In the year of 2018, Korean producers and artists alike have proven one universal truth: that one does not need to understand the Korean language to enjoy K-pop. Pushing every musical boundary that ever existed, the music has easily won us over with its catchy tunes and addictive lyrics.
With a wide range of genres such as hip-hop, synth-pop, R&B, and EDM, 2018 has seen both emerging Korean artists and veterans achieve commercial success through a mash-up of genres to create these upbeat bops that are hard to miss. To celebrate a year of ground-breaking musical accomplishments and reinvention like never before, the team at
10. La Vie en Rose – IZ*ONE
We’ve watched them fight for their rightful positions in MNET reality talent competition Produce 48, and after 2 months of anticipation, the 12 girls that formed the new South Korean-Japanese girl group IZ*ONE (pronounced as ‘i-zone’) proved their mettle with their debut single, La Vie en Rose.
Amidst the controversy that the song initially belonged to Cube Entertainment’s CLC, IZ*ONE did the mid-tempo track justice by offering a fresh sound, a youthful energy, and an extremely neat dance choreography to match.
9. I Love You – EXID
Following the quintet’s viral breakthrough single Up & Down, it is arguable that ‘I Love You’ follows closely behind. ‘I Love You’ scored EXID their best first sales week, selling 1,000 downloads in the week ending 22 November.
The single marks a long-awaited full reunion, as the group’s main vocalist, Solji, was on hiatus to recover from hyperthyroidism since 2016. A shocking departure from her feminine long locks, this would also mark the first time the group’s main dancer Jeonghwa is rocking a short bob haircut. We’ll definitely not be surprised if this reignites a bob hair trend next year.
8. Siren – SUNMI
Formerly known as a member of Wonder Girls, the 26-year-old superstar has definitely made 2018 her year. The third single of Sunmi’s Warning EP, Siren, showcases the soloist’s passionate vocals at its prime.
Inspired by mythology, the track is a clever play of the double entendre of its title; conveying the myth of a seductive and dangerous siren, and evoking the singer’s passionate caution simultaneously. Just like its empowering music video, the anthemic track boasts a catchy chorus that best encapsulates the theme of her EP.
Wind flower – MAMAMOO
There is an interesting blend of R&B and jazz in
Known for their powerful vocals, especially in previously released singles such as ‘Starry Night‘ and ‘Egotistic‘, it is nice to witness the group’s versatility with
6. LATATA – (G)I-DLE
(G)-Idle (short for “Girl Idol”), is one to look out for in 2019. Formed by Cube Entertainment, the six-member girl group has already won numerous awards and nominations since it was formed in May this year, such as Asia Artist Awards‘ “Best Rookie of the Year”, and Melon Music Awards’ “Best New Artist (Female)”.
The group’s house-influenced debut single, LATATA, features a strong sound, mostly cemented by the group’s leader and main rapper, Soyeon. Although LATATA lazily rides on the waves of the ‘girl-crush’ visual concept, it is one that attributed the group’s success and brought them on the world map.
5. What is Love? – TWICE
You would think that JYP Entertainment’s star girl group TWICE would be running out of hits this year, but the nine-member group delivered yet another bubbly pop single with “What is Love?“.
Showcasing their sweeter side, the energy in this track seemed a little flat than usual, but the melodic verses and catchy chorus redeemed this slight imbalance. The familiar call-and-response and shout-out lyrical template that is synonymous with TWICE is also followed in “What is Love?“, albeit in a cleaner structure.
4. LOVE SCENARIO – iKON
One of the most refreshing songs of 2018, there is a sense of carefreeness and devil-may-care attitude in LOVE SCENARIO. Formed by YG Entertainment, the seven-member group has experienced a frustrating comeback in previous
As the members hark back to the days of a past romance, the light-hearted piano chords and simple melody punctured the song with memorable liners to sing-along. The most praiseworthy aspect of LOVE SCENARIO is that the melody rises and hints at an instrumental switch, but instead, the song goes back to its minimalistic opening verses.
This is different from the run-of-the-mill K-pop tracks, which has conditioned its listeners to expect a drop when a song’s melody is signalling a transition from the bridge to its chorus, for example. While the pace of LOVE SCENARIO may seem unsettling on first listen, it is definitely one of the most inventive and original K-pop tracks that 2018 deserves.
3. Roller Coaster – CHUNG HA
If there is one song that best describes the K-pop genre, Roller Coaster would be it.
Known for finishing fourth in Mnet’s survival competition, Produce 101, the 22-year-old soloist has been praised for her all-rounded talent ability. As her first comeback as a solo artist, ‘Roller Coaster’ is an upbeat dance-pop, which allows CHUNG HA to play on her strengths as a dancer – all while showcasing her mature persona without the need to play on the done-to-death cute image.
2. DDU-DU DDU-DU – Blackpink
It’s impossible to talk about K-pop music in 2018 without talking about Blackpink, who has taken the world by storm ever since they made their memorable ‘BOOMBAYAH’ debut stage back in 2016. Since then, the quartet has never stopped generating hits, making them one of the most internationally-known K-pop groups next to BTS and TWICE.
Even if the senseless liner “Hit you with that ddu-ddu ddu-du” baffles you every single time the song comes on, you know that lyrical sense isn’t really in Blackpink’s dictionary as the song continues to become a cult hit, soaring in countless music charts – months after its release.
The music video for DDU-DU DDU-DU also made history for being the most watched K-pop music video of 2018 on YouTube. At the time of writing, the video has over 575 million views since it was launched on 15 June 2018. The group’s label, YG Entertainment, has also announced that each Blackpink member will have their own solo projects, with Jennie’s latest debut single ‘Solo’ launched early last month to get the ball rolling.
Bboom Bboom – MOMOLAND
Formed because of yet another talent competition, Finding Momoland, the nine-member group finally made their breakthrough after 2 years with their debut single,
For surpassing over 100 million streams, ‘Bboom Bboom’ also became the second song ever to earn a Platinum certification by Gaon Music Chart, with iKON’s LOVE SCENARIO being the first to attain this milestone earlier this year.
The interesting dance choreography for the song also showcases the members’ cheery style – a must-watch, even if it is just for that moment when lead dancer JooE goes wild almost every single time during the breakdown.
Cover photo courtesy of Blackpink’s DDU-DU DDU-DU Music Video.