[The K-Pop 100: Idol Group Songs]
60. 2NE1 – Fire
Our first meeting with 2NE1 was heavy in hip-hop, to the point where essentially all the verses were more rapped than sung. And that looked like a good, label-appropriate niche for this group to live in. Minimalist beat and repeated syllables ruled the day, and these women were fiercer and more aggressive than anyone else in 2009.
59. VIXX – Hyde
VIXX is a case study on how to beat an oversaturated market. The Jekyll-and-Hyde horror theme was a unique idea, and releasing the album in two steps and creating a thematic transition between them was excellent execution. “Hyde” itself is sublime: the track’s glitch and dissonance and Ravi‘s performance in particular controls tension, while the chorus validates it with explosion. This is what the scene is still in more need of.
58. F(x) – 아이스크림 (Ice Cream)
From NU 예삐오 (NU ABO) (2010)
Label: SM Entertainment
Writing: Kim Bu-min
Behind the impenetrable sheen of “NU ABO” awaited this hidden gem. The food theme that F(x) has exploited a lot (see “Pinocchio”, “Sweet Witches”, “Milk”) started here, used as a predictable but effective metaphor for sweetness. Hitchhiker’s tasteful textures add a little tart, and the bubbling, fizzy performances complete the concoction.
57. Nine Muses – 휘가로 (Figaro)
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this production combo from here on out, and for good reason. “Figaro” is just one example of the kind of spellbound moment that Sweetune’s brassy yet kinetic pieces can create with Song Soo-yun’s caught-in-the-moment storytelling. By far Nine Muses’ brightest moment up to this point.
56. 4Minute – 미쳐 (Crazy)
The best compliment I can pay “Crazy” is that it is, indeed, balls-to-the-wall insane. Hyuna and Jiyoon slur and belt their verses, the chorus is shrill with the double-tracked interjections drawing attention, the exotic trap beat is relentless, and the bass drop in the chorus gives you some breathing room to consider how ridiculous all this is. 4Minute’s charisma and fierceness finally met a worthy track here, and the result was incredible.
55. Brown Eyed Girls – Hold The Line (Featuring Cho PD)
An older group (comparatively) even at debut, Brown Eyed Girls could convincingly pull off the kind of condescending attitude that pervades “Hold The Line”. Sharp, witty writing met easygoing, confident performances in a crisp summer jam.
54. Sharp – 스위티 (Sweety)
It’s more of a Lee Ji-hye and Seo Ji-young song than a Sharp song, but that was almost normal for this team. The happy-go-lucky mood and melody are powered by an equally bubbly arrangement, and fun touches like the key change in each verse and summery guitars make “Sweety” memorable. A facade, we now know – Sharp was already well on its way to splitting by this point. It’s a wonder that the song still set a record for most TV performances in Korean music, but it was deserving.
53. Fly to the Sky – 중력 (Gravity)
Hwanhee had already begun his descent to maximum heaviness, but at this point FTTS still had pretty good balance. The track is gripping from the get-go, with a rhythmically cut-up verse melody, and the track grows in scale from there – right up to an exhilarating bridge and final chorus where the two members play dramatic hot potatoes with the vocal line.
52. Infinite – She’s Back
From She’s Back (single) (2010)
Label: Woollim Entertainment
Composition/Writing/Arrangement: Sweetune; additional writing by Song Soo-yun and Mithra Jin (Epik High); additional arrangement by Hong Seung-hyun
Links: music video, audio, live
Between the punctuated guitar riffs, volumetric harmony, and rousing synths, it’s hard to decide which element is most conducive to “She’s Back” feeling like the quintessential summer single. This was an astonishingly complete package coming out of a virtually unknown group at the time, and a sophomore single at that. Infinite’s excellence was foretold.
51. Wonder Girls – Nobody
Motown, meet JYP soul. “Nobody” was the finale to Wonder Girls’ retro series, and the team traveled even further back in time to find these glitter dresses and standup performances. There was no real harmonics or other musical attention to recreating the era – the Barberettes they were not – but JYP did complete the experiment of infusing his indispensable groove into electronics in this song, crafting something unique in the process.