Catalog of Thoughts Music Review

The Top 100 Korean Songs of 2017: Part 1

Join us as we count down our favorite songs of 2017.

This year’s top Korean songs list is a special one because I’m joined this time by writers La Shauna, Cy, SplashofInspiration and newcomer ethatwoman. Thanks to their contribution, ‘Is This How You K-Pop?’ felt a little more alive this year and I knew going into this that I wanted them to be a part of it with me. Thank you a million times to each of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to work on this and for sharing your writing on this little blog all year long. It’s been so much fun and y’all might have out-done me this time lol.

Just like last year’s list, below you will find an assortment of Korean music that in one form or another stood out to us — be it through production value, emotional impact or simple catchiness — and ranked from 100 to 01. Each writer submitted a set of their favorite songs and depending on their preferences fell lower or higher on the overall list. I did my best to honor each writer’s ranking and ordered my picks accordinginly, so you will find some of their lower ranked songs here and their top faves later on in Part 2. Today, we kick things off with 100 – 51. Just to be clear, this whole thing is pretty much arbitrarily done and after listening to the whole thing I believe each song deserves a spot on here. Whether one landed higher or lower means very little, so feel free to swap them around or toss in your own as you go along in the comments section.

This is Is This How You K-Pop?’s Top 100 Korean Songs of 2017. A playlist will be made available after Part 2 goes live, which will be tomorrow. Now let’s get started!

100 A.C.E“선인장 (CACTUS)”

Release Date: 5/23/17
Genre: Dance

I first took notice of A.C.E early 2017 through their dance covers on YouTube. As I sat there watching them slay BTS’s “Not Today,” I wondered whether they were a cover group or a legit boy band I hadn’t heard of before. By May they went on to prove me wrong, in that they are much, much more than just a cover group — A.C.E possess a spark of awe that I like to watch and listen to in K-pop. “Cactus” not only provides a fresh spin on the aggressive boy band single but also offers a respectable amount of focus on the guys’ talent on the main stage. Plus, thighs. – Arnold


99 로이킴 (Roy Kim)“Egoist”

Release Date: 5/16/17
Genre: Ballad, Dance

Nothing pleases me more than watching one of my favorite singers step out of their comfort zone to try something new with their music, and the ever wonderful Roy Kim did exactly that with his 2017 single “Egoist.” – Arnold


98 DAY6“아 왜 (I Wait)”

Release Date: 1/6/17
Genre: Rock

DAY6 went into 2017 with the challenge of releasing a single each month of the year, and while there were some pretty great tracks among those they dropped it was the group’s very first one “I Wait” that struck the strongest chord with me. It adds an elegant touch to alternative rock while retaining the electronic elements that set DAY6 apart. – Arnold


97 Galaxy Express“The Way”

Release Date: 3/11/17
Genre: Rock

I was privileged to both watch and interview GE at SXSW this year, and let me tell you… those boys have old-school soul that will leave you mesmerized. The Way is one of the most enthralling band jams to come out of of 2017. It has all the elements indicative of natural rock-soul from bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience: all emotion and free-form elegance. – Cy


96 DMEANOR“Fool for Loving (ft. Kwamie Liv)”

Release Date: 10/6/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

Thank all that’s wonderful and good in this world that DMeanor finally debuted with original material this year. His voice has the sort of yearn in it that makes artists like Maxwell so powerful. Fool for Loving is the type of push-and-pull ballad that’s both heartbreaking and terribly sensual. A good bit of rough sexy toward the end of 2017. – Cy


95 듀에토 (Duetto)“그리움 끝에”

Release Date: 5/17/17
Genre: Crossover

I wasn’t expecting to come across Opera in my voyage through Korean music this year, but Duetto came out of the woodwork with this incredible single that still leaves me jaw-to-the-floor every time I listen to it. By the way, have you watched their recent cover of “Gashina”? ICONIC. – Arnold


94 이효리 (Lee Hyori)“Black”

Release Date: 7/4/17
Genre: Dance

The return of everyone’s favorite bad girl. She gave us proof that we all can be tamed, but have bad girl flashbacks on occasions. – ethatwoman


93 HyunA“Mirror”

Release Date: 8/29/17
Genre: Dance

It’s upsetting how easily some of HyunA’s rather pleasant B-sides get lost in the brouhaha of provocative singles. That’s all I have to say. – SplashofInspiration


