So, your friend that is not very familiar with K-Pop has finally decided to give the genre a try and has asked you for some song recommendations. In your sheer glee at the prospect of sharing your fandom with someone who is open to receiving it, you become stuck for suggestions!
You want something that will show them the true uniqueness of the K-Pop world, but also not overwhelm them or reinforce any of those awful Asian stereotypes. Of course, the world of South Korean entertainment can be pretty strange and overpowering to the K-Pop newbie. Here are just a few tracks that might help someone get to know this crazy area and ease them in slowly.
1. 2NE1 – ‘I am the Best’
I can almost hear your collective groan. Yes, YG Entertainment artists do get a lot of attention for their Western appeal. You would think that they were the only label that existed if you were to go by the K-Pop coverage from Western news outlets. However, one cannot deny that this attention is with good reason. YG often gives us a version of American hip hop on steroids with that perfecy signature Korean twist, which makes their artists some of the most palatable for Western music fans. This particular song shows how tough and unique the ladies of 2NE1 really are, it screams feminine independence and has a Korean hook line that will make any K-Pop newbie chuffed to learn. (At least, it did me).
2. CNBlue – ‘I’m a Loner’
Here is another song with a hook-line in the Korean language that can slip into anyone’s head with zero effort. CNBlue also have that perfect mix of ‘The Beatles’-inspired rock-pop charm and some fast and cool rap verses. This is a great track to show someone who has an aversion to your average boyband. Of course, these guys are great looking and produce pop, but they also play their own instruments and produce their own material.
3. B.A.P – ‘No Mercy’
This track is a good way to introduce and individual to the world of traditional Korean instruments. The use of drums here gives out a slight vibe of authentic Korean history, seamlessly slotted into an otherwise very modern and arguably very Westernised song. As with many B.A.P songs, ‘No Mercy’ is one that you can really stomp along to, and their typical mix of rap and powerful vocal offers a smorgasbord of talent for any music lover’s appreciation.
4. Taeyang – ‘Only Look At Me’
Arguably, Big Bang’s Taeyang could be said to be the king of modern South Korean R’n’B. This classic slow jam will surely please any fan of smooth singers such as Usher. The song itself is also deceptively catchy, and is the sort that anyone will catch themselves swaying to after a few listens.
5. Rain – ‘LA SONG’
Taeyang may or may not be the king of South Korean R’n’B, but Rain is often openly given the title of the king of K-Pop as a whole. This single from his latest album has a distinctly American vibe coursing through it’s veins. Rain gives his all dancing to the heavy beat, and the song’s structure is oh so simple, yet oh so effective.
6. Super Junior – ‘Sorry Sorry’
This track is often touted as Super Junior’s breakthrough song, and a lot of ELFs I have come across actually became a SuJu fan after hearing this song. 13 members is a ridiculous amount to the non-K-Popper (and still is to many a veteran K-Popper), however, Super Junior always made it work so well. This is a good song to illustrate how much training and preparation goes into your average K-Pop group. The song itself is also awesomely bouncy and the choreography just begs to be mimicked.
7. Miss A – ‘Hush Hush’
This track is perfect for any Westerner that believes all East Asian girls are school-uniformed, pig-tailed cuties that throw peace signs at every opportunity. Certainly, this type of lady does exist here and there, but it is by no means the be all and end all of the East Asian female. Miss A’s sexy glamour in this track is steeped in class and maturity. You couldn’t be further from Sailor Moon if you tried.
8. Block B – ‘Very Good’
Okay, so this is for the most brave K-Pop newbie out there. Block B endeavour to embrace the craziest and most off-the-wall themes around, There is an awful lot going on in this single, so you might only want to recommend it to an individual you know will be open to all that energy. The English hook-line will surely be a winner, but there is that danger of the song being dismissed as just typical of “those funny Asians, eh?!”
9. G – Dragon – ‘Crooked’
True to his YG form, G-Dragon seems to be an artist that translates well on an international scale. He’s got the confidence and talent to appeal to those in East and West alike it would seem. Of course, the MV for his single ‘Crooked’ would be a great one to show any British person, simply because it’s based in London. It also shows GD at his fashionista best, never mind that he is a little emotional.
10. SHINee – Lucifer
If you want to show someone the amazing dance skills of some K-Pop idols, SHINee would at least be on the list of choices, right? Lucifer shows the interesting fashion choices that are often part and parcel of the genre. ‘Lucifer’ is a song that doesn’t really give you time to consider anything other than the awesomeness of the members. It’s another one you can stomp along to – so get your friends on their feet and dance!
11. DBSK – ‘Mirotic’
As a bonus track, this song was actually the first K-Pop song I ever heard and is the one that ‘opened the gates’ for me personally. Upon further discussion with the UKP team, a few suggested this song be put on this playlist.
Perhaps it’s the full K-Pop package? Catchy song, English hook, amazing choreography…
What do you think?
You probably have many of your own suggestions for this playlist, so please let us know!
In any case, hopefully playlist gives you some ideas for any K-Pop-curious friends.
On the other hand, if you are a K-Pop newbie yourself, welcome and we hope these suggestions have piqued your interest in the genre!