This is the second in our series of K-pop guides. If you know anyone who you think might like K-pop or is a new fan, please share this guide with them so that we can spread Korean pop even further around the UK!
Last week we introduced you to some of K-pop’s best dance groups and showed you some of the videos that best showed off their fantastic dance skills. This week we’re going to be introducing you to some of the artists best skilled at getting you up and dancing whether it be at a club, a party or just around your own room. Hopefully, if you are new to K-pop this will introduce to some of the best artists around and help you learn more about the music. And also if you ever plan on hosting a K-pop party we hope this gives you a good start on the playlist! First up:
2PM Hands Up
This song has pretty much everything that my experience of clubs and parties has taught me is required for a great party tune. There are references to alcohol, lots of talk about going crazy and forgetting everything, a repetitive and memorable chorus and some guidance as to what to do with one’s body when listening to the song (helpful for some of us more awkward members of the dance party). I’ve been to a few K-pop club parties and nights and this song is always a massive hit with the crowds as can be seen by all the hands in the air.
Other recommendations: Check out 10 out of 10 and member Wooyoung’s solo debut Sexy Lady for more mimic-able moves.
Miss A – Lips
This is only an album track but I felt it was such a great club track that I had to include it. The song was written and produced by people who have worked with a number of American artists including Usher and Chris Brown. This can definitely be heard in the sound and a lot of the beats used definitely reminded me of songs I’ve heard on nights out in clubs. It also has a slight latin vibe to it and reminds me a little of some of J.Lo’s more recent music. The directness of the lyrics also has a more American/European feel than your usual K-pop girl group track and exemplifies Miss A’s stronger, sexier image which makes them stand out from the crowd.
Other recommendations: To see their actual performances, watch Goodbye Baby and Bad Girl Good Girl
PSY – Right Now
‘Gangnam Style’ has been hitting number one on charts around the world over the past month or so but PSY actually has a long-established career in Korea and has had hits in the charts there since 2001 (although he also has had more than his fair share of scandals making big gaps in his career). In 2010 he signed with one of Korea’s biggest labels, YG Entertainment, and brought out ‘Right Now’. Although it might not be quite as catchy or memorable as ‘Gangnam Style’ it still has that high energy dance sound that the world has come to expect from PSY along with his signature relentless performance style
Other recommendations: Korea – a stirring fight song released just before Gangnam Style in support of the Republic of Korea Olympic Team
TEEN TOP – No More Perfume On You
Now, admittedly this is coming from someone who gets a little too involved in Eurovision each year, but I really, truly and unironically love this song. It’s three and a half minutes of eurotrash heaven and it always puts me in a better mood. The funny thing about it, for me, is the way the band’s appearance and sound contrast with the song’s lyrics. Despite their butter-wouldn’t-melt, smiley presentation, Teen Top are actually singing about cheating on their girlfriend with an older woman. The repeated jee-ma (-지마) that you hear in the chorus is a way of telling someone not to do something and they are giving their noona (누나)(a term used by males: it literally means ‘older sister’ but is used when talking to any close female who is slightly older) a list of things not to do when she is around him (spray perfume, wear glitter) so that their girlfriend doesn’t find out about the affair!
Other recommendations: To You has been stuck in my head for a few days now so I suppose it deserves a mention!
4Minute – Volume Up
4Minute have a soft spot in our hearts here at UKP for being the only K-pop girl group to have played in the UK (twice!) so we couldn’t not include them in this list. There is nothing particularly clever or classy about this track. It uses saxophone samples and synth handclaps heavily throughout, which makes it sound like it should be extremely dated and cheesy. And yet, this song manages to be a really fun, current sounding dance track that makes people want to get up on their feet. 4Minute have been producing great dance tunes since their debut in 2009 but I think this is their best so far. It has a slightly manic, uncontrolled feel that just makes you want to lose yourself on the dance floor.
Other recommendations: Two of their other big dance hits, I My Me Mine and Huh
Tasty – You know me
Tasty is a new duo who only debuted a couple of months ago but they’ve already made quite an impression with this catchy debut song. They are also twins and I kind of like to think of Tasty as what Jedward would be like if they could dance, sing and were more attractive. The song is mostly electro, complete with dubstep breaks, although it has a more poppy breakdown in the middle and is the sort of thing I could hear being played in nightclubs. Beware it will get stuck in your head and it will stay there, even if you don’t understand what the are saying.
SHINHWA – Venus
From a new band to one of the oldest. Shinhwa are Korea’s longest running boyband and well established veterans of the K-pop industry. They made their debut in 1998 during the height of the first wave of K-pop idols and after that they worked successfully, in both their group and solo careers until going on hiatus in 2008 when several members enlisted for their mandatory military service. In March this year, the band made their long awaited comeback onto the scene with Venus. It’s a eurodance monster of a track which you can’t escape from. At first I really didn’t like this song but then it started getting stuck in my head and, after I realised it was there to stay, I saw what a great club track it is. Give it a few listens and I promise you won’t be able to stop yourself singing along to the chorus!
Other recommendations: Check out some proper old-school K-pop with Only One from 2000
2NE1 – I Am The Best
2NE1 are a group who made a huge impact when they burst onto the scene in 2009 with their outlandish dress sense and grrl-power atitude. Since then they have risen to become one of Korea’s biggest girl groups, They have a huge international following and this track is their most watched on youtube with over 55 million views. Korean culture, in general, values modesty, humbleness and knowing one’s place in society. As you can probably guess from the title, I Am the Best represents none of these things. Everything about both the song and video is absolutely ridiculous from the nonsensical (but extremely catchy) hook at the beginning to the bondage-style costumes (complete with spikes and metal plates) to the garishly extravagant props littered throughout. But, this ridiculousness is exactly what makes it so amazing. Who doesn’t like to go into a club and shout at the top of their voice about how amazing they are? No one that’s who, just ask David Guetta’s bank balance.
Other recommendations: Another big dance track Don’t Stop the Music and their big hit of this year, I Love You
EvoL – We are a little different
This year there has been an explosion in the number of new groups debuting onto the K-pop scene. Very few of them have made any impression on me but so far I’ve been really taken with these girls. Some K-pop fans have criticised their appearance in the video for having too many similarities with 2NE1 in I Am The Best but I think despite this they have managed to make themselves stand out from the crowd, as the title suggests with their strong performances. They are also distinguishable for the fact that the members have creative input in their work. The song itself is not necessarily very innovative in terms of dance music however it does sound very different from the debut tracks of the vast majority of new girl groups. I would definitely like to hear a track like this being played in a club.
Other recommendations: Let Me Explode for a harder edged hip hop sound
BIGBANG – Fantastic Baby
This is unquestionably the ultimate K-pop party track! It contains every possible element necessary for an amazing party song: a dramatic opening, a massive build up, a catchy chorus, an easily mimicked dance, lots of opportunities to shout along and even a few ‘boomshakalaka’s added in for good measure. At every single K-pop club night or party I’ve been to without fail, this song has been the biggest hit of the night and the crowd always goes absolutely crazy every time it’s played.
Other recommendations: 2011 single Tonight and High High from members GD&TOP which very nearly had it’s own slot.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that maybe it introduced to some new songs or artists and made you want to have a K-pop party.
Let us know in the comments: Did you enjoy this article and was it helpful? Did you know all the bands and songs already? Are these the right choices or is there another song that you love to party to? If you are an established K-pop fan and you felt that there is another band or track that deserves to be on the list, please write who it is in the comments and link to a video so that new fans can find new groups or performers to listen to.
You can check out the other articles in this series here.