The 10 Most Essential K-Pop Tracks of 2015 to Date
We are midway through the year and there have already been some belting K-Pop releases. So what better time than now to take stock of some of the best tracks to hit the charts thus far?
Has your favorite tune of 2015 made the list? Take a look at our picks, vote in the poll, and then let us know what songs from this year you won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
The last few 4Minute releases were a touch disappointing by the group’s own lofty standards. From the early days of “Hot Issue” and “Muzik,” this act has been the go-to girl group for fans of high-tempo pop and even higher tempo dance moves. “Huh” and “Volume Up” are timeless, but arguably the likes of “What’s Your Name?” and “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” were pretty average tracks that just about any K-Pop girl group could have come out with.
What 4Minute needed to start off 2015 with was something to make us all go…
The first release from the new album, “Cold Rain,” was a decent-enough song, but ballads are really not what 4Minute is about. Now heavy kick drums, noisy synths, and the sound of breaking glass – that is the 4Minute sound, and these are the elements that make up “Crazy.” All in all, a true return to form from one of the best girl groups out there. Even if the concept did make HyunaA look just a tad scary.
Wouldn’t like to bump into her in a dark alley!
Unexpectedly, the standout YG Entertainment track of the year so far has not come from one of the label’s flagship acts, but from one of its veteran artists, ’90s two-piece Jinusean.
BIGBANG’s comeback efforts were all good, but underwhelmed many fans (consider how high BIGBANG has set the bar for itself with previous releases).It has also been a year of relative inactivity so far from the likes of Epik High, 2NE1, and Lee Hi – hopefully part 2 of this year will see some of these musicians make their long-awaited returns.
But with the kind of relentless upbeat summer rhythm that we have only heard in recent years from the likes of DJ DOC, this comeback track is fun from start to finish. And surprisingly it reveals that despite so many years away from the game, Jinusean still has what it takes to perform a hit song.
But the real masterstroke about this song was its female vocal hook, a great vehicle for YG’s latest protégée, the former “K-Pop Star” contestant Jang Hana.
In various weeks on music shows, YG also managed to draft in some other fantastic cameo performances, including Suhyun of Akdong Musician, Ailee, Dara of 2NE1 and Secret’s Hyosung. The latter cameo led to this quite cute “Into You” dance tribute on KBS’ “Music Bank.”
However, the real attention-grabbing one obviously involved everyone’s favorite idol star du jour, EXID’s Hani.
A really fun song. You have to hope Jinusean delivers another “Jinusean Bomb” before the act’s next hiatus.
“Ice Cream Cake” was a little too sweet for some, but this number was certainly the antidote if you felt that way. Smooth is not really a sound you would associate with Red Velvet, but this was a straight-up, old-fashioned RnB number, and it seemed to fit this act just right. Which is why it seems a bit of a pity that “Ice Cream Cake” was promoted so heavily at the expense of this gem.
With its silky transitions and tight vocal production, this song exhibits a totally different side of Red Velvet, and feels right as a logical progression from last October’s “Be Natural.” With a few acts now exploring American RnB of the 90s as a musical theme (think 1punch, ToppDogg’s “Annie” last year, and Rubber Soul), the Red Velvet girls could gain much from exploring this exciting musical avenue, especially as they seem to be rather good at.
It is a pretty close call between this and “Call Me Baby” for the title best EXO track of 2015 so far, but I’d say this disco-infused number just about has the edge. Times have been pretty turbulent for EXO fans of late, and it was essential for the group that SM Entertainment got things right for the 2015 comeback. But fortunately, SM did just that, pulling out all the stops for both the “EXODUS” album and the repackage.
Drafting in the likes of Denzil “DR” Remedios, a sometime collaborator with Girl’s Day and Super Junior, and Jarah Lafayette Gibson (who worked on “Growl”) paid dividends for “Love Me Right,” while American super-producer Teddy Riley also collaborated on “Call Me Baby” – nothing was left to chance for EXO’s 2015 releases.
However, it is the infectious guitar sound on “Love Me Right” that makes this one of EXO’s most unforgettable songs to date.
The number one new female group of 2015 so far as voted by Soompi readers over at this page, CLC has already made quite a stir in the K-Pop world, despite the fact that the girls only debuted in March this year. But with a first track this good, you can imagine that there will be plenty of CLC in the charts in the years to come.
A brass-driven bassline, uplifting vocals, and a chorus that gets stuck in your head (for the right reasons), this is feel-good pop that presses all the right buttons.
