Sometimes a great K-pop song can be lifted even further when an artist reaches out to another for help.
There have been so many great rap featuring spots that we will devote a whole article to that subject – coming soon to Soompi!
But today it’s time to shine the spotlight on guest singers.
So buckle up and join us on a rollercoaster ride through some of the best tracks of the past few years to feature another K-pop artist’s singing.
Tell us your thoughts on our picks, and let us know who your favorite non-rap featuring artist is in the comments below.
Seo Taiji explained that his wife’s appreciation of IU’s music was a motivating factor behind this quite remarkable end to a long hiatus from the music industry.
Speaking in fall last year, the veteran star spoke of how his wife, the actress Lee Eun Sung, used to play IU songs during their courtship.
Whatever the reasons for this unlikely get-together, the result was one of the defining songs of K-pop in 2014, a fantastic mix of rich, multi-layered synthesizers and IU’s hypnotic vocals.
IU’s vocals have an ethereal quality that few producers and songwriters have ever really exploited to this kind of extent. At certain points, the vocals are layered, at others they are reversed – all to great effect.
Totally unexpected and totally bewitching.
Say what you will about SM Entertainment (and on the Internet, many do), but it is an entertainment company that really knows how to combine its talent’s powers.
Just about every SM album you care to mention includes a featuring spot from another SM artist. And there have been so many memorable ones.
BoA’s “One Dream” (the theme tune for SBS’ “K-Pop Star”) featured not just Super Junior-M member Henry, but also Key of SHINee. That is quite a lot of star power for one song.
Key is a popular fella, it seems.
He also popped up on Girls’ Generation’s “Boys and Girls.”
But this track was probably the most disarming of all SM featuring spots to date.
Neither f(x) nor EXO are really known for their slower, more emotional numbers. Both acts have a harder, dancier edge, for the most part. So when f(x) teamed up with EXO’s D.O, the results were surprising. And surprisingly good.
Maybe the forthcoming f(x) album could re-enlist D.O for another dose of this kind of thing? Stranger things have happened in K-pop.
Anyone who has been paying attention to Girl’s Day will have noticed that Minah is not the only talented vocalist in the group. Slowly but surely, Sojin has been proving here and there that she is not just about looking good.
She has a wide vocal range, and the willingness to seek out the opportunity to sing on her own, even attempting tricky songs like John Legend’s “All of Me.”
Girls’ Day songs tend to be fast-n-fun dance numbers with so-called sexy concepts.
This kind of style does not require much from Sojin in terms of singing ability. However, this is a star who clearly has both skill and the desire to showcase her talent.
Plus some very polished piano skills, to boot.
But to sign up for a featuring spot on a track with the likes of Party Street’s Kim Tae Bum, possibly the best male vocalist on the Korean indie scene, takes guts if you are an idol star like Sojin.
Party Street has everything to gain from the extra exposure. However, Sojin has much more to lose if the song ends up going pear-shaped.
The result, however, is something very accomplished indeed.
Even bandmate Yura gets involved, with a music video and promo shot appearance.
A very nice track indeed. More of this kind of thing, please.
Choa? From AOA? On a reggae song? Wait…what?!?
When I first heard this song, I wondered if I was having a fever dream. Then I saw the music video and I felt almost certain I was deep in the midst of said fever dream.
Primary is a wonderful, creative musician, but he is mostly associated with hip-hop music. What on earth is he up to making reggae?
Surely when you are putting together a track like this, you want to enlist someone with a proven reggae track record? Someone like Skull, maybe.
Or Kim Gun Mo, the first Korean artist to have a major hit with a reggae tune.
Instead this lady gets the nod:
Really? With Choa’s rock background, you can imagine her on an indie track maybe. Reggae seems a bit leftfield to say the least. No, scratch that. On paper, there seems to be no logic at all in this.
The ingredients are all wrong: a hip-hop innovator making reggae, a seemingly miscast girl group member, even rapper Iron is in there for some reason.
Surprisingly, however, it works, and Choa is fabulous. “Don’t Be Shy” is, strangely enough, hands-down one of the best songs I have heard all year. It works on every level you care to name.
Oh for a full album of this sort of stuff.
It is still very early in the day for Lovelyz, who only debuted in November last year. However, as a group, they seem like much of a muchness so far. Call me a cynic, but there is something a bit generic about their look and output.
And this is a pity. Before the group’s debut, Woollim Entertainment, the girls’ agency, was talking about the challenges of making the act “unique.”
Well, as of yet, nothing about the girls really comes across as very unique. Arguably, A Pink (and more recently G-Friend) seem to have the schoolgirl-cute concept angle well and truly covered.
That said, Lovelyz is certainly not a group without some considerable talent. In 2013, some of the members danced backup for Infinite during performances of “Man In Love.”
