21 Greatest Korean Pop Songs Ever

Spin Magazine released its list of “the best of the sublimely shiny sound that’s sweeping the world.” You can read the full review on each song at the source.

1. 21. “Waiting 4 U” - SoolJ featuring Suh Ga Young (2011)

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(A) nervously lovely, inexorably propulsive, female-vocal-assisted, virtual-reality-video-themed single.

2. 20. “Lucifer” - SHINee (2010)

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A quick-cutting Europop hybrid that breaks down late ‘N Sync single “Pop,” juices it, and builds it back up again.

3. 19. “Doshite Kimi o Suki ni Natte Shimattandaro” - TVXQ (2008)

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The cheese levels here are high, but that harp melody is quiet fire. (Note: It’s a Japanese single sung by a Korean idol group.)

4. 18. “Be My Baby” - Wonder Girls (2011)

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Hints of modern-day R&B melisma, rappish breakdown, no Spector-melody menace — but as long as it doesn’t portend K-pop being Americanized out of existence, you can live with all that.

5. 17. “Boo” - IU (2009)

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Just some fits of clean guitar, a minimal but uptempo beat, and a vocal performance that’s playful throughout.

6. 16. “Roly Poly” - T-Ara (2011)

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“Roly Poly”… anxiously liquifies Latin counter-rhythms and handclap breaks and disco toot-beeps à la ’80s Italo duo Fun Fun, but with Far Asian-evoking Yellow Magic Orchestra-style synth parts. (Note: Its official music video lasts 12 minutes.)

7. 15. “Sorry Sorry” - Super Junior (2009)

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“Sorry Sorry” is a spartan slab of hiccuping, high-wire Euro-pop… that makes wonderful use of Auto-Tune and the word “shawty.”

8. 14. “Step” - Kara (2011)

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The dizzying central hook behind “Step” is Kara’s best asset. It shape-shifts between Euro-pop and ’80s soft rock,

9. 13. “Bad Boy” - Big Bang (2012)

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“Bad Boy” recalls Boyz II Men and Justin Timberlake, but Big Bang’s five very distinct personalities combine here for a single more singular than any of their K-pop peers can lay claim.

10. 12. “Nu ABO” - f(x) (2010)

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“Nu ABO” is a schoolyard-taunting, Britney-esque monster that sounds like dueling iPods and still allows for a thick layer of crowd noise.

11. 11. “Run Devil Run” - Girls’ Generation (2010)

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This is stone-cold sass that — though it cribs pop pin-up signifiers stretching back 50 years — echoes a more disciplined (and chaste) re-imagining of the Pussycat Dolls.

12. 10. “Pick Up! U!” - E.via (2010)

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The Pikachu tribute/Tom Tom Club imitation “Pick Up! U!” is as adorable as pop music gets.

13. 9. “Ugly” - 2NE1 (2011)

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Loud and brash, tender yet heroic, it encapsulates just about everything that’s so immediate about the 2NE1 crew.

14. 8. “Curry” - Norazo (2010)

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“Curry,” given its Middle Eastern guitar line, picked-radish-incorporating recipe tips, and video chef hats, might be (Norazo’s) pinnacle. (Note: Its official music video contains a police drama, since the Korean word for “curry” sounds similar to “someone has been stabbed.”)

15. 7. “High High” - GD & TOP (2010)

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Their music grows gruffer and faster as it buttaflies higher and higher, then suddenly explodes into a playground chant: “G-H-E-T-T-O! E-L-E-C-T-R-O!” This is how LMFAO and Far East Movement want to sound.

16. 6. “Eat You Up” - BoA (2008)

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It’s hard to hear why a pop offering this muscular (it’s got a chorus like a Clydesdale) couldn’t put a dent on American charts right this second.

17. 5. “Gee” - Girls’ Generation (2009)

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“Gee” — sung from the P.O.V. of a shy girl blinded by a handsome boy, with an impossibly light and carbonated chorus — went No. 1 in Korea for nine weeks.

18. 4. “Nan Arayo (I Know)” - Seo Taiji & Boys (1992)

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The record seems to sample Milli Vanilli and Public Enemy, and the boy trio’s dance moves in the video are all-out Hammer/New Kids/Kid ‘N Play new jack, even if they’re wearing Crayola-colored outfits and the homemade-looking clip’s mostly set in a decidedly non-urban wheat field.

19. 3. “I Am The Best” - 2NE1 (2011)

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“I Am the Best” might’ve been the best single released on the planet in 2011, even if not for its apocalyptic/futuristic video that kicks off on a catwalk and escalates into straightjackets, train-track break-dancing, ice cream cone rabbit-ear hats, and devil-horned hairstyles well before the aluminum bats and machine guns come out so 2NE1 can smash and shoot up the place.

20. 2. “Bubble Pop!” - HyunA (2011)

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After opening with riffs out of Plastic Bertrand’s Belgian bazooka-punk classic “Ca Plane Pour Moi,” “Bubble Pop!” onomatopoeically fills its archetypal title’s promise — 4minute member/Wonder Girls alumnus HyunA’s flirty-coy “ooh-ooh oh-oh” breaths sound like bubbles popping, as do the beats until the insane and seemingly tacked-on electronic (“dubstep,” some say) breakdown in the middle.

21. 1. “Candy” - H.O.T. (1996)

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That loopy, light-headed intro melody; that bouncy, boomeranging chorus; reggae-informed, Smash Mouth-indebted, 8-bit-encrusted everything.

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