92 B1A4“Rollin'”

Release Date: 9/25/17
Genre: Dance

B1A4 remains one of my favorite boy bands, not because I’ve known of them for yyyyears, but because they are one of the most consistent groups in K-pop, releasing one addicting single after another, and “Rollin'” is no different. Its marvellous chorus hooks you in immediately and you can’t help but chant along as the boys take us on a journey of glorious melodies. – Arnold


91 offonoff“gold (ft. DEAN)”

Release Date: 7/24/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

R&B had a huge moment in 2017, and the trend will only intensify I’m sure, as more and more artists, new and old, continue to up their game and stimulate Korea’s ever-growing repertoire in the genre. offonoff’s “gold” is a prime example of this, as its effortless flow makes it one of this year’s easiest and most enjoyable jams to vibe to. – Arnold


90 Hailey Rose“Masks (ft. SWYZII)”

Release Date: 8/26/17
Genre: Electronica

One of my goals when constructing this list – a process that took me all year believe it or not – was to dig just a little deeper this time to see what rising stars had to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to Hailey Rose’s “Masks”. It’s a subtle electronic track, but Hailey carries the melodies with such grace that before you know it, you’re dancing to one of this year’s sweetest electro-pop jams. – Arnold


89 Taeyeon“수채화 (Love in Color)”

Release Date: 2/28/17
Genre: Ballad

Taeyeon’s voice is one for the K-pop history books. Her potential to set your heart ablaze is uniquely her — yet a moment that really grabbed my attention in 2017 wasn’t one of her showstopping singles, but rather her delicate handle on “Love in Color” off her first studio album. The softness in her approach on this track shined a light on Taeyeon that I hadn’t seen her in before, and I hope she dives into this side a little more often because it suits her beautifully. – Arnold


88 Zion. T“노래 (The Song)”

Release Date: 2/1/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

Playful and subtly catchy, Zion. T’s “The Song” – a song about writing a song – takes the regularly serious and somber singer out of that world for a second and into the realm of pop; it’s an infectious single that is oddly inspiring by its final measures. – Arnold


87 DPR Live“Cheese & Wine”

Release Date: 3/15/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

DPR Live is my pick for breakout artist of 2017. He came in strong with his mini album ‘Coming To You Live,’ that gave us bop after bop after bop.

“Cheese & Wine,” is just a good song. As I mentioned in my review of the album, DPR Live is easily overshadowed by the people he features on his work, however, on songs like “Cheese & Wine,” where he goes it alone he is able to excel and make the most of the beat, and the song overall. – La Shauna


86 BoA“CAMO”

Release Date: 6/26/17
Genre: Dance

BoA can do no wrong. That should be hammered into marble somewhere and declared common law because it’s true. While these days the petite beauty drops singles for shits and giggles, they still shouldn’t go unnoticed because “CAMO” is one of those bops that snuck up on me. Its chorus is hypnotic, and by the middle 8, BoA is exploding with that fire that set her career in motion many years ago. You go, queen. – Arnold


85 Lovelyz“WoW!”

Release Date: 2/26/17
Genre: Dance

Something I noticed about 2017 is how absolutely intricate K-pop instrumentals sounded, at least in relation to what they were like a few years ago. I think that’s what kept me coming back to Lovelyz “WoW!” — it doesn’t just sit on top of a glittery instrumental, but the vocal lines dance on top of it like little grasshoppers. – Arnold


84 Achime“숨바꼭질 (Hide and Seek)”

Release Date: 11/11/17
Genre: Rock

If a song managed to hypnotize me, it left a good impression, and Achime’s “Hide and Seek” accomplishes that nicely with this syncopated beauty. – Arnold


83 4MEN” 눈 떠보니 이별이더라 (Break Up in the Morning)”

Release Date: 10/24/17
Genre: Ballad

An end of the year list isn’t complete without 4MEN. They never fail to deliver sweet harmonies, spine-tingling notes, and tear-jerking emotion. No one does a ballad quite like 4MEN and “BUITM” is another in a huge discography of reminders. – La Shauna

Shin Yong-Jae is a beast of a singer and to hear him again rejuvenated my enthusiasm for 4MEN. His mind-blowing register reaches another dimension in this song’s climax that to this day leaves me utterly breathless. Just wow. – Arnold


