Not only is K-pop an entertaining way to explore Korean popular culture (and a great reason to start learning Korean!), but it’s also perfect for dancing at parties, grooving at work, and for singing in the shower.
With the world’s ears tuned into Korea for the Winter Games, we’d like to talk about the most popular melodies coming from that side of the world: K-pop! Korean pop music, or K-pop, is a genre of music that encompases everything from catchy pop tunes to hip-hop. For an overview of K-pop, check out the Ask a Korean blog for a brief introduction to and history of K-pop.
Below are five K-pop songs from groups that we love (plus a bonus song) from across a few different genres of K-pop. One of the best things about K-pop is that there is something for everything — even if you’re not a fan of the songs we chose, we’re certain there’s a K-pop group or singer out there for you. So, let’s get started!
1. 트와이스 'Twice' — "Signal"
K-pop groups tend to be made of up four or more members (called idols), and the groups are usually all-male or all-female. Twice is a nine-member girl group. They are part of one of the agencies from the “Big 3” called JYP. You may have heard Twice’s song “Likey” during the beginning ceremonies of the Winter Games. If you like “Signal,” we recommend listening to “TT” and “Knock Knock.”
2. 레드벨벳 'Red Velvet' — "Russian Roulette"
Red Velvet is a five-member girl group from another of the Big 3 agencies (SM Entertainment). While their newer music is a bit darker, it’s still great to groove to. If you want to see where Red Velvet is going with their music, however, we highly recommend checking out both “Peek-A-Boo” (this was almost the song we choose by them!) and “Bad Boy,” which was released earlier this year.
3. 세븐틴 ‘Seventeen’ — “Don't Wanna Cry”
The boy group Seventeen writes, produces, and choreographs most of their music themselves, and the results are almost always excellent. “Don’t Wanna Cry” is a great song in itself, but it also has some really interesting choreography. One of the coolest things about Seventeen is that each of the thirteen members is part of a subgroup: the Hip-Hop Team, the Vocal Team, and the Performance Team. Most of their recent releases include songs by each of the teams. Check out the Hip-Hop team’s song called “Trauma” and “Highlight” by the Performance team, as well as the rest of their releases. Also, if you’re in an area where Seventeen is touring, go see them!
4. 비원에이포 ‘B1A4’ — “Rollin’”
A five-member boy group, B1A4 has been around since 2011 and has consistently been putting out great music. While “Rollin’” escaped our notice last year, it has captured our hearts in 2018! It’s a really engaging song, with a bit of a chill vibe. You should also listen to “Beautiful Target,” “Lonely,” and “Solo Day.”
5. 샤이니 SHINee — “Tell Me What To Do”
While it was a struggle to choose only five songs because there are so many good K-pop groups, the boy group SHINee was a must-have for this list. Their music is as unique as the five men who make up the group.
Sadly, in December 2017, lead singer Jonghyun took his life. He was a strong singer outside of SHINee as well, and produced multiple solo albums, the last of which was released posthumously earlier this year. If you’d like to know more about Jonghyun’s life, please check out this beautiful obituary on NPR.
SHINee will celebrate their 10-year anniversary this year, and in that 10 years they have produced quite a bit of music. You can find all of their Korean music on Spotify, including the solo albums by Taemin and Jonghyun. Their music styles change with each release, and you will probably find something you’ll love. So, please, give them a listen.
Bonus song: 방탄소년단 'BTS' — "Save Me"
No K-pop list would be complete without BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys. By now, many of you may be familiar with them. They were at the American Music Awards last year, and one of their songs, “DNA,” was played during the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Korea; plus they’ll be gracing the cover of Billboard Magazine shortly. Their seven-member boy group debuted in 2014 with a hip-hop style that has captured the hearts of music-lovers across the world.
The music video for “Save Me” was choreographed by a dance crew that you may recognize from last summer’s World of Dance: The Quick Style. BTS is constantly making new music and touring, so if you’re looking for a group to keep up with, BTS will be the easiest.
As you can see, K-pop is a genre of pop music that cannot be easily defined. Once you delve into K-pop, you may end up in other places, too! Explore Korean language and culture with Mango Languages’ practical Korean lessons, which introduce you to Korean vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture — all through the context of real conversations. Log into your Mango Languages’ profile to start learning.
Are you a fan of K-pop? If so, share your favorite K-pop song with us by posting in the comments below!