As all the drama addicts out there probably know, a successful drama isn’t exclusively driven by an intricate plot, smooth camerawork, or even a star-studded cast. As a good drama eventually ends and gets replaced by new ones, the most effective way to immediately play a flashback reel of memories and feels is a memorable OST. Inevitably, the most powerful songs sync perfectly with the actors’ emotional performances as well as reach a wide viewership. Although this list doesn’t include every single drama OST out there, let’s take a look at some iconic ones, the ones that can almost automatically bring the drama, with all its feels, to life again in your mind.
If you are part of the million or so people already hooked on “Descendants of the Sun” these days, you most definitely are familiar with Gummy’s powerfully raw and emotional voice. You know, the one that plays every single time Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo stare in each other’s eyes, unable to fully confess but really confessing it all already? If you don’t know already, check it out. “Descendants of the Sun” airs every Wednesday and Thursday on KBS2. Catch the latest episode on Viki.
There were many, many tears shed recently in the aftermath of “Reply 1988,” as everyone bid farewell to the little neighborhood street where all its families slowly but surely captured our hearts. The feels from Oh Hyuk’s OST are twofold, not only because it brings us straight back to memories of Duk-seon (Hyeri), Taek (Park Bo Gum), Sun Woo (Go Kyung Po), Junghwan (Ryu Jun Yeol), and Dong-ryong (Lee Dong Hwi), but also because it’s a remake of the original 1985 Lee Moon Sae song, a tribute in part to the vibrant Korea of the 1980s. The song evokes that bittersweet taste of looking back on a simpler past that we can never go back to but has formed us as we are today.
“Love is the Moment—” There is no way you didn’t just sing that in your head while reading it, with all of its dramatic flair. While this OST definitely can’t be categorized as the most subtle, it did well to make its mark as an iconic song in a just as iconic drama, “Heirs.” Every time this song plays, you can see it all over again: Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye in all the teary angst of class difference and forbidden love, even as Changmin is practically yelling at them that “Love is the Moment!”
You can’t talk about iconic drama OSTs without mentioning Lyn’s “My Destiny” from “My Love From the Star.” Given the huge success that this drama saw with its ratings, it’s no surprise that the OST was just as successful and continues to live on even long after Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) and Cheon Song Yi (Jun Ji Hyun) found their destiny with each other. This drama in particular is particularly impactful for not only its memorable OST but also its most notably loud and extravagantly memorable characters (read: Cheon Song Yi).
This “Kill Me, Heal Me” OST sung by Jang Jae In featuring NaShow is particularly unique in that it has a rap portion which is something that hadn’t been too commonly heard in dramas even just five years ago. In its originality, this OST stands out as a perfect portrayal of Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung)’s dissociative identity disorder and his fight to finally have some peace.
“Healer” was also one of those dramas that crept up on everyone and quickly became that drama that many just couldn’t stop watching. The undeniable chemistry between the two leads, Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young, was only intensified and made that much more unforgettable by Ben’s sweet vocals in the background. All of this was brought together beautifully into one cohesive, moving story packed with action, suspense, and splashes of comedy.
Hyorin has lent her powerful vocals to many different drama OSTs in the past but her voice in the OST for “Master’s Sun” continues to resonate and bring back all the memories of Gong Hyo Jin clinging onto So Ji Sub, who would always yell at her to “Get lost” but slowly found himself falling for her charm.
Ah, the first in the series, the one that started it all: “Reply 1997“! The main OST for this drama, unlike some of the others on this list, doesn’t have one highly emotional voice belting out the chorus, but is even more precious and exceptional in the fact that it’s sung by its very own main leads, Jung Eun Ji and Seo In Guk. It’s not often that the lead actors can also impressively carry out singing the main OST for their own drama. Thus, the resulting song has it all: refreshing in its perfect synchronization with the vibe of the drama.
As we work our way back to dramas that aired some time ago, we can’t forget “Dream High” nor its main OST also sung by its multi-talented cast: Suzy, Taecyeon, Wooyoung, Kim Soo Hyun, and Joo. Like “All For You,” this OST is much lighter and bubbly in its composition but not any more forgettable because of it. While there is no violin accompaniment or full background chorus, the charm of this OST reflects the drama itself, a story of young aspiring teenagers working together through life’s obstacles to achieve their dreams.
“Secret Garden” is yet another drama that was a huge success, even spurring people to buy sparkly tracksuits like the one Hyun Bin rocks and inducing comedic parodies of the foam kiss scene. Of course, we can’t forget the OST that always set the mood for the sizzling chemistry between Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won. What’s special about this OST is that it was released in two different versions, one from the perspective of the man in the voice of Hyun Bin and the other from the woman in the voice of Baek Ji Young. In this way, the OSTs are the voices of the two leads as they tell the story from their own hearts which gives the viewers more insight.
“Cinderella’s Sister” was released some time ago, but the beauty of this OST sung by Yesung vividly brings back certain artistically beautiful scenes like the one of Moon Geun Young running away from the pain of her home, with her long black hair whipping behind her in the wind. This testifies to the importance of an OST if it can bring back certain snippets of the drama that would otherwise not be remembered.
Of course no drama OST list is complete without mentioning a long-standing OST queen, Girls’ Generation‘s Taeyeon. Her emotional vocals in OSTs make any drama that much more memorable, especially because her songs usually become widely popular, constantly played and even covered by fans of both the drama and Taeyeon herself. “If” is one of those earliest OST songs by Taeyeon in “Hong Gil Dong” that is still immensely loved today.
Another one of Taeyeon’s OST hits, “Can You Hear Me” lives on today as an iconic song in and of itself. Its drama, “Beethoven Virus,” also met critical success which helped the OST shoot to fame, as it even won the YEPP Popularity Award at the 2008 Golden Disk Awards. Through such a popular drama with a wide viewership, Taeyeon eventually carved out a place of respect for herself in the music industry as a top ballad singer.
Beside Taeyeon, Baek Ji Young also stands proudly as an OST queen, most notably for her song “Don’t Forget” in “Iris.” This song is truly iconic, not only for its emotional performance and Baek Ji Young’s phenomenal talent but also for its position as the emotionally-charged ballad behind Lee Byung Hun and Kim Tae Hee’s heartbreaking love story. It’s basically an OST classic and for good reason too.
Another OST classic, “Stand By Me” can only bring back memories of our beloved Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) in all his permed hair glory with his F4 friends and the cute Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun). Although mostly all of the OST tracks of “Boys Over Flowers” became classic hits because of the huge wave this drama caused, this one sung by SHINee stands out in particular in depicting the more light-hearted tones of this iconic drama.
Last but not least, Kim Bum Soo gives us an OST classic, arguably the ultimate classic that comes with its own flood of angsty memories and tears for love destined to be but torn apart time and time again. Kwon Sang Woo and Choi Ji Woo shot to fame after “Stairway to Heaven” not only became a success in Korea but also in China, Thailand, Japan, Latin America, and the Philippines. It’s a truly internationally acclaimed drama which goes to say that the OST itself also become an icon representing the power of the Korean Hallyu wave.
What are some of your favorite drama OSTs?
sophfly‘s latest obsessions include following Seo Dae Young and Yoon Myung Joo’s unrequited love story in “Descendants of the Sun” and fangirling over Red Velvet’s latest comeback stages.