82 Dok2“Ambition and Vision (ft. Beenzino, Changmo, Keem Hyo-Eun, Hash Swan, The Quiett)”

Release Date: 6/13/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

I love a good cipher and this one is an absolute thrill from start to finish. Better yet, “Ambition and Vision” does a glorious job of ushering in all the new talents under Dok2’s new label, Ambition Musik. You better fucking get yours, man. – Arnold


81 하이라이트 (Highlight)“얼굴 찌푸리지 말아요 (Plz Don’t Be Sad)”

Release Date: 3/20/17
Genre: Dance

I couldn’t go a best-of list without including my OGs-turned-newbies Highlight. To consider this group rookies is bizarre as is, but it’s also a complete joy to listen to these guys sound so, so good. Vocally, thematically, musically: “Plz Don’t Be Sad” takes us back to Highlight’s (formerly BEAST’s) glory days while adding a nice new layer of varnish to keep us moving forward. – Arnold


80 윤종신 (Yoon Jong Shin)“좋니 (Like It)”

Release Date: 6/22/17
Genre: Ballad

If you’re new around here, I’m just going to say it now: I’m that one guy that actually digs ballads. And if I’m going to toss one into this list, you bet your ass it’s going to be one of 2017’s shining glories — Yoon Jong Shin, a legend in his own right, with the heart-wrenching “Like It.” The strings, the climax, the vocals; You know I’m in heaven. – Arnold


79 Jay Park“Yacht (ft. Sik-K)”

Release Date: 7/17/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

To say that I’m excited as fuck to listen to this song live this year at SXSW 2018 is an understatement. Jay Park finds a sweeeeeeet spot with “Yacht” wherein he lets that pretty voice of his shine through without any added bells and whistles. It’s one of his smoothest jams and one that made it onto my summer rotation more times than I’d like to admit. – Arnold


78 우효 (Oohyo)“Pizza”

Release Date: 3/15/17
Genre: Electronica

I enjoy how chill Oohyo sounds on this rather downer-of-a-song, and I enjoy even more how the electronic elements are gradually layered to create this galactic pop anthem that gets my feet moving by its mid-point. – Arnold


77 NCT 127“Cherry Bomb”

Release Date: 6/14/17
Genre: Dance

“Cherry Bomb” is the classic case of “this song is okay … wait … wait, no. Shit, I think I like this. Nope. I definitely like this. Fuck me.” The song is standard SM, in that it sits right on the edge of being an absolute mess, yet somehow comes out being a complete and utter bop. – Arnold


76 헤이즈 (Heize)“You, Clouds, Rain (ft. Shin Yong Jae)”

Release Date: 6/26/17
Genre: Ballad

This year, Heize’s music focused less on melodic intrigue and a lot more on emotional outpours, like what you hear on “You, Clouds, Rain,” the icy duet with the always phenomenal Shin Yong Jae. Its jazzy composition intensifies the overall feel of the song and allows Heize and her companion to flex compelling measures of delightfully somber vocals. – Arnold


75 구구단 (gugudan)“나 같은 애 (A Girl Like Me)”

Release Date: 2/23/17
Genre: Dance

While the love K-pop boy bands received in 2017 seemed insurmountable as fuck, I’m glad that that didn’t stop girl groups from churning out incredibly addicting music, like gugudan did this year with the immensely infectious anthem “A Girl Like Me.” Two parts power vocals and one part sass (or is it the other way around?), this song is one helluva earworm that I couldn’t get enough of this year. – Arnold


74 최예근 밴드 (Choi Ye Geun Band)“어른 (Adult)”

Release Date: 1/2/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

I honestly don’t know what they do with the contestants from K-Pop Star, but it’s clearly not enough. This young lady’s voice will make you wanna slap your best friend in the face. That coquettish demeanor is just a facade for some truly down-home soul. The song’s title is apt because this is a grown-ass woman’s voice right here! – Cy


73 Epik High“Here Come The Regrets (ft. Lee Hi)”

Release Date: 10/23/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

When Epik High announced We’ve Done Something Wonderful, I damn near wept. The entire album was so… heavy — everything had an added weight to it. Here Come the Regrets is one of those songs that just stops you in your tracks when you first listen to it, and it plagues your soul long after Lee Hi’s earthy alto voice leaves its ripple in the air. – Cy


72 SEVENTEEN“울고 싶지 않아 (Don’t Wanna Cry)”

Release Date: 5/22/17
Genre: Dance

Finally, a song that shows me the skills other fans claimed Seventeen possessed. This is the catchiest song of the year. – ethatwoman