Hands down the song of the first half of 2015, in my book. With raw, emotive lyrics, high-quality vocal delivery, and inventive production, it avoids many of the K-Pop clichés that many other acts have fallen into this year.
The performances were also great. Beginning with a dance move ever-so-slightly reminiscent of INFINITE’s quintessential Scorpion dance from the “BTD” choreography…
…is a great way to start, but the whole of the “I Need U” dance routine is spot on. It manages to be sexy while avoiding some of the crotch-grabbing antics that other K-Pop boybands are currently going with.
Like BIGBANG’s “Haru Haru” back in 2008, this is a song that stays with you long after you have finished listening to it, and cements BTS’ status as one of the K-Pop world’s standout boybands.
A whole host of great music has come out of Mnet’s reality rap-battle show “Unpretty Rapstar,” but this is perhaps the jewel in the crown. A memorable cameo from M.I.B star Kangnam adds a smooth edge to some typically fierce rap sections from Cheetah and Jessi, who have now quite safely established themselves as Korea’s leading non-girl group female emcees.
Couple that with a quite epic Verbal Jint-produced beat and you are looking at what is probably the outstanding hip hop track of the year – unless part 2 of 2015 has something pretty spectacular to offer.
I really tried hard not to like this song, because from its title alone, you knew that it would be a festival of butt-shaking and ultra-revealing outfits. When it dropped – no surprise – it was all that and much more.
As it was released at around about the same time as another carnival of butt-shaking and flush-inducing outfits in the shape of Tahiti’s “Phone Number,” you had the feeling that you’d be all butt-shaken out by the end of 2015.
But the bass on this Brave Brothers-produced effort was, as the kids say, as fat as they come. And as much as you might try to hate on this song, the vocals are good, and the arrangement is watertight.
The standard for girl group dance songs has been set very high this year thanks to this release. Better even than the Jason Derulo song that supposedly inspired the whole thing.
Catchy simply is not the word for this song. I think it employs some kind of little-known mind trick to get inside the human head and stay in there for weeks on end. Just reading the lyrics, “Neomu areum-daun-daun-daun-daun view,” should be enough to get it lodged into your brain for at least a day (sorry if you are not a fan!). There was also this dance move.
For non-SHAWOLs who take only a passing interest in SHINee activities, songs like “Everybody” and “Dream Girl” have come and gone. But “View” is an indispensable track and a return to form for anyone who likes the boys’ more dance-infused releases.
With a beat that is very reminiscent of late ‘90s house and keyboard sounds that draw heavily from the early 2000s twostep scene, this is actually a very sophisticated piece of music, and represents quite an interesting departure for the group.
After the unprecedented success of “Up and Down,” which stayed near the top of the charts almost from August last year until February this year, EXID needed to do something other than keep performing what had become the group’s flagship song. Even if “Up and Down,” the fancam and all, has been a one-way ticket to mega-fame for the fab five, the girls needed to cook up something new fast.
The result was “Ah Yeah” – pretty much the Beta Version of “Up and Down,” with the same kind of circa-120bpm tempo as its predecessor, the same kind of faux-brass hook, the same kind of deep sub-bass ghost beat, the same rap-singing balance and lots of Solji vocal gymnastics. Plus another easily copyable (and highly suggestive) dance.
Oh, and plenty of this kind of thing (*blushes profusely and mutters something like, “This isn’t my GIF, I’m just looking after it for a friend”*).
But it turned out that the Beta Version of “Up and Down” was exactly what we all wanted. The next effort might as well be “Up and Down Part III.” It doesn’t matter. We will all just love it anyway.
Long may EXID fever last. Personally I can’t get enough of this group.
Epic Whistle Intro of the Year:
The best whistling since this.
Meanwhile, in the “Should Have Been Title Tracks” Category:
Dal Shabet’s “Obsessed”
Trumps the “Joker” any day.
EXO’s “El Dorado”
A city of lost gold for EXO fans.
miss A’s “Love Song”
“Colors” is a pretty serious EP, folks. Is it me or is every other song on the album better than the lead track?
And in the too-much-fun-not-to-get-a-mention category:
MYNAME’s “Too Very So Much”
Go mori! Go mori! Go mori! Go mori!
Infinite H’s “Pretty”
Can we have some more Infinite H, please?
MAMAMOO and eSNa’s “Ahh Oop!”
Mamamoo – how is this much fun not illegal?
Now it is over to you Soompiers! Which songs have stood out for you so far in 2015? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and also check out the YouTube playlist we have made from this list.
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.