And before Lovelyz, Baby Soul was doing things like this, with the likes of Wheesung, no less.
But this pre-Lovelyz tie-in with Infinite H is arguably the best thing Baby Soul has done to date. And with probably the most exciting boy band subunit project around at that.
With all the Tasty fallout still fresh in K-pop fans’ minds, a few more Infinite-Lovelyz collaborations could put the girl group, and Baby Soul in particular, onto the right track.
What a way to launch your label’s flagship boyband and girl group – throw every single member out there at once. Looking back at this song, over half a decade later, so much has changed, and both groups have matured immensely.
But back in 2009, this was exactly what K-pop needed: a shot in the arm from a big talent agency with a large cluster of gifted artists who just ooze stage presence.
And more than just a charm offensive from G-Dragon, CL, Minzy, and the rest, this was actually a very good track. Electro-dance pop with a nice, distorted synth bassline and well-organized vocal production.
Since then, the BIGBANG–2NE1 tie-ins have been few and far between, notwithstanding the odd music video appearance like Dara’s memorable Taeyang dance-off in this music video.
With the two acts on different trajectories, it is hard to say if the entirety of both groups will ever share a studio again. Regardless, it is worth remembering what a daring and explosive start both acts made with this track.
Younger K-pop fans might not remember a time when Baek Ji Young was famous not for this kind of thing…
…but rather for fast, sexy dance tracks like this:
But then 2000 happened. Rocked by a sex tape scandal, she retreated from the limelight for six years, returning with a brand new, slower and more pensive style.
And it seemed as though she had left her dance days in the previous century. Until 2009, that is.
Perhaps she wanted just a final dance hurrah before permanently returning to the world of ballads. Or perhaps she felt she had unfinished business in the world of dance. Whatever her motives, “My Ear’s Candy” was the old-school, sexy Baek Ji Young, not the heartstring-tugging balladeer we all know now.
So could there have been a better move to make when foraying back into that kind of territory than enlisting a member of one of the hottest boybands around?
In retrospect, it was a masterstroke. Taecyeon’s growling vocals were the perfect foil for Baek Ji Young’s more refined and dulcet higher tones.
And no matter which way your bread is buttered, it is hard to deny that the performances of this track were sexy enough to make your blood pump in time with the track’s deep house beats.
Baechigi get all the best artists in for their featuring spots. There have been Ailee, MC Sniper, and Park Soo Jin to name just three.
And then there’s the recent “Shut Up” featuring Solji (which is as good a reason as any to include a picture of Solji).
But leaving aside my unquenchable craving for everything EXID, the Anglee tie-in for “Ddureyo” has been the rap duo’s best track to date.
Quite capable of crafting very good funky tracks on his own, Anglee is an artist who does not get much attention on the K-pop scene, but is also a real talent in his own right.
This effort, featuring Kye Bum Joo, could just as easily have made the list, too.
And “Ddureyo” ended up being so good, Baechigi couldn’t resist going back for more – the most recent Baechigi album includes “Radio,” also a very solid track.
Here’s hoping for more “Featuring Anglee” credits on Baechigi releases in the future.
Not one of 4MINUTE’s better known tracks, but certainly one of the group’s most eventful. There have been a few occasions in the past where Cube Entertainment’s big two groups have crossed paths before, not least of all the brain-bakingly sexy Troublemaker project.
But the whole of 4MINUTE on a track with the whole of BEAST? That is a LOT of goodness to get onto a mere two minutes of song time.
The boys also stuck around long enough to appear in the “HUH?” music video from the same album.
What could be better? Well, how about all of BEAST on stage chanting your name, and fireworks exploding everywhere next time you make an entrance?
Now that’s what I call an intro.
Utterly unexpected, but utterly brilliant. UV bringing in Park Jin Young (aka JYP) for a 1980s love-in session sounds bizarre, but the reality was even crazier than it first sounded.
What originally started out as a parody of the music and videos of German-British post-disco act London Boys…
… quickly turned into a love-filled ode to the duo, trash-littered streets and all.
This never gets tired, no matter how many times you hear (or watch) it.
And don’t forget that it also brought about this deliciously uncalled-for overdose of Crayon Pop madness.
You’ve read our thoughts, now it’s your turn Soompiers! What is your favorite non-rap featuring performance on a K-pop song? Which artists enlist the best featuring acts? Who would you like to see featuring on your favorite group’s next song? Let us know in the comments below!
Playlist: “10 Outstanding K-Pop Vocal Featuring Performances”
timmydee is a music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electronica and a hankering for hip-hop. When he isn’t writing for Soompi, he is remixing your favorite K-Pop tracks — with sometimes astounding (but often catastrophic) results.
*The views expressed in this article solely reflect those of the author and do not represent Soompi as a whole.