I’ve always liked Seventeen. They’ve landed on my favorites list twice now and I’m excited that they haven’t let me down yet. Their take on the house sub-genre through “Don’t Wanna Cry” gives me serious Chainsmokers vibes, and I mean that in the most positive sense imaginable. – Arnold


71 이달의 소녀 (LOONA)“Eclipse (Prod. By Daniel Obi Klein) (Kim Lip)”

Release Date: 5/23/17
Genre: Dance

LOONA gave me the biggest headache this year because I was never quite clear as to what the hell they were doing (I know now). After a while, I just let them do their thing because as the months went on, each song the ensemble released kept me intrigued and overwhelmed with excitement. The month of May’s “Eclipse” performed by Kim Lip, in particular, had to be their strongest effort for me (that is until one other came and snatched that title outright). It remains in top pop form, addictive and glorious throughout its duration without ever missing a beat. – Arnold


70 Dumbfoundead“History of Violence (ft. Chancellor)”

Release Date: 5/23/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

If YOX had my favorite overall bars of 2017, Dummy had by far and away my favorite hip-hop album in SK this year. History of Violence is really one of those songs that instantly moves you. Raw, honest, heartfelt… This is a track that those living in a country where they’re cast as an “other” feel to their bones. – Cy


69 Gallant, Tablo, Eric Nam“Cave Me In”

Release Date: 1/27/17
Genre: Dance

Gallant, Tablo and Eric Nam gave us that soulful 90’s vibe with this song. This is the song you can just chill to and enjoy love. – ethatwoman


68 민채 (Min Chae)“Spring Fantasy”

Release Date: 4/3/17
Genre: Ballad

Min Chae’s “Spring Fantasy” doesn’t strike its strongest chords until the very end of the song, but the build-up to it is a delightful journey filled with airy vocals, comforting melodies and an assortment of instrumental nuances that warm the heart. – Arnold


67 Red Velvet“Body Talk”

Release Date: 2/1/17
Genre: Dance

“Body Talk” is pure grace and an absolute beauty of a song. Red Velvet has always played around with the intensity of their music, but this song for me pushed the group into a whole new dimension. It’s grand, yet delicate; definitively era-driven, but entirely fresh through engaging melodies and vocals to die for. – Arnold


66 TWICE“LIKEY”

Release Date: 10/30/17
Genre: Dance

TWICE know that they’re in their sweet spot when they’re bashing repetitive hooks into your head, and damn it if they didn’t do just that with “Likey.” It’s a song so quirky and eccentric that your sweet tooth will ache long after you’re done listening to it. – Arnold


65 SUMIN“Sparkling”

Release Date: 6/11/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

“Sparkling” is a groovy number that offers us a glimpse into Sumin’s vibrant world of slick R&B that tightens its grip as the song unwinds and unfolds across layers of reverberated synths. – Arnold


64 Zion. T“Sorry (ft. Beenzino)”

Release Date: 2/1/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

“I’m Sorry” is so addictive to listen to. It’s like eating a potato chip in that I can’t just listen to it once. “I’m Sorry” is about a man who has made his girlfriend mad, but he doesn’t know why so he just goes on an apology spree. It’s refreshing to see Zion.T bring a more airy feel to his music by incorporating humor. It’s the same Zion.T who dominates the area of music he has carved out for himself, but evolved. – La Shauna


63 ZICO“Artist”

Release Date: 7/12/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

I love that ZICO doesn’t shy away from dancing on the fine line between K-pop and hip-hop. He found much of his fame being in a K-pop boy band after all, and it’s an absolute joy when all his ideas click together to form a catchy hit like this one. – Arnold


62 볼빨간사춘기, 스무살(Bolbbalgan4, 20 Years Of Age) “남이 될 수 있을까 (We Loved)”

Release Date: 6/13/17
Genre: Folk

Bolbbalgan4’s unofficial motto is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and luckily for them this coffee shop-folk that Korea dies for works perfectly because they do it so, so well. “We Loved,” with 스무살, is a gorgeous mid-tempo that wins at putting you in a good mood without ever really trying. – Arnold


61 Jonghyun“Elevator”

Release Date: 4/24/17
Genre: Ballad

I was very hesitant to include this song on this list, not because I sorta cheated and bypassed the fact that this song was first released a couple years ago by using its inclusion on 종현 소품집 `이야기 Op.2` as a loophole, but because of its significance, now unbelievably difficult to even expatiate on after the awful fate of its composer.

“Elevator” is one of several raw examples, clues even, of how deeply broken Jonghyun was in his journey in this world. It’s a tough song to stomach and even tougher to admit that I hear myself in its lyrics. The emotional fuel behind Jonghyun’s interpretation is one that I have fought from lighting on fire many times over. “Elevator” is a dark song but I appreciate that Jonghyun had the courage to bare this side of himself so openly. Honestly, in a strange way, it helps by contextualizing that anguish.

My deepest condolences and prayers continue to go out to Jonghyun’s family and to anyone affected by his passing. – Arnold


60 SISTAR“Lonely”

Release Date: 5/31/17
Genre: Ballad

The farewell of a wonderful girl group. Thanks for giving the rookies a taste of what a legendary diva group contributed to the Hallyu wave. – ethatwoman


59 Stella Jang“Vanishing Paycheck”

Release Date: 4/30/17
Genre: Folk

And the award for the song with the most relatable title goes to Stella Jang’s “Vanishing Paycheck.” This bouncy single is a fun ride filled with so many whimsical twists and turns that for a few minutes you’ll forget you’re broke af. – Arnold


58 백아연 (Baek A Yeon)“Magic Girl”

Release Date: 5/29/17
Genre: Ballad

The secret behind this song’s elegance is found in its broad and airy arrangement, the vocals of which are delivered with a softness by Baek A Yeon that sends the whole thing flying into the clouds. – Arnold


57 Produce 101“Never”

Release Date: 6/3/17
Genre: Dance

“Never” bubbled to the top of the second season of Produce 101 as the definitive smash hit. Its magic lied deep in smooth transitions, elegant vocals and a climax so fierce that I only wish the song received a higher quality edit in post-production because it was thiiiiiiiis close to being perfect. – Arnold


56 WINNER“Really Really”

Release Date: 4/4/17
Genre: Dance

WINNER’s luck turned around this year when the group released “Really Really,” the sexy tropical house anthem that brought out all the best parts of each member and offered us something up-tempo worth vibing to. – Arnold


55 G.Soul“Can’t”

Release Date: 9/7/17
Genre: R&B/Soul

“Can’t” gives me grinding in a dark basement party with a sexy, sweaty stranger realness and I am here for all of it. G.Soul’s voice is like velvet, and this song is sensual and slow and R&B perfection. – La Shauna


54 Year of the Ox“Stampede”

Release Date: 1/27/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

Okay, besides Dummy, no rapper has in the Korean scene, no matter how tangentially, really slayed this year. When I say YOX slayed, scalped, and just massacred your fave, don’t care who it is…! And Stampede was such an explosion of lyricism and flow I was left both offended and in awe. – Cy


53 실리카겔 (Silica Gel)“낮잠 (Nap)”

Release Date: 11/7/17
Genre: Rock

Come the summer, you’ll find me blasting this electro-rock banger out of my car at full volume with the windows rolled all the way down. This is Silica Gel’s psychedelic style at its most infectious. – Arnold


52 방탄소년단 (BTS)“MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix) (ft. Desiigner)”

Release Date: 11/24/17
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop

It goes without saying that BTS shut it down this year. Their growth is historic and it all culminated with the release of one last show-stopping bop. – Arnold


51 IDIOTAPE“Dystopian”

Release Date: 6/16/17
Genre: Electronica

IDIOTAPE came back strong in 2017, throwing all but the kitchen sink into “Dystopian.” Technically, one of their tightest productions in a while; Characteristically, an absolute monster. – Arnold


Come back soon for Part 2.

5 comments on “The Top 100 Korean Songs of 2017: Part 1

  1. Pingback: My Favourite Korean Songs of 2017 - ATK Magazine

  2. Pingback: The Top 100 Korean Songs of 2017: Part 2 – Is This How You K-Pop?

  3. Pingback: Mel’s Round-Up Week 66 | Mel in Anime Land

  4. OMFGS SO MANY OF YOUR FAVES WERE MY FAVES THIS, BOO! I must have just been in your head the whole time, because some songs simply got left out of my list because I thought, “He’ll probably already have this one”… HaHa.

    Can’t wait to see what’s on the next part of the list and where some of my other faves landed ^^

    Like

    • ha! So many of ours crossed paths! And I did the same, thinking: “I’m sure Cy or one of the other girls will pick this one for sure” and YUP haha

      Like

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