Here Is Your Ultimate K-Pop Summer Playlist
Summer is nothing without banging tunes. But when the sun is out, who has time to sit around, carefully handpicking playlists? Soompi, that’s who!
There’s no need to agonize about the soundtrack to summer 2015, dear readers. We’ve got all of your music needs covered right here.
Take a read, have a listen, and then let us know if we have missed out any of your summer faves in the comments below!
Let’s get this joint started right with an oldie but a goodie. If you had to sum up K-pop summer music in a single song, that song would be “Sunset Glow.”
The boys have moved away from this sound and have embarked an altogether more mature musical journey with more recent releases. But summer is about carefree, ultra-catchy tunes, and BIGBANG’s take on this 1980s classic took the song to new heights.
It is one of the few cover versions that most people would agree tops the original.
And who can forget the big yellow BIGBANG summer bus?
This impressive machine even made its way onto the stages of a few music shows.
And with T.O.P at the wheel…
…you had better make sure your safety belt is securely fastened!
Nothing shouts summer quite like a reggae beat, and although many K-pop acts have tried their hands at this genre, most have failed. But 2NE1 and regular producer Teddy got everything spot on with this track.
A deep bassline, plenty of rap breakdowns, and a few ragga and dancehall-inspired instruments, this was arguably 2NE1’s best song in years, and came at perhaps the peak of the group’s activities, the busy summer of 2013.
2NE1 would release a full-length studio album in the winter following this release, but it has now been two whole summers without a new 2NE1 song.
Fortunately, this one is good enough to keep us going for a little while yet.
From the scorching hot summer of 2012, this track has become an anthem for the hottest months of the year.
Sexy. Free. Single. All the things you want to be when the weather starts heating up. And if you are none of the above *sighs*, you can dream, can’t you?
(Oh, look another boyband summer bus!)
“Girls, Girls, Girls” was a decent-enough debut for GOT7, but many fans probably expected something a little more special from a new JYP Entertainment boyband. And they certainly got it in the form of “A” in summer last year, which came replete with a very cute video.
With a laid-back vibe, a very nice beat and a catchy chorus, this is the kind of track you want the poolside bar to start playing while you are sipping on a fresh coconut. Or when you are stuck at your desk, dreaming that you were doing just that.
Not to be confused with the Rainbow song of the same name.
There is no such thing as summer without ice cream. Before the sweet treat was invented, there were no summers. Just an endless, dull procession of winters.
Fortunately, some genius once came up with the idea of freezing milk, cream or water and adding fruity flavors. Summer was instantly born.
And K-pop acts have always been obsessed with ice cream. MC Mong was singing about it back in the late 2000s:
And even in the middle of winter, Red Velvet were dreaming of cakes made of the stuff.
K-pop artists seem to think there is something intrinsically sexy about ice cream. I have no idea what gave them that idea.
So surely it was only a matter of time before the princess of all things sexy, HyunA, decided to tackle the subject. Cue a gazillion inevitable ice cream innuendos.
As well as a quite brazenly irrelevant but instantly unforgettable bathtub scene.
(No, I’m not making a GIF. People get arrested for less.)
Well, if anyone was going to do it, HyunA was.
Perhaps this is a more obvious summer-themed B1A4 track:
But, to be brutally frank, B1A4 can and have done a lot better than that fluffy number.
Perhaps file this one under “misheard lyrics,” but I could have sworn they were singing “summer-summer day” until I finally saw the song’s title in print.
Regardless, there is certain summertime vibe to this track, a relentless upbeat rhythm that sounds like it makes a lot more sense when the sun is out.
Semi-acoustic guitars and lots of whistling set the summer mood. And even if this song is actually about celebrating the joys of being unattached, there is something very late-July about it.
By the way, Soompiers, any idea as to what a “Flower Vagabond” is? Because according to the music video, Gongchan is one of those.
The video also featured this fun moment.
“Get your thieving paws off my mountain of pancakes!”
After so much too-ing and fro-ing with concepts – sexy to cute and back again, Secret’s most recent full-group release was exactly what probably the vast majority of the group’s fans wanted to hear.
Namely, a high-tempo summer dance hit stuffed with brass, a catchy chorus, and skimpy outfits all round. Just what the doctor ordered for May-September.
“Secret Summer” indeed.
It may sound a little dated in terms of production, but there is just no way you can even attempt to compile a K-pop summer playlist without including this track. From the heady days of the early 1990s, a time before K-pop even really existed, this kind of thing laid the foundations for the summer sound we take for granted every time May/June rolls in.
The song’s influence cannot be overstated. In fact, it still sets the standard for K-pop producers in terms of tempo, beat, and sound effects when trying to capture the essence of summer in a song.
