My brief stint as a K-pop fan was often characterized by an overwhelming sense of awkwardness. I was always ashamed to admit that I listened to K-pop because I felt that people would draw assumptions based on the popular “Koreaboo” trope, which is normally defined as a non-South Korean person wholly obsessed with South Korean TV dramas, K-pop and culture, when in reality my love for K-pop was mainly fueled by my decision to study Korean and my general love for good music.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve overcome those early insecurities and embraced the versatile, often stunning, style of K-pop. Characterized by both solo artists and massive supergroups (i.e., the group NCT, which has 23 members), K-pop has lots to offer.
So, let’s explore the best K-pop songs and artists for every mood, and I will warn those of you unfamiliar with K-pop in advance: It is very addictive.
While I was a fan of the seven-member boy group BTS (I know, that is basic of me as they are one of the most successful groups of all time), I still branched out to a lot more. I started with the BTS song “Dimple” (2017), which was the first K-pop song I ever listened to and loved, and for me it is extremely nostalgic, while “2! 3!” (2016) is another BTS song for the lying-in-bed-scrolling-through-old-photos type of feeling.
For relaxation I would recommend the BTS song “Singularity” (2018), sung by group member V, and its accompanying music video, or “instagram” (2017) by solo artist DEAN. I’d also recommend “Bad Boy” (2018) by the girl group Red Velvet, and “Glue” (2018) from the lesser-known R&B/hip-hop group PLT.
For dancing music, I have too many recommendations to articulate. From one of the pioneers of modern K-pop, the four-member boy group BIGBANG, the song “BANG BANG BANG” (2015) is my go-to for jumping around my room with friends. The four-member girl group 2NE1’s song “I Am The Best” (2011) is a pump-up song like no other. Similarly, “Gucci” (2017) by Jessi, 2NE1 member CL’s “Hello Bitches” (2015) and BTS’ “Burning Up (Fire)” (2016) are all perfect for dancing.
But, to me the true female powerhouse of K-pop dance music is BLACKPINK. With four members and a unique style of branding beyond the cute characteristics of many K-pop girl groups, BLACKPINK is probably one of my favorite K-pop groups. The BLACKPINK songs “BOOMBAYAH” (2016), “As If It’s Your Last” (2019) and “DDU-DU DDU-DU” (2018) are more than just dance music: They push at female roles in K-pop and strengthen women’s voices in the genre.
K-pop is a package deal: catchy and meaningful songs, complicated dance-moves, impressive music videos and an extremely dedicated and welcoming fanbase. It’s easy to be drawn in, and even easier to stay. I will always love K-pop even as I’ve drifted away from newer music, simply because I have such good memories of going to concerts, screaming repetitive lyrics with friends and binge-listening to the newest albums. I hope you can give it a try, too.
So, until next week, happy listening!