built up in the verses and bridges, where the narrator suspects and denies that his lover is cheating in front of his eyes. It explodes out in the delayed-beat chorus, as he chooses to turn the clock back and act as if nothing happened. It’s great storytelling and better sonic drama, and the ebb and tide of the composition is delightful to listen to. An unpromoted and underrated classic.
27. TVXQ – Tonight
We all know TVXQ could sing, and I always thought that was advertised ad nauseum. But listening to songs like “Tonight”, I wonder if SM couldn’t have done much, much more with their talent. Few idol groups, then or now, could pull this one off. There are warm harmonies and ear-pleasing melisma and highs here (Jaejoong with an exquisite falsetto, particularly), and the round-song structure in the refrain affords the track another level of sophistication. Topping it off are the beautiful lyrics: “Like a child under the falling rain // Like a love sprinkled upon the plains” remains one of my favorite pieces of imagery.
26. Red Velvet – Ice Cream Cake
Surprised? So am I. Maybe I’ll regret this one after I publish, but I think “Ice Cream Cake” really deserves consideration among the greats. It’s very clearly a song written with F(x) in mind, and word is that it was indeed intended for that group. But the bubbly track feels right in the hands of this younger SM team, and both Irene and Joy lend unexpected oomph with some nicely performed rap bars. That familiar F(x) sense of unfit is right there in the uncharacteristically chilling interlude melody and ensuing bells, while throbbing bass, sweeping synths and stutter beats put together an eminently exciting composition. It’s fun, it’s addictive, and it’s what this label and team do best.
25. Brown Eyed Girls – L.O.V.E.
After two commercially lukewarm full-length albums, BEG finally hit gold with an EP. “L.O.V.E.” was the group’s first number-one single, and richly deserved it was. The track was fully on board with the house-electronic boom in K-pop at the time, what with the thumping synth drums and smooth arrangement. As it turned out, that synergized incredibly well with the group’s vocal talent, and “L.O.V.E.” became a showcase for forthright declarations of love (Miryo and JeA) as well as saccharine-sweet whispers (Ga-in and Narsha). Nega eventually milked this style dry with BEG as well as with Sunny Hill, but the first time was magic.
24. Jewelry – Super Star
The undisputed heyday of Jewelry’s second lineup (and thus of all Jewelry lineups), the Super Star EP brought fierceness to the group’s image and probably helped kick off Seo In-young‘s subsequent successful solo career. The lead single is kind of a weird track: it tries to be a pop-rock song with its punctuated guitar riffs, snare hits and belts, but it’s really not. Genre notwithstanding, “Super Star” is powerful. Park Jung-ah puts in the best vocal performance of her Jewelry career, and the team’s harmonization as the instruments race to a breathless finish is nothing short of thrilling.
23. Shinhwa – Perfect Man
In a fifth album full of sleek and stylish beats, “Perfect Man” was the sleekest and most stylish of them all. There’s nary a wasted sound here, with each string line and synth track adding auras of resolve and sophistry. The melody is brimming with attitude and power, and even the little flaws – Kim Dong-wan straining to grate out those highs – adds to a track that already thrives on boldness. From subdued opening to layered ending, a tour de force.
22. Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – 다시 만난 세계 (Into the New World)
The beginning of it all: how many foresaw the juggernaut at the time of this adorable little debut? It is a remarkable song, too, one that leveraged a sonorous and uplifting melody and wholesome lyrics to immediately dig SNSD a niche. An infectious positive vibe powers the song, and even the ridiculous dance break between the verses can’t defuse its energy. Composer Kenzie, ever observant, had the group play to its strength in numbers on the voluminous chorus, and that’s a tradition pretty much unbroken ever since. So it’s a great song; I will also admit, though, that half the fun is in seeing the tremendous efforts of a rookie SNSD in the perfectly matched choreography.
21. F(x) – Electric Shock
The energy here is palpable, uncontained; yes, electric. There is both space and substance in the crackling synth beat. Compared to the tense bulidup and unpredictable progression of the verses, the straight chorus is almost a disappointing payoff – almost. Seo’s percussive language is picked up flawlessly by the members, and their punchy delivery elevates “Electric Shock” beyond its composition.