Everyone and their mother has done a version of this, including Girl’s Day.
Girl’s Day leader Sojin also made a decent fist of her solo version of “In the Summer,” featuring a really nice rap section from Zizo.
There is also VIXX.
And a surprisingly good effort from Red Velvet’s Seulgi.
Do you have a favorite remake of this song? Why not let us know in the comments below?
When the weather is hot, you need to hurry up and eat your ice cream before it melts. Right? Well, that will have to do as an excuse to crowbar this track onto this playlist.
With sub-bass so heavy it makes your bone marrow quiver like jelly, that keyboard line – remind me exactly why this was not a lead song?
I will not pretend I am always enamored by SHINee’s musical content. The group started really strong with “Love Like Oxygen” and “Replay,” but since then the songs have been sometimes great, sometimes less so.
There have always been a few decent summery tracks, the likes of this:
Replete with camping scenes and hot air balloons.
But this year’s album release, “Odd,” is a real musical upgrade for SHINee, a true coming of age album. And released in May this year, just when the weather was starting to warm up, it was a perfectly timed album, too.
“View” is a pretty summery track in a late night summer club way. But “Love Sick” is the track you want on your playlist when you are packing your swimming shorts and snorkel this year.
“Mamma Mia” – the title makes you think of ABBA songs, surprised Italians and Meryl Streep movies.
But this song had nothing to do with any of the above. Instead it was all about making a mark as a group that had been forced to reinvent itself after several months of turmoil.
When two of your most popular members walk out of the group and fans launch nationwide protests against your plans to add a new member via a reality TV show, your back is really against the wall.
Fortunately for agency DSP Media, KARA’s agency, adding Young Ji turned out to be a masterstroke. And it was a masterstroke only outshone by the sheer quality of this song, released at the business end of summer 2014.
On a good day, nobody can write a better girl group song than Duble Sidekick. And it must have been a good day when the superproducer sat down to write this number.
Bursting with energy from first note to last, this song has quickly become the definitive K-pop girl group summer jam.
Despite the group’s almost excessively macho name, the BEAST boys actually makes less testosterone-fueled music than their moniker would suggest. In fact, after an explosive and very beastlike start with songs like “Shock,” this kind of pensive power ballad thing has become more commonplace:
But every good summer playlist needs a high-octane boyband number, and last year BEAST provided us with just that. Seems there is plenty of summertime grr left in these Beasts yet.
What you need on a summer playlist is lots of house music. A heavy beat, female vocals, fuzzy basslines – a sound that comes straight from the Ibiza house scene of the late 1990s and went on to dominate the pop sound of the early 2000s.
Ibiza house originated on the beaches of the sun-soaked Spanish island, so little wonder that it sounds so good on sweaty summer nights.
Ibiza house is a sound that you still hear in American and British pop to this day, but it rarely makes an appearance in K-pop. When it does, it is usually in songs by the likes of BIGBANG and 2NE1 (I have a suspicion that YG Entertainment producer Teddy is a closet house head).
Which is why this song is so surprising.
Nine Muses worked almost exclusively with producer Sweetune until the groups long, recent hiatus. When the group finally came back earlier this year with the sadly quite disappointing “Drama,” minus Sweetune, many fans may have lost heart.
But what the girls have just served up for us is arguably as good as anything they have ever put out.
“Hurt Locker” was expertly assembled by sometime Shinhwa, KARA, and EXO collaborator E.One and the lyrics were co-written by Urban Cllasik. ZE:A fans will attest to the fact that E.One-Urban Cllasik make for quite a team – the two also worked together on three tracks on the “First Homme” album last year.
But this track is the sound of summer 2015; and a totally unexpected retro-house tour de force for Nine Muses after the false start of “Drama.”
Oh, yeah. And bikinis and surfboards and beaches and stuff.
On the evidence of recent years, K-pop fans could be forgiven for thinking that the SISTAR girls only engage in full-group activities in summer. Last year, the group’s two major songs “I Swear” and “Touch My Body” were released in the summer months, the latter being very summer-flavored indeed.
The year before, we had “Give It to Me,” released in June. And in 2012 there was “Loving You,” yet another SISTAR-in-bikinis-by-a-pool/beach fest.
In fact, if you don’t go out much and you want to know what time of the year it is, just look around to see if there is a SISTAR song in the charts. The girls are so consistent with their releases, you could almost set your watch by their summer releases.
However, 2015 has been the best SISTAR summer release to date. Funky? Check. Catchy? Check. Unapologetic, wanton butt-shaking?
Cheek. Check. Hasta summer 2016, girls!
Well, that’s it for our playlist, Soompiers, now it’s your turn! Tell us your thoughts on our selections and post a list of your own K-pop summer faves in the comments